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Save 70% and discover a powerful memoir is about the premium we put on beauty and on a woman’s face in particular: Autobiography of a Face By Lucy Grealy

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Autobiography of a Face

By Lucy Grealy

It took Lucy Grealy 20 years of living with a distorted self-image and more than 30 reconstructive procedures before she could come to terms with her appearance after childhood cancer and surgery that left her jaw disfigured. As a young girl, she absorbed the searing pain of peer rejection and the paralyzing fear of never being loved.

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Three Wishes

By Liane Moriarty

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Australian triplets Lyn, Cat, and Gemma Kettle are about to turn thirty-three and one is pregnant, one has just had her life turned upside down, and one is only just keeping hers from skidding off the fast lane. Meanwhile, their divorced parents have been behaving very oddly indeed in this family comedy by Liane Moriarty.

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4.8 stars - 38 reviews
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Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
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Mr. Erez Aharoni grew up in Ramat Gan, Israel. As a child, he led in the boy scouts and played sports. He was drafted to the Israel Air Force, and completed his fighter pilot training course in 1978.

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Mr. Erez Aharoni is one of Israel Mr. Erez Aharoni grew up in Ramat Gan, Israel. As a child, he led in the boy scouts and played sports. He was drafted to the Israel Air Force, and completed his fighter pilot training course in 1978. Later on, he served as a pilot in the Hercules squadron, and participated in various flights and missions, including the immigration of the Jews of Ethiopia. After his discharge, he studied Law, finishing his degree at Tel Aviv University. Mr. Erez Aharoni is one of Israel's foremost commercial lawyers and one of the founders and managing partner of the international law firm of Zysman, Aharoni, Gayer & Co. Mr. Aharoni is also a partner and an owner of the U.S. law firm ZAG/S&W and of the chinese law firm ZAG/JunZeJun... His love of writing and fiction began at a young age. In 2004, his story 'Cackling (The Sounds of the Duck)' won first prize in the Uriel Ofek Short Fiction competition. In 2006, his first book, 'Half a Moustache', was published by Maariv, and three years later, his novel 'The Eagle's Secret' was published by Kinneret Zmora-Bitan.
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4.2 stars – 1,239 Reviews
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Dominic Corisi knew instantly that Abigail Dartley was just the distraction he was looking for, especially since having her took a bit more persuading than he was used to. So when business forces him to fly to China, he decides to take her with him, but on his terms. No promises. No complications. Just sex.

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The Bookmaker

by Chris Fraser

4.1 stars – 104 Reviews
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You were right to be suspicious… It wasn’t Oswald in the book depository. It wasn’t Sirhan Sirhan in the Ambassador kitchen. It wasn’t a massive conspiracy or government cover-up. It was one man with one agenda.

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by Loretta Lost

4.4 stars – 59 Reviews
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Fiercely independent Helen Winters was born completely blind, but she vowed never to let her disability keep her down. She did not expect a traumatic event to devastate her life and force her to drop out of college. Disillusioned by the cruelty of people, Helen retreated from society to live by herself as a reclusive writer in the woods–where no one could ever hurt her again.

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Lost In Crazytown

by Robert Bryndza, Ján Bryndza

3.6 stars – 47 Reviews
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Here’s the set-up:
When Filip leaves London for a life in Los Angeles, he dreams of being a celebrity stylist.  But as the saying goes… be careful what you wish for.

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4.0 stars – 61 Reviews
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The ‘s’ tattooed in stab wounds of murdered victims is Detective Genie Green’s only lead. The bodies in her jurisdiction are piling up and if she can solve these cases, her career is made.

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4.6 stars – 390 Reviews
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Josh Jones realizes his family isn’t typical, but it’s the only life he’s ever known. Aunt Lou, Gramps, Uncle Charlie, Grandpa–they all have shaped the young man he has become. But as he grows into manhood, Josh begins to face important questions about life, love, and faith. Three million books sold in the series!

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A Fantastic Hybrid of Literary Fiction And Sci-Fi: Autumn in Carthage by Christopher Zenos – Now 99 Cents For a Limited Time

Autumn in Carthage

by Christopher Zenos

4.3 stars – 13 Reviews
Kindle Countdown Deal! On Sale For a Limited Time!
Text-to-Speech: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

The nether side of passion is madness.

Nathan Price is a college professor with crippling impairments, seeking escape from his prison of necessity. One day, in a package of seventeenth-century documents from Salem Village, he stumbles across a letter by his best friend, Jamie, who had disappeared six months before. The document is dated 1692—the height of the Witch Trials. The only potential lead: a single mention of Carthage, a tiny town in the Wisconsin northern highland.

The mystery catapults Nathan from Chicago to the Wisconsin wilderness. There, he meets Alanna, heir to an astonishing Mittel-European legacy of power and sacrifice. In her, and in the gentle townsfolk of Carthage, Nathan finds the refuge for which he has long yearned. But Simon, the town elder, is driven by demons of his own, and may well be entangled in Jamie’s disappearance and that of several Carthaginians. As darkness stretches toward Alanna, Nathan may have no choice but to risk it all…

Moving from the grimness of Chicago’s South Side to the Wisconsin hinterlands to seventeenth-century Salem, this is a story of love, of sacrifice, of terrible passions—and of two wounded souls quietly reaching for the deep peace of sanctuary.


“The power of AUTUMN IN CARTHAGE is not anchored in Einstein’s space-time continuum, but in the caring and acceptance of people for each other.” IndieReader. 5 stars, “Indie Approved.”

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“Looking for a well-written book that isn’t exactly a mystery, but has a slightly mysterious feel? Look no further.” Compass Book Ratings.

About The Author

Christopher Zenos is a pseudonym. The author is a well-published university professor who has contended with mental illness all his life, and knows the beastie well. Hence the mask: As this novel’s protagonist puts it, successful Passing is now a survival imperative for crazies like him. “Autumn in Carthage” developed, in large part, from his need to sing of this world he inhabits: The realm of the stranger, the odd one. The man standing at the window, bracing against the wind as he gazes in wonder at the light and comfort on the other side.

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It is hotter than hell in New Orleans and newly promoted NOPD Commander Jack Francoise is battling horrific crime in the Vieux Carre in the August heat. At Crescent City Medical Center’s Psychiatric Pavilion, nurses are doling out Thorazine Slurpees and Geodon shots to some of the most criminally insane and viciously psychotic patients in the South.

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an excerpt from

The Imposter

by Judith Townsend Rocchiccioli


Copyright © 2014 by Judith Townsend Rocchiccioli
and published here with her permission

         Chapter 1

       “Holy Shit, Mary, Mother of God! What the hell is wrong with people? Are they crazy, stupid, or just nuts,” hollered Jack Françoise to no one in particular, even though he was sure his rants could be heard through the bull pen of the 8th Police District. “Honest to God, two tourists with their throats torn out in the deepest, darkest part of the Quarter. What is wrong with these idiots? I don’t even go in that part of the French Quarter. No one needs to go down there, no one in their right mind wants to go down there, not even NOPDs swat team in full combat gear. Holy Shit, can anybody be that stupid or that drunk?! I just don’t get it.”

