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Death of a Ballerina – Part 8 -

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Clary stayed behind as the officers left the room. She checked the Ptocin drip and the baby’s heart rate. “Mrs. Armitage, why are you so opposed to a C-section?” The question slipped out of Clary’s mouth without any censoring. She felt a sudden panic. Normally her questions were carefully worded to be as tactful as possible.

Honey looked at Clary thoughtfully. “Well, it’s not that I’m opposed … exactly. If I have to be cut open in order for Peanut to survive, that doesn’t bother me a bit. But Dr. Johnson said that there were risks either way. And the way that I see it … If they’re both risky, then I’ll try to wait for Alleson as long as I can.”

Clary had suspected this line of thinking when her patient had reacted violently to Dr. Johnson’s suggestion of surgery. Ronnie had nearly passed out as Honey’s face turned red. Her normally happy demeanor had been overpowered by this morning’s anxiety over Alleson. Her shouting had only stopped while she held her breath through a painful contraction. Her emphatic answer had been to forget the C-section. Dr. Johnson had hastily ordered a Ptocin drip instead.

Clary now felt a touch of relief knowing that in an emergency, she would be able to get the patient’s consent for a C-section. However, the weight of her secret prevented her from relaxing. She knew with absolute certainty that Alleson would not be present for the birth of her half brother.
——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——-
The garage door methodically opened allowing Rose to slowly ease her Tahoe into place. Through the window on the kitchen door, she could see her youngest daughter singing into a spatula that seemed to be dotted with chocolate chips.  She was dressed in blue jeans, a black t-shirt and the vintage apron that Rose had ordered for her as a birthday present. Her long blonde hair swished back and forth as she belted out a song with the kitchen radio. Rose smiled at the sight.

She moved around to the passenger’s side of the car to help her weary mother out. The three-hour trip had exhausted the frail woman. Rose grabbed the bags from the back seat and held her mother’s arm as they walked up the three brick steps that led to the kitchen. The garage’s odor made the older woman wrinkle her nose, but the grimace disappeared as soon as the kitchen door opened. The warm scent of homemade cookies filled the room.

Megan spun around in surprise and ran to turn the music down. “Hi Mom. Hi Granma. I saw your note. Did you have a good time shopping?”

“We did.” Rose moved to set her purchases on the entrance table. “How was the slumber party, sweetie?” She tossed her keys into her teacup, which was decorated with pink roses.  The table held two teacups and four coffee mugs. Her husband had invented the system for organizing the family’s keys when their oldest son had started driving.  Each member of the family had chosen a cup to hold their personal key ring, so that cars could be moved easily when needed. Megan’s keys sat next to Rose’s, inside a brown coffee mug that read, “Give me chocolate or give me death.”

“It was fun. I can’t believe we’re all graduating in a few months. Gabby was the first one to turn eighteen. All of us will be eighteen this year, Mom! Well, except Alleson.” Rose watched as Megan frowned and studied the cookies in the oven. She glanced across the room to where Megan’s grandmother had fallen asleep at the kitchen table. Her arms were folded to make a pillow for her head. Megan set the timer on the microwave. “I wonder whatever happened with Alleson. It was the weirdest thing Mom.”

“Hold on a minute Meg. Let me put Granma down for a nap. I’ll be back in a second.” She gently pulled her mother to her feet and held her waist as they shuffled out of the kitchen. Megan turned the radio back up.
——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——-
Several hours later, a heavyset nurse charged down the hall from the Armitage’s room.

“Never seen Dora move so quickly.” Linda was standing behind Clary’s chair. She was one of the three nurses that Clary knew by name and she was speaking out of the side of her mouth, while peering at another patient’s chart. “Must be serious.”

Clary glanced up from her work. “Dr. Anderson!” The nurse called breathlessly as she jogged towards the nurses’ station. “Dr. Anderson you have to come quick!” Dora’s raspy voice now filled the hall, and she turned to jog back to the Armitage room. “The patient is seizing!”

Clary felt the eyes of the nursing staff turn to her and she flushed. Despite her training, she felt ill at ease whenever emergencies placed her in charge.

“Should we call Dr. Johnson?” Clary didn’t see the speaker.  She merely nodded as she grabbed the chart in front of her and chased Dora down the hall.

