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by Kevin Curtis Copyright ©2002 Kevin Curtis
dba Star Tribute Entertainment, INC All Rights Reserved
Chapter One It was cold during the winter nights of December in the small rural town of Gumtree, Mississippi. Preston Keith Carter, the owner of a small, but growing commercial and residential cleaning business had been thinking about how the family had spent their vacation the year before when he and his family loaded up the family car and headed up to the Smokey mountains of Tennessee. What a wonderful time it was watching his three small children, Haley, Peter and Bobby playing in the snow while his wife Lisa prepared steaks on the grill indoors. Keith and Lisa Gayle ran into one another during a chance meeting one warm spring night in 1991. Neither was in the mood to socialize or meet someone on that faithful evening. Keith had only lived in Gumtree for a few months since his relocation from the windy city of Chicago where he had experienced his share of ups, downs, and near misses while trying to make it in the music business. Lisa Gayle was a quiet and petite twenty-five year old redhead who had recently moved out of her family home. Keith had been working very hard to get his cleaning business off the ground. With the help of his loving wife, Lisa did her part in helping run the family business making calls, keeping records and even took part in cleaning several of the local businesses with Keith when he needed a helping hand. The Carter family was a very close-knit family. One night while going over taxes with Lisa’s sister, Kay, who had recently agreed to be their official accountant, Lisa suggested that Keith try to get on at the local hospital. “Keith, we could have saved so much money last year if we had better healthcare and dental insurance.” Keith and Lisa realized they had spent a great deal of their earnings on medical and dental care for themselves and the three children. Lisa knew several people who worked at the hospital and proclaimed to Keith that their lives and finances would be better if Keith could land a contract there. 7:30 PM- Wednesday, December 16 Keith had just turned the corner of the emergency room, when he observed a paramedic, a nurse and a doctor trying desperately to restore life into the limp body of a little girl, who appeared to be around the age of seven or eight. Keith froze in the middle of the main entrance when he noticed the birthmark on the frail little girls left foot. Time seemed to stand still when Keith suddenly realized that recognized the girl.
Unable to look away from the scene, Keith wandered where he had seen this little girl before? “Oh man” thought Keith; ”I know who she is”. Suddenly, Keith remembered the little girl playing with his five-year-old daughter, Haley Lynn at the daycare facility where he dropped his children off each day after school. Haley had told him about some of the other kids making jokes about her birthmark when she took off her shoes to play. Keith watched in horror, as the ER staff used an electric shock device to try and jump-start her heart. Some of the nurses in the ER began to watch Keith. Looking to his left, Keith saw a radiologist technician leave the ER in a hurry. She returned moments later with a security guard. Keith then realized he was being watched; yet he was still unable to take his eyes away from what was going on in the hopes that the little girl would be saved. When Keith realized the little girl was pronounced dead, he left the emergency room and found a nearby restroom. There, Keith cried as if the child were his own. Moments later, Geraldo, a Hispanic floor care technician knocked loudly on the restroom door. "Hey Keith, you in there”? Keith tried to regain his composure and opened t he door. “Geraldo said with a strong Hispanic accent “I need the auto -scrubber man.” "Sure, it's against the wall in the emergency room" Keith said in a quiet voice. “I can’t believe I just saw a little girl whom I know die right in front of me in the ER,” Keith said looking down the hallway in a blank stare. “I've seen her playing with my children at daycare.” Keith took a deep breath as Geraldo said with a smile on his face, “People live, people die you know…this is a freaking hospital man, that's what people do. Why people always get so upset all the time? People should expect something bad could happen when they come here.” Geraldo spoke with such a strong accent that Keith sometimes found it hard to understand him. Although many employees often said that it was just his way or his culture, Keith was not so quick to pass it off as a cultural conditioning. Keith had lived in Chicago for several years before relocating to Gumtree and had known many Hispanics while residing in the windy city, none of which seem to share the same attitude or mentality. Rather than getting into a confrontation or moral debate with Geraldo, Keith said, “Merry Christmas Geraldo, I'm going home and hug my kids.”
