For disclaimers, see  Part 1

Part 23

 

Chapter Twenty-Three

Regina walked into the suite of Pediatric offices located on the third floor of the medical center and signed in at the front desk. The walls were painted a clear blue, summer sky filled with billowy, white clouds.

She noted in the sign in log that Dr. Timmons had arrived only minutes ahead of her and was still probably in the office. Since the office staff wasnít in yet Regina walked unchallenged down the hallway towards the Pediatric Directorís open door.

The older doctor with salt and pepper hair was just shrugging out of his overcoat when Regina tapped on his door.

"Hi, Dr. Timmons."

"Hello, Regina." His face brightened and he tossed his coat over one of the chairs in the cluttered room. "I trust you had a good weekend off."

"Yes, it was the first time that my whole family was together in a while." She looked at the walls of the office and glanced at the vast array of diplomas and certificates the doctor had earned over the years.

"Good to hear." He picked up a pile of charts and set them down on windowsill behind him.

Regina cleared her throat and gripped the back of the chair in front of her. "Dr. Timmons has there been any word on the boy who disappeared from pediatrics Saturday night?"

The pediatrician frowned as he turned back and sifted through some papers on his desk. "Iím afraid not. The whole thing is just a mess." He stopped and placed his hands on his hips, a distressed look on his face. "It seems our young patient simply walked off the floor unnoticed."

"Iím really worried about him. He was on anti-seizure medication."

"I know. Iím concerned about him too. Listen, Iím glad you stopped by. I had my secretary call a list of patients we saw in the Emergency Department last week that need follow-up. I planned on seeing them in the clinic downtown today. Unfortunately, because of this boy disappearing Iím going to be tied up in meetings all day. I want you to go down there and cover for me."

"Youíre talking about the clinic across from the fire department? I didnít think it was open yet."

"We got a certificate of Occupancy from the town on Friday and most of the equipment is there now. Itís still a little unorganized but, itís functional." Dr. Timmons picked a folder and handed across the desk to Regina. "Hereís the list of patients."

Regina opened the folder and looked at the list of patients. An eyebrow lifted in surprise. "Thatís quite an ambitious list."

Dr. Timmons waved his hand. "Donít worry. Half of them probably wonít show up for some reason or another. I recruited one of the nurses from the ER to be there, so you wonít be working there alone."

"Oh, good." It would be kind of creepy being there all by myself. "Do you know if the police are looking for TJ?"

"TJ?" Dr. Timmons furrowed his brow and then recognition flashed across his features. "Oh, the boy, right. We filed a missing personís report. One of the detectives was here on Sunday asking question, so I imagine they are."

Regina nodded her head somberly, wondering where the boy was right now and if he was safe. "Do you want me to stay for rounds, then?"

Her director studied her for a moment and then shook his head. "No. Youíve got youíre work cut out for you." He went back to searching through his desk and then stopped. "Oh, before I forget. Here are the keys to the front door and the small one is for the medicine room."

"Well, I guess Iím all set then." Regina jiggled the keys in her hand and looked at the folder with the list of patients in it. "Iíll see you tomorrow."

Dr. Timmons walked over to the door, reached up, and pulled a white lab coat off a hook from behind the door. He looked over at blonde haired woman sensing the nervousness there and smiled reassuringly at her. "Youíll do fine. Help is just a phone call away if you need it."

Regina nodded, feeling a bit foolish for the nervous jitters that beset her. Why do I feel like this? I know what Iím doing. What difference does it make if itís in a hospital or a clinic? Maybe my cycle is getting close? She turned and walked out of the office, still chastising herself mentally.

Regina was still lost in thought as she walked onto the pediatric ward. She stopped at the desk, unsure of why sheíd come here when her responsibilities took her elsewhere today. A unit clerk glanced up at her, offering a wan smile before she returned to her task at the computer.

Her green eyes glanced up and down the hallway. Regina smelled the distinct odor of hospital food before she saw a small-framed woman step around the corner, pushing a large, metal, food cart.

