Under the Gun
By Doc
© December 2002

Chapter One

 
Rating: PG-13 (for questionable language and adult situations)

Disclaimer: The Tour of Duty Characters do NOT belong to me and I am not being compensated in any way for this work of fiction.

Summary: A new doctor reports to Camp Barnett and complicates Doc Hockenbury’s life.

Placement: Around the time of The Road to Long Binh (3rd Season)


November 13th, 1982 – Washington, DC

It’s rainin’. God, I wish it wasn’t rainin’. Just need the sun to come bustin’ through the clouds, makin’ the puddles steam an’ clothing rot. I guess it’s too late in the year for that here. But there…

I can see my reflection, the letters spilling across my face, almost but not quite hiding the haunted eyes I try and avoid in the mirror. I don’t look at myself much. I’m not there anyway.

These names, though. The names of dead men from so long ago. Dead brothers, fathers, sons. Some of them are familiar to me. I don’t wanna remember ‘em, but I can’t forget ‘em, either.

I went because I thought I could save lives. All those young hearts – gone. A generation ripped apart, divided. I couldn’t save them all. I didn’t want to kill anybody. I swore I wouldn’t.

But in the end it didn’t matter. All’s I know is, at the end of my tour I got my orders home. But when I got there, it wasn’t home anymore. I’d left behind what really mattered, my heart, my soul. Left myself back there…

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

Summer, 1969 – Camp Barnett, Republic of Vietnam

The helicopter came in low, its landing lights blinding in the predawn darkness.  Settling lightly on the pad, two figures jumped out, hunched over against the storm of dust kicked up in the rotor wash. Moving quickly out from under the danger of the whirling blades, they allowed themselves the luxury of standing upright. The taller of the two dumped an officer’s B-4 bag on the ground and leaned in close to say a few words to his companion. A nod, a handshake and he turned away, jogging back to the Huey, ducking as he passed under the disk and hopped back aboard. The engine immediately cranked up and the bird began to ascend.

As the driving wind blew debris everywhere, the GI on the ground threw an arm protectively across eyes that sought to watch the helicopter’s departure, as if the knowledge that it was heading back for the relative safety of Tan Son Nhut was in some way comforting. The night, still holding a tenuous grip on the sky, settled back over the camp, the silence left in the chopper’s wake deafening.

"Captain Cassidy?"

The GI turned, squinting at the soldier in the shadows, and returned his salute.

"Colonel Stringer is waiting for you. Right this way." The young man reached down, snatching the handle of the bag before Cassidy could grasp it. "I got that, Captain. I’ll put it in your quarters." He briskly walked off, looking over his shoulder to make sure his charge was following.

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

Colonel Stringer blew a long stream of blue-tinged cigar smoke into the air, briefly regarding the captain seated opposite him. He dropped his gaze to the paperwork centered on his blotter, tapping its corners square with one calloused finger. Clearing his throat loudly, he leaned forward onto his elbows, his dark eyes cloudy with annoyance.

"I don’t like this one bit." Stringer stared at the officer. "I had a problem before, now I’ve traded it for a different one. You." He shook his head.

The doctor shifted uneasily on the folding metal chair. "Well, Colonel, I’m not too happy about it myself."

"Your ‘happiness’ has nothing to do with it, Captain!" Stringer stood abruptly, cigar in hand, as a crackle of radio traffic in the outer office caught his attention.

"No, sir. Not at all, sir." Green-grey eyes came up to meet the colonel’s, not backing down an inch.

The colonel moved to the door, listening intently, then returned to his desk, rubbing a hand over sleepless eyes. He sat down.

"Captain, we need a surgeon here but frankly we don’t need YOU." He sighed, his gaze sweeping his desk as if to find the solution to this situation in front of him. Problem was, the only possible answer was already sitting there in his office.

"Who the hell sent you anyway?" Clouds of cigar smoke puffed out with his words, hanging heavily over the desk. Stringer scowled at the doctor, squinting through the haze.

Captain Cassidy shrugged, eyebrows raised quizzically. "No idea, sir. Only that you needed a replacement for your base surgeon, with a security clearance."

"And where did you get a security clearance, Captain?" The colonel leafed through the file, feigning interest in information he’d long since memorized. For such a short career, Cassidy seemed to have been punching the right tickets as page after page of glowing recommendations padded out the folder.

The captain paused before answering. "I did part of my internship at Ft. Detrick, Maryland, sir. They wanted the Regular doctors to have one."

