She glanced over her shoulder at the slice of window in the door to the morgue. Squinting through the mesh covering the glass, she gripped the edge of the table, her gloved fingers inches away from the lifeless arm of Elena Hidalgo. Nada.
Lola blew out a breath and dragged the back of her hand across her forehead, the smell of the latex glove competing with the scent of formaldehyde in the morgue. The twin smells jerked her back to reality and the task at hand. Dr. Trapp ran a tight ship down here, and he'd grudgingly allowed her to take a look at Elena Hidalgo while he was on a break.
Dr. Trapp didn't get why Lola had insisted on taking a peek at the dead crack addict, murdered by her drug-dealing boyfriend. But then Dr. Trapp wasn't responsible for the well-being of the crack addict's child, Eddie, who'd been injured in the assault on his mother.
Lola wiggled her fingers, snapping the gloves tighter around her hands. To better treat Elena's son, Lola wanted to get a sense of this woman, wanted to judge the extent of her trauma. Dr. Trapp planned to do the autopsy later this evening, so Elena Hidalgo lay before her battered but still in one piece.
With one finger, Lola brushed the woman's dark hair from her bruised cheekbone. Her gaunt, lined face told a story much longer than Elena's twenty-four years of life. Had she tried to protect her child in the end? Had she felt one last burst of motherly instinct, which had deserted her ever since she'd begged the courts to give her one last chance?
The door to the stairwell creaked on its hinges, and Lola jumped back from her examination of Elena. She banged her elbow on the open door to the freezer where Elena had lain tagged and bagged. Could Dr. Trapp be back from his break already?
Lola's pulse danced at the base of her throat. She backed up on silent sneakers, away from the scope of the narrow window, and pressed her back against the wall. Running her tongue across her dry lips, her gaze flitted toward the tray of sharp instruments awaiting Dr. Trapp's steady hand.
If someone broke into this room, a well-placed scalpel could stop him in his tracks. She stifled a gasp. Was that a footfall outside the door?
The morgue remained locked at all times, and she had to practically beg Dr. Trapp for his extra key. So if Dr. Trapp or his medical examiner assistant was lurking in the hallway, either one of them would have access. Folding her arms and gripping the sleeves of her white coat, Lola flattened herself against the icy wall and stared at the door handle. It turned. And stopped. Thwarted by the lock.
A cry gurgled and died at the back of Lola's throat and she slid down the wall. She could crawl toward the instrument table, unseen by anyone peering into the room. And then what? Grab a scalpel? Hell, she could grab an electric saw.
A shadow darkened the window. Lola splayed damp hands, sweating inside the gloves, on the cool linoleum, as if securing them in starting blocks, waiting for a whistle or some sign to send her scurrying for a weapon.
Maybe someone had come down to the morgue to get a last look at Elena Hidalgo. To mourn her. To curse her.
But Lola's thumping heart mocked this theory. She knew the stranger outside that door was here for her. He'd been watching her for weeks. Waiting.
The ding of the elevator and the rumble of the doors acted like a cool hand to a fevered brow...her fevered brow. Someone was coming. Voices spilled down the hallway, the cheery click of heels dispelling the ominous silence hovering outside the door to the morgue.
This time when the footsteps halted on the other side of the door, a key scraped in the lock. Lola shot to her feet as the door swung open.
Dr. Trapp raised his reddish eyebrows. "Are you still here, Dr. Famosa?"
Despite the chill in the room, Lola's cheeks warmed. "I got here a little later than expected."
"I pulled her out for you." He plucked a glove from the box and waved it at the tall brunette, shrugging into a white coat. "Do you know Dr. Felson?"
Lola thrust out an arm, and Dr. Felson dropped her gaze to the less-than-pristine glove encasing Lola's hand. Lola shook her head, her ponytail swinging behind her. "Oh, I haven't examined the body physically."
Dr. Felson gave a little wave and a smile. "That's okay. I'll pass."
"I hope you're not squeamish, Dr. Felson." Dr. Trapp adjusted his glasses and peered at his vicious instruments. "Autopsies are not for the squeamish."