Authors: Jerilyn Dufresne
Tags: #General Fiction
All four suspects were working today, which should have set my antennas buzzing, but I didn’t think that the hospital would be the best place for me to be. Instead I waited in the ER parking lot, knowing that Carter would either be coming or going in the near future. He didn’t seem to stay at the hospital long, but was there several times a day, so the odds were good that I’d catch him at some point.
I sat in my blue VW bug, thinking that my car was conspicuous—too conspicuous for PI work. There was nothing I could do about it, though. My patience was rewarded about ten minutes later when Carter strolled out of the ambulance bay. Even though I knew it was him, he was so nondescript and was so “beige,” that he could easily slip in and out of places without being noticed. I tried to guess which car was his, and was surprised when he sat at the bus stop. A few minutes later he boarded the bus that said Broadway on it.
You would think that it would be easy following a bus, and you would be wrong again. All the stops and starts made it impossible to be discreet. If Carter didn’t know me I would have gotten on the bus myself to follow him, but that was impossible, too. So I dutifully followed the bus, and followed rather closely so no other vehicle could split us up. Since I knew the bus route I could have just gone somewhere on the route and waited, but I didn’t know when Carter was going to get off.
So I followed and followed and followed, down Broadway to Fifth, south to Maine, east to Twenty-fourth, south to State, west to Eighteenth, north to Broadway, and west to the hospital. Finally, Carter got off the bus—at the same place he got on. A lot of work with little reward. Why would anyone just ride the bus for the whole route and end up where they started? I hit my steering wheel and accidentally engaged the horn. By this time I was back in the ER parking lot and Carter was near me. He reacted as most people would. He jumped. I smiled, waved, and said, “Sorry,” at the same time. Carter gave me an almost imperceptible nod.
I didn’t have time to berate myself as my phone rang right after the horn went off. It was Jenny, “Sam, can you come in right away?” Then she hung up.
She’d think I was Superwoman since it took me about 30 seconds to get from my car to the ER.
Jenny didn’t say anything about my speed. She grabbed my arm and pulled me into an exam room. “Craig’s dead. Dr. Adams is dead.” She started crying and allowed me to put my arm around her for a moment before she shook off the tears and became a professional nurse again. “The cops will be here any minute.”
Only a millisecond passed before I heard George’s voice in the hallway. I peeked my head outside and motioned for him to come in.
His smile disappeared when he saw Jenny was in the room with me. I put aside the current drama and thought that he probably assumed we were going to make out again. Like Jen, I was able to shake off my unprofessionalism and get back to business.
“What’s up?” George got right to the point.
“Dr. Adams just died,” I told him.
“Was it unexpected?” He looked from me to Jen, back and forth, before Jen answered.
“Yeah. One minute he was fine and the next minute he doubled over. I checked his pulse and it was thready, his blood pressure was tanking, and his breathing was labored and all of a sudden he was gone. That fast.”
“Who was with him?” George asked as he pulled out a notebook.
“Just me when he died,” Jen answered. “Right before he died Loretta was with him, and Dougie spoke to him about a patient a little before that.”
“Where’s his body?”
“In Exam Room 10.”
George stepped out of the room and told someone, “Exam Room 10. Keep everybody else out of there.”
He turned back to Jenny, “You were with him. Were you with the others when they died?”
She looked confused. “Yeah, a few, but not all.”
“Were you with the first guy?” He looked at his notes, “The guy you called Pluto.”
She pushed the blonde hair out of her eyes and answered, “I let him join us for my birthday party, and I gave him chicken wings. I helped put him on the gurney after he collapsed. That was all the interaction I had with him. Why?”
George just shrugged his shoulders. I thought I should probably start calling him Butthead again if he thought what I thought he thought. Or something like that. I glared at him and decided I’d get things out in the open. “Why are you asking Jen these questions? Why are you interrogating her? You know she had nothing to do with any of these deaths. Just because she made the wings, gave him the wings, and it was the wings that killed him.” I thought I’d better shut up before I had her convicted and in prison.
George said, “I know she’s not guilty, Sam. But I have to play this by the book. Just because she’s someone I know and like doesn’t mean she gets off the hook.” He turned back to Jen. “I’m sorry, Jen. But we discovered that you were on duty every time someone died. Others were too, but you’re the first one I’m talking to.”
