Knocking, and then entering exam room 1, Matthew Paine stopped abruptly and Gladys nearly ran into his back. Usually filling the doorway with her girth, Gladys couldn't see past the normally unflappable Matthew, who was almost filling the doorway with his height, to see what brought him up short. Ducking under and around him, she entered the room to see a luscious blond woman splayed invitingly across the examining table, minus the still neatly folded robe that was left for her. The woman's come-hither look faded quickly at the sight of Gladys, Matthew's most efficient nurse and self-appointed protector.
Gladys Gantry exuded motherly protection like a sentinel goose, feathers fluffed in warning, daring anyone to approach her brood. Looking a bit goose-like, Gladys stood something marginally over five feet, if you squinted at the measuring rod on the scale, but she was a force to be reckoned with.
“Ms. Umm... Eleanor Prestwould,” snapped Gladys, clicking the laptop keyboard on the rolling stand in the corner to see the intake form the patient had completed and that had been scanned into her medical record. “You can put that gown on. Doctor Paine doesn't need to see ALL of you.”
“Oh, that's OK,” the young woman shot back as she smiled alluringly at Matthew. “I'm a nudist. I don't need the gown.”
“Well, honey, that might be,” retorted Gladys unfazed and lapsing a bit into her southern drawl, as she handed the woman the robe, shaking it out to unfold it. “But Doctor Paine isn't.” As the woman hesitated, Gladys proceeded to drape the gown across the front of her curvaceous form, pulling it on, over her shoulders, and moving her long blonde hair aside to attempt a loose tie behind her neck.
Matthew, who had broken up with his long-time girlfriend Cecelia the previous year, wasn’t actively seeking another one, though several well-meaning friends had tried to set him up with a few. He seemed completely unaware of his six-foot three-inch muscular frame, broad shoulders and narrow waist. He seemed equally unaware of his handsome features, soft thick wavy brown hair, and expressive big brown eyes against the smooth-shaven light olive complexion. Gladys, however, saw the way women looked at him and she asked pointed questions of any woman who had the misfortune to get close enough to be drilled by her.
Regaining his composure, Matthew quietly clicked the door closed behind him and sat down on the stool opposite the examining table. “What seems to be the problem, Ms. Prestwould?” he asked as he glanced at the computer screen that Gladys had rolled in front of him and skimmed the rows of the neatly scripted information on the image of the intake form.
“Please, call me Ellen.” She smiled confidently, yet somehow mysteriously, at him with a slight tilt of her head to the left, green eyes sparkling. She paused momentarily and then said ruefully, “I have these purplish red spots that keep appearing and then disappearing.” She pointed to various places on her right arm and the calf of her leg that was tucked up under her though there was nothing immediately visible.
Dead Spots is the first in the Matthew Paine series of southern murder mystery books
. . .
So lost in thought was Matthew that he didn’t realize he was driving below the posted speed limit in the right lane and that Christmas, still over seven months away, might arrive in the small town of Peak before he did, until his cell phone sounded. It took him a moment to realize what had disturbed his rumination. Clicking to activate the call through his car stereo system, he answered despondently and heard Danbury’s brusque “Hey, Doc” on the other end.
Having met the month before when Danbury questioned Matthew about a murder investigation, which Matthew then helped to solve, they’d become friends. Detective Warren Danbury had recently accepted a new position as a Homicide Detective in Wake County and he’d convinced Matthew to sign on as a medical consultant.
“Can you consult?” Danbury said very seriously, entirely skipping any small talk, as usual. Matthew was used to Danbury’s rapid-fire staccato questions and conversations.
“Medically or otherwise?” asked Matthew, less than enthusiastically.
“Both. But not personally.”
“Sure, what’s up?”
“We have one of your patients. I need his background. Anything you can tell me.”
“You know I can’t share his medical history, with the HIPAA governmental privacy regulations and our office’s extension of that. I can’t tell you much of anything without filling out the request form in the office and getting it approved. Which patient and what did he do?”
“Do? I don’t know. He’s dead.”
“Dead? One of MY patients is dead? Who?”
. . .
Prefer Death is the second in the Matthew Paine southern murder mystery series
. . .
It was a hot and sticky Tuesday evening in mid-June. Matthew Paine was laughing and talking over dinner with friends in the informal kitchen of the historic Lingle Plantation. They were discussing whether or not the old historic home was actually haunted, as most of the residents of Peak, North Carolina, the small town outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, where they all lived, thought it to be. In the midst of this haunting conversation, a loud banging made them all jump in their ladder-backed chairs, startled, and glance around the table at each other.
“It’s just the front door,” said practical, stoic, Homicide Detective Warren Danbury with a chuckle. “I’ll get it.”
Matthew, a young physician at a family practice in Peak, North Carolina, silently cheered as he watched Danbury and Penn becoming an item romantically. Matthew had gotten to know the stoic Danbury two months prior when he’d been pulled inextricably into a murder investigation by an intriguing and alluring patient who visited his office exactly once. Danbury, who looked like a misplaced fabled Viking with his tall solid frame and Nordic good looks, was gaining notoriety for his ability to find murderers and motives. A man of few words, he had long been known for his short staccato questions and responses.
There was a commotion after Danbury opened the door as Dr. Rob, one of the senior partners and Matthew’s mentor in the Peak Family Practice, rushed into the kitchen ahead of Danbury. At forty-two, Dr. Rob was trim, fit, and could have been confused with Matthew from behind, though he was slightly over a decade older. Both had broad shoulders over narrow hips and both were over six feet tall, though Dr. Rob missed Matthew’s six-foot-three frame by about an inch. Both had wavy brown hair, but Matthew’s was slightly darker.
His face ashen, Dr. Rob was clearly panicked. Looking from Matthew to Danbury and back again, he said, “I need your help! My daughter Ariel is missing!” As they all looked on in concern, he added, “I don’t know what to do.”
MIA is the third in the Matthew Paine clean southern murder mystery series
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