Chapter 23 - Laying the Blame
It was dark when she opened her eyes. The soft light from the hallway was the only illumination. She looked up. Standing next to the bed was a dark figure. Jill blinked. She wanted to move away but her body wasn’t working. She tried again to move but nothing happened. She tried to scream but no sound came from her.
“There is no point fighting,” the voice was female and calm, too calm, “I won’t bore you with the details, but just know that the drug I’ve given you prevents movement. You can’t do anything. It’s ironic really. What you are feeling now is how I feel every day. I can hear, I can see, but there’s nothing I can do to make him see what he’s doing wrong.”
She knew that voice. Her eyes blinked, that was the limit of her movement, and soon her vision became less blurred. In the low light she recognized the face of the woman who was standing over and looking down at her. It was Catherine.
“You’re shocked?” Catherine sounded astonished, “You didn’t expect this?”
Jill blinked but couldn’t answer the woman.
“You seriously have the gall to act surprised,” Catherine sneered, “I warned you when he first started showing interest. I had Helen warn you. Everyone told you to leave him alone. I stood outside that room, embarrassed myself, with you two looking all sexed up. But you ignored everyone.”
Jill wanted to shake her head, to scream her objection, but she couldn’t do anything to argue her innocence.
“Instead of leaving him alone, you bewitched him,” she spat the word, “You did something to him. You gave him something. Whatever you did changed him. He should have left you after he got what he wanted, but he didn’t.”
Jill blinked, she remembered the nurse who came into her room accused her of this, of bewitching him. Did Catherine send her?
“I almost wish I’d done this another way. If you could speak you could tell me how you did it,” Catherine exhaled, “But I doubt you would. You’re too stubborn. His Father told me what you did to them, how disrespectful you were. You wouldn’t understand what I’ve done for him. You wouldn’t see how much I’ve sacrificed for him. You wouldn’t tell me how you made him love you.”
She knew about his parents offer to her? Jill’s eyes went to her name badge. They all had to wear a name badge, but they put a sticker over their last names to protect themselves. All that was visible was her first name and a ‘W’. But Jill didn’t need more than that. Catherine was the Charge Nurse, the head nurse, and the junior nurses referred to her as Charge Nurse White. Just as Richard had referred to her as such. While in his office he had said that Charge Nurse White had brought the heartbroken nurses to him.
“My name?” she must have seen where Jill’s eyes were looking, “Did Richard mention me? Doesn’t surprise me. He thinks me an ally. But that’s good. They rely on me and now they’ll have no choice but to welcome me. And I’ll have you to thank for that. Which reminds me, where is your phone?”
Her eyes went left, in the direction of the side table next to the bed. She should have been less obvious, but she didn’t even think, her eyes just flew to where it was sitting. The phone wasn’t hidden. She didn’t think to hide it.
“Thanks for that,” Catherine picked it up and swiped the screen, “It’s locked? No matter, just having that recording in my possession is enough. I have my own recordings, but I knew that if I used them they would never trust me again. You can’t have your in-laws mistrusting you. No, that wasn’t my plan, I needed them to rely on me completely. Now, they do.”
In-laws? Plan? What did she mean by that? What was she going to do?
“You’re curious, aren’t you?” Catherine smiled as she took out a long knife, “Originally it was a simple plan of getting rid of the competition. It wasn’t hard to get his parents to pay off the other women he slept with. They didn’t need much encouragement. All I had to do was imply scandal and they jumped. But I messed up. I got greedy and ended up inventing some extra affairs and kept the money myself. Then I jumped in too early. I thought he was ready. I thought he loved me. I slept with him thinking that I’d accomplished my goal.”
Jill felt the fear building in her. She’d been scared, but now hearing Catherine talking, she could feel the panic seeping in. This woman was insane.
“That was seven months ago,” Catherine growled, “Then he slept with Helen and I knew I had to find a way to make him see that he had no choice but to love me. That’s when you arrived.”
