Conspiracy in death, p.4
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       Conspiracy in Death, p.4

         Part #8 of In Death series by J. D. Robb

  "I can find out myself." She began to pace again. "What do you do on that board?"

  "I'm an adviser. My own R and D department has a medical arm that cooperates and assists Drake's. We have a contract with the center. We supply medical equipment, machines, computers." He smiled again. "Artificial organs. Drake's R and D deals primarily with pharmaceuticals, prostheses, chemicals. We both manufacture replacement organs."

  "You make hearts?"

  "Among other things. We don't deal in live tissue."

  "Who's the best surgeon on staff?"

  "Colin Cagney is the chief of staff. You've met him," Roarke added.

  She only grunted. How could she remember all the people she'd met in some social arena since Roarke came into her life? "Wonder if he makes—what did they call them—home calls?"

  "House calls," Roarke corrected with a hint of a smile. "I can't quite see the distinguished Dr. Cagney performing illegal surgery in a sidewalk sleeper's crib."

  "Maybe I'll have a different vision once I meet him again." She let out a deep sigh and tunneled her fingers through her hair. "Sorry to interrupt your day."

  "Interrupt it a bit longer," he suggested and indulged himself by crossing to her and rubbing his thumb over her full bottom lip. "Have lunch with me."

  "Can't. I've got more legwork." But the light friction on her lip made it curve. "So, what were you buying?"

  "Australia," he said then laughed when she gaped at him. "Just a small piece of it." Delighted with her reaction, he yanked her close for a quick, hard kiss. "Christ, I adore you, Eve."

  "Yeah, well. Good." It continually left her hot and loose to hear it. To know it. "I gotta go."

  "Would you like me to see what I can find out about organ research at Drake?"

  "That's my job, and I know how to do it. It'd be really nice if you didn't get mixed up in this one. Just…go buy the rest of Australia or something. I'll see you at home."

  "Lieutenant?" He turned to his desk, opened a drawer. Knowing how she worked, he tossed her an energy bar. "Your lunch, I imagine."

  It made her grin as she tucked it in her pocket. "Thanks."

  When she closed the door behind her, he glanced at his wrist unit. Twenty minutes before his next meeting, Roarke calculated. Time enough.

  He took a seat at his computer, smiled a little as he thought of his wife, then called up data on the Drake Center.


  Eve discovered it was just as well she hadn't gone after Mira first. The doctor was out. She shot off a quick E-mail requesting a case consult the following day, then headed down to Drake.

  It was one of those block-stretching buildings she'd seen hundreds of times and never paid attention to. Before Roarke, that is. Since then, he had dragged, strong-armed, or carried her into their emergency treatment centers a number of times. When, she thought now, she'd have been perfectly fine with a first aid kit and a nap.

  She hated hospitals. The fact that she was going into this one as a cop and not a patient didn't seem to make a difference.

  The original building was an old and distinguished brownstone that had been lovingly, and she imagined expensively, preserved. Structures sheer and white speared up from it, out from it, joined together by the shimmering tubes of breezeways, the circling ring of glides that glinted silver.

  There were juts of white that formed what she supposed might be restaurants, gift shops, or other areas where staff or visitors or patients might be allowed to gather and enjoy the view. And delude themselves that they weren't in a structure full of the sick and suffering.

  Because her vehicle's computer was more reliable than her office unit, she was able to access some general data. The Drake Center was more of a city within a city than a health center. It contained training facilities, teaching facilities, labs, trauma units, surgeries, patient rooms and suites, a variety of staff lounges, and visitor waiting areas as one would expect from a medical center.

  But in addition, it held a dozen restaurants—two of which were rated five star—fifteen chapels, an elegant little hotel for the family and friends of patients who wished to remain close by, a small, exclusive shopping arcade, three theaters, and five full-service salons.

  There were numerous roving maps and information centers to assist visitors in finding their way to their sector of choice. Trams ran from key parking areas to various entryways, and the slick glass tubes sparkled in the thin winter sunlight as they slid up and down the sides of the mammoth white structure like water.