Terry. Regina sighed, wondering what the girl thought after their conversation on the phone the other day. Somehow she felt like she had let her down, although she wasnít sure what there was she could do to make the situation any better.

With a determined set to her shoulders, she walked down the hallway towards Terryís room. At the door, she stopped as she listened to the muted sounds of the television. She tapped on the door and waited a second before she entered the room.

Regina pulled the curtain back and peered down at the young girl, curled up in a tight ball on her side. "Terry? Itís Dr. Kingston." The girl shifted under the covers but didnít respond. The gentle hiss and click of the IV pump drew Reginaís attention and she glanced at the bag of fluid, noting the dosage of the chemotherapy. I guess theyíre bringing out the big guns now, she thought soberly.

She lowered the rail and sat on the edge of the bed. "Terry, Iím sorry about TJ."

A sniffle confirmed her suspicions that Terry was indeed awake and Regina waited for the girl to speak.

"Do you think heíll be all right?" Came the whispered voice.

"I hope so," Regina replied honestly.

"I miss him." Terry shifted in the bed and looked up at Regina from beneath her tousled bangs.

"You two were getting to be friends."

Terry nodded her head as she plucked at the white sheets with her fingers. "He brought me snacks from the cafeteria because the food sucks."

As if on cue, the woman Regina saw in the hallway entered the room, carrying a tray of food. Regina shrugged her shoulders in apology and noted the sympathetic look the woman gave Terry.

"Itís better today. French toast and oatmeal," the woman said as she set the tray down on the table.

"I hate oatmeal," Terry complained.

Regina screwed up her nose. "Itís not one of my favorites either. Maybe I can find a way to make it taste better," Regina offered. "Iíll be right back." She disappeared out of the room and located the pantry on the floor.

She rummaged through some drawers and found where the nursing staff hid their stash of snacks and condiments from the cafeteria. Pleased with what she found, Regina sauntered out of the pantry.

"Okay, letís see if this helps," Regina announced when she re-entered Terryís room a few minutes later. She set the packets of raisins and brown sugar on the bedside table and folded her arms across her chest to wait.

Terry wrinkled her nose and peered at the offerings suspiciously. "Maybe if I make it really sweet, I wonít notice the lumps."

"My thoughts precisely."

Terry mixed the condiments into the oatmeal. Tentatively, she poked her spoon into the mixture and tasted it. "I guess itís okay," she admitted grudgingly. She took another bite and leaned back against the pillows. Brown eyes stared up at Regina. "The doctor says my hair is going to fall out."

Regina returned Terryís gaze and nodded her head. "Itís one of the side-effects of the chemotherapy."

Terry frowned and squirmed against the pillows. She reached behind her and pulled out a stuffed tiger. "Thatís where you went!" she scolded the stuffed toy and then looked up at Regina. "Will it grow back?"

"It takes awhile but it usually does." Regina leaned closer and fingered the tigerís black, velvet ear. "Did your parents give you this?" she asked, trying to figure out what to say to Terry next.

Terry shook her head, absently stroking her thumb over the sleek fur. "No, TJ gave it to me."

"Really?" She wondered how he had the means for such a gift and then discarded the thought with a shrug of her shoulders. "That was sweet of him." Regina smiled down at her affectionately. "Terry do you want to ask me any other questions about the chemotherapy?"

Terry stopped petting the stuffed animal and then shook her head. "No. I want to cut my hair off before it falls out."

Regina pressed her lips together and inhaled deeply. She chose her words carefully, not wanting to influence Terryís decision. "You could do that."

"My mother wants me to wear a wig."

"What do you want to do?"

Terry shrugged her shoulders. "I donít know."

"I donít think you have to make a decision about the wig right now."

"You donít understand. It wonít be my decision. Sheíll just go out and buy it." Terry wiped her eyes in irritation and sank lower in the bed.

Ah, there in lies the problem. "Have you talked to your mom about what you just told me?"

"She wonít listen."

