In Mizpah, the protagonist, Christy Sanford, is a wonderfully flawed character who is looking for her place and purpose in life. She works for the Texas Historical Commission and each historical site she researches forces her to re-evaluate herself and her beliefs. The story is action packed with mystery, murder and filled with memorable characters
Chapter Twenty Six
Lake Park Hospital, Dallas
Eugene sat in a chair by his daughter’s hospital bed waiting for her to wake up. It had been a difficult day. All their planning had been for naught and the two women he cared most for had been badly hurt. He still couldn’t believe that Andrew was capable of something like this. It just didn’t make sense. He had seen Andrew’s parents in the emergency department and had wanted to tell them that he was sorry that Andrew had been shot, but something held him back. Several hours later, one of the hospital administrators had told him that Andrew hadn’t made it.
His thoughts were interrupted by a gentle tap on the door. Dr. Baker, the orthopedist, came in.
“How ya doing, Eugene?” She walked over to Christy’s bed side. “Still not awake?”
Eugene gave her a sad smile. “She’s been stirring, it won’t be long now.”
Dr. Baker examined Christy’s right arm. Because both the ulna and radius bone had been broken midway in the forearm, she had to anchor each fracture together with screws and a metal plate. There were two incisions; one on either side of arm and they both seemed to be okay. Dr. Baker also looked at the large bruise just below the ribs on Christy’s right side.
“She’s lucky it’s just a couple of broken ribs and a bruised liver.”
“I know,” said Eugene. “There could have been internal bleeding.”
“So fill me in on her head injury.”
“It looks worse than it is. Thank God! She has a cracked skull from where he struck her from behind. The police are still looking for what he hit her with. There’s a nasty bruise on her temple from the recoil of gun and the CT scan showed some minimal bleeding at both sites. They’ll scan her again later to make sure the bleeding stopped.”
“Any idea about that horrible bruise on her chin?”
I don’t know how she got that, but whatever happened, happened with enough force for her to bite through her tongue. That’s where most of the blood was coming from. Trauma surgeon had to put stitches in to stop the bleeding. Dr. James, the ENT, is going to check on her tomorrow.”
“Bless her heart. Does she know that they shot him?”
“Dood I ope tey tilled tim.” Christy mumbled.
“She does now.”
When David got the call at the FBI field office, he went straight to the hospital. He stayed with Robbin while Eugene stayed with Christy. Now that they were out of surgery, he wanted to examine the scene himself. He had already read the accounts from Marvin and Heather that Chuck brought him and he had stopped by DPD headquarters to visit with the detectives that handled the scene and to get permission to see it himself. Now he was standing at Eugene’s front door. He put on latex gloves and covered his shoes with paper booties before he entered.
The forensic tech was still processing the scene. Now that Andrew had died, it was no longer just a criminal scene, it was a homicide scene and DPD was not giving hospital security the same latitude they gave to other law enforcement even though members of the hospital force were duly licensed peace officers and had gone through most of the same training.
The tech was focused in the master bedroom and David made his way down the hall to where he was. He was interested in tracing the path of the bullet that killed Andrew. He was having a difficult time visualizing where the shot had come from and where Andrew had been standing when it struck him based on the two witnesses’ accounts.
David introduced himself as he came through the bedroom door. “Show me what you got on ballistics.”
“Well, sir. I’m trying to put it together. But none of my scenarios even come close to witness accounts. Has anyone been able to talk to the two victims?”
“They were both still unconscious when I left the hospital. I’ve looked at the witness accounts from the two hospital security force members and it doesn’t sound right. Something’s a little off.”
“That’s exactly what I said! This account is off.”
“Let’s walk through it and see where it goes off the rails.”
“That’s the first problem, sir. We don’t have an accurate starting point for either the shooter or our dead guy. Shooter’s account has him standing in this vicinity, shooting on a slight upward line as he ducks for cover behind the footboard.”
“If our dead guy was standing right where he fell, that would make sense. But from the blood splatter on the doorframe, it appears our dead guy walked through the doorway, got shot, stumbled down the interior wall a couple of steps before collapsing against it and sliding to the floor.”
