I robot to protect book.., p.10

I, Robot: To Protect Book 1, page 10

 

I, Robot: To Protect Book 1
 



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  Susan went with him without bothering to wonder where. He could have guided her to a slaughterhouse, and she would not have noticed. “Yes. Dr. Mandar. He’s coming down to see Starling.”

  Kendall’s hand tensed on her arm. He did not speak again until he had taken her into the charting area and sat her down on a chair in front of one of the larger computer screens. “You talked Dr. Sudhish Mandar into coming down to see a patient?”

  In an instant, all the residents in the staffing area, Stony, Kendall, Monk, and Nevaeh, were at Susan’s side, all talking at once.

  On demand, Susan told them the story of her conversations with the hospital’s greatest neurosurgeon. Monk clamped a hand to his mouth. Stony laughed. Nevaeh merely stared at her through widened eyes. Kendall nodded knowingly and spoke first. “I’d heard the way to gain surgeons’ respect is to stand up to them. I’ve just never had the gall.”

  Stony slapped Susan on the back. “Apparently, Susan has enough gall for all of us.”

  “A whole bladder full,” Kendall agreed, and the others laughed. “I once watched her decapitate a neurosurgery resident. Should have figured she could handle the most important one in the hospital.”

  Susan accepted the gibes good-naturedly, though she felt more nauseated than triumphant. She clutched her left upper abdomen. “At the moment, I think my gallbladder has boulders.”

  Chapter 8

  Susan spent the next hour spying on Sharicka Anson. So far, Susan had not spoken directly to the girl, nor had she introduced herself as the new resident. Once she did so, she would go on Sharicka’s radar and lose the opportunity to silently observe. Susan appreciated it when Sharicka roamed the halls or settled into the main room with the other children, as it gave Susan the chance to watch more closely from behind the one-way glass of the staffing area.

  Engrossed in watching Sharicka surreptitiously smear and rip posters and artwork on the walls in strategic places, Susan did not hear a newcomer enter the staffing area and walk up behind her.

  “Well, if it isn’t Dr. Susan Calvin, AOA.”

  Susan whirled to face Remington Hawthorn. He wore surgical greens and disposable covers on his shoes. He had the same emerald eyes she remembered, the chiseled cheekbones, his dark blond curls wild from the operating room hat. “Well, well, well. Dr. Remington Hawthorn, Neurosurgery.” She played it cool. “About time you got here.”

  Remington glanced at his watch. “Less than two hours. That’s pretty good.”

  “Two years,” Susan corrected. “That girl has languished here because no one had the courage to face Sudhish Mandar.”

  “Except you,” Remington pointed out. “You have more balls than an eight-peckered billy goat.”

  Susan bridled at the half-assed compliment. “And you have the manners of that billy goat.” She passed him her palm-pross, with Starling’s chart at the fore.

  Remington set the palm-pross on the desktop, without looking at it. “I’m sorry, Susan. You’re right. I made a huge mistake downstairs; you’re as good a doctor as any of my colleagues.”

  “Damn right.” Susan did not know or care if she spoke the truth. “Do they teach you condescension in your rotations, or are cads just drawn to surgical subspecialties?”

  Remington gave the rhetorical question serious consideration before whispering conspiratorially, “Honestly, I think it’s a bit of both.”

  Susan could not help smiling. Her anger dissipated.

  “Give me a chance to prove I’m not as big a jerk as I seem.”

  “Fine.” Susan reached for the palm-pross again, but Remington caught her hand. He did it with such ease and accuracy, he had clearly played sports in college.

  “Over dinner. Tonight.”

  Startled, Susan stared. The media would have people believe men no longer competed with their women, that they did not discriminate against competence, intelligence, or strength. To judge by her own sparse dating experience, the media had it wrong. Susan was not beautiful in a flashy manner. She had thin, pale lips, and her blue-gray eyes could turn downright steely. She was too thin, like her father, with little in the way of curves. Nevertheless, she had balanced features, youth, and a reasonable amount of grace. At the residents’ conference, she had felt an immediate attraction to Remington, one that his arrogance had destroyed. Now he seemed sincerely ready to make amends, and she saw no reason not to give him a second chance. “All right. When and where?”

