Sam brought the telephone up to her ear. Yet again the dial tone blared just like every other time she had repeated the motion over the course of the last two days.
She slammed the phone back into its cradle and immediately reached for her cell phone. One look at the bars showing on its digital display told her the signal was good. Sam shoved the cell phone back into her pocket.
“So much for keeping my hopes high.”
Sam hastily looked around the room in an attempt to hide her disgust. She'd put herself out there for the first time in years and now she was feeling left in a lurch. She leaned forward running both of her hands through her hair the whole time wondering if the kisses she had shared with Ann had meant anything at all to the other woman. The truth of the matter was those kisses had meant something to Sam and given her reputation that was a major accomplishment all of its own.
Call her you moron, the tiny voice inside her head egged her on.
“I can't. I won't. She's the one with boyfriend issues.”
“Who are you talking to?”
The voice coming from outside her head startled Sam.
“Mark, what are you doing here?”
“Working or at least that's what I thought we were supposed to be doing.”
Sam cleared her throat and looked nervously about her clothing.
“So, who were you talking to?”
“My buttons.” Sam blurted out the first thing that came to her mind.
“God! And they say men are from Mars.”
“Huh?” A look of confusion crossed Sam's face as she watched Mark walk toward her.
“Yeah, whatever.” She mimicked his aloofness casting one last glance to the phone on her desk. Out of the corner of her eye she could see him clear some space and sit on the corner of her desk.
“Is there something up, Mark?” She turned her full attention in his direction.
“Do you have any plans for tonight?”
Sam fought her natural impulse to look over to the phone.
“Excellent!” Mark nodded. “You and I are going to eat out tonight.”
“Why? Is Allison back to the vegetarian phase again?”
“No! Thank God. No.” Mark faked a shiver.
“Good. I'd hate to miss out dinner with you and your family.”
“We'd still invite you.”
“Yeah, but I'd have to refuse. Tofu turkey doesn't set well with a carnivore like me.” Sam showed her teeth and chomped several times to make her point.
“Okay, T-Rex. I get the picture. You only put up with my family for the steaks.”
“And a few other things,” Sam said nonchalantly.
“Things?” Mark stared down at her and waited with bated breath.
Finally, Sam caved in. “Okay, I like the kids and Allison, too.”
“That's good. Now that we've got that settled, how about we get back to the business at hand?”
“I'm all for business.” Sam leaned back in her chair. She watched as Mark's expression turned serious. “I take it we're talking about Sgt. Miller.”
“You got that right. What do we know about Sgt. Miller so far?”
Sam bit the inside of her cheek. “Brutal, dirty cop who took off before Internal Affairs nailed his ass.”
“And?” Mark waited expectantly.
“Nothing. Zippo. Nada. The guy simply vanished from the face of the Earth.”
“Ah, but he didn't vanish.” Mark clicked his tongue. “All the records about him became classified. That's why we couldn't find anything at all.”
“How do you know that?”
“I have my sources,” Mark beamed.
“Right, the ex-girlfriend that works in the DA office.” Sam chaffed. “I forgot about her.”
“You'd better.” He narrowed his gaze threateningly. “Anyway, the thing is, despite the fact of being technically unemployed for twelve years, it seems that Miller keeps a high-standard life style. Now, the real question is—”
“How can he afford it?”
“Exactly,” Mark tapped his forehead and winked at her. “According to my sources, Miller dines once a month in a very elegant restaurant downtown.” Mark kept his voice down. “I have a hunch that those dinners are somehow connected to the source of his money.”
“He's been watched?” Sam lifted a very suspicious eyebrow.
“Well, you said it yourself. Internal Affairs was about to nail his ass. There's no way they would let the son of bitch slip through their fingers.” Mark leaned closer. “I.A. has been keeping a diligent eye on Miller for quite some time now. Our case just crossed paths with theirs—”
Sam narrowed her gaze sensing there was a catch to come. “I have a bad feeling about this…”
“Captain Bennett settled an agreement for cooperation.”
