Vital signs dmb 2, p.14

Vital Signs dmb-2, page 14

 part  #2 of  Dr. Marissa Blumenthal Series


Vital Signs dmb-2

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  "Please," David said.

  Alan slipped a tape into a VCR and electronically connected it to the appropriate monitor. He then pushed the Record button.

  "How long?" Alan asked.

  "It doesn't matter," David said.

  "That's probably enough already."

  Alan stopped the tape, ejected it, and then carefully labeled it.

  "It is time to deal with them now," David said, taking some black leather gloves from his pocket and pulling them on.

  Alan extracted his long-barreled revolver from his holster and checked the cylinder. It was loaded with soft-nosed bullets.

  David's calm face showed the barest hint of a sarcastic smile.

  "I hope they do not resist."

  "Do not worry," Alan said with a broader smile.

  "We can always make them resist."

  "No trouble figuring this filing system," Wendy said.

  "It's pretty straightforward. Here comes my record." Having typed up the appropriate commands, Wendy entered her social security number via the terminal's keyboard. As soon as she pressed the Execute button, the information-page of her Women's Clinic file filled the screen.

  "What did I tell you!" Wendy said, obviously pleased. As she was about to advance to the next page, Marissa restrained her and pointed to the category of occupation.

  "What's this 'health care worker'?" Marissa asked.

  "A mild deception," Wendy explained.

  "I didn't want them to know I was a physician. I was afraid it would get back to the General and my private life wouldn't be so private anymore."

  Marissa laughed.

  "I did the same sort of thing for the same reason.

  "It's uncanny how we think alike," Wendy said.

  "Now that we can call up individual records, what do you think is the best way to proceed?" Marissa asked.

  "It's simple in theory," Wendy said.

  "What we need is that diagnostic code the woman up in medical records said they had for granulornatous blockage of the fallopian tubes. We just have to find it. I'm hoping we'll come across it in my chart or yours.

  It will appear as some kind of alphanumeric designator."

  "We can use Rebecca Ziegler's record as well," Marissa said.

  She got out the dead woman's social security number.

  They scanned Wendy's entire record, paying particular attention to the page containing the pathology of her fallopian tube biopsy. By the time they'd reached the final page, they'd come across a number of possible candidates for the code designator.

  Marissa jotted them down.

  "Content-wise, there's nothing in here that I didn't already know," Wendy said.

  "At least nothing that would tempt me to jump out the window. Let's go on to yours."

  "Try Rebecca's first," Marissa suggested. She handed Wendy the social security number.

  Wendy entered the number and executed. Instantly the computer responded by flashing "no file found."

  "I was afraid of that," Marissa said.

  "All right, go to mine."

  She recited her social security number and Wendy entered it.

  Soon Marissa's record was on the screen.

  Wendy scrolled directly to the pathology page. Reading carefully, they spotted several notations they had also taken from Wendy's records.

  "That's curious," Wendy said.

  "Check out the microscopic."

  Marissa began to read it again.

  "Do you notice anything strange?"

  "I don't think so," Marissa said.

  "What caught your eye?"

  "Let's see if you see it," Wendy said. Quickly she went back into her own record and called up her pathology page.

  "Read the microscopic!"

  Marissa did as she was told.

  "Okay," she said when she'd finished.

  "What's on your mind?"

  "Still don't see it?" Wendy questioned.

  "Just a second." She cleared her record and went back to Marissa's pathology page.

  "Read again," she suggested.

  When Marissa was finished, she looked at her friend.

  "I get it now," she said.

  "They're exactly the same. Word for word, verbatim."

  "Exactly," Wendy said, "Do you think that's weird?"

  Marissa thought for a moment.

  "No, I guess I don't," she said.

  "These reports were undoubtedly dictated. Doctors frequently dictate from rote when they are dictating similar cases. I'm sure you've heard surgeons dictating. Unless there's a complication, their dictations; come out verbatim all the time. I did it myself when I was on surgery. All it suggests to me is that there are more cases here at the Women's Clinic: something we've suspected all along."