The conversation brought back memories of her own teenage years and the sometimes, volatile relationship she had with her mother. "Terry, donít assume she wonít listen. You owe it to both of you to talk about it."

"Okay." Terry swirled the spoon in the oatmeal and looked up at Regina. "Are you going to look for TJ?"

A half-dozen different answers flashed in her mind but only one came to Reginaís lips as she stood there. "Iím going to try and find him."

******

An hour later, after an uneventful bus ride downtown, Regina unlocked the clinic doors and walked through the front entrance. A rueful smile crossed her lips as she looked around the clinic, recalling Dr. Timmons earlier words about the condition of the place, unorganized but functional.

With the remaining time she had left before the first patients that were scheduled to come in for appointments started to show up, Regina began to move some chairs to the waiting area for patients and family to sit in.

She unpacked some essential supplies and found the boxes containing the necessary forms for the charts. Regina looked up when she heard the front door open.

"Hello?" a female voice called from the waiting area.

Regina straightened up and wiped her hands off on her scrub bottoms. She walked around the corner and smiled when she saw her friend. "Hi, Sandy!"

"Oh thank god." The nurse set the box she was carrying down and then gave Regina a hug. "I wasnít sure who was going to be here, but I sure am glad itís you." Sandy slipped out of her jacket and tossed it over the desk. "I didnít see your car outside. How did you get here?"

"I took the bus."

"Oh." Sandy frowned in confusion. "What happened to your car?"

"Nothing. I rode into work with Alex."

Sandy nodded her head, hoping that things were working out between her two friends. She looked around the open room with raised eyebrows. "Dr. Timmons has an interesting definition of functional."

Regina laughed and nodded in agreement. "My thoughts exactly." She pointed to the desk. "I left the list of patients there."

Sandy raised her eyebrows as she read through the names. "Here, I had the unit clerk make copies of all the intake notes from the patientís emergency room visits." The nurse rummaged through the box she brought with her and handed Regina a stack of files.

"Good. At least Iíll have some idea of what their follow-up visits are for," Regina commented, as she started to read over the notes.

"How was your weekend?" Sandy asked.

Regina brushed her hair back behind her ears. "Alex and I drove up to my parentís house. It was the first time my oldest brother had been home in over ten years."

"How did it go with your family?"

Regina rolled her eyes. "It was very difficult for Jeff. I think by the end he was wondering if he made a mistake coming home."

"Iím sorry to hear that," Sandy offered, as she unlocked the cart the held the clinicís supply of medication.

Regina folded her arms and looked down at her feet. "Iím going to give him a call this week and see how heís doing."

Sandyís eyes fixed on the multi-colored bracelet tied around Reginaís wrist as she walked over to the doctor. "Thatís new." She reached out and slid the woven bracelet around Reginaís wrist so she could see the intricate pattern. "I love the colors in it."

Regina fingered the bracelet, a warm feeling igniting in her chest as she remembered what Alex said to her that night out on the deck. "Thanks. Alex made it for me while we were in Provincetown."

"Wow. She made it?" Sandyís eyes widened with surprise. "Who knew she could do that."

"It surprised me, too," Regina admitted quietly.

"So, I guess things are going better for you two." Sandy glanced briefly at her friend, probing gently with Regina where she dared not tread with Alex. She rechecked her count and wrote the quantity of the drugs on the inventory sheet.

"Weíre just taking it a day at a time, but yeah, I think things are better."

"Nothing wrong with that."

Regina looked down at her watch. It was ten minutes to nine in the morning and they would be at the clinic until at least six that evening. "I better call Alex and let her know where I am. She thought I was going to be at the hospital all day."

Sandy looked up as the front door opened and a middle-aged woman bundled in a purple down jacket, walked in carrying a young child. "Go ahead. Iíll get her settled in a room."

Regina walked behind the desk and picked up the phone. After keying in the numbers she waited as the phone rang several times.

"ER." An agitated voice answered.

"This is Dr. Kingston. I need to speak to Dr. Margulies."

"Hang on."

Regina looked up as Sandy appeared and handed her a file.

