Archive | December 2013

Bad Fall – Part 25

Bad FallFrank and Marka head to breakfast in the cafeteria. On the way, they encounter a couple of elderly ladies who playfully flirt with Frank.

“He’s got some other pretty tasty things,” the first woman said, tickling his ribs.

“That he does,” the second said, pinching his cheek.

“See, I come with their seal of approval.”

“Buy me breakfast and we’ll see.”

Ladies, maybe some other time.” He gave each of them a kiss on the cheek.

“Tease,” they said in chorus. Giggling, they walked outside and down to the lake.

“Did you know them?” Marka asked.

“Never saw either of them before. Total strangers.”

Marka and Frank had a leisurely breakfast with plenty of coffee and headed to the office just before 9:00. When Frank opened his office door, complete chaos greeted him. Everything was thrown around, the computer monitor was smashed, the tower gone. His chair had been torn to shreds, his papers ripped and scattered. The picture of his sister and her boys was smashed, the frame broken beyond repair. The photo itself was shredded with a knife. The photo of him and his parents was stuck to the wall with dozens of staples.

A crowd gathered in the hall behind him, staring over his shoulder. Frank stared a moment longer at the devastation before placing a call to the police.

“Well, shit,” he griped as he looked at the mess.

“Someone sure has a hard-on for you,” Kenny said, peering over his shoulder. “Who’d you piss off?”

“Who knows?” He held up a finger as the police station picked up.

Explaining the problem, he shut and locked his door from the outside. When he’d completed the call, he wandered into Marka’s office and flopped in her chair.

“When did my life get so bloody complicated?”

“Somewhere around the time we met.”

“I refuse to dignify that with a response. You’re the only thing that’s going right.”

“I’m so sorry about what happened. I hate to leave, but I’ve got a class.”

“Go. If you don’t mind, I’m gonna hang out here. I don’t even have a chair.”

“Make yourself at home.” She kissed the top of his head. “I’ll see you in about an hour.”

He nodded. “Thanks.”

Everyone had to come by and bother him while he waited for the police to arrive. They all wanted to give their condolences, like someone had died or something. Mostly, they were curious about the vandalism and all of them speculated as to who it could have been.

The police arrived, this time it was Kenny’s younger brother, James, who responded. “Piss off your new girlfriend?”

“No.” He didn’t bother explaining that Marka wasn’t officially his girlfriend.

“Someone sure hates you.”

“Yeah, I’d love to blame this on Penwarren, but he was already at the hospital when this happened.”

Frank reviewed the night’s events for James, telling him in detail when he’d done things. He even cited times.

“Wow, great report. Sure you’re not a cop?” He winked.

Frank laughed. He, James and Kenny had known one another for years and were close friends.

“Have you got forensics coming over?” Frank asked.

“Yeah, no worries. So, tell me about the woman. Kenny says she’s hot.”

Frank chuckled. “She’s smart and funny too. Did he tell you that?”

“Nope, just she was hot as hell and had a great. . . .”

James stopped chattering when the forensics technician arrived. He knew better than to say what was on his mind in front of her. Frank opened his office and let her in. She took a step into the room, sniffing.

“You got a cat?”

“Nope. Why?”

“You’re not in the habit of pissing on your carpet?”

“Why?”

“Smell that?” She sniffed again, wrinkling her nose.

“That’s piss.” She moved around the room, sniffing, until she found the source. Someone had peed on his chair.
“That’s just sick. Angry woman?”

“Why does everyone assume that? The only woman I’m seeing happens to like me, okay? The others don’t live here.”

“Maybe we’ll get lucky and the DNA is on file. This is gonna take some time,” she said. “Better close the door. But do me a favor, turn on the exhaust?”

Frank showed her how to turn on the wall unit so the smell would get pulled out of the room. She started taking pictures and going through the litter on the floor. James finished talking to Frank and went to get a list of the night staff so he could interview them.

“Can I see you?” Jeff Norton poked his head into Marka’s office.

“Sure.”

“My office.”

© Dellani Oakes

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Bad Fall – Part 24

Bad FallAfter finding Penwarren’s crumpled form, Frank’s ready to crawl into bed and sleep. He’d love to spend more time with Marka, but the last few days have taken their toll. They agree to meet up in the morning for breakfast.

