The Haunting of Cedar-Sinai

"Paging Officer Carter to the Cedar-Sinai East Tower."

"Detective Sloan, could you meet with Officer Carter at Cedar-Sinai? We're getting reports of possible illegal activity in the wards. Tread lightly."

Cedar-Sinai East Tower

April 28th, 10:30 PM

"I dunno about you, rookie, but I'm not gettin' in one of those hospital shirts."


The drive to the hospital had been all pomp and circumstance. The lights and sirens of the squad car had made a spectacle of the journey. But then, it had also amped Jack's senses. In many respects, the adrenaline that surges through her body has her moving on automatic.

She steps out of the car and locks it up before radioing, "Unit 39 arrived." Her eyes turn about the front of the hospital where she's parked as she silently assesses the situation. Her hands move to her weapon, but she leaves it holstered for the time being as she contemplates the situation.

"Roger that, Unit 39." replies a real (tired) voice on the other line. SWAT must be in house tonight.

A silhouette becomes framed by the pure, clinical, lighting inside. "Officer?" The woman's voice carries. "Please, come in."

The silhouette prompts Jack to squint before she hustles to the door, following the woman in turn. "We were called out about a problem." Her staccato'd steps take her to the main entrance doors. "I'm Officer Carter. What seems to be the problem?"

Light flushes out the details of the woman's garb, showing her to be a nurse from the hospital. Her name tag says Roberts; she looks overworked, with low bags shadowing her eyes. "Thank you, Officer Carter. The staff and I… we just can't take much more of this." Bustling past security with a wave to the presiding officer there, Nurse Roberts leads Jack into the main bustle of the tower, past a few closed office doors with multiple name plaques on them, to a waiting room and then past. "Something— has been… happening," she seems hesitant, cowed now by Jack's official uniform and presence, but soothed by her young appearance, "in the hospital. At night. And it's been affecting the patients, but no one can explain."

The woman earns a gracious smile in turn as Jack falls into step with the nurse. Her gaze attempts to catch Nurse Robert's gaze. "What exactly has been happening?" She extends a hand as comfortingly as possible as she soothes, "We see a lot of unusual things in our department, so— don't hesitate even if it sounds a little 'off'." She shrugs. It's their specialty.

Coming to the door of a small nurses' office, Roberts invites Jack in and then slides the door mostly closed. "It sounds… ridiculous to report, for other reasons, officer." She nearly sounds to be chastising herself as she eyes the floor then, firming her shoulders with an especially tight inhale, she looks to Jack. "Someone's been getting into the wards at night and— well. Moving patients. At least, that's what we think must be happening. The patients won't say a word, and some of them have even outright vanished. It's not just that, but things change. Levels, charts. Even medications are moved. Some of my nurses think they're going downright crazy. We'll test a patient for one thing and it'll be something else the next!"

The door inches slowly open; no one enters.

No mysterious ghostly mischief this time, however: once she's sure she's in the right place, Detective Liza Sloan swings the door wide open, adds her ruby-red-bloused presence to the office, and closes it behind her. "Sorry, sorry," she breezes out for the interruption. The fact that she's here, off-shift, a detective investigating an odd but not quite substantiated situation, is a testament to how overworked the unit is — a fact evidenced by her otherwise sleek hair falling slightly out of its cinched ponytail and little else. She seems eager to the point of restlessness. "Hey. Detective Sloan," she greets, an easy mix of casual and straightforward professional, coming immediately up alongside the officer and jutting her hand out fast toward Nurse Roberts. "Your colleague pointed me in here. Don't repeat anything on my account." She'll catch up. Her other hand gestures go on, go on and gives Jack a nod. She remembers you!

Jack's cheeks actually flush at Sloan's acknowledgement. Maybe she doesn't consider herself particularly memorable. Her chin drops to her chest as she hmms for a moment. "So someone is moving patients then?" her eyes narrows somewhat as she reaches to her belt for a mini notebook, in which she scribbles a few nearly illegible notes for herself. "Tell me, is it just at night? Nothing strange at all during the day?" She pauses as she scribbles something else. "What about access? Any commonalities between the patients affected? For example, were there commonalities in illnesses?"

After having repeated her name for Sloan's benefit, the nurse turns directly to Jack's questions with a thinning of her lips and a fretful glance to the side. "Only at night. That's why, at first, we only thought it was overly tired night staff becoming confused…" A hand comes up in quick apology out of the pocket of her scrubs, "Please, understand. We don't usually deal with these kinds of things. Someone moving a patient from the mental ward to the cancer ward overnight." She looks between the two other women for supportive gestures, "It's absurd!"

"Huh." Liza's opinion of the absurdity goes unhidden: yep, weird. "Do any of the wards have security cams set up? How long's this been goin' on?"

