Devil's Waltz Part 12

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"I don't know what you did, Dr. Delaware, but since yesterday she's been talking more. Cass, can you say elephant again?"

Cassie closed her mouth and crumpled the paper.

Cindy said, "Oh, my," cuddled her and stroked her cheek. Both of us watched Cassie labor to unfold the picture.

When she finally succeeded she said, "Eh-fa!" compressed the paper again, tighter, into a fist-sized ball, then looked at it, perplexed.

Cindy said, "Sorry, Dr. Delaware. Looks like your elephant isn't doing too well."

"Looks like Cassie is."

She forced a smile and nodded.

Cassie made another attempt to straighten the paper. This time, thimble-sized fingers weren't up to the task and Cindy helped her. "There you go, honey. . . . Yes, she's feeling great."

"Any problems with procedures?"

"There haven't been any procedures. Not since yesterday morning. We've just been sitting here-it's . . ."

"Something the matter?" I said.

She brought her braid forward and smoothed the fringe.

"People must think I'm crazy," she said.

"Why do you say that?"

"I don't know. It was a stupid thing to say-I'm sorry."

"What's the matter, Cindy?"

She turned away and played with her braid some more. Then she sat back down. Picking up the deck of cards, she passed it from hand to hand.

"It's just that . . ." she said, speaking so softly I had to move closer, "I . . . each time I bring her here she gets better. And then I take her home, thinking everything's going to be okay, and it is for a while, and then . . ."

"And then she gets sick again."

Keeping her head down, she nodded.

Cassie mumbled something to a plastic figure. Cindy said, "That's good, baby," but the little girl didn't seem to hear.

I said, "And then she gets sick all over again and you're let down."

Cassie threw the figure down, picked up another, and began shaking it.

Cindy said, "And then all of a sudden, she's okay-just like now. That's what I meant-about being crazy. Sometimes I think I'm crazy."

She shook her head and returned to Cassie's bedside. Taking a lock of the child's hair between her fingers, she let it slip away. Peering into the playhouse, she said, "Well, look at that-they're all eating what you made for dinner!" Her voice was so cheerful it made the roof of my mouth ache.

She stayed there, playing with Cassie's hair, pointing at the dolls, and prompting. Cassie made imitative sounds. Some of them sounded like words.

I said, "How about we go down for a cup of coffee? Vicki can stay with Cassie."

Cindy looked up. One hand rested on Cassie's shoulder. "No-no, I'm sorry, Dr. Delaware, I couldn't. I never leave her," she said.


She shook her head. "Not when she's in here. I know that sounds crazy, too, but I can't. You hear too many . . . things."

"What kinds of things?"

"Accidents-someone getting the wrong medicine. Not that I'm actually worried-this is a great hospital. But . . . I just need to be here. I'm sorry."

"It's okay. I understand."

"I'm sure it's more for me than for her, but . . ." She bent and hugged Cassie. Cassie squirmed and continued playing. Cindy gave me a helpless look.

"I know I'm being overprotective," she said.

"Not considering what you've been through."

"Well . . . thanks for saying that."

I pointed to the chair.

She gave a weak smile and sat down.

"It must be a real strain," I said. "Being here so often. It's one thing working in a hospital, but being dependent is something else."

She looked puzzled. "Working in a hospital?"

"You were a respiratory tech, right?" I said. "Didn't you do it at a hospital?"

"Oh, that. That was such a long time ago. No, I never got that far-didn't graduate."

"Lost interest?"

"Kind of." Picking up the box of cards, she tapped one knee. "Actually, going into R.T. in the first place was my aunt's idea. She was an R.N. Said a woman should have a skill even if she didn't use it, and that I should find something that would always be in demand, like health care. With the way we were ruining the air, people smoking, she felt there'd always be a call for R.T.'s."

"Your aunt sounds like someone with strong opinions."

She smiled. "Oh, she was. She's gone now." Rapid eyeblink. "She was a fantastic person. My parents passed on when I was a kid and she basically raised me by herself."

"But she didn't encourage you to go into nursing? Even though she was an R.N.?"

"Actually she recommended against nursing. Said it was too much work for too little pay and not enough . . ."

She gave an embarrassed smile.

"Not enough respect from the doctors?"

"Like you said, Dr. Delaware, she had strong opinions on just about everything."

"Was she a hospital nurse?"

