Authors: Jerilyn Dufresne
Tags: #General Fiction
“Yeah,” she interrupted. Everyone in the ER interrupted. They were always in a hurry. “Rooms 18 and 19 both have folks that need to be evaluated for involuntary commitments. The one in 19 is on suicide watch. We have her monitored already, so you can see Room 18 first. I’ll be in and out of rooms. Let the secretary know if you need me.” She started to walk away then turned and said, “Again, I’m sorry, Sam.”
“No problem.” I pulled a clipboard out of my bag that contained the assessment form agreed upon by Bay General and Quincy Community Clinic. After taking a deep breath I opened the door and saw my sister Jen standing by an empty bed.
“Shhh,” she put her finger to her lips and pointed toward a closed door. “She’s in the bathroom. We’ve just got a minute.”
“Shhh. Just listen and be quiet. “ Improbable, but I’d try. “There were two more deaths right after you left. Similar to Pluto. Except they came in with one symptom and then keeled over after being in the exam room alone. I’m worried and kind of afraid.”
“Aw, Jen, I’m sure you didn’t do anything to cause…”
She interrupted, as usual, “Of course I didn’t. But three people died and they weren’t in an accident together, and their hearts looked okay, and blood pressure was fine when they first came in, and…”
My turn to interrupt. “Take a breath. Tell me more.”
“I can’t now. And I shouldn’t be telling you anything.” With that she threw me a dime and I managed to catch it in my fist. “You’re officially my therapist, so now you can’t repeat anything I’ve said.”
At that, the bathroom door opened slowly and a frail middle-aged woman stood in the doorway.
Jen introduced us, and with a quick good-bye, tried to exit the room. I intercepted her to give the money back. “Nope, I’m not a ‘dime-a-dance woman.’ I have to talk this over with someone. I’ll want to check things out. I won’t use your name. And you didn’t tell me anything confidential, really.” I crossed my fingers behind my back and pushed her out of the room.
I did what I do, first in room 18 and then again in 19. Room 18 needed more of a domestic violence shelter rather than a commitment, so I made the appropriate referrals and knew someone from the shelter would soon arrive to help her. Room 19 took more time. This teenage girl had been a “cutter” for a few years, but the cuts had become much more serious. Today her parents brought her in when she said she was going to kill herself. Since she was 18 she needed to agree to be hospitalized or she would be sent to the state hospital in Springfield. After about an hour of combination Mental Health Assessment, Lethality Assessment, and begging, she agreed to be hospitalized at Bay General on a voluntary basis, and my work was done.
A few minutes later I drove onto the driveway of my carriage house, expecting to open my door to let Clancy out. What I found instead was my friend Gus playing fetch with my dog in the near darkness.
Before I could express my surprise, Gus said, “Hi ya, Sam. I’m sorry about this. Georgie was so worried about Clancy that she forced me to check on her. Thought I might as well play with her while I was at it.”
I gave him a hug. “I don’t mind at all. If it was Georgianne, I’d have to act mad, just to keep up appearances.” We both smiled. “But you’re always welcome to take care of Clancy.”
His smiled turned to a frown. “I brought my key, but didn’t need it. What have I told you about locking your door?”
“This is Quincy. I don’t have to lock my door.”
“Sam, it wasn’t that long ago when two people tried to kill you. Hell—they tried to kill both of us. Lock your door, and I mean it.”
“Yes, sir. Hey, why was Georiganne worried about Clancy? I told her Clancy doesn’t go outside without me.”
He just raised his eyebrows and we both laughed. Georgianne was Georgianne.
“You’re just the two I wanted to talk to,” indicating him and Clancy.
Gus grinned. He knew it was time for another adventure.
fter I told Gus what little I knew, he expressed his disappointment. I apologized, “Sorry I can’t always get you involved in murder.”
His gray sweater complemented his gray mood. “That’s not what I mean, Sam. Not really. It’s just that when I helped you solve Dr. Burns’ murder I felt younger and healthier than I had in years.”
I couldn’t disagree.
We said our good-nights, and I slept the sleep of the almost innocent, with the windows open and the sweet smell of flowering trees enhancing my dreams.
