Safety In Numbers


AUTHOR: Debbie Mraz
EMAIL: dmrazcmt@aol.com
CATEGORY: JC
RATING: PG-13 for violent content and language.
SPOILERS: None
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 parking garage."

"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 replied.

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 time.

***************************************

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.



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