EXCERPT CHAPTER ONE "JUNKYARD DOGS "

Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from JUNKYARD DOGS by Craig Johnson. Copyright © Craig Johnson, 2010.

JUNKYARD DOGS

By Craig Johnson
Chapter 1

I tried to get a straight answer from his grandson and granddaughter-in-law as to why their grandfather had been tied with a hundred feet of nylon rope to the rear bumper of the 1968 Oldsmobile Toronado.
I stared at the horn pad and rested my forehead on the rim of my steering wheel.
The old man was all right and being tended to in the EMT van behind us, but that hadn’t prevented me from lowering my face in a dramatic display of bewilderment and despair. I was tired, and I wasn’t sure if it was because of the young couple or the season.
“So, when you hit the brakes at the stop sign he slammed into the back of the car?”
It had been the kind of winter that tested the souls of even the hardiest; since October, we’d had nothing but bliz- zards, sifting snowstorms, freezing fogs, and cold snaps that had held the temperature a prisoner at ten below. We’d had
relief in only one Chinook that had lasted just long enough to turn everything into a sloppy mess that then encased the county in about six inches of ice with the next freeze.
It was the kind of winter where if the cattle lay down, they weren’t likely to get back up: frozen in and starved out.
I lifted my head and stared at Duane and Gina.
“Yeah, when I hit the brakes I heard this loud thump.” She shrank into her stained parka with the matted, acrylic fur of the hood surrounding her face and tried not to light what I assumed was her last Kool Menthol.
We all sat in the cab of my truck with the light bar revolving to warn passing motorists of the icy roads. The roads, or more specifically the thick coating of ice on the roads, was what probably had saved Geo Stewart and, if it hadn’t been for the numerous 911 calls that my dispatcher, Ruby, had fielded from passing motorists and the stop sign on state route 16, the seventy- two-year-old man would have made the most impromptu ar- rival into the town of Durant, Wyoming, in its history.
“I guess he slid into the back.” Gina Stewart nodded the same way she had when she’d told me she’d been after ciga- rettes, Diet Coke, and a box of tampons from the Kum & Go, where she worked part-time.
I looked at the bubblegum-pink lipstick that stained her lone smoke. I’d warned her three times not to light up in my truck and tried to ignore the vague scent of marijuana that wafted off the pair. If she was down to her last cigarette, it smelled like they still had plenty of something else.
“He’s a tough ol’ fucker. That isn’t the first time he’s come off the roof.”
We all listened to the static and random calls of northern Wyoming law enforcement on my Motorola, and I stopped scribbling in my duty book. “The roof ?”
“Yeah.”
I looked at Duane, but he’d yet to utter anything more than a grunting agreement to whatever Gina had said. “Yunh- huh.”
I studied the two of them and thought about resting my head on the steering wheel again. “The roof of the car?”
She shook her head inside the hood and pulled the unlit cigarette from her mouth. “Roof of the big house.”
“The big house.” “Yeah.”
It was quiet. I thought about the Stewart family’s com- pound, comprising a Victorian house and a number of single- and double-wide trailers. “And what was he doing on the roof of the big house?”
She pulled the hood back from her face; the heater from my truck was just beginning to bring the temperature inside the vehicle to past the ice age. For the first time, I noticed she had enormous brown eyes and a lovely, heart-shaped face. It was spoiled by dirty-blond hair, but she was pretty in a shop- worn way.
She had learned that to captivate men you must treat them with the utmost attention. I’d only been in the cab with Gina for ten minutes, and I was already dizzy; of course, that could have been from the less-than-legal fumes floating off the
two.
She looked at Duane, and so did I, figuring that the rest of the saga was his to tell.
Duane Stewart had dropped out of school at the age of fourteen with his parents’ consent, because he was, in an in- ternal combustion sense, gifted; if you had any type of motor- driven vehicle produced before 1972, Duane could fix it. He and his uncle Morris had a ramshackle mechanic’s shop that was on the road to the junkyard, which was the family’s other going concern.
Thick ly built, he had a few pimples scattered across his face that reminded me how young he still was—early twenties at best. His eyes hunted mine, but he ducked away and cleared his throat. “Yunh-huh, we was cleanin’ out the chimney.”
I watched the blue and red lights from my truck that joined with the yellow ones from the EMT van behind us as they raced across the hillsides. “In February?”
He looked at his new wife again and then back to me. “Yunh-huh.”
