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Mary Stone - Prescription for Murder (A Villain’s Story FBI Mystery Series Book 7)

A Taste of… Prescription for Murder 

Chapter One

Settling into her favorite chair, Bessie Feinberg drew her rolling table closer with the end of her cane. Her daughter had sent a new email that morning, filled with pictures of her grandkids. Admiring them would be a perfect way to kill the little time she had before Russell would come get her for their evening stroll through the halls of the retirement home.

You can just click and view the photos on your phone.” Her daughter Carolina had said that about a thousand times, not understanding quite how bad Bessie’s vision was these days. Luckily, one of the young, tech-savvy CNAs had set it up so she could send the photos from her email straight to her TV. Bessie didn’t pretend to understand how it worked, but all she had to do was push one button to watch a slideshow of all her favorite people.

As the first picture appeared on the screen, she winced at the sight of Carolina. To say her daughter had seen better days was an understatement. When Carolina was a little girl, she’d been more feminine, even graceful, but ever since her divorce, it was like she’d given up on trying.

She wore clothes better suited to a male golfer in his sixties. She no longer combed her thinning, graying hair or took the time to put on makeup. These days, she didn’t even bother with a bra, so her massive breasts just did whatever they wanted.

Bessie worried about her daughter’s future. Carolina would never catch another husband looking like that. But Bessie’s grandson and granddaughter seemed happy and beautiful as ever. In the photos, they were at some kind of water park or public fountain, dashing in and out of sprays of water in their swimsuits. As cute as two little bugs in a fluffy pink rug.

A knock sounded on her door, but Bessie didn’t move or acknowledge the person on the other side. What was the point? They’d come in either way, regardless of whether she wanted them to or not.

Sure enough, the door opened, revealing light from the hall. A tall, skin-and-bones nurse wearing Coke-bottle glasses from another era strode inside. She wasn’t Bessie’s usual nurse, but the staff often covered for each other.

The polite name for this person was Nurse Shelly, but Bessie’s friend Russell, who had a nickname for everyone, called the lady currently entering her room “Nurse Mantis” because of the way she often held her long arms—bent at the elbows, hands clasped. He called her regular caretaker “Nurse Pekingese” because, well, Nurse Cindy was small and yippy.

Nurse Mantis ran her hand over her tight bun, her hairline thinning more and more every day.

Carolina often did the same thing, pulling her hair so tight it fell out. Bessie saw it as the mark of a woman who hadn’t been loved by a man in far too long. Thankfully, that wasn’t a problem Bessie shared. She might’ve been seventy-eight with skin like paper, but Russell—her Army man—had her feeling like she was sixteen again. The fact that he lost an arm in combat in Vietnam made him all the more dashing.

Nurse Mantis didn’t say a word as she wheeled a tiny cart up beside Bessie’s chair. She clasped her wrist with cold, bony fingers and recorded her pulse before taking her blood pressure. They did this four times a day, sometimes barging in and waking her up in the middle of the night after it had taken her hours to fall asleep.

A tightness behind her ribs had Bessie clutching her chest. Four months ago, a myocardial infarction had her laid up in bed for almost a month. Dr. Esposito had her on a cocktail of blood thinners that seemed to be working well enough, but she couldn’t deny that in the last week she’d been feeling worse again. She became lightheaded whenever she stood—no matter how slowly and no matter for how long—winded from the slightest bit of exercise.

“What’s wrong with you?” Nurse Mantis’s thin lips curled. The question sounded more like an accusation. Why are you trying to waste my time?

The pain intensified, like Bessie’s heart was solidifying. She needed to talk to her doctor about what she’d been experiencing, but there was no point in saying a word to this long-fingered witch. All Mantis would do was give her more narcotics, which thankfully didn’t appear to be on the menu right now. Bessie wanted to have her wits about her for her walk.

Russell sometimes joked about how hard it was to get drugs when he was young, and now people threw handfuls at him every time he so much as grunted.

Bessie inhaled a few deep breaths, laboring through the ache in her chest until it finally started to fade. “I’m fine. Thank you.”