  Wendy shrugged.

  "Maybe you're right," she said.

  "It just seemed odd at first. Anyway, let's get back to what we were doing. I'll try running a search using some of these possible code designators that we've found in both our charts."

  Going back to a system utility menu, Wendy began trying the various letter and number combinations Marissa had written down. The third one resulted in a list of eighteen numbers that appeared to be social security numbers.

  "This looks very promising," Wendy said as she prepared to print out the list.

  The only sound in the ultrasound room had been the barely audible click of the keyboard keys, but just as Wendy was about to push the Print key, Marissa heard the sound of a door opemng not too far away.

  "Wendy!" she whispered.

  "Did you hear that?"

  Wendy responded by turning off both the computer terminal and the light. They were plunged into utter darkness.

  For several minutes both terrified women strained their ears to pick up the slightest sound. All their previous fears had congealed into one moment. They held their breath. In the far distance they heard the muffled sound of a refrigerant compressor switching on in a lab. As intently as they were listening, they even heard a bus go by on Mt. Auburn Street, almost a block away.

  Groping soundlessly, they found each other's hands for a modicum of comfort and held on. Five minutes crawled by.

  Finally Wendy spoke in a barely audible whisper: "Are you sure you heard a door?"

  "I think so," Marissa answered.

  "Then I think we'd better get out of here," Wendy said.

  "AD of a sudden I have a terrible feeling."

  "All right," Marissa agreed.

  "Try to stay calm." She didn't feel too calm herself.

  "Let's head over to the door."

  Still holding on to each other and fearful of turning on the light, they blindly inched across the room with their free hands out in front of them. They moved a half step at a time until they touched the wall. Advancing along the wall, they came to the door to the narrow hall.

  As quietly as she could manage, Marissa opened the door, first a crack, then wider. At the end of the short hallway they could see weak light coming from the waiting room windows.

  "My God!" Marissa said.

  "The door to the waiting room is open. I know I closed it."

  "What should we do?" Wendy pleaded.

  "I don't know," Marissa said.

  "We have to get to the stairwell," Wendy said.

  For the next few moments, the two were paralyzed with indecision.

  They let another few minutes go by. Neither heard another sound.

  "I want out of here," Wendy said at last.

  "Okay," Marissa answered. She was equally as eager. Together they edged down the corridor to the lip of the waiting room. Slowly they leaned out and scanned the shadows. Beyond the waiting area and down another short hall they could see the red glowing Exit sign indicating the stairwell.

  "Ready?" Marissa asked.

  "Let's go," Wendy said.

  The two women hurried across the waiting area, moving toward the hall that would lead to the stairwell. But they didn't make it. They stopped dead in t
heir tracks as Marissa let out a stifled cry of surprise. Directly in front of them, a figure had stepped out from the recess of one of the elevators. His face was obscured by shadows.

  Wendy and Marissa spun around in hopes of making it back to the ultrasound room. But they stopped again. In front of them the door to the ultrasound area swung shut with a slam. To their horror another dark figure stepped from behind the door.

  The two threatening figures began to advance. Cornered from ahead and behind, they were trapped.

  "What is going on here?" Marissa asked. She tried vainly to make her tone sound authoritative.

  "I'm Dr. Blumenthal and this is Dr. — " But she didn't finish her sentence. A blow flashed out of the darkness and caught her on the side of the head, hurling her to the floor with her ears ringing.

  "Don't hit her!" Wendy shouted. She tried to go to Marissa's aid, but was met by a similar blow. The next thing she knew, she was sprawled on the carpet.

  Then the lights went on.

  Marissa blinked in the sudden glare. Her head was throbbing from the blow. She pushed herself up to a sitting position. She rubbed the spot where she'd been hit just over her left ear. Then she looked at her palm, half expecting to see blood. But her hand was clean. She glanced up at the man standing over her. He was a security guard dressed in a well-pressed, dark-green uniform with epaulets. Marissa saw that he was an Asian. He smiled down at her, his black eyes shining like onyx.

