Authors: Meg Perry
Tags: #Mystery, #Gay
For the medical librarians.
Tuesday May 29
"Hey, do you know a librarian named Daniel Christensen?"
"Because he's dead."
I set down the syrup with a thump and looked across the table at my brother. Obituaries with breakfast: one of the joys of rooming with a homicide detective. "It can't be the one I know. Dan's not even 40 yet."
Kevin folded the paper into quarters and handed it across the table to me. "Thirty-seven. Take a look."
CHRISTENSEN, Daniel W., 37, of Glendale, passed away suddenly on May 25, 2012. He was a graduate of CSU-Northridge and UCLA, and was a librarian at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He is survived by his parents, William and Brenda Christensen, his sister, Eliza Melendez, and his nieces, Sarah and Lindsey. Arrangements are pending.
Oh my God
. I laid the paper down, stunned. “I knew him from library school. We had classes together during my first semester.”
“Were you all friends?”
“Yeah…but I haven’t seen him in years. This is unbelievable. I wonder if he’d been sick?”
“Doesn’t it say he died suddenly?”
“Yeah. Doesn't that mean heart attack, usually? He’s kind of young for that.”
“Not necessarily. He’s pushing 40.” Kevin took the paper back and scanned the obituary again. “How well did you know him?
I sighed. "Pretty well. He was the first gay guy I met after I moved here. He was looking for a good time, and it had been a while for me, you know? I think I was a novelty to him, me the jock academic, but we both got tired of the novelty pretty fast.”
“How’d he get to be a medical librarian?”
“Same way I got to be a history librarian. He already had a degree in something medical. As I remember, he was an RN.”
“So you were more than friends."
"We slept together, if you consider that being more than friends. We didn’t have much in common. He was into the leather scene and wanted to hang out with bikers and bondage types. I didn’t find that appealing.”
“But you fooled around with him anyway.”
I glared at Kevin. "Stop the interrogation. It didn't last long. Only one semester. Then he broke up with me and we both moved on. I don't really know anything about his personal life after that."
Kevin resumed scanning the death notices. "I don't remember meeting him."
"Because you didn't. He didn't like cops. Just one of the many things we didn't have in common." We'd argued about it. "It wasn't a sustainable relationship."
"Sustainable relationship. I like that. Have to use that in a sentence today. 'The suspect blew her old man away because it wasn't a sustainable relationship.' Whaddya think?"
"I think that's not a very good excuse for murder."
Kevin snorted. "There almost never is." He waved his fork at my plate. "Finish up. Your pancakes are getting cold."
I poked at my pancakes with my fork. "I'm not that hungry."
"Well, eat anyway. You're only a week out of the hospital. You have to eat to get your strength back."
Kevin’s girlfriend, Abby, came out of their bedroom. She was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, ready for work doing set construction at one of the studios. She overheard Kevin’s last remark. “He’s right, you know.” She dug in her bag for her keys. “And breakfast is the most important meal, blah blah blah.” She bent down to kiss Kevin and then patted me on the head. I swatted at her hand and she laughed. “See you tonight, guys.”
Kevin saw her out the door, then sat back down and tapped me on the hand with his fork. "Hey. You sure you're ready to go back to work?"
"I have to go back. I told Dr. Loomis I'd be back today. If I don't show up, she'll probably come get me."
Kevin regarded me for a minute. “Well, take it easy. Pace yourself this week. You don’t want a relapse.”
I glared at him. “Yes, Dad.”
He just laughed.
I left the apartment and headed toward campus. After Kevin got divorced and I moved to LA, we’d chosen an apartment in Westwood Village based on convenience. I could walk to work, and Kevin and Abby both had fairly short drives. I enjoyed my daily trek across campus. On the way to work, it let me get into the library mindset and think about what I needed to do that day. On the way home, it let me clear my head and decompress. I had a car, an old VW bug, but I didn't have to use it very often.
Today, though, I wasn't thinking about what I was going to face when I got to work. I was thinking about Dan.
Dan had been a rebound relationship for me, several months after my breakup with Ethan, my boyfriend through college and grad school. Ethan had broken my heart, and Dan wasn’t interested in that part of my anatomy. I’d liked him; he was smart and funny. We both enjoyed old monster movies and baseball. But he was secretive and had an unpredictable temper. We’d never gone on a date; we’d only hung out at his place, and always ended up in bed. He started experimenting with BDSM at the leather clubs, and wanted me to join in. I said no. He gave me an ultimatum, I said no again, and he broke up with me, right before Christmas break.
Dan was working full time and moved through library school more slowly than I did. Somehow we never had another class together after that first semester. I heard through the grapevine that he started seeing another guy almost immediately after he broke up with me. That stung, even though I’d never thought that Dan was a good candidate for happily-ever-after with me…probably because Ethan had left me for someone else too. I’d see Dan around the research library occasionally, until he graduated and took the job at Cedars three years ago. I hadn’t seen him since.
And now I never would again.
Thoughts of Dan were dispelled as soon as I walked in the door of the library. I’d been out for two weeks after a bad asthma attack, complicated by bronchitis. I’d kept in touch via email, but everyone greeted me like I’d just returned from two months in the Himalayas. It took me nearly twenty minutes to pick up today’s mail and make it up the stairs to my office.
