Three of them, hard men carrying nylon bags, wearing work
jackets, Carhartts and Levi’s, all of them with facial hair.
They walked across the parking structure to the steel security
door, heads swiveling, checking the corners and the overheads,
steam flowing from their mouths, into the icy air, one of the men
on a cell phone.
As they got to the door, it popped open, and a fourth man,
who’d been on the other end of the cell-phone call, let them
through. The fourth man was tall and thin, dark-complected, with a
black brush mustache. He wore a knee-length black raincoat that
he’d bought at a Goodwill store two days earlier, and black
pants. He scanned the parking structure, saw nothing moving, pulled
the door shut, made sure of the lock.
“This way,” he snapped.
Inside, they moved fast, reducing their exposure, should someone
unexpectedly come along. No one should, at the ass-end of the
hospital, at fifteen minutes after five o’clock on a bitterly
cold winter morning. They threaded through a maze of service
corridors until the tall man said, “Here.”
Here was a storage closet. He opened it with a key.
Inside, a pile of blue, double-extra-large orderly uniforms sat on
a medical cart.
The hard men dumped their coats on the floor and pulled the
uniforms over their street clothes. Not a big disguise, but they
weren’t meant to be seen close-up --- just enough to slip
past a video camera. One of them, the biggest one, hopped up on the
cart, lay down and said, “Look, I’m dead,” and
laughed at his joke. The tall man could smell the bourbon on the
“Shut the fuck up,” said one of the others, but not
in an unkindly way.
The tall man said, “Don’t be stupid,” and
there was nothing kind in his voice. When they were ready, they
looked at each other and the tall man pulled a white cotton blanket
over the man on the cart, and one of the men said,
“Let’s do it.”
“Check yourself . . .”
“We don’t hurt anyone,” the tall man said. The
sentiment reflected not compassion, but calculation: robbery got X
amount of attention, injuries got X-cubed.
“Yeah, yeah . . .” One of the men pulled a
semiautomatic pistol from his belt, a heavy, blued, no-bullshit
Beretta, stolen from the Army National Guard in Milwaukee, checked
it, stuck it back in his belt. He said, “Okay? Everybody got
his mask? Okay. Let’s go.”
They stuffed the ski masks into their belts and two hard men
pushed the cart into the corridor. The tall man led them farther
through the narrow, tiled hallways, then said, “Here’s
The two men pushing the cart turned sideways, as the tall man
told them to, and went through a cross-corridor. A security camera
peered down the hall at them. If a guard happened to be looking at
the monitor at that moment, he would have seen only the backs of
two orderlies, and a lump on the cart. The tall man in the raincoat
scrambled along, on his hands and knees, on the far side of the
The big man on the cart, looking at the ceiling tiles go by,
giggled, “It’s like ridin’ the
When they were out of the camera’s sight line, the tall
man stood up and led them deeper into the hospital --- the three
outsiders would never have found the way by themselves. After two
minutes, the tall man handed one of the outsiders a key, indicated
a yellow steel door, with no identification.
“This is it?” The leader of the three was skeptical
--- the door looked like nothing.
“Yes,” said the tall man. “This is the side
door. When you go in, you’ll be right among them. One or two.
The front door and service window is closed until six. I’ll
be around the corner until you call, watching.”
He’d be around the corner where he could slip out of
sight, if something went wrong.
The other man nodded, asked, “Everybody ready?” The
other two muttered, “Yeah,” tense now, pulled on the
masks, took their pistols out. The leader put the key in the lock
and yanked open the door.
Weather Karkinnen had taken a half-pill at nine o’clock,
knowing that she wouldn’t sleep without it. Too much to do,
too much to think about. The procedure had been researched,
rehearsed, debated, and undoubtedly prayed over. Now the time had
Sleep came hard. She kept imagining that first moment, the first
cut, the commitment, the parting of the flesh beneath the edge of
her scalpel, on a nearly circular path between the skulls of the
two babies --- but sometime before nine-thirty, she slip ped
She didn’t feel her husband come to bed at one
o’clock in the morning. He took care not to disturb her,
undressing in the dark, lying as unmoving as he could, listening to
her breathing, until he, too, slipped away.
