Chapter 1 - A Bloody Mess
The storage room door burst open and toppled boxes of gauze across the glaring white floor. Samantha Bartlett awoke as the torrent pelted her, then stared through glazed eyes as the new wild-eyed resident doctor came into focus.
“Incoming multiple wounded!”
The brain fog dissipated as Samantha peeled herself off the linoleum and shot down the hallway to ER. If only to have more than a catnap – cats themselves wouldn’t survive on the naps she took. The instructors had spoken about it in medical school but living it was something else entirely. The life of
residency – always looking for sleep in all the wrong places. New York
“What’s happened?” Samantha asked.
“Several stabbings – one shot, and another who isn’t expected to survive the ambulance ride.”
Controlled chaos greeted them as they rushed around the corner into the unit, the scent of sterility invaded by blood and sweat. Wounded were shuffled through triage, vitals checked even as gurneys were wheeled through the trauma center. Blood trailed across the unit as staff swarmed each body and connected patients to oxygen and cardiac monitors. Questions and commands overcame the screams and reverberated throughout the room.
“I need a suture tray over here.”
“What’re his vitals?”
“Blood pressure is dropping.”
“Strap down his arms.”
“We need to intubate now!”
Second year residency starting now. Samantha snapped on gloves and jumped into the fray with her team as they cut off the bloody shirt. “What do we have here?”
The attending nurse rattled off statistics. “Male, approximately 50-years old. Multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and neck.”
“Do we know what happened?”
“Altercation at a hotel known for prostitution. Girls over there say he’s a john gone wrong. Got the pimp and hotel owner after apparently filleting one of the other girls. A couple tried to stop him.”
The cardiac monitor pulsed a steady rhythm. “Blood pressure is weak but stable.” She probed the wound in the neck. Bullet didn’t appear to have hit a vital artery. “Get a line in him and shoot me a picture so we can prep him for surgery.”
Police officers herded the other hookers into a holding area as Samantha turned her attention to her patients. Prostitution – sad business. What desperation would drive someone to even consider such a life, much less participate in it?
An occupied gurney sat unattended along the wall, a stained sheet haphazardly tossed over the body of a female. A dark red stain seeped through the sheet, and almost imperceptibly the sheet moved up then down. Samantha’s heart raced with stark realization.
The girl was still alive.
She dashed to the gurney and called out for a nurse. As she pulled back the sheet, she swallowed the rush of horror that rose in her throat. The victim – the prostitute. Parts of the chest, face, and arms had been sliced all the way into muscle as if someone had tried to conduct vivisection on a living human being. Blood oozed like lava from the layers of tissue. The paramedics hadn’t even untied the poor girl’s hands. Samantha sliced through the rope with a scalpel.
“Find a vein, we need a vein.”
Together they searched the bloody mass for an adequate vein, the arms eaten up by heroin tracks. The nurse finally located one in the leg, inserted the IV and got the blood line connected while Samantha loaded up and injected albumin. A weak and unstable pulse registered as the nurse hooked up the cardiac monitor. No time to prep for surgery. The girl would never survive the elevator ride, however if they could just stabilize perhaps she’d have a chance.
“Five cc’s of epinephrine,” the nurse stated as he handed over the syringe.
Had to work fast. No time to be neat. Those deep cuts needed attending to before the adrenaline took full effect. She had to suture multiple layers instead of one at a time. “Increase IV drip and keep a close watch on that bag. Do you have a standby?”
Though the task seemed impossible, she started piecemeal at the neck on a long and deep puncture, sutures broad and wide as she began the arduous process of stitching the poor girl back together, searching for perforated vessels or organs. The slices of skin and tissue were precise, as if the john had a knowledge of anatomy. The detectives would want to know later. As the flow of fluids into the body increased, the ooze of blood turned into a stream. The pace of the monitor intensified. They needed at least to match the inflow with the outflow to have even a millimeter of chance at saving her. Samantha focused on maintaining a steady hand.
“Dr. Bartlett, I need your assistance please.” Dr. Gibbon, the attending physician, tried to draw away her attentions.
Not tonight, please not tonight.
“I’m with a critical patient, sir.” She continued suturing and spoke to the nurse. “Have a crash cart standing by.” The unsteady beep of the monitor screamed the precarious situation of her patient.
“Dr. Bartlett, you will assist me now.”
Ignore him, ignore him.
Samantha gritted her teeth and persisted in attempt to save her patient. Sweat dribbled into her eyes, while anger knotted her stomach as she fought to hold back an avalanche of expletives.
