Meghan Collins stood somewhat aside from the cluster of other journalists in Emergency at Manhattan's Roosevelt Hospital. Minutes before, a retired United States senator had been mugged on Central Park West and rushed here. The media were milling around, awaiting word of his condition.
Meghan lowered her heavy tote bag to the floor. The wireless mike, cellular telephone and notebooks were causing the strap to dig into her shoulder blade. She leaned against the wall and closed her eyes for a moment's rest. All the reporters were tired. They'd been in court since early afternoon, awaiting the verdict in a fraud trial. At nine o'clock, just as they were leaving, the call came to cover the mugging. It was now nearly 11. The crisp October day had turned into an overcast night that was an unwelcome promise of an early winter.
It was a busy night in the hospital. Young parents carrying a bleeding toddler were waved past the registration desk through the door to the examination area. Bruised and shaken passengers of a car accident consoled each other as they awaited medical treatment.
Outside, the persistent wail of arriving and departing ambulances added to the familiar cacophony of New York traffic.
A hand touched Meghan's arm. "How's it going, Counselor?"
It was Jack Murphy from Channel 5. His wife had gone through NYU Law School with Meghan. Unlike Meghan, however, Liz was practicing law. Meghan Collins, Juris Doctor, had worked for a Park Avenue law firm for six months, quit and got a job at WPCD radio as a news reporter. She'd been there three years now and for the past month had been borrowed regularly by PCD Channel 3, the television affiliate.
"It's going okay, I guess," Meghan told him. Her beeper sounded.
"Have dinner with us soon," Jack said "It's been too long." He rejoined his cameraman as she reached to get her cellular phone out of the bag.
The call was from Ken Simon at the WPCD radio news desk. "Meg, the EMS scanner just picked up an ambulance heading for Roosevelt. Stabbing victim found on Fifty-sixth Street and Tenth. Watch for her."
The ominous ee-aww sound of an approaching ambulance coincided with the staccato tapping of hurrying feet. The trauma team was heading for the Emergency entrance. Meg broke the connection, dropped the phone in her bag and followed the empty stretcher as it was wheeled out to the semicircular driveway.
The ambulance screeched to a halt. Experienced hands rushed to assist in transferring the victim to the stretcher. An oxygen mask was clamped on her face. The sheet covering her slender body was bloodstained. Tangled chestnut hair accentuated the blue-tinged pallor of her neck.
Meg rushed to the driver's door. "Any witnesses?" she asked quickly.
"None came forward." The driver's face was lined and weary, his voice matter-of-fact. "There's an alley between two of those old tenements near Tenth. Looks like someone came up from behind, shoved her in it and stabbed her. Probably happened in a split second."
"How bad is she?"
"As bad as you can get."
"None. She'd been robbed. Probably hit by some druggie who needed a fix."
The stretcher was being wheeled in. Meghan darted back into the emergency room behind it.
One of the reporters snapped, "The senator's doctor is about to give a statement."
The media surged across the room to crowd around the desk. Meghan did not know what instinct kept her near the stretcher. She watched as the doctor about to start an IV removed the oxygen mask and lifted the victim's eyelids.
"She's gone," he said.
Meghan looked over a nurse's shoulder and stared down into the unseeing blue eyes of the dead young woman. She gasped as she took in those eyes, the broad forehead, arched brows, high cheekbones, straight nose, generous lips.
It was as though she was looking into a mirror.
She was looking at her own face.
Copyright © 1993 by Mary Higgins Clark