The Silent Cradle

The Silent Cradle

by Margaret Cuthbert

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With a "powerful combination [of] medical authenticity and strong writing" (Washington Post Book World), this acclaimed debut thriller is set on the front lines of real-life hospital drama. Margaret Cuthbert draws from her career as an obstetrician to create a terrifying scenario for a doctor -- and arouse our darkest fears about the greedy side of the business of medicine.

Save the life. Save the life....This is the mantra repeated by Dr. Rae Duprey, Berkeley Hills Hospital's premier obstetrician, who's driven by a passion to save the lives of women and babies in her care. But when her career is threatened by a series of "bad baby" cases emanating from the politically sensitive birth center across the street -- a center run by her ex-lover and nemesis, Bo Michaels -- Rae is determined to uncover the truth about why these seemingly routine deliveries are going fatally haywire.

Rae soon discovers that in the ruthlessly competitive atmosphere of today's health-care system, everyone has a hidden agenda. As the hair-raising emergencies continue unabated, she begins to suspect the unthinkable: a sinister plan of medical sabotage, masterminded by a killer who is hardly a stranger to Berkeley Hills Hospital.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780671015145
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication date: 02/01/1999
Pages: 496
Product dimensions: 4.17(w) x 6.72(h) x 1.09(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"Push!" said Dr. Rae Duprey, to her patient, Angel Lloyd.

"Just take it out -- take it OUT!" Angel screamed.

"Hunker down now, honey," said Angel's husband, Max.

"You hunker down if you think it's so easy, Mr. Lamaze!"

Rae chuckled as she sat on a stool between Angel's pale thighs. She moved in closer, using sterile gauze to wipe flecks of blood from Angel's perineum. The baby was crowning beautifully. Another contraction was starting.

"That's right, just ease it on out, nice and slow now," she coaxed.

"Aaiieee!" Angel shouted. "Please, Rae, pull it out! Don't just sit there! Give me a cesarean -- do something!"

"I told you to have that epidural, honey," Max said, wiping his wet brow.

"Shut up. And stop calling me honey!"

But then the back of the baby's head emerged, covered with wet black hair; and as the neck extended upward, out came a pink and wrinkly face.

Rae stared back at the two large slate-blue eyes that gazed questioningly up at her. With the tip of her gloved finger, she touched the tip of the baby's nose. Then she cleaned out both nose and mouth with a tiny blue suction bulb. "Rough trip, eh?" she said to the little face.

Thirty minutes later, Rae had showered and wrapped a towel around herself. She was a petite woman, barely five feet three, 105 pounds, with the lithe body of a dancer. Her light brown eyes, spaced widely apart and almond shaped like a Serengeti leopard's, stared straight ahead at the stark white walls. Sighing, she closed them for a few seconds and thought about the two babies that had kept her up all night. A smile crept across her face. Sure she felt tired, but mothers and babies had done well. Andtty of her mother's New Orleans voice: soft, sweet, and melodic. Only inside an operating room did she bark orders like a drill sergeant having a bad day. "But leave the 'good Lord' out of it," she added more seriously.

Rae's mother had bled to death giving birth to a stillborn baby boy in the back of an ambulance. At thirteen years old, she had witnessed the whole thing, and at the funeral, she had made two decisions. One, that she would become the world's greatest obstetrician so that no woman would ever have to go through what her mother did. And two, that God was not on her side anymore, for how could he be on her side if he let her mother die the way she did?

From that day on, she was no longer a little girl. At her mother's funeral, her stern father forbade her to cry. Not a single tear, he warned. So she had swallowed her grief and buried her feelings deep in her soul. Then, methodically and meticulously, she went about pursuing her own ambition. And she had never looked back. Not once.

Bernie stared down at Rae from her height of six feet. "Come on, Rae. I know you feel the same way. Angel was a bit much, even for you." Bernie adjusted a four-generation-old nursing hat she always wore inside the hospital, even when she was dressed in her jeans and blue parka, as she was now. "Admit it. You're getting too old for these all-nighters."

Rae raised her slim arms above her head and yawned. "I never get tired," she said. "Who gets tired at thirty-eight?"

"We do," Bernie said.

