Judge Waterston wasn't the only person who was conducting an
investigation. Although assured nothing further would be said
regarding HIV testing at County, Rocket Romano was furious. Someone
had gone behind his back and provided information; incorrect
information to persons not affiliated with his hospital. During brief
down-times between surgeries, Romano pondered on the best method to
discover the traitor's identity.
He needed someone to help him set a trap for the bastard. Mentally
reviewing his staff, Rocket came to an unlikely conclusion: Dave
Malucci. The gregarious, seemingly care-free, damn-near careless Dr.
Dave was an enigma. It had been almost two years since the Caribbean-
trained resident had last been disciplined by his supervisors. Romano
watched as the young man applied himself to his craft and improved.
Despite his loquacious style, Dave was very good at keeping secrets.
Early one Thursday morning, Romano wandered into the ER staff lounge.
Dave was stretched out on the couch, dead to the world. "Dr. Malucci!
I don't pay my staff to sleep on duty!" Romano barked.
Dave nearly fell off the couch tyring to get to his feet. "Sorry,
sir. I wasn't on duty." Dave peered at his watch. "I don't go on for
another two hours."
"Then you should be at home."
"I only just got off."
"Who are you subbing for?"
"Dr. Carter, sir. He went home sick. Dr. Weaver told me to get some
sack time and fill in the second half of Carter's shift."
"I'll have to have a talk with him. He's not paid to sit on his ass."
"Ahhm, Dr. Romano? Why don't you let me talk to Luka? I'm sure he
could tell Carter about your concerns."
"Since when have you become the Assistant Chief of Staff?"
"Since never. Hey, I'll level with you. Carter's pneumonia may be
coming back. Dr. Weaver felt sending him home for a couple of day's
rest was better than having him drop in his tracks on the job and end
up being out for three weeks. She practically had to shoo him out of
here at gun-point."
Romano smiled. He'd already okayed Kerry's request to put Carter on
leave. Indeed, her request had given him the last piece he needed to
construct his trap. "Well, since you're off duty, why don't you join
me for a cup of coffee? We can discuss Carter and your ideas for
building ER morale."
"Sir?", Dave squeaked.
"Come on, Dr. Malucci. I don't bite unless I'm asked to."
"Uh-huh." Dave grabbed his jacket and followed Romano to Magoo's.
Malucci's reaction to Romano's proposal was interesting. When told of
Rocket's suspicions. Dave's face went bright red, but the explosion
never came. "Okay, what do you want me to do?" Dave asked calmly.
Rocket was pleased to see the volatile Dr. Dave could control his
temper. Leaning forward, he outlined his plan and explained Dave's
role in setting the trap.
"Okay. I'm your man." Dave stood up and placed some money on the
table. Romano pushed it back at him.
"This one's on me. You're doing *me* the favor, remember?" He watched
as Dave left the diner then smiled to himself. Not bad for a first
* * * * *
Judge Waterston scheduled a meeting with the director of Child
Welfare Services. He didn't beat around the bush. "Re-open the case
file on Katerina Doe. Someone hasn't been fully honest and it's not
the petitioning parties." The director protested but fell silent when
the judge stated he would have no problems issuing a court order to
get his way. So Evan Ross and Sarah Nicholson found themselves seated
in two different offices waiting to see therapists: John and Luka's
"Do you think John Carter would make a good parent?" Sarah Nicholson
asked. She'd been assigned to interview the two women Carter had
worked with: Dr.s Stern and Lansen.
"An excellent parent." Dr. Katrin Lansen smiled.
"What can you tell me about him?"
"He's an interesting person. By all rights, someone who grew up as he
did should not have developed into such a capable man. His sessions
with me were very productive. Dr. Carter was experiencing depression
excerbated by post-traumatic stress. The abuse he'd suffered as a
child had contributed to his problems... making him extremely
reluctant to seek help or admit that anything was wrong with him. He
requested my help in changing this."
"Do you think he succeeded?"
"Admirably. You do know he has started seeing me again?"
"No. I wasn't aware of it."
"Dr. Carter has asked for help in coping with your agency's decision
to remove Katerina from his care and that of Dr. Kovac. Dr. Carter
has admitted to having nightmares in which the child is crying for
them and they cannot respond. He further admits that he is projecting
feelings of his own onto the child. He's acutely aware of the pain
caused by parental abandonment." Katrin Lansen explained in her soft
"Don't be. Dr. Carter speaks very highly of you."