  Remington finally picked up the palm-pross. “We can leave from here. I’ll drop by when I’m finished.”

  Susan suspected she would complete her work before he did, if only because the hours of the operating room ruled his schedule. “What time do you usually get done?”

  “Six thirtyish?” It came out more like a question than a statement, as if he could change the time if it did not work for Susan.

  Susan knew she had no real power over Dr. Sudhish Mandar. Remington would finish when his attending gave him leave. “Can you meet me in the charting room?” She described the location of the first-floor hideaway. “It’s a nice, quiet place to get some research done.”

  “Works for me.” Remington saluted, then settled into the chair in front of the palm-pross, acquainting himself with Starling Woodruff’s history.

  A thrill of excitement passed through Susan, but she played it cool. Snatching up an unused palm-pross, she headed for the other side of the staffing area to document her observations on Sharicka Anson. If Remington Hawthorn had any questions about Starling, she felt certain he would find her.

  The charting room door opened at 6:43 p. m. Susan Calvin looked up from her conversation with Nate to a tall young man framed in the doorway. He wore pleated khakis with a green and white striped dress polo. A shower had softened and tamed his sandy hair so it hung down in loose ringlets. Despite his lean frame, she could not help noticing the masculine bulges of his arm muscles and chest. It took her a moment to recognize Remington.

  Susan and Nate rose simultaneously to face the neurosurgery resident. With Nate beside him as comparison, Remington no longer seemed so tall. The robot had four or five inches on him. “Nate, this is Remington.”

  Remington stepped forward to shake Nate’s hand. “Just call me Remy.” He turned his gaze to Susan. “That goes for you, too, of course.” His green eyes sparkled. They defined handsome all by themselves, even without the boyish curls and the perfect oval of his face.

  Nate took Remington’s hand. “Pleased to meet you.”

  “And you,” Remington returned, but his gaze remained on Susan. He studied her with the same intensity she did him. “Are you ready to go?”

  “I am.” Susan had also showered in the psychiatry on-call room. Unlike surgeons, she did not routinely wear scrubs, so she had no change of clothing. Her work attire would have to do. “Where are we going?”

  “Your favorite restaurant.”

  That surprised Susan. She wondered how he had found out such details about her so quickly. She had shared that sort of inane conversation with her fellow residents, but she doubted Remington had found the time to quiz them about her interests. “My favorite? How do you know which restaurant that is?”

  Remington smiled and winked at Nate. “Actually, I was kind of hoping you’d know.”

  Nate chuckled.

  Susan rolled her eyes but could not help grinning. “There’s a little Chinese place a few blocks away.” She had eaten there many times with her college friends and had gone several times on visits home from medical school.

  Remington shrugged. “That’s your favorite?”

  “Well, yes. Short of —” Susan caught herself.

  Remington persisted, “Short of what?”

  “Nothing,” Susan said. “It’s my favorite.”

  Remington refused to let it go. “No, seriously. What’s your real favorite?”

  Susan sighed, not wishing to lie or create a problem where none existed. “A place that’s far away and very expensive.”

  N
ate studied Remington, brows rising slowly toward his hairline.

  “Oh.” Remington did not lose his smile. “Chinese it is.”

  “Chinese is perfect.”

  To Susan’s surprise, he took her arm as they walked from the room. He called over his shoulder, “Nice meeting you, Nate.”

  “See you tomorrow,” Susan called back, immediately wishing she had not. For now, Remington had no way of knowing what type of relationship she had with Nate. She did not want him worrying about competition.

  Susan’s words did not seem to bother Remington, however. He had a smooth self-assurance about him, the same that had put her off at the auditorium. She wondered whether she would come to adore it as a part of him or despise it absolutely. Only time would tell.

  The decision to walk to the restaurant was so mutual, Susan could not decide who had initiated the suggestion. They just sort of did it, striding through the cooler evening air while electric trolleys whizzed past them. Other people had also chosen to walk, but Susan found her attention riveted on Remington. Using old-fashioned manners she would have believed dead, he walked on the street side of her, clasping her hand in strong fingers without a hint of sweat.