Jill saw the cold smile and felt the tears leaking out her own eyes. Where was the officer on the door? Where was all the protection that Derek had promised her?
“Are you are looking for the young man on the door?” Catherine looked up towards the empty door way, “Don’t worry about him. I learnt from last time. This time I’m playing it differently. I didn’t injure him. He’s detained but that will be your fault. You put a whole bunch of laxatives in his food, just like you put those sleeping tablets in the water for the patient in the next bed. This whole scenario is going to be your fault.”
Last time? Stan? Was she responsible for that too?
“Don’t look at me like that!” she glared at Jill, “You don’t have the right to judge me! Yes, I hired that man, he was supposed to be good at his job. I wanted you out of the way. Everyone knew you were some-sort of witness so all I had to do was make it look like a contract hit. It should have been easy. Tom wasn’t supposed to be there.”
She could feel the tears streaming down her face, but she couldn’t wipe them away. Her heart was beating itself out of her chest and she could hardly breathe. She was going to die.
“But why am I bothering to tell you this?” Catherine shrugged, “I’m not the villain. I’m doing this to save him. I’m the heroine in this story. Once you’re gone, he’ll turn to me. With this recording I’ll get his parents to make sure that I’m the one who consoles him. Then I’ll support him through the enquiry. I’ll lie for him. He’ll owe me. He’ll see that he can’t live without me.”
Catherine took the knife and wrapped Jill’s hand around the hilt, she moved it so that the point was against her wrist. Jill wanted to fight. She wanted to live. She wanted Tom.
“You’re going to commit suicide,” Catherine whispered, “Then he’ll have to deny your relationship. He’ll know that you didn’t love him. He’ll see that dating a patient was a stupid thing to do. He’ll be guilty of everything that he’s been accused of, everyone will see how unstable you were, how he took advantage of his position to seduce a vulnerable girl, and he’ll have no choice but to beg me to save him. Only with my testimony will he be able to save himself.”
Jill tried to scream as the blade pushed against her skin and the woman above her stood looking proud of herself.
“Put the knife down,” the harsh voice came from the other half of the room. The curtain was parted and standing in the gap was the woman who occupied the other bed. “I won’t ask you again.”
“Who are you?” Catherine looked genuinely surprised, “You’re supposed to be asleep.”
“You drugged the water?” The woman who Jill didn’t know the name of lifted the gun so that Jill could see it, “I don’t drink the water or eat the food, neither does Officer Todd, but we do appreciate your confession.”
“What?” Catherine turned to the door, there was a figure standing there, “But, you shouldn’t be here. She did this. She did all of this. I’m only protecting him.”
“Put the knife down,” this time it was the officer at the door who spoke, “It’s over Catherine White.”
“No,” Catherine tighten her grip around Jill’s hand and forced the knife up to Jill’s throat, “She’s the one who’s guilty. She seduced him. I’m just trying to make him safe from her.”
“Put the knife down,” the woman spoke again, “Or we will shoot you. It’s over. Hurting Jill will not get you anywhere. You need to put the knife down now.”
“You’re going to blame me?” Catherine sounded lost, “You’re going to make me the one at fault. He’s going to blame me. He’s going to hate me. I can’t have him hate me.”
“Catherine,” the voice at the door was Tom’s, “What are you doing?”
“Tom?” She looked up but didn’t loosen her grip on the knife, “She’s unstable Tom. She’s going to take her own life because of what she did to you.”
“Catherine,” Tom’s voice shook, “Don’t do this. Don’t take her from me.”
“If I can’t have you,” Catherine’s arm flexed as she looked down at Jill, tears in her eyes and started to pull Jill’s hand, dragging the knife as she pushed it into the skin.
