Mal pulled up to their home, surprised to see that the lights were still on. He parked his car and got out. He was searching his pockets for his house key as he walked up to the front door. When trying to insert the key into the lock in the dim light, he fumbled, dropping the keys by accident. Cursing under his breath, he bent down only to find that his keys had landed on an envelope lying on the doormat. Mal picked up it and his heart sped up when he recognized the lettering on the front. It was the same ungainly writing that had been on the threatening letter that had arrived in the post that morning. Hen quickly slipped the letter into the inside pocket of his jacket, just in case Rose had decided to wait up for him. He unlocked the front door and stepped inside. Probably having heard the sound of the keys in the door, Rose came walking up to greet him, a glass of wine in hand.
"You shouldn't have waited up for me," Mal said in lieu of a greeting.
"Nice to see you, too," Rose returned.
"I'm sorry, it's been a long day," Mal apologized to his wife.
"It's okay, I understand. How's Jake?" Rose asked while he slipped out of his jacket.
"Still out like a light, but he's out of danger," Mal was glad to report. "He should be back to his usual self by tomorrow."
"That's good to hear," Rose said. "have you eaten yet?"
"Yeah, I got something from the cafeteria earlier," Mal replied, making his way into the living room where he sank down on the couch, The day has been more trying than he liked to admit. The lull of the morning had long since been forgotten.
He had been so lost in his thoughts that he hadn't noticed Rose leaving the room. He startled slightly when Rose re-entered the living room, carrying a second glass of wine.
"You look like you could use this," she said, handing him the glass. Mal took a large sip. He'd prefer something stronger, but this would have to do for now.
"Tinny in bed?" Mal asked.
"Yes. She wanted to wait up, but I finally convinced her to go to bed about an hour ago."
"I would have come earlier if I could have," Mal said gently. "I'm sorry I kept you waiting."
"You have nothing to be sorry for," Rose told him, taking a seat next to him on the couch. "Do the police have any idea who poisoned Jake?"
"Not that I know of," Mal replied, wondering if he should mention his strange client and her vision of Jake being in danger. "Leslie caught the case. She told me that Jake called her this morning, saying that he'd witnesses a kidnapping at the hospital. Do you know anything about that? he added casually.
Rose shook her head. "No, I haven't heard from Jake since he landed back in hospital. So, he saw someone getting kidnapped?"
Mal shrugged. "At least that's what he told Leslie, so I think he must have been serious. I don't really know what that was all about."
"Well, I'm sure Leslie will get to the bottom of it," Rose replied.
"She isn't going to be the only one," Mal replied darkly, He had no intention of letting the person who poisoned and probably tried to kill his son get away. He was going to find them and bring them justice, even if it meant he'd have to interfere with Leslie's investigation, God knew, she was probably used to it by now.
Mal got up from his seat.
"You heading to bed?" Rose asked, smothering a yawn.
"No, I think I'll stay up a little while longer. I was just going to get some more wine."
Mal walked into the kitchen, glass in hand. He stopped dead when he spotted the vase filled with at least a dozen red roses sitting on the counter. Mal put his glass down to have a closer look at the bouquet, but there was no card attached.
"Rose," Mal asked, returning to the living room. "Whose flowers are those?"
"Uh, actually I don't know. They were just sitting on the doorstep when I came home tonight. Why do you ask?"
"Just curious," Mal replied, frowning. The flowers, though innocuous enough on the surface, were making him uneasy. Too many things were showing up on their doorstep today.
"If you don't mind, I'm going to turn in now," Rose said and got up from the couch.
"It's okay," Mal replied. "I just...I just need some time to unwind."
"No problem. Good night, Mal," she said with a quick peck on Mal's cheek, before leaving him alone in the living room.
Once he was sure that he was alone, he picked up his jacket from where he'd hung it over the back of the couch. Using a tissue, he pulled the envelope from the jacket's inner pocket. Not having a letter opener handy, he returned to the kitchen and used a sharp pointed knife to slit open the envelope. Careful not to leave his own fingerprints on the paper, he pulled out the enclosed piece of paper.
It contained only a single line of type-written text.
Are you catching on yet?
Not exactly a threat, but in light of the other letter, there was a pattern emerging that Mal didn't like one bit. While the letter itself didn't leave any clues as to who the intended recipient was, but considering that Jake was living on his own now and had been for some time, it was most likely that it was addressed to Mal himself. Putting the letter back into his jacket pocket, Mal hung up the jacket, before switching off the light.
Much as Leslie had predicted, the search of the hospital only resulted in numerous complaints from both visitors and hospital employees. No trace of the killer had been found. The last place they had been able to trace him to had been the sixth floor landing, but no further evidence of his presence had been found either in the stairwell nor anywhere else. They couldn't even tell whether he'd descended the stairs or ascended them. In the end, they had had no choice but to lift the lock-down on the hospital, despite the risk that they were letting a killer stroll out of there unhindered.
Earlier that afternoon, she had managed to get a hold of Dr. Gibson, the physician treating Jake after his overdose.