And then her eyes opened.
Dark, not quite silent --- the furnace running in the winter
night. She lifted her head to the clock. Four-thirty. She’d
been asleep for seven hours. Eight would have been the theoretical
ideal, but she never slept eight. She closed her eyes again,
organizing herself, stepping through the upcoming day. At twenty
minutes to five, she got out of bed, stretched, and headed to the
en suite bathroom, checking herself: she felt sharp. Excellent. She
brushed her teeth, showered, washed and dried her short-cut blond
She’d laid out her clothes the night before. She walked
across the bedroom barefoot, in the light of the two digital
clocks, picked them up: a thick black-silk jersey and gray wool
slacks, and dressy, black-leather square-toed shoes. She would have
preferred to wear soft-soled cross-training shoes, like the nurses
did, but surgeons didn’t dress like nurses. She’d never
even told anyone about the gel innersoles.
She carried her clothes back to the bathroom, shut the door,
turned on the light again, and dressed. When she was ready, she
looked at herself in the mirror. Not bad.
Weather might have wished to have been a little taller, for the
authority given by height; she might have wished for a chiseled
nose. But her husband pointed out that she’d never had a
problem giving orders, or having them followed; and that he thought
her nose, which she saw as lumpy, was devastatingly attractive, and
that any number of men had chased after her, nose and all.
So, not bad.
She grinned at herself, turned to make sure the slacks
didn’t make her ass look fat --- they didn’t ---
switched off the light, opened the bathroom door and tiptoed across
the bedroom. Her husband said, in the dark, “Good luck,
“I didn’t know you were awake.”
“I’m probably more nervous than you are,” he
She went back to the bed and kissed him on the forehead.
“Go back to sleep.”
Downstairs in the kitchen, she had two pieces of toast, a cup of
instant coffee, and a yogurt, got her bag, went out to the car,
backed out of the garage, and headed downtown, on the snowy
streets, across the river to the Minnesota Medical Research Center.
She might be first in, she thought, but maybe not: there were forty
people on the surgical team. Somebody had to be more
nervous than she was.
At the hospital, the yellow door popped open and the three big
men swarmed through.
Two people were working in the pharmacy --- a short, slender,
older man, who might once in the sixties have been a dancer, but no
longer had the muscle tone. He wore a scuzzy beard on his cheeks, a
soul patch under his lower lip. First thing, when he came to work,
he tied a paper surgeon’s cap on his head, for the rush he
got when people looked at him in the cafeteria. The other person
was a busy, intent, heavyset woman in a nurse’s uniform, who
did the end-of-shift inventory, making sure it was all there, the
stacks and rows and lockers full of drugs.
Some of it, put on the street, was worthless. Nobody pays street
prices to cure the heartbreak of psoriasis.
Most of it, put on the street --- on more than one street,
actually; there was the old-age street, the uninsured street, the
junkie street --- was worth a lot. Half-million dollars? A million?
The three hard men burst through the door and were on top of the
two pharmacy workers in a half-second. The woman had enough time to
whimper, “Don’t,” before one of the men pushed
her to the floor, gun in her face, so close she could smell the oil
on it, and said, “Shutta fuck up. Shut up.” Soul-patch
huddled into a corner with his hands up, then sank to his butt.
The leader of the three waved a pistol at the two on the floor
and said, “Flat on the floor. Roll over, put your hands
behind your back. We don’t want to hurt you.”
The two did, and another of the men hurriedly taped their hands
behind them with gray duct tape, and then bound their feet
together. That done, he tore off short strips of tape and pasted
them over the victims’ eyes, and then their mouths.
He stood up: “Okay.”
The leader pushed the door open again and signaled with a
fingertip. The tall man stepped in from the hallway, said,
“These,” and pointed at a series of locked,
glass-doored cupboards. And, “Over here . . .”