  Impatient, and because it was the section she knew best, Eve pulled her car into the ER lot, twisted it into a street-level space, then snarled at the meter that demanded to know the extent of the injuries she suffered.

  This is an emergency only parking area. Your injuries or illness must be verified in order for your vehicle to remain in this parking area. Please state the nature and extent of your injuries or illness and step forward to be scanned.

  "I've got terminal annoyance," she shot back and shoved her badge into the view screen. "Police business. Deal with it."

  While the meter squawked, she turned away to stride across the lot toward the hated glass double doors.

  The ER was full of wailing, sobbing, and complaining. Patients in different stages of distress huddled in chairs, filled out the forms on the porta-screens, or waited glassy-eyed for their turn.

  An orderly was busy mopping up blood or God knew what, keeping the steel gray floor sanitized. Nurses moved briskly in pale blue uniforms. Occasionally doctors zipped through with their long, flapping lab coats and were careful not to make eye contact with the suffering.

  Eve located the first map and asked for the surgical wing. The quickest route was the underground tram, so she joined a moaning patient strapped to a gurney, two exhausted looking interns, and a couple who sat close together whispering about someone named Joe and his chances with his new liver.

  When she reached the right wing, she took the glide up a level.

  The main floor here was quiet as a cathedral and nearly as ornate with its soaring mosaic ceilings and sumptuous tableaus of flowers and blooming shrubbery. There were several seating areas, all with communications centers. Guide droids stood by in pleasant pastel jumpsuits to lend assistance when necessary.

  It cost dearly to be opened by a laser scalpel, to have internal organs repaired or replaced in a private facility. The Drake Center had provided a proper welcome area for those who could afford its services.

  Eve chose one of a half-dozen reception consoles at random and flashed her badge at the clerk to insure no evasions. "I need to speak with Dr. Colin Cagney."

  "One moment, please, while I locate the doctor." The clerk wore a stone gray suit and precisely knotted tie. Efficiently, he ran a location search on his board, then offered Eve a polite smile. "Dr. Cagney is on the tenth floor. That's the Consultation Level. He is currently with a patient."

  "Is there a private waiting area on that level?"

  "There are six private waiting areas on ten. Let me see if one is available for you." He called up another board, sent lights blinking red or green. "Waiting Area Three is available. I'll be happy to reserve it for you here."

  "Fine. Tell Dr. Cagney I'm waiting to speak with him, and I'm pressed for time."

  "Of course. Take any elevator in bank six, Lieutenant. Good health."

  "Right," she muttered. Anyone that incessantly polite made her shudder. Whatever training they gave their non-medical staff must have included personality draining, she decided. Edgy, she rode the car up and searched out the right waiting room.

  It was a small, tastefully decorated room with a mood screen set to soft, shifting colors. The first thing she did was turn it off. Ignoring the low sofa and two deep chairs, she roamed the room.

  She wanted out. The best substitute was a window overlooking Second Avenue.

  There, at least, both street and traffic were predictably snarled and nasty. She watched a medi-copter zoom in
and circle on its trajectory to one of the pads. She counted two more, an ambu-jet, and five street ambulances before the door opened behind her.

  "Lieutenant." The doctor had a dazzling smile, his teeth as white and straight as a Navy band. He flashed it as he crossed the room.

  It suited, Eve thought, the smooth, pampered face, the patient, intelligent gray eyes under dramatically black brows. His hair was a gleaming white blazed on the left side with a sweeping strip of black.

  He didn't wear a lab coat but a beautifully cut suit the same slate gray as his eyes. His hand, when he took hers, was soft as a child's and firm as a rock.

  "Dr. Cagney."

  "I hoped you'd remember to call me Colin." The smile spread again as he squeezed and released her hand. "We've met a few times at various functions. But I imagine between your business and Roarke's, you meet seas of people."

  "True enough, but I remember you." She had, as soon as she'd seen him. His wasn't a face that slipped the mind. Sharp cheekbones, square jaw, high forehead. And the coloring left an impression. Pale gold skin against black and white. "I appreciate you agreeing to speak with me."

