By Janet Evanovich, Charlotte Hughes
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 2006 Evanovich, Inc.
All rights reserved.
"Maggie, what in the world are you doing up there!"
Standing on her swivel desk chair, Dr. Maggie Davenport jumped at the sound of her nurse's voice. The chair pivoted, swung to the right in a half circle. Maggie said, "Eek!," and grabbed one of the shelves of the built-in bookcase, knocking off several medical books, including Gray's Anatomy. The tome bounced off her head. "Ugh!" Maggie winced as tiny dots blinked back at her like fireflies. The chair rolled several inches.
Nurse Queenie Cloud stood motionless, her mouth forming a perfect O. "You're going to kill yourself!"
Maggie tried to get the chair under control, but it refused to cooperate, twisting back and forth as though trying to dance to an old Chubby Checker tune. "Holy crap!"
Queenie bolted forward and Maggie reached out blindly, accidentally sinking her fingers into the other woman's cap of tightly wound white curls. "Let go of my hair!" Queenie cried. She caught the back of the chair and steadied it. "Get down from there before we both end up going to the ER!"
"It's not my fault you came in here and scared me half to death while I was searching for a reference book," Maggie said. She managed to climb from the chair without further injury, but her head was already beginning to throb.
"What reference book?" Queenie asked.
Maggie finger-combed her dark hair from her face, squared her shoulders, and tried to appear as professional as she could under the circumstances. "My, um, Encyclopedia of Rare Illnesses. If you must know," she added in her best physician's voice.
"Don't you go batting those baby-blue eyes at me," Queenie said, "and don't think for one minute I don't know what you were looking for. You were trying to find your stash, that's what you were doing." She gave a grunt. "You haven't even been clean for twenty-four hours."
Maggie should have known better than to try to pull a fast one on Queenie. At seventy, the woman was as sharp as the day she'd gone to work for Maggie's grandfather. Six-year-old Maggie had shaken the black woman's hand and promptly announced that she knew how babies were made. Queenie still treated her as though she were six even though Maggie had a medical degree and a thirteen-year-old daughter.
Maggie slumped. "Hey, I've been listening to crying babies and grumpy children for almost two hours straight without a break. I'm going through withdrawal here. You can't expect me to go cold turkey."
Queenie gave a huge sigh. "I knew this would happen. Okay, you can have one." The woman reached into the pocket of her white uniform, pulled out a Hershey's Kiss, and slapped it into Maggie's open palm like a surgical instrument. "Eat fast. We have a situation in X-ray and you've got patients waiting." She hurried out.
Maggie pulled the foil wrap off the piece of chocolate and tossed it in her mouth. She held it on her tongue and felt the chocolate soften and melt. She closed her eyes and waited for her endorphins to kick in. Endorphins were good things. Exercise and sex raised endorphins, too, but she hadn't exercised lately, and she certainly hadn't had sex. She thought about it a lot; boy oh boy, did she think about it. Too bad she didn't know anybody she wanted to climb beneath the sheets with even though she often went through her mental list of the men she'd dated since returning to Beaumont. Too bad she had to count on chocolate to do the trick. Maybe if she ate less chocolate the men on her list would look better.
Maggie opened her eyes and found Alice, her X-ray technician, standing in the doorway, peering at her from beneath chestnut-colored bangs that needed trimming and reminded Maggie of a sheepdog. "I'm on my way."
A moment later, Maggie stepped into the X-ray room where a tearful six-year-old Bobby Carmichael sat on the stainless steel table, still holding a wad of tissue to his nose that he'd bloodied after falling from a piece of playground equipment at school. Maggie had ordered the X-ray in case he had a fracture. In a chair nearby, his mother was giving him a pep talk.
Alice held a ten-by-ten undeveloped X-ray. "Bobby doesn't want an X-ray."
Maggie smiled at him. "What's wrong, Bobby? X-rays don't hurt. Have you ever had one?"
"At the dentist," he managed. "But —"
The three women waited.
"It's going to hurt if she tries to stick that big thing in my mouth." He pointed to the X-ray.
"Oh, honey, Alice isn't going to put it in your mouth," Maggie said. She turned to Alice. "You might want to carefully explain the procedure to Bobby."
Queenie stood just outside the door and motioned for Maggie, who joined her once Bobby had been reassured.
"Our all-time favorite patient, Henry Filbert, stepped on a rusty nail," Queenie said. "He's in Room One. Susie O'Neal has a bad cold in Room Two and Dee Dee Fontana is in Room Three. She brought the baby in for his six-month checkup."
"I hope Dee Dee took my advice and talked to her ob-gyn about her hormone imbalance," Maggie whispered.
"Jamie Swift-Holt is with her," Queenie said. "They're early so don't knock yourself out rushing."
"I'll see Henry first; then Susie." Maggie stepped inside the exam room and found eleven-year-old Henry playing a handheld game. He didn't look up. Nor did his mother, whose nose was buried in a People magazine. "What happened to your foot, Henry?" Maggie asked as she checked the wound.