The next morning as I was getting ready for work I knew there was something I was forgetting. I looked at Clancy for a hint. “C’mon, Clance. Tell me.” And then it hit me. Breakfast with George, and I’d forgotten. Of course it wasn’t as bad as him “forgetting” me on prom night, but it was bad enough. I hated to be in a position of having to apologize to him. So I rushed to the Dairy on 18th Street, right by the University, and was only a little late.
“Hi ya, Sam. I thought you weren’t going to make it.” George was happily munching on french toast at the counter. He kept eating as I sat and gave my order—whole grain pancakes with syrup and pecans, plus black, dark roast coffee.
I decided not to address my tardiness. “So what did you want to talk about?”
“I said I wanted to see what you knew about this Pluto character, but I thought it would be nice to have a meal with you at the city’s expense.”
It was hard to tell if he was kidding or not, so I chose to ignore what he said. “I really don’t know much. He came in, ate chicken wings, fell over, went to the ICU, and died. That simple.”
“Okay, that’s pretty much what I got from the rest of the witnesses, most of them your family.”
At that I smiled. Everyone but Rob and me were involved in the healthcare profession. Rob was a cop and I was a therapist-wannabe-cop. At Bay General Jen was a nurse manager, Ed was security director, Pete was a nurse/priest, and Jill was an ER resident. I’ve often wondered why we all got involved in service professions. Maybe it was because our parents died young. As I was musing, the pancakes appeared and I poured the luscious syrup on them. Then I tuned back in to George’s ramblings.
“…and so I thought since you moved back to Quincy maybe we could be friends again. I mean that’s how we started out.”
“Sorry. I was taking a mental health break. I caught the last thing you said.” I took a huge bite of the steaming pancakes. “Yeah, I think we can be friends. Prom night was a long time ago and I decided at the Burns’ house that I was going to forgive you.”
“It’s funny how looking down the barrel of a gun puts things into perspective.” As a cop, George felt the same way my brother Rob did…that I should keep my nose out of police business. Of course I didn’t buy what they were selling.
Breakfast was quick, and delicious, and I was soon on my way to work. Clara, our receptionist, told me my first two clients had cancelled, so I settled into my office with another cup of coffee and a pile of paperwork.
I had no sooner begun rewriting a treatment plan when my phone rang. “This is Sam Darling.”
“I love your name,” Michael replied. I’m glad he couldn’t see my blush at the compliment.
After a mutual exchange of pleasantries Michael reminded me of our missed date last night, as if I needed reminding. He closed with, “There’s something important I want to talk to you about.”
As I hung up, I knew the rest of my work day was shot. How could I concentrate on helping people when Michael had something important to talk to me about? Something important. My curiosity was piqued, but there was no satisfactory answer to my questions. It was too early for him to say I love you, and too early even for me to say it. We’d been on only a few dates and one of them had taken place in my hospital room. Nevertheless, I’d fallen for him in a big way.
Even though I was thinking about Michael and what he wanted to tell me, the image of George kissing me after rescuing me from the killers kept creeping its way inside my brain. I hadn’t encouraged that kiss, but I liked it. Involuntarily liked it.
I made it go away and went back to thinking about Michael. The two free hours passed much too quickly. Even though I didn’t think it was possible, I was able to stop thinking about him and begin thinking about the people who trusted me to help them.
There were no more cancellations, so I was able to stay busy listening, consoling, challenging and then writing the unloved progress notes.
At the end of the workday I hurried home to Clancy. Her wagging tail stopped and the tail dropped to the floor. “I’m sorry, Clancy, I really am.”
Without forgiving me, she got her leash and met me at the door. We began our walk after Clancy “watered” Georgianne’s ferns. Then we headed out along our usual route, with Clancy stopping at the crosswalks until it was safe. As she did so, I again apologized. “Remember I had a dinner date with Michael last night and then got paged so I had to cancel. Well, we’re just going to have dinner and that’s it. I promise I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
She probably knew I was lying. Actually I wanted to make the dinner date last as long as possible. I didn’t talk to her much more. We both enjoyed the rest of the walk through the beautiful neighborhood I lived in, courtesy of Gus and Georgianne’s carriage house.