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Death of a Ballerina -Part 7-

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Clary glared at the officer and at her brother. Then turning, she stalked into the room. There was a silent agreement between the three, that the discovered body should not be mentioned. Mrs. Armitage looked ragged from crying for so long, but she glanced at Clary sympathetically.

“Dr. Anderson, thank you so much for looking out for my health. But I think I’ll feel a whole lot better if I know that someone is out there looking for Alleson. Dr. Johnson already told me that we need to induce the baby right away.” Mrs. Armitage repositioned her ponytail full of black hair, and looked over at the officer in uniform.

He handed her a form attached to a clipboard, along with the pen from his shirt pocket. Nobody spoke for several minutes. Mrs. Armitage balanced the clipboard on top of her belly and studied the boxes. Ronnie glanced nervously at Greg’s black suit and then at the uniformed police officer. The tension in the room grew as the pen scratched over the paper. An IV pump whirred and the fetal heart monitor beeped. Mrs. Armitage groaned during her contractions before politely asking for explanations about various phrases on the form.

As she wrote, Greg weighed out his next course of action. The team from the coroner’s office had just arrived to remove the body.  The option of escorting Ronnie down to identify the body seemed viable. He shook his head at the thought. That would be cruel. The poor guy was expecting all the pain and joy of receiving a new life, but he would forever associate this ordeal with the death of this teenaged girl. Greg decided to wait for the forensics photos to come back. That would give the Armitages some time to bond with their new baby boy, before facing the burden of identifying their dead daughter.

Mrs. Armitage placed the pen on top of the clipboard and raised it in the air for the officer to take. “I hope I spelled everything right. You know, I didn’t even realize that I’d misspelled Alleson’s name on her birth certificate until a few weeks after she’d been born. Her aunt sent an embroidered towel as a baby gift. Spelled it with an ‘i’ instead of an ‘e.’ Not going to make that mistake this time.” She pulled an index card off of the nightstand. “I’ve copied little peanut’s name right out of the baby book.”

Greg glanced at the card and smiled. “Mrs. Armitage, I’d like to speak to anyone who saw your daughter last night. Where should I begin?”

“Before I tell you that, I want to know something.” Honey Armitage squared her shoulders and pushed her belly forward. “You mentioned that you might have a lead on my daughter when you were talking in the hall. What did you find?”

Greg glanced nervously at his sister who had paled. A dispatcher’s voice crackled over the officer’s radio.

“Well, Mrs. Armitage,” he shifted uncomfortably, “her car was towed because it was illegally parked. The guy who owns the towing company is a friend of mine. He called me this morning and I ran her license plates.”
Clary flushed. She was sure that her face would betray the lie, so she turned and pretended to check the fetal monitor readings.

“Well, what does that mean then?” Honey’s face was puckered in confusion. “Has she been kidnapped?” Her forehead wrinkled. “Or maybe … her car was towed and that’s why she never showed up last night?” Tears formed in her eyes. She ducked her head. “She should have called me by now. Why hasn’t she called me? Why hasn’t somebody called me? My … baby … oh … mah babeeee…”

The woman bent over, sobbing and gripping the bed rails in pain. Clary glared at her brother and Officer Davidson. “You’ve taken the report. Now you need to leave. This is not healthy for my patient.” The coldness of the words conveyed the strength of her anger. Greg felt as though he’d been kicked in the stomach.

“Wait. He asked where to look for her.” Honey gulped for breath. “Start with Ms. Broder. She’s Alleson’s dance instructor. The number is in my cell phone.” Mrs. Armitage grimaced in pain as she leaned across the nightstand to reach her purse. Ronnie jumped up to retrieve the oversized handbag for her. His face echoed her worry.

Mrs. Armitage pressed several buttons on her phone and read the number off to Greg. He hastily scribbled the number on the back of the missing person form. A few minutes later, Greg left the room with five more phone numbers. He planned to call Alleson’s friends and her dance teacher before the media storm hit that evening. Before leaving, he discreetly unplugged the TV.

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Death of a Ballerina – Part 6 -

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Greg looked at the ceiling and scratched the back of his head. “So you’re saying that this woman is missing a daughter, who sounds just like our victim, but we can’t interview her until she chunks out the baby?”

The tall doctor shifted in his golf shoes and nodded. “Yes. Her condition seems to be deteriorating rapidly due to the stress. We need to deliver the baby immediately.”