  Susan enjoyed being with him in silence until they had nearly reached the restaurant. Then, suddenly, she found herself asking, “So, is Remington an old family name?”

  “Nope, I’m the first.” Remington gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “My dad is a gun collector. My twin brothers are Colt and Ruger. The family joke is that, when they named my sister, he was trying to decide between Uzi and AR-15.”

  Susan cringed. “Yuck. So, what’s your sister’s name?”

  “Uzi.”

  Susan’s cheeks turned scarlet. Stupid. She whipped her free hand to her mouth. “Oh, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”

  Remington shook his head, chuckling. “I’m kidding, Susan. My sister’s name is Emily.”

  “Emily? Really?”

  “Mom got to name any girls.”

  Susan relaxed. “Lucky Emily.” Suddenly realizing the oblique insult, she added quickly, “Though I like Remington. It sounds …” She considered the right word.

  Remington filled it in for her. “Arrogant? Jerky?”

  Susan had caught on to his sense of humor. “I was going to say ‘powerful.’ But it is, obviously, the perfect name for a surgeon.”

  “I hear ‘pretentious’ more often than ‘powerful.’ That’s why I’ve always gone by Remy. Colt’s not so bad — kind of trendy. But I’ve always felt bad for Ruger.”

  Spotting the restaurant, Susan pointed. “There it is.” They headed toward the Golden Chopstick.

  “So, how many siblings do you have, Susan?”

  “None.” Growing up, Susan had appreciated being an only child, not having to share her father’s attention with anyone. Aside from discussions of his work, he tended to involve her in everything, to speak to her like an adult. “My mother died when I was very young, and my father never remarried.”

  “Marriage isn’t an ultimate prerequisite for children.” Remington held open the door. The scent of food and sauces wafted through the opening, tantalizing. Susan realized just how hungry she was. They stepped inside.

  “True,” Susan admitted, “but I can’t recall my father even dating after Mom died. He loved her with an all-consuming passion. He devoted himself wholly to his work and to me.” As she spoke the words, Susan realized how odd they probably sounded to Remington. She had never thought much about her father’s celibacy. As a child, it had seemed absolutely natural to remain wholly devoted to the memory of Amanda Calvin. “To him, she was the perfect woman. In his mind, no other woman could begin to measure up.”

  Remington nodded, lips pursed. “She must have been quite a woman.”

  Susan barely remembered her mother but gave the only answer she could. “She was.”

  The host waved the pair to an empty table. Susan took the seat facing the window, and Remington sat across from her. The table already had two plates and sets of chopsticks, as well as a pair of built-in menu screens. The host left them to seat the next group of guests.

  Remington planted his elbows on his menu screen to lean toward Susan. “If you don’t mind my asking, what happened to your mother?”

  It was a sore spot, but the question and the questioner were innocent. “I don’t exactly know, beyond that it was a car accident. Dad would rather have all his teeth pulled out without anesthetic than talk about it.” Susan glanced at her menu screen.

  Remington moved his arms to read his own menu. “And none of your relatives would tell you about it, either?”

  For most of her life, Susan had simply assumed most families did not intermingle with distant relatives. “Neither of my parents had sisters or brothers. I only have one living grandparent, my father’s mother.” She flipped her hand over. “Susan. My namesake. She never raised the subject, and it was clearly so painful to my father that I would have felt disloyal bringing it up.”

  “Hmm.” Remington studied the menu. “What do you suggest?”

  For an instant, Susan thought he meant about her mother’s death. Truthfully, she bore some of the blame for not knowing the details of the accident. She probably could have cornered Nana or pressed John Calvin until he told her. But the pain and discomfort the topic clearly inflicted on her father upset her, and she preferred not discussing it with anyone, including Remington Hawthorn. “Everything’s good here.”

  Remington glanced around the packed restaurant. “That’s obvious.”

  “The house lo mein’s my favorite,” Susan continued. “It has four meats, including shrimp.”

  “All right. House lo mein and …” Remington studied the menu again. “How about chicken broccoli?”

  “Delicious.” Susan liked the combination. “They make an excellent wonton soup, chock-full of Chinese vegetables and even some shrimp.”

  “Let me guess.” Remington pressed his fingers to his temples in the manner of a psychic. “You like … shrimp.”

