"See, I was right," crowed Coffey. "There is a serial killer. He's killing people he meets in old folks homes."
Gilchrist looked doubtful. "I still say no. I mean, yeah, these women were all visiting these places, but for different reasons." He grew a little more animated. "Now if they were all children visiting parents, then yeah, maybe. Maybe it's a killer targeting people he thinks warehoused their parents. But we don't have that here."
"I still say I'm right," Coffey said stubbornly. "I'm gonna check out the corporate records, see how many employees work in all three places." He gathered up his things. "Thanks for the lead Doc, I appreciate the help. I'll let you know what I find out."
"Talk about a one track mind." Gilchrist shook his head. "He was right about one thing; this is a great lead Dr. Hood. I'm going to check in at the local field office, see what they know about this company."
Rachel looked at Hood uncertainly. They had never been out in the field before and she wasn't sure what was next. Surely the rest of the case would be up to Gilly and Coffey? She couldn't imagine what Hood might add to the investigation. But he was still sitting there with that look on his face.
"So, what now? Do we pack up and head back to DC?"
Jacob roused himself from his thoughts and considered Rachel's question. "No, not until I've tracked down who was making that coniine. Checking into the corporation is all well and good but we need to take a closer look at those places."
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
For the rest of the day they checked and re-checked all of the contacts the three women had with the various homes. Slowly patterns began to emerge. Gloria McNamara had befriended several of the staff and other residents of the home in which her mother resided. She was especially concerned about the patients who seldom if ever had visitors. She took a keen interest not only in her mother's care but also the care of those who she 'adopted.'
Reverend Gault did not confine herself to visiting her parishioner during her visits to the nursing home. She would sit and offer comfort to staff or the other patients and their families if they asked for her assistance. According to Mrs. Howell, the priest was concerned some of the elderly patients there had few or no visitors. She was convinced this was why they weren't getting better; because they were lonely and depressed.
Barbara Clarke was a well-liked volunteer. She was always cheerful and never lost her patience when dealing with the dementia patients. She used to laugh and tell the nurses working with them reminded her of working with her Brownie troop years ago. She was genuinely fond of the people who came to her arts and crafts sessions and would visit them in their rooms when they became too feeble to come to the common room.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Jacob had been questioning Steven McNamara about his wife's impressions about the people in the facility in which his mother-in-law resided. He was trying to fit in what he was hearing with what he had been told earlier about Barbara Clarke and he lost the thread of the conversation.
"Would you mind repeating what you just said?"
McNamara looked at him in surprise. "I said that Gloria was concerned about a couple of the patients on Sharon's floor. She thought they were getting frailer, more feeble. She couldn't understand it; they weren't unhealthy, just suffering from dementia. She was especially upset when Mrs. Dudek died."
Jacob thanked the man abruptly and hustled Rachel from the room. As they drove back to the hotel, he called Mrs. Fitzgerald. Mystified, Rachel tried to make sense of his conversation. He was asking her about the "feeble" patients about whom Barb had expressed concern. He also called Mrs. Howell about the patients the Reverend Gault had been visiting. Before Rachel could ask him what was up, he was on the phone again, this time to Gilchrist. He requested that both Gilchrist and Coffey meet him and Rachel at their hotel.
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The two law men were skeptical when Jacob outlined his hypothesis to them. He explained that shortly before their deaths, each of the three women was expressing concern about some of the patients. Two of them were worried that the patients seemed to be getting worse physically for no apparent reason. One of those patients had actually died.
"Come on Doc," Coffey protested. "These people are old, in assisted living, nursing homes. What do you expect?"
"I expect," Jacob said impatiently, "healthy people to stay that way absent any disease. I expect sick people, who are not terminal, to improve when receiving proper medical care. A loss of physical health is not an inevitable part of aging. I think this is something that you should look into."
"Nah," Coffey shook his head. "Sorry Doc, but old people, they get sick, they get feeble, they die."
He stood to leave with a smirk. "I've got a much better lead to follow-up. One of the maintenance men worked in all three places right before the murders. I'm having him brought in for questioning."
Gilchrist looked at Jacob doubtfully. "I don't know, Dr. Hood. I resisted the idea of a serial killer, but I have to say that Coffey's suspect is a viable candidate. It makes more sense than what you're proposing."
"I still think this avenue needs to be explored. Could you check on the status of those patients for me? I'd like to see Mrs. Dudek's death certificate also. And I'd like to see what you found out about the corporation that owns all of these facilities."