11:00 PM-Sunday, December 20 Keith returned from his four day Christmas vacation in the mountains of Tennessee late that Sunday night. After getting the kids settled down and in their beds, he found his project book where he kept records of all pending tile floor and carpet jobs. He turned the pages until he came upon the floor projects at the hospital where he had been asked by the director of Environmental Services to strip the floors in the morgue. Keith called Lisa into the room and told her how neglected the morgue floors had been over the years because of the high
turnover rate in the department and the fact that nobody seemed to want to go into a room with corpses. Lisa laughed and said, "You wouldn't catch me in there"! Keith laughed, sat down, and began to log everything he would need for the floor job the following day. Keith arrived to work around 5:30 PM. He looked over his shoulder to see two new employee's standing near the entrance of the supply room. One employee asked "Hey, why do you get to come in to work at different times and we have to be here at 3:30 everyday?" Keith smiled and explained, “I own and operate a commercial and residential cleaning business and my job duties and schedule is a little different from the other floor care technicians.” “Really” asked one of the new guys. “Yeah, you’ll see me coming and going at all hours of the day and night.” “So, are you a project worker like the Mexican dudes”? Keith did not really know quite how to answer him, as he had not been told exactly what his title would be. “I guess you could call it “project work” since I was hired to examine all tile floor each week on the ground floor and then map out a schedule of duties as well as what machines and/or chemicals I’ll need.” The two new employees’s walked away whispering. Keith wondered if he did the right t hing by taking the time to explain his position to the new guys. About two hours later, Keith was well into the floor job he had mapped out for the morgue floors. He had been stripping the wax from the old tile floors for about two hours when he began to get a little thirsty. He thought about taking a break and going to the break room on the first floor to get his usual Dr. Pepper. Then, he realized he would have to stop everything, clean his shoes and chance transferring elements to his finished tile outside the morgue. Keith looked over to his right and noticed an old upright refrigerator. Keith moved the low-speed floor scrubber out of his way and removed his gloves. Keith grabbed the handle and opened the bottom portion of the old refrigerator door in the hopes of finding something to drink, but refreshments and ice-cold drinks are not what Keith discovered. Wrapped in plastic with barcodes similar to that of which you might find on a compact disk or food in a grocery store, were various body parts. Keith's heart raced with anticipation and disbelief as he looked at each of the body parts and organs. Keith scanned the refrigerator in shock as he reached down and picked up what appeared to be a small hand. His heart raced even more as he brought the severed hand closer in disbelief! Keith could hear the sounds coming from the ER as they seemed to be growing louder and louder with each second. Keith returned the small hand and began to count all the body parts one by one. There were hearts, livers, kidneys, fingers, arms, elbows, legs and feet! Keith began to sweat as he closed the refrigerator door. Nothing could prepare Keith for what he was about to discover next. Keith was about exit the morgue when he decided to open the top portion of the old refrigerator. Keith opened the door very slowly. All of a sudden, he froze in complete horror and shock as he
began to try and make sense of what he was looking at. Wrapped in clear plastic, was a man’s severed head! Unable to breath, Keith felt he recognized the man’s face but could not recall just where he had seen it before. The coming moments would engrave a frightening memory so deep into the corners of Keith’s mind that he would never again be the same person. Just when Keith thought it could not get any worse, he picked up what appeared to be a small foot resting quietly to the left of the severed head and began to examine it. As he was putting the small foot back, he noticed a dark mark through the ice cold clear plastic wrapping. Keith suddenly realized the foot he was holding belonged to the little girl whom he had seen die in the ER a week before. The events to follow would change Keith's life as well as many others in this healthcare facility and small rural town forever. Chills ran up Keith's spine as he tried to come to terms with the last five minutes of his life. Keith had overheard a conversation take place between the sick man and a family member. Before he died, he told a family member that he wanted to be cremated if anything were to ever happen to him. Keith even recalled the date, as it was the same day as his daughter's birthday. Keith had even made a note of this in his journal. Keith could not stand the thought of being cremated. His wife Lisa often joked that she would have Keith's ashes resting nicely in a vase over the fireplace if anything should ever happen to him. Keith had a fear of fire. At the age of six, he watched his parents’ home burn to the ground. The fire claimed the lives of all the family pets. Unable to make any sense of what he was looking at, Keith shut the freezer door and rushed out of the morgue and into the restroom just outside the morgue area. Keith became very sick and threw up for a few minutes. After cleaning up, Keith exited the restroom and found himself face to face with a well-known plastic surgeon who frequently visited the hospital to drop off and pick up files. He often stopped by to speak to a few of his friends in Radiology. Without a moments thought, Keith asked the doctor what they did with the body parts in the morgue refrigerator? Dr. Taylor hesitated as he looked closely at Keith's name badge on his shirt. Dr. Taylor replied, “What do you mean Keith?” Keith quickly said, “I opened the door to the refrigerator in the morgue a little while ago and found a mans head, some hands, fingers and the foot of a little girl that I personally know. The doctor took a pad from his coat, made a note and said; “I'll get back to you when I have some more time okay.” Chapter two 3:30 PM-Monday, December 21 The next day, Keith called one of his friends and fellow coworkers to come pick him up as his car was in the shop. His friend Troy was a very quiet and mysterious fellow who never spoken unless he was spoken to. On the way to
