Sam was flying on the automatic pilot this morning while her mind kept drifting back to the brief encounter she’d had the night before. The image of Ann’s face, her smile, the softness of Ann’s skin under her lips made it impossible for Sam to focus on anything else. That was until the tiny scrapings of a key being placed on her front door alerted her ever-present detective senses. Sam’s hand reached for her gun holstered under her left arm while her suspicious gaze held the door in high esteem. She quickly ran through the list of possibilities in her mind. No one, whether it was lover or even her own mother, had a key to her apartment. She thought for a moment listening as the key turned in the lock. As the tumbled began to click in an effort to unlock, Sam remembered the one person in the world that she’d ever trusted enough to have given her key to.
“Leo,” Sam said with relief, shifting her hand away from her weapon as the door opened into her line of sight.
“Morning, sis,” Leo smiled charmingly as he slipped the key from the lock and closed the door.
“I thought I gave you a key for emergency use only like as when I die.”
“Well, it’s an emergency to me. I’m hungry.” He joined her behind the kitchen’s breakfast bar and ogled the nearly finished bowl of cereal sitting in front of her.
“Don’t you have food at your own place?”
“Nope, I let you keep it here for me.”
Sam rolled her eyes. “That’s a lame excuse for hanging around here.”
“Got any cereal left?” Leo started rummaging through the cabinets.
“Do I look like a grocery store to you?” Sam got up from her stool and placed her bowl in the sink.
“What’s with the sour mood?” Leo frowned when she jostled him aside on her way out of the kitchen. “Don’t tell me Hope goes by the ‘no sex on the first date’ rule? Cause her sister sure doesn’t.” He smiled obnoxiously ignoring Sam’s scowl as he poured cereal into his hand. “I’m telling you, Sam, the woman is a volcano.”
“Save it Leo. And FYI Hope doesn’t have any rules against sex either.” She nodded toward the door. “You just missed her.”
“You go girl!” He cheered around a mouthful of cereal. “So what’s the matter? Was she that bad? Cause if that’s the problem I’m sure she can take a few lessons from her sister—”
“No pervert, that’s not it.”
“Then what’s wrong?” he swallowed his cereal and narrowed his eyes at her.
Sam starred out the window contemplating what to say. “Have you ever cheated on someone, Leo?”
“Yes…” He answered cautiously.
“How did it make you feel?”
“What does that have to do with the price of eggs anyway?” Confusion was plastered all over his face. “Okay Sam, I’ll bite. You’re not cheating on anyone, are you?”
“No, but last night, I…I felt like I was.”
“Cheating on whom?” His brows furrowed in a quandary as the words shot out of his mouth.
“Myself, maybe,” Sam smirked as she sat down on the couch.
“Sis, are you back on those meds again?” Leo grabbed the box of cereal and a bowlful of milk then plopped down on the couch next to his sister. When no answer came to his question, Leo sat there starring at the sister he thought he’d known. He watched as one blue orb shifted only slightly in his direction.
“What?” Leo garbled out through a mouthful of cereal.
“Why would you think that?”
“Either you’re on drugs or you’re drunk because, honestly, you’re not making any sense.” Leo shook his head stuffing another spoonful of cereal into his mouth.
Sam’s reply was truncated in mid thought by the sound of her cell phone coming to life. She checked the caller ID then answered it.
“Was that Miss Johnson I saw coming out of your apartment building about twenty minutes ago?”
“That would be correct.” Sam glared at Leo when he spilled some milk over the coffee table.
“You had that date with her last night, right?” Mark continued.
“Yes, and well into this morning, I might add.” She teased.
“God, sometimes I really miss being single.”
Sam chuckled. “Is there a particular reason for you to be around here so early?”
“Captain Bennett called me on my way to dropping the kids off at school this morning. It seems that our little boy witness had a minor breakdown. Social Services took him back to the hospital. The Captain wants us there in case our fellow sergeant decides to make an appearance.”
“I’ll meet you at the hospital.” Sam hung up, grabbed her jacket and rushed for the door.
“You’re almost out of cereal, you know.” Leo refilled his bowl before propping his feet up on the coffee table.
“Yeah? Tell it to the good fairy when she comes around to do your dishes.”
“Like I’m going to be here when that happens,” Leo muttered flipping through the TV channels.
“Later, Bro.” Sam stood to leave. “And I’d think about washing those dishes if you want me to keep housing your food supply.” She headed out the door not waiting for a comeback.