  "Why did you hit me?" Marissa demanded. She had never expected such violence.

  "Thieves!" the guard snarled in heavily accented English. His 7 hand shot out again and slapped Marissa in the same spot he'd hit her the first time.

  A burning pain went through Marissa's face as she again fell to the carpet.

  "Stop!" Wendy called as she tried to get to her feet. But the man in the gray suit kicked her feet out from under her. She fen back to the floor, knocking the wind from her lungs. Helplessly, she struggled to get a breath.

  "Why are you doing this?" Marissa wailed. She pushed herself up to her hands and knees, then struggled to her feet. She was beginning to think she was dealing with two lunatics. She tried to 4 speak again, but before she could say a word, her ketamineinspired nightmare came back as vividly as it had at the restaurant, adding to her panic.

  "Thieves!" the guard repeated. Mercilessly he stepped up to Marissa and slapped her a third time, knocking her back against the receptionist's desk.

  The desk broke Marissa's fall. She sent a few dispensers and a metal stapler crashing to the floor.

  Survival instinct told her to make a run for it, but she could hardly leave Wendy. Marissa glared at her assailant.

  "We're not thieves!" she shouted.

  "Are you crazy?"

  The guard's smile broadened into a hideous grin, exposing decaying teeth. The next second, his expression was stern.

  "You call me crazy?" he snarled. He reached for his revolver.

  Wide-eyed with terror, Marissa watched as the man raised the gun and aimed its barrel directly at her. She heard the horrifying mechanical click as the guard cocked the gun's hammer back. He was going to shoot her.

  "No!" Wendy shouted. She'd regained her breath and was sitting up.

  Marissa couldn't speak. She thought of uttering some plea, but the words wouldn't come. She was paralyzed with fear. She couldn't take her eyes away from the blank hole of the barrel as she braced for the shattering blast.

  "Hold it!" a voice cried out.

  Marissa winced, then opened her eyes. The gun hadn't fired. She sucked in a lungful of air as the gun in front of her face lowered. She hadn't even been aware she'd been holding her breath.

  Marissa allowed her eyes to leave the gun and rise to the guard's face. He was staring in disbelief toward the short hallway to the elevators and stairwell. Marissa's eyes followed his line of sight. Standing there, holding a gun of his own in both hands, was a rumpled figure. The gun was trained steadily on the guard.

  "Aren't you guys overreacting?" the stranger asked.

  "Now I want you to put that gun on the desk and move over to the wall.

  No fast moves. I've shot a lot of people in my day. One more wouldn't make much difference."

  For a moment no one moved or spoke. The security guard's gaze shifted from the newly arrived intruder to the Chinese man in the gray suit. He seemed to be contemplating whether or not to comply.

  "The gun on the desk!" the stranger repeated. Turning to the man in the gray suit, he added: "Don't you move!" The man had started to circle the room.

  "Who are you?" the guard asked.

  "Paul Abrums," the man said.

  "Just a workaday, retired cop trying to earn a few dollars to supplement my pension. Certainly is lucky I was in the neighborhood to keep things from getting out of hand here. Now, I'm not going to tell you again: put the gun on the desk!"

  Marissa stepped aside as the guard moved to the receptionist's desk and laid his revolver down. Wendy got up from the floor and joined Marissa.

  "Now," Paul said.

  "If you two gentlemen would kindly step over to that wall and put your hands on it, I'd feel a lot better."

  The two Asians looked at each other, then complied. Paul went to the desk and picked up the revolver. He stuffed it into his trouser pocket. Turning his attention back to the men, he went up behind the guard and frisked him for additional weapons.

  Satisfied, he turned to the man in the gray suit.

  In a flash, the man in the gray suit spun around with a guttural yell, kicking the gun from Paul's hand and sending it flying across the room. It clattered to the floor near the windows. Without missing a beat, the man assumed a crouched posture.

  With another yell, he aimed a second kick at Paul's head.

