The Case of Dr. Dude
Retired homicide detective Michaela McPherson put in her twenty and got out. Now, she runs a cop bar and does a little sleuthing on the side with her former partner, retired police dog, Angel. It was a pretty good setup, until she heard about the case.
A young woman went to the dentist.
And wasn’t seen again.
Michaela has a theory, but she can’t prove it. Things get worse when they learn of the woman has diabetes and her time is running out. She must connect the dots, or the suffering will be unimaginable.
If they’re going to save the woman…
…they’ll need to catch a break.
You’ll love this first book in the series, because the characters keep you from putting the book down.
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Dr. Judith Lucci has ridden camels in Egypt, taught nursing and health care on three continents, testified before Congress, and saved thousands of lives.
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Release date: February 17, 2016
Publisher: Bluestone Valley Publishing
Print pages: 374
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The Case of Dr. Dude
"Please don't do this to me. Why are you hurting me.” The young voice cried. “I don't know who you are!”
A large hand with dirty, stained fingernails grabbed her shoulder roughly. “Shut up,” he growled as he shook her ferociously until her teeth chattered.
Her tattooed abductor terrified her as she focused on the snake tattoo on his hand. “Just let me go, and I promise I won't tell anyone," the young woman whimpered. “I promise.”
“Shut up, or I’ll really hurt you.” The savage voice promised, as he slapped her face and slammed her into the side of the vehicle.
The young woman's voice raised to feverish pitch as another person pushed her into the trunk of her car and shoved her elbow against the spare tire. She winced as an excruciating, burning pain sent stinging shocks into her head. She cried uncontrollably and could not stop shaking.
"Shut your yammer,” the man hissed softly, his face so close to her blindfold she could smell his foul breath. “If you don't, it’ll be much worse for you," he warned as he loomed over her, making her feel small and defenseless. She couldn't see him through her semi translucent blindfold.
"Please, please, please just let me go. My father will give you a reward. He has a lot of money." As she made the promise, her teeth chattered violently. Tears streamed down her face, making her cough. She was unable to brush them away.
The man laughed a slow, evil sound that caused chill bumps on her arms. "Your father doesn't have enough money to stop what we have planned for you, not nearly enough, so shut your pretty mouth, and be quiet before I put your lights off."
A wave of fresh sobs exploded from the terrified woman as she lay in the trunk of the car. Her body shuddered from head to toe, and she couldn’t control the tears streaming from her face.
The noise infuriated her assailant as he glowered at his helpless victim. A feeling of euphoria settled over him. He loved watching helpless women squirm. He shook her head and pounded it against the trunk of the car.
"I told you to shut up. If you don’t stop crying, I'm gonna cut your voice box out. Do you understand?"
Allison nodded and coughed.
“Be quiet.” Allison heard a female voice speak for the first time. “I’d hate to mess up your pretty face,” she said in a singsong voice that frightened the young woman more than the snarl and guttural voice of the man.
She thrashed around wildly. Where’d the woman come from? She tried to see her through her blindfold, but she couldn’t. For some reason, she was more frightened of the woman then the man who had assaulted her. Her body shook, and her teeth chattered.
“I hope the bitch doesn’t mess herself up,” the man commented.
The woman stared at him. “You know what to do, so just do it.”
The man hesitated for an instant, and the woman pushed him aside and glared at the helpless young captive.
That was when the lights went out for Allison Massie. The woman stepped back with an evil smile on her face and murmured, “Well, I guess I shut her up.” The woman glared at him defiantly.
“Get back in the office and do damage control,” he snarled, “and don’t ever cross me again.” He jumped in the car and headed west.
Retired Richmond homicide detective, Michaela McPherson, tapped her pencil impatiently against her iPad as she peered over her reading glasses at her friend, Dorothy Borghese, Dottie to her friends. Dottie sat ramrod straight in an overstuffed brocade chair in Michaela’s living room, sipping tea, her pinkie finger raised elegantly she rattled on and on about a well-known dentist.
Mic yawned at the drone of Dottie’s well-modulated chatter as she shared everything she knew about the not-so-mysterious Dr. Nicholas Smirkowitz, Richmond’s premier cosmetic dentist, their version of a ‘dentist to the stars’. She tried to focus on the conversation as her eyes moved toward the double front windows in her living room, where she could see the eight inches of freshly fallen snow dominated the small front yard of her Fan District home, so named because of the “fan” shape of the array of streets that extend west from Belvidere Street, on the eastern edge of Monroe Park.