"Do you think he will be alright?"
"In time. He's certainly working very hard at it and he has
tremendous support from his husband and his friends. He'll hurt for a
while, but he will recover."
"How do you evaluate his relationship with Dr. Kovac?"
"It's a very good one---healthy. When he first told me about their
love, I confess I had my doubts. John would be the first to admit
that he's emotionally deprived. I was afraid he was using this
relationship as a panacea---something to replace the comfort he
sought from the drugs. As he continued talking with me about the two
of them, I realized there was no need for worry. In many ways, he's
the stronger of the two men. He's had to be. His life has been very
difficult for him emotionally: the death of his brother, his family's
rejection of him, the deaths of two colleagues... By all rights, he
should be in much worse shape than he is." Dr. Lansen shook her head.
"John is a very loving man. I was surprised that he is as warm and
caring as he is; considering the rejection he experienced at a
critical age. Usually, male children who experience this develop into
men who are distant and emotionally cold. As I said, Dr. Carter is
* * * * *
"What can I do for you, Mr. Ross?", Luka's therapist leaned back in
his chair, folding his hands across his chest.
"I would like to know your opinions regarding Dr. Luka Kovac." Evan
Ross had been given this assignment because he had not interviewed
Luka. It was hoped, he would have no prior conceptions regarding the
subject of his inquiry.
"Dr. Kovac-Carter you mean."
"I see. Well, Luka first started seeing me a little over seven years
ago. He requested my help regarding a former relationship that ended
just prior to his coming to Chicago. After a few sessions, he decided
to continue seeing me. He wanted assistance coping with events he'd
experienced in Bosnia. Although my practice is primarily focused on
couples, or relationship therapy, I and my partner broadened our
scope to include grief and bereavement counseling."
"You took on a gay patient?"
"Why wouldn't I? I'll be the first to admit prejudice places
additional strain on gay couples who live together openly, but
otherwise, the dynamics of their relationships are identical to those
of heterosexual couples. Anyway, I was able to help Luka process his
feelings regarding his late family. When he met John, he continued
coming to see me for counseling regarding the man he eventually
"Have you met Dr. Carter?"
"Yes, socially. I was invited to their wedding and I've had dinner
with them on occasion."
"They had a wedding ceremony?"
"Yes. Quite an elaborate one.", Dr. Samuelson smiled. He and his
partner had also been married in a formal ceremony, albeit under a
"Yeah, but the marriage isn't really valid..."
"Why not? A Catholic priest presided. There were ample witnesses. An
announcement appeared in the paper. How married can you get?"
"Well the law doesn't recognize it."
"It should. When I spoke of prejudices placing extra pressure on gay
couples, I thought you understood. Many ignorant people dwell on the
issue of promiscuity in the gay male, never realizing that society
has all but sanctioned this behavior. First by accepting the out-
moded notion of young men having to sow 'wild oats' and other
versions of machismo prowess. Second, and more important, by refusing
to grant the same legal and spiritual rights to gay couples, society
sends the message that these unions are not important enough to
require the protection and support afforded to 'normal' couples." Dr.
Samuelson smiled sadly.
"Trust me. Luka and John are a real, genuine married couple. They
possess the same desire for permanence and commitment; the same
affection and respect as any other committed couple. Even if the
state doesn't recognize their vows to each other, John and Luka
believe them to be holy and binding before God and the community."
"So you believe Dr. Kovac would be a good father?"
"Of course. He had been a father before and no one bothered to ask
whether or not he'd be a good one. It's a shame you and your
colleagues don't issue parenting permits to everyone. Any number of
disasters could be avoided if the state took the same precautions
with potential parents as they do with hunters, automobile drivers,
and beauticians in the issuance of licenses. I know *my* case load
would be lightened considerably as a result."
* * * * *
"Okay people, let's keep this brief. What's on the agenda?" Robert
Romano called the department heads meeting to order. The physicians
in charge of the various divisions at County looked somewhat askance
at Dave Malucci's presence. "Dr. Malucci, what on earth are you doing
"Sorry, Dr. Romano. Dr. Weaver asked me to sit in for her. They're
short-staffed at the moment. She felt the attendings should remain on
duty. It's been pretty busy down there." Dave explained. "Here are
copies of her monthly report. I've studied it and can answer any
questions you may have."
