Excerpt of Turning Angel by Greg Iles
(Page 4 of 9)
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Down the table a woman sobs, and a shiver of empathy goes
through me, like liquid nitrogen in my blood. Even though my
daughter is only nine, I've nearly lost her twice, and I've had
my share of nightmares about what Jenny Townsend just endured.
"God in heaven." Holden Smith gets to his feet, looking
braced for physical combat. "I'd better get over to the
hospital. Is Jenny still over there?"
"I imagine so," Theresa murmurs. "I just can't believe it.
Anybody in the world you could have said, and I'd have believed
it before Kate."
"Goddamn it," snaps Bill Sims, a local geologist. "It's just
"I know," Theresa agrees, as if fairness has anything to do
with who is taken young and who survives to ninety-five. But
then I realize she has a point. The Townsends lost a child to
leukemia several years ago, before I moved back to town. I heard
that was what broke up their marriage.
Holden takes a cell phone from his coat pocket and dials a
number. He's probably calling his wife. The other board members
sit quietly, their thoughts on their own children, no doubt. How
many of them have silently thanked God for the good fortune of
not being Jenny Townsend tonight?
A cell phone chirps under the table. Drew Elliott lifts his
and says, "Dr. Elliott." He listens for a while, all eyes on
him. Then he tenses like a man absorbing news of a family
tragedy. "That's right," he says. "I'm the family doctor, but
this is a coroner's case now. I'll come down and speak to the
family. Their home? All right. Thanks."
Drew hangs up and looks at the ring of expectant faces, his
own white with shock. "It's not a mistake. Kate's dead. She was
dead before she reached the ER. Jenny Townsend is on her way
home." Drew glances at me. "Your father's driving her, Penn. Tom
was seeing a patient when they brought Kate in. Some family and
friends are going over there. The father's in England, of
course, but he's being notified."
Kate's father, a British citizen, has lived in England for
the past five years.
A woman sobs at the end of the table.
"I'm adjourning this meeting," Holden says, gathering up the
promotional literature from Apple Computer. "This can wait until
next month's meeting."
As he walks toward the door, Jan Chancellor, the school's
headmistress, calls after him, "Just a minute, Holden. This is a
terrible tragedy, but one thing can't wait until next month."
Holden doesn't bother to hide his annoyance as he turns back.
"What's that, Jan?"
"The Marko Bakic incident."
"Oh, hell," says Bill Sims. "What's that kid done now?"
Marko Bakic is a Croatian exchange student who has been
nothing but trouble since he arrived last September. How he made
it into the exchange program is beyond any of us. Marko's
records show that he scored off the charts on an IQ test, but
all his intelligence seems to be used only in support of his
anarchic aspirations. The charitable view is that this
unfortunate child of the Balkan wars has brought confusion and
disruption to St. Stephen's, sadly besmirching an exchange
program that's only won us glory in the past. The harsher view
is that Marko Bakic uses the mask of prankster to hide more
sinister activities like selling Ecstasy to the student body and
anabolic steroids to the football team. The board has already
sought my advice as a former prosecutor on how to deal with the
drug issue; I told them that unless we catch Marko red-handed or
someone volunteers firsthand information about illegal
activities, there's nothing we can do. Bill Sims suggested a
random drug-testing program, but this idea was tabled when the
board realized that positive tests would probably become public,
sabotaging our public relations effort and delighting the board
of Immaculate Heart, the Catholic school across town. The local
law enforcement organs have set their sights on Marko, as well,
but they, too, have come up empty-handed. If Marko Bakic is
dealing drugs, no one is talking about it. Not on the record,
Copyright © 2005 by Greg Iles.