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Monday, October 13, 2008

The Day That No One Died (8)

Read parts one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven.
* * *

Daryl shook off the sleep several hours later, feeling like he had just awakened from the stereo-typical movie dream scene. You know the kind, when your favorite movie hero dozes off in the most unusual, most inopportune place, and the writers take advantage of the moment to try fool you into thinking something really exciting happens, only to disappoint you later with what the hero waking from sleep to what should have been a predictable dream scene. The most exciting thing happening in Daryl's life lately involved crickets and birds, and had nothing to with dreams. If only it was all just a dream, Daryl thought. At least then I could find an explanation for it.

Daryl flipped through the folders sitting on the seat next to him -- the folders he had taken in his hasty escape from the hospital records room. Not that there had been anything to escape. Just an eerie feeling that had begun deep in Daryl's gut and crawled it's way through his system until it was eating at his brain, nagging at him, stronger than Daryl could ignore.

Daryl looked through the enclosed papers in the top file folder. Expense reports, it seemed. Travel expenses. Mileage. Food. An overnight stay at a hotel in Washington, D.C.

Interesting, but nothing to explain the cars, the crowds, the crickets, or the crows. Pigeons, I know. But crows sounds better. All of the C words.

Daryl opened the next folder. Lab notes. Chemical symbols, if he could remember right. Nothing that made any sense to a resterauteur slash podcaster with no scientific training beyond high school science classes. Each page in the folder seemed to detail more and more lab information. The last page in the stack, with long hand notes scribbled in the margin, was dated October first, roughly forty-five days earlier. It was so recent that it seemed almost out of place among the other lab notes in the folder.

"Stinking doctors," Daryl said aloud to no one, trying to make sense of the notes scribbled in the margins. Can never read their chicken scratch. It's a wonder millions of people don't die every year from messed up prescriptions or the wrong surgical procedure being performed because someone couldn't quite read a doctor's diagnosis clearly. Setting aside the page for later, Daryl opened the next folder.

The first page appeared to be a checklist of some sort. This is what happens when you send an out-of-work podcaster to do the work of an investigator, Daryl thought. I can't make any sense of this stuff.

Charlie's words came back to him, chided him to be patient. It will find you, Joe. It will find you.
A list of names, dates, times, and a series of other numbers. Daryl examined it more closely. The numbers, it seemed, had no pattern, but were similar. Twenty-two. Twenty-one point five. Nineteen. The same sort of data down the whole column.

The next column of numbers was similarly unconnected, yet related. Nine comma six point five. Eight comma three. Eight point zero.

Checking the dates closer, Daryl noticed that the were all recent. All within the past forty-five days. The further down the list he got, the more often the dates were repeated.
Each line listed three names. Male and female names mixed. Again, Daryl could discern no pattern.

Flipping through the pages, ten of them or so, Daryl noticed that one page seemed identical to the next. Different names, number, and dates, but the same layout, the same structure, the same type of information, all written out in long hand.

Reaching the last page, Daryl found a title and column header.


was neatly printed at the top, followed by the column headers.


A list of babies born in the past forty-five days? Daryl tasked himself. Okay. Nearly discarding the lists with the first folder, Daryl thought better of it and placed them with the scribbled on lab notes.

The next folder contained more lab notes. More nonsense. Quickly flipping through, Daryl segregated every sheet that had long hand notations and placed the rest back in the folder. It meant enough for someone for take notes, it might warrant a closer look.

Opening the last folder, Daryl found another collection of lists, similar to the first. Flipping straight to the last page, he found the column headings that had eluded him earlier.


The first and last column contained names. The middle two looked like dates. Written in long hand, the page title was a little harder to read than before.


Daryl thought it said. No, looking more closely, rubbing at the smudged ink like it might magically reveal the encrypted message below.


That looked more like it. A list of deaths, Daryl thought. The dates, again, appeared to be recent. "October first through," flipping to what appeared to be the most recent page, "yesterday. Forty-five days again. Same as the live births."

Gathering the noted lab notes, the birth lists, and the death lists, Daryl stuffed them all into one folder together. Probably routine stuff in a hospital, Daryl thought, though something inside him said that nothing was routine anymore.

Starting the car and pulling out of the parking garage, Daryl left in search of help. "Okay, Charlie, you said it'll find me. Of this is it, you're gonna have to tell me what it means."

Daryl picked up his cell phone and tapped out a quick text message as he pulled into traffic.


The reply came back quickly.

To be continued ...

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