Strange Brew, Chapter 9

  • Posted on March 25, 2023 at 2:34 pm

A quick recap of the Story Thus Far: Rural paramedic Nettie Hastings finds herself in the middle of a flurry of unexplained overdose calls, and has begun putting clues together linking the source to her own hometown. She and her former lover, author Terry Wilder, suspect the involvement of police chief George Fronse, but have no proof to back it up. Meanwhile, she has finally consummated a burning desire for Terry’s preteen daughter.

For a more detailed breakdown of the first eight chapters, please consult the Chapter Links.

by Rachael Yukey

“Goddamn it, I told you not to trust that bastard.” George Fronse’s face was red. I regarded him coolly from my seat at the opposite side of his desk.

I’d awoken from that same stupid fucking dream at around three AM, just barely stifling a scream. Halee, sleeping beside me, had stirred but not awoken. I’d managed to get to the living room before dissolving into tears, and had stayed up until it was time to awaken Halee. I made her breakfast while she showered, and then we made out a little, leaving us both a bit breathless as she departed for school.

After she left, I lay down on the couch and promptly slipped into a restless slumber, only to be thrown out of it by a phone call from George an hour later, asking if I could come right down to his office. And this was how he opened?

“Which bastard did you have in mind?” I said, carefully keeping my voice neutral.

“You know exactly who I mean. Look, the first person you blab to about this is Terry Wilder, and then what happens… one more case just a few hours later, and it all dries up. Not a single case all weekend.”

I put on a shocked expression, clapping both hands to my cheeks. “Oh, no. We went two whole days without any kids going into unexplained, life-threatening distributive shock. Tragic, I tell you.”

George’s face got even redder, a feat I would not have sworn was possible. “Dammit, Nettie, I don’t want more kids getting sick either, but if somebody’s behind this and you just drove them into hiding, we might have lost our chance to catch them.”

By this time, I was pretty sure my own face was getting a little red. “And if you don’t chill out, I’m going to leave. I don’t have to sit here and listen to this.”

George’s eyes widened. He clearly wasn’t used to people telling him what they did or didn’t have to listen to.

“Besides,” I said, “you know as well as I do how supplies work for the better class of street drugs. Out here you only get enough supply for maybe a week or two, everyone goes nuts and ODs on it, and then it’s over for awhile.” It struck me that I’d just had this exact same conversation with Terry the evening before.

“Even if you’re right,” I went on, “and we tipped somebody off, it’s one hell of a leap blaming Terry. I talked to five hospitals, six ambulance services, and the county Sheriff’s department. The Sheriff’s people would have talked to every city police department in the county, and probably the Sheriff’s departments in the neighboring counties. Hundreds of people got clued in on Friday.”

George’s face was still red, every muscle in his jaw tight. “Nettie, I know he’s your boyfriend, or whatever you two are calling it at the moment, but you can’t tell me you don’t have questions. I checked him out when he moved to town, you know. Has he told you that his ex-wife has been to prison on drug trafficking charges and an attempted homicide, and is barred from seeing the kids unsupervised? That she hasn’t seen the kids in over four years? And then there’s his career… best-selling novels, and major film producers fight over the chance to work with him. He gave that all up, and for what? Bronning? The guy is worth a fortune, makes over half a million a year in royalties, but he’s living in a house that’s like a hundred and fifty years old and drives either that old shitkicker pickup, or a Chevy crossover if he’s got his kids along. It doesn’t make sense, Nettie. Nothing about him makes sense.”

George’s words came out in a rapid-fire rush, leaving me with the feeling that he’d been dying to say this to somebody for a good long time.

“George,” I said, trying for a conciliatory tone, “are you listening to yourself? Terry’s barely been in town for four years, he’s already the single most active ambulance volunteer we have, and you’re practically accusing him of being a drug kingpin.” I ran a tired hand across my face.

“Look, even if you’re right, it wouldn’t have mattered. He’s on the damn ambulance squad; there’s no way I could have gotten the word out without him hearing about it.”

He was fiddling with a pencil. “Maybe getting the word out at all was a mistake.”

I folded my hands in my lap, leaned back, and stared at him for a long moment. “Please tell me you’re kidding. This is crazy dangerous stuff, George. I almost lost Samantha Jensen. And you’re telling me I should have kept it to myself? What the fuck?”

“A lot more people will be at risk if whoever’s behind this isn’t caught.”

I sighed. “If there’s even anybody behind it. Did you just call me here to throw accusations around, or was there something you needed?”

George opened his mouth, closed it again, and rapped his knuckles on the desk a few times. Holy crap, he’s totally on edge.

“Look,” he said at last, “you did a really good job of putting some clues together and coming to a conclusion last week. I was wondering if you’ve seen or heard anything since then that we can add to it.”

