The ringing of her phone roused Anna from sleep. She raised her head from its resting place on her desk and squinted at her watch. Eleven o'clock. Who could be calling this late? Her father had told her once, "A phone call after ten p.m. is never good news." She had rarely experienced anything that proved that dictum wrong.
Anna picked up the phone, but had to clear her throat twice before she could answer. "Dr. McIntyre."
"I'm sorry to call this late, but what I have will probably let you sleep better." The urgency in Ross Donovan's voice was a marked contrast with Anna's fuzziness. "I just dug up some new information about that prescription bottle the police say links you to Eric Hatley." The words acted like a jolt of caffeine. Anna sat up straight. "That's great. Can you tell me about it?"
"I don't want to seem paranoid, but I think we'd better talk in person about this, not on the phone. Can you come to my office at nine in the morning?"
Anna didn't want to wait ten minutes, much less ten hours."Ross, you're awake and now I am too. Is there an all-night coffee shop where we could meet?"
"No, that's not a good idea. Getting this information tonight was risky business. If someone is following me and I meet with you now, that sends up a red flag and puts both you and me in danger. But if you come to my office tomorrow, it's just another lawyer-client conference."
"Can't you at least give me a hint what this is about?"
The hum of the open line went on so long Anna thought the connection had been broken. Finally, Ross said, "I've been wondering all along if someone is trying to frame you for this."
"Now I can prove it." ROSS CLOSED HIS CELL PHONE AND STOWED IT IN HIS POCKET. HE PEERED out of the shadows of the alley before stepping onto the deserted sidewalk. A faint light shone through the stained glass windows of St. Barnabas Church, but otherwise the street around him was dark. As he walked to his car, his head was on a swivel, searching for a presence he felt but could not see. He hunched his shoulders, clenched his fists, and lengthened his stride.
When he saw his car ahead, Ross breathed a little easier. Another hundred feet and he'd be safe inside. He wasted little time worrying that he might have put Glenn in jeopardy. Glenn had put his own neck in that noose. If anything, giving up the information tonight might help the man escape serious consequences. Right now, Ross's primary concern was for Anna. And with what he had, he should definitely be able to counter the police attempts to incriminate her.
As he neared his car, Ross heard a quick shuffle of footsteps behind him. He turned just enough to take the first blow on his shoulder, but his attacker adjusted quickly, and the second and third strikes were on target, right at the base of his skull. He dropped to his knees and put out his hands to brace himself for impact with the pavement. As everything faded from gray to black, he heard a voice, faint and far away. "Hey, what's going on?" Then there was nothing. Anna was wide-awake now. That nap with her head on the desk might not have been the most comfortable one she'd ever had, but the rest, combined with the effect of Ross's phone call, had left her wide awake.
She wasn't going to sleep anytime soon, so she might as well get some more of this paperwork out of the way. Armed with a cup of tea, she shoved aside the legal pad where she'd been trying to connect the dots of her life and turned her attention to the stack of bills.
Anna took a sip from her cup and rolled her shoulders to relax them. She could recall when the only tension involved in opening her bills was wondering how she was going to pay them. Now she had to worry about whether the charges listed were her own or the work of someone else. Her latest MasterCard bill held no surprises. The identity thief, whoever it might be, apparently wasn't able to gain access to her new card number. Anna one, bad guy zero. The VISA bill was short—she generally used it only for backup—and like the MasterCard statement, it was free of unauthorized charges.
Her utility bills were routine. She expected no surprises, and there were none. As Anna wrote the checks, she watched her dwindling bank balance and wondered how she could afford the fee of the private detective Ross had mentioned.
Soon there was only one piece of mail left unopened: a large envelope marked "Personal." The return address was an unfamiliar one, a Dallas post office box. In Anna's experience, correspondence marked "Personal" was often part of a marketing scheme to entice the skeptical recipient to open the envelope. On the other hand, it might really be important, maybe medical information. She shivered as she thought of this last possibility. Was this yet another lab report, generated by a visit from someone using her insurance information? She still hadn't done anything to expunge that false report of a positive HIV test from the lab's records. She hated to have something like that floating around with her name and identifying data attached to it. That was one more thing for her "to do" list.