Diving head first into work was Ann’s best strategy to forget any emotional problem. This time however, it didn’t seem so easy to dodge the situation.
One thoughtless moment on her part had sent her crashing right back into the very nightmare she was trying to escape.
Always check the caller ID… Always check the caller ID.
Why she hadn’t looked at her caller ID before answering her cell phone she’ll never know. And now, here she was trying to explain to her boyfriend something she couldn’t even explain to herself as she paced the length of Doctor’s Lounge with her cell phone poised at her ear.
“No, Joe…I can’t…I can’t tell you what’s wrong when I don’t even know it.”
Ann turned abruptly at the sound of the door creaking open to view Danni poke her head into the opening of the door. Seeing the intense concentration on Ann’s face, Danni stopped in mid step.
And the cavalry enters right on cue. A look of relief fell over Ann’s face and she silently motioned for her friend to enter.
“Listen, Joe, I don’t think we should have this talk over the phone and…what?” Ann stopped pacing and her shoulders dropped.
“No, Joe, just because I didn’t want to have sex with you last night doesn’t mean that I’m sleeping with someone else.”
Ann warded off Danni’s questioning eyebrow with a ‘don’t ask’ look of her own.
“Like I said before, I don’t think we should be having this conversation right now. I swear this has nothing to do with you…Yes, I believe we need sometime to think…Of course, you don’t need time but that doesn’t mean that I have all the answers…I don’t know, a break, maybe…Yes, I think we need a break, Joe…”
Ann turned away from Danni and played mindlessly with the coffee machine.
“No, I’m not breaking up with you over the phone. Please Joe, I’m just asking for some time, okay?”
Ann turned around and resumed her pacing.
“No, don’t call me. I’ll call you when I’m ready to talk...Yes, I promise…Alright, take care.”
Ann hung up and slumped unceremoniously on the couch next to her astonished looking friend.
“Did you just dump dull boy?” Danni had a priceless look on her face.
“I guess I did…sort of.” Ann replied weakly letting the situation sink in.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“Have you ever had this feeling that you should run as far as you can from something but at the same time, there’s this urge inside you that makes you want to do just the opposite?” Ann asked expectantly.
“Yeah, it happens every time I pass by a shoe store.” Danni shrugged nonchalantly. “Seriously now, what’s going on?”
“It’s…I don’t…I don’t really know what’s going on,” Ann confessed throwing her head back and hiding her face behind her palms.
“Okay, you lost me.” Danni stood up shaking her head in exasperation.
“Tell me about it,” Ann snorted and ran both hands through her hair.
“Spill it, doc.” Danni put her hands on her hips authoritatively. “What the hell is going on?”
Ann debated for a few seconds whether to voice her feelings or not, but the length of her debate was cut short by the sound of her pager going off.
“Hey, look at that, an emergency!” Ann took her stethoscope and placed it around her neck before fleeing from the room. “I gotta go.”
Danni stood with the look of utter astonishment on her face as Ann whisked by her.
“You can run, but you can’t hide,” Danni shouted after her. “Especially not from yourself”
“Man, I hate this place.” Sam fought a shiver travel down her spine the second the ER doors opened in front of her and Mark.
“Still having nightmares?” Mark threw a sympathetic look over at his friend.
“Not as frequently, but every once in a while one will pay me a visit” Sam chewed her lower lip.
“You should talk to someone.”
“I’m talking to you, aren’t I?” Sam smirked.
Mark narrowed his eyes. “Smart ass!”
They were about to flash their badges at the reception desk, when Mark spied a familiar face.
“Hey, look. There’s Dr. Wolchek.” Mark pointed to a tall, bald, middle aged man talking to a young and slim African-American woman. “He’s the shrink treating the boy.”
The two cops approached the couple and Mark offered his hand in greeting to the man.
“Doctor Wolchek, it’s nice to see you again.”
“Lieutenant Stevens, I’m glad you here.” Wolchek shook Mark’s hand before addressing to the woman standing next to him. “This is Mrs. Lynch. She’s the social worker attending Justin’s case.”
“Justin?” Mark’s brow furrowed.
“That’s the boy’s name.” Mrs. Lynch clarified.
“It means he’s talking, then.” Sam jumped in half assuming, half asking.
“I’m sorry. This is my partner, Sgt. Mathews.” Mark introduced Sam before cutting to the most important question on his mind. “Does the boy know anything about the murder?”
