|Daughter to Demons chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6||Ashes to Ashes chapter 7 8 9 10 11|
|Daughter to Demons
by Jeffrey M. Mahr
©1999 Jeffrey M. Mahr -- all rights reserved
PART ONE: DEATH AND AWAKENING
A Hunger in the Gut
The room was that ugly institutional green that only hospitals and army bases favor. The chairs were waiting room modern, stackable metal and green plastic torture devices for George and Frank to squirm on. The nurse had left but the security guard at the door was reason enough to wait as she'd instructed. Frank paced nervously while George, having tried the chairs already, sat patiently on the more comfortable table.
"What's going on here? Why are we being held here?" The guard looked bored and ignored them. Frank was about to pursue the issue farther when the nurse returned along with a short balding, pot-bellied man in a white coat.
"Hello boys. I'm Doctor Dunlevy. I'm the internist treating your friend Jack Renfrew."
"Why are we being held here?"
"I apologize, but I felt it was important to speak to you."
"So call us."
"I would have been glad to call, but you didn't leave a telephone number."
"So why didn't you call the college and ask them to connect you?"
"Actually, Nurse Cattrell tried," he nodded towards the nurse who smiled briefly in response, "but the college has some rather stuffy rules about giving out information to strangers regarding their students."
Further discussion was interrupted by applause from George, still sitting on the table. "Very interesting. I'm awed. Now can we get down to basics. What's happening to our friend?"
Nonplussed for a moment, Dunlevy cleared his throat. "Have a seat." He gestured to the others and then moved to sit at the head of the table. The guard remained at the door, but the nurse joined him at the table, as did Frank. George crossed his legs and remained sitting on the table. He split his attention between glaring down at the others and staring out the window at the hospital courtyard through the dimming light of the setting sun.
"Your friend is suffering from a variety of symptoms not usually associated with each other. First there is hypertrichosis and hypotrichosis, that means unusual hair growth in some areas, in this case the head, and unusual hair loss, in this case most of the rest of the body. These two symptoms don't usually occur together and usually there is a genetic cause. Next there is gynecomastia, the growth of breast tissue, which is usually associated with the intake of any of a variety of drugs. We'll get back to that later, but next there is hypogonadism which means his testes are quite small and one is undescended. This is not common, but it is unusual for someone to live as long as your roommate without someone diagnosing and treating this, especially as testicular cancer is common if left untreated. Next there is hypotension, the opposite of high blood pressure." Frank looked confused, but George appeared to be listening intently.
"Finally, there is osteolysis which means he is losing bone mass and could be result of some undiagnosed metabolic disease although his kidneys seem to be working properly and he is not suffering from a vitamin deficiency." Dr. Donlevy took a breath and looked about the room. The hostility was gone, replaced by two very anxious and worried boys.
"So what are you doing to help him?" George slid off the table and into a chair."
"Androsterone and testosterone. Male hormones. We're using them to slow the physical changes. They have the secondary benefit of treating the hypotension."
"But why does he look so..? so strange?" Frank was confused.
Dr. Donlevy's answer was postponed by the beeping of his verbal pager. "Dr. Donlevy, Dr. Donlevy. Room fifteen fourteen please. Code Orange."
"Hey! That's Jack's room. What's the matter?"
Hurrying out the door followed by the nurse, Dr. Donlevy called back. "I don't know, but I can't wait to answer your questions now. Please wait here and I'll return when I can."
"Oh no you don't. We're coming with you."
"No. You're not. You're going to let me do my job." He was gone. Frank stood up unsure what to do, but George followed only to be stopped when the security guard's beefy arm moved from his chest to stretch across the door.
"Let us out." The guard said nothing as he reached behind himself with his other hand to slowly close the door. Still without saying a word, the guard stepped back to place himself against the now closed door and refolded his arms. Frank hesitantly sat down again. George stood almost chest to chest with the guard. At a head taller and easily a hundred pounds heavier that George, the guard calmly watched the smaller man bluster. Finally, George stalked off towards the other end of the room, grabbed a chair, moved it to face the window, and stared grumpily out at the lights of the city.
The orderly was pushing the gurney at top speed while a nurse ran along side holding an IV bag. They burst through the waiting room leaving a wake of startled people. With a slam the door to the emergency operating room burst open and a middle aged man with a slight pot belly and receding hairline looked up from the cot he had been sleeping on.
"We've got a code here, Doctor Venetaragavan." The orderly backed out of the room, happy to avoid the confrontation he expected.
"Well, if it isn't Nurse Ratched." He spoke rapidly and with the slight singsong common to those born in India and speaking English as a second or third language.
"That's Richards, unless you want another grievance filed."
"Whatever. What do we have here?"
"Female, approximately twenty years of age. She was in critical care and started fibrillating."
"Here's the chart."
Taking it from the nurse, he flipped it open and examined it briefly. "This is the wrong damn chart." He threw it off to the side.
"It's the one from her room."
