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Dead Ringer: Chapter Eight
Link to Chapter Seven.
“You’d better get down here.” It was the charge nurse in the ER who’d paged me.
“On my way,” I said, adding, “What in the hell is going on?” I could hear raucous singing in the background.
The nurse laughed. “Oh, you’ll see.”
It had been a long time since I’d seen drunken frat boys putting on a show. There were three of them in a side room, and they were caterwauling some stupid ditty that I’m sure was about sex, but thank God no one could understand a word. One of them had a bloody nose that had decorated the front of his t-shirt in dramatic red Jackson Pollock splotches.
“Hh-elllo, ma’am,” slurred one of the boys, trying a sideways grin on me. I glanced back at Debbie, the nurse who had called. Her lips were pressed together holding in laughter, I suspected.
The chaplain on duty, apparently nowhere to be found, was Benny, a second-year seminarian intern in his early twenties. I had a feeling he’d scurried off somewhere to hide. He was a serious and painfully shy young man who would likely find it less threatening to talk to a dying person than any of these three clowns.
The boy with the bloody nose seemed the most sober. I got the story out of him. One of his upperclassmen frat brothers had dared him to jump and roll from a moving car “like they do on TV,” he said, and the guy would videotape it.
“Did you at least nail the roll?” I asked.
He shook his head no and looked at the floor while the other two erupted in howls of laughter.
“Okay, okay,” I told them. “A little respect for a good effort.” I called his parents on the wall phone and then handed him the receiver.
“Good luck,” I whispered and patted his arm.
Back in my office, I made some notes about Benny’s absence as something to talk about with Fred when he returned next week. It wasn’t about being a tattletale. It was about Benny’s struggles with the path he’d chosen. Or that he believed had chosen him. Had it? That’s what this internship program was mostly about.
Now I was wide awake and puzzled all over again about Rachel Roper’s wrong number, and bothered, too, by the quiet buzz somewhere in the back of my brain whispering, “Something doesn’t fit.”
Of course I tried her number again, the way you do when you’re working on fine-tuning an error. Still not in service. Because of HIPAA, I couldn’t just saunter down to Medical Records and ask for Rachel’s contact information. In fact, just two years before the hospital had been sued and several people fired for violating patient confidentiality, so now everyone was extra vigilant.
There were any number of possibilities. Maybe Rachel had given me a fake number, regretting her decision to call me halfway through our conversation. Maybe she’d been so distraught she’d remembered it wrong.
Maybe she’d just been fucking with me.
Here is the part I was supposed to heed that voice saying, “Just let it go.” After all, wasn’t it moot now that I was most certainly on Mark’s bad side? I couldn’t imagine we’d be working together again.
Could I just let it go?
I laid down on the foldout bed and dozed on and off until around two in the morning, got up and rinsed out my mouth with warm Coke and went to look for the Malone’s. I found them in the Family Room with huge smiles on their faces.
“We just talked to the surgeon,” Nora said, her eyes shining. “Jenny did great! She’d going to make it!”
We all knew Jenny still faced an uphill climb, but when the universe hands you a win, you say, “Hallelujah.” We held hands and said that and a lot more.
Back home I was more than ready to make up for too much lost sleep. I made the mistake of checking my answering machine first. There was one message. It was from Mark.
“Blainey, hi. So, we need to talk. Can you stop by my office Thursday? I’ve just gotten off the phone with your friend, Rachel.”
I couldn’t very well call him at three o’clock in the morning, but my hands itched to pick up the phone and do just that. Another sleepless night. What the hell was going on?