After being glued to the television set for the next few hours, waiting for more information about the death of Daphne’s husband (the man I, in fact, recognized as the one on the cliff), Goldie grew tired, and I didn’t want to have him get worn down before his surgery. Tomorrow Dr. Cook would let us know what day it was scheduled for. In the meantime, he went through the routine program they insisted on of healthy diet, exercise, and pampering the hell out of the patients (this in my words).
Great. This program would buy me time.
“I’ll head back to the lodge, Gold. You get some rest. Thanks for all your help with my case.” I kissed him on the cheek, tucked a violet silken duvet around him after he’d settled himself on the top of the bed, and then I slipped out the door.
They didn’t have too many male clients at Highcliff, but dear Gold was in his element-especially in violet.
The reception desk was empty. Ian had left hours ago. I wondered what he’d have to say about the recent news story. An elderly woman, though very attractive, bustled about in the back room. She must have been the evening receptionist, but I had no desire to stick around and find out. I had enough to think about for tonight.
Patients came and went, with bandages being the name of the fashion here. One woman, who hovered about silently, had her face so wrapped up I wondered what the heck she’d had for a procedure. Maybe I’d ask. Then again, she probably couldn’t speak if she wanted to.
Time to get out of there, since all I wanted was a hot, exotic-scented bath and then to lie in bed and read. When I got outside and realized it was already getting dark, I leaned against the wall of the front doorway and did some stretches. An extra jog could never hurt and thank goodness I wore my jogging shoes with my scrubs.
I was the height of fashion in Newport.
In order to stay on the well-lit streets, I decided to jog out to Bellevue Avenue. I hadn’t forgotten that I would have to pass Daphne’s place. Place. Ha! How could a mansion the size of Hope Valley’s town hall be called a place?
I started out at my usual pace and when I came near the Baines residence, where several patrol cars sat with lights blinking like synchronized strobes, my pace quickened. The urge to slow down was difficult to face, but I figured I’d never learn anything for my case around here.
When I went to pick up my pace, I noticed someone fly out of the topiary butterflies on the left lawn. Male. Thin. Light hair. I crossed the street for better viewing even though in the dusk it didn’t help. Amid all the cars-with passengers who had stopped to gawk at the crime scene, I was sure-I made it to the sidewalk in time to see the brown-jacketed guy with red shirt make it over the wall on the northern end.
That didn’t seem right.
When I went around the corner, he was gone. No sign of anyone.
I hurried over to the front of the house to find someone in charge and ran smack dab into a uniformed cop. “Oh!”
He grabbed my arm, more out of saving me from landing in the topiary ducks than from anger. “Whoa! You all right?”
I yanked free and breathlessly said, “I saw someone, a man run through the butterflies and over the fence. Wall. Over the wall. Light hair, brown jacket, red shirt and male. A male man.”
He looked at me a few seconds as if in disbelief.
“I’m not kidding!”
Finally he turned toward two other policemen, standing by within earshot, and said, “Go check it out, boys.”
I brushed a twig of green leaves off my arm. “Good. Well, good luck.” I started to turn when I felt a hand on my arm.
“Not so fast, ma’am. I’ll need some information from you in case we need any questions answered.”
“Oh, right.” I wanted to tell the cop that I was a P.I. but realizing what I looked like, thought better. Instead I went along with being a private duty nurse jogging to the lodge and gave him all the answers I could, including how I’d seen Mr. and Mrs. Baines on Cliff Walk.
Soon I was off to the Samuel Freeman Lodge in a run, and wanting nothing more than that damn bath. The way I felt, even a nightly ghost visit would have been welcome.
I slowed one block away and noticed my shoe was untied. My luck would be to step on the shoelaces and fall flat on my face so I bent down to fix it. A car slowed enough for the lights to shine in my eyes. “Damn it,” I muttered.
Then a shadow came from the bushes.
Looked like the one at the Baines mansion. Thin. Red shirt. I readied to shout to him, but didn’t need to. He turned in my direction, plowed forward-and before I could scream, I was pushed down to the ground with a smack against my head.
