It was an ordinary Monday morning in July, and she scarcely took notice of the people around her as she leaned against the metal pole in the center of the subway car. Her briefcase was secured in one hand, the Daily News folded in half length-wise and held up in front of her face with the other. It was seven-thirty a.m., the height of rush hour, and eighty early morning commuters filled every seat and pressed against her in the narrow aisle. She had thirty blocks to ride underground to her destination.
She had given up trying to drink coffee during the trip; she had ruined one too many suits while trying to manage a cup amidst the jostling crowds. Had she stopped to purchase her usual fare of espresso-spiked French roast, she would have taken a different train. Sometimes five minutes can change the course of a lifetime.
"Damn driver's gonna shake us all to death," someone nearby grumbled.
"Excuse me, sorry," her pole-mate mumbled for the third time after losing his balance and stumbling into her.
"No problem," she murmured, lowering her paper and glancing through the thick, scratched glass of the sliding double doors opposite her. Shadows of vertical concrete supports and the gaping mouths of dark recesses flew by quickly in the dimly lit tunnel. Too quickly. When the businessman next to her lurched into her once again, she tucked the newspaper under her arm, pressed the briefcase to her chest with an elbow, and grasped the pole with both hands. The car rocked heavily, and she had to spread her feet to keep her balance. She glanced forward the length of the car and realized that everyone else was having difficulty staying upright, too. Her pulse quickened as she fought to steady herself. The train went into a curve and seemed to tilt up on one side. Over the noise of her own heart pounding erratically in her ears, she heard the reassuring squeal of the brakes being applied. Nothing to worry about.
That was her last conscious thought before the world turned upside down amidst the sounds of rending metal and helpless humanity. Then there were only fragments of words and dizzying images and jostled movements that catapulted her in and out of consciousness, until finally reality coalesced into a blinding light in her eyes and a crimson roar of pain in her head. She struggled to sit up, but just the slight movement she was able to manage caused a new agony in her right leg to surge upward and force the air from her lungs with its terrible intensity. Forcing her eyes open despite the piercing glare, she found herself looking into a huge silver disk with a hot white bulb in its center suspended over her head. Almost instantaneously, she realized that her arms were tied down. Then she began to hear voices, strident tones forming half-sentences and clipped short-hand phrases.
Closed head injury...open tib-fib fracture...
Somebody call the O. R.…another one coming up...
Type and cross her...four units...
We need a CT of the chest and abdomen…STAT...
Fighting down the pain, she gathered all her strength and tried to speak. "What... oh... where am..." Suddenly, a silhouette swam into her field of vision, backlit by the bright light, and she tried unsuccessfully to focus. "Please…"
Gentle hands restrained her as a deep, calm voice spoke. "You were in an accident. You're at Bellevue. Can you tell me your name?"
She tried to shape the sounds of her name but they floated away from her on a new wave of anguish. She continued to stare upward, dimly aware of fingers brushing over her face. Finally, features began to emerge from the shadows above her, giving her something to cling to in the sea of confusion and pain. A face bending near-blue eyes, so dark they were almost purple, intense and penetrating. Black hair, thick and unruly, escaping from beneath the band of a surgeon's cap that slashed across a strong broad forehead. Prominent cheekbones and a bold, nearly masculine jaw.
"You're going to be fine."
She had no choice but to deliver herself into those confident unwavering eyes-and to believe.
Five years later
"I don't have time for interviews," Saxon Sinclair said with barely contained irritation as she walked unannounced into the Chief of Surgery's office late on the last day of June. "And I'd appreciate it if you didn't schedule things for me without discussing it first."
The distinguished-appearing, fifty-year-old man behind the broad walnut desk smoothed his expensively styled, silvered hair, carefully placed his Waterman pen into the chest pocket of his spotless starched white lab coat, and tried to conceal his aversion to his visitor. He leaned back in the padded swivel chair and regarded the intense, dark haired woman in navy surgical scrubs who stood too close to the front of his desk to be respectful. She wore two beepers on her belt, the trauma pager that would summon her to the helipad or the trauma admitting area, and the code beeper that would call her to the trauma intensive care unit in the event that a patient arrested. Rangy and lean, she was too athletic-appearing for his taste, and too aggressive for his liking. She probably wasn't aware of the fact that she was leaning forward with her feet spread and her hands clenched at her sides.
"I'm sorry," he said in his practiced bureaucratic voice. "I thought my secretary had cleared it with your office."
"Apparently not," she said, her tone indicating that she didn't believe him. "Tomorrow is July first, and I've got three fresh attendings, two first-year fellows, and a handful of brand new residents in my trauma unit. I can't leave them to meet with some journalist. You'll have to get someone else to talk to him."
Preston Smith smiled, thinking how much he'd like to fire her arrogant ass. Too bad the university was so concerned about the gender and minority profiles of their department chairs and division heads. A clear bias might have a negative impact on future state and federal funding, and every institution was feeling the financial crunch. The powers that be-more importantly-the powers that controlled his own budget, would not take kindly to him firing one of the few female chiefs in the entire university hospital system. He conveniently ignored the fact that she was also one of the premier trauma surgeons in the state and had been the focus of several newspaper and magazine articles. He couldn't even find anything, professional or personal, to hold over her head to threaten her with. Private and solitary, apparently wedded to her work, her reputation was unimpeachable. She would not be easy to get rid of. "You're the one they want to talk to, Sax," he said solicitously, assuming a familiarity she had never invited. "You're the one with the name recognition."
"Then they can come back in September and talk to me then," she said as she turned and started towards the door. Pompous idiot. He hasn't actually been in the operating room in so long, he's forgotten how hairy the first few weeks of July can be.
"I thought you'd want to meet with these folks and lay down the ground rules," he called after her, "but it's up to you, of course. You know how you want to run your unit."
These folks? She stopped suddenly and pivoted slowly, her eyes narrowing. "Is there something else you haven't told me, Preston?"
"Image is everything in today's marketplace, and we're no exception. We're not the only level one trauma unit in Manhattan, nor the only cancer center, nor the only tertiary care facility," he said smoothly, as if she weren't aware of these facts. "St. Michael's needs the exposure, and this is a perfect opportunity."
"What is this, exactly?"
He couldn't quite hide his triumphant smile. "One of the independent networks will be airing a documentary medical series, and the production company be filming it here. It's an excellent opportunity for free advertising."
For a moment, she simply stared, rigidly still but for a muscle that jumped along the border of her jaw. Very quietly, in a voice edged in steel, she asked, "And what precisely does that have to do with me?"
"The producers felt that the exposé would have more impact if viewers could identify with a particular individual throughout the episodes, so they're going to present a year-long show based on the life of a surgical trainee."
Smith made a show of moving some papers around on his desk, but Sax knew damn well that he didn't need to search for a name. This had all been decided without her input and had probably been set in motion weeks before.
"Ah...here we are. Deborah Stein."
"My first-year trauma fellow." It was a statement, not a question. Sax rubbed her eyes and contemplated homicide. "Does Stein know about this?"
"Of course," Smith replied, his tone implying surprise. "She agreed to it when she signed her contract." He didn't add that the final contract was contingent upon her agreeing to the project, nor did he add that he had led the incoming surgical trainee to believe that Sinclair was aware of the circumstances.
"Are you trying to tell me that I'm going to have civilians crawling around in my trauma unit with cameras and microphones and God knows what else while I'm trying to triage injured patients? You can't be serious."
Preston Smith stood up, his eyes suddenly hardening. "Actually, Sinclair, that's exactly what I'm telling you. The hospital needs this, and I've already agreed to it. You'll have to find a way to live with it, so I suggest that you meet with the director as planned."
She left without another word, because any longer and she wouldn't have been able to contain her temper. This was a fight she knew she couldn't win, and she had battles of much more importance to wage.
Six A.M. July 1
A figure, back turned, leaned against the wall outside her office, a newspaper held aloft in the traditional lengthwise, half-fold configuration of the habitual New York City subway rider. All Sax could make out was a mass of rich red curls fanning out over the collar of a khaki safari-style shirt and long legs encased in tailored trousers. She slowed as she approached, curious, because she was quite certain she was not expecting anyone. Her orientation with new residents and staff was scheduled for seven.
At the sound of the footsteps in the deserted hallway behind her, Jude Castle turned and got her first look at the elusive Doctor Saxon Sinclair, Chief of Trauma at St. Michael's Hospital in lower Manhattan. The surgeon wasn't entirely what she expected of someone with that title-particularly not with the motorcycle helmet tucked under one arm, the well-worn black leather jacket, and the faded blue jeans. Jude stared, momentarily perplexed, because the woman standing a few feet away, studying her with a raised eyebrow and a slight frown, looked familiar. And she was sure they had never met. She would not have forgotten someone with the simmering good looks and unapologetically self-assured attitude that this woman exuded. Probably a promo photo from somewhere, she thought, dismissing the uneasy feeling of déjà vu.
"Dr. Sinclair?" Jude said, finally finding her voice and stepping forward with an outstretched hand. "Jude Castle, Horizon Productions."
Sax's frown deepened, but she accepted the proffered hand. The redhead's grip was firm and definite. Her green eyes were direct and self-possessed, too. Sax released the other woman's hand and pulled her keys from the pocket of her leather jacket. Fitting them to the lock in her door, she said over her shoulder, "Do we have an appointment?"
"No," Jude said, edging closer to the door, planning to jam her foot in it if necessary, "we don't. I've been trying to set something up for weeks, but your secretary wasn't able to pin you down as to a convenient time."
"Probably because there isn't one," Sax said, turning to block the path into the small room she used as an auxiliary office as well as an on-call sleeping area. She was startled to find the other woman almost nose to nose with her across the threshold. "This is a hectic time of year, and I don't have time for…" She ran a hand through her hair, disheveling the already wild strands of midnight waves. "… public relations."