Gilchrist promised to follow up on the patients and get a copy of the certificate. He would email it all to Rachel as soon as possible. Before leaving to join Coffey in his interrogation of the maintenance man, he turned over to Dr. Hood all of the print-outs he had accumulated on the Starlight Corporation.
Jacob spent the next hour going over the material Gilchrist had accumulated. Rachel sat slumped in her chair wondering exactly where Hood thought he was going in this investigation. Old people getting feeble, weaker, seemed normal to her just as it had to Coffey. Gilly hadn't said anything, but she could tell he agreed with them. She sat up abruptly when Hood got an "ah-ha" look on his face.
"What, what did you find?"
"It seems that the Starlight Corporation, in addition to owning a chain of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, owns a small pharmaceutical company; one that's headquartered here in Buffalo."
Jacob looked at her, with his head tilted to one side. "Now isn't that a coincidence."
"And you don't like coincidences." Rachel echoed his earlier words. She scrambled to her feet as Hood began to head for the door. "Hey, where are you going?"
"We need to check this place out."
"Wait a second." Rachel caught Hood by the arm. She looked at him uncertainly, chewing her lip in thought. One the one hand, it was foolish to let him blunder into a dangerous situation. If he was correct, this lab was the source of the poison and someone in that lab had murdered three times already. On the other hand, he had the qualifications to evaluate the lab, the people working there. It was something he knew more about than either Coffey or Gilly.
"We need to talk about this," she began cautiously. "Look, Hood, I'm not sure this is such a good idea. After all, you don't know who you want to see, what you hope to find, nothing. How are you going to explain your interest in this place?"
Jacob looked at her in surprise. His previous handlers weren't much for discussions, they preferred to issue edicts. "What? We're visiting a semi-public place; how could that be a security problem?
"This could be dangerous. I'm assuming you think this place might be the source of the coniine. If it is, you could be putting yourself at risk; I may not be able to protect you."
Jacob gave a small snort of irritation. "I would think, Rachel, that you could give me a little credit. I don't intend to walk in there and ask if they've been poisoning people. I just want to get a look at their labs, see what they're working on."
"How do you plan to do that? Walk in and say 'hi, I'm here for a tour?" Rachel asked sarcastically.
"Pretty much." He smiled briefly at the look of skepticism on her face. "You have to understand, I'm not exactly an unknown in the pharmaceutical world. They'll be glad to show me around."
Rachel looked at Hood for a few minutes, weighing the risks in her mind. Was this an example of the arrogance the others had warned her about? This feeling he was such a hot-shot scientist everyone would fall all over him, accept his presence without question? Her brow creased in thought. She didn't get that vibe from him though; he seemed pretty matter of fact about the whole thing. She came to a decision.
"Fine, let's go. But I'm gonna call Gilly and let him know where we're headed, just in case."
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Rachel was amazed to find Hood was right. Gordon Rasher, the president of Biotech Pharmaceuticals was delighted to see him. Rasher made several gushing references to some papers he had published and inquired about the status of some patent or other.
She wasn't quite sure how he did it, but without saying anything definite, Hood had managed to give the impression that while, yes, he was currently with the FBI, he was thinking of returning to pure research. Rasher was more than happy to show them through the labs, to discuss with Hood the research the company was undertaking.
Keeping a polite smile plastered on her face, Rachel trailed the two men as they toured the facility. Ignoring their conversation, she focused on the people they were meeting and passing in the hallways. One man in particular caught and kept her attention.
Unlike the other workers who seemed impressed with Hood, happy to meet him, this guy was more aloof, standoffish. What had her on alert was that he, while not trying to engage Hood or Rasher in conversation, kept shadowing them on the tour. She also couldn't shake the gnawing feeling that she had seen him before.
They finished the tour and Hood had taken a courteous leave of Rasher. As soon as they were back in the SUV Rachel looked at him inquisitively.
"Well, are those labs the source of the coniine?"
"Any lab is capable of producing coniine," Jacob answered dismissively. "I wasn't looking for that."
"Then what the hell were we doing there?" Rachel demanded. "I thought you said…"
"That it was a coincidence that the corporation connected to these murders should also own a pharmaceutical company," Jacob interrupted. "And it still is a coincidence; our tour did nothing to explain it."
Rachel took a deep breath. "Let's start over. Did you see anything that suggested to you that we should take a closer look at Biotech?"