The car lights dimmed-then went out.
My head hurts, I thought while I rubbed at it. Then I opened my eyes to see I was on the ground and recognized I was a block from the lodge. No one was around. That guy from the Baines mansion! He must have knocked me over!
Shoot. Was it coincidence that he hit me or had he seen me there and knew that I’d seen him? Oh, great. One more thing to worry about. Why couldn’t I just do my job without threats to life or limb?
I eased myself up. Rubbed my head again as if that would do something then started toward the lodge. Once in the front door, I nodded to the innkeeper and headed up the stairs toward my room with no intention of telling her what just happened. I’d pass the info on to the cops.
When I got to the door and had to fiddle around in my pockets for my key, I felt something-no, someone-behind me.
I swung around.
Now my hand started to shake. The damn key kept falling back into my pocket. And the presence cast a cool breeze on my now sweat-covered top. Was I just skeptical now?
With shaky hands, I managed to shove the key in the lock, told myself I was getting paranoid for no reason, and kicked the door with my foot to swing it open.
And then I screamed.
My eyelids fluttered. For several seconds I fought the urge to open them or to just lay there and sleep or maybe die. But I didn’t feel as if I’d been sleeping peacefully. Confusion had me wondering what the hell had happened, and then I felt something cool and damp run across my forehead and realized I was lying down.
My eyelids flew open.
“You’re gonna make it, Sherlock.”
Samuel Freeman himself couldn’t have startled me more than…seeing…“Jagger?”
Suddenly I was wide-awake and sitting up. “What the hell…you nearly scared me to death. Again! You do that on all my cases.”
I melted inside, but held my own-although barely-since it took a hell of a lot to gain control.
“What? You thought I was old Sam Freeman?” He laughed and threw the damp washcloth he’d been using on my forehead into the bathroom sink.
He was trying to revive me. How sweet. Then again, he’d shocked me into passing out-how Jagger-like.
I looked at him staring down at me. Maybe there was something in my eyes that he misread, but soon he’d seated himself on the bed next to me.
Now that was just plain too much excitement for my night.
I swallowed hard despite my desert-dry throat. “Hey, I’ve felt Samuel Freeman around here. I’m not altogether sure there aren’t things like ghosts or spirits of some sort. We’d be pretty conceited to think we’re the only creatures on this planet.”
He looked at me as if I were nuts. With Jagger, I’d long ago learned to ignore those looks.
“What the hell are you doing here anyway?”
Jagger leaned against the wall, lifted one foot on the side of the bed and said, “Coincidently, I’m rooming here for R and R.”
Now I couldn’t even swallow. Having a mysterious, hunky fine specimen of eye candy sitting so close on my bed made any sensible thoughts jumble. For several seconds I let the letters R &R settle in. Sure I knew what they meant, but Jagger? In Newport?
“How’d you get into my room?” I asked-not sure if I really wanted to know or cared.
He grinned at me.
“Yeah right. Housekeeping must have let you in.”
Seemed as if my mind was clearing.
I gave talking a shot with, “R and R? In Newport? You?”
He shrugged. “I like sailing.”
Maybe it was the nonchalant shrug. Maybe it was the dim lighting, closeness of male, and tone of his voice. Or maybe it was because I was so shocked at having him sitting on my bed, but whatever the reason, I bought his explanation.
“Wait a minute. Okay. I buy that you are here to rest up, and I’m sure you deserve it. And, I also buy that you like sailing, and sure, Newport is the closest fabulous harbor to Hope Valley, but what I don’t get or buy is why the Samuel Freeman Lodge? Where I’m staying?”
Jagger chuckled, leaned near…and kissed my cheek.
“Don’t flatter yourself, Sherlock. This is an annual for me. Merely coincidence that you got a case here in town.” With that he pushed himself up, walked to the door, and over his shoulder said, “Get some rest. I’ll see you at breakfast. Wednesday’s savory dish is eggs rancheros. My favorite. I’m next door.”
