Patient Zero

by Andrea Doria

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction written by a non-doctor and non-lawyer even by a non-English speaker. Any glaring language, medical or judicial mistakes are mine. The story involves a physical relationship between two women. But you knew that, that's why you are here ;) Feel free to send me your thougts:

Chapter 10

Tabernash, Colorado, March 2006
Mo had a very nice trip up the mountain, she could feel spring in the air and knew the big thaw was coming soon, they might still have a freak snowstorm but it would be of the heavy wet kind, that could bring down old, weak trees but not the truely frightening kind that brought down acres and acres of wood land.

When she passed the place where Fran and Ann had crashed she stopped. She could see their tracks in the snow - where she and Ann had struggled to pull Fran across.

She wondered what had possessed the woman to try and make a short cut - she would have saved no more than 30 seconds. Instead she was now in hospital in Denver and looking at some painful physiotherapy to get her leg back in working order.

She figured she had better call the hospital and talk to the attendant physician and hear how she was doing, she was after all her patient. She also hoped there might be an email from Ann.

Miami, Florida, April 2006
Ann had a busy schedule when she returned to work. Several cases had been postponed to allow her to make the trip, and they were now waiting for her. That meant she took a lot of work home with her, and spend several hours each night on the lounger reviewing cases.

Her Dad's things were still on the breakfast bar where she had left them the morning they had been delivered to her. A few mornings later they finally registered in her mind again as she was packing her briefcase ready to go to work. She quickly grabbed the keys and the Blackberry and stuffed them in an inside pocket. Quite why she didn't know.

But later that afternoon she decided to drive to his house. He owned one of the finest Alfred Browning Parker houses in Coconut Grove. He had spend a fortune bringing it back to it's original state, and had even involved Browning Parker in the project. He had taken out all air condition units and just used the Venturi effect as natural ventilation and ceiling fans as was originally intended.

Now the house was indeed a tropical modern house with lots of light and a feeling of the indoors and the outdoors blending together.

Ann could certainly see how magnificent the house was, but it was a showpiece and gave her a feeling of being in a very expensive design exhibition, not in a home.

She had contacted Hemming's office and someone had phoned ahead so a guy from the security company was waiting for her. He had opened the gates and she swooped up the drive way and parked in front of the low garage.

The security guy asked her if she knew her Dad's pin code for the alarm system or if she wanted it reset. She asked for a reset and a few minutes later he had shown her how everything worked and drove off, promising to sort out the new codes with maintenance.

It was a strange feeling walking into the house and her low heeled pumps sent an echo from the stone floor through the concrete walls and up into the magnificent skylight of the living room. A very lonely sound. It was very much a house that only felt truly inviting if it was full of people and sounds.

The maid service must have just been there, she could smell cleaning products and no hint of either dust or stuffiness.

She opened one of the huge glass sections between the living room and the patio. The long narrow pool looked almost blindingly turquoise in the low afternoon sun. She regretted not having brought her suit until it hit her: It was her house, her pool and she could go skinny dipping if she wanted to. Nobody could walk in on her and the pool was completely secluded.

She went into the cabana to the side of the pool and took her clothes of, she found a towel and then she looked in the fridge and grabbed a bottle of water. Swimming always made her thirsty.

A moment later she dived into the perfect water and started swimming laps. She wished she had a pair of goggles but was thankful the water was not overly chlorinated.

10 laps later she pulled herself out, wrapped the towel around her and relaxed on a lounger and sipped water.

She realized she was glad she had no immediately family who in the next phone conversation would carefully ask her, how the first visit to the house had been. It would be too strange to say: I went for a swim, thank you and then enjoyed a bit of sun and a cold drink of water on the patio.

She quickly showered in the cabana and put her clothes back on. It was time to tackle the study.

It was a very austere room. One worn, burgundy and midnight blue Persian carpet. A very simple oak desk. A black leather Eames office chair and running the length of the wall the table was facing an oak picture rail.

Leaning against the white wall was an eclectic selection of black and white prints from Miamis golden years in the 50's and 60's.

The pride of his collection was a picture of the Mi Mo master himself. Morris Lapidus looking every bit as glamorous as one of the movie stars he built for was standing in the grand lobby of Eden Roc on the day the hotel opened in 1956. He was wearing a white dinner jacket and looked straight into the camera. The picture was signed. Her Dad had contacted the old man a few years back when he was asked to do a Mi Mo tour of the beach for charity.

They had become pen pals of a sort, and at some point Lapidus had sent him the photo.

She suddenly knew what the code to the Blackberry was.

Tabernash, Colorado, April 2006
Mo had started to check her email on a daily basis. Often she woke up to a funny little late night piece of writing from Ann. She had a very abrupt style, with subjects weaving in and out. She had laughed out loud at a description of her new friends first visit to her recently deceased fathers architectural gem of a house somewhere in the expensive part of Miami.

She recognized the raw pain of the visit but also saw a very strong woman holding her own against her loss. She had tactfully asked when and how he had died.

