The Case of the Man Overboard
At the intersection of science and evil
lies corporate greed
A pharmaceutical company has made
…a dirty drug, one that kills people...
They must be stopped...
Can McPherson, Countess Dottie and hero dog Angel crack the case?
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 and the Countess Dottie Borghase. It was a pretty good setup, until they boarded the ship to tour the Mediterranean…
A young scientist goes Overboard
And wasn’t seen again.
Michaela has a theory, but she can’t prove it. Things get worse when they learn of other deaths. Her time is running out. She must connect the dots, or the suffering will be unimaginable as the drug is prescribed to more and more unsuspecting people. All for the sake of money…
If they’re going to save the people
…they’ll need to crack the case and find the killers…
You loved the first books in this series, and you’ll love this one more because the characters keep you from putting the book down.
Get it now...before the sea swallows more scientists and disagreeing doctors.
Dr. Judith Lucci has ridden camels in Egypt, taught nursing and health care on three continents, testified before Congress, and saved thousands of lives.
Research or Fact ...
Release date: February 20, 2018
Publisher: Bluestone Valley Publishing
Print pages: 267
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
The Case of the Man Overboard
The Mediterranean Sea glittered like diamonds and gemstones while good Southern Rock music filled the air. Dancers in bathing suits swayed poolside to the sounds of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Greg Allman. A light breeze filtered across the ship and the sun shone in the faces of hundreds of very happy, slightly intoxicated passengers. White-jacketed waiters passed trays of tall, cold drinks with an umbrella and a cherry on top.
Two men sat below the pool on the Promenade deck of the Mediterranean cruise ship and gazed at the Mediterranean Sea. One man was older, short, stocky, and bald while the other man was in his forties, with dark oily hair, well-built but thin and wiry. The younger man had a snake tattooed on his right hand. The inked area was vicious and evil – a lot like the man. Both men were on their third drink.
“Now, this is living,” the first man declared as he gazed at the crystal blue water and clicked his fingers at a waiter who walked by their chaises. The waiter stopped immediately and smiled at the two men, his perfectly white teeth gleamed against his darkened skin. He pulled out his pad, ready for their order.
“Gimme another vodka on the rocks,” the older man barked in deeply accented English. “And be quick about it,” he added with a scowl.
The waiter nodded and glanced at the younger man who shook his head and waved him away with a flick of his hand.
The older man, Vadim, gave Snake an incredulous look. “What’s up, numb nuts? You quit drinkin’ for the day?” He sneered. “You a lightweight? Don’t tell me those assholes hooked me up with a sissy, lightweight boozer.” Vadim shook his head, leaned forward in his chair, and smacked Snake on the hand.
Snake felt his blood pressure jump as a red light flashed before his eyes. He remained calm. “Yeah. I need a clear head for tonight.” He surveyed the distance between his chair and the turn in the Promenade deck. He pointed and said, “That’s the place to do it. There’s no visualization at the turn and we have the metal staircase to block us. No cameras either. No one will see.”
The old man snorted but said nothing and continued to stare at the sea. “Piece of cake, baby play,” he said with a snort as he lifted his glass to his lips, drank deeply, and savored the taste of the clear liquid.
Snake kicked his companion on the foot and said, “Listen to me, old man. I wanna do this right. I’d like to hook a few more assignments like this, particularly at this rate of pay, so I can disappear somewhere forever, maybe to my own private playground.”
“Yeah, no kidding,” Vadim said. “This place ain’t bad though,” he added as he looked around the ship. “I loved the homeland and then New Orleans, but I think I may buy me a big boat and live at sea. I like the feel of it.” He paused for a moment, shut his eyes, and continued, “Yeah, a big old cabin cruiser with a cook… and a butler to round me up some native girls when I get the urge.”
Snake looked over at Vadim and shook his head. The man was ugly. He had scars on his face and a long jagged line down his right arm. His left shoulder had obviously encountered several knives and/or bullets, possibly both. He could see the scars running up his arm where his muscle shirt ended. The man also sported the biggest nose he’d ever seen on a human. His face was permanently flushed from vodka and a network of circuitous red veins paraded around his face in angry red patterns.
Snake turned his head away. He figured no one ever looked Vadim in the face. He was too ugly and it was easier not to. He ran his fingers through his oiled black hair and changed the subject. “How do these doctors get all this money? I heard nobody got rich these days practicing medicine.”