Guess he’d said that in case I needed him-for protection.
I think I sat frozen in my bed for hours before falling asleep in my scrubs.
“Sweet or savory?” Arlene asked. I hadn’t noticed before but she was petite, brunette, and weighed a bit more than she should. But no one could argue that she wasn’t pleasant and sweet, and besides, she’d told me that she’d worked there for over ten years.
My head pounded from a night of tossing and turning and knowing that Jagger was only a wall away. Why me? I had thought half the night. Then why him? The other half. At least I’d managed to tell the cops about the guy who knocked me over last night. I really couldn’t say that he’d attacked me, so they didn’t sound too interested.
“Oh, sorry, Arlene. Sav…sweet.” I had no idea what she’d just rattled off as the choices, but ordering Jagger’s favorite didn’t seem like a good idea to me.
I still couldn’t get over that he had come here for R &R. What were the odds? And how much deviousness had gone into Jagger’s R &R plans?
A few guests bustled in and out, helping themselves to coffee on the mahogany sideboard that offered homemade bakery delicacies as well as yogurt, fruit and dry cereal. Fresh floral arraingements decorated the room in pastels, and the silverware in front of me probably needed to be polished on a daily basis. It shone like it was very expensive.
Before long Arlene brought my pancakes with pecans, apples and raisins swimming in Vermont maple syrup on top. I knew it was real Vermont maple by the aroma. Delicious. She set the dish in front of me and soon I was salivating. I took my fork and sliced off a section. When it hit my tongue, my entire body shivered. “Wow. Delicious.” I took a sip of tea as Arlene stood and asked a couple who’d just arrived last night whether they wanted sweet or savory.
It took all of my control to not take another bite, but I wanted to ask Arlene a question, but not with my mouth full. “Oh, Arlene, have you met the new guest who is staying in the room next to mine?”
She seemed to hesitate. Wait. Make that pause. Arlene looked deep in thought (maybe trying to figure out who was in the room) but when her eyes widened, her tongue ran over her lips and she grinned like the freaking Cheshire cat-obviously Arlene had a great memory.
“He’s come here for years…”
With that she was gone as if in a dream. Geez. Maybe old Samuel had snatched her away. Or it could be having tasty Jagger coming to your establishment for years was something to drool over. Even for married Arlene.
So it was true.
I tucked that thought into the back of my head and decided to finish up and leave before he came down. I’d never get to work if I got hung up on the fab breakfast and even fabber company of one Jagger-last name unknown.
Suddenly I wondered how much Arlene knew about him. Coming here for years might have been a good sign-a break for me to find out more about the mysterious guy. Yeah, right. Hopefully he’d slipped somewhere throughout his visits, revealing something, and maybe she could tell me more about him than I could ever find out in Hope Valley.
I jumped, knocking my green tea over and soaking my delicious pancakes. “Damn it, Jagger. Stop sneaking up on me!”
He pulled out the chair opposite me. At first I was disappointed that he didn’t choose the one next to me, but then again, now I could see him. Seeing him would be easier on my libido than having him sit next to me.
And maybe, God forbid, brushing knees.
“Pauline, wake up. I asked you a question.”
I looked up to see Jagger, holding his coffee cup in his hands and glaring at me. Oops.
“What?” I figured if I sounded annoyed he wouldn’t question my trip to La La Land -on his behalf.
He took a long slow sip while the other couple chatted about going on a tour of the mansions with a nice elderly woman who sat across from them. “I asked you about Goldie.”
Goldie? Why the hell? Oh, yeah. My best friend and patient. “Right. I knew that. Gold is fine. We’re going to find out when his surgery is-”
Even though I knew, just knew, that it was going to be a waste of my breath, I couldn’t help ask, “How the hell did you know about Goldie being here?”
For once Jagger didn’t give me a “how the hell do you think?” look. Maybe since he was on vacation, things would be different. He set down his cup as Arlene put his eggs in front of him, and he gave her a Jagger-smile. She melted. Then he looked at me. “Fabio told me.”
