Chapter 5: Murder 0800 HRS. TUESDAY, JULY 5, 1960. PENSACOLA NAS SHORE PATROL "When was the last time you saw Lt. Dubois, Lt. Townsend?" the investigator, a lieutenant commander, asked unemotionally. Beth fought back the urge to cry. "1630 hours, July 4, 1960, sir." "Did Lt. Dubois discuss her holiday plans with you, lieutenant?" "Yes, sir. She informed me that she would be spending the day with her boyfriend and . . .and that would not join the BBQ hosted by Lt. Calavicci." "Do you know the identity of the boyfriend, lieutenant?" "No, sir." "How often did she see this boyfriend?" "Almost every night, sir." "Did Lt. Dubois tell you anything about this boyfriend?" "Only that he was a civilian, sir." "Nothing else? His profession? His name?" "To the best of my knowledge, sir, I don't remember if she ever said anything more about him to me." "Did you ever suspect Lt. Dubois was doing something illegal, Lt. Townsend?" This startled Beth. "No, sir, that never crossed my mind." "I have no further questions. Dismissed." Beth came to attention. "Aye, aye, sir." She saluted and slowly left the room, followed by the scribe. George, Chip, and Harm were waiting in the reception room Several yeoman were busy typing. Beth wasn't interested in them. She only cared about the person who stood up as she entered the room. Al. She burst into tears before Al could get both arms around her. He pulled her into his embrace and hugged her tight. Beth clung to him while the tears racked her body. Lenora was dead. Her body was found floating in the port that morning. The investigators were questioning everyone who might have come in contact within the last twenty-four hours. Al stroked the back of her head and said nothing. The tears had run their course and the sobbing subsided. Beth pulled away reluctantly. Al handed her some tissues, his eyes mirrored her sadness. He kept one arm around her shoulder "Are you going to be all right?" Al asked her gently. Beth nodded. "It's just the shock. I'll be fine." Al touched her cheek tenderly and removed his arm from her shoulder. One of the yeomen called Chip. Chip read over the statement he made earlier and signed it. Chip left after speaking briefly, and quietly, to the other pilots. Beth went and stood by the window. Al followed her, but stood a short distance away, giving her some space. *"I'm mot going the BBQ tonight, Beth. My boyfriend called and we're going to a little get together," Lenora had informed her. "Oh, remind Janet not to wait up for me."* That was he last time Beth saw her. A burn emergency came up and Beth was unable to leave the hospital at the normal end of her shift. When she did get back to the billets, Lenora was gone already. Al and the others had been staked out on the parade grounds for hours. It was a training holiday for the pilots, and the nurses and other shift workers came and went as scheduled. Everyone asked her about Lenora, even Al. Later, Beth and Al took a little walk around the grounds, watching children and pets weave in and out around cooler, blankets, and lawn chairs. "I love children," Beth had said, watching a young father with his little girl. "I don't know if dragging them from duty station to duty station is good for them," Al observed, noncommittally. She had looked at him, but he was already moving away. Later, as they lay back to watch the fireworks, she had asked him about his comment. "It doesn't seem stable, that's all," Al replied. She had tried to convince him that most children were flexible and adjusted to the changes. It was something that happened to all military children and it was something that they had in common with each other. "I see what you're trying to say, but I still don't think it's good." Beth let the subject drop after that. The next morning, she was awakened by voices in the hall and Janet sobbing in the day room. Beth first thought had been, *Oh, God, something has happened to George*. But Kelly and several other nurses were in the same state. Levelheaded Patrice Winslow looked shaken but was not crying, so Beth asked her what was happening. "The SP found Lenora's body at the port this morning." Beth had felt herself go cold. "How? When? Does anyone know who did it?" "Forensics is still doing the autopsy, so there aren't any answers to your first two questions. As for the third, the investigators have to finish the preliminary questioning before anyone can start pointing fingers." The bureaucratic commander of the SP insisted that every nurse and doctor come down to the station to give statements. Unfortunately, the hospital staff just couldn't just up and leave to give statements. Layton was sending the nurses over in pairs. "Lt. Townsend?" The voice was unfamiliar, but the warm hand on her arm was. With a start, Beth realized that one of the yeomen had spoken to her and Al had touched her arm to get her attention. She went to sign the