I had, of course, but I was damned at this point if I’d to breathe a word to George about the place Halee called the locker. “Nothing comes to mind,” I said. “Anything else?”

“If you do think of anything, I’d appreciate it if you come to me and no one else.”

“I can’t promise that.” I pushed myself out of the chair. “You can play cloak and dagger games if you want, but my patients come first.”

George reddened again. “On your own head be it. At least clue me in as soon as possible.”

I shrugged, turned on my heel, and left the office.

Zipping my coat as I stepped out into the chill morning air, I tried to still the turmoil in my mind. I set off for my apartment building, doubt and indecision swirling through me like a cyclone. Reviewing what I knew about Terry, I reluctantly acknowledged there were huge gaps. Outside of generalizations about his work, Terry never talked about the past. I don’t even know where he grew up.

It wasn’t exactly news to me that Terry was loaded. Neither his house nor his vehicles were new, but there were telltale clues like the expensive booze, the jacuzzi in the big bathroom, and his kids getting the best of everything. I hadn’t known about the royalty income, but it explained a lot; not even Terry’s kids seemed clear on what he did for money. So what DOES he do for hours on end in his office?

I realized with a start that my apartment building was less than a block away; in my musings I’d lost all sense of space and time. I shook my head to clear it.

“Nettie!” a voice called out. “Hey, Nettie!”

Looking to my left, I saw Lori Henderson in her yard, setting potted plants out in the sun. Lori, a heavyset divorced woman with graying hair and four children, is second only to Terry when it comes to putting in on-call volunteer hours for Bronning Ambulance.

Right then, I would have preferred to be left alone, but I diverted course, crossing the street and stepping gingerly into the slowly greening grass of Lori’s sizable yard. Out here at the edge of town, the houses are spread pretty far apart.

“Hi Lori,” I said. “What’s up?”

“Can you believe Robbie’s retiring?”

I shrugged. “It had to happen sooner or later.”

“Well, sure.” Lori extracted some more pots from her tray of plants. “But I think we all expected a little more notice.”

Saying nothing, I grabbed a couple of the pots and placed them in the sun next to the others Lori had already laid out.

“Thanks, dear, but you don’t have to do that,” said Lori. “I just wanted to talk to you about picks for the new ambulance director. I’m on the committee for that, you know.”

I continued transferring pots from the tray to the grass. “Honestly, I haven’t thought much about it, Lori. I think everyone always assumed that it’d eventually be either you or Nate.”

Lori gave a high-pitched little laugh. “Honey, I’m raising four kids by myself, I work forty hours a week, and I’m on the city council. I don’t have near enough time. As for Nate, he doesn’t want the job. I’m guessing you don’t, either, or you’d have spoken up by now.” She paused. “We were thinking about talking to Terry Wilder.”

I blinked in surprise. “Terry?”

“Think about it, dear. Robbie’s been the director for going on thirty years. No matter who we get, the transition is going to be a little bumpy, don’t you think? We need someone who’s a good organizer, and knows how to work with people. Think about all of the other EMTs on the squad. Is there anyone else that wouldn’t just be a disaster?”

I considered for a moment. Lori had a point, but still…

“That’s not going to sit very well with some people,” I said. “Terry’s still new in town, and he’s only been on the squad three years.”

“Oh, I know. But everybody likes him, and he’s smart as a whip. So far the only person who’s applied is Stacy. Now, how good a job do you think she’s going to do?”

I made a face. “Oh, God.”

“Exactly. You know Terry better than the rest of us. Can you ask him if he’d be interested?”

I dusted a bit of potting soil from my hands. “I don’t expect he’ll say yes, but I’ll talk to him.”

“That’s all I ask, dear.”

I cut across Lori’s lawn, arriving less than a minute later on the front steps of my apartment building. My mind was churning even worse than before. Stop it… you know Terry. George is full of shit. Even he probably knows it. 

But is he? And do you really know Terry as well as you think?

I pulled the glass door about halfway open, then released the handle, letting it slip back closed. Turning around, I set off across town again. Towards Terry’s house.


When Terry answered the door, his hair was tousled and his eyes puffy. He was wearing a pair of old sweats and a t-shirt.

“I can come back,” I said.

“Naw,” he said, waving me in, “I stayed up later than I expected to last night, is all. After I shoved the kids out the door this morning, I lay back down for a bit.”

I almost asked him what had kept him up, but decided that way lay madness. I really didn’t want to know who he might be fucking.

“Are you on call?” he inquired.

“No,” I said as I followed him into the kitchen, “but if you’re about to offer me a drink, let’s not. I’m going to try to mostly stay sober at home until this overdose thing is over. If I drink, I can’t hop on for calls.”