Jacob nodded approvingly. That was a much better question. "Yes, the amount of research they're doing into new drugs is unusual. That bears looking into."
"I don't understand. I thought that's how these companies made money, inventing new stuff?"
"Yeah, if you're big pharma." Jacob shook his head, "Not a small regional outfit like this one. I would have expected a firm like Biotech to be making generics for the local markets. Frankly, if that was all they had been doing that, it would explain the connection."
At Rachel's raised eyebrow he elaborated. "It would mean that they were supplying drugs to their own medical facilities, a good cost-saving measure. But this research…," he shrugged.
"But you don't think it's connected to the murders?"
"I don't know. It's just strange. I'd like to get a look at their financials."
"That shouldn't be a problem, I'll call Gilly," Rachel said.
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They hadn't been back to the hotel for long before Agent Gilchrist showed up. He had the information Jacob had requested and a discouraged expression on his face.
"Hey, Gilly, what's up?" Rachel asked.
He heaved a sigh. "Coffey's lead, the maintenance man? It was a dud. The guy had an alibi for all three of the murders. Plus," he continued, "he didn't actually work at all three places. The week he was supposed to be at the nursing home he called off sick with the flu. Never went there at all."
He turned to Jacob. "So I hope these financials give you some ideas Dr. Hood. We're pretty much at a standstill right now."
Jacob accepted the paperwork with a small murmur of thanks. He poured over the material while Rachel and Gilchrist quietly talked. After a few moments, he flipped back a few pages to check what he had already read. His face showed that he was puzzled by what he found.
"Agent Gilchrist, are these reports complete?"
Gilchrist shrugged. "As complete as I can get without a warrant. I couldn't get their tax returns, but you've got their latest SEC filings and the financial statement from their annual report. Why?"
Jacob looked at the two agents speculatively. "What do you know about the drug business?"
Rachel rolled her eyes; she could feel a story coming on. "They charge to much money for their products. What's your point here Hood?"
"There's a reason new drug prices are high," Jacob retorted. "Research and development are incredibly expensive. You don't only have the cost of the labs, which are significant, but you have the cost of the clinical trials. It can be years before a company can make back the cost of developing a single new drug."
"Ok, I'm following you so far," Gilchrist said. "It costs money to make money, that's a basic business fact. What's bothering you about the financials for Biotech?"
"Simply put, this company doesn't have nearly enough financial resources to be doing the work I saw today. According to their president, they're working on no fewer than three new drugs. There is no way they could afford the clinical trials on one new drug let alone three."
"Why are clinical trials expensive," Rachel asked, puzzled. "I can see where it takes time, but money? I would think sick people would try new drugs for free on the off chance they would help."
Jacob stared at her for a few moments as a sad expression flickered across his face. He shook his head slightly to bring himself back to the present. "You have to understand, thousands of people are involved in the clinical trials for a new drug. The volunteers who are ill wouldn't be involved until phase three of the trials. The volunteers in phase zero and phase one would have to be paid."
"Phase zero? What the hell are you talking about?" Gilchrist demanded.
Jacob explained patiently. "Phase zero is a recent addition to the clinical trials protocol. Basically, a small group of healthy volunteers are given a subtherapeutic dose of a drug to see how the body reacts to the drug and how the drug reacts to the body. If there aren't any major problems, then you go on to phase one. Phase one also works with healthy volunteers and you need a pretty sizable group. All of these people would expect to be paid."
Rachel looked at Hood in horror. "You give drugs to healthy people to see if it makes them sick? Isn't that unethical or something? I thought the doctor's oath was 'first, do no harm?"
Jacob shrugged. "Not at all. The volunteers are informed of all the risks and they're carefully monitored."
"I don't care," Rachel ranted. "Who would volunteer to do something like that? They'd have to be desperate for money, its taking advantage of…."
Gilchrist cleared his throat. "Uh, Rachel? I actually took part in a couple of drug trials in college." At her look of shock he grinned sheepishly. "What can I say? It was easy beer money."
Jacob nodded. "College students often offer themselves up as guinea pigs. They're a good target audience, healthy, well-nourished, and intelligent enough to alert the researchers if they feel that something isn't right."
He arched a brow at Rachel. "Contrary to the opinions of some people, those conducting clinical trials don't prey upon…" A look of horror crossed Jacob's face. "Those bastards," he spat out.
