Authors: Renee Roszel
Copyright © 1984 by Renee Roszel. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from Don Congdon Associates, Inc.; the agency can be reached at
To the wind
and his lengthening shadows
Doug and Randy
ilky dropped onto the tall stool behind the Emergency Admitting desk and shook her head, her lips parted in a wry smile. The giggle that bubbled in her throat drew Nurse Page’s curious glance away from a seemingly endless stream of paperwork. “What’s so funny?” the older woman asked.
Silky pushed a loose wisp of corn-silk hair back up into the tight knot at her nape. “What people do to each other in the name of love.” She shrugged, her green eyes twinkling. “You were busy when this young couple came in—the man had actually
himself to his girl friend.”
“What?” The chubby nurse’s mouth gaped open and her ballpoint clattered unnoticed to the floor. “For heaven’s sake, why?”
Silky shrugged helplessly. “Well, the woman was pretty upset, having to come down here in a taxi with a man’s hands glued to her shoulders, so I’m not sure I got all the facts.” She had to stop talking and stifle the urge to smile as she recalled the scene. It certainly hadn’t been funny to the people involved. She tried again. “Apparently she’d told her boyfriend that she was moving out, and he didn’t take it very well.”
Nurse Page exploded with laughter. “Apparently!” She snorted derisively. “And I thought I’d seen everything Anchorage had to offer in my fifteen years here at Midtown. Say”—she looked up at Silky as she tossed the tissue away—“why don’t you get me the girl’s name? After breaking up with a crazy guy like that, I bet she’d love to meet my brother—bum that he is. I’ve never known him to be much into glue, so maybe he’s got
going for him.”
“Oh, Betty, your brother can’t be as bad as you make him out to be.”
The older woman brightened, her drab blue eyes bigger but no less drab through the thick lenses of her glasses. “Well then, Silky, why don’t you just let me give the bum—I mean my darling baby brother—
Silky laughed. This type of conversation wasn’t new for her. Ever since she’d come to work at Midtown as an emergency medical technician eight months ago, it seemed as though everyone here, from the head of thoracic surgery to the high school boy who swept up, had a
brother, cousin, “close” friend or misunderstood son they wanted to fix her up with. She shook her head and pulled a hefty textbook out from under the desk. “Thanks, Betty, but no. I’m not dating right now. I have enough to think about just trying to graduate.” She tapped the book with a neatly trimmed nail. “And I’ve got a final tomorrow.”
Betty looked down at the book. “Another one? You must never sleep, working here all night and going to college all day.”
Silky smiled, but didn’t look up as she flipped through the pages. “Just afternoons. And this is my last exam.”
“Good. Then you can take over this monster of a hospital and run it right.”
Silky tilted her head toward Betty. “Well, the degree is in hospital management, but the job I’ve been offered here is as an assistant administrator. It’s a pretty long jump from that to running the place.”
“Well, it’s a darn sight closer to it than any other EMT around here has gotten. Mark my words, someday you’ll run this sterile barn, and we’ll all be the better for it.” She thumped Silky’s back a little harder than one might expect from an angel of mercy, and Silky had to catch herself on the desk edge to keep from slipping. Unfortunately, she caught herself with her stomach. “Thanks …” She coughed weakly.
The phone flashed silently for attention, and
Nurse Page lifted the receiver, oblivious. Silky flipped through her text to the test material and breathed deeply.
The receiver clicked into its cradle as Betty lowered her plump torso from her stool. “The workup that Dr. Hooper wanted is ready. Will you be okay for a while? I’d like to take my break before I come back.”
“Sure. What else could happen tonight? It’s”—she glanced down at her watch—“3:45.”
Scurrying away, Betty quipped over her shoulder, “All the body-gluers are probably asleep by now.”
Silky smiled, without looking up. Maybe now she’d be able to study. This test was the final obstacle to be hurdled in a year of tough obstacles.
Her mind wandered. Maybe she should have tried glue when Rex told her that he was leaving her for someone else. Closing her eyes, she exhaled slowly. After six years of marriage, she had been dropped—tossed out like sour milk—at twenty-seven, a failure at her marriage. Yes, she certainly knew how the man with the glue had felt to have someone he loved tell him that she was going away. It was no laughing matter. Of course, to glue himself to this woman was a crazy, irrational act, but Silky knew that love rarely brings out the most logical, sound thinking in people.