Rae hated admitting how old she was, even to Bernie. Her mother was thirty-eight when she died. She changed the subject quickly. "Wasn't Angel's baby a cute little thing?" she asked. "Did you see those buggy eyes st aring at us, saying, 'Hi. I'm Angel's baby. Who the heck are you?' How could I be tired after something like that?"

"I actually don't know how much longer I'll be doing these night shifts," Bernie interrupted, changing the subject back.

"Why, I feel as spry as a new baby, Bernie," Rae said. "I feel as springy as a new chick."

She waited for her friend to finish the ditty.

"I don't feel like singing," Bernie said instead. "And I'm sick to death of that song."

Rae crossed one bare leg over the other. "Oh?" she asked. She knew Bernie's moods, but she also knew that Bernie always got as much of a kick out of a nice delivery as she did. "You've never complained before."

Bernie leaned against the locker and crossed her arms over her chest. "I might be out of a job," she said.

Rae dangled her Dictaphone like a socialite holding a cigarette. She sighed loudly. "Not this again, Bernie," she said. "You really shouldn't listen to rumors. That's all they are."

Bernie plopped down next to Rae. "Indeed." She reached inside her parka and pulled out a piece of paper. "So what's this?" she asked, handing the paper to Rae.

The letterhead belonged to their hospital. Rae read the memo out loud. "Due to declining revenues, Berkeley Hills Hospital will need to cut each department's budget by fifteen percent. Management will make every effort to avoid cutting necessary personnel. We will keep you informed."

"But they won't cut this department," Rae said, handing the notice back to Bernie, who stuffed it back into her pocket.

"Get your head out of the sandbox, will you, darlin'?" she retorted. "If there's any department that's in trouble, it's ours. The Birth Center's killing us. Maybe we ought to fol low suit and bring in some nice music and stick flowers in every room, and get rid of these white walls and computers..."

Rae stared at her. "The Birth Center's all smoke and mirrors, Bernie."

"Smoke and mirrors I can handle. But that place is hitting us where we live. And if you had any sense, you'd change your mind and apply for privileges over there yourself -- "


"We -- the nurses," Bernie continued, holding her thumb and index finger an inch apart, "are about this far from a pink slip. You read the memo. They're not whistling Dixie, honey."

Rae tapped her Dictaphone against her forehead. "But they can't even do C-sections over there, Bernie."

Bernie snatched the Dictaphone from Rae's hand and said into the mike, "Delivering babies is a job, sugar, not a calling from God."

Rae snatched it back. "I never said it was."

"And your little hoedown with the board of trustees this morning isn't going to change anything," Bernie added.

"The board's not stupid," Rae said. "Obstetrics built this hospital. By the time the meeting's over, we'll be hiring, not firing, more nurses. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is going to lay off people around here. Not if I have anything to do with it!"

"That's not what Bo said -- "

"Who cares what Bo said -- you've been talking to Bo?" Rae stopped pointing her Dictaphone at Bernie. Her body stiffened involuntarily. Bo Michaels was the medical director of the Birth Center, the chairman of the hospital's obstetrical department, and Rae's ex-boyfriend.

"You better believe I've been talking to him," Bernie said. "We all have. He's offering us day shifts, for a lot more ducats."

"You're just pulling my leg -- "

"And full medical benefits f rom day one," Bernie added.

Rae rolled her eyes. "I don't believe you've been talking to anybody. Especially to Bo. He's the reason why your job's on the line now. He's the one who started the Birth Center and did everything he could to lure business away -- "

"How come whenever we start talking about Bo, we always wind up arguing about Bo?" Bernie interrupted.

Rae tossed the Dictaphone into her locker. She felt her good mood dissipating quickly, like the mist from her shower.

She shook her head, as if trying to shake Bo from her thoughts. "Well, it doesn't matter. I don't believe you'd have anything to do with him."

"For what he's offering, you better believe it," Bernie said.

All of this talk about Bo Michaels made Rae feel uncomfortable. She started to change the topic, but Bernie spoke first. "Look, honey, the person who needs to talk to him is you. It's time to kiss and make up and admit you were wrong about what Bo's trying to do with that place. Remember how we both thought the Birth Center was a joke a year ago? Well, darlin', the joke's on us now. The Birth Center is now the Mecca of obstetrics, not Berkeley Hills Hospital -- hey, what's with the long face, Rae? Don't look at me that way. You two used to be partners. For heaven's sake, you used to live with the man!"