statement, but Al gently took the pen from her. "Read it first, Beth," he told her quietly. She nodded and breathed deeply to clear her mind. Once satisfied that the statement said what it should say, she took the pen from Al and signed it. Now she was able to leave this place and get to work. Al held the door open for her, and once outside she looked at him in surprise. "Aren't you staying to sign your statement?" Al paused in the act of lighting his cigarette. "Beth, honey, I signed mine two minutes after Chip left. I just stayed to see if you were OK and that you made it back to work in one piece." Beth closed her eyes. *Get it together, Townsend*, she ordered herself, *it's a mad house back there and they can't afford to have another nurse incapacitated*. When she opened her eyes, Al handed her the cigarette and lit another. "Do you think it was the boyfriend?" Beth asked. Al considered the question. "If it was, those Keystone cops in there better get it together and starting to the local sheriff. The *only* thing we know about him is that he was a civilian." Al shook his head. "Her autopsy had better turn something up or they will never solve her murder." They finished their cigarettes in silence. "Do you want me stop by after work?" Al asked her, opening her car door. She sighed. "Please. I would like that." As promised, he followed her back to the hospital. Once she was inside the building, she saw him drive off. The staff was subdued. Patrice was there waiting at the main Nurses' Station. "The Public Affairs Officer doesn't want any of us talking to the local new hounds. In fact, pass any phone calls to the PAO or to Layton or to Jenkins." Jenkins was the hospital commander. Beth nodded and pulled her to one side. "Anything?" Patrice shook her head. "They eliminated accidental death and suicide right away. Layton looked pissed, though." "How's Janet?" Janet, Lenora's best friend, had to be admitted to the hospital and sedated. The others, so far, had shaken the grief, if not the sadness, enough to get back to work and make statements. Patrice looked at her watch. "I'll be checking in on her in half an hour. She was still out. Maybe she'll be able to shed some light. If she can pull herself together, that is." Beth certainly hoped so. Beth peaked into Janet's room on her way to the burn ward. Janet looked peaceful. Beth knew that it was only the drugs. *Drugs?* Beth stopped in her tracks. *Not Lenora!* Lenora had faults, but *that* wasn't one of them. Beth resumed her course and tried to remember anything that would have hinted to a drug habit. But memories continued to fail her. Once in her ward, she flipped through the charts to see who needed attention. *So many children this year*, she observed. Beth didn't feel mentally prepared to handle the sight of children with burns on their little bodies. But it's my job and those children need me*. Beth's first stop was a minor injury. The little girl's name was Melissa, about nine, and had a minor burn on her forearm. She looked to be in good spirits. Her parents nearly bit Beth's head off. "Finally! We've been waiting two damn hours!" her father, a Marine, informed Beth as she entered. Beth couldn't get pasted him. Beth became instantly calm. She tilted her head to one side. "I'm sorry. No one told you of the tragedy the hospital suffered this morning. One of the nurses died, and an investigation is under way." "I don't care about some investigation. This is a hospital. One death shouldn't halt operations." "We're going to our congressman and see that someone gets reprimanded," his wife added. Beth held out the clip board and pen. "If you wish, please file a complaint while I see to your daughter's arm. I hope more of our patients feel as you do. Maybe all the attention will force the investigators to change their mind." Beth was being absolutely sincere with the couple. If nothing else, it would give them something to do, instead of holding her up. They were looking at her, startled. "The SP wouldn't listen to us when we told them we couldn't leave our patients. They refused to come here to conduct the interviews and insisted we go there. Maybe the station commander will listen to our patients." The father took her clipboard. He and his wife went in the corner to hash out their complaint. Beth could now attend to their daughter. "Now, sweetheart, let me see your boo-boo." 1200 HRS. TUESDAY, JULY 5, 1960. LAYTON'S OFFICE, PENSACOLA NAS "Whatever possessed you to do something like this, lieutenant?" Beth could not tell if the head nurse was angry or impressed. Lt. Cdr. Shirley Layton was difficult to read on the best of days. "I don't know whether to reprimand you or put you in for a commendation," she continued before Beth could answer. "On the one hand, I did not want Lt. Dubois' death common knowledge. On the other, having those patients vent their frustration on paper prevented