Mercy & Mayhem: A Mercy Mares Cozy Mystery (5 page)

 

Within a few minutes, I heard heavy footsteps rushing down the hall toward us. I didn't move until Betty was ready for me to move. Then, Kathy's loud voice, caused both of us to jump.

 

"What is going on here? We need to get her back on the unit. Her family will be here." Then, she looked at Betty, probably to scold her, but stopped herself, when she noticed the tear stained face.

 

I wanted to say something to her about her rude approach, but I bit my tongue, not anxious to get into another heated debate about my place in this facility and who was in charge.

 

Kathy took a deep breath and changed her tone, "What's wrong, honey?"

 

I cleared my throat. Kathy gave a sideways glance.

 

Betty didn't answer her. She addressed me. "Can you take me home now?"

 

I paused to see, unsure of whether or not she was oriented to now or another time, another place, then, she rephrased it.

 

"Can you take me back to my room, Mercy?"

 

I nodded. "Yes, I'd be delighted." I lifted her suitcase in one hand and took her hand with the other and we walked back to the unit. Slowly, but that was okay. If that's what Betty needed, then, that's what I was going to do for her. It was the least I could do.

 

Kathy on the other hand was in a heated rush to get back to the unit and she rudely rushed right passed us, huffing and puffing and left us in the hallway.

 

*

              "Here's how today is going to work." Kathy started as soon as I got Betty settled in and went into the office to get report. "Betty's family will be in and out. She has a son that lives here. He should be here off and on today, while they await the results from the coroner. You can go through charts today and get familiar with care plans and do the rounds. I'll deal with the families and all the administrative work. I'll give you a list of patients to chart on later this afternoon."

 

I was in a state of shock. Kathy almost sounded nice. She wasn't condescending or particularly rude. Had the tides changed?

 

"Oh, and don't go anywhere near Betty's family. The facility administrator is in today too. She said something about wanting to talk to you after lunch." Then, Kathy got up and walked out of the office.

 

Yep, just when I thought she had turned a new leaf, she dropped a bomb on me.

 

I wasn't afraid to talk to the administrator. I just didn't like the tone of that little tidbit of information. Kathy spoke like I was in trouble and I'll swear till the day I die, I did nothing wrong.

 

I looked at the cart carrying residents' charts seated next to Kathy's desk. She had them clearly labeled. A note with my name indicated that three of those charts were for me and the others had sticky notes with her name splattered all over them. It was going to be that kind of day. I loved that she made sure not to give me Betty's chart.

 

I needed to take a deep breath before I dove into my first official duty. As I reached over to grab my first chart, Nubbin's, I noticed something under the desk.

 

That's odd. I didn't notice that yesterday. I sat up straight in my chair to see if anyone was coming my way. No one. Going under the desk, normally wouldn't have been a big deal, but I hadn't forgotten what happened last time I did that. I stood up and checked the door. It was closed, then, got on the floor, right about where I'd found Mr. Knott yesterday.

 

Under the desk, secured to the wall was a small camera.

 

What in the world?

 

I peeked up at the monitors above and didn't see any office view on them and got back down to get closer. A red light was blinking.

 

That thing was on, but what was it recording under a desk?

 

That's kind of creepy if you ask me, but no one was asking me, so I had to get to the bottom of it. I almost reached up to shut it off, but knew better than to touch it and stopped myself.

 

The door opened. I panicked and hit the top of my head on the desk as I was getting up.

 

"What are you doing?" Kathy asked.

 

I peeked up at her, wincing at the throbbing in my head. "I dropped my pen."

 

I threw myself down again and took the pen out of my smock and held it for her to see it.

 

"Okay, get out of there." Kathy tapped her foot. "Betty's son is on his way in. Why don't you go to the aide's desk and study the charts over there, so he won't see you."

 

"You don't want him to see me?" I asked, holding my frustration at bay.

 

She snorted. "No. Not yet. Hopefully, not ever. You see, you don't know these people. Rowdy isn't just some random guy. He has owned and operated his farm here forever and had a lot of clout in local politics. News of his death has spread like wildfire and, now, that there's an autopsy, well, that complicates things. Just stay away."

 

She turned on her heels and walked out, shaking her head at me as I rubbed the sore spot on the top of my head.

 

I sat staring at the camera. It didn't make sense.
Why would someone put a camera there?
I tried real hard to remember if I'd seen it yesterday, but was coming up empty. I'm sure I would have noticed it.

 

Just then, the phone rang. I looked out to see if the Queen Nurse would come running in to answer it, but she was nowhere in sight.

 

"I'll get it." I whispered.

 

I didn't even know what the proper greeting for this place was, so I just answered, "Memory Support Unit. This is Mercy."

 

"Mercy? Good. This is Sheriff Wagner. I'm going to need you to come pay me a visit as soon as possible." I could hear him smiling.

 

"Uh, okay. Why?" I had a sinking feeling in my stomach.

 

"The autopsy results are back. We need to talk." He hung up before I had a chance to ask any more questions.

 

What was he talking about? Why did he need to talk to me?

 

I sat with the phone still in my hand, trying to control my breathing. I felt like my world had come crashing down, but I didn't know why.

