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Threat of Darkness

By:Valerie Hansen

Threat of Darkness - Valerie Hansen


ONE

The keening wails echoing down the usually quiet halls of the Serenity Medical Center made the hair on the back of Samantha Rochard’s neck prickle. Every natural instinct told her to flee. Instead, her experience as a registered nurse sent her racing toward the sound of misery.

 A doctor, white coat flying behind him, shoved her aside and burst through the curtain into an E.R. exam cubicle. She heard him start to speak. Then, his words were abruptly cut off.

 A sixth sense brought Samantha to a skidding halt before the weighted curtain had stopped swinging behind him. Was that scuffling? Fighting? A thud?

 She peeked through a slit between the panels. Dr. Weiss, the physician who had elbowed her out of his way, lay on the floor, moaning. A thin, scraggly figure she judged to be male stood with his back to her. The only thing about him that caught her attention and held it was the small, silver-colored revolver he was waving.

 Samantha wheeled and flattened herself against a nearby wall. Hands trembling, she pulled out her cell phone, called 911 and cupped her hands around the instrument to muffle her speech.

 “We need help at the medical center. Hurry.”

 “What’s the nature of your emergency, ma’am?”

 “I don’t know.” Samantha wanted to shout instead of whispering. “I heard a scream and…”

 When the dispatcher interrupted to ask, “Is that you again, Ms. Rochard?” she figured her report wasn’t going to be taken seriously. So what else was new?

 “Look,” Samantha said, “we’ve got a guy in our E.R. with a gun. Isn’t that enough?”

 “Okay. Stay where you are and let us handle it.” There was a rumble of conversation and beeping noises in the background before the dispatcher returned. “We have units on the way. Stay on the line with me.”

 Samantha was about to reply when someone grabbed a fistful of her shoulder-length, dark hair and jerked her off her feet. The cell phone hit the floor with a splintering crack. She was being dragged backward into the exam area where Dr. Weiss lay!

 Her scalp felt as though it was on fire. She couldn’t think. Couldn’t reason. All she could do was keep screaming “No! No!” and try to regain her balance enough to fight back.

 The attacker flung her aside like a sack of dirty laundry. She landed hard. The instant she looked up she knew who had manhandled her. It was one of the teenage Boland boys. What’s his first name? Why can’t I remember? Marty, Jimmy, Bobby? It was Bobby. Bobby Joe. At least that sounded right.

 Shying away while her thoughts whirled, Samantha stared at the young man in the tattered jeans and T-shirt. His eyes were wide and darting, their pupils dilated. He was under the influence for sure, which made him even more unpredictable. His demeanor reminded her of an animal caught in the jaws of a steel trap and willing to chew its own leg off to escape.

 She licked her lips and found her voice. “Hey, it’s me. Samantha Rochard. You’re—you’re Bobby Joe, right? I used to go to school with your big sisters. Remember?”

 His eyes flickered. His body was shaking so uncontrollably his hand kept jerking. The hand with the gun in it. “I—I know,” he stammered. “I came to see you ’cause you’re a nurse.”

 “Okay. I’m here,” Samantha said with forced calm. “I’m going to get up now, Bobby. Will you let me do that?”

 His nod was quick, twitchy. “Yeah.”

 Using the edge of the exam table to steady herself she kept her concentration on the teen’s face, waiting for him to do something else irrational thanks to his drug-induced paranoia. The biggest plus of the whole situation was the fact that she knew all of the Boland kids had been raised with strong morals and lots of love, even if they hadn’t had much else.

 Samantha took a deep, settling breath and squared her shoulders. “I’m listening,” she told the skinny, long-haired teen. “Why did you want to see me?”

 He stepped aside so Samantha could view the occupant of the narrow gurney for the first time. A homemade quilt wrapped a frail, blond child about two years old. The little body lay quiet. Too quiet.

 Whipping her stethoscope from around her neck she pushed the teen aside, threw back the edges of the quilt and began to check the child’s vital signs. There was a heartbeat! Thank You, God.

 “What happened?” she demanded.

 “I don’t know. I was just watchin’ him for a friend and…”

 “How long? How long has he been like this?”

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