Murdo Girl…To the girls born in December

Here’s to all the “older” girls with birthdays in December.

Kiss last year goodbye. We have a new age to remember.

So we’ve earned another wrinkle, or a new defining line.

I really can’t see yours and I KNOW you can’t see mine.

We hear ourselves say things that our mothers used to say.

We don’t have to listen, but we’ll say them anyway.

We look forward to our birthdays and a new year coming up.

(That’s a lot to celebrate so buck up buttercup.)

We’ll plan our annual check-up with our doctor and his staff.

They’re now as old as we are…if we cut our age in half.

When we face our bumps in life, you won’t see us surrender.

We can be as sweet as honey, or a formidable contender.

We love all of our friends and try to give them our attention.

When we’re feeling down, we give ourselves an intervention.

We smile until we’re laughing and our tears all go away.

We strive to be our best selves and we don’t forget to pray.

We’ve done a lot of living… made decisions right or wrong.

We still dance to our own tune and still sing to our own song.

Now we’re one year older than we have been in the past..

We’re the girls born in December and we were made to last.

I say the things she used to say

Murdo Girl…Living the dream, 19, A spirited Christmas.

“Spirit! Behave yourself! Jack, I apologize for my dog. I don’t know what got into him. Please come in.”

“Daddy, why doesn’t Spirit like you? Our dog likes you.” Jack’s twelve year old daughter, Alice, rushed to her father’s side while Vanessa, the fourteen year old, knelt to pet Spirit. He did not like it when Kat was upset with him.

“Not to worry, Kat. He’ll get used to me. Maybe someone in his life who looked like me abused him in some way. Where did you say you got him?”

“I found him at the SPCA. The original owner brought him in. She was getting a divorce and had to move from a house into an apartment that didn’t allow pets. It was a situation that couldn’t be avoided. Anyway, the owner provided all of his paperwork. That’s how I know that today is his birthday.”

“Dinner is served,” Stella announced.

When we all got to the dinning room, we were greeted by Mrs. Claus, herself.

The dining room had been transformed. Stella had outdone herself. She delighted in serving us prime rib with vegetables roasted to perfection, and buttery croissants. For dessert, we had cheesecake, gingerbread cookies, and homemade fudge, served with eggnog, and coffee.

After dinner, we gathered around the tree and Stella passed out gifts to everyone. She was certainly having a good time with her inheritance. Thankfully, I had purchased a gift for her. While we were looking for our gowns for the Thanksgiving dinner party, I had seen her admiring a pearl necklace in a jewelry store window. She was over the top excited when she opened it and immediately put it on.

We ended the evening singing Christmas carols while Stella accompanied us on the piano. She ocassionally hit a right note.

By the time our celebration was over, Spirit was laying at Jack’s feet. The girls were sitting on the floor. Vanessa on one side of Spirit and Alice on the other.

When Jack and the girls were leaving, they invited us to join them for a Cbristmas morning service at their church.

What a magical Christmas by the sea this was turning out to be.

Murdo Girl…Living the dream 18, handsome stranger

The next day, a handsome stranger came into my life and immediately stole my heart. It was meant to be. Isn’t love at first sight always meant to be?

It was necessary to keep him on a short leash for a while, but he didn’t seem to mind. The only one who really minded was Trixie. I think she worried that she wouldn’t be able to get away from the wannabe pianist who, despite all the time she put in practicing the piano, didn’t seem to be improving much. She could make Jingle Bells sound unrecognizable.

I found my new love at the Brewster SPCA. He came with the perfect name. His name is Spirit. It matches his spirited personality and the spirit of the season. He was born on Christmas Eve two years ago.

“You have a birthday coming up in just a few days, Spirit. What should we do to celebrate?” We were walking along the beach. Spirit was learning how to fetch, but the breeze blowing in from the Cape was making it difficult for him to catch the ball.

