Yes, we’re on an exciting episode this month, so I’m going to drag it out and post the chapters as they are written, two chapters at a time. Then I’ll post up the full episode as always.
I hope you enjoy…
The walls of Serenity Hills filled with a cacophony of yells, calls, screeching and slamming. The guards whispered to each other as new inmates were shunted in and the resident inmates jeered and heckled the wide-eyed new arrivals.
One arrival bore a dripping gash to her face. She was led through the canteen up the speckled stairs, past the office where a watchful Dr. Llys leaned against her office door, and down the narrow corridor to the medical wing. Val hammered on the door which swung open to an empty ward.
“Doc?” She croaked out, her hoarse voice wheezy. Her allergies bugged her although maybe it was spending too much time in the bar? Nah. Allergies. “You here, Doc?”
“In here,” Tracy muttered, poking her head out of the doctor’s office. “Are you flipping joking. She’s only just got off the bus and she’s in here?”
Val shrugged. What was she meant to do? “Girls were checking her over. She slipped.”
Tracy rolled her eyes. “This that slapper you’re into again?” She shoved the arrival on the chair in the office. “She makes everyone accident prone.”
“Dunno what you mean.” She wasn’t into anyone. Not exclusively. Not unless either Llys or Gossett were going to flash those pretty smiles her way. Yeah, wouldn’t she love—
“Try not to dribble,” Tracy snapped and turned to the patient. “I’ll have to fix that now, won’t I?”
The arrival stared at her feet.
“You better not squeal.” Tracy put on gloves, grabbed a load of stuff from the side and stared dabbing at the arrivals wound. “You got anything nasty?”
The arrival shook her head.
Val pulled out her cellphone and flicked through her messages. “You hear that they’re still looking for the guy who shot old Marshall?” She picked at her tooth. Shouldn’t have had a burger for breakfast. “Who’d care about him enough to pull a trigger?”
Tracy slopped a load of stuff on the inmate who yelped. “I said, don’t squeal.” She slapped her across the head. “I have a hangover as it is.”
Val snorted. Yeah, Tracy got around the prison more than she did. Like she could call anyone else slapper? Most of the guys over in main prison had a running score on her. She smirked. Bet she was feisty.
“What are you smirking at?” Tracy glared at her.
“Nothin’.” She went back to her phone. “Police are saying that someone was seen leaving the house… like the Stanfords can see past their noses let alone as far as the road.” She yawned, then belched. Onions. Nice. “Billy from the main prison said that the police are saying it was a woman.”
“Val. I couldn’t give a crap about some old bloke on a farm.” Tracy yanked out a load of needles and whatever the stuff was on the side. Looked like string. “I don’t care what Billy thinks, and if a woman wanted to shoot the fool, then good on her.”
Val raised her eyebrows. “You should take Aspirin for that headache.” Tracy was prickly most days but she looked more sour-faced than normal.
Tracy stopped from threading her needle and wagged it. “Do you want me to sew your mouth shut?”
Val held up her hands. “Didn’t think you were supposed to do that stuff. Thought the doc was meant to.”
Tracy narrowed her eyes at the inmate. “She is but, as you can see, the doctor has more important things to do than fix up some stupid gash.” She jabbed the needle into the inmates cheek. “If I do it wrong, she can just cut it open and start again.”
The inmate’s eyes widened.
Tracy clamped their shoulder with her hand. “Move and I’ll sew your eye shut.”
Val snorted. “Where is the doc?”
Tracy sewed up the wound. “Exactly.”
Susan pulled on her shoes and shot a smile over her shoulder as Frei stretched and sat up against the pillows. She should really feel guilty about not answering Llys’ text when she was hard at work on a double shift, but she didn’t. The only thing she felt was smug.
“Why don’t I drive you to the clinic?” Frei whispered, her eyes brighter in the streaming sunlight through the window. It was a motel room of all places. Hardly romantic but she didn’t care. “We can fix the issue in Serenity remotely.”
“We had this argument already.” She stood up and brushed down her skirt. Crumpled. She should go home and change that first.
“Yes. You seduced me as a distraction.” Frei’s eyes softened. It hadn’t taken a lot of convincing. It hadn’t even taken whiskey. Just a kiss and she unraveled.
“No, I seduced you because I love you.” She leaned over and kissed her. “And I’m still going to work.”
Frei pulled the bedsheet up and folded her arms across her chest. “Then how do you call it love when you want me to watch you hurt yourself?”
“I want you to let me fix something personal. Then I want you to let me look after you.” She sighed and picked up her handbag. “Just like I don’t ask questions when you disappear. I trust you to come back.”
