Maddys floor, p.9

Maddy's Floor, page 9

 

Maddy's Floor
 



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  The blockage disappeared under Maddy's ministration, surprising her with the speed of its disappearance. She knew better than to do too much at one time. Pulling back, she smiled as the clean meridian energy glowed brighter.

  Maddy's energy levels dropped. She checked the hallway clock. Two hours already. No wonder, her reserves were long gone, her body dehydrated. Time to pull back.

  The progress she'd made wasn't much, yet it was a start.

  ***

  Drew walked into the pathology rooms at The Haven. Dr. Miko's odd tone of voice had made him drop everything to race over.

  "Dr. Miko?" He scanned the gleaming stainless steel room. The joys of a private hospital – they got the best of everything. At the far end of the room, an assistant washed down an autopsy table, the hose forcing the bloody water down the gleaming drain.

  "Over here." The strident voice came from behind him, to the left. He spun around. The tiny dynamo in green scrubs strode toward him, her close-cut peppered hair snug against her skull. A frown marred her face. "You didn't gown up," she snapped and led the way through to the offices. "I don't like people in my rooms."

  Chastised, and with good reason, Drew remembered her rules too late. "Sorry, I couldn't find you and thought—"

  "And thought I might be working and so you'd take a quick glance around. Like that changes anything." She pushed her thick-rimmed, black glasses up her nose and narrowed her gaze at him. "Do I know you?"

  Drew hastily shoved his hand forward. "Detective Drew McNeil."

  "McNeil? John McNeil's nephew?" She ignored his hand.

  Drew tucked his hand back into his pocket. "Yes, that's correct."

  "Right. He's a tough man. It must have been hard growing up with him. You don't have to be like him, you know."

  Surprised at the personal comment, Drew stalled with a response, finally saying, "He's a good man."

  "I didn't say he wasn't. What are you doing here?"

  "You called me about a possible connection to an old case?"

  Her face instantly sobered. "Right, no way to forget that nightmare." She took a deep breath before reciting, "I was new in the profession back then. That case is one I've never forgotten. Six children, all with no apparent cause of death. A small bruise was found at the base of their spines. No other marks, no DNA, no sign of violence – no proof of anything one way or another."

  "What? You know the case?" Excitement jolted his gut. Did she have something helpful to offer? He'd love to make headway on this case. "It's one of our most mysterious cold cases."

  Finely etched pain lined her face, and she nodded. "Those poor children. It was a terrible time back then – for all of us. I'd only been out of school a couple years and had seen nothing like it. I'm not sure if what I called you about today helps or hinders, or if it is even related to that investigation." Dr. Miko stared down at the floor, her brow creased in concentration.

  When she raised her eyes she stared directly at him. "One of the recently deceased residents from Dr. Maddy's floor has a weird bruise at the base of his spine similar to those of the children who died years ago." Her gaze went to the double doors leading to the drawers holding the deceased. "I don't have any measurements to compare," she muttered in a soft voice to herself.

  "Similar? How?"

  "It's small, about the size of a quarter at the base of the spine. The bruising is different in appearance. I'm working from memory here. But from my recollection, it's not as tight or as neat a circle, and it's darker, I think. Maybe you can find the pictures so we can compare."

  She showed him the photos she'd taken of Jansen Svaar's body, pointing to the second one. "See here. The edges are not clearly defined. The surface was not raised either. There was no rippling in the skin, as if a weapon had been forced against the skin. In fact, the bruising is light colored and soft, not harsh or deep. It doesn't penetrate the muscle layer below."

  "Anything else?" Hope and fear kept his voice tight, controlled.

  "Just that although he was sick, he was in remission. He just up and died. That's very common for his age and health group. This man was seventy-eight years old."

  Drew sat back as she fired the facts at him. He sifted through what she'd said and what she hadn't. "I'm presuming you never found what caused the bruise?"

  "No, I'm sorry. This may not be related at all since there's nothing else that's similar about them. If I remember correctly, those children were in their prime and healthy – very healthy." She leaned back, studying his face. "But that bruise…each had one…I just don't know."

  Drew nodded, adding, "They all had families and were well-loved, all were found alone and there was no visible trauma to their bodies."

  She stood up, giving her head a shake. "Until Dr. Maddy called, I hadn't thought about those kids for years. Then I found the one odd mark and she asked me to check for the second one – a matching, fainter bruise at the top of his head. It's hard to see because of the patient's full head of hair. However, it's there, nonetheless."

  Drew didn't remember seeing anything about two bruises on these kids in the report. "And these kids, did they have the same bruising at the top of the head?" He held his breath. Waited for the answer.

  "I don't know," she admitted softly. "If they did, I didn't see them. The bruise on this patient's spine is darker and more pronounced. The one on his head is softer and much harder to see. I wouldn't have noticed if Dr. Maddy hadn't asked me to search for it. The bruises on the kids' spines were already pale. If they had lighter, matching ones on the crowns of their heads, they would have been difficult, if not impossible to see."

  "So it's possible that they did. Why did Dr. Maddy ask you about the second bruise?"