"Ft. Detrick, that’s where they do the germ warfare stuff?"

"I don’t know anything about that sir, I just worked in the clinic, everyday stuff, heart attacks, broken bones, sniffles and coughs. Stuff like that, sir." Another elaborate shrug. I DO know but I’m not telling. Sir.

"All right, all right, I believe you. What I needed was an immediate replacement for Major Monroe after his ‘accident’." He gestured at the paperwork. "Captain J. Cassidy, M.D. fit the bill. I was expecting a Green Beret."

The captain sat up straighter, shoulders squared. "Colonel Stringer, I’m sorry that you feel this way, sir, but I am qualified to be here. I graduated from the Uniformed Services University, a member of the first class of Army trained medical doctors. I ranked number five in my class."

A long pause followed. "Sir."

The muscles in Stringer’s jaw bunched as he clenched his teeth tightly together. Dropping his cigar into an ashtray, he leaned forward on his elbows, a faint flush of anger flooding his cheeks.

"You know you’ll be the only woman on the base, Cassidy?" For some reason, the doctor’s records only listed a first initial. Stringer hadn’t realized that J. Cassidy was female until she was delivered to his office.

The young woman raised an eyebrow at him, faint surprise washing across her face. "Ah, no, sir. I didn’t realize that." She swallowed hard, crossing one knee over the other. "Not that it’s a problem, sir." Cassidy’s slender surgeon’s fingers drummed across the arm of the chair. Feeling Stringer’s cold stare, she forced herself to be still, at least outwardly. Meanwhile her stomach was doing flip-flops.

Stringer sighed, closing the file and lacing his fingers together on top of it. "Oh, it’s a problem all right. But one we’ll have to deal with."

He looked down at his hands for a moment, considering his next words. "All right. Well, you’re Regular Army, that’s one thing. And you’ve got a clearance." Stringer paused, raising his eyes to look directly into hers. "All right, Captain, until such time as I find a more suitable replacement, you will assume the temporary duties of Base Surgeon. Do not unpack. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes sir."

Stringer picked up the file, opening a desk drawer and dropping it in. "During your brief stay, you will understand that this is a classified installation. This extends to anything that you may see, hear or accidentally find out."

"Yes sir."

With a heavy sigh, Stringer stuck his cigar back in his mouth, puffing expansively. "We might as well get this over with. Chow in ten minutes. There’s a chair outside this door. Park yourself in it." He blew out a smoke ring, his gaze resting silently on Cassidy who jumped to her feet in response, right arm rising.

"On your way out, tell my First Sergeant to get his sorry ass in here. Dismissed!" Stringer ignored her salute, his attention already on his paperwork.

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

The noise in the mess hall was growing. A few early morning diners quickly grabbed second cups of coffee and made their escape. Their vacated tables quickly filled with the hungry, growing boys of Camp Barnett, their freshly shaven faces sporting tiny nicks from dull blades that hadn’t been replaced in weeks. Trays piled high with scrambled eggs and unrecognizable fried meat sat next to steaming brown plastic mugs of coffee.

Doc Hockenbury, Team Viking's medic, slouched in late, his hands stuffed into his pockets. His glasses, freshly polished, were tucked into the neck of his t-shirt. He noted his buddies over in the corner, their raucous laughter drifting above the general din. Joining the line for chow, he cast an unenthusiastic eye over the cook’s offerings, finally picking up a couple of slices of toast. With a yawn, he wandered over to the silver coffee urn.

A sudden silence fell over the room, the muted scrapes of forks on trays dying away as the men turned expectant eyes to the door. Hockenbury looked up to see Colonel Stringer standing there, his hands fisted on his hips. Face like that’ll freeze Hell over! The medic shook his head, turned back to the coffee and topped off his mug.

A wolf whistle from the back corner, quickly hushed amid muffled laughter, yanked his attention back to the colonel. He realized that someone had joined Stringer, someone whose head came just about to the man’s shoulder and whose figure wasn’t that of any tunnel rat he’d ever seen. An American woman! His gaze dropped to her collar. An American woman OFFICER. Looking down at his rumpled uniform, he sighed. It wasn’t like he had much of a chance anyway. Sipping his coffee, he surreptitiously watched her from under the overlong hair hanging in his eyes.

As the noise returned to its previous level, Stringer leaned over, talking directly into Cassidy’s ear. "That’s what I expected. Most of these boys haven’t seen an American female in months." He gestured towards the chow line where several young men, their faces flushed bright red, were offering to let her cut ahead.