Visibly relieved—not that Bessie was okay, but that she got to leave—Nurse Mantis hurried from the room, closing the door behind her. Bessie sipped from her water bottle on the table and turned her attention back to the photos, which by now were going through a third loop of the slideshow.

Smiling, she reached up to stroke her necklace—a collar of diamonds and aquamarine that had been in her family for three generations. But all Bessie touched was her own paper-thin skin.

She froze, her heart rate ratcheting up. During the day, she rarely took the necklace off, not unless she was in the shower, and then she always had the CNA put it back on her before she even had her skirt buttoned on.

Sitting up as well as she could, she felt around in the crevices of the padded recliner. The tightness in her chest returned with a vengeance, stealing her breath.

Her hands fumbled against crumbs of peanut shells, loose change, a pen. No necklace.

Scooching to the edge of her seat, Bessie readied to push herself up. Her titanium knee replacement ached, though not nearly as much as her plain old bone knee. And nothing compared to the violent thrashing of her heart—like it was about to fail at any given moment.

A gentle tap came on the door, the knock far too polite to belong to a nurse. Bessie tried to tell Russell to come in, but her voice choked, and she started to wheeze. She couldn’t conjure up enough breath for an honest cough.

Panic sliced through her. She clutched her chest, just like when she’d had the heart attack, but the pain was even more intense this time because the stabbing sensation wasn’t concentrated in one spot. It spread throughout her torso like poison.

“Sugarplum?” Russell pushed the door open and stepped inside. Bessie’s chest was in such a frantic spasm, she couldn’t make eye contact.

“H…” She couldn’t even get one word out.

“Bessie!” He hurried to her side and clasped her shoulder. “Nurse! Help!”

He moved around to her front and knelt to meet her gaze. Bessie blinked, trying to get Russell to come into focus. A blurry photo of her daughter flashed on the TV screen, and a sharp pang stole Bessie’s last breath before she collapsed.

No, Carolina would never catch a new husband looking like that.

Chapter Two

Detective Justice Hall finished getting Carolina Feinberg’s statement in the parking lot by the side of his truck. The location was unconventional, outside standard procedure, given the parking lot was right outside the sheriff’s office.

His desk and computer were a four-minute walk away, and he could’ve typed up everything Carolina had to say about the rather timely death of her elderly mother. Instead, he was scratching his notes out with a pencil in handwriting so sloppy even he could barely read it.

Bringing her outside was for the best. Carolina was very upset and seemed a generally boisterous and loud woman. If he’d taken her statement inside, she would’ve distracted the entire department and brought down productivity.

That was what he tried to tell himself anyway.

The truth was, Justice didn’t want to be in the office right now. His boss, Sheriff Eliza Galvez, was pacing the rows of desks and asking all kinds of questions about why the close rate in the homicide department was so low. And why, even though they weren’t technically catching any of the killers, the murders seemed to keep stopping—with several of the murderers having turned up dead.

It was Justice’s fault. All of it. He was the reason the murders were stopping. He was also the reason none of the perpetrators were being caught. What at first had been an instinct he suppressed had now become a habit.

He was killing killers and couldn’t seem to stop.

Galvez was starting to notice some odd things. Most notably, the increasingly common occurrence of him showing up to work with some ghastly wound on his face he’d received pursuing his extracurricular activities. His behavior had also become occasionally erratic, which she’d noticed too. Cussing at her on the phone for calling him to come in on his day off hadn’t been his brightest moment.

No way did she suspect the truth, though. Surely not.

If she had, he would’ve seen it in her eyes when she looked at him—fear and disgust. He knew she couldn’t hide her emotions well. But she thought something was going on, and that something had to do with him.

It’d been almost two weeks since Justice caught up to the Tent City Killer—a crazed psychopath who’d taken it upon himself to fix the local homeless problem by executing Bowe City’s unhoused residents.

