Breach of Ethics

Breach of Ethics

by Sharon St George
Breach of Ethics

Breach of Ethics

by Sharon St George

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Overview

Forensic librarian Aimee Machado has a new title: Director of Ethical Affairs. At other hospitals this position might be dull: not at Timbergate Medical Center in Northern California. Armed with impressive jujitsu skills, Aimee breaks up a fist fight during a meeting and soon finds herself embroiled in yet another murder investigation. Dr. Gavin Lowe, one of the combatants in the dust-up, is found shot dead in the office of his adversary, Aimee's boss Jared Quinn. The security cameras did not detect the killer coming or going. Were they tampered with? The police believe Quinn did the deed, but Aimee is unconvinced. She was present when the two men made their peace; unfortunately, there were no other witnesses. Is Aimee a suspect? At the time of his death, Dr. Lowe was treating ten-year-old piano prodigy Natasha Korba for appendicitis and malnutrition, a byproduct of her stepfather Abel Gailworth's cult of veganism. Natasha's grandfather Hector Korba, president of the hospital's governing board, is fighting for custody. Was the killing prompted by the custody battle? Or did Dr. Lowe's wandering eye seal his fate? Aimee's on-and-off-again boyfriend Nick, her friend Cleo, and her charming brother Harry are on hand to help uncover the truth. What they discover only poses more questions. Meanwhile the killer is fully aware of their investigations, once again putting Aimee in mortal danger. Book 3 of the Aimee Machado Mystery series, which began with Due for Discard.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781603812276
Publisher: Camel Press
Publication date: 05/01/2016
Series: Aimee Machado Mystery , #3
Pages: 342
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.86(d)

About the Author

Sharon St. George's writing credits include three plays, several years writing advertising copy, a book on NASA's space food project, and feature stories too numerous to count. She holds dual degrees in English and Theatre Arts, and occasionally acts in, or directs, one of her local community theater productions. Sharon is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, and she serves as program director for Writers Forum, a nonprofit organization for writers in northern California.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

The last thing I expected to be doing at a Monday morning meeting of the Timbergate Medical Center's Ethics Committee was breaking up a fist fight.

Setting up the meeting was my responsibility, thanks to a recent promotion. Originally hired as TMC's health sciences librarian, I now had an ID badge that read: Aimee Machado, Director of Library, Continuing Education, and Ethical Affairs. Nowhere did my job description say Referee.

Dr. Gavin Lowe threw the first punch, but my boss, Hospital Administrator Jared Quinn, countered with a left hook. It connected with Lowe's chin and knocked his lanky frame backward across the conference table, scattering agendas and sloshing coffee cups.

Lowe regained his footing and started to swing again, but I caught his arm and took him to the floor with a wristlock. With his free hand, he tried to loosen my grip, so I applied more pressure. He wouldn't be able to hold a scalpel for quite a while if I had to break his wrist. At that point he quit struggling. Meanwhile, Committee Chair Sybil Snyder called for a motion to adjourn. After a hasty vote, Dr. Snyder and the rest of the physicians bolted from the room.

Moments later two husky security guards arrived, registering dual expressions of surprise at the sight of a man as big as Lowe restrained by a petite Eurasian woman. Understandable, since they didn't know about my black belt in jujitsu. The guards took Dr. Lowe off my hands, secured his arms behind his back, and waited for Quinn's orders.

I waited too, watching blood trickle from the side of Quinn's mouth down onto his white shirt collar. Even bloody and disheveled, he was easy on the eyes, with dark hair, a strong jaw and a smile that could make a nun blush. I resisted the urge to clean the blood off his face. Instead, I handed him a paper napkin.

"Mr. Quinn," one of the guards said, "what would you like us to do here?"

Quinn worked his jaw, winced, and addressed Dr. Lowe. "Well, Gavin, do we call the police?"

"That's up to you," Lowe said, "but I'd prefer to settle this privately. Neither of us needs that kind of publicity."

Quinn turned to the guards. "Thanks, fellas. You can go." The guards shrugged and left the room. I offered to leave, but Quinn told me to stay. He pushed the conference room door closed.

Lowe glared at Quinn. "I'm still pissed as hell, Jared. How dare you imply that I was bribed?"

