Diagnosis Murder 4 - The Waking Nightmare (19 page)

BOOK: Diagnosis Murder 4 - The Waking Nightmare
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He was afraid of what she would do if he said no. "Yes, that would be lovely."

The nurse left and returned a few moments later with cold scrambled eggs, cold bacon, and frozen sausage. No one would ever accuse him of receiving preferential treatment.

He forced himself to eat the food rather than face the possibility that she might
shove
it down his throat if he didn't. After breakfast, he tried to pass the time by watching television, but that effort lasted a full ten minutes.

There was no way he was going to lie in that bed until Jesse showed up.

As long as he was in the hospital, Mark decided, he might as well do his job. He got out of bed and, barefoot and wearing only his hospital gown, he headed off to check on his patients, wheeling his IV stand and urine bag beside him.

 

It felt strange to Steve to be alone in the beach house. During the night Mark spent as a patient in Community General Hospital, their Malibu beach house seemed twice as big and full of shadows. Steve turned on all the lights, locked the doors, and kept the television tuned to CNN. He wasn't interested in watching the news. But the constant commentary helped him feel less lonely and drowned out the odd creaks and groans of the house, which sounded disturbingly like someone creeping around in the darkness. He made sure his gun, taser, and asp baton were within easy reach.

In the gray dawn of morning, putting on his sweats, Steve was embarrassed at the memory, only a few hours old. He was a grown man. A police officer. He carried a loaded weapon. What should have scared him was not being alone in the empty house, but what would happen to his career if he didn't make some progress soon on the Winston Brant investigation.

Steve had spent most of the night going over the murder book on Brant's homicide. He reread his interviews with all the suspects and witnesses. He studied the crime scene photos and Amanda's detailed autopsy. He watched the video of Brant's dive again and again and again. He scrutinized the schematics of the airplane and even took apart a parachute pack the skydiving school had loaned to him. And the only thing he learned was that he didn't know anything, which didn't bode well for his homicide investigation.

Clifton Hemphill, Dean Perrow, and Virgil Nyby all had motives to want Winston Brant dead. But they couldn't have stabbed him in the airplane, not with the skydiving instructor and the crew on board. And even if they did, the LAPD techs would have found traces of blood in the aircraft. But that was all irrelevant anyway. Steve knew Brant was alive when he jumped out of the plane; the video that the skydiving instructor shot proved that. Even if the video didn't, the blood spatter pattern on the parachute clearly showed that Brant was stabbed while falling through the air.

So how the hell was it done?

Around two a.m., with no better understanding of how the crime was committed than he had before, Steve gave up and went to bed.

Now, after four hours of fitful sleep, Steve trudged upstairs and for a moment was disappointed to see that all his files, notes, schematics, and videotapes were exactly where he'd left them. If this had been an ordinary morning, he would have found his father in the midst of it all, eager to offer his theories and deductions. Or Steve would have found all the files neatly arranged, covered with little yellow Post-it notes with Mark's questions and observations. And he would have found his breakfast prepared, fresh squeezed orange juice in the fridge, and a stack of hotcakes kept warm for him in the oven.

But this morning there were no brilliant deductions, no Post-it notes or pancakes waiting for him, only the evidence of his fruitless labors the night before.

Steve crossed the house as quickly as he could, trying to ignore the files and papers, and went outside for his morning jog on the sand.

The beach was fogged in and empty, exactly how he liked it. He jogged along the berm, just out of reach of the surf, keeping a steady pace, scaring flocks of seagulls into flight. The exercise cleared his head, got his blood pumping, and revitalized him.

Steve returned to the house with a renewed vigor and determination to break the case. He might not have the key clue yet, but he felt confident he'd be able to play the suspects against one another until one of them betrayed the others. That confidence lasted right up until the moment he picked up the
Los Angeles Times
from the front step and read the headline on the front page.

 

At ten a.m. sharp, Dr. Jesse Travis stood at the foot of Mark's empty bed and called for the nurse. She arrived a moment later.

Jesse pointed to the bed where Mark Sloan was supposed to be. "I thought I told you not to let Dr. Sloan leave this hospital."

