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Authors: Antoinette van Heugten

Tags: #Mystery, #Suspense, #Adult, #Thriller

Saving Max (12 page)

BOOK: Saving Max
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“Well,” says Max. “The iPhone is actually a computer, so I guess I don’t really need the laptop.” A slight pause. “Look, I’ve got my Game Boy. They’re both black. We’ll swap.” There is a pause, and then a whisper. “Shit, here comes the Gestapo.” A few moments elapse. “Okay, they’re gone.”

Danielle takes the receiver from Sevillas. “Max, I have to ask you this question again. It’s important. Why did you want to hurt Jonas?”

“I didn’t!” he groans. “Look, the kid was weird, but I didn’t give a shit about him.”

“But we’ve talked about this before. Remember what
happened on the unit that day? And when I was in New York? And the hospital has records of other…incidents.” She draws a deep breath. “I need to know the truth.”

“Why do you keep asking me these stupid questions?” Anger laces his words. “Has everybody gone nuts?”

“Calm down, sweetheart, I’m just trying—” There is a scuffling noise. “Max?
Max!

“Ms. Parkman.” Danielle hears the stern voice of Nurse Kreng. “This conversation is concluded.”

Fury overcomes her. “You put my son back on this phone—now.”

The calm in Kreng’s voice is maddening. “I have complete authority to terminate these telephone conferences when I determine the patient is overwrought. Goodbye, Ms. Parkman.”

The line goes dead. Danielle turns to Sevillas. “She cut me off! Tony, Max—”

Tony replaces the receiver. She puts her hands over her eyes as sobs rack her body. The next thing she knows Tony’s arms are around her, holding her tightly to him. She can’t stop crying. She can’t bear it—any of it. She presses her face against his chest until his heartbeat slows her cries. She looks up as Tony takes her face in his hands, his eyes steady and warm. Before she can say anything, he leans down and kisses her. Gently, lovingly.

“It’ll be all right.” He uses the same words she said to Max. “I’ll take care of you. Both of you.”

She nods. Words won’t come. Tony leads her to her chair. Once there, she glances at Doaks. His raised eyebrow says: “So that’s how it is.”

“Okay,” says Sevillas, “let’s get started.”

Danielle wipes her eyes. She has to put whatever she’s
feeling aside or she won’t be able to help Max. She takes a deep breath and nods.

Sevillas’s words are brisk. “Does he remember anything, Danielle?”

She shakes her head. “No.”

Doaks gives her a crinkly smile. “This is where I come in. If somebody else did it, I’ll find him.”

She nods. “I appreciate that.”

“Okay, so listen up,” he says. “There’s somethin’ Barnes told me last night that don’t figure for me. They tossed Max’s room after the murder, and I got a few questions about what they found.”

“Like what?” asks Sevillas.

Doaks turns to Danielle. “Like how come they find the dead kid’s St. Christopher necklace under Max’s pillow?”

Her heart lurches. She can’t remember Jonas ever wearing a necklace. She takes a deep breath. “Someone must have put it there. Someone who was trying to frame Max.”

Sevillas turns to Doaks. “Did it have fingerprints on it?”

“Don’t know yet, but I’m sure they’re gonna be real pleased to tell us if it does. And that ain’t all.” He pulls a crumpled scrap from his worn pocket and hands it to Danielle. Her hands tremble as she unfolds the paper and reads it. Impatience and disbelief rise in her throat.

Sevillas leans forward, curiosity on his face. “What is it, Doaks?”

He shrugs. “A page from Jonas’s chart. They found it under Max’s mattress.”

“What does it say?” asks Sevillas.

“It’s a copy of the dead kid’s schedule—for the day of the murder.”

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Danielle stares at the empty paper plates. Lunch has come and gone. She has done her best to tell Sevillas and Doaks everything that happened at Maitland. She has not minced words about her suspicion of the treatment Maitland provided Max and Jonas: Fastow’s overdose of Max; their secret use of restraints; and their refusal to let her participate in the process, ultimately forbidding her access to her own son. She stressed that Max had been depressed, but not violent, and drastically deteriorated only after he was admitted to Maitland.