Newly minted New Orleans Police Commander, Jack Françoise, sat behind his massive, but deeply scarred, walnut desk at 334 Royal Street glaring at two crime reports placed in his in-basket for review. A big, burly man who tended towards overweight, Jack looked distinguished in his Commander uniform and his polished medals matched the glint of silver in his hair. A man’s man, Jack commanded the respect of almost everyone he met. He stared out of his tall office windows, already heating up in the August sun, but saw nothing. His attention returned to the crime sheets, and as he reached for his coffee cup, his administrative assistant and PR guy knocked at his door frame.

“What’s up, Jason? Did I wake everybody up yelling?”

Jason Aldridge grinned at his boss. “Well, maybe a few left over from the night beat, but they were due to go home anyway,” Jason joked.

Jack shook his head. “Did you check out these murders in the Quarter last night? What the hell?”

”Yeah, pretty bad. Young people, too, from what I heard. Kind of similar to that woman they found in that abandoned warehouse near Canal over in the First District several years ago. By the way, the Coroner’s Office just called and they want you over there ASAP. It’s about this new case, the one they are investigating in the Quarter now.”

“Yeah, I just bet it is,” Jack muttered sarcastically. “Who’s working the scene in the Quarter? Think I’ll go over there on my way to see the M.E.”

“I think Bridges caught the case, but he’s probably gone now. Don’t know who is head of the forensic team. I can check for you.”

“Never mind, I don’t care. If the M.E. calls back tell her I’m coming, but am stopping by the scene first.”

“Will do, Capt’n! Whoops, Commander,” Jason stumbled over his boss’s title and smiled apologetically.

“Just call me Jack. Skip the title. I don’t act like a Commander anyway. Didn’t even want to be one. I was and am happy in the trenches and on the street. But, as you know,” Jack said wryly, “I never planned to leave them.”

Jason nodded, “Yeah, I know that. I’m sure you’ll always be a beat cop, no matter the title. You’ve never left the streets before, and you’re too damn old and stubborn to start at this late date,” Jason acknowledged, waving his boss out of the office. His heart swelled with pride as he watched the big guy leave the 8th district office.

Jason loved being Jack’s right hand, a job he had just formally assumed several months ago when Jack had risen in the ranks. Jason had more respect for Jack Françoise than he’d ever had for any one man. Françoise could come across as a total police asshole, but deep inside, he was kind and generous and a true advocate for the citizens, particularly the victims of murder and violent crimes in New Orleans. Jack was also tenacious, bull-headed, and hard to work with, but Jason was used to this as well. Sometimes, Jack’s dark moods surfaced when he reached a dead end in the crimes he sought to solve. In Jason’s mind, Jack was a hero and always would be even though Jack would never claim fame or recognition for the cases he solved.

Jason smiled as he considered that magical way Jack disappeared from press conferences and the media. He was sure Jack planned to keep it that way, even as a Commander. He was as humble as he was caring and altruistic and Jack flat out hated the press. Jason smiled to himself as he reflected on his years with Jack Françoise. An honorable man, Jason thought, closing the  An honorable man, Jason thought, closing the Commander’s door quietly as he left the office.

Chapter 2

Jack hated the blast of August heat that momentarily blinded him as he exited the 8th District office. He jumped into his vintage, police-retrofitted, silver Cadillac, which was parked in a no parking zone on the side of the building, and headed down towards the Canal crime scene on Burgundy. He parked, illegally of course, at the corner of Toulouse, knowing that all NOPD in the area knew his car and would never ticket him. He trudged down towards the scene, wiping the sweat off his brow with a white linen handkerchief.

Jack, as hardened as he was to street scenes, turned his head away from a man with a needle in his arm and a guy lighting up his crack pipe while sitting in a doorway. He was convinced that neither man had seen the inside of a house or had a meal or shower in days. He quickly glanced inside a vacant, burned out building on Canal noting several others vagrants boldly smoking crack, not caring who or what could see them. The bottom of the barrel, the dregs of humanity, hung out in this part of the Vieux Carre. The Commander hurried his pace towards the crime scene. He could see the yellow tape several blocks away. He thought about what a bitch it would be to climb back up the hill in the August heat. He hailed the CSI team chief processing the scene.

“Yo, Vern, what’s your ornery ass doing up so early in the morning,” Jack asked, slapping the forensic chief on the back. “I thought you were working nights!”

Detective Vernon Bridges stood up, turned and faced Jack smiling broadly, “Why Commander, what in the world are you doing down here in this hell hole this early? With your big promotion and all, I never expected you’d leave your air conditioned office on Royal Street,” Vern joshed, pumping the Commander’s hand.

Jack returned the grin, happy to see his old friend. “Vern, you know me better than that. I get the hell out of there every chance I get so I don’t have to write reports and go to meetings. I hate all of those damn meetings.” Jack shook his head and sighed, “These bureaucrats are crazy. They even meet to decide where to place the water fountains.” Jack rolled his eyes and Vern laughed heartily.

“Well, then, who writes the reports and goes to the meetings? Isn’t that why you got the big pay raise?” Vern teased his old buddy.

“Jason goes. He likes meetings, and as my assistant, it is his job to make me happy. So, he goes to the meetings and writes the reports, and that makes me happy. Besides, he’s glad to get me out of there so he can do his own thing. So, what do we have here,” Françoise questioned, gesturing toward the crime scene.

Vern pointed to the two chalk-etched bodies on the ground and groaned, “The meat wagon took the bodies away an hour or so ago. Two kids, probably late teens or early twenties. Most likely tourists. They were pretty tatted up, lots of body piercings. Looked Goth if you ask me, but then, what the hell do I know? Black clothes, black hair, black nail polish and lipstick on the female vic, lots of metal.”

Françoise shook his head, “Geez, not again. The report said their throats were torn out, sort of like an animal had attacked them. Anything else?”

Vern searched out his digital camera and flipped to a couple of shots. “They also had their wrists slit.”

“Not much blood around here,” Jack said. “Has anyone hosed down the streets? Had city maintenance been through here before they were found?”

“No, I don’t think so, although they often come through before dawn. We waved off one truck when we got here a little after 5.”

“Who called it in?” Jack asked.

“Anonymous. Someone dialed 911,” Vern said, shrugging his shoulders. “Figures, doesn’t it. Probably the sick SOB that did it. I got a funny feeling that he is sitting somewhere close, watching us work the scene. Been thinking that all morning,” Vern ended, looking around the area at the rundown buildings and dark alleys.

“Could be. It’s happened before. Any possibility they could have been killed somewhere else and dropped here? Any witnesses?”

“Shit, Françoise, you think we got a fairy godmother hanging out down here in no man’s land? Nobody saw anything, nobody heard anything, and, the truth is, everybody we’ve seen is smoking a crack pipe, shooting up, or is drunk or drugged out of their mind.”

“Yeah, got’cha. Figures. Get the troops to canvass the neighborhood. You may get lucky. Keep me posted. I am off to the Coroner’s Office. The M.E. sent for me to talk about these two vics.”

“Will do. See you, Jack. Hey, by the way, looks like the male may have been upside down on that wrought-iron fence at one point. See the blood on the concrete? Stay out of trouble and meetings,” Vern joked as he turned back to the scene.

Upside down, what the hell,” Jack muttered to himself as he began his hike back to his car. “Damn, it’s hotter than the gates of hell already.”

Chapter 3

When Jack reached his car, he was sweating like a pig. He opened the door of his silver Cadillac and sat down relishing the plush seats. He turned the AC on full blast, turned all the vents towards himself and sat there for a good three minutes taking pleasure in the cold air. Finally, he started the short distance towards the M.E.’s office on Rampart, praying for a decent parking place, even if it was illegal. He spied one. Bingo! It looked promising as he viewed the street parking. And the parking spot was legal. The day was looking a bit brighter as he slid into the metered spot. Of course, he would never put money in the meter.

