Saturday, January 22, 2011

Constraints

This month I'm participating in Health Month and one of my rules was to restrict myself to 21 cups of coffee per week.  That probably doesn't sound terribly ambitious, but I love coffee and without limits I drink it like water.  Now, I'm not really convinced that there's substantial health benefit to drinking less coffee (in fact I've seen a few studies talk about the benefits of it... antioxidants or something), but I'm at least willing to consider the possibility that all that caffeine isn't the best for me so one cup in the morning, afternoon, and evening seemed like a reasonable limitation to try out.

It's been a difficult goal to follow and one effect is that I've been drinking more green tea (probably still craving that little bit of caffeine in green tea but I also like having a warm drink around when I work) which is according to some studies really good)  But the more interesting effect is the effect what coffee I do drink.  If I'm going to only drink three cups of coffee during the day they better be darn good cups.  I no longer have ANY tolerance for mediocre coffee.  In fact I've dumped out perfectly good cups of coffee because they weren't GREAT.  The coffee that I do drink I've been hand roasting Sweet Maria's green coffee and making it in a french press.  I savor every last drop and truly enjoy coffee.

The right kinds of scarcity lead to excellence (what coffee I drink) and gratitude (loving good coffee).

Server Migrations

Migrating server hosts is a pretty daunting task.  While the mechanics of it are pretty straightforward the details are killer.  You can spend days planning, migrating the static pieces, doing dry runs, etc. only to find out that you forgot about some critical piece.  I'm not a sysadmin so it's quite likely that the process can be made much easier with tools like puppet but even still it must take a lot of work to get the puppet config setup reliably.  The server I just moved had around a dozen virtual hosts running some combinations of Apache, PHP, Rails, and MySQL.  In addition, the server runs a few mailman lists so I had to get postfix and mailman running as well.  Throw in some ancillary stuff like memcached, subversion, setting up logrotation, enabling additional logs in syslog, setting up backup scripts (for snapshotting EBS volumes), etc. and it's increasingly difficult to finally pull the trigger.  So tonight, I lift a beer to you sysadmins.  Thanks for the magic.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Scale testing Jimmy John's

Jimmy John's is a sandwich chain with a shop in town.  They pride themselves on fast delivery which you are often reminded of with ads like "Subs so fast you'll freak" on local buses.  The fact is though that they deserve it, and honestly I don't know how they do it.  I order from them for lunch at work a few times per month and they ALWAYS deliver within 15 minutes.  That's a pretty remarkable feat given that they're a 10 minute drive away if they don't hit lights, etc.  So basically, they receive the order, process it and get it out the door in 5 minutes reliably.  Plus it's a retail business so they're often dealing with customers in the shop too.  Oh, and by the way I customize my sandwich so it's not just that they pre-make the subs.

Today's lunch arrived in about 13 minutes so I started wondering how many sandwich makers they hire and how many drivers they have when I had a devious thought....  In software we will do scale testing of new services (what kind of request traffic can your service handle).  I want to scale test Jimmy John's.  Get a bunch of friends together distributed around the town and place an order simultaneously and watch what happens to the delivery speed.  Are they strategic about delivering orders?  Do they have back-up drivers they can call on in a pinch?  Are they able to drop all things and have the sandwich makes do deliveries?  They've either got some tricks up their sleeve or they've become pretty masterful at managing demand.

The danger of sedentary entertainment

A stunning piece of research
During the study’s follow-up period, from 2003 to 2007, 325 men died of various causes, and 215 suffered a heart attack or other cardiac event. Even after adjusting for differences in weight, smoking, occupational physical activity and risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure and other longstanding illnesses, as well as marital status and social class, those who spent four hours or more of their leisure time in front of a screen each day were 50 percent more likely to have died. Those who spent two hours a day in front of a screen for entertainment were 2.2 times more likely to have had a cardiovascular event.
and remarkably in a similar study linked above:
[...] light activities adults filled their time with, like reading and playing board games, actually burned more calories than watching TV.
So turn off the TV, and stand at your desk to work...  You'll burn more calories and live longer and you don't have to do anything else differently.  Amazing.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Arduino Light and Temperature Logger

Hardware mostly been magic to me.  Except for the broad system categories of how it works I'm pretty ignorant.  It's kinda like the power coming out of the "holes".  I write software and something wonderful happens in the complicated looking green circuit boards inside.  And yet I've often had hardware ideas that I've always dismissed as "I have *no* idea how someone might build that."  For example a device controlled by SMS (e.g. an electronic lock so that you could let your friend into your house from work simply by texting a code to your doorknob).

So it is with some delight that I found Arduino.  It's an open source hardware prototyping platform with a simple language (similar to C) and slick IDE to compile and upload code to micro-crontroller.  One of the elegant things about how the Arduino is build is that you can stack "shields" on top of the board that add functionality.  There are several places online where you can buy shields such as Adafruit.

For Christmas I got several shields, one of which was a light and temperature logger.  The base of the shield was an interface to an SD card.  On top of that you added a light sensor and a temperature sensor.  After soldering it all together (I've come to love soldering) you upload the code attach a battery pack and then start collecting data.

Data is written out into a CSV file on the SD card that looks something like this:
millis,light,temp,vcc
1998,613,68.46,1.84
3000,628,68.46,1.79
3999,669,68.46,1.68
4999,671,68.46,1.68
5999,628,68.46,1.8
7000,385,68.46,2.99
7999,628,68.46,1.79
I left my device outside over night on a particularly cold night and generated a bunch of data.  So much so that I ran into the nasty limit that Excel doesn't deal with more than 32,000 data points.  So I whipped out Octave to look at the data.  I just wanted the light and temperature data, so after grabbing only those columns I whipped up the following Octave code:
d = csvread('cabin.csv')
statistics(d)
figure(1)
plot(d(42000:55000,1))
legend('Light', "location", 'southeast')
print('light.png', '-dpng')
figure(2)
plot(d(42000:55000,2))
legend('Temperature (F)', "location", 'southeast')
print('temperature.png', '-dpng')
It was a little painful to get Octave working on my mac with AquaTerm and all of the octave-forge contributed code building from MacPorts (there is a binary distribution, but I was determined to win and the key thing I ended up learning is that Octave wants/needs AquaTerm... not just any old X11 server)

The statistics line from above generated some basic summary statistics.
octave:2> statistics(d)
ans =

    39.0000    17.9900
    48.0000    18.5700
    48.0000    19.7300
    61.0000    22.0500
   948.0000    68.4600
   188.2125    21.4046
   307.3645     4.9441
     1.8685     3.6643
     1.5966    21.1867
From that data we can see cool stuff like the high temperature was 68.46 (inside the house before I too the device outside), the low temperature was 17.99, the average was 21.4 with a standard deviation of 4.94.  The numbers for light are a little more abstract to me because I didn't look up the units on the photo sensor was measure. (NOTE in octave do "help statistics" to figure out what the other values mean).

The plot commands were used to generate a plot of the data for a slice of time that seemed interesting to me:
What you see here is the temperature rising from the low back up to the mid-twenties as day broke.  An interesting thing to observe is the tiny oscillation of the data.  I doubt the temperature was actually changing like that, but rather the degree of sensitivity of the sensor was such that it sometimes was one value and other times was another.

Finally here's the light plot.
From here you can see daybreak happen until you hit the maximum reading from the light sensor.

Overall I've been loving the Arduino and projects like this are just plain awesome.  You get to build stuff that actually interacts with the world.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Decemberists: The King is Dead

By now you probably can't escape talk about The Decemberist's new album The King Is Dead, but to my way of thinking all of the talk is merited.  I've been listening to them since Picaresque and they're probably my favorite band since REM.  Colin Meloy's heady (and often dark) lyrics and unique voice combined with a catchy melodies is a winning combination.  Their previous work, The Hazards of Love, a concept rock opera piece, was quite a bit different than the album before, The Crane Wife, which was a folk rocky album thematically based around the eponymous Japanese folk tale.

The King is Dead returns to a form that is closer to The Crane Wife.  Closer both lyrically and stylistically.  The music is upbeat folk/roots style.  They've found some strong support in other artists as well.  Peter Buck plays his unmistakable style of guitar on "Calamity Song" and Gillian Welch sings a subtle backing vocals on most tracks.

NPR has a nice review of the album and until January 18th you can stream the whole thing.  Do yourself a favor and give it a listen.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Grass is Always Greener

I hate the phrase "the grass is always greener on the other side".  It purports to be about the grass on the other side, but it's not.  It's about the grass on this side is often used to make soul squashing statements.
  • The pessimist: You'll never be really happy so stop trying.
  • The "benevolent" dictator: You have everything you could want here.  You're just going to be unhappy on that side.  In fact on that side it's probably worse.
  • The cult leader: Their grass isn't really grass.  It's poison.  Eat our grass.
The phrase is never (rarely?) used to inspire joy/peace/etc.  It should be used in a "both and" way.  That is you should BOTH appreciate the grass you have with all of your heart AND constantly seek better grass.

I also don't like that the phrase isn't axiomatic.  That is, it's not applicable equally to all things (further proof that it's being used as a tool of the dictator or cult leader, etc.).  For example a manager might say to a disgruntled employee "competitor X has problems too...  you won't be happy their either... you need to find a way to find job satisfaction here...." ("the grass is always greener").  That SAME manager is NOT going to make a similar statement about their product; "customers will never really be happy and our current offering does enough so why look for a better solution?"  So basically the person saying that "the grass is always greener..." will say it when it serves them (to retain an employee, etc.) but won't say it when it doesn't (i.e. when it stifles innovation).

The Vision Tree

In computer science there is a data structure called a tree.  It is hierarchical (meaning it has a top and bottom) and directed (the direction of the relationships matter).  It is composed of nodes (the data) and edges (a connection between two nodes).  Like this:
Tree
The most common type of tree is a binary tree where a given node has no more than three connected edges (one going up to a "parent" and up to two going down to "children").  There are also N-way trees which still have only one parent but can have N children.
Computer scientists can geek out (and have) about trees for decades but I'm not writing a technical post right now.  I was thinking about how the shape of turning vision into reality is a tree.  For example consider the current health care reform debate.
VisionTreeHealthCare
You start off with a "simple" statement like president Obama made in his address about health care:
No one should suffer financial ruin because of a health problem
It's a uniting statement, creates clarity, and outlines purpose of reform.  However, turning that statement into reality involves MANY little steps moving from "abstract" to "concrete" or "planning" to "execution" (for example "insurance reform" > "exchanges" > ...)
Vision works the same way in my company and I expect yours too.  However, as I thought about this I realized that this is how I feel:
HowMyJobFeels
I'm not typically involved at the highest level and I shouldn't participate at the lowest level (either I'm too busy or I'm not getting the most N out of my equation)  As I explored this concept more I was able to draw "paths" along the tree that I find satisfying and paths that frustrate me:
GoodAndBadRoles
I can think of specific instances during the past 1.5 years where I was following "happy paths" and when I was following "unhappy paths".  The interesting thing about these paths is that the unhappy ones sit right in the middle.  I've labeled that the "Management Danger Zone" and realized it's just another expression of a(alpha) from my equation.  When I spend all of my time and effort in the MDZ my job stinks.

