Diagnosis Murder 4 - The Waking Nightmare (17 page)

BOOK: Diagnosis Murder 4 - The Waking Nightmare
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"You must be Lenore," Amanda said. "We can't wait to see this house."

"I can't wait to show it to you, Mrs. Hanks," Lenore said.

"I'd like you to meet my husband, Guy," Amanda said, motioning behind the realtor.

Lenore turned to greet Guy Hanks and caught her breath. He was a tall man with a carefully trimmed mustache and beard, rimless glasses, and a smile as bright and enthusiastic as Amanda's. But his most distinguishing feature was the ragged scar across his throat and the hole in his neck, right below his Adam's apple. A tube was sticking out of the hole, held in place with a plastic strap so it wouldn't slip into his trachea.

He grinned, offered one hand to Lenore and, with the other, placed a finger over his tracheotomy hole so he could speak.

Lenore almost screamed.

"Amanda told me there's a screening room," Guy said with a weak, raspy voice. "I've always dreamed of having one."

Lenore shook his hand limply, unable to stop staring at the hole in his neck. The entire day was one horror after an other. It was as if God was trying to send her a message. She was seriously considering getting back in her car, speeding home and barricading herself behind the door.

"It's a hole—" she began, then mortified by her slip, corrected herself in stride. "—entire theater with enough seats for you and a dozen of your closest friends to enjoy the latest Hollywood blockbuster. You'll never want to leave the house."

If he was aware of her mistake, he didn't show it.

"Magnificent," Guy said with excitement. "Let's see it."

He hurried towards the house like a kid eager to be the first through the gates at Disneyland.

Lenore wasn't paying attention, still remembering her last thought.

It was as if God was trying to send her a message.

Amanda shook her head in mock frustration at her mock husband.

"You'd think we were in the market for a movie theater instead of a house," Amanda said. "But I suppose he deserves it after what he's been through."

"What happened?" Lenore asked. In her heart, she already knew the answer, but she still had to hear it.

"Throat cancer," Amanda said. "I probably should have warned you about his permanent tracheotomy. It can be a shock the first time you see it."

"I hardly noticed," Lenore said, hoping that Amanda couldn't see her hands shaking.

 

The ambulance drove off with Mark Sloan in the back and headed for the Community General in West Los Angeles. There were three other hospitals that were much closer to the accident scene, but Mark insisted on being taken to Community General and was willing to pay whatever extra charges were incurred as a result.

Steve stayed behind while the medical examiner, a guy with two chins more than necessary, examined and removed Pike's body. He would have preferred to accompany his father to the hospital, but Mark's injuries appeared minor and Captain Newman had just arrived. It wouldn't look good if the lead detective on the case fled when his boss arrived, though Steve might have done it anyway if the helicopter he'd appropriated hadn't left minutes before the captain's arrival.

Tom Wade was still there, too. He'd already given Steve his statement and was waiting for the marshals to show up, so he could repeat his statement for them. Less than an hour earlier, he'd gunned down his own son, but Steve saw nothing in Wade's stony expression that betrayed a hint of emotional turmoil. At some point, he'd even managed to put his Stetson on.

Captain Newman was barely out of his car when Wade strode up to him, cutting Steve off. Steve was in no hurry to talk to his boss, so he gladly stood to one side to let whatever was going to happen play itself out.

"I heard about what happened here, Marshal," Captain Newman said somberly. "I'm terribly sorry for your loss. I can't imagine what you must be feeling."

Wade gave a slight nod in acknowledgement. "I'll be taking Rachel Swicord back to Spokane now."

Newman glanced at Steve. This was news to Steve as well, so he said nothing.

"She's staying here," Newman said to Wade.

"She's not in any danger now," Wade said. "I've seen to that."

There was nothing cavalier about the marshal's remark; it was said as a statement of fact. Nevertheless, the captain seemed unsettled by it.

Newman cleared his throat. "That's not the issue."

"She's a fugitive cop killer who violated her parole," Wade said firmly. "There's a price to pay."

"She's paid it," Newman said. "I've been in discussions with the district attorney here and up in Spokane. We won't extradite her to Washington State and they aren't asking us to. The feeling is that she's been through enough."

