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Chapter Twenty

It wasn't his scheduled time to visit Pediatrics, but Randy Mason
was on a personal mission. Taking the elevator up, he missed Dr.
Feldman and the ladies from hematology who passed him on their
way down the adjacent elevator shaft. All was quiet and just as he
had hoped it would be when he arrived at the nurses' station: Jill
French was sitting there alone and was not on the phone.

"Hi, Jill!"

"Randy! What brings you up here?"

"I've just got a second, because I'm really supposed to be working
right now. But I was wondering if we could have supper together
later, across the street at McDonald's." Feeling obligated to justify the
invitation by something other than romantic inclination, he added, "I
did some research on what we spoke about last night, and I wanted to
get your thoughts on it."

"Sure, Randy, I'd love to."

Her enthusiastic smile and her use of the word love made him a bit
light-headed, and his mind blurred. But he still managed to say, "I'm
off from 5 to 6."

"The supper break is from 5:30 to 6:30 for me, but Lucie Gibbs
works straight through -- she eats a sandwich at her desk -- so I'm
sure she won't mind if I go early."

"Great! I'll meet you in the lobby just after 5." With that, Randy
spun around and shot through the doors. He wanted so much to skip
and leap about that he took the stairs instead of the elevator, dancing
down the steps as his whoops and whistles echoed off the pastel
painted walls.


After leaving the Judge's chambers Ruth and Ralph Troulson had
gone straight home and straight to bed. They had not gotten much
sleep in police custody the night before, and both were exhausted.
Besides, the prohibition against visiting the hospital before 6 p.m. had
left them with time on their hands.

But neither could sleep very well in the afternoon -- especially
with the thought of the traumatic time Tommy was no doubt going
through during their enforced absence. So, by 4:30 Ralph was up
again, showering, and Ruth was getting dressed. They decided to
spend their final hour of exile at the McDonald's opposite the hospital,
and then simply walk across the street at 6.

So the Troulsons had already sat down in an isolated booth with
their burgers and coffee when Randy opened the door for Jill.

"This is my treat. I asked you out." Randy insisted when Jill began
digging in her purse to pay for her meal.

"Oh. Okay. Thank you, Randy!"

He wasn't a tight-wad by any means, but seldom enjoyed spending
money. Yet he felt a strange new thrill as he handed a twenty dollar
bill to the cashier -- he felt a strange satisfaction at being Jill's

"Let's find an out-of-the-way booth where no one will disturb us,"
he told her over his shoulder as he carried their tray. Seeing people's
feet in the best spot, he settled for the next booth.

Ruth and Ralph recognized Randy's voice, and Ruth started to open
her mouth and turn toward their booth, but her husband put his hand
on her arm and an exchange of glances was all it took for them to
agree that the youngsters should be left undisturbed as they had
heard Randy say. Besides, the Troulsons themselves were enjoying
the time alone together, silently sipping coffee and holding hands
across the table.

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