Vadim turned, gave him an incredulous look, and snorted, “Ha, are you crazy? Ain’t none of these doctors paid for this cruise. It’s a big, fat reward from Blake Pharmaceutical. The doctors got this trip for free. They act like whores for these drug companies and do anything they ask them to do. They talk up the drugs and prescribe them… even if you don’t need them,” he said in an angry voice.
“Free? Are you kidding me?” Snake asked with a sneer on his face. “These doctors are here for free?”
Vadim rolled his eyes. “You don’t know nuthin’. Yeah, dumb ass. Free. They do it all the time in New Orleans. Blake Pharmaceutical paid for this cruise, trust me,” Vadim assured him, as he spat his words at the younger man, an angry edge to his voice. “You know those medical assholes don’t pay for anything.”
Snake felt anger building in his chest, but held his tongue. “Are most of them from the US?” He asked in a neutral voice.
The man looked at him as if he was stupid. “Hell yeah, dude.” The Russian squinted at him and then shaded his eyes with his hand. “Where the hell you from, fool? Are you stupid or what?” Vadim asked. “What have you been doin’? Twiddling your thumbs? Have you done your homework for this assignment?” He asked as his beady, reddened eyes stared at Snake.
Snake’s ears burned in anger. He’d killed people for calling him less. His fingers blanched as he gripped the aluminum rail of his lounge chair. He turned toward Vadim. The look in his eyes was deadly. “I’ve been in Siberia testing sarin gas, asshole. That’s where I’ve been,” he said as his eyes burned into those of his companion.
Vadim cut his eyes toward his almost-empty tumbler of vodka. He could swear the ice cubes melted under the heated gaze of his companion. A few moments passed before he asked, “How’d that go? The testing, I mean, the sarin?”
“Fine, it went good,” Snake said as he gave Vadim a cool stare. “I have a few small canisters with me just in case someone gets in my way.” He rested his cold eyes on Vadim, the threat clearly implied in his voice.
Vadim nodded as his hand tightened around his glass and he looked at the water. I may have to kill this son of a bitch before I get off this boat.
Snake stared at him, but Vadim avoided his eyes. He felt the urge that always got him in trouble. The urge to kill. Better not go there yet; it was too early in the voyage. He willed himself to calm down.
Snake continued to glower at him, but Vadim ignored him and looked out to sea. “The sea sure looks pretty,” he said as he avoided Snake’s angry face.
Snake remained silent and sucked on his ice cubes.
Vadim reached for his shades and stole a look at Snake’s hand as the man grasped the aluminum rail of his lounge chair. The snake eyes on his tattoo rippled over the tendons in his hand. The inked snake looked as angry as Vadim felt. He sat quietly behind his sunglasses and watched as Snake’s anger continued to fester. There was no way the younger man was gonna get in his way during this trip.
Vadim made a decision. After they’d done their work, he’d steer clear of him. He felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck in anger. He was sick of these pieces of shit who thought he was less talented, less able, or less dedicated to the cause just because he was older. He longed for the peaceful days in New Orleans with his daughter and her husband. But of course, she was gone, killed by an ignorant US bitch doctor. He felt a flush overtake his body. He hated doctors. Maybe he’d kill a bunch of them after their main job was over. He felt his face redden with anger as he reflected on the last year. It had been a painful one for him; hence, the overindulgence in alcohol and sometimes the other stuff just seemed to be necessary for him to keep on keepin’ on. A second later, the Russian threw his glass over the side of the ship.
Snake noticed Vadim’s reticence... and his anger. “We got everything straight for tonight? I don’t want there to be any trouble,” he said in a voice that irritated Vadim to his limit. What the hell was this kid doin’ bossing him around? He was far more superior in every way. Why had the bosses put him in charge of the mission and not him?
Vadim nodded and said, “Yeah. All set. Everything’s okay. The plan ain’t changed since we set sail two days ago.”
Snake nodded. “Yeah, okay,” he said as he struggled out of the chaise. “I’ll meet you here tonight an hour and a half after midnight like we talked about, got it? That’s when our target takes his nightly run.” He stood and stared down at Vadim who remained comfortably seated. Snake noted how truly ugly the man was. Not even a mother could love a face like that. He shook his head and wished for next week.
“Yeah, I’ll be there. See you then.” Vadim said as he held the man’s eyes with his. “Remember, I’m in the stairway and you’re in the doorway. No cameras,” he reminded him.
