Returning — The Wanderer pt-3

“There is a turning point that recharges you and eventually brings success. This is associated with the turning of darkness back toward the light — …” ~

The nurses station was finally quiet, the day had been marked with doctors and nurses running from one fire to the next. The traffic accident on Highway 10 had been horrific with two fatalities and five seriously injured. Then there was the shooting victim from over in Mesa they brought in, poor kid got caught in the middle of a domestic dispute. The emergency room was still full of other patients waiting to be seen, stabbings, fights, and beatings; what was wrong with people? None of those were what was really on Neola’s mind tonight though. It was the girl they brought in from the desert. She had been air evacuated to the hospital, the State Police and a Sheriff’s Deputy from the area had arrived about two hours ago but she didn’t have anything new for them. The rape kit, photos, and blood samples had been signed over and taken to the lab; it was just a waiting game now.

After three hours of surgery and a lot of praying on Neola’s part, the doctors had put her back together. Broken bones, burns, cuts, and contusion were only the tip of the iceberg; whatever she had gone through, it had been hate filled process. The patchwork of nearly healed bruises and scars they found after she had been cleaned and sewn up, said she had finally reached the end of that journey and a new one would begin when she woke up. Neola looked at her duty roster, the girl in bed 5–07 was in similar shape, but was in a drug induced coma because of her head injuries. Another one found in the desert but by the that special task force that set up shop about a month or so ago. No one was supposed to know about it, but she heard the State Police talking to the deputy; they had grown quiet when they noticed her.

She started her checks at the far end of the hall, she would take the stairs up to ICU to finish her rounds before going to dinner. She was a specialized nurse; one they had hired to look after patients with exceptional needs. Her first year on the job as an RN she worked in a psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane before going to work at another specialized center with mentally ill and handicapped patients. She had also gone back to school and was now an APRN. They didn’t have many in the state with psychiatric experience and there always seemed to be openings. Her supervisors noted early on how she seemed to have a great rapport with patients, even the ones that often grew anxious or uncooperative with other nurses. Trying to not think too much about the girls in ICU, she reached up grabbing the sheet from the door pack and walked in.

“Hello Mrs. Hinson”, Neola said clipping the sheet of paper to her clipboard. “how are you doing today?” Mrs. Hinson was a cheerful woman despite what she was going through, her treatment was almost over, but then she would be moved to an extended care facility. Mrs. Hinson paused in her knitting, “I’m just wonderful Nee-Nee, Doctor says I could be out of here tomorrow, isn’t that great! I can’t wait to see my grandbabies; I miss them something awful.” Neola, interrupted her, “I heard that you would be leaving soon, is that a new pattern you have there?” Mrs. Hinson ignored the interrupt and kept talking, “Their mother won’t let them come, my son won’t say so, but I know that’s the reason he hasn’t brought them.” Neola’s heart clenched, “Mrs. Hinson, is that a new pattern you have there?” she tried again, but the elderly lady kept talking, knitting needles clacking. “Did I ever tell you about my grandbabies?” Mrs. Hinson went on, “They are just precious, little Nathan will definitely be a baseball star one day, he loves that game! And little Amelia, oh, she’s the cat’s pajamas she is, she’s going to be a ballerina one day, she’s already taking lessons!” This was the part Neola hated, tears were forming in Mrs. Hinson’s eyes, Neola cleared her throat and put a big smile on her face but Mrs. Hinson had already dropped her head and gone back to knitting, tears falling onto her hands. “No Mrs. Hinson, I don’t think you ever told me about your daughter-in-law not wanting them here.” She took a breath, “Did your son say that or are you…” “NO, NO, NO GODDAMNED YOU! THAT BITCH WON’T LET THEM COME, I KNOW IT, I KNOW IT, I KNOW IT! SHE’S THE REASON I CAN’T SEE THEM! MY SON WON’T GROW A PAIR OF BALLS AND DEVORCE THAT EVIL BITCH!” Mrs. Hinson screamed at Neola, chest heaving, her bulging eyes were puffy and red-rimmed, tears were streaming down her cheeks freely now. The snarl that had twisted her mouth as she yelled, was fading, a bewildered look taking its place.

