Home > The Savior (Black Dagger Brotherhood #17)(3)

The Savior (Black Dagger Brotherhood #17)(3)
Author: J.R. Ward

“How can I help you?” she said.

“So you are Dr. Watkins.” When she nodded, he smiled and put his ID away. “You mind if I come in for a minute?”

Out on her quiet street, her neighbor’s new Honda Accord ambled by. Eric Rothberg, who lived two houses down, waved and slowed to a roll.

She waved back to reassure him. He kept going. “What’s this about?”

“Dr. Thomas McCaid. I believe you worked with him at RSK BioMed.”

Sarah frowned. “He was one of the lab supervisors. Not in my division, though.”

“Can I come in?”

“Sure.” As she stepped back, she channeled her inner hostess. “Would you like something to drink? Coffee, maybe?”

“That’d be great. It’s going to be a late night.”

Her house was a small three-bedroom on a small lot on a nice-and-normal street of young families. Four years ago, when she’d bought it with her fiancé, she’d assumed at some point she’d hop on that mommy train.

She should have sold the place a while ago. “The kitchen’s this way.”

“Nice digs, you live here alone?”

“Yes.” Inside her gray-and-white kitchen, she indicated the round table with the three chairs. “I’ve got K-Cups. What’s your poison—oh, sorry. Bad phrasing.”

Agent Manfred smiled again. “It’s okay. And I’m not picky, long as it has caffeine in it.”

He was one of those good-looking bald guys, a forty-something who’d stared his missing hair in the follicle and decided not to pretend about his male pattern no-go. His nose was a ski jump that was crooked, like it had been broken a couple of times, and his eyes were a bright blue. Clothes were loose dark slacks, a dark navy windbreaker, and a black polo with FBI stitched in gold on the pec. Wedding ring was one of those titanium dark gray ones, and its prominence reassured her.

“So what’s this about?” She opened a cupboard. “I mean, I know Dr. McCaid died last week. I heard it in my lab. There was an announcement.”

“What was his reputation at the company?”

“Good. I mean, he was high up. Had been there for a long time. But again, I didn’t know him personally.”

“I’ve heard BioMed’s a big place. How long have you been there?”

“Four years.” She refilled the water tank for the machine. “We bought this house when we moved here and started at BioMed.”

“That’s right. You and your fiancé. What was his name?”

Sarah paused as she put a mug onto the grate. The agent was leaning back in her Pottery Barn chair at her Pottery Barn table, all no-big-deal. But those blue eyes were focused on her like he was videotaping all this in his head.

He knew the answers to these questions, she thought.

“His name was Gerhard Albrecht,” she said.

“He was a doctor, too. At BioMed.”

“Yes.” She turned back, and put a K-Cup of Starbucks Morning Blend in the machine. Lowering the handle, there was a hiss and then dripping into the mug. “He was.”

“You met him when you were both at MIT.”

“That’s right. We were in the Harvard-MIT HST program.” She glanced back at the agent. “I thought this was about Dr. McCaid?”

“We’ll get to that. I’m curious about your fiancé.”

Sarah wished she hadn’t tried to be polite with the coffee offer. “There’s not much to tell. Do you want sugar or milk?”

“Black is great. I don’t need anything to slow down the caffeine absorption.”

When the dripping was done, she brought the mug over and sat across the table from him. As she awkwardly linked her hands together, she felt like she’d been called to the principal’s office. Except this principal could level all kinds of charges at you, charges that lead to prison instead of detention.

“So tell me about Dr. Albrecht.” He took a sip. “Oh, yeah, this hits the spot.”

Sarah looked at her own ring finger. If they’d made it to their wedding, she would still be wearing a band even though Gerry had been dead for two years. But they’d missed what they’d been planning by four months when he’d passed that January. And as for an engagement diamond, they’d skipped that on account of getting the house.

When she’d had to call the venue and the band and the caterers to cancel, they’d all given her the deposits back because they’d heard what had happened on the news. The only thing that hadn’t been fully refundable had been the wedding gown, but the people at the bridal shop had not charged her the other half of the cost when it came in. She’d donated the dress to Goodwill on what would have been their first anniversary.

Oh, and there had been the suit they’d bought for Gerry at Macy’s on sale. There had been no returns on that and she still had the thing. He’d always joked that he’d wanted to be buried in a “May the Force Be with You” shirt.

