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Authors: Leonard Goldberg

Tags: #Medical, #General, #Blalock; Joanna (Fictitious character), #Mystery & Detective, #Fiction

Fatal Care

BOOK: Fatal Care
10.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


With fascinating forensics and insider insights, Leonard Goldberg and his heroine, forensic pathologist, Joanna Blalock, have thrilled fans of medical suspense with the latest technologies. . . and newest terrors.
In this brand-new paperback original, Joanna follows a trail of unexplained deaths to a biogenetic laboratory — where scientists are making unprecedented leaps in gene therapy . . . at the cost of human life.






Copyright ©
Leonard S. Goldberg


In memory of B. K. G.
Always in my heart
Forever on my mind


Above all, first do no harm.
—Hippocratic oath






The men in the bar suddenly went silent. Nobody moved or shifted about. They just stared at the woman who had walked in.

She was tall and blond and attractive and in her early thirties at the most. Her clothes were expensive—faded jeans, blue blazer with a white turtleneck sweater beneath it. She looked like real money. The men followed her with their eyes, all wondering who she was and what she was doing in a seedy bar on the south side of Santa Monica.

Was she a hooker? Naw, most of the men decided. No one in Sully’s could afford her type.

A boozer? Probably not. At least she didn’t have the appearance of one.

A housewife cheating on her husband, waiting for the guy she was screwing on the side? Maybe.

The men were talking in low voices, but they kept their ears turned to the bar, listening for the woman’s order.

“A glass of white wine,” she said softly.

The men nodded and smiled to each other. She was passing time while she waited for someone. The customers went back to their loud conversation and to their shots of whiskey with beer chasers.

Sara Ann Moore sipped the cheap wine and studied herself in the mirror behind the bar. Her blond wig was a really good one. It looked so natural, particularly with the loose strands that fell across her forehead. She brushed at the strands with her fingers and gave the impression to anyone still watching her that she was primping. But her eyes were slowly scanning the room, measuring each of the customers. Most were middle-aged construction workers, still wearing their hard hats. There were a sprinkling of deliverymen in their uniforms and a few overweight postal workers. At the end of the bar were two old men hunched over their drinks, and next to them an old woman with caked-on makeup trying to hide her wrinkles.

And standing next to the old woman was a tall, muscular man with jet-black hair that was beginning to show some gray. On his forearm there was a prominent tattoo of an ornate cross.

Sara wetted her lips and, picking up her wineglass, moved down the bar and approached the man. “Can I buy you a drink?” she asked.

The man stared at her for a moment as he tried to size her up. “Sure. Why not?”

“What are you drinking?”

“Vodka,” he said, his Russian accent obvious.

Sara signaled to the bartender for another round, pointing to the man’s shot glass.

The men in the bar lowered their voices once more as they watched the woman make her move. They all realized they had misjudged her. She wasn’t waiting for a man, she was looking for one. She wanted to get laid and had picked the Russian. The crazy goddamn Russian.

“He’s drinking doubles, lady,” the bartender announced.

“Then pour doubles,” Sara said.

The Russian gulped down the vodka like it was water. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“What’s your name?” Sara asked.

“Vladimir,” Vladimir Belov said, and then stuck his tongue inside the shot glass to lick out the last few drops of vodka. “What do you want?”

“Some company.”

The old woman wearing too much makeup cackled loudly. “Are you two going to be lovebirds?”

“Shut up!” Vladimir snapped.

The old woman cackled again and reached for the shoe box on the bar stool beside the Russian. “Why don’t you give her a little present? I bet she’d like that. Give her the shoes you’re always carrying around.” She picked up the lid of the box, but had to drop it when Vladimir grabbed her wrist and squeezed it.


“You touch my box again and I’ll break your goddamn hand,” Vladimir growled.

“I was only fooling around,” the old woman complained, rubbing the soreness from her wrist.