It is what she has not told them that troubles her.

She has excluded Max’s violent behavior toward her and the damaging comments in the computer entries—not to mention her hacking into Maitland’s computer to view that information. She has to constantly remind herself not to expose another indictable crime by revealing things she should have no way of knowing. The State already has enough rope to hang her.

The most critical omission, of course, is Max on the floor of Jonas’s room, curled into a bloody ball, clutching the murder weapon. That she will take to her grave.

Sevillas and Doaks have returned from their bathroom break. She wonders why men seem to do their most important conversing while dangling their penises over a urinal. In this instance, there is little mystery why they have absented
themselves. To go over her story. To see if they buy it. To see how they can build a defense around it.

Sevillas pours another cup of coffee before he joins her. Doaks slumps in his chair and pokes a fork at the remains of his pastry. The black box sits at the end of the conference table, waiting.

“So,” says Sevillas, “we’ve laid out the bare bones of their case. We’ve heard your version. What we haven’t discussed yet is whether or not you have some idea who could have done this thing.”

Danielle feels their eyes upon her. She forces herself to forget about Max and to think like a lawyer. “I think we have to keep in mind that anyone could have done it. We have to explore every avenue, every staff member—from the janitor to the doctors, anyone with grudges or violent records who had an opportunity to be there, whether or not we think they had a motive.”

“Good idea,” says Sevillas.

“We should also subpoena the files of other patients on the unit who had violent tendencies,” says Danielle. “Remember, I told you about that girl, Naomi, who was there when Max had the…altercation with Jonas and had to be dragged to her room. She is very bizarre and violent, not to mention the fact that she has at least a brown belt in karate. The orderlies can testify to that. And she also told me she cuts people. We need her records and background information. There’s also a boy named Chris who had broken his mother’s arm, but I’ve only seen him once on the unit. I’m not sure he’s still there.” She marshals her thoughts. “To be safe, I think we should subpoena the charts and histories of all of the patients on the unit. I’m sure they’ll claim privilege, but we have a right to know the details of who was on the unit that day and if their psychiatric histories include physical violence of any kind.”

Sevillas nods. “What about the boy’s mother? Is there any evidence of her having violent tendencies toward her son?”

“No,” she says and then stops. Nothing Danielle witnessed of their interactions even hints that Marianne harbored any ill will toward Jonas. In fact, her overwhelming impression is precisely the opposite. Even so, she has to find another suspect to shift the investigation away from Max. She hates what she is about to do, but she has no choice. “We can’t rule anyone out at this point. I’d also like to talk about my taking a very active role in this investigation.”

Doaks rips off a sheet of his legal pad. It looks like hamburger grease has been ground into it. He wads it up and shakes his head. “No offense, but I’ve been goin’ down this road since before you started callin’ your panties lingerie, and there ain’t no way I’m gonna agree to somebody else callin’ the shots on my part of the show.”

Sevillas looks away and coughs, but not before Danielle sees his smile. She turns to Doaks. “I’m sure you understand that my son’s life is at stake here. I won’t interfere, but I have information you don’t have, and there are a lot of people to track down and talk to.”

Doaks waves a gnarled hand. “No way. I may not look like it, Ms. P., but I got everything I need—right up here.” He taps his temple. “I ain’t had any help in thirty years, and I’m way too old to start now.”

“Come on, Doaks,” says Sevillas. “For once you have a really smart defendant. She’s the best source of information we’ve got. Maybe she can help you out. Besides, it’ll keep her out of my hair on the legal side.”

He flashes Sevillas a look that could slice boot leather. “You stay outta this.”

Sevillas turns to Danielle. “Can you promise not to get in Doaks’s way?”

“Absolutely,” she says.

“Then get yourself another dick.” Doaks grabs his legal pad and starts to rise.

“John, let’s not forget why we’re here.” Sevillas gives him a meaningful glance.

“Don’t push me, Tony. I don’t care what you did to get Madeleine sprung from that place. You used up that card a long time ago.” He falls back into his chair and turns to Danielle, who has silently observed this verbal volley that is fraught with a meaning she doesn’t understand. “Look, Ms. P….”

