A Switch in Time


158 Pages
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Dr. Erica Merrill, a young vet trying to establish her veterinary practice in her hometown, a small Northern Idaho county seat, gets involved in a murder investigation when a drug she has dispensed for a family dog is used to poison a wealthy widow. A battle over inheritance means that everyone involved with the household has a motive. But only the nine-year-old granddaughter has both means and opportunity. Neither Erica nor her deputy sheriff boyfriend, Clay Caldwell, want to believe that a child would murder her grandmother, but they wonder if her father could have persuaded her to do it. Erica must also contend with her father, who wants to run her life, a disgruntled colleague who reports her to the licensing authority, and a new physician in town with amorous intentions. It is Erica’s knowledge not of the affect of the drug on the victim, but on the dog, that allows her to solve the mystery



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Published 22 August 2015
Reads 2
EAN13 9781771457040
Language English

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A Switch in Time
By Anne Barton
Digital ISBNs EPUB 9781771457040 MOBI 9781771457057 PDF 9781771457064
Copyright 2015 by Anne Barton Cover Art by Michelle Lee Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights un der copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any mean s (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book
To my sister, Ruth Readers familiar with North Central Idaho will reco gnize the similarity between some of my fictional places and actual ones. The general type of geography is accurate for the area, but the places where these events occur a re purely imaginary, as are the people and the events themselves.
Chapter 1
“There’s a policeman waiting to see you.” Rosemary, the new assistant, oozed through the part ly opened door of the exam room where Dr. Erica Merrill was examining a young couple’s new puppy, and delivered this statement in a stage whisper that carried better than normal speech. “Okay. Put him in my office.” Erica knew her voice was slightly louder than necessary. “I’ll see him when I’m finished here.” Rosemary oozed back out the door, and Erica comment ed casually to the clients, “It’s probably my boyfriend. He’s a deputy sheriff.” The young couple exchanged glances and secretive sm iles, while their puppy rolled on its back to have its belly rubbed. Erica wondere d what they were thinking, or what sort of stories they would make up about the incide nt. Annoyed at the way Rosemary had announced the arrival of a policeman, a way gua ranteed to cause negative comment, Erica chalked this up as one more reason w hy she would have to get rid of this new assistant when her one-month trial period was up. But when she went to her office, the man roaming ar ound, examining the framed documents hanging on the walls wasn’t Clay Caldwell , deputy sheriff of Mountain County. It was the “chief of police” of the six-man police force of the town of Boulder, the county seat. Howard Davis was of average height and skinny build, but with a potbelly protruding over the buckle of his broad gun belt, w hich he kept hitching up. Erica wondered how he kept his khaki trousers from slidin g off over his narrow hips. He wore a not-quite-white shirt; a star-shaped badge hung f rom a sagging pocket. Thinning brown hair straggled out from under a baseball cap with the comment stitched on the front, “Fight crime—shoot a lawyer.” It had always annoyed Erica that Davis wore this cap in the course of his official duties. The mayor thought it was funny. Davis favored her with a grin, which showed nicotin e-stained teeth, with one missing on the right side. Her glance dropped to hi s hand, where he held a half-smoked cigarette between fingers stained yellow. “Please put out your cigarette. We have oxygen in u se.” He had entered the office through a door that held a large sign saying that v ery thing. “Oh! Sorry.” He looked around for an ashtray, but n ot finding one, ground the smoke out on the sole of his shoe, dropping ashes on the floor. He flipped the butt into the wastebasket. “So what can I do for you?” Erica stalked around he r desk, and dropped into her swivel chair. She didn’t like Davis, and was sure t hat the feeling was mutual. Perhaps her animosity showed more than she realized; or per haps Davis didn’t like her because of her father, or her boyfriend. Her father, a form er County Commissioner, was still active in local politics, though he had no authorit y within the city limits. Her boyfriend, Clay Caldwell, was the forensic expert in the sheri ff’s office, and the city force resented both the sheriff and the university-trained deputy.
