Thursday, November 15, 2007

Chapter Forty-Five

From his vantage point near the entrance of the hospital, Carl Stone watched the two men walk briskly through the lobby and enter the elevator. He would have known who they were even if they hadn’t been followed though the front door by a crew from Channel 7. Carl didn’t pay any attention to the man near the information desk.

Mosby Ellis had arranged to meet Jerry Benson at the hospital that morning to give him a copy of the sketch he’d done for the cherub tattoo. Benson wanted to compare it to the photograph of the dead girl’s tattoo. He also wanted to talk ask Mosby a few more questions about Lilly’s other clients. Benson didn’t want to alarm Harold, but he was convinced that as long as the killer or killers was on the loose Fanny was in danger. While he waited, Mosby absentmindedly watched people coming and going. There was something familiar about the guy standing by the door. Mosby stared at him, trying to remember where he’d seen him before. Suddenly it dawned on him. He was the young man in the photograph with Lindsey Jaffe. He was almost forty years older, but it was the same man. The same dour expression. There was only one reason for him to be here. Mosby checked his watch. Benson was late. Mosby reached for his cell phone and dialed Benson’s number. The call went directly to voicemail. “Benson!” he whispered into his phone. “He’s here at the hospital. Right here in the lobby. The guy in the picture.”

“The use of cell phones is not allowed, young man.” The surprisingly loud voice white haired attendant at the information desk echoed through the suddenly silent lobby causing Carl Stone looked directly at Mosby. He quickly closed his phone and struggled to regain his composure. Stone’s eyes didn’t waver. He continued to stare directly at Mosby who was certain of one thing. He was looking into the eyes of a killer.

Stone broke his gaze only when Jerry Benson rushed into the lobby. “Sorry to keep you waiting, Mosby. I didn’t expect traffic to be so bad on Saturday morning. Must be the rain.”

Mosby took Benson’s elbow and steered him toward a bench near the gift shop. “Jerry. Don’t look now but Carl Stone is standing over there near the door. The short guy in the dark coat. You remember. He was in that old picture with Jaffe’s father.”

Benson turned his head slowly, in what he hoped was a nonchalant manner, toward the door. “There’s no one there, Mosby. Are you sure it was him?”


They both ran to the door into time to see Carl Stone disappear into a forest of umbrellas.

Ignoring the woman behind the desk, Benson dialed Jacoby’s home number. “Thank God you’re there. Listen. I just saw Carl Stone here at the hospital. Can you arrange for more protection for Fanny Britt? There is only one reason for him to be hanging around here.” He gestured for Mosby to follow him outside. “Yes. It was him. He ran when he noticed us watching him.” He covered the phone and whispered to Mosby “You are positive it was him, right?” Mosby nodded frantically. “Okay. We’ll wait here for you.”

Meanwhile, up in room 411, the Britt family was unaware of the threat four floors below.

“You always wrote on your laptop, Mom. You always said your handwriting was so awful it was a waste of time to write your stories out by hand. Here. Let me plug this in for you.” Peter placed the laptop of his mother’s tray and plugged it in. “Okay. You’re all set.”

Fanny had to admit there was something comforting about running her fingers across the keyboard. “Well, it sure can’t hurt. Thanks, guys. It will help me fill the time until I can get out of here. I told Dr. Broom this morning that I really feel fine. My head doesn’t even hurt anymore. He said he wanted to run a couple of other tests today and if nothing turns up he might be ready to release me as early as tomorrow.” As much as she wanted to get out of the hospital, a part of her was apprehensive about going home with a stranger.

“I made the bed.” Harold couldn’t think of anything else to say. Fanny and Peter looked at him curiously. “When you leave me home alone one of the things you always ask is whether or not I made the bed. I thought you’d want to know that I did.” He smiled sheepishly.

Fanny laughed. It felt so comfortable being with them. If she could only jar her memories free. “You know, last night these faces kept coming to me. No names. Just faces. And then, this morning, these numbers kept coming into my head. I wrote them down. Do any of these mean anything to you?” She held out the pad for Harold to look at.

He looked over the list. Most of them meant nothing. Then a familiar string caught his eye. “Hey. This is your number at the office. This is great. And this one: 30-40-16. I think that’s the combination to your gym lock. You let me borrow it when I lost mine. I’m almost positive that was the combination. This one is the PIN for our checking account.”

“It must be all those soduku puzzles you’re doing all the time, Mom. You’re remembering numeric sequences first.”

“You might be right, Peter.” Dr. Broom had entered the room quietly and was listening from the door. “The memory is a funny thing. In spite of all we have learned about it, we still don’t completely understand how memories are stored and retrieved. My guess is you’re comfortable with numbers – the puzzles might have something to do with that – and your brain is releasing safe memories to you first. Just a guess, but it’s as good as any.” He walked over to the end of the bed and checked her chart. “You’re coming along nicely, Fanny. We’ll have you out of here in no time. I see they brought you the laptop. I don’t see any problem with journaling or whatever you call it…just take it easy. Don’t push too hard.”



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