One Union Square Building
The call from King County Superior Court Judge John
Rudolph’s bailiff had sent the Law Offices of David Sloane
into overdrive. Sloane juggled his briefcase as he slipped on his
suit jacket and hurried down the hall. The jury had reached a
“Give ’em hell!” John Kannin shouted.
Sloane rushed into the elevator lobby, cinching the knot of his
tie. One of the red triangles above the bank of elevators lit and a
“David!” Carolyn shuffled into the lobby.
She rolled her eyes as she handed his cell to him.
“I swear you’d forget your head if it wasn’t
glued to your shoulders.”
Sloane wedged his briefcase between the shutting doors.
“Have you reached Tom yet?” He and Tom Pendergrass
had tried the medical malpractice action against a local
pediatrician for the death of a six-year-old boy. Following closing
arguments, Pendergrass had gone straight to his athletic club for a
“A woman at the front desk said she would look for him.
How many redheads could be working out on a StairMaster?”
The doors shuddered, and the elevator buzzed.
“Tell him to meet me in the courtroom. And tell him not to
The buzzing intensified. “You called the
Carolyn put her hands on her hips. “No. I thought
I’d use mental telepathy. Just get going before that thing
blows a circuit and plummets. I can’t afford to be looking
for a new job in this economy.”
When the elevator reached the lobby, Sloane jogged across the
salmon-colored marble, his mind again churning over the evidence
and hoping that the jurors had understood his arguments. Dr. Peter
Douvalidis, for forty years a respected Seattle pediatrician, had
chosen not to treat Austin McFarland for flulike symptoms:
diarrhea, vomiting, and high fevers. Subpoenaed medical records
indicated that Douvalidis had taken a throat swab and sent the boy
home with instructions that the McFarlands keep him hydrated and
return if the fever didn’t break. That night the boy had
slipped into a coma and the McFarlands rushed Austin to the
emergency room, where the attending doctor took a blood sample and
sent it to the lab, suspecting a bacterial infection.
Despite the doctor’s efforts, Austin died. The next day
the throat swab came back negative for the flu but the blood
cultures came back positive for septicemia, a bacteria in the
bloodstream, usually from an infection in some other part of the
body. Sloane would later learn that septicemia manifests itself in
symptoms similar to the flu and, as in the case of Austin
McFarland, may progress to hypotension and death.
The McFarlands’ focus had been on their bereavement. It
was not until six months later that they approached Tom
Pendergrass, whom they had met through a mutual friend, to
determine if Douvalidis was liable in their son’s death.
Though expert doctors retained by Pendergrass opined that, given
the severity of the boy’s symptoms, Douvalidis should have
immediately treated Austin with broad-spectrum antibiotics for a
presumed bacterial infection, Sloane had never felt totally
comfortable with suing the doctor. The experts’ opinions
seemed much like Monday-morning quarterbacking. He had let
Pendergrass handle the case, deducing that it would settle. But
Douvalidis’s medical-malpractice carrier had refused, and on
the eve of trial the McFarlands told Sloane they wanted him to try
As Sloane reached the revolving glass doors he heard someone
call his name.
Perhaps in his early twenties, the man had the youthful, unkempt
appearance made popular during Seattle’s grunge phase in the
1990s, a fad that continued to linger. The tail of his shirt
protruded over baggy jeans, and an oversize, olive green jacket
hung heavily from his shoulders hiding the manila file until the
man pulled a document from it, papers spilling onto the floor.
“I have something to show you.” He knelt to recover
the scattered pages.
Sloane had become a fixture on local and national talk shows
since his verdict against the government on behalf of the wife of a
national guardsman killed in Iraq that had led to the forced
resignation of the secretary of defense. His increased exposure had
caused his caseload to explode; everyone wanted to hire “the
lawyer who does not lose,” as one national publication
referred to him.
“I’m sorry I don’t have time to talk.”
Sloane pushed through the revolving doors and kept a brisk pace
past the rock wall sculpture and down wide concrete steps, hoping
to discourage his pursuer, but the man hurried along beside him,
talking as he continued to fumble in his file.
“This will only take a minute.”
“I’m afraid I don’t have a minute.”