The room exploded with sound. Jill closed her eyes as the blade bit into her, sharp it felt like a wasp sting. But Catherine’s hand slipped. She dropped Jill’s hand and the blade fell to the bed, it’s point still in the side of Jill’s neck. Jill’s hand flopped to her chest. She opened her eyes to find Catherine still looking down at her. But her eyes were wide, shocked, as her hands touched her chest. She blinked and lifted her head to the door. Her hands were wet. In the low light Jill could see her uniform change colour. The darkness seeped from two points on her chest and radiated outwards in two uneven circles.
“Tom,” Catherine whispered reaching her wet hand out towards the door and then she fell.
Jill couldn’t move but she heard Catherine land on the floor with a thud, and then everything happened at once. The light went on. Jill blinked as the brightness blinded her. The woman in the bed next to Jill’s moved to Catherine. She was yelling something.
“Jill, can you hear me?” Tom was next to her. He was pressing something against the heavy weight that was still in her neck as he yelled to the other people who were running into the room, “She’s drugged her, find out what she gave her?”
“She’s bleeding out,” someone else said, “Two gunshot wounds to the chest. Her pulse is erratic. We’re going to lose her.”
Jill had a moment of panic, then realised that they weren’t talking about her. There was another doctor on the floor working on Catherine. The woman who slept in the bed next to her was handing someone else the gun. She had a badge attached to her dressing gown and she didn’t look upset by the fact that she’d just shot someone.
“I can’t pull the knife out,” Tom whispered, bring her attention back to him, “I don’t think it’s severed anything but if I pull it out and I’m wrong about that. I’m not going to take the risk. I am not going to lose you Jill, do you hear? Do you understand?”
She blinked once. He breathed out a long breath as he held the wad of gauze to her neck. The room was full with people but she could only see him. He was still in his scrubs. He looked like he’d looked when he’d come to her after Mrs Grant’s operation. He looked like he’d come straight from theatre.
Theatre? Mrs Grant? She wanted to ask how Mrs Grant was? She wanted to know if Mrs Grant was alright?
“Don’t panic,” he whispered, his face closed to hers, “I’m here. No one is going to hurt you ever again. I’m sorry I wasn’t here. I’m sorry you had to go through that. I didn’t think Catherine would do that, was like that. I didn’t know.”
She forced herself to relax. He didn’t understand her concern. She didn’t want him to make this his fault. He wasn’t responsible for Catherine’s actions. Jill let the stress leave her body. He was here. There was nothing she could do about Mrs Grant. She had to hope that Mrs Grant was alright and concentrate on not worrying him any further.
“Doctor Layton,” a man’s voice spoke from the door, “We’ll take over from here.”
“I’ll not leaving her,” Tom said in a firm voice, “I’m not leaving her side.”
“Tom,” it was Doctor Peters, “We will take good care of her. You’ll be in the way. You’re too close to this. Step aside and let me examine her.”
“Howard?” Tom looked at the man in the doorway, “She’s been drugged. The cut isn’t wide, but the blade is deep. There isn’t any tendon damage and I’m nine-nine percent sure that it hasn’t severed the external jugular vein, but I don’t know about the superficial cervical artery. The blood is red, the point could be against it.”
“It’s alright Tom,” Howard moved the cloth slightly, “I need you to let me take her. You’re going to have to trust me to look after her.”
“I can’t lose her Howard,” Tom whispered his moist eyes didn’t move from her.
“I know Tom,” Howard put a hand on Tom’s shoulder, “I’ll look after her.”
“Howard?” Tom dragged his eyes off Jill and looked at the man standing next to him.
“I’ll look after her personally,” Howard assured him, “You’re not going to lose her. I just need you to let me do my job.”
Tom nodded, he let go of Jill, releasing his grip to the waiting nurse, and stepped back as they rush around her. She didn’t blink as she watched him standing there, shoulders sagged, eyes focused on her, as they wheeled her bed away at speed. Then he was gone. She closed her eyes as the fluorescent lights flashed by above her. The nurse, holding the gauze to her neck was on the bed, there was one doctor at the head of the bed and one at the foot pushing. Doctor Peters followed, talking on his phone.