“And how long will that take exactly?” Greg looked down at his watch. It was 2:03pm. Officer Maine had gone in search of hospital surveillance footage. Since Greg had almost completed his investigations training, he was on his own to wrap up the loose ends at the scene.

The doctor peeked at the women’s locker room door to his left. “We already gave her a bag of Ptocin, which will speed things along, but there’s really no way to know. It could be hours. It could be thirty minutes. If she doesn’t make enough progress then we’ll need to do an emergency c-section. But she’s not in favor of that idea so we will wait until it’s absolutely necessary.”

Greg thought for a second before his eyes lit up. “Wait a second. Didn’t you say that she requested a police report a little while ago?”

“Yes.” Dr. Johnson squinted, as if trying to read the hidden meaning behind the question.

“Has anyone come to take her report?” Greg leaned forward in anticipation of the answer.

“Actually, I think that he just arrived.” Dr. Johnson motioned down the hall to an officer standing in front of the Armitage’s room. Clary was guarding the door, and shaking her head.

Greg thanked the doctor for his help, and trotted down the hall. As he walked up, the officer interrupted Clary. “Look, Doctor whatever-your-name-is. I have my orders, and they trump yours.” He slowed his words down as if speaking to a child. “My job is to take a report, and unless you have a justifiable reason why the patient should not make the report, then I have to go get it.”

Greg put a hand on Clary’s rigid shoulder, and she turned in surprise. He recognized the defiant look on her face, and grinned as a childhood memory popped in his mind. A seven-year-old Clary, standing in the doorway of his bedroom was screaming at him for mutilating her Barbie dolls. He had torn several appendages off of the dolls and painted red nail polish in the appropriate places to make the girls wounded from battle. He stopped smiling as he realized that she might actually start screaming again.

“I just spoke with Dr. Johnson, and he explained everything to me.” Greg looked Clary squarely in the eyes, his loud voice bouncing off the pastel green walls. Then turning to the officer, he said, “I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Detective Anderson. Just moved up to investigations.”

The officer looked at the badge and gun hanging from Greg’s black suit pants. He tilted his head thoughtfully, pushed a button on his two-way radio and muttered, “D-26.” Then he extended his hand to Greg and said, “Name’s Davidson. Transferred here from Franklin last year.”

“Is that so? We just lost a guy on C shift to Franklin.” Greg loosened his necktie. “So anyway, this lady in here is missing a daughter. We might have a lead on the case.” He pointed down the hall to the crime scene tape. A look of understanding lit up the officer’s face. Then he frowned.

“So what’s the problem? The lady needs to know, right?” He shrugged and shifted his weight.

“The problem is that the stress of having a daughter who’s missing, “ Clary spat the words out and waved silently towards the end of the hall, knowing full well that the patient and her husband were most likely listening to every word, “has caused her condition to worsen. We are very concerned for the health of the mother and the child.”

The angry words hung in the air for a split second before the door opened and Ronnie stuck his head out in the hall. “S’cuse me folks. My wife was wondering if you’d mind finishing this discussion inside our room. She’s straining to hear everything you say.” He grinned and pulled the door all the way open.

——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——-

The plaza in front of the mall held a beautiful fountain. Rose and her mother stopped to sit on a bench in the warm afternoon sunshine.  Ladies bustled behind them pushing strollers and herding children into the sliding glass doors of various stores. Puffy white clouds dotted the sky and the air held delicious scents from nearby restaurants.  Her mother seemed content to watch the water spilling over the terraces of the fountain, but Rose felt restless. She sorted her shopping bags, and tucked two smaller ones inside the largest.

“Mrs. Clayton?” A timid woman’s voice startled Rose out of her organizational reverie.  She turned to her left to see a woman staring over her head at her mother who continued to stare at the fountains. “Professor Clayton,” the woman ignored Rose and stepped closer with her hand outstretched, “you taught my English class in college. Do you remember me? Mrs. Clayton?”

Rose moved quickly to stand. “Hi. I’m afraid that you’re mistaken about my mother.” Rose shifted as the woman looked at her. “She’s never taught English. In fact, she never went to college either.”