Terry was taking two mugs from the cupboard.

“A little caffeine, then?” he suggested.

“That I’ll take.”

Settling onto the living room couch with my coffee, I tried to organize my tangled thoughts. Terry eased into his recliner, regarding me over the top of his steaming mug.

“What’s up?” he said at last.

So much, I thought. My mind was a jumbled disaster. I wanted to hold him, I wanted to scream at him, I wanted to fuck him, I wanted to never see him again. There were so many things I wanted to say. I chose the simplest.

“Lori wanted me to ask if you’d be interested in the ambulance director’s job,” I said.

Terry set his coffee down. “Run that by me again?”

I shrugged, finding myself in the awkward position of arguing in favor of something I wasn’t entirely sold on myself.

“It’s a weird situation,” I said. “Robbie was one of the first people in town to get his EMT after the state mandated licensed providers for medical transport, way back in the seventies. He’s been with Bronning Ambulance literally since it became a thing. Did you know there were only four of them, at first? Their jobs let them be on call at work, and they did heel-and-toe twenty-four-hour shifts. They were on literally half the time.”

“Jesus,” said Terry. “And we bitch about the amount of on-call time we’re doing.”

“Right,” I said. “And Robbie is only the second director. He’s had that job for over thirty years. I think we all just kind of liked to pretend that he’d never leave, but if it crossed our minds at all, we figured either Lori or Nate would eventually take his place. They’ve both been on the squad for a long time, and they’re really active. But it turns out Nate doesn’t want it, and Lori’s got too much on her plate. The only person who’s submitted an application so far has been Stacy.”

Terry rolled his eyes. “Fuck that up one side and down the other,” he said. “I understand why nobody wants her to get the job. But why me?”

“For somebody who thinks she’s an idiot, you sure don’t mind pinning her to the sheets,” I said.

Terry raised his eyebrows, but let the comment pass. He simply sipped at his coffee, waiting me out. I glanced down at my hands, then forced myself to meet his eyes.

“You’re really good with people,” I said at last. “And you’re organized. I remember when you came in to practice skills for your EMT class, and you had all of your notes in that neat little binder, sorted by topic. They’re looking for someone who can smooth over arguments and problems, keep people working as a team, and who’ll get the paperwork done. I think the ambulance committee figures you check those boxes.”

Terry considered that as he sipped more coffee.

“Still,” he said, “I’ve only been here a few years, and I know how things are in a town this size. People still refer to this house as the Jensen place, and even in ten years it will most likely have failed to become the Wilder residence. I’m the new guy in town, and that won’t change for a long time. My presence as head of the ambulance squad would probably cause some friction all by itself. Nate may not want the gig, but I can tell you right now he’ll be less than enthused if it goes to me.”

I shrugged. “Probably. Look, I’m not arguing for or against it, Terry. I’m just relaying the message.”

Terry nodded slowly. “Fair enough,” he said. “I’ll give Lori a phone call later today. I’m not sure I want the damn job, but if people really think I’m the right man I’ll at least give it some thought. Is that what you came here to discuss?” His eyes said that he knew damn well it wasn’t.

I nursed my coffee, pondering. Terry and I had our problems, it was true, but he’d never given me reason to distrust him. I cursed myself for letting George’s rantings make me paranoid. If only I wasn’t so goddamn tired.

“I saw George right before I came here,” I said.


“He seemed really on edge. And he has the idea that if I hadn’t talked to you, the cases wouldn’t have stopped.”

Terry stared at me, openmouthed. I had to suppress a grin. He’s usually so damned imperturbable that I took a certain underhanded pleasure at seeing him rendered speechless. It took him a few seconds to find his voice.

“Are you seriously trying to tell me that he considers me a suspect? I knew he didn’t like me, but…”

His voice trailed off. I sighed, weighing how much I ought to say. In for a penny, in for a pound, I decided.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of dislike,” I said, choosing my words carefully. “But let’s be honest, Terry. You’re kind of a mystery. Everyone knows you had this amazing career before you came to Bronning, and they wonder why you gave it up. And where your kids’ mom is. You’ve never even told me that stuff. Plus, George checked you out, when you first came here. He spilled it all to me this morning. I got the feeling he’d been wanting to get it off his chest for a while.”

Terry leaned back in his chair, rubbing his chin. His eyes were boring holes through my skull. It was everything I could do to avoid looking away.

“Spilled what, exactly?” he asked in a low, serious tone.

I bit my lip. “He says you’re rich… worth millions, and that you still get a significant income in royalties. Which seems weird, considering that you live in this old house and drive that old pickup. He says that your ex has been to prison, and that she can’t see the kids unsupervised.”