It was the same thing every day. Her rants were short-lived, usually just a few words about the food or that “fresh girl” that cleaned her room. Neola looked at the chart, made a note on her pad to check the visitor’s log but knew she would find that Mrs. Hinson’s son had visited today. It would be a while before she came to terms with what had actually happened. That is if her condition hadn’t progressed to the point where it wouldn’t matter. Mrs. Hinson sat slumped in the chair, Neola wheeled her back to the bed and helped her lie down. Before she could pull away, Mrs. Hinson grabbed her arm, “You would let me see my grandbabies wouldn’t you?” There were tears in her eyes and Neola smiled her special smile, “Of course I would Mrs. Hinson, but you have to take your medicine and do what the doctor tells you.” Mrs. Hinson smiled and nodded, taking the little cup with her pills in it and swallowing them dutifully.

Neola took the cups, pushed the chair off to the side, and closed the curtains on all but the window next to the bed; Mrs. Hinson liked looking out the window till she fell asleep. Turning on the light next to the bed, she turned off the overhead and left the room. She would have asked if she needed to go to the bathroom but knew she would say no, they had completed her dialysis only a couple hours ago and it didn’t look like she had anything to drink with her meal except for a small apple juice. Checking off on the sheet, she stuck it back into the door and walked on to the next room.

Marcus awoke with a start, looking around he saw his reflection in the front window; how long had he been out. An infomercial was on selling one of those thigh shaping things, something he thought Mandy would probably spend his money on. Blinking a few times and wiping sleep from his eyes, he shouted her name. Nothing. Getting up from the chair, nearly falling, he stumbled to the bottom of the stairs and shouted her name again, “MANDY! GET YOUR ASS DOWN HERE NOW!” Nothing. “IF I HAVE TO COME UP THERE YOU GONNA BE SORRY!…” He listened, he didn’t hear anything.

Stumbling up the stairs, he kicked open the bedroom door. The room was empty, the bed covers had been torn off and thrown in a corner of the room. The broken mirror lay shattered in the middle of the floor, light and blood reflected in the broken shards. Marcus didn’t know what to make of the scene, he turned towards the kids’ room. Opening the door, he looked in on another destroyed room, the kids broken beds were thrown against the wall, toys and clothes everywhere. “What the fuck…” he went down the back stairs into the kitchen, the table was turned over, broken dishes and more blood on the counter and floor.

He backed out of the kitchen into the Livingroom, there was a blank spot in his mind, he couldn’t remember what had happened. He sat down in the chair and for the first time, he looked at his hands, there was blood under his nails along with scratches and cuts up his arms. He looked down, there was blood streaking the front of his torn t-shirt. “what the fuck happened” He had vague, fuzzy memories of Mandy crying and screaming but that was a dream, that didn’t happen. Did it? He looked around the Livingroom, there was broken glass near the table, a beer bottle from the look of it; some blood on the walls. Flashes of him throwing Mandy against the wall, smashing the picture of her grandparents. A memory of her on her knees crying, him dragging her into the kitchen. He sat there, trying to piece together what happened.

The television suddenly squawked, “It’s the Weeeekennnd Baby! All you folks ready for the concert tomorrow night at the state Fair? Well get ready for a fantastic show…” he heard the announcer say on the TV. “What, weekend, it’s only just Tuesday nigh…” he trailed off, staring at the television set. The little red bar at the bottom was spitting out details, one of them, the time and date. Fear was finally creeping in, three days. It had been three days. What did she put in his beer that made him sleep for three days, that’s impossible? Where the fuck…he stopped, looking around again, what if she went for the sheriff this time? Took the kids and ran to the sheriff’s office. From the look of things, she couldn’t have been gone long. Right? He looked down at the blood on his shirt again, it wasn’t fresh, the stains had long since dried leaving stiff brown spots. Maybe she didn’t go to the sheriff, she probably ran over to that nosy bitch Betty’s house, but he didn’t know where Betty lived. “She’s just up the ways a bit” is all she ever said about where Betty lived. Well he was gonna find her!

