Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ten years ago, a poison left one city gripped in panic. Ten years later, it's happening again. An excerpt from TIME RELEASE by Martin J. Smith

Check out this excerpt from Time Release, Martin J. Smith's thrilling suspense about a murderous poison, and the crime one detective is determined not to let go unsolved once again.

A low hiss: the electronic crackle and hum of a 9-1-1 tape recorded from a television speaker. Then:
“Greene County Fire. Is this an emergency?”
“Yeah, uh, it’s my mom.” Young kid, early teens, voice cracking. “She was just putting the groceries away and, oh God, she’s really having trouble breathing. I’m the only one home.”
It was a Wednesday, late afternoon, early November, the temperature dropping fast. Downing knew that much from other news reports and the week-old Waynesburg Courier clipping that was folded into the envelope with the cassette. He imagined the rest: A bored dispatcher, a woman, expecting another space-heater fire out there among western Pennsylvania’s shivering rural poor. She’d have swept the mouthpiece of her headset down to her lips and jabbed the pickup button on the Automated Location Identifier, and the caller’s phone number and address would have flashed onto her video screen.
Downing checked the newspaper story. 29 Ruff Creek Lane, Waynesburg.
“What’s your name?”
“JoAnn Cuddy.”
“That’s your mom’s name, right? What’s your name?”
“Mark.”
Downing closed his eyes. The dispatcher would have typed in the name and poked another console button, channeling that information through the county’s Computer-Aided Dispatch System. An electronic form would have blinked onto her screen, listing the nearest major cross streets to 29 Ruff Creek Lane and a code signifying which local ambulance company covers that area.
“Okay, Mark. Can your mom talk?”
“No. No. I don’t think so. She’s really—”
“How old’s your mom?”
“Thirty-eight. No, thirty-nine.”
“Is she conscious?”
“Yeah, but, oh God. Can you send somebody really quick?”
She should have typed “conscious” into the form and transmitted it to—Downing opened his eyes and checked the newspaper story—Weaver Ambulance and Rescue in Waynesburg.
“They’re on their way. So your mom’s still breathing then?”
“Trying.”
Something glass shattered in the background, followed by the crunch of splitting wood and the heavy, sickening thump of flesh on floor. The phone banged again and again, hollow and sharp, like it was hitting a wall.
“Sir? Are you there? Sir?” Downing checked his watch. The digital timer raced through ten, fifteen, twenty seconds.
“She fell, then she threw up.” Kid’s voice panicky now.
“Is she still conscious?”
“Don’t think so.”
“What did she throw up?”
“Just some yogurt. She was eating it a couple minutes ago when she started, like, choking.”
The dispatcher probably went for her allergic reactions key-question cards. The prearrival instructions are printed on the back of them. Downing winced at the thought. So logical, but so useless.
“If she’s unconscious and still vomiting, I want you to turn her onto her side and make sure her airway is clear so she doesn’t choke. Can you do that?”
“Just a minute.” Panicked whimpers as the kid worked. Downing checked his watch again. Sounds of desperation filled his head.
“Okay. She’s on her side, but she’s hardly breathing. Oh God. Jesus! How long until they get here?”
“Stay with me now. Your mom have allergies? She wearing any sort of medical-alert bracelet?”
“This is really bad. No. No. She wasn’t allergic to anything, I don’t think.” Kid sobbing now.
“How’s her skin feel? Is it pale, cool, moist?”
“Hang on.” Downing flinched at the dropped handset’s hollow report “Skin’s cold, and really, really white.”
“Okay, listen. She’s going into shock. I want you to put her feet and legs up on something. If she’s on the floor, grab a kitchen chair and put her legs up on it. Got that?”
Silence, then the rhythmic cadence of convulsion, as unmistakable as the sound of lovers. Downing put his head down on the desk. So goddamned useless.
“Sir? Are you there?”
“She’s having a seizure or something. She’s—where the fuck are they?”
“Listen. This is important. Your mom is having convulsions. You need to move everything away from her, anything she could hurt herself on.”
“She’s—”
“Pots, pans, kitchen utensils, furniture. Make sure it’s all out of her reach. If she’s wearing a collar, loosen it if you can. And don’t try to restrain her. She’ll be all right.”
“Now?”
“Now. And don’t put anything in her mouth, especially your fingers.”
Downing’s head filled with more sounds—chairs tipping, a table being shoved aside.
“Oh God, she’s dying!” Kid screaming now. “What’s wrong with her?”
“Stay calm. She needs you. Is your mom pregnant?”
“No. No. What else should I be doing?”
Downing could almost see her struggle. The body overwhelmed, the eyes uncomprehending, reaching, clutching, dying.
“She stopped shaking, but I don’t think she’s breathing. Not breathing at all. Mom. Mom! What should I do?”
Downing could hear the dispatcher fumbling through her key-question cards. One choice left: CPR. But there was a commotion as she started her instructions.
“In here!” the caller shouted to the arriving paramedics, and the line went dead.

Want to read more? Time Release is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and in the iBookstore
Stay tuned for the next installment by Martin J. Smith, The Disappeared Girl, due to release in March.