"Well, unless she's a twenty year old man named Jack Renfrew, it's still the wrong chart. Never mind." He started checking pulse and respiration. "Get some Lidocane. I want a five CC drip STAT."
"And hook her up to the monitors."
"Yes doctor." Frantic action and then an erratic beeping from the monitor. "It's hooked up. Her heart is racing, blood pressure is two ten over fifty. Pulse is rapid and thready. If she keeps this up she'll stroke out." The nurse and the physician huddled about the body in the bed from room fifteen fourteen while the noises of the unhappy humanity in the emergency waiting room occasionally wafted into the operating room.
"Increase the Lidocane drip to 10 CC."
"Damn. She's still fibrillating. I need some Digoxin here STAT."
"Yes doctor." A needle slapped into his hand.
"No change. Get me another syringe of Digoxin."
"Yes doctor." Another syringe slapped into his hand.
"BP is down to on one fifty over fifty and still dropping..? one hundred over forty..? eighty over thirty..?"
"Give me the paddles and clear. I want four hundred joules. Clear!" The body jerked like a puppet on a string.
"Still nothing. Six hundred joules. Clear!" Another jerk.
"Still no heart beat."
"Damn. What the hell do we have to do here? Live already. Crank it up to eight hundred."
"But doctor, six hundred joules is the recommended maximum."
"And the patient is dead. If eight hundred joules works, we have a living patient who can sue me if she wants. If it doesn't work, we have slightly singed body. Now do it already."
"Still nothing. She's gone doctor."
"Let's try it one more time."
"Again!" The shock pads hovered over her chest.
"If you do this again, I'll report you. Do you want to face the Medical Practices Review Board? Do you want to face censure or maybe loss of privileges? She's gone." The silence was deafening. Finally, the pads slowly lowered.
"You're right. I don't know what came over me. I couldn't keep my detachment. I couldn't bear the thought of losing her."
"I'm sorry doctor, I didn't realize you knew her. My condolences."
"But that's just it. I don't know her." Two confused people shuffled arm in arm towards the door of the operating room leaving behind one corpse and the continuous tone of a still connected heart monitor. The nurse seemed to be comforting the physician until his hand slid down to give the woman's buttocks a pinch.
"Why you..?" She turned to slap him, but instead the hand reached around his neck and pulled him into a kiss. Seconds later they were in the throws of passion on the tile floor. They never noticed the corpse's hand twitch.
"Hey Frank, get the phone."
"You get it, I'm working on my project and I can't move until the glue dries."
"And I'm in the bathroom."
"Then I guess they leave a message on voice mail."
"So tell me again, what did they say?"
"I've told you twice." George responded irritably. "Here listen to it yourself."
Frank waited impatiently while George dialed for his voice mail, then shoved the phone at Frank. When the message was over, Frank punched the keys to repeat it yet again. After the hearing the recording for a second time he carefully replaced the telephone on its cradle and sat down on the living room couch facing George. Neither spoke for quite a while.
"So what do we do now?" Frank finally broke the silence.
"I guess we go down there and identify the body. Gee that might even be more fun than being rejected by Julie Oliver again."
"That was in the message. I meant after that."
"I don't know. Make arrangements for a funeral."
"Yeah. With no family, I guess it's up to us." Frank ran his hand through his brown crewcut and surreptitiously wiped his sleeve against his cheeks on the way back down. "So, how do we do that?"
"I don't know. I just don't know." More silence.
"We better get down there."
"Yeah." George answered but neither moved. More silence. Finally, George shook himself to get moving and slowly stood. Frank just stared at him. "Coming?"
"Yeah." Frank swiped at his face, this time more blatantly, then got up and dragged along behind.
At the dorm entrance, they stood under the starry moonlight sky. "Car or bus?"
"I don't know. I guess, car."
"Are you up for driving?"
"I guess so. I just don't really want to see anyone else right now."
"Geez these guys are confused. I wonder if they lost the body or something." The trip to the hospital had taken only a few minutes, but they had been waiting in the lobby of the emergency room for almost two hours.
"That's not really funny George."
"I know, I'm just getting annoyed at the wait. I'm going to check again." George stood and stalked over to the information desk. When the family in front moved on he spoke. "Excuse me, but we're still waiting for Dr. Donlevy. It's been quite a while now."
"Yes, sir, Dr. Donlevy has been paged, but he hasn't answered. I'll try again."
"You did that three times already."
"Yes sir. This is a hospital. Sometimes our physicians are busy. He's probably dealing with an emergency."
"Yeah, right. He's probably worried that he's hooking his golf balls again or something. Then is there anyone else we can see? We're supposed to identify someone at the morgue."
"Certainly sir. Why didn't you say so?" She smiled brightly as she dialed another number. George just stared at her and muttered to himself about incompetence.
"I've reached Dr. Nikruma. She's Chief of Pathology and she said she would see you. Please follow the green lines to the elevator, "she pointed to the various colored lines on the floor, "and go to the basement. Then follow the black line to Pathology."
