Signs of a Problem / Part 2 - Monroe
Month 4, Day 1
“You next, Drake. How’s your new nurse working out?” Drake’s face stiffened. Uh oh. I don’t like the looks of that.
Drake changed his position and smoothed one sleeve. “Well, knowledge-wise, she passed her probational test. Although I wondered, at first, if she’d paid attention in some of her classes. But she passed.”
“And?” Jane asked when he seemed unwilling to continue.
“I’m not thrilled with her attitude,” Drake admitted. “I had trouble putting my finger on the problem, but a friend helped me bring it into focus these past couple of days.”
Temple, I’ll bet. A Chief Medical Officer needs a good Head Nurse. “What is the problem?”
“Monroe isn’t professional. She flirts with male patients and is cold toward females. It’s even worse when she’s off duty, but we’re getting into gossip.”
And officers aren’t supposed to pay attention to gossip. Never did agree with that, not completely. She sat back and tried to relax. “If it’s something that ‘everyone’ is saying, then it reflects the common crew member’s perception of her, and gives a clue how well she is - or isn’t - fitting in. So tell me all the juicy details.”
“Captain!” Smitty protested.
“It’s my ship,” she reminded him. “I’ll decide how far to delve into the forbidden depths of gossip.” The engineer frowned and finished his beverage while his other hand tapped restlessly against his knee. Jane turned her attention to Drake expectantly.
“Apparently, there’s hardly a man aboard she hasn’t been to bed with, including some married and engaged men.”
Surely there’s more to it than that. Her brow puckered. “There are other women aboard who are active. Including one of yours, Smitty.” At the man’s blank stare, she tried to offer clues. “Umm, day shift, I think. Brown hair...”
It was Drake who identified her. “Lt Della Harris. Sure, Harris dates. A lot. But she doesn’t date men who are officially paired, she doesn’t brag about her activities, and she doesn’t treat other women as opponents. She’s kind of like an unofficial Morale Officer.”
“Unofficial being the only kind the Fleet has,” Jane reminded him. “But I take it your nurse is not universally liked by the crew.”
“The women barely tolerate her. That’s a quarter of the crew. The men are welcoming her with open arms. Most of the men.”
“Including you, Drake?”
He shook his head. “She offered, I turned her down. Even if I wanted to, it is against the rules, after all.” He cleared his throat and threw a glance at Smitty, who was frowning at his empty cup. “If you’re looking for potential problems, she’s been bragging that she got together with a senior officer last shore leave, went to his hotel room for the night.”
She remembered, then, that two pair of crew members had arrived at the transport station about the same time as she had; Drake and the redhead, Smitty and the blond nurse. She considered the engineer thoughtfully. For a time, he seemed oblivious of her attention, one knee bouncing as he passed his cup back and forth between hands, checking inside it every few seconds as if he expected coffee to magically appear inside it.
Eventually Smitty looked up, saw her looking at him, and exclaimed, “It wasn’t my idea!” His face reddened. “She claimed she’d run into trouble, she was fairly desperate for a bubble bath. But when we got to my room, she grabbed me and pulled me to the bed... It wasn’t my idea!”
What is wrong with him? He wasn’t this bad on the bridge, dealing with that redhead. It was almost as if he didn’t want to talk to her! Whatever his problem is, I wish he’d get himself pulled together. She stared at the man coldly. “Are you trying to lay the blame - if there is any - on her? I don’t remember any accusation of specific wrong-doing, so-“
Smitty opened his mouth, but Drake interrupted. “Actually, that story doesn’t surprise me. Beth has heard it, too. Not about Smitty, because no one’s had the nerve to ask him. But two men have claimed that Monroe tricked her way into their quarters and pretty much raped them. And don’t you dare say it’s not possible.”
“Not impossible,” Jane muttered. “But difficult, if the man really isn’t interested.” She looked up from her desktop. “Have they considered filing charges?”
“I don’t know. Haven’t heard. I don’t imagine they’d want it in their record. Even if it was a matter of their body reacting to stimuli despite the protest of their brain. I don’t have their names, but I understand an engagement is on hold, and a marriage has hit a very rocky stretch.”
“That’s a lot of trouble for one crew member to cause, even without getting involved with higher officers. Smitty, if we decide she’s not fitting in, would you feel the urge to argue for letting her stay?”
“In a heartbeat,” he muttered into his empty cup.
Which is exactly why officers are not supposed to fraternize with junior officers. Never thought I’d hear Smitty-
“I’m surprised to hear you say that,” Drake stated. “You didn’t look like you were thrilled with her on shore leave.”
Smitty’s head jerked up, and anger flashed in his eyes as he stared at the doctor. “Well, you certainly enjoyed being with her!”
“Me!” Drake returned in surprise. “The only time I saw Monroe on shore leave was when she was with you.”
Smitty’s face sagged as his anger drained, and his eyes dulled in confusion. “Who’s Monroe?”
Jane exchanged a glance with the doctor. “Monroe is Drake’s new nurse. Who did you think we were talking about?”
Her explanation only made the engineer more confused. “Why would you ask me about a nurse?”
“The question was,” Jane told him, “if we decided Nurse Monroe wasn’t fitting in on the Fireball and we should transfer her, would you feel inclined to argue for her staying?”
“She’s a nurse, not under my command,” he returned. “So I don’t understand why you’re asking me. If you want my personal opinion...” He paused to think, a frown puckering his brow. “I’d just as soon she left.”
She spends one night in his hotel room, and he’d as soon ship her off? Well, if she tricked her way in, he’d see that as an affront. At least she can’t use him to argue for her staying. If it comes to that. “Duck, do we need to replace her?”
Drake sighed. “I don’t know. Now that we’re aware of the scope of the problem, Beth and I can try to shift her attitude. Maybe some sessions with Dr Fong would help.”
“It occurs to me that Dr Fong is male.”
“So are you, and you’ve resisted her.” She watched him shift positions in his chair, looking for comfort. “Drake?”
“I’ve had other wo-things on my mind these last 3 months. But I don’t know if Dr Fong is dating anyone, or what his... habits might be.”
“That’s his problem, not yours.” What good is a ship’s psychiatrist if you can’t send problem crew members to him?
“They’re both my subordinates,” he pointed out, and shook his head. “Maybe. That’s the best I can do right now.”
It doesn’t sound hopeful. “Keep me apprised.” What a mess. Smitty is level-headed, organized and nearly as impartial as Takor. Despite his running on ‘fumes’ this morning, I expect the rest of this meeting to be short and succinct. She turned her attention to the engineer, whose gaze was on his cup, although she wasn’t sure he actually saw it. The heel of one foot was bouncing, the fingers of his empty hand drummed against the chair arm, the muscles of his face kept moving. Looks like he’s having an argument with himself. “Smitty, how are you doing with your redhead?”