Mercy & Mayhem: A Mercy Mares Cozy Mystery (15 page)

BOOK: Mercy & Mayhem: A Mercy Mares Cozy Mystery
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I did as she said and waited. My ex-husband's familiar baritone voice rang out, singing my favorite Christmas carol, Little Drummer Boy, with Diana jumping in on mezzo soprano. I cried like a baby as I listened to them sing in between their own tears.



              “Whoa! What are you doing here? I thought you were off tonight?” Tina and I reached the time clock at the same time.


“I was supposed to be off, then, Stacy called me and said that someone called off, so here I am – no sleep and all. Merry Christmas!” I rolled my eyes.


“You can't work on no sleep. What are they trying to do – kill you?” Tina shook her head. “Well, after tonight, I'm off for two days, but I'm hoping someone calls off, so I can get the overtime hours.” Tina showed me her crossed fingers.


Having to come into work again made me more miserable than I already was. I missed my daughter. I missed my house. I missed my relatively quiet, yet utterly fulfilling life. I guess, working on the holidays will do that to someone. I'd spent my whole career working on holidays because in my profession, there's never truly a day off. There are just a few measly hours in between the shift you just survived and the next shift. That's just the way things worked and, quite frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way, except for I could do without the being accused of murder thing. Yeah, that wasn't working for me, but I digress.


“How was your Christmas?” I asked Tina as we paused to drop our snow gear off in our lockers.


Her eyes lit up as she told me about all of the cute things her little boy did. I could see the love in her eyes for him. Something told me that she was a fantastic mother. I could feel it in my bones. That little boy was lucky to have her.


Noticing that her standoffish behavior from the night we'd worked together previously had disappeared, I asked, “So, how are things with you? Are you doing okay? You just seemed a little off the other day.”


She paused for a second, her body going rigid. I swallowed hard, waiting to hear bad news, as a flicker of an emotion I didn't quite recognize shone on her face. She grinned and answered, “Yeah, sorry about that. I'm fine. Sometimes life just gets to me, you know. I didn't mean to be rude or anything. I'm better now.”


I understood how tough it must have been for her to be a young mom and trying to build a new, better life for herself and her child. I reached out to her, putting my hand on her arm and said, “Honey, if you ever need to talk or anything, you can call me. I don't know much. I don't have all the answers, but I'd be happy to listen. Sometimes, you just need to vent and that's okay.”


Tears welled in her eyes. My heart ached for her and whatever it was she wasn't ready to share with me. She blinked the tears away and thanked me before jumping onto the next subject. “I think Vicky will be working with us tonight. I saw her car in the parking lot. It will be nice to have some extra hands for a change.”


I wracked my brain trying to put a face to the name, but I couldn't remember which aide was Vicky. I must have made a funny face because Tina started laughing.


“I never said my memory was very good.” I nudged her gently. “She was working on my first day, right?” I hoped I had that right because I desperately wanted to speak to the aides from that day.


Tina nodded. “Yes, she was here. She was the reason that Nubbin got all riled up that day. She was trying to give him his medications and called him 'honey' and he got offended and went into a long, very loud speech about how much he hated to be called anything but handsome or Nubbin.”


I had to laugh. Nubbin was a character, indeed.


I asked, “How did he end up on top of the lift, swinging his cane at people?”


We'd reached the hallway leading to our unit and Tina stopped, saying, “Now, that was all Kathy. It was her fault. She can't seem to get along with too many people. First, there's the issue, she had with Rowdy and Betty. Next, she had issues with Milton, but of course, she blamed all of that on them because she can do no wrong. The thing with Nubbin happened because she's just plain rude and condescending and Nubbin has had enough of it. He eggs her on though. Have you seen the faces he makes when she walks by him?”


I shook my head. I'd seen him make plenty of faces, but never really considered that he only did that in front of certain audiences.


“He calls her a thief. I don't know what happened exactly, but the story is that after she got transferred to the dementia unit, things started coming up missing from the resident's rooms. At first, no one really paid too much attention because it is a dementia unit and memories are impaired, obviously, but then we had a unit meeting with the nurse manager and she reminded us that not everyone on the unit is completely impaired and some – the spouses – didn't have dementia at all. They were just here because the couples wanted to remain together. Well, when you take that into account...” Her voice trailed off as the revelation hit me. I started to pace to make sense of it all.


“Nubbin and Betty don't have dementia?” I couldn't believe it. If that were true, then, all that they'd been trying to tell me might actually be true.

Chapter Fifteen

              I opened the doors to the dementia unit, only to be met with four sets of scowling eyes directed at me.
Why did I agree to work tonight?


The corner's of Kathy's lips quirked up as I stared back at them, unable to move. Tina caught the doors with her foot so that they wouldn't slam in my face.


“They're here for you,” Kathy announced, a broad smile forming across her face.


I looked at the other three faces again, fighting the urge to run and never return here again, but somewhere in the back of my mind, a small fragment of my rational mind, reminded me that running away would make me look more guilty than they already believed I was. Instead, I remained frozen. Every last ounce of courage I had, seemed to drain away as I took in their faces.