"That's not the point. Policy is set at these meetings. You're only a
resident. It would not be appropriate for you to be privy to our
discussions. But, since you're here, keep your mouth shut and your
ears open. You may as well take notes for your boss." Romano frowned.
The meeting was dull and Dave was hard pressed to keep from yawning
too frequently. Half-way through the meeting, Rocket rapped on the
table. "Are we interfering with your rest, Dr. Malucci?"
"Sorry sir." Dave blushed and yawned again.
"That does it!" Romano exploded. "Get your sorry ass out of here! I
don't pay my staff to doze on duty."
Dave flushed and stood up. "Hey, I'm sorry. I didn't ask to pull a
"You've been on duty for twenty-four hours?"
"No, thirty-two. Can I help it if half of our staff has the flu?"
"Who are you subbing for?"
"Dr. Carter. His pneumonia showed signs of returning and Dr. Weaver
didn't want..." Dave broke off as if he'd said something he shouldn't
"Well, I'll have a talk with Dr. Weaver. You may leave, Dr. Malucci."
Dave picked up his notepad and left the room. Romano smiled. He'd
seen the Administrator come to attention when Dave mentioned Carter's
pneumonia. The meeting went on. As the department heads were heading
back to work, Romano gestured for Edwards to remain.
"I want to set up a meeting with you and Dr. Weaver. Her staff's
leave use needs looking into. Have your secretary call Shirley and
set something up for early next week." Romano went back to his office
Jonathan Edwards truly believed he'd done the right thing when he
removed that sheet of test results from Carter's file. Although he
didn't think either John or Luka were deliberately trying to endanger
patients, he'd seen too many news-style reports on televangelism
shows where gays with sinister motives supposedly did just that.
Rabid religious fervor has a tendency to consign objectivity to the
tenth circle of oblivion and hell on earth usually results. Smiling,
he asked his secretary to call the Surgical Department and set up a
meeting between himself and the Chief of Staff.
In the meanwhile, Romano paid another visit to the ER and pulled
Carter's file. He noticed immediately that a page of the young
doctor's test results was missing. The expression on Rocket's face as
he returned to his office succeeded in clearing the hallways and
emptying the elevator. No one wanted to be anywhere near the
irascible surgeon when the storm broke. Slamming the door. Romano
picked up the phone and dialed Judge Waterston's office. Harvey
"I need to speak to the Judge immediately."
"He's in court at the moment. Can I take a message?" Harvey offered
"Put me on hold and go get him." Rocket barked.
"I cannot disturb him. He's in a closed session. He should be
finished in another two hours or so. May I take a message?"
"Yes, tell him he's in receipt of stolen property, you officious
little so and so."
"Robert, is that you?" Harvey asked, not wanting to trust his hearing.
"Who the hell is this?"
"Harvey Rosenbaum, 'Harriet' to you." Harvey smiled. It was "Roberta"
"Well, why didn't you introduce yourself properly, bitch. You make a
piss-poor clerk." Romano laughed.
"Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.", Harvey purred and laughed in
turn. "What do you need from my boss? And what's all this yang-tang
about stolen property?"
Rocket explained about the missing documentation.
"Hold your water, sugar-britches. I've got the file right here."
Harvey leafed through the thick portfolios. "Now, what am I looking
Romano described the page's appearance.
"Hold it up to the light. There should be a CCGH watermark visible in
the middle of the page."
"You are holding a confidential document. On the back there should be
a warning against removing it from the hospital premises."
"You're right. Somebody could end up paying a fifty thousand dollar
fine not to mention time playing hide your goodies in jail."
"Are you willing to swear that neither you or your boss removed this
document from my hospital?"
"You bet your mascara we are."
"Excellent. A meeting's been set for my office on Wednesday. Either
you or your boss bring the file over here at ten thirty on that
morning and be prepared to scare the living shit out of the rat
bastard who *did* remove the file." Romano smiled grimly.
"I love it when you go all butch, lover.", Harvey chuckled.
"Then you'll swoon with ecstasy on Wednesday morning when I nail that
son of a bitch."
"I'll bring the KY and a video cam. It's been a while since I've seen
you all hot and bothered. See you then.", Harvey laughed and hung up.
He did not envy the poor son of a bitch who ever he was.
* Okay. Guilty as charged. Grand larceny must be catching. After
reading Invicta's "Hail to the Chief." I just had to get these two
guys together. I promise I won't trespass too much on her sacred