“I’ll meet you in the sitting room at eight?”

“Sounds good. Sleep well.”

He rubbed his hand over his face, scrabbling in his hair. “Not a chance. I’m too keyed up.”

“Take a hot shower.”

“I think I’m more in need of a cold one.”

“You don’t wanna do that. All it does is make you cold and horny. Hot shower and some party music. You’ll be right as rain.”

He looked shocked. “Why, Dr. Ventimiglia, are you telling me to go play with myself?”

Laughing, Marka pushed him toward the door. “Go, Francis. Get some sleep.”

Si, Dottore,” he said in a silly, high pitched voice. He kissed her one last time. “I’m going to sleep,” he whispered. “So I can dream of you.”

He abruptly opened the door and was gone before she could reply. Marka closed the door, leaning her back against it with a happy sigh.

“Me too,” she said to the empty room.

Frank slept far more soundly than he anticipated. He woke a little late, having forgotten to set his alarm when he went to bed. Fortunately, his room had an eastern exposure and the sun woke him. He got a quick shower, shaved and dressed in record time. Today’s suit was navy pinstripe. Partnered with a terracotta shirt, a striped tie in several shades of blue and a coordinating handkerchief, he felt ready to greet the day.

Marka met him in the sitting room in a pair of fawn colored dress slacks, a matching bolero jacket and a tailored blouse that was the exact shade as his shirt. It had a thin honey colored stripe that exactly matched her eyes.

“You look fantastic,” he said, taking her hand and bringing it to his lips.

“I can’t believe we match so well. It’s like we planned it.”

“I don’t think we could have planned it this well.” Giving her his arm, he escorted her to the cafeteria.

Heads turned, watching them as they entered. Marka couldn’t help noticing that conversation stopped as they walked by.

“Does everyone know?” she asked, somewhat daunted by the prospect.

“They think they do.”

“They probably think we spent the night together.”

“Would that be so terrible?”

“No. But I hate being accused of it when I didn’t even get to enjoy myself.”

Frank laughed loudly, making her blush. “I told you, babe, anytime you’re ready.”

She didn’t have a good response. The invitation was there, all she had to do was accept. There was no doubt in her mind that she wanted him as much as he wanted her. Given her past romantic choices, she was somewhat hesitate to give in to her baser urges.

Frank attempted conversation, but Marka gave terse, one or two word answers to his questions. He sensed that she was angry with him for something, but couldn’t figure out what. The only thing that came to mind was his remark about having sex.

“Sorry if I said the wrong thing. I’m a guy. We think in pretty basic terms and sometimes—I’m not always tactful. . . .”

“No, it’s not that.” She put her fingers to his lips. “I really like you. And I’m really attracted. But my last crash and burn, I ignored caution and jumped in both feet first. He ground my heart to hamburger. I can’t handle a repeat.”

“I’d never do that, Marka. I’m not that kind of guy.”

“I know, but. . . .”

“Sometime, I’ll tell you about what happened to me. Maybe then you’ll understand how I could never treat you like that. Meantime, I need a cup of coffee before my head explodes. But first, if I don’t get one of those incredible kisses, other parts of me are gonna go first and then we won’t have any fun at all.”

Marka laughed, tossing her dark hair over her shoulder. When she finally controlled herself, she kissed him. His lips met hers with a spark. His warm breath caressed her cheek.

“Remind me why I’m telling you no,” she murmured.

“You got me, babe.” He spread his arms, shrugging. “Cause you can have this anytime you want.” He tapped his chest, running his hands down his abs as if presenting himself.

Two older women were coming out of the cafeteria when he said that. They stopped to ogle Frank, who looked resplendent in his suit and tie.

“Honey, if you don’t want him, can I have him?” One of the women asked Marka.

“I saw him first,” the other complained.

Frank put his arms around their shoulders. “There’s enough of me to go around. What’s it gonna be, Marka? You and me? Or me and the ladies?”

“I guess I’ll keep you,” Marka said with a heavy sigh. “Sorry, ladies, but he’s got the best lips in town.”

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Bad Fall – Part 23

Frank is talking with the police at the scene where he found Penwarren. The detective in charge is Kathy’s father, Jerry. He casually asks Frank if he has an alibi for the time of the fall. Frank mentions Marka and moments later, Jerry spots her outside.

