They-look-like-but-aren't: a certain television duo. This is an άber-tale, so of course there is a superficial resemblance, but actually the characters owe more to all the inventive άber-characters out there than to the TV series. These particular characters are my invention, however, and please respect that.
Sex: no, sorry, I find sweaty blow-by-blows boring to read so I won't write them either. There is, however, romance between adult, consenting women.
Violence: not really this is a light piece.
Language: awfully tame, really.
Writing ability: I have no illusion that I'm a great writer, but I do know what participles are and try not to dangle them, so I hope it isn't actually painful to read this.
Geography: If you know Colorado you will realize that the creek and town of Fossil Creek are my inventions, and are sited somewhat impossibly in a vague southern edge of the Denver metro area. But if you picture some mix of Old Town Fort Collins, Morrison, Golden & Roxborough Park you'll be seeing what I'm trying to describe.
Knowledge base: I'll stand by the essential accuracy of the medical action, but I'm sure it's obvious to anyone who knows anything about police work that I know as much about that as the next civilian catching an occasional episode of 'COPS' does; so I apologize in advance if it makes you want to howl at any inaccuracies.
HIPPA: if you have been to any sort of medical setting in the U.S. in recent years, you've had to sign something saying you've received a copy of their privacy policies, courtesy of the Federal privacy-in-medical-records law, HIPPA (which mainly throws roadblocks into your efficient medical care rather than helping you in any way). In reality, my medical characters would be violating HIPPA every which way by allowing the cops to be in the examining room with the patients, but the action flows more smoothly without detailing the way it would really have to be done. Since this is fiction, please allow me the luxury of fantasizing about a world without HIPPA .
(Wow, all that's almost as long as the story itself!)
I'm one of the world's worst correspondents, but if you want to contact me with (gentle, please) criticism or (better yet) praise I'll try to respond. You can reach me at: email@example.com
The story is a sequel to the one I wrote for the 2006 Academy of Bards Solstice contest (Challenge 16). It does stand on its own, but reading Merry Christmas to you, Officer Greca first may make it more enjoyable.
- 1 -
Lee Greca and her partner, Ed Hogarth, were heading back to the police station after a quiet patrol. It had been a little boring, but as much as Lee thrived on activity, she had to admit it was a nice change from the winter. She thought about the last few months. Since meeting on Christmas Eve and spending time together Christmas Day, she and the cute ED doc Sarah Bonheur had not been able to spend much time together, to the frustration of both. The winter had been unusually harsh with an endless series of storms that left the town of Fossil Creek buried in snow. The police department had been busy as a result of all the road accidents, stranded motorists and callouts to look for wandering elderly and children during the storms. Cabin fever had set in early as well, since the residents were used to having snow melt between storms, while this year the string of storms left snow piling ever higher without any chance to melt. Unfortunately for the police, some citizens alleviated the cabin fever by drinking and fighting, resulting in more demands on police time and a jail that was full all winter.
The hospital Emergency Department had been busy too as a result of all the accidents, falls on ice and fights that the storms brought, on top of the usual winter burden of illnesses like influenza and pneumonia. In addition, one of Sarah's colleagues was pregnant and had been put on bedrest unexpectedly after a scare with pre-term contractions, leaving the ED shorthanded.
Consequently, they had both worked long shifts and extra shifts, with their schedules seeming to anti-mesh perfectly, so there was never a time one wasn't working or sleeping while the other was free. They had managed to talk on the phone a couple of times a week and had snatched some meals in the hospital cafeteria together on Sarah's break, when Lee could stop by before or after her own shift, but Lee wanted more. This evening she was going to stop by the ED to ask Sarah out on a real date. Both would have the following Saturday off and she planned to invite Sarah to watch the Police softball team play the Fire Department team and then go to dinner with her.
After parking the patrol car at the police station, Lee and Ed wrapped up their day's paperwork. Then Lee went to the women's locker room to change. She took off her gun, equipment belt and protective vest and put them in her locker. She stripped off her uniform and placed it on the bench, knowing no one would dare walk off with it for a joke. At least, not if they know what's good for them, she smirked to herself.
She showered and toweled off then reached into her locker for her change of clothes. Shortly afterwards she was standing before the mirror combing her short black hair, wearing tan chinos and a navy blue polo shirt. Lee found herself absurdly nervous. You'd think you'd never asked anyone out before, she jeered to herself. She met her own blue eyes in the mirror. Buck up, she snarled mentally. You know you're compatible after chatting with her all winter. You both like Baroque music and hiking and reading. You both play softball. You're both vegetarians, amazingly enough, and neither of you is into drinking or drugs. You each drive a Lesbaru. She's funny and seems to like your sense of humor too. And you know you're pretty sure you've caught her checking you out, so just go do this!
Feeling braced by her mental pep talk, Lee nodded to herself, then reached for her jacket and left.
- 2 -
She arrived at the Fossil Creek Community Hospital soon and parked her Subaru Forester in visitor's parking near the ED entrance. She walked in, noting that it didn't seem too busy. She automatically scanned the room for signs of trouble or people she knew had outstanding warrants, but saw nothing concerning. She turned to the registration desk, glad to see one of the ED charge nurses, Nancy Cassat, standing there talking with the clerk. That should simplify getting back to where Sarah is, she thought.
Nancy finished her conversation with the clerk and glanced up. "Lee!" she smiled. "What brings you here?"
"Hey, Nancy," Lee replied. "Is Doc Bonheur free for a minute, do you think?"
"If she's not, I'm sure she'll get herself free. Let me get the door for you," Nancy invited. She went out of the clerk's area and Lee's sight but shortly appeared at the door into the triage area. "Come on back."
Lee followed her to the ED proper, consisting of a central nurses' station surrounded by cubicles. She saw a blonde in scrubs and a white coat speaking to one of the nurses there and her heart beat faster. Come on, she coached herself, this is Sarah you can do this!
Sarah turned when Nancy called to her, "Hey doc someone here to see you."
Her green eyes lit up as she saw Lee standing there. "Hey let's get out of this madhouse," she said as she led Lee into the nurses' lounge. "I wasn't expecting to see you today. What's up?"
"Ahh, so, I have a game this Saturday and thought maybe you'd like to come cheer us on, and then maybe we could go to dinner?" Lee choked out.
"Maybe I'd like that," teased Sarah.
"I mean, like a date would you go out on a date with me?" Lee added.
"Oh!" Sarah put her hand to her mouth. "I didn't realize you meant it that way "
Damn, thought Lee as she clenched her jaw. I thought we were moving towards this, but I guess I was wrong
" or I wouldn't have teased you," Sarah continued. "Yes I'd love to go on a date with you!"