A row of metal-covered lockers. The leader of the big men went
to the man on the floor, who looked more ineffectual than the
woman, and ripped the tape from his mouth.
“Where are the keys?” For one second, the man on the
floor seemed inclined to prevaricate, so the big man dropped to his
knees and said, “If you don’t tell me this minute, I
will break your fuckin’ skull as an example. Then you will be
dead, and I will ask the fat chick.”
“In the drawer under the telephone,” Soul-patch
As the big man retaped Soul-patch’s mouth, the tall man
got the keys and began popping open the lockers. All kinds of good
stuff here, every opiate and man-made opiate except heroin; lots of
hot-rock stimulants, worth a fortune with the big-name labels.
“Got enough Viagra to stock a whorehouse,” one of
the men grunted.
Another one: “Take this Tamiflu shit?”
“Fifty bucks a box in California . . . Take it.”
Five minutes of fast work, the tall man pointing them at the
good stuff, sorting out the bad.
Then the old guy on the floor made a peculiar wiggle.
One of the holdup men happened to see it, frowned, then went
over, half-rolled him. The old guy’s hands were loose ---
he’d pulled one out of the tape, had had a cell phone in a
belt clip under his sweater, had worked it loose, and had been
trying to make a call. The big man grunted and looked at the face
of the phone. One number had been pressed successfully: a nine.
“Sonofabitch was trying to call nine-one-one,” he
said, holding up the phone to the others. The old man tried to roll
away, but the man who’d taken the phone punted him in the
back once, twice, three times, kicking hard with steel-toed work
“Sonofabitch . . . sonofabitch.” The boot hit with
the sound of a meat hammer striking a steak.
“Let him be,” the leader said after the third
But the old man had rolled back toward his tormentor and grasped
him by the ankle, and the guy tried to shake him loose and the old
man moaned something against the tape and held on, his fingernails
raking the big guy’s calf.
“Let go of me, you old fuck.” The guy shook him off
his leg and kicked him again, hard, in the chest.
The leader said, “Quit screwing around. Tape him up again
and let’s get this stuff out of here.”
The old man, his hands taped again, was still groaning as they
loaded the bags. That done, they went to the door, glanced down the
hallway. All clear. The bags went under the blanket on the cart,
and the three big men pushed the cart past the security-camera
intersection, back through the rabbit warren to the utility closet,
replaced the orderly uniforms with their winter coats, picked up
The leader said, “Gotta move, now. Gotta move. Don’t
know how much time we got.”
Another of the men said, “Shooter --- dropped your
“Ah, man, don’t need that.” He picked it up,
and the tall man led them out, his heart thumping against his rib
cage. Almost out. When they could see the security door, he
stopped, and they went on and out. The tall man watched until the
door re-latched, turned, and headed back into the complex.
There were no cameras looking at the security door, or between
the door and their van. The hard men hustled through the cold,
threw the nylon bags in the back, and one of them climbed in with
them, behind tinted windows, while the leader took the wheel and
the big man climbed in the passenger seat.
“Goddamn, we did it,” said the passenger. He felt
under his seat, found a paper bag with a bottle of bourbon in it.
He was unscrewing the top as they rolled down the ramp; an Audi A5
convertible, moving too fast, swept across the front of the van and
caught the passenger, mouth open, who squinted against the light.
For just a moment, he was face-to-face with a blond woman, who then
swung past them into the garage.
The leader braked and looked back, but the A5 had already turned
up the next level on the ramp. He thought they might turn around
and find the woman . . . but then what? Kill her?
“She see you guys?” asked the man in the back,
who’d seen only the flash of the woman’s face.
The guy with the bottle said, “She was looking right at
“Nothing to do,” the leader said. “Nothing to
do. Get out of sight. Shit, it was only one second . . .”
And they went on.
Weather had seen the man with the bottle, but paid no attention.
Too much going through her head. She went on to the
physicians’ parking, got a spot close to the door, parked,
and hurried inside.