The woman frowned and stepped back. Her pink cardigan set perfectly matched her pink high heels. “She looks just like … Well, my goodness, that’s embarrassing. I’m so sorry.” She tucked a strand of hair behind her ears and stared at Rose’s mother.

Rose smiled. “No problem. I love your earrings. They really catch the light out here.”

“Oh! Thanks. I found them on sale over there last week.” The woman pointed at a small jewelry store as she turned to walk away. “They’re probably even cheaper now.” She pulled her purse in close to her body and ducked through the stream of customers. Rose watched her melt into the crowd and disappear into a large department store.

Sighing, Rose settled down beside her mother again. The lady was mumbling to herself. Rose leaned in to listen to the tumbling words. “An epic of human frailty and dignity … summation of civilization as a whole … influential despite the …” Her eyes were vacant but the rhetoric flowed from a deep recess within her brain. Rose smiled and reached to pat her hand. “I’m glad to know you’re still in there Professor Clayton. I’ve missed you.” She leaned back against the bench and smiled up at the sunny sky.

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Death of a Ballerina -Part 5-

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

“You killed him.” The crazed woman searched the floor as if looking for evidence. She nodded her head, as she crouched in the closet. “That’s why you’re keeping me here. I must be a witness.” She smacked her forehead with the palm of her right hand and lost her balance in the process. She landed on the closet floor and crouched in terror.

Rose sat on the bed after she finished straightening it. The salty tears welled up, stinging her eyes. Despite hundreds of conversations with her mother’s doctors, every fresh taste of insanity felt like a personal blow. She envied her friends who had lost their parents to easy deaths like cancer and heart attacks.

“Why are you keeping me here?” The woman had shifted back into her crouching position. The quick movements did not surprise her daughter. They stared at each other.

“You’re not a prisoner Mama.” Rose hesitated on the word Mama. Sometimes it upset her mother when she realized that she was old enough to have a middle-aged daughter. The woman seemed unruffled this time. Rose pressed on. “Where do you want to go? I’ll take you there myself.”

The woman chewed her bottom lip and rubbed her hands on the carpeted floor. “You’re my daughter then.” She glanced up for a second.

Rose nodded and waited for her mother’s next question. After a few minutes, she looked up again. “You look awful.” Genuine concern showed through the wrinkles of the elderly woman’s face.

Rose gasped and then giggled.  Her merriment seemed out of place against the starkness of the room. She tried to reign in the laughter, which only made her want to burst with it. The air burned in her lungs. Her mother relaxed from her crouch to sit with a bemused expression on her face. For a minute she seemed herself again.

An antique memory washed over Rose. She remembered her mother sitting in a similar position on the living room floor of her childhood home. Her mother’s happiness wafted through the house like a sweet perfume. Wrapping paper had been strewn all over the place. Her dad had smiled behind the 8 mm camcorder and her then teen-aged brother had rolled his eyes. Her mother had always saved the best gifts for last on Christmas morning. She remembered how her hands shook as she unwrapped the present. How many letters had been sent to Santa asking for a talking doll? Underneath the beautiful wrapping paper, she found the doll of her dreams. She ran to her mother squealing with delight.

“You’re right, Mama. I do look awful, and we should go out. Why don’t we fix ourselves up? We can go out to eat. How does that sound?” Rose stood slowly from the bed. The floor creaked as she took a hesitant step towards her mother.

“Sounds like it will take you a lot longer than it will take me.” The gruff voice did not hide the sparkle in her eyes. She reached towards her daughter’s outstretched hand and stood up from the floor. Rose moved to find clothes and underwear for her mother, before excusing herself from the room. She sighed with happiness as she turned on the shower water. Maybe today will be a good day after all.

——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——-

The mall parking lot was packed with cars. Rose maneuvered her large Tahoe into a space at least a hundred yards from the entrance. “Sorry Mama. I forgot about Labor Day sales. Looks like there are lots of people here today.”

Her mother didn’t reply. She had a serene look on her face and she was staring at someone in the parking lot. Rose followed her gaze and saw a young girl struggling to open a stroller while keeping a tight grip on her baby.  The girl’s face had flushed to a deep crimson from the heat of the pavement and embarrassment. Rose examined her mother again and felt confidant that the antipsychotic medicine had kicked in. The doctor had been reluctant to prescribe it, because of the increased risk of stroke, but Rose had been persistent with her requests.  She could see the benefits already, only two weeks later. The medicines allowed her to take her mother out in public without fear of embarrassment.

