Streams of Babel

Streams of Babel by Carol Plum-Ucci Read Free Book Online

Book: Streams of Babel by Carol Plum-Ucci Read Free Book Online
Authors: Carol Plum-Ucci
    I stood to make a dash for my blankets. But I managed to grab the phone out of its cradle and take it into the bed with me. I knew no one would call. I didn't want anyone to call. I think I just wanted to sleep with the phone.

10:59 P.M.
    I ACTUALLY LIKE being inside Saint Ann's Hospital. I like taking my shift breaks in the emergency room nursing station, watching the medics fly around, hearing the ring of oh-so-many phones. But tonight, I didn't feel that sense of control over an out-of-hand universe that usually comes with being in the ER. I paced away from Mom's cubicle, back to Mom's cubicle. And the fact that I know all these doctors and nurses didn't help as much as you'd think.
    They were probably more sympathetic to me when I brought Mom in than they would have been to your average Charlie. But when they couldn't get Dr. Godfrey in here immediately, and they couldn't kill her pain immediately, my toes curled and uncurled as I paced. I was resisting temptation to start kicking my fave nurses' anklebones. Familiarity does not breed solutions, and somehow that came as a shock.
    Mom waved me away from her after almost an hour. I could tell this headache was still giving her hell, but her sinuses had stopped bleeding, and her vitals were normal. Dr. Godfrey was Saint Ann's allergy and infectious disease specialist, and I'm not sure whether it was Mom's reputation in the community or my employment here that got him to say he was coming at this hour, but I felt relieved.
    "I don't need a babysitter while I pee in a cup and get the third degree, hon," she murmured, holding a cold pack over her right eye. "Go find your buddies and show up for the bottom line."
    I actually raced down to the break room to see what the paramedics on night shift were up to. Before I could reach them, I almost clanged heads with Alan Steckerman, who was coming out of the elevator. I was surprised to find him here.
    "Scott, I would have come up sooner, but the dispatch is all garbled down in the basement." He sighed in relief, like he'd been looking for me. "How is she? They said what? Strange sinus infection now, too?"
    I shifted around. "And we'll probably be in drumroll status for the next twenty-four hours. I'm not looking to piss off half this town, but tomorrow I'm taking her up to a good research hospital in Philly if I don't get some answers fast"
    "You do whatever you feel is best, but um ... don't panic. It's got to be a coincidence."
    By "coincidence" he was talking about Aleese Holman bleeding out through the facial orifices, versus my mom's bloody nose. He could be right, I knew. I surely hadn't freaked to see a DOA with the same flulike symptoms as my mom. But when
my mom's nose started to bleed like my DOA's? I gave the squad a Priority One call. I still wasn't ready to relax and admit I had panicked.
    I looked down at my watch and saw it was quarter to midnight. The obvious question finally rapped me on the head. "Alan, what are you doing here at this hour?"
    "Besides yawning?" He strolled along beside me toward the break room. "USIC's got me doing all sorts of stuff that the FBI never did. I have to clock in forty hours of forensics and human anatomy before September. If a terrorist threat actually came to pass, USIC might have to work closely with physicians and pathologists, or so its policy manual reads. So, Johnny Gallagher has been ... very patronizing, poor guy."
    Johnny Gallagher was Saint Ann's head coroner. We moved into the empty break room and collapsed into a couple of chairs.
    Alan yawned again and rolled his stiff neck around. "Gotta do something with my nights, being that there aren't any Cinderellas breaking my door down."
    Mr. Steckerman's wife had been killed in a six-car pileup outside the Shore Mall when Rain was only three. The man had been up to his gizzard in sexy, flirting divorcées since I could remember—though he rarely took anyone out. I

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