Vadim watched the man depart, and noted the slight limp in his walk. Who the hell was this man and why have they hooked him up with him? Vadim was tired of having these crap partners. But, he said to himself, this is the way this organization works and I can’t complain about the pay. He accepted a fresh vodka and continued to sip his magic liquid and people-watched from his secluded chair on the ship’s deck. He fell asleep and awoke several hours later. Vadim’s ‘fresh’ vodka had collected several gnats. He stood up and stretched. He felt great. This was an easy gig and he got to cruise the Mediterranean as part of the deal. Life was good… even for the bad guys. He picked up the glass and drank the vodka in one gulp. Gnats and all.
The Countess Dorothy Borghase sat in the Captain’s private dining room of The Regina Roma Mediterranean for High Tea. She looked around appreciably at the décor in the dining room and nodded. She admired the ornate moldings and the beveled marrows. The silk wallpaper was a lush teal color and beautiful. The private dining room was filled with Italian art and artifacts and was fit for a king and certainly fit for her, an Italian Countess and part owner of the Mediterranean Cruise Line. Dottie and her husband, the late Count Borghase, had invested heavily in the Mediterranean Cruise Line over fifty years ago and the cruise line had grown to a fleet of twelve large, well-managed, and highly successful ships. Mediterranean controlled most of the ocean liners and cruise ships in the Mediterranean. She allowed herself to dream and reflect as she remembered her honeymoon aboard a much smaller, but similar ship many years ago. She was in a suite with the same number on this voyage and her best friend, Michaela McPherson, was next door with Angel, her retired police dog. They’d been traveling for over three weeks and the cruise was the highlight of the trip.
Dottie looked up and smiled graciously at the Sommelier as he entered the quiet dining room to retrieve a bottle of wine. Her attention turned to the door of the Captain’s dining room. The ship’s First Mate passed through on his way to the dining executive offices. He smiled at her and waved as he passed through the dining room.
Such a good-looking man, she thought to herself. The man was tall – probably greater than six-foot-three. He reminded her of Count Borghase, her husband, who’d died years and years ago. Dottie’s thoughts about Borgy made the eighty-two-year-old Countess’ heart beat madly. The pair had been the toast of Europe back in the fifties. He was tall, dark, and handsome and she was his beautiful, tall, brunette Olympian wife. Dottie had won a Gold Medal for Italy in the 1955 Olympics. She still missed Borgy, even after all of these years. They’d had fifteen playful, often reckless, but incredibly happy years together until the Count died suddenly and tragically. Dottie, a widow at forty and fabulously rich, had moved to the United States to handle her husband’s US investments in Virginia. She’d found she liked the States, loved the south, and stayed there to start a new life.
Dottie reflected on her journey to Europe and to her husband’s ancestral home, The Villa Borghase, with Michaela. They’d left Richmond almost a month ago and spent three weeks at the Villa Borghase outside of Rome. Dottie hadn’t been to the Villa in fifteen years and it was wonderful to see all the relatives. There were dozens of cousins, nephews and nieces, and all of the Borghase offspring, down to the newest baby, a tiny little girl who had been born to her favorite grandnephew or maybe it was her great-grandnephew. She couldn’t remember… she was older than dirt and she knew it, but of course, she’d never admit it. The tiny infant had been named for her. She’d even tried to make peace with the sullen, egotistical, and selfish Borghase woman who would inherit her title when she died. That had been painful. She sighed as she remembered that dreadful afternoon. It was clear the woman was pissed because Dottie was still alive. Screw her, Dottie thought as she reached for her glass of cream sherry just as an attractive young couple came into the private dining room.
Dottie eagerly studied the couple. She loved trying to figure people out. The woman was a tall brunette with beautiful blue eyes and a lovely dress the same color. The woman smiled at her and spoke. Dottie nodded her head slightly to acknowledge their presence.
The couple seated themselves on the aft side of the dining room and quietly discussed the drink menu. Dottie wondered who they were as only a few people had ‘anytime’ access to the Captain’s dining room. They were an attractive couple and appeared to be American. She noticed the woman ordered a mojito while her husband, a forty-something guy selected a craft beer. She eavesdropped as best she could on their conversation. After a few minutes, she’d learned that he was a physician guest of Blake Pharmaceutical, a large US pharmaceutical company that had booked practically half of the cruise ship.
Dottie raised her little finger and a waiter immediately appeared and asked her if she’d like another glass of sherry. Dottie shook her head and asked him to send a bottle of Moet Chandon over to the couple on the other side of the room. Dottie was like that. She was generous and she gave lavish gifts, but God help anyone who got in her way or crossed her path. At eighty-two years of age, and an aristocrat to boot, she didn’t take anything off anyone and she did exactly what she pleased whenever she pleased. Well, maybe she did take some stuff from Michaela but after all, they were business partners. In truth, Dottie had ordered the champagne for the couple because she was bored and the couple looked interesting. She was also angry because Michaela hadn’t bothered to show up and she wanted someone to talk with.