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Death of a Ballerina – Part 4 -

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

The rest of the morning was a blur for Clary. Between her regular patient load, the demanding questions from the detectives and the endless chatter from the nurses, she felt utterly drained by lunchtime. In fact, she didn’t even realize that she had missed lunch until she checked in on the Armitages. The couple was older than most of her patients and she was under strict orders to keep a close eye on Honey’s progress.

As the door clicked behind her, she pulled the privacy curtain aside to find the couple crying hysterically over bowls of soup. Mr. Armitage was gripping his wife’s hand. Their sobs had drowned out the noise of Clary’s entry, and she paused at the threshold of the room, uncertain as to what she should do. The pale thin man sat on the edge of the bed, tears streaming down his eyes, while his tan wife alternated between heavy gasps for air and heart wrenching sobs. Her black hair had been pulled up in a ponytail and her face was framed with sweaty tendrils. Clary quickly moved around the bed to check the blood pressure readings.

“Oh. Dr. Anderson. I’m so glad you’re here. This can’t be good for the baby. We just found out that …” the woman let out a strangled cry and took a few jerky breaths. “We just found out that our daughter is missing.”

Clary’s mind reeled. The unidentified girl in the locker room rose up before her mind’s eye. She pushed the thought aside and tried to calm her patient. “Okay. Okay. Take a deep breath. This happens all the time. What do you mean she’s missing? How old is she?” Clary’s forehead wrinkled and she turned to scan the readings on the fetal monitor.

“She’s seventeen years old. And she had a dance recital last night. At my appointment yesterday afternoon, Dr. Johnson discovered my pre-eclam-shuh, and decided to admit me to the hospital. I called Alleson and we worked it out over the phone. She was going to drive her little car over to the recital and then afterwards, she was going to come show me her routine. When she didn’t show up last night, I called her cell phone. But she didn’t answer. Ronnie went home to check on her, and the Focus was still gone. It was close to two in the morning when he got back, and I’d already fallen asleep. This morning, when the nurse came in to check on me, I woke him up, and we realized that Alleson had never called us back. We spent the morning calling her friends, and finally the police. They said that they would send an officer up to take a missing person report.”

Clary shuddered as she connected the dots. The monogram on the girl’s bag flashed before her. AMA. She glanced at the urine test results on Mrs. Armitage’s chart, and moved to check her blood pressure by hand. Her eyebrows rose as she measured 168/110. She moved to check the lady’s reflexes, while trying to keep up the conversation. “Mrs. Armitage, how many children do you have?” Clary knew the answer to the question already, because it was written in the chart.

“I have one teenaged daughter. And I had one miscarriage when Alleson was three years old.” The woman grabbed her beach ball sized abdomen and grimaced in pain. Her husband wiped sweat off of his brow. Clary placed a reassuring hand on the hospital gown, feeling the tightness of the contraction. She lifted the gown and adjusted the fetal monitor to locate the baby’s heartbeat.

“They shared the same father. We divorced ten years ago.” Mrs. Armitage looked over at her new husband and smiled weakly. “Ronnie and I wanted to have a child of our own. He has been dying to see his new son. I keep telling him that in three weeks, when the baby won’t stop crying, he’s going to wish he could put him back in here again.”

Clary smiled at the joke, and weighed the options in her mind. She told the Armitages that she needed to consult with Dr. Johnson about the next course of action. The concern in her face was obvious. The couple looked at her nervously. Ronnie licked his lips. “What’s the matter, Doctor?”

“I’m a little concerned about that blood pressure.” She admitted. “I think you might get to hear your son crying sooner than you expected.”

The couple exchanged glances before Ronnie spoke again. “Can we wait for Alleson? She really wanted to be here for this. Maybe she’s just upset because we missed the recital. She probably went to Lilly’s house. We don’t know her phone number.”

Clary looked down at the floor and struggled to keep a poker face. “Let me speak with Dr. Johnson before we make any decisions Mr. Armitage.” She forced a smile and placed the chart back in the slot on the wall. Then moving quickly, she went to page Dr. Johnson.