“Boy, would you look at that snow. I thought we had our last storm on Valentine’s Day,” she said. “I was hoping so, anyway.”
Dottie pursed her brightly colored lips. "Really, Michaela, are you even listening to me?" Mic could tell she had annoyed her by the impatience in her voice. "You were much more respectful when you were a real police officer, and I needed help.”
Michaela rolled her eyes as Dottie continued, “This is important. I think something has happened to the poor girl.”
Mic snapped back to attention when she heard the alarm in Dottie's voice. She did her best to look apologetic. “Sorry, Dottie, I have a bunch of stuff in my head, and I guess my mind wandered.”
Dottie folded her hands tightly in her lap and sniffed, her voice as frosty as the outside air. "Well, perhaps I should come back when you're not so busy and can make some time for an old friend." She stood to leave, obviously peeved.
"No, Dottie, really. You've got my attention, I promise,” she said, hoping her good friend would sit back down.
Dottie hesitated a moment. “Well, okay, since you insist.”
Michaela smiled to herself and hoped Dottie didn’t see her. After all, Dottie was an aristocrat. She was descended from an Italian count who traced their family roots back to Papal Rome in the 1700s. Dottie was, in fact, an Italian Countess by marriage and had her own line of royal blood flowing through her veins. She looked and acted every bit the part with her silver hair styled in a lovely updo and perfectly painted nails. Her outfit was impeccable and expensive. She sported a suede skirt, cashmere sweater, and expensive leather and wool-lined snow boots. A former Olympic swimmer, Dottie, at age eighty-two, was in great shape. She looked as though she belonged at someone’s country estate outside of Rome or a country chateau in Provence.
Mic sighed and sucked it up, willing herself to listen. “Okay, now, Dottie, what were you saying about the dentist? You’re talking about Dr. Dude, right?”
Dottie gave her a broad smile and continued eagerly, “Yes. Dr. Dude, Nicholas Smirkowitz, the man who had the high profile divorce a couple of years ago.”
Mic nodded. “Yeah, I know him. The one who is always on TV. I see his mug every night after the late news. I’ve never liked him but go on.”
“I admit it. I'm a nosey old lady. But you know I have enjoyed a pretty successful career as an armchair sleuth—not to mention our joint ventures in crime solving. Yesterday I was having lunch at the Jefferson with my good friend Margaret, and she mentioned her granddaughter, Allison, had finished dental hygienist school at VCU and had an appointment with Dr. Dude for a job. Margaret was worried about Allison working for such a ‘shyster’ and tried to discourage her from going to the interview. In fact, Margaret was frightened and uncomfortable about the whole thing.”
Michaela knew Margaret Massie, Dottie’s old Virginia blueblood friend. “Frightened? Why would Margaret be frightened of a dentist?”
Dottie raised her shoulders and sat up even straighter. “Allison had a friend who told her that young women disappear from Dr. Dude’s office and never return.”
Michaela laughed. “Disappear? People just don’t disappear. There must be an explanation.”
Dottie continued, nonplussed with Mic’s matter-of-fact position. “I agree, but I told Margaret that every time I see Dr. Dude, he has an entirely new dental staff, and Margaret became more upset.” She paused for a moment. “Have you noticed that he has quite a turnover in his staff?”
Mic shook her head. “I wouldn’t know. I don’t go to him anymore. I think he’s a creep and a slime ball.” She noticed the concern on Dottie’s face. “Um, so, he’s your dentist?”
Dottie nodded. "He’s everybody’s dentist, or at least everybody who is anybody.” She sniffed. “He’s Richmond’s number one dentist, and he’s famous—”
Michaela interrupted her, “Not everyone. I haven’t seen him for five years. I quit going to him a while back. He’s not my dentist.”
Dottie ignored her and continued, “I’ve been seeing him forever. You know, I go there regularly, at least every six months, and every time I go, I hardly recognize a face in the office. Except for that mean, horrible bookkeeper and office manager. She’s been there forever.”
She paused, toyed with a strand of silver hair that had become loose and continued, “The rest of the staff are mostly Russian or South American, I think.” Dottie wrinkled her forehead. “I’m not sure of the accents.”
