Safety In Numbers
AUTHOR: Debbie Mraz
RATING: PG-13 for violent content and language.
ARCHIVE: Archive if you wish, just tell me where! I like to visit!
DISCLAIMER: Usual disclaimer here, I do not own the ER characters, although
Helen Nussbaum does belong to me!
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Follows "Long Road Home" and "Home Again"
SUMMARY: The continuing friendship of John and Helen, as they face a very frightening experience together.
Randi popped her gum, and looked up at the looming figure in front of her, no
matter how many times she had seen Helen, she still looked intimidating, and
caught Randi off guard.
"Hi Randi, how has you day gone?" Helen asked amicably.
"So far, so good." Randi off-handedly replied.
"Dr. Carter around?" Helen always made sure to call him Dr. Carter, and not
John, and not just 'Carter.' He liked hearing the Dr. part, and he smiled
whenever he was in earshot when she said it.
"He's finishing up with a patient, you wanna wait in chairs?"
"No, just tell him I'm going to grab a soda, and I'll wait for him in the
"He should only be a few more minutes, why don't you wait in here where it's
cooler?" Randi asked.
"I have some nervous energy I need to walk off, I'll just wait for him by the
Jeep." Helen replied, nervously fidgeting with her bag.
"Bad day?" Randi asked.
"Yeah, bad day." Helen replied, not giving any other details. Patient
confidentiality was crucial to Helen, and no matter how bad her day went, she
rarely discussed details with anyone other than John.
Helen walked out the ambulance bay doors and toward the parking garage. They
had been on the 5th floor, and she decided that taking the steps would give
her a chance to think, and maybe get out of this funk before John arrived.
Randi said he wouldn't be more than a few minutes, so she had to get herself
in line before John arrived. They were back to their "normal" routine.
Stephanie had very reluctantly returned to St. Louis and her job, vowing to
return during Christmas break, which made both Helen and John very happy.
Helen felt a little selfish, but she was glad John was able to spend more
time with her, they talked for hours, and regularly met Mrs. Carter for lunch
dates. The hostility she had felt toward Dr. Weaver had given way to a sort
of pity. She knew that Dr. Weaver was well aware of what she had lost, and
there was no need to make her feel any worse. She was just happy that John
had gotten over her, and went on with his life.
As she ascended the third flight of steps, her thoughts raced back to the
patient that had her so upset. The kid couldn't have been more than 15 years
old, what on earth could be so bad that a 15 year old thought death would be
better than facing? She would just never understand. The parents were so
distraught, and losing the patient was just the icing on the cake. The
father had said he always kept the gun cabinet locked, and the bullets in a
separate place. He was beside himself with grief. Helen tried to explain
that no matter what he did, the kid would have found a way, that it really
wasn't their fault, but in her heart, she thought "how did you not see this
coming? Are you so uninvolved with your child that you saw no signs of
depression?" The surgery had been going well, as they had retrieved the
bullet, and assessed for any major brain damage. The kid, luckily had missed
the major cognitive centers, and unbelievably the brain stem. At the angle
the bullet had gone, that in and of itself, was somewhat of a miracle. Helen
had transported him from surgery to the Neuro ICU. She stayed with him,
hoping he would regain consciousness, when the EEG monitor had started
beeping erratically, sending spikes all over the screen. The boy had had a
major seizure, it didn't even start off small. Within an hour, he was
declared brain dead. He had had an intracranial hemorrhage, his brain had
swelled and the blood was welling in too many parts of his brain to be able
to surgically resect. Besides, Helen knew, he would not survive the surgery,
and even if he did, he would be a vegetable with the damage that had already
been done. It weighed heavily on her, having to comfort the parents, as she
ascended the last flight of steps.
John sat down by the computer to get the last of the lab results, so he could
pass off this patient to Kovac, he was already over with his shift, and was
definitely ready to go home. He sat tapping impatiently waiting for the
results to flash up on the screen. He didn't like leaving things unfinished
at the end of his shift. It always bugged him when his co-workers did that,
so he made it a point not to.
"Come on!" John raised his voice in frustration at the screen, "Randi what
is up with the computers today?"
"IS is upgrading, great upgrade huh? Supposed to make them faster." Randi
John was surprised Helen hadn't come down yet, her shift was over almost an
hour ago, and she was supposed to meet him in the ER. They had been riding
together ever since Helen had secured a job in surgery. It was pretty odd
actually, she worked mostly with Benton, they had a good working arrangement,
and Helen was the only nurse that Benton did not order around. He always
said "please" and "thank you" to Helen. No one said a word about it, and no
one dared even have a smile cross their face. It was an unspoken rule in the
OR, word had trickled down to John, and he let it go no further, and wouldn't
even think of joking about it to Helen or Dr. Benton. Someone had to teach
him to be civilized, and since his mother wasn't around to do it, he wouldn't
listen to anyone else, so the job was left to Helen. John could tell that
Dr. Benton had a great deal of respect for Helen and Helen for Benton. Their
personalities were actually very similar, it was a wonder that they weren't
constantly at each others throats. But, from what John heard, they worked
fantastically together, and Helen could almost always anticipate Peter's
needs, and next move. That's probably why he always requested Helen to be on
his surgical team. Both of them were anal almost to a fault. Peter had even
come over for dinner on a few occasions, and raved about Helen's cooking
skills. Of course, at work, nothing was ever said about any social
occasions, it was strictly professional.
