Sudden Change of Plans
Dalgety impatiently looked at his watch. Walking to the edge of the train platform, he peered down the tracks: still no train. He was feeling a bit of trepidation, for he was traveling to Sacramento on, of all things, a date.
He was still figuring out why he was traveling to Sacramento for a date. Deirdre Youngblood had been recently hired to work in the Mish's records department. Granted, eyebrows were raised when she listed a Sacramento address but her salary requirements were less a burden on the Mish's strained finances.
And considering the fact Deirdre’s predecessor had thrown up her hands in frustration and walked out merely a week before Deirdre’s hiring had added a certain luster to Deirdre’s willingness to start straight away.
Deirdre was one of the City's thousands of commuters from Sacramento and the same train that Dalgety was now waiting for was the same train that brought Deirdre Youngblood to the City five days a week.
At first Dalgety had been confused as to the reason why someone would commute two hours from Sacramento to San Francisco. But Deirdre had explained housing costs were cheaper in Sacramento.
"What about the costs of commuting?" Dalgety had asked, inadvertently flipping a piece of chicken from his fork over to the next table. The table's occupant, a woman in her thirties (or perhaps a well-preserved 45) was busy watching a movie on a portable dvd player and maneuvering a forkful of food between the headphone wires.
To Dalgety's relief, the woman didn't notice the piece of chicken lying prominently on the edge of the table.
"Offset by the higher salary San Francisco employers pay and the lower housing costs of Sacramento," Deirdre had replied, sipping a glass of champagne. Dalgety had frowned when Deirdre had ordered champagne for lunch, but he decided against reprimands for the present time. He was having enough difficulties in adjusting to Gina’s shocking death.
"But the commuting time adds twenty hours to your workweek! Wouldn't it be a bit easier to find housing here in the City, even if it's a hole in the wall?"
Deirdre had bit into a forkful of lasagna before replying. "When a college degree doesn't hang on your wall, you're out of luck. I'm not in the entertainment industry, nor do I have a trust fund, nor do I expect a large inheritance. Stocks are non-existent for me and I have exactly thirty-four hundred dollars in an IRA."
"But you're working your way through college?" Dalgety had inquired.
"Yes." Another sip of chilled champagne passed by Deirdre’s lips.
"Where do you find the time to attend classes?"
"I'm doing what they call study-at-home courses from the community college in Sacramento. I only have two more 200 level courses then I move over to UCSF. I study on the train," Deirdre had said, draining her champagne glass and simultaneously answering Dalgety's next question of when she found the time to study.
Dalgety hoped she wouldn't order another glass. But Deirdre did order a second glass of champagne. And despite her enchantment with champagne, Dalgety suddenly found himself asking Deirdre for a real date.
She was a hard-working young woman, willing to do whatever was necessary to get ahead in her career. And she was willing to sacrifice material comforts for her education, for however long it took her to obtain her college degree.
He couldn't help but admire the spunky young woman sitting across from him. San Francisco was indeed a high-rent city, and a college degree would pad one's paycheck admirably.
Now, in the early morning Saturday sunshine, Dalgety stood impatiently wondering why he'd agreed to meet Deirdre in Sacramento. He was just about to chalk his decision up to her jam-packed workweek when a whistle announced the train's imminent arrival.
Standing with his overnight leather bag, Dalgety waited for the train to pull into the station. Although he was happy to be on the way to a date with Deirdre, part of Dalgety thought he was betraying Gina. Dead less than a year, his feelings still ran deep for Gina, although Dalgety knew he needed to move on with his life.
Another part of Dalgety thought the phrase 'move on' was harsh reality. Exactly how is someone supposed to 'move on' with their life when someone dies? Is one supposed to forget the dead, behaving as if they never existed?
After months of ruminating on the subject, Dalgety was coming to the decision that the phrase 'moving on' meant that he was to accept the fact Gina was dead. He needed to learn how to once again share his life with someone: to share a laugh, a smile, a dinner.
The train slowed to a stop. A conductor stepped down to the platform, calling, "Let the passengers debark before boarding! Let the passengers debark before boarding!"
Dalgety waited to board the train until the few passengers exiting at the Emeryville stop had stepped to the platform. Swinging his leather overnighter on its strap, Dalgety stepped up the stairs.
He decided on a seat next to the window, knowing he'd end up in the cafe car for most of the trip. Placing his overnighter in the overhead luggage rack, he took out his train ticket, and sat himself down to await the conductor.
