Read Dead, but Not for Long Online

Authors: Matthew Kinney,Lesa Anders

Dead, but Not for Long (2 page)

After putting the picture away, Keith made himself a healthy breakfast and watched the early morning news while he ate. He glanced at the clock before changing into his
scrubs and grabbing the backpack that contained his lunch and his workout clothes. 5:30. He’d be early, which was how he liked it.

Lansing had been going through a sweltering heat wave but the early morning temperatures were still bearable. The walk home would not be quite so pleasant but since it was
only a few blocks, it would be tolerable. He’d found that it was actually faster to walk than to try to find a place to park. It also gave him an extra
bit of exercise. He didn’t need it, since he spent an hour at a nearby gym every day after work, but he tried to work exercise into his daily routine as
often as possible.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of his cell phone playing Linda Ronstadt’s “You’re No Good.” He sighed, not sure he wanted to talk to his soon-to-be
ex-wife, Shanelle. He had left her after catching her with another man and now she was desperately trying to reconcile. Seems that the man she’d cheated with
had turned out to be a loser. Too bad, Keith thought. The phone rang again and he looked at it, still debating. He still loved her and they’d had a couple of
great years together, yet he was reluctant to put himself in the situation where he’d end up looking like a fool again. He knew that it was mostly his
pride controlling his actions, but still, if they were going to get back together, it would be on his terms. He would also have to be sure that the
affair had been a one-time slip-up and not something that would be repeated. He started to punch the button to take the call then stuffed the phone back into
his pocket in frustration. He’d think it over and maybe call her on one of his breaks.

~*~

Her baby blue eyes pierced him to the soul. God knew Eric wanted to give in, but all that was good in him wouldn’t allow it.

“Please,” she begged him. “Only one night, that’s all I ask. No one will know!”

“I’ll know,” was his stern reply. “Cheri, you have a husband. Two kids. I can’t let you hurt
them. You made that vow years ago, and that’s one vow I’m going to help you honor.”

“I was wrong!” she sobbed, grabbing his shoulders.

“You drew first blood, Baby,” he replied without emotion.

Sobbing uncontrollably, she grasped his shoulders more tightly than before.

“Don’t make me beg!” she said. This time, her fingers dug sharply into his shoulders, sending
a wave of pain shooting through his body.

“Wake up, Eric! You overslept again.”

Reality came crashing down as Eric realized it was all a dream.

“You can’t be late. You’re going to lose another job, and I’m going to end up supporting your
lazy butt, again,” his mother barked. She was only 5’3” and gray haired, but she was intimidating as she stood over him, arms crossed and glaring.

Eric felt sick to his stomach as he leapt to his feet, revealing a 5 foot 10 inch, 265 pound body in thong underwear.

“Oh, Lordy, do you have to wear those?” she asked in obvious disgust.

“Cheri used to like them,” he argued.

“That was ten years and about 100 pounds ago.”

He ignored her comments and waded through the piles of dirty clothes until he uncovered a blue
uniform draped over a chair by his computer desk. He gave it a quick sniff and winced at the unpleasant odor. Scanning the chaos for something a little less
rancid, he finally gave up and donned the uniform. The only thing tidy about Eric was his military style crew cut. He thought it made him look more
professional, but the main reason he wore it was that it was low maintenance and allowed him extra time for his video games.

“I’m starving,” he whined as he pulled on a dirty sock. “I don’t suppose you cooked up some
breakfast?”

“There are some pancakes on the table,” his mother sighed, “although I don’t think you’re in
danger of starving anytime soon.”

“Thanks, Ma!” he smiled and gave her a kiss.

She balked at the stench and fanned her face in a vain attempt to dispel the aroma.

“If you’d throw your clothes in the hamper like I told you, I could do your laundry and you wouldn’t smell like
roadkill.”

Ignoring her, he left his basement apartment and climbed the stairs into the kitchen. The
upstairs lacked the clutter and smell of Eric’s room, although it was in definite need of updating. The decor and furnishings were essentially the same
as they had been when Eric was growing up. Despite the obvious wear, Eric’s mom kept the place immaculate.