Lee couldn't believe her ears Yes! She said yes! She pumped her arm in the air and grinned down at Sarah, who gave her a big smile in return. "Great that's great! So, the game's at 2. I could pick you up and we could ride to the park together. Then I thought we could go to Ianelli's," Lee continued, referring to the most elegant restaurant in the town of Fossil Creek. "I'll need to shower and change after the game though."
"That sounds good; I'll need to change too, since I'll want to go casual for the park and dressier for dinner. You could bring a change of clothes and shower at my place while I change," Sarah suggested.
"Alright. I'll pick you up at about 1:15 if that's ok with you."
"Yes and Lee, I'm really looking forward to it."
After Lee left, with what Sarah could only call a swagger in her step, Sarah returned her attention to the ED. "Ok, Mark," she said to the triage nurse, "What's next?"
"We've got a guy with an injured ankle in 6," he replied. "We gave him an icepack to hold on it while waiting."
Sarah walked into the cubicle after scanning the nurse's intake in the chart and offered her hand to the trim-looking man in the business suit sitting on the edge of the gurney. "Hi, Mr. Pollack. I'm Dr. Bonheur. I understand you hurt your ankle can you tell me what happened?"
"I feel silly, but I was talking to someone and didn't see the curb coming up, so my foot came down partly on it and partly on air and I turned my ankle. I caught hold of a signpost and kept myself from going to the ground but my ankle immediately started to hurt and swell, and I knew I'd trashed it."
"Did you strain anything else when you stopped your fall?'
"No the only thing that hurts is the ankle."
Sarah nodded and said, "Well, let's look at it. I'm going to feel various areas and I want you to tell me when it hurts." She sat on a stool and scooted close to the bed, then took the icepack from him and set it on the bed. The ankle was markedly swollen and already looking bruised. She felt around it, eliciting "ow's" when she pressed on the outermost bone of the ankle and the surrounding tissues.
She looked up at him and told him, "Well, at best you've done a significant sprain the bruising indicates you've torn some of the ligaments that stabilize the outer part of the ankle joint. That's not a surprise given what happened rolling out on the ankle like that exerts a lot of force on those ligaments. I doubt you've broken any of the bones, or it would be hurting even more, but because your ankle is so tender I can't say for sure you haven't broken or chipped one of the bones. So I'm going to send you for an x-ray."
She returned to the nurses' station after sending him to x-ray, where Nancy said, The paramedics just called theyre bringing in a guy from a construction site with a big laceration.
The doors to the ambulance entrance opened a couple of minutes later and the paramedics wheeled in a stretcher with a burly man on it. His left forearm was bandaged but blood was seeping through.
"Lets put him in the treatment room," Sarah directed. She traded her white coat for a gown and then donned gloves and a mask with an eyeshield. She pulled the bandage off and blood started flowing freely again as the clot over the wound was disturbed. "You'll need stitches," she told the man and he nodded.
"Yeah, I kinda figured that," he said.
"The wind caught a load the crane was lifting and swung it towards me. I tripped over a cable trying to get out of the way and fell onto some concrete we'd laid. A piece of rebar sticking out of the concrete caught my arm and ripped it up."
"When was your last tetanus shot?"
"Geez, I don't know."
"Have you had one before as far as you know?"
"Yeah, I just don't remember when for sure; it musta been years ago."
"Well, with that big a cut that happened in an outside area, we want to make sure you don't get tetanus. So, we'll give you a shot it won't hurt you if your last tetanus shot was recent, but will protect you in case it's been too long since the last one."
Sarah cleaned out the jagged wound and saw that it hadn't penetrated into the muscle. "You're lucky it tore up your skin but not the muscle, so you shouldn't have a problem using your arm once the skin heals." She numbed the edges of the wound with lidocaine with epinephrine, which helped slow the bleeding, then stitched the laceration closed. "Ok; the nurse just needs to give you the tetanus shot and then you can go. We'll give you a sheet going over wound care but basically, keep it totally dry for 24 hours then keep it as dry as possible no letting your arm sit in water. The stitches need to come out after 10 days; we can do that or your regular doctor can if you have one."
Sarah returned to the nurses' station and finished filling out the paperwork on him. Nancy approached and said, "I saw tall-dark-and-deadly here is that why you're in such a good mood?"
"Nancy!" Sarah said reproachfully at that description of Lee, but broke out with a large smile.
"Well?" Nancy pressed.
"She asked me on a date," Sarah admitted. "I'm really excited."
"That's great!" Nancy exclaimed. "You two really seem to fit together well. You both look so relaxed when I've seen you together at meals here, even though it was such a hectic winter for us all. I'm glad she finally asked you out."
"Yeah, well, not as glad as I am," Sarah said with a grin.
- 3 -
Lee and Ed had been busy with routine things on their shift traffic stops for violations like broken taillights or failure to stop fully at a stop sign and no excitement had ensued from any of them. Now they were patrolling along a one-way street lined with small businesses. Ed spotted some teens in baggy pants and hoodies on the left hand sidewalk ahead and pointed. Some were squatting while others stood, and the other pedestrians were having to edge around them. Lee nodded and pulled the car in to the curb next to them, then rolled her window down.
"Hi, guys, what's up?"
The group shifted nervously but one replied, "Just hanging out, officer."
"Ok," Lee said, "but you can't do that here," as she pointed to the 'No Loitering' sign one of the kids was leaning against. They just looked confused and she clarified, "That's a 'no loitering' sign it means you can't just hang out here. There's too much foot traffic along this area of sidewalk people just hanging out get in everybody else's way. Why don't you move on down to the park at the end of the block?"
"Yeah, whatever," the boy replied, but the kids on the ground stood and they began walking away. Lee watched until they reached the park then pulled out onto the street again.
"Ok, Ed said, "What gives? Normally I'd expect some cussing about idiot illiterate kids after running into a group like that. In fact, you've been really mellow all day."
"What, I can't just be mellow?" Lee asked.
"Well . no," Ed replied. "So, what's up?"
Lee couldn't help smiling at the thought of her upcoming date with Sarah but didn't deign to reply to Ed. He watched suspiciously and then exclaimed, "Wait I bet you finally got some nookie with that cute ED doc!"
"No, I did not 'get some nookie' as you so elegantly put it."
"Well, then, what did you get?" Ed persisted.
Lee finally admitted, "I asked her out last evening and she said yes. She's going to come to the softball game Saturday and then we're going out to dinner."
"To the game, huh?" Ed said thoughtfully.
"And you're going to behave yourself and not embarrass me in front of her," Lee growled, suddenly alarmed at the prospect that he would find it funny to do just that. "Or you will discover what me not-being-mellow really looks like."
"Ok, ok but just cause I like the doc she's a nice lady, unlike some people I could mention," Ed teased.