"He's still here." Nurse Ademu-John put her hands on her hips.

"Where?"

She nodded towards the ceiling. "On the fourth floor, doing his rounds. Still hooked to his IV and Foley."

Jesse stared at her. "You let him go to work?"

"You said to keep him in the hospital and hooked up," Nurse Ademu-John replied. "You didn't say anything about him seeing his patients."

Jesse stood there in disbelief. He couldn't imagine how Mark could do that. "I hope he remembered to tie his gown."

There was an amused grunt from the patient in the bed beside Mark's. Jesse looked at him.

"Afraid not," the man said.

Jesse hurried out of the room and ran up the stairs to the fourth floor. He emerged breathless from the stairwell and heard Mark's voice coming from one of the rooms.

"You're coming along just fine, Mr. Ardner," Mark said. The surgeon tells me your hiatal herniorraphy was a complete success. I'll have the nurse come in with a warm compress to relieve your incisional discomfort."

Jesse was following his voice when Mark suddenly emerged from a room down the hall and unintentionally mooned him.

"Mark." Jesse rushed up to his side. "Do you really think its a good idea to be visiting patients?"

"It's comforting for them to see a familiar face," Mark said.

"They're seeing a lot more than that." Jesse tied up Mark's gown, covering up his naked backside.

Mark glanced over his shoulder. "I thought I felt a draft."

"How are you feeling this morning?" Jesse steered Mark into the first empty room he could find and closed the door.

"Like my old self again," Mark said. "Not that I ever feel old, of course."

"You're making up for it by aging me pretty fast." Jesse helped Mark over to one of the beds, unhooked him from the IV and removed the Foley catheter.

"Does this mean you're releasing me?"

"Do I have a say in this?"

"Just make sure you let Nurse Ademu-John know you've let me go," Mark said. "She scares me."

"Not enough, apparently," Jesse said. "On the way back down to your room, there's someone I'd like you to meet."

They took the elevator to the third floor and Jesse led Mark to one of the private recovery rooms. Jesse motioned to the open door.

"She's made an amazing recovery," Jesse said. "We're releasing her tomorrow."

Mark peered inside and saw Rebecca Jordan sitting up in her bed, surrounded by bright flowers and pink pastry boxes. The enormous Cuddle Bear was propped up in a chair on one side of her bed and in a chair on the other side sat a plump little man wearing suspenders, reading aloud from an old leather-bound book in his lap.

"'Our talk has been like a declaration of love," said Kolya. "That's not ridiculous, is it?" Alyosha smiled brightly. "Not at all ridiculous.'"

Tucker Mellish himself smiled brightly, and was about to go on reading, when Rebecca noticed Mark in the doorway.

"You're the man in the window," Rebecca said.

And she reminded him of the woman who jumped. But looking at her face, seeing the gleam in her eyes, he knew he was mistaken. She wasn't that woman. Not anymore. Hopefully, she never would be again.

"I'm glad to see you're feeling better," Mark said.

"No small thanks to you."

"It's Dr. Travis you should be thanking. He's a fine doctor who took very good care of you."

She shook her head. "You know what I'm talking about, Dr. Sloan. I heard what you did for me. You gave me my life back. I don't know how I'll ever repay you."

Mark glanced at the book in Mellish's lap and recited a line from memory. "How good life is when one does something good and just."

"Hey, we just read that part," Mellish said. "You want to stay, have a pastry, and find out who killed old Karamazov?"

"I already know whodunit," Mark said, grinning. "I'll see you around."

"Wait." Mellish grabbed a box of pastries and shoved them into Mark's hands. "You deserve something sweet."

"Thank you." Mark turned to go and Mellish started reading again, his voice carrying out the door and into the corridor.

"'And if it were ridiculous, it wouldn't matter, because it's a good thing.'"

Instead of leading Mark back to the elevator, Jesse tipped his head towards the end of the hall. "There's another stop I'd like to make."

They walked down the long hall, crossing out of the patient recovery wing into the treatment center, which housed various physical therapy units and psychological counseling programs.

Jesse stopped at the glass doors leading to the Smoking Cessation Center. "Take a look."