"Gavin, I didn't imply anything of the sort. I simply asked you to tell the committee why you ordered a blood transfusion for Hector Korba's granddaughter against her mother's clearly expressed wishes."

"Because she would have died without it," Lowe said. "For God's sake, Jared, I wasn't bending to pressure from Korba, and I sure as hell wasn't expecting anything in return for saving his granddaughter's life. The girl's mother is a gullible dupe, and the stepfather with his trumped- up pseudo-vegan religion is a dangerous charlatan. The diet they were imposing on that child nearly killed her."

"Then your reasons for the transfusion need to be documented in the committee's minutes. Everyone knows Hector Korba is president of the TMC Governing Board, not to mention he's rich as Croesus. It won't look good for you or TMC if the mother files a complaint."

"Let her. I had her kid in the OR with a burst appendix. I did what I had to do."

"And this committee probably would have agreed, but I wish you'd tried to consult at least one of us before you went ahead with that transfusion."

"There wasn't time. She was bleeding and chronically anemic. I was doing my damned job."

"And I'm doing mine." Quinn dabbed at his bloody mouth with the napkin. "Trying to keep all of us out of court."

"Not by throwing me under the bus. If you can't back up your medical staff, you might want to look for another job."

"Let's take this down a notch, Gavin. I'm employed at the discretion of the governing board, not the medical staff. If you have a complaint about me, take it there."

"Ideal, since that's Hector Korba's bailiwick and I just saved his granddaughter's life. You think you can trump that?" Lowe smoothed his graying brown hair and squared his shoulders.

"I'll take my chances." Quinn picked up his briefcase, signaling he'd had enough. Witnessing their hostile exchange made me squirm. I raised an eyebrow at Quinn.

Quinn looked at Lowe. "Well, Gavin? What's it going to be? Do you want to have me fired, or shall we get back to work?"

"Aw, hell." Lowe looked down at his hand, wiggling his fingers, and then glanced up at Quinn. "You didn't break my hand with your damned jaw, so if it's okay with you, I'll perform the surgery I have scheduled for this afternoon."

"Fine, but first have someone in the ER evaluate your hand. Make sure they check that wrist, too." Quinn glanced at me with a hint of amusement, earning him a malevolent glare from Lowe.

"You'd better hope your little bodyguard didn't injure my wrist."

"I don't want to hear anything from you that sounds like a threat," Quinn said. "If you're cleared to operate, we'll forget this happened and we'll all get back to work."

Lowe suddenly seemed bewildered. He sank into a chair and shook his head. "Jared, I'm sorry. I feel like an ass for losing it like that. It just pissed the hell out of me. I shouldn't have to explain why I saved that little girl. She's not just a rich man's granddaughter, she's a piano prodigy with an incredible future. Have you heard her play?"

"I have. It's an amazing experience."

"Then you know why I couldn't let her die. I wouldn't let any child die if it's within my power to save her, but Natasha Korba's gift is nothing short of miraculous."

"I know, Gavin. That's why I'm not pressing this. But if there's something more going on with you, something causing enough stress to make you act out this way, we should talk about it."

"Thanks, but it's nothing I can't handle." Lowe frowned at the coffee-drenched agendas on the conference table and turned to me. "Sorry about the mess." He left the room.

Quinn closed the door behind him and said, "Aimee, you handled this situation far beyond anything in your job description. If Lowe gives you any trouble, I want to hear about it. Understood?"

"Understood." I sighed and stared out the window at the overcast February sky.

CHAPTER 2

Until my promotion, I had been in charge of the hospital's library and the medical staff's continuing education programs, working under the supervision of Dr. Vane Beardsley, the former chief of staff. His retirement resulted in my being designated head of a new department. The new title combined my former duties with the added responsibility of "facilitating all medical staff business related to ethics issues." Although I conferred as needed with the doctors who chaired the Continuing Medical Education Committee and the Ethics Committee, I no longer reported to a medical staff supervisor. I answered directly to Jared Quinn, which was reason enough to step in with a jujitsu hold when Dr. Lowe tried to clean Quinn's clock.

After I gathered up the soggy agendas and apologized to the Dietary Department staff for the mess, I stopped by the Medical Affairs Office to ask Cleo Cominoli for her take on the dust-up in the conference room. As Director of Medical Staff Services, she'd spent several years leading the bulk of TMC's monthly medical staff meetings.