Gilchrist looked at Hood in surprise. Rachel was quicker at understanding his anger. "You think they're using the patients as test subjects? Without telling them?"
"Telling them would be irrelevant." Jacob snapped. "Most of the patients at those assisted living places are suffering from dementia, they couldn't have given consent. This has to be how they can afford to conduct the trials, by using unsuspecting victims."
"But Dr. Hood," objected Gilchrist. "You can't assume that. Maybe the patient's families gave permission. Maybe they're getting a price break, after all those places are expensive."
"Maybe," Jacob conceded. "We need more detailed financials on Biotech, see exactly what they're spending on their trials."
"I should be able to convince the Bureau we have enough for a warrant," Gilchrist stood to leave, "I'll get right on it."
"Wait, did you check up on those patients like I asked? Get me the death certificate?"
"Uh, yeah," said Gilchrist. "I did."
Jacob looked at Rachel accusingly. He couldn't believe she hadn't passed the information on to him immediately. Just because she didn't understand the point of his requests didn't mean he didn't need the information as soon as it became available. Before he could upbraid her Gilchrist spoke up.
"I, ah, forgot to send it to Rachel." He pulled out his phone and punched a few buttons. "There, she has the report and the death certificate now. I, uh, have to go check in with my office." He thankfully escaped from the room.
Rachel pulled out her phone and scrolled down to the emails that Gilly has sent her. She opened the report and with the briefest of hesitations handed her phone over to Hood.
Jacob noted her hesitation with a small smile. 'What, she's afraid that I'll snoop into her email?' Jacob briefly considered doing just that but his attention was quickly caught by what was on the small screen. "Damn it, of those patients, another one of them has died and the rest are all bed-ridden, not expected to last long."
He paused and handed the phone back to Rachel. He requested that she pull up Mrs. Dudek's death certificate. Rachel was surprised but gratified by this small courtesy. She glanced at the screen before handing the phone back to Hood.
"Nothing out of the ordinary, she died of a heart attack."
"Really?" Jacob took the proffered phone and carefully read through the document. "No, she didn't. According to this she died from cardiac arrest."
"Isn't that the same thing?"
"No, a heart attack would be listed as a myocardial infarction. Cardiac arrest? That's not a diagnosis, that's an evasion."
"What do you mean an evasion? The doctor has a legal obligation to list the actual cause of death."
Jacob was taken aback. In their brief time together he had pegged Rachel as a bit cynical and definitely no-nonsense. That she would have such faith in people fulfilling their legal obligations was touching.
"It's done all the time and it is, after all, technically correct. You do know what cardiac arrest means?"
"Of course I do, I'm not an idiot," Rachel snapped. "It means your heart stopped beating."
"I didn't mean to insult you," Jacob began. "But you have to realize, cardiac arrest means exactly what you said, the heart stopped beating." He stopped her response with a lift of his eyebrow. "What it doesn't tell you is why the heart stopped beating."
"Why would the doctor give a certificate like that?" Rachel paused as she processed Hood's earlier assertion. "And what do you mean, it happens all the time."
"To spare the family," Jacob replied. "In cases of unexpected death if there's no suspicion of foul play most doctors are reluctant to do an autopsy. They don't want to upset anyone. In this case we have an elderly woman who from all accounts was not doing well." He gave a small shrug. "It happens more than you would like to think. Unless there is clear-cut evidence of something wrong, most doctors will go with cardiac arrest without batting an eye."
Rachel sat thinking about what Hood had said. It raised several disturbing possibilities about this case. "So what's next? Are you going to try to get order to exhume the bodies?" She hesitated, "do you think they might have been poisoned with coniine too? "
"I'm not sure we'll need to do that. I think it might be just as effective to posit that these two patients didn't die from natural causes. If we can determine who had access to those patients, our victims, and the labs at Biotech, we should have a viable suspect."
In spite of herself, Rachel was impressed with Hood's reasoning. He might act a little odd at times but his mind was relentlessly logical. But Rachel could spot a flaw in Hood's thinking. "That's already been tried," she objected. "Those employee lists Coffey and Gilly had. They only identified one guy and he couldn't have been the perp."
"No, the connection is going to be much more subtle than that," Jacob answered slowly. "If my hypothesis is correct, the person involved is going to have to be someone in the background."
Hood's words triggered Rachel's memory. Someone in the background. "Uh, Hood, there was someone at Biotech who caught my attention. He was in the background all the time, like you said."