“I came to ask you about some medicine for a dog yo u treated for the Glasers. You’re the one they come to, aren’t you?” “What did I do? Dispense medicine without a childproof cap?” “Not that exactly. Did you give the dog digitalis?” “Digoxin. The active principle of digitalis.” “That’s poisonous, isn’t it?” “In an overdose, yes.” Davis dropped into a chair across the desk from Eri ca. “Seems odd to use a medicine that’s poisonous,” he commented. “Lots of medications are toxic in excessive doses. Even water.” “What’s this digitalis used for?” “Heart disease. The Glasers’ dog has congestive hea rt failure. Digoxin is one of the medications he’s taking. And in case you’re going t o ask, yes I did dispense it in a vial with a childproof cap, the vial was properly labele d, giving the date it was dispensed, the name of the dog, the medication, the dose, the number of tablets, and the expiration date. I also sent home written instructions, as wel l as telling them several times how and when to give it. And I monitored his dosage and the progress of his disease very closely.” What Erica didn’t tell this officious cop was that the owners of Pierre, the poodle, were notorious for not following directions. “What sort of dose would it take to kill a person? How many pills?” “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask a human doctor. H e was only a Miniature Poodle, so his dose was small. Why?” “How many pills did you send home with them?” Erica did some quick mental math and replied, “A hu ndred. They should have over sixty tablets left, I think.” “Would that be enough to kill someone?” “I’m sure it would. Why?” Davis levered himself out of the chair, making it l ook as if the weight of his gun and all its ammunition was almost too much for his body to lift. “Well, thanks. Sorry to bother you. But you heard that Beulah Glaser died Monday n ight, didn’t you?” Erica nodded. “Well, the docs found digitalis in her body, so I’m wondering why you sent this poison home with the Glasers.”
On the night Beulah Glaser died, it was cold for Ju ne, with a steady rain falling from clouds pushing up over the mountains to the east. T hough it was only seven o’clock, a dreary dusk had settled over the mountain valley. In the living room of the Glasers’ hillside house, a single floor lamp dispelled the gloom in the large living room, in which overstuffe d chairs and couch flanked a fireplace, and an old recliner sat near the picture window so its occupant could look out over the town. Denise Franks yawned. “I’m tired. It feels like bed time. I wish Maynard would get home with Nicole. I don’t like it when he keeps her out late.” “It’s not that late. It’s only seven. And she’s nin e, so she isn’t a baby. And anyway, when they come, I’ll have to leave and I don’t want to.” Lanny Parsley was sure that Nicole didn’t like him. The brat had a habit of han ging around, staring at him with a frown on her face and her lower lip stuck out until he gave up and left. The elder Glasers left him alone with Denise, but not the bra t. “I hope he takes his time bringing her home,” he remarked. Denise half lay on the couch, her arms extended ove r her head. Her breasts stretched the fabric of her soft, clinging blouse. Lanny felt the stirring of desire. He swung around so he lay on top of her, his hand slid ing up under the blouse. She pushed him away. “Not here, for God’s sake!” “Well, don’t lead me on then.” He sat up. “Let’s go over to my place.” “I’ve got to wait till Maynard brings Nicole home.” “Why? It’s not as if there’s no one here to take ca re of her when she gets home.” “Yeah. But I’ve got to give Maynard shit for keepin g her out longer than he was supposed to. I just asked him to pick her up from h er dance class, but I guess they’ve gone out to some junk food place. He spoils that ki d. He does it deliberately, so she’ll like him. Then she comes home, and when I won’t giv e her what she wants, she says ‘Daddy would.’ Daddy does this, Daddy gets her that . Then I have to teach her some manners. It’s impossible. When we’re divorced, I’m going to ask the judge not to let him have visiting rights.” She sat up. “Give me a smoke .” Lanny sighed, dug in his shirt pocket for a package of cigarettes, shook one out for Denise, then took another for himself. He flicked h is lighter into flame and lit first hers then his. He inhaled deeply, and then let the smoke trickle out through his nostrils. “There’s one advantage to your husband taking Nicol e off your hands. It gives us some time to ourselves.” “Yeah, I guess.” They heard a car turn into the driveway. Two car do ors slammed. “I’ll go out the back away,” Lanny said hastily. Denise laughed. “Afraid Maynard will beat up on you ? He’ll know you’re here anyway.”