- 4 -
Sarah arrived at the ED Thursday morning for her shift in a bubbly mood, knowing that in a short two days she would be going out with Lee. She sat at the desk in the nurses' station, logged onto a computer and opened her email program. As usual, it was full of items she didn't really care about, since so many staff in the hospital thought they should DL the entire institution rather than just people working in their own areas
"Happy Birthday Doris Wright ..."
"The 5 East staff refrigerator will be cleaned "
"The hospital gift shop is having a sale on stuffed animals "
interspersed with the occasional item of interest. Oh look, another PHA, she thought, seeing an email entitled "Public Health Alert: communicable disease outbreaks." She scanned it, looking for anything that might impact her ED. Let's see we have:
*Colorado Alert: A norovirus outbreak in campers at the Reformed Christian Church Camp near Estes Park is suspected. Persons who present with nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea (N/V/D) within 5 days of attending the camp, or contacts to those attending the camp who present with N/V/D within 5 days after the attendee returns from the camp, may be cases linked to this outbreak. The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment will want to interview possible cases to try to determine the source of the exposure.
Ugh, Sarah thought. We'll probably be seeing some of that, since Fossil Creek has that big Reformed Christian Church over on Juniper and 10th.
*National Alert: A 15 y.o. who had traveled to Guatemala and returned on Southlands Airline flight 115 on May 9 has developed measles. The individual was likely contagious during the flight and un- or inadequately-immunized persons on that flight may be at risk of contracting measles. CDC is working with the airline to identify and contact passengers, but if someone presents with a clinical syndrome consistent with measles, clinicians should ascertain whether the person was on that flight.
Well, not too likely someone will walk in here with a measles rash, but you never know tuck that thought in the back of the head, she thought.
*Denver-Metro Alert: Plaque has been found in squirrels on the Denver Zoo grounds.
Plaque in squirrels? Why should I care about squirrels' dental health? Sarah wondered in confusion oh, no, that's plague in squirrels. She wasn't too alarmed by that one, knowing that plague in animals in the area rarely led to human cases. That's unusual typically the yearly plague die-offs hit the Prairie Dogs; but they're all rodents, so I guess it's not so surprising that it's in the squirrels this year.
*Colorado Springs Alert: Hepatitis A has been diagnosed in an employee of Grady's Steakhouse in Colorado Springs. Patrons of the restaurant may have been exposed between 4/26-5/11.
Now that I better note, she thought. I know a lot of people from Fossil Creek like to go to Grady's I expect some of them were there during that time, and once this hits the papers tomorrow we'll probably see people coming here in a panic. Yet another reason to be glad I'm a vegetarian, she congratulated herself and that I got the hep A vaccine.
- 5 -
Dispatch called while Lee and Ed were close to ending their shift on Thursday: "Car 54, where are you? Car 12 is asking for backup for a traffic stop at Spruce and 12th. The vehicle may be stolen." Ed reached for the mike and replied, "We're just two blocks from there, at 12th and Ponderosa. We can respond."
Lee pulled the cruiser in behind the one that had stopped a car full of young men. She and Ed got out and went to talk to the officers standing by their cruiser. "Hey, Jill, Mark dispatch said the car seems to be stolen."
Jill nodded and said, "Yeah, we noticed them crossing the yellow line on a curve and pulled them over. When we ran the plate it came back to a different vehicle, so at least the plates are probably stolen, and I figure that means the car is too. We wanted backup because it looks like there are at least 6 guys in there."
"Ok," Lee replied. The officers spread out and Jill called the passengers of the car out one at a time, and had them put their hands on the vehicle so the other officers could pat them down and cuff them. When the last two emerged, they bolted in different directions.
"Oh, crap they're running!" Ed said.
Lee didn't wait to reply but took off after one while Mark pursued the other. She ran him down quickly and efficiently tackled him, cuffing his hands behind his back as she pinned him to the ground, then hauling him to his feet. "Why'd you run?" she asked. "Got a warrant?"
"Yeah, for failure to appear on a driving while suspended," he mumbled. "I thought I could get away."
"Well, next time, why don't you just man-up? You wouldn't have had much jail time on the warrant, but now we've got you for resisting arrest too and that will buy you a lot more time," Lee advised as they walked back to the cruisers.
The other three officers were there and Mark said, "Nice job Greca unfortunately, my guy got into that undeveloped area over there before I could catch up, so we're going to have to flush him out. We've got more units going to the edges so we can keep it surrounded. We've got a wagon coming too to take these guys in."
Soon more units appeared and they began a search of the field, which was filled with trees and overgrown bushes. It went slowly but finally a cop yelled, "Got him here he's under this bush."
After he was brought out of the field, Lee said, "We'll take him down to the jail we were supposed to end our shift an hour ago and would like to get back to the station." He was uncooperative but had ID on him and they ran his name in the system. "Bingo there's why he ran," Lee said. "He's got a felony warrant for carrying a firearm while violating a restraining order his ex-girlfriend took out against him. Not a nice guy."
He was placed in the back of their cruiser and they started for the jail with him sitting in sullen silence, but after a few minutes he called to Ed, "Hey, man I got a problem down there."
Ed looked back at him. "What do you mean?"
"You know down there!" he nodded towards his crotch.
"What sort of problem?" Ed asked warily.
"It hurts bad."
He did look very uncomfortable and his face was pale and sweaty.
"Ok, we'll stop by the hospital and have them check you out," Ed said, looking to Lee for confirmation. Lee sighed but nodded, and set course for the hospital. More time before we can sign out, she thought with resignation. Then she brightened as she thought, Hey I bet Sarah's still on maybe I'll get to see her; that would make taking this dipwad in worth it.
They arrived at the ED and soon were in a cubicle with their prisoner. Sarah stepped in and smiled at Lee, who smiled goofily back. "What happened?" Sarah asked.
Lee explained, "He ran from us when we stopped the car he was in. It took about an hour but we eventually found him hiding. He had crawled under a bush."
Sarah looked at the young man and asked, "When did this pain start?"
"About when I got under the bush, I guess, but it keeps hurting worse."
"Did you injure yourself when you ran? For instance, did you run into anything, or throw yourself on the ground hard or anything like that?"
"No, it just started hurting when I was laying on the ground."
"Have you ever had pain like this?"
"Not for this long I've sometimes had a little pain that lasted a short time."
"What do you mean by short seconds? Minutes?"
"Maybe for a few minutes."
Sarah nodded and examined him. The man's scrotum appeared swollen on the left and the testicle looked elevated on that side. Sarah palpated carefully and found the testicle seemed to be lying sideways rather than sitting in the normal position. "I think you have testicular torsion. That's when the testis twists around and the blood supply gets pinched and that makes it hurt. It needs to be fixed or you could lose that testicle."
