Donald Bain continues the beloved Capital Crimes series with Margaret Truman’s Deadly Medicine, a gripping tale of greed, betrayaland murder.
If someone in the pharmaceutical industry came upon a cheaper, non-addictive, and more effective painkiller, would he kill for it? Washington, D.C., private detective Robert Brixton discovers the answer is a resounding “Yes,” as he helps Jayla King, a medical researcher at a small D.C. pharmaceutical firm, carry on the work of her father. Dr. Preston King’s experiments in the jungles of Papua New Guinea and the discoveries he made led to his brutal murder and the theft of his papers.
Did her father’s lab assistant kill the doctor and steal his research? Is this shadowy figure prepared to kill again to keep Jayla from profiting from her father’s work? Does her recent paramour’s romantic interest reflect his true feelingsor will he sell her out and reap the rewards for himself? And to what lengths would Big Pharma’s leading lobbyist go to cover up his involvement with King’s death . . . and to protect a leading champion of the pharmaceutical industry, a Georgia senator with a shady past?
No pill can ease the pain that the answers to these questions will inflict.
About the Author
MARGARET TRUMAN won faithful readers with her works of biography and fiction, particularly her Capital Crimes mysteries.
DONALD BAIN, the author of more than 115 books, including forty of the bestselling Murder, She Wrote novels, was a longtime friend of Margaret Truman. He worked closely with her on her novels, and more than anyone understood the spirit and substance of her books.
Read an Excerpt
Margaret Truman's Deadly Medicine
A Capital Crimes Novel
By Donald Bain
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2016 Estate of Margaret Truman
All rights reserved.
Flo's fashions was located on upper Wisconsin Avenue, at the tail end of Georgetown's main commercial drag. Flo Combes, lady friend of Robert "Don't Call Me Bobby" Brixton, had opened the women's clothing boutique six months ago and all signs pointed to it becoming a success. Word had gotten around that the lines of American-made clothing she featured combined casualness with a touch of flair, and business had been brisk. She'd owned a similar shop in Savannah, Georgia, when she and Brixton had lived together in that genteel southern city and before they ended up in Washington, D.C. — after a brief detour to their native Brooklyn — and it was in a retail setting that Flo felt most comfortable.
Although Brixton was proud of Flo and her determination to open the shop, he had mixed emotions, which he managed to keep to himself — for the most part. Since returning to D.C. and establishing his private detective agency in a small suite adjacent to the law offices of Mackensie Smith, Brixton's patron saint in the nation's capital, Flo had been his decorator, confidante, painter, booster, lover, and receptionist/secretary. Her decision to strike out on her own and open the boutique had sent Brixton into a funk that negatively impacted the investigative work he did, and it had taken pep talks from Smith and his wife, Annabel, as well as some gentle soothing of his ruffled feathers by Flo, before he snapped out of it and accepted the fact that she was no longer in his outer office greeting clients with her infectious smile. Flo had personally chosen her replacement, Eloise Warden, aptly named as far as Brixton was concerned, a stern, no-nonsense middle-aged woman with a headful of tight graying curls who was every bit as efficient as Flo had been, but who lacked her beauty and outgoing personality. Had Flo deliberately picked Ms. Warden from the roster of women who had applied for the job, most of them young and sexy, to head off competition for Brixton's affection? Flo had flared when he'd raised that possibility and he'd wisely not brought it up again.
On this lovely spring day Brixton stood across the street from the boutique and admired a new green-and-white awning that had been installed above the large window and door. He'd just returned to the city from time spent following a young Department of Agriculture bureaucrat whose wife was convinced that he spent his lunch hours visiting a lover. Brixton followed the guy from the Department of Agriculture building to a Virginia town where he entered a one-story building in which customers raced miniature cars around a large, elaborate track using a joystick to control the cars' speed. Brixton figured that as long as he was there he might as well sign up for a session, too, rather than sit outside in a hot car waiting for his target to emerge. He ended up racing the man he'd been following, a pleasant way to spend the afternoon although he lost every race.