The monitor flat lined. “Defibrillator!”
The nurse handed over the paddles.
The body convulsed as blood spattered from the wounds. No pulse. She warmed up the paddles and shocked the girl a second time. Nothing.
The nurse had another syringe ready before she even asked. “Five cc’s of epinephrine, doctor.”
Samantha snatched the syringe and injected the contents into her patient, blood pulsating in her ears. She willed the girl’s heart to start again, but the steady high-pitched whine of the monitor only mocked her efforts.
* * *
The dingy wall housing Dr. Gibbon’s plaques, framed degrees, and awards ridiculed her with their accumulated honors and years of service to the medical community, but the years and accolades had only hardened his soul to the human condition. Would he even listen to reason this time?
Dr. Gibbon’s dark eyes seethed as he looked up from his ancient, cluttered desk. “There is no question that your skills surpass any second year resident I’ve worked with, but there is no room in this respectable institution for those who do not follow orders from their superiors.”
Respectable? In whose eyes?
“Sir, I was with another critical patient when you called. What was I supposed to do – leave her to die alone?”
“She was dead-on-arrival.”
“But I had a pulse on her. Didn’t you hear the monitor?”
“No, you were just trying to make another one of your damned points. There was no way she’d survive.”
“Making a point? She was very much alive when I found her shoved off to the side.”
The vein in Gibbon’s temple throbbed as his face flushed red. The room reverberated as he pounded his fists on the desk and towered over her.
“She was just another prostitute.”
“And I suppose you are the morality police? I, sir, take the Hippocratic Oath seriously with all of my patients, not just the ones who advance my career and enhance my reputation.”
Dr. Gibbon’s face contorted as he pointed to the door. “Get out of my hospital!”
Chapter 2 – Hello and Goodbye
The crowd opened before her as the girl exited the hospital. She appeared alone in a sea of people. As if preparing to cross the street, she glanced in both directions, stared at her hands before stuffing them into her jacket pockets, and glared at the sidewalk.
The night lit up as if it were day through the special sunglass lenses. He stared at her.
Look up. Look up. What’s she waiting for?
He brought her image closer into focus then zoomed in on her face. He would be ready for that split second opportunity.
As if on command she jerked up her head and jutted out her chin defiantly before stepping into the crosswalk.
Just like her mother.
The familiar scar trailed across her jawline in plain view. With a press to the nose piece, he captured her image and transmitted the signal. Then he double-tapped his ear and spoke as he blended back into the frosty night air.
* * *
The echo of the pounding gavel indicated another sale by Carlisle’s, the premier auction house of
. Late evening auctions for such a prestigious firm were rare, but exceptions transpired on occasion to accommodate the schedules of wealthy repeat patrons. Even so, business made Ben late for this important event, not to mention the Saturday evening traffic worming their way to the latest Broadway offerings. New York
Personal excursions were a thing of the past, opportunity to schlep in close proximity to both the rich and scum of
humanity sporadic at best since accepting his position. Tonight he’d satisfy two urges in one overnight hustle. He only hoped the first hadn’t made him too late for this one. New York
After he registered and entered the spacious auction room, momentary eye contact and an almost imperceptible nod told him he’d arrived just in time. Since he had no intention of staying for the remainder of the sale, Ben took residence against the back wall near the doorway to await his purchase.
The painting was nothing really, just a tiny blip on the radar by comparison to the work currently on display and bidding upward of two million. But he had to obtain the historical piece to hang in his office, if only for the irony. The boss would find the congruency quite humorous.
The gavel slammed down again, closing the current sale at a crisp $2.4 million dollars. The voluptuous redhead, his eyes and ears at
Carlisle’s, set a new canvas in the easel. With practiced flourish, she removed the cloth like a matador at a bullfight, exposing the image of the ship languishing among jagged icebergs. The attendees released their collective breath of disappointment, most burying their heads in their catalogs while others glanced away and yawned or checked messages on their cell phones.
He’d get it for a song.
A mere seven minutes later and fifty-three thousand dollars lighter, he waited in the back of the limousine, irked that he’d gotten into a slight bidding war with a phone handler whose client was probably some idiotic history buff. Frustration melted away when the package passed through the doorway into his hands, the redheaded handler with it. Fifty-three thousand dollars was forgotten as she slid onto his waiting lap, her tongue snaking its way deep into his mouth.
A small price to pay to mix pleasure with business.