  "I don't know." Dr. Miko's brow knitted in concentration. "She wasn't happy with my answer, either." She glanced at her phone. "Maybe she should come down so we can ask her."

  ***

  Maddy strode down the hallway toward Dr. Lenning. He lay huddled under his blankets. Maddy approached warily. He'd had two bad nights in a row. If he'd managed to go to sleep, she didn't want to wake him. The reno workers had been in and out but only to finish the little things. The area wasn't done, per se, however, it was coming along nicely.

  Still, Dr. Lenning's area seemed lonely, lost in the bigger room without more patients to fill it with bustle and cheer. He was only fifteen-odd feet from the next patient, yet because of the open bareness, it appeared to be much farther.

  As she approached his bed, he snuffled slightly. Maddy paused and shifted position to see if his eyes were open. No. He slept.

  She frowned. He looked like hell. His color matched the white sheet he lay on; worse was the flaccidity of his face, as if he'd aged a decade overnight. Bad nights often made people appear older. Only in this case, he looked ancient. She'd have to check his file to see if Dr. Cunningham had changed his medications, but she'd didn't think he had. She decided to come back and visit with him later, when he was awake. See what, if anything, had changed in his life.

  As much as she hadn't wanted it, he was here, and he needed care. It was her job to make him as comfortable as possible.

  Checking her watch, she walked toward her next patient. Her cell phone went off. Dr. Miko.

  Answering it, Maddy changed direction back to the privacy of her office.

  "Hi, what's up?"

  "Can you pop down for a moment?" Dr. Miko's voice, while always serious, had a stern overtone.

  Maddy frowned. "I'll be there in a few minutes." Maddy walked back to the nurses' station, told them where she was heading then walked over to the stairwell. That's exactly what she needed – a run.

  The stairwell was empty as usual. Maddy stood at the top and looked down, considering. Making a quick decision, Maddy slipped off her blue heels. As her bare feet hit the cement, chills of anticipation raced up her legs.

  Grinning, and her heels hanging on two fingers, Maddy broke into a flat-out sprint and raced down the stairwell. The second floor l
anding, the first floor landing, all the way to the first of the lower levels. Hitting the brakes at the bottom, Maddy paused to gather her breath.

  Exhilaration pulsed in her blood. Her shoulder-length bob swayed with her heaving breaths. It took another long moment of deep breathing before she slipped her heels back on.

  The double doors opened easily as she walked toward Dr. Miko's office – a hoarder's paradise. Usually there was one chair available. Maddy turned toward it, then stopped. Her eyebrows rose in surprise and a swarm of butterflies took flight in her stomach. The detective she'd met in the stairwell several days ago stood in front of her. Again.

  What was he doing here?

  He smiled. "Hello, Dr. Maddy. How nice to see you again."

  "Detective." Damn, that man had something. Her hormones started to do a hula dance. What was with that? Maddy shook her head to clear her mind. "What's going on?"

  Roberta waved toward a chair. "Take a seat."

  Maddy chuckled. "I'd love to. Where?"

  Dr. Miko frowned, her gaze going from one piece of furniture to another. "Just move those." She pointed to one chair stacked high with books.

  "Take mine." Drew stepped forward to clear off the spare chair.

  Maddy smiled her thanks and sat down in his place as the detective emptied and pulled over his seat. "What's up?"

  "I see you've already met Detective Drew McNeil."

  Drew? So that was his name. Maddy sank back. She smiled inside. It suited him. "Yes, briefly."

  Roberta reached for a folder and opened it. "I called him regarding a possible connection between Jansen's case and several old cases."

  "What? Jansen? A criminal case?" Maddy leaned forward, her gaze going between the two. What on earth was Roberta talking about? "What did you find out?"

  Dr. Miko frowned as she stared down at the papers in her hand. "I was working with the medical examiner at the time of the earlier cases." She glanced up at Maddy. "They're cases that have haunted me over the years. Six dead children who showed no apparent cause of death, no signs of violence and no explanations could be found for their deaths. They just, well…died. At the time, the politicians were saying a crime hadn't been committed because there was no evidence to support foul play." She grimaced. "Then again, nothing pointed to why the children died, either."

  That was depressing, yet what did it have to do with her? Maddy waited for Roberta to continue. "And…?"

  "The cases back then had one thing linking them together." Drew's gaze hardened as he looked from one woman to the other. "Each child had one small bruise at the base of their spines. Similar to the one found on Jansen."

  Maddy's eyes opened wide. She stared at Drew in surprise before switching her gaze back to Dr. Miko. "That's...odd. What caused them?"

  "No idea."

  Fear rose in Maddy's chest. "I don't understand. Are you saying Jansen was murdered?"

  "No, not at all. All I'm saying is that there are similarities with this body and with those from thirty-odd years ago. I'd love to understand what caused the bruising." Roberta folded her hands. "It may be nothing. However, if it turns out to be something, I wanted to make sure you were both in the know."

  "What a horrible thought." Maddy's mind couldn't grasp the connection. She crossed her arms, holding them tight to her chest. Maybe her mind didn't want to see a connection. "Six kids? Boys or girls?"

