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Authors: Jerilyn Dufresne

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2 Any Meat In That Soup? (10 page)

BOOK: 2 Any Meat In That Soup?
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I still had about a half hour before my shift was done, so I asked Danny his thoughts on the murders. He sat forward in his chair, and said, “I think we have to find the bastard who’s poisoning people and the animals too.”

“Do you have any ideas about who it might be?”

“Well, I heard Jenny, Dougie, Loretta, and Carter are all suspects for one reason or another.”

I used all the self control I could muster to not say anything about his suspect list. “Anything else?”

“Well, in the beginning everyone was dying, but now not so much…”

His wife, Connie Mumford walked in. After Danny kissed her, he filled her in and she added, “Yeah, no one’s died since Dr. Adams. He was the seventh. Because seven people died, we now are looking for arsenic poisoning right away and treating for it. Others have lived. We haven’t gotten confirmation from the lab yet that these people have been poisoned, but I bet they have. It’s a much better feeling to be able to save people.”

“I still want to find the SOB who’s doing this,” Danny chimed in again.

No more than I, Danny. No more than I.

THIRTEEN

G
eorge texted to remind me that he’d pick me up at 6:15. He also said we were going to Joe’s Place, a down-home restaurant in Liberty, a small town a few miles east of Quincy.

I got home at 6:00 and was immediately struck with how empty my house was. Silence can be deafening. Knowing I was a pest I called the vet again. The answering service answered because the office was closed. As soon as I said my name, the woman gave me a message from Dr. Bob. “Clancy is doing very well. Tired, but resting comfortably.” She hesitated before she read the next part, “And before you get upset about our office being closed, there is someone back by the dog runs all night. Clancy will not be alone.” She stopped.

“Okay, thanks,” was all I could think to say. Guess I was pretty predictable.

I hung up, and before I could think about the message, George knocked on the door.

I hadn’t bothered changing my clothes or freshening up. After all, I was having dinner with George. Comfy old George, the guy who was sweet and compassionate, and who was on my mind a lot. And although I’d come to the realization that I loved him, I also tried to make that feeling go away.

In a way I was testing him. If he still wanted to be around me the way I really am, then things might progress, whether I was ready to admit it to myself or not.

I opened the door. “Hi ya, Sam. Are you ready?” George had on jeans, so I thought that even though I hadn’t cleaned up, I was still overdressed. Crap.

“Give me a minute to change. Help yourself to a beer.”

I found a pair of jeans on the floor of my bedroom and quickly changed into them. That’s the only concession I made to the date.

As I entered the living room, I noticed that George hadn’t gotten a beer, but was just sitting there looking quite at home. He looked up. “Ready?”

I nodded and picked up my purse.

He opened the car door for me, and didn’t chide me for not locking my house behind me. I suddenly burst out with, “Clancy’s not there. I better lock the door.”

George didn’t say a word as I jumped out of the car, and ran to the door of the carriage house. It only took me a moment, but I felt more comfortable when I returned. I sank into the leather seat, feeling enveloped by the softness of the fabric.

Then it hit me. I’d have a few hours to talk to George about the murders. This was the best part of the date, uninterrupted time with the detective working on the case. “So, are you sure all these murders are connected? Were the people murdered by the same person who killed the animals? Did you…”

“Hold it, Sam. This is going to be a real date, not an excuse to get information from me.”

“Couldn’t it be both?” I tried to sound sweet as I touched his arm, but it sounded phony even to me.

He didn’t answer.

“How about a compromise?” I almost begged.

“What kind of compromise?”

“Maybe we could talk about the murders on the way to dinner? And maybe on the way home? But not at all during dinner. That will be our date part.”

“I don’t like the ratio of crime to date. We’ll talk about the cases on the way to dinner, and that’s it.”

“It’s better than nothing.” I smiled the smile of someone who had won the battle and planned to win the war. “Back to my questions—are you sure all these murders are connected? Were the people murdered by the same person who killed the animals?”

“You know we’re not too far into the investigation yet, right? So I can give you some suppositions, but not too many facts.”

