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Книга Third Degree. Страница 27

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Auster’s mind flew back to a couple of attractive female patients, one of whom Biegler had called by name. In the natural course of things, they had offered him certain sexual favors in exchange for certain prescriptions, and he had not resisted as he should have. When their requests got out of hand, he’d had to cut them off, no matter what they offered. One or both of those women might present problems, particularly if the government had leverage over them based on drug-related charges.

“I see we’ve got a problem,” Vida said harshly. “Who is she?”

“Nobody. I was just going over it all in my mind.”

“Bullshit. Spill it, Kyle.”

Paul Biegler needed Vida working for him. She was relentless. Auster sighed heavily. “Quinesha Washington.”

Vida went pale. “That crackhead? You went with that skank?”

“Just a blow job-I never touched her otherwise.”

Vida shuddered in disgust. “Well, I hope it was a good one. She’s going to cost us plenty.”

A good one? More like a dozen good ones. “Sorry.”

“You go tell JaNel to draw blood for an HIV test.”

“Come on, Vi-”

Now, damn it! You don’t have the sense God gave a tomcat.”

Auster held up his hands in surrender. “I’ll do it when we’re done.”

“We’re done until you get that test back. I’m going back up front to try to save you from yourself.” She turned on her heel and stormed out.

Auster leaned back in his chair and waited for his heart to slow. A few blistering images of Quinesha Washington on her knees before him arced through his brain, but they vanished as Paul Biegler’s threats came rushing back. The funny thing was, the patients and the records weren’t what really worried Auster. What worried him was his partner.

Taking on Warren Shields had been a mistake. Auster had assumed that Shields, like all the young docs, was hungry for money. And Warren certainly had nothing against making money. But he was constantly checking himself against a code of ethics that belonged to an older generation of doctors-hell, the generation behind Auster, even. It was maddening. On the other hand, the affluent patients in town loved the guy, so he was still good for business.

Then, like a gift from heaven, Shields had suddenly come around on the money issue. About a year ago, he’d walked into Auster’s private office after work and said point-blank that he needed to make more money. Auster told him it was no problem, that the money had always been there for the taking, had Warren been ready to earn it. Warren had just nodded and said he was, and that was that. Auster didn’t know what had precipitated Warren’s sudden venality-a mistress, a drug habit, an expensive hobby-nor did he care. In short order he’d put Vida in charge of Shields on a day-to-day basis. Before Warren checked the billing code after seeing a patient, Vida would ask him a few questions, then check the appropriate box herself. A busy physician like Shields didn’t have time to be bothered with trying to figure out the finer shades of what constituted a Level 5 exam.

Within a month, Shields’s income almost doubled.

That abrupt uptick in billing might have been what attracted the attention of the Medicaid Fraud Unit. But Auster knew why he’d pushed it. Warren Shields’s reputation was spotless; he was the last doctor anyone would suspect of padding his charges. And Shields truly resented government intervention in medicine. Auster had no doubt that, confronted by an accusing government lawyer, Warren would experience a primal burst of outrage. If that pencil pusher Biegler went after Shields, he would get a blast of righteous anger that would set him back on his heels. Then Shields would use his considerable medical knowledge to defend every bill for every patient he’d ever examined. Auster would do the same. And if Vida could really keep the special patients quiet…then everything would be all right.

Chapter 9

Laurel lay bound on the sofa, trying to keep her mind from going as numb as her extremities. She felt the minutes draining away like blood from a wound. All thoughts of marriage, adultery, and even pregnancy had fled. She lived only to discover the time. Only when she knew how long she had before the children got home could she plan her next move, which might be something she would have thought abhorrent an hour ago. Escape had been her first priority, but given Warren’s crazed emotional state, she could not limit her goal to breaking out of the house. The heavy glass vase he had urinated into-and then dropped during her race for the safe room-had come to rest against the wall that separated the great room from the kitchen. The handblown vessel, heavy and round at the bottom with a long, tapered neck, had the makings of an ideal club. A blow from that might crush Warren’s skull, but anything was preferable to letting her children walk into this nightmare.

“I told you, I’m about to pee on myself!” Laurel cried for the fifth time.

Warren didn’t even look up from her computer.

“Why don’t you take a break from that thing and search the house some more? I told you, there’s something else waiting for you to find it.”

He chuckled softly. “What I want to find is buried in the circuits of this machine.”

“What you need to find is what Kyle Auster planted in here, so you can start taking out your anger on the person who’s your real problem.”

Warren ignored her.

She tried another tack. “Do you really want our children to see me taped up like a hostage? With urine-soaked pants? How are you going to explain that?”

“You don’t have to use the bathroom. You just want to get loose.”

“I’m about to burst! Can’t you see the sweat on my face?”

He gave her a brief glance. “If you have to go that bad, go in your pants. I’ll throw them in the washer before the kids get here.”

New anxiety awakened within her. “How are they supposed to get here if I don’t pick them up? Are you going to get them?”

“Maybe I e-mailed one of the girls at the office to get them.” She hadn’t considered the idea that Warren might be e-mailing people while he was carrying out his exercise in paranoia. “Who?”

“Nell Roberts.”

Laurel pictured a pretty, dark-haired Louisiana girl, the younger sister of the bleached-blond receptionist people said Auster was sleeping with. What would Diane Rivers do when Nell Roberts showed up at school to pick up the children Diane had been asked to drop off? She’d call Laurel’s cell phone, which was now tucked into Warren’s back pocket, and he’d give some smooth explanation to allay any suspicion. End of story.

“How long till they get out of school?” Laurel asked casually.

Warren shrugged. “They’ll get here when they get here. But Nell’s not bringing them. I didn’t e-mail her. You’re such a perfect mother that I realized you would already have arranged to get them here. Right?”

His sarcasm angered Laurel, but at least she had learned that the possibility to intervene with Diane remained.

“Warren, I’m begging you to let me go to the bathroom. Don’t you have enough simple human decency left to allow that?”

At last he looked over at her. “Tell me the password to your Hotmail account. Then you can go.”

Okay, Laurel thought angrily. You asked for it. She closed her eyes and relaxed her urinary sphincter. Within seconds her crotch was soaked, then her inner thighs and bottom. The smell would hit Warren in a minute, and he was unlikely to maintain a stoic front. The sofa beneath Laurel’s behind was a leather Roche-Bobois imported from France, $17,000 and change through a boutique store in West Palm Beach. She was still peeing when Warren sat up straight n the ottoman.

“Fuck!” he cried. “You didn’t pee on that couch?”

“I told you I had to go.”


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