“Let’s go home,” I said. “I’m sure Mother must have stored some Christmas decorations around there somewhere. We can make the house look more festive for your birthday. We’ll get Stella to stop practicing her piano for a while and play some Christmas music. We’ll light a fire in the fireplace and Stella and I can drink hot chocolate while we decorate.

Stella was excited that we were going to put up a tree along with everything else.

“I know where Miss Claire stored all the decorations” she said.

We carried box after box down from the attic, and then went to buy our tree.

The old man selling the fresh cut trees helped us pick out the perfect one and his young helper put it in the back of Mother’s old truck.

We decorated the whole house and found a beautiful Nativity Scene for the front yard.

I was putting the finishing touches on the tree and Stella was in the Kitchen preparing a Christmas Eve feast when the doorbell rang.

“I’ll get it!” Stella yelled from the kitchen, but I was already there. When I opened the door, I was surprised though maybe not pleasantly so.

“Hello, Kat,” Jack said. “I hope we’re not late.”

“Late for what?” I must have looked confused because I was.

Stella came running from the kitchen. “I invited Jack and the girls for dinner. We’re so happy you could make it aren’t we Kat?”

“Of course,” I said. “The more the merrier, right?”

Spirit ran up to the girls. He was excitedly wagging his tail. And then he turned to Jack and we could barely hear his low growl.

“Jack, girls, meet Spirit.”

Murdo Girl…Living the dream…part 17 & stuff

I was happy to get back to Brewster. All I wanted to do is read books and take long walks on the beach. The weather is surprisingly mild for December.

The first morning back, I woke up to the smell of coffee and bacon. Trixie was sitting by my bed. She was ready for me to get up and come with her down stairs. I grabbed some comfy clothes and headed for the kitchen. I was famished!

“Good morning, Stella. Breakfast smells delicious. It’s so good to be home. I never want to leave again.”

Stella gave me a knowing look, and then brought me a plate piled high with eggs, bacon, her homemade croissants, and crispy potatoes. When she brought my coffee I invited her to pour herself a cup and join me.

“I need to talk to you about a couple of things,” Stella. First of all, I’m very grateful that you’ve agreed to stay on. I know Mother’s death was devastating for you.”

“Miss Kat, I moped around here for days until I decided that Miss Claire wouldn’t like that, so I’m doing something I’ve always wanted to do.”

“It’s wonderful to see you so excited and cheerful. What is it you are wanting to do?”

Stella leaned towards me as if what she was about to say was quite profound.

“I’m taking piano lessons,”she said. “I’ve already had two. And guess what? My new piano is being delivered today. I bought it with some of the money your mother left me.”

“The next morning, I was awakened by Trixie. She was whining. This time, she was sitting on my bed, pawing at my feet. Stella was practicing on her piano. Something tells me that I will be taking more walks along the beach than I had anticipated. I think I’ll get another dog, too.

****************

**I’m going to post more short stories about Kat, and also make some Christmas comments. How do you like my new Christmas boots?

Murdo Girl…Living the dream, part 16

“Now what?” I asked. Jack, Caroline, and I were back at the hotel waiting for Annette. She was still interviewing the staff at the nursing home when we left. She also called in some vendors that may have been in and out during the time Doris was there. They could be involved or possibly saw something.

“I don’t know,” Jack said as he was pacing. “I pride myself on completing these projects quickly, but this one has me baffled. I’m anxious for Annette to get here. Surely, she has talked to everyone concerned by now.”

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“What do you think about finding the wheelchair near the unlocked door? It doesn’t make sense unless she left with someone who knows she’s an impostor.”

Before Caroline or I could answer, Annette walked in. She had a box of donuts with her.

“Sorry,” but I haven’t eaten all day, I’m tired and I need some sugar. Wow these are good. They’re from the bakery near the nursing home. Have any of you been there?”

“Come on, Annette.” Caroline was as frustrated as I was. “Tell us what you’ve put together.”

“Well, I haven’t found Doris, yet, but I’m getting close. You’re not going to believe this, but that mean director and her head nurse didn’t kidnap her.

