Friday, July 26, 2013

Deadly Memories by S.D. O’Donnell (Excerpt)


SAUL WAS WORKING THE NEXT MORNING when the teenager who delivered the paper rapped his knuckles against the sliding glass door to the downstairs bedroom. Saul used that space as his office and slept in a loft bedroom cut into the two-story cathedral ceiling.

“Good picture of you,” the kid said, handing the paper over. “Front page, section B.”

MYSTERY WOMAN FOUND was followed by a smaller headline: KENNEDY CASE DETECTIVE RESURFACES. Above the headlines was a picture of Jayne Doe taken at the station and one of Saul in uniform. The article said the ace detective, whose personal involvement with a victim led to his leaving the force, was potentially involved with another victim. The piece continued on page six, where few readers would bother to go. That was where Lorel finally got around to saying the woman was catatonic and no one knew her identity.

So much for the help-ID-this-woman angle.

A week later, he was in his office fielding inquiries about a new vacancy in The Courtyard. He’d just replaced the phone in its cradle when it rang again.

“Is this Mr. Saul Becker?”

“It is. You interested in the townhome?”

“What? No, this is Dr. Frank from the Metro Mental Health Hospital. I have a patient I’d like to talk to you about, if you have a minute.”

He knew of only one patient who might be in such a facility with any connection to him.

“This about the Jayne Doe?”

“It is, the Jayne-with-a-Y Doe. I understand you were there when she was found and that she spoke to you.”

“Only once. Very briefly.”

“She’s been here over a week and is still nonresponsive. You’re the last person she spoke to…”

Saul pictured a slight, elderly man with glasses and a pointed gray beard. A psychiatrist who didn’t relate to the world around him much better than his patients.

“What is it I can do for you, doctor?”

“I’d like to hear any impressions you might have formed about her. For example, what was she like when she spoke?”

“Let’s see… I called her Jane Doe a few seconds before she spoke and it seemed to make her mad. She said don’t call her that and added that she wasn’t a plain Jane. That’s kind of where the Y-thing came from.”

“Hmm. Was anyone else around when she spoke?”

“Just me.”

“I see.” The doctor cleared his throat. “Mr. Becker, she’s catatonic. The condition could be attributed to anything from schizophrenia to a head injury. I can’t confidently treat her without a history and I can’t get that without talking to someone who knows her. And I can’t find anyone who knows her without her help.”

“Sounds like you’re stuck in a catch-22,” Saul said.

“Well, I do have one idea. It’s why I called. I’m hoping you’d be willing to come by the hospital and visit her.”

“Why?” he said, more harshly than he’d intended.

“I admit I’m grasping at straws here, but it seems to me if she responded to you once, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that she might do it again.”

Saul wanted to say no, didn’t want to get involved. But hey, she was catatonic—how involved could he get? And if he saw her and she came out of it, he’d have done his part. No further involvement required.

Surely it couldn’t hurt to see her just once.

The hospital grounds took up several blocks of a neighborhood east of downtown Denver. The brick buildings had faded and huge old trees slouched toward the ground. There were no barriers across the road but Saul stopped at the gatehouse anyway and got out of the car. As he neared the open door, he saw the young guard on the phone.

“Mom, please.” He glanced over at Saul. “I have to go… No. No. Don’t say that… Mom, I’m hanging up now… I’m not angry, but I have to go.”

After he hung up he turned to Saul.

“I’m really sorry.”

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Genre – Murder / Thriller

Rating – PG13 (some foul language, a few short love scenes)

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