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H A R RY

When pregnant Sarah Hampton dies suddenly at an alternative cancer treatment facility, an enraged community demands to know whether her physicianhusband assisted her death. Suffering from traumatic amnesia, Jake Hampton would like to know too. He strongly opposes assisted suicide, and yet his wife was suffering such agony—is it possible he helped her die? After barely avoiding a murder trial, and hoping to regain his memory and unravel the questions he’s not sure he wants answered, Jake joins a medical practice in his former hometown. Once there, he not only continues to encounter public suspicion, but receives threatening messages from an unidentified stalker. Are Sarah’s death and the stalker’s appearance mere coincidence? Or does this person have the answers Jake is looking for? In this fast-paced medical thriller, practicing surgeon and accomplished novelist Harry Kraus uses complex characters and fascinating medical details to keep readers riveted. Don’t miss his companion novels, Fated Genes and Stainless Steal Hearts.

FICTION

www.crossway.org

KR AUS

H A R RY K R AUS , MD, is a practicing surgeon who has served with Africa Inland Mission. He is the author of two nonfiction books, Breathing Grace and The Cure, and eleven novels. Kraus earned his MD degree from the Medical College of Virginia, completed his surgical internship and residency at the University of Kentucky, and has practiced in Virginia and Kenya. Visit his Web site at www.harrykraus.com.

LETHAL MERCY

Was it medicine? Mercy? Or murder? For the sake of his conscience, Jake has to find out— before a paranoid stalker destroys him completely.

K R AU S ,

M D

Lethal M E R C Y A

NOVEL


This is a work of imagination. None of the characters found within these pages reflects the character or intentions of any real person. Any similarity is coincidental.

Lethal Mercy Copyright © 1997 by Harry Lee Kraus, Jr. Published by Crossway Books a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers 1300 Crescent Street Wheaton, Illinois 60187 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, except as provided by USA copyright law. Cover design: Amy Bristow First printing, new cover, 2009 Printed in the United States of America Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4335-0696-3 PDF ISBN: 978-1-4335-1104-2 Mobipocket ISBN: 978-1-4335-1105-9 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Kraus, Harry Lee, 1960–    Lethal mercy / Harry Lee Kraus, Jr.      p.  cm.    ISBN 0-89107-921-1    1. Title. PS3561.R2875F3    1996 813'.54—dc20 CH 15

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PROLOGUE

Ocean Sands Wellness Facility

JAKE HAMPTON’S HAND TREMBLED as he stroked his wife’s cheek for the last time. Moments before, Sarah, whose freckled complexion appeared almost plastic in the dim light, had choked on her final breath, the terminal indignant event in an agonizing fight against breast cancer. Jake tearfully looked away. The serenity of the resort atmosphere and the cool breeze coming off the nearby Atlantic provided a sharp contrast to the turmoil boiling within him. How could it have come to this? He instinctively pulled his hand away and gently touched Sarah’s swollen abdomen. There he monitored the violent kicks of his yet to be born daughter, who ceased all movement a full two minutes after her mother’s last heartbeat. Jake choked back a sob of emotion. His dreams seemed as dead as the body beside him. Tears clouded his vision as anger, confusion, and guilt prodded him to action. Flee this place of death! He looked around the wellfurnished, comfortable suite. This is what she wanted, wasn’t it? She wanted it to end! Jake stopped suddenly and looked up, toward the open sliding door leading to the balcony overlooking the ocean beyond. Had he seen someone? He froze momentarily and watched the curtains fluttering with the midnight breeze. It’s just the wind, Jake, he chided himself. He quickly returned to the task at hand, picking up a twenty cc syringe

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HARRY KR AUS, MD and a small vacuum-sealed tube of blood, pushing them deep into his pants pocket. Jake looked back at his wife again but couldn’t prevent his thoughts from screaming once more, Away from this place! Away from this place where fate had crushed his dreams—away from the empty shell that had once housed the vibrant life of his only love. A chill warned him to stop again. Was someone watching him? He shook his head and stumbled to the open door. He would leave the way he came—quietly, via the beach—and hopefully go unnoticed by the militant hospital security. “Fools!” he muttered under his breath. “They probably won’t find her for hours.” He slipped into the night air and paused on the narrow balcony, closing the door behind him. There he stopped, intentionally staring at the blackness of the ocean beyond, away from the lighted patient rooms, to restore his night vision. Coming in had been easy enough. That it had been too easy was an option he’d failed to consider. He’d only seen one guard, who was busy talking to a patient undergoing rejuvenation treatment in an oxygenated pool. Now he reviewed his plan. First, climb off the balcony to the rocks below, then along the hedge that stretched to within a hundred feet of the sand, then over the bushes, then a short sprint to the— Another chill! u u u One hundred yards away, the facility’s director walked out of a plush office opening onto an expansive balcony where his guest waited. He spoke in hushed tones. He was aging but healthy; prosperous beyond his dreams, but working more than he’d like. His guest, his nephew by marriage, sat sipping an herbal tea and looking at the ocean beyond, lost in his own sea of memories. Tonight, like so many nights before, the man would review the events that had forced his brilliant career into oblivion. He’d come here to relax. Why did his uncle insist on stirring the bitterness that choked him? The director grew impatient. He wanted an answer. Slowly he

