I always call this my book of vanishing characters. Was a fun book to write even though there's a serial killer in their midst. Needed to plant a few red herrings, thus some of the characters have more than one role. Suspect and victim.
Trish is another nurse on the unit and she may have reasons for the deaths, or someone may want her dead.
Trish jumped to her feet and knocked her chair against the wall. "You're both hypocrites." She stabbed a finger at Julie and then at Susan. "At least neither of you has been one of her victims."
The violent overtones in Trish's voice shook Susan. "I know she pushed you last night, but I thought she was probing for something she could use."
"She already knew too much."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Trish's thin body stiffened. "And give you some ammunition to use against me? Forget that."
"I don't gossip," Susan said.
Trish moved from behind the table. "I'm glad she's dead."
As Susan studied Trish's face, she remembered Barbara had named Trish as an anorexic. Had the practical said more? Instead of tuning Barbara out, Susan wished she had listened.
"She asked to be killed." Trish edged past Susan. "You're lucky she never learned your secrets. At least you don't have to worry if the police will find a written record of your mistakes."
"Do you really think Barbara kept records?" Julie asked. "She seldom noted our calls. If it wasn't gossip she could wrap her tongue around, forget it."
Susan nodded. "Remember how we had to nag so she'd do her share of charts."
"I tried to ignore what she said about you and Larry," Julie said.
"What kind of things?" Trish's voice rose to a shrill pitch.
"Like your reasons for being here," Julie said. "How Larry dumped you and how you planned to get revenge by telling lies about the things he's done."
Trish laughed. "You don't know what went down between Larry and me and I'm not going to tell you. If you're curious, ask him."
The edge of anger in Trish's voice stirred Susan's curiosity. Why hadn't she listened to the practical? Every one of Barbara's tales had contained a bit of truth. Susan didn't believe love for De Witt had brought Trish to Bradley Memorial. But what had?
She put the coffee carafe on the heating plate. "In a week or two, no one will remember anything she said."
Larry is a doctor who was once involved with Trish and now is with Julie. He wants a partnership with his uncle.
At five after twelve, Julie parked her car on the street near Larry's river front apartment. She stared at the low-lying fog that slithered across the flagstone walk leading to the terrace entrance.
"Use the terrace door." Larry had whispered just before he left the unit. On Wednesday, she had forgotten. A long lecture about how he hated her to use the front entrance where a security guard made her sign the guest book had been her punishment.
"I don't want my visitors treated like they're visiting a jail. No one needs to know whom I've been seeing."
"If privacy's so important, why not buy a house or a condo?" she had asked.
"Money. First I need the partnership. Don't fret, little bird. There'll always be a nest for you."
He meant marriage, didn't he? Doubt tickled her thoughts. She slumped against the car. He had to mean marriage. What would she do if he didn't? She couldn't stay away from him. A month ago, for three miserable days, she had tried and failed.
The fog shifted. As she slipped on the slick flagstones, she grasped the handrail. The river lapped against the retaining wall with a lulling sound. She reached the terrace and stared at the glass door.
Larry stood at the bar and tossed off a drink. She frowned. For the past month, his intake of alcohol had increased and he had refused to discuss the reasons. She walked toward the door.
Low slung jeans hugged his hips and thighs. He wore no shirt. When he replaced the decanter on the glass and chrome bar, his back muscles rippled.
Entranced by his movements, she traced his reflection on the glass. After a short time, she knocked. He turned and strode to the door. She ached to touch the blond curls that tapered to disappear beneath the waist of his jeans. He opened the door. The rhythmic beat of "Bolero" played softly in the background.
"You're late." He sipped his drink.
Julie unbuttoned her coat. "Narcotic count was off. Trish forgot to record a Valium." She frowned.
Why the startled look so quickly masked? Was he worried about Trish? I'm not jealous, she silently repeated several times.
Larry set his drink on the glass and chrome table near the terrace doors. Julie kicked off her shoes and curled her toes into the deep pile of the carpet.
He slid her coat from her shoulders and pulled her into an embrace. His mouth met hers, explored and demanded. The rhythmic music changed to a soft and plaintive melody.
Larry released her. "Wine?"
She nodded. "Half a glass. I'm beat."
He picked up his drink and drained it. After crossing to the bar, he poured white wine for her and
another drink for himself. She took the goblet and touched hers to his. "To us."
"To an affair destined to last longer than Uncle Joe's and Leila Vernon's."
"Ms. Vernon." Wine splashed on the pewter gray carpet. "What are you talking about?"
His eyes danced with a kind of excitement that made her wary. "Uncle Joe and Leila have been lovers for years."
"I don't believe you."
"I couldn't have learned at a better time. The partnership's assured."
Julie put her glass on the end table. "What do you mean?"
"Not for you to worry about, little bird."
"Is this part of what's been bothering you for weeks?"
He grinned. "I have no worries."
"Then why have you been drinking so much?"
He laughed. "Have I? Let's just say I have proof of this affair."
"Did Barbara tell you? I wouldn't trust a thing she said."
"She wasn't my source." He took her hand. "Don't worry your pretty self about anything." He pulled her closer. "When I tell him what I know, he'll give me a fifty-fifty split instead of the usual thirty-seventy for the first two years."
Julie stiffened. "That sounds like blackmail."