The distinction of being the best hospital in the area was lost in the fact; they were the only hospital in the area. The city had no competition for its sick or dying. Sterile smelling cleaner permeated the halls and the clothes of anyone who spent a long time there. It was a place of healing not a front for a large corporation. The good and bad that went with that was on full display in its halls.
The building was just down the street from where the officer had grew to the man he was. He had watched too many family and friends suffer and die in this building. After each one the shrinking family would take the walk home. The crossroads to his home would always remind him of the decisions everyone makes. When he was young it would take two or three light changes for everyone to cross. Before he left for the academy the group only needed one.
Age claimed very few of the lost members. Cancer was at the top of the list of the main culprit. Slowly that number was being replaced by overdoses. Clemmons knew it weighed heavily in his decision to follow his career path. That intersection had to be crossed for far too many in his life.
A strong community lived down these roads. The strong community that produced him. A few poisoned the reputation and scared away public investment. The lack of investment forced those who crossed the intersection to bond. Officer Clemmons was a cop because someone needed to end the scaring away of others. The city did not end at his stoplight. Good strong people were entitled to same pride as the rest. The sergeant would see to that.
Clemmons had a swagger of confidence as he headed down the hall. He always had a confident step when he was in public. He wanted to portray to those around him that a police officer was there, they were safe. The veteran officer was there on a business trip. The secondary purpose of showing police presence in the late hours was always on his mind. A stern smile was his way of portraying that, he had learned it from his mentor.
Unfortunately, the hospital was a familiar stopping spot for him. As a cruel twist, it seemed every time they had to interview a witness that was unconscious, they had awoke on his shift. It became a long standing joke at the department, today was no different. One of the victims of the last warehouse fire had survived, and hopefully, could provide answers for the one who did not.
Sienna’s room was full of as many balloons as there were machines monitoring her. Hand drawn get well cards delivered by relatives from her children and nieces. She looked as though her body was broken as bad as her heart. She had put her trust and love into a man. Harold ended up not being the hero of her movie, riding in and saving the day. The single mother had broken a rule of her own making. She had put her trust into someone before they had truly proven their worth. The punishment for breaking that rule placed her in the hospital bed, facing an uncertain future. Sienna had survived only to be facing the consequences of her decision. The fire had not burnt her but the man she thought she loved did.
The movement of the shadows in her room preceded the entry of the cop. She had seen him before. Her line of work had crossed their paths before. The life of a third shift security guard meant calling in alarms and trespassing that lead to the call with local officers. Clemmons seemed to be the poor officer trapped on the late shift anytime she called. The lights popped on, assaulting her eyes that were not accustomed to any level of light yet. She shuttered her eye lids in instinct, taking in the brightness in small doses coping with the new environment.
“Sorry to disturb your rest. We need to find some answers to the fire.” Clemmons liked getting straight to the point. The idea of wasting time with small talk was not part of his personal skills. He concluded if someone was going to lie to them then giving them a moment to analyze him was time wasted and only strengthened their attempt.
“I wasn’t resting.” Her eyes squinted to meet him in full view. “After I awoke and realized the circumstances of my accident, I doubt I ever rest again.”
“That’s what we need to talk about.” Calming words were part of the job. They also lead to building the trust needed to discover information.
“I figured it wasn’t to ask me to the Policeman’s ball.” She chuckled with a nod to her legs. “Doubt I will be doing any dancing anytime soon.” Sienna’s voice trailed off into disappointment, “or ever.”
“Sorry for your condition.” Clemmons apology lacked any true sincerity, as he believed strongly that people reaped what they sowed. “That kind of leads into my first question, what exactly were you doing at the fire?”
“Being a dumb woman in love, I guess.” Her voice did not change from the disappointment as the site of her mangled form had maintained residence in her thoughts. “I thought I could save Harold but he was gone before I even crossed the door wasn’t he?”
Clemmons knew better than to reply to the question. Despite her connection to the arson she had suffered enough. A halo of self disappointment would prolong her recover. “Ma’am, do you know what he was doing in the warehouse to be in the fire?”
