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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1848344-Chapters-9--10-of-Beauty-From-Ashes
Rated: 18+ · Chapter · Detective · #1848344
Leland remembers his wife and the murder victim. Tanner visits her old haunt~ the ER.
                        9.



                Ephesians 6:12, For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.





              Images of Leland’s life played like a movie in his dreams until the early morning hours of

Saturday.  He kept waking, and then drifting back into fitful sleep. 

              He had brought his wife Martha to the emergency room at Mystic General when the pain had been too much for both of them to bear.  She was in the final stage of dying. Breast cancer had won its war inside her body.  Rage and anger had won its war inside of his.

            The emergency room was chaotic and loud.  Alarms and bells were going off as nurses quickly walked in and out of patients rooms.  The place smelled of sickness and disease to him, making him shake inside with the knowledge that they belonged there.  He stood in the hallway with a volunteer, waiting for the ambulance to arrive with his wife. 

          The volunteer was a pimply teenage boy who said he was sixteen.  He had on a pink and white candy striper vest. Were boys supposed to wear those, or was he one of those who were trying so hard to make a statement, he wondered.  Leland could not remember what the boy said his name was.  He did not care. 

          Leland saw the ambulance attendants pushing his sick wife towards him and he began to cry as her image struck him.  When had Martha lost so much weight? When had she aged twenty years? When had she shrunk inside of her skin? When had her beautiful blonde hair turned gray?

          Martha was put into room seven, and was quickly tended too by a pretty young nurse named Kendra.  She did not look very old to him. How old does someone have to be to save lives? He thought.  She talked to him and his wife the whole time she was caring for her.  She softly and slowly removed Martha’s nightgown and put on a hospital gown that snapped on the arms. She then skillfully attached some wires and probes for monitoring.  She explained everything as she went along. 

          The doctor came in and ordered some pain medication that Kendra quickly gave to relieve her pain.  Martha soon relaxed and looked more peaceful. He remembered Martha saying, “God bless you for the job you do,” to Kendra as she gently cared for her. He wondered why thoughts of blessing someone else did not enter his mind anymore.

            She told Martha that she was a newly graduated nurse and that she had just moved back to her hometown to work here.  The emergency room was where she always wanted to work.  She had a possible new boyfriend who worked for the ambulance service. “The cute one with the dark hair that brought you in,” she whispered to Martha.  They had been out on a few dates with some people they worked with.  Martha listened to every word. Did she think it may be one of the last conversations she would ever have? He wondered. 

            As he watched Kendra, he thought she appeared to be smarter than a new graduate ought to be, and she certainly was very compassionate.  He wondered who her parents were but he did not have the energy to ask.  Martha asked.  “Who are your parents Kendra? Maybe I know them.”

          “Kassy and Mark Mills,” she answered. 

          “I don’t recognize those names,” Martha slurred as the medication started to make her sleepy. 

          “Would you like me to call anyone for you sir before I go tend to my other patients?” Kendra asked.

            “No, I’m fine,” Leland answered flatly.

            Watching her leave, he turned his attention to the room.  Painted an olive green  with no border it felt safe but not inviting.  The floor was a black and white checkered pattern.  Several stains were present on the floor; he didn’t want to know from what.  There was a small sink and counter top that now held his wife’s belongings.  A cart was next to her bed that had several clear jars that held numerous things a nurse might need to care for her patient.  He thought he could design a better cart unit for them. Maybe he would. 

            The wall behind his wife held a flat screen that read her vital signs and other numbers. The numbers said HR 30, RR 28, BP 56/30 and O2 82.  He wanted to ask what the numbers meant, but he did not really want to know.  Oxygen and other devices came out of this wall as well.  The tubing connected to the oxygen was now also connected to his wife.  For some reason, looking at the tubing made him start crying again. 

            “God, why is this happening?  We have been your faithful servants for forty years now.  We have dedicated our lives to serving you.  Was it not enough for you that you wouldn’t give us any children, now you have to take my wife?”  He said in an angry whisper to the air.

          Kendra came back into the room with some coffee for him and more medication for Martha.  “Morphine is ordered for her every fifteen minutes as needed,” She told him.

          “Is she going to die?” he asked her. 

