“She’s running a fever and experiencing pain in her lower abdomen and back,” she said. “I escorted her to the bathroom and positioned myself so she couldn’t flush when finished. Her urine was dark in color, accompanied with a strong odor. Not sure, but blood may have been present.”
Rick Hadley, carrying two cups of coffee, arrived in time to hear her comments.
“You thinking UTI?” he asked as he offered Alexander one of the cups.
“UTI?” John said.
“Urinary tract infection,” Jenise answered without looking in John’s direction. She accepted the cup, and continued with her assessment. “Her pain is located in the lower abdomen as opposed to the upper portion, which is an indicator, but there could be other causes.”
Rick stuck out his hand. “Rick Hadley,” he said, introducing himself.
“Jenise Alexander,” she replied, and shook his hand.
“I’m sorry,” John said at his failure to introduce the two. “Jenise, Rick and I partner Gambit Investigations.” He turned to Rick and took the second cup of coffee. “Jenise and I met when I was with the Greene County Sheriff’s Department. Jenise is an emergency room nurse at Melcher Memorial South.”
Rick glanced at her left hand, no wedding ring. “Miss Alexander.”
“In addition to being a good investigator, Rick’s also an EMT,” John added.
Jenise looked at John and said, “Elle informed me of Mr. Hadley’s credentials.” Alexander turned her attention back to Rick. “She also told me about your suspicions concerning the timing of the woman’s injuries. I concur; her bruises are over a week old, while the cuts and abrasions are recent.”
“Did she offer any explanations?” Rick asked.
“She said the car she was in slid on the ice and ended up in a ditch.”
“Were there any other passengers?” John asked.
“She wouldn’t say.”
“Doesn’t add up,” John said. “If you’ve been hurt in an accident, you seek help, not hide from it. And she doesn’t have a purse, so no identification.”
“I asked her a series of questions she couldn’t—or wouldn’t—answer, such as ‘what town are we in’ and ‘what day is it.’ ” Alexander sipped her coffee. “She’s presenting as malnourished; she’s inappropriately dressed; no explanation of old scars. Gentlemen, she’s got a barcode tattoo on her inner arm.”
“She could be a victim of sex trafficking,” Rick said.
“Sounds like a ‘branding’ tattoo,” Hutsell added. “Saw several during my time with the St. Louis PD.”
John Hutsell looked from Alexander to Hadley and said, “We need to proceed very carefully from here on out. I don’t want my mom involved.”
“Understood,” Rick said.
At that moment, Chewy jumped up, ran to the French doors and started barking. John took Jenise’s arm and ushered her to the den’s entrance. Rick followed and found Elle peeking between the drapes as the lights to the north side of the greenhouse came on. He caught her eye. She moved her head up and down, confirming the presence of a second trespasser.
The exchange did not go unnoticed by the young woman reclining on the sofa. She shot to a sitting position.
“Don’t let them take me,” she pleaded, looking every bit a scared little girl. Her eyes went to Rick and then John. “I’ll do anything you want—both of you—anything!”
The two detectives exchanged glances and went into action. John headed to the French doors as Rick motioned Alexander and her patient to the space between the bookshelf and a perpendicular wall. He doused the room’s lights. He withdrew his weapon from his ankle holster and stood guard where he could see both inside and outside the room.
“What’s going on?” Claire Hutsell asked her son from the kitchen.
“With me, Mom, now!
Shielding his mother from view, he steered her past the den to the adjacent bathroom.
“What about everyone else?” she asked.
“Rick has it under control. Now go!”
John made a side trip to the kitchen to get his parka before heading outside.