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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

("So I'll keep on tryin'. I'm through with lyin'. Just like the sun above. I'll come shinin' through")…Timothy B. Schmit

(Anh yêu em Tuyet...Tôi yêu con gái KaSandra & Katrina... Tôi thương con trai của bố Luc)

Gabriel's Promise
a novel by nicholas sheridan stanton

Chapter Seventeen

LA General Hospital, Board Room…Friday, March 25th…9am

Lizzie fidgeted in the chair as she sat outside the board room waiting to be summarily reprimanded by Linda Bradley and the band of geezers that pulled the strings around here. Why it had taken so long to get around to punishing her she didn't understand, but then as they say, no good deed goes unpunished. Lizzie was more mad than worried though, miffed that a gaggle of MBAs sitting around a large ostentatious conference table were going to chastise her for being a human being. She wasn’t stupid; she knew the rules, she knew that she’d screwed up professionally by shooting her mouth off in front of the freaking Hospital Director, upstaging her in front of God and Country, and in her own office no less! Okay, so politically she may not have done the right thing but as far as she was concerned it was absolutely the RIGHT THING TO DO. Whatever she thought, she was young; she could probably get another job, just not in LA or anywhere in Ms. Bradley's sphere of influence. NOT, this Bradley chick had lots of clout, Lizzie was screwed and she knew it!

So, she woke up this morning prepared for the worst. What the hell she thought, it wasn’t like they could yank her license or anything; she might be able to find work in the Congo or Outer Mongolia? One thing that she wasn't looking forward to was breaking the news to her Dad after they'd fired her. Maybe she could ask her Uncle Ethan to it? Nah, replied her conscience, that wasn’t an option for several reasons. Number one, her Uncle would probably take Dad’s side given they were cut from the same Irish cloth. Number two, Uncle Ethan was a Minister as well as a former Priest, so that brought God into the picture, which was an added pressure she didn’t need. Number three, cutting and running wasn’t in her DNA, being cut from that same Irish fabric that is! The door opened and startled her. She quickly sat up straight and took her hand away from her mouth. She didn't realize she'd had been biting her nails all this time.

“Dr. Andrews, the Board will see you now,” announced a rather stern looking woman. She was tall and perfect, not a hair, out of place, not even an eyelash, Lizzie decided that she hated her.

“Um, thanks,” Lizzie replied getting up.

Straightening her lab coat she got up and gave her hair a quick comb with both hands before walking through the door. Entering the cavernous room she immediately felt small. It was paneled on three walls in rich, dark mahogany, real wood and not veneered, with the fourth wall being floor to ceiling plate glass sporting a magnificent view of downtown Los Angeles. It provided an illusion of sophistication that LA did not yet possess, let's face, it wasn't the Big Apple now was it? Seated around the large oval table in expensive leather chairs were Linda Bradley, four elderly gentlemen, and a stenographer. Knowing her words were going to be recorded made Lizzie a little nervous, but she suspected that was how she they wanted her to feel. In any event, she decided that she would play it cool and try to keep her answers short, sweet and expletive free.

“Hello Dr. Andrews, please take a seat,” said an impeccably dressed man in a tweed suit that somehow just seemed out of place here in La-La land. He looked to be about sixty-five or so, but she wasn’t sure. She was a poor judge of age anyway. Smiling, Lizzie took a seat across from the Hospital Director, the company stenographer was seated to her right.

“Would you like some coffee my dear?” the same gentleman asked politely.

“No thank you,” she replied, as she settled into a comfy chair near the far end of the table. Secretly she was glad nobody noticed her feet didn’t reach the floor.

Lacing her fingers together she folded her hands in front of her and placed them gently into her lap as she waited for the show to start. It wasn’t a long wait.

“Miss Andrews,” Linda Bradley began, acknowledging her.

“Ma’am,” replied Lizzie respectfully.

“Good morning. Thank you for being prompt,” Linda continued, smiling at the young woman’s unexpected courtesy.

“No worries,” Lizzie added, immediately wishing she'd been less cavalier.

“Yes, well, Dr. Andrews we asked to see you this morning to get better acquainted and to possibly better explain this hospital’s policies and the rationale behind them," Linda began studying Lizzie's posture.

"I've taken the liberty to brief the Board on the details of our meeting with the Tate family the other day, but would like to give you an opportunity to express yourself in your own words," she added, catching Lizzie by surprise.

"It would be unfair to present my perspective alone, don’t you agree?” she asked.

Lizzie scanned the room, pausing to make eye with everyone before replying. She hadn’t expected a chance to speak on her own behalf. She had prepared herself for anything from a nickel lecture to termination. This fair play angle from the hatchet lady had caught her off guard. She held Linda’s gaze with equal intensity, keeping her bad attitude in check for the moment.

“I appreciate that ma’am. Has the Board interviewed anyone else?” Lizzie asked.

“Only Dr. Reynolds and he had been quite supportive of you,” Linda replied. Lizzie paused before continuing, curious if she detected a slight twinkle in the woman’s eye. What was up with that she wondered?

“Okay, well, if it’s a blow by blow recap you're looking for, here’s how I remember it. First of all I apologize if I offended you in any way. I'm a passionate person by nature and I meant no harm personally,” Lizzie began.

“None taken,” replied Linda.

“I wasn’t mad at you, I was mad at the situation. I understand that you have a job to do, but a hospital's mission is to help those who are suffering, isn’t it?” Lizzie asked, looking from face to face for a reaction, there wasn’t any. Frowning she continued.

“I'm a physician, this hospital is a collection of some of the best doctors I the Country. How could even consider send a sick kid home to die when we have untried options. It seems unfair that…”

“Dr. Andrews, there's a reason that rules are written in ink, if they could be easily erased or ignored then why rules at all?" Linda Bradley said, cutting Lizzie off before she could get on her soapbox.

