Physically exhausted from another hectic day, Ann exited Radiology and grabbed a bottle of water off the hospitality cart as she passed through the waiting area. She plucked a small bottle of Tylenol out of her lab coat pocket, and popped two pills into her mouth.
“I feel like my head is going to explode this very minute.” Ann washed the pills down with a large gulp of water.
She stuffed the bottle back in her pocket as she rounded a blind corner nearly crashing into a heavy-set African American man dressed in a cheap suit. Judging by his graying goatee, Ann figured the man was in his late forties. Immediately, she recognized him as her most recent pain in the ass from the ER.
“Doctor Thomas,” He tried to intercept Ann.
“Not again, Sergeant. Honestly, I don’t have time for another spat.” She waved him off with an impatient hand.
The man flexed his fist in frustration and marched after Ann. “Doctor, I’m only trying to do my job. Why won’t you let me talk to him? There are no marks on the boy. He’s not bleeding. I can only assume that he’s not injured.”
“Not physically but he’s showing signs of post-traumatic stress.” Ann proceeded over to the elevator and jabbed the down button a few more times than she needed to. “You're going to have to wait until the pediatric psychiatrist is finished with him. I can assume you want what’s only good for the boy.”
“What’s good for him isn’t what’s good for…” the man paused for only a few seconds before contouring with his next question. “How long is that going to take?”
“Look, this little boy just saw a woman being raped and badly beaten…”
“He said that?” the man jumped in eagerly. “Are those his words?”
“I didn’t say that.” Ann retorted harshly eyeing him suspiciously. “Give the boy sometime, alright.” She entered the elevator and hammered on the button.
“Okay, fine. But I need to speak with him…and the sooner the better.” The man raised his voice as the elevator doors closed.
“Fuck you.” Ann cursed intently at the man that had been left on the floor above.
Inwardly Ann sighed realizing that she’d been caught in an unprofessional display of emotions. She turned to see Dr. O’Neil standing behind her.
“Sorry Peter, I didn’t see you there or I would have kept my foul mouth and mood to myself. I apologize.”
“It’s ok. Who was that anyway?” Peter nodded at the elevator’s door.
“Just some annoying cop. Sergeant something or other,”
“He must be new, they’re always over zealous. I’d turn him in if I were you. Did you happen to see his badge number?”
Ann paused replaying the unpleasant scene over in her head. “I can’t say that I did.”
“Maybe next time,” Peter offered as he took his boss’s tired features into consideration. “You look like you could use a break, Ann. Why don’t you go crash in the doctor’s lounge?”
“I wish I could. I promised Taylor I’d give him a hand in the clinic today.” She looked at her watch as the elevator glided to a stop. “And right now I’m running incredibly late.”
The doors opened to reveal a sea of uniformed policemen filling the hallway.
“Why is this place so packed with police today?”
“They are always around here. I think it is part of the master plan for any urban hospital,” Ann declared checking her watch again. “Listen, can you handle the ER for a few hours? I really need to head to the clinic.”
“Sure, go ahead.”
“Thanks, Pete.” Before the words were out of her mouth, Ann was rushing down to the exit door.
Mark waited with bated breath as he stood watching the front doors of the building where Sam had asked him to meet her. He checked his watch for the third time in the past fifteen minutes before running a nervous hand through his brown hair. Slowly the seconds ticked by until the doors opened to reveal a grinning Sam.
“So, it is good news then. Am I correct?”
“Absolutely!” Sam’s response was accompanied by a vigorous positive head shake. “The doctor cleared me. I can go back to work tomorrow.”
“That’s great Sam. You have no idea how happy I am.”
“Not as happy as I am, pal.” Her grin widened.
“I mean it. I wouldn’t be able to stall Captain Bennett for much long. He wanted to hook me up with another partner.” Mark exhaled a sigh of relief. “Not to mention that you really freaked me out. You know, you have no idea how scary it was to see you lying in that pool of blood. I thought I’d loose you.” He confessed fighting to keep his inner demons at bay.
“Well, I’m not going anywhere, partner.” Sam patted his back before pulling him closer in a one arm hug. “You’re stuck with me for a long, long time.”
“Good.” Mark nodded. He was glad to see his friend in a better mood. “How about having a beer to celebrate?”
