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Last Seen (Dr. Pepper Hunt, #1) by J.L. Doucette Read Online (FREE)

Last Seen (Dr. Pepper Hunt, #1) by J.L. Doucette

Read Last Seen (Dr. Pepper Hunt, #1) by J.L. Doucette full novel online for free here.

CHAPTER 1

 

It was the Monday before Christmas, and I was in my office at the Hilltop Medical Center, waiting for the next crisis to happen. I’m one of three psychologists in Sweetwater County, a land area the size of Connecticut where antelope outnumber humans three to one. It was my turn to take calls for psychiatric emergencies at the county facilities: hospital, jail, and courthouse. The pager was silent at my waist. Outside, the high desert sparkled under fresh snow.

Last year, on the run from the wreckage of my life, driving through a blizzard in southwest Wyoming, my Jeep spun out on the interstate. I never meant to stay here. But when the storm cleared, the contours of the stark desert revealed the spinning planet. Every afternoon the wind came up and swept my mind as clean as the bare earth. The emptiness worked for me. There was nothing familiar to remind me of all I’d lost. It took two weeks to repair my Jeep; by the end of that time, I knew I wasn’t leaving.

From my office window I had a view of White Mountain at the western boundary of Rock Springs. I was taking a quiet moment, watching the sagebrush rustle as the wind passed through like a swarm of invisible snakes, when I saw the Chevy Tahoe pull into the parking lot. It was the last peaceful time I would know for a while.

Sheriff Carlton Scruggs stepped out of the Tahoe and slammed the door. I knew him; he was married to my secretary. I took my Beretta Nano from its carry holster and slipped it into its hiding place.

A minute later, Marla was at my door. “The sheriff is here, Doctor.”

She always referred to her husband as “Sheriff” and addressed me as “Doctor” in the office, though we’d become friends in the year she’d worked for me. Marla still looked like a beauty queen: platinum blond spiral curls, five foot two inches tall. She was Miss Lander, Wyoming in 1985, the year she graduated from high school. Cheerful, efficient, and organized, she scheduled patients, managed the office, and handled the billing so I could do the fun part of my job.

The sheriff came in with his jaw clenched, a man on a mission with no smile for me. Being sheriff was serious work, and he did it justice. For him it was an honor to serve and protect. In Wyoming, the sheriff’s office is an elected position. He’d held the position for ten years and showed no signs of quitting.

His black Stetson hat grazed the ceiling and his presence filled the room. A big man, tall and broad-shouldered, he used his size to impress and intimidate. From what Marla told me, he had a softer side, but I’d yet to see it. They were transplants also, from another county in Wyoming, and understood what it was like to start over in Rock Springs, where many jobs came with a sign-on bonus—also known as “combat pay”—as incentive to relocate to what some people see as the least charming town in the state. For those of us who loved it here, the bad press was a good thing, because it kept the population down.