"Understood," Jude agreed, holding her ground. "I have an entire crew arriving here tomorrow, and I'm short on time, too. Maybe we could do this over coffee?"
"Do what?" Sax asked pointedly, stripping off her jacket and tossing it onto a narrow bed covered with medical journals and a pile of navy blue scrubs. Relenting, she motioned Jude to enter. "Close the door," she said offhandedly as she reached for a pair of scrub pants and began to unbutton her jeans. "You can fill me in while I change."
Jude stared wordlessly for an interminable moment when she thought Sinclair was going to step out of those sexy, nearly threadbare levis right in front of her, and then she hurriedly spun her around to face the opposite wall where an old wooden desk labored under the weight of a modern computer system. She cleared her throat, which was suddenly dry, and replied evenly, "I had hoped we could talk logistics. I don't want to get in your way, Dr. Sinclair…"
"You're already in my way," Sax pointed out, pulling her T-shirt over her head and replacing it with a navy top. Moving around the redhead to her desk, she found a pen, which she stuck in her chest pocket. She leaned her hip against the edge of the desk and regarded her visitor, trying unsuccessfully to stifle a sigh of exasperation. "I'm stuck with this, aren't I?"
Shrugging, Jude smiled. "'Fraid so. I'll try to make it as painless as possible." She wasn't sure that levity would get her anywhere with the clearly aggravated surgeon, but she just couldn't help herself. Besides, she needed to do something to take her mind off how damned attractive Sinclair was. It wasn't like her to be quite so affected by a pair of deep, brooding eyes and a mane of black hair that begged for fingers to run through it. She tried to ignore the faint flush of heat in her limbs. She had work to do.
Sax pushed away from the desk and strode rapidly to the door, pulling it open. She looked back over her shoulder and called, "Well, come on then. You've got twenty minutes to fill me in."
"Thirty," Jude responded, hurrying after her. "Make it thirty, and I'll buy the coffee." She didn't get an answer, but she could have sworn she saw a grin. It was a small victory, but she'd take it for now.
Jude was used to running while on the job. She'd filmed almost everything there was to film at one time or another except actual combat, but she'd been close enough to the front in Kosovo to need to sprint to avoid being flattened by falling debris during bombing raids. She was practically racing now to keep up with Sinclair as they rushed through the halls on their way to the cafeteria. As Jude started to turn right around a corner clearly marked with a sign indicating the cafeteria, Sinclair grabbed her arm and pulled her left.
"This way," Sax said, drawing the other woman with her in the opposite direction.
"What…?" Jude started to ask.
"Some things are essential in this business," Sax informed her, fishing a handful of bills out of her shirt pocket, "and good coffee is one of them."
Then Jude saw the tiny kiosk tucked into the corner of the large admissions area waiting room. The top of a brass and chrome espresso machine was visible behind a stack of cups and a plastic bin of pastries. "Ah, I see," she noted. "A real coffee drinker."
Sax leaned over the counter and peered around the cash register down the narrow aisle beyond. Then she smiled in satisfaction. "Terry! Coffee - quick!" Glancing at Jude, she inquired, "What'll you have? Terry's making me a red eye."
"Perfect," Jude replied. A minute later she accepted the cup of coffee with an added shot of espresso with a grateful sigh. When Sax started to pay, she caught her hand. "I've got it, remember?"
For a second they both stared at Jude's hand on Sax's wrist. Jude stared because her fingers were tingling, and that didn't make any sense at all. She had no idea what the surgeon was feeling, because her face was expressionless as she pulled away and said, "Sure. Thanks."
Carrying their cups, they walked across the lobby level public seating area toward the elevators.
"So," Jude began, anxious to take advantage of every minute with the reluctant surgeon, "I need to clarify a few details of the shoot with you."
"So I gathered," Sax responded dryly. She pushed the up button, a little surprised at how easily the persistent director had maneuvered her into a discussion of something that she wasn't at all sure she wanted to happen. Usually not so susceptible to persuasion, she had to admit that the redhead had a subtle charm about her that was hard to resist. To take her mind off that disconcerting thought, she said, "I have an orientation meeting with new staff in forty minutes. We can talk in the conference room before everyone arrives. That's probably the only time I'll have free all day."
"Fine," Jude replied. She sipped her coffee and groaned faintly. "Oh yeah. Nice."
Sax grinned in spite of herself. "Definitely."
When they were seated in the small meeting room adjoining the hospital cafeteria, Sax leaned back in her chair and regarded Jude seriously. "Preston Smith told me last night that you want to film a documentary in my trauma unit."
"Last night?" Jude said in surprise. "You just found out yesterday? We've been negotiating with the hospital for months about this, and I'd been told everyone involved was onboard. Why didn't he tell you before?"
"Probably because he knew that I would refuse," Sax offered mildly, watching her companion over the top of her coffee cup. The other woman so far had been unflappable - confident and capable, but surprisingly nonconfrontational. An iron hand in a velvet glove. Sax was impressed, and she didn't impress easily.
"Really?" Jude commented just as placidly. She thought she understood some of the surgeon's resistance now. She could hardly blame Sinclair for being aggravated if she'd just been informed about the project, and that also explained why she hadn't been able to get an appointment with her sooner. But she sensed something else beneath the other woman's opposition. Something more personal than bureaucratic conflicts. "Mind telling me why you're opposed to it?"
"Because you and your cameras don't belong in a trauma unit. It's an invasion of privacy to film what might be the most intimate and personal moments of someone's life." Her concern about patient confidentiality was true, even if it wasn't her only objection. She had no intention of disclosing her own aversion to publicity.
"We'll get releases for anything that we air. We can block their faces electronically if we need to," Jude pointed out reasonably. She'd had practice fielding these kinds of objections before.
"And what about the ones who can't give consent-the comatose, or the moribund, or the children?"
Jude was about to give another stock answer, but something in Sinclair's voice made her stop. There was an edge of anger, of protectiveness, that intrigued her. She sat forward, meeting Sinclair's admittedly intimidating gaze head on. "What if I guarantee that every precaution will be taken to protect individual privacy? I'll be there myself the entire time the cameras are rolling. I'll talk to the families personally if I have to. No one will be filmed without consent."
"Your presence is going to interfere with Deb Stein's training. She's going to be more worried about looking good for you than about learning to make decisions and exercise good judgment."
"I thought the trauma fellows took call with a senior attending who supervised them," Jude stated.
"They do," Sax agreed. "Deb Stein will be on duty with me most of the time."
"And you're concerned that…what? That she's going to pay more attention to me than to you?" Jude's voice rose in a way that suggested she was trying not to laugh.
Sax was forced to grin again. The dynamic director was proving hard to resist. "She'll be distracted at least."
Jude regarded her intently, aware that this confrontation could spell success or failure for a project that she had invested all her energy and considerable resources into for six months. She could do it without Sinclair's cooperation if she had to. She had a signed contract from the hospital, and it would stand up in court if it came to that. But if she went that route, going over Sinclair's head to get the job done, it would make the work hellishly difficult. And she didn't want this woman as an enemy - for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was that she found the surgeon's obvious lack of concern for diplomacy refreshing. "What is it that really bothers you about all of this?" she asked quietly.
"There are some things people don't need to know, maybe don't even want to know," Sax said, surprising herself. I don't even know this woman and she has me admitting things I wouldn't say to a single living soul before now. "What happens in that unit-not always-but often enough, in those few seconds when life hangs in the balance are not things to be exposed for the sake of curiosity. These patients aren't just naked and defenseless-they're helpless. And sometimes what we do in there is not pretty."
"This is human drama, Dr. Sinclair. This is real life. Don't you think that the public can appreciate that and understand how special it is?"
The public's right to know-the relentless pursuit of the story in the name of truth-is often just a convenient excuse for invasion, Sax thought, but didn't say. She shrugged instead and answered flatly, "I don't know. I'm not a sociologist-I'm a surgeon."
"Yes," Jude agreed, thinking that Sinclair was much more than that. "And it's your trauma unit. But can we agree to give it a try?"
"Do I have a choice?"
"I'm sorry," Jude said, to her surprise, meaning it. "No."
Personal Project Log - Castle
July 1 - 7:50 a.m.
Sinclair stood up at seven a.m. on the dot and every person in the room grew quiet. There were a dozen people present - six senior staff, two first year trauma fellows, two general surgery residents, and two medical students. I was the only outsider-the only non-physician. She walked to the front of the room, leaned against the edge of the conference table and crossed her arms over her chest. She looked relaxed in just a scrub shirt and pants - like she didn't have a care in the world. She never said a word until every eye was on her. I felt like I should jump up and salute. I thought a couple of the younger residents might. God, she looked tough.
I expected a speech. She didn't give one.
She laid out the ground rules instead. [Note: Title First Episode Rules of Engagement]. Twenty-four hours on, forty-eight hours off. Rounds in the trauma unit at eight a.m. and no one goes home until they're over. Which by my calculations turns out to be somewhere in the range of thirty hours straight without much sleep. I lost track of what she was saying after that, because I was trying to imagine that kind of schedule. I'm used to working hard, sometimes days at a time when a story is breaking. But I'll be the first to admit I don't function at my peak the whole time. And I'm not cutting into people.
She got my attention with the very last thing she said-the only direct order I can remember her giving. She said, "Some will die in the field, and there's nothing you can do about it. Those you let go. But if they come into my trauma unit warm and with a pulse, you'd better not lose them."
Jude caught up to Deborah Stein just outside the conference room. "Deb," she called, pulling even with her as they started down the stairwell.
"Hey, Jude," the blond, two-time basketball Olympian answered with her trademark effervescent grin and sparkling blue eyes. "Good to see you again."
"What happens now?" Jude asked, hurrying along beside her. They exited on the first floor and double-timed down an intersecting corridor off the main hallway. Doesn't anybody walk at a normal pace around here?
"You heard the Chief. Rounds in the trauma intensive care unit in five, and then we wait for a trauma call. I'm assigned to the admitting unit this month, so I don't have any floor responsibilities."