With a plastic devil mask concealing his pale face, he first shot his victims with a dart gun. The darts contained a rare drug made from berries from India that paralyzed them without dulling their ability to feel pain. Then he hauled them back to his butcher table to dismember them, each according to their perceived crime.

The asshole cut out his first victim’s eyes for giving him a nasty glare and the second one’s tongue for uttering a snide remark. He sliced the hands off the third for stealing, and the fourth—the only woman—had her feet removed for running away. He’d chopped off her nipples, too, all because he viewed her as a temptress.

Women always seemed to be the recipients of the worst of the violence, mostly because a good portion of assailants were men who’d been laughed at and rejected by women all their lives. They longed to dominate them. Justice could relate, though his instinct wasn’t to lord himself over women or any other innocent. His prey was limited to other predators or those who worked for them.

Justice had hunted the Tent City Killer down rather quickly, and soon after, disposed of the man’s body at the base of the apple tree. His eyes, hands, feet, nipples, and tongue had also been laid to rest, but not in their proper position.

Justice had never done anything like he did to the Tent City Killer. Usually, his methods were quick and simple. A sliced throat, a bullet to the brain, strangulation, or in the case of another psychopath, a strategically placed explosive. But upon walking into the Tent City Killer’s kill room and realizing the full horror of what the sick bastard had done to his innocent victims, Justice had truly understood the wisdom of the words an eye for an eye for the first time.

Almost two weeks had gone by, and every night that Justice lay down to go to sleep, he remembered the euphoric high he’d experienced while slowly sawing through the man’s tongue with a serrated knife, the hot blood splattering his face.

He’d been sleeping like a baby lately.

The killing had been excessive and unnecessary. Justice should’ve brought the bastard in and taken all the glory that came with it. The choice to kill him had been too emotional, too impulsive. He’d been following his heart and gut, not his brain. If he wanted any chance for a long life, he’d have to remember to marshal his dark urges.

What he needed now was to solve a murder. Find a killer, bring them in, and let the system take care of them. It was the only way to restore the department’s close rate, the only way to regain Galvez’s trust.

Justice refocused on Carolina Feinberg. She claimed her mother, Bessie Feinberg, who was in a nursing facility called New Light Retirement Home, had been poisoned to death. That sounded far-fetched to him, but for the sake of his career, he kind of hoped it was true.

What an awful thing to hope for. But what difference did it make? The old lady was dead either way.

“I talked to her on the phone yesterday evening.” Carolina choked out a sob and wiped her tears. “I blame you all. I know my mom’s been complaining about New Light for months now. I’m pretty sure she sent an official complaint to the sheriff’s office.”

Carolina was a profoundly unattractive woman. It wasn’t her ill-fitted navy blue slacks or stained golf shirt, her thick legs covered in strawberry skin, the spare tire around her middle, or her linebacker shoulders. It wasn’t even her thinning gray-brown hair, pug nose, or round, chinless face. It was the way she curled her lips out when she spoke, like an aggressive dog ready to attack.

Ugly as she was, Carolina also seemed to possess a genuine yet raw nature, something paradoxically beautiful precisely because it was so artless. The woman was brutal honesty personified, and Justice took her words with the gravity owed to such a creature.

“Okay, I’ll check into that. For now, though, I think I have everything I need to get started.” Justice flipped his notebook closed. He’d faithfully scribbled down Carolina’s every word, even when he wasn’t actually listening to her. “I think you ought to head home. You’ve been through a lot. I have your number, and I’ll contact you after I have a chance to swing by the home.”

“Thank you.” She sniffled and wiped her nose.

Justice turned and opened the door of his truck, fetching a pack of tissues from the glovebox and handing it to her. “Go take care of yourself. I’ll take care of this.”

With a hand on the small of her back, Justice led her across the lot to her vehicle. Heat from the midmorning sun beat down on them, not a cloud in the summer sky. The smell of burritos wafted from a food truck across the field that lay to the back of the justice complex.

“Are you all right to drive?” Justice opened the driver’s side door for her.

“Yes, I’ll be fine.”

