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Silence in the Tortured Soul – Chapter Fifteen

Welcome to the next episode of Silence in the Tortured Soul, book eleven in the Operation Quickline series. The KGB has infiltrated a group protesting a satellite launch. Lisa and Sid need to find out how to protect their friends Frank and Esther – and to train them as their new recruits. You can read the first chapter here, or click here to read all of the episodes that have run.

Sid was not happy when he, Nick, and I got back from our run that next morning to find Josie Prosser and two of her girlfriends waiting near the end of our driveway. Kathy and Jesse had taken Frank and Esther to the gym, then Kathy would work with Frank on codes, and Jesse would get Esther to and from work.

“This is harassment,” Sid grumbled as we got inside the house.

“I know.” I shook my head as Nick ran ahead to his bedroom to shower and change clothes. “Even Lety’s getting fed up. If those girls aren’t here, they’re over at her place.”

“That settles it.” Sid glanced at the office. “As soon as I get dressed, I’m calling Whiteman. We’ve tried talking to the parents. We’ve tried talking to the girls. Nothing has worked. I want to find out where we stand legally before I call the cops out.”

The problem was, because the girls weren’t on our property and weren’t threatening Nick in any way, they weren’t committing any crime. Worse yet, it would be hard to prove that there was any damage to us or Nick. Which, naturally, did not improve Sid’s mood any. The one thing that did help was that we’d decided to take Nick with us that day.

We were going up to Running Springs to see what we could find out about Dr. John Levinsky. There were, according to Angelique, some regular FBI agents trying to infiltrate the anti-nuke group, not to mention the agents and LAPD detectives working the Woltz murder. So we weren’t expecting to find much. After all, what would Levinsky tell us that he hadn’t already told the other agents and the press? We weren’t even sure we would talk to him. Still, there was the chance that we’d be able to check out his office in case we’d have to break in and do an evidence swap. Or perhaps a chatty local would tell us something he or she forgot to tell anyone else. We also had a slight advantage in that we knew more than most about KGB practices.

We also went as the Chapel family. It was another set of identities that we’d collected that spring when we’d had to pose as a team of FBI agents for a quick case and realized that no one was going to buy a husband-and-wife team of special agents working together. Angelique, I was willing to bet, didn’t know about that set of IDs and I had no idea if she’d ever find out who Lee and Diane Chapel were, let alone their son, Michael.

I brought a new wig of long black hair but didn’t put it on. Instead, I wore a pair of jeans and an over-sized t-shirt, knotted at my waist, and my beloved, dirty-gray deck shoes. Sid had on a sport shirt and jeans as well. Nick wore a pair of tan board shorts and a Giants t-shirt and complained that all his jeans were too short and some were too tight, as well.

“My Vans are getting tight, too,” he sighed as we headed into the garage.

“I guess we’ll be going shopping soon,” Sid said. He loaded a picnic basket into the Beemer’s trunk. “Didn’t we just get you new clothes last month?”

“It was last June, honey,” I said. “Right before the Travel Club meeting.”

Nick shrugged. “Can I have a snack out of the basket, please? I’m hungry.”

Sid sighed and got a couple apples out of the basket, along with some napkins, before closing the trunk lid.

Nick still seemed sad that morning.

“Did you have another nightmare last night?” I asked as we pulled onto the freeway.

“No.” Nick chewed on his apple for a moment, then gulped. “I just keep thinking about her, is all.”

“Have you tried thinking about happy memories?” I asked.

“Huh. No.” He thought for a moment. “I could.”

“Why don’t you share some of them with us?” Sid glanced at him in the rear-view mirror.

“Well.” He frowned, then smiled. “There was the time Mom took me to the tide pools. I was a little kid, maybe six. She told me all about them, too. It was really neat. We didn’t go to the beach much, though. Mom didn’t like all the sand. We mostly went to the movies. She really loved going to the movies.”

“That’s right. She did,” said Sid softly.

Nick didn’t notice. “Then there were the times she let me go to the hospital with her. That was really cool. I got to see her save lives. I mean, I couldn’t be in the treatment rooms with her. But you could hear her yell when she was helping somebody, and you knew it was about making sure that person kept living. That was the most important thing in the world to her. Saving people. You know?”

Nick talked on and the few times I looked back at him, I could see that he was feeling better. The look on Sid’s face was a little odd, though. I didn’t get a chance to ask him about it until we got to Running Springs and stopped at a small market across the street from the clinic where Levinsky had his office. Nick ran ahead of us into the market. I held Sid back.

