Hannah Kline Mystery Series Book 5
Conceiving a second child is supposed to be easy, but when Mother Nature refuses to cooperate, obstetrician Hannah Kline finds herself in the uncomfortable role of an infertility patient. Her in-vitro fertilization procedure is on schedule until her doctor disappears, and Hannah and her fiancé, Detective Daniel Ross, are plunged into the middle of a murder investigation.
Dr. Louise Waldman was the well respected senior partner in a leading infertility practice, but Hannah and Daniel soon learn that Louise had an undercover life and dangerous secrets. While Daniel pursues the forensics and a domestic terrorism connection, Hannah investigates a shady business deal and an old romance turned sour. Both are determined to bring Louise’s killer to justice, but it isn’t easy to simultaneously solve a murder, plan a wedding, attempt a pregnancy and grieve for a friend and colleague.
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“I winced as the anesthesiologist shoved an 18 gauge needle into my wrist vein and deftly attached the IV fluid without spilling a drop of blood onto the clean, white sheets.
“Are you okay, Dr. Kline?” the young doctor asked.
I gave him a reassuring smile. It wasn’t his fault that I hated being a patient. The gurney was cold, the pillow was hard, and I felt far too vulnerable wearing that absurd hospital gown. I should have been the one in scrubs, wielding the knife. Not to mention the irony of being a successful obstetrician and not being able to get pregnant on my own.
“I’m fine,” I said. “Are we ready to go in?”
“As soon as Dr. Waldman arrives,” he said.
Louise Waldman was my friend and colleague, and the senior partner in Westside Fertility Associates, the best reproductive technology practice in Los Angeles. I was about to undergo an egg retrieval, the next step in my in-vitro fertilization procedure.
My fiancé, LAPD Detective Daniel Ross had driven me to the surgery center that morning and had gone into another room to do his part, collecting a sperm specimen to fertilize all those eggs. I was the first case, scheduled for 7:30 AM.
“Hi, Love.” Daniel came into the pre-op room, escorted by one of the OR nurses. “Mission accomplished. Are you ready?”
“I’m good to go. Just waiting for Louise to get here.”
Daniel looked at his watch. “It’s 7:45. Is she usually late?”
“She’s usually half an hour early,” the nurse said. “Let me check with the front desk and see if she called. Maybe she got stuck in traffic.”
It was fifteen minutes before the nurse returned and I was beginning to worry.
“Did you reach her?” I asked.
The nurse shook her head. “We tried her home number and her cell and there’s no answer.
“Have you tried calling her husband, Hank? He’d probably know what time she left the house.”
“We tried his office but it isn’t open yet. We left a voicemail asking him to phone as soon as he gets in.”
Daniel checked the traffic on his cell phone. “It’s all green,” he said, “and no report of any traffic accident between here and the Westside.”
“I’m really sorry, Dr. Kline. I’ll ask Dr. Tanaka to do your egg retrieval. I’m sure she’d be happy to do it.”
Dr. Nori Tanaka was the newest and youngest doctor in the practice. She’d been an endocrine fellow at Memorial Hospital and I liked her a lot. I had no issue with her doing my egg retrieval but I had an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was totally out of character for Louise not to show up for my procedure.
“Daniel, if she isn’t here or hasn’t called in fifteen minutes, do you think we should have the police check her house? Am I being paranoid?”
Daniel shook his head. “I think you are being appropriately worried. If she doesn’t show up, I’ll call the station and have someone go to her home. She could be sick, or maybe she fell and broke a leg and can’t get to a phone.”
Daniel didn’t mention the worst possibility but he didn’t have to. We both knew what it was.
Nori Tanaka came in to talk to me, and at eight-fifteen they wheeled me into the operating room. Daniel squeezed my hand as I left. “Don’t worry Sweetheart, I’ve got this.”
Daniel was concerned and so was the staff at Westside Fertility.
“Louise is the most responsible physician I know,” Nori Tanaka said. “Nothing like this has ever happened before. If she was delayed, she would have notified us. It doesn’t make sense for her not to show up for Hannah.”
Daniel agreed. Louise and Hannah weren’t close personal friends but they had a longstanding professional relationship. He called the West Los Angeles station and arranged for someone check Louise’s house. The circumstance of a doctor being late for a surgery and unreachable might not ordinarily have set off alarm bells, but Daniel Ross was a detective whose instincts were taken seriously by his colleagues. A patrol car was sent immediately.
At 9:00 AM Hank Waldman’s office returned their call. Hank was on a flight back to LA from a New York business trip and couldn’t be reached until his plane landed at 12:34 PM. The office had ordered a limousine to pick him up and take him home. He wasn’t expected back at work until Monday morning. Daniel thanked Hank’s secretary, declined to leave a message, and said he would reach him later that day at home.
It hadn’t taken long for the police to do a house check.
“She’s not there, Detective Ross,” the patrolman said. “There’s a BMW and a Mercedes in the garage. The alarm is set and there’s no sign of a break-in. We called her security company and got into the house through a window. No sign of any disturbance. The bed is made, the kitchen is clean. There’s no indication that she’d had breakfast or made coffee, or even slept at home, and there’s no obvious trace of violence.”
“Thanks, guys” Daniel said. “I appreciate the fast response.” So where was she and why hadn’t she shown up for Hannah?
Hannah’s procedure was over, and she’d been taken back to the post operative suite.
Dr. Tanaka came out of the operating room and found Daniel.
“Everything went smoothly,” she said. “You can go in as soon as she wakes up. Any news about Louise?”
Daniel filled her in.
“Detective Ross, do you think I should report Dr. Waldman as missing?”
“What do you think?” he asked.
“I think that something’s very wrong. No doctor in this practice has ever failed to show up for a scheduled procedure.”
“Then you should file a report with missing persons. I know the detective who heads that department. I can speak to her and offer my help. I took the day off so I’m available to start an investigation. I can do that as soon as I’ve seen Hannah.”
I woke up from anesthesia with a fuzzy brain and really bad cramps. I thought about saying something, or moving my hand, but somehow the signal didn’t make it from my brain to my body. I did manage to open my eyes. Nori Tanaka was smiling at me.
“All done,” she said. “Everything went smoothly. Do you need anything for pain?”
“Pretty crampy,” I managed to say.
She told the nurse to give me a dose of IV morphine.
“You’ll be able to go home in about an hour,” Nori said.
I could feel the cramps starting to subside. “Louise?” I asked.
“We haven’t heard from her.”
“Can I see Daniel?”
“I’ll have one of the nurses bring him in.”
I must have dozed off but Daniel was sitting beside my bed when I opened my eyes. He took my hand.
“They’re making our embryos as we speak,” he said.
“That’s great. How many?”
“You laid a dozen eggs,“
I laughed, and then my happiness subsided. “What did you find out about Louise? Did they check her house?” I was dreading his answer.
“She isn’t there Hannah. There’s no trace of violence, but she must have come home at some point because her car is there.”
“What did her husband say?”
“He’s on a plane from New York and can’t be reached. As soon as he lands and gets home, I’m planning to go and see him.”
“So where is she?” I demanded.
“I don’t know, Hannah. She’s missing.”
Excerpt from In Vitro, by Paula Bernstein
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