“I’m an agent. I carry a gun.” She got out of bed and pulled Susan around to face her. “You don’t even know who’s pointing the gun at you.”
Susan smiled. Far too pleasant a view.
Frei lifted her chin and narrowed her eyes. “It doesn’t matter how many times you seduce me, I’m still going to protest.”
That sharp blunt tone was gone. It had faded into a warm soft sound full of a beautiful lilt, a foreign lilt. “Ursula, I don’t know who you are. Unless you want to answer my questions, don’t ask any of me.”
“I told you who I am.” Frei scowled, her white blonde eyebrows almost translucent in the sun.
“Yes, you did but the person you showed me last night didn’t match up.” She leaned in and kissed her again. Frei made it far too easy to just stay in the motel room. “And it… it changed something.”
“What?” Frei studied her, eyes glinting, shoulders hitched. Was she really scared of rejection? How could she be?
“I love the woman I met in here so much more.” She smothered Frei’s face with kisses until she chuckled. “There, right there, that woman.”
Frei thunked her head to Susan’s shoulder. “You’re not meant to know about her.”
“No… but I do now.” She kissed Frei’s soft earlobe and pushed her back. “And I’m expecting to meet her far more often, especially when I’ve resigned and can spend more time hearing her laugh.”
Frei sighed. “You had better fix it, you’d better get through this…” Her tone was blunt again. “You dare get hurt and…”
“And…?” Susan smiled. Oh she was cute underneath.
Frei growled. “You’ll see me in a bad mood.” She turned and strode off into the shower room.
Susan cocked her head and walked to the shower room door. “Is that your way of telling me you love me back?”
“Yes.” Frei shoved on the shower, back turned to her. “Go to work.”
Susan snuck in and kissed her between the shoulder blades, squeezed and hurried out to a soft chuckle. Frei loved her back. Homerun.
Susan hurried down the corridor hoping that Llys was in her office and no one was going to catch her before she could sneak to her desk and pretend she’d been doing paperwork.
“Doctor,” Tracy snapped as she headed into the ward. “You forget your watch?”
“Morning, Tracy,” she chimed. Always good to have staff who heckled.
“Morning?” Tracy glared up at her from doing some poor souls blood pressure. The way the poor woman was wincing made it look like her arm was being crushed. “We moved on from morning about two hours ago.”
Was it really that late? She looked down at her watch. Oh well. “I had to do some research.”
Yes, didn’t that make Tracy roll her eyes. “I got here, on time, with a raging hangover.” She scowled. “You just wander in when you feel like it.”
“Yes,” Susan said with a grin. “I’m a doctor. We do it a lot.”
“First time you’ve acted like one in a while.” Tracy pointed to the patient still wincing. “New one, she decided to visit. I had to sew her up. Me. I don’t get paid to sew people.”
Susan raised her eyebrows and examined the stitches. “That’s not bad. I’m not sure she needed twelve but it’ll make it neater I suppose.”
“Blame that on Val. She was nattering on about some bloke getting shot.” The BP machine beeped and she glared up at it. “It’s high. Why?”
“I don’t think she’s doing it on purpose.” Susan smiled down at the poor woman. She didn’t like to think how Tracy and stitches worked. “Did you use local anesthetic?”
“No.” Tracy filled in the chart and shrugged. “I can’t give it and I’m going for tea.” She turned and stomped out of the ward.
“I see you met my delightful staff.” She smiled at the inmate. “Do you need me to give you something for the pain?”
The inmate glanced at the closed door and pulled something from her bra. “Help.”
Susan took it. A note that said. “Ted Stevens. Sick. Meds make me sick.”
“You’re Ted?” She leaned forward and adjusted the BP strap and started the reading again. Too tight and the reading would be high.
The inmate shook her head. She pointed with a shaking finger to “Meds make me sick.”
“So Ted gave you the medication?” She asked.
The inmate nodded. “Help.”
“Do you know what it is?” She looked up at the BP monitor which beeped. Low BP, far too low.
The inmate reached in her bra again and handed her a handful of mashed tablets.
The guards were on form with their searches today it seemed… or… “That’s why you cut your head?”
The inmate nodded.
“Why did you think I could help?” She studied the inmate. She looked withered, exhausted, some definite neurological symptoms if the bobbing head was anything to go by.
“Corporal.” The inmate spluttered it out.
Susan frowned. “You know her?”
The inmate nodded.
“Then you must keep this to yourself.” She took the tablets. “I’ll run these. Just rest now. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
The inmate winced and lay back into the pillows and Susan hurried into her office and pulled out her phone.
“You’ve decided to resign?” Frei asked, her tone the usual blunt sound. Hadn’t taken her long to pile back on the armor then.