John smiled to himself, as he remembered playing Monopoly with Helen and
Benton, what a riot that was! Neither one would concede defeat, they ended
up playing until 3:00 o'clock in the morning, when Helen landed in jail, and
couldn't post bail, and Benton had landed on John's Park Place with a
hotel....John tried to look contrite, but it was impossible, so he did a
short victory dance in the living room with his Monopoly money declaring
himself champion. "You know, " Helen had said, "nobody likes a sore winner."
"Or a sore loser!" Benton had said as he met Helen's glare.
"Well, if I wouldn't have had to trade my 'get out of jail free' card to pay
off landing on YOUR property, he wouldn't have won!" Helen said defiantly.
"Well, if you wouldn't have split up the utilities that I purchased first,
that wouldn't have happened!" Benton shot back.
John had continued his short victory dance, while Benton and Helen argued
over how they were going to defeat John the next time.
"Oh Carter, I forgot to tell you! Helen was down here, and said she'd wait
for you in the parking garage." Randi interrupted John's thoughts.
"How long ago was she down here?" John asked.
"Maybe 15 or 20 minutes I guess." Randi answered.
"Oh, here it is!" John printed up the lab reports, and handed the patient
off to Kovac. He grabbed his bag and signed out, headed toward the
ambulance bay doors. "I'm outta here!" He told Randi.
Helen walked through the silent parking garage, deep in thought. She
remembered where they had parked this morning, and rounded the corner, the
Jeep clearly in sight. She stood by the passenger door, waiting, and glanced
briefly at her watch. She had left the ER about 20 minutes ago. John should
be here any minute. She leaned against the Jeep door, and listened to the
silence of the garage. Suddenly, she felt a brief chill, the hair on the
back of her neck stood up, as she stood up straight and listened intently.
She heard it again, footsteps. She glanced around quickly surveying the
garage, she could see no one. She usually didn't get excited about such
things, but the stealthy way the footsteps were approaching her, was
unnerving. She listened intently. The footsteps had stopped, and she
glanced around once again, to see where they had come from. She walked to
the front of the Jeep, and looked around the driver's side. "I'm being a
silly." Helen told herself, as she turned to stand, once again, by the
passenger side door.
John took the steps, he had made it a point to walk whenever he could.
Physical therapy was hell, but if he ever wanted to get his back 100% better,
he had to work at it. He could sure feel it by the time he got to the third
flight. He made a mental note to himself, to park on the fourth floor
tomorrow, as his back was screaming at him to take the damned elevator next
Helen was chastising herself for being such a wimp, when she felt her bag
pulled forcefully off of her shoulder, she turned around, face to face with a
young man, wielding a switchblade.
Helen was too shocked at first to react, then let out a scream, that was cut
short by his hand violently pressing against her mouth. She could taste
blood, and knew the young man had split her lip.
He whispered in her ear, "scream and you're dead bitch, got that?"
Helen shook her head, thinking of ways she could get out of this. The knife
was pressed against her throat, and he held her just far enough away from him
that she could not reach his mid-section to kick him. She went over in her
head all of the self-defense moves she has learned, the class did not cover
knives at your throat.
"I think you're gonna like this old lady!"
Helen's eyes went wide, as the young man physically overpowered her, pushing
her to the floor of the parking garage. He grabbed a dirty bandana out of
his pocket, tying it around her mouth. He sat on her chest, pinning her arms
to her sides, always keeping the knife at her throat. He moved down slightly
and tore the front of her shirt open. Helen squeezed her eyes shut, and
bucked her hips with everything she was worth, to get him off of her.
"I don't think so lady!" He hissed at her, "try that again, and you die!"
His arm reeled back and hit her full force in the face.
Helen could feel the blood running from her nose, and the copper taste filled
her mouth. She would not allow this to happen, this punk was not going to do
this. She thrashed against him, as he was trying to unzip his fly.
"I said you will lay still bitch!" He ran the blade over her neck, just
enough to draw blood, to prove to her that he meant it.
Helen lay still for a moment, not wanting him to slip and cut deeper then he
intended due to her thrashing.
he put the knife sideways in his mouth as he finished pulling his pants down.
Helen took the opportunity to once again, buck her hips in an effort to get
him off of her. His response was to beat her head against the concrete
floor. He grabbed her by the hair, with both hands, and beat her head
against the concrete, until Helen was almost unconscious. "That'll teach you
bitch, I said LAY STILL!"
John heard a scream, it was coming from above him. He stopped and listened,
the scream was cut short. He took the last flight of steps two at a time.
"Helen?" He called as he rounded the top of the fifth flight of stairs.
The jeep had been parked on the other side of the garage. He stood listening
intently, he heard movement somewhere, but couldn't place where. He rounded
the corner and his Jeep came into view, but he didn't see Helen. He heard
the hollow sound of something metal hitting the concrete floor, and carefully
made his way over to the row his jeep was parked in. He looked under the
vehicle and his eyes went wide.
"You SON OF A BITCH!" John yelled.