          “Mr. Clark, I’m not sure.  She appears to be in the final stage of the dying process, but I can’t predict when she will die.  The human body is remarkably strong and she could hold on for days like this.”

            “I don’t want her to suffer any longer.  I brought her here so you people could help her. The medication the hospice people gave her just wasn’t cutting it anymore and I couldn’t watch her be in pain,” he said as he began to break down again.

            Leland stood, shoving his hands into his Carhartt khaki work pants and began pacing the room. Tears that had been built up for so long now freely fell from his eyes to the hospital floor, a few hitting his shirt.  He did not wipe them away.  He did not seem to notice them at all.

          Martha woke briefly and asked Kendra if she believed in God and heaven.  Kendra told her that yes she did believe in God and heaven, and that she grew up in a Baptist church here in town, but that she had not gone to church since leaving home for college.  Martha told her she should go back and that the Evangelical Free church in town was wonderful.  Kendra thanked her and left the room.

          In his dream a monitor alarm in Martha’s room went off. This woke him. His chest and mind were heavy from the memory.

          As he was almost again asleep he shifted his thoughts to the day ahead.  He would have to get up at 6:00a.m., to be at work on time.  Saturday mornings at the hardware store were the busiest and he had let some work slide lately.  His region manager would only understand for so long. 

          Sleep finally overtook Martha in his dream, and a deep sleep finally overtook him in reality.  The clock read 3:20a.m.

          The bedside alarm went off at 6:00a.m., but it took several minutes of the fog horn sound to wake him.  Leland slowly and painfully opened his eyes but was having trouble figuring out where he was.  He focused on his bedroom furniture and realized he was not in the hospital with Martha.  She was dead.  He was alone.  He was empty.



                                                                                    10.

 

            Psalm 34:15; The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.



            Burrowing deeper into her patchwork quilt comforter, Tanner found some warmth as her stomach connected with Jack’s back.  She smiled as his arm came back and rested against her back side.  “Good morning,” She whispered into his ear.

          “Mmmmm, good morning to you,” Jack mumbled as he fought to wake up. The clock read 4:45.

            As if on cue, Rocket came waddling into the bedroom and grunted his good morning to them.

          “Of course you are up and ready to go on an adventure walk, even though it’s Saturday and I want to have an adventure with your mother instead,”  Jack playfully said to Rocket as he patted Tanner’s behind.

          “The story of my life...”  Tanner said with a smile as she hugged Jack and reached for Rockets head.  Rocket sat and stared at them as they slowly got out of bed and continued talking.

        “Are you still golfing this morning with frick and frack?”  Tanner asked.

        “Yup…the usual seven o’clock tee time still stands.”

        “I hope the killer falls into our laps early today so I can be home for supper.  Do you want to meet at The Grill?”

        “Sounds good to me,” Jack said as he and Rocket led the way downstairs. Rocket took a second to grunt his greeting to Ceasor, but was more focused on his upcoming walk to be distracted.

          Jack took Rocket for a walk as Tanner got into the shower.  Her mind was going over the crime scene as the hot steamy water ran over her head and down her body. 

          Seeing the park in her mind, she walked the path of the scene again and waited to see if she saw anything now that she may have missed.  The air was cool.  The path was littered with grass sprigs from the freshly mowed lawn.  She could almost smell it again.  Her eyes roamed the surrounding area.  Trees, bushes and multiple types of wild flowers littered the edge of the narrow path that lead into a wider section that branched off.  She saw where she stepped off the path to follow Aspen and went on the lawn to avoid the crime tape.  Scanning the area she did not see anything different than she remembered.  She went up to the body and rehearsed what she had seen.  Kendra’s face stared up at her. 

          She finished conditioning her hair and began to pray.

        “Lord, be with Kendra’s family as they try to deal with her horrible murder and the loss of their child.  Help them to feel your comfort and your love for them.  Be their strength today as they begin this horrible journey.  Be with me and the team today as we work at finding out who did this.  Help me Lord to see the information and process the evidence, show me what I am not seeing.”

          As Jack and Rocket came back into the yard, Rocket started barking at the tree line to the left of the house. 

        “What is your problem today? Are the chipmunks torturing you again?”  Jack teased as he kept walking toward the house. 

