"Hi, Lisa. I'm picking up some things. Pretend I'm not here." Anna ducked into the sanctuary of her office before her administrative assistant could reply.
She scanned the mail and rummaged through the papers in her "In" box. Nothing that couldn't wait another day. And if things didn't get straightened out pretty soon, none of it would matter anyway. Anna unzipped the backpack she used as a briefcase and pulled out a manila folder bulging with the documents to duplicate. She was still shuffling the papers, deciding how many copies she'd need, when Lisa appeared in the doorway.
"Dr. McIntyre, I know you said to pretend you aren't here, but there are two detectives out there, and they want to speak with you."
Anna decided she was getting entirely too experienced at meeting with members of the law enforcement community."Have you looked at their credentials?"
Lisa nodded. "Yes. They're with the Dallas Police."
Anna squared her shoulders. "Very well. I'll talk with them."
Lisa paused with her hand on the doorknob. "I want you to know that I think this whole mess with narcotics numbers and forged prescriptions is ridiculous. Nobody in the department thinks you did anything wrong."
"Thank you," Anna said. "I guess you'd better send them in."
The moment the two men—one white, one African American—came through the door, Anna decided she would have pegged them as policemen without any advance warning. Not just because of the wardrobe—off- the-rack sport coats, slightly rumpled dress shirts, shoes obviously chosen for comfort rather than style. No, it was a subtle presence that said, "I'm in charge and I've got my eye on you."
Anna held out her hand. "May I see your credentials?" She left the men standing while she sat and carefully examined their badges and identification cards. She jotted down their names and badge numbers, adding them to the sheet she'd started for the DEA agents.
Lamar Green was a burly African American with a shaved head and what looked to be a permanent scowl on his face. His whole demeanor said, "Don't mess with me."
Burt Dowling was a rail-thin white man with a pronounced five o'clock shadow and thinning dark brown hair. Whereas Green seemed to jangle with nervous energy, Dowling appeared to observe the world with a touch of disappointment through hooded eyelids.
She handed the credentials back and motioned the men to the two chairs across from her desk. "How may I help you?"
Green pulled a notebook from his pocket but didn't open it. Instead, he fixed her with a glacial stare. "Doctor, we need to ask you some questions about all the prescriptions you've been writing for large amounts of narcotics."
Anna fought to control her temper. "I believe you mean that some prescriptions bearing my DEA number and forged with my signature have turned up. I'm unaware of any evidence that even vaguely suggests I'm anything but a victim in this situation."
Dowling patted the air in a calming gesture. "Doctor, we understand you're upset. Now, it may be that you're as innocent as a lamb." Then, like Texas weather in the spring, his manner turned dark. "On the other hand, maybe you're ticked offthat we've found out about this little racket of yours. Now, if you'll come clean about your involvement, I'm sure we can put in a good word for you with the district attorney."
Anna took a deep breath. "There's no need to put in a good word. I'm the victim here. Why don't you get out of here and trace back some of these forged 'scripts to their source? And, while you're at it, maybe you and the DEA can communicate so that I don't have to answer the same questions again and again."
Green stood, apparently trying to use his six-foot-plus height to intimidate Anna. "Doctor, we were hoping you'd be cooperative. We just want you to answer a few questions."
"And then you'll leave me alone?"
"Not quite. We also need to search your home."
Anna felt her blood boiling. "Search my house? Why?"
"Easy, Lamar." Dowling motioned his partner back into his chair before turning to Anna. "It's all part of the process. Do we need to get a warrant?"
Anna's inclination was to dig in her heels, but then again, how difficult would it be for these two men to find a judge who'd sign a search warrant? Why should she spend another day, even two, waiting for them to come back with one? She was innocent, and she knew they wouldn't find anything. "I'll meet you at my home in fifteen minutes."
The detectives were thorough with their search, but—give them credit—they were considerate. Anna had heard horror stories of searches that left homes in shambles, but by the time the men finished, her little apartment would look pretty much as she'd left it that morning.
"What are you looking for, anyway?" she asked Dowling.
"We'll know it when we see it. If you weren't looking over our shoulders, we could finish a lot quicker."
Anna's nerves tingled. When her Irish grandmother told her about second-sight, the gift of knowing in advance that something bad was going to happen, Anna pooh-poohed it. But that's exactly what she felt now. The longer the search continued, the more she regretted her decision not to call an attorney before letting these men into her apartment.
"Better late than never," she muttered. Anna went to her desk and picked up the phone. She found the medical school directory in the bottom drawer under a mass of papers. She rifled the pages, then glanced at her watch: five o'clock. She hoped the person she needed wasn't a clock-watcher.
