Welcome back to Member Monday. Today we feature an abridged excerpt from chapter 1 of Checked Out, book 2 in the Aimee Machado Mystery Series by author Sharon St. George. Sharon is a charter member of Writers Forum and serves as the Writers Forum Program Chair. Here’s a little more about Sharon.
Sharon Owen, writing as Sharon St. George, is currently working on SPINE DAMAGE, the fourth book in her Aimee Machado Mystery series published by Camel Press. Owen is a charter member and current program director of Writers Forum. She is also a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Visit Sharon at www.sharonstgeorge.com or on Facebook at Facebook.com/sharonstgeorge.
An excerpt from Checked Out
by Sharon St. George
In order to carry on a confidential conversation, Aimee Machado, hospital librarian, and her colleague, medical staff director Cleo Cominoli, meet at a diner near the hospital where they work.
“Looks good.” I nodded at the steaming bowl Cleo placed on the table. “What is it?”
“The special. Meatball soup with kidney beans.”
“Okay, enough small talk. What’s up?”
Cleo sucked in a deep breath and blew it out on her soup.
“Sig is scheduled for prostate surgery with Dr. Poole.”
“How did that happen?”
“He didn’t ask me. His family doctor referred him to Poole, so it was a done deal when Sig finally told me.”
“Does Poole know Sig’s your fiancé?”
“ ’Fraid so. Of course she’ll blame me if he tries to back out.”
“Then what are you going to do?
“I don’t know yet, but we’ll have to act before Sig’s surgery date.”
“Please, Aimee. Siggy’s loud and bald and fluffy, but I love him to pieces and we have a great sex life. You’ve got to help me. We can’t let Dr. Poole turn him into a eunuch.”
“You can’t be serious. Poole is aloof and intimidating, but that doesn’t mean she’s castrating male patients just for the heck of it.”
“Doesn’t it?” Cleo scooped a meatball into her spoon, stared at it, then dropped it back into the deep crimson broth in her bowl. She looked a little green.
“When is Sig scheduled?”
“Two and a half weeks from now.”
“Have you tried to talk him out of it?”
“Yes, but Sig’s convinced he’s going to die if she doesn’t operate.”
Cleo’s reaction was so extreme there had to be something she wasn’t telling me. She facilitated every one of TMC’s peer review committee meetings. All of their findings and corrective actions were kept in padlocked file cabinets in her office. She also kept confidences brought to her outside committee by nurses who observed suspicious behavior both on the patient floors and in the operating room.
“Do you know something about Poole that you’re not telling me?”
“Nothing I can confirm, but when a patient leaves the hospital against medical advice the night before his surgery, it raises an enormous red flag. There was an incident several years ago at the last hospital where I worked. One of the surgeons was performing unnecessary surgeries, and eventually the OR nurses got suspicious. Word got out to the rest of the nursing staff, and one of the floor nurses started warning the surgeon’s patients away. After a third patient checked out against medical advice the night before surgery, that nurse was exposed and fired.”
“What about the surgeon? What happened to him?”
“Nothing. He’s still there performing surgeries on other unsuspecting patients. That’s why I turned in my resignation and move here, three states away.”
“Are you saying you think someone warned Cody O’Brien away from Dr. Poole?”
“Why else would he bolt at the last minute?”
“Then you should tell Sig to get a second opinion, even if he has to go out of town.”
“If I can convince him to do that and he does decide to back out, I’m afraid he’ll end up like Cody O’Brien.”
“Cody O’Brien was killed by a horse. Sig’s not a cowboy, he’s a dentist.”
Cleo sniffed and said softly, “How do we know Cody was killed by a horse? All I heard is that he was found unconscious in the trailer with his horse. There was a contusion on his forehead consistent with a kick from a horse’s hoof.”
“Sounds pretty straightforward. Is the sheriff’s office investigating the incident?”
“No, and that’s what bothers me. They won’t investigate unless the coroner’s report shows something suspicious. In the meantime, I thought you and I could do some checking—on the quiet. We can’t go through hospital channels.”
“What kind of checking?” I said.
“Checking up on Dr. Poole. You were hired because you’re a forensic librarian. Use your skills.”
“But I’m not a forensic librarian. I’m a health sciences librarian, and part of my job is building a forensic component for the TMC library. That doesn’t make me a detective.”
“Some of that forensic know-how must have rubbed off. I’ll bet you know more than you realize about how to investigate a murder.”
“Cleo, you can’t believe Dr. Poole is going around killing patients who change their minds about surgery?”
Before Cleo could reply, Margie bustled over to our table. “Hello, ladies. Just dropping off our flyer. Friday night’s entertainment is Code Blues.”
She was referring to a blues combo made up of musicians affiliated with Timbergate Medical Center. I glanced at the flyer and noticed Laurie Popejoy’s name crossed out. I asked Margie what that was about.
“Rumor has it Laurie Popejoy can’t be in the combo now that she’s not employed by the hospital.” That was news to me. I shot a look at Cleo.
“I was getting to that,” she said.
Margie continued her update. “They already have a new gal they found right under their noses.”
“Who is she?” Cleo said.
Margie frowned. “Let’s see … I think her name is Dr. Phyllis Poole.”
As soon as Margie was out of earshot, Cleo grabbed my arm. “Can you believe that? Poole in Code Blues?”
“No, but let’s get back to Laurie Popejoy. What’s going on with her?”
“I was about to tell you that Laurie was Cody O’Brien’s floor nurse last night. He checked himself out against medical advice at the end of her shift. She called in her resignation first thing this morning.”
“What does all of this have to do with Cody O’Brien’s death? Are you thinking Laurie Popejoy said something that made O’Brien skip out on his surgery?”
“He skipped out and ended up dead. Laurie resigned immediately. The timing is too suspicious to dismiss as coincidence. I don’t like it one bit, and I won’t rest until I know whether Phyllis Poole’s involved.”
“Come on, Cleo, don’t you think you’re overreacting because of what happened at that other hospital?”
“Maybe, but we don’t know what lengths Poole’s capable of when it comes to protecting her reputation and keeping her medical license. Meanwhile, she’s not getting her hands on Siggy, whether you help me or not.”
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