Read Blind Sight: A Novel Online

Authors: Terri Persons

Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #General

Blind Sight: A Novel (8 page)

BOOK: Blind Sight: A Novel
13.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

CHAPTER ELEVEN

E
ve Bossard was exactly what Bernadette expected in a do-gooder small-town doc: a slightly frumpy lady with a hippy Earth Mother aura about her.

Bossard’s jean skirt went down well past her knees. Instead of nylons, she wore black tights that sagged a bit at the ankles. On her feet were the requisite Birkenstock clogs. Her long brown hair was pulled away from her face by a single fat braid that dangled halfway down her back. Strands of gray streaked the brown.

The woman was probably in her late forties—about a decade older than Bernadette—but not a dot of makeup decorated her face. Bernadette suspected that she was one of those driven professionals who couldn’t find the time for frivolous niceties. The doctor walked and talked with the speed of someone who needed more hours in the day to get things done.

While the two agents leaned their backs against a wall, waiting for Bossard to finish examining a woman behind the closed door of a hospital room, Bernadette offered her initial opinion of the doctor. “She’s cool.”

Garcia bounced his back against the wall. “We met her for two seconds, while she was going from one room to the other.”

“She looks like my high school home-ec teacher.”

“Did she have that unibrow thing going, too?”

“You’re mean.”

“Probably wears those opaque tights because she doesn’t shave her legs.”

“That’s a shitty thing to say.”

“Hey, some men like that hirsute stuff.”

She checked her watch. “Can’t believe we’re back here. We spend any more time in this joint, they’re going to start billing us.”

The door popped open and Bossard walked into the hallway, her clogs clopping on the linoleum floor. They peeled their backs off the wall and made a beeline for the obstetrician. Garcia opened his mouth to speak and Bossard held up a long index finger. “Give me one minute.”

While the physician wrote in a folder, Bernadette studied the woman’s hands. Were they large enough? Didn’t matter. Couldn’t have been her; she’d been at the hospital all day.

“There,” said Bossard, closing the folder. “What do you want to know?”

She didn’t sound madder than hell. Bernadette figured White hadn’t yet told Bossard what had happened at the clinic. Good. “Did you take care of this girl?” asked Bernadette, holding up the photograph of Lydia.

The doctor looked past the photo at the two agents. “Come on, guys. I can’t talk about my patients. You know that.”

“Please, just look,” said Garcia.

Bossard hesitated, and then examined the picture. “Sorry,” she said, glancing up from the photograph. “She’s never been a patient.”

“You’re certain?”

Bossard’s eyes widened. “That’s the girl they found in the woods?”

“Yes,” said Garcia.

Bossard took a step back from the two agents and hugged the paperwork to her chest. “Why would you think she came to see
me?”

“We were told you have clinic hours for poor folks,” said Bernadette. “We were hoping she might have stopped by.”

“Not all teenagers seek prenatal care,” said Bossard.

“At some point they have to go in,” said Garcia. “This girl was pretty far along.”

“A few manage to hide the fact they’re pregnant, and even deny to themselves that they’re carrying a child. End up delivering on the bathroom floor of their parents’ home. In a gas-station toilet. Sometimes the baby makes it. Sometimes not.” Bossard’s voice and lashes dropped. “Teen pregnancy can be—”

“You’re certain this pregnant teen was never seen at your clinic,” Bernadette interrupted, holding the photo higher.

“I have a small practice, and I know all my patients quite well. I’ve never seen her before. I’m sorry.”

“So are we,” said Bernadette, putting the picture back inside her pocket.

“We get lots of tourists, especially on weekends. She could have gotten lost in the crowds. During the week, there’s a chance she would have been noticed. The streets aren’t so busy then. Red hair would have made her stand out.”

“Do you have any suggestions on other clinics or docs we could try?” asked Garcia. “Was there a place a runaway would have hung out?”

“We don’t get a lot of runaways up here. As far as other physicians go …” She bit down on her bottom lip.

Bossard didn’t want to piss off her colleagues. Tough, thought Bernadette. “Is there a man OB around here?”

“Not anywhere close. To find a male obstetrician, you’d have to drive all the way to …” Bossard stopped herself, and her eyes got as big as saucers. “You can’t possibly think one of
us
did it! That’s crazy! We spend all day trying to
save
babies and mothers!”

