Claire saw five of Rachel’s friends sitting, some reading, some chatting. “Excuse me, did any of you send Rachel a box wrapped in pink tissue paper?”
“Hey, it’s the Senator. Is she awake yet?” The friends from her work stood, hoping to hear some good news.
“Please, the package. Did you send it?”
“No, we brought flowers.” The producer of the Rachel Ross Show sounded worried. “Why, what’s going on?”
They heard troops enter the hall, one of the men went straight to the flower cart. He wore gloves and was dressed in a special suit one would expect to see in a sci-fi flick. He held a suitcase sized device. After dusting the pink gift box, he placed particles from the brush into the device, and pushed some buttons on the outside of the gadget. Claire watched suspiciously, dread mounting with each minute. Then she saw him meticulously pick up the tested box and put it in an airtight container. Without saying a word, he left. The other men were there to evacuate the floor. Doctors and nurses with masks over their mouths were running from room to room, retrieving patients and disappearing in the elevators with each gurney.
One of the men in a Martian suit was yelling at everyone to leave the floor, “People, this floor is being evacuated, I want you to all follow the authorities to the basement floor. Until further notice, you are all to be quarantined until we’re finished testing.”
Claire and the others were terror-stricken, but did as they were told. In the basement where they congregated, there was a television broadcasting their incident. Outside the hospital were police cars, bomb squads, fire trucks. Yellow tape was already hung, indicating the area that was forbidden to cross. All workers were wearing hazmat suits for protection.
“Jesus Christ. What the hell is going on?” The fear in the man’s voice was terrifying to listen to. The scene outside, the evacuation they’d gone through made no sense to him.
“Can someone tell me what’s going on here?”
Claire turned to see Rachel standing at the back of the crowd, bruised, but standing. She’d removed the IV, and released herself from patient status. She was still wearing the hospital gown, but that was a detail she would tend to in time.
Claire wanted to take her aside and let her know what was happening, but her friends had her surrounded. She heard their questions, the chatter of delight that she was doing as well as she appeared.
Claire turned back to the television to hear that the threat the police were concerned about was inside a small package delivered to one Rachel Ross, recuperating from a car accident injury at St. Mary’s Hospital. The threat, it seemed was anthrax.
Claire’s hand flew up to cover her mouth in horror. “God, no!” The others heard her and all returned to the TV where they watched with intensifying fear. Claire felt a hand on her shoulder and she jumped, screamed. Turning, she realized it was the famous patient. The woman who the pretty little package had been sent to. “Rachel. You should be lying down.”
“Then take me back to my bed, Claire.”
The women left the crowd to find a private place where they could talk.
“He’s gone mad, Rachel. I saw a box wrapped in the same color tissue paper as the book I gave you so I called my friend at the police station. And now this.”
“So, they think it’s anthrax?”
“They’re just being cautious, that’s all. Kurt, my detective friend, is worried. First, Tony is killed. Then your accident. He has to be careful.”
“They don’t think my accident was just that?”
“No. The brake fluid had been drained, Rachel. You’re not to be alone for the rest of this week. That’s my order, not Kurt’s.”
Rachel’s face flushed with her next thought. “Claire, the book. Where is it? I told the police to bring it with me, but now I don’t know where it is.”
“Relax, I saw it in your room.” Claire started to say more when they heard cheering in the main hall.
The news reporter was telling the public how there had been a powdery substance in the box, but that it had tested negative. “I repeat, the threat is a hoax. The police will be looking into this, but for now, this is a happy ending.”
The doors opened and people were leaving the dungeon they had been gathered to, thankful for the speedy outcome. Patients were being wheeled back to their rooms, the mouth masks had been removed by the doctors and nurses.
On the television, men could be seen removing the yellow tape, many of the emergency vehicles had already left the premises. Claire watched, thinking how wonderful it was that life was now back to normal after the chilling scare. But a different voice told her to beware of danger. Not really for her, but Rachel. And anyone else that was important to her.
She turned to Rachel. “Let’s get you signed out of here so I can take you to your office. And tonight, I’ll pick you up after your show to drive you to the coffee house.” She was pleased to hear a silent acceptance from her friend. “Come on, I’ll help you to your room where you can dress.”
Kurt saw the two women in the hall, “Hey, Claire. I want to have a few words with you.”
“Let me get her to her room and then I’ll tell you what I know.” She realized how she sounded, and added, “Are you going to be in your office later? I can come there after I get Rachel taken care of.”
“That will work, but make it fast. I need some answers.” His stern tone said more than his message. He left them, feeling frustrated. She wasn’t leveling with him, he needed more.
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