“You okay?” I asked.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Sid looked genuinely perplexed.

“You just looked so odd when Nick was talking about his mom.”

“Oh.” Sid winced. “Yeah. That. I was trying to figure out how to deal with it if he has any questions about her.”

“You answer the questions, right?”

“If I know the answer.” He sighed. “I really didn’t know Rachel that well. Even accounting for my problems with relationships back then, Rachel was unusually focused on the sex. The six or seven times I took her out before that weekend we conceived the kid, all she wanted to do was go to a movie, then have sex. She didn’t want me sleeping over, she didn’t care about dinner, didn’t even care about talking that much. That weekend, she didn’t even care about the movie. After that weekend, I didn’t see her again and didn’t really think about her, either, until she brought our son to the doorstep.”

I shrugged. “You know, I would be surprised if our boy hasn’t figured that out. He knows what you were like, so even if he hasn’t, I doubt he’d be surprised to find out you didn’t know his mother very well.”

“I just don’t want to disappoint him.”

“There’s only so much either of us can do to prevent that. We’ve been honest with him from the start. I think the only thing that would surprise him is if we lied or pretended.”

Sid smiled. “You’re probably right.” He looked at the gas pumps near the front of the market. “I’d better get the tank topped off while we’re here.”

Sid is pretty religious about keeping our gas tanks full. Given that we don’t always know when we’ll be chased, running out of gas at the wrong time is a big problem.

In the store, Nick had three full-sized bags of chips in his hands and looked pleadingly at his father.

“One,” Sid growled.

“But I’m hungry.”

“Be thankful I’m bending this far.”

Nick sighed the sigh of the truly beleaguered, then chose a bag. Sid paid for it and the gas, then left to get the gas pumped. Nick followed him out.

The clerk, a heavy-set woman in a brightly colored blouse, laughed. “They eat so much at that age.”

“They do.” I chuckled, then noticed a stack of pamphlets next to the register. “Wow. That anti-nuclear thing must be pretty big up here.”

“Not really.” The clerk jerked her thumb across the street. “It’s the doctor across the street. Dr. Levinsky. He leaves the pamphlets here. I humor him.”

“Levinsky?” My eyebrows rose. “I think I’ve heard about him.”

The clerk rolled her eyes. “Everybody’s heard about him. He’s a good doctor, but what a wuss. He’s got all those crazies in that group of his and he can’t keep them under control.” She paused. “Don’t believe everything you hear about him. He is a good doctor.”

“That’s nice.” I smiled, then noticed Sid replacing the nozzle on the pump. “My spouse is done pumping. May I have the change, please?”

The clerk looked at me a little funny, but gave me the change from the cash Sid had given her.

“Well?” Sid asked as I settled into the front seat of the car.

I shook my head. “Nothing we haven’t already heard. Levinsky’s a good guy but can’t control some of the bad element that’s gotten into his group. She called him a wuss but said he’s a good doctor.”

We drove around the little town for a bit, then found a scenic overlook with a couple picnic tables. Conchetta had packed a truly awesome picnic. There were three different salads (green, chicken, and barley), a bunch of sandwiches, plenty of fruit and lots of iced tea, ice-cold water, and even a nicely chilled white wine hiding in a metal thermos. However, even I was a little shocked at how quickly Nick sucked up the lion’s share of the food. I held Nick back just long enough to be sure his father had all he wanted, got a decent serving for me, then let the boy eat. And he did. Sid was still finishing his lunch when Nick realized there wasn’t anything left, including the chips, then went running around the overlook.

“Maybe you should have bought that extra bag or two of chips,” I said, laughing.

“Maybe.” Sid’s eyes rolled, but then he started. “Son! Stay away from that edge.”

“It’s solid,” Nick called back.

“Do as I say.” Sid sighed and looked at me. “How is it you can love them to distraction and still want to pound the living daylights out of them?”

“I have no idea, darling. I just know we do.” Grinning, I rifled through the tan leather monster of a purse that I normally carry. “I’ve got some binoculars. We should be able to see the clinic from here.”

Sid nodded. I got the binoculars out and went near the edge of the overlook. I could sort of see the clinic, but it looked normal. There was a large corrugated steel shed behind the place. The shed had no windows or markings, so I couldn’t tell what it was or why it was there. I thought I saw something in the clinic’s window and stepped forward, hoping to see more.