Jack walked across the room and sat in the chair next to Annette. He seemed to be in deep thought and maybe even a little irritated. “Go on, Annette.”

“Okay…somebody bring me a glass of milk and I’ll fill you all in.”

“I talked to all of the employees but one,” she said. “We were unable to locate her. She’s a fairly young lady. She’s been an aide there for five years. There is reason to believe she kidnapped Doris.”

Jack seemed slightly suspect, or maybe he felt Annette had jumped to conclusions. I couldn’t exactly read him.

“What was her motive?” Jack had a few questions himself. “We heard the conversation in Doris’ room between the nurse and director. They were definitely planning something nefarious. Did you reconcile that?”

“No,” Annette admitted. “I would have had to tell them they were under surveillance, and I thought we needed more information, first.”

Jack asked her to go on.

“Yes.” There was an incident a few years ago involving this aide and a patient. The girl, (her name is Marsha) gave an elderly lady large doses of psychotropic drugs. The patient became unmanageable and the others weren’t safe in her presence. Apparently, the young girl hated the patient and couldn’t deal with her being there. It never could be proven that she was the one who gave the patient the drugs; therefore, they couldn’t fire her. Apparently, there haven’t been any similar incidents until now.”

“Did you happen to ask if the elderly woman was from a wealthy family? Was there anyone else that would benefit from the woman’s death or removal from the nursing home? Why didn’t Marsha go to the authorities or at the very least, quit?”

“There was no ransom involved. The only motive was hatred.” Annette’s eyes were snapping now? What was Jack doing? “I suspect we’ll be hearing from Marsha very soon.”

“We won’t hear from Marsha, but we will hear from Doris.”

Thirty minutes later, Jack’s phone rang. “Hello Doris,” we’re all grateful you’re okay. I want you to come to the hotel and bring Marsha. I’ll send a car for you.”

We didn’t get what was going on and Jack didn’t explain. He let Marsha and Doris do that.

“She saved my life,” Doris said. “All they wanted was the money. Marsha overheard them say they had no intentions of returning me to my family who would never believe a reputable nursing director and her head nurse would do such a thing.”

“I couldn’t quit.” Marsha was on the verge of falling apart. “There was no one but me to protect those poor people from the daily struggles she put them through. Those two were planning to kill that lady. A family member was going to pay them off to do it. I secretly stopped giving her the drugs, but it was too late. She died of a stroke. I confronted them. I knew they couldn’t fire me because there was always a chance I would go to the authorities. You probably won’t understand this, but I was afraid to.”

Marsha looked around the room at all of us. Her eyes settled on me.

“I believe every word of what you’re saying. You have a good heart, Marsha. I knew it when you helped Doris back into her chair so she wouldn’t fall. And when you knelt in front of her to look her in the eye and give her a smile when you spoke to her.”

“And she touched my hand,” Doris said. “I knew I could trust you.”

Jack would help Marsha get beyond this, and we would all go on to the next assignment. Truth or Consequences. When the truth comes out, the innocent are finally redeemed and the guilty finally suffer the consequences.

Murdo Girl…Living the dream, part 15

“Did you hear me?” The nurse asked. “You must take your medication.” Doris had heard the conversation between the nurse and the director of the nursing home and knew they planned to use her to get money from her supposed daughter. They also said they intended to give her some sort of new medication. When she looked at the pills in the nurse’s hand, she knew they weren’t the placebos she had been taking and decided a violent, fake, cough was in order. The nurse finally put the glass of water down on the night stand and said she would be back with the pills, later. She was not happy.

Back at the hotel, Jack and Annette were listening as the conversation was being transmitted. Both breathed a sigh of relief.

“She must have heard the whole conversation,” Annette said. “She knew enough not to take the medication.”

“I hope it was a wise decision to use Doris for this assignment,” Jack added. “She’s been a big support to us, but we’ve never asked her to do something like this before.”

