Production No. BPP-622
edited by: Melanie, Christina and Irene McGary
MEET THE CAST
Cascade Times, January 29, 2001: Professor Dick Van Velzen, pathologist, has responded to accusations that he, while in the employ of Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool, England, used organs obtained without proper parental consent or coroner order. He maintains that he removed and stored the organs of 845 children because he didn't have the resources to carry out detailed post-mortem examinations.
As well as pathology, Professor Van Velzen was researching cot (crib) death in children. He insists that he was not misusing the organs to progress his own career. "90% of my best papers have nothing to do with babies' organs... My intention was to skate very close to the letter of the law with only one purpose -- to achieve a better situation."
Van Velzen also faces charges in a Canadian court stemming from the removal and storage of pediatric organs. The tissue in question was located in a general storage facility among his belongings when hospital staff noted their absence.
She squeezed her eyes shut against the tears that threatened to fall. The task at hand was more important than the grief she felt, despite the fact that the pain in her heart could not be dulled. The epidural anesthesia she had received guaranteed she would not feel the passage of her tiny baby. She ached, however, for the life that had ended before it even began. The doctor and his nurse murmured words of encouragement that went unheeded. She wanted to be alone; to sleep and never wake up.
Her mind drifted to the antique cradle she had found -- was it only yesterday? A delicate green, with a rocking horse on the headboard, it was in excellent condition for its age. Now, this precious child would not sleep in it. A few more minutes, and her baby would be gone forever.
"Dana, you're doing great. Time for a little pushing," the doctor announced. What was his name? She'd seen him previously at the Prenatal Clinic, but had never been his patient. Donahue, Dr. Donahue. Her coach, nurse Tecia, helped her lean forward and she bore down.
"Good, Dana. Almost there, I can see the head."
Words that under other circumstances would have buoyed her spirits instead engulfed her in black dread. A moment later the pressure eased.
"It was a girl," Dr. Donahue stated. Suddenly, a shrill cry broke the silence.
"She's alive!" Dana cried, recognizing instantly the voice of her child, even as the doctor swore.
"Dammit, Trish! This baby's too old. It must be 25 weeks!" he yelled at the nurse to his side. Tecia, still in position by Dana's head leaned forward to look at the infant, as Trish defended herself.
"I checked the chart. It was supposed to be right at 20," she affirmed.
"Well, it's not." He still had not lifted the child up for Dana to see, instead handing the wailing infant to Trish. "I'll take care of it in a minute." Dana struggled to sit up and see past the drapes on her legs.
"What's happening? I want to see my baby," Dana urged, thankful the tiny infant was alive, if premature. Dr. Donahue turned his attention to the anesthesiologist opposite Tecia by the head of the bed.
"Get her under now!" he commanded. The man pulled a machine close, and attached a black mask to a long tube. Dana continued to protest over the cries of the baby.
"Where is my baby?" she asked, meeting Tecia's gaze as she tried to answer, moisture pooling at the corners of her eyes. At that moment, the infant's cries ceased.
"Your baby is dead," the doctor stated as blackness swallowed her.
Jim Ellison held up three fingers in silent communication to the men around him. Blair Sandburg stood on the opposite side of the doorway, a hand in place on the doorknob, mentally preparing himself for the event to follow. L.T. Rafe and Henri Brown were directly behind Jim, ready to follow him into the room. Blair nodded as Jim began the countdown, fingers tightening their grip on the portal. On one, he twisted the knob and pushed inward on the door.
Jim swung into the room, leading with his gun and calling 'Cascade PD, freeze!' to the occupants. A chorus of 'Drop your weapon!' issued from Rafe and Henri. Blair prepared to step into the fray when he heard a noise from behind him. The office they had invaded was on the second floor, and as Blair peered into the gloom, he knew, even if unable to see, that an entire warehouse stretched beneath them. Outside the building, dozens of officers poised, ready for the call to clear the building. Blair was aware that the subjects in the room were nearly in custody, the snap of handcuffs echoing off the far wall. The sound -- footsteps? -- came again, from somewhere to his left, nearer the back of the warehouse. Holding his gun close to his chest, Blair moved swiftly for the stairs.
