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A resident surgeon on his way up the ladder gets into deep trouble.
This is my first novel. I'm publishing it here to get your reactions to the book.


THE LOVEABLE RESIDENT by Mary Faderan


I wish to thank my Muse, Michael, for his keen insight on the human condition and his help in writing this book and the others I've written.





JANUARY 2017

THE PARKING LOT OF New Haven Hospital was pretty full. Mike Oates grunted as he steered his low-slung black Maserati around the bend, close enough to the last aisle of the lot. It wasn’t

even eight o’clock. Rounds were at eight fifteen—a concession from old Bartholomew, the chief of surgery. Rounds were usually at 8:00 a.m. But today was different. Bartholomew was coming back from a long weekend. Mike didn’t want to be late. He had his eye on the top residency spot in surgery. Bartholomew was eating out his hand. Not going to be late, he told himself.

A tall man, Mike Oates sat low in his Maserati. He had tousled wavy blond hair, cornflower-blue eyes, and an amiable face that belied a cold and calculating mind. His slender fingers curled around the steering wheel of his car in repose. There would be more than one way to handle the parking problem. Quickly, he revved his engine and skidded his tires as he aimed the nose of his Maserati toward the front of the parking lot.

He saw an opening and slid his car into the open slot that was marked “Reserved for Dr. James Levy.” He put his car into park and then turned off the motor. He reached behind his seat and took out a sign that read Emergency Call. His thin lips curled into a smile. “Love it,” he muttered to himself. He got out and placed the sign on his dashboard, visible to Dr. James Levy, who might be getting in later that morning. “Who the hell is Dr. James Levy anyway?” Mike asked himself as he slung his doctor’s white coat over his broad shoulder.

There was a cluster of residents that already crowded in the resident’s lounge as Mike approached. He walked up to the door quietly. Bartholomew looked up as he approached. “Hey, Oates, you just got picked to present today. Got any patients you want to talk about?”

Without missing a beat, Mike replied, “Yes, Dr. Bartholomew. I would be happy to present a few of my patients.”

Bartholomew looked slightly put off. “One patient will do, Oates.”

Mike stifled the urge to retort. He pulled out his flip notebook and began to discuss his patient, Mr. Morse.

Later that day, Mike sat in the nurse’s station, dictating his notes. Someone sidled up to him. A hint of Dior perfume permeated his consciousness. “Ah, Missy,” Mike muttered softly, pulling the wearer of the perfume up close.

“Mike!” she whispered. “People are looking!”

He shut off the Dictaphone and smiled up at the owner of a pair of dark eyes. “That is what you want, right, Missy?”

She hoisted herself off his grasp and straightened her shirt. “Damn you,” she hissed but looked adoringly at him.

“Seven o’clock tomorrow? Meet you at the Kahuna Club?” He leaned back and considered her shapely figure with a smile.

Missy Wright nodded before leaving his side.

Corcoran, his best friend, leaned over, grinning. “Oates, you are too slick.”

“That—I am,” Mike replied without looking at him.

“If Bartholomew even gets a whiff of what you are up to, he’d have your ass in a sling.”

“He won’t.”

“Thing is, Oates, I can’t figure out why the girls love you. Even the little old ladies in the unit love you. If only they knew you like I do.” Corcoran sniggered.

“That is why I pay off your gambling debts, Cor. So you keep your mouth shut.”

Corcoran looked daggers at him. “One day you’ll be up a creek, and nobody can get you off it,” he whispered. He quickly folded his notebook and left.

The emergency-call ploy seemed to work. Mike knew it would. He pulled out of Dr. Levy’s car slot and headed toward the exit. It was a pretty smooth day. Bartholomew was pretty impressed with his skills at differential diagnosis. He thought it might be nice to head to the gym after a quick bite. Yale University had a pretty decent gym. He hardly used it, but tonight, he wasn’t eager to run through the dangerous streets of New Haven at 6:30 p.m. on a cold January night.

The streetlights were on most all the streets in New Haven. Mike emerged from the gym, bearing his gym bag. He took a quick glance around and headed for his car. He drew up short when he saw the figure standing by his car. Mike’s step slowed slightly.

“Excuse me, I need to get into my car,” he said in a no-nonsense tone. “You parked in my parking slot.”

Mike looked at him closer. So this was Dr. Levy. “I was late. Emergency call,” Mike explained.

Levy was a thin wiry-haired man. He was wearing gym clothes. It looked like he had been running. Sweat marks stained his shirt.

“I could write you up for this, Oates. That’s your name, isn’t it?” The voice was sneering. “I looked you up! You’re one of the residents at the hospital.”

Mike thought quickly. “I won’t do it again. I can make it up to you.” “You got some nerve. It’s residents like you that give New Haven Hospital a bad name.” Levy leaned into him. “I could get you kicked off

the staff.”

“My apologies, Dr. Levy. It’s not going to happen again”—he shifted his stance—“because you’re dead now.” He swung his fist at Levy and hit him squarely between the eye. Levy tottered back, blood spurted from his nose, and he uttered a small cry. With a sudden move, a switchblade appeared in Mike’s hand. It was a quick in and out. Levy crumpled to the ground, blood and guts spurting out of his abdomen.

Mike looked about quickly. His heart was beating rapidly. Relief cooled his senses. Nobody was around. Quickly he pulled Levy’s body and dragged it to the corner behind a post.

Mike slid into his Maserati, fired the engine, and directed his car out of the parking lot and sped down the street, the darkness of the night closing behind him.

Minutes later, there were scuffling sounds of someone approaching the parking lot. A solitary figure emerged from the shadows and stood still, taking in the silent and vacant parking lot.

DECEMBER 2016

Rebecca Bartholomew surveyed the crowd as she stood at the threshold of the Ritz Hotel Ballroom. She arrived late, almost an hour late, which she knew would make her father very unhappy.

It was about eight o’clock in the evening. There was a hint of snow on the ground. The party was in full blast. People had already had their second courses, and some were already starting to make some efforts at persuading the band to play music that wasn’t so plain and simple. Rebecca looked about more toward the front dais and saw her father and mother sitting, neither speaking to anyone and looking a bit glum. Sophia, dressed in a dark-blue sheath dress, exposing a great deal of her handsome shoulders and chest—tanned to perfection by the latest trip both had been to—saw Rebecca first. She looked delighted, waved, and then elbowed her husband, nodding toward Rebecca. Bartholomew looked at Rebecca’s direction, and his face seemed to settle into a benign attitude. Rebecca, clad in a soft-peach gown that had a tight bodice but flared out in a long ballerina-style skirt that had lots of lace, floated toward them and kissed her parents on their respective cheeks. “Hello, Mum and Daddy,” she said in a breathless voice. “I’m sorry I’m late.”

“Perfectly fine, Rebecca,” Bartholomew said in a calm voice. “Have you any dinner yet? They have something coming up. Salads and first course have already come and gone.”

“They say it’s the roast rib or something like that with some sort of kale side salad,” Sophia said with a slight wince.

“The Ritz is serving kale?” Rebecca said with a snort. “Whatever did your budget make them do that, Daddy?”

“It’s not my budget, Rebecca. In fact, I had nothing to do with it. It was all a committee thing,” he said quickly. “I’m just the figurehead.”

Sophia glanced at her husband. “You’ll hear about it on Monday, I am sure.”

“Kale isn’t that bad,” he replied blandly. “In fact, I recommend it to my heart patients.”

Rebecca tried to suppress a cackle. “Well, I will look forward to having my roast pig and kale then. Wonder if their chef has decided to go Southern?” She slid into her chair and then pulled the napkin over her lap. The waiter came, and she accepted a glass of white wine.

They listened to the music. Rebecca espied a duo of medical men standing by the doorway. One was fair haired and tall; the other was dark haired with a twisted smile on his face. She eyed them as she sipped her wine. “Daddy, who are those two? By the door?”

Bartholomew followed her gaze. He recognized them. “They’re both in my surgery program. Both rather good. The fair-haired man is Mike Oates. The other is Ralph Corcoran. Neither of them are suitable for you.”

Sophia frowned. “Oh, Leo, why are they unsuitable? Is it because both are just like you in one way or another?”

Bartholomew drew back and stared at his wife. “Do you think that?

What makes you think that? Have you met either one?”

“No, not exactly. Both were here earlier to help with setting up and such. I think Dr. Oates is somewhat of a cavalier, and his friend Cor, as they call him, is too much a playboy. He seems to be involved with bookies and such.”

“Neither of these men are me at all, my love,” Bartholomew complained, looking pained.

“No, not now, but they have that ambitious light in their eyes.”

Rebecca looked at the men again and said, “That Ralph looks rather delish.”

Sophia looked at her with alarm. “I am sure that there are better doctors with better reputations than those.”

Rebecca said nothing, and when the third course arrived, she settled down to have a good meal.

It was no surprise to either Bartholomew parent that when the dancing started, Rebecca was already on the dance floor, dancing with a friend who worked in her office. She danced well enough, and her mother felt satisfied that her daughter was enjoying herself. It wasn’t long when Sophia looked again at the dance floor and saw that Rebecca was dancing with Dr. Ralph Corcoran. The dance was a slow one, and they both seemed to be in good spirits and enjoying the conversation. Sophia scanned the ballroom and saw that Dr. Oates was equally involved with a pretty brunette, dancing with a great deal of intimacy. Sophia felt a stir of anger at Dr. Oates for some strange reason. Her husband leaned over and asked her, “Care to dance? Sounds like a nice tune.”

She stood up, and they both walked hand in hand to the dance floor. “It is a nice tune. ‘Autumn Leaves,’ if I recall,” Sophia said.

Bartholomew liked the feel of his wife in his arms and smiled. He was hardly in his element, but his wife’s presence calmed him and gave him something to think of that wasn’t about medicine or surgery.

“Did you notice Rebecca’s partner?” Sophia asked, muffled against his shoulder.

“No, why? Who is it?” “Dr. Ralph Corcoran.”

“Are you nervous for her? Really, my dear, she’s grown up now and has had enough of men to know when to kick them out.”

“Well, he makes me nervous.”

“Better him than that Mike Oates,” he said shortly. “Oh?”

“Never saw a man more on the make.” “Well, you once were like that, remember?”

“Well, yes.” He was silent for a moment. “But I suppose I hid it better than him.”

“Don’t tell me that your supervisors were ignorant of your ambitious nature. I think they encouraged it. Didn’t they?”

“Well. I was damn good and still am.”

“OK, so you also were fond of tooting your horn.”

“OK, so I did, and I was ambitious. But Oates is something else. I’m thinking if he isn’t careful, he’ll be in a pile of shit one day.”

“Leo!” Sophia raised her face at him. Then she saw his face and then

sighed. “I hope he doesn’t pull everyone he works with down with him. The hospital can’t have a scandal.”

Her husband looked thoughtfully at nothing in particular. “I’ll be the one to make sure he doesn’t.”

Mike Oates stood by the french doors of the ballroom and enjoyed the cold sweep of winter wind that enveloped his body. He did not flinch as he enjoyed cold winter sports. He would rather run in the cold than in the heat of summer. He also liked the winter mostly because he could make many excuses about not doing anything with his friends who wanted to go out and drink. Mike Oates preferred to do indoor sports, and one of them was to be in bed with his current woman, whoever that may be at any stage of his adult life.

“Enjoying the solitude?” A cool voice came to his ears.

“Yes, actually.” He turned and beheld Missy before him. She was in a black gown, cut low in the front and back, leaving nothing to the imagination. Before he said another word, he looked behind her and saw the disapproving face of Mrs. Sophia Bartholomew. Mike turned slightly to pull Missy out of view and took her out to the balcony.

“Oh, it’s awfully cold, Mike!”

“Don’t you enjoy it?” he asked mildly.

“No, I like warm. Come and dance with me, please.” “I’m all danced out.”

“We haven’t had more than one dance.” “OK, let’s go in then. But I can’t stay.”

She looked apprehensively at him. “Why? It’s a great party. Food and wine and what else could anyone want?”

Mike looked at her and then didn’t see her at all. He had a problem that night that made him wonder if this was all it was going to be. “No, it’s not enough, Missy.”

“Well, let’s pretend that we are having fun, shall we?” She let him pull her into his arms. He danced woodenly, and seemed not to be interested in the music. “Mike, what about if we left early, then? Let’s go to your place.”

“It’s not possible.”

“No? Why not? We haven’t gone out and done our loving for a few weeks now. What’s the matter?”

“Missy, I think I need to—” He saw Bartholomew behind her, and they locked gazes. Mike tried to smile but found it hard to. “Listen, I’m going to probably need to go on a vacation. I have to find another position in surgery.”

“Why? Don’t you think you’ll get the chief resident post?”

“Tripp hates me. Bartholomew doesn’t seem to give a damn about me.

I’m not sure I’m welcome here anymore.”

“Oh, Mike!” She looked sad. “I will find some way to help you, honest!

Just try to stay for now.”

“Who’s going to help me that you know?” His eyes were alert. “Who?” Missy was coy. “Oh, I know a lot of important people, Mike.”

He looked intrigued. But he felt the stare of Bartholomew at his back. “Let’s see . . . why don’t you and I go someplace quiet?” Mike asked suddenly.

Missy looked triumphantly at him. “Let’s do!”

Mike took Missy’s arm and led her out of the ballroom, feeling as though the hounds of hell were following him.

CHapter Two

JANUARY 2017

Text BoxHE NEXT DAY MIKE came into the hospital as usual. He parked where he could find a spot. He walked in with his usual gait. Some might say it was a characteristic Midwestern walk. Not

the sort of person who just committed a possible murder the night before. New Haven was a problem city. Lots of people get mugged, and worse, at all hours of the day and night. If there was any news about Dr. Levy, not a word was mentioned in Mike’s hearing.

The nurse’s station was busy as usual. Mike greeted the charge nurse and went straight to the wall where the patient charts were lined up on a shelf. He didn’t say much. Mike wasn’t a talker. That was what the nurses said about him behind his back. A yawn escaped Mike’s lips as he settled down for a read of the labs on Mr. Morse.

“Oh, Mike!” a voice called. Mike looked up. It was Missy. She smiled at him brightly.

“Are we still on for tonight?” she asked.

“Sure.” He smiled at her, his blue eyes gentle as they fell on her sweetly smiling face. “Wear that nice black dress that you wore to the Resident’s Ball.”

She giggled. “Oh!” She looked pleased. “That dress.”

Mike was about to say something when a disembodied voice rang out through the hospital. “Code Blue, A614! Code Blue, A614!”

The unit nurse and all the residents and interns that were present rushed out of the nurses’ station, leaving it empty.

Room A614 was the room at the end of the hallway. Every available doctor, from intern to residents, ran flying toward that room. “That’s Morse’s room,” someone said aloud.

Inside, the chief resident was standing next to the patient’s bed. The patient, Mr. Morse, was surprisingly still. Mike walked to his bedside and surveyed the damage. Morse’s face was a deathly pale, almost-bluish color. “What the hell—” Mike uttered.

Cody Tripp, the chief resident, ignored Mike. “I need some room!” he barked. He quickly stripped Mr. Morse’s gown off his chest and began to administer resuscitation procedures.

Mike felt sick. He watched as the STAT team gave their very best care to Mr. Morse.

Tripp’s eyes were laser-like on his patient. “Mr. Morse, can you hear me?” he yelled, his face inches away from Mr. Morse’s.

“His BP’s coming around,” a voice called out. “Give him epi stat,” Tripp barked.

“Epi!” another voice, Corcoran’s, piped up. Corcoran moved in and inserted the small needle into Morse’s IV line.

There was a short silence. Corcoran glanced at Mike, who looked like he had seen a ghost.

Tripp was still watching Morse, and then he stepped back from the bed. “Nurse, he’s coming around. I want him in ICU stat.”

“Right, Dr. Tripp,” Missy replied, all businesslike.

Mike slipped out of Mr. Morse’s room and headed into the nearest men’s room. He went to an empty stall and vomited into the toilet. His eyes watered. Sweat poured from his face. He felt dizzy. He sat down with a sigh when his stomach stopped heaving.

He tried to think. Nothing came to his mind, except the memory of Dr. Levy’s face as he lay on the ground. Levy’s face was drawn, pale. Almost bluish. Just like Mr. Morse’s face looked today. Mike felt a buzz in his coat pocket, took his cell phone out, and saw a text. It was from his mother.

“Call me. I need to talk to you.”

Mike grunted. He didn’t want to go out of the restroom yet. He didn’t want to be seen looking like he had gotten sucker punched.

He stood up and flushed the toilet. He unreeled a length of toilet paper and wiped his face with it. The sounds in the hallway subsided, and finally, Mike left the restroom and headed toward the stairs.

“Mike!” someone called. “Wait up!”

Mike looked around. It was Corcoran. “Hi, Cor.”

“Hey, Tripp said that Morse’s family wants him transferred to Mercy Hospital where he’s closer to them.”

Alleluia. Mike felt a wash of relief. “Oh, is that right?” “Yeah.” Corcoran looked at him closer. “Hey, are you OK?” “I’m fine. Never felt better.”

“Well, you look like you ran a half. Maybe you should take the afternoon off.”

Mike paused. “I think I will. Look, I have to cancel tonight. Can you tell Missy for me?”

Corcoran nodded. A telltale look came to his eyes. “Yeah, sure. I’ll tell Missy.”

“See you tomorrow.” “Yep.”

Mike hated leaving the hospital. It was not even eleven o’clock in the morning. He left quickly. He felt his stomach start to heave again, and he held it down. When he got to the parking lot, he ran to his car. He got into it right as the rain started to come down. “Damn!” he said out loud. “I feel like hell!”

He sat in his car and tried to remember. He stared at his cell phone and then dialed his mother’s number.

“Hello?” Her voice was clear. “Mom. It’s me.”

“Hi, dear! I am so glad you called.” There was a lilt to her voice. Mike leaned his head back against the headrest and tried to focus on her voice. “Are you very busy?”

“No. I mean, not right now.”

“Good. I wanted to ask you something. I know you have someone there that you are seeing. But I thought I’d let you know that one of your old playmates is flying to New York over the weekend.”

Mike stifled a groan. No, not Mom fixing me up with someone. “Is that right?” Mike replied.

“Guess!”

Mike shifted in his seat. Raindrops fell unrelentingly on his windshield. The steady rap-rap-rap of the rain and the mist created by the droplets as they hit the car shrouded it and gave him an odd feeling of being wrapped in a cocoon. “I don’t know, Mom. Who is it?” He nestled his head on the rest behind him. He loosened his tie and started to empty his pockets. Notepad, pen, and coins fell on the seat next to him.

“It’s Lauren Moore, Jonathan Moore’s eldest. Remember her?” Mike noted the lilt in her voice became more pronounced. “Jonathan helped us with your father’s final affairs, remember? He’s at Moore, Cassian, and Cratchett.”

“I don’t remember Lauren,” he said shortly.

“She’s going to be in Manhattan visiting. I told her you were going to be in New York on Saturday. You told me you were going to New York on Saturday, didn’t you?” Her voice became strident. “Now I gave her your phone number.”

“Oh. She’s going to call me?”

“I don’t think you will mind. Girls used to call you all the time, remember? Mike, you are almost forty years old. It’s time you settle down and give me some grandkids!”

“I’m not. I am only thirty-three.” He sighed. What stupidity is this? he asked himself. “I might be busy on Saturday. I was going to the Jets game. It’s all been arranged. Tell Lauren to find someone else to call.”

“Well, Lauren told me she’s going to the Jets game too!” she said triumphantly. “She said she was going with friends. She’ll text you there.” “I’m really not—” He tried to evade saying it. He didn’t want to see

Lauren.

“Fine, Mike. Look, I need to call Father Ted for the retreat I’m going to this weekend. We have a lot to do before that happens! I’m in charge of the food committee,” she cheerfully said goodbye.

CHAPTER THREE

Text BoxHE APARTMENT BUILDING WHERE Mike lived was dark when he got home. He pulled in to his car park and got out gingerly. He felt as though the trip to Liffey’s bar on the way

home helped some. He felt his cell phone buzz in his pocket as he walked into his apartment. He closed the door behind him and put the chain on. It was odd that he heard the clock tick on the wall by the door. He hadn’t noticed it tick loudly like that before. He stared at the phone. The call came from Missy. He tossed his cell phone aside.

His stride lengthened as he crossed the living room. His answering machine blinked. He flipped through the caller IDs. The hospital called. Fear flickered through him. He clenched his teeth and hit the play button. It was Corcoran. There was a hum of voices in the background as though he was calling in from a crowded room. “Hey, Mike, everybody’s looking for you here. Missy’s gone home in tears. What’s up? I told everybody you were sick. Guess that cafeteria breakfast had finally hit home with you, huh? Well, call me tonight. I’ll be home. You need to call tomorrow to let them know if you’re still under the weather.” There was a pause. “Hey, I heard Dr. Levy died last night. Did you know him? I never

met him. OK, see you around.”

The silence of the apartment was unnerving. Quickly Mike turned around and found the TV remote. The news was on.

“Dr James Levy was found dead last night of a fatal stab wound in the parking lot behind the Yale Gymnasium. He was on staff at Yale New Haven Hospital in the Neurology Department. Police do not have any statement at this time other than they wish to speak to anyone who might know the circumstances surrounding Dr. Levy’s death.”

Mike switched the channels until he found a movie. He walked to the kitchen and leaned against the counter. A wave of fear came over him. He needed another drink. He found beer in the fridge and guzzled it down. The telephone rang. He ignored it.

Missy’s voice came on. “Mike? Mike! Are you home? I heard you were sick. I really would have appreciated it if you told me yourself. Do you need me to come over? Mike, pick up the phone.” After a brief pause, she hung up.

Mike found it hard to think anymore. Somehow the urge to call someone came over him. He decided to call his mother. He ran back into the living room and retrieved his cell phone. Her assuring voice came on after the first ring.

“Hello, Mom.”

“Hello, Mike. I’m surprised you’re calling. How are you?”

“I’m OK.” He sat down finally on the couch. “I need to talk to a lawyer.”

“Mike, a lawyer? What about? Is there anything the matter?”

“It’s nothing important. But I figured it might be a good time to talk to one. Something I wanted to ask about wills and trusts. Stuff like that.”

“Oh, well, I could give you Jonathan Moore’s telephone number.” “Yes, do that. Let me find a pen and paper.” He reached for a pad paper

and a pen from the side table. “Ready?”

“Yes.”

She gave the number. “Listen, Mike, about Lauren. She’s really a very nice girl. She and you seemed to like each other back in high school.”

“High school?” He closed his eyes. A vague memory stirred. “I don’t remember Lauren,” he said shortly, turning a blind eye at a distant memory of a tall dark-haired girl who had just slapped his face after making a pass at her at the senior prom.

“What does she look like?” he inquired despite his protestations. “She’s tall, like her dad. Dark-brown hair. She has a very sweet face.

You thought she was nice. But you didn’t ask her out much.”

He shook his head. “Well, I don’t know. I asked a lot of girls out.” “Mike, you don’t sound too good. Are you well?”

“Mom, do you have Lauren’s cell number?”

“Oh, Mike! Yes!” His mother paused. “Here it is.” He wrote the number down.

“What does Lauren do these days?”

“Don’t you remember? She’s a lawyer, like her dad.”

The words sank into his consciousness and carried his heart with it. “Listen, Mom, I might be coming home soon. I think I miss your cooking. Food at the hospital is crap.”

Her laugh was reassuring. “Well, I’d like to see you again. Can they spare you?”

“They?”

“The hospital, dear.”

“I think so. I’m due a few days of vacation. I’d like to go fishing.” “Fishing? Honey, it’s January.”

“Well, I might go ice fishing.”

“Mike, you know you don’t need a reason to come home. I’d love to see you. We would love to see you.”

“Me too.” He felt a dryness in his throat and started to cough. He tried to speak again, but the coughing kept him from speaking.

“Mike, are you all right?”

“Sure, Mom. Just a dry throat.” He croaked aloud. “I’ll call you when I land at the airport. I might come home Sunday.”

“OK, I’ll make sure your room is clean and tidy.” “Why wouldn’t it be?” he asked unreasonably.

“Oh, you’ve been gone for some months. I’m not as young anymore, so I can’t clean every room in the house.” She chuckled.

