Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Had someone died? #LoveUnderFire excerpt via @aplazar

Carmen passed two men in white uniforms urgently pushing an empty gurney along the hall. No smiles, no greetings. Just full speed ahead.
She’d never seen them before. Could they be weekend staff brought in to help in Rocco’s absence? 
Was someone ill? 
Worse, had someone died?
Were they ambulance attendants? 
The men didn’t look like the normal paramedics she’d seen around town. Then again, she’d only worked over a week here, and there were probably many workers she hadn’t run into yet.
When she reached the nurse’s office, she found Detective Ritchie sitting with Mrs. Hood and Nurse Blair. She passed through the room, trying to catch Ritchie’s eye. 
“Carmen?” The detective noticed, and crooked a finger in her direction. “Can you spare a moment?”
Mrs. Hood half stood. “This girl doesn’t have time for interviews. She’s needed in the next room.”
Ritchie held her hand palm out at Hood. “One moment, please. I need to share the latest news with her, and then she can be on her way.”
News? Carmen’s heart skipped a beat. Had they found Rocco?
Nobody was smiling with relief. In fact, the mood between the three women was somber. Far too somber. 
She approached Detective Ritchie. “Did you find him?”
The detective bit her lip. “Sorry, no.” She stood and took Carmen’s hand. “But we found his wallet.”
Carmen clutched Ritchie’s sleeve. All the emotion she’d so carefully tamped down while working that day suddenly burst out of her. “Oh my God. Where?”
“It was on the beach parking lot, covered with snow, so we assume he drove there the night he disappeared. Today, with the bright sun, it began to melt. Someone turned it in an hour ago.” 
The world spun. Carmen clutched the side of the desk. “Then where is he?” she whispered.
“We have two theories. Either he was attacked and robbed last night down by the beach…”
Carmen’s eyes blazed. “You mean they kidnapped him, too?”
“It’s possible.” Ritchie raised one eyebrow. “But the other option isn’t so nice. He may have walked into the bay.”
Mrs. Hood straightened her shoulders, looking puzzled. “Suicide?”
Nurse Blair sputtered, “Not our Rocco.”
Carmen felt the blood drain from her face. Had Rocco harbored a secret depression? Did he have demons he never shared? She wobbled, then blinked hard. “No. He wouldn’t have.” She locked eyes with Ritchie. “It makes no sense. Where’s his car, then? It would be in the lot if he did something that crazy.” She shook her head adamantly. 
Mrs. Hood snorted. “Ridiculous.”
“Someone may have stolen the car, especially if he left the keys in it.” 
“No. He was taken,” Carmen said.
Ritchie’s eyes widened. “What makes you think—”
An eruption occurred in the sunroom, visible through the window. Lolly was dancing on the puzzle table, kicking pieces gleefully all over the room. Evie—the mousy little nursing assistant—stood beside the table, wringing her hands and begging Lolly to get down. She didn’t seem to have much effect on the crowd, which now erupted into chaos. Magazines flew through the air, a table was overturned, and almost every one of the residents were either sobbing or shrieking with laughter, standing on chairs and clapping for Lolly. 
“Get in there,” Hood shouted to Carmen and Nurse Blair. “Now.” 
“Come back when you’re done,” Ritchie hissed. “I need to know what you meant by that.”
“Of course. Be back as soon as I can.” Carmen rushed into the sunroom at the same time that she saw her mother push through the visitor door with her usual basket of goodies. Shocked that Rosita would follow through on her daily routine while in the middle of the Rocco disappearance, she ran to her side. “Mom? What are you doing here?”
Rosita set the aromatic basket behind the television set and waved her daughter off. “I had to do something, Carmencita. I can’t just sit around all day and worry.” Before they could say more, Rosita walked steadily toward Lolly, who still danced like a Woodstock hippie on top of the table, head down with her long hair swirling about her, arms outstretched, and her feet propelling her in small circles. 
“Miss Lolly!” Rosita said firmly. “En el nombre de Dios! What are you doing?”
The residents stopped in their tracks, watching and shuffling back to their seats. Several eyed the basket of cookies. 
Lolly’s head shot up. “Rosita?” She flushed, slumped to a crouch on the table, and held out her hands. “Rosita, they’ve taken my Rocco.”
Evie helped a few residents back to their seats in front of the television. Carmen reached up to help Lolly down from the table. 
Once on solid ground, the woman ran to Rosita, falling into her arms. “Oh, Rosita. He’s gone. Everyone says they took him.”
Rosita’s eyes widened. “What did you say, Miss Lolly?”
“Who’s everyone?” Carmen leaned in closer. “Who took him, Lolly? What have you heard?”
Lolly’s eyes shifted in terror toward the nurse’s office. She whispered in Carmen’s ear, “The mean ones.”
“Do you mean Mrs. Hood?” Carmen glanced sideways at the woman who still sat with the detective with a haughty expression on her face. Could she have hurt Rocco? And why in God’s name would she?
“You said ‘the mean ones,’ Lolly. Who exactly do you mean?”
Lolly’s expression softened and she fixed her eyes on the basket. “Cookies? For me?”
“Yes, Miss Lolly. Snickerdoodles today.” Rosita exchanged a puzzled glance with her daughter, mouthing the words someone took him? 
Carmen put a finger to her lips. “I’m going to find out what happened. Can you stay with Lolly? Keep asking her questions, but don’t let the staff hear you.”
“Okay, cariƱo.”
Mr. Harvey sat on the ground, a dazed look on his face. A small scratch bled over one eye.
Carmen called to Nurse Blair, “I’m going to take Mr. Harvey down to his room to clean him up. Is that okay?”
Blair nodded impatiently, still trying to calm one of the more excited patients. “Fine, fine. Grab the first aid kit on your way there. But come right back once you get him settled.”
“Yes, Nurse Blair.”
Gently, she bent down to speak to Mr. Harvey. “Would you like to come with me? I can clean up that scratch and get you a Band-Aid.”
He looked up into Carmen’s eyes with relief. “Oh, yes. Please, Miss.”
“Call me Carmen, remember?” She smiled at him and helped him to his feet. “Come now. Let’s get you to your room.”
With hand gestures and a wave at Detective Ritchie that implied she’d return after tending to her patient, she slowly walked the shaking man down the hall.

Excerpt from The Asylum
By Aaron Paul Lazar
Included in Love Under Fire

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  1. Thanks for posting this! Loved it. I can't wait to read the book!

    1. My pleasure Margaret! Like you, I can't wait too...

  2. Thank you so much for sharing, Uvi. ;o) This is one awesome bookset.