"Gotcha," Jude affirmed, mentally reviewing what she remembered from the all too brief synopsis the surgical department had provided her. She had a feeling, however, that Sinclair didn't adhere to any script. "So once the patients are transferred from the trauma intensive care unit to a regular floor bed, you don't have any responsibility for them?"
"Well, I'll be involved in that aspect of things during the weeks I'm not taking trauma call. It's an either-or kinda deal because you can't really do both at once." Deb held open the heavy gray windowless door with the red rectangular sign announcing the TICU - Trauma Intensive Care Unit. "Grab a cover gown. I'll get you some scrubs later so you don't have to worry about your street clothes getting ruined, and you won't have to keep covering them up every time we go in and out of the units."
"Thanks," Jude replied absently, standing just inside the door and scanning the length of the brightly lit rectangular room. A u-shaped counter area just inside the entrance to her right was empty save for a few swivel chairs left askew in the middle of the space, a plethora of charts scattered over the countertops, and a misshapen box of fossilized donuts. What captured her attention were the ten beds lined up along the opposite wall, separated from each other by a few feet of space and featureless curtains on ceiling tracks that were all pushed back to expose the occupants to anyone who happened to be looking.
Almost every spartan, steel-railed adjustable bed contained a genderless, nearly naked form dwarfed by the dispassionate machines of modern medicine. Free-standing ventilators the size of dishwashers flanked every bed, delivering a predetermined volume of gas ten to fifteen times a minute through the hard plastic breathing tubes jutting from the vicinity of every patient's mouth. Arms were strapped akimbo to extremity immobilizers or tied by soft cotton restraints to the bed rails. Tubes of all sizes ran from every orifice, delivering salvation in the form of antibiotics and liquid nutrition or removing the waste of injury and decay. Monitors occupied every available space, metering out lifetimes in monotonous beeps and flashings pinpoints of light.
The trauma intensive care unit, one of the triumphs of medical technology, was a cold and impersonal place. Jude shivered.
"You okay?" Deb Stein asked, noticing Jude's reaction.
"What? Oh…yes, I'm fine. Sorry," Jude replied, dragging her gaze away from the silent tableau. She searched the room, trying to shake the eerie sensation of having stepped into a nightmare, and finally found something to occupy her attention. Sinclair stood at the center of a group of figures wearing white coats or rumpled scrub suits who were crowded around the bottom of the first bed. Her foot was up on the seat of a wheeled chair, one arm propped on her raised knee. She held a long sheet of paper in her hand as she leaned forward, her face sharply focused on the figure in the bed as she listened to what a young man next to her was saying.
"Let's go, then," Deb whispered urgently. "Sinclair's already started."
"Will I be able to film in here?" Jude interjected, because she wanted this on tape. Sinclair, with every eye upon her and every expression expectant, looked like a commander surveying a battlefield.
"Probably," Deb said as they approached the people clustered around Sinclair. "We'll figure it out later-after rounds."
Jude had no choice but to agree, because she could see that she couldn't interrupt what was underway, and besides, she wanted to watch this. No one seemed to object, or even particularly notice that she was there. Nurses moved efficiently between the beds, going about the business of administering meds, adjusting fluid pumps, and drawing blood. XRay techs threaded there way through the residents and staff who were blocking the aisles, sliding rectangular film plates under the patients, then shouting clear with complete disregard for what was happening nearby. At the sound of the technician's warning, everyone shuffled behind the nearest person wearing a lead apron to shield themselves as much as possible from the radiation, waited for the tech to shoot the XRay, and then moved back to their places with barely an interruption in their rhythm.
A deep commanding voice caught her attention.
"How high is his intracranial pressure?" Sax asked the fair-haired young man standing just in front of Jude.
"Up 10 in the last two hours?" the trauma chief queried, a faint edge to her voice.
"And what does that indicate to you, Dr. Kinney?"
Jude craned her neck to see Sinclair, whose blue eyes were fixed, laser like, on the young man's face. He was a first year surgery resident according to the ID badge clipped to his pocket. His voice was taut with strain as he replied.
"It means that something is causing the pressure to rise inside his skull."
"Such as?" The edge had progressed to razor sharp now.
Jude thought she could hear him swallow.
"Uh…cerebral edema, subdural hematoma, uh…epidural bleed."
Sinclair set her foot down from the chair she had been leaning on and straightened, her fierce gaze still on the younger physician. She seemed taller than Jude remembered, but she knew that they were very nearly the same height. It had grown very quiet, although activity still teemed around them.
"Are any of those conditions surgical emergencies?"
The resident blanched. "The subdural and the epidural bleeding."
"Then why don't I see the neurosurgeons here looking at him?"
"We called...they said they'd be by," he offered tentatively. He glanced right and left as if looking for assistance, but his fellow residents studiously avoided his gaze. He was on his own.
"And if he herniates his brainstem while we're waiting? Who will be responsible for that, Dr. Kinney?" Sinclair turned her head a fraction and met Deborah Stein's eyes. "Call neurosurg. Tell them I want them here now. Contact radiology and let them know we need an emergency head CT on this guy. Check the chart and find out who signs the consents for his procedures, but don't call the family until we know for certain he's going to the OR."
"Right," Deb answered briskly and moved off toward the nurse's station on the far side of the room.
"Okay, who's next?" Sinclair asked, already stepping to the next bed. Someone pushed the wheeled chair over to her. She absently propped one leg up on it and leaned forward to study the patient in bed two while a different resident began to give report.
Personal Project Log - Castle
My first morning of rounds just ended. I'm exhausted and no one even asked me any questions. All I had to do was move from bed to bed and watch the process. I didn't understand everything that was said, especially when they began reeling off blood gas values and talking about Glasgow coma scores [Note: get Deb to explain this rating scale for head injury on film, preferably with a patient in the background. Get Sinclair's okay to film in TICU. Get DP to check lighting in there with film compatibility]. What I did understand loud and clear is that trauma rounds is where the real business of the day gets done. It's the only time during the day that the whole team is together, and it's the time when Sinclair fine-tunes the treatment plan for every patient in the Trauma ICU. Each patient's status is summarized for her by the resident covering that person, and whatever needs to be done - consults, studies, medication adjustments etc - are discussed and ordered. Sinclair signs off on all decisions. Now the doctors assigned to the less sick critical patients on the regular patient floors will go see to them, and those doctors responsible for incoming trauma emergencies - Sinclair and Stein today - will go down to the Trauma Admitting area. And I…
Jude jumped, startled, and clicked off her recorder. She smiled at Sinclair, who was leaning with one shoulder against the wall just outside the TICU, watching her. "Sorry. I didn't know you were there. Do you need me for something?"
"I want to show you the admitting area. I'm on my way down there now."
"Great," Jude replied, slipping the small device into her trouser pocket as they walked. "Thanks for letting me tag along on rounds this morning."
"Were you recording then, too?"
"No," Jude said evenly. "I usually record notes to myself-impressions, reactions, reminders. Things I might use for voiceovers later on the film. If I want to tape you or anyone else, I'll ask."
Sinclair didn't say anything for a moment, then asked, "How did you come to pick Deb Stein to focus your project on?"
They passed the Emergency Room waiting area, already crowded with walk-ins, mostly mothers with children and middle-aged people with minor injuries. Those individuals with potentially serious medical conditions usually arrived by ambulance and were delivered directly to treatment rooms. Jude looked ahead down the hallway and saw yet another set of windowless doors with a keypad preventing entry except via a combination. "We met three years ago at the Olympics. I was doing a piece on female athletes, and we started talking about her plans after the games were over. When I began working on this, I thought of her."
"And she agreed?" Sax asked, pushing in the code on the door lock. "It's the same as the phone extension - two four two zero."
"Yes," Jude replied, following her in. "She did. Why?"
Sax shrugged. "That's what I'm wondering-why?"
"You'll have to ask her. I'd like to talk to you, though-on tape-about your own training. Background information, personal experiences, that kind of thing."
Sax stopped walking and faced her. "Everything you need is on my CV. My secretary can get that for you. You should have her number."
There was a note of finality in her voice that left no room for discussion. Jude kept her surprise, and her curiosity, to herself. She'd pushed enough for the first day. "All right, thanks."
"This," Sax said, leading her through a small alcove containing scrub sinks and cupboards with surgical hats and gowns into another unadorned room that appeared to be a hybrid operating theatre and treatment area, "is the trauma admitting area. Every trauma patient is brought in here, stabilized, and triaged."
There were three operating tables lined up in the center of the space, each of which could be enclosed by curtains for privacy if necessary. Above each narrow, stainless steel table hung large, circular silver lights containing brilliant halogen bulbs capable of lighting the area adequately for surgery. Jude stared at the silver domes and flushed with a sudden wave of heat and dizziness. Her vision narrowed and spots danced across the darkening landscape. Reflexively she reached out a hand to steady herself and was dimly aware of an arm encircling her waist.
"Ms. Castle," a quiet calm voice asked, "are you all right?"
Jude forced herself to take a deep breath, reminding herself that this would pass quickly if she just kept breathing. Her legs were unsteady and she held on hard to the warm solid body next to hers. "Yes," she whispered faintly. "Just…I'm sorry…just a minute."
Sax stood perfectly still, letting the other woman lean on her, holding her so close it might have been an embrace. A fine sheen of perspiration filmed Jude's forehead, and she was very pale. "Let's get you lying down," Sax said softly. She could feel her tremble.
"No," Jude responded quickly, pressing one hand to Sax's shoulder, straightening up with effort. "I'll be fine. I'm okay, really."
Sax studied her, still not releasing her hold on her as she rested two fingers on the pulse in Jude's wrist. Fast but strong. "I agree. You will be, but you still need to sit down."
