Authors: Jerilyn Dufresne
Tags: #General Fiction
Clancy and I loved SFU. It was my alma mater, at least for my undergraduate degree. The old buildings towered over the campus and were magnificent reflections of the majesty of the city. Red bricks and limestone blocks. Perfect. Quincy was built on the limestone bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, and a lot of the architecture contained limestone.
Quincy had roughly two hundred fifty full blocks of buildings on the National Historic Register. My childhood neighborhood was sandwiched in between historic blocks. Growing up, I always felt that SFU was my backyard, and I made myself at home on the tennis courts, baseball fields, and even the gym. Jen and I spent a lot of time there as kids.
For a change I just reminisced instead of working on the mysterious deaths. Until I got information on the deaths other than Pluto’s, it was hard to do much brain work. But I could still follow the suspects, and check into their lives. So that’s what I would do, and maybe I’d let Clancy help me.
y first thought upon waking had to do with the autopsies. My second was Clancy’s therapy dog certification test. I decided to call George and ask about the former. And I’d check online for the date for Clancy’s test. I’d already been notified by email that she qualified.
“Yeah.” George’s phone response showed that he was always on duty.
“It’s me. Sam.”
His tone changed. “Hi ya. How are you?”
“Good. I’m calling to find out the results of the autopsies from Springfield. Did you get them?”
“I’ll check my email.” His tone let me know that he was disappointed it wasn’t a social call. I heard him take the phone from his ear, then he put me on speaker so he could read and talk at the same time. “Yeah, here it is. Just a second.” He muttered as he read. “Okay, we have the results from two more bodies.” They were bodies now, no longer patients. “Same as with Pluto. Arsenic. Maybe something else. Further tests. Will take a few more days. That’s it, Sam.”
“Well, at least now we know that two of them were poisoned like Pluto. That gives us three murders. We still don’t know if it was accidental or intentional, though. Guess I’ll have to check into it more.”
“Don’t bother telling me what my job is or isn’t. I already know.” And I hung up.
I slipped on my tracksuit, with a T-shirt underneath because of the errant zipper on the jacket. “C’mon, Clancy. Let’s go.”
It only took a moment for us to get out the door and head for our usual morning walk through our neighborhood. Clancy led the way and I didn’t have to think about the walk itself. She knew when to stop, when to go, and when to smell squirrel tracks.
“I know I haven’t talked to you much about these deaths. But I’m having trouble even finding clues. If it’s okay, I’ll go over the suspects with you.”
She turned and smiled as she walked. I knew that meant “okay.”
“There are three people who were present for all the deaths, and one who may have been there for all of them.” Suddenly, something hit me. “Damn. I forgot to ask George if any of the dogs had been autopsied. I wonder if they died from the same poison.”
Clancy didn’t like hearing that. She shrugged off a shiver and kept going. “Sorry, Clance. Don’t worry. I’ll keep you safe.”
We were soon at the turnaround point, and Clancy automatically did just that. I decided to forget about problems and began singing George M. Cohan songs from the first World War. That livened up both of us. Clancy seemed to march in time to the rhythm, just as thousands of soldiers had almost a century ago.
When we got home I quickly showered and dressed for work. Today I’d work at both the Clinic and the hospital. My first appointment wasn’t until nine, so I took a moment to check on the therapy dog test. Luckily, I had sent everything in just in time. There was a test this weekend in Chatham, a small town near the state capitol of Springfield. I entered my credit card information to pay for the test, reminded myself to practice the necessary skills with Clancy before then, and promised Clancy I’d be home for dinner. As I left, I stopped at Michael’s office on the way to the Clinic. His office was downtown in one of the old buildings that had been converted to small offices. Great for start-ups and for business’s like Michael’s which, only consisted of one or two people.
I found his office door open and walked in. Michael was sitting there doing two things—looking worried and looking incredibly handsome. My crush was still in full swing, even though I’d made out with George.
He didn’t see me so I politely cleared my throat.
“Sam. Sorry. I’m glad to see you.”
That set my pulse racing. “It’s good to see you too. I came in to give you a report on the suspects.”