"Thank you." Sarcasm dripped from his voice as he gestured for Frank and headed off. The basement hallways were empty and they had to knock repeatedly to get someone to come to the locked door of Pathology.
"Geez, don't they even answer the door when they know someone's coming? If this is how well they do when the body can't move, I'd hate to think about how well they do with the living."
"Shh. Someone's coming."
"At last." George snorted.
The door opened to a tall, pretty black woman wearing blue scrubs and removing a second bloody surgical glove. "Yes? What do you want?" The words were brusk.
"Are you Dr. Nikruma?"
"Yes. Once again, what do you want?" The gloves were tossed into a red contaminated waste container.
"We were told to see you about identifying the remains of our friend."
"Oh. Sorry. I've been awake for the last two days. We've been busier than usual. People have been dying to get in here you know." When they failed to smile she continued in a more business-like manner. "Come this way please."
At a desk she brought out several sheets of paper. "Please sign here." She pointed.
"What's this for?" George was curious despite his annoyance.
"It's a wavier releasing the hospital from any damages resulting from you're viewing of a body."
"You know. Legal action."
"Fine." They both signed. "Where's our friend?"
"One moment please." She wrote the name on the sheet of paper walked through a set of double doors into the back area. The two friends fidgeted while they waited. After what seemed like an hour the doctor returned with a scowl on her face.
"There's no one here by that name. Are you sure this is the right hospital?"
"Yes, we're sure." They looked at each other aghast. "We brought him here ourselves about two weeks ago."
"Let me check again. Describe him."
"I'm not sure we can."
"What? Is this some kind of prank? If it is I'm not amused." Her voice rose in annoyance.
"No." George's voice rose to match hers. "It's not a joke. He was being treated by Dr. Donlevy for a variety of symptoms that were changing his body shape. We don't know what he looks like any more. The only reason we're here is because we were told by a Doctor Ven..? Vena..? V-something to come here to identify our friend so he could be released for burial. Now I would really like an explanation."
"Just a moment. That was probably Dr. Venetaragavan from Emergency Services. Let me try to call him." She turned on her heel and strode rapidly through the double doors.
"Great." George turned to Frank who although silent, had been shaking in rage. "You weren't kidding about losing the body were you?" Frank just shook his head, afraid to speak. They silently paced as they waited.
Finally Dr. Nikruma returned, an spoke a bit more politely than before. "I just spoke to Dr. Venetaragavan. He says... well, I'll let him explain himself. He'll be here in a couple of minutes. In the mean time, why don't we move into the conference room to wait?" She gestured to a door off to the side.
"Gentlemen, this is Dr. Venetaragavan." Dr. Nikruma gestured towards the swarthy man entering the room.
"Call me Dr. V. Most people don't seem to be able to say my full name." He sat next to Dr. Nikruma, facing George and Frank.
"Doctor. This is George Dombrowski and Frank Ahtram. They're here about Jack Renfrew."
"Hello. And how are you two today?" Frank and George just nodded without even a polite smile in return.
"Let's get right to it then. I called you about a Ms. Jackie Renfrew. Your names were on the contact card. There was some confusion about the records. They listed your friend as male," he shushed them before they could correct him, "so after calling you I attempted to contact the primary care physician, a Dr. Donlevy. Unfortunately, Dr. Donlevy has taken ill. He is currently unavailable so I was not able to correct the records. I assume your friend is still in his room being treated. I am sorry for any inconvenience."
"That's it?" Frank took over the conversation at a near bellow. "You called us down here to arrange for the burial of our friend and then tell us he's not dead?" George just sat back and listened. He knew from past experience that his friend was not easy to get angry, but once he was, watch out.
"I also think an explanation is in order. I want to hear you explain exactly how this hospital could possibly be so inept that it could confuse people who were not even the same sex. I also want to know exactly where Jack Renfrew is and I think you better show us our friend right now." Frank gulped air. "Oh, and he had better be alive, as you've said."
"But of course. I understand your anger. I am waiting to be paged with exactly that information." As if it were planned, the pager buzzed.
Dr. Venetaragavan glanced down and smiled even more brightly. "If you will excuse me that should be the information we seek right now."
He quickly rose and left the room. Dr. Nikruma fidgeted uncomfortably under Frank's glare while George just rocked back in his chair and smiled evilly. A short while later Dr. Venetaragavan returned, accompanied by several large security guards. The guards stood silently by the conference room door while he sat down again. This time he was not smiling.
"Mr. Dombrowski, Mr. Ahtram, on behalf of this hospital I owe you an apology. Something extremely unusual has happened and I assure you there will be a thorough investigation. At this time, I cannot go into detail. I have been advised not to comment in any way. I can however, assure you that the individual you know as Jack Renfew did not die in this hospital. Now I am going to ask you to leave the hospital with the assurance that as soon as our internal investigation is completed you will be advised of the outcome."
He turned to the guards. "Please escort these gentlemen off the hospital premises."