See Chapter One for disclaimers.
Madison Cavanaugh shut off the lights in her office, closing and locking the door before heading down the quiet hallway towards the Physicians' locker room. The last thirty-six hours had been frantic with numerous MVA's caused by a sudden ice storm that had enveloped the city and which, according to the local weather forecast, would continue for the next few days. With a sigh, Madison shoved open the heavy door, walking into the cavernous silence of the room, and headed for her locker. She had been in surgery most of the day repairing broken bones resulting from crashing vehicles sliding across icy roads, and the fatigue now reverberated through her shoulders.
Turning the combination dial on the lock she debated forgoing her weekly excursion into the streets, but knew in the end that she would be out there walking, searching...waiting. The overwhelming fatigue she felt would have to wait a few more hours before she could give into it, slide between the warm sheets of her bed and sleep. Opening the metal door, she dug out her street clothes and tossed them on the vinyl couch.
After removing her scrubs, she pulled on a pair of thermal underwear followed by a pair of faded jeans and a thick long-sleeved flannel shirt. Madison Cavanaugh was a beautiful woman, her 5'7" muscular frame offset by her long blonde hair, demanded attention, wherever she went. Tonight, she weaved her hair into a French braid before tucking the silky locks under a well-worn baseball cap. Sitting on the couch, she had just begun tying her Doc Martins when the doors swung open announcing the entrance of the one person she was hoping to avoid; Angela Kramer.
"Well there you are, Madi. I've been looking all over for you." Angela's face revealed an air of impatience, one that was renowned throughout the hospital, primarily among the interns and nurses. Madison was one of only a few people within these walls that Angela Kramer couldn't intimidate with her antics, which irritated Angela even more. "Let's go have dinner before you go out on your, umm...charity run, shall we?"
Madison's eyes cut a glaring path towards Angela before she dropped her head once again and continued tying her shoes. "No thanks. I'm not hungry and I really need to get going."
Rolling her eyes towards the ceiling, Angela could feel her patience wearing thin. "I can't understand why you would rather spend the evening scurrying around the alleyways of the Strip than going to dinner with me, Madi." Slamming the door to her locker, Angela glared at Madison as the woman calmly slid her arms through the sleeves of her heavy Navy Coat.
Reaching for the door, Madison turned to face her-sometimes-lover, "This program is important to me, Angela. I made a commitment when I agreed to work with Operation Safety Net and unlike some people, I keep my promises." Swinging the door open, Madison stepped out into the hallway realizing that she had just closed the door on any future she might have with Angela Kramer. For the first time in weeks, she felt the pressure lift from her shoulders. Angela had been a lot of fun to spend time with in the beginning, but during the last few months Madison had begun to feel the pressure as Angela had pressed for a commitment. I have no time in my life for anything or anyone, especially someone as demanding as Angela, Madison thought to herself, as she started down the long hallway towards the elevator.
Walking towards the exit on the first floor, Madison felt uncertain eyes following her progress. She smiled, knowing the faces behind the eyes were trying to decide if the woman they were looking at was really Madison Cavanaugh, Mercy Hospital's top Orthopedic Surgeon or someone that simply favored her. Madison prided herself on the good looks she inherited from her parents, always taking extra time to make sure her makeup and hair were perfect before venturing out into public view. Tonight, however, she didn't have time to go home and change before going to the Strip for her weekly visits. Besides, one certainly didn't want to be caught alone in the Strip District wearing the tailored clothes and expensive jewelry that Madison normally donned during the day.
Bracing herself against the bitter cold on the other side of the door, Madison tightened the collar around her neck and walked quickly through the sliding glass doors out of Mercy Hospital and into the dimly lit parking lot. Climbing into her Pathfinder, she turned the key and waited as the engine warmed. She looked up at the majestic building before her, feeling the energy contained within in the walls...it was almost palpable.
As part of her job, life and death decisions were an everyday occurrence. As an intern, she had learned to make quick, decisive judgments with confidence. She had never questioned her skill as a surgeon; it was her skill as a person, a friend, and as a lover that had always given Madison anguish. After leaving the warm embrace of the hospital's walls to enter the world of everyday life, she could no longer fall back on scientific research to guide her. It was during these times that she wondered if she was truly as 'together' as everyone thought Madison Cavanaugh appeared to be.
Sighing heavily, Madison shifted gears and left the parking lot, turning right onto Forbes Avenue. As she crossed town heading towards the Strip district, her mood changed as quickly as the environment. She was no longer the wealthy orthopedic surgeon; now she was simply Ms. Madi, friend and advocate for the homeless and downtrodden of the city.