“But that would mean that the shooter was already in the bedroom before our dead guy. That just doesn’t make sense.”
David squatted on the floor. He looked from the doorway to the footboard. “I think the starting point for our dead guy is right.” He stood up and walked back to the doorframe. “Our dead guy turns into the doorway and Blam! He gets shot right about here.” He sticks his hand into empty space. Looking over his shoulder he sees the spot where he thinks the shooter would have been standing has already been identified with an evidence marker.
“What’s this marker?” David asked pointing.
“What’s the number?”
“That would be moderate pool of blood, identity unknown. Sample sent for typing,” the tech said consulting his notebook.
“Don’t know, but I don’t think so. His face was busted up pretty good and it looked like his nose had bled some. Most of the blood was on his shirt. He would have had to lay on the floor for a while to leave that much blood.”
“Have you processed the starter’s pistol?”
“Bagged and tagged.”
“You got it or has it gone back to HQ.”
“Right here.” He opened a small evidence kit and handed David a clear evidence bag with a small revolver in it.”
David studied it. “No blood. There’s no blood on it. If the dead guy had repeatedly smashed the shooter’s face like he claimed, there should be blood. Somewhere, somehow, there should be blood on this pistol.”
“Let me see it.” David handed the gun back.
“You’re right. I don’t see any blood.”
“Where was the pistol located before you bagged it?”
The tech consulted his notebook again. “Right here. Evidence marker five.” He pointed at a marker that was only a couple of feet from the footboard.
David squatted down again. He slowly looked around the room. Once again, the evidence didn’t match the story. “Shouldn’t the gun have been closer to our dead guy? I mean that’s why he got shot? Right? Morrison didn’t know that the gun wasn’t real and he fired in self-defense. For that story to check, our dead guy had to be holding the gun when he was shot. There’s no way it could have ended up way over here.”
“In her report, Heather said that Morrison actually moved the gun away from the footboard with his foot. That would make it even more unlikely that it landed there.”
The tech blushed. “Heather and I have been going out for a couple of months.”
David smiled. “I hope that hasn’t skewed any of your findings.”
“Oh, no sir! The science speaks for itself. I just write down what it’s saying.”
“Well today, the science is saying that Morrison is lying. But the question is why.”
Lake Park Hospital
David parked in the hospital security parking lot. He hoped that Chuck hadn’t already gone home for the day. He wanted to get some more information on Morrison. The officer on duty buzzed him through and escorted him to Chuck’s office. He was sitting at his desk, leaned back in his chair, hands steepled before him, staring at the ceiling. He didn’t look at David when he entered, but spoke in a defeated tone.
“If you’ve come to tell me what a sorry ass job I did protecting the girls I’ll save you the effort. I’m a stupid son of a bitch who has no business in law enforcement. You don’t have to tell me, I already know it. I tendered my resignation this afternoon; effective immediately. Administration refused it and threatened to sue me if I broke my contract. So I’m stuck until June 1, 1993. Maybe if an FBI man told them what a screw up I am, they’ll let me go.
“I’m not even going to acknowledge those statements. I want to see Marvin Morrison’s file.”
“I don’t have a lot on him. He just started with the hospital not quite a month ago.” Chuck reached down and opened the file drawer in his desk. He thumbed through a few files and pulled one out. He slid it across the desk to David.
He wasn’t lying. When David opened the file there were only three pieces of paper in it; his application, his employee registration sheet and a note that said waiting for records.
“Where are the records coming from?”
“Somewhere in western Oklahoma. I think he said he was a sheriff’s deputy in Beatty County.”
“That doesn’t sound right. Without looking at a map, I can’t be sure, but I don’t think Oklahoma has a Beatty County.”
“That can’t be. HR sent for his records. When he comes in tomorrow, we’ll get it all straightened out.”
“He’s not here?”
“No. I sent him home mid-afternoon. He was really tore up about having to shoot that guy. Said it was the first time he ever shot anybody. Besides, his face was really messed up I wouldn’t want to have to work under those circumstances.”
“You know any reason why he would lie about what happened this morning?”