“No. I have medication I need you to run… and could you run a search on Ted Stevens. He may be a doctor or not, but he’s giving out medication.” She chewed on her lip and covered her mouth with her hand. “My mother sent someone my way.”
“How do you know it’s her?” Frei grunted, yet she was tapping. Must be checking.
“She knows her name in here.” Susan stopped. Footsteps in the ward. “I have to go, text me.” She shoved her phone in her pocket, the meds in a sample bag and shoved them in her handbag.
“Doctor?” Tracy shoved her head around the door. “Are we running the usual list today or are you slacking on that too?”
Susan put her bag in her bottom drawer and locked it then shrugged on her lab coat and hung the stethoscope around her neck. “Happy now?”
“Happy?” Tracy rubbed at her head. “There’s too much pain in here for that kind of crap.”
Susan raised an eyebrow. “Alcohol does do that to you.”
“Yes.” Tracy narrowed her eyes. “You know that better than anyone.”
“Ooh, you are in a lovely mood.” She chuckled. She was usually still too drunk to have a hangover. Then again, she hadn’t realized she’d been on medication. “You’ll feel better when I tell you to run a batch of bloods on our inmate.”
Tracy pursed her lips. “Don’t blame me if she squeals.” She slammed the door.
Susan perched on her desk and picked up her first file. Business as usual then.
Frei strode from the car, the sun warm on her face. Renee leaned against the fence in the clearing with a scowl dipping below the rim of her sunglasses.
“Susan didn’t call back,” she muttered and flicked her hand through her blonde hair. “I don’t know where she was. I’m on a late lunch.” She snapped a blade of overgrown grass fluttering against her cheek. “I called you… and you didn’t call back either.”
“No.” She stared at the greenery. It was odd to think that just through the woodland, over a brook, the gray stone of Serenity blotted the vista. “She’s sent me the name of a doctor. Ted Stevens. From the vague stories I could find, Stevens was a British hematologist who was a high-flyer, young, got struck off for missing a basic condition and tried covering it up.”
“What does Stevens have to do with her not answering her phone?” Renee snapped off another blade of grass and fiddled with it. She liked to do the same with her trash too. She’d make all kinds of shapes with it.
“I followed the trail to California. Stevens fell off the grid there.” Frei leaned her head back to enjoy the sunshine.
“Helpful, as usual.” Renee pursed her lips and twisted the blade of grass more tightly. “Why are you telling me about Stevens?”
“Susan thinks Stevens is the one experimenting on the patients.” She flicked out her phone. Susan was convinced of it. Why? Yes, someone claiming to be her mother had smuggled in the patient but how could they be sure. All they had were Susan’s unreliable memories.
“I think Susan is unstable and needs to be pulled out before she hurts herself or someone else.” Renee put her hands on her hips. “Urs, the woman has more mental health issues than the inmates. She thinks she remembers these things but she can’t remember having a conversation with me most of the time, with or without that medication.”
“I agree.” And it hurt to say it. Personally she believed Susan. She trusted her memory but professionally, what could she say? Renee was being logical. Susan had been fed experimental medication since she was small. Gossett Senior had manipulated her thought process under the medication. Yes, she’d been in the archives and found some file, yes that file seemed to tell them a lot but only Susan could read it. So could she really read it or was she just experiencing some delusion?
“So why aren’t we pulling her out?” Renee peered over her sunglasses. “Why isn’t she on her way to some location with a new identity.”
“I’ll talk to Lilia. It’s her call.” Frei flicked through her messages. Susan’s patient was having complications of some sort. She needed the results quickly. “Until then. I need you to take the medication off her somehow and get it to me.”
Renee raised her eyebrows. “I’m an agent not a locksmith.”
Frei smiled. “Fine… Susan will get them to me.” She eased her shoulders back. “Update on Lorelei?”
“I sent an appointment letter. She’s supposed to meet me for an update in a few days.” Renee sighed and shoved her sunglasses back up. “I don’t know. All the press about her being released… it was brutal.”
“You’re not supposed to check up on your POI once they’ve been helped.” Frei folded her arms. Yes, if only she took her own advice. “And you can’t become emotionally involved.”
Renee glared at her. “I am not emotionally anything. I’m doing my job.”
Hmmm. Defensive for someone so innocent. “I’ll talk to Lilia. Keep an eye on her in the institution.”
“And what about the little problem with the police?” Renee threw her hands in the air. “I’ve been questioned twice. As if they could tell I’m lying through my teeth.” She wagged her finger. “It’s an insult.”
“Unless they have her on camera?” Frei pulled off her aviators and tapped them to her lip. “I’ll hack the department.”