The tall man got back to the utility closet, pulled off the
raincoat and pants, which he’d used to conceal his
physician’s scrubs: if they’d been seen in the hallway,
the three big men with a doc, somebody would have remembered. He
gathered up the scrubs abandoned by the big men, stuffed them in a
gym bag, along with the raincoat and pants, took a moment to catch
his breath, to neaten up.
Listened, heard nothing. Turned off the closet light, peeked
into the empty hallway, then strode off, a circuitous route,
avoiding cameras, to an elevator. Pushed the button, waited
When the door opened, he found a short, attractive blond woman
inside, who nodded at him. He nodded back, poked “1,”
and they started down, standing a polite distance apart, with just
the trifle of awkwardness of a single man and a single woman,
unacquainted, in an elevator.
The woman said, after a few seconds, “Still hard to come
to work in the dark.”
“Can’t wait for summer,” the tall man said.
They got to “2,” and she stepped off and said,
“Summer always comes,” and she was gone.
Weather thought, as she walked away from the elevator, No
point looking at the kids. They’d be asleep in the
temporary ICU they’d set up down the hall from the operating
room. She went instead to the locker room and traded her street
clothes for surgical scrubs. Another woman came in, and Weather
nodded to her and the other woman asked, “Couldn’t
“Got a few hours,” Weather said. “Are we the
only two here?”
The woman, a radiologist named Regan, laughed: “No.
John’s got the doll on the table and he’s talking about
making some changes to the table, for God’s sakes.
Rick’s here, he’s messing with his saws. Gabriel was
down in the ICU, he just got here, he’s complaining about the
cold. A bunch of nurses . . .”
“Nerves,” Weather said. “See you down
She was cool in her scrubs, but comfortably so: she’d been
doing this for nearly fifteen years, and the smell of a hospital,
the alcohol, the cleaners, even the odor of burning blood, smelled
like fresh air to her.
No point in looking at the kids, but she’d do it anyway.
There were two nurses outside the temporary ICU, and they nodded
and asked quietly, “Are you going in?”
“Just a peek.”
“They’ve been quiet,” one of the nurses said.
“Dr. Maret just left.”
Moving as silently as she could, in the semi-dark, she moved
next to the babies’ special bed. When you didn’t look
closely, they looked like any other toddlers, who happened to be
sleeping head-to-head; small hands across their chests, eyes softly
closed, small chests rising up and down. The first irregularity
that a visitor might notice was the ridges in their skulls: Weather
had placed a series of skin expanders under their scalps, to
increase the amount of skin available to cover the skull defects
--- the holes --- when they were separated.
There was really no need for her to look at them: she simply
wanted to. Two babies, innocent, silent, feeling no pain; their
world was about to change. She watched them for a minute. The one
named Ellen sighed, and one foot moved, and then she subsided
Weather tiptoed out.
The old man in the pharmacy was moaning, the woman trying to
talk, and the old man heard the woman fall down against a chair,
after trying to get up, and then somebody was rapping at the
service window and they both tried to scream, and they were loud
but muffled. He was chewing at the duct tape on his mouth, and
finally it came loose from one side and he spat it away from his
“Dorothy, can you hear me?”
A muffled “Yes.”
“I think I’m hurt bad. If I don’t make it,
tell the police that I scratched one of the robbers. I should have
blood on my hand.” She replied, but the reply was
unintelligible. He’d been working on the tape on his wrists,
and eventually pulled one free . . . He tried to get up, but was
too weak. He couldn’t orient himself; nothing seemed to be
working. He fumbled at the tape over his eyes, failed to get it
free, moaned, moaned . . .
More time went by and the old man felt himself going dark;
didn’t know what was happening, but his heart was pounding
and he told himself, calm down, calm down. He’d had heart and
circulatory problems, clots, and he didn’t need a clot
breaking free, but his heart was pounding and he was sweating and
something was going more wrong than it should be, more wrong than
rolling around on a tile floor gagged and blinded and beaten. Hurt
Then the door rattled and he shouted and he heard an answering
shout, and he shouted again and Dorothy tried to scream through her
gag, and some time later the door rattled again, and he heard it
open, and somebody cried out, and then more people were there.