“What? No way!”
“Shh!” Mark motioned for her to lower her voice.
“You know damn well that cooperation with I.A. means us telling them everything we know while they keep us in the dark about the most important facts of the investigation.”
“Cooperation is better than them taking the case away from us. Besides we have to tell them everything we officially know about the case.” He shot her a knowing look before straitening his body. “And officially, we don't know too much. Besides,” Mark pointed first to himself and then to Sam. “We get a free dinner in a fancy restaurant.”
“Fine, at least we'll get something out of working with them,” Sam grunted not the least bit happy with this new turn of events.
“Great!” Mark slapped his thigh and stood up. “And like I said, it's a fancy restaurant, so that means we got dress up.” He turned and looked directly at Sam. “That means emphasis on the word ‘dress' for you.”
“Not a chance.” Sam snapped. “I've had my share of dressing up with high heels when I was undercover playing a hooker. Besides, my fishnet stockings have a hole in them from the last time you suckered me into doing that."
"Well, if you wouldn't have tackled the John after he waved that twenty in your face."
"Hey, I'm worth more than that."
Mark smiled taking in his partner's defiant stance. "Yeah, you're right. I'd have offered you at least twenty-five."
"Twenty-five? Is that all?"
"What can I say? I'm not turned on by fishnet."
"Is that so?" Sam raised an eyebrow in defiance.
"Yeah, that's so."
Sam scrutinized him for a long moment. "This isn't about fishnet stockings, is it?”
Mark raised a quirky eyebrow and frowned.
“I.A. thinks I'm too butch. That's it. They want to tone me down a bit so as not to attract attention.”
“Well, it's not exactly the butch thing, but your outfits do usually scream detective from a mile away.”
“Hey, I take care to hide my bulges.” Sam puffed out her chest as she pulled the left side of her jacket away from the holstered gun tucked neatly against her ribcage.
“Maybe if you showed those bulges more,” Mark shot a quick glance toward Sam's chest, “They wouldn't take you for the bad ass detective we know you are.”
Sam stared in disbelief. “I can't believe you said that.”
Mark cast his gaze to the floor.
“You don't think I can turn a man on?" The words were out of Sam's mouth before her brain registered what she was saying.
"I never said that," Mark stated knowing full well that he had just challenged her.
"Good. Cause if I.A. wants me to turn the heads of all the men in downtown New York , they've got it, Mark. Game on! Let's see how you hold you're own with that." Sam turned her head sending cascades of hair shimmering sideways as she accentuated the sway of her hips with her movement toward the door.
“Hey! Where are you going? It's only noon.”
“I'm going to get ready. God knows by their standards I'll need all the help I can get.”
Sam proceeded through the door and waited until it closed behind her before wondering aloud. "Do I even remember how to walk in heels?"
She grimaced at her last memory of wearing them.
"Shit, me and my big mouth."
Breezing out of the elevator, Ann walked straight to the nurses' station where she was greeted by the gentle smile of an older nurse.
“Morning, Dr. Thomas.”
“Hi Martha. Have you seen Danni?”
“She's in trauma two with Dr. Morgan.”
Ann turned and headed down the hall toward her destination. It wasn't long before the room came into her view. She stepped inside the trauma room and saw one of her attending physicians with his hands splayed over a blood soaked little girl's thorax doing chest compressions.
“What do we have here?”
“Ten year old girl hit by a truck.” The expression on Danni's face was rather dire as she sent a knowing look at Ann.
“Massive internal bleeding,” Morgan huffed out careful not to lose his rhythm. “She's in cardiac arrest.”
Ann's face remained emotionless. “How long?”
“She's been down for forty-five minutes,” Danni said in a monotone voice.
“All right Morgan, hold the compressions.” Ann reached for a pair of gloves and donned them before feeling the girl's neck for any evidence of a pulse. “Any sign of a rhythm?”
“No, it's flat-line,” Danni informed after studying the heart monitor for an adequate length of time.