Renee raised an eyebrow. “You haven’t already?” She rolled her eyes. “I’ve been working my ass off, double shifts, keeping a watch on the wandering one and you, you’re just working out.” She turned and limped to the car. “You owe me a drink for that.”
“You can handle the hangover,” she shot back and strolled to her car.
“Hah!” Renee got in and revved her pathetic excuse for an engine.
Frei roared her engine to life and slid on her aviators.
Renee scowled and sped off. Why bother? Renee’s car could only manage zero to a hundred in ten seconds. She slammed her foot to the floor and shot past her. Yeah, her baby did twice that. She leaned back into the seat and grinned. Oh yeah.
Susan pinched the bridge of her nose as she read the latest kidney function test from her inmate. So far the only identification she could get was a mumbled response that sounded like Floss. That’s what Susan was going with, and Floss’s kidney function was at thirty percent.
The bloods were normal other than the kidney function, no traces of acute kidney injury, no reason why the kidneys would be suffering so badly. She’d run an ultrasound and they looked fine. She didn’t want to resort to more invasive until she knew what the medication was. She picked up the blood count again. The B12 was… fifty? She shook her head. Why wasn’t it highlighted? Severely deficient should be in read with an asterisk not in black. Must be the deficiency. It caused neurological issues, oxygen to organs, like with the others. Aeron wasn’t in the institution to take a blood sample and convert it. No, she’d have to try something else. She injected her with B12… she only hoped it would work.
Three hours later, she scowled at the lab report. After injecting her the numbers should have soared but no, the B12 level was now forty. Why wasn’t it working?
L.A – Her practice was busy but she was so exhausted. She ran her own tests and just could not raise her B12 even with injections. She needed extra help. The office of the hematologist was bland, boring, the usual no nonsense décor of a busy physician.
“Doctor Gossett,” the doctor said. “Come in. I had the chance to evaluate your lab results.”
Susan blinked away the memory. She’d been through it too? It was when she had a convertible. She changed that when she started having an affair with her patient—less easy to spot. So it was before. So how had she raised it?
“Doctor Gossett,” a man snapped in a rough voice. Sounded half-drunk.
She turned and peered at the sweaty looking man in front of her. “And you are?”
“Detective Evans.” He flashed his badge, attached to the inside of his jacket. Sweaty armpits. Very nice. “I’ve been trying to contact you.”
“I’m a busy doctor, Detective and my patient needs my full attention.” She went back to the bloods. Hopefully he’d thrown himself out.
“I need to ask you a few questions.” He stomped up to her.
“Then do but don’t expect me to answer.” She walked over to the cabinet and drew another dose of B12 up. She held up the needle and he winced. Ah, the sight of a nice sharp needle could always sort the detectives from the dropouts. “Fire away.”
“I need to know where you were between the hours of eight and ten pm a week ago.” He pulled out his notebook and mumbled some date.
“I’d have to consult my diary.” She gave Floss another dose. If that didn’t work, she’d have to think about an infusion.
“You don’t remember?” He scowled at her.
She pulled the needle out and swiped it through the air. He jumped. “No. I have slept since then.”
“Where is your diary?” He scuttled out of the way as she strode at him and over to the sharps bin.
“On my phone in my pocket. However, I’m a little bit busy right now.” She walked back to Floss and pulled out the reflex hammer. She tapped the knees. Brisk and then some. She tapped the heels. Nothing. “Sub-acute degeneration of the spinal cord.”
The detective winced again. “I need to know.”
She glared at him. “Is this the same silly conversation I had with your colleagues?” She fixed him with her best doctor’s stare. “They showed up at my house asking questions before. I believe I told them where I was and so did the two women present?”
He nodded. “Yes, they did confirm you were talking to them.” He went back to his notes. “Doctor Llys?”
“Then why are you asking me again?” She would have to get the medication analyzed soon. The BP was low but it was lowering. It would affect the heart.
“Because we have a contradictory witness account.” He cleared his throat. “And I happen to believe them.”
She laughed. “Good for you.” She wrote down her notes. The night-shirt nurse strode in with a stern face. “I want you to escort this gentleman out of my ward, then I want you to run this to the lab.”
The nurse nodded. “Yes, doctor.” She stepped in front of the detective. “The doctor needs to work now, thank you.”
He scowled. “I’m not done with my questions.”
The nurse tutted. “Well, the doctor is and, in this ward, she is more important than you.” She barged him out of the door and Susan chewed on her lip. She was in trouble, she could hear by his tone. He had something on her. She smiled at Floss, hoping it was reassuring. She may be in trouble but she was a doctor first.