He blacked out for a moment, then came back, realized he was on
a gurney, that they’d put a board on him, they were moving
down a hallway. Somebody said, a few inches from his face,
“We’re moving you down to the ER, we’re moving
He said, as loud as he could as the world faded, “I
scratched him. I scratched him. Tell the police, I scratched him .
The operating room had been reworked for the separation
operation. Maret had stripped out all the general surgery stuff,
put in more lights, brought in the custom table. The table had been
made in Germany, and lined with a magic memory foam that would
adapt to the kids as their bodies were moved this way and that.
Sara and Ellen Raynes were joined at the skull, vertically, but
slightly turned from each other. If an observer was standing at
Sara’s feet, looking at her face, and Sara was looking
straight up, then Ellen’s face was upside down and rotated to
the observer’s left. Imaging studies, done by Regan and her
associates, indicated that their brains were separate, but they
shared a portion of the dura mater under the skull, a kind of
fibrous lining that protected and facilitated the drainage of
venous blood from the brain.
The incoming blood in the arterial system was good in both
babies; but if the blood couldn’t be drained away, and
recirculated, it would put increasing pressure on the brains,
eventually killing them.
Sara and Ellen were eighteen months old. Their parents had known
the babies were conjoined before birth. The option of abortion had
been proposed but rejected by the parents, Lucy and Larry Raynes,
for religious and emotional reasons. The children had been
delivered by cesarean section at seven and a half months. Sara had
been born with a congenital heart defect, which further complicated
Weather pushed into the OR and found three surgeons working with
the baby doll --- a life-sized, actual-weight dense-foam model of
the Raynes twins. They had it on the table and were rolling it
against the foam.
“So . . . no change,” Gabriel Maret said.
Maret was a short man, with a head slightly too large for his
body, the size emphasized by a wild thatch of curly black hair,
shot through with silver. He was dark-eyed, olive-complected, with
a chipped front tooth. He favored cashmere in his carefully
tailored, French-cut winter suits, and the women around the
hospital paid close attention to him: he was French, and the
observing women agreed that his accent, in English, was
Maret had come to dinner with Lucas and Weather every week or so
over the winter, enjoying the kids and the family life. He was
divorced, with four children of his own. He and his wife still
shared an apartment in Paris, and, sometimes, he said, a bed.
“It’s insane,” he said. “She is more
stubborn than one of your mules.”
“More stubborn than you?” Weather had asked.
He considered the question: “Maybe not that
stubborn,” he said.
He and her husband, Lucas, who got along improbably well, once
spent an hour talking about men’s fashion, nearly driving
Weather crazy with the inanity of it. She’d said,
“Fifteen minutes on loafers? Loafers?”
“We were just getting started,” Lucas said. She
wasn’t sure he was joking.
“So . . . no change,” Maret said.
“Not as long as everything goes right,” said John
Dansk, a neurosurgeon.
The six vein was a vein shared by the twins. They’d tie it
off on Ellen’s side, and attempt to splice it into the five
vein on Sara’s, the better to move blood out of Sara’s
brain. The vein numbers simply came from imaging charts prepared by
“So what are you suggesting?” Maret asked. He
glanced at Weather: “You are gorgeous this
“I know,” she said, to make him laugh. As did the
other women around him, she liked to make him laugh.
Dansk scowled at them and said, “I’m suggesting that
we slice a few wedges out of the base of the mold, so that we can
use them as shims if we have to brace one of the kids.”
“Why not have a nurse hold her?” Maret asked.
“Because we might be talking a couple hours, if worse
comes to worse.”
“You know how much that mold cost?” Maret asked.