“Yeah, I see.” He managed to laugh. “Hey, Mom, I’ll clean my room.

I’ll even help you clean the house.”

“No, Mike. You let me be your mom.” “OK.”

The nightclub Kahuna was a popular spot in New Haven. All the up-and-coming glitterati went there to have fun, to be seen, and to escape the dull and grimy city that New Haven had been. The place was full

of people dressed up in the most outrageously expensive clothes, barely clothed women, men with skintight pants to ape the GQ generation, and those who were looking to make a new friend or hook up with an eligible bachelorette.

In the middle of the club, a young woman was in a dark-blue gown, a tall man talking to her earnestly. “I hate that!” she burst out. “He said he wanted to see me in this gown tonight! You heard us, didn’t you, Cor?”

“Missy, he said he wasn’t feeling well and told me to tell you. I’m real sorry about that.”

“Oh, was he sick?” Her eyes looked at his face. “You should have told me sooner. I need to call him.” She rushed past him toward the women’s powder room.

“She’s pretty upset,” Rebecca said at his elbow. She smiled at him shyly. “What’s the matter?”

Corcoran brushed his hand against his jaw. “Er . . . well, Oates went home sick today and told me he wasn’t able to come tonight.”

“Mike Oates? Sick?” Rebecca echoed. “Well, so he told you to tell Missy he can’t make it? What a guy.”

“Well, he really looked like death warmed over.”

She took his arm and led him to their table. “Don’t worry about it. Let’s have fun tonight.” Rebecca took a glance at the powder room. “She’s pretty silly. Oates and women are bad news, I think. He needs some help.”

Corcoran chuckled. “Maybe some social-worker skills can set him straight.”

Rebecca looked thoughtfully at him. “If he were my client, I’d tell him he needs to have some lessons in social manners. And maybe have some respect for women.”

Corcoran smiled to himself. “What about ordering some oysters?” “Good idea!”

CHAPTER FOUR

Text BoxIKE TOOK OUT HIS cell phone and dialed Lauren Moore’s number. He sipped his beer while the phone rang. Finally, the call was switched to her voice mail. “Hello, you’ve reached the

voice mail of Lauren Moore. I’m unable to answer at the moment. Please leave a message, and I will get back to you.” Her voice was pleasant, and he remembered it from ages ago. He hung up and sat back in his couch. He closed his eyes. In his mind’s eye, an image of a young woman in blue floated in front of him. She was tall, slim, and a little on the athletic side. He remembered once when he saw her playing volleyball at school. She wore her dark hair piled up on top of her head in a messy knot. She looked pretty—dark-gray eyes, long lashes, full lips that turned up slight at the corners, a pert nose. Long, slender legs.

He dialed her number again. When her voice mail came on, he left a short message. “Hello, Lauren, this is Mike Oates. Had a call from my mother about you and I meeting up at the Jets game. I’ll leave it to you to let me know if this is still OK with you.”

He pulled his tie off and got up wearily. He walked into his bedroom, leaving the lights on in the living room. He stripped off his clothes and walked into the bathroom where he ran a bath.

Once his body slid into the hot water, Mike grunted wearily. He let his mind drift and settle into the memories he had of Lauren. They weren’t close friends at all. He thought of the last time they met. Maybe six or seven years ago. He saw her coming out of church. She was alone. That was the day of his father’s funeral. The service was over; everyone else had gone after paying their last respects. It was a long day. Mike sat in his car

that was parked outside the church entrance. He waited for his mother to come out.

Lauren walked up to the car and peered down at him. “Mike, I hadn’t had a chance to talk to you,” she said in a low voice.

“Hello, Lauren. Good of you to come.” He was twenty-seven years old then. He was finished with his internship. A letter of acceptance from Dr. Leo Bartholomew, chief of surgery at Yale New Haven Hospital, nestled in his pocket.

“I wanted to say how very sorry I am about your dad.” She looked nice in her dark-navy pantsuit. She had a pink chiffon scarf around her slim neck. Her face was pale and looked tired. She looked sadly at him.

“Thanks,” he replied, unable to say more.

“If you need anything at all, call me.” She handed him her business card. It read:

Lauren Moore, Esq. Attorney at Law, Moore, Cassian and Cratchett Mike took her card and put it into his pocket. “Thanks, Lauren.”

He remembered then that he didn’t think he would be needing her services as a lawyer. He was so wrong; he thought as his mouth twisted into a smile.

She seemed to hesitate. “Are you leaving for New Haven?” “Yes, I’ve got my bags packed in the trunk. I leave in an hour.”

“Oh, I see.” Her face relaxed into a smile. “Good luck then. You must be excited.”

Mike paused. “Not really,” he replied. “I’ve been looking forward to it for so long that now it isn’t that much of a big deal.”

“I know, that happens.” She smiled. Her face lit up. He remembered that moment when suddenly her pale and drawn face shone like a beacon. Mike stirred restlessly in the water. He wasn’t sure why remembering her face that way disturbed him. If only, he thought.

His thoughts drifted back to that moment. Mike’s mother came out from the church. Olivia Oates was in the middle of a conversation with the pastor, Father Oscar, a rotund man who was trying to keep his stole from flying off his neck.

“Oh, there’s Mike waiting for me.” She was beautiful in black. Her blonde hair was like a halo around her regal head. She was in her midfifties

and slim like Mike. Her face was almost ethereal in her beauty. “Thank you for everything, Father Oscar.”

“Not a problem, my friend Olivia. I hope things will get better with time. If you ever need to talk, I am always at your service!”

Mike got out of the car and went around to open the passenger door.

Father Oscar looked at Mike thoughtfully. “So you are off to your next job, Mike?”

“Yes, Father Oscar. I am. I’ve got my bags all in the trunk.” Father Oscar squinted up at him. “And you are ready for it?” Mike tried kept a straight face. “I am.”

Father Oscar offered his hands to wish him well. “Good luck, Mike.” They were close in age, but Father Oscar had years of wisdom ahead of Mike. Mike withstood the hard stare the minister gave him.

Mike ignored it and turned to his mother. “Are you about ready to leave, Mom?”

“Yes, Mike,” she replied. Turning to Father Oscar, she murmured, “Thanks, Father. For everything.”

They all said their goodbyes. Mike slipped into the car beside his mother. “All set, Mom?”

Mike’s mother looked at him with an empty stare. “Yes. I suppose so.” She took a tissue from her small purse and held it to her lips as she stifled a sob.

“I can stay for another day, Mom, if you want me to.” Mike steered the car out of the driveway and waited for her reply.

“No, I will be fine. You need to go and make a new life for yourself.” She dabbed at her eyes and stared ahead at the road. “Just try not to get in people’s way, OK?”

Mike bit back a bitter reply and then said smoothly, “I’m going to be the soul of propriety.”

“Thanks, Father Oscar. For everything,” Mike echoed his mother’s words. He turned to attend to his mother who slipped into the passenger’s seat.

Mike dozed in the tub for a half hour. His memory of his father floated to the surface of his mind. George Oates was a tall, husky man with a year-round tan due to the endless golf games he held with his friends and

business partners. George Oates was famous for his deals over a round of golf. Some of his friends felt sorry they ever agreed to a golf outing with him because they always got the short end of the stick when he proposed a deal with them. Oates, they thought, was a devil with deals. And he was never to be crossed, as his son found out early in his life. They fought and argued over everything, and George dangled something juicy at Mike that was so tempting that Mike decided to let his father run his life every time. His deepest wishes were never heeded as he went through school.

Mike remembered the heated conversation they had when he was trying to figure out which medical school to go to.

“You are headed for Harvard, my boy,” Oates Senior said to him with the tone of voice that didn’t accept no for an answer.

“Dad, that’s way too much for me to go through. I just want to get the MD and leave and do my own practice. Why Harvard?” Mike asked. “No more arguments. I’ve made the necessary deals and contributions

to the Harvard Med School, and they are loving the idea of you being one of their graduates. Why Harvard, you ask?” Oates laughed without humor. “Because it’s the Everest of all places, Michael. You know that. It’s done now. You start in three weeks. Get yourself enough clothes to wear there—the ones that say you are a rich boy. That will make them all stand up straight!”

Mike awoke when his cell phone buzzed on the short table next to his bathtub. He raised a dripping hand out of the water to retrieve his phone. “Hello,” he said in a low expressionless voice.

“Mike? This is Lauren Moore.”

He recognized the voice before she identified herself. “Hi, Lauren.” “I got your message,” she said. She sounded as though she was out of

breath. “Listen, about the Jets game, my friends are going, but I’ve got to head back home on Sunday to prep for a case Monday, so I need to do some packing.”

“Oh, I see.” He frowned. “So you’re calling to cancel?”

“But if you want to, we can meet for a quick bite,” she spoke at the same time and didn’t hear his comment. “Is that OK?”

“S-sure.” His pulse quickened. “Do you know where Pellegrino’s is?” “I’ll find it. What time?”

“I can take the train down and be there around eleven thirty.” “Fine. I’ll see you at Pellegrino’s.”

“I’m going home on Sunday too,” he said quickly, fearing that she might end the call.

“Oh, really? What a coincidence. Well, I need to hang up. I just got done with my workout, and I need to wash up.”

A slight smile touched his lips. “What a coincidence,” he echoed. “Oh, you too?” She laughed. Her laugh was infectious. He tried to

think of something else to say, but then she said, “OK, see you tomorrow!” He put his cell phone down and stared at the wall before him. Slowly

Mike eased his body down until half of his face was underwater.

CHAPTER FIVE

Text BoxHE LONG ISLAND RAIL Road train to Manhattan left New Haven station at 9:05 a.m. on Saturday morning. It was a cold morning, gray and wet. Mike decided to forgo the umbrella. He

wore an anorak over his wool sweater and the gray slacks that he favored over all his pants. There were a few cops in the train station, but none of them appeared to be interested in him. Mike kept a low profile. He took out the newspaper and studied it carefully while waiting to board the train.

The hum of the passengers that day seemed to reassure him. He hated the feeling that gripped his chest earlier that morning. None of the warm feelings he had from last night’s conversations with his mother and Lauren were present today.

Mike tried to distract his thoughts by studying the fleeting scenes outside the window as the train made its painstaking way to Manhattan. He stared at the gray buildings, the ramshackle houses that lined the train tracks. He imagined that he was one of the inhabitants of these houses. There but for the grace of God, he thought. Then he began to think of God. He cringed at the thought. It seemed hopeless to him. He felt like he was now walking on unholy ground. One false step, he thought.

Mike awoke with a start. He thought he heard the conductor announce the next station. He looked around and saw a young woman, a teenager, staring into space behind him. “What did he say?” Mike asked her.

She looked at him consideringly. “He said next stop was Grand Central Station.” Then she went back to staring into space.

“Thanks.” He pulled himself upright and stashed his newspaper aside. Mike made it up to the street level of Manhattan with a sigh. It was a busy day in Little Italy today. The babel of tourist voices, the multicolored costumes of the street performers, and the blare of horns that erupted periodically as cabs and cars and buses competed to make it through the intersections of Manhattan all met him and gave his system a slight shock. The energy he felt was incredible as he walked through the streets of the city.

He arrived at Pellegrino’s at 11:18 a.m. The lunch crowd had not yet filled the place. He walked in and made his way into the interior of the Italian restaurant. The maître d’ glanced up and smiled at him in recognition. “Hello, Dr. Oates. Very good to see you today.”

“Hello, Dan, how are you?” Mike took his outstretched hand. “I need a table for two.”

“Please follow me,” Dan said with alacrity as he took two menus with him and headed into the main room.

Mike felt gratified when he was shown to a corner table, farther into the interior of the restaurant. “Thanks,” he said as he took his seat.

“You are most welcome.” Dan bowed. “Carlo will wait on you.”

Carlo, the waiter, came to the table with a smile on his face. “Can I get you anything while you wait for your friend?”

“No, we’ll order at the same time,” Mike replied. The waiter nodded and disappeared.

The minutes passed by. Mike observed the other customers with a passing interest. He tried not to think beyond this part of the day. He knew he had to get back to New Haven later that day, pack his bag, and endure one more night in his apartment.

Just when he thought he had been stood up, Lauren came through the doors. Her face was flushed as though she had been running. Her hair was slightly tousled from the rain. Dan, the maitre d’, bowed slightly toward her as she approached him. With a flourish, Dan showed her to their table.

Lauren sat down without a thought. “Hi.” “Hi.”

They smiled at each other. “I thought you’d stood me up,” he said lightly.

“No, I didn’t realize how much time it took to get here, even with a cab.” Her face was pale; her lips looked red as though they were bitten.

He observed her shiny long dark hair that flowed over her shoulders. He decided he liked the effect.

Lauren removed her jacket and hung it over her chair. She wore a red sweater, dark-blue jeans, and desert boots. She didn’t wear any jewelry, except for a pair of small silver hoop earrings. Her purse was a small black wristlet.

Their waiter returned to take their order.

“What are you in New York for aside from the Jets game?” Mike asked. “There’s a convention that I attended.”

“Which one?”

“The Trial Lawyers Convention.”

He was in the middle of putting his napkin over his knee. He glanced at her. “I didn’t know you were a trial lawyer.”

She smiled. “What type of lawyer did you think I was?” “I don’t know. Patent law. Something like that.”

“No, I didn’t like chemistry.” She laughed. “Not like you, Mike.” “Do you always get your clients off?”

She smiled. “Not always.”

“Really?” He leaned back to observe her, a serious look on his face. “Sometimes, my clients deserve to serve time. I just try to make their

jail time shorter.” Lauren nodded at him slightly. “It’s your turn. Do you always save your patients?”

“Always,” he replied smoothly. “At least, on the operating table.”

He regaled her with what he thought were amusing stories about being a medical resident. He liked to watch her face change expressions as he spoke.

Their meals arrived, and both fell silent as they tasted their food. Lauren played with her linguine with her fork. Mike looked up and saw the expression in her face. “Penny for your thoughts.”

She looked up. “Oh, I was just thinking of your mom.” “My mom?”

“Yes. She called me two days ago, and we got to talking. I hadn’t heard from her much.” The look she gave him was gentle. “Your mom worries about you, Mike.”

“What do you mean by that?” he exclaimed, mystified.

“She wants us to date. She told me she thinks we should suit each other,” she said with a laugh.

“So she told me the other day.” Mike smiled ironically.

Lauren added hastily, “Not that it is a bad idea. But honestly, Mike, you must have a girlfriend back in New Haven?”

He paused before saying, “I have a few girlfriends.”

Lauren’s eyes widened. “Oh my.” Her voice faltered, and then she recovered, saying, “OK, so I should have known that.”

“And you must have a special someone,” he said tonelessly.

Lauren blushed. “No, I don’t. Not . . . not really,” she stammered. “Oh, come on.” He narrowed his eyes at her. “You? No special guy

waiting at home?”

“No,” she said with an apologetic expression on her face. “OK.”

“OK?” she echoed, her fine eyebrows lifted.

“Well, whatever Mom wants, I’m sure neither of us would be willing to accommodate her wishes.”

She sipped her wine for a moment.

They both said together, “Look, this is stupid—” They stopped short and then laughed at the same time.

“Mike, I recommend we have an enjoyable lunch, and I’ll call your mom and say it won’t work.”

He didn’t reply immediately. When he spoke, he asked, “What time does your flight leave for Columbus?”

She hid her surprise at the change in topic. “Eight in the morning.” “I’d like to see you in Columbus. I’m driving there tonight.” At that

very moment, without knowing why, Mike made the decision to leave that night.

“How long will you be staying there?” “Not sure yet,” he replied truthfully.

“What, they’ll let you go on vacation indefinitely?”

“I’m thinking surgery isn’t what I thought it would be.” Mike’s voice was devoid of emotion.

“What will you do?” Skepticism laced her voice. He raised his glass to his lips. “I don’t know.”

“I’m sorry about that, Mike. You always wanted to become a doctor.” She looked at him with sympathy in her eyes.

“Let’s not discuss it.” Mike’s voice sounded rough. “Maybe it’s not the doctor part. Maybe it’s the place. I’ve come to hate that hospital.”

“Then by all means, let’s continue the conversation in Columbus.” She lifted her glass in a subtle toast as her eyes held his with a hint of a promise. They left Pellegrino’s an hour and a half later. As they walked away, Mike glanced back and saw a dark-coated figure emerge from Pellegrino’s. His face was slightly hidden under a fedora. Mike saw him touch his forefinger to his nose. A questioning look touched Mike’s eyes as he

nodded in response.

He looked down the street at the oncoming traffic, and a cab materialized in front of them. Once they were seated inside the cab, Mike turned slightly toward Lauren who gave the cabdriver directions to her hotel.

They were silent as their cab made its way to her hotel, zigzagging and cutting in front of motorists. A cacophony of horns erupted as he changed lanes without signaling. Neither Mike nor Lauren seemed to notice.

Lauren’s arm brushed against his in the companionable silence. He took the opportunity to observe her as she watched the passing scenery. “Do you like New York City?”

“Yes.” She smiled at him, her eyes sparkling. “Don’t you?” “Not really. It’s crowded, polluted, and the people are loud.”

Lauren looked surprised. “Oh!” She nodded in comprehension. “You were never a loud person. I remember.”

He felt pleased at her remark. “You remember.” “Yes.” She blushed and turned her face from him.

They arrived without incident, except that the cabbie braked suddenly, causing them to lurch forward. Mike’s arm shot out and prevented Lauren from hitting the front seat. She gasped and then instinctively relaxed beside him. Mike looked furiously at the cabdriver but forbore to keep his mouth shut. “You OK?” He gazed down at her upturned face.

“Sorry!” The cabbie shrugged.

“Let’s get out of here,” Mike said and opened the door. She stood next to him, looking at him with renewed interest as he paid the cabbie.

“You could have taken the cab back to Grand Central Station,” she said thoughtfully.

He watched the cab leave. “No, I don’t want to be a casualty just when I’ve decided to go home.” He smiled. “I’ll just walk from here.”

“Thanks for lunch, Mike. It was delicious.”

“My pleasure.” He gave her a small salute and turned toward the street. Without looking back, he knew that she was watching him as he walked away from her.

He was almost to the end of the far corner when he decided to retrace his steps. He didn’t see Lauren anywhere in the hotel, except when he caught a glimpse of her long hair swinging slightly as she walked toward the elevators. Mike followed her as she went inside one of them and kept himself behind the crowd. He watched her as they traveled up the floors. She stepped out at her floor. He waited a half second and then stepped out after her.

Lauren entered her hotel room and tossed her small wristlet aside, removing her jacket. She heard a tap on the door and asked, “Who is it?”

“Me.”

She opened the door. Mike was standing, looking at her enigmatically. “Did . . . Did you need something?”

“Yes.” He walked in and closed the door. In one smooth movement, he pulled her into his arms and kissed her mouth hungrily. She tried to pull away, but it was too late for her. She responded before she knew it. His hand slipped under her shirt and undid her bra. His other hand slid between her bra and her breast, and she gasped against his mouth. She tried to move against him in shock. But the touch of his hand on her skin, her nipple, the way his tongue moved against hers took her mind off the reality of this wild move of his.

“Hush,” he said against her mouth. “No, it’s not a good idea.”

“No, but it feels good, doesn’t it?” he said softly.

She softened against him, and this was her undoing. They staggered against the bed, and soon, he was undressing her, keeping her pinned down under him. Lauren was a captive in his magical and sensual attack. Soon they were moving against each other. She felt him between her thighs, and it was over before too long.

They made love many more times before midnight came. Lauren finally sat up and gasped. “I’m not going to make it to my flight in two hours.”

“I’m not going to apologize,” he said beside her.

She tried to put her clothes on and was so unsuccessful that she gave up. Lauren felt his hand on her shoulder, and then it was as though she was again out of her control.

At five o’clock, the alarm came on at the same time her cell phone rang.

Lauren staggered out of bed and found her cell phone.

“Hello.” She made a face when she heard whose voice it was. “Hello, Dad. Yes, I won’t be coming home as soon as I thought.” She paused. “I . . . uh . . . I had an unexpected complication. No, nothing to worry about. I’ll find my way back to Columbus. I have all the information for the meeting tomorrow.”

She hung up and sat down, looking distracted. Mike got out of bed and slipped on his pants. “Your dad?”

“Yes.”

“I think you are the most exciting woman I’ve made love to.”

She glanced at him as she stood up and put her clothes back on. “Am I supposed to take that as a compliment?”

Mike uttered a silent oath and closed his eyes in regret. “I meant,” he said slowly, “that you and I need to see each other more. I want you.”

“Well, I don’t know about that. You and I have not seen each other in years. Years! What on earth possessed you to attack me?”

“I did not attack you. And you didn’t resist, did you?”

“You forced me into it,” she insisted, this time, looking more like she was going to cry.

He saw her eyes glimmer with tears and went to her, holding her close. “My God, I didn’t want you to cry. Lauren, I don’t know why I did it, but I wasn’t going to let you go without making you . . . making love to you.”

Lauren pushed him away. “Oh, Mike! Just go back to New Haven. I need to pack, fly back home, and get on with my life.”

“I’m going to go, but you need to promise me something.”

“What is that?” she retorted.

“I want to see you in Columbus.” “Why?”

“Don’t you remember last night?”

“I mean, why do you want to see me there? Like an appointment?” “A date.” He smiled. “A second date. This time, I will behave.”

She looked doubtfully at him. Her cell phone rang again. He took it away from her hand.

“Give that back!” She reached out for it. “Not until you’ve said yes.”

Lauren reached for her cell phone, saying, “OK, OK. I can see you.

How about Wednesday next week?” “How about tomorrow night?”

“Tomorrow? You said you would be driving—” She shook her head as if to focus. “OK, just give me the phone.”

He gave it to her and smiled down at her with a triumphant light in his eye. Lauren moved away, and he touched her elbow. She paused and let him pull her to him. “You and I are good together,” he said.

“Yeah, like I haven’t heard that before.” “You know we are, Lauren.”

Her cell phone rang once again. He stepped away and gave her a salute. She said nothing to him and turned to talk on her phone. When she glanced back at him, he had disappeared.

CHAPTER SIX

THERE WAS A CACOPHONY of phones ringing in the main detective office branch of the New Haven Police Department that Monday morning. Nobody seemed to be answering the

telephones that day until a man wearing a brown leather jacket and dark slacks came out of the corner office and bellowed, “Hell, does this always have to happen on a Monday morning? Answer the goddamn phone, will somebody!” He glared at the inhabitants of the main room before heading back into his office.

Almost immediately, the ringing sounds stopped. A unison of male voices spoke, “NHPD, can I help you?”

One of the men looked around and motioned to a tall young detective who was flipping through his notepad. “Yes, I see. Why don’t I send over Detective Ridley and he can get the information from you directly, all right?” The man hung up and leaned back in his chair. An unlit cigar hung from the corner of his mouth. “Ripley, there’s a lady that called, saying she thinks she saw someone at the Yale Gym when Levy was murdered. Here’s the address. Name of Susanna Bacon.” He tossed the paper with the address to Detective Ridley. “I doubt it will get us anything, but she sounded kosher.”

“All right, sir.” Detective Ripley put the paper in his coat pocket and headed out the door.

The man in the leather jacket came out of his office. “Hey, Bill. I want to talk to you.”

The man who gave Detective Ridley Susanna Bacon’s address gave a sigh and got up. He straightened his broad shoulders and walked into the office.

“Morning, sir,” Detective Bill Gaddis said in a mumble.

“Bill, I need to know what you know about that Levy stabbing. Some folks at the Yale New Haven Hospital are calling for results.” Inspector Ingraham looked up at him from his seated position.

“Just talked to a possible witness, name of Susanna Bacon. She thinks she might know about the circumstances of the stabbing.”

“That’s a good start,” his boss commented. “Anything else? This stabbing was on Monday night. That’s a week ago. I hope this case doesn’t go cold.”

“Well, we’re in the painstaking process of questioning anyone who was at the Yale Gym that night. Problem with that is, Monday nights are busy at the gym. Everyone who’s had a big weekend heads there to work out on Mondays.”

Ingraham turned his swivel chair to look out of his seventh-story window that overlooked the spires of Yale University. “If you need more uniforms to go out and talk to people, you have the authority.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

“That will be all. Report to me any news from that Susanna woman, OK?”