"I'm sorry," Jude said, laughing self-consciously as she allowed Sax to walk her to a chair in front of a long counter that edged the rear wall. Her vision had cleared and she was acutely aware of the fact that Saxon Sinclair still had an arm around her waist. She was also aware of the hard length of Sinclair's body against her side and the soft swell of the surgeon's breast against her own. Her legs trembled again and it wasn't from dizziness. She stepped away quickly and settled into the chair. "Thanks."
One of the nurses asked Sax if she needed anything, but she shook her head no. She pulled another chair over close to Jude's and asked, "What happened?"
Embarrassed, Jude blushed. "Nothing. I got a little light-headed. Guess I should have had breakfast."
"That happens," Sax acknowledged with a nod, but she didn't really think that it was hypoglycemia. That usually gave some warning - a racing pulse, tremors, the gradual onset of faintness. Jude Castle had been perfectly fine until she walked into trauma admitting. "Has this occurred before?"
"No," Jude said, uncomfortable under the scrutiny of those penetrating eyes. At least not for so long I thought it was over.
"We should get an EKG. One of the nurses can do one right down here."
"I feel fine now." To prove it, Jude stood and walked a few feet away, needing to escape the other woman's searching gaze. She needed to walk off the anxiety that clung to her like a bad dream and she needed to forget the swift surge of desire she had experienced in Sinclair's innocent embrace. This is not a good start.
Jude cleared her throat and asked, "How many patients do you see through here every year?"
"Fifteen hundred, approximately," Sax replied, watching Jude pace around the forty-foot square space. The abrupt change in subject hadn't escaped her notice, but she understood the need for privacy. She understood secrets. "When we have a trauma alert, there's not much room in here. There will be EMTs, nurses, radiology techs, respiratory therapists, anesthesiologists, at least three surgeons, and assorted consultants."
Sax shook her head. "Not in here. There's a waiting room just down the hall where they can stay. They usually can't see the patient until after they're transferred to the ICU or finished in the OR, depending on the severity of their injuries. This is a modern day MASH unit-we evaluate and ship as fast as possible."
"But sometimes you operate down here?" Jude asked, forgetting her own discomfort as they talked. She'd drifted back to where Sax still sat, and sat down opposite her again.
"Only in case of a life-threatening emergency."
"Which would be what?" Jude questioned. "Can I record this, by the way?"
Sax realized that she had been deftly maneuvered into giving an interview, and she nodded her assent with a grudging grin of defeat. "A number of things. Anything that impairs breathing - a fractured larynx, for example-could require a tracheostomy. Sometimes in the face of major blood loss from the pelvis or ruptured internal organs we cross-clamp the aorta to send what blood there is to the brain."
As she listened, Jude continued to study the physical layout of the room as well as its contents. This was her set; this room would be the backdrop for most of the action she filmed. She would be spending a great deal of time in this room in the next year.
"What do you do between trauma alerts?"
"I'm usually in my office, taking care of administrative things, or at committee meetings, or making rounds in the unit. On a busy day when things are jumping down here, I work in my on call room down the hall."
"Or," a male voice interjected from behind Jude, "she tries to sucker someone into playing chess with her."
Jude swung around on her chair and stared at the man in the pale blue scrubs, a color she was sure he had chosen to match his eyes if his hundred-dollar haircut and startling good looks were any indication of the care he took with his appearance. He might have been a male model posing for a uniform catalog.
"Jude Castle, meet Aaron Townsend, the head trauma nurse," Sax said.
Aaron gave Jude a friendly smile and a frankly appraising look as he took her hand. "Nice to meet you. I've heard rumors that we are going to be immortalized on film."
"I certainly hope so," Jude replied with a laugh. She was careful not to let her gaze linger too long on his face. She did not want to give him any ideas if he didn't have them already.
"Excellent," the handsome blond said enthusiastically. "And I was serious about the chess thing. When the good doctor gets bored she likes to humiliate people at games."
Jude shrugged, hoping that she appeared more nonchalant than she felt. "Don't worry, chess is not my game."
Sax regarded the redhead silently, wondering why for the second time in less than an hour, Jude Castle was lying.
"You'll need to work with the bare minimum of people in here," Sax said after Aaron Townsend left to give lunch relief in the TICU, which was short a nurse on the day shift. "Space is at a premium."
"I'll want at least two camera people, a sound tech and an assistant besides myself," Jude responded immediately. She was still thinking about the nurse's comments about Sinclair being a chess player. Great--one more complication.
"Not a chance."
Jude glared at her from a foot away, irritated by the uncompromising tone in her voice. Under other circumstances she might have handled things a little more diplomatically, but she was still shaken by her near fainting spell and off her stride. She spoke without thinking. "I don't need you permission, you know. I'm just trying to be polite here."
"You don't need to be polite, Ms. Castle," Sax said as she stood up, never raising her voice, but her blue eyes were glacially cold. "What you have to do is be careful not to interfere with the work that needs to be done down here or I'll have you thrown out on your ass."
Of all the arrogant, dictatorial … Jude fumed as she watched Sinclair stride swiftly from the room. She rubbed her temples and tried not to curse out loud. Lovely, just lovely.
July 1 - 4:42 p.m.
"Why did you decide to do your fellowship with Saxon Sinclair?" Jude asked, placing the small recorder between them on the table in the conference room.
"Because she's the best," Deb Stein answered with a look that said Jude should know the answer to that silly question.
"Define best," Jude probed, wanting to get a feel for her 'star' and to lay the foundation for what was to come in the weeks ahead. "What makes her different than any number of other trauma surgeons?"
"On the record?" Deb asked, nodding toward the recorder. "Because her unit has the best survival statistics in the state, and I've seen her in the operating room. I rotated here as a junior general surgery resident, and she's amazing. She's got hands like lightning. Awesome."
Jude had a feeling that there was something else, because Deb had a little grin on her face. She reached to push the off button on her dictaphone. "What about off the record? Come on, Deb. I can tell you're holding back on me."
"Well," Deb conceded, her eyes twinkling, "she's so god awful hot. Every dyke resident I know wanted to work with her."
"Ah ha," Jude replied, hoping that she wasn't blushing. "Okay - we'll keep that off the record." What in hell is the matter with me? It's not as if I didn't think practically the same thing the minute I saw her. So what if she's hot. She's a royal pain in the…
Deb Stein jumped up as the pager at her waist beeped, and without another word, she charged from the room. Overhead the intercom blared, Trauma alert STAT…trauma admitting. Trauma alert STAT…
Jude grabbed her dictaphone and ran.
Sax stood gowned and gloved as the double doors to the trauma admitting area slid open and a stretcher bearing a mound of equipment, blood-soaked clothing and an EMT straddling a human body rolled in. The female EMT kneeling astride the man was counting aloud as she rhythmically compressed his chest. One, two, three, four, five … one, two, three, four, five… slowing at the end of each sequence so her partner could deliver a breath through the inflatable Ambu bag attached to the endotracheal tube protruding from the man's mouth.
"GSW to the left chest," her partner called to no one in particular, his voice shrill with the adrenaline rush as he ran beside the stretcher, squeezing air into the unresponsive patient's lungs. "Intubated in the field. He's had five liters of ringer's solution. Initial BP eighty palpable. We lost the pulse and pressure about three minutes ago."
"Exit wound?" Sax called as she and several nurses slide the large man from the gurney onto the treatment table. She quickly assessed his pupils. Unresponsive to light. If he isn't brain dead already he will be in two minutes if we don't get some oxygen to his brain.
"None that we saw, Doc. The bullet went in but it didn't come out."
Swiftly, she moved her stethoscope from one side of his chest to the other, listening for air movement as she watched the paramedic ventilate the patient. Deb Stein, followed closely by Jude Castle, ran in as Sax straightened up. "No air flow on either side. Stein, put a chest tube in on the right. Nancy, open the thoracotomy tray."
Nurses worked efficiently, nearly silently, repeating a drill they had performed hundreds of times. One cut off the remnants of the patient's clothing; another slipped a sterile catheter into his penis and attached it to a urine collection bag; still another drew half a dozen vials of blood for laboratory analysis. A surgical intern pulled a tall metal stand up to the bedside and began folding open the layers of sterile linen covering a vast array of surgical instruments. A radiology technician arrived pushing a huge portable xRay machine and stood waiting, calmly labeling individual film plates with the date and the letters 'UWM', which is what the patient would remain until someone had time to identify him. Unidentified White Male.
All the while, Aaron Townsend continued chest compressions, having relieved the exhausted EMT. It was fatiguing work pushing the chest hard enough so that the force was transmitted to the heart, and harder still to get the heart to squeeze out blood with enough pressure to travel to the brain and other vital organs when it was almost empty. And this man's heart had to be almost empty. Most of his blood volume had poured out the two-inch hole in his chest.
Jude pressed along the wall and maneuvered as close to the action as she could get. No one paid her the slightest attention. She glanced at the clock. Forty-five seconds had elapsed since the stretcher was wheeled in. Peering around the anesthesiologist at the head of the table she watched Sinclair. The surgeon's gaze as she studied the patient was hard and unwavering, her eyes nearly purple with intensity. Everything about her was penetratingly, ferociously focused. Had Jude been aware of her own body, she would have realized she was holding her breath, but she was too absorbed by the trauma chief to notice.
"Hang that blood and squeeze it in by hand," Sax said sharply. She glanced quickly across the man's body at Deb. "Have you got that tube in, Stein?"
"Almost," Deb grunted, forcing an oversized clamp between the fifth and sixth ribs with one hand while holding a clear plastic tube a half inch in diameter in the other, ready to guide it through the tunnel she was creating into the chest cavity.
"Push it in-you're not going to hurt him," Sax said while pouring Betadiene directly from a bottle onto the man's torso. "As soon as you've got it in, get over here and give me a hand cracking his chest."
Even as she spoke, she was slashing a ten-inch curve between the ribs on the left side. "Rib spreader," she said tersely as a flood of dark congealed blood cascaded out onto her. She held out her right hand and a nurse passed her a ratcheted double-bladed retractor. Sax forced it between the ribs and cranked it open, exposing a deflated lung and a flaccid heart. Deb stepped up next to her, breathing hard, but her hands were steady.
