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 11

Tabernash, Colorado, April 2006
Mo hated driving in Denver - any big city really - but Denver was bad, with lots of 18 wheelers mixed in with everything from tourists to people being late for work. It meant hang on for dear life and go with the flow.

She did manage to exit the interstate at the correct exit for the airport and found the low budget long time parking facility she had booked from home. 40 minutes later the 24 hour non-stop shuttle finally drove off towards the terminals.

She was booked on a direct flight to Miami with plenty of time for a bite to eat before and maybe browsing in the book store for something to read during the flight.

Check in and security was quick and soon she was seated in Bear Beer Tap House - one of those fake micro-breweries that had sprung up all over the country - waiting for her burger and a pint of pale ale.

It had been four years since she last saw the inside of a plane. She had always liked to fly, to travel actually. Even on short day trips she always got that little tickle of anticipation in her blood stream. She like that and she felt it now.

She had not told Ann she was coming to Miami. She didn't know why.

Miami, Florida, April 2006
Ronald had stayed till late. They had gone over and over what her Dad could have been working on between his visit to Ortiz and going out to the beach. They had also tried to figure out what her Dad meant by calling the men "his own little brac squad".

After Ronald left she went to bed, but thoughts had kept rumbling through her mind like derailed freight trains. She didn't go to sleep until shortly before her clock radio started bleating horrible upbeat music and small talk. She slowly swung her legs out feeling 200 years old and staggered into her kitchen to get the coffee going.

Ghost curled up in the warm spot on the bed she had just vacated and was deep into kitty dreamland before she had measured out the coffee.

Oh, to be a nice, single, lesbian woman's cat, that was her only wish should she ever be in line for reincarnation.

It was one of those days that just went on and on. When she finally returned to her chambers Kate had just turned her computer of and was rummaging in her purse for car keys and sun glasses.

- I've just send you an e-mail. A woman called. She asked med to tell you, that she's arriving at Miami International at 7.35 pm. Ann looked completely puzzled.

- She said her name was Mo, and she was arriving on AA1135 from Denver, she's booked into the Holiday Inn at the port.

Ann looked at her watch, she had time to go home and change into something more casual before driving out to pick her up. She couldn't stop herself from smiling, and could see her smile surprised Kate.

- Good news I take it?

- The best actually, she said and felt herself blush like a teenager.

31.001 feet over the center of USA, April 2006
Maybe it was the beer that had made Mo bold enough, it was certainly a lot better than she had expected and she had asked for a second, but she really didn't know what possessed her to call Ann at work and tell the woman called Kate that she was flying in.

She didn't know if she dared to hope that Ann would pick her up at the airport. She had no idea if it was one of those airports miles and miles from the city they were named after or actually part of it.

She tried to relax and concentrate on her book. She had picked up The Night Watch by Sarah Waters at the airport. But she found that she could not mentally transport herself back to war time London, so she started reading in flight magazines and left behind newspapers instead.

She was glad she had the full row to herself, she knew she was restless and the beer had already sent her to the loo twice, but she actually didn't mind. It was the nice kind of restless.

Half an hour before the estimated time of arrival she went to the bathroom and tried to smarten up a bit, but even after brushing her teeth and vigorously washing her hands and face she still felt unclean. That always happened. It didn't matter whether it was just a short flight or the long haul to Africa. It must be the strange temperatures in planes and the recycled air that always felt like an even mixture of lemon air freshener and jet fuel fumes.

She fastened her seat belt and settled in for landing. Always the best part of flying.

Miami, Florida, April 2006
Ann felt like a silly school girl in front of her closet. What to wear? In Tabernash there had only been a choice between Mo's sweats or her own dirty clothes. Now she had acres and acres of somber court room clothes or a tiny stash of tomboy outfits to choose from.

There could be no question: She grabbed a red t-shirt, a pair of tan Levi's and stuck her feet in her use to be white Keds. Then she tied her hair back in a ponytail and figured she pretty much looked like the 14 year old she felt like.

A flick of a switch brought the soft top of her Audi TT down as she drove up the ramp from the car park under her building, she turned right on Brickell Avenue and drove towards the on ramp for I95 that would take her to the Dolphin Expressway. Traffic was light, the sun had just set and all colors had the extra luminous quality of twilight. It was a comfortable 72 degrees and she was making good time.