"I didn't mean literally in the background, I meant…" He stopped at Rachel's look of irritation. "Who are you talking about?"
"I don't know his name, I wasn't really paying that much attention to what you and Rasher were talking about." Rachel, intent on what she was remembering, missed the flash of amusement on Jacob's face. "He was one of the ones with his own office. He was a bit like you; your height, build, middle-aged, but light-ish hair."
Jacob raised his eyebrows but quickly changed his mind about correcting Rachel. It seemed a bit petty to point out if she was talking about the man he suspected she was, according to the diplomas hanging on that office wall, the man was about the same age as Jacob himself. He may have just had his forty-first birthday but that didn't make him middle-aged. He narrowed his eyes, was she trying to needle him?
Rachel was oblivious to Hood's disgruntled reaction. "It was kinda strange. He was the only one who didn't seem thrilled to meet you. Even so, he kept following you around. He tried not to be obvious about it, but he was following you. It was as if he was trying to eavesdrop on you and Rasher."
"That sounds like Philip Lygate," Jacob looked thoughtful. "He's in charge of development for Biotech."
"There's something else. I could swear that I've seen him before."
Jacob shook his head. "The fact he reminds you of someone is not significant."
"That's not what I said," Rachel cut in, exasperated. "I said that I'm sure I've seen him before; not someone who looks like him." She was satisfied to see that she had taken Hood aback. "Considering the limited number of places I've been in Buffalo, I think that's plenty significant."
"How can you be sure?" Jacob asked curiously. "I mean, he's not that distinctive, maybe you…" He trailed off at the look on Rachel's face.
"I case you've forgotten I'm a trained federal agent. Part of that training is to closely observe people." She shook her head in irritation. "I just remember noting him and dismissing him as a potential threat."
"Why did you dismiss him as a threat," Jacob answered patiently. "Think about it, use your professional judgment. What was going on and why did you dismiss him as threat?"
Rachel obediently closed her eyes and tried to remember where she had seen the Lygate before. As she had told Hood, she was trained to observe people but she didn't have total recall of everyone they met. There was something about this man that had drawn her attention. She carefully ran down in her mind's eye the places they had been and they people they had come into contact with.
Her eyes snapped open. "It was the night we met McNamara at the assisted living facility. He stuck his head into the room where we were talking. I thought at first he wanted to talk to either McNamara or you but he left without speaking. I looked for him when we left, to see if he was hanging around, but he wasn't so I didn't worry about him anymore."
Jacob was impressed with her performance. She might not pay attention to what others were saying to him but she certainly was paying attention to her, and by extension, his surroundings. If Rachel said Lygate was at the assisted living facility, then they needed to check him out.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Armed with a picture from the company's annual report they soon discovered he was a regular visitor at both the nursing home and the two assisted living facilities. The staff all spoke highly of him. He was unfailingly polite and always brought small gifts and goodies for them. But their biggest break came in a discussion with Chris Fitzgerald. Alone of the staff of the assisted living facility, she was not a fan of Dr. Lygate. She was suspicious of him.
"He only comes in late at night, it's like he's trying to avoid people," she said to Jacob and Rachel.
"Well, he works during the day," Jacob reasoned. "Perhaps that's why he comes when he does."
"Nuh-uh," Mrs. Fitzgerald snorted. "Then how come he never comes on the weekend?" She shook her head as Jacob opened his mouth. "And don't say that he has other things to do on the weekends. It's not like he spends all that much time here. Just checks the meds, looks in on a couple of patients, that's all. He doesn't spend more than an hour here; he could easily do that on the weekend. No, I figure he comes in when he does to avoid people. People who might ask questions."
Jacob stiffened. "What do you mean, he checks meds? He's not a medical doctor, whose, what, medicines is he checking?"
Mrs. Fitzgerald looked at them in surprise. "Oh, didn't you know? He's in charge of Biotech's Medical Assistance Program." At Jacob's look of confusion, she explained. "It's pretty nice, really. Biotech has a program that will give medicine free to people who can't afford it."
She shook her head sadly. "A lot of the poor dears in here, they've used up all their money and their families can only cover the basics. So a program like that one can be a god-send. Well, Dr. Lygate checks on the drug supply of the patients in the program."
"Do you think you could get me a list of the patients here who are in this program?" Jacob asked.
"Sure, no problem." Mrs. Fitzgerald turned to the computer at the nurse's station. The printer was soon spitting out the list Jacob requested. Mrs. Fitzgerald glanced over it before handing it over. "Huh, that's odd; I never really noticed that before."