The Leadership Dilemma

Why does anyone take on a management or leadership position?  Certainly some people like the power, some people like the relational elements of it, some people like mentoring, some people are administratively gifted and like planning, budgeting, etc.  That said none of these reasons alone are sufficient to hire another person.  You wouldn't spend your own money to employ someone for one of these reasons.  Ultimately I believe that people manage or lead other people so that they can multiply their effort.   A person may be phenomenally good at what they do, they may push the limits of reasonability in their work ethic, and they may have boundless ideas but there exists a limit to what they can accomplish on their own.  In order to accomplish more they have to manage or lead other people (or get happy not accomplishing but only a part of what they'd like to.... or get someone else to champion their ideas, etc.)

I've been thinking about this in terms of a mathematical function:
Management as a formula
  • x represents the work that an individual can accomplish.
  • N is the goal...  Management is about multiplying your effort (x).  Presumably is correlated to the number of people you hire.
  • a (alpha) is a coefficient that represents the overhead of management.
I'm sure volumes and volumes have been written about how to optimize Nx.  That is, how do I efficiently manage a team, what's the ideal team size and structure, etc.  I'm interested in the second term of the function xa.

That term is meant to represent the leftover time that a person has after pouring themselves into leadership/management.  In other words if a person would passionately do tasks X, Y, and Z on their own is there any time left to do some of those things after they're done leading.  Mathematically if 100% of a leader's time is spent managing then the xa term will be 0 (a = 0... i.e. no left over time).  On the other hand if 10% of a leaders time is spent managing then the xa term will be .9x (a = .9... i.e. 90% left over time) and the manager will still get to spend 90% of their time doing things that (presumably) they enjoyed doing as an individual contributor.

I want to be a participatory leader.  I want to have time left.  I don't want my alpha to be 0.  I get energy from the creative/building process and leadership isn't worth it (i.e. I don't value the Nx term by itself) if I don't get to participate.  I don't imagine all leaders are like that (like I said above some people just like power, etc.) but it does matter to me.

So does there exist a solution to the function which maximizes N (I'd certainly love to have that number be 1,000) and minimizes a (wouldn't it be great to get Nx and still have 100% of your time to do the x that you love?)

Process and Innovation

Last night I was talking with Shiree about work and a quote popped off my lips that was particularly quoteworthy.  So much so that I wonder if I've accidentally plagiarized it.
Process doesn't make a lightbulb.  It makes 10 million lightbulbs.
At work yesterday I was in a meeting an a colleague was lamenting how he spends time trying to have a well ordered plan and then it just gets messed up by things like Thanksgiving, or delays from other folks.  I quipped something like "maybe we don't need the process."  Another colleague replied "so we should have anarchy instead?"  The comment pissed me off so I sparred back with "you process people.  It's so black and white; process or ANARCHY."  It's not that black and white.

I suppose almost any orderly pursuit can be labeled as a process.  Thomas Edison tried 1000s of different things before find the one that worked to make his lightbulb.  He kept journals, ran experiments, recorded results, and tried out new ideas methodically; all in service of finding the solution.  He was deeply engaged in process (the scientific method for one), but it wasn't a process that existed to make 10 million lightbulbs.  It was a process that existed to make ONE.

It's not that I don't like process or that I think it's unnecessary.  Rather, it's that certain processes create lightbulbs and certain processes create 10 million of them.  I want to work in a process aimed at creating ONE lightbulb (metaphorically... the first X) not the process that creates more of them more efficiently.  It seems to me that some of the things that are being implemented at work are the controls and metrics around making more lightbulbs not making the first lightbulb.

I wonder if Edison set schedules/deadlines/etc. for his inventions? Did he measure his progress?

The burden of TED

If you've read any of my past writing you probably know that I watch a lot of TED videos.  One day I said to Shiree "we should take the family to TED some day.  I'd tell my kids one thing as we went...  'Work to make a life for yourselves like these people.  If you take away nothing else from these talks take away the hope of making a life like that.'"

I was a little disheartened to find out how apparently challenging it is to even be ABLE to pay the $4,500 registration fee.  I don't have any illusions that I'll ever grace the stages of TED as a presenter (though I hope that my life would someday be that inspiring to others) but I didn't expect that I wouldn't have done enough to even go to TED.  Check out their registration form (you may have to create a TED account first).  You have to answer all of the following questions and they consider them in your candidacy as a TED participant.
  1. If a friend were to describe your accomplishments in up to three sentences, what would he or she say?
  2. What other achievements would you like to share?
  3. What are you passionate about? (work, creative output, issues, communities…)
  4. What do we need to know about you that we didn't ask? (Up to 300 words)
  5. (Optional) Can you share a memorable anecdote from your life that will give us a further sense of what makes you tick?
So now instead of aspiring to attend TED I think I'm going to just have to aspire to be accepted to TED.  Or just cough up $1000 and be a part of the anonymous masses watching it in a webcast.

Trust and Dates

I was in a meeting recently where a couple of developers presented some cool work on an iPhone application we're building.  After the meeting the discussion shifted to dates and a couple of senior folks were essentially asking the question:
How come it's taking so long to ship this product?
Throughout the conversation I was troubled by something.  Thinking about it afterward it was the fact that the question above, as phrased, is a question of (mis)trust.  Generally I like the people who were asking the question so I don't think they were saying:
What are you wasting your time this time?
How come you're not as talented as all those other developers who finish iPhone apps in 1 day?
etc.
However it was not difficult to turn their question into those.

I don't know the situation, but if the team had said "we can build the app in 2 weeks" and then later changed the tune to "we plan on finishing the work in 2 months" management would certainly be justified in asking:
You said it would take two weeks and now it looks like it's going to take over 2 months.  What things impacted your original estimate, and should we keep pushing forward to finish?
Are there any resources that I can bring to bear to help deliver closer to schedule?
etc.
Barring some previous discussion of schedules/estimations/etc. I think questions like "how come it's taking so long?" from senior (not the ones building) are almost always out of place without violating trust.  Hire the best people and motivate them to give a 110% and when it takes 6 months even if that seems long assume that they're doing the right thing and that they want to deliver as fast as the business does.

Back to the question above...  One final observation...  It was asked at the wrong time and in the wrong context; after a cool demonstration and in a relatively public setting (many people had left).  It should've been asked to a smaller audience at a time specifically dedicated to talking about the execution/delivery.

Too big to understand

If you're an adult and you have a pulse you've heard the phrase Too Big to Fail in the past two years as the American financial system nearly imploded taking the world with it while bureaucrats and financial geniuses raced to stop that.
As the health care bill wended it's way through the house and senate and I listened to conservatives and liberals talk about it. To some it's the "nightmare before Christmas" to others it's the "most important piece of legislation since Medicare"  These can't BOTH be true (can they?).  And let's assume that above average intelligence, thoughtful, and rational people are making these diametrically opposite statements.  Why is that?
It's not just health care either.  It's global warming/climate change, it's MFN status for Zambia (not that we're doing that), or the farm bill.  So is it just that our political discourse is just too eristic and that the way to really find sincere debate that leads to consensus is in the public market?  But it's not just public and political either.  I've seen similar dynamics at work too; two ways to solve a problem one the anti-Christ the other the second coming.
I think these problems are are "too big to understand".  We can't assess them in their entirety; no one's mind is big enough to hold all of the details together at once and evalutate the whole thing fairly.  So instead we hold the parts in our head that we like and talk about it like those are the only parts.  I don't know that this is necessarily a problem but perhaps a couple of other solutions are in order:
  1. Make things smaller.  Don't pass ENORMOUS bills.  Break them down and pass them in bite-sized chunks.  Hmmm...  America is too impatient.  Politicians want to pass a bill, says "health care is FIXED" and then move on.
  2. Get REALLY patient.  Stop sniping at the "other side" focus our effort on making sure that we can agree on some minimal common ground.  Then let history be the judge.  I don't know whether the health care bill is a colossal mistake or a legacy maker for Obama, but I am sure that history will be a pretty good judge in 10 years.

Running faster than your buddy does not a team make

Our most recent project at work was kicked off not primarily with a clear mission and requirements but instead with a date.  It wasn't this blatant: "I want X by Y and neither X nor Y are negotiable." but it was pretty close.  So rather than wasting another second we started sprinting to figure out how to get there.  The "bold date" strategy seems to have worked in the past.  In our case the date seems a little too bold.  No one I've talked to thinks that it's an achievable date.
The greater tragedy beyond achieving or not achieving the goal is that it is creating unhealthy competition.
When hiking with a friend if you encounter a bear you don't have to run faster than the bear you just have to run faster than your friend.
We look at solutions and here's how the thinking goes (whether it is stated or not).
  1. What all do I have to do?
  2. Can I finish it before Y?
    • Yes:  Yow...  Poor team Z, no way they can possibly hit Y.
    • No: Uh oh...  How can I shed work on team Z or otherwise cut corners?
I'm not sure if this dynamic is the result of a cultural pathogen that needs to be cured or if it's because everyone sitting around the table is thinking "there's no way!".  Makes me really curious what all of the engineers, project managers, accountants, etc. were thinking when Kennedy set such a bold goal.  Also makes me wonder how bold it was.

Responsible people do the right thing

I was watching a discovery channel show about traffic (I think it was called The Truth about Traffic) when I learned about a fascinating experiment in traffic engineering.  The show featured the city of Dracthen Netherlands where they:
[....] removed almost all of its traffic lights. Major intersections have been converted to roundabouts, smaller intersections just let drivers work make decisions on their own.
The project was pioneered by a Dutch traffic engineer named Hans Monderman who said this of the Dracthen experiment "We want small accidents, in order to prevent serious ones in which people get hurt."  The article goes on to say:
Instead of relying on a set of hard rules, drivers are asked to take their safety, and the safety of others, into their own hands. The result is that people are more aware, more careful and drive slower, but are far less frustrated while driving. Bikes and walkers now rule the roads and can pretty much travel non-stop around town.
Wow.  Remove the hard rules and give people control and their safety increases?!  The Discovery channel show was even more bold and it essentially argued that the instruments of safety in place in American roadways, traffic lights, signs, paint, merge lanes, etc. actually subvert the safety they aim to provide.  Here's why...  The enable people to be autonomous man-machines while driving.  People are individuals disconnected from each other because the road system creates the illusion of safety.  "It's a red light, of course no one is in the intersection."  BANG!  In Drachten and other shared space they seek to put people in control and to connect them to each other (note the eye contact comment above)...  To make people responsible NOT the system.

So...  Does this apply more generally?

I was thinking about it in the context of work where we often talk about process and tools for managing software development.  The struggle is that it rarely fits perfectly and that often the tools constrain in some way or you have to hack around them, etc.  In wrestling with that it dawned on me.  Perhaps if we ditch the tools and put software developers in control that they'll do the right thing?  Much like drivers in Drachten...

