Detective Blackhorse resumed his efforts to revive Smokey, fearing that the thready pulse would cease altogether without his rescue breaths. The bell over the front door rang and Blackhorse heard footsteps. Relief washed over him. Without looking up, he barked at Chet, “Call 911!”
“Huh,” came the baffled response from Officer Schneider, who peered down at them over the display counter.
Blackhorse was taken aback, “what the hell are you doing here? Never mind, call 911…dammit do it now!”
Schneider took one look at Smokey’s pallid face and complied without question, using his walkie talkie to request an ambulance, then rushed around the counter to take over chest compressions while Blackhorse administered rescue breaths. The duo was exhausted by the time paramedics arrived. They were happy to turn the rescue effort over to them. Blackshear followed the paramedics out to the ambulance, intending to ride along to the hospital. Smokey did not look good. If there was any chance that he might regain consciousness, Blackhorse wanted to be by his bedside. Maybe he could ask him a few questions.
A truck drove past them, towing Smokey’s car. Stunned Blackhorse stopped in his tracks. Suddenly, Schneider’s arrival made sense. Blackhorse turned on his heels and confronted the officer, “you’re towing his car?” Schneider shot him a self-satisfied smirk, “you’re welcome. This way any evidence in that car will be preserved.” Blackhorse glared at him in disbelief, “any evidence in the driver’s seat has already been contaminated by that tow truck driver!” Schneider’s face fell. Without waiting for a response, Blackhorse brushed past him and got into his car. He had to get a look inside Smokey’s car, before any more evidence got disturbed or taken.
Forty-five minutes later, Blackhorse paused in his examination of Smokey’s car to call the hospital. The operator transferred him to the emergency department and a harried sounding nurse answered. Blackshear identified himself and inquired after Smokey’s condition, she put him on hold so long that he resumed his inspection with the receiver pressed to his ear. He was on his knees peering underneath the front seats when she informed him that the emergency room physician had successfully revived Smokey. Blackshear heaved a sigh of relief.
“That’s great, what floor will he be admitted to?”
“Oh, he’s been discharged.”
“What? The man almost died how could he…”
“He signed himself out against medical advice and a nice young man gave him a ride home.”
She gave Blackhorse the home address from Smokey’s admission paperwork and hung up in disbelief. That had to have been Chet who picked Smokey up from the hospital. What the hell was Chet doing at the hospital when he didn’t even stick around to help save Smokey? Blackshear shrugged his shoulders. Maybe the kid had panicked. If Chet was still at Smokey’s house, when he got there, he’d ask him about his disappearing act.
On the way to Smokey’s house, he tried to shake off the vague feeling of unease that came over him. Blackhorse parked and strode up to the porch, reassured by the light in the living room and the glow of the television visible through the curtains. He raised his hand to knock on the front door and noticed that it was slightly ajar. Grit under the sole of his shoe made him look down. A line of salt had been partially kicked away from the doorway.
Foreboding made Blackhorse hesitate on the threshold. Something was very wrong. Blackhorse strained his ears, but all he could hear was the television blaring away in the living room. There were no cars in Smokey’s driveway, so Chet must have already left. Blackhorse knocked on the door and it opened further with an ominous creak. Peering into the dimly lit living room, he could see Smokey sitting in a recliner in front of the television. For a moment, the man seemed to move. After watching him a moment longer, Blackhorse decided that it was nothing more than a trick of the flickering blue light from the television projected on Smokey’s inert form. Blackhorse noisily cleared his throat. Smokey didn’t move. Maybe he was asleep.
“Hey Smokey. Smokey? I heard you signed yourself out of the hospital,” called out Blackhorse.
Still no response from Smokey. Blackhorse noted the slump of Smokey’s body. Against his better judgement, Blackhorse strode inside and tried shaking him. Smokey’s head flopped forward. Blackshear was leaning over him feeling for a pulse, when the floorboards behind him creaked. He spun around and was instantly irritated by the sight of Officer Schneider sideling into the room. Blackshear angrily rounded on him.
“Are you fucking following me?”
“Relax man, we’re on the same team. What’s up with Smokey?”
“How can you be so sure?”
“I didn’t feel a pulse, he’s cold to the touch and his fingertips…”
“We brought him back once, maybe we can do it again. Help me get him to the floor.”
“I’m telling you, the man is dead.”
“Are you refusing to help me? I just want to be clear, before I type up my police report,” Schneider snarled threateningly.
Blackhorse sighed annoyedly and gestured for Schneider to grab Smokey’s shoulders. They laid him on his back. Schneider knelt beside Smokey and then exclaimed.
“You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. He’s breathing. Look his stomach is moving.”
Blackhorse bent down for a closer look and stood abruptly, “he’s not breathing. Something else is making him move.”
“What the hell you talking about?”
Wordlessly, Blackhorse opened Smokey’s shirt to reveal a riot of activity in his stomach. Schneider recoiled and struggled to his feet.
“What the hell is that? It looks like his insides are boiling!”