Chaos surrounded the detectives as they exited the elevator on the trauma floor of the hospital. Doctors and nurses buzzed about, taking care of patients and going over charts. A team of doctors pushing a patient on a gurney nearly side swiped Detective Jenkins on their way to the operating room. Nick walked up to the reception desk where several nurses were busy working.
“We’re here to see Jacqueline Maynard,” he said across the desk to the nurses. None of them looked up from what they were doing. The hallway was loud and crowded so he repeated himself a little louder. Two nurses looked up and gave him a dirty look for interrupting them. He turned to Jenkins, throwing his hands up. Jenkins chuckled to himself.
“What? You find this funny, Jenkins?” Nick asked, clearly frustrated.
“You’re such a cop, “Jenkins said as he sauntered over to the end of the desk where a blonde nurse was busy typing up chart notes. He turned to Nick and mouthed, “Watch this.”
The older detective turned back to the nurse as he smoothed his gray hair back and prepared his best smile. Jenkins may have been older than his partner, but he still had his boyish charm and rugged good looks. “Excuse me Miss, I hate to interrupt your work. I know you’re terribly busy…”
The nurse looked up at Jenkins. She couldn’t help but return his smile with her own. “Wow, you have a great smile,” Jenkins said. He made a point to look over at Nick with a big grin. Nick rolled his eyes, he usually hated putting up with Jenkins’s antics but he needed this to work.
“Thank you, “ the nurse said, obviously flattered. “What can I do for you?”
Jenkins pulled out his badge and laid it on the desk, “I’m Detective Jenkins and we’re here to speak with the attempted murder victim that was brought in about an hour ago.”
“Oh yes, poor thing. She’s really shaken up.” Nick moved in closer to hear what the nurse was saying. “I believe the doctor is in with her now, I can check and see if she’s ready to see you.”
Jenkins gave his partner a wink, “That would be lovely.”
The nurse got up and went into a room directly across from the reception desk. Jenkins gave Nick a satisfied smile. “And that is how it’s done, my boy,” he said, slapping Nick on the shoulder. “You need to learn how to finesse the fairer sex.”
“I’ll be sure to work on that,” Nick said dryly.
They both looked over when they heard a door open and close. The nurse was walking back towards them with a doctor following closely behind.
“Are you the detectives that need to speak with Miss Maynard?” the doctor asked as he looked down at the chart in his hands. The two nodded.
“I’m Detective Mendoza and this is Detective Jenkins. How bad is she?” he asked.
“She’s had severe trauma to her head, which could affect her memory for awhile. Other than that just a few minor bumps and bruises. She’s very lucky,” the doctor said, folding the chart under his arms.
“Is she conscious?” asked Nick. He was getting a little antsy to speak with Jacqueline. He knew that having a witness could be a great thing for a case, but waiting too long could cause the witness’s memory to become foggy. The human memory was a tricky thing.
“She’s going in and out, but you may go in if you need to.”
“Thanks, doc,” Nick said, walking past him to the door.
“Mendoza!” a gruff voice called from the hallway.
Nick squeezed his eyes shut as a feeling of dread came over him. Why is the captain here? He thought to himself. He turned to the intimidatingly tall man now standing at the reception desk. He was in a suit even though it was two in the morning. This told Nick he was here on business.
“Captain Barrett, I hope my text didn’t wake you. I just wanted to let you know what was happening,” Nick said, walking over to him. “Jenkins and I are about to talk to the witness.”
Captain Barrett, with his buzzed hair cut and square posture, was every bit a former military man. This was the man that Nick needed to impress. This was also the man who scared the piss out of him.
“Of course you woke me up,” the captain said, exasperated with the young detective. “I’m here to make sure you don’t ruin this investigation. A lot can go wrong with a witness,” the captain said, looking Nick square in the eyes.
“I know, sir. I think I can handle it. I already built a rapport with the woman at the scene. I think she trusts me, “ Nick said, feigning confidence. “Plus Jenkins will be with me,” he added quickly.
“I just don’t want to have to tell your father you blew this case,” the captain said. He knew that would cut Nick to the quick, and he used it to push the detective.
