sure what he was looking for—an angry parent or brother, an abusive boyfriend, or even some female rival with a gun in her purse. Dr. Depredha wasn't some flighty, overprotected woman who imagined danger. Before she had come to this country she had been in a couple of wars, doing battlefield patch-up jobs while incoming mortar rounds thumped inside the perimeter near enough to bounce the instruments on the table. He'd seen a bit of that sort of thing himself. If she felt uneasy, he felt uneasy. He pushed open the double doors with both hands and stepped outside to see who might have pulled into the parking lot since he'd last looked. Some people had seen enough terror and misery in their lives so they seemed to develop a sense of when trouble was coming. They could feel it.

JANE MCKINNON SURVEYED the room from the doorway. Tonight the hospital cafeteria had been not only decorated but disguised, the windows covered with long drapes and the ceiling hung with clusters of hundreds of white Japanese lanterns of different sizes. The benefit seemed to be going smoothly. People were moving away from the hors d'oeuvre tables and circulating instead of knotting up near the food and drink. The conversation was loud and continuous. The band had arrived, set up, and done sound checks during the late afternoon, so that when the music started it would be tolerable. As Jane moved in among the guests, her tall, erect shape and the light blue evening dress that set off the dark skin and black hair she had inherited from her father made people turn to watch her for a moment. The intense blue eyes she'd inherited from her mother acknowledged them and moved on.


A man's voice, too close, coming from above her head. Jane McKinnon pivoted to face him, her eyes taking in hands-face-body in the first fraction of a second. It was only Gary Wanamaker, the hospital's director of development. The muscles in her arms and back relaxed, and she managed a smile. Her knees straightened from the preparatory flex that the long evening dress had hidden from view. For some reason she hadn't recognized the voice. She was jumpy tonight, abnormally alert.

His big, fleshy face came closer. 'I just wanted to tell you what an extraordinary job you've done in organizing this evening. The fund is past the goal. I've already had three people come up to me to let me know privately that they were making big donations. I was hoping for maybe one gift that size.'

'Thanks, Gary,' said Jane. 'But I didn't do this alone. It was a committee.'

'You're the chairperson.'

'I made some phone calls, but they did most of the work—Monica Kaminski, Ann Fuccione, Terri Hauptmann, and Sally Meyer.'

'No men?' he said. 'A sexist committee?'

'We had work to do, so naturally we chose women.'

Wanamaker laughed. 'Well, you accomplished a great thing. I'll let you know what the tally is as soon as I have it.' He looked across the crowded floor of the decorated room, past women in colorful evening dresses toward a short elderly man in a tuxedo standing beneath a long wall of fabric that Jane had helped hang today to transform the cafeteria into a ballroom. 'Oh. Know who that is?'

'Mr. Hunter?' she said. 'His family owned the old Shippers and Traders Bank.'

'Can't stump you on local history, can I?'

'My family's been here for a long time.'

He gaped at her for a second. 'Oh. That would be true, wouldn't it? Well, I'd better go talk to Mr. H. Thanks again.'

Jane felt her husband Carey's hand on her back, and turned her head slightly to look up at him. 'Oh there you are.'

'I came to congratulate you.'

'So you overheard.'

'Not in this noise. He told me a couple of minutes ago. You're a fund-raising genius. Of course, I only care about how you look in that dress. Or under it, really. What are you doing in about an hour?'


'Nobody heard me.' His voice and expression were exactly as they would be if he were doing a surgical consultation. 'Don't change the subject.'

'Two hours. After that your chances go up to about a hundred percent.' She moved away from him and walked the length of the decorated cafeteria. Ann Fuccione and Monica Kaminski were preparing to lead another tour of the surgical wing when Jane reached them. She said quietly, 'Has Gary talked to you?'

'A minute ago,' said Monica. 'We got the money for the surgical wing makeover. It's been a long time coming, but it arrived.'

Ann grinned. 'Did he tell you who gave all that loot?'

'Not yet,' said Jane. 'I'm sure we'll hear. Do Terri and Sally know we made it?'

'I don't know. They were over there, trying to get the buffet table squared away and the coffee service in.'

'Thanks.' Jane walked across the room, moving through the crowd with an ease that an observer would have thought supernatural, turning her body easily to avoid a crush, then making tiny adjustments to her posture or twisting to get to the next place, never appearing to pause. She stopped beside Terri Hauptmann. 'Has Gary come by to thank you yet?'

'Yes,' said Terri. 'Can you believe it?'

'Absolutely,' Jane said. 'You were great. The whole committee was great.'

'It was mostly you,' said Terri.

'We've all been saying it behind your back,' Sally said. 'You're the best boss I ever worked for. Except maybe Jim. I used to be his nurse anesthesiologist, and he would take me out to lunch every day. You don't do that.'

'No, but I will. I'll give you a call next week, and we can all go out to celebrate. It's been fun to work with both of you.'

Sally eyed the seven or eight people who were standing politely a few feet off. 'Oops. We'd better start our tour.'

Jane said, 'Sorry. I'll let you go.' As she moved toward a group standing along the wall near the counter that had been set up as a temporary bar, Jane felt another wave of uneasiness. She tried to tell herself that it was just the jumpiness from having Gary startle her, but that didn't feel true.

Something was wrong. She must have heard or seen something out of place, but had pushed it to the back of her mind while she concentrated on making the hospital benefit run smoothly. Ignoring the feeling had been a mistake, and she had to find the trouble now.

Jane scanned the big room. She looked at each of the entrances and exits to see which were open and which were closed, who was standing near enough to control one of them, which men and women she knew to be physicians or hospital employees and which were strangers. She recognized many of them, and there wasn't anyone she could spot as out of place, but she didn't stop looking. She hadn't felt this kind of uneasiness in a long time, but it was a familiar feeling. Her breathing was deep and steady, her vision was sharp, the colors almost unreal in their brightness as she moved across the ballroom. Even her skin felt more sensitive, as though she could pick up the electricity in the air.

She skirted the dessert table at a fast walk and picked up a napkin. As she swerved to the inner side of the next serving table, she swept the napkin beside a plate. When she moved on, wrapped inside the napkin was the paring knife from one of the fruit trays. She kept moving until she came upon Carey, seemingly by happy accident. He was talking with an elderly lady in an elegant black gown with long lace sleeves.

Carey saw Jane and ended his conversation. He stepped gracefully toward her path. She paused and leaned close. 'Something's not right.'

'What do you mean?'

'I don't know yet,' she said. 'I hope I'm imagining this, but be ready. I may have to leave in a hurry.' She kept walking.

She moved toward the doorway that led to the kitchen, and she knew what she had been feeling. Nothing was happening. It had been at least twenty minutes since anyone had come out of the kitchen. The waiter who had brought the first load of desserts to the buffet tables had disappeared through the swinging door and never reappeared. She had seen a second waiter push a cart into a corner near the dessert table, but he'd never come back. People had served themselves. The desserts that were laid out had nearly all been eaten now, but the trays

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