Sheriff Pete couldn’t drag the phrase from his mind. “Don’t Stop Looking!” Vee Burthrap had told him. “What does that even mean?” he thought, walking toward the cafe.
After the horrible dream Pete had a few nights ago, he was hesitant about going back to the Ya’ll Sit, but he needed a cup of coffee and didn’t want to make it himself.
“Hi Pete!” Hannah called from behind the counter when the sheriff walked through the front door.
“Hello, Hannah!” the sheriff answered, feeling a shadow lift from his mind. “Is the coffee any good today?”
“Always good, always ready!” Shorty Cloverton said, walking out of the kitchen with a big tray of fresh cinnamon buns. “How about a C-bun to go with that coffee, Pete?”
“I think I’ll just have coffee,” Pete answered. He caught himself staring at the table by the door where he sat in the nightmare.
“Suit yourself, Sheriff, but these are warm and the icing is running off like a spring thaw.”
“Okay, okay, you convinced me. Bring one over here,” Pete said.
Shorty scooped a cinnamon bun from the tray and put it on a plate, making sure to slather it with extra icing. “Shame about Vee Burthrap, isn’t it?” Shorty said, putting the plate on the table and pouring Pete a warm-up.
“What are you talking about?” the sheriff asked.
“Vee Burthrap was taken to the hospital last night. Her sister called the ambulance because Vee was acting strange.”
“Why wasn’t I called?” Pete asked. “I didn’t know anything about this.”
“I don’t know, Pete. I only know Ver called an ambulance and Vee is in the hospital,” Shorty answered.
Pete had a strange feeling. He wondered whether this had anything to do with Vee’s idea about the letters, DSL. “This is stupid!” Pete thought. “It’s a coincidence and nothing more.” Pete finished his breakfast and headed for the hospital.
“Don’t stop looking. Don’t stop looking for what?” Pete thought as he drove. “If it does mean ‘don’t stop looking’ for Sylvia, who wrote it? Who cut the letters into the bridge? Is Sylvia still alive? Is the person who took her toying with us?”
When the sheriff arrived at the hospital, he stepped from his car and heard a person yelling.
“Don’t stop looking!!” someone hollered.
Pete turned to see where the voice was coming from. He saw a woman in a back yard calling toward a boy who was running.
“Don’t stop looking!” she hollered louder. “You find your bicycle before you come back! Don’t stop looking!”
Pete felt stunned. “This can’t be real! What is happening to me!” he thought as he continued watching the woman yelling at her son.
The sheriff walked into the hospital and approached the front desk. A doctor stepped through a door and called back toward the hall. “Don’t stop looking for that file! I need it to see it before we can proceed,” he said to someone Pete couldn’t see.
The receptionist said, “Vee Burthrap is in room 214. Take the hall to the left and the elevator or the stairs to the second floor and turn right.”
Sheriff Pete thanked her and walked toward the elevator. The doors opened just as he reached it. Three people were inside, deep in conversation. “I told her, ‘don’t stop looking, you’ll find it if you don’t stop looking.’ I hope she took my advice,” one woman said to another. Pete stared at them and they stepped wide of him as they left the elevator.
He found room 214 and Pete knocked on the door. Hearing no answer, he knocked again.
“Don’t stop looking! Don’t stop looking!” came a woman’s voice from inside the room. Pete pushed through the door.
Vee Burthrap seemed to be sound asleep. “Don’t stop looking!” she moaned again and again.
“Vee, Vee…” Pete said as he gently shook her arm.
Vee’s sightless eyes were wide open, looking far beyond Pete Terkinberry. With a loud voice she again said, “Don’t stop looking! Don’t stop looking!”
The sheriff recalled the feeling he had the night he opened Sylvia Meisner’s house to Miss Wonderment, the so-called psychic. What crawled over him now was far worse.
He more firmly grasped Vee’s arm and shook, “Vee!”
Vee Burthrap sat straight up in the bed and screamed. Pete jumped back and tripped over the bedside table sending a lunch tray crashing to the floor. Pete landed on top of the mashed potatoes and gravy.
“Sheriff! What are you doing here?” Vee asked.
Pete wiped the mess from his pants as he stood up. “Vee, I just found out you were in the hospital and I came to check on you. What were you dreaming about?” he asked.
“I wasn’t dreaming about anything, why?”
“You kept saying, ‘Don’t stop looking,'” Pete answered.
“Why would I say that? Don’t stop looking for what?”
“More like ‘who?’ you mean.”