The Oath (Dismas Hardy Series #8)by John Lescroart
When HMO executive Tim Markham is hit by a car during a morning jog through his exclusive San Francisco neighborhood, he has the bad luck to be transported to one of his own hospitals . . . and winds up dead in his ICU bed. But in spite of the rumors about his company's substandard care, this death appears to be a case of malice, not of malpractice—especially after Markham's entire family is gunned down in their home.
Lt. Abe Glitsky has strong suspicions about a doctor with opportunity, means, and motives to spare. But working up a case against Eric Kensing might not be easy, especially when Glitsky has to rely on two bumbling rookies to gather the evidence. When defense attorney Dismas Hardy takes Kensing on as a client, both Glitsky and Hardy have to worry not only about losing the case, but about losing a best friend as well. And as the investigation leads to something bigger than they expected, they may both be in danger of losing their lives as well. . .
Following the tradition of his long-running Dismas Hardy series, John Lescroart has again skillfully woven clandestine situations and corrupt politics into an intriguing story. This time out, HMOs are the target as the author takes advantage of the fervent emotions surrounding American health care. Lescroart manages to illuminate the industry while avoiding undue or groundless criticism.
Returning to the fore are attorney Dismas Hardy and homicide cop Abe Glitsky, who now attempt to unravel a complex series of deaths surrounding San Francisco's largest HMO. When Tim Markham, the head of the HMO, dies from injuries sustained in a hit-and-run accident, nothing seems out of the ordinary until his wife and children are killed in a suspicious murder-suicide. After an autopsy confirms that Markham actually died of a potassium overdose, a case is made against Dr. Eric Kensing, whose wife was having an affair with Markham. Kensing was also forced to endure restrictions imposed by Markahm's cost-cutting, which put the lives of his patients at much greater risk. Even while Hardy attempts to defend Kensing, Glitsky is doing his best to put the man behind bars.
Lescroart's steady pacing and courtroom expertise renders a suspenseful legal thriller that stands alongside the works of William Bernhardt and Robert K. Tanenbaum. The Oath works incredibly well as a social indictment even while the crime elements often take a back seat to those of a more personal nature. The moral dilemmas and questionable professional conduct are powerful in their complaints and meaningful in their context. It's the author's understanding of conflicted human nature in the face of profiteering that makes The Oath a novel that will bring you to an engaging and profound conclusion. (Tom Piccirilli)
“Reading enjoyment…continues to come mainly from the chemistry between his winning odd couple—the freewheeling Hardy and the irascible, by-the-book Glitsky.”—Los Angeles Times
“Skillfully researched and executed….The reliably excellent Lescroart carries on, delivering yet another winner.”—Publishers Weekly“[A] master yarn spinner...a stellar novel.”—Booklist“Hardy and Glitsky are like good wine, improving with time.”—The Orlando Sentinel“Lescroat skillfully balances his story, blending the action of the plot with the satisfying details of Hardy's and Glitsky's personal lives. The minutiae of marriages, children, and domestic routines not only round out the characters but provide a smart counterpoint to the cops-and-lawyer stuff. And unlike so many other authors, Lescroart handles social commentary with a deft touch.”—The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Read an Excerpt
Her stupid, old American car wasn't working again. So now Luz Lopez was sitting on the bus with her sick son, Ramiro, dozing beside her. This time of day, midmorning, the streetcar wasn't crowded, and she was glad of that. Ramiro, small for eleven years old, had room to curl up with his head on her lap. She stroked his cheek gently with the back of her hand. He opened his eyes and smiled at her weakly.
His skin was warm to her touch, but not really burning. She was more concerned about the cut on his lip than the sore throat. There was something about the look of it that bothered her. He'd banged it on some playground bars on Monday and today, Thursday, it was swollen, puffy, yellowish at the edges. But when the sore throat had come on yesterday, Ramiro had complained not about the cut lip, but the throat. Luz knew her boy wouldn't make a fuss unless there was real pain. He was up half the night with gargling and Tylenol. But this morning, he told her it wasn't any better.
She had to take the day off so he could see a doctor. Time off was always a risk. Though she'd been halfway to her business degree when she'd left home, now she worked as a maid at the Osaka Hotel in Japantown, and they were strict about attendance. Even if the reason was good, Luz knew that every day she missed work counted against her. The clinic said they could see him before noon-a miracle-so maybe she could get his prescription and have Ramiro back at school by lunchtime, then she could still put in a half day back at the Osaka.
She had lived in San Francisco for over ten years now, though she would never call the place home. After the opponents of land reform in El Salvador had killed her father, a newspaper publisher, and then her brother Alberto, a doctor who had never cared about politics, she had fled north with her baby inside her. It had taken her husband, Jos_, almost three years to follow her here, and then last year La Migra had sent him back. Now, unable to find work back home, he lived with her mother.