I took a breath and leaned back in my seat. “Maybe we need to start at the beginning.”
The young man tipped his grease-stained cap back on his head—it read hemi. “The chimney of the big house gets stopped up in the winter after you burn it for a few months, so we dip a mop in kerosene and force it down the flue to clean it out.”
“Kerosene.”
“Yunh-huh.” He warmed to the story and began gestur- ing with his hands, the work embedded in the swirls of his fingerprints and nails. “I’d a done it, but I’m afraid of heights and Grampus’s agile. He can climb out that top window on the gable end and get ahold of the gutter and swing a leg up onto the roof.” He made the statement as if it should have settled everything.
It hadn’t. “So, the rope—”
“It’s slippery up there with the ice, so he tied it to his waist and slung it over the peak and I tied ’er off to the Classic.”
It was coming all too clear now.
He nodded as he studied my face. “Yunh-huh. I was in the backyard watching Grampus when Gina come around the house and said she was going to the store and did we need anything. I told her no, and then she left.”
I covered the smile that was creeping onto my face with a hand. “The Classic is the car that your grandfather was tied to—the Oldsmobile?”
“Yunh-huh. We heard the car door slam and the motor catch, and that’s when Grampus and me looked at each other. It was about then that the rope went tight.” His callused hand smacked the palm of his other and leapt forward. “Grampus fell over backward, and then he shot up the roof and over the other side.”
“Duane, you stupid prick, how’m I supposed to know you’ve got Grampus tied to the back of the car?”
His neck stretched in indignation. “We . . . we do it ev- ery year.” He turned back to me. “We dump snow beside the driveway, so I figure he landed on that, but with the forward momentum I don’t figure he hit anything solid till he took out the mailbox at the end of the driveway.”
I went ahead and rested my head on the steering wheel
anyway.
Gina rejoined the conversation. “We always park the car facing forward so you can see both ways when you pull out.” Then there was an accusation, just to even the score. “People drive too fast on that road, Sheriff.”
Duane reached a hand out and played with the coiled cord that led to the mic clipped to my dash and then gestured toward his partner in crime. “I guess we’re lucky nobody ran over him before she got stopped.”
I raised my head and nodded. A local sculptor had made the first 911 call when the junkman had slid by him. “Mike Thomas says your grandfather waved as he passed him going the other way.”
Gina nodded her head. “We like Mike.”
They both smiled at me. I sighed and placed my pen on the aluminum clipboard. “So, what did you do then, Duane?”
“I jumped in one of the wreckers, but they ain’t near as fast as that 455 in the Classic, and it’s front-wheel drive so it took a while for me to catch up—especially with the roads bein’ as slippery as they are, and by the time I got here that deputy of yours already had Gina pulled over.”
Gina nodded. “And she used some really rude language.”
I brought my face a little forward so that the young woman would know I was addressing her. “Did you hear the thump again, the second time—after Vic stopped you?”
She fingered the fur around her neck. “No, he kinda swung into the barrow ditch back there after I made the turn.”
I nodded and slipped the clipboard back into the pocket
of the driver’s side door. The Stewarts were a drama waiting in the wings. It seemed as far back as I could remember the clan members had been involved with some form of misadventure or another, usually resulting in a visit to the Durant Memorial emergency room.
“Duane, didn’t your dad die falling off a roof ?” The young couple sat there unmoving, and I didn’t say anything either. It wasn’t like I was accusing him; I just wasn’t perfectly sure. “About five years ago, wasn’t it?”
Duane’s eyes stayed still, and his head dropped a bit. “Nunh-uh, it was a heart attack.”
I assumed that Nunh-uh was the opposite of Yunh-huh and nodded at him to encourage the rest. “After he fell off the roof.”
“Yunh-huh.”
I was sorry to keep at the boy since it seemed to sadden him, but I figured I had a certain amount of leeway in the in- terest of public safety. “He wasn’t cleaning the chimney with the kerosene mop, was he?”
The young man took a deep breath. “Nunh-uh.” He cleared his throat. “It was in September, and he was patching a hole. He slipped and fell—then he had the heart attack.”
Charging any member of the Stewart family with reck- less endangerment smacked of delivering coals to Newcastle, or to Moorcroft, for that matter. I nodded and pulled down my new hat, buttoned my sheepskin coat, and flipped the collar up to defend against the bracing February wind that was slic- ing down the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains.
I opened the door and lodged myself in the opening just long enough to speak to Duane one more time. “You know,
Duane, maybe your family should stay off roofs.”