time-consuming confrontations, and persuaded Admiral Johnson to order Commander Lucas' investigators to come here. Every one of these, which you personally collected, has something nice to say about you. ‘Very helpful and professional', ‘took the time to listen', ‘very sincere'. That ensign says you have a beautiful smile. Even that father, the Marine you saw first, was impressed with you. In fact, he is responsible for spreading the word. These," she indicated a rather impressive stack on the corner of her desk, "started coming in because of him." "It was the only way I could get to see his daughter, ma'am." "Hmm." "And I did believe it would help us, ma'am. If nothing else, it has prevented a few unnecessary congressional inquiries." "There still may be inquiries, lieutenant, but at least we took the time to listen to our customers." "Yes, ma'am." "Sit down, Beth." Beth was startled. *First name* and *permission to sit*. "How are you holding up?" "Better than I first thought, ma'am. Keeping busy has always helped." "Yes, I can see that. You are magnificent under pressure, lieutenant. The stress doesn't seem to get to you very often." "I try to eliminate stress in other aspects of my life, so the stress here isn't compounded, ma'am." Layton nodded. "I've seen you walking. I've noticed that you've found a walking companion." Beth looked at her superior officer in surprise. "I've met the man. Freeman or Cambridge, I can't remember which, brought him to my annual Christmas dinner. My cantankerous mother-in-law was visiting and he flirted outrageously with her. She actually stopped complaining and laughed at all his jokes, then talked his ears off. She was surprisingly bearable for the remainder of her stay with us. Of course, Lt. Calavicci had to give up a Sunday afternoon and visit with her. He hadn't minded in the least." Beth smiled at this. "If you would, please have Yeoman Fraiser see me, on your way out dear." Dismissed in such an unusual manner, Beth aimed for middle ground. "Yes, ma'am." "Oh, and lieutenant?" "Yes, ma'am?" Beth asked, turning around immediately. Layton smiled mischievously. "Good work." Beth left, wondering exactly what she meant by that. 1900 HRS. TUESDAY, JULY 5, 1960. RUNNING TRACK, PENSACOLA NAS Beth sat on the bleacher's lowest seat. Al sat down next to her. Sensing that she didn't want conversation, just company, they had walked in silence. She seemed so distant. She hadn't even taken his arm as they walked. Beth leaned forward, with elbows on her knees, and buried her face in her hands. Al quickly turned to straddle the bench. Leaning forward to peer at her, he asked "Are you OK?" She nodded. No sounds were coming from her and there were no other signs of crying. Al rested his hands on his knees and leaned even further over. "Beth, honey, what's wrong?" He didn't dare touch her. Beth straightened up and looked at him. Her eyes were dry, but her face looked pinched, as if she had a headache. Without preamble, she slid along the bench until she sat between his legs, wrapped her arms around his waist, and put her head on his shoulder. Before this morning, the only time he even held her this close was on the dance floor. They never held hands as they walked, nor had he attempted to kiss her. He was so shocked by her actions, it was several seconds before he put his arms around her. "Do you mind if I tell you about my day?" she asked him tiredly. "No," he said gently. "I've been waiting for you to do just that." He leaned his chin on her head and listened to her talk about Melissa and her irate parents, the ensign who thought she had a beautiful smile (no argument there), the complaints and Layton's reaction to them, and the suspense that hung over the hospital. She even related the rest of her conversation with Layton. "She told me ‘Good work', but I'm still not sure what she meant by it," Beth was saying. "She wore a mischievous smile when she said it." Al chuckled softly. "From my experiences with her, Beth, I think she was referring to both me and those patients. She was young once too, you know." He could feel her smile on his collarbone, and then the smile began to fade. Beth pulled away and looked him in the eyes. "Al, something occurred to me when I looked in on Janet. Earlier, the investigators asked if I suspected Lenora of doing anything illegal and I said no. Nothing about her gave me that impression." Beth bit her bottom lip. "Janet was sedated and I remember thinking how peaceful she looked. Of course, I said to myself ‘It's just the drugs'. What if the SP suspects Lenora's death was drug related, Al?" Al shook his head firmly. "No. Not Lenora. She felt too strongly about that." "Patrice said Layton was upset and Layton said there might still be inquiries," Beth pointed out. "If it *is* true, what could possibly drive a person with her convictions, to take drugs?" Al didn't have any answers for her.