Sloane reached the corner of Sixth and University but the light
changed to red, and the pedestrians in front of him abruptly
stopped. Nobody jaywalked in Seattle. Sloane would have broken the
rule, but traffic emptying from the I‑5 freeway onto
University was heavy.
The din of the cars nearly drowned out the man’s voice.
“If I could just show you this article it would explain
The light changed. Sloane stepped from the curb, leaving the
young man searching his file. He made it halfway across when the
“The doctor did not kill that boy.”
Sloane stopped. Pedestrians maneuvered to avoid him. Walking
back to the curb, Sloane saw that the man held a photocopy of an
article from The Seattle Times reporting on the medical
“How would you know that?” Sloane asked.
“Because I did.”
Malcolm Fitzgerald exited his navy blue Bentley Brookland, a
gift to celebrate his recent promotion, tugged the French cuffs of
his shirt past the sleeves of his blazer, and adjusted the lapels.
His wife had selected the jacket, and had it handtailored to
accommodate his tall, slender frame. She liked him in
blue, which she said better accentuated the gray at his temples
and his fair complexion. For the board meeting that morning,
Fitzgerald had decided on a simple white shirt with a lavender
pinstripe that matched the color of his tie.
He retrieved the wrapped package from the passenger seat and
followed the stone path between English boxwood hedges into a
manicured backyard. The lawn spread like a green blanket to the
slate blue waters of Lake Washington, the southern view of Mount
Rainier’s snowcapped summit interrupted only by the 520
bridge spanning east to west.
The wrought-iron bench had been positioned just beneath the
vines of a willow tree at the lake’s edge, and faced the
finger dock where Sebastian Kendall moored his seventy-two-foot
yacht and fire-engine red float plane.
Fitzgerald nodded to the male nurse and stepped to where Kendall
sat, his eyes closed, his body hunched over the silver horse head
mounted atop his cane. Though it had been only a week since
Fitzgerald’s last visit, Kendall had physically deteriorated.
He wore blue hospital scrub pants and a white T‑shirt beneath
a terry cloth bathrobe, his initials embroidered in gold on the
breast pocket. The radiation and chemotherapy treatments had
thinned a full head of hair to white wisps. Once a young-looking
seventy-two and perhaps 180 pounds, Kendall now looked as if a
breeze off the lake would knock him over.
Kendall opened his eyes.
“I’m sorry to disturb.” Fitzgerald had
arranged the meeting earlier that morning.
“Just resting my eyes.” Kendall’s voice,
hoarse and guttural, had become nearly unrecognizable. He motioned
for Fitzgerald to sit beside him. “How is Melody?”
Fitzgerald did not bother to correct that his wife’s name
was Erin. “She sends her regards, and her prayers.”
“And your daughters?”
“Growing like weeds and keeping us both as busy as ever;
Sarah has it in her head that she wants to take tae kwon do, but I
don’t know how with all the soccer and ballet.”
“They grow up fast,” Kendall said, though he had no
children and had never married. “How are you feeling
Kendall shrugged. “I’m still here.”
Fitzgerald did not patronize his mentor by saying things like
“You’re going to beat this” or
“You’ll be here a lot longer.” They were beyond
that. The most sophisticated treatments had failed to slow the
metastatic melanoma’s destructive path.
Three months earlier Kendall’s illness had forced him to
reluctantly resign as CEO and chairman of the board of Kendall
Toys, a company his grandfather and granduncle had founded in a
booth on a Seattle street corner in Pioneer Square. A Kendall had
presided over the company for each of its 110 years, with Sebastian
holding the position for the most recent 38.
“The board still giving you a hard time?” Kendall
A flock of crows freckled the sky; thousands of the birds
roosted nearby on Foster Island in Seattle’s arboretum,
taking noisy flight over the lake each morning.
“When your profits drop for the second quarter in a row
after not having dropped the previous thirty-eight years, you
expect tough questions. These are difficult economic times and
you’re a difficult act to follow, but then we both knew that
would be the case. Six months from now, when we’re still
going strong, everyone will relax.”
Neither man said it, but both knew Sebastian Kendall would not
be alive to witness that revival.