Jack squinted in the florescent lights as he entered the temporary administrative offices of New Orleans Forensic Center. He was overcome by the smell of disinfectant and bleach. He high-fived the guard at the desk, signed-in, and continued down the back hall to the stark white autopsy room and morgue.

The NOLA Coroner’s Office had been under considerable strain lately due to bad publicity in the media. The Times Picayune had run a whole series of articles about screw-ups at the Coroner’s office. The stories had focused on staff losing DNA evidence, filing incomplete reports, and misinterpreting autopsy findings that had never existed. Worst of all, the office had been accused of selling body parts. It was rumored that the coroner had made thousands of dollars selling livers, corneas, and bone marrow. These provided a field day for defense lawyers. Jack clenched his jaw and gritted his teeth just thinking about it. Damn the liberal press!

The Coroner’s office employees, like most state offices in the many parts of the nation, were underpaid, understaffed, and under appreciated by most people who crossed their thresholds. The NOLA staff was demoralized and the office had experienced lots of turnover when in fact it was also home to some really fantastic forensic pathologists, dentists, and physicians. They were probably some of the best in the country, although you can bet the Times Picayune hadn’t reported that little detail. He cursed the newspapers again under his breath.

The autopsy room was busy. Three physicians were autopsying recent victims, but he didn’t see his favorite medical examiner. Nor did he find his two stiffs from this morning – at least, he didn’t think he did since the victims on the tables all looked pretty old.

“Yo, Fred,” he hailed a morgue tech, “You seen Dr. Jeanfreau?”

“Yeah, she’s in her office. Straight back, Commander,” Fred gestured, giving the Commander a big grin. Fred was a favorite of Jack Françoise because he always knew what was going on, never played dumb, and wasn’t lazy, all traits which put Fred on his way to meeting most of Jack’s criteria for earning praise.

“Thanks, man,” Jack said as he started back down the hall and noticed the decrepit condition of the offices. Unlike the bright autopsy room, the temporary offices of the Coroner were pretty shabby. Jack eyed the faded, dirty carpet as he wandered down the hall towards Maddy’s office. He wondered when they were moving into their new building, although he hated the thought of them leaving his police district. It had been convenient having them so close. Now he’d probably have to hit I-10 to get there. What a pain. Traffic was always bad going out of New Orleans. As a matter of fact, traffic in New Orleans was always awful and he didn’t know all of the illegal parking spots in that part of town.

Maddy’s door was partially open. Since she wasn’t dictating, Jack decided to knock and interrupt her.

“Yo, Maddy, you rang?”

Dr. Madeline Jeanfreau, Assistant Medical Examiner, stood and walked around her desk to see Jack. She was a tiny woman. Even with high heels, she was only a little over 5 feet tall. She hugged Jack and kissed him on the cheek. Jack returned the hug.

“What the hell, Commander? You get promoted, have a party and don’t even invite your favorite M.E.? How do you expect to keep getting special treatment from me or my office?” the diminutive Dr. Jeanfreau queried, as she smiled and shook her short, highlighted hair.

“That wasn’t a party, it was just a bureaucratic BS hour. I didn’t want to go and you would have hated it. Think of who you would have had to hobnob with for an hour, all while getting nothing but punch and cookies. It was grueling.”

“Well, you owe me lunch then and it’s going to cost you a bunch … and drinks as well,” Maddy insisted, giving Jack a grin. “Soon! I want my lunch soon.”

“Anytime, Maddy. You’re the busy one. You know I just sit around and eat chocolate éclairs all day, Jack commented sarcastically. “What’s up? Jason said you wanted to see me.”

“Yeah, about those two dead kids that came in a couple of hours ago. Have you got any ID or information on them?”

“No, nothing yet. I just talked to Bridges, the detective who caught the case. We’re still looking for witnesses. There was no ID found with the bodies. The detective said they looked Goth and were tatted up. Not much blood at the scene, though probably enough for DNA. Why?”

Maddy shook her head and said, “It’s pretty strange. We haven’t finished the autopsies yet, but we started collecting body fluids when they first came in, before we put them in the chiller.”

“Yeah, so? That’s pretty normal, right?”

“Yes, it is,” Maddy replied, looking straight at Jack. “Problem is, they didn’t have any.”

“Didn’t have any what? Maddy, I am not getting this. What are you telling me? The stiffs didn’t have any fluids?”

“That’s right, Jack. They didn’t have any blood. It’s likely the C.O.D. will be death by exsanguination.” Maddy stared at Jack.

Jack’s shoulders slumped as he stared back at his friend. He felt the fear crawling out of his pores. Maybe not fear, just uncertainty perhaps? What The Fuck! Not again! Please, not again, he thought to himself. Their eyes locked, each reading the meaning on the other’s face.

Maddy finally broke the silence. “Yeah, Jack. Here we go again. Just like 2009, 1984 and 1933.”

Jack was suddenly overcome with fatigue. He shook his head. The day really wasn’t getting better after all. “Well, keep me in the loop. Hopefully, these are the only two. We’ll know more when we ID them.” His voice sounded worn and tired.

“If you ever do ID them,” Maddy replied. “Remember, we never had an ID for the case in 2009. I’ll handle the autopsies personally. There could be another cause of death, but it is unlikely with the two of them and the fact that they are young and healthy…..”

“Yeah, I know,” Jack replied, while checking a text message that had just come in. “I’ve got to go. I just got a 911 from CCMC. I hope there’s nothing major gone wrong over there,” he groaned, as he hugged Maddy and left her office. But, he knew better. He knew something bad had happened. Whenever he got called to Crescent Center Medical Center, it was always something bad.

“Oh, Jack,” Maddy called after him, “The vics had a receipt on them for $116. From Howl.

Jack turned around, looked at her, and shook his head. “Great, this day just keeps getting better, ” he said sarcastically.

Chapter 4

It was a little after midnight and Angela Richelieu was just finishing her nursing shift report when the red light went on in the corner of the nursing station at Crescent City Psychiatric Pavilion signaling an All Staff Alert. “Damn!” she muttered under her breath. Flashing red meant all hell had broken out somewhere on the unit. She sadly knew what that meant for her and picking up her daughter on time. Her shift had ended at 11, but paperwork had taken her an hour after that. Now who knew when she would get out of there.

Cursing under her breath, she unlocked a small metal cabinet and took out a syringe filled with Vitamin G. She laughed a bit as she thought about the Vitamin G – a nickname for Geodon. A powerful anti-psychotic agent, it could settle down a horse almost immediately. G for good night! She placed the syringe in the pocket of her blue uniform top and cautiously opened the security door that led onto the Psych unit. Never knew who was hanging around, just waiting to get into the office.

Now the coast was clear. Angela saw everybody heading toward the east corridor. She heard an angry “Get the hell off of me! I’m a policeman!” coming from that hallway. Big Jim! she thought to herself.

She was surprised and not surprised at the same time. James McMurdie, the former NOPD cop, had been a model patient up until now, so she was surprised that he was involved. She was not surprised because that she had almost seen something coming earlier in the evening.