“Don’t worry, Jack. If she’s showing signs of being traumatized, I’ll know it. Right now, she seems very focused and is playing the part extremely well.”

Caroline walked into the room and told them Kat was on her way to the nursing home. “She should be there at any moment.”

“I know they’re plotting to extort money somehow,” Jack said. He wanted to get Caroline’s thoughts on how they might be planning to do that, but before he could say anything more, they heard another voice coming from Doris’ room. Kat had arrived followed by a nurse’s aide.

“Aren’t you the aide who kept my mother from trying to get up out of her wheelchair the day we arrived? I’ve been meaning to thank you. She could have fallen and broken a hip.”

“That’s what I’m here for,” the aide said as she knelt down to smile at Mother Doris who was seated in the wheelchair. “My name is, Jill. I brought your mother her medications.”

The nurse’s aide opened her hand, and Doris could see she was being given the placebos, and gave Kat a reassuring look. I’ll mark on her chart that she’s been given her morning medications.

“I’ll leave you two alone now,” the aide said. “I need to get back to the nurse’s station. Our head nurse had to leave for a while.”

When the aide left, I moved closer to Doris. “It appears you heard the conversation between the nurse and the director.”

“Yes,” Doris said. “I haven’t been able to learn anything more. Do you know what they intend to do with me?”

“It’s only a theory, but we think it’s possible they intend to stage some sort of a kidnapping for a ransom. You must find a way to keep the other voice transmitter on you when you’re out of the room for any reason. It sounds like whatever they plan to do, it will occur sometime within a month.”

“They’ll be taking me down to get my hair done in about an hour, so make sure someone is listening.”

“Are you okay, Doris? This situation is likely to get complicated.” I was truly concerned.

“For years, now, I’ve tried to be supportive of Jack…and your mother, of course, I’m glad to have the opportunity to help in a more substantive way.”

“Okay, I’m going to leave, now. There will be someone to continue intercepting the medication the head nurse is trying to give you. Your placebos will look like the new medication. In the meantime, we’ll be determining what effect the new meds were supposed to have on you, because you’ll have to demonstrate those changes.”

When I got back to the hotel, I went directly to Jack ‘s room to make sure he had heard my conversation with Doris. He and Annette both had earphones on and seemed very focused on what they were listening to. I was thinking it should be about the time someone would take Doris to get her hair done at the onsight beauty salon.

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I waited. It was a full ten minutes before they put their headphones down. Jack’s cell phone immediately rang.

“When? That isn’t good,” he said. “Not good at all.”

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When he got off the phone, Jack took a deep breath before he began to speak.

“Doris is nowhere in the building. The Phins stopped by unannounced and found that she was missing. They said both the nurse and the director are there, which doesn’t mean they didn’t arrange to have someone abduct her.

She can’t have been gone for very long. You just left there, Kat.”

“I tried to remain calm. “Who were you listening to when I came in?”

“Someone Annette and I couldn’t hear very well came to get Doris to go to the beauty salon. We haven’t heard another thing. It’s hard to believe Doris forgot to wear her device.”

“What did the Phins do? Have the police been called?”

I couldn’t believe what was happening.

“Don’t worry, Kat. Our credentials and identification are impeccable.” Jack went on to outline our next move.

“Caroline, you stay here and monitor Doris’ room just in case someone goes in there to look for something or have a conversation.”

“Kat, stand by. The Phins will be calling you any moment to tell you your mother is missing. You will immediately go to the nursing home. I don’t know what else to tell you except to act appropriately distraught and play it by ear. Since this just happened, the staff is still looking for her. I’ll get Annette prepared to be the investigator. She’s done it before and she’s good. You or the Phins will call her.” Jack was in a hurry. We had to move quickly.

About that time, Mr. Phin called. For the benefit of anyone listening on that end, he very carefully explained that my mother was missing from her room. As sometimes happens, Alzheimers patients wander off, or in Mother Doris’ case, escape in their wheelchair. Most of the staff was looking for her. He was going to call the “authorities” in thirty minutes.