Anna slit the end of the envelope and pulled out a sheaf of papers with the heading "CSC Credit Services." Was this more bad news about her credit rating? As she read further, her eyes stopped at the line, "Your personal credit report." Then she remembered. When she'd first found out about the theft of her credit card information, she'd requested copies of her credit report from the three major companies that kept up with that stuff. The first two reports were in the packet she delivered to Ross. This one was just late.
Well, she might as well see if this one showed anything different. She spread the pages on the desk and picked up a red pen, ready to circle items that would require attention. When she reached the bottom of the last page, she frowned. There were two unfamiliar charge accounts listed. She was sure they hadn't been listed on the other credit reports. Sure enough, the dates showed they'd only been open for a week. The name on the accounts was Anna Elizabeth McIntyre, but the address wasn't hers.
Ross had warned her that sometimes credit reports contained inaccuracies. He'd told her not to be surprised if she found some accounts, either old or active, that weren't hers. For instance, it could be a case of two people with the same name. Could there be two Anna Elizabeth McIntyres in Dallas? She pulled the phone directory to her and began to search. When she laid it aside, she was satisfied that, if she did share a name with someone else in the city, that person's phone number was unlisted.
So, what did this mean? Anna burrowed through the mound of papers she'd created and found her yellow legal pad. She entered the new information, but there was no instant flash of recognition, no sudden insight. Well, maybe it would look better in the morning. Anna yawned, stretched, and then padded offto the bedroom to snatch a few hours of sleep.
Anna poured a second cup of coffee and looked at her watch. She moved to her desk, where she picked up the phone and punched in a familiar number.
"Good morning, Dr. Fowler's office. This is Peggy."
"Peggy, this is Dr. McIntyre. Has Dr. Fowler come in yet?"
There was the expected exchange of good wishes, during which Anna felt alternate pleasure at being missed and shame that she wasn't at work right now. "He just walked in," Peggy finally said. "Let me tell him you're on the line."
In a moment, she heard Fowler's voice. "Anna, how are you today?"
"Doing pretty well. I was hoping to be back at work today, but some things have come up. Can you do without me for another day or two and let me try to tie up some loose ends?"
He paused long enough to make Anna wonder if he was about to deny her request. "Tell you what," he said. "This is Thursday. Why don't you plan on coming back on Monday. I'll schedule you to staffin the resident clinic that day, maybe a few cases in the OR on Tuesday, so you can ease back into things. Sound okay?"
Anna figured that would be fine, if she wasn't in jail by then. But there was no need to tell her chairman right now. "Yes, that'll be fine. And thanks for your patience."
Okay, she'd cleared the decks for the balance of the week. Nick's meeting with the detectives was on Friday afternoon. Green and Dowling were obviously getting things lined up to ask a judge for an arrest warrant. Was Nick's statement the last piece of the puzzle for them? And, if so, could they get a warrant on the weekend? Did judges work on Saturday? Sunday?
What if Nick dropped by unannounced over the weekend just when the police came for her? That would be great, to have him show up at her door just as she was being led away in handcuffs. She silently asked God to show her a way out of the pit into which she seemed to be sinking day by day.
No need to sit here feeling sorry for herself. Time to get moving. By now, her coffee was cold. She shoved the cup aside and reached for the notes she'd made last evening. Maybe something would jump out at her this morning. Names, dates, addresses were scrawled across the page. Ideas came and went like shoppers at Christmas hurrying through the mall. Then it hit her.
The address for the new charge accounts, the ones she was sure weren't hers, was in her neighborhood. No wonder the address had tickled her memory last evening. She drove down that street every day on her way to work. Like most people, her routine was so set that she could navigate her way to the hospital on automatic pilot. But seen out of context, the address hadn't meant anything. Now it meant . . . what?
She let her finger roam over the page, looking for the other addresses she'd jotted down. Then she found it—another one in her neighborhood. She squinted to decipher the name scrawled above the address. Yes, that was it. Eric Hatley.
Anna looked at her watch and realized she was due in Ross Donovan's office in half an hour. Time to get moving. She could puzzle over her latest discovery as she drove. She'd almost forgotten Ross's phone call, telling her he had proof someone was trying to frame her. He'd sounded hopeful. Maybe deliverance was in sight after all.