It had been a great shift on the unit until that new administrator, Lester Whats-his-name, had shown up. He wasn’t even a real employee. Don Montgomery, the CEO, had contracted with him to run the Psych Pavilion. Lester was weird, just as weird as some of the patients. The patients had been quiet until he came onto the unit. Once the patients saw him, a sort of agitation had set in like a wolf walking into a field of tasty sheep.

Plus he was creepy. Angie shook off a chill when she thought about the way he had looked at her. He was gross and struck her as a real letch. He’d stayed most of the evening on the unit. He was working in his office between the general psych and the prison units when he wasn’t on the units talking with the patients. She remembered how the other nurses had said how inappropriate it was that he talked so much with the patients. He had spent a lot of time talking with Jim in the dayroom. A lot of time….

Angela hurried past the shuffling patients and when she turned the corner and looked down the corridor, she saw a sight that was both tragic and comical. Jason, the lone security guard, whose best asset was his enormous weight, was lying on top of Jim in the hallway. Ben the orderly had control of Jim’s right arm and Amy, a petite Asian-American patient care assistant was trying to control his left arm. Amy was wrapped around the arm like a python as he threw her up and down as if she were weightless and he tireless. Amy grunted each time Jim slammed her onto the dirty green tile floor.

Ben looked up as Angela ran down the hallway. “Hurry up! He’s beating the hell out of Amy!”

Angela looked to Jim’s left arm where Amy was clinging like a tired squirrel to a tree trunk, and saw that Jim’s sleeve had ripped at the shoulder, exposing his taut deltoid muscle. Without hesitating, she sat down on top of Amy. Mercifully, their combined weight kept the flailing left arm pinned to the floor as Angela plunged the needle into the deltoid muscle and pushed the Vitamin G into Jim’s body. She withdrew the needle and waited.

As she sat perched on the softening arm, Angela thought about what a joke the Psychiatric Pavilion was. The “Pavilion” was really an old three-story storage warehouse that CCMC had hastily renovated into three psychiatric units about eight years ago when psychiatric and substance abuse services had actually been money-makers for the hospital. Now they weren’t and the building had been sadly neglected and was beginning to have the look of a “blighted” building that Angie remembered from her Community Health class at LSU where she had recently received her Bachelor’s degree in Nursing. Fat lot of good that did me, she mused.

But Angie knew in her heart that her degree did matter. She chose to work at the Pavilion where the salary was at least 50% more than the medical units because the patients were so sick, scary and dangerous. The Pavilion was actually three nursing units. Pavilion I was now was the Prison Unit and housed some of the most dangerous, criminally insane inmates from the deep south. Pavilion II was general psychiatry where chronically psychotic patients were committed by temporary detaining orders. They were kept there “until they promised not to try to kill themselves or others again.” Angie thought it was criminal that these sick patients were generally discharged in two days. Jim was one of the exceptions. Pavilion III was the substance abuse unit where patients were detoxed and “cured” in three days when they were discharged. The absolute worst was the CCMC Pavilion management. Don Montgomery, the CEO of CCMC, had contracted with the state hospital over in Mandeville to take their forensic psychiatric patients several years ago when a public outrage from the good citizens of Mandeville had succeeded and the hospital closed. Even though CCMC received a premium for housing and caring for the forensic patients, none of the money went back into the safety and security of staff and patients at CCMC. Angie shuddered and felt a chill when she thought about the patients she’d worked with over the past year. Some of them had nearly frightened her to death. She had thought Jim was one of the safe ones – until now.

As she had plunged the needle into Jim’s shoulder, she had made the mistake of looking into his eyes. The eyes were there, but Jim wasn’t. It was as if he were somewhere else. He had not recognized her. Recognition was the basis of human interaction, and is what separated friend from foe. Those empty eyes terrified her!

“What set him off tonight?” Angela asked Ben as she came back to the present. “He was one of the good ones – I thought.”

“Louis and Jim were playing Battleship in the dayroom. Louis won and Jim said he was cheating. It was strange-like. Normally Jim didn’t care if he won or lost. Not this time. Next thing, Jim said Louis was sleeping with his wife. Crazy! Louis hasn’t had a hardon in ten years. Next thing, Jim lunged at Louis and missed and Louis ran into the hallway yelling. Jim followed with murder in his eyes. Louis ducked under Jason’s arm and Jim ran smack into that arm. Knocked him down and Jason got on top of him. I came out of the dayroom and jumped on Jim’s arm.”

“Thanks, Louis. Many thanks to you, Jason. And Amy -what you did was above the call of duty. I think you’re going to be pretty sore. If you need to call off for your next shift, I’ll vouch for you,” Angie said as she looked at the poor battered Asian-American woman.

“Thank you, Miss Angie.” replied Amy in broken English.

“OK, let’s get a stretcher and get Jim into the seclusion room. I’ve got to go back to the office and write up the report for this incident.” Angie got up and hurried back to the office, carrying the capped syringe with her to deposit in the sharps container.

Chapter 5

It was after two am when Angela finally stood in front of the first of two locked metal exit doors. This one bore the scars of countless chair and table strikes. The institutional grey paint was scratched and the graffiti had not been washed off for a week. She fumbled with her keys and finally got the key in the lock and urged the heavy tumbler to turn. “Damn,” she cursed glancing at her watch and noting the time. She wished she had called the child care center in the main hospital to tell them how late she would be picking up Jessica. Oh my God, I am three hours late, she thought. They’re going to kill me over there. She felt her pulse race with anxiety as she considered how upset her 16 month-old daughter was going to be when she woke her up to take her home.

I’ve got to get a new job, she thought. This psych unit is killing me. She closed the door and heard the reassuring click as it locked. She walked down the short hallway to the second of the two locked doors. This one only bore a couple of scars, but they were deep. She didn’t remember who it was or when, but one of the patients had followed a staff member through the first door with a broken off chair leg in hand. Most of the blows had landed on the unlucky staff member. A few had landed on the door. The door had survived – the staff member had not.

I never get off on time, she thought. She glanced behind her just once to make sure nobody was in there with her, then she unlocked the second door. Once through that door, there was a long hallway, then an exit door with a push bar. The second door closed behind her and she made sure it was locked before she walked down the long hallway. Boy, it’s dark out there, she thought as she peered through the glass windows of the hallway. Sensing freedom, she pushed on the bar to open the door to the outside. The elation was short-lived.

The heat smacked Angie in the face as she walked into the August night. The air was close and heavy. A crimson-tinged bolt of lightning highlighted the sky for an instant, then things went dark again. Thunderstorms, she thought. “I’ve got to get home soon. Jessica is scared of thunderstorms and lightning and she will freak out if it happens in the car.” She walked quickly through the darkened path towards the parking lot. She looked around and told herself she was alone. It’s pretty spooky out here, she thought. For a moment, she considered calling security, then she remembered that it would take at least thirty minutes for the guard to get over to the Pavilion. Besides, if he were busy, it could be twice that time.

With the cutbacks heralding the new health care act, there was only one security guard on the night shift now. There used to be three or more guards, even on weekends and now there was only one roaming guard and one – Jason – in the forensic psych unit where Angie worked. After all, it is New Orleans and even post Katrina, the crime rates were startling.