"Jim, I hear something downstairs. I'm going to check it out," he said softly, knowing the Sentinel would hear him. Wishing desperately for his partner's eyes, Blair cautiously descended the steps, keeping his back flat to the wall. He was on the last stair when the crash of metal cans startled him. He missed the last step, and went down on one knee with a hiss of pain. A strong hand grabbed his arm, dragging him to his feet.
"'Bout time," Blair complained sentinel-soft, receiving only a muffled grunt in reply. He started to move away, following the direction of the noise he had heard before, but the hand remained tight on his arm. "What?" he began.
Suddenly, a hail of bullets rocketed in their direction. Blair recoiled when the pain shot through his chest, even as Jim was dragging him down on the stairs. He struggled to draw a breath, while Jim took advantage of the lull to return fire, sliding out from under his partner to give chase.
In. Out. In. Out. Blair chanted inwardly, forcing himself to ignore the discomfort in his ribs. This really sucks! Thankful for the protection of his vest, he still couldn't imagine breathing painlessly again. A clatter on the stairs above him made Blair raise his head.
"Hairboy, you OK?" Henri asked, eyeing him worriedly in the beam of his flashlight, yet maintaining a firm grip on his suspect. In the faint light, Rafe was just visible, another man in each of his hands.
"Yeah," Blair replied weakly, sliding himself to a seated position along the wall, bracing his sore ribs. "Just not going to breathe just yet." Jim chose that moment to reappear empty-handed.
"You'd better keep breathing, 'cause you have some explaining to do."
Blair stood with his arms folded protectively across his chest, watching Jim through the one- way mirror. The suspect hadn't said a word, not even to provide his name. His friends were playing equally dumb. Identity had been no problem -- all of them had rap sheets.
Their current case stemmed from several sources reporting a shipment due to leave Cascade. Dozens of snitches delivered miniscule bits of information that so far had led only to the men in custody. The cargo remained unknown, but speculation ranged from drugs to cars to weapons. In a port the size of Cascade, anything was possible. The conflicting stories resulted in an interdepartmental investigation. Or rather, according to Captain Simon Banks, an interdepartmental headache. The three men in custody were rumored to be arranging the transportation. Felix Grant and Sean Pearl were longshoremen, their numerous run-ins with the law limited to bar brawls and domestic disputes. Chuck Vail, the man Jim was currently questioning, was a dock foreman. It appeared, unfortunately, that the evasive stranger who had taken pot shots at them would have had the information they sought.
Blair sighed and winced as the ache in his chest intensified briefly. Rubbing his side absently, he dragged his attention back to his partner just as Simon entered the observation room, a scowl gracing his features.
"How's it going?" he inquired.
"Bad. He's not talking at all. Just like the others."
"Damn. We have nothing solid to hold them on." The captain shook his head, viciously worrying the cold cigar between his fingertips. "By the way, you have a visitor at your desk."
"Thanks, sir." Blair murmured, making no move to leave, watching Jim attempt to stare down the subject.
"Well, go on, Sandburg." Simon urged irritably. "I didn't deliver the message in person to keep you company." Blair smiled, and turned to let himself out the door.
Walking past the windows of Major Crime, Blair absorbed the sight of the young woman beside his desk. Although familiar, she seemed heavier than the last time he saw her, but her pale skin and short dark hair were unchanged. When she looked up, he was shocked at the redness that edged the soft green eyes, and her name came to him all at once.
"Dana Foster. What a surprise," he greeted warmly, reaching out his hand as he approached. She accepted it with a quick shake.
"It has been a while, hasn't it?" she responded in a husky voice. Sensing a need for privacy, Blair suggested a change of venue.
"There's a conference room over here. We can talk in there if you like." She nodded her assent, and Blair led the way. Once settled with steaming cups of coffee before each of them, she began to explain her visit.
"Dennis and I have been dating a year now. We plan on getting married after graduation this summer. We were real excited when I got pregnant. He's got a job offer at Syntec Chemical, more than enough money to support us and let me take a TA job." Her eyes became misty when she continued.
"Almost 2 weeks ago now, I went in for my checkup, and they couldn't find the heartbeat. They said my baby was dead!" She broke down, and Blair reached out to hold her while she composed herself. A few minutes later, she sat back. He rubbed her shoulder to maintain the connection.
"I'm really sorry," he offered, but she waved him off as she continued to speak, the tears giving way to a sudden fierceness.