She shifted on her seat on her way to the Judah Clinic, which was not on Judah Street at all, but two blocks before Judah began, where the same street was called Parnassus. Why did they not call it the Parnassus Clinic, then? She shook her head, these small things keeping her mind from what it wanted to settle on, which was the health of her son.
And of course the money. Always money.
Ramiro's tiny hand lay like a dead bird in hers as they walked from the streetcar stop to the clinic, a converted two-story Victorian house. When she opened the front door, she abandoned all hope that they'd get to her quickly. Folding chairs lined the walls of the waiting room. More were scattered randomly in the open space in the middle, and every seat was taken. On the floor itself, a half dozen kids played with ancient plastic blocks, or little metal cars and trucks that didn't have all the wheels on them.
Behind the reception window, four women sat at computer terminals. Luz waited, then cleared her throat. One of the women looked up. "Be just a minute," she said, and went back to whatever she was doing. There was a bell on the counter, with instructions to ring it for service, but the computer woman already had told Luz she'd just be a minute (although now it had been more like five), and Luz didn't want to risk getting anyone mad at her. They would just go more slowly. But she was angry, and sorely tempted.
At last the women sighed and came to the window. She fixed Luz with an expression of perfect boredom and held out her hand. "Health card, please." She entered some information into her computer, didn't look up. "Ten dollars," she said. After she'd taken it and put it in a drawer, the woman continued. "Your son's primary care doctor is Dr. Whitson, but he's unavailable today. Do you have another preference?"
Luz wanted to ask why Dr. Whitson was unavailable, but knew that there would be no point in complaining. If Dr. Whitson wasn't here, he wasn't here. Asking about him wouldn't bring him back. "No." She smiled, trying to establish some connection. "Sooner would be better, though."
The woman consulted her computer screen, punched a few more keys. "Dr. Jadra can see Ramiro in twenty-five minutes. Just have a seat and we'll call you."
The words just popped out. "But there are no seats."
The woman flicked a look to the waiting room over Luz's shoulder. "One'll turn up any second." She looked over her shoulder. "Next."
While Ramiro dozed fitfully, Luz picked up a copy of the latest edition of San Francisco magazine. There were many of them in the room, all with the same cover photo of a strong Anglo businessman's face. Luz read English well and soon realized the reason for the multiple copies. The story was about the director of Parnassus Health-her insurance company. The man's name was Tim Markham. He had a pretty wife, three nice-looking children, and a dog. He lived in a big house in Seacliff and in all the pictures they took, he was smiling.
Luz cast a glance around the waiting room. No one was smiling here.
She stared at the face for another minute, then looked down at her sick boy, then up at the wall clock. She went back to Mr. Markham's smiling face, then read some more. Things were good in his life. His company was experiencing some growing pains, yes, but Markham was on top of them. And in the meantime, his patients continued to receive excellent medical care, and that was the most important thing. That was what he really cared about. It was his lifelong passion.
Finally, finally, a nurse called Ramiro's name. Luz folded the magazine over and put it in her purse. Then they walked down a long hallway to a tiny windowless room with a paper-covered examining table, a sink and counter, a small bookcase and shelves. Posters of California mountain and beach scenes, perhaps once vibrantly colored, now hung faded and peeling from the walls.
Ramiro laid himself down on the table and told his mom he was cold, so she covered him with her coat. Luz sat in an orange plastic molded chair, took out her magazine, and waited again.
At 12:22, Jadra knocked once on the door, then opened it and came in. Small and precise, completely bald, the doctor introduced himself as he perused the chart. "Busy day today," he said by way of apology. "I hope you haven't had to wait too long."
Luz put on a pleasant expression. "Not too bad."
"We're a little shorthanded today. Twenty doctors and something like eight have this virus going around." He shook his head wearily. "And you're Ramiro?"
"S'." Her boy had opened his eyes again and gotten himself upright.
"How are you feeling?"
"Not so good. My throat . . ."
Jadra pulled a wooden stick from a container on the counter. "Well, let's take a look at it. Can you stick out your tongue as far as you can and say 'ahh'?"
That examination took about ten seconds. When it was over, Jadra placed a hand on the boy's neck and prodded around gently. "Does that hurt? How about that?"
"Just when I swallow."
Five minutes later, Luz and Ramiro were back outside. They'd been at the clinic for over two hours. It had cost Luz ten dollars, more than she made in an hour, plus a full day's wages. Dr. Jadra had examined Ramiro for less than one minute and had diagnosed his sore throat as a virus. He should take Children's Tylenol and an over-the-counter throat medication. He explained that the way viruses work, symptoms go away by themselves within about fourteen days or two weeks, whichever came first.
A joke, Luz supposed, though it didn't make her laugh.
