I was at a loss to know what to do. I was expecting Jack to call at any moment to set up a time to meet today. I had to put him off. I needed to know more, first. I decided to try to reach the Phins. It seemed everything began with them.They were at the funeral yesterday, so hopefully, they would still be in town.
Before I put the call through to them, I decided to re-read the part of Mother’s letter that referred to the couple and their grandson, Tio.
You’ll remember, dear, that I lived with the Phin’s for two years while I recovered from my injuries. They are the people who found me in the parking garage.
While reading, I skipped the part of their story that Mother had already shared with me. The trouble they had encountered when the elderly lady they had been working with died after being misdiagnosed. They had been accused of not accurately translating the situation surrounding her symptoms.
I thought then, as I do now, that the Phins had been set up. I contacted a private investigator and hired him to look into it. That’s when I met Jack Stein.
Jack is a good sleuth. Through evidence he gathered and put together, he proved that the elderly woman had been gradually exposed to large amounts carbon monoxide which took the place of oxygen in her brain. Eventually, it resulted in her death. The symptoms are much like that of heart failure or a stroke.
Jack discovered her daughter had been responsible. She had deliberately rigged her mother’s bedroom so carbon monoxide would build up replacing the oxygen in the room. She did this for several hours each night.
When the elderly lady got to the hospital, she was wearing a bracelet indicating she had a severe heart condition. This was part of the setup.
The motive? A deep resentment. The mother had been subservient to the girl’s father and had allowed him to violently mistreat both mother and daughter. It is Jack’s belief the young girl had murdered her father as well.
There is more to the Phin’s story. This of course, all happened years later. Tio is the son of their only child…a daughter. She was with a man who did not want to be a father. She wanted him more than she wanted her son. Tio was very distraught and had many problems adjusting to life without his mother. That is when we met, Annette Morris. We hired her to work with Tio using her art therapy. She has been amazing with him and others we have helped.
That’s as far as I got before I heard Stella coming up the stairs. She informed me that Jack was there.
“Tell him I’ll be right down,” I said. I quickly put everything under the bed and went downstairs to greet him.
“My apologies for not calling, first,” he said. “We have an assignment. It happens to be in Boston, so we won’t have to travel far.”
“You’re going to have to tell me more than that, Jack. Can you tell me in sixty minutes or less what Project Truth or Consequences is, why it’s covert, and what do you expect me to do?”
He looked at me for a moment before he did as I had asked…and indeed very succinctly.
“The Phins, Annette Morris, Caroline Simpson, myself, and previously, your mother, are given assignments to sort out the bad guys from the good guys and shall we say, use our skills to manipulate the situation so the good guy wins. The agency that does the assignments is undercover; therefore we are too. In spite of my position with the NYPD, we don’t use the authorities. We don’t have time for that.”
“What skill do I have that will help you sort out the bad guys from the good guys, Jack?”
“Like Claire, you have excellent communication skills. In most cases, you will in fact, make the initial contact.”
This assignment involves a nursing home. We’ve learned that residents who suffer from Alzheimers are being mistreated and something needs to happen quickly.”
He studied me again for a moment and then continued.
“You will be taking Doris, posing as an Alzheimer’s victim, to the facility to check the place out. Hopefully, we can arrange for Doris to move in. You will be acting as her daughter. Let’s see how you do…shall we?”
For some reason I found myself wanting to do this.
“When must we leave?”
“We’re meeting everyone else at a hotel in Boston later this evening. Go and get ready. I’ll wait.”
When Kat went upstairs to pack, Jack looked to see where Stella was. He found her sitting outside with Trixie. Knowing she was out of earshot, he pulled out his phone and made a call.
“This is Jack,” he said. “She’s on board. Apparently Claire didn’t share her concerns with her daughter before she died. Did you arrange for someone to take care of the dogs?”