Now she’s madder than hell, thought Bernadette. “Dr. Bossard—”

“I don’t believe this!”

“Ma’am,” said Garcia.

“If you think I’m going to send you after another obstetrician, you’re mistaken. We rely on each other up here. They’d never speak to me again! My name would be mud!” She paused in her diatribe and her eyes narrowed. She looked from one agent to the other. “What evidence do you have? I’d really like to know. Was the procedure—”

“The procedure
was a bloody mess,” Bernadette said.

Bossard opened her mouth to say something and promptly clamped it shut.

Garcia: “Dr. Bossard, if you know something—”

“Oh, boy” the physician said under her breath. “I really shouldn’t. I’ve got no reason to believe she’d be involved.”

“Who?” Bernadette asked.

Bossard’s mouth stretched into a straight, hard line. “She’s not a medical doctor.”

Bernadette could practically see the woman’s mind cranking away, working to justify the betrayal. “A name …”

“I like Sonia very much,” said Bossard. “Really, I do. But she has a hard time acknowledging her limits. She isn’t a physician.”

“Who?” asked Garcia.

“Sonia Graham,” said Bossard.

The doc surrendered the name a little too quickly, thought Bernadette. No love lost between these two women.

“She promotes some … positive things,” Bossard said grudgingly. “Drug-free births, breast-feeding, proper nutrition. She’s a midwife. Was a midwife.”

“Was?”
asked Bernadette.

The straight, hard mouth again. “She agreed to do a home birth. I don’t approve of home births. Like many OBs, I believe midwives should deliver in a hospital setting. Then if something goes awry—”

“What happened?” asked Bernadette.

“The mother was a VBAC. Vaginal birth after Cesarean. Poor candidate for a home birth, and I told Sonia that repeatedly. The risk of a uterine rupture was too great.”

“What happened?” asked Bernadette.

“The mother hemorrhaged postpartum.”

“She died?” asked Garcia.

“She made it to the hospital. The baby lived. The mother lived. But it was a
bloody mess,”
said Bossard. “No other way to describe it.”

“You were the one who came to the rescue?” asked Bernadette.

Bossard nodded grimly.

“Did Graham lose her license?” asked Garcia.

“She agreed to stop practicing.” Bossard smiled tightly. “After I insisted.”

“We’ll have to run this down,” said Garcia.

“Do you think she’s capable of murder?” Bernadette asked. “I mean, a home birth turned sour is one thing, but—”

“How do you know it didn’t start out as a home birth turned sour?” asked Bossard.

Bernadette didn’t want to get into the fact that the girl’s head was bashed in—not usually part of a home birth, turned sour or not. “Well, that’s a good point.”

“We won’t know until after we talk to the ME,” added Garcia.

“A teenage girl, a stranger to town—how would she have hooked up with Graham?” asked Bernadette.

“Everyone knows her,” said Bossard. “She’s got her followers. She has a yoga studio in Walker. Conducts special exercise classes for pregnant mothers. Dispenses advice on nutrition and breastfeeding.”

Bernadette thought back to what she’d observed with her sight: hands placed on a woman’s abdomen. “Is it possible she’s still making house calls on the side?”

“Would she risk another delivery?” asked Garcia.

Bossard shrugged. “Maybe. I know she misses it. Midwives are a strange breed. They see birth as a spiritual event.”

Spiritual
. Intriguing word to use, especially in light of the satanic symbol, Bernadette figured. “What about her home life? Does she have a family, go to church? Who are her friends?”

“Don’t know her all that well personally,” said Bossard. “She’s not from Minnesota originally. She’s from … I don’t know … Vermont, I think. Very active midwife culture there.”

Because Bernadette couldn’t tell Bossard why she really wanted the information, she carefully framed her next request. “This girl might have confided in another pregnant woman. I’d appreciate a list of expectant mothers in the area. We’d keep it confidential.”

Bossard stared at Bernadette with disbelief. “That will
never
happen.”

Garcia knew the request crossed a line and kept his mouth shut.

“They could be in danger,” Bernadette added.

“A serial killer?” Bossard mulled over the possibility. “I don’t believe it.”

“If we could warn them—”

“You think they’re not on alert after watching the news?”