We both knew Doris didn’t wander off. which made me wonder if she was staying in character. It would be better for her if she did.

When I got to the nursing home, the nurse and directer were standing by the nurse’s station. They actually looked distressed.

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“Has there been any sign of my mother? They both shook their heads. “We’ve looked everywhere,” the director said. “We’ve looked outside, down the street…everywhere. no one has seen an elderly lady in a wheelchair. We did discover the side door was somehow left unlocked.”

Boy, the director was good, I thought. She’s trying to throw me off. It was time to call Annette.

“I’m going to call the authorities,” I said. “My mother has to be somewhere close by.

The Phins left to take care of Tio. They were on call if needed.

Annette came right over and started questioning the staff. Jack was right. She was good. Doris’ wheelchair was found near the unlocked door which meant she was out of character and walked out, or she was carried out.

Jack was right about another thing. The assignments came together quickly in these Truth or Consequences projects, and what seems like a bad deed can sometimes be a good one. We’ll soon see…

Murdo Girl…Living the dream, part 14

We all gathered in one of the suites at the hotel in Boston to go over the Project Truth or Consequences assignment. It was surreal to say the least. I didn’t even want to think about what I might possibly be getting myself into. I was to pose as a daughter taking her Alzheimer’s stricken mother to a memory care nursing home that had, reportedly, been mistreating the residents in some way.

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Caroline Simpson, who was an advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association, would play a big role in coaching Doris and me. We would be doing a series of role plays so we could identify the possible pitfalls we might encounter.

It was apparent that Jack had previously deferred to Mother as being the leader of the group, but he clearly saw himself taking over that position. Another thing that was very clear to me was that Annette Morris was in love with him.

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The Phin’s would be posing as Mother Doris’ doctors. They would be prescribing medications, etc., which might be another reason the project had to be covert, though someone had prepared some pretty complete documentation to identify us in the role of our aliases.

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Our work went late into the evening and by morning we were ready to execute our plan.

Doris and I went to the nursing home, together. We had practiced several things, like using the wheel chair, and how we would interact or not interact with each other. I would be doing virtually all of the talking. Mother Doris would be pleasant, but somewhat confused. We were met at the door and escorted to a rather nice office, where we were introduced to the Director. She stood and gave us a warm greeting and then immediately handed me several glossy brochures.

I asked several questions concerning nursing care, security, and amenities. We also discussed the number of aides to patient ratio. Throughout our conversation, I indicated I wanted nothing but the best for my mother no matter what the cost.

The place seemed lovely, and the residents appeared to be quite happy. They were enjoying singing Christmas carols while a young lady played the piano. Mother Doris was appropriately reacting to the music. She “acted” as if she was going to get up. Before I thought to stop her, an aide noticed and gently coaxed her to remain seated.

Except for the nurse’s lack of interest, which I discussed with Caroline later, were treated exceptionally well. I told the Director I would be in touch the following day and as we were leaving, inquired as to how soon a room might be available. The Director said they currently had one ready to go and with a small deposit, she would hold it until the end of the following day.

I wrote her a check.

When we arrived back at the hotel, we were debriefed by Caroline and Jack. Caroline asked if they had done an evaluation of Mother Doris. They had not, and although we were introduced to the nurse, she didn’t inquire about Mother Doris’ medications or why she was confined to a wheel chair.

Annette arranged for a gourmet dinner to be brought to the suite belonging to her, and we worked into the night again. She had also purchased and packed the things Mother Doris would be needing at the nursing home. The next day, would be moving day. We had identified enough to move forward.

“Good job, Kat,” Jack smiled broadly. “I knew you would be a natural.” (I couldn’t help but notice the scowl on Annette’s face.)
The next day, after completing the enormous package of paperwork, and paying the formidable fees, I excused myself saying I would be back in a couple of hours with my mother. I would also gather some of her personal things. I told the director that I knew my mother would not recognize her personal belongings, but it would comfort me to know she would have them with her. (She gave me a knowing smile.)
Little did the nurse and director know that hidden in those things, there would be a device that transmitted every sound and conversation occurring within the room. Doris would also have another device she would wear anytime she was absolutely sure it would not be discovered.