Jonathan Moore, Esquire, sat with his hands on either side of his long head, staring at the paper on his desk. His long, slender lips moved as his blue eyes moved slowly down the page. “Damn.” He took the paper between his forefinger and thumb and gingerly set it on the side of his well-appointed desk.

The door opened without ceremony as his daughter entered. “Hello, dear Dad.” She walked up to his desk, stepped close to his chair, and kissed his balding forehead. “How are you this morning?”

“Oh fine, fine,” Jonathan replied. He smiled up at her lovely face. “How are you today?”

“Good! My day looks pretty full, but I’m ready!”

“Oh, that’s good to hear. Hey, how was the convention?”

“Not bad. Only I really didn’t learn too much from the talks. Just a lot of lawyers connecting with each other.”

“So what else did you do?”

She sat on the other side of his desk and tossed her silky long hair. “I had lunch with an old friend. You know him. Mike Oates.”

Jonathan crinkled his brow in thought. “Mike Oates. Oates. Oh, is that Olivia Oates’s son that went off to med school?”

“Yes, he’s the only child. Father passed away around six or seven years ago. Mike’s at Yale New Haven now.”

“How is he? Has he got anything to show for his years in medical school? I remember his dad, George, had a few comments about him.”

Lauren looked steadily at her father. “Actually, he told me he hated the hospital. He thinks he might quit surgery.”

“Oh?” Jonathan replied. “That’s unfortunate. George tried to pull a few strings to get Mike into Harvard.”

“Mike’s back in Columbus now, on vacation.”

“Well, I’d steer clear of that fellow if I were you, my dear.” Her father glanced at her and saw a slight flush to her cheeks. “He’s a ladies’ man, I know, just like his father was. I’m sorry to say Olivia’s better off now that George is gone. He did leave her a rich widow, and Mike’s likely well- heeled as a result of the inheritance.”

“Dad, I will be sure to be careful around Mike Oates.”

Lauren woke up with a start. She looked around and realized she had fallen asleep in her office. She didn’t realize that the short nap she took stretched into the dark hours of the afternoon. She raised herself on one elbow as she turned her slim figure on the leather couch to check the time. It was not quite five o’clock in the afternoon. Her cell phone buzzed next to her. It was a text message from Mike Oates.

“Are you free tonight for dinner?”

She bit her lip as she stared at it. Lauren held her cell phone firmly, and she punched the response. “Yes.”

Her cell phone rang. It was Mike on the other line. “Great. How are you.” It was not a question. She smiled.

“I’m fine. Where do you want me?”

“At the Crescent. I have reservations made for us at the club.” “Oh, so you want me to get all dressed up.” She smiled.

“We can have dinner sent up if you want.” “Oh, is that where you’re staying? I thought—”
“I’m using my father’s suite. I’ll wait for you at the lobby.”

Her heart started beating faster. “Fine. What time do you want me to come?”

“Seven. Sound OK to you?” “I’ll be there.”

She hung up and felt dizzy. His voice was deeper than she remembered, and the effect on her was palpable. Her gut seemed to dip when he spoke, as if he had physically touched her. Lauren staggered on to her feet. She left her office and saw that Laina Woods, the receptionist she and her father shared, had gone for the day. Lauren glanced at her father’s office door and saw that the light was still on inside. Quietly she walked to the door and pulled it open, shutting it after her. When she was in the hall, Lauren walked fast to the elevator. She turned slightly as she passed a large mirror and glanced at herself. Her normally pallid face looked flushed.

Lauren marched into the lobby of the Crescent Hotel, her slender figure was sheathed in a shimmery black sheath, her feet encased in spike- heel gold sandals. She stared at her reflection earlier in her home after she applied nude lipstick on her mouth. “He’s not a great candidate.” The words escaped her lips. She shook her head and headed out to the car, feeling almost giddy.

Mike stepped into the light as she entered. He was dressed in a dark suit, which accentuated his fair-haired good looks. There was a hint of a smile in his eyes as he looked appreciatively at her. “You look enchanting.”

“Thank you.”

He led her to the elevator and pushed the penthouse suite button. The elevator was private, and a glass facade allowed them to see the glittering night cityscape as they were slowly whisked upward. The elevator hummed in synchrony with Lauren’s heart. Mike stood slightly behind her, taking in her beautiful backside.

“Long day at work?” His voice made her jump slightly.

“Not really. I thought it would be, but the court case I was prepping for was postponed.”

“Good for you.”

She looked at him and smiled. His eyes held hers, and she found herself blushing. “How was the drive back home?”

“Boring.”

“How’s your mom?”

“She’s fine. She said I have to bring you one evening for dinner. Would you like that?”

The doors to the penthouse slid apart.

“I’d love that. She’s a wonderful lady, your mom.” She entered the penthouse.

She stood at the threshold and took in the elegant and masculine interior. The lights were subdued, but Lauren found herself liking the effect. “This is a lovely place, Mike.”

“Thanks.” He chuckled. “I haven’t been here since my father died. But since I’m still paying for it, I thought I’d use it while I was here, much to Mom’s dismay.”

He led her to the bar and poured her a drink. “I think you might like this. It’s something that Mom sent over.”

She took the glass of sparkling white wine and sipped it. “Very nice.

Yes, I like it.”

They stood a little apart, and she turned and went to the wide windows that overlooked the city. “It’s a beautiful view.”

“Yes.” He walked to her side. “Seems like there are new buildings here.”

She nodded. “Yes, there are.” She pointed to a few buildings. Lauren called each by their name.

The elevator doors slid open and a waiter pushing a trolley entered. “Ah, that’s our dinner,” Mike announced. “Thanks, we can serve

ourselves.” He dismissed the waiter but not before giving him a few crisp bills. The waiter smiled cheerfully at them both before leaving.

Mike surveyed the contents of the trolley. He lifted one of the silver covers and smiled in satisfaction.

She peered around his shoulder. “Mike, that looks divine,” she remarked. Both of them stared at the boiled twin red lobsters nestled in the silver-edged platter.

“I know you like lobster,” he said with a self-satisfied tone in his voice. “Remember when we went to the beach after the high school homecoming game our senior year?”

“Yes. Your dad threw a lobster feast.” She reminisced fondly. “Those were good days.”

“You know, that was probably the last time we were together as teenagers.”

“I guess so,” Lauren agreed.

They both sat at the table and fell silent, surveying the sumptuous meal before them. Mike raised his glass. “To good memories.”

She met his gaze over the rim of her glass. “To good memories.” “Let’s make new ones, shall we?” He sounded serious.

She set her glass down. “Look, Mike, about this weekend. I’m afraid we—”

“No, I won’t take this as a no from you. You and I will be a good team.” “Team? Are you looking to win some game?”

“No.” He looked annoyed. “I meant, we have great sex, and I think it’s a good start to a relationship.”

She laughed. “No, Mike. Sex shouldn’t be the start of anything. It must be something more real, something that has depth.”

“OK, so we started with sex—can’t we work around it? What do you want?”

She paused, unable to say anything.

“Well, what do you want, Lauren?” he repeated softly.

“I-I don’t know. From you, I don’t know.” Lauren looked lost. “I wish we didn’t have sex right off the bat.”

“Oh my lord.” He groaned. “I’m sorry we had sex first, Lauren. I am.

But now we have that, can’t we just move forward?”

Lauren looked at his face. She held his gaze, and then she looked away. He stood up and paced the room. Mike felt as though he just walked himself into something he didn’t know how to solve or get close to. He threw up his hands and said finally, “OK, then we need to talk about

something else.”

“Really? What would that be?”

“You and I need to work together no matter how you and I started out.

I want to ask you to help me with something I did.” “What did you do?”

“I killed a man.”

“Did you screw something up in the OR?”

“No. Something worse than that.” He grabbed his glass and poured himself more wine.

“Tell me about it,” Lauren said.

He was unable to talk for what seemed an eternity. He looked at her from the distance of the living room.

She asked without a flicker of her lashes. “In surgery?”

“No. I killed a man because he threatened to kick me off the program at the hospital.” He took a deep swallow of his wine and stayed standing. He didn’t want to attempt to touch her now. Something was going to change—and may already have—between them.

Lauren looked at him as if unseeingly. Mike searched her face for a clue to what she could be thinking.

“Did anyone see you?” she asked, finally.

“Not that I know of. It was kind of late at night. I didn’t see anyone when I left.”

“Does anyone else know about what happened?”

“I didn’t tell anyone.” Something in her voice gave him some hope.

She reached for her glass and sipped her wine. “Are you asking me for help?” Lauren asked coolly.

“Yes. I guess I am. I don’t have any place to go to. I don’t want to live a life running away. I don’t want to go to prison. I guess I just want to find someplace to think about things.”

Somewhere in the room, a cell phone rang. Neither of them spoke nor moved.

Mike ignored the sound of the ringing cell phone. He crossed the room and sat down next to her. She gazed at his face. “Can you help me, Lauren?”

“I’ll see what I can do,” she said gently. Her voice was almost inaudible.

Almost immediately, Mike felt relief. He drank more of his wine and then breathed in deeply.

“I’ll have to discuss this with my dad. He will know how to take care of this,” she said. “I’ll have to go home now and talk to him before he goes to bed.”

Mike’s hand covered hers. He brought it to his lips. “I’m in a hell of a mess, Lauren. I doubt my future could be bright now.”

A rueful smile touched her lips. “I told you before that I help my clients get a shorter jail time.”

“I’m afraid of going to prison,” Mike said flatly.

CHAPTER SEVEN

Text BoxONATHAN MOORE, ESQUIRE, SAT in his chair, looking dissatisfied. He was dissatisfied because he did not yet receive his afternoon coffee; his secretary was engaged in finding paperwork for

the informal discussion that was to commence. He looked at the document on his desk and saw the name at the very top. That name belonged to the man who sat in front of him.

Two other people were in the office. Adam Mattingly and Lauren Moore. Adam, silent and dark in demeanor, looked dispassionately at the scene before him. He glanced at Lauren and saw her looking at Mike Oates. Adam frowned.

“Let’s begin, shall we?” Moore started, leaning forward to make a note on the document. “Let’s dispense with the audio recording of our interview with Mike. I would like it, Lauren, if you can take notes. Adam, you know that this is a part of our interrogation of a client. I don’t want to belabor the point, but as such, Mike is our employer.”

Adam nodded slowly. “Yes, I understand.” He continued to regard Mike without much emotion.

Moore leaned back. “Yes, well, we want to keep it within the family as it were.” His tone sounded ironic. Lauren took her seat on the leather divan. She avoided looking at Mike who sat like the proverbial hostage in the middle of the room. “Ready.”

“Mike, you brought to Lauren’s attention your involvement in Dr.

James Levy’s murder,” the elder Moore started. “Is that accurate?” “Yes.”

“And if you can describe in your own words how you became involved in his murder, please do so now.”

Mike’s face was pale. Beads of perspiration appeared on his brow. “It started when I parked in his reserved space the morning of the twenty- eighth of January,” he began. His voice was steady. Unemotional. “I was late for rounds. I never want to be late for rounds.”

“Why is that?” Lauren asked.

“I wanted to impress Dr. Bartholomew.”

“Who is Dr. Bartholomew?” Adam asked sharply.

“He’s the chief of surgery.” Mike glanced at Adam, then at Lauren, and then went on. “I didn’t want to be late. The parking lot was full. I decided to park in Dr. Levy’s space and put a sign on my dashboard.”

Lauren wrote on her pad.

“So I thought nothing of it all day. When I left work and went to the gym, I didn’t think about it.”

Mike paused. Then when nobody spoke, he continued. “When I was done with my workout, I showered at the gym and got my bag and left to go to my car. That was when I saw Dr. Levy. Only I didn’t know it was him. Until he spoke, accusing me of parking in his space.” The words came out headlong as if Mike didn’t want to own any of it by speaking aloud, as if what he was saying would not be tagged to him, in his thoughts. “I tried to talk to him about it. Tried to persuade him to give me another chance.”

“And did he say he forgave you?” Jonathan glanced at his daughter. “No, he actually threatened to kick me out of the program,” Mike

replied. His hands were sweating, and he rubbed his palms against the material of his pants.

“And then what happened?”

“I hit him between the eyes. Then I felt my switchblade deploy in my hand, and I instinctively stabbed him with it.” He stopped. His eyes sought Lauren’s. She stared back at him unwinkingly.

Jonathan quickly asked, “What did you do, then?”

“I dragged the body to get it out of my way. Then I got into my car and left.”

“What did you do with the knife?” “I kept it.”

Jonathan avoided looking at his daughter when he said, “I’d be glad if you gave me the knife, Mike.”

Mike put his hand in his pocket and pulled out the knife.

“Place it on the table. Thank you.” Jonathan wrote a few more notes on the document that bore Mike’s name. “I need to go into a discussion with Lauren and Adam. Mike, I commend you for coming to us for help. Needless to say, I will be your counsel, and as your counsel, I don’t want you to leave Columbus at this time. I have a few thoughts to ponder, and it will help if you stayed here. Does Lauren have your current contact information?”

“I have it, Dad,” Lauren said.

“You do your part in letting your hospital know you’re on an extended vacation,” Jonathan directed Mike.

“Yes.”

“What I can say now, Mike, is that you won’t be totally out of the woods when all is said and done. I hope you at least see that reality?”

“Yes,” Mike replied. He felt like a noose was being fitted around his neck. “I’d like to leave now. I have to talk to my mother.”

“I won’t tell her anything about this right now, Mike,” Jonathan said quickly. “It will have to be strictly between us for the time being.”

Mike stood up and shook Jonathan’s hand. Jonathan smiled at him in a reassuring way. “Don’t worry, Mike. The worst is over for you.”

“Is that really true?” Mike remarked to himself before turning toward the door.

Lauren made a movement toward Mike, but Jonathan’s words stopped her. “Lauren and Adam, let’s have a huddle, shall we?”

As Mike closed the door after him, Jonathan lifted his intercom and barked, “Laina, can I have my tea now?”

“Yes, Mr. Moore,” Laina answered.

Jonathan leaned back and lifted his arms over his head. “Damn, Lauren, what a pickle.”

“I’m afraid it’s not a great case for us.” “What happened between you?”

Lauren’s eyes met her father’s directly. “Nothing. Well, something.” She tried not to glance at Adam who straightened up at the reply.

“Oh?” Jonathan pursed his lips. “Why don’t we discuss that later, Lauren? For now, Adam, you and I will work together and figure out how best to work on Mike’s case. Do you have any thoughts, Adam?”

“I think he needs to give himself up, Jonathan,” Adam said straightforwardly. “He’s confessed. We are the law, and as such, we have to work with the authorities.”

“Remember, Adam, that we work for Mike now. Yes, he should give himself up at a point in the future, if our efforts to find out what exactly transpired come to the same conclusion.”

“What more can we know?” Lauren asked.

“That’s where Adam comes in,” Jonathan said with a slight smile. “Adam, you have a few contacts in the East Coast that might come in handy. You could make a few inquiries?”

Adam sat back and looked at him unblinkingly. “Yes. I’ll see what I can do.”

Jonathan looked at his daughter. “As for you, Lauren, I would keep a certain distance from Mike. You used to be childhood friends. But he’s a different man now. Having said that, I think you and he can keep your friendship. Keep an eye on him. I think he’s interested in you.”

Adam’s lips were pressed together. “If that’s all, I will get to work.” He stood up abruptly.

“Yes, Adam, thanks.” Jonathan watched his straight figure head for the door. He frowned momentarily.

“Now, what happened between the two of you?”

“Mike and I—we had what you might call a night of passion.” “When? The man is a fast worker, damn it.”

“In New York. When we went out for a . . . a date.”

“What do you feel for him now, Lauren?” His voice was deceptively gentle.

“Not sure, Dad. Confused. He’s . . . he’s hard to say no to.”

“I’m tempted to get him back here and give him a tongue-lashing.” He pressed his lips together in pent-up emotion and then tossed his pen down in front of him. “I blame his father for this. George Oates was a driven man. Made his career by stepping over bodies and gave his son thatsame attitude. I knew something like this might happen someday. And that day is now.”

“But you and George Oates were good friends.”

“I have to tell you this is a dangerous journey you are on, my dear. He is not to be trusted. Despite what I told you earlier, Lauren, will you promise me you won’t have any more relations with him?”

Lauren lifted her eyes to his. “I promise.”

Jonathan looked at her and read the plea in her gaze. For a moment, he couldn’t speak. “OK, if you promise to at least keep out of each other’s business for the time being, let me decide how to get him out of this pickle. I’ll be very glad.” He sighed.

The early-morning bustle in Manhattan’s Lower East Side gave Mark Henderson a good feeling as he stared out of his thirty-second–floor office window. The lights of the coffee shop eight hundred feet below flickered on, and the morning manager was outside, flushing away the previous night’s detritus with the water hose. A few steps down from that coffee shop, the vegetable-store owner, Mr. Kim Seoung, was up and ready, the fruits round and plump in the different bins outside.

Henderson looked away from the view and noticed his right-hand man entering his office. “Morning, Sal. How’s it going?”

Salvatore “Buddy” Trivero was a husky man whose physique belied three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sal, as his boss called him, looked bland on the outside but the blandness belied a steel-trap mind and cunning reflexes. He looked at Mark Henderson’s handsome Irish Italian face and spread his hands. “It’s too soon to tell, Mark.”

“I don’t know about that.” Mark moved to his desk and pulled out two documents. “I’ve been talking to my lawyer and to our unnamed contact.”

“Ah.” Sal had an expectant tone in his reply.

“The unnamed contact came up in conversation last night. He called my home.” Mark wrinkled his brow. “Sal, could you please make sure these people never have my phone number? I get really nervous when this happens.”

“Sorry, Mark. Won’t happen again,” Sal said. “But this man is golden.

He’s good at his job.”

“Well, he didn’t do his job.” Mark’s eyes were like slits.

“Sorry?”

“He didn’t come up with the goods.” “I still don’t understand.”

Mark tossed the first document at him. “Read that and tell me if that is what we agreed on.”

The document was a copy of surgeon’s notes after surgery on a woman named Mary Keene. Sal knew about this. He also knew that the patient, Mary Keene, died eighteen hours after Dr. James Levy performed extremely risky surgery on her arteriovenous malformation. “So that is what it is. Levy died. What’s to be upset about?”

“Damn it, he died, but someone else got him before our unnamed contact did.”

Sal looked interested. “Yeah? How good is that? Some other unhappy client got to Levy first?” He sounded a crow of delight.

Henderson sighed. “Yes, Sal. Someone else did. And you won’t believe who it is.”

“Who? I know Levy was a son of a bitch. Nobody cares if he died.” His boss handed him the next document.

Sal looked through it. “This is a contract. You agreed to run a Manhattan branch of the Ohio Bank and Trust. That’s a legit company, boss.”

“Look at the signatories.”

“Your name.” Sal looked up. “And another guy’s name.” “What’s the name?”

“George Oates.”

Sal’s intellect was being tried. He shifted his position. “Boss, I know you think I’m smart. But I’m not as smart as you are. And plus, this document has been in your possession since eleven years ago. Surely you don’t think this George Oates had anything to do with Levy’s hit?”

“No, but his son has.” Mark looked sympathetically at his assistant. “He killed Levy.”

“No kidding?” Sal crowed again.

“No kidding,” Mark said ironically. “I’m owing a lot to George Oates more than I thought I would.”

“OK. So now what? His son—what about him now? Do you need me to do something about that?”

“I’m still thinking, Sal.” Henderson sat down finally and sighed. “There’s a word out that his son was here over the weekend. He had lunch with a woman at Pellegrino’s.”

“Um hm.”

“You know, Sal, I pay you to be up on the news.”

“I’ll do my best, boss. I’ll call over and talk to Danny.”

“Do that. And send one of your best to tail Oates’s son. He might be needing a little help.”

CHAPTER EIGHT

Text BoxHE CLOUDS THAT SCUDDED through the gray skies obliterated the remaining light that shone upon the path where Lauren ran through. She picked a cold and dreary day to test her

new running shoes. She also picked a wet trail where wet snow covered the road and splattered over her legs as she ran.

Lauren was grateful that her shoes kept her feet dry. She ran the last leg of her self-prescribed race and ended up finishing ahead of her usual time. A new PR, she exulted as she looked at her GPS watch and felt happy.

It was a boost to her sagging spirits to tell the truth. It was later in the week. The audience with Mike and her father still loomed large in her mind. Running like this was always helpful to sort things out. But this time, her mind whirled with questions—questions that she hesitated to ask her own father.

She heard a rumble of a snowblower close by, and she looked about to see where it was coming from. The sound came closer to her, and she espied Olivia. At her youthful age of sixty, Olivia was clad in a pair of Carhartt overalls and a denim shirt, and her perfectly done hair was covered by a woolen hat.

Lauren stepped forward and waved at Olivia who seemed not to see her. “Hey!” Lauren waved again.

Olivia steered the blower down the side of the road and turned it off. “Hey!” Olivia called out with a wave and a smile. She waited until Lauren came nearer to her.

“What brings you over here, Lauren?” She ran her gaze over Lauren’s outfit. “Oh, you were running.”

“Yes, I had a good run. How are you?”

“Fine. Fine,” Olivia replied. “Listen, my dear, would you care to have some hot tea? I’d love to chat.” She looked keenly at Lauren. “I want to know how you and Mike got along last weekend.”

“Sure, I have a few moments.” She glanced at the sky. The afternoon shadows were already forming.

Olivia saw her hesitation and waved her hand. “Don’t be shy, my dear.

I’ll drive you back if you need a ride.”

Lauren sighed and followed Olivia across the large green lawn into the sunroom where a table was set for afternoon tea.

Olivia lived in a large residence built over fifty years ago by her late husband, George. The residence was a white building with a red cobbled roof. On either side of the elongated building, an outdoor patio stood— one end was connected with a large pool that was currently covered with a tarp due to the low season. At the opposite end, the patio led into the sunroom that contained large green rhododendrons and clumps of hothouse flowers like orchids and azaleas.

Lauren and Olivia sat on large armchairs that were lined with comfortable white- and blue-covered cushions, while the maid, Elise, served strawberry shortcake and hot oolong tea. “Do you care for whipped cream, my dear?” Olivia asked.

“Yes, I would. Thanks.”

Olivia gave Lauren the feeling that she was about to be debriefed about Olivia’s son. And that was how it was. “I’m very glad you and Mike were able to connect while you were in New York. How was the Jets game?”

“We didn’t go to the Jets game.” “Oh, is that so?”

“We agreed to meet at a restaurant instead.” Lauren decided not to tell her what her reasons were to change the venue.

“How nice. Did Mike and you finally have a nice and cozy chat?” Olivia asked. “I must be frank, my dear. Mike hardly tells me anything. I worry about his outlook and how he’s doing in that place he calls work.”

“We had a good talk, yes.” She sipped her tea.

“And were you able to make plans to see each other again?”

Lauren felt a bit like being interrogated by a sharp and relentless lawyer.

“We sort of did. We saw each other on Monday. In the evening,” Lauren replied, her voice faltering.

“You and he had a date? Oh, that’s wonderful!” Olivia clasped her hands. “He’s not told me this. I haven’t really even seen him since he got back. Did he take you out dancing?”

“No. We had dinner at the penthouse.”

“Oh.” Olivia paused midbite. “Oh!” Her eyebrows lifted. “How exciting! Mike hardly uses the penthouse—not since his father died. I’m glad he’s gotten to use it lately.”

“Olivia, I think Mike is rethinking his medical career. We talked about that in New York and here.”

“I see.” The reply was thoughtful. “I think Mike had been forced to go into this career by my husband. I’ll have to talk to Mike about this too.”

“I’m sorry to have been the first to tell you.”

“No. No. That’s perfectly fine.” Olivia smiled with a glimmer of mischief. “Mike hardly talks about anything these days. He makes jokes or evades questions. Very naughty of him. But I’m glad he’s talked to you. Does he talk of other girl friends?”

“No-o. Not specifically.” Lauren shifted in her chair. “He did say he had several girlfriends, though.”