"Mr Doyle was very lucky that his father found him when he did," Dr. Gibson told her. "A blood test revealed dangerously high levels of Barbital, a type of sedative. By the time we got to him, his respiratory function had been seriously compromised."
"But he is going to be okay?" Leslie asked. She hadn't realized until that moment, just how serious Jake's overdose had been and now that she did, the anxiety and worry she felt were undeniable. She wished she could treat this just like any other case, but with Jake involved that was going to be impossible. Not for the first time, Leslie wished she could just turn off her feelings for the private detective, but try as she might she couldn't. No matter the outrageous things he got up to, she couldn't bring herself to truly hate him. She had thought she did for a while after had gotten her fired, but recent events had shown her that even the, albeit temporary, loss of her job hadn't managed to annihilate her feelings for Jake.
"In all likelihood yes," the doctor reassured her.
"Is it possible that the overdose was accidental?" Leslie didn't think that very likely, not when taking into account Jake's profession and personality, but she had to cover all the bases.
Dr. Gibson looked at her in disbelief but answered:
"It's highly unlikely. The overdose was significant, pretty much ruling out an accident. Besides, Barbital isn't even used medicinally anymore."
"Then where would someone get this drug?" Leslie asked. She had never heard of this stuff, so she doubted that any run-of-the-mill drug dealer would sell it at a street corner.
"It is still used in veterinary practice, for putting down animals."
"Do you know how it was administered?" Leslie asked.
"Most likely in was somehow put into his food or drink. It does taste slightly bitter, but no so much it couldn't be masked."
"Who would have access to the food that's served to patients?"
"Any number of people. Kitchen staff, nurses, orderlies," Dr. Gibson said and shrugged.
"How about someone from outside the hospital?" Leslie asked.
Dr. Gibson hesitated. "It's possible. The orderlies who distribute the meal trays usually leave the cart with all the trays outside in the hallway while they bring a patient his tray. It's possible that someone from outside used that opportunity to drug Mr Doyle's food."
Great, just great, Leslie thought. The pool of suspects was rapidly growing to include just about everyone in town. Just what every detective dreamed of in a murder investigation. Maybe ballistics would help narrow the field down, but it was unlikely that the report would be in before afternoon the next day.
It was late when Leslie finally made it to the station. There was no sign of Hood, so either he was still at the scene or had already gone home. The first thing she spotted when she walked up to her desk was a note. She picked it up, reading the text.
It concerned the kidnapping Jake had called her about that morning. Apparently, unlike she had first assumed, he hadn't just called Sergeant Hood and herself, he had also called Constable Markham and gotten him to run the plate number from the alleged abductors car. Registered owner was Alonzo Sanchez. Leslie sighed, pulled out her chair and sat down. She could always take a cab home and go get her car the next day.
Rose was brewing coffee in the kitchen the next day, when Tinny came in. She was still in her pajamas, yawning heavily.
"Morning, Rose," she mumbled in between yawns. She walked over to the fridge, grabbing a carton of orange juice. She rummaged in one of the overhead cabinets before turning to Rose.
"Rose, have you seen..." Tinny began but broke off.
"What's it Tinny?" Rose asked.
"Where did you get those flowers?"
"The roses? I don't know, they were standing on the doorstep when I came home from the grocery store last night. I figured you might know who they were from?"
Tinny shook her head vigorously. "I have no idea," she said, turning away and walking out of the kitchen, leaving the carton of juice sitting on the counter.
"Tinny, what about your juice?" Rose called after her, but got no answer. Shaking her head, she put the carton back into the fridge.
Five minutes later, Des walked into the kitchen.
"Rose, have you seen Tinny?" he asked.
"Yeah, she was just in here," Rose replied. "Why?"
"I can't find her anywhere," Des replied. "You sure she didn't go out?"
"I don't know, she didn't say anything." Rose replied, wondering why Des was being so insistent. But then, this was Des, so who knew what was going on in his head. Rose shook her head in puzzlement, turning her attention back to the dishes in the sink.
After getting up at the crack of dawn after a short night in order to fetch her car and still get to the office as a decent hour, Leslie was not in a good mood when she finally arrived at the station in her own car. She was tired and a headache was already making itself known despite the relatively early hour. As she had predicted the day before the forensics reports were not in it, but the autopsy report of Cindy Dobson was waiting for her on her desk. Leslie sat down and flipped through the pages.
There were no surprises there. Cindy Dobson had been in reasonably good health at the time of her death which was due to a close range bullet to the head. Much of the report reiterated and confirmed what Dr. Thorn had told her at the scene.
This wasn't go to help, Leslie thought and put the report aside for the time being. She checked her watch. It was 8.45 a.m.. By the time she'd get to the hospital, it would be at least 9. Although she in no way felt like dealing with any member of the Doyle family, she would have to take Jake's statement sooner or later and the sooner she got it out o the way, the better she'd feel and then she'd be able to get back to to business of finding a murderer.