“I parked around the corner.” Lanny leaned over and gave her a quick peck on the cheek. “Bye.” Denise didn’t get up to see him out. Nicole Franks burst through the front door with her father, Maynard, entering more sedately behind her. He stood about five feet ten, with broad shoulders and a firm jaw in a face that was on the verge of being handsome, but now showed hollow cheeks, pale beneath a fading suntan. His dark hair dripped rain , and he had a tired air. His shoulders drooped, his motions slow. A black Miniature Poodle yipped as it skidded on th e slick vinyl floor on its way from the kitchen into the entry hall. The girl threw her self onto the floor and hugged the dog, who licked her face with a long, pink tongue. In the hall, slow, heavy footsteps could be heard o n the stairs as Beulah Glaser descended, clinging to the banister with hands swol len from arthritis. She wore a light blue checked housedress, a white cardigan and fluff y slippers. She puffed slightly from the exertion of moving her heavy frame down the ste ep staircase. “Has Nicole had any supper?” she asked. “We had HUGE cheeseburgers, and fries and onion rin gs and Cokes. And Daddy ate a whole lot, too.” “That’s good. Maynard, you’ve lost a lot of weight.” “Yeah, I know. I just don’t feel like cooking when I’m alone. But when I didn’t have to fix it, I found that I had an appetite tonight. I t hink maybe I’m over the worst. I expect I’ll be able to go back to work in another week or two.” “You never get over AIDS.” Denise Franks stood in t he archway that led from the living room. There was a sneer in her voice. “I don’t have AIDS,” Maynard snarled. “Oh yeah?” “Yeah! I have mononucleosis.” “That’s just what people say they have when they do n’t want to admit they have something disgusting.” Maynard clenched his fists, but held them rigidly a t his sides. “Will you shut up?” he hissed. “Denise,” Beulah snapped, “Mind your manners. To th ink a daughter of mine would act that way in my house. Maynard, take off your co at and have a cup of coffee. There’s some left in the coffee maker.” As Maynard shed his raincoat, and helped Nicole out of hers, Beulah said quietly to her daughter, “Mind what you say in front of the ch ild.” “She doesn’t listen anyway. All she’s thinking abou t is that dumb dog.” “Don’t be so sure.” “Mom, you always side with Maynard. Why don’t you t hink about me every once in a while?” Denise turned toward the living room and sulked her way back to the couch, where she flopped down. Nicole followed her father into the kitchen, the do g trotting along behind. Maynard poured a cup of coffee and sat down at the kitchen table. His daughter climbed onto
another chair, kneeling on the seat, while she rested her elbows on the table and stared at her father. “Daddy...” “What is it, Honey?” “What’s AIDS?” Maynard’s face suffused with blood, driving away th e pallor. He sucked in a quick breath, but held it as if trying to get his emotion s under control. When he answered, there was only a trace of irritation in his voice. “It’s a nasty disease. But I don’t have it. Your mo ther’s wrong.” “But why did she say that if you don’t have it?” “Don’t pay any attention to her.” “But I want to know!” Maynard buried his face in his coffee cup, putting off the necessity of answering, afraid of what he might say. “I wish you and Mommy were friends.” “Well, Honey, I’ve tried. But your mother doesn’t want to.” “But I’ve heard you yell at her, too.” “Yeah. She provokes me. Look, Honey, I don’t want to talk about it.” The girl squirmed around until she was sitting in the chair. The poodle had curled up underneath. “Are you and Mommy going to get divorce d?” “Not right away. Maybe not.” “Mommy says she wants a divorce.” “I know she does. But I don’t. I’d like to keep us together.” “Auntie Beryl says the only reason you won’t divorc e Mommy is that you think Mommy is going to get a lot of money from Grandpa.” “Honey, let’s not talk about