“Typical.” Olivia sighed. “That’s how he would like it as.” She lifted her glass and then paused. “I wish he would settle down. I wish it would be with someone like you, my dear. You don’t seem to mind seeing Mike.”

Olivia took her silence as agreement. “Well, if Mike is thinking he’s not into medicine and he’s here for a few more days, perhaps it might help if you and he continued seeing each other?” She looked at Lauren expectantly.

“Yes, well, I would think it might help Mike to have someone to talk to these days.”

“Good. I think maybe I’d like to plan a little party. Something where Mike’s friends can come and chat and have fun, like the old days,” Olivia announced brightly. “I’ll have to talk to Mike of course. He’s not too keen on reunions, but if some of his former close friends are willing, perhaps a nice party can help. I’ll have to contact a few of my friends as well. Maybe your father would come? And that nice young lawyer he always seems to have around when he’s talking to me. What was his name? Adam?”

“Yes, Adam Mattingly,” she replied. “I’m sure my dad would be happy to come.”

There was a noise in the hallway, and Lauren heard voices. The sound of Mike’s deep voice came to her ears. Lauren felt her heart skip a beat. “Is Mother in the sunroom, Elise?”

“Yes, Dr. Mike. She’s with Ms. Lauren.”

“Ms. Lauren?” he echoed, and by the time he had said that, he was already in the sunroom.

“Oh, hello, my dear,” Olivia said happily. “How lovely to see you! What brings you back here? Are you finally bored with that musty old penthouse?”

Mike smiled warmly at his mother and bent to give her a kiss. “I missed your home cooking, Mom. And I was beginning to dislike my own company.” He sat down next to Lauren. “Hello.”

“Hello.”

Lauren sat like a stone next to Mike while he ate a piece of the strawberry shortcake. Olivia chattered on about the party, oblivious to the difficulty Lauren was having, listening and knowing that the party wasn’t something she wanted to attend. Mike gave Lauren a slow wink and then interrupted his mother midsentence. “Mother, I’d like to rethink the party. I can’t think of being celebratory at this time.”

“Oh?” Olivia’s face became a question mark.

“Yes.” He put his plate down. “I’m seriously thinking of resigning from New Haven Hospital.”

Olivia looked stunned. “No!”

“I think I’d better get going,” Lauren said, rising.

“No, you need to stay. Please.” He caught her hand. Reluctantly Lauren sat back down.

“Mother, there’s been a big problem with my life.”

Olivia folded her hands on her lap as if to prepare herself. “What is it, Mike? Are you in trouble?”

He looked briefly at Lauren. “You might say that.”

Lauren intervened. “I think, Mike, that we agreed you need to think a little more about your decision.” She gave him a meaningful look.

“Yes. Of course,” Mike said, apprehending her warning look. He turned to his mother. “Mom, I’m thinking I might want to rethink my career. It’s not giving me any sense of fulfillment.”

There was a long pause. Olivia looked at Mike with love. “Well, my thoughts were along those lines after I talked to you the other day. You sounded depressed.” Then with clasped hands, Olivia announced, “I still think we need a party for you, dear. How does Saturday night sound? I’m holding it here. I’m inviting just a few—you should tell me which of your friends—and we won’t dwell on this too much.” She looked glowing. “You know you always have to trust in God’s providential care.”

Mike looked at Lauren helplessly. “If that’s what you want, Mom.” Olivia rose and went to the corner table and retrieved a small notepad.

“Now I’m thinking we can ask Barry Collier to come—remember you and he were good friends—and also Joe Keppler who runs your dad’s bank now. Maybe a nice sit-down dinner?”

Mike groaned inwardly. “Fine.”

Lauren stood up. “I need to get back home or else Dad will be sending out Marsh to look for me.”

Mike replied, “I’ll take you home. I need to get some fresh air.” They rode in his car in the deepening gloom. Mike’s face was tense,

and his hands gripped the wheel. “I’m going to prison,” he said with a finality in his tone.

“Mike, you and I and Dad need to talk. Can you stay for a moment?” “Yes.”

The Moore house was a modest ranch house in a more exclusive part of the outskirts of Columbus. Jonathan built the house after he made partner, and he moved his family once it was ready for habitation. There was a porch that contained a low swing, and ivy curled up the columns that held the building in front. Mike remembered the house now and remembered when he brought Lauren from one of their two dates from school dances. “Oh, this brings me memories,” he said to himself.

Lauren heard him and laughed. “I remember.” She blushed. “I wasn’t very nice to you, Mike.”

“I deserved whatever was coming to me then.”

The memory of slapping his face when he tried to grope her after taking her back from the prom floated through his mind. He never dared to ask her out again after that.

They entered the house when a gloomy-faced elderly man opened the front door. “Hello, Marsh. I’m home,” Lauren said. “I’ve brought Dr. Oates along.”

“Your father is looking for you,” Marsh McAllister said coldly. “It’s fine. I didn’t want him to worry.”

“He’s in the library.” Marsh stood aside as Lauren and Mike walked through the front hall. The warmth of the house exuded from the cheerfully decorated front room where a fireplace blazed brightly. A staircase led up on the right of the hall to the upper floor. Lauren walked to one of the doors halfway down the hall and knocked softly before she entered.

Jonathan Moore sat on a leather divan, a cup of coffee at his elbow. There was another fireplace in the library, a low fire lit inside it. A slight draft hit Mike from behind as they entered the library. Mike glanced back and saw Marsh glowering at him. Mike remembered Marsh from his teen years and remembered that he never wanted to have anything to do with Lauren as long as that McAllister person patrolled the house. Mike decided that he may have to rethink Marsh now.

Lauren went to her father’s side and gave him a slight peck on the cheek. “Hello, Dad. Sorry I lost track of time. I went by Olivia Oates’s house when I went for my run. She asked me to tea, and then Mike—”

“Came in and you all had a nice chat,” Jonathan finished for her with a wry smile. “Hello, Mike. Have a seat. Thank you for bringing Lauren home.”

“I think,” Lauren said, remaining standing, “we need to talk to Mike about next steps.”

Jonathan folded his newspaper and set it aside. “What will you do when you get back to New Haven, Mike?”

“I don’t know for sure. I had hoped to get the chief of surgery spot.” Jonathan steepled his fingers. “We made a few calls. Unofficial ones. There are some people in high places there that I have dealt with before. Facts are that they found Levy’s body dumped in a secluded street. He was stabbed twice. The fatal wound got him in the heart.”

Mike frowned. “I’m sure I only stabbed him once.”

An unholy light came to Jonathan’s eye. “Are you sure of that?” “Very.”

“Interesting,” Jonathan said with a raised brow. “Well, Mike, go back and do what you need to do at the hospital. You may have to talk to the police as they are making a sweep of all gym members and interviewing them as a matter of course in the investigation.” Jonathan looked at Mike with a stern face. “I don’t usually say this to my clients. But I advise you not to tell them you stabbed Levy. We need to keep this under wraps. Don’t talk to anyone else while you’re there about anything about the incident.”

“OK.”

“OK, good.” Jonathan smiled finally, creasing his face. “I think once you leave and get back here—” He paused. “You are staying with Olivia?”

“Uh—” Mike glanced at Lauren. “No. I’m at my dad’s penthouse.”

Lauren had said nothing while they spoke. She watched her father closely. Jonathan looked at him and uttered a terse “I think that’s all for now.”

Mike and Lauren walked back to his car. A chill January wind swept through them, and Lauren shivered in her running outfit. The evening shadows blotted out the rest of the countryside from view.

Lauren smiled at Mike and said reassuringly, “It will work out.”

He said nothing except bending to kiss her lips. They held close for a moment, and then he got inside his car. Lauren turned to the front step as he started the engine.

Back in the library, Jonathan picked up his cell phone and dialed a number. “It’s me,” he said coolly. “You need to follow Mike when he’s in New Haven.” He turned and saw his daughter at the door. “How long have you been there?” he asked gruffly.

“Long enough,” Lauren said. She walked inside the library and shut the door. “Tell me about the fatal stab wounds, Dad.”

“It’s possible somebody else delivered the fatal blow to Levy. But I don’t want to get Mike’s hopes up.”

“That is good news, Dad!” she said with a rising hope.

“Lauren, Mike is not yet out of the woods. We have to be very careful. I’m thinking maybe you might want to go with Mike . . . I mean”—he coughed, then continued—“go to New Haven and keep in touch with him.” Lauren lifted her eyebrow. “You think he’s needing some hand-holding?”

“Clearly, he has feelings for you. Are they reciprocated?” “I don’t know.”

Jonathan rolled his eyes upward. “You either do or you don’t, my dear daughter.”

“Is it acceptable to you that Mike and I are seeing each other?” Jonathan smiled at his daughter tenderly. “It’s not for me to say. I think

Mike’s gotten enough of a jolt that it is changing him. You’re the one who’s going to have to decide in the end if he’s for you.”

Lauren sat with her shoulders hunched on the divan. “I’ll go with Mike,” she said finally, her eyes solemn.

CHAPTER NINE

Text BoxANHATTAN WAS DELUGED WITH a torrential rainstorm that morning when Jonathan told Mike to return to New Haven. At the heart of downtown Manhattan, the traffic was

snarled more than usual. There were no police to help guide the motorists through the maelstrom of gridlocked traffic that morning. More than a few disgruntled motorists laid on their horns and expressed their frustrations with uttered curses.

A few blocks from the building where Henderson kept his office, a subway train disgorged a flood of passengers, and soon, they emerged from the bowels of the subway station and poured into the street. Umbrellas flickered into view. A lone figure emerged last from the stairs and walked purposely toward the side entrance of Henderson’s building. He was clad in a black raincoat, slicked wet from the rain. A dark fedora hid his face from view.

He made his way to the elevator and rode up to the eighth floor. The hallway was dark at this time of the day. Henderson’s office was quiet. There was no secretary or receptionist at the front desk. Henderson’s door was closed as the man approached. He tapped on the door, then opened it. Henderson was seated, facing the window while speaking on the phone. “I’m sure things will be OK from this point on, Missy dear. Take a few days off. Come and stay with Marjorie and me over the weekend.”

Henderson heard a creak behind him and looked around. “Oh, I have to go. See you this weekend, then? Yes, see you in Branford, then. Bye.”

Henderson looked at the man finally. “I received your report. What more is there?”

“Police have no idea who killed Levy.” The man’s voice was rough. “I need to get out of the East Coast.”

“Are you sure they don’t know?” Henderson ignored the request implied.

“Yes, I’m sure. They know that Levy was an SOB. Nobody’s that eager to help the cops find who offed him.” He leaned forward. “I’m leaving town, and I need to get my cut.”

“And you’ll get it.”

“Do you know if anyone else saw what happened?”

“I was the only one who saw. I wanted to get Levy before Oates got him. Like you ordered, boss.”

“What happened? Why didn’t you get him first?”

“Levy’s an athlete. He runs like the wind.” The man frowned. “He was too fast for me. When I got there, Oates was there first. There was an argument. Then I saw Oates had a knife. It went quick.”

“But after?”

“Oates dragged the body out of view. He left like hell was after him.” “And then what did you do?”

“I looked around and saw nobody. Levy was still alive when I got to him.”

Henderson leaned back and steepled his fingers together. “OK. You finished him off.”

The man grunted. “He would have bled out.”

“But you finished him off.” Henderson’s eyes were sharp on him. “I did,” he replied finally.

Henderson opened a drawer and took out a thick envelope. He looked at it for a moment and then gave it to the man in the black raincoat. “Here’s your cut. I don’t want to see you again.”

“You got it, boss.”

The door closed shut, leaving Henderson silent in the darkness.

The unit was having a lull that morning. Morning meds had been dispensed. The OR was now taking care of the surgical patients that were scheduled for their respective procedures. Two nurses were manning the nurses’ station, and one of them had hung up her cell phone. She sighed and smiled sadly. “I am so ready for this weekend,” she uttered.

“So am I, Missy,” said her companion, Karen Challoner. “What are your plans?” Her smile was polite. Karen was a bit more senior to Missy and had a more sensible outlook, which served her well on the unit. Karen had a shock of blonde hair, slightly mussed and gray strands peeking through. Her face was a bit stern, borne of the duties of her job. Her eyes were blue, and she wore little makeup, unlike Missy who wore the latest in colors.

“Oh, a friend asked me to spend the weekend with him and his wife in his house in Branford,” Missy said with pride. “He’s a pretty wealthy guy, a friend of the family. Known him for years.”

“Nice!”

Missy closed the binder she had in front of her. “I just wish I could tell when Mike comes back. If he gets back Friday, I could ask him to come with me.”

“Mike Oates?” Karen replied. “He’s on vacation, I heard.” “Yes. I wish I knew earlier when he was going out of town.” “Sounds like you and he are serious, then?”

“I think we are,” Missy replied, her lips pursed.

“I heard he’s a Romeo around here.” Karen rolled her eyes. She had a low opinion of Mike Oates. She thought Mike was a bit of a suck-up, someone who carried the water for the one who gave the most favors, and that was “Lead” Bartholomew. Karen suppressed a snort and ended up coughing.

“No way. He’s my Romeo.”

“OK.” Karen shrugged. “Oh, I see Mrs. Plank is needing a nurse.” She nodded at the blinking lights on the monitor. “I’ll go find what she needs.”

Missy nodded in agreement and then sighed again.

Karen made her way to Mrs. Plank’s room and found that the patient was in need of her pain medication. She administered the medication and left Mrs. Plank’s room and almost bumped into Corcoran. “Hey, sorry, Karen!” Corcoran said, folding his flip notebook and tucking it into his pocket. “Kind of a quiet morning, eh?” he said with a slight grin.

“It’s all good, Cor,” she said, smiling. She liked Corcoran. Her face became more radiant as she looked at him. She wished there were more jolly doctors like Cor. To keep the conversation going, she asked, “How are your patients doing, by the way?”

“Oh, they’ll live another day,” he said, strolling down the hall with her. “I’m also taking care of Mike Oates’s patients.” There was a twist in his mouth. “Damn Mike for taking off with short notice. Didn’t know his mom was sick.”

“Oh. So when is he due back?”

“I don’t know. Guess that is up to how his mom is doing.” “I heard he’s up for the chief residency spot.”

“Yes,” Corcoran replied. “He’s on the make, that Mike.” “On more ways than one,” Karen said softly.

“Are you interested in him too?”

Karen laughed scornfully. “No. Missy’s cornered that market, I think.

I don’t like men on the make,” she said with a sniff.

“Missy’s in for a lot of heartache,” Corcoran said. “I don’t think Mike’s ready to settle down. Not for a while.”

“Yes, I think you’re right.”

In companionable silence, they walked back to the nurses’ station. When Karen and Corcoran returned to the nurses’ station, Leo

Bartholomew was pacing the floor in front of the desk. He looked up at them impatiently and then rapped his pen on the counter. “Ms. Challoner, you do know that I am having open heart surgery tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m.?” His voice seemed calm, but his eyes were blue and icy.

Karen summoned up her reserve of strength to reply. Lead (as they called him) was not in a happy mood. “I need to check the schedule, Dr. Barth—”

“No need for you to trouble yourself. I myself checked the schedule, and I am telling you now that I need Patricia Steele to be my rotating nurse on the operation.” He leaned toward her. “Why did you not schedule Mrs. Steele to be in my surgery team tomorrow? You know very well that my team is sacrosanct. Nobody can substitute themselves, and nobody can be given leave to be absent without my express permission.”

Corcoran muttered something, “I just remembered I need to be somewhere else now.” He shrunk away and disappeared in a short minute. Karen straightened her slim shoulders and stared back at Bartholomew. “Doctor, I am aware that you prefer to have your . . . sacrosanct team . . . intact when you need to perform your open hearts, but—”

“Then tell me why Patricia isn’t in this roster?” He motioned toward the clipboard in his hand.

“I don’t know, Dr. Bartholomew.” She knew he would hate her reply.

And he did.

“I don’t accept that reply. I want answers. If I have to have someone else, I am going to have to reschedule this. It will take a bloody lot of finagling to reschedule these things as they are too bloody important to delay. Now find Mrs. Steele, and have her do what she needs to do to be in my team at seven thirty a.m. sharp tomorrow. Is that understood?”

Karen bit back a retort, and then to her horror, she realized she was about to burst into tears. She hated that and clenched her jaw. “Yes, Dr. Bartholomew. I’ll keep you posted.”

“No need. I will expect her to show up tomorrow. I will be very unhappy if she doesn’t show up.”

With that, he stepped away and walked off unhurriedly to his office. Karen watched his back as he went away, and then finally, she sat down in the nearest chair. She looked around and saw that nobody was there at the station. It was eerily quiet. She picked up the schedule and saw that, indeed, Steele was missing from the team roster. Karen took up the telephone and dialed a number. “Hello, Steele?” she said in an even voice. “Karen Challoner here. Listen, I somehow missed putting you on Bartholomew’s open heart tomorrow. By any chance, can you be there at seven thirty a.m. sharp?” She waited for the response. Then she lifted her eyes to heaven and uttered a silent thank-you. “Good. I will put you

down. Goodbye.”

Karen sat back and slumped in her chair. Corcoran came back and looked at her with pity. “How did it go?” he asked quietly.

“It went. She’s able to do it. I’m ready to fall apart. Why the stupid, bloody temperamental son of a bitch—”

“Careful, he’s within earshot.”

“Well, I am going to be pretty frank with you, Cor. If that man weren’t so damned good at what he does, I would be the first person to give him a piece of my mind for his ridiculous ‘sacrosanct’ nonsense.”

“Well, at least he’s not unhappy that Oates isn’t assisting him on it.” Corcoran lifted an ironic eyebrow.

“Oh, potty on Mike Oates,” she said, finally snapping into some semblance of poise. “I need a drink. And I have three more hours to go here.”

“Just call off and say you’ve been ‘leaded.’ The office will understand.

They hate him too.”

Karen looked up at him. “You think they’ll understand? I am not just one mealy-mouthed nurse that cavils when people like him throw their weight around, you know? I’m supposed to have some experience dealing with this.”

“So what do you want to do now?”

“I don’t know. I’m finally getting back my scattered thoughts.” Karen took the pen next to the roster and wrote Nurse Steele’s name in the list. “I am glad I don’t have to be part of his team.”

“I remember he threw a scalpel at Oates one day in surgery. Oates hated him for it. It wasn’t really that he purposely threw it at Oates, but, well, he was in the way. He didn’t fancy using the scalpel—wrong type— and it just got into Oates’s way.” Corcoran chuckled. “I thought Oates was going to brain him then and there. And Lead said nothing—not even acknowledged what he did. I think Oates was fit to be tied for the rest of the surgery. Although Oates did something really interesting.”

“What was that?”

“When Lead wanted to have a break, Oates volunteered to monitor the patient while Lead went to change his scrubs. It had way too much blood on it. Pretty awful case, you see. Lead likes to keep himself above it all, you know.” Corcoran smiled at the memory. “Oates wasn’t the type to do that sort of thing. It’s an intern’s job to do that. But he did it, and Lead said yes. Oates looked at me with a hint of a smile and then did as he was told.” “I can’t stand Oates. He’s such a suck-up,” Karen said with an edge to her voice.

“Yes, well, Lead remembers these things. I suppose Lead knew what he was doing to Oates then. Those two, well, they seem to be cut from the same cloth. Oh hell, there goes my beeper!” He silenced his beeper and stared at it. “Time to talk to Mr. Frobischer. He’s keen on leaving today. I have to sign off on his dispatch paperwork.” Corcoran ambled off, leaving Karen strangely calm.

CHAPTER TEN
Text BoxIKE STARED AT THE view of the landscape outside his penthouse window, noting the brilliant lights flickering in the buildings in front of his view. He felt a deepening gloom. The

idea of returning to New Haven Hospital was almost unbearable to him. He didn’t want to return. He turned the idea of calling and quitting by remote in his mind but readily realized that was not the right way out. He took a sip of his scotch and water. He thought of what was said earlier that night at Jonathan’s library. Two stab wounds. He remembered he didn’t stab twice. He began to doubt this, but he felt sure he stabbed Levy once. It puzzled him. What made the police say there were two stab wounds? How did Moore get this information?

There was a buzz at the door. He went to the intercom. A figure came to the screen. It was Lauren. “Hi. I need to come up and talk to you,” she said.

“Fine.” He turned the intercom off and stood by the elevator doors.

She was dressed casually. There was a hint of nervous energy in her demeanor as she walked in. He found her intensely attractive tonight. Maybe it was because she looked at him with a mysterious smile. “What brings you here?” he asked. “Care for a drink?”

“I . . . Sure, I’d like a drink.” “What will you take?”

“I’ll have what you’re having.”

“OK.” He turned from her and went to the bar. “You and your dad.”
“What about us?”

“You have me totally.”

“Does that bother you?”

“No. I would rather be in your hands than anyone else’s.”

“I . . . I thought I’d like to go with you to New Haven,” she announced as she looked at his back.

He lifted his head and turned around. “Why?” He sounded irritated. “Don’t you trust me?”

“It’s not that.” She went to him and took her drink from his hand. “I was thinking of continuing the conversation.” Her face lifted to his. “I can’t do that long distance.”

He took her in his arms and kissed her. After a long pause, he smiled at her. “I didn’t think you’d give me another chance. I thought you—”

“I don’t know. I mean . . . I mean . . .” She stammered, blushing. “Here we are, and I know I want this. I can’t say how it will all come out. But I feel like you and I should be together.”

“Uh, Lauren. You don’t know me. I’m not good.” He pulled her close and kissed again. This time, they swayed in each other’s arms. She let him deepen the kiss.

“Mike. I know you’re human. It’s all that matters. Let me go with you,” she whispered.

He slipped his hands down her body, and then he pulled away. “Does your father know?”

“Yes.” She laughed softly. “He seems to be good at reading minds.”

Mike took her hand and led her to the couch. “I’m leaving tomorrow morning. You need to pack some things.”

“I have my bags downstairs.”

He laughed and took her closer. “Such confidence.”

She held him off. “I’m not staying at your apartment. I’m staying at the hotel.”

“Why?”

“I’m still your lawyer, Mike. We have to be careful.”

Mike smiled at her. “Let’s be careful then,” he said mockingly.



Detective Bill Gaddis and his young partner, Tom Ripley, walked up to a garden apartment in the nearby town of Hamden, Connecticut. Gaddis looked around, his eyebrows lifting slightly. “Not a bad neighborhood, eh, Tom?”

Ripley took a glance around. “No,” he sniffed. “It’s OK. My girlfriend has a pad like this out in West Haven. Damn pricey, though.”

“Well, what do we know about Susanna Bacon?”

Ripley looked through his flip notepad. “She’s a grad student in philosophy, working on a PhD. She’s thirty years old, never married. She’s from New Jersey. Lives alone. That’s all I know.”

“Good enough.” Gaddis looked at the apartment door and rapped on it. There was a sound of a chain being unlatched, and the door opened. A slim fair-haired woman stepped out and squinted at them. “Ms. Susanna Bacon?” Gaddis said.

“Yes.”

“I’m Lt. Bill Gaddis, and this is Detective Tom Ripley who spoke to you on the phone.”

“Oh, sure, yes. Come in.” She opened the door wider. “Thanks.”

Her apartment was relatively tidy, but there were several books that lay open on several surfaces—the coffee table, the desk by the window—and a small tabby cat glowered at them from her bed by the fireplace.

“I’ve been studying for an exam, so please find a place to sit.”

“That’s OK,” Gaddis spoke crisply. “You told Detective Ripley about the night of January 11 at the Yale Gym parking lot? Could you please give us a few more details? What time were you there, and what did you see?” “Well, I run, and I was getting out of the gym. It was about eight forty- five p.m.” She paused. “I’m usually at the gym around seven thirty p.m., I get myself dressed for the workout, and then I leave the gym to go for a run. If it’s too cold or snowing, I stay there to get a workout on the treadmill.”

“Go on.” Gaddis tried not to show his impatience.

“I left about eight forty-five p.m. and left by the back door where the gym parking lot is located. People don’t usually work out past eight p.m., so the parking lot is basically empty.” She caught her breath as if dreading the next part of her speech. “I . . . I saw a guy. He was dressed in running clothes, he . . . he was leaning over another guy. That guy was on the ground. He looked like he had collapsed or something. I almost said something, but something about the whole scene gave me a shiver. The guy lifted his hand, and I saw a knife in gleam in the light.”

