“Forget that,” Dr. Graham said, flailing a hand at the form-covered clipboard the intake nurse was approaching with. “There’s no time! There seem to be complications, and this baby’s coming now! How did she get here?”
That last was directed at the orderly pushing the wheelchair. The man took a moment to answer, Graham’s snapped syllables having not changed in tone or volume.
“Uh, a cab,” he said. “pulled up and she practically rolled out, then the damn thing just took off!”
“Miss!” Graham bent without slowing, speaking as directly as he could into the woman’s face. “Can you tell me how long the contractions have been going on?”
She made no response, lolloing in the chair as they took the slight turn into ER Three.
Graham took an arm while the orderly and two nurses gripped her other limbs.
“Up on three! One-two-three!”
They muscled her into the air and sideways onto the exam table. A thin stream of blood dribbled from a thick red stain in the seat of her maternity jeans, hidden until now by her great belly, leaving a spattered trail across the sheet.
The wheelchair’s seat held a smeary pool of blood.
“She’s hemorrhaging! Get her out of those pants and get a monitor on!”
One nurse began hooking up leads and a blood-pressure cuff while the other went up the side of the girl’s blood-soaked pant-leg with a pair of shears.
The orderly froze, a finger leveled in his direction.
“Yes, you!” The pointing finger shifted away from the wide-eyed face and toward the corner. “Get me the fetal heart monitor from that cabinet right there.”
Graham was pulling on fresh exam gloves and calling out instructions as he slid onto the stool between Jane Doe’s feet .
“Is it this black box thingie with all the wires?”
“That’s it. Put it on that stand — quickly please.”
“Pulse is fast but steady, blood pressure is a bit low,” said one nurse.
“The hemorrhage must have just started—” The other nurse pulled a pair of blood soaked laparotomy pads from between Jane Doe’s thighs and threw them into the bin. “—or she’d be much closer to bleeding out by now.” He tore open another packet of pads, handing them to the nurse before turning his attention to the fetal monitor now sitting on the stand. “I may not have time for that — we might have to go in and get it.”
The nurse was holding up her new laparotomy pads. One was dappled with blood, the other unmarked.
“What the hell…?” said Graham, looking up at the nurse monitoring the patient’s vital signs.
“Still low, but not dropping, heart steady.”
He glanced at the bloody wheelchair in the corner.
“Blood pressure’s steady, no indications of an internal bleed, that much blood and she what, she just stops?”
“I don’t know, but—”
The unresponsive patient suddenly lurched to a sitting position with a long “Oh it huuurrrrrttssssss!”
There was commotion out on the floor: shouting, a huge bang, like a door slammed by an angry giant.
There was a scream.
“What the hell was that?” the orderly stage-whispered.
“I don’t know or care at the moment,” said Graham, sliding in closer between Jane Doe’s feet and stretching out the monitor lead. “I have two lives here and I don’t plan on losing either one of ‘em.”
He looked up at the woman who stared back at him, eyes wide with pain.
“Miss? Can you hear me? What’s your name?”
She focused for a moment, understanding him in the trough between contractions. Breath hissed between her teeth, but her lips shaped the hiss into a single word.
“Beryl? Good to meet you Beryl. I have an aunt named Beryl, I’ll have to introduce you after I take care of you and your baby, okay?”
The noise out on the floor swelled without warning, a thunderous racket that included voices raised in what sounded like fear. Graham looked at the orderly, who stared at the doors. His peach scrub shirt bore an ID badge with the name ‘Ted Frenshie’.
Ted’s head snapped around and Graham jerked a chin toward the door.
“Go find out what the hell is going on out there.”
The boy nodded, already moving, as Graham was suddenly pleased by her sudden lack of bleeding, able to easily check her cervical dilation, which was—
“Whoa! She’s about as dilated as it gets, people! That baby’s coming— right about now!”
He probed with his fingertips, the monitor lead draped over one thumb. What he felt surprised him: the baby’s head was just crowning! Beryl’s cervix suddenly flexed as a contraction hit her.
“Wuuaaaaaaagggghhhhhhhh!” she said.
“Blanket!” Graham shouted, but it was too late. Beryl hunched over on the table, squeezing the side rails with both hands in a grip that went way beyond ‘white-knuckled’, and bore down for all she was worth.
Two things happened.
First: a baby slid out of the woman, Graham catching it in his gloved hands, then nearly dropping it again at the sight of the thick, black hair covering the boy from head to toe. Its mouth opened, the bright ER lighting glinting off small, sharp teeth.
“What the hell?”
Second, the doors behind Graham crashed open and something slid along the floor, coming to rest beside Graham with a squelch. He looked down to see peach-colored scrubs and blood… and that was all. There was no discernible face in the mass of blood and meat that stuck up from the top of the shirt.
The badge pinned to the scrubs read “Ted Frenshie”.
From behind him, in the sudden silence on the rest of the floor, Graham heard a low, rumbling growl.
“Oh, look Honey,” whispered Beryl, almost forgotten by Graham at this point. “Daddy came to welcome you…”
Graham swiveled on the stool to face the door, and he began to scream.