With a smile, the doctor shook her head. "I’m not very hungry this morning, Colonel Stringer, sir. I ate before I left Tan Son Nhut." At his questioning look she shrugged her slim shoulders sheepishly. "I didn’t want to get airsick." She looked around the room, quickly locating the coffee urn. "Now, coffee, I could use."

Hockenbury felt himself freezing to the spot. The lady officer, captain’s bars and all, was headed straight for him. He watched her smooth chestnut hair as it brushed her collar, the heavy weight of it swirling about her ears. Her eyes were hazel, more green than grey, he noted as she drew closer. He sucked in his breath, holding it as she stopped in front of him, a small frown on her face.

Recognizing her dilemma, Doc pulled a plastic mug from the stack behind him, holding it out to her in a hand that was not quite steady. He ducked his head down, hair falling across his face again. "The mugs are right over here, ma’am." The color rose in his cheeks.

Cassidy looked up, sharp eyes appraising the lanky GI from his dusty boots to his too-long-for-regulation hair. A grin tugged at the corner of her mouth as she reached out a hand, accepting the mug. "Thank you, specialist." Sliding the mug under the spigot, she reached for the handle.

Hockenbury beat her to it. Twisting it open, he allowed himself a few quick glances at her, discovering with a start that she was wearing the insignia of the medical corps. He also realized that she was watching him, amusement dancing in her eyes.

"Whoa!" Her startled exclamation pulled him back to the job at hand. They both quickly stepped back as the coffee overran the mug, spilling onto the floor, before he frantically spun the stopcock shut. Closing his eyes in embarrassment, Hockenbury bit his lower lip, idly wondering how he could vanish, preferably in a puff of smoke.

He jumped when she laid a gentle hand on his arm. "It’s okay; I didn’t get any on me." She sipped the excess fluid from the cup, bringing it to a more manageable level. "Ah, that’s good. Just what the doctor ordered. Thank you." She tipped the mug at him in a mock salute as she turned to find Colonel Stringer, looking briefly back over her shoulder at him as she went.

The medic let his breath out in a rush, watching her graceful movements as she weaved through the tables. Every head turned at every table she passed, guys elbowing and shoving each other out of the way for a better look. Hockenbury sighed, shaking his head, and made his way over to Team Viking’s table.

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

Cassidy worked her way between the tables, holding her mug in both hands as she tucked her arms in tightly, trying to avoid bumping into the shoulders of the men as they turned to watch her pass. Where were all these guys when I was in high school? She smiled cautiously and found herself rewarded with faces full of gleaming white teeth. And some not so white. Dragging her gaze away from a particularly snaggle-toothed private, she found herself at Stringer’s table.

Stringer sat with his back to the room, ignoring the antics of his men. He forced himself to keep from rolling his eyes and concentrated instead on the plate in front of him. The man ate with quick, efficient movements, not wasting a second and Cassidy had to look away to keep from feeling queasy. She wasn’t normally airsick, but the Huey hurtling through the waning night and then dropping in the middle of nowhere had upset her stomach. And the realization that she was the lone female amidst two thousand men – the proverbial icing on the cake!

Stringer raised his own coffee, washing down the dregs of his breakfast with a huge swallow. Clearing his throat, he looked up at his new base surgeon. Damn, she’s young! He knew from her file that she had graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when she was barely twenty and had gone straight into the Uniformed Services University Medical School. He shook his head, patting down the front of his jacket in a fruitless search for a cigar.

The doctor listened to the murmur of conversation around her, sipping her coffee slowly.

"Man, I hope that pretty lil’ thing don’ go the way of Doc Monroe!" Freezing, the mug halfway to her lips, Cassidy strained to hear the low conversation at a table somewhere to her right.

"He musta been ina million pieces after that mine got done wit’ him! Man, I ain’t never seen nuthin’ like that!" The voice rose in disbelief.

The blood drained from Cassidy’s face. She set her mug down, pushing it away across the table. Taking a deep breath, she raised her eyes to find Stringer watching her thoughtfully, arms crossed over his chest.

"I might as well take advantage of that opening, Captain. We need to discuss your safety during your short stay here on my base." His fingers frisked through his pockets again. Damn, what did I do with those cigars? He looked around for his aide, the back of whose head was briefly seen as the screen door swung shut behind him. Stringer raised an eyebrow, then looked back at Cassidy.

