When I got back to Goldie’s room, I shoved the door closed so hard, he shouted. “It’s just me, Gold. Damn. That was close.” I told him about getting caught by “Lady Bandage” and how Lydia had come around the corner just in time for me to hightail it out of the office area-without an explanation or lie needed.
“Got the letters back safely then?” he asked, pulling the covers up tighter over his shoulders.
I helped tuck them behind his arms. “Yep. Phew. I’m not sure my heart can take that kind of investigating!”
We laughed until Goldie said his nose hurt. “I can’t wait to see it, Gold! You are going to look so fab. Not that you didn’t already!” Vanity wins out, I thought as Gold started to talk about his new nose and how he too couldn’t wait to get the packing out and the bandages off.
Then I thought of Neal and my heart did a little jig of excitement-and not because I had a new nose.
Suddenly I was glad old Jagger had left Newport.
“Goldie, I need to find out more about Mrs. Olivia Wheaton-Chandler. Any suggestions?”
He looked at me over the bruises on his face. My insides knotted. He’d done this for me. Sure he’d benefit, but I was still feeling badly about his discomfort.
He shifted in the bed. “Let’s see. Lydia is her niece. There’s your connection. You need to buddy up to her to get to the old lady.”
“I’d thought about that already, but Lydia is a strange child. I’m not sure I could penetrate her teen armor.” I chuckled.
Goldie reached out and touched my hand. “With all your nieces and nephews? You can do it, Suga. You can.”
Feeling as if I really could, I made sure the call bell was within reach, the phone nearby and the remote in Goldie’s hand, and went back to “visit” darling Lydia.
This time when I got off the elevator, I noticed “Lady Bandages” walking out the back door to the solarium. Good. At least I wouldn’t have to worry about her eavesdropping, whoever she was. Actually, by the looks of her bandages, she probably had other things on her mind besides watching me. I’m guessing a fast, pain-free recovery.
Lydia was still sipping her tea and looking at the computer. Perfect. Maybe the soothing warm liquid would make her feel more comfortable with me since I’d gotten it for her. Make her feel as if I cared. I really did, in a friendly sort of way.
How I hoped she wasn’t involved in any nefarious activity.
“Getting hungry, Lydia?” I asked, walking up to the desk.
Her head swung around, the tea splashing out onto the computer, and she cursed like a sailor. Oops.
“Sorry. Here let me get something to wipe that with,” I said.
“I got it,” she said as she took a tissue from the box. “Yeah. I’m about to go eat. One of the stupid nurses is supposed to cover for me but no one’s shown up yet. Jerks.”
I shook my head inside. Poor Lydia really was an unhappy teen-which would seem very common, but her pain went deeper than acne, boys or weight.
Lydia seemed like some tortured soul.
And what would cause such hurting?
After Jackie Wisherd had shown up to cover the reception area for Lydia, I followed the kid out the doorway, fast on her heels. “Can I walk with you to The Market?” I asked.
She didn’t even turn around.
Nothing. She was already out the long driveway.
I hurried closer. “Lydia!”
Stopping, she looked over her shoulder. “What?”
I noticed she had earphones on and the music was so earsplitting that I could suddenly understand the words to a rap song-then wished I couldn’t. “Oh, didn’t mean to be so loud, but I’d called you a few times and asked if we could walk together to The Market.”
Okay, she looked at me as if I were nuts, but something about me must have made her a little comfortable or at least trust me a bit. “I’m not going there, but…umm…you can come with me to eat.”
“Fine.” I figured I could find something I’d like on any menu. “Where to?”
“My aunt’s house.”
My aunt’s house! What a bonus for me, yet how sad for the kid to not even call where she lived home.
Since Lydia kept her music playing as we walked, conversation was kept to a minimum. But when we turned into the Chandler place, she yanked the earphones off as if she’d get hollered at for wearing them.
