Marka and Shay have a short conversation while Frank sleeps. She tells him that Liz’s psych profile was very revealing. Given the facts, he wonders how she ever got the job as his confidential aid.
“Because the profile in her folder is tidied up and made to look pretty. I’m not sure how she did it, but she either substituted a fake or threatened the shrink to have him reword it.”
“How is the other still available?”
“Because Cherry and Brad are very good at their jobs. The rough draft had already been saved before the other was filed. Even though the psychologist erased it, his draft was saved on the mainframe.”
“I’d like to speak to that guy and find out what happened.”
“Then you’ll need a medium, ’cause he’s dead. Lizzie doesn’t like loose ends. He had a tragic car accident shortly after submitting his evaluation. He left a wife and three small children.”
“Oh, dear God. I’ll have to see to them when this is over.”
“Meanwhile, I have a class to get to that I can’t miss. The men are watching Frank. One of them is in the room now. I’d feel better if Clark popped in. I don’t trust Liz. If she can subvert someone like Phil, she can work her way around hospital staff and these guys. I can’t emphasize how worried I am, Arnold.”
“I’ll take care of it personally. Don’t worry, Marka. Frank’s fine.”
“Yeah, keep telling yourself that. I’ll talk to you later. I’m almost to my car.”
They hung up. Marka drove back to Sheltering Oaks, forcing herself to concentrate on the road. She was worried and exhausted, an ugly combination at the best of times—which this wasn’t. She arrived at her Alzheimer’s group a little late, but they were still gathering. The chairs were set in a circle and Marka took her place with her clipboard on her knee.
“What’s wrong, Doc?” Bernard Witherspoon asked. “You look like hell.”
“Bernie, that’s just not nice!” The woman next to him replied.
“She doesn’t look right. Something has her upset.”
“You’re right, Bernard,” Marka replied, not wanting to upset him with an argument. “You all know Frank Atherton?”
“The precious boy who works in the front office?”
“Yes, Helen. He had an accident and he’s in the hospital.”
Shock and alarm filled the room. Marka did her best to calm them down.
“He’ll be fine. He just needs a little rest. I was up there with him last night, so I’m a little tired.”
“No wonder you look like hell,” Bernard said.
“Are you two stepping out, dear?” Helen asked her.
Flustered, Marka wasn’t sure what to say. She opted for the truth. “Yes, Frank and I are dating.”
“You lucky girl!” Helen remarked, smiling. She clasped her hands together with delight. “Having the right man in your life is so important.”
“So, why’s he in the hospital?” Bernard asked.
“He had an accident,” Marka repeated.
“Poor boy. Will he be back soon?” Helen asked.
“Yes. Very soon.”
The questions continued a while longer. Finally, Marka was able to direct the conversation and they had their session. She was pleased to see the lucidity continued during the session, but knew it wouldn’t last. Inevitably, their deteriorating minds could not maintain focus for long.
Marka headed back to her office after the group ended. Several people stood huddled in the hallway outside her office, talking quietly. None of them were people she recognized, though they wore visitor badges. Jeff wasn’t in his office, having gone home early for the day.
The man closest to Marka’s door seemed to be doing something. His chin was lowered and he appeared to be looking at his hands. Marka realized he was picking the lock, trying to break into her office. She had to get somewhere safe and call Shay. Quietly, she backed into the hallway behind her and headed to the nearest elevator. She prayed it would be there quickly. The overworked equipment frequently was slow. To her relief, it slid open as soon as she hit the button. Marka pressed the door close button and sighed heavily when it closed quickly behind her. As soon as they shut, she pulled out her cellphone and called Shay.
“I think they’re here,” she said when he answered. “At my office. Frank’s name is still on the door.”
“I saw three, but they could have twice that many for all I know.”
“Don’t go to your room. They may know about it.”
“I have to risk it.” Marka didn’t explain. Shay didn’t know about Frank’s diaries.
She hung up on Colonel Shay. No one seemed to be lurking around as she headed to her room. Activity on the floor was normal. She didn’t sense anything off kilter. She let herself quickly into her room and found the bag of diaries and magazines. A quick check showed that they were all still there. Throwing some clothing and toiletry items into a bag, she grabbed the diaries, stuffing them in too, covering them with the clothing.
Marka hadn’t really decided where she should go. Her focus had been solely on getting the journals. She didn’t want to take the battle to a public place. If Liz and her compatriots knew Marka had Frank’s things, no one would be safe. She couldn’t even take them to Frank for fear he’d contact Liz.
© Dellani Oakes
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