Right To Die - Jeremiah Healy (6 page)

BOOK: Right To Die - Jeremiah Healy

"You don't care for my teaching technique?"

"That depends."

"On what?"

"On what level students you're using it with."

Andrus picked up a pencil. "Would you explain
what you mean?"

"It seems to me that what you were doing in
there was boot camp. Kind of tear them down before you build them
back up."

"Let's assume you're correct. Therefore?"

"Therefore I'd think it was something you'd do
with first-year students, not upper-level kids taking a short course
on ethics and society."

Andrus tapped the pencil silently on the only corner
of her desk blotter visible under the mess. "You attended law
school, Mr. Cuddy."




"But you never graduated."

"That's right."

"Are you curious how I knew these things?"



"Ms. Andrus, it's your nickel, so we can play
around as much as you'd like. I used the expression 'first-year'
instead of 'freshman.' I knew Ethics and Society would be an
upper-level course. Accordingly. it's a good bet I attended law
school. But I went here, and you hadn't heard of me, which probably
means I'm not a grad who decided to become a detective, because
that's the kind of oddity that would get around the halls. So you
could have deduced that I attended but didn't graduate law school, or
you could just have asked Tommy Kramer. Either way, I'm not curious
about how you know these things."

Andrus appeared pensive. "You're acting out a
bit. Could it be because you feel a little uncomfortable being back
at your old, almost alma mater?"

She had a point. "Maybe. Sorry."

"Nothing to be sorry about. Tell me, why did you
leave law school?"

"I didn't think it had all the answers."

"Is 'it' law school or the law itself?"


Andrus shook her head. "Losing faith in law
school is all right. We must occasionally lose faith in most means in
order to eventually I improve both means and end. But the law itself,
you must never lose your faith in the law, Mr. Cuddy. The law is what
protects us all."

"St. Thomas More?"

The lopsided smile again. "Yes."

"Pre — Henry the Eighth, anyway."

Andrus gave me a real smile, one that made her seem
ten years younger with aggressive good looks. "Alec has always
had a capacity for finding good people. Tell me truly, what did you
think of the class just now?"

Let the games continue. "I've never seen people
have to stand before."

"It helps get them over the butterflies of
presenting in public. Also, I'm terrible with names, and making them
stand helps me to remember them, at least in the short term. But I
really meant, what did you think of my hypothetical'?"

"The Dirty Harry thing?"

"I can no longer rely on the students having
read the classics, Mr. Cuddy. So, I disguise subliminally familiar
movies or television shows as my hypos. Again, what did you think of

"I think torture is a serious matter. I think
you do your students a disservice by abstracting it and then making
it seem they have no way out of an intellectual puzzle."

"Have you ever witnessed torture, Mr. Cuddy?"

I thought back to the basement of a National Police
substation in Saigon. Suspected Viet Cong subjected to bamboo
switches, lit cigarettes, telephone crank boxes and wires. Walls
seeping dampness, the mixed stench of body wastes and disinfectant,
the screams-

"Mr. Cuddy?"

"No, Professor, I've never seen torture."

She looked at me more carefully, her lips pursing.
"I'm sorry. Truly."

"Like you said before, nothing to be sorry

Andrus exhaled once. "The notes I received, Mr.
Cuddy. What is your professional opinion of them?"

"I'm no lab technician, and I haven't talked to
the police about what they may have found on the originals."

"I meant . . . do you believe I have anything to
fear from the author?"

"Nobody could tell you that, even psychiatrists
after examining the guy."

"You're assuming it's a man."

"From the words used to describe you, yes."

A nod. "Mr. Cuddy, I have received many threats.
Half the unsolicited mail that arrives here disagrees with my
position in a way that could be interpreted as threatening."

"But most sign their names, and all are
delivered here by mail, not to your house by hand."

Back to tapping the pencil. "That is correct. I
would still like to hear whatever analysis you can give me of the

" 'Analysis' may be too scientific a word."

"That's all right."

"Notes don't usually make sense if somebody's
rationally trying to kill you. They're just an additional warning and
possibly a lead the police can follow back to the killer. Notes do
make sense if the guy is just a nut trying to get his jollies from
scaring you. Or if he wants to get some publicity from you going to
the cops and the notes becoming a media football."

"Which is why I was opposed to Alec and Inés
going to the police in the first place."

"Yes, but our guy didn't send the notes to the
press or tack them to your office door. As I understand it, two were
mailed to you here, and one was in your mailbox on Beacon Hill. For
your eyes only, so to speak."

"How do those facts fit your theory?"

"They fit if we have a nut who wants to scare

"And if we have a 'nut' who wants to scare me
and kill me?"

"It's a possibility, but that brings us back to
the psychiatrists, Ms. Andrus."

"I wonder, could we drop the 'Ms. Andrus"?"
It makes me feel like Our Miss Brooks."

"Professor, then?"

"I call my students by their last names, and I
expect the same from them, because I'm preparing them for a world in
which formality, especially in the courtroom, is necessary to avoid
the appearance of favoritism or sexism. I call my secretary Inés,
but even after six months on the job, she can't get over using
Professor for me. Something from the respect someone her age in the
old Cuba was supposed to show for university teachers. So be it. For
us, how about Maisy and John?"

"It's still your nickel."

The face hardened a little. "Yes. Yes, it is.
Tell me, John, what do you think of my position?"