“Lie? Wait, you don’t mean that it wasn’t self-defense?”
David shrugged. “That’s what the forensics say. I really need to talk with this guy and figure out what happened.”
“Well, there’s his address.” Chuck pointed to the employee registration sheet. “Let’s go. I’m driving.”
In the dim quiet of her hospital room, Christy struggled to remember how she got there. There were bits and pieces of pictures swirling in her mind and parts of conversations. Her head was pounding with every heartbeat and her tongue felt three times too big for her mouth. When she looked at her right arm, she saw that it was bandaged and splinted.
That memory came back in a rush! She saw the heavy shoe come down on her arm and heard the bones crack. Someone was screaming in the background. Rori! Where was Rori?
Christy tried to raise herself into a sitting position, but fell back. She called for Rori. Barbra was at her side in an instant. She stroked her head in an effort to calm her, but Christy continued to struggle.
“Shhh, baby. Just lie still. You’re in the hospital. You’ve been hurt very badly. You’re daddy just left to go check on Rori. She’s in another room. She’s hurt too, but she’ll be okay.”
The message seemed to calm her. She quite struggling and listened to Barbra’s voice. She could barely hear what she said and wished she would talk louder. She reached with her left hand and felt for her ears. The left one felt okay, but the right one was covered with a bandage that wrapped around her head. She tried to pull the bandage off, but Barbra gently took her hand and held it on the bed beside her.
“Your eardrum’s ruptured. Leave the bandage alone for now. You’ve also got a nasty gash on the back of your head that bandage is covering.”
Christy reached up and touched the back of her head. Ouch! She let her hand drop and looked at Barbra. “Wha appen?” Christi used her fingers to explore the inside of her mouth. She could feel how swollen her tongue was and the stitches on the top and bottom of it. Her bottom lip had been busted and it was sore and swollen as well.
“I can tell you what I was told. The police are hoping that you and Rori will be able to fill in the missing pieces.”
“ori ur ba?”
“Is Rori hurt bad? Is that what you asked?”
Christy nodded slowly. The bottom of her face and neck hurt.
“Her head injuries are more traumatic than yours. She’s in ICU. She hasn’t woken up, yet.”
Chuck and David stood just outside apartment 1B at the Garden View Studio Apartments. The door was slightly ajar casting a ray of light into the relative darkness inside. Chuck stepped closer to the door.
“Marvin? It’s Chuck. I just came by to check on you before I went home. Can I come in?”
The place was eerily silent. Chuck tentatively pushed the door open wider broadening the ray of light. He saw no movement. Reaching inside the door, he flipped on the overhead. The place was trashed out. There was a mound of take-out containers, pizza boxes, empty beer cans, and other refuse piled in the middle of the small kitchen. A mattress with dirty sheets waded up on it lay on the floor in the middle of the big room. The bathroom was walled off but didn’t have a door. Marvin was not there.
The two men started a slow walk around the apartment; David going left and Chuck traveling right. It didn’t take very long for them to meet at the back wall.
“Nothing. All his stuff is gone.”
“No bathroom stuff, no clothes. Nothing but trash.”
The two men headed for the door. David stopped to pick through a stack of papers that on first glance seemed to be trash like everything else.
“Hey, Chuck. Come back.”
Chuck stopped at the entrance and walked back to David. This place reeked and he wanted some fresh air. “Watcha got?”
“It’s notes on Robbin and the Sanfords.”
“So? He was back up in case somebody couldn’t do their shift.”
“I know, but these notes go back to before the security team was put together.” David started to get a sick feeling in his gut. Oh shit! He kept flipping through pages. It couldn’t be. Please, no! And there it was.
“Son of a bitch! SON OF A BITCH!” How could he have fucking missed it?
“This!” David snapped down Marvin’s photo ID badge from the hospital. “It’s Todd Beatty! Robbin’s ex! Take off the glasses, change the hair color, and lose the beard. It’s him. It’s Todd.”
