The Killer Instinct
                                                         by Mary Cooney-Glazer

Joanna didn’t know which she dreaded most about the Intensive Care Unit. Was it hissing respirator sounds and beeping monitors from machines that were trying to keep her husband, Kevin, alive? Or was it seeing him with a breathing tube hanging out of his mouth and bags collecting his bodily fluids?

He was quiet now and out of pain. A medically induced coma they called it. The serious young neurosurgeon said that they’d know if he would survive and with how much brain damage, if any, in the next forty-eight hours. Treating the broken bones could wait.

Only her all consuming fury kept Jo awake and thinking.  

Her eye was starting to swell now. It’ll be a mess by tomorrow, she told herself, but at least the orbit isn’t fractured. No thanks to that gang of savages.

Jo was thinking. Kevin shouldn’t have been with me anyway. He’s lying half-dead because of a change in plans. He should be home, waiting for me and preparing his lecture for tomorrow.

She winced a little from the pain of her battered ribs and broken nose.

“Mrs. Gallagher, please let me get an order for some pain medicine for you.” It was Ellen, the nurse who was assigned to keeping Kevin alive and Jo from passing out.

“Ellen, I can’t be drugged. I have to be here for him when he awakens or when he leaves me for good,” Jo told her. She couldn’t say the words “or when he dies.”

“Well, I’ve sent for a cot. You can’t sit in a chair all night with the beating you’ve taken.  Don’t argue. You’ll stay half-awake anyway, but you’ll get some better rest.”

Jo knew that she wouldn’t rest, but maybe she could remember more about their attackers. One was in custody, and hurting. Jo had made sure of that.

There was a sound at the door of the cubicle. Two men were there, wearing jeans and parkas. One man had a police badge and ID in his hand.  

“Nurse, can we have a minute?” Ellen looked carefully at the ID and the men.

“Just about that long, Detectives. Mrs. Gallagher has some serious injuries and should be sleeping, but that doesn’t seem to be on her radar right now. I don’t want her husband disturbed. You can use the vacant room across the hall.”

She turned to face Jo. “Just call out if you need anything, Mrs. Gallagher. I’ll let you know if Kevin shows any change, no matter how small.” Jo smiled as much as her battered face would let her. “Thanks, Ellen.” 

“Let me take your arm Mrs. Gallagher,” the bigger of the two men said. Jo got up, and was surprised that she needed the support. “I’m Detective Tom Allen. This is my partner, Detective Paul Rodgers.”  

Jo noticed that they could pass for students on any college campus. As Detective Allen guided her into an easy chair by the empty bed, he started to talk.

“Ma’am, we work mostly on crimes involving college kids. There’ve been a lot of these random street attacks in the city lately by people who look like students. But, usually, it’s a fast shove and run. We think they do it for some sick kind of thrill. This time it’s different and much more violent. Could you tell us exactly what happened?”

Jo’s pain was worse. She felt lightheaded. The two detectives were blurry with fading voices.  She thought she heard someone say, “Nurse, we need some help here,” Then Ellen was asking “Jo. Jo, can you hear me?” She heard nothing else.

Two months ago, things would have been very different. The bastards that did all of this would have gotten away without any trouble.  

Lyn, Jo’s best friend, wanted to take a self-defense course, but not by herself. She kept pushing until Jo figured it was easier to just go along. She knew Lyn well enough to be confident that this wouldn’t last more than a few sessions. Neither of them could stomach violence and they were careful to stay away from dangerous situations.

Jo was surprised at how much she liked the classes. She learned that focus was as important as raw strength for self-defense techniques. She did well once she learned exactly how to use her body and concentrate fully on what she was doing.  

Kevin was learning that Jo wasn’t against all violence when she told him how satisfied and excited she felt when she was able to defend herself against someone bigger and stronger.  

Secretly, she enjoyed the adrenalin high that came from physical combat. She became the cheerleader when Lyn wanted to quit.  

A couple of weeks after they had finished the course with flying colors, Lyn got tickets to a new musical in the city. 

The women planned to park in a hotel garage, close to the theater. They never considered that there would be a reason to use their new defense skills because everywhere they were going was in safe, well-traveled areas.

The morning of the play, Jo was just finishing her coffee and thinking about what to wear that afternoon, when Lyn called.

“Oh, Jo, dammit!  I can’t go the theater today. My mother got sick during the night and we had to get her to the hospital.”

“Lyn, I am so sorry. Is there anything that I can do?” Jo liked Lyn’s mother.