Sarah looked at Lee and Ed and said, "He'll probably need to be admitted here. I'll get the urologist in and we'll go from there."
Lee had gone back to smiling goofily at Sarah, so Ed rolled his eyes and said, "Ok we'll make arrangements for an officer to keep an eye on him while he's here."
- 6 -
Lee was in a great mood Saturday morning as she ran errands before returning home for a sandwich. After eating she went to her closet and chose clothes for the evening, putting them in a garment bag along with her toiletries so that she could shower and change at Sarah's, and then dressed for the softball game. She pulled on a navy blue baseball shirt with 'FCPD' written in gray on the chest, and 'Greca' on the back over the number '1.' Long gray baseball pants with fine navy stripes were next, and she finished off by putting on baseball shoes with spikes. She picked up her blue baseball cap with 'FCPD" written in gray on the front and carried it and her bag to the car, then drove to Sarah's.
Lee pulled up in front of Sarah's pretty brick Victorian and went to the door. Sarah answered her ring and her eyes widened at the sight of Lee's uniform.
"Wow," she said as she settled into the passenger seat of Lee's car. "I guess you guys take this pretty seriously. My team has matching T-shirts but we don't actually wear uniforms."
Lee started the car and pulled away from the curb as she replied, "Yeah, you'd think we'd get enough of wearing uniforms on the job, but we decided we wanted to look good since we sometimes play exhibition games for fundraisers. We didn't want to look like slobs next to the high school kids in their team uniforms."
"And I notice you're number 1."
"Well, duh, of course!" Lee flashed her a cocky grin.
"Well, you look great I really like you in dark blue," Sarah said.
"Thanks I'm glad the powers that be decided we should wear dark blue uniforms, then," Lee teased.
"Yeah; I've got to admit off the record of course, since I have to work with them too you guys look much better than the Jeffco sheriff's deputies. Their green shirt is kind of ok, but whoever picked that ugly shade of beige for their pants had no color sense."
Lee laughed. "I've got to agree with you on that one. The blue does get hot during the summer though."
"At least you're not a New Mexico State cop I saw one in a store once when I was in Albuquerque and he was in black from head-to-toe. I thought that must be awful in the summer."
They continued to converse lightly as Lee drove north from Sarah's neighborhood and then turned to the west on the main road through town. They passed through the old downtown with its ornate late-nineteenth-century stone buildings laid out near the creek and continued along the road as it climbed next to Fossil Creek. They approached the gap it had carved in the Hogback, a sharp ridge which at its highest stood 400 feet above the surrounding ground, formed when the uplift of the Rocky Mountains bent the rock layers up. The east face was steep and fairly smooth, as it was formed by a single layer of rock. The west side was also steep but more irregular in contour because multiple layers were exposed and had eroded at different rates.
As they passed through the gap Sarah tried to pick out the individual beds making up the rock layers, glimpsing different colors through the vegetation shrouding them. A flatter area about ½ mile in depth lay between the Hogback and the start of the true mountains, and was also part of the town of Fossil Creek. Houses and fields were scattered across it. The red sandstone of the Fountain Formation ran through this area, giving the soil a red color and dotting it with large red outcroppings.
Lee turned south, crossing Fossil Creek on a bridge, and pulled up in a dirt parking lot by a baseball field. It had benches for the two teams in the area behind the high home plate protective fence. The benches in turn were separated from the spectator area by a 3-foot chainlink fence. Beyond the fence were bleachers nestled at the base of a large red sandstone outcropping.
"Oh, I've played at this field," Sarah said. "Since there isn't an outfield fence, the line where the mowed area switches to the unmowed weeds marks the home run line, right?"
Lee said, "Sure, if you're a wimpy team. We're the Police and Fire Departments, remember. So we like to play the macho version: if a ball hits the ground in the weeds we'll consider it a home run, but if the outfielder wants to run into the weeds and makes the catch, it's an out."
Sarah shook her head. "'Macho' is right," she said. "Those weeds are mainly thistles! You wouldn't catch the medical teams being dumb enough to run willfully into thistles just for the sake of a game."
The red sandstone outcroppings at the little park weren't as large as those at Red Rocks Amphitheatre to the north, or Garden of the Gods to the south, but their red color still was spectacular against the clear deep blue of the sky, and contrasted sharply with the lush green of springtime grasses and weeds around the bases of the rocks. Sarah sighed contentedly at the sight as they walked towards the bleachers.
Lee cast an amused glance at her and Sarah said, "What? It's just gorgeous, ok? I love living here."
"It is pretty amazing," Lee admitted. "In Minnesota the sky only gets this blue occasionally in the winter when the air's too cold to hold much moisture. We get green lasting all summer though you know most of this will be brown again soon, as the summer heat kicks in."
"Yeah, but at least the dry climate means we don't have as much of a bug problem as most places have," Sarah countered.
"True," Lee conceded. "The mosquitoes here are nothing compared to the swarms up north, and at least the ticks here usually have the decency to hide themselves away again by July."
Sarah nodded. "Yeah, and we don't have the tick species that carries Lyme disease here either."
"Don't you have to worry about Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever here though?" Lee asked.
"Actually, no it's not common here despite the name. It was just first isolated in a lab in the Rockies and got the name that way. You'd have more risk of getting it in the Carolinas," Sarah explained enthusiastically, then caught herself. "I guess maybe that's more than you want to know, though, huh? I get carried away with talking about medical topics sometimes."
Lee smiled at her. "It's ok I like that you love your job."
Members of both teams were already there, settling their gear at their benches. Sarah recognized several players from both teams, since Police Officers sometimes brought suspects in to the ED, while some of the Firefighters were EMTs or Paramedics and accompanied patients to the ED if they were the first to respond to a medical call. She noted that the Fire Department seemed to be taking the game as seriously as the Police and also wore real uniforms, with red shirts with 'FCFD' written in white on the chest, and their names and numbers on the back. They wore long white pants and sported red baseball caps with 'FCFD' on the front in white. She settled with other spectators on the bleachers as the teams prepared to take the field.
- 7 -
It was a closely fought game, with members of both teams going out of their way, as far as Sarah could tell, to prove how macho their respective departments were. That included running full-tilt for home in an attempt to buffalo the catcher into flinching and missing the tag for an out. The white pants of the Fire team and the gray pants of the Police team had long since become streaked with the red soil from slides into bases.
Sarah saw the collision coming as a member of the Police team ran for home and the Fire team catcher moved to catch the ball thrown from the outfield, and was already rising from her seat on the bleachers, anticipating someone could be injured. As the players hit she heard a pained yell from one and she sprinted for the fence, vaulting it with a hand and racing to the man rolling on the ground. She saw he was clutching one hand with the other and that the little finger was sitting at right angles to the hand. She reached for it, grabbed the finger and applied outward traction as she moved the finger back into position, feeling a slight 'pop' as it settled into the proper place on the joint. She was aware of silence then and looked up, seeing a ring of people in red shirts and caps around them. Oh, yeah it's the Fire Department, she thought. They take care of injuries like this all the time. "I guess you could have done fine without me," she said sheepishly. "I forgot I was in the middle of a bunch of First Responders."
