Maxie eased her gray Porsche through the early morning traffic and drizzle. Parking in the nurses’ parking lot at Walter Reed Army Hospital, she sprinted through the first rain drops to get to the entrance. She burst into the orderly room and stepped to the mailboxes. Rifling through a handful of memos and envelopes, she asked the duty NCO: “Are we flying anywhere special today for this alert?”
He shook his head. “Not that I know of, Ma’am. But the choppers are feathering and you’re asked to”
“I know, I know,” she said pushing through the double doors to the pad area.
“Oh, Captain Bodley?”
She stopped with one door half closed on herself. “Yes?”
“There was a call for you from a Doctor Van Meeuwen. He asked that you call him today. Says it’s urgent and you must call him immediately.”
“Thanks.” She let the doors close behind her. And no thanks, she added mentally. She went to the check-through window, where she showed her I.D. and the orderly checked out her flight uniform from its locker. The pockets were stuffed with potent drugs from morphine to atropine, and a lot in-between, only to be used in a life and death emergency. She’d already begun to think of applying for the Nurse Practitioner program, which required a master’s degree in nursing, and which would allow her to be the lead nurse on her flight. She donned the flight suit, hanging her stethoscope around her neck and putting the pistol harness on over her suit. Then she went outside, where three of the 55th’s three choppers stood throttling low in a fine drizzle. They were three stories up on a concrete flight apron marked for the three aircraftorange circles with an X in each circle. Climbing up into Flight 1, she saluted the flight commander, Major Fred Chavez, and his copilot, Major Tom Dash.
She’d had her eyes on Tom Dash ever since Tory had yelled at her after Van Meeuwen had hurt her feelings again. Maybe she’d noticed Tom Dash even earlier, but suppressed her feelings with the usual Bodley parental censure software.
Four other nurses were in the chopper’s roomy interiora utilitarian, Army-flavored aircraft, more a pistachio green than O.G. outer hull, with black stenciled warning messages about bumping heads, Not A Step, and securing objects for flight. The nurses had grown close during their training and deployment, and they greeted Maxie as a team member, which always gave her a secret tingle. Only the head nurse, Major Nancy Ilitch, frowned slightly because Maxie was a few minutes late, though not enough for a verbal warning (her nth). “Good evening,” Ilitch said caustically, pulling in her double chin and puffing outraged red lipstick. “Thanks so much for joining us.”
“I’m sorry,” Maxie said, “I ran into some traffic.” Not quite true, but screw the old hen.
“We are inventorying pharmacopia, Captain. Please do join us at your leisure, if it doesn’t inconvenience you.”
One of the other nurses, Captain Irma Dagdagan, handed Maxie a small box of vialsadrenalin syringe packets, to inject directly into the heart of the cardiac arrested patient. Each nurse had to count hers, and match the numbers with the printout in the box. It was part of the ritual at the start of every twelve hour shift.
Maxie started checking the packets one by one against the list, and Ilitch’s scathing attention went to other matters. Maxie caught a gleam in the edge of her vision. She glanced right, and found the gleam to be in the eyes of Major Tom Dash, who sat sideways in the copilot’s seat doing a preflight checkout with Major Chavez. Tom smiled at her, nodded, friendly, and she ignored him. Inwardly, however, she thought: Zap! A friendly, dark-haired man who looked lean and adorable in his snappy uniform. Secretly, she’d been jealous of Tory. Tory could snap up guys like this. Maxie looked up again, saw Tom staring, and smiled back at him. She’d been thinkingmaybe Tory was right. Here she was liking this handsome pilot who seemed interested in her, and already all her ingrained instinct was kicking in to deny herself this affair because he wasn’t right for her or not good enough. Almost in tears, she was angry at her Mother and Father, who’d schooled her most rigorously in their Expectations of a Southern Lady and the Heir to a Fortune, Not To Mention a Legacy Centuries Old: Officers before and after the English Restoration; officers on both sides of the Revolutionary War, marching around with their little flutes and drums; colonels on both sides in the Civil War; and of course heroes in every war since. If she became a thorough bitch, tore up her pedigree, and mailed her gold credit card back to Father and her DAR membership to Mother, would they get the message? Would they still love her if she weren’t a marionette? Could she still love them, once she cut the puppet strings? If she had a serious relationship or even married a fellow like Tom Dash?
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