The body – a snippet from Sanity of Strawberries

The county hospital was a low, sprawling building over on the west side, but in a town of 12,000, nothing is very far away, and I was there in less than five minutes. I pulled around back to the emergency exit and parked in one of the “emergency vehicles only” slots. The door opened into a narrow hall with a small glassed in waiting room on the right with the treatment room on the right.  I checked the waiting room first, mostly out of habit. Sometimes,  those who care enough to sit in that dingy little room for hours will tell you more about what really happened than you learn in days of official investigation.

The only occupant today was an older man, narrow shoulders hunched over a bible on his lap. I couldn’t see any connection he might have to Delaney, so I turned to the door on the left,  tapped the button and looked up at the camera. The buzzer sounded and I went in.   Joe Harrison stood behind a high counter on the right, working at a computer. I knew he was a full fledged M.D., even if he did look like a teenager in his pale blue scrubs. He acted like one, too, ignoring me while while he tapped at his keyboard, watching the screen intently for what seemed like a long time before he finally looked up.

“Sheriff?  That was fast. I just hung up the phone. . . You are here about him, aren’t you?”  There were three treatment areas directly across from the counter.  When they were in use curtains pulled around to partition each bed off for privacy. Two of the narrow beds were empty. William Delaney lay on the third. All the dull tan drapes were pulled aside. He didn’t need any privacy.

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