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Authors: Jerilyn Dufresne

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2 Any Meat In That Soup? (2 page)

BOOK: 2 Any Meat In That Soup?
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Our youngest brother Rob was a rookie police officer in our hometown. He wore the “QPD” patch proudly. The Quincy Police Department was small but pretty efficient, so I expected someone to show up momentarily.

“Hi ya, Sam.” The new arrival was right on cue.

I cringed. It was George Lansing, my old, un-lamented boyfriend from high school, dressed in his usual Detective Colombo-like rumpled suit.

“Hi, George.”

Jen and Jill chimed in with “Hi, George.”

My feelings toward George were ambivalent. He abandoned me on prom night twenty-five years ago. I’ve been told I hold a grudge. The jury’s still out on that as far as I’m concerned.

After gracing me with his infuriating smile, he turned to Jill and said, “Jill, I was walking through the ER lobby when I heard that there was a sudden death with no known cause. Do you know anything about it?”

She nodded, “His name was Pluto, a homeless regular here in E.R. We had a little birthday party for Jen…”

“Happy birthday, Jen.”

Jenny smiled and nodded her thanks.

Jill continued, “…‌and while he was eating, he passed out at Sam’s feet.”

A sound escaped from George that sounded like a snort of laughter. I glared, but he ignored me.

“What happened then?”

“We did some preliminary work on him here, but then rushed him up to ICU after we temporarily stabilized him,” Jill said. “That’s really all I know. It didn’t look too serious from what I saw. I’m pretty confident it wasn’t a heart attack from what they said…‌but Dougie was the doctor in charge and it was his call. I just phoned ICU a few minutes ago and they told me he died.”

George took notes as Jill talked. He looked up, “I don’t really know yet if we’ll be investigating. We’ll probably wait until after an autopsy, if they do one. But if you guys don’t mind, I’ll want to talk to you three individually. Just in case.” He paused, then added, “And do me a favor, tell Dougie—what’s his full name?”

Jill answered, “Johnson. Kareem Douglas Johnson. He’s a new resident in E.R. I think you know his mom, Loretta. She’s been a tech here for a long time.”

“Thanks for the info. Tell him I may want to see him in a few minutes. As I said, I don’t know if we’ll launch an investigation until after the autopsy. Will the three of you wait for me here while I go upstairs and check things out? I’ll let you know then if I want to interview you or not.”

Jenny and Jill both answered in the affirmative. I did not.

“Sorry, George. I have a date tonight. With Michael. Michael O’Dear. You know, the private eye?”

“Of course, I know O’Dear. We worked together on the Burns’ murder…‌Hell, Sam, you know that. You were there. Trying to impress me that you have a date?” His words sounded mad, but his smile said something different.

“’Course not. Just wanted you to know I can’t wait all night for you.”

He waited for the inevitable.

I didn’t give in.

He finished for me, “You mean you won’t wait for me like you did on prom night.”

I ignored the comment. “Is it okay if I go? I can talk to you tomorrow.”

“Yeah, come down to the station.” He turned away, then back again, continuing with his Columbo imitation. “Unless you want to meet me for breakfast?”

“Sure. Seven o’clock at The Dairy?”

He grunted and began walking toward the elevator.

“And, George?”

Another grunt as he turned to face me again.

“Don’t stand me up.”

I swear the final grunt had a smile in it.

TWO

“C
lancy.” I whistled as I walked into the carriage house. Before the whistle finished, there she was. “Hi, girl. Want to go for a quick run?”

A stupid question. Of course Clancy wanted to go for a run. She’d been inside all day and her look reminded me that I wasn’t keeping up my end of our bargain. I smiled at her eagerness and her beauty. When my kids and I had brought her home from the Humane Society, we fell in love with those eyes and didn’t care about what breed she was, although we found out later she was a cross between a yellow lab and a chow.

“Yeah, I know you’ve guarded the house all day and kept the place safe for me. I can’t help it I have to work for a living.”

I hooked her leash onto her collar and headed out the door. “Okay, you’re right. I am later than usual. I’ll tell you all about it.”

As we walked and ran along our usual route in our mansion-filled neighborhood, I filled Clancy in on the events of the afternoon. She forgave me once she knew the facts.

The dogwoods were in bloom and Maine Street was ablaze with spring colors. I could even smell the delicate magnolia trees. This route never really felt like work; it could even be a meditative experience. But not today. I was in a hurry.

