Nydia felt the cell phone in her pocket vibrate as she stood at the nurses' station. A smile came across her face when she pulled it out and looked at the caller ID. "Hi. Beautiful," she said as she walked away for some privacy.
"Hi yourself, lovely lady," Jo said.
"So, how can I help you? Usually you call after work. Is anything wrong?" Nydia knew her insecurity was coming out, but she had no control over it. She fidgeted with the pen in her pocket. Nydia thought it had gotten better as Jo and she talked everyday, but now it was coming back.
"No, nothing. I was just wondering. I know it's Wednesday and we didn't have plans until the weekend, but I was hoping you would agree to dinner tonight. I don't want you to feel pressured, but my mom and sister are dying to meet you. My mother is making a roast with all the fixings if that's any enticement."
Nydia felt her body relax. The tension in her shoulders dissipated. "No. No pressure. Much. No warning and it's only meeting the parents," Nydia said, letting out a small laugh as she let go of the pen. She relaxed with her hip against the counter.
"Is that a "yes" or a "no"?"
Nydia could hear the uncertainty in Jo's timid question. "It's a yes. I would love to meet them too.
"Great. Oh, and I'm going to ask Dustin, my partner and his wife to join us. My mother hasn't seen them in a while and likes to check up on people," Jo said with a small laugh.
Nydia stood up straight. She loved the sound of Jo's laugh, but that did little to hide the nervous tone in Nydia's voice. "Wow, going all out on throwing me into the deep end of the pool, huh?"
Jo's voice softened. "Nydia I don't want to throw you into anything you don't want to do. If you want to say "No" that's fine. But honestly, they will love you. You're amazing to me, and they can't help but see that too. Please, honey, don't be afraid."
Nydia took a deep, calming breath. "I'm just being silly. I would love to meet them. It will be fine, I'm sure."
"Nothing about your feelings is silly Nydia, and it will be fine. I promise."
"You are so good to me Jo. It's no wonder I'm falling in love with you," Nydia said. She quickly placed her hand over her mouth when she realized she had said the last part aloud. Nydia waited for Jo's response, but all she heard over the phone was silence. Afraid she had scared Jo off with her admission, tears began to form in her eyes and she felt the hand holding the phone shaking. "I'm sorry…"
"Please don't say you're sorry. Only apologize if you didn't mean it."
Nydia was at a loss. Should she admit her growing feelings despite her insecurities, or let the moment pass with casualness. Her palms grew sweaty and her heart began to race. "I'm not sorry. I'm just not ready to deal with it. I mean we just started to see each other. It's too soon. Isn't it?" she asked unsure.
"I don't know Nydia. I can only tell you I feel closer to you than I have anyone else in my life. I feel like we have something very special here. If it's love then that's what it is. I won't run from that and I hope you won't either. Please don't." Jo said.
Nydia felt comforted by Jo's declaration, but she was still unsure. "I don't know what to do or say Jo. I mean we just started, can it really have gotten this far so quickly."
"I don't think these kinds of things run on a timeframe, Nydia. Call me a romantic, but I think it happens when it's meant to."
"You're a hopeless romantic Jo. But it's a quality I like about you. I'll try to just let it be what it will be for now and not think about it too much. I promise." She felt her body relax with the promise and her hands were no longer sweating.
"I'm glad to hear that, sweetheart."
Nydia wasn't sure if Jo was aware of the endearment, but her soul soaked it up. A smile came to her face and her eyes brightened a shade or two.
Out of the corner of her eye, Nydia became aware of Trudy heading in her direction at a quick pace. Knowing it could only mean work needed her she turned her attention back to Jo. "I have to say goodbye Jo. Trudy is on her way over here, so I have to get back to work. What time should I be ready tonight?"
"Six-thirty will be fine. I'll pick you up at your place. And don't stress over it."
"Okay. I won't, and I'll see you then."
"Sounds good to me. Now go back to work and amaze everyone with your awesome skill," Jo said.
Nydia chuckled. "I will, and the same goes for you. Okay? I have to say goodbye now. I'll see you tonight."
"Bye, sweetheart," Jo said as she disconnected the call.
Nydia felt a warmth infuse her body. "She called me sweetheart."
"Who did?" Trudy asked with a small smile on her face. "Anyone I may know?"
Nydia could see the devilish humor filled look in Trudy's eyes. "Why yes. That was Rita in accounting."
Trudy let out a slight snort. "Rita in accounting. Yeah. Right. More like one of Riverview's finest. How is Jo? I haven't seen her lately."