"Open the pericardium and massage the heart manually," Sax instructed. She leaned away slightly so Deb could move closer, bending a bit to watch as her fellow made a slit in the protective covering enclosing the heart. "Not too deep now-stay away from the coronaries. That's it …nice. Get your hand around it."
Without raising her head, Sax announced, "The heart's still empty. Come on, people, pump the blood." Quietly, she encouraged, "That's it, Stein. Hold it in the palm of your hand and keep the pressure even."
"We're getting something on the EKG," Aaron announced.
"Rate?" Sax asked without looking away from the gaping hole in the man's body.
"Still only 40."
"Push some atropine," Sax instructed. She and Deb Stein were so close their bodies were practically fused. "Keep going, Deb. You've got it."
Jude tore her gaze from Sax's face and looked at the clock. Two minutes and ten seconds.
"I've got a blood pressure," one of the nurses called.
"The heart's beating," Deb murmured, almost as if she didn't believe it."
"Stop the compression and see if he flies," Sax ordered.
For a minute no one breathed. The EKG beeped steadily, the arterial line read a blood pressure of one hundred, and the blood flow from the chest wound slowed to a trickle.
"Tell the OR we're coming up," Sax said, a victorious note in her voice. She glanced up then, her gaze meeting Jude's. A grin flickered at the corner of her expressive mouth.
Jude saw the triumph dance in Sinclair's blue eyes. It was one of the sexiest things she'd ever seen.
July 1 - 7:35 p.m.
Sax raised an eyebrow in surprise as she walked through the surgeon's lounge toward the door leading into the women's locker room. The common space between the locker rooms and the operating room proper was empty save for Jude Castle, who sat writing in a notebook at the long wooden table that held remnants of a pizza and a white layer cake.
"You're here late," Sax remarked, stopping opposite the filmmaker, who glanced up and smiled.
"I was waiting for you." Jude pushed her work away and studied the surgeon, noting the dark patch on her thigh that could only be blood and the sweat dampening the shirt between her breasts. She looks tired, Jude thought, and the thought surprised her. She realized that she hadn't imagined the formidable trauma chief being vulnerable to something so common, and then wondered where that idea had come from.
"Really," Sax remarked, her tone curious. "Why?"
"Because I owe you an apology."
Sax rubbed her face briefly, blew out a breath, and pulled out a chair opposite the redhead. She recalled their last heated exchange now, although it seemed longer than just a few hours ago. She remembered being angry, but certainly couldn't remember anything that required an apology. And somehow the idea of this woman apologizing to her seemed wrong. They'd both been rather hot. "Look, Ms. Castle-"
"No, let me finish," Jude interjected, amused to see a quick flash of annoyance in the other woman's eyes. Not used to being interrupted, are you? "You were right about limiting my crew in the admitting area. It's a zoo in there during a trauma alert. I should have waited to assess things myself before I told you what I needed. I'll work something out."
"Okay, I appreciate you making the adjustments. Thanks," Sax said. Then she added, "I notice you're not apologizing for threatening to pull rank on me."
"No, I'm not."
Sax stood. "Fair enough. Deb Stein is on call tomorrow night. You'd better get some rest if you're going to start keeping surgeon's hours."
"Are you done for the day?" Jude called as Sax walked away.
"Soon," Sax said as she pushed open the door to the locker room. She knew that she'd probably spend the night on the narrow bed in her on call quarters, because it was somehow less impersonal there than the space she called home, but that wasn't something she wanted to share.
Jude sighed and tried to stop thinking about Saxon Sinclair. She couldn't decide if the woman annoyed or fascinated her more. She has to be one of the most infuriating people I've ever met. She's rigid and inflexible and arrogant, and if that weren't bad enough-she's-she' accomplished and talented and driven. And-oh, hell-so damned attractive.
"Aren't you hungry?" Lori Brewster asked with concern.
"What?" Jude replied, startled. She glanced at her plate and the half-eaten entrée and realized that she had forgotten about it. "Oh, no. I mean…I was, but I'm not now." Seeing the look of concern on her companion's face, she hurriedly added, "I'm just distracted. It probably wasn't very smart of me to make a date for the first day of this new project."
The attractive dark-haired attorney frowned, reaching across the immaculate linen tablecloth to take Jude's hand. "We didn't need to go out. I haven't seen you in two weeks." She brushed her thumb over Jude's palm. "We could have just gotten take-out and spent the evening in bed."
"I'm sorry," Jude replied, squeezing Lori's hand. "I'm lousy company tonight." She hoped the fact that she had sidestepped the overture to sex wasn't as obvious to her dinner companion as it felt to her. She wasn't even sure herself why she wasn't that interested. They'd been dating for more than six months, casually, whenever they could find time, which was how they'd both agreed they wanted it. Lori was busy establishing herself in a competitive law firm where she intended to make partner before anyone else her age, and she worked ninety-hour weeks to prove it. Jude traveled frequently for shoots and promotional meetings and didn't feel she could give a serious relationship the attention it required. So far their arrangement had been mutually satisfying. Jude smiled at Lori, appreciating the appraising look in her eyes and remembering how much she liked her trim, athletic body. We've got similar interests, we want the same things professionally, and we're good together in bed. What more could I want?
She shook off the odd sense of disquiet she'd had ever since leaving St. Michael's and tried not to think any more about Sinclair or why she even cared if the irritating trauma surgeon liked her or not. Jude smiled at the waiting woman, then said quietly, "Let's skip dessert."
The glass door on the shower slid open and Jude felt a soft, smooth body press close against her back. Arms slipped around her waist, lips trailed across her shoulder. A voice, husky and intimate, whispered in her ear.
"Hey, I missed you. The bed is cold without you."
"I tried not to wake you," Jude responded, leaning back into the embrace, turning her head to brush her mouth over a damp cheek. "Sorry."
"You okay?" Lori asked.
"Yes." But she didn't feel quite okay, and she wasn't sure why. Nothing had changed. They had shared themselves with each other as they had in the past, enjoyably and with an easy familiarity that came from mutual caring. It was nice to feel the heat of another body, and to touch flesh other than one's own. It was nice to be physically satisfied. It had been every bit as nice as it had been the first time they'd slept together. Nothing had changed.
"Do you need to go?"
"Mmm, yeah. I've got an early meeting with my photography director in the morning. And early by surgeons' standards means six-thirty," Jude explained, turning in the mist and water to face her companion.
"Jesus, that's inhuman."
"I need to get some sleep and prepare a few things," Jude said with a grin.
"Well then," Lori murmured, bending her face to Jude's neck and licking the trail of water from her skin, "you should probably leave. I can't promise how much sleep you'll get if you stay."
Jude kissed her once, quickly, and stepped from the shower, reaching for a towel. "My very thoughts."
They parted with the usual promise to call when their schedules allowed, and by the time Jude reached home in the taxi, her mind was already on her plans for the next day.
July 2nd - 6:50 AM
Sax passed Aaron Townsend in the hall as he was leaving after a night on duty.
"Everything quiet?" she asked, although she knew that it must be. She'd returned to the hospital in the middle of the night, even though she wasn't on call, and she knew that someone would have notified her if anything big had come in. She was second call, on back-up if more than one major trauma arrived at once. Technically she could have taken call from home, but she was just as happy to sleep in familiar surroundings.
"Depends on what you mean," he said with a grin. "The only admission we had was some guy who lost a battle with his fan belt at two a.m. Don't ask me why he was working on his engine in the middle of the night, but he's in the OR now getting his fingers reattached." His sly expression suggested there was something else however-a secret that he found amusing.
Sax stopped walking and fixed him with a piercing glance. "Would you like to tell me what else is going on?"
"There are four people in the trauma bay hanging cameras and microphones from the ceiling right now."
"Really," Sax remarked dryly, thinking that Jude Castle hadn't wasted any time getting to work. She had to admit she liked that about the filmmaker. As irritating as this entire project was likely to be, she admired Castle's persistence and perseverance. The woman was a professional, and that kind of determination was something Sax understood. "Guess I'll wander back and see what's happening."
"Uh huh." The head nurse watched her walk away and wished he didn't have a breakfast date. He would have loved to watch the confrontation. The undercurrent of competition between the two women hadn't escaped his notice the previous day. And they said that alpha males were dangerous when you put them together. He'd worked with Saxon Sinclair for four and a half years, and he knew just how tough an alpha female could be. It's going to be a very interesting few months around here, he thought as he pushed through the ER doors into the bright morning sun and waved to the brunette in the convertible waiting at the curb for him.
Sax leaned against the doorway at the entrance to the trauma bay, her trauma bay, and stared at the strangers fast at work. A woman in jeans and workshirt stood on the top of a stepladder adjusting a ceiling mounted camera that was directly over the patient treatment tables. Her blond hair was half concealed by a baseball cap turned around backwards with the word Sundance stenciled in bright orange letters. Her figure, at least from the back view, was neat and tidy. Two young men appeared to be stringing cable from the camera to a bank of monitors and recording equipment stacked on rolling tables pushed up against the wall near the nurse's station. Jude Castle stood observing them, intermittently referring to her notebook and then looking up to follow the progress of the equipment installation. Looking fresh and energized, she was wearing khaki pants and a tight black T-shirt, leaving her nicely muscled arms bare. For a second, enjoying the view, Sax forgot how annoyed she was at the invasion of her domain.
"The primary shots are going to have to be with the handheld," Jude remarked to the blond on the ladder.
"The best quality is going to come from this one up here," the woman countered.
"There's too much action to follow with a stationary. I'll want to focus on the surgeons, especially Deb Stein, and they're moving all the time."
The blond climbed down and pivoted to survey the area she would need to cover with her cameras. She halted suddenly when she saw Sax watching, and a small smile flickered across her face. "Good morning," she called in Sax's direction, a faint hint of flirtatiousness in her voice.
