The Ghost and the Graveyard

Chapter 9


St. John's is a modern hospital with windows that take up the entire wall and big, airy spaces that defy the claustrophobic feel of older buildings. But the fact that you could see the parking lot from the hallway to the ICU did not bode well for concealing my lateness, the result of my late night knife throwing session with Logan and subsequent hangover. Luckily, Michelle raced to meet me at the doublewide, automatic doors to my unit.
"I've been covering for you. You're ten minutes late." She grabbed my purse from me and tossed it into the break room where our lockers were without regard for the contents. "You have three-oh-three and three-oh-four, cardiac arrest and pneumonia. Vitals are normal. You've been at the blood bank for three-oh-three."
The last word was barely out of her mouth when my boss, Kathleen, rounded the corner and met my eyes.
"Where've you been, Grateful?" she asked. Her lips pulled into a stern line.
"At the blood bank for three-oh-three. I forgot the type and match and had to come back up."
"I must have missed you when you came in," she said. Her voice held a hint of skepticism.
"I got report from uh..." I cleared my throat. I had no idea who had my rooms before me.
"Megan. Wasn't it Megan I saw you with this morning?" Michelle filled in.
"Yes, Megan," I followed. "Had to get started right away. Sorry I missed you."
Kathleen nodded curtly and rushed off to her next victim.
"I owe you one, Michelle."
We walked side by side toward our rooms.
"You can pay me back after work today by coming with me to check out a patient on neuro. Maureen asked me to stop over."
"Sorry, hon. Can't today. I have plans."
"With who?"
I stopped myself. I didn't actually have plans. But I hoped to corner Logan and try to find out more about the scrapbook. Not only would Michelle not believe me if I told her the truth, but she might go all mental-health-nurse on me. If I didn't want to end up on Haldol, I figured Logan needed to stay my little secret. "With me."
"Listen, I've been totally stressed lately. I just want to paint my toes and go to bed early, you know?"
"Totally. Totally get it. Tomorrow's Euchre night with Manny." She sighed. "You wanna go to Valentine's for drinks Friday?"
I adjusted a box of latex gloves on the counter, unable to look Michelle in the eye. "I have a date."
"Another date with your toes?"
"No, a real date."
"With who?"
"My new neighbor, Rick." I rubbed behind my ear. "I kinda had a date with him yesterday. I think we hit it off." Boy, was that the understatement of the year, but telling Michelle he'd gotten me off on the first date was an equally bad idea as telling her about Logan. I wasn't proud to be hiding things from my best friend, but my life was a little weird right now. I'd be straight with her once I got a grip on things.
"What's wrong with him?"
I gasped and gave her an appalled stare. "There's nothing wrong with him."
"Are you forgetting the blonde paradox? Fast to come is fast to go."
"I'm not forgetting, but he's perfectly normal. I have a good feeling about this relationship. We seem destined somehow."
"You've known him for like three days."
"I know. Well, four if you count today."
Michelle did not look impressed. She rolled her eyes and made a raspberry sound with her lips. "Call me when you need ice cream therapy," she said.
"Thanks for the vote of confidence."
She gave me a firm hug. "I'm confident in you, but not so much in the opposite sex. But I know you, Grateful; you tend to rush into things. You hand over your heart-no, not just your heart, your life-too quickly."
"Besides Gary, name one relationship I rushed into."
Michelle didn't even pause for breath. "Paul: he sang in the choir with you. You lost your virginity to him after three dates and were sure he would marry you. He didn't. Todd: picked him up at a bar, remember? Lasted fifteen dates. He was so controlling you almost failed chemistry because he'd never let you out of the apartment to go to class. Brian. Remember the Brian semester in college? He almost had you convinced you should drop nursing and become an accountant. An accountant, Grateful!"
"Okay, okay. Stop!" I slapped a hand over my eyes. "You're right. You are always right. I do rush into things. This time, I've got to keep the reins firmly in hand."
"Exactly." She rubbed my shoulder. "You can do it. Gotta get back to work. See you later." She walked off toward her patient.
The intensive care unit was busy that day, and I was swept away in a routine of assessments and medication administration. Nursing is a blessing in that way. It's impossible to think about your own problems when you're wrapped up in someone else's. The day flew by. Before I knew it, I was relieved by the night nurse and passing through the fishbowl hallway to get to the elevator. I paused and looked over the parking lot, enjoying the late summer twilight. Lightning bugs danced over the cars, flirting with the floodlights. The scene was stunning. I stepped toward the glass, allowing myself a moment to unwind. I scanned the rows of cars, reflexively trying to pick mine out of the pack.
I found my Jeep-and something else I wasn't expecting. There was a man standing next to my car; a man who looked a whole lot like Gary.
I beat feet to the end of the hallway, then down the stairwell, not waiting for the elevator. Exploding out the side exit into the parking lot, I raced toward my Jeep, having no idea what I would do if it really was Gary. What would I say? I didn't have a block of knives to back me up.
My Jeep waited for me in the third row where I left it. No one was there. I even squatted to look underneath. Shaking my head, I pulled my keys out of my pocket and reached for the door. The stench of Gary's cologne wafted over me and I whipped around. Nothing.
I climbed behind the wheel and turned the key in the ignition. The engine rumbled to life. Stupid Gary. Stealing my money wasn't enough; now he wanted the car too? If it was him, he'd better hope I never caught him near my stuff again, or there was a very real possibility I'd make him disappear again, permanently.