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The ensuing events were so rapid the doctor didn’t have time to call the authorities. He and his staff were too busy working.

“My stomach,” Matt said. “It feels worse. I’m going to-”

Matt vomited. Not just vomited. Spewed.

The contents of his stomach shot to the end of the bed.

“My God,” Sarie said.

A nurse scrambled for a plastic basin. Another nurse grabbed for towels to clean away the vomit. Donna rushed to help her.

A doctor lunged for the cart beside the bed. Grabbing the syringes marked Gentamicin and carbenicillin, he injected them through Matt’s IV line.

“He’s already getting the Vancomycin,” the doctor in charge of the ward said. “With these others, we ought to be able to attack whatever infection he’s got.” He frowned toward David. “How the hell you knew this would happen…”

“The Vancomycin’s the important one. Keep giving it to him.”

“We have been! You forced us to inject it on a regular schedule since you gave it to him last night! How did you know…?”

Matthew vomited again.

Explosively. A white fluid streaked with red.

The nurse holding the plastic basin didn’t catch all of it. Donna and the other nurse kept wiping the vomit from Matthew’s sheets. Sarie rushed to help.

“Blood cultures,” the doctor in charge of the ward said. “The lab. Find out what kind of infection he’s got.”

An assistant was already in motion. Inserting an IV needle into Matthew’s left arm, he filled several vials with blood.

“Staph and strep,” David said. “That’s what the lab’ll tell you.”

The doctor frowned again toward David. “Not likely, since he’s already covered for that. It could be any number of other bacteria. We don’t know what the lab’ll tell us. This is all a coincidence. The fever just happened to start when you said it would.”

“Believe what you want. Just save my son!”

Matt vomited again.

“Another basin! Get another basin!” a nurse yelled.

David grabbed for one off a shelf.

The color of Matthew’s skin was alarming, no longer pale but red, speckled with crimson spots: tiny hemorrhages beneath his skin.

With dull swollen eyes, Matt squinted toward the contents of the basin the nurse held. “White?” He groaned. “Why am I vomiting white?”

“That’s the medication we’ve been giving you to coat your stomach.” A doctor tried to sound reassuring but wasn’t successful. “To help prevent ulcers from the chemotherapy.”

“But it’s streaked with… red.” Matt gasped. “Am I throwing up blood?”

No one dared to answer.

David handed the nurse the empty basin, hurrying to remove the one Matt had filled. The exchange occurred just in time. Matt vomited again.

A doctor pivoted toward one of Matthew’s IV stands, pressing buttons on a pump, increasing the flow of saline solution into Matt’s body. “He’s losing too much fluid. We’ve got to keep him hydrated.”

Urgent voices overlapped.

“Blood pressure.”

“Check it again.”

“What’s his temp now?”

The nurse who was helping Donna and Sarie clean the vomit from the sheets quickly reached for the computerized thermometer. At once she realized she couldn’t put anything into Matthew’s mouth. She groped into a pocket of her uniform, pulled out a standard thermometer, shook it, and wedged it under Matthew’s right armpit.

Just then, the smell and sound unmistakable, Matthew’s bowels let go.

David’s arms and legs rippled with hot and cold rushes. His lungs heaved, making his mind spin. No, please. Not now. I can’t have another attack. Matt needs me.

Added to his symptoms was a dizzying sense of d?j? vu. In theory, he was witnessing these terrifying events for the first time, and yet he saw the chaos around him in double focus, as if this was the second time he’d been here. Each horror was occurring after he sensed it would. He’d seen it all before, endured it all before. From an impossible perspective, forty years from now on his deathbed, he relived hell.

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