H Is For Homicide Page 87

I said, ’’How's Bibianna doing? Has anybody said?’’

He shifted restlessly. ’’Doctor's supposed to show up any minute and talk to us.’’

I had to get him out of there. A color television in the corner, sound off, was tuned to one of those nature films where they show half of one species being eaten by another.

Raymond leaned forward. ’’Jeez, what's taking them so long?’’

’’You want some lunch? Why don't we go down to the coffee shop and find Luis. I'm starving.’’

He hung his head, shaking it, and then looked over at me, his expression bleak. ’’What if she doesn't make it?’’

I bit back a retort. I couldn't think of an answer that didn't seem quarrelsome. I revised my reaction. On reflection, it seemed perfectly in keeping with the depth of his denial that he'd now be worried sick about a woman he'd tried to have assassinated less than twenty-four hours before. If Raymond found out Jimmy Tate was here, he'd bring the whole place down.

I said, ’’We're both going to go crazy if we hang around here. It won't take long. We can grab a quick lunch and come right back up. The doctor might not be back on the ward for an hour.’’

’’You think?’’

’’Come on. Get a cup of coffee, at least.’’

Raymond tossed the magazine aside and got up. We moved into the corridor and he slowed his step. ’’Maybe I should tell the nurse where we are in case he shows.’’

’’Or I can do that if you like. Why don't you go ahead and buzz the elevator for us?’’

Two Hispanic nurses approached from down the corridor.

There was some activity in the hallway and both of us looked over. A doctor appeared from the Rehab wing, heading for ICU. He was wearing a calf-length white duster over a gray suit. He had his full name stitched above his pocket in blue script. A stethoscope coiled up out of his pocket like a length of narrow-gauge garden hose. He was in his fifties with closely clipped gray hair, rimless glasses, and a limp. His right foot was strapped into a walking cast that looked like a ski boot. He noticed my glance and smiled apologetically, though he offered no explanation. I pictured a sports-related mishap, which might have been his hope. He probably tripped on a sprinkler head while he was pinching suckers off his roses. ’’Can I help you folks?’’

Raymond said, ’’I'm here about Bibianna Diaz. Are you the doctor?’’

’’Absolutely. Nice to meet you, Mr. Tate. I'm Dr. Cherbak.’’ He reached out to Raymond and the two of them shook hands. ’’Nurse said you were here. Sorry it took me so long...’’

Raymond's smile slipped a notch. ’’The name is Raymond Maldonado. What's Tate got to do with it?’’

Dr. Cherbak blinked with uncertainty and then checked Bibianna's chart. ’’Sorry. She asked to have her husband notified, and naturally, I thought...’’

From where I stood, I could see the big pink notice reading PC, protective custody, affixed to the front. Raymond seemed to spot it about the same time I did.

’’Her husband?’’ he repeated. He stared at the doctor, who must have realized he'd committed an egregious error.

I touched Raymond's arm, murmuring, ’’Raymond, there's been a misunderstanding, that's all. Maybe she has a head injury. Who knows what she might have said? She might be hallucinating - ’’

Raymond jerked away from my touch. ’’Shut up!’’ he said. And then to the doctor: ’’She told you that? Jimmy Tate's her husband! That's bullshit. I'll rip your f*kin'face off, you say that.’’

The two nurses, in conversation, were suddenly attentive, watching the encounter as if it were a soap opera. I could feel the dread suffuse me like a fever. ’’Let's come back later...’’

’’How's she doing?’’ Raymond asked. He was being pugnacious, jaw working with tension.

’’I'm not at liberty to - ’’

’’I asked you how she's doing. You want to answer me, you kon***?’’

Dr. Cherbak stiffened. ’’I can see I've made a mistake,’’ he said. ’’If you're not related to the patient, I'm limited in the amount of information I can give you...’’

Raymond gave him a push. ’’F*kin'A you made a mistake! I'm going to marry this woman, get it? Me. Raymond Maldonado. You got that straight?’’

Dr. Cherbak turned on his heel and moved toward ICU at a brisk clip, pushing through the double doors. I heard him on the other side. ’’Get Security up here...’’

Raymond banged through the doors after him and grabbed him from behind. ’’Where's Bibianna?’’ he screamed. ’’Where is she?’’

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