Angie continued the trek to her car,She continued to reflect on the Pavilion as she walked to her car. Now psychiatry was a money-loser, a liability to the bottom line — and CCMC, a world-class hospital, wasn’t about to spend large sums of money to safeguard patients or staff. Managed care payment systems made it almost impossible for you to be crazy, have a breakdown or recover from prescription or street drug abuse or alcohol. Reimbursement had all but disappeared and with health reform on the horizon, it would only get worse. The mental health system in the US was sadly and severely broken, irretrievably so, perhaps. In fact with everyone getting care under the new reformed system, it was predicted that mental health care would increase steadily with shorter term admissions. Angie shook her head when she considered just how awful the mental health system was in the US. Depressed, deranged and addicted psychiatric patients could no longer come in for a few weeks of therapy, get their meds regulated, have a few art classes and play some board games to learn to control their anger. Why, just last week they had discharged a newly diagnosed Bipolar II female patient who had attempted suicide and been in a coma for 10 days with an aspiration pneumonia. She only stayed on the psych unit for two days, because the patient promised, “I’ll never do it again. I don’t know what came over me.” Of course, her insurance didn’t want to pay either but the hospital would have been ethically bound to keep her if she had asked to stay. In Angie’s mind, that bordered on gross negligence. Suppose that woman went home and “offed” herself with her small children in the home? Worse still, suppose in her psychosis, she killed herself and her family? It had happened before. What safeguards had been put in place? Oh, I forgot, Angie admonished herself. She had two days of counseling and three days of Lithium. At least that’s what the attending shrink had told Angie when she questioned the discharge. That should do it. Yeah, sure Angie thought. She was disgusted with the entire US mental health system. How in the world could anyone get better in only several days? These poor, mentally sick, often physically ill patients, were discharged back on the streets of NOLA or even to their homes with no regulated medicines or skills to fight back against the demons that endlessly plagued their minds.

Her walk in the black night seemed endless. Even this late, the southern air was stifling and viscous. She was sweating, but she felt cold on the inside. Angie continued to think about the dangerous patient population at the Pavilion. Many of CCMCs psychiatric admissions were initiated at the hands of the New Orleans Police and the local magistrate who had them committed after they had been picked up for a crime or some sort of outburst. Angie quivered again when she thought of some of the deeply psychotic patients trying to live on their own.  They also had to medicate several of the most violent patients prior to bedtime. Angie had doled out six Thorazine slurpees like they were health food drinks but even then, the brutality was awful. She thought about it and then deliberately pushed it from her mind.

When she was honest, Angie admitted to herself that she hated working on psychiatry. She hated it because she was afraid. And she knew the patients knew. It was almost as if they could smell it on her. She could see the recognition in their eyes when they realized it. They seemed to give her a secret smile. Many of their eyes seemed to have an evil glint. Besides, on the critical care units or in the emergency room, you could predict physiological changes in patients. You knew if a patient was going to “go bad” and have a heart attack or throw an embolus. You knew what to expect. But, in psych! You just couldn’t tell. You couldn’t anticipate the interworking and short circuitry in the minds of the profanely and criminally insane. They’d go off at the drop of a hat over nothing. You could hand them their fork the wrong way and they’d come after you. It was frightening. Many of the patients were violent, criminals who had committed heinous crimes, yet CCMC cared for them and she didn’t mind caring for them. She just wanted to have enough staff to work in a safe place.

Angie continued her musings on the way to her car. Her background was critical care and emergency department but there’d been an opening on the psych unit where she could work just weekends and get paid for full time. This was ideal in many ways as it allowed her time with Jessica. She could be the kind of wife her husband wanted–at least most of the time. Besides, the money was good. Everybody at CCME knew the Psychiatric Pavilion was the armpit of the hospital and that nurses were paid a premium to work there because it was dangerous. The Pavilion was also isolated, turbulent and chronically understaffed, especially now because nobody really knew what health reform was going to do to psych care. Usually Angie didn’t mind so much. But the past three nights had been particularly stressful for her, more so than usual. She had been on a different unit each night and besides, Jessica had a cold and she always felt bad leaving her baby in daycare when she was sick. Her Catholic guilt kicked in every time.

It was darker than the blackest of nights, as an ominous feeling of dread hung thick in the night air. Thunderstorms earlier in the evening had created a mass of low, overhanging clouds that completely obliterated the moon. Suddenly, Angie felt a chill come over her. She looked over her shoulder as a quiver ran up her spine. Her legs tingled. Did she hear someone breathing? She strained her ears. She didn’t hear anything. The hum of the cicadas and other night insects was deafening. Angela picked up her step, making a pact with herself never to walk to the parking lot alone again. Not ever. It was scary and unsafe. What in the world was wrong with her? Why had she made such a reckless decision? After another minute or so she heard another noise. It sounded like a set of keys hitting the pavement or, perhaps, like metal hitting metal, she thought. Then, she heard a cough and a sigh of what seemed like satisfaction.

Angie’s autonomic nervous system kicked in. Fight or flight! She started running for her life, but was no match for her assailant. He quickly overtook her, grabbed her by the hair, stuck a rag in her mouth, and pulled her over into a crop of trees to the right of the road. Her attacker seemed huge and had a large scarf tied over his face. His head was covered with a hat. Angie looked into her attacker’s face as he leered over her. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, her pupils widened in disbelief. She knew this man! Her heart was firing erratically and she was dizzy and weak with fear. Her assailant looked at her and laughed.

“So, you recognize me, you little slut bitch. We can’t have that now, can we?” Her assailant spat the words at her.

Angie was paralyzed with fear. Her hands were pinned down and the assailant’s knee was in between her legs. Her captor outweighed her and was strong. She couldn’t move, but struggled against him anyway, trying to overcome his strength. He let one of her hands go for a second while he pushed one of the metal spikes into the soft ground. Angela’s hand ripped the hat off her assailant’s head and she dug her nails into his hair, pulling as much hair out as she could. She had wanted to poke out his eyes, but had missed.

“You little bitch, I could kill you for that! How dare you touch me. You are one of them. The man slapped her, dislocating her jaw. Angie felt the bone pop near her ear. The pain was overwhelming and she started to vomit. This further enraged her captor and he slammed her face into the dirt, ripping off her uniform pants. His intent was clear, but all Angie could do was lay there and focus on the smell of the rotting vegetation on the side of the road. She tried to detach herself from her surroundings. It didn’t work.

She heard him grunting while he pushed three more stakes into the ground, singing quietly to himself as he moved methodically through his tasks, clearing old leaves and trash out of his way and away from her. It was like he was cleaning house. For a moment she thought he had forgotten about her and she felt a bit of hope. But it was far-fetched. He turned to her, smiled sweetly, and bit her on her shoulder. Angie screamed and then her attacker hit her in the head with a piece of metal pipe.

Angela felt the searing pain rip through her head and down into her neck and shoulders with the first blow. The second blow didn’t seem to hurt so much. Her last conscious thought was how pretty the twinkling lights looked in the intensive care unit in the main hospital building. She could see them clearly from where she was and she wished she were working a double shift up there where everything was predictable, where the patients were harmless and appreciative. Then, finally, blessedly, she lost consciousness.

Chapter 6

“Oh, no, no … no …. Oh, no …, it can’t be. It just can’t be. This has to be a joke and it isn’t funny. Stop telling me these things. Angie’s at home right now taking care of the baby. She worked last night, she only works on the weekends. Today is Monday,” Bridgett insisted.