“I’m pretty sure he knows something. But every time I try to approach the subject, he withdraws and shuts the door to his mind.” Wolchek took his glasses off and started cleaning them.
“Did you at least find out if he’s connected to the victim?” Sam fired off another question.
Mrs. Lynch glanced at the psychiatrist before answering. “She was his mother.”
“Fuck!” Mark ran a nervous hand through his hair nearly jumping when the door behind him opened to reveal a concerned looking doctor.
“I’m sorry, Doctor Thomas, I didn’t mean too say it that loud.”
Ann was somewhat startled to see Mark and most of all, Sam standing in the hall. Blinking a couple of times, she managed to recover fast and cover her surprise.
“No harm done, Lieutenant. I say it myself sometimes even louder.” Ann nodded in greeting, sharing a weak smile with Sam. “It is good to see you both again.”
“Dr. Thomas, how’s Justin doing?” Mrs. Lynch asked truly concerned.
“There’s nothing physically wrong with him. We ran blood tests and even did a head CT,” Ann explained flipping through the patient’s file. “All results are negative. We can only assume that what he’s presenting are some kind of psychosomatic symptoms.”
“That’s what I thought.” Dr. Wolchek came forward. “May I see the file?”
“Of course.” She handed it to him.
“What are his symptoms, anyway?” Sam pressed.
Ann turned to answer. “He’s having an intermittent fever and occasional seizures.” She looked straight into Sam’s eyes and struggled against her racing heart. “We ran every test we could think of, but like I said, they all come back normal.”
Good, she’s so beautiful. Sam fought the intense urge to move even closer and wrap her arms around Ann.
“And what do we do now?” Sam was having a hard time to keep her nerves under control.
“I’ll ask the psychiatrist on duty to come down and make an evaluation to see if we can admit him for a couple of days.”
“Can’t Doctor Wolchek sign the admission?” Mark asked concernedly.
“I’m afraid not.” Ann shook her head. “It’s hospital policy. The patient can only be admitted by an attending physician on staff.”
“She’s right. I’m not a staff member here.” Dr. Wolchek handed the file back to Ann. “Do you mind if I come with you, Dr Thomas?”
“No, of course not” Ann smiled politely doing her best to avoid the blue eyes that were staring down at her and causing her knees to go wobbly. “This way,” Ann forced her legs to move feeling a blush rising up to her cheeks as she felt a strong urge to touch Sam. Restraining the inappropriate thought, Ann ducked her head and retreated with Wolchek scurrying after her.
“I’ll talk to the captain to see if I can manage round-the-clock security to stay here.” Mark announced retrieving his cell phone from a pocket.
“I’d better go and make a couple phone calls too.” Mrs. Lynch looked expectantly to Sam.
“Don’t worry,” Sam waved a dismissive hand at the woman. “I’ll keep an eye on him.”
“Thank you,” Mrs. Lynch reached into her purse to retrieve a cell phone of her own.
Sam entered Justin’s room. As she got closer to the bed she could see by his serene expression that he was asleep. A quick glance at the peaceful looking kid would make anyone doubt that there was something wrong with him.
I’m so sorry kid. You shouldn’t have to go through all of this.
Sam’s head snapped up at the sound of the door opening. Sam saw a middle-aged nurse enter the room and diligently check Justin’s I.V. line and take his temperature. The frown that emerged on the woman’s stern face told Sam that something wasn’t right.
“He’s temperature is rising again,” the nurse offered before leaving the room rather hastily.
Sam turned her attention back to the sleeping child, unconsciously taking his hand in hers.
“Come on kid, you can fight it.” She whispered softly using her other hand to brush his hair gently. “Help me get the bastard who did that to your mom. I know you know something. So, please, please help me.”
Sam waited as if expecting some kind of miraculous reaction on Justin’s part. The lack of response caused her shoulders to slump.
“I don’t even know if you’re listening.”
“You know, some people believe they can hear you.”
The soft voice coming from behind Sam stole her breath away. She closed her eyes and swallowed dryly feeling her heart jumping right to her throat. Sam gathered all her courage and turned to see Ann moving to the other side of the bed.
“And what do you believe?” Sam tried to keep her nervousness from reflecting in her voice.
“I’m not sure.” Ann smiled warmly at Sam while using her stethoscope to listen to the patient’s breathing sounds. “I’ve never been on that side of things.” She nodded toward the boy as she palpated his neck.