“If that’s what I get, that’s what I get.”

“Okay. We’re pretty confident everything is connected. After all, arsenic powder isn’t commonly found anymore.”

I couldn’t keep quiet. “But isn’t it in rat poison?”

George took his eyes off Highway 104 for a second, “No. Not since the ’60s. At least in America. There are still some developing countries who use it, but nowhere here.”

“I’m surprised. I thought it was still easy to get.”

“Nope. But here’s the kicker. The arsenic powder found in the victims’ stomachs came from rat poison. So it’s either from another country, or someone has been keeping a supply of the stuff for a long, long time.”

Interesting. Here I thought it would be hard to track the arsenic because it was so common. Instead it’s going to be hard to track it because it’s so uncommon.

George started talking again, “Did you know that arsenic is in practically everything? But in minute amounts that don’t cause us any trouble.”

“Yeah,” I replied, “I did some research on it.”

“You better hurry up with more questions. We’re almost there.”

Little did he know that I had a bunch. “Have you checked out the suspects? Anybody stick out as more likely to be the killer?”

“I’ll tell you but you have to stay calm or I’ll never talk about this again with you.”

“Of course I’ll stay calm.” I almost laughed at him.

“I checked out Jen first…”

“Why in the hell did you check out Jenny first? She’s the least likely suspect.”

“Are you yelling at me, Sam? Because if you are, I’m done talking about the case.” His fingers tightened on the steering wheel.

I was angry with myself for giving in to my emotions. “I’m really sorry. Please continue with why you checked out Jenny first.”

George smiled as he pulled into the parking lot. “That’s better. I checked out Jenny first because I agree that she’s the least likely suspect and I thought it would be easy to clear her.”

How could I be so mad at him all the time? He was indeed a sweet guy. “And were you able to clear her?”

“Remember to stay calm.” He lifted his eyebrows, and this time he could keep looking at me since we were parked. “I wasn’t able to clear her yet. Yet.”

I held my temper. At least until later.

He continued, “The only thing holding us back is that she threatened Dr. Adams more than once.”

I couldn’t help but contribute to this, “I bet that could be said about a lot more people.”

“Indeed. But none of them were present for all the deaths.”

I wanted to let him know something I’d found out. “I read that it can take a half-hour for arsenic to begin working, so anyone else could have done it outside the hospital and not have been around when the symptoms showed up.”

“You’re absolutely right.”

What? Did George just say I was absolutely right? Did he say it without being sarcastic? I needed to put this in my journal.

George took my hand. “We’ve been sitting in the parking lot for five minutes. Your time for asking questions is over.”

I didn’t say anything, but that was answer enough. George got out of the car, walked around to my side, opened my door, and took my hand as we walked into Joe’s. This hand-holding thing was new, and I hadn’t really experienced it since I dated George in high school. It was not unpleasant.

I hadn’t been to Joe’s Place since I moved back to Quincy, and it brought back a lot of memories. I couldn’t help but be in a good mood, and I gave George’s hand a squeeze as we walked to our table. It was a little booth, only seating two. Nestled in a corner of the large dining room. “You remembered,” I said, unable to contain my smile.

“How could I forget. This was our first real date, junior year. I’d gotten my license a few months before, and was so proud to be able to drive on the highway all the way to Liberty.’”

I continued, “And we sat in this little booth. I was so nervous. I really liked you.”

“Talk about nervous…‌I was scared to death. But once we sat in the booth and I got the courage to hold your hand, the fear went away.”

“I agree,” my smile widened. “Everything was pretty good that night.”

“Pretty good? It was perfect.”

George was a popular guy in high school. Still was. Everyone liked him. However, we’d been friends ever since kindergarten, when we were both enthusiastic about being in school and being big kids. Even though we didn’t date until junior year, we spent many hours together through our school years. If the debacle on prom night hadn’t happened I probably would have stayed in Quincy and married him. And I wouldn’t be the person I was. My kids wouldn’t be around either. I guess things turned out the way they were supposed to.

