Table of Contents

Spring 2009

From The Editor

Letter from Jack Getze

Short Stories

Patrick Whittaker

9:03

Anthony Rainone

Fall to Pieces

Phil Beloin

Late, After Dinner

Jake Nantz

Midnight on the Links

Stephen D. Rogers

Queen Anne's Lace

Mike Sheeter

Blue Fugazzi

David Moss

The Sleepy Pines Nursing Home

Fiona Kay Crawford

Successful Surgeon

Graham Powell

The Ins and Outs

John Towler

The Fall

Damien Seaman

Thursday Night Blowout

Matthew Acheson

Writing on the Wall

Interviews

Sandra Ruttan with Russel D. McLean

Declan Burke with Brian McGilloway

Jim Napier with Phyllis Smallman

Brian Lindenmuth with Craig McDonald

Reviews by:

P.A. Brown

Mexican Heat

Gloria Feit

Friend of the Devil

Theodore Feit

Death Was in the Picture

A Beautiful Place to Die

Night and Day

Claire McManus

The Hanged Man

The Poisoner of Ptah

My Sister, My Love

The Cruelest Month

Jim Winter

Trigger City

The Fourth Victim

TKO

Bookspot Review Roundup

Book Excerpt

The Big O
by Declan Burke

Featured Article

Passing of the Torch - Celebrated crime novelist dies
by Jim Napier

Successful Surgeon

Dr. Kenneth Baker enters his private changing room, looks at his Rolex. 11:30. In half an hour he will be in the O.R., performing his renowned procedure. He removes his handmade Italian leather shoes and places them together neatly in the bottom of his closet. He smiles. After tonight’s case, he will escape the bugs and humidity of central Florida, and enjoy a golfing vacation on Maui.

Next off are the watch and cuff links. He places them on their shelf. His Armani suit is carefully hung, and his custom-made silk shirt goes next to it. He straightens the monogrammed cuffs.

He smiles as he thinks about playing at the most exclusive courses and staying in a luxury resort for a month. Of course, he knows he has earned it all by being the preeminent specialist in his field. During the past two years, he has worked through a huge backlog of patients and achieved a 100% success rate. The caseload in Texas alone took eight months to complete, but he is not one to complain. It is an honor to handle the cases of patients who have been waiting years for his expertise. His only regret about his specialty is that business never takes him to Hawaii, so he cannot write off any of the upcoming trip. Of course, that could change after the next election.

He slips into his scrubs. They are wrinkled. At least that will be concealed by the O.R. gown. Next on are his sneakers and hat. Another glance at the clock. 11:40. It is time to prep.

Hot water splashes over Dr. Baker’s hands and arms as he works the thick, pink soap into a foam with vigorous scrubbing. He goes through the ritual with a practiced ease. Three years of surgical residency inscribed these habits into his unconscious.

He laughs to himself. Those idiots who cut him from the surgical program did him an inadvertent favor. They can have their ethics, he gets results. His current practice involves techniques they would not even teach him. For this singular knowledge, he traveled China. There he learned from those who had perfected this technique. In one week they taught him an elegant craft , which enables him to keep his employers satisfied and earns him a reputation that none of those fools from residency will ever be able to match. Every procedure he performs is front-page news.

No boring conferences or exams to waste his valuable time; his license comes directly from each state that desires his services. He is in the enviable position of being the head of his own department, writing his own protocols. When he starts his Federal contract next month his career will be set.

A door opens and a man’s head darts in and out. As it withdraws, Dr. Baker hears him say, “Yeah, he’s ready.”

The clock above the sink reads 11:50. He dries off. The gown and mask go on and he is as anonymous as death. He reaches out and plucks two gloves from the box. They snap over his hands.

His employers congratulated him when he suggested the cost saving idea of buying up latex gloves when all the hospitals stopped using them. In his specialty, he pointed out, there is no concern about his patients having a latex allergy.

He nods and the door to his O.R. is opened. Dr. Baker scans the room to confirm his instruments, medications and monitors are in order. The tray, laden with an I.V. set-up and three syringes, sparkles under the intense lighting. The monitors are in place, next to the cardiac ultrasound machine. The nitrous mask, tubing and tank wait where his patient’s head will soon rest.

