Ben gathered Miss Fluffy up and carried her over to little Suzie-Ann, putting the huge Himalayan into the little girl's arms. Then he crouched down so he was eye to eye with Suzie-Ann. "She's still a little groggy, so you need to keep her in her carry-case when you get her home, and put her in a room where the dog can't bother her, okay?"
Big blue eyes looked solemnly into his own and Suzie-Ann nodded.
"Did your mother bring her carrier?"
He got another nod.
"Good. She'll be just fine, sweetie. By tomorrow she'll be back to her old self." He stood and watched Suzie-Ann carry the cat over to her mother, who was waiting by the door with the carrier in hand. Excellent.
He put a check by Miss Fluffy's name on his mental list and let himself forget about her. Just as well; she was a mean, old, flat-faced feline who had very little time or patience for anyone but the little girl who owned her.
His partner, Stacey, was restocking her bag. She looked tired. Even her fiery red curls didn't seem to bounce like they usually did. Of course, it was calving season, and she was out at least once a night to help one cow or another to deliver.
"You should try for a nap when you're finished with that."
"Yeah, that'd be good. Tell it to the cows, Benji." She pushed her hair back with one hand and stood up with a groan. "I'll sleep next month. Maybe."
He shook his head. He didn't know where she got the energy.
There was just the two of them at the practice, a couple of nurses, and one tech. He did small animals; his petite partner specialized in farm animals. They were both on call a lot, the joys of having your own business, but his sleep was disturbed far less than hers was.
He sat, lanky frame folding down into the waiting-room-style chair. "I had another poisoning today. That's the third cat this week."
Stacey froze and turned slowly to face him full on. "That makes ... what? Six in total? It's time to call in the police, Ben. It's criminal. They have to listen now. Did the latest one die?"
He nodded, remembering the sad faces of a pair of twin boys. "Kat wasn't even an outdoor animal, but apparently he liked sneaking out when they weren't looking. I'm wondering if Mrs. Pool's dog, Corky, wasn't also a poisoning." He sighed and scrubbed at his face. Dying pets were the hardest part of this job, but for someone to have deliberately poisoned them ... Well, Stacey was right. It was criminal.
"Call," she said as she picked up her bag. "Today. And make sure you have the lab results to show them, too. Cops tend to like lab results. I'll be out at Richardson's if you need me, okay?"
He looked at his watch and nodded. He had ten minutes or so before his next appointment. More than enough time to call and get his paperwork on the dead animals together. "Your cell phone actually charged up today?"
"I think so?" She didn't sound sure. "Try it and find out. If not, the barn line is in our files." She didn't look even vaguely bothered to have no idea about her phone.
He shook his head. He wasn't going to bother trying the cell; it was either working or it wasn't. It wasn't like she could charge it up before she left anyway. "Make sure you save me some of whatever Mrs. Richardson gives you."
"Hey. Those are my muffins and cookies, dude. You want some, you stick your arm up a cow and help it birth."
"Oh, I don't think so. We share in the profits from both sides of the practice and, in my books, that includes the goodies." It wasn't his fault that they were more likely to get goodies from the farm visits than they did from the clinic clients he tended to.
"Your books are wrong." She smiled sweetly at him and went to the door, leaning on it to push it open so she could get out. "Call the police. Leave me a note or something to fill me in, okay?"
"Yeah, okay. Go make babies happen." He gave her a wink and headed for his office, passing the reception area on the way. "Amy? I've got a call to make, but you can send Jason and Beastly in to the exam room."
"Yes, Dr. Sauvigon."
Ben grabbed a coffee on the way, and a mini powdered sugar doughnut. He popped it into his mouth, immediately wishing he'd picked up more than one--they were tiny. Settled at his desk, Ben pulled out the phonebook, looking up the non-emergency number for the police. He didn't figure they were going to be very happy about having to send someone out to talk to him about dead cats, but this wasn't an anomaly or accidental garden fertilizer poisoning anymore. This was serious.
He dialed the phone and cleared his throat, ready with the grave voice he usually reserved for telling clients their pets had just died.
He just hoped the cops would take it seriously.