Anna punched in the number and counted the rings. She was about to hang up, when she heard, "Laura Ernst." Something in the voice told her that the medical center's legal counsel hadn't had a wonderful day.
Well, Anna's hadn't been too good, either, so there wasn't much sympathy in her voice. "Ms. Ernst, this is Dr. Anna McIntyre. Remember, we talked on the phone two days ago." "Hang on." There was a sound of rustling papers. "Okay, got it. The DEA says your name and number are on a bunch of narcotics prescriptions. As I recall, I told you to sit tight for now. These things usually work out if you're not guilty."
Anna bristled at the last comment, but this was no time to argue. "Well, now two Dallas Police detectives are searching my home."
"Did they have a warrant?"
"No, I was so mad I just let them—"
"Stop them. Right now. Put down the phone, tell them you've spoken with your attorney. Tell them to get out and not come back until they have a search warrant that spells out exactly what they're looking for and why."
Anna hesitated for a few seconds, then did as Ernst had told her. The detectives tried to change her mind, but there seemed to be no conviction in their arguments. She slammed the door behind them and picked up the phone again.
"They're gone," Anna said.
"Good." Ernst paused. "You know, you may need your own attorney for this. Do you know anyone you could call?"
Ernst's sigh spoke volumes. "All right. Give me your number.I'll get back to you with a name. I have to make a phone call first." Nick pulled up in front of Anna's duplex and for the tenth time wondered if it was the least bit over the top for him to see her again this soon. Face it, he decided, the SS Over The Top had sailed when he took her to Maria and Benny's for dinner. He had known the kind of reception they'd give her, and it had been difficult for him to conceal his pleasure at her reaction.
Nick climbed out of the car and reached back for the flowers he'd bought at the supermarket on the spur of the moment.
He debated a moment and decided to leave them on the seat. Flowers would definitely be over the top.
With his palms sweating like those of a schoolboy coming to pick up his date for the prom, he started up the walk. When he was halfway to the door, it opened and two men stepped out. It didn't take him long to link the men with the car parked at the curb just ahead of his own Chevrolet. In his experience, only one group drove around in a basic black Ford Crown Victoria with plain hubcaps, a spotlight, and two antennas: cops. What were they doing at Anna's? Had something happened? Had she been hurt?
"Excuse me," he said to the first of the men to reach him—a husky African American who scowled as though someone had just kicked his dog. "What's going on here?"
"Sir, I can't discuss it." The man brushed past Nick, followed in close order by a thin Caucasian man displaying a similar disposition.
Nick hurried up to the door and rang the doorbell. When there was no answer, he rang it again. He was about to ring for a third time when the door opened.
Anna stood there with her hands on her hips. "I thought I told you—"
"Anna, are you all right?"
She was dressed in the same black skirt and green blouse she'd worn in his office earlier that day. When she recognized Nick, the fire flashing in her green eyes died down and she gestured him in, double locking the door behind him.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to bite your head off," she said. "I thought those two detectives had come back to harass me some more."
"What were detectives doing here?"
"Sit down. Let me put on some coffee. It's a long story."
Twenty minutes and a cup of coffee later, after Anna had explained about the visit from the police, Nick's blood was boiling. "Of course, they didn't find anything, did they?"
Anna's expression told him he'd struck a nerve. Her tone of voice confirmed it. "No, they didn't find anything! Of course, they were still looking when I threw them out, so they could have missed it."
"Sorry. I didn't mean to—"
"I know," Anna said. "I'm just upset. Anyway, I can assure you that there's no money hidden in the coffee can or stashed in the sugar canister. No envelope taped to the underside of the toilet tank cover. Of course, that doesn't mean they didn't look in those places, and everywhere else in the house. At least, until I made them leave."
Nick looked around. "Doesn't look like they messed up your house."
She ran a hand through her hair. "No, I have to admit they weren't malicious. They were clinical about it. Sort of, 'we have to do this, so stand back and don't bother us.' "
"Are they through now?" Nick asked.
"Laura Ernst said they couldn't come back without a search warrant, but I doubt that they're through. They mentioned that one of the things they were looking for was the money from my 'prescription racket' as they called it. Now I guess they'll check to see if I have any secret accounts in the Cayman Islands or Switzerland." She grimaced. "Just wish I did."
Nick drained the last drops of coffee from his cup. "They've got to realize that you're a victim in this whole mess."
"I told them the same thing." Anna picked up the cups and disappeared into the kitchen, returning in a moment with refills for them both. "But I still can't figure out why."
"Why the police are investigating you?"
"No," Anna said. "Why—and how—someone would steal my identity."