by Mathew Paust
Harry Trueblood had just gotten into a rhythm with his morning computer solitaire ritual when the sirens launched his day into a new dimension. At first he ignored them, could barely hear them through the West Wing walls and halls into his office. They penetrated his concentration eventually when some interior moderator, some little-used synapse in his limbic response network, told him the sirens were not routine, that they were lasting too long and that there were too many of them.
“Sounds like a lot of sirens,” he said, stepping out of his office and realizing too late he could no longer hear the clarion screams, which evidently were working the streets on his side of the wing.
Doris, his secretary/receptionist, looked up from her computer screen, conveying puzzlement on her smile-softened face.
“Sirens?” she said.
“Well, I could hear them in there. Sounds like every ambulance in D.C. Must be something big.”
“Oh. I hear them now,” she said, and so could he, as the shrill wailing had reached into the outer office.
Trueblood and Doris looked at each other, squinting as if this would somehow help them decipher the significance of what they heard. Before either could think of something further to say, the mellifluous baritone of Gordon McCrae filled the office singing Fight, fight, fight for Washington State...which prompted Trueblood to slap at his waist and jerk his cellphone from a synthetic fabric holster on his belt. With a sheepish glance at Doris, he muttered “excuse me” and turned toward his office, planting the cellphone against his ear.
“Reagan?” he practically whispered into the phone. “They called? Is he...What? Which hospital? No no, you stay there...I'll go...On my way...Love you too.” He turned back to Doris, continuing to grip the phone.
“Randy's in the hospital,” he started, his voice low and controlled. But he spoke more rapidly than usual. Doris started to ask what was wrong, but he kept speaking, as if he hadn't noticed. “Something at the school. They didn't tell Miriam what happened, just said they're taking everybody to the hospital. Get Joe and tell him we have to get there ASAP.”
“Which hospital, boss?”
“Oh, shit...sorry...I forgot to ask her. They probly didn't say. The nearest hospital I'm sure maybe more than one with that many people. Maybe Joe can find out on the way. Which hospital is nearest?”
Doris shook her head. “Sorry, boss. I'm new here, too. Just head to the closest one, and I'll work the phone. If I find out anything I'll call you.”
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