"Weíve got a two year old girl with a kidney infection. She was seen in the ER last week, hospitalized and then discharged over the weekend."

Regina opened the file and read through it while she waited on hold. "Okay. I want to get a new set of labs before we prescribe anything. The antibiotics she was on should have taken care of the infection."

"Iíll get the blood drawn." Sandy winked at Regina before she turned around, and stopped at one of the carts where she selected the rubber-stopped glass vials she needed.

Regina glanced at the list of patients and exhaled.

"Dr. Margulies here."

She smiled, hearing the deep timbre of Alex voice through the phone. "Hi, itís Regina."

"I know your voice," Alex chuckled, pleasantly surprised to hear Regina on the other end of the line.

In the background, Regina could hear the overhead paging system announcing an all clear on a fire drill. "It sounds kind of crazy there."

"What makes you say that?"

Regina snickered, hearing the tinge of sarcasm in her loverís voice. "I can just tell. I called to tell you Iím downtown at the clinic all day."

"What? I didnít know they approved it being open yet." Alex hesitated and then asked. "Youíre not there by yourself are you?"

"No, Sandy is here with me. Dr Timmons scheduled the pediatric follow up visits down here. Listen, Iíve got a patient waiting to see me," Regina explained quickly. "Can you pick me up when youíre done?"

"Sure," Alex replied. "If you get done early, ask Sandy if sheíll give you a ride back to the hospital. That way you wonít have to wait there alone."

"Okay. Iíll talk to you later," Regina replied. She hung up the phone and then realized she didnít ask Alex if she got to talk to the Vice President yet. She tucked the thought away in the back of her mind as she opened the patientís file and focused on the task at hand.

******

Alex set the phone down in the cradle and looked over at unit clerk. "Donna, where are the charts I need to sign?"

The brunette pointed down the hallway. "Theyíre in the nurse administratorís office. It should be unlocked."

"Thanks. If anyoneís looking for me thatís where Iíll be." Several minutes later, the attending was settled behind the desk.

She frowned as she flipped through the pages of order sheets, which were followed by the hand written history and physicals taken by the Emergency Departmentís residents. She read over several consent forms signed by the patientís that allowed the physicians to perform invasive procedures. Satisfied with what she read, she co-signed the order for narcotics and then closed the chart.

Over the course of the next several hours, she worked her way through the stack of charts. As she read over the notes, her mind continued to run through all the questions no one seemed to have answers for regarding the missing charts.

If the charts arenít at the company that does the microfilming, then where the hell are they? "Jesus." Frustrated at the lack of answers, Alex picked up another chart and opened it. She shook her head and signed off on discharge orders for three patients.

"You donít sound happy."

Alex looked up and saw Jon leaning against the doorframe, with a newspaper tucked beneath his arm. "No, Iím fine."

"Well, Iíve got some news that might cheer you up."

"Yeah, whatís that?" Alex leaned back in her chair and tilted her head, regarding her colleague.

"Here." He dropped the newspaper on the desk and pointed to a small article at the bottom right corner of the page. "Read that."

Alex glanced up at Jon and then started to read the small print. "Dana RomanoÖ" she glanced up at him and then continued, "was convicted of manslaughter in the second-degree, driving while under the influence, and criminally negligent homicide. Is this todayís paper?" She opened the paper to look for the date.

"Yes." He smiled and sat on the edge of the desk. "You know thatís a maximum prison term of seven and a half years."

Alex shook her head in disbelief. "I didnít think Danaís court case was coming up that soon."

Jon looked down at his hands. "The mother of that kid has a good attorney and he really pushed things along for her."

"Sounds like you kept in touch with the family." Alex stared down at the paper and frowned as a myriad of conflicting emotions warred inside her.

Jon shrugged. "She lost a son and her husband is in jail. It was the least I could do."

"You donít have to justify yourself to me." Alex rubbed her face as a wave of exhaustion hit her.

"I know it was just a bad situation all around. I thought this might help you put closure on some of what happened."

