A Murder Mystery
by Joseph T. McFadden
Hermes' Viper is set in a huge 3,000-bed
charity hospital. Idealistic Dr. Stuart Holton is a neurosurgeon
in a hospital on Chicago's South Side. He chose that exceedingly
active practice out of love of humanity and a drive to save lives.
In the reaches of the large hospital wards, terminal patients beyond
treatment are routinely found dead, but the dedicated Dr. Holton
realizes that the mortality rate among his patients is becoming
Then, patients who are not terminal die under troubling circumstances.
Lost in his dedication to patients
who would die without his help, Dr. Holton unwittingly carries in
the wake of his benevolence third serpent on his caduceus, a viper
poisonous unto death, the woman who has secretly stalked him for
sixteen years. She has lived in a lost identity since fire scarred
and maimed her at the age of five, and she seeks to find her true
self through the pursuit of a long sought love and by bringing merciful
death to the suffering.
Yet, on the evidence, the troubling deaths can't quite be called
murder. In Hera's Journal, the woman describes her daily activities
along with many of the hospital abuses, including malpractice and
numerous everyday human errors causing preventable deaths and injuries.
Memory of fire draws her and threatens to flare again in the fury
aroused by the injustices and by her frustration with abortion,
birth control, the sight of abused children, and the useless prolongation
of life in the throes of terminal maladies and suffering. Imprisoned
in this anguish and futility by the injuries of fire, she tries
to escape through gaining control.
If she fails, the only release ultimately will be the same fire.
She tries desperately, but despite all her mercy and love, nothing
works. Finally she must remove everything standing in her way. And
if she can't have the man she loves at any cost, then he must go
The dilemma about his wife's death
four years past and his suspicions of murder and euthanasia in the
hospital, continues until Dr. Holton's children awaken him to virtual
reality, and he immediately sees the possibilities of using it to
reconstruct the past and to predict future events in the hospital
He enrolls the aid of forensic psychiatry, and with the addition
of fuzzy logic and artificial intelligence they begin to unravel
the mystery as the woman mounts her attack on his housekeeper,
his children, and the new woman who has just appeared in his
Alert to the dangers, Dr. Holton tries desperately to
defend his family from the relentless stalker carrying little syringes
loaded with instant death, hidden packets of deadly poisons, and
a drawn stiletto as she lunges at his heart in the raging inferno
of her derangement.