"Enough?" Wade's face tightened. "She broke the law. That can't be ignored."

"Sure it can," Newman said. "Rachel Swicord served her time and walked out of prison a reformed woman."

"She was on parole," Wade said. "There was still time on her sentence."

"She created the Cuddle Bear, for God's sake, and had her picture taken with tons of bald cancer kids," Newman said. "We aren't sending the Cuddle Bear to prison."

Wade's face tightened even more, which Steve didn't think was possible, and he spoke through clenched teeth. "My son is dead because he broke the law. She's as guilty as he was."

"She's not responsible for what he did today," Steve said gently. "That was his choice."

Wade watched the medical examiner wheeling his son's body bag into the morgue wagon. "This isn't right."

The marshal walked away. The captain looked at the body bag, then back at Steve.

"It sure isn't," Newman said.

 

Guy Hanks drove up to the front of Community General to drop Amanda off.

"That really was a spectacular house," he said. "The screening room was incredible. It even had a marquee."

"It's a little out of our price range, dear," she said with a smile.

"Not mine," Guy said. "I'm the supervising producer of
Killer Autopsy
, the forty-fourth highest rated forensic drama on network television. Do you know the obscene amount of money I make?"

"I'm guessing it's more than I get as a technical consultant on your show."

"Only slightly," he said. "Did you see the wine cellar in that place? It's bigger than my master bedroom."

She studied him for a moment. "You're serious about this, aren't you?"

"I wasn't really in the market, but now that I've seen it, I can't get the place out of my head," he said. "I think I'm going to make an offer."

"Maybe you ought to wait a day or two."

"What if someone beats me to it?"

"What if the realtor wants your wife's signature on the papers?"

"Oh," he said.

"Oh," she said, then motioned to his throat. "I think you can take that off now."

"It felt so comfortable," he said. "I almost forgot it was there."

Guy carefully peeled the elaborate rubber appliance off his neck and tossed it onto the backseat.

"Our special effects makeup department is incredible," he said, scratching his throat and examining it in the rearview mirror.

"Thank you for your help," Amanda said. "I owe you one."

"Are you kidding? This sting of yours is gonna make a great episode of the show. Of course, I'm gonna have to tweak it a bit to make it a cutting-edge story of forensic investigation."

"Will the tweaks involve ninja assassins, Italian sports cars, and flamethrowers?"

"Couldn't hurt," he said.

"I'll be glad to provide whatever technical assistance I can." Amanda gave him a friendly kiss on the cheek and got out of the car. "Flamethrowers are a big part of my job."

"If they aren't," Guy said, "they should be."

She watched him drive off, then headed into the ER to deliver her report to Jesse before starting her shift.

The first person she saw was Steve, standing at a nurse's station, finishing up a phone call. His badge was clipped to his belt and his face was tight. This was a man on the job, and in his line of work, that only meant one thing.

"You got a corpse waiting for me?" Amanda asked.

"As a matter of fact, I do," Steve said. "But there's no mystery involved. His name is Pike Wade and he was shot by his father."

"Not Marshal Wade," Amanda asked, hoping she was wrong.

"Afraid so," Steve said, and explained that Pike was Rachel Swicord's ex-boyfriend, the one who killed a deputy in Washington State and was presumed dead. Pike's mother remarried and he took his step-father's surname, Wheeler. Pike drew his gun on Dad. The marshal was forced to shoot."

"Where's Marshal Wade now?" Amanda asked.

"Being debriefed by the Marshals Service. Then he's getting on a plane to Spokane. I'm guessing his career is over, though I can't imagine he'd want the job anymore after this anyway."

"What about Rachel?"

"She woke up this morning," Steve said. "She's already been interviewed by the Spokane cops and somebody from the Marshals Service. Last I heard, they're gonna let her walk on the parole violation. As far as they are concerned, she can go back to being Rebecca Jordan as if nothing ever happened."

"You think she can do that?" Amanda asked. "Just go back to her new life, the way it was before?"

Steve shrugged. "She won't be afraid anymore."

"You aren't even sure that's why she jumped," Amanda said.