Sax pushed away from the wall and came forward. "Morning," she responded neutrally, her glance moving quickly from the attractive blond who was appraising her to Jude. "Ms. Castle," Sax murmured by way of greeting.
"Dr. Sinclair," Jude said smoothly, "this is my DP, Melissa Cooper."
"DP?" Sax queried as she turned to extend her hand.
"Director of photography," Melissa furnished as they shook one another's hand.
"Ah, I see." Sax look back at Jude and continued, "Could I speak with you for a moment, please?"
"Of course. Mel, would you make sure they run a sound check once they get their lines connected?"
"Sure", the photographer replied. She watched the two women walk out into the hall, checking out Sinclair's denim clad ass. Now there is one hot item. This is going to be a very enjoyable shoot. Oh, yeah.
"You're up early," Sax said as they walked through the still quiet corridors. "Let's grab some coffee. I'll buy this time."
"I thought it would be a good idea if we took care of some of the construction details before things got busy in there," Jude said carefully. She knew the surgeon had something on her mind, and she half expected another skirmish.
"Traumas don't tend to follow a schedule, unless it's lunar. There's something in that tale. Every full moon we're swamped." They reached the coffee kiosk and Sax ordered two red-eyes.
"I just took a chance that we could get most of it done this morning," Jude agreed. "Still, the hour right around the changeover from the night shift to the day shift is always quiet."
"Usually," Sax allowed, looking at her carefully. "You've had some experience in hospitals then."
"Some." Jude stared straight ahead and didn't elucidate further. Those six weeks were nothing she cared to discuss. She'd forgotten it, buried it, left it behind. She shivered.
"Cold?" Sax asked quietly, handing her a coffee.
"No," Jude said, taking the paper cup. "I'm fine."
Sax nodded. "Okay. Let's talk about this project of yours. Since I can't get rid of you, I'd better find out what I'm in for."
"Okay-" Jude began.
"Wait," Sax interjected. "Come with me."
The view from the helipad was incredible. Like most New Yorkers, Jude was used to the kind of vistas one saw from restaurants on top of skyscrapers and out the windows of offices on the 70th floor, but the sight of the water and the white dots of sails flickering over the surface and the majestic rise of the Statue of Liberty were still eye-catchingly gorgeous. Saxon Sinclair in profile, the wind whipping her black hair around her starkly handsome face, was pretty captivating, too. Jude wished she had a camera.
"Nice up here," Jude observed.
"One of the few places in the hospital where there's any privacy," Sax commented. She wasn't certain why she'd brought the filmmaker up here. It was one of the places she came to be alone, when the chaos in the world downstairs became too much or the long hours between midnight and dawn stretched too long. It was amazingly peaceful here at night, surrounded by nothing but the wind and the dark and the lights from surrounding buildings that substituted for stars in the urban landscape. Far below, the streets teamed with life and people living it, some in desperate abandon and some in unconscious ignorance. Up here, she felt both a part of it and apart from it, the watcher who on occasion ventured forth to take part in the game. She turned her back to the view, watching Jude study the rooftop with that same intent expression she'd noticed several times the day before. "Looking for a shot?"
Jude stared at her in surprise, amazed that she could tell. She blushed faintly, because at that moment she had been thinking how much she would like to photograph that trauma surgeon. "Something like that. Am I imagining it, or is that actually a basketball hoop on the side of the parking ramp over there?"
"That's what it is, all right," Sax confirmed, taking the lid off her coffee cup and tossing it into a nearby trashcan.
"Is that for Deb's benefit?"
Sax grinned. "Nope. It's mine."
"Ah, that's right. Aaron said you liked games."
"Some of them," Sax replied casually.
For no good reason, Jude's heart skipped a beat. Forget it. That is not what she meant. You have got to get your hormones under control around her. But she couldn't prevent a brief image of the other woman in her motorcycle jacket from flickering into her mind. And that image did nothing to still the surge of blood into places she really didn't want it to be going. Not at seven o'clock in the morning at the beginning of a very long day.
"So, are you actually planning on taking call with Deb?" Sax asked as they leaned against the cement wall that encircled the rooftop.
"Yes. I want to be there when something happens, and you said yourself how unpredictable it can be," Jude responded, grateful for a conversation to take her mind off her body.
"For twenty-four hour stretches?"
"Whenever she's here, yes." As she spoke, Jude took in the huge white X stenciled on the rooftop, and the windsock snapping in the breeze nearby, and almost salivated at the thought of filming the helicopter's descent while a crowd of gowned medical personnel waited, bent low to avoid the swirling rotors. It brought to mind all those old clips from the sixties of choppers twisting wildly over the scorched earth of a far-away land, olive-garbed men racing madly forward with their wounded on makeshift litters. God, what a shot.
"What about your crew-the photographers and sound people. Them, too?"
"What?" Jude asked, still focused on the faint images in her mind. Battlefields and blood and Sinclair in black leather. "Oh-Mel is the main camera operator, and she'll work nights when Deb's on call. I figure that's when we're most likely to get a hit. Since I'll be here around the clock, I'll handle the cameras if she's not available. I'm not as good as she is, but I can manage."
"For how long?"
"Indefinitely," Jude said with a shrug. "Until I get what I need."
"That's a significant commitment," Sax observed neutrally, wondering if the filmmaker had any idea how disruptive that kind of schedule was going to be. "In time and energy. Every third night, sometimes all night, can wear you down pretty fast."
"You do it," Jude pointed out neutrally.
"It's my job."
Sax studied her, then grinned. "Point taken. Forgive my professional chauvinism."
"It's hard to be angry at someone who so readily admits it when they're being a jerk."
For a moment, Sax simply stared at her. Green eyes, sparkling with challenge, met hers, and she wondered what it was about the redhead that was so damn appealing. She decided it might be the fact that she had yet to back down over anything. "Aren't you afraid that you'll offend me and I'll be uncooperative?"
Jude laughed. "I missed the part where you've been cooperating so far."
"I'll try to be more obvious then," Sax replied dryly, but her tone was playful.
"Tell me something, Doctor Sinclair," Jude asked, still thinking about the battlefield images. "Tell me about the enemy."
"Yes-what is the enemy you face when a patient is delivered into your trauma bay?"
"Time," Sax answered immediately, not even stopping to consider where the question had come from. "A true trauma emergency is a race against time-blood seeps away, organs die, damage becomes irreversible."
"How much time do you have? To make decisions, to make a difference?" Jude asked softly, watching something in Sinclair's face change. The surgeon was looking past her, her gaze slightly distant, as if she were reliving something in her mind. Jude did not want to distract her; she did not want to let her know how much her expression revealed.
"Seconds. Sometimes not even that-you act unconsciously, instinctively."
"And if you're wrong?" Softer still.
Sax's blue eyes snapped into sharp focus and met Jude's. "We have a saying in surgery, Ms. Castle. Better wrong than uncertain. Hesitation, for a surgeon, can be deadly. If you can't live with your decisions, you need to find another line of work." She turned to leave, saying, "I have trauma rounds in thirty minutes."
"What about Deb Stein?" Jude called after her, not wanting to let the moment pass. She needed to understand what went on beneath the surface so she could hunt it out and capture it with her lens. "How will you know if she can make those kinds of decisions?"
Sax stopped and faced her. "You're interviewing me again."
"Is this year some kind of test for her?" Jude persisted, ignoring the comment.
Mildly exasperated at the other woman's tenacity, Sax shook her head. "No. Deb has proved herself already. She's completed six years of general surgery training-six years of a system designed to wear down and wear out anyone not physically and psychologically fit for the specialty. The attrition rate is high in the first two years of a surgery residency for a reason."
"Sounds abusive," Jude observed, still probing.
"Some people would call it that," Sax agreed. "But better to find out before someone is set loose with a knife in their hand whether they can take it or not."
"So what is the purpose of this year, if Deb is already a competent surgeon?"
"I need to teach her to trust her judgment, to think on her feet, to act without all the information, to make the right decisions. If anyone is tested this year, it will be me."
Sax stopped abruptly. Where in hell did that come from? Why is it every time I talk to this woman I end up saying things I don't mean to? She's downright dangerous.
"I'm sorry. I'll be late," Sax said curtly, and walked briskly away.
Jude watched her go, feeling slightly breathless. She tried to tell herself it wasn't because of the passion she had glimpsed in the depths of Saxon Sinclair's eyes, or how very attractive she found it.
Personal Project Log - Castle
July 2, 7:40 a.m.
I'm starting to get the picture now. Surgery is the medical equivalent of the Special Forces or the Green Berets or something. At least that's the way Sinclair sees it. She's the commanding officer, the residents are her troops, and the war is against death. Jesus. I never thought about that before. It takes some kind of ego to take that on. She's got it, that's for sure, but I wonder how that happens. Where does that confidence, that absolute certainty, come from? [Note: need more background on Sinclair. She and Deb are the brackets of this frame, the beginning and the end.] That's the point of this year, I guess-to take Deb, the green recruit, and turn her into a leader, a warrior. [Note: Entitle second episode 'Boot Camp']. This is the angle-the hook. This is the analogy that will get people excited, that will keep them coming back week after week. That and the human-interest aspect of following Deb through the process. She's perfect for it because she's so girl-next-door. They loved her during the Olympics, and the up close and personal interviews with her were a big hit. [Note: call Sinclair's secretary for her C. V. Arrange an on-camera interview with Sinclair regarding the necessary personality traits of a trauma surgeon. How did she choose Deb?]
July 2- 8:15 PM
"If I have to eat cafeteria food every third night for the next six months, I want hazard pay," Melissa Cooper groused. "It's bad enough that my social life is going to go to hell, but at this rate so will the rest of me."