Miami International Airport is a maze - but she finally managed to find a place to park close to the concourse where Mo would be arriving. She walked across a sky walk and into the frenetic anarchy of noise, fast food smells and artificial light.

According to the bank of monitors the flight was on time and she started the trek towards the gate. It probably wasn't even a busy time at the airport, but everywhere she looked were people. Families, big groups of what could be extended families, friends, business partners and tourists.

She zigzagged through the crowds and briefly thought about getting a latte at Starbucks before she remembered how little she had slept last night. She did not need a repeat performance.

She was finally at concourse D and saw the information on the flight had been updated from on time to landed.

10 minutes later the plane taxied to gate D24 and the first passengers walked into the terminal. Some with that expectant but also vulnerable look on there faces that meant someone would meet them, others just drew a cloak of solitude around themselves and set of for baggage claim.

Mo was stuck behind a woman travelling alone with several kids.

She was dressed for the tropics in sage cargo pants and a shirt Ann thought she recognized from a copy of an article in The East African Standard - it was a soft oatmeal colored linen with beautiful bone buttons. Then Mo spotted her over the heads of some of the little ones and her face lit up in that amazing smile Ann had seen a few times in Colorado.

Ann felt her self being lifted of her feet in a huge hug.

- Am I glad to see you, Mo murmured into her ear.

And then they just stood there grinning like fools.

Ann tried to grab Mo's bag but Mo was quicker and got it first.

- Hosts are supposed to carry their guests bags, Ann protested, but Mo just kept grinning at her.

They were frequently split by groups of people coming towards them or golf carts driving little old ladies out to their gates, but they were drawn to each other as if magnets had been sown into their shirts as they walked through the terminal.

Finally they walked across the sky walk to the open parking garage. Mo stopped and drew in her first mouth full of Florida air.

- Tastes like the tropics, she said.

- What, you can actually taste anything other than gas fumes? Ann laughed.

Mo let out a low whistle when she saw Ann's car. A moment later Ann pushed the magic button and they were topless.

Miami, Florida, April 2009
Ann quickly cleared the general airport traffic and soon they had the road mostly to themselves.

- You want the scenic tour and dinner before or after checking into your hotel? Mo voted for the scenic tour and dinner first and a moment later they were on the MacArthur Causeway towards the beach.

- If you turn around you can see the skyline - some of the neon is pretty cool, Ann told Mo, and she turned around.

When they turned onto Ocean Drive they were suddenly immensed in the land of expensive cars crusing and expensive people walking along the famous Art Deco row of sherbet colored hotels. Intermingled were lots of tourists wearing hideous beach wear and just pointing and exclaiming at everything they saw.

- It's Twilight Zone on a Friday night - two parallel worlds meeting for a brief moment: The jet set and the tourist set.

- Well, like in this car then - you and me - jet set and tourist set.

Ann laughed at that.

- Nah, just a local and a tourist, she continued.

- You want dinner here - with a chance to take in the spectacle or you want to go someplace where locals go?

Mo seemed completely enthralled.

- I have to say here - it's too interesting to miss out on - it's like Disney World for architecture buffs and party people.

Seven blocks later Ann cut across the street and stopped in front of The Cardoza Hotel. She handed her car keys over and watched the valet manhandle her car around the corner and into some distant car park.

- Well this is owned by the singer Gloria Estefan and her family, it was the first of the hotels along Ocean Drive to be renovated. And the food is pretty decent if slightly overpriced, Ann said in her wannabe guide voice.

They got a nice table on the huge veranda with a full view of people and cars going by as well as a sense of the ocean a few hundred feet away at the edge of Lummus Park. Salt was in the air, and Mo had a feeling she could hear the ocean vaguely over the din of people, music and car engines.

An impossibly flirty, gay, male waiter materialised and immediately started talking Mo through the cocktails until she ordered his favorite: The watermelon margarita. Ann settled for a conservative gin and tonic and convinced him to let her talk Mo through the menu while he got the drinks.

- Uhhhhhh, I get it you two want to be alone, he said with a wink and left them.