He jumped up, grabbing the keys and a battered, half empty pack of cigarettes from the table and went out the front door. Looking around the yard he didn’t see any signs of them, maybe they just left a little while ago. The fear that had been growing inside backing off a bit, if she had gone to the sheriff, that nosey bitch would be here now, no, she went running to Betty, he was sure of it. He plucked a cigarette out of the pack with his teeth, dug around in his pocket for a match as he walked to the truck. His mind whirling through conversations he had with her about Betty and where she lived. He knew she was at least a mile or two down the road, on the outskirts of the town. If she had been there three days how come he couldn’t remember waking up yesterday, the day before. She definitely put something in his beer…nobody sleeps that long.

The stench in the truck hit him the moment he opened the door, “what the…” he looked behind the driver’s seat, the smell seemed to be coming from a pair of shit-stained underwear, Mandy’s from the look of it. There was also a lot of blood on the seat. It looked like a scene from a horror show had happened, a bloody knife and what smelled like rotting flesh. He would have to look into it later, right now he had to find his wayward wife. He started up the truck, pulling out to the road, spinning tires and throwing gravel and dirt everywhere. He would find Betty and ring her neck if he had to.

He hit the road, tires squealing and fishtailing into and out of the opposite lane; picking up speed, his mind continued to pull up arguments and “talks” they had about nosey Betty. He told her to keep them damn folks out of his business, when will she learn! He had to keep teachin’ her lessons on how to behave, maybe it was time he started looking for a “new” girl. He didn’t see the Deputy’s car until it pulled up behind him, lights flashing, then siren sounding. “Fuck!” he slowed down and pulled over realizing he didn’t have his driver’s license, lost it last week and his insurance expired three months ago. Caught up in the story he was going to tell the cop, he gave no thought to the way he looked, the dried blood on his clothes, the cuts and scrapes with blood on his arms. The smell of death and decay in his truck. He thought he’d be able to talk his way out of a ticket by saying he was rushing to an emergency or something, he just had to be cool…

Joe realized she was dreaming, she was with her dad and they were in the back yard of their house in Queens. He was showing her how look through a scope. It wasn’t attached to anything, but she was watching the squirrels and birds in the wooded area that ran behind their house. He was saying that it was time and that he had to go, she didn’t want him to go, she missed him so much. Just then her mom came out the back door also saying it was time to go. She got up from the ground only to notice that she wasn’t a little girl anymore, that she had grown up. As she turned to tell them she didn’t want to leave, she was no longer in the back yard but in the little room and she could hear something, a beeping noise. She slowly opened her eyes. It was dark in the room and she was lying in a bed not the little cot she remembered. The beeping was the noise that she had heard in her dream. She was in a hospital room and there was a nurse standing at the bed across from hers.

She tried to speak but only succeeded in making a grunting noise. The nurse turned around. “Oh my, you’re awake, welcome back” she said and smiled. The nurse put down the clipboard and walked over to Joe, she poured water into a tiny plastic cup and put it to her lips. The water tasted like heaven, she tried to gulp but the nurse took the cup away. “Just sips hon” she said then turned and hit some buttons on a machine. When she turned back she put the cup to Joe’s lips again for another sip. “Better?” she said and smiled again. Joe nodded and tried to take the cup. “Hold up, lets see..” she put the cup between Joe’s hands that were resting on her chest “I’m not sure you can hold this?” She said, letting go, “you can take sips, try not to drink too fast. The button doesn’t seem to be working, I’ll have to go out to page the doctor.” Joe held the little cup with both hands, realizing that they were both bandaged.

The nurse had barely left the room when she started feeling pain, awful pain, radiating up her arms and across her chest. Her legs were throbbing from her toes to her hips, a deep ache that felt like all her bones were broken. Her head began throbbing, her eyes to water and blur. She whimpered, letting the tiny cup of water tip over and spill onto the sheets. What had happened to her? She couldn’t remember anything. The nurse returned with a short balding man wearing gold wire-framed glasses that made his eyes look huge behind the lenses. He smiled and introduced himself as Dr. Brian Glover as he began checking her, poking and prodding, presumably looking for feeling in her extremities. “Do you know how you got here?” he asked, the smell of some sort of mint gum or candy on his breath. Joe shook her head slightly. “Can you tell me your name?” he asked. Her head was really hurting now; the bright overhead light was making the pounding worse “Joe…Josephine” she whispered blinking. She held up her hand, to shield her eyes a bit but that made her arm hurt so she lowered it and squinted.