                                                                           





                                                                                **

        Ceasor and the two other guardians stood out on the deck with their arms crossed and their legs spread wide.  The trees were blocking the view of the demons that Ceasor and Rocket could sense were there.  “They have multiplied overnight,” Ceasor said to the others.

        “For what purpose?” the larger of the two guardians asked.

        “To torment Tanner so she gets distracted, and to try and block the conversion of Jack, I would guess,” Ceasor flatly commented.

          As they talked, a demon flew around Jacks head and hissed out words of resentment regarding Tanner, “why does your wife work so much…she should put you first…I wonder if she likes any of those men she works with…”

        Ceasor stepped forward and reached for the small slippery brown demon.  The demon flew off laughing as Jack stepped onto the deck.  He turned back to look at Rocket as he thought about the words that just entered his mind.  Where the heck did those thoughts come from? He wondered.

        Ceasor talked to Rocket.  “You’re a good watch dog, but you’re wasting your energy barking at those pesky demons.  They will not leave until this war is over.  It’s alright boy. Go in the house with Jack.” 

                                                                              **



        Rocket sauntered up the stone walk to the house still letting out small barks.  Jack laughed at him and said, “You are such a good watch dog. Now get in the house you old fool.”

          Tanner came out of the laundry room dressed in faded jeans and a long sleeved black jersey with her hair wrapped in a towel.  “Welcome back boys,” she said as she went back into the bathroom.

        “Rocket let the chipmunks get the best of him again,” Jack said while rubbing Rockets head.

        “I heard.”

        “I’m sure the neighbor’s appreciated all the noise this early in the morning.”  Jack commented as he went into the bathroom.

        Tanner kissed him and patted his butt as she slid past him to give him room. 

        “The bathroom is all yours.”

        “Thank you darling,” He chided, in his best British accent.

          Rocket loudly began eating his food as soon as Tanner set the metal dish down.  She turned the TV to channel five and then went into the kitchen to grab her favorite ceramic coffee mug.  The steam brought the smell of French vanilla to her nose as she poured the coffee into her mug and smiled. 

          “Thank you for coffee Lord.” 

          Plopping down into the oversized living room chair, she focused on the news.  The murder of Kendra Mills was the top story. Reporters were already gathered outside the police and CID building waiting for the promised news conference with the attorney general.  Tanner’s cell phone rang.  “It’s Tanner.”

          “Are you watching the news?” John asked.

          “I just turned it on.”

          “Meet me at the office in an hour. We’ll strategize from there.  The guys are headed in now,” John said.

          “I’ll be there,” Tanner said as she hung up.  She continued to watch the news conference and then dumped her remaining coffee and grabbed her purse and phone.

          “Leaving?” Jack asked as he came out of the bathroom.

          “Time to go to work,” Tanner said as she leaned into Jack for a hug.

          “Call me later and let me know about supper at The Grill,” he said.

            Opening the door, she said, “I will babe.  Love you, and kick some butt on the course.”



                                                                                    **

          Ceasor was already in the Rover with the other two guardians when Tanner hopped in.  She threw her purse on the passenger seat and backed out of the driveway. He was scanning the trees as they pulled out of the driveway.  Tanner put the radio onto the Christian station and started singing along to Kris Tomlin’s, I Will Rise.

                                                                                    **



          The song immediately brought her to the funeral of her grandmother.  She had just recently died of heart failure at the age of ninety four.  The song was played at her funeral during a photo montage that celebrated her life. Nanny was the name her grandchildren, and great grandchildren called her.  Tanner missed her already.  The photo montage brought deep sorrow for her during the funeral.  The photo’s of Tanner as a child, young adult and woman with Nanny resurrected her childhood feelings of needing to be near her grandmother.    She never felt judged or insecure around her.  Not like she did with most of the family.  Growing up in small town Maine had its perks and disadvantages.  Everyone knowing everyone else’s business was not perk.

          Her thoughts drifted to the hospital the day Nanny died.  Thin and pale, she almost blended in with the sheets.  The monitor showed that her heart was going in and out of an AFIB rhythm and that her heart rate was fluctuating from 40-180 beats per minute.  She complained of feeling short of breath and dizzy.  Tanner tried to explain to her why that was. 

          “Your heart is very weak, Nanny. You have had two heart attacks back to back and you’re tired.  Try to rest.” 

            “I am afraid to rest. What if I don’t wake up?”  Nanny quietly said.