“You won’t need to,” Nick said. He was trying to hide his anger, but his fists were clenched tightly by his side. Captain Barrett nodded and Nick turned and walked past Jenkins to the hospital room door.
“I’ll be right here when you’re done,” the captain called as the two detectives stepped into the room.
“Man, that guy’s a dick,” Jenkins whispered. “I bet it sucks that him and your old man are such good friends, huh?”
Nick looked at his partner with his fists still clenched. “I don’t want to go there right now.” He walked over to the bed were Jacqueline appeared to be sleeping. “Miss Maynard?” Nick said softly. He hated to wake her when she looked so peaceful, but they needed to know what she saw. Nick waited for a response but she did not move. “She out?” Jenkins asked coming to stand opposite his partner on the other side of the bed. “Looks like it,” said Nick still looking down at her, watching her slow even breathing. There was something about her face that was hypnotic in a way. He found himself remembering her expressive eyes at the crime scene and wanted to see them again.
“She’s hot, right?” said Jenkins, effectively interrupting Nick’s thoughts.
He looked up at Jenkins. “That’s what this guy goes for,” Nick answered. “All his Vics have been beautiful.” Not as beautiful as this one, he thought to himself and then pushed that idea out of his head. He needed to focus on the task at hand.
Jenkins nodded in agreement. “Did you see the pictures of that yoga instructor before she got chopped?” Jenkins asked then whistled through his teeth. “Man, it sure is a shame that a body like that went to waste, and a redhead too! You know what they say about redheads…”
Nick was about to tell his partner to knock it off when Jacqueline stirred in her bed. “I must… I… must,” she said as her eyes fluttered open and then closed again.
Nick leaned down close to her ear. “Shh, it’s okay Jacqueline. You’re going to be okay,” he said soothingly.
Her eyes slowly blinked open. “I must… be… dreaming,” The two detectives looked at each other, confused.
“Jacqueline you’re in the hospital, you were attacked. I’m sorry, but you aren’t dreaming,” Nick said cautiously.
“I must be. A respectable cop would never speak that way about a dead woman,” Jacqueline said. Her voice was breathless, but her eyes shot daggers at Detective Jenkins. He looked down at the floor, embarrassed.
“Jacqueline, can we ask you a few questions about what happened to you?” Nick asked, trying to get her attention off of Jenkins.
She looked up at Nick, her eyes brimming with tears. “You can,” she said, “but he has to go.” She spat her words at Jenkins.
“I’m so sorry if I offended you, Jacqueline…” Jenkins began.
“Miss Maynard,” Jacqueline quickly corrected him.
Nick was surprised by her spunk and found himself trying hard not to smile at the discomfort of his partner. “It might be best if you step outside, Jenkins,” Nick said. Jenkins rolled his eyes as he left the room.
“I’m really sorry about my partner,” Nick said, turning back to to Jacqueline. She was looking up at him. Her eyes once again seemed to show her thoughts zipping through her mind at lightning speed. Nick wanted to know what she was thinking. “He’s a good cop, not necessarily a good person,” he said.
“You seem like a good person,” Jacqueline said thoughtfully.
Her words caught the detective off guard and a boyish smile broke across his face. “I try to be,” he said. “Do you mind if we talk about what happened tonight?”
Jacqueline nodded as she tried to prop herself up in the bed. Her face pinched together in pain and Nick reached down to help her. He placed a pillow behind her back to make her more comfortable.
“Thank you,” she said quietly.
“You okay?” Nick asked and immediately realized how idiotic of a question that was. Of course she wasn’t okay. The poor woman had walked in on her friend being dissected by a madman and then she almost died from a blow to the head.
“I guess so, all things considered,” she said with a faint smile. “I told you, I’m not sure what happened.” She brought her hand up and squeezed the bridge of her nose with her fingers to relieve pressure.
“That’s fine,” Nick said. “Let’s start somewhere else.” Jacqueline looked up at him with a look of sheer anxiety across her face. Nick continued, “How did you know Miss Kelly?”
“We, um, we work together, or I guess we did,” she answered, looking down at her hands and blinking back tears.