Jack hmms quietly before wrinkling her nose. "This is going to sound like a weird question, but given the circumstances…" her eyes squint a moment in silent contemplation whether the question bears any relevance. "Well… okay. So people are being moved, yeah?" that part is rhetorical. "Have you tried testing them for the illnesses present in the wards? I mean, maybe the psych patient also has cancer?" She frowns a stitch. "Just a thought…"

"There's security in some of the main lobbies, but not in the rooms," Roberts explains, "For patient privacy. But… I can't help thinking," a glance behind her affirms that the door's shut tight; a few generic hospital noises filter through once in a while, "That this couldn't happen without inside help." She seems offended at the very idea, annoyed at herself for bringing it up, but even after chewing on her lip for several seconds she doesn't recant. On turning to Jack, she shakes her head, "We do all the tests we can, but some of the patients refuse to take them afterwards. Please— please, can you at least spare someone to walk around the building before the shift? It'd make my nurses feel much better."

"Don't worry about it," Liza assures with her casual ease, giving Nurse Roberts a smile, "We'll take a look around, no problem. You can tell your nurses you've got the weird team on the weird." Her smile softens, even while her hands brush at her hips, antsy. Set her loose on this mystery, she needs to chase something.

With a stitch of a nod, Jack agrees, "That's what we're here for." With that, the rookie leads the way out of the office, and murmurs, "Sometimes I feel like we're the Scoobies…"

The detective answers her with a naturally low, throaty little chuckle. Her steps are quick, despite the dubious look she casts the corridor. "I missed calls like this, steppin' into somewhere and havin' no idea what you're in for — gets the blood going," she says, eagerly reminiscing rather than complaining for being on an odd patrol with a rookie. Her voice slows down to contemplate, "… Of course— hospital calls were usually boring, meant someone was stealing meds, not patients…"

* * *

Cedar-Sinai East Tower functions like one would expect the tower of a high-ranking hospital to, with efficiency and noise. At night, some of the activity has been stemmed, leaving an eerie half-calm over the place; it's easy to tell that the nurses are on edge with the little things they do. Even having sworn officers of ACRU around prickles their wariness — if it weren't for the badges, they'd be breaking the law.

One of the nurses eyes them as she wheels a young boy by, his left leg hideously malformed, shrunken and tiny next to the single healthy one. He blinks blearily up at the detective and officer, a lifetime of upcoming difficulties shining in his quiet eyes.

Nothing seems out of place, however. The sick and dying, coughing or wandering around their rooms, others managing to sleep.

The nurse and boy are given a nod and small smile in turn as the pair of officers pass them by. As they round the corner, the rookie resumes their quiet chatter. "I feel like a security officer," Jack notes with a side-smirk as they cut across another ward. "And it seems like we're walking in circles. Everything in hospitals looks identical.."

Liza has her head twisted to look over her shoulder the way they came — the boy got a smile and a wave; not so much the nurse. "Yeah, a security officer and a trespasser," she says with a faint hint of bitterness as she swings her attention back around, shoving her hands in the short pockets of her black pants. "We better see a ghost or something soon s'all I'm sayin'. How come the hospital's own security didn't see anything?"

Another wheelchair passes them by, this one operated by its older male owner, totally ignoring the two female officers. Somebody wanders by pushing their IV drip with them and disappears into a room.

It all goes quiet.

If they were going to see a ghost, now would be the time.

But the moment passes, and they turn another endless corner, coming up coincidentally on the room of the non-cancerous cancer patient mentioned by Nurse Roberts; she gave them the number just as they were leaving. However, the door's shut tight, and this late after hours, anyone inside is likely sleeping deeply — and needs it.

An hour passes and their pagers have already buzzed a few times checking on how much longer they'll be.

More than anything, the rookie is bored. Walking around with little interaction with anyone else can't compare to the missing girl case she'd been on just before coming here. "I think we're no closer to figuring out this mystery," Jack sighs as she checks her pager again for good measure. No emergencies to be called out on, but the lack of action is enough to breed further boredom.

Boredom has settled too deeply into the detective's pores; she's more restless but less eager. She eyes doors as she passes, half debating waking up a sleeping patient just to feel accomplished at all. Her hands slide from her front pockets to her back ones as she arches her back, looking at the ceiling — it's as interesting as anything else. "Unngghhh," she complains through a groan. "Maybe we should play hide and seek with whoever's doing this thing. If it's anyone. Catch 'em in the act. If there's an act."

