You cried at Love Story? Wait 'til you read this
Edwards picked up the stethoscope from his desk. "Look," he said, "You can say what you want about the Army and its problems, but I learned this much from going home: the Army treats you better dead than alive. I know," he added quickly to keep the captain from talking. "I know, it was my fault. I shouldn't have got involved with taking the body back. But I did."
"It's coming," the corpsman said, stepping away from the window.
Edwards stuffed the stethoscope into his back pocket. "OK. Tell the ward master. Better fill the whirlpools. I'll be down at the landing pad." He pushed open the double doors to the burn unit.
The huge overhead lights were off, leaving only the night lights to flicker feebly across the shiny, tiled floor. He walked quietly down the center aisle of the ward, his footsteps echoing lightly ahead of him. The beds lining the wall were barely visible, the patients no more than lumps against the frames. From the far end of the ward came the faint mechanical hissing of a respirator. He stopped a moment near one of the steel-arched Stryker frames to listen. The machines slow regular rhythm was almost soothing. How many times he'd heard it before. Someone had once said he'd signed more death certificates than any other doctor in Japan. Probably right, he thought, continuing on his way. At Kishine, the respirator was the sound of death, not life; in all his time there, he could not think of one patient who had got off the thing.
"Oh, Crowley," Edwards said, coming to a halt near the little cubicle at the back of the ward. "Sorry, I didn't see you in the dark."
The side curtain had been partially pulled. Stretched out on the bed, barely lit by the dials of the respirator, was a shadowy form.
"How's he doing, Sergeant," Edwards asked the ward master who was standing at attention by the machine that was slowly, insistently hissing air into and out of the charred body.
"Not too good, sir."
"What's his temperature?"
"105. It was 107 before we put him on the cooling blanket."
"Blood cultures growing out anything?"
"Yes, sir, the lab called back tonight-Pseudomonas pseudomallei. Major Johnson put him on IV [intravenous] chloromycetin and tetracycline."
Edwards bent over to look more closely at the restrained body spread-eagled across the frame. The air smelled sweet, like a dying orchard. "When did he come in?" he asked, peering at the grotesquely crusted body. Even the tips of his toes and fingers were charred and oozing, nothing had been spared.