"Number 45 wins!" the dealer called.
"That's you, Robert!" Deirdre squealed, squeezing Dalgety's arm. Dalgety smiled at the dealer and accepted the large pile of chips the dealer pushed his way. The two other men playing the roulette table grimaced. One player was down three thousand, and the second player was out five hundred and Dalgety suspected both were a bit envious of him.
Deirdre, never having played roulette before, now asked, "How much did you win?"
Dalgety quickly counted the stacks of chips. "This was a single number bet, paying 35 to one. I bet a hundred, so I won thirty five hundred."
Deirdre whistled appreciatively. She, too, was a casino winner: fifteen hundred in one of the slots. Grinning at him, she told him, "My win is going towards tuition and those hiked fees UC recently imposed."
"I remember the joys of college," Dalgety commented, placing a five hundred chip on Number 14. "Why don't you place a bet on the wheel?"
"I don't know how to play roulette. I’m usually so tight with my cash and to suddenly find myself with a surplus, well, I don’t want to lose it," Deirdre replied, squeezing his arm again.
"Here. How about I spot you a hundred chip? I'll place it," Dalgety suggested, taking a chip from his pile.
“That’s not necessary,” she told him, kissing his cheek. “I won fifteen hundred. That’s plenty.”
“How about we split any wins from this chip?” Dalgety asked, holding up the chip.
Deirdre looked doubtful and pursed her lips.
“Last call!" the dealer told the foursome at the roulette wheel.
Making her decision, she said. "Okay. Half and half, plus I repay the fifty. But that's all I expect. I'll choose Number 14 as well," Deirdre said, smiling as Dalgety placed a hundred dollar chip on Number 14.
“Deal,” Dalgety replied, smiling at her.
"Bets closed!" the dealer said, then spun the wheel. Dalgety and Deirdre watched raptly as the wheel spun slower, then slower, and stopped on Number 14.
"Number 14 wins! Number 14," called the dealer. “Another winner this evening! Quite the lucky streak,” the dealer said. Deirdre looked at Dalgety. "You won again!"
"So did you," Dalgety replied, indicating the dealer was pushing a stack of chips towards Deirdre. In a casino, word spreads fast about a winning table and people were now drifting towards their roulette table, apparently intent on picking up some of Lady Luck’s lucky dust.
"I won as well?" she asked, surprised. “Oh my gosh! I did win! How much?” she inquired earnestly.
Dalgety laughed. “We played one number. Odds were thirty five to one,” Dalgety informed her. "Roulette's fairly easy to win money on."
Deirdre was dumbfounded. "After splitting the hundred chip with you, you mean to tell me I just won seventeen hundred and fifty dollars?”
“Bets open!” the dealer intoned the endless phrase.
“Minus the fifty you owe me,” Dalgety told her, grinning.
"Damn. I don't know what to say except thank you," Deirdre said, kissing Dalgety full on the mouth.
"All in a day's work," Dalgety replied when they finished. "Do you want to bet again?"
"Hmm. No. I'll leave it," Deirdre replied. “Don’t want to push my luck.” Dalgety shrugged then placed ten five-hundred chips directly on the number 24.
"Show-off!" Deirdre teased, smiling at him. She leaned her head on his shoulder as the dealer called,
"Sure you don't want to bet again?" Dalgety asked, holding up a five-hundred chip.
"Thanks anyways, but no.”
“Too bad. I’m placing a five-hundred chip for you. Pay me back if we win,” Dalgety said, placing a five-hundred chip on Number 24.
"Bets closed!" the dealer called, and then he spun the wheel.
“He must be on a lucky streak,” commented one bystander. Dalgety and Deirdre watched as the ball rolled around the slowing wheel.
“Gosh, he might win again!” a woman said. “It’s getting close to 24.”
“Damn!” someone else exclaimed. “Lady Luck sure likes him tonight.”
The wheel stopped on Number 24 and a collective gasp rose from the onlookers. Deirdre’s mouth dropped open. Dalgety merely smiled.
"Another winner," the smiling dealer said. “Number 24 wins.”
“How much did I win?” an amazed Deirdre asked, leaning on Dalgety’s shoulder for support.
“Seventeen thousand, five hundred, less the five hundred you owe me,” Dalgety replied, accepting a leather chip tray from the dealer. “One for the lady,” he told the dealer, then accepted a leather chip tray that he handed to Deirdre. “For your chips,” Dalgety explained.