He nodded, but looked like his mind was elsewhere.
I asked, “I have information on the autopsies. Do you?”
He shook his head so I filled him in. I also told him again about Carter, and how I’d followed him. Of course Michael reminded me that my job wasn’t to follow people. As usual I ignored what he was saying. I was a grown up and knew what my job was. Then I asked him if he had any other information. He shook his head again. I wasn’t getting my “evil vibes” but this sure felt funny. Normally Michael was attentive and suddenly he was almost ignoring me.
There’s nothing subtle about me, so I said, “Is something wrong?”
He replied with the normal answer, “No, why?”
“You just seem preoccupied.”
“Nah. There’s just something I need to talk to you about.”
This time I was confident he wasn’t going to say he loved me, and surprisingly, I was okay with that. “Well, just do it. I’m not good at waiting.” I sat down in one of the ultra-modern office chairs in front of his desk.
“I’m finding it hard to work with you on this case, because…”
Because he loved me? Because he hated me? Because…
Michael hesitated. “…because of Jenny’s involvement.”
My sputtering caused him to stand up and come around the desk. He sat in another chair next to me. “I know you are positive she had nothing to do with it. Since you are so biased, I wonder if you’re the right person to help with the investigation.”
Whew. It had nothing to do with whether he liked me or not. But, wait a minute…I jumped up and for the first time was able to tower over him. “Who in the hell do you think you are? You think my sister killed someone? Are you crazy?”
He leaned back in his chair to get away from the berserk woman in his face. “Exactly. That’s exactly what I mean, Sam. Exactly.”
I stopped sputtering for the moment and did something uncharacteristic. I thought before I talked. “For argument’s sake, let’s just say you’re right. I could still do what I’m doing at the hospital. I would promise that I would quit saying I’m positive Jenny is innocent.” I paused, trying hard to control my temper. “Okay, we both know that’s a promise I can’t keep. But I’m really enjoying working in the ER. It’s exactly what I want to do. In fact, working half time at the Clinic and half time at the ER is close to my dream job.” I didn’t add that what actually made it my dream job was that I got to snoop.
Before Michael could speak, I added, “Do you have any evidence that Jen was involved?” I tried to act calm, and gave an Academy Award performance.
Michael went back behind his desk, seemingly convinced I was not going to do any harm.
“If you really want to know, I’ll tell you.” He waited, maybe to see if I was going to voice any objections. “First, as you know, Jen was there for every death.”
“You’re right. I do know that. Tell me something new.”
“You aren’t going to like this, but when Dr. Adams was murdered, I started looking at Jen more closely. They absolutely hated each other. Do you know that?”
“No. Not really. I’ve heard her complain about him, but nothing that got to the level of hatred.” I grasped at any excuse I could think of. “But no one liked him. I’ve heard other staff call him a bastard.”
“Relax, Sam. I don’t know if I think Jenny did it. But there’s a lot of evidence to show Jen has stood up to Dr. Adams many times. In fact, she was reprimanded by her supervisor recently because of how she talked to the doctor.”
I hadn’t heard this, and would need to talk to Jenny outside the hospital to find out her side of things.
“Besides,” he continued, “the poison that killed Pluto was on the wings she brought to the party.”
I shook off my anger, and had an idea. “How about if I don’t investigate anything concerning Jen’s involvement or lack of involvement? Would that work?”
“It would if you could only do it.”
Deciding to ignore that last comment, I hurriedly went to the door before he could tell me no. With my hand on the doorknob I turned and said, “Thanks, Michael. You can trust me.”
“I’m counting on it.”
As I walked to the building entrance, it hit me how sad it was that neither of us flirted. It was the first time.
It was still early and I’d received a text that my 9:00 appointment was sick and had rescheduled. So I decided to stop by my house and spend a few minutes with Clancy.
Walking into the carriage house was the first time I thought that the case had entered into my world.
lancy, what’s wrong?”
She lay on the kitchen floor, panting. Her tongue hung out as if she’d just gone for a run, but of course that wasn’t the case. I repeated my stupid question, “What’s wrong, girl?”
Our psychic connection wasn’t working. All I could see was that she needed help. And fast.
