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 13

Miami, Florida, April 2006
Mo was sitting on a bench in front of the elevated tracks of the Metrorail at Coconut Grove station when Ann drove up. She looked completely relaxed and almost serene, her bag placed neatly by her feet and her face turned to the sun.

Ann couldn't resist honking and enjoyed the very slow, deliberate way Mo turned her head and looked around to identify the source of the sound. A couple of feet to the right of the bench Mo was sitting on, a bag lady sat on a concrete planter firmly gripping a shopping cart completely overwhelmed by her possessions.

When Mo got up, she waved at the woman and Ann heard her say: There's my ride, thanks for the help.

Mo stowed her bag behind her seat and got in, she leaned over and kissed Ann like they had been married for years. It felt good.

- What did you need help with?

- Oh just where a car would most likely pick up a passenger, and she was right.

Ann drove across South Federal Highway and down 27Th. Avenue

- You know it's a very surreal experience not having any idea where you are at any time.

Ann laughed

- The road we crossed - a little north and it merges with Brickell Avenue - the one I'm on. Go south and you eventually end up in Key West.

- Ah supposed to the a really interesting place.

- I like it - Hemingway's house is amazing, as is his six-toed cats.

They chatted on for a couple of minutes and then Ann pulled up in front of the gate to her Dad's house.

- This is my Dad's house.

- Yeah I guessed as much.

- I have to look for something and I wanted to show it to you.

Ann got out and punched the security code to open the gate that slowly swung inward.

Coconut Grove, Florida, April 2006
The acoustics of her Dad's house changed with just one extra person present. The echos into the skylight didn't sound quite so lonely as the other day. It was a strange thing to notice, Ann knew.

Mo was properly impressed.

- This is amazing, reminds me of a place I once visited in Namibia same feeling of light airiness.

- It's considered a Browning Parker masterpiece.

- I've never heard of him.

Mo explored on her own for a while and Ann went into her fathers study to find his diary. She knew he kept a short daily diary - just a couple of lines in a thick leather bound notebook. When she was a child he had frequently written his daily entry when she had milk and a snack on the kitchen counter before bedtime.

She couldn't find the notebook.

She met up with Mo again on the patio. Mo was admiring some of the plants that sheltered the east end of the pool, bordering on a small park and the bay.

- I'm looking for my Dad's diary, but I can't find it.

- Where have you looked?

- In his study.

- Well I would try his bedroom. It's usually the last thing I do before I go to sleep at night.

- You keep a diary?

Ann couldn't keep the surprise out of her voice. Mo nodded.

- Most days yes - even on the mountain where not very much is going on. Just a little episode from the day, nothing more usually.

Ann almost wondered out loud what the entry for the previous day sounded like, but turned and walked off to her Dad's bedroom.

Another austere room. She couldn't remember having ever been in it in this house, so it may always have been spartan, but she wondered if it was a post-accident atonement he was doing.

The diary was in his bedside table she took it with her. Mo was still at out by the pool, reclining on a lounger.

- You fancy a swim?

- I was remembering your description of a recent skinny-dip, but the truth?

Ann smiled.

- I would much rather swim in the ocean - pools are OK land locked places but they make no sense around here.

Ann could see her point and said she knew just the place for a nice swim and some good seafood after. And then they were back at the awkwardness of that morning - it hadn't grown it was just still there.

- You know you are welcome to crash at my place for your whole stay, right?

They were just leaving the house and crossing to the car. Mo dropped her bag and pulled Ann into a tight hug and a sweet kiss.

- You do know, you are very good at this, right? Mo murmured into Ann's hair.

- At what?

- New lovers stuff.

Key Biscayne, Florida, April 2006
After a quick trip to Ann's apartment to feed Ghost and collect your basic beach necessities they were soon zipping along the Rickenbacker Causeway that connects Key Biscayne to the mainland. Mo loved the way the sun silver lined everything.

- Did you talk to Fran?

Ann's question brought Mo out of her awestruck admiration of the view.

- I did, and I must say it was a very interesting conversation, we even had lunch together at a fake Caribbean place in a strip mall.

Ann was surprised and couldn't hide it.

- I thought you hated the woman.

- I did until she told me her story.

Ann pulled her car into a layby opposite the turn off for Virginia Key and cut the engine. Conditioned from similar situations with her ex Mo for a fleeting moment thought Ann was pulling the jealous woman card on her, but Ann turned to her in open curiosity and said:

- Tell me all about it, I want to know her story.