Madison turned onto Smallman street; a well-traveled area of the strip and parked under a streetlight. Bracing herself against the bitter wind whipping around the old buildings, she grabbed her bag from the back seat and began walking away from the more populated establishments until she came to a small in-descript alleyway just south of Twenty-Seventh street. Slowing her pace for only a moment to take in her surroundings, she made her way towards the glow of a small drumfire in the middle of the alleyway.
Madison was about a third of the way into the shadowed alley when she felt, more than heard, a presence behind her. Before she could react, a man in tattered and soiled clothes stepped out from behind a garbage bin, blocking her path. Turning, she found two other men in similar clothing blocking her exit.
"Ain't seen no pretty woman in a long time." The man before her said through a smile as he edged closer. Madison could smell the stench of wine and smoke emanating from his body and noticed that his smile revealed poor oral hygiene and several missing teeth.
Holding the man's eyes to show her lack of fear, Madison edged closer, trying to move past the vagrant. "I'm not here to bother you sir, I just need to find Toby."
Sidestepping to block her path once again, the man's face became dark and defensive. "What the hell you be wanting Toby for?"
Holding her bag up for him to see, Madison once again tried to bypass the offensive man, only to be cut off once again. "I'm a doctor. If you know Toby, you'll also know he was attacked last week. I put four stitches in his cheek and now it's time to remove them." Holding the man's glare, she lifted her chin, "If you would be so kind as to direct me to him, I'll remove them and be out of your way in a few minutes."
Before the man could respond, a very large man emerged from the shadows. "Leave Ms. Madi be, she don't mean you no harm."
Pushing her way past the first man, she walked towards the gentle giant, her 5'7" frame dwarfed by his 6'4" height. Craning her head, Madison looked up into the smiling blue eyes. "How are you, Toby? You ready to get those stitches out?"
"Yes'm." Turning, Toby began walking back towards the flaming barrel, "Let's get closer to the fire where it's warm. You shouldn't be out here on a night like this, Ms. Madi."
Placing her bag on a relatively clean piece of cardboard, she motioned the large man to sit. "Sure I should, Toby. You don't think I would forget about your stitches, do you?"
With a sheepish smile on his face, Toby looked away, "No Maam, I didn't think you forgot me, but it could have waited 'til it was more warm out here."
"I told you I'd be back tonight and I keep my promises. Now turn around so I can take a look at those stitches."
Madison knew coming into this project that earning the trust and respect of the neighborhood's homeless would be one of the biggest obstacles she would face. Encountering men like those that had stopped her in the alley a few minutes before, had chased off more that a few would-be volunteers over the past few years, but Madison focused on the one thing she knew she could control...providing a concerned and honest source of medical care to the men and women who called these streets home. She knew the danger of venturing off alone into the alleyways, but the need to help overcame her fears. Thus twice a week for the past year she had been walking these streets searching and caring.
Madison removed the stitches from Toby's cheek, applied an antiseptic and covered the wound with a clean bandage. The bandage was almost glowing against Toby's dirty unshaven face and she knew before morning it would probably be one more piece of litter within the walls of the alleyway. She smiled and lifted Toby's chin with her hand, until their eyes met. "You think you can keep that clean for me for a few days?"
"Sure thing, Ms. Madi." Rising to his feet Toby began walking Madison back towards the entrance of the alleyway. As they passed the men she had previously encountered, Toby spoke "Those goons didn't mess with you did they?"
"No Toby, they didn't. They were just protecting their territory." She glanced, "Just like you would do if a strange person had come wandering in here unannounced. Right?"
Smiling down into the warm face, Toby chuckled. "Yes'm, I guess you're right, but if anybody ever messes with you, you just let me know. Okay, Ms. Madi?"
"I will Toby, and thanks." Madison had just cleared the building and stepped out into the sidewalk when she felt a strong hand grab her arm and pull her further away from the building. Madison watched in horror as the hand released her and grabbed Toby, forcing his face against the wall. She stood there speechless as she watched the scene unfold.
"What the fuck are you doing, Toby? Harassing the pretty women again?"
Toby's demeanor shrunk and his shoulders sagged against the building. "I was just walking the lady to her car Officer."
Shoving him harder against the wall the officer's voice became low and dark. "Yeah, I guess that's what you said last year when I caught you trying to rape that student two blocks north of here."
Finally finding her voice, Madison stepped forward. "Officer, he's telling you the truth. Please release him, he did nothing wrong." Madison's eyes flared as when she saw the blood dripping off Toby's cheek as he turned around. "That's just great Officer. I just removed the stitches from his cheek and you've managed to barge in and in less than five minutes, bust his wound open again. Thank you so much for your help."
Turning around, Logan McGregor looked into the greenest eyes she had ever seen. Had they not been shooting daggers at her, she might have fallen in those pools and drowned.
Continue to Part Three of Code Blue
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