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The Rookie Club: Dead Center Part 21

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She felt herself turn back toward the door, couldn't. Instead, she marched to the desk and looked down at the young man at the desk. She dropped her badge on the counter in front of him. "I'm trying to locate a patient who was brought in last night. Her name is Mackenzie Wallace."

He nodded without a word. His shoulders hunched as he focused on the computer screen, his fingers clicking across the keyboard. When he looked up, he said, "Orthopedic ward. Third floor. Elevators are there." He pointed across the lobby.

She thanked him and thought the orthopedic unit was a good sign. She knew Mackenzie had broken her arm-had to have a screw put in. It was the emergency department or intensive care that Hailey dreaded. The ICU was where her mother had been right before her liver had failed. No, this was better. Wallace wasn't going to die. Please don't die, Wallace. Just don't die.

Hailey rode the elevator alone, thankful for a moment of reprieve from the sick. When the doors slid open, she followed signs to the orthopedic unit and stopped at a nurses' station. It was unmanned. She spotted a nurse coming down the hall.

"I'm looking for Mackenzie Wallace."



The nurse glanced at a large whiteboard that was divided into a chart with black tape. A row of patient names was followed by room numbers and a second set of names she a.s.sumed were the doctors' because the same ones appeared multiple times.

She spotted Wallace on the fifth line.

"She's in room 1027, but it's early for visitors."

Hailey brought her badge out again and flipped it open, swallowing down her rising stomach. "Is she going to be okay?"

The nurse nodded. "Concussion. She had a bad break in her elbow. She'll be in a cast for a while."

"Can I see her?"

The nurse frowned at the clock. "She's only been out of the OR for a couple hours. She's going to be pretty out of it."

"I'd really like to see her."

"I'll get her doctor and ask, but I don't think the patient's going to be up to talking."

Hailey put her hand on the nurse's arm as she turned. "I'm just a friend. I don't need her to talk. I'd just like to see her-please."

The nurse hesitated, looked back at the board. A phone rang then something else buzzed. "It's around the corner," the nurse said, pointing left as she grabbed for the phone. "Make it short."

Hailey took two steps when she heard her name. She turned back and saw Jamie Vail half running down the hall, a man trailing behind.

Hailey stopped and waited. The man with her was average height-maybe five ten and medium build. He'd been strong once, she could tell, but he looked thin and out of shape. He had wavy, dark brown hair cut close to his head and soft green eyes. His brow was tight with concern, and Hailey a.s.sumed it was for Mackenzie, too, though Hailey didn't recognize him. Perhaps whatever worried Jamie had spilled over on to him. She wished John reacted that way. Instead, he seemed put off that she'd had to come back to work on a Sunday.

Though Hailey didn't recognize him, the man could have been a cop. Seeing Jamie with someone made Hailey realize how little Jamie revealed. She wondered where he had been on the night of Natasha's murder. She could have used the alibi.

"Have you seen her yet?" Jamie asked.

Hailey shook her head. "Just going now. Nurse said she might not be able to talk."

"But she's conscious?"

"Yes."

Jamie blew out her breath and opened her coat to take it off.

Hailey had started to turn when she spotted the dark stains on Jamie's shoes. She'd seen enough dried blood to recognize it. "What's that from?"

"Someone attacked Barney last night."

She glanced at the man. "Who?"

Jamie shook her head. "Barney's the dog-my dog. Someone cut him up, then rang my doorbell at about one in the morning."

Jamie turned back to her friend. "This is Tony. He's-" Jamie stopped.

"I'm just visiting." He stepped back, pointed to a chair. "I'll wait here."

Leaving Tony, the two women walked down the corridor in silence. Hailey was thinking about the dog attack. First Hailey, then Mackenzie, then Jamie's dog.

"It could be the same guy," Hailey said.

Jamie nodded. "I should've warned you guys when I thought I saw Marchek."

"You didn't know."

"I should've known," she said through closed teeth. "I sure as h.e.l.l know what he's capable of."

Had he been going for both of them in one night? Or all three? "You really think it's him?"

Jamie hesitated. "Maybe. After we were in his house, he'd be angry. I can see him coming after us."

Hailey repressed the shudder that built in her spine. The two of them stopped in front of room 1027. Hailey knocked. No one answered. Jamie nodded, then slowly pushed the door open.

Before Hailey could enter, the beep and whoosh of noises a.s.saulted her. Too many machines. She wanted to leave, to run. She imagined her dying mother. Jamie was right behind. No choice but to go forward. Hailey sucked in a breath, forced a step into the room.

Mackenzie lay on the narrow bed, covered by a thin white cotton blanket. One slender arm rested at her side, pale against the ugly green hospital gown. The other was bent and covered in a thick, white cast. The head of the bed was tilted up six or eight inches and Mackenzie faced the window. From Hailey's angle, Mackenzie looked too thin and too young to be a cop. Christ, how had they let this happen to a rookie?

Mackenzie turned toward them. As her face came into view, the air swept from the room. Hailey had to steel herself from stepping away. She blinked hard, fighting back emotion as she moved closer to the beautiful woman she'd met only two days before.

Tears streaked Mackenzie's cheeks. Her left eye was swollen purple and black. It looked like a rotting plum crushed on her face. Lacerations covered both cheeks, and her top lip was swollen and cut. White b.u.t.terfly sutures crisscrossed her scabbed cheeks. Black st.i.tches laced her lower lip.

Mackenzie let out a guttural noise like h.e.l.lo, but her lips didn't move.

"Oh, Christ," Jamie said, moving to the far side of the bed. She took the rookie's hand and perched on the bed. "Jesus Christ, Wallace."