“Yes. The tickets are in your mailbox. I dropped them there when we left last night. Use mine and take someone else. Maybe Kevin will fill in. I have to go. I’ll call later.”

Kevin was working in the city anyway. Jo thought, Why not? He hasn’t taken an afternoon off in years.

When she called him, Kevin was pleasantly surprised. “Sure, I’d love to sneak out to spend the afternoon with my lady.”

“Oh Sweetie, that’s terrific. I’ll meet you at the theater.”

“Jo, walk through the hotel, and around the block. Don’t take any short cuts through the theater alleys. You never know who’s hanging out in them.”

“OK. OK, Kevin. Don’t be such a worrier. I’m really glad that we’re doing this!”

 After the play, as soon as the house lights came up and the cast had taken a third bow, he said, “Hon, let’s go. It’s getting dark and rush hour going home could be tough.”

The crowd thinned as they headed along the street to the hotel parking lot. “It looks like snow, Kev,” Jo commented. “It gets dark so early.”

Although stores were open, the street was fairly empty. Kevin was careful to keep them in the middle of the sidewalk, away from alley entrances.

The boutique displays had Jo walking more slowly, window shopping, and completely forgetting what she had learned in self defense class about staying alert. 

“Jo! Look out!” Kevin saw the three ordinary young people running toward them before Jo did. He pushed her against a brick wall between store windows and stood in front of her. 

The group looked like kids from one of the many colleges in the city, rushing along, on their way to something.

But Kevin sensed danger and reacted instantly. He had read about this new street crime. Some innocent looking person came from nowhere and attacked a victim, then ran. They did it for a high, not robbery.  

Facing Jo, he shielded her with his body when the two young men punched him at the same time on each side of his head, knocking him over and into the mouth of an alley.

“Hey old man, you trying to protect your lady?”  

Kevin tried to get up, but a nasty kick to his back and another two to his head and neck prevented that. Jo had crept along the wall into the alley where Kevin was being battered, and her attention was on him. Suddenly, the tall, nicely dressed young woman who was part of the group came at her. She swung from her hip and landed a solid punch to Jo’s face.  

One of the men said, “There you go Posie, you lost your cherry. This is how the street fight game is played.”

As Jo slid down the wall, stunned, the girl hit her again and she felt her nose gushing blood. The girl stood close, admiring her work. Kevin was very still.  

None of them had tried to get any valuables.

Something Jo had never felt before was surging through her body. There was no fear, just a murderous rage. She howled in a primal way that caused the three to turn.  

Instinctively grabbing Posie’s leg, Jo pulled her down and straddled her, pinning her arms and head-butting first the girl’s chin, then her nose and face with all the strength she had left. Her attacker screamed to the men, “Thad, Lee, for godssake help me!”

Jo could feel one of the men kicking her, and another trying to pull her off their companion. But, screaming and bleeding, she managed to stay on top of the girl, grabbing her long hair to keep her head pinned to the sidewalk. 

She used only the intense focus that she had learned in the self-defense class. The rest of what Jo did was fueled by adrenalin and anger.  

Sirens were close and she heard “Oh my god, the woman is a nut case,” as the two men fled. She saw blue uniforms and let herself be pulled away.

In the ambulance, Jo mumbled to the Paramedics before she passed out. “Please don’t let my husband die. They were trying to kill us.” 

After he was treated briefly in the ER, Kevin went directly to the neuro ICU. Jo had serious injuries, but nothing life threatening. After a neurologist spoke to her about Kevin, she refused to be admitted to the hospital herself and insisted on staying with him.

As she was being treated in the ER, Jo remembered almost everything that happened. She was calm when she realized that she would have killed all three of those kids if she had been able.

After fainting when she was with the detectives in the ICU, Jo woke up on a stretcher in the ER for the second time that day. The men sat there, watching as she slept. She had been mumbling off and on, but all they could get was, “Please, please stop hurting him.”

“OK, Mrs. Gallagher, you’re in no shape to talk. Rest, and we’ll be back when the doctor says it’s OK. You certainly are a fighter. It’s odd that these kids didn’t just hit and run.”

Jo closed her eyes again. She didn’t want to look at either of the detectives. They were smart and probably had some suspicions that Jo might have fought more viciously than absolutely necessary.

Detective Rodgers, the quieter of the two said, “They must have said or done something and you were afraid that they’d hurt you and your husband more, right? That’s what the uniforms figured. They were first on the scene.”

Jo kept her eyes closed. Like hell. I grabbed her because I could, and I wanted to kill her, she thought to herself.

