June Spencer’s eyes were open. She lay on her back in the center of the bed, her long hair fanned out on the pillow, arms at her sides, and eyes fixed upward and unmoving. Like a corpse on display at a funeral. Almost the moment Ray left, and expressly against his instructions, Josie snuck into June’s room to speak to her. She still wore a hospital gown, and Josie resolved to bring some clothes for the girl from home the next day. She was annoyed that no one had thought of this; hospital gowns were flimsy and undignified, and the last thing a sexual assault victim would want is the risk of further exposure. But of course, no one on Denton PD had thought of this. They were all men. All men, except Josie. The chief had hired two female patrol officers the year before, but one was out on maternity leave and the other had quit to go to law school.
Josie stood at June’s bedside, her hand floating over the girl’s forearm. She wouldn’t touch her, not until she had the girl’s consent, but it was difficult to know how to get her attention. Was it even possible? Instead, she talked in a low tone, so as not to be overhead from the hallway, where nurses, nursing aides, and other residents flitted past, craning their necks to see the catatonic girl inside the room.
“June, my name is Detective Josie Quinn,” she said. “I am so glad you’re with us. I know you’ve been through a lot. I’m not sure how much they told you, but the man who hurt you is dead. You’re safe now. Soon we’ll find your mom, and she’ll come and be with you. As soon as your uncle Dirk is able, he’ll come too. I don’t know if you can hear me or not, but I’ll be close by if you need anything. My grandmother lives here. Tomorrow I’ll bring you some regular clothes to wear. That might make you more comfortable.”
Josie stood frozen for a long
moment, waiting to see if she would
blink again. She said, “Can you hear me, June?” Blink.
Josie was leaning in closer, looking for answers, when a scratchy voice from the doorway said, “Don’t get too excited, hon. Even zombies blink sometimes. It’s a purely physical thing.”
Josie looked up to see Sherri Gosnell, a chunky nurse in her sixties— the alleged larynx thief—pushing a medicine cart through the door. The computer screen atop it glowed, and Josie could see that June’s electronic chart was open. There was no information in it other than her name and date of birth. Lisette had once told Josie that Sherri had worked at Rockview since she was a teenager—as a nurse assistant while she finished nursing school and eventually securing a spot on the staff as an RN. Josie was hard-pressed to remember a time she’d visited her grandmother and not seen Sherri there. She wondered if Sherri ever took any days off.
“Gotta do her admission,” she said as she drew closer to the bed. Looking June over, the woman shook her head. “Don’t know what we’ll do with this one.”
An alarm blared from down the hall. By this time, Josie recognized the various alarms that the staff affixed to the chairs, beds, and sometimes even the clothing of residents considered fall risks to alert the staff to when they were getting up without assistance. “That sounds like Mrs. Sole,” she said to Sherri.
The nurse rolled her eyes. “All day long she’s trying to get out of that chair.” With a glance back at June she added, “I’ll have the girls sit this one up in the chair and get her a dinner tray. I can do the admission after I deal with Mrs. Sole.”
With that, she was gone. Josie glanced down at June. The girl’s eyes blinked rapidly for several seconds. Then they stopped, and she floated back off to wherever it was she had found to hide inside her head.