“Can take the lad out of Sheff...” was Hoxton’s boisterous reply.
“Really? And I suppose that thing about ‘If you’re not from Yorkshire, you’re a cunt’ is also just banter?” Footfalls of well-kept dress shoes rang off the parking lot floor as the group exited the van.
“Chains, please mate, never say ‘cunt’ again. It sounds wrong when you Yanks say it.”
“You two calm down. It’s time to work the angle. Floor 4?” Dallas’s voice choked to barely a level above whispering
“Yeah, Floor 4. ICU. That’s where they’ve got the quarantine set up.” confirmed Chains.
“And within a patient. And within the patient?”
“Money!” came Wolf’s enthusiastic reply.
“Well… basically.” Today the gang skipped the restrictive penguin suits and opted for a more functional look. Above their undershirts, a suit of military-grade kevlar armor, perfect for weathering the blows of any hero cops. And above that was the neutral pale baby green of doctor’s wear.
The group’s dress offered them immunity to the warding gazes of onlookers. Working the angle, they exited the staircase and walked with prescribed purpose down the ICU towards the quarantine zone. Seeing their arrival, the nurse working the door went to meet them with a sly smile.
“The specialists from out of town?” came a barely-disguised Irish brogue.
“Yes ma’am. Dr. Kerr, that’s me, uh, Dr. Poitier-”
“Hello”, replied Chains.
“Dr Gold, our friend from the NHS. And the esteemed Dr. Andersson.”
“Let me just check...” The nurse tapped random areas on the paper on the pad with her pen held horizontally, then lifted her head. “Yes, you’re all clear. Please, come on in.”
A crackling sound began to form in their ears, followed by it shorting out and finally being replaced with a familiar metallic-filtered voice.
“We’re in, but something has come up. Something big. You remember the GUILT outbreak of 2018? There was a doctor at the frontline of all that, and he’s a big thing in the medical world. Kind of like a celebrity, y’know? His name is Dr. Stiles. I’ll tell you when I see him. The big thing is, do not harm him in any way. It will not do the crew any favours.”
In the break room of the quarantine operation, Doctor Stiles supped the bitter milky concoction that had the audacity to call itself coffee, a brew that sort of festered in the bottom of the paper cup - not so much sitting in his hand as much as projecting so much hate that it was able to keep its place in space and time within the confines of Derek’s hand. At this point, a better experience would have been to have dumped coffee grounds straight down his throat. Derek, having no better alternatives, endured it. “Tyler was always saying he wanted to date an Irish girl. I wonder if I should introduce him to the nurse at the door?”
“Doctor Stiles, what’s with the sudden interest in Irish girls?”
“Well the nurse who makes the coffee tries to hide it but she’s definitely Irish. Like, born-in-Ireland Irish.”
“Born-in-Ireland Irish? I wasn’t aware there was a distinction.”
“Well I mean you have people who are born in Ireland and move here for work or something, and then you have people like… John McClane.”
“John McClane, the guy from Die Hard. He’s American, but you know in Die Hard 3 Simon Gruber calls him an ‘Irish flatfoot’. Obviously it probably means that his family was Irish.”
“Huh.” said Angie, not seeing the reason behind the inane babble.
“Anyway I wonder why she tries to hide it. It’s not like she’s the only Irish lady in America.” Angie’s internal bullshit-o-meter overflowed gently.
“Doctor Stiles, is there any point to this tangent? You’re going to be operating shortly and you’re talking about Die Hard and Irish girls.”
Derek paused for a moment. He opened his mouth to speak and he stopped. He shuffled his feet, looked at the floor and opened his mouth again. “I’m sorry Ange. I’m just… nervous. I know what I have to do but I’m not a fan of what happens if I fail.”
Angie felt bad for popping Stiles’ little ramble bubble. Stiles was her friend, and there were some choice words floating around the front of her head that she thought could bring him back. “It’s alright Dr. Stiles. We’re all human. But you’ve been called to do what you have to do. There’s about a million other doctors Caduceus could have sent, and they sent you. Someone must think you’re good enough.”
Derek cracked a smile, almost as if he’d heard it before. “Damn Angie, have you been talking with Bill?”
