LIZ COULD SEE THE FLASHING red lights of emergency vehicles from a mile away. She'd only been gone four hours, what the hell could have happened? She slowed the van as she approached The Reptile Refuge, its parking filled with police vehicles.
Pull in or drive by? Common sense told her to get as much distance as possible between her and the situation, but if Lee was in trouble or worse, she had to know. She braked, turned and pulled up beside a police cruiser. She'd tell them she was a volunteer, which she was, at least initially.
"What's going on?"
"This is a crime scene. You can't go beyond the tape," the Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer said. The cop was a young woman about the same age as Liz, but that was all they had in common. "The Reptile Refuge is closed indefinitely."
"What's going to happen to all the animals?"
"We're notifying the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals regarding the inhabitants."
"Can I at least speak to Lee?"
"The owner, Leborg Kovacevic."
"You know the owner?"
"I volunteer here."
"I think the lead investigator may want to talk to you. Stay here." The constable went to consult with her superior.
Maybe this was not such a good idea. Did she really want to talk to the RCMP? They'd run her name, see she had a few priors and the next thing you know they'd think she was somehow involved, which she was, but the cops didn't need to know.
Liz double-timed it back to the van, got in and pulled onto 184th Avenue and headed north, back toward the city centre with its stores and traffic and lots of vehicles similar to what she was driving.
She didn't even want to think about what had gone down and no way did she want to get drawn into it. The best thing to do was to ditch the vehicle.
The van belonged to The Reptile Refuge Centre where it was used for, among other things, transporting herps back and forth to school presentations, expos in malls or anywhere else someone would pay a few bucks to see and learn about reptiles and amphibians. Liz was returning from doing that very thing at an elementary school in Vancouver.
She pulled into the massive parking lot at Guildford Town Centre. Get out, walk away, disappear she told herself, but instead she sat there.
Could she do it? Could she abandon the other passengers in the van: two Ball Pythons, two Carpet Boas, a Corn Snake, four Geckos, a Bearded Dragon, an eighteen inch long Blue Tongue Skink, two Red-eared Slider Turtles, Spots the forty pound Leopard Tortoise and Iggy, her pet Iguana?
Of course she'd take Iggy, but could she abandon the rest?
She could call the SPCA anonymously and tell them about the van and its contents, but how likely were they to find people to adopt these reptiles.
Besides, did the SPCA have enclosures with heat pads that provided the right temperature and humidity? Did they have lamps with full spectrum UVA and UVB light? And what would they feed them? You couldn't just put down a bowl of kibble.
Her animals would likely die in the shelter or be euthanized.
No, Liz couldn't take a chance of that happening. They depended on her. Some of them she'd looked after for nearly two years, a few she;d nursed back from the brink of death. You spend that long with a something, even a snake or a lizard and you get to know them. You get attached.
She'd have to take them home to the small basement suite she lived in.
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