Mark did, and was stunned to see Lenore Barber among the circle of patients sitting in chairs and talking to the bearded counselor.

"I don't believe it," Mark said. "What could have possibly changed her mind?"

"You don't realize how persuasive you can be," Jesse said.

Mark eyed him suspiciously. "How did you know she was here?"

"The important thing is, she's here." Jesse headed for the elevator.

"The way you're leading me around in this gown, it's like I'm Scrooge and you're one of the ghosts of Christmas past, showing me where my mistakes will lead."

"Difference is, I'm not showing you the horrors ahead but the tragedies you prevented," Jesse said. "These are two people who won't try to kill themselves again. They're willing to fight for their lives now."

The elevator arrived and Jesse stepped inside. But Mark stood where he was, staring into space, completely oblivious to the world around him.

Any other doctor would have assumed Mark was experiencing a medical problem, that he was on the verge of collapsing. Jesse made no move to help. He wasn't worried. If anything, he felt a jolt of adrenaline.

Jesse knew what the look on Mark Sloan's face meant. A thousand seemingly unrelated facts were coming together in Mark's mind to form an undeniable truth, a picture of absolute clarity where before there had been confusion.

"What do you know?" Jesse asked him.

Mark grinned. He wouldn't be having last night's dream ever again.

"I know how Winston Brant was killed," Mark said. "And I know who did it."

 

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

 

 

Mark showered in the doctors' locker room, a trash bag cinched tight around the cast on his left arm to protect it from getting wet. He got dressed in fresh clothes, carefully maneuvering his broken arm through the sleeve of his shirt, then hurried to meet Steve, Amanda, and Jesse in the morgue. It wasn't the most pleasant or comfortable place in the hospital to have a discussion, but at least they would be assured of privacy.

There wasn't any real reason for Jesse to be there, but inviting him was the only way he'd stop nagging Mark to explain who killed Winston Brant. In return, Mark made Jesse promise not to reveal to Steve that he'd solved the case.

Besides, Mark felt that Jesse had earned a little special consideration. He knew Jesse was responsible for Lenore Barber's sudden change of heart and he was grateful for it. He also knew that whatever Jesse had done, it was motivated more out of concern for Mark than for his stubborn patient.

When Mark strode into the morgue, Steve had the front page of the
Los Angeles Times
spread out on one of the autopsy tables and both Amanda and Jesse were reading over his shoulder.

"Why do you look so grim?" Mark asked his son.

"Before Winston Brant was murdered, he discovered his three fellow board members were plundering the company. Our forensic accountant gave me the facts last night." Steve swatted the paper. "Now somebody has leaked everything to the
Times
. Not only have they printed everything we know, but also a whole bunch of stuff we haven't got yet."

Steve outlined for his father what he knew about Clifton Hemphill, Dean Perrow, and Virgil Nyby's illegal activities and what he'd just learned from reading the paper. According to anonymous sources, the three men pumped their ill-gotten gains into a South Africa-based dummy corporation, which then loaned the money back to Brant Publications with considerable interest.

'They were loaning the company the money they stole, and getting paid interest for it." Jesse whistled. "You've got to admire their chutzpah."

"It's all falling down around them now," Amanda said. "Brant's stock price is going to plummet and the Securities and Exchange Commission is launching an investigation. The whole company could crumble."

"Right along with my homicide investigation," Steve lamented.

"Don't worry, it won't have any impact on the case," said Mark, watching Jesse squirming in his seat.

"Of course it will," Steve said. "Now our three suspects know what we have on them. I won't be able to use the in formation as leverage to turn them against one another and flush out the killer."

"Trust me, you don't need it," Mark said.

"Getting one of them to crack may be our only hope of solving this murder," Steve said. "It's an impossible crime."

"It certainly is," Mark said.

Jesse couldn't contain himself any longer. "But you told me this morning that you knew who murdered Winston Brant and how they pulled it off."

Steve and Amanda stared at Mark.

"You figured it out?" Amanda said.

"And you already told Jesse?" Steve said.

BOOK: Diagnosis Murder 4 - The Waking Nightmare
10.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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