 

I didn't even notice Kathy coming in.

 

"Mercedes," she started. "Betty's son is here. He said the coroner says Rowdy was poisoned."

Chapter Five

              “Well, this is awkward. Can't say this was on my 'do before I die' list.” The receptionist didn't see the humor in my comment, but I needed to say something to try and calm my nerves. Being asked to visit the Sheriff's office wasn't exactly high on my list of favorite things.

 

The receptionist's tired, brown eyes stared blankly at me. “Sit down over there. Sheriff Wagner will come and get you when he's ready for you.”

 

“Great! Thanks!” I turned around, disgusted by the state of the waiting room. It looked like something I'd seen grow in a petri dish. There wasn't a surface in sight that I felt comfortable enough to stand next to, let alone touch. “I'll stand, thank you.”

 

I'd seen my share of whodunit movies and, I had to admit, this place ranked right up there with dark, dank, and dingy police stations and I didn't like it one bit.

 

I heard heavy footsteps approach the security door. My heart started racing. Even though I'd done nothing wrong, my job – my career – were on the line.

 

“Mercy,” Sheriff Wagner nodded at me.

 

“Um... Hi?” I couldn't hide my fear. This was my worst nightmare come true. “How are you?” I extended my hand, the shaking clearly evident.

 

“Too much coffee today?” Sheriff Wagner asked, pointing to my trembling limb.

 

“This isn't exactly my idea of a fun time.” I answered, trying to sound funny, but failing miserably judging by the lack of laughter my comment elicited.

 

All eyes were on us as we walked through the small office area, filled with officers and support staff studying my every move, as if they had to commit my face to memory. I could see it now. My face would be plastered all over signs at the entrance of town, warning people to steer clear of me and my out-of-towner ways.

 

“Thanks for coming in to see me on such short notice,” Sheriff Wagner said, motioning for me to take a seat in his office.

 

“Well, you did sort of force my hand there, Sheriff.”
There I went again, saying the wrong thing.

 

He took his seat, pulling himself snugly against the desk, and looked me directly in the eyes with a mixture of pity and disapproval. “So, Mrs. Mares, why did you choose this assignment?”

 

“Because I have bills to pay and I'm no fool,” I answered, quickly, not taking into consideration how bad that would sound.

 

His eyebrows quirked up as he began taking copious notes. I spent enough time trying to decipher a plethora of doctor's orders and make out what their scribbled notes said to have perfected the art of reading upside down and sideways. He jotted down my name and the words 'smart mouth' next to it.

 

I needed to redeem myself before this conversation went any further south. “I mean, I was assigned and there aren't too many jobs that I refuse. I signed up for this kind of job and I work really hard to do my best each and every day, so it is rare that I refuse an assignment.”

 

He wrote another couple of notes. By all accounts, it looked like he was making a grocery list.

 

“The job must be tough.” He said, looking back up at me.

 

When he didn't elaborate, I said what I could to break the silence. “Yes, it can be tough, but I love it.”

 

“What is the best part of your job?” He asked.

 

“Um... This kind of sounds like a job interview.”
Why couldn't I just stop talking?
“I love helping people. The best part is getting to know and work with new people all the time.”

 

“New people. A different town every week, right? No real connections with people. I get it. What a life, right?”

 

I didn't like where this line of questioning was going. He was twisting my words, making me sound like I had something to hide.

 

“No, that's not what I meant. I do it because...” I started, but he stopped me by placing his hands in the air.

 

“No, I'm just trying to make sure that I understand here. Isn't that what you said? You enjoy meeting new people every week?” Sheriff Wagner feigned a smile like we were just two folks having a friendly conversation and none of it mattered.

 

“No, it's not every week. Each location is different. Sometimes its a week, but sometimes it's much longer than that. I form relationships with people. That's what I like about the job. I love people. All people!” I was having heart palpitations. This interview wasn't going well for me.

 

Sheriff Wagner leaned forward on the desk, clasping his hands in front of his face, waiting for me to elaborate.

 

“I'm sorry. I'm nervous and I'm probably not explaining myself right.” I offered.

 

Grabbing the pen in his hand again, Sheriff Wagner started doodling on the page in front of him.
Was I doing that badly?

 

After a moment of him focusing on the gibberish he was writing, he looked up at me again. This time, smiling, he said, “Look, just relax. This is easy. You haven't done anything wrong, right? We are just having a conversation. No big deal.”

 

Sure, no big deal for you maybe
, I thought. It wasn't his job on the line.

 

“I'll get you out of here real soon. I just have a few more questions for you. Would that be alright?” Sheriff Wagner asked.

 

He sat back, locking his hands behind his head. “So, tell me what happened after you opened the office door for Rowdy and his wife.”

 

My defenses were up. “Whoa! I never said that. I didn't open the door for them. I told you. I was under the desk, looking for some forms.”

 

He nodded, leaning forward on the desk. “Oh yeah, that's right. Sorry, I forgot. Tell me what happened after that.”

 

“Can I just start from the beginning again? I get the feeling that you may have misunderstood me.” I said.