Mo tried to hid her blushing face behind the menu, thinking up intelligent questions about the food. They ended up ordering a shared sampler of fritters and tamales for an appetizer and a Cuban Chinese fusion dish of chicken, celery, mango, rice, beans and cumin for the main course.

- Beer is good with that, but as I have to get you to your hotel, I'll stick to diet coke, Ann said. But Mo agreed to try an imported Dominican beer with her meal.

- Ann, I'm sorry I didn't realize you lost your father so recently or that he was murdered, Mo stammered after a few sips of her very sweet but strong drink.

- Thanks - it's not an easy thing to tell people, I mean the murdered part, and I'm perhaps a bit private about stuff anyway, Ann offered as an explanation.

- Have the police caught whoever did it? Mo asked.

- No, and it seems they are not really trying.

- What do you mean?

Ann told her most of the things Ronald had told her.

- In this town, something like that is written of as the work of the Cuban mafia.

- I didn't know there was a Cuban mafia.

- There actually might not be. Some think it has more to do with racial prejudice towards Latinos, some of it is old feuds brought here from Cuba, and some is probably just an easy explanation used by the police and the media, when they can find no other.

- So there's no Don, like that old movie?

- No, definitely not, and I personally mostly agree that it is prejudice. If people of Cuban origin commits a crime, and of course they do, it's written of as gang related even when it's just oppertunistic.

- So no Mafia behind your Dad's death, you think.

Ann didn't know if she should tell Mo about her suspicion. It was so vague and unfocused. But she decided to throw caution to the wind and share it with her new friend.

But first she took a long, hard sip of her gin and tonic - it was a bit weak, good thing as she was driving, but still refreshing - then she looked up and met Mo's eyes, where she saw nothing but compassion and concern.

- I think my Dad was murdered for something he discovered while checking out PharmaMenta for me.

Mo choked first on a conch fritter and then on a huge lump of air.

- Ann, I'm sorry,

- No, no don't be - I asked him to, it was before we met.

This time it was Mo concentrating on her drink in an introspective way.

- You know, I've not yet figured out, why you came along with Fran.

Ann nodded as if expecting the question.

- I've been wondering the same myself. It's too easy to say I owed a friend, the person who lured me into this, it's...I you...once I had read what they had on you.

Mo smiled,

- Should I feel flattered?

- Why not, I was certainly impressed.

- Hm.

At this point their enthusiastical waiter brought their main courses and the beer for Mo. They tucked in, and Mo realized the world had gone tropically dark around them in a very short time. The air had almost the same quality of velvet as in Africa, but the ocean made a difference.

For a while they just ate and studied the very many characters passing in front of the veranda. Some tried to look cool, some looked for someone to hustle, some tried to look indifferent, some just stared with their mouths hanging open at every little thing but all looked excited.

- This is certainly the place to see and be seen, Mo said.

- Oh yes Miami Beach has a couple of middle names: voyeur and exhibitionist.

Mo had eaten every bit of her dinner and leaned back in her chair.

- That was good, I suspect dumbed down for the tourists but, okay for someone who have never been to Cuba.

- Glad you liked it.

Ann had seen Mo cast long eyes across Lummus Park.

- You wanna see the ocean?

Mo just nodded and Ann signalled for the check.

Miami Beach, Florida, April 2009
Not long after having left Ocean Drive all the night life sounds faded into a pleasant murmur and the sound of the ocean was turned up several nudges. They passed the sidewalk running parallel to the beach and to Ocean Drive and after it's cheerful rainbow colored inlayed Led lightning the velvet night finally descended totally on them like a soft cloak.

Mo walked a little faster than Ann, she seemed very determined to get straight to the waters edge. Ann reached out to slow her but her hand connect with Mo's hand and not her upper arm as was intended. Suddenly they were holding hands. Mo almost didn't seem to notice but then Ann felt a reassuring little squeeze and squeezed right back.

Mo made no attempt to stop and simply waded into the ocean until it covered her feet, sandals and all. To Ann it felt like a test, so she just followed her and could now feel the undertow slowly filling her Keds with wet sand.

A few miles off the coast a starlight parade of ships were moored all blinking and bopping in tune to the heave of the water. It was a moonless night, but somehow there was light enough for Ann to see Mo's smile as she turned towards her and delicately kissed her.

To be continued in chapter 12


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