After a few hours of sleep, Serena had decided to venture down into the kitchen to fix herself something to eat. The house was quiet once more, with boss guy long since having left and Alonzo probably being asleep after a hard night's work.
Like the rest of the house the kitchen too was old and dilapidated. It looked like it hadn't been cleaned in ages, dirty dishes were piling up in the sink, the trash bin was overflowing with food wrappers and the sour smell of rotten milk lay in the air. Serena opened the fridge, not surprised to find it nearly empty. She experimentally sniffed at an opened milk carton only to recoil in disgust. It had definitely gone off. She poured the contents of the container down the sink, then went back to scouring the fridge and pantry for any edibles.
In the end, she found two slices of bread and some mayonnaise which she spread over the slices. It was far from ideal, but she was used to irregular meals. She as leaning against the fridge munching on her so-called sandwich and considering if she should wash the dishes, when she heard the scream. It wasn't a long scream, but it sounded pained nonetheless. She had learned early on that it was better to mind one's own business if one wanted to stay unharmed, but she couldn't help but wonder what was going on downstairs. She wondered if it was connected to the guy the boss had brought by the previous night.
Another scream came from the basement, followed by what sounded like someone shouting "stop, just stop already". The pattern continued for a good five or ten minutes, until the sounds finally stopped. They were followed, a few seconds later, by footsteps coming up the stairs. Serena quickly pulled the kitchen door shut. Much to her relief, the footfalls passed by the kitchen door.
When she heard the sound of the front door being shut, she breathed a sigh of relief. She was halfway up the stairs, when she turned around, curiosity getting the better of her. Alonzo wouldn't likely get home for hours, leaving her free to roam about the house. She hesitated at the stairs leading down into the basement, but finally, slipped down the stairs as quietly as she could. There were a number of rooms down in the cellar, most of them filed with boxes upon boxes of stuff. She knew where she had to go though. There was small back room to one of the regular basement rooms.
She had heard stories about what had gone on down there from some of the other girls who had been with Alonzo for longer than she had. Allegedly, there had been a girl once, whom Alonzo had taken down to be basement and no one had ever seen her again alive. She had no idea if it was true, but she still rather uneasy as she approached the bolted steel door. She pressed her ear against the cold metal, listening for any sounds from within. There was nothing. With trembling fingers, she slid back the bolt, opening the door a fraction of an inch. The light was on inside the room, coming from a single bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling. A man, the same man she'd seen being carried into the house the night before was lying on the floor, curled up in a near fetal position. His breathing was making an odd wheezing noise. It sounded painful and labored to her ears. He seemed unconscious. She took a step into the room, when the man suddenly startled awake, staring at her with wild eyes for a moment, clearing having expected someone else. His expression took on a an air of surprise hand he struggled to sit up. He bit his lip as he tried to do so, the action clearly causing him a lot of pain. He coughed, and Serena was shocked to see the fine bloody mist spraying from his mouth. He nodded to her, his eyes inviting her to come closer. Serena took s step further into the small room and crouched down in front of the man, still keeping about a two meters distance between them.
"I need to get out of here," the man said in a low and strained voice. "Can you help me?" he asked when Serena didn't answer.
She shook her head. She wanted to help the stranger, but she couldn't possibly help him escape. Doing so would earn her far more than a mere beating. "I can't," she said, "I'm sorry."
"Please," the man said, blood staining his lips as he spoke. "I need to get out of here."
"He'll kill me if I let you go," Serena said sadly.
"Is he here right now?" the man asked with obvious effort.
Serena shook her head.
"Then...just...come with me," the man said
Serena gave a small laugh at the ridiculousness of the suggestion.
"I have nowhere to go. Besides, no matter where I go, he'd find me. You don't get away from them, ever."
"I know...I know people who can protect you," the man said with visible effort. His words were interrupted by another cough, sending blood dripping down his chin. "Please?" he asked, looking at her with pleading eyes.
"So you received this envelope when exactly?" Davenport asked, blinking owlishly at Leslie from behind his horn-rimmed spectacles.
"As I said, it was handed into the front desk and given to me when I arrived at the station around 8:30 this morning," Leslie said and proceeded to repeat what Constable Markham had told her about the man who had handed the letter in.