“Not yet. I’m still on meds.” Sam informed as she searched her pockets. “In fact, the doctor prescribed something new for the pain...” Her hands kept roaming the pockets in her pants and jacket until they came to an abrupt halt. “Shit, I forgot the prescription.” She declared retracing her steps into the building. “Stay there. I’ll be right back.”
In a flash Sam disappeared inside the clinic. Seeing his partner’s renewed vigor and enthusiasm made Mark chuckle. His revelry, however, was short lived after hearing a familiar name called out a little louder than it should have been.
Mark turned to see a large, dark-skinned man approaching the familiar looking doctor as she made her way across the plaza. Something about the man’s demeanor raised Mark’s hackles. The burly man had an air of hostility pouring out of him. A sharper appreciation of his body language quickly turned him into a suspect when Mark saw the guy’s hand fumbling for something in his waistband. By the volume of the bulge coming from under the man’s jacket, Mark knew he had a gun. Immediately, the lieutenant started to react but slowed considerable once his peripheral vision caught Sam standing attentively only a few feet away from the obvious display.
“If you don’t mind, I’m really late for a meeting.” Ann growled, turning away.
“Doctor, nobody in that damn ER wants to tell me where the boy is.” The man strode right up to Ann and mustered every inch of his height in an effort to intimidate the woman as he stepped in front of her. “They said you ordered the boy to be secured.”
In direct response, Ann took a step back trying to regain some personal space. “Yes, I did. As I’ve said before, the child needs to be cleared by the psychiatrist before he speaks to anyone.”
“Look doctor, I don’t have time to waste waiting for some shrink to give his okay. I want to see that boy NOW.” The man tried to impose his authority by leaning in. He was so close that his nose was almost touching Ann’s.
Sensing an escalating situation, Mark came forward with a couple of determined strides. “Is there a problem here, Dr. Thomas?”
Ann glanced to her side and the vision of a familiar face approaching was like a breath of fresh air.
“Lieutenant, I’m so glad to see you.” Ann made no effort to hide her relief. “I was just explaining to your colleague that he’s going to have to wait until he can talk to a witness.”
“A colleague, huh?” Mark furrowed his brow questioningly as he appraised the man standing in front of him.
“Yeah, I’m Sergeant Miller.” A bead of sweat appeared on the man’s forehead as he flashed his badge arrogantly for less than a nanosecond.
“And what division are you from?”
Three pair of eyes turned to meet the owner of the deep voice arising from behind Dr. Thomas. Mark caught Ann’s intake of breath as she got her first standing-tall glimpse on his partner. Mark's lips curled into a ghostly smile. The look on Ann’s face spoke more than a thousand words and it didn’t need a detective to know that the doctor had just been charmed by his friend’s intensity.
His gaze left Ann to take in Sam’s stern face and defensive posture. Immediately Mark was brought back to the awkward situation at hand. He squared his shoulders and took a defense posture of his own, ready to jump in with both feet in case all hell broke loose.
“And you are?” Miller clenched his jaw obviously annoyed at the woman who had him pinned in a deadly stare.
“This is detective Mathews and I’m lieutenant Stevens from homicides.” Mark quickly stepped in knowing that Sam’s arched eyebrow meant that she’d like to get a good grip on Miller’s neck and kick him around the block.
“I’m Sergeant Miller from Domestic Violence.” He alternated his gaze between Sam and Mark.
“Domestic Violence, they have good people there.” Sam’s facial features softened. “Is Estevez still on the force?”
Sam’s sudden change of tone seemed to set Miller’s teeth on the edge. He hesitated for a second before answering. “Yeah, he’s still there.”
“I really like that big old ox.”
“Yeah, that’s what we call him, the big ol’ fox,” Miller agreed a little too easily.
A subtle smile edged Sam’s lips upward at the nervous man’s reply. “You tell him Sam said hello.”
“I’ll do that.” Miller nodded, and then blew out a hard breath. “Listen doctor, you find me as soon as I can see the boy, okay?”
Ann finally tore her eyes off of Sam when she realized she was being addressed. Caught off guard and mouth agape, Ann took a shaky breath before nodding her agreement.
Miller studied the doctor for a long hard moment then addressed Mark and Sam promptly ending the conversation. “I’ll see you around the station house.”
“Sure thing,” Mark acknowledged the retreating man. He paused long enough for Miller to be out of sight before turning to Sam and uttering the single most important question that was on his mind. “Who the hell is Estevez?”