"Your position."

Andrus dropped the pencil and all of the smile. "What
do you think of my position on the right to die?"

"You think that's relevant to my working for

"No, I don't. But I am curious."

I cleared my throat. "You know about my wife."

"Alec told me that she died of cancer."

"Brain tumor. She lingered for a long time,
months. In and out of awareness, a lot of pain. We didn't end it, the
doctors and I."

I had the feeling that I'd stopped too soon, that
Andrus was hanging on my starting again.

I said, "That's it. We waited, and she died."

"What did you . . . feel about that?"

"About her dying?"


None of your business. "I think I'd still like
to keep my own counsel on that."

Andrus smiled sympathetically, but in a practiced
way. "Then let me tell you about my spouse, John." She
squared the chair around, elbows on the desk.

"Working for a large law firm in Washington,
D.C. , I represented hospitals, among other clients. I met Enrique at
an interdisciplinary conference in London. Medical-legal issues, that
sort of thing. Enrique was fifty, a respected doctor in northern
Spain. I was barely thirty, only fifteen years older than his son. I
had no Spanish, no ear for languages at all. Enrique's English was
wonderful, and if I'd still been a virgin, the romance novels would
say he carried me away on a wave of passion. But that really was how
it felt. I left the firm for a teaching position at a law school in a
D.C. suburb, just to have summers off to be with him."

"You and he were married but didn't live

"During the school year. At Christmas and
summers I'd fly to him, or he'd somehow make time to fly over to me.
Anyway, we'd been married for two years, doing this transatlantic
shuttle — money was no object, we were both quite comfortable —
when Enrique had a stroke. Now, you have to understand, he had been a
saint to the poor people of his area, noblesse oblige, during much of
Franco's dictatorship. Manolo is a good example."

"The guy in the anteroom?"

"Yes. Manolo was born deaf. His parents cast him
out. Literally. Enrique took him in, taught him rudimentary signing,
and made him a sort of houseman/orderly to help with the patients he
saw. In any case, Enrique had the stroke. Incapacitating. He was
paralyzed, could barely sign to Manolo, seemed to forget his Spanish,
and only I could understand him, in terribly garbled English."

"Where was his son?"

A muscle jumped in her jaw. "His son, Ramon, was
over here, in the States. Studying. I told him he should come back,
it was his duty. But he didn't, not until almost the end. And then .
. ."

I gave Andrus time.

"Sorry. Enrique was deteriorating, horribly.
Bodily functions . . . as a doctor, he knew exactly what was
happening to him. He knew he couldn't get any better, and he had too
much pride, too much respect for the human spirit, to drift into
getting worse. One night, he asked me, begged me to end it for him. I
refused. For weeks I watched him decline, his begging now reduced to
a single word, John. 'Needle'."

The tic again. "Ramon finally arrived. Repelled
by his father's condition, he couldn't even sit in the same room with
him, his own father. I wasn't getting much sleep, but I was doing a
lot of thinking. I decided that what Enrique was asking me to do was
illegal but not immoral. Finally, one night, I found a bottle with a
label on it that I could read, and I injected him."

Her voice quavered. "Enrique was aware of what I
was doing. He smiled at me, John. He slipped away blessing me."

Andrus used the edge of her index finger to wipe her
eye. It was so like Nancy's gesture that I started a little in my
chair, but the professor didn't notice.

"That should have been the end of it. But I
didn't know much about Spanish politics. General Franco had just
died, and the leftists were trying to push the Franquistas out of
government. The undertaker saw the needle marks, how awkward I must
have been when I helped Enrique. There was an autopsy. The prosecutor
— Spain has a different system, but what we'd call the prosecutor
was a Franquista. Except for Enrique's funeral, I never met him, but
apparently my husband had once saved the life of the prosecutor's
wife. So the man felt indebted to us and basically sat on the autopsy
report. I returned to the States, trying to put my life back together
while some Spanish lawyers probated Enrique's estate."

Andrus shook her head. "A journalist, a real
left winger, got a whiff of the autopsy results, showing that Enrique
died from an overdose of drugs. When it turned out the Franquista had
covered it up, there was a scandal. Worse, it was made to look like
corruption, as though I had somehow bribed the man. The prosecutor
was ruined, and I became a fugitive, though my lawyers here were able
to fight the halfhearted extradition effort. I never even lost my
holdings as Enrique's widow in Spain."

Andrus came forward in her chair. "That's the
perversity of it all, John. I helped a man I loved move through the
pain and hopelessness of incurable illness to the peace that follows.
Everyone who tried to do the right thing in that direction was
vilified by the system, but in the end nothing changed in the

"How did the son feel about all this?"

"Ramon? He seemed pretty indifferent. Almost
glad that it was over. Enrique's will split the estate between us. I
got the house. on the ocean in Spain — in Candas, near Gijon —
though I just rent it out. Ramon was interested more in the movable


"Yes. He decided to settle in the States, even
shortened his name to just Ray Cuervo."

"Where does he live?"

"I believe somewhere on the north shore. I
haven't seen him in years, but . . . Marblehead, perhaps."
Andrus altered her expression. "Why do you ask?"

"I might want to talk with him."

"I can't believe Ramon could be involved in

"How about Manolo?"

"Manolo doesn't know anything. I've questioned
him extensively. Over the years he's become good enough in
recognizing English for us to communicate with him on simple things."

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