"Unless it's already happened without us realizing? Like what if there is no act and people are just moving themselves? Seriously, we don't even know enough to assume we're right with this." Jack's lips press together tightly. "But hiding, I guess, is worth a shot. Pretend we're not here. It's not like we're incognito here." A glance is given towards the storage closet down the hall. "A possibility. Barring that we could, you know, hide in the open. As patients…"

"I dunno about you, rookie, but I'm not gettin' in one of those hospital shirts." Her hands still wedged into her pockets, Liza starts to lean toward the wall as she strolls, preemptively closer to the storage closet. Her stiffened shoulder nudges the door when she gets there, not quite surreptitious; she does glance up and down the hall to check for signs of life, but part of it is so that she can also flash an overly mischievous grin at Jack.

Jack smirks at the notion and then shrugs her shoulders. "It's just a kind of uniform. For sick people. So weird. They make you dress up when you have authority and they make you dress up when you're physically at your worst. Strange world." Ironically, it also could be one of the reasons they haven't seen anything. Quietly, she shuffles into the storage closet and sighs quietly while blinking hard to let her eyes adjust to the light.

Down a hall, the raucous patter of a child's running footsteps mocks the sudden buzz from their equipment:
"Picking up chatter. Psychic for sale. North Hollywood. Multiple suspects, male."

In the midst of a grin to the rookie, the radio distracts Liza; not from her actions, but briefly from her attention on them, looking down at her radio as if it were a visual device rather than an audio one as she shoulders into the closet. Her search presently feels less productive than the event broadcast over the radio. Her hand is restless near the device, hovering the way it might over her weapon.

Jack's head snaps in an effort to catch Liza's gaze. Move or don't move? The radio already has mocked them from their perch in the closet. Her shoulder twitches as a tinge of pain ceases her thanks to that snap movement. But the twitch only puts her just a stitch further on edge. "You're the boss," she whispers.

A glance in the closet, a glance behind at Jack; Liza's undecided, although the hovering hand by her radio suggests a rather clear inclination to get out of this dull place. Her mouth flickers to one side and she leans her head back and reluctantly accepts the weight of responsibility. She lifts the small radio, channeling in on their colleagues on the job. She puts on a more severely serious voice than most of them receive off-radio. "This Detective Sloan, advise if you need backup." Pause. "Who'm I kidding, right, of course you need backup."

"Get your own case, Detective Sloan. We are moving in, I will attempt to intercept the suspects and pose as a buyer. If you are available, back up would be appreciated." He does not sound all that happy about the idea of not having the case to himself.

Andrew's voice then cuts over the radio: "Not to be crass, Detective Sloan, but what are you wearing?" Pause. o: "Civvies. We need everyone in civvies. Nice ones. And we need to move quick."

Thump thump thump thump. Nothing's managed to slow the fun of the running child in one of the neighboring halls. The noise passes them by a second time.

A small nod is given to Sloan followed by an eyeroll at Archie's response and a skeptical eyebrow raise at Andrew's question. It's the thumping, however, that grabs Jack's attention. She holds up a single finger and presses her ear against the wall of the closet, attempting to determine the direction of the running.

An idle pluck of a packaged item Liza finds on a storage shelf slows down as she hears Andrew, a wily smile spreading. Even so, her acknowledging nod to Jack is succinct and practical.

"I can strip down for you if you want, Webber." she transfers through the radio.

Jack squints after deciding where the noise is coming from. "I'm just gonna— " she points to the wall. "— meet you over there?" it's a question, but the rookie doesn't wait for the answer. Instead, she dematerializes and walks through the back of the closet to whatever hallway may be on the other side.

Liza double-takes with a solid blink of her darkened lashes, staring at the back of the closet where Jack used to be. "Shit," she says in favourable, awed tone, likely lost to the barrier of the wall, as is her mumble into her radio.

The hallway into which Jack projects looks the twin of the one she left: clinical and desolate, with a few sterile lights never letting it quite be dark. Around the corner to her left, something clicks, like maybe a door being gently shut. Then— there it is— distantly down the long right-hand path: galloping footsteps.

The footsteps, loud and proud, may have been the ones that beckoned Jack into the hallway in the first place, but the quiet click piques her curiosity. Her lips twitch upwards as her silent paces take her to the left to the door being shut.

Being, and is. When Jack rounds the corridor, it is uniform. Doors 320 to 330 sit in serene peace.

And peace they're left in. She silently listens a moment longer, and then turns back — towards the long right hall. Her own footsteps are silent, particularly when compared to the galloping…

But when she finally reaches her destination, no trace of sound remains; not even of a ghost. Her only company's an abandoned wheelchair, pushed haphazardly against the wall, one of the only things in the hospital left out of place.

A few minutes of tracking for noises in the hospital proves it: something's gotten to the maker of the footsteps, if they ever even existed in the first place.

Cedar-Sinai keeps its secrets for another night.

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