Back in my room, I flopped onto my bed and looked at the door, expecting a knock and a “Are you ready to eat?” But nothing.
Even Samuel seemed to be gone. I couldn’t feel his presence or any cold draft. Damn. Kinda missed the guy. This was lonely! For a few seconds I shut my eyes and reviewed my case, or what little info that I had. One thing for certain was that I had to make another trip to the office and snoop around the files.
I needed to find the “frequent flier” patients’ records. The files might just tell me whom the fraud was being committed for. Seemed logical to me that those patients would have been spending the most money at Highcliff, and they were almost a guarantee to spend more.
My stomach growled, but I didn’t want to go out to eat all by myself. I sat up and took out my cell phone, dialing Fabio’s office. When I looked at my watch, I curled my lips. “Damn. I’ll bet Adele has gone home already.” Just as I started to flip the cell closed, I heard a voice.
“Adele?” Didn’t really sound like her though. Maybe I had the wrong number.
“Ch'eri? This is Lilla. You are Pauline?”
I leaned back on the bed not feeling so alone anymore. “Yeah, it’s me. Lilla?”
“Oui. My mother, she has gone home already. May I give her a message from you?”
“Well, truthfully I was just calling to see if Jagger was around. Do you know him?”
I could hear the hitch in her voice-a very Jagger-like reaction to the guy.
“Oui,” rolled off her lips, and suddenly, despite the fact that I liked Lilla, I felt a wee bit jealous. She was, in all honesty, a real looker.
“Umm. Then he’s not there?”
“No, Pauline. He has not returned from Newport as far as I know.”
“Well, I think he did. No sign of him. Huh?”
I thanked her and selfishly was glad Jagger hadn’t shown up there, but couldn’t help but wonder, where the hell was he?
Hey, I was a red-blooded, healthy woman!
After eating two slices of a pizza I foolishly had delivered to my room, I offered the rest to the evening staff. Then I dressed in my black turtleneck with black jeans, took my camera that was disguised as a beeper and clipped it onto my belt, grabbed my thin black gloves and stuffed a flashlight into my pocket. I also carefully removed the pink locket that Jagger had given me as a gift from my makeup case. At first I’d thought the locket was jewelry, but it turned out to be pepper spray for protection. What a guy.
Thank goodness Stella Sokol had always made us kids take a travel-sized flashlight wherever we went, “in case the power goes out.”
I shook my head, thought about Jagger, ignored that thought and walked downstairs and out the door-feeling a rush of cold breeze behind me.
“I’ll be fine, Sam. Go haunt someone else,” I said, then laughed as I turned out the walkway, heading to Highcliff Manor.
This was a rather safe neighborhood and filled with walkers or other joggers, so I didn’t worry about going out alone-since Ian was no longer around. I will, however, stay off Cliff Walk at this time of the night, I thought as I turned down the street with Highcliff in view.
Neal’s car turned out of the parking lot, heading toward Bellevue Avenue. Suddenly my hormones went into overdrive. Damn, I just missed him. You are bad, Pauline, I told myself. You have a date tomorrow. Tonight is investigating time. With that, I walked along the driveway and up to the main door. No one was around, so I figured that was a good sign from up above.
For a second I considered going to see how Goldie was doing, but decided not to risk it. One of the staff might see me and know I was in the building. No. Gold was progressing fantastically and, in fact, would be more beautiful in a few more weeks.
So I walked into the foyer, looked around and headed toward the reception desk area.
The evening clerk was sitting at the computer-probably playing Solitaire like Lydia. I didn’t recognize the woman, but she was much older than me and, frankly, looked bored. That could be helpful. Maybe she’d need a cup of coffee soon. I tucked myself into an alcove near the door, behind a gigantic Fica tree, and waited.
The receptionist’s eyes started to close!
Great. Could I sneak past a sleeping woman and get into the files? That wasn’t my strong point, but if need be, I’d give it a try. Waiting for several more minutes, I watched her head bob back and forth. Damn. I needed to get her out of the reception area since I wasn’t feeling lucky enough to work around her.
I took out my cell phone and dialed, knowing I was far enough away that she couldn’t hear me speaking. When the phone in front of her rang, she jumped, nearly plummeting out of her chair. I would have felt horrible if she’d fallen.
“Yeah,” she said, sounding very confused.
“I’m calling for Mrs. Olivia Wheaton-Chandler.”
I never saw anyone come to attention so fast as the poor receptionist. “She…she’s not here at the moment.”
“I know that, you fool,” I said, feeling badly about being so rude but figuring anyone working for Olivia would act that way. “She wanted me to check and see how things are going there. Any problems? You are paying attention, aren’t you?”
Suddenly the woman was up from her seat, blinking her eyes and carrying on that everything was fine. I then hung up and waited.