"No, no, doc," the man on the ground said earnestly. "I'm a cop and they're firefighters. I'd rather have you."
"Hey!" protested one of the women on the Fire team. "Be nice now or we won't let the doc use our first aid equipment!"
Sarah laughed and said, "If you'll lend me your kit, I'll take him over to the bench so I can examine his hand properly."
"Well, seeing as it's you doc, I guess we'll share," the firefighter said. They walked by the Fire team bench and the woman handed Sarah a large plastic box. "Feel free to use whatever you need."
Sarah thanked her and then walked to the Police side with the injured cop. Sarah knelt on the ground so she could look at his hand while he sat on the bench. She felt the tip of his little finger and pressed the nail to see whether the circulation seemed to be normal and asked whether he could feel her touching each side of finger. "Well," she told him, the circulation and sensation are intact, which is good. You should go to the ED and get it x-rayed though, because the bones could have been broken when they dislocated. Did you come with someone who could drive you there now?"
"Can I go later, doc? I want to see the rest of the game."
"That's not ideal, but if you insist on staying we can splint it for now." She opened the first aid kit and found a ½" wide aluminum strip lined on one side with foam. She held the long end against the palm of his hand to measure the length then bent the short arm back to make a splint for the finger. She placed it gently on the finger then taped it in place and finished by buddy taping the immobilized finger to the ring finger in order to provide more stability. She rooted around in the kit a bit and emerged triumphantly with a cold pack which she twisted to activate. "Keep this on your finger and hold your hand up above your heart," she instructed him. "That will help keep the swelling down some."
- 8 -
It was the top of the seventh inning and the Fire Department team was ahead of the Police team by only one run, but now the bases were loaded. Fire had two outs and Lee hoped the Police team could give them another before they scored more runs. We might be able to get two runs and win this puppy, but more than that could be tough, she thought.
As she waited for the next batter to step up to the plate she reviewed the highlights of her performance so far that day:
Hit, got on base, scored a run on Joe's hit good.
Hit a long fly to center field, caught out bad.
Hit a long fly to right field, landed in the weeds so counted as a home run, with the bases loaded good!
She returned her attention to the action. Hmm. Janowick's up for them good hitter; think I'll move back a bit. She positioned herself further out in center field, where she thought she could get back in closer if needed but also might be able to go deep for a long hit. The first pitch was well-placed and Janowick swung without connecting. He readied himself for the second pitch and this time hit it forcefully, in a high fly heading deep into the center.
Lee gauged the arc of the ball and sprinted for far center field, throwing looks over her shoulder as she went. Damn it's into the weeds, she thought. She glanced ahead and winced, knowing she would have to put up with pokes from the thistles' spines if she wanted to get the out. And I do want it, she thought after all, Sarah's watching, and this could make the difference for winning the game.
She charged into the thistles and turned to catch the ball. It was coming down slightly high and to her right so she jumped that way as she extended her gloved hand. The ball made a satisfying smack as it hit her glove and she felt a moment of triumph. Then she landed on her right foot and felt something roll under it. Thrown off balance she gyrated for a moment but ended by falling back full-length. She had the presence of mind, though, to keep her arm up so it was obvious she was hanging on to the ball.
"Ow-ow-ow-ow-ow," she yelped, feeling the dig of the thistle spines all along her body. She caught her breath and took stock of her situation:
Caught ball and kept it in glove, making the 3rd out with bases loaded very good!
Fell in front of date very very bad!
Furry feeling object under right ankle? Probably baaad!
She sat up and looked down, seeing a rabbit body lying under her right ankle where the leg of her pants had hiked up somehow during her fall. "Yuck-yuck-yuck-yuck-yuck," she muttered, hastily lifting her leg off the rabbit. As she stood she took a closer look. She realized with relief that though the body looked fresh, the rabbit's legs were stiff, suggesting it had been dead a little while at least she hadn't killed it by stepping on it.
She eased herself out of the thistles and trotted toward the bench as the teams changed sides. She saw Sarah standing on the bleachers and looking her way with concern, which changed to a smile as she saw Lee appeared to be alright. "Rats looks like she saw the whole thing," she muttered to herself as she summoned up a feeble wave with her left hand.
"Dammit, Greca, I really thought we had it sewed up," grumbled Fire's pitcher as she flipped him the ball while passing the mound.
She just smirked in reply and continued to the Police team's bench.
"What was that little dance out there, Greca?" Ed asked.
"I came down on something that rolled," she growled, as the rest of the bench broke into laughter. "Bite me!"
- 9 -
Lee shifted uncomfortably on the bench, still feeling the sting where the thistles had poked her skin, compounded by an irritating itch on her right ankle. Their turn at bat had not started off well, with one out already, no one on base, and the batter up now currently at two strikes. She absently scratched at her ankle, then straightened as the pitcher released the ball. The batter swung and missed, making his 3rd strike and the team's 2nd out. She scowled at him as he returned to the bench and he grimaced apologetically. Luckily for her temper, the woman up next connected with a solid line drive to left field and made it to first safely. Ed was up next to bat. She gave him her best 'don't-screw-this-up-buddy' look as he walked past her, and he didn't disappoint: he too made it to first on a grounder, with the other player safely advancing to second base.
That brought Lee up to bat and she settled into her stance with intense focus. Got to get this one. The pitch looked perfect as it came towards her and she swung with all her might, connecting and sending the ball into a long fly headed for far left field. She sprinted for first and Ed and the other woman took off as well, knowing that they had nothing to lose if the ball were to be caught the game would be over, but if it hit the ground they might be able to score enough runs to win. Lee kept an eye on the ball and as she approached second base saw the left fielder jump desperately for it. He tipped the ball but wasn't able to make the catch and it hit the weeds.
Yes! Yes! Yes! Lee grinned and jogged the rest of the way around the bases to join her cheering team.
Sarah came down from the bleachers to congratulate both teams on their performance, and then came up to Lee. "I was worried when I saw you go down," Sarah said. "What happened?"
Lee sighed but explained, "There was a rabbit body there and my foot hit it when I came down from my jump. It rolled and I went down. I didn't hurt myself though."
"Aww, a dead little fluffy bunny? That's so sad. I love fluffy little bunnies," Sarah confided.
"W-eell," Lee said judiciously. "I wouldn't call it 'fluffy', exactly; more umm 'squishy'."
