06/25/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Quiet Teacher Part Two

Welcome back to the Next Big Thing!

This is the second installment in my serialization of my new novel, Quiet Teacher. It's the second book in a series about the lives, loves, and action adventures of Dr. Xenon Pearl, a South Florida neurosurgeon who saves lives in the operating room during the day and goes out as a vigilante at night. There's something for everybody in these books: Chinese history, medicine, martial arts, romance, ghosts, and of course page-turning action.

If you're just starting, you might wish to go back and read the previous post, which contains the book's opener. Just a reminder, this is a pretty fresh gambit on a lot of levels. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle serialized Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickens serialized his books too, but in a new, mixed media variation, these posts appear online as an introduction to a printed book.

This post is a bit shorter than the last one, because the second chapter of the book has a natural break. I won't ruin the story by telling you what happens, but I will say that big action is only a few pages away....


On the way back to Fort Lauderdale, the air inside the SUV grew chilly. I wasn't dressed for it, but Wanda was logy from the donut she stopped for just outside the prison and said the car heater would put her out. My offer to drive got me only a hard stare.

"You want to tell me about it?" she asked.

"It was fine. The men were interested. I think they got something out of it."

"If it was so fine, how came you came out looking like you were going to puke?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."


"There was one guy got under my skin a little."

"Tell me his name; I'll look him up for you."

"Doesn't matter," I said. "He didn't really do anything."

"Oh, he did something. Maximum security always means a rough crowd. That's where violent offenders end up."

"I mean he didn't do anything to me."

"Then why are we talking about him?"

I shrugged and we drove in silence for a few minutes. I reached casually below the seat, found the knife I had left there, slipped it into my pocket, and shivered.

"Aha," Wanda crowed. "So you did have one with you."

"Keep your eyes on the road, will you?"

"I didn't have to look. I could smell the steel."

"You're ridiculous," I said. "Have I mentioned that?"

She smiled and played piano on the steering wheel. "Been exercising your sword lately?"

I looked out the window. There was a hard line of clouds to the west.


"Not much."

"A little is too much. We had a deal."

"I've been using a machete, okay? Stainless steel, twenty-three inches, made in El Salvador. Good and cheap.

"You've been cutting trees?"

"Trees, bushes, saplings. There's a park in Lighthouse Point, near the Intracoastal. The hurricane damaged it last year. I've been doing my own private cleanup. Park workers saw me and told me I should be paid."

"You know cutting is a sickness with you, right?"

"I thought you'd love this news," I said. "No people, just wood. Nothing illegal. I'm performing a service."

"How often?"

"Now and then."

"How often, Zee?"

"When I feel like it."

"And how often is that?"

"Give it up."

Friday was winding down and traffic was heavy. By the time we reached I-95 in West Palm Beach a light rain had begun to fall. It wasn't enough to require wipers, but I could tell the road was slick. Since I get around by motorcycle, I pay particular attention to a road's coefficient of friction. I know that after a long period of dry weather in South Florida this light rain was bringing oil and gas up out of the asphalt and turning the interstate into a roller rink.

Wanda seemed not to notice. "How long has it been since you've worked?" she asked as we passed southbound through Delray Beach.

"I go to the office."

"I mean operate."

"Five months."

"Does someone like you get rusty?"

"I hope not."

"When are you going back to it?"

"As soon as they'll have me."

"Broward Samaritan isn't the only hospital around," she said, referring to the fact I'd been suspended for operating on my own girlfriend -- a clear violation of policy -- and for other more violent transgressions against hospital regulations and rules.

"The hospital district runs as a unit," I said. "The administrators talk to one another."

"Don't they need you? I thought there was a shortage of brain surgeons."

"There is a shortage and they do need me, but I pissed them off. My office is still open for
existing patients, but they aren't sending me any new ones. They're strangling me slowly."
Her look said that she thought I had gotten exactly what I deserved. "Word has it the DEA is looking at you for writing too many prescriptions for pain killers."

I was startled and tried not to show it. "How do you know about that?"

"I'm a good cop. Besides, you're family now."

"Some guy from the DEA came to my office thinking he knew more medicine than I did. He didn't like it when I told him he was wrong."

"What was he wrong about?"

"People have a strange prejudice about pain. Some think its punishment from God and they deserve it, others think it's good for them. Easy when it's someone else's pain, but when it's your own, people change their tune."

"And junkies?"

I shrugged. "Plenty of people abuse pain meds just like they abuse booze or street drugs. That doesn't change the sick person's need for medicine."

"A new cause for Zee to champion."

I laced my fingers together in response to the jibe. "A cop sees one side of this, a doctor sees another. These people are desperate. Wouldn't you be in order to agree to have a drug pump implanted in your spine or to have nerves cut so you can't feel anything at all?"

Wanda gave me a sidelong glance. "I got the DEA guy off your back."

"You did?"

"For now. Doesn't hurt that you're not operating anymore either. He seemed quite pleased at that."

* * *

***More to Come***

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