Bad FallFrank looked behind him and saw Marka outside, waiting for him.
“Yeah. Come meet her.”

Jerry followed him to the door. Frank let them out. He introduced Marka.

“Frank tells me you can vouch for his whereabouts when Penwarren fell?”

Marka glanced at Frank, shock registering in her face. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing serious, Marka,” Frank assured her. “He’s just doing his job.”

“Frank and I had dinner.”

“After dinner?”

“We talked—we kissed. Then Charlie called and said Penwarren had disappeared.”

Jerry jotted down some notes. “Thank you. And after the call, what did you do?”

“I cleaned up. What, am I a suspect now? Frank—”

“I’m sorry, Miss Ventimiglia.”

“Doctor,” she corrected angrily. “Doctor Ventimiglia. I never met the injured man, Detective. Write that in your little book too.” She spun on her heel and stormed off.

“Thanks, Jerry. Way to make me look good with my new woman.”

“Sorry, Frank. Doing the job. It’s dirty, but it’s mine.”

“I understand. Unfortunately, I don’t think the lady does.”

“Unless she has something to hide.”

“Jerry, get real. How would Kathy react if we asked her the same question?”

“No better. What sucks is, I’m gonna have to ask her.”

“Then you’d better bring your steel long johns.”

“She had more motive to hurt him than just about anyone,” Jerry replied.

“I don’t think she’d push a man over a balcony cause he made her scrub the floor. If she was going to kill him, it would make sense to try at the time, not twenty-four hours later.”

“Good point. I think our best lead is that watch. Do you know if Penwarren has any financial problems?”

“Not a clue. My records are of Mabel’s money, not his. But the reason she fell is because he refused to move her to assisted living, saying it cost too much. She had a sinking spell and collapsed on the tile in her kitchen. She’s osteoporotic and shattered her hip.”

“So, he could have problems. I’ll look into it.”

“If you’ll excuse me. I need to check on Marka.”

“Apologize for me?”

“You’ll have to do that yourself. Me, I’m gonna calm her down and then get my ass to bed—my bed, alone. Unfortunately.”

“Good night, Frank. Thanks for your help. You did good, kid.”

“Thanks, Jerry.”

He headed up to Marka’s room. He could hear her banging cabinets and suspected she was crying. He tapped at the door.

“I gave at the office!” She yelled. The door opened anyway. “Sorry. I thought maybe you were that cop again.”

“He apologized for having to ask you that. He really was just doing his job, Marka.”

“I know, but that was the most offensive question I’ve ever been asked. Of course I can’t account for my actions after you left. And he implied that we’d done more than just kiss!”

“Unfortunately, that’s going to happen. And after we kissed in the nursing home. . . .”

“But it was so good. . . .”

“Yeah. Better than good. Fantastic.”

“It makes me wonder what—other things—would be like.”

He moved closer, taking her in his arms. “You can find that out anytime you want.” He tipped her head up with his finger under her chin. “No pushing, no pressure. We take this as slow or as fast as you want.”

Marka smiled, her mouth trying not to turn down at the corners. To keep her from crying, he lowered his lips to hers, kissing her softly. She opened her mouth and he dove in deeper, setting her insides on fire. No man had ever made her feel like he did. Frank was special, wonderful, amazing. Just the sound of his voice made her shiver with delight.

Frank kissed her one last time. Taking a step back, he held her a moment longer, rubbing her arms. “I really need to go.”

Marka nodded, not wanting him to.

“If I stay, we know how this will end. You’re not that kind of woman and I’m not that kind of guy.”

“Too bad,” she whispered.

“Yeah. Well, I want you to still like me in the morning. Want to do breakfast again?”

“Yes. I’ll cook for you.”

“Let’s eat in the cafeteria.”

“You sure? I don’t mind cooking.”

“Do you really think I should be seen coming out of your room in the morning?”

She giggled, shaking her head. “Valid point. Okay.”

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Bad Fall – Part 22

Bad FallWhile he went to talk to Mabel, Frank sent the men to find Vince, the guy standing guard in the hallway. They found him.

Charlie nodded to Penwarren’s room. “Inside. They were having coffee, playing gin rummy. Next thing Vince knows, he’s waking up to my smiling mug. Asshole drugged him so he could sneak out.”

