There was something about the soft sound of the wind, as it passed through the rustling leaves, that left the man pacified inside.
He looked up, gazing upon the unfamiliar tree tops, slightly amazed by the fact that only yesterday it had been spring in his own home and here, on the other side of the world, he was surrounded already by the dark red shades of autumn leaves.
He took a deep breath, savoring the fresh air of the park, intended on forgetting everything that had been going on in his complicated life. A cleansing breath, to replace the dull ache inside his chest with nothing but the red shades of the autumn leaves and the slight chill of the approaching night.
A dull pain that had nothing to do with his heavy conscious, took him by surprise, his right hand clasped around the buttons of his shirt in a desperate attempt to minimize the growing discomfort. The small sense of serenity that he had longed for so long, abandoned him like a thieve in the night and was quickly replaced by an instant sense of imminent death.
The man gasped, trying to fill his starving lungs with the fresh air that had been so cleansing before, but the foreigner air never made it past his throat as he collapsed on the ground.
"You'd already said I could!" The loud voice of a man could be heard outside of the glass-walled office.
"Do you think you can manage to sound like someone a little bit older than five years old?" A woman's voice replied in a much quieter tone.
The young woman on duty at the nurse' station, in the main lobby of the Princeton's Plainsboro Teaching Hospital Free Clinic, tried to hide her smile for the sake of maintaining a professional stance in front of the surrounding patients, but it was a task next to impossible.
Whenever those two started one of their famous shouting matches, two things were always bound to happen: first one being that, more often than not, it would be entertaining to hear and second…
"Give it up House… a free pass from clinic duty implies that you're actually working on something else, like a PATIENT, so quite stalling, gather your minions and do your job… besides, I saw the look on your face when you read the file, so don't act like you're not interested…"
"You're no fun to play with…" the older man mumbled as he limped out of her office. "Mommy..."
… Lisa Cudy, more often than not, got what she wanted.
It had taken a while to get used to work in a place where all the walls were made of glass.
The constant comings and goings of a number of hospital employees on the corridors meant that privacy was a thing of illusion, a little white unicorn that all pretended to exist. It also added to a strange feeling of shared community, of accountability and sense of duty, which was, some supposed, the intent of such an odd choice. To make everyone collaborate more freely with everybody else, the true inter-professional cooperation that health care gurus are always preaching about.
In reality what it actually achieved was a continuous loss of inhibitions from the people working there.
Doctors, as a social class per se, felt obligate from their early years in school, to act in a certain way, behave in a certain form. Maintain the respect that the medical professional had spent centuries achieving.
The three doctors occupying the sunny office of the Clinical Diagnostic's Department had, like all others, suffered the influence of a glass-walled working environment. Working for someone like Gregory House hadn't helped either.
Leaning against the coffee counter, her auburn hair framed by the soft morning light, Dr. Cameron was stirring her second cup of coffee, the spoon in her hand forgotten as she absent minded beat all the caffeine out of her drink.
Dr. Foreman was the only one actually seated at the table that occupied most of the office, a medical journal opened in front of him, the written lines ignored as his brown gaze got lost in the waiving trees outside. He had stayed up late the night before, sleep escaping him like smoke through fingers, and he was paying for it now.
From the outside, the last person occupying the office was the hardest to spot, half seating, half lying on the soft chair that stood beside the opened door. Dr. Chase was balancing a nearly empty coffee mug on his crossed legs, an already well-chewed pencil dangling from his teeth as he searched his mostly asleep brain for a thirteen letters word to describe the science that studied natural rhythms.
"Forty five year old male, found collapsed at the park this morning. He woke in the ER complaining of a head ache and stomach discomfort. Tox screen was clean, glycaemia was low but within range, heart rate and blood pressure were normal, EKG and CT scan were both clean. Differential?"
Foreman and Chase, both with their backs turned to the door and their eyelids almost closed, had jumped from their respective seats upon hearing House's voice. As usual, he had arrived silently, taking them by surprise, firing information about their new case left and right, knowing that if they weren't quick enough to keep up with him, they were in the wrong department.