Two days later, Ramiro was worse, but Luz had to go to work. Last time they'd warned her about her absences. There were a lot of others who would be happy to take her job if she didn't want to work at the hotel anymore. So she had to take Ramiro into urgent care at night, after she got off.
On the bus, she gathered him in next to her, wrapped her own coat over his shivering little body. He curled up and immediately fell asleep. His breathing sounded like someone crinkling a paper bag inside his lungs. His cough was the bark of a seal.
This night, the clinic was less crowded. Luz paid her ten dollars and within a half hour, full dark outside now, she heard Ramiro's name called. She woke her boy and followed a stout man back into another tiny office, similar to Dr. Jadra's except there was no art, even faded.
Ramiro didn't notice. He climbed onto the paper-covered examining table, curled his knees up to his chest, and closed his eyes. Again she covered him with her jacket, and again she waited. Until she was startled awake by a knock at the door.
"I could use a nap myself," the woman said gently in good Spanish. She wore a badge that said Dr. Judith Cohn. She studied the folder, then brought her attention back to Luz. "So. Tell me about Ramiro. Where did he get this cut?"
"At school. He fell down. But he complains of his throat."
The doctor frowned deeply, reached for a tongue depressor. After a longer look than Dr. Jadra had taken, Dr. Cohn turned to Luz. "The throat doesn't look good, but I really don't like the look of this cut," she said in Spanish. "I'd like to take a culture. Meanwhile, in case it isn't a virus, I'll prescribe an antibiotic."
"But the other doctor . . ."
"Yes?" She reached out a hand reassuringly. "It's okay. What's your question?"
"The other doctor said it was a virus. Now it might not be. I don't understand."
Dr. Cohn, about the same age as Luz, was sympathetic. "Sometimes a virus will bring on a secondary infection that will respond to antibiotics. The cut looks infected to me."
"And the drug will take care of that?"
The doctor, nodding, already had the prescription pad out. "Does Ramiro have any allergies? Good, then. Now, if for some reason the cut doesn't clear up, I might want to prescribe a stronger antibiotic, but I'll let you know when I get the results of the test."
"When will that be? The results?"
"Usually two to three days."
"Three more days? Couldn't we just start with the stronger antibiotic now? Then I would not have to come back for another appointment."
The doctor shook her head. "You won't have to come here again. I can call in the other prescription if we need it."
Luz waited, then whispered, "There is also the expense, the two prescriptions."
Dr. Cohn clucked sadly. "I'm sorry about that, but we really don't want to prescribe a stronger antibiotic than Ramiro needs." She touched Luz on the forearm. "He'll be fine. You don't need to worry."
Luz tried to smile. She couldn't help but worry. Ramiro was no better. In fact, she knew that he was worse. Despite her resolve, a tear broke and rolled over her cheek. She quickly, angrily, wiped it away, but the doctor had seen it. "Are you really so worried?"
A mute nod. Then, "I'm afraid . . ."
The doctor sat down slowly and leaned in toward her. She spoke in an urgent whisper. "Everything will be all right. Really. He's got an infection, that's all. The antibiotics will clear it up in a few days."
"But I feel . . . in my heart . . ." She stopped.
Dr. Cohn straightened up, but still spoke gently. "You're both very tired. The best thing you can do now is go home and get some sleep. Things will look better after that."
Luz felt she had no choice but to accept this. She met the doctor's eyes for a long moment, then nodded mechanically and thanked her. Then she and her bundled-up and shivering son were back out in the cold and terrible night.
At around 6:20 on the morning of Tuesday, April 10, a forty-seven-year-old businessman named Tim Markham was on the last leg of his customary jog. Every weekday when he wasn't traveling, Markham would run out the driveway of his mansion on McLaren within minutes on either side of 5:45. He would turn right and then right again on Twenty-eighth Avenue, jog down to Geary, go left nearly a mile to Park Presidio, then left again back up to Lake. At Twenty-fifth, he'd jog a block right to Scenic Way, cut down Twenty-sixth, and finally turn back home on Seacliff where it ran above Phelan Beach.
In almost no other ways was Markham a creature of habit, but he rarely varied either the route of his run or the time he took it. This morning-garbage day in the neighborhood-he was struck by a car in the intersection just after he left the sidewalk making the turn from Scenic to Twenty-sixth. The impact threw him against one of the trash receptacles at the curb and covered him in refuse.
Markham had been jogging without his wallet and hence without benefit of identification. Although he was a white man in physically good health, he hadn't yet shaved this morning. The combination of the garbage surrounding him with his one-day growth of beard, his worn-down running shoes, and the old sweats and ski cap he wore made it possible to conclude that he was a homeless man who'd wandered into the upscale neighborhood.