Fabio? A logical explanation but one that I was hesitant to believe. Then again, Fabio was clearly afraid of Jagger. I’d often wondered what kind of power or control Jagger had over Fabio. Now that Jagger was here and not working-maybe I’d do a little snooping about him.
It wasn’t like he didn’t do the same about me.
Okay. Okay. A girl could hope.
I’d left Jagger at the breakfast table chatting with Arlene about her kids and hubby and made it to Highcliff. Yes, I could see that Arlene knew Jagger fairly well. One of these days she and I were going to chat over tea. Soon.
“Morning,” I said to Ian as I passed by.
“Wait!” he shouted and stood.
I swung around. “What’s wrong?” Ian had a long scratch on the side of his neck that I hadn’t noticed yesterday. Hm. I walked closer and tried to use every investigative technique I had about something that suddenly interested me. “How’d you scratch your neck, Ian?” flew out of my mouth before decorum and tact could even get a shot at me.
He touched his hand gently to his neck, which looked as if he wore liquid foundation. “Oh, this. I guess shaving.” He hurriedly restacked a pile of records over and over on his desk.
Ian was nervous.
“What is it that you wanted?” I leaned over the desk to get a closer look.
Fresh wound. Not fully scabbed over. Lighter pink than an old cut would be.
Ian was the guy running through the topiary butterflies last night and the one who’d knocked me down!
“Oh, Dr. Neal is going to see Gold…Mr. Perlman today. Change in schedule. The appointment is in a half hour. His office is next to Dr. Cook’s.” He shoved the files to the side and scurried away from the desk-and away from my gawking.
I stood there for several seconds, but he never came back, so I hightailed it down to Goldie’s room. He had to be my number one concern until post-op. After all, Gold was making a huge sacrifice for my case.
After I knocked on the door, Goldie yelled to come in. When I opened it, I nearly laughed. He sat on the chaise lounge with some young woman at his feet, giving him a pedicure. Only my Gold.
“Morning.” I nodded to both of them.
“Hey, Suga. This is Marilee. She’s almost done. Does a bitchin’ job on feet.”
Marilee laughed. It didn’t take much to become friends with dear Goldie. He motioned for me to sit.
“Want some tea?” he asked.
I thought of my soggy pancakes. “No,” I said then sighed. “Hey, Gold. Guess who is staying at the Samuel Freeman Lodge?”
He touched his nail to his tooth and tapped a few times as if that would give him the answer. Then he turned toward me, shook his head, rolled his eyes and glared.
“How’d you know? That is uncanny!”
“He comes here every year to get away. Long time ago I’d heard about how Jagger was on some sailing team out here. Guess he likes the water.” With that he shivered.
I too had fears of drowning, so I was with Goldie on this one. “How come you never told me this?”
Goldie’s forehead wrinkled. “Guess it never seemed pertinent to the conversation, Suga. When would I have worked in, ‘Oh yeah, Jagger heads to Newport every year for some sailing and seafood’?”
“R and R he calls it.” I slumped back in my seat. “Actually let’s drop Jagger-”
Goldie waved his hands. “No problem for me, Suga.”
“Stop that. He’s not like cocaine for me. He’s not going to make me feel wonderful and then make me crash and burn. On to my case-”
Marilee caught my eye. Damn, I had to watch what I said, although she looked engrossed in finishing her job.
“Case of poison ivy. Any good cures, Gold?” I lied.
He winked at me. “Calamine lotion. Give it a try.” He settled back to enjoy the rest of his pedicure, and I sat with my mouth shut until Marilee left with a polite goodbye.
I hurriedly told Goldie about his appointment (which Ian had already sprung on him, I’m sure just to come visit Goldie earlier) and quickly segued into last night and the scratch on Ian’s neck.
“Jesus, Suga. You think Ian killed Mr. Baines?”
“No! I really don’t, but I’m guessing our little Ian does know something that could help my case. I just feel it in my female premonition gut.”