She nodded at him. Her face showed concern, but no fear, and that helped me relax.
George looked at me again, his gray-streaked hair falling into his eyes just as it did in high school. He’d become quite a distraction to me recently. “Sam, could you excuse us so I can talk to Jen?”
I didn’t answer him, instead I looked at Jenny. “Are you okay?” She nodded. “Don’t forget, if he starts treating you like a suspect, stop talking and get a lawyer.”
Even though I wasn’t looking at him I could feel George’s glare trying to bore a hole through the back of my head. Then he said, “No need to worry about that, Jen. I’m just talking to everyone who was present for all the deaths. Then I’ll talk to other people. You are no more a suspect than your sister.” I turned back to him at that remark. It reminded me of what he’d said to Dr. Burns’s killer not too long ago. Virtually the same words. And he ended up arresting that person for murder not too long afterward.
I looked at Jenny again. “Just remember what I said.”
I walked into the hallway and saw my brother Rob standing in front of Exam Room 10. He must have been the cop George had given orders to.
“Don’t even start,” he said.
I did my best to ignore him, but it’s hard when your siblings know you so well. “Okay, I was just going to invite you over for dinner, but if you don’t want to talk to me, that’s fine.”
I swear he chortled. I don’t think I’d ever heard someone chortle before. It was like an explosive chuckle. Rob knew I didn’t cook. Hell, the world knew I didn’t cook. I ought to invite the world for dinner some night and show them I knew what I was doing. Nah. Probably not.
I went to my normal “go to” spot in the ER—the break room. Carter was sitting in his usual spot in the corner. I wondered if George knew that Carter was here for all the deaths too, or at least most of them. If I told him that, it would at least take the heat off of Jenny for a while. Maybe I should ask Jen if she’d ever seen Carter in the main part of the ER instead of just in the break room. My vibes weren’t on high alert around him, but I thought I had some response because he was so strange.
Carter was just sitting there, almost pasted to the corner of the room. The light barely reached him. A perfect spot for eavesdropping. Maybe he knew more than he had told me so far.
“Hi.” I started very gently, afraid he’d bolt if I was too aggressive.
I think he might have nodded. I do know he grunted. I took that as an encouraging sign.
“How did you know people were poisoned?”
“I told you that I just knew,” he yelled. He didn’t seem happy with my question. “If you know where to look, Ms. Wanna-be Sleuth, you’ll find the answer. It’s right under your nose.”
“That sounds like you know a lot more about the deaths than you are saying.”
“Duh,” he said.
At least I think that’s what he said. He’d slunk back into his regular persona, quiet and almost invisible. I thought it was only fair to tell him that he was a suspect.
“There are four main suspects as far as I’m concerned—Jenny, Loretta, Dougie, and…you.”
Carter’s laugh could have been heard across the river in West Quincy. Surprising that a seeming nonentity could make so much noise. Especially someone who normally only grunted. He didn’t respond with words, just laughter. Odd. Made him seem more weird than usual, which I’d thought was an impossibility.
I went back to the ER proper and saw that Rob was still standing by Room 10, but now there was crime scene tape across the door. I avoided him, not wanting to be made fun of again. George wasn’t in evidence, so I began looking for him.
No one really knew this was my day off, so I just started peeking into each room. The first one held Jenny and a doctor I didn’t know, working with a patient. Jen’s back was to me, so I just quietly closed the door.
In the next room I saw a flurry of activity. One of the doctors was my sister Jill. I hadn’t known she was working today, but it would be good to talk to her when she was less busy. Dougie was the other doctor in there, and Loretta seemed to be assisting them. Since it appeared to be a serious situation I repeated my earlier action, closing the door without being detected.
The next few rooms were empty, silently awaiting their next patients. I continued to ignore Rob, but did notice someone had gone inside the room he was guarding. I imagined it was someone doing crime scene work, and perhaps George was there too.
I knew the whereabouts of all four of the major suspects. There was no one to follow, three of them were very busy, and the fourth was incommunicado. I wish Carter was more verbal, but then I guess he wouldn’t be Carter.