This morning she was shocked to learn that it had happened just at week and a half before Ann's visit to Tabernash and that he had been murdered.

Mo had figured a heart attack or cancer, but not murder.

Just as she was getting ready to go outside to sort out some firewood and check on her shed, her phone rang. It was Lauren telling her there was a very serious looking letter in her P.O from a law firm in Miami with a long name.

Mo let out a long and heart felt sigh. She knew that Fran had been transferred to a hospital in Miami and it was even possible that she had been discharged but back at work so soon seemed impossible.

- Please open it.

She could hear Lauren fight the envelope a bit.

- She's suing you!

- Who?

- The woman who's life you saved.

- You are kidding me.

- No, it's a letter of intent.

- What do they say I did wrong?

- You operated without consent, endangered the patients life by preforming an operation in a non-sterile environment without the help of qualified medical assistance and you caused permanent scarring on the patients lower leg.

She didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

- What do they want?

- Information about your insurance company and a reply within 90 days.

- Can you see who has signed the letter?

- Someone called Luis Jimenez.

- Never hear of him.

Mo told Lauren she would come down the mountain to collect the letter in a few days. She sensed the other woman was upset by it.

- Don't worry - it's just a greedy lawyer out to make a quick buck, it's a case she can't win. I saved her life every doctor will attest to that.

Lauren didn't sound convinced, but told Mo she looked forward to see her.

Mo did her chores. Determined not to let yet another communication from Velasquez, Pena and Alonzo influence her life.

After a quick dinner she debated sending Ann an email about the letter of intent or calling her. She finally decided to call. Ann picked up after the third ring.

- Yes? The nighttime response of security conscious single women in any big city.

- Hi, it's Mo.

- Mo, it's so nice to hear from you.

And then they were off. It took a while before Mo remembered why she had called.

- Fran is suing me.

- What?? Isn't she still in hospital, are your sure it's her, what does the suit say about the drug?

- Not the drug. Her lawyer has written a letter of intent to sue me for malpractice for saving her life.

Stunned silence in Miami.

And then a torrent of words. Some of which Mo did not understand, but she just shut up because it sounded like Ann was thinking out loud.

- It's without merit. It will be thrown out of every court in this country.

- That's what I thought - what we were taught too in med school, but wouldn't a lawyer know that?

- Yes - what's the name of the lawyer?

- Jimenez can't remember his first name, Lauren opened the letter and read if for me.

- Mo, please don't worry about this. I'll find someone in Colorado to write a strongly worded reply.

Miami, Florida, April 2006
Ann had been right about the code to her Dad's Blackberry - it was Lapidus56. And then the little machine was ready to divulged all it's secrets. She had thumbed through his calendar and learned that he worked at the nursing home every Monday and Thursday evening from 6.30 until 9.30. A quick calculation told her that it would have meant it would've take him something like three years to work the required 1.000 hours.

On a piece of paper she jotted down the phone number connected to these entries - she wanted to know what nursing home it was.

On the last day of his life. He had three meetings. One in the morning and one in the early afternoon. Both at his office. And then at 7.30 p.m. there was a meeting with H - at an address that slammed into her mind like an insect against the windshield of a speeding car.

A few hours before his death he had visited Hector Ortiz at his home on Lakeview Drive. Why hadn't Ortiz told her? They had spend some time together planning her Dad's funeral and she had called him the night before going to Colorado to thank him for his help and update her on her and Fran's trip.

But he never mentioned a meeting.

She called Ronald Allingham and he agreed to meet her for lunch on Saturday. She decided to take him to the beach, to Joe's and treat him to stone crab. She knew he was a sucker for their pecan pie.

They were seated with a clear view of the water and Ann was glad she had worn a sleeveless blouse with her jeans - the sun was scorching already. Ronald was immaculate as always in a colorful Hawaii shirt, white jeans and an expensive pair of shades.

- What can I do for you, my friend?

She wished they could just have small talked a bit and gotten their food before the business part of the meeting started, but she realized she did not invite small talk from people.

- Well, I want to find out what happened to my Dad.

- Have you talked to the police?

- Yes, there's a sergeant Zinna on the case, but he is not very informative.

- Probably scared of you.

That surprised her. She took a sip of the mediocre Chardonnay.

- Why would he be afraid of me?

- Wouldn't it scare you to work the case of a judges murdered father?

She hadn't thought about it that way, but she could see Ronald's point. She told him about the meeting with Ortiz that was plotted into his Blackberry a few hours before he died.

- Have you asked him about it?

She shook her head and told him that she found it strange that Ortiz hadn't mentioned it himself given that he had had several chances.

- So you want me to talk to the police? She nodded.

- I can have someone analyze the Blackberry if you want, but there might be stuff on it you don't want to know about.

She thought it over and then dug the smart phone out of her purse. She wrote the password on a piece of paper and haded both over.

- Just tell me about anything that could be relevant to his death. I don't need to know if he had a mistress.

He nodded gravely and finished the last of his crab claws.