Bernadette handed the doctor a card. “Call if you think of something else.”

Bossard slipped the card into her smock. “You
won’t
tell Sonia I gave you her name, correct?”

Bernadette made the zipper sign across her lips.

“My mention of her possible involvement, all speculation. Just thought you should know there’s someone out there besides a medical doctor.” She checked her watch. “I really need to—”

“One more question,” said Bernadette. “We’ve been talking about an alternative birthing method—”

“One I don’t oppose, as long as it’s in the proper setting.”

“Gotcha,” said Bernadette. “What about alternative religions around here?”

Bossard slowly shook her head. “I’m not understanding you.”

“Witchcraft. Satanism. Ever come across a patient or anyone else who practices either?” Garcia asked.

“I don’t pay attention to that sort of thing,” Bossard said with a sniff. “Catholic. Lutheran. Witch. I could care less. I’m all about science, not superstition.”

Garcia’s cell started ringing and he fumbled around to find it. “Excuse me.”

“Mr. Garcia, we like visitors to the hospital to turn off their phones.”

“Right,” Garcia said shortly, and answered it.

Bossard seemed perturbed by Garcia’s response, and Bernadette stifled a grin while he talked into the cell. Like Bernadette’s home-ec teacher, Dr. Bossard wasn’t used to having her orders ignored.

“Hey, Seth. Yeah. We just saw her this morning, her and her damn dogs … What can you tell me about that little operation of hers?”

Bossard had stepped away from them and was studying a chart posted outside a patient’s room.

By the time Garcia got off the phone, Bossard was gone from the corridor. Bernadette walked across the hall.

“What’re you doing?” Garcia asked with irritation. “We gotta get going.”

“Give me a minute.” She lifted the patient chart hanging to the left of the door and quickly scanned the first page. With a frown, she put the chart back in the holder.

“What’s wrong?”

As they started to walk down the hall, Bernadette looked over her shoulder. “I trust her and I don’t.”

“Thought she reminded you of your hairy home-ec teacher.”

“Did you notice the questions she
didn’t
ask about the dead girl? Didn’t ask her name or what had happened to the fetus.”

“Big deal,” he said. “You made the same observations about her nurse at the clinic. Like I said before, you’re reading too much into dumb shit.”

He was really starting to tick her off. “Tell me if I’m reading too much into this: you know the chart I was just checking?”

“Breaking about two hundred federal laws. What was up with that?”

“While you were on the phone with the sheriff, Bossard was standing nearby, going over that paperwork.”

“So? She had another patient.”

“It was a guy, and he gave birth to a bouncing baby appendix,” said Bernadette.

One side of Garcia’s mouth turned up. “The chart-checking was a ruse. Bossard was staying in the hall to eavesdrop.”

“Granted, she could have been nosy and nothing more,” Bernadette conceded.

“I like her tip about the midwife,” said Garcia.

“OBs don’t like midwives. Here’s Bossard’s chance to get back at one who crossed her.”

“It’s still a good tip.”

“It is,” she acknowledged.

They stepped outside. It was snowing hard. “Let’s head on over to Walker and check her out,” said Garcia. “Check out the tatt shop while we’re at it.”

Bernadette hopped inside the truck. “What did Wharten have to say about Ashe?”

Garcia got behind the wheel and started up the Titan. “He was kind of weird about it.”

“How so?”

“The whole witch subject, I think it makes him uncomfortable.”

“He’s mortified that he’s got that sort of thing going on around here,” said Bernadette.

“Maybe that’s it.”

From the hospital, they headed northeast, taking Minnesota 34 East toward Walker. In good weather, it would have been a fifteen-minute drive. In the snow, it would take a bit longer.

On a trail on the left side of the road, a gang of snowmobilers were tearing in the opposite direction as the truck. “That looks like fun,” said Bernadette.

“I could use some fun,” Garcia said tiredlyShe checked the dashboard clock. “I haven’t slept for—”

“I know, I know. Me, too.”

“And we need to eat.”

“We’ll grab something in Walker, on the way to yoga class.”