“About one nine-thousandth of your annual salary,”
Maret shrugged. “So, we cut a few wedges. Why not? If we
need them, we have them, and if we don’t, it won’t
“Should have thought of this before now,” said Rick
Hanson, an orthopedic surgeon who would make the bone cuts through
the kids’ shared skull. He seemed shaky; he’d invented
a halfdozen little saws for this operation and would be the focus
of a lot of attention. Because of the way the children’s
skulls intersected, they formed a complex three-dimensional jigsaw
puzzle --- basically, an oval ring of bone --- of which he’d
be removing only a few pieces at a time. Normally the cutting would
have been done by the neurosurgeon, with drills and flexible wire
saws. Hanson, from Washington University in St. Louis, had
developed his own set of electric saws matched to jigs --- cutting
templates --- for complicated bone cuts. Maret had decided that
Hanson’s technique would be ideal, and would make it possible
to prepare perfectly fitted composite plates to cover the holes in
the babies’ skulls.
“We’re just nervous,” Maret said now.
“That’s normal.” Maret was the team leader, the
one with all the experience. He’d done two other craniopagus
separations, one in France, one in Miami. Of the four children
involved, two had survived --- one from each operation. When he
talked about the work, he talked mostly about the children
Another doc pushed into the room, followed by a second one. They
had all kinds --- anesthesiologists, radiologists, neurosurgeons,
cardiologists, plastic and orthopedic surgeons, and a medical
professor who specialized in anatomical structures of the skull, as
it pertained to craniofacial reconstruction. They had twenty nurses
and surgical assistants.
Weather said to Dansk, the neurosurgeon, “If you want to
cut those wedges, you better get it done: they’ve got to
start cleaning the place up.”
Dansk said, “I’m on it,” and, “I need a
scalpel or something. Anybody got an X-Acto knife?”
Above the table, in an observation room behind a canted glass
wall, people were beginning to filter into the stadium seating.
A nurse came into the OR --- one of the sterile nurses --- and
said, “I wanted to see if we could make the move one more
She wanted to practice breaking the tables apart, so that when
the final cut was made, and the twins were separated, they could be
moved to separate operating areas for the fitting of the new
composite skull shells.
“Why don’t we visually check the linkage . .
.” Maret began.
It was starting; Weather didn’t think it, but she felt it,
felt the excitement and the tension starting to build. She worked
almost every day, cutting, sewing, cauterizing, diagnosing. This
She thought, Remember to pee.
The Raynes twins were a rare and complicated medical phenomenon.
Craniopagus twins comprise only about one percent of conjoined
twins. Because of the rarity of the condition, ex perience with
separation surgery was limited. One of the twins, Sara, suffered
from defects in the septum of the heart --- the wall that divides
the right side of the heart from the left side --- and the defects
were already causing congestion in the circulatory system.
The type of surgery usually favored for craniopagus separation
might take place over several months. The most critical part of
most operations was doing a staged separation of the brain’s
blood-drainage system. Each operation would isolate the drainage
systems a bit more, and would allow the bodies to create new bypass
In the Rayneses’ case, surgeons feared that a protracted
series of operations would weaken and possibly kill Sara, which
would also threaten the stronger Ellen, especially if Sara were to
go into a rapid decline.
The additional factor in the Rayneses’ case was that the
conjoined area was relatively small --- the hole left behind in the
babies’ skulls after the separation would be no bigger than
the diameter of an orange. That meant that a single operation was
possible --- even with some shared venous drainage, it was thought
that one continuous operation would be the best chance for saving
The surgical team would do the separation, and once separated,
the team would break in two, each working on an individual twin.
The joint surgery was expected to last up to twenty hours.
Weather did aesthetic, reconstructive, and microsurgery. Her
availability in Minnesota, and a paper she’d done on a thumb
reconstruction, had caught Maret’s eye when he began to
consider the Raynes twins.