Tabernash, Colorado, April 2006
Suddenly the big thaw started. It was always a surprise. To her and the cats. One morning the whole cabin woke to the distinct by seldom heard noise of snow thundering of branches of trees surrounding them.

A whole sheet slid of her roof not long after she had built a fire in her fireplace and a drenched Panda came through the cat flap a moment later looking as if the whole avalanche had hit him.

She suppressed a smile and scooped kibble into his bowl. Trust Panda to just stand there looking surprised where as Snowball probably had sprinted of at the first movement.

Mo started to set her plan in motion.

She called Lauren and told her that in a day or two she would drive down the mountain in her Land Cruiser. She would bring the cats down for their yearly check up and then she would drop them of at Laurens place.

She had decided to go to Florida and sort her problem with Fran out. She had a clear feeling that she could not get on with her life if she kept her head covered in the ground like an ostrich any longer.

She had gotten in touch with the organization she had worked for in Uganda. They had nothing but praise for her work and would welcome her back any day, the director of the program told her in a long and very warm e-mail. She remembered Marita as a somewhat stressed Finnish woman who kept running into things because she forgot to take her very strong reading glasses of when she left her desk.

One night when everybody in the compound i Kampala had gotten drunk on warangi and tonic she had told them how she had driven all the way from Masindi to Biso without realizing she was wearing her reading glasses.

Marita was a character but also a pretty good administrator and Mo was glad to know, that she would put in a good word for her any time. It was a very nice feeling actually.

Marita had also supplied Roberts e-mail. He was still up in Gulu district just as Mo had guessed.

She had written him a long e-mail telling him a bit about her troubles and asking if there was anything he thought she could do from the states to help his work. She hadn't heard back from him but assumed she would soon.

Two days later she put the cat's in the transporter and secured it on the front seat. She had decided to travel light so all that went into the trunk was a duffel bag.

And then she drove off, without knowing when she would be back.

Miami, Florida, April 2006
Her clerk had left a note on her desk, that Ronald had called. When she called him back he told her he would come by her place after 8 p.m. and give her an update. She tried to read from the conversation if he was making progress or not, but she couldn't. He was the most even tempered person she knew.

She had bought a few snacks and shortly before 8 p.m she set them out on a tray. She also had beer and wine chilled.

Ghost greeted his cat sitter with a nice swish of the tail. A cross between I've been missing you and where have you been lately. Ronald bent down and gave him a few strokes that her normally very reserved cat tolerated.

- What's the saying - a home without a cat is just a house? She smiled and guided him into the living room.

He readily accepted her offer of a beer and started munching on nut's and stuffed jalapenos. He look tired.

- You look tired, he seemed surprised that she noticed.

- Well, you are keeping me busy and I have a couple of other jobs.

Ronald told her that her father had died not in front of a night club on Collins Avenue like the press had reported.

- That's what Ortiz told me, Ann said.

- That's the way it was phoned in from a man who had run to his aid immediately after the shooting.

- Were was he shot then?

Her father had been shot on Ocean Court which is a pretty sleazy, narrow ally running between Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue. Every hotel, restaurant, bar, shop and night club on those two roads backed onto Ocean Court. It was a service road for delivery and for garbage collection.

- He was shot near the back entrance to Mynt Lounge, but he had not been in that club or any other club on South Beach, that night.

- Then what was he doing there?

- A cab dropped him off just after the intersection of Washington Avenue and 5th street, 2.35 a.m. Ronald explained.

- Where did the cab pick him up?

- At his office at 2.25.

Ann knew he worked late, but this was ridiculous.

- So he went back to his office after the meeting with Ortiz.

- Yes his driver dropped him a little after midnight.

The police told Ronald that her father had worked on several of his account during the two and a half hours he had stayed at the office. He had used the office phone to call a taxi.

- But what was he doing on the beach - why didn't he go home?

- The truth?

- Yes.

- I think he wanted to get drunk. He called The Tides from his Blackberry while he waited for the cab and booked a room.

- Why do you think he wanted to get drunk?

- He had specifically asked for a bottle of Hendricks gin to be in the room.

It made sense in a way. He had taken mandatory classes on his drinking but had decided he was not an alcoholic. She tended to agree with him. So he hadn't stopped drinking only cut out his Martini lunches.

She also knew why he would go to The Tides. The manager there was one of his old cronies from when the Roc was practically his home. Perhaps he had hoped for a drinking buddy.

- But he never made it to The Tides?

- No.

- The man who ran to his aid, did he see anything?

- No, he was on Ocean Drive when he heard shots and had to run down 8Th street and found him in the ally.

So nobody saw or heard anything?

- Well I've been talking to some people down there. Lot's of illegal immigrants works in those kitchens. And one guy did hear something.

- What?

- Angry voices and then a man yelling: What are you? His own little brac squad? One of the guys called him asesino de niños. And then he heard the shots. Automatic weapon.

She tried to just listen and understand, not to see the film in her mind, but it was hard. She knew what asesino de niños meant - child killer. But what her father had yelled made no sense.

- Did you find out what a brac squad is?

- It's the secret police in Cuba.

To be continued in chapter 11


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