From the doorway, a short, thick man wearing green scrubs blocked David's view of Stephanie's face though he could see her arm. A vial attached to a port at the base of the IV was filling with blood. More startling was the rail-thin teenage boy who was supporting a golf-bag sized camera on his shoulder and appeared to be filming. To David, the long-haired kid looked like a throw back to the sex, drugs and rock-n-roll days.
Not wanting to interrupt the procedure or the filmographer, David waited.
The nurse twisted the vile off Stephanie's arm, capped it then set it on a tray. He moved and David saw Stephanie smiling at the kid. Many of the blisters on her face had broken leaving behind bright pink blotches of skin.
"Surely you don't need to film every time they take my vitals," she seemed to be teasing.
"In case something goes wrong, I want to catch it," he said.
David cleared his throat to announce his presence as the nurse picked up a clipboard and scribbled. Smiling, Stephanie looked up and waved. A monitor at the head of her bed went off.
The nurse, surprised, looked up and said, "What have we here?"
David followed his eyes to the beeping machine. The heart monitor had registered a jump in Stephanie's heart rate.
The nurse turned, saw David and chuckled. He pressed a button to quiet the machine then watched it a moment before turning to leave. On his way out he whispered, "Don't let her get too worked up." David saw Stephanie's already red face turned brighter. To let her recover from her embarrassment, David greeted the boy with the camera, which was now pointed at him.
"Hi. I'm David. I work with Stephanie."
"I'm Jacob." Jacob lowered the camera and offered a droopy hand for David to shake.
After explaining the arrangement between her and the filmographer, Stephanie asked Jacob to leave them alone. Jacob retreated to Tania's side of the curtain, leaving David and Stephanie in quasi-privacy.
"So how was your day?" David asked.
"Productive. I found the media room for the patients. Gave me something to do. Yours?"
"It was okay." David raked a hand through his hair causing it to spike up. He hated that Stephanie was his strongest suspect.
"You sure? You don't look okay. You may even look worse than me and that's not easy," she joked.
"You look fine." David slumped in the chair next to her.
"Anything new happen at the zoo?"
Smiling wryly, David said, "Nothing has happened since you've been in the hospital."
Stephanie's features pinched. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Are you behind the vandalism?"
Clenching her hand into a ball, Stephanie asked, "What do you think?"
"If it's not you, then someone wants you to get blamed for it," David paused. "You have any enemies at work?" David knew Stephanie and Mae weren't the best of friends but didn't think they hated each other.
"You mean besides you?" Stephanie asked.
"Actually, I have my own theory about the vandalism," her tone was curt.
David tried to look impassive. Detective Chavez told him to watch for anyone eager to point the finger elsewhere. Mae had pointed, so had Jill. Was Stephanie about to do the same? "What's your theory?"
"I think it's your Mother. The Senator."
David's laughter was genuine. "My mom's a lot of things, but being a vandal isn't one of them."
"No." Shifting in his chair David broke eye contact and looked at the IV.
"Will you at least hear me out before you pass judgment?"
David slid his back.
Stephanie went on. "You've practically accused me of being the vandal, asked me to name my enemies so you can investigate them when the truth is sitting before your eyes. You just don't want to see it."
David sighed. "Okay. I'll bite. Why do you think it's my Mother?"
Stephanie laid out the facts as she saw them. For the first time in three decades, his mother was lagging behind in the polls. She'd forced David into the General Curator position and had used her connection to him as a way to get positive media coverage. Having the zoo be vandalized was a way of keeping David in the spotlight.
As Stephanie spoke, she laid before him articles she'd printed off the Internet supporting her claims. While he would have loved to know who the vandal was, he didn't think it was his mom.
Still, he enjoyed her passion. It reminded him of the first time he'd seen her with ET.
Stephanie concluded her diatribe with the latest poll numbers showing Miriam with a six-point lead.
David said, "Looks like you've done your homework."
"Well what do you think?"
"Vandalism isn't my mother's style."
"Why not? She's desperate."
"I can't disagree with that." David drummed his fingers on his knee. "It's too sloppy, too goofy. Her," he hesitated. Years of living with a politician had taught him ears were everywhere. He needed to be careful what he said. "She wouldn't do that."
Stephanie protested. "But it all fits."
"Not to me. Again, is there anyone at the zoo who might want to frame you?" Give me something to work with because right now everything is pointing right at you, he thought.