it!” Maynard hissed th rough clenched teeth. “Okay. Anyway, here comes Mommy.” Denise clattered into the kitchen on her high heels , her scowling face suffused with color. In her hand, she carried a small bottle. “I’ve got a splitting headache, and I go to get som e aspirin and what do I find? The dog’s pills in the aspirin bottle! I wish that dumb pooch would die. Someone’s going to get killed one of these days, from taking the dog’s pills by mistake.” She strode to the cupboard, jerked open the door and took out a dish. She dumped out the tablets from the aspirin bottle, letting some spill onto the cou nter, then spun on her heel and marched out again. “Heaven knows where I can find s ome goddamned aspirin!” She muttered as she left. “There’s some in the bathroom upstairs,” Nicole cal led after her, but whether Denise heard or cared, neither she nor her father could te ll. “Are they really the dog’s pills?” Maynard asked. Nicole went to the counter and fetched the dish, ca refully sweeping the spilled pills into it. She brought it to the table, sat down, and examined the tablets closely. “Yep. They’re Pierre’s.” “What were they doing in an aspirin bottle?”
“That’s where Auntie Beryl puts them.” “Why?” “‘Cause she says she can’t open the bottle they com e in. Grandma just leaves the lids off bottles. But she really can’t open those b ottles that have those childproof caps ‘cause of her hands.” The little girl smirked. “I’m the only one here who can.” Her father grinned at her. “Maybe the bottles are a dult-proof.” Nicole giggled then slid off the chair saying, “I’d better go get the bottle they belong in.” She dashed out, returning in a couple of minut es with an amber pill vial, bearing a prescription label, in one hand and a white cap in the other. She carefully poured the tablets into the vial and snapped on the cap. She g ave her father a smug “see what I did” glance. “Honey, are you sure that’s the right bottle?” “Oh, Daddy! Trust me! I know what I’m doing.” “Let’s see.” Maynard held out his hand for the vial , and after a brief hesitation, the girl passed it over to him. “Digoxin: zero point tw o five mg. Is that what Pierre’s supposed to be getting?” Nicole nodded. “He gets them once every day. Dr. Me rrill used to give us littler pills, and he had to get two every day. That was ‘cause Grandma and Auntie Beryl both gave him one, and when he used to get these bigger ones he got real sick. He threw up all over the place. But now, Auntie Beryl is the only o ne who gives Pierre his pills. I watch so I’m sure he gets them, and then I go tell Grandm a, so she knows not to give one.” “Are you sure these are the bigger size?” “Uh huh. The others got thrown out.” Maynard’s forehead creased into a worried frown. “L ook Honey, it’s not safe to have these pills lying around loose. You be real careful . I don’t want you hurt.” “Oh, don’t worry about me. I know that! I’m always putting them back where they belong. And I hang around when Pierre’s getting his pills, ‘cause I don’t want him getting too much, like he did once. He nearly died before we got him to Dr. Merrill’s. I’ve got to figure out some place to put them.” “Where are they usually kept?” “In the medicine cabinet.” “Why not put them back there?” “‘Cause the same thing would happen again. I’m goin g to have to hide them somewhere where I’m the only one who knows. Then wh en Pierre is supposed to get his pill, I’ll go get them. He gets his pill in his food.” “D’you think that will work?” Nicole nodded. “I just thought where I’ll put them.” “Where?” “We keep some stuff for him in the mud room. There’ s some clippers, ‘cause we thought we could clip him ourselves, but he looked awful. And there’s some brushes, and some shampoo, and some other stuff. I’ll hide i t behind that stuff.” “Well, let me get my coat and I’ll go out the back door, and you can show me where you’re going to put the pills.” Maynard supervised the stashing of the medicine vial, and