Deirdre took her pile of chips and began placing them in the chip tray. “Damn, do all these chips really mean I have seventeen thousand dollars?”
“Sure does,” Dalgety commented. “Plus the seventeen fifty you won on Number 14.”
"Damn fine winning streak. What’s your secret?" asked one of the table’s two other players.
“Lady luck,” Dalgety commented back but the two men each grunted and left the table without tipping the dealer.
“So that means you won one hundred seventy five thousand bucks just now?” Deirdre asked hesitantly. “I was never good in math.” Dalgety was placing his chips into the chip tray.
“Yep. Plus the earlier wins. So, how do you like playing roulette?” a smiling Dalgety asked Deirdre.
“I do now,” she replied. “I can finally move to San Francisco for real instead of just commuting. Head off to UCSF instead of the Sacramento campus.”
“Bets open,” the dealer called. Chips were being thickly laid down on the table: everyone wanted to bet at a winning table.
Dalgety considered the dealer’s words. It was nearing 7 pm. It was rather early in the evening, but with Deirdre’s tight weekday schedule she was tired. For that matter Dalgety was tired as well.
"One more time," he said, making his decision, and people crowded around him, watching as he divided a stack of chips on the numbers 30, 32, 34, and 36.
Many onlookers placed chips on Dalgety's number choices, apparently in the hopes that Lady Luck’s lucky dust would rub off on them.
The dealer called, “Last call!” and Deirdre wondered if the dealer got tired of saying the same phrases over and over for the duration of his shift.
“How much are you betting?” Deirdre asked Dalgety, squeezing his shoulder. Dalgety noticed several men who were eyeing Deirdre’s slinky black sequined number, and she was quite attractive when she was dressed up. Usually she wore jeans or leggings with a loose shirt.
“Ten five-hundred chips or five thousand on each number,” Dalgety replied.
Deirdre whistled again.
“Man must be nuts to bet so much,” a man quietly said from behind him.
“Naw. He’s got Lady Luck on his arm. Look at those legs,” another man commented.
Deirdre leaned close to his ear and whispered, “Ignore him. I’m going to place a five-hundred chip on each number you chose,” Deirdre commented, placing a five-hundred chip on Dalgety’s choice of numbers. “Lady luck likes you tonight.”
"Bets closed!" The dealer spun the roulette wheel. Both Deirdre and Dalgety held their breath as the wheel slowed down, and finally stopped.
“Number 34!” called the dealer. “Winning number is Number 34!”
“Yahhhhhhooooooooooo!” shouted one of the table’s winners.
Deirdre exclaimed, "Good God, Robert! You won, uhm, another hundred seventy five thousand! And I won, let’s see, five hundred times thirty five...gosh! Another seventeen thou five!"
“Minus fifteen hundred for the losing chips,” Dalgety corrected, as the dealer began pushing another pile of large chips towards Dalgety.
“I think you’re my lady luck tonight,” Dalgety told Deirdre as he began putting his chips into the leather chip tray. “I’ll need another chip tray,” he told the dealer, who nodded and handed Dalgety his second chip tray.
“Bets open!” the dealer said.
“I’m closed,” Dalgety said, placing six five-hundred chips in the dealer’s tip box.
“I’m closed as well,” Deirdre commented, and followed Dalgety’s example of tipping the dealer by placing two five-hundred chips in the dealer’s tip box.
“Thank you!” the dealer exclaimed, smiling at the couple. “Casino security will be by shortly to escort you to the back.”
“Much appreciated,” Dalgety replied. “Don’t want to ‘accidentally’ bump into someone and spill me chips!”
The dealer smiled and said, “Last call!”
“Why do we need to be escorted?” Deirdre asked, running her hand over the chips in the now-full chip tray.
Dalgety indicated the large number of chips in their chip trays. “Lots of people know we won a pile of cash,” then indicated the large crowd of people around the roulette table. He and Deirdre were now standing a bit off to the side, holding their leather chip trays and awaiting casino security.
“Bets closed!” the dealer said, turning
his attention back to the now-crowded roulette table. Dalgety looked at the
table, covered with chips. Many chips were on his own winning numbers with the
red and black areas completed covered with chips.
The dealer looked round at the full table. People were jammed shoulder to shoulder. He raised his hand and placed it on the wheel.