"But I wasn't on his payroll!"

Bernie opened her mouth, started to say something, but let out a long whistle instead. Crossing her arms over her chest she said, "I'm going to let that one float right on down the river, honey. I said you were tired. Maybe you ought to skip the meeting and get some sleep."

"I'll only have nightmares about you and Bo working together."

"Suit yourself." Bernie started to walk away.

"Hey," Rae said, grabbing Bernie's parka. "I'm sorry." She shrugged. "It's just that a year later, I still let him get to me."

"It's called love," Bernie said. "L-O-V-E."

Rae sighed. "Not anymore. Maybe not ever. At least that's my conclusion after a few weeks of spilling my guts to a shrink."

"Ah, so you took my suggestion after all," Bernie said, raising an eyebrow.

Rae leaned forward to remove a pair of stockings from her locker. She wanted to get off the subject of Bo and back to the matter at hand. "What about the fact that they can't do a C-section over there, Bernie?" she asked. "What about the fact that they have to rely on ambulance transports? You can't even stand it when one of our patients has to labor in room seventeen. And why? Because room seventeen is the farthest from the operating room. Every time we have to rush a patient out of there and down the hall for a stat section, all you do is scream about how we're not pushing the gurney fast enough! So why are you talking about going to work at the Birth Center? Room seventeen's only a few yards away from the operating table. That damn Birth Center is way the hell across the street."

"Have you ever been to the Birth Center, Rae? It's beautiful, and they do a good job over there." She pretended to study her bloodred fingernails.

"No, but -- "

Bernie held up her index fingers in the sign of the cross. "Okay, okay, darling. How about we let this go for now? I'm tired. You're tired. And I'm not going to let you yell at me when the person you really want to yell at is Bo."

"I thought we were done talking about him."

Bernie patted Rae's bare shoulder. "Maybe one day you'll tell me exactly what cut the cord betwe en you two."

"I told you everything."

"So you've said a zillion times."

"Believe me," Rae said, patting Bernie's hand, "you don't want to know -- "

"Yes, I do, Rae," Bernie said, raising her voice. "We used to laugh and giggle and paint our toenails like there was no tomorrow. But now all we do is argue, and in the middle of every argument is Bo. So what the hell is it? What is so terrible that you can't tell me?"

"Okay, okay!" Rae barked. She waved off Bernie. "Give me a second, will you?"

She had never wanted to tell anyone the cause of her breakup with Bo. But Bernie was right again: holding back was poisoning their friendship.

She cast her eyes downward. "How about I dictate you a letter, Bernie?"

"How about I beat it out of you instead?"

Rae paused again, and listened to the whirl of the vacuum cleaner. "Do you hear that?"


"Just listen, damn it!"

"Okay, okay," Bernie replied. She closed her eyes and feigned deep concentration. "Sounds just like a vacuum cleaner."

"I heard that sound in my head every day for a year," Rae said. "It drove me crazy. It took everything I had to make it stop."

Bernie's eyes narrowed. "You heard a vacuum cleaner in your therapist's office?"

"In a way."

"Hell, I'm lost," Bernie said. "What's a vacuum cleaner got to do with you and Bo?"

"I had a miscarriage," Rae said quietly.

The sound of the vacuum cleaner faded. Rae hated the silence that it left. She could almost hear the sound of her heart pounding inside her head. No one but Bo, and a nurse and a gynecologist in another town, knew of Rae's pregnancy.

"Well, say something," Rae said.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"That's why Bo left me."

"Bo left you because you misca rried?"

"I missed a pill, Bernie," Rae continued. "I never planned to have children, you know that. But it happened, and I told Bo, and he went crazy -- "

"But Bo doesn't want children," Bernie said, slumping down next to Rae.

Rae looked down at the floor and sighed. "Bo was the one who changed his mind about having children. We fought about it everyday. I was confused about everything. Suddenly I couldn't decide. It's different when you're pregnant. He finally gave me an ultimatum...

"Then I started to bleed. A sonogram showed a blighted ovum. Bo blamed me for the miscarriage. He said I never bothered to slow down...anyway, I never had to make a decision. Still, it took me half a dozen sessions with a therapist to sort things out."