Only Sid’s concern about the edge was more than valid. The ground gave way under my feet, and I felt myself sliding down. A small pine tree growing out of the side of the slope broke my fall. The binoculars bounced down the slope.

“Honey!” Sid hollered.

“Mom!”

“I’m okay,” I hollered back. Well, my left foot was feeling pretty sore, but that wasn’t that big a problem at the moment. “I’m just trying to figure out how I’m getting back up.”

“We’ve got a rope. Son! Stay back!”

The rope dropped reasonably close and with some stretching, I could reach it.

“Got it!” I called as I tied it around my waist.

The tension on the rope tightened immediately, and I slowly began the climb back up, wincing because my left foot was bare and it hurt, too. I looked behind me to see if I could find my deck shoe, but it had disappeared below the slope. As I crested the edge, Sid gave one good solid yank on the rope, then pulled me close into an embrace so tight I could barely breathe.

“I’m okay,” I said when I could.

Sid cursed. “You scared me.”

“Mom, your foot’s bleeding.”

I looked down. Blood covered the top of my bare foot along the outside edge.

“Shavings.” I tried to put my foot down and step on it. “Oh, man. It hurts, too.”

Sid scooped me up and sat me down at the picnic table. He grabbed some napkins and the thermos of water and cleaned my foot.

“Well, your foot isn’t swelling, and it looks like just a bad scrape.” He poured a little more water over my foot and dabbed at it some more.

I winced. “Honey. I have an idea. Why don’t I check out Levinsky firsthand? I’ve got an injury and there’s that black wig in the back and I have the ID to go with it.”

Sid made a face. “I was just thinking that we should get Dr. Kline to look at your foot. Alright. Let’s go.”

Inside the car, I double checked to be sure that I’d put the wallet with the appropriate ID in the inside pocket of my purse. I got the wig on and secured, then told Sid not to go into the doctor’s office with me. After all, he would be easily recognizable, especially with Nick in tow. So, I hobbled in on my own from the parking lot.

The receptionist was a medium-weight brunette with glasses and an attitude. The nameplate plate next to her read “Danelle Parks.”

“Have you seen the doctor before?” Parks glared at me.

“Uh, no.” I smiled weakly. “I just fell down this slope and messed up my foot. I was hoping since this is a clinic that I could get in and get it taken care of sooner rather than later.”

“You and everyone else.” Parks rolled her eyes, but picked up a clipboard with several forms on it. “You’ll need to fill these out. What insurance do you have?”

“We pay up front.” I glanced at the window that held the symbols of several credit cards. “I’ve got my credit card on me.”

“We’ll require a five-hundred-dollar deposit and I’ll have to run it now.”

“Fine.” I dug a card out of my wallet and gave it to her.

Sid and I do have insurance through the FBI. [Given the risks we ran for them, it was the least they could do. Which I’m sure was what they had in mind. – SEH] But since almost nobody accepts the plan we have, it’s easier to just pay for any treatment up front, then work on getting reimbursed. Which says a lot about how easy it isn’t to get our plan accepted.

Noting that there wasn’t anybody behind me, I spared myself the hassle of limping to the chairs and back and filled out the paperwork at the window. Parks glared at me a couple times but couldn’t really say anything. I snuck brief glances at her desk and didn’t see anything out of place or odd. However, I did see a flyer for Stop Nukes Now taped to the window between us.

“Boy, I’ve seen a lot of this anti-nuke stuff around here.”

Parks rolled her eyes yet again. “I’m not part of the group. I just work here.”

“Oh. Sorry.” I handed over the clipboard.

Parks glared at it, then handed it back to another woman behind the desk.

The woman wore a pink uniform and almost immediately went around the desk to the door leading to the treatment rooms.

“Hi, I’m Glynnis. You’re Diane, right?”

“Yeah,” I said, and hobbled after her into the hall.

She led me into an exam room with the standard bed/table and other stuff, including a rolling stool.

“So, you hurt your foot?”

“I slid down a slope.”

Glynnis looked at my foot. “That looks nasty. Good thing you came in.”

“Your receptionist doesn’t think so.”

“Please don’t mind her.” Glynnis laughed. “You’d be surprised how many people try to stiff Dr. Levinsky and she always takes it personally.”

“Dr. Levinsky? You mean the guy protesting that satellite?”

