The Sculptress

The Sculptress

by John K. Potter

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781452095905
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 12/29/2010
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.65(d)

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THE SCULPTRESS


By John K. Potter

AuthorHouse

Copyright © 2010 John K. Potter
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4520-9590-5


Chapter One

Alone hooded figure struggled against the fierce, icy cold wind which blew along Liberty Street. His hands were stuck in the pockets of his long army surplus coat and his head was covered with an olive drab watch cap and a scarf. It was nearly three that December afternoon in Cincinnati, and it was getting dark fast.

As he plodded around the corner, he saw a coffee shop with its lights on. It was open on Christmas eve. He peered in the window. There appeared to be only one waitress in an otherwise empty shop.

He opened the door and the nasty wind followed him in.

"Shut the damned door! This ain't no barn!" the waitress yelled from the far end of the long counter.

He managed to get the door shut and went to a stool at the counter. "May I have a cup of coffee, please?" he asked in a raspy voice muffled by the long scarf around his neck which covered most of his face.

"I'm closin' in ten minutes, so you better drink up fast," the waitress said as she poured the coffee in a white ceramic mug and carried it toward him.

She was middle aged, a bit on the heavy side with scraggly hair and no make-up. She limped a bit as she set the coffee down in front of him. He reached into the pocket of his coat pulled out a dollar bill and laid it on the counter.

"It's a buck fifty," she said angrily.

He looked at her over the tops of his squinting eyes. Slowly, he pulled another dollar from his pocket and hesitantly laid it beside the other dollar.

"And take off your hat. Ain't you got any manners?"

He pulled off his stocking cap but kept the scarf around his face. He lifted the mug to his lips under the scarf and took a sip.

"What the hell?" the waitress said. "It ain't that cold in here."

He continued to sip the coffee. As it went down, he felt better and better. A cold chill ran down his back but he only shivered slightly.

After he finished the coffee, he held up the mug, "May I have another cup, please?"

The waitress, who was washing a few dishes behind the counter, looked up. She shrugged and took the mug from him and went to the coffee urn and re-filled it. He laid another two dollars down as she approached and put the mug down. She stared at him for a moment than reached across the counter and pulled the scarf away from his face. She swallowed a scream, and backed away. "Get out! You freak! Get out!" she yelled.

His eyes narrowed. He slowly wrapped the scarf around his face and took a long, slow sip of coffee. She watched him drinking and suddenly slapped the mug out of his hand. Hot coffee flew all over the place.

He stood up and brushed the coffee from his dirty coat. She put her hands on her hips and said, "Now get the hell out, freak!"

He turned to leave, but then, like a cat, whirled around and dove across the counter. He grabbed her by the throat, picked her up by her hair and slammed her head down on the counter time and time again. All the time he kept repeating, "Freak, freak, freak."

Finally, certain she was dead, he threw her on the floor behind the counter. He calmly walked to the cash register, opened it, took out what little money there was, and put it in his pocket. He picked up his cap from the counter, put it on, wiped his fingerprints from the cup, re-wrapped the scarf around his face, and walked back out into the howling storm.

Chapter Two

Three weeks later, on a cold, calm night in January, the emergency room of University Hospital was quiet. No patients were waiting, and the doctors and nurses were doing odd jobs cleaning up and preparing for the next patients to arrive. It was very quiet, and everyone was moving at a leisurely pace. Dr. Jameson, a tall young man with a goatee, the chief resident on duty, was talking with Mrs. Mayberry of admissions about his last day off when in the distance they both heard the siren at the same time. Their faces turned cold as stone. "Well," Dr. Jameson said as he looked at his watch, "no patients for two hours and six minutes. A new record." He went to the ER computer station and checked the incoming patient's symptoms/injuries, as sent by the EMT of record on board the ambulance so he could be well prepared for the arrival of the patient.

The siren grew louder and the staff began the routine they had followed since they came on duty. Two nurses prepared an examining room and Dr. Jameson and Dr. Harley walked slowly toward the sliding glass doors that led to the ambulance entrance.

Seconds later, an ambulance screeched to a halt a few feet from the sliding glass doors and an EMT jumped out of the front seat and ran back toward the rear of the vehicle. Dr. Harley grabbed a gurney sitting by the door just in case. The driver and the EMT had the back doors open and another EMT helped get the ambulance gurney out and raise the legs. A woman lay on the stretcher, her head was swathed in bloody bandages and a IV bottle with its life line to the patient was handed to Dr. Jameson.

"A head-on. She wasn't wearing a seat belt. Maximum trauma to the face, a broken left shoulder and possible concussion," the lead EMT explained as they wheeled the woman into the emergency room.

A man climbed out of the back of the ambulance. His face was bleeding, and he was limping. Dr. Harley took his arm. "How's my wife?" the man asked.

"We'll find out in just a few minutes, sir. We should see to your injuries."