I quickly turned off those thoughts and paid attention to the menu. As usual there weren’t many things for vegetarians, so I ordered the same thing I ordered back in high school. “A grilled cheese with tomatoes on it, french fries, and water. Wait, make that a chocolate shake.”

George seemed surprised, “That’s exactly what you ordered when we first ate here.” He beamed. “So I’ll do the same thing.” He looked up at the waitress and said, “Double cheeseburger, french fries, chocolate shake, and we’ll order dessert later.”

Dessert? I was full just talking about all this food.

While we waited for our food, I called the vet again. I began with an apology but that was dismissed by the answering service, “No need to apologize. That’s what we’re here for. I just got a call from Dr. Bob’s office. The tech said Clancy was doing so much better. They have her out of the run, and she is allowed to roam around the place. She’ll definitely be ready to go home tomorrow morning.” She took a breath. “Do you have any questions?”

“Nope.” I was amazed at how much info she could give me without me asking anything. “Thanks and I’ll be there early tomorrow.”

George saw my face and must have known I was pleased with the news. He asked, “So everything is good?”

I relayed the message and he picked up my hand again.

His hand shook when he began talking, “Sam, there’s been something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about. Since…”

The food arrived right at that moment, stopping whatever George was going to say. I wondered what it was, but quickly put it out of my mind as the joys of Joe’s chocolate shake overtook all my senses.

George let go of my hand so we could pick up our sandwiches. I was surprised that I was more interested in his hand than I was in my grilled cheese and fries. I thought my life was pretty good—I had two jobs that I enjoyed, a house I loved, my family was close, my dog was healthy, and I was sitting in a booth with my high school boyfriend.

Then it happened—the door opened and in walked Michael. With a girl. And damn if the hostess didn’t put them at a table close to us. What was this? The lovers’ corner?

He saw us. Of course it would have been odd for him not to talk to us, so he did. “Hi, Sam. Hello, George.” We returned his greeting. Then he half turned to indicate the beautiful redhead beside him. “Samantha, George, this is Jane Gordon. Jane, these are my friends Sam and George.”

She extended a beautifully maintained hand with shiny red lacquer on the nails. “How do you do?” Her voice sounded like Marilyn Monroe’s when Marilyn was trying to sound really smart but came off sounding really sexy.

I took her hand first and then George did. I glanced at him and noticed he was looking at Michael and not the girl. George hit a home run with that one.

I couldn’t resist, “Michael, I’ll need to talk to you about the case tomorrow. Will you be in the office?”

“In and out,” he replied. “Text or call to see if I’m there.”

All four of us exchanged more pleasantries and then they went to their table. The encounter was much less awkward than I expected. If this had happened a few days ago I would have been devastated. Funny. My crush on Michael had almost evaporated. I looked at George. Sweet, balding, old, George. The warm feeling that enveloped me was a totally different feeling than what I’d experienced with Michael. That was like a hot flash, which made me laugh when I thought about it.

“What’s so funny?” George looked at me quizzically.

“Nothing. I was just thinking about how happy I am.”

He took my hand again and said, “Me too.” I waited but he didn’t say anything about his earlier unfinished sentences. No matter. I was content.

Little did I know that my contentment wasn’t destined to stay.

FOURTEEN

A
fter a few well-executed kisses, George dropped me off at home. What was it about his kisses? He had two lips like other guys I’d kissed. But there was an extra intensity, and all the while he was gentle and caring. Though it was hard to describe why, his kisses were memorable.

I didn’t sleep well. After all, I was used to having Clancy hogging the bed. It felt funny having it all to myself.

After tossing and turning most of the night, I finally slept for a while and woke up early. By the time the vet’s office opened at seven I had already been in the parking lot for ten minutes. As soon as I walked in, Clancy greeted me with sloppy kisses and her version of a hug. She wasn’t mad at me for leaving her there, after all. This was the first time for that.

I paid the bill with a handy credit card; no way would I have this kind of money in my checking account. The receptionist gave me a print out with instructions, which included a return in a few weeks “if necessary.” Right now it didn’t look like that would happen. Clancy was indeed her old self.

BOOK: 2 Any Meat In That Soup?
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