Once she settled into the seat, Justice passed along his card before closing the door and giving the roof a friendly tap. He watched as she drove off. Then he turned and sauntered back toward his truck.

A black Dodge Charger from the ECSO fleet came to a stop in the lot outside the sheriff’s office, and Justice smiled. The door opened, and a man with poofy red hair and pale, freckled skin stepped out onto the concrete.

“Hey!” Justice jogged across the sleek glass-and-steel footbridge that spanned the river separating the parking lots of the sheriff’s office and the less busy Department of Public Safety, where his assigned spot was located. His friend, Detective Henry Carlson, had a much better parking space than he did.

Henry lifted his gaze and produced a lazy smile. His big brown eyes appeared bloodshot and watery, like he hadn’t slept enough the night before. Nearly a month ago, Henry had been shot in the neck while on a sting operation. He had required emergency surgery.

Until recently, he’d been wearing a bandage like a collar around his neck, but now the wound was open to the air. Gnarled red flesh hung loose on the right side of his Adam’s apple, bouncing whenever he spoke.

“Morning, Justice.” Henry’s voice was even deeper now, even raspier—an undeniable Dirty Harry twang.

It suited him.

Justice tipped his hat. “Howdy, partner. Lovin’ the new look.”

Henry touched his hair, which had grown out a bit in the time he’d been away from work. “Taking a cue from you, you hippie. Think Galvez will go for it?”

“Hell no.” Justice grinned. “I’m on my way to investigate a new potential case. Wanna tag along?”

Henry nodded. He’d been chained to a desk ever since getting injured, though he opted to sneak out in the field every now and then for a little action, unbeknownst to Galvez. “Where are we going?”

“New Light Retirement Home.” Justice popped open the passenger door on the fleet vehicle Henry had checked out.

“Sounds exciting.”

Justice nodded, mumbling as he climbed in. “Dear god, I hope so.”

***

Twenty minutes later, they pulled up to a three-story building with maple-wood shutters on every window and yellow awnings over every door. Daisies grew along the edges of sparkly concrete paths. It certainly didn’t look like a place where staff poisoned their patients, but Justice was well aware that looks could be deceiving. He counted on that fact to keep him alive.

Justice walked side by side with Henry through a set of glass security doors and into the lobby. Aggressively white floors assaulted Justice’s senses, but that was nowhere near as offensive as the walls papered with big purple flowers.

They approached a woman sitting at the front desk, her rosy cheeks and large glasses giving off Jan Brady-meets-Velma from Scooby Doo vibes. She stared at her phone, pulling her black jacket tighter over her white scrubs against the aggressive air-conditioning.

When she noticed them, she flashed a grin and set her phone down. “Good morning. Can I help you?”

Henry placed his palms on top of the desk and leaned forward. “Yes. My name is Detective Carlson, and this is Detective Hall. We’re here about the recent death of a Mrs. Elizabeth Feinberg, aka Bessie.”

“Oh?” Her eyes widened in alarm.

“Might we please speak with the manager?”

“That’ll be Rose. She’s our director. One moment, please.” She picked up the desk phone and dialed an extension. “Ms. Hastings? Two detectives are here to speak with you.” A pregnant pause ensued. “No. They said they’re here about Bessie Feinberg. Okay.”

She hung up and turned her attention back to them. “You can head up. Her office is on the second floor. When you get off the elevator, go straight down the hall. You can’t miss it.”

They thanked her and went up to the second floor. The elevator doors opened to reveal a circular nurse’s station set in the middle of two intersecting halls. While the lobby hadn’t smelled like much, Justice caught a definite whiff of nursing home up here. Sterile and filthy all at once. Cafeteria food, urine, disinfectant, carpet cleaner. Death.

The sensory experience of death normally comforted Justice. But coming from these old folks dying of old age, the stench made him want to shrink back into the elevator and run from this place like a top model would flee a fast-food joint.

As they made their way down the hall, they passed a parlor filled with comfy chairs and bookshelves where residents sat, socializing. One man, who had the sleeve of his shirt folded and pinned up over a missing arm, watched them carefully, his brow knitted. Justice caught his eye and noted a gleaming gold watch on his sole wrist.

