Authors: Art Bourgeau
"You're right on, Spivak. It's the old thing
about the bottle being half-empty or half-full. I'm choosing to think
of it as half-full. This is the first lead of any substance we've had
on this guy. We're going to follow it up all the way t0 the end. I
want you and Kane"—he nodded at the female detective—"to
hang around Lagniappe. Get known as customers. See what you can come
"On expense account?" said Kane.
Sloan ignored it.
"What about me and Rafferty?" said Evans.
"That's a gravy assignment. You'd think a couple of vets could
get in out of the rain once in a while."
Sloan allowed a smile. "With the faces on you
two, they wouldn't let you in the door. Besides, Evans, your wife
would skin me if I sent you into a dangerous situation like that."
"To you, genius," growled Rafferty. "He's
right. Agnes would kill you if she found out you were hanging around
a slop chute like that without her. Case or no case."
Sloan let the banter run its course, then brought
them back to business. "I'm sure I don't have to tell you,"
he said to Spivak and Kane, "don't tip you hand. The last thing
we want is to get our man in motion before we're ready."
"Anything more about the place we ought to
know?" asked Spivak.
"I asked around before the meeting," Sloane
said. "It's not exactly my turf. No drugs or hookers. A
reputable establishment for the rich, the famous, and the
upward-mobiles. There is one thing, though. Couple of years ago one
of the waitresses accused the owner of trying to rape her. The
complaint didn't get anywhere because it turned out the owner"—he
paused and looked at the file—"Justin Fortier's his name, had
just fired her for stealing. Probably means nothing, but check it
out. It's at least a place to start."
MISSY GLANCED down at her gold-and-diamond Piaget
wristwatch with some annoyance as Felix Ducroit stopped the car
across from the Rothstein Medical Tower at Seventeenth and Pine.
Quarter past ten. She'd be late for work, and her first morning back.
Never mind, Felix was more important . . . The man really was
something the doctor ordered, especially after the humiliation Carl
had handed her at Lagniappe with that sickening-sweet society
reporter who was going to fix up his wonderful career for him. Jesus,
and after all she'd done for him . . . Well, bye-bye, Carl;
hello-hello, Felix. She rested her hand on his thigh, looked up at
him, waiting for a reaction. She felt edgy, strongly drawn to this
man and also resentful of him. He was nice, no question, had listened
to her the way Carl had never bothered to do, or been able to do,
when they sat around her place after leaving Lagniappe. She found
herself talking about her father to him, letting her feelings out
more than she had with anybody, ever, and she'd just met him, for
God's sake. Maybe that was what made it easier, that he was a
stranger. But he also seemed to bring down her guard, and at the same
time she welcomed that, it also made her feel uneasy, wondering if
she could trust him. The ways she'd so often felt with her
father—though that last thought never surfaced, only had its effect
on her emotions, mixing them.
She was impressed that he hadn't tried to bed her,
but curious . . . more than curious . . . annoyed that he didn't. Not
even a move or gesture. And it was the same thing now, sitting here
in the car . . . She moved her hand up his thigh, just grazing his
cock, felt it respond. Well, he's at least all there in that
department, she thought. He was also, no question, wonderfully
handsome, all bearded and stern-looking. She felt much better. In
"See you tonight?" It was more a request
than a question, and without waiting for any answer she took her hand
from his cock, leaned over and brushed her lips lightly on his cheek,
quickly got out of the car, waving with her back to him as she
proceeded into the medical building.
Missy Wakefield was smiling to herself as she got on
the elevator and rode it to the tenth floor offices of Wakefield and
Pollack, urologists specializing in male sterility and sexual
Kate, the red-haired receptionist, looked up from her
work and smiled nervously as Missy pushed open the glass double door.
"Thanks." Missy glanced around the waiting
room. While most of the doctors were still making rounds at the
hospital the place had filled with patients. She recognized several
of the faces; others, the nervous ones accompanied by their wives,
were new patients. But what especially caught her eye, today even
more than when he was alive, was the oil painting of her father. His
stern face seemed to command respect and obedience even now.
She went behind the receptionist's desk and looked
over Kate's shoulder to check out the appointment book. Three names
immediately stood out, each there for his final consultation before
entering the hospital in the afternoon. One was an aging Hollywood
sex symbol, a former crooner whose lifelong battle with drugs and the
bottle had caused permanent nerve damage. He was there for a surgical
implant, a miniature hydraulic system. After the implant he would be
able to summon an erection, just press the small bulb in his scrotum
and it would pump air into the system and, presto, an erection. Nerve
damage would prevent an orgasm, but he would be able to maintain his
old reputation as a stud of studs. God, what vanity, she thought.
Cocksman of the world using a device to get it up. Well, and she
couldn't help smiling, modern science can be wonderful, she thought.
And nobody the wiser . . .
The second name belonged to a gay British rock star
whose sexual behavior was notoriously compulsive. His psychiatrist
had prescribed a small battery pack similar to a pacemaker implanted
in his lower abdomen; when matters got out of control, it would allow
him to administer a mild shock to his genitals to cool himself down.
The third was a Middle Eastern oil nabob who had
contracted a case of genital warts from one of his numerous wives. It
was rumored that he had had her hacked to death and her parts then
spread across the desert.
Pointing to them, she said to Kate, "I assume
you had them brought in by the private entrance."
"That's right. The office limo has been busy all
morning going back and forth to the airport to pick them up."
"They're back in the examining rooms now?"
