Chapter 1 Fated
"Come in," she called and straightened up.
The door was opened by a tall, rail-thin, blonde woman who came in and quickly seated herself in one of the two straight chairs that sat in front of Thea's desk.
"Glory, my friend," Thea said with a wry grin. "Have I, or have I not, treated every single case involving diarrhea, vomiting, or both that have come in during the past two months at least."
The other woman couldn't help but laugh at her friend's rueful expression.
"Oh yes, and if I didn't know better, I would think those men walk the streets in their spare time just to solicit cases!"
The two women grinned at each other and leaned back to prop their feet up on the desk.
"Have you heard anything about the head nurse position?" Thea asked and her heart sank when her friend's expression fell.
"Oh Glory, I'm so sorry," she said quietly and the other woman shrugged.
"These things happen," Glory said with a resigned tone to her voice. Thea shook her head.
"I told you sticking up for me and being my friend was going to hurt your chances. Why didn't you listen? "
The other woman's jaw clenched. "Nobody ever tells me who I can or cannot be friends with. I should have gotten that position based on whether or not I can do the job, not anything else."
Sighing, Thea looked at the attractive older woman and silently thanked God for her friendship. She opened her mouth to commiserate with her friend some more when a man suddenly appeared in the doorway. Both women turned their heads in his direction.
"Theadora, three bodies have just been delivered to the morgue and I would consider it a personal favor to me if you would take care of the post mortems."
Thea clenched her teeth, but smiled anyway. "I'd be happy to, Doctor Simon," she said and tried to keep her voice as pleasant as possible.
"Thank you," the rotund, white-haired man said with an insincere smile. "Believe me, I will not forget your kindness," he said smoothly and disappeared.
The two women stared at the now empty doorway for a few moments and didn't speak until they were sure the Chief Administrator of the hospital was out of earshot.
"Sure, he'll never forget," Thea grumbled, dropping her feet to the floor and shifting in her chair as she prepared to stand. Glory had just opened her mouth to offer her help when another man appeared in the doorway.
"Excuse me ladies, but I'm looking for a Doctor T. A. Westwood. Can you tell me where I might find him?"
Thea rolled her eyes. "I hate to disappoint you, but I'm Doctor Westwood."
Glory raised a hand to her mouth to cover a grin.
The man blinked, but gathered his wits together quickly. He moved forward holding out his right hand."I'm very pleased to meet you and to have the opportunity to work with you."
Thea stared at his outstretched hand as though she had no idea what to do. Then she smiled and lifted her gaze to meet his as her fingers wrapped around his. He smiled back and she took stock of his thick, chestnut hair, light blue eyes, and pleasant features.
"I've read all of your articles that I've been able to find in the journals and I would love to have the chance to ask you some questions if you could spare the time for me."
Thea cleared her throat, mainly as a warning to Glory to behave. The other woman was practically strangling, trying to hold back her laughter.
"I'd be happy to, but I'm afraid that right now I have three cadavers waiting for me in the morgue."
"Oh," the man said. "Well then, would you mind if I tagged along?"
She shook her head. "I wouldn't mind at all. In fact I'd appreciate the company."
"Good," he said and stepped to the side as she came around the desk and headed toward the door. He followed her closely and neither doctor noticed Glory hurrying after.
Thea strode briskly down the hallway and he shortened his stride so they were walking shoulder-to-shoulder. Neither spoke until they reached the entrance to the morgue.
She pushed the wide, swinging doors open and they entered the huge, cavernous room together.
The morgue attendant immediately appeared.
"Hey doc," the small man said with a smile. Thea was just about the only doctor that didn't treat him with barely veiled disdain.
"Hello Mack," she answered with a wide smile. "What have you got for me tonight?"
Mack cocked his head to the side. "Let me guess," he said with a chuckle, "Doctor Simon palmed these post=mortems off on you again, didn't he?"
Thea chuckled as she nodded, and then followed him toward three tables that held sheet-covered forms.
"I already stripped 'em down for you," Mack said almost shyly. "I figured that old wind-bag would ask you to do 'em again."
She gave him a grateful look, and then simply said, "Thank you."
The little man blushed."These two," he indicated the tables on the right and on the left, "are pretty typical, but the one in the middle is an ungodly mess and the only John Doe."
"Well as near as they can figure the police think this is gang related."
"Hmmm." Thea said distractedly as she moved toward the middle table. The male doctor moved with her and she paused.
"Oh, I almost forgot," she said apologetically as she turned to the young man who had accompanied her.
"Mack, this is Doctor...I'm sorry, I forgot to ask your name."