Alex looked at Jon and scowled at him. "Since when did you start to dabble in counseling?"

He held his hand up, warding off the angry look he was getting. "I donít. Itís just from one friend to another. Thatís all."

Alex closed her eyes and took a breath to calm her racing heart. "Thanks."

Jon tapped his knuckles on the desk and looked at Alex. "Those files you told me about never showed up."

"I know." She motioned him closer with her hand. "Close the door."

"Shit." Jon kicked the door with his foot and folded his arms. "Why do I get the feeling Iím not going to like what you have to say?"

"Those files were apparently picked up by the company who does the microfilming for the hospital." Alex folded her arms. "When I called to get them sent back, I was told they have no record of them being picked up."

"Where are they?"

"Your guess is as good as mine." Alex met his bewildered gaze and sighed.

Jon hung his head and sighed heavily. "I donít like this."

"Neither do I." Alex leaned forward. "Jon, not a word to anyone on the staff. As far as Iím concerned, any drug trials in the emergency department that are ongoing or proposed at this time are suspended until this whole mess with Dr. Jameson is over. No one talks to anyone unless they come to me first."

"You got it." Jon stood up from the desk and opened the door. Half way out he stopped and turned back around to face Alex. "Hey." He ran a hand over his mouth, stepped back in the office, and shut the door behind him. "I may need to take some time off on short notice."

"Everything okay?" Alex tilted her head and studied Jon, aware of his discomfort.

"Yes and no. Chris is pregnant."

"Thatís great! Congratulations." Alex moved from her seat and sat on the corner of the desk. "You two will make great parents."

Jon pressed his lips together and ran his hand through his hair. "Itís not the first time. Sheís miscarried two times before and the docs are considering this a high-risk pregnancy."

"Is she still working?"

"Yeah, as long as she doesnít start to have any cramping or bleeding sheíll stay on. I told her she doesnít have to but she wants to stay busy so sheís not thinking about it constantly." Jonís shoulders slumped and he shook his head. "I just want to be there for her more this time. She wonít admit it, but I know sheís scared."

"Do what you need to do. Weíll be fine here." Alex laid a hand on Jonís shoulder. "I hope everything works out all right."

"Thanks, Alex." Jon stood up and gave Alex a nervous smile. "Iíll let everyone know that weíre suspending any ongoing projects for the time being."

"Good." Alex watched Jon leave. Her eyes scanned the shelves of medical texts, binders and nursing books and then found what she was looking for.

Alex pulled the phone book down and found the section for county and government listings. After flipping through several pages, she wrote a number down. She drummed her fingers on the desk while she considered what to do. Cassandra, you have another thing coming if you think that Iím going to be a pawn for you.

With a grim expression on her face, she walked out of the cramped office. Alex walked down the corridor and passed several stretchers and wheelchairs that lined the hallway. About half the rooms in the emergency department were filled with patients and the staff was enjoying the brief lull in the usually steady flow of cases.

Alex nodded a hello to one of the nurses as she walked past the desk. She continued on, pushed the glass door open and walked down the concrete steps to her Jeep.

After unlocking the door, she settled in behind the wheel. Alex pulled out her cell phone and dialed the number she had written on the piece of paper.

The phone rang several times and she was about to hang up when a male voice came over the line. "Office of the Inspector General."

"I wasnít sure there was anyone who would still be there this late," Alex replied.

"Weíre always here," the man said. "What can I help you with?"

"I need to speak to someone about possible fraudulent drug trials that are being conducted."

"Can I get your name?"

Alex hesitated, knowing there was no return when she crossed this particular line. "Alex Margulies. Iím a doctor."

"Doctor Margulies my name is Matthew Weber. I have two questions for you. Where do you work and where are you calling from?"

"I work at Saint Xavierís Medical Center and Iím calling from my cell phone in my car."

"Stop, thatís enough. Give me your pager number." After Alex recited it to him he continued. "Iíll page you to a number this evening and weíll set up a time and a place where we can talk."

"Thatís it?"

"For now."

Chapter 24

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