"My doctor told me he had to deliver the baby, so he gave me something to start labor. When the baby was born, though, she started to cry. He lied to me!" Blair gaped a moment, assimilating the information.
"It was alive?"
"He wouldn't let me see her. She was crying and crying, and he kept saying she was too old." Dana twisted the Kleenex in her hands mercilessly.
"What happened next?" Blair encouraged.
"I -- I'm not sure. I remember, she stopped crying, and they put this mask over my face. I think he said my baby was dead, and I tried to scream at them, but I fell asleep. When I woke up, my baby was gone. They tried to tell me I was wrong, but I know what I heard." She brought her fist down on the table to accentuate her conviction.
"I believe you," Blair assured, hoping he sounded convincing, and covered her fist with his hand.
"I just want someone to explain why to me. Why me? Why my baby?" she pleaded. He nodded, and opened his mouth to answer when a knock at the door followed by Jim's head interrupted him.
"Chief, everything OK?"
"Yeah, man, come on in." Blair introduced Dana to his friend. "Dana, this is my partner, Jim Ellison. Jim, Dana Foster. She used to be a student of mine."
"Nice to meet you," Jim said, grasping the young woman's hand briefly.
"Blair, I have a class in a little while." She stood, avoiding Jim's eyes.
"Ok. Give me the name of your doctor. I'll go talk to him."
"Dr. Ray Donahue of the Camdon Prenatal Clinic. You might want to talk to Cathy Harris and Jenna Long. I met them in his clinic." Blair jotted the information in his notebook, and, standing, offered to walk her to the elevator.
He returned to his desk to find Jim leaning against it, arms folded across his chest.
"So, who was that, Chief?" he questioned with narrowed eyes.
"Like I said, she was a student of mine at the University," Blair tried to step behind his desk, but a hand on his chest prevented his movement.
"She looked upset. What was that about a prenatal clinic?" Blair opened his mouth to answer, and caught the dangerous look in his partner's eyes.
"Jim, you don't, you can't think," he sputtered as complete understanding set in. "Oh man, I haven't seen her for almost two years!" He stepped back, holding his hands up in a gesture of innocence while Jim regarded him, finally relaxing.
"What does she want from you?"
"She wants me to do my job," Blair replied, his voice betraying his rising anger, and he pushed past his partner to sit at his desk.
"Speaking of which, what was with that stunt you pulled this morning?" Jim asked, leaning over Blair's desk on two hands.
"What do you mean? I told you where I was going." Blair defended, his raised voice drawing attention from the detectives around the bullpen. Simon chose that moment to open his office door.
"Ellison, Sandburg! My office, now!" he bellowed. The summoned men glared a moment longer at each other before stalking into the captain's office. Jim returned to his folded-arm stance, leaning against the windowsill. Blair mimicked the position from the opposite side of the room. Simon looked from one man to the other as he shut his door behind them.
"Now, who wants to tell me what the hell that was all about?" he inquired calmly.
"Nothing, sir," Jim responded gruffly. Simon gazed at Blair, hoping for something more substantial, but he merely shrugged, meeting his eyes, but pointedly avoiding his partner's.
"Nothing, my foot," Simon grumbled. He walked behind his desk, still watching the body language of his best detective team. Finally, he decided to focus on work -- for the time being.
"Jim, what do we have on this shipment?"
"Zilch. No names, no times, no cargo. Just every snitch in Cascade brimming with the rumors of something big, some time soon," Jim replied evenly. Simon nodded, processing the information before turning to the other man in the room.
"Sandburg, was your visitor anyone I need to know about?" Simon guessed from the glare he threw at his partner that he had hit upon the source of the tension.
"Yes, sir. Dana Foster. She was a student of mine. She lost her baby prematurely, but she says the baby was born alive, that the doctor killed it after birth."
"How could something like that happen?" the captain asked.
Blair recounted the information Dana had given him, finishing with, "I told her I'd look into it."
"Sandburg, that's not a case. She was probably sedated and distraught and is mistaken. That's all you are going to find."
"Sir, I don't agree," Blair protested, but Jim interrupted.
"Simon's right, Chief. No matter what, it's not our case. She should take her complaint to a lawyer." Blair winced as he pushed off from the wall, his ribs starting to object under their bandaging.