Lake Park Hospital
The ICU was quiet. Visiting hours were over, and the only sounds one heard were the beeping of monitors, the hum of respirators and the occasional click-buzz as a patient was given an automated dose of medicine. The click-buzz of Rori’s infusion pump was what woke Eugene. He sat up rubbing his eyes. For a moment he thought he had been having a nightmare, but looking around he realized it was all too real. How long had he been asleep? He had been waiting for Rori to come back from radiology. They were running another CT and if this one showed continued bleeding in her brain, surgery to relieve the pressure would have to be done. He had turned Rori’s and Christy’s care over to his colleague, Randal Rhodes when it appeared that one or both might need surgery to relieve cerebral edema.
Eugene stood and stretched, then walked over to Rori’s side. He pushed a strand of hair from her face and kissed her. He walked over to the nurses’ station and asked if Randal was around.
“He’s not on this floor at the moment, but I was supposed to page him when you woke up. He’ll be here in a few minutes.”
“Oh, and a Barbra Wilson called from your daughter’s room. Christy is awake and talking.”
“Thank God! Now if we can just get Rori to wake up.” He returned to Rori’s bedside and waited for Randal.
This time the guys at the FBI field office were interested in Marvin Morrison/Todd Beatty. It’s amazing how a murder can change priorities thought David as he watched the FBIs forensic techs at work. He had called DPD headquarters and had gotten the young forensic tech that had worked Eugene’s house assigned to this site as well. A couple of favors called in and newbie was learning from some of the best. After they finished up here, they were going back to Eugene’s to make sure that nothing was missed.
He walked back to Chuck who was leaning against the hood of his hospital security car.
“Listen, man. This is all my fault. I should have given you guys a picture of Beatty. You had no way of knowing who this guy was. Hell, he was in disguise. If all this hadn’t happened, I probably wouldn’t have recognized him in that get-up.”
“I’m so damn mad, I don’t know what to do. I can’t believe this SOB walked into my hospital and pulled this off. It’s unexcusable. First thing I’m gonna do is rewrite the hiring policy. There’s got to be a better way.”
“It’s inexcusable not unexcusable.”
“I don’t give a fuck if it’s non-excusable! Things have got to change!”
“Does that mean you’re not resigning?”
“How in the hell can I resign when the whole hiring process at the hospital is screwed up. You riding with me?”
“Yep.” David smiled as he got in the passenger seat. It was good to see that Chuck wasn’t going to fold.
Lake Park Hospital
Eugene was still waiting to be briefed by Randal, when he overheard a conversation at the nurses’ station. He looked a few yards down the hall and saw a tall man with a large bouquet of flowers and balloons speaking with the nurse.
“Come on. You know how hard it is for me to get up here during visiting hours. I just want to poke my head in and see Dr. Ryan for myself. You know, I’m the one who found her.”
“I know no such thing. You’re just going to have come back tomorrow. You can leave the flowers with me and I’ll make sure they get to her bedside. Right now, no one is allowed except hospital staff.”
“I’m hospital staff…Charlotte,” he said with a smile reading her name off her name tag.
“You know what I mean. And the answer is no! The rules are the same for you Officer Morrison as they are for anybody else. Now, git. I got patients to attend to and apparently flowers to deliver.”
He stepped back from the station. “You promise she’ll get them?”
“Promise. I’ll make sure they’re the first thing she sees when she wakes up. Come back tomorrow.”
“Ok, then.” He turned and almost bumped into Eugene.
“I didn’t mean to listen in, but did she call you Officer Morrison?”
“She did. And you are?”
“Dr. Sanford. I am so glad I got to see you in person. I wanted to thank you for saving my daughter and for saving Rori. It was just a miracle that you stopped by when you did.” Eugene reached out and put an arm around his shoulder. “Your face looks pretty bad. I’ve got some doctor friends that would be happy to work on you. Dr. James, the ENT, is coming by Christy’s room tomorrow at 9:00 to look at her. Why don’t you stop in too and let him look at you. If nothing else, he can realign you nose so you can breathe easier.”
“I really appreciate the offer. I think I’ll do that. I wanted to check on her as well. There’s just something about those two that makes me want to make sure they’re okay.”