When I got there, I found a mess. For two weeks, someone had been dumping my mail in my office, stacking it up wherever they could find a bare spot. My desk was covered in books and papers. The bulk of it was probably junk, but some of it was books and articles that I'd requested through interlibrary loan for our history faculty. It was all stacked haphazardly, covering my desk completely in a blizzard of paper, and drifting like snow over the sides onto the floor. I had a chair for visitors in front of my desk, and I could barely see it under the piles of stuff. There was even a slumping stack on my own desk chair. I couldn't sit down until I cleared it off.
Damn. I had my work cut out for me today. I turned on my computer and cleared the seat of my chair, dumping that stack on the floor beside me.
My computer was still booting up and I was gloomily surveying the mess when there was a knock on my door.
It was Liz Nguyen, one of my fellow reference librarians and my closest friend on staff. Liz was 29. She was half Hawaiian, one quarter Vietnamese and one quarter French, and 100% gorgeous – even I could appreciate that. She’d graduated a year behind me from library school, and was my partner on the reference desk for our 1-3 pm shift. “Hey, how’re you feeling?”
“Pretty good, what’s up?”
She came in and looked around at the mess. “Good Lord. This disaster happened in just two weeks?”
“Apparently. I was just starting to go through it.”
Liz shook her head. “I bet a bunch of those catalogs are from Pacey Press. Harley Buhrman’s been calling every day, wanting to know when you’d be back. He scheduled an appointment for next Monday.”
Harley Burhman was the LA-area sales rep for Pacey Press, a small publisher of reference books. The company was one of the slowest in adapting to the digital age; they had just released their first electronic database last year. They produced scholarly, beautiful, expensive sets of history encyclopedias that no one wanted to buy any more. He’d been calling me every day before I went out sick. “Great. Who scheduled that?”
“Roberta. He came in and brought her a box of chocolates.”
Roberta was the staff assistant to the senior administrative assistant to the director of the library. She had a sweet tooth and definitely could be bribed. She was also the most likely suspect in the case of my office mail dump. Roberta didn’t like me. I sighed. “Fine. I guess it was inevitable.”
“Yeah, you weren’t going to be able to put him off forever. At least it’s not until next week.”
“Thanks. It’ll probably take me until then to sort through all this and find one of his catalogs.”
Liz laughed and left. I added the appointment to my calendar for next Monday and then checked my email; there was nothing important pending. Looked like I had a pretty clear day in front of me. The first thing I had to do was get through this mail and find the ILL requests. I’d been working in a groove for about an hour, separating books, articles and junk into stacks, when someone darkened my door. "Hey, you! Back to the salt mines, eh?"
I looked up to see Diane DeLong leaning against the door frame. Diane had been in my library school cohort, and we'd remained friendly, although I wouldn’t call her a good friend. In school, she’d been the class gossip. Telephone, telegraph, tell Diane. Somehow she’d found out that I was in the hospital, and had descended on my room daily to “cheer me up.” She was a high school librarian in Pasadena, and was just starting her summer vacation. Diane was a lifelong Goth, with punk tendencies. She was dressed in black from head to toe, except for her lime green Mohawk.
“Hey, yourself. What are you doing here? And how did they let you in?"
Diane smirked. "I don't think your boss saw me. As to what I'm doing here..." She picked up a stack of paper and sat down. "I've got some bad news, and I wanted to tell you in person. You might want to sit down too."
I sat. "If it’s about Dan Christensen, I know. I saw his obituary in the paper this morning."
“Ah. You guys were involved, weren't you?"
"We were - um - kind of – do you know what happened to him?"
"My sister-in-law is a nurse at Cedars, and she said they're not sure, but they think it was a seizure. He had seizures, didn't he?"
I remembered a row of prescription bottles in Dan’s medicine cabinet. "Yeah. He did. But he was at work? How did no one see it?"
"Apparently he'd stayed at work late on Friday evening. The cleaning crew found him yesterday morning when they opened his office."
"I can't believe this. He'd been there since Friday night?"
"They think so. The library isn't open on the weekends. The police came, but they said it wasn't a suspicious death."
"Had you kept in touch with him?"
"To some extent. But I didn’t see him very often." Diane looked sympathetic. "Were you guys very close?"
"Not really. We just fooled around some. And it was only for four months. After graduation I never saw him again."
Diane made a disapproving face. “Hmph. You’re going to the funeral, aren’t you?”
“I hadn’t planned to.”
“Well, I think we should. I don’t think Dan had many friends. It would be nice for his family if a few people who knew him and didn’t hate him showed up.”
“When is the service? And where?”
“It’s a graveside service. Forest Lawn in Glendale. Thursday afternoon, 2:30.”
“I don’t know if I can take any more leave. I’ve been gone for two weeks.”
“So check with your boss. It’s not all day, it’s just a couple of hours. Do you have anything scheduled that afternoon?”
I pulled up my calendar. “No.”
“Well, go ask her. I’ll wait.” Diane leaned back, looking smug.
I sighed. Dr. Loomis was a force to be reckoned with, but so was Diane. I decided the request would go down better in person, and went upstairs to Dr. Loomis’s office.
Madeline Loomis was my supervisor, the head of reference for the research library. She was a tiny woman, but formidable. She looked like an old school librarian, with her bun of gray hair and her glasses on a cord around her neck, but she was the first to encourage us to adapt technology into our work. She carried her iPad around with her like a totem and used it for everything. She was an excellent boss. Our love for her was only slightly tinged by fear.