By Ed Wallace
He threw back the covers and sat up on his bed, his feet feeling along the cold floor for his house slippers, the telephone ringing insistently a little distance away.
He turned on the light and picked up the phone.
"This is Doctor Benson," he said.
The November wind was bringing sounds of winter as it blew around the little white house. The doctor got into his clothes. He went to the table and stared a moment at his watch, his spirit complaining at the job ahead of him.
Two oíclock. His mind also complained at the horrible hour and he wondered why children always had to be born at such improper times. He took up two small satchels: the short pill bag, as the people of the town knew it, and the long obstetrical caseóthe baby bag they called it.
Doctor Benson stopped a moment to light a cigarette, then put the pack of cigarettes in his overcoat pocket. The wind felt like a surgeonís knife at his face as he opened the door and ran, bending low, around the driveway to the garage.
His car started with difficulty, coughed a half-dozen times as he drove down the driveway but then he began to run more smoothly as he turned down Grass Street and on to the deserted highway.
Mrs. Ott Sorley, whom Doctor Benson was on his way to visit, already had almost a dozen children, but it seemed to the doctor that never once had she had a baby in good weather, nor in daylight. And while Doctor Benson was a country doctor, he was still a young man and couldnít find the pleasure that his father, "the old Doc Benson", had found in seeing Ott, the father, always two or three babies behind in payment of his baby bills.
It was a long ride out to the Sorley farm and the sight of a man walking alone along the country road, as seen just ahead by the lights of the car, was a welcome relief to the doctor. He slowed down and looked at the man walking along with difficulty against the wind, a little package under his arm.
Coming alongside, Doctor Benson stopped and invited the man to ride. The man got in.
"Are you going far?" asked the doctor.
"Iím going all the way to Detroit," said the man, a rather thin man with small black eyes filled with tears from the wind. "Could you give me a cigarette?"
Doctor Benson unbuttoned his coat, then remembered the cigarettes in the outer pocket of his overcoat. He took out the package and gave it to the rider who then looked in his own pockets for a match. When the cigarette was lighted, the man held the package a moment, then asked, "Do you mind, mister, if I take another cigarette for later?" The rider shook the package to remove another cigarette without waiting for the doctor to answer. Doctor Benson felt a hand touches his pocket.
"Iíll put them back in your pocket," the little fellow said. Doctor Benson put his hand down quickly to receive the cigarettes and was a little irritated to find them already in his pocket.
After a few minutes Doctor Benson said: "So youíre going to Detroit?"
"Iím going out to look for work in one of the automobile plants."
"Are you a mechanic?" asked the doctor.
"More or less. Iíve been driving a truck since the war ended. But I lost my job about a month ago."
"Were you in the army during the war?"
"Yeah, I was in the ambulance section. Right up at the front. Drove an ambulance for four years.
"Is that so?" said Doctor Benson. "Iím a doctor myself. Doctor Benson is my name."
"I thought this car smelled like pills," the man laughed. Then he added, more seriously, "My name is Evans."
They rode along silently for a few minutes and the rider moved himself in his seat and placed his package on the floor. As the man leaned over, Doctor Benson caught his first good look at the small, catlike face.
The doctor also noticed the long deep scar on the manís cheek, bright and red-looking as though it were of recent origin. He thought of Mrs. Ott Sorley and reached for his watch. His fingers went deep into his pocket before the realized that his watch was not there.
Doctor Benson moved his hand very slowly and very carefully below the seat until he felt the leather holster in which he always carried with him his automatic pistol.
He drew out the pistol slowly and held it in the darkness at his side. Doctor Benson stopped the car quickly and pushed the nose of his gun into Evansí side.
"Put that watch into my pocket," he said angrily.
The rider jumped with fear and put up his hands quickly. "My God, mister," he whispered. "I thought youÖ."
Doctor Benson pushed the pistol still deeper into the manís side and repeated coldly, "Put that watch in my pocket before I let this gun go off."
Evans put his hand in his own vest pocket and later, with trembling hands, tried to put the watch into the doctorís pocket. With his free hand Doctor Benson pushed the watch down into his pocket. He opened the door and forced the man out of the car.
Iím out here tonight, probably to save a womanís life, but I took the time to try to help you," he said to the man angrily.
Doctor Benson started the car quickly and the wind closed the door with a loud noise. He put the pistol back into the leather holster under the seat and hurried on.
The drive up the mountain to the Sorley farm was less difficult than he had feared and Ott Sorley had sent one of his older boys down the road with a lantern to help him across the old wooden bridge that led up to the little farmhouse.
Mrs. Sorleyís many previous experiences with bringing children into the world apparently helped her greatly because she delivered this child with little difficulty and there was no need on Doctor Bensonís part for the instruments in the long bag.
After it was over, however, Doctor Benson took out a cigarette and sat down and smoke.
"A fellow I picked up in my car on my way up here tonight tried to rob me," he said to Ott, feeling a little proud. "He took my watch. But when I pushed my .45 pistol into his side he decided to give it back to me."
Ott smiled wide at such an exciting story coming from young Doctor Benson.
"Well, Iím glad he gave it back to you," Ott said. "Because if he hadnít, we wouldnít have any idea what time the child was born. What time would you say it happened, Doc?"
"The baby was delivered about thirty minutes ago, and right now itísÖ" He walked over tot he lamp on the table.
He stared strangely at the watch in his hand. The crystal was cracked and the top was broken. He turned the watch over and held it closer to the lamp. He studied the worn inscription:
"To Private T. Evans, Ambulance Section, whose personal bravery preserved our lives the night of Nov. 3, 1943, near the Italian front. Nurses Nesbitt, Jones, and Wingate."