"I told you to take a few hours off for dinner…or we could have ordered take out," Jude pointed out, leafing through a surgical journal she had found under a stack of file folders on the counter. The article titles were mostly indecipherable to her, but the pictures were fascinating. She was sitting in the trauma bay in one of the ubiquitous swivel chairs, her feet propped up on the wastepaper basket. Nearby, Mel fiddled with her equipment. "Problems?"
"No, I ran a video-sound synch check earlier, and it was fine. I just wanted to make sure we had the microphone settings optimized to capture everything we could. It would be better if we had off-camera mikes, too."
"I agree, but I don't think it's technically possible in the space that we have here. Besides, it will add to the immediacy and the atmosphere if our sound is a little rough. We want this to come across like a front line, in-the-trenches kind of documentary."
Melissa straightened and stretched. "That's what you're going to get if I have to rely on only two cameras, and wear one of them on top of it." She pulled a chair out from under the long counter and regarded Jude contemplatively. "How are things with Lori?"
Surprised, Jude responded automatically. "Fine. Why?"
"Just wondering," Melissa said with a shrug. "You've been seeing her, what? Four or five months?"
Melissa whistled. "Sounds serious."
"No," Jude said slowly, realizing that she rarely gave her relationship with Lori much thought. It just was...what it was. "Not really."
"Is she seeing anyone else?"
"Not that I know of, but she might be. We never made any exclusivity agreements."
Jude eyed her friend and colleague suspiciously. "No. I barely have time to keep up the one relationship I have as it is. So why the twenty questions, Mel? Are you planning on asking her out?"
"God, no," Melissa said laughing. "She's hot, but she's way too establishment for me. Just curious as to what's going on with you. If I were going to ask anyone out, it would be Sinclair. She's got a look about her that says she could be interesting."
"Interesting?" Jude asked carefully, trying to ignore the sudden twist of jealousy she felt at Melissa's announcement. You've got absolutely nothing to be jealous about. What's it to you if Melissa goes after Sinclair or anyone else for that matter? You already have a girlfriend and even seeing her every few weeks is work. Besides, Sinclair is definitely not your type. She's secretive and edgy and just plain difficult.
Oblivious to her friend's reaction, Melissa continued blithely, "In case you haven't noticed, she's got a thing about control. I bet she's the same way in bed."
Jude definitely did not want to spend any time at all considering what Sinclair would be like in bed. She had to work around her for days at a time for the foreseeable future, and she needed to concentrate on work while they were together, nothing else. "Well, good luck finding out."
"Is she available, do you know?"
"No idea." Come to think of it, she didn't know much about her at all. I really need to get her in an interview.
"Should I give you a detailed report?" Melissa teased.
"No thanks," Jude responded more sharply then she intended. She hoped the photographer didn't notice.
Before Melissa could comment on Jude's reply, Deb and Aaron walked in together. "Hey," they both said in way of greeting.
"Evening," Jude answered, disappointed to see that Sinclair was not with them. "What's happening?"
Deb joined them as Aaron began restocking the crash cart with drugs after unlocking the multi-drawered rolling cart with his key. "Nothing at the moment," the trauma fellow replied. "Sinclair told me to tell you she's arranging an on-call room for you. Maintenance is putting a couple of beds and a desk in a small office down the hall where you can sleep and set up some of your equipment if you need to." She handed Jude several keys. "You might as well try to get some sleep while you're hanging around with us if nothing's happening at night."
"I don't want to miss anything," Jude said uncertainly.
"I'll bang on your door if anything comes in," Deb assured her. "We always have some warning when a trauma is on the way, because either the EMTs radio us or the chopper calls ahead."
"Sounds fine then," the filmmaker agreed. "If it gets to be late and it's still quiet, I'll definitely take you up on it."
"I'll second that," Melissa added. She considered briefly that it might be handy in the coming months to have a room nearby with a bed available. She'd learned from experience the a little romantic diversion on an extended shoot could help pass the time quite nicely, and from what she'd seen so far, there was more than one possibility she wouldn't mind exploring.
It felt like Jude had barely closed her eyes when a sharp rap on the door brought her upright in the narrow bed. Across the tiny space from her, Mel turned over with a mumble and buried her head under the pillow. Heart pounding, it took Jude a few moments to realize where she was and that someone was at the door. Crossing quickly to open it, she inquired, "Yes?"
Sinclair stood in the empty hallway looking wide-awake. "Five minutes, Ms. Castle. We have three coming by ambulance from a pileup on the bridge. There could be more--I don't know yet."
Sax was already moving off down the hall towards the trauma admitting area as Jude called over her shoulder, "Let's go, Mel. We're on."
The next five minutes passed in what felt like seconds. By the time Jude and Melissa reached the trauma bay, Aaron and two other nurses she didn't recognize were already waiting, garbed in protective gowns and gloves and pulling out instrument packs from tall steel cabinets. Sinclair and Deb were in scrubs, also pulling on latex gloves. On the long counter lay the remnants of someone's late dinner, scattered sections of the daily newspaper, and a chessboard, clearly abandoned in mid-game. Jude averted her eyes, but not before she had instantaneously absorbed the position of the pieces. White was about to be checkmated.
From across the room where she leaned against the edge of one of the treatment tables, Sax watched the filmmaker and her photographer prepare. In their own way, they were very much like her own team, working together with practiced efficiency, almost wordlessly. Castle was speaking rapidly into her dictaphone, apparently noting the date, time, and specific circumstances of the upcoming shoot. Melissa Cooper was shrugging into a body harness that was clearly meant to support the heavy handheld video camera. As she helped to secure the DVCam, Jude affixed the microphone to it for simultaneous sound and video synchronization. Once that was accomplished, Melissa took up a position where she could record the entrance and the arrival of the patients and checked the angle of view on the built in monitor. Jude stood just behind her, where, Sax presumed, she could direct her photographer to concentrate on whatever aspects of the upcoming resuscitation interested her. Smooth. Impressive.
Jude glanced over at Sinclair. "Are we okay here?"
"I think so. Go for what you want-if you get in the way, I'll let you know."
"Sounds good," Jude said with a grin. She didn't doubt for second that even in the midst of fury, Sinclair would have no problem making her wishes known. Her last act before the doors slid open and the first of three stretchers careened into the room was to wonder if the surgeon ever relinquished control to anyone - ever.
Chapter Eight contains a graphic trauma scene that might conceivably be distressing to read. If you would prefer to skip that section, scroll down to the Heading July 3- 6:29 a.m. and read from there.
It started out as a fairly routine trauma situation, or so Jude surmised. EMTs and paramedics from two separate divisions had responded to a multi-vehicle crash, and the first victims to arrive were a family of three.
"Try to get something on all of them, but concentrate on Deb and the little girl," Jude directed Melissa as medical personnel converged on the gurneys.
Efficiently, team members moved each patient to a treatment table with the effortless choreography of long practice. As far as Jude could tell, all three family members were conscious, although both the mother and father were strapped to backboards with restraining cervical collars around their necks. A blond child who appeared to be about five lay on the third stretcher, looking small and vulnerable surrounded by the monitors clustered around her. A large laceration extended from her scalp onto her forehead, and from where she was standing, Jude could make out the stark gleaming surface of white bone. Miraculously, the child appeared comfortable and not particularly frightened--she didn't even seem to be crying, although there were tear tracks smudged on her smooth flawless cheeks.
From beside her, Jude heard Sinclair directing the activity even as the surgeon began assessing the male member of the trio.
"Fisher, check the mother. Stein, get the girl." She bent over the man, automatically performing the standard initial evaluation to confirm that he was breathing properly and that his pulse and blood pressure were adequate. "What was the status in the field? Extrication times? Any hemodynamic instability or loss of consciousness?" she asked of the paramedics who had lingered to watch the resuscitation.
It sounded to Jude like the handful of emergency personnel answered at once, and she couldn't fathom how the trauma chief could possibly sort out the plethora of facts and numbers bombarding her.
Sax never took her eyes off the patient, her face intent as her hands rapidly moved over his body. "Were they restrained?"
"Yep. Seatbelts and car seat," one of the paramedics standing by the door finishing his paperwork called out.
Sax straightened and glanced to her right where Keith Fisher, an upper-level surgery resident, was performing the exact same maneuvers she had just completed on the mother. "Dr. Fisher," she said, not loudly, but with a degree of authority that got his attention immediately. His hands stopped moving as he looked at her expectantly. "This patient is complaining of abdominal pain and he's got guarding in the lower abdomen. What do you recommend we do?"
The young man, clearly charged with excitement by the tense atmosphere, answered with a note of hope in his voice, "Open peritoneal lavage?"
Jude watched Saxon Sinclair. She couldn't seem not to. Of all the figures in the room, the dark-haired surgeon seemed to be the epicenter, the focal point. Despite the air of controlled pandemonium permeating the room, Sinclair's expression was calm and her attitude collected. Her movements were precise and economical, and in just the few moments that Jude had been observing her, she had clearly appraised the condition of each patient and given directives to orchestrate their care. As Jude listened to the young surgeon-in-training suggest what she presumed was some sort of operation, for a fleeting second, she thought she saw Sinclair grin. She made a note in the log she was quietly dictating to ask her why.
"I'd agree with you," Sax said as she moved to the woman Fisher was examining, "if he were hemodynamically unstable and I suspected a major intra-abdominal bleed. But his pulse and blood pressure are normal so we have time to get a non-invasive test before we resort to a surgical procedure." Glancing over her shoulder, she ordered, "Aaron, get him down for a CT of the chest and abdomen. Tell them he's a possible seatbelt injury and to check his spleen and retroperitoneum carefully."
Surprisingly, Sax stopped at the foot of the stretcher where the female patient lay and turned to Jude. As if she had all the time in the world, she said conversationally, "It's not uncommon to sustain an internal injury in high-speed decelerations when a person is restrained by a seatbelt. Internal organs, particularly those that are very vascular or fragile, can rupture and bleed. We could make a small incision in his abdomen right now and look, but I think a CT scan is a better choice for him."