Terry was watching me impassively. “I’m not surprised that he went digging.” he said. “Most small-town cops would probably have done the same thing. As for the rest…”

Pushing himself out of his chair, he crossed the room in a few swift strides. Gazing out the window, he went on.

“I haven’t told you or anyone else very much about my past,” he said, “because I wanted the nearest thing possible to a fresh start. For all that I was successful in California, my life was very much akin to a breakneck runaway freight train over which I exerted limited control, at best. I wanted to slow down, regain some perspective, and stop devoting more time to my career than I gave to my children.”

He turned from the window, and came over to sit beside me on the couch. He put his hand on my knee. I hesitated a moment, then placed my hand over his and squeezed.

“You must have been aware, on some level, that I’m financially well-off,” he said. “Certainly you’ve spent enough time here to read the signs. I have assets parked all over the place, and even lacking that, you don’t want to know what I get in quarterly royalties. With those alone I could buy half of Bronning, and the half worth buying at that. I try to avoid calling undue attention to it.”

“What about your wife?”

Terry shrugged. “I met Kathryn at a very posh event that she was hosting. I’d just had one of my books picked up by a major film company for the first time, which took me from Chevy to Mercedes overnight. The producer invited me to this thing, and I was just bowled over by how expensive and larger-than-life everything was, especially our charming and beautiful hostess.”

He smiled a little at the memory. “Christ knows what she saw in me; she obviously had money and I was still living in a studio apartment in the worst part of LA. But we were a thing by the end of the week. There was a heat between us of sufficient intensity to peel paint. The movie took off… well, you know that, it was The Angira Conspiracy. I went from dirt poor to modestly wealthy in a matter of months. Anyway, long story short, we ended up married before the year was out.”

He hesitated, and I squeezed his hand as I sipped at my coffee. This was a story I’d been waiting three years to hear.

“Anyway,” he went on, “she told me her money came from investments, and I guess I believed that, because she did have a fair chunk of change in the markets, and it was all yielding very nice returns. As it turns out, the money she had to invest in the first place was from her position as the lynchpin of an international heroin smuggling operation. Like, tens of millions of dollars a year worth of product moved. And she kept on with it, right under my goddamn nose, for the entirety of our marriage.”

“God,” I said. “That sucks. Do the kids know?”

“Halee knows everything. Naomi knows some. Dawn is vaguely aware that her mom has been to prison, and Maya… I don’t think she has a clue. Of course, Maya has no memory of her mother, and Dawn’s is hazy at best.”

“How did it end?”

“She got caught,” he said simply. “I was on location on an island just off of South America; I’d flown down there to do some hasty rewrites on a couple of movie scenes. The kids were at home with the nanny, and Kathryn was ambushed by federal agents along with several of her compatriots in the middle of finalizing a deal. To make matters even more exciting, she had a gun in her purse, and took a shot at one of the agents.”

“Is that when you stopped writing for Hollywood?” I said.

“I could hardly continue at the pace I’d been going as a single father,” he said, “especially considering that I was long past any point of needing the money. Kathryn copped a plea to tip over some other people that had been on international wanted lists for years, and got the mandatory minimum instead of the fifteen years or so she’d otherwise have been slapped with. All the same, she went to prison, and I got custody without breaking a sweat. She hasn’t seen the girls since.

“Even if I wasn’t willing… which I am… part of the conditions for my moving out of state with the kids was a court order mandating that I make them available for supervised visitation at regular intervals, in a place where Kathryn’s probation allows her to go. She has yet to take advantage of it, despite the fact that we go to California twice a year so the kids can visit their relatives on her side of the family. I’ve reached out to her every time we’ve gone to Cali, with no response.”

I realized that we had shifted, and were sitting close enough now that our bodies were touching. We were still holding hands.

I was trying to think what would be the right thing to say, when I was saved by his ringtone.

“This is Terry,” he said. I could hear a female voice on the other end, but couldn’t make out anything it said.

“With what symptoms?” he inquired. More chirping on the other end.

“All right,” he said. “I’ll be there to pick her up in a few minutes.” Another pause. “No, not at all. She gets the benefit of the doubt. I’ll be right there.” He signed off.

“Halee is at the nurse’s office at school,” he said, rising to his feet. “She’s complaining of nausea and chills. The nurse says her color is good and she’s not running a fever, and suspects that it’s an act. I’m going to run over and pick her up.”

Terry was already going for the foyer. I got up and followed, with a funny little lurch in my stomach.

“Do you think it’s an act?” I said.

“I don’t know,” said Terry, seating himself on the bench and tugging his shoes on. “How did she seem this morning at your place?”

