Chapter no 40

The Locked Door

The stench of rotting flesh still clings to my car as I drive from the hospital to the outpatient office. I have to drive with all the windows down, but it doesn’t matter. It’s still overwhelming. I spend most of the drive trying not to gag. I’m definitely not about to eat a burrito in my car.

The rest of my morning was hectic after I left the surgical ICU. I was ten minutes late getting to the OR for my surgery, which ended up running long. I spent the rest of the morning playing catch-up. But it was impossible to focus the way I usually do.

Somebody was following me. Somebody planted blood in my basement. Somebody planted a severed hand in my car.

And I have no idea why.

When I park in the lot outside the building, I consider leaving the windows down. But then I remember that the last time I was parked here, my tires got slashed. I don’t want to make it any easier for somebody to have access to my car. So the windows have to go up. I’ll air the car out again tonight.

When I get upstairs to the waiting room, before I can even get to the front desk, a woman jumps up to talk to me. She looks familiar, but it takes a few seconds to place her.

“Mrs. Kellogg,” I say. “How are you doing?”

The older woman smiles at me. That bruise under her left eye has faded since the last time I saw her, when I slipped her that note to ask if she was okay. She looks like a weight has been lifted off her shoulders.

“I’m well, Dr. Davis,” she says. “I came here because I wanted you to know that… well, Arnold passed.”

My mouth feels suddenly dry. This isn’t the kind of news I need right now. “He did?”

“Earlier this week.” Her voice is soft. “He died peacefully in his sleep.

From a heart attack.”

My shoulders sag. A heart attack. A quiet heart attack in his bed. He wasn’t murdered and his hands weren’t sliced off. He died about as peacefully as could be expected. “I’m so sorry to hear that.”

“Yes,” she sighs. “Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for the excellent care you gave him. Obviously, the heart attack had nothing to do with the surgery he had. It’s just one of those things, you know?”

“Right,” I murmur. Although I can’t help but think with everything going on with me, even losing a patient for something that has absolutely nothing to do with me or the surgery they had is not a good thing.

Mrs. Kellogg shakes my hand and then at the last second pulls me in for a hug. Even though she denied it when I asked her the question, I never believed her husband wasn’t the one who gave her that black eye. I bet she’s glad he’s gone.

I approach the desk of the clinic, where Harper is immersed in a phone call. Her eyes dart up when she sees me, and she flashes me a concerned look. As soon as she gets off the phone, she stands up.

“Dr. Davis, are you all right?”

I force a smile. “Yes, I’m fine now. It was just a twenty-four-hour bug.”

Her brows knit together and she picks up a Tupperware container filled with amber liquid and stringy noodles. “I made you chicken noodle soup…”

“Thanks but I’m fine. Really.” I hesitate, wanting to ask her something but not sure if I should. “Hey, Harper, are you able to search the list of patients?”

“Of course I can.”

“By what parameters?”

She grabs her mouse and clicks on the screen. “Whatever you want.

Name, medical record number…”

“Can you search based on age?” She purses her lips. “Age?”

“Like…” I wipe my suddenly sweaty hands on my scrub pants. “Can you search for, say, all female patients under age thirty?”

“Yes.” Harper gives me a curious look. “I think so. Why?”

Because two of my female patients under age thirty have been murdered in the last two weeks. And I’m scared that this isn’t the end.

Most of my patients are older. My list of young female patients can’t possibly be very long. If I called each of them and somehow… I don’t know. I suppose I would seem insane if I warned them that their lives could

be in danger. That’s the sort of behavior that could end up costing me my license. I could try to give the list to Detective Barber, but that would be a privacy violation. So really, there’s not much I could do with that list.

“Never mind,” I mumble.

“Are you sure you’re okay, Dr. Davis?” “Fine. Just peachy.”

I hurry off, grudgingly accepting Harper’s soup and stashing it away in the refrigerator, just to make her happy. Before I can make it to the examining room, Sheila nabs me in the hallway. She links her arm into mine and gives me a stern look. “Nora,” she says. “Are you okay?”

“Oh my God,” I groan. “It was just a little stomach bug. I’m fine.”

She looks me straight in the eyes. “Philip said you’re having legal problems.”

My right hand clenches into a fist. “He told you that?” She nods. “He’s just worried about you.”

“But it wasn’t his place to tell everyone.” My cheeks burn. “Anyway, it’s not true.”

She arches an eyebrow.

“It’s not!” Or at least, I won’t have legal problems unless somebody discovers what’s inside my garbage can. Then I might be in a bit of trouble. “Trust me. Everything is fine. It’s just been a rough week.”

“All right,” Sheila says. “But there’s something else I better warn you about. Ever since Sonny bit the dust, Harper and Philip have been getting pretty cozy.”

I wince. “Great.”

“I talked to him about it, and he feigned innocence, but I don’t buy it.

He’s definitely hitting on her.”

I can’t even deal with this right now. If Philip wants to be a creepy older guy hitting on his twenty-five-year-old receptionist, I’m just going to have to let it happen.

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