Solitary - 3. Chapter 3
From the front desk receptionist, Elena was quickly pointed to Peter Velardi’s office, easily accessible to the residents and their guests. He stood when she tapped on his open door and immediately told her, “This is a mess.”
They knew each other from town so didn’t need to be introduced.
“Have you made any calls yet?” she asked.
“Just to you. Then I was busy with the fire department. They needed IDs.”
“I’m afraid I’ll need them again – and any contact information you have. The paramedics mainly want names and insurance numbers.”
“I couldn’t even give them those – Jess doesn’t have her medical insurance through us. But Kye does.”
“Which is the woman?” Elena had to ask, and Peter Velardi smiled.
“Jessica Timmons. Malakye Pierce-Cooper. Does that help?”
He also gave her the contact information she needed then answered a couple of quick questions. Elena wanted to keep them short so she could get the families to the hospital.
“Jess has been here for maybe ten years,” she was told. “Longer than I have, but the company keeps moving us around.”
He nodded. “This is part of a chain – as almost everything is these days.” He checked his computer for information. “Kye is relatively new – it seems just this last year – but he works full-time – three meals a day, five or six days a week, depending on shortages. No one’s allowed to work seven full days in a row, no matter the emergency, though Jess cooks seven breakfasts. She’s only here for a couple hours each morning and then has a full-time job.”
“Do you know doing what?”
“Social worker – I think in Northampton for the city or county. She started here as a kid – straight off candystriping at one of the hospitals – then was an assistant in the kitchen – the main one. That was before she was in high school, if I remember. We were joking about it at a party. Then she stayed through college and grad school but at some point began pulling back. By that time I was here, though not as director. That’s only been the last year.”
“Do people burn out?”
“Directors?” He grinned. “Not really – that’s why they move us around. Staff? All the time – but they just quit – or move to better paying jobs.” He laughed. “But that’s a circle because we raise salaries to compete but then have to ask residents for more. Eventually – it crashes.”
“You could pull back on your profit,” Elena offered lightly.
Peter Velardi dismissed that with another grin. “There isn’t as much as you’d think – though I can’t deny it’s there. Why else would there be so many chains?”
Elena asked what he knew about Kye Cooper – the name it seemed he preferred – but Peter Velardi shook his head. “I’ve never really talked with him much, though I see him around all the time.” He pointed across the lobby, to the main dining room. “He seems to be well liked and charms the older women, which is three-quarters of his job. The few men around don’t seem to care.”
“Does he have another job?”
“Meaning this is a dead end?” Peter Velardi laughed again. “You don’t think he’s after my position?”
“How old is he?”
“Just out of college – at least from his looks. And he may do other work – he may be an artist. I think there’s some of that in his family.”
Elena again said, “Thanks,” and asked if there was a quiet room where she could call the families. She was shown to a smaller, arts and crafts room and, leaving, Peter Velardi closed the door. She called Jess Timmons' family first, for no reason, and when no one answered left a message. Next, she called Kye Cooper’s family, and a woman answered, “Pierce-Cooper Gallery.”
After Elena explained who she was and why she was calling, the quickly horrified woman – Kye’s mother – both wanted to know all the details and wanted to rush to the hospital.
“I’m not even sure which one yet,” Elena had to tell her. “It’s usually Cooly Dick or Holyoke.”
“Yes, and Holyoke Medical Center – the ambulances go where the emergency rooms are least busy – or where the paramedics know there’s specialized treatment. In your son’s case, that might be different from the woman’s.”
“I don’t really care about her right now. I just want to get to Kye with my husband.”
“Then if you get ready, I’ll call my partner – he’s handling that part of it – and I’ll text you the hospital. He should know by now.”
They exchanged cell phone numbers, and Marcie Pierce –
the name she preferred – added the number for her husband. After finishing that call, Elena went back to Peter Velardi’s office and asked, “Do you have another number for the Timmons family?”
He checked his computer then replied, “Unfortunately, no. And what we have on Jess may be ten years old – she’s still listed as being in high school. Since the building’s only been here twelve, and since she’s been here most of that, it looks like we’ve never updated her file.”
“I’ll see what I can find then – maybe from a neighbor. It helps that she lives nearby.”
“Please let us know if you do. I’d like to call – later.”
Elena went outside, sat on one of the rockers in front of the building, and called Don. Jessica Timmons was in Cooly Dick and Kye Cooper in Holyoke.
“Why the split?” she asked. “Were they afraid they’d fight?”
“They’re not in shape to do that,” Don assured her. “It’s what was available.”
“How’re they doing?”
“She’s still in surgery, though fortunately not to save her life. And he’s in a brace from head to foot.”
Don seemed ready to go on, but Elena interrupted. “I’ll call you right back. I promised Kye Cooper’s parents I’d tell them where he was – they’re on their way. I haven’t gotten through to the Timmons family yet.”
“Want me to try?”
“We’ll talk in a minute.”
Elena decided to call Marcie Pierce instead of texting – it seemed more personal. Before she called Don again, she tried the Timmons home but clicked off before the voice mail. Then she redialed Don.
“OK,” Elena told him, “I’m walking toward the Timmons’ house while we speak, hoping one of their neighbors has their numbers or knows where they work.”
“Well, you have time. She’s not coming out of surgery any time soon. She lost a lot of blood – you saw that – but it was all from the one place – her left arm. The guy was really hacking at that, trying to make her let go, so he could breathe. But the knife mainly hit bone, not blood vessels. And no veins, and no gut punctures, as they were afraid. And believe me, they looked. Standard procedure is to strip a person to make sure nothing’s missed that may cause problems later.”
“Unfortunately, I remember.” Elena considered. “And him?”
“He got lucky, too. As I said, he’s strapped down – they’ve got him in a private room, dim, and immobile in every way. Because they’re afraid of what could happen.”
“He’s not paralyzed?”
“No. There’s damage to his neck – to the bones there, and if one splinters, he could become paralyzed. Though right now, there’s no damage to his spinal cord. Same thing with his lower back. There’s a lot of bruising and pain – but nothing over-the-counter meds can’t handle. They don’t even need to knock him out.”
“Why the private room? It can’t be his family. They just found out where he is.”
The doctors want him free of stress – absolutely quiet for a couple days. One visitor at a time. Ten minutes, max. And a half hour till the next one. And only three visitors a day, and we’re not included, so it may be a week till we see him.”
“When can we see her?”
“Who knows? She may be drugged overnight – to make sure the bleeding stops. And she may need a skin graft or two. Either way, the doctors also want her quiet and with no risk of accidental danger.”
“Then it sounds like we’re out of this,” Elena concluded. “I’ll try to find her parents and get them to the hospital, but we may have to do that up from the station.”
“Do you want me to pick you up?”
“Let me see what happens first.”
“Sounds good. Meanwhile, I’ll hang out here a bit, check in at Holyoke – I’ve only spoken with them by phone – then meet you back at work.”
“Sure thing,” Elena was about to click off, when she took a deep breath and said, “What a thing to tell their parents.”
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