Marcus stepped through the metal detector into the lobby and offered silent thanks for airconditioning, then headed toward the elevator, the Driver on his heels.Marcus stabbed the call button twice, then stepped back and looked around. "Where iseveryone?" he said. The Driver shrugged. Marcus inhaled and enjoyed the medicinal tang of Mentholatum and rubbing alcohol, the smell of childhood visits to the doctor’s office. Hisreverie was interrupted when the elevator doors popped open and the Driver grabbed his elbowto pull him into the car.Music was playing, tinny and flat, from a speaker hidden in the elevator's roof. Marcusheard mumbling and looked over at the Driver, who was, despite the elevator’s subdued lighting,sliding on a pair of sunglasses, snake-like and cool. Marcus noticed that the Driver's lips weremoving: " . . . long and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking . . . ." The Driver was singingalong with the Muzak.The elevator doors opened, exposing the third floor lobby, and they stepped out into anempty foyer where the hospital smell was stronger and the air was cold. Marcus shuddered andlooked around, aware of the security cameras trained on him. He saw no nurses' station, only alone sign indicating that rooms 312-320 were down a hallway to the left. It was quiet, except forthe occasional murmuring of conversation coming from the rooms. Marcus tried to make out thewords, but they were muffled and distant, like they were coming from yesterday. "What was theroom number again?" he said, his voice bouncing down the cinderblock corridor.The Driver motioned Marcus to walk in front of him. "Three-one-eight," he said,singsong, "The Girl from Ipanema" still coloring his intonation. Marcus hesitated, then sucked ina breath and headed down the hall.Marcus walked with determination and focus, aware of the Driver right behind him, theirheels clicking in cadence on the polished tile floor, the kind the janitors were always buffing ingrade school. He looked left and right into the rooms as they walked.
Click, click, click.
He couldsee big chrome hospital beds with crisp white linens enclosing thin, pale patients. Most of themwere alone. Some were reading. Others watched television. Almost all of them had no hair.
Click, click, click.
Marcus kept walking and forced himself to keep his eyes straight ahead."Three-one-eight," the Driver said, pointing.Marcus glanced at the nameplate on the door: "Katrine Waters," he said. He peekedinside and saw a woman lying in bed with various plastic bags hooked on poles beside her,potions dripping into her veins. She was reed thin and pale, her skin translucent against herbones. "She looks bad," he whispered to the Driver."Yep," the Driver said as he clapped Marcus on the back. "Good job." A man and a littlegirl were with the woman, and the Driver pointed at them, his left eyebrow raised. "Husband anddaughter," Marcus said.The Driver made a face.