So, kids, this is the latest experiment from yours truly. The challenge I gave myself for this one is to write a Bones whodunit – complete with red herrings, anti-heroes ,all that jazz. But don't worry, there will be plenty of B/B goodness in this one, I swear (even a bit of smuff, if you're good). It follows the events of The War in the Woods, picking up where that story left off. And so, we begin…
November 15, 2004
Dr. Rachel Martin stared at the open belly in front of her with a grimace, shifting from one foot to the other and cracking her long neck.
"Come on, Mona – you're killin' me here," she muttered, loud enough for the rest of the surgical team to hear her. She glanced at the clock, then back down at Mona Whitcomb's mangled bowel. It was nine-thirty – two hours into Mrs. Whitcomb's emergency surgery, following a head-on collision just off 405 earlier that evening.
"I get the feeling Mona here doesn't even care that it's my day off," Rachel continued, trying to keep her tone light.
Doug – or Dr. Murray, her right-hand man, and by far one of the best residents she'd ever had the pleasure of torturing – gave her a sympathetic smile.
"Yeah – the nerve of some people," he said dryly.
"We're gonna need to run that bowel again, Dr. Murray," she told him. "I don't want to miss another bleeder." She paused, waiting until he had a length of intestine in hand before continuing. "Do you know what I was doing thirteen years ago right around this time, Dr. Murray?"
She noted approvingly that he didn't look up from his work when he answered.
"Uh – giving birth, Dr. Martin?"
She nodded. Rachel wore green surgical scrubs that were now covered in Mona Whitcomb's blood and viscera, but even the outfit and surgical mask couldn't quite hide her good looks. She was trim, athletic, and competitive to a fault. At thirty-five, she'd become the youngest chief of surgery in Portland Presbyterian Hospital's history – a position she was just getting used to after nearly a year. It was one of many distinguished titles she'd earned over the years.
Rachel had always lived a charmed life. The only child of working class, devoted parents in upstate New York, she was taught early on that hard work was its own reward. She put herself through medical school, graduating suma cum laude from Johns Hopkins at the ripe old age of twenty-six. By that time, Rachel had already earned two of her biggest titles: wife and mother. She'd married Jim Martin, a fellow student three years her senior, just after finishing her undergraduate degree.
Abby was born when Rachel was twenty-four. For a couple of years there, life was madness – a haze of diapers and scrubs and exams she still didn't remember passing but somehow must have, because sure enough two years later she was a doctor. She and Jim would steal moments in the on-call room, making love once in the parking lot as she was getting off shift and he was going on… They would sleep in one morning a week with Abby between them, her baby fists curled in Rachel's hair, her small, soft body nestled at Jim's chest. Maybe it wasn't ideal, but somehow they muddled through and Rachel still sometimes got nostalgic for all that chaos, all that passion.
Around the time Abby turned three, the charm wore off. They were already living in Oregon then – both Jim and Rachel had done surgical rotations at Portland Presbyterian, and both had been offered jobs there when they were finished. Abby was sleeping through the night by then (in her own bed, even), both Jim and Rachel's jobs were going well, and Rachel's parents were even talking about relocating from New York to the Pacific Northwest in the next year – something Rachel desperately, desperately wanted.
But then January hit, and one night on the way home from playing bridge with another couple Rachel had known since childhood, her father's Le Sabre hit a slick of black ice and spun out of control.
And Rachel went from surgeon, wife, and mother, to surgeon, wife, mother, and orphan.
That same winter, Jim began having migraines – blinding ones that made him sick to his stomach and left him rung out and exhausted for days afterward. Three months after her parents' death, Rachel stood beside her husband in a neurologist's office, staring at a brainscan that she couldn't believe belonged to the man she loved.
Within a year, Rachel added widow to her long list of dubious titles of distinguishment.
That, however, was all water under the bridge, Muddy, painful water that Rachel would just as soon not spend any time in. Now, she had a perforated bowel on the table in front of her, a promising resident to guide, and a twelve-year-old daughter about to enter her teen years. And she really, really needed this surgery to be over.
"Do you know how long I was in labor, Ryan?" Rachel asked, raising her voice to include the anesthesiologist seated at Mona Whitcomb's head.
"Twenty-six hours, Dr. Martin?" Ryan asked. He was in his forties – a little soft around the edges, a little dull (there was a joke around the hospital that there was no one better suited to put someone to sleep than Ryan Jacobs), but reliable and good at his job. Which was all that mattered, really, as far as Rachel was concerned.
Rachel winced when she saw a bubble of deep red, oxygenated blood begin to seep from the exposed belly. "Heads up, Dr. Murray – you've got a fresh bleeder. Watch that last section of bowel, we may need to resect before the night's up." She suppressed the urge to push the resident out of the way and simply take over, returning her attention to Ryan instead.
