Chapter 1: A Long Night “You finished for the night, Emily?” The cheery Doctor in the white coat asked. “Absolutely! Home, long soak in the bath and then sleep forever,” the 23-year-old dressed in crumpled blue scrubs replied.
Emily Aaron had served four years in the Israeli army as a medic and was now pursuing her career at New Jersey’s finest trauma hospital. Daughter of a traditional Jewish family, Avraham and Avigail Aaron, Emily was now enjoying herself as the youngest Junior Trauma Specialist at the University hospital.
Just as she rounded the corner, she heard a familiar voice. “We are going to Coney this weekend! Are you in?” Drawled a female with a distinct New York accent. Piper Perez had shared a flat with Emily since her arrival six months ago.
The two girls had become close spending almost all their downtime together, either shopping, theatre-going or just generally hanging. Piper was a little older than Emily at 27 and worked on the administration team. “Check the rota. If I’m off, count me in!” She shouted as she buzzed herself entry into the changing rooms.
Escaping from the loose fitting scrubs was the best part of her day. She loved the job, but at times the intense work environment and the long hours reminded her why she left her position as a military doctor. She was just about to kick off her shoes when her bleeper erupted into the dreaded YOU’RE NOT FINISHED YET message.
If that wasn’t enough of a distraction the hospital tannoy system was singing her name. Reluctantly picking up the internal phone, she punched in her key code.
Chapter 2: Vector November The cold New York air was just the wake up she needed. The EMS (Emergency Medical Services) team rushed the patient through the large glass entrance doors. This was not an unusual occurrence as the hospital was the only trauma facility for several miles. What was unusual were two women, all in black, moving at pace, stuck like glue to the trolley.
It was obvious to Emily they weren’t family. If the black plastic earpieces hanging limply wasn’t enough of a giveaway, the extra bulges disguising their handguns most certainly gave it away. “Who’s in charge?” shouted the 30 something woman with Mediterranean looks and a European accent.
“Talk to me!” Emily shouted at the EMS team, completely ignoring the women’s request. “Gunshot wounds. One to the stomach and a second to the chest,” the EMS quickly relayed. Emily jumped on the trolley while the two EMS pushed it frantically towards the lift.
“How long have the pupils been dilated?” She asked, hanging onto the speeding trolley. “Since we arrived at the incident” he responded. “Any exit on the abdomen?” Emily asked as the elevator door was held open for them.
“Couldn’t find one, was losing too much blood, we just braced him!” He replied. “Do we have a name?” Emily shouted. In tandem, the two of whom she could only assume were bodyguards, shouted, “Vincent!” The older one added, “A-positive.”
Emily jumped down off the trolley as it was steered into the elevator. “Sorry, this is where we say goodbye,” Emily said, blocking the way. For a moment, one of the women certainly looked like she was about to draw her weapon; her disapproving stare certainly indicated it.
The younger of the two women placed a hand across her colleague’s chest and extinguished the situation. Phew, thought Emily as the lift doors thumped together. “Found it! I have an exit,” Emily shouted as they rounded the corridor into the operating theatre.
“Pupils dilated. I need 10 units of A positive and four FFP!” (Fresh Frozen Plasma) Emily shouted. The scrub nurse was already waiting, gown in hand, for Emily. “Listen up everyone. One conversation at a time. Someone start the clock, please. It’s the golden hour.”
Emily had been here before. The golden hour was a military term used in conflict zones all over the world. The sixty-minute countdown provided the best window of opportunity to save a person from a traumatic injury. There was no evidence to prove the patient wouldn’t survive after the sixty minutes but Emily knew speed was everything.
“Let’s do the Who’s. My name is Emily Aaron, Trauma Surgeon.” While her team completed their own sign-in, Emily searched gently under the back for the exit wound. The clock had already lost four minutes.
Emily continued, “Patient is Vincent Doe. Age: mid-forties. Two gunshot wounds; chest and abdominal. Close range by the look of the tear on entry. Found the exit for the abdominal, can’t find the chest exit. Can someone stand CT on alert, please? I said one conversation at a time! Please, someone, get me a light in here! Quickly! Let’s get him hooked up to the ventilator, otherwise I will need to do a Trachea.”
“100mg going in now, Emily. Should ease the pain,” the staff nurse advised. “Vincent? Vincent? If you can hear me, we are going to give you something for the pain. You will feel a little drowsy. Just hang in there.” Whoever you are, Emily thought.
Emily’s gaze transferred to the Anaesthesiologist. “Vitals are holding. BP’s all over the show,” he reported. “Will someone remove the brace and what’s left of this nice Prada suit, please? Bag everything, the Police might want it,” Emily ordered.
The priority had to be finding the missing bullet. From his vitals, nothing was apparent. Did she open him up? With no idea where to look, they could just stabilise him long enough for the scan to find the bullet.
