Chapter 44

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"May I come in? I don't like being seen visiting you like this," Dr. Sondheim says from the sidewalk outside Sneak Peek. He keeps his voice down as if that will further disguise his presence. He wears a long jacket and a fedora to cover his face.

"I don't mind at all, actually," Zandra says, still struggling to shake off the croak of sleep in her tone. She forces a hack into her sleeve to shake her senses alive. Sondheim takes a step forward, but Zandra raises a hand. "Stay on the sidewalk."

I still hold the cards, doctor.

Sondheim pulls an oversized envelope out from his jacket. "I wouldn't want these papers to blow away in the breeze. You'll want to see this."

Zandra lights a cigarette and motions for the kidney doctor to come inside. She takes a seat behind her oak desk and leans back while Sondheim explains what he found.

"I don't appreciate you blackmailing me like this. I just want you to know that," Sondheim says as he pulls a couple papers out of the envelope.

Zandra blows a curl of cigarette smoke his way and says, "You're a pervert who tricks patients into procedures they don't need. Who gives a shit what you think?"

Sondheim furrows his brow and clears his throat. His hands shake as he reads through the papers and says, "This William person you wanted me to look up, he received a kidney transplant five years ago. He's lucky to be alive."

"How so?" Zandra says.

"He has type O blood, meaning the odds of him finding a match were slim," Sondheim says. He wrinkles his nose. "By the way, do you really have to smoke right now?"

Zandra ignores the request. She says, "Isn't O blood universal?"

"It is, but only when donating. Type O people can give blood or tissue to anyone, but they can only receive from other O types. Unfortunately, with his profile, less than 10 percent of the adult population is a match. Combined with the donor gap when it comes to kidneys, misinformation about transplants and people's general reluctance to donate, I'd say he's very fortunate to not be attached to a dialysis machine right now," Sondheim says.

"Who was the donor?" Zandra says.

"Someone named, uh, let me see here," Sondheim says. He pulls out another sheet of paper. "It looks like it was a cadaver donor."

"The donor was dead? What did he do, rob a grave?" Zandra says.

"Organ donations from the deceased are common to kidney transplants. There are, of course, living donors, too, who go on to lead normal lives with only one kidney," Sondheim says. "Are you a donor?"

The boiler in Zandra's brain ignites. Her mind draws connections to a million possibilities. Her years as a "psychic" push her toward one.

Did Dvorak make his own luck?

"Skip the public service announcement. What's the name of the deceased?" Zandra says.

"Younger guy in his early 20s by the name of James Walsh. He died in a motorcycle wreck. His family still lives in Stevens Point according to the records," Sondheim says. He chortles. "We don't call them 'motor donors' for nothing."

Laugh it up, chuckles. He's dead and stripped for parts.

"Anything else?" Zandra says as she drags a phone book out from a drawer in her desk. It lists only three families with the last name of Walsh in the Stevens Point area.

"That's all I know," Sondheim says.

Zandra lights the black candle on her desk and shoves an ashtray next to it. "Burn it."


"The paperwork. Burn it. I don't want you coming back to bite me in the ass with anything," Zandra says.

"Does this mean we're even?" Sondheim says, palming the paperwork into a ball and holding it over the flame. He gently sets it onto the ashtray. "You're not going to pull this again, are you?"

"We're even for now. I might change my mind if you don't leave," Zandra says.

Speaking of which, where's Chris? He's supposed to be here.

Sondheim turns and leaves without another word. Zandra grabs the phone book and hurries up the stairs to Herman in the condo. She finds him sitting on the couch staring off into space while eating a bowl of cereal balanced on his stomach. He's still wearing that two-sizes-too-small silk bathrobe. Zandra gets his attention by throwing the phone book at his head.

"Hey, what gives?" he says.

"Come on. We've got a visit to pay," she says.

"What? I don't owe anyone money."

"I mean we're paying someone a visit. Just get up and let's go," Zandra says.

"In this?" Herman says pointing to the bathrobe.

"Nothing I could give you to wear could cover up your crazy, Herman," Zandra says. "Besides, there's big news."

Herman brings the bowl of cereal to the kitchen. "Oh, yeah?"

"I think I've got something good on Dvorak."

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