  Drew stepped in. "Both. No understandable reason for any of their deaths. It was a sad time – for everyone. No one knew how to handle it. Most people were divided as to whether a crime had even been committed. Like all cold cases, it's haunted many people."

  "Can anything be found after all this time?"

  Roberta looked at Drew, who tapped his fingers on the wooden arm of his chair. "Let's hope so."

  Maddy stood, her knees a little shaky at the thought of a murderer operating at The Haven. The whole concept had a surreal overtone to it. "Well, thanks for letting me know." She smiled at Drew. "If there's anything I can do to help, call me."

  He faced her. "I will need some information from you. Such as a list of all the visitors Jansen Svaar had while he was at The Haven."

  "There's no formal list of visitors, but I'm sure we can come up with something for you. Give me your card, and I can email the names to you."

  As Drew handed over his card Maddy couldn't help but notice the compelling energy he exuded so naturally. It was hard not to appreciate self-confidence and strength.

  Maddy narrowly avoided knocking over a stack of books, and wound her way carefully out of the office. "Thanks, Dr. Miko. If you learn anything else, please let me know."

  Drew held the door for her but stood in her way. "Dr. Miko forgot to ask something. Why did you ask her to check Jansen's crown for a matching bruise?"

  Surprise lit her features. "Oh. That's because they're the two main energy entrances and exits from the body. The crown and the base of the spine."

  He blinked and stepped back.

  With a small smile, she walked to the stairwell, her mind full of implications from these new developments. As much as she'd like to discuss them further with Drew, she wasn't sure how much she should tell him. Her world was a touch unbelievable to those not involved in energy work. Striding down the hall quickly, she couldn't help a quick glance behind her.

  He stood in the middle of the hallway, his hands fisted on his hips, staring at her. Maddy chuckled, gave him a small wave and entered the elevator, making good her escape. Her mind was more than a little overwhelmed, her emotions already somber. Already scared.

  A murderer? At The Haven?

  SATURDAY

  Maddy strolled down the street. Her mind consumed with the issues going on at work. She'd slept in on her day off, had lost herself in hours of research and then spent hours checking on her patients, even though it was her day off. It had been late by the time she'd gotten away.

  Now, walking home, the evening sky was a cool gray and dry, not that there was any guarantee it would stay that way. Living in the greater Portland area, windy, wet and gray were the norm. One needed to appreciate nights like this.

  Her favorite Italian restaurant was a couple of blocks past her apartment. She'd be a few minutes early, but would enjoy waiting by the fire at the restaurant with a glass of wine in hand. Family-owned and operated, Lugardo's offered good wholesome food for a decent price. Not that she cared about the price. Maddy had money. She worked hard, was paid well and spent little. Since she worked all the time, there was little opportunity to spend.

  Her Visa bill popped into her mind. Right, nothing to spend it on except her lingerie. Bustiers, panties, thongs, garter belts, thigh-high stockings – it didn't matter, she loved them all. She smirked, her hand going instinctively to her waist where the purple thong with tiny white and gold flowers decorating the straps lay hidden beneath her clothing. The matching bustier was a treat. Maddy loved the sensuous feeling of wearing it – so delicate, feminine – and so hidden.

  Reaching the front door of the tiny café, she pushed it open and entered another world. Momma Rose greeted her effusively and led her to an intimate table for two, covered with a red-checkered tablecloth, beside the fire.

  "Oh my dear, you must be freezing. Come, sit. We will feed you, make you feel much better." As soon as Maddy sat down, Momma Rose took off. She returned within minutes with her tall portly husband. "Bill, Dr. Maddy is here. She's chilled."

  Maddy chuckled at the eye-rolling look he gave her. "Good evening, Bill. As you can see, I'm fine. And hungry. Lunch was a long time ago." And it couldn't even be called lunch. She'd scoffed a yogurt cup along with her coffee around two o'clock as she'd waded through a stack of paperwork, a ritual that was becoming all too common in recent days.

  Tonight was different. Stefan was joining her. Stefan, her mentor, confidant, best friend, fellow energy worker. As well, he was an incredibly talented psychic, with a physical beauty that was just plain unfair – he was a man after all.

&nbs
p; "Ohhh no." Momma Rose, who carried a nice layer of padding around her full figure, sounded horrified. "That's not good. You need food. Good food."

  Bill winked at her. "Maybe you should start with a glass of good wine. I've got a nice Merlot you should try."

  Before she knew it, Maddy had a full glass of wine in her hand and a carafe sitting beside her. The wine had an earthy aroma and a hint of…was that…blackberry? Whatever it was, it made her taste buds sing. Maddy relaxed back into the deep cushioned chair and let the warmth of the fire roll over her.

  The door opened. A murmur rose in the small room before dying off into a stunned silence. Maddy grinned. She didn't need to turn around to know that Stefan had arrived. Stunningly gorgeous, his presence caused a ruckus wherever he went. Maddy had known people's jaws to literally drop when he entered a room. And he the nicest guy you'd ever meet.

 

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