Nick cleared his throat. This was the worst part about his job – dealing with others’ pain and grief. He was the kind of person who took on others’ pain – always had been. He hated it. Solving the puzzle, catching the bad guy… that was what Nick loved about the job. Making sure that people in his community were safe was his driving force. He did not think he would ever get used to a crying victim. He wanted to reach out and comfort Jacqueline, but he knew that was a bad idea.
“Where do you work?” Nick asked, avoiding eye contact with her by taking down notes.
Jacqueline wiped tears from her eyes. “New Horizons Rehab Center. I am a behavioral psychologist. Mary taught yoga to the patients there three times a week. They all loved her.”
Nick had stopped writing and looked up from his notes at Jacqueline. “What? Why are you looking at me like that?” she asked, wondering why the detective had a huge grin that almost split his face in two.
“I’m sorry,” Nick said noticing that his expression seemed to unnerve her. He quickly asked his next question. “Did you or Mary ever have any affiliation with the Center for Hope?”
Jacqueline seemed to think on this for a moment. “Now that you mention it, yes. I consulted on some patient files a few years back at the request of the director; he was a friend from grad school. I don’t know about Mary.”
“What was the director’s name?” Nick asked. He could barely contain his excitement. “Thomas Johanson, but he couldn’t be involved with this,” she said, looking at Nick with confusion. She placed her head in her hands and closed her eyes. “My brain is so foggy. Can we do this later?”
Nick closed his note pad. “Of course,” he said, the smile returning to his face. He handed her a card from his pocket. “Why don’t you give me a call when you’re discharged and you can come down to the station to make your statement?”
“Okay,” Jacqueline said, examining the card with the detective’s name and number on it.
“Try to get some rest,” Nick said as he left the room. Jenkins and the captain were leaning against the wall right outside the door.
“Well, what’d you get, Mendoza?” Captain Barrett asked impatiently with his arms folded tightly across his chest.
“I got a connection,” Nick said, smiling to himself as he walked quickly towards the elevator. Jenkins and the captain exchanged confused looks before they quickly followed behind.
Where do you start when dissecting a human body? To some, it might seem a little overwhelming. Do you start at the top or the bottom? The back or the front? How do you know the correct amount of pressure to apply to slice through the skin, but not puncture an organ?
My father used to have this saying whenever I would come to him overwhelmed by my school work or some other adolescent problem. He would look up from whatever book he was reading, with his slender reading glasses perched at the end of his nose and say; “How do you eat an elephant?”
After years of this I didn’t need him to answer the question for me. I would simply reply “One bite at a time,” and just like that a sense of invincibility would come over me. That mantra would act as a reset button to calm my nerves. His words were a reminder that anything can be conquered if you take it apart one piece at a time.
One bite at a time
Some people become killers because they feel like they have no control or because they are damaged. Aren’t we all damaged in some way? People assume the worst about serial killers. You have some weird religious belief. You were abused or molested as a child which causes you to lash out in a horrific manner. Or my favorite, you’re just plain evil. That is not always true. I don’t believe I am evil. Sometimes you just need to find the thing that makes you feel powerful. We all have our own coping methods.
My father’s words still ring in my head every time I drag my blade from sternum to navel. (That’s the answer by the way. Start at the top and work your way down.) All of my anxieties and insecurities, for the time being, float away with every layer I pull back. I get stronger and more powerful with every vital organ I remove.
I know my coping method isn’t ideal. I’m not crazy, I know killing people is wrong. We all know things we do are wrong, but we do them anyway. It all comes down to how bad off you are without your fix. I tried to cut back once. I really did try! I was at a point where I needed a fix once a week. I realized that is just too much. I found that keeping a token was a good way for me to cope between my outings. I chose to cut about a 5 inch length of hair from each of them. Enough to play with between my fingers when I get the itch. It’s always the last piece I remove. The final bite of my elephant.
Mary had the prettiest red hair I’d ever seen. I told her it was beautiful several times before I decided to take it. She would just smile and run her hands through her gorgeous red mane. Now I can run my fingers through it whenever I want.
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