"And administering them is a most difficult responsibility,” interrupted the man in the tweed suit. Lizzie's eyes narrowed as she looked him over.

“And you are?” she asked curtly.

“Forgive me, I should have introduced everyone before we started, my apologies,” she said defusing the ticking bomb that was Elizabeth Andrews.

“Doctor, may I start with Mr. Hartstein, our company’s CFO,” she began.

The man in the tweed suit nodded and waited patiently to continue with his train of thought. He wasn't what you'd expect from a Chief Financial Officer, he wasn't all numbers and bottom lines, and he had taken an instant liking to Lizzie, she had spunk, he liked spunk! Bill Hartstein winked at Dr. Andrews and politely waited for Linda to finish introducing the others.

“To his right is Mr. Palmer, Deacon of Our Lady of Grace, beside Mr. Palmer is Mr. Gold, VP of Sales and Marketing, and across from Mr. Gold, on my right is our President and CEO, Mr. Sanford Peck,” Linda finished, smiling at the group.

Elizabeth was grateful that Linda had butted in when she did. Given the caliber of the audience seated around the table she had dodged a bullet! It suddenly occurred to her that Linda had come to her rescue, buy why? Lizzie figured that she brought her here to barbeque her and send her packing. Could she have misread the dragon lady as she was known amongst the rank and file?

“Gentlemen,” Lizzie said, smiling and acknowledging them all politely. All but one smiled back, the dissenter being Mr. Peck. And that made her start to sweat.

“As I was saying, administering this Hospital’s policies is a difficult and entirely necessary responsibility. And Ms. Bradley here is extremely proficient at it, and appreciatively so from this Board’s perspective. We searched a long time for someone her caliber,” explained the CFO.

“Yes sir, I can appreciate that,” Lizzie replied sheepishly.

“That being said young lady; we are not prone to tossing the baby out with the bath water. A certain amount of exuberance is expected, even welcomed, we want to acknowledge that as a group to you,” continued Bill Hartstein.

“Yes sir.”

“So, with regard to your emotional response to our decision in the Tate case, it is the Board’s decision to look the other way with the condition that you review and honor the signed terms of your employment, specifically, to adhere to all policies and regulations without exception. Are we clear doctor?” concluded the CFO.

Lizzie bit at her cheeks to hold her initial instincts in check. Suddenly her initial resolve to bag it and move on wasn't appealing to her. She was impressed that all the brass had taken the time to attend this paddling; even the top dog himself was here. She was even more impressed if not down right perplexed that Linda Bradley seemed to be in here corner and had gone out of her way to keep her from putting her foot in her mouth. Lizzie had to know why, and getting herself fired wouldn't answer any of those questions. It was time to eat a little humble pie. She looked directly at the man and answered as if she were ten years-old in the Principle's office.

“Yes sir,” she replied.

There was an uncomfortable silence until the tap, tap tapping of the stenographer’s machine stopped. She felt all eyes on her as the Board studied her facial expression and her body language. Elizabeth no longer felt small, she felt naked, and she could feel her cheeks begin to flush. When she could hear herself breathing the quiet became unbearable and she spoke.

“Would you still like to hear my side now?” she asked.

“No,” answered Sanford Peck immediately. Lizzie looked over at the CEO, startled by his quick reply and by the power in the sound of his voice. It was more than his position, it was him!

“That won’t be necessary doctor for two reasons. One, it’s not germane to this discussion as your perspective is not relevant. And two, as Bill stated, we are not prone to acting rashly, we think before we speak or act. I hope that lesson is not lost on you," the CEO said cooly.

“I see,” Lizzie replied with equal coolness, feeling her Irish coming on.

“I hope that you do young lady. You must understand Dr. Andrews that these patients are your responsibility as long as they remain patients at this hospital. We admire your dedication, we expect that from you, and we encourage you to excel at that," Sanford Peck continued. He paused a moment, seemingly to let his words sink in.
However he was more interested in how this youngster reacted to being pushed. After a moment of staring at one another he continued.

"So, as a physician at this Hospital, you decide what treatments are required and how best to administer them. That is your job. Our job is to decide what is best for the Hospital, this company. This is a business after all. When those objectives collide as they will on occasion, make no mistake, the survivability of this company will receive priority consideration. In those situations doctor, you'll save yourself and the rest of us a lot of grief if you accept the Board's decision and move on. Is that clear Dr. Andrews?” he asked with finality in his tone.

“Crystal,” Lizzie answered, her fear turning to anger.

“What Mr. Peck is trying to say Elizabeth is…” Linda began, interrupted abruptly by the CEO.

“I think Dr. Andrews understands Ms. Bradley, you needn’t spell it out for her,” Sanford Peck said never taking his eyes of Lizzie. The room seemed smaller all of the sudden.

“Well, I think that we’re finished here. If you’ll excuse us Dr. Andrews the Board has other business to conduct. Thank you in advance for your cooperation, good day,” Sanford Peck said as he put on his spectacles and opened the planner in front of him.

Lizzie looked over at Linda Bradley as she stood to leave. The Director gave her a quick nod, dismissing her and Lizzie turned to walk toward the door. She stopped halfway and look back over her shoulder. She was tempted to turn and give that tight assed tool a piece of her mind but thought better of it when she made eye contact with Linda. Was she crazy or were those tears in the dragon lady’s eyes? Lizzie continued on out of the room, deciding to go home and think this over before she returned later for the graveyard shift. There was a lot to digest and she decided to prescribe herself a couple pints of Hagen Das to help her put things into perspective.

"Who doesn't think better with ice cream?" she mutterd as she disappeared down the long hall.

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