When the paramedics arrived from the nearby fire station, they went right to work on him. Markham was bleeding from severe head trauma, maybe had punctured and collapsed a lung. He'd obviously broken several bones including his femur. If this break had cut an artery, it was a life-threatening injury all by itself. He would clearly need some blood transfusions and other serious trauma intervention immediately if he were going to have a chance to survive.
The ambulance driver, Adam Lipinski, was a longtime veteran of similar scenes. Although the nearest emergency room was at Portola Hospital, twenty blocks away in the inner Richmond District, he knew both from rumor and personal experience that Portola was in an embattled financial state right now. Because it was forbidden by law to do otherwise, any hospital would have to take this victim into the ER and try to stabilize him somewhat. But if he was in fact homeless and uninsured, as Lipinski suspected, there was no way that Portola would then admit him into the hospital proper.
Lipinski wasn't a doctor, but he'd seen a lot of death and knew what the approach of it could look like, and he was thinking that this was one of those cases. After whatever treatment he got in the ER, this guy was going to need a stretch in intensive care, but if he didn't have insurance, Lipinski was all but certain that Portola would find a way to declare him fit to move and turf him out to County.
Last month, the hospital had rather notoriously transferred a day-old baby-a baby!-to County General after she'd been delivered by emergency C-section in the ER at Portola in the middle of the night, six weeks premature and addicted to crack cocaine. The mother, of course, had no insurance at all. Though some saint of a doctor, taking advantage of the administration's beauty sleep, had simply ordered the baby admitted to Portola's ICU, by the next day someone had decided that the mother and child couldn't pay and therefore had to go to County.
Some Portola doctors made a stink, arguing that they couldn't transfer the mother so soon after the difficult surgery and birth-she was still in grave condition and transporting her might kill her, and the administration had backed down. But it countered that the baby, Emily, crack addiction and all, would clearly survive the trip across town. She would be transferred out. Separated from her mother within a day of her birth.
At County General, Emily had barely held on to life for a day in the overcrowded special unit for preemies. Then Jeff Elliot's CityTalk column in the Chronicle had gotten wind of the outrage and embarrassed Portola into relenting. If not for that, Lipinski knew that the poor little girl probably wouldn't have made it through her first week. As it was, she got readmitted to Portola's ICU, where she stayed until her mother left ten days later, and where the two of them ran up a bill of something like seventy thousand dollars. And all the while politicoes, newspaper people, and half the occupants of their housing project-whom the administration accused of stealing drugs and anything else that wasn't tied down-generally disrupted the order and harmony of the hospital.
In the wake of that, Portola put the word out-this kind of admitting mistake wasn't going to happen again. Lipinski knew beyond a doubt that once today's victim was minimally stabilized, Portola would pack him back up in an ambulance and have him taken to County, where they had to admit everybody, even and especially the uninsured. Lipinski wasn't sure that the victim here would survive that second trip and even if he did, the ICU at County was a disaster area, with no beds for half the people who needed them, with gurneys lining the halls.
But there was still time before he had to make that decision. The paramedics were trying to get his patient on a backboard, and the police had several officers knocking on doors and talking to people in the crowd that had gathered to see if anyone could identify the victim. Even rich people, snug in their castles, unknown to their neighbors, might recognize the neighborhood bum.
Because the body was so broken, it took longer than he'd originally estimated, but eventually they got the victim hooked up and into the back. In the meantime, Lipinski had decided that he was going directly to County. Portola would just screw around too much with this guy, and Lipinski didn't think he'd survive it. He'd just shifted into gear and was preparing to pull out when he noticed a couple of cops running up with a distraught woman in tow.
He knew what this was. Shifting back into park, he left the motor running, opened his door, and stepped out into the street. As the cops got to him, he was ready at the back door, pulling it open. Half walking, half running, the woman was a few steps behind them. She stepped up inside and Lipinski saw her body stiffen, her hands come up to cover her mouth. "Oh God," he heard. "Oh God."
He couldn't wait any longer. Slamming the door shut behind her, he ran back and hopped into his seat. They had their identification. And he was going to Portola.
In the days long ago before he'd hit the big four-oh, Dismas Hardy used to jog regularly. His course ran from his house on Thirty-fourth Avenue out to the beach, then south on the hard sand to Lincoln Way, where he'd turn east and pound the sidewalk until he got to Ninth and the bar he co-owned, the Little Shamrock. If it was a weekend or early evening, he'd often stop here to drink a beer before age wised him up and slowed him down. Later on, the beverage tended to be a glass of water. He'd finish his drink and conclude the four-mile circuit through Golden Gate Park and back up to his house.
The last time he'd gotten committed to an exercise program, maybe three years ago, he'd made it the first week and then about halfway through the second before he gave up, telling himself that two miles wasn't bad for a forty-seven-year-old. He'd put on a mere eight pounds this past decade, much less than many of his colleagues. He wasn't going to punish himself about his body, the shape he was in.