"Not yet," the man yelled. "I want to know if she's ..."

"Please, sir. Dr. Jameson is the best. Try to be patient."

In the examining room, Dr. Jameson took one look at the woman's face and winced. It was bad. "Nurse, have we a plastic surgeon on call?"

"No, sir."

Mr. Wilson, the woman's husband, threw open the curtains to the examining room and looked at his wife then to Dr. Jameson. "I want the best. The very best!"

Dr. Judith Worth was speaking to about a hundred students and faculty in a large auditorium at the University of Cincinnati. She wore a St. John knit black suit with white piping. Her raven black hair was cut in a severe pageboy. Her facial features, high cheek bones, small straight nose, full lips and striking brown eyes were both subtle and exact. She was a beautiful woman with a slender figure. Her poise and self-confidence revealed a patrician woman with a very classy style. Using a laser pointer beam, she pointed out the various sectors in the jaw on a large screen in back of her. As she spoke, she identified the areas most vulnerable to disease.

Suddenly, her cell phone on the lectern rang. At first she tried to ignore it, but finally excused herself to the audience, turned her back to the crowd and answered it. "Yes." she said in a controlled voice. A pause then she said in a loud stage whisper, "Damnit, I'm in the middle of a very important lecture. Well, ice her down and I'll be there when I'm finished here. Pause. No, don't do that, just follow my instructions. Ice her down and stabilize her." She snapped the phone closed, straightened her shoulders and turned back to the audience. "Now where were we?"

"Well?" asked Mr. Wilson.

"She's coming right away," Dr. Jameson said. "Now if you don't mind, sir, we have to get your wife ready for surgery."

Twenty minutes later, Judith apologized that she could not take questions from the audience and left the building. She climbed into her red MBZ convertible and sped off toward the hospital. She hated interruptions like this.

She came into the hospital using the doctors' back entrance and went immediately to the locker room next to the operating room section of the fifth floor. She put on scrubs, took a deep breath and took the elevator down to the Emergency Room area.

Dr. Harley saw her getting off the elevator and warned Dr. Jameson. "She doesn't look happy."

Dr. Jameson nodded. She never does, he thought. "Good evening Dr. Worth. The patient is stable and in room One-A."

Judith nodded and passed right by him.

Mr. Wilson saw Judith coming and walked up to her. "Dr. Worth, I'm so glad you finally got here. Maxine is suffering so."

Judith didn't like this man at all, but turned on her pre-programmed charm, "You are her husband?"

"Herbert Wilson."

"Mr. Wilson, I assure you that she has been and will continue to be in very capable hands. We'll alleviate her suffering as soon as possible. Now if you'll excuse me," Judith brushed him aside and walked into the examining room. She nodded to one of the nurses, "Get that man away from here and keep him away. Now let's see what the problem is."

Chapter Three

Harry Ferral walked into the all-too-familiar copy room of the Cincinnati Enquirer and made his way through the maze of desks, computer stands, and reporters all talking at the same time until he came to his desk. It was neat as a pin, but not because of him. Dan Folley's secretary, Lisa, had straightened up the usually crammed desktop, taken the stories Harry had been working on and distributed them among the other reporters on the city desk per Dan's directions. Harry stared down at his desk and slowly shook his head. Then he looked over at Dan's glass door in the corner of the room. Dan was on the phone. He was always on the phone. Harry put his portable computer on his desk and headed toward Dan's office.

Lisa's desk was strategically situated to block the entrance to Dan's office. When Harry approached, she stood up. Harry stopped in front of her desk. "It's great to have you back, Harry," she said holding out her hand.

Harry took her hand and in true continental style raised it and kissed it gently. His eyes never left her eyes. "Thank you, Lisa. Is the master available?"

"Yes. He's anxious to see you. Go right in," she said. She watched as the tall, thin reporter stopped in front of his boss's door. He was handsome, she thought, in a rugged sort of way, and his eyes were always so blue. He'd make a good catch for some woman.

Harry opened the door and peered in. Dan, who was still on the phone, nodded to Harry and motioned for him to come in.

"... and one other thing, Forester," Dan was saying, "I want details. The last time I sent you out, you came back confused. Take fucking notes!" Dan slammed the phone down. "I hate cubbies." Dan pushed his very overweight body up from his chair behind his cluttered desk, went around it and shook Harry's hand. "Damn, I missed you, Harry. How are things?"

Harry didn't know what to say - lonely, sad, angry. He was all of those things and more. What can you say when your wife dies suddenly right in front of your eyes? One minute Diane was waving at him across the street, the next second she stepped in front of a bus and was killed instantly.

Harry forced a smile, "Getting better, Dan. Thanks for all your help and understanding."

"We'll miss Diane, too, Harry."

"Thanks."

"Ready to go back to work? Or do you need some more time?"

More time to be alone, more time to replay that awful afternoon, and more time to blame yourself? he thought. Harry shook his head. "No, I need to get back to work."