"Does this mean we have a patient?" Cameron, finally deciding to give her coffee a rest, asked, looking at the black words that were quickly being scribbled on the white board.
"No, I just thought about making one up, to entertain you all," House's chronic sarcasm answered her.
"TIA," Foreman, the neurologist of the three offered. "Small cloth momentarily obstructs the blood flow in the brain, the guy loses consciousness. Cloth dissolves by itself, leaves no marks, no damage."
"The guy had no other symptoms prior to his collapse. TIA's are usually land mines that signal the big, bad stroke that will come. He would get a number of other neurological symptoms before just collapsing," House countered, even as he added the three letters to the board.
"Usual doesn't mean that it always happens like that," Foreman added, remembering that if there was a place where the unusual usually happened, that place was here.
"Ok, more ideas?"
"Psychological condition?" Cameron offered, remembering a number of conditions that could have physically affected the man. "Schizophrenia, panic attack, maybe just simple old stress?"
"Panic attacks cause hyperventilation, which would've elevated his CO2 levels to toxic levels, before causing a collapse," Chase reminded her as he flipped through the patient's file. "His blood gases were normal."
"Apart from the blood vessel, it could be some sort of neurological dysfunction, an early onset of Alzheimer's, or…"
"Carotid sinus hypersensibility," Chase offered, noticing that House didn't seem too inclined to blame anything above the neck for the man's condition. "If he turned his head too fast, the hypersensibility could've caused him to knock himself out."
House scribbled their suggestions, his hand writing on its on accord as the older doctor's brain ran away with another theory, one that he hadn't heard yet from his minions. "Get him a full blood work, a brain MRI, test his carotid sinus and get me a stress EKG. Let's see if we can race his heart hard enough to get a repeat performance," he finally said, covering the bases on all that had been said.
"His heart?" Foreman dared to ask.
"If the brain is working, Mr. Neurologist, who do you think we can blame next for killing all the lights in the house?" He asked, glaring at the other man like he was missing the point entirely. "While you're at it, go check his place and get me a better history on the man. We know nothing about this guy other than the fact that he's not from around here."
The three younger doctors paused at the door, curious about House's latest statement. Cameron reopened the patient's file, searching for a meaning, but soon gave up. If she knew House well enough, he wouldn't have launched the bait if he didn't intended to catch the fish.
Chase bit the bait for them.
"Not from around here as in…?"
"As in a mate of yours," House said in a bad Australian accent. "Now go find me what's wrong with Crocodile Dundee."
"Chase will never hear the end of this," Cameron said to Foreman as the two of them made their way to the patient's room.
Taking a family history had always been Cameron's alley, while Chase was well known for his proficiency with invasive procedures and Foreman for his ability with complicated testing and machinery.
House breaking, however, was something that none of them was notorious for, despite House's comments about Foreman's 'colorful' past and Chase's growing abilities with a credit card.
However, since Foreman's nearly deadly contagion at a patient's home a few months back, they had decide among themselves that whenever law breaking activities were in order, they would leave it to chance to decide whose turn it was at jail time bait.
The short straw had landed on Chase's hand this time around, leaving the testing to the other two until he returned, hopefully, with some answers.
"If it wasn't the patient's accent, it would be something else," Foreman said with a rare smile. "And while he's picking on Chase, he isn't picking on us, so you won't hear me complaining."
And that was always a plus when it came to their boss. Between his sexist remarks to Cameron and his racist comments to Foreman, both had enough fodder to sue the man at least once a day. The fact that he was a recognized genius and that they couldn't learn much from him if he was in jail or unemployed was the only thing keeping both away from a good lawyer. Chase had to deal with both the sexist and the foreigner comments, but like Foreman had once warned him, after all that time working with House, Stockholm's syndrome had already set in. It was too late for him.
Foreman stopped suddenly, causing Cameron to bump in to his back. She looked up to see what had caused him to freeze in the middle of the corridor, but he gave her no time.
