Coming Fall 2019
“OH MY GOD!” I shriek, scrambling for the remote control. “Marcus, get in here!”
I am completely aware that my three-year-old daughter is dumping the box of Fruity Pebbles onto the coffee table, but I can’t peel my eyes off the television. “It’s time for bed, Sid. Go find Teddy.”
“But mommy!” I ignore her protest, and turn up the volume.
“Marcus!” I shout again. “Just find Teddy, sweetie.”
As I stare at the screen, watching the red and blue lights swirling against my hospital building, the muscles in my legs begin to weaken. My heart must be palpitating the fear throughout my body because now my hands are trembling.
I want to listen to the news report and find out what horrific thing is happening to my hospital. But the memory of that night is too dark it swallows me whole.
It starts with hyperventilation. So I close my eyes and envision Doctor Tanner’s calming voice telling me to breathe. I cup my hands around my mouth exactly how he taught me: breathe in slowly, count; hold, count; and exhale, count. Now I find a focal point. I glance over at my beautiful daughter, and try to slow my breaths, and count.
I’m not sure if it’s her teeth chomping louder than the volume of the television, or if it’s because she is the result of the worst night of my life, but nothing helps. I can’t slow my breathing. It’s getting faster, and louder. It spreads around the room like a cyclone while I shrink into a dark void. I hear myself breathing yet it sounds like an instrument. Exactly how it sounded the night I was raped. The first time they closed East Valley Memorial, and showered the city with the news reports.
Marcus enters the room, frustrated. “What,” he huffs, “I’m on the phone!”
I turn my eyes to his but he has already found the news. “Oh shit! Ted, I’ll have to call you back.” Without looking at her he grabs the box of cereal from Sidney. He looks at me. “What the hell is this?”
His voice snaps me back inside my body. “I don’t know. They aren’t saying anything,” It takes a moment for the blood to move down arms and into my legs but suddenly, my breathing is fine. “No one has even called me.” I say this like it can’t be true and then I look back at the television when an unfamiliar anger ignites. I turn to my husband. “I’m gone ten minutes, and all hell breaks loose!”
Marcus stares at me speechless, as if I’m a complete idiot. “I’ll call the back line,” he starts dialing and I look for my phone. I start where Sidney was sitting. The last thing I remember she was playing a game. I find it wedged in the cushion behind a throw pillow. I look at the screen.
“Seven missed calls?” I check the settings and of course it’s been silenced. But it vibrates in my hand.
“Hello?” I feel myself loosing my balance.
“I need to speak to Doctor Monica Zeller.” A stranger’s voice confirms that it’s true—something is wrong. I exhale, and my body, by its own will, descends to the sofa. Sidney is sitting next to me unaware of my state of mind. I look up at Marcus with my hand over my mouth.
“What’s going on,” is what I try to say, but instead, “This is Doctor Zeller.”
“This is lieutenant Tribioni from the Santana police department. I’m at East Valley Memorial someone here issued a Code Yellow Alert. And I’m in need of your assistance.”
“Why, what’s happened?”
“I can explain everything when you get here. Can you come now, please?” Marcus infuriatingly interrupts. I lift my hand aggressively to silence him while the lieutenant continues. “I can’t say with certainty, but we think one of your patients is missing.”
“Missing?” I peep.
The lieutenant doesn’t give me any more details. “You need to get down here, Doctor!”
“I’m on my way!” I race into the kitchen, smashing Fruity Pebbles into the carpet as I tiptoe through the family room. “She needs to be in bed . . . in an hour!” Marcus just stares, still waiting to hear what I know. I grab my purse and my shoes and show him my phone. “I’ll explain everything from the car.”
When I pull into the hospital parking lot it’s like a war zone, police are everywhere. Someone leads me to lieutenant Tribioni. “You’re Doctor Zeller?” his eyes respond like most men, surprised that a woman my age could be the Chief Head of a hospital.
I exhale to keep the steam from coming out my ears. “Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”
“Follow me,” he says, and he leads me through the main doors, carefully keeping the press outside.
I follow him through the main lobby where police search visitors with metal detectors before they let them leave the building. I walk fast behind the lieutenant and I don’t stop walking even when Trevor taps my shoulder.
“Thank God you’re here,” he says, falling into step behind me, “This place is a shit-show.”
“Who initiated a Code Yellow?”
“I don’t know. But they won’t call a public search without a court order.”
“A court order? Why can’t the patient’s doctor issue a Form Fourteen?”
I stop and stare at him. “What?”
“Doctor Zeller?” A woman’s voice interrupts my thoughts and I turn around. Some Victoria Secret model is walking toward me holding up an FBI badge. She extends her other hand to greet me. “I’m Special Agent Halle. I’m the lead investigator on this case and I’m going to need your help.”
“Of course, what can I do?”
She hands me a post-it with a phone number and a name scribbled in ink. “I need you to call this number and tell Judge Mills you need a section—” I cut her off.
“A section 136, I know, but why, for who?”
She taps the post-it. “Her name is Kayla Paige. She was a patient, here, in your psyche unit.” I shrug, confused, so she continues, “She was waiting to be transferred to Grenich when she escaped.”
“Yes. She’s extremely dangerous. And I can’t initiate a public search without a Form Fourteen. Doctor Tanner is dead so he’s not able to issue a Form to the police. So now we need the court order.”
I don’t know which happens first: My hand shooting over my mouth, or the air that I swallow at the sound of his name. Now the tears creep up when I see his face in my mind, whenever he tried to calm me, or help me, or teach me. “Are you sure?” My mind drifts and because I still don’t believe it’s true, “Doctor Tanner?”