  "Happy to do so." He gestured toward the chair. "But I hope you haven't come seeking my professional services. You're not ill?"

  "No, I'm fine. It's my profession that brings me to you." Though she'd rather have remained on her feet, she sat. "I'm working on a case. A sidewalk sleeper was murdered early this morning. By someone with excellent surgical skills."

  His eyebrows drew together as he shook his head. "I don't understand."

  "His heart was removed and taken from the scene. A witness described one of the suspects carrying what you call an organ sack."

  "My God." He folded his hands on his knee. Concern flitted along with confusion in his eyes. "I'm appalled to hear it, but I still don't understand. You're telling me his heart was surgically removed and transported?"

  "Exactly. He was anesthetized and murdered in his own crib. Two people were seen entering, one carried what sounds very much like a doctor's bag, the other the transfer sack. The operation was performed by someone very skilled. The bleeders, I think you call them, were clamped off and sealed, the incision was precise. It was not done by an amateur."

  "For what purpose?" Cagney murmured. "I haven't heard about organ theft, not of this nature, for years. A sidewalk sleeper? Have you determined his state of health before this was done?"

  "The ME says he'd have died in his sleep in a matter of months. We don't believe they took a prime heart out of him."

  With a heavy sigh, he sat back. "I imagine you see all manner of what men do to men in your line of work, Lieutenant. I've pieced back bodies that have been torn, broken, hacked. On one level, we get used to it. We must. But on another, it never fails to shock and to disappoint. Men continually find new ways to kill men."

  "And always will," Eve agreed. "But instinct tells me this man's death was incidental. They got what they wanted from him. I have to ask, Dr. Cagney, where you were this morning between one and three a.m.?"

  He blinked, and his well-formed mouth fell open before he recovered. "I see." He spoke slowly, sitting up again. "I would have been at home, sleeping with my wife. I've no way to prove that, however." His voice had cooled, his eyes chilled. "Do I require a lawyer, Lieutenant?"

  "That's up to you," she said evenly. "But I see no reason for one at this time. I will need to speak with your wife at some point."

  Mouth grim now, he nodded. "Understood."

  "Each of our professions runs on routines that are often unpleasant. This is mine. I need a list of the top surgeons in the city, starting with those who specialize in organ transplants."

  He rose at that, paced to the window. "Doctors stand for each other, Lieutenant. There's pride and loyalty involved here."

  "Cops stand for each other. And when one of them is found to be dirty, it smears us all. I can go through other channels to get the list I need," she added, rising, "but I'd appreciate your cooperation. A man's been murdered. Someone decided he shouldn't be allowed to finish out his time. That pisses me off, Dr. Cagney."

  His shoulders moved as he sighed. "I'll send you a list, Lieutenant," he said without turning around. "You'll have it by the end of the day."


  • • • •

  She drove back to Cop Central, remembering her energy bar as she swung into the garage. She ate it on the way up to her office, chewing nutrients and chewing over her impressions of Cagney.

  He had a face a patient would trust, even fear a bit, she imagined. You would tend to believe his word—medically—was law. She intended to do a run on him, but calculated him in his mid to late sixties. That meant he'd been a doctor for more than half of his life so far.

  He could kill. She learned that anyone could under the right circumstances. But could he kill so cold-bloodedly? Would he protect, under the guise of professional loyalty, someone else who had?

  She wasn't sure of the answers.

  The light on her computer was blinking green, indicating a new input of data. Peabody, she thought, had been hard at work. After stripping off her jacket, she called it up. It only took five frustrating minutes of grinding noises before the data popped.

  Victim identified as Samuel Michael Petrinky, born 5-6-1961, Madison, Wisconsin. ID number 12176-VSE-12. Parents deceased. No known siblings. Marital status: divorced June 2023. Former spouse Cheryl Petrinsky Sylva, age 92. Three children from marriage: Samuel, James, Lucy. Data available on request in cross file.

  No known employment in last thirty years.