"Yuck! I didn't need that visual," Sarah admonished her.
"And did I mention that I didn't hurt myself?" Lee said again.
Sarah smiled at her and said, "Ok, I am glad you didn't hurt yourself while tripping over a corpse, Officer Greca."
They stayed a while longer saying goodbye to Lee's teammates, but then returned to her car for the drive back to Sarah's house. Lee admitted, "I'll be glad to get cleaned up my skin is all itchy from those thistles."
Sarah laughed and said, "See? That's why the medical teams don't do macho we know that contact with thistles is unpleasant."
- 10 -
Sarah and Lee returned to Sarah's house, where Sarah changed into a dress while Lee showered. She looked at herself in the mirror, wondering what Lee would think. It's a little stereotypical here I am in the proverbial 'little black dress' and I bet she'll be in pants, but I like to wear it when the occasion calls for dressy. She went into the living room to wait and soon heard footsteps. She looked up as Lee came into the room and smiled at the appreciative look in Lee's eyes as she looked at her dress. She ran her own appreciative eye over Lee's navy linen suit and pink shirt. "I was just wondering if you would wear pants. I couldn't picture you in a dress somehow."
Lee looked down at herself and asked, "That's ok, isn't it? You're right I don't even own a dress or skirt."
Sarah smiled and took her arm. "It's more than alright. You look great. And in dark blue again be still my beating heart!"
They went to Lee's car and after a short drive Lee parked in the lot adjoining Ianelli's. She trotted around to Sarah's door, holding it open as Sarah stepped from the car. They walked to the entrance, Lee letting her hand rest on the small of Sarah's back. The maitre-d' looked enquiringly at them as they entered and Lee said, "We have a reservation for Greca."
"Yes, Madam," he replied looking at his list. "Let me show you to your table." He led them to a table for two set next to a window.
Lee held Sarah's chair and pushed it in once she was seated, then took her own seat.
"I'll leave you with the menus," the maitre-d' said, placing one on the table in front of each of them. "And would you care to see our wine list?"
Lee looked enquiringly at Sarah, who shook her head. "We don't want any, thanks," Lee told him. They looked at the menus and agreed to share an appetizer sampler. When the waiter came they ordered that and Sarah asked for manicotti while Lee decided on fettuccine Alfredo. When the waiter left, Sarah asked, "How did you wind up in Fossil Creek?"
"I came out here to go to college and liked it," Lee replied.
"An Associated College of the Midwest even though we're really the West," Sarah said.
"Yeah how do you know about that?" Lee asked.
"It's funny here you are a Minnesota girl who came to Colorado for college, and I'm a Colorado girl who went to Minnesota for college I went to Carleton."
"Wow that is funny. I thought about Carleton but I wanted to get away from Minnesota. But because I'd looked at it I knew about the other ACM colleges. CC sounded the most intriguing with its block system."
"Yeah, how was that?"
"It was interesting you could really immerse yourself in a single subject with only one class at a time, but then every 3 ½ weeks you had to switch gears, too."
"Why'd you want to get away from Minnesota? I mean, was there a special reason or just that adolescent desire to distance yourself from your home?" Sarah asked.
Lee bit her lip and looked down, back up at Sarah, then down again. "No, there was a reason. The summer before my senior year of High School my younger brother Larry was 14. He was hanging out with a bad crowd at least as bad as it got in a little Minnesota town at that time. Not like gangs in a city, but wild underage drinking, taking stupid risks driving and boating things like that. I sort of knew about it, but didn't realize how much they were drinking, and I was wrapped up in my own friends. I thought of him as just my pesky little brother. Anyway, he and three of his friends went out on Fish Hook Lake one day in a boat. They were drinking and not wearing their life jackets, and when they somehow flipped the boat, they all drowned." She risked a look at Sarah's face and saw nothing but sympathy there so continued, "I felt so guilty that I hadn't realized how serious their problem was and hadn't done something to prevent his dying. I couldn't get away from reminders I mean, obviously, our family suddenly had a hole in it, but at school I'd see siblings of one of the other boys, or one of their parents in the grocery store or at the gas station. The town only has about 3000 residents, and everybody knows everybody else. So I wanted to get away from there but when I thought about going to a college in Minnesota it still seemed too close being in the 'Land of 10,000 Lakes' would keep me thinking about my brother drowning in the lake. So you can see why Colorado seemed appealing a thousand miles away and only about 10 lakes."
"Yes. What a shame kids can get their hands on alcohol so easily. You see variations on that tragedy all the time in the ED," Sarah replied sympathetically. "How did you decide to become a police officer? And how did you wind up on the Fossil Creek police force?"
"Well, I was about to graduate and faced the dilemma of all Liberal Arts majors how to use my nice, shiny, but impractical degree to earn a living, especially since I couldn't really see myself sitting at a desk job. One of my friends was from Fossil Creek and I went home with her for the weekend and saw a recruitment poster for the P.D. They specified you had to have a Batchelor's degree and since I'd been thinking about what to do with mine it seemed like a good omen and it wasn't a desk job. I thought about it a little and realized it might be a way to reach some other kids before tragedy struck them and their families, so I called up about it. They were fine with the Soc/Anth degree, so I applied, was accepted, did the Academy and have been here ever since. I do think it's allowed me to contribute to the greater good I wasn't naοve enough to think everything I'd do would save somebody, but I know sometimes I make a real difference to someone, and I'm very happy with my choice. Now, how about you? Why'd you choose Carleton? Where did you do your medical training? And how did you end up in Fossil Creek?"
"Carleton was kind of a family tradition my parents met there. When I was growing up there was an expectation that of course we'd go to college, and since the only one I'd heard of when I was little was Carleton, I translated that to the expectation that I'd go to Carleton. It was the only place I applied I applied early decision and fortunately they accepted me. I'd have been devastated if they'd turned me down! But I'd been a good student in High School, and I'm sure it didn't hurt that my parents were alums Carleton doesn't really do the legacy thing the way, say, Yale did with a nameless idiot. But I suspect that if you meet their academic standards it might then be a plus in your favor.
"As far as the medical training goes, I went to school here at the University of Colorado. I'd been terribly homesick in Minnesota and figured I'd be happier staying in Colorado. Luckily the Emergency Medicine program in Denver is considered very good. It was my top choice and fortunately they accepted me, so I did my residency training here too. Then I needed to find a job and the Fossil Creek ED had advertised an opening. It seemed perfect for me close enough to Denver to be able to take advantage of attractions like the Performing Arts Center but also small enough to be a nice town to live in."
They continued to chat through dinner and then Lee drove them back to Sarah's house. She walked her up to the door and said, "I really enjoyed this. Thank you."
Sarah smiled up at her and said, "I did too. Do you want to come in for coffee?"