A short silence followed as Bridgett continued to listen to the voice on the other end of the phone. Her voice was confused, skeptical as she responded, “You’ve got to be kidding me. This is wrong, wrong, WRONG! It’s not funny! ” Bridgett’s voice reached a fevered pitch as she continued to argue with the person on the other end of the phone for playing games with her about her sister. Finally, she slammed down the phone down and marched into Alex’s office, all legs, high heels, and long, blonde hair.

Alex , the legal counsel for Crescent City Medical Center, looked up from her desk, startled to see her normally good-natured, fun-loving secretary glowering at her, full of rage. Bridgett could best be described as a blonde bombshell. She was tall and beautiful. She wore bright colors and survived a full day in the highest stiletto heels Alex had ever seen. Bridgett’s big blue eyes flashed anger and her voice was clipped as she addressed her boss.

“I’m so mad, in fact, I’m pissed. Somebody from the E.D. just called and told me Angie is a patient there and is all beaten up. It really isn’t funny and it’s a sick joke. I know Angie’s at home taking care of Jessica.” Bridgett glanced down at her watch and added, “Besides, it’s 10:00 in the morning and she worked last night over at the Pavilion. I know, because I talked to her.”

Alex stared at Bridgett, confused by the conversation. “Who called you, Bridge,” Alex asked, her voice soft and concerned.

“I’ve no clue. I didn’t hear their name. I’m sure it’s a mistake, but I am still pissed because they got the wrong person. They need to be more careful over there. Besides, I’m too busy for this stuff today. I love to have fun and cut-up, but not about sad stuff. This just isn’t funny. It pisses me off.” Bridgett fumed, her blue eyes stormy with anger.

Alex and Bridgett heard a knock in the outer office and stared as the door to Alex’s private office slowly opened. Crossing the threshold into her office were Dr. Monique Desmonde, the chief of psychiatry at CCMC, Commander Jack Françoise of the New Orleans Police Department, and Alex’s old nemesis, Betty Favre, the chief nursing executive at CCMC.

Alex felt a cold, numbing twinge in the pit of her stomach and the hair on her arms began to rise. She knew something was very wrong and surmised what was coming next. Dr. Desmonde gave Alex a hard look, shook her head negatively and turned her attention to Bridgett. Jack moved into a position behind Bridgett and gently directed her towards the elegant sofa grouping in Alex’s office. Alex felt as though she were watching a perfectly choreographed production. Betty Favre stood uselessly to the side of the group for a moment, studying her bright red manicure, and then took a seat in a Queen Anne chair.

Alex’s heart was thudding as Monique motioned for her to join them on the sofa. Bridgett seemed transfixed, unable to talk. She looked like a tall, beautiful Barbie doll. Dr. Desmonde began slowly, “Bridgett, I’m afraid I’ve some bad news for you.”

Bridgett’s eyes were blank as she stared at Monique, a beautifully groomed, dark-haired woman in her forties. Dr. Desmonde began gently, “Bridge, can you hear me? We must talk, now.”

Bridgett nodded her head slowly. Alex could feel fear and uncertainty crawling up her own spine. Her knees began to shake and her heart was pounding madly. It was the same feeling she always had when something bad had happened. Alex felt her knees jerking so badly that she was sure they would cause her feet to jump out of her 4 inch heels. Jack touched her knee, realizing Alex’s discomfort and offering support. Alex gave the police Commander a small, tight smile.

Dr. Desmonde continued, her voice soft, her eyes meeting Bridgett’s straight on. “Angela worked yesterday, Bridgett. She worked the 11am to 11 pm shift on the psych unit.”

Bridgett interrupted Dr. Desmonde. “Yeah, yeah, I know. I tried to call her last night. . I called early in the evening, but she was working on the prison or forensic unit or wherever. We never spoke,” Bridgett continued, the irritation in her voice unmistakable. “The idiot from the E.D. said she was over there and had been beaten up or something, said she couldn’t speak so I didn’t believe them.” Bridgett turned and noticed Commander Jack Françoise at her side and addressed him, her brilliant blue eyes full of anger. “Commander, can you do something about this? Someone is harassing me about Angie,” Bridgett said as she started to rise from the sofa. “I’ve got to go. I have a ton of work to do.” Bridgett rose from the sofa to leave, as if nothing real had just happened.

Jack looked over at Dr. Desmonde who gave him a thumbs-up sign. He took Bridgett’s hands in his own and said, “Bridge, it’s not a joke. Someone hurt Angie after she left work last night. She was attacked and we didn’t find her until this morning and ….”

Alex’s heart lurched at the sight of Bridgett’s big blue eyes. They were filled with terror and uncertainty. Her pupils were huge, surrounded by liquid pools of white. Her long blonde hair created a halo around her head. Alex wasn’t completely sure if Bridge understood what the police commander had said.

Dr. Desmonde interrupted, “Angie’s over in the E.D. They’re going to take her up to surgery and I thought you might like to see her before she goes,” Monique’s voice trailed off, uncertain of Bridgett’s level of comprehension.

“Yes, yes, I would. Is she OK?”

Monique continued, slowly as she shook her head, “No. Not really. She is very sick. In fact, she is in critical condition. She has a machine breathing for her, a ventilator, and she has some head injuries. She has lost a lot of blood. She also has some internal injuries and Dr. Goshette wants to do an exploratory to be sure she isn’t bleeding on the inside,” Monique said.

“How’d she get hurt?” Bridgett asked in a dazed and child-like manner as she looked around the room. It was clear to all of them that Bridgett really wasn’t getting it. Alex couldn’t help but be amazed at how good the brain was at screening out bad news.

Being the psychiatrist that she was, Monique tried hard to work through Bridgett’s shock and denial. She started again, “Bridgett, Angie was attacked and beaten last night after work. She is very ill. Do you understand?”

Bridgett nodded impatiently, “Yes, you told me. I’d like to go see her now, if you don’t mind. You said she was going to surgery, right?” Bridgett stared at Dr. Desmonde as if she was a moron for not understanding her.

“Yes,” Monique sighed. “Bridgett, you must understand that she has bruises and cuts on her face and that ….” Monique stammered, searching for words, “You must understand that she looks very different. Someone beat her badly. Are you sure you’re up to seeing her?”

Bridgett nodded her head impatiently, “Of course, Dr. Desmonde, of course I am. But it isn’t all that bad, not nearly as bad as you say. Angie and I are twins. If she were hurting badly, I’d be hurting too. It’s always been like that, since we were babies.” Bridgett smiled and continued, “I’m really not worried, let’s go,” she said looking around the group. “Hurry up! I just need to get my purse.”

Alex, Jack, and Monique looked at each other while Bridgett went into her office. Betty Favre had completely removed herself from the situation and was flipping through a copy of “Architectural Digest” she’d removed from Alex’s coffee table. What an uncaring bitch, Alex thought silently to herself.

Monique rolled her eyes at Betty, shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well, Bridgett doesn’t really get it. Angela looks pretty bad, and believe me she is really hurting. The reason Bridgett isn’t feeling any pain is because Angie is in a coma.”

Alex was startled, “Oh no, is it really that bad?” She searched the faces of her good friends and colleagues. Her crystal blue eyes locked with Commander Françoise’s dark ones. “Please say it isn’t, Jack,” she implored.

“Wish I could Alex, but I can’t. It’s bad. It’s real bad. I’ll fill you in later. Let’s get Bridge through this part first.” Jack lifted his large, bulky frame from the chair and moved into the outer office to help Bridgett gather her things.