I was thinking there would be some opportunity to explore Boston while we waited, but that was not the way it worked. We were on duty twenty-four hours a day. The only time I was able to go anywhere was when I made visits to Mother Doris, who was staying in character quite well considering the circumstances.

It wasn’t until the third week that things started to happen. We were all in Jack’s suite when we heard voices being transmitted from the nursing home. Both the nurse and the director were in Mother Doris’ room. The Phins and Annette pulled out their pads and began to take notes.

“I think it’s time to make our move,” the nurse said. “This woman is not aware of anything and her health is failing. She won’t last much longer at this rate.”

The director pondered this a minute.

“I would sure hate to lose the fees we’re getting from her filthy rich daughter,” she said. “I guess we’re going to have to get the money another way. How much time do we have?”

“Thirty days to carryout the plan. I guess it’s been long enough since the last occurrence. It was a quite different situation, anyway. No one will ever connect the two.”

“Okay then. Start giving her the required medications while decreasing what she is currently taking.”

The nurse was unaware the pharmacy was delivering placebos in prescription bottles. Mother Doris was supposedly taking heart and diabetes medications prescribed by her doctors, the Phins.

Once again, Jack rolled out the plan.

“Caroline, you prepare Kat. She needs to be aware of all the possibilities. I hope you have a general idea of what their plan might be.”

“I do,” Caroline sounded competent and sure of herself. “Kat needs to get over there as quickly as possible. Doris must be reassured and advised. The Phin’s should be ready to go when called.”

“Right,” Jack agreed. “Annette and I will monitor the conversations, but you should come back to this room when you’re finished with Kat. I’m sure we’ll be depending on your expertise from here on out.”

Caroline and I went to another room where she outlined the things I should look for. My most important task right at the moment, was to prepare Doris. She could not take the new medications. Someone would intercept them so they couldn’t harm her. Later, they would be analyzed. That would give us tangible information that would be used to solve the mystery, and also tell us how it was supposed to affect Mother Doris.

In the other room, Jack and Annette were listening to a voice being transmitted through the wire. It was the nurse, and she appeared to be alone in the room with Doris.

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“Even though you aren’t likely to live much longer,” she said with a wink. “I sure hope your daughter wants to have you around for as long as possible. Now be a good girl and take this medication. Sorry I had to lie about your condition. You’re as healthy as a horse.”

Murdo Girl…Living the dream, part 13

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?”

Murdo Girl…Living the dream, part 12

“I had just taken her blood pressure,” the nurse said. “It was slightly elevated, but not alarmingly so. I got her morning meds ready, but she refused them. I think she knew she didn’t have much time and wanted to remain lucid. She took my hand and asked me to tell you something.

“I stood there in disbelief. She was gone. My mother was gone. I had never felt so alone. Somewhere in the background, I heard the nurse say she had called the doctor and the coroner.

“I have to see her,” I tried to say, but I wasn’t sure if I could be heard. I ran up the stairs and stopped at the closed door of my mother’s room. I reached to open it, but before I could, Jack grabbed my arm.

“Don’t go in, Kat,” he begged. “Please…we must wait for the doctor and the authorities to get here before disturbing anything in that room.”

I turned to see the nurse and Doris standing there… watching to see what I would do. I didn’t go in, but I stood guard until everyone got there.

Once the doctor and coroner had made the determination that my mother had died of heart failure, they let Jack come in. I guess, because he’s a crime scene investigator. I insisted that I go in with him. We each took one of Mother’s hands in ours and silently said our goodbyes. When I left the room, Jack was still with her.

We found no directives, so I decided to have a service for Mother at a small church near the Brewster house. That is where I intended to continue to make my home and I wanted her near me.

