Split Second Chapters 40 & 41

Chapter 40

We remain with King and Joan who apparently have to fly to wherever Mildred lives and then they rent a car. All very good things to know. Baldacci knows I have no patience with people who try developing a setting, characters or any of that ridiculous shit all those “cerebral” authors concern themselves. Just give me the dull details of how they get where they’re going and how much cash they have in their wallets.

They knock on the door but Mildred doesn’t answer. Joan says she doesn’t understand and that she called ahead. King says they should check around back because she’s a drinker and may be there getting wasted. What kind of logic is that? Is that what the UPS driver thinks whenever I’m not home to accept a package? ‘They’re probably getting wasted out back. I’ll just leave the package by the door.’

Naturally, Mildred is out back and Baldacci gives us a paragraph of description. In short, she’s older, wrinkled and she smokes and drinks. She says she doesn’t like to drink alone and takes their order. Joan wants a screwdriver while King will have scotch and soda. Mildred goes into the house and they talk about what they already know regarding Bruno and his relationship with Mister Martin.

They talk about Bruno and Martin, rehashing things we’ve already been over like her not making the call, while Mildred flirts with King. I don’t know if Baldacci is trying to gross us out or make us laugh by pointing at a seventy five year old woman who wants to have sex but it’s pissing me off. They finally start asking why Mildred didn’t like Bruno and she says he only does what is good for him. She points out that Bruno was twenty miles away from Martin and didn’t come to see him until someone called posing as her, telling him Martin was dead.

Joan finally mentions some irregularities that lead to convictions being overturned and it was pretty nasty. And unlike PCK, when Baldacci says nasty he means disgusting or foul or maybe ugly but definitely not sexy. So there’s one point for the long winded prick. Joan wander off to have a smoke while King stays to get information.

Mildred finally talks and it turns out, yes, Bruno had done some shady, but unspecified, things while under Martin. Martin took all the blame because he was the boss while Bruno went on to run for president. Bruno never called them except to tell them he was running and Mildred felt he was rubbing it in.

King asks if there was any proof of that and Mildred said he covered his tracks. Which kind of undercuts the nobility of Martin taking the blame. Then King starts mentioning the possible poisoning. Mildred says that’s impossible because she was there everyday and ate all the same food. Then she just happens to mention that he had a secret stash of Scotch which he had a bit of each day until his death.

Gee, do you think that’s how they poisoned him? Mildred says she never touched it, yet another hint, but that he looked forward to it even though they had to sneakily inject it into his feeding tube. King then realizes that, hey, maybe there’s something to investigate and asks to see his secret stash.

Chapter 41

Surprise, the cache of scotch had been “doctored” with methanol. I would have said tainted or contaminated. Doctored just seems like an odd choice considering the circumstances. The police take Mildred in for more questioning while the FBI chats with Joan and King. They think they knew who did it though.

Conveniently, Mildred had hired some help around the house to help while Martin was dying. Mildred hadn’t mentioned it before because she didn’t think it was important. The FBI agent goes over his theory with King.

Reynolds nodded. “Our theory is the woman came back to the house the day before Martin died and doctored the bottle, to make sure his next drink would be his last. The bottle of Scotch we found was loaded with methanol. Now, methanol is slow to metabolize into toxic levels. You’re looking at twelve to twenty–four hours. If he’d been young and healthy and been found immediately, maybe Martin could have made it to a hospital and survived. But he wasn’t young or healthy; he was terminal, in fact. And the Martins also didn’t sleep together. After Mildred gave her husband the last pop through his G–tube, the pain probably would have hit him very soon. And he only weighed about ninety pounds. Normally you’d need one hundred to two hundred milliliters of methanol to kill an adult. I doubt they needed anywhere near that to kill Martin.”

Whoa, there Baldacci. You mean that a man dying of terminal cancer wasn’t in the best of health? No fucking way. Here I thought cancer was not only considered a sign of health but also a performance enhancer. That’s why they were watching Lance Armstrong so carefully. If his cancer had recurred, it would have invalidated his wins on the spot. Thank god I read because I learn so much. I’d better stop sleeping under the x-ray machine.

Would you believe they talk all about exactly how the methanol poisoned Bruno. I don’t mind details like that, it’s kind of nice to learn a little, but it’s delivered so dryly. We do learn that it wasn’t pleasant and Martin died painfully. King asks about a background check on the lady who was the help. They say she gave her name as Elizabeth Borden.

Reynolds figures that Mildred wasn’t in on it as she didn’t dispose of the tainted scotch. The FBI is impressed that King found this new lead. Joan says she has a list of other things they can help with. King sees Mildred come out from the interrogation room looking like she’ll be joining her husband soon. Then King asks Joan where to next and she says to the funeral home, figuring they may hear some gossip about the departed from some of his friends.

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