Murder by Art by Janet McGiffin
Dr. Maxine Cassidy sat down behind the reception desk at Mercy Hospital Emergency Room. She pulled out the lower desk drawer and put her feet on it. Her legs hurt. It was 8:00 p.m. on a Saturday night in August and she had been working in the ER for five long hours. Maxine was wearing surgical greens – a green cotton shirt and trousers. Maxine’s short brown hair curled in the humid heat. The ER was air-conditioned, but whenever the automatic glass doors opened, the August heat of the Midwest United States came inside. And on Saturday night in the inner city of Milwaukee the door opened for a lot of sick or injured people.
Shirley, the ER head nurse, handed Maxine a glass of iced tea. “Four more hours and we can go home and cool off,” she said.
Mercy Hospital was in the poorest, hottest, and most dangerous area of Milwaukee. Shirley owned a house in a neighborhood north of the inner city, where it was cooler because there were lots of trees. Maxine also lived in a neighborhood with lots of big trees. She rented an apartment on the northeast side, three blocks from Lake Michigan.
“I can’t go home after work today,” replied Maxine. “I’m going downtown to an art show at the Art Space. Dr. Hochstedder’s wife, Lillian, is an artist and her statues are in the show. I promised Leo Hochstedder I would go. I’ve never met Lillian, but I’ve known Leo for years.”
“After nine hours on your feet, you’re going to stand around looking at art?” commented Shirley.
Maxine nodded. “Lillian’s statues are very popular, according to Leo. Besides, a famous New York artist also has some work in the show and I want to see it. His name is Soren Berendorf.”
“Never heard of him,” said Shirley.
“Soren’s collection is called Wood Shapes. I read in the newspaper that he attaches pieces of wood together into interesting shapes. One of them, Musical Chairs, costs a hundred thousand dollars.”
“Don’t buy anything, even if it costs one dollar!” ordered Shirley. “You need a new car! Your old one will die any day now.”
Just then, Maxine’s cellphone rang. She smiled when she read the caller ID: “Grabowski.”
Maxine knew Detective Grabowski because the previous year he had been hurt in a car chase and a police ambulance had brought him to Mercy ER. After that, Maxine had seen a lot of Grabowski – dinners, movies, even midnight snacks at Tony’s Fish Fries after she finished work. As a police detective, Grabowski often worked nights, like Maxine…