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Authors: Jerilyn Dufresne

Tags: #General Fiction

2 Any Meat In That Soup? (4 page)

BOOK: 2 Any Meat In That Soup?
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So once again I’m in a romantic situation and once again I’m dizzy. Not my favorite way to show Michael I liked him.

We arrived at the Rectory, one of the popular eateries, a few blocks from St. Francis University. Another beautiful old home converted into a business. This one wasn’t a former mansion, but two working class homes joined to form the restaurant. Owner Anthony Lasorda greeted us as we walked in. I got my usual hug, “Sam, it’s good to see you so soon.” He turned to my companion, “And I believe your name is Michael. Welcome back. Let me show you to your table.”

As we walked, Michael glanced at me behind Anthony’s back. I could tell he was impressed.

We ordered right away. I’d long ago memorized the menu, and Michael remembered it from last time. My symptoms subsided, and we sat in comfortable silence as we waited for our wine to be served. Anthony himself brought it, giving us a bottle instead of the two glasses we ordered.

A few moments later we were finally alone. I loved Anthony, but he was a talker, and I was desperate to find out what Michael wanted to tell me. I did something very uncharacteristic of me. I waited for him to talk.

And waited.

The server brought our pasta, Michael’s with meat in it and mine without.

Finally the compulsion was too difficult to resist. “Michael, you wanted to talk to me about something.”

“Oh, yeah,” he took another slug of wine and bite of pasta before he continued. “The hospital is concerned because of the recent deaths in the ER and ICU. Not the normal kind of deaths from accidents or serious illness.” Bite, chew, slurp, but ever so handsomely, “No, these are people who were pretty healthy. We haven’t found any connections between the patients, and that will be my first chore.”

I was disappointed that what he had to tell me wasn’t a profession of love. In fact it wasn’t about me at all. But he looked so good as he talked, it was okay with me.

Someone came, cleared the plates, and refilled our glasses.

“Was Pluto the first patient in the series?”

“Yes, the hospital didn’t think too much of it until it happened two more times. And now there are four dead. Which brings me to you…”

To me? Finally.

“I’d like you to work for me for a while. Only part-time. I know you have another job.”

Before he could tell me what he wanted me to do I blurted out, “YES!” Yes, I’ll work for you. Yes, I’ll marry you. Yes, I’ll live happily every after with you. My fantasy was interrupted when I noticed he’d begun talking again.

“So what I’d like you to do is to work part-time at the hospital, in the ER…”

“Oh, not with you then.” I hoped my disappointment wasn’t as evident as I’m sure it was.

“Well, you’re working for me, but not with me. The hospital has agreed to hire you as a crisis intervention specialist in the ER. All the patients who’ve died have come through there. What do you think?”

He wants me to snoop, and I’ll get paid for it. What do I think? I think I’ve died and gone to heaven.

FIVE

T
he evening ended the same way as the others I’d spent with Michael. A chaste kiss on the cheek and off he rode to save the world. Or something like that.

I took Clancy on a short walk, and spent half of it apologizing for leaving her so much and the other half telling her about the new job. She stopped and raised her eyebrows quizzically. I explained that it wouldn’t take time away from her. Once I got info about getting her certified as a therapy dog there would be a good chance she could go to work at the Clinic with me, although I was pretty confident she’d be
persona non grata
in the ER.

Sleep came easily after the wine I’d consumed, and my dreams consisted of me working in the ER, solving the case, and Michael loving me. George kept interrupting every romantic interlude in the dream, and I wondered why. “Why are you here all the time?” I asked the dream George.

“You know why,” was his only reply.

I awoke to an alarm and to Clancy sitting on the floor next to my bed with her leash in her mouth. “Clancy, can you wait ten minutes?” She dropped the leash and gave me exactly ten minutes.

I jumped in the shower, lathered up, and gave my short haircut a quick shampoo. I pulled on a tracksuit without benefit of underwear and took Clancy outside. “No time for a walk, Clancy. I have to get to work and talk to the boss about going part-time for a while.”

Clancy was going to hear about everything going on at the hospital. As I began my explanation, I was interrupted by my least-favorite sleuth, “Hi ya, Sam.”

