Part VII

Vince settled down at his desk. Pulling out his notes, he fed paper into his typewriter and got started on his daily paperwork. He was in the middle of writing up his report on Chet when Sheriff Webb called for him.

"Have a seat. We just received a report of another incident last night that sounds very similar to the Kelly case. It happened just outside of our jurisdiction."

The Sheriff glanced down at the notes he'd taken.

"A little over a half-hour after the time that you told me you believe the attack on Kelly took place, Arnold Gibson was walking his daughter, Janice, home from a Halloween party. At about the midpoint of the block they were on, they were attacked by a pair of men. That's according to the only witness, Margaret Hinds - she heard screeching tires and looked out of her window in time to see the attack. They forced the girl into a vehicle and left the man laying on the ground. Mister Gibson wasn't as lucky as Kelly - he's dead and his daughter is still missing."

The sheriff gave a frown as he looked at the papers in his hand.

"The witness gave us almost nothing to go by. Some of the street lamps were broken on that block, so she couldn't make out any details. I've promised Sheriff Cain our full cooperation, so the first thing we need is to get the hospital to release to us the bullet that was removed from Kelly. If it matches the one taken from Mister Gibson like I think it will, then Kelly's information about these men will be the best lead to finding and recovering Janice Gibson. I've already called Rampart and they'll be expecting you."

"I'll head over to Rampart and sign for it, sir."

"Good. I know that it's probably too soon after surgery to take an official statement, but if they'll let you speak with Kelly, anything at all that he can give you is more than we have now. The longer she's missing, the worse our chances are of getting her back home."

"How old is the girl, sir?"

"That's the other thing that looks like it connects the cases - she's close to the same age as Tina."

Vince winced. Time was even more crucial in this case. The men had already murdered, so they might feel they had nothing to lose by killing again.

"I'll head out right away. I'm sure Doctor Brackett will let me speak to him once he knows what's at stake. And sir? I think we need to get a protection detail assigned to the hospital as well. Since they killed Mister Gibson, that makes me wonder if they think that they killed Fireman Kelly as well. If that's the case and they find out that there's a living eye witness, they might try to finish what they started."

"That's a good idea. When you get there to talk to Kelly, I'd like you to remain and keep an eye on him until I can get a detail together to cover his room. In fact, I'll call and have one of the lab guys go to the hospital to pick up the bullet for processing so you won't have to leave him. If the head doctor has any problems, let me know and I'll come down and talk with him personally."

"Yes, sir."

Vince grabbed what he needed from his desk on the way past it to the door. After hearing about the murder, he didn't want to take any longer to get to the hospital than necessary.

Speaking of the head doctor, back at Rampart, Johnny was already having problems keeping pace with the furious man. As they turned into the hallway where Chet's room was, Doctor Brackett sped up even more. Johnny soon heard why - raised voices could be heard even from down the hall. At least two of them, neither of them Chet's. Not about to be outpaced by the doctor, Johnny caught up to Brackett just as he reached the door.

Brackett turned back to Johnny.

"Wait here. I've got to get the key from the nurse's station."

Giving a surprised look to the door, Johnny kept his voice low - though he doubted the men yelling on the other side had noticed anything.

"It's locked?"

"Yes - we do have some rooms that do."

Doctor Brackett didn't waste any further time explaining - he didn't even bother asking the on-duty nurse for the key, though he did flash a glare at here that effectively stopped any comment she might have been about to make. Johnny had remained by the door and watched as the doctor unlocked it, opening it and stepping in without any pause.

It might have been a close call as to whether Johnny or Doctor Brackett was angrier at the scene they walked in on. Chet was very obviously in distress. His oxygen mask was off and the detectives were on either side of him, leaning heavily on the hospital bed. Johnny couldn't make out what was being said to Chet, but the tones were threatening. Both detectives' heads jerked up when Doctor Brackett's voice rose to cut through their voices.

"What the hell do you think you're doing? Get away from my patient!"

Vesely turned and met Brackett scowl for scowl.

"You'll need to leave, doctor. His doctor has signed him off and we're about to take him downtown for questioning."

Doctor Brackett wasn't intimidated for a second. If anything, he became angrier.

"I am his doctor and I didn't sign off anything. You can leave this room now or I will have you escorted out."

"I don't think you realize who we are, doctor."

"I don't think you realize that I don't care who you are! This is my patient and you are currently interfering with his care!"

Johnny tried to ignore the arguing to make his way over to Chet, but Carmichael gave him a shove to push him back. But Johnny had already gotten a good look and was relieved to see Dixie come through the door. He immediately called over to her.

"Dixie! Chet's lips are blue-tinged!"

Those words brought out the Army nurse in Dixie.

"Clear the room! Take the fight outside, men. Johnny - you're with me."

It was all Johnny could do to keep from laughing. The three men responded to Dixie's 'I'm giving orders and I expect them to be obeyed immediately' tone without even registering what they were doing until they were at the door. Doctor Brackett turned to argue with Dixie, but she didn't say a word. She just forcefully pointed toward the door and then turned her attention immediately to Chet. Johnny had already grabbed the oxygen mask and was getting it back into place for Chet.

Noise could still be heard in the hall, but the volume in the room was greatly diminished as Dixie reached over to smooth some of Chet's hair back from his sweaty forehead. Her voice had gone back down to a soothing level.

"Just try to relax for me, Chet. Let me get a look at your chart. It must be time for your pain medications again."

Shortly after Dixie picked up the chart from the end of the bed, Johnny could practically hear the crackle in the air as he turned to see a furious Dixie looking over the chart.


"Not only is Chet way past when he should have had his pain medication, another doctor signed off on stopping them."


That got Dixie's head up from the chart.

"How did you know that?"

"He's the one that authorized Chet being transferred from Recovery to here."

"We'll just see about that."

Dixie headed for the phone and paged Doctor Early to the room. When Vince arrived, he came in on the scene of Carmichael and Vesely arguing with Doctor Brackett in the hall as Doctor Early was working his way past the trio to get into the room. He headed right back to the nurse's station and borrowed the phone.

"Sheriff Webb? I think you'd better get here, sir. We have a situation with the detectives."