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We were nearly halfway up the stairs when I heard Lawrence groan. I turned to see what had happened. He was deathly white, and while I watched, he sank down on the closest step. He was sweating heavily and clutching his stomach. He didn't seem coherent enough to answer any questions, so I ducked into my room and called for an ambulance. They only took about ten minutes to arrive, but it was horrible to wait. Lawrence was obviously in great pain, but couldn't tell me what was wrong.
The ride to the hospital took an eternity. They wouldn't let me ride in the ambulance, and I was so afraid of what would happen before he arrived. I was shaking and behind the wheel of a car was the last place I should have been, but as the ambulance tore through the streets with the siren blaring, I was right behind them.
I ran from the parking lot into the emergency room just in time to see them take Lawrence through a set of swinging doors where I couldn't follow. I slumped into a chair, and for the next two hours I sat in a waiting room with dull green walls and hard metal chairs. I never moved while I waited. My mind was busy begging Lawrence to hold on.
Since I was the only one waiting, when I saw an exhausted-looking man dressed in scrubs walk into the room, I took a deep breath and hurried to his side.
He said, “Are you the relative who brought Lawrence Hall in tonight?”
Afraid they wouldn't tell me anything if I confessed to not being a relative, I just nodded.
“Mr. Hall is a very sick man. He's been poisoned, and we think he must have eaten poisonous mushrooms. Our tests indicate they were probably green-spored lepiota.”
At this point I wanted to scream at him to just tell me his condition. He could explain the details after I knew how Lawrence was.
However, he wasn't finished explaining. “This particular mushroom doesn't normally cause death, but among its other symptoms it can dangerously lower blood pressure. Mr. Hall must be on some type of medication that has the same effect, or at least exacerbated the effect of the mushroom, because we nearly lost him. It's a good thing you got him here when you did. We have him stabilized now, and he should make a full recovery.”
I barely heard anything the man said except the last statement. Lawrence was going to be all right! My knees weakened with relief and I sank into the nearest chair.
He continued, “He's awake, and we need to monitor him closely for a while. We want to keep him tonight and tomorrow for observation, but he can probably go home after that. If you want to see him, you can visit for a short time, but first, can you tell me what type of medication he's taking? He was still pretty confused when I talked to him and wasn't able to tell me.”
“I don't know the exact medication. Lawrence is bi-polar, so it has to be something for that. I'll see if I can find out the name for you.”
I got the room number and was practically running in my need to see for myself that he was alive and recovering. I burst into the room, nearly knocking over a nurse on her way out. She cautioned me the patient needed rest and, with a frown in my direction, left the room. I pulled a chair up next to the bed and took Lawrence's hand. “You look so much better already. You have some color back.”
He said, “You look terrible. You can relax. I'm going to be fine. I was a little worried in the beginning because the confusion felt the way some of my episodes used to begin. The confusion is gone now, and I really am fine. It's left me very tired, but they don't want me to sleep yet. Tell me exactly what happened. I'm sure the gory details will help keep me awake. The last thing I remember is starting up the stairs, and then brief moments in the ambulance.”
I wanted to answer in the same matter-of-fact way he'd asked the question. I tried, but before I could begin, tears were running down my face and I couldn't find my voice. I didn't sob or howl. Strangely, I didn't make any noise at all. I just stared at Lawrence, horrified because he might have died trying to help me. All the while the silent tears kept coming.
He said, “Ali, we can't have this. I've seen you go through some horrible times, but I've never seen you cry. There's no need for you to be so upset. I promise you I will be out of here tomorrow, and all will be well. Even the doctor says so.”
I gulped a few times trying to find my voice. It didn't sound good, but I managed to say, “I couldn't bear it if anything happened to you. When you get out of here, you're going right back to Scottsdale! I should never have involved you in any of this.”
“Whoa there, girl! In the first place, I'm a grown man and you can't involve me in anything I don't choose to be involved in. In the second place, you and your crazy mixed-up life are the main thing keeping me from getting old and bored. Bad things happen sometimes, but none of this is your fault. Now dry those tears and tell me how I got here.”
I hiccuped a few times but got myself under control. “Okay, I'm not trying to take the blame for what happened, but I was so scared. It seems you were poisoned. I wasn't in much shape to listen to the doctor, but it was some kind of mushroom. There were mushrooms in the food we ate at supper, but we both ate those. Someone targeted you specifically. At the moment, I have no idea why they did it, but I don't think whoever did this was trying to kill you. The doctor said the symptoms were severe but not normally fatal. The problem seemed to be a reaction between the poison and your medication. Whoever did this couldn't have known that you take anything, or at least not that your medicine would react with the mushrooms. The doctor asked me to find out the name of your prescription.”
“I vaguely remember him asking me, but I was pretty confused then and couldn't remember. It's Geodon. They tried dozens before, but nothing worked until this came along. I'm one of the lucky ones, because it not only keeps the problem in check, but I don't suffer from any severe side effects. This reaction with poison mushrooms is something I certainly never expected. I should have told you ages ago in case of a relapse or some bizarre circumstances like these.”
“I'll let the doctor know the name of the medicine. I don't know if your medication lowers your blood pressure, but it dropped dangerously low. That's what had the doctors worried.”
“I don't know either, but the doctors will figure it out. I understand I have to be in here until tomorrow evening, even though I tried to talk them into letting me go sooner. You need to promise me you won't do anything the least bit dangerous until I get back. One day isn't going to make any difference. Whoever did this may have planned it to separate us for some reason. So promise me you'll be careful and not spend time alone.”
The frowning nurse came back and warned me I needed to leave. Visiting hours were over and the patient needed rest.
I said, “Don't worry about me. I promise I will take every precaution until you're out of here. I'll be back tomorrow afternoon and will drive you to the house when they release you. Just get well!”
Outside the room, Detective Wilton was waiting for me.
About the Author:
From living off the grid in the Arizona desert, Eileen has moved to the woods of upstate New York. She has authored a standalone adventure novel called Desert Shadow. She is also the author of Alicia Trent Series. The Black Cane : Dowager Diaries Book 1 is her latest release.
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