"No, she worked for the same G.P. for twenty-five years and they bickered the whole time like an old married couple. But he was a really nice man-old-fashioned family doctor, not too good about collecting his bills. Aunt Harriet was always on him for that. She was a real stickler for details, probably from her days in the army-she served in Korea, on the front. Made it to captain."

"Really," I said.

"Uh-huh. Because of her I tried out the service, too. Boy, this is really taking me back a few years."

"You were in the army?"

She gave a half-smile, as if expecting my surprise. "Strange for a girl, huh? It happened in my senior year in high school. The recruiter came out on careers day and made it sound pretty attractive-job training, scholarships. Aunt Harriet thought it would be a good idea, too, so that clinched it."

"How long were you in?"

"Just a few months." Her hands worked her braid. "A few months after I arrived I got sick and had to be discharged early."

"Sorry to hear that," I said. "Must have been serious."

She looked up. Blushing deeply. Yanking the braid.

"It was," she said. "Influenza-real bad flu-that developed into pneumonia. Acute viral pneumonia-there was a terrible epidemic in the barracks. Lots of girls got sick. After I recovered, they said my lungs might be weakened and they didn't want me in anymore." Shrug. "So that was it. My famous military career."

"Was it a big disappointment?"

"No, not really. Everything worked out for the best." She looked at Cassie.

"Where were you stationed?"

"Fort Jackson. Down in South Carolina. It was one of the few places they trained only women. It was the summer-you don't think of pneumonia in the summer, but a germ's a germ, right?"


"It was really humid. You could shower and feel dirty two seconds later. I wasn't used to it."

"Did you grow up in California?"

"California native," she said, waving an imaginary flag. "Ventura. My family came out from Oklahoma originally. Gold Rush days. One of my great-grandmothers was part Indian-according to my aunt, that's where the hair comes from."

She hefted the braid, then dropped it.

"'Course, it's probably not true," she said, smiling. "Everyone wants to be Indian now. It's kind of fashionable." She looked at me: "Delaware. With that name you could be part Indian too."

"There's a family myth that says so-one third of one great-great-grandfather. I guess what I am is a mongrel-little bit of everything."

"Well, good for you. That makes you all-American, doesn't it?"

"Guess so," I said, smiling. "Was Chip ever in the service?"

"Chip?" The idea seemed to amuse her. "No."

"How'd the two of you meet?"

"At college. I did a year at WVCC, after R.T. school. Took Soc One-oh-one and he was my teacher."

Another look at Cassie. Still busy with the house. "Do you want to do your techniques now?"

"It's still a little soon," I said. "I want her to really trust me."

"Well . . . I think she does. She loves your drawings-we saved all the ones she didn't destroy."

I smiled. "It's still best to take it slow. And if she's not having any procedures, there's no need to rush."

"True," she said. "For all that's happening here, I guess we could go home right now."

"Do you want to?"

"I always want to. But what I really want is for her to get better." Cassie glanced over and Cindy lowered her voice to a whisper again: "Those seizures really scared me, Dr. Delaware. It was like . . ." She shook her head.

"Like what?"

"Like something out of a movie. This is terrible to say, but it reminded me of The Exorcist." She shook her head. "I'm sure Dr. Eves will get to the bottom of whatever's going on, eventually. Right? She said we should stay at least one more night, maybe two, for observation. It's probably for the best, anyway. Cassie's always so healthy here."

Her eyes moistened.

"Once you do go home," I said, "I'd like to come out and visit."

"Oh, sure . . ." Unasked questions flooded her face.

"In order to keep working on the rapport," I said. "If I can get Cassie totally comfortable with me when she's not having procedures, I'll be in a better position to help her when she does need me."

"Sure. That makes sense. Thank you, that's very kind. I . . . didn't know doctors still made house calls."

"Once in a while. We call them home visits now."

"Oh. Well, sure, that would be great. I really appreciate your taking the time."

"I'll call you after you're discharged and set up an appointment. Why don't you give me your address and phone number?"

I tore a sheet out of my datebook and handed it to her along with a pen.

She wrote and handed it back.

Fine, round hand, light touch.

Cassie B. Jones's house:

Devil's Waltz Part 12

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Devil's Waltz Part 12 summary

You're reading Devil's Waltz Part 12. This novel has been translated by Updating. Author: Jonathan Kellerman already has 60 views.

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