She watched as the maître d’ delivered the bottle of sparkling wine and smiled at the surprised look on the couple’s faces. The waiter swept his arm away from his body and said, “Champagne for you, compliments of the Countess Dorothy Borghase.”
The man looked confused and didn’t quite understand the waiter’s accent. “I’m not sure what you said. Could you please repeat it?” He asked in a pleasant voice as he eyed the bubbly.
The waiter nodded. “Of course, sir. The Countess Dorothy Borghase, who is seated across the room from you, sent you this champagne with her very best wishes,” he repeated as he pointed toward Dottie and smiled.
The couple turned to Dorothy and the woman smiled widely as her husband stood and approached Dottie’s table. He extended his hand and said, “What a lovely surprise, Countess. Will you join us for a glass of champagne?”
Dottie looked into the man’s friendly eyes and said, “I’d be delighted, sir. Or, perhaps you would like to join me since I have a larger table,” she suggested as her well-manicured hand swept across the deep mahogany dining table.
“We would be delighted to join you. It’s so kind of you to send us the champagne,” he said with a smile that showed crinkly laugh lines in his face. Dottie was immediately drawn to him and felt there was something special about him.
He extended his hand and said, “My name is Ian Pennington. Let me go and retrieve my wife, Alana, and I’ll be back in just a second.”
Dottie smiled nd watched him return to his table, assist his wife out of her chair, and guide her toward Dottie, with his hand at the small of her back. The waiter followed them with the champagne in a silver stand and crystal flutes.
Ian introduced Alana who took Dottie’s hand and said, “Thank you so much, Countess. How lovely of you to send us a bottle of champagne. I hardly know what to say.”
Dottie smiled at the woman and noticed the vivid blue shade of her eyes. For a moment, she was taken back to her own self as a young woman. She’d looked very much like Alana Pennington. “You don’t have to say anything, just join me for a glass,” Dottie encouraged her. “As a matter-of-fact, I’ll propose the toast,” she said grandly as they each took a fluted champagne glass and held it as the waiter filled it with the sparkling beverage.
“To my new friends and the Mediterranean Sea,” she said as she raised her glass and clinked it with Ian and Alana’s. “May you have a wonderful cruise.” Alana smiled and said, “Thank you, Countess Borghase. We hope that you do as well. How is your cruise going so far?”
Dottie smiled as she swept a piece of white hair back into her chignon. “It’s been lovely. I’ve traveled from the US with my wonderful friend, sort of an adopted granddaughter, Michaela. We’ve just spent three weeks at my villa outside Rome where I visited cousins, nieces, and nephews I haven’t seen in years.” She paused for a moment, took a sip of her champagne. “How are you enjoying things?” She asked pleasantly as she looked at Ian and Alana. “Have you been on a Mediterranean cruise before?”
Ian spoke and said, “I’ve not been cruising, but my wife has been here many times. She taught at the University of Malta for several years before we married. I’m a physician, a psychiatrist actually, and I have a practice outside Washington, DC, and we’re here as guests of Blake Pharmaceutical.”
“Oh, I see,” Dottie said. She was impressed. She turned to Alana, “How did you end up teaching at the University of Malta?” She paused for a second and then added, “Malta is such a special place,” she ended a dreamy far-away look in her eyes. “The Count and I used to vacation in Malta.”
Alana smiled and said, “I spent a summer there when I was in graduate school. I’m a speech pathologist and I did a student exchange with a University of Malta graduate student. I loved it. Then, after I got my faculty position, I returned to Malta as part of a faculty exchange. I taught in Malta for a year and she taught in my place at George Washington University.”
“What a lovely story and a great opportunity,” Dottie said pleasantly as she surveyed the young woman.
Alana smiled and continued, “Well, it didn’t end there. I loved Malta so much, I decided to stay a few more years and teach. Then I returned to the United States and met Ian… and well, here we are,” she said with a giggle. “Now, we’re the parents of two children, two-year-old, Hannah, and five-year-old, Brent. This is sort of like a honeymoon cruise for us. My parents volunteered to take the children so we could vacation.”
Dottie noticed how Ian put his hand directly over his wife’s and said, “Fortunately for me, Alana hasn’t wanted to go back to Malta to teach. So, I’m a lucky guy.”