I looked down to make sure he couldn’t tell I had on no underwear. I was overly-gifted on top, and didn’t want to give George a free peak. I squealed as I noticed the zipper on the old track jacket was halfway down to my navel.

“Yikes,” I let go of Clancy’s leash.

“Yikes? Who in the hell says that?”

“Never mind, George. What do you want?” I quickly pulled up the zipper. Too late. George was smiling that smile of his that gets under my skin. “What do you want?”

I half expected him to say, “You know.” But he didn’t. Instead he got rid of the smile and got to business. “I heard from O’Dear that you were going to be working for him.”

“And…‌?”

“And I wish you wouldn’t do it.” He ran his fingers through his thinning hair. “It might be dangerous. And remember the last time you did a job you weren’t qualified for. You almost died.”

“But I didn’t.” Why did I let him get to me? As an afterthought, I added, “Why would Michael feel the need to tell you I’m working for him?”

George’s grin told me the zipper had gone south again. “Stop it, George.”

“What do ya mean, ‘stop it.’ I’m not doing anything. Maybe you ought to tell the zipper to ‘stop it.’”

I ignored what he said as I zipped myself up and went back to my question, “Why would Michael feel the need to tell you anything about me?”

George hesitated. “Apparently he saw me kiss you after we all rescued you.”

“First of all you didn’t rescue me. You got there in time to arrest the murderers. I didn’t need rescuing.”

“Whatever you say, Sam.”

He walked a little closer until I felt I had to move or we’d be breathing each other’s air.

“He saw me kiss you, and he saw you not resisting,” George said, getting even closer.

“Don’t you dare, George Lansing.”

“You’re not moving, Sam.”

“Good morning, Samantha. Detective Lansing.”

Georgianne, saving the day. For once I was happy to see her.

After we exchanged greetings and Georgianne had returned inside, I told George I needed to get ready for work and I’d talk to him later. His grin let me know he’d look forward to it.

“Glad to hear you aren’t wearing that to work.”

“Bye, George.”

“Bye, Sam.”

He exited, still grinning.

SIX

I
hurried to work after promising Clancy I’d check into the therapy dog certification.

My Bug was running again and I took it rather than walking. Even though work was only a few blocks away, I was in a hurry today.

Clara Schmidt, the receptionist, broke the news that Mrs. Abernathy was my first appointment. And my second.

“Sam, is that you?” Mrs. Abernathy was in my office waiting for me. As usual she greeted me enthusiastically. Mrs. Abernathy had a lot of erotic dreams and she used her therapy time to tell me all of the details.

I told her I needed to get a cup of coffee first and went into the door next to mine, the kitchen. As I poured the delicious brew into a mug I pondered again why Mrs. Abernathy would need a professional to listen to these x-rated stories. But there was no insurance company involved—Mrs. Abernathy paid cash—and so it was quite legal to charge her for the privilege of regaling me with her dreams.

Before returning to my office I gave myself a pep talk. “I know I shouldn’t say this, even to myself, but Mrs. Abernathy’s been passed around like the common cold. I’m not going to do what the other therapists did though. I’m going to keep her until she thinks she’s done. There. I feel better now.”

Mustering up my courage, I opened the door to my office. It was the first one on the left after the reception desk, so my clients didn’t have to walk far to see me. Being located between the reception area and the kitchen was an ideal thing for me—I got to satisfy two of my needs, curiosity and food. I don’t think people realized it, but I could hear a lot of what went on by the front door. Ditto about what went on in the kitchen, since my office used to be the butler’s pantry. I had my own private door to the kitchen.

I then listened to nearly two hours of Mrs. Abernathy’s erotic dreams, and did what I could to earn my keep. I commented when appropriate, tried to get her to talk about something else, then realized it was her money and her time. So I let her go on.

At the end, I said something I’d been thinking about, “Mrs. Abernathy, your dreams are quite, um, interesting. Don’t you think they’d make good romance novels? Or erotica?” I had to explain what the last word meant. She might have erotic dreams, or make up erotic stories, but no one else would believe me if I were able to tell them. She was in her 70s, short, and overweight.

“No, dear, I hadn’t thought of it, why?”

