With a nurse standing outside, Gemma and Max quietly enter the hospital room that reeks of rubbing alcohol. They can see that Rhonda is resting, the former bridesmaid handcuffed to the bed for her own safety. Large bandages are around her head after she briefly woke up to tear out most of her hair, a few remaining wisps hanging limp by her ears. The remains of a simple breakfast is on a tray, complete with a half-eaten cup of pudding that is a sickly green. Rhonda’s is getting an intravenous drug that is marked as a tranquilizer, but the bag is nearly empty. The woman’s dried lips move to mouth words that cannot be heard until Gemma gets close enough to lean over the bed. The detective pulls back as soon as she hears the repeated words and notices that the patient’s fingers are twitching rapidly. With a violent shudder, Rhonda bangs her knees against the tray and opens her eyes, which go directly to her visitors’ badges.
“Are you here to arrest me?” she asks in a strained voice. The medicine has made her mouth dry, so she carefully reaches for a thermos of water. “Now that I’m awake, I can be put on trial for my crimes. See how I don’t even deny it. I know exactly what I did even though I couldn’t tell you why. I loved Bridget and liked everyone else there. There’s no reason I would have hurt them, but I know what I did.”
“Let’s start this over again,” Max says with a warm smile. He steps outside, knocks, and comes back in while flashing his badge. “Hello, my name is Max Boros and this is Gemma Cook. We’re working your case and wanted to ask you a few questions about that night. It is important that you know what we’ve learned about the situation. You were drugged by one of the hotel’s cooks who had a grudge with the bride’s husband-to-be. He claimed to have laced all of your drinks and food, which led to your psychotic episode. His former employer is paying for all of your medical bills and your friends’ funerals. She sends her best wishes and hopes you make a full recovery.”
“Dawn Addison is paying for all of this?” Gemma whispers, suspicious of the unexpected news. Pushing her hatred of the hotelier out of her mind, she takes a seat next to the bed and meets Rhonda’s wide-eyed stare. “The drug tests are still pending, but the cook admitted to the crime as soon as it was found. So we are treating you as a victim and not a suspect. As my partner wrote in your file, you were mentally compromised.”
Rhonda tries to sit up, but a jolting pain in her lower back causes her to twist beneath her blankets. “Why didn’t the others get violent like me? They were completely normal, but we all had the same things. I mean, I was having different drinks than them, but shouldn’t they have been acting strangely? Sorry. It’s hard to believe what you’re telling me considering everything I saw and did.”
“Drugs effect people differently,” Max states, adjusting his glasses. With a heavy sigh, he grabs another chair and moves it to sit at the foot of the bed. “We don’t want to take up too much of your time. If you could tell us what happened then we’ll be on our way. No matter how small or strange the detail, we would like to know.”
Drinking more water, Rhonda tries to move the arm that is cuffed to the bed. Staring at the polished manacle, she can feel a headache brewing behind her heads. A loud beep from the intravenous machine makes the woman jump and she turns to see that the bag has run out of medicine. She is about to call a nurse, but stops before even reaching for the button. Stirring the remains of her pudding cup, she struggles to recall every detail of the massacre. Her appetite is gone when she remembers the taste of her friend, which returns to her tongue and makes her stomach twist. Looking from Max to Gemma, the traumatized woman lets herself cry long enough to gain enough strength to speak.
“Things were going normally until Bridget went to hide in the bathroom,” Rhonda explains while wiping her eyes. One of her tears is crimson, the blood drying quickly against her pale skin. “The stripper was starting another song while I got myself another drink. I looked outside to see a raven on the balcony railing. The bird disappeared for a minute before returning to slam into the door and drop dead. It scared all of us, but I began laughing. A man’s voice was in my head and it was telling me that nobody appreciated me. I was looked down upon and didn’t fit in, so I should kill them. Soon after I started attacking the others, the voice changed to that of a woman who kept telling me that I deserved Bridget. She said if I ate her then she would never leave me and it made sense at the time. The best way to explain it is that I had control over my actions, but I didn’t. Not sure that makes any sense.”
“It does prove you weren’t of sound mind,” Gemma points out while she writes notes on a small pad. She pulls out her cellphone and scrolls through several videos until she stops at one that has Dawn’s voice. “There have been many incidents at Heaven’s Nest. You’re actually the first witness and living victim that we’ve had. I’m apologize in advance if this is too forward, but could you listen to this? This is a woman we think may be responsible, so I wonder if she’s the voice you heard.”
“How is that even possible?” asks the woman, her breathing becoming ragged. She scratches at an itch on her neck while sweat pours down her face. “The voice was in my head. If it was over an intercom then everyone would have heard it.”
“True, but it’s possible she planted a bug on you,” Max replies, struggling to cover his partner’s odd request. Seeing doubt in the patient’s face, he clears his throat and leans forward with a smile. “It’s very high tech and sounds like it would be fictional. Yet, it’s possible this woman slipped a tiny bug into your hair. Given how much you drank, you’d never notice and she could whisper to you as a voice in your head. The worst that happens here is that Detective Cook makes a fool of herself.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“Thank you for your vote of confidence, old man.”
“Let me get some water first.”
“Are you feeling well? Your face is really red.”
With a violent cough, Rhonda spews blood and bangs her head against the tray, which gets a metal fork stuck in her forehead. The medicine bag is rapidly inflating and deflating, the movement sending air into the patient’s veins. A maddening cackle erupts from the woman’s blood-dripping mouth as she pulls the fork free. She runs the tines around her cheeks with enough force to leave oozing cuts, her eyes darting from one detective to another. Not wanting to be stopped, Rhonda kicks the tray into Gemma and pulls her legs away from Max. Two nurses rush into the room with tranquilizers and approach to restrain the thrashing patient. Before they can pounce on her, the woman licks her lips and swings her arm back. The fork drives into an empty outlet and a burst of electricity explodes out of the wall. With a gurgled laugh, Rhonda feels her heart explode and she collapses in the bed. Steam wafts off her body, which is covered in patches of blackened skin.
“What the hell happened?” Max asks, his voice changing from anger to confusion. He jumps back when the body’s clenched mouth opens to reveal a cooked tongue. “Who uses metal utensils in a hospital? How did the bag do that with the air? Can an outlet really carry that much power? Somebody please answer one of my questions.”
“We’ll leave you to take care of this,” Gemma tells the nurses, who are frozen by the horrific sight and barrage of questions. Guiding her partner into the hallway, she refuses to let go of his arm no matter how much he struggles. “You and I need to share our notes. Preferably in a place with fresh air. A lot of strange stuff has happened at Heaven’s Nest since last we talked. If you really need an answer to your questions, there wasn’t a metal fork there when we first arrived and I have no idea about the other two things. Are you still with me on this, old man, or do you want out?”
“I’m only staying on this case to help you, slightly younger woman,” he answers before taking a relaxing breath. They are both hesitant to get on the elevator, but the urge to get outside drives them forward. “I do have more on Dawn Addison. By the way, what was that woman whispering when we came in?”
“Never any fun in normal.”
“Odd phrase. What does it mean?”
“That things are escalating.”