She smiles at him. “Danielle, please.”

“Yeah, yeah, Danielle,” he mutters. “If you’re plantin’ yourself in the middle of my mess kit, we gotta have, ya know, some serious boundaries. Lines you don’t cross.”

“You’re absolutely right,” she says. “What would you suggest?”

Doaks scratches his white stubble. “There are some places you ain’t gonna go,” he says. “Some things I gotta do alone, like interviewin’ important witnesses, without some broad trailing along behind me.”

She nods.

“Nothin’ personal,” he says. “But I got connections you’d queer if anybody knew I was—”

“Listening to a woman?” She tries not to smile.

“No,” he says irritably. “It ain’t no male-pig thing. It’s just that all my contacts know I fly solo. That’s why they trust me.”

Sevillas looks at Danielle. “I’m sure Ms. Parkman will respect the position of prominence you hold with your sources and will make every effort to preserve your sterling reputation.”

Doaks shoots him a look of pure evil. “I ain’t talkin’ to you,
asshole. You want to know what’s goin’ on, you’re gonna have to ask your client.”

Sevillas’s eyes become serious as he looks at the black box. “Let’s find out what they’ve got.”

 

Danielle watches as Doaks pulls an old Swiss Army knife out of his pocket and slits through the brown tape on the box. Sevillas turns to Danielle. “Nothing in this box is going to be good. As a lawyer, you might expect that it won’t affect you as it would a layman. It just isn’t true.”

She feels her throat tighten. She nods.

Doaks pulls a sheaf of papers from the box. As he reviews them, he passes them to Sevillas who, in turn, hands them to Danielle. Doaks mutters as he scans the documents. “Not much here. The offense report is bare-bones. Got rough crime-scene diagrams, but no autopsy report; no lab report.”

Danielle gets up and peers over Sevillas’s shoulder. What she sees is what she has tried so hard to erase from her memory—ruby flashes of blood spatters; black, dusted walls; assorted views of the bloody bed. She closes her eyes. When she opens them, Jonas’s vacant, dead eyes stare up at her like glazed marbles in a white bowl. Her stomach tightens. Danielle forces herself to study the series of close-ups. There are small but hideous stabs on both forearms. Different angles of the bloody corpse are shown: gaping holes on the tops of Jonas’s thighs; dark, bloody craters on both sides of his genitals; gory rents near the femoral artery.

Doaks points at the last one. “Looks like this is where most of the arterial spray came from.” He shows them another photo of the spatters on the wall and the ceiling. He gives a low whistle.

Danielle feels revolted. She returns to her chair on the opposite side of the table, away from the box. After a few deep
breaths, she concentrates on the papers in front of her, placing them into neat stacks. This calms her enough so that when Sevillas hands her the stack of bloody crime-scene photos, she is almost able to view them dispassionately.

She studies them one by one, wincing at the sight of the photographs of Max’s bloody T-shirt and the contents of her purse. Something bothers her. Her eyes fly open. She flips through each photograph again, quickly this time. “It isn’t there,” she whispers. “Oh my God, it isn’t there.”

“What ain’t there?” asks Doaks.

Sevillas walks around the conference table. “What is it, Danielle?”

She thrusts the photographs into his hand. “The comb.”

Sevillas scans them, this time with Doaks looking over his shoulder. “I’ll be damned.”

“Holy shit,” says Doaks. “There shoulda been a million pictures of that comb before anybody bagged or marked it for evidence—and way before they carted it downtown.”

Sevillas shakes his head. “It’s a fluke. Nobody could have missed that. We must not have all of the photographs.”

“Yeah,” says Doaks. “The photographer must’ve had his head up his ass or some idjit down at the D.A.’s office forgot to stick ’em in the stack before they got shipped out.”

“What if it’s not a mistake?” asks Danielle.

Doaks chortles. “It’d mean we’d have a helluva lot easier time gettin’ proud of this defense. It’d mean that one of Barnes’s guys fucked up to a fare-thee-well.”

Sevillas hands her back the photographs. “Don’t get your hopes up, Danielle. They’ve got the comb. Even if they forgot to photograph it, the cops will testify that they found it when they emptied your purse. Someone probably bagged it early on and ran it over to the evidence room.”