Goldie and I never did figure anything out about last night, and before I knew it we were seated in the office of one Dr. Neal Forsyth-a real looker if I ever saw one.
I told myself that Jagger was here, in town, in Newport, but then the doc gave me a big smile and I melted much like Arlene.
I gave him a smile back and noted that his teeth were perfect, whiter than the proverbial snow-hey, he was a plastic surgeon for crying out loud and probably traded favors with the dentist. His hair was a deep black with more than specks of silver. Although there wasn’t a sign of age on the guy, he was graying before his time-and looked delicious.
“So, Goldie. May I call you Goldie?”
“Go for it.” Goldie leaned back in his chair.
I had to smile to myself because it sure looked as if Gold was very comfortable with this doctor-as opposed to old Doc Cook, who was, in fact, not any older than Neal…Dr. Neal or myself. Thirtysomethings filled the room, although I will say, he acted older. More mature. Good for him. It was good that Goldie trusted him. That would make my conscience ease a bit.
And, I had to admit, I didn’t mind working with this doctor-only because he was so much nicer than Cook!
“Fine. We work as a team around here and divide up everything evenly. I hope it’s all right with you that I’ll be performing your surgery.”
I think I moaned some kind of sexual tone.
The way Goldie and the doc looked at me, I was sure that I had. I cleared my throat and chose to ignore that the guy made me hot. After all, Jagger was in town!
Then again, that was such a long shot; I decided I’d be a wee bit friendlier with this Neal Forsyth. Why reach for the stars when you have a gimmee right in front of you. Pauline! What the heck was I thinking? I didn’t even know if he was married. I decided to look at the prospect of the good doctor as attainable.
I scanned the room for family photos and, phew, there were none. No ring. Which was not unusual for a doctor. Many that I knew didn’t wear them because of surgery.
The d'ecor of the place said bachelor. Leather. Glass. Chrome. No wife in her right mind would let a guy decorate his office in a way that would make the female patients think single.
“Is that all right with you, Nurse Sokol?”
“Hm?” I looked up. Neal and Goldie were looking at me. “Call me Pauline,” flew out of my mouth.
Neal merely smiled. Nice.
And I swallowed so loudly to buy myself time that the entire room shook. Okay, it didn’t but it sure felt as if it did. With all the decorum I could muster, I said, “I’m sorry? I didn’t get what you said before.” Because I was gawking at you.
“I’d like Goldie to take a few more days of our healthy diet, which is very high in protein, exercise and take more advantage of the use of all the pampering of our facility to make sure he’s in excellent shape-although I have no doubt that he is.”
I’m sure Goldie only heard “pampering.”
“Is that all right with you, Gold? It will prolong your stay here.” I leaned forward.
Doc Forsyth smelled good. Rich. Not that money influenced me, but the scent of rich was very sensual. I’d dated doctors before and found this to be true, unless they were penniless interns or residents. Then I had to focus on other things, like great sex.
Suddenly my face felt flushed. Neal was looking at me while Goldie was thumbing through a brochure on the “facility.”
“Warm this month. Isn’t it?” I wiped at my forehead. Sweat! I actually had sweat on it. Geez.
Neal chuckled. “I’ll have Ian turn up the AC, Pauline.”
I nodded and got up to hightail it out of there to save face. Before I could make it to the door, Neal said, “Oh, Pauline?”
I swung around. “Hm?” He was right behind me! In my space. Now some women might find that unsettling, but I just thought-welcome. “Yes?”
“Goldie tells me you are single.”
My eyes widened in horror. Thank you very much my dear, dear friend, I thought. “Very busy career,” I lied.
He laughed. “I hear you. But could I show you around Newport sometime?”
Without a thought, I looked at my watch, then his hand covered it.
“Tonight I have hospital rounds and am on call for several days, but maybe next week?”
Oh hell. Did I seem too eager?
One could only hope that crimson went well with gray eyes and blonde hair-and that single plastic surgeons were not astute enough to notice.