A/N: This is a response to an invitation from Neemps for people to finish her suspenseful story, "Malice." You must read that story first for this to make any sense at all. Thanks, Neemps, for the challenge!
Several days later.
He did his work, just as well as always, while he watched and waited. He carried things, he pushed wheelchairs, he did exactly as he was asked—after all, it wouldn't do to attract any attention to himself. Not when his plan was so close to coming together.
It had just been a fluke, last time, that things hadn't worked as he'd planned. She'd drunk the coffee, but the drug had taken its full effect just before he was supposed to meet her for their rendezvous. So Rosella—his sweet, perfect Rosella—had been found by somebody else, and whisked off to be cared for as a patient.
That's not what was supposed to have happened.
And then those idiot firemen had gotten to the coffeepot before he could take care of it. He'd seen those two guys around before—a lot, actually—but he was sure they'd never noticed him. He was good at blending in to the surroundings, dissolving into the background, just like all good predators can.
No, that's not what was supposed to have happened at all. He didn't care about the firemen—they'd be fine; it was just a little Dilaudid. Hospital heroin, some called it. But for Rosella to have been found by that bitchy blonde head nurse with the stupid name, and then scooped up by that resident—the one with the tattoo that was barely even visible on his dark brown skin (what could he have been thinking, anyhow?)—well, that was unacceptable. He was supposed to have been with her when she got sleepy—then he would have taken her home, and married her.
He'd had the wedding dress all ready. It had been his mother's, but was just Rosella's size. He'd bought the rings weeks ago—even before she'd said she'd "have to think about it." And they wouldn't need a priest, or a minister, or a judge—in the eyes of the Universe, they were married already, so what was the point?
So he'd made a fool-proof plan this time. He figured, correctly, that she would probably stay away from the lounge coffee for quite a while. Stuff tasted like shit anyhow. Hell, she probably wouldn't want any coffee for a while.
The Dilaudid was bitter, but you could hide pretty much anything in a tuna sandwich. They had lunch together most days anyhow, so it would be easy to make sure Rosella's lunch disappeared from the fridge, and then offer to share his lunch with her. He made sure the lettuce was sticking out from the drugged sandwich, and not from the other—that way there would be no mistakes. They'd have lunch outside, near where he'd parked his car, and when she started to get sleepy, he'd just help her to his car and they'd go home, and she'd be done with the ridiculous "thinking about it."
How long did you have to think, for crying out loud?
Then, once they were properly married, she couldn't say "no" to him any more. It would be his right. Wouldn't it? Anyhow, she'd said she wouldn't sleep with him unless they were married. So it goes to figure that she would sleep with him if they were married. It seemed like sound logic to him.
And today was going to be the day—their wedding day.
He'd already removed her lunch from the staff fridge—that was ridiculously easy. Way easier than dosing the coffee pot, and way less risky. And she'd already agreed to have lunch with him today. And when he'd asked her to have lunch with him, the words he spoke aloud were "Wanna have lunch today, maybe on that bench under the trees by the parking lot?" but the words he'd been thinking in his head (the words that counted) were "Will you marry me, today, finally?"
So she'd already said yes, actually. It would surely all work out.
"I dunno, Roy; I still think you oughta try to get her to stay at a hotel. I mean, you even said she complains the whole time about how uncomfortable the guest room bed is—which I have to disagree with, since I've stayed there plenty. So why can't Joanne just offer to put her mother up in a hotel when she comes? Sure, it'd cost ya, but wouldn't it be worth it?" Johnny leaned on the counter at the nurses' station as he made his case for banishing Roy's mother-in-law.
Roy sighed and shook his head as he packed the supplies into a cardboard box. "You just don't get it, Johnny. Even if Joanne offers to put her up in a hotel, my mother-in-law will know—she'll somehow know—that I'm the one trying to get rid of her. And even if she sleeps in a hotel, she'll still be around aaaaaaall day on my days off. So I'm better off just saving the money, and just trying to learn to live with it."
"Well, you can come stay at my place if it gets too bad," Johnny offered. "Even though that didn't go so great last time. I promise—I'll try not to be so annoying this time."
"Thanks, Johnny. I'll think about it."
An orderly and a nurse walked by the desk together, just as Roy was finishing packing up the box.
"C'mon, Rosella. You said we could have lunch outside!"
"Jimmy, it's a hundred degrees, and the smog is terrible, and I just don't feel like it, okay? So let's just go back to the lounge, and we can share your sandwiches there. It's really sweet of you to share. I sure wonder who nabbed my lunch, though."
