Authors: Janet Lane-Walters
Jenessa started to speak, but she saw Claire enter the auditorium. “Don’t worry. Go look at the information table. You’ll see what I mean.”
Megan shook her head. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“Of course she does,” Claire said. “The Board will learn they can’t push us around.”
Megan shook her finger. “Don’t you know you’re being manipulated?”
“Not anymore.” Claire looked around the room. “We’ve a good turnout.”
Jenessa walked toward the stage. “We’ll need more than a simple majority to call for a strike. Do you think we have enough votes?”
“With some to spare.”
Megan shook her head. “I can’t believe you’re caving in.”
Claire laughed. “She’s accepted reality. See you on stage.” She walked away.
“Don’t believe everything you hear,” Jenessa whispered. “I have to be able to speak. Do you think Claire would let me if she had any idea of what I plan?”
“Just what is that?”
“To stall long enough so the Board has a chance to vote on a new contract and to stop Bishop.”
Jenessa took a seat on the stage beside Claire. Stall until eight thirty, she thought. Thirty long minutes.”
Claire turned. “Do you want to go first?”
“You’re the president. The honor is yours.”
Claire walked to the lectern and lifted the microphone. A loud screech cut through the buzz of voices. “Guess we have power,” Claire said.
Jenessa stared at the crowd. The sudden silence had a near sullen quality. Bishop and Sandra entered and stood against the rear wall near the doors. Jenessa expected to see one of the Board president’s cronies storm into the room and drag him away. What was happening in the Board room? She wished she could divide herself in two.
“Has everyone seen the contract the Board saw fit to offer? Hopefully it was well distributed since I spent most of last evening making copies.”
A vehement shout arose. Jenessa’s hands curled into fists. She would need every scrap of proof to neutralize the anger in their voices.
Claire reviewed the terms and made an issue of every item that took away benefits from the expired contract. “As your elected leader, I have no choice but to advise you to turn down this offer. The Board has refused to negotiate in good faith. We’ve asked for meetings. We’ve sent them our proposal for a contract. In their arrogance, they’ve ignored us. Not only should we vote against the contract, but we should vote to strike.”
“Strike! Strike!” The shout filled the room.
Jenessa wished she could see the expressions on Bishop’s and Sandra’s faces. She felt sure they believed they’d won. Claire turned to her. Triumph shone on her eyes.
* * *
Eric exhaled a held breath when Sam and Dr. Carter hurried into the Board room. Every member except Bishop sat at the large oak table. How had his friend managed this?
Eric rose. “I’d like to call this meeting to order.”
“Where’s Jim?” the high school principal asked. “We can’t have a meeting without him.”
“We can and are,” said Dr. Carter. “A quorum plus is present.”
The hospital’s attorney pointed at Eric. “If this is about your resignation, a letter would have served.”
“It’s not about my resignation or about the forgery that was presented to the Board. It’s about the way the Board and the nurses have been manipulated. In front of you you’ll find the results of an investigation I’ve been conducting. Four years ago, Mr. Bishop attempted to convince the Board to sell the hospital to MASCHCO. The effort was defeated, but as you will see when you read the evidence, he hasn’t given up.”
Dr. Carter waved some papers. “I’ll add these. When my daughter brought this agenda to my attention, I called most of you and asked for this meeting.”
“To discuss the sale of the hospital,” the editor of the News said. “With the nurses prepared to walk out, the hospital will be forced to spend a fortune to stay open.”
“The terms of the trust state that Eastlake Community must provide continuous service to the community.” The hospital’s attorney rose and walked to the door. “Who knows what will happen to the trust fund if we suspend services?”
Dr. Carter interrupted him. “I think you need to listen. Or are you in on this scam?”
The attorney returned to his seat. He picked up the packet and glanced at the first page. A scowl wrinkled his brow.
“Sandra works for MASCHCO,” Sam said. “I thought we paid her salary.”
“And Bishop is chairman of the Board for that corporation.” The chief of pediatrics groaned. “We’re being taken.”
“Shouldn’t Jim be here to defend himself?” the high school principal asked.
“To bamboozle us,” the chief of surgery said.
“He’s upstairs waiting for the nurses to reject the contract and to vote to strike,” Eric said. “Read the data I’ve collected. Then we can decide what to do.” He looked at his watch. He had asked Jenessa to stall until eight thirty. Would a positive decision be reached by then?
* * *
Jenessa accepted the microphone. She licked her dry lips. “I agree that the Board hasn’t negotiated in good faith, but I also have proof that we and they have been lied to and manipulated by a pair of shrewd schemers. I’ve learned that the rumors about the sale of the hospital are true and I’ve learned who is behind the plan. Papers proving this scam are on the information table.”
She paused. A restless murmur swept through the gathered crowd. Claire rose and reached for the microphone. Jenessa moved away.
“What are you trying to do?” Claire asked.
“Just what has to be done. You’re a fool if you think Sandra and Bishop will reward you for your services. You’ll be lucky if you have a job when they finish.”
Once again, Claire grabbed for the microphone. “You were supposed to support me.”