We were in the process of enduring our second week of sub- zero temperatures for the third time; in the day it was no higher than a balmy one, and at night it plummeted to as low as forty below. Everybody was getting tired of it, and I was threatening to move to New Mexico again.
I passed the ’68 Toronado, which I considered the ugliest car to ever roll out of Detroit on bias-ply tires. It was a gold- colored beast with more than a few rust patches but, as my deputies could testify, the drive train had been modified to the point that it wasn’t your father’s Oldsmobile anymore, and it ran like a raped ape. Ever since they’d gotten married a little less than six months ago, Duane and Gina had taken turns do- ing public service and going to driving school in attempts to keep their respective licenses.
I noticed the untied yellow rope still leading to the ditch, felt the onset of another headache, and trudged on.
I’d broken a bone in my foot back in October, and it was still giving me a little trouble. Struggling against the wind and attempting to get a good footing and a half on the ice, I lurched one of the back doors of the EMT van open. The vehicle was parked in the drive of Deer Haven Campground beside Vic’s unit, and I almost knocked myself out on the ve- hicle’s headliner.
Vic stood by the other door. I looked at my undersher- iff. Second-generation law enforcement, Victoria Moretti was the personification of the fact that ferocious things come in small packages. After five years in the Philadelphia police de
partment, she’d landed in our high-altitude, currently perma- frosted neck of the woods and had slowly begun defrosting my heart. She looked like one of those women you see draped over the hoods at car shows; that is, if you’ve ever seen one with attitude and a seventeen-shot Glock.
Santiago Saizarbitoria—Sancho, as Vic had christened our Basque deputy—was seated on the wheel well and was watch- ing as Cathi Kindt swabbed road debris from a few scratches and burns on Geo Stewart’s ear where he’d collided with one of the chrome-tipped tailpipes of the Olds.
I looked at the assembled deputies and EMTs—it was ei- ther a slow day for civil service on the high plains or everybody was looking for a place to get inside. I put my gloved hands on my knees and leaned in for a look at the junkman. “You know, in this country we usually reserve this kind of treatment for horse thieves.”
Geo smiled, red-faced and glassy-eyed. He was a ball of tendons and stringy muscle, tanned by the scorching Wyo- ming summers and freeze-dried by the winters into a living jerky. He had pale blue eyes, and the edge of his pupils looked like rime ice.
The aged Carhartt coveralls hung from him like shed skin with torn openings that exposed a red lining looking like a subcutaneous wound. His logging boots were double-tied, and he sported a welder’s undercap in a faded floral print. A huge key ring, attached to a loop at his hip, jingled as he spoke. “Hey, Sheriff.”
George “Geo” Stewart’s great-grandfather was one of
the original founders of Durant and said to be the first Caucasian baby born in the territory, but it was Geo’s father who started the junkyard after the Second World War. When a mild amount of suburban sprawl overtook his collection of dis- carded automobiles and trucks in the early sixties, the county commissioners persuaded Geo the elder to take his rusting in- ventory and swap his in-town spread for a larger one farther east that they had acquired from Dirty Shirley, the last madam to do business in the county.
The commissioners had retained some of the land next to the junkyard and had made it the town landfill, so when Geo the elder died, Geo the younger inherited the junkyard and the part-time position of maintaining the weigh-station scales and the municipal property.
He had a knack for such things, and I only heard from him when people tried to dump without a city water bill, when they tried to skim on the amount of refuse they unloaded, or when kids got into his junkyard and tried to make off with vintage goods. “Hey, Geo, how are things up at the dump?”
His expression took on a serious quality, but he was noth- ing if not unfailingly polite. “With all due respect, Walt, Mu- nicipal Solid Waste Facility.”
I shook my head at the old man. “Right.”
“He won’t go to the hospital.” Cathi looked back at me. The Absaroka County sheriff ’s department might not have too much to do besides stay in out of the winter wind, but Cathi Kindt was another story.
I avoided the paramedic’s gaze and sat next to Sancho. “Does he need to?”
She sat on the gurney next to George and folded her arms.
“He’s seventy-two years old and just got dragged behind a car for two and a quarter miles.”
I took off my hat and studied the inside band to gain a lit- tle time and let Cathi cool off. Mike Hodges up at H-Bar Hats in Billings had been kind enough to build me a fawn-colored one, since I’d pitched the last one into the Powder River after I decided that I was not a black hat kinda guy.