"She's doing just fine, thank you very much. She's been working pretty hard, but from what I can tell not on anything that's come through our doors."
"Well, that may change in a minute" Trudy told her. "We have a gentleman coming in right now who's boyfriend beat him up, according to the EMT's. He's not conscious at the moment, and is only slightly stable. They should be here in ten minutes.
"Well then. Let's get moving," Nydia said, even as she left Trudy behind on her race towards the Trauma Room.
"I wonder why Jo didn't mention she was coming in with a victim," she asked herself.
Nydia waited as she heard the ambulance pull in. As soon as the EMT stepped out of the back holding one end of the gurney, she began listening to what he had to say about his patient. Trudy stood by her side to write it all down for her. Several orderlies took over the gurney to guide it into the trauma room.
"Patient was unconscious, has not regain consciousness since then." The EMT explained to Nydia and her team. The EMT and his female partner followed her into the room. His BP is eighty by palp. Heart rate is thready. He is breathing on his own. Respiration is labored. He has multiple contusions to his head and torso. I don't know what he was hit with. His one eye is swollen shut and the other was unresponsive to light. Examination showed dilation. No verbal responses and flexation to painful stimuli. Glasgow Coma Score was two. We collared him, intubated, and started saline IV's."
"Does the accompanying police office have an idea what happened?" Nydia asked as she stepped up to the exam table to begin her assessment and treatment.
"There are no police with us or following," The EMT said.
"Why the hell not? It's reported to us the guys partner did it. Nevermind. I don't have time for this. Wait outside. I want to talk to you two when I'm done."
As the two EMT's left Nydia and her team moved into action.
Nydia began running through the trauma evaluation. She watched as the ventilator was attached to his tube and then checked his breathing. His lungs sounded clear of any fluid and his respiration was good. "Okay Mike, run his blood gases now. Trudy, give me the results when he has them. What are his O2 levels?"
"Yes Dr.. On it." They both responded
"O2 is 98% on ventilator." Someone called out.
Next Nydia began looking for any bleeding or other issues with his blood circulation. What had her worried the most were the major hematomas on his torso and gut. They appeared to resemble boot impressions. She had seen enough people kicked around in her time in the trauma field to recognize them. She felt his ribs and determined none felt broken, but she would have them x-rayed all the same in case there were minor fractures.
"Doctor, I have the results." Trudy told her.
"What are they and what's his BP now?
"BP is steady so far at eighty. "Blood gas results are within normal limits. However the results of the CBC indicate a low hematocrit."
"Sounds like he may be losing blood somewhere, damn it."
Nydia began looking at the abdominal region where most of the trauma seemed to have happened. Feeling the area Nydia immediately noted it was swollen and guarded. Now she was concerned about internal bleeding into the region. "Someone get me the ultrasound."
"I got it," Mike said.
Handing it to Nydia, she began her examination. A frown appeared and her brows furrowed in concentration as she looked at the monitor. "Looks like a bad spleen. He's bleeding into his abdomen. Someone call up to Surgery. I want him in the OR stat. Mike cross and type match him and Linda get the IV's pushed in as fast as you can."
"On it," Linda said.
"Linda, get x-ray going. I want to know if there is anything broken before we ship him upstairs. Focus on the head, neck, chest and abdomen. Everything else seems okay or can wait," Nydia said.
As the portable x-ray machine was pulled into place, Nydia stepped back along with the rest of her crew. She watched with a sharp eye while the x-rays were being done to make sure the patient remained stable. She kept looking at the monitoring machines and IV lines to double check everything was as it should be. She knew it was necessary but she hated having to stand back. It made her feel ineffective. Nydia wanted and needed to be hands on at all times.
When the x-ray tech had completed his pictures, Nydia went over to the computer monitor to look at the results. She could see a fracture of the skull but it didn't look like any of it had broken off into the brain cavity, and no sign of bleeding. There was no obvious neck injuries or rib fractures, but a CAT scan would need to be done at some point.
She stepped back up to the patient and called out, "What are his vitals now?"
Trudy began calling them out.
"Okay people, let's get him upstairs to OR." Nydia said. Everyone grabbed a piece of the table and wheeled the patient to the elevator.
Once upstairs Nydia handed her patient off to the surgical team. She was happy with the job her team had done, but was now able to focus on her anger. "Where are Jo and Duncan, damn it?" she asked herself. "They should have been here."
Nydia walked back onto the ER floor seething with anger. Her jaw was so tight she was worried she might break a tooth. Her anger must have showed because both EMTs jumped out of their seats when they saw her approach.
