2010-10-05: An Oath To Help



Guest-Starring: Doctor Francis

Date: October 5th, 2010


The next morning, Maggie tries calling another person familiar with Laurie's self-help plans.

"An Oath To Help"

The familiar routine over in Homicide seems a world a way from the cold shower Laurie was left in several blocks away. To Maggie, the distance is not so great. It's almost evening by the time she slipped away from her work for a temporary sidebar.

Solitary, she lingers in a hallway near the door to a meeting room. Her head is canted down, her phone is to her ear; good a cue as any for those who walk the hall now and then to pass her by. As she waits on the quiet phone-line, she turns amber plastic turns over one hand, her thumb over the label sticker for the valium prescription. Reluctance pulls Maggie's mouth into a thin line; determination hardens it.

"Hi," she's prompted to say all of a sudden when the line comes to life, not for the first time, but now — presumably — she's reached the right destination. "Dr. Francis? My name is Maggie Powers, I'm a detective with the NYPD." Introductions like that are prone to make people panic; they're forced to pause and wonder, all of a sudden, if it's one of those calls. Was someone arrested, they wonder; did someone die?

Whether or not these possibilities run through the mind of the man on the phone, Maggie is mindful; she's quick to add, polite, "We met at the hospital— ? I work with Laurence Miles." It's not as reassuring as she intended; it could still be one of those calls.

The call catches Francis between charts and sentiments. For the venerable old doctor, he's been down this route, and many like it, before; he's been on the other end of this conversation. He injects no emotional prejudice for how this could turn out in his pleasant but not overly flowery greeting of her, "Yes, Detective Powers, I remember. What can I do for you?"

But what isn't in his tone reflects outwardly, slowing him to a stop at the phone station where he took the call. An approaching nurse notes the way his hand pinches at his forehead in a worried pass, but, noticing, he waves her off reassuringly, and is briefly alone in the hallway.

From one hallway to another, the expressions aren't dissimilar. Maggie turns away from a passing officer and draws a hand — still in possession of that which isn't hers — up to the back of her neck, where it lingers, in her hair. "It's not me you can do something for." Polite to serious, serious to concerned, she's quietly solemn throughout. "And you might not be able to anything at all," she admits rationally, knowledgeable over this particular subject matter. "Miles— " There's a noticeable dip downward in her voice, keeping it quieter now as she glances down the hall. "He's not… it's just, he's not doing very well. The prescription… he was on…" Key word: was. She lets her hand fall, eyeing the bottle thoughtfully. "I'm not sure it was doing him any favours the way he was using it. It's not my place; I know. But you're his doctor."

"And as his doctor, I'm sure I don't have to remind you of the things I'm not at liberty to discuss." Francis isn't harsh; he's speaking from one reasonable professional to another. "And I'm also guessing," he adds more dryly, "This is not an intervention he took particularly well… Powers," this time, the sigh is transmitted between hallways, as Francis retrieves a pen from the counter, nudging it against the nearest chart in scribbles that don't quite form, "What are you asking me to do?" Because she is, even when she isn't.

"For one, I'm … not asking to discuss anything," Maggie clarifies — reassures — before her voice cuts out into silence of her own doing. Her head hangs, only to lift anew as she stands taller in the empty hallway. "Doctor, I'm asking you to… not do nothing," she delivers gently. She's aware it's a tall order, perhaps impossible, maybe futile. "You have an oath to help people just like I do. I just wanted you to be aware. Because somebody else has to be."

"For one, I'm … not asking to discuss anything," Maggie clarifies — reassures — before her voice cuts out into silence of her own doing. Her head hangs, only to lift anew as she stands taller in the empty hallway. "Doctor, I'm asking you to… not do nothing," she delivers gently. She's aware it's a tall order, perhaps impossible, maybe futile. "You have an oath to help people just like I do. I just wanted you to be aware. Because somebody else has to be."

"Detective," Francis, though composed, pauses minimally after this strict return of formalities to cool, "I'll be honest with you as, unlike those hooligans who have bothering as of late, I feel as though you actually care." Licking his lips, he shuffles around when several more nurses pass by. His body aims near the wall, almost planting his nose against it, in a bid for privacy. "That boy," Stubborn, tired— /affectionate/, but determined, "is in an immense amount of physical pain. While I've come to believe this is a /symptom/— " At the moment where he might become more passionate, Francis reins himself in, pre-emptively imagining a futile effort, some long abandoned argument. Measured, careful thinking makes the pause that follows. "He takes the prescription— do you understand me?"

