[5-06-2013] After the (new) cliffie...
Walsh's phone began to ring. When he answered, even Bella could hear a loud scream on the other end.
Her knees buckled as she recognized her father's voice.
Walsh dashed toward the observation room, Bella hot on his heels. But when she tried to follow him into the gallery, a guard blocked her way. She struggled against Eric's massive frame to no avail.
"Let me through!" she screamed. "My father could be in danger."
"No way." Eric guided her toward a secluded room. "He told me to keep anybody but Walsh out. Please, Bella, you need to calm down. Your father is okay."
"How can you know that?"
"He isn't the one in danger. From what I could tell, Lee's the one who fainted."
Walsh recoiled as he entered the observation gallery. He was heading toward the window, sure that Edward had done something terrible; but the first thing he saw was his colleague curled on the floor.
Charlie was crouched beside Lee, trying to help him to breathe. "He'd just gotten here when he began to scratch himself," he explained. "He said it must have been a mosquito, but then hives started breaking out all over his hands."
Lee was shaking. He brought his hands to his throat. His lips were swollen, and he couldn't speak.
"Could he have eaten something he's allergic to?" Walsh asked.
"As far as I know, he hasn't eaten anything since this morning."
"Check for iodine!" Edward's yell made them whip their heads toward the cell.
"The intercom," Walsh muttered. "It's still on, and the freak heard everything."
He reached out to shut it off, but Edward spoke again. "He needs epinephrine, stat."
"Shut up," Walsh seethed at him.
You moron. Edward clenched his jaw. Do they deserve my help? "Can't you see he's gone into an anaphylactic shock?"
"Says who? Are you playing doctor now?"
Charlie put a hand on Walsh's arm, silencing him. "What should we do?"
"Did he go to the restroom before coming here?" Edward asked.
The question made Charlie frown, but he answered anyway. "He might have."
"He might be having an allergic reaction to iodine, though such a strong one is highly unusual. It's an ingredient in some soaps, so he might have been exposed to it that way. If Lee knows he's allergic, he should be carrying some epinephrine with him," Edward replied. "Search for a syringe or a pen with an auto-injector."
"He often leaves his briefcase in the meeting room, right?" Swan asked his assistant. "Go look for it."
Walsh quirked an eyebrow at his boss. "You're actually going to listen to this freak? What if it's a trick—what if he's trying to hold us up? Why would he know anything about what soap we use in the restroom?"
"Do you have any better suggestions?" Charlie retorted.
Lee squirmed, panting to get more air.
"I'll go," Charlie muttered, rising quickly to his feet. He pushed past Walsh on his way out the door, breaking into a run once he reached the hall.
Walsh glared at Edward. "How would you guess that he's allergic to iodine or to anything else, for that matter?"
Edward turned his back on him. He wasn't about to tell the bastard that he knew it from Lee himself; his frantic thoughts had been bombarding him, unwittingly revealing that he was allergic to high doses of iodine. A new brand of soap had recently been bought for the restrooms, and in his hurry, Lee had forgotten to check the label.
Have I made the right choice? Edward asked himself. He'd spent more years as a doctor than any of the people at the lodge had spent doing their own jobs. Not once had he had any doubt about saving a life. But in that situation, telling them that he knew what was wrong with Lee and how to treat him meant he risked exposing his mindreading abilities. If they found out about that, he had no doubt that they'd try to exploit it. It might even mean more interest from the government when they were eventually informed, and a greater chance that word about him would get out. And if the Volturi discover what's happening...if they come to the lodge... Edward shuddered. Should the vampires who ruled his world find out that all of these humans knew about immortals, let alone his special talent, they would waste no time in wiping out the lodge and every human inside it as if it were an anthill marring their garden. Bella. He had to keep her safe, but every visit to him put her in further danger. And yet, he'd promised her that he would tell her everything he knew about her mother's killer.
"If you're messing with us..." Walsh threatened.
"What would you do, then?" Edward snapped. "Don't give him the epi if you don't believe me. I hope you can perform a tracheotomy in time to save your colleague's life."
"Why? Could you do it? What else are you keeping from us?"
Charlie ran in, holding an EpiPen. Edward stayed turned toward the opposite wall, as if he didn't care about what was going on, but through Charlie's and Walsh's thoughts he checked how they were giving Lee the epinephrine.
Damn. It has to work. That was Charlie's mind; his heart was slamming against his ribcage at the mere thought that he could lose one of his men.
How could he know? Walsh couldn't believe his eyes as Lee slowly overcame the attack, his breathing returning to normal.
Charlie let out a sigh of relief and helped Lee to stand. "We need to call an ambulance."
"How would you explain the accident to the paramedics?" Walsh protested. "Are you planning on disclosing what we do here?"