Deep in her thoughts, she hadn’t noticed the familiar whoosh of the sliding emergency doors
opening, until a low moan and muffled thud brought her head up sharply.
Just inside the door, leaning heavily against the wall, was a young police officer. He was ghostly pale. Blood was oozing from a hole in his blue-uniformed shoulder, and his boyish face was twisted in anguish.
Silky jumped from her stool and rushed to lead the man to a chair. “Here, let me look at that,” she offered quietly, gingerly moving the fabric away from his wound to examine it.
He groaned, pounding his fist on his knee. “
Silky jumped at his vehemence. “Try to be still. You’ve lost some blood. You don’t want to make it worse by moving around, do you?” She straightened. “It’s a clean wound. If I help you, I think you can make it down the hall to a treatment room.”
He didn’t seem to hear her. His teeth bared in a pained expression, he half-growled, half-sobbed, “I let the guy get my gun! How could I have been so stupid!” He spat the words out in self-disgust, slumping forward weakly.
Alarmed, Silky tried to calm him by taking one of his tightly fisted hands into both of hers. She kept her voice as steady as she could. “Please, it’ll be all right—just—”
” he repeated in a high-pitched moan. “The lieutenant’ll have my head for this—he went off after the guy on foot.”
Silky had to get this man into treatment.
Sighing deeply, she bent and slid an arm about him, coaxing him to his feet. “Come with me. Don’t think about it.”
He stood shakily, leaning heavily against her. Taking much of his weight, Silky’s slender five-feet, seven-inch, 120-pound frame nearly buckled at the knees. Though the policeman couldn’t have been over five feet, ten inches tall, he was very weak, and not much more ambulatory than a 150-pound bag of hospital mashed potatoes.
He turned watery gray eyes to her and whispered hoarsely, “Call headquarters. Get help for the lieutenant…. He was just a block east of here.”
She nodded reassuringly. “Yes—yes, I will.” The ashen-faced officer was mumbling incoherently when Dr. Hooper and Betty Page pushed through the door of the treatment room. Silky had removed his jacket and shirt and was cleansing the wound when they took over. As she slipped out to return to her desk, Silky could hear the officer’s rasping plea. “Remember, call…”
When she reached the desk, she knew the call wouldn’t be necessary. Entering the emergency doors were two men, handcuffed together. Both of them looked as though they were in their mid-thirties, and both were mud-spattered, but aside from that, they were poles apart in appearance.
The lieutenant had obviously gotten his man, and Silky breathed a sigh of relief. As they
moved toward her, Silky could see that the lieutenant was very angry. His round, ruddy face was set in a deep scowl, and his scalp, beneath thinning brown hair, was as red as his face. He was breathing very heavily. He looked very much the typical police officer in his gray, three-piece suit, white shirt, striped tie and black, wing-tip shoes. He had “conservative, law enforcement officer” written all over his slightly paunchy frame.
And then there was the criminal. He was limping badly, probably injured in the scuffle that got him captured. He was taller than the lieutenant, maybe six-feet, two, and his decidedly uneven gait gave his extremely dark coloring and powerfully broad build the disquieting and unsavory quality of a stalking Alaskan grizzly. His black eyes were coal hard and slitted, and the dark stubble on his craggy jaw spoke as much of his ne’er-do-well lifestyle as did the ancient sweatshirt and worn jeans that clung to his muscular frame. He didn’t look like a man easily caught, especially while wielding a gun. The lieutenant was either a very resourceful man or a very lucky one. Silky didn’t envy him his job.
Job. Silky steeled herself, shuddering inwardly. This, after all, was a hospital, and she had a job to do, too. The lieutenant had obviously brought this wounded bear of a man here for treatment. She forced herself to move, walking rather stiffly to meet them.
The criminal surprised her by starting to speak. “I need—”
Silky cut in, not wanting to have any more to do with him than absolutely necessary. “Yes, I see. Please sit down and I’ll take a look.” Without stopping, she motioned them to two chairs near the wall. “I was just about to call headquarters when you came in.” Kneeling, she took the muddy hem of the limping man’s jeans before looking up into the lieutenant’s glowering face. The despair in the young officer’s eyes flashed across her mind.
