'And I heard Bubba saying he was going to put the young lady by herself in booking, like he done with Deputy March.'
What? They'd done that to Molly? Sheila'd had no idea. Dear God. She wanted to pull Bubba Berkins's head off his obese body.
'I will not allow that.' She spat out the words.
Earl took a skittish step back. 'Um. I don't know 'bout that. You did say you wanted them not to know you were keeping an eye on things.'
She did her best not to scowl at him. He wasn't the one she was disgusted with. She managed a nod. Then she thought about Boggs, who seemed to be the opposite of tentative little Molly March. Maybe she could handle it. Sheila would damn sure be watching to see if that turned out to be true, now that she knew what was going on.
'And the other one?' she asked.
'Now that there's interesting,' Earl said. 'It was a different feeling I was getting about him. Like he wasn't a target.'
The strapping, clean-cut, sandy-haired white boy. Not a target. Not surprising.
'I didn't hear them planning to do anything to him. It was more like they figured they could bring him in, like, into the fold or something.'
Sheila considered that as she walked back to her car. Austin Lorentz had been her pick. She'd recruited him, convinced him to give up the healthy tips of a bartending job and join the force because she'd been impressed with the way his mind worked. She hoped she'd read him right. If not, she'd just created a problem instead of solving one.
The first step in what he was calling his bad breakfast inquiry was going to be the most fun. Because it involved perpetual wise-ass Larry Alcoate.
'Why exactly couldn't we do this over lunch?' the lanky head paramedic said as he met Hank outside the Hollister headquarters of Branson County Ambulance Services. 'You wanting my company I understand. You insisting that it be in this boring cinder-block office that needs some explaining.'
'I need you to run some records for me. And your databases are here. Not at the Roark Diner.'
'Fine. But you're buying me some Flamin' Hot Cheetos out of the vending machine.'
After Larry got his snack and a diet soda 'gotta watch my girlish figure' they settled in at his work station and Hank explained Maggie's concerns.
'Why didn't you tell me this was for the redoubtable Dr McCleary? I would've gotten right on it. I like her better than you.'
Hank grinned. 'Everybody does.'
Larry pecked at the keyboard with his index fingers for a minute. 'I can't give you names, dude. HIPAA privacy laws and all. But there were sixteen transports to Branson General in the past month for dehydration, dizziness, nausea that set of symptoms.'
'How many over age sixty-five?'
'Thirteen. Two of the others were idiots in their twenties who took a leaky rowboat out onto the lake and got stuck out there for God-knows-how-long. And one was a guy in his forties who went on too long a hike.'
'Where'd you pick up the older ones? What locations?'
More hunt-and-peck typing. Two of the thirteen called 9-1-1 while shopping in stores. All of the others were transported from local theaters. Hank chuckled to himself. Maggie's estimate of ten patients had only been one off. He pulled out his notebook as Larry rattled off the addresses. By the time his friend was finished, Hank was no longer smiling. Four had come from the Breakfast Buckaroos show. One other breakfast theater was also a repeat offender. What was happening at these places?
Larry unrolled himself from his customary slouch and jabbed at the computer monitor. 'I'm kicking myself, man. How did we not notice this?'
'Different staff on different shifts? A pretty average call about an old person getting shaky? It makes sense,' Hank said.
But Larry was still stiff with outrage. He thought for a minute and then jackhammered at the keyboard. A whole new list came up. 'And these are calls to those same addresses that didn't result in transport. But they sure as hell did involve shaky old people.'
'And what, they got better?'
'Yeah. We treated with fluids, or glucose, that type of thing. They ended up not being in bad enough shape to have to go to the hospital.'
'I don't suppose you could print that list out for me.'
Larry made a face at him. 'Nice try. I shouldn't even be letting you see this screen. I can let you have dates and locations. Even that's skating near the edge. You're definitely not getting names.'
This excerpt is from the hardcover edition.
Monday we begin the book Do No Harm by Robert Pobi.