“You can prove it?”

“We found ground up pills in his cup. We left it be.”

“Did you call the cops?”

“Yeah, they’re on the way.”

“And you didn’t call me?”

“You were busy.”

“Busy?”

“You know. With the new girlfriend.”

“She’s not—never mind. How do you even know that?”

“You always kiss a woman who’s not your girlfriend?” He showed a picture someone had snapped.

“Shit! Don’t you all have something better to do than spy on me?”

“What spying? You kissed her in front of God and everyone! It’s a secret?”

“No. But it was just a kiss. That’s all. Don’t get previous.”

“So—no. . . .” He made unmistakable gestures with his flashlight.

“Charlie!” The dangerous tone was back.

“Forget I asked. Would you be so up tight if you had?”

Frank had to laugh. “Hell no. If I’d done all I want to, I’d be comatose.”

The police arrived a few minutes later. Frank met them at the front door. Half of them went with Charlie to Penwarren’s room. The others followed Frank to the stairwell.

“Nothing’s been touched since the ambulance left. I locked it off.” Frank opened the door for them.

“Why would you do a thing like that?” Kathy’s father was heading up the investigation.

“Something didn’t look right to me, Jerry. If he tripped on the stairs, it’s unlikely he’d have made it to the bottom. Surely not where he landed. From up top, if he simply fell over, he’d have landed closer to the balcony. He was pretty far out in the stairwell. On his back.”

“Did you get any pictures?”

“No, sir. I’m sorry. At the time, getting him medical attention was more in my mind. The paramedics can tell you more about his positioning. The blood’s still there.”

One slipper lay on the floor, bearing sad testimony to its owner’s arrival and departure. Blood stained the carpet and the entire area smelled like it. Frank gagged slightly. He opened the outer door for a breath of fresh air. He’d smelled blood before and it dredged up some memories best forgotten.

“Sorry. I’ve seen dead bodies that looked better. It was brutal. I don’t like the guy, but I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”

“He must be a real douche for you not to like him,” the forensics technician said as she went over the area.

“He’s a dick, Cher. In the last twenty-four hours, he’s managed to alienate most of my staff. The only ones he hasn’t are the ones who haven’t met him.”

“You think any of them got mad enough to hurt him?” Jerry asked.

Frank shrugged. “He’s an irritating pimple of a man. I don’t think he made anyone that mad. But I wasn’t around him all day. My encounters with him were less than fun, but he was annoying more than anything.”

“So, no shoving him over the railing?” Jerry was only half kidding.

“You know me better than that. If I was gonna kill someone, I’d shoot him.”

“I have to ask, Frank. You’ve got someone to substantiate. . . .”

“The new psychologist, Marka Ventimiglia, fixed me dinner. About the time that Ralph sneaked out of his room, I was kissing her.”

“She’ll verify that?”

“Yeah. Kinda wanted to shoot the phone when it rang.” He laughed weakly.

“Why was Ralph Penwarren being watched?”

“He’s a pain in the ass, Jerry. He had Sue and Kathy so upset, they were yelling at me in the foyer. You know those two never lose their cool. For them to be that upset, it meant something. I didn’t want to call the police as a courtesy to Mabel. I figured if he’d stay in his room and not cause trouble for the night, maybe I could keep a lid on things. I think he was trying to get to his mother’s room to look around.” He told Jerry how desperate Penwarren had been to to through his mother’s things.

“You still don’t know what’s in there that he was after?”

Frank shook his head. “Mabel doesn’t know. She thought maybe his dad’s watch. I don’t know if it’s even there. She couldn’t remember if she’d put it in the vault or not.”

“Well, we can’t follow up on that until the bank opens. We’ll see her in the morning and get permission to search her room.”

Frank nodded, yawning. He glanced at his watch. It was almost midnight.

“You go on to bed, kid. We’ll handle this. Any questions I have can wait until morning.”

“Thanks, Jerry. I’m gonna go check on Mabel and go to sleep.”

“Not gonna spend time with the new shrink?” Jerry winked at him.

“I met the woman last night. We had dinner, we kissed.”

“Pretty?”

Frank closed his eyes, sighing contentedly. “She’s gorgeous.”

“Dark brown hair? Kinda tall? Knockout figure?”