"No harm will be done if I ask a few questions, though," Blair stated firmly.
"So, you plan to go off after the doc all by yourself again?" Jim demanded angrily.
"You're still mad about that?" Blair asked incredulously. "I told you where I was going!" Simon suddenly felt like he was in the middle of a tennis match, and he realized he had to break them up before he got whiplash.
"Enough! Jim has a point, Sandburg." He put a hand up to forestall the protest in Blair's mind. "You should have waited until your partner was ready to cover you." Indicating the detective's injury, he continued softer, "You could have gotten a lot worse." His reasoning didn't seem to have the effect he hoped for. Rather, Blair seemed more livid than before.
"I'm sorry, I forgot about 'Sandburg's Rules'." Blair twisted the doorknob viciously as he left the office, heading straight for the elevator without a backward glance, grabbing his backpack on the way.
Simon stared at the retreating form, his own anger at the outburst lost in his concern for the uncharacteristic behavior.
"What just happened?" he asked the remaining detective.
"I wish I knew."
Blair paced the elevator impatiently until it reached the garage. He arrived at his car, keys in hand, but stood there staring down instead.
What am I doing? he questioned himself. He thought about his actions and realized he'd be fortunate if Simon only reamed him out, not to mention Jim. Why couldn't Jim see that he could handle himself as well as any of the other detectives? Because trouble keeps proving Jim right, he admitted wryly. The running joke about being a magnet for trouble was getting old. He wondered if the universe would ever cut him some slack, at least long enough for Jim to listen to him.
His thoughts turned to Dana. Knowing that Jim and Simon were probably right, she needed a lawyer, not a cop, he still didn't see any harm in asking a few questions. Maybe he could set her mind at ease, and allow her to move on with life. It was the least he could do, and he could do it without Jim's help.
He opened the door, and left the garage.
Dr. Ray Donahue paced his laboratory. Surrounded by cardboard boxes packed with his many reference books and research notes, the path that remained was narrow and short. His hands alternated between rubbing his forehead and being clasped firmly behind his back.
His thoughts were occupied with the events that brought him to this day. He had devoted his life to research, only seeing enough patients at this clinic to cover the expenses his grants missed - - and provide the samples he needed. He feltt close to discovery, so close he could taste it, yet all that had to be pushed aside for the moment. Placing his life and work on hold had been an agonizing decision, but the timing of his grant reviews was the determining factor. Working diligently for a cure for Parkinson's disease was a most altruistic endeavor, but even he realized that not everyone would agree with his methods. Thanks to a pathologist half a world away, those methods would now be scrutinized.
Only two months ago, he had toiled without regard for the world at large. His position at the Camdon Prenatal Clinic made obtaining the fetal tissue for his research simple. Within the developing neurons of these unwanted children lay the secret to salvaging the lives of aging adults. His primary assistant, a Nurse Practitioner named Trish Fortner, was the only other person familiar with the extent of his work and the methods he contrived. Very careful to avoid illegalities, he was nonetheless acutely aware that the sensitivities of the public would not consent to his approach.
Until the Foster baby.
Occasionally, Trish would notice a particular tissue type in the prenatal workup: a rare blood type, or unusual protein grouping. She would bring the information to his attention, and they would 'arrange' to procure the child. That was the thin ice he tread upon -- medical records would always support his actions, but accounting for the people present was tricky. In the past, the infant had been too tiny for anyone to object. Trish's miscalculation could cost him his license, as well as his freedom. He alone was responsible for silencing the newborn.
"So close!" he muttered aloud. In less than a week, they would be gone. When the news about that pathologist in England had reached him, Ray realized it was time to leave. He cursed the fool for leaving stored specimens where just anyone could find them. In among his own belongings, no less, so that identifying the source was facilitated as well. A warrant for his arrest existed in Canada, and he had been stripped of his license and privileges in England as well. It served him right, the sensitive nature of their work was not for public consumption. Mankind wanted cures, without any knowledge of the devices to manufacture those cures. And children were sacred. So sacred, people were willing to throw them away, he noted ironically.