Bernie looked at Rae incredulously. "So you had a D and C, and you did it all alone?"

"Afterward, Bo said he was sorry. He wanted to make another go of it. But we were having problems before the pregnancy, Bernie. Bo had become more of an entrepreneur than a doctor. The Birth Center proves that. Sure, the money he makes from it allows him to donate a ton to the March of Dimes and anybody else doing research on birth defects. But his philanthropy is for strangers, not for the people in his life. And when it comes to living with him, well, let's just say that our hearts didn't speak to each other. I do what I do because I love it. He does what he does because of the return on his investment...

"Anyway, that's in the past. All I want to do now is become chairman of our department and make sure things are done right around here. I wish you'd reconsider about applying for a job at the Birth Center. At least until after I meet with the board of trustees this morn ing and try to talk some sense into them."

Bernie leaned over and hugged Rae. Rae felt she could have held on to her forever. "No more secrets, okay, Rae?"

Rae nodded into her friend's shoulder. "No, no more secrets," she said.

"Well," Bernie said tiredly, "I guess I should go home now. Call me tonight, okay? No, call and leave a message on my machine after the board meeting. The first thing I want to know when I wake up is whether or not I still have a job."

Rae patted the back of Bernie's hand, which still rested on her shoulder.

"Now you know why Bo ignores me when he sees me," Rae said.

Bernie smiled weakly. "Now I know why he looks like he can't live without you," she said.

After Bernie left, Rae let herself feel the full extent of her exhaustion. Yawning, she looked at the overhead clock. It was 6:55 A.M. She'd been up all night. She'd better hurry if she wanted to get dressed, get something to eat, and meet with the hospital's board of trustees by eight o'clock. She pulled on her stockings and then reached for a navy-blue dress. She always kept several changes of work clothes at the hospital just in case she couldn't make it home to change after a night on call.

"Dr. Duprey! Are you still there?"

It was a voice from the intercom. Rae recognized it immediately. "Sorry, Trish," she said jokingly to the intercom. "Dr. Duprey left ten minutes ago."

"Dr. Duprey, we can't find Dr. Michaels!"

"I'm sure you can find him at the Birth -- " Rae started to say.

" -- and one of his patients just arrived by ambulance from the Birth Center! The baby's heart rate's in the sixties, and it's not coming back up! She's only one centimeter dilated!"

Rae snatched the towel from her body, and from a glass wall cabinet grabbed a clean set of white surgical scrubs. "Is she on the table?"

"She needs a cesarean -- are you coming?"

"Get her on the table!" Rae barked. "And see if you can find Bernie," she added quickly. She knew that there would be good nurses available on the day shift, but Bernie was the unit's best nurse, day or night.

The intercom had clicked dead. Rae didn't know if Trish had heard her request to hunt down Bernie. But in less than thirty seconds, she was dressed and speeding down the stark white hallway to the operating suite.

Forget the war between the Birth Center and the hospital. She had a baby to save.

Copyright © 1998 by Margaret Owens Cuthbert

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The Silent Cradle (2 Cassettes) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Margaret Cuthbert did a good job with her first novel. It is clear that the author is a professional in the field of OB/GYN. The plot was somewhat predictable and the characters were not very likeable. Hopefully, hospital politics are not accurately displayed in this book. Most the the doctors were unprofessional and juvenile with their interactions with one another. Rae Duprey was an emotional train wreck and definitely did not present herself well. All in all not a bad debut novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Silent Cradle was a fascinating and startling read. I couldn't put it down! Cuthbert is fabulous, similar to Robert Cook but with an even more enticing story line.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book - I couldn't put it down! If you read Vital Signs by Robin Cook and enjoyed it, this is a must read. The plot goes smoothly and a bit of romance spices things up! The ending is fantastic, and I was pleased to see another medical doctor write a fictional thriller - it's great to see the right medical terms used! :) I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Silent Cradle is without a doubt an excellent medical thriller. So many times I attempted to put the book down to attend to other things, but found it almost impossible! This book holds truth and entertaining fiction all in one. I'm eagerly awaiting the next Margaret Cuthbert novel, And Down Will Come Baby. Great job!!!!!