"Tell me what happened on scene. Why is there no one from the IPV Unit here? Detective Powers and Reilly, or a Detective assigned by them is supposed to bring in all victims and file reports based on my findings, as well as those on scene.
When neither of the EMT's spoke, Nydia put her hands on her hips and barked, "Well, tell me."
At last, the female EMT shifted on her feet. Nydia knew her as Jenkins. "Well Dr. Gilman, when we got on scene two uniformed officers and a detective were on scene, but I didn't look at their names. I don't think they ever gave their name as a matter of fact, now that I think about it. Did you catch it Steve?" the female EMT asked her partner.
"No, I didn't," Steve said.
"When the uniformed officer told the detective that the patient's boyfriend was the assailant, I asked him if he wanted to ride along with us to the hospital. The detective said, and I quote, 'I don't have time for fucking queers and their drama. Let them kill each other for all I care. I got better things to do. Just clean up the mess and get 'em out of here.' Sorry for the language, Doctor. After that we scooped and ran."
Nydia felt her anger rising even more. Her eyes glared at Jenkins and Steve. Each looked at each other and took a step back away from her. Nydia realized she was pointing her fury in the wrong place. "I'm sorry guys. It wasn't your fault. Go ahead. Get back to work. I'll handle the police issues and find out what is going on with this."
As she watched them walk down the hall, Nydia reached in and pulled out her cell phone. She stepped outside the ER for privacy and dialed Jo's number.
On the second ring Jo answered. "Hey. You missed me already?"
"No, I didn't," Nydia said in a cool tone.
"Uhm, ok. Did something come up?" Jo asked, her voice sounding unsure to Nydia. "Do you need to cancel tonight?"
Nydia could hear it, but was too angry to care at the moment to care. "I'm calling on an official matter. As hospital liaison between your unit and the hospital, I demand to know why a victim was brought in here without a police officer accompanying him. That was bad enough as a failure to follow official procedure, but then to have vicious derogatory remarks made about the victim on scene by one of your detectives is unforgiving. If this is the way you run your unit, then you'll have to find yourself someone else to act on the hospital's behalf. I will not stand for it and am considering formal action regarding this."
Before Jo had a chance to respond, Nydia disconnected the call. She took a deep breath to try to calm herself. She ran a trembling hand through her hair and then re-entered the ER. Nydia suddenly realized she hadn't mentioned dinner to Jo. "She'll figure out I'm not going soon enough, I guess." Through all her anger, Nydia felt a sense of profound disappointment in Jo and the rest of her unit and sadness that things with Jo appeared lost to her now.
A few moments later, her cell phone rang. She looked at the display and saw it was Jo. Nydia turned off the volume and let it go to voicemail.
Jo put down the receiver knowing Nydia wouldn't return her call. Jo needed to find out what Nydia was talking about and try to reason with her. "Shit!"
"What's up?" Duncan asked, putting down his coffee mug.
"I don't know. At least not yet I don't. Do me a favor, find out all assaults called in the last two hours or so. I want to know who was involved, victim, suspects and responding officers. Something is going on and I want to know what."
"Sure. No problem. Let me call over to Dispatch," Duncan said, as he picked up his phone and began dialing.
Jo heard him talking to Dispatch but wasn't listening. Her mind was preoccupied with Nydia. "Whatever happened must have been major. She sounded so pissed." Jo heard Duncan hang up his phone. With anticipation, she looked over at him. "So what did you find out?"
"There were two assaults over the last five hours that required transport to the ER." He said as he finished his notes. "One was a fight between two teenagers down at the high school. Apparently, one boy took exception to another kid looking at his girlfriend. It's reported the victim had his jaw broken."
He took his pen and drew a line across the top portion of the page. "The second may be the one you're interested in though. A young man was transported to Riverview Hospital unconscious and beaten to a pulp. Dispatch said it was reported by a neighbor in the apartment building. Two guys share the apartment when the neighbor heard fighting going on. A lot of screaming and crashes were heard. Which is why the neighbor became concerned. According to Dispatch the neighbor indicated they were a gay couple," Duncan reported.
"Do we know who responded to the call? I want their fucking heads on a platter."
"You may be out of luck on that wish. The responding uniform was Junior and his partner."
"Damn it! You're right. We're not going to get far there. That moron is out of my reach unfortunately," Jo said, slamming her fist down on the table. "Nydia said there was a detective from our unit involved. Do we have a name? I feel the need to rip someone apart, and if it can't be Junior then I'll find someone else. If I can get a report out of them, then that might give me some ammunition against Junior."