"You come here often?" Brixton asked casually, realizing that he sounding like a guy using the oldest icebreaker in the world to chat up a woman at a bar.
"Every chance I get," the man said. He was short, chubby, prematurely balding, and wore thick glasses that rendered his eyes twice their normal size. Hardly the lothario type.
"I really enjoy this place," the man said after winning their fourth race. "My wife won't let me race real cars so I come here. It's an addiction I suppose."
"Like sex?" Brixton asked as he positioned his small yellow race car at the starting line in preparation for the fifth race.
"Sex? Addiction? I wouldn't know. You have that problem?"
"Me? No. But I can see how this can get in your blood. It's my first time."
"You'll get the hang of it. Ready, set, go!"
They shook hands as they left the racing hobbyists' emporium.
"A pleasure meeting you Harold," the alleged cheater said, using the name Brixton had assumed. "What do you do for a living?"
"Ah, I'm self-employed. Finance."
"Well, hope to see you here again. Have a nice night."
Brixton surreptitiously followed the guy home until he pulled into his driveway. On his way back to the District Brixton could only laugh at what he would consider writing in his report to the suspicious wife: "Husband skipped out of work and spent the afternoon being aroused while playing with his joystick." Nah. Don't be a wise guy Robert. Make the wife happy by reporting that her husband's passion wasn't another woman, just little model cars going around in circles.
He dodged traffic as he crossed Wisconsin Avenue and stepped into the shop where Flo was busy with a customer. She waved and flashed him a smile. "Robert," she called, "I want you to meet someone."
Brixton circumnavigated clothing racks and went to where Flo stood with a strikingly beautiful woman who was admiring her image in a full-length mirror.
"Jayla," Flo said, "this is the Robert I've been telling you about."
The woman with the unusual name smiled at Brixton. That she had African American blood in her genetic makeup was obvious from the rich cinnamon sheen of her face and hands. Her features were what writers termed "classic," a thin nose in perfect proportion to her facial architecture, somewhat angular, a lovely set of lips above a proud chin, all of it framed by ebony hair that glistened in the shop's overhead lighting. Brixton recognized the tan fitted dress she wore. Flo had shown that model to him when the shipment had arrived two months ago from the San Francisco designer with whom she'd forged a close working relationship.
"Hi," Jayla said, extending long, slender hands tipped in red to match her lipstick. "Flo is always talking about you."
"Probably better that I not know what she says about me," Brixton said through a grin.
"Would I ever say anything bad about you, Robert?" Flo asked, feigning hurt.
"Probably, but then I suppose I deserve it." He kissed Flo on the cheek and said to the customer, "I see you're wearing one of Flo's creations, Ms...."
"King, but please call me Jayla."
"I don't create it," Flo protested. "Jason in San Francisco creates it. I just sell it."
"But you have a very good eye for what looks good," Jayla said.
"I'll accept that," Flo said.
"I second it," Brixton threw in. "Nice name, Jayla King."
"I obviously didn't choose it," Jayla said. She turned to Flo. "I really like this dress."
She disappeared into one of three fitting rooms at the rear of the boutique.
"A knockout of a woman," Brixton commented.
"Isn't she beautiful? She's a scientist."
"A beautiful scientist," Brixton said reverentially.
"She does medical research for a company in Bethesda."
"Maybe she can give me something for my bald spot," Brixton said. "It's getting bigger."
"It's supposed to. You're a man. Get a testosterone shot."
"Bad for the prostate."
"I wouldn't know about that."
Jayla emerged from the dressing room wearing the new dress. "I love it," she announced, doing a pirouette in front of the mirror. As she did, her cell phone, which rested on a small table next to her purse, sounded. She picked it up and said, "Hello? ... Yes, this is Jayla ... Eugene? ... Is something wrong? ... Oh, no ..."
