IN HER APARTMENT, our hands around mugs of steaming green jas- mine tea, Charlotte says, “Overstreet is a different kind of cat. Doo- little can be soft and accommodating, but Overstreet tends to resent anyone questioning his approach or his diagnoses. The few times I’ve seen him for an ailment, I came away with a sense of his resentment of elderly people.”
“He must be pretty young himself,” I say. “If he were up in years, he would certainly not have an age bias.”
“Right on, brother. Lyle Overstreet is barely forty. I think he is frustrated in his private work, and reluctantly sees patients here be- cause he needs the extra income.”
“But, since he was grandmother’s primary caregiver, the ques- tion is, was he a good doctor and, if so, did he miss something? And if he did, why?”
“Unanswerable at this time, but maybe not forever,” Charlotte says, a peculiar little gleam in her eye.
“What are you going to do with Claire’s medical records?” I ask. “I have a friend,” she says, and I almost expect her to add, “the better to eat you with, my dear,” or something else inscrutable.
“Yes…” I interject, drawing the word out.
“…whom I trust implicitly. He is my pharmacist, Oscar Ott. Some folks here call him Double O. I get all my prescriptions through him, and I’m certain that Claire did too–except, of course, if the doc- tor had samples to pass out.”
“Samples?” Meredith asks.
“All drug companies give samples to doctors, trying to get them to prescribe their products. That case in the examination room is filled with samples.”
From my amateurish perspective, just that declaration opens up a lot of new possibilities about Claire’s death. Did someone get into the medicine cabinet? Are some of the potions and drugs subtle, yet progressively deadly? And most alarming, could one of the doctors have been dispensing too many, or the wrong, medications?
“I had never seen Claire walk, but you’ve told me she was able to, though with some effort,” I say to Meredith.
“In her apartment she walked, slowly but rather steadily. She suffered from diabetes, so the circulation in her legs was faulty. Outside, where she wasn’t familiar with the locales, she would be in her wheel- chair.”
“Yes,” Charlotte adds, “when we would go to New Hope, to Wally’s, we would park in a handicap zone, she would instruct me to leave the chair in the car and she would amble the few steps into the café with me holding onto her arm. She was a rather proud person and hated to be waited on. The blindness was an insult.”
“Do either of you know if there are any outspoken homophobes living in the Village?” I ask.
Charlotte shrugs and says, “These are old people and the new openness about sexual preference isradical for many of them. I would guess that some are homophobic, yet, for similar reasons gays choose to remain in the closet, a lot of these senior citizens clam up about their prejudices. They don’t immediately know the viewpoint of the other person, and don’t want to seem antiquated or ignorant.”
“Unexpressed prejudice,” I say softly. “That is a recipe for frustration–and maybe a spill-over into ugly behavior.”
“Possibly,” Charlotte says, her inside information a lot more for- midable than mine, “but there are a dozen alternatives here. Claire sometimes had regular visitors from the outside, people who were friendly with her and would come for coffee or tea. And the relatives of some of the residents knew her as well, andmight have had access. All that, along with the possibility of prescription overdoses, either accidental orpurposeful.”
“Purposeful,” Meredith says, her face drawn up in a scowl–not scowl-like enough as I saw her, to mar her natural beauty.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Charlotte replies at once. “It’s only an off- hand comment about possibilities. Aside from Drs. Doolittle and Overstreet, there is Dr. Segal, who may have seen Claire once or twice, and also the couple of nurses in the clinic. Why omit anyone when we’re scrabbling for clues?”
“Hey, Sis, how did you get so clever?”
“I’m not. But I am detailed and picky.”
“When can we follow up on the list of medicines Grandmother was taking?” Meredith asks.
“I’ll speak with Oscar tomorrow, show him what we have. He’ll have his own records of prescriptions he’s filled.” She pauses, looks at both Meredith and me, and says, “Why don’t the two of you disap- pear somewhere? Go into Langhorne or Newtown. They’re only ten minutes away, and you can see a movie or go to the park or…whatever.”
My sister, is she looking out for me, or am I being too self-centered? She may be looking out for both of us.
Meredith appears nonplussed, stares out the window for a moment, and says, “Sure, why not.”
Damn, she certainly has another agenda going on. I wonder if she will be willing to share it with me.
Charlotte gives us both a hug and pats me on the back. “We’ll get to the bottom of all this.”
“But,” I reply, “be careful. If there’s a crazed killer out there, I don’t want you to be taking risks.”
She smiles. “To live is a risk.”
If you’re enjoying CHARLOTTE and would like to blog about book two in the series, ACCIDENT, please contact my publisher who will hook you up with a free copy!