Sworn to Secrecy
This is a behind-the-scenes scene from my first fanfic, “The Final Chapter.” If you haven’t read it and you don’t want its plot spoiled for you, stop reading now!
Okay. If you’re still with me I’m going to assume you’ve read “Final Chapter” and that we’re all good. This scene takes place about a third of the way through the story at the hospital, where Seth has just finished extracting the crossbow bolt from Jessica’s chest.
This short borrows the character of Laura Garrison from the Season Eight episode “Programmed for Murder.” I don’t own any of the characters, I’m not trying to maliciously step on anybody’s copyright, and I’m certainly not making any money from writing this.
It had taken over an hour to probe the deep wound and repair the damage the arrow had inflicted, but when it was over the bleeding had ceased, the wound had been closed, and the collapsed lung re-inflated. Now, in a private recovery room, Seth sat at Jessica’s bedside accompanied by a single carefully-chosen nurse, having chased off the other attendants that usually hovered over a patient recovering from anesthesia and surgery.
The nurse, Laura Garrison, noted the latest set of readings on her chart then sat back in her chair, rubbed her eyes, and sighed. She had been helping Seth from the moment they had come in even though her shift had almost been over, motivated by the fact that Jessica and Seth had once believed in her when everyone else had not.* Now it looked like it was going to be a long night for both her and the doctor.
“Is she going to be all right, Dr. Hazlitt?” she asked anxiously.
“I think so,” said Seth. “Nurse Garrison, can I have a word with you?”
Seth fixed her with a serious look. “Someone tried to kill this woman tonight, Laura,” he said, emphasizing the gravity of the situation with the use of her given name. “They very nearly succeeded. I have been thinking over these past few hours, and come to the conclusion that if this person learns that they have failed, they will try again.”
“You’re saying that she’s still in danger, then.”
“Ay-yuh, very much so,” said Seth. “For that reason, I think it would be best if we … not let the word get out that she is still alive.”
It took a few moments for the significance of Seth’s words to sink in. “You mean, pretend like she actually died tonight?” Laura asked.
Seth nodded. “Exactly. It will mean some subterfuge on our part, but hopefully just for a few days. For her own safety, the only people who will know that Jessica lives will be you, me, Dr. Beckwith, and Sheriff Metzger. Can I trust you to keep this secret with us?”
Laura looked at Jessica lying pale against the white pillows of the hospital bed, then up at Seth again. “Yes, Doctor,” she said quietly. “You can count on me.”
Mort went over to the county hospital as soon as his part in the investigation at the library was over for the night. He paced around the waiting room, waiting for Seth, and absently rejected a cup of coffee offered to him by one of the nurses. The clock paced slowly through another hour and a half before Seth finally appeared, and right away Mort knew something was wrong just by looking at him. His friend's head drooped, and he looked tired and defeated.
"Doc? What happened?"
Seth sighed heavily, and looked around to see if the nurses were listening. "She didn't make it," he said at last. "The wound was too deep; there was nothing I could do."
Mort didn't know what to say. He rubbed his forehead with his hand, looked at the floor. "I'm so sorry, Seth," he said at last.
Seth nodded. "So am I," he said. "So am I."
For a long moment the two friends stood in silence, each lost in their own private grief. Staff and others in the waiting room watched them with pity in their eyes. Everything fell quiet.
"Well," said Mort finally, a new sense of determination and purpose rising in the wake of his sadness, "if Jessica couldn't solve this murder, then Cabot Cove will."
Seth nodded. "She would want that."
Mort sighed. "I'd like to see her," he said.
"I think that would be a good idea," said Seth, and he led him down the corridor.
Mort followed Seth down the hallway grimly, clamping down on the maelstrom of emotions that swirled inside of him. There would be time enough later, he told himself, for grief – first he had final respects to pay to a friend, and then a job to begin to find the person who had done this to her and bring them to justice.
Seth opened the door to a room at the very end of the corridor, and stood aside so that the sheriff could enter. Mort reluctantly stepped into the room, where he received the shock of his life.
Jessica, awake and very much alive, smiled weakly at her friend.
“Hullo, Mort,” she said hoarsely.
Mort stared at her speechlessly, until Seth poked him in the arm.
“You’ll catch flies with your mouth hanging open like that,” he teased.
“Okay, Doc,” he said at last, “I think you have some explaining to do. Mrs. F, I thought you were dead!”
“Not … yet,” she replied, the words costing her some effort.
Seth outlined what had happened from the time they had arrived at the hospital to the present, including the reasoning that he had previously shared with Laura Garrison. Mort listened intently, his glance straying to Jessica from time to time as if reassuring himself that what he was seeing and hearing was for real.
“So there you have it,” Seth concluded. “I figure we can sneak Jess out of here tonight and hide her at my place while she recovers and we look for the killer. Doctor Beckwith and Nurse Garrison here have volunteered to help keep an eye on her there, since I can’t be with her every minute.”
“Though … no doubt … you’ll try,” Jessica commented.
“That’s enough out of you, woman,” Seth scolded her. “You’re supposed to be recovering from anesthesia.”
Jessica subsided, but shot a wink at Mort.
Mort was not quite convinced. “Do you have any idea,” he said, “how difficult it’s going to be to keep a secret this big in a town this small?”
“Difficult, yes, but not impossible,” said Seth. “I know for a fact that neither Dr. Beckwith nor Nurse Garrison nor I are integral parts of the beauty parlor gossip network, and that’s half the battle won right there. ‘Course, I can’t speak for you, Sheriff …”
“Doc …” Mort began in a dangerous tone of voice, clearly unamused.
Seth held up his hands in a gesture of defense. “All right, all right, no need to get testy.”
Mort considered the plan for a few moments. “All right,” he said. “It works for me. Mrs. F, are you comfortable with all of this?” Jessica nodded. “Okay. So, Doc, when do we do this thing?”
* Laura was initially held responsible for the death of Harriet Wooster in “Programmed for Murder;” Jessica’s proving that Harriet was murdered cleared her name and reputation as a nurse.