work, Keith decided to tell Troy about what he had seen in the old refrigerator the night before. Troy looked at him in disbelief and asked him was he serious? Keith vented for about twenty minutes before realizing he had not allowed Troy an opportunity to respond. Keith took a deep breath and said, "What would you do if you were me?" Troy said, "I'd forget I ever saw it man." Troy stopped the car as Keith thought about what he was saying. Nothing else was said as they got out of the car and made their way to the time cards. They punched in and began to gather the supplies they would need for the day. While Keith was collecting his things, he heard his name called over the intercom "Keith Carter, please report to the Director of Environmental Services." Keith didn't think too much about the page until he knocked on the door of the director's office. "Hello Mr. Rivera, how are you today"? Mr. Warren Rivera had been the Director of the department for almost twelve years. Mr. Rivera said, "Come inside and shut the door Keith." All of a sudden, Keith began to feel something was wrong when he shut the door and noticed four other men in business suits. He did not recognize any of them. Mr. Rivera questioned Keith about his confrontation with Dr. Taylor concerning the so-called body parts the evening before. Keith began to feel uncomfortable as the soft spoken, yet somewhat intimidating director called in his assistant Mr. Butler. Mr. Butler was an ex-marine with an always in a hurry kind of attitude. The two of them started to interrogate Keith while the other three men looked on. They scolded Keith as if he were a child. Mr. Rivera began by asking "Why were you snooping around in the morgue yesterday?" What do you mean Mr. Rivera? I was notified this morning by someone in the administration that you questioned a physician about body parts you saw. "Well, actually, I did find some body parts and..." all of a sudden Mr. Rivera interrupted Keith and asked him to just sign a document stating that he was in an area where he was not supposed to be in and could not be found when needed by a supervisor. The written statement also stated that Keith would agree to be removed from the ground floor and emergency room as well as be placed on "probation" while the matter is investigated. Keith explained, "Sir, the new supervisor asked me to do the job because nobody else wanted to do it. She said that they have been trying to get that project completed for over two years now! Mr. Rivera said, “Keith, you sign this statement or consider yourself off payroll, do you understand what I'm telling you? I am sorry sir, but I am going to have to go over your head on this and speak to someone else in the administration. Keith stood up and just as he placed his right hand on the doorknob to let himself out, Mr. Rivera called security to remove Keith from the hospital. This was the beginning of what became the most unbelievable set of events and circumstances to ever take place between a janitorial worker and healthcare organization in this small town.
Keith walked out of Mr. Rivera's office in complete disbelief. He had worked so hard at his job and had made so much progress in his work. Walking towards the chief administrator's office, Keith reached the door to CEO Dr. Joseph Baren. Before he had the chance to open the door and request a meeting or file a complaint of his own, two security officer's grabbed Keith and began to escort him off of the premises. Keith stopped and pulled his hands from the grips of the two men -"What's going on? You can't grab me like this and force me out of the hospital" -- "We were instructed to escort you off our property Mr. Carter." “But I'm on my way to file a complaint against my director!” “Sorry Mr. Carter, you will have to do that another day.”
Keith knew immediately that what was happening had to be against company policy and/or the law. One security officer called for back-up as Keith started back towards his previous destination when he heard a voice say, “Mr. Carter, we've been asked to remove you from the hospital's property”. “What” Keith gasped. “Mr. Carter, you can’t step foot on hospital property or any other properties owned by the hospital until you have been notified in writing by the director of Environmental Services. Do you understand”? Keith looked around as patients and onlookers gathered around to watch but Keith noticed that almost all of the hospital employees seemed to just go on as if nothing strange was taking place. It was almost as if they were in a robotic state. "I can't believe that I'm being thrown out of my place of employment because the person I am on my way to file a complaint against wants me out of the building so that I can't file the complaint. Do I not have any rights here”? The head of security approached the scene. His name was Mr. Kenneth Waide. Mr. Waide was an intimidating and large black gentleman who stood about 6 foot 4 inches tall and weighed around 285 pounds. He always had an over-confident smile on his face no matter what the situation. He instructed the two security personnel to place handcuffs on Keith and escort him across the street away from the hospital. Keith had never personally met Mr. Waide or dealt with him before. Keith didn't know what to do at that point and just gave up as his fellow coworker's reluctantly watched and whispered as they led Keith down the long hallway. One of the security guards could not even look Keith in the eye. Just a few weeks before, the new guard had gone to Keith and asked Keith for advice with a personal problem he was having with his wife at home. Keith was known for handing out materials and personal development tapes to help people with various challenges in their lives. The two guards walked Keith across the street where he just sat down and wondered how he was going to explain this to his wife Lisa. Chapter Three