"I have a name." Duncan answered. "Detective Gilman,"
"Gilman, what the hell was he doing there? He's not on the Unit."
"I don't have a clue, but according to Dispatch he's the one who responded." Duncan said, as he circled a section of his notes. "Dispatch told me they didn't contact him, so they're not sure how he got the call."
"No, but you and I both know how he got there."
Duncan answered the unspoken question, "Junior."
"I'd bet my life on it. He must have called Gilman directly."
"Let's go track his ass down and find out what's going on."
"No need to track him. It's one o'clock. He's on lunch break. Gilman'll be down at Digger's having his usual liquid lunch."
"That guy is a waste of a badge."
"I couldn't agree with you more on that one."
"Okay let's go find out what his story is."
"Right behind you."
Jo and Duncan entered the pub taking a moment to let their eyes adjust to the dark interior lighting.
After a few seconds, Duncan pointed to a back booth. "There he is."
The two walked up to Gilman as he was finishing a bottle of beer. Based on the two empty ones in front of him, he had been there a while by Jo's estimation.
Gilman looked up when their shadows passed over him. "What the hell do you two want? Can't you see I'm busy?"
"Yeah, I can tell," Jo said.
"Fuck off Powers." He said, putting his beer mug down with enough force to spill some of its contents.
"Not until I get some explanation from you," she said, sitting across from him. She leaned back, trying to appear casual. "What were you doing on a call related to my unit without informing one of my detectives?" She asked in a casual tone.
"What the fuck are you talking about?"
"The call you went on this morning with Junior. You knew it should have been handled by my unit, and what were you doing there to begin with? You weren't called."
She could tell he was losing his cool, as perspiration appeared on his brow. "It's none of your business what calls I go on. You're not my supervisor, as for not calling in your guys, there was no reason, and it was just a couple of fags beating on each other. What does it matter if they fucking kill each other? Two less scum the world has to deal with."
Jo felt her fury rising. Her hands were clenched so tight her fingernails were digging into her palms. She just wanted to strike out at him and knock his teeth in. All of a sudden, she felt Duncan put a hand on her arm reminding her he was there and they were in a public place.
Jo stood up. "You're the one who's scum, Gilman. There's only one reason you still have a badge and we all know it. I'm going forward with this and you can damn well count on your actions being in my report."
"Fuck you, Powers. If you want to waste your time on a couple of fags, be my guest. As far as your report goes, we all know where that is going to end up, in the garbage where it belongs. You can't touch me and you know it."
Jo ground her teeth together in order to keep from screaming in Gilman's face. Through tightened teeth she told him, "Someday Gilman you and your bunch are going to get yours, and no one will be able to protect your ass. Come on, Reilly, let's get out of here before I have to take a shower to get his dirt off me."
Duncan Reilly followed his partner out of the pub and into the sun of early afternoon.
"Let's go to the hospital and find out what we can from the staff, and check on the status of the victim," Jo said as they got in the car.
"Sure thing, Jo. I just hope they thought to protect and gather any evidence they could. We'll also have to send some uniforms down to secure the scene, and then check it out."
Jo let out a deep sigh. She thought about all the things they now had to do to clean up this mess, and she still had to get Nydia to talk to her so she could explain. "This sucks. Let's get going."
Jo and Duncan entered the Emergency Room. Jo wasn't paying attention as she had her eyes peeled for Nydia. Before she knew it, she bumped into a solid body. She looked up and came face to face with Trudy. Based on the scowl directed at her, Jo could only think that Trudy knew what had transpired between Jo and Nydia.
"If you want to come in here, you better have some body armor on." Trudy warned her. "You're in enemy territory right now."
Jo swallowed hard. "She's that mad, huh?"
"No, we're all that mad, Detective."
"I can explain, really. I just found out about it, honest. It's a total mess, but I can fix it. I think. Is Nydia here? I need to talk to her. She needs to know."
Trudy studied Jo, and after a moment Trudy answered, "She's in with a patient, but she should be done in a few minutes."
"Thanks Trudy, it means a lot to me."
"Don't thank me yet. I don't know that I'm doing you a favor. Nydia's really pissed at you."
Jo let out a huge sigh and let her shoulders slump down. "I know. I have to make things right again, Trudy. She's too important to me. I can't lose her."
"You're important to her too, Jo. I think she is more upset because it's you involved. Just see if you can get her to listen to you. That will be the hard part."
