“No. There’s a couple of nurses… aides.” He glanced around them. As organized as chaos could go, the room had some order. “Your triage skills kick ass.”
As much as she’d like to bask in the compliment, she couldn’t get over what he was asking. “You want me to go to a clinic where there isn’t a doctor? How does that work? My license…”
“Your license is safe here. There are people suffering and I need to send someone to triage the worst back here. We have standing orders you’ll take with you, and a two-way radio to ask questions if needed. The last thing we need is more walking wounded filling these rooms.”
Monica couldn’t argue with that. “You’re asking for a volunteer?” The way his eyes looked through her said he was more than asking.
“Tina’s good… but you’re better. If I put the best nurse there, I won’t worry that careless mistakes are happening. Either Walt or I will come up every twenty-four hours to lend a hand.”
“A lot can go wrong in twenty-four hours. I’ll need to sleep.”
“Like I said. There are aides. They’ve been sending most of the wounded here. Half of them didn’t need to come.”
Like a bad flu season in California, when the ER would fill with patients, bottlenecking the entire department and eventually the hospital, which made it next to impossible to treat anyone in a timely manner. Here the numbers of critical patients were too great to let sit.
“So… can I count on you?”
The inside of Monica’s stomach twisted. She liked to think she had some autonomy as a critical care trauma nurse. The bottom line, however, was there was always a doctor around. She followed a doctor’s orders.
A cry from a patient three beds away had Monica glancing around the room. All day she’d treated people, tended their needs… directed them to the next level of care if need be and she could count on one hand how often Donald or Walt had made it past her side.
“How far away is Port Lucia?”
There was an excited hum in his veins Trent had forgotten existed. For the first time in what felt like ever, he woke with sense of real purpose. He tried to convince himself the reason for his overzealous sense of self was due to the state of emergency the island had been under since the quake. That was part of it, but the itchy, hot exhilaration came from something much baser.
Blonde hair and cool blue eyes found him while he slept. Even there, her sassy tongue and knowing eyes found a moment to mock his bare feet.
Before leaving his chopper on the tarmac the night before, he’d been asked to arrive early to pick up one of the American nurses and deliver her to Port Lucia. Because Trent’s home resided between the short runway and Port Lucia, Reynard asked him to deliver the nurse personally. There wasn’t anywhere to land the chopper close to the clinic so a short drive would be in the travel plans.
Trent wanted to ask which nurse was taking the new assignment, but didn’t. He’d find out soon enough. He didn’t hold too much hope that Monica would be that nurse. He knew she didn’t take to flying and probably wouldn’t volunteer.
Either way, he’d have an excuse to see her again briefly, if only to find out who he was escorting around the island.
After a short shower and a cup of god-awful instant coffee, Trent filled Ginger’s dog bowl and pulled his Jeep out of his driveway.
Clouds blocked the morning rays of the sun and threatened more than a few drops of rain. The last thing the island needed was bad weather.
The closer he made his way toward the airstrip, the more concerned with the clouds Trent became. Visibility was everything in a helicopter. If the ceiling of clouds wasn’t high enough, he’d be grounded until the thick layers lifted.
Alex, one of his pilots, met him outside of the air traffic tower. Alex was a good thirty years older than Trent. He and his wife, Betty, both flew for Blue Paradise Helicopter Tours, an offshoot of Fairchild Vacation and Charter Tours, which Trent and his brothers owned. Unlike Jason and Glen, Trent decided to run one exclusive leg of the worldwide company. A decision that still provoked arguments between the three of them.
He and Alex shook hands. “You look like you finally slept,” Alex told him.
“A good six hours. You?”
“More like four. Betty had a hard time falling asleep.”
“It’s hard to close your eyes and see anything other than destruction.” Trent almost felt guilty for dreaming of a blonde nurse.
“She told me to come pick her up if we really needed her. Otherwise she needed a break.”
Trent shook his head. “No worries. Outside of some jockeying, I think the officials will take over most of the runs. I’m doing an early run,” Trent told him. “If you’re not needed go home.”
Alex shook his head. “I need to do something.”
Trent knew how his friend felt. Everywhere they looked there was a need for help. Even if it lay in the packing of water bottles… or body bags.
He squeezed his eyes shut and pushed away the thoughts of lifeless people… of the despair that took him by the throat every time he landed his helicopter.
Above their heads, the clouds were breaking up. “I’ll be on the radio when I’m onboard. I have an angel to deliver to Port Lucia. Call me if you need anything.”
Alex nodded and leaned against the building.
Trent walked around his aircraft and performed his visual inspection of the chopper before climbing inside. He signaled air traffic and awaited their approval before taking to the air.
A sputtering of rain graced his short ride and heated the air. This, exactly this, might not be quite what it was he imagined when he decided to live on the island. But life wasn’t always what he thought it should be.
Hell, his own parents had expected so much more and yet their lives had been cut short… so painfully short.
Trent’s jaw ached and he forcefully managed to stop grinding his teeth. Temporary lights blinked where his intended target lay. He flipped the chopper into the onshore wind and set the skids on the ground. Unlike any time in the past, there wasn’t an extra hand standing by when he powered down the chopper and exited his aircraft.
People lined the outside walls of the hospital, some waiting on loved ones… others simply waiting. Trent kept his sunglasses in place… and his mask. The air smelled of humidity, death, and despair. Such a far cry from the happy-go-lucky tourist and sightseer that had been in his life only a few short days earlier.
Even though the island had experienced nothing short of an apocalypse, the world still slept during these early hours. The stairwell was filled with people. Some slumped in sleep beside the walls, others were awake beside them. Trent moved past them in search of the director.
Past the room where he’d witnessed Monica help fix the boy’s fracture the day before, he moved into the next room. There lay two dozen patients. Some with IV bags of fluid hanging over them giving some semblance of normalcy of a hospital. Trent knew better. There was nothing normal about people stacked this high or thick in what used to be a waiting room.
He glanced around and found a nurse he recognized from the flight over slumped against the wall. She’d fallen asleep. He considered waking her, but realized that no one in the room was screaming for assistance, so he moved on. Up the stairs he found a smaller room with an attendant… or maybe it was a nurse… with a half dozen patients.
Trent swallowed. The patients rested on gurneys in a line. Used to seeing the dark umber skin tone of the residents, it shocked him to see so many gray faces.
Pushing past his unease, Trent stepped up next to the attendant. “Excuse me. I’m looking for the American, Dr. Klein?”
The woman behind the workstation nodded toward the closed door beyond the patients. “He’s in surgery.”
Trent ran a hand over his neck and glanced around the room. “I’m supposed to be escorting a nurse to Port Lucia.”
The woman shrugged and returned to the work.
Disturbing the doctor didn’t seem wise so Trent twisted around and moved back through the hospital. He found the sleeping nurse and stood over her.
As he debated waking the woman, someone behind him beat him to it.
Hearing a patient’s groan, the nurse shot to attention, her gaze disconnected from the world. Her eyes moved around the room, panic clouded her face before she realized he stood over her.
“Oh, God… I fell asleep.”
He couldn’t imagine the exhaustion she must be experiencing. “It was quiet when I walked through a moment ago.”
She moved to her feet and the clipboard in her lap fell to the floor. Trent moved to pick it up for her. A coy smile passed her lips.
“S’OK. Listen. I’m supposed to pick up a nurse to take to Port Lucia. Do you know who she is?”