This is it—the last chapter of Leo’s Birds to be released before the official publication date of October 25. We hope you’ve enjoyed it . . . and that you feel inspired to read the rest of it! It will be available for purchase from our website, www.thewriteplace.biz/contestwinner.
“May we sit down?”
Maria nodded. The men took chairs opposite her. One lit a cigarette. Both had coffee and both set the cups down.
“I’m Sheriff Wright,” the older, gruff one said. “This here is Detective Wills, Doctor. I am going to turn on this little ol’ tape recorder. That is, if you don’t mind?”
Maria shook her head.
“Good. We’ve got just a few simple little questions to ask you. There’s just a few things we don’t quite understand yet.”
“Yeah,” the younger man said, after he loudly swallowed a sip of coffee. “We were kinda hoping you’d clarify things for us and then we can all put this behind us.” The man smiled brightly, a gap as wide as a quarter showing between his upper front teeth. “You can have a lawyer present if you want.”
A lawyer wasn’t necessary, Maria knew. All she had to do was explain the situation and she’d be let go. Maria felt a weight lift from her. Before she could rush ahead and say everything she’d thought of, everything that would clear this mess up, the man continued.
“First off, can you state your full name?” Wright lit a cigarette and blew smoke loudly above her head.
“You are a doctor, correct? An MD?”
“Is that a yes?”
“Very well, doctor. When and where were you born?”
Maria frowned. She didn’t know how this line of questioning would clear things up. “I was born in Hata Nuevo, Puerto Rico, on November 16, 1967.”
“And that makes you, what, thirty-one years old?”
“And when did you come to this country?”
“And where did you live when you first came to the country?”
“Where did you go to school? Get your medical degree?”
“The University of Florida.”
“And what year was that approximately?”
“And you moved to Mobley and went into practice here in what year?”
“That was after a residency in family practice, wasn’t it?” The man took another drag and smiled, letting the smoke seep through his yellowing teeth.
“Yes. I did my residency at Broward General Medical Center in Ft. Lauderdale.”
“So. Let me do a little figurin’ . . . that means you’ve been in practice a little under two years here.”
Maria nodded, then remembered. “Yes,” she said.
“Did you treat Mr. Frederick Jespers at Cheyenne County Hospital?”
“I was there at the 7-Eleven when he went down . . . passed out.”
“And you were the treating physician at the hospital, as well?”
“Yes. Dr. Cramm, Earnest Cramm from Goodland helped in the case, too.”
The smiling younger man spoke up. “We know all about that, doctor.”
The older one looked at the younger man, who immediately stopped smiling. Both men took sips of coffee.
“Now then,” the older man began again. “Did you give Mr. Jespers the medication called . . .” The man reached into his suit pocket, retrieved a piece of paper, unfolded it. “Called Norcuron?”
“I did. I had to sedate him.”
The younger man sat forward. “You had to sedate him? I thought he was already comatose?”
She saw another glare from the older man.
“What my partner means to ask is just this. We’re not doctors so we don’t understand some things. We need . . . well, we’d like to ask for your help in some of these . . . these things we don’t know about . . . because we’re not doctors, see? We don’t understand, for instance, why you would need to give . . . that is, why a man who is already unconscious would need to be given a medication to further knock . . . to further sedate him. Why is that?”
“Well, he was fighting our efforts to intubate him. And when we got him intubated, he was fighting against the ambu-bag—we had to breathe for him. The medicine paralyzes the muscles, including the diaphragm. So he won’t fight against our efforts to breath for him.”
“You mean,” the younger one said, “you gave him a medicine to stop his breathing.”
“Yes. Essentially that’s true.”
“And wouldn’t a person who stops breathing die?”
“Yes. No. We were breathing for him. With the bag.”
The sheriff held up his hand while he snubbed out his cigarette with his other hand. “That’s exactly right, doctor. That’s what we’ve been thinking here all along, trying to understand all this. If you give him the medicine, it stops the breathing, right?”
“And if he’s on the ventilator, or if you are breathing for him with the bag, he’ll be okay. I mean he’ll continue to live, right?”
“Right. We don’t have a ventilator at our hospital. We just breathe for them with the ambu-bag.”
“And he wouldn’t die?”
“No. Not as long as you were breathing for him with the bag.”
“But if you did this to a patient . . . say I came in with a problem where I needed someone to breathe for me . . . I wasn’t breathing on my own . . . and then you gave me the drug, what was it? Norcuran? And if you kept breathing for me . . . with the bag . . . I’d be all fine, then, all hunky-dory. I’d be okay, right?”
“But then . . . say you stopped breathing for me, stopped using the bag, I’d die, right? I mean, because of the medicine, because my muscles were paralyzed from the medicine, Norcuron?”
Maria felt a veil of caution descend upon her. The man’s tone was anything but inquisitive. It was accusatory now.
“Isn’t that right, doctor?”
“Yes, that is correct.”
“So when you stopped using the bag to breathe for Mr. Jespers? He died, didn’t he? Eight minutes later, wasn’t it? You pronounced him, doctor, do you remember?”
Maria was stunned. “But you have this all wrong, all twisted . . .”
“In fact, didn’t you know he was going to die? Your records in your own handwriting indicate this.”
“He had a brain bleed! He was dead already!”
“Yes. Dr. Cramm . . .”
“We know about Dr. Cramm, doctor.”
She sat there staring at the men. “I want a lawyer.”