As people held their collective breath, the dealer spun the roulette wheel.
“Eighteen and twenty one, come on eighteen and twenty one!” said one young man who apparently aspired to be on one of Vince McMahon’s wrestling shows.
“Twenty one, twenty one, twenty one, twenty one,” chanted another player, a middle aged woman. Dalgety looked more closely at her, noticing a pale blue tinge on her lips.
“Diabetes? Heart problems?” the physician in him asked. Blue tinged lips were not a good sign and Dalgety hoped the woman had a good physician.
The wheel spun slower and despite not placing a bet, Dalgety found himself intently watching the roulette wheel. For her part, Deirdre was beaming as she stood next to the night’s biggest winner. Then she sucked in her breath. She too was a big winner.
--Over thirty five thousand dollars! Deirdre, do you realize that you’ve not only paid college tuition but you might also be able to put a down payment on a small condo in Sacramento, purchased on assumption? Maybe you can rent it out and be able to make the mortgage payments with the rent money.
Deirdre’s mind was swimming with possibilities as she watched the roulette wheel slow, then she watched the ball dropped into the slot designated as Number 21.
“Number 21! Number 21 has won!” the dealer called.
“Yeeessss!” the aspiring wrestler shouted, and then looked around in embarrassment. “Sorry. First time winner,” he announced to the crowd. But a large grin suffused his face.
“And seven thousand is what you won,” the dealer told him, pushing the pile of chips towards the young man. “And for you, young lady,” the dealer said, smiling at the middle-aged woman, “is fourteen thousand in chips.”
The middle-aged woman, like Deirdre moments before, stared gape-mouthed at the large pile of chips in front of her. Two casino security guards appeared at the roulette table. Dalgety, with a motion of his head, indicated that he and Deirdre should follow casino security.
“What happens now?” she asked Dalgety as they made their way through the casino. People were pointing at them, and smiling. A few waved at Dalgety and Deirdre noticed a few catty women eyeing her date’s two loaded chip trays.
“With this type of win, we’ll get checks from the casino, fill out a few tax forms,” Dalgety said as their guard escort showed them to the cashier. “Did you have plans to spend the night here?” he asked Deirdre.
“Actually, no. The bus tickets were round trip,” Deirdre replied. From Sacramento, the two had arrived in Reno via the Champagne Express. Upon hearing the name of the casino tour, Dalgety had asked Dierdre why the bus was called Champagne.
“You’ll see,” Deirdre had told him, smiling as she stepped onto the bus. When the the tour bus picked up its last passenger in Sacramento, Dalgety discovered the answer to his question: the Champagne Express bus route served complimentary champagne during the trip to Reno. No wonder Dierdre had wanted to go to Reno.
“Well,” Dalgety said, smiling. “We’ll be offered complimentary rooms.”
“Big winners are treated to hotel rooms compliments of the casino. It’s not so bad. Dinner will be on the casino as well.”
“This is a turn of events for me,” Deirdre commented as Dalgety handed his chip trays to the cashier. She smiled at him then compulsively kissed him full on the lips.
An insistent knocking on the door dragged Dalgety from a wonderful dream of sailing the Pacific.
“Doctor Robert Dalgety?” a female voice was asking.
Dalgety sat up and wondered where he was. Ah! Yes, he was a guest of the casino as the night’s biggest winner. He looked at the clock: just after six in the morning.
“Yes! Coming!” Dalgety said as he got out of bed. Putting on a bathrobe he went to the door and opened it.
A harried casino employee was standing there. Dalgety thought he knew what she wanted: someone was ill, and they needed a doctor. He had indicated on the hotel’s sign-in sheet that he was available to assist in medical emergencies.
“Yes, I can assist,” he told her before she could ask.
The woman breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh, thank god! The entire organ transport team is down with food poisoning! Can you get dressed and be down in the lobby within five minutes?”
“Good. Meet you in the lobby in five. The kidneys need to be in Los Angeles,” the woman said, and then turned to leave.
“Kidneys?” Dalgety asked, a bit confused. “I thought this was a food poisoning case.”
The woman turned back to face Dalgety. “The casino manager’s brother works with the organ transport team. When the manager heard about the kidneys needing transport, he thought of you. We’re near the hospital and they need someone to transport to Cedars Sinai.”
Dalgety nodded. “Meet you in the lobby in five,” he said. The woman nodded then left. Dalgety went back into his motel room, shedding the bathrobe.
