N Is For Noose Page 42


’’Sorry. I know it stings.’’

’’It's not that. I just remembered. My last tetanus shot was three years ago. I took a bullet in the arm and they gave me one then.’’

’’Oh, well,’’ she said. She inserted the syringe into a device labeled ’’sharps’’ and neatly snapped off the needle, like I might snatch it away and stick myself with it six more times for fun. Ever the professional, I took advantage of the opportunity to quiz her about the Newquists while we waited for the doctor. ’’I gather Rafer and Tom were good friends,’’ I said, for openers.

’’That's right.’’

’’Did the four of you spend much time together?’’ The answer seemed slow in coming so I offered a prompt. ’’You might as well be honest. I've heard it all by now. Nobody likes Selma.’’

Vicky smiled. ’’We spent time together when we had to. There were occasions when we couldn't avoid her so we made the best of it. Rafer didn't want to make a scene, nor did I for that matter, I swear to god, she once said to me-these are her exact words-'I'd have invited you over, but I thought you'd be more comfortable with your own kind.'I had to bite my tongue. What I wanted to say is 'I sure wouldn't want to hang out with a bunch of white trash like you.'And just to complicate matters, our daughter, Barrett, was going out with her son.’’

’’She must have loved that.’’

’’She could hardly object. She was always so busy acting like she wasn't prejudiced. What a joke. If it wasn't so pitiful it'd have cracked me up. The woman has no education and no intelligence to speak of. Rafer and I both graduated from U.C.L.A. He's got a degree in criminology... this was before he applied for the position with the sheriff's department. I've got a B.A. in nursing and an R.N. on top of that.’’

’’ Selma knew the kids were dating?’’

’’Oh, sure. They went steady for years. Tom was crazy about Barrett. I know he felt she was a good influence on Brant.’’

’’Does Brant have a problem?’’

’’Basically, he's a good person. He was just screwed up back then, like a lot of kids that age. I don't think he ever did drugs, but he drank quite a bit and rebelled every chance he had.’’

’’Why'd they break up?’’

’’You'd have to ask Barrett. I try not to mess in her business. You want my assessment, I think Brant was too needy and dependent for someone like her. He tended to be all mopey and clinging. This was years ago, of course. He was twenty, at that point. She was just out of high school and didn't seem that interested in getting serious.’’

Her comments were cut short when the doctor came in. Dr. Price was in his late twenties, thin and boyish, with bright blue eyes, big ears, dark auburn hair, and a pale freckled complexion. I could still see the indentation on his cheek where he'd bunched up his pillow to sleep. I pictured the entire ER staff napping on little cots somewhere. He wore surgical greens and a white lab coat, stethoscope coiled in his pocket like a pet snake. I wondered how he'd ended up at a hospital as small as this. I hoped it wasn't because he was at the bottom of his med school class. He took one look at my fingers and said, ’’Oh wow! Keen!’’ I liked his enthusiasm.

We had a chat about my assailant and the job he'd done. He studied my jaw. ’’He must have clipped you good,’’ he said.

’’That's right. I'd forgotten about that. How's it look?’’

’’Like you put eye shadow in the wrong place. Any other abrasions or contusions? That's doctor talk,’’ he said. ’’Means little hurt places on your body.’’

’’He kicked me twice in the ribs.’’

’’Let's take a look,’’ he said, pulling up my shirt.

My ribcage on the right side was swiftly turning purple. He listened to my lungs to make sure a rib hadn't been thrust into them on impact. He palpated my right arm, wrist, hand, and fingers, and then proceeded to deliver a quick course on joints, ligaments, tendons, and exactly what happens when someone wrenches them asunder. We trooped into the other room where a rumpled-looking technician took X-rays of both my chest and my hand. I returned to the table and lay down again, feeling thoroughly air-conditioned as the room spun.

When the film had been developed, he invited me into the corridor where he tucked the various views onto the lighted screen. Vicky joined us. We stood there, the three of us, and studied the results. I felt like a colleague called in for consultation on a troublesome case. My ribs were bruised, but not cracked, likely to be sore for days, but requiring no further medical attention. Roentgenographically speaking, the two pesky fingers were completely screwed. I could see that no bones were broken, though Dr. Price did point out two small chips he said my body would reabsorb.

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