Home > Moonshifted (Edie Spence #2)(3)

Moonshifted (Edie Spence #2)(3)
Author: Cassie Alexander

A second cop car pulled up just as the crew shut their doors. I had half a second to whisper to Charles, “We aren’t infected, are we?”

“Tonight’s not a full moon,” he whispered back. The weres we treated waxed and waned with the moon—trapped in their animal form under its sway, and completely mortal when it was dark.

“You two saw this?” the cop said. Charles nodded, and he started asking more questions.

I doubted our statements would be helpful. The truck was black; that was all I knew. I hadn’t thought to look at its plates, I’d been too busy watching the man fall and bounce. Same with Charles—and by then most of the other bystanders had disappeared.

“Did the truck slow down at all?”

I shook my head. “It happened so fast.” There was a chance the truck hadn’t seen him. A slim but possible chance. But there was no way that he hadn’t known he’d hit someone. “He just kept driving,” I said, with another mystified shake.

“Lucky guy,” the officer said after writing down both our names. “Hit-and-runs aren’t usually in front of hospitals.” He put his notepad away. “My wife’s a respiratory therapist. What floor do you guys work on?”

“Nursing office,” Charles said.

“Pediatrics,” I said at the same time, my usual lie.

“Well—if he lives, maybe we’ll be able to figure things out.”

Both Charles and I nodded as the officer got into his car and drove off.

“That was close, with that guy and the phone,” I said, shivering. Now that I wasn’t running, I was freezing in place.

“Yeah.” Charles said. We’d watched the traffic unsnarl after the body was taken away. I wondered how long the traffic jam would have lasted after a werewolf sighting.

“What would have happened if we hadn’t been here?”

“I don’t know. The Shadows might have fixed things—they’d fix things eventually.”

“Cops and all?”

“Cops, respiratory therapists, and all.”

“Heh.” The Shadows were dark amoeba-like creatures that lived beneath County Hospital, feeding on all the pain and sorrow the hospital provided. In trade for this, they “protected” our floor, so only people who worked on Y4 knew about Y4—the Shadows messed with everyone else’s minds. Chances were we’d seen that cop’s wife before, and chances were she couldn’t remember who we were, even if her life depended on it. “You sure we’re not infected?” I asked him. I knew the rules, but I wanted to hear him say it.

“Positive. Were blood’s only contagious on the full moon. You can still get the shots if you want, though.”

“Are you?”

Charles looked down at his knees. “Depends on how fast I wash all this off me.”

* * *

We walked in calmly, which got us past the security desk despite the blood. It was the running that was frowned upon—mere bleeding was fine. Charles and I feigned like we were going to the emergency room, and then doubled back toward our home floor. I felt bad at the mess we were leaving for the janitor, smeary red bootprints, but I was sure he’d cleaned worse before.

Reaching the elevator bank to Y4 again, I held up my badge and realized my name was obscured by a bloody thumbprint. “Gah. Each step gets more disgusting.”

Charles faked being distracted. “What? I didn’t hear you. I was too busy dreaming of a shower.”

I grinned. “I’d go for a bleach bath.”

“And rent a soap snorkel?”

“Is that a snorkel carved out of soap, or one that blows bubbles?”

“I hadn’t really thought it that far through.” Charles was stained worse than me. His pants were covered in a bull’s-eye of blood, like someone had done a shitty tie-dye job beginning at his knees.

We got onto our floor, keyed ourselves into the bathroom–locker room area using a paper towel to protect the keypad from our contaminated fingers, grabbed scrubs, and stopped in front of the unisex bathroom door.

“You start, Edie. I’ll be right back.”

While I wouldn’t normally go along with chivalry, I was too disgusted with my current state to argue, and Charles went into the men’s locker room besides. I hit the bathroom’s lever door handle with my elbow to open it, and stepped inside.

Gloves went into the trash can, lined with a red biohazard bag. I threw away my shirt and jeans away, but remained hopeful about my coat. After washing up, I changed into scrubs, put my coat on, and emerged into the short hallway outside.

Charles stepped out of the men’s locker room, in green scrubs just like me, holding his wallet and keys. I felt as fresh as an only slightly bloodstained daisy, but Charles smelled it. “Did you scrub yourself with Benza Quat?” I asked him.

“Yep.”

“Isn’t that stuff toxic?”