            “If you don’t wake up, you will be in heaven. You will then be happy that you didn’t wake up.” Tanner said teasingly.

              Tanner’s family counted on her to be the nurse.  She fell back into that role whenever there was the need.  This gave her the feeling of order and control. Those feelings calmed her when the rest of the feelings brought calamity.

              Tanner’s mother and aunts tried to make decisions about further tests and procedures out in the waiting area, so Tanner stayed in her grandmother’s room. She had instructed them all on what the options were and what the likely outcomes would be.  It was up to Nanny’s children to decide now.

            Tanner helped her grandmother to the bathroom.  She washed her up and changed her gown.  She talked to her calmly and kept herself in nurse mode.  It was easy to love her grandmother.  It was easy to nurse her.  It was her privilege and her honor to do so. 

              Tanner moved from sitting in the chair beside the bed, to sitting on the bed with her grandmother when she noticed the fear in her eyes.

              “Do you want me to pray for you Nanny?”  Tanner sheepishly asked.

              “Yes that would be nice,” she replied softly with her eyes closed.

              Choking on tears, Tanner prayed.

              “Dear Jesus, I know that you are here with us.  I know that you have been here with Nanny all along.  Help her to feel your presence.  Give her strength to face what is ahead.  She has loved you for so long.  Give her heart and mind peace over the things that still hurt her Lord.  Let her know that she is forgiven of those sins that still haunt her.  Please don’t let her be in pain, and Lord, comfort her in these last hours.  Usher your daughter home, soon Lord, into your waiting arms.”

              Tanner opened her eyes and wiped the tears that ran down her Nanny’s soft white cheeks.  In return her grandmother wiped hers.

              The bedside phone rang and Tanner let her brother talk with Nanny. 

              Thank you Jesus that my brother called today, he would never have forgiven himself if he didn’t talk with her. She thought. 

                Tanner’s mind slowly floated back to the present as she pulled into the CID parking lot.  The police station and CID division was on the bottom floor of a four-story, down town, dilapidated brick building.  They shared the building with other town and government municipalities.  She pulled off the bridge and into the parking lot.

              “Here we go,” she said as she got out of the Rover and starting quickly walking toward the building.

              Several local television reporters and camera crews, along with a few out of town reporters, were shouting questions out at her.  They were kept at a distance by two local PD officers who were assigned to that detail today.  She gave the officers a quick smile and went inside.

                                                                              **

              Ceasor and the two guardians followed Tanner inside.  John met Tanner at her desk just as she was about to sit down.  “We are all going into conference room 2,” he said with a smile.

              Tanner grabbed her file and followed him. 

              Ceasor and John’s guardians were well aware of the two dark hooded demons that were in the far right corner of the conference room when they entered.  “They are getting a little bolder,” John’s guardian said to Ceasor.

            “Indeed.  They will multiply soon.  We must quicken the hearts of Tanner, John and Tim and urge them into more prayer.  We will need the strength in the coming days just as will they.”

                                                                              **

            “Okay team, let’s get to work,” John said as he closed the door.

              They sat in their usual seating arrangement.  John sat the head of the U shaped table, Tanner and Tim to his left, and Doug and Steve to his right.  John started by summing up what was already in progress since early morning. 

            “The district attorney just finished briefing the press.  The medical examiner finished his report and submitted it to the Chief and the crime lab is continuing with their testing of the evidence.  No hits on the prints form CODIS.  I sent Judge Watts the paperwork for a search warrant of the abortion clinic in case we need that when Tanner and I head over there this morning and the Chief is waiting to meet with Kendra’s parents who will be arriving from the airport shortly. Kendra’s brother ID’d her body last night and the Chief spoke with her parents just before they flew out to get home.”

          “Did both of her brother’s alibis check out?” Doug asked.     

          “Korey was at work and that was confirmed. Kyle was in New Hampshire attending a literature class, and that was also confirmed,” John said.

          John continued. “Two officers from the local PD went and met with Kendra’s boyfriend, Garrett Strong, and they are checking his alibi out now.  They said he appeared quite devastated by the news and seemed credible.  He still lives at home with his parents above the garage apartment or something like that.  They thought he was a nice kid.”

            Tanner interjected, “Any suspects from the apartment building that Kendra lived in?”