But then last year, his best friend Abe Glitsky had a heart attack that turned out to be a very near thing. Glitsky was the elder of the two men by a couple of years, but still, until it happened, Hardy had never considered either he or Abe anywhere near old enough to have heart trouble. The two men had been best friends since they'd walked a beat together as cops just after Hardy's return from Vietnam.
Now Glitsky was the chief of San Francisco's homicide detail. Half-black and half-Jewish, Glitsky was a former college tight end. No one among his colleagues would ever have thought of describing the lieutenant as anything but a hard-ass. His looks contributed to the rep as well-a thick scar coursed his lips top to bottom under a hatchet nose; he cultivated a fiercely unpleasant gaze. A buzz-cut fringe of gray bounded a wide, intelligent forehead. Glitsky didn't drink, smoke, or use profanity. He would only break out his smile to terrify staff (or small children for fun). Six months ago, when he'd married Treya Ghent, the administrative assistant to the new district attorney, several of his inspectors had bet that the new lifestyle would mellow him out considerably. They were still paying the installments.
Hardy was a successful defense attorney. Though he and Glitsky were on opposite sides of the fence professionally, there was also most of a lifetime of history between them. When Glitsky's first wife, Flo, had died some years before, Hardy and his wife, Frannie, had taken his three boys in to live with them until Abe could work his way through some of the emotional and logistical upheaval. Last fall, Hardy had been the best man at Abe's wedding.
They didn't talk about it-they were guys after all-but each was a fixed point of reference in the other's life.
The heart attack got their attention.
Since a month or so after Abe's marriage, they'd fallen into some semblance of a regular exercise program, where a couple of days a week one would goad or abuse the other into agreeing to do something physical. After the macho need to demonstrate their awesome strength and breathtaking endurance to each other in the first few weeks had almost made them quit the whole thing because of all the aches and pains, they finally had arrived at a brisk walk a couple of times a week, or perhaps throw some kind of ball on the weekend.
This morning they were eating up maybe three miles an hour walking on the path around Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park. It was a cool and clear morning, the sun visible in the treetops. A mist hung over the water, and out of it at the near shore a swan with her brood of cygnets appeared.
Glitsky was talking work, as usual, complaining about the politics surrounding the appointment of two inexperienced inspectors to his detail of elite investigators in reaction to the unexplainable renaissance of hit-and-run accidents in the City by the Bay. In the past twelve months, Glitsky was saying, ninety-three persons had been struck by motor vehicles within the city and county. Of these, twenty-seven had died. Of the sixty-six injury accidents that didn't result in deaths, fourteen were hit and runs.
"I love it how you rattle off all those numbers," Hardy said. "Anybody would swear you knew what you were talking about."
"Those are the real stats."
"I'm sure they are. Which is why I'm glad we're on this path and not the street where we could be senselessly run down at any moment. But how do these numbers affect your department? I thought hit and runs weren't homicides."
Glitsky glanced sideways at him. "Technically, they are when somebody dies."
"Well, there you go. That's why they come to you. You're the homicide detail."
"But we don't investigate them. We have never investigated them. You want to know why? First, because there's a separate detail cleverly named 'hit and run.' "
"That's a good name if they do what I think," Hardy said.
"It's a fine name," Glitsky agreed. He knew, although the police department would deny it as a matter of course, that no hit-and-run incidents-even the homicides-were more than cursorily investigated by inspectors. What usually happened was that a couple of members of the hit-and-run detail would take the paperwork at the Hall of Justice the day after the incident. Maybe they would go to the scene of an accident and see if they could find a witness to provide a description or license number of the vehicle. If that failed, and there were no good eyewitnesses in the report, that was essentially the end of the investigation. If they had a license number, they punched it into their computers to see if they had a street address associated with the vehicle. Sometimes, if the accident got a lot of press and they had a vehicle description, they would call a body shop or two and see if any cars matching the hit-and-run vehicle had surfaced. Usually the answer was no. "It's a fine department, even. But it doesn't do what we do, which is investigate murders."
"In spite of your detail's name, which indicates an interest in all homicides."
"Hence the confusion," Glitsky said. "Some of our civic leaders remain unclear on the concept."
They walked in silence for another moment. "What's second?" Hardy asked.
"What's second what?"
"You said you don't investigate hit-and-run homicides, first, because there's a separate hit-and-run detail. When you say first, it implies there's a second."
Glitsky's pace slackened, then both men stopped. "Second is that hit-and-run homicides tend not to be murders. In fact, they're never murders."
"Never say never."
"This time you can. You want to know why?"
"It's hard to ditch the murder weapon?"