After a half-hour of exercise, I called it quits. “I need to get ready for Michael.” As Clancy sat, she almost pulled my arm out of the socket. “Clancy, come on. I told you the other day that I had a date for dinner tonight with Michael. Don’t pull this shit with me.”

She stood up and it seemed as though I was watching this in slow motion. The ruff around her neck stood at attention and her blonde coat shone in the setting sun. Her regal bearing let me know that she put up with my antics because she loved me, not because she had to. She began walking slowly, ignoring my existence.

“Stop it, Clancy. You know I can’t stand it when you treat me like this. I’m sorry I cussed at you. Okay?”

She smiled. I love it when she does that.

“Okay, now that you’ve forgiven me, I want to talk some more about today. I wonder what happened to Pluto; one minute he was fine, the next he was on the floor.”

Clancy cocked her head and listened intently.

“No, I didn’t do anything to him, silly. I was just talking to him. Okay, I’m going to go over exactly what happened. I was at the clinic. My last client left at 3, and about 3:30 I went to the hospital to help surprise Jenny.”

Clancy yipped.

“Yeah, she was surprised. All six of us were together but none of the out-laws or kids made it. Anyway, there was a potluck meal.” Clancy looked at me with her head cocked. “No, I didn’t know about it ahead of time, so I didn’t bring anything. I looked around and saw chicken wings and meatballs and other gross stuff. Then I noticed some vegetable soup. I asked Loretta if there was any meat in it. She said ‘no’ so I helped myself to some. Pluto—that’s the guy’s name—came in a few minutes later. He looked around, nodded at Jill and she handed him a plateful of wings and other flesh…”

Clancy smiled again. She was almost a vegetarian herself.

“…‌and he sat by me. I said ‘hello’ but he only nodded. His mouth was full. Then suddenly he keeled over. Everyone kind of dropped their food and jumped up to help him. Well, except for me. I know my limitations. Anyway, after they wheeled him out, I didn’t see him again. Hope it wasn’t murder.”

At that, Clancy snorted. She didn’t have to remind me that the last murder that occurred in Quincy had my nose prints all over it.

We arrived home…‌at least almost home. We rested for a moment in front of the big house. Ours was the carriage house behind the mansion.

“Let’s be quiet when we walk by the house. I don’t want Georgianne to know I’m home.”

Too late. She’d already seen us. Her flowered housecoat rivaled the blossoms surrounding her house, and announced her arrival before her words.

“Yoo-hoo. Miss Darling. I mean…‌yoo-hoo. Sam.” We’d gotten well acquainted after my boss, Dr. Burns, was murdered. Now we were on a first name basis. To my chagrin.

“Hi, Georgianne. How’s Gus?” Gus was always a safe topic. He was her husband, one-half of my landlord couple and one of my best friends.

“Well, you know how sick he is…”

Yeah, I know how sick you make him.

“…‌but I imagine he’s doing as well as can be expected.”

“I’ve got to run, Georgianne. Nice to see you. Say ‘hi’ to Gus for me.”

She half turned and sighed loud enough to be heard all the way to Pike County. “Well, if you don’t care about your dog then…”

I had to admit she had me with that line.

“What do you mean?”

“There have been two dogs poisoned in the neighborhood, and I wanted to warn you so your darling little poochy-woochy doesn’t get hurt.”

At that she leaned over and pursed her dried-up lips at Clancy. And Clancy did what she always does; she betrayed me. She rolled over, exposing her stomach to Georgianne’s ministrations, and Clancy’s sounds of absolute ecstasy irked me even more.

“Traitor.”

Georgianne didn’t stop her petting, “What was that, Sam?”

“Nothing. C’mon, Clancy. Thanks for telling me about the dogs; but I don’t let Clancy outside without me, so I’m not worried about her.”

“Okay, just thought you’d want to know. Bye, Clancy dear. You too, Sam.”

We escaped before she could change her mind and start talking again.

“God, Clancy, I think we set the world’s record for ditching Georgianne. Good for us. Want a treat?”

As I opened a cabinet in my compact kitchen to get treats for both of us, I thought about what Georgianne said. Dogs poisoned. That certainly wasn’t an ordinary occurrence. Especially for this ritzy neighborhood.

“Georgianne drives me crazy.” I shivered. “Yeah, I know you like her. You act like her love slave. I find it sickening.”