Johnny and Roy looked at each other as the couple walked by.
"Rosella?" Johnny whispered to Roy. "You think she's the other one who got doped up the other day? I mean, it's not that common of a name."
"Probably," Roy said.
"You think we should talk to her? I mean, see what we might all have in common, that would make someone wanna poison all three of us? Maybe we could, I dunno, solve the case or somethin'."
"Probably not," Roy said, rolling his eyes. "I think you watch too much TV, if you're thinking that way."
"Wait a second!" Johnny protested. "I don't watch all that much—"
The team was saved from an argument by the beeping of the handi-talkie.
"Squad 51, woman with severe laceration, 1158 Hancock Ave, 1-1-5-8 Hancock, cross street Morris. Time out: 1203."
"Man, that better be one heck of a laceration," Johnny said, as they exited the ER, "'cause you could walk here from there! That's just around the corner!"
"Well, it's not up to us. C'mon, let's go," Roy said.
They arrived at the house, and the laceration did indeed appear to be quite deep. Roy controlled the bleeding with pressure, and the ambulance transported their patient a ridiculous two blocks to the ER at Rampart, while Johnny drove the squad back to the hospital. Johnny parked the squad, and helped Roy and the ambulance attendants unload their patient and move her to a treatment room. Roy went back to the nurses' station, as Johnny picked up some equipment they'd left behind after their last run.
"Well, that was quick," said Dixie. "Weren't you two just here?"
Roy looked at the clock. "Yep—sixteen minutes ago. Our last run was literally around the corner."
Johnny peered around the corner by the nurses' station. "Hey, Roy—I'm starved. You wanna grab something at the cafeteria and have a quick lunch before we get another run?" Johnny said, not appearing to notice Dixie on the other side of the counter.
"Always thinking with your stomach," Roy said, shaking his head. "But yeah, Chet's making lunch, and I honestly don't think I can choke down his corned beef sandwiches, so let's go."
"And I don't always think with my stomach," Johnny complained. "In fact, last shift, I believe you accused me of always thinking with—"
"Have a good lunch, boys," Dixie said, cutting Johnny off before he could embarrass himself.
"Huh? Oh, hi, Dix," Johnny said, blushing. "Uh, yeah—we're gonna go have lunch."
Roy towed him down the corridor to the cafeteria. They passed the staff lounge, where Rosella Isenberg was just finishing a delicious tuna sandwich, and where her boyfriend Jimmy was trying to figure out what to do next.
Roy and Johnny went through the long line of the cafeteria, and then ate their food quickly. They'd learned long ago to eat as quickly as possible when they were on duty. Johnny, though, was an expert in the subject, and finished before Roy did.
"I'm gonna go hit the men's room," he said. "I'll meet you at the squad, okay?"
"All right," said Roy. "I'm almost done."
Johnny headed back towards the ER. As he walked down the corridor, he saw the same couple he and Roy had seen earlier. This time, though, the man was supporting the woman, who looked half asleep. Johnny ducked into the men's room, leaving the door open a crack so he could see what was going on. To his reportedly TV-addled brain, the situation looked mighty suspicious. He was sure Roy would laugh at him, but he had to see what was happening.
Johnny saw the man look back and forth down the empty corridor, and then observed the man opening a supply closet with a key off a ring on his belt. It looked like the woman—Rosella, he remembered—could barely stand up on her own.
Johnny decided his business in the men's room could wait. He rushed over to the nurses' station. Dixie was still there.
"Hey, Dix?" he said casually.
"Yeah, Johnny?" Dixie barely looked up from her paperwork.
"I just saw something, I dunno, suspicious, I guess."
She looked up. "Suspicious? How so?"
Johnny hesitated. Maybe Roy was right. Maybe he did watch too much TV. He was all for a little fun in a supply closet, but there was something that didn't look quite right about that girl.
"Well … first of all, how many Rosellas are there in this ER?" he asked.
"Uh, just the one—she's doing just fine, by the way. Came back to work yesterday, and she's working again today. No ill effects—just like you."
"'Cause I just saw her—I mean, I think it was her—going into a supply closet with some guy. Normally I would say that was none of my business, you know? But she looked really … I dunno … I almost think she looked doped up," Johnny said reluctantly. "I don't wanna make a big deal of somethin' that's probably nothin', but it just didn't look right."
