The Plague of New York


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Salvatore Rienzi.  It is a name that very few people know, but that is who I was.  I say was because if you are reading this then I am dead and as I am no longer in a position to care I will not spend your precious time going on and on about that fact.

As I said, mine was not a name many were familiar with, although I played a crucial role in an historical event that even less people knew about than the number of people who knew or even cared who I was.  You are probably asking yourself, "What is this old man going on about?"  Well, our story starts out a long time ago.

The year was 1961 and Jack Kennedy was the president, having spent less than those all important first hundred days in the office, so he was in no way prepared for what was to come.  But, then none of us were ready.  We never thought we would need to be.  Not for that.  Never for that.

Sure, we were constantly under nuclear threat from the Kruschev led Kremlin and his friend Fidel Castro, but nothing ever even hinted of what was to come.  Science wasn't anywhere near what it was today when every other crime show features specialized forensic data that always leads to the bad guy.  It was only a few years earlier that Watson and Crick discovered the shape of DNA, not that it made any sense to the rest of us.  A Double Helix?  What was that?  I sure as hell didn't know.  Our enemies did, you can be sure of that.  Back when we Americans were stumbling around in the dark, our enemies developed what became the first successful bioterrorist weapon of modern time.  It took our greatest medical minds (and one rather persistent cop, if I do say so myself and who is to stop me) to stop them from killing us all.

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Chapter 1

April 15, 1961

New York City

Detective First Class Salvatore Rienzi was wishing for some action.  He'd just gotten off of a year long assignment in which he seemed to constantly be doing something and suddenly he was left with absolutely nothing on his plate.  Well, that wasn't true.  What he had on his plate was paperwork.  A lot of paperwork.  More paperwork than was really necessary in his opinion.  So, he shot some mafia thug.  He should have gotten a commendation for ridding the world of that animal.  But, no.  He was stuck filling out paperwork.  Sure, he'd probably end up with the commendation once he'd submitted his reports to his Commanding Officer, but he hated having to type of his notes and observations.  Things would sure as hell go faster if he could just write everything up by hand, but the police commissioner wanted a police force for the Twentieth Century and that meant using a godforsaken typewriter. Typing was not exactly part of his skill set as a former high school drop out and even if he hadn't dropped out, he wouldn't have been taught how to type.  That was something skirts did and he sure as hell wasn't a skirt.  

He sighed as he finally finished the first page of notes.  It only took him two hours to get everything right.  It wasn't bad enough that he had to use a fucking typewriter.  No, he had to make sure he spelled every goddamned word correct.  His C.O. was big on fucking grammar.  Who gave a flying fuck about grammar?  What did grammar have to do with being a good cop?  Nothing.  The cop, who trained him, was lucky to be able to string a coherent sentence together, but he had no trouble getting perps to confess.  He definitely had a way of eliciting information that most punks wanted to keep secret.  One harsh look from former Detective Murphy and even the most hardened criminal pissed himself.  It didn't hurt that Murph had the reputation of a bruiser.  So what some criminal needed several stitches after being questioned by Murph.  It wasn't as if they had rights.  Unless you were talking about the right to get the shit beaten out of them by a good cop.  That, they had a right to.  Someone needed to keep the scum of the Earth away from the general populace and Murph was the one to do it.  At least it had been until he got a little rough with a suspect and the guy ended up in the morgue.  Their CO hadn't been crazy about that.  That was the day, old Murph "retired."

To say Murph would have been less delighted than Sal was when the order came down about proper reports would be an understatement.  Just as he was adding a new sheet of paper to the typewriter, the door at the end of the hall slammed open.

"Rienzi, get in here!" Barked his CO.  That couldn't be good.  Did he forget to dot an 'i' somewhere?  Cross a 't'?  It really was ridiculous.  Time was a cop was a good cop because they brought the perp in, but now he was expected to do all this extra shit that sure as hell wasn't in his job description when he was hired nearly twenty years ago.  No, back then, all that mattered was whether he could fire a gun at a moving target, which was something he learned on the battlefields of Germany as he fought to free the world of the worst piece of shit to ever walk on its green grass.  Adolf Hitler thought he could exterminate an entire race of people and get away with it?  Not with men like Sal out there.  Unfortunately, Hitler was too much of a coward to face his punishment, his Earthly one anyway, and took his own life before one of his brothers could do it for him.  Sal was more that a little disappointed when word had spread that the Fuher was dead by his own hand.  Even if he wasn't the one to do it, he would have felt a hell of a lot more satisfied if one of his brothers were the one to end that Nazi pig.