“Fine,” I said. “Unusually cheerful, if anything.” It was true enough, even if I wasn’t about to tell him why

Terry nodded as he tied a shoelace. “That aside,” he said, “Halee almost never gets sick. Nor is she one to play hooky, or duck any sort of responsibility. If she’s trying to get herself out of school, there’s a reason.”

I sat down next to him on the bench, and reached for my sneakers. “I’ll go with you.”


I waited in the passenger’s seat of Terry’s Chevrolet crossover while he ran into the school to fetch his daughter. A feeling of dread I couldn’t define settled over me like a shroud.

It was only a few minutes before Terry strode from the building with Halee close on his heels, flinching a little as she stepped into the chill wind. Terry was carrying her backpack.

“Dad,” Halee said from the back seat, after we had pulled away from the curb. There was a frantic sort of urgency to her voice.

“I know,” said Terry. “You’re not sick. What test did you fail to study for? And what hell shall I rain down upon you for playing sick to get out of it?”

By his tone it was obvious that he was pulling Halee’s leg, but for once I didn’t find him amusing.

Dad,” said Halee desperately. “You’re not funny. Listen to me. Something’s going on. There’s like six or seven high school kids that are out sick today, and most of them are names I put on that list for you last night.”

Terry signaled left and rounded the corner onto his street. His house is only a few blocks from the school, and we were there before a minute had passed.

“Are you sure they were called in as being sick?” he asked, as he pulled up to the curb.

“Yes! I heard them talking about it when I was walking past the office. Ms. Coombs was saying there must be some bug going around or something.”

Terry put the car in park, but left the engine running. His eyes met mine.

“What do you think?” he said.

I pondered for a moment. “All of those kids live in the service area,” I replied slowly. “If any of them had gone to the hospital by ambulance, we’d both know about it.”

Terry nodded slowly. “True. Which begs the question: where the hell are they, exactly? Are they all at home? That would be the first thing to determine, and it’d look pretty damn peculiar if you and I just started walking around banging on doors looking for allegedly ill teenagers.”

“Dad, what do you think is happening?” Halee put in from the back seat.

Terry twisted around and looked his daughter in the eye.

“I have no idea, kiddo,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to sort out, and you’re not going to be here for it. I want you to go in the house, and stay there. Everyone thinks you’re sick, remember? I don’t even want you taking Lanie for any walks. I’ll take care of that when I get back.”

“Back from where?” the girl pressed.

“Damned if I know,” he replied. “Listen, Halee… one thing. I want you to really think. Any conversations you’ve heard about this place called the locker. Can you think of anything anyone has said about it, other than what we already know? Anything that might give us an idea where or what it is?”

Halee leaned her head against her seat and closed her eyes. Then she opened them again.

“I don’t think it’s very far,” she said. “I’ve heard kids from town talk about walking there. And…” she hesitated, closing her eyes again for a moment. “All I can think of was hearing somebody talk about things hanging from hooks. And something about cows. I’m not even sure it’s related.”

I chewed on the inside of my cheek. There was something tickling at the back of my mind, just brushing the edges of my consciousness.

“All right,” Terry was saying to Halee. “Listen… I’m proud of you. You did exactly the right thing today. Now, in the house with you. I’ll walk that mange-ridden beast of yours when I get back.”

“Just for that, I’m going to brush her on your bed,” said Halee. There was a smile playing about her lips, and I was relieved to see the tension come down a notch. Halee slid out of the car, shouldered her backpack, and trudged up the walk.

After the front door had closed behind the girl, I turned back to Terry, still racking my mind for whatever secret it held.

“Hooks and cows,” he mused.

“I feel like it means something,” I said, “but I can’t quite figure out what. You know, like when there’s a word on the tip of your tongue but you can’t quite remember what it is?”

“Yeah,” said Terry, “but if it doesn’t come to you pretty damn quickly, there’s only one immediate place to go. George Fronse’s office. Somebody needs to verify whether those kids are at home or not, and it can’t be us.”

I saw motion through the windshield out of the corner of my eye, and glanced towards it just in time to see a City of Bronning patrol car round the corner and accelerate towards us.

“Speak of the devil,” said Terry. The cruiser drove the half block to where we were parked, then pulled in alongside. The driver’s-side window slid down, and Terry thumbed the window button on his armrest. He and George Fronse stared at each other through their open windows, mere feet apart.

“I was about to call you, Nettie,” said Fronse without preamble. “But then I saw you here in the car. Listen…” he hesitated, eyeing Terry with overt suspicion. He sighed heavily.

“A bunch of kids are out sick at the high school, and somebody out on the north edge of town called in and said he saw a group of teenagers walking up Pine Point Road. I did a little discreet checking, and none of those “sick” teens are where they’re supposed to be. So I drove out along Pine Point, and I didn’t find anyone. Did you hear me page fire out for a search?”