“You tell me. The only Estevez I know works in a grocery store near my mother’s house.” Sam gave her partner a shark smile as his eyes widened in acknowledgement.
“Clever, very clever!” Mark clapped his hands and beamed at his partner’s simple yet very effective trick.
The emotional surges of the last few minutes had just sent Dr. Thomas through uncharted waters. Ann’s head was spinning as she processed all that had just transpired. She took a deep breath struggling to ignore the fact that the woman standing in front of her was the one that had been haunting her dreams.
The small talk going on around her brought Ann out of her semi-catatonic state. She moved forward and stepped up into the space between Mark and Sam.
“Wait a minute, what does this all mean?” Ann alternated her gaze between the two cops.
“It means that Sgt. Miller, if that is his name, is not a cop,” Mark explained.
“Or at least he’s not who he claims to be,” Sam pondered aloud. “Who is this kid he’s after?”
Ann lifted her eyes to meet Sam’s gaze and suddenly, time stood still.
“I’m sorry,” Mark broke the silence. “I forgot to introduce you.” He hid a subtle smile as he watched both women averting their stunned gaze in an effort to hide their embarrassment. “Sam, this Dr. Thomas. She’s the woman who saved your life. Dr. Thomas, this is Sam. Last time you saw her she was bleeding out all over your table.”
“I remember.” Ann wrinkled her nose acknowledging the fact. “Glad to see you’re okay, detective.”
“Thanks to you, doctor. I own you my life.”
“You don’t own me anything. Besides, your mother has already provided a very fattening ‘Thank You’ basket.”
“Oh yeah,” Sam rolled her eyes. “That’s my mother alright. Food is her answer for everything.” Their eyes locked again but this time Sam managed to keep the conversation going. “So, who is this kid?”
“He arrived earlier to the ER along with a traumatized woman,” Ann speech took on a more professional flare. “My assessment could only lead me to suspect that she was assaulted and raped.”
“And the kid witnessed the attack?” Sam’s mind was functioning at full speed.
“We don’t know for sure but the police did say they found him hiding behind a dumpster at the scene.”
“Is he hurt?” Mark’s concern was evident in his tone.
“No, but he’s presenting some symptoms of PTSD.”
Mark shot his partner a puzzled gaze.
“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.” Sam clarified.
“Exactly,” Ann said somewhat surprised.
Mark’s mouth dropped open. “How did you…”
“Internet,” Sam declared as a matter of fact.
“Sure, rub it on my face that you have time to surf the web. The only thing my kids let me do is buy the computer and pay the bill for the usage fee.” Mark turned his attention back to Ann. “Anyway, does the woman have an ID?”
“No. She was unconscious upon her arrival and without anything to proclaim her identity. No purse or driver’s license, I’m afraid she’s known only to us as a Jane Doe.”
“And this boy?” Sam studied Ann’s face as she waited for an answer.
“He’s not speaking either.” Ann’s eyes flickered between the two officers as she tried to follow their line of thought. “Do you think Sergeant Miller has something to do with the attack?”
“We can’t really tell.” Mark answered dismissively. “We’d have to see who’s in charge of the investigation.”
“Can’t you two take on the case?” Ann suggested.
“I’m afraid this is not a homicide case,” Mark replied prudently.
“Call me Ann.”
“Ann,” a bit of a smile tinged Sam’s lips. “Do you think we can see this woman?”
“Sam,” Mark cautioned knowing his partner was up to something. “We better not get involved. You know how you are when someone else goes sniffing around one of our cases.”
“It’s just for curiosity sake, Mark. No strings attached.” Sam tried to look as innocent as possible.
“I’ll take you to see her.” Ann led the duo inside the hospital.
They made their way through the ER halls as Ann led Mark and Sam directly to a trauma room. Without hesitation, Ann reached for the doors just as a doctor stepped out nearly crashing into her.
“Whoa! Sorry.” The self absorbed man side stepped the cluster of bodies.
“Ben, what’s wrong?” Ann stared into the room as one by one the machines were being disconnected from the motionless patient lying on the gurney.
The resident snapped his gloves off tossing them at the waste basket. “We just lost her.”
“Shit!” Ann ran a nervous hand through her hair.
“Well, looks like we got a homicide case after all,” Sam smirked as she wiggled her eyebrows knowingly at her partner.
Mark sighed and turned an appreciative gaze in her direction. “Welcome back, Sam.”
To be continued…
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