They approached an office with the words Rose Hastings, RN. Director embossed on a golden plaque beside the door. With a knock, Henry pushed it open to reveal a woman sitting behind her computer, typing away on her keyboard.

Dressed in what appeared to be a men’s suit jacket, she wore her hair pinned back in a severe bun. Justice couldn’t tell much about her physicality with most of her body hidden behind the desk, but she had a thick, muscular neck that looked like it could snap a leather strap.

“Ms. Hastings?” Henry asked, stepping inside first.

Considering she was the boss of such a large complex, Justice found it odd how tiny and cramped her office was. He sniffed and caught a strong whiff of vegetable soup, so he hung near the doorway so as not to be saturated with it. The scent reminded him of old people and sickness.

When he glanced over his shoulder, he noticed the one-armed man had stepped out into the hall and was watching him.

Most people lacked the self-confidence to stare at another person as openly and unapologetically as this guy. He seemed friendly and sociable but serious all at once. It was clear even from this distance that he was a special person—a charismatic or some kind of leader.

The man straightened his already impeccable posture.

“Yes. I’ve been expecting you.” Rose shuffled through some papers on her desk. “Just like Carolina Feinberg to run off and get the police involved.”

“What do you mean by that?” Henry’s gaze narrowed.

“I mean she’s a busybody with nothing better to do than hang around here and micromanage my nurses. She’s what the kids call a Karen, and you are simply another manager she has demanded to speak to.” Rose flicked through her files, pulling one out and slapping it down in front of Henry. “This is the doctor’s official report, just arrived on my desk. Cardiac arrest.”

“Where is the body now?”

“Carolina requested it be taken to the coroner’s to be examined. That’s Dr. Esposito. She serves as the physician in residence. But if someone passes away, she also conducts the postmortems. Esposito wrote the report. But I’m afraid there was nothing unusual found at all. I’m very sorry for wasting your time.”

With that, the woman turned back to her computer and resumed typing.

Henry barely glanced at the file. “Why do you think Mrs. Feinberg’s daughter would choose to involve the sheriff’s office?”

Rose took off her glasses, dropping them to the table with a dramatic sigh. “Because Carolina thinks everything is a police matter. She was always hypersensitive about her mother’s care, and now that she has passed away, she’s looking for somebody to blame.”

Justice locked eyes with the man in the hall again, whose intense gaze sent shivers down his spine. He was waiting for them, ready to share something. Justice got the distinct impression he would wait as long as necessary.

Henry asked Rose to describe in her own words what had happened to Bessie, and as she explained in a cool monotone, Justice tried to listen. Like many a manager, the woman was almost abrasively boring. The story she told was simple and incredibly banal.

Bessie had a dangerous drop in blood pressure, likely because the medication she had been taking had become inert in her system. They were unable to stabilize the pressure, and she passed.

Justice tried his best to focus on what she was saying but found himself repeatedly hypnotized by the one-armed man with the dauntless stare.

A former military commander. Justice would’ve staked money on it. He knew the type from his tours in Afghanistan.

“Did you have any more questions for her?” Henry turned expectantly to Justice.

He shook his head, tearing his gaze from the man. Then he addressed Rose as if he’d been listening the whole time. “Do you know who the last person was to see Bessie alive?”

“That would be Russell Sterling. He’s one of our residents. He was a friend of hers.”

“Could we speak to him?”

“Sure, you can’t miss him. He’s got one arm. He’ll be out with the others, probably playing chess.”

Henry cleared his throat. “Who else? A doctor, perhaps?”

“Stephanie Esposito is our doctor here, but she called out sick yesterday.”

“Then who was watching over Bessie?”

Rose kept her eyes glued to the screen. “I don’t know off the top of my head, but I imagine it would be her nurse.”

“Okay, well, we’d like to speak with the nurse who was on duty when Mrs. Feinberg passed.”

