Meet the Meat

“So… let me get this straight…” Trent said, tapping the pen against his chin, “Native marsupials are turning vicious and attacking people randomly?”

“Seems that way.”

“Any attacks on other animals? Other natives, dogs, cats?”

Larsson shrugged.

“But they’ve always been vicious, really, right? No one in their right mind tries to pat a possum?”

“Only in mating season, or when they feel threatened,” Larsson said, frowning, “This… aggressiveness… it’s new. They never really had many predators, they’re vegetarians – they don’t fight except for mates, and scrapping about food. It’s… odd.”

“And people who get bitten get virus-like symptoms?”

Larsson nodded.

“So maybe a virus is causing this? Like a mutation of that Hendra virus that killed the vet?”

“Could be. That’s why you’re here.”

“Gee, thanks. So should I keep my distance in case you get a taste for blood – or brains?”

Larsson snorted.

“If I do, I’ll find someone attractive to bite!”

They laughed.

“So,” said Trent, “Can I grab a look at your chart?”

“Copy the whole thing, for all I care,” said Larsson, shrugging.

Trent grabbed the chart at the end of the bed and started to copy it into his notebook.

“HEY!”

The nurse in charge that shift had just walked in.

“That’s private information you’re stealing, mister!”

“With my permission!” Larsson said.

“That’s hospital property!”

Trent finished the last few figures and held it out to her.

“All finished, ma’am.”

“I’ll have that notebook too, young man.”

“Sorry, ma’am, can’t do that – private information belonging to my clients. Larsson, do you give permission for her to access this information?”

“Hell no!” said Larsson.

“But it’s hospital property!”

“Oh really? You don’t really have much idea at all, do you? You haven’t a legal leg to stand on, so go away and stop upsetting the patient!”

The nurse glared at the two of them and stamped out.

“Bet my morning pills contain arsenic now.” Larsson said, chuckling. “The poor thing!”

“Poor thing? She’d take off a head with a glare, if she could!”

“You handled her nicely, though.”

“Oh, well… that was nothing compared to some people I’ve dealt with. You should’ve met my last client…”

****

“Jessie?”

The woman sitting in the bed looked up from her magazine and frowned. She was young, Trent realised, and attractive – even in a pair of flannelette cow pyjamas and bed hair.

“I’m Jessie,” she said, “But – who the hell are you?”

Well, she didn’t dally around being polite, did she?

“I’m Trent Williams – I’m a private investigator looking into these animal attacks. I was hoping to ask you a few questions, mind if I come in? I don’t want to disturb you…”

“Oh, cripes, I’ll just die if I don’t find out what Neighbours character screwed which this week,” she said, grinning. “Come in, make yourself comfy – oh wait, don’t, get me a cup of coffee first from the cafeteria, will you? This stuff tastes like coffee-flavoured horse piss. And get me a danish if they have anything as classy as that. Please?”

Trent walked down the corridor, heaving a sigh. God help any man this chick married.

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