Excerpt of Threat Of Darkness

Romans 12:21
"Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good."

Chapter One

The keening wails echoing down the usually quiet halls of the Serenity Medical Center made the hair on the back of Samantha Rochard's neck prickle. Every natural instinct told her to flee. Instead, her experience as a registered nurse sent her racing toward the sound of misery. 

A doctor, white coat flying behind him, shoved her aside and burst through the curtain into an ER exam cubicle. She heard him start to speak. Then, his words were abruptly cut off. 

A sixth sense brought Samantha to a skidding halt before the weighted curtain had stopped swinging behind him. Was that scuffling? Fighting? A thud?

She peeked through a slit between the panels. Dr. Weiss, the physician who had elbowed her out of his way, lay on the floor, moaning. A thin, scraggly figure she judged to be male stood with his back to her. The only thing about him that caught her attention and held it was the small, silver-colored revolver he was waving.

Samantha wheeled and flattened herself against a nearby wall. Hands trembling, she pulled out her cell phone, called 911 and cupped her hands around the instrument to muffle her speech. 

"We need help at the Medical Center. Hurry."

"What's the nature of your emergency, ma'am?" 

"I don't know." Samantha wanted to shout instead of whispering. "I heard a scream and…"

When the dispatcher interrupted to ask, "Is that you again, Ms. Rochard?" she figured her report wasn't going to be taken seriously. So what else was new? 

"Look," Samantha said, "we've got a guy in our ER with a gun. Isn't that enough?"

"Okay. Stay where you are and let us handle it." There was a rumble of conversation and beeping noises in the background before the dispatcher returned. "We have units on the way. Stay on the line with me."

Samantha was about to reply when someone grabbed a fistful of her shoulder-length, dark hair and jerked her off her feet. The cell phone hit the floor with a splintering crack. She was being dragged backwards into the exam area where Dr. Weiss lay! 

Her scalp felt as though it was on fire. She couldn't think. Couldn't reason. All she could do was keep screaming, "No! No!" and trying to regain her balance enough to fight back.

The attacker flung her aside like a sack of dirty laundry. She landed hard. The instant she looked up she knew who had manhandled her. It was one of the teenage Boland boys. What's his first name? Why can't I remember? Marty, Jimmy, Bobby? It was Bobby. Bobby Joe. At least that sounded right.

Shying away while her thoughts whirled, Samantha stared at the young man in the tattered jeans and T-shirt. His eyes were wide and darting, their pupils dilated. He was under the influence for sure, which made him even more unpredictable. His demeanor reminded her of an animal caught in the jaws of a steel trap and willing to chew its own leg off to escape.

She licked her lips and found her voice. "Hey, it's me. Samantha Rochard. You're – you're Bobby Joe, right? I used to go to school with your big sisters. Remember?"

His eyes flickered. His body was shaking so uncontrollably his hand kept jerking. The hand with the gun in it. "I - I know," he stammered. "I came to see you ‘cause you're a nurse."

"Okay. I'm here," Samantha said with forced calm. "I'm going to get up now, Bobby. Will you let me do that?"

His nod was quick, twitchy. "Yeah."

Using the edge of the exam table to steady herself she kept her concentration on the teen's face, waiting for him to do something else irrational thanks to his drug-induced paranoia. The biggest plus of the whole situation was the fact that she knew all of the Boland kids had been raised with strong morals and lots of love, even if they hadn't had much else.

Samantha took a deep, settling breath and squared her shoulders. "I'm listening," she told the skinny, long-haired teen. "Why did you want to see me?" 

He stepped aside so Samantha could view the occupant of the narrow gurney for the first time. A homemade quilt wrapped a frail, blond child about two years old. The little body lay quiet. Too quiet.

Whipping her stethoscope from around her neck she pushed the teen aside, threw back the edges of the quilt and began to check the child's vital signs. There was a heartbeat! Thank You, God.

"What happened?" she demanded.