He got up from behind his desk and barely resisted slamming his scarred wooden chair against its mate just to let the dickwad of a CO know that he could be pissed off too.  He just didn't want to get suspended so soon after closing the most important case of his career.  Walking down this long corridor always reminded him of those days in school when he was always getting in trouble for one thing or another and being sent to Father Michael's office for "discipline."  Sometimes he wished he could use the Catholic Church's version of discipline on the suspects he arrests.  He still had the scar on his head from the time Father Paul bashed his head against the bricks as his classmates watched in horror.  A deterent, they called it.  To Sal it was nothing more than religious sponsored abuse, which was one of the many reasons he no longer considered himself a "good Catholic boy."  His mother didn't exactly approve and forced him to go to mass with the rest of the family every Sunday.  At least it was in Latin and he could pretend to be listening most days.  It wasn't as if anyone even understood what the priest was saying.  One day the Church would catch up and actually have mass in English.  Even the Italian he learned at his mother's knee wasn't enough to help him keep us.

Knocking on the door, he waited for the Sergeant's gruff response telling him that he could enter, before opening the door and standing in front of the old man's noticabely unscarred desk.  Quite the opposite of what the detectives had out in the bullpen--not that such things mattered to Sal.  He was there to do the job.  Something told him that the Sarge didn't feel the same way.  

"Yes, sir," he said, with all due respect and just a slight hint of sarcasm that the Sergeant never picked up on no matter how many times he did it.

"Sit down, Rienzi," he said, indicating the chair just in front of the desk.  It was small and uncomfortable, but Sal knew he needed to take the seat otherwise he would never make it out of this office.  Sal adjusted his weight in the chair, luckily for him, he was all Italian and had inherited the stereotypical lack of height associated with that.

"The Abruzzi bust," his sergeant started.  "It was clean?"

"Sir?"  Sal asked, not sure what he was getting at.

"Was. It. Clean?" His boss bit out.  "No poisonous fruit, so to speak?"

What was this Sunday school?  "I don't understand, sir."

"Rienzi, do you follow politics at all?"

"No, sir.  Whenever someone talks about that shit, my eyes glaze over."

Sarge nodded.  "I figured as such.  There is a lot of talk lately about the Supreme Court coming down on law enforcement and the way we treat suspects."

"What type of talk?"  Asked Sal.

"Word is we won't be allowed to do certain things any more--things that have gotten other departments across the country sued.  I just want to make sure that you're doing everything you can to make sure that this department doesn't end up being the next one in the national spotlight."

"So..." Sal was still confused over how this pertained to his bust.

"So, that means, no beating suspects or coercing confessions out of perps.  I'm aware of your reputation with Detective Murphy, whose already been named in an unlawful death suit brought on by the widow of the man he killed.  It also means that you have to get warrants for any and all searches you do."

Sal was starting to get the picture.  "What does that mean for undercover assignments?"

"I'm not a lawyer, Rienzi, so I couldn't say.  It may come down to it that we may not be able to do undercover operations, which will make our job all the more harder to do.  I just want to be sure that everything you did while working with the Abruzzi's was on the up and up and that nothing is going to come back to bite us on the ass."

As far as Sal knew everything he did was a-okay, but if the Supreme Court is butting its nose into law enforcement...

"I don't know, boss.  When are they going to make their decision?"

"You can never tell with them.  The case I was told about was argued just last month.  Some woman in Ohio is suing the government for evidence that was taken without a proper warrant and it looks like she might actually win, so as long as you didn't violate some scumbag's Fourth Amendment Right against unlawful search and seizure, we should be fine."

"From what I know, all of that was taken care of before I even went under.  You should talk to the District Attorney if you're worried."  Sal couldn't even imagine what would happen if a monster like Giovanni Abruzzi got off again.  As head of the Abruzzi crime family, Giovanni was guilty of everything from witness tampering to murder to bribery of government agents, which was one of the reasons he was always able to get away with every crime he committed.

Sal was part of a joint NYPD/FBI investigation that uncovered everything the Abruzzi's wanted to keep quiet.  It was a big bust, the biggest of Sal's career and he'd be damned if he let some dame from the mid-west and some Liberal judges ruin everything he spent the last year of his life working towards.  Hell, the only reason he was Detective First Grade instead of second was because of what he sacrificed while working that case.

"This is total bullshit, Sarge.  None of those guys on the Supreme Court have ever been out on the streets and they expect us to walk on eggshells before making a bust?  Bullshit."

"I agree with you Detective and nothing has been decided yet.  Maybe the rumors I'm hearing are false, but we have to be as careful as we can with the law right now.  These are things that have always been on the books, so we should have been following them from the very beginning and to be honest a lot of the way things have been done over the years is more bullshit than what this case could mean for us.  Look at what happened to Murphy.  If he hadn't beaten so many suspects over the years, he wouldn't have thought he could do that to Santiago and now he wouldn't be facing a civil suit that could bankrupt him for the rest of his life.  Like it or not, Detective, but this suit might actually protect us as well.  Just make sure that nothing you do is going to jam you or this department up, Detective.  You're dismissed."