Mo told her about the witness protection program and how Hector Ortiz had originally been very helpful in getting her settled into a new life.

- And then nothing until a year ago when he demands a huge favor of her: To go after me.

- Did he threaten her?

- She says not directly but it was always understood that if she didn't do as he told her, then perhaps one night someone from her past would knock on her door. And whenever they met in public there where always two or three hulking, sinister looking guys somewhere on the periphery.

- That's outrageous, Ann was getting really incensed.

- He is your friend right?

Ann told Mo about her family's connection to Ortiz, how he and her Dad worked together back in the old days before Ortiz became a judge. During the long days of her childhood at The Roc Ortiz was her favorite among her father's many acquaintances. The only one in fact who ever seemed to notice her. He talked to her and sometimes played with her too - even helped with her homework when she got older.

- He was like a favorite uncle - spoke to me like a human being and not a silly little girl. Also since we had no contact with my Dad's family he filled a void, I suppose.

Mo nodded and looked down at her hands.

- But in this, he really used you too, right?

Ann spend a moment gazing across the shallow waters of the inner bay, way across to Coconut Grove where she could almost make out her Dad's house.

- Yes he used me, but at the beginning only in the way friends use friends. I owed him plenty for all he has done for me over the years I figured.

- Fran says that what the way it felt for her in the beginning too, but then I guess he didn't have the same power over you that he does over her.

- No, and that's what's so infuriating about the way he's treating her.

Ann started the engine and gently rolled them back on the causeway.

- Did she say why they were going after you?

- Insurance money - same with the malpractice suite.

- What insurance money?

Mo told her how the assumption had been she was insured and some kind of confession to having used the drug outside of the experimental parameters could convince the insurance company that a settlement would be better than an expensive and drawn out law suite. Mo also shared her belief that Fran really didn't know about the malpractice suite.

- I figure it's the same deal, they are hoping for an insurance settlement on that, if I hadn't told Fran she would never have known there was a case - boy Ortiz must be really strapped for cash.

Ann turned her head in surprise.

- No, no PharmaMenta is strapped for cash they made a huge mistake with the patents for their only successful drug so far. Now they only have the dwindling US market.

- So you think that's it then?

Ann braked at the entrance to the Bill Baggs State Park where she paid the entrance fee.

- You want to swim in the Atlantic or the Bay?

- The Atlantic.

Mo wanted to continue their previous conversation, but she figured Ann need time to think and to come to terms with Ortiz's role in the mess.

Ann led them to a perfect spot on the beach on the Atlantic side of the island. The beach wasn't wide but it was sheltered by gentle dunes. Ann pointed out the top of the lighthouse at the tip of the island just visible over the dunes to the right.

They settled in on a blanket under a parasol. A small cooler held a few bottles of water and soda and chunks of watermelon.

- Ready for your swim?

Miami, Florida, April 2006
She had gotten way too much sun on her first day. Mo could feel the burn on her shoulders and her cheeks. She was sitting on the lounger on Ann's balcony. Ghost was circling around not sure if he dared take his usual position at the feet of a stranger. Ann was taking a shower and Mo tried cooling her face with her cold, wet beer bottle.

After the swim Ann had driven them to a harbor on the bay. Build out over the water was a rickety wooden structure that turned out to be a pretty good place for seafood and fish. They had shared coconut shrimp for an appetizer and then a whole, fried Red Snapper for a main course.

It's was not a posh place. Everything came on paper plates and Mo's beer in a plastic cup, but the food was good and fresh and came very quickly.

- Tired?

Ann slid in behind Mo on the lounger prompting Ghost to throw caution to the wind and jump up.

- Yes and I got too much sun, i think.

Ann inspected her shoulders and cheeks and had to agree.

- No more topless driving for you!

They giggled at that and Mo snuck in a kiss. It felt good laying like that. They had made love the moment they entered the apartment. Ghost had found that very undignified and had hid himself under the bed, as they where undressing each other in the living room and ended up on the couch.

They shared the rest of Mo's beer and Mo had to call it a night. Ann decided to read a bit of her father's diary and stayed on the balcony.

She couldn't believe how good it felt to know that there would be a warm, sleeping body waiting for her when she was ready for bed. She kneaded Ghost's ear for a bit and watched his third eyelids emerge with his contentment.

- And not a warm, sleeping body covered in grey fur, she murmured into his flank, then she picked up her father's diary.

She tried to think back to when they had dinner at Smith and Wolensky. I was the beginning of march - she flicked back through his entries and decided to start around March 1st.