Without replying to Johnny, Dixie immediately picked up the phone. "Page security to the ER nurses's station, stat!" she spoke into the phone. "Come on, we can't wait for them to show up!" She grabbed Johnny's arm, and rushed him down the corridor to the supply closet.
It was locked.
"Do you have a key?" Johnny asked Dixie.
"No! This is a maintenance closet, so I don't have one," she said anxiously. "Where's security, damn it?"
"Hang on," said Johnny. He grabbed a thin metal tool from one of the pockets on his utility belt, and shoved it between the door and the frame. He worked the far end down and in behind the latch, and gently tugged the doorknob with his other hand. After a few seconds of working the tool around the latch, the door popped open.
Rosella Isenberg was lying there on the floor, unconscious, her white skirt pushed up above her waist. The orderly, kneeling above her, turned to Johnny and Dixie.
"It's all right," he said flatly. "We just got married, you see." He held up her limp arm, and pointed to the ring he'd just placed on her finger.
Dixie started to rush into the closet to help the woman.
"Dixie, don't!" Johnny exclaimed, restraining her. He could see the man reaching into his pocket for something, and he had no idea whether it was a weapon. All his instincts told him it wasn't safe to approach. He backed up, pulling Dixie with him, as the man pulled something metallic out of his pocket.
But it was just another gold band, which the man slipped onto his own finger.
"See?" He looked up calmly. "Everything's in order."
Just then, two black-clad security guards tore around the corner.
"Grab him!" Johnny said, pointing to the orderly.
The security guards looked at the unconscious woman on the floor, dragged the man out of the closet and pinned him to the ground. Johnny ran into the closet and started assessing the woman's condition.
"Dix—her respirations are severely depressed," Johnny said, alarmed.
"What did you drug her with?" Dixie shouted at the man.
The man didn't answer.
"Search him, quickly!" Dixie ordered the guards.
They both hesitated.
"What are you waiting for!" she shouted.
"Anything we find on him that way might be inadmissible in court as evidence," one guard said. "We're not cops."
"It doesn't matter—this could be a life-and-death situation," said Dixie. "If you don't want to search him, just hold him down and I'll do it."
"Suit yourself," said one of the guards. They rolled him over so Dixie could go through his pockets. She quickly pulled a medicine bottle out, and held it up.
"Dilaudid," she said.
Two orderlies, summoned by some bystanders, came over with a gurney.
"Quick—get her to a treatment room," said Dixie. "I'll go find a doctor."
Johnny and the orderlies loaded the woman onto the gurney, and rushed her to Treatment 4. Johnny grabbed a bag valve mask and started ventilating.
"Grab an IV pack from that cabinet there," Johnny said to one of the orderlies. "I have a feeling we're gonna need it."
Seconds later, Dixie rushed in behind Dr. Brackett.
"Johnny, start up that IV, will you? Dix, start with 2 milligrams naloxone, and get it in her stat," Brackett ordered. "I'll intubate and get her on a ventilator."
Two minutes later, the woman had an IV in one arm, an endotracheal tube down her throat, and a ventilator attached to the tube. Everyone stood back and breathed, waiting for the naloxone to counteract the narcotics she'd been drugged with.
"That was a close call," said Dr. Brackett. "Get a blood sample down to the lab, Dix. I want levels on that Dilaudid. Do we know how he got it into her?"
"Doc," Johnny said, "I heard her say somethin' to the guy about how someone stole her lunch, and how sweet it was that he was gonna share his sandwiches with her."
Brackett frowned, his trademark eyebrows knitting spectacularly. "All right—Dix, help me set up for gastric lavage. Johnny, would you mind taking the blood sample down to the lab?"
"Sure, Doc," said Johnny. "You all done with me?" he asked on his way out.
"I think we've got it from here," said Dr. Brackett. "I think your instinct probably saved this woman's life today," he continued.
"And how you got that door open so fast," Dixie added. "I've never seen that done before."
"Tools and tricks of the trade," Johnny said. "I better go—Roy's gonna be waiting in the squad." He shook his head. "And he's never gonna believe any of this."
"Well, just send him by my office on your next trip here," Brackett said.
"Oh, you bet I will," Johnny said, hanging on to the door. "Because he'll accuse me of making this whole thing up. Since, according to him, I watch too much TV, and don't think with my brain." He walked out, whistling the theme from "Hawaii Five-O," and nearly collided with Roy as he turned to look at a pretty nurse.
"Oh, hey, Roy. You won't believe what just happened."