CHAPTER TWELVE

D
owntown Walker’s backyard was a bay of Leech Lake, a massive body of water that had shores lined with resorts and lake homes. In the winter, a village of shacks—many of them complete with heaters, electricity, toilets, beds, and television sets—sprang up on the lake’s frozen surface. Anglers drilled holes and fished through the ice with the comforts of home around them. Temporary streets were plowed around the houses, and the community was trafficked by snowmobiles, ATVs, and even full-size trucks.

“Third-largest lake entirely within the boundaries of Minnesota,” said Garcia, ticking off Leech Lake facts as they made their way down the sidewalk, shoving burgers into their mouths. “More than a hundred thousand surface acres.”

They tossed their wrappers in the trash. The sun had gone down, the snow was falling steadily, and the wind had picked up. The sidewalks were emptying of pedestrians.

“This town is going to roll up the pavement quick,” said Garcia. “Tatts or tummies? Your pick.”

“The fallen midwife is more urgent. Tatt shop is a long shot.”

While they waited to cross the street, Bernadette studied the ads and flyers in a storefront window. Our Lady of the Pines Catholic Church gave early notice of its fish-fry dinners.
Every Friday night during Lent!
The annual polar plunge was coming up in February. A spaghetti supper was being held for a family that had suffered a house fire.

Bernadette suddenly felt nostalgic for rural life, and the sense of neighborliness that came with living in a small, tight community. At the same time, she had to be pragmatic. Were she working as a cop in Mayberry its citizens would long ago have eviscerated her for being bizarre. Was that the witch’s biggest sin—being odd? What about the midwife? She remembered what might have been the biggest criticism of the two women:

She’s not from Minnesota originally. She’s from … I don’t know … Vermont, I think
.

She’s not from around here, you know. She’s from Los Angeles
.

Minnesotans. If you weren’t born in the state, you weren’t one of them. At least Bernadette had her birthright going for her.

Despite the weather, Sonia Graham’s studio was full. About twenty women were packed into the long, narrow room. They were a variety of shapes and sizes, and wore everything from tights to sweats. Bernadette searched for an obviously pregnant belly but didn’t see one. They were all sitting cross-legged on the floor and had their eyes closed.

Walking the length of the room was the instructor, a big-boned woman with a taut, muscled body that stopped just short of belonging on a female bodybuilder’s circuit. She could have whipped Bernadette’s butt without straining the seams of her spandex, and given Garcia a hard time in a bar fight.

“Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth,” she told the women as she marched toward the back of the room. Instrumental Christmas music was playing in the background. She turned on the heels of her sneakers and walked toward the front of the room. Noticing Garcia and Bernadette standing at the counter, she smiled and held up her hand while continuing to give instructions to the women. “Gradually deepen the breath. Elongate your spine. Elongate.”

“I’ll be with you folks in a minute,” she said in a low voice when she reached the two agents. She spun around and returned to the back of the room.

The woman’s long brown hair was tied back so tightly from her head, it pulled on her eyebrows, giving her a slightly crazed expression. A dark shadow colored her upper lip. Deep and raspy, her voice sounded like that of a man imitating a tough woman.

“She’s my junior-high gym teacher,” Bernadette whispered into Garcia’s ear.

“Mine, too,” Garcia whispered back. “And he was a prick.”

Now the woman stood in the middle of the room with her hands on her hips. “Do our chant.”

The entire room went, “Ooommm.”

Someone giggled.

“Marie,” the instructor said. “That didn’t sound like our chant.”

The entire room laughed.

She was back to Garcia and Bernadette. Scrutinizing Bernadette’s jacketed midriff, she asked, “How can I help?”

Garcia started to answer. “We’re with—”

“Child!” the woman spouted. “Of course. Congratulations!”

Bernadette gritted her teeth and said nothing.

Graham smiled at Garcia. “And this gentleman is … Dad?”

Before Garcia could answer, the woman turned back to her clients. “Keep chanting.”

“Ooommm,” hummed the room.

Behind the woman’s back, Garcia gave Bernadette a sympathetic smile. “You can’t possibly believe you’re even remotely—”

“I hate this jacket,” Bernadette hissed, unzipping the down. “It makes me look fat.”

“I’m Sonia Graham,” the woman said, extending her hand to Bernadette.

“Nice to meet you.”

Graham trapped Bernadette’s gloved fingers between her own massive mitts. “How about a cup of hot tea? It’s a special herbal blend for expectant moms. No caffeine.”

