“Please come as soon as possible,” a nurse at the nearby St. James hospital said. “You’re listed as the next of kin for Angie Parks.”
Dixie didn’t know what to say. Her heart was pounding, and she felt dizzy. She sat down on the couch and tried to process what she was hearing.
“What happened?” Dixie asked.
“Please, just come as soon as possible. The doctor here in the emergency room will brief you on her condition,” the nurse replied.
“Is she okay?” Dixie persisted.
“I don’t have any information on the patient. The doctor will fill you in once you arrive. Can someone bring you?” the nurse asked, arousing Dixie’s suspicion that Angie may have passed away.
“I’ll see what I can do. I’ll be there as soon as I can,” Dixie replied before hanging up.
It was hard not to have a persecution complex after what she had been through lately. A customer had been murdered, she was getting scary phone calls, and now her aunt was in the hospital. She couldn’t take another death, especially after she had lost both of her parents in a horrible car crash. Life couldn’t be that cruel, or could it, she wondered.
Dixie called one of Angie’s friends, Eleanor Stewart, to see if she could drive her to the hospital. She was afraid that there was going to be bad news, and she didn’t want to be around strangers if that were the case. Eleanor was a close friend of Angie’s and a fellow member of the Casserole Crew.
Before Dixie left the house, she patted Louie on the head and locked the door behind her. She smiled when she saw Eleanor’s huge, Lincoln Continental arrive, which looked more like a limousine than a passenger car.
Once Dixie got in the car and was buckled in, Eleanor pressed on the accelerator, and the car lurched forward. Dixie grabbed the door handle and hung on.
“It’ll be okay, darling,” Eleanor reassured her. “I’ve known Angie since we were teenagers, and she is one tough old bird. She’ll probably be at the hospital bossing everyone around like she is the queen bee. You just watch.”
Dixie nodded and stared at the road ahead. She fought the tears that threatened to fill her eyes and betray how she felt. While she was lost in thought, Eleanor gave her a pat on the thigh and told her that they were almost there. They rode the rest of the way in silence.
Once they arrived at the hospital, a sense of panic washed over Dixie. She stiffened and didn’t want to get out of the car.
“C’mon darling,” Eleanor coaxed. “Time to face the music. I’m sure you haven’t a thing to worry about. Remember what I told you? Angie is a fighter.”
Eleanor reached over and popped Dixie’s seatbelt latch to hurry her along. Dixie opened her door, took a deep breath, and joined Eleanor on the walk to the emergency room entrance.
Once they announced themselves, a nurse led them through a series of doors to a consulting room. It only made Dixie more worried. The wait for the doctor seemed to take an eternity, and she felt agitated.
Twenty minutes later, a lovely, auburn-haired woman arrived and introduced herself as Dr. Rene Hoffman. She shook hands with them and asked them to have a seat.
Eleanor placed a hand on Dixie’s arm and waited anxiously to hear what the doctor had to say.
“I know this seems scary, but Angie is going to recover. She took a nasty fall and hit her head hard. She has a slight concussion so we’re going to keep her here for observation for a few days. She’s relaxing comfortably right now,” the doctor informed them.
“How did she fall?” Eleanor asked.
“She wasn’t sure how it happened. Sometimes when older people have a head injury, they’re confused about what happened. Give her a few days, and she might remember. From what I understand, someone called an ambulance for her. She was found on the sidewalk in front of her house,” Dr. Hoffman replied.
“I hope it was just an accident,” Dixie said, her eyebrows furrowed with concern. After what had been going on in town, she wasn’t sure of anything anymore. What if the killer had attacked Angie, but failed? She decided to put in a call to Officer Granger, just in case.
“Is there anything we can do for Angie in the mean time? Should we stay with her?” Eleanor asked.
“You’re welcome to stay, but there is only one recliner in her room for someone to sleep on,” Dr. Hoffman replied.
“Well, I guess that is it for now,” Eleanor said, patting Dixie’s hand. “How about we get you home so you can drive your car back, and I’ll take the first shift overnight? I don’t have any other plans, and I can’t sleep at night anyway.”
“Are you sure? I didn’t mean for you to stay overnight in a recliner,” Dixie said.
“Oh, no problem. You should have seen what we nurses had to sleep on during the war. The camp cots were awful! I would have killed for a recliner. I’ll call the other girls, and we can all take turns sitting with Angie,” Eleanor said with a smile. “C’mon, let’s head out so we can be back before Angie has dinner.”
Eleanor and Dixie thanked Dr. Hoffman and headed back home. Dixie felt relieved that Angie was going to be okay, but she wondered about how the accident happened.
“Dixie, what’s wrong? I told you Angie was going to be okay. If they thought anything else, they would have urged you to stay with her. Everything is going to be okay, you’ll see,” Eleanor said as she flew down the road back to Dixie’s house in the Lincoln.
When they finally arrived, Eleanor told her that she would call her from the hospital. She was going to organize a schedule so that everyone from the Casserole Crew had a chance to visit with Angie, and that she wouldn’t be alone. Dixie thanked her and kissed her cheek before she drove away.
Dixie walked up to her front door, but she sensed something was amiss. The door looked strange, and once she was a few feet away from it, she saw why. Someone had broken into her house and had destroyed the frame by the door knob in the process. She instinctively stepped backward and headed to the driveway to call 911. She stood behind a large old magnolia tree next to the road to make the call, in case she wasn’t alone.
“Hello, Officer Granger? Dixie Mae Carver. Again,” she said with a waver in her voice.
“Yes?” Harlan said, wondering what was going on now. He hoped she wasn’t one of those people who was always inventing ways to interact with law enforcement.
“I have a problem. Someone has broken into my home,” she said.
“What? When?” Harlan asked, sitting up straight in his office chair.
“I was at the hospital, and when I came back home, I saw my door had been kicked in,” she replied.
“Why were you at the hospital? And please tell me you’re not in the house!” he said, worried for her safety.
“I’m at the end of my driveway. I don’t want to go into my house,” she said, ignoring his question about the hospital.
“Don’t go in there. I’ll send someone over there right away. I have to hang up, but I’ll be there soon, okay?” Harlan said, and then quickly hung up before Dixie could reply.
Dixie stood by the tree, sneaking several looks at her house in case someone was in there and waiting. She looked up at the sky and wondered why bad things kept happening to her, but she didn’t get a chance to wallow in self-pity for long. In the distance, she could hear a siren, ruining yet another beautiful autumn evening in the town of Friendship.