“Well Joe. Josephine” he smiled, “we’re glad you’re awake, you were brought a little over two weeks ago, found by one of the park rangers out near the canyon. They took you to Flag Staff first but they didn’t have the facilities to help you so they sent you by helicopter here to Mesa. Do you remember what happened out near the canyon, were you hiking?” She looked at him, hiking she thought? “No, I…I don’t remember what happened, I was…” She stopped, as her gaze returned to the bed across from hers, the patient’s face was bandaged one closed eye peeking out from the mass of bandages. Something about that eye looked strangely familiar. “Joe, you don’t remember how you got hurt?” the doctor said, her eyes went back to him.

“No, I…I was out looking for…” she stopped, “what about the villa? The guy with the eye patch?” The doctor shook his head, “we don’t know about a villa out that way”, “the compound, with the black SUVs and the guys in suits, they took me there” she blurted out. “They who?” the doctor asked. Joe looked at him, she didn’t know how she had been brought to the room with the one-eyed man or how she ended up in a cell and then in the room. It was all disjointed, periods of time awake in places that she had assumed were in the villa. The dreams of her dad, the note… “there was a note, in my back pocket.” The doctor looked at the nurse who shook her head, “you should make the call to Sheriff Thompson’s office, let them know she’s awake”, he turned back to her “Do you live in or near Holbrook, do you know Sheriff Thompson?” he asked Joe. She knew the sheriff, had dodged her often. “um, she, she doesn’t really know me but she knows my sister Mandy.” She said. “That’s good, we’ll let her know you’re awake so that they can send someone to your house. They’ll also want to come here and talk to you, maybe find out more about what you were doing out there in the desert and what happened to you.” Joe was confused and had no idea what he was talking about, the throbbing in her head wouldn’t let up.

“look doc, everything is fuzzy and I feel like I was hit by a truck, everything hurts and I can’t think cuz my head is pounding too bad. Is there anything you can give me?” she pleaded. “Of course, but you should probably eat something too, we’ll get you something for the pain. In the meanwhile, try to remember what happened. But you should rest for now, I’ll be back in a few hours to check on you.” He smiled and patted her hand. He said something to the nurse about getting her transferred to another room as they walked away. The nurse nodded as he made a gesture towards the patient in the bed across from her before they left.

It was quiet again, nothing but the beeping noise of the machines. She lay in the bed trying to figure out what had happened. What was the last thing she really remembered?

The call came in early the next morning, she felt like she had barely slept, her head ached and the grainy feeling of her eyes told her that she hadn’t slept long enough. Wanting to throw the phone across the room, she cleared her throat instead and answered, “Sheriff Thompson”, she listened to the nurse on the other end of the line tell her that one of the ladies had awakened and was being moved from ICU. The girl, “Josephine” had a sister named Mandy that lived on the outskirts of Holbrook. Luanne sighed, shaking her head she thought “what have you done Marcus?” She thanked the nurse for calling and hung up the phone. She would have to make the trip, Jack was on his way back from vacation but wouldn’t be in until tonight, giving both her and Dave a break. Dave was, or should be, on his way back from a prisoner transport.

Getting out of bed, she went to the bathroom to splash water on her face and brush her teeth; then down to the kitchen to make coffee. State Police had a hit on one of the DNA samples from the rape kit, the guy lived over near Joseph city, so Dave had driven over to pick him up before he had a chance to run off somewhere. She was sure that the other two were probably “close friends”; scum always seemed to hang together. What surprised her though, well not really, was that after dropping him off with one of the highway patrol guys, Dave had caught Marcus Jones speeding towards town. Dave had pulled him over and said he looked like he had been in a “cat fight” blood, scratches and dirt everywhere. Marcus just kept saying he had got in a scrape with one of the boys from work but wouldn’t say who or when. Dave had been suspicious and had called in Doc Mickelson to “take a look at him” after he booked him on reckless driving. He said it was the best he could do since he wasn’t drunk.

