Cindy Dobson, R.N., heaved a sigh and levered herself up from her chair. This day was not going her way, at all. She had dealt with obstinate patients before, but none of them had ever as much trouble as Mr Jake Doyle. First, he'd left the hospital twice only to be readmitted a few hours later and now that he was apparently resigned to staying in hospital until pronounced fit by a medical professional, he was still trouble. All that talk about a kidnapping, she was wondering whether he wasn't a case for the psych department. And now, she had his father calling, demanding she check up on him at once. Were these men trying to make her miserable, she wondered as she knocked on the door to Doyle's room. From inside came the sound of something crashing. Cindy opened the door and was confronted with a most unexpected sight. A man she didn't recognize, dressed like a doctor was holding a pillow in his hands, mere inches from the head of Mr Doyle, who appeared to deeply asleep.
Seeing her, the man dropped the pillow back on the bed. He hurried towards her and the door, mumbling something that sounded something like 'excuse me'.
Cindy, however, would have none of it. Arms akimbo, she moved her considerable bulk to block the door.
"Who the hell are you?" she demanded, now sure that this man wasn't a doctor. The man tried to push her aside, but Cindy grabbed him by the arm, holding her ground.
"You..." she began, but froze in silent horror when the man pulled a gun out of the pocket of his white coat. Before Cindy could utter another sound, the man had pulled the trigger.
Mal tapped his foot impatiently and checked his watch again. It had been just over ten minutes since since Cindy the nurse had gone to check on Jake. This shouldn't be taking so long, Mal thought impatiently. What if there was something to Emily Hirsh's so-called vision? For the moment, she was sitting on the office couch, looking astoundingly placid and peaceful considering the bombshell she had dropped on Mal just now.
Another two minutes passed. Mal was growing increasingly anxious, unbidden images of Jake getting smothered by a pillow filling his mind. He tried to push them back without much success. The helpless waiting game wasn't to his liking at all. At the fifteen minute mark, he hing up the phone.
"Excuse me, Mrs Hirsh?"
"Yes?" she looked up from her behind her knitting which had probably come out of her large black purse.
"Would you mind if I called you back once I've straightened this out?" Mal asked, desperate to get her out of hos office and himself to the hospital.
Mrs Hirsh put her knitting back into her purse and got up. "Of course," she replied in, understanding and what looked like pity on her face.
The drive to the hospital seemed interminable to Mal who broke every speed limit trying to get there. He tried telling himself that this was insane and that there was no such thing as psychic visions. But the fear he felt was undeniable. When he finally reached the hospital, he didn't bother to find a parking space, but simply stopped his car at the curb and jumped out. He ignored the voice yelling after him and whoever it belonged to, rushing through the sliding glass doors. Not wanting to waste an instant, he skipped the elevator and took the stairs instead.
He ran past the nurses' station on the floor where Jake's room was. There was no one there and the phone was still off the hook, the way the nurse he'd spoken to had left it. Now he was certain that there was something terribly wrong. He appeared to have been right when a instant later, a piercing shriek reached his ears. When he rounded the corner and entered the corridor that led to Jake's room, he suddenly bumped into someone. Both of them went down in a tangled heap and it took a moment before Mal was able to disentangle himself. Once back on his feet, Mal tried to continue running, but the person - a young woman in nurses' scrubs - was clinging to his arm.
"Help," she gasped, her face pale and her eyes watery.
"What's wrong?" Mal asked, taking in her shocked appearance and also the dark red stains on her scrub top. Mal's anxiety ratcheted up yet another notch.
"Cindy...there....she," the young woman stammered incoherently. She managed however to point in the direction she had come from.
"Go call security! And a doctor!" Mal told her, forcibly extricating himself from her grip.
The door to Jake's room was open. Mal rushed inside towards the bed where Jake was lying, looking like he was asleep. He was nearly at his son's bedside, when his foot caught on something and he nearly tripped. Looking down, he not only saw the pillow that had almost caused him to fall, but also the bloody streaks that were running from the door into the room and around the bed. He kicked the pillow aside and rushed up to the bed.
"Jake!" he shook his son's shoulder. "Jake!" There was no reaction. To his immense relief, he found a pulse, even though, it felt weak and sluggish. Where was that doctor? He couldn't see any wounds or blood on Jake's person, so who had all the blood on the floor come from? He rounded the bed following the blood smears. That was where he spotted the source of the blood. The body of a short rather stout woman. She too was dressed in nurses' scrubs. The most remarkable aspect however, was the horrific wound to her head. Mal had seen enough gunshot victims in his day to know that a large caliber weapon had to have inflicted that wound. Mal blew out a breath. This was getting worse and worse.
Security had promptly put the hospital on lock-down, no one was allowed to leave until a thorough search had been conducted. The police had been called in, but had yet to arrive. Until they did, security had sequestered Mal and the student nurse who had found the body in a small waiting area, with one of the security guards keeping them company.
The student nurse, whose name Mal had learned was Marion, was still in shock. She sat in her chair, arms wrapped around herself and rocking gently back and forth. Mal would have felt sorry for her, but he had other matters on his mind right now. Such as how Jake was doing. Security had dragged him from Jake's room as soon as they'd arrived. So far no one had had the courtesy of telling him how his son was doing. Mal was putting serious thought into making a get-away to find someone who could give him an update, when a familiar figure entered the waiting area. It was Jake's ex-wife, Nikki. The security guard immediately moved to block her path.