Hailey moved closer, too, but Mackenzie faced Jamie.

Jamie was crying. Tears falling down her cheeks, she made no move to stop them. "I'm so sorry. Jesus, I'm so f.u.c.king sorry."

Mackenzie's one eye blinked and her tongue came out to catch a stray tear. She shook her head. Her words were slow but discernible as she said, "Not. Your. Fault."

Jamie glanced at Hailey and they shared a brief moment of relief. Hailey recognized them. She was speaking. It was good news. She would recover.

But when Jamie turned back, her frown deepened. "Like h.e.l.l it's not. It's completely my fault." She stopped talking, but Hailey could tell the retribution continued in her head.

Jamie caught her eye, stared up at the ceiling, and inhaled deeply as though trying to bottle back some of the emotion that had just come uncorked. Then she focused back on Mackenzie and looked her over. "Did you get a look at this guy last night? At all?"

"A flash of dark hair," she said, licking her lips. "Curly." Mackenzie hesitated. "Left-handed," she added, then motioned for her water.

"Sounds like Marchek." Hailey lifted the cup and put the straw to Mackenzie's lips.

"Was it him? Would you recognize him?" Jamie pressed.

Mackenzie shrugged.

"It wasn't random," Hailey said. "I can't stomach a coincidence this big."

Jamie brought the focus to the attack. "Are you up to talking about it?"

Mackenzie nodded.

Jamie watched her. "You're sure?"

"Positive."

"Okay. Walk us through it. When did you first realize he was there? How did he sneak up on you?"

Mackenzie told the story, stopping every few minutes for water. Hailey held the straw to her lips. Jamie never let go of her hand, urging her to go slow, to take a breath.

Hailey had never seen Jamie like this. At first, she'd thought the patience was all about her own guilt. But as she continued, Hailey realized Jamie knew what it was to be a victim. Hailey was impressed with the way in which Jamie engaged, at the level of her sympathy. Jamie Vail was clearly very good at her job.

Mackenzie blinked, a new herd of tears crisscrossing her cheeks. "Warning," she whispered.

"What?" Jamie asked.

"It was a warning."

"A warning. What kind of warning?"

Hailey and Jamie stood on either side of the bed as Mackenzie spoke. "He said, 'Tell her one of her own is a killer.'"

"One of her own," Hailey repeated. He was talking to her. He had to be. The killing was her case. Natasha's killer was a cop. They were looking for a cop. Christ, maybe it was Scanlan.

"'She better listen this time. It's one of you,'" Mackenzie added. "That's what he said. 'You better listen. '" She broke down a moment while Jamie rubbed her hand.

Hailey replayed the words. She better listen this time. She. Did he know who she was?

Mackenzie started to speak again but Hailey stopped her. "It's okay. You've given us enough."

Mackenzie shook her head. "One more..."

Hailey waited. Her stomach knotted.

"He said," Mackenzie took a breath through the tears. "'It'll be like the inspector that a.s.shole killed, he said.'"

Jamie remained silent. When she finally spoke, her voice seemed to catch in her throat. "He saw something that night-the night Natasha Devlin was killed. More than just her getting out of the car. He knows who killed her. That b.a.s.t.a.r.d knows."

"Or he's bulls.h.i.tting us," Hailey suggested.

Jamie stared at her hands, shook her head. "No. He likes to brag. He has power now. He has something we want, something he knows we need desperately."

No one spoke for a minute.

"s.h.i.t," Hailey finally whispered.

"But a cop?" Mackenzie croaked.

Jamie and Hailey exchanged glances. Neither spoke. Hailey wanted to believe Marchek was just s.c.r.e.w.i.n.g with them. The confirmation that a cop had killed Natasha was unsettling. "How did he find Mackenzie? Why her?" she finally asked.

Jamie paused, glanced at Mackenzie without answering.

"Jamie?" Mackenzie pressed.

"Yeah," Hailey continued. "I'm the name on the case. You, I understand. But why Mackenzie?"

Mackenzie furrowed at Hailey. "He attacked you, too?"

Jamie glanced at Hailey. Turned to Mackenzie. "There have been other incidents. We appear to be the focus for him-whoever he is."

Jamie was quiet a moment. "She found Devlin. He'd obviously seen Devlin that night. We know that from the picture, so maybe he saw Mackenzie, too. He probably found that exciting. The murder of a beautiful woman then Mackenzie is there..."

No one spoke for a moment.

Mackenzie shifted against the sheets.

Hailey moved the pieces around in her head. "If a cop killed Natasha, how was Marchek there that night? Coincidence?"

Jamie shook her head. "I'd bet he followed her. He hoped to catch her alone, but she never was."

Hailey considered that Natasha might have been raped that night if someone hadn't killed her. Christ. "The photograph," she whispered. "Marchek took a picture of Natasha with Scott Scanlan. Maybe he just a.s.sumed Scanlan was her killer."

Jamie shook her head. "I thought about that. It doesn't work. He knows the ident.i.ty of who killed her."

Hailey frowned. "How do you know?"

"Because Marchek followed them to her office. He left a perfect fingerprint on the sign with her name." She looked up at Hailey. "That is his way of taunting us. He has something we want and he's not going to give it up."

No one spoke for a minute.

Hailey broke the silence. "How do we work it from here?"

"I don't know," Jamie confessed. "But if it was a cop who killed Natasha-Scanlan or someone else-then we have no idea who we can talk to because the killer most likely has access to the case."

Hailey considered that. "There's you and me."

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The Rookie Club: Dead Center Part 21 summary

You're reading The Rookie Club: Dead Center. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): Danielle Girard. Already has 50 views.

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