Using her radio, Rochelle called the dispatcher once more, telling her to send the emergency services along with the police. “I got two down, a man and a woman. I bet they’re the two who were helping Dr. Ventimiglia. Tell them to hurry and not run their sirens.”
“The police are arriving now. I have one car coming in the driveway. Shall I divert the officer?”
“No. Marka needs him. Patch me through to him.”
The dispatcher worked her magic and soon Rochelle heard a young sounding, male voice on the other end.
“Officer Webster, go ahead.”
Rochelle identified herself and told him her location. “I need you to find Dr. Marka Ventimiglia. She’s looking for Frank Atherton. Do you know them?”
“Yes, ma’am. Frank’s a friend. So is Marka. What’s wrong?”
“Honey, I don’t know how much you know. And I’m not saying anything else over an open channel. Approach with caution.”
“I’m coming to you.”
“Negative, you need. . . .”
“I’m at the door.”
She could hear his voice in the house as well as on the radio. Leaving the two injured people, she walked quickly to meet him. The officer was young and fresh faced, but there were hard lines around his mouth. Rochelle was flooded with relief. Not only was he Marka’s friend, he looked like he knew what he was doing, even if he was young.
“You must be Officer Davis. I’m James Webster.” He shook Rochelle’s hand. “Tell me what’s going on.”
As fast as she could, Rochelle filled James in on the situation. He frowned, biting his lip. “Okay. The EMTs are right behind me. You come with me and I’ll get us in the facility without a squawk. Frank won’t even know we’re coming.”
“You sure about that? From what I gather, he’s the Ninja Master.”
“Yeah, but he’s only been here three years. Before I became a cop, I worked night shift as an orderly.”
He led her out of the house and into the woods that skirted the property. They passed the smoking area and heard people talking. No one seemed aware of them as they passed through in the undergrowth. James led her to a well concealed door hidden by bushes at the back of the building. Flat and featureless, it swung inward without a sound. They found themselves in the boiler room that led to the laundry room. Although the industrial washers and driers hummed and spun, there was no one around.
Finger to his lips, James led Rochelle through the maze of equipment to another hidden door. This one also swung inward and led to a staircase. He pushed the door shut before fumbling for a light switch. Cigarette butts and cups littered the stairwell.
“Sometimes come in here for a smoke or. . . .” He whispered, blushing slightly. “You know. Nights get long and no one wants to go out in the cold for a smoke.”
“Gotcha. I’ve done my share of nights,” she whispered back.
“It’s an emergency staff stairway for evacuation. Most people don’t even know it’s here. They take the main stairs an elevators.”
“And you know, why?”
“Boredom and a sense of adventure. Okay. We’re going to Frank and Marka’s room first. It’s in the northwest wing. This will bring us up near the laundry room on the second floor. Make a left from there, through the double doors and into the sitting room. Pass the nurse’s station and another left. It’s the last door on the left.”
They came out as he said they would, slipping into the hallway. It was strangely quiet for this time of day. James expected there to be elderly people wandering around with their walkers or staff members going about their rounds. A flashing light above the door to the sitting room. The double doors were closed—unusual for this time of day. In fact, the doors stood open virtually all the time.
“We’re in lock down,” James whispered. He grinned. “Marka’s brilliant.”
The door opened stiffly, but James got it to move without too much trouble. The sitting room was empty, the nurse’s station as well. They walked quietly toward Frank and Marka’s room. As they approached, they heard voices. James held up a hand. Rochelle and he stopped, listening.
“I need them! Don’t you understand that?”
“That’s Frank,” James whispered. “He doesn’t sound right.”
Rochelle nodded. She thought his tone of voice sounded high, desperate, almost childlike. A calm woman’s voice replied. Rochelle couldn’t hear the words, but she recognized the tone. That must be Marka, trying to calm him down.
© Dellani Oakes