A couple of caveats are probably in order:
  1. The shared space model relies on responsible people.  Clearly drunks will continue to exist and are likely to kill people.  That's true regardless of system.  That said if you shift driving behavior I bet even drunks driver safer (rather than barreling down the highway at 100mph confident in the paint and stop lights... a bullet looking for a victim)...  A software management of the same shared space model would require hiring "responsible" people (maybe even more important than smart, capable, skilled people?)
  2. The model had SOME structure/process.  There were roads and roundabouts.  The point though is that it was the RIGHT structure.

Getting it off my chest

I never finished my NaNoWriMo novel from 2009.  There, I said it!  And I'm not going to.  The fact is that I'm not a big fiction reader so it wasn't a terribly reasonable goal to set out to *write* fiction.  That said, I think it was a sound idea, and it wasn't total rubbish so I'll share it any how.


Title: The Body
Main characters
  • Father McAvoy: The priest
  • Hume Johnson: The police investigator (has flu first time he visits the scene can can't smell)
  • Witnesses
    • Cosa Alainn (Barefoot hippie woman who feels something on the floor)
    • Melody Wilson (ringing/roaring in the ears hears something significant)
    • Dalton Green (red/green color blind dude)
The crime: a museum theft.. needs to tie these together somehow.
  • Cosa:  cold floor...  it's a museum... marble floors, etc.  At the scene of the crime there is a small path along the floor that is warm like a floor vent passing under the floor.
  • Melody: high pitched ringing at the scene of the crime...  recently been treated for Meniere's disease and the ringing had stopped but couldn't stand the sound which others just tolerated.
  • Dalton: something on the floor that most people don't notice because they have normal vision but Dalton see's because he's color blind (e.g. something like this... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ishihara_9.png)
  • Hume: upon returning to the scene (without the Flu/mask) he smells something and it all becomes clear as he flashes back to Cosa, Melody's and Daltons witness statements.
I'll pick this up in the morning...