Marcus wasn’t a hell raiser, but he wasn’t exactly friendly either. And now with one of those girls saying she was Mandy’s sister, she wondered. She would have to tell Dave to go check on Mandy, if Marcus looked like he had been in a cat fight, maybe the cat was Mandy. She thought about all of this as the coffee brewed, popping a couple aspirin for her headache, she saw the light blinking on her “ancient” answering machine. Anyone who saw it thought she was mad to keep the relic, but it was the best way for her to make sure she didn’t miss messages on her home phone. Not everyone called her cell.

She walked over to the machine and pressed the play button: “Hi Luanne? This is Aditsan, I really need to talk to you, it’s about the woman they found yesterday. I didn’t recognize her immediately, but she was wearing a ring, one that I was sure was given to her by her sister. I was going to head over to her place but decided to call you first. She has two kids, I hope I’m wrong and that she sold or gave the ring away but just in case she didn’t” there was a pause, “The ring belonged to Mandy Jones, like I said, she’s got two little ones and…well… I’m really worried about the kids.” Another pause “I’ve been trying to get in touch with her sister Joe but she’s not answering her phone…I don’t know her husband, never met him, but you might want to look into him too. I…” the machine cut off. She grabbed her cell phone, punching in the number to the office.

Dave answered on the first ring, “Yello?”, “Dave, this is Luanne, is Marcus Jones still in lockup?” she said, “Yeah, last time I checked on him he was climbing the walls, ranting about his rights, and telling me he was gonna cut off my head and shit down my throat. I’d say he’s been a complete and total joy to be around today” he said. She smiled, “well, that sweet little angel may have been involved in a pretty serious crime, contact, Doc Mickelson and the State Police Lab, whatever the good doctor got off him last night might be enough to convict or exonerate him. Call Jack, is he back in town yet?” “Woah, what do you mean convict or exonerate him? I know he looked like a train wreck last night, but what’s going on, I think the guy is going through some stuff…”

“Dave…one of the girls woke up in the hospital, I’m thinking the one they took in couple weeks ago, and Aditsan just left a message saying he thought that the girl they took in yesterday was Mandy Jones.” Dave’s face fell, he knew Mandy and that mess they had taken to Mesa was not Mandy. He heard himself whisper “son of a bitch”. “Yes, he just might be, but I need you to get Jack in there and you out to the Jones’ place, she has two kids, where are they if Marcus is out driving like a maniac and Mandy is in the hospital, where are the babies?” That brought Dave up short, he hadn’t thought about the kids, but then he hadn’t known about Mandy either.

“Will do boss, I’ll uh, I’ll get Jack in here and get State up here although Doc probably already bagged everything from last night.” He said, “that might be true, but now that we might have a more serious crime to charge him with, it might be best to get State involved. Oh and call the Susan from child welfare, don’t send her out there by herself. Did you mirandize him last night?” she asked. “Yeah I did, which is one of the reasons why he’s ranting about shitting down my throat, it seems that reckless driving is not a crime in his mind. Taking all of his clothes and making him wear a jumpsuit added insult to injury.” She smiled again. “Ok, I’m going to get dressed and head down to Mesa to talk to Josephine, when Jack comes in…” she began but he cut her off, “I got it covered, we’ll get this done right.” He said, “Thanks Dave, I’ll call you when I’m on my way out there.” She hung up the phone, took several sips from her coffee before calling Aditsan.

It had been three months since Neola had talked to Josephine Taylor and then Mandy Jones about their individual and horrifying experiences at the hands of Marcus Jones. She was sitting in a little room waiting to be called in to give her testimony. Marcus Jones would go away for a long time she hoped, him and his two sadistic friends. It was a blessing that they survived especially since Marcus had been in a drug induced rage both times when he had attacked the women, but it didn’t explain why his “friends” went along with the rape and torture. The one guy, Randy she thought was his name, seemed sickened by the way Marcus had beaten his wife, she would need more reconstructive surgery down the road. They had found the two kids, huddled together on a back trail, apparently, Mandy had heard him screaming her name and hid them before running off to lead Marcus away.

