Though Barbara has just a bit part in the story, she's the starting point.
"Do you really think I'll tell you?" Barbara Denton's strident voice rasped against Susan's nerve endings. "Believe me, when I say it's dynamite. Someone isn't going to like what I've learned. And let me tell you, this time, I have all the facts."
The practical nurse's harsh laughter and the veiled threat in her voice added to Susan's uneasiness. Whom had Barbara targeted this time? Her stories always contained a dram of truth but little more. Susan halted in the doorway and waited to hear further hints of scandal. When the practical remained silent, Susan stepped into the room and closed the door.
The hospital's gossip queen sprawled on the bright green loveseat facing the door. She stabbed a cigarette toward the round table that was partly hidden by the jutting powder room wall. A gold bracelet glittered on her arm and slid up and down as she used the cigarette to emphasize the importance of the tidbit she dangled.
Susan shook her head. Had anyone reminded Barbara that smoking in the hospital was illegal? Would it matter? The practical had chosen to break the rule, but so did the unit's nurse manager.
"Don't tease," Susan said. "We know you're dying to tell all."
Leila is Susan's best friend and adds to the developing tension.
Goodbye, Barbara." Susan carried a salad and a cup of coffee to the table. Fifteen minutes later, the lounge door opened and Leila walked in.
"You're late," Susan said.
Leila poured a cup of coffee. "It's been one of those evenings. ICU had a visitor who refused to leave. The OR needed four units of blood stat. A patient on Five Med/Surg fell." She sat across from Susan.
"I like the hair. It's about time you colored the gray."
"That's what my mother said, plus a lot of other advice." Susan closed the salad container. "Why don't we get together for lunch tomorrow and I'll fill you in about the state of nursing practice in
Leila lit a cigarette.
Susan raised an eyebrow. "I thought you quit."
"And the rules?"
"Will you turn me in?"
"I might. About lunch?"
"I can't. I have class. Just one more semester."
Susan cleaned the area of the table she had used. "Wednesday?"
Leila shook her head. "I'm picking up my new car. Do you have time to talk about one of your co-workers?"
"Here? I wouldn't want to chance being overheard. What about Friday?"
"I'll be away. It's a four-day weekend."
"Joe?" Susan asked.
A dreamy look misted Leila's dark eyes. "We're going to his hunting cabin."
"Don't you ever get tired of spending so little time with him?"
"Quality counts." Leila's smile brought an elegant charm to her pointed features. "It's a good relationship. We both know how much we're willing to give. I don't want him to leave his wife and marry me."
Julie is the young nurse Susan has mentored.
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."
A short time later.
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..."