"I stepped on a rusty nail," he mumbled, pushing buttons on his game as fast as he could.
"Now, why would you go and do something like that?" Maggie teased.
He looked up and regarded her through the lens of clunky tortoiseshell glasses. His blond bangs formed a precise line across his forehead. "What? You think I did it on purpose?"
Mrs. Filbert looked up. "It was an accident, Dr. Davenport," she said, giving Maggie a funny look.
The boy frowned. "I'm not stupid, you know." He went back to his game.
Maggie didn't bother to clear up the misunderstanding as she cleaned and treated the wound and wrote out a prescription. Henry might not be stupid, but he was spoiled and downright rude, thanks to wealthy parents who pandered to him. She looked through his file. "I see Henry had his last DPT at age four. I usually give my patients an adult tetanus booster after age twelve, so we can go ahead and give Henry his now just to be on the safe side."
"Uh-huh." Mrs. Filbert's gaze was once again fixed on the magazine.
"Okay, we'll get him all set up," Maggie said. When neither acknowledged her, she shrugged and left the room.
Queenie was in the hall attaching a sticky note to a file. "I have never seen the likes," she said. "Two weeks into the school year and half the kids in town have a cold."
"Henry needs a tetanus shot," Maggie said.
Queenie sighed and muttered, "And I was counting on this being a good day."
Maggie checked her wristwatch. Ten-thirty, and she still had a waiting room full of patients. And on Friday, to boot, when she closed early for the weekend.
Susie O'Neal was a second-grader with dimples and pigtails and pinafores that her mother often sewed for her. Maggie found the two staring at the wall mural Maggie's daughter had painted; puppies tumbling playfully on a floor, one stub-tailed and spotted fellow grasping a bedroom slipper between his teeth. Mel was an amazing young artist who'd taught herself to draw almost from the moment she'd learned to hold a pencil.
Maggie examined Susie, wrote out a prescription for her cough, and offered the usual instructions on treating the common cold. Unlike Henry's mother, Mrs. O'Neal listened carefully and asked pertinent questions. The woman was not demanding; it was obvious she was respectful of Maggie's time. Maggie never failed to give Susie's pigtails a gentle tug before she left the room, if for no other reason than to see her cheeks pucker with a smile.
Jamie was playing peekaboo with her six-month-old nephew, Frankie Jr., when Maggie entered the room. The baby was all smiles and drool, and it was obvious Jamie adored him. Maggie was glad they'd rekindled their high school friendship; she and Jamie often lunched and shopped together. After swearing Maggie to secrecy, Jamie told her she was trying to get pregnant, but two months of negative pregnancy tests had prompted her to buy an ovulation kit. Unfortunately, she and Max were finding it difficult to do the deed since the antebellum mansion they'd purchased after their honeymoon was in renovation and crawling with contractors.
"That can't be Frankie Jr.," Maggie said. "It has only been two months since I last saw him, and he has doubled in size!"
Dee Dee and Jamie smiled so proudly it would have been difficult to figure out which of them was the baby's mother had Maggie not already known. They were both gorgeous, as usual, former beauty queen Dee Dee in a kelly-green dress that brought out her red hair and milky complexion; Jamie in navy, her blond hair cut in a sassy new style.
"He's going to be big like his daddy," Dee Dee said.
"You might just have another world-famous wrestler on your hands," Maggie told her. She took the baby and noted right away how alert he was.
Dee Dee shook her head emphatically. "No way am I letting him close to a wrestling ring. He's going to be a great scientist who will find cures for all sorts of terrible diseases. Or maybe president of our country one day," she added.
"Wow!" Maggie smiled at the goofy grin on the baby's face and tried to imagine an older version of him sitting in the oval office.
"Or maybe a famous male model or Chippendale dancer," Dee Dee said. "He could do butter commercials on the side."
Maggie cut her gaze to Jamie and noted her amusement. "It's always good to have a backup plan," she told Dee Dee. She measured and weighed Frankie Jr., checked his reflexes and motor skills, all the while asking Dee Dee about his eating and sleeping habits. Dee Dee answered each question carefully; then bragged about her son's latest accomplishments.
"I'm pretty sure I'm right about everything," she said, reaching into her purse for an envelope and handing it to Maggie. "But I double-checked with his nannies to make sure," she added.
Maggie nodded. Because Dee Dee had become pregnant late in life her husband had hired three nannies to help out. They each worked an eight-hour shift. "Good thinking. By the way, how are those hormones of yours?"
Dee Dee looked at Jamie. "I think I'm doing better."
Jamie nodded. She and Dee Dee had been good friends long before Max Holt had come into the picture and swept Jamie off her feet, and now the two women were sisters-in-law and closer than ever. "Most of the crying jags ended once Dee Dee got back to her normal weight," she told Maggie. "You would not believe what a one-pound gain can do to this woman."
