The Naked Face / Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Eighteen


Loading...

THE HOSPITAL ROOM was different, but the nurse was the same. A glaring bundle of disapproval. Seated at his bedside, she was the first thing that Judd saw when he opened his eyes.

"Well. We're up," she said primly. "Dr. Harris wants to see you. I'll tell him we're awake." She walked stiffly out of the room.

Judd sat up, moving carefully. Arm and leg reflexes a bit slow, but unimpaired. He tried focusing on a chair across the room, one eye at a time. His vision was a little blurred.

"Want a consultation?"

He looked up. Dr. Seymour Harris had come into the room.

"Well," Dr. Harris said cheerfully, "you're turning out to be one of our best customers. Do you know how much your stitching bill alone is? We're going to have to give you discount rates... How did you sleep, Judd?" He sat down on the edge of the bed.

"Like a baby. What did you give me?"

"A shot of sodium luminol."

"What time is it?"

"Noon. "

"My God," Judd said. "I've got to get out of here."

Dr. Harris removed the chart from the clipboard he carried. "What would you like to talk about first? Your concussion? Lacerations? Contusions?"

"I feel fine."

The doctor put the chart aside. His voice grew serious. "Judd, your body's taken a lot of punishment. More than you realize. If you're smart, you'll stay right in this bed for a few days and rest. Then you'll take a vacation for a month."

"Thanks, Seymour," Judd said.

"You mean thanks, but - no, thanks."

"There's something I have to take care of."

Dr. Harris sighed. "Do you know who make the worst patients in the world? Doctors." He changed the subject, conceding defeat. "Peter was here all night. He's been calling every hour. He's worried about you. He thinks someone tried to kill you last night."

"You know how doctors are - overimaginative."

Harris eyed him a moment, shrugged, then said, "You're the analyst. I'm only Ben Casey. Maybe you know what you're doing - but I wouldn't bet a nickel on it. Are you sure you won't stay in bed a few days?"

"I can't."

"OK, Tiger. I'll let you leave tomorrow."

Judd started to protest, but Dr. Harris cut him off.

"Don't argue. Today's Sunday. The guys who beat you up need a rest."

"Seymour..."

"Another thing. I hate to sound like a Jewish mother, but have you been eating lately?"

"Not much," Judd said.

"OK. I'm giving Miss Bedpan twenty-four hours to fatten you up. And Judd..."

"Yes?"

"Be careful. I hate to lose such a good customer." And Dr. Harris was gone.

Judd closed his eyes to rest a moment. He heard the rattle of dishes, and when he looked up, a beautiful Irish nurse was wheeling in a dining tray.

"You're awake, Dr. Stevens." She smiled.

"What time is it?"

"Six o'clock."

He had slept the day away.

She was placing the food on his bed tray. "You're having a treat tonight - turkey. Tomorrow's Christmas Eve."

"I know." He had no appetite for dinner until he took the first bite and suddenly discovered that he was ravenous. Dr. Harris had shut off all phone calls, so he lay in bed, undisturbed, gathering his strength, marshaling the forces within him. Tomorrow he would need all the energy he could muster.

At ten o'clock the next morning Dr. Seymour Harris bustled into Judd's room. "How's my favorite patient?" He beamed. "You look almost human."

"I feel almost human," smiled Judd.

"Good. You're going to have a visitor. I wouldn't want you to scare him."

Peter. And probably Norah. They seemed to be spending most of their time lately visiting him in hospitals.

Dr. Harris went on. "It's a Lieutenant McGreavy."

Judd's heart sank.

"He's very anxious to talk to you. He's on his way over here. He wanted to be sure you were awake."

So he could arrest him. With Angeli home sick, McGreavy had been free to manufacture evidence that would convict Judd. Once McGreavy got his hands on him, there was no hope. He had to escape before McGreavy arrived.