“And then what did you do?”

“I took off. I realized this was a bad scene.”

Ripley spoke, “Did you see him stab the other guy?”

“I didn’t, I just ran away.” Susanna’s pale face crumpled in emotion. “I’m sorry. I really don’t like to remember that.”

Gaddis glanced at Ripley. “OK. If we had a lineup, would you be able to recognize the man that was leaning over the other guy?”

“No,” Susanna Bacon replied. “That guy had a hood over his head. He looked like he was big. But I couldn’t see his face.”

“Can you tell if the knife you saw was big or small?” “I think it was a regular-size knife.” She shrugged.

“Thanks, Ms. Bacon. You’ve been very helpful.” Gaddis gave her a brief smile.

Once they were outside, Ripley said, “It’s not a great thing she couldn’t make him.”

“No.”

“So we know he’s a big guy with a knife—a regular-size knife.” “What do we know about Levy anyway?”

“He was in his fifties, divorced, lived alone. Rich or at least he had some money.”

“Any heirs or what?”

“Only a niece that lives in Waterbury.” Ripley twisted his mouth. “I haven’t found out if she stands to get any of his cash. I know that he had a big malpractice suit against him a year ago. Name of the patient that died is Mary Keene. Suit alleged that his patient died from negligence on his part. Result of the case was that Levy got off.”

Gaddis and Sevier got into Gaddis’s car, and as they buckled up, Gaddis said, “Find out the particulars about Levy’s malpractice suit. The people who brought the case to court. Interview the lawyer for the plaintiff—that sort of thing.”

“Right.”

“We might be looking at a case of revenge,” Gaddis said, slanting a look at his sergeant.



Mike woke up, feeling disoriented. He opened his eyes and found himself on his side, his arm flung over Lauren as she slept beside him. He felt a surge of desire as he remembered the previous night’s passion. He looked at her face in repose next to his. As soon as he moved against her, Lauren awoke and looked at him unseeingly. Then she smiled shyly at him.

“Good morning,” Mike said softly. “Hi.”

“You’re beautiful.”

She blushed and then said, “No. I must look a mess.” “No, not really.”

“Are we—”

“Shh.” He kissed her, and they were quiet for a few moments. Afterward, she leaned up on her elbow and surveyed him. For a moment, he felt unsure what she thought of him.

“What time do we leave?”

“Whenever we are ready. It’s up to you and me.”

She leaned over him, her hair spilling over his face. “I’m not ready yet,” she murmured. She slid her slim body over his and kissed him. He pulled her close and gave a low groan when she closed herself over him.

An hour later, both were dressed and stood in the middle of the penthouse, sipping coffee that the waiter brought up together with the breakfast trolley. She looked at the breakfast items on the sidebar. “Lovely!” she uttered appreciatively.

He was reading the newspaper. “I’ve asked them to pack us some lunch for the trip.”

“Um, fine.” Then she turned and said, “Oh, Mike!” “Yes?”

“Your party. Your mom—she doesn’t know you were leaving town today?”

“Oh. I called her when you were in the shower. She’s good.”

“Ah, that’s good, then.” She took her plate and sat down at the breakfast bar. “Aren’t you eating?”

“No.” He glanced up at her and then chuckled. “Lovemaking for me means I can’t eat for hours after.”

A ghost of a smile came to her face. “It’s the opposite for me.”

Mike realized he wasn’t her first, and a look of alarm crossed his face. “Of course. I should know better.”

“Why?”

“I’m not the first one you ever made love to.”

“Should that be a problem?” Her eyes looked solemnly at him. “Do you like being the first for any woman?”

He put the paper down and sat down across from her. His eyes were serious. “I wanted to be the first for you. I thought you—”

“Well, you aren’t,” Lauren said crisply, biting into a piece of toast. “Mike, you must accept that 80 percent of women have already had sex after the age of twenty-one?”

“Is that a fact? Do you have any sources?” he taunted.

“No, but I’m going out on a limb to say that I am pretty close with that statistic.”

Mike was caught in a difficult moment. He didn’t want to argue. He wanted to tell her that she was someone he was falling for even now when she had to tell him he wasn’t the first. “Oh, never mind!” He felt deflated. She watched him surreptitiously as he got up and went to the side bar.

A disquiet reigned while he reluctantly picked up a plate and put food in it. Lauren studiously avoided his gaze when he returned to the table.

“Are you sure you want to check into a hotel when we get to New Haven?”

“I’m very sure.”

“You sound so lawyerlike.” “I am a lawyer.”

“God, what happened to us?” His eyes blazed. “Mike, what do you mean?”

“Well . . .” He frowned at the boiled egg in front of him. “No, you’re right. You and Jonathan have been great. I owe you both a lot. Someone has to have a level head, and it might as well be you.”

She put her napkin down and got up to refill her coffee. “Last night was lovely,” she said without turning.

“Yes. I thought so too.”

“Mike, you . . . and I,” Lauren said in a light tone, “we have to get you out of this problem. You need to understand there’s a lot of hurdles you have to go through.”

“Fine,” he said with a snap. “I’ll do what you want. I’m still a murderer.

Is that what you’re saying?”

“No. Technically, you did not murder Dr. Levy,” she said cautiously. “We know someone else killed him off—finished him off.”

“And that’s what I’d like to know. Who would want him dead?”

Relieved that the conversation was now on business, Lauren finally joined him at the table. “I haven’t got a clue. We need to make sure that you don’t talk about the stabbing to anyone or even to the police.”

“I won’t.” He looked at her face. “This isn’t ethical, is it?”

“Not exactly,” she said coolly. “We—my father and I—have been your father’s legal counselors for years, and now we are yours. I believe my father owed a lot to your family when he first made partner. It’s something that has kept us in touch with your family. Let’s just say my family wants you to get off as much as possible.”

He gave her a nod and said nothing.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Text BoxIKE WALKED INTO THE hospital with his eyes straight- forward. He didn’t want to talk to anyone at this time; it was a businesslike attitude that he had never assumed when working

as a resident at Yale New Haven Hospital. He didn’t see anyone on his way up to the sixteenth floor. Several nurses glanced at him when he got off the elevator, and when he ignored them, they looked at each other. “He’s back,” said one of them.

“Yeah. He’s looking mighty tasty!” another replied. “Well, does Missy know?”

“I have not heard her tell. Usually she knows about his business.” “Huh,” said the first with a shrug. “I think that’s a finito thing.” “He’s not wearing his white jacket.”

“Oh, I hadn’t noticed.”

Both nurses looked back at the end of the hall where Dr. Leon Bartholomew’s office was and saw Mike enter it.

Leon Bartholomew was in his late fifties, tall and spare. His gray-tinged hair was tousled, and his face was tanned from his last trip to Bermuda with his wife. He wore scrubs today, a testament to his already-busy day. When the door to his office opened, he looked up with annoyance. He saw Mike enter, and his face became less annoyed. “Hello, Oates. I was just thinking of you.”

Mike closed the door behind him and stepped toward Bartholomew’s desk. “Yes, I saw your message.”

“Let’s talk, shall we?” Mike said nothing.

“Have a seat.” Bartholomew’s slight English accent came through. “I was looking at the next set of appointments for the year. As you know, Cody Tripp is leaving, and he’s done a great job for us. I know that you expressed interest in replacing Tripp. Are you still interested?”

Mike paused. His thoughts were jamming up in his mind. He remembered Dr. Levy’s ashen face. He remembered the smiling and bright face of Missy. He remembered the streets of New Haven. “I am not,” he replied finally. “I have decided that surgery is not for me anymore.”

Bartholomew’s eyebrows lifted. “Oh?”

“I’m finding it’s not what I had hoped it would be, Dr. Bartholomew.” Mike explained.

“Well, that’s too bad, Oates,” the elder surgeon commented. “When do you wish to end your term here?”

Mike took out an envelope from his jacket pocket and gave it to him. “I’d like to end it effective today.”

“Fine.” Bartholomew accepted the letter and put it aside. “I think you would make an excellent surgeon, Oates. What are your plans?”

“I don’t know . . . I will take a longer vacation and think of my options.”

“OK. Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.”

When Mike left Bartholomew’s office, he hoped that he wouldn’t see anyone he knew. He decided to take the stairway down to the lobby and avoid anyone that he might run into that knew him. Unfortunately, he wasn’t too far into his descent when the door opened from one floor and Corcoran stepped out in his path.

“Hey, hello, Mike!” Corcoran smiled at him. “Hey, how was the time off? Your mom doing OK?”

“What? Oh, my mom. She’s fine now.” “Are you . . . what’s up?”

“Cor, I went to see Bartholomew.” Mike decided not to keep his friend hanging. “I’ve quit. I’m no longer working here.”

Corcoran looked at him intently. “I’m shocked.”

Mike shrugged. “I’ve decided it’s not the life for me. I’m leaving town in a day or so.”

“Mike, this is me, Cor! Tell me you aren’t leaving!” Corcoran looked at him pleadingly. “Think of all the fun crap we’ve had!”

“Don’t worry, I’ll still cover you. I just found it too hard to keep up with all the demands of surgery. I’m not cut out for it. I can’t lick ass anymore. I’ve destroyed my self-respect. Sorry, Cor. That’s the way it looks.” Mike turned to go forward downstairs.

Corcoran shook his head slowly. “Damn, Mike.” He had a second thought. “Hey, does Missy know?”

Mike paused. “No. Not yet.”

“Well, don’t tell me to tell her. She’s your girlfriend.”

“I’ll talk to her.” He turned again, shoulders hunched, and went up the stairs in search of Missy.

Mike had a churning feeling in his gut as he got up the last steps to A6. He didn’t want to talk to Missy. He wasn’t good at dumping girlfriends. He never was. They always made a scene. He didn’t think this one with Missy would be any different. For this reason, he wanted to avoid seeing Missy. He could hear his father’s voice in his head. “Damn, Mike! You can’t just love them and leave them! You need to pare down all these women that you’re seeing! Grow up!”

He bent his head as if to duck his father’s words. Mike tried to forget his father. They were never able to see things the same way. It was a relief when his father died.

Mike found Missy chatting with the other nurses in the hallway. She saw him, and her face had a look of surprise. Then when he approached nearer, she excused herself from the girls and went to him. “Hey, what happened? You didn’t call me. When did you get back?” She had a hushed tone in her voice. Her eyes searched his face. “What? You look serious.”

“We need to talk.” He steered her to an empty room. “OK. Can we talk later? Maybe go for a drink?”

“No. Now.” He took her to a small alcove. “Missy, I’m leaving the hospital.”

“What happened?”

“I can’t go into all the details.” His face was expressionless. “I think I’m finished with medicine. I’m going to take a long vacation and figure out what I need to do. But I want to tell you so you won’t wonder.”

“Mike, what about us?” Missy pleadingly asked. “Missy, just forget about us.”

“No! I won’t!” She began to cry. It was a cry of a woman that began to realize this was an ending for them and that her prized possession was being wrested from her grasp. “Mike, you know how much I love you.”

“I’m sorry, Missy. I’m sorry for all the problems. I know you will find someone you deserve better.”

Missy couldn’t speak. Tears fell from her reddened eyes. “God, Mike,” she sobbed. “Why? We were doing so well. I even told my friends we were going to be married.”

Mike looked at her with dawning horror. “No, we never spoke about it. It didn’t get that far.”

“We were lovers!”

He felt almost sick at the idea they had gotten that involved. Missy to him was only an object. It wasn’t serious at all. What had been his whim became her commitment. “Oh god,” he said. “I’m sorry. Goodbye.”

“You can’t leave me!” she shouted at him as he turned away. When he kept moving away, she threw herself at him. “You can’t leave! Mike, NO!”

Mike realized that they were creating a spectacle, and he quietly removed her clinging arms from him. “Goodbye, Missy.”

She staggered away and slid to the floor, sobs shaking her whole body. Several of the nurses who saw what happened gathered around her, whispering softly.

CHAPTER TWELVE

LAUREN STEPPED INTO HER heels as she finished dressing for her dinner with Mike. He had dropped her off at her hotel the night before when they arrived in New Haven, telling her that he wanted

to see her tonight to talk about the next steps in his case. She saw the determination in his face as she waved at him goodbye. Her father’s words came back to her mind. “Do you have feelings for him?” Lauren stared at her reflection in the mirror of her room and absently smoothed a tendril of hair from her brow. It was not hard to be attracted to Mike Oates. She knew that years ago, when they were still teenagers. But she saw that he was a playboy and enjoyed the company of women. It struck her that he now was different in a way that gave her pause. Was he getting bitten by life’s unfairness? It wasn’t unfair to Mike all these years. He made it to the top, at least, striking distance to becoming chief resident in the prestigious hospital that linked its name with an Ivy League university.

She heard the phone ring, and she answered it, thinking it was Mike. “Your man is coming up the elevator,” the bodyguard sent by her father spoke in her ear.

“Thanks, Claus.” She hung up and went to pick up her clutch.

The doorbell rang. When she opened the door, she felt a rush of blood in her temples, making her dizzy. Mike stood in front of her, his face inscrutable. “Good evening.”

“Good evening.” Her voice was almost hoarse. It occurred to Lauren that she was feeling unstable.

“You look very nice,” Mike said.
“So do you.”
He looked beyond her. “Are you going to let me come in?”

Lauren stood aside. “Please, come in. Can I offer you some wine?” “Do you have wine?” Mike looked at her in wonderment.

“There are these little bottles of wine sitting in the small refrigerator,” she replied ironically.

“No, I don’t think so.” He smiled. “Can I help you with your coat?” “Please.”

He opened her coat and let her slip her arms into it. A small current passed between them, and wordlessly, Mike pulled her to him. She waited for his kiss. Slowly he bent his head down to kiss her mouth. Then he let her go.

“I want to talk,” he said.

“We can stay here if you want.”

“No. I can’t talk like this. Besides, I want to celebrate.” “Celebrate?”

“Yes.” He opened the door wide for them to pass through. “I quit the hospital today.”

She turned around, her mouth forming an O. He touched her nose with his forefinger. “I’m a free man.”

He took her to a quiet nightclub, and after they ordered their drinks, Lauren leaned toward him. “So why did you quit?”

“I don’t like how it came out for me there, ultimately,” Mike replied. “I was turning into a machine. I got started decades ago. My dad gave me high standards to meet—good grades, scholarships, getting into the best schools in college. I wanted to go into medicine, so he thought I ought to go into surgery after med school. Nothing ought to have gotten in my way. I wanted to get to the top. Here, it was almost like I had to reinvent myself into something even more agile or be able to leap up into some weird stratum to get what I thought I wanted. I got to become arrogant, which I think I am still. I used others to satisfy my appetites. I became immune to listening to my inner self—my conscience, whatever you might call it. My patients weren’t real. I just made them better, but it never came to me that they were real people.” Then he looked at her intensely. “Do you see what I mean?”

Lauren was momentarily silent. Their server came with their drinks.

“You aren’t commenting,” he observed.

“I know you were ambitious back in school.”

“I was. I still am.” He looked rueful. “I’m now ambitious to get the hell out of this hole I am in.”

“Have you been called by the police to answer some questions?” “No. Not yet.”

“When will you leave New Haven?”

“I intend to move out of my place the end of the week. Are you going to stay here till then?”

“I can.” She sipped her drink and looked around. “I like this place.” “It’s OK for those who aren’t into a lot of noise.”

Lauren settled back in her chair. At the front of the club, the three- piece ensemble played a Gershwin jazz tune. There was a mellowness to her mood. Something in her thoughts made her look behind her. She didn’t really see anyone she knew. But someone moved out of her vision, and she caught it. The person was in the shadowy background and disappeared out of view. She looked at the side of the room and saw another figure disappear into the shadows. Her pulse quickened, and she took a deep breath.

“Do you want to dance?” “I’d love to.”

They were the only ones in the dance floor. After a few moments, other couples came to join them.

Mike held her comfortably. “You feel real nice in my arms.” “I like it with you.”

“Even after I’ve killed a man?”

Lauren’s face was inscrutable. “Maybe you didn’t technically kill him.” “I still stabbed a man,” Mike insisted.

“You struck him in a moment of panic. It made you realize that you had a lot of demons that drove you to that moment.”

“You still think I’m worth your time?” “You mean us?”

“Yes.”

“Let’s say you are a very interesting man. Maybe my lawyerly instincts are piqued.” After a bit, she said. “Yes, I think you’re worth my time.”

He bowed his head. They stood still, their arms still entwined. “Lauren, we don’t know each other that well. We went to school together. Our parents know each other.”

“Mike.” She put her fingers to his lips. “Let’s enjoy the evening.” They resumed dancing and stayed silent for the rest of the song.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

THE STREET WAS EERILY empty. Darkness billowed around a lone figure walking toward the corner. No streetlamps were on. Slowly the figure reached the parked Camaro and opened

the driver-side door. The lights came on inside the car, momentarily illuminating the figure. It was of a woman, dressed in a dark overcoat. The door closed with a snap, and moments later, the engine came to life. The woman glanced around as she put the car in gear. Quietly the car moved to the intersection and then turned toward the outskirts of New Haven.

A light flickered from a lit cigarette some yards away. A man stood silently watching as the car left. After taking a drag from the cigarette, he turned back to walk toward the nightclub. The man took out the cell phone and spoke quietly into it. “Not sure, Mr. Moore. Seems like we have an interested party.” He fell silent. Then he rapped out. “Fine.”

“Oh god!” the woman cried into her hands once she entered her apartment. Her chest heaved with sobs. It was intolerable. Her rising jealousy gave incoherence to her thoughts. It gave her even more reason to make her resolve. It was important to call him before the end of the night. But her first attempt got her his voice mail. She left a message demanding he call her back, that it was crucial for them to talk.

She took off her overcoat and slumped into a chair. She didn’t turn on the other lamp next to it. Only the faint light in the hallway fell on her disheveled figure.

After sitting for a long while, a small sob escaped her throat once again. She stared unseeingly at the blank wall before her. Slowly, her breathing became even. Her face was dry at that point. There was a firmness to the set of her jaw.

Her cell phone rang. “Hello!” She spoke instantly into it. “It’s Mark. You left a message. What is it, Missy?”

“Thank you for calling me back.” She sighed in relief. “I need to ask you for a favor.”

“Name it.”

“You remember I told you about my boyfriend?”

“You told me a lot about your boyfriend, Missy. What about him?” “I need you to help me get him back.”

There was a pause. Then “Wait, so he and you split? How do you propose that I get him back for you?”

“He dumped me. He is quitting the hospital.” Fresh tears ran down her face. “Mark, I love him desperately. I want him to stay with me.”

“Sweetheart, I can’t be a matchmaker for you.” “Couldn’t you do something about him staying?” “So what is his name again?”

“Mike Oates. Dr. Mike Oates.” “Why is he leaving the hospital?”

“Well, I don’t know exactly. He told me that it wasn’t the life for him.

I don’t understand that at all.”

“Maybe he was just saying that in the heat of the moment. Some people think they’re quitting, but—”

“No! He gave his notice today.”

After a pause, Mark asked, “Where is this Mike Oates from anyway?” “He’s from Ohio. Columbus. Why do you ask?”

Henderson made a short snort. “Uh, Missy. I need to check on this.

Tell me again where Oates lives.”

Missy told him. Her sagging hopes lifted at the tone of his voice. “I’ll let you know sometime.”

Missy’s face became almost entranced at the words she heard. “Oh, Mark!” she uttered gratefully.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

BILL GADDIS CHECKED THE spreadsheet in front of him. The dark screen bothered him, and he wasn’t able to read the words in the cells of the spreadsheet. He squinted his eyes and bent closer.

“Ah.” He found his cursor and blew up the spreadsheet to page view. This sheet gave all the names of the Yale Gym members that were present the night Dr. James Levy was murdered. The names were of thirty-nine people. Ripley had made notes on each name and then a check mark for those who had been cleared. The reasons for their clearance were either due to them leaving early (as evidenced by the card-swipe security reader) or they didn’t use the back parking lot where Levy’s body was found. There were only four names left to be interviewed. One of those names was of Dr. Mike Oates.

Gaddis leaned back and checked another sheet of paper on his desk. “Looks to me, Tom, that we only have these four names to interview.”

Ripley looked up from where his desk was. He looked tired and nodded with a hangdog expression. “Yep.”

“How about we split them up between us? You take Steve Buncher and Corinne Loveless, and I’ll take Mike Oates and Ruth Anne Wilson?”

“Fine by me, Bill.”

“That way, we can have this case almost caught up by the end of Wednesday.”

“OK.”

“Hey, did you ever get anything on the malpractice suit against Levy?” “That’s going to be a tough one. The courts have it locked up. Levy’s lawyers are suing to expunge the case from his record.”

Gaddis gave a short laugh. “Well, I don’t think they have a leg to stand on now that their client is dead.”

“I agree, Bill. I’ve asked them to release the records on account of the fact that the information may be valuable to finding Levy’s murderer.”

“So when are they sending those records over?” “They should be over this afternoon.”

“Good. Have a good look at them, and let’s discuss tomorrow morning.” He reached for his phone and dialed a number. “Hello, Dr. Mike Oates?”

On the other side of the phone, Mike spoke a reply, “Speaking.” “This is Lt. Bill Gaddis of New Haven Police. We’re investigating the

murder of Dr. James Levy.”

“Yes?” Mike’s voice was neutral.

“I’d like to meet with you tonight if possible to ask you a few questions.

Are you available?” “I’m free tonight.”

“Let’s say six p.m. at your place?” “Fine.”

Gaddis hung up the phone and looked at the time. “I’m meeting Mike Oates tonight. I can still make dinner with my wife before I go over. Call me if you need me.”

Ripley grunted as Gaddis snatched his jacket and walked out of the squad room.

Mike hung up the phone and gave a small sigh.

“What is it?” Lauren looked up from across his apartment.

“The cops are sweeping the members of the gym and asking questions about the night Levy died.”

“Are they calling you to get questioned?”

“Yes.” He looked at her with a look that hovered between worry and desperation.

“I see.” She pursed her lips. “When do you see them?”

“I see them tonight. Lieutenant Gaddis of the New Haven Police Department is coming at six.”

“You can handle it.”

“I have to say I didn’t see Levy.”

“You can tell them this: You haven’t met Dr. Levy, and you wouldn’t know him from Adam.”

Mike heard the steel in her voice. “Damn.”

“I would not embellish on that,” she went on. “I think that they are routinely screening the members. You should be fine. I won’t stay and make them get their feathers up by my presence.”

“OK. Will you be OK getting back to your hotel?” “Yes.” She took her small clutch purse and rose to leave.

Mike stood up. He held out her coat for her. “You advised me to say this as my lawyer,” he spoke softly in her ear.

“I have. It needs to be said, Mike.” She turned to him. “You did not kill Levy. You stabbed him, but you didn’t kill him. Another guy did it.”

“That’s true. But shouldn’t I say that I stabbed him?”

“No. Not this time. If they come back saying that they have the murder weapon and it has your prints on it, you can say you stabbed him, but since your knife is at my dad’s office, that won’t happen. They are looking for someone else. In my mind, that person who delivered the lethal wound is out there still at large.”

“How are you so sure that someone else killed him?”

“Dad told me that he has information about the postmortem. They said that the stab wounds were delivered at the abdomen, which was your doing, and then another deeper wound was delivered into his vena cava.”

Mike stood back on his heels. “I see.”

Lauren lifted her face to see him closer. “Will I see you tomorrow?” “Yes. I’ll pick you up for lunch.”

“Good.”

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Text BoxIKE TOOK OFF HIS tie and hung it on his locker hook. He pulled his white lab coat off and draped it on the opposite hook with a short oath. He was late. Lauren would be waiting at the

lobby of her hotel by now. He had his cell phone out, but his call went to her voice mail.

He quickly sprinted to the parking lot, his eyes focused on where his Maserati was parked. The weather was chilly, and an east wind was blowing across the lot.

“Mike Oates?” a voice from behind him called.

Mike had the instinct to ignore it. Something about the voice made his spine crawl. It was too late to ignore it, though, because the nose of a pistol dug into his side.