John Brody was on the third sleep cycle of his alarm already when he rolled over and hit it again.  The antenna in his clock radio had long since stopped working so rather than waking to Morning Edition he was greeted to a static infused gospel station.  He rarely slept well at night, but last night was particularly rough making it all the easier to get stuck in the sleep cycle.  The alarm went off again and John reached over to smack the sleep button again but the will to get up and into the police station was just great enough that he found his arm resisted in it's campaign.  Instead he kicked his feet out of bed and sat up on the edge.  The cold floor screamed "wake up" as the bottoms of his feet came to rest on the hardwoods.  John rubbed his eyes and stretched giving a roar as he reached for the ceiling.  He stumbled into the tiny bathroom in his room and began his morning routine.
John rented a room in an old row house in Brooklyn from a Jewish woman named Meryl.  The walls were covered in more layers of paint than John was in years of life.  We'll not exactly, he was turning 35 next week, but you get the point.  In a house as old as this you make certain concessions.  The faucet drips constantly all night long every 3 minutes and 36 seconds give or take a few seconds (John knew, he'd counted it many times in his sleepless nights).  There isn't a spot in the floor that doesn't creak when you walk.  You really have to love your neighbors because you can hear everything even if you don't want to.  This nice thing was that Meryl was only asking for $500/mo. in rent and the place was a short 5 minute walk from the station so it didn't feel like a big sacrifice.
As John stepped out of the bathroom the smell of eggs and bacon greeted him and gave him additional resolve to get going.  It wasn't unusual for Meryl (he called her "Mrs. Goldberg") to cook him breakfast.  She mothered him and most of the time he didn't mind it.  He pulled on his tighty whiteys, long black knee socks, and white T shirt and headed to the closet to find a suit and shirt.  He only owned two different suits; today was a navy suit day.  He grabbed a sage green shirt, the gray suit and a paisley tie with enough personality but not too much.  He slipped on the shirt and button it up stumbling at the last button because the shirt was a bit too small.  He didn't mind because it was his encouragement to work out (which he did most nights on the way home from work).  He never wanted to be one of those obese guys without a neck.  He learned how to tie a tie in Boy Scouts when he was eleven.  As a kid he only ever had to wear a tie on Sundays when his mom and day carted he and his three brothers off to Mass.  After leaving college when he became a criminal investigator he didn't realize he was signing up to wear a tie everyday for the rest of his life.  But, after 12 years on the job it came naturally and he didn't even need a mirror to tie a perfect double windsor.  He pulled on the pants of his his navy suit, nice but nothing special, something you'd find down at the Men's Emporium, and buckled the black belt that he'd left laced through the belt loops on the suit hanger.  His shoes were immaculately polished and well worn black leather dress shoes on their third pair of laces.  He tossed his suit coat over his shoulder and headed down stairs to the kitchen each step groaning with age.
"Good morning Mrs. Goldberg," John said with a tickle in this throat.
"Hi John.  I made you breakfast this morning.  Pull up a seat."
John glanced at the sports page sitting on the table as he sat down.  The Yankees had won game 4 of the World Series and held a lead of 3 games to 1 against the Phillies.
"Wow.  The Yankees pulled it off last night?  I finally fell to sleep in the 8th inning when they were losing 7-5."
"So it seems.  My daughter was at the game last night.  They drove down to Philadelphia to see the game.  Not a terribly great day to see the game with all the rain and 2 hour delay to start the game.  But she loves the game so I assume it was worth it.
Want some orange juice?"
"Sure."
Meryl, dropped a plate piled with eggs and four strips of bacon in front of John.  She went back to the fridge to grab the carton of Florida's best and filled up a two small juice glasses on the counter for both her and John.  With an efficiency betraying a former life as a waitress in a diner she carried two cups of coffee (one black how John liked it, and one loaded with Splenda and half and half how she liked it) and two orange juices with her well worn hands over to the kitchen table and sat down herself.
John had already started eating when Meryl finally sat down.  He ate hurriedly as a man late for a job interview.  So his mouth was full when Meryl asked "how was your date last night?"  John had recently signed up for one of those online dating services, match.com and he went on his first date with a Brazilian woman named Claudia.  She ended up being about 4 inches taller than John (who was already 6'2") with her heals on.  John wasn't used to being the shorter half on a date so that already created an awkwardness.  She also didn't really speak English.  She could write it well enough that they had arranged to go to a well known Japanese steak house in Queens called Kudu.  Finding words on a first date can be hard enough when you both speak the same language.
Swallowing John replied "Let's just say that I don't think it's going to work out.  She's beautiful, but she's almost 90% legs and taller than me by a long shot.  It also doesn't help that she doesn't really speak English."
"I'm sorry to hear that" replied Meryl.
"Do you think you'll try again with that site you were on?".
John didn't really mind Meryl's questions.  It made feel a little like being at home again with his Mom grilling him about what happened at school, whether baseball practice had been good, did he do his homework, etc.  Meryl was John's surrogate mom.  But today he was feel a bit impatient to just finish eating and get into work.
"Umm, I don't know.  It's a lot of work and I don't know that it's going to ever work.  Honestly, I don't know if I want it to work out.  Meryl, I've got to run.  Thanks for breakfast again."
He shoveled the last bit of his eggs into his mouth and grabbed a slice of bacon for the road.  Grabbing his coat he turned and headed for the front door.
"My pleasure.  Have a good da.." Meryl started to reply, but before she could finish he had already left the house.
John walked briskly with his eyes towards the ground like a man on a mission.  He'd plopped his iconically white iPod headphones into his ears and was listening to music as he walked.  Thoughts about last night, his inability to sleep, breakfast with Meryl, and the day ahead raced through his mind.  He was tired, perhaps because he'd not slept well, and he wondered if maybe he was getting sick.
John's walk to work was a straight shot up 6th St.  It was a cool and crystal clear morning in September not unlike the morning of 9/11.  At 6th and St. Marks a street evangelist came up to him and said...
"Have you hear the good news about God and his community of believers?  I'm Stewart and I go to St. Marks down the street.  Will you have a look at this?  There's a phone number on the back if you have questions."
John didn't hear much with the Foo Fighters blasting on his iPod but as Stewart thrust the pamphlet about St. Marks into his hand he took the pamper and shoved it into his pocket saying thanks and kept walking.  He was only a couple of blocks away and just wanted to get into work.  He had a bunch of paperwork to finish today to wrap up his last case, a murder/suicide.  As he crossed Flatbush Ave. he stepped in a puddle and splashed water all over his pant leg.
"Shit!" John mumbled to himself.  He inspected the damage and contemplated whether he'd go back home to change or just deal with a wet foot and pant leg.  He really did want to chit chat longer with Meryl so he headed towards work.  He passed Michael's pizzeria and restaurant, one of the best slices in town or a least the only slice John ever game himself time to explore during the day.  He rounded the corner and entered the precinct.
The 78th precinct is in a non-descript old brick building directly next to a few retail establishments.  It was constructed in 1923 and is a moderately attractive building on the outside.  Inside it was remodeled/updated in 1977 and hasn't been touched since then.  It has the a musty smell of a building that has had more than one water leak.  The floors are mostly hospital green linoleum.  The space where John works is a largely open with a few offices along the exterior of the building.  It is partitioned with only slightly more modern cube farm furniture.  The lighting is all fluorescent and as cold and depressing as the work of a police investigator can be.
As John entered he flashed his badge at the security guards who keep out the looney tunes, reporters, and other civillians.  He proceeded past the office administrator.
He mustered a mandatory "Hi Janice".
"Hi John, shame about those Yankees." came in return.
Ordinarily she didn't watch sports so it stopped him short.
"Umm, yeah.  Though I gotta give it to the Phillies that outpitched us last night."
He proceeded through the maze of cubes and get to his desk.  His desk was a stacked with papers and only a small amount of usable space remained.  A mammoth CRT monitor that must've been the height of technology in 1993 took up almost a third of his desk.  He emptied his pockets onto the desk on top of the papers, hating to sit with stuff in his pockets,  and sat down.  His chair was the opposite of ergonic.  It was a cheap swivel office chair with chrome finish, wooden arm rests, and black faux leather cushions.
He banged out his username and password and opened his e-mail.  Sigh, even the police get spam.  He deleted a few messages and quickly read through some of the others.  Then he moved on into his case work.  He spent the morning writing reports interleaved with a quick stretch and a cup of tar from the office coffee pot.  Through the morning he noticed a tickle at the back of his through and would occasionally burst into a coughing fit.
At lunch time he stopped working and went looking for Greenberg to grab a bite to eat.
John Brody and Michael Greenberg both joined the force at the same time and progressed through the ranks together.  As young officers that had a foot beat through a bad neighborhood in Queens.  Aside from the typical drug arrests and an occasional domestic violence most nights were pretty uneventful and John and Mike developed a pretty close relationship as they patrolled the neighborhood together talking.  That relationship was sealed in concrete the night that John saved Mike's life.  It was also the night that has made it hard for John to sleep ever since.  On that night they had run into some kids in a gang and found one with cocaine.  As they called in the incident and began to arrest the kid a gunshot went off.  Apparently another kid was defending his peeps.  He came running towards the scene firing.  A shot whizzed past John and hit Mike in the side.  John dropped the cuffs he was starting to put on the offender whirled around and fired three shots back at the advancing gunman.  The gunman dropped to the ground dead.  Mike's wound wasn't fatal, but the scene often replays in John's mind.
Coughing as he ran into Mike, John said "Hey Mike,  you", cough, "want to get some lunch?"
"Man you don't look so hot are you sure?"
"Whether or not I look good I still have to eat no?  Come on lets go get some pizza?"
"Well alright, but don't cough on me you goon!"
The two of them grabbed their coats and headed out the front door through security and down the street.  They rounded the corner and walked a couple of blocks to Gino's Pizzeria.  There are six pizza places within three blocks of the precinct and they all have a different style but Gino's was the place the John and Mike frequented most often.  Inside it was poorly lit and the only seating was a formica counter that had seen more than it's share of customers of the year.  A large man, presumably Gino, was always behind the cook counter snarling at customers, buy damn did he make great pizza!  Young attractive women always worked the counter taking orders from the mostly male clientele who'd drop in for a quick slice.
"What'll it be today guys?"
"I'll have a slice of veggie?" replied John
"Veggie?  You pansy!  Make it a slice of Carbonara for me, and can I have a diet Coke?" came Mikes reply.
The waitress, named Amber (at least according the her nametag) turned and put the ticket up through the kitchen window and Gino busied himself warming slices in the huge oven.
Amber took another order from a guy down the bar and as she put it up through the window said "So, how is our finest saving the world today?"
Mike replied, "one crime scene at a time.  One crime scene at a time.  Actually, Brody is all about pushing paperwork around today.  That and coughing up a lunch.  Today I've got to go down to the international district to check out a robbery.  Doesn't sound terribly interesting."  Throughout lunch John started to believe Mike that he should go home and honestly he wasn't looking forward to more paperwork.
The pizza arrive on paper plates, the thin kind where the grease soaks through onto the counter.  The smell was wonderful and both John and Mike eagerly dove into their respective slices only occasionally coming up for air or to exchange chit chat, mouth full, with Amber.
When they'd finished each of them dropped a Hamilton on the counter said their thank yous and headed back to work.  John decided not to go home but instead stayed at work until 4pm working on reports and keeping mostly to himself.  He left early went home and crawled immediately into bed.
As usual he didn't sleep terribly well but the night was compounded by coughing and chills from a low-grade fever.  When he finally work it was 7:03.  He'd overslept but it felt as if he hadn't slept at all.  For a moment as he lay there giving himself a mental fitness check (Aches and pains?  A bit... check.  Runny nose?  No so much.  Fever?  Perhaps.  Coughing?  Definitely, check.  Upset stomach, nope.  Anything else you should tell me?  Nope.) after which he concluded that he wasn't out of commission enough to stay home from work.  In the 15 years that he's been on the force John only missed 2 days because of sickness.  The thought of staying at home with Meryl doting on him with chicken noodle soup and warm wash cloths is usually enough motivation to get him out the door.  So he rolled out of bed and showered, shaved and dressed before heading downstairs.
Meryl was reading a romance novel at the kitchen table while eating a bowl of Cocoa Puffs never taking her eyes off the book as she scooped cereal into her mouth dripping milk on the table with each scoop.
