Title: Patients in Purgatory
A Reverend Christie Mystery: Book Two
Author: William T. Delamar
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 3
Why are there so many shallow unmarked graves? Why is that crazy nursing home administration spying on anyone visiting? What’s happening here?
Reverend Oxford Christie visits a patient in a strange nursing home, one of a number owned and operated by The Group, Inc. Its profit far exceeds that of the typical nursing home, and patients seem to disappear. The state’s system of nursing home inspections is deeply flawed to the extent that severe and continued abuse easily goes unchecked. The Group, Inc. becomes aware of Christie’s nosing around and orders are given to do whatever is necessary to stop his snooping. Ox, aware that he is being watched, is torn between the possible danger to his wife and children and the suspicion that the incredible abuse of helpless patients is even worse than what’s been observed.
Ox kept Tuesday open so he could run over to the nursing home without Elmer. Elmer seemed to be feeling a little better about the place, but Ox knew something was just too pat. What really seemed strange was the limited staff for such a big place. There were now two aides on Rebecca's floor plus the receptionist. The two orderlies, Link Unger, and the nameless big doctor wandered in and out. Starky was more evident. There was also the man who had gathered up the trashcans outside. Maybe he was from a maintenance department. The third floor seemed deserted as far as staff was concerned. He hadn't seen anyone in the basement, although he had heard whistling. There just weren't enough people for such a big place.
Pulling into their parking lot, he saw a car that looked suspiciously like the one that stayed behind him all the way home. He wondered if he was getting paranoid. He walked back to the 'off-limits' building.
Link seemed less stressed. Evidently, Ox had won his trust.
"Just so you know, Link, Miss Starky really is a nice person underneath. She just has a difficult job. I want you to go upstairs with me. You spend all your time down here and that's not right. You should be familiar with the whole building. After all, you are responsible for it."
"Are you sure it's okay?"
"Absolutely." Ox was sure the angels would forgive him for the little lie. It was for a good cause.
They had just reached the staircase when the front door swung open and an unfamiliar man walked in. He was short and stocky in build with a large head and pointed ears. He wore a large diamond tie tack indicating money.
"We thought we saw your car out there. I'm Joe Bush, the assistant administrator. What are you doing back here? You know this building's off-limits." He turned to Link Unger. "If we ever see you talking to this man again, you are history."
Ox said, "Actually he was just reminding me the building is off-limits. Said he isn't even allowed up these steps. I just dropped by to say hi. I'm getting ready to visit Rebecca Rhine."
"She's already had two visitors today. What are you up to? Getting your whole stupid congregation intruding on us?"
"Actually, there are two members of the Philadelphia Police Department in the congregation. Would you like for them to visit?"
"Take my advice. Keep your nose out of our business."
"Is visiting a patient intruding on you in some way?"
"Just be aware, we know where your church is, and your family."
Bush turned and held the door open. A large diamond ring on his hand reflected the sunlight.
"Mr. Bush, that sounds very much like a threat."
"The boss doesn't like interference."
"I'll drop up to see Miss Rhine."
"You do that and then don't come back here again."
Ox walked to the front and then decided to sit in his car and think about what had just happened. There was no longer any question – something was rotten in Denmark. He had been there only a few minutes when Joe Bush rounded the corner pushing Link Unger in front of him. Link looked scared out of his wits. They didn't glance in his direction, but went directly into the building. A few second later, Joe Bush stepped back out and glared in Ox's direction. Ox ducked down. When he peeped out, Bush was gone. The receptionist must have told him Ox hadn't come in.
Ox decided he would leave. He couldn't take any threats against his family. This called for a different tactic. He started the car and headed back to the church. They would definitely start a nursing home watch program. He would do a sermon on it.
He glanced in the rearview mirror. It didn't appear he was being followed. He stayed in the slow lane and found himself in a line of traffic stopped for a UPS truck. Cars in the left lane zipped past. One was the car from the parking lot.
The truck finally moved and now Ox was in a hurry. He decided to go home before going back to the church.