Sam sped up through traffic, all the while struggling with the turmoil that was taking place inside of her. Part of her wanted to be ecstatic for the night she'd spent with Ann, but her heart was filled with worries for her brother. That's when Sam realized that she needed her brother just as much as she needed Ann but for very different reasons. The contradictory emotions were so overwhelming that they nearly drove Sam to the edge of tears. But crying would take time and she couldn't afford that luxury. Compromising to the best of her ability, she allowed a single tear to roll down her left cheek as she made her way closer to the area of devastation.
The horror of the scene soon swept over her in nightmarish proportions as hastily set barricades, police cars, and the wailing of sirens grew more prevalent. What should have acted as a warning only added to Sam's growing uneasiness.
Sam pulled the car to a stop when she could go no further and climbed through the yellow crime scene tape that impeded her way . A blast of dusty air swept across her face tinged with a strong smell of gas making her cough. S he turned, surveying the crowed. The scene had already taken on circus-like proportions with a massive group of onlookers pressed tightly around the barricade.
Sam displayed her shield on a chain around her neck as she walked past the barricade dodging the press members that flashed their credentials trying to talk their way into the blast scene.
“Can we have a statement?” One press member shouted after her. Ignoring the question she walked farther into the rubble as the questions continued behind her.
“Can you confirm the source of the explosion?”
“Were there terrorists involved?”
“Damn vultures…” Sam muttered as she reached her boiling point. “They have nothing better to do than to feed off tragedy.”
Approaching a uniformed police officer, Sam offered a warning. “Officer, I think you'd better call for reinforcement. Those barricades won't hold them for long.”
“We've already called for it sergeant,” he said eyeing the shield hanging around her neck. “They're on the way.”
Without adding further, Sam moved forward. The place looked like a movie scenario with cars in flames filling the gray sky with a huge spiral of smoke . The row of small shops that had lined the block was nearly all destroyed. At the far end of the block a small school bus rested on its side with its windows blown out. There were countless number of police officers, firefighters, and paramedics working on the rescue operation ebbing with the tide of hectic chaos surrounding them . Last but not least there were the injured, covered in blood and clearly distraught from the spontaneous disruption of their morning routines.
Sam stopped in front of the remains of one old building in particular. She felt her blood drain from her body when she realized that the only thing left of her brother's work place was bits and pieces of mangled iron beams and cracked bricks heaped haphazardly like a surrealistic painting she'd once seen in a museum of modern art.
Thoughts of Leo immediately flashed through her head. She took a deep breath and tilted her head upwards, staving off the tears that once again formed behind her eyes.
“Please God don't let my brother be buried under there.”
Taking in another deep breath, Sam swept the area ahead until she spotted a familiar face working near a smoldering pile of debris.
“Megan…” Sam called already jogging towards the woman. “Megan Walker?”
A tall, strong looking firefighter stopped what she was doing and looked in the direction her name was being called. Seeing its source, a knowing smile slowly tugged the corners of her mouth upward and her cold gaze softened. She, like many others, had fallen under Sam's charms once, but different from the majority, she had managed to work a friendship out of their failed love affair.
“Sam, what are you doing here?”
“I'm looking for my brother.”
“Which one: Toby or Leo?”
“Leo. He owns a gallery on—” Sam took another good look at what was left of the block and felt a shiver running down her spine.
“Jesus,” Shock registered on Megan's face. “I'm sorry Sam. I didn't know.” Megan looked around the area.
“Tell me you haven't seen him.”
“Geez, Sam. Being all bloody and that, they kind of all look alike.” Megan noted Sam's shoulders slump and quickly turned the conversation to a more upbeat tone. “Well, the good news is ninety-nine percent of that rubble has been cleared.” Megan gazed at the wreckage thoughtfully then turned back to Sam. “I can assure you that there isn't anyone still down there…if he even was.”
Megan's optimism did little to ease the pitch and roll of Sam's stomach.
“Where are they tending to the injured?” Sam asked.
“Those able to walk are being looked after over there.” Megan pointed to a nearby hotel were a medical triage area had been set up. “ Those with more serious injuries are being transported to Cabrini Medical , St. Luke's , or County General .”
“Thanks Megan.” Sam rushed toward the hotel, her heart filled with renewed hopes. “Please, God, let him be there,” she whispered under her breath.
Outside County General hospital, Ann crossed the ambulance bay managing to squeeze her way through the anxious crowd standing around the building and spilling out into the streets. Ann flashed her hospital ID to the security detail placed at the entrance doors. After a quick glance at the photo she was allowed to enter.
“Doctor Thomas, I'm so glad to see you.” The unit clerk made a theatrical show of it with his hand thrown up in the air before taking in her appearance. “Fabulous dress! What I wouldn't give up to fit in one of those.”
Ignoring his comment, Ann surveyed the crowded ER. “Oscar, who's in charge?”
“Taylor and O'Neal have been at loggerheads since early morning. But they've managed to keep the board running.”