"Would you ask the nurse to get the barber?" Judd said. "I'd like a shave." His voice must have sounded odd, because Dr. Harris was looking at him strangely. Or was that because of something McGreavy had told Dr. Harris about him?

"Certainly, Judd." He left.

The moment the door closed, Judd got out of bed and stood up. The two nights of sleep had done miracles for him. He was a little unsteady on his feet, but that would pass. Now he had to move quickly. It took him three minutes to dress.

He opened the door a crack, made sure that no one was around who would try to stop him, and headed for the service stairs. As he started down the stairs, the elevator door opened and he saw McGreavy get off and start toward the room he had just left. He was moving swiftly, and behind him were a uniformed policeman and two detectives. Quickly, Judd went down the stairs and headed for the ambulance entrance. A block away from the hospital he hailed a taxi.

McGreavy walked into the hospital room and took one look at the unoccupied bed and the empty closet. "Fan out," he said to the others. "You might still catch him." He scooped up the phone. The operator connected him with the police switchboard. "This is McGreavy," he said rapidly. "I want an all-points bulletin put out. Urgent... Dr. Stevens, Judd, Male. Caucasian. Age..."

The taxi pulled up in front of Judd's office building. From now on, there was no safety for him anywhere. He could not go back to his apartment. He would have to check into some hotel. Returning to his office was dangerous, but it had to be done this once.

He needed a phone number.

He paid the driver and walked into the lobby. Every muscle in his body ached. He moved quickly. He knew he had very little time. It was unlikely that they would be expecting him to return to his office, but he must take no chances. It was now a question of who got him first. The police or his assassins.

When he reached his office, he opened the door and went inside, locking the door after him. The inner office seemed strange and hostile, and Judd knew that he could not treat his patients here any longer. He would be subjecting them to too much danger. He was filled with anger at what Don Vinton was doing to his life. He could visualize the scene that must have occurred when the two brothers went back and reported that they had failed to kill him. If he had read Don Vinton's character correctly, he would have been in a towering rage. The next attack would come at any moment.

Judd went across the room to get Anne's phone number. For he had remembered two things in the hospital.

Some of Anne's appointments were scheduled just ahead of John Hanson's.

And Anne and Carol had had several chats together; Carol might have innocently confided some deadly information to Anne. If so, she could be in danger.

He took his address book out of a locked drawer, looked up Anne's phone number, and dialed. There were three rings, and then a neutral voice came on.

"This is a special operator. What number are you calling, please?"

Judd gave her the number. A few moments later the operator was back on the line. "I am sorry. You are calling a wrong number. Please check your directory or consult Information."

"Thank you," Judd said. He hung up. He sat there a moment, remembering what his answering service had said a few days ago. They had been able to reach all his patients except Anne. The numbers could have been transposed when they were put in the book. He looked in the telephone directory, but there was no listing under her husband's name or her name. He suddenly felt that it was very important that he talk to Anne. He copied down her address: 617 Woodside Avenue, Bayonne, New Jersey.

Fifteen minutes later, he was at an Avis counter, renting a car. There was a sign behind the counter that read: "We're second, so we try harder." We're in the same boat, thought Judd.

A few minutes later, he drove out of the garage. He rode around the block, satisfied himself that he was not being followed, and headed over the George Washington Bridge for New Jersey.

When he reached Bayonne, he stopped at a filling station to ask directions. "Next corner and make a left - third street."

"Thanks." Judd drove off. At the thought of seeing Anne again, his heart began to quicken. What was he going to say to her without alarming her? Would her husband be there?

Judd made a left turn onto Woodside Avenue. He looked at the numbers. He was in the nine hundred block. The houses on both sides of the street were small, old, and weatherbeaten. He drove to the seven hundred block. The houses seemed to become progressively older and smaller.

Anne lived on a beautiful wooded estate. There were virtually no trees here. When Judd reached the address Anne had given him, he was almost prepared for what he saw.

617 was a weed-covered vacant lot.


Prev Next
Loading...