I loaded her in my car, thankful she walked a lot and was in good shape. Still, Clancy was a hefty burden, but a burden I loved more than I could express. From the car I called the vet and was told to bring her right in. On the way I berated myself for having a vet on the outskirts of town, but I made the trip in less than 10 minutes. Luckily the trains and tractors knew better than to try to slow me down today.
Dr. Bob was waiting outside the building. He and an assistant grabbed Clancy from my arms and took her into a room. Without asking I followed them. I stroked my beautiful girl’s head as they worked. Her eyes never left me, trusting that I’d make sure everything was okay. She must have also noted my tears. I couldn’t stop. Clancy was my best friend.
Dr. Bob looked up and said, “Her pulse is thready and her blood pressure is really low. She feels a little cold too.”
It hit me. “Check for arsenic poisoning. Please.” I was desperate. “Please.”
Probably because of all the recent poisonings the doctor said “yes” immediately.
“That’s what I thought too,” he said. “Unfortunately there’s no quick way for me to test it with my equipment. I’m going to treat Clancy as if she’s been poisoned. It will be best if we put her to sleep because we’ll have to empty her stomach.”
He must have known I’d want to stay. He added, “You can stay while she goes to sleep and then you have to leave. I promise I’ll let you come back in before she wakes up. She won’t even know you’re out of the room.”
Little did he know that Clancy understood what he was saying. What a brilliant girl! I nodded at the doctor and said, “Do whatever you need to do. She’s my best friend.”
“I understand.” And I really believe he did.
My tears slowed a little, but didn’t stop. I got close to Clancy’s ear and whispered, “I love you. Everything is going to be okay.” The doctor put in an IV and as I talked to Clancy her eyes closed. I kissed her and opened the door to leave. I turned to the doctor, “Please clue me in as soon as you know anything.”
He nodded. I walked out and made my way to one of the uncomfortable plastic chairs in the waiting room. Time passed slowly. I counted time by noting how many people walked in and out, some with pets, some without. Some were told the doctor was involved in surgery and rescheduled. Others were seen by veterinarian assistants.
I began to pace. Then I remembered to call my office and tell them to cancel my remaining appointments for the morning. I called the ER and said I wouldn’t be in for the afternoon, and left a message for Jen and Jill there. I also called George because I needed comfort. Not only did he comfort me, he walked into the waiting room before we’d even finished our conversation.
He walked in, sat down beside me, and put his arm around me. My head rested on his tweed jacket, I felt the texture of it on my cheek, and for some reason it reminded me of my Dad. And I sobbed. I didn’t care that my tears and snot went on George’s clothes instead of my own. He didn’t seem to care either. Between my sobs and gasps for breath I told him what was wrong. And added, “She was always with me. No one else ever fed her except Gus and Georgianne. I took good care of her. I did. And someone poisoned her anyway.” My sobs slowed down as George patted me and stroked my hair.
His voice was soothing as he said, “I know. Clancy is your family. Your best friend.”
I looked him in the eyes and said what was bothering me the most. “It’s all my fault.”
“Sam, you said she was never alone outside. It’s not your fault.”
I inhaled in order to be able to speak. “I leave my door unlocked to my house.”
“I know. But as you always say, ‘It’s Quincy.’ It’s probably not because the door was unlocked. Remember when Burns was killed, you were convinced someone broke into your house and damaged the gas furnace so you’d die?”
“Shut up, George. This is different.”
My slight anger helped me pull myself together. I sat up, grabbed a tissue from the end table, and mopped up my face. I got another one to mop up George. We both grinned at my feeble attempt, which left pieces of tissue on his shirt. The grin relaxed me.
“God, I never fall apart like that. I’m sorry.”
“No need. I was glad you called me,” George said.
Why did I call him? I had five brothers and sisters, and numerous other relatives. Why did I call George?
He spoke again, putting his hands on either side of my face, and cupping my cheeks softly he said, “Look, let’s just know Clancy is going to be okay. We just know it. We can stop worrying right now, because she is going to be fine. We just know it, Sam. We just know it.” His hazel eyes looked deep into my blue ones.