Dr. Desmonde added quickly to Alex, “Jack’s right, Alex. Angie is pretty beat up. She may be bleeding internally. She has a skull fracture and some seriously broken bones. Her jaw is broken, as well. She laid out there for hours before anyone found her. She lost a lot of blood and Lord knows how long she has been unconscious. Her crit, CBC are way down.”

Shsssst!” Monique put her finger to her lips as Bridgett and the Commander returned to Alex’s office. “We’ll catch up later.”

Betty looked up from her magazine and spoke for the first time. “My secretary called Bridgett’s husband and he’ll meet us in the E.D. They’re looking for Angela’s husband. He is supposedly on his way. Favre’s voice was flip and tinged with sarcasm. Alex immediately moved into Betty Favre’s personal space to confront her, but Monique waved her away while she motioned for Jack and Bridgett to wait in the hall for them.

“Later, Alex,” she cautioned, “We have enough going on here and you’re not dying on the Betty Favre hill right now.” Monique glared at Betty Favre, “See me later, Ms. Favre. I want to discuss the concept of empathy with you. And I do mean it.”

Alex smiled to herself as she watched Betty bristle with anger and then felt ashamed for enjoying the exchange. Dr. Desmonde was probably the only person at the medical center who disliked Betty Favre as much as she did and this behavior was so unlike Monique it was a bit shocking. They both had Favre’s number and supported each other when the nurse executive ran rough shod over the staff. Betty was uncaring, incompetent, inept and not very smart. Unfortunately, the CEO, Don Montgomery, didn’t share their opinion of Betty — most likely because they were very much alike. If you were to believe the hospital scuttlebutt, they were lovers. Gross, yuck, is all Alex could think about that rumor. It made her feel slightly sick.

As Monique and Alex joined Jack and Bridgett in the hallway, Alex began to feel angry about what had happened to Angie. For three years, Alex repeatedly asked the hospital executive committee to at least move the psych units closer to the main hospital, if not into the main medical complex itself. Of course, Don had a shit fit over that one. He would never tarnish his “world-class, prestigious medical center, soon to be a health sciences center” with the likes of the crazy lowlifes of New Orleans and criminals with HIV. He had even declared at the Board of Trustees’ meeting that he would never turn CCMC into an insane asylum or increase the number of beds for the psychiatric community. Alex doubted if he ever knew how much he had appalled the Board or that he had made an enemy of Monique Desmonde for life, which was probably not a good thing.

Needless to say, Alex had met massive resistance from both Favre and Montgomery, who had issued a joint press release suggesting that “psychiatry, while a necessary albatross to any hospital, was CCMCs gift to the sick, poor, and disenfranchised mental cases of New Orleans.” Monique had seethed with anger and it had taken her and Alex several bottles of Virginia wine to settle both of them. Alex had always been afraid that an accident like Angie’s would happen and that someone, whether a patient, visitor, or staff member, would be seriously attacked in or around the Pavilion. Now it had happened.

All four were silent as they waited for the elevator to the ground level E.D. The elevator seemed to take forever as it stopped on each and every floor. They were met at the nursing station by Sandy Pilsner, the nursing director of the emergency department. Sandy eyed her friends for some nonverbal direction. She moved close to Bridgett, took her hand, and said, “Bridge, Angie looks bad. Her face is black and blue, her eyes are swollen shut and she is hard to recognize. We have IVs and bags of blood hanging and she has a tube down her throat that is hooked to a machine that is breathing for her. She’ll be going up to surgery in a few minutes. We think she is bleeding internally because her lab results are so bad.”

Bridgett smiled brightly at Sandy. “Is Angie talking you to death. I know how she is. She has never even been in the hospital, except for when Jessica was born. Do you think we can even count that?” Bridgett seemed totally out of it.

If Sandy was surprised at Bridgett’s lack of understanding, she didn’t let on. She said very clearly, “Angie is not talking. She’s not breathing on her own and she cannot talk to you. Bridge, do you understand me? She is very sick. Maybe she can hear you, but she cannot talk to you. There is also a possibility her assailant raped her.”

Bridgett didn’t respond. Her expression showed no emotion and her affect was flat. Sandy glanced at Alex and Dr. Desmonde, who shrugged her shoulders and nodded her head. “Let’s go, Sandy,” Monique said gesturing forward with her hand. “We’ve got to break through this denial somehow.” Jack’s face was impassive. Alex knew him well enough to know that he was feeling phenomenal stress. She patted his hand for reassurance.

The sounds of the E.D., the newly renovated patients’ rooms, and the spanking clean floors brought no comfort to Alex. As physicians and nurses glanced at her and offered tight smiles, she felt their pain. They all knew Angie and many had worked with her over the years at CCMC. They had celebrated her graduations from nursing school – first from Delgado at Charity Hospital and then LSU. They had celebrated her marriage and the birth of Jessica. They had worked side by side with her every day. Angie was one of the team, one of their team. She was their friend. She was one of their own, one of CCMCs highly skilled and coveted nurses, and one of the millions of caregivers all over the world who gave endlessly and selflessly of their time, talents, and gifts every day.

Alex noticed that Monique was eyeing Sandy carefully. They both knew this was especially hard for her. Angie had worked in the E.D. prior to the birth of her baby and Sandy had hosted her baby shower. Sandy had already lost her good friend and mentor, Diane Bradley, during the tragic accident in the emergency department just before Mardi Gras earlier in the year. Sandy seemed to be holding up pretty well. Nurses are tough creatures, Monique thought to herself. Much tougher than we docs.

As they entered the patient bay, they walked slowly towards the bed. Bridgett looked hard at the patient in the bed and said angrily, “What in the world is going on? I don’t know who this is, but it certainly isn’t Angie. What kind of sick joke is this?” Bridgett’s eye flared with anger as she glared at Alex.

The next few seconds seemed like eons and finally Monique said gently, “Yes, Bridge, it is Angie. Look carefully. Her face is swollen, her jaw is broken, but it is Angie.”

“It is not, it is not! Why are you all doing this to me? I thought you were my friends.” Bridgett’s enormous blue eyes brimmed over with tears as she stared at the faces of her friends around the bed.

Sandy reached to remove the O.R. cap from Angie’s head. When Bridgett saw the long, mussed up blond curly hair, just like her hair only matted with dark, dried blood, she knew and she began to scream, “Oh, no! Oh, no, no, … PLEASE, no, it can’t be. Angie, Angie, talk to me, Please, Angie, please answer me.” Bridgett touched the long knife wounds extending from her sister’s forehead all the way around her face. She looked at her friends around the bed. “Who did this? Who did this? It must be a monster. It looks like someone tried to cut off her face!” When she noticed her sister’s Mother’s Ring with Jessica’s birthstone she began to sob, “Oh, no, she wanted that ring for so long and Johnny just gave it to her on Mother’s Day.” Her sobs became uncontrollable and could be heard throughout the E.D.

Sandy and Monique lead the sobbing Bridgett away while Alex and Commander Françoise stayed by Angie’s bedside, continuing to observe her injuries. Alex, numb with shock, turned away, attempting to control her emotions. Jack gently touched her on her shoulder, “Alright, Alex, we can go. You’ve seen enough.”

“No, just give me a moment.” Alex drew a deep breath and turned to face Angie again. As she worked hard to dissociate herself from the body of her friend, she noticed some funny shaped marks on Angie’s left shoulder, visible where her hospital gown had fallen to the side. She eyed them curiously and looked at the Commander. “Jack, what are these? They look weird.”