"That's one reason. Another is that it's tough to convince your intended victim to stand in front of your car when there are no witnesses around so you can run him over. Most people just plain won't do it."
"So what's the problem?"
"The problem," Glitsky said, "is that with twenty-seven dead people in twelve months, the citizenry is apparently alarmed."
"I know I am," Hardy commented. "Perpetually."
"Yeah, well, as you may have read, our illustrious Board of Supes has authorized special funding for witness rewards and to beef up the investigation of all vehicular homicides."
"And a good idea it is."
"Wrong. It's a bad idea," Glitsky said. "There's no special investigation of vehicular homicides to begin with, not even in hit and run. Ninety percent of 'em, you got a drunk behind the wheel. The other ten percent, somebody's driving along minding their own business and somebody runs out from between two cars in front of them-blam! Then they freak and split. They probably weren't even doing anything wrong before they left the scene. These are felony homicides, okay, because the driver is supposed to stick around, but they are not murders."
"And this concerns you because . . . ?"
"Because now and for the past two months I've had these two new politically connected clowns-excuse me, inspectors-in my detail that I've been telling you about, and they seem to be having trouble finding meaningful work. And let's say that this hasn't gone exactly unnoticed among the rest of my crack staff, who by the way refer to them as the 'car police.' "
"Maybe they mean it as a compliment," Hardy said.
Glitsky shook his head in disgust, then checked his watch. "Let's walk."
Hardy could imagine the plight of the new inspectors, and knew that their treatment at the hands of the veteran homicide cops wouldn't be pretty. Despite all the scandal and controversy that had ravaged the self-esteem of other details in the police department over the past few years, the twelve men and women inspectors who served in homicide considered themselves the elite. They'd worked their way up to this eminence, and their jobs mattered to them. They took pride in what they did, and the new guys would not fit in. "So abuse is being taken?" Hardy asked.
"Somebody painted 'Car Fifty-Four' on their city issue. Then you know the full-size streetlight we've had in the detail for years? Somehow it's gotten plugged in and set between the two guys' desks, so they can't see each other when they sit down? Oh, and those little metal cars kids play with? Six or eight new ones every day on their desks, in their drawers, everywhere."
"I guess we're moving into the abuse realm."
Glitsky nodded. "That would be fair to say."
At a little after nine o'clock, Glitsky sat behind his desk in his small office on the fourth floor of the Hall of Justice. The door was closed. His two new men-Harlen Fisk and Darrel Bracco-had so far been called out on injury hit and runs about ten times in their two months here, and in theory they should have been rolling already on this morning's accident involving Tim Markham. But this time, they were seeking their lieutenant's guidance before they moved.
Glitsky blamed neither Fisk nor Bracco for being upset with the conditions they'd endured to date in the detail, but until this morning, he couldn't say he'd lost any sleep thinking about it. They were political appointees and they deserved what they got in their brief stops up the promotion ladder, hopscotching over other inspectors who were smarter, more qualified, and worked harder.
Harlen Fisk was the nephew of City Supervisor Kathy West. He went about six three, two fifty, and was self-effacing almost to the point of meekness. Darrel Bracco was trim, crisp, clean, ex-army, the terrier to Fisk's Saint Bernard. His political juice was a little more obscure than his partner's, but just as potent. His father, Angelo Bracco, had worn a uniform for thirty years, and now was Mayor Washington's personal driver-Bracco would have the mayor's ear whenever he wanted.
So these men could just as easily have gone whining to their supporters and Glitsky could right at this moment be getting a formal reprimand from Chief Rigby, who'd heard from the mayor and a supervisor that he was running his detail in an unprofessional manner. But they hadn't gone over his head. Instead, they were both here in his office, coming to him with their problem. The situation gave him pause and inclined him to listen to what they were saying, if not with sympathy, then at least with some respect for their position.
Bracco was standing at attention, and Glitsky had been talking for a while now, reprising many of the salient points of his earlier discussion with Dismas Hardy. "That's why our office here in homicide is on the fourth floor," he concluded, "with the lovely view of the roof of the coroner's office, whereas hit and run has a back door that opens into the alley where the waste from the jail's kitchen comes. Murderers are bad people. Hit-and-run drivers have made an unfortunate life choice. There's a difference."
Bracco sighed. "So there's no real job here, is there?"
Glitsky came forward in his chair, brought his hands together on the desk before him. "I'm sorry, but that's how it is."
The young man's face clouded over. "So then why were we brought onboard?"
This called for a careful response. "I understand both of you know some people. Maybe they don't really understand some technical matters."
Fisk was frowning. "What about the man who was hit this morning? Markham."
"What about him?" Glitsky asked.
"He wasn't dead at the scene, but if he does die, then what?"
"Then, as I understand it, you get the case from H and R."
"And do what with it?" Bracco asked.
