The Present, in the Garden Room
Greeting Michael Stockwell in the morning I said, "So, you ready for more?"
He laughed and said, "Yes, I am. Don't worry, Alanna, we will figure this out!"
A thread of hope chased over my heart. It was stupid, but I felt like Michael would actually listen. The back of my neck got that weird feeling again, but I shook my head once and concentrated on what I needed to tell the cop. I didn't trust him to fix it, but it was good that he kept showing up to hear more. If nothing else it was lessening a burden.
In the distance the Watcher cheerfully wallows in Alanna's pain.
She really is pissing me off with all her moaning and groaning about how horrid her little pathetic life has been. I mean come on -- she's alive still, what more does she want? I didn't kill her dogs. She pretends her life is so hard. I'll be happy to show her hard any time! Just give me a minute.
And since that stupid bitch was nice enough to talk to the detective so freely in the 'Garden Room' I was able to take my time listening to her litany of bitching in between my own little pursuits. Naturally I had to run over to see Marlene. After all she had some issues lately. Oh hell, the thorazine drip should nearly be done and I so need to head back over there in the next hour or so to see how she's doing. And only then I can begin to play my games. Alanna keeps surprising me with her stories. I hadn't realized that she had a floor safe, that must have slipped her maid's mind when I probed her. Spanish isn't my first language, after all, and she prattled on and on about so many saints and wannabe saints I must have missed that little tidbit.
Now what should I play? One potato, two potatoes? This little piggy? Childhood games are so much fun with rose clipping shears. Marlene was such a bad girl when I was away. That damned paranoid twit trashed the bedroom looking for more blow. I gave her a blow all right.
My recordings will be so nice to listen to on the way back to the city. Los Angeles -- the big sucking sick city where I truly belonged. Marlene's corpse couldn't be left in town; I was thus forced to make a journey outside the city limits. The dry desert air was making my head pound I have to admit and I am ever so much nastier when I have a headache.
Here let me play a little of the recordings of the "blah blah blah" on the way to deal with dead Marlene's issues. Hmmm. Here we go... recordings from Marlene's information.
'So it seems like Randolph and Marge were all but like cats in heat.' That bitch. She is so wrong. She misunderstood what she saw! Hell, sex isn't just bumping nasty bits. There is so much more. But then from what I know about Alanna she isn't exactly world shaking in the sex department. Damn her to hell. Or damn her to death. Yeah, that's a better idea. God, I need to see some bloodshed fast. This inactivity is killing me.
Still In The Past
Since the police had called on Jean Claude in the hospital someone else must have reached the same conclusion. But his brother, René Danzinger, seemed to feel the police were treating it as a love affair gone wrong rather than a business problem. Sitting in the nearly empty cafeteria, he related to me that the officer who'd questioned the family implied that I was over-reacting and simply a bit confused about the 'alleged' incidents. René didn't agree with the police, but found out quickly that there was nothing he could do to persuade the police differently. They really thought that Jean Claude and I were romantically involved while the family all knew that he was happily engaged to a well-loved family friend. Since I'd only met the man just the other day, I didn't have a clue how the cops had jumped to that mistaken conclusion.
In response to the news of the engagement the officer in charge made the rather nasty comment, "Yes, but I know how you Frenchmen love your mistresses!"
René was astounded by the ethnic slur and called the man a pig. He dropped his head at this point in his story and admitted it probably wasn't the best thing to say to a cop who held such a nasty biased view to start. The officer left quickly afterwards and René decided to contact me to see whether or not he should be concerned. Honestly I admitted I had no idea what exactly was going on, but would keep his family posted if I felt it was necessary.
Settling back in the scooped plastic cafeteria chair, I explained to René that my first meeting with Jean Claude was just a few days ago. I added my desire to help the family recoup any business losses from the fire with perhaps a partnership between the chef and my company. I went as far as to give him my cell number. Once we had turned the conversation to business, René proved well equipped to handle the topic.
It turned out that he was the patriarchal financial planner for all the Danzinger family holdings -- that seemed to be quite extensive. Finding René extremely thorough, not to mention extremely captivating, eased my personal worries. If his numbers checked out with my accountant I knew that I would benefit from an alliance with the Danzinger family. We spoke well into the middle hours of the evening. Several of his family members joined us in the cafeteria, making the discussions lively and varied. Soon we had a lively topic discussing the state of France's government and the United States and the social issues facing both nations. Noticing it had grown late, I bid farewell to them all and started for home, for the first time in days I felt something like hope.
Gorgeous crisp night air put a spring in my step as I went to my car and headed home with thankfully mild traffic. In anticipation of a long, hot, soaking bath I decided to make a brief stop before giving into my total exhaustion at home. Earlier I hadn't bothered to pick up anything so I really had to get to the supermarket before I collapsed. It wasn't like Randolph ever did much shopping -- leastways not for food.
