Ruby received permission from Lady Beth to visit Ethel in the hospital when she finished administering the Tuesday morning antibiotic and had assisted Lord Andrei with his morning care. She now stood outside Patty’s cottage, waiting for Sammy to pick her up.
“Where are you, Patty?” she said basically to herself because there was no evidence that Patty had been around since yesterday morning. Her car had not been moved and when she looked in through the windows, things were unchanged. A coffee cup still sat in the same spot on the dining room table and all the windows were closed. And Patty had never gotten her bag from the bedchamber so she had to be somewhere on the large estate.
Ruby notified the nursing agency and told them Patty was missing. They said that Lady Beth had already called and said Patty was nowhere to be found and that the both of them were terminated for abandoning the patient. Even though Ruby explained the circumstances, the agency was not happy. So much for that job, but who cares, she did not want to work as a nurse, anyway. Regrettably, it did make going into the castle and finding Alan an urgent matter.
The only good news was that Tabitha was pregnant and everyone was excited. The baby was due in February and everyone was guessing the gender. Ed wanted a boy to carry on the Collingwood family name. Tabitha wanted a girl so that she could buy cute dresses; she even had a rather unusual name picked out, Mairona. Ruby did not care if it was a boy or a girl. Like everyone always says, as long as it is healthy, that is all that matters.
Ruby heard a car laboring up the winding driveway; it was Sammy. She walked away from the lonely little house and stood where he would see her. He pulled into Patty’s driveway and Ruby got inside the car.
“Have you found her yet?” Sammy said. He backed out of the driveway and began the descent down Monks Hill, never taking his foot off of the brake.
Ruby sighed. “No, not yet.”
“Maybe you should file a missing persons’ report.”
“That sounds like a good idea; it has been twenty-four hours.”
“That’s only on television. Missing persons’ reports can be filled anytime.”
“Really? You’re so smart, Sammy.”
He blushed and Ruby smiled.
Sammy pulled on his shirt collar and glanced at Ruby. “So, what’s our first stop?”
“I guess the police station and then we’ll go to the hospital.”
“Then we can get something to eat.”
“Sounds good to me.”
Sammy pulled onto the road and drove toward the police department. “When are we going to look for Alan?”
“I’ve been thinking about this,” Ruby said. “At first, I thought tonight might be good, but what if Lord Andrei needs something? I don’t want anything to happen to him so it’s best if you come out tomorrow after the doctor leaves. I have until evening to pack my things and get the heck out of the place.”
“Did you think about how you’re going to get me into the house?”
“I’ll sneak you into the house and then we’ll go down the forbidden wing. I figure that if you come out around noon—I’ll text you the time—that should give us a few hours to find him.”
“Won’t they be wondering where you’re at? I mean, your stuff will still be in your room but you won’t be.”
“My job officially ends after the doctor leaves so I thought that I would get my things out to the car—without them noticing—just in case we’re late and they lock everything up before I can get back into my room.”
“Sounds like a flawed plan to me.” Sammy chuckled.
“It’s the only plan I have.”
Sammy slowed the car and pulled into the police station’s parking lot. He craned his neck to see what people were pointing at.
“What’s going on?”
Sammy parked the car. “I don’t know.”
They got out of the car and looked to where a small group of people was focusing their attention.
“Oh my gosh,” Ruby said. “There are people on top of the courthouse.”
Across the street were three people hanging from the courthouse’s Italian Renaissance clock tower and copper cupola watching the people below.
“Are they repairing the clock?” Sammy said, adjusting his T-shirt.
“They don’t look like repairmen to me.”
“It’s a gag, then,” Sammy said, rushing Ruby to the front door of the police station.
Sammy held the door open for Ruby as they walked into the busy lobby and stood at the back of the long line. A baby was crying, kids were running around, and two men looked as though they were about to get into a fistfight.
“It’s a madhouse in here,” Ruby whispered.
Sammy nodded. “I wonder why.”
