Penumbra

 

home / season five / episode three / act III

   
In between classes, Jarod made his way to the communal office in the psych department. He hauled his briefcase onto his desk with his left hand, still favoring his right. From there, he removed a folder holding Talbot Davies' autopsy records, which he had copied during a brief stint at Quantico’s hospital.

He wasn't alone in the room. Professor Chatham was at his own desk, seemingly relaxed and reading a current copy of Psychology Today. Jarod was beginning to wonder if the man ever taught a class himself.

With a small wave to acknowledge his presence, Jarod settled down and began to look the report over carefully. Davies had been on several medications, including the blood thinner Coumadin. Careful monitoring would have been required, including periodic blood tests. It seemed unlikely he would have eaten any dangerous foods, taken any dangerous substances, without becoming aware of their effect. The interaction that killed him must have been sudden and massive, but there was no trace of anything unusual in the toxicology report.

He sighed heavily. Maybe it had been just an accident after all.

Across the room, Chatham took a small bottle out of his desk drawer and removed two pills, downing them with a glass of water. At Jarod's inquisitive look, he held the bottle up for inspection. "Ginko biloba," he pronounced.

"That's an herbal supplement, isn't it?" Jarod asked.

Chatham stood, apparently taking the question as an invitation, and walked over to Jarod's desk. "Would you like to try it?" he asked, offering the bottle. "Broadens the mind, sharpens the wit."

"And dilates the blood vessels," Jarod added, reading the label. "You need to be careful with this."

The professor waved away the possibility of consequences. "As long as you're healthy, a little dilation never hurt anyone." He sniffed slightly at the Pretender's polite refusal, and went back to his magazine.

Jarod stared at the bottle intently. An idea was beginning to come into focus. Toxicology reports only covered a certain number of compounds, unless you knew what you were looking for. Perhaps there were a few things he still needed to check out.

* * * * * * * * *

After letting himself quietly in the back door of Davies' house, Jarod explored the premises thoroughly. It appeared that he had been a neat man who liked order in his surroundings. Every room was neat as a pin, and Jarod doubted Tamara had the presence of mind, or the desire, to scrub and polish right now.

The medicine chest in the bathroom and the kitchen cabinets came under particular scrutiny. Jarod didn't find anything which would lead him to believe Talbot was at all careless about his heart condition. No medications other than those prescribed, not even a bottle of Tylenol. The refrigerator had already been cleaned out, but nothing on the pantry shelves seemed to contain harmful ingredients. If he really had indulged in something he shouldn't that night, it had probably come from someone on the outside.

While he was there, Jarod decided to have a look at the book Tamara had mentioned. But checking the hard drive on Davies’ computer presented an anomaly that caught his attention instantly. In a folder called "Penumbra" were copious notes regarding a series of murders in the late 80’s. The manuscript was there too, but the file names looked odd. Every chapter title had the designation ‘B’ after it, as though it was a second series of text, though there was no ‘A’ section in the folder or anywhere in the computer. Jarod searched Davies' home a second time, but could not find an ‘A’ series of files anywhere.

It was possible, but unlikely, that Tamara Prescott had them. Jarod had the impression that Davies hadn't said much to her about his works in progress, so he probably wouldn't have given his files to her.

Those disks had to be somewhere, though. In this electronic age, a writer would keep a copy of his files for the purpose of making changes once an editor got hold of it at a publishing house. Talbot wouldn’t have committed it just to paper and wiped out the working copy.

Someone had beaten Jarod to the punch, and taken those files. His job now was to find out who.

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Renewal Wing

Renewal always gave Miss Parker the creeps. One never knew what might come rolling, hopping or thumping down the corridors in that nightmare palace. Billowy curtains blew out in the breeze from the air conditioning system, marking off therapy rooms and other private areas. She could hear the soft beeps of monitors, the click-hum of respirators and other machinery as bodies were kept alive against the will of Nature. The scent of antiseptic was covered over with something sickeningly floral, making her stomach churn.

She checked every room, every station, every curtained area she passed. Up and down the quiet corridors she strode, the clomp of her thick soled shoes intensified by her determined steps. Everywhere she looked she saw misery and pain, but she did not meet the eyes of the patients in those rooms for long, and upon confirming that they were not who she was looking for, she dismissed them from her consciousness. None of the rest of them mattered at that moment -- only the one familiar ghoulish face of the man she had thought dead now for weeks.

She had never been this deep into Renewal before. Her hands rubbed her upper arms, cold now even through her wool jacket. There was only one more corridor left, all the way in the back, each room sealed with a metal door and no windows. Carefully, quietly, she pushed on the first door. It swung open easily, silently, and she stepped inside.

Not Raines. Not in the next room, either, or the next. She was beginning to think her initial conclusion was off.

The fourth door opened, and she stood spellbound in the doorway, utterly vindicated.

There he was, sitting in a wheelchair, oxygen tank parked beside him, IV pole attached to the back of the chair. Behind him was a bed, the covers still rumpled from where he had lain recently. He sat perfectly still, unblinking, without acknowledging her presence at all.

Bile choked her. She swallowed it down, her body vibrating with rage and disbelief. The door swooshed closed behind her, and she stomped closer, arms crossed, ready for battle.

“You’re tougher than you look,” she snarled. “Or else Daddy’s not a very good shot.”

Raines sat silently, his expression blank.

“Don’t you want to gloat?” she challenged him. “Come on, show some spunk, Raines.”

She gave the chair a little push with her foot. It rolled backward, bumped into the bed and sat still. Raines bobbled a little, but he didn’t move to try to catch himself. He just sat there, staring straight ahead.

