Under the Gun
Healing the sick took on a whole new meaning this last Friday at the Princeton-Plainsborough Teaching Hospital when an armed gunman took a waiting room hostage. Barricading himself in an office, the gunman made his only demand: to be seen by the best doctor in the hospital. Little did he know, he was already in the group. Dr Gregory House, a world renowned diagnostician was occupying the office when the gunman stormed in. Dr. House, Dr. Hadley and nine clinic patients found themselves at the mercy of an ill man, desperate for answers…
But what? Backspacing, she pounded on the keyboard harder than necessary as she spaced all the way back to the beginning. There. Nothing but a title, now. The cursor blinked lazily on the screen, as though it were mocking her. Blank. Blank. Blank. Biting her lip, she sighed heavily and rubbed her forehead in irritation. Glancing at the clock, she closed her eyes and pushed away from her desk. Interview the guy, Jim had said. Get his story on paper, his face on the cover. Famous Doctor Saves Lives. Hell, he'd said, if the guy's a total nutcase it'll sell even more. There could be a Pulitzer in it. For thirty six long hours, the gunman had bullied Dr. House and the other hostages for an answer to his illness. Numerous tests were performed, various treatments were tried before the gunman had his answer and gave himself up. Only after he had been taken into custody did the story come out that one man had been shot, and the other doctor in the group had suffered complications from numerous drug interactions when the gunman had forced her to take every medication before it was given to him. Dr. House himself had been in rough shape when they'd finally been released; he suffered from an unknown chronic condition and had been deprived of his pain medication for over thirty-two hours. He'd been admitted, and sequestered in a private room. Per the hospital's PR staff, Dr House wouldn't be giving a statement until he'd been released—which was expected to be later in the week. She sighed heavily as she gathered her coffee cup and rose to her feet. Three phone interviews with the hospital's dean of medicine, the President of Princeton University and Princeton-Plainsborough's PR department had revealed very little new information about Dr. House. Or at least, nothing beyond his profile on the hospital's website. To catch the eye, there needed to be something special about Dr. House. Some mysterious trait that people could identify with. She'd hoped for a personality trait. The guy read to sick blind kids in his spare time. Rescued cats from trees. Researched the cure for cancer. Something.
Instead, everyone seemed reluctant to say anything about him—other than reiterating his brilliance as a doctor. Her own research had proved equally frustrating. That didn't bode well for a feel-good piece about a heroic doctor saving the lives of his fellow victims.
She let her feet lead her to the cafeteria, and swiped her badge before tugging the door open. Her eyes lit upon the coffee pot and she trudged toward it eagerly, holding her mug out. She thrust it eagerly beneath the spout and filled it to the brim. Holding the mug beneath her nose, she inhaled appreciatively and sipped impulsively. Better. Feeling the warmth spread from her nose to her toes, she wrapped her hands around the mug and cradled it close. Sinking down at a table, she tucked her feet beneath her and waited, listening intently to the low murmur of conversations. Having been chained to her desk for most of the morning, she felt the tension drain out of her as she sat soaking in the warmth of the coffee and the soothing murmur of voices. She felt her thoughts drift away and she followed them; intangible feelings and images floated, unbidden in her mind. Dr. House's pale, stubbled face and piercing blue eyes stood out in her mind. His photo on the hospital's website had revealed a disheveled, yet handsome man with a depth of sorrow in his eyes that she could not erase from memory. What that meant, she couldn't put into words. Not yet, at any rate.
Glancing up with a frown, she met John's gaze evenly. "Hey."
"Hey." He sank down beside her, crossing his arms on the table. "How's the story coming?"
"It's not." She admitted, leaning back in the chair. "I can't get a good picture of the guy."
"Yeah. I interviewed three people and not one of them could tell me anything other than the guy's a genius."
"Isn't that usually how it works?" John asked, smirking at her.
"Well, yes." She conceded. "I did some more research and found out some pretty wild stuff on him. Do you know an ex-patient of Dr House's walked into his office and shot him twice at point blank range?"
"Wow." John blinked. "That how he ended up with the cane?"
"No, as far as I can tell he had that before. He's got a ton of complaints lodged against him—lots of lawsuits, that kind of thing. Not a single one of them is a malpractice suit. Apparently they never complained about his mistakes. Just his methods."
"Sounds like an interesting guy."
"Yeah." Carrie scrunched her nose and sighed again. "Not what I had in mind when I took this piece."
"Sure it is." John grinned at her. "You like the fact that this guy's a sinner and a saint."
Carrie stared at him, rolling her eyes. "I don't want to write this piece if the guy's a drug dealer who's into kiddie porn. I promised Jim that this'd be a feel-good piece."
John shrugged. "So lie."
Carrie glared at him. "I don't lie."
"Exaggerate." John reiterated. "Look, this guy might be an asshole. But he did diagnose the patient, and he did save the lives of those hostages by playing along. Even if there's nothing else, he did do that."
"I know." She sighed again. She sipped her coffee again, regretting leaving it to sit for so long when she tasted the cold grit. She forced herself to swallow, and distastefully pushed the mug away. Wiping her mouth, she shook her head. "I need to go down there, interview a few people."
"Think they'll tell you anything different?"
"I think it depends on who I talk to. Everyone who represents the hospital is determined to present him as a pet genius who does nothing but good. His patients—as evidenced by the complaints—seem to think he's Dr Jekyll. Who knows what his colleagues will say if asked?"
John shrugged, though a smile played on his lips. "I expect you'll find a lot out about this guy. Don't know how much of it you'll be able to use, or even like."
"He's a world famous doctor. How horrible could he be?" she asked sharply.
John smirked. "I don't know about you, but I'm betting the guy's a real asshole."