“I’m good.” Bernadette examined the woman’s hands. Definitely large enough. No jewelry or tattoos but a rubber band around the left wrist.

Graham went behind the front counter and slapped a clipboard and a handful of brochures on top of it. A pen in the shape of a candy cane was added to the pile. “I can sign you up for an informational appointment. How far along are you?”

Bernadette: “I’m not—”

“I can hook you up with some fantastic exercise wear that grows with you,” said the woman, ducking down behind the counter and digging around. “Let me get you a catalog. Where did I put it? I can’t remember anything, I swear. I have the worst memory.”

“Stop her now, before I shoot her,” Bernadette whispered to Garcia.

“I have exercise wear for kiddies, too. I offer postpartum classes for new moms and their babies … here it is. I knew I put it back here.”

Garcia stepped up to the counter, leaned over it, and said in a low voice, “We need to talk privately, Ms. Graham.”

Graham stood up with a catalog in her hand. She looked from Garcia to Bernadette and back to Garcia. “I apologize if I came on too—”

“We’re with the FBI,” said Bernadette, more than happy to shut the woman up with a flash of her identification badge.

The woman dropped the catalog on the counter. The gym teacher’s voice suddenly became demure and soft. “My office is in back.”

Graham sat behind her desk with her hands resting atop a copy of
Fit Pregnancy
magazine. This month’s cover stories: “How to Select a Nursing Bra” and “Sex in the Third Trimester.” Graham nervously snapped the rubber band around her wrist. “Can I get you something to drink? Coffee? A soda?”

“I’m good,” said Bernadette.

“No thanks,” said Garcia.

The agents sat on the opposite side of the desk on a set of webbed lawn chairs. The office was the size of a closet and felt as hot as an incubator. Its walls were tacked with posters of exercising women, many of them pregnant. Garcia’s eyes darted this way and that as he frantically searched for a focal point that wouldn’t get him into trouble. He settled on the paper decorations that were dangling from the ceiling. Stars, with five points.

Bernadette tried to start off with small talk. “Business looks like it’s going good.”

“It is,” Graham said, and snapped the rubber band.

“Did you have an exercise studio in Vermont?” asked Garcia.

“No. This is new for me.” She paused, snapped again, and asked, “Who told you I was from Vermont? Has someone been talking about me?”

Instead of answering, Bernadette slid Lydia Dunton’s photo across the desk. “Have you seen this young lady around town recently?”

Graham looked down and quickly looked up again. “No.”

“Take your time,” said Garcia, his eyes finally surrendering to the object that was sitting on a corner of the woman’s desk: a model of a uterus. The cutaway was resting on its side, and harbored a curled fetus.

Graham raised her hand to her throat. “The girl who was killed!”

“That’s right,” said Bernadette.

Snap
. “Who suggested that I might know this girl? Why did you stop in here?”

Garcia took the uterus off Graham’s desk and examined it as he spoke. “We’re going up and down the street with the picture. Saw all the gals through the window. Thought we’d take a chance. Maybe this young lady came by.”

“News said she was pregnant,” Graham said evenly.

“Yes,” Bernadette answered.

“Maybe you should try the hospital,” Graham said.

“Mind if we showed her picture to the ladies out on the floor?” asked Garcia. He took the fetus out of the model and set the empty uterus back on the desk. “Won’t take long.”

“I really don’t want my clients to think I’m in some sort of trouble with the law. It could hurt my business.” Two snaps of the rubber band. “Please don’t.”

“Have you had problems in the past?” asked Bernadette, wanting to hear Graham’s take on the story.

Snap. Snap. Snap
. “I’m also a midwife. One of my patients had issues during a home delivery. Mother and child turned out fine, but it was … complicated.”

“What happened, exactly?” asked Garcia, the fetus cupped in his hand.

“There was some excessive bleeding, that’s all. Nothing my fault. They got to the hospital in plenty of time.”

Bernadette: “We were told a different version of events.”

“By Dr. Bossard, I’ll bet,” said Graham, her face reddening. “That’s who you’ve been talking to.”

“You aren’t best friends, I take it,” said Garcia.

“I offer an alternative to traditional hospital delivery. Many physicians are uncomfortable with that, including Eve. She’s a brilliant, brilliant medical professional who has done a world of good in the area, but she has problems with …” The woman stopped herself.