"I understand." And she does. There's no argument from the detective; only the understanding the doctor asked for. "I know." Maggie opens her mouth and, for a moment, postpones further speech. "These kinds of drugs," she sets in renewed, "they're not supposed to be taken with alcohol. I mean I'm reading the bottle right now…" Indeed, the bottle is free to roll onto Maggie's open palm. "But I don't have to. I've been a cop for a long time; I've seen people make a vast amount of bad decisions. I've seen this kind of thing before. A person can pass out. They can die." A pause; in the hallway, she turns toward the wall and closes eyes that have been becoming more tired as the day goes on. "That boy… is self-medicating. If he keeps going like this, it's not going to end well. And he d— " Only an uneven, aborted breath makes its way to the phone next to finish the thought. "Not that he'd accept it, but there has to be a better way than this."

"Well, you could've said that from the get-go," the doctor huffs a bit at her revealed information (none of it new, except the relevance here), his gruffness covering legitimate concern. That hand comes up to stab at the air near the phone, startling another passer-by; now, Francis doesn't notice. "If he's a danger to himself, or to others— oh, who am I kidding. He isn't a danger; he's an archnemesis." His sigh is both overburdened — and expectant; this day has come. What problem-solving goes on in the doctor's head after that is not immediately shared with the detective on the other end of the line.

No surprise from the other end: nothing at all, for a moment. Maggie lets the doctor sort out his thoughts. Her silence is only agreeing. "If he doesn't do himself in," she then breeches the line again, an unease tainting words that are no less determined to go on, "someone else might. You know there's been heat on him lately, and the streets hold a grudge. For now he doesn't have anywhere to go." That's not quite true, is it. It's spoken as plainly honest all the same; he doesn't have anywhere he'll stay. A small group of people — a fellow detective, bits and pieces of a family brought in for interviewing — emerge from the nearby room. Maggie keeps her head down and slips inside once they've left it, sinking down into a chair with her elbows on her knees. "If he couldn't get his prescription, what would happen," she prompts quietly. Theorizing. "Would he go to you. For more."

"I know what they're saying out there," the doctor replies tartly — resistant, if not altogether immune, to gossip spread. Where Maggie can't see him, Francis offers an eviler eye to the station of nurses not far off who, even now, have their heads bent together over one thing or another. "And it would do everyone a bit of good to mind his or her own business for a change." Even them? He makes no excuses or proclamations over their own proverbial bending of heads. The words, anyway, have no bearing on what's to be done next; he only felt like airing them. "If he couldn't get his prescription…" he tests the theory by repeating it, weighing. Thinking. "Detective, he's never come to me for anything. The first time I met him was because he was dead." Literally. He means it exactly literally. And as flatly as it's said; once upon a time, he might've sounded like the detective, and now it's been ironed out. "If he doesn't get his prescription, I have very little doubt that what will happen is he will suffer."

On the doctor's answers, what can really be said? "That's what I imagined," Maggie admits flatly without specifying which part she refers to; all of it, everything. Maybe she's starting to sound like Dr. Francis already— but not quite; she lifts her head up and, frowning tightly, giving the empty room wide blue eyes, shifts restlessly on the chair. "In one way or another," she says, "he suffers either way. I should let you get back to your work, doctor. Just. Remember what I said. About not doing nothing."

"But what do I know," the doctor snorts aside, blinking to find that he's still holding — fiddling with — the pen he didn't realize he'd taken with him, "I never knew him to be a drinker, either." His eyes raise on her brief silence, as if he could see her restlessness; eyes narrow. "Which is precisely why we alleviate what ways we can." Spoken like a fact, it's, instead, Francis' theory, and a slightly guilty one. The words hang heavy with it, but are picked up in the briskness of his practical manner. He's never wasted time before, it's not the time to start now. "I'm sorry, detective," he adds on, distinctly less heavy, yet almost more bashful for his intentions rather than his speech, "But you've also told me things that I just cannot ignore. Do, have a good day." And the phone begins to crackle as it parts from his ear — she's about to be hung up on, instead.

Maggie cuts the crackle short by going ahead and disconnecting her phone. She's left looking at it apprehensively, quizzing wrinkles forming around her eyes. The longer she sits still, the longer the uneasy lines of trouble tug at her; a fast succession of blinks does nothing to erase the conflict from the blue. Unwilling to sit here, in the empty room, running these too-heavy thoughts over in her mind, she gets up briskly and strides out, pressing the back of her hand, clutching her phone, to her mouth; valium is squirreled away into a death-grip at her side, its future uncertain. Maggie's desk is calling her name, and she goes to heed it.

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