I winced, mentally kicking myself. “No,” I said. “We’ve got our pagers, but not our radios. The pagers don’t get the fire dispatches.”

George dismissed this with a wave of his hand. “We’re going to start searching all those little back trails, and the woods if we have to,” he said. “Quietly for the moment; I haven’t alerted the general public. But I have called in some help from the Sheriff’s Department.”

“Do you want an ambulance staged for it?” Terry broke in.

George looked right past Terry. “That’s why I wanted to talk to you, Nettie. I’d like to get an ambulance in the vicinity, and I’d prefer not to officially page it out just yet. Besides, I don’t want to use the on-call crew. I was hoping you’d be willing to find a partner and stage with the B rig at the Lake Randall boat ramp out on Pine Point.”

“Is that where you’re putting your command post?” I wanted to know.

“That’s right,” he said. “The fire department is staging there now. I have to go brief them, and get things moving. Will you help?”

I touched Terry’s arm. “You up for it?”

“Let’s do it,” he said easily.

George’s face gave eloquent testimony to exactly what he thought of Terry’s participation, but he didn’t give voice to his thoughts.

“Then I’ll see you at the CP,” he said, and quickly pulled away.


As the ambulance garage door closed behind us, Terry set the rig’s radio to the city channel and spoke into the mic.

“On-call crew and anyone else with their ears on, be advised: Rig Two will be participating in an activity with Fire and Law Enforcement on Pine Point Road, with an ALS crew. We are still in service, so we will be available to take calls if Rig One goes out.”

“On-call copies,” Nate Hauss’ voice came back.

Terry nudged the accelerator, easing the rig off of the concrete apron and onto the street.

“I don’t know the back roads north of town all that well,” he told me. “What’s out there?”

“Not much,” I said. “It’s hilly, so most of it never got cleared for farmland. The sewage treatment lagoon is set up in just about the only large flat area, about half a mile northwest of town. Then there’s this valley where they used to do open-air cattle auctions. The auction pit is still there; mostly old bleachers that’d probably give you tetanus if you looked at them from twenty feet away. The only building still standing down there is…”

I broke off, realization flooding into my mind.

“Oh, my God, Terry,” I said in a whisper.


“The old meat locker. It’s been closed down since before I was born, but it’s a brick building with steel supports so it’ll probably still be standing when time stops. It’s…”

“The locker,” Terry said, cutting me off. “Goddamn it. Hooks from the ceiling. Cows. They’ve been going to this closed-down meat locker.”

I was furious with myself. “Jesus Christ, Terry,” I fumed. “I should have seen it.”

Terry slowed, signaled, and eased the rig onto the narrow gravel of Pine Point Road. “Give yourself a break,” he said. “Have you ever been out there?”

“Kids used to hang out over there during the summer and drink,” I said. “I was there two or three times. Nobody ever got into the building that I know of; it was secured pretty well. No windows to speak of, and the doors had big iron bars holding them shut. Somebody got hurt in the auction pit the summer before my senior year, and the cops started keeping a closer eye on the place. My understanding is that people stopped going.”

Terry shook his head. We crested a rise, and were treated to a spectacular view of Lake Randall. The ice had broken and the center of the lake was clear, but it was still iced over all the way around up to about fifty yards from the shore. About a mile distant we could see the boat ramp, with Fronse’s command post trailer already set up, a number of fire/rescue vehicles and ATVs, and a milling crowd that looked to be pretty much the entirety of Bronning’s volunteer fire department. As the road dipped again, the trees blocked our view of the lake and the ramp.

“Cops only stay vigilant about such things for so long,” said Terry. “That was what… eight years ago? I’d bet they’re not watching so closely now. Who the hell knows what goes on down there?”

He plucked the mic from its clip. “EMS to law enforcement on the city channel.”

“Fronse here.”

“We have some new information, George. Don’t dispatch any search parties yet. We’ll be arriving at the CP in about two minutes, and will relay it in person.”

George was standing outside of his command trailer when we reached the boat ramp, and he waved us over to the vacant spot next to it. Two county sheriff’s deputies were with him, and another county cruiser was pulling in. Terry brought the ambulance to a halt alongside George and rolled down his window.

“I was about to get people moving,” George said shortly. “What have you got?”

“We have some reason to believe that those kids might be heading for the old meat locker,” said Terry.

“What… the meat locker?” George’s eyes were disbelieving, then suspicious. “I’m surprised you even know about that place, Terry.”

“I didn’t, until a few minutes ago,” he said. “Nettie told me about it. But long story very short: we think that’d be the first place to check, and with all hands on deck.”

“What the hell makes you think they’re going there?”