I followed her around the gigantic mansion to the back where a tiny door faced a driveway. Along one side ran tall hedges with animal topiaries nestled in between. I could tell there were long paths of floral gardens leading away from the house too. It looked very much like a well-kept private park.
Lydia rang the bell. A servant woman opened the door, nodded and stepped back inside while I stood there with my mouth gaping.
Lydia had to use the servant’s entry?
“Take a seat,” she said to me as I looked at the huge kitchen with thousands of copper pots hanging from the ceiling, three gas stoves that were the size of my living room, and rows and rows of utensils, dishes and supplies. This place could feed an army.
Several cooks bustled about, one making some kind of cookies that smelled heavenly while another chopped vegetables. Both smiled at Lydia, asked how her day was going, but kept working.
“Pauline?” Lydia said. “Sit down.”
“Thanks,” I mumbled and sat while she went to the refrigerator.
The cooks weren’t even going to fix the kid’s lunch.
But as I watched, I noticed a good rapport between them all, and Lydia actually looked more at home fixing us two ham sandwiches. This was probably her “Pollyanna” refuge from her family. And more than likely she felt “at home” enough to help herself.
“Mayo or mustard?” she asked me.
“Mayo please, and can’t I help?” I started to get up just as the door opened-and Mr. Perfect came in.
Not Mr. Perfect in a good sense either.
He looked at Lydia and ignored her, told the cooks that Olivia wanted her lunch right now and then turned toward me. “What the hell are you doing here?”
Whoa. Don’t mince any words, buddy.
Before I could lie, Lydia was in his face, saying, “She’s with me. Got a problem with that?”
At first I thought he’d smack her, so I started to get up to help, but he backed down, cursed and turned to go out.
Lydia had something on Mr. Perfect.
She had to or why else would some macho guy like him back down from a skinny, petite teenage girl?
I studied Lydia as we ate our ham sandwiches. She was quite a good little chef, even adding fresh mozzarella and red peppers to the sandwiches. When I looked at the cooks bustling about, probably so Ms. Olivia’s food would get done in seconds, I thought they must have taught Lydia. Without a word one actually handed her the mayonnaise, which she mumbled a thanks for.
And I also thought about Devin backing down.
She handed me my sandwich, for which I nodded in appreciation and then took a small bite. “These are fantastic, Lydia.” I took another taste to reinforce how good they were.
Somewhere in the recesses of her darkened eyes, a glimmer shone. No one paid much attention to the kid-which could be my saving grace-although I didn’t want to hurt her in any way with false hopes.
She nodded as if in thanks.
“How the heck did you learn to make them? I can just about open a can of tuna, throw in some mayo, stick it on rye bread and call it a sandwich.” I started to laugh, and soon she joined in.
Then Lydia confirmed my suspicions. She spent much of her time in the kitchen or in the laundry room or in her bedroom. Not her fancy bedroom on the second floor, but a rather stark one on the third floor where all the staff lived. It was her special getaway, she’d said, and always spent time with the servants. They really were her family. How sad, I thought. So sad that such a young life could not be happier.
“Devin seemed as if he were in a hurry,” I lied, having no inkling as to what Devin seemed other than a jerk.
She hesitated. “Aunt Olivia likes to get her own way.”
“Ha. Don’t we all?” I chuckled.
This time Lydia stared into space. “I wouldn’t know.”
Damn. “Come on, Lyd. You must get your own way lots. I mean, you’re a teenager!”
She set her sandwich down with a thud. Geez. I hoped I hadn’t taken her appetite away. The kid was rather thin and needed to eat.
“Sorry if I said something wrong. You all right?”
“Fine. I’m fine. It’s just that…”
Once again she stared into space.
Once again I felt her pain and felt sorry for her.
Lydia continued, “It’s that I don’t get much of what I want. And I’m not talking material things, Pauline.”
I touched her hand. “I figured that.”
She smiled. “Ever since Devin married my aunt, things haven’t been the same around here.”
“Were they better before…before the marriage?”