"Try to find the driver? I don't know." Glitsky-nothing he could do-spread his palms, shrugged. "Look, guys," he said, "maybe I could talk to the chief and see if he can arrange some kind of move. You both might want to think about transferring to gangs or robbery or someplace. Do some good work on some real cases, work your way back up to here, where you'll get some real murders, which this is not."
Bracco, still in the at-ease position, wanted to know his assignment. "In the meanwhile, we're here. What do you want us to do, sir? On this morning's accident?"
The entire situation was stupid, but in Glitsky's experience, stupidity was about the most common result of political solutions. Maybe these boys would learn some lesson. "You want my advice? Go out there yourselves. Look a little harder than H and R would. Maybe you'll find something they missed."
They weren't happy about it, but Bracco and Fisk thoroughly canvased the immediate neighborhood. Although they found no witnesses to the event itself, they did not come up completely empty-handed.
At very near to the time of the accident, a forty-five-year-old stockbroker named John Bandolino had come out of his house on Seacliff just west around the corner from Twenty-sixth to pick up his newspaper. He was on his way back inside when suddenly he heard a car with a bad muffler accelerate rapidly, then squeal around the corner. Since this was normally a serene neighborhood, Bandolino ran back down to the street to see if he could identify the troublemaker who was making so much noise so early in the morning. But the car was by then too far away to read the license plate. It was green, though, probably American made. Not a new car, certainly.
The other corroborating witnesses on the car were George and Ruth Callihan Brown, both retired and on their way to their regular Tuesday breakfast with some friends. They had just turned off Seacliff onto Twenty-sixth, Warren driving, when Ruth saw Markham lying sprawled in the garbage up ahead. After the initial shock, both of them realized that some kind of a medium-size green car had passed them in the other lane as they were coming up. They both turned to see it disappear around the corner, heard the muffler noise, the acceleration. But they didn't even think to pursue it-Markham was unconscious, and bleeding where he lay. They had their cell phone and he needed an ambulance.
The crime scene reconstruction expert had trouble pinpointing the exact location on Twenty-sixth where Markham had been struck. The force of the impact had evidently thrown him some distance through the air, and there were no skid marks to indicate that the driver had slammed on the brakes in panic, or, indeed, applied the brakes at all.
Reprinted from The Oath by John Lescroart by permission of Dutton, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © John Lescroart, 2002. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Meet the Author
John Lescroart is the author of nineteen previous novels, including The Betrayal, The Suspect, The Hunt Club, The Motive, The Second Chair, The First Law, The Oath, The Hearing, and Nothing But the Truth. He lives in Northern California.
- El Macero, California
- Date of Birth:
- January 14, 1948
- Place of Birth:
- Houston, Texas
- B.A. in English with Honors, UC Berkeley, 1970
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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John Lescroart is a brilliant writer. I really like his characters and story lines.
Follow the intrepid Dismas Hardy as he unwinds another story of crime and punishment in his favorate city, San Francisco. Lescroart continues to spin a fine yarn filled with very believable and engaging characters. You'll be rooting for them right up to the end.
Love this author in the past with other novels. This one had too many characters that was fragmented throughout the book. Too long
hard to put this down. well told with just the right pace.
I was looking for something new to read and this book was rated highly. I hadn't read anything from this author before and now I know why. The story jumps around, there are way too many characters who are called by several names. One of the main stories from the beginning doesn't appear again until the last 50 pages. You could probably cut out about 150-175 pages and have a good little story
I have lescroart name in my folder of authors to read. He did not disappoint me in one bit. I love his writing. Looking forward to future books. Good stuff menard!!!
