This segment of Obsessions is sort of a demonstration of how to get the reader to turn to the next page.
At ten fifteen, Susan pushed the med cart into the nurses' station. "If anyone wants me, I'll be in the back." Her feet ached. She needed the lift a cup of coffee would bring.
When the unit secretary turned in her chair, her red hair swirled like a matador's cape. "Bad news," Kit Carbonari said. "When I got back from break, I found a note about an admission. Guess who has the empty bed? It's a seventy-year-old with a fractured hip."
"Murphy's Law," Susan mumbled. No break tonight. The next half-hour would be spent with the new patient. She abandoned the med cart in the middle of the nurses' lounge, strode to the lounge and opened the door.
"Barbara, let's go. We're getting an admission."
No strident voice answered. No acrid aroma of cigarette smoke tainted the air. Where was the practical?
As she retraced her steps to the nurses' station, her shoes slapped against the dark green carpet. She paused at the desk. "Has anyone seen Barbara?"
Kit shook her head. "She didn't take break with us. Acted like she had a hot date."
"Guess it's gossip rounds tonight." One of the practicals giggled. "Think of all the juicy stories she'll have when she gets back."
"And the ones about us she'll spread." Trish reached for another chart. "Someone should plug her mouth."
Julie turned in the chair at the doctors' desk where she sat beside De Witt. "Is there a problem?" she asked. "Can I help?"
"Just an admission and no Barbara." On her way to the clean utility room, Susan paused beside the younger nurse.
De Witt captured Julie's hand the way a lion grasps its prey. "Don't be late." As he rose, he smoothed his ash blond hair and slung a black leather jacket over his shoulder. He strode down the hall.
"Go get the equipment," Julie said. "As soon as I finish this chart, I'll meet you in the patient's room."
Moments later, Susan entered the semi-private room and dropped an eggcrate mattress on the foot of the bed next to the door. Leaving the hospital at eleven thirty had become an impossible dream.
"I knew it was too good to last." The patient by the window raised the head of her bed. "Sure hope she doesn't snore."
"You'll soon know."
"What's wrong with her?"
"You know I can't tell you. After she arrives, you can share tales of your adventures."
"Maybe she'll be as jolly as my last roommate."
The traction apparatus from the former patient remained in place. Susan moved the weight bar from the right to the left. As she worked, she mentally listed the equipment she'd need. A foam Buck's boot, weights, ropes, elastic bandages, Barbara's help.
The clot of anger she had hidden from the other nurses loosened. The moment she saw the practical, Susan knew she would explode. Barbara had been away from the unit for more than an hour. Had she been the one to take the message about the admission? How typical of Barbara to leave without preparing the bed.
Susan pulled the sheets to the bottom of the bed. She lifted the foam mattress.
"I'll do that," Julie said. "Get the weights and stuff. Kit's calling around for Barbara."
"By the time she returns, the work will be done."
"Does that surprise you?" Julie asked. "You can always report her for being off the unit so long."
Susan sighed. She could, but would anything be done? The practical had been reported more times than the rest of the evening staff combined. She had never been warned let alone disciplined.
With quick steps, she headed for the storage room. To her surprise, the door was locked. "Why? Had Kit forgotten to open the door after the day shift left? Susan pulled the large ring of keys from her pocket. She unlocked the door and flipped on the lights.
The disorder made her groan. Why had the orthopedic cart been left in the middle of the room? The stench of urine assaulted her. Who had left a dirty bedpan behind?
The cart blocked the path to the shelves at the end of the room where most of the supplies she needed were stored. She pushed the cart toward the wall. The wheels caught on an obstacle. She tried a different angle with the same result. With a jerk, she yanked the cart toward the door and edged around it.
Her eyes widened. A harsh gasp escaped. "Barbara!" Guilt over her earlier anger warred with fear. She stepped closer. "Oh God!"
The streak of red on the practical's white uniform spoke of violence. Susan had seen death many times, but never like this. A soundless scream reverberated in her thoughts. Who had done this and why? She stared at Barbara's battered head and face and fought the need to flee.
Several minutes passed before the scattered hundred dollar bills registered. Susan blinked but the money remained. Who had given Barbara the money? Had it been her killer?
She inhaled. She had to do something. Like a robot programmed to perform a series of tasks, she knelt beside her co-worker. She pressed the bell of her stethoscope against Barbara's chest and stared at the sweep second hand on her watch. One minute passed. Then two. She heard nothing.
With a shudder, she rose. Questions fomented in her thoughts. The desire to bolt grew stronger. The clutter in the room impeded her escape. Step by step, she backed around the ortho cart. Three more steps took her into the hall. She held back the fear-generated sobs that threatened to burst free and hurried to the nurses' station.
There for stability, she grasped the counter of the U-shaped desk. She swallowed convulsively.
Kit held the phone to her ear. The two practicals sat at the long section of the desk. Trish lounged in the med room doorway. The mundane scene failed to erase the bizarre picture in the storage room.
"In...in..." The words emerged as a harsh whisper. She gulped a breath.
Julie stepped out of the semi-private room across from the desk. "What took you... Susan, what's wrong?"
"In...in..." Susan couldn't force her frozen tongue to form the words.
Trish strode across the green carpet. "You look like you've seen a ghost."
Susan cleared her throat. Her knees buckled. Only her grasp on the counter kept her erect. "In the storage room... Barbara..."