Picture Perfect 74
As Dan walked down the corridor he saw Jennifer Devereaux standing outside the closed door of Mrs. O’Connor’s hospital room. Cameron was waiting patiently beside her.
“What’s the hold up?” He asked.
“Seems no one actually checked with the floor supervisor about having a film crew with us.”
The room door opened & Cameron started to go in. A nurse backed him out of the room.
“There is to be no filming at anytime.” The nurse said. “The patient was in no position to give permission for anything beyond her lunch menu. Which,” she turned to look into the room, “you haven’t done yet, Mrs. O’Connor.”
Cameron looked to Dan then Jennifer. “What can we do?”
“Can we talk to Mrs. O’Connor?” Jennifer asked.
“Talk yes. Camera crew no. Don’t make me call security.”
“I understand.” Dan said. “But I can make a sound recording of our interview?”
“Yes.” The nurse said.
Dan and Jennifer went into the room. Jennifer took her cellphone out, Dan put his Lifend travel mug on the bedside table.
“Good afternoon Mrs. O’Connor.” She leaned to the woman on the bed. “I’m Jennifer Devereaux. This is Daniel James. You were talking with Curtis Baxter from Unsolved Cold? About Dorothy?”
“Yes.” The woman attempted to push herself into a sitting position.
“Let me give you a hand.” Jennifer supported the woman’s back as she fumbled with the controls of the bed.
The room was bare of anything other than the heart monitor and other hospital equipment. There were no flowers or cards. The woman on the bed was thin, dark circles under her eyes and loose skin hung around her neck.
“You’ve lost a bit of weight.” Dan said.
“What’s that?” The woman cupped one of her ears. “I don’t hear so well these days.”
“How are you doing?” Dan raised his voice.
“Much better. You’re the folks from that TV show?”
“That’s right.” Jennifer said. She set her cellphone on the bedside table.
“Where are your cameras. I figured there’s be lots of cameras.”
“Maybe later, Mrs. O’Connor.” Jennifer said. “We’re just going to talk with you a little first.”
“Oh,” she frowned. “And I got my hair done just for you.” She ran a hand over her almost bald head & laughed.
“Why don’t you tell us about Dorothy?” Dan said.“Dorothy was a good child. Me and Dan … sorry you’re Dan, aren’t you. I mean Stan fostered many children. Some were right bastards but others were joys to have around. Dorothy was one of those joys. Not that we didn’t try to love them but some would resist everything you tired to do. They’d try to take advances of your kindness. Dorothy wasn’t like that. Not a bit. Sweet and right helpful.”
“How many children did you have living with you that summer?” Jennifer asked.
“Only three besides Dorothy.”
“Did they get along with each other.” Jennifer said.
“Now that you mention it no. That native gal, Magpie, was right mean to Dorothy. Thought Dorothy was always sucking up to us.”
“Magpie?” Dan asked.
“We gave that try a few times. To be fair. Never worked out though. Issues. They always had issues. Many kids did mind you. Dorothy was a joy. Dan, I mean, Stan wanted to keep her, hoped she’d never leave. But she did. Run away, you see.
“He said we should never have let that Magpie girl into our house. That’s why Dorothy ran away. They fought so much. He told me we’d regret it. I pooh poohed him, said I had give the child a chance, that they’re just as good as we were, and not to be an old fart. I regretted standing up for that thief.”
“Thief?” Dan asked.
“Yes, that’s when Dorothy left. I mean we thought she’d just up & run off. Someone had taken the milk money we kept by the backdoor. I just knew it was magpie but she said it was Dorothy. Dorothy denied it & I knew she was telling me the truth. My Stan [it them in their rooms. In the morning both of them were gone.
“After a couple of day we contacted the RCMP. They did nothing. Said there was nothing they could do. That we were just keeping those kids for the money any so it was no wonder they always ran away. I didn’t teach them stop steal! You hear me, I didn’t steal a goddam thing in my life.”
The nurse rushed into the room. “Calm down O’Connor. I’m sorry I’m going to have to ask you to leave. NOW. Upsetting her like like that.” She picked up the phone, press a couple of numbers. “Code blue. Cardiac arrest. Room 1208. I repeat. Code blue. Cardiac. Room 1208.”
Dan, Jennifer & Cameron went to the visitor lobby to be out of the way of the medical team that dashed into the ward and down the hall to Mrs. O’Connor’s room. Cameron pivoted where he stood with his camera to follow the team.
“Looks like we’re not going to get anything more here.” He said.
“No.” Jennifer said. “She’s dead.”
“You can tell?” Dan asked.
“Yes. I …” Jennifer shivered. “ …. sense things like that. If my mother was worried about someone who wasn’t well she’d ask me to sense them. If I could it meant they were still alive. I can’t sense Mrs. O’Connor.”
“You left these in the room.” The nurse came and a cellphone & the travel mug on a chair. “Mrs. O’Connor has passed away.”
“She’d said what she wanted to say.” Jennifer said as they went to the hospital parking lot.
“What do you make of her?” Jennifer asked Dan.
“Of her generation I’d say. Prejudiced. Well-meaning. Died without family. Did our background note say when her husband died.”
“When she was brought in she didn’t want anyone but Quintex to be contacted. If there was family she didn’t want them to know.” Jennifer said. “According to the research department they didn’t have any children of their own. There’s no mention of Stan’s death.”
“So they became foster parents to compensate. I wonder who the Indian child was? Magpie? Could be short for Margaret. She’s not mentioned in the research notes.”
“She’s not listed as one of the missing children?”
“Reserves weren’t … accountable to the local authorities. Some had deputized tribe members but otherwise they policed themselves.”
“So if a child was missing they didn’t have to tell anyone?”
“Something like that. In fact …” Dan hesitated.
“There were some missing?” Jennifer said. “You knew?”
“Yes. I was told, unofficially.”
“How many more are we talking about?”
“That I don’t know. If you think the RCMP’s communications were a mess, the flow of information between Native Services and white law enforcement was practically non-existent.”