After dressing, he picked up the phone and dialed Deirdre’s room. After two rings, a sleepy Deirdre picked up.
“It’s Robert. I’ve an emergency trip to Los Angeles.”
“Emergency? What happened?” Deirdre now sounded wide-awake.
“I volunteered to transport a pair of kidneys to Cedars Sinai.”
“Does that mean...someone’s dead?”
“Damn. Will you go back in San Francisco from LA or are you going to come back here?”
“Back to San Francisco. I need to run.”
“Not a problem. I’ll see you Monday for lunch?”
Dalgety hung up the phone, took his overnighter, then left his motel room. As the elevator doors opened onto the lobby, he saw the casino employee anxiously pacing back and forth.
“Good, you’re here!” she exclaimed. “My name’s Sally, by the way. Sorry not to introduce myself earlier.”
“That’s all right. Time is of the essence in these types of cases.”
“We’ve got a limo ready to take you to the airport. The plane makes a connection in Vegas but there will be a two hour wait for the Vegas to LA plane,” Sally told him.
“These are kidneys,” Dalgety said and Sally nodded as they walked across the lobby. “They need to be implanted as soon as possible.”
“Not much we can do. There are no direct flights to LA until 11 am,” Sally told him. “That will be too late.”
“Is there a commuter plane pilot available either here in Reno or in Vegas?” Dalgety inquired as the two exited the casino. “If there’s a commuter plane pilot available here in Reno, that would save time. Although kidneys are viable the longest outside the body, every hour counts.”
Again Sally nodded. “There is a pilot who likes to hang out at the airport. I’ll ride with you and see what can be done.”
“Money is no object,” Dalgety said as he climbed into the limo after Sally.
A few hours later, as the small commuter plane lost altitude in preparation of landing, Dalgety anxiously looked out of the window. He and the pilot were the only people on the plane. Dalgety had hired Kenny Zimmerman on the spot when Kenny volunteered to pilot Dalgety and the kidneys directly to LAX.
Squinting out the window--damn!--Dalgety thought, frowning. --I might need bifocals. Or maybe that laser vision technique done nowadays. But squinting was the only way he could see the ambulance waiting to transport the kidneys to Cedars.
“What the hell was that?” Dalgety shouted as the small commuter plane lurched wildly. Dalgety struggled to keep hold of the red and white lunchmate container in his lap.
“Tire blew out,” Kenny, the pilot, called back. “I can land her fine. Crackerjack pilot for the army in years past. Have a good grip on the our cargo?”
“Yes.” And Dalgety leaned protectively over the Playmate container as Kenny managed regained control of the plane.
The plane touched down on the landing strip with an awful screech as metal scraped on tarmacadam and spun around in circles. Dalgety could hear sirens, people shouting.
For who knows how long, but Dalgety knew it certainly was not forever, the plane stopped spinning, and the screeching stopped only to be replaced by sirens and people shouting.
“You all right back there?” Kenny called.
Dalgety decided to risk looking up. “I’m okay.”
He sat up and saw the plane’s nose nearly touching one of the airplane hangars.
“Missed it by that much,” Kenny called back. Dalgety heard Kenny unbuckling himself from the pilot’s seat and he made to do the same.
“How are the organs?” Kenny asked, opening the plane’s door.
“Undropped,” Dalgety replied. “Lucky landing.”
“Lady luck was certainly with us,” Kenny said as Dalgety handed him the lunchmate.
“She your girlfriend?” Kenny asked, motioning towards the floor in front of Dalgety. He looked down, and saw that his wallet had fallen out of his jacket pocket.
The wallet had fallen open and was displaying a picture of Gina.
“Breakups happen,” Kenny said.
“She died some months ago,” Dalgety informed him.
“I’m sorry,” Kenny told him but he was interrupted.
Calling up into the plane, a man’s voice asked, “You all right in there? Need medical attention?”
Dalgety called out, “I’m a doctor and no, I’m fine. Kenny? You all right?”
“Shaken, but ambulatory,” Kenny replied.
“These kidneys need to get to Cedars...fast,” Dalgety told the man. “Can they and myself be transported to Cedars fast?”
“Sure. Just let us get the steps unfolded and we’ll help you down.”
“Sorry about what happened at the Mish,” a blue-jeaned, cowboy-shirted Wendell Crayton asked Dalgety as the two men sat in the back of the ambulance that was threading its way through LA’s Sunday morning freeway traffic.