"I don't think anybody's asked her that yet."

"Maybe somebody should," Amanda said. "I'm surprised Mark isn't up there doing that right now."

"He would if he could." Steve tipped his head towards the exam room behind him. "Dad was in a car accident. Broke his arm, cut his head, then got into the middle of the confrontation between the marshal and his son. Dad's going to be fine, but he's lucky to be alive."

"Is it okay if I see him?"

"You're the doctor," Steve said, then headed for the elevator.

"Where are you going?" she asked.

"To ask Rachel Swicord the big question," Steve said.

Amanda went into the exam room to find Mark lying on a gurney, his eyes closed, a bandage on his forehead. Jesse was putting the finishing touches on the bright blue cast on Mark's left arm.

"Lately, Mark spends more time here as a patient than he does as a doctor," Jesse said.

"How is he?"

"Asleep. Besides the broken arm, he's suffering from a mild concussion, exhaustion, and dehydration. I'm admitting him overnight. I want to make sure he sleeps and gets plenty of fluids."

Amanda stroked Mark's cheek, rough with stubble. She hated seeing him like this. "You ought to put him in restraints."

"I'm tempted, believe me," Jesse said.

"One of these days," Amanda said, "he's going to get himself killed."

"You're beginning to sound like Steve. Next thing you know, you'll be saying he should stick to medicine and stay out of homicide investigations."

"That wasn't what got him banged up this time," Amanda said. "He was trying to solve the problems that drove Rachel Swicord to jump out a window."

"So what do you suggest we do?" Jesse said. "Tell him to stop caring about other people?"

"Believe it or not, you can care about others and still go through life without having a gun pointed at you."

"Like you and me, for instance?"

Amanda and Jesse shared a look.

"You once talked about getting him a Kevlar vest for his birthday," she said.

"I was joking."

"Find out what they cost," she said, then after glancing at Mark again, had another thought. "Get yourself one, too."

 

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

 

 

"I'm not sure what! should call you." Steve stood at the foot of the woman's bed in the ICU. "Rachel or Rebecca."

"I suppose Rebecca, because it reminds me that I'm a different person today than I was yesterday," she said softly.

"Does this mean you won't be diving out the window again anytime soon?" Steve said. "Because that's what the woman you were yesterday thought was a good idea."

Rebecca looked away from him, watching her heartbeat on the EKG. "You're not a very nice person."

There was a huge stuffed bear in the only chair, which was beside her bed. Steve put the Cuddle Bear on the floor and sat down. From the look on her face, he could see she preferred the bear's company to his. Too bad.

"I want to know why you did it," he said.

"Did what?" she asked.

"Tried to kill yourself."

"What do you care?"

"I don't," Steve said. She turned and met his gaze. "My father saw you jump and he's spent the last two days trying to repair your life so you won't do it again."

Rebecca looked past him now, staring at the wall as she searched her memory. "The old doctor with the mustache."

"He's down in the ER with a broken arm," Steve said. "He nearly got killed for you. I need to know he didn't do it for nothing."

Steve saw her squeeze the button attached to her IV, sending a shot of painkiller into her system, as if just the thought of answering his question caused her agony.

"I met Pike at a party," she said. "He had a way of smiling, of looking at you, of carrying himself, that was powerful, you know? Almost like a drug. I couldn't get enough of him; I surrendered completely to it."

Steve couldn't imagine what that was like. He'd never surrendered completely to anything.

"We partied for weeks. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Who knew it could be a way of life instead of just a saying? It was wild," she said. "One afternoon, he shows up at my place in that car. I knew it wasn't his, but he was grinning that grin. So it didn't matter. I got in."

"Was he grinning when you watched him rob that convenience store?"

"It was just this big joke, a prank. I was laughing. So was he. It was fun. It didn't feel like any of it was real. We were high, but we weren't on anything. It was amazing. I thought that had to be love." She met his eye. "Isn't it?"

Steve didn't know; he'd never felt anything like that about anyone. If it meant surrendering completely to feel that, he wasn't sure he ever would.

"I don't know," he said.

BOOK: Diagnosis Murder 4 - The Waking Nightmare
3.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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