“One can only hope,” he said, shouldering on his coat. “I’m out of here, Spence.”

“But—don’t you want to see him?”

Charles opened the door and held it for me, and we stepped into the hallway outside. “No. I leave work at work. That’s the safest way to be.” The elevator arrived behind him, and he went in, keeping one hand out to hold the door.

I was torn between taking Charles’s advice for once, and seeing how our new patient was. Inside the elevator, Charles shook his head and sighed. “You look like you’re ready for work. You’d better get out of here before they forget you’re on night shift.”

“I’ll be fast.”

“See you next shift.” He pulled back his hand, the doors closed, and he was gone.

Left alone in the dim hallway, I felt a little lost. I knew the hallway on either side of me spiraled out, dotted with doors my badge wouldn’t open. Behind me, there was only the elevator or the locker rooms. The double doors that led into Y4 were in front of me, bright fluorescent light beaming out through the wire-glass windows inside. Had I a kinder heart, narcotics on board, or been experiencing sudden blood loss, they might look like the entrance to heaven. But I knew better. Most of our staff was there not because they wanted to be, but because the Shadows had given them no other choice, and the patients we treated were both victimized by and propagators of an endless cycle of violence.

Despite that—or maybe because of it—I still felt like what I did here mattered. Which was why I didn’t want to leave.

I’d helped to save a little girl recently, who also happened to be a vampire. I’d risked my life for her—it was what had gotten me broken up with and stabbed.

I hadn’t heard from her since the Rose Throne had picked her up from my house a while ago. But that was okay, because I couldn’t imagine my life not having helped her. I only hoped in helping her I hadn’t taken her from a frying pan and pushed her into a fire.

I needed to know about this guy now too. I shoved my coat underneath my free arm and pushed the doors to Y4 open.

CHAPTER FOUR

During the day, Y4 was always loud.

I crept along the periphery of the semicircular room, past the intensive-care-level beds that we usually used for daytimers, toward the were-corral hallway, where all the shouting was coming from. I just wanted to look for a moment and read the monitors.

The stranger was in room one, and it was easier to see the machines than the patient—the monitor with vitals on it hung from the ceiling overhead, the ventilator sat beside the bed, and IV pumps on poles surrounded the bed, pushing in medication. They’d even gotten the machine that delivered high-pressure blood, that compressed blood bags like stepped-on grapes, to quickly shuttle their contents up IV lines.

People were swarming the stranger—he was draped in blue as doctors tried to do sterile things to close him up. When a doctor moved I could see a wrist restrained with a leather cuff to the bed frame below, and when a nurse left the area near his head, and I could see he had a collar on now, to keep his neck safe. A titanium-tipped endotracheal tube came out of his mouth—we couldn’t use plastic here, our patients would bite them in two—and tubes attached to it went to the ventilator.

There were red medication warning labels on the hanging IV bags. We were giving him a blood pressure through a combination of transfusions and drugs, so while the pressure on the monitor was real for now, it wasn’t something the patient was doing on his own. You couldn’t give drugs forever; nor could you keep pouring blood through a sieve.

At his bedside another nurse had a tranquilizer gun out, aimed at the patient, ready to juice him with a dart of sedatives if he started to change again.

The day-shift charge nurse spotted me as she was coming out. “Are you going to help or just stand there?”

I shook my head hard and fast. “I just—no.”

Her eyes squinted at me. “Charles called it in—you were with him?” I nodded. “What happened?”

“Hit-and-run.” If the cop hadn’t said it, I wouldn’t have thought it—not at first. “He needs to be a No Info. Someone did this to him.” No Info was how we protected patients injured via violence—people who needed to be hidden in case more violence followed them to the hospital door.

There was a muted roar from inside the room, and the gowned doctors and nurses present all jumped back. The patient thrashed in bed, finding all the leather restraints tight in place.

“Clear!” The nurse holding the gun took a step nearer, and the medical team stopped what they were doing to give her a shot. Other nurses went to the pumps and dialed up the sedatives. Everything was quiet for a tense five seconds as staff waited to make sure they were safe to continue.

“You’ll make him a No Info, right?” I said, breaking the silence.

“Sure, fine.” The charge nurse only had eyes for what was happening inside the room, with her team, which was as it should be.

I backed away down the hall. The nurse holding down the fort at the front desk looked up from the monitor and recognized me. “Will he make it?” she asked.

   
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