I leaned forward and looked past the irate EMT. Geo was still smiling at me, and I figured his teeth were the best part on him. “He looks pretty good, considering.” The grin broad- ened. “How do you feel, Geo?”
He looked around the interior of the van and took in the ex- pensive equipment. “I ain’t got any of that gaddam insurance.”
I figured as much. “Geo, what part of you hit the mail- box?” Everybody in the van looked at me, Cathi started to speak, and Vic covered a grin and snorted a quick laugh.
“M’shoulder.” He moved it, and I could see its alien posi- tion and hear the joint grind. “Little stiff.”
“Why don’t we get it X-rayed?”
He shrugged with the other shoulder. “I told ya. I don’t have none of that insurance.”
I smiled back at him and shook my head. “It’s okay, Geo, the county’s got plenty of money.”
“I want a raise.” Vic walked along beside me as the glass doors of Durant Memorial’s emergency entrance closed behind us.
“No.”
We were bringing up the rear of the Municipal Solid Waste Facility entourage. I nodded for Saizarbitoria to follow the gurney into the operating room and gestured to Duane and Gina that they should sit on the sofas by the entryway where Geo’s brother, Morris, joined them. He’d evidently heard that his brother had been injured, and the gravity of the situation was partially reflected in the fact that as far as I knew, the man only came into town about three times a year.
“Hi, Morris.” I waved at him, but he didn’t wave back. “You just said the county has plenty of money.”
I lowered my voice in an attempt to get her to lower hers. “They do for medical services involving recalcitrant, uninsured junkmen but not for the sheriff department’s payroll.”
Her voice became more conversational. “I want to buy a house.”
I nodded and then smiled just to let her know that she shouldn’t take her current annual wage personally. “Then you should work hard and save your money.”
“Fuck you.”
“It’s amazing the respect I seem to command from my staff, isn’t it?”
Janine, who sat behind the desk, was my dispatcher Ruby’s granddaughter. She looked up at us from her paperback, nod- ded, and scratched under her chin with the large, pink eraser of her pencil. “Amazing.”
Vic leaned her back against the counter and crossed her legs at the ankles. “I’m not kidding, at least about the house. I’m tired of living in a place with wheels on it.”
Ever since arriving in county, Vic had occupied a single-
wide by the highway, and I’d often wondered why she hadn’t taken up a more permanent residence. Perhaps my latest re- election and promise to abdicate to her in two years was hav- ing an effect. “Where is this house you want?”
“Over on Kisling. It’s a little Craftsman place.”
I looked past her. “The one with the red door?”
She didn’t say anything for a moment. “Okay, who died there?”
I shrugged. “Nobody. I just drove by yesterday and saw a for sale sign. Do you know that the Jacobites in Scotland painted their doors red in support of the Forty-Five Rebellion and Bonnie Prince Charlie?”
“Do you know I don’t give a bonnie big shit?” Janine snickered.
Vic uncrossed her ankles and shifted from one booted foot to the other. “I’ve got an appointment to go over and look at it again tonight. I guess there’s a bunch of people interested.”
“Would you like me to go with you?”
She raised an exquisite eyebrow. “Why in the This Old House hell would I want you to do that?”
She had a point; my home skills were just short of negligible—I’d only gotten around to having the Mexican tile in my six-year-old log cabin installed this past fall. “It’s a guy thing; even if you don’t know anything about cars, you open the hood and look at the engine.”
“Seven-thirty. Then I’ll let you take me out to dinner.”
I took the weight off my sore foot and looked down at my boots, which were covered with buckled galoshes. “That’s a nice part of town. The houses around there usually go in a hurry. What do they want for it?”
“One-seventy-one, but I think I can get it for one-sixty- two. Alphonse says he’ll front me the down, and then I can just pay him back when I can, sans interest.”
Alphonse was Vic’s uncle who had a pizza parlor in Phila- delphia and, other than Vic’s mother, Lena, the only non-cop Moretti. “How’s the rest of the family feel about this?”
“They don’t know about it.” As a general rule, the machi- nations of the Moretti family made the Borgias’ seem like Blondie and Dagwood.
Her shoulder bumped into my arm as she changed the subject. “So, your daughter and my brother are getting mar- ried this summer?”
I took a deep breath with a quick exhale. “All I know is what I get from the answering machine at home.”
“At least you’ve got a home.” She shifted her weight again, this time in not-so-simple dissatisfaction. “Mom says the end of July.”