"You have no idea who that man might have been?" Grunewald asked, eying Leslie doubtfully.
"No. At any rate, I think he was most likely paid to deliver the letter by someone else. If we can find him, he might be able to give a description." Leslie argued, bristling slightly at the unspoken accusation in Grunewald's voice.
"Thank you for suggestions, Sergeant Bennett. We'll take it from here," Grunewald said coldly.
Leslie was about to turn away, when Davenport's voice called her back.
"This warning, telling you to back off, what do you think was meant by that?" Leslie tried to hide her surprise. Finally one of the pair was actually thinking like a detective. She just hadn't thought it would be Davenport.
Leslie turned back to face him, addressing the man deliberately. "I can only imagine that it has to do with the murder of the nurse Cindy Dobson, and of course the attempt on Jake Doyle's life. That was the last case I worked on at any rate, so it seems most likely that the warning is connected to that," Leslie said, aware of the looks Grunewald was giving her.
"You don't think the warning could be of a more personal nature?" Grunewald asked.
Leslie grit her teeth to suppress her anger at the insinuation. They were just doing their jobs, but the way they were doing them, especially Constable Grunewald, was making her furious.
"I don't think how that could be the case," she finally replied. "And the fact that it was handed in here at the station and not delivered to my home, speaks to the theory that it's connected with a case, rather than some personal grudge."
"Fair enough," said Davenport. "If you could let us have what you've accumulated so far on the Dobson murder, I'm sure it would help us determine if there indeed is a connection."
Leslie nodded. "I'll have it on your desk asap." Leslie answered. She wasn't one to keep evidence from her fellow detectives, but just because they'd share the data, didn't mean that she had to back off entirely. She still intended to make another visit to the hospital and request the security footage from earlier in the day, in the hopes of spotting whoever had poisoned Jake's meal. If her theory was correct, then it wouldn't be Zlatko Batic on that video. Trust Jake to have two people angry enough at him to want to kill him the same day.
"I really hope you get to the bottom of this soon," the hospital security chief said after greeting Leslie and showing her into the security office. "We've beefed up security, but to tell you the truth, people are scared."
"We are pursuing a couple of leads at the moment," Leslie replied, not really in the mood to discuss her lack of investigative success. Technically, it wasn't her case anymore, but she doubted that the two detectives the inspector had chosen to replace her, would have more success than she had had. It didn't help that Sergeant Davenport was very close to retirement and not interested in going to any more trouble than strictly necessary and that his partner, Constable Grunewald was young and inexperienced yet too arrogant to realize it. She didn't truly regret having accepted the undercover assignment, she was way too close to the whole mess involving Jake. It was because of her feelings for Jake that he was now being held captive and was probably being mistreated in more ways than she wanted to imagine. No, she decided, she really did need to get away from it all if she wanted to survive with her sanity intact. Whether she liked to admit it or not, there was a very real chance that she would never see Jake Doyle again, no matter who was on the case.
"What is it that I can do for you today?" the security chief's words interrupted her train of thought.
"I'm looking for surveillance footage from the day of the murder," Leslie explained.
The security chief frowned. "We already turned over everything."
"I'm interested in what happened before the murder, say around the time the lunch trays were being distributed on the sixth floor."
"Well, there aren't any cameras in the hallways. Only the entrances and exits are covered by cameras."
Leslie nodded. She knew as much from when she had spoken to the security chief previously. "I'll take that footage then," she replied. It wasn't ideal, but she was hoping that using the timing of when the meal trays had been distributed to narrow in on a possible suspect. Of course, it was possible that her theory about when the poison had been added to Jake's food was wrong, but it was the best lead she had at the moment.
"Then I'll need all the footage from the access points to the sixth floor, for the time between 12 a.m. and 1 pm."
"No problem, I'll have one of my people copy the video for you."
"What are you doing here, Bennett?" Hood greeted Leslie in his usual gruff fashion when he came walking back into the office after having spend yet another morning in the missing persons department sorted through their very extensive collection of files which were yet to be added to the computerized system. He wasn't sure whether to be glad or not that he had identified two more potential matches for the skeletal remains found in the woods the other day.