“Any further overtures from Bolelli?” Kendall asked,
referring to the efforts by Galaxy Toys’ CEO, Maxine Bolelli,
to purchase Kendall, a merger that would make Galaxy the number one
toy company in the world, supplanting Titan Toys of Chicago.
“What is Ms. Bolelli’s current tone?”
“Terse. She said she won’t wait forever for us to
‘get our shit together.’” Fitzgerald had to raise
his voice over the din of music blasting from speakers mounted atop
the crossbar of a large ski boat carrying teenagers in swim trunks
and bikinis from the Seattle Yacht Club. “She wants a
response to her most recent offer,
and if she doesn’t get the answer she wants, she’s
threatened to go public with the negotiations.”
Fitzgerald had spent two days in confidential meetings at a
resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, to discuss Galaxy’s proposal
to purchase Kendall. Galaxy did not have an action figure
department, and its own attempts to create one had been abysmal
failures. Even in a down market, Kendall’s revenues continued
to top $150 million, putting it squarely in the category of a
midlevel toy company.
“She’ll do it too,” Kendall said.
“I have no doubt.”
A duck swam to the water’s edge, bobbing in the wake left
by the ski boat. Kendall tore a small piece of bread from the chunk
he held in his hand and tossed it, but the crumb fell short of the
water, landing on the lawn. The duck quickly paddled over, waddled
ashore, and gobbled it.
Kendall tossed another piece. “What’s her latest
“Point six shares in Galaxy for every share in
Sebastian Kendall nodded. “You would be a very wealthy man
at this morning’s stock price.”
“As would you,” Fitzgerald said.
Kendall remained the largest shareholder, owning 31 percent.
Fitzgerald held 20 percent, a deliberate number that allowed them
to maintain control of the company.
“You can’t spend money where I’m going,”
“What do you anticipate the board will do?”
A light breeze blew the vines of the willow tree.
“I’d say sixtyforty against, but Santoro is pushing
Some at the company had thought Arian Santoro, rather than
Fitzgerald, would be named CEO and chairman of the board, and it
was well known that he and his minions had not been happy with
Kendall’s decision to endorse Fitzgerald.
“Bolelli will cut the fat and absorb what she deems an
asset. Kendall will cease to exist.”
“I’m not going to let that happen,” Fitzgerald
Kendall patted Fitzgerald’s thigh. “Sometimes we
cannot cheat the inevitable.”
Sensing the opportune moment, Fitzgerald lifted the wrapped
package he’d set beside the bench and placed it on
Kendall’s eyes narrowed. “Is it my birthday? My
memory isn’t what it used to be.”
“Who are you kidding? Your memory is better than mine.
Though his hands shook, Kendall managed to unwrap the package.
He held up the box to peer through the clear plastic window.
“Maybe we can cheat the inevitable,” Fitzgerald
It hurt to blink.
The light stabbed at his eyes, shooting daggers of pain to the
back of his skull. When he shut them an aurora of black and white
Albert Payne had never been one to partake liberally in alcohol;
not that he was a complete teetotaler either. He’d been
hungover a handful of times during his fifty-six years, but those
few occasions had been the result of unintended excess, never a
deliberate intent to get drunk. So although he had little
experience with which to compare it, his pounding head seemed a
clear indicator that he had indeed drunk to excess. He’d have
to accept that as so, because he could remember little about the
prior evening. Each factory owner, along with the local officials
in China’s Guangdong Province, had insisted on a reception
for Payne and the delegation, no doubt believing their hospitality
would ensure a favorable report. Payne recalled sipping white wine,
but after three weeks the receptions had blurred together, and he
could not separate one from the other.
The thought popped into his head and he seemed to recall that
caffeine eased a hangover. Maybe so, but locating the magic elixir
would require that he stand, dress, leave his hotel room, and ride
the elevator to the lobby. At the moment, just lifting his head
felt as if it would require a crane.
Forcing his eyelids open, he followed floating dust motes in a
stream of light to an ornate ceiling of crisscrossing wooden beams
and squares of decorative wallpaper. He blinked, pinched the bridge
of his nose, then looked again, but the view had not changed. A
cold sweat enveloped him. The ceiling in his room at the Shenzhen
Hotel had no beams or wallpaper; he’d awakened the previous
three mornings to a flat white ceiling.