"I don't know. I was just watchin' him for a friend and…"

"How long? How long has he been like this?"

Instead of answering, the gunman stepped back and began to weep as if his heart was breaking.

Samantha was no longer concerned about anything except the ill child. "Talk to me, Bobby Joe. Tell me everything."

Sobbing was all she heard so she doubled her efforts. "Listen. Time matters. If you think he swallowed something I need to know what and when. Talk to me. Help me save him." She was searching for injuries on the little body as she spoke and finding none.

The young man sank to the floor near Dr. Weiss's feet. Samantha heard him mumble something about a stash and the little boy being too curious. That was enough to get started. She threw aside the curtain surrounding one end of the exam area and found herself staring at a trio of quaking coworkers.

"Narcan," Samantha shouted. "And find me a doctor who's conscious enough to give the order to administer." 

"I can do it," Weiss said, rolling onto his hands and knees and pausing before pulling himself erect. He cast a wary glance at the assailant who was still babbling incoherently, then nodded at a middle-aged nurse who stood outside the immediate area. "You. Alice. You heard her. Meds. STAT. And somebody order a chopper. We'll transport to Children's in Little Rock as soon as we stabilize." 

"Respirations are slow, pulse rapid and weak," Samantha told him.

"That figures." Weiss blew a sigh. "I'll start an IV while you give him half the dose IM. If the problem isn't opiate induced, Narcan won't hurt him."

"Right." She administered the injection while other nurses and the doctor worked on the opposite side of the gurney. 

The sound of approaching sirens caught her attention. Tensing, she eyed Bobby Joe. He apparently hadn't noticed that the police were almost there.

"Vitals are improving. Somebody take my place for a second," Samantha said before leaving the patient in other capable hands and going to crouch beside the distraught teen.

"We've given the boy an antidote and he's starting to respond. It's going to be okay." Reaching for his weapon and closing her hand around it, she made sure it was pointing in a safe direction, then exerted steady pressure. "You can let go. Give me the gun, Bobby Joe. Everything's under control."

Relieved beyond words when he did as she asked, Samantha stood, holding out the small, silver pistol, butt first and muzzle direction safely diverted, just the way she'd taken it from its owner. 

Several police officers were already approaching warily when she turned to face them. Their guns were drawn, their expressions deadly serious so she announced, "You can relax, fellas. Everything's under control. I got his gun away from him for you."

One deputy sidled past her to cuff the addict while another stepped up and took the pistol from her hand.

If Samantha hadn't already been so keyed up that she could barely think straight, she might have shrieked when she saw that cop's face. Her jaw did drop and she was pretty sure her gasp was audible. His light brown hair and eyes and his broad shoulders were all too familiar. It couldn't be him, of course. It simply couldn't be. She hadn't had one of these déjà vu moments for months. Maybe years.

Her pulse leapt as reality replaced imagination. She couldn't catch her breath. This was not another bad dream. John Waltham, the man who'd broken her heart so badly she'd wondered if she'd ever recover, was standing right in front of her, big as life. 

Before she could decide how to greet him he set the mood of their reunion. His, "What did you think you were doing?" was delivered with such force it was practically a growl.

That attitude stiffened her spine and made it easy to answer, "My job."

"You're a nurse, not a cop."

"Oh, so I'm supposed to just stand there while you and your buddies waltz in here and start shooting?"

"If necessary, yes."

"Don't be silly. I knew Bobby Joe wasn't going to hurt me," she insisted, wishing she fully believed her own assertion. When an addict was under the influence there was no way to predict what he or she might do.

Handling the pistol expertly, John unloaded it and passed it to one of his fellow officers to bag as evidence before turning back to Samantha. 

She noticed that his expression had softened some but it was too little too late. She was already bristling. "What are you doing back in town?" She eyed him from head to toe. "And why are you dressed like a member of our police force?" 

"Because that's what I am. I've come home," he said flatly.