A timely offer from a hospital in China to continue his work, even expand it, without the ethical quagmire of a democratic country, seemed like a godsend. Watching the crucifixion of his colleague, surmising how the providers of his grants would respond, he knew the time had come. Planning carefully, and quietly, most of the pieces had fallen into place. All that remained was to load the ship he'd arranged with the cargo containers he'd obtained -- and keep Dana Foster at bay long enough for him to get beyond the reach of American law. The buzz of the intercom finally brought him to reality. Pushing the button, he responded, "Yes, Trish?"
"There's a detective here to see you, doctor," the tinny voice stated.
"A detective?" he questioned, his heart suddenly seeking escape from his chest. "What does he want?"
"He says he wants to ask a few questions."
Steeling himself with several deep breaths, he jabbed the button again, "I'll see him in my office."
Jim leaned heavily against the counter, pouring the muddy coffee down the drain in preparation for brewing a fresh pot. He heard the soft click of the break room door closing behind him.
"Simon, I don't know what else to say," he began without turning around.
"Try talking to me, instead," Henri's voice offered. Jim closed his eyes and sighed.
"Simon send you?" he inquired.
"I'm sure he would have if he'd thought of it." Jim heard a chair slide out as the detective took a seat while he finished setting up the coffeemaker. At last, Jim faced the seated man, leaning back against the counter, arms folded across his chest in defiance. Jim realized wryly that he was standing like this a lot today. They sized each other up for several minutes before Henri broke the silence.
"I would never presume to tell you how to do your job..."
"Then why do I have the feeling you're going to do just that?" Jim interrupted sarcastically. Henri glared a moment to regain his attention.
"However, I think I know a thing or two about having a new partner."
"In case you hadn't noticed, Sandburg's been around long enough to be past the junior detective stage," Jim stated, his ire growing all the while.
"As a matter of fact, we've all noticed it. We just wonder when you're going to figure it out." Jim opened his mouth to protest further, but Henri raised a hand to stop him. "Look, Jim, old habits die hard. You've been protecting Sandburg longer than he's been protecting himself. Or did you think no one would see it?"
"See what?" Jim ground out, his jaw tensing furiously.
"This morning. You set Sandburg up to be the last one in that room." Henri caught the narrowed look aimed his direction, and hurried on. "It wasn't too obvious. I'm sure neither Rafe nor Blair realized it. But I did, cause, man, I've been there. There were three perps in that room, and you made sure he went last." Jim felt his jaw snap shut, and it dawned on him that at some point it had dropped open. Moving stiffly, he sank into the seat opposite Henri, his eyes sinking to stare at the table.
"He did nothing wrong, and you know it. Any one of us in his position would have done exactly the same thing."
"I... when we were on the bottom step," Jim paused, his voice catching in his throat, and finally looked Henri in the eye. "I could feel the bullets hitting him. He was leaning back against me and I could feel the impact through his body."
A moment of shock passed across Henri's face before he responded. "Remember when Zellar was shooting up the bullpen? Rafe was the only thing between Zellar and me. He had his back to the bastard. I saw him coming, and I couldn't get him down fast enough." The confessions hung between the men, the silence maintaining their power.
"So, what the hell am I supposed to do?" Jim asked.
"I wish I had an easy answer to that, but I know it starts with letting Sandburg stand on his own two feet. You, of all people, have got to believe in him."
"Come in, Detective." Ray waved Blair into the office from his seat behind the desk. He stood and stretched out a hand as Blair introduced himself.
"Detective Blair Sandburg, Cascade Police Department." The doctor gestured toward the chairs opposite him.
"Please, have a seat. Can I get you anything?"
"No, thank you." He settled himself in one of the chairs, dwarfed slightly by the oversized leather design. "I appreciate your taking the time to see me."
"No trouble at all. When my partners are in town, I have quite a bit of flexible time." He addressed the woman who had shown Blair in. "Trish, let me know when the Fiddlers arrive. Otherwise, hold my calls."
"Yes, doctor," she responded, pulling the door shut behind her.
"Well, Mr. Sandburg. What can I do for the police?"
"I'd like to ask a few questions about a patient of yours," he began, retrieving his notebook from his pocket.
"I'm sure you are aware that confidentiality laws prevent me from talking about a patient without her consent. I will tell you whatever I can, however." Ray smiled broadly, Blair suddenly feeling doubtful about his presence. What do I really expect to uncover here? he wondered.
"Yes, sir. Do you recall a Dana Foster? You delivered her baby a couple of weeks ago."
