Seconds Away Page 12

’’So now what?’’ I asked.

Spoon said, ’’Follow me.’’

So we did. We walked back outside and around the back. There was a big metal door that only opened from the inside. Spoon knocked on it three times, stopped, knocked two more times. We waited. Spoon raised his eyebrows, then gave the door two more knocks.

A man wearing a green janitorial jumpsuit opened the door. He looked out at us with a scowl. ’’What do you want?’’

’’Mr. Tansmore? It\'s me. Arthur.’’ Then Spoon actually took the stethoscope off his neck, like maybe Mr. Tansmore wasn\'t able to see him through this clever disguise. ’’Arthur Spindel.’’

I\'d forgotten that Spoon\'s real name was Arthur, even though I\'d only given him that nickname a few days ago.

’’Oh, hello, Arthur,’’ Mr. Tansmore said. He looked out to make sure no one else was in the area. Then he said, ’’Come on in. Quickly.’’

We did.

’’See?’’ Spoon whispered to me. ’’The custodial network.’’

Mr. Tansmore led us down into the basement. When we reached the bottom step, he turned and said, ’’You\'re not up to no good, are you, Arthur?’’

’’No, sir.’’

Tansmore didn\'t like it, but he didn\'t seem all that interested either. ’’If you get caught ’’

’’We never heard of you,’’ Spoon said. ’’Don\'t worry.’’

’’Okay. Wait here five minutes, then do whatever it is you need to do.’’

’’Thank you,’’ Spoon said.

’’Right. Make sure your dad knows ’’

’’It\'s already taken care of,’’ Spoon said.

I looked at Ema. She shrugged. We do that a lot around Spoon.

Spoon asked, ’’Do you know anything new about Rachel Caldwell\'s condition?’’

Tansmore just shook his head.

’’How about what room she\'s in?’’

’’I don\'t know.’’ Mr. Tansmore had a deep voice. ’’She\'s under eighteen, right?’’

’’Right.’’

’’So she\'ll be in the pediatric wing. Probably on the fifth or sixth floor. I got to get back to work.’’

He left us alone in the basement.

’’What was that stuff about making sure your dad knows and it\'s taken care of?’’ I asked.

’’Part of the custodial network,’’ Spoon explained in a whisper. ’’But I\'m sworn to secrecy.’’

Whatever. Spoon timed the five minutes on his watch. Then he led us out of the basement. When we got to the first floor, Ema asked, ’’Now what?’’

Spoon considered this. ’’We need to find a computer terminal.’’

This wasn\'t easy. The first floor was mostly administrative offices, but they were all either occupied or with someone nearby. It wasn\'t as though we could walk in and start using one.

’’Maybe we should go to the fifth floor of the pediatric wing,’’ Spoon suggested.

Sounded like a plan. Not much of one, but I wasn\'t sure what else we could do here. We took the elevator up, made a left, then a right, and entered the pediatric wing. The contrast was somewhat startling. The main part of the hospital was decorated in drab beiges and grays, which fit the mood. The pediatric wing was in bright colors, like one of those kiddie party places or a particularly cheery preschool classroom.

I understood the goal, but something about it came across as fake as a lie even. This was a hospital. The kids in here were sick. You couldn\'t mask that with bright colors.

You also couldn\'t mask the smell. Sure, they had some heavy cherry air freshener, but underneath that, you could still smell, well, hospital. I hated that smell.

We started down the corridor. Most of the doors to the patient rooms were closed. When a door was opened, we tried to peek in, but you really couldn\'t see enough to tell who was inside.

’’This is pointless,’’ Ema said.

I agreed.

’’We need to get hold of a computer,’’ Spoon said.

But I could see that it wasn\'t going to happen. All the terminals were in plain view with strict security on them. There were all kinds of password and ID features too, trying to protect patient privacy.

This wasn\'t going to be easy.

We kept walking. One of the nurses eyed us. We must have made some sight. I was dressed normally enough, I guess, with blue jeans and a sweatshirt. Ema was all in black, pasty makeup, silver jewelry, a plethora of tattoos. Dr. Spoon was, well, you know.

’’What are we looking for?’’ Ema whispered to me.

I didn\'t have a clue, so we kept walking.

There was a big art project, I guessed, going on. Every door had a different little-kid drawing on it. Some doors had five or six. There were drawings of elephants and tigers and assorted animals. There were drawings of castles and mountains and trees. The ones that moved me were the drawings of a house always rectangular with a triangle roof complete with a stick-figure family on the green lawn. There was always a bright sun in the corner with a smiley face.

Whoever drew those, I surmised, missed their homes and families.

I was looking at the drawings, my eyes skipping from door to door, when I saw something that made me freeze.

Ema looked at my face and said, ’’What\'s wrong?’’

For a moment, I just stared at the door. Ema slowly turned and followed my gaze. A gasp escaped her lips.

This door had only one drawing on it. There was only one subject. There was no background, no trees or high mountains, no stick-figure family or smiling sun in the corner.

There was only a butterfly.

’’What the . . . ?’’ Ema turned back to me.

There was no question about it. It was the same butterfly as I\'d seen at Bat Lady\'s, at my father\'s grave, in one of Ema\'s tattoos. The Tisiphone Abeona. Except, for some reason, the eyes were purple.

I suddenly felt a deep chill.

’’Mickey?’’

I didn\'t know what to say.

’’I don\'t get it,’’ Ema said.

’’Neither do I, but we have to find a way into that room.’’

The door was right by the nurses\' station in the Intensive Care Unit. It was, in short, under constant watch. I looked around and figured, what the heck. I might as well try the direct route.

’’You two wait out of sight,’’ I said.

’’What\'s your plan?’’ Ema asked.

’’I\'m going to just walk in the door.’’

Ema made a face.

’’It\'s worth a shot,’’ I said.

Ema and Spoon moved to the end of the corridor where no one could see them. I walked casually toward the butterfly door. I was Mr. Relaxed, Mr. Cool. I almost started whistling, that\'s how nonchalant I was about the whole thing.


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