Leaning against the windowsill, I looked toward Mom then Dad.
“Sean’s had a stroke.” Dad spoke in a monotone.
Every fiber of my being weakened as I doubled over to keep from falling then sank onto the edge of the bed. I grasped the light blue spread and squeezed it hard in my fist. He was fine earlier this morning.
“He’s only eighteen. How could that happen?”
Dad gestured with his large hand. “He came down the steps and collapsed in the foyer.”
My stomach churned like a washing machine.
“We brought him to the emergency room. That’s the last we’ve seen of him.” Dad had a blank stare in his grayish blue eyes.
A man wearing a white jacket entered. “Hello, I’m Dr. Salis.” He shook my parents’ hands. While standing in the middle of the floor he talked about Sean as though he was delivering a speech or giving a weather report. “Sean’s stroke was a mild one. I don’t believe he’ll have permanent damage, but he may need therapy for his left arm.”
Anger, sorrow, and disbelief over Sean’s illness swirled in my head like a tornado. How could this happen?
“Sean’s never had a health problem. He’s an athlete. What caused this?” Mom asked.
“I’m sorry to tell you, but we found Winstrol V in Sean’s system.” A hint of compassion rang in Dr. Salis’s official-sounding tone.
Mom’s gaze grew distant. “What’s that?”
“It’s an anabolic steroid used in veterinary medicine. It carries many adverse side effects, including kidney and liver dysfunction. In some people there’s a risk of heart attack or stroke.” Dr. Salis spoke in a matter-of-fact tone.
“Why would anyone take it?” Mom’s questioning voice trailed off.
Dr. Salis took a deep sigh. “It enhances athletic performance.”
“In what way? I can’t imagine Sean taking something like that.” Mom spoke softly as though she talked to herself.
Dr. Salis raised his gray eyebrows. “Steroids build muscle mass and shorten the recovery time needed after strenuous workouts. Jocks who use them grow stronger and can practice more often.”
Mom’s eyes snapped open.
Was she thinking of the pressure Dad put on Sean?
“I don’t feel well. Margaret, would you get me some water?” Dad asked.
He was as white as Mistville’s winter snow. So fit, so strong, he rarely got sick, weak, or pale.
Anxious over the sight of him, I bounded off the bed, grabbed one of the paper cups out of the dispenser beside the sink, and filled it.
He reached out for it then took a sip as I dropped down into a black vinyl chair. Dad collected drops from the side of the container on his fingers then wiped his forehead with them. Some color returned to his face.
“Where would Sean get steroids for animals?” Dad gazed at Mom with a helpless stare.
How would she know? Nothing made any sense to me. Not the questions. Not the answers. They were all scrambled in my brain like letters from a Scrabble game that were scattered on a table.
Two uniformed policemen came in. Why were they here?
The older man with dark hair and brown eyes extended his right hand to Dad. “I’m Sergeant Jones. This is Detective Joe Garrett.”
Dad knitted his brows. “What are you doing here? Has the hospital announced to the world that my son’s in here because he took Winstrol V. What about the patient’s privacy act?”
Sergeant Jones rested his hand at his side. “No. Of course, the hospital has made no such announcement. There have been enough cases of kids checking in with drug-related problems for us to suspect criminal activity. The privacy act can be waived for the purposes of identifying certain classes of persons. In this case, that would be drug dealers. With your help we want to catch these people.”
Dad stared at the policemen with angry blue-gray eyes. “What can we do?”
“We need to know about Sean’s most recent activity, especially anything that led to his drug use.”
How dare Sergeant Jones accuse Sean of being an addict! Sean was president of the student council. He was a straight A student in one of the most difficult schools in the country. He was a Christian. He--I couldn’t even think now, and I couldn’t keep tears from rolling down my cheeks.
Dad got up and shook hands with the cops, but he didn’t smile. He looked like someone had slapped him.