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Death of a Ballerina -Part 3-

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

A thin crack ran through the corner of the windowpane, but Rose stared through it without noticing. Her knuckles were white as she gripped a dripping plate over the sink full of dishwater. Two birds soared effortlessly across the blue sky. She tried to focus on the plate or the birds. The kitchen radio was blaring out oldies tunes, but her mind kept straying to the sounds coming from her mother’s room. The screams and pitiful cries were heartbreaking.

Experience had been more of a drill sergeant than a teacher as Rose learned to care for her aging mother. A series of strokes had rendered the frail woman paralyzed on the left side of her body. The doctors were excited to see her regaining the use of her limbs after a year’s worth of physical therapy, but Rose was not so hopeful about this new development. Her mother’s mind had been changed permanently. More importantly, her personality had been changed permanently.

Rose sighed. It’s been thirty minutes. I should go check on her again. She rinsed the plate off and stuck in on the drying rack. After tossing the towel back on the counter, she grimly moved up the stairs towards her mother’s room.

The hollow door rattled as she knocked on it and she didn’t bother to wait for an answer. The smell of medicines and mothballs filled the room. Her mother was squatting on the closet floor, hugging her left arm close to her body. She looked up at Rose with horror stricken eyes. “He’s dead. He’s dead. He’s dead.” Her threadbare pajamas hung loosely around her emaciated frame. Her shoulder length gray hair was matted to one side of her head. Rose moved silently to make up her mother’s bed.

——- ——- ——- ——- ——– ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——-
Clary’s voice sounded small in the echoing locker room. Officer Maine stood a few feet away listening to her version of the morning’s events. “After the initial shock had worn off, I realized that there was no blood. It seemed strange to me. Her tights are soaked in urine, which most likely occurred after her death. But the only traces of blood that I could see were at the roots of her hair.”

She gestured towards the crusted blood. “I think that she was yanked from behind at some point.”

Greg cleared his throat. “Did you notice anything odd about the room? Was it the same as usual?”

Clary paused to consider the question. She twirled one of the buttons on her coat. “All four of the bathroom stall doors were open. Usually some of them are open and some are closed in a random sort of way.” She looked around the room. “I noticed that the girl didn’t have a cell phone or a wallet in her bag. She didn’t even have keys or an iPod or anything. Only those clothes and the teddy bear.”

Detective Maine broke in with a raspy voice, “What do you make of this costume? The tutu, the sequins … why would she come to the hospital dressed like that?”

“Most likely someone went into labor, and she hurried away from whatever she was doing. Some kind of performance, I guess … a dance recital, maybe. It’s actually pretty common to see all sorts of costumes and uniforms on this floor. People never seem to have babies when you’d expect them to.” Clary offered a tiny smile. “I’ve seen kids in little league uniforms, a hoop skirted museum tour guide, and even a dancer of a more … um, exotic nature.” Her voice trailed off.

Greg looked at her curiously. “I thought you just started here last week. When did you see all of that?”

“Well, I meant over the past few years. I’ve spent a lot of time on the maternity floor. Just not in this hospital.” She tossed her hair over her shoulder. “And I spent a month here, last October.”

“That’s great.” Officer Maine tapped his pencil against his notepad. “How do you think she got here?”

Clary looked up at him in surprise. “I suppose she came in through the stairwell next door. The nurses claim they never saw her. I don’t know. What do you think?”

Officer Maine smiled. “Well, how trustworthy are the night nurses in your opinion?”

Clary chewed on her lip before answering. “Each night there’s a different group of people. And I haven’t met everyone yet. I’m still getting to know the staff.” She glanced at her fingernails. They were getting too long. “But I can’t imagine a sparkling ballerina walking past the nurses’ station without the hens clucking about it all night. It would have made interesting conversation. Someone would have noticed.”

“She’s right about that, Maine.” Greg’s eyes were bright. “I bet someone saw her coming in the door. A costume like that would be hard to forget.”

“Assuming she came in last night, after regular visiting hours, how would she get here?” Maine had his pencil ready for Clary’s response.

“She would have come in through the emergency department, and then headed towards the main elevators. She probably saw the signs for the stairwell and walked up to the third floor.”

“And then I suppose she just fell over and died?” Maine said sarcastically. He scribbled something illegible in his notepad. “Anderson, make sure the forensics team sweeps the stairwell, before they leave.”