“Before you say anything, I think there is something you should know.” She began automatically rolling up the pant leg, trying to form her words carefully. “When someone is injured, his mental state can be extremely important to the speed of his recovery.” She watched for some sign of softening in the ruddy glare, but saw none. Swallowing, she forged on, lowering her eyes to the pant leg before her. “It would help if I could tell that young officer who was shot that—that you don’t blame him for what happened.” She paused hopefully, tilting her face back up. “He’s going to be all right, but I think it would help.”
“The kid got what he deserved, and you can tell him I said so.” The ruddy-faced man’s guttural snarl shocked Silky. Stunned, she could only stare up at the unfeeling man. How could he be so callous toward a less-experienced fellow officer?
She swallowed hard. “You can’t really mean that. Everyone makes mistakes.”
He made a very impolite noise. Feeling highly embarrassed and angry, Silky swallowed the urge to say anything else. Lowering her eyes, she pursed her lips, trying to concentrate solely on her job. Focusing on the injured man’s calf, she was surprised to see that it was massively scarred. Very tentatively, she touched the lightly furred leg. The muscles were rock hard.
He hadn’t been injured in the chase, as Silky had originally assumed, but was limping because of some previous injury—a bad one. The attempted escape must have been too much of a strain on the healing tissue. She shook her head. “Well, there really isn’t much I can do for you—” She moved her gaze to the handcuffed prisoner’s face. Every word, every coherent thought left her brain like a scattering of bats fleeing a collapsing belfry.
The black eyes were no longer narrowed in a frown, but twinkling with humor. His lips, fuller than she’d first thought, were lifted in a half-smile. The unexpected masculine allure of his softened features left her oddly paralyzed there, on her knees, with her hands resting on his calf.
He broke the strangely disabling spell, his baritone voice tinged with laughter. “Thank you for your interest in my leg….” He moved his free hand down to tilt the badge that was pinned on the breast of her greens. “Mrs. Silvia Kay
Overbridge.” Removing his finger, he shifted his weight to pull a wallet from his hip pocket. “Let me introduce myself.” Flipping it open to display a badge and a laminated identification card, he went on, “I’m Lieutenant Banning, Anchorage Detective Division. I’m here to check on Officer Taylor and to get the patrol car keys.” His smile was teasing. “I’m glad to hear that he’s doing well, and I’ll certainly keep in mind what you said about his recovery.” Slipping his wallet back into his hip pocket, he extended his free hand, helping her to her feet. “And don’t worry about my leg. I know what to do for it.”
She felt her face burn with humiliation as she pulled her hand from his larger one and she carefully avoided his eyes.
He spoke again. “I’d appreciate it, Mrs. Overbridge, if you’d check on those keys.”
Feeling like a complete dolt, and knowing that Lieutenant Banning would have a good laugh at her expense when he repeated the story later, she mumbled something that she hoped sounded like polite leave-taking, pivoted rigidly on her soft-soled loafers and rushed down the hall.
Silky returned the keys by way of Nurse Page. She never,
, wanted to look into those dark, laughing eyes again. What she did want to do was take her break and forget the whole embarrassing mess, but it didn’t work. Every time she looked down into her coffee cup, she saw the lazily twinkling, liquid eyes of a man who no doubt thought of her as an idiot. And for
some strange reason, that knowledge troubled her much more than it should have.
“Why so quiet?” Annie asked as she and Silky led their heavily loaded ten-speed bicycles through the milling crowd of brightly dressed bikers.
Silky turned toward her apartment-mate, Annie Toone. Slim to the point of boniness, Annie was to most people as charming as a growling Doberman. But to Silky, Annie was a loyal, if not totally lovable, friend. Silky’s smile, as she looked at the thirty-one-year-old woman, was more than a little doubtful. “I was just wondering when the men with the padded van are going to come and take me away.” She shook her head, her fine blond hair flapping playfully back and forth across her shoulders in long pig-tails. “Annie, what ever possessed me to agree to this madness of yours—a four-week bicycle trip! Am I completely crazy?”
Annie cocked her head toward Silky, her tight red curls barely moving with the strong breeze. “Thanks for that vote of confidence in my sanity, Silk, but remember, I actually got married twice! Now that’s nuts!” Annie wrinkled her freckled nose. “But allow me to refresh your memory. First”—she lifted her index finger—“you really need a vacation, and you can’t afford to take an around-the-world cruise. Right?”