"Yes, I do. I don't deliver many babies; my partners usually care for the majority of that work. They were both away that week. It was a rather unfortunate situation, as I recall."
"How do you mean?" Blair inquired.
"She kept insisting her child was alive. Even when Trish let her hold her daughter, she wasn't convinced. It was very unnerving, to say the least." The doctor seemed to shudder at the memory.
"Then, it wasn't born alive?"
"Certainly not. Is she still persisting in that belief? I guess I should have recommended some counseling for her." Blair was beginning to feel foolish for having believed Dana. Listening to the doctor, he realized that Jim and Simon were right, a lawyer should be investigating this matter, not him.
Ray must have noticed his discomfort, because he continued, "Don't be ashamed, Mr. Sandburg. It is difficult on everyone when an infant dies unexpectedly. Or, for that matter, when anyone dies. That's why I am mostly into research." Intrigued at what he perceived as a segue, Blair pressed for more information.
"What kind of research are you working on?"
"My grants are to examine methods of obtaining neural tissue for transplantation into Parkinson's patients. The potential benefits are amazing, including a complete cure of the disease. Imagine, people freed of the living hell caused by their own bodies betraying them."
"Who are the donors?" Blair prompted.
"That is the connection to this clinic. The neurons of a fetus are still developing, and most tissue-compatibility problems can be avoided. It's fascinating how these little cells can even regenerate defective ones. The major difficulty is that almost 1,000 donors are required for every recipient." Blair paled at that statistic.
"That means 1,000 babies," he responded.
"Not really babies. They would have been aborted anyway. We are only recycling what other people have no use for."
"I thank you for your time," Blair ended suddenly. He stood, mindful of how feeble his legs had become, and fought both the nausea and disgust that welled within him. The graphic interpretation of life portrayed by this doctor was taking its toll.
"I see I've made you uncomfortable, Mr. Sandburg. I'm sorry. I don't want you to think I have no regard for life. I only focus on the lives I can help." Blair nodded weakly as he walked to the door.
"Thank you for your time," he repeated, leaving quickly.
Out in the hall, he leaned against the wall to collect his thoughts and fight the nausea that threatened to overwhelm him. Unbidden, the picture of a tiny little life thrown into the trash came to mind, and a shudder coursed through Blair's body.
The light brush of fingers on his arm made him jump as he opened his eyes to meet the gaze of the dark woman beside him.
"I'm sorry," she apologized softly. "I didn't mean to startle you, but are you OK?" Genuine concern edged the caramel features, and in the dim light of the hall, her eyes were black pools.
"I will be. The doctor was just explaining his research to me. It was a bit more gruesome than I expected."
"I don't know much about what Dr. Donahue does. He has Trish to assist him."
"And you are?" Blair hinted.
"Tecia Cunningham. I'm one of the nurses here in the clinic. I only see Trish or Dr. Donahue when he delivers a baby." Blair had a sudden thought.
"Did you assist in the delivery of Dana Foster's baby two weeks ago?"
"I was her coach, yes." She took a step back and regarded him through pinched eyes. "Are you a lawyer, or something?"
"I'm a police detective, Blair Sandburg. Dana is a friend of mine, but this isn't an official visit."
"I see," she replied.
"Dana insists her baby was born alive, and that the doctor killed it before sedating her. She asked me to talk to her doctor."
"She remembers that it was alive?" Tecia asked faintly, looking pale despite the shadow. She refused to elaborate when Blair pressed on.
"What did you see? What happened?"
"I can't tell you." She thought a moment, "Not here, not now. Later, tonight."
"Tamarino's, on 7th street, 6:30."
Jim focused his hearing on the office in the building above him. The headache brewing between his temples mirrored the anger growing at his absent partner. The object of his surveillance remained alone, watching a news program. Dragging his hearing back to normal, he was startled by the opening of the passenger door. He quickly reached for his gun, cursing himself for forgetting to lock the door, but his fingers barely closed around the grip when Blair's face appeared.
"Hi, Jim. Mind if I join you?" Jim waved him in, equally grateful for his presence, and aggravated by his tardiness.
"How'd you get here?" Jim asked, realizing the lack of his partner's car.