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Death of a Ballerina – Part 2 -

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Tanjia ended her conversation with the dispatcher and snapped the cell phone shut. She glared at the phone before stuffing it back in her pocket. Then turning towards Clary, she said, “The police are on their way. Stupid woman asked if we needed an ambulance. Then she asked if the girl died of natural causes. Where do they get these people?” She shook her head in amazement and examined the ceiling.

Clary turned towards her locker and considered the warm dry scrubs inside. Hesitating, she glanced down at the body. The girl’s stage make-up stood out brightly against the grey-white flesh. Changing in this room didn’t sound very appealing, but a bathroom down the hall would be just fine. She fumbled with the lock, trying to get the combination right on the first try. Tanjia stood with her hand on the doorknob, watching Clary. Her face reflected a certain amount of distrust.

“I’m just getting a change of clothes,” Clary said. She was surprised at how small her voice sounded. After removing the scrubs and tennis shoes, she shoved her purse and umbrella inside. Her fingers slipped and the door slammed shut. The sound echoed through the quiet room, sending chill bumps up her arms.

Both women were visibly relieved to leave the crime scene. They walked together in silence. At the hall’s four-way intersection, Tanjia turned right and moved behind the nurses’ station. Clary listened as she called out the details of the ordeal to the other nurses nearby. She turned left, in a daze and found her way to the visitors’ restroom.
——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——-

Greg Anderson stood in the hall, holding a cup of coffee and imagining the events of the night before. Three forensics experts were inside the locker room processing the scene, and after ten years of experience in law enforcement he knew to stay out of their way. Detective Maine stood nearby, questioning the nurse who had called 911. The stairwell door opened behind Greg, and he reflexively put his hand on his holster as he turned around. His eyes widened in surprise and he let go of his cup of coffee.

Clary paused in the doorway and they stared at each other without speaking. Her long white coat and green scrubs sent a startling revelation through his brain.

“What are you doing here?” He squatted to pick up the coffee cup, and struggled to make sense of her unexpected presence. “The last time I talked to you, back in March, you said you were moving to Florida, right?”

A sigh escaped from Clary’s lips and she shifted her weight awkwardly. “I … well, I lied to you.” She studied the top of her brother’s head as he wiped up the coffee, looking for any thinning of his dark hair. “It seemed the best thing to do at the time. The weekend before match day, you eloped with Regina. Mom told me about it while we were waiting for my match results. I was so numb that I didn’t even hear my name when it was read from the podium. All of my friends were staring at me. It was like a nightmare. That evening when you called, I couldn’t tell you that I’d be living here in Columbia. I wanted to scream at you or throw something. But you just pretended that nothing had happened.”

“Anderson!” Greg was still crouching to wipe up the last of the spilled coffee but he turned in the direction of the greasy senior detective.

“Stop flirting with that pretty doctor.” Maine grinned at Clary. “Do you have any questions for Ms. Williams before she goes home?”

Greg stood up and looked his sister in the eye. “Can we talk about this later? I want to work this out. But I’m on the job right now.”

Clary twirled one of the buttons on her coat. “Yeah. Sure. Let’s talk about it later.” Her hands shook as he walked away. She looked down at the charts in her hands, and struggled to remember where she had been heading when she walked through the stairwell door.

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Death of a Ballerina *the beginning*

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Nickel sized hail stones bounced off of Clary’s yellow umbrella, as she picked her way down the sidewalk in front of the hospital’s employee parking deck. The air vibrated with the rush of steady rain. Her dark slacks rubbed uncomfortably against her skin and cold water squished inside her leather heels. She reached the portico that covered the employee entrance, and stopped breathlessly to collapse the umbrella. Her wet fingers slipped, sending a spray of water at her face. On the other side of the glass door, the security guard suppressed a chuckle and moved quickly to open the door for her.

As the service elevator whined its way up to the third floor, Clary checked her watch and forced herself to relax. Surprisingly, she had arrived for her shift thirty minutes early. She lifted her soggy pant leg before brushing water from the sleeve of her white coat.

It was hard to believe that only one week ago, she’d received her plastic nametag, with Claire Anderson, M.D. printed in large blue letters beneath her picture. Grinning, she recalled her first day on the job. The brand new long white coat felt cumbersome compared to the shorter one that she’d worn in medical school. The buttons were fun to twirl. Her heart had leapt every time someone said, “Doctor Anderson,” while her stomach had filled with butterflies.