  Having been caught off-guard by the first kick, Paul was prepared for the second. An experienced street fighter, he ducked the kick and grabbed a chair and slammed it into his attacker's midsection. The chair and the man ended up in a tangle on' the floor.

  Next, the security guard assumed a crouched position suggesting martial arts training. He came at Paul from the side as Paul vainly tried to extract the long-barreled Colt from his trouser pocket. Abandoning the gun for the moment, Paul grabbed a lamp from an end table and used it to parry the guard's lightning thrusts.

  As more chairs began to fly, Marissa and Wendy dashed back through the door to the ultrasound area. They had one goal in mind: to get back to the safety of the overnight ward.

  Tearing open the door to the ultrasound room they had been in only minutes before, they hastily turned on the light and ran through to the door to the lab. Once in the lab, Wendy found the light switch and flipped it on. Marissa closed the door. Noticing it had a lock, she locked it behind her.

  Continuing on, they sprinted between lab benches and incubators to the door that led to the main corridor. Before they made it, they heard the ultrasound room's door being rattled behind them, then its glass panel being shattered with a smash.

  Arriving in a panic at the door to the main corridor, Wendy tried to open it, but it was locked. As she struggled with the bolt, Marissa turned into the room to see the security guard coming after them. Picking up some laboratory glassware, she began throwing it at the approaching figure. The smashing glass slowed the guard but didn't stop him.

  At last, Wendy managed to yank the door open. The two women dashed out into the darkened main corridor. Hoping to avoid the waiting area, they turned right. In a full panic, they ran headlong down the hall, hoping to wind up at another stairwell.

  Sliding to a partial stop and almost falling in their haste, the women had to negotiate a ninety-degree right-hand turn in the darkened corridor. As they ran now they could see a window at the end with lights from the city diffusing in. Unfortunately there were no red Exit signs. Behind them they heard the laboratory door bang open. The guard was not far behind.

  Skidding to an abrupt stop as the hall terminated at the window,

p; Marissa and Wendy frantically tried the doors on either side. Both were locked. Glancing up the corridor, they could see the guard had reached the bend. He started down toward them, slowing his steps. He had them cornered. s

  On the right wall, Marissa noticed a glass cabinet. She yanked it open and grabbed the heavy brass nozzle of a canvas fire hose.

  Its coils fell out onto the floor in a serpentine mass.

  "Turn on the faucet," Marissa yelled to Wendy.

  Wendy reached into the cabinet and tried to turn the knob. It wouldn't budge. She put both hands on it. With all her strength, she pushed. Suddenly, the valve began to move. Wendy spun it wide open.

  Mafissa held the heavy nozzle with both hands. She pointed it down the corridor at the approaching guard. Although she had braced herself, Marissa was not prepared for the force of the jet that finally burst forth. The power was enough to knock her backward, tearing the hose from her grip. The nozzle flailed wildly under the force of the uncontrolled jet.

  Marissa scrambled out of the way of the hose as it sent a pressurized stream of water in every direction. Spotting a fire alarm next to the cabinet, Wendy pulled down the lever, activating both an alarm and the sprinkler system. With the same stroke, an alarm in the Cambridge fire station was set off, interrupting a highly contested game of poker.

  Both Marissa and Wendy had been sobbing for some time. As embarrassed as they were about their emotions, they couldn't help it. Their feelings had run the gamut from terror to relief to humiliation. Then the weeping had taken over. It had been an experience neither would forget. Both agreed it had been the worst of their life.

  Marissa and Wendy were sitting on scarred wooden chairs whose varnish was coming off in flakes like a peel after a bad sunburn. The chairs were in the center of a blank, dingy room that was mildly littered with trash and smelled of alcohol and dried vomit. The only picture on the wall was the humorless face of Michael Dukakis.

  Robert and Gustave were sitting across from them. George Freeborn, Robert's personal attorney, was in a chair by the window balancing an alligator briefcase on his lap. It was 2:33 in the morning. They were at the district courthouse.

  Just as she finally began to gain control of herself, Marissa's eyes welled.

  "Try to pull yourself together," Robert told her.

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