Chapter 1: Wild Card
The preliminary hearing in the case of Arizona vs. Steele was just as dreary and annoying as Ellery expected it to be, but he kept reminding himself that the hair-raising attacks of the weekend had resulted in a stiff neck, four broken windowpanes and a destroyed picture frame, and a plastering job on his living room wall, and kept a grim, professional smile on his face as the morning dragged on and Amos fumbled his way through the exhibits until the judge announced a midday recess and that he expected the suspect to enter his plea after lunch.
Amos wiped his forehead with a large hanky and came up to the table where Ellery was sitting with the attorney for Lillian Palmer. “Okay Ellery, this has been buggin me all mornin. What did ya do, cut yerself shavin, or get bit by a big-ass mosquito?”
Ellery colored slightly, realizing that Colson’s love bite must be visible above the collar of his dress uniform.before he gave him a sweet smile and did not answer. Amos paused, blinked, fixed Ellery with a baleful look and shuffled off. “Be back here by one!”
“Ain’t goin far, Amos, ain’t got a car today.” He felt for his medication in his shirt pocket and swallowed a Motrin at the water cooler, and walked back to the station and headed straight to Wes’s office.
“Any word on Worrell?” he said, poking his head in.
“Still breathin as of an hour ago,” Wes said. “Touch an go. He pulled through surgery an now they got ta see if he’ll pull through recovery. I didn’t want ta say nothin in front a Colson, but Worrell is a sick man.”
“Sick with what?”
“AIDS, Ellery. If he caught it from one a the men he picked up in his travels that might be a motive for him ta be killin his pickups.”
“Revenge,” Ellery said thoughtfully. “But shit, Wes, ain’t they workin on a cure.. it’s an infection, right?”
Wes shrugged. “I try ta keep up on these things but.... all this reminds me a some things I kept hopin I would never need ta ask you, Ellery... do you know if Colson is clean a this... thing?”
Ellery shook his head. “No, but I do know he ain’t been in circulation for a good long time.”
“But his former... “
“Didn’t meet Worrell till after.”
“Do you know that for a fact?”
Ellery pulled on his lip, and thought for a long moment. “No evidence of it. His momma said he called in August a 82 sayin he had someone who was gonna come take a look at the farm an that’s how we made Worrell as a suspect in the first place. Ain’t likely he knew em before.”
“But ya don’t know,” Wes said.
“Dammit Wes, no, I don’t know. An if I asked Colson he wouldn’t know neither.”
“An if Baker had been with Worrell before...”
“Then he mighta given it ta Colson an Colson yeah I get it Wes. I can’t ask Colson ta take a test the day after he practically kills the guy who killed the man he loved his whole life, Wes.”
“Then you get a fuckin test, Ellery. An if it’s negative then start ... takin precautions.”
“Oh that’s gonna go over well,” he snarled.
“Or ya talk to em. It ain’t like yer accusin Colson of anythin.”
“No, I’m just accusin the man he worshipped and still loves a whole lot more than he loves me of fuckin around on em an giving em a fatal disease. I might as well just drive home right now, kiss em goodbye and say “thanks for the memories sweetheart, it’s been fun” an let em wonder rather than sayin that. It’d be kinder.”
“Ellery. Yer life is important. Ta me. It ain’t a request, it’s a public health requirement. They had ta tell me, an I have ta tell anybody who may a been in contact with em includin anyone he had relations with an that means we got ta have that talk with Weiss now an find out if he learned the names of any a Worrell’s pickups. An since we know Worrell knew he was infected, if he didn’t use protection then it might mean he could be considered an assailant in the cases in question. I don’t know New Mexico law... some jurisdictions have a thing about if you have a contagious fatal disease an knowinly infect someone.”
“Jesus Christ, Wes. Why couldn’t this be a simple case?”
“You don’t have to stay for Steele’s plea, Amos know how to accept a plea and put up the state’s no bail request, should be simple in Steele’s case. The evidence part is done ain’t it?”
“Then you get to the fuckin doctor right now an have that test done.”
“That’s an order.”
“You gonna let me use yer truck so I don’t have ta call Colson an tell em I’m goin to the doctor ta find out if he gave me AIDS?”
“I think you might want ta keep yer voice down,” Wes said.
“I think you might want ta keep yer priorities straight, Wes. There ain’t no reason ta do this.”
“Yes you can use my truck,” Wes said, glaring.
Ellery slammed into his office and dialed his doctor’s office and explained to the nurse that he needed an exam and some blood tests on an emergency basis, and she told him to come at 2 p.m. He got off the phone, still furious, and went back in Wes’s office.
“I am goin ta the store an get an air mattress so I can sleep on the ground durin my two day vacation, then I’m goin ta the doctor to tell em I need a blood test, then I am goin home ta smash in my livin room wall for a while since it needs ta be replastered anyway. Just so you know, Sheriff.”
“You drive slow now, that’s an expensive truck. So you ain’t gonna bring it back?”
“Oh I suppose I should,” he groused. “When I get back from the doctor will you give me a ride home so I can go smash my livin room wall before Colson gets home?”
Wes smiled unpleasantly. “Why certainly, Ellery. And good luck at the doctor.”
“Yeah. Hate needles.”
Forty minutes later he was staring at Dr. Roy Sampson. “You mean ta tell me I roared down here an there ain’t no test?”
“Well they’re workin on one but it isn’t approved. Your vital signs are normal, blood tests won’t be back for a couple of days, but we can’t test for the virus. How long since you have were exposed to the questionable partner?”
“Call em my boyfriend, it won’t kill ya ya know doc.”
“Your boyfriend then,” he winced.
“End a May thereabouts.”
He shook his head. “Unless it is an acute case you wouldn’t see any real physical results for at least a couple of months. And what is his health like? Any way you could get him in for an exam?”
“Healthy as a horse, eats like a pig, strong as an ox...”
“So a regular farmyard I see,” he said sourly. “Any lesions or skin welts?” He eyed Ellery’s lovebite suggestively.
“That’s a hickey.” Sampson looked away. “Ya know, if you weren’t the most decent doctor in this town I’d kick you in the balls an go across the street because a you actin like a spinster, Sampson. You’ve known for the past twenty years I’m queer so stop actin like it is some big disgusting surprise.”
“I’m sorry, Ellery, it just isn’t my normal line of business.”
“It is if yer a doctor. You know I looked this up. You know how many people have died a this already?”
“Yes. We get the reports every week from the CDC.”
“Well then stop bein an old woman about it. Now if I bring em in here for an exam can ya be delicate, discreet an not throw up about his bein queer, or do I have ta bring em ta Phoenix or Denver or some place where doctors don’t think bein queer is a social disease?”
Sampson frowned. “Bring him in. Do you know how long since he was exposed?”
“I don’t know that he was. If he caught the AIDS it would a been well over two years ago because that’s when his parter was murdered. Yeah you heard me,” he said when Sampson startled. “Imagine that, a queer gettin murdered.”
“Two years. And he is healthy, you say.”
“As a ...”
“Yes, a horse and an ox. We don’t know a whole lot about this disease, Ellery. It looks like he probably doesn’t have it. Lacking a test... we might be getting some clinical trials we can use on some suspect cases, like your... “
He gulped. “But that won’t be for a couple of more months. I could sign up for it saying I have a pair of suspected cases for testing. But there is no way to tell how accurate it will be or if there is any treatment.”
“Bettern nothin. But Wes is not gonna be happy about this.”
“Well tell Wes to call the FDA. They’re the ones who haven’t approved the test. The French are testin people all over the place.”
“I’ll do that.”