At lunchtime, she’d spilled half a plate of spaghetti onto herself. A huge red stain spread over her blouse and onto her pristine white coat. Horrified, she had buttoned the coat to cover the majority of the stain for the rest of the day. A little bleaching had removed the stain but unexpectedly turned the hospital’s emblem from black to peach! She had taken a Sharpie marker to the embroidery, terrified that it would bleed all over the coat. Her hands trembled as she looked at the final result, and she felt a little guilty that she had steadier nerves when closing a patient after surgery. So far, no one had mentioned anything about the coat.

The smell of coffee flooded the hallway as she stepped out of the service elevator. She followed the arrows along the halls, towards Labor and Delivery, and the women’s locker room.

Leaning into a square metal button with her right hip, she parted the L&D doors. A nurse called a cheery “G’morning Dr. Anderson” which made Clary smile, as she dripped past the nurses’ station. She headed towards the women’s locker room, noting that all of Dr. Turner’s patients had been moved to the maternity ward during the night. It was strange to see the hall so empty.

The scream that echoed back to the nurses’ desk was punctuated by the click of the locker room door closing. Clary heard the noise without even realizing that it rose from her own lungs. She stopped screaming suddenly and drew a deep breath of putrid air. Gagging she knelt to check the girl’s pulse, but did not expect to find one. Her fingers felt cold, leathery skin. The girl’s eyes stared lifelessly towards the sink; her head tilted in an unnatural position.

A slender, black nurse burst through the door armed with a fire extinguisher, resulting in a much tinier scream out of Clary. The nurse’s eyes changed from wild fear to horrified emotion as she observed the scene. The fire extinguisher clanged to the floor as she set it aside to find her cell phone. She dialed 911 with shaking fingers and eyed the kneeling doctor suspiciously. Clary heard the faint ringing of the phone and turned back to stare at the victim. The dead teenager wore a white sequined leotard and white tights. She had gray cotton shorts pulled over the tights and rainbow colored leg warmers over her ankles. She wore light pink canvas ballet shoes with elastic straps crisscrossed over the arches of her feet.

The nurse turned away from Clary and the girl. She paced back and forth near the doorway. Her white tennis shoes squeaked from the water dripping off of Clary. Her panicked voice gradually changed into a disdainful tone, as she conversed with the dispatcher.

“No! Yes! Of course she’s dead. I am a registered nurse, for goodness sakes. The doctor just checked her pulse.” The woman threw her left hand in the air as she spoke and flexed her fingers out as far as they would go.

“A routine hospital death? No. This looks like a murder. Why would I call you for a routine hospital death? A teenaged girl, dressed up like a ballerina is dead on the locker room floor.” She rolled her eyes to the ceiling and listened to the dispatcher for a few seconds. Clary could hear scratchy fragments from the cell phone. She looked at the girl’s black hair, slicked up into the traditional ballet bun. Blood had crusted at the roots, as if she’d been snatched from behind. Other than that, there was no blood on the body. The sweetheart neckline of the leotard emphasized prominent blue bruises around the larynx. The girl had obviously been strangled.

The nurse started pacing again, beside the door. She looked up at Clary and mouthed driver’s license while pointing to an overturned canvas tote bag nearby. Clary gingerly stepped over the body, careful not to let the water from her pants touch the girl’s leotard. She unzipped the bag, which had initials monogrammed on the side, and pulled out the contents. A knee length, white tutu, had been folded and placed on top of white satin pointe shoes. Beneath them, lay a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, flip- flops and a teddy bear with a blue bow. Clary searched the bag’s two pockets but only found a hair barrette and a stick of gum. She lifted her hands up and shrugged at the nurse, who returned the gesture with a perfunctory wave.

“Mm hmm. We checked the girl’s bag and didn’t find any ID.” The woman reached behind her chocolate colored ponytail to massage her neck. Then she turned and slowly scanned the room, looking for anything they’d missed. Clary used this moment to squint at the purple letters on the nametag. Since arriving last week, she had met close to forty nurses, but she remembered only two names. This nurse wore tailor-made purple scrubs with white edging. Her nametag perched daintily on her hip at Clary’s eye level. Tanjia Williams. Somehow, Clary doubted she would ever forget that name.

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

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