Our walk took us past extravagant mansions built by river barons in the 1800s. I noticed a few of the dogwood trees were losing their blossoms even before the date of the annual Dogwood Parade. Not a good sign, but most were still lovely and fragrant. We also passed the empty Burns’ house. I shivered and so did Clancy. The location where I was nearly killed was located in my neighborhood, and there was nothing I could do about it. But I didn’t have to like it.
“Thanks for helping to save me, Clancy. I love you.”
She replied in her doggie growl-talk and I knew I was forgiven for leaving her yet again.
“You know, I ought to get you certified as a therapy dog. That way you could come to work with me. I know you’d be a big help.”
That did it. She turned around and jumped up to give me a big sloppy kiss.
“Guess you like the idea.” By this time we were almost home. “I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before. That way you could help people and you wouldn’t have to be alone so much.”
We were at the front of the mansion where Georgianne and Gus lived. And as usual our movements did not go unnoticed. This time she caught us by the front porch. “Sam, stop a moment, please.”
How could I not? She said please.
“What’s up, Georgianne? I’m in a hurry.”
Before she could tell me, Clancy pulled away from my loose grip and went up the stairs to betray me yet again.
Georgianne petted Clancy’s belly and in between “Good doggie” and “What a cute little girl you are,” she finally told me what she wanted. “There were more dogs found to be poisoned. Most of them didn’t die, but they got very ill. Please take care of this sweet girl.”
Once again I assured her I would do so, “And I’m going out to dinner, but you won’t need to send Gus to check on Clancy. She’ll be fine.”
I swear Georgianne “harrumphed” a bit, but her quasi-silence gave me the chance to grab Clancy’s leash again, say good-bye, and rush back to my little corner of the neighborhood.
My home. The carriage house. It was absolutely perfect for Clancy and me. The main floor had a compact living room, a small dining room I used as an office, a decent kitchen, and a nice-sized master bedroom and bath. Upstairs were two more bedrooms and a bathroom. I kept the upstairs closed off now that Adam and Sarah were away at the University of Illinois. But it was easily opened when they were home on break.
As I got ready for my date, I called George and put him on speakerphone as I changed. After he answered I asked, “Have you heard about dogs being poisoned in town?”
He answered, “Not just dogs. Cats too. And squirrels, rabbits, small animals.”
“What are you doing about it?” I asked as I struggled mightily to get a straight skirt over my hips.
“Sam, you sound like you’re running a marathon. What in the hell are you doing?”
I stopped long enough to catch my breath, “None of your business. Answer my question.”
“Same old Sam. Anyway, animals aren’t normally a priority with the police. Tell Clancy I’m sorry about that.”
Was he teasing me? Or did he really care about Clancy’s feelings? I must have made a noise, because George repeated himself.
“As I said, animals aren’t normally a priority with the police. But this has gotten to be a big deal, and we are dealing with it. That’s all you need to know.”
“For now. That’s all I need to know for now. If you don’t get this taken care of, you’ll hear from me again. ’Bye.”
I hung up before he could say anything else. What in the hell was going on? Quincy was a calm, safe city, number eight on Forbes’ best mid-size places to live. Had I brought violence with me when I moved home from Chicago? Animals being poisoned and people dropping dead in the ER. Were they connected or just horrible things happening at the same time?
Michael arrived just as I held my breath to pull up the zipper to the skirt. When I answered the door, instead of saying hi, he said, “Omigod, your face is red. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Come in.” I hastily changed the subject. “Clancy’s already been walked, so we can leave right away. I’’ll just get my purse.”
Thirty seconds later I walked back into the living room to see Michael on the floor playing with Clancy. That’s something else I liked about him. My dog thinks he’s fun. I looked at Michael and appreciated what I saw. He was in jeans and a button down shirt, and the view was nice.
We left soon after, and as I got in the car I did two things at the same time—I breathed in his aftershave and I asked him where we were going. He replied, “I thought we’d go back to the Rectory. You said it’s one of your favorite places, and I enjoyed the last time we ate there.”
“And this time I won’t get sick,” I promised. But the promise was broken when I felt those same dizzy symptoms I’d felt the last time we went to dinner.
get these psychic vibes when I’m around evil or guilt. And apparently I get them around Michael too. I had confessed to him a while ago that I think it’s because I’m scared. He’d replied that I should be. I still don’t know what he meant.