  “Very much,” Susan admitted. “You’re not allergic, are you?”

  “Yes,” Remington said. “Deathly. When I said we’d order the house lo mein, I was just hoping to test your ability to handle anaphylactic shock.”

  “Uh-oh,” Susan said with mock seriousness.

  “What?”

  “When I okayed the chicken broccoli, I was testing your ability to handle anaphylactic shock.”

  Remington laughed. “I’m a surgeon, remember? I’d skip the epinephrine or the wimpy antihistamines and steroids and go straight for the tracheostomy.”

  As their dinnerware consisted only of chopsticks, Susan hefted one. “What would you do? Poke me till I got a splinter? Tough to do a trach without at least a butter knife.”

  Remington reached into his pocket and dropped a handful of odds and ends to the tabletop, including a packaged scalpel blade, a tiny plastic suction tube, two nickels, and a cell-sized defibrillator. “I always travel prepared.”

  Susan shook her head, then rolled her eyes.

  “When you work with attending surgeons, you have to be. If you don’t have what they want the moment they want it, you have to weather disdain or, worse, a tantrum.” Remington watched Susan closely. He seemed to be studying her features, and a slight smile crossed his face. He clearly liked what he saw. “But you must know that. You seem to have an incredible handle on how to get the most superior surgeons to do your bidding.”

  Before Remington could say another word, the server approached. “What can I get for you?”

  Remington swept his gear back into his pockets. “We’d like two bowls of wonton soup to start. Dinner for two, with house lo mein and chicken broccoli.” He looked at Susan to confirm she still wanted what they had discussed.

  Susan nodded.

  The server tapped the order into a cousin of the palm-pross. Their menu screens changed abruptly. “Anything to drink?”

  Remington went silent and
let Susan answer for herself. “Tap water, please.”

  “I’ll have water, too, please. And a pot of green tea to share.”

  “All right.” The server typed their drink order into his palm-pad, and their menu screens added another box.

  Susan did not bother to look at her screen. From long experience, she knew it now contained a list of ingredients and calorie counts for the foods they had ordered. She had no allergies, and she wasn’t worried about superfluous calories. Remington also did not bother to look. Susan suspected he never thought about such things, nor did he seem to need to.

  Picking up where he’d left off, Remington said, “I meant that, about getting surgeons to do your bidding. No one in the history of the universe has gotten the self-proclaimed ‘greatest neurosurgeon’ to apologize or admit a mistake. Starling was our last case of the day. We had to keep the OR open overtime.”

  Susan had no idea. When she had left the unit, Neurosurgery had not yet made a decision about Starling. Now, Remington had her absolute attention. “What did you find?”

  “You tell me.”

  Susan knew. “An incompletely repaired A-V fistula.”

  Remington laughed. “You were right, and that only ratcheted up your celebrity among the neurosurgery crowd.”

  “I have … celebrity?”

  The server arrived with the soup, placing a bowl and squared-off hard plastic spoon in front of each of them.

  “Thank you,” Susan said.

  The wonton soup was exactly as Susan remembered it: clear, lightly salted broth with meat dumplings and vegetables, shreds of pork and two large shrimp. Remington picked up his spoon. “A couple of days to recover, and Starling’s on her way home.” He filled his spoon and sipped the hot soup carefully.

  “Home?” Susan could scarcely believe it. “After nearly two years on the inpatient unit?” She took a taste of her own soup, reveling in the savory mix of flavors. “Just like that?”

  Remington took some more soup. “Just like that. We’re not a long-term unit, Susan. Open ’em up, fix ’em, send ’em home.”

  “Yeah.” Susan could not help thinking Starling had lost nearly two years of her young life for nothing. Had someone only noticed the subtle signs of heart failure earlier, Starling could have spent the last year in school. She did not blame Dr. Sudhish Mandar. She suspected he had done nothing wrong, and Remington had simplified the problem. Likely, the A-V fistula had widened farther than it originally appeared, and the venous pooling problem occurred a short distance from the initial spot. “You know, twenty-two different residents and probably ten or eleven attending physicians missed the problem.” It seemed the very definition of malpractice; yet no one appeared worried about that eventuality.

 
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