When Tim Markham, the head of San Francisco¿s largest HMO dies in his own hospital, no one doubts he died of the massive injuries inflicted by a random hit-and-run car accident. But soon an autopsy reveals he died of an overdose of potassium, and the attending physician Eric Kensing becomes the prime suspect. Kensing, desperate, and in need of an attorney, turns to Dismas Hardy for his defense. Going head-to-head with long time friend Abe Glitsky, and the two bumbling detectives assigned to this case, Dismas knows he has a tough battle to win, and when he finds information that further cements the hatred between Kensing and Markham, Dismas begins to question his client¿s innocence. The deeper Dismas digs into Markham¿s twisted past, he finds no one is exactly who they say they are, and everyone has something to hide, but nothing can prepare him for another shocking murder that will start to unravel a conspiracy of violence that takes the lives of those it has sworn to protect. `The Oath¿ is a sure bet for a wild ride of page-turning excitement. The mixing if medical science, and legal thrills makes for a perfect read that will surely entertain. With many novels of it¿s kind out there, `The Oath¿ stands far ahead of the rest for it¿s twisting plot, fleshed out characters, lightning fast pace and surprises along the way. John Lescroart is one of the masters of the legal thriller, and his newest novel will give his fans something to cheer about, and earn him a slew of new ones. Mr. Lescroart is never at a loss for creating suspenseful, original plots, and `The Oath¿ will further prove his knack for writing blockbusters as it rockets up all the bestseller list¿s. A MUST read! Nick Gonnella
I love legal fiction. This one started slow; I tend to prefer the 'hit the ground running' thrillers like those written by a Norm Harris, or a Nelson DeMille, or even some of Grisham's books. But 'The Oath' did end strong. So I was eventually satisfied. The opening scene is seen through the eyes of Mrs. Lopez, the worried mother of a sick child. Here John Lescroart makes a strong statement as we see a concerned mother manhandled by a less than caring HMO system. I have long held the opinion that the term 'health care' has become an oxymoron. In the next scene a man is killed by a hit and run driver. Enter Lescroart's protagonists Dismas Hardy and his best friend, homicide cop Abe Glitsky. In this story we know whodunit early on. One of the early reviews of this book pointed this out, saying that knowing who the killer is '...cuts down the suspense.' It was my understanding that when we know who the antagonist is from the onset of the story, that the story is a thriller. When we do not know who did the deed until the end of the story, then it is a mystery. This is a thriller, so I had no problem with knowing whodunit early on. John Lescroart is a master of characterization and dialogue. From the book: (Luz tried to smile. She couldn't help but worry. Ramiro was no better. In fact, she knew that he was worse. Despite her resolve, a tear broke and rolled over her cheek. She quickly, angrily, wiped it away, but the doctor had seen it. 'Are you really so worried?') That's great stuff. If you love legal thrillers, as I do, then you will love this book. Highly recommended.
I love legal fiction. This one started slow; I tend to prefer the 'hit the ground running' thrillers like those written by a Norm Harris, or a Nelson DeMille, or even some of Grisham's books. But 'The Oath' did end strong. So I was eventually satisfied. The opening scene is seen through the eyes of Mrs. Lopez, the worried mother of a sick child. Here John Lescroart makes a strong statement as we see a concerned mother manhandled by a less than caring HMO system. I have long held the opinion that the term 'health care' has become an oxymoron. In the next scene a man is killed by a hit and run driver. Enter Lescroart's protagonists Dismas Hardy and his best friend, homicide cop Abe Glitsky. In this story we know whodunit early on. One of the early reviews of this book pointed this out, saying that knowing who the killer is '...cuts down the suspense.' It was my understanding that when we know who the antagonist is from the onset of the story, that the story is a thriller. When we do not know who did the deed until the end of the story, then it is a mystery. This is a thriller, so I had no problem with knowing whodunit early on. John Lescroart is a master of characterization and dialogue. From the book: (Luz tried to smile. She couldn't help but worry. Ramiro was no better. In fact, she knew that he was worse. Despite her resolve, a tear broke and rolled over her cheek. She quickly, angrily, wiped it away, but the doctor had seen it. 'Are you really so worried?') That's great stuff. If you love legal thrillers, as I do, then you will love this book. Highly recommended. Cammy Diaz, lawyer
In San Francisco, Parnassus Medical Group CEO Tim Markham is a victim of a hit and run accident. Tim dies in his company¿s Portola Hospital, but the autopsy reveals that his injuries did not kill him. Instead Tim died from an overdose of potassium. San Francisco homicide detective Abe Glitsky believes that the doctor of record Eric Kensing killed his boss because Tim was having an affair with the prime suspect¿s wife and the HMO¿s cut costing measures threatened the lives of his patients. Attorney Dismas Hardy thinks someone else is the killer. Soon evidence surfaces that a serial killer has made the CEO victim number twelve. Now the two best friends Dismas and Abe work on uncovering the identity of a murderer before the toll reaches a baker¿s dozen. THE OATH is a powerful medical thriller that will please fans of John Lescroart for returning Glitsky and Hardy to the front of a strong insightful story line. Though Eric fails to appear as a viable villain and the culprit seems obvious, the plot cuts like a surgeon¿s knife without unfairly lacerating HMOs like many similar novels do today. Medical thriller readers will vow that this tale is non-stop action winner. Harriet Klausner
This is a drama about greed in the health industry which every american should read. After reading this book it left a bitter taste in my mouth knowing that hositals will submit phony bills as well as transferring patients with non prime care health to bring in patients with prime care for the sole pupose of bigger proits. John Lescroart set up the story brillantly to show the readers that a killers plan can change with one big accident.In this case the killer will now have the opportunity to plot the murder faster than expected and not be blamed.In the end the plotter's carelessnes wll get him caught,but perhaps one of the great parts of the book was who was the hit and run driver?and why did the accident occur? This is a perfect job of writing a book.I will tell everyone about this masterpiece.