Dee Dee shrugged. "It's true that I'm a little sensitive about my weight."
"Yeah, just a tad," Jamie added with an eye-roll. "But crying seems to work to Dee Dee's advantage because her poor husband can't bear to see her cry. Check out what Frankie gave her during the last mood swing."
Dee Dee held up her hand so Maggie could admire her new diamond.
Maggie arched both brows. "Whoa, that sucker is bigger than the paperweight on my desk!"
"You have to know how to work a man," Dee Dee said proudly.
"You should give lessons," Maggie told her. She began dressing the baby, something she enjoyed doing, and she made silly faces that had not been taught in med school. She waved her hand over his head as though performing a magic act. "I now pronounce your son adorable and perfectly healthy," she said, drawing big smiles from both women. "He's going to need his six-month shots."
"Uh-oh," Jamie replied.
"I won't cry like last time," Dee Dee promised, even as her green eyes grew watery.
Someone knocked on the door and Maggie opened it, expecting Queenie to look in. Destiny Moultrie stood on the other side. Maggie could see that she was deeply troubled; she didn't much look like the smiling photo that accompanied her column as the Divine Love Goddess Advisor for the Gazette.
"Hello, Destiny. If you're here to witness Frankie Jr.'s physical, you just missed it."
"No, I —" She looked frantic. "Is Jamie in there?" She peeked around the partially open door. "Thank goodness I found you! You wouldn't believe the lies I told Vera so she'd tell me where you were. I have to talk to you!"
Jamie looked surprised. "You mean right this minute?"
"Yes! It's urgent and life-altering."
"Oh, boy," Jamie said, wondering what Destiny had come up with this time. She didn't have to wait long; Destiny squeezed past Maggie and stepped inside.
"There's going to be a full moon tonight!"
Jamie waited. "Is that it?"
Destiny shook her head. "It gets worse. Planet Mercury is going into retrograde, and Venus is moving into the seventh house. There is going to be trouble. Big trouble!"
All three women gave Destiny their full attention. "How big?" Jamie asked. "Big like in 'biblical proportion' or big like in 'people need to look both ways before crossing the street'?"
"It's going to affect communication; people are going to be fighting like cats and dogs. Husbands and wives will stop talking to each other, road rage will run rampant, and there will be one car accident after another." She paused and sucked in air. She looked at Maggie. "Do you have a boyfriend who wears Hawaiian shirts? Or maybe a beard?"
Maggie shook her head. She wasn't about to admit she didn't have a boyfriend at the moment. Or in the recent past. Or even the distant past.
Destiny went on with her predictions. "Because Venus is involved, Cupid will run amok, so to speak. People are going to be having a lot of sex. That's about the only good news I have." She paused and took a deep breath. "This is the scary part. I'm supposed to get married."
"Huh?" Jamie wasn't sure she'd heard correctly.
"It gets much worse. Freddy Baylor, the new guy in town who bought that bait shop, is hot for me. He doesn't look as though he has had a haircut or shave in months, and he —" She paused and shuddered. "He holds fishing worms and crickets and live minnows and heaven only knows what else. I can't possibly marry him."
Queenie opened the door and stepped inside. She was breathing heavily. "Henry Filbert is gone."
Maggie looked at her. "Gone where?"
"Soon as I showed up with that booster injection you ordered, he shot out the door like a bottle rocket. After he gave me the finger and called me an ugly black witch doctor."
"Oh, gur-reat!" Maggie said. "Did you happen to see which way he went?"
"In the direction of that little strip shopping center," Queenie said. "I chased that boy for two blocks before I gave up. Just look what the humidity did to my new perm." She pointed to her hair. The once-tight curls had come unsprung and jutted from her head like tiny mattress springs. "Mrs. Filbert is having a conniption fit out front. Somebody needs to put that woman on Valium."
Maggie looked at Dee Dee. "Would you excuse me for a minute?" She opened the door and started down the hall. She could hear Henry's mother wailing from the reception room. "Hurry, Queenie! We have to find him."
Even as tall and lanky as she was, Queenie could not keep up with Maggie. "Hurry, hell," she muttered. "I'm too old for this nonsense. I should be sitting home watching the Shopping Network and collecting Social Security. I ought to put the root on that boy. I ought to —"
Maggie skidded to a stop and Queenie slammed into her. They both gave a giant ugh."Quiet!" Maggie whispered. "His mother might hear you."
"Yeah? The way I see it, she owes me a hundred dollars for not bringing him back."
Maggie threw open the door to the reception room where Ann Filbert was in the throes of hysteria and frantically punching numbers on her cell phone. She gave Maggie a dark look and pointed at Queenie. "That woman frightened my son. I demand that you fire her immediately."
"Everything is going to be okay, Mrs. Filbert," Maggie said, noting the openmouthed stares coming from the other parents. A toddler in a pink dress yowled and reached for her mother. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Full Scoop by Janet Evanovich, Charlotte Hughes. Copyright © 2006 Evanovich, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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