Sleuthing was boring sometimes. I didn’t feel grief over the loss of Dr. Adams; I’d only met him once, and he was easy to dislike. Jen had told me some tales of how she had to stand up to him several times to protect her staff from his wrath.
I stood in the nurses’ station, waiting to see if George would emerge from Room 10. My patience was rewarded when he soon appeared, telling Rob to stay there until he was relieved by another officer. Rob nodded. Funny how he knew how to behave when on duty. At home he acted like one of the three stooges, easily fitting in with my other two brothers, Pete and Ed.
It was fairly easy to intercept George since he stood in the hallway for a few minutes, talking to Rob. Another person left Room 10 and walked straight to the ambulance bay exit.
George said goodbye to Rob and began walking and writing in his notebook at the same time. “Hey,” I said as I got into a walking pace with him.
He stopped abruptly, turned to me, and grinned. “Hi ya,” his usual greeting.
“I wonder if you have time to talk to me.”
“Always. Want to talk now or do you want to meet for dinner?”
“Now if you don’t mind.” I noted the disappointment on his face.
We scooted into an empty exam room. I walked quickly to the window, so we wouldn’t be dangerously close. I wanted to keep this professional.
George said, “I guess this isn’t personal.”
“Right. It’s got to do with the murders. First, have you gotten the autopsy results from Springfield on the people who died after Pluto?”
“Not yet. Today or tomorrow.”
“Well, I’ve got an idea about a suspect. My vibes get set off when I’m around him, but it’s not a horrible reaction.”
“Sam, remember when Dr. Burns was murdered. Your vibes let you down.”
“Stop reminding me of that. I was right on one of the murderers. I was always right about one of them.”
“Yeah, but you were convinced the other murderer was innocent, because your vibes weren’t present with her. So excuse me if I’m not overly excited about what you’re saying.”
“George Lansing, you are a pain in the butt. Here’s what I know and you can do what you want with it. I’ll do what I want with it too.”
He rolled his eyes, which was very unattractive in a man his age. “Go ahead,” he said.
“I can’t prove this guy was present for all the deaths, but he’s suspicious. I know he was here for some of the deaths. His name is Carter Callahan, and he was an EMT here until he got laid off because of some ‘irregularities’ in his certification. I haven’t checked that out yet. But I did follow him and he took the bus all around town and then got off the bus here at Bay General. Right where he started. That’s weird, right?” I didn’t give George a chance to answer. “He’s here almost all the time and hangs out in the break room. He was there a few minutes ago.”
Before he could remind me, I said, “Yes, I know I’m not a cop. I’m a social worker. That’s why I’m giving you this information. Happy?”
He smiled. “I’d be happier if you’d have dinner with me.”
“Not tonight, but in a few days, okay?” I wanted to save a few evenings just in case Michael asked me out. Stupid. Juvenile. But oh, well…
I guessed it was time to leave when George leaned in for a kiss. I did the unforgivable move of turning my head to give him my cheek. “’Bye.” I said. “See you later.”
Part of me wanted to stay and avail myself of George’s kisses. It had been a long, long time since I’d been in a romantic situation and George definitely seemed a lot more interested than Michael.
Since it was still early and was my day off, I went home, changed, put the leash on Clancy, and took her for a long walk in a different direction. I didn’t bother talking about the investigation, and she didn’t ask. We just went. Part of the way we ran, although I wasn’t able to run too far. I chalked it up to having been sick yesterday.
We walked all the way to St. Francis University and back, at least a half mile each way. Clancy led the way, probably happy to finally be getting the attention she so richly deserved.
This walk was one of my favorites. To get to SFU, I had to leave the ritzy section of town and walk right by where I grew up. It was only a few blocks, but it was an extreme difference. The north side of Broadway was where I grew up, and the south side of Broadway is where I now lived. The only reason I lived in the mansion section was that I rented Gus and Georgianne’s carriage house. Gus had been my friend since I was a kid, and when I moved back to Quincy he immediately offered me the carriage house. He grew up like I did, in a working class section of town. Georgianne had a lot of family money. Gus said that money got in the way sometimes, but that it was easier to deal with problems when your bills were always paid.