“What if he’s completely straight?”
My thoughts drifted back to the last time I’d seen him, his embarrassed reaction to my blatant flirting. “He’s not. Trust me on this one.”
“When did you find time to run a check on him?”
“I didn’t.” But her words reminded me of my lack of information on the man, and I grabbed the stylus from where she’d tossed it. Both it and the monitor were still activated, so it only took a couple sweeps to bring up the search engine I needed. “Public record first?”
“As good a place to start as any.”
Also the safest. Privacy acts might restrict access of certain information, but I could get around those as easily as I could breathe. Jewel knew that. Hell, she’d benefited from a few of my illegal searches once or thrice in our colorful history. But I wanted to refrain from those until later, after she’d gone. Part of it was to protect her from prosecution in case anything went wrong, but the larger reason was personal and more than a little selfish.
Bogart was mine. I wanted to be the one to discover the secrets he hid from the world. I didn’t want to share him with anyone, not even Jewel.
I didn’t expect much more than the usual professional links, maybe an article or two about research he might have been a part of, or a family tree on a genealogy site. Typical stuff to be found for people who lived their lives in the real world, going through their days with family and jobs more important than virtual relationships.
It’s a good thing I didn’t place a bet on what I’d find.
As my gaze fell onto the first headline, Jewel sucked in a breath hard enough for her entire body to jolt. She didn’t let it out again until after I’d selected the news report, but I took no comfort in its warmth. The chilling article made that impossible.
It was dated just under six weeks ago. The headline read, DR. DEATH DISMISSED AGAIN.
Palo Alto police have confirmed that Dr. David Bogart has been cleared of any suspicion in the death of Garrett Commons, the twenty-year-old Stanford student found dead in his apartment two nights ago. Though witnesses claimed to see a man fitting Bogart’s description leaving the scene just minutes before the body was discovered, officials verified the alibi of the man who has become known as “Dr. Death,” thus eliminating him as a suspect. Commons makes the sixth victim of violence in the past fifteen years with close associations to Bogart. His death is still under investigation.
Two pictures accompanied the article. One was the headshot of a slim young blond in a suit, smiling boyishly into the camera, straight out of someone’s high school yearbook. He was pretty and effervescent, even in that single moment frozen in history.
The other was Bogart, though this one wasn’t staged. Someone had caught him as he’d been leaving the police station. His shoulders were hunched, his shirtsleeves rolled up. I didn’t need to see his face to know he was exhausted.
“Please tell me you’re going to run far, far away from this headcase,” Jewel said.
“What?” I’d expected shock, maybe a little fear, but this reaction felt too extreme. “He’s not crazy.”
“They call him Dr. Death.”
“Which just means he’s got the shittiest luck on the West Coast.”
“Are you kidding me?” Jewel jabbed a finger at the screen. “Look at that Commons guy. A blond version of you. Your doctor has a type, Adam. And from the sound of it, they keep getting killed.”
“You’re blowing it out of proportion. We don’t even know who the others were.”
She jutted her chin like a petulant child, convinced she was right. “So let’s find out.”
It didn’t take long. Searching for both his real and nicknames turned up more articles like the first, stretching back over a decade to the very first death.
More than a death. Murder.
Carol Newell had been twenty-six, living with her twenty-one year-old boyfriend David Bogart, when someone had broken into their apartment, tied her to their bed, then raped and beaten her until she died. Bogart had been exonerated with the DNA sample taken from her body.
Three years later, bookkeeper John Joyce was shot in the head when he ran to the nearby Chinese restaurant to pick up his boyfriend’s dinner. Said boyfriend was Dr. David Bogart, an intern at Lady of the Cross, who’d been stuck in the emergency room for hours assisting with numerous victims from a local fire.
At age twenty-six, Bogart lost Kenneth Mueller to a mugging while they were on the way home from a concert.
A year later, the victim was Susan Kyle, a nurse he worked with and dated only once. Bogart had actually been arrested and gone to trial for that one. The jury found him not guilty.
The last one before Commons had occurred two years ago. Bogart was found unconscious on top of the bloody body of an old friend. The coroner’s report said that Robert Butler had died of a heart attack before the stab wounds Bogart had been desperately trying to stop bleeding could have killed him, but the media had a field day with the sensationalism of it all, dredging up Bogart’s past to paint him in the worst possible light.