Once inside, I picked up vegetables and fruit randomly and began to calm down. The market was nearly empty of shoppers except a few college age kids. The melody being played over the loud speakers was actually recognizable and not homogenized into the typical mélange of store music. After I finished filling my basket I went to the checkout line to purchase the food. The cashier and I knew each other from many past such evening shopping sprints. We spoke of inconsequential things and I left, feeling semi-normal for the first time in many days. Paper grocery bags in hand, I headed for my car.
I never knew what hit me.
I woke to a security guard standing over me.
"Lady? Lady? Hey, are you okay? Listen, don't move. Stay still there's some help coming, okay?" he urged me to keep down on the hard asphalt despite my seeing bits and pieces of refuse. I didn't analyze what it was but knew whatever, it wasn't something I wanted embedded in my back.
With all that floating in and out of my addled brain, I slowly sat up next to my car looking around, stunned at the mess my groceries were making as people shuffled up to see what was going on. The paper sacks I had so environmentally liked didn't withstand my falling. The split bag allowed my stray apples to roll under the feet of the spectators and was being made into an impromptu sauce.
I touched my head with disbelief, gingerly pulling my fingers away once I found a huge knot on my crown and my fingertips wet with blood. I figured the cut wasn't too deep since it seeped rather than gushed, or I'd been unconscious for a while. I looked back to where I'd been found and was relieved to only see a medium size damp spot. Working in kitchens there always was someone getting harmed, so I knew what to look for and the pit of my stomach fluttered because that was my blood, not a careless cook or clumsy server's blood. The store's security guard pressed a bundle of napkins into my sticky hand; I blotted the slight cut and tried to pay attention. The napkins distracted me.
"Taco Bell?" I quizzed him over his choice of first aid materials. It struck me funny since my 'bell' had certainly been rung. It really hurt to think. Tears sprung to my eyes -- I felt sick. Leaning against my car tire I watched multi-colored lights race towards us.
"Lady, what's your name?" He asked while looking at me.
"Alanna Hagen, I know my name." I wasn't sure if I'd be keeping that name for much longer but he didn't need to know that.
The security guard flagged the ambulance over to us like they didn't see me sitting on the ground ringed by watchers. The people clustered around the action were in a large loose-knit half circle of strangely excited faces. I had no clue there had been so many folks shopping in the store. I overheard someone say that I'd been mugged and wasn't it just a shame.
Mentally I agreed with the man in the crowd as I was poked and prodded by the paramedics. Granted, I thought it was more than just a 'shame' but then I was pretty biased. They concluded I had a possible concussion but didn't think that I needed any stitches since the wound had pretty much stopped bleeding. It didn't stop them from dabbing some more and bundling me into the ambulance. I knew better than arguing since it was probably some insurance thing with the store. The security guard was flapping his tongue, explaining he'd been on the other side of the building due to a small trashcan fire.
I didn't think he was fibbing about the fire, but rather dull to not have found it suspicious. I found it definitely suspicious and I had a head injury. Figuring out as they were strapping me down they might have had a point about the possible concussion, given how much my head was spinning out of control at the mere nodding to one of the questions the paramedic asked me. The quick throb of pain that followed, and slight nausea only enhanced the pounding headache. I was wondering why I decided to shop so late. Regretting the loss of the groceries, I resigned myself to the separation from my purse and identity from the mugging. I hated the idea of checking into the emergency room without any of the seemingly crucial paperwork all bureaucracies seemed to need to function.
From the awkward position on the crash cart staring up at the ceiling of the ambulance all sorts of odd thoughts were rolling through my mind. Ironically, the paramedics brought me back to the same hospital I had left earlier in the evening. Emergency room personnel took my word for my identity and began to process me through the system. I didn't understand how triage quite worked, but thankfully I wasn't far back in the line for treatment.
The laceration wasn't deep enough to need stitches but a chunk of hair had to be cut so they could swab it down with an antiseptic to prevent infection and a nurse applied some butterfly bandages. I was happy to avoid the stitches or staples that hospitals liked to hand out like aspirin. I was admonished that I needed to come back if there were signs of infection later. The doctor flashed a penlight into my eyes and decided I had a concussion and was being admitted for overnight observation. It seemed during the exam time someone had verified my medical information, and with the store's concerns about a lawsuit there were plenty of deep pockets to mail obscene bills to once I was out of the costly treatment. Having my own business I was well aware even with a head injury how expensive hospitals could be. Unceremoniously I was shuffled upstairs to spend the remainder of the time in relative comfort of a semi-private room.