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Dr. Wu’s Secrets Pile Up

One night, a naked Dr. Wu found himself in a dungeon, his hands shackled behind him, his ankles bound with soft braided rope. Down on his knees on a cold concrete floor, he was being tortured by a fierce-looking Asian woman, scantily clad in leather. The woman—Ayla was her name—alternately tickled his nipples with a tasseled flogger, and used it to slap him hard across his face. Dr. Wu found such maltreatment irresistible, although he did insist that Ayla not create any visible marks on him that others might question.

From frequenting this concession only once a month or so, Dr. Wu had in recent months increased his visits, so that he was now coming once a week on average, usually on a weeknight, when he could tell Mrs. Wu that he was attending a meeting at Kaiser. Dr. Wu was not a particularly reflective person, so he could not have explained the increase in visits. But this did coincide with a strengthening of his conservative beliefs, the chief evidence of which was his participation, sometimes several times a day, on the Breitbart website. Dr. Wu could not have called himself a white nationalist, because of his Asian ancestry; but he was an ardent American nationalist, and the pro-American expression he found permeating the Comments section appealed to him. So did the putting down of Democrats, whom Dr. Wu, like others on Breitbart, took to calling “snowflakes” and “libtards.”

He took great pains to hide his increasing isolation and secret life from, not only Mrs. Wu, but from other family members and from his friends and colleagues at Kaiser. To his fellow primary care physicians Dr. Wu was a model of probity, a superb diagnostician; in patient satisfaction surveys he always scored near the top. A few wondered about a certain aloofness they sensed in him, but this never went beyond them thinking he was simply a man who valued his privacy.

When a fifteenth body was discovered slain—another homeless person, and the first woman—only blocks from Kaiser’s Broadway hospital, Dr. Wu was as shocked as everyone else. By now the “Oakland Homeless Killings,” as they were known in the media, had become a national story. America is obsessed with mass murders, but a serial killer is perhaps the sine qua non of sensationalism: and Oakland was now home to the most infamous string of serial killings America had known for decades.

The gender of the latest victim, as well as the location of the murder, took Rosey by surprise. The fact that it was a woman broke the pattern; homicide detectives hate broken patterns, because it upsets their earlier calculations, and forces them almost back to square one. Then, too, whereas all the earlier killings had occurred in Jack London Square, Lake Merritt or West Oakland (at least, that’s where the bodies had been found), this one had moved considerably northward, to Mosswood Park. This too troubled Rosey: the killer was on the move. He (it was almost undoubtedly a “he”) might have been feeling endangered by restricting his activities only to certain areas the police were heavily investing. He might alternatively simply be feeling adventurous; or, perhaps knowing something of the forensic arts, maybe he was merely throwing his pursuers off the scent. Whatever the motive, this geographic shift concerned Rosey.

The deceased woman was not difficult to identify. Her name was Ruth Bates. She was 54 years old, without family in the area, or friends; apparently, she’d been living in the streets for years—yet another loner, on the far fringes of society, living out a meager life. Oakland Social Services had extensive records on her: she was diabetic, mildly schizophrenic, with high blood pressure. She’d been in and out of hospital emergency rooms: the last time, a few months before her death, because of shingles. Rosey made inquiries. Bates’ attending physician at that time had been Dr. Edwin Wu. It was, Rosey decided, time to pay the good doctor another visit.

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