“Who wants to know?” Mike tried to turn and see his assailant. “You’re wanted.” The man was swarthy, with a Brooklyn accent. His

face was fair, but he sported a small mustache. “I am not—”

“Do you really want this to blow your belly out?” the man asked smoothly, stabbing again at his side.

“OK, OK. Just try to be gentler, will you?”

“Keep walking toward the front gate. There’s a black SUV that’s waiting. We are getting into it.”

Mike reluctantly stepped forward and slowly walked, and the man with the gun was still holding it against his side.

The SUV was waiting. The door opened, and the man inside took Mike’s arm and pulled him in. “Inside, please.” He was a better specimen of crook, Mike decided. Mike was roughly thrown to the floor of the SUV.

“Hell! Watch it!” Mike said, losing his temper.

“I will watch you, Dr. Oates. Just put this on, will you?” He handed him a blindfold.

“You expect me to put this on?”

“You want your lady friend to be happy today?” The question was rhetorical. Mike’s blood ran cold. This was not going to be a good day, he decided.

“OK, OK. I’m putting it on.”

“Good boy,” the second man said with a mocking tone.

The drive was long, and nobody spoke. They both said nothing to each other, and they assumed Mike was comfortable enough. Even if he tried to shift his position in the crouch he had, he was quickly destabilized.

Mike tried to remember the sounds of the road as they traveled. He tried to talk. “So where are we headed to?”

“Don’t need to know,” the first man said.

They did several turns, and Mike decided to give up tracking where they might be going. He knew, however, once the sounds of traffic receded, that they were headed out of the city. It sounded right when they went on an on-ramp and the SUV breezed into the parkway.

Mike’s mind worked overtime. He felt sick; he was worried about Lauren. Did they also have her under surveillance? Who were these people? It wasn’t making sense to him. Why? Then, suddenly, he decided he had a suspicion. This abduction was about the second man who killed Levy. Mike sat back, and his heart calmed down. It was clear that somebody wanted to do something. Somebody wanted to make Mike do something. All the questions he asked subsequently turned no leads. He was still out of clues.

It seemed he dozed off as they traveled along the highway. Then, suddenly, there was a sharp swerve and then the SUV’s speed lessened. There were stops, sometimes long stops. Then the usual swerves to turn and run smoothly. Mike wished he knew what the hell the time was. He began to get that sick feeling again. His stomach was churning again. He knew it was close to when he would find out who was behind this abduction. This someone, whoever he was, knew about him, his stabbing Levy, and Lauren. He hated being in the position of defense. It was clear to him, once the SUV slowed to a crawl, that he might not see Lauren for a while. He wanted to call her. He realized his cell was still in his coat pocket. He tried to reach it, but a shod foot kicked his hand away. “Damn!” Mike sputtered. “You son of a bitch!”

“Compliments won’t make this easier on you, Oates.” The man pulled out his cell phone and kept it in his possession.

The SUV moved more fluidly once again and then, within a span of minutes, made a full stop.

Mike struggled between the two men as they half dragged him into a building. He was still wearing the blindfold.

“Shit!” Mike uttered as they took him without regard to his feelings through what seemed like a hallway. There was a sharp rap on a door. Mike finally stood on his own two feet before he was pulled into a room. “Great work, fellas,” the voice of a man spoke. “Take off the blindfold.

Let’s meet Dr. Michael Oates, shall we?”

Mike blinked once the blindfold was taken off his face. The evening light wasn’t good in the room. It looked like a well-decorated library or office—dark paneling on the walls, a small fire in the fireplace, a leather divan, and a few leather chairs facing it. There was a large mahogany desk on the left of Mike, and there behind it sat a man. Mike blinked again and tried to focus on his face. “Who are you?” Mike asked angrily.

“I’m someone you might have met years ago. Your father and I”—he paused—“we used to be friends.”

“My father?” Mike was confused. “What the hell does that mean?

Who are you?”

The man motioned for the two hoods to leave. He then stood up, and Mike saw his face more clearly. “I’m Mark Henderson, Mike. I was a good friend of George, your dad.”

Mike tried to figure out how he might be able to escape. Henderson saw his face and quickly said, “Don’t try to make stunts out of here, Mike. This place is like Fort Knox.”

“I don’t know why you took me by force. I want to leave now.”
“Not yet.”

“What do you want from me?”

Henderson seemed intent on keeping him in the dark, for the time being. “What do you want to drink? We had to take you here to discuss a proposal, Mike. I . . . uh . . . apologize for the rough manner.”

“The hell you apologize.”

“I’m going to try to make up for the rough treatment. You will be here for a while. I want to propose something to you, Dr. Oates, something that will get you off the hook for Levy’s death.”

This perked up Mike’s ears. It was as though he had fallen into a pit, physically; the downdraft made him react. But he was standing up still and yet became shaken to the core. This man knows, he thought.

Henderson’s face became benevolent. “Now, what about something to drink? Or maybe food?”

Mike couldn’t speak.

“OK, maybe later. Let’s sit down. You take that chair, and I’ll sit across from you. Feeling chilly? I can lend you a sweater. Or a throw. Something to make you recover from the shock?”

Mike found himself sitting down in one of the leather chairs. The cushioning of his body made him feel like he was cocooned. But his mind was whirling again.

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Mike said coolly.

Henderson gave a groan as he sat down on the chair opposite. He steepled his hands and smiled. “You know that you do. You have been seen delivering the fatal blow to Dr. James Levy. Now, why don’t you just admit it? We want to help you, Mike. Really, we do.”

Mike didn’t reply.

His captor went on. “What we want to do, Mike, is two things. The first is that in exchange for your freedom, you need to turn over the Bank of Columbus holdings over to me.”

“What? Hell with that! That is my family’s bank. It’s not for sale.” “No? Well, that might be a problem, Mike. We—my company and

your father—we had a deal way back in the days when you were in high school, making eyes and pinching girls’ bottoms.”

Mike stared at him with disgust. “No way.”

Henderson sighed. “The second thing we want you to do, Mike, is that we want you to marry Missy Wright.”

This made Mike angrier. It made him sick to his stomach. It was revolting. “You are crazy. I won’t do either one. I’d rather go to jail.”

Something in his memory jogged at him. He decided not to think of it lest it might show in his face. Mike sat back and became calm.

“Hell, Mike, you don’t mean that at all. Look, I want you to join our team. You can take some responsibilities in the bank, nothing major, just sign documents for us. And Missy, well”—Henderson spread his hands—“she’s a beauty, isn’t she? She loves you. She has always been the woman you wanted.”

He tried not to think of Lauren, the way she looked in the morning light. Mike shook his head. “No. I won’t go with this. Take me back. I refuse to make a deal with you. My dad must have been nuts to be a . . . a . . .”

“Friend and colleague,” Henderson finished for him shortly. “OK, Mike. I will not take your answer as final.”

“It won’t change,” Mike said firmly.

“I think it will,” Henderson said silkily.

Mike’s mind flew to his memory of Lauren again. Did these people know Lauren was in New Haven? he asked himself. He felt sick once again. “OK, why don’t you go and rest some, and we will talk again in the morning? Food will be served in a few hours. It’s still early. You need to rest and think. That’s what you need, Mike. Just relax.” He stood up and went

to the intercom on his desk. “Sal, bring Oates to the green room now.”

The two men looked at each other, Mike with loathing and Henderson with a fixed smile on his face. They were at odds, and Mike felt sure he could outlast his captor.

Sal, who was the man who pulled a gun on Mike, entered and took Mike’s arm. “Come on, Mike,” he said with a familiarity that irked Mike. He was taken to a basement room, which was a modified bedroom, containing a twin bed with a green quilt. There was a desk and chair and a small radio. It was a pathetic place to spend the night, Mike thought. He stood and felt the cold glom into his bones.


CHAPTER SIXTEEN
Text BoxIKE’S WATCH TOLD HIM it was after 9:00 a.m. when the rap on the door sounded. “Hey, Oates, you awake yet?”

The sneer in the man’s voice made Mike’s fist clench. “Why don’t you come in and find out?” Mike retorted and then

realized the question was intended to make him angry.

When Sal entered his room, his sharp eyes took in the untouched food and the clothes that were still on Mike. Sal sauntered in and made a small smirk on his face. “You gotta eat, Oates. You need some of the calories to get through today. It’s gonna be a big day for you.”

“So you say, Sal.”

“OK, you are now going to have brunch with the boss.” “Is he a boss? So what is he, some kind of mob boss, Sal?”

Sal’s dark face darkened even more in anger. “You shut up about that, Oates.”

“I’m ready for my breakfast,” Mike said coolly as he passed him on the way out the door.

The morning room was well-appointed—lots of light and airy drapes that hung from the ceiling down to the floor. The windows were opened to a courtyard. In the room, a long table, made of mahogany, was laden down with covered dishes—silver and ornate, heated from beneath with small sterno candles. There was the aroma of fresh coffee, scrambled eggs, all kinds of pastries, and croissants. In one corner, a chef prepared the meal for Henderson, who was standing at the french doors, looking out.

When Mike entered the room, Henderson looked around and saw him. He paused momentarily and scanned Mike’s face. “Mike, Mike, so good to see you looking rested!” Henderson came up to Mike and steered him to the table. “Look, here. We have a great spread for you. You are an honored guest. After all, you father and I—we go back a long way.”

“So I hear,” Mike said without emotion.

“I’m having our breakfast outside—on the balcony. Orange juice? Or a Bloody Mary perhaps?”

“I’ll have coffee and whatever you are eating, thank you.”

“Good choice. I don’t like juice in the morning. Makes too much fat, you know? All those carbs from the—” He saw Mike’s face and stopped. He frowned slightly before handing Mike a plate. “Here, a nice plate big enough for a hearty breakfast. We have a lot to discuss today.”

Mike mechanically went through the dishes and put something from them on his plate. He wanted to kill Henderson, but that wasn’t possible. All he hoped for was that he would be leaving today and going to see Lauren. It killed Mike that Lauren was all alone. He feared Jonathan Moore’s anger more than Henderson any day. And then he remembered that glowering look that Marsh gave him.

“Lost in your thoughts, Mike?”

“Uh . . . no. I’m ready to eat. Is this where you wanted us to eat and talk?”

“Yes, yes.” Henderson looked at him with a winning smile. “Take a seat, relax. Once we have our talk, I can have Sal take you to your room where you can shower and shave. The road back to New Haven is a little long, but you’ll be fresh as a daisy when you arrive.”

They ate in relative silence. Henderson had a copy of the Wall Street Journal at his elbow. He never looked at it. Mike decided that Henderson was eager to talk.

Mike debated whether he ought to say something first. Then Henderson beat him to it. “Mike, you remember what we talked about last night, don’t you?”

“Why don’t you refresh my memory, Henderson? I wasn’t exactly in a great mood to receive your proposal.”

“Mike, now you know that your father, George, and I had a contract that gave me half of the shares of your bank in Columbus.”

“I did not know that. My father didn’t discuss his bank dealings with me.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“Well, so now, in this contract, I really want this bank on my terms.

I want to run it and manage it and get my people in it.” “I see.”

“You are in some need of support, are you not?” “Tell me how I am.”

Henderson pursed his lips and sat silent for a moment. “What I will say, Mike, is that you are in an existential pit of snakes now. You are a suspect in a murder case, and don’t try to deny it.”

“I do deny it, Henderson. What are you talking about?”

Henderson clenched his jaw. “You were seen running away from a murder scene. You were seen, Mike Oates.”

“Who was I supposed to have killed?”

“You play this very well. I won’t give you too much more. I am sick of your innocent playacting.”

Mike leaned forward, his blue eyes dark with anger. “Let me out of here, Henderson. Whatever you want, just ask me and I’ll see what I can do for you.”

“You must know that you are going to be nailed for the murder of James Levy. Do you not remember that night? It was in January, and you got into words with Levy, isn’t that what happened?”

Mike said nothing.

“OK. Here’s the deal. For your freedom from further investigation, I am prepared to buy from you the remaining shares of Columbus Bank and Trust, owned by your father and then your representatives. I want to get this bank, and then if you and when you sign those over to me, I will give you enough money to get the hell out of this country. You have all the money you need. And I’ll sweeten the deal for you, my friend Mike.” Henderson smiled with a wink. “Missy Wright is going to be your long- loving wife when you finally get your money, and she and you will have a one-way ticket to Paris after you have said your marriage I dos.” He flipped a coin over to Mike. “Capisce?”

Oddly enough, Mike felt unsurprised by this. It seemed as though he had a scenario of this that was in his mind sometime in the last twenty-four hours. Mike pretended to think. He took a small portion of bacon and ate it. Then he wiped his lips with the linen napkin.

Finally, he leaned back and stared at Henderson. “On two conditions.” “What are they?”

“One, that Lauren Moore does not get harmed in any way through any of this. She gets home free and clear.”

“Done.”

“Two, I need two days to get my lawyers to draw up the paperwork.” “Two days?” Henderson was irate. “What the hell? I have lawyers,

Mike Oates.”

“You don’t see it my way, at least on this end. I need my mother taken care of. She is still one of my dad’s heirs, and the money that is profited by Columbus Bank and Trust keeps her happy with whatever stuff she needs.”

“So you want her to get some kind of annuity?” “Damn right I do.”

Henderson shrugged. “OK.”

“And I want to go back to New Haven in ten minutes.”

“That’s OK.” Henderson stood up. “You are a smart one, Mike Oates.

No wonder the guys in Harvard took you in.”

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN


THE SPRING BUDS IN the backyard of Jonathan Moore’s house had just edged upward over the ground the morning when Mike and Henderson were having breakfast. Jonathan didn’t notice the

spring buds. He was fully awake and having his own breakfast of steak and eggs, cooked by Marsh. The dining room was cold, and a northeaster was blowing even though the buds made their appearance. Jonathan glanced at the windows and remarked to Marsh, “Seems like it will be another hellish day in Columbus, Marsh, my man.”

“I’d like to walk in this weather, Jonathan.”

“I figured you would.” Jonathan slapped the morning paper on the edge of the table and then spread the page out by his plate. “Your days in the British Navy haven’t changed your love for dark, fierce winters.”

“I’m a creature of habit, Jonathan.” He looked out the window with a gleam in his eye. “If you have all you need, I’m going to take my morning walk.”

“Go to it, my man. Go to it.” Moore looked closely at the top of the paper and grunted—his habit when he didn’t care for the headlines.

Marsh looked back as he walked toward the door. “Oh, you had a call last night from Lauren.”

“Oh?”

“She was worried about Mike. He didn’t show for dinner.” Jonathan leaned back and frowned. “Hell. What does that mean?”

Marsh paused. “Do I still get a walk, or do you need me to do something?”

“I don’t know yet.” He stood up and picked up the phone. “Why the blazes didn’t you tell me this last night?”
“I forgot,” Marsh said with a stone expression. “Mind, Jonathan, I don’t like that Oates man. I think he’s better off without our Lauren.”

“Well, I don’t. He apparently loves my girl. So why don’t you arrange for me to fly over to Connecticut? No walks today.”

“Fly in this weather?” Marsh was incredulous.

“I’m sorry, but I will fly. There will be a plane to do it in. I can imagine all sorts of hell in Connecticut now.”

Marsh bit his lip and then left.

The call from Lauren came within seconds of Moore leaving her a voice mail. “Dad, I’m glad you called. Did Marsh tell you?”

“What exactly is happening?”

“I don’t know where Mike has gone to. He told me he was going to pick me up for lunch. He never came. And I called his cell, and it was always going to his voice mail. I want to know what to do. Has he been taken in by the police?”

“I don’t think so. I would have heard.” “Well, I’ll try him again this morning.”

“Don’t. I will make some calls, and then I’ll head over there. I’ll come see you at your hotel in the next few hours.”

“OK.”

“Lauren, do take care, will you?”

Her voice was small, sounding lost. “I will. I’m just not sure where he went!”

“Possibly he was detained by some emergency case at the hospital.” “I would have gotten that message,” she sounded unconvinced. “No,

I think he’s in some trouble. I can feel it.”

“Don’t be alarmed. There is no evidence that he is in trouble.” “Dad, I think I would know if he was in trouble.”

Moore sighed. “I’ll be there soon. Just stay put and have the phone by your side.”

He rang off and headed for the car waiting outside. Marsh stood by the driver’s-side door, looking half guilty and half gruff. “Oh, don’t look like that Marsh! It’ll all be OK.”

“What can I do?”

Moore told him, and then they got into the car. The billowing snow enveloped the car as it disappeared into the street.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

BILL GADDIS STRETCHED HIS stocky body over his armchair and reached for a folder on the desk behind his. “Tom, is this the Levy folder?”

Tom Ridley looked up from his position by the file cabinet. “Yes, that is it. What do you need?”

“I’m looking for that interview we were supposed to have with Dr. Oates. Did that ever happen? I must have sleepwalked and never filed it.” “No, it never happened. He would have been the last one to have gotten a call from you.”

“Damn. I hate that. What happened to me?”

“You had a date with you wife that night. The rest is conjuncture.” Ridley’s lips curled in a mocking smile.

Gaddis looked foggily at him, and then he reddened. “Damn.”
“Well, it happens. I could have gone for you, you know.”

“Well . . .” Gaddis sat back straight in his chair and picked up the phone. “Hell, I hope he’s at home. Did you get his cell-phone number?”

“It’s all in there.”

“Nobody’s home. I’ll try his cell.”

There was a pause. Gaddis shrugged and left a message. “He’s not in close proximity to his telephone nor cell phone.”

“Try his workplace?”

“Good idea!” Gaddis dialed the hospital and finally reached the unit where Mike used to work. “Hello, I’m Detective Gaddis from the NHPD. I’m trying to locate a Dr. Mike Oates. Happen he’s there?”

There was a pause. Then he said, “OK, thanks.” He hung up and looked up at Ridley. “Damn.”

“Ok, what?”

“He’s quit!”

“He’s quit?”

“That’s what I said. Yes, the woman said Mike signed his resignation over to the big honcho there, and now he’s a free unemployed surgeon.”

Ridley walked to the desk and sat on its edge. A thoughtful look came over his face. “I’m thinking the same thing as you, Bill?”

“Depends.” Gaddis slanted a look at his subordinate.

“Well, it’s a bit of a coincidence that Dr. Mike Oates would resign.” “It’s not uncommon, is it? Maybe he got tired of the rat race. Lots of residents burn out.”

“No, this guy, Oates—he’s not a quitter.” “Says you?”

“I’m not real sure, but I’ve spoken to some of the staff. I hear some scuttlebutt about the residents, like that other guy Corcoran. He’s got some Anglo parents in the West Coast. Lots of money, but he’s always broke.”

“Oh, for crying out loud, Ridley!” Gaddis groaned. “Well, we need to tie up loose ends. I need to find this Oates guy.”

“Oh, and he’s also been seeing this nurse there—Missy Wright.” “You get around, don’t you?” Gaddis laughed.

“She happens to be somebody that had ties to Levy.” “It’s not in your report, Mr. Ridley. What gives?”

Ridley shrugged. “It’s late. I don’t get home till ten p.m., and I have to have some time to relax.”

“If Ingraham ever found out that you’re not up to date—”

“OK, OK, I’ll fill you in. Meantime, where can we find this Oates now?” “You tell me, Detective Sherlock.”

There was a silence. “I can’t think,” Ridley said finally.

“OK, let’s put out an APB on Oates. We want him for questioning mainly because he seems to have two ties to this murder.”

“Two?”

“Yes,” said Gaddis patiently. “Missy Wright and that sudden resignation. It stinks that he did this soon after Levy got murdered.”

Ingraham stood at the door of his office. He coughed and then said, “I couldn’t help but overhear. This is news. I’m thinking you two are either on some kind of dope or you are some kind of psychic.”

The two men he commanded stared at him. “Sir,” said Gaddis. “Don’t you think this quitting is clearly something to do with the murder?”

“It’s a long shot, Gaddis,” Ingraham said coldly. “Now, why don’t you boys find Oates and tell him nicely that we just want to tie up loose ends?” He watched the two detectives leave and then went into his office, closing the door. He sat down behind his desk and pulled out his cell phone. Ingraham had a small frown as he dialed a number. “Hello?”

“Hello, Leo, what’s new with you these days?” Ingraham asked. “Well, hey, Inspector Ingraham. Haven’t heard from you since you left my hospital. How’s the old ticker going?”

“Fine, fine. I’m doing fine,” Ingraham said curtly. “Hey, I’d like to meet for coffee. Are you free by chance later today?”

“Let me check my schedule,” Leo Bartholomew replied. In a moment, he said, “I’m free at three thirty p.m. I can’t go past four p.m. as I’ve got to take my wife to a movie.”

“Really? A movie? What’s this?”

“She really wants to see this movie, and the matinee is at four thirty.” Leo sounded sheepish.

“The great Leo Bartholomew is playing hooky with his wife! That’s pretty damn funny.”

“OK, Matthew, you keep this under your belt.” Leo laughed. “Fine. See you at three thirty, then.”

The café at the Yale New Haven Hospital was just refurbished, and it shone like a diamond. The floors, countertops, and walls were all shiny and clean. The workers who manned the different food stations were attired in black aprons and caps, and they had sharp-edged collared shirts under their aprons. Everyone was in good spirits, and the staff and nurses and assistants had a great meal here all the time, if they should need it.

Ingraham stood appreciatively at the entrance of the café and surveyed it with a wrinkled gaze. His eyes scanned the personnel until their gaze alighted upon the lean face of Leo Bartholomew. “Ah!” they both said at the same time, and they approached each other smiling.

“Hello, you look good!” Ingraham said with a genuine smile. “You been out in the sun, I see!”

“I got dragged to the Caribbean with my wife. It’s something she can’t get enough of.”

“Let’s have something, shall we?” Ingraham went ahead of Bartholomew to the coffee and cakes where each picked up a latte and doughnut.

Leo looked at Ingraham’s face with a speculative eye. He said nothing until they sat down in a quiet corner.

“Matthew,” said Leo, “I don’t always get a visit from the inspector of NHPD unless it’s serious.”

“Oh, come on,” Ingraham said with a wave of his hand. “I’m just on a visit. Just wanted to ask a few questions.”

“About?”

“Well, what’s new with the department? I know that you have a lot of residents now that are shipping off.”

“Yes, well, not for a few more weeks. I get a new batch in July.” “Oh.”

“So who are you interested in these days, Matthew?”

Ingraham sipped his coffee and ate a piece of his doughnut before he replied. “Good doughnut.”

Leo preserved his silence and sipped his own cup of coffee. He glanced at his watch.

“OK, OK,” Ingraham said placatingly, “I’m interested in this one resident you have. Name of Mike Oates.”

Leo’s eyebrows lifted. He sat back and gave a short sigh. “Oh. Him.

What a hell of a—”

“What does that mean?”

“I’m sorry, this is not my best day of the week. Five surgeries in a row. I really need this date with my wife. She loves me to bits. I can’t stand it any more—why I still work. I can retire if I wanted to.” He paused. Then he sat forward. “Look, this Mike Oates. I don’t know, but he was going to be my next chief resident.”

“And?” Ingraham looked at him innocently. “He quit yesterday.”

“He did, did he? Maybe he decided it was all too much for him too.”

“No!” Leo exclaimed. “He wanted it. He was almost like a puppy trying to fetch and carry for me. The guy wanted the job. I am sure of it.”

“So what do you think made him quit?” “I don’t know.”

“What did he tell you why he wanted to quit?”

Leo sighed again. “He said something about surgery not being what he really wanted.”

“Is that right?” Ingraham sounded impressed. “Leo, I want to talk to your Mike Oates. I can’t find him. Where would he go?”

“Hell, I don’t know. I’m not their babysitter, Matthew. Ask . . . ask that guy you call the chief of police. He’s your guy. Don’t they have enough blues to find people?”

Ingraham suddenly pushed his cup away. “I can’t stand this coffee now. Hell. I am pretty much of the opinion that something in this case—”

“Wait, what case are you talking about?” “Levy’s murder.”

“Hell.”

“Yes, hell indeed.”

“I don’t even think they knew each other. Levy was a neurosurgeon.

Oates would never touch that part of the body. He’s a heart guy.” “And he left you. Up and quit.”

“Do you really think there’s a connection?”