            “The Chief has two Staties on that now,” John answered.

          “What time can we go to the abortion clinic?” Tanner asked.

          “You can head over now. I’ll go pick up the search warrant and meet you over there.  They should be opening soon. The bomb squad finished searching the place early this morning after that little bomb threat that closed it up early last night. It was cleared to open on time this morning.”  John said as he closed his file and stood up. 

            Doug stood with a little difficulty as his belly got caught under the table, but managed to say, “Tim and I will head over to the Park and go over everything again.  If we finish early enough we will go to the surrounding neighbors again and re- question them.  Somebody had to see something.  We have to catch this perp. so I can retire on schedule. Need I remind everyone that my retirement date is thirty two days away now?”

            Groaning out a sing song reply of, “Yessss Doug, weee alllll know your retiring sooooon,” Steve stood and gathered his file.

            “I’ll head over to the crime lab and see if they have an ID number on that shell casing yet.  I want to hit the local gun shops and start looking through their files.”

            “Keep in touch everyone and meet back here by 4:00,” John said as he held the door for them.

            Tanner went to her desk before leaving the station.  She looked through her notes and found the information that was in Kendra’s date book.  Her appointment was for September 1st, at 9:00a.m.  The clinic pamphlet stated that the business hours for Saturdays were from 9:00-4:00p.m.  It was now 8:15 a.m.  Grabbing her purse, phone and notes she headed to the Rover. 

              “Jesus, please help me.  I know I have to go the clinic for this case…but I just don’t want all the memories that come with it. Please help me to stay focused.  Lord, I know that you have forgiven me for the abortion I had years ago…help me to forgive myself, to see myself as you see me.  Don’t let me get lost in the memory of that horrible place as I go to do a job today,” Tanner prayed.

              Two bomb squad vans were outside of the Mystic Valley Women’s Clinic when Tanner pulled in.  She drove up to the entrance and started to get out.  Nick from the bomb squad division met her before she could close her door.

            “Sorry Tanner, but we were just going in again.  We had a second bomb call a few minutes ago so the building will be shut down again for the day.” 

              “Nick, this is impeding on our investigation,” She replied with an irritated tone.

              “Hey, don’t give me attitude girl. You know the drill.  The Chief will let you all know when the building is cleared again.  Carry on.”

              Frustrated but not wanting to take it out on Nick, Tanner took a deep breath and got back into the Rover and shut the door.  “Alright Lord, I guess I will go back to the office and start looking at the evidence again…maybe your way of giving me a little more time.”

              John called Tanner’s cell and she picked up immediately.

              “There has been another bomb threat at the clinic, so that road is closed for today,” he said.

              “I just heard that from Nick.  I thought I would head over to the emergency room and question the staff regarding Kendra and see if anyone peaks my interest,” Tanner replied.

                “That is a good idea since you know most of them.  I’m off to question some people that have made the Staties radar go off.  Steve and Doug are back at the scene and Tim is at the crime lab running prints through CODIS again.  We will all meet back up shortly,” John said.

                As she drove to the ER, Tanner passed the E-Free church. Thoughts from the women’s bible study she went to on Wednesday filled her mind.  The pastor’s wife had made a point of saying to the group that, “we are ambassadors for Christ, heirs to the kingdom of heaven.”

                What does that really mean? She thought.

              “Jesus, help me to see what that means.  I want to know who I am in your eyes.  I see a wretched woman who thinks bad thoughts and who has done horrible things.  I know your word says you forgive me because I have asked for it; have begged for it…but how do you see me?  What do I look like to you?”

                                                                                  **

                  Ceasor and the two guardians smiled and let the prayer fill them with strength.  They saw Tanner through the eyes of Christ; beautiful daughter of the Most High God.  She was made to be strong willed and strong in purpose, smart and kind.  At times she was willful but broken.  She was an heir to the mighty thrown of God.  She was also a ruby.  Her soul sparkled like a diamond in the rough.  Jesus ushered her into the flock.  The descriptions went on and on.

                Ceasor whispered those descriptions to Tanner as she drove.  The Holy Spirit comforted her and allowed her mind to receive the descriptions that Ceasor fed her, and her heart tried to.  Tears of thankfulness filled Tanner’s brown eyes as she said, “Thank you Jesus, thank you for loving me.”