Sheriff Wagner stepped forward, grasping my shoulder to usher me into the unit. The other two men followed behind us. I listened to the sounds of their feet hitting the ground as if my life depended on it and I think it did.


One footstep, hit the tile floor between the dining area and the office. I glanced down, noticing the white shoes.
Such an odd color choice for a man's shoe
, I thought. I couldn't recall anyone outside of preacher's and elderly men in Florida wearing white shoes. I fixated on his shoes. I don't know why. It seemed prudent at the time. If I just focused on his shoes, all of whatever else this was, wouldn't be real.


“Sit down, Mercy. You look like you've seen a ghost.” Sheriff Wagner said.


I took a seat at the desk, noticing a pair of nurse's shoes standing next to the gentleman with the white shoes.


Why was Kathy in here too? What did she have to do with any of this? If anything, someone should have been having this conversation with her. She was the one that seemed to have a grudge with everyone around here.


A voice I didn't recognize began to speak, his tone was gruff. “Do you always go around stealing from the people you're paid to care for?”


Stealing? What was he talking about? I thought this was another attempt to frame me for murder. Now, they think I'm a thief?


“I've never stolen anything in my life! What are you talking about?” I looked up and suddenly remembered where I'd seen the man with the white shoes before. “I know you. I mean, I've seen you before. You were at the diner a couple of days ago and...” A flood of recent memories came back to me. “Wait, you were the one with Jeb at the diner when I first arrived in town. I remember you and those shoes!” I pointed at the white shoes.


He shook his head. “I have no idea what you're talking about. I'm Pug Kale, the Knott family attorney.”


“Pug? Like a dog? Like Barney?” I pointed into the dining room at the ever-lazy dog.


He blushed, answering, “No, um... Paul. My name is Paul, but everyone calls me Pug because...” He stopped again, fidgeting with his tie nervously as beads of sweat started to form on his forehead.


What was he so nervous about? I was the one being accused of a crime – again.


The other man spoke up. I'd seen him before too, and had no trouble remembering where I'd seen him. He was the spitting image of his father, Rowdy. He had the same stocky build and the same deep, blue eyes under dark brows and thick lashes. “You stole my father's pocket watch and my mother's ring!”


I gasped, remembering that I'd taken the watch and ring from Betty and Nubbin the other night when they'd revealed that they had used them as a ploy to nab a murderer. If I remembered correctly, they were in my smock pocket. I nonchalantly slid my trembling hand into my pocket and nearly collapsed when I found them underneath my pen, notebook, and hard candy that I kept nearby in case I had a craving for something sweet, which was all the time.


Sheriff Wagner eyed my pocket. “What's in your pocket, Mercy?”


I threw my hands in the air in front of me. “Now, hold on, I didn't steal anything. Betty and Nubbin saw me take them. Well, I took them away from them.” I was so nervous, I had no idea what I was saying. The words just spilled out of me, making the situation worse. I needed air. I needed a sedative. I needed something, but I was trapped in a small office with four bigger than life people, whom all wanted to see me crumble under the pressure.


“You took them from my mother in front of her face?” Betty's son bellowed.


I cringed, his voice was so loud and angry.


Sheriff Wagner stepped in between us. “Wait, Randy. Let's not jump to conclusions here. Let Mercy finish.”


Oh, good heavens, someone had finally come to their senses.


The Sheriff's eyes softened, he leaned down to bring his face even with mine and whispered, “Mercy, tell Randy why you stole his father's pocket watch and his mother's ring.”


What? I thought he was supposed to be helping the situation!


I stammered, completely stymied by what this new allegation meant for me.
"Now, Mercy, I think it's high time you tell us what's going on here," Sheriff Wagner remained in front of me, urging me to confess.


Behind him, Kathy beamed with excitement. This was probably the highlight of her miserable day. I knew from the very first moment I laid eyes on her that she was the kind of woman whom would take pleasure in the suffering of others. It was written all over her face.


I didn't dare look over at Rowdy's son. It would have done me no good. I could feel his threatening eyes burning right through me. He too wanted to see my demise and I couldn't blame him. If someone had been questioned not once, but twice for the murder of someone I loved, I would never be able to stand in the same space with them without giving them a piece of my mind too. I was, after all, the very same woman who witnessed his father's death. That darn pocket watch and ring wasn't helping circumvent the suspicion around me.


Why didn't I turn them in? What was wrong with me? It's like I lost my mind once I stepped foot in this backwards run, completely out of whack facility.


I had to speak up for myself because it was more than a little obvious that present company already had me tarred and feathered. "I didn't steal anything. If you would just let me explain and," I backed my head away from Sheriff Wagner's hot, coffee smelling breath and continued, "I didn't take that watch or ring in the first place. Did you bother to ask Betty how I came into possession of both items? I suppose not." I glared at Kathy and hoped her smug grin would burst into flames. "Nubbin had them."


Randy scoffed at the sound of Nubbin's name. "Nubbin? Schmeckpepper? Why would he have them? My father couldn't stand that loud mouth old fart."


