"Well, your heart rate sounds normal."
Dr Garcia sat down beside the bed of his patient, ignoring her
rebellious glares as he calmly measured her temperature and her blood
pressure, then made a note on her chart. "And your blood pressure is
good. Plus, there's no temperature, which means no infection. You're
looking good, Miss Gabor! Now, if only we could chivvy your lung to
heal a little more quickly, everything would be perfect."
Pizzazz's green eyes darkened mutinously, and despite himself, Alan
"Oh, so you don't want it to?" he asked gently. "You intend to thwart
every attempt I make to get you better, then?"
Pizzazz's eyes sparked angrily, but she made no attempt to retort, and
Alan shrugged, reaching once more for his stethoscope and placing it
gently on her ribcage. Involuntarily she winced, and his eyes became
"I'm sorry. I don't want to hurt you." He said, contrite. "I know you
must be pretty banged about still, and the ribs still haven't healed,
but I'm being very gentle. I need to listen to your breathing, to make
sure it's all all right."
"I wanna get outta here. I don't want you messing with me any more."
A disgruntled whisper came from the patient, and Alan frowned.
"Miss Gabor, you're far too ill to even think about getting out of here
yet." He told her gently. "I'm sorry. I know it stinks, but you still
need our help."
An obstinate look entered those green eyes and, before Alan knew what
was going on, she had brought her right arm up, swiping the stethoscope
and glaring at him.
"Don't tell me what to do." She croaked. "Noone tells Phyllis
Gabor what to do!"
"Well, we've two ways to look at this, then." Alan said evenly. "I know
you're a powerful young lady with big money backing, but your life is,
whether you like it or not, in our hands here.You can either let us
help you and get better, or don't let us help you, and you won't. It's
entirely up to you."
At this matter of fact appraisal of her situation, Pizzazz's temper was
roused in full force and she struggled to bring herself more upright in
her bed, fixing him with the vilest look she could muster.
"Don't be cocky with me!" She seethed. "I could have you struck off,
I could make your name mud, I could..."
The rest of her threats dissolved into a breathless fit of coughing as
her damaged lung gave way under the strain, and Alan put a gentle arm
on her shoulder.
"Shh. You can yell at me when your lung's a bit stronger." He promised
her. "You'll only make yourself worse if you do it now."
Pizzazz dragged a clumsy breath of air into her lungs, her eyes no
longer angry but wild and frightened.
"I...can't...breathe..." She gasped, grabbing Alan's hand in a vicelike
grip, making him wince. "Help me! Please!"
"Let me go, I can't help you unless you do!" Alan snapped, and,
startled by his tone into obeying him, his patient did as she was
bidden, allowing him to grab the oxygen mask and place it gently over
her face. He began
to talk to her gently, reassuring her with his soothing tones and
encouraging her to breathe slowly and deeply, whilst he summoned
various nurses into the room, making absolutely sure that her situation
was not critical, and that she had simply panicked in reaction to
registering her own debility. Though he knew that he could stop her
attack, he had realised in an instant that the spark of fear in the
green eyes was genuine, and that the girl's own fright was adding to
"Don't struggle." He told her firmly. "I can help you and you'll be
fine, but you have to calm down. It's no good for either of us if you
panic and hyperventilate. Your lungs can't deal with that right now."
Somehow his words seemed to penetrate her skull, for she closed her
eyes, a look of determination crossing her face as she fought to bring
her rising hysteria under control. As she did so, her breathing began
to steady, and, with Alan monitoring her like a hawk, she took a deep,
painful gulp of air into her lungs, opening her eyes once more.
Now the crisis was over, Alan dismissed the nurses, eying her solemnly.
"You have to trust me." He told her softly. "I told you that you
weren't well enough to fight me - when will you believe me? You could
yourself real damage then."
The singer, too weak from the terror and physical impact of her attack
of breathlessness, appeared to have momentarily lost her defiance for
she slowly and meekly nodded her assent, allowing him to gently remove
oxygen mask and then listen once more to her breathing. Though her
pounded violently in her chest, Alan was relieved to find that no
damage had been caused, and that her breathing rate was far more even.
"I am here to help you, whether you believe me or not." He
said. "You don't have to like me, I don't expect you to. But I would
appreciate it if you would listen when I give you advice. This isn't a
musical venture, a game, a tv show, or anything like that. This is life
- your life. I'm
pretty sure that, if you do as I suggest, and cooperate, that you will
a full recovery from your injuries. But if you don't...I don't want to
have to rush you down to surgery again in the middle of the night in
to re-suture a torn lung. Okay?"
Another small nod, though a spark of fight was returning to her
expression and secretly Alan was glad to see it.
"Good. Then I suggest we make a deal, you and I." he suggested matter
of factly. "Whilst you're sick, you do as I tell you. Okay? No lapses
into temper, no matter how frustrated you're feeling. You've seen today
will happen if you do. Then, when you're better, you can yell and
at me and call me every name under the sun, as loud as you like. Is
"I...I guess." Pizzazz's tone was barely a whisper, and she eyed him
thoughtfully. "Most p...people are scared of me, you know."
"Yes, I know." Alan agreed.
"Here you're just another of my patients who needs help. I'm not afraid
of anyone who needs my treatment."
"Oh." Pizzazz's frown deepened, then, "We'll have to put that right."
"You like people being scared of you?"