"It's just all the patients in the program; all of them are what we call orphan patients. They're the ones whose families never come to visit."
"How very convenient," Jacob murmured. "Thank you Mrs. Fitzgerald, you've been very helpful." He silently pointed out one name on the list to Rachel. Mrs. Dudek had been in the program.
Jacob and Rachel retraced their steps to the nursing home and the assisted living facility where Barbara Clarke had worked. In both places they were able to confirm all of the patients who were part of the drug program administered by Dr. Lygate were those who seldom if ever received visitors. Not only that, but all of the patients the three murder victims had been concerned about were also members of the program.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
As they sat in the SUV outside the nursing home, Jacob reviewed the information they had collected about Lygate, the Medical Assistance Program, and the patients. In his view, they wove a damning chain of evidence.
"This is it, I'm sure of it." Jacob declared. "Lygate and Biotech must be running illegal drug trials in those places." He looked at Rachel, "that's why he murdered those women; they must have somehow discovered what he was doing. We need to arrest him, now."
Rachel was dissatisfied. "You're making a pretty big leap there. How could those women have discovered that? They didn't have the authority to look at any records, to see who was in the program or not. Sure, we can connect Lygate to the patients and the patients to our vics, but there's nothing to connect Lygate to our vics."
"Well then," Jacob said briskly. "We'd better get going."
"If we're going to connect Lygate to our victims, we're going to have to have to talk to our three contacts again. But first," he took a deep breath and looked at Rachel sideways. "I want to talk to Lygate again."
Rachel tightened her lips. Technically, she only had the authority to countermand Hood's orders when he wanted to pursue a course of action that would put his life in jeopardy. Solving the case was his job; her job was to see to it no one killed him while he did it. But this was such an incredibly stupid idea she couldn't believe Hood actually wanted to do it. She figured he must be convinced that Lygate was guilty and was itching to confront the man.
"Are you sure that's such a good idea?"
"I hardly think it's a security risk," Jacob said sarcastically. "He's not likely to try and strangle me with you standing right there." He smirked. "And if he offers me anything to eat or drink, I promise to let you try it first."
Rachel looked at him coldly. Just when she was beginning to think maybe he wasn't such a jerk after all, he said stuff like that.
"I was thinking more along the lines of his destroying evidence. What are you going to ask him? If he knew any of the vics? If his company is preying on helpless people? You'll only succeed in alerting him to the fact you suspect him. He'll either destroy any evidence or take off, Gilly and Coffey might never be able to convict him."
Jacob pursed his lips as he considered her words. He hated to admit it, but she was right. This was the part of the work he did for the FBI he found the most difficult. Remembering that the kind of proof that would hold up in a lab might not be enough for a court of law. He also knew if he went to Coffey and Gilchrist with what he had so far, they would tell him everything was circumstantial. Until he could connect Lygate with the three murder victims, he didn't have enough.
"Ok, let's go back in and see if any of the staff here can connect Lygate with Barbara Clarke."
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Jacob wasn't having much luck in his quest to connect Lygate to the murder victims. The staff members he talked to in the facility where Barbara volunteered had almost resented her concerns about some of the patients. They said she had been making a pest of herself, asking inappropriate questions about the type and amount of medicine the patients were receiving. The staff members had been offended; they thought she had been implying they were over-medicating the patients to make their jobs easier. They were puzzled by Jacob's questions about Barb and Lygate; the two had never been in the facility at the same time.
Mrs. Howell was annoyed at being awakened by Jacob's phone call. She icily informed him if he were to call on her at the church office the next day; she would gladly go over Reverend Gault's appointments with him then.
His luck changed however, when he met up with McNamara. The man had been visiting his mother-in-law and was headed home. He gratefully accepted Jacob's offer to buy him a cup of coffee in exchange for answering a few more questions.
McNamara was intrigued by the theory Jacob outlined for him. That Biotech was using unsuspecting patients as guinea pigs in their drug trials. He thought it was in line with his wife's concerns. Jacob was surprised by his reaction when he asked if his wife ever had any contact with Lygate.
"Lygate?" McNamara narrowed his eyes. "Is that slimy bastard behind all of this? Hell yes, Gloria had contact with him. She chewed his ass out good a few days before she was killed."
