Dania Mert forced a smile when she entered the conference room. She sat at the far end, as far from the screen where Doc McDarvey would appear as she could get. She clunked her full coffee mug down hoping it would cool some very quickly. Her body was in desperate need of the caffeine but she didn't relish the idea of the scorching it would give her at its current temp. Lamartha took her seat next to the screen, Emie across from her. The two goody goodies missing their ray of sunshine kitty-lover pal. It was a shame, what happened to Abby. It was also a shame that the rest of them were stuck in a miserable dying job because four people were too messed up to put anywhere else. Dania had put applications in at so many other places but none had even called for an interview. It had to be because she was still stuck to Hart House. And Hart House was starting to look very ugly on a resume. Mason had lost so many clients over the past year, caring for his grandfather, Hart House being the biggest one. He wasn’t home much anymore either. She was starting to feel more and more like she didn’t even have a husband. So she needed to find something to get her income back and keep her occupied. Part time wasn’t cutting it. And she doubted anyone really cared what the remaining few residents were eating, just that they ate some semblance of food. She suffered through the meeting, answering questions and bringing up the questions she needed answered. She tried to ignore Miana, but the girl’s scratching pen nearly made her explode. Dania bit her tongue until she tasted blood. The scritch, scritch, scritch scraping against her nerves and drilling into her mind. She stared at the pen and the hand that dragged it over the paper. The girl didn’t even have a nice manicure, several of the nails chipped and one broken completely. When it was all over, Dania bolted up and pretended she pulled important papers together inside the cabinet marked Dietician Use in the conference room corner so she wouldn’t have to socialize. She’d never even had an official office to work from in this place. She forced herself to look intently at the nonsense in the cabinet while the others gathered their things, relaxing only after Lamartha padded out of the room. Lamartha loved thinking Dania worked hard, and as long as she thought Dania was busy, the less she added to her work load. She’d already asked her to do the mail runs and odd chores around the facility. Dania did everything with a smile. Smile and people thought all was peachy… ____________________________________________ Lamartha bustled into her office and quietly closed the door, nearly dropping all her files as she did so. She hobbled over to the desk, holding a corner of the pile with the top of her hip, and let the folders spill on the dark wood. She slouched with a loud sigh, looking at the mess. Outside, the sun shined, the grass glistening with the morning dew extra heavy from the rain showers the previous night. She sat at the desk, pulling the string to turn on the lamp so her old eyes could see the papers she needed to tuck back into their proper files. A loud hum grew, then a pop that sent Lamartha’s heart pounding at marathon level. She leaned back in her chair, rolling her eyes, decided to take a swig of her coffee only to find she’d finished it already. “Oh for crying out loud,” she muttered, then forced a deep breath into her lungs. Getting all riled wouldn’t help a thing. After a moment, she patted her hair again into the neat puff of curls on her head, stood, straightened the hem of her blouse, grabbed her coffee mug handle and headed out the back door of her office into the maintenance hallway. She first went right, pulling a new bulb from the maintenance room closet, then decided to set the box on her desk so she wouldn’t risk dropping it while she got her coffee. With the back office door still open, she moved quickly left, ignoring the section of hall that still smelled strangely. The laundry room emitted the wooshing and growling that came from the appliances on a daily basis as she strode by it and out the hall door to the staff room. Emie glanced up from her mug on the table in front of the gurgling coffee pot. Her gaze landed on Lamartha’s cup, then back to her own. “It’s a multiple cups of coffee kind of day,” she said. Lamartha groaned softly. “Seems that way. How long?” “Should be done here in a minute or two.” Deciding it wasn’t worth a trip back to the desk just to turn around again, Lamartha leaned a shoulder against the wall. “Everything okay?” Emie asked. Lamartha shrugged. “As good as it can be.” She struggled to beat down the thought of sharing the latest news she had with Emie. The detective investigating Abby’s death had revealed to her that the murderer had to be someone from inside the facility. And the cause of death had been Ativan from the one syringe that had found the poor girl’s jugular then a drug cocktail administered in one of the other syringes. The killer finished her off by smothering. And Abby had fought against her attacker so hard. Lamartha shuddered. It was all so terrible, more terrible because Lamartha knew only someone with solid knowledge of what they were doing, both with the drugs and then to get so lucky during a struggle to inject Abby. Of all in the facility, to Lamartha’s knowledge, only Abby herself was that skilled. It made no sense...
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