“I don’t see why you should need to. There was nothing out of the ordinary about Mrs. Feinberg’s passing.”

Henry leaned over the desk. “With all due respect, ma’am, we’ll be the judge of what needs to be done here.”

“Fine.” Rose sighed, a low growl in her throat. She clicked her mouse and peered closer. “Cindy was on duty. Cindy Crane.”

Henry continued to hover like a helicopter parent. “Is she at work today?”

“No, her shift ended a few hours ago.”

“We’ll need her phone number and home address.”

Rose provided Cindy Crane’s contact information, which Henry jotted down. Then he picked up the file Rose had given him and slid it under one arm.

“Would you say Ms. Crane is a good nurse? Any complaints?”

Rose glanced up. “She’s not our best, but she’s perfectly adequate. And I don’t know offhand.”

“Could you check?”

Rose cocked her head. “In this line of work, people register formal complaints if you give them the wrong kind of cereal in the morning.”

Henry scribbled over his notebook. “Who else could have come in contact with Bessie before she died?”

“Any number of people. Other residents. Janitors. Other nurses, even.”

“Could you provide us with a list of everyone who was on duty yesterday evening at roughly seven p.m.?”

Rose held up her hand. “Really, Detective. That’s completely unnecessary. This whole thing is a waste of time.”

Though what she said seemed perfectly reasonable, Justice felt there was more to this story—something the administrator wasn’t going to surrender easily. “Ms. Hastings, do you have video surveillance in the home?”

“We have security cameras surrounding the property, but none in the home itself.”

That struck him as odd, considering how litigious the medical field could be. “Why not?”

“It’s a matter of privacy. Our residents don’t like to feel they’re being monitored by Big Brother.”

Henry leaned back against the wall, looking like a man who could lounge there all day. “Is there anything else you’d like to tell us, Ms. Hastings?”

“No.” Rose bristled. “Carolina Feinberg is a liar at the best of times, and she’s wasting everybody’s time, especially yours. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.”

Justice nodded. “Understood. One last thing…if you’re the boss here, why such a small office?”

She shot him a death glare. “Unlike some, I don’t need a big office to make myself feel important. I get my satisfaction from my work, which I would love to get back to.”

Henry glanced at Justice, silently asking if he had any more questions. Justice shook his head. They strode out of the office and down the hall, where Russell waited for them.

Slightly shorter than Justice, the man appeared to be six feet tall, his back still straight and his limbs still thick. His intense blue eyes radiated intelligence. He gestured them closer with a tilt of his head and a friendly but controlled smile. “If it isn’t two of Elmaeder County’s finest.”

Justice accepted his outstretched hand as he approached. Lowering his gaze, he caught a quick glimpse of the classic gold Timex on the man’s wrist. Nice choice. “I’m Detective Hall, and this is Detective Carlson.”

“Captain Russell Sterling.” He shook each of their hands in turn with a firm grip. “Are you here about Bessie Feinberg?”

Justice nodded. “Was she a friend of yours?”

“Yes. She was very dear to me.” Russell’s face softened, his sadness palpable and charmingly sincere. He glanced down the hall at Rose’s office before turning his attention back to Henry and Justice. “I was there when she passed.”

“We heard. I’m very sorry for your loss.” Normally, Justice would’ve asked if there was anything suspicious about her passing, but he could tell Russell was eager to offer all the information he had. There was no point asking questions until he was done—Interviewing 101.

“Granted, Bessie had some health problems. She spent a good portion of her life sitting, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you the problems that can cause. But for the last year or so, I’ve made her go for a walk with me every day, sometimes two or three times a day. I gave her a workout every chance I got, and you could see how much it was helping.”

“You felt she was doing well?” Justice prompted.

“She had a lot of years left.” Russell’s bright eyes fell, and he rubbed his forehead. “Beautiful Baby Bessie. She was a pistol.”

Henry, who was unusually sensitive to charm in all its forms, regarded the captain with deference and a sympathetic turn to his lips. “Are you saying you don’t think Bessie’s death was natural?”