“The very same.” Glynnis laughed. “Not that any of us here have anything to do with that group. I don’t even know who’s in it. I like the idea that Dr. Levinsky is so devoted to his cause, and it’s a good cause. Seriously, do we want nuclear warheads in space?”

“No, I guess we don’t.”

She took my temperature and cooed over how low my blood pressure was, then told me that the doctor would be in shortly and left. The room was utterly normal for an exam room. I debated looking through the cupboards, but decided that could get me in trouble if Dr. Levinsky walked in while I was doing it. It was a good thing I didn’t. The doctor knocked on the door within a couple minutes of Glynnis leaving me.

“Come in,” I called.

Levinsky was on the short side of average height, with light brown hair ringing the shiny top of his head. He wore the traditional white coat over a blue dress shirt and black slacks.

“Ms. Chapel?” he asked, and I nodded. “Good to meet you. I understand you had a bit of a fall?”

“Yeah. I messed up my foot.” I put the foot in question out where he could see it.

“Hmm.” He gently picked my foot up and looked it over. “That’s a nasty scrape, but looks like the bleeding is already stopping. I don’t see any swelling, either. Can you twist it?”

I did. “Yeah. It just hurts walking on it.”

“I’ll bet.” He pressed it softly here and there. “I’m guessing it’s just a scrape, but let’s get an x-ray, just in case.”

He left a minute later, then the x-ray tech, a fresh young kid with brown hair and an earnest look, came in and helped me hobble to that room. We got the films made. I mentioned the anti-nuke group, and he said he didn’t know much about it. I didn’t get his name, unfortunately. He helped me back to the exam room, and I waited several minutes more. Dr. Levinsky knocked again, then came in when I said it was okay.

“Well,” he said, slapping the x-ray onto the light box on the wall. “There’s no sign of a fracture or anything. So, that’s good news. We’ll get this bandaged, then you stay off it for the next couple days.”

“Oh. I run every morning.”

Levinsky grinned. “That’s a good thing, but skip it for the next week or so until the scab falls off. As long as you can walk without pain, go ahead. But no running. And call your doctor if the pain gets any worse.”

“I can live with that.”

“I’ll have Glynnis come in and get you set up, then.”

He left and Glynnis was there within seconds to clean the scrape and get it bandaged. She even gave me a pair of crutches.

“You’ll only need these for a few days, but we’ve got some extras,” she told me.

I was not surprised to see the crutches on the itemized bill that Parks handed me as I left. I signed the charge slip and left the clinic. Sid pulled up within a minute, with Nick in the back seat munching on potato chips.

“Hey, can I have some of those?” I asked.

“Sure.” Nick handed me the bag.

“Well?” Sid asked.

“It’s just a nasty scrape.” I stuffed a couple chips into my mouth. “No breaks. I’m just using the crutches because he wants me to stay off the foot for the time being.”

Sid winced, but let it go.

“And no running for a week.” I handed the chip bag back to Nick.

“I’m not surprised.” Sid sent me an annoyed grin. “I’ll bet that’s breaking your heart.”

“Not really.”

“Anything else?”

I shrugged. “He seems like a nice, decent guy, and a fairly good doctor. The staff has no connection to the anti-nuke group, although the nurse is sympathetic. Nothing else to say.”

Sid sighed. “In short, everything we expected.”

“I’m afraid so.” I looked down at my bare left foot and sighed.

“What’s wrong?”

“No more deck shoes.”

I could see Sid biting his tongue. He hated those deck shoes and could never figure out why I was so attached to them. At least, he was decent enough to not sigh too loudly when I put the lone shoe, which had also sprouted a hole that day, back into my section of our closet after I’d gotten undressed for the night.

“We’ll get you a new pair this weekend,” he said, sliding his arm across my shoulder. “We’ve got to take Nick out to get clothes, anyway.”

“Thanks.” I put on a smile and nodded.

“You still seem upset.”

I left the closet. “I’m not sure why, but I’m feeling a real loss.”

“I’m not surprised.” Sid tossed his silk boxer shorts into the hamper and followed me from the big walk-in closet into the bathroom. “You’ve been holding up for Nick for the past three days. It’s probably getting to you.”

“That’s probably it.” I smiled at him again and got out the toothpaste and dental floss.

Thank you for reading. For more information about the Operation Quickline series, click here.

Please check out the Fiction page for the latest on all my novels. Or look me up at your favorite independent bookstore. Mine is Vroman’s, in Pasadena, California.

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