The Missing Parts
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This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, organizations, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Copyright © 2020 by Judith Lucci
The illegal procurement, sale, and transplantation of body organs is a horrific crime that all of us should be familiar with and guard against. This book is about that crime.
Many, many thanks for reading my fifth Michaela McPherson crime thriller, The Case of the Missing Body Parts. I love writing the stories for Mic, Dottie, and Angel. I hope you like Missing Parts! Enjoy! I hope when you finish, you’ll write me a review. In the meantime, I’m always available by email: email@example.com.
The Business of Stealing Body Organs
Kidneys remain in high demand and are the most frequently and safest organs transplanted. I can remember writing an article for publication almost twenty years ago entitled “Cash for Kidneys – Financial Incentives for Organ Donation,” with a colleague. (Sanford & Townsend Rocchiccioli, 2003). This article explored the ethical problems of selling kidneys to the highest bidder. The article was prompted when someone placed a kidney for sale on EBay for $250,000 and authorities questioned the legality of brokering organs. The problem has only escalated in more recent years. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that wealthy patients in developed nations are paying tens of thousands of dollars for a kidney obtained from India-, China- and Pakistan-based gangs, who harvest them from desperate people for as little as a few hundred dollars.
The U.N.-based health organization in Eastern Europe says it is becoming fertile ground for black-market organs; recently the Salvation Army said it rescued a woman who had been brought to the United Kingdom to have her organs harvested. Organs black-marketed include kidneys, livers, pancreas’, hearts and lungs.
Illegal organ trafficking is alive and well in the United States. Even though the United States reports stringent organ transplant regulations, illegal organ trafficking exists. There is some concern that health care professionals are sometimes responsible or perhaps turn their head the other way when a magical organ appears. A New Jersey corruption probe in 2009 found that Levy Izhak Rosenbaum of Brooklyn "brokered the sale of black-market kidneys, buying organs from vulnerable people from Israel for $10,000 and selling them to desperate patients in the U.S. for as much as $160,000," Organ trafficking, another form of human trafficking is a heinous crime, that attracts the attention of local and global law enforcement and networks each day.
“I’m leaving,” Dottie announced as she whipped past the kitchen door, a swirl of pink and lavender fabric. “I’m going out now. I have an emergency. Get my car!” Dottie’s voice was loud. She was excited.
Cookie, housekeeper and friend of the Countess Dorothy Borghase, placed the platter of bacon on the counter. “Countess, I’ve just gotten your breakfast ready. Come in here and grab a bite before you leave.” Cookie stood at the kitchen door in her apron as she watched Dottie race down the hall toward the front door.
“No can do,” Dottie insisted as she shook her head side to side. Her voice was tense. “I’ve got a case. See if you can find Michaela and tell her to call me.” Her voice was bossy.
Cookie quickly left the kitchen and walked to the large marble foyer in the Countess’ elegant Monument Avenue mansion which is located in Richmond, Virginia. “Countess, please come and at least have some coffee. I’ll try to track down Michaela. What’s the huge rush?” Cookie smiled. “Nothing is worth missing your morning coffee.”
Dottie rolled her ice-blue eyes at Cookie. “It’s… it’s an emergency. Reva called and said…”
“Reva?” Cookie interrupted. “Do you mean your friend, Reva Rose?” Cookie stared at Dottie, who seemed perplexed and upset about something.
“Yes, yes.” The Countess rolled her eyes; her voice was impatient. “You know Reva from the country club. Reva, my friend, whose son died six months ago.”
Cookie nodded. “Of course, I do. She’s lovely, and she’s one of your dearest friends.” She paused as she admired Dottie’s choice of clothing. “So, what could be so wrong that she’s got you in such a state that you’re running out of here before noon on a Saturday morning without breakfast?”
Dottie peeked through the leaded glass of her front door. “It looks like it’s gonna rain,” she wailed as she tucked a strand of white hair behind her ear. She grabbed a black umbrella from the brass umbrella stand and reached for the enormous brass doorknob. Is my Cadillac out front? I’ve gotta leave now.”
Cookie circled around her boss and stood in front of the door. She shook her head. “Now Countess, we’ve had this conversation before. Let me call Henry, and he can drive you wherever you need to go.” She pointed down the hall. “Just go back in the kitchen and have a cup of coffee while he gets the car out. Nothing’s gonna happen in the next fifteen minutes.” Cookie held Dottie’s eyes with her own. “Please,” she begged.
Dottie’s face colored with anger. She lifted her chin. “I’ve told you, Cookie, I can drive myself. I don’t care what any of you say, I’m perfectly safe in my Cadillac. There’s plenty of metal all around me! I won’t get hurt.” Her voice was high-pitched and arrogant. She glared at Cookie, her eyes filled with anger.
Cookie held her ground as she tried to reason with Dottie. “Yes, we know you can drive, but you’re not our first worry, Dottie. Mic told you her concern about the other drivers on the road. You know how narrow the streets are in the Fan District and we can’t have you taking up the entire road.”
Dottie drew herself up to her full height of five foot eight. In her younger days, she had been five ten and a half, but after eighty-three years, she’d been forced to admit she’d lost a couple of inches due to her persistent osteoporosis. She was still an impressive woman. She stood ramrod straight, with every hair in place. As always, she was immaculately dressed and perfectly groomed. She scowled at Cookie. “I’m not gonna hurt anyone else, and I’m not gonna have anyone telling me whether I can or cannot drive. I have a legitimate driving license. I’m of perfectly sane mind, and my vision is as good as yours is. Plus, I can probably hear better than you and Henry put together.” Dottie’s frown covered her entire face.