When Eric had first moved back, his mother had found it impossible to keep up with his
clutter, so she had used the majority of her meager savings to have the basement turned into a small apartment. Eric understood that cleaning it was
his responsibility. Unfortunately, he didn’t do responsibility well.

Walking to the kitchen table, he poured a generous serving of syrup over a mound of pancakes and quickly shoveled them into his mouth, only pausing to chew for a second.
His mother had barely made it back upstairs when Eric had swallowed his last mouthful. Tilting the plate toward his gaping mouth, he washed the pancakes
down with the pool of remaining syrup. Mumbling his gratitude for the meal, he rushed toward the door, ignoring his mother’s attempts to brush what remained
of his breakfast off his uniform. He reckoned he could make it to work with a minute to spare if he skipped his regular trip to the convenience store for his
Mega Gulp. Besides, the vending machine was not far from the nurses’ station. This would give him an excuse to flirt.

~*~

Keith knew that the day might end up being a long one. Things had been crazy the last couple
weeks due to the abnormally high temperatures that they’d been experiencing.
Many people didn’t have air conditioning in the older sections of the city and
it was taking its toll, especially on the elderly and frail. There had been a
steady stream of people in and out of the ER at St. Mary’s, mostly suffering
from heat stroke and dehydration. Some had been sent home after being treated
but several of them had been admitted. To make matters worse, Mercy Hospital
had temporarily closed the previous week, putting an extra burden on other
medical facilities in the area. It would be busy, but that was almost a relief
to Keith. He would not have too much time to dwell on his failing marriage.

He turned a corner and St. Mary’s rose up on his right, a five story brick building that
had been around forever. It wasn’t large compared to the newer hospitals
scattered about the city, and it wasn’t as modern, but Keith had grown up in
the neighborhood and the old brick building had always been a part of his life.
He’d been born at St. Mary’s and so had his two sisters. His mother had worked
there until cancer had transformed her from a nurse into a patient. She had died
while Keith and his sisters were still in their teens, leaving their
grandmother to finish raising them. Keith had found a part time job at the
hospital the next year, doing janitorial work. It hadn’t been easy, with school
and sports, but his grandmother had insisted that the kids stay busy, knowing
it would help to keep them out of trouble. She’d been right. All three of the
siblings had graduated from college and now had good jobs, though there had
been mistakes along the way.

It had taken a four-year stint in the military to get Keith back on track after he’d started
to lose interest in college. He had spent some time in Iraq as a Navy Hospital
Corpsman assigned as a medic to the Marines. After that he had gone back to
school and had finished his degree, taking his classes more seriously than he
had done before. By that time, his two sisters had moved away and had started
families of their own. Keith had decided to stay in Lansing and had bought out
his sisters’ shares of the old house that had been in the family since their
grandfather had bought it. The crime rates had risen in the neighborhood and he
often questioned the wisdom of staying there, but being a muscular 6 foot 3
inches tall, people generally didn’t bother him much.

The automatic door swooshed open and he went inside, taking the stairs to the second floor to
put his things in his locker before climbing one more flight of stairs. He
stopped at the nurses’ station where he was briefed by the nurse who was just
getting ready to leave.

“Doctor, excuse me, can you help me?”

The voice came from an old woman on the other side of the counter.

“I’m not a doctor,” Keith said, ignoring the snicker from the nurse at the desk. “I’m an
RN. What can I do for you?”

The woman looked at him in confusion.

“A nurse? You mean an orderly?”

“No, I mean a nurse. Men can be nurses, too. There are no rules against it.”

He kept his tone level, knowing that many people were intimidated by his large size. When he
raised his voice, he could be terrifying, or so he’d been told.

“Well, my husband is hurt. We were visiting a friend here and the man just bit George. I
think he needs help.”

“A patient bit your husband?” Keith blinked, turning to walk with her. “What room?”

The woman hurried along, giving directions but she could not keep up with Keith’s long strides.

When he arrived at room 329, Keith took one step inside and froze. He stepped back into the
doorway, intentionally blocking the woman’s view.

“Ma’am,” he said, not taking his eyes off of the horrific sight before him, “please do me a
favor and go back to the nurses’ station and tell them that I said to call for security, code blue.”