Keith walked to a nearby service station and called his older brother Jake to come pick him up. Jake was the CEO of a large insurance company in Gumtree. Keith had two older brothers and one sister. Alan was the oldest. Jake, however, was the backbone of the family and someone Keith could always turn to in times of crises. Alan was a party animal and more into doing his own thing, which made him less attainable in times of trouble. It took Jake more than an hour to get to the cafe across the street from the hospital. When he arrived, Jake asked, "What happened and why are you sitting on the street corner"? "I think I'm being fired because I saw something I wasn't supposed to see Jake." What did you see”? Well, I saw some body parts in an old refrigerator while working in the morgue last night and asked a Dr. what they did with them.” His brother looked at him like he had lost his mind. “Why would you do something like that and why would you question somebody there about it?” Keith seemed to be in a state of shock as Jake asked, “how did you end up getting sent home?” Keith replied “I was called into the director's office after I clocked in today and interrogated like some kind of criminal!” “What do you mean you were interrogated”, asked Jake. Well, there were these guys in business suits standing in the director’s office when they called me over the hospital intercom. When I entered the room, they all began to play a game of “good guy, bad guy” like we used to see on those old cop shows mama watched when we were kids”. “So, what happened next” asked Jake. Well, when I refused to sign some false statements they had typed up and told the director of Environmental services that I was going to file a complaint, I was pretty much attacked by security guards on my way to human resources and thrown out of the hospital!” Keith started thinking back and going over every day of the past week leading up to this day in his mind. He tried to determine what was really happening. Keith thought for a little while as Jake drove through town towards the exit to the Interstate. Suddenly, Keith remembered the day a man was throwing a fit down on the ground floor outside the emergency room across from Radiology. Cindy Jones, a radiologist technician, was trying to calm the man down. The man's brother had died in the ER and he was there to pick up his brother's wedding band, watch and other personal items. Cindy told the gentleman that the men from the funeral home had his brother’s things. Keith began to describe the scene he had witnessed take place earlier in the week just outside the ER. Jake, I heard this guy ranting and raving about how he had been to the funeral home already and they told him that the hospital had his brother’s personal items.” Then, I heard him say that his brother had already been cremated and he seemed really upset!” Jake seemed curious but well
reserved and told Keith it all sounded crazy. "That's it Jake, the man's head I found in the refrigerator! He was the man’s brother! I saw them in the ER and even spoke to the man! Oh my God, he was supposed to be cremated! Something's going on in that hospital Jake and I mean something bad! Then, Keith asked Jake “Do you think I should go see an attorney”? “I don't know if you should do it right now Keith”, Jake replied, “but you need to go home and really think all this through and if I were you, I would just call the hospital tomorrow and ask someone in human resources what your jo b status is”. “I guess your right Jake, Keith said as he stared out the window in a daze. “I need to let Lisa know what's going on and you can bet that she is not going to be happy." “Good luck Keith” Jake said as he pulled up into the entrance of Keith’s driveway.
Chapter Four So caught up in the moment with describing the details to Jake, Keith failed to even notice that Lisa’s car was not in the driveway. Keith was actually relieved to find that Lisa was not home as he walked in the front door and made his way to his office. Keith quickly located his daily journal. Keith had always kept records of everything that occurred each day of his life as well as the daily happenings of his family. Keith first began keeping a journal at the age of 13. No matter what took place each day, Keith would always find time to write it down. He had always felt that every day lived was worth recording. As he opened his journal and began to read the pages he had recorded in the passing days, thoughts and questions began to dance through his mind. “What was this all about”? “Who were the men in suits questioning me? How did the Director find the time to prepare all that paper work for me to sign in just one day and why”? Being handcuffed and thrown against the wall like a rag doll in front of his co-workers really bothered Keith. He began to go over every detail from the time he entered the hospital that day until the moment he was escorted across the street by security. Then, Keith recalled a comment made by the director of Environmental Services about the body parts he had asked a physician about the night before. Keith felt in his heart what was happening had something to do with the body parts he discovered based on the way many of the employee’s began to treat him. Keith picked up a pen and began to document every detail he could recall about that week into the pages of his journal. Suddenly, the telephone rang. Keith looked over at the caller ID and saw that the call was coming from his brother Jake’s cell phone. “Hey Keith, I was just talking to a guy I work with and he said his sister has worked at the hospital for over 15 years. I bet she has a good idea about how they operate down there.”
Keith replied, “Yeah, she probably does. I appreciate you calling Jake.” “No problem Keith, I will see if I can get her number or at least what department she works in for you. You never know, maybe she will know something or somebody who can help”. “Sounds good”, replied Keith. “Take care, Jake, bye.” Copyright ©2002 Kevin Curtis
All Rights Reserved
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