"Call security!" He yelled as he tossed to the floor the instruments tray that he'd been carrying and raced to their patient's room.
Behind the glassed walls, almost hidden from view by the semi-closed blinds, she finally realized what had sprung Foreman in to action.
An Asian man, dressed in a dark suit, was standing above their patient, hands around his neck, trying to squeeze whatever life was left, out of the Australian man.
The harsh sound of a metal tray hitting the floor as Foreman dashed at a sprint clued everyone in that something wrong was happening.
Cameron's frantic call for security was a foreseen consequence for all that worked there for more than a couple of years.
Princeton Plainsboro, like every other hospital, had always had its fair share of dramatic episodes, from patients that reacted badly to a procedure or a diagnostic, to family members that weren't so good at accepting bad news, to simple lunatics that got out of control.
There had always been the occasional yelling, a couple of flying fists here and there, some unfortunate items broken now and again, some glass shattered maybe once a year.
Ever since the Diagnostic's Department had started its functions, the drama just seemed to escalate.
Broken glass was now an almost weekly occurrence; punches being thrown left and right were so normal that people didn't even seem to notice them anymore. After all, it was hard to beat the drama of House being shot in his own office, nearly a year ago.
Security, however, had become more efficient with all the extra training House's department was giving them.
So, it was no wonder that, exactly twenty seconds after Cameron's alert, two security guards had showed up racing to meet her. They noticed the commotion inside the room Foreman had gone in to and quickly followed.
The man who had been trying to kill their patient had his hand now around Foreman's neck, whose left eyebrow was slowly seeping blood in to his eye.
Seeing the security guards racing in to the room, the killer quickly realized that the situation had just escaped his control. He let go of the doctor's neck and reached in to his coat's pocket.
The security guards quickly followed the intruder's lead, pulling out their weapons as well. "Drop it!" one of them yelled.
Foreman visibly paled as he saw the number of guns that had suddenly materialized inside the hospital room, a place that was supposed to be safe. He quickly realized that his foolish dash in to the patient's room may had just cost him his life. He was trapped in the crossfire if either side decided to start shooting. The security guards behind him couldn't do anything to protect him and by the time the police arrived, he could either be dead or on his way there.
The whole event looked nothing short of surreal to Foreman. In what he believed to be his last moments, Eric looked at the patient he had so unsuccessfully tried to save.
For a forty-five year older, the man had a precocious head-full of white hair. The skin of his face had a leathery look about it, the type you usually see in a person who spends most of his time outdoors. The lack of abundance of wrinkles around his eyes and mouth told Foreman that not much of that time had been spent laughing.
The patient was already unconscious when he had arrived at the room, probably in respiratory arrest, but Foreman never had the time to even check. The killer had turned on him the second he had slide the glass door open, backhanding him with such force that the younger man had crashed against the ventilator machine standing next to the bed, just in case it was needed.
The irony was that the patient was probably in need of one now, but no one could move to intubate him and hook him up to it.
The other irony of the situation was that Foreman, a guy who had always prided himself to be reasonable and pondered in his actions, was about to die because of a patient whose name he didn't even knew. A complete stranger.
He would've laughed out loud if there wasn't for the gun in his face.
The gunshot inside the small room was so that the glass walls shook and threatened to shatter under the onslaught of sound. Foreman closed his eyes the second he heard the blast, waiting for the pain to hit him.
With his ears ringing, he barely registered the sound of a body hitting the ground. It was the shout of 'all clear' that one of the security guards yelled too near his head that convinced him that he was still alive and that he should open his eyes again.
The killer was on the ground, a growing halo of blood surrounding his head. Someone had opened the window's blinds and the bright sun light came in to the room like an intruder, making everything seem even more brutal and harsh, painting the whole gruesome scene in colors that looked too vivid and raw.
A spongy grey matter, that Foreman assumed to be part of the killer's brain, was barely clinging to the far wall, the only one made of concrete. It was slowing sliding towards the floor, but no one seemed to notice it.