                                                                                **



                Tanner entered the busy ER at 9:45a.m. The security guard recognized her immediately and gave her a big hug. 

              “Tanner! How nice to see you.  How is Jack?”

                Laughing and happy to see her old friend Ben, Tanner replied, “Thank you old friend.  Jack is wonderful.  His business is going well…busy.  And how are you and the family these days?” She asked.

                “Oh, we are just fine.  The Lord has blessed us with another granddaughter and Beth is in her glory babysitting for the brood while our kids make a living.”

                “I’m so glad to hear it, Ben.  I miss seeing you,” she said with a pout.

                  “Ditto that brave one.  Give my regards to Jack will you?  I’m sure you’re not here just to talk to me, so run along,” he said with a smile.

                  Tanner gave him another small hug and said goodbye as she headed to the nurse’s station. The place was as noisy as she remembered.  Alarms going off, call bells ringing and nurses walking in and out of rooms with looks of determination.  The smell was a bit rank at the moment. Gastrointestinal bleed in nature.  Tanner found herself actually wanting to pick up a chart and go tend to someone.

                “Tanner, get you’re sorry butt over here girl,” Ellen bellowed from across the nurse’s station.

                “Ellen, you old bat.  How the heck are ya?” Tanner said, laughing as she approached the charge nurse.

                “Please tell me you’re here for a job.  I need you,” Ellen pleaded playfully.

                “That would be a big fat no,” Tanner joked.

                As they talked, Tanner could feel the other staff watching them.  She looked around and only recognized a few faces.  She smiled and waved at the one’s she knew and then turned her attention to Ellen.

                “Things have changed around here I see.”       

                “And not for the better I can assure you of that,” Ellen answered in a whisper.

                “Do you have a few minutes to talk to me about Kendra Mills?” Tanner asked.

                “I figured that was the reason for this visit. Give me ten minutes and I’ll be able to talk with you.  Room eight is giving my new nurse a bit of trouble. Let me sort that out and I’m all yours,” Ellen said as she headed down the hall.

              Tanner took a seat at the nurse’s station and observed the activity going on around her. The secretary was a new face, all business, with no personality shining through her prim and proper exterior.  Tanner smiled at her but did not get a smile in return.  New computers lined the station.  The monitors that were alarming were new as well.

            Nice modernization, She thought.

              The staff was out straight.  The patient board was showing every one of the twenty six rooms where full and the waiting room had eight people waiting.  There appeared to be six nurses and three doctors on duty.  No time for small talk. 

              “Okay, Tanner. Let’s go out back for a few minutes.  They should be able to survive without me for a bit,” Ellen said.

              The break room was a mess.  Dirty dishes with half eaten food lined the table and the floor was covered with bags, shoes and supplies. 

            “I see not much has changed back here,” Tanner laughed.

            “Gotta love it,” Ellen replied as she pulled out a chair and wiped crumbs off of it before sitting.

              Tanner did the same and sat across from Ellen. 

            “Tell me about Kendra,” Tanner said.

            “Tanner, I have been so upset over this.  When I heard the murdered girl was Kendra, I could not believe it.  She was the sweetest thing and such a good nurse. She got along with everyone here, and to my knowledge she was not in any kind of trouble,” Ellen said as her eyes glistened.

            “Did she have an ex boyfriend that she talked about or anyone that she may have been leery of?”

            “The staff has been talking about her and this murder nonstop.  We all are perplexed and shocked.  I have not heard of anything that would shine a light on anyone for you.  I can promise you if I hear anything I will call you immediately,” Ellen said.

              “Can you give me the name of anyone Kendra worked with here that may have known her more personally?” Tanner asked.

              “Terry Phillips was her best girlfriend here at work.  She is actually here today. I’ll go relieve her and have her come out to talk with you,” Ellen said as she got up.

              Tanner looked around the small break room and took a deep breath.  This had been her work home for many years. It felt like she still belonged in some strange way. The locker she once had, now had pictures of a moose head stuck to it. 

                “I’m Terry,” a small voice said from the doorway.

                Tanner turned her attention to the young nurse who spoke to her. She was short and stout with a head of wild red hair that made her blue eyes shine.  The uniform she wore was a pattern of wild colors that made Tanners eyes cross. Tanner stood and offered her hand as she introduced herself to the frightened looking young nurse.