I stood up, nervously adjusting my scrubs as I explained further, hoping the little sting Nubbin and Betty schemed up wouldn't incite a vicious reaction from my accusers. "Well, it seems Betty asked him to help her, so she gave them to him. They were trying to conduct their own investigation of sorts."


"That's ridiculous!" Kathy snorted. "Neither one of the two can remember their names, let alone be able to conduct some kind of investigation into anything. What were they trying to accomplish? It doesn't make any sense. The way Betty cried about that watch and what it meant to her, there's no way that she would hand it over to anyone, much less Nubbin Schmeckpepper. He doesn't have a kind bone in that big old body of his."


How dare she talk about Nubbin that way? Kathy really was a piece of work and had no business working with any of these fine people.


Pug, the attorney, spoke up, agreeing with Kathy." Yes, that makes absolutely no sense. Betty doesn't have the presence of mind to make any menial decisions, let alone make an elaborate decision to trap anyone. What would they have to accomplish?"


I put my hand to my head, feeling a headache in my near future.
Were these people that thick? Rowdy was murdered. Why wouldn't Betty be desperate to find answers?


"You do realize that Betty lost her husband, do you not?" I directed my words to Pug. My senses were screaming at me that he was not to be trusted. I didn't yet know why, but I knew enough from past experiences to know that I should heed the warning. This man was no good.


His eyes turned cold for a moment as he looked at me. His delayed response allowed ample time for the others to turn to him, while he considered his next move. As their heads turned, the cold, dark stare transformed into something a tad bit lighter, but still firm.


I wondered what that was about. The only time I'd ever seen that look on a man's face was the time I inadvertently ran over my neighbor's begonias in a failed attempt to drive a moped I bought for my fortieth birthday, but that's a tale for another day. 


"Do you realize that Betty's husband was murdered right in front of her eyes and no jury would ever believe that she'd give anything so precious away to a man she barely knows?" His eyes were locked on mine, but I wasn't frightened, if that was his intention.


After our momentary standoff, I answered, "Precisely, why she would be willing to do anything to find answers as to what happened. May I ask, why you're here? What does Mr. Knott's pocket watch and Betty's ring have to do with you?" 


Because my senses were on alert, I paid special attention to every tic, every slight movement as we continued our quid pro quo conversation. I watched the involuntary muscle movement in the center of his broad forehead. I'd touched a nerve. His bulging vein remained front and center while our conversation continued. 



"I've already told you. I'm the Knott family attorney and all of Mr. Knott's possessions are my concern, as is the safety and well-being of dear Mrs. Knott." He answered through clenched teeth. Unless he was experiencing acute pain somewhere in his body, I'd hazard a guess to say that he wasn't at all pleased that I questioned him. He'd soon find out that his nonverbal cues were only serving to pique my interest further. I'd seen my fair share of sleuth shows and read enough books in my day to think that I had a pretty good grasp of what to look for in a potential suspect and Pug Kale had just been awarded a not-so-coveted spot on my list of suspects.


I decided to throw another wrench into the conversation in hopes that the three other parties present would begin to question what his involvement was in the Knott's affairs because this man had 'bad guy' written all over him and I couldn't have been the only one around capable of seeing that, even in this town where strangers are deemed dangerous as soon as they pass the 'Welcome' sign on the highway. "Is Jeb Mickelson also concerned with Betty's safety and well being? Is that what you two were discussing at the diner?"


I heard Sheriff Wagner gasp slightly. His back straightened as he listened further. Kathy's eyes in the meantime, were wide, bouncing from my face up to Pug's face. She was having the time of her life. Randy, on the other hand, remained stone faced and angry. He didn't flinch. His eyes were fixated on a spot on the floor. The spot where his father took his last breath.


Interesting. Who showed him where his father died?
My eyes shot to Kathy. It had to be her. I can't see any reason for the sheriff to have felt it necessary to do so. No one else in this room, as far as I knew, had known that Rowdy landed with his head between the printer and the small trash can, but then again, that could have been an educated guess on Randy's part. It's not like there were a whole lot of options in this small room to land face first.


Pug cleared his throat. "Who? Jeb? I don't know a Jeb."


Why was he lying? I saw him with Jeb. He was wearing the same shoes and carrying the same bag.


"You know it was you. Everyone knows everyone around here. You can't tell me that you have never heard of or have seen Jeb before. I don't live here and I've seen him at least a dozen times since I came into town. He works here, for crying out loud." My voice screeched as I spoke. I'd grown tired of the feigned ignorance of the whole lot of them. Just like Tina had mentioned, everyone walked around as if they were all that mattered and any small or large, in Rowdy's case, thing that happened was looked at as being a reflection of them.
Why did no one care that Betty's poor husband, good or bad, lost his life and that someone - not me - should be held accountable for his death?


He shook his head and shrugged, looking at Sheriff Wagner. "I don't really see what any of this has to do with the fact that we caught her red-handed. By golly, she has the pocket watch and ring in her pocket as we speak! There are witnesses to her crime. Why are we still standing here?"

BOOK: Mercy & Mayhem: A Mercy Mares Cozy Mystery
4.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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