“I know what you mean. They’re pretty special. Thank you again. I know it couldn’t have been easy for you to shoot Andrew.”
“You know, it really wasn’t that hard. When you know you’re doing it for the right reason it’s actually kind of easy. I’ll see you tomorrow. 9:00 right?”
Eugene nodded. “If you’ll excuse me,” he said as Dr. Rhodes entered the ICU, “there’s the man I’ve been waiting for.”
He stepped away from Morrison and turned his attention to Randal.
“What’s the good news, doctor?”
“The good news is that it appears the bleed in her brain has rectified itself. The bad news is that we are still seeing extensive areas of cerebral edema. We have seen some improvement with osmotherapy so I am continuing treatment overnight. With any luck, we will see a decrease in intracranial pressure by morning. I won’t lie to you Eugene, I’m staying right here tonight because there is a good likelihood that I’ll end up operating on her tonight. I hope I’m wrong, but I have this feeling that her ICP is going to spike.”
Eugene had stood where Dr. Rhodes was standing enough times to realize the gravity of the situation. Without coming right out and saying it, he had let Eugene know that there was a good chance that Rori wouldn’t make it through the night.
“Randal, thank you. I appreciate your efforts. She’s a fighter. Don’t forget that.”
“I won’t forget, Eugene. Why don’t you go see your daughter? I just came from checking on her. She’s doing great. Still has some memory problems, but time should take care of that.
Barbra was still sitting with Christy. She had been there most of the day and Jim had just joined her now that his day was over. The nurse had given Christy some more pain medicine and she was sleeping again.
“Jim, it’s the strangest thing. Sometimes she acts like she knows Andrew did this to her and Rori and other times she’s asking about him and if he’s okay. I clearly heard her say that she hoped they killed him, but not five minutes before you got here, she wanted to know if he was okay. She kept telling me that she saw him get shot and that she tried to get him to leave before it happened.”
“You know, head injuries are strange things. Sometimes people with this type of injury don’t remember events until years later; others pick up right where they left off like nothing ever happened. I think it’s too soon to be worried about what she does and doesn’t remember.”
Eugene came into the room and Jim stood to greet him. “Hey, old man. How ya holding up?”
“Like an old man!” He gave Jim a hug. “Thanks for being here, and Barbra thank you for staying with Christy.”
“Glad to do it, Eugene. She was awake a little while ago, but they gave her some more pain medicine and it knocked her out.”
“That’s the best thing she could be doing right now, sleeping. Her brain needs time to heal.”
There was a gentle knock on the door and Chuck Lewis stepped in. He had an incredibly worried expression on his face as he looked around the room.
“David came to me with results of the forensics review of your place, Eugene. We did a little more investigating and it would seem that Officer Morrison is actually Todd Beatty. We’ve been looking for him as has the DPD and the FBI, but he hasn’t been located.”
“That’s because he’s here at the hospital! I just spoke with him outside ICU not 15 minutes ago! I’ve got to get back there! Rori is all alone!”
“David is already there. He went there, I came here. Detective Reynolds is on his way to help keep an eye on things.”
“So Andrew didn’t do anything?”
“The only thing that Andrew did was show up at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
David approached the ICU nurses station. After introducing himself and producing his credentials, the nurse reluctantly let him pass.
“Would you mind taking these flowers to her room?” she called after him.
David returned and picked up the flowers and balloons.
“Hang on a minute. Balloons aren’t allowed in ICU.” She took a pair of scissors and deftly cut the strings. “You would think someone who works for the hospital would know the rules; especially one of our officers.”
“One of the officers sent theses?”
“Officer Morrison, delivered them in person. He sure was adamant about checking on Dr. Ryan.”
“You didn’t let him back there, did you?!”
“No. It’s against policy. I’m not even sure I should let you down there.”
Just then a code was broadcast over the PA system.
“What is that code?” asked David.
“I’m not sure. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that one. Let me check my list.”
“It’s a security code. Lock Down. Nobody in or out.”
“They know he’s here. They’re looking for him.”
“Officer Morrison. He’s wanted for murder, attempted murder and kidnapping among other things.”