Parker lunged at him, gripping the chair arms to get in his face. “Don’t expect me to buy this act, Reverend Billy. Everybody else might, but I know better.” She gave the chair a little shake. “Poor Mr. Raines. No more threatening than a spud, huh?” She smiled coldly and gave him a wink. “I can still make hash browns out of you anytime I want. And if this is real…” She laughed softly. “I can only hope. But it still wouldn’t be justice for what you did to my mother. She trusted you! But I never will, you snake.”

“He can’t hear you.”

She whirled, straightened up and glared at the man who had entered the room so quietly behind her. “What are you doing here, Cox?” she demanded.

Cox’s pale eyes settled briefly on the wheelchair behind her before returning to her face. He smiled. “Just checking in on our Mr. Raines.”

“Don’t tell me you have an alternate specialty in hydromulching?”

The doctor came fully into the room, walking soundlessly toward them. His expression was almost fatherly as he laid his hand gently on Raines’ shoulder. “Why, no, Miss Parker. But Mr. Raines came to our emergency clinic very nearly too late. They had to do a great deal to save him, but unfortunately, other damage was done. We had to… wipe the slate clean, as it were.” He gave the older man a squeeze and raised his eyes to hers. “His body is healing nicely, but he’ll never be the way he was, I’m afraid.” He smiled at her. “You don’t have to worry about Mr. Raines plotting against your father, ever again. Isn’t that comforting?”

She shot a scathing glance at Raines, then fired off another at Cox. “I don’t believe everything I see in this place,” she growled softly. “I know better.”

Slowly, she leaned down into Raines’ face and hissed, “I’ll be watching you, old man. And I’ll be waiting for you to make your move.”

Miss Parker pushed the chair backward into the bed as she turned on her heel and strode out of the room.

Cox smoothed his palm over the other man’s shoulder. “She has no idea,” he crooned softly. “You won’t be coming back at all. But then, she has other things to worry about now.” He chuckled to himself. “Oh, yes, she certainly does.”

He pulled the chair back into place, set the brake and patted Raines on the shoulder again before he left the room.

Raines sat silently in the chair without moving. He didn’t even blink.

* * * * * * * * *

Jarod waited an appropriate length of time before turning in his report at the FBI Academy at Quantico. He presented it to the appropriate secretary in person, as Tamara had requested, though he wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. He had done too many pretends with FBI personnel, and there was always a chance he might be recognized by someone passing through. That could get really awkward, and he didn’t want to have to deal with that sort of thing at the moment.

The secretary accepted his report, smiled and flirted a little, which he politely rebuffed, and he started out the door, on his way back to the college.

A gray-haired man with a ready smile stopped him in the doorway.

“Are you the visiting shrink at Braden? Doc Prescott’s had some good things to say about you.” He extended his hand and shook Jarod’s firmly, leading him back into the office. “I’m Cletus Malcolm, Behavioral Sciences. Why don’t you come into my office here and we’ll talk about a couple of things before you go. Got a minute?”

Looking for the quickest exit he could find, Jarod glanced at his watch and replied, “Well, I really need to--“

“Just take a couple seconds, I promise,” Malcolm insisted, and pulled Jarod by the elbow past the secretary’s desk and into his office. He closed the door behind them and hustled behind his desk. “Tammy tells me you’re interested in Talbot’s book.”

“Tammy?”

“Prescott,” Malcolm clarified as he fell into his chair. “Tal was a gifted writer with a good head on his shoulders and a nose for the truth. He came up here last year, checking into some background on a closed case he wanted to use as the base for a book he was working on.”

“Yes, Dr. Prescott told me about it. She said the book was about a profiler, and the cases he solved.”

Malcolm bounced in his chair as he pulled up to the desk. He seemed to be always in motion, an energetic man with an active mind. As he booted up his desktop computer, he nodded. “Yeah, it started out that way. He was going to ghost write it for one of the players on the original investigative team, but the guy was trying to make himself out to be something he wasn’t and Tal wasn’t comfortable with the original slant. So, he started working on a draft of his own. I saw some of it -- Tal wanted me to do some fact checking -- and it was good.”

Jarod ignored the remark about misrepresentation and fixed his attention on the manuscript instead. “Do you still have a copy of it, Mr. Malcolm?”

“Soon as I can find it -- here! I thought I kept a copy on my hard drive.” Malcolm lowered his voice and leaned toward Jarod conspiratorially. The Pretender came closer to hear him. "Tal said this was going to be a bit of a bombshell. Apparently the screw-up is some mucky-muck in the Psych Department over at the university, and this is guaranteed to make a big dent in his reputation. All I know is, it's a good story." He fished out a blank diskette, still sealed in the box, and copied the electronic file onto it. “You give this to Tamara and as soon as I know she’s got it, I’ll delete it off my hard drive. Okay, son?”

Jarod smiled, enjoying the man’s congenial attitude. “I’ll do that, sir,” he promised, taking the diskette and stowing it in his briefcase. “If she can get it published, maybe the royalties can help her recover from Talbot’s death. I think he’d have wanted her to have the money.”

Malcolm nodded. “That’s what I was thinking. But I thought he’d sent it off already?”

“Did he tell you that?”

The older man shrugged. “Nah. I just assumed. He had it finished a few days before he died. Wanted to get it out of the way before the wedding, you know," he added with a wink.

"I understand." Jarod turned to leave. "Thank you, Mr. Malcolm. You've been very helpful."

“My pleasure. And I look forward to reading your report on Lung Li.”

The Pretender offered a smile filled with secrets just before he strode out the door.

On to Act IV

 
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