“It doesn’t matter. But it looks like enough people have faith in me that I’ve gotta step up.” Something caught Stiles’ eye. “One question.” He supped the last of his coffee, giving an off-hand pinky-point to the door of the ICU. “If I’m the doctor to do this, then who are those four?”
“Hmm?” replied Angie. Angie stood up and followed Derek’s line of sight to the group of doctors that had just entered the quarantine. “Backup team?” Angie placed the middle part of her index finger across her lips, nibbling the skin. “Can’t be. Caduceus didn’t send anyone else. CDC wouldn’t have sent anyone else.”
“Then who are they?”
Getting and working the angle had seemed too easy – too simple. But it had just been good planning on Bain’s part. All it took was a couple video files and a couple strongly worded unofficial e-mails to the right people and Clover had been posted as a nurse on the ICU. But the smallest hitch had developed in their plan. The CDC had done their homework. The ward was anonymized- no one knew who Patient Zero was. There were two other dummy bodies on the ward for the explicit purpose of fooling any malefactors who thought they could revitalize the concept of bioterrorism with a couple syringes and culture medium. The identity of the real Patient Zero was on a strict, verbal need-to-know basis between the multiple heads of the operation, and they were somewhere nearby enjoying whatever protection they had on offer. Luckily, Clover wasn’t your average Irish lass – making her own name on the streets of Dublin required sharp eyes and even sharper ears. She’d noted how some of the patients had breathing that seemed a little *too* constant, EKG’s that looked a little *too* stable, and lots of other bad juju that sent just the right amount of nope up Clover’s spine. But making a decision like this couldn’t just be based on the amount of heebie-jeebies she was feeling. She was a street lass, not a damned nurse – Dallas had to be the one to pull the trigger.
The corridor was tight and claustrophobic, and armed guards stood outside all three cubicles. It was nigh-on impossible to start any funny business without getting clipped by CDC enforcers. If they made the wrong move, it would be an age before they’d be able to get into the right cubicle.
Bain sprang to life inside their ears again. “Alright, so it’s basically a crapshoot on which cubicle is going to be the right one. That is, unless you’re smart. So bear with me. I got a guy, medical professional, knows what he’s doing for the right price. Now Dallas, I was banking on using that camera in your glasses to placate our $20 million contractor, but it seems it will take on a more practical purpose. This is a hospital, right? Hospitals keep regular medical records. Clover says they don’t trust her with anything more than making coffee, but Miss Angela Thompson? She’s their golden girl. She’s been responsible for posting all the numbers and keeping them in a classified file. Has to, she’s basically representing Caduceus. She has constant armed presence, and keeps them in a locked cabinet. You need to find some way to get a look at those files. Send the pics to me, and I’ll have my guy take a look.”
‘Some way to get a look at those files.’, the words rang inside his head as he viewed the scene in front of him. Dallas was already working on a plan. How would he lure the guards away? He pointed to Chains. “Dr. Poitier. Could I have a moment of your time?”
“Very well Dr. Kerr.” They both went to the last unused cubicle, a storage space for two hospital beds. They dropped their voices down to a dim whisper as Dallas brought out a conversation piece.
“You remember Dr. Ryan, and Dr. Catton, yes?”
“I remember. I seem to recall that that was quite the race-related issue.”
“Hmmm. I wonder if these guards have had their sensitivity training. You know what they say about people who couldn’t make it into neither the army nor the police force.”
“I can’t say I’d be excited to find out.”
“Then let’s not. Dr Gold?” Chains walked away, continuing to look around the ICU. Hoxton approached. A wry smile began to spread across Hoxton’s face.
“Please let’s not have a rerun of what happened in Colorado. I’d like to remind you to be careful of your colleagues, in particular, women.” said Dallas, sounding as genuine as he could.
“What can I say? I like they way they’re built.” Hoxton’s guffaw-illiciting reply came from a place he’d long grown out of.
Dallas’s next move felt bold- it also felt natural. Despite on-the-fly planning, Dallas couldn’t help but stir the pot a little. And when was it that medical doctors became public names? The man at the forefront of the battle of the GUILT epidemic – Dallas couldn’t help but add another famous face to the collection. Dallas moved down the ICU, effortlessly past the guards as if he was meant to be there. He approached the downcast Stiles, and suspicious Angie.
“Ah, you must be Dr. Stiles.”