Dan nodded and motioned for Harry to sit in the straight-back chair in front of his desk as he returned to his chair. "That story you were working on about the mayor's assistant taking bribes was wrapped up last week. He resigned. He didn't admit guilt, but we all know he was taking them. It was your terrific leg work that turned the trick, Harry, and we gave you a co-byline. Did you see it?"

Harry shook his head.

"No matter, it didn't have your style anyway." Dan paused a moment. "Harry, you're one of the best investigative reporters I know. I trust your instincts. But, I don't have anything at the moment to give you. You have any ideas?"

"Sorry, my head is empty. Give me a few days."

"You got it. Get out and see what you can find in the streets. Oh, and by the way, they still haven't solved that serial killer thing. A waitress bit the dust on Liberty Street in the Over-The-Rhine District. These damned killings have been going on a long time."

"Four years, as I recall," Harry said. "But, Dan, I'm not looking for a police beat ..."

Dan held up his hand to stop Harry. "I know. I know, and I wasn't about to assign you to one. It was just something off the top of my head," he said with a wry smile that accented his small, black eyes.

"Right," Harry said, knowing full well that Dan was trying to get him to work on the killings.

Dan shrugged and got up. "Well, let's see what a few days on the street will dredge up."

Harry stood. "I'll report in when I think I've got something."

"Do that. And again, Harry, we're all so very sorry about Diane."

Harry nodded and left Dan's office. He felt drained. He picked up his laptop computer and kept on walking out of the bullpen. He needed air.

He went across the street and down two blocks to a hole-in-the-wall bar where several of his reporter friends hung out and ordered a beer. When it came, he changed his mind and got a cup of coffee. The place was empty and that's the way he was feeling. The battered TV up over the grill was on and he looked up to see the credits for the morning news. News Director Bill Collins it read. Bill was his old friend and roommate at Columbia. He hadn't seen Bill since Diane's funeral. He pulled out his cell phone, called the station, and made a date for lunch with Bill.

Harry arrived at the station fifteen minutes early and the receptionist called Bill. He'd be a few minutes. Harry sat down in one of the overstuffed leather chairs in the lobby and stared blankly at the screen. The Laura Blake Show was on. It was a talk show and Laura was interviewing two city councilwomen about the Over-The Rhine District. As he sat back, he became tuned in on the conversation and was caught up by the intriguing interview technique Laura used. It was a combination of "good cop-bad cop" with Laura playing both roles. The conversation was lively and became heated over the newly-enacted law regarding smoking and college students. Laura managed to get both sides of the issue out of the women before having to close the discussion as time ran out.

Harry was engrossed in the program and didn't notice that Bill had come up behind him. "She's quite a talent, don't you think?" Bill asked.

Bill's question surprised Harry. He quickly turned and looked up at Bill standing over him. "Is she new?"

"Yep, started three weeks ago and already her ratings are higher than the show that was in that slot."

Harry stood up and shook Bill's hand. "Thanks for seeing me on such short notice."

"No problem. "

"Ready?"

"If you don't mind, Harry, I asked Laura to join us. Or rather I asked Laura if she'd mind if you joined us. She asked first."

Harry was disappointed, but maybe it was for the better. "Sure."

A minute later, Laura emerged from the door leading to the studio. She was tall, slim, sported a great figure, and had an air of confidence which showed as she walked toward the two men. Her silky blond hair swung in rhythm with her steps, and her smile was warm and friendly. As she approached, she held out her hand, "So you're Harry Ferral. Bill was right, you are a handsome devil."

Her remarks caught Harry off guard. He didn't know what to say as he shook her hand. Her grip was firm and her grey eyes looked straight into his. He managed to say, "Bill exaggerates a lot."

Laura let go of his hand and stepped back two steps, tilted her head, and said, "Not this time."

Bill laughed, Harry shrugged and Laura nodded. They went to lunch at Jeff Ruby's. They talked about everything but Diane's death. Harry found that Laura was not only smart, but she had a great sense of humor. He also found talking with her easy, as if they'd known each other for a long time. Laura was from Cincinnati, a graduate of Ohio State, and a divorcee. "It was one of those college romances that escalated way too fast," she explained. "He was a senior and a big man on campus, and I was a lowly freshman. I think he married me because he couldn't get into my pants without a ring. It lasted a whole six days. We were in bed when the door to our bedroom came crashing in and three members of a SWAT team stood over the bed with their guns pointed at us. The next minute a couple of DEA Agents came in and arrested him. It seems that he was a major dealer on campus, and was wanted for killing a guy in Peoria, Illinois. It was a hit & run deal. I only saw him twice after that morning, once at his trial, and once on a visiting day in jail when I said I wanted a divorce. He cursed me and walked out of the interview room. He's doing Life without the Benefit of Parole."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from THE SCULPTRESS by John K. Potter Copyright © 2010 by John K. Potter. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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