Left For Dead

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The phone rang again while Linda was in the bathroom; a police officer told Rick that his daughter had been shot at least three times in the head and chest. Rick collects guns (he has a .357 magnum stored on Linda's side of the bed, a .38-caliber pistol, and six rifles Rick inherited from his father and grandfather) and knows the damage they can do. As a former paramedic Rick has seen several people with gunshot wounds, some he could save and some he couldn't; others ended up living half-lives hooked to machines. "I thought if she'd been shot that many times maybe it'd be better for God to take her," Rick says. "I didn't think she would make it, or have much to make it for."

Rick told Linda that Tracey had been shot, but he didn't tell her how many times, or how bad he thought it was. Rick didn't want her mind to start racing; he's trained to be emotion-free in emergencies, and she isn't. Rick called Tracey's mother, Karen Bryant, said Tracey was hurt and told her to meet him at the hospital.

Waiting for them in the ER hallway were a trauma nurse, two doctors, a hospital public relations person and a chaplain. "We need to talk," a doctor said, and led the Deels into a small room. The doctors started listing Tracey's injuries. She had been shot 12 times; three bullets had torn through her flesh twice, so there were 15 entry wounds.

"Time out," Rick interrupted, making a T with his hands. "Stop. Is she alive, or is she dead?"

She's alive, the doctor said, and she was doing pretty well, considering. A .22-caliber handgun can do a lot of damage, but the bullets had missed Tracey's major organs and landed in soft tissue.

"Okay," Rick said. "Now I'm listening. Now you can talk."

When Tracey entered the ER, her pale skin was cool, and she was barely breathing. Of the 12 bullets, one was under her swollen right eye, one above her lip, two in the back of her head, two in the back of her neck, two in her chest, three in her left hand and one in her right. Linda wanted to see her, but the doctors were still searching for bullet holes.

Tracey's parents, her stepmother, her stepbrother J.T. Deel and her boss at River Oaks Imaging sat with the chaplain in a room behind the nurses' station. A nurse brought in Tracey's blood-soaked Luscious Jackson T-shirt and shorts for identification. Hours later, the family walked with Tracey as she was wheeled to the operating room. Her thick brown hair was matted with dried, clotted blood, her eye was loosely bandaged, and her shot-up mouth was uncovered. Her parents kissed her, touched her arm and told her they loved her. After nine hours of surgery, the doctors gave Tracey four milligrams of morphine and decided she needed more surgery.

"I didn't know if I was going to live or die," Tracey says. "I didn't ask, and they didn't tell me."

Last summer Tracey bought a Bible and started reading books about the Rapture. She wasn't happy. She wanted to be out of debt, she wanted a girlfriend, and she wanted a job that would let her spend more time with her music (she didn't get to rock as an X-ray technician). Tracey screened her calls and rarely returned messages. She had always been independent, but she started spending more time alone. She prayed that everything in her life would change.

November 27 was a normal Saturday night. Tracey locked her dogs, Fanny and Timone, in the kitchen, tuned the radio to 107.5 the Buzz and left her babies plenty of food, toys and treats. She kissed them good-bye and walked outside. It was a cold night, but like always, she was wearing baggy shorts, a concert T-shirt and Doc Marten sandals.

Tracey went to Chances, a lesbian bar at the corner of Montrose and Westheimer with rainbow flags flying on the roof. She sat at her usual black barstool in a quiet corner. Three seats down from the Touchmaster 7000 video poker machine, Tracey and her co-worker Cora Salter played music trivia games, and watched Country Music Television and women walking by. Tracey was more of a listener than a talker. She told wry jokes and often sat by herself drinking rum and Diet Coke. Before Cora left, she gave Tracey the security code to her Westheimer apartment and told "the kid" to crash at her place. But Tracey wanted to wake up in her own bed Sunday. Like always, she stayed after hours, finished her drink and chatted with the owner. The manager, Lisa Garrett, watched Tracey walk to her car around 3 a.m. Tracey hit the Whataburger drive-through on Shepherd and bought her usual fish sandwich to eat on the 30-minute drive home, and breakfast burritos and a sandwich for Sunday morning.

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Wendy Grossman
Contact: Wendy Grossman