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A Man to Die ForChapter One
His arrival was foretold like the second coming of Christ. Administration, that great hospital prophet of profit and loss, whispered his name with reverence and hope. Men in three-piece suits said novellas, drunk with his potential, aquiver with his proposed patient load. Silver-haired corporate giants wept with joy. A great wind of change was sweeping over Mother Mary Hospital, and its name would be Hunsacker.
The labor and delivery staff took up the song the minute he first crossed Mother Mary terrazzo, the nurses entertaining the cafeteria crowd with psalms to his looks and charisma, teasing the unanointed with his proximity, congratulating themselves on their incredible luck to be so privileged with his presence.
The floors followed, and then surgery, until the reputation of Dr. Date Hunsacker threatened mythological proportions.
He was handsome. He was electric. He remembered names and told jokes and brought in pizzas. The administration loved him because he had managed to siphon the wealthier pregnancies their way when he decided to name Mother Mary his primary hospital, and the labor and delivery nurses loved him because he inspired administration to cough up some badly needed money for their unit. So what if he wasn't the best OB/GYN to hit the halls. Neither were any of the other OBs on staff, and not one of them was nearly as pleasant.
Dr. Dale Hunsacker, doctor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, late of the finer neighborhoods of Boston and New York, had decided to escape the pressures of the East Coast for the settled, homey atmosphere of St. Louis. In no more than a matter of weeks in his new home, he hadproven a rare talent, attracting some of the area's more wealthy women into his practice on weight of word of mouth and an unforgettable smile. Dr. Dale Hunsacker was an up-and-coming commodity in one of the most cutthroat business venues in St. Louis medicine. And much to the chagrin of the more traditional moneyed hospitals in the area, Mother Mary had him.
Dale was a great guy. Dale was a dream. Dale was a hell of a team player. By the time Casey met him, she knew she was either going to end up hating him or having his children.
Given a choice, she would have picked almost any other night to finally meet the newest staff legend. Friday night was bad enough in the emergency room, but a full moon was worse. And to top it off, the weather was warming up. All those bananamen out there who had been waiting out the cold weather to go back into action were revving into high gear.
Five hours into her shift, Casey was tired, hungry, and crabby. The idea that all this was just a preview of the months to come depressed her immensely.
"It's like a zoo in here tonight," she complained to Janice Feldman when they met at the medprep where the medications were kept.
Tall, elegant, and irritatingly spotless at eight o'clock at night, Janice grinned and waved a manicured finger at Casey's freckled nose. "Watch it, hon. One of the surgery nurses got fired for bandying about that particular euphemism. Administration thinks it's derogatory."
Casey lifted a dry eyebrow. "It is," she assured her friend. "That's why I said it." Drawing up fifty of Vistaril, Casey capped the needle and turned to consider the long hall. "Sounds like it's feeding time, too."
Babies wailed, drunks howled, one particularly colorful psychotic screamed a series of numbers out loud to keep them all from disappearing, and the radio babbled nonstop. Phones rang, monitors beeped, and sirens moaned on their way in.
"Hold ye there, virgin!"
Casey stiffened and spun around. "Oh, shit, Ralph. I told you to watch him!"
A close relative of Gentle Ben was bearing down on her, hair and beard flying, eyes glittering, arms outstretched to her. The leather restraints he'd been wearing flapped in his wake. He was buck naked and ugly as sin.
"Save me, virgin!" he howled, scattering security guards like bowling pins. "Die for me!"
Casey planted herself foursquare in his path. "I have affidavits," she yelled at him, hands on hips, fighting a grin. St. Paul came in every other month when he forgot to take his Prolixin and tried to sacrifice a redheaded virgin to ensure the safety of his virility. Unfortunately, Casey was the only redhead around. "Witnesses. Participants. I-am-not-a virgin!"
"I'll swear to it!" Dr. Belstein yelled from room three where he was sewing up a toddler's chin.
"Me, too," Michael Wilson added, hand in the air from where he was adjusting a pair of crutches at the other end of the hall. "She was great!"
"Did St. Paul live in medieval Scotland?" Janice asked as security gave it another try. Two of them grabbed restraints. Two more tried flying tackles.
"What I want to know," Casey answered, watching the foray passively, "is whether he's only been this ugly since he fell off that donkey."
St. Paul finally came down when Casey just stuck a foot out and tripped him. The ensuing crash of people tumbled two chairs and sent a stock cart rolling into the telemetry desk. Janice delicately lifted a spotless white shoe just in time to have St. Paul slide neatly beneath. Spittle dotted the floor, but not her uniform.
"You'll need to fill out an incident report," Ralph informed them from where he lay amid the tangle of arms and legs.
Casey waved him off. "I'll just copy off the last four."
She was turning back to close up the cabinet when a wild howl split the air. Both she and Janice turned in the direction of room eight, which had been empty only moments earlier.
"What's that?" Janice demanded as the voice rose again, somebody's impersonation of a screech monkey ...A Man to Die For. Copyright (c) by Eileen Dreyer . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.