She pulled her hand free and looked me in the eye. “I never really knew my parents.”
Then how could things have been any better?
I helped Lydia clean up and took my damn time to try to get more info out of her, although I didn’t want to see more hurt in her eyes. She did, however, say how Devin had spent so much of Olivia’s money-no great surprise there. On more than one occasion, Lydia had heard them arguing that money was tight.
However, a damn good reason for Olivia to try to recoup.
Was she somehow involved in the medical fraud?
Now that I had that tidbit to work with, I told Lydia that I really needed to get back to Goldie. We said goodbye and I turned to go out the door. I figured the buffalo mozzarella had a gazillion calories in it so I would jog back to work.
When I came around the corner of the mansion, a form lunged out of the bushes!
After stumbling backward, and before I knew it, I was on the ground. I tried to kick and scream, but suddenly the threatening voice had me mute-and he wasn’t even touching me.
“Shut the hell up, Nurse,” Devin said. “I’m not going to hurt you. Just a word of advice. Stay the hell away from Lydia.”
I shielded my eyes from the sunlight and said, “Those words of wisdom from you or someone else?” I pushed him away, got up, ignored the pain in my back and wiped gravel from my scrubs.
“What the hell difference does it make?” He stepped back as if he didn’t have the nerve to attack me again. Every so often he looked up at the mansion.
I tried to nonchalantly turn to see if Olivia were standing watch in some window like old Samuel was wont to do, but I didn’t want to seem obvious. Anything that I did could cause more problems-thus pain-for Lydia.
When I stepped to his side, I said, “It doesn’t matter. Leave me the hell alone, and if you ever threaten me again, I’ll go to the cops.” Unless dear Olivia owns them.
He grumbled something and started to walk away.
“Keep out of the sun, Devin. Your crow’s-feet are deepening.” With that I started my jog out of the driveway and thought I heard him screech.
“Hey, good to see you sitting up,” I said as I hurried into Goldie’s room.
From the chair by the window he forced a half smile and said, “Feels good to get out of that bed. I’m not doing too well, am I, Suga?”
I shook my head. “You are the perfect post-op patient, Gold. Stop beating yourself up. You are doing fantastic. These things take time.” I sat on the arm of his chair and told him about my lunch escapade.
“Wow. Sounds like lots of covering up going on. Too bad the kid is caught in the middle of something. No idea what?”
I shook my head. “Other than the insurance fraud, which they all could be involved with. I have to find out more and get more about Olivia-”
“Perhaps I can be of help?” Neal said, walking in the door.
Oops! I sprung up. “Oh, hey. We didn’t hear you come in.” The guy was like a stealth doctor.
He chuckled. “I like to surprise my women, Pauline.”
Your women? Goldie and I exchanged glances that said, “Interesting.” But I chuckled, very ladylike, and turned toward Goldie. “He’s doing great, Doc. Really great.” I winked at Goldie. And stupidly could imagine myself living at Forsyth Manor. I mean, a house with a name!
“I am,” Gold managed.
Neal examined him and with my assistance changed the outside bandage, promising that in a few days Goldie would get to see his accomplishments, although there would still be swelling and bruising involved.
Gold’s eyes lit up like a kid’s on Christmas Eve.
I felt ten years younger, knowing Goldie’s pain was not in vain.
Neal turned to me. “May I speak with you, Pauline?”
Goldie made a little sound. Kinda sounded like a cat, a scaredy cat.
Neal, the doll, touched Goldie’s arm. “Nothing about you. You fit into the textbook recovery scenario for your procedure. No. Nothing about you, sir. It’s personal.”
Goldie let out a sigh, and I walked Neal to the door.
“I’m free tomorrow night for our date,” he whispered.
Geez. So soon?
After today’s visit with Lydia I wanted to cancel. Just not in any mood for…“Tomorrow would be perfect,” I heard myself say and mentally shook my head.
Suddenly I missed…Jagger.