Not a single case had ever been closed.
“All right,” Jewel begrudgingly said. “So they’re all over the board. That doesn’t make him any less dangerous.”
My palm had gone sweaty as we’d read on, and I tossed the stylus onto the table to wipe my hand off on my pants. “You haven’t met him. He’s not like that.”
“Technically, you’ve barely met him, either. I mean, seriously, doesn’t this scare you, even a little bit?”
My gaze strayed to the last article up on the screen. Honestly? Yeah, it did. But the dread of losing the one thing that mattered to me most scared me more. Sometimes, I accomplished the impossible when I looked terror in the eye and flipped it off.
And regardless of who he was to me, now or ever, Bogart needed friends. As many as possible. He’d waged enough battles to merit more allies, not less.
“I don’t care.” It came out firmer than I expected, but I was grateful for the surprise. It helped me believe it. When it came to Jewel, the one person in this world who could see past my bullshit, I needed every advantage I could muster. “It doesn’t change what we had, or what we could have again.”
Her sigh signaled the battle was over, though I suspected the war on this had only just begun. “He probably won’t be hard to find if he’s this notorious.”
“He’s not. It’s the media.”
She rolled her eyes. “The only time you pay attention to the news is if it’s about Bayside.”
“You’ve never heard of him, either.”
“Because I don’t even live on the peninsula, dummy. The only reason I come over here is for you.”
Further proof I was living lucky. I needed to stop being so hard on her about arguing on this. She was only trying to protect me.
The buzzer went off, announcing the arrival of our dinner downstairs. Rising from the couch, I crossed to the door to hit the lock release and let the delivery guy up.
“You don’t have to do any of the searches after we eat.” I stayed where I was, watching her get up and head for the kitchen for plates and silverware. We had this routine down pat. “I can take care of those.”
“I’ll bet you breakfast at Benny’s that you don’t last past ten,” Jewel called out.
I snorted. I wasn’t stupid enough to take that wager. Between the impending adrenaline crash and the long ride home, I wasn’t even sure I wouldn’t fall face forward into my moo goo gai pan.
When the knock came, my hand was on the handle, pulling the door open before it finished echoing into the room. The man on the other side, however, was not the pocked teenager who usually did the carryout runs for Ming’s.
He was older, early forties at least, with a slight paunch even his expensive navy suit couldn’t hide. Age was winning other places, too, like the receding hairline that only highlighted the transplants he’d obviously got to pretend he wasn’t going bald and the small scars disappearing into his stiff collar from where he’d had work done on his face. When he blinked, the light inside the living room cast a momentary shine across his muddy eyes. Artificial lenses.
Someone didn’t like the fact that he was getting older.
“Adam Silver?” he asked.
I frowned. Something about his voice seemed familiar, but I had an excellent memory for my client’s faces and this one wasn’t ringing any bells. “Can I help you?”
“John Melillo.” He glanced past me, unaffected by my brusque tone. “May I come in?”
“Considering I have no idea who you are, I don’t think so.”
His gaze returned, his head cocking in curiosity. “You don’t remember me? Huh. I didn’t expect that.”
“Next time you end up in the hospital,” Jewel said, coming out of the kitchen behind me, “have the decency to do the dishes first so I’m not stuck trying to scrape petrified egg yolk off your forks.”
She ground to a halt at the sight of the stranger, but it was the way Melillo tensed that set me on edge.
“I didn’t realize you had company,” he said, the ease in which he’d spoken gone.
“You’re not Chinese,” Jewel commented.
I still couldn’t place him. Clients didn’t have my home address. They couldn’t. I went to great lengths to make sure it stayed off the record. “I’m not sure what you expected, Mr. Melillo, but you’re right, I do have company. Why don’t you call me tomorrow so we can talk about whatever is on your mind?”
Rather than wait for an answer, I started shutting the door. Ringing him up without confirming who he was first had been a slip I didn’t usually make, and I refused to put Jewel at risk because I’d been too distracted by the news about Bogart to think straight.
His hand shot out to stop me. “This can’t wait.”