In Weather’s case, a young boy had caught his thumb in a
hydraulic log-splitter: the thumb had been pulped. After the wound
healed, Weather had removed one of the boy’s second toes, and
used the toe to replace the thumb. Since a thumb represents a full
fifty percent of the function of the hand, the reconstruction gave
back the kid the use of his hand. As he used the new thumb, it
would strengthen and grow, and eventually come to resemble a normal
thumb, except for the extra knuckle.
As part of the eleven-hour operation, Weather had hooked up two
nerves, two tiny arteries, and two even smaller veins --- veins the
size of broom straws. The photomicrographs of the sutured veins had
particularly attracted Maret’s attention. The more veins that
could be hooked up, the better off the twins would be --- and
Weather could do that work, even on the smallest vessels.
He’d also been attracted to her sheer stamina: eleven
hours of microsurgery was a super-marathon. He sold her on the idea
of joining the team, which also made her available to study the
twins, to get to know the parents, and to place the skin expanders
under their scalps.
Weather had turned away from Maret and the argument ---
Remember to pee --- when they heard a commotion outside
the operating room.
“What is that?” Maret asked. Dansk had just come
back with a large scalpel, and he turned to look. A few seconds
later, an anesthesiologist named Yamaguchi burst into the room. He
looked, Weather thought, like someone who’d just come to the
emergency room to see his child: panicked.
He said, urgently, to Maret, Weather, and the others,
“It’s off. The operation’s off. We’ve got,
we’ve got . . .”
Weather caught his sleeve and said, “Slow down, slow
“It’s off,” Yamaguchi said. “Some guys
just raided the pharmacy and cleaned the place out. Everything is
shut down. Everything.”
Maret’s face clicked through a series of expressions, from
“Is this a joke?” to astonishment:
“Some guys with guns,” Yamaguchi said. He was
flapping his arms, like a loon trying to take off. “Robbers.
They robbed the pharmacy. The police are here. There’s
nothing left, they took everything . . . That old guy who works
there, the one who wears the surgical hat . . .”
“Don,” said Weather.
“Yeah, Don --- he’s hurt pretty bad. They’re
taking him into the ER.”
“You must be shitting me,” Maret said with a
non-Gallic precision, looking around at his astonished crew.
Alain Barakat stood at the back of the emergency operating room,
mask dangling around his neck, watching the work: the surgeon was
cursing at the nurse, who was fumbling the gear, and they were all
watching the blood pressure on the old man dropping and the surgeon
was saying, “Get it in there, get it in there, get some
pressure on it,” and the nurse stood on a chair and lifted
the bottle of saline and somebody else said, “Two minutes for
the blood.” The surgeon said, “I don’t think we
have the time, I don’t think we’ve got it . . .”
and the anesthesiologist said, “We’re losing him,
man,” and the doc said, “Fuck this, I’m going
in,” and he cut and cut again and again, going in through the
beginning of a brutal black bruise on the old man’s belly,
and the anesthesiologist said, “Hurry it up, man,” and
the surgeon said, “Ah, Jesus, I’ve got no blood, I got
no blood here,” and he hurled the scalpel into a corner and
it clanged around and he said, “It must’ve been his
goddamn kidneys. Let’s see if we can roll him,” and the
nurses moved up to help with the roll and the anesthesiologist
said, “Man, he’s arresting.”
Barakat, standing in the corner, said, “Shit shit shit
shit shit shit . . .”
One minute later, the old man was gone. No point in trying to
restart the heart --- there was no blood going through it. They all
stood around, shell-shocked, and then the surgeon said,
“Let’s clean up.”
One of the nurses said, “We had no time. He was going too
They all looked at the body on the table, worn Adidas sneakers
pointed out at forty-five degrees, chest flat and still, the bloody
gash on the gut. The anesthesiologist turned to get something and
saw Barakat, a tall man, standing in the corner, hands pressed to
the sides of his head, and the anesthesiologist said,
“Wasn’t you, man. You did good. Everybody did good. He
was gone when we got him.”
And Barakat thought: Now everybody will be here. Now the
police will tear the place apart.
Because he really didn’t care about the old man.