“I have no clue.” The patient shook her head in disbelief that the whole thing was happening. She thought he was a gem but could not find a justifiable reason he would have been in the building. The single mother also could not believe she would put her kids at risk of losing another parent in their life. It was even worse. It was over something like a man not smart enough to stay away from danger. “He always seemed like a good man to me. He was a gentleman even though he was down on his luck.”
“Care to elaborate?” Clemmons felt he was gaining more of the story.
“Well he had worked in the plant until it was cheaper for the labor to be done overseas. He lost a lot, he never told me exactly what, but he seemed to put a lot of value in it.” Her words hit Clemmons immediately as a man who wanted revenge on the company, the fire made sense. The interrogator could also see that she was repressing that logic. People tend to downplay the actions and acts of those they love and he was not there to create emotional turmoil only gather the facts, and hopefully find more clues to the one who trapped the arsonist. “It is kind of a shame his employment ended before mine began. We may have been able to have lunch breaks together.”
“Can we stay on subject?” Personal interjections of emotion separated Clemmons from the truth. He despised when people played the ‘what if’ game in front of him. They always got the train of thought off track.
“Well he was a little bitter when he talks about it but not to the point I was concerned. I thought it was venting, but now, I just don’t know. Now, I know I should have seen the signs, but he seemed so good at the time.” Sienna was lost in remembrance of dates and time they had together. She could not believe he was dead. It was even harder to fathom the thought he had caused the inferno that not only claimed him from her, but also claimed her health. “I would be willing to bet it was his friend Antonio who pushed him toward it.”
“What is Antonio’s last name?” Sienna was staring off as she thought of Harold’s friends and where she first noticed him. Bringing the witness back on topic Clemmons could see he was losing her, and still had so much to find out.
“That man was no good.” Sienna was the one who gave his description to the police. She knew he had confessed to murders and would not be around to bother anyone. The thought he corrupted Harold and robbed her of a future with him meant there was more reason to hate him. “But I never learned his last name.”
“Do you know how Harold knew the camera layout?” Clemmons did not want to accuse the patient of a wrong doing but there was evidence that would suggest it. He had not read the woman her rights, some accusations would have to wait.
The question struck her more than the falling debris of the fire. Sienna knew she had broken the rules when she brought him back to the control center. She did not realize until this moment, that perhaps, he was not being a good boyfriend, that perhaps, he was using her. Answering the question honestly, would be an admission of guilt and lead to her termination. Termination meant no benefits, no medical leave or insurance. The patient knew she was not returning right away to work. It would be easier to be on medical leave than it would to be fired for negligence. She hated being used and the reality of what he did was becoming clearer. She thought he truly was falling for her. The reality was he was playing her in his game of revenge.
Clemmons could see the look of betrayal poison her optimistic look on life. He knew she was going to either respond as a scorned woman, or be silent in the shame of falling for a game from a player. The officer prayed to himself that shame would not be at the forefront. He needed the truth and she was the shortcut to it. As a good interrogator, he needed her focus to remain on the task at hand, “do you remember ever bringing him in and showing him the camera monitors?”
The voice of Clemmons was loud enough to awaken her from her moment of lost thought and shame. It had all been a ruse. She had been hunted online and became prey for something worse than a predator. Every conversation, every cup of coffee, had all been part of a ploy just because of where she worked. Shame was being worked into anger and despair. The scorned woman realized that any target for vengeance she may have had, died in the fire. Her voice grew flat with anger as that one question put into perspective what had happened. “No, I would never risk my job for a man.”
“So, you are saying, all those times he signed in as a visitor to see you never let him past the lobby?” The veteran officer could sense when someone was lying to him. It was obvious in this situation. He could see the change in her expression. She displayed the look of a shamed woman, and his experience was that meant someone did her wrong. He carefully slid the visitor log onto the tray in front of her.
“I know who visited me!” She did not have to look down at the log to know he had been to her work. Harold spent a lot of time in the office. She thought he was being attentive and caring. The man needed access to the monitors, loving from her was just a bonus for him. “I told you he never saw a damn monitor!”