Pushing fifty, but still a curvy and glamorous brunette, Cleo was an invaluable mentor but also a good friend. The vivacious Italian had finally walked down the aisle with her darling Sig Modaresi a month after he recovered from prostate surgery with a clean bill of health. Everyone at work was relieved that she kept her maiden name. To her colleagues, she would always be the ageless and lively Cleo Cominoli.

I sat in the chair opposite her desk and gave her the nutshell version of the incident.

When I was finished, she dropped her half-moon glasses on her desk and grinned. "Wow, your first Ethics Committee and you took down Gavin Lowe? Wish I'd seen that."

I squirmed in my chair. "It wasn't pretty — it was awkward and embarrassing — but that's not why I stopped by. What I wanted to know is whether you've ever seen blows exchanged in one of your meetings."

Folding her arms, she gave it a moment's thought. "Only the verbal kind," she said finally, "but believe me, when you work in a room filled with colossal egos revved up on caffeine, anything can happen."

I leaned forward. "Has Lowe ever acted out in one of your committees?"

She replied quickly, "No! In fact, he was one of my favorite docs until about a year ago when he started missing mandatory committee meetings. And he's hard on the OR nurses these days, swearing and throwing things during surgeries." She hesitated for a moment. "The truth is, he's become a real horse's patootie."

Curious, I prompted Cleo for more. "Are you saying a physical attack on Jared Quinn takes it to a new level?"

She nodded vigorously. "You bet. I've never heard of him losing it like that. Sounds like being asked to justify his actions in the Korba girl's case really set him off." She cocked her head. "You've heard about her, haven't you? How she began playing piano when she was only three years old? She's ten now, and being compared to Mozart." Cleo stood and put her coffee in the microwave.

"I knew of her," I said, "but until I came to work here, I didn't realize her grandfather was on TMC's governing board."

"President of the board," Cleo said, sipping her coffee and leaning against the desk. "Anyone who has ever met Hector Korba knows he's devoted to Natasha, and to guiding her career. Korba's already booking regional appearances for her. She played a guest solo with the Sawyer County Symphony last month." She took her seat again.

"I attended that one with my grandmother. Isn't Korba a member of that orchestra?"

"Korba plays bass clarinet. Sig says he's been with them for about two years." Cleo's husband, Sig, played tuba with the orchestra.

"Imagine how devastated Dr. Lowe would be if he'd lost that girl on his operating table," I said. "I can almost understand his lashing out at the meeting."

Cleo put her half-moon glasses back on and gave me a pointed look over the rims. "Lowe's medical career would have been finished. Korba would have seen to it."

"So how do you think I should handle the minutes? Do I document the incident in vivid detail?"

She shrugged. "Let your committee chair decide. Isn't that Dr. Snyder?" Cleo's mind was an encyclopedia of every doctor on the medical staff and which ones served on what committees.

"That's right, but she adjourned the meeting and left the room before Quinn and Lowe made peace."

"Doesn't matter." Cleo said. "All that goes in the minutes is what happened before the meeting was adjourned."

"That doesn't seem fair to either Quinn or Lowe."

She tapped her pen on the desk for emphasis. "Maybe not, but you have to stick to your guns when it comes to committee minutes. Let all of them know they can't manipulate you. Remember that when you talk to Snyder." I couldn't leave without asking her about married life.

With a glowing smile, she said, "It's been two months, and the honeymoon isn't over. I can't believe I waited so long. If you ever decide to tie the knot with that hottie of yours, you'll see what I mean. It's different when you're married."

"Nick and I are still a long way from taking that step."

Cleo got up and walked around her desk to pull me into a hug. "Life is short, sweetie. Don't wait too long."

I walked back to the library thinking about Nick Alexander. Everyone assumed that all I had to do was say the word and he'd supply the ring. It wasn't that simple.

Nick's job as a private pilot for billionaire philanthropist Buck Sawyer required him to spend a lot of time with his co-pilot, Rella Olstad, who was almost as different from me as night is from day. Despite the lack of height in my gene pool, I had managed to grow to five feet and four inches and had jet-black hair and deep brown eyes, inherited from my Portuguese father and Chinese mother. In contrast, the Nordic beauty was not only blue-eyed and blond like Nick, she was a former fighter pilot who also happened to be Nick's former girlfriend.

