Friday, January 07, 2005

Chapter 19: Misgivings

As the door closed behind Lex, Lana and Chloe exchanged significant glances.

“There’s something there?” Lana asked, “Isn’t there?”

“You’d better believe it. But what?” Chloe asked sharply, “It couldn’t be the burglary though, could it? Clark hasn’t been Kal for months and he was here to help with the charity auction this weekend. So what else was it?”

“Do you think Lex knows something else about Metropolis?” Lana suggested.

“How could he? He was… wait. It’s Edge, it has to be! Lex always does his research. Maybe he found out something about Clark as Kal. But, what?”

Lana stared at Chloe, certain that she was right, but still had one question: “How do we find out? We can’t ask Clark.”

“Why not?” Chloe’s question was rhetorical, at best. Asking Clark to give a straight answer about himself was like asking a squirrel for the time of day- if you got a straight answer, it wouldn’t be one you could understand. Why their friendship persisted had often puzzled Chloe, but as much as she disliked Clark’s lying to her, she also had to admit she enjoyed the mystery of what the farm boy’s deepest-darkest secrets might be. Aside from that, she and Lana both knew in their heart of hearts that whatever his secrets were, he would do anything and everything he possibly could to protect them. He was and had been their white knight on many occasions- even if his armor was a bit tarnished. In some ways, that made it harder for them to cope with at times like this, when he was sick or in trouble, because although he had saved them so many times—they knew there was almost nothing they could do to help him… and he still wouldn’t tell them what was going on. Chloe startled Lana by slamming her fist into the table out of frustration.

“Dammit, Lana, I am so sick of the male ego. Why won’t they just admit they need our help.”

On every floor, the nurses’ stations were almost buzzing with quietly whispered conversations, bets, and debates about whether Ms. Chapen would follow through on her well-known desire to fire Kelly. Kelly had walked into Chapen’s office only moments before and the entire wing was on watch for any sign of what happened- answering the calls from nursing stations on different floors also curious Kelly’s fate.

“No news yet.”

“No, she hasn’t showed.”

One of the braver nurses peaked in at the edge of Chapen’s window, but Chapen immediately lowered the blind.

Finally, when it seemed like the whole station had held their breath for interminable minutes, Kelly walked out and waved cheerily to the other nurses, who jointly breathed a sigh of relief and started to call the other floors with the good news. Before their first calls could even connect, though, the elevator doors opened and two security guards that Chapen must have had waiting appeared to confiscate Kelly’s I.D. badge and key ring before escorting her to the locker room, searching her things, and escorting her to the first floor exit.

The grumble that followed was unmistakably angry with Chapen. Despite the fact that Kelly was a favorite of patients, staff, and Doctors alike, hospital policy guaranteed autonomy to all of its department heads. In addition to that, Chapen had reduced the nursing staff’s budget for three years straight, ensuring her carte blanche as long as she kept the board of directors happy, which she had. There was nothing that could be done to dispute the dismissal while Kelly’s immediate supervisor was out of town, and once done, it was very unlikely to be undone.

Fifteen minutes later, when Kelly finally reached the first floor, she met a crowd of well-wishers each waiting to give her a hug and a parting kiss. As the news had spread from station to station and floor to floor, any of the nurses who could get away from their station collected any doctor, intern, staff member, or patient who could spare five minutes to see Kelly off and led him or her down to the entry. As a result, Lex could barely see the petite nurse pass by as he tried to make his way through the noisy crowd.


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