“I have.” Sam offered watching Ann’s every move wondering if at one time or another in her treatment the same thing had been done to her.
“What do you remember?”
Don’t chicken now, you coward! Sam’s inner voice gave her a push.
Ann’s movements stilled and she fixed her gaze into deep blue eyes.
“You came to see me. I remember your voice, your smile. I haven’t been able to take you out of my mind ever since.”
Sam’s heart thundered in her ears as Ann stared mutely at her. The pull of their connection almost made her forget that there was a bed between them. A sense of urgency washed over as she saw Ann leaning in as well. The only thing that kept her from meeting Ann half way was the sudden squeeze to her hand. Immediately it brought Sam out of her spell.
“Hey, I felt something.”
“Me too,” Ann said breathlessly in a daze.
Sam looked down at the smaller hand grasping hers and her efforts were rewarded with another squeeze.
“There it is again.” Grinning broadly, Sam watched Justin’s eyes fluttering open.
“I guess they can hear after all,” Ann whispered mirroring Sam’s radiant smile.
“Do you think the kid’s going to ID the aggressor?” Mark rolled his neck and shoulders, popping the joints to relieve the stress from the busy day.
“I think it’s just a matter of time until we know what he saw.” Sam zipped up her jacket when a chilly breeze blew against her body. “I’m still counting on the pictures taken by the surveillance camera outside the bar.”
“What about a nice home-made dinner to give our minds a rest, huh?” Mark offered digging the car keys from his pocket. “Allison is making lasagna tonight.”
“Sounds great but I…I was…I mean...”
Mark turned to look at Sam when he realized that her attention had strayed from the conversation. A small grin reached his lips as he saw a lonely blonde figure seated on a bench outside the hospital.
Mark stepped behind Sam and whispered teasingly into her ear. “Allison’s lasagna is great, but not nearly as interesting as spending some time with the cutie over there, right?” He placed his hands on Sam’s back and gave her a light shove. “Now, stop being a wuss and go talk to her.”
Sam turned around and shot him a threatening glare.
Ignoring her glare, Mark raised his fist making a gesture of power. “Be a man!”
Sam pondered for few seconds while alternating her gazes between Mark and Ann.
Enough with the hesitation. Her inner voice restated Mark’s words. Go talk to her.
The sound of an engine starting made her turn to see Mark’s car pulling out into traffic. Left to sort things out for herself, Sam returned her gaze to Ann and studied her more carefully.
Look at her, she’s so cute.
Ann seemed to be lost in her thoughts. Her eyes were closed and the slump of her shoulders gave away her emotional outlook. Her angel might very well be in need of someone to speak to.
Talk to her, Sam’s mind encouraged every step she took towards her goal. Comfort her.
Sam took a calming breath and put on her best smile when she reached Ann’s side.
“You look like you could use a friend.”
The deep voice made Ann’s stomach churn and her heart jump to her throat. She opened her eyes and met a radiant flash of white teeth. The irresistible smile that was lighting Sam’s face caused one to break on Ann’s features as well.
“Is that an offer?” Ann teased.
“Might be,” Sam shrugged and sat beside her. “People say I have broad shoulders.”
Ann snorted. “I could really use a shoulder right now.”
“Well, I have two.” Sam said charmingly. “Feel free to borrow one or both of them if you need to.”
Ann chuckled but said nothing. Instead she leaned forward a little, rested her arms on her thighs and interlaced her fingers.
“You can say that again.”
Ann looked forward and squinted as if trying to make something out on the horizon.
“I lost three patients today. One of them was a fifteen-year-old girl who killed herself.”
Ann nodded her agreement without taking her eyes off of a far away point. “She got involved with her teacher. Her parents found out and locked her at home. They pressed charges against the man and he was arrested. The girl took her father’s pistol and shot her own heart. There wasn’t much we could do to help her. After that, we had to admit her mother for a twenty-four hour observation. She and her husband were devastated.” Ann sat straight and used her hands to knead her shoulder muscles. “People shouldn’t be judged for whom they fall in love with.”
Sam couldn’t ignore the sadness of Ann’s tone of voice and fought hard the urge to hug her. “Is there something I can do to help?”
One quick look at sympathetic blue eyes, and the words started jumping out of Ann’s mouth before she could even think about what she was saying.
“You could buy me a drink.”
For a moment, Sam found herself tongue-tied. But before her inner demons could come to life, a flash of a brilliant smile followed a positive headshake.
“I’d love to.”
To be continued…
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