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Bad Fall – Part 21

Bad FallRalph Penwarren is alive, just barely. He’s been taken to the hospital. Now, someone has to tell Mabel. Frank doesn’t want to, but knows that the job falls to him. He takes Marka with him, to cushion the blow a little.

“Thanks. I’ll be up in a few minutes to get it. Then I have to talk to Mabel.”

“Can I help?”

“Come with me to Mabel’s? She may need you.”

“I’ll be ready when you get here.”

“Thanks, Marka.”

“Glad I can help.” She hung up.

Marka met him in the hallway before he even got to her room. Handing him his phone, her fingers lingered on his.

Frank leaned over, kissing her lightly on the lips. Wanting to do more, he got a grip on himself and escorted her to the elevator. Her hand twined with his as the doors closed.

“Tell me about Mabel.”

He smiled. Mabel Penwarren was one of his favorite residents.

“She’s a feisty thing. Very smart. She was a college professor and taught religion and mathematics. She was also a trained chef.”

“Interesting combination.”

“Mabel’s an interesting girl.”

He gave her a brief rundown on Mabel’s relationship with Ralph as they walked, hand in hand, to the nursing home. The head nurse met them at the door.

“Some of the girls saw an ambulance. Is everyone okay?”

“Ralph Penwarren had a bad fall.”

Emotions warred in her. “I hope he wasn’t badly hurt,” she said in her most professional tone.

“It was bad, Elise. I really need to talk to Mabel. It can’t wait.”

“Oh, my God.” Her hand fluttered to her mouth. “Is he dead?”

“No. But I need her to make me medical designee.”

“Let me get my stamp.” She scurried to the nursing station.

“She’s a notary. We have one on every shift.”

“Excellent idea. I brought mine too just in case.” She patted her jacket pocket.

“I’m surrounded by beautiful, well prepared women,” he bragged.

Elise was back. She was short, petite, raven haired and rosy cheeked. Marka felt a moment of envy, but it passed when she saw the wedding band on the other woman’s hand.

“She’s awake. Just called for the bedpan. Wait out here. I’ll take care of that and prepare her.”

“Thanks,” Frank said quietly.

Ten minutes later, Elise was back. She ushered them into Mabel’s room. Mabel sat up in her bed, a white crocheted shawl around her shoulders.

“Elise said you needed to speak to me? Is there another problem with Ralphie?”

Frank glanced at Marka. She nodded for him to continue. He walked forward, taking Mabel’s hand.

“Ralph had a bad fall, Mabel. He’s at the hospital.”

“Is he going to be all right?”

“We don’t know yet. I told them to call me. I need your permission to make decisions for you—for his care.”

“Of course. You know I trust you, Francis.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

After Mabel signed the paper, Elise notarized it. She made copies and faxed it to the hospital. She handed Frank the original and one of the copies. The other, she put in Mabel’s chart.

“The hospital will contact you with any information,” Elise said.

“Thanks, kiddo. Tell Anthony I said hello.”

“Tell him yourself,” she teased, punching him. “You never call your own family. You’re like a ghost.”

“Now I need to make like a ghost and disappear. See you later—I hope?” He said to Marka.

“I’ll be here with Mabel for a bit. She wants to talk.”

“‘K. You know where I’ll be.” He gave her a kiss. “And where I’d rather be,” he added very softly.

Marka licked her lips. They held hands a moment, foreheads touching.”Me too,” she murmured.

Elise and the rest of the staff looked on in awe. This was not the Frank they knew. Their Frank was all business. Their Frank never showed his feelings. Now, here he was, kissing an almost total stranger in front of them!

Frank forced himself to leave. The women watched them part, heads going back and forth like a tennis match. Was there a new bounce in Frank’s step?Did Marka’s eyes follow him down the hall?

Romance! Gossip! They all pulled out phones and called friends who worked in other wards. Every conversation started the same way: “You’ll never guess what Frank Atherton just did!”

Frank found his search team on break. Irritated, he approached them.

“Didn’t we have a job to do?”

“Yeah,” Charlie replied. “You said find Vince. We found him.”

“Where?”

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Bad Fall – Part 20

Bad FallFrank and Matthew have found something. Could it be Penwarren? Or is someone else at the bottom of the staircase? Either way, there’s an injured person below that Frank doesn’t want Matthew to see.