  What happened to you, Sam? she wondered. Why'd you leave the wife and kids and come to New York to fry your mind and wreck your body on brew and smoke?

  "Hell of a way to end up," she muttered, then asked for the cross-reference on his children. She would have to notify next of kin.

  You have performed an illegal function. Please delete request and enter your ID number immediately or all unsaved data will be destroyed.

  "You son of a bitch." Furious, Eve leaped to her feet and punched the side of her computer with a bunched fist. Even as the pain sang in her knuckles, she prepared to punch it again. "A problem with your equipment, Lieutenant?"

  She hissed, set her teeth, and straightened. It was rare for Commander Whitney to visit her office. And not too happy a moment to have him do so when she was beating up departmental property.

  "Respectfully, sir, this unit sucks."

  It might have been a smile that flitted into his dark eyes, but she couldn't be sure.

  "I suggest you contact maintenance, Dallas."

  "Maintenance, Commander, is full of morons."

  "And the budget is full of holes." He stepped in, shut the door at his back, which made Eve's stomach jitter uneasily. He glanced around, then shook his head. "Your rank entitles you to an office, Dallas. Not a dungeon."

  "This suits me, sir."

  "So you always say. Is that AutoChef stocked with your coffee or the department's?"

  "Mine, sir. Would you like some?"

  "I certainly would."

  She turned to order him a cup. The closed door meant he wanted privacy. The request for coffee indicated he wanted to put her at ease.

  The combination made Eve nervous. But her hand was steady as she offered him the cup, and her eyes stayed level on his.

  His face was wide, tended to be hard. He was a big man with wide shoulders, wide hands, and very often, fatigue darkening his eyes. "You caught a homicide early this morning," he began, pausing long enough to sip and appreciate the genuine coffee from genuine beans Roarke's money could buy.

  "Yes, sir. The victim has just been identified. I'll be notifying next of kin." She shot her computer a vicious look. "When I can drag the data out of that heap. I'll have an updated report for you by end of day."

  "I have a report from the first officer on-scene on my desk now. Along with a complaint. You and Bowers appear to have bumped heads."

; "I came down on her. She deserved it."

  "She's filed a complaint that you used abusive and inappropriate language." When Eve rolled her eyes, he did smile. "You and I both know that kind of a complaint is no more than a nuisance and generally makes the complainant look like a soggy-spined fool. However…" His smile faded. "She also claims that she observed your work on-scene as sloppy and careless. That you misused her trainee and threatened her with physical harm."

  Eve felt the blood begin to sizzle hot under her skin. "Peabody recorded the on-scene investigation. I'll have a copy of it on your desk immediately."

  "I'll need that to dismiss the complaint officially. Unofficially, I'm fully aware it's bullshit."

  There were two chairs. Because both of them were battered and creaky, Whitney gave them a dubious look before settling into one. "I'd like to hear your take on this before I act."

  "My investigation will stand, and so will my report."

  He laced his fingers, kept the expression on his wide face bland. "Dallas," was all he said and had her blowing out a huff of breath.

  "I handled it. I don't believe in running to a superior officer or filing papers over a minor incident between cops." When he only continued to stare, she jammed her hands in her pockets. "The ranking officer on-scene had not secured the area properly upon my arrival. She was appropriately chastised about the lack of proper procedure. Officer Bowers displayed a marked tendency toward insubordination, which was dealt with, again in my opinion, appropriately. On his own, her trainee indicated to me that on previous scans of the area, there had been another crib beside the victim's, which had, since the day before, been moved. He had reported same to his trainer and his observation had been dismissed. This observation, when followed up on, netted a witness. I invited the trainee, Officer Trueheart, to join in the interview of this witness, who was known to him. Trueheart, as will be stated in my report, shows excellent potential."

  She paused in her flat recitation, and heat flashed in her eyes for the first time. "I deny all charges but the last. I might very well have threatened Officer Bowers with physical harm and will ask my aide for verification. My regret, at this time, is that I did not follow through with any threat I may have made and knock her on her fat ass. Sir."

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