“My men think this. I am trying to get to this a different way. I can’t tell you, but I really need to keep our chat quiet.”

“OK, you got it.”

Ingraham sat back, looking sad. “Well, I need to tell them to really send out the APB on Oates. I hope he hasn’t jumped ship and taken a flight to Aruba.”

Leo shook his head. “No, not him.” “Really?”

“No.” Leo took a breath, then said, “I saw him when he said he wanted to quit. He really looked like he lost his soul about surgery. He just didn’t look like he was hungry for it any longer.”

“Oh. Now that is strange. He’s been hungry, and then he’s not. What could have happened?” Ingraham’s face became frozen. “Unless he really had something to do with Levy’s death.”

“Well, even if he did, I don’t think he’s the kind to ship out and leave the country.”

Ingraham put his hand around his cup again. He warmed his hand with it. “I’m afraid this is going to have to go through channels, Leo.”

“Are you trying to tell me that Oates holds some kind of special type of treatment and now it’s out of your hands?” He leaned forward. “Tell me, Matthew. Who’s behind this special visit from you?”

The inspector shook his head. “Can’t tell you. Maybe one day.” “OK, this makes me feel really sad. I now feel like maybe Oates needs

to show up, or else he’ll be churned up and left to dry in some cell.”

Ingraham stood up suddenly. “I’m going to have to let your wife have you now. I need to think.”

Leo stood up as well. “OK. I might send someone to check on Oates’s place and see if they know anything.”

“Oh, that would be good.”

“Yes. Well, I sort of thought he was a gunner, but when he came to see me yesterday, he seemed like he was a totally different person.”

The two men said goodbye and left each other.

When Leo got to his office, he closed the door and picked up his telephone. “Call Dr. Corcoran in, please.”

“Yes, Doctor,” the voice of his secretary replied.

The clock chimed 4:00 p.m., and a chuckle escaped Ralph Corcoran’s throat. He was holding Rebecca Bartholomew in his arms as they stood in her office. “You are so adorable, Rebecca,” he said softly, his eyes devouring her freckled face. “Why don’t we get married?”

“Oh, well . . . are you proposing, Dr. Corcoran?” she asked primly. “I guess I am. We’ve been dating for a few weeks now.”

“And you think that’s all we need? A few weeks of dating?” “Why wait? We love each other. Why can’t we get married?”

“You’re not thinking straight. There’s my father to contend with.” Corcoran laughed. “He likes me. I know he likes me.”

“Er . . . no, he doesn’t.” She ducked out of his arms and stood behind her desk. She wore a lab coat over a nice woolen dress.

“OK, so he might think I’m a little flaky, but—”

“Flaky is not all you are. You are suspect.”

“Are you telling me this to discourage me? I know I don’t meet all his expectations as a surgeon. He’s a very, very, very serious doctor of surgery. I can’t compare to him. No one can compare to him. In his opinion as well.” Corcoran threw up his hands. “Listen, are you going to let him get in the way of our getting married?”

“Have you thought of all that we have to go through in getting married? I have a job here. I like my job. You . . . you might be assigned in some out-of-the-way place like . . . California!”

Corcoran’s mouth fell open. “What’s wrong with California?” “It’s too far from here.”

“Too far from Dad and Mom, right?”

Rebecca’s smile dimmed. “Oh, Ralph!” She started to look like she was going to cry.

“Oh, oh, oh, don’t you cry now!” He went over to her and embraced her. “OK, look. If you wish, I’ll make us a plan. And then I’ll go ask your dad to consider me his son-in-law. What about that?”

She thought for a moment. “OK. It’s just that Dad is so full of . . . of himself. He scares all my boyfriends off.”

“I’m not just your boyfriend.”

“I know. You are a special, special man, and I do love you!”

She was about to reach up and kiss him when his beeper went off. He took it out of his pocket and then said, “Let me use your phone. Somebody wants me stat.”

“OK.”

He dialed the number and was surprised to hear Leo Bartholomew’s voice. “Uh . . . hello, Dr. Bartholomew. What can I do for you?”

“I want you to look into Mike Oates for me. Find him, please, and ask him to call me stat. If he’s not available, then see if you can find him where he usually hangs out.”

“OK, sure!” Corcoran hung up and stared at the phone. “What was my dad wanting?” Rebecca asked.

“He’s looking for Oates.”

“Oates? Mike Oates?”

“Yes, that guy.” “Why?”

“I don’t know. But this is strange.”

“Yes. But Dad is a strange one when he gets a bee in his bonnet.”

They stared at each other for a moment. “Rebecca, I’ll be seeing you later. I need to find Oates. It seems like something’s gone off-kilter from Bartholomew’s voice.”


CHAPTER NINETEEN

Text BoxHILE LEO AND MATTHEW were having a call to meet for coffee, Jonathan Moore was on his way to New Haven in a hired limousine. He shivered in the back of the car despite

the thick camel-hair coat he wore. He tried to warm his hands and rapped at the window to talk to the chauffeur.

“Yes, Mr. Moore?” The chauffeur inclined his head.

“Is there anything to drink in this car? I need something to warm me up.”

“The bar is just under the back of the front seat.” “Good.”

“Table service as well.” “Excellent.”

Jonathan opened the bar area and saw a small bottle of brandy. He poured himself a glass and immediately felt better as the brandy coursed down his throat. He felt a boost of confidence and leaned back.

The cell in his pocket buzzed, and he took it out. “Hello? Oh yes. What have you found out? Really? And what about Lauren? Is she OK? Good. So that other thing you mentioned. Do you know where they took him? OK. I figured that. Damn it. Why don’t you . . . are you there? OK, great job. You keep me posted.” He was about to hang up, but then the other party said something else. “Did you? OK, so you don’t think . . . OK, fine. Well, I’ll have to tell you this. Make damn sure Lauren is safe. Is she? Did you . . .? OK, good.” Jonathan hung up, pocketed his cell, and then let the brandy’s effects lull him to sleep.


CHAPTER TWENTY

MIKE OATES LOOSENED HIS tie as he sat next to Sal in the same black SUV that he was transported in the day before. He had his cell phone back, but it had long run out of juice. He

hated that and worried about Lauren. It made the trip unbearably long, and he tried to close his eyes to shut out the long road ahead of them, filled with cars and prone to being in gridlock. Sal took the long drive back, and Mike hated that too. If he could, he would have made the move to hit Sal on the nose and crack it open, make him die, and take over the wheel.

But Henderson still had his hold over him. Everyone Mike held dear in his life was in Henderson’s thrall. It made Mike die all over again. His hell was almost unbearable in its exquisite balance. Mike had to go on with the lie that he would marry Missy. He had to agree to keep Lauren from getting killed, for she would have been killed and may be already dead by now. That possibility was what ground his insides to a pulp. It made him die all over again. What a mess. What a mess of my life. He dared not pray. It was not that he would not pray, but that God would not answer. It made him so totally sad and filled with despair.

He wanted to talk to his mom, the woman who taught him how to pray, how to be a good child, and how to do all the right things. He wished he had his mom all the time, not his father, George. It made him mad that his dad conned him into wanting the things that he thought would get him far and in the best places—to the heaven that his dad said existed. Well, his type of heaven was bad. George got into bed with Henderson without anyone knowing it. For years. For decades. It was enough to make Mike hate his father all over again. He could not and would not attend the funeral but for his mother’s sake.

Mike felt this trip back to New Haven was somehow a way to get to a place where he thought he would never be in; there was hell waiting for him and hell with him now. Why he had to kill or stab Levy made him desperate in his remorse. It was totally, totally out of his control. What made him do this thing? To kill someone—it was so very different from how he wanted to love someone, someone like Lauren. The woman who was in and out of his life for years. She was the prize. Now she was going to be replaced by Missy. That woman, Missy, would have been someone that his father would have approved of. “God, I hate my dad,” Mike groaned, and it made Sal glance at him.

“Hey, you OK there, Oates?” Sal leered at him. “Shut up.”

“I will. I got my money. No sweat driving you back. You lucky you ain’t been worked over. You a good guy, Mike Oates.”

Mike heard this, and it made him feel worse. He was no good guy. No. He was not a good guy at all. He wanted to get to Lauren soon. “Can’t we go any faster?”

“No.”

They drove for what seemed like a few moments, and then suddenly, there was a siren that erupted behind them.

“Jesus Christ!” Sal exclaimed.

“What . . . are we getting pulled over?” Mike felt a wash of relief and suspense at the same time.

“I was not even doing sixty!” Sal uttered an expletive and pulled the car to the side of the road. “I’m not going to tell my boss this. No way. No way.”

They waited in silence while the police car came behind them and then parked. An interminable amount of time seemed to pass for Mike as the police officer came out and went to talk to Sal. “May I have your driver’s license and registration, please, sir?”

“Sure.” Sal took out his license and dug into the dashboard for the registration. He handed them over.

The police officer took note of both Sal and Mike. “What’s the reason for your trip, uh, Mr. Trivero?”

“We’re just going to work. I’m the chauffeur.”

“Oh. What about you, sir? Do you have an identification card I can look at?”

Mike handed his driver’s license to him. “Thank you.”

The police officer went back to his patrol car and stayed there.

Mike looked helplessly at the skies. If this was the worst thing that could happen to him, it couldn’t have happened at the worst time.

The police officer had taken a little time, and then he came back. “I’m sorry, I need to take you both back to New Haven Police Department.”

“What the hell?” Sal exclaimed, his voice suddenly afraid. “Yes. Both of you.”

The police officer herded them both to his patrol car and then closed the back door on them both.

Mike tried not to lose his composure. “Listen, Officer, I really need to get to my girlfriend right after the police station. I don’t want her to worry about me.”

“What’s her name?”

“Lauren Moore. She’s also my lawyer.”

“OK. Well, I don’t have any control over what happens to you, Dr. Oates. I just know you have an APB out on you, and this guy with you is our mystery man.”

APB! Mike closed his eyes and groaned. I’m sunk, he thought.

CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

THE CLOCK TICKED INTERMINABLY next to Lauren’s bed as she lay with her eyes closed. She was not sleeping as evidenced by her constant stirring, turning, and sighing. She stifled several sobs, and then she got up and flung the pillow away from her.

Her face was streaked with tears, and her hair fell over her eyes. She was still clad in the dress that she would have worn to lunch with Mike the day before. Where is he? her mind asked over and over. Her cell was plugged into the wall with its charger. She had the cell close to her since she missed seeing Mike yesterday. She didn’t like that she called home and Marsh didn’t tell her father until this morning.

Finally, she looked at the clock and decided to get herself ready for dinner. She would be meeting Adam tonight. His phone call was surprising, but he said it would be good to have him as a backup while Mike was still in New Haven. With a slow step, she walked to the bathroom and got herself to a presentable state.

“Oh?”

“I’m here because I want you to leave this Mike Oates to the law. I don’t think he’s a good person for you. You are too good for him. You must see that.”

Lauren stared at him. Then she said, “You are wrong. Adam, I think you should leave.”

“No, I must speak my mind first.”

She sighed. “Go ahead. Let me hear it. But you must go after you speak it.”

“OK. Fine.” He paced the floor before her. “I’m one of your colleagues at work, OK? So I see you almost every day. Lauren, I really want to tell you that I am in love with you. I’ve always loved you. Mike Oates, this guy—he’s nobody. He can be rich and smart, but he’s not for you. You’re too good for him. Why do you want to waste your time with some guy that is weaseling out of being taken in to jail? He is one inch away from this prison cell, and you insist on keeping him with you.”

“Stop. Stop there.” She held out her hand. “Adam, I am glad that you got that out. I had an idea you might be against Mike. I should have made sure you were on his side before you got this far. I don’t agree with you. I think Mike is a good man and he was made to like the wrong things. I’ve grown up enough around him. I know his family, and I know his mom is very good and loving. I don’t think Mike could be a total loser, and I know that he needs me.”

“So if he did need you, that still shouldn’t make you stick by him. You are losing your impartiality in this case!” he insisted.

“Adam, I admit that I love Mike Oates. I am not his lawyer now. Dad is his lawyer. I don’t think you need to go any further. Please leave me now. I think you wasted your time. Don’t bother coming back.”

He looked at her with pity. “Lauren, you are too innocent. Too good.” “Please leave, Adam.”

He hung his head and then turned and left her.

Lauren sat down and started to feel an upheaval of emotions. But she decided it wasn’t going to help her to cry. If Mike came in that moment, he would not want to see her crying at all. Thinking of Mike made her heart lift, and then she stood up and got herself ready for the evening. Surely Mike was going to come that evening, she thought.

As if on cue, there was a knock on the door.

“Who’s that?” Lauren called out. “Adam, is that you again?”

No one answered. Lauren hesitated, and then she opened the door to reveal Missy Wright. “Oh! Hello, are you looking for someone else? I don’t think I know you.”

Lauren beheld a tall and curvaceous woman at the door. She looked vaguely familiar. The woman said nothing. In fact, she had a hateful look on her face that deformed her attractiveness. “You must be Lauren Moore,” she said with a hiss.

“Well, yes.” Lauren tried to block her from entering, but Missy was too strong.

“I’m sure you and Mike are great in bed together.” “What do you mean? I want you to leave.”

“No way. You are going to be my only block to getting Mike back.” Lauren realized this woman was the girl that Mike referred to back in

New York City. “OK, so you’re Mike’s ex-girlfriend.”

“No. He’s still my boyfriend. In fact, he’s going to marry me. Marry

me!” She came close to Lauren’s face with a sneering smile. “OK, fine. I’ll send you both a present. I want you to leave.”

“Not quite yet.” Missy put a hand out and pushed Lauren rudely. “No, you do not push me!” Lauren said with a gasp.

“Oh, you are too prissy for me. Lord, have mercy!” Missy laughed. “Here, what do you think about this?” She took her hand out of her coat pocket and displayed a gun.

Lauren stared at the gun and couldn’t speak. It was a grim thought that crossed her mind. Where was Mike? She tried to remain calm.

“You need to put the gun away. You really need to leave. Let’s just forget about me and Mike. I’m sure that you and he will have a very happy life.”

“No. You need to die, Lauren Moore. I hate you, and I hate you for taking Mike away from me. I wish you would die!” She took aim and pulled the trigger.

“No!” Lauren suddenly ducked and then lunged for Missy’s legs. Missy toppled over, and her head hit the edge of the chair beside her. The gun exploded, and the bullet lodged in the wall behind Lauren. Missy tried to kick Lauren, but Lauren sat down on her legs and then put her hands on Missy’s throat. Whatever made Lauren do this was a surprise to Lauren herself, but it was fortunate that the gun was no longer a threat.

The door flew open, and a man in a fedora hat came in. “Damn, what happened?”

“Who are you?” Lauren demanded.

“I’m a friend. Your dad asked me to help keep you safe.”

“Well, do your job!” Lauren said with a flash of anger. “I hate this now! Take her away!”

Missy was bleeding from the cut to her head. Another slam of the door revealed Gaddis and Ripley crashing through

Lauren took a look at them. “What is this?”

“Police, Ms. Moore. We have your boyfriend in custody.” “Oh my god!”

They helped Lauren get up and took Missy out of the room. The man in the fedora hat stayed behind and gave Lauren something to drink. She said nothing until the call came from her father.

“Lauren, my dear, are you all right?” “Yes. I need to see Mike.”

“Not tonight.” “When then?”

“Let’s talk about it later. I have to meet a few people, and then tomorrow, we can start our way home.”

“What about seeing Mike?” she insisted. “Just calm down. I’ll see what I can do.”

She hung up and stared up at the man beside her. “I’m OK,” she told him. “I just have to wait for the time to get to see Mike.”


CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

THE POLICE DEPARTMENT THAT night was full of people, most of them unrelated in their cases to Mike Oates. The two detectives were reviewing their notes as they drank coffee, talking in desultory tones. Neither one was in a self-congratulatory mood. Something in the atmosphere had a dampening effect on the fact that they finally got Mike Oates, that he was sitting in a cell, that Missy Wright was also in custody for attempted murder, and that the case of Levy was about to get closed.

Tom Ridley looked up with a squint at his supervisor. “I’m still not sure we have all the facts.”

“Neither am I.”

“Good, then I have my hunch right.”

Gaddis got up and stretched, glanced at his watch, and groaned, “I can’t do these late nights anymore, Tom. I don’t have the energy.”

“Gotta keep working out, Bill.” “Ok, what do we have here?”

Ridley flipped back through his notes. “We have . . . OK, here’s what I have. Mike Oates was kidnapped by this mob guy, Ross Henderson. Oates was pressured to sell his bank’s shares to Henderson in exchange for Henderson keeping quiet about Oates’s killing of Levy.”

“Well, not really killing Levy, did he? He said . . . well, his lawyer, Jonathan Moore, said . . . that Oates didn’t fatally stab the guy. That Henderson confessed to having a hit man do it.”

“That is what he said once Missy Wright admitted to asking Henderson to kill Levy for butchering her mother’s surgery.”

“So Henderson, then,” Ridley said, raising a hand holding a pen, “did this to Levy but made Oates think he killed Levy so Oates would give him the shares to Oates’s father’s bank!”

“Right.”

“And Missy Wright was to be the prize in the bargain. She was Oates’s ex-lover, and she was to become Oates’s fiancée.”

“And she was so damned jealous of Oates and Lauren Moore getting involved in a hot affair that she came to Moore’s hotel with a gun.”

“Which we know was flubbed because Moore defended herself by tackling Missy Wright, and Missy suffered a bad head injury.”

“Well, she bled a bit, not a lot to get her into the hospital,” Gaddis interposed.

“OK, OK. So that is where we are, correct?”
“Henderson is in lockup too, right?”

“He’s been apprehended, and he confessed at his home before they brought him in.”

“OK, fine.” Gaddis walked to the coffee machine and poured himself another cup. “I’m hoping Ingraham will sign off on this.”

“What’s the next thing for Oates?”

“Not sure, Tom. I’m guessing he’s going to have to serve some kind of time.”

“Damn.”

“You don’t like it, eh?” Gaddis smirked.

“Well, he looks pretty damn pitiful. I feel for the guy. He just had way too much ambition, too much of a career mind, and went for the wrong girl.”

“Lauren Moore’s not a wrong girl.”

“No.” Ridley smiled. “She’s pretty cute, don’t you think?”
“Let’s not wax poetic about the woman, shall we?”

“Come on, Bill! She’s a very good-looking woman!” he expostulated. “And she’s what could have been the prize, but Oates went for the other chick.”

“He said he was doing it to protect Lauren. He didn’t know what they would do to her if he turned Henderson down.”

Gaddis’s face sobered at the thought. “OK, yeah. Damn. I’m real sorry this was how it’s turned out for Oates.”

At this, the door to Ingraham’s office opened. Both men looked up in surprise. “Inspector, we didn’t know you were still here,” said Gaddis.

Ingraham’s face was solemn. “I’ve been in a phone discussion. Need to meet with you both later . . . maybe tomorrow. We have to get the Oates v. Levy case in some order.”

“Oh, we’re on it, sir!” Ridley said with a smile.

“Let’s not be presumptuous. There’s a problem I am needing to address.”

“What’s that, sir?” Gaddis asked, his eyes watchful. “I can’t discuss it yet.”

“OK.”

Ingraham shrugged his coat on and walked toward the door. “I’m going out for a few minutes. Maybe an hour. Don’t wait for me. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Good job, by the way.”

The two detectives watched him leave in silence. Then Ridley looked at Gaddis with a sly face. “Ingraham’s trying something, isn’t he?”

Gaddis pursed his mouth. “I’d leave it, Tom. Let’s finish up here and go home. I need my bed.”


CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

Text BoxHE BARTHOLOMEW HOUSEHOLD WAS quiet the night that Mike Oates came back from Branford, where Henderson’s mansion was. No one there had an inkling what Oates went

through.

“Rebecca?” Sophia Bartholomew called out when she saw her daughter pass their bedroom door, carrying a suitcase.

“Mum?” Rebecca said without stopping. “I’m in a hurry.”

“Where are you off to?” Sophia stepped out onto the hallway. “I’m seeing a suitcase. Going on a trip?”

Rebecca stood stiffly and sighed. “Mum, I’m old enough. I really must go.”

“Yes, you are old enough, but it would have been good manners to tell me at least that you were going away for a . . . trip? Short vacation? This is sudden, after all.”

Rebecca nodded. “OK, yes. Cor and I are going away to see his parents in California. We . . . he proposed to me last night.”

“Really?” Sophia leaned back against the wall, her chest heaving. “Oh, Rebecca!”

“Mum, I’m in love with Cor. He loves me. We want to be together forever.”

“Ok fine. I . . . I am only thinking selfishly. I have to tell your father.” Sophia looked as though she was going to cry.

“I left a note on Dad’s desk. He’s left for a meeting.” “You left a note.”

“Yes, I did.”

“Neither one of us is strong enough to tell your father, it seems,” Sophia said ruefully.

“I must go. You can understand. I really need to make this flight.” “OK, go.” Sophia went to her daughter and hugged her quickly. “I’ll

let your father know.”

“We will be happy, Mummy. I promise,” Rebecca said with a bright smile.

“Yes, I hope so. I want to help with the wedding plans, if you’d let me.” Rebecca looked troubled. “We were going to Vegas.”

“Oh.”

“Yes, well, I must go.”

Sophia straightened up. “Rebecca Bartholomew, I want this wedding, and I want to help plan it. I do not like running away to Vegas.”

“OK, OK!” Rebecca said in a rush. “Let me just get to the airport. I really, really have to leave now!”

“Good. We’re planning a nice wedding, somewhere where there’s a real church and a real minister, and your dad is going to take you down the aisle. Understood?”

“OK!” Rebecca went running down the stairs and disappeared out of the house.

Sophia fell back against the wall and groaned.

“I don’t understand, Marcus,” Leo Bartholomew said wearily as he sat in a conference room at the hospital that night. “I have no idea where to find Mike Oates. I’ve agreed that he can resign. But now that Ralph Corcoran has resigned too, there doesn’t seem to be anyone good enough to fill the chief resident spot.”

The man with him was much older and more grim looking. “So we can’t have the best. What of it? Let’s just make do, and then we’ll get somebody to do the chief spot.” Marcus Simonson gave him a quick look sideways.

“I’m sorry. I must have a damn good surgeon at the helm. It’s stupid to think that we ought to do with what and who we have. It’s going on to March, and this whole interview process to find somebody will take as much time and we may not have anybody at all by July.”

“We still have Cody Tripp until then. Don’t be that upset.”

“No? I’m damned upset. I need this all ironed out and the schedule and the whole thing figured out.”

“Well, we don’t have it all figured out. I’ll take responsibility for it, Leo. Being the hospital CEO, I will help you. Just know that there will be somebody by July.”

Leo sighed and pushed himself away from the table. “I need to go home. I have an urgent message from my wife.”

“How is Sophia these days?”

“Oh, well, she’s fine. No real news. Getting all dreamy about my retiring.”

Marcus’s eyebrows lifted. “Surely, you’re not thinking about retiring?

I can’t handle that!”

“No, no.” Leo smiled without mirth. “I think she merely has this idea that life with me would be better if I had less time spent here. That’s about the dream of every surgeon’s wife.”

“Well, why don’t you try to make her a concession—get home at the right hour and give her your full attention there? A lot of wives of doctors complain to me that their husbands just don’t have time for them any longer.”

Leo nodded thoughtfully. “Yes.” His eyes looked at Marcus with what seemed like an idea. “Funny how that brings me to Oates’s resignation.”

“Oh? Why?”

“He said that surgery wasn’t appealing to him any longer.” Leo got up and walked toward the door. “I’m thinking he’s become aware that there are more pressing things than a big and juicy job.”

“Big and juicy—that’s surgery.” Marcus laughed. “It is not juicy,” Leo said, frowning.

“It depends on how you look at it. Look, Leo, I’ll back you on this chief resident thing, and then we’ll sleep on it tonight and things could be better soon. At least by July. See you tomorrow?”

“Yes, I’ll see you tomorrow.”


CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

Text BoxEN O’CLOCK THE NEXT day found Mike Oates with Jonathan Moore. They sat in the interview room at the police department. Mike looked as though he had not slept well and

had a stubble of a beard on his jaw. His hair was tousled, and his face was grim. “I want to see Lauren, please. May I see Lauren?”