Quickly, he reviews his patient’s pre op physical of twelve hours ago, and he knows this case will be routine. I.V. access, a complication with some of his patients, will not be a problem tonight. This guy is not obese, covered with tattoos, or a shooter, like the last case. That one had no decent veins, and he had to drill into the guy’s leg, just below the knee, to put in an intraosseous line, a type of I.V. that goes right into bone. It was time consuming and inelegant, in his opinion.

The doors bang open and his patient is wheeled into the O.R. by two of the staff. Grunts echo in the room as the patient strains against the restraints that anchor him to the stretcher. Dr. Baker checks the clock. Twelve exactly.

He looks at the name-tags and says, “That will be all, Jackson and Mitchell.”

Then he leans down and greets his patient. “Hello, Dwayne. How are you? Do you remember me, Dr. Baker? We met at your physical yesterday. We will be getting started as soon as all of these monitors are hooked up.”

The patient’s head jerks around, following the sound of the voice. Wild eyes roll, showing their whites, and blink rapidly at the intense lights. The blanket undulates with his writhing.

“You bastard!” he growls, and vents blasts of garlic breath with his cursing and panting.

Dr. Baker leans back and wrinkles his nose. He wonders why none of his patients ever bother to brush their teeth after eating dinner.

“This little mask slips over your face, Dwayne. It is going to smell like strawberry, the flavor you picked out during your physical. Now, take a few slow and deep breaths. You will not feel a thing, and this will be done before you know it.”

A surge of curses are stifled by the mask. It is so nice to have his patient’s ranting obscured by the hiss of the gas. The blood pressure cuff constricts. Heart and respiratory rates slither across the monitor in blue and red.

The curtains rattle open to reveal the observation area. Dr. Baker turns around and with a half bow acknowledges the occupants of this exclusive venue. He turns back to check the monitors. Everything is ready for him to begin.

“You’re going to feel a little pinch, Dwayne.”

His patient tries to pull his arm away, but it is firmly trapped in the restraints. The nitrous begins taking effect and there is less of a struggle. The gas always works faster when they are screaming; they take bigger breaths. A needle bites into the skin. The catheter slides in the vein and is secured. The saline bag is hung. Everything is ready.

Dr. Baker picks up the first syringe, uncaps it, and punctures the port in the I.V. tubing. The dose of anesthetic rapidly does its job, but he waits until the second hand has swept around the clock face two complete times. His patient’s heart rate and blood pressure are normal. The arms and legs are still. At last, the moaning quiets.

The gas is turned off. The mask is removed and the tubing is coiled by the patient’s head.

After the second medication the respiratory rate quickly slows to its desired level. He repeats the procedure for a third, and final time. He watches. The heart rate is now perfect.

Three minutes later Dr. Baker applies the wand of the cardiac ultrasound to his patient’s chest. The heart monitor and ultrasound concur. Another success. The rattle of the curtains to the observation room breaks the silence. All monitors are turned off.

He smiles again. He imagines Annie must be furious with herself now for leaving him. She bailed out when things were at their worst. He was unemployed, with crushing school loans. In the last two years everything has changed. His technique has become the most talked about in the country. He has a guaranteed supply of patients. How fortunate that the prenup cut her out of his newfound fortune. Well, there are plenty of other women out there. He anticipates meeting someone new at the resort tomorrow.

His patient’s I.V. is clamped. The clock reads 12:18. He is pleased to note this is the quickest case yet and writes the time on the form handed to him by a man in a cheap, disheveled suit . Dr. Baker signs his name at the bottom with a flourish.

“That was a clean job, Kenny. Nice and quick. Much better than he deserved. The girl’s parents have waited nine years for tonight and they’re relieved that it’s finally over. I watched it all with them. They asked me to thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Warden, and it’s DR. BAKER.” He turned away. It doesn’t pay to encourage too much familiarity with the staff.

Back in his private changing room, he quickly sheds the surgical garb, showers and dresses. He is satisfied that he performed perfectly tonight.

Outside, he admires his new toy, shining under the security lights. The clock in the polished walnut dash reads 12:40. In less than an hour he will be asleep at the beachfront condo, leaving the state prison in Starke far behind.

Tee time is at seven, and one lasting benefit of his truncated residency is the inability to sleep past six. He will get in nine holes before flying out.

His black sedan roars down FL-16 and is enveloped in the midnight fog.



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