Darkest Fear Page 11

But the name, while not exactly Madison Avenue, does adequately reflect the reality of the situation—the hospital is strictly pediatric and deliveries, a well-worn twelve-floor edifice with eleven of them devoted to sick children. There was something very wrong with that, but probably nothing beyond the theologically obvious.

Myron stopped before the entranceway and looked up at the pollution-brown brick. Lots of misery in the city and much of it ended up here. He ducked inside and checked in at the security desk. He gave his name to a guard. The guard tossed him a pass, almost glancing up from his TV Guide in the process. Myron waited a long time for the elevator, reading the Patient’s Bill of Rights, which was printed in both English and Spanish. There was a sign for the Sol Goldman Heart Center right next to a sign for the hospital’s Burger King. Mixed messages or assuring future business—Myron wasn’t sure which.

The elevator opened on the tenth floor. Directly in front of him, there was a rainbow-hued “Save the Rain Forest” mural, painted, according to the sign, by the “pediatric patients” of the hospital. Save the Rain Forest. Oh, like these kids didn’t have enough on their plate, right?

Myron asked a nurse where he might find Dr. Singh. The nurse pointed to a woman leading a dozen interns through the corridor. Myron was a little surprised to see that Dr. Singh was of the female persuasion, mostly because he had somehow imagined her being a man. Terribly sexist, but there you go.

Dr. Singh was, as her name strongly implied, Indian, from-India Indian as opposed to Native American Indian. Mid-thirties, he figured, her hair a lighter brown than what he was used to seeing on India Indians. She wore a white doctor coat, of course. So did all the interns, most of them appearing to be about fourteen years of age, their white coats more like smocks, like they were about to finger-paint or maybe dissect a frog in a junior high biology class. Some wore grave expressions that were almost laughable on their cherubic faces, but most emanated that medical-intern exhaustion from too many nights on call.

Only two of the interns were men—boys really—both sporting blue jeans, colorful ties, and white sneakers like waiters at Bennigan’s. The women—to call them girls would use up Myron’s anti-PC quota for the week—favored hospital scrubs. So young. Babies taking care of babies.

Myron followed the group at a semi-discreet distance. Every once in a while he glanced in a room and immediately regretted it. The corridor walls were festive and brightly painted, jammed with Disney/Nick Junior/PBS kiddie images and collages and mobiles, but Myron only saw black. A floor filled with dying children. Bald little boys and girls in pain, their veins blackened by toxins and poisons. Most of the children looked so calm and unafraid and unnaturally brave. If you wanted to see the stark terror, you had to look in the eyes of the parents, as though Mom and Dad were sucking the horror toward them, taking it on so that their child wouldn’t have to.

“Mr. Bolitar?”

Dr. Singh met his eye and held out her hand. “I’m Karen Singh.”

Myron almost asked her how she did this, how she stayed on this floor day in and day out, watching children die. But he didn’t. They exchanged the usual pleasantries. Myron had expected an Indian accent, but the only thing he picked up was a little Bronx.

“We can talk in here,” she said.

She pushed open one of the superheavy, superwide doors endemic to hospitals and nursing homes, and they stepped into an empty room with stripped beds. The barrenness ignited Myron’s imagination. He could almost see a loved one rushing into the hospital, repeatedly pushing the elevator call button, diving inside, pushing more buttons, sprinting down the corridor into this silent room, the bed being stripped by a nurse, then the sudden cry of anguish.…

Myron shook his head. He watched too much TV.

Karen Singh sat on the corner of the mattress, and Myron studied her face for a moment. She had long sharp features. Everything pointed down—her nose, her chin, her eyebrows. Sort of harsh.

“You’re staring,” she said.

“I don’t mean to.”

She pointed to her forehead. “You were maybe expecting a dot?”

“Er, no.”

“Very good, then let’s get to it, shall we?”


“Mrs. Downing wants me to tell you whatever you want to know.”

“I appreciate your taking the time.”

“Are you a private investigator?” she asked.

“More like a family friend.”

“Did you play basketball with Greg Downing?”

Myron was always surprised by the memory of the public. After all these years, people could still recall his big games, his big shots, sometimes with more clarity than Myron could. “You’re a fan?”

“Nope,” she said. “Can’t stand sports actually.”

“So how did you—”

“Just a deduction. You’re tall and about the right age and you said you were a family friend. So …” She shrugged.

“Nice deduction.”

“It’s what we do here when you think about it. Deduce. Some diagnoses are easy. Others must be deduced from the evidence. You ever read Sherlock Holmes?”


“Sherlock said that you should never theorize before you have facts—because then you twist facts to suit theories rather than twisting theories to suit facts. If you see a misdiagnosis, nine times out of ten they ignored Sherlock’s axiom.”

“Did that happen with Jeremy Downing?”

“As a matter of fact,” she said, “it did.”

Somewhere down the hall, a machine started beeping. The sound hit the nerves like a police taser.

“So his first doctor screwed up?”

“I won’t get into that. But Fanconi anemia isn’t common. And because it looks like other things, it’s often misdiagnosed.”

“So tell me about Jeremy.”

“What’s to tell? He has it. Fanconi anemia, that is. In simple terms, his bone marrow is corrupted.”


“In layman’s term, it’s shit. It makes him susceptible to a host of infections and even cancers. It commonly turns into AML.” She saw the puzzled look on his face and added, “That’s acute myelogenous leukemia.”

“But you can cure him?”

“ ‘Cure’ is an optimistic word,” she said. “But with a bone marrow transplant and treatments with a new flu-darabine compound, yes, I believe his prognosis is excellent.”

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