When she was hired, I'd tried to take the high road, but an incident six months ago in Paris had sorely tested my trust in Nick and caused a near-fatal rupture in our relationship. Eventually we had talked it out and agreed to start over as friends with options. Reminding myself that everyone has a dating history, I'd almost succeeded in putting Nick and Rella's former relationship into perspective when Buck decided to spend December and January exploring investment opportunities in Europe and Asia. Buck hadn't needed both pilots while he was abroad, so only Nick had to stay overseas, not only to fly Buck from one appointment to another, but also to act as his personal assistant.

Nick's sporadic phone calls and texts from foreign locations were brief and cryptic, which he explained by saying Buck's investment deals involved a need for secrecy. Whatever the reason, they were a poor substitute for the kind of communication we needed to get back on solid ground as a couple.

I set aside thoughts about my personal life and put in a call to Dr. Snyder's office. She came on the line almost immediately.

"Aimee? Sybil Snyder, here. Are you calling about this morning's meeting?"

"Yes. I have a question about the minutes."

"I understand." There was a slight pause. "Here's the thing. I'm backed up with patients — this stomach bug that's going around. Why don't you draft the minutes and I'll stop by later? What time are you off?"

"Around five, if nothing comes up."

"Then I'll see you at four thirty. Does that work for you?"

I told her it did. She went back to her patients and I tackled a draft of the minutes, weighing how to document the drama over Natasha Korba's transfusion. I decided on an abbreviated version of the truth and avoided mention of the altercation.

Dr. Gavin Lowe and Administrator Jared Quinn entered into a vigorous discussion regarding the blood transfusion of patient Natasha Korba. No conclusions were reached by committee and no actions were taken. The meeting was adjourned at 7:40 a.m. by Dr. Sybil Snyder, Ethics Committee Chair. I saved the draft, and for the rest of the morning tackled the day's busywork in the library.

My regular volunteer, Lola Rampley, was celebrating her eighty- second birthday, so I had arranged a little lunchtime party for her in the library, inviting the other volunteers on duty. Jared Quinn stopped in, always an enthusiastic supporter of our auxiliary members. I had to admire the man. Even after taking a punch to the chin four hours earlier, he wore a blood-free shirt and a bandage on his face, which he explained away as a slip while shaving.

We had chipped in to get Lola two tickets to Marty Stockwell's upcoming hometown concert. My invaluable snowy-haired helper was a die-hard fan of our resident country music icon. Quinn did the honors, presenting her with the tickets and Marty's latest CD. I saw Lola's eyes well up with tears for just a moment, but she caught herself before they spilled, and hurried to cut generous slices of her cake.

I noticed Quinn didn't try to eat cake. He was having enough trouble talking without wincing, and I suspected his jaw was hurting like a son-of- a-gun. I gestured toward my desk and mouthed, pain pills? He shook his head, pointed to his mouth and held up four fingers. He was already loaded up.

The cake disappeared down to the last crumb, and the volunteers left, including Lola, whose shift was over. She walked out of the library on the arm of Oslo Swanson, an elderly gentleman volunteer. I suspected he might be her date to the Stockwell concert. From the crestfallen face of one of the other male volunteers, I could see that someone else had hoped to be Lola's chosen escort. Love triangles can be problematic at any age, I thought.

Quinn and I were left alone in the library with the specter of the morning meeting hanging over us. I waited for him to either bring it up or be on his way.

"So, have you had time to write up this morning's minutes?" He got the words out, but the way he moved his jaw reminded me of a ventriloquist.

"I have a draft," I said. "Dr. Snyder is coming by later to have a look."

"Want to let me see what you have so far?" The slurring got worse each time he spoke.

His request posed a problem. There was a fine line between my loyalty to Quinn, who signed my paycheck, and my loyalty to the doctors who served on the medical staff committees. Quinn was an ex-officio member of the Ethics Committee, and I wasn't sure he had the same rights as full members. I knew for sure that it wasn't his place to dictate what went into the minutes. That was Dr. Snyder's job. I hesitated for an awkward moment.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Breach of Ethics"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Sharon St. George.
Excerpted by permission of Coffeetown Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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