A pause, during which Kate was waiting for her to
begin some girl talk, to share confidences of the past month. It
didn't come. It was enough that Missy knew Kate was sleeping with one
of the younger physicians in the practice and didn't fire her. No
reason, she figured, for them to start sharing picnic lunches and
Walking to the linen closet, she thought about how
different it was going to be here without her father. The practice
had been like an oasis . . . in her mind their Tara—he the master,
she the mistress. He'd wanted her to be a doctor, something she
couldn't possibly do . . . it meant putting herself on the same level
with him, exactly what she didn't want, couldn't and didn't presume
to. Besides, it wasn't medicine she cared about, it was him, being
near and pleasing him. He, of course, never understood her
resistance, and she had never been able to repress it. She wanted
them to be a team, to work side by side, which was why she became a
nurse and ran the administrative functions of the practice. Yes, here
they were a team, father and daughter . . .
In the linen closet was a stack of her father's lab
coats, the name "Wakefield" embroidered in red over the
left pocket. She traced the name with her fingertips, then on impulse
put it on, turned up the collar and turned to look at herself in the
mirror on the back of the door. How long had it been since she'd worn
anything of his? Twelve years ago. She had just turned sixteen, and
as a birthday present he had taken her to their cabin in the Poconos
for a fishing trip. The first day a rainstorm had come up and he'd
given her his jacket. What a special feeling that had been, walking
back to the cabin all bundled up, his arms around her . . . She
thought now of wearing the lab coat, in his memory, but quickly
rejected the notion, feeling guilty even considering it. He would
never have allowed it . . . nothing like that sort of intimacy had
been possible after that trip . . .
What had happened, she'd told herself again and again
over the years, was not her fault. It was that damn Roy Curtis; the
seventeen-year-old son of the banker who owned the next cabin. He'd
made it happen and she got the blame.
She only wanted to go fishing with her father, be
with him. But everywhere she turned there was Roy, a pup in heat.
Actually she'd willingly lost her virginity three years earlier to a
twenty-seven-year-old cowboy on a Montana dude ranch and wasn't much
interested in sex. Horses and being with her father took precedence.
Roy, though, wouldn't back off or even be discouraged. He buzzed
around her as though he was a fly and she a honeypot. Finally, to get
him off her back by her getting on it, she gave in.
It happened in the boathouse, and Roy was as inept as
she knew he would be. She was doing her best to move with him, help
him finish and get him off her when she idly glanced at the window to
see her father's face. Their eyes met and held as Roy pumped away on
her. She wanted to die, would have welcomed that as an out. And by
the time her father turned away she was ill from the terror building
in her. When she was finally able to push Roy off and run outside,
her father was gone. In more ways than one.
Hours later, when she gave up hiding and slunk back
to the cabin, he was sitting there. The car was packed. Not a word
was spoken. She huddled in her corner of the front seat the whole
trip, cold and sick. If only he'd wrap her up in his old fishing
jacket and tell her that it was all right, that he forgave her. But
of course he didn't. Didn't even look at her, didn't speak . . . In
the twelve years since that day, no matter what she did, he had not
forgiven her. She took off the lab coat, folded it carefully and put
it back on the stack with the others. Before she could take a fresh
nurse's uniform from the stack the door to the linen closet opened
and one of the secretaries stuck her head in.
"There you are. Dr. Pollack would like to see
you before you change."
"I'll be right there," Missy said.
Nathan Pollack, her father's partner, was not alone
in his office. Waiting with him was his wife Beverly, whose stare was
frigid. In Missy's view God had never created a more repellent couple
than the Pollacks. Why her father had chosen him as a partner was
beyond her. As a couple the Pollacks reminded her of Laurel and
Hardy, minus the humor. Nathan Pollack was the straight. She had
never heard anyone, including her father, call him "Nate."
He was a small man who wore glasses with the kind of mock aviator
frames favored by men who carried pockets full of pencils, a man who
wore T-shirts under his Izod on the golf course. For Nathan Pollack a
spontaneous act was to drive his black BMW into town without an
umbrella on the back seat. But Nathan was a regular peach compared to
Beverly, who offended Missy's sensibilities with her abundance of
facial hair, two hundred and counting pounds and smothering breasts.
Nathan rose from behind his desk and indicated a chair for Missy as
though he was trying to sell it to her.
"Sit, sit, please."
His voice sounded shaky. She wondered why.
He sat back down. "Let me say again—and I'm
sure I speak for everyone in the practice, especially Beverly and
myself—how sad we are about Cyrus."
She instantly resented his using her father's first
name, reserved for a few close friends. Nathan might have been a
partner but never a friend or confidant.
"I hope the time off helped some."
"Yes," she said, holding back to keep from
saying it didn't help to see his wife bulling her way through the
buffet with a crab claw in one hand and enough food to feed Philly's
homeless in the other.
"Good . . . well, to bring you up to date, while
you were gone we have made a few changes—"
"What sort of changes?"
"As you know, your father was a brilliant
"Yes, I know. Can we cut to the chase, Nathan?"
"I beg your pardon."
"Sorry, just some jargon I picked up."
"Yes . . . well, as I was about to say, without
your father the practice will undoubtedly suffer. And to avoid future
financial problems, we dismissed four of the girls in the office."
This was what he was so tentative about. When her
father was alive he generated enough work for at least four girls;
with out him there was no need to keep them. It made sense but the
way they did it bothered her. She had little doubt firing them while
she was away was Beverly's idea.
"If I remember correctly, you only own
twenty-five percent of the practice," she said.
"Not anymore. When your father died I bought out
his share of the practice."
"What? That doesn't make sense—"
"I would have thought you knew we had a buy-out
agreement. Whichever one died first, the other bought his share."