Charlie nodded toward Lee. "Is that what you're worried about, after the danger he was in a moment ago?"
"I-it's okay." Lee breathed in. "I've had mild attacks before." He took another gulp of air. "But never this bad."
"Are you really allergic to iodine?" Walsh asked.
His colleague gave him a nod. "Yes, but only if it's in high doses. I'm sensitive to seafood, too, but never had an attack due to iodine before."
Walsh lowered the tone of his voice. "So how could he have found out about it?" He indicated Edward with a subtle nod.
Edward rolled his eyes. Hadn't the dumbass understood that he could hear them all perfectly well even with the intercom switched off?
A crease formed between Lee's eyebrows as he stared down at Edward. "Dunno. But he saved my life, and that's enough."
"Could he have overheard you talking about your allergy?" Walsh pressed.
"Let it go," Charlie cut in. "Lee, I'm taking you to a hospital for a check-up, okay? Unless you want to call an ambulance right now."
He shook his head. "I'm already feeling better. We can go to a hospital in Seattle for a check-up, but there's no need for an ambulance to come here."
It doesn't end here, Walsh thought, shooting a last glance at Edward before leaving the room. When Lee left the observation gallery, the vampire wondered if he'd been his last patient after such a long career.
Edward had indulged himself in a long struggle with his prey. The bear had been the biggest animal he'd found in ages, and he'd taken his time with it. He walked slowly toward the cliff where he'd left his clothes before abandoning himself to his predatory instincts. His belly felt full, and the everlasting burn in his throat was reduced to a mild dryness. As the blood he'd taken from the bear spread through his body, it warmed him and relaxed his stony muscles.
He stopped at the top of the cliff. There was no sun, but the sky wasn't too cloudy, and the air was crisp. Edward closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He opened his arms and stepped forward, until he was perched on two slippery stones at the edge. Just a single step, and he would fall into the deep ravine in front of him. Anyone who had lain eyes on him in that moment would have thought him the living manifestation of a Greek hero. His body was lean and sculpted, and the pale hue, slightly flushed by the recent nourishment, was that of a fine marble statue.
With a swift motion, he bowed. He stilled in that new position, which resembled that of an athlete on the starting line. His gaze traveled down the walls of the narrow valley before him, taking in the sheer outcroppings of rock and the twisted vegetation which clung to the steep incline. At the bottom, the shimmering curves of a creek meandered lazily among the trees.
The landscape made him think of the different paths opening in front of him in those days. He had new opportunities – the chance to fulfill a dream and put his talents to use. But in order to succeed, he would have to put himself on trial, testing his ability to mingle with humans without raising suspicions and his control over his bloodlust to the utmost.
He paused. Carlisle's shift at the hospital was due to be over soon, and his father had told him he would read his work that evening. Edward grimaced at the idea of being around while Carlisle evaluated what he'd written. There was no way he would be able to resist taking a peek at his thoughts.
Continuing on the path he'd begun to discuss with his mentor would be akin to jumping off that cliff. An initial moment of fear–even though his mind was used to the idea that he was unbreakable, there were times when he did something that would have killed him as a human, when he felt a light tension bubbling in his guts. Then, excitement would follow–a full, refreshing explosion of emotions.
What would he choose?
He grinned as he made up his mind, his eyes already sparkling with enthusiasm. He stood again and, with a sudden leap, he threw himself in the ravine.
It was late at night when he entered the gate of the detached house where he and his father lived on the outskirts of New Haven. Carlisle must have heard his approach because he shielded his thoughts, mentally singing an old French song he had probably learned in the years he'd spent at the Sorbonne.
"So?" Edward asked him as soon as he opened the door.
The wide smile his mentor gave him was the best answer he could have received.
"Your dissertation is brilliant, Edward. It's so innovative and well-documented that it will open new lines of research in psychiatric studies, and I'm sure Yale's professors will agree with me."
Edward grinned. "Residency it is, then?" This wasn't his first degree in medicine, but it would be his first residency. He had never gotten that far in the past, since he had never considered becoming a surgeon, like Carlisle; but in recent months he'd entertained the idea of becoming a psychiatrist, and perhaps starting his own practice.
"Absolutely." He clapped his son on the shoulder. "You'll make a wonderful doctor." His thoughts went back to the night in Italy when he'd met the human who would become the first and only vampire he'd changed. "A great deal has been taken from you, but now you have so much you can give, beginning with the help you'll offer to your patients."
They'd lived in the New World for more than a century; back in those times, they'd known of America only through books or the accounts of those who had visited that distant world. Now it was their home. They'd seen the world change for better or for worse, a prime example of the latter being the horrific World Wars they'd witnessed. The second World War had finished ten years earlier, and life for the humans around them had gone back to normal, often with new enthusiasm and new perspectives.