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Chapter 2

Atlanta, Georgia

CDC Headquarters

Doctor Patrick Quinn loved his life.  For the first time in his life, things were actually going his way.  He recently passed the probationary period with his job in the Investigative Unit of the Centers for Disease Control and was now fully vested as both a doctor and a detective within the division.  This was something he'd been working on since he graduated from Harvard Medical School a decade ago.  Most people, when they think of diseases, they think of cancers, blights on the human body that no one had any control over, but not Patrick.  That all changed during his time in the war.  All of the things the Nazi doctors did to their "patients" changed something in him, made him realize that people were vulnerable to diseases not just during cold and flu season or from their own bodies, but from synthetic diseases, manufactured in some laboratory in a far away country.  

When he came back from the war, he had a vague idea of going to medical school, but wasn't sure how he'd be able to use a medical degree to help fight terrorists armed with bacteria and viruses instead of guns and tanks.  It wasn't exactly something that was even being thought of in most circles.  Ordinary people didn't know the things that he saw when he was in Germany and at times he wished that he didn't have to know the things that he did, but then he remembers that in knowing, he could do something about it, even if most of the cases he investigated turned out to be nothing.

His most recent investigation took him to California, where he determined that an outbreak of Rubella was just that--an outbreak.  No biological terrorism about it.  He'd been relieved, but also disappointed as very few of his cases actually amounted to more than that.  When he was first sent there, he'd thought that the large number of sick was a good indication that it was something more that just a regular outbreak.

He walked into a rather non-descript building that was the unit's temporary headquarters, temporary because no one was even sure if this unit was even going to exist for much longer.  Not a single case of suspected bio-terrorism ended up being actual bio-terrorism and the government wasn't a big fan of throwing money at things that aren't necessary--unless of course we were talking about going to war, then they're always willing to throw money wherever it wants even if it was of better use somewhere else.  The only nice thing about being a part of a unit the future of which was uncertain was that there wasn't exactly a dress code.  He didn't need to keep his unruly hair cut to well above the nape of his neck and he sure as hell didn't need to wear some poorly made suit like the rest of the feds that he knew.

No, Patrick and the other doctors and nurses in his unit got to dress more or less the way they wanted to dress, so when he showed up as he did today, wearing an old pair of denim jeans and his bomber jacket no one really blinked an eye.  Of course, when he was out in the field, they did prefer it if he dressed a bit more professionally, but since he wasn't out in the field all that often, he could deal with that.

He walked passed the reception area, where Cecelia, the dragon lady as he thought of her, sat with her back straight and a disapproving look in her eye.

"You're late, Dr. Quinn," she said.

He looked at the watch on his wrist and noticed that it had stopped.  He shook it and it started again--an old trick his father taught him.  "Looks like I am.  Did I miss anything?"  He asked her, knowing that she was aware of absolutely everything that went on in the office and that if he smiled in just the right way she would unbend enough to give him the information.

"Nothing important, Doctor," she said, blushing to the roots of her red hair.  He had that effect on women.  If only it was that easy for him to use his charms on someone he was actually interested in...

"Thanks, CeCe," he said before opening the door to the conference room.  A group of people lined a scarred wooden table that took up much of the room's space.  The only other object in the room was a blackboard in the corner.  It was used to keep a tally of which agents were in what cities working which cases.  At the moment, Richards and Clarke were in Mississippi working a suspected Mumps outbreak, Emile and Goodachre were in Baltimore investigating a group of people with Small Pox-like symptoms, and Walsh and Johnson were in Santa Fe working a Plague case, none of which were likely to turn up anything more than a bunch of sick people.  The most interesting case was the one in Baltimore seeing as the doctors that originally brought the case to their attention weren't quite sure whether it was actually Small Pox or not.  Of course, most people hearing that someone might have The Plague in New Mexico would think that this was the most dangerous possibility out there, especially considering the fact that it killed a third of Europe in the fourteenth century, but what very few people knew was that Plague cases turn up fairly often, especially in places like New Mexico, and is easily cleared up by anti-biotics, so there was nothing to worry about there.  If more people suddenly started showing symptoms, then that would be different.  Chances were that the person in Santa Fe came into contact with an infect rodent of some kind and got it that way.  Since, he was treated quickly after coming out of it, the odds of it developing into Pneumonic Plague, the only infectious version of the disease, were slim.

"Nice of you to join us, Pat," said the white haired man at the head of the table.  Anderson Jacobs was the head of their unit and was the best boss that Patrick had ever worked with, but if there was one thing that he hated it was tardiness.