“Fool around with somebody else,” Vladimir said stonily, and turned back to Sara. “You said you wanted some company.”

Sara licked her lips. “You’re kind of rough, aren’t you?”

Vladimir shrugged, then signaled to the bartender for another vodka.

“I like it rough,” Sara said, her voice low and husky.

“It’s going to cost you a hundred dollars,” Vladimir said matter-of-factly.

Sara recoiled. “I’m not accustomed to paying for it. I won’t do that.”

“Then find somebody else.”

Sara reconsidered, tapping her finger nervously on the bar. “All I’ve got is seventy-five in cash.”

“All right,” Vladimir agreed. “But it’ll be a hundred and twenty-five next time.”

“What makes you so sure there’ll be a next time?”

“When you do it with a man, how many times you come?”

Sara hesitated, blushing. “Only once.”

Vladimir smiled crookedly. “There’ll be a next time.”

The bartender put down the double vodka and glanced at Sara’s nearly full wineglass before walking away.

Vladimir sipped his vodka slowly, calculating numbers in his head. He was making five hundred dollars a week with his burial work, and he would soon be taking in another hundred a week screwing the blond woman. He had ten thousand in the bank and needed to reach the twelve-thousand mark. That’s how much it would cost to bring his mother and brother from Siberia to America and get them their green cards. Just two thousand dollars more, and he would have them away from that Siberian shithole, where the electricity could be turned off for days on end, where people still chopped down trees for wood to cook with and give them heat, where the roads were unpaved because there were no cars, where people who died in the winter had to wait until spring to be buried because the ground was frozen stiff. Two thousand dollars more, and his family would be together again.

He quickly downed the vodka. “Let’s go.”

“Wait a minute,” Sara said hastily, keeping her voice down. “I don’t want people in here to know I picked you up.”

Vladimir groaned to himself. Americans and their goddamn morals. “I think they already know.”

Sara ignored the remark. “Why don’t you leave first?”

Vladimir nodded. “Good. I have to make a delivery a few blocks away, anyhow.”

“When you come back I’ll be in my car across the street.”

“What kind of car?”

“A Mercedes coupe.”

! Vladimir cursed himself, now regretting he hadn’t asked for $250 to screw her. Maybe he could raise the price later. He pushed himself away from the bar and picked up his shoe box, then said loudly, “I have had enough. Good night to everyone.” For effect, he feigned a stagger as he walked to the door.

“Where’s the phone?” Sara asked the bartender, already knowing it was next to the door by the window that looked out onto Lincoln Boulevard.

The bartender pointed. “By the front door.”

Sara hurried to the pay phone, where she inserted coins and punched in numbers, all the while watching Vladimir through the window. He crossed the street and headed north.

The recorded message on the phone instructed Sara to deposit more money for her call. She pretended to have a brief conversation and then hung up, making believe she was angry. Sara gave the bartender a twenty-dollar bill and left.

She spotted the Russian a half block ahead on the opposite side of the boulevard. Traffic was light at 9:30 P.M., and there was no one strolling the sidewalks. The Russian was moving faster now, and she picked up her pace, not wanting to lose sight of him. At the corner was a large, all-night mini mart service station. The Russian went inside.

Sara stopped abruptly and stayed in the shadows and waited. And waited. Whatever the hell the Russian was doing in the mini mart, he was taking his time. Sara didn’t like the position she found herself in. The neighborhood was tough, with Mexican gang markings everywhere. And the side streets were known for drive-by drug deals. The last thing she wanted was to be confronted by some wise-ass punk or by a strung-out addict looking to make an easy score. A car went by with its sound system so loud it caused the sidewalk to vibrate. Its occupants had shaved heads and tattoos and looked like gangbangers. Sara moved back deeper into the shadows.

The Russian came out of the mini mart munching on a candy bar. The shoe box was still under his arm. He glanced around and then hurried down the side street that bordered the service station.

