More importantly, however, I am pleased to announce the upcoming release of the sequel to SPECTRE RISING - AVOID. NEGOTIATE. KILL. available May 23rd on Amazon and most online retailers. It is currently available for preorder in the iTunes store and Barnes and Noble.
Key West Regional Hospital
Key West, FL
“I’m Jessica Kratzer,” she said, handing her ID badge to the shift supervisor. “I’m here for the 3PM shift.” The badge had a photo of her that looked exactly as she did standing in front of the older nurse. It identified her as a Registered Nurse with NextGen Nursing Solutions, Inc. Her light brown hair was held tightly in a bun and her burgundy scrubs fit tightly around her athletic body.
“You’re a bit early,” the older woman replied. She appeared to be in her late fifties, her hair almost completely white. She was several inches taller than the contract nurse standing before her was. “But we can use the help. I’m Anne Millsaps. Have you worked ICU before?”
Kratzer shook her head as Millsaps returned the badge and motioned for her to follow through the automatic double doors and into the main area of the Key West Regional Intensive Care Unit. Kratzer followed close in trail as the woman led her to the nurses’ station.
“It’s not bad. There are eight rooms here, which usually means we generally have four nurses on staff. We’re a bit short staffed right now, but luckily, there are only three patients right now. We just transferred one to third floor.”
“Who are those guys?” Kratzer asked, pointing to the men in suits standing outside the door of one the rooms. “They look serious.”
“Protection detail. This morning we had two patients come in on a helicopter. No names, just Jane Doe and John Doe. Both had gunshot wounds. I’ve been in nursing thirty years. Never seen anything like it.”
Kratzer watched as the men standing outside the room stopped talking and eyed her. They appeared to study her for a minute as she stood next to the older nurse. Seconds later, they seemed to relax and returned to their previous conversation.
“You’ll get used to it,” Millsaps reassured her, “although, pretty little thing like you? You’re probably already used to it.”
Millsaps grabbed three charts from behind the desk and set them down in front of Kratzer as she watched a middle-aged male nurse exit the guarded room. “That’s Tom,” she said. “He’s married, so don’t get any ideas.”
Kratzer frowned. If this lady only knew.
“Hey Tom, this is Jessica from the temp agency. I was just about to give her the run down. How’s our Jane Doe doing?”
Tom smiled warmly at Jessica. He looked to be in his late thirties with dark brown hair and brown eyes. Like the other two nurses, he was wearing burgundy scrubs.
“She’s doing better. Vitals are stable. I just hung that unit of blood for her,” he said as he scribbled notes in the patient’s chart.
“We also have Mrs. Mary Lee, 77, congestive heart failure and Mr. Gary Hall, 74, who’s just out of surgery with a hip replacement,” Millsaps said. “Why don’t you take Mr. Hall this evening?”
“What happened to the John Doe?” Kratzer asked.
“That was the one we transferred up to third floor about an hour ago,” the older nurse replied, handing Kratzer the chart of Gary Hall.
Kratzer hesitated for a moment and then said, “Do you mind if I take the girl? I would feel more comfortable with the younger patient.”
“Oh, honey,” the woman said, taking off her glasses, “I’ve probably been nursing longer than you’ve been alive. Trust me, dear, they’re all the same. Don’t think that just because they’re younger, they’re easier patients to deal with.”
“It’s ok, Anne, if it makes her more comfortable, I don’t mind switching,” Tom interjected with a warm smile.
Kratzer smiled as he handed her the younger girl’s chart. “Thank you, Tom.”
“Buy me a coke later,” he replied with wink as he grabbed the older man’s chart and set off for his room.
“Like I said earlier, don’t get any ideas,” Millsaps warned. “It’s probably about time to check on the blood transfusion on your patient. Have at it.”
Kratzer quickly flipped through the chart as she gathered herself. The girl had spent nearly six hours in surgery earlier in the day having bullet and bone fragments removed. One of her kidneys had been hit and had to be removed, and she had nerve damage in her spine. Her vitals were fairly weak, but stable. She was in a medically induced coma for the time being.
The two men standing outside the room eyed her as she approached the door. They appeared to be federal agents, but she couldn’t pinpoint which branch of government. She guessed FBI, based on their suits and demeanor.
She smiled as she walked by them and opened the door. Another agent, this one female, sat in the chair at the edge of the bed. Kratzer walked in as the woman stood. Kratzer eyed the woman’s badge clipped to her belt and handgun. The FBI shield and standard issue Glock 22 confirmed her previous guess.
“What happened to Tom?” the female agent asked.
“My name is Jessica,” Kratzer responded with a disarming smile, “I’m going to be taking care of Mrs. Doe. Tom is with another patient. How is she?”
“She’s still out,” the woman replied, sitting back down, “but she’s doing better than she was when she got here.”
“Do you know what happened to her?” Kratzer asked as she walked over to the IV and blood transfusion unit. The girl’s curly brown hair was dirty and stuck together with blood. Her face was swollen and bruises covered her body.
“I can’t discuss that,” the woman said sternly.
“Sorry,” Kratzer replied, “just curious.” That was all the information she needed. She was in the right room with the right patient. She pulled out a small bottle and packaged syringe from her pocket and unwrapped it.
“What’s that? I thought she couldn’t have anything while she’s getting blood?”
“This is to prevent blood clots,” Kratzer responded as she filled the syringe. “Big concern when getting blood.”
Satisfied, the agent returned to her Sudoku puzzle as Kratzer stuck the needle in the IV line and injected her patient. When she was finished, she discarded the syringe and needle in the red SHARPS container on the wall and walked out.
“I’m not feeling very well,” Kratzer said as she reached Millsaps at the nurses’ station. “Where’s the nearest bathroom?”
“Just outside the double doors on the left. You ok, sweetie?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Stomach bug has been going around and it may have just hit me,” Kratzer replied, clutching her stomach.
“Well don’t wait around here! Go!” Millsaps responded, shooing her away.
Kratzer nodded as she scurried out of the ICU and through the double doors.
“Those damned contract nurses,” Millsaps said, shaking her head as she picked up the chart and headed for her patient’s room.
Kratzer bypassed the bathroom and continued out toward the main corridor. As she reached the lobby, she entered the women’s room and locked the door behind her. She found the backpack she had stuffed in the upper vent a few hours prior. She pulled out her jeans and jacket and pulled the blue Marlins baseball cap low over her face as she balled up her scrubs and stuffed them into the backpack.
As she reached the door of the bathroom, she heard, “CODE BLUE, I-C-U, CODE BLUE, I-C-U,” indicating a patient was coding and required a crash cart in the Intensive Care Unit.
She smiled as she unlocked the door and walked out. The Potassium Chloride she had injected into the girl’s IV line was working, and within minutes, Chloe Moss would be dead.
She had only completed fifty percent of her objectives, but for Svetlana Mitchell, that’s all that mattered. Her handler had been crystal clear – kill the girl. The secondary objective would only be a target of opportunity. It was unfortunate that they had moved him, but that was part of the game. She was sure her handler would understand, and she could always get him later if necessary.
She cleared the lobby, keeping her head low to avoid security cameras as she exited the large hospital. It was another beautiful South Florida day. She decided to spend the rest of her afternoon on the water after she collected her payout.