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LETHAL MERCY stepped between the railing and his nephew, the cardiac surgeon, Dr. Michael Simons. “Well, Michael, what do you think?” The surgeon shifted in his chair but did not speak, merely staring at the moon’s reflection on the waves below. The director, whom everyone knew as Dr. D, spoke again. “Could you see retiring to this view every evening?” Simons shifted again. “If it’s the money, I can easily see our profits from your affiliation lifting us to well over—” “It’s not the money. It’s just that—” He paused and stood nervously. “I’m a surgeon, for heaven’s sake!” He shook his head. “I don’t belong here!” He looked at the white-haired man who’d married his mother’s sister. Not wanting to hurt him, he softened his voice. “I trained too long to give it up . . . for this.” The older man stiffened. He knew it wouldn’t be easy to convince Michael to come aboard. He had been skeptical himself at the beginning. That was before the money started to flow, of course. Since then he had found it increasingly easier to turn his back on conventional medical teaching and pursue these lucrative “alternative therapies.” “It was hard for me to accept in the beginning, too, Michael. But eventually I found that the patients who really believed were better, you know? That’s what counts, isn’t it?” “And I suppose you would forego your salary for the patient’s benefit?” The jab stung. “I have to live. I’ve made more money here than I ever could in my family medical practice. When reimbursements went down, I couldn’t resist—” “I can! And I will!” Simons sat down again. “Look, I respect your surgical skills, Michael. But I also know how difficult it has been for you since leaving Taft University.” He decided to play hard. “The reputation you earned there hasn’t been easy for you to shake. It’s time to face life and deal with the hand you’ve been dealt.” The cardiac surgeon cringed. Once he had stood on the top of the academic world. He chaired a major pediatric surgery program at a respected university. He edited prestigious journals. He pioneered

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HARRY KR AUS, MD work in pediatric heart surgery. But all that was before his career was sidelined by a zealous resident, Matt Stone, who uncovered Simons’s unethical research practices. Although Simons had not permanently lost his rights to practice, the reputation had stuck, and since that time he’d explored and been denied seven academic positions. Most recently, he’d sought work at a private institution attempting to set up a new pediatric heart program, only to find there the very surgeon who had derailed his academic career a few years before! He heaved a sigh and tried to focus his energy. Every time he reviewed the situation, his anger toward Dr. Matt Stone escalated. Stone, a general surgeon, had trained under Simons at Taft University. It was Stone who called his research into question and uprooted his brilliant career. And now Stone seemed to be the only roadblock to his joining one of the most prestigious pediatric surgery practices in the southeast, Valley Surgeons for Children. If it hadn’t been for Stone . . . Dr. D brought him back to the present. “At least think about it. Once I get a replacement back home, I’ll be here full-time myself. With your credentials, we can keep the FDA at bay indefinitely. The patients are here, the money is here . . .” He faced the younger man and softened. “Look, Michael, these therapies may not be as exciting as cardiac surgery, but at least I’m making a living.” He heaved a sigh of his own. “Just think about it.” The two stood quietly looking at the ocean. The beach seemed quiet. They thought little of the lonely midnight jogger running along the surf. Resort life always produces weird schedules. u u u Jake stood on the small balcony outside his wife’s room and shivered. He shook his head, trying to suppress the dread he sensed. What was it about this place? Certainly he had been around death enough not to react like this. Yes, but those times were the deaths of others, patients he cared about but didn’t love, at least not like this. Not like his Sarah— Another wave of fear interrupted his thoughts. Why was he afraid? What did he fear? He paused a moment lon-

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LETHAL MERCY ger, staring at the black ocean, unable to pinpoint the source of his discomfort. The urgency remained. I’ve got to get out of here! He studied the terrain below and selected a large, flat rock that would lie only a foot or two below his feet if he hung from the ledge. Slowly he eased himself over the rail. He could feel the syringe in his pocket as he twisted his leg into the air. Suddenly he was flying, falling. Was I pushed? Jake’s mind whirled. The world turned as his feet were hopelessly trapped in a vine growing on the balcony’s railing. I don’t remember that plant. . . Confusion, anger, and guilt instantly gave way to searing pain, blackness, and coma as he struck his head on the rocks below. Surgeon Jake Hampton wouldn’t remember anything until he awoke the next day at Beach Memorial Hospital. The events of that night wouldn’t be immediately clear, clouded by his own anguish and by the closed head injury from his fall. The police would fill him in on the details.

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H A R RY

When pregnant Sarah Hampton dies suddenly at an alternative cancer treatment facility, an enraged community demands to know whether her physicianhusband assisted her death. Suffering from traumatic amnesia, Jake Hampton would like to know too. He strongly opposes assisted suicide, and yet his wife was suffering such agony—is it possible he helped her die? After barely avoiding a murder trial, and hoping to regain his memory and unravel the questions he’s not sure he wants answered, Jake joins a medical practice in his former hometown. Once there, he not only continues to encounter public suspicion, but receives threatening messages from an unidentified stalker. Are Sarah’s death and the stalker’s appearance mere coincidence? Or does this person have the answers Jake is looking for? In this fast-paced medical thriller, practicing surgeon and accomplished novelist Harry Kraus uses complex characters and fascinating medical details to keep readers riveted. Don’t miss his companion novels, Fated Genes and Stainless Steal Hearts.

FICTION

www.crossway.org

KR AUS

H A R RY K R AUS , MD, is a practicing surgeon who has served with Africa Inland Mission. He is the author of two nonfiction books, Breathing Grace and The Cure, and eleven novels. Kraus earned his MD degree from the Medical College of Virginia, completed his surgical internship and residency at the University of Kentucky, and has practiced in Virginia and Kenya. Visit his Web site at www.harrykraus.com.

LETHAL MERCY

Was it medicine? Mercy? Or murder? For the sake of his conscience, Jake has to find out— before a paranoid stalker destroys him completely.

K R AU S ,

M D

Lethal M E R C Y A

NOVEL


Lethal Mercy