                “Hi Terry, I’m Tanner Quinn; an investigator with the criminal investigations Division of Mystic Valley.  Would you please have a seat while I ask you some questions about Kendra Mills?”

                  Terry sat across from Tanner and visibly appeared shaken.

                  “I came here today to see if I could talk to anyone close to Kendra who might be able to tell me more about her.  I was told by Ellen that you and Kendra were close,” Tanner commented flatly.

                Fingering the red stethoscope that hung around her neck, Terry began to quietly comment on Kendra. 

                “Kendra and I started here in the ER at the same time as new grads.  I didn’t know her until then.  She was the more outgoing of us and I felt comfortable around her.  She was fun to work with.  I enjoyed her company here.  This place can be hard on new grads, and people liked her.  I noticed that the other nurses were nicer to me when Kendra was around.”

            Tanner felt a twinge of guilt as she recalled a time in her own past where she was hard on new nurses.

            “I’m sorry to hear that the older nurses are still finding a need to be tough on the new ones.” Tanner said.

            As Terry looked at Tanner with a questioning look, Tanner said, “I used to be an ER nurse for a long time before going into law enforcement.  I see things have not changed.”

            “It’s not so bad now.  I’ve proven myself worthy,” she said with a smile.

            Tanner laughed a knowing laugh.

            “Terry, do you know of anyone who may have been bothering Kendra here at work or outside of work perhaps? Did she have a former boyfriend that may have been jealous over her new guy?” Tanner questioned.

              “I’ve been thinking about that since she was murdered,” Terry said between little sobs.

              “Kendra did not talk badly about anyone.  She had a new boyfriend for the last few months but they got along wonderfully.  She said she had not dated anyone since high school.  No, I guess she never talked like she was afraid or being bothered by anyone,” Terry said.

                Tanner gave Terry a moment to collect herself. 

              “Did she do any outside activities that you are aware of… such as go to the gym or take a class?”

                “No.  She walked or jogged in the park most every day.  She tried to get me to meet her there but that was not my thing. I prefer the extra hour of sleep,” Terry said.

                That is why you are overweight, popped into Tanners head.  She quickly asked God for forgiveness and tried to regain her thoughts.

                  “Did Kendra mention to you that she was pregnant?” Tanner asked.

                  Terry shifted her weight in the chair and looked down at the table.  She took a deep breath and looked up at Tanner. 

                “No one knows about that, not even her boyfriend.” Terry softly answered.

                  Tanner sat forward slightly and lowered her voice.

                  “The autopsy showed that Kendra was roughly, three months along.”

                  “She was all set to have an abortion, but she got all freaked out when she went in for the counseling session.  A man that she knew saw her there, and tried to talk her out of it.  It freaked her out really bad. She said she needed more time to think,” Terry whispered.

                    Tanner took a deep breath and slowly asked, “Did she mention a name of this man, or how she knew him?”

                  “All she said was that he was a patient once,” Terry said quickly.

                    Tanner sat back in the chair and collected her thoughts.  Terry nervously shifted her weight and continued to fidget with her stethoscope.

                    “Did she tell her boyfriend she was pregnant?  Was the baby even his?” Tanner questioned.

                    Terry frowned and said with an irritated tone, “Of course the baby was his, Kendra was not a slut.  But, no, she did not tell him she was pregnant because she did not know if she wanted to keep it or not.”

                    “Well thank you very much for talking with me.  Please take my card and call me any time if you think of anything that you think may be helpful.  And Terry, I’m sure you are a very good nurse,” Tanner said with compassion.

                    Terry took Tanner’s card and stood as she put it in her pocket. 

                  “Thank you.  I hope you catch who did this to Kendra.”

                  “Me too,” she replied.



                  Ellen was busy when Tanner went back out to the nurse’s station.  She left a few of her business cards with the secretary and asked her to give them to Ellen.  Prim and proper girl said she would.  Tanner said a quick good bye to Ben and went to her Rover.  Once inside she stared at the hospital and felt nothing but relief that she did not work there anymore. She loved being an ER nurse but it had sucked the life out of her for a long time. 

                  Bon Jovi’s voice pierced her thoughts.  Tanner looked at the caller ID and answered, “Hello my handsome husband.”

