Authors: Leonard Goldberg
Tags: #Medical, #General, #Blalock; Joanna (Fictitious character), #Mystery & Detective, #Fiction
“Because he’s a hunk.” Joanna grinned.
Dimitri looked into Joanna’s eyes and smiled at her. “If I was twenty years younger, I’d sweep you off your feet.”
“If you were twenty years younger, I’d let you.”
“Ho! Ho! Ho!” Dimitri chuckled loudly. “I can see we’re going to have a fine time tonight.”
“If we ever sit down,” Jake complained.
Dimitri snapped his fingers at a waiter across the room and yelled out commands in Greek, then led the way to a ringside table. A waiter hurried over uncorking a bottle of retsina, followed by another carrying a stack of white plates.
,” Dimitri said, raising his glass and toasting his guests. Then he leaned across to Jake. “I hear you worked the Bio-Med murder case.”
“What else did you hear?” Jake asked.
“That they’re going to let the grieving widow plead herself down to murder two.”
Jake nodded, grumbling to himself. “She has five people whacked and she’ll end up doing fifteen years. Maybe.”
Dimitri’s brow went up. “Why maybe?”
“Because Lucy Rabb is going to hire the same lawyers that got O. J. Simpson off.”
“Shit,” Dimitri grumbled softly. “They’ll probably try to convince a jury that she was an unwilling coconspirator.”
“You got it.”
Dimitri lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply, thinking aloud. “All this happened because an old man saw himself getting older and wanted to feel young again. He wanted somebody to make the years disappear.”
Joanna squinted an eye. “I’m not sure I follow you.”
“Old men like Edmund Radd marry young women because they believe it will make them feel young again. Of course, it never works out like that. As time passes, they begin to rub on each other’s nerves in a dozen different ways. She wants to stay up all night and party; he wants to sit in a comfortable chair at home and watch television. She wants to jump in the sack three times a day; he figures once a week is just about right. She demands more and more; he can deliver less and less. So eventually, the young girl ends up making the old man feel older and older and older.”
“Sad,” Joanna said.
“And deadly, too,” Jake added. “An old man’s money and a young woman’s greed always spells trouble. In this case it caused five people to get whacked.”
“Money and sex will do it every time.” Dimitri refilled their wineglasses and turned to Jake. “Now tell me about the shootout in the parking lot. How did you know the hitter was going to be there?”
“I didn’t,” Jake admitted. “Joanna was late getting home from the hospital, and I was waiting for her in my car outside her condominium. If she had arrived home at her usual time, the hitters would have gotten to her.”
Dimitri glanced over at Joanna. “Lucky girl.”
“Very lucky girl,” Joanna agreed.
Dimitri looked back at Jake. “Did they come at you straight on?”
“The goon accomplice did,” Jake told him. “The blond hitter and I played cat and mouse for a while.”
“I read where the goon’s name was Santino. Right?”
Jake nodded. “He was a midlevel hood with a sheet a mile long.”
“Was he from Las Vegas?”
“He used to be.” Jake’s eyes narrowed. “How did you know that?”
“I worked in Vegas when I first started on the job forty years ago,” Dimitri explained. “I knew a hood named Scottie Santino who’s now dead.”
“Probably our guy’s father,” Jake said. “Was the old man a hitter, too?”
“Yeah. His specialty was making people disappear in the desert,” Dimitri went on. “He’d put the victim in a grave and cover him with cement, then add sand back on top. Nice, huh?”
“I think the son followed in the father’s footsteps,” Jake said. “Here in Los Angeles, Scottie Santino ran a cement company.”
Joanna shuddered as she realized what the hitters had in store for her. She was to be killed and then spend eternity encased in cement.
“You’re a very lucky girl,” Dimitri said again.
The door to the restaurant opened and a group of Greek sailors entered. They shouted greetings to the waiters and to some of the patrons. More tables were squeezed in to accommodate the new arrivals.
“Oh, yes,” Dmitri said happily, pushing back his chair. “Some boys from the old country. I must welcome them.”
Joanna watched Dimitri Mandrakis limp away, favoring the hip that had been torn apart by a thug’s bullet. She thought how sad it must be when someone is forced to retire from a job they do so well and love so much. She moved closer to Jake. “Dimitri really misses being a detective. He misses it so badly.”
“That’s why he’s always so happy to see you,” Joanna said softly. “You make him feel like he’s back with the force again.”
“I should come in more often,” Jake said, nodding.
“Like once a month?”
“Like once a month.”
“I’ve got your word on that, huh?”
“Sure do,” Jake said. “But I’ll need a promise from you in return.”
“That you won’t try anything stupid again and get yourself killed.”
Joanna smiled widely. “You got it.”
Jake smiled back. “Do you know how the Greeks seal a promise?”
Jake picked up a plate and threw it out onto the dance floor. It hit with a loud crack and broke into a hundred pieces.
The air was suddenly charged with electricity. The musicians started to play as the Greek sailors hurried onto the dance floor and formed a long line, their arms around each other’s shoulders. Slowly, every so slowly, the beat picked up, becoming louder and louder. The sailors danced the dance of the Greeks, their feet flying and barely touching the floor. Someone yelled out “
!” and more plates flew through the air and shattered against the bandstand. Joanna nestled her head against Jake’s chest. “Damn, it’s good to be alive.”
“Tell me about it,” Jake said, reaching for another plate.
The gene transfer therapy described in this novel is very real. Genes hooked onto viral vectors have been successfully administered to patients with a number of different disorders. Most notably, French researchers have used gene therapy to treat infants born with a life-threatening immune disorder. The immune defect in these babies was the same one that afflicted the well publicized “boy in the bubble.” By contrast, the French infants treated with genes are alive and well and now have intact immune systems.
Gene transfer (the insertion of new, normal genes into a patient) offers real hope and even the promise of a cure for a long list of inherited diseases. These include disorders such as muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, and hemophilia, just to name a few. Other forms of gene therapy show equal promise. For example, manipulation of genes that control cell growth may well play an important role in the treatment of certain types of cancer. Even more fascinating, our ability to convert stem cells into heart and brain and nerve cells raises the distinct possibility that diseases of the heart, brain, and spinal cord will someday be treated with gene transfer and manipulation.
Because of the incredible potential of gene therapy, scientists are racing ahead, isolating genes and determining their functions so they can be used to treat diseases previously thought to be untreatable or incurable. Unfortunately, in some instances researchers have rushed ahead too fast and conducted risky experiments in human subjects with tragic outcomes. In one incident, an eighteen-year-old patient died after receiving gene therapy for liver disease at the University of Pennsylvania Institute of Gene Therapy. After his death, the FDA investigators determined that the institute had violated regulations in its conduct of the research and shut down the program. The FDA has also clamped down on several Boston gene therapy researchers. It now seems clear that these were not isolated incidences and that controversial experiments in gene therapy have taken place elsewhere as well.
The situation is so serious that the FDA has asked Congress to legislate new regulations and penalties for those involved in improper and risky gene research. These include a $250,000 fine for researchers conducting risky experiments and a $1,000,000 fine for the institutes where the research was performed. Rules will also be put in place to insure tighter monitoring and stricter regulation for all gene research in humans.
Only time will tell whether these rules and regulations and penalties will be strong enough to minimize the risks that are certain to be associated with gene therapy.
—Leonard Goldberg, M.D.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s Imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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