Before leaving Seattle, I asked Doris if she would stay on and care for the house and two dogs for the time being. She was very visibly upset over Mother’s death and I could see she was going to need some time to figure things out.

I agreed to let Jack fly me, as well as Mother’s remains back to Brewster, but only because I couldn’t bear the thought of arranging to take a commercial flight. Jack seemed very distracted the entire flight.

It wasn’t until I was home and alone with my thoughts that I remembered what the nurse had said. She told me Mother asked her to tell me something. I decided to try to reach her after the services. So much to do and think about in addition to dealing with an extremely overwrought, Stella.

The service went well. I had asked Jack to invite the other members of their little group if he thought that’s what Mother would have wanted. Everyone came…even Annette Morris.

Jack asked if he could drive Stella and me home. We had barely walked into the house when a car pulled up outside. A man came to the door and said he was there to deliver an envelope to Ms. Kathleen Spencer. After signing for it, I laid it on the desk in the living room. I decided I would wait until after Jack left to look at the contents.

As he was leaving, Jack asked if he could see me the next afternoon. He expected to have his investigation into my mother’s death wrapped up by then.

“What investigation?” I asked. “My mother died of natural causes.”

“Don’t worry, Kat,” he said. “Claire was a good friend and I had to know for sure that there were absolutely no loose ends. We’ll talk tomorrow. You get some rest. I’ll show myself out.”

I made myself a cup of tea and walked over to the desk. I decided to take the envelope to my room and see if it contained anything that would require my immediate attention.

There was a letter from an attorney asking me to call his office at my earliest convenience. He further stated that since I was my mother’s only heir, the transfer of her property and other assets should be seemless once the paperwork was completed. My mother had taken care of everything.

I was putting the attorney’s information back inside the envelope when something fell out. I bent down to pick it up and discovered it was an old fashioned skeleton key. I looked through the entire envelope, but could find no reference to the key. I was too tired to contemplate any kind of mystery. It would all have to wait until I got some sleep. Suddenly, I felt exhausted.

The next day, I contacted the attorney and set up an appointment for the following week. Later, before meeting with Jack, I called the nurse hoping to find out what Mother had asked her to tell me.

“Oh yes,” the nurse recalled. Mrs. Spencer said, “You must tell Kathleen that the bench Trixie sits on in the kitchen needs fixed. Tell her to look it over closely and she’ll see what I mean. I don’t want her or Trixie to get hurt. Can you remember to tell her that?”

“She gave me those instructions, and then she just slipped away.”

After we hung up, I walked into the kitchen and saw Trixie sitting in her usual spot on the cushion. I scooted her over and removed the cushion to inspect the bench underneath. It was made from wood, but it all looked to be in good shape to me. I inspected each individual slat until I came to one that had a little give to it. I took a butter knife and worked it into the narrow space until the slat popped out, revealing a hollow space below it. I reached down inside and felt around until my hand touched what felt like a metal box. It took some work, but I finally got it out. It was heavy and about the size of a child’s shoe box. I couldn’t open it because it needed a key…a skeleton key.

I took the box and rushed upstairs to my room…I desperately hoped I could remember what I had done with the key. Was it still in the envelope with the attorney’s paperwork? When I located it, I found it was, in fact, the key to the box. Inside, among other things, was a letter to me from my mother. She was warning me…telling me who I could trust, who I couldn’t, and why. She also advised me exactly what steps to take to get Project Truth or Consequences back on track. The biggest surprise was that she was concerned about Jack.

“I’m no longer entirely sure where his loyalties lie,” she said. “But you’ll find out, Kathleen. I know you will.”

I wondered to what extent my mother knew of Doris’ involvement.

It was going to be interesting to see how it all unfolded. Had Mother hung on to the altruistic idea of Project T or C? Was it’s purpose still to be advocates for people who had been abused, mistreated in other ways, or wrongly accused?

My biggest question was, “Why must this group operate covertly?”