Bernadette raised her brows. “Yes?”

Graham sat straighter in her chair. “Every year, midwives in this state attend thousands of births. Thousands. Did you even know that?”

Bernadette didn’t like getting a lecture. “We’re not here to—”

“We’ve got our own registry and professional groups. When people hear the word
midwife
, they think
home delivery
. In fact, ninety-nine percent of nurse-midwife deliveries actually take place in an institutional setting.”

Bernadette wondered if the woman’s latest delivery had taken place in the vicinity of Paul Bunyan State Forest. Graham looked muscular enough to overpower a small girl. “Where are most of
your
births?” Bernadette asked. “At the hospital? At home?”

Graham’s fingers meshed together atop her desk and tightened. “Dr. Bossard has … derailed my practice for the time being.”

As he tossed the fetus back and forth between his two hands like a flesh-colored baseball, Garcia lobbed the big question at her. “Where were you New Year’s Eve?”

Graham’s eyes widened. She unclasped her hands and locked them over the edge of her desk. “I had nothing to do with that! Why would you think I had something to do with that?”

“No one is accusing you of anything, ma’am,” said Bernadette. “Please answer the question.”

“I was here. I had an open house.”

“What time?” Garcia asked.

“It ran all day. People floated in and out.”

Garcia asked, “Any witches or Satanists on the invite list?”

“What?”

Garcia glanced up at the paper stars again. Some were hung upside down. “Oh, and those five-pointed … what are those called again, Agent Saint Clare?”

“Pentagrams,” said Bernadette.

“Know anything about those?” asked Garcia.

Graham leaned forward and smiled. “I think Eve might be a better person to ask.”

Bernadette and Garcia exchanged glances. Bernadette asked, “Is Dr. Bossard a—”

Graham stood up. “Unlike Eve, I’m not a Judas. You want to ask her about her extracurriculars, go right ahead. It’s not my place.”

“That isn’t an answer,” said Garcia.

Graham walked around the desk, went to the door, and opened it. “I’m not answering any more questions without an attorney. Please leave.”

The two agents didn’t move.

Graham’s eyes went to the barren uterus on the corner of her desktop. “That’s an expensive model. Where’s the fetus? What did you do with it?”

Garcia set the fetus inside the model with its legs crossed. “Did I do that right?” he asked dryly.

“No,” said Graham. “It’s in complete breech.”

“Mother and child could die, right?” asked Bernadette, as she plucked Lydia Dunton’s photo off the desk.

They exited the office and Graham followed them to the front door, locking it after them. Bernadette thought back to her vision earlier in the day. It had been before lunch. She checked the hours painted on the glass door.

The studio was closed two mornings a week, including that morning. Bernadette pointed this out to Garcia.

“Interesting. But what about the bombshell she dropped about Bossard?” he asked.

“Bullshit, I’ll bet. But we’ll have to check it out.”

“What about her own background?” asked Garcia. “Think she’s really from Vermont?”

“She’s not from here,” said Bernadette. “She offered us a soda. No one from Minnesota says
soda
. We say
pop.”

“Let’s have Cahill run the background on her, Bossard—” Garcia’s cell rang. He took it out, flipped it open, checked the screen. Sighed and put the phone to his ear. “Assistant Special Agent in Charge Anthony Garcia … Yes, Senator.”

While her boss spoke into the phone, Bernadette saw a group of women turn the lock and let themselves out of the studio. They’d changed into their street clothes and had their gym bags slung over their shoulders or in their hands. Graham was nowhere in sight. Bernadette pulled out Lydia’s photo. Held it out to the first woman in the line of escapees and identified herself as an FBI agent. All six women formed a circle around Bernadette.

They passed the photo around, each taking her time studying it. The last woman handed it back to Bernadette. “Who is she?”

“Did any of you spot her around town? Recognize her at all?”

BOOK: Blind Sight: A Novel
13.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

For the Sake of Elena by Elizabeth George
Wife in the Shadows by Sara Craven
Rocky Road by Susannah McFarlane
Silence of the Grave by Indridason, Arnaldur
The Spawning by Kaitlyn O'Connor
No Remorse by Marylynn Bast