It seemed that Lygate had overhead her discussing Mrs. Dudek's deteriorating condition with some of the staff. Gloria had been wondering if the medication the old woman was now taking was the reason. She was badgering the staff to share with her the purpose of the new prescription.
Lygate had interrupted the conversation to remind the staff that not only did Gloria not have any right to that information; it would be against the law to supply it to her. He patronizing continued to tell Gloria that as she wasn't a physician, she wasn't in any position to make judgments on Mrs. Dudek's condition.
"Pretty much told her not to bother her pretty little head about it." McNamara snorted. "Gloria went up like a fire cracker. She told Lygate in no uncertain terms it didn't take a doctor to see that Mrs. Dudek was getting worse since she started taking those meds. And she might not be a doctor, but she was a lawyer, if she couldn't get the Dudek family to check into things she might go to court to get herself appointed a special guardian."
Jacob nodded with satisfaction. Gloria McNamara was threatening to take steps that would expose the illegal drug trials. That would definitely make her a target for Lygate. While he couldn't connect Lygate to Barbara Clarke, he hoped that his session with Mrs. Howell would be productive.
As they took their leave of McNamara, Jacob looked at the elevator buttons pensively. It was late, but it wouldn't hurt to check. As Rachel reached out to push the down button, he laid a hand on her arm.
"No, let's go upstairs first. I want to see if Mrs. Fitzgerald is still on duty. Maybe Barbara said something about Lygate to her friend."
Jacob's luck continued to hold. Mrs. Fitzgerald was not only on duty, but ready to take a break. She was happy to talk to him again. He thought his luck had come to an end when she told him that no; her friend had never met Dr. Lygate.
Jacob thanked her for her time and was preparing to leave when she stopped him, hesitantly. "Uh, why do you want to know if Barb ever met him?"
Once again Jacob outlined his hypothesis about the illegal drug trials. "Plus it turns out that one of the other victims had a confrontation with Lygate about the way some patients were reacting to their new medications." He shrugged. "I was wondering if your friend and the other victim had a similar connection."
Mrs. Fitzgerald turned white. "Oh my God, do you really think Dr. Lygate had something to do with Barb's death?"
"I don't know," Jacob replied honestly. "He certainly has a motive and the means, but since he never met your friend…"
"But he knew about her," Mrs. Fitzgerald blurted out. "Oh my God, it's my fault Barb's dead. I told him about her." She burst into tears.
Jacob stood awkwardly staring at the crying woman. He was amazed when the ever-so-correct, slightly chilly Agent Young put her arm around the woman comfortingly. "Shh, no, it's not your fault. The only one responsible for your friend's death is the bastard who murdered her. Now, tell Dr. Hood all about it."
She nodded tearfully. "It's like this. One day Barb was complaining to me about the patients at the place she volunteered. She thought some of the nurses and aides were giving meds to the healthy dementia patients, to make them easier to control. But no one over there was taking her seriously. She wondered if I could ask one of the doctors here what she should do."
She took a deep breath. "Dr. Lygate came in that night and I decided to ask him about it. If what Barb thought was happening was even plausible. He promised to look into it, but then two days later Barb was dead and I forgot all about it."
"You're sure you told him your friend's name? Where she worked?"
"Of course I did," she gave a small sob. "I needed him to take this seriously. He couldn't have done anything if he didn't know who she was or where she worked."
Jacob gravely thanked the woman for her assistance. As they rode down the elevator Jacob looked at Rachel. "I need to talk to Mrs. Howell. Now."
"Not tonight," she answered firmly. "You heard her on the phone. If you were to show up on her doorstep now, she'd probably refuse to talk to you. Look," she continued as Hood showed signs of arguing with her, "tomorrow is soon enough. Gilly and Coffey probably couldn't get search warrants this late at night anyway."
"But Lygate," Jacob protested.
Rachel cut him off. "Lygate nothing. If he is guilty, he's most likely hunkering down. He probably never thought he'd have to deal with a full-scale FBI investigation into these murders. I think it's safe to wait a few more hours."
Jacob reluctantly nodded in agreement.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Mrs. Howell greeted them somewhat apologetically. "I'm sorry I was so abrupt last night Dr. Hood. I know you're working so hard to find out who did these awful murders. It's just…" She trailed off as she showed them into Reverend Gault's office.
"I may have found something." Jacob looked at her earnestly. "Do you know if Reverend Gault knew or had any contact with a Dr. Philip Lygate? I'd especially like to know if she had met with him recently."