She would have never guessed she’d have to honor that request so soon.

That initial year after he’d been gone, she’d had all of the major holidays to get through—his birthday, his death day, and that non-event wedding anniversary. The calendar had been an obstacle course. Still was.

“I’m going to need you to be more specific,” she heard herself say. “About what you want to know.”

“Dr. Albrecht worked with Dr. McCaid, didn’t he.”

“Yes.” She closed her eyes. “He did. He was hired into the Infectious Diseases division when we graduated. Dr. McCaid was his supervisor.”

“But you were somewhere else in the company.”

“That’s right. I’m in Gene and Cell Therapy. I specialize in immunotherapy for cancer.”

She had always gotten the impression that BioMed had really only wanted Gerry, and had agreed to hire her solely because he’d made it a contingency to his own employment. He’d never said as much, of course—and ultimately, it hadn’t mattered. Her work was more than solid, and academic research centers around the country routinely tried to hire her. So why did she stay in Ithaca? She’d been wondering that lately and decided it was because BioMed was her last tie to Gerry, the last choice they had made together … the dissipating mirage of the future that they had planned on being long and happy and fulfilling.

But which had turned out to be anything save all that.

Lately, she had begun to feel that her grieving process had stalled because she was still in this house and at BioMed. She just didn’t know what to do about it.

“My mom died of cancer nine years ago.”

Sarah refocused on the agent and tried to remember what his comment was in reference to. Oh, right. Her job. “I lost mine from the disease sixteen years ago. When I was thirteen.”

“Is that why you got into what you’re doing?”

“Yes. Actually, both my parents died of cancer. Father pancreatic. Mother breast. So there’s an element of self-preservation to my research. I’m in an iffy gene pool.”

“That’s a lot of losses you’ve been through. Parents, future husband.”

She looked at her ragged nails. They were all chewed down to the quick. “Grief is a cold stream you acclimate to.”

“Still, your fiancé’s death must have hit you very hard.”

Sarah sat forward and looked the man in the eye. “Agent Manfred, why are you really here.”

“Just asking questions for background.”

“Your ID has you from Washington, D.C., not an Ithaca field office. It’s seventy-five degrees in this house because I’m always cold in the winter, and yet you’re not taking that windbreaker off while you’re drinking hot coffee. And Dr. McCaid died of a heart attack, or that’s what both the papers and the announcement at BioMed said. So I’m wondering why an imported special agent from the nation’s capital is showing up here wearing a wire and recording this conversation without my permission or knowledge while he asks questions about a man who supposedly died of natural causes as well as my fiancé who’s been dead for two years courtesy of the diabetes he suffered from since he was five years old.”

The agent put the mug down and his elbows on the table. No more smiling. No more pretext of chatting. No more roundabout.

“I want to know everything about the last twenty-four hours of your fiancé’s life, especially when you came home to find him on the floor of your bathroom two years ago. And then after that, we’ll see what else I need from you.”

Special Agent Manfred left one hour and twenty-six minutes later.

After Sarah closed her front door, she locked the dead bolt and went over to a window. Looking out through the blinds, she watched that gray sedan back out of her driveway, K-turn in the snowy street, and take off. She was aware of wanting to make sure the man actually left, although given what the government could do, any privacy she thought she had was no doubt illusory.

Returning to the kitchen, she poured the cold coffee out in the sink and wondered if he really did take the stuff black, or whether he had known he wouldn’t be drinking much of it and hadn’t wanted to waste her sugar and milk.

She ended up back at the table, sitting in the chair he’d been in, as if that would somehow help her divine the agent’s inner thoughts and knowledge. In classic interrogation form, he had given little away, only plying her with bits of information that proved he knew all the background, that he could trip her up, that he would know if she were lying to him. Other than those minor factual pinpoints on whatever map he was making, however, he had kept his figurative topography close to his chest.

Everything she had told him had been the truth. Gerry had been a Type 1 diabetic, and fairly good about managing his condition. He had been a regular tester and insulin administrator, but his diet could have been better and his meals were irregular. His only true failure, if it could be termed as such, was that he hadn’t bothered to get a pump. He rarely took breaks from his work and hadn’t wanted to waste the time having one “installed.”

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