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Chapter Nine: The Suspects Disappear

Detective Parker waited impatiently as the automatic sliding door opened at the hospital emergency entrance. He was dressed in blue jeans, gray sweatshirt and black leather jacket. He felt more tired than he looked and he wished he could light up another cigarette. He seemed to remember from his youth that smoking was once allowed in hospital waiting rooms and he filed that fact away in support of his conviction that the whole world was suffering under the burden of bureaucratic overreach.

"Detective Parker, County sheriff's office" he flashed his shield at the nurse behind the counter. "Is Trey Collins, Dr. Collins, the County medical examiner, still here?"

The nurse smiled and ignored his abrupt behavior. "I believe he is. He should be in Dr. Clarke's office. I can call and ask him to come to the front desk - or would you prefer to -

"Steve" it was Collins, calling as he walked toward him down the hallway. "You made good time. Have you met Dr. Rob Clarke?" he gestured to the man beside him.

'No, I don't think I've had the pleasure" Steve replied, although he didn't really consider meeting people a pleasure. The two men shook hands.

"Anyway, I thought you might be interested to hear what Rob had to say about the two men he treated tonight, you know, the two guys I told you about on the phone."

It annoyed Parker how the M.E. always wasted time stating the obvious. "I gathered that, Collins. That's why I'm here when I could be at home in bed."

"Right, I get yah" Collins waggled his eyebrows.

Parker ignored his implication and turned to Dr. Clarke. "So, what can you tell me, doctor?"

"Only that two men came in tonight right around twenty-four hundred hours." He paused a moment as if waiting a response and continued when it was clear that the detective had nothing to say. "They said their names were John Smith and Lee Smith - father and son. Both of them were suffering wounds that seemed to be inflicted by a serrated blade; one a puncture wound through the upper chest and another a superficial laceration on the inside right thigh."

"What makes you say it was a serrated blade?"

"Well, not serrated like a serrated kitchen knife I suppose. More like jagged. Sharp enough to cut but ragged enough to tear up the flesh, like a saw blade or something."

Parker rubbed the back of his hand against his chin in one quick movement. "So the puncture wound on the one guy was thin, like saw blade thin?"

"No, not like that. More like what Trey - Dr. Collins - described in the case of the apparent homicide victim discovered last night."

Parker glanced at the M.E. and Collins nodded. "A shaft with jagged teeth, maybe" explained Collins. "Kind of an unusual instrument. That's why I thought you might want to know about this tonight. Maybe have a chance to talk to these two guys."

"That's why I'm here" he almost added, 'when I could be hone in bed' but caught himself. "So where are they."

Clarke looked toward the nurse behind the counter. She hesitated and then realizing they expected her to supply the room numbers for Mr. Smith and son.

"I expect they're both sleeping right now" she said. The sudden attention of the three men seemed to fluster her. "Wouldn't it be better to speak with them in the morning?"

"Look, nurse," Parker stepped toward her to read the name tag pinned to her uniform. "Nurse Austin, I'm investigating a homicide. A woman and her baby were killed last night in the parking lot of the First Baptist Church and if there is any possibility these guys have information that will help my investigation, then, damn it, I want to talk with them, right now."

Nurse Austin's eyes grew wide and she took an involuntary step back. She looked at Clarke, silently asking what she should do.

"I think it'll be okay if we allow detective Parker to speak to Mr. Smith and his son right now" Clarke said. "I can't imagine they will object if their input will be helpful in the detective's investigation."

Nurse Austin looked unconvinced but with a quick glance at Parker she stepped back toward the counter and jiggled the computer mouse in order to bring the screen to life. Parker thought it strange that a small town hospital like this one required computers to keep track of the patients' whereabouts.

"Lee Smith is in room A 103 and John Smith is in B 107." She frowned as she looked up and locked eyes with Parker. "Room A 103 is just down the hall to your right and B 107 is down the hall to your right, then to the first hall on the left."

"Thank you nurse" Parker tried to sound appreciative. His wife often told him he should work on his people skills. It was a wonder he had ever been promoted to detective I the fist place, she said.

As he turned to walk down the hall, he saw another nurse walk quickly out of the hallway leading to the left and make her way toward the front desk.

"Tammy," the young woman ignored the others as she spoke to Nurse Austin, "will you hand the phone up here please, I need to call the police."

Everyone froze for a moment and then they all seemed to speak at once. After a couple seconds of confusion, Parker shouted, "Quiet everyone - shut up!" He turned to Lily as he pulled his badge from the inside pocket of his jacket. "I'm detective Parker with the sheriff's office. What's going on."

Lily stared at the badge for a moment, confused by the abrupt need to shift her thoughts form calling the police to having a detective standing in the hospital lobby.

"Oh, um, those guys" she pressed her fingers to her temples "those Smith guys. I was going to call the police because one of them was saying things that made me feel threatened." She suddenly felt that her reason sounded weak and so added, "I think they're up to something illegal."

"Got it." Parker stuffed his badge back in his pocket. "Room A 103" he said as he stepped down the hall.

"No!" Lily began to follow after him and Parker turned to face her. "They're both in his father's room - down the hall to the left" she said as she pointed past Parker.

Parker turned and hurried toward the second room. The lobby emptied as the rest of the group followed after him. He hesitated as came to the open door and touched the gun resting in the shoulder holster under his left arm. Then, with the rest of his entourage at his heels, he stepped into the room. His saw an empty hospital bed with a wheelchair to one side. He noticed an IV tube laying on the bed, the fluid drip creating a damp spot on the sheet.

"There's no one here." He turned on the others. "What the hell is going on? Is this the right room?"

"Yes" said Lily. "I was here just a minute ago and they were both here."

"Is there a way out of here - besides the main entrance."

Lily stared at the empty bed and didn't reply. Parker turned his attention to Clarke. "Well?"

"No, not really. They would have had to walk right by us - well, wait a minute." He turned and looked directly across the hall. "There is a door leading to the outside in the employee lounge." He pointed to the door opposite them. "Right there."

Parker pushed past the others and rushed to the lounge. The outside door was slightly ajar. "They've gone out this way." He pulled out his cell phone and speed dialed the sheriff's office. "Did they drive a car here?" he asked the group while he waited for someone at the court house to answer. Before anyone could speak they heard the sound of an engine starting and the sudden acceleration of a car making a fast getaway.

"Damn!" Parker sprinted toward the lobby with the phone still at his ear. His headlong rush was stalled by the slow moving automatic door and he kicked it in frustration. By the time he was outside the car was out of sight. He cursed beneath his breath, staring after the car, cell phone still at his ear.

"Sheriff's office, Sargent Epps speaking."

Chapter One: Slaughter In The Churchyard
Chapter Two: The Guardians
Chapter Three: The Detective
Chapter Four: Checking Out The Church
Chapter Five: Lunch With Connie
Chapter Six: Back To The Scene Of The Slaughter
Chapter Seven: Suspects In View
Chapter Eight: An Unbelievable Story
Chapter Nine: The Suspects Disappear
Chapter Ten: A Plan Of Action
Chapter Eleven: Lily's Help
Chapter Twelve: Another Victim
Chapter Thirteen: The Briefing
Chapter Fourteen: Attack On A Guardian
Chapter Fifteen: The Fury Of The Fiend

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