“I think I’ll hike on over to Plano P.D. later just to make
sure,” says Doaks. “You can’t even guess at the weird shit that goes on in that joint.”

“Sure, what could it hurt?” Sevillas’s telephone rings. After a few quiet words, he looks at Danielle and then replaces the receiver.

“Tony, what is it?”

“The court clerk just called,” he says. “The judge denied our motion. You can’t see Max.”

Her heart clutches. “For how long?”

“Until after the hearing.”

Danielle turns away as tears flow down her face. Sevillas makes a hurried motion toward Doaks. “Let’s move on.”

Doaks picks up his ragged legal pad. “Right. We got Maitland’s computer logs showin’ Danielle’s comings and goings, including the day of the murder. We got Max’s unit logs—let’s see what they look like.” He rummages around and rattles off entries like a headmaster at roll call.
“Patient increasingly agitated and hallucinatory… Patient violent 2:00 a.m./required restraints…”

Danielle takes a deep breath and turns to him. “Who made those notes?”

Doaks squints at the bottom of one of the pages. “Some nurse—Krang?”

“Kreng.” She turns to Sevillas. “I can explain that.”

Sevillas holds up his hand. “We’ll get to it later.”

They spend the next few hours going through the contents of the black box. Danielle grits her teeth as Doaks reads other chart entries by Reyes-Moreno listing examples of Max’s psychotic behavior, describing a Max unrecognizable to her. The D.A. must have had a field day at Maitland.

She stops short when she looks at a series of logs that describe various violent episodes between Max and Jonas. It isn’t possible to tell from the entries who instigated the
events, although the clear implication is that it was Max, with Jonas on the defensive. She doesn’t believe it. Surely Marianne would have talked to her about it. She scans Max’s chart. There is an entry made by the duty nurse on the day of the murder.
Patient in restraints. To remain in room during lunch hour.
Danielle sighs with relief. She turns her attention back to Doaks and Sevillas, who are discussing the items the police found in Max’s room.

“Here’s what I’m thinking,” says Sevillas. “We’ll draft a motion to suppress all of the evidence from Max’s room. They had plenty of time to station a police officer outside of Max’s room and obtain a warrant. They’ve claimed exigent circumstances, which we’ll argue the court should reject.” He shrugs. “It’s worth a shot.”

Sevillas stands and stretches. The first smudges of fatigue have appeared under his eyes, along with a shadow of beard along his jaw. He seems to be the only one who hasn’t noticed that the orange sun is setting in the dusty Iowan sky. “Doaks, the M.E.’s report isn’t here.”

“I’m plannin’ a trip to old Smythe first thing in the mornin’.”

“Good,” says Sevillas. “Then I want you to check out the police station and see what you can find out, especially about that comb.”

“I already said I was gonna do that,” he grumbles.

“I also want to demand Max’s blood work,” says Danielle.

“I’m suspicious that the medications they gave him directly contributed to his decompensation at Maitland and, perhaps, his…violent behavior.”

Sevillas gives her a long, studied look. Danielle stares at the floor. Her admission of Max’s violent behavior—whatever the cause—implies that such violence could have led to murder.
It is the first time she has even implicitly suggested that Max could have killed Jonas.

“I don’t expect Maitland to cooperate,” says Sevillas quietly, “but I’ll include it in our subpoena. We probably won’t get permission until the judge rules on it at the hearing.”

“I asked a friend of mine to try to get some information on Fastow, the psychopharmacologist who overdosed Max, but all she’s been able to find out is that his last post was in Vienna, where he was doing some kind of new research in psychotropics. I think we need to do a thorough investigation into his past.”

Sevillas gives her a look. “You think the overdose was intentional?”

“No. I can’t put my finger on it, but there is something very wrong with Fastow.”

“What makes you think that?”

“I told you before. Instinct.”

“Anything more factual than that?”

“No.”

Sevillas nods at Doaks, who sighs and makes a note. “Under the ‘he’s too squirrelly not to be guilty of somethin’ theory,’ right?”

BOOK: Saving Max
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