“I didn’t say that.” Russell leaned his back against the wall, casting a careful gaze up and down the hall. “And I would never say that. I’m assuming sweet Carolina told you a whole story, and I know she believes it with all her heart. She’s an honest woman.”

“I agree.” Justice leaned against the wall, mirroring Russell’s stance.

If only they had a cigarette to pass back and forth, it would feel like they were back in the Army. Soldiers loved gossip just as much as, if not more than, teenage girls. Simply getting one like Russell talking was how Justice cracked almost every case he’d had as an MP.

Justice drummed each of his fingertips against his thumb in slow succession. “So if she’s honest, what does that make you?”

Russell’s brows lifted. “What I am is a fly on every damn wall in this place, understand?”

“We got it.” Justice nodded. “What did the fly see?”

“Don’t trust Ms. Hastings.”

Henry crossed his arms. “Why not?”

“It’s not because she’s an uptight, matronly shrew.” He pushed off from the wall and glanced over each shoulder. “Full disclosure, Ms. Hastings hates my guts probably more than anybody else in this place. And she hated Bessie, like she hates all my lady friends, and basically anyone else who still has enough marbles to comprehend what’s really going on around here.”

Justice narrowed his eyes. “What is going down?”

Russell cast another sweeping glance. He didn’t seem nervous, just cautious. The veteran kept his back straight and voice strong. “Rose is slippery as a wet eel. She’s been stealing from the residents. Recommending unnecessary interventions and then overcharging. My other dear friend Francine said Rose even tried to convince her to sign over her SSI check.”

“Really?”

“Rose is nothing but a common rat who’s all about raking in that government cheddar.” Russell shrugged and rolled his neck. “See, I’ve been around this slimy block a time or two. It’s no surprise and no fuss. I’m too old to change the world, so I keep my head down. But Bessie and her daughter are cut from the same cloth…crusaders, know what I mean?”

“Bessie confronted Rose?”

Russell moved in closer and lowered his voice. “I told Bessie what I thought was up and she flipped her wig collection. She went straight to Rose and said she was going to expose this whole operation.”

“When was that?”

“Five days ago, young man. Five days. I lodged a complaint myself, we both did, to anyone who’d listen. The FBI. The governor’s office. Hell, we even lodged a complaint with y’all down at the Elmaeder County Sheriff’s Office, but we never heard back. And not just about Rose. Some of these nurses here are pretty rotten too.”

The door at the end of the hall opened, and Russell cut himself short as Rose stepped out. Her hard gaze immediately snapped to Russell. He met it fearlessly, even smiled a little in such a way as to tell her to go screw herself. Then he turned and walked back into the parlor without another word.

Justice and Henry stepped onto the elevator and pushed the starred button for the lobby.

“What do you make of that?” Henry’s lips twitched. “Do you think we might have a case?”

“I don’t know. In my experience, a lot of nursing homes are corrupt, but to go so far as to murder a resident…” Justice shrugged.

“Agreed.”

“That said, if Bessie was making trouble for Rose, then maybe that’s a motive?”

Henry rubbed his chin. “Seems like a stretch.”

As they exited the building, Justice gestured to the notebook where Henry had written Cindy Crane’s name along with her phone number. “True. Let’s wait and see what the witness has to say.”

“Drop me off back at the office? I’ve got a mountain of paperwork to get through. And I feel like you can handle a nurse on your own.”

Justice grinned, thinking about the stacks of unfinished paperwork teetering on his own desk. “Trying to get in good with the boss, eh? Brownnoser.”

Murder hides behind mercy’s mask. 

Eleven days after Deputy Justice Hall secretly ends another reign of terror, Elmaeder County Sheriff’s Office swirls with silent questions. The abrupt halt of murders puzzles everyone, especially the sheriff, who suspects Justice’s involvement, straining their relationship.

Will she be his next target?

Needing to regain trust, Justice jumps at a case involving a suspicious death at a retirement home. What begins as a routine inquiry spirals into a complex investigation. Anomalies at the home hint at a sinister… Read More