Chapter 4 - Working Theory

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[June 13th, 2015, 2:30 a.m., Lancaster, Pennsylvania]

A doctor and two nurses huddled around a 7lb 10oz baby boy lying quietly beneath a large heat lamp. The doctor removed his stethoscope from the infant's chest then scribbled something in his notebook. Behind them, a sweat-drenched 120 pound female sporting a dirty blonde bob cut lay knees up on a hospital bed. Her breathing was deep and exaggerated.

"So what's the plan?" the short nurse asked.

"Apgar is nine," the doctor said, "the baby's fine."

"She's clearly on something," the other nurse said. Her blue engraved nametag identified her as Trish. "Should we call CPS?"

"Let's wait till we get the results from the placenta first," the doctor said.

The blonde raised her head up from the bed. "Is everything OK?" Her teeth appeared to be suffering from years of neglect.

"Everything is fine," Trish said. She wrapped the baby and brought him over to her. "Here he is!"

Mary took the baby and sniffed the fine black hair covering his scalp. "Well hello!" she said before kissing his cheek. "So you're the one who was using my bladder as a punching bag. I'm your Mommy. Did you know that?"

The medical team stood back and watched cautiously. This was usually one of the best parts of their job.

Mary touched the baby's chapped lips with her fingertip. "He's not much of a crier is he?"

The short nurse glanced at the track marks on Mary's arm. "All babies are different. He reacts well to stimulus so we're not overly concerned. Have you decided on a name?"

"Thelonious," Mary said. "His father made me promise. It's the name of some old jazz guy. Cedric loves listen'n to that stuff."

"Is he on his way?" Trish asked.

"Nah, he's do'n five to ten near Philly."

"We'll leave you two alone for a while," the doctor said. "I'll be back in a little bit to run some tests. How's your pain?"

Mary clawed at the side of her neck. "I could use a little someth'n."

"I'll bet you could," Trish mumbled.

"I'll have the nurse bring you something in a few minutes," the doctor said.

Trish returned to the nurses' station and grabbed the black washable marker from the bottom of the large whiteboard. She drew a line through Mary's name then stood back and studied the board. "I swear, I've never seen anything like this."

The nurse sitting behind her was hopelessly stuck on her eighth Sudoku of the night. "I'm telling you, they must be shutting down the ward soon," she said. "I'll bet they're steering patients over to Lancaster General. Guess we'd better start working on our resumes."

"You think?"

"Either that or it's the end of times," the nurse said with a chuckle.

As Trish looked on nervously at the board displaying the crossed-out name of their only patient, there was no way that she could possibly know that there would never be another name on that board again.

***

Kara sat motionless, her soft brown eyes glued to the monitor in front of her. She held a large slice of extra cheese in one hand and a double espresso in the other. "We've been at it for hours. I still don't get it," she said.

Chad sat on the desk next to her clutching a computer printout, his eyes bloodshot. "The macros are coming up with nothing. I can't find a logical pattern."

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