Leslie looked up from her computer screen. "I do work here," she replied, mild annoyance in her tone.
"I just thought you would be busy getting ready for your big assignment with organized crime," Hood said with a shrug.
"How did you know?" Leslie asked, astounded.
"I am a detective," Hood said somewhat indignantly. He began walking to his desk when he caught a glimpse of the image on Leslie's computer screen.
"Is that Corinne Dawson?" he asked.
Leslie turned around. "You know her?"
"Know of her more like," Hood replied, wondering if Mal had roped Leslie into his case as well. "Forensics got her prints of letter that I had them run as a favour for Doyle."
"Jake had you run a letter for him?" Leslie sounded surprised.
"No, but Malachy has. Apparently he received some anonymous letters and thinks they might be connected to his son being poisoned. Didn't think there was anything to it, but if that's really Corinne Dawson at the hospital..." he pointed to the figure frozen on screen.
"This is footage from the hospital from around the time that I think the Barbital was added to Jake's food."
Hood went to rummage through the files on his desk until he finally found the one had shown Malachy before. He flipped it open and handed it to Leslie.
"That's her," she confirmed after comparing the mugshot in the file to the image on screen.
"You think she tried to kill Doyle?"
"Yes, but I can't exactly prove it, not with what I have here." Leslie gestured at the screen. "All I know for sure is that she was at the hospital at the time.
"Bye Sandra," Tinny said to one of her classmates as they reached the bus stop where Tinny normally got on the bus.
"Bye Tinny, See you tomorrow!" the other girl said. Tinny looked after her until she was out of sight, lost in thought.
There had been no message or flowers left for her today and she hadn't seen Steve Travis anywhere in school. He probably wouldn't show his beaten up face there. That still left her mysterious text message sender, but since yesterday, she had heard nothing from him either. While she was tempted to believe that things were over, her gut feeling told her that it was far from over. Her intuition was confirmed when her cell phone suddenly chirped announcing a text message.
Tinny pulled out her phone, suddenly feeling very uneasy. She looked around furtively. There were a number of people waiting at the bus stop, but none of them seemed to pay any attention to her, yet she couldn't help thinking that she was being watched. Trying to shake off the eerie sensation that she was being followed, Tinny checked her cell phone. The message was from the same number that her other stalker calls had come from. Tinny opened the message with apprehension. The message was short and somewhat different from the previous ones. It read:
Check your email. You won't regret it.
It sounded ominous to her ears, but she still rushed to check her email. The latest message was from someone with the screen name of tripleplayer and it had no subject line. Tinny opened it. It contained a link to a video. Tinny tapped on the link and the video opened in the phone's browser. At first she couldn't see anything, the screen was completely dark. Suddenly, the picture was illuminated by a light from an ugly lamp hanging from the ceiling. In the center of the frame was a chair, with a figure slumped in it. She couldn't make out any details, until suddenly the image zoomed in om the figure in the chair.
Tinny gasped. It was Des in the chair and he was tied to the back of the chair with silver duct tape. He was slumped over, apparently unconscious. Tinny was trying to make out more details, when the video ended abruptly. Stunned, she stared at the screen, trying to process what she had just seen.
Her reverie was only broken when her cell phone chirped again, announcing another text message. With trembling fingers, Tinny fumbled to open the message. It took her three tries and when she finally succeed, she found a message that read:
Des won't be bothering you anymore. I hope you appreciate the trouble I went to for you.
Tinny once again glanced around, but a bus had pulled up at the stop and all she could see were people queuing up to get into the bus. The other side of the street was completely blocked from view. Tinny hesitated for only an instant, before pressing the reply button and typing in a message:
Thanks. Would love to meet you.
A voice at the back of her mind was telling her that this was a very bad idea, as her thumb hovered over the send button. But the the image of Des, slumped over and tied up, pushed itself to the forefront of her mind and she threw caution into the wind and resolutely pressed send. There was no turning back now.
Her legs felt like jell-o as she walked over to a nearby bench and sat down. No sense in taking the bus home now, not when she was waiting for this creep to call back. If she was right and he was watching her, then she probably wouldn't have to wait fro long.