Authors: Susan R. Sloan
Guilt by Association
An Isolated Incident
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are
used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2002 by Susan R. Sloan
All rights reserved
Warner Books, Inc.
Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017
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First eBook Edition: November 2009
My biggest fan
And for Bear,
My best friend
As always, I thank my agent, Esther Newberg, who keeps the checks coming, and my editor, Jamie Raab, who always seems to make
magic out of mud.
I am particularly grateful to Kasey Todd Ingram, Sue Klein, Nancy Mack, Sally Sondheim, Pamela Teige, Alan Weiss, and Lee
and Alicia Wells for their support and assistance.
And last but not least, I am indebted beyond calculation to Betta Ferrendelli, the little search engine that could, and to
Susan Roth and The Author’s Edge, without whom this book would just plain not have made it.
“We should do only those righteous actions
which we cannot stop ourselves from doing.”
e worked quickly but with extreme caution, knowing that one false move could prove fatal. Wearing several layers of latex
gloves and a surgical mask, he powdered the correct measure of aspirin tablets with a mortar and pestle, added the appropriate
amount of methyl alcohol, and then proceeded to whisk vigorously until the fine granules began to dissolve in the liquid.
He had chosen his product carefully. It had taken him two weeks to find a reasonably anonymous, out-of-the-way filling station
with a methyl pump, and to collect enough cheap, unbuffered aspirin, being sure to buy no more than one bottle at a time from
any supermarket or drugstore or quick-stop shop within a twenty-mile radius of Seattle. He then drove well out of the city
to acquire the quantity of fertilizer he needed. Lastly, he made the rounds of auto supply stores, traveling as far north
as Bellingham and as far south as Olympia to purchase the batteries, one battery per shop.
And all along the way, he was careful to pay for everything with cash, leaving no credit trail. After that, it was simply
game—waiting for those blocks of time, like now, when he could steal into the garage and work undisturbed.
As soon as the aspirin was sufficiently whisked, he began to filter out whatever undissolved powder remained in the alcohol,
repeating the process again and again until the liquid was clear and he could pour it into a Pyrex dish and set it aside.
Next, he turned to the battery, draining the sulfuric acid from it into a glass beaker. Granted, this was an extra step, when
he could simply have bought the required amount of acid, but he decided it was far less conspicuous.
He took an old electric frying pan, retrieved from a thrift store for just this purpose, and filled it with cooking oil, which
he heated to exactly one hundred and fifty degrees. As soon as the alcohol in the Pyrex dish had evaporated, he added the
acetylsalicylic acid crystals that had formed in the dish to the sulfuric acid, and placed the beaker in the warm cooking
oil, letting it sit there until the crystals dissolved. Then he removed the beaker from the oil and very slowly began to add
the sodium nitrate, being careful not to let the foam overflow.
There was a real element of danger to what he was doing if he didn’t do it properly, but the procedure couldn’t have been
simpler. All he had to do was follow the recipe that was available to anyone with access to the Internet, skipping over the
disclaimers that popped up every second sentence about how illegal it was to do what the author of the recipe was describing
be done in step-by-step detail.
After cooling the mixture slightly, he dumped it into a measure of crushed ice and water and watched as brilliant yellow crystals
began to develop. He processed the crystals according to the instructions, then pulverized them into face powder consistency.
The final step was to mix the powder with the specified amounts of wax and Vaseline, and pack the plastique into a glass container.
He checked his watch. The entire process had taken a little
over three hours, just as it should have, just as it had taken to prepare each of the other containers that now lined the
shelves of a locked cabinet in the far corner of the garage.
He set about cleaning up after himself, placing the frying pan, the Pyrex dish, the beaker, the whisk, and the remaining materials
in a plastic garbage bag for discreet disposal into the depths of Puget Sound. Then he washed down the garage as though it
were a surgical suite.
This was the last batch he had to make. Now it was time to put it all together, to remove the plastique from the glass receptacles,
fill the duffel bags, attach the detonator he had fashioned from a light bulb, and affix the clever timing device he had found
on the front seat of his car two days ago.
There was an informal rule observed by the people with whom he had come in contact: admit to nothing and involve no one else
in what you’re doing. Still, the timer had been provided to him—perhaps, he decided, as a form of silent affirmation.
He loaded the finished product into his vehicle, covered it with a blanket, and went into the house, to sit down in front
of the television set as though he had been in his chair all evening. Then, as he habitually did on a night before work, he
watched the news and went to bed.
But he didn’t sleep. He waited until almost midnight, when the breathing beside him was deep and regular, and then he got
up, slipped silently into his clothes, and left the house.
The night was cold and damp, quite typical of February. He climbed into his car, shifted the gear into neutral, and let the
vehicle roll down the driveway and out into the street before starting up the engine. During the past weeks, he had made several
dry runs, testing different routes to and from his destination, timing himself, and checking traffic until he was satisfied.
Now he turned confidently onto the route he had chosen, circling around the back of Queen Anne to Denny Way, forking right
onto Boren Avenue, and driving up First Hill. Reaching Spring
Street, he made a little jog across Minor, then turned down Madison, and parked.
At this time of night, the street was deserted, the shops and restaurants closed. The area, appropriately nicknamed “Pill
Hill” some years ago, was dominated by Seattle’s major hospitals, and the swing shift had given way to the graveyard shift
over an hour ago. He had planned for that, of course.
A splendid Victorian mansion, set off by carefully manicured lawns, occupied the northeast corner of Madison and Boren. He
was relieved to see that the building was dark and silent. The security guards who protected the grounds during business hours
were gone, and no night watchman was on duty. It meant there were no late evening activities in progress, a glitch that would
have significantly altered his schedule.
Neither of the two gates in the high iron fence that surrounded the house was locked at this hour, a foolhardy practice he
had determined in advance. Not that a locked entry would have stopped him, of course, it would just have slowed him down,
and perhaps made him a bit more vulnerable.
He climbed out of his car, looking in all directions to make sure there was no one in sight. Then he hefted his plastique-filled
duffel bags and carried them through the Madison Street gate. Just inside the fence, a high hedge of laurel bordered the property,
making him all but invisible from the street. Nonetheless, he wasted no time. He went quickly along the path at the side of
the building to the basement access he had spotted during one of his exploratory visits, pulled open the trapdoor, descended
the concrete steps, and set about positioning the duffel bags in exactly the right place for maximum effectiveness. Then he
checked one more time that the detonator was properly connected.
The very last thing he did before leaving the scene was to check the timer, just to reassure himself that it was set for two
o’clock, and that the little green indicator beside the
designation was lit. Then he got back into his car and drove away.
ana McAuliffe looked far more like a high school cheerleader than an accomplished litigator approaching forty. She had thick,
honey-colored hair, neither curly nor straight, that was gradually feathered in front and then fell softly around her shoulders.
Her warm brown eyes required just a hint of mascara for accent, her cheeks were naturally rosy, and her unpowdered nose was
highlighted by a generous splash of freckles. Were it not for the tailored gray suit and leather pumps she wore, one might
almost have expected her to break into a high leg kick and a hearty “rah-team-rah.”
Instead, she leaned back in her chair and smiled calmly at the nervous gynecologist seated across the desk from her.