Mic pursed her lips. “Oh, yeah, the bookkeeper. Is that the woman named Tilda? She’s pretty awful. I had a bill insurance didn’t cover and she called me and was quite rude. I said something to Dr. Smirkowitz but I see she’s still there.
“Yes, she’s definitely still there. I think she’s the one who runs everybody off.” Dottie kept babbling away, her hands waving in the air, her startling blue eyes flashed with emotion. She was truly in a twitter about the changes in Dr. Dude’s office.
“I see Dr. Dude’s picture all over town and he’s on TV too,” Mic remarked. “Does he still think he’s Jimmy Buffett and wear the parrot shirts in his office?”
Dottie nodded. “Yes, he does. He’s on all of the billboards on Interstate 95 with his picture and the words “Dentist to the Stars.”
Mic groaned and slammed down her coffee mug. “As I said, he’s a loser. Margaret’s probably right. Her granddaughter shouldn’t work there.”
Dottie ignored her and droned on, “Everybody calls him Dr. Dude because he’s such a snappy dresser. Looks GQ, even in his dental whites.”
Mic shrugged and raised her eyebrows. “He gives me the willies, the way he skulks around. That’s why I don’t go there anymore...that and his horrible bookkeeper.”
Dottie’s voice was indignant. “He’s a good dentist. I’ve had hundreds of compliments on my veneers! He does great work, and he never is inappropriate.”
Mic laughed. “Dottie, you’re hardly a sweet young thing anymore. In fact, were you ever sweet?”
Dottie ignored Mic’s jab on her age and continued, “Dr. Dude has movie stars for patients. They come to Richmond, and he works on their teeth. Apparently, he doesn’t give them the creeps.” She shot Mic a dirty look. “And, as a matter of fact, he did bother me a few years ago, but now I’m pretty used to him. I think it’s just his way.”
Mic stared at her, as she remembered a story she’d heard about the dentist some years ago. Back when she’d worked vice, there’d been speculation that he’d crossed sexual boundaries with some of his staff. If she remembered correctly, the complaint was unfounded. Dr. Dude had been around for a long time, and his practice was booming.
“So you like him.” Mic’s voice was sharp.
Dottie nodded, her gold bracelets banging as she waved her enthusiasm. "Yes, I do. He’s a good dentist. He does turn over a lot of staff, but he considers himself an artist, or at least that’s what he told me one day.”
Mic stared as her. “He told you he thinks he’s an artist? What’s that supposed to mean?”
Dottie nodded. “Yes, he said he changes the way people look and makes them more attractive, more beautiful. He considers himself an artist.”
Mic shrugged her shoulders. “I rest my case. He’s an idiot. He’s a dentist for God’s sake. A dentist and nothing else. In fact, he’s kinda like a mechanic the way I see it. He fixes teeth.”
Dottie gritted her own enhanced teeth and gave her a stubborn glare. “I think he’s more of an artist than a mechanic. Mechanics fix your car.”
“Yeah, and Dr. Dude fixes your teeth. What’s the difference?”
“I think he’s an artist, so he’s probably temperamental—you know, like a surgeon—and that’s why he keeps losing staff.” She paused for a moment and looked out the window. “He probably throws things and has hissy fits, like a lot of surgeons do.”
Mic smiled at her and shook her head. “Do you know his current staff?”
Dottie shook her head. “No, but I used to love his former dental hygienist, and she’s the reason I kept going back, but now she’s gone." She paused for a moment as her smart phone lying on Mic’s glass-top coffee table vibrated and signaled a new text message.
“Are you gonna check that?” Mic asked, eyeing the phone.
Dottie smoothed her updo and removed a pearl earring as she massaged her earlobe. “In a minute, hold your water. I’m in the middle of talking to you. I have a rule that a cell phone never interrupts a real conversation.”
Mic shrugged her shoulders. She got up, walked across the living room, and looked outside. It was a winter wonderland. The snow contained fine particles of ice that pinged against the window as it fell. It looked as though another inch had fallen.
“It’s sleeting out there. The roads are gonna be a mess,” she told Dottie.
Dottie turned and stared out of the window. “Yes, it’s a mess. If I need to, I’ll have Henry pick me up. Anyway, as I was saying, the old dental hygienist was great. She really knew her stuff, and I spent most of my appointment time with her.”
“So what happened? Did she leave?” Mic didn’t much care. She was becoming bored with the conversation.
Dottie ignored her question. “For me, it’s generally a quick in and out with Dr. Dude. He comes in, peeks in my mouth, and says stuff like, ‘Hello my dear, how are we today?’”