“Well, you have such detail in each of your dreams.” Or made up stories. “I think there may be a market for them. You could use an alias if you don’t want people to know who you are.”

“I don’t know why I’d do that. I don’t mind if everyone knows that they are my books.”

I didn’t tell her that I thought the books would sell better if her picture wasn’t on the back cover, but hell, it was up to her.

“So, I’m going to give you some homework this week. You are to write down one of your stories…”

“Dreams.”

“Yes, dreams. Write one of them down and bring it to your next session. Okay?”

“Okay. Are you sure I don’t need to schedule more time with you?”

“Mrs. Abernathy, I think if you start writing down your dreams, you’ll find you don’t need therapy. Just my opinion. I’ll let you decide.”

“Okay, dear.”

As she left I thought how nice a cold shower would feel. She really knew her way around erotica, whether she knew what the word meant or not.

I needed a distraction, and quick. I got behind my desk and searched the Web for “therapy dogs.” A long list appeared and I investigated several of them. Either they weren’t right for Clancy and me or the testing sites were too far away. Finally I found the right one—Therapy Dogs International. Clancy already met the qualifications, except for TDI’s own test. And the nearest site was only a 90 minute drive from Quincy. This could work.

I quickly printed out the information, completed the forms, got Clancy’s vet to fax an inoculation verification to me, and put the form in the mail to the home office. Clancy would be thrilled to know that I had thought about her as promised.

Just as I finished, Clara buzzed that my next client was here. Andrew Duesterhaus was 13 years old and, like many his age, didn’t trust adults. During our first session I had been able to earn his trust through my knowledge of video games. I knew my wasted time would become valuable some day.

As Andy and I talked about his most recent behavior problems, I had a bright idea, and hoped it was ethical. As usual I didn’t think things through. “Andy, have you heard about all the animals being poisoned around town?” He grunted affirmatively. “I wonder if you have any ideas about what could be happening.”

He finally looked up and made eye contact. “Well, I’ve been thinking about it. At first I thought it was just a few animals getting into some bad meat or something. But now it’s really spreading, so I don’t know. Why you askin’?”

“I don’t really know. I’m curious and a little worried. You know I have a dog and even though she’s not outside without me, I thought what if there’s some bad dog food around or something.”

“Want me to check around?”

I thought long and hard before I answered. “How about this…‌you pass your two tests this week, and then I’ll ask you to help me investigate. However, I don’t want you to do anything until we speak again.” I emphasized the word “anything.”

I thought I might be treading a fine line in the ethics department, but having this as a reward seemed a lot more motivating than extra time on the computer. I’d worry about the consequences later.

After Andy’s session I had a free hour. Dr. Burns has been my boss (for fifteen minutes, anyway) and his position hadn’t been filled since his murder. So I went to the human resources office and spoke to Leonard Schnitzer, the personnel director. I told him mostly the truth—that I’d only been given a few patients so far at the clinic and asked if I could go part-time for a while. I added that I had been offered a part-time position in the ER as a crisis intervention specialist. I even suggested that perhaps I could continue working for the clinic full time and that the hospital could pay them for my time. “Just an idea.”

Schnitzer seemed to like the latter part of my suggestion and said he would talk to the human resources officer at Bay General about it. I said I wanted to start the arrangement immediately since I wasn’t busy at the clinic. He nodded absentmindedly since he was probably already thinking about how to make money for the clinic out of the deal.

I saw a few more clients and had ample time to complete the necessary paperwork for the day. I hoped the clinic would think about paperless charts since I was a lot faster typing than I was writing.

I arrived home to a surprise. George was sitting in his car next to my carriage house. “Hi. How long have you been here?”

He got out of the car. “Not long. I wanted to talk to you. Are you free for an early dinner?”

“I guess so.” My hesitance was only because I wasn’t sure what George wanted. He didn’t ease my curiosity. “I just need to spend a few minutes with Clancy.”

I opened the unlocked door, mentally cursing, because I knew George would say something about it. To my surprise, he didn’t. Maybe he didn’t lock his door either.

Clancy greeted me with kisses and turned on her back for George, so he would scratch her belly. She was easy, that’s for sure.

BOOK: 2 Any Meat In That Soup?
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