He shifted his gaze. Cheap wood paneling and a dingy,
burnt-orange carpet: this was not his hotel room and, by simple
deduction, this could not be his bed.
He slid his hand along the sheet, fingertips brushing fabric
until encountering something distinctly different, soft and warm.
His heart thumped hard in his chest. He turned his head. Dark hair
flowed over alabaster shoulders blemished by two small moles. The
woman lay on her side, the sheet draped across the gentle slope of
her rounded hip.
Starting to hyperventilate, Payne forced deep breaths from his
diaphragm. Now was not the time to panic. Besides, rushing from the
room was not an option, not in his present condition, and not
without his clothes. Think! The woman had not yet stirred, and
judging by her heavy breathing she remained deep asleep, perhaps as
hungover as he, perhaps enough that if he didn’t panic, Payne
might be able to sneak out without waking her, if he could somehow
manage to sit up.
He forced his head from the pillow and scanned along the wall to
the foot of the bed, spotted a shoe, and felt a moment of great
relief that just as quickly became greater alarm. The shoe was not
his brown Oxford loafer but a square-toed boot.
Payne bolted upright, causing the room to spin and tilt
off-kilter, bringing fleeting, blurred images like a ride on a
merry-go-round. The images did not clear until the spinning
“Good morning, Mr. Payne.” The man sat in an
armless, slatted wood chair. “You appear to be having a
difficult start to your day.” Eyes as dark as a crow, the man
wore his hair parted in the middle and pulled back off his forehead
in a ponytail that extended beyond the collar of his black leather
“Would you care for some water?”
Not waiting for a response, the man stood. At a small round
table in the corner of the room he filled a glass from a pitcher,
offering it to Payne. If this were a bad dream, it was very real.
Payne hesitated, no longer certain that his hangover was alcohol
The man motioned with the glass and arched heavy eyebrows that
accentuated the bridge of a strong forehead. Dark stubble shaded
his face. “Please. I assure you it’s clean, relatively
Payne took the glass but did not immediately drink, watching as
the man returned to the chair, and crossed his legs, before again
pointing to the glass. This time Payne took a small sip. The glass
clattered against his teeth and water trickled down his chin onto
the sheet. When the man said nothing, Payne asked, “What do
“Me? I want nothing.”
“Then why are you ---”
The man raised a single finger. “My employer, however, has
“Your employer? Who is your employer?”
“I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to divulge that
The woman emitted a small moan before her chest resumed its
rhythmic rise and fall. Payne looked back to the man, an idea
occurring. “I’ve been married for more than twenty
years; my wife will never believe this.”
The man responded with a blank stare. “Believe
Payne gestured to the woman. “Her. It’s not going to
“Ah.” The man nodded. “You believe that I am
here to blackmail you with photographs or videotapes of the two of
“It isn’t going to work,” Payne repeated.
“Let me first say that it is refreshing to hear in this
day when more than fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce
that yours remains strong. Good for you. But look around you, Mr.
Payne; do you see a camera or a video recorder anywhere in the
Payne did not.
“Now, as I said, my employer has several requests.”
For the next several minutes the man outlined those requests.
Finishing, he asked, “Do we have an understanding?”
Confused, Payne shook his head. “But you said you
weren’t here to blackmail me.”
“I said I was not here to blackmail you with photographs
or videotapes. And as you have already educated me, such an attempt
would not be productive.”
“Then why would I do what you’re asking?”
“Another good question.” The man pinched his lower
lip. His brow furrowed. “It appears I will need something
more persuasive.” He paused. “Can you think of
“Something that would make a man like you acquiesce to my
“There’s nothing,” Payne said. “This
isn’t going to work. So if I could just have my clothes
“Nothing?” The man seemed to give the problem
greater consideration, then snapped his fingers. “I have
The word struck Payne like a dart to the chest. “Murder? I
haven’t murdered anyone.”
With the fluidity of a dancer the man stood, a gun sliding into
his extended left hand from somewhere beneath his splayed black
coat, and the back of the woman’s head exploded, blood
splattering Payne about the face and neck.
“Now you have.”
Excerpted from BODILY HARM © Copyright 2010 by Robert
Dugoni. Reprinted with permission by Touchstone. All rights