Lee shook her head regretfully. "I have to be at work early tomorrow. Can I take a rain check on that? My schedule is a little crazy the next few days because I'm helping cover for some vacation time, but I should be home Wednesday evening maybe we could get a coffee or something then if you have the evening free."
"Sure," Sarah replied. "I'm working that day but should be done by 6 pm or so how about if I call you when I'm actually able to leave the ED and we could get together then?'
"That sounds good I'll be home well before then, and I'll expect your call." Lee leaned forward and brushed her lips against Sarah's cheek, then left.
- 11 -
Sarah's day on Wednesday was trying, with a seemingly endless stream of people coming through the ED, many of whom chose to take out their frustration with being ill or injured on the ED staff. In addition to that, they began to see cases of gastroenteritis in people who had been at the Reformed Christian Church camp. Besides having to deal with vomiting patients, the staff had to spend extra time filling out paperwork for the State Health Department to help with the outbreak investigation. So by the time her friend and fellow ED attending Kees van Eyck appeared to take over, Sarah was more than ready to get out of the ED. She briefed him on the active cases then sat at the nurse's station to make her call to Lee. At least now I get to go have some fun! she thought as she dialed. The phone rang multiple times, however, and wasn't picked up. Sarah listened to the rings and frowned. I thought she said she'd be home tonight. Guess I misunderstood, she thought with disappointment. She was about to hang up when she heard a click and then a crash, as though the phone had been dropped.
"Ummm hello?" came Lee's mumbled voice.
Sarah frowned again. Lee didn't sound right. "Hey, it's me are you ok? You sound funny."
"Ummm. I guess I don't feel so well," Lee admitted.
"Ahh my leg hurts and I feel hot," Lee mumbled again.
Sarah's frown deepened. "I don't like how you sound," she fussed. "Why don't you come down here and let us check you out?"
"No way," Lee replied. "I'm ok.'
"I still think you should come in. But if you really refuse to do that, why don't I come by and check you out after I get out of here?"
"Ahh, you don't have to," Lee responded.
"I know, but I want to. And what's the good of knowing a doctor if you won't accept a free house call?" Sarah responded.
"Ok I'll see you later then I guess," Lee said. "Umm you need a code to get in from the lobby. Hit 257 on the panel."
"Ok I'll see you in a little while."
Half an hour later Sarah stood in the lobby of Lee's apartment building holding a bag with some of the tools of her trade, and punched in the code Lee had given her. She was relieved when it worked on her first try, producing a click as the door unlocked. She went up to Lee's apartment and knocked on the door, frowning again as she got no response. She knocked harder and heard a faint "Yeah give me a minute."
In a couple of minutes the door opened and a rumpled Lee stood before her in boxers and a T-shirt, blinking blearily. "Uhh, hi."
"You look sick," Sarah said as she walked in. "Let me check you over."
"Ok." Lee winced as she turned and limped towards her couch.
Sarah said, "I can see it looks like your leg hurts where?"
"Up here," Lee pointed to her groin. "And there's a lump there."
"Let me feel," Sarah demanded, making Lee stretch out on the couch. "And let's get your temperature too," she said, pulling a thermometer from her bag and placing it under Lee's tongue. She felt along Lee's right groin, through her boxers, eliciting a groan as she encountered a hard mass in the inguinal fold. Sarah carefully pulled the waistband of the boxers down and looked. There was a 2 inch mass with redness over it there. She released the boxers and then looked carefully at Lee's leg. There was no sign of a problem on the leg itself except for some tiny scabbed areas around the right ankle.
Sarah removed the thermometer from Lee's mouth and squinted at it. "You have a fever your temp is 102," she announced. "How do you feel otherwise?"
"Uhh I'm nauseated, headache, thirsty ," Lee trailed off.
"Any vomiting or diarrhea?"
"No, thank goodness."
"How about any cough or shortness of breath?" Sarah asked as she pulled her stethoscope out.
"No, nothing like that."
"Ok. Let me get your blood pressure." Sarah pulled a blood pressure cuff out and placed it around Lee's upper arm, then pumped it up. She listened at Lee's elbow for the sound of blood flow returning as she slowly let the pressure down. "Not too bad it's 110/70, which is normal," she reported, as she pulled the stethoscope from her ears. She grasped Lee's wrist between her finger and thumb so that she could feel the pulse in the artery there with her finger. It pulsated rapidly and she counted off 30 beats in 15 seconds. "Your heartrate is fast, though, at 120 a minute." She had been watching Lee's breathing through all this, and added, "Your respiratory rate is basically on the fast side of normal."
"Ok let's sit you up so I can check your BP and heartrate again sitting, and listen to your heart and lungs." Sarah helped Lee to sit, and after settling the earpieces of the stethoscope in place again, she pumped up the BP cuff and listened for Lee's blood pressure, then checked her pulse again.
"I think you're dehydrated your blood pressure dropped to 100/65 just with sitting up, and your heartrate had to rise to 140 to get even that pressure," she reported. Sarah set one hand on Lee's shoulder as she placed the diaphragm of the stethoscope on Lee's chest with the other. "Just breathe normally I'm going to listen to your heart first." She listened at several points, not hearing anything unusual except for a rapid heartrate. She switched the chestpiece of the stethoscope to her other hand and said, "Now I'm going to listen to your lungs, so take slow, deep breaths, please, with your mouth open." Once again she moved the diaphragm to several different places on Lee's back. "Ok," she said as she removed the stethoscope and replaced it in her bag, "your lungs sound clear."
"Uhh good," Lee replied hazily.
Sarah watched her for a moment, frown back in place. "Ok I'm calling the paramedics let's get you over to the ED and really check you out."
"What? I'm not going to the hospital!" Lee protested.
"Yes, you are," Sarah told her firmly. "Remember that whole 'I-am-a-doctor' thing? I think you need to be evaluated for an infection."
Despite Lee's ongoing grumbling Sarah prevailed and soon two paramedics with a stretcher were standing in Lee's apartment. Lee gave them the evil eye and feebly continued protesting but found herself helped onto the stretcher, strapped down and transported out to the ambulance.
Sarah gave orders to the paramedics: "I'd like you to start an IV and run normal saline at 500 cc an hour. I'll see you at the ED," and then walked to her car.
"You don't need to do this," Lee tried one more time, as the female paramedic settled next to her in the back of the ambulance and opened the equipment bag.
"Oh, yes, we do!" she laughed. "Doc Bonheur is expecting us to bring you to the ED. Don't think we'd dare not turn up now she may be small but she's feisty."
Lee sighed as she realized the paramedic was right.
- 12 -
At the ED Sarah explained to Kees what she had done and her suspicion that Lee had an infection.