"Good morning John" she said as she lifted her eyes from the page.
"Yikes!  You don't look so well, are you sure you're feeling OK?", she said when she finally set eyes on John.
"I'm OK.  Just a cold or something.  I've got a ton of stuff to do at work today." he replied lying about the work which he'd mostly caught up on yesterday.
"Well you know how I feel about that.  You should rest!  Can you at least take some vitamin C and eat a good breakfast?"  she'd already stood and walked over to the cabinets to fish out a couple of giant vitamin C tablets.
"I suppose, something small though...  Maybe some toast with peanut butter and some coffee?"
"Sure thing."
Meryl had already started opening the bag of multi-grain bread and was reaching for the peanut butter as John's answer came.  John had been subletting the room from Meryl for 8 years and in more ways than one she was like his mom.  She could tell when he'd had a bad day at work, when he was in love, or when he was hiding something from her.  She knew what his favorite television shows were (if he ever had time to watch),  how to cheer him up, what things he hoped to get our of life, how dark he liked his toast, when to ask him questions, and when to not say anything.  Meryl was four parts mom and one part wife.
The toast popped up a perfect caramel brown, toasted but still retaining some of the essence of bread.  More than just a pile of crumbs waiting to collapse on the first bite.  Meryl yanked a paper towel from the holder hanging under the cabinets, plopped the toast down on top it it, and slathered a generous amount of peanut butter on each slice.  Meryl considered trying to persuade John to sit down and eat, but she could tell that today she'd lose that battle.  So instead she poured coffee out the half drunk pot into a togo mug with the words "People not Policy" which she'd gotten years ago at a political rally.  John, didn't always appreciate the ways in which Meryl knew him, but he saw her consider the togo mug and smiled inside knowing that they'd had a conversation without using words.  Meryl stacked the peanut butter toast like a sandwich, wrapped it in the paper towel and handed the bundle and togo cup to John.  John knew that he wasn't getting out of the house without taking vitamin C and it didn't matter that his hands were full so he just looked at Meryl and opened his mouth.  She dropped two vitamin C tablets helped him wash them down out of a juice glass of water.
"Have a good day John."
"Thanks, Meryl.  I'll try."
He headed out the door and started walking.  His hands were too full at first to listen to his music, a regular part of his routine, he unwrapped the toast and rushed through the sandwich.  He walked a bit slower than normal, probably because he was sick and hadn't slept well, but perhaps also because it was a beautiful autumn day; crisp and intense colors everywhere almost too much for the senses.
When he arrived at the precinct he entered through the main doors and flashed his badge at the security guard, said "hello" to Janice and marched straight to his desk.  He dropped off his suit coat,  picked up his favorite mug, and went to get another a cup of coffee from the kitchen.  He go the mug on a hiking trip out in Wyoming and it read "Teapot Dome was a Hoax" referring to the scandal during the Harding administration in the 20s.  The mug had been used faithfully for decades and had a brown patina of coffee residue inside.  In the kitchen he ran into Greenberg again.
"Hey did you get a call from the chief?  Something happened last night at New York Methodist."
"Really?  What?"
"Well, a nurse on the morning shift found her patient dead."
"Yeah, doesn't that happen often?  Why would we get called?"
"The patient was a 21 year old man who was recovering from a tonsillectomy.  When the night nurse signed out she reported everything was fine.  He had no history of medical problems and there were no complications from the routine surgery.  And yet he died and no one saw it.  I guess you're not going to be working on reports today.  Go grab your coat we should get down to the hospital to check things out.  I'll meet you in the garage at my squad car."
Mike headed back to his desk a little suspicious.  Mike had been known to play more than his fair share of practical jokes.  We he got back to his desk his phone's voicemail light was on but that wasn't unusual.  He was pretty bad at keeping up with his voicemail.  He picked up the handset and pushed the voicemail button.  The system prompted him for his passcode which he entered.
"You have 10 messages.  Press 1 to listen to the first message." replied the mechanical voice.
He reviewed and deleted messages quickly (most of them being months old) until he got to the most recent message.  It was the chief, something had happened at NYM and he had been asked to go investigate.  He hung up forgetting to delete this last message and dooming his phone to continue displaying the voicemail light.  Empyting his "teapot dome" mug into Meryl's "people not policy" mug he grabbed his coat and headed towards the elevator.
John took the elevator down to P2 and stepped out into the dimly lit garage smelling of cigarettes and gasoline (the smokers in the office had to come down to garage to light up).  He walked to the back corner of the garage where Mike was waiting by a police car.  He opened the passenger door and sat down spilling a some coffee on his pants.
"Shit, now I'm going to have to get these dry cleaned.", he lamented.
"You clutz.", retorted Mike.
"Shut-up and drive."
On the way to the hospital, ordinarily a 10 minute drive, they got delayed by Grand Army Plaza.  A linen cleaning company had spilled an entire days worth of napkins, tablecloths, towels, and washcloths.  Mike considered turning on his police lights to get through a bit faster but elected not to.  It wasn't an emergency and he always felt weird wielding power to compensate for his impatience.
"How's Tina and the kids?", John asked as they ambled through the traffic.
Mike and Tina were high school sweethearts.  They married at 22 and started having kids two years later.  The kids, two boys (Ryan and Ethan) were now 15 and 13.
"Tina is doing pretty good.  Her knee has really been bothering her since her last half marathon.  The doctor thinks she's likely going to need surgery on her ACL, but for now she just keeps ticking.  She's still volunteering with that non-profit that helps elderly still living at home.  She does the book-keeping, delivers groceries, and carts elderly folk around for appointments.
Ryan made the varsity basketball team this year so every last second of his life is about hoops.  I suppose that's better than every last second of his life being about girls.
Ethan is still doing boy scouts.  Last weekend they drove out to the adirondacks for a backpacking trip.  Apparently they startled a momma bear and had a little scare.  Fortunately no one was hurt.
How about you?  Do you do anything besides work and sleep?"
"I um...  Sure I do!   Last weekend I took a walk around Prospect Park Lake." replied John.
"Do you think you're ever going to re-marry?"
That was always a touchy question, and certainly one that wouldn't be answered in the 10 minutes left to get to the hospital.  In fact, Mike was among the only people who knew that John had lost his wife to a drunk driver 10 years ago.
"Dammit Mike, why do you have to go asking that question all the time!  Can't a man just be left alone sometimes!"
"Sorry, man, I didn't mean to...", but he decided it better to just not attempt to recover the conversation.
They inched around the linen accident and made their way to Propsect Park West.  The leaves in Prospect Park were beautiful plastered against the cerulean blue sky.  John sat in silence looking out the window trying to compose himself.
It was 8:15am when they pulled into the parking lot at New York Methodist.  Mike pulled the car into a reserved spot (nice thing about squad cars is that they never get tickets) and hopped out.  John followed.  They entered the building through the main entrance.  They walked over to the hospital information desk and flashed their badges.  The receptionist called the hospital administrator who arrived moments later.
"Hi, I'm Dr. Arnold Watkins.  I'm glad you're here.  Come with me."  He started walking still talking as he headed towards the elevator.
"People die at hospitals all the time.  I suppose I'm not supposed to say that.  People like to think of hospitals of places of healing, which they are and NYM is among the best.  But the fact, is that people die here often.  In most cases there's nothing unexpected about that such that we'd call you.  However, last night we lost a young man named Raymond Schutlz after a routine tonsillectomy.  We know of no reason for him to die while in our care last night."
Dr. Watkins, Mike, and John walked across the lobby over to the elevator with Dr. Watkins still rambling about the incident from last night.  They entered the elevator and pushed 4, the floor for non-critical care patients from pregnancies to bypass surgery.
When they arrived on the fourth floor there was a small lobby.  Several wooden chairs with faux-leather ringed the room.  In the middle of the room a couple of coffee tables were strewn with well used toys and old magazines which had long since given up their feeble hope to console.   A new father jubilantly greeted what looked to be a new grandfather,  grandmother, and aunt.  In the corner sat a middle aged woman working on a laptop.  She looked like she hadn't slept much.  They turned the corner and approached the nurses station where they were greeted by the head nurse.  At the end of her shift, she was shorter than her usually cheerful nature would allow.
"Any of you have symptoms of H1N1?"
Greenberg poked John in the ribs."
"Ow.  I mean, I think I've got a cold.  No fever yet, but I was coughing yesterday and haven't slept terribly well, but that isn't unusual for me when I'm healthy."
"Well, Mr......"
"Brody, John Brody"
"Mr. Brody, please wear this mask when you're in patient rooms."
"Yes ma'am."
Dr. Watkins pager went off .  As he peeked down at his waist he paused and then said.  "Excuse me gentlemen I have another hospital matter to attend to.  Joan, can you show these men around and answer their questions."
"Yes sir."
"I'll be back in about in 15 minutes and I can take you down to the morgue if that would help.
With that Dr. Watkins turned and headed back towards the elevators.
"Where would you like to start gentlemen?" asked Joan.
"Well, why don't you tell us a little about the patient and what happened to start."
"OK.  I'll tell you what I know, but then I think you'll need to talk to Consuela Gomez, we call her Connie.  Connie was the night shift nurse last night who received Mr. Shultz from surgery and cared for him overnight.  We'll also arrange for you to talk with Rebecca Johnson the nurse who found Mr. Shultz dead this morning.  You should probably also talk to Mr. Adler the elderly man who shares the same room as Mr. Shultz."
"Sounds good.  Can you start telling us what happened as we walk down to Mr. Shultz room." said Mike.
"Sure, you'll have to go down to the morgue if you want to see the body, but everything else in the room is untouched."
They walked down the hallway passing patient rooms on the left.  There was life or death in each; some rooms with new mothers, some with old dieing mothers sometimes alone and sometimes under the fearful watch of loving family.  Nurses buzzed around with meds, trays of food, cups of ice, and various medical equipment.  As they walked their guide talked.
"Mr. Shultz arrived yesterday around noon under the care of his primary physician.  Looking at his medical charts he'd been having pretty continuous episodes of strep throat for the past three years.  His doctor had tried various different antibiotics from the common cillins to more powerful ones with varying durations including keeping Mr. Shultz on antibiotic for a full month.  So Mr. Shultz was referred to an ENT and the decision to remove his tonsils was made.
Mr. Shultz checked in with the hospital administration around 12:15pm, filled out insurance paperwork, and waited for his surgery.  Tonsilectomies are performed under general anesthesia so Mr. Shultz had been fasting since dinner the previous event.  Dr. Sorenson the general surgeon was ready to operate at 1:30pm.  Mr. Shultz changed and our nurses prepared for surgery.  Around 2pm Mr. Shultz was under anesthesia and the surgery went without incident finishing up around 3pm.  When Mr. Shultz woke at 3:15 he was greeted by Connie, who you'll talk to a bit later.  Connie monitored his pain meds, basically hospital strength Tylenol and brought him juice and ice chips to make sure he was hydrated.  I left the building around 5pm last night so I'll let Connie fill you in on the gaps."
At this point they'd arrived at Raymond Shultz's hospital room.  It was a pretty standard hospital room.  No decorations, fake wood everywhere, tiny window overlooking the roof of the building, a small bathroom, two adjustable hospital beds and thin while hospital gown-like curtains separating Mr. Shutlz bed from the other patient Mr. Adler who was asleep snoring quite soundly.
Raymond's bed still looked like it'd been recently vacated.  John checked in the closet and found a few personal effects in a duffel bag.  There was a book on the table near two flower arrangements; one a bouquet of carnations and the other a potted plant with long waxy green leaves and exotic pinkish purple flowers.  The carnations appeared to be from a grandmother and the other plant had no card with it.
John and Mike looked around the room for a few more minutes, noting the Gideon Bible in the drawer, the lack of curtains on the windows, the relative drabness of the room, and the small white clock on the wall that was still set for Daylight Savings Time.
The head nurse interrupted saying "I've arranged to meet with Connie the nurse who received Mr. Shultz from surgery.  We're going to talk down the hall in the staff conference room.  Please follow me."
The walked down the same corridor past patient rooms and the nurses station.  The staff conference room was really more of a break room.  There was a small round kitchen table in the middle of the room, a fridge, sink, microwave, and cabinets along the back wall.  Next to the sink was a dish drainer with a collection of coffee mugs, lunch plates, and a menagerie of different utensil patterns.  The fridge was covered with various fliers posted by employees, fliers advertising church yard sales, couches for sale, free puppies, and a poker tournament.  A pot of old coffee lent an acrid smell to the room.  Connie, the nurse who met Raymond Shultz after his surgery was sitting at the kitchen table sipping a cup of tea.  She looked nervous.  Connie was a petite woman in her late thirties.  She kept her jet black hair tied back.  A few springs of curls resisted containment and hung bouncing beside her ears.  She wore dark rimmed tortoise shell spectacles which muted her intense hazel eyes.
