Collins changed direction again and found the Alamo Fitness Center without difficulty. He put on his bulky sweats. He went into the exercise room and looked for her. Nancy Tilden was intently engaged on a spinner bicycle.
“Mind if I join you?” He returned her smile and put a bottle of water in the holder on his bike’s handle bar and wrapped a towel around his neck. She looks really trim in her workout clothes.
“I was looking for you. I thought you might have gotten lost.” Tilden already had a moist face and sweat stains on her gray spandex top.
“How’s your back?”
“Tolerable. It’ll be better after my workout and hot shower.”
“Didn’t you say your son comes to the gym with you?”
“Sometimes. He’s over with the free weights. Over by the bulky obnoxious guy.”
“How do you know the man’s obnoxious?”
“He’s been hitting on me for over a year. The guy’s married, has three kids and won’t stay away.”
“Has he forced himself on you?”
“No. He backs right down when I get loud and into his face. He always tries to impress Frankie with his weight lifting. They get along good and if he gets too fresh with me Frankie lets him have it too. He’s controllable.”
The large middle-aged man sat up from the weight bench and looked over to them. He smiled and waved.
“Don’t wave back,” Tilden said. She sipped from her water bottle.
“He looks familiar.” Collins stared at the man.
“Does the name Carl Grange mean anything?”
“The mobster? He’s Carl Grange?”
“In the large muscular flesh.”
“Well, I have to change machines. I go from the cycle to the leg nautilus and end up with the free weights.”
“Frankie stays with the free weights. He wants a build like Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
Collins watched as Tilden went to the rowing machine. She exercised with smooth deliberate motion. Her arm, shoulder and back muscles rippled underneath the spandex. He was almost finished with the leg nautilus when both Frankie and Grange yelled.
“I need a spot.” Grange’s voice was strained and gravelly. “Someone help. I need a spot.” Grange held the barbell a half-inch from his Adam’s apple as he lay struggling on the bench press. He had put too much weight on the bar. His legs and shoulders were straining to keep the barbell from crushing his airway and breaking his neck.
“Help. We need a spot right now.” Frankie was waving his hands and yelling.
All fitness centers had a rule for weight lifters to have a spot-person standby when they add more weight than customary in case they need help. This was a mandate on the bench press where the person lay on their back and pressed the barbell from collarbone level to straight-arm height.
Collins leaped from his leg nautilus and ran over to Grange and Frankie. He grabbed the barbell with one hand between Grange’s hands and lifted the barbell to its placement rest over Grange’s head. The bar had been just touching Grange’s larynx and was a few seconds from crushing his windpipe.
Grange breathed deeply and grabbed for his towel to wipe the drenching stream of sweat pouring down his face. “That was a close one.” His voice was raspy.
“You should have someone spot you.” He felt Grange’s right and left carotid artery pulse in sequence and then looked at his pupils.
“What are you doing?” Grange tried to sit up but Collins pressed his hand on his shoulders to keep him lying on the bench.
“Checking for any circulation compromise. Is your voice always gravelly?”
“No. I’m just dried out from yelling and deep breathing. Are you a doctor or something?”
“Yes. I’m a doctor. You should have your airway x-rayed or at least be seen by someone first thing tomorrow.”
“How about you, doc?”
“You can go to St. Angelo’s and ask for Dr. Collins. I’ll give you my card in the locker room.”
“Are you Matt Collins?” Frankie Tilden stared wide-eyed. “Mom told me about you but she didn’t tell me you were a doctor.”
The fitness center director had arrived and Tilden was by Frankie’s side. She touched Frankie on his shoulder and whispered, “He didn’t tell me he was a doctor.”
The Alamo director gave Grange the riot act about gym safety and had him sign a release of responsibility.
“Mr. Grange you should take a long steamy shower to re-humidify your airway. Hang around a while until I finish my workout.”
“Okay doc.” Grange smiled at Tilden. “You’re looking lovely as usual tonight Nancy my dear.” The raspy voice was far from romantic.
“You’re not.” She went back to a step machine and began exercising intently.
“How much can you lift Matt or Doc?” Frankie was wiry but muscular for 14-years. “Can you show me how you lift the weights?”
“You can call me Matt unless I’m at work. I usually start with 100 pounds and top off at 220 and come back down to 100 pounds again.”
“That’s all? Mr. Grange goes up to 300 some nights and tonight he tried for more.”
“It’s okay to test your limit Frankie but you should always have someone spot you in case you can’t do it–like Mr. Grange.”
In the locker room Grange had showered and was in street clothes. Collins went to his locker and handed Grange his business card. “You should be there in the morning. I’ll check your airway and the lungs for any damage. If you have any trouble breathing tonight call the hospital and they’ll call me. Otherwise, have the ER nurse page me tomorrow morning. I have three cases in surgery and I’ll slip down to see you between patients.”
“I’ll be there. You were there for me Doc and I won’t ever forget it.”
Frankie came out of the shower, toweled off and dressed in a tee shirt and jeans. He saw Collins head for the shower with a towel wrapped around his waist. He looked at Collins’ arms and chest. “Wow, you have the best build I ever saw.”
“We’ll work out together and gradually you’ll look like me as you grow up.”
“Fantastic. I’ll see you Wednesday night then.”
Outside Frankie met his mother and he buckled into the passenger seat. “Mom did you see what Matt did?”
“I only saw him from the back. I know he rescued Carl Grange from his overweight barbell.”
“Yeah. But mom he lifted it from his neck with one hand.”
“One hand? I don’t believe it.”
“Mom, he lifted it with one hand and it was 380 pounds.”
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