"Lygate? The name does seem familiar," Mrs. Howell said slowly. "Let me see." She picked up the Reverend's appointment book and began flipping through it. Her faced cleared. "Oh, yes, here it is. Reverend Gault had an appointment with Dr. Lygate shortly before her death."
"Did she say why she wanted to see him?" Jacob asked.
"Not really, I assumed it was about that Medical Assistance Program his company runs."
Jacob looked taken aback. "It wasn't about the condition of the patients she met with in the nursing home?"
"Oh, no," Mrs. Howell shook her head. "I wouldn't think so. I know that she had been asking people about the program. No one seemed to know anything about it and Reverend Gault was interested. I thought she wanted to convince Dr. Lygate to expand the program to include some of the people who come to our soup kitchen."
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Coffey was initially resistant, he hated to give up the idea of a serial killer. But as Jacob laid out what he had discovered about the patients, the drug program, and the connections between them and the murder victims, even he became convinced. The most damning evidence was the connections Jacob had unearthed between Lygate and each of the victims.
The lawmen both agreed that there was plenty of probable cause for warrants to be issued. They soon were searching Lygate's home, car, office and the labs at Biotech. The crime scene technicians found traces of synthetic coniine in a small lab Lygate maintained in his home. Coffey was especially pleased when not only ribbon, identical to what had been tied around the victim's necks, but also traces of two of the victims were found in Lygate's car.
At Jacob's suggestion, they also got warrants to confiscate the medicines the patients in the Medical Assistance Program were receiving. An analysis of the pills proved they weren't the tranquillizers or blood pressure meds the nurses thought they were dispensing. Instead they were drugs to control gout and tuberculosis; drugs that were currently under development at Biotech.
Faced with the evidence, Lygate quickly broke down and confessed. Jacob had been right on all counts. He was using the patients in the nursing homes and assisted living facilities the Starlight Corporation owned to conduct the phase zero and phase one of his clinical trials. He purposely selected those patients who were physically sound and whose relatives were out of touch. He had been shocked when three total strangers began to raise a fuss about their condition.
Rachel had been correct about why he had used the coniine. While Lygate had no trouble using helpless patients as guinea pigs, he wasn't sure he could handle murdering able-bodied women. In each case, he would meet the victim for coffee. When she would begin to complain of feeling numb, Lygate would insist on driving her to the hospital. He would then drive to a secluded location and finish her off by strangling her and tying a bow around her neck. As Gilchrist surmised, Lygate had hoped this would throw off the police. He hoped in their search for a serial killer, they would never discover his connection to the three women.
As the case wound down, Rachel began to wonder when they would be leaving Buffalo. After Lygate confessed she had tentatively asked Hood if she should make arrangements for their flight back to DC. He had looked at her blankly for a few seconds and then murmured no; he wasn't quite done here yet. She thought she understood when, in response to one of his phone calls, a team of investigators from the FDA descended on Biotech. She figured Hood wanted to make sure no one else at the lab was involved in Lygate's scheme.
It wasn't only the operations at Biotech Hood was concerned with. In addition to the time he spent there, he spent an equal amount of time visiting with those Rachel termed the civilians. They took tea with Mrs. Howell, had lunch with Mrs. Fitzgerald, and sat with Mr. McNamara and his mother-in-law. Rachel was amazed Hood spent so much time patiently answering their questions, explaining exactly what had happened to their loved ones. It was several days before he indicated they could finally return to DC.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Rachel relaxed with a sigh of relief as they finally reached cruising altitude. She intended to enjoy the respite the two hour flight gave her. She fished her iPod out of her carryon, plugged in her earbuds and, closing her eyes, was soon rocking out to Nine Inch Nails. Hood, her resentment at being pulled from Counter-terrorism, everything, was driven from her mind as the music washed over her.
Jacob shifted uncomfortably in the window seat. He turned to his companion and his mouth twisted in disappointment. He wished he could order her to talk to him. He could use someone to talk to right now; someone to hash over this case, to allow him to come to terms with the ugliness, the greed. She was the first of his handlers he actually wanted to talk to. While she didn't say much, what she did say was worth listening too.
Thinking about the case, he thought she had shown potential as a bodyguard. Unlike the others she was stubborn enough to stand up to him, had a streak of curiosity, and a sense of humor. And, at times, she acted almost human. 'You never know,' he thought as he settled back to read the inflight magazine, 'this one might work out after all.'