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Книга Whiplash. Содержание - 23

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New Haven, Connecticut


Erin gazed around the huge dark-wood-paneled room as she chewed on a pork sparerib, the meat falling off the bone it was so tender. She waved the rib toward the large buffet. "I've never seen such a delicious display of food in one place in my life, and it's a college dining room. Amazing."

"Wait until you taste the garlic mashed potatoes, my father always calls it his forbidden treat when he eats here with me. It's been a while now."

Dr. Kender paused a moment, swallowed.

"I have the papers with me, sir. I think you're going to be very pleased. I know I am. It's all laid out, everything we want and need. Whenever you would like to look at the pages-"

He raised his glass of spring water and clicked it to hers. "Congratulations, Erin. That was well done of you, but far too dangerous."

"As I already told you, sir, I couldn't think of anything else to do. But please don't congratulate me for breaking the law, though in this case, I think it was worth it. On the bright side, I'm in the clear."

"Then we'll drink to your being in the clear." He tapped his glass to hers again. "I am happier than I can tell you that we have the goods on those unconscionable bloodsuckers. Yes, I would like nothing better than to study the papers in detail, but I invited you here for lunch. Let's eat first." He looked around the vast dining hall with its long tables and benches and the scattered group of students. He and Erin sat at one of the small tables favored by the faculty. "I spent many happy hours here when I was a student. It seems like an eternity ago. Life continues to happen, doesn't it?"

"Yes sir, it does."

He sighed, ate a final bite of green beans, then slowly placed his fork neatly across his plate. "I can see something's happened since we last spoke. Before we go over the papers, tell me if I'm right."

Erin said honestly, "I'm scared. For you. Please tell me you had nothing to do with killing Helmut Blauvelt."

She watched a flash of fear cross his face, and then she saw anger, deep anger at her, and she saw something else in his eyes, some reaction she couldn't grasp, though she was usually very good at reading people. She watched him pick up his fork again and push a cherry tomato around in his salad plate. Then he looked at her and said smoothly, "I see you're serious, so I will answer you seriously. No, I did not kill Helmut Blauvelt. After you told me who he was, I paid more attention to the newspapers and the television reports. That isn't to say that if I'd run into him in a dark alley and I'd had a gun, I wouldn't have been sorely tempted."

"Good, that's answered. Thank you, Dr. Kender. To be honest, I was afraid you'd made contact with him in some way, that perhaps you were on the list of people he was here to see. If you had killed him, it would have been in self-defense in any case." Except for bashing his face in and cutting off his fingers. She wasn't about to tell him that. Those details hadn't been released by the FBI, probably never would be, except to a grand jury.

"Thank you for believing me to be such a man of action."

"I think most anyone could be a man of action if pushed hard enough, if, for example, someone you love is placed in danger."

Dr. Kender stared at her. "Do you really think the man could have been here to see me? Me, as in archaeology professor at Yale University? An academic right down to my tweed jacket?"

"And a very persistent one, Dr. Kender. I'd like for you to tell me exactly how far you went with your complaints and questions to Schiffer Hartwin. Both here and in Germany."

"I pestered them nearly every day from the day after Dad's oncologist told us about the unexpected Culovort shortage, until I came to you last week. I helped support the post office, one registered letter after the other, maybe a few dozen if you count all the members of the board of directors in Hartwin, Germany. I don't remember if I told you I called. The first couple of times, the assistant put me through to the head of the whole shebang, a Dr. Adler Dieffendorf. The conversation was not cordial, especially after I told him cutting back on the production of Culovort was criminal, that he was killing my father. I asked him if it was his wife or one of his children who needed the drug, would he have allowed this to happen? I told him I was sure they could start production up quickly again if it was worth more money to them. I told him I would soon have proof of that, and I planned to go to the media once I had all the facts. I might even have intimated I'd key his Mercedes before he lost his calm and threatened me with their cadre of lawyers. Then he hung up on me."

Erin said, "Did you tell him where you were going to get the proof ?"

He looked down at his elegant hands. "Well, I might have mentioned the American headquarters in Stone Bridge."

Wonderful, just wonderful. "Did you imply that an employee here in the Stone Bridge headquarters had ratted them out?"

"I made up any number of things, any threat I could think of. Yes, I might have suggested that someone would roll on them. I remember he snorted when I mentioned a whistleblower. A pity, but he didn't seem to believe that.

"It got harder and harder to get through to anyone after that, though I did manage a few calls to some of the other directors. They all spoke English quite well, a good thing since I can't think all that fast in German."

He gave her a crooked smile that was really quite charming, but Erin didn't smile back. "So you've been a real pain in the butt, sir?"

"I certainly tried to be. There were also e-mails, and I've contributed to several blogs and public forums on the Internet. I'm just one voice among many out there."

"Okay, here's what I'm thinking. Suppose someone actually believed you about getting your hands on proof, believed that an employee at Stone Bridge was going to spill the beans. I'm thinking you might have scared someone into action, and they sent Helmut Blauvelt over here to see exactly what you had and who you were talking to at Schiffer Hartwin."

Dr. Kender sat forward, laid his hand on hers. "Listen, Erin, I'm truly nothing to Schiffer Hartwin, just an irritant, someone hardly worthy of their attention. When it comes down to it, all I ever did was yell and write letters. Surely they wouldn't see me as a threat."

"Sir, stay with me here. The game has changed. Blauvelt is dead. Not just dead, he was brutally murdered. Someone in Schiffer Hartwin has stepped way over the line. My guess is, because they're guilty of a real crime this time, that would mean jail time, not just a fine for pulling something unethical."

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