“No, not yet, Mike. This case isn’t hers now. I am happy to say she is well, and nothing about last night’s fracas with Missy Wright has injured her peace of mind. She is glad you are safe, however—that, I can tell you.”

“I suppose she’s not here any longer? Is she back in Columbus?” “She is on her way there, yes.” Moore’s face was nonchalant.

“Fine. Tell her that I still love her and want to be with her when all this is said and done.” He pulled out a folded piece of paper and set it on the table. “I’d like to have this given to her if you would.”

“Mike, we have more important things to discuss.” “Please, Jonathan.”

“Fine.” But Jonathan made no attempt to take the paper.

Mike looked angry and sat back with his arms crossed. “OK, what’s next, Jonathan? I’m going to jail. I will cooperate. I’ve already talked to the detectives. They understand how it all went down. When do I see the judge? I want this over and done with.”

“Not so fast.”

“What does that mean?”

Moore sighed. “I’ve got to tell you something about your parents and I.”

“Well, go on.”

“I’ve always had the highest regard for you mother, Olivia. She and I spoke earlier, and she’s very, very concerned about your well-being. When we were much younger, your mother and I were about to marry, and then she decided on marrying your father instead.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yes. I’ve sworn to help Olivia through all the ups and downs of marrying George Oates.”

“That is pretty noble of you, Jonathan.” Mike’s eyes were soft. “I’m sorry that she chose my father.”

“Well, he was more of a swashbuckler than I ever will be.”

“Damn. So now you have me to deal with—a chip off the old block.” “I am very fond of your mom. I still hope she will be well after this

whole affair has been put to bed.”

“What else is there to do, Jonathan? I’m set for jail. How long a term do I face?”

“I’ve got to talk to a few people. I’m thinking that jail may not be required in this case.”

Mike’s face looked guarded. “Oh?”

“OK, look. I have yet to do my job, and that is to get you as light a prison term or no prison term at all. We have a few thoughts about that at my office. I’ll say this, though. Don’t feel bad now. The worst may be over. You will need to rest, and after bail has been set, you can go back to your place and get cleaned up. Your mother is on her way here, and she will be with you for the hearing.”

“When will that be?”

“We have a few days. I’ll let you know.”

“Great.” Mike paused. “I’m not looking forward to seeing Mom.” “She loves you and knows that you need her.”

Mike stared at him. “Will you give this letter to Lauren for me or not?”

Jonathan returned his stare and then relented. He took the letter and put it in his pocket. “Let’s say we meet sometime before the end of this week, then.” He stood up and waited until the guard escorted Mike away from the interview room.

The offices of Justice Eamus Harald were in the nearby city of Hartford, where Mike Oates would have been tried. On the Friday after Mike’s arrest, at just after 10:30 a.m., a black Mercedes SUV swung into view and slid to a stop at the front of the building where Justice Harald held his court. The driver got out and quickly opened the back- and front-passenger doors. The first to alight was Jonathan Moore, clad in his camel-hair coat, his well-kept demeanor as collected as ever. The second to get down from the SUV was Inspector Ingraham, looking beleaguered but determined. The third to finally leave the vehicle was Dr. Leo Bartholomew. His manner was grim and also determined, and it was also greatly apparent that he was suffering from emotional distress.

“You OK, Leo?” Ingraham asked as they filed into the building. “No, not at all. My daughter’s decided to elope.”

“Oh my. Sorry to hear that.”

“It’s OK. My wife is adamant there will be a church wedding.” Leo quickly moved away as if to forget the recollection of his wife’s face when she told him.

The judge in the case of Mike Oates was expecting them all. He was a well-dressed man, in his fifties, with silver hair cut very short. He had a fairly athletic physique but tended to have a middle that expanded when he sat down. He glanced down at his attire as if to check that nothing was out of order. He sat down at his desk and expectantly watched the door.

His secretary opened the door and smiled tentatively at him. “Judge Harald, I present Inspector Matthew Ingraham, Dr. Leo Bartholomew, and Mr. Jonathan Moore.” The men came in and the judge rose to greet them individually. Once the introductions were made, Judge Harald’s secretary disappeared out of the room.

“Have a seat, please, gentlemen,” Harald said with a formal tone. “I’m sure you had a good trip?”

“Very nice, sir,” Inspector Ingraham said. “Thank you for taking time out of your day to see us at such short notice.”

“Not at all. I’ve had a few chats on the phone with one of you,” Harald said, ignoring Jonathan Moore.

“Oh, really?”

“Well, I’ve been apprised of this case. The case of Michael Oates, MD?

Who will be his representative? Is that you, Mr. Moore?”

“Yes, Judge,” Jonathan said respectfully. “He’s my client. And we wish to request that his prison sentence be commuted.”

“On what grounds?” spat Harald. His stare was frightening.

Jonathan kept his demeanor as calmly as possible when he said in reply, “Mike Oates fully admits to having stabbed Dr. James Levy. He said he was caught in a terrible train of thought. He was full of ambition, and he had no idea that Dr. Levy was still alive when he left the scene of the crime.”

“Go on.”

“The man who discovered Levy’s body was actually the murderer of Levy. He knew that Levy was still alive, and he stabbed him in the heart and watched him die. That man was ordered by Ross Henderson as a hit man to murder Levy.”

Harald sat back and frowned. “I’ve read the report, Moore. Why do you want this man’s prison time commuted?”

“If I may, Judge, it is because we here together have come to request and plead the court that Oates be given a different kind of sentence. He is a brilliant surgeon. He is otherwise a good man, and he is truly remorseful. He wants to serve his time doing good as a doctor. Perhaps Dr. Bartholomew might expand on this?” Jonathan looked at Leo.

“Yes, well,” Bartholomew started, “I’ve known Oates for about two or three years, and I’ve always found his work impeccable. He has a talent—a gift—as a surgeon. While he may not wish to be a surgeon for the rest of his life, he does wish to be a doctor in a capacity that will be best for his personality.”

“What personality is that?” Harald asked.

“He is someone who has a kind heart, and his patients all love him. But he is easily tempted by the victories of surgery, and that is where his flaw lies. He wants to be a doctor somewhere where he can be of help. Something like that organization that serves the underprivileged in Appalachia.”

“Oh,” Harald said with some interest, “I see. Something that will work to serve his time whatever it is and that will also help others with his profession?”

“That is so.”

“What about the fact that his license might actually be in peril? Will anyone of you address this?”

Ingraham coughed before speaking. “I’m sure that we at the police department can find something to . . . uh . . . work on that.”

“That so?” Harald asked speculatively.

“He does appear to be most remorseful. He told me that he didn’t realize what he had done until he did it. I think he’s worth a second chance.”

Leo glanced at the others with him. “I’d like to add that if Mike were ever wanting to return to surgery, he would be welcome to.”

There was a profound silence in the room. Jonathan Moore’s eyes never left Harald’s. The judge stood up and paced the room. “I think that you present a convincing case, gentlemen,” the judge said coolly. “I’d like to think about it for a few days. Over the weekend, at least.”

The others sat unblinkingly and then realized that they were being dismissed. Jonathan got up first, and then the rest followed. “Thank you, Judge Harald,” Jonathan said with a smile.


CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

OLIVIA FOUND HER SON staring out the window on the morning of the meeting of Judge Harald and his guests. She looked at Mike with pity but put on her best smile when she

knew he would turn to see her. “Good morning, dear!” “Hello, Mom.”

“Did you sleep at all last night?” “No. Not a damn minute.”

“Oh well. Maybe you could take a nap later. We have very little planned to do today.”

“I’m sure I’ll catch a few minutes of sleep sometime later.” “Have you had breakfast?”

“No.” Mike walked to her and took her in his arms. “Mom, I am so very, very sorry.”

She hugged him back and tried not to let her emotions cloud her face. “No, it’s OK, my dear. Not to worry. Jonathan’s doing his best, and we will be happy again.”

“I sure hope so.”

“And for breakfast, what about some scrambled eggs and maybe bacon and coffee? Some muffins maybe?”

“No, I can’t eat.”

“You must eat. I am not about to watch you pine yourself into a depression.”

“I want to see Lauren. Nobody wants me to see her. Have you talked to her?”

Olivia shook her head. “No. She’s been incommunicado, I’m thinking.

Jonathan is very protective of Lauren. You know that.” “I hope he gave her my letter.”

“I’m sure he did. I trust Jonathan.”

Mike smiled sourly. “Well, I don’t know if he trusts me with his daughter now.”

“Mike Oates, what you did was a big mistake, and Levy was not anyone you loved. You would never do something like that to anybody and not even think of doing this to someone you truly, truly loved. That is my belief, and I believe in you, my dear son.”

He hugged her again. “Oh, Mom, you do say the best things. I wish I could bottle you up and have a sip of it every time I get bogged down.” “I’m sure they’ll come up with something similar.” She laughed and then walked to the kitchen. “I’m going to cook us breakfast, and then we

will just relax. I think that Jonathan is calling us sometime later today.” “OK, fine. I’ll go for a walk after breakfast. I need some fresh air.”

“I know. Getting cooped up with that awful Henderson and then at the police station!” She shook her fair head. “I’m feeling such a great deal of heartache, thinking of how they treated you.”

“I wish you wouldn’t hang on to that ache, Mom. It’s not a good thing for you to feel that way. I’m going to be OK. Jonathan’s a good lawyer.”

“I’ll do my best. I think I’ll rest a little too after we have our meal. The time it takes to get here from Columbus—it’s too draining.”

Mike looked at his mother with appreciation. “Thanks for being here, Mom. I am grateful beyond words.”

There was another snowstorm in Columbus that Friday. All the roads were slick, and there was an order that only those who had to be at work should travel. It was not something that people ignored, and most of the citizenry complied. Except for Lauren and Adam.

Lauren was in her casual jeans, working in her office with a peaceful and undisturbed solitude when Adam walked in. She looked up in surprise. “Adam! What makes you come to work?”

“I had to do some work for Monday’s hearing. I walked to work.” “I see. I didn’t know you lived close by.”

“No, you don’t know me at all,” he said coldly.

“If you are asking to have a scene, I am not available,” she said, matching his tone.

“Hell, I am sorry!” He sat down with a sigh. “Lauren, you still are in love with that Mike Oates, aren’t you?”

“I prefer not to discuss him with you.”

“OK, OK.” He held up his hands. “I still think this affair of yours needs to end.”

“Adam, I want you to shut up and leave.”

“Fine!” He stood up and then stared at her, clenching and unclenching his jaw. “I think that your father is doing way too much for Mike. That guy is a loser. He is not good! I want this case dropped. Otherwise, I will have to quit the firm.”

She looked at him wearily. “Adam, I think that would be fine with me. You and I . . . you can’t fall in love with people you work with. It’s not a good idea.”

“You are too innocent. It happens all the time.”

“And that is why people are sad and have to quit. That’s a difficult thing, I know, but maybe you need to find outside interests and not put too much of your life in your job.”

Adam looked at her as if she spoke something he had not considered before. “I think you might have something there.” He walked around the office and lingered over a small figurine. “Look, I’m sorry. I just know you are so very much someone I would want to marry, and I don’t think I’ll ever find anyone like you again. That’s all. I really don’t mean to be a pest. But I hope that, for your sake, you’ll find some closure about Mike.”

Lauren sat back and looked at him sadly.

He saw her look and then straightened up. “Hey, I am sorry. I better get back to my desk. I’ll be around for a few hours. If you need anything at all, I’m your man.”

“Thanks, Adam. I hope you know that we value you. I don’t wish you to leave us.”

“Well, I’ll think about it.” With that, he left her.



CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

THE FIRST MONDAY OF March was a mild day. The sun was shining, and any residual snow had melted into puddles on the streets of Hartford. There was a slight breeze, and every one that walked outside commented on how lovely the day was.

Jonathan Moore and Mike Oates stepped out into the sunlight, followed by Olivia. Everyone looked happy. Olivia was dabbing her eyes with tissue. But a smile wreathed her face. They were joined by Inspector Ingraham, who looked speculatively at Mike.

“Well, this is the day you have to head to West Virginia, Mike,” Inspector Ingraham said.

“Already?” asked Olivia with wide eyes. “We wanted to have a small celebration.”

“Sorry. It’s not something I can do anything about. Mike is remanded to serve out his sentence as a doctor in the wilds of the Blue Ridge Mountains.”

Mike smiled at his mother. “I’ll keep in touch, Mother. You need to understand it’s something we agreed to. I have my freedom, at least, to be out of a prison cell.”

Jonathan, who had not spoken much, spoke now. “Mike, you will be fine. I’ll check in with you as your lawyer, and you and I will have a call every week, just so we keep to the agreement.”

“That’s fine.”

“What about me? Can I visit Mike?” Olivia inquired.

“Yes, of course. But he is going to be living in a very cramped space.” “Well, I don’t care. I’ll demand to see my son.”

“OK, Mike,” Ingraham said with some asperity. “I’ll take you with me now. Goodbye to you both.”

Olivia watched as Mike and Ingraham went down the street and out of view. “Have you told Lauren anything?”

“She knows.” “Will she—?”

“Not sure, Olivia, my love. I just don’t know.”

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

Text BoxHE WORDS OF JONATHAN Moore came to Lauren as she looked out the window of the airplane she was in. “It will do you good to have a vacation, Lauren. I’m ordering you to take

two weeks somewhere that is sunny and healthy for you. You should do it tomorrow. I’ve got the tickets. You just have to show up at the gate.”

“I don’t want to go.”

“You need this. It’s good for you. Don’t argue.” “I’ve got piles of work to do.”

“I’ve asked Adam and that new attorney to help with that.” “OK, fine. I’ll go. I’m still feeling like something’s not finished.” Jonathan paused and his lips twitched. “I know.”

“OK, I’ll go and pack.” “Good girl.”

She packed her bag, and now she tried to think toward the time when she would be having a good vacation somewhere where her father was sending her. She didn’t realize it until she saw where she was boarding. It just didn’t matter where her destination would be. But she was being sent to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Her first thought was that this was not where her father would have sent his daughter. He didn’t like South Carolina, and yet here was her ticket, sending her there.

Lauren sighed and then sat back, finding herself falling into a light sleep.

Myrtle Beach was a lovely town. There was the beach itself, and at that time of year in April, she could still feel some of the chill wind when she walked on the sand. Lauren made it a habit to walk in the mornings and then have breakfast at her hotel. There was hardly a crowd there that April—only stragglers and die-hard tourists who came there every year because they had fallen in love with the place. Lauren, not having had a real vacation in years, enjoyed her walks. She stayed away from people, and the others left her alone.

One of the kitchen staff observed her as she walked toward the beach one morning and said to her friend and coworker, “That girl—she is not happy.”

“Oh?” Her friend looked at Lauren’s retreating back. “Why do you say that?”

“I can read people. She’s one of those—one of them people.” “What are you talking about?”

“Someone who’s lost somebody that they loved.” “Oh, really!”

“Mark my words. She’s hurting for someone.”

Lauren decided to skip her plane trip and, instead, hired a car to go back home at the end of her stay at Myrtle Beach. It was more relaxing for her to drive than to deal with catching a flight and the process that goes with it. So with a full tank of gas and her credit card ready, she drove a white Renault on Highway 501 and kept her GPS to track her journey.

She would be home in eleven hours.

The roads were mostly good, but once she headed through toward West Virginia, she found the roads patchy and rough at intervals. The weather was relatively good and made her spirits feel uplifted. Her father called her on her cell and expressed extreme displeasure at her having decided to drive instead of taking the flight back.

“My god, Lauren, what the hell are you thinking? Driving alone through the South?”

“Dad, I’m OK. This is not the first time I’ve driven alone through parts of the US!”

“No, it isn’t, but I’m afraid this is causing me a problem. I want you to take yourself to the nearest airport and come home from there.”

“No, I won’t,” she smilingly said. “I love the weather, and I am enjoying the drive. Let’s be calm about it. You can ask Marsh to prepare me a great big meal when I get home.”

“And when will that be, pray tell?” “Oh, sometime tomorrow after lunch!” “Oh my god.”

She rang off and motored away into the wilds of Appalachia.


CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

Text BoxHERE WAS A BAD storm brewing when Mike Oates finally decided to call it a day that night. He had been working ten- hour days for weeks since he last saw his mother. He was beat,

and he knew it. It was the only way to serve his time so he could get done quicker. He was looking at ten months of working in the Appalachians as a community doctor. It was already April. He had a little over eight months to go.

Jonathan said that if things went well for the first six months, he might be able to persuade Harald to let him come back to work as a full-time doctor somewhere else.

Mike slept fitfully that night and then got up again to start the day. The skies were blue that morning, and birds chirped outside his window. His house was modest and offered a bedroom and living room and a bathroom. There was a small kitchen area, but it was not something he enjoyed being in. He loved to have good food, but his meals were spare and tasteless. He had lost a few pounds, and it made his clothes sag around his legs.

Mike would sit at night to watch the news and then fall into a stupor from the exhaustion he felt almost every day. His work was good, and he kept up with the medical news. His patients were pitifully poor, and most of them were very grateful for his help and ministering. Some of the women found him very attractive and tried to win him over. But he only had his thoughts for someone in Columbus. He dreamed of the day when he would come back to her and hold her in his arms.

That morning, his office had a very calamitous breakdown of the heating system. Everyone was chilled to the bone as they administered to the patients. His nurse and the secretary were clad in winter coats, and yet they seemed not to care. “Dr. Mike, we really appreciate how you have come to help us with our work,” chimed the secretary, Mrs. Dilby.

They knew little of his past, and he didn’t mention his problems to anybody.

“No problem, Mrs. Dilby. It seemed to make sense at the time to help out.”

“Well, ain’t nobody been here for a while, and we’re happy you came just in time.”

Amy Tobin, the nurse, overheard them talking and smiled happily at him. “Dr. Mike, you have your next patient waiting.”

“Thank you.”



The morning became less pleasant and the chill of the office became unbearable. Mike decided that the heater needed to be repaired as soon as possible. “Mrs. Dilby, when did they say they would come and fix the heater?”

“Oh, sometime later today, I reckon.”

“OK. Why don’t we all take a long lunch hour starting now and come back later at three?”

“Fine with me!” Mrs. Dilby said.

“What are we to tell the patients?” asked Amy.

“Just tell them they can come back either this afternoon or tomorrow. Or better yet, if they need more care, they can take priority later today. How’s that?”

“Fine with me!” Amy said with a grateful look.


CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

Text BoxT WAS ALMOST FIVE o’clock when Lauren found herself driving through US 19 and espied a grocery at the corner stop. She had a snack for lunch and then decided it was best to get some additional food

before finding a hotel to stay in. The place seemed to be deserted, and then right as she slowed to a stop, her car shuddered and listed toward the front right corner. “Oh no!” Her face registered half panic, and she got out and investigated her car’s problem.

A voice called out to her from the store, “Looks to me, Ma’am, as you got yersel’ a tire flat.”

“Oh, is that what it is?” She tried not to sound anxious. This was certainly not expected.

“I reckon so, Ma’am.”

“Is there any tire place around?”

“I don’t think we have one close by. Somewhere’s closer to the city limits, I reckon. You got some lookin’ to do!” The man was sitting by the grocery store, his face wizened in years, his mouth chewing a wad of tobacco.

Lauren stood with hands on her hips. “Is there a hotel around?” she asked.

“Oh, it’s somewhere by the other side of the county road. About six miles or more.”

She decided it was not that far away. She called her roadside assistance, and they directed her to the nearest hotel, which was, in fact, six miles away. “I’ll be able to walk that far.”

“Kind of getting dark, miss,” said the wizened old man.

“I’ll be fine.”

He looked at her and rolled his eyes.

She hoisted her luggage out of the trunk and started her pilgrimage to the hotel. She kept her cell phone on so that she could be directed by the GPS to the hotel. The evening was slowly creeping in, and her spirits sagged with each step. Finally, when she was almost to the hotel, she stopped when she heard a motor engine approach.

Lauren looked around and saw a black automobile come down toward her path. She wasn’t eager to linger, so she tried to avoid the car’s path and walked to the side. The car slowed down and then came alongside her.

“Lauren?” A familiar voice came to her ears.

She stopped and dropped her luggage. She saw him, and her face broke into a smile.

Mike got out of the car and went to her, hugging her close and lifting her to him for a long kiss.

She looked up at him with love in her eyes. “Oh my god. You of all people. Here!” she said with a sob. “I’d no idea!”

“They never told you?” Mike said softly.

“No. Dad didn’t say where you went. They all conspired to keep me from learning where you would be.”

“Damn. I suppose it might be he was protecting you.”

“Oh, Mike, I’m so very happy!” Tears flowed from her eyes.

“Don’t cry, dearest Lauren. I’m going to take you home. You and I can talk about it, and then we will make plans.”

“OK,” she said simply and watched as he took her luggage and tossed it inside the car.

“Let’s get inside, my love. I’m driving us to the hotel. My house is a hard one to live in.”

Lauren saw his lanky figure and started crying again. “You have lost weight!”

“Not to worry. Just trying to get through the day.”

“Well, I will make it a point that you will eat good meals every day.” He paused and then looked at her. “How will you do that? You live in Columbus. Are you sending me care packages?”

“No.” She bit her lip. “I’d like to marry you, you silly man. What do you think about that?”

He laughed and shook his head. “Not yet. When I’m free of this sentence, you and I will be married.”

“Oh no,” Lauren said with her jaw set, “I’m not letting you out of my sight. Mike, I’ve been thinking of us for a long time. I know you think it’s better to wait, but I’m ready to give up my job and be your wife. I want to help you with your job. Maybe you need a second person there or third somebody. I can be your nurse’s aide, whatever.”

“Wait, wait, wait. Why not let us take you to the hotel, and we can have a meal and talk?”

She looked at him and then said “OK. We will talk.”

The hotel had a room to spare. It was not a big hotel, and it had some cosmetic issues, but neither of them saw the defects. Both were escorted to the top floor and then left with their key in hand. “The dining room is open till eight tonight,” the manager said.

“Good. Let’s see what they have tonight,” Mike said with a happy smile on his face. Then as the door closed, they fell into each other’s arms and kissed hungrily.

Once they were satisfied that the other’s ardor was real and that neither would disappear from view, they decided to take their meals downstairs.

Lauren looked across the table at Mike and said, “You seem different now.”

“How?”

“You aren’t a restless soul anymore. It’s a good thing.”

“I’m happy now. I like my work,” he said. “I’m thinking I’ll go into practice at one of the small private clinics in Columbus maybe—that is, if that is where you want us to live.”

“I’ll live anywhere that you want to live, Mike.” “Is that so?”

“Yes.”

“What if we lived somewhere around here? Would that be OK with you?”

She considered it and then nodded. “Yes. I could do some legal work here, something to help the community. Would that be OK with you?”


“Yes, I think that would work.”

They ate in silence, happily aware that their love was secure and that their lives would never be apart again. Mike uttered a silent thanks to God as he surreptitiously observed Lauren. He loved her deeply, he knew now. It wasn’t just an affair. He wanted to have a good life with her, and this was where God had placed him. And she was open to the life that he had started to lead there.

“It’s not the same life you had before,” she said as though reading his mind.

“No.”

“Do you not miss it at all?”

“No. I’ve no desire to get entangled with the trappings of success. I was made to want a lot of things, including being a surgeon, not really knowing that this was what I wanted. I had some talks with Mom, and she helped me think about things—how sometimes life deals us a bitter hand but it all comes out OK in the end. She said that she’s been praying that I would find peace.”

“You didn’t have much before.”

“No.” He reached for her hand and held it. “I’ve known how it is to fear the loss of love and of a loved one. I don’t ever want to have that feeling again. I didn’t know if that man had any way to get to you. I had to say things to him that would distract him from getting you in his clutches.”

“You mean that mob guy.” “Yes.”

“That’s all over with. He’s serving time, and everything has been kept confidential about your case.” She returned the pressure of his grasp. “You know you can come back and work as a surgeon again when things get finished here.”

“No, I don’t want it. I am going to stay here and see where it goes. If you want to live with me, I’d love it forever.”

“I’ll love being with you here or anywhere else in this world, Mike.”



THE END

Copyright Mary Faderan 2017































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