By Kellyanne Lynch
* Please e-mail ScullySloan@juno.com with questions, comments, theories, complaints, or words of wisdom.
Thursday, 8:00 A.M.
"Good morning, Mark," Dr. Amanda Bentley greeted her friend as he entered the doctors' lounge. She was pouring a cup of coffee, and she handed it to Mark when she was through. "I was pouring this for myself, but it looks like you need it more than I do."
Mark grinned and accepted the coffee. He brought the mug close to his nose and inhaled the steam. "Smells like a good brew."
"Yeah," Mark's smile faded. "Steve was paged at close to three last night. He was called in, because the police captured a criminal..."
"And they wanted him questioned in the middle of the night?"
Mark shrugged. "I don't know what's going on, Amanda. But Steve hasn't come home yet." Mark sighed and stared into his coffee cup. "I don't know. I just worry about him sometimes."
"Well that's understandable," Amanda said. "Steve's got a dangerous job."
"Sometimes I wish he'd decided to be an accountant."
Amanda laughed. "That's still a dangerous job around tax time."
"Hey, guys!" a new voice piped up.
Mark turned around and smiled at Dr. Jesse Travis. "Hey, Jesse!"
"You okay, Jess?" Amanda asked.
Jesse smiled. "Just a slight cold. That's all." He turned to Mark. "I just checked your schedule, and it looks like you're going to have a pretty light day."
"Sure looks that way," Mark replied.
"Dr. Sloan, please call the switchboard," an announcement blared over the loudspeaker.
"Oh, excuse me for a second, guys!" Mark raised the phone receiver from the carrier and pressed the star key. "Yes, this is Dr. Mark Sloan," he spoke into the mouthpiece.
"One moment; I'll patch you through," a female voice replied, followed by a pause. Then:
"Hi, Dad!" Steve's voice came over the receiver. Mark sighed with a smile. While covering the receiver with his hand, Mark announced, "Steve's okay!"
Jesse and Amanda returned Mark's smile.
Mark turned his attention back to the telephone. "Steve, what happened last night? I was worried sick!"
"I spent all night trying to track down the guy who paged me. Turns out, it was no one at the station."
"Who do you suppose it was?"
"I'm sorry, Dad, I didn't catch what you said."
"Who do you think called you?" Mark rephrased his inquiry.
"It was obviously a crank caller. Nothing more."
"Well..." Mark sighed. Scratching above his left furrowed eyebrow, he added, "I want you to be careful out there, son."
"I will. Listen, I..."
Static spilled out of the ear piece.
"Steve, now I can't hear!" Plugging his right ear, Mark pressed the receiver closer to his left one. "Steve?"
POW! The bang pierced through the phone lines. Mark, Jesse, and Amanda jumped.
"Ahhh!" Steve cried out.
"Steve!" Mark's eyes widened as he called into the telephone. "Steve!"
"Dad..." Steve's voice rasped into Mark's ear before the line went dead.
"What was that?" Amanda asked as Mark lowered the receiver from his ear.
"Steve," Mark stated, staring past her and Jesse.
"I think he's going into shock!" Jesse sprang out of his seat, to Mark's side. Taking Mark by the elbow, Jesse led the older doctor to a chair. "Sit down, Mark, and tell us what happened."
"I heard a gunshot," Mark pronounced each syllable independently as he sat down. "Steve..."
His voice trailed off as he began to shake.
"Mark!" Amanda cried and rushed to the door. "Emergency! We need help in here!"
She turned around in time to see Mark lose consciousness.