                  “Hey women…how is your day going? Jack said in an awful Chinese accent.

                  She laughed and said, “Its going.”

                  “I just wanted to call and tell you I was thinking of you…all of you,” he teased.

                  “Nice to know,” she giggled, and replied, “Is Jack thinking of me or his Chinese friend?”

                  He laughed and said, “Jack…just Jack.”

                  After she hung up with Jack, Tanner smiled and thanked God for her husband.

                  “Lord, you have blessed me with a wonderful husband.  My marriage is happy and healthy.  I know that you are the reason for it considering all we went through in our early years.  Thank you.”



                                                                              **

                  Ceasor smiled as Tanner reflected on her marriage and sent praises up to God.  She was blessed and he was glad she knew it.  He took this opportunity to feed her the scriptures that Jesus had given him to give her.  “favour is deceitful and beauty is vain but a woman that feareth the Lord shall be praised. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”

                                                                              **



                  Tanner’s heart received the message from God and she smiled and thanked him for it.

                “Thank you my Lord.”

                  She listened to some Bon Jovi as she drove to the station, singing loud and proud. 

                  Doug and Tim arrived just as Tanner was getting out of the Rover.  They walked into the station together. 

                  “Did you find anything else at the crime scene today?” Tanner asked.

                  “Nothing,” Doug answered sullenly.

                “I did hear that Steve retrieved two digits off the casing. He is hopeful to peace it together with the shell type soon,” Tim said.

                Tanner commented as she walked, “It’s strange that we found no bullet and only one shell casing.  The other casing and the bullet have to be at that scene…I cannot believe Steve has not ripped that scene apart by now.”

                  Doug held the door for Tanner and playfully shut it on Tim.  They all were laughing as they entered the cubicle section.  John did not look happy.  They stopped laughing and went to the conference room as John led the way. Once inside they took their seats and waited. 

                “I do not expect antics during a murder investigation.  I know you were just blowing off steam, but that looks unprofessional at this time; especially with all the extra staff around,” John said sternly.

                  They all agreed and waited for John to lead the conversation. 

                  “I received a report from a neighbor of Kendra today. She reports seeing a medium sized gray vehicle parked at the entrance of the park on several occasions in early to mid September.  She did not think much of it at the time but now she feels bad that she did not report it.  She states that she works the 9:00a.m-9:00p.m shift at the paper mill and she noticed the gray vehicle on several evenings a week.  Unfortunately, she did not write down a plate number or a make,” John reported.

                Tanner spoke up and said, “I went to the hospital and visited the ER today.  I found out that Kendra was very well liked, a hard worker and is missed.  No one seems to recall anyone that may have had an issue with her and she never mentioned having an issue with anyone.”

                “Well, Tim and I did not come up with anything new from the park or the crime scene itself. We still have it roped off with crime tape and the dogs are over there with the Staties now,” Doug reported.

                Alright team, go home for the day and I’ll call you in if anything else turns up.  The crime lab is working on the evidence, the state troopers are doing their part and now we just wait. 





                Tanner was waiting inside The Grill Restaurant for Jack to arrive for supper.  She had gone home, showered and changed into clean jeans and a Yankee’s long sleeve t-shirt.  She ordered him a Corona with a lime and was sipping on a glass of Kendall Jackson Cabernet.  The Grill was their favorite little hang out, a bar and grill that was across the Lake from their home.  The locals were all friendly and protective of their own. 

                When Jack came in he greeted her with a kiss and sat down in the booth across from her and smiled.

                  “Why the big smile?” she laughed.

                  “I am happy to see you and you look adorable,” he said.

                  “Thank you, baby,” she said grinning.  She sipped her wine and he took a long drink of his beer. 

                  “Anything new in the murder case?” he asked.

                  “Nothing that is pointing to anyone yet,” she answered.



                                                                            **

                    Ceasor watched Tanner and Jack as they enjoyed each other’s company and ate their supper.  He stood very close to them as did the other two guardians.  There was an equal mix of angels and demons in this place.  The demons were focused on other people and did not seem to take much interest in the Quinn’s.  Ceasor took no comfort in that, for he knew that meant there were specific demons in charge of Tanner and Jack…more focused and destructive demons.

                                                                            **

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