"Dr. Monroe made a mistake. One you won’t have the opportunity to make as you won’t be with us long enough." Stringer held Cassidy in his gaze, wondering if she’d look away. "Dr. Monroe decided to drive himself to Saigon early one morning before the mine-sweepers had a chance to check the road. He hit a mine, a big one, not more than 40 feet from the front gate."

Cassidy’s green-grey eyes never wavered, staring directly into the colonel’s.

Stringer glanced away. "Dr. Monroe’s jeep flipped completely over, the gas tank immediately igniting. What pieces we did find of him were burned to a cinder. This is what you need to keep in mind when I talk about security, Captain, do you understand me?" He looked back at her, found her gaze on the table, her nimble fingers tracing through the damp rings from her coffee mug.

"Do you understand, Captain?"

Cassidy jumped, startled, and nodded vigorously. "Yes, sir." Her hair brushed her collar and she reached up, shoving it behind her ears.

Stringer abruptly stood. "Come with me, Captain, a runner will show you to the dispensary." He walked briskly to the door where the aide stood, waiting for him. Taking the plastic-wrapped cigars from the man, he slipped them in his pocket, carefully buttoning the flap closed.

As Cassidy drew level with the two men, a dark-haired young lieutenant shoved through the screen door, almost barreling into Colonel Stringer. The man stepped back smartly, snapping off a quick salute.

"Colonel Stringer, sir! Sorry about the door, sir." The lieutenant held the salute, his gaze off into the distance.

Stringer snorted, returning the man’s salute, and pushed through the door himself, followed by the aide and Captain Cassidy, whose gaze met John J. McKay’s as she brushed past him.

McKay whipped around, pressing his face up against the screen as it closed, watching the woman walk away. "Who was that?" He looked around the mess hall, noting all the flushed and over-eager faces. Shaking his head in wonder, he wandered over to the chow line.

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

Cassidy tore open the envelope she’d been given back at the Orderly Room while she’d waited for Colonel Stringer. A youthful specialist, who had identified himself only as the "CQ", had thrust the small package into her hands as he juggled a phone, portable radio and a pen that was apparently trying to run dry on him. "Keys. Dispensary. Ma’am." He’d smiled at her, obviously wanting to talk more to the woman, but whoever was on the other end of the phone must have taken precedence.

A key ring with several identical keys on it slid into her hand. Cassidy shook her head, turning them over several times looking for identifying marks. With a shrug, she began trying them all in turn and managed to open the lock on the third attempt. She pushed open the door and entered, the soldier following right behind her turning on the lights.

"Where would you like your bag, ma’am?"

The doctor looked at him, eyebrows raised in question. "I guess right there is fine."

Cassidy gazed around the empty dispensary. In one corner crouched a desk on which a large wooden sign was prominently displayed, exactly one half inch from the front edge and the same distance from the left side. Anyone approaching the desk would have no difficulty recognizing that this was the workplace of one S/SGT Royal P. Hall.

"I guess Sergeant Hall is in charge here?"

"Oh, yes, ma’am, he is!" The GI’s voice held something Cassidy couldn’t recognize, amusement maybe?

"What’s he like? This Hall guy?" Picking up the sign, she ran her fingers over the letters carved into the wood, in Old English script no less. Or maybe Olde English? She smiled, tipping the block of wood at the runner.The soldier suddenly grinned. "Well, ma’am, I think you’d best wait to meet him like everybody else. He’s kinda hard to describe." He flushed, bright red freckles standing out on his pale skin. His forearms were tanned to a dull copper, but his face appeared to be in a constant state of burn and peel.

Cassidy nodded, one eyebrow raised and her lips pursed. "I look forward to meeting him, then." She carefully set the nameplate back on the desktop, aligning it as precisely as it had been before. Then she casually turned it upside down. She winked at the private, causing him to blush from the tops of his ears down to his neck where it disappeared into his t-shirt.

"Ma’am, I have to get back to the Orderly Room. Sergeant Hall should be along any minute now. Sick call is at eight. If there is nothing else?" He edged toward the door, not daring to turn his back on the captain.

Cassidy sighed, looking at her own watch. "Okay. I’ll be fine, don’t worry." She walked over to her bag, hauling it up and dumping it on an examining table. As she reached for the zipper, she looked up, realizing that the young private was standing there in the doorway, wide eyes watching her. Frowning, Cassidy suddenly understood.

"Dismissed."

He saluted smartly, barely waiting for her to return it before vanishing out the door. The screen slammed shut behind him, leaving her alone.

