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A small-town Louisiana physician is poised to win confirmation as the next Surgeon General of the United States. But on the eve of his greatest professional achievement, Daniel Wyatt finds himself accused of gross infidelity...and the murder of his unborn child. In the midst of a media frenzy — as a trial looms that will cast the nation's explosive pro-choice/anti-abortion debate into a blinding new light — the accused stands to lose more than his reputation, his career, and his freedom. Because an issue that has...
A small-town Louisiana physician is poised to win confirmation as the next Surgeon General of the United States. But on the eve of his greatest professional achievement, Daniel Wyatt finds himself accused of gross infidelity...and the murder of his unborn child. In the midst of a media frenzy — as a trial looms that will cast the nation's explosive pro-choice/anti-abortion debate into a blinding new light — the accused stands to lose more than his reputation, his career, and his freedom. Because an issue that has dangerously polarized America has inspired the bloody wrath of a faceless killer. And Dr. Daniel Wyatt is suddenly more than front-page news — he's a target.
Dinner was over, and one by one the guests rose to make their speeches.Terri Porter recounted the time her teenage son fell from the toweringoak tree on Tarragon Street. Walter Rory spoke of his wife's long battlewith cancer while Alexandra Rory herself cried quietly and held theguest of honor's hand. Rebecca Schroeder told of her first child, whohad been delivered on a roadside by a man then unknown to her; a passingstranger, an unexpected angel. And Henry Sinjin, of course, revisitedfor the thousandth time the car accident that had resulted in the widescar on his ample abdomen. But this night no one minded hearing the tale(or seeing the scar) once again.
Tonight was special.
The stories were of accidents and sickness, but the gathering at whichthey were recounted was a celebration. All the endings were happy, allthe toasts were to good advice, to speedy recoveries, to bones wellmended. And to Dr. Daniel Wyatt.
Seated next to his beaming wife, he listened with that combination ofembarrassment and unwavering attention that comes with being the objectof public praise.
"I've known Daniel longer than most any of you," Ernest Magley wassaying, his rich Louisiana accent resonating as it always did afterthree glasses of wine. "As the man who was his roommate for two years inmed school, you may assume that I came prepared to offer some specialinsights tonight."
Laughter filled the small, private room. Dr. Magley leaned back againstthe faux wood paneling and took a leisurely sip from the ruby-finedglass in his hand, letting silence return.
"But I am afraid that I must disappoint you," Dr.Magley finallyadmitted. "For Daniel Wyatt was the second -- most boring drudge at HarvardMed."
Another artful pause.
"I was the first."
"Oh, I doubt that," Claire Davis called through the laughter. "At leastthe last part. But you stick to that story if you're called upon by theSenate."
"Already planning for the confirmation bearings?" Magley chided.
Claire shrugged her shoulders, and those who knew her well enoughrealized that she'd been planning something like a Senate confirmationhearing for years.
"Should the esteemed senators ask my humble opinion, I'm sure I'll beready with the proper words to describe Dr. Daniel Wyatt," Magleycontinued, straightening his shoulders and putting his glass on thetable. "For many of us, he's been a counselor. For all who live inLafayette, a leader in the community. To those lucky enough to know himwell, a good friend. But if asked to choose one word to describe Daniel,I would say simply, he is a healer."
Applause filled the tiny room. Dr. Magley looked pleased with himself.
"No way am I putting that pompous ass in front of the committee," ClaireDavis whispered into Dr. Wyatt's ear.
Daniel Wyatt nodded his head, but he was remembering a night fourteenyears before, when he had delivered Ernest Magley's first child. Sixteenhours of labor, ending in a footling breech. It had been a very riskydelivery, and when it was all over, Ernest had cried harder than thebaby.
"And now we must hear from the new attorney general ... um, I mean,counsel general to the surgeon general nominee," Magley finally ended."I give you Claire Davis, esquire."
Claire rose, and put one hand on Wyatt's shoulder as she spoke. Wyattsneaked a quick glance at his wife, Ellen, but she was smiling broadlyup at Claire. With any other woman, especially one as attractive asClaire, the intimacy revealed by the touch would have made her furious.Wyatt had learned early in their marriage to avoid beautiful women atparties; Ellen found even a moment of public conversation between Danieland an unknown woman humiliating. It wasn't jealousy in the usual sense.She trusted him. But when other people saw in Wyatt a hint of somethingthat even remotely smacked of infidelity, Ellen's mind began to spin.She had grown up in Opelousas, a small town to the north of Lafayette,and she had a lifelong fear of gossip.
But with Claire it was different. In the years that she and Daniel Wyatthad worked together, spending long evenings developing the LafayetteWomen's Advocacy Group, Ellen had come to accept her. Claire was aconsummate professional, a strong-willed lawyer, and a fearsomepolitician. Despite her beauty and the powerful sexuality she exuded,Claire was, in the eyes of a genteel southern woman like Ellen, less awoman than an honorary man.
A waiter passed through the doors that led to the public part of therestaurant, and the sounds of the crowd of diners briefly overwhelmedthe room. Claire, never one to allow her voice to be drowned out, pauseduntil it was quiet again.
"When Daniel and I began our work creating the Women's Advocacy Group-orWAG, as some wags have dubbed it" -- Claire paused again, allowing amoment for the room's warm laughter at the decade-old joke --certainlyweren't thinking of Washington."
Wyatt smiled to himself, wondering how many in the room were credulousenough to swallow that one.
"But now that we're headed to the office of surgeon general, I'm sureDaniel will be remembered for more than just telling Americans not tosmoke."
"Uh-oh," Ernest Magley interjected, stabbing his cigarette into hismashed potatoes. No one dared laugh at his antics while Claire held thefloor.
"We began with one simple goal," she continued, effortlessly ignoringMagley. "To help the women of this city and state take control of theirbodies, their futures, and their lives. "
The applause was loud and long, then Claire continued to tell the storyof her partnership with Daniel Wyatt. Watching her words grip the crowd,Wyatt realized how much she had changed since...Misconception. Copyright © by Robert Shapiro. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.