She sighed, what makes people do things like this, was there a sickness in the world or just in some men? Josephine hadn’t even realized what had happened to her initially. She kept repeating that she had been drugged; the lab had found traces of Rohypnol, opioids and marijuana in her blood, apparently, they thought it was fun to have their way with her while she was doped up. But after three days of keeping her tied up out there, they had gotten tired of her “unresponsiveness” and decided to leave her to die. Mandy had no such “luxury” of being drugged for her ordeal, apparently Marcus wanted her to “experience it live and in living color”. She shuddered, she remembered asking Mandy if Marcus had said that and she had said he had.

Neola looked down at her hands, the tiny dry cracks around her cuticles and chips in her nails made her think about how fragile a person’s life could be. If soap and water, washing away the oil in your skin and nails could cause them to become fragile enough to break; how long could a person endure before the harsh realities of life broke the spirit. But it wasn’t the same, was it? Marcus was a monster, she was sure of it, but somewhere in the past, he hadn’t been. What “soap and water” had washed away his decency, what had put cracks in him that turned him into what he had become? She was sure that he was the cause of Mandy’s pain and suffering, but would she have chosen him if he had always been that way? She would probably would never know the answers to those questions. The door opened and the Bailiff told her it was time for her to come into the courtroom.

Marcus made his way off the bus slowly; following the guy in front of him down the aisle to the stairs. He was being processed into a maximum security prison because that fucking nurse had lied! Mandy would have never said those things. He felt like shit. He was already tired of fighting, but he had to established the pecking order if he wanted to keep it together. He looked at the guards as he walked through the door and into the large room. A bunch of pussies he thought, they wouldn’t be so tough if he wasn’t in chains. He stopped in line where there was another guard giving out bundles. He took his and was told to stand against the wall in line. It was the same old speech, the one they gave him at the other place but he realized that this place would be different, there were a lot more guys here.

They ushered the prisoners down a hall, up a flight of stairs and over to their final residence. He was happy that he seemed to have a “room” all to himself. He decided he would take the bottom bunk and began putting his “stuff” in order. Everything calmed down after about a half hour or so then it was time for dinner. They were ushered to the dining hall where he got his first taste of real institutionalized food, this would be his breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next ten years. No one had tried to talk to him and that was just fine, he didn’t want to make friends and the less people he had to deal with the better. After dinner, they were ushered back to their cells and Marcus found that in his absence, they had put someone else in his room. It didn’t matter, the guy was a scrawny little fellow, with a bald head and tattoos that ran down or up the back of his head. He also had tattoos on his arms which Marcus noticed, were well muscled for such a small guy.

The “little dude” was pulling Marcus’ things off his bed and tossing them on the floor, “Hey! What the fuck man?” the little guy just turned and looked at him, smiled and kept pulling the bedding off, “pieces of shit like you don’t get a bed” he said. Marcus though, great, here we go, another fight. “And I guess you get to decide?” he said. Just then Marcus heard the slight shuffling of feet behind him, getting ready to turn and hit the first person behind him he was caught off guard as his arms were grabbed by two guys, a third and fourth crowding into the cell behind them. So, they were going to beat him first, well every place has a pecking order he thought. The little guy turned and sat down on the bunk. “See, not much happens around here that I don’t know about, every new inmate to this block is my business. Everything about that new inmate is my business and I decide what happens. And, as it happens, I, well, we don’t like guys like you. We hate you more than anything else, cops, baby killers, yeah they might get a pass…but guys like you, well, let’s just say we have a training program for guys like you.” He looked around the room and smiled at Marcus, “let’s just say we like to teach guys like you…new tricks…”

He felt his bladder let go, a large wet spot growing on the front of his jumpsuit, a hot stream of piss running down his leg and soaking his sock. Heart pounding, Marcus started to struggle, too late, he felt more than saw something hard hit him in the mouth, shattering his front teeth. He felt himself being forced to his knees, his jumpsuit being pulled from his body. He tried to scream but there was an arm around his neck, just tight enough to cut off his ability to make loud noises. He felt his arms being pulled out in front of him as they were tied to the bed. The arm around his neck had been replaced with a gag…

He couldn’t believe what was happening to him, this is not happening, this is not happening. Over and over he screamed in his head…this is not happening…

When deeds speak, words are nothing ~African Proverb

 Live, Love, & Learn ♥

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