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

Reaching into the lumpy B-4 bag, Cassidy hauled out her doctor’s kit, remembered Stringer’s admonishment and left everything else neatly packed inside. Looping her stethoscope around her neck, she wandered slowly around the main room of the dispensary, memorizing the layout of the place. She was idly wondering where a couple of closed, locked doors might lead when she heard the screen door squeak. Whirling around, she found herself face-to-face with Staff Sergeant Hall. Well, not exactly face-to-face as he was at least ten inches taller. He was a large black man, neither fat nor muscular. He was just big.

He smiled politely and greeted her. His dark eyes noted the desk sign but his expression never wavered.

"Mornin’, ma’am."

Cassidy caught his furtive glance at the sign, recognizing his internal battle not to fix it in front of her, and smiled at the man. She held out her hand, trying not to gulp as his huge paw enveloped her slender fingers.

"Hi, I’m Captain Cassidy, the new base surgeon. Well, for the time being, anyway."

"So I’ve heard. Staff Sergeant Royal P. Hall, NCOIC. That’s Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge." He emphasized the last two words. "Welcome to my dispensary, ma’am. Would you care for some coffee?"

Cassidy thought about the coffee she’d pushed away in the mess hall, and the reason she’d rejected it. She smiled at the big man, hoping her stomach was better able to tolerate it now.

"Yes, thank you, Sergeant, I missed breakfast."

"First one here’s supposed to make the coffee."

Sergeant Hall stepped over to the large, stainless steel urn sitting squarely on a table, and removed the lid. A large plastic water jug sat on the floor and he deftly picked it up, as easily as if it were an empty wastebasket, and filled the urn without spilling a drop. He carefully measured out coffee into the filter and flipped the switch.

Returning to his desk, he regarded his desk sign carefully, dark eyes thoughtful.

"Well, well, well. Someone’s been messin’ with my authority here." He scowled, reaching out to adroitly turn the sign over and align it precisely as before. With a smile of immense pleasure, he sank into his office chair and relaxed, shifting his rear more comfortably into the sagging cushion.

"I guess you’ll be taking Dr. Monroe’s place for awhile?" He pulled open his desk drawer, taking out a handful of pens and lining them up neatly on the side of his blotter. He used one sausage-like finger to nudge them gently into perfect order.

Cassidy stared at him, one eyebrow raised. It took several seconds for her to realize that he had asked her a question. "Umm, not too long, if your Base Commander has his way." She shrugged, sliding her hands carefully into her pockets.

Before he could reply, two soldiers walked in, trying their best to look nonchalant. They were both impossibly young, their faces without a trace of a facial hair, all lanky limbs and big feet.

"Good morning, ma’am." They spoke almost in unison, turning to look at each other as their cheeks flushed, the one on the left punching his companion in the shoulder.

Hall frowned, his bushy eyebrows drawing together in a scowl. "This here’s Cap’n Cassidy, the new Base Surgeon."

"I’m pleased to meet you." Cassidy smiled at them, noting the nametapes on their uniforms, PUGH and KAMINSKI. She repeated the names to herself several times, knowing by the end of the day she’d be lucky enough to remember her own.

"Yes, ma’am." They both smiled enthusiastically.

"All right, all right." Hall grumbled from behind his desk. "We got a dispensary to run and Sick Call in thirty minutes. Pugh, get ready. Kaminski, get over to the mess hall and tell Sergeant Jackson to give you some rolls and butter. And some jelly, too. The Cap’n here missed breakfast." He set a notepad and a stack of forms on the blotter, the corners aligned exactly.

"That’s not really necessary, Sergeant…" Cassidy protested the hospitality.

"No trouble at all, ma’am. I have a feeling it’s going to be a long day. Let’s see if that coffee is ready?"

From somewhere within his desk, Hall produced an immense coffee mug. It was at least six inches in diameter and eight or nine inches tall. The amount of coffee it held would contain enough caffeine to keep the entire camp awake for a month, she mentally calculated. Large letters were embossed on the outside. She could read "YAL P. H" from where she stood.

Hall nimbly rose from his desk and walked to the coffee urn. He filled his own mug and inhaled the rich aroma with a deep sigh of contentment. Setting it down, he quickly filled one of the Army issue plastic mugs sitting beside the urn. Holding it out to the doctor, he picked up a jar of Cremora.

"Cream or sugar, ma’am?"