The ringing of Dottie’s house phone interrupted the two women. “Oh, it’s probably Michaela. Let me get the phone, and I’ll bring it to you in the kitchen, Countess.” Cookie gushed as she rushed to grab the house phone while Dottie gritted her teeth.
Cookie looked back. “I’ll bring the phone to the kitchen, Dottie. Now go have a seat.”
It was Dottie’s best friend, Michaela McPherson, her “sort of” adopted daughter. Michaela was a retired Richmond homicide detective and the owner of Biddy McPhersons Pub, an Irish bar and restaurant located in Richmond’s nightclub district, Shockoe Bottom.
Dottie rolled her eyes as she marched down the wide center hall and took a left into the kitchen. A minute later, Cookie returned to the kitchen and handed her the phone.
“Michaela! Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you for almost an hour.” Dottie’s voice was whiny. For some reason, she always expected Michaela to be at her beck and call every day, all day.
Mic pressed the button on her key fob to open the back of her SUV. “Yeah, I can see that,” Mic replied in a wry voice. “You’ve called and sent me a bunch of texts. I’m busy, but if you must know where I am, I’ll tell you.” Mic rolled her eyes. Sometimes Dottie irritated the heck out of her, and this was one of those times.
“Will you hurry up,” Dottie blurted impatiently. “I have something important to tell you, and I may need your help.”
Mic could imagine the fierceness and anger in the Countess’ face. Dottie was spoiled, arrogant, rich, and impatient. Nevertheless, she was also kind, selfless, and generous to those she loved. They’d been friends for years, and Michaela knew Dottie regarded her as the daughter she’d never had.
Mic continued. “Well, if you really must know, Dottie, I’m at Home Depot, and I’m picking out flowers for my deck. It’s April, and I need to get my yard in order.” Mic pulled her cart closer to her vehicle to unload the plants.
Dottie groaned. “I’ll send Henry over. Henry can fix your yard. We’ve got work to do. I think we have a new case.”
Mic groaned inwardly and shook her head. Sunlight danced through her short, dark curls. “I don’t want Henry to fix my yard. I want to do my own yard, Dottie. I like to play in the dirt, and you should learn how.” Mic’s voice was firm. She could practically hear Dottie shudder in the background. Countesses, especially the Countess Dottie Borghase, didn’t get dirty, much less play in the dirt. She couldn’t imagine her arrogant, aristocratic Italian countess friend digging in the dirt for anything, not even gold coins.
“And, just how long will you be digging in the dirt, Michaela?” Dottie’s voice was snotty, her tone acerbic.
“I don’t know for sure, but I could take a detour, come over and pick you up for lunch, and you can tell me what you’re all in a hot twit about on a beautiful Saturday morning,” Mic offered with a smile in her voice.
“How soon? How soon can you get here?” Dottie’s voice was sharp and insistent. “That might be a good idea. We can strategize over lunch.”
“Maybe as quickly as fifteen or twenty minutes. Is that soon enough?” Mic’s voice was tinged with sarcasm. She was sometimes irritated with Dottie’s demands but had learned how to deal with her over the years.
Dottie sighed loudly into the phone. “Well, I guess it will just have to be. Pick me up in the driveway,” she directed in her bossy voice as she clicked off the phone.
Michaela instantly knew she wouldn’t do what Dottie asked. Whenever Dottie tried to boss her around, she did the exact opposite of what Dottie wanted. She shook her head and looked down at Angel, her retired German Shepherd police dog, who stood by her side. Angel shook his head. He could hear Dottie’s voice. “By the way, what are you so anxious about? What’s got you in such a high case of twit?”
Dottie glanced over at Cookie who pretended not to listen. She whispered loudly, “You remember my friend, Reva Rose, from the country club whose son, Robert, died a few months ago?”
“Yeah, sure, I do. Her son was a banker, a good one. I liked him. He was a good guy.”
“Yeah, well, Reva and her daughter-in-law planned to spread his ashes today, and they’ve discovered the ashes the crematory gave them aren’t Robert’s ashes.”
Michaela paused, a flat of begonias in her hand. “What do you mean? How would they know they weren’t his ashes?” Mic’s green eyes were bright with interest.
Dottie’s voice was clipped and impatient. “Will you listen, Michaela? Also, please don’t interrupt me. The ashes don’t belong to her son. They’re not Robert’s ashes.”
Michaela hesitated and was quiet for a moment. “How do you know? How would they know they aren’t his ashes?”
Dorothy sputtered. “I don’t know how they know, but they know! I guess they feel it or something. Reva says there is metal in them and Robert didn’t have any metal fragments in his body.”
Michaela hesitated for a moment. She had to admit to herself that she was curious. “There’s always a chance the metal could be from fillings in his teeth or something.”
Dottie sighed deeply. “Michaela, Robert had false teeth. There were no fillings. Now, will you stop interrupting me and get over here?”
“All right, Dottie, I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
“Pick me up in the circle at the front door,” Dottie ordered. “I’ll be ready. I’m gonna go sit on the beach and wait.”
Mic shook her head. There was no way she would follow Dottie’s order.
End of sample . . .
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