The doctors call it Munchausen by proxy, the terrifying disease that causes parents to induce illness in their own children. Now, in his most frightening case, Dr. Alex Delaware may have to prove that a child's own mother or father is making her sick.Read more...
- Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
- Date: Mar 2014
From the book
It was a place of fear and myth, home of miracles and the worst kind of failure.
I'd spent a quarter of my life there, learning to deal with the rhythm, the madness, the starched whiteness of it all.
Five years' absence had turned me into a stranger, and as I entered the lobby, anxiety tickled my belly.
Glass doors, black granite floors, high, concave travertine walls advertising the names of dead benefactors.
Glossy depot for an unguided tour of uncertainty.
Spring, outside, but in here time had a different meaning.
A group of surgical interns—God, they were taking them young—slouched by on paper-soled scrub slippers, humbled by double shifts. My own shoes were leather-bottomed and they clacked on the granite.
Ice-slick floors. I'd just started my internship when they'd been installed. I remembered the protests. Petitions against the illogic of polished stone in a place where children ran and walked and limped and wheeled. But some philanthropist had liked the look. Back in the days when philanthropists had been easy to come by.
Not much granite visible this morning; a crush of humanity filled the lobby, most of it dark-skinned and cheaply dressed, queued up at the glassed-in booths, waiting for the favors of stone-faced clerks. The clerks avoided eye contact and worshipped paper. The lines didn't seem to be moving.
Babies wailed and suckled; women sagged; men swallowed curses and stared at the floor. Strangers bumped against one another and sought refuge in the placebo of banter. Some of the children—those who still looked like children—twisted and bounced and struggled against weary adult arms, breaking away for precious seconds of freedom before being snagged and reeled back in. Others—pale, thin, sunken, bald, painted in unnatural colors—stood there silently, heartbreakingly compliant. Sharp words in foreign tongues crackled above the drone of the paging operators. An occasional smile or bit of cheer brightened the inertial gloom, only to go out like a spark from a wet flint.
As I got closer I smelled it.
Rubbing alcohol, antibiotic bitters, the sticky-ripe liqueur of elixir and affliction.
Eau de Hospital. Some things never changed. But I had; my hands were cold.
I eased my way through the crowd. Just as I got to the elevators, a heavyset man in a navy-blue rent-a-cop uniform stepped out of nowhere and blocked my way. Blond-gray crewcut and a shave so close his skin looked wet-sanded. Black-frame glasses over a triangular face.
"Can I help you, sir?"
"I'm Dr. Delaware. I have an appointment with Dr. Eves."
"I need to see some ID, sir."
Surprised, I fished a five-year-old clip-on badge out of my pocket. He took it and studied it as if it were a clue to something. Looked up at me, then back at the ten-year-old black-and-white photo. There was a walkie-talkie in his hand. Holstered pistol on his belt.
I said, "Looks like things have tightened up a bit since I was last here."
"This is expired," he said. "You still on staff, sir?"
He frowned and pocketed the badge.
I said, "Is there some kind of problem?"
"New badges required, sir. If you go right past the chapel, over to Security, they can shoot your picture and fix you up." He touched the badge on his lapel. Color photograph, ten-digit ID number.
"How long will that take?" I said.
"Depends, sir." He looked past me, as if suddenly bored.
"How many are ahead of you. Whether your paperwork's current."
I said, "Listen, my appointment with Dr. Eves is in...