"Maybe we'll be colleagues at the same hospital, sooner or later."
Carlisle beamed at his son. "I count on it."
Edward followed Bella's heartbeat as she moved through the lodge. Eric had told her to wait for Charlie in the hall, and she ran toward her father as soon as he and Lee emerged from the lower levels. Charlie paused to give her a brief explanation of what had happened and to tell her that he was taking Lee to the hospital, just to be safe.
"Don't let anyone enter the gallery until I'm back," he told Eric.
Bella's face fell. "Is Edward all right?" she asked him in a low voice.
Charlie nodded. "What happened has nothing to do with him," he mumbled. Lee's accident could have occurred anywhere, and although Edward's intervention had been crucial, he couldn't discuss it with his daughter right then. "I'd be more at ease knowing that you're home, instead of here," he suggested on his way out.
Edward hoped that Bella would follow her father's advice, but it didn't happen. That scumbag Walsh sidled up to her as soon as they were alone in the hall.
He offered her a cup of coffee. "Rough day for you, huh?"
She was already walking away, but stopped in her tracks and accepted the steaming cup from his hands. "I guess it was the same for you."
Edward tensed. As long as he'd been observing her, Bella had always cut short Walsh's attempts to begin a conversation.
Walsh shrugged. "We're used to the stress. I knew what was I getting myself into when I chose this career."
Did you? Edward mocked. Did you take many classes on vampire psychology, then? Walsh's thoughts had often betrayed how the generous salary Charlie had offered him had been the main motivation for devoting himself to the job, more than any noble reason.
"I imagine it must be tough, not having many people with whom you can talk about what you've seen and done here." Bella's attempt at coaxing information out of Walsh might have made Edward smile, had she been trying it on anyone besides the prick.
"It gets to you sometimes," Walsh agreed. "Having to keep the secret. Not that I'd want to spend all of my time off talking about work," he added in a lower voice, his gaze drifting downward from Bella's face.
Edward let out a low growl as he witnessed the unfolding fantasy in Walsh's dirty mind.
"I gather there have been problems with the subject?" Bella tried again, steering the conversation back on the track she wanted. The professional tone she'd used didn't go unnoticed by Edward. She'd always called him by name, so being defined as "the subject" felt strange, but it was the best choice she could have made right then. If the bastard had sensed that Bella cared for the vampire they were studying–Is it so? Edward wondered–he might have taken it as a threat, in more ways than one. The last thing they needed was for Walsh to see him as a rival for Bella's attention. Who knows what that aspiring prima donna might devise?
Walsh scoffed. "The danger that monster poses is an ongoing problem. Our task here is risky, but it's worth our efforts if it means we can keep people safe."
"Did he try to harm someone? My father or you?" Bella already knew the answers, but she wanted to keep him talking.
"Not this time. But when I think about all the people he's killed...how many more would he have attacked if we hadn't caught him?"
In his cell, Edward clenched his fists at Walsh's false accusations. He wanted to shut out that viper's thoughts, but his need to see Bella's reaction helped him to overcome his revulsion and stay focused on the man's obnoxious mind.
She paled, listening to what Walsh was implying. "Do you think he's a killer?"
"Think? I'm sure he is."
"Is he responsible for any homicide in particular?" Her voice trembled.
"I can't tell you more, but it's only a matter of time before we'll find out."
Bella bowed her head and remained silent. Even with her thoughts hidden from him, Edward could guess the questions creeping through her mind. I haven't lied to you. And I've never killed a human. He wanted to tell her those words again and again until she believed him. He wanted to hold her in his arms, reassuring her that if he had any role in her pain it was because he would offer her whatever comfort he could, and not because he'd caused it.
"I'll leave you to your work, then," Bella said at length. "You're right, it's been a hard day. It's better if I go home."
Edward wondered if he would get the chance to tell her the rest of what he knew. But he was no longer certain if that knowledge was the best thing he could give her. He couldn't help but wonder if distance would serve her better.
Thanks for reading!
No cliffies this time; a little teaser: Bella has Edward's drawing, and he told her, "I've always been fascinated by the rain, because every drop is unique." We'll find more about it in the next chapter.
In the chapter you've just read, I used an article from "Allergy 911-Prepare for Allergy Emergencies" for the part about Lee's anaphylactic shock.
About Edward's dissertation at Yale: "The M.D. thesis, a requirement at Yale since 1839, is a hallmark of the Yale curriculum. It is designed to develop critical judgment, habits of self-education, and the application of the scientific method to medicine. It also gives students a chance to work closely with faculty who are distinguished scientists, clinicians and scholars." (Source: Yale School of Medicine).
Thank you! to Snare's extraordinary prereaders/betas: Camilla10, SatinCoveredSteel, and Marlena516.
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