A scene from Cited to Death

I figure my book is about two to three months from publication. It’s with the beta-readers now, then it needs to be copy edited, and I still don’t have a cover. But I think I can get all that done by the end of the year. Until then, here’s a scene from the first chapter…

Now here he was, standing in my doorway. I tried to smile; it must have looked more like a grimace. “Hey, what are you doing here?”

Pete smiled back. He had a nice smile. “I wanted to see if I could buy you dinner on your way home. Figured you’d be done for the day by now.”

I was suddenly suspicious. “Did Kevin send you here?”

“No, I’ve been here doing research all afternoon. But it did occur to me that you might need some encouragement to leave work on time, and maybe I could entice you away.”

“Doing research? I thought the point of taking a teaching job at a community college was so you didn’t have to do research.”

Pete laughed. He had a nice laugh too. “I don’t have to, but it does help with tenure. And the professor who was my dissertation advisor here has asked me to write a chapter for a textbook that she’s editing. So I need to do some research for that.”

“A textbook on what?”

“Abnormal psychology. My chapter’s on criminal psychology. And right now I’m criminally hungry. So whaddya say? How does Thai sound?”

I sighed. “Actually, it sounds great. I just want to go through this last stack of mail before I leave. Come on in, sit down.”

Pete moved a stack off the chair and sat. “This place is a mess.”

“No kidding. They’ve just been throwing my mail in here as it came.”

“Nice. I hope there wasn’t anything important in it.”

“Probably not.” I was tossing catalogs into my chair and important-looking mail in the direction of my inbox on my desk. None of it looked interesting, until I came to an envelope with a name I recognized. It stopped me in my tracks.

Holy shit. I must have had an odd look on my face. Pete noticed. “What’s wrong?”

“This morning I found out that this guy I used to know died. And now here’s a letter from him. It’s postmarked the day before he died.”

“Who is it?”

“Dan Christensen. We started library school together. He’s a medical librarian at Cedars now. Was a medical librarian. He died on Friday.”

“Christensen. Why does that name sound familiar?”

“I was kind of – um – involved with him for a while. You might have heard me mention him.” I looked narrowly at Pete. “That was almost six years ago, though. If you remember that, you’ve got an awfully good memory.”

“Hey, I’ve always paid attention to your love life.” He nodded at the letter. “What does he want?”

I looked at the letter again. It was postmarked Malibu. Malibu? Dan lived in Glendale and worked in LA. Why would he mail something from Malibu? I opened it and pulled out a sheet of paper.

It was just a plain sheet, not hospital stationery. I read out loud. “Jamie – if anything happens to me, check this out.” I stopped at what was below that sentence. “What the…”

“What is it?”

I handed the letter to Pete. “‘If anything happens to me..’ What’s he talking about?”

Pete examined the note. “What’s this at the bottom? It looks like journal citations.”

It was. Below Dan’s handwritten note, he had typed two citations.

The first seemed to be in a foreign language:

Hughes, D., & Llewellyn, M. (2003). Nid yw symbylu’r celloedd bonyn embryonig dynol diwylliedig â hormonau ffoligl ysgogol yn arwain at ffurfio ofwm tebyg i gelloedd. Meddygol Cymru Journal, 17(9), 23-28.

The second was in English, but was nearly as incomprehensible as the first:

Oliver, T., Wray, A., & Goldstein, B. (2007). Stimulation of cultured human embryonic stem cells with follicle stimulating hormone leads to formation of ovum-like cells. Journal of Stem Cell Biology, 2(4), 15-22.

“This looks like medical stuff. How am I supposed to read this?”

“What language is that?”

“The names could be Welsh. And Cymru means Wales. I think it’s Welsh language.”

“Can you read it?”

I shook my head. “Nope.”

“You could run it through Google Translate to get an idea of what it says. Why would he send this to you? You’re not a medical librarian.”

“I don’t know. I might be the only librarian he knows in the UC system. Or maybe he thought…oh hell, I don’t know.”

“And those are just citations. Why wouldn’t he have sent you the articles themselves?”

“I have no idea. Maybe he couldn’t find the full text.” I grimaced. “This is creepy. Dan’s dead. Do you think someone might have done something to him?”

“Like what? Was there anything to indicate foul play?”

“No. The obituary just said he died suddenly. And what could be dangerous about a couple of medical articles?” I frowned at the paper in my hand.

“You could ask Kevin about it. He can get the police report and the autopsy results. See if there was anything off about it.”

I frowned again. “I guess. But that’ll take a while, won’t it?”

“Yeah, it won’t be a priority.” Pete picked up my computer bag from the floor. “Come on, I’m hungry. You can fill me in on this guy and those listings while we eat.”

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