I shrugged. “Mom would know.” I thought about Vic’s mother, and the brief time I’d spent in Philly almost a year ago. “Did she mention whether they were thinking of doing it here or in Philadelphia?”
She looked up at me. “There was supposedly talk about some special place on the Rez—Crazy something . . .”
I thought about it. “Crazy Head Springs?” “That’s it.”
“Uh-oh.” “Why uh-oh?”
“It’s where I once helped raise the powwow totem; it’s a sacred place for the Cheyenne but controversial. Crazy Head was a Crow chief, but part of the break-off Kicks-in-the-Belly band.”
“Like Virgil?”
“Yep, like Virgil.” Virgil had been one of our holding cell lodgers who, after having been released, had gone MIA. “The Cheyenne don’t like the idea of a Crow chief being exalted on their reservation. Henry took Cady along with us when she was seven, and she’s always said she wanted to be married there.”
Vic shook her head. “We’ll see if it lasts till the summer.” “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Her eyes met mine, but she diverted again. “So, has the
Basquo talked to you?”
I started to yawn and covered my mouth with my hand. “About what?”
“Quitting.”
I stopped in mid-yawn. “What?”
I studied her a moment more, but my eyes were drawn to an approaching lab coat flapping toward us from the hallway. I swiveled my head to meet Isaac Bloomfield, surgeon and all- around Durant Memorial physician-in-charge. As a member of the lost tribe, who must’ve really been lost when he settled in Wyoming, Isaac Bloomfield had set up practice in Absaroka County more than a half century ago. He had been one of the three living inmates of Dora-Mittelbau’s Nordhausen when Allied troops had liberated the Nazi Vernichtungslager. “How’s the patient?”
“Well, that’s the first time we’ve ever had that happen.”
He looked up at me through the thick lenses of his glasses, which magnified the multiple layers of skin around his eyes. “His hair has grown through his long underwear.”
Vic made an unflattering noise through her nose. “Probably more than we needed to know, Doc.”
He adjusted his glasses and motioned with his almost bald head toward the double doors of the ER. “Walter, I need you to come with me.” He glanced back as Vic started to follow. “Alone.”
I turned to her as I followed the thin man into the inner sanctums of Durant Memorial. “Stay here. I want to know more about the house and the wedding. And Sancho.”
She stuffed her hands in the pockets of her duty jacket and called after me. “I’ve got that appointment at seven-thirty.”
The Doc walked me into the first examination room and closed the door. I glanced around and noticed we were the only ones there; that’s why I’m a sheriff, because I notice things like that. “Where’s the patient?”
He placed the edge of the clipboard on the counter next to a sink and studied me. “In the next room.”
“Please tell me he didn’t just have a heart attack.” I thought about it. “You know the family has a history.”
“Yes, but the patient in question suffers primarily from diabetes, not heart disease.”
“All right, then.” I looked at him. “What’s up, Doc?”
I stood there in his disapproving silence. He slowly brought his gaze up. “You’ve had a rough year. A very rough year.” He peered at me and tapped the examination bench. “Climb up here.”
“Isaac, I don’t have time . . .”
He patted the clipboard. “Neither do I. I have every inten- tion of retiring soon and handing the responsibility for this place over to the new young man we’ve hired.”
“Who?”
He ignored me and patted his clipboard again. “These are the mandatory examination papers for the county health plan and, if you do not sit down, I will have them cancel the coverage.”
I took a deep breath and looked at him; he was studying the contents of the folder that contained a running documen- tary of my physical misadventures. The Doc usually dragged me in for the health insurance examination whenever he felt it was high time and long enough.
Bushwhacked.
“Ruby called you, didn’t she?” He didn’t say anything, so I
sighed, stepped up, and sat.
He placed the file on the gurney beside me, reached out and thumbed both sides of my knee, pressing up on the cap through my jeans. “How’s the knee?”
I winced. “All right, till you started monkeying around with it.”
He looked up at me, all the world the likeness of some venerated Caesar and just as forgiving. “The shotgun wound to your leg has healed moderately well?”
“Yep.”
“No lingering symptoms from pneumonia from drown- ing?”
“I didn’t really drown.”
His voice was sharp. “When you have to be resuscitated, you drowned.”
“Okay.”
“Take off your coat.”
I did, and he took my left hand and examined the scar tis- sue. He held my upper arm and turned my forearm, rotating the elbow. “Does this hurt?”