"I had Rafe drop me off around the corner. So, have you heard anything yet?" Jim regarded Blair a moment. Although used to the rapid changes in mood that the young man was subject to, he still hadn't expected complete forgiveness so quickly. Maybe he was reading more into it, but the calm man sitting in his passenger seat gave no impression that the earlier outburst had occurred. He shook his head, both to answer Blair's question and dispel the train of thought. There would be time to talk about it later. The ringing of a phone from the office distracted him, and Jim stretched his Sentinel hearing to listen to the near side of the conversation.
"Yeah. Vail here... No, I said we didn't tell 'em anything... It's not a problem. The containers are all set... All the papers are in order, too. I got it covered... You can load them anytime before 5 on Thursday... Yeah. I'll talk to you then."
"Jim, what have you got?" Blair inquired, curiosity overcoming him.
"Phone call. He's arranging containers for a ship leaving Thursday. He didn't give any idea what they were shipping. It could be anything."
"Not really. How often does a dock foreman arrange shipping? Wouldn't one of the local companies usually handle that?"
"You're right," Jim replied, grateful for his insightful, if annoying, partner. "Call Simon and have him run a check on ships leaving Thursday."
It hadn't been easy to ditch Jim after their turn at surveillance was over. Jim obviously felt a need to discuss his 'tanty', as Megan would call it. Blair was not yet ready to defend himself. He was hoping that whatever information he might obtain from Tecia would vindicate his convictions. Then he could go to his partner.
Tecia was already seated in a booth along the far wall of the restaurant, waving him over when she noticed his arrival. He slid into the opposite seat, and was momentarily distracted when the waitress took his drink order.
"Thank you for meeting me here," she began nervously.
"Always eager to help a damsel in distress," Blair charmed, creating a blush visible even on her dark skin.
"It's hard sometimes to know who to talk to. I wasn't sure this was really a police matter, but then an ethics board didn't seem right either." She was twisting her napkin mercilessly as she spoke, until Blair laid a calm hand over hers.
"Why don't you tell me what you know about Dana's baby?" he suggested. She took a deep breath, her eyes fixed on their intertwined hands.
"Trish Fortner, she's Dr. Donahue's nurse and assistant, she did the preliminary workup on Dana. That's not unusual. I do the workups for Dr. Dennis, Janet, the other nurse, for Dr. Provost. Both of them were out of town that week, so Janet and I mainly assisted Trish with the small stuff. Before that week, Dana had been one of my patients, so when I heard she was going to deliver, I offered to be her coach. I thought she could use a familiar face under the circumstances."
"She'd never been seen by Dr. Donahue before?" Blair interjected.
"No, Dr. Dennis is her doctor. He was devastated when he heard what happened."
"Who told him?"
"Dr. Donahue reported to him when he returned."
"What happened when Dana delivered the baby?" Blair coaxed.
"The reason she was put into labor was that the baby had died in utero and rather than wait for her body to expel it naturally, Dr. Donahue thought it would be better to deliver it quickly."
"Do you remember how far along she was?"
"I had calculated it at 17 weeks when she came in a month earlier. She was supposed to return for an ultrasound to verify the age, but she skipped her appointment."
"Could she have been farther along?"
"Easily. Young women, especially with a first pregnancy, can mistake the date of their last period. That's what we base their due date on until we check the age."
"Ok, so the baby is delivered. What happened next?"
"It started crying," she stated simply.
"It wasn't dead?"
"No, and it was older than I thought. From the brief look I got and what Dr. Donahue said, she may have been as much as 25 weeks along."
"What difference would the age make?"
"Well, less than 20 weeks, and the baby really has no chance of surviving outside the mother. By 25 weeks, the chances are better than 60% with proper care."
Blair observed her a moment, allowing the significance of her statement to sink in. "The baby could have survived?" he asked.
"With proper care, yes," she confirmed.
"Which she didn't receive," Blair stated. Tecia's answer was almost too soft for him to hear.
"No. Dr. Donahue became upset. He had Dana put to sleep by the anesthetist. Just before she went under, the baby stopped crying, and he said the baby was dead." Her words tumbled out as tears began streaming down her face.
"Did you see what he did to the baby?"
"No, I didn't. I should have watched, it all happened so fast, and then she was gone." She started sobbing, leaning her head down on her arms while Blair rubbed her shoulder.