“Can I help you?”
“Yes,” Artemis said. She strode up to the hospitals information counter. An older lady sat behind and smiled up at Artemis. “I need a visitors pass, I work with the risk management department, they said I should come over here for a pass, you know, log me in?”
The lady shook her head in agreement, she reached forward.
“Honey, I need to see you driver’s license-“
Artemis handed it forward, and she turned to look around the busy lobby searching for a child that matched Laina Lynn’s description. It was a similar scene for every hospital Artemis had investigated. Disease and human malfunction attacked all walks from life. And those not afflicted were left to wait and ponder the uncertain future.
“Here you go, honey-“
“Thanks,” Artemis said. She clipped the badge onto her jacket. “Can you tell the room for, Ruth Lynn?”
And within seconds Artemis had Ruth Lynn’s room number. She walked deeper into the hospital. As she foraged along the same hospital smell enraptured her, the similar color coded lines that directed healthcare staff toward the correct floor. She took the stairs and avoided the elevators. Eventually, she found the obstetrics floor, and she began her search for Laina Lynn. But she realized as she looked into several patient rooms there were numerous woman intubated, and surviving off life support. She thought about her claim file, and the allegation that the hospital had misused the informed consent form, and cremated their remains without the families knowledge. She thought her instincts inside her brain were thumping at her on full speed.
Artemis acknowledged the nurses behind the nursing station. She located Ruth Lynn’s patient room, and then she was horrified. The woman’s wilted body was hooked up to life support, as her spirit stood next to her, her dead stare was directly over at Artemis. The machine cycled along just kept pumping oxygen into a pregnant cadaver. The monitor above blipped her vital signs. And curled up into a corner of the room, underneath the large bed, a tiny little child was balled up within a thin blanket.
Artemis kneeled down, she gently reached forward to touch the child’s shoulder. The child shook from being cold, and alone. She was a girl Artemis thought given her delicate bone structure. She looked at Artemis with one blue eye as she spied over at her from underneath the blanket’s protection.
“Are you Laina?”
“Yes,” Laina said with barely a whisper.
“I’m a friend of your father’s,” Artemis said. “Do you remember your father?”
“No,” Laina said.
“I’ll help you,” Artemis said. “Have you eaten?”
Laina merely shook her head. She scrunched farther away form Artemis. Artemis stepped back, and gave Laina distance, and time.
“I’ll be right back,” Artemis said. She stood up, and walked out of the room, and over toward the nursing station.
“Pardon me,” Artemis said. “The child inside the room, I’m friends with her father.”
“I understand,” the nurse said. She was wearing a pink uniform with a stethoscope draped over her neck.
“Does she have any family?” Artemis asked. She buttoned her jacket to hide her sidearm. “I’m happy to help, if I can.”
“I know,” the nurse said. “We’re at a loss, they have the patient on life-support, hoping to keep the baby alive. It’s not likely, but they’re trying.”
“She looks dead,” Artemis said. “Sorry, I’m a former medic, her pulse is weak.”
The nurse took off her stethoscope, and placed it behind the counter and next to a computer screen.
“I know,” the nurse said. “Not my call, but- you know.”
“No, I don’t,” Artemis said. “She’s not the only one, you’ve got several others up here, they’re all pregnant?”
“Yes,” the nurse said. “The hospital expects us to keep them all alive, I’m not sure why, I need my job, you know.”
Artemis considered if she should tell the nurse her true identity. She did not like being dishonest, and thought it blocked her ability to reason between right and wrong. She pondered the thought, but then the girl Laina had emerged from the patient room. She wore a tattered dress, her long hair in tangles, but Artemis thought her blue eyes came from Benjamin.
“I thought you left me,” Laina said.
Artemis waved Laina over toward her.
“I’ll never do that,” Artemis said. She looked back over at the nurse. “All right if I take her to the cafeteria?”
“Please,” the nurse said. “I don’t think she has anyone, no one but you’ve come to the see her mother.”
“No family?” Artemis asked. “I’ll get her some food, but, protective services, shelter?”
“This is not a big city,” the nurse said. “We’ve kept her hidden so far, but, our homes for kids can be nightmares up here in the mountains. The nurses have tried to help her, but, we’ve families too.”
Artemis stared down at Laina who was holding her hand. She thought of Benjamin, and she nodded over at the nurse.
“I’ll take her,” Artemis said. “You okay with that, for now?”
“Please,” the nurse said. She leaned forward, she whispered. “Just get her out of this hospital, her mom’s gone, the baby’s gone, hear me?”
Artemis reached forward and shook the nurses hand. In all her case work over the years she knew the overworked nurses in every hospital kept the facility working, and they new all the secrets. She reaching into her purse, and withdrew a business card, she placed it on the counter.
“I’m up here on a legal matter,” Artemis said. “This little girl was my deceased lover’s child, it’s just a coincidence, if I need some help, have some questions, help me out?”
The nurse closely examined the business card. She pushed it back over toward Artemis.
“No,” the nurse said. “I need my job. But listen to me, keep the child out of here, we’ll act like we never saw her.”
End. Chapter 7.
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