Alayna Phelps stares down at the demonic rubber mask and rolls the syringe between her fingers. The mask is back over the man's face, ruddy and flecked with blood and dirt, bright oranges and yellows swirling around the eyes half-closed within. She pulls back the plunger filling the syringe with air and locates an artery.
Forty-five minutes before, Alayna removed two bullets from a man brought in as she was leaving. One bullet had collapsed his right lung, another passed through his liver and nicked the T9 vertebrae, and, strangely, a Halloween mask was pinned under one shoulder. Even after sixteen hours, Topeka needed her and she willingly conceded.
Afterwards, she followed her team back to the scrub room. She checked her phone again. Something wasn't right. Dillon always returned her calls within a couple of hours.
Alayna had tried to reach Dillon several times to apologize. It was silly, but she knew how irritated he could get and didn't want to make matters worse for his final exam on Friday. Kids these days and their priorities. The more she thought about it, the better she felt; he would do well on the exam, he always had. Let him take Meagan out for her birthday tonight—instead of waiting until Saturday as she suggested—and he could study tomorrow and still be prepared.
A rangy intern splashed water onto his face. “Did you hear what happened?” he said as their eyes met in her mirror.
“The guy we just operated on.”
“He shot up The Boobie Trap.”
Alayna paused, hands pressed together under the running tap, worry lines creasing her brow. The Boobie Trap? Wasn't that where Dillon was taking Meagan?
“He goes in with this Halloween mask on and finds his wife and some guy sitting at a table in a corner. He pulls a gun and shoots the guy in the nuts—I mean point blank, not a word. Then he turns the gun on his wife when this other cat rushes him and tries to get the gun. They struggle a bit, but the guy in the mask shoots him and then kicks his wife off the guy screaming and holding his nuts and shoots her like twelve times. When the cops show up, he points his empty gun at them.”
Alayna dried her hands. “Suicide by cop?” she said, leaving the room. She walked until she found herself standing at the killer's bedside. She looked at her phone again; one missed call she recognized as from the downtown precinct.
Alayna whispered a prayer to Saint Luke, long considered as the patron saint of surgeons, to her father dead these last three years, and to Dillon.