“I repeat, it’s a long story,” said Terry. “Right now we can teach, or we can do. What’s your pleasure?”

George’s eyes narrowed to slits. “All right. We’ll get everyone headed in that direction. Do you guys know how to get there?”

I saw Terry’s thin smile at George’s transparent attempt to trap him into admitting knowledge of the location. He turned to me.

“You’ve been there before,” he said. “Can you find it?”

“The times I was there, we cut through the woods,” I replied. “By road, I’m not sure.”

“More like trails than roads,” said George, “but it’s just barely dry enough that we should be all right.”

“We’ll follow someone, George,” said Terry. “It’d be kind of stupid for EMS to be first in, anyway.”

Fronse nodded and turned to go, but then a thought struck me.

“George,” I said. He turned back to us. “I…” the words stuck in my throat. I shook my head and tried again. “I think you should page both rigs out for this,” I said.

George’s eyebrows went up. “Take both trucks out of service when there aren’t even any patients yet?” he said incredulously. “Come on, Nettie, stop holding out on me. What do you know?”

“I don’t know anything,” I shot back. “Not for sure. For fuck’s sake, George. You’ve known me my whole life. I’ve single-handedly kept two people close to you from dying. Do you trust me, or not?”

George held my gaze for a long moment. Slowly his hand moved to the collar mic attachment for his belt radio.

“Franklin County, this is Bronning PD one. I need EMS paged out; two ambulances to stage in the area of 55242, County Road Two.” The whole time he was speaking, his gaze never wavered from my face. Now he turned his attention to Terry.

“You know how to get to County Two?”

“Vaguely,” said Terry, “but I’ve got Nettie here to navigate. We’ll be good.”

The pager chimed. “Bronning ambulance rigs one and two, your call to stage near 55242, County Road Two is at 10:23. You’ll be assisting law enforcement from that point.”

“Rig Two copies,” said Terry into the mic.

“Rig One copies,” came Nate’s voice.

“All right,” said George. “There was gravel leading down to the old auction yards a long time ago, but it’s pretty grown over now. Last time I was out there you could still get a cruiser down it if you were careful, but that’s been five years or better. If you go to that address on County Two, there’s a field approach you can pull into while we go down and get a look. If the road is passable, and the scene looks secure enough, we’ll signal you down. The first thing you’ll come to when you enter the valley is the auction pit. Use that as your cold zone while we approach the building. If it looks like the cold zone might turn warm, I’ll give you the word to retreat.”

Terry and I both nodded; this is standard procedure. EMS personnel are never to risk our necks under any circumstances. Providers who became patients can’t help anybody and tie up resources.

George turned away, and Terry rolled up his window, put the truck into gear, and pulled out.

On to Chapter Ten!


27 Comments on Strange Brew, Chapter 9

  1. Kim & Sue says:

    Fan-fucking-tastic chapter!

    George? Terry? someone else altogether? Wonderful all the way, Rachel. We see Nick Offerman as Terry. Ed Begley Jr as George and still can’t decide who would play Halee and Nettie.

    • Rachael Yukey says:

      I had to look those up, which I suppose says a lot about how out of touch with pop culture I am. Ed Begley Jr isn’t too far from how I picture George! Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I was nervous about a chapter that didn’t have even so much as a hint of sex in it.

  2. dw says:

    The only thing I dislike about this story is having to wait for the next chapter. So good!

    • Rachael Yukey says:

      Thanks, dw! I was nervous about how this chapter was going to be received, as there isn’t so much as the faintest hint of sex in it.

  3. Sue B says:

    Love this and Pages from a Diary! New to this site…enjoy your works!

    • Rachael Yukey says:

      Thanks! Since you’re a Pages fan, you may be interested to know that more is coming. I had to leave Pages off for awhile for personal reasons, and then couldn’t think how to finish it. But it’s done now, and after all of Strange Brew is posted, we’re going to repost Pages in in its entirety with better editing.

  4. Michael v says:


    You little tease. You are a very naughty, naughty 😈 girl. This chapter was very well paced that served a purpose to raise the tensions of your devoted readers. If this was your goal, well done you! 👏👏👏

    Now that I/we are drooling 🤤, I’m sure our patience will be rewarded with a mind-blowing 🤯 payoff! I’m feeling like you’ve worked us up like a virginal poppet that is one lick 👅 from anexploding 💥dynamite 🧨 cum 💦. Please give me a hint, is it Halee that will quiver in orgasmic bliss? Even if you say yes or no we still have to wait to find out who makes it happen.

    Side note: will we see the younger daughters become involved to benefit from Halee’s newly awakened sexual explorations? That would be a great plot line to drive additional chapters and make it more realistic. Halee surely will want to share these exciting, lovely feelings with her sisters.