Mal couldn't hear what Nikki said to the security guard, but whatever it was, it had to be working because the guard moved aside. Mal got up, moving toward her.
"Nikki," he said urgently. "Do you know how Jake's doing?"
"Yes, Mal. They think he's going to be okay. He ingested an overdose of barbiturates, but you got to him in time," she reassured him. "He is still unconscious and they are keeping a close eye on him, but you should be able to see him later this afternoon."
"He must have been drugged," Mal thought out loud. "Someone tried to kill him."
"Are you sure?" Nikki asked in some surprise.
"Does it surprise you?" Mal asked, arching an eyebrow.
Nikki shook her head. "No, not really," she confirmed sadly. Then, after pause she said: "I need to go back to work." Nikki turned to leave.
"Thanks for letting me know," Mal called after her softly, feeling like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders.
Three hours and a half hours after Hood had called in the request, the technicians with the ground penetrating radar equipment had finally showed up. By that time, Leslie was hungry, cranky and wet once again as it had begun to rain about half an hour earlier. She normally had an umbrella in her car for just such an occurrence, but her car was still parked at the cliff on the other side of town. All the exhilaration of having saved a girl's life that morning had evaporated and Leslie was left with aching knees and palms, not to mention a faint tickling at the back of her throat, foreshadowing nothing good.
The technician was in the process of explaining the ground penetrating radar technology to her and Sergeant Hood in very dry and technical terms, when Leslie's cell phone rang. She stepped away and pulled the phone from her jacket pocket, half expecting to see Jake's name on the display, but to her surprise, it was that of her boss, Inspector Cooper. She pressed the button to accept the call.
"Inspector Cooper, sir?" she answered.
"Sergeant Bennett, what's the latest?"
"The technician has just arrived with the equipment, sir. We don't know anything yet," Leslie reported, privately wondering since when the inspector took such a keen interest. Normally, he was only worried about his budget and, on occasion, clear-up rates. He was probably afraid that they'd blow the budget on what was a clearly a cold case with dim prospects for resulting in the successful prosecution of the culprit. It would be a minor miracle if they managed to identify the girl's remains, let alone lay their hands on whoever had put her here.
"I take it that not both you and Sergeant Hood are needed to supervise?"
"Um, no, I don't think so, sir," Leslie replied, somewhat puzzled.
"Good, there’s just been a shooting at the hospital. Can you get over there, get the ball rolling on this?"
A sudden uneasy feeling took hold of Leslie at her boss's words. Jake, he was in still hospital. With her luck, he was probably involved in this somehow.
"Of course. Anything I should know?" she asked.
"Uniform is already there and will brief you on the spot."
"I'll be on my way then, sir." Leslie replied and hung up. She walked back over to Sergeant Hood who, with a long suffering expression on his face was still listing to the technician ramble on about soil composition and image resolution.
"Sorry to interrupt," Leslie began. "But that was the inspector. I gotta go. Apparently, there's been a shooting down at the hospital."
Hood raised an eyebrow, but nodded. "I'll keep you posted."
Leslie turned to walk to her car, only to remember that it was still parked on the other side of town. Great, she'd have to take a cab. At the rate she was going, she'd probably spend half a week's pay on cab fare before she ever got her car back.
The hospital was still on lock-down when Leslie arrived. She showed her credentials to the security personnel guarding the front door. They were taking no chances and called for a police officer to come downstairs.
Once she was finally admitted into the building, Leslie turned to the officer who'd come to get here. "So, what's the story on this one?"
"We're not entirely sure yet, ma'am." the officer replied uncertainly.
"Well, what do you know?" Leslie was in no mood for games.
"We have one dead, a registered nurse by the name of Cindy Dobson, 43 years of age, a local. According to the coroner, she was shot in the head with a large caliber weapon. Security locked down the hospital as soon as they were alerted to the incident. It is possible that the shooter is still in the hospital, but so far, nothing's turned up."
"Where exactly was this nurse shot?" Leslie asked, trying to get an idea of what she was dealing with here.
"It was the room of a patient, one Jake Doyle. He's..."
"I know who he is," Leslie declared in resignation. "So Jake...Mr Doyle, witnessed the shooting?"
"No, not exactly. At least we don't think so."
"What exactly happened?" Leslie asked impatiently, enunciating every word clearly as if speaking to a child.
"We haven't been able to speak top Mr Doyle yet. He's currently being treated for a drug overdose."
Leslie frowned, this didn't make sense. Jake, idiot that he was, wasn't into drugs, at least as far as she knew. But she was wondering how well exactly she knew Jake.
"We'll probably able to talk to him tomorrow," the officer was saying. Leslie nodded, trying to swallow the lump of worry that had suddenly appeared in her throat.
"Here we are, Sergeant," the officer motioned to small waiting area where Malachy Doyle and a young woman were sitting. "I figured you'd want us to hang on to the people who discovered the body."
Leslie refrained from pointing out the fact that with the hospital on lock-down, nobody was going anywhere anyway.