Chapter One

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Five years later

"I don't have time for interviews," Lalisa Manoban said with barely contained irritation as she walked unannounced into the Chief of Surgery's office late on the last day of June. "And I'd appreciate it if you didn't schedule things for me without discussing it first."

The distinguished-appearing, fifty-year-old man behind the broad walnut desk smoothed his expensively styled, silvered hair, carefully placed his Waterman pen into the chest pocket of his spotless starched white lab coat, and tried to conceal his aversion to his visitor. He leaned back in the padded swivel chair and regarded the intense, dark haired woman in navy surgical scrubs who stood too close to the front of his desk to be respectful. She wore two beepers on her belt, the trauma pager that would summon her to the helipad or the trauma admitting area, and the code beeper that would call her to the trauma intensive care unit in the event that a patient arrested. Tall and lean, she was too athletic-appearing for his taste, and too aggressive for his liking. She probably wasn't aware of the fact that she was leaning forward with her feet spread and her hands clenched at her sides.

"I'm sorry," he said in his practiced bureaucratic voice. "I thought my secretary had cleared it with your office."

"Apparently not," she said, her tone indicating that she didn't believe him. "Tomorrow is July first, and I've got three fresh attendings, two first-year fellows, and a handful of brand new residents in my trauma unit. I can't leave them to meet with some journalist. You'll have to get someone else to talk to him."

Harry Jones smiled, thinking how much he'd like to fire her arrogant ass. Too bad the university was so concerned about the gender and minority profiles of their department chairs and division heads. A clear bias might have a negative impact on future state and federal funding, and every institution was feeling the financial crunch. The powers that be—more importantly—the powers that controlled his own budget, would not take kindly to him firing one of the few female chiefs in the entire university hospital system. He conveniently ignored the fact that she was also one of the premier trauma surgeons in the state and had been the focus of several newspaper and magazine articles for achieving so much at only 29 years old. He couldn't even find anything, professional or personal, to hold over her head to threaten her with. Private and solitary, apparently wedded to her work, Manoban's reputation was unimpeachable. She would not be easy to get rid of.

"You're the one they want to talk to, Lisa," he said solicitously, assuming a familiarity she had never invited. "You're the one with the name recognition."

"Then they can come back in September and talk to me then," she said as she turned and started towards the door. Pompous idiot. He hasn't actually been in the operating room in so long, he's forgotten how hairy the first few weeks of July can be.

"I thought you'd want to meet with these folks and lay down the ground rules," he called after her, "but it's up to you, of course. You know how you want to run your unit."

These folks? She stopped suddenly and pivoted slowly, her eyes narrowing. "Is there something else you haven't told me, Harry?"

"Image is everything in today's marketplace, and we're no exception. We're not the only level one trauma unit in Manhattan, nor the only cancer center, nor the only tertiary care facility," he said smoothly, as if she weren't aware of these facts. "St. Michael's needs the exposure, and this is a perfect opportunity."

"What is this, exactly?"

He couldn't quite hide his triumphant smile. "One of the independent networks will be airing a documentary medical series, and the production company will be filming it here. It's an excellent opportunity for free advertising."

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