“Good, let me go change.”
On her way to the staff room, Ann grabbed a clean set of scrubs to replace the dress she was still wearing from the night before. Dodging a few gurneys on the way, she managed to reach the doctor's lounge only to be greeted by an appreciative whistle.
“Nice outfit doc, was that all just for Sam?” Danni teased as she batted her eyelashes and sighed dramatically. “I can see why you never made it home last night.”
Ann hid a smile and stiff armed the door to the staff room.
“You have some beans to spill.” Danni pressed as she followed Ann into the room.
“Later.” Ann slipped out of her dress and heels. “Right now we've got casualties that are way more important than my love life.”
“You're telling me? I've been running around this hospital since seven o'clock this morning.”
“How many nurses do we have?” Ann put on the scrubs and retrieved a pair of sneakers from her locker.
“Everybody that isn't on vacation is here including all of the off duty doctors now that you've finally arrived.” Danni narrowed her eyes realizing that Ann was avoiding the topic. “Don't change the subject.”
“What subject?” Ann put on her lab coat and tossed her stethoscope around her neck.
“You went out last night to have dinner with your mother and potentially discuss your breaking up with dull boy.” Danni stated as she followed Ann out of the locker room and into the hallway. “Now, you show up here dressed as if your night had continued all the way up to this morning and with Sam I might add.”
“First of all what I do—” Ann turned to face her friend the same time as the front doors burst open and paramedics wheeled in another victim. “…is taking care of the sick and injured first. This is going to have to wait for later. Speaking of which, I think they could use a nurse.” She pursed her lips cynically and nodded toward the newest arrival.
“Yes, Doctor. I'll get on that right away.” Danni answered sarcastically, moving to join the group surrounding the gurney.
“Not here and not now,” Ann muttered under her breath as she closed in on the unit clerk. “Hey Oscar, I need your help. I'm looking for a man.”
“Aren't we all?” The effeminate characteristics of the man spoke louder than his voice.
“I mean a patient. He's tall with dark hair, blue eyes—“
“Sounds like a hunk.” Oscar fanned himself with the chart he was holding.
Ann scribbled the name on a piece of paper and handed it to the clerk. “I need to see if he's here.”
“Leo Matthews,” he mused. “I'm on it.”
“Thanks. Give me a page if you dig up any information on his whereabouts.” Ann circled the desk and moved toward the trauma rooms. She surveyed the first room she passed bustling with activity.
“ Taylor , need a hand in there?”
The masked doctor glanced over to the doorway. “Thanks Ann, I'm all set. We'll be on our way up to the OR as soon as I get this chest tube sutured in.”
“Okay.” Ann turned nearly crashing into a resident rolling a patient on a stretcher to an exam room down the hall. The man was holding his chest visibly in pain. “Whoa! What do we have here?”
“ Mr. Gallant, a security guard from one of the buildings downtown. He started hyperventilating and complaining of chest pains.”
“ Mr. Gallant, what's going on?” Ann visually started examining the patient. He was pale and sweating.
“I don't feel so good.”
“Your chest hurts?” Ann queried.
“Yeah and it feels like my head is spinning around like a top the whole time there is an elephant sitting on my chest.” The patient snorted then clutched at his chest. “Now isn't that a circus act if I ever saw one.”
Ann adjusted her stethoscope into her ears and placed the head of it onto the man's chest. “I'd like you to take in some slow, deep breaths if you're able to.” Slowly she moved it from one side to the other and then listened to the man's breath sounds on his back.
Ann removed the stethoscope from her ears and turned to address the resident.
“Put him on oxygen, give him aspirin 81 mg dose and get an EKG.”
“Sure can, boss.” The young doctor nodded eagerly and pushed the gurney into an exam room just as Ann's pager went off.
“Now who wants me?” Ann jerked her pager from the waist of her scrub pants and pressed the button revealing the message. “Finally,” she muttered and rushed to the nurses' desk.
“Give me some good news, Oscar.” Ann tapped her fingers nervously on the counter top.
“Handsome boy is here…” he pointed to a far room. “He's in exam three with Chou.”
“Thanks Oscar, you're the best.” Ann crossed the hall and met with Dr. Chou coming out of the exam room.
“Chou, can I talk to you for a second?”
“Of course, what's up?”
“Your patient…” Ann pointed to the room he had just come out of. “A friend of mine is looking for her brother and I think your patient might be him. Do you have a name?”
“Sure,” he opened the file in his hands. “Matthews, Leo. Is that him?”
“Yes, that's him. Thanks Chou.” Relief washed over Ann. She retrieved her cell phone from her pocket and started typing a text message as Chou excused himself. Lifting her head, Ann looked at the retreating doctor and called out. “Oh, and one more thing, Chou, do you mind assigning him to me?”
“Not at all, Boss.” He stepped back and handed the file to her. “If you haven't noticed, there's a surplus of other patients to keep me busy.”
To be continued…
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