"Twenty-six hours exactly, Ryan – I haven't told this story before, have I?"
Ryan rolled his eyes. In fact, everyone had heard this story countless times before – it was one of Rachel's favorites.
"Twenty-six hours of labor, people. For a breach birth – I bet I never told you that part, have I, Justin?"
Justin was the scrub nurse – he had a thing for Rachel. He was a good ten years her junior, but he was tall and well-built and frankly a lot of fun to have around. That was as far as it went these days – Rachel had way too many responsibilities to even consider scratching that itch. She'd gone on exactly one date in the past six months ago, and that one was last week. She wasn't due for another one until 2005.
Justin gave her that wolf-grin that made her wish she were younger and a little less jaded. "I think you might've mentioned it once or twice, Dr. Martin."
She nodded thoughtfully. "You ever try to pull an eight-pound, six ounce infant feet-first out of your vagina, Dr. Murray?"
Doug paused in his work to level a glance at her, his eyebrows raised. God, Rachel loved residents.
"Uh – can't say that I have, Dr. Martin."
She gave him a little smile and motioned him aside so she could inspect his work. "Well then, my friend, you clearly haven't lived yet."
An hour and a half later, Rachel was still standing over Mona Whitcomb's freshly resected bowel.
"All right, kids – third time's the charm. Let's run this bad boy one more time and get the hell home."
Doug looked at her and she could tell he was irritated – Saturday night, and no one actually wanted to be there. She checked the clock again: eleven fifteen.
Doug didn't argue, though – just stood silently by while Rachel re-checked his work. Her back ached, her feet hurt, and in forty-eight minutes she was supposed to be home to wake her daughter for her annual re-telling of Abby's Birth Story, a tradition Rachel had maintained for twelve years now. She'd be damned if Mona Whitcomb's bowel was going to keep her from making it thirteen.
Twenty minutes later, Rachel was satisfied that she'd done everything she could: if Mona passed now, it sure as hell wouldn't be from internal bleeding. Rachel sprinted down the bleached hallways of the teaching hospital, ignoring the amused glances of her colleagues as she stripped off her top before she'd even reached the locker room. Doug was behind her, jotting down notes while he walked, but he raised his head to call after her as she disappeared behind the double doors to change and head home.
"Tell Abby I said Happy Birthday."
In the parking lot, Rachel ignored the ever-present rain of Oregon in November, and headed straight for her car. The lot was almost completely empty, and the wet pavement shone like glass in front of her. It was eleven forty-two, but her house was only ten minutes away and traffic this late should be light. She tossed her duffel and briefcase into the backseat, and climbed behind the wheel. Normally, Rachel enjoyed this time of night. She liked how quiet it was, how much like home the hospital had come to feel after almost fifteen years working there. She liked the old brick building, the steep granite steps, the not-unwelcome feeling that ghosts – friendly ghosts, of course – walked with her, watched over her.
Tonight, though, she was more focused on getting home than on ghosts, friendly or otherwise. Which was why she didn't notice until she was almost at the hospital exit that someone was trying to flag her down.
Shit, shit, shit.
She flipped on the windshield wipers, squinting through the glass to make out who it was. When she recognized the figure, she sighed and glanced down at the digital clock on the console. Eleven forty-eight. It would be easy to just pretend she hadn't seen him – apologize on Monday, saying the weather was bad and she'd been in a rush. He would shrug off the apology, insisting that it hadn't been important anyway, and that would be that. Instead, Rachel slowed down.
Over the next sixteen hours, Rachel would relive that instant a thousand times. In her mind, she would ignore the ingrained inclination to be polite and responsible, likeable even… She would keep the window rolled up. She would have her cell phone beside her instead of in her briefcase in back. She would keep her foot on the gas, and never even go near that brake.
Sixteen hours to regret one fatal mistake.
Instead, Rachel slowed down and the man got closer. She rolled down her window; he leaned in. He smelled like aftershave – he'd showered after the surgery, and during that interminable sixteen hours Rachel would wonder if he had showered with this moment in mind.
"Is there something wrong?" she asked, trying not to sound too impatient.
She didn't see his other hand until it was too late – his fingers wrapped around the barrel of a gun, his arm flashing into her periphery too quickly for her to react before the butt of the gun connected with her temple, hard. The world swam, blurred. Vanished.
And Dr. Rachel Martin added one last title to her name.
So, there it is – the beginning. I know, I know: where's all the Bonesy goodness? Not to worry, they'll show up soon enough. In fact, I'm posting chapter one tonight as well, because I'm on a roll. Let me know if this caught your attention, though – if you're intrigued by the premise and interested in what happens next. And, of course, Thanks for Reading! - Jen