"Thanks," Jude said quietly but Sinclair had already turned her back and was leaning over the wife. She heard the surgeon introduce herself and ask the woman if she were having any pain. She couldn't hear the woman's faint reply, but she could hear the anxiety in her tone.
"We haven't finished examining the three of you yet," Sax said calmly, "but everyone seems stable. Your husband will need some tests and I'll let you know about your little girl in a few seconds. Now, I want to take care of you."
There was something familiar in the surgeon's compassionate tone that struck a chord in Jude, and as she struggled with the half-memory, her pulse accelerated and her ears buzzed faintly. God, not now! She forced her attention back to the scene before her and, thankfully, her head cleared.
"Pull back a little bit to catch both the mother and daughter," Jude instructed Melissa hoarsely. She just needed to focus on the work and she'd be fine.
The photographer, who had been moving back and forth between the three stretchers trying to record the various stages of treatment, grunted her assent. Just as Jude spoke, the little girl called for her mother and mother and child each reached out a hand, joining their fingers across the narrow space between the two beds.
"Are you getting this?" Jude whispered excitedly, practically climbing onto Mel's shoulder to check her angle of view.
"Yeah, yeah, I've got it. Don't worry," Melissa said distractedly while trying to keep one eye on the scene at large so as not to miss some developing event, and at the same time concentrating on the intimate details that made the proceedings so very human. "You could give me an inch or two to move, Jude," she muttered as she followed behind Deb, working to keep the heavy camera steady against her chest. Even with the body rig to help support the weight, her arms would be shaking before too much longer.
Next to them, Sax gave one of the nurses detailed instructions about lab tests and x-rays for the mother and finally joined Deb beside the little girl. Both Jude and Melissa moved in close behind her, but she seemed not to notice them.
"Anything?" Sax asked, studying the small patient.
"Neurologic exam is intact. No evidence of airway or hemodynamic instability. She has the obvious laceration but I can't palpate a skull fracture. No bruising on the chest or abdomen to suggest blunt trauma, and she's moving all four extremities to command. She'll need a head CT to rule out a fracture or any associated intracranial injury, and then she's going to need that laceration repaired."
As Deb reported, Sax bent close and murmured something that Jude couldn't quite make out, but she hoped the mic on the camera would pick it up. Then, Sax began her own assessment--listening to the little girl's heart and lungs, probing her abdomen, running her hands over each extremity. She checked the child's pupils and ears, nodded agreement with Deb's evaluation, and murmured, "Nothing to suggest evidence of bleeding or increased intracranial pressure. Looks like her only significant injury is that fairly straightforward soft tissue injury on the scalp. Do you want to repair it yourself after the CT or call plastics?"
"It looks pretty routine," Deb remarked. "As long as nothing else is going on, I might as well do it."
Sax appeared about to answer when a heavyset policeman, flushed and breathing heavily, barged into the trauma admitting area. He skidded to a halt and stared at Sax, struggling to get his words out.
"There's an ambulance pulling in right now with a guy who crashed his motorcycle in the pile up. He was underneath one of the cars and we just found him." He held out a large black trash bag, which he had secured under one arm. "This...this is...his."
Jude wasn't certain what she was watching but she tapped Mel on the shoulder and said urgently, "Get this."
"Put it down on this," Sax said, rolling a steel cart forward. As the policeman deposited his package, she looked at Jude and Melissa pointedly. "This may be... difficult."
"It's okay," Jude said, trying to ignore the escalating roaring in her head. The shape of the package gave her a pretty good idea of what was inside, but she was certain she must be wrong. Her heart was hammering as she continued, "Go ahead."
Sax peeled back the edges of the black plastic.
"Oh fuck," Melissa Cooper murmured, struggling to hold the camera steady, and it wasn't because her arms were tired.
Jude put her hand on Mel's shoulder and fought a dizzying wave of nausea.
"Stein," Sax said curtly as she surveyed the perfectly preserved leg lying in the bag surrounded by ice. It had been severed at the hip and a portion of the pelvic bone was visible, still attached to the cut end. The rest of it looked perfectly normal, including the lower leg and foot. "Call the OR and tell them we have a level one coming up. Notify vascular surgery and orthopedics that we have a possible limb replantation."
Even as she was speaking, the doors slid open yet again and four paramedics came crashing through with the owner of the severed limb. For the next few moments it seemed to Jude that Sinclair was everywhere at once. Nurses and residents descended upon the motorcyclist, cutting off clothes, inserting tubes into his nose and into his arms and down his throat. Sax and Stein removed a large pressure bandage that covered his lower body, at which point Jude commanded hoarsely, "Stop the camera, Mel."
Melissa was about to protest, and then she got a clear look at the gaping wound and realized that it was far too personal and private a thing to reveal to anyone. "Yeah."
"Do you want to look at the dailies now?" Melissa Cooper asked, trying valiantly to hide her weariness. She hadn't thought anything could bother her anymore. She'd filmed children starving in African nations so impoverished it was impossible to believe such conditions existed in the modern world, and she'd documented the last moments of young men and women dying of AIDS in the most technologically advanced society ever known. She'd witnessed the gamut of human emotions from grief and horror to joyous celebration, and with the filter of her camera between her and the event, she'd been able to maintain her psychological equilibrium. Tonight, she'd almost lost it.
"Let's do it tomorrow," Jude said dully, glancing at the round, institutional-appearing clock, amazed at how much time she had lost. Four hours had passed in a blur of noise and motion and blood. She glanced around at the littered floor, the aftermath of battle strewn everywhere-wads of gauze soaked with blood and other fluids, discarded surgical gloves, clear plastic wrappers that had encased sterile tubing and intravenous catheters-a portion of a pair of denim pants. "God."
"We're not going to be able to show much of that," Melissa commented hoarsely. Her throat was so dry it almost hurt to speak. She methodically stowed her equipment without looking at Jude, needing to restore order and sanity by repeating familiar tasks. "Are we?"
Jude twisted in the swivel chair in front of the counter and stared at the chessboard. Miraculously, it had remained undisrupted throughout what felt to her now like a tornado of barely contained chaos. Absently, she replayed Black's last six moves. Nicely done.
"We can't show him," she said at last. "The network censors would never let it pass. Besides, I don't want this to be about satisfying morbid curiosity. We've got great shots of Deb and Sinclair, though. There's still a lot there."
She pressed her fingers to her aching temples. "Go home, Mel."
She didn't need to review the videotape to know what she wanted to use from what they had just witnessed. Her heart was still racing with the aftermath of tension, but what left her nerve endings so raw that her skin felt hot were her memories of Saxon Sinclair.
Sax walked into the trauma admitting area and stared in surprise at Jude Castle. "What are you still doing here? I saw your photographer leaving just before I started making rounds a couple of hours ago."
"I sent her home," Jude replied quietly. "I think she earned her salary last night."
"So did you," Sax observed, pulling out a chair and sitting down opposite the filmmaker. She had expected Jude to want to get away for a while after the previous night's events. An injury like that was tough on all of them, even the most seasoned trauma veteran, but it must be nearly incomprehensible for a civilian to assimilate. She had to work at not thinking too much about it herself. It hadn't escaped her notice that the redhead had looked like she was about to faint when the severed leg had been uncovered, not that she could blame her. She had a feeling, though, that it wasn't because Jude was squeamish. Jude's reaction had looked very much like the one she'd had when she'd first walked into the trauma admitting area-a purely involuntary, autonomic response to a stressful event. Or the memory of one. The director still looked pale and shaky. "Are you okay? It was a long night."
Jude flushed, embarrassed, wishing that the surgeon wasn't quite so astute. "Yes, thanks." She knew where the unwelcome physical reactions were coming from, and she knew that she actually was fine, but it was troubling nonetheless. It was uncomfortable and disconcerting and damned inconvenient to be suddenly awash with terror - no, the memory of terror, when she least expected it. She shook her head, because thinking about it only made it more of an issue. "How is…the boy. God, I don't even know his name. I don't even remember what his face looks like. I don't think I ever looked at him."
Jude leaned back and closed her eyes, wondering at the rapidity with which she had distanced herself from the horrors of human frailty. If it happened to her in barely two days, how could anyone seeing it day after day possibly feel anything and still remain sane?
"His name is Stephen Jones, and he's twenty years old. He has a lovely girlfriend and a very devoted family. At the moment, he is still alive-against all odds-and he's going to need them if he's going to make it in the long run."
"You met with the family?" Jude asked. How did you find the time? How did you find the strength?
"Briefly," Sax replied. "Deb is with them now explaining what they can expect over the next few days. A big part of her training is learning to coordinate the various specialties that are involved in a trauma patient's care. Just as important as orchestrating the medical care is keeping the family informed and putting them in touch with support staff who can help them with finances, insurance, and things like that."
Jude sighed. "Damn. I should have gotten that." She smiled wanly. "To tell you the truth, I needed a break."
"Understandable," Sax said in a tone that said she meant it. She studied the other woman, concerned by the faint tremor she noted in Jude's hands. She leaned forward, and asked again, "Are you sure you're all right?"
"I'm not as fragile as you might think, Dr. Sinclair," Jude said more harshly than she intended. It bothered her for the seemingly undauntable surgeon to think that she couldn't handle the intensity of the trauma unit.
"Would you like to tell me now what's causing the flashbacks?" Sax asked mildly. "Or would you rather out I find out when you finally faint and end up with a laceration on your forehead that I have to close?"
Jude stood up suddenly, not the least bit dizzy any longer. She was too angry at the other woman's presumption to have even a faint memory of how ill she had felt just moments before. "You needn't worry that I'll be requiring your services in any fashion, Dr. Sinclair. I assure you, I'll have no problem doing my job."
No, I'm sure you won't, Sax thought to herself as she watched Jude angrily leave the room. But is there any reason that you have to suffer so much while you're doing it?
It disturbed her to think of Jude struggling in silence, and it disturbed her even more to realize that she was breaking one of her own rules by caring.
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