"Charles, David Charles," he said and held his right hand out to the attendant.
Mack also stared at his hand for a few moments, and then gently shook hands.
They both turned quickly when they heard Thea gasp.
She was standing next to the table in the middle and had flung the sheet back.
The long, muscular body was almost covered in blood, blood that had seeped from numerous knife wounds.
The man's face was a battered mess, and from the positions of the limbs it was apparent at first glance that both legs and one arm were badly broken.
"Dear God in heaven," she said in a choked voice. "How could anyone do something this vicious?"
Doctor Charles hurried to stand on the other side of the table. "My Lord," he breathed as he stared.
"Whoever they are, they deserve to hang for it," he ground out, his throat tight with anger. Then he looked up quickly when he saw a drop of water splash on the man's still face.
Thea was crying, but her tears were tears of fury, not sadness.
"Hanging would be too good for them," she said low as she continued to stare at the man's face.
"Do you want to clean him up first?" The young man asked.
"Yes, I think that's the least we can do."
"I'll gather what you need," Mack volunteered and scuttled off.
Glory had followed them in and slowly came up to the foot of the table, her eyes huge in her thin face.
She reached out to gently touch the man's foot as she sobbed once at the pitiful sight of such a fine, physical specimen of the human form being so cruelly treated. Then she frowned when her hand encountered skin that was not cold.
Thea was still staring at his face and she gasped when she saw his eyes move once under the closed lids.
"He's still alive." she said in disbelief as the man on the table opened his eyes to meet hers. She stared into their hazel depths and was surprised that his gaze was focused.
"Help me," he tried to say, but no sound came out. Then his entire body tensed as his chest heaved in trying to take in a deep breath, and he went limp.
Thea quickly turned to Glory. "Go to my office and bring back my bag," she barked at the other woman.
Glory took off at top speed - she turned to David next.
"Stretch his arms over his head," she ordered and he jumped to obey. She moved back from the table and swept her gaze around the floor.
The step stool she was looking for was under the next table and she hurried to get it and bring it back to the right side of the middle.
Dropping it to the floor, she stepped up and leaned over the now dead man. She ran her fingers over the left side of his chest until she found the right spot. Then she raised her fist and brought it down as hard as she could.
His body jerked, but she paid no attention as she placed one hand on top of the other and began to push in and up rhythmically in the same spot.
David watched what she was doing and shook his head as he pumped the man's arms. He had read about this technique in the accounts of Abraham Lincoln's assassination, but had never seen it done before.
Glory burst back in a few moments later.
Thea nodded for Glory to take over and the two women quickly switched places.
She pulled a metal syringe out of the bag and a small bottle of a murky, brown liquid. Quickly filling the syringe, she then moved around to the other side and paused - she looked directly into David's eyes.
"Put his arms down and turn around," she said firmly and he did as he was told, even as dozens of questions rose to his lips. But he remained silent.
"You can turn around now," she said and he quickly did to see her take a bell-shaped stethoscope out of her bag.
Glory stepped back as Thea placed the bell on the man's chest and everyone held their breath.
"It's beating," Thea said with true joy in her voice.
Both David and Glory smiled as she raised her head."I need suture trays, as many as you can scrounge up," she said to the nurse and the other woman took off again.
"You go with her David; she'll need your help." The young man opened his mouth to ask a question, but one look at Thea's expression and he hurried off after the nurse as the morgue attendant reappeared.Mack stared at the man on the table and his mouth fell open when he saw his chest rise and fall. Thea turned to him.
"Mack, I need you to get as much boiled water together as you can. Make sure the buckets are clean." He stared at her for a moment, and then hurried away again. "I need clean linen too!" she shouted after him and he nodded his head as he charged through a side door.
"Dear God," she breathed as she reached out to gently touch his battered face. "Please guide my hand," she prayed then started with surprise when his eyes opened again.
Meeting his gaze she leaned over him. "What is your name?" she asked as his face tightened and he clenched his jaw at the incredible pain.
"Adam," he choked out and his eyes snapped shut as he began to shiver. She pulled the sheet up over him.
"What is your surname?" she asked, wanting to at least know what to put on a headstone if he didn't make it.
He opened his eyes again and she flinched at the hopelessness she saw there.
"I...don't," he said and bit his lip as a choked off scream tried to escape his throat and he passed out.
She quickly used the stethoscope again and could hear that his heart was still beating.
David, Mack, and Glory came back, running into the room at top speed. She bowed her head to pray once more, and then focused intently on the man lying in front of her.
Death was going to have to fight it's fiercest to wrench THIS one out of her hands.