Mike and John sat down at the table introducing themselves.
"Hi I'm investigator John Brody, and this is my partner Mike Greenberg.  Do you mind if we ask you some questions?" said John.
"No.  Certainly not Mr. Brody."
"Call me John."
"Ok, John."
"Connie, can you tell me when your shift yesterday started?"
"I came to work at noon and was supposed to work until midnight.", replied Connie.
"And when did you start caring for Mr. Shultz."
"Raymond, I mean Mr. Shultz came out of surgery around 3pm.  He was still under the effect of general anesthesia when I first checked up on him.  I hooked him up to the blood pressure machine, took his temperature, and checked his saline drip.  Everything was normal."
"What time did he wake from the anesthesia?" asked Greenberg."
"He woke shortly after I checked on him the first time.  Probably around 3:15pm.  I found out because he buzzed the nurses station.  He wanted something to drink.  I got him a cup of water and took that to him.  He sipped on while I asked him how he was feeling.  I didn't want him to talk so I asked him to shake his head to answer me.  His throat was hurting so I went and got pain killer for his IV."
"What kind of pain killer?"
"Just the basic Tylenol which can be used in an IV.  We don't like tonsillectomy patients to swallow anything hard for the first 4 hours after surgery.  After I'd given Raymond the pain killer.  I told him to get some rest and I left to check on other patients."
"Did you check on him at other times during your shift?" asked John.
"Yeah, generally for patients with common surgeries like a tonsillectomy we check on the patient every hour.  He slept most of the afternoon until 'dinner' came at 6:30pm when I woke him."
"What did he eat for dinner?"
"Well..  It was chicken broth, apple sauce, and chocolate ice cream.  I know that sounds awful but it's about all they can eat only hours after the surgery."
"Did he eat everything?"
"He drank most of the broth, ignored the apple sauce, and nibbled on the ice cream until it was soup as well.  After dinner he flicked on the TV and watched Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.  When I checked up on him around 8:30pm he was asleep again and remained asleep until my shift ended at midnight."
"So, I imagine it must've been a surprise to learn that Mr. Shultz was dead this morning?", ask John.
"Absolutely!  Mr. Shultz was so young, and while we didn't talk much I could tell that he was a nice man.  It's always sad to lose a patient but in cases like this it's particularly unexpected."
"So you didn't notice anything unusual during your shift?" ask Greenberg.
"Not that I can recall."
"Did you get much chance to talk with Mr. Shultz about his personal life?  Did he have any guests visit him?" asked John.
"When I woke him for dinner we talked briefly.  He recently graduated from university, I think it was SUNY Stonebook, and started teaching at a school in the Bronx with Teach for America.  I'm sorry I can't remember the school.  We didn't talk for long because I didn't want him to stress his throat.  As far as I know he didn't have any guests.  I assume his parents don't live locally... if he even has parents.  We didn't talk about that.  You can probably check with the receptionist to see if anyone signed in to visit him.  After 7pm when public visiting hours end the hospital requires family and friends to sign-in at the front desk before visiting.  Perhaps someone visited and I didn't notice?"  Connie paused and she telegraphed a thought which seemed to bother her through her eyes.
"Does the fact that I'm talking with you mean that you think Mr. Shultz was."  Connie lowered her voice.
"Killed...  I don't usually talk to the police when a patient dies."
John answer the question "We're not currently treating this like a murder.  However, Dr. Atkins called us in to investigate.  He felt that the circumstances merited further investigation.  We'll know more after we've done an autopsy.  Thanks for your help.  We'll be in touch if we need more information."
"Ok, I'm sorry I couldn't help more." replied Connie.
Janet, the head nurse walked into the room.
"Excuse me gentlemen, Mr. Adler the elderly man who shared a room with Mr. Shultz is awake now.  It's a good time for you to talk with him."
"Great", turning away from Janet and towards Connie John said "thanks again for talking with us."
Both Mike and John stood and followed Janet once again past the nurse station and patient rooms.  It was beginning to feel like they were pacing the corridor.  As they walked Janet reminded them that she was arranging for them to talk with Rebecca Johnson the nurse who had found Raymond dead.  They arrived back at Mr. Shultz's room, the thin hospital-gown curtain had been pushed back to the wall revealing an elderly man.  Chaim Adler appeared to be in his late 80's.  The first thing you noticed when meeting Mr. Adler was his nose.  It was the most prominent feature on his face and besides the size, a healthy crop of hair adorned his nostrils.  It was hard not to stare.  He had small black eyes and bushy black eyebrows.  Wrinkles crowned his face with the air of wisdom.  Despite being in his 80's his midnight black hair sported only a few gray hairs.  In his right ear he wore a large, antiquated hearing aid.
"Good morning fellas!" a booming voice at odds with his otherwise average stature came from Mr. Adler surprising both Mike and John.
"Well, good morning to you Mr. Adler.  Judging by the tone of your voice you seem to be feeling pretty well."
"You betcha!  Don't assume that every 87-year-old man in a hospital bed is also on his deathbed.  My appendix ruptured and the doc had to pluck it out.  Said I'd only be in the hospital for a couple of days 'just to be cautious'.  Frankly I'm a little eager to leave, but when you get to be my age you start to learn how to be patient.  Hey do you know who won the Yankees game last night?"
"The Yankees Mr. Adler.  2-1.  On a suicide squeeze!  Probably the most exciting baseball game that I've seen a long time."  Replied Mike.
"Well Mr. Adler, we don't want to take too much of your time, we just", started John
"Take too much of my time?!  Do you think I've got something better to do that talk to you all.  Take as much time as you'd like!" interrupted Mr. Adler.
"Uhh.  OK.  Anyhow, you probably heard that your room mate Mr. Shultz died last night.", continued John.
"Sure did.  Poor lad.  He was young!  Wasn't he just in here for a tonsillectomy?"
"That's right.  And well it's not unheard of for a patient to die of complications from a tonsillectomy it's pretty rare.  Further, none of the nurses or doctors have any reasons to believe that there we complications.  So Dr. Adkins, the hospital administrator called us to investigate.  It's still too early for us to know anything for sure so we're just talking to folks like you." added Greenberg.
"Well, like you can guess I like to talk so anything I can do to help is free of charge." joked Mr. Adler.
"Thanks for your cooperation.  Can you start by telling us what your evening looked like, Mr. Adler.  Say, from 4pm until you went to bed." asked John.
"Sure.  I think my wife Ellen was visiting until dinner.  We talked a bit, and then she knitted while I read a Tom Clancy novel.  Ellen, boy do I love her!  I met her when I was in high school.  We married after I returned from the war.  I was stationed in the pacific arena as a bomber pilot killing Japs.  When I came back from the war and we got married I started a small business selling office supplies.  We had three kids two boys and a girl.  They're all grown now and living all of the world now.  Hey did you see that the city is taking on the renovation project down at the local farmers market?  'bout time!  I've been getting my veggies there since 1958.  Damn fine produce!  Much better than the lousy food they serve here.  Do you call that zucchini!  That was a pathetic excuse for vegetables if you ask me and frankly the meatloaf and mashed potatoes weren't any better.  The only good part of dinner was the iced cream sandwich but that's nothing special really."
Mr. Adler's thoughts continued to wander all over the place so John, sensing that he needed to add more structure to his question interrupted. "Tell me Mr. Adler.  Really what we need to know is whether anything odd happened last night."
"You mean other than that poor excuse for zucchini?"
"Yes.  Other than dinner."
"Hmm.  Well now that you put it that way let me think for a second."
Mr. Adler closed his eyes and scrunched up his face intensifying the wrinkles.  It was quitely for a disarmingly long period of time when he blurted out "Aha!"
"I woke up in the middle of the night.  I don't recall what time it was but it was after I went to bed around 10pm and it was before morning when I woke again at 7am with the delivery of breakfast.  My hearing aid started buzzing.  Apparently I forgot to shut it off like I usually do.  So I turned it off and feel almost immediately back to sleep.  You know how I got that hearing aid?  We were in a training exercise during the war and"
Mike interrupted. "Mr. Adler, thank you for your help.  I think we need to talk to Mrs. Johnson another nurse her."
Mr. Adler disappointed that his new found friends were leaving replied "No problem boys.  If you want to talk more I'll be right here for another day or two.  Then you can reach me at (718) 634-5234 or you can send me an email.  Did you know that I learned how to email?  My oldest son bought me a laptop last Christmas."
John interrupted this time. "Thank you Mr. Adler, we know where to reach you if we need additional information."
Both John and Mike, eager for change of pace from the frenetic conversation stepped back out into the corridor and spotted Janet at the nurses station.  They walked up to the station and grabbed her attention.
"Mr. Adler, is, uhh, quite a talker." stammered John.
"Is Ms. Johnson available now?" asked Mike.
Janet replied "yes she is, I asked her to sit down in the conference room.  You remember where that is gentleman right?"
"It's kinda hard to forget" replied Mike "We're starting to wear a path in this hallway running back and forth.  Thanks for arranging for us to talk with these people Janet."
"No problem.  Help yourself to the coffee in the conference room if you'd like".  The thought wasn't particularly appealing to either of them as the pot looked pretty well baked.
"Is there a pop machine around somewhere?" asked John "I'd like a Diet Coke"
"Me too" chimed in Mike.
"Continue past the conference room towards the elevator.  Take a left and you'll see a kitchen  on the right.  It has a soda machine."
"Thanks, Janet" replied John.
Following Janet's directions Mike and John headed past the elevators and around the corner over to the soda machine.  As they dug through their pockets looking for change for sodas John said,
"So far, I'm wondering why we're here.  A young kid dies tragically but in otherwise normal circumstances and it's time to call in New York's finest" making air quotes.
"What's that supposed to mean?", retorted Mike.
"What?  You've seen something that I haven't?"
"No, the air quotes.  You always used to love working here.  That seemed bitter."
"I didn't mean anything by it.  I guess I'm a little irked that it seems like we're wasting our time."
"Well, I agree there hasn't been noteworthy yet, but someone thought it was worth calling in and Dr. Adkins seems to agree.  I don't think we can make any conclusions until we see an autopsy report.  Until then you need to stay sharp.  Anything you miss now because you let yourself get distracted is something we don't get back and it could be the difference between getting to the bottom of something and not."
John sighed "You're right.  Sorry I lost perspective.  Hey, do you have an extra quarter?  I've only got a buck."
Mike, already holding his six quarters dug back into his pockets and searched.  As he search you could hear even more coins rumbling around.
"Jeez, Mike, is that an entire mint you've got in your pants?"
"Umm, no I forgot my wallet today so I grabbed all of the change out of the car for lunch.  So shut your trap.  I'm giving away lunch so you can drink a soda." said Mike handing John a pile of dimes and nickels adding up to fifty cents.
"Poor Mike, big John stole his lunch money.  Thanks man."
They took turns feeding the machine.  Mike got a Diet Coke and John bought a Cherry Coke.  Opening them they began to walk back to the conference room still chatting.
"Man I love Cherry Coke!  Not many places ever have it anymore.  Reminds of being a kid.  I remember the first time I had it.  My family was on our annual trip to Coney Island for the day.  We stopped to get pierogies and fries at one of the places along the boardwalk.  The sign showed all of the usual soda flavors but then I saw 'Cherry Coke'.  I asked the owner if that was a mistake or if it was Cherry soda or Cherry-flavored Coke.  The owner replied that it was a new flavor of Coke and suggested that I try it."
John took a sip.
"I wonder why a fountain soda always tastes better than a soda out of a machine?  The bubbles are wrong.  Fountain soda bubbles are soft and foamy.  Bottled soda bubbles are sharp and unfriendly."  He paused.  "Still good, but not like the first one."
"I didn't realize that you were such a soda connoisseur." said Mike in amazement.
"Rebecca Johnson is waiting in the conference room" interrupted Janet from behind the nurses station as Mike and John approached.
"Oh, OK.  Thanks" said John.
Mike held the door and John entered.  Rebbecca stood from the small kitchen table and smiled as John and Mike entered.  She was a middle-aged woman whose curly gray hair had betrayed her at a young age.  Bright blue-gray eyes highlighted her face and a few wrinkles were slowly emerging at the corners of her mouth.  She wore a little mascara, either that or she had really long eye lashes, it was hard to tell, but was otherwise all natural.  One wouldn't describe Rebbecca as skinny but she also wasn't overweight.  She wore very little jewelry except for a thin, well-worn wedding band on her left hand and a simple gold chain with one amethyst stone hanging over that little cup-like indent where her neck met her chest.
"Good morning.  Well, if a sad morning is still good." started Rebecca "I'm Rebecca Johnson."
"Hi Rebecca, I'm John Brody"
"and I'm Mike Greenber" added Mike.
"Tell me, why it's a sad morning Rebbecca." asked John.
"It doesn't make you sad when a young person dies?"
"We encounter young people dieing often.  Perhaps I'm just used to it.  Perhaps I created a shield to protect me, but I can't let sadness interfere with doing my job, so I guess I just don't think about it." replied John.