“I don’t know, but it’s hot in here.” Ruby ran a hand across her moist forehead. “I don’t think their air conditioning is working very well.”
After spending nearly thirty minutes shooing away flies and listening to sighs of frustration, they finally reached the front desk.
The officer took Ruby’s information and then said, “We’ve been swamped with reports of missing persons but we’ll keep an eye out for your friend.”
Ruby thanked him and they left the jailhouse. They looked at the clock tower as they walked down the sidewalk.
“They’re gone,” Sammy said, watching the last car leave the courthouse parking lot.
“Look! There are people running over there,” Ruby said, pointing toward a grocery store a couple blocks away.
“Let’s get out of here,” Sammy said, taking Ruby’s hand.
When they got to the car, Sammy wasted no time driving out of the lot and toward the hospital. All along the way there were small areas of agitated people either running, shouting, or pointing.
“What is happening around here?” Ruby said.
“I think we need to get on that ferry and get the hell out of here.”
“I have no problem with that, but I have to find Alan first. Sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry,” Sammy said, accelerating against the flow of traffic. “We’re not the only people with that idea. Most of the cars are heading toward the ferry instead of away from it.”
“I only have one more day to go and then I can leave,” Ruby said. “You can go back to the mainland if you want because there’s definitely something bad going on here.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Ruby, I’m not leaving you,” he said. “We have a plan to carry out.”
Ruby was grateful, and relieved, for Sammy’s commitment to helping her. “Thank you, Sammy. You’re the best friend anyone could ever have.”
Ruby and Sammy walked into Ethel’s hospital room. A nurse and aide had just finished turning her so that she faced the window. Ethel did not open her eyes or respond to the repositioning, but at least the dressing on her head was dry and the intravenous fluids and oxygen seemed to be keeping her comfortable. She looked like a different woman dressed in a hospital gown rather than her gypsy clothes.
“How’s she doing?” Ruby asked the nurse.
“She’s stable,” the nurse said as she smoothed the sheet over Ethel’s shoulders and placed the call button near her hand. “Are you family?”
“We’re friends,” Ruby said.
The nurse’s phone rang; she took it from her pocket and answered it. “This is Alice . . . Okay, I’ll be right there.”
“It looks pretty busy around here,” Ruby said.
“It is. Our floor is full; we can’t take any more admissions.”
“Is it because of what’s going on outside?”
Alice’s phone rang again. She nodded in agreement as she answered the call and walked out of the room.
Ruby saw a notepad and pen on the overbed table where visitors had been leaving messages. She left a note for Ethel wishing her well and letting her know that she and Sammy had been there.
“Are those people on the water tower?” Sammy said. “Or am I just seeing things?”
Ruby looked out the window. “I can’t tell for sure, it’s too far away. But it does look like something’s on it. This is some weird island.”
The both of them turned their attention back inside the room. It was quiet at the bedside but outside in the hallway people were rushing about. Then they heard people talking outside the door, referencing Ethel’s room number.
“I feel bad about what happened to three-twenty-three’s friend who was here yesterday?”
“That was Fran, I know her. She owns The Feathered Peacock. I can’t believe she’s dead.”
“I can’t believe how she died. The newspaper didn’t report everything, but I heard all her blood was sucked out.”
“Yes, it happened again.”
Ruby and Sammy looked at each other. They were horrified by what they were hearing. Fran was dead by some very unusual circumstances.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” Sammy blurted out. “I went to the library and found out what the words Ethel was saying were.”
Ruby wiped tears from her eyes. “What was she saying?”
“Ah, I don’t remember the foreign words, but what she said was,” he paused. “Relic, danger, beware, and . . . vampire.”
Ruby’s moist eyes widened. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“I’m thinking those are vampires out there and we need to go to the Church and talk to Father.”
“I agree. We need a relic to take with us tomorrow when we search for Alan.”
“Okay, then. Our next stop is Sacred Heart.”