    Your thoughts 🤔on if that interests you?

    Thank you for getting me/us eagerly awaiting chapter 10,


    • Rachael Yukey says:

      And you, sir, are a bad, bad man! I shall let no cats out of the bag here; you’ll just have to keep on reading…

      • Michael v says:


        Just keep reading? Of that there is no doubt! To paraphrase ‘Field of Dreams’, if you write it, they will cum 💦💦(pun intended) 😂🤣😂. I will concede I am a naughty, naughty 😈 boy.

        I’m 61 years old, have been extremely horny since about 8-9 years old. The cool thing is i quickly became fascinated with lesbian erotica, both in magazines and books.

        Back in the olden times, you could go to a chain bookstore and wander the isles and find many artistic photography books that had beautiful collections of nudes. There was also quite a few erotica story anthologies. For some reason, many people would stay for hours and read just like a library.

        It was quite a shock when suddenly women began to be photographed with no pubic hair. I thought as a teenager that was awesome. I remember the first time I went down on a shaved woman…I loved the look and to me was much easier without a mouthful of hair. Just asking…what is the trend now, seems more grown women are growing it back or is the natural look not coming back?

        I will have to wait on JetBoy’s desire to have mercy on us and release chapter 10 soon, I hope.

        Keep up the stellar writing,

        • Clit Licker says:

          I, too, am very much in favour of a smooth pubis. Not only does it make it much easier to see and admire what lies beneath, but it prevents the unpleasantness of hairs in one’s teeth. And, of course, it looks young, which we all love.

      • Levon Tostig says:

        Let me just say that if the narrative DOES take a turn into that most naughty of naughty places, it may send me to my grave via a heart attack and stroke simultaneously.

        But I would enjoy the trip immensely.

  5. Erocritique says:

    Believe it or not, but the first thing that came to mind when Halee mentioned “The Locker” was a Meat Locker. (Nettie really should have put it together sooner) I think it was the country setting that had my mind working that way. – And the fact that we used to party outside old industrial buildings when I was that age. There is sooooo much about this story I can identify with; which adds a little extra something to the narrative: A magical feeling of nostalgia and familiarity. – Minus the taboo lesbian sex of course. 😉 Another excellent chapter that has me anxiously awaiting the next. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

    • Kim & Sue says:

      Because of our location, the first thing that came to our minds was a deserted strip mall and an old Foot Locker store. Of course you were correct and very good reasoning on your part.

    • Rachael Yukey says:

      Believe it or not, when I was writing the scene in which Halee talks about The Locker, I wasn’t even sure what it was myself. Which is funny, because I live all of four blocks from a closed-down meat locker.

      • Erocritique says:

        Well an old deserted meat locker definitely fits the location, and it adds an extra creepy and ominous feel to the whole narrative. It IS funny that you didn’t know what “The Locker” was referring to as you wrote the scene where Halee mentioned it. I also considered “The Locker” might be a school locker as the story progressed, but it didn’t make sense as a party location, and I kept going back to my “meat locker” thought. I think you made a good call in the end. 👍

  6. Mike A. says:


    I’m on the literal edge of my seat!

    Can’t wait for the next chapter!

  7. Carol Anne says:

    Another fantastic chapter Rachael! Even without sex, you had me riveted to my chair till I finished it. I have loved this mystery/erotic novel of yours from the start. Not having sex in a chapter is fine with me, you still keep me reading and it excites me just hearing Nettie and Halee’s names in the same sentence. Like Sue said in her comment. With Nettie and Halee in the same car, I wondered if they were giving each other knowing look, also if Nettie was checking Halee out in whatever outfit she wore to school.
    Great writing, detail and research in your description of medical terms.
    I love it and can’t wait for the next chapter.

  8. Bryan says:

    Ooo the plot thickens

  9. Lakeisha says:

    Awesome chapter! Great story!

    • Rachael Yukey says:

      Thank you! I’m overwhelmed by the responses. I thought everyone was gonna hate it because it wasn’t even a little bit sexy.

      • No, Rachel dear, everyone does NOT indeed hate it because of the Blue Ribbon Stellar quality of the writing within it. You may or may not know of a gentleman named “Renpet”. He has a similar flavor to his writing but is more, I shall be blunt, hetero in his sexual bent. But he is every bit as good as any mainstream writer out there today. You share that talent. You read every bit as good as Rex Stout, or Mickey Spillane. Don’t bother to deny it, it will just make me more convinced you are simply being self-deprecating. I was as much on the edge of my recliner,(I have a back condition that makes regular chairs uncomfortable.), as Mike A. and Carol Anne!! I am looking forward to the next chapter with much baited breath, and agree with one of the above commenters about the younger sisters. And perhaps a friend or two?

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