Michaela frowned. “How are we? What does that mean? Doesn’t he know how he is? I hate stupid talk like that. It’s like talking to a five-year-old kid. That’s just crap.”
Dottie continued, non-plussed, “Sometimes he says, ‘Your x-rays look good for your age.’ Now that angers me.” Dottie raised her eyebrows in contempt.
Mic laughed. “I’m sure that did make you mad, Dottie. You still think you’re forty.”
Dottie shot her a dirty look and said, “I’m in better shape than most forty-year olds. Most of the time Dr. Dude says something like, ‘Hello Countess, you need this and that done, and it will cost somewhere around $10,000’.” Dottie sniffed with distain. “He is a bit more expensive than anyone else.”
Mic nodded. “No kidding. Guy’s a rip-off. Where'd your hygienist friend go? Did she leave or did you ever hear anything about her?”
Dottie shrugged her shoulders. "I’ve no idea. I asked everyone where she went last time I was there, and they said they didn't know—just that one day she didn't show up for work. I thought that was pretty strange, because of all the staff in that practice, she was the oldest and seemed to be the most responsible, at least of the clinical people."
"Oldest? What does that mean? I've never seen anybody in there over thirty—the few times I’ve been there. I always thought that was pretty strange, particularly in view of his media profile and that scandalous divorce.”
Dottie nodded and said, “That was a nasty bit of business. You know, Mic, I was concerned about my hygienist friend, so I called the state agency that manages her license, and according to them, she still lives here in Chesterfield. The next time I went in, I asked Dr. Dude himself where she was and guess what he told me?"
"I can hardly wait to hear,” Mic said, a touch of sarcasm in her voice. “But first of all, did he have on his parrot shirt and was Jimmy Buffett playing in the background?"
Dottie gave a quick laugh. “Of course he had on his parrot shirt, and he sported a spray-on tan. I have never seen him without a parrot shirt or some island wear, rope bracelets, shell necklaces, and stuff like that. Margaritaville radio was streaming through the speakers."
Mic shook her head in disgust. “I couldn’t stand the guy. Isn’t he a bigwig in that Holy Roller church in the west end?”
Dottie nodded. “He is. I think he paid for their new wing or something like that.”
Mic was thoughtful. Dude was just plain gross and icky and suspicious. "So, what did he say about the dental hygienist?"
Dottie raised her eyebrows. “He said she called him up one day and told him she was in North Dakota and that she had gotten married. Said she wouldn’t be back. I think that’s nonsense. Do you believe it?" Dottie glared at Mic.
Mic considered the story for a moment. "So… she’s supposedly in Chesterfield, but she lives in North Dakota. I guess she’s not practicing as a dental hygienist.”
“Probably not, but what do you think?
Mic turned away from the window and returned to her chair. “Well, I don't know. I guess it’s possible, but it sounds strange. Did you say anything about it to the other dental technicians or the office staff?"
“Yes, I did. None of them believed the story. None of them thought she went to North Dakota. One of them said she wouldn’t have gotten married because she didn’t like men. In fact, she had a girlfriend, and they were getting married in DC as soon as they could.”
Michaela was quiet. Now that was a bit suspicious and had her latent detective instincts flaring. “She was gay? Wow. That puts a new light on things.”
Dottie nodded. “Yes, that’s what they said. She was a beautiful girl, though.”
“I need to go into the kitchen for a second. I’ll be right back.”
Mic rose from her chair and went into her kitchen where a beef stew simmered gently in a stainless-steel Dutch oven.
The luscious smell permeated the dining room and living room. Dottie’s stomach grumbled with hunger. “Mmm, that smells divine, Michaela. Whatever are you cooking?” Dottie hollered from the other room.
“What? Come in here,” Mic called out.
Dottie made her way into Michaela’s beautifully newly remodeled kitchen and commented, “I just love this kitchen, Michaela. The remodel is wonderful.”
“What do you like best, Dottie?”
Dottie’s eyes surveyed the kitchen. A fifteen-foot wall of hand-rubbed cherry cabinets lined the long wall in the kitchen. Black polished granite glistened, and a stained-glass Tiffany fixture, surrounded by polished copper and antique pots and pans, hung from the ceiling.
“Well, I think I like everything the same, but particularly what’s cooking on the stove.” Dottie smiled.
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