Diagnosis Murder 4 - The Waking Nightmare (13 page)

BOOK: Diagnosis Murder 4 - The Waking Nightmare
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"Hardly," Mark said. "Marshal Wade is still not telling us the whole story."

"I know enough and so do you," Steve said. "It's no mystery anymore why Rachel jumped. What's left to know?"

"Whatever Tom Wade is holding back," Mark said. "Do you think he's going to stop looking for Pike just because Captain Newman handed him a plane ticket home?"

"I don't care," Steve said, stopping at his desk and sitting wearily in his chair. "We've got the Brant homicide to solve. That should be enough to occupy us both, don't you think?"

"I haven't forgotten about Winston Brant. But he's dead. There's nothing I can do to change that," Mark said. "When Rachel wakes up, everything that drove her to jump out that window will still be there."

"Did you really think you could solve all her troubles?" Steve said.

"I thought I might be able to change some things in her life and so when she woke up, she had some new choices she could make," Mark said. "Maybe give her some hope she didn't have before."

"She and her boyfriend are cop killers, that's something you can't change," Steve said. "I'm not feeling a lot of sympathy for her."

"Rachel tried to kill herself rather than face Pike," Mark aid. "Doesn't that tell you something about the woman she is today?"

"Or she jumped because she didn't want to go back to jail."

"It makes a difference," Mark said.

"Not to me." Steve nodded towards his desk. "I've got a lot of reports to fill out about the shooting, so I'm probably gonna be stuck here for a few hours. I'll have a patrol car take you back to the hospital. You should get some sleep, Dad."

Mark nodded. "I'll wait outside."

He understood what Steve was feeling and why he wanted to quit. So he didn't tell his son he wouldn't be going home to sleep, though he was physically and mentally exhausted, his body craving the rest his mind was denying him.

There was too much to do and probably not much time left to do it.

The way Mark saw it, there was still one way he could help Rachel, and that was to make sure Pike was no longer a threat to her.

Maybe then she wouldn't want to choose death anymore. Maybe then Mark could sleep.

Pike was out there somewhere with Steve's bullet smoldering in his flesh. The killer would be desperately looking for a shady doctor who'd treat his gunshot wounds without reporting it to the police.

Mark would be looking, too.


Three mornings a week, Lenore Barber went to the Celebrity World Gym in Studio City to work out for an hour which, in her case, meant using the treadmill at the lowest possible setting while watching the
Today Show
on one of the dozen flat-screen TVs on the wall.

There were no celebrities at Celebrity World Gym, just plenty of people who wanted to be. The draw was CBS Radford, the only actual studio in Studio City, which was around the corner. Every producer, director, writer, and casting agent going to the lot passed the windows of the gym, so an hour on a Lifecycle facing Laurel Canyon traffic was like an audition. All it took was one bored gaze from a director stuck at the light on Ventura Boulevard and a star could be born.

But that wasn't the main reason why Lenore was there three days a week. Her treadmill didn't face the window. It faced the weight room, where she could gaze upon the sea of glistening male pecs.

This was her singles bar, only better. Here she got a full, unfettered look at the merchandise. There was no chance of getting tricked by dim light and alcohol into taking home what she thought was a Greek god and waking up the next morning beside the Pillsbury Doughboy.

But she knew deception was still possible even in the unforgiving light of the gym because she was practicing it herself. Her skimpy leotard was carefully cut to hide the scars of her lung cancer surgery and she wore a pricey wig to disguise her radiation baldness.

It was only in the locker room that she revealed herself, but even there she practiced as much discretion as possible. She slipped into the shower wrapped in a towel and emerged in one as well, dressing quickly behind the open door of her locker.

When Lenore slid open the shower curtain, she saw a woman standing at a locker, getting undressed, her muscular back to her. She was in her fifties, but clearly in great shape for a woman her age, which is why Lenore was unprepared for what she saw when the stranger turned around. Lenore barely stifled a gasp before it almost escaped from her lips.

The woman's breasts were gone; two long ragged scars curved down from her armpits and up to her sternum like hand-drawn smiles, the suture marks a crude approximation of teeth. She had no nipples. She looked like a Ken doll, only without the sharply defined pecs.