“Yes, you are, Ian,” Dottie said as she flashed her beautiful smile at the young psychiatrist. “Yes, you are,” Dottie raised her eyebrows, “I’d say you’re both pretty lucky to have each other.”
“You said you traveled from the US, do you live there?” Alana asked.
Dottie nodded her head and said, “Yes, I actually live in Richmond, Virginia, in the US just a couple of hours from you. I’ve lived in the states since shortly after my husband died. I love it there.”
Ian smiled and said, “Richmond? I love Richmond. I went to medical school at the Medical College of Virginia at Virginia Commonwealth University. I’ve spent lots of time in Richmond. I’m amazed at how the city has grown. It’s a great place to live.”
Dottie nodded in agreement. “Yes. It is a wonderful place to live.” She paused for a second and asked, “Would you two like to join Michaela and myself for dinner this evening? We’ll be dining in here at eight o’clock. I’d love to have you as my guests.”
Alana flashed her husband a look and said, “I’m not sure we can. I think Ian has to…”
Ian interrupted and said, “I have a previous commitment with Senator Peter Bostitch from the state of Maryland. But I’m sure we can reschedule. We’d be delighted to have dinner with you, Countess.”
Dottie smiled and said, “Please invite the Senator to join us, or better yet, I’ll have the ship send him an invitation. We’ll have a jolly time,” Dottie promised as her blue eyes danced with delight.
Alana was thrilled, “I’d much rather have dinner with you and your friend than a bunch of pharmaceutical people,” she said softly. Ian shot Alana a dark look and she smiled brightly. “You know what I mean, Ian. Some of those pharmaceutical executives are a bit over the top,” she said as her eyes held him for a moment.
Ian nodded, “Countess Borghase, in that case, we’ll be delighted to see you and your friend, Michaela, at eight o’clock,” he said grandly, a pleased look on his face.
“That’s wonderful,” Dottie said as she stood. “I apologize, but I must go. I’m meeting several gentlemen in the library for a few hands of bridge. I’ll see you this evening.”
Ian stood next to Dottie. “We’ll see you at eight and thanks again for the champagne. I’ll see that it doesn’t go to waste,” he assured her.
Dottie smiled at the young couple and said, “My pleasure.” She left the dining room, her back ramrod straight with every strand of her beautiful white hair in place.
Ian looked at his wife and said, “Wow. What a lady! She’s pretty unusual, don’t you think?”
Alana nodded. “She sure is. I bet she has a life story we wouldn’t believe,” she guessed as she looked into her husband’s eyes. “How old do you think she is, Ian? She’s still quite beautiful for an older lady,” she mused.
Her husband smiled. “I’ve got a feeling we’re gonna hear a lot about her and her life tonight,” Ian assured her. “But I bet she’s in her eighties.”
Alana giggled and clinked her glass with her husbands. “No doubt, now, let’s drink the rest of this bubbly. I’ve only had this twice in my life,” she said with a bright smile.
Ian grinned at his wife. He loved her more than life itself. This was the honeymoon they’d needed for years. Life was so busy, his practice, their family. He hoped for a perfect cruise. Life was good, wasn’t it?
Michaela was totally relaxed. She floated on a raft in the private adult pool on the ship’s Lido deck. Her mind wandered as she reflected on the past year. It had been full and busy, and a bit scary at times with that crazy perp in her house. She really needed a break. Finally, she drifted off to sleep, something she rarely, if ever, did during the day. Angel stood guard over her from where he lay under the umbrella, watchfully checking his mistress and watching the people around her.
“Michaela, Michaela, Mic. Get up,” Dottie said in an irritated voice. “For heavens sakes, you were supposed to meet me for High Tea well over an hour ago.”
Mic struggled to open one of her eyes and saw Dottie, perfectly attired in the latest cruise wear, standing over her on the side of the pool. Angel stood beside her.
“Oh, Dottie. Sorry. I fell asleep,” she said with a yawn, “and for some reason, the alarm on my watch didn’t go off.”
Dottie remained silent and scowled down at her. “Perhaps,” she said icily, “that’s because you don’t have your watch on.”
Mic rolled off her float and stood in the water. “Well, how was it?” Dottie remained silent as Michaela pulled her body out of the salt water. She spoke again and asked, “Did High Tea meet your expectations?”
“Humph,” Dottie snorted and ignored her. “I didn’t stay. I waited for you and when you didn’t come, I came down here,” Dottie said angrily. “Do you really expect me to believe you just fell asleep and didn’t come?”
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...