I lied. “No.”
He unsnapped my cuff, raised the sleeve of my shirt, and looked more closely at the elbow itself. “You have some swell- ing here, under the scar tissue.”
I lied again. I didn’t usually lie, but with the Doc it had become a habit. “I’ve always had that.”
He shook his head and manipulated my shoulder. It sounded gravelly like Geo Stewart’s. “The shoulder?”
“It feels great.”
“It doesn’t feel great to me, and it doesn’t sound so good either.” He frowned as he compressed the joint and lifted my arm. “How’s that?”
It actually hurt like hell, so I pulled my arm loose. “Not so great, which is why I’ve dropped mandatory departmental saluting.”
“How is your foot?” “Fabulous.”
He studied me with a look, and the only description that might apply would be askance. “You’re still limping.”
“I’ve come to consider it a character trait.” “Take off your hat.”
“I don’t think that’s going to help with the limp.”He placed his hands on my head, adjusted the angle, and pulled my left eye down for a look; this was the part I was dreading. He released my head and got a small plastic bottle of something from the cabinet behind him. “These drops are for your eyes; would you like to do it, or would you prefer I administer them?”
“How many drops?”
He held up two fingers, and I did my part for the advance- ment of medical science. My vision became blurry as he stud- ied his wristwatch and waited. After a bit, he reexamined my eyes. “Well, your pupils don’t show any particular abrasion, but it’s the damage to the ocular cavity that has me worried.” He released me, picked up the file, and stepped back, folding his arms over the folder and his chest. “I can’t make out any detachment of the retina, but it’s possible that there’s some trauma.” He thumbed his chin and continued to look at me like a card player would an inside straight.
“I could’a been a contender, Doc.”
“You could also go blind as a bat in your left eye if you get hit there again.”
I froze. “What?”
“Just a little medical humor. If you’re not going to take your condition seriously, why should I?” He hugged my file a little tighter. “Still having the headaches?”
“Only when I come in here.”
I had made the mistake of mentioning to Ruby that I had had a few recurring headaches, which must have re- sulted in this examination. I started to edge my rear end off the table.
“How often?” He continued to study me without moving out of my way.
I took a breath and settled. “Every once in a while.” “What about the flashes?”
“It was a onetime thing; I just moved my head too fast.” Once again, it was a lie, and I was pushing my luck because the Doc was pretty good at spotting them. After those smil- ing government Gruppenführers with black uniforms had taken him away, Isaac Bloomfield had become a walking polygraph
test.
“You’re sure?”
The trick to a good lie, no matter how outrageous, is sticking to it. “Yep.”
He shook his head very slightly, just to let me know he knew I was lying. “Walter, I have a deal for you.”
“Okay.”
He started to speak but then stopped. After a moment he licked his upper lip and tried again. “I will sign these forms indicating that you are in fine shape, which you are for a young man with this many accumulated injuries.” I liked it when the Doc called me a young man and tried not to dwell on the fact that he was in his eighties. “But, only on one condition.”
There was always a catch with the Doc. “And that is?” “You have Andy Hall in Sheridan do a complete examina-
tion of your left eye.” “All right.”
I had started to get up again, but it was too quick of an answer and he placed a hand on my knee, the bad one, to stop
me. “I will set up the appointment.”I hedged. “I can do it, just give me his number.”
“No, I will make the appointment for you. What time this week is good?”
“This week?” Even with my blurred vision, I could see his large brown eyes studying me.
“Yes.”
Damn. I thought about it and figured the more time I had, the more time I’d have to get out of it. “Friday?”
He produced a pen from his lab coat pocket and scribbled on the top of the forms with a flourish followed by a stabbing period. “Thursday.”
“That’s Valentine’s Day.”
He smiled, his mission accomplished. “Maybe your heart will be in it.”
I pulled on my coat and put on my hat. “All right, now that you’re through cutting me off at the pass, do you mind telling me how Geo Stewart is?”
“Routine dislocation of the left shoulder.”
“Well, that would explain why he was waving at passing traffic with only one arm.”
Isaac nodded. “I’d like to keep him here for observation, but there’s something else that’s come up in casual conversa- tion that I thought you might need to know.”
“Now why do I not like the sound of that?”
Isaac Bloomfield cleared his throat. “It would appear, that at the dump—”
“You mean the Municipal Solid Waste Facility?”
The Doc continued as if I hadn’t interrupted. “They have found a body part.”

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