It took her only about 10 minutes to read through the last two and a half weeks of her Dad's life but it would take her a lot longer to digest what she read.

He had enjoyed their dinner. The entry for that day read: Dinner with A at S&W, she hated the setting but lovely to see her even for a short while. H is using her as his marionette - knew it would come to that.

On the day his envelope had been delivered to her he had written: Send PharmMenta-brief to A wanted to send the stuff on H too, but she only asked me to check the company.

Then less than a week before his death there had been a longer entry where he seemed a bit down and wrote about never feeling at peace. The entry ended: Have decided to drive up to house, haven't been there for more than a year and could be the safest place.

What did he mean? The safest place - did he know already then that he was in danger? Then why hadn't he stayed in Belle Glade?

It was so frustrating not to be able to ask him. On the night before his death just one sentence: H wants to meet - and when H calls....

She was so far into her speculations that she almost didn't hear her phone ring, she hurried into her living room.

- Yes.

- Ma'am this is Grove Security there's been a break in at 3710 Rockerman Road and we have you down as a new owner.

Mo was standing in the bedroom door miming: Has something bad happened. Ann shook her head at her and said to the man on the phone.

- I'll be there in about 15 minutes, will the police be there? He told her they would as would Grove Security to assist her in any way. She hung up.

- My Dad's house has been broken into.

Coconut Grove, Florida, April 2009
They were there in 17 minutes and saw blue and red flashing lights as they turned off South Bayshore Drive. A police officer met them as they got out of the car.

- Good evening ma'am lieutenant Sherman is waiting for you inside, pointing back at the house.

At first she couldn't see any signs of the break in, but as she walked into the living room she saw that all books had been pulled from the low book cases, the cushions on the sofas and the chairs had been cut open, paintings had been pulled off the walls and the carpet had been dragged from under the coffee table that lay broken on it's side.

A tall black man came out of her Dad's study and introduced himself as Lieutenant Mark Sherman of the Miami Police Department.

- The security company called us at 11.47 p.m. According to them the alarm went off at 11.36 - it's a silent alarm, so they had about 11 minutes before the security team arrived, they never saw them so they might have arrived by boat or through the park.

Ann nodded and went to the study - everything was ram-shackled there too - the MiMo photos all broken with their backs torn out.

- Is it me or does it look like they were looking for something specific?

He made a noncommittal sound.

- Do you have any idea what that could be? He had his notepad out.

Ann shook her head.

- I'm pretty sure he had a safe. All valuables would be in there I assume.

- It's in the walk in closet off the bedroom, they didn't have time to open it, but they found it.

Ann set out towards the bedroom - his shirts, suites and shoes were in a jumble on the floor in the bedroom, everything having been torn off the racks and out of the shoe cubbies and thrown back into the room.

The safe was build into the end wall and most have been behind racks of clothes.

Ann just stood there and felt a slow rage building up. This was not the work of opportunistic thieves this was someone looking for something.

- Ma'am we have dusted the place for fingerprints so I need yours for reference.

Ann nodded - Mo stepped forward and said:

- You should take mine too, I was here this afternoon and I must have touched things.

When the police left a uniformed security guy came through the patio doors and told Ann that they would coordinate with maintenance to have the place cleaned up.

- Shall we call the insurance company for you?

She readily agreed. Mo saw her square her shoulders and walk back into her Dad's bedroom. Ann went to the safe, it looked like the kind of safe you find in a hotel with a keypad and a small lever that could turn after the right code was punched.

She looked back at Mo:

- What do you suppose somebody keeps in a safe in their house?

- Jewelry, personal papers perhaps some cash?

Ann punched 1956 and the little red light changed to green and the safe gave a contented squall like it enjoyed having the right code entered. She turned the handle and looked into the cavity. Mo was right. A small leather jewelry box sat on the bottom, a manila file folder rested on top and off to the side Ann saw two bank straps.

She put the money into the folder and handed the jewelry box to Mo and then they drove back to Ann's apartment. This time there was no hanky panky in the elevator on the way up. Mo could feel Ann getting gradually more and more upset. By the time they entered the apartment her shoulders was shaking from suppressed crying. Mo led her to the couch and just held her as she cried.

- Why can't they leave him alone now that they killed him? she hiccuped.

Mo didn't have an answer and knew Ann really wasn't looking for one.

- Why break his photos - he loved them.

There was an answer for that. But now was not the time to tell her.

To be continued in chapter 14

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