When she finally did open her eyes, Rodgers continued, “You know she was hurt pretty badly. They’re thinking a broken nose and eye orbit. She’ll be arraigned at the hospital.” 

Detective Allen looked at his partner, then at Jo.  “You know Mrs. Gallagher, with everything that happened, it may take a day or two for you to remember things, especially why you had to fight so hard. Maybe you’ll never remember all of it.”

Detective Rodgers added, “It might be better if you didn’t remember some things too clearly. You were attacked. You saw that your husband was badly hurt. You tried to protect him and yourself. To think anything else would be crazy, now, wouldn’t it?”

Jo mumbled, as she closed her eyes again, “Yes, that would be really crazy, Detectives.”  

No matter what happened to Kevin, Joanna was changed. She could see now why people killed for revenge. She wondered what was next.

Mary Cooney-Glazer has held different nursing positions for most of her career, with a few detours to try other lives. In addition to writing, she spends lots of her time coaxing a reluctant garden to bloom, spoiling an ancient cat, traveling with her husband and eavesdropping in cafes.  

Mary loves to write about women facing changing situations that require them to develop confidence, persistence and some sense of adventure.  

She has been a member of the North Shore Scribes since June of 2008. Her work is featured on 

She would welcome comments about her writing at

                                                                          When Less Is More
     by Charlotte Savage

I was born in the depression days when people considered themselves fortunate if they had food on the table, a roof over their head and coal to burn in their furnace. There was little money for luxury items such as toys. I remember when I was quite small, perhaps seven years old, my mother bought me a few sheets of construction paper, which I folded into quarters and cut small and large notches out of them. When the paper was opened flat, I had a decoration that looked like a snowflake. I hung them from strings in all our windows.

Occasionally, as a special treat, my mother would buy me a book of paper dolls. The dolls were printed on stiff cardboard and were dressed in their underwear. The clothing that came with them was usually the dress designs of that era and included a hat, coat, shoes, purse, and white gloves. Each article of clothing was printed on a sheet of paper. I used scissors to cut them out being careful not to cut the white tabs that extended above the clothes. The white tabs, when folded over the dolls shoulders, anchored the clothing to it.

After a while, it became boring for me to use the same clothing over and over again. I discovered that by taking the paper clothes and placing them on a piece of plain white paper I could trace the outline of the dress or coat and design new clothing for my paper dolls to wear. As I became more proficient in my drawings I would make up stories to go along with them. I would imagine one doll being the Queen of England on one day, a Princess on another, and once I even drew a mermaid with a long tail! I read lots of books and expanded my imagination of how my dolls should look in my story and also what countries they would live in.

Once, the local librarian encouraged me to read the life story of Madame Chang Ki Shek. I drew the outline of a new doll on a piece of cardboard cut from a cereal box and gave my new paper doll her character; her clothes were colored with crayons and watercolor.
When male paper dolls came into vogue I duplicated them and I soon had a swashbuckling Pirate. From comic books I designed more paper dolls. Being on the shy side and having few friends to play with on cold winter days my dolls became very real friends to me.
One winter I borrowed my mother’s clothespins, which she used to hang her wet laundry outdoors. I drew a smiling face on the round head of the clothespin and used crepe paper to dress it.

Those were the fun years when everyone was poor, only we didn't know it because every one else was too.

When I visit my children and see the amount of toys my grandchildren have, it seems that each house is a virtual toy store. My grandchildren do not appear to value all they have received.

When I was their age and received a new toy, it was most appreciated and definitely valued. The old adage ‘less is more’ is all the more meaningful today, because I for one appreciated more, when I had less.

© 2010 Charlotte Savage all rights reserved.

Charlotte Savage is a creative writer, poet, author and illustrator of personalized Children’s books. She has won ribbons and awards for her literature and illustrations at both the Malden and Danvers Art Associations. Her stories and poems have been published in the Century Men’s Magazine of Boca Raton, Florida. Her books have been on exhibit at the Lynnfield Library. She is a member of various writing groups and has enjoyed writing courses at local colleges as well as poetry studies at the Peabody Institute Library. 

Charlotte has been with the North Shore Scribes since its first meeting in May of 2008. Her work is featured on 

If you would like to comment on the above story, you may contact her at  

​​​​​​On this page, I will feature two guest writers for a month or two. My first guests are Charlotte Savage and Mary Cooney-Glazer. They are both members of my writing group, North Shore Scribes. Feel free to LIKE them on Facebook and send them comments via their personal email. You will have to type in their addresses in a separate email. You may also let me know if you like this feature by using the contact page. I will continue to look for talented writers for this page.  Lina

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