They were considered more of a bluster than a threat.

More chapters from ToxiCity

A VG Serial: ToxiCity

Episode 28

Stone considered it. Chances were some kid was crying his eyes out because his puppy had run away. But the daughter of Stuart Feldman expected him to launch an investigation. He was about to say something sarcastic when a sudden image of Deanna came over him. What if she’d found a dead animal on her doorstep? What would he do?

He took a breath then went back to his car. He came back with his Polaroid and shot a few pictures of the dog. “I’ll have it taken over to a vet.”

As he waited for a squad car to pick up the dog, workmen in plaid shirts, jeans, and work boots started to arrive. A knot of them gathered near the RV, shooting curious looks at the dog and Stone. A moment later the clamor and whine of motors and machinery cut through the air.

“This has never happened to me before, Detective. I don’t like it. I’m wondering whether I should get some protection for my father and me.”

“By all means. If it makes you feel more comfortable.”

“Would you?”

For a dead dog? Stone bit back a reply. “It’s your decision.”

“Tell me something, where would I find such a person?”

“A private security service is a good start.”

“Don’t police officers sometimes moonlight as bodyguards?”

“Some do.”

“What about your friend— what was his name?” Her fingernail traced a line down her neck, leaving a faint chalky track on her skin. “Matt Singer?”

Stone felt his eyes narrow. “He’s pretty busy these days.”

“Of course. It was just a thought.”

The combination of scents at the North Shore Animal Hospital—zoo overlaid with perfume—was just this side of tolerable, Stone thought an hour later. A woman with a giant poodle brushed by him. Both dog and woman had curly grey hair. The poodle paused to sniff Stone’s pants. Stone was about to pet the animal when a door on the other side of the room opened. A man clutching a wire carrying case emerged, followed by an attractive blonde with a sunny smile. Somewhere in her thirties, she wore a white lab coat with animal shapes painted on.

“They should be fine,” she said to the man. “Give them this twice a day. Don’t worry. They’ll love the taste.” She handed him a metallic tube.

The man bent his head and peered inside the mesh covering of the cage. “You hear that girls? Dr. Fox says everything is going to be okie-dokie, you sweet things.” A high-pitched yowl that sounded more like a miserable baby than a cat was the response. “Thank you so much, doctor. What would my babies do without you?” The man made his way out, crooning to his cats.

Stone stood. “Did I hear right? Dr. Fox?”

The woman held up a warning hand. “Don’t. I’ve heard them all.” Her eyes crinkled in the corners.

Stone smiled back. “Detective John Stone, Northview police.”

She slowly gave him the once-over. He could tell she liked what she saw. Until she got to his left hand. His wedding band glittered in the light.

“Story of my life.” She sighed. “Oh well, it’s not the first time.” She looked up. “You’re here about the puppy.”

He nodded. She looked around. Two children had come in with their mother and a Border Collie. All four were eyeing the vet suspiciously.

“Come with me.” She led him into a small examining room. A waist high table covered with the same upholstered material as the waiting room jutted out from a counter cluttered with tubes, bottles, and cotton balls. She closed the door and leaned over the table. Her lab coat was open, revealing a low cut blue sweater. Stone appreciated the view.

“We did a necropsy during lunch,” she said. “Poor little buddy. He didn’t have a chance.”

“A necropsy?”

“That’s what we call an autopsy.”

“Thanks. I hope it wasn’t too much trouble.”

“You must have your reasons.” She shrugged. “Looks like it was parvovirus.” She explained it was a common infection, which produces the same symptoms she’d seen in the puppy.

“You’re sure?”

“I’m not a forensic vet, but I looked pretty closely at the ingesta. If a dog eats rat poison, you get a distinctive green color in the stomach. Hard to miss. I also looked for coins or other metal, which can trigger vomiting and bloody diarrhea. There was nothing there.” She straightened. “But he did have pale gums, sunken eyes, and some fluid draining out of the eyes. And he was stiff, poor guy.”

“Rigor.”

“Right. He’d been dead at least eight to twelve hours. I took some samples for a biopsy and toxicological screens. If you want, I’ll send them in and let you know what comes back.”

“That would be terrific. What will they test for?”

“The normal things we see in dogs. But, as I said, I’m comfortable with the diagnosis. All puppies are supposed to be vaccinated for parvo, but if he was a stray, there’s a good chance he wasn’t. They get it from other infected animals. And dogs under six months are most susceptible.” She moved to the door.

Stone fell in behind her. “Thanks, Dr. Fox. I’ll see that you’re compensated for your time and work.”

She turned to face him. “It’s Sharon,” she said, eyeing his ring. “And, well—if your situation ever changes…”

“The wedding was four days ago.”

She laughed. “Lousy timing.”

He headed back to the station feeling a bounce in his step. Back in the office, he called Cecil Vaughan, ASAC for the Chicago’s FBI office. Stone knew him from a prior case.

Vaughan picked up on the second ring. “Hey, Stone. Long time and all that. What’s up?”

“Do you guys have anything on Stuart Feldman? Anybody causing him any trouble?”

“Feldman, the developer? Why?”

Stone explained.

“Getting dogged everywhere he turns, is he?” He chuckled.

Stone groaned.

“Tell you what. I’ll check our white collar squads.”

“Thanks.”

There was a momentary pause. Then, “I hear your former partner’s having a rough time.”

“Singer? He’s got a mess on his hands. Why? You guys interested?”

“Possibly. What do you hear?”

Vaughan’s indifference was a tip-off; the agent was holding out. Then again, the Feebs wanted you to think that even if they weren’t.

“You’re in a better position than me.”

The agent laughed. “You’re probably right. Hey. I’ll have someone get back to you on Feldman. Adios, amigo.”

Stone hung up and pulled out the list he’d made the night of the hearings. Gerald Krieger. Ann Heller. Barbara Michaelson. Florence Armstrong, the CEASE activist who’d raised her fist at the hearing. The owlish commissioner, Christine Renfrow.

Stone didn’t consider them much of a threat. From what he could tell, CEASE was mostly bluster. Still.

Episodes in the novel will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Please click the following title,ToxiCity, to read more about Libby Fischer Hellman’s books on Amazon.

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