For a seemingly endless second, Lenore couldn't look away; it was too grotesquely compelling.

"You can stare, I don't mind," the woman said.

"I'm sorry," Lenore said, lowering her eyes and hurrying to her locker. "I didn't mean to."

"You couldn't help yourself," she said. "Same way I couldn't stop myself from looking at your scar."

"You've seen it?"

The woman nodded. "It's hard to miss."

Lenore's pneumonectomy scar was long, wrapping around from the right side of her chest to the outer edge of her shoulder blade. She dressed quickly, wishing the other woman would cover herself. Had the woman no shame?

"Was it the Big C?" the woman asked, approaching her.

"Not anymore," Lenore said. "They took it all out."

"Me too," the woman said, patting her chest. "When I was going through a pack or two a day, I thought I was just smoking cigarettes. I didn't realize I was actually smoking my breasts."

"Is there something I can help you with?" Lenore asked, nearly dressed and trying with all her will not to look at the woman's chest again.

"I'm all out of shampoo," the woman said. "Could you spare a squirt?"

Lenore handed her the bottle, slammed her locker shut, and left as fast as she could without appearing like she was fleeing.

She failed, at least as far as Jesse was concerned. He was sitting on a stool at the juice bar, and when Lenore raced past him to the parking lot, she looked as if she was being chased by a ravenous beast.

A few minutes after Lenore sped away in her Lexus, the woman she'd been talking to came out of the locker room wearing loose-fitting sweats and a relaxed smile. She joined Jesse at the juice bar.

"I hope this wasn't too uncomfortable for you, Mrs. Caldicott," Jesse said.

"Not at all, Dr. Travis. I made my peace with what happened to me and how I look a while ago," she said, then motioned to the locker room. "I'm sure I shook her up. Think it will make a difference?"

"This is just the beginning. I'm not done with her yet," Jesse said. "But no matter how things turn out, I appreciate your help."

"It's the kind of help I wish someone had given me," Mrs. Caldicott replied.

"Can I buy you a smoothie for your trouble?"

"The hell with that," she said. "I deserve a McMuffin."





Mark visited four doctors who were rumored in medical circles to be flexible about reporting requirements when it came to treating gunshot wounds, stabbings, drug overdoses, and other crime-related injuries.

One of the doctors worked out of his garage in Venice, where he repaired motorcycles and gang members side by side. Instead of a lab coat, he wore a tank top that showed off his shoulder tattoos of the caduceus, the two serpents entwined around a wing-tipped rod that is the symbol of the American medical profession, and a buxom nurse straddling a Harley, which was the symbol of his biker group.

On the drive across the San Fernando Valley to see doctor number five, Mark's eyes began to feel heavy and his mind seemed to float free of his body, like a picnic napkin caught by a breeze. The car drifted towards the center divider of the freeway, the left front tire bouncing off a chunk of lumber on the shoulder. It jerked him awake and gave his body a jolt of adrenaline. He wrenched the wheel too hard, swerved back into his lane and nearly into the one beside it coming close to sideswiping a van.

The van driver honked, flipped Mark off, and sped away. Mark took a deep breath, then gripping the wheel hard, carefully worked his way across the four lanes of traffic and got off at the next exit that came up.

He'd nearly fallen asleep at the wheel.

How many times had he treated patients in the ER who had done the same thing? How many times had he treated the victims of those weary drivers?

It was stupid and irresponsible of him to get behind the wheel of a car when he was so tired. It was almost as deadly as driving drunk. He was a danger to himself and others.

Mark stopped at a grassy playground, parked under a tree, turned off the ignition, and settled back in his seat.

He had to sleep.

Forty-five minutes later, he was still wide awake. The creeping slumber that he was nearly powerless to resist on the freeway totally eluded him now.

Perhaps it was the surge of adrenaline from narrowly avoiding death.

Or, more likely, it was the motion of the car that lulled him into sleep. He remembered that when Steve was a baby, the only way he and his late wife Katherine could get him to nap was to take him on a drive. Five minutes on the road, and Steve would be out cold. But the moment they stopped driving, Steve would instantly awaken. So they had to keep driving. By the time Steve woke up, they'd often find themselves as far away as Palm Springs or Santa Barbara. It got so bad, they started keeping a packed overnight bag in the trunk.