Cassidy reached for the mug, shaking her head slightly. "Nothin’, thanks, Sergeant, I take it black." She blew across the surface of the coffee, breathing in the fumes with a sigh.

Kaminski slammed through the screen door, carrying a metal tray full of hot pastries from the mess hall. He set them down next to the coffee urn and efficiently arranged them, fanning out paper napkins. The odor of cinnamon filled the air as Hall beamed with satisfaction.

Cassidy laughed. "Sergeant, I don’t ever remember hot cinnamon buns bein’ delivered to me at Tan Son Nhut." She stepped over and perused the goodies.

The big sergeant tried to frown, but a grin tugged at the corners of his mouth. "Well, don’t get too used to it, ma’am. But the coffee is hot an’ plentiful. As I said, ma’am, first one here makes it."

He courteously urged Cassidy to select a pastry and took one for himself. He nodded to the medics and each quickly grabbed a cinnamon bun, biting into them hugely. They stared self-consciously as they ate, cheeks bulging. Hall shook his head, wondering briefly where the Army found these kids.

"Been in-country long, ma’am?" Pugh finally swallowed enough to speak. He nervously licked his fingers, earning him a glare from Kaminski, who waved a napkin in his face.

Hall glanced at his watch and cleared his throat.

"All right, ‘nuff chitchat! Pugh! Get that window opened. ‘Bout time to start the day." He brushed the crumbs from his hands into the wastebasket, meticulously crumbling his paper napkin.

Cassidy took a long sip of her coffee, swallowing hard. She was starting to agree with Hall. It looked to be a long day, indeed.

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

Spec 4 Pugh slammed down the window with a bang, sliding the latches into place, effectively locking the opening. He picked up the stack of paperwork in the basket and carried it to Sergeant Hall’s desk, thumbing through it as he walked, his lips moving in a silent count.

"Thirty! That’s got to be a record, Sergeant!" Pugh dropped the pile into Hall’s IN box, his freckles standing out in red blotches on his face.

Hall regarded the medic with baleful eyes. Allowing his gaze to fall on his empty coffee mug, he sighed elaborately, reaching for the handle with fingers that paused mid-way, then lowered his hand into his lap.

"More coffee, Sarge?" Pugh had already grabbed the immense mug, cupping the base with his other hand to balance its weight.

Hall looked up to find Cassidy watching him, her face bright with amusement. He smiled faintly at her, pleased with the way the young woman had fit into his morning routine. She had pitched into the workflow without comment, performing the mundane tasks as well as those that required her skills as a doctor. At one point, Hall found her sweeping the floor, and thought to himself that Doc Monroe would have rather shot himself than clean up. God rest his soul.

Cassidy studied the drug inventory lists that she had spread out across an examining table. Leaning on her elbows, she pulled a pen from her breast pocket, idly tapping it on the pages. She reached up, tucking a stray hair behind her ear. She had pulled it into a ponytail when they had begun work that morning, but over the hours, more than a few strands had escaped, falling into her eyes and sticking to her perspiration-dampened forehead.

Kaminski appeared at her elbow.

"Can I get you some coffee, Dr. Cassidy?" His initial embarrassment had dissipated rapidly in the face of the captain’s friendly manner. The medic had found himself wondering how he could get himself assigned to the dispensary instead of the SOG team with which he would be humping the boonies the very next day.

The doctor looked up. She wiped the sweat off her face with the back of one hand, her cheeks flushed with heat.

"We got anythin’ cold? I think if I had another cup of coffee I’d go up in flames."

Kaminski glanced at Hall, eyebrows raised questioningly. The big sergeant nodded slightly, his dark eyes unreadable. Grinning, Kaminski turned back to Cassidy.

"Ma’am, step right this way." With a glance toward the door, Kaminski walked over to a small white refrigerator. A sticker on the front stated BIOHAZARDOUS MATERIALS. ABSOLUTELY NO FOOD OR DRINK. He leaned over and snapped open the latch. The door swung open, revealing rows of cardboard drug cartons lining the metal shelves from top to bottom. Kaminski knelt on the floor and slid out a tray from the bottom of the refrigerator, revealing several rows of red cans. He pulled a couple out, turning them to show her the white lettering - COCA-COLA.

Cassidy began laughing as she reached over Kaminski’s shoulder, taking a can from his hand. "Sergeant Hall, I gotta hand it to ya, you know how to run a clinic!" She caught the church key Hall threw at her, opening the top of the soda and tossing back a long swallow.

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