“Sorry?” a surprised Dalgety asked. Was this another surprise in store for him?
Wendell looked at Dalgety with puzzlement.
“You mean you haven’t heard?”
“Heard about what?”
“The Mish. It was on the news last night,” Wendell told him, gripping the lunchmate container held in his lap.
“I’m not following,” Dalgety replied. But a small tendril of fear was creeping towards his heart and he felt a fine sheen of sweat beginning to bead on his forehead. “Why was the Mish on the news?”
“The Mish’s ER was destroyed in an electrical fire. Two nurses died, one doctor has serious burns on his hands.”
Dalgety reeled. Dead? Two nurses dead? The pit of his stomach tightened and his vision began to narrow. He felt sweat breaking out on his legs, arms, face. Feeling faint, he reached out a hand to steady himself on the side of the ambulance.
“You okay?” Wendell asked him.
“You. Are you all right?”
“Who were the two nurses who died?” croaked Dalgety.
“I think their names were Amelia and Rose.”
Dalgety needed to lie down and managed to get onto the ambulance’s stretcher. He didn’t know Amelia and Rose very well for they had just started work through an outsource nursing agency a few weeks before.
The outsourcing agency had been Shelly’s idea to alleviate the cash flow problem. “Although the pay is excellent as an outsourced nurse, the pay is similar to the full time nurse who cuts back her work week to thirty hours. Six outsourced nurses in the ER to replace those who left will save a chunk of cash in the short term,” Shelly had finished, sucking in a deep chestful of air.
And now, Dalgety thought, two of those outsourced nurses were dead.
“Who was the injured doctor?” he whispered.
“I didn’t get his name. Sorry. The story’s probably in the Sunday Times.”
“I’ll phone the Mish for details,” Dalgety whispered, then closed his eyes.
“Hey, I didn’t know you didn’t know.”
“S’all right,” Dalgety whispered again. But was it all right? Dalgety supposed he would consider that question later. “I had to find out sometime.”
The next thing Dalgety understood was the feeling of being lifted out of the ambulance. Wendell was speaking from somewhere behind Dalgety’s head.
“Robert Dalgety. He was in the commuter plane that nearly crashed into the hangar at LAX. He brought our kidneys. He’s also a doc at Mission General and didn’t know about the fire.”
“He’s in shock. Robert? You all right?”
Dalgety stirred and opened his eyes.
“Yeah. Just a bit of a shock. That’s all.” He made to get up off the stretcher,
but hands held him back.
“You safely transported the kidneys,” Wendell told him. “Now I’ve got to get these to the transplant team.”
“We’re just going to have you lie down a
while longer, Doctor Dalgety,” someone else told him.
Still weak from the shock of learning about the fire at the Mish, Dalgety stopped struggling, lay back on the stretcher and allowed the orderlies to wheel the stretcher into the ER. Turning his head to the right, he watched Wendell rush off towards the elevators with the precious cargo.
Once in the surgical suite, Dalgety knew, the kidneys would be transplanted into the recipient, and finally end the years of dialysis.
“He’s in shock,” one of Cedars Sinai’s nurses told a doctor who wandered into Dalgety’s line of vision. “The commuter plane crash bringing the kidneys here. Doctor Dalgety works at Mission General up in San Francisco. He didn’t know about the fire.”
“That’s been the lead story on the news here in LA, Doctor Dalgety,” the doctor replied. “The fire, I mean. The plane crash just came over the news just now. By the way, I’m Doctor Bridleton.”
“Robert Dalgety,” Dalgety automatically responded. “Do you know who the badly burned doctor is?”
“Let’s see, Doctor Kellerman received a
few burns on his hands, second degree. Not too serious. The other injuries were
smoke inhalation, a few other non-serious burns. By non-serious, I mean no
third degree or skin grafts. Fortunately no one died.”
At Doctor Bridleton’s statement, Dalgety sat up. “No one died? Wendell said two nurses died.”
“The morning news here in LA corrected the information. Two nurses were injured. Smoke inhalation,” Doctor Bridleton replied. “Now why don’t you lie back down and let us take a look at you.”
Sighing with relief, Dalgety resisted but a moment, then allowed the nurse to lay him down on the stretcher. He closed his eyes and saw Gina again, smiling and a glass of champagne in her slim hand. Propped up with a pillow, Gina was lying on his bed wearing a red silk brassiere--his favorite color. He was lying next to her.