“But is my husband all right?” she asked, trying to peek into the room.

“Right now! Security!” Keith replied, this time raising his voice. As usual, it worked, and
the woman scurried off to the nurses’ station.

“And please don’t let it be Wapowski,” Keith muttered under his breath as he turned to watch the
woman leave.

Once the woman was gone, Keith turned his full attention back to the occupants of the room.
The woman’s husband was quite dead, or at least Keith hoped so, because the
patient in the hospital gown was eating him.

 

~*^*~

 

 

 

 

~02~

 

Eric locked his bike to a post at the back of the hospital, outside the security room. He
opened the door and fumbled for his time card and quickly stuck it into the slot.

“Cutting it kind of close,” said a voice from behind him. It was Jack, his supervisor. Jack was
an African American man in his sixties who worked to keep himself busy. He was retired military, so he took his job seriously and he liked his security team
to arrive early. Eric, in particular, annoyed him, as he was either constantly late or barely on time.

“Sorry,” Eric explained. “I had to make my mom some breakfast. She wasn’t feeling good.”

Jack shook his head while letting out a deep sigh. “And I told you to wash that uniform.
People are starting to complain.”

Eric pinned on his badge, ignoring Jack’s last comment, and walked over to the elevators,
trying to decide which floor he wanted. The vending machine on the third floor
didn’t seem to get used as much as the others, so it always had plenty of
variety and the odds were higher that it would have what he wanted. Decision
made, Eric traveled to the third floor and went straight to the vending
machine. He put in a bill and pressed the button, happy to get the second to
last Cocoa Nutter Bar. Looking over what was left in the machine, he was
disappointed to see only granola bars and oatmeal cookies. He put another bill
in the next machine, grabbing a soda as it rolled out. He ate the candy quickly
as he walked down the hall, arriving at the nurses’ station in time to see a
nurse reaching for the phone.

A panicked little old lady turned to look at him and Eric quickly licked some chocolate from his lips.

“Morning, ladies,” he said in his most professional voice.

“Eric,” the nurse interrupted, "Keith needs you in room 329, stat!”

Eric smiled coolly and leaned against the counter.

“Did you know the word stat comes from the Latin word ‘statim’ which . . .”

“Now!” she yelled.

“Right,” Eric complied, rather embarrassed.

As he headed to the room, he dreaded seeing Keith. He had once tried to bond with him, as they
were so much alike. They were both big men and had a military history, but
Keith hadn't been interested. It had all gone downhill when Eric had suggested
to Keith that he would be better suited for security than nursing, as nursing
was traditionally a female vocation.

As he approached the room, Eric saw Keith pacing outside the door, visibly agitated. He didn't
seem too pleased at the sight of Eric.

“What seems to be the problem?” Eric asked.

“The problem,” Keith said, working to keep his voice calm, “is that one of our patients is
eating one of our visitors.”

Keith hated it when he had to call security. There was little he couldn’t handle himself, but
he had been informed that he was only to worry about doing his job and that
security would handle theirs. He stepped aside so that the security guard could enter the room.

As was often the case, Eric’s habit of not listening left him totally unaware of the spectacle
unfolding in the room.

“I’m glad you called, Keith. We’re trained to deal with these situations.” He patted Keith’s
shoulder in a gesture of reassurance.

“Oh, I don’t think you’re trained for this,” Keith said, glancing back into the room again
with a shudder.

Eric thought he saw apprehension or maybe even fear in Keith’s eyes. Perhaps that was why he
had acted so strangely at the suggestion of joining him as a security officer. Some people had it in them, and obviously, Keith did not. Maybe being a nurse
was all he could do.

“I’ll take care of this,” Eric said confidently, as he backed into the room, closing the door behind him.

“Wapowski, seriously, you might want to watch it,” Keith said, but the door was slammed
in his face.

Other books

Enchanting Lily by Anjali Banerjee
Defiant Unto Death by David Gilman
Sham Rock by Ralph McInerny
Unfinished Business by Nora Roberts
Retribution (Drakenfeld 2) by Newton, Mark Charan
Mrs Fox by Sarah Hall