The separation team was standing around, repeating what
Yamaguchi had said, when Thomas Carlson, the hospital
administrator, came hurrying down the hall. Carlson was wearing his
white physician’s coat, which he often did on public
occasions, to remind people that he had an MD in addition to the
MBA; but for all that, not a bad guy, Weather thought.
He went straight to Maret: “Gabe, you’ve
“I’ve heard there was a robbery.”
“Unfortunately. The problem is, we’ve also got a man
down. He’s hurt pretty badly, and we won’t have access
to your drugs --- any drugs, except in an absolute emergency, and
then we’ll be crawling around on the floor trying to find
them. The place is completely wrecked. They threw everything out of
the lockers, what they didn’t take.”
“So: everybody is here,” Maret said.
“But you’re going to have to wait,” Carlson
said. “God, I’m sorry, man. But this is an incredible
mess. As long as the kids are stable . . .”
Maret nodded: “Well. I guess we can wait.”
Weather and Maret went together to tell the Rayneses. The
parents were waiting in what the team called the “separation
lounge,” once a meditation room, which had been converted for
family use and for team conferences.
The Rayneses were sitting on a couch, looking out over a table
full of magazines: neither one was reading. They were in their
early thirties, and except for their sex, as alike as new marbles:
honey-blond, tall, slender, from the small town of New Ulm in
southern Minnesota. Larry worked in a heating and airconditioning
business owned by his father; Lucy worked at the post office.
Neither had lived outside of New Ulm. Both of them spoke fluent
German, and went to Germany every summer, to hike. They had no
They’d conferred with Maret on the separation process, but
had worked more with Weather than any other physician, because of
Weather’s involvement in the preliminary surgery.
They were astonished by the news. “What does it mean?
It’s off ? For how long?” Lucy Raynes blurted. “I
mean . . . ?”
“We’ll go tomorrow,” Weather said, patting her
arm. “Same time. This whole thing is so bizarre . . . there
are police everywhere, I guess. The girls are fine, no change for
“I can’t believe it,” Larry Raynes said.
“After we got this far . . .”
His wife put an arm around his waist and squeezed him:
“We’ll be okay. It’ll be all right.”
Of the two Rayneses, Lucy was the most demanding of information,
had studied the details of the separation, used terms like
“superior sagittal sinus” and “calvaria,”
read medical papers on other separations. She’d spoken to the
media on a number of occasions, both televised and print. Larry, on
the other hand, mostly talked about timing, and the
children’s development, and often, to Weather, seemed to
simply want to get it over with. He wasn’t stupid, but swept
along in a current too strong for him, part medical science, part
circus. He wanted to go home.
Maret had warned everybody about the circus. “Whenever
this is done, we get the media, because of the drama and the
sympathetic aspects. You have to be prepared. In Miami, we had
reporters following the surgeons home, knocking on doors, waiting
in the streets.”
Now he said to the Rayneses, “I’ll talk to the media
in ten minutes or so. I’d like you to be with me.”
Larry Raynes said to his wife, “You go. I’ll go sit
with the kids.”
Weather left them talking, and went back to the locker room to
change back into her street clothes.
By the time she got back, most of the team had drifted away. The
OR nurses were shutting the place down. Weather stopped to talk
with her surgical assistant, when one of the team’s
cardiologists, Alan Seitz, who’d been called to the ER, came
ambling down the hall, looking distracted. “What?”
“That Don guy died,” Seitz said. “One of the
robbers kicked him to death. Broke up his kidneys. He was soaked in
Coumadin. He bled out before we could get anything going. We were
dumping fluid into him fast as we could, nothing to do.”
Weather stepped up and gave him a squeeze. Seitz was an old
friend. “Nothing to do. You only do what you can.”
“Yeah.” Seitz looked around and said, “I mean,
Jesus Christ: kicked to death. In the hospital.”
Excerpted from STORM PREY © Copyright 2011 by John
Sandford. Reprinted with permission by Putnam Adult. All rights