I blink, “Yes.”
“We’ve got men on all the floors and all doorways are secured. Lieutenant Tribioni will stay with you. But I need you to call this number on your way upstairs. Do you understand this?” I look at the lieutenant and nod, “Good. I need a patient count for every floor and let all department heads know what’s happening. You can pass out a photo as soon as it comes through.”
I look around the room at the chaotic disruption of the staff and the all frightened patients. “Okay.”
“Monica.” Trevor tosses me my badge and this is when I realize we’re looking for a murderer. I glance at him and stare, silent and confused, until the sexy woman shouts at me.
“Doctor Zeller,” my eyes jump over to hers. “Judge Mills is waiting for your call.”
“I need you all to stay calm and stay with your patients!” I say this as we flash through the Oncology Department making our way down to the next floor. “I said a 136,” I hold my phone tight against my ear as I run. “No. I don’t have a psychiatrist order. Did you not hear me he’s dead! I’m the Chief Operating Officer! I’m telling you now. This patient is dangerous! No wait . . .Don’t you dare hang up on me . . .Ugh!”
While we walk Lieutenant Tribioni is speaking to someone through his earpiece. He doesn’t respond at all to me, so I stop. “Why don’t you just go do your job and let me do mine.” He stares for a minute without answering, but when he does, I’m shocked.
“Fine,” he turns around and heads the other direction, “I’ll see you downstairs,” he adds.
I huff, angry he would just leave me alone. “Thank you!” I say aloud, but really I’m more terrified than ever.
When I get to the OB floor I see Matthew Katz our Chief of Obstetrics. “I need a patient count for this floor.” I pant trying to catch my breath, “Where’s Doctor Thorne?”
“I don’t know.” He narrows his stare. “What’s going on Monica? Why are we under a Code Yellow?”
“Just make sure no one leaves. No one in and no one out. Got that!”
“Yeah, got it!”
When I get to Alex’s room Max is teaching her how to change the baby’s diaper. “Oh thank God. You’re okay!” They turn simultaneously to face me.
Alex smiles at me, unaware of my distress. “I thought you were going home.” She gives up her lesson for some hand lotion.
“I had to come back. It’s an emergency.” Max whisks the baby over and places him into my arms. His eyes are bulging. He whispers.
“I’m here, do not worry her.”
“What emergency?” Alex is still smiling. I pause for a second before I am able to smile back.
“It’s nothing. It’s an emergency drill, no biggy.” I look down at the baby, forgetting momentarily about everything. My heart melts and my voice almost sings. “I’m not kidding, Alex,” I coo, squishing my face, “He looks just like Sidney when she was born. Don’t be alarmed if he goes missing. I just might steal him.” I hand the baby back to Max. “Well, I better go finish my rounds, sorry I barged in but I need you both to stay in this room. Max stay with her!” I slip out of the room, dazed, until the fear returns and I run full force.
When I finally make it back to the ER it is absolute mayhem. Patients are screaming at the staff and the police have no control over anyone. The sound of metal falling, clanking, crashing makes me jump. I turn to find one of the nurse’s scooping up instruments from an OR tray.
“Nurse,” I say, but she doesn’t look at me. “What are you doing out here? You’re supposed to be in the lounge with everyone else.” I walk over to help her when she lifts the tray and walks away as if I’m not even speaking. This instantly angers me. But as I reach for her arm, I stop myself. I let my fear overtake my duty.
So I inhale, and despite my PTSD, I grab her shoulder. “Did you hear me?” I pull her until she’s facing me. And the second I recognize her face, relief propels from my lungs.
“Yes,” she startles, “I’m going there now.” I glare down at her through the side of my eye, wondering why she would take the long route, when she raises her eyebrows and smiles politely. “I first have to use the ladies room, please.”
“Oh!” I smile, embarrassed, but then quickly resume my tougher exterior. “Be quick we’re under an emergency here!” I walk off with a strong huff, but really, its just mark of relief.
“Monica!” This time it’s Doctor Reed. “It’s her.” he says, “The woman who tried to kill Gabi. She’s the patient they’re looking for.”
“What?” My face crinkles, confused. “Why would anyone want to kill Gabriella?”
“You haven’t heard,” Trevor’s face lets me know he is in a hurry. “I’ll explain later, but here,” he hands me an envelope. “It’s a photo of the woman we’re looking for, please, pass them out to everyone. I want to know immediately if anyone has seen her,” he trots off and I head back to the stairs--again.
As I walk up the stairs—in heels—slower this time, I decide to open the envelope to see what this missing, murdering, mystery patient looks like when my phone rings. I dig through my purse. “This is Doctor Zeller!” I spark, and finally the Honorable Judge Mills has ordered a 136. “I understand. Thank you Judge!”
I am almost to the third floor when I open the envelope and slide out a photo. But it’s not a picture of a crazed, lunatic patient, it’s a picture of the OR nurse I just saw downstairs. I stare at her face, puzzled. It doesn’t hit me at first, but when it finally does, its like walking into a brick wall. I wheeze, blinking incessantly because maybe I shouldn’t trust my eyes. But when the face on the photo doesn’t change I turn around and run down the stairs, back to Trevor reed.
The second I find Trevor I grab him. “She’s here!” I pant, stuttering, “She’s, a,” I breathe, “She’s a nurse! I just saw her.” I point toward the stairs, “she was right over there. Oh my God! ” I grab Trevor’s arm. “Where’s Gabriella?”