"They d...don't m...mess with me. I like that. They d...do things my
way and don't a..argue."
There was a pause, then, "Will I be okay? Really?"
"I think so."
"I don't want think, dammit!" Pizzazz's temper threatened to flare up
once again but she seemed to recall the panic of a few moments earlier,
she stopped herself, taking a deep breath to calm herself, before
continuing in a low whisper. "I want to know. I'm tough, I'm a Misfit.
"Well, like I said, I can be pretty sure that you will make a good
recovery, so long as you follow orders." Alan responded.
"I don't like taking orders from anyone."
"I noticed." Alan pursed his lips. "But you're also an intelligent
woman, Miss Gabor, and you're quick witted enough to realise that you
need to work with me at the moment, like it or not. I'm a surgeon and
I've been a fortunate one, in that I've slipped into a position I love
dearly at this hospital. I take great pleasure in using my vocation to
help people of all walks
of life return to their normal everyday routines, and I have no
intention of letting you be my first failure. You were a surgical mess
brought you in, and now you've every chance of healing. It would do
of us any good if you didn't."
Pizzazz's green eyes widened with surprise.
"I didn't realise there was something in it for you too." She said
slowly, then, "How much is my father paying you to make sure I get
"Put a price on your head?" Alan asked. "He hasn't. Mr Gabor told me in
no uncertain terms to do whatever it took to get you well - that the
cost was not an object. Myself, I get paid good wages by the hospital
to treat people and see them discharged, happy and healthy. I don't
want any bribes or payoffs. Your father loves you a great deal, and
he's willing to do anything it takes to get you well. In my mind, that
makes you worth more than any price,
don't you agree?"
Pizzazz pursed her lips, thinking this over.
"Daddy's rich." She said at length. "You could name your price. I'm all
he has, you know. He'd pay it."
"But as I said, I don't want it." Alan shrugged. "I want you to get
well and walk out of here, then my job will be done." He winked at her.
"It does my reputation no harm, either, to say that I've treated and
cured Phyllis Gabor successfully."
Pizzazz stared at him, then,
"You know, I think you have as much ambition as I do!" She murmured.
"I like being a doctor who's known for being good at what he does." He
replied. "I won't lie to you, my reputation in this field is important
to me. There are too many quacks, too many sloppy medics and too many
people who just don't inspire people's confidences. I don't want to be
one of them. Treating you has attracted a lot of media attention. It
would be no good for my professional reputation if I were to botch this
case up and let you die."
Pizzazz looked thoughtful.
"Is th...that why you think you can get away with being so rude to me?"
"If rudeness gets through, then I'll try it." Alan told her. "I really
don't mind if you hate and despise me forever for it, to be honest with
you. My preoccupation is that your lung heals, and heals well enough
you to be able to be the singer and performer you were before the
I'm not someone who's intimidated or impressed by status - all patients
enter my care will get the same careful treatment, that's just how it
Like I said, you can't put a price on life. The publicity isn't bad for
so long as you do well, and I think you will. But I'm not afraid to be
to you if that's what it takes to effect your cooperation. My vocation
always to help make sick people better. Any man has pride in what he
particularly if he ranks top among his profession and is esteemed by
colleagues as such. You must know what that's like, in the position
in in the music industry. You're a big name in your field and I am in
It's not very different, really, from that point of view." He smiled.
I genuinely want to see you better. Human life is not something that
be played with or bartered for with prizes, acclaims and awards. It's
important than all of that put together."
Pizzazz's eyes had narrowed at his initial flippant words, but her
expression changed into one of unrest as she registered the
implications of what he
"You...there's a chance I wouldn't sing again?" She demanded,
grabbing Alan's arm and gripping it tightly. "What kind of surgeon are
you, if you can't guarantee a proper fix?"
"I'm doing my best." Alan told her levelly. "But if you continue to
throw temper tantrums like the one you threw a while ago, you'll upset
your stitches and be back in theatre. The more times I stitch you up,
the weaker your
lung will be. If you do as you're told, I can almost guarantee you
in time, sing again. But I've no time for the spoiled brat and the
You have to know that that won't help either of us one bit, and it will
only mean we're forced to see each other for longer."
"Why do you call me Miss Gabor?"
"It's your name, isn't it?" Alan gestured to the name tag above her
bed. "Phyllis Gabor."
"Most people call me Pizzazz." Pizzazz's green eyes sparked
contemplatively. "Because I'm a star."
"Yes, but there aren't any stars in hospital. Only patients needing
help." Alan shrugged.
"Hm." Pizzazz seemed to be thinking this over, and the doctor stood.
"I have other patients to see. Be good for once, okay?"
"Bah." Pizzazz scowled. "I'll be bored out of my skull!"
"Patience." He chided. "You'll be fine, Miss Gabor, if you just bide
your time and use a little patience."
There was no response, and he pulled open the door, going to leave the
A faint call from the bed made him turn.
"You know my name is Phyllis. What's yours?"
"Alan." The doctor seemed startled. "But..."
"Right. Alan it is." Pizzazz seemed satisfied.
"No. Phyllis." Now she fixed him with those green eyes, as if daring
him to disobey her. "That's an order. If you won't call me Pizzazz,
call me Phyllis."
A smile touched Pizzazz's lips.
"Because I said so." She responded. "I'm not being Miss Gabor. And I'm
calling the shots.