“Let her speak,” someone shouted.
Jenessa moved to the edge of the stage. “Both Mr. Bishop and Sandra Wallace have connections to MASCHCO, a health care corporation with seventeen hospitals that are in financial trouble. Eastlake Community has a large trust fund that could rescue the corporation.”
Bishop lumbered toward the stage. The doors of the auditorium opened and banged against the wall. The Board president wheeled and started toward the two men who had entered.
* * *
When the door slammed against the wall, Sam stopped suddenly. Eric plowed into his friend and nearly knocked him down.
“I said I’d run interference, not be it,” Sam said. “Oh, oh, here comes trouble.”
Bishop moved faster than Eric believed possible. “Just what are you doing here?” he asked.
“I have some news for the nurses,” Eric said.
“We’re going to plug your guns,” Sam said.
The Board president’s face reddened. “I warned you about interfering. I’ll have the Cove.”
Sam laughed. “As soon as our lawyers arrange a meeting, you’ll have your money. Three years ahead of schedule.” He turned to Eric. “Get moving, buddy. Let the nurses know what the Board has done.
Eric edged around the pair. Sandra grabbed his arm. He shook her off and sprinted to the stage where Jenessa struggled with Claire for possession of the microphone. He plucked it free.
“Good evening. I’d like you to know that in a special session, the Board has voted to withdraw the contract you came here tonight to vote on. They want to offer you the terms your negotiating team presented. Also, they’ve agreed to fund several new programs you’ll be hearing about in the future.”
* * *
Jenessa listened to Eric’s announcement. We won, she thought. And gained more than we asked for. She studied the audience and tried to gauge the effect of his words.
The Board president charged toward the stage. His round face turned dark red. At the edge of the stage, he stopped. A grimace formed. His hand flew to his throat.
Jenessa jumped from the stage. Bishop crashed to the floor. Sandra stood and stared at him.
“Move aside,” Jenessa said. She knelt and assessed the older man. No pulse beat against her fingers. “Call a code,” she shouted and began CPR.
“Give us room.” Eric’s voice cut through her concentration on the count. She pinched Bishop’s nose with her fingers and gave two breaths. “I know CPR.” Eric said.
The code announcement blared from the loudspeakers. Jenessa performed chest compressions. For what seemed like ages, she and Eric continued their efforts.
“I have a pulse,” Eric said.
“We’ll take over.” Jenessa looked up and saw the code team from CCU had arrived.
Eric rose. He pulled Jenessa to her feet. His arm circled her waist. “We’re a great team.”
She grinned. “The best.” She pulled him to the stretcher. Jim Bishop’s eyes were open. The lines on the portable monitor showed he had stabilized. She patted his hand. “Well now, Mr. Bishop, I think you’re about to learn what nurses do and how much your life depends on their good judgment.”
The team wheeled the stretcher toward the doors. Jenessa turned to Eric. He pulled her into an embrace. Their lips met. A cheer made her aware of their surroundings. “I guess I’ve proved Sandra right again,” she said. “I sure know how to get attention.”
He winked. “I love you.”
Megan cheered. “I heard that. Hey, everyone, he loves her.”
Applause erupted. Some of the nurses stomped their feet.
Jenessa pulled him toward the door. “Eric Bradshaw, I love you. Let’s get out of here before we start a riot.”
When they reached the hall, he kissed her again. “Let’s head across the street and negotiate a different kind of contract.”
“With all my heart.” She held tightly to his hand.
Several minutes later, he opened the door of his apartment. Jenessa stepped inside. “About this contract offer. Short or long term?”
He closed the door and pulled her into his arms. “I was considering one that stretched to infinity.”
She grinned. “I think we can agree on that.” She inched her fingers up his chest. “Once I finish my Master’s, I’m sure I can find a job in Philly.”
“And leave me here?” His green eyes sparkled. “I’ve been thinking about the challenge of turning Eastlake into a magnet hospital.” He kissed her lightly. “And Eastlake seems to be a great place to settle and raise a family.”
She circled his neck with her arms. “You’re right. But shouldn’t marriage come before a family?”
“I accept your counter-offer.” His lips found hers.
When the kiss ended, Jenessa pressed her head against his chest. “I thought I loved Chuck. I did, but that love took away. Your love enhances and makes me more than I am.”
“And your love has made my life complete.” He ran his finger along her jaw. “How about a night of dessert?”
She laughed. “You’re on.” She headed to the bedroom with him on her heels.
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About the Author
Janet Lane Walters is a multi-published award winning author. To date she has published more than 40 novels, 10 novellas, 4 non-fiction books, and a number of short stories and poems. She lives in the scenic Hudson River valley, a setting in many of her novels. She bills herself as the eclectic writer and writes romances, from sweet to spicy, cozy mysteries, alternate world fantasies, historicals, paranormals and fantasy from YA to adult. She is the mother of 4 and the grandmother of 7. She lives with her psychiatrist husband who has no desire to cure her obsession with writing. Among her hobbies are Astrology and composing music. She also admits to housework as a hobby for isn’t that what one does in their spare time.