Commander Françoise shuffled uncomfortably. “It’s a damn bite mark, Alex. The SOB bit her at least three times. He’s a sick son of a bitch. I’d like to kill him. I will kill him when I find him,” Jack hissed, as he felt for his holstered gun under his coat.

Alex looked at Jack Françoise with alarm. He was working himself into a frenzy. Not good, she thought to herself. Ever since the spring, when Jack had finally gone to Dr. Robert Bonnet complaining of chest pain, Alex had been afraid that Jack’s stress level and stressful job would cause him a heart attack or stroke. He’d done absolutely nothing Robert had recommended. Typical, stubborn Jack. He was still overweight, had high blood pressure, and had high cholesterol. He drank gallons of black coffee every day, and his diet was horrendous.

Jack had spent his life living on the edge. He had been a football star in high school and at Tulane University, where he had played linebacker. Shortly after graduation, Jack had joined the service and gone Army Spec Ops. Alex assumed Jack had been engaged in Black Ops, but didn’t know for sure. Jack didn’t talk about it much, but she knew that he had been everywhere in the world where there had been a skirmish in the last 25 years. He finally retired from the reserves about 10 years ago.

Of course, now, he was a police Commander in New Orleans working in the city with the highest crime per capita of any city in the U.S. Plus, he now was Commander over the district with the most crime. This was further complicated by the fact that Jack was an honest cop and still clung to his ideologies, even after all of his years of investigating murders, assaults, drugs, and abuse. Jack didn’t even need to be in the trenches anymore. He was a Commander, for God’s sake! But, Alex knew that Jack would never leave the trenches. It wasn’t in his genes. He didn’t go to meetings, ever if there was a way he could get out of them. He cared about victims and worked endlessly to avenge the dead and maimed. Besides, Jack liked to get even, and Jack liked to get back at the perpetrators. It was who Jack was and what had earned him the nickname of “Get Back Jack.”

For a fleeting moment, Alex considered calling Dr. Robert Bonnet, the chief of surgery at CCMC. Robert and Alex were close to Jack and shared concerns about him. Six months earlier, Jack Françoise had saved both of their lives as they were being pursued through the French Quarter by an assailant intent on murdering them. Consequently, a short while later, Robert had overseen Jack’s surgery after he’d been shot by that same man. Robert had been injured as well, by a gunshot injury to the medial nerve in his right arm that could still cost him his career as a surgeon.

Robert couldn’t operate. The verdict was still out on his injury. Additional surgery and physical therapy would render a determination of Robert’s future in a few months. Hopefully, he would be able to operate again. If not, he’d be an excellent medical doctor, as Alex had told him repeatedly. Robert was a natural healer but he was NOLA’s most outstanding surgeon. The police Commander, the surgeon, and the lawyer had become close at that time and forged a bond that would never be broken. The three had traveled to Alex’s home in Virginia with her grandfather, Congressman Adam Patrick Lee, and her grandmother, Kathryn Rosseau Lee, for a well earned vacation and deserved respite. Alex and Robert had been married while attending the University of Virginia. Later they divorced, but had begun to build a new relationship in New Orleans.

Alex’s thoughts briefly returned to her relationship with Robert Bonnet, back when the two were still married. Alex had loved Robert without reservation. They met when Robert was a surgical resident and Alex was a doctoral student in clinical nursing. They dated for over a year, became engaged, and married at the University Chapel on the Lawn in Charlottesville in a very proper circumspect ceremony. The marriage had merged two of the most powerful political families in the South: the Bonnets of Louisiana and the Lees of Virginia. Robert’s family had been prominent in the social, cultural, and political fabric of the state since the French had discovered Louisiana in 1769 and his ancestral grandfather had been the first governor of French Louisiana. Robert’s father, a former governor, presently served as a United States Senator for the great State of Louisiana.

Alex’s Virginia heritage was equally impressive. She could trace her ancestry to Richard Henry Lee, father of Robert E. Lee, Commander and Chief of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Her uncle still owned the ancestral family home, Stratford Hall, in Westmoreland County. Another relative owned a historic plantation on the James River near Richmond. Alex’s grandparents, Congressman Adam Patrick Lee and his wife, Kathryn Rosseau Lee, owned a large estate in Hanover County, Virginia — not far from Scotchtown, the home of Patrick Henry.

Congressman Lee, a diehard law and order politician, had been overwhelmed with respect for the then Captain Françoise’s integrity, character, and investigative skills. He had tried unsuccessfully to lure Jack into a high-level position with the FBI in Washington, D.C., but Jack was resistant. He had told the Congressman quite bluntly, and on several occasions since then, that he “wasn’t working for no damn bureaucrats,” that he was not for sale. Congressman Lee had loved the response and had tried even harder to recruit the burly, fearless New Orleans policeman. In fact, the Congressman was still trying to get Françoise to come to Washington and work on some special law enforcement projects, particularly anything related to terrorism, but Jack still refused. Alex knew Jack would never leave NOLA. Alex felt an arm on her shoulder that halted her daydreaming. She turned and looked at Jack Françoise.

Alex’s mind returned to the grim situation at hand. She stared again at Angie’s battered body. Alex noted how pale, almost waxen, Angie’s face looked and turned to Jack.

“Jack, she is so pale. She looks like a corpse. Feel how cool she is.”

“Yes, I see.” Jack was thinking back to the pale young corpse he had seen at Dr. Jeanfreau’s morgue last week. She had looked just li

KND eBook of The Day: Timothy Patrick’s Dark, Captivating Thriller Tea Cups & Tiger Claws – Over 140 Rave Reviews! Sample For Free Now!

Tea Cups & Tiger Claws

by Timothy Patrick

4.2 stars – 174 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

First comes the miracle and then comes the madness. The miracle is the birth of identical triplets, and the madness is all about money, of course. The year is 1916 and the newborn baby girls have become pint-size celebrities. Unfortunately, this small portion of fame soon leads to a much larger portion of greed, and the triplets are split up—parceled out to the highest bidders. Two of the girls go to live in a hilltop mansion. The third girl isn’t so lucky. She ends up with a shady family that lives in an abandoned work camp. That’s how their lives begin: two on top, one on the bottom, and all three in the same small town.

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5-Star Amazon Reviews

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Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

An introvert, Special Agent Francesca moves to Las Vegas to escape her powerful, domineering mother. On arrival, multiple obstacles challenge her. She needs to approach a father she’s never met, a man who doesn’t even know she exists. Then she must play the role of a loving fiancée with a stranger. One who makes her question every unexpected emotion he provokes. Craving the chance for real undercover work, she grabs the opportunity to be involved in cleaning up gang corruption in a nasty neighborhood. When she poses as the new owner of a hotel, the deadly-dangerous situation ramps up and she’s forced to fight her way from one conflict to the next.

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An introvert, Special Agent Francesca moves to Las Vegas to escape her powerful, domineering mother. On arrival, multiple obstacles challenge her. She needs to approach a father she’s never met, a man who doesn’t even know she exists. Then she must play the role of a loving fiancée with a stranger. One who makes her question every unexpected emotion he provokes. Craving the chance for real undercover work, she grabs the opportunity to be involved in cleaning up gang corruption in a nasty neighborhood. When she poses as the new owner of a hotel, the deadly-dangerous situation ramps up and she’s forced to fight her way from one conflict to the next.

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