Nowadays, just the thought of someone suddenly dying made Dalgety’s stomach twist into knots, his vision dimmed and sweat to break out all over his body. His psychiatrist called these physical symptoms a panic attack. And Dalgety had to agree that he had suffered a panic attack this morning.
He heard Doctor Bridleton’s calming tenor voice speaking to someone out of Dalgety’s vision range. “He’ll be fine after some rest. Physically, he’ll be fine. We’ll keep him a few hours, then let him go.”
“Rest for a while, all right Doctor Dalgety?” Doctor Bridleton asked. “You had quite a shock.
Dalgety nodded, keeping his eyes closed. He thought fond memories of Gina and was soon fast asleep.
“So until the ER is repaired, we’re out of work?” Deirdre asked him as the two sat along the waterfront restaurant, enjoying lunch al fresco.
“Yes,” Dalgety replied somewhat distractedly.
“Good thing we won all that cash up in Reno,” Deirdre commented, rubbing her hands together, although the weather was warm.
At that remark, Dalgety smiled wanly. He knew she was trying to make small talk. People had been injured, the ER destroyed, the medical records room had been smoked out.
He had to agree that it was good to have extra cash around. The casino win of nearly four hundred thousand dollars would certainly help for the next month, until the Mish’s ER was up and running again.
Just a month ago, and much to Shelly’s credit, the money she had saved by using outsourced nurses had been used to make the back payments on the ER’s insurance policy, else the Mish would either have had to shutter their doors, or ask the city of San Francisco for a bailout.
The electrical wiring would have to be replaced and the ER entirely rebuilt. The fire and smoke damage had been limited to the ER and the offices down the hall on the first floor.
The fire did disclose one surprise: up in the ceiling in the records room between the ceiling tiles and floor joists, there was a time capsule of sorts, filled with mementos from the medical staff of nearly seventy years ago.
Only one medical staffer from that time was still alive. A doctor, now in his late nineties, had been interviewed Monday morning on Morning in the City, a morning show dedicated to all things San Francisco. The retired physician related his memories of Mission General as it had been during the Great Depression.
Meanwhile, the City’s other hospitals were
taking the overload of ER patients. The Mish’s ER staff and records management
staff had the month off; some of the medical staff were working as outsourced
medical personnel and some of the ER staff had wandered over to the University
Medical Center to assist with UMC’s increased ER patient load.
And some staffers, like Dalgety and Deirdre, would take the time as vacation; although Deirdre would be returning as soon as the extensive smoke damage in the medical records department could be cleaned up.
For the time being, Deirdre and Dalgety were out on their own, enjoying the early spring California sunshine, smelling the honeysuckle and azaleas in bloom, and lunching along the waterfront.
“And we can go up to Walla Walla, Washington,” Deirdre was saying excitedly.
Dalgety started out of his reverie. “Where?”
She smiled at him. “Walla Walla, Washington. It’s an American Indian term meaning “small rapid stream” or “many waters”. They’ve got great wine country there. Like Napa.”
“Sounds good,” Dalgety told her as the waiter placed his plate down in front of him.
“Isn’t steak too heavy for lunch?” Deirdre asked.
“Not when it’s prime rib,” Dalgety told her as he watched the waiter place a huge salad bowl in front of Deirdre. “That is the grilled chicken salad?” he asked incredulously.
“Sure looks like it,” Deirdre replied. “I think they used the salad bowl instead of a salad plate.”
“It’s enough to feed an army,” Dalgety commented, reaching for the A-1 steak sauce.
“So, what do we do first?” Deirdre asked, stuffing a piece of grilled chicken into her mouth. “Mmmm.”
“We’ve all the time in the world. At least for the time being,” Dalgety replied. “Let’s wing it.” He, for one, after getting over the initial shock of being told two of the Mish’s outsourced nurses had died but then discovering the nurses were alive and well, had decided he was going to enjoy his impromptu vacation.
And he did need the time off. Deirdre was bubbly, intelligent, hard working and fun to be around. For now, he needed fun.
“How about a sail on the Bay this afternoon?” he suggested, but having a mouthful of food, Deirdre replied by squealing her delight. Dalgety pretended not to notice a bit of lime dressing dripping down her chin.
He smiled, a genuine smile this time and Deirdre laughed.