Fortunately, his companion had seen enough war movies to understand. Before Frank moved too far away, he whispered. “I’m gonna call EMS.”

Frank nodded. He’d heard the sound below before. It was the groan of a seriously injured man. He pointed up, telling Matthew to go to the hallway. Whatever lay below, an 18 year old kid didn’t need to see it.

Matthew turned obediently and went up, making the 911 call as he did. Frank descended rapidly. The groans were more distinct. The smell of blood filled the stairway. His gut clenched when he spotted the crumpled form.

“Help is on the way,” he said calmly, assessing the area before he approached. “Don’t try to move.”

He knelt by the man. It took a moment to realize it was Ralph Penwarren. Dressed in a bathrobe, pajamas and slippers, he looked like he should be lying in bed, not on his back at the wrong end of a four story fall.

“EMS is on its way, Mr. A.,” Matthew called from above. He started down the stairs.

“Don’t come down! Go meet the ambulance. Send them to this entrance. I’ll open it up.”

“I can help.” He took another step.

“Dammit, Matthew! Do what I tell you!” He paused, his voice softening. “You don’t want to see this, kid. And call Charlie. Tell him we found Penwarren.”

“Yes—yes, sir.” Matthew trotted up the steps, his voice fading as he made the call.

Frank couldn’t do anything for the injured Penwarren. He had enough medical training to know not to touch or move a man with multiple breaks, possible back and neck trauma and a head injury. How Penwarren had actually survived a four story fall amazed him. There wasn’t a lot of blood, he noticed as he looked around. Chances were good Penwarren had massive internal injuries.

The ambulance backed up to the door. Frank opened it, disabling the alarm. Two people hopped out, approaching rapidly.

“What have we got, Frank?” It was his paramedic pal, Trent Cody.

“A guest took a header from up top. We found him ten minutes ago. I haven’t touched him. I know just enough to be dangerous.”

“He’s alive?” Kendra, Trent’s partner, asked.

“He was when I found him. I just stayed here and talked to him.”

“Got a weak pulse and he’s still breathing,” Trent said after a quick assessment.

Frank stayed out of the way while they worked. He saw the other searchers gathered on the lawn and he went to talk to them.

“Is it really him?” Charlie asked. “How the hell did he get by us?”

“Who was guarding him?” Frank asked.

“Vince.”

“Where’s he?”
Charlie looked at the group. “I dunno. He should be here.”

“He wasn’t with us when we split up,” Matthew said.

“New objective,” Frank commanded. “Find Vince. Start with Penwarren’s floor. Check his room. Wear medical gloves. Don’t touch anything you don’t have to.”

“Why all the CSI crap, boss?” Charlie demanded.

Frank nailed him with a glare. “Because I don’t think Vince just walked away from his post. And I don’t think Penwarren got to the bottom of the stairwell cause he’s clumsy.”

“Shouldn’t we call the cops?” One of the others wanted to know.

“Right now, this is in-house. If we don’t find Vince—or we find another problem, we call. Otherwise, not yet.”

“Yes, sir.” They saluted and left.

Frank shook his head in wonder. Even as a civilian, he was organizing missions and giving orders. He went back in the building, shivering.

“Well, he’s alive,” Trent told him. “We’re taking him to the hospital. Any family?”

“His mom’s a resident. I’ll tell her. Have them call me with any news. Mabel just had surgery. I’ll make any decisions after conferring with her.”

“You got it.”

They loaded the crumpled, still form of Ralph Penwarren into the ambulance. It pulled away, lights flashing, siren silent.

Frank closed the doors and reset the alarm. He locked the doors to the staircase and prayed there wouldn’t be a fire. He had a feeling something bad had gone down and the police were going to want that scene preserved as much as possible. Afterward, he headed to the front office to call Marka. She picked up, breathless.

“I saw the ambulance.”

“We found Penwarren.”

“Is he…?”

“He’s alive, barely. The guy watching him is missing. The men are looking for him. I have to talk to Mabel. Is my phone charged? I plugged it in your kitchen.”

“Yes. In fact, it’s rung a few times. I didn’t answer. Nice tune, by the way.” His phone played Jimi Hendrix’ Voodoo Child.

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