“Glidescope, please.” “Picture, please,” Emily continued searching the chest for any damaged organs. The screen broke into life showing a 3D image of all the vitals. Slowly manoeuvring the camera across the chest, she could clearly see the tear and partial trail of damage.
“Oxygen saturation climbing,” she heard one of the nurses state. Emily continued following the route of the nine millimetre projectile. There, on the screen, it looked tiny; it was just a dark shadow. Turning to the Anaesthesiologist, Emily got the nod to go in.
Chapter 3: Woman In Black Emily was curled up tightly on the sofa in the recovery room, reflecting on the previous hours. Surgery had gone well, the bullet had been safely removed, patient was stable and had shown no signs of frailty. In fact, he had shown incredible fortitude during surgery despite the impact of the bullets.
Emily again wondered who the mysterious patient was and who were the team who brought him in? The only noise she heard was the muffled beeps and clicks from the hospital devices monitoring her patient. The pale blue glow emitted from the machines, softly lit the room. Although she couldn’t see anyone, she felt a presence.
Were her eyes playing tricks or was there a shadow at the back of the room? Once more, the gaze of the woman in black met with hers. “My name’s Rebecca Hunter,” she said, her voice, authoritative, yet hushed. “My friends call me Nikki. Do you provide the personal touch for all your patients?” she asked.
“How did you get in here? It’s off limits to anyone, including close family.” Emily demanded. There was no reply. Casually, Nikki moved out of the shadow and closer to the bed. Vincent lay motionless. His breathing relying on the ventilator; slowly swapping carbon dioxide for oxygen.
“Apparently, Emily, only daughter of Avraham and Avigail Aaron, people talk highly of you in this hospital. In fact, some of your peers say you’re the best Trauma Surgeon of your generation” Nikki continued, ignoring Emily. “ Four years working for Mossad obviously served you well,” Nikki finished.
Emily felt a little nervous and intimidated not only by the initial question but also the deeply personal information this “stranger” knew about her. Who was she and, more the point, who was lying in the bed? Who is Vincent Doe? Before she resided, curled on the sofa, she went to the trouble of googling him. Nothing. Not one thread. He was booked in on the hospital system as Vector November.
She knew he had to be someone important. Security had been tripled at the hospital since the stranger was admitted. One of the staffers said the Mayor and Police Chief had already visited. There was a rumour, but it wasn’t confirmed that the President himself was on route. “Who are you, Rebecca Hunter? Who is Vincent Doe?” she asked.
Again she was ignored. The women in black studied the recovery chart in detail. Each page was digested. Breaking another of the strict hospital rules, she punched some numbers into her mobile.
“It’s Nikki. Let’s wind up here. We need to be in the air in 15 - 20 minutes tops. Package is safe, secure and in good hands,” turning to Emily. “Emily, I have to leave. Vincent will understand. In case he doesn’t, I am leaving you to explain. When he comes around, do not leave his side. Tell him the hostages are located and I am finishing off what we started. And for Christ’s sake...
... stop calling him DOE. His name is Vincent Natalie.” Emily remonstrated with Nikki that it was not possible. The hospital wouldn’t allow her to stay here permanently and it could be days before Vincent came around. Why me? How could she ask something like this?
“I have cleared it with the Medical Director. Thank you, Emily Aaron, I feel sure we will meet again.” The woman in black turned and left the room.
Emily hadn’t left Vincent’s side apart from a sink wash and a change of clothes. There had been no deterioration in his condition. Vitals were almost perfect. No signs of infection which were always a risk with gunshot wounds. He was breathing unaided. Why wasn’t he waking? Nothing had been heard from the women in black.
There was a tap on the door. Through the blinds, Emily could make out Piper’s silhouette. Entering the room quietly, she pulled a chair up and sat next to Emily. “What are you doing, Em? You haven’t been home for two straight days. Who is he? Why have you got to play bodyguard?” Piper probed.
Emily placed a quiet finger to her lips and stopped the flow of questions. Emily told Piper nothing. It wasn’t her place. If she had learned anything in her military training it was, in situations like this, TRUST NO-ONE.
Piper had left a bag for Emily. Toiletries and a change of clothes. God, she really wanted a shower. The en-suite was only a few feet away. Nobody would know. Who could deny her a shower anyway not one person had been allowed into the President’s suite? Not even the recovering Vincent who hadn’t blinked in two days could deny her a shower.
A monsoon of water cascaded over Emily’s body as she stood transfixed on the marble tile’s. The shower suite was nearly the same size of her bedroom in the tiny loft flat she shared with Piper. Gently massaging the fragrant lather of citrus, rosemary and jasmine shampoo through her long, blonde locks, she recognised the Italian branded shampoo as a product favoured by celebrities.