It had been decades since Mark thought of that. They were pleasant memories.

He started the car and cautiously drove down the block to a Jack in the Box, getting himself a large coffee with extra sugar. Then he rolled down the windows, cranked up the radio to an ear-blistering volume, and headed out to visit the fifth doctor on his list. If Dr. Mandell Yorder couldn't lead him to Pike, Mark promised himself he'd go straight home and stay there until he'd had some sleep.

A few minutes later, his ears ringing, his hair windblown, and his body jittery with caffeine, he parked in front of the Panorama City outlet of the Family Doctor, a national chain of medical clinics located in shopping centers and malls.

This particular Family Doctor clinic was located next to a grocery store, a Korean restaurant, and a check-cashing service in a decaying, largely vacant, 1980s-era strip mall. Above the clinic, the sign showed an illustration of a home spun, Norman Rockwell-esque country doctor with his stethoscope and medical bag, smiling warmly out at the parking lot. Beneath the doctor was the clinic's motto: FAST HEALTH FOR PEOPLE ON THE MOVE!

Mark finished his coffee, did his best to smooth down his wild hair, then got out of the car and went inside the clinic.

The waiting area was sterile and entirely synthetic. There were rubber plants, plastic furniture, mass-produced artwork, and a falsely perky nurse in an old-fashioned, sharply pressed uniform sitting behind a Formica counter. She had contact lenses, hair extensions, collagen lips, silicone breasts, and her skin coated with makeup that gave her a neoprene sheen.

Mark approached the counter and half expected to see a power cord running from the nurse's back to an outlet in the wall.

"May I help you?" she asked, radiating energy and cheer and an almost human voice.

"I'd like a triple coronary bypass to go," Mark said. The way he felt, he almost meant it. "And a large Pepsi."

Her smile didn't waver. "Do you have an appointment?"

Mark looked at the waiting area. He was the only patient.

"No," Mark said. "Is that a problem?"

She handed him a ream of paper. "Just fill out these forms and the doctor will be right with you."

"Actually, I'm not here for a medical examination," Mark said, handing the forms back to her.

"You should be, Mark."

It was a man's voice. Mark turned to see Dr. Mandell Yorder standing in the open doorway leading to one of the two exam rooms. He'd gained a potbelly, a goatee, and a defeated slouch in the years since Mark had seen him last. The doctor was thirty-two but easily looked ten or fifteen years older.

"You look terrible," Dr. Yorder said. "When was the last time you slept?"

"I suppose that's one of the reasons I'm here," Mark replied.

"Step into my office," Dr. Yorder said, ushering him into the exam room and closing the door.

The exam room was decorated with framed prints of kindly doctors treating smiling patients, making house calls, and handing lollipops to children.

Mark took a seat on the edge of the exam table. Dr. Yorder sat on a tiny stool on wheels, then, out of habit, leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. Now Mark knew how the doctor had developed his slouch.

"If you want sleeping pills, you've come a long way for a prescription you could probably get Jack to write for you."

"Dr. Stewart is in Colorado now," Mark said. "He's got his own practice."

"Of course he does," Dr. Yorder said. "Good for him. I got my own, too, as you can see. Well, not entirely my own. It's a franchise, but it's a real money machine, Mark. The wave of the future in medicine. If you're thinking of retiring, I could set you up with one of your own. We could go into it together. Maybe Jack would like to get in on it, too."

"I appreciate the offer," Mark said. "The truth is, Manny, I've heard rumors that you're the doctor to go to if you need discreet medical help, no questions asked. For instance, if someone had a bullet wound, they could come to you."

Ordinarily, Mark would have been more amiable and circumspect in his approach, but he just didn't have the energy.

"You got a bullet in you, Mark?" Dr. Yorder asked, his voice tight. "Or are you planning for the future?"

"Steve shot someone in the shoulder last night," Mark said. "I want to know if the man came to you."

"I'm not a cop, I'm a doctor," he said. "My job is to ease suffering, to heal people, not ask how they got hurt."

"Especially if they pay in cash."

BOOK: Diagnosis Murder 4 - The Waking Nightmare
14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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