"You'd think that I would get used to death, working in a hospital.  I'm not sure I ever will.  It's always sad for me to lose a patient particularly young men.  I lost my son to a drunk driver when he was 21.  It still hurts to think about it and that was 12 years ago."
"I'm sorry Rebbecca." came John's feeble attempt to console.
"Do you mind if we ask some questions about Raymond?  I understand it might be hard for you, but we need your help to do our jobs." said Mike trying shift the conversation.
"Sure.  Sure.  I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to let my emotions get in the way." replied Rebecca.
"No problem.  Can you tell us when your shift started."
"I work from midnight until 8am." answered Rebbecca.
"So when you arrived at work Raymond was already out of surgery and recovering." said John.
"Yes.  In fact, I never met Mr. Shultz.  He was asleep when I arrived, and while I checked him every hour he never woke during my shift."
"Tell us what your routine through the night is." probed Mike interested in confirming if all nurses follow the same process.
"Well, in any given night I'm responsible for about 10 patients.  When I arrive in the night I meet with the nurses previously on duty and review the patient charts.  They debrief me on anything that I might need to know (kinda Cliff's notes of the patient charts).  I update myself on the rotation board and make sure that the patient names on the patient board are updated correctly.  I then check to see if any of them are due for medication which we also keep record of on the patient board as well as on a chart at the end of their bed.  If I have patients who need medication I make sure that we get those meds from the pharmacy.  I then do a round visiting each patient taking medication if I have any.  Since it's night time the patients are generally asleep.  Some I need to wake depending on the type of medications and what they're being treated for.  For example, I need to wake concussion patients every hour.  I wake the patient if necessary, give medication if necessary and then I check blood pressure machines, saline drips, medication dispensing machines, body temperature readouts, etc.  I empty catheter bags if they're too full.  And I do little things like making sure that the patient is covered with their blankets.  I repeat this cycle every hour."
"Does the cycle take an hour to complete?", asked John.
"Not exactly.  Depending on whether it's a cycle that includes medications or not then it can take as little as 30 minutes or as long as the full hour or longer."
"What do you do when it doesn't take the full hour?" tag-teamed Mike.
"If I need to I catch up on paperwork, read patient charts, visit the pharmacy, or other prep tasks.  If I don't have prep tasks then I'll read near the monitoring station, play freecell on the computer, get a cup of coffee, or visit a patient who is awake to chat.  Whatever it takes to pass the time."
"So you checked up on Mr. Shultz every hour starting at midnight?" John continued the questioning.
"Yes"
"When did you find Mr. Shultz dead?"
"I checked him every hour starting at midnight and shortly after my 6am rotation, maybe 15 minutes, I was sitting at the nurses station sipping a cup of coffee and reading White Oleander by Janet Fitch when his heart monitor went off.  I rushed back into his room to verify that the monitor was in place and working correctly.  It seemed like it was working correctly so I shook Mr. Shultz and tried to wake him.  No response.  I then listened for breathing and pulse and found nothing.  I immediately called for support and grabbed a defibrillator.  I shocked him and didn't get a pulse.  I repeated this process per the protocol and was unable to revive the patient."
"Who assisted you in you attempts to revive Mr. Shultz?" explored John.
"You know I don't remember everyone.  It was pretty stressful and chaotic.  Working in the recovery ward you don't have to many emergency cases like this.  It's not like the ER.  I do remember Tina Alvarez, the most senior nurse of the night shift, helped and I'm sure that anyone who was on shift would've at least stood at the ready and probably ran to get supplies, etc.  You should ask Janet for the shift log."
"What was the time of death and who called it?"
"I think it was 6:31, but we'd have to check the hospital records with Mr. Shultz in the morgue.  Tina called it." replied Rebecca.
"So what happens after a patient dies?  I mean where do they take the body, etc.?" said John taking over the questioning.
"I know some things, and I have a pretty good idea about other things, but you should ask Janet of Dr. Adkins to make sure my answer is right.  After the patient is called as dead we phone the morgue and start filling out reports which ultimately turn into a death certificate filed in the administrators office.  The morgue attendee and staff comes into the room of the patient and does an initial investigation which, I assume, is useful for an autopsy if requested.  They also interview the staff involved in resuscitation efforts.  Then they recover the body and take it down to the morgue.  After that, usually the cleaning staff comes to clean the room and prepare it for another patient.  In this case, Mr. Shultz's room hasn't been cleaned yet.  I'm not sure if that is because the cleaning staff is behind or if because we wanted to leave things more or less as they were, without the body obviously, so that you could investigate.  I know almost nothing of what happens once the body has been received at the morgue."
"Rebbecca, can we rewind the night a little.  I want to ask about the rotations before 6am when Mr. Shultz's heart monitor alarmed.  Did you notice anything at all odd either with Mr. Shultz or with the other patients?" asked John.
Rebecca shifted in her seat.  They'd been talking for about 15 minutes now and it was becoming clear that the chairs in the conference room weren't designed to be comfortable.
"I can't think of anything unusual.  In fact it really felt like almost any of my night shifts." replied Rebbecca.
"OK.  Well, I guess that's all I can think of for now.  Mike?" said John.
"I don't have anything more." said Greenberg.
"I hope that was helpful."
"Yes, thank you Mrs. Johnson.  If we need more we'll be sure to be in touch with you." finished John.
John stood first and pushed in his chair with Mike following.  Rebbecca sat there awkwardly wondering if she should wait for John and Mike to leave, if should wait for Janet to debrief, or if she should just return to her shift work.  On the way out John decided to try a cup of coffee.  He grabbed styrofoam cup and poured a swallow into the bottom.  He smelled it and decided that it wasn't scorched so he filled the cup and put the pot back on the burner.  He turned and headed towards the door.  Exiting the conference room they turned towards the nurses station to find Janet.  She was sitting behind the counter with reading glasses on crouched over a computer screen when John and Mike showed up.
"Oh!  You startled me." squeaked Janet.  "I hope that Rebbecca was helpful."
"Yes, very." replied John.
"Good.  Well, I don't think I have anything left up here for you to look at.  Shall I call Dr. Adkins?  He can take you down to the morgue to consult with Dr. Miller who I think is performing an autopsy."
"Sure.  Please call Dr. Adkins." said Mike.
"One more thing before we go." added John.
"Yes.  Anything." responded Janet.
"Were you the one who called the police?" asked John.
"Yes."
"Why?  I probably shouldn't say anything at this point, but I haven't seen anything unusual.  You don't call the police for every death that occurs in the hospital.  Right?"
Janet hesitated for a moment.  "Well...  Something just didn't seem right.  Mr. Shultz was only 22, he was in for a routine tonsillectomy, and he died of what appeared to be a heart attack in his sleep.  He was, by all indications a vivacious and healthy man.  I recommended an autopsy and I thought we should also bring in the police just in case."
The answer seemed reasonable, but John noticed her hesitation and wondered if there was something she wasn't saying but by this point Dr. Adkins had shown up.
"Hello gentlemen.  I hope you all are finding everyone to be helpful." entered Dr. Adkins.
"Yes, very.  Your staff has been very helpful so far." replied Mike.
John, wanting to finish out his conversation with Janet turned to her and said "Thanks your help.  We'll be back if we need more information."
"No problem.  Thank you for coming." replied Janet.
"John... Mike... Follow me.  I'm going to take you down to the morgue to talk with Dr. Miller who is performing an autopsy." said Dr. Adkins.
They walked back through the same corridor they'd been up and down several times so far and headed towards the elevator.  Dr. Adkins pushed the down button and they waited for it to arrive without speaking to each other.  John began to replay the conversations from the morning over again in his head.  The elevator arrived with an uncharacteristic electrical buzzer sound.
"Damn it.  I'm going to have to call maintenance again!  I asked them to look into the chime on the elevator last week." said Dr. Adkins betraying an emotion for the first time.
Inside the elevator Dr. Adkins pushed the button for the basement.  The elevator jolted downwards buzzing as it passed each floor and only needing to stop at their destination.  They stepped out of the elevator and their were three corridors.  One directly ahead, one to the left, and one to the right.  All of them were poorly lit with well maintained flourescent light.  The ceilings were lower than elsewhere in the hospital and were drop ceilings with white, pock marked,  tiles that looked like those asbestos heating pads from a high school chemistry class.  Occasionally the tiles were stained brown with the residue of water leak.  They turned left and headed down the hallway.  Most of the doors in the hallway were solid white metal doors with labels; maintenance, uniform storage, etc.  The door for the morgue had a glass cut-out labeled Morgue: Dr. Miller.  Through the window you could tell that it was part laboratory part refrigerator to store bodies.  Dr. Adkins opened the door and led Mike and John in.  Once inside you could see Dr. Miller working with a body on a table.  The room was lit even worse than the hallways, but Dr. Miller had several spot lights mounted from the ceiling and movable like in a dentist chair.
Dr. Miller looked up from making an incision and said "Good morning Dr. Adkins.  How can I help?"
"Good morning Dr. Miller," replied Dr. Adkins.
"This is officer John Brody and this is officer Mike Greenberg" continued Dr. Adkins taking turns gesturing to both John and Mike
"They're working on the Randall Shultz case.  I think you've already started the autopsy.  What can you share at this point with these gentlemen?"
"Um, OK, can you wait just a minute I'd like to finish what I'm doing here, wash up and then I can talk further.  You're welcome to stay and watch." answered Dr. Miller.
Dr. Miller was gathering a sample of something from what appeared to be the intestines of the body from a middle-aged man lying on his table; apparently not Randall Shultz.  He would collect the sample, into a small plastic jar with a metal screw on top, label it, place it on the counter behind him, and then write something on his clip board.  He repeated this pattern a few times and then pulled a white linen sheet over the body pulled his latex gloves off and walked over to the sink where we scrubbed up to his elbows for a good 3 or 4 minutes.
"Alright.  I'm sorry about that!  It's just that when you're collect biomass samples from a victim's digestive track it's hard to stop in the middle." began Dr. Miller grossing out John a little.
"I'm Matt Miller" said Dr. Miller thrusting out his hand towards John.
John thought twice about shaking that hand for a nanosecond and then firmly shook Dr. Miller's hand.
"Like Dr. Adkins said, I'm office John Brody investigator with the 78th Precinct."
Dr. Miller repeated the ritual with Mike without much variation from either participant.
"Let me see.  Ah yes.  Randall Shultz.  Sad when such a young man dies isn't it?" started Dr. Miller.
"Come over here" directed Dr. Miller.
He walked over to the wall where they stored bodies.  There were three rows of brushed stainless steel lockers about the size of a college mini-fridge each with their own polished stainless steel pull handle.  Each locker had a small white label with a date, first initial and last name.  Some quick math and John deduced that they could store 21 bodies at once.  Dr. Adkins located the locker labeled "R. SHULTZ" on the bottom row farthest to the right.  He opened the door and slid out the rack on which was laying the body covered in the same white linen as the other body Dr. Miller was working with.  Dr. Miller pulled back the linen to reveal Mr. Shultz.  John knew he was only 22 but he looked much younger.
Dr Miller started "So far gentlemen here's what I know.  There are lots of things that Mr. Shultz did NOT die of.  There are no signs of external duress, contusions, bruises, ligature marks, etc. and there is no sign of struggle.  I have also not found anything in his stomach/digestive tract.  There are no signs of infection and as far as I can tell he was healthy.  I examined the area around his tonsillectomy to see if there was anything there and also found nothing."
"So was this a natural death" interrupted John.
"I don't know yet." continued Dr. Miller.  "I do know that the ultimate cause of death was heart failure but there are many ways that could happen most of them perfectly natural.  I've collected a sample of blood and sent it to the lab to see if there is anything there worth exploring, but I won't have results for that for a couple of hours.  At this point I don't think there is anything more that I can say and won't be ready for a final report until I have that lab work back.  Any questions?"
Both John and Mike thought for a second then Mike spoke "Nothing here is pointing anything criminal, but we're the police so indulge us.  Are there viable causes for Mr. Shultz heart failure that may have been criminal?  Because if the answer is no I don't know that there is much more that we can do.  John do you disagree?  I mean we'll definitely look at your final report Dr. Miller, but if it's unlikely that Mr. Shultz heart attack was criminal we should probably move on to a different assignment."
Dr. Miller responded "Oh there are many possibilities.  Perhaps he had the wrong medications?  Perhaps he had too much medication?  Perhaps he ate something he was allergic too?  Perhaps he was poisoned?  Some of those possibilities are just mistakes or tragedies, but some of them could've been criminal as well.  There are other less likely possibilities too, but we don't really think that something illegal happened here so we're not exploring those yet.  Why don't you come back around 3pm when I have the results from the lab work and hopefully I can give you a better answer."
