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Read an excerpt from HOUSE CALL


HOUSE CALL by DARDEN NORTH, MD

PROLOGUE

Its metal casing rusted by years of moisture, the glass doorknob creaked as it turned slowly to the right. Steaming water pouring from the nearby faucet masked this sound as well as that of the approaching footsteps, soft as they crossed the damp tile floor.

Taylor firmly squeezed the plastic bottle, releasing salon conditioner in streaks over her freshly shampooed hair. Leaning forward to rinse, she felt a firm hand grab the highlighted strands.With her head angled severely backwards, screaming was impossible, particularly as the conditioner rolled down onto her face and mouth. Now almost entirely submerged in the slippery bathtub, Taylor Richards could not struggle but only gag and cough.

Moments later her chest exploded, tearing and burning, as the thrusts between her ribs were swift and repeated. Blood pouring from the punctures mixed with the soapy water, forming a red scum on the sides of the porcelain tub.

Glancing hopelessly at the bathroom ceiling through a ruddy mist, Taylor lost consciousness as her face was submerged. She was not aware of the final snap and slash to her neck that severed the carotid arteries and trachea. A few bubbles of air escaped from this artificial opening, rising quickly to the surface of the tub water. Satisfied, the departing visitor hurriedly rinsed the instrument under the faucet, leaving the water to flow at a mere stream.

As the soapy, crimson liquid eventually topped the brim of the bathtub, it spilled onto the tile floor as Taylor’s body rocked to stillness.


Chapter 1...

THE LAST DAY



“OK, Shugga, keep your legs back. That’s nice. Wide apart. Let me get a good feel. Yes, that feels exactly right. No, not too tight.Remember what we talked about. There, that’s it! Get ready. One’s coming now. It’s coming. It’s coming. Can’t you feel the rhythm? Ohhh!”

“This place never closes, just like Wal-Mart,” Taylor grumbled as she slid her employee badge through the check-in slot by the time clock. 06:42.

“Push…Pushh…Pushhh…Push,Push,Push,Push,Push…Pushhhh …Pushhhhh……Wait now! Don’t Push, DON’T PUSH. I see the head crowning. Lots of dark hair. Great job! I’ll get the techs to set up for delivery, and we need to call the doctor. STAT.”

These vehement coaching efforts of a fellow labor and delivery nurse easily penetrated the wall from the adjacent room. Despitethe huffing and puffing of the parturient patient, there was no wayto miss the cheerleading augmented by the bedside family members. Hearing the nurse’s urgent call for the obstetrician, Taylor could envision the sweat forming on her comrade’s brow, adding to that already pouring from the patient.

The day was Friday, and unlike most professional work situations, the week was not over for this registered nurse, nor forthe others like her. As Taylor re-clipped her employee badge to herscrub suit, she tried to look past the monotony she felt.

Pulling a hospital-nursing shift on any day had grown almost unbearable for Taylor Richards. Having more combined practical experience than most of the newer hospital nurses, the thirty-three year old was nearing burnout. Besides, her volunteer time spent taking blood pressures and treating colds at the homeless shelter had almost become more rewarding to her.

“Why do I stay here? Stay in this? I ought to just walk back out the front door,” she groaned loudly and carelessly enough to be heard by the young physician approaching from behind. Knox Chamblee was not purposefully following Taylor but was enjoying the walk nonetheless.

“Hey, I heard that,” he retorted playfully. “A bad attitude like that won’t win many Brownie points with the nursing supervisor, you know.”

Despite the fact that the route to the nurses’ locker room ledalong the hall directly in front of the doctors’ lounge, Taylor hadfailed to notice the door opening as Dr. Knox Chamblee exited from his complimentary breakfast. Conversely, as the nurse stomped down the corridor, Chamblee could not miss the blonde hair tossed side-to-side almost in rhythm with her steps.

“Oh, hi. I’m just having a bad day, I guess,” Taylor responded, exaggerating her embarrassment over being overheard.Believing himself to be only slightly younger than Taylor Richards, Dr. Chamblee had on several occasions entertained the idea of asking this girl out. However, despite her great looks and the tight butt walking in front of him, Knox had been steered away by his office secretary. She warned him that Taylor carried tons of emotional garbage, heaped on by her ex.

“Stupid.”

“Excuse me?” Knox called to her, pretending to be indignant as he stopped in the middle of the hall, still watching Taylor hike toward the nurses’ locker room.

“Wasn’t talking to you, Doc. Don’t be paranoid. I was berating myself,” Taylor explained rather flippantly, while slowing her pace a bit and turning her head back toward Knox. “You’re kinda cute, you know.”

“So are y……,” Knox responded to the vanishing spectacle as he stood in the walkway watching Taylor disappear down the next corridor. “I need to ask my secretary some more questions about that girl. That shape could overrule most emotional problems,” he mumbled to himself.

Disappointed that his only surgery case for the day had cancelled at the last minute, Knox decided to drive over to the office to digest his doctors’ lounge breakfast. Not until this morning’s arrival at the hospital did he learn of the patient’s messagereceived the preceding night by the answering service: “Tell the doctor that I just can’t go through with it. I’m afraid of being put to sleep.”

Blindly turning around, he almost knocked over the thick, yellow-and-black plastic Wet Floor sign that had materialized behind him. Trying not to appear annoyed, Knox nodded at the custodian who was tackling the corridor’s flooring with a mop and bucket.

“Sorry, Doc,” the janitor seemed to force an apology without looking up at Knox, as though the Grace Community Hospital employee had expected to be in the doctor’s way.

“When I had the chance, I should have accepted that pharmaceutical rep job,” Taylor blurted out when she reached the nurses’ lounge alone; but the slamming of her locker door muffled her aggravation. “After all, he is good-looking.” Taylor stopped for a minute to check her makeup in the long mirror mounted over the sinks.

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