At that moment, Jo looked over Trudy's shoulder and saw Nydia walk out of one of the exam rooms. She had her head down studying a chart. Jo watched as Nydia put the chart on the nurses' station and turned in Jo's direction. As their eyes met Jo's heart fluttered. She reveled in the feeling she always got when she saw Nydia. However, her feelings sank when Jo saw the anger in the eyes directed at her. Jo looked on as the fury took hold of Nydia completely. Her face turned red, and even from this distance Jo could see the veins along Nydia's neck pulse and tighten. Nydia turned away and went into the doctor's lounge.
"Go, follow her. There's no one else in there now." Trudy advised.
"Don't thank me, just go." Trudy said, as a small smile came to her lips. "But I'm sure you'll be okay. Just be honest with her."
"I couldn't be anything else," Jo said.
Jo knew deep down that somehow everything was riding on this, her entire future. The thought of a future without Nydia in it was too much to bear. She felt her chest tighten at the mere thought of it. With a purposeful step, Jo made her way to the doctor's lounge door. She took a deep breath, opened the door and stepped in, to face Nydia and to fight for their happiness.
As she walked into the room, Nydia had her back to her, standing in front of the coffee machine, but not making any effort to pour herself a cup. Instead she held the empty cup with trembling hands.
"What do you need?" Nydia asked. "I've said all I want to you. I don't think there is anything else to add."
Jo stepped further into the room. "Nydia, don't do this to us. Please, honey, let me explain. It's not what you think. I didn't know anything about this until you called. Honest."
Jo saw Nydia's shoulders slump and heard a deep sigh. She knew this was an opportunity. An opportunity she had to grab. "No one from my unit was here because I wasn't notified." She said, as she stepped closer.
Nydia turned to face Jo, putting down the mug. "I don't have time for your excuses, Detective. You can speak to my Supervisor and he'll let you know who will be taking over my duties. If this is how the police behave I want no part of it."
Jo could see the anger and hurt in her eyes. Her eyes glistened with unshed tears.
"I should have known better. I thought you were different. I believed you."
"Please, Nydia, you can believe in me. I never would have let this happen had I know about it. Deep down you know how much these victims mean to me. I would have been here, or made sure someone was here. Just listen to me and then you can tell me to go. But we deserve the chance for me to explain."
Nydia looked Jo in the eyes with a pleading look. After a few moments, when she said nothing and made no move to leave, Jo grasped at the opportunity.
"When you called, it was the first time I was even made aware that an assault had happened. As soon as you hung up on me, I had Duncan call Dispatch to find out what had happened. We tracked down the call and the found the name of the responding uniform and Detective. The officer didn't call in the assault to my unit or any other unit even. He called the one Detective he knew wouldn't care. He was right. The Detective ignored procedure and failed to notify the IPV Unit. Instead, he swept the whole thing under the carpet. I still don't think the uniformed officer's report will even make much out of the call. I confronted the Detective and he admitted everything you said. It was all true. You have to believe though I never would have let this go. I won't let it go. I'm here to try and make it right. Please Nydia. Please forgive me. I take responsibility for it, all of it, but you have to understand I didn't know until you called. I'll do everything in my power to fix this. Fix us."
Nydia turned around as Jo finished her plea. Jo saw the tears gently falling down her face. Without a thought, she stepped forward and gathered Nydia in her arms. "Don't cry, baby. Yell at me if you have to, or tell me you believe me, but please don't cry. I feel so helpless when you do."
"I want to believe you, Jo. Really I do."
"You can, Nydia. Just look in your heart. You know I would never lie to you. You mean the world to me."
After a few seconds, Jo felt Nydia's body relax into her own. Nydia let out a quiet sob and Jo was aware the tension and anger were flowing out of her. They stood like that for several minutes until Nydia's crying began to subside.
"Do you forgive me? Do you believe me?"
"Yes, I believe and forgive you."
Jo felt her own tears begin to fall, tears of relief and happiness. "I will never do anything to make you doubt me, or my feelings for you."
"I'll do everything in my power to make those two responsible for their actions."
"I know you will, Jo. I just don't believe it will have much effect. I'm sorry."
"I know your right, but know I'll still try."
"I'm sure you will," Nydia said.
"So are we okay now?"
Nydia gave Jo's body a squeeze and reassured her, "Yeah, were fine. More than fine."
"Can I tell my mother that you're still coming tonight?"
"Would you mind if we put it off to tomorrow? I'm emotionally drained and I just want to curl up with you tonight on my couch."
Jo smiled and her heart beat faster at the thought. "I would love nothing more. They can wait."