I waited until the sun dipped low in the sky and the lights began to pop on in the houses. Rosa never came out. Finally I knocked on the door. No one came, but I could hear voices, shouting and crying. I wanted to smash in the door, get to them, but damn it, I had no clue what was going on. Rosa could be lying. I couldn’t just snatch the kid.
I didn’t have any choices here.
I had to walk away.
The thud of my boots on the hollow stairs echoed on the quiet street as I stomped back down to my Harley. The roar of the engine was tremendous, bouncing off the stucco facades and down the lane. I turned the bike around and headed back the way I came.
I would forget it all. Pretend it never happened.
The hospital corridors were quiet, the visitors either gone for the day or settled in for the night. I hesitated at the end of Corabelle’s hall, bracing myself for another confrontation with her father. I’d texted her a dozen times on the way home from Ensenada, pulling over every few miles, but I hadn’t heard back. For all I knew, her father had taken her phone.
The door to 425 was ajar. I knocked and stepped inside, but the bed was stripped, the flowers gone. Had they sent her home?
I had her keys. Maybe she’d been able to get a set from her complex office. I rushed back down the hall to leave, but when I passed the nurse station, I decided to make sure she had been discharged rather than moved.
“Corabelle Rotheford in 425? She’s gone?”
An unfamiliar nurse looked up. “And who are you?”
I hesitated. “Her brother. I was supposed to bring her clothes when she got out, but I guess she already went home?”
The nurse clicked on a keyboard. “No, she was moved to ICU.” She glanced up at me. “But you won’t be able to visit her there. That floor has strict visiting hours.”
Panic coursed through me. “Did she relapse?”
She put on a sympathetic face. “Maybe you should talk to your parents about it.”
“Where is it?”
“It’s the second floor.”
I took off down the hall.
“You can’t get in there after hours!” she called out.
Like hell I couldn’t.
I lunged into a stairwell and raced down two floors. When I flung open the door, I was greeted with a long desk flanked by entrances that required badge access. A hallway opposite the desk went to the elevators and the hospital’s center atrium.
A lone staff member behind the counter held a phone between her cheek and shoulder, facing away from me. I backed into the stairwell and left the door open a crack. I could watch from here for a chance to go in. Maybe if someone came out, I could race in before it locked again.
A nurse came up behind me. “Lost?”
I jumped, then straightened, hoping I didn’t look like a stalker. “Is this the second floor?”
“And visiting hours are over?”
She glanced at her watch. “Yes. You can visit again starting at ten tomorrow.”
“But I can visit.”
She smiled. “Of course. You just have to be buzzed in. It is limited to family and doctor approval.”
“She’s my sister.”
“You might want to check with the nurses. In ICU there are no private rooms. Did you talk with anyone?”
“No. I just got here.”
She pushed open the door. “Tamara?”
The nurse nodded on the phone and held up a finger.
“She’ll fix you up,” the nurse said and crossed over, flashing her card at the sensor. The door buzzed and popped open. I watched the light. It held for about five seconds and then the door closed again, latching tight.
If I asked the Tamara person for help, she’d just tell me to come back tomorrow. I didn’t want to come back. I wanted to find Corabelle now.
I headed to the elevators. An opening looked down on the hospital’s hub, and all the floors dumped into a central shaft with plants hanging from the various levels, bright and green. I backed up against the rail until the nurse at the desk couldn’t see me, and waited. Surely another nurse would come off the elevator and head to the ICU. Then I could wait for her to buzz in and I could — hell, do something. Get in somehow.
The elevator doors slid open, but the two men who came out went the opposite way. I waited another agonizing ten minutes, but the only other passenger was a maintenance man pushing a mop bucket on wheels.
He did, however, head for the right ward.
I followed him partway down the short hall, wondering if I could possibly pull this off. When the man got near the desk, Tamara waved at him, then turned back to her monitor. He went in the door at her back. Perfect. I waited for the buzz, let him push through, counted to three, then blazed across past the desk in a flash.
If the woman looked up, I didn’t know it. As soon as I got through, I halted.
A large room was curtained off into several sections, each holding a bed surrounded with monitors. A nurse was checking something on a machine near the one in the center, bent over. When the maintenance man caught her attention, I ducked behind a curtain on the end next to an elderly lady.
“Sorry,” I whispered, but the woman was unconscious.
My heart hammered as I waited to see where the nurse would go. From here, I couldn’t spot if any of the beds held Corabelle.
The maintenance man mopped around the equipment, passing in and out of my field of vision as he moved. I was going to get caught any second.
But the nurse paused beside him and asked him something quietly. He followed her through a center section that I guessed connected the two halves of the unit.