Clancy tolerated my disapproval. In fact, she thought I was overreacting. “I don’t care what you say, Clancy. You don’t think clearly when it comes to Georgianne.”

Silence.

“Yes, I know she saved my life. Yes, I’ll never forget it. You and she won’t let me. Let’s change the subject, okay?”

Ever since Georgianne saved me and her husband, Gus, from being killed by two murder suspects in a bizarre incident, Clancy has reminded me at every chance she gets that I’d be dead except for her friend. Yuck. Sometimes I almost wished my dog and I didn’t have such a psychic connection. She was such a nag.

“Why don’t you help me choose something nice to wear for my date?” We both sauntered to my climb-in closet to examine the contents.

“I have so much stuff in here. Why is it I have nothing to wear?”

Beep-beep. Beep-beep-beep.

“Shit.” My pager. I was the therapist on-call this week. The beeper’s display showed the phone number of the clinic’s answering service.

I punched in the number. A sweet, albeit bored, voice answered, “Quincy Community Clinic. We’re here to help.”

“Hi, this is Sam Darling. You paged me?”

“Hi, Sam. There’s a patient in the ER who’s a possible psych admission. They called less than five minutes ago.”

I thanked her and tried to sound sincere. Damn. I didn’t want to postpone my date with Michael. He’s the most handsome guy in town…‌at least of the eligible guys around my age.

I quickly poured some food in Clancy’s bowl and replenished her water as I gave her my apologies. “Sorry I can’t spend more time with you. Gotta go.”

I rushed out of the house, barely remembering my purse and my keys. When I got into my car, I used a speed dial button on my cell phone to call Michael.

Damn. Voice mail.

“Hi, Michael. This is Sam. I’m really sorry but I’ll have to take a rain check on dinner. I’m on call and just got paged for the ER. Call me later?”

Shoot. There I was, sounding like a needy female.

“Er…‌or I’ll call you when I get home. Either way. Doesn’t matter. ’Bye.”

It took me only a few minutes to get to Bay General. One of the many benefits of living in a city with only 40,000 inhabitants is that you can get anywhere fast—unless you’re behind a tractor.

I hadn’t been gone that long from the ER and Jen’s party, but the scene was quite different from when I left. The waiting room and triage room were completely full, and there were three people at the reception desk. I didn’t know who to ask about my emergency page. So I did what anyone would do if their sister was nurse manager, I pushed on the door marked Emergency Personnel Only, and walked straight into organized chaos.

I saw Jen quickly exit a room and almost run toward the adjoining one. She saw me and held up her hand in the universal sign for STOP. “Sorry, I don’t have time to talk.”

Quickly, before she could move out of sight, I said, “Someone paged me.”

“Check with the front desk. I’ll talk with you in a minute. Love you.” And with that she was gone, quicker than me when there were dishes to be done.

I didn’t go back to the reception desk, figuring it was still too busy, and checked with the nursing station instead. Loretta was staring at the computer. “Goshdarn thing,” she said, as she not-so-gently hit the side of the monitor. The hit caused a list to appear on the monitor. I couldn’t see what it said, but imagined it contained a list of patients in each room and what their symptoms were. “Goshdarn thing,” she said again as the display disappeared once more.

“Sometimes you have to sacrifice a chicken,” I said, shrugging my shoulders.

Loretta’s round face looked up with concern, “What did you say?”

“Sometimes you have to sacrifice a chicken to get those things to work.”

At that she jumped up, knocking over her chair. “You think because I’m Black and my folks were from Haiti that I go in for all that voodoo? I’m a fine Christian woman.” Even though there was a counter between us, she got so close to me I was able to tell what she had for lunch. The odor made me a little dizzy. Or maybe it was my vibes. I willed the dizziness away; there was no way I wanted any psychic bullshit distracting me right now.

“No, no, you got it wrong. I’m a smart ass. I say that line all the time about computers. Sorry if I offended you.” Wow. This wasn’t like Loretta at all. Even though she was a “close talker,” she was a mainstay in the Bay General ER and was always known as a sweetheart. I knew she was opinionated, but so was I. Was this an overreaction, or did I just push the wrong button?

Loretta shook her head, “Nah, Sam, I’m the one who’s sorry. I get frustrated with computers sometimes, and I took it out on you.” She gave me a petite hand to shake in conciliation.

“No problem. Maybe you can help me. I got paged to come in and help with some behavioral health issues. Do you know…”

BOOK: 2 Any Meat In That Soup?
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