"No, that was helpful." replied John.  "Do you think we can cover any additional details from your results over the phone or would it be better to be here in person?"
"Oh, I expect that we can discuss the results over the phone, and if something turns up that you need to SEE I'll let you know.  You're only a few minutes away from the hospital if I recall correctly." replied Dr. Miller.
"That sounds good to me."  said Mike.  "Besides, as hard as it is to imagine while standing in a morgue...," he continued "I'm actually getting hungry.  John, let's go get lunch and return to the station.  You can call Dr. Miller back later this afternoon and we can see what needs to happen from there."
"Sounds, good to me." replied John. "Dr. Adkins, and Dr. Miller.  Thanks for your help today.  Dr. Miller, I'll call you around 3pm."
"OK," said Dr. Miller "If I discover anything important sooner than that I'll call you."
"Can you help us find the way back to the parking lot." Said Mike sheepishly.
"Certainly," said Dr. Adkins and started walking them back towards the elevator.  At the elevator he stopped and said "Take this to the 'G' floor and then walk straight out, past the receptionist, and out the double doors.  I believe that's where you parked.  I'd take you but I need to talk with Dr. Miller about a different patient first.  Thanks for your help."
John and Mike entered the elevator and Dr. Adkins watched the doors close and then turned and walked impatiently back towards the morgue.  When he re-entered the room he asked Dr. Miller "is there anything you didn't say that I should know?"
"What do you mean?"
"Really, a 22 year old boy who is otherwise healthy dies from a heart attack after a tonsillectomy and our best explanations are nature, accident, and poisoning?" said Dr. Adkins a little irritated.
"Well, yes." paused Dr. Miller "at least until I get more results from the lab.  Is there a reason why you think there may be something else?"
"No", hesitated Dr. Adkins, "I mean... well... no I guess not.  I'll wait for the results but if you find something call me first." and with that he turned and left.
The elevator door opened and John and Mike stepped out into the lobby.  They quickly oriented themselves and identified the door on the other side of the receptionist's desk with huge tropical trees on either side arching together overhead.  They headed towards the doors, Mike walking with greater urgency thinking about lunch than John who was still thinking about everything from this morning.  As they walked past the receptionist a woman wizened with age chimed "Have a nice day gentlemen."
Mike continued walking hastily.  John, emerged from his thinking long enough to turn back and reply "thanks. Hope you have a nice day as well."
Outside it was still crisp and beautiful the air was a welcome savior from the stale air of the hospital.  John breathed deeply filling his lungs to the point that they almost ached from the cool air.  Mike continued his march towards the car while asking over his shoulder to John, who had fallen a few paces behind "where do you want to eat?"
John replied "is that all you can think about now?  We just spent the morning investigating what may have been a crime.  Don't you want to think things through and make sure we haven't missed anything?"
"Sure, I do.  After we decide where to eat.  I'm starving and my mind isn't going to be of much use until I get something in my belly." replied Mike.
John sighed.  "You're one of a kind Mike!  If we're not going to make any progress until we find some lunch then I suggest we go back to the station to park and then walk down to Vegetarian Palate.  It's only a short walk and while 'soy chicken' sounds awful it's actually very good."
"Done!" said Mike as he open his door and got into the car.  John rushed to get into the car as well before Mike was off driving.
The drive back to the precinct was a straight shot up 7th Ave. where they were able to avoid the congestion around Army Grand Plaza.  The drive back only took 7 minutes until they were parked in the garage and Mike was walking towards the Vegetarian Palate John in tow.
It was 12:50pm when they arrived at Vegetarian Palate after a short walk.  It was well after the lunch rush so they were able to get a table immediately.  Mike grabbed the menu as he was being seated by the waitress, a twenty-something blond with stylish short hair, and an eyebrow ring above her deep blue eyes.  Her name tag said Amber.  Before she could say "welcome to Veggie Palate" Mike jumped in with "I'll have the soy chicken with spinach in curry sauce, a hot tea, green tea preferably, and glass of ice water."
John had barely even taken his seat so when he said "Hi Amber, how are you today?  Start Mike's order.  I'll have a water for now, can you come back in a couple of minutes for my order?" it served the triple purpose of scolding Mike, greeting his usual waitress and friend, and buying himself some more time to consider the menu.
"Sure no problem John.  I'll get off this order and be back in a few minutes."
John's eyes followed her back to the kitchen taking his mind off the morning for a few minutes.
Amber was a student at Brooklyn College, but she wasn't a typical student.  She didn't get started until her late twenties after a decade of chasing a living as a poet when she decided to study Art History and get her teaching certification.  She and John first met at Veggie Palate and had become pretty good friends.  Occasionally on Tues. nights they'd go salsa dancing together after doing shots of tequila at Hank's across from the Zen Center on Atlantic avenue.  They had an ambiguous relationship.  Neither of them thought of themselves as dating, and neither of them restricted themselves to only see the other, but by most common measures they were.
Amber returned a few minutes later with a plate of "soy chicken" for Mike.  She plopped it down on the table a little too hard on accident.  The four legged pedestal table wobbled uncomfortably and threatened to spill drinks.
"Whoa, sorry about that!  The plate is hot and I realized I need to set it down quickly...  Too quickly actually.  Watch yourself on that plate Mike." recovered Amber.
"OK, John, have you had time to decide?" asked Amber.
John jolted out of a thought stumbled for a coherent sentence. "Umm... uh... yeah.  The usual.  Bean curd with mixed veggies." he said.
"Really?  Did you think I needed the clarification?" Amber picked on John.
"Lucky for you I put in that order already.  It'll be up in a few minutes."
"Great!  I shouldn't fool myself into thinking that I'll even be creative here.  Thanks for indulging me at least." replied John.
"So how's your day been?  Anything exciting with Brooklyn's finest?" queried Amber.
"It's been a bit odd actually.  We've spent the morning interviewing witnesses and employees of a non-homicide at the hospital." said John.
"Non-homicide?"
"Well...  not really.  A young guy died unexpectedly and the hospital and we were asked to have a look.  So far everything is checking out as just a sad story, but we still need to review the autopsy later this afternoon.  You?  How's your day going?" returned John.
"Actually, it just started a couple of hours ago.  I didn't get up until 11am; just in time to get to work.  Last night I went to see Sufjan Stevens at the Bowery afterwards me and my girlfriends had a few beers and I didn't get home until 2:30am.  Great show by the way.  Today I work until 4pm and then I've got an exam on Mayan Art from 7-9pm.  Par for the course for a college student I guess.  Let me go get your lunch." she turned and abruptly rushed back to the kitchen.
Amber returned moments later with a steaming plate of bean curd and veggies.
"Here ya go!  I assume you'll like it as usual.  Give me a call sometime and we can go dancing." she dropped the check on the table, scooped up Mike's empty plate and returned to the kitchen.
"Wow!  How did you eat that so quick?" John wondered aloud.
"Quick?  You and Amber were blabbering away.  Shut-up and eat.  I don't want to sit around all afternoon." retorted Mike.
John timidly started eating.  On more than one occasion he'd rushed into his dish and burned himself.  Today it wasn't as hot as usual probably because Amber had pre-ordered for him and they'd killed some time chatting.  He finished the meal quickly still thinking about the morning.
Mike and John each dropped a $10, enough to cover the meal and leave a nice tip and then headed for the door waving to Amber and shouting their thanks to the owner of the restaurant.
On their walk back to the precinct Mike and John agreed that there wasn't much that they could do until they heard more from autopsy results but once back at his desk John couldn't stop thinking about the morning.  He'd finished scribbling notes about talking with Dr. Watkins, Janet, Connie, Rebecca, and Dr. Miller when his phone rang.  It was Dr. Miller.
"Hello, this Dr. Miller with New York Methodist.  Is this Officer John Brody?" asked Dr. Miller.
"Yes sir.  How can I help you."
"I've got the results from the blood tests for Randall Shultz.  I think you're probably going to want to come back down to the hospital." paused Dr. Miller.
"What did you find?" asked John.
"Well...  I'm not sure for certain but it appears that Mr. Shultz was poisoned with some organic compound that I'm not familiar with." continued Dr. Miller.
"Really?  Are you able to narrow down the compound?" replied John.
"Yes. I'm confident we're dealing with an organic toxin.  I can't be absolutely certain that that was the cause of death without knowing exactly what it is.  However my lab doesn't have the equipment to do more analysis.  I think you're going to have to get the NYPD forensics lab involved." answered Dr. Miller.
"OK.  Well be sure to keep samples for us.  I need to talk with Mike and our captain to figure out our next steps.  It's pretty likely that at least one of us will be back to investigate more later today.  Thanks for the call."
"Sure.  No problem.  If I find anything more I'll call you."
"Bye. Dr. Miller"
"Bye"
John hung up the phone and sat there thinking for a moment.  A flier mostly covered by the stacks of other junk on his desk caught his attention.  He pulled it from under the other papers and looked at it.  He'd gotten it the other day on his way to work from a street evangelist.  Getting random papers from random people on the street wasn't unusual so he wasn't quite sure why this one had caught his attention.  The flier was for the Church of St. Mark's an Episcopal church about 10 blocks East of Prospect Park.  On the cover was a picture of the church, some medieval art, and a couple of verses from Corinthians:
If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
On the back of the flier was a map, information about the church (the priest, nursery, etc.), a phone number and the message "Join our body."
John dropped the flier back on his desk and went looking for Mike.  He found him in the kitchen pouring a cup of coffee.
"Mike, Dr. Miller, called."
"And..." said Mike almost impatiently.
"and he things Randall was poisoned." replied John.
"Poisoned?  You're kidding me!  We didn't see anything suspicious.  He's sure?"
"I'm a little less certain that there is nothing suspicious.  I can't say we saw anything specific but I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.  That said it was a surprise that Dr. Miller was confident that he'd found an organic toxin in Mr. Shultz's blood sample."
"Does he know what the toxin is?" asked Mike.
"No.  He said we'd need to engage our forensics group if we needed a precise classification.  I haven't called anyone yet.  I wanted to talk with you before we start taking next steps."
"Sure.  OK.  Do you have ideas?" replied Mike unprepared.
"Obviously, I think that we do need to involve forensics.  We should get some of their people together and head back over to the hospital.  I'll call Dr. Watkins and get him to make sure that things remain as they are.  Can you call Robert from forensics to see if he and Anna can gather up their gear and meet us at the hospital as soon as possible."
"That sounds like a plan.  Make our calls and then meet in the lobby in 5 minutes?" asked Mike.
"Yep."
John left the kitchen and returned to his desk.  He dialed Dr. Watkins.
"Hello.  Dr. Watkins speaking."
"Dr. Watkins.  This is John Brody with the New York Police Department.  Have you had a chance to speak with Dr. Miller about Randall Shultz?" asked John.
"No.  I hadn't.  Does he have results?"
"Yes.  He things that Mr. Shultz was poisoned."
"Oh!  That's terrible."
"Yes it is.  Dr. Miller was unable to determine the exact type of the poison.  He only knows that it was an organic toxin.  We need to return with our forensics team.  They'll need to take samples from Mr. Shultz's room, talk with Dr. Miller, see the body, and generally have access to people at the hospital.  I think we'll also want to talk with Connie, Rebecca, and Janet again.  Can you arrange for all of this?"
"Certainly!  I think Connie is on her shift.  I'll get Janet and Rebecca to come in early for their shifts to be available to you if needed."
"Thanks.  Mike and I will be over within 30 minutes.  I don't know when our forensics team will be ready, but I wouldn't expect it to be much longer than that."
"OK.  We'll be expecting you."
"Thanks Dr. Watkins.  See you in a bit.  Bye." said John hanging up.
John grabbed his coat and went to the lobby.  Mike was already there waiting.
"Were Robert and Anna available?" asked John.
"Anna was at another assignment, but Robert is coming and he said he'd bring their new guy Glenn.  Said, they could be there in an hour." replied Mike.
"Great.  Dr. Watkins is expecting us.  I told him that we'd want to talk to Connie, Rebecca, and Janet again.  He said that Connie was already there on her shift but that he'd need to call Rebecca and Janet to come in early for their shifts.  Let's get over there."

John and Mike just headed to the hospital.  They'll meet Robert and Glenn from forensics....  When they get there Connie (the nurse who received Randall from surgery) will be there to talk.  Janet and Rebecca will show later...  John won't be asked to wear the mask...  So he'll smell the flowers and that'll catch his attention.  Rebecca will be on the phone at some point and the patient next to Randall will stir and be adjusting his hearing aid...  John will notice him AND Rebecca....  Forensics collects what they need..
Later in the evening John remembers the smell of the Oleander and put things together to point the finger at Rebecca...  He starts researching how she could've done it... Finds the florist, etc.

To be finished posthumously....