She sat heavily in one of two tan barrel chairs near the dressing rooms.
"How, Eugene? ... When? ... Oh, my God ... Yes, of course I'll come ... As soon as I can ... What? ... The lab? ... Why? ... I know, I know, I'll know soon enough ... Thank you for calling, Eugene ... Yes, good-bye."
"Something wrong?" Flo asked her.
She slumped in the chair, her face a portrait of despair. "That was my father's lab assistant. He's been killed."
"The lab assistant?" Brixton asked.
"No, my father. He's been murdered." Her fingers trembled as she brushed a hand through her hair.
Brixton and Flo expressed their dismay at the news and asked if they could do anything.
"Thank you, no," Jayla said. "I have to get home and pack, book a flight." She realized that she was wearing a dress that she hadn't purchased. "I love it but —"
"I'll put it aside for you," Flo said. "Please, Jayla, let us know if there's anything we can do."
Jayla changed back into her own clothes, gave Flo a brief hug, and shook Brixton's hand. "It was good to meet you," she said. "I have to run."
"Travel safe," Brixton said. "Sorry for the reason for your trip."
After Jayla had left, and the shop was empty aside from Brixton and Flo, Brixton took a bag of trash to a dumpster in the alley behind the shop. He returned, made sure that the back door was securely locked, and rejoined Flo. "Her father was murdered, huh?" he said. "Where's she from?"
"New Guinea. Papua New Guinea."
"Where's that? In Africa?"
"Somewhere near Australia. I feel terrible for her. She's a terrific person and a good customer. Let's turn out the lights and go home. It's been a busy day."CHAPTER 2
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Jayla King caught the last flight that evening from Washington to Los Angeles where she would connect with a Qantas flight to Sydney, Australia. It had been a mad scramble to make the flight. She'd raced home to haphazardly pack a carry-on bag, and called Renewal Pharmaceuticals' CEO and president Walt Milkin, to tell him that she wouldn't be at work the following day due to a family emergency.
"Your father was murdered?" he said, his voice mirroring his shock. "You take all the time you need, Jayla."
She called a car service to rush her to Dulles Airport where she boarded the United flight a little after nine. It was fourteen hours earlier in Papua New Guinea, seven o'clock in the morning. It had been three A.M. there when her father's assistant, Eugene Waksit, had called her cell to deliver the devastating news.
Because she'd booked the flight at the last minute she ended up in a middle seat, between a middle-aged woman with a seemingly endless supply of chocolate-covered fruit candies and who obviously wanted to engage in conversation, and a heavyset man with a perpetual scowl who opened his laptop computer immediately upon sitting and made a show of angling it away from Jayla, who wasn't the least bit interested in what was on his screen. As she tried to get comfortable in the hard, narrow coach seat she wished that she'd been born shorter. The back of the seat belonging to the passenger in front almost touched her knees; with any luck he wouldn't decide to recline once they'd taken off.
Jayla King stood three inches shorter than six feet thanks to her father, a lanky man who seemed always to be leaning slightly forward. "You have a socialite's slouch," a colleague used to say, which amused her father. His untamable shock of white hair also elicited the comment, "You have the look of a mad scientist," which also brought forth a hearty laugh. Dr. Preston King's laugh was always at the ready, and Jayla heard his laugh as though he was there with her as the flight attendants closed the aircraft's doors and the recorded preflight instructions came through the speakers.
There hadn't been time to cry between the moment she'd received the bad news and boarded the 767 to Los Angeles. Now strapped in the metal tube that would wing her on the first leg of her trip, the tears came softly, quietly. She did her best to keep her sorrow to herself, not wanting others to be aware of her sadness. It was hers alone to suffer.