She was growing furious. She did not even want to look at the cop in her room. He had been on her bad side the moment he started the questions. The hall, even at this late hour, was a hustle of nurses, doctors, and orderlies conducting their routines and serving their duties. A nurse in particular was monitoring the exchange. The woman was familiar to her but she could not place from where. She had seen her before but where was that? The woman seemed lost in her notepad taking notes with a funny pen. It looked like a quill pen. The woman had a job to do and yet she was focused entirely on the room and the questioning of the cop to her in the bed. With her temper rising, she probably was triggering some alarm at the nurses’ station that alerted the nurse. The pen though, it was odd to her. Drawing her attention, it became difficult to think of a reason why someone would have chosen to write with such an archaic tool instead of a modern pen. She had lost thought of Clemmons in the room and focused entirely on the nurse.
Sienna was at a crossroad. The nurse reminded her that there was a choice that had to be made. Lying was the road she had chosen. There was another option, she could tell everything she knew. It would mean unemployment but honesty. Honesty would not feed her kids.
“You are sure?” Clemmons was losing her and could sense it. He glanced out to the hall which had taken away her focus for the moment. Expecting to see something there himself. The normal hospital routine was nothing that mesmerizing to him.
“Yeah I am sure.” She broke her gaze from the nurse to the officer standing before her. Her answer was missing the venom from earlier. She had lost that anger while trying to place why the woman was there and where she had seen her before.
“Fine, we will move on.” Clemmons was growing impatient with the blatant lie the woman was hiding behind. “When you arrived were the doors blocked?” He was losing patience and had hoped the change of direction in questioning would help calm him down. Losing his temper would only make the questions turn to accusations. He knew she was guilty of letting him into the control room, but it was the only thing she was guilty of. “Were the doors blocked when you arrived?”
“I don’t remember. I was in a rush to save him and everything else was a blur.” She wanted to dismiss him as soon as possible and get back to the woman in the hallway with her distracting presence. She looked back from the cop to see if the woman was still watching. Glancing back to the hall, she noticed the nurse had moved on. Her blood pressure must have calmed down and the nurse was not longer needed.
“You do not remember pallets or anything in the way? Or perhaps someone was running from the scene that may have put them there?” Clemmons did not believe in things that appeared supernatural. He figured there was a logical or technical explanation to what was happening. All he needed was for her to remember one clue from the events that occurred prior to her entrance to the fire. He needed a clue.
“I am sorry I just cannot remember anything.” She moved her head to the pillow. “Now if you are done with me officer I need to rest.” She was starting to pull up her covers trying to make everything go away.
He placed the precinct contact information onto a side table. Propping the card next to a plastic glass for water, he nodded to Sienna and headed out of the room. “If anything comes back to you please contact us. I am Clemmons. They will get a hold of me when you call.” He left with a step of frustration as he departed the room. The veteran officer left with no more answers than he had he arrived with.
“We let it ride for now.” Burning eyes hid in the dark room.
Decades of rumors of a haunting meant the group could meet in the old barn without fear of interruption. It was time to regroup. The dark forces were not losing, they were risking exposure. Life and decisions would shift from their favor if mortals knew of their existence. Their purpose would be impossible to fulfill.
“The enemy has to be silenced. If our schemes are to be silenced then he and his kin need to be removed as well. There is no guarantee they will not speak up and shift the dynamic.”
Thousands of voices spoke from the darkness. As more burning eyes joined the conversation.
“No, they will not go public, even if they know their purpose. Which I doubt they do. They are to ensure an even unbiased battlefield. Going public would change that dynamic.”
“Then we wait for what?”
“We wait to allow the mortals to eliminate our enemy with their laws. Mankind has always been an unwitting ally that way.”
“Do you believe they will still participate that way?”
“Mortals are content living their life in a fog. They hide everything. The only time they truly seek answers is when they cannot explain something or need to assign guilt.”
“Antonio knows that all too well.”
“Antonio was successful so his mission was changed.”
“Do we all face that fate? Rewarded by being imprisoned.”
Over a dozen sets of eyes all shifted to look at their leader. The voices masking their true numbers, or identity. The dark lords expected their servants to be subordinate to their assigned leader. Loyalty was assumed, not enforced. If another set of eyes was able to overthrow the general, no one would doubt that dark spirit deserved the role.
“The alternative is much worse, or do you need reminded?”
Photo Credit to Rick Rupert (Rupertrick@gmail.com)
only one chapter left if anyone has any input good or bad let me know