Perfect. She shoved the phone back in its cradle, stretched and set the BACK IN FIFTEEN MINUTEs sign up on the desk. Great. Caffeine it is, I thought as she walked around the front of the desk. But before she headed toward the staff’s kitchen, she went to the front doors, jiggled the handles and…locked them! She used a key that she then tucked back into her pocket. That had to be against the fire code, but she probably didn’t care and did it to keep out Olivia’s spy.
I was locked in Highcliff Manor!
Oh, well, I’d been in tougher situations, often with Jagger, so I decided to get to the files and worry about my escape later.
When I got into the back office, I took out my flashlight, deciding it was safer than turning on the light. Then I stuck on my gloves, thinking Jagger would be proud that I’d remembered. Probably no patients would be about at this time, and certainly no visitors could get in, and the doc had left, so until “Rip Van Winkle” herself returned, I was safe.
I felt certain that was what Jagger would have done.
That lonely feeling started to creep into my thoughts, so I hurried to the locked file cabinet and refused to give in to that sentiment. Again I needed to find a key. I already knew the file cabinet key was not in the same box as the desk one. It would have stood out the other day when I was there. Nope. Had to be somewhere else.
I walked closer and accidentally bumped my knee on the edge. After a silent mumble of pain, I shone my flashlight onto the desk to see if there might be another box.
Papers were strewn across the desktop.
Old Rip Van must have been filing and gotten the urge for Solitaire. Perfect. I moved the light toward the file cabinet.
It was open.
Looking upward I thought, Thanks, but this is way too easy for me, but thanks again. I’m not complaining.
Hey, I was still fairly inexperienced at this job and took all the help I could get.
I sat down at the desk and shone the light onto the files. Some had Ian’s old names on them, but they were crossed out and had more normal sounding patient names written above. No one had taken the time to replace them neatly. I bet poor Ian would be turning over in his grave, if he hadn’t been cremated.
Slowly I read through the files as I held the flashlight in my mouth. Some of the names I recognized as women or men whom Goldie had spoken about meeting since being there.
Frequent fliers had been replaced with BDDs.
I lifted a file and rolled my chair back away from the desk. Before I opened the folder, I looked up to make sure no one was around. Hopefully Rip would take her time. Something told me she wasn’t up for employee of the month anytime soon.
When I leaned forward to open the file, an unexpected breeze blew a paper off the desk. My heart stopped. Geez. Old Samuel must have followed me. I laughed to myself and stuck the paper back but not before reading it.
OVERDUE was stamped on it. Then a handwritten note: “Payment refused to be paid by husband” across the top of the bill…for one Daphne Baines-wife of the murdered Mr. Baines. Wow!
I set the paper back on the desk, hopefully where it’d been before but thinking Rip wouldn’t know any different, and opened the frequent flier file.
“Wow,” I muttered, followed by “Hmm,” then a few more “wows” until I took out my beeper camera and started to click away. Thank goodness I’d invested in it for my first case.
Seemed as if the frequent fliers were the ones bilking the insurance company. Handwritten notes, and I wasn’t sure whose hand had written them, said the spouses of each patient had refused to make any more payments. Mr. LaPierre had even said that his wife was a “sick woman” and needed therapy not more surgery. His credit card number had been crossed out.
But what interested me the most was that the surgeries were still preformed with a diagnosis of “deviated septum,” so dear, perfect Babette could get yet another nose job.
After reading through all of them, I found similar “made up” medical diagnoses so that the insurance companies did, in fact, reimburse Highcliff Manor for their work.
What I couldn’t tell was who preformed all the surgery-and who was behind this whole scam. These files had been tampered with and lots of potential evidence covered up.
A whirring sound struck the air.
The elevator descending!
I shoved the files back, not too worried about the order because Rip Van Winkle surely wouldn’t notice, and ran out the door back to the safety of my alcove.
Two nurses came off the elevator and old Rip walked around the corner at that very minute…and my heart started to beat once again.
Solitary surveillance was no fun.
I’d been on cases where I had to hide and watch the goings-on of suspects before, but most of the time I had Jagger to keep me company. Enough said.
Right now, though, my back hurt. I was also sweating in my jeans, but I couldn’t even take my gloves off for fear of leaving any fingerprints, so I just stood there watching the damn receptionist, again back at the computer, playing games!
It seemed hours passed before she finally got up. Thank goodness! She walked around the desk area and took a left down the hallway. She was probably headed toward the ladies’ room, but I couldn’t care less as I finally stepped from my alcove and looked at the front door, only steps away.
What to do? What to do?
Not wanting to draw any suspicions, I ran toward the elevator, but opened the door to the stairs instead. I hurried up to the second floor, looked around before I stepped out from the stairwell and turned toward Goldie’s room.
“Visiting hours are over, Ms. Sokol,” someone said-and in a not too pleasant tone.