 

He listened quietly while I explained the whole story in its entirety again. This must have been the fourth time I've told the exact same story.
Why didn't this man believe me?

 

“Sheriff Wagner, do you mind if I ask you a question?” I thought it was worth a shot, if I was going to get my name off the very short list of possible suspects.

 

He nodded, putting his hands down in front of him. “Sure, ask away.”

 

“If Mr. Knott was poisoned, wouldn't that mean that whatever happened didn't happen at the nursing home? I mean, he was there to pick his wife up for breakfast. He'd only been there a few minutes. No one had any time to have done anything to him.”

 

He considered for a moment. I thought my argument was sound, but as I watched his expression change, I realized that I wasn't doing myself any favors.

 

“Ms. Mares, how do you know Rowdy was poisoned?”

 

Was I not supposed to know yet? The question was, how did everyone else except me know that's how he died? Did you have to be in some special club in order to be privy to pertinent information.

 

“They were talking about it when you called me. They said that the autopsy report came back and that it said that Mr. Knott died of poisoning.”

 

Sheriff Wagner didn't seem at all surprised by the fact that others in town already knew the autopsy results. He was more disturbed by the fact that they'd informed me.

 

“Was I not supposed to know?” I asked, wondering what his angle was.

 

He took a deep breath while I began to sweat bullets, questioning whether or not I'd missed an important clue as to what happened.

 

“You know I couldn't have done this, don't you? You see that, right? I mean, what motive would I have?” Now, I was questioning what happened.

 

“Motives? You see, that's what all this reality television does to people. They all think they're the next great detective. They think they can solve cases with no problem. Is that what you think this is? Some reality show or some hoax? Mr. Knott is dead. You're telling me that you have no idea how he ended up that way?” Sheriff Wagner's eyebrows furrowed as he bore his eyes into mine.

 

We sat in silence for a few long seconds while I contemplated quitting my job altogether and finding another line of work.

 

Finally, the Sheriff stood up, offering his hand, “Well, thank you for the chat. Remind me again, how long you'll be with us.”

 

I saw my life flash before my eyes. This man seriously thought I had something to do with Rowdy's death. Now, it was up to me to solve this mystery before this small town pinned his murder on me.

 

*

              Walking in the door for what would be my next shift at Valley took every last ounce of courage I could muster. After being pulled out of here for an interview with the Sheriff, I could guarantee that no one was going to be too thrilled to see my face again.

 

“You can do this.” I told myself, even though I didn't believe it one bit.

 

I hadn't noticed the receptionist when I'd arrived the other day, but now she sat front and center, looking me over like I'd just landed on Earth from somewhere unknown. Figuring she probably hadn't heard about me yet, I waved and offered a friendly smile.

 

“Hi! How are you this morning?” I asked her.

 

My attempt at charming the receptionist failed. No sooner had I gotten the words out of my mouth before she turned her seat completely around and grabbed a phone to make a call.

 

“Okay, then.” I knew when I wasn't wanted. I took a deep breath and proceeded to walk down the hall to the dementia unit. Thankfully, the hall was virtually empty. At this time of day, most residents weren't awake yet and staff would be busy finishing up their shift duties.

 

Opening the door to the dementia unit, I took a deep breath and stepped in as quickly as possible, hoping that this day would be vastly different from my first experience here.

 

“Well, Dodge Charger, where have you been? I've been waiting all day for you!” The sound of Nubbin's voice sent me nearly flying out of my skin. I hadn't seen him when I stepped onto the unit.

 

“Good Morning, Nubbin! How are you this morning?” I was glad for the distraction. It gave me enough time to assess the mood on the unit and to see where my illustrious leader was at the moment.

 

“Still breathing. I don't know for how much longer, but enough for now.” He answered, eyeing the bags I held in my hands.

 

“Well, you sound chipper this morning. Did you sleep well last night?” I asked, still seeing no sign of Kathy or any of the other staff members nearby. They must have been busy helping residents, I figured.

 

“I haven't had a good night's sleep in years. At least, not since I moved into this dump. No one lets people sleep around here, especially with all the murdering and other stuff we have going on here.”

 

“Murdering? Um... Nubbin, who said that anyone was murdered?” I asked, finally seeing one of the nurse's aides down the hall.

 

She looked up at me and immediately turned her head. I guess that made me persona non grata. The sinking feeling that I had from the moment I arrived in this town returned. My stay here wasn't going to end well. I just knew it.

 

Behind me, Kathy's voice startled me. “Are you working or visiting? I'd like to go home.”

 

“Hi, Kathy. You're going home?” I asked. No one informed me that I was supposed to have worked overnight.

 

“Yes, I'd like to go home. Now, are you working or not?” Kathy's attitude was just as charming as it had been when she and I first met. Exasperated, she added, “Look, I got called in to work last night and I can't tell you how grouchy I get when I haven't slept. Now, will you hurry up and get into the office for report, so I can go home?”

 

Nubbin started laughing heartily, amused by our not-so-friendly exchange. “Watch out, you'll end up leaving in a body bag just like Rowdy if you don't start playing nice.” He teased.

 

Kathy scoffed and marched off heading for the office. I took a moment to calm my nerves before I said something that would surely get me fired.

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