Once the plane was airborne, the passenger in the seat in front of her reclined his seatback as far as it would go, and Jayla wished that she was wealthy enough to have booked a first-class seat, assuming one had been available. While well paid at her job at the Renewal Pharmaceutical Company in Bethesda, whose financing came mostly from venture capitalists, she knew that she would never be rich. Not that she aspired to riches, aside from when forced to squeeze into a torturous airline seat.
She'd achieved her lifelong dream in 2010 of earning her PhD in molecular biology from the Australian National University in Canberra. Landing a job as a researcher in the United States with Renewal Pharmaceuticals added to her joy and sense of accomplishment. The memory of her father beaming at the ceremony when she was awarded her doctorate brought more silent tears as she maneuvered her body to shield her emotions from her seatmates. She'd managed politely to fend off attempts at conversation by the woman next to her, who eventually fell asleep. Jayla wanted to sleep, too, but each time she closed her eyes her father's smiling face roused her: "Just remember, Jayla," he'd often said, "medical research is controlled by those with money, big money. Never let their money corrupt you. Always be true to yourself."
Her sudden audible burst of tears captured the attention of her male seatmate, who looked up quizzically. "Just relax," he said. "These planes don't go down." He went back to his laptop, and Jayla managed a grim smile. He'd thought she was afraid of flying. At least he hadn't grabbed her hand to offer comfort. Her only concern about flying was whether she would arrive in Los Angeles in time to catch the Qantas flight that left a few minutes before midnight. On other trips to Sydney she'd broken up the long, tiring trip with a layover in L.A, but this time was different, of course. Her only thought was to get to her hometown of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, as quickly as possible.
He's dead? Murdered?
How could it be?
Headwinds from west to east had thankfully been light, and the flight arrived at LAX a few minutes early. She raced through the terminal with her small carry-on bag, made it through the second layer of Security without incident, and was the last passenger to board the Qantas 747 before its doors closed. This time she had a row to herself and managed to doze off, awakening when the cabin crew served meals, and when the captain announced that they were approaching Sydney where, he happily reported, the weather was sunny and pleasant.
Her nap on the flight had served only to contribute to her grogginess as she deplaned at Terminal One in Sydney's Kingsford Smith International Airport. She passed through Customs and headed in the direction of the Air Niugini desk where she was told that the next flight to Port Moresby would depart in two hours. She purchased a ticket, found the nearest restaurant, and took a chair in an exterior section that jutted out into the terminal, affording a view of the multitude of passengers scurrying to and from their flights. She'd sat in that same outdoor café with her father during a previous trip home.
* * *
He'd flown to Sydney from Port Moresby to meet his daughter and only child and they'd spent a glorious four days together, taking in shows, dining in good restaurants, and catching up on their respective lives. She hadn't accompanied him back to Port Moresby that time — her vacation days were few — and now wished that she had. While her father was unfailingly pleasant and at times even gregarious, it was in Papua New Guinea (PNG) that his good nature and belief in his work truly emerged.
* * *
Dr. Preston King had trained to become a physician in Sydney and had begun his medical practice at the Royal North Shore Hospital in that city, where he advanced through the ranks to become the youngest doctor in the hospital's history to be named head of a department, in this case the bustling emergency room. He was revered by staff and patients alike, although he could be harsh on those who didn't live up to his high standards. Medicine was his life; he hadn't married by the age of forty although he'd had affairs and was considered a prize catch by the many single women with whom he interacted, professionally and otherwise.
But Preston King had another passion besides medicine, and that was anthropology, particularly the indigenous tribes of New Guinea, the world's second largest island, trailing only Greenland. He devoured books by anthropologists, and began making trips to the island to learn firsthand about its myriad tribes. It was during one of those trips in 1982 that he developed a powerful sense of mission to bring an improved health system to the island's people. Upon his return he made a shocking announcement to his superiors at the Sydney hospital: "I am resigning and moving to Papua New Guinea."
Excerpted from Margaret Truman's Deadly Medicine by Donald Bain. Copyright © 2016 Estate of Margaret Truman. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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The series continues to be smart and clever.
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