“Alright,” Ann grimaced. “Let's call—”
“Not yet,” Dr. Morgan cut her off. “Keep bagging, Lily.” Morgan mentioned for the respiratory therapist to continue ventilating the girl.
“Morgan,” Ann softened her voice. “She's been down for too long.”
Morgan resumed doing compressions. “I know. Just give me five more minutes.”
“There isn't a detectable pulse.” Ann gently held open the girl's eyelids and examined them carefully. “No corneal reflex. Her pupils are fixed and dilated. There's no reason to keep torturing this girl.” The authority in Ann's voice remained but her tone softened once more. “Morgan, call it.”
All eyes turned to Morgan as the words slowly crept into his world. Closing his eyes in resignation to his chief's will, he snapped off his gloves then stepped down from the riser and backed away.
“Time of death,” Morgan glanced over the oversized clock on the wall and proceeded to complete the task. “Twelve-oh-four”
The slump of his shoulders was evidence enough of the effect the girl's death was taking on him.
“Do you want me to talk to the family?” Ann offered sympathetically.
“No, she was my patient. I'll do it.” Morgan tore his surgical gown from his body and walked away.
Ann stared silently as the young doctor and the respiratory therapist made their way out of the room.
“He's going to be ok.”
“I know, Danni. No matter how long you've worked in a hospital, from time to time something stupid like a child being hit by a truck gets to you.”
“What about you?” Danni's voice softened. “How are you doing?”
“Me?” Ann snorted. “I'm the Chief. I've seen enough to know when I can't do any good.”
“I meant you, personally.” Danni studied Ann. “Not so good, huh?”
“You can tell?” Ann cast a disparaging gaze over her shoulder.
”I can always tell.”
“Yeah you can.”
“Let me guess, it's your mom?”
“Yes. I'm going to have dinner with her tonight.”
“That's not so bad. You'll at least get a meal out of it.”
The dire stare that met Danni's light-hearted approach nipped it in the bud. “But the real question is: will I be able to stomach it?”
Danni grabbed Ann's arm. “Come on, I'll buy you some coffee. God knows that commercial machine swill will kill any butterflies that nervous stomach of yours could possible spawn”
“Hardy-har-har.” Ann mocked as they made their way toward the ER lounge. “I'm not breeding butterflies in my stomach, not even if I wanted to. The poor things would die from starvation given my hectic schedule.”
“Seriously, Ann. Why are you so tensed about meeting your mother? Are you going to tell her you're giving dull boy the boot? Or is it about Sam? ”
The mention of Sam's name sent a bolt of adrenaline through Ann's system and brought to mind the same feeling she'd had with each of Sam's kisses or the touch of her fingertips as they caressed her skin.
“I don't know.” Ann shook her head then stopped abruptly when she realized that she did know but she couldn't bring herself to come to terms with it. “Maybe.” From deep within her soul the reality of the situation screamed out from her inner consciousness. And you haven't even called her, you chicken!
“What's the problem with him anyway?”
Ann awakened from her thoughts. “Him who, Joe?”
Danni shot a curious look at Ann before slipping her coins into the coffee machine. “I was talking about Sam.”
“Oh, that who.” Ann averted her gaze. “There's nothing wrong with…Sam.”
“Then what's the matter?”
“Well, you know how my mother likes to control my life as if I'm still a little girl.” Ann sighed frustrated. “Damn it. I'm a grown woman. I'm the head of the busiest Emergency Department in this country and yet I'm afraid to be scolded because I no longer want to marry the man she thinks so highly of.” Ann's shoulders slouched momentarily until the illusion of blue eyes staring into hers took the edge off of her tone. “Not to mention that I don't have the guts to tell her that I've fallen in love with someone else, and that this someone turns me head over heels with a simple glance and takes my breath away with every kiss. Dare I even tell her that Sam's caress turns my legs to…” Ann looked up to see a bemused look on Danni's face. “What?”
“Sam does all that?”
Ann didn't hesitate to answer. “Yes.”
Danni was dumbfounded. “Man I can't wait to shake his hand.”
To be continued…
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