Mosaic Heart – Part 6
Trigger Warning: Domestic Abuse
Laurel was waiting on the front porch at 7:25 a.m. when Taylor arrived to walk with her to work. His security uniform fit him like a glove and enhanced his green eyes.
Stop that! She chided herself as he climbed the steps. “Good morning, Taylor.”
“I see you’re an early bird, ready to walk?” Taylor motioned toward the stairs and then fell in step behind her.
“I’ve been an early riser since I was a kid. I’m glad I don’t work nights. This job at the Wound Clinic is perfect, eight–hour day shifts and weekends off,” she explained as they settled into a consistent walking pace, not too fast.
“You should try being a soldier sometime, those hours are killer,” he teased as they finished covering the first block without incident. Taylor was scanning both sides of the street for anything or anyone suspicious.
“That would be funny if it weren’t true for some soldiers,” Laurel murmured.
“I apologize if you’ve lost military members in your family. It’s an occupational survival skill when you’re a soldier! If you joke about death and remind it that you’re aware, then it can’t surprise you. At least, that’s what you tell yourself over and over again until the first IED explodes under your jeep.”
“It sounds like you’re talking from experience,” Laurel commented while noticing the way his jaw muscles tightened and his hands clenched into a fist.
“Yeah, unfortunately, I am.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bring bad memories back.”
Taylor sighed. “You had no way of knowing. I did two tours in Afghanistan. I lost my best friend and three other buddies.”
“My sincere condolences for the loss of your friends. Were you injured?”
“Yeah, twice, but those memories are best left buried with my buddies,” Taylor replied. His words closed the door on any further questions.
Laurel took the hint and climbed the stairs to the front entrance of the hospital. Within minutes she had unlocked the door to the clinic and flipped the lights on. There were very few people around, and no one she recognized from outside of the hospital setting.
“How was your night?” Kyla asked on her way by the reception desk.
“I improved on the recipe and made cinnamon buns with vanilla bean cream cheese frosting.”
“Yum, there’d better be some in the staff room.”
“No such luck, my roommates ate every last crumb.” Laurel taunted as she carried the charts to the clinic area.
“You are mean, Laurel Anderson!” Kyla whined.
Michele’s head poked out of her office door. “Did I hear you say ‘cinnamon buns’?”
“Okay! I’ll make another batch tonight and bring them in tomorrow for break.” Laurel promised while laughing at their antics.
Kyla and Michele high-fived in the middle of the hall, looking like school girls instead of a nurse and a doctor.
Laurel returned to her desk and took the switchboard off forward. She put all three lines on hold, grabbed her pen and pad, then pushed the button for line one.
“Thanks for holding, how may I help you?”
“You can die a slow and painful death, bleeding out drop by drop. I’m counting down the days, sweetheart!”
Laurel’s insides turned to ice as she fought to maintain her composure. “I’m sorry, sir, you have the wrong number.”
She set the phone in its cradle and looked up into the eyes of a middle-aged man standing in front of her desk. “I’m Clarence Turnbull, Taylor referred me.”
Laurel remembered the undercover security patrols. “Yes, he told me, Mr. Turnbull, and I’m expecting you. Would you kindly tell Taylor that he has to call 9-1-1 immediately.”
Her use of the highest level password put Clarence on the alert. He reached for his cell phone and called Taylor while glancing toward the clinic and back at her. Laurel made a slight negative shake of her head and pointed toward her switchboard. He relayed the information in hushed tones and hung up.
“Taylor’s on it. I’ll be in the waiting room until you call me.”
Laurel nodded and opened her second line, thankfully, it was a client with a question. While answering it, she heard Belinda calling the first patient’s name off her list for the day. By the time she hung up her phone, only the next patient and Clarence sat in the waiting area.
Jesus, put your angels around me and keep me safe! Let Taylor be able to trace that call. Amen. She silently prayed as she worked.
Taylor appeared at her desk moments later, dressed in hospital maintenance overalls. She forwarded the switchboard back to voicemail and led him to the staff room. As the door shut, she turned around, and Taylor put his hands on her shoulders and looked into her eyes. She hadn’t realized her body was shaking.
“Breathe, Laurel. Now tell me what he said,” he instructed in a calm voice.
“His exact words were ‘you can die a slow and painful death, bleeding out drop by drop. I’m counting down the days, sweetheart!’”
Taylor cursed under his breath. “Damn it, he’s not wasting any time!”
“Is that unusual?” Laurel asked.
“Yes, this man believes he’s untouchable. That makes him a level of dangerous I hadn’t anticipated.”
“Yes, he does. I thought I’d made that clear during our initial meeting?”
“You did, I underestimated him. I won’t make that mistake again.” Taylor promised as he paced back and forth in the staff room.
“You’re making me nervous with all the pacing,” Laurel snapped, her nerves raw. “If you’re trained for situations like this, what’s our next move?”
Taylor stopped pacing and looked at her. “You’ve already surprised him by remaining calm. You robbed him of the satisfaction of hearing you panic. We have to take advantage of that immediately. I am not taking any more risks!” Taylor said and then stopped talking.
He put his finger to his lips and motioned for a pad of paper and a pen. Taylor spent the next few minutes writing and then handed the pad to Laurel.
She started to read, and her eyes grew wider. “Laurel, your ex-husband has the private switchboard number, so I believe he’s had a member of his network on site. That means this entire clinic’s bugged. I cannot verbalize my plans here. My security officers will sweep the clinic for bugs after the clinic closes today. We’ll find every last bug and destroy them, that I promise you. Call me when it’s time for your lunch break, and we’ll go for a walk to the park across the street. I’ll have Constable Perkins men follow us.”
She put the pad of paper down on the table and nodded her understanding. Taylor picked the pad up and put it inside his tool kit. He left the staff room, and she followed a few minutes later.
The rest of the morning passed by in a blur. Security guards came and went according to plan. Each guard handed her a written note explaining who they were, and she followed the rest of the protocol.
“Laurel, can you come in here please,” Michele called out from her office as Laurel tried to pass by.
She turned and entered the office, closing the door behind her. “What can I do for you, boss?”
“You can tell me why a maintenance worker was in our staff room.”
“He was fixing a water leak before it affected the entire clinic,” Laurel lied.
As she was speaking, she picked up a pad of paper on the desk and began writing. A moment later, she passed the pad back to her boss and waited while she read her note.
“Michele, Taylor Jenkins, head of hospital security, believes the whole clinic has been bugged, so be careful of your words. I’m meeting with him in five minutes to develop a plan of action. I haven’t shared my past with you and the nurses, but events are unfolding, and I need to talk to all 3 of you outside of the clinic. Pick a public place with lots of noise, and I’ll join you after work.”
As Dr. Michele Conley read the note, her face turned pale. She nodded her head. Laurel gave her a quick ‘thumbs up’ and left the clinic. Taylor was waiting for her out in the public hallway. They remained silent as they headed toward the front doors of the hospital and then down the front steps. Their walk took them around the perimeter of the park, while Constable Perkins’ men secured it.
Taylor stopped walking by a large grove of trees in the very centre of the park. Laurel turned to talk to Taylor and, as she did, he tackled her to the ground and covered her with his body.
A large chunk of bark flew off the tree Taylor been standing in front of seconds before.
Someone was shooting at them!