Convicted, стр. 55

When Claire woke in the morning, her world was still dark. As her eyelids fluttered and her lashes grazed the satin, she realized the darkness was her sleeping mask. Claire removed it from her eyes and reached toward Tony’s empty place in bed. It was already after 9:00 AM, and he was gone, probably off somewhere exploring the island or with Francis. Thankful for the extra sleep the mask brought, Claire thought pensively about the night before, and warm memories filled her thoughts. When she thought about falling asleep, she realized that she hadn’t been wearing the sleep mask. Shaking her head ever so slightly, a smile came to her lips. That’s another point for Tony! Perhaps soon she could even that score.

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“I understand, sir,” Agent Baldwin said into his phone.

“Yes, Deputy Director, I’ll be back in San Francisco tomorrow evening.”

“Thank you, goodbye.”

Harry hit the DISCONNECT button and collapsed into the hotel chair. The conversation wasn’t as bad as he’d imagined. Although he’d lost track of both Claire and Rawlings, through the use of digital face recognition, they’d been identified at different times at airports in Papau, New Guinea. Claire was identified at the Baimuru Airport, whereas Rawlings was identified at the Daru Airport.

It’s believed they are staying somewhere in the South Pacific—recognizably, this was a broad generalization. The area in question contained thousands of islands of varying sizes. Many of the island nations in this region rely heavily on tourism and have been known to be very welcoming and accommodating to wealthy residents. As a rule—questions were rarely asked.

Since they were no longer in Europe, Agent Baldwin was ordered to return to the field office in San Francisco. Although he didn’t mention it on the phone call, Harry vowed to share his research with SAC Williams or anyone who’d listen. He needed FBI resources to request blood samples from Simon Johnson and Jordon Nichols. Harry wasn’t even sure whether the samples would be available. If nothing else, he wanted to access the toxicology reports that were available.

If he couldn’t locate Claire and Rawlings, then his research would be his number one priority. Writing a note, Harry pondered, does the presence of actaea pachypodac create any unusual markers visible during toxicology screenings? Since most agencies don’t routinely test for it, maybe there was something else that could identify its presence. The fact it affected the heart—creating heart attack-like symptoms was too broad.

Harry had a few hours before he needed to get to the airport. While he waited, he reviewed medical histories. First, he looked at the known victims:

Nathaniel Rawls—died in 1989, at the age sixty-four. Interestingly, he died with only two months remaining on his reduced sentence. He had a history of high blood pressure, depression, vitamin deficiency, recreational alcohol usage, and nicotine dependence. He was being medicated for the high blood pressure and depression. According to the records, when he died, he still smoked a half of a pack a day. It was fair to assume his death was heart related until actaea pachypodac was positively identified in his blood.

Agent Sherman Nichols—died in 1997, at the age of seventy-three. He also had a history of high blood pressure. In 1995 he had a heart catherization resulting in the placement of two coronary stents. He was medicated for high blood pressure and high cholesterol—past history nicotine dependence. Again, it would be fair to assume cause of death to include heart disease—again actaea pachypodac was positively identified in his blood.

Anthony Rawlings / Anton Rawls—survived poisoning, January 2012, at the age of forty-six. Wife, Claire Nichols Rawlings, pled no contest to charge of attempted murder. Governor Bosley extended a pardon which absolved Claire (Rawlings) Nichols of guilt. The state of Iowa hasn’t revisited the case due to Mr. Rawlings’ insistence. Also at the time of his poisoning, Mr. Rawlings had a clear medical history. His only medication was vitamins, recreational use of alcohol, and no history of smoking—family history would be the only connection to heart-related problems leading to his possible death. Upon arrival at the hospital actaea pachypodac was positively identified in his blood.

Harry also reviewed his list of other possible victims:

Samuel and Amanda Rawls—COD gunshot wounds. The ballistics reports contradicted the released hypothesis of murder/suicide. The gunshot wounds were quite obviously not self-inflicted on either victim. They died in 1989 at the age of forty-five and forty-four. As much as Harry wanted to pin this on Rawlings—since they had his statement and the police reports verified his presence at the home the night of the murder—he couldn’t forget his discussion with Patrick Chester. It was clear that, during that discussion, Chester was being paid by someone to keep quiet about a woman—a woman in a blue Honda.

Jordon and Shirley Nichols—COD head trauma related to automobile crash. They died in 2004 at the age of fifty and forty-nine. Indiana State Police reports indicated the Nichols’ car was structurally sound. The crash was ruled accidental.

Simon Johnson—COD combustion, related to the crash and fire of a Cessna aircraft. He died in 2011 at the age of twenty-eight. NTSB reports indicated plane was structurally sound. To Harry—that confirmed that poison was indeed the cause of death, but he needed proof.

Although he couldn’t be sure about Tony’s parents, Harry’s gut told him the other deaths could all be traced to Rawlings. As he was about to leave for the airport, Harry scribbled another note, Check New Jersey, 1989, car registrations for blue Hondas. He stuffed the note into his laptop bag and headed to the airport.

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The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves .

—Victor Hugo

Claire loved lunch time. Despite Tony’s request for her to better understand the whole employer/employee relationship, she refused to give up eating with Madeline and Francis. Breakfast was a free for all—Madeline and Francis had things they wanted to accomplish early in the day. The intense sun and heat made early morning and late evening the best times of the day to do labor. Tony had always been a person to wake early. The fact he no longer had work to attend, or thousands of jobs under his reign of responsibility, didn’t change his internal clock. Claire, on the other hand, enjoyed her sleep. While everyone else on the island could be up and going at the break of dawn, 8:00 AM or 9:00 AM was a much more acceptable waking hour for her. It was true that years ago, on Tony’s estate, she constantly woke about 8:00 AM. In her opinion, the difference was the seventeen extra pounds resting on her bladder. These days, she woke every two to three hours. Sleeping until 9:00 AM gave her the same total sum of sleep. It made perfect sense, and besides, no one complained.

The midday meal was a great time for everyone to connect. Claire knew it was a whole new world for Tony. In private, while he voiced his approval of Madeline and Francis, he still maintained his concerns regarding Claire’s ability to preserve the appropriate employer status. Claire didn’t care. She explained how instrumental Madeline and Francis had been to her initial adjustment, and they all knew—it was her decision. As long as she wanted it—they would all continue to eat their midday meal together.