Sara crossed the boulevard and quickly moved into the side street. She closed the distance between herself and the Russian, but still stayed twenty yards back. The lighting on the side street was dim and growing dimmer. She could barely see the Russian. Then she heard a loud noise that sounded like wood cracking and splintering. Then the cracking sound came again. Cautiously Sara moved in for a closer look.

The Russian was kicking through a wooden fence that surrounded a huge construction site. He gave it one final kick and opened a hole in the fence large enough for a man to walk through. “There!” he said, satisfied.

The Russian placed the shoe box on the ground and quickly cleared away the splintered wood. Then he bent down for the shoe box.

Sara reached into her oversize Gucci bag and took out a semiautomatic pistol. Quickly she attached a silencer.

“Just leave it there,” she said evenly.

Vladimir jerked his head up, seeing the blonde from the bar. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“A job,” she said calmly.

Sara assumed the firing position, knees bent, arms straight out, both hands on the pistol. She squeezed off two shots. Both went into Vladimir’s forehead, blowing the top of his skull off. He fell sideways into the gaping hole in the fence. Only his legs could be seen.

Sara hurriedly removed his watch and emptied his pockets, taking cash, change, and wallet. Then she pushed the Russian’s legs through the fence. Vladimir Belov’s body tumbled down into the six-story excavation site.

Carefully Sara picked up the shoe box and opened it. She removed a clear glass bottle filled with fluid. Floating in it was a very small but well-developed human fetus.

Sara inspected the bottle, making sure it was intact. Then she placed it in her Gucci bag and walked away.




The pain started halfway through dessert. It was a burning pain located high up in Oliver Rhodes’s chest. He thought it was indigestion caused by the rich food he’d just eaten at Fiori’s.
Must be the fried calamari in tomato sauce
, he thought.
That plus the red wine
. He reached for a glass of San Pellegrino water and took a sip. The pain eased.

A waiter came over to refill the coffee cups. Rhodes and his longtime friend and confidant, Sid Appleman, waved the waiter away.

Appleman waited until the waiter was out of earshot and then leaned across the table. He kept his voice low. “I hear the lieutenant governor has prostate cancer.”

Rhodes’s eyes narrowed. He, too, leaned forward. “Is that rumor or fact?”

“Fact. And according to my sources, he has metastatic disease. It’s really widespread.”

“Will he be able to serve out his term in office?”

“Maybe. But his name will never appear on a Democratic ticket again. That’s a guarantee.”

The men nodded to each other. Both understood that a perfect political stage was being set for Oliver Rhodes. The current governor of California was a Democrat in his second term with two years left in office. His popular lieutenant governor was almost certain to be the next governor. But prostate cancer had changed all that. Now the race for the governorship would be wide open.

Appleman broke the silence. “The Rhodes name is still magic in California. They know your father; they remember your brother.”

“But I’ve been out of office for almost two years,” Rhodes said.

Appleman made a scoffing sound. “In politics, that’s like the blink of an eye.”

Rhodes leaned back and sipped his sparkling water, thinking about the possible contenders for the governorship and who would be the most difficult to beat. “People will remember that I was ill when I left office.”

“And we’ll make damn sure they know you’re now healthy.”

The burning pain in Rhodes’s chest came back and radiated up to his throat. He drank more water. And again the pain subsided. He wondered if his ulcers were returning.

“Well?” Appleman prodded.

“I’ll have to think about it,” Rhodes said, and pushed his chair back.

“Don’t take too long, Oliver.”

Rhodes walked through the restaurant, waving back absently to those waving to him. He tried not to smile, but couldn’t help it. A golden opportunity had fallen right in his lap. He’d be a fool not to grab it. But before any decision could be made, he would have to talk with his father, who still controlled the Rhodes family fortune. His father would meet with the other power brokers, and together they would decide whether Oliver should run. And, of course, their answer would be yes.

BOOK: Fatal Care
10.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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