"Sorry, sir.  Watch stopped and I didn't realize the time until CeCe told me I was late.  It won't happen again," he said, taking the only open seat at the table.  Next to him was Matthew Hunt, the newest doctor to join their unit, having been recruited just last week.  He was right out of Johns Hopkins and had argued he should have been the agent assigned to the Baltimore case, since he'd actually worked with the primary doctor involved back when he was doing his residency, but Jacobs was adamant that more experienced agents be sent and so Hunt had been partnered with Patrick, whose last partner transferred out of the unit a month prior.  He'd claimed it was better to flee before he was out of a job.  Patrick understood the logic in that, but he wasn't ready to abandon ship just yet.  Hell, he'd rather be the proverbial captain that went down with his ship than the rats that fled out of self-preservation.

"Now that everyone is present," Jacobs began, glancing at Patrick out of the corner of his eye, "There are several updates of our current cases, but the gist is that all of them are ordinary outbreaks.  Emile and Goodacre will be staying on in Baltimore for a few more days just to make sure that there is nothing to be worried about there, but everyone else is headed back to base.  Looks like we'll have a full house again soon."

"Are there any cases on the horizon?"  Asked Hunt, who like Patrick was eager to get some action around here.

"Unfortunately, no," answered Jacobs.  No one seems to be getting sicker than they should be for this time of year, which while a good thing for them, isn't necessarily great news for us."

"Should we be worried about our jobs?"  Asked one of the other agents at the table.  Patrick didn't know him very well as they hadn't worked any cases together and the other agent, Michaelson, kept to himself.  From everything he heard, the man was a damn fine doctor, but he hadn't seen anything first hand.

Jacobs grimaced.  "President Kennedy is willing to give us a shot for a little while longer, but word is Congress isn't too thrilled with us.  We lobbied them to create this unit because we were certain that someone would pick up where Hitler's men left off and with the way the Soviets feel about us, they were more than willing to back us.  After nearly five years, without any real bio-terrorist cases to report, they're less inclined to believe in us, so in short, I'd be worried."

The meeting lasted a few minutes longer, but nothing of importance was discussed since they had no new cases to think about.  When it was over, Hunt asked Patrick if he wanted to join him for a smoke.  Sensing that this little powwow was about more than the inhalation of some carcinogens, Pat agreed to join him, although he wouldn't indulge himself.  He'd never liked the things himself and if recent studies were to believed they were actually dangerous to one's health.  He'd decided to err on the side of caution and give up the habit, which in reality had only been a social thing anyway.

As the two men walked to the parking lot to retrieve their cars--no reason to stay in the office if nothing was going on--Matt lit up his cigarette.  Having bummed cigarettes off of him before Pat knew he was a Marlboro man and wasn't surprised to see the iconic red and white carton.  Matt offered him one, but he turned it down despite the alluring smell of tobacco and nicotine.

"Is it always like this?"  Asked Matt after a moment.

"Like what?"  Replied Pat, leaning against his '57 Bel air.

"This slow?  I agreed to come to this unit because I thought it would be fun, traveling all over the country, stopping bad men from making ordinary Americans sick, but I've been here a week already and nothing.  I've seen more of my apartment in the last week than I did in the entire time I was in med school and in residency.  Did I make a big mistake?"

"Honestly," Pat began,"I'm not sure.  I'm here because I felt the need to make the world a better place after seeing what the Nazi's did in those Concentration Camps.  I don't think I've wasted a minute of my time, but if you're here for adventure, then this might not be the place for you.  Hell, medicine might not even be the right field for you.  It isn't exactly known for being the most daring profession."

"I'm not looking for adventure per se, just something more.  More than just sitting behind a desk and doing nothing all day every day for the rest of my life."

"Then, hang in there.  The worst that's going to happen is that you'll see some crappy parts of the country and treat people for diseases that you don't come across every day."

Matt nodded, smoke clouding the air in front of them.  Patrick breathed it in, its scent intoxicating.  Man, he really wanted a cigarette.

"What about what Jacobs said?  Do you think they'll shut the unit down?"

"Maybe.  Kennedy seems like the type of guy willing to try new things; I mean he wants to go to the moon and to help the starving people of Africa.  Most presidents, FDR notwithstanding, don't even want to help the suffering in this country, so I'd say we have a decent chance so long as he's around."

"Could Congress cut us?"

"Anything's possible.  If Congress gets a bug up its butt, they might just override anything that Kennedy sanctions.  That's happened in the past, so it definitely can happen again."

"Should I try for a transfer?"

Patrick shrugged.  "I can't answer that for you.  If you think that is the best thing for you, then do it." He stood up straight.  "I'm going to head home for a little while.  My best advice is the sleep on it; talk it over with Meg, see what she thinks you should do."  Meg was Matt's wife, who was nearly nine months pregnant and was the most important thing in Matt's life, which was as it should be.

Matt nodded.  "Thanks, man," he said.

"No worries," replied Pat, walking around his cat and going in the driver's side door.


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