Three Bedrooms One Corpse Chapter Sixteen


RUBBER SOLES against tile. Trays banging against a metal cart. A voice over a public-address system.

Hospital sounds. I turned my head.

’’You're making a habit of this, Aurora,’’ my mother said sternly. ’’I don't want to get one more call from the hospital in the middle of the night telling me my daughter's been brought in beaten up.’’

’’I promise I won't do it again,’’ I mumbled painfully.

’’For a librarian, you are ... ’’ And her voice faded out. But when I was all there again, it was still going on. ’’John and I are not as young as we were, and we need our sleep, so if you could just get beaten up in the daytime ...’’ She was stomping around verbally, because ladies couldn't just stomp around.

’’Mother. Am I hurt bad?’’

’’You're going to feel terrible for a while, but no, no permanent damage has been done. You may have some scarring around the eyes from the cuts your glasses caused, but it's probably going to fade. By the way, I called Dr. Sheppard this morning to get a new pair made up. They had a record of what frames you ordered the last time, so they'll be just like your other glasses. He promised he'd have them later today. To continue--the muscles and ligaments in your left arm are strained badly, but the bones aren't broken. Your nose, however, is. Your lips are cut and swollen. Your whole face is black and blue. You look like hell on wheels. You have an engagement ring on your left hand.’’

’’... What?’’

’’He came in and put it on this morning--he got it right after the jeweler's opened, he said.’’

I couldn't lift my arm to look. It was taped or bound somehow.

’’You're not supposed to use that arm for a while,’’ Mother said sharply. ’’Wait a minute. I'm going to push the button to raise the head of the bed.’’

I opened my eyes cautiously and saw blurry pale blue walls and my mother's arm. It really was daytime. Then as the angle of the bed moved, I was able to see down without shifting my head, which felt as if it might fall off if I did so. My pale left hand was sticking out of a sling, and on it, sure enough, glittered a diamond bigger than Lizanne's.

Of course he would get one bigger than Lizanne's.

’’Where is he?’’ I mumbled through my swollen lips.

’’He had to stay at the police station this morning, to talk about the man his foreman caught stealing last night, and about--Franklin.’’ My mother's voice said the name reluctantly.

’’There's some doubt about Franklin's bail hearing,’’ she went on more cheerfully, ’’because you hit him hard enough to put him in this hospital--right down the hall, with a policeman in there with him and his arm handcuffed to a bedrail.’’

Franklin's arm, not the policeman's, I assumed.

’’You hit him with a rock, I believe,’’ my mother said remotely.

’’Vases,’’ I said urgently.

’’Yes, they know those are the vases from the Anderton house. The senior Andertons had some pictures taken of their more valuable doodads and stored the pictures in their lockbox, and Mandy just now got around to opening the things she had shipped from Lawrenceton to Los Angeles. When the police here called her about the vases being missing, she mailed the pictures, and they arrived yesterday. There's proof. They'll nail that bastard.’’

I'd never heard my mother say that particular word.

But I wondered if they could find proof to stick the murders to him. Besides what he'd said to me. I would have to appear in court. Again.

I heard a light knock, and my mother called, ’’Come in.’’

’’Oh,’’ she said rather stiffly. ’’All finished at the police station?’’

Martin.

He murmured something to her.

’’I'll just leave for a minute to get a cup of coffee, since you're here,’’ she said with assumed offhandedness.

The door swished again, and I heard him approach the bed. I wiggled the fingers of my left hand, and he laughed.

’’Do you like it?’’ he asked quietly.

He came into my field of blurry vision then. I had a good right hand, and though any movement was not without its cost, I reached out and placed it on his chest. Then I patted my left hand with my right.

’’You're cocky,’’ I mumbled.

This was so romantic.

’’I didn't want to take any chances. For all I knew, the doctor might be a former flame who took this chance to rekindle the relationship.’’

I giggled, which was quite uncomfortable.

’’Roe,’’ he said more seriously, ’’why did you do it? Why did you place yourself in danger like that?’’

I was amazed he didn't know. Somehow, I'd assumed the police would tell him. Of course they wouldn't. I beckoned him to bend over with my good hand, so I wouldn't have to talk as loud.

’’They were going to question you.’’

’’You--’’ He walked away from the bed, stared out the window for a minute, stalked back. ’’You did that because you thought I might be arrested?’’

I nodded. ’’I had it from some reliable sources. I realized at the banquet that Franklin was the killer. No proof.’’

’’You crazy woman! He could have killed you. If I hadn't been able to settle the problem at the plant in record time, get back and read your note, find out where the hell Franklin Farrell lived ... at least I still had the map of Lawrenceton in my glove compartment that the Chamber of Commerce gave me when I moved here. You could still be lying there with him on top of you.’’

I wondered hazily what would have happened. Would he have regained consciousness before I'd managed to crawl out from under him and get to a telephone? I was glad I hadn't had to find out.

Martin was still running on. ’’Did it strike you that I might be able to find the damn vases? Did you think of telling me? I would have broken into his house.’’

And possibly been arrested, and lost his job ...

’’It never occurred to me,’’ I enunciated with some difficulty, ’’to ask you.’’

There was a harder, brisker knock at the door. Martin went to open it.

’’It's the police,’’ he told me more gently. ’’They need a statement about last night.’’

’’If you can stay,’’ I managed to say.

So Martin sat beside me, or stood beside me, or walked around the bed, while I mumbled my story to Lynn Liggett and Paul Allison, whom I remembered to congratulate on his marriage to Sally. He seemed a little surprised and uncomfortable. Lynn treated me like a mental case she'd given up all hope on. I edited Franklin's remarks about Terry and Eileen;no point in dragging their relationship into the limelight because of a chance whim on the part of Franklin Farrell.

Finally the two detectives seemed satisfied, if disgusted, with me, and after telling me ominously she would be talking to me again, Lynn strode out of the room. Paul Allison followed after giving me a hard look and shaking his head.

Martin did his circuit of the room again. I waited for him to calm down.

Another knock, this time perfunctory.

’’Here's your pain medication. Need some?’’ asked a plump nurse with curly silver hair. I was delighted to see her, and the two pills I swallowed had an almost instant effect. Martin had to stomp around some more after she left, while I got drowsier and more comfortable. Everyone seemed quite angry with me today. Finally he came to rest by the bed. My eyes met his. ’’We are going to have to do a lot of talking when you can talk a little better,’’ he said.

We needed a change of topic.

’’Talk about the wedding,’’ I said clearly, and coasted off to sleep.

The End


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