Wrapping a thick, fluffy towel around her head and changing into her trackies, she felt much more refreshed. Returning to the recovery room, she froze at the door. The stranger she had been tasked with taking care off was sat up in bed. He wasn’t even startled by her presence. He busily tapped away on a tablet device.
Where did he get that from? Whatever he was doing was being displayed on the large TV screen on the wall with the word ‘VENDICARE’ and a symbol that she had never seen before gliding from corner to corner. He didn’t say a word but Emily was sure he asked her to take a seat.
The screen-saver floating on the monitor quickly changed and, there they were, larger than the screen itself: the women in the black. The second face she recognised too. The volume on the television burst into life. “There you are Vincent. Thought we had lost you for a while,” Nikki said.
“Hi Boss, glad to see you awake and not skiving,” her colleague jeered. Struggling to clear his throat, Emily deftly poured Vincent some water and helped him to drink, she could feel the dryness in his mouth. “Just a little,” she said as it spilt from the corner of his lips.
“Hi Emily, glad to see you are making yourself at home,” Nikki waved at her. “Hi Em. My name’s Billie. We have met but haven’t been introduced. Love the towel, by the way” Emily gave a little shy wave, unsure what to say or do. Vincent cleared his throat again. In a whisper, he asked Nikki about the hostages.
Her reply was curt. She swiftly directed her conversation at Emily. “Well done, Emily. Now the real work begins. I, actually we, all need you make sure he stays under doctor’s orders. Don’t let him bully you. I will ring you daily for an update, but for now, we have to go. Bye Vincent, remember DOCTORS ORDERS.”
As Emily remonstrated that no one knew her number, the screen went blank. It was too late, the women in black vanished as quickly as she had arrived. Continuing to work on his laptop, Emily thought her patient looked tired. She felt a slight vibration tickle her thigh. A message… from the women in black. Remember Doctor’s orders!
Chapter 5: The Impossible Man For the next five days Emily wandered around the hospital with a new vigour. Whoever this Vincent Natalie was, he certainly had raised her stature with the hospital board. Some of the senior staffers had even referred to her as Miss Aaron; that had never happened before.
Taking every available opportunity, Piper filled Emily with all the daily chatter about the mysterious patient. His recovery time was faster than she had anticipated. Within days, she was pushing Vincent around the grounds.
There was an initial reluctance to follow Emily’s advice but, after an intervention from Nikki and subsequent calls from his son, Oliver, he succumbed to the charm of his personal physician. Emily watched on as the Hospital Physio, Matt, had Vincent walking unaided in a matter of weeks. There was something about this man.
He had been really candid with her in their conversations. Whoever or whatever Vendicare was, they carried some weight around the world. Worried she was getting tangled up in a web of mystery, she contacted her father. Avraham Aaron had recently been promoted to Head of Mossad after serving in a Ministerial position for ten years.
Emily knew whoever Vendicare and Vincent Natalie was. Her father would know. Their conversation didn’t enlighten her, instead, making her more curious. Her own father would only confirm he was one of the good guys. She probed more until the next voice she heard was her mothers.
“Emily, trust your father and your own instincts,” her mother told her.
Chapter 6: The Rest Is History “OMG! You’re going to Europe!” Piper screeched loud enough for the entire building to hear. “Shhh! Walls have ears and you know how thin these are” Emily said trying to ignore her flat mate’s jubilant appraisal of the situation.
Emily had been called into the director’s office late last night and had been requested to escort her patient back to Europe. No matter how much she protested, the decision had been made. One week paid leave and a promotion when she returned!
“You will ring me every day. Postcard? I have to have a postcard. You won’t forget, promise?” This was getting stupid Emily thought. What am I getting into? The door system bleeped. “Delivery for an Emily Aaron” declared a muffled voice from the other side of the door.
Emily released the front door lock, escaping from Piper’s excited clutch. “Just sign here” “WTF? Emily, have you won the lottery” Piper screeched as she surveyed the mass of Bloomingdale bags. “I haven’t ordered these,” she protested to the young courier.
“Special delivery, ma’am. If your name’s Aaron, then these belong to you.” Piper, reaching across, signed quickly and pushed away the courier. Dragging in all the bags, Emily’s remained unconvinced as her phone rang with a private number display. “Hi Emily. It’s Nikki,”
Bewildered and unable to think, Nikki continued explaining the clothes she had just signed for were a gift from the team. “Keep what you want and change what you don’t. A car will pick you up at 4 pm tomorrow and take you to meet Vincent and his son at Newark...
... Enjoy the flight and I will pick you up when you land in the morning. Ciao.” The phone went dead. “OMG, Emily it’s like something out that film…Pretty… ” Before Piper had time to finish her sentence, Emily turned sharply, “don’t you dare!” THE END