He nodded and said, "Luckily Meg O'Keeffe is here seeing a possible case of necrotizing fasciitis for us, so we can get her to look at Lee too," referring to an Infectious Disease specialist who worked at the hospital.
"Oh, good," Sarah replied. "I'll try to stay out of your way I know how obnoxious it is when you're trying to do your job to have someone else looking over your shoulder. I guess since I'm here I'll look at my email. It was so crazy today that I didn't have a chance."
"Well, since it's you it wouldn't be too obnoxious but I'll go take a look and get Meg in there too," Kees replied.
Sarah sat at the nurse's station with a grimace, worried about what they would find. What a day not much fun to be here for work and now I'm going to sit here and stress about Lee. She forced herself to open her email, however, knowing that a little distraction would help her anxiety. She looked at her email list, deleting most unread as usual. She did pause over one from the hospital's chief of maintenance entitled "bats being taken care of" and opened it to read:
"We are in the process of having animal control take care of the two bats the one by the bike rack and the one in the building entrance. Please call me on my cell (303) 555-7471 if you know of any others."
Okaaay, then, she thought as her eyebrows rose. Got to admit that's not the sort of email you see every day. She also opened the PHA email:
*National Alert: Toothpaste sold under the ValuMax and KleerWhite brand names has been found to be contaminated with mercury. The contamination is thought to have occurred during manufacture of an ingredient in China. Six cases of kidney failure have been linked to use of these toothpaste brands and a nationwide recall is being issued. Patients with new-onset kidney failure should be asked whether they use one of these brands and cases should be reported to CDC.
Wow that's really too bad.
*National Alert: 100 cases of E. coli O157:H7 have occurred in 5 Western states including California, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming and Colorado. The E. coli is thought to be contaminating an energy drink containing un-Pasteurized apple juice, sold under the brand name 'NatureBuzz.' The affected lots were produced in the company's California plant during the month of May and shipped to outlets in these 5 states, but it is possible that traveling consumers could have purchased bottles from these lots and traveled to other states as well, so a national alert is being issued.
When are people going to realize that Pasteurization of products is one of the most important health advances ever made? There's no reason anyone should get sick because of this sort of thing! And why do so many diseases have to hit the gut and cause diarrhea? she wondered.
*Denver-Metro Alert: A cat in western Arvada has tested positive for tularemia. Though the source is unknown, the cat is presumed to have had contact with the blood or tissue of an infected rabbit.
Sarah paused as she read that. I wonder but tularemia takes really direct contact like butchering the rabbit. That couldn't be what Lee has, could it? Naah but maybe her illness is related to that rabbit exposure she had . Sarah sat a few minutes longer frowning unseeingly at the computer screen as she thought, then stood and went in search of Dr. O'Keeffe to share her speculations.
- 13 -
After talking with the ID doc, Sarah went to the cubicle holding Lee and found her arguing with Nancy, who was trying to hang an antibiotic piggyback on the IV line.
"I feel better. I could go home now," Lee tried, eyeing the IV line in her right arm with disfavor.
"You feel better just because you were dehydrated and we gave you some fluid. You need antibiotics," Sarah interjected.
Lee looked at Sarah and asked, "Why do I need antibiotics?"
Sarah's face took on a shifty expression. "Well, we think you may have been exposed to Yersinia pestis and gotten an infection that's causing your symptoms "
Lee interrupted suspiciously, "And what's Yersinia pestis when it's at home?"
"Ummm plague?" Sarah nervously replied.
"Bubonic plague, aka the Black Death that plague?"
"Umm, yes, but "
"Bubonic plague, aka the Black Death, that wiped out at least a third of Europe's population in the fourteenth century? That plague?"
"Well, yes, but the good news is "
"It's plague! How can there be any good news about that?" Lee growled.
"Ok, see, that's why I wanted to call it Yersinia pestis first before telling you it was plague," Sarah complained. "So I could finish explaining without getting interrupted every other word! They didn't have the antibiotics we have now, so they couldn't treat it. We can treat it."
"Wait," Lee said, contracting her brows. "Aren't you at risk of getting it from me? Shouldn't you be in protective gear or something?"
"No," Sarah said. "The form you have is bubonic plague, which isn't passed directly from person-to-person. If you had pneumonic plague it would be a different story."
"How do you know it's not pneumonic plague?" Lee argued.
"Well, for one thing, you'd be dead by now," Sarah sighed. "Would you just trust that I do know what I'm talking about here?"
"And where would I have gotten plague from anyway?" Lee asked. "I haven't been around any rats."
"Well, that's the interesting thing about this year's plague outbreak in animals," Sarah told her.
Interesting? Like Chinese-curse interesting? Lee thought sourly as she listened.
"It presented first in the squirrels at the Denver Zoo, but then a rabbit tested positive for it too. Rabbits are lagomorphs rather than rodents, but can have fleas and get plague too. It's actually kind of odd that plague is endemic to the American Southwest, since we virtually don't have fleas here, but for some reason it is established in the wild rodent population here, having traveled eastward after first coming to North America on ships docking in San Francisco around 1900. Anyway, we think that the rabbit you came in contact with at the softball game may have had plague. The timing is right, and fleas will stay for a few hours on a dead host before trying to find another host. They don't actually like humans as much, but they'll take any port in a storm, as it were. Not that it does them any good if they're plague-infected the Yersinia pestis blocks their guts so they starve to death, but they keep trying to feed meanwhile and that's how they pass the plague along." Sarah finally noticed the sourness in Lee's expression and caught herself. "There I am getting enthusiastic about medicine again. I know it's not as interesting to hear all this from your point of view," she apologized.
Ah, hell, Greca, part of what you like about her is her enthusiasm over her profession, Lee thought. Tell her it's ok. She said aloud, "It's ok I knew you were a doc when I asked you out, so I guess I'll just have to get used to your definition of interesting."
Sarah took her hand and asked, "I hope that means you want to go out again?"
Lee nodded vigorously, but teased, "Yeah I definitely do, though I hope I don't get sick again as a result of the date."
Sarah laughed and said, "But at least we'll never have any problem recalling our first date it's definitely unique to go out to the ballgame and come home with the plague."
- The End -
Afterword: The final death toll for plague in Colorado this year was 16 squirrels, 1 rabbit and an unfortunate Capuchin monkey at the Denver Zoo, which probably found a plague-infected squirrel and ate it. (No humans caught it here this year, and there have only been about 50 human cases in the state since it first appeared here in 1941.) It was, in fact, interesting (no, really!) that the squirrels in the middle of the urban area had it, since it actually does usually appear in Prairie Dogs in the more suburban reaches of the Denver metro area. Also, some things you can't make up: a 'bats' email like this really was sent at my workplace this spring, and the Jeffco Sheriff's Deputies really do wear ugly beige pants.
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