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 3

Tabernash, Colorado, March 2006
Mo had her arms clasped around Wayne's waist. They were both straddling the biggest snow mobile on the market. Wayne's Artic Cat was running up the mountain, as if it had wheels and there was no snow.

But still it was a bumpy ride and she remembered Dawns prediction that it would hurt like dickens riding up.

Good thing it was a familiar road, and she remembered precisely where her accident happened. Her sled was almost buried in snow, and it was pretty hard work digging it out.

But once it was back on the track and freed of all snow Wayne had little trouble revving it up.

They decided to ride up to her cabin together, and then Wayne could check her sled out a little more thoroughly in her garage.

The ride was beautiful, the air so pure and clean it enhanced everything. Here and there a bird would follow for a while, and Wayne pointed out some interesting animal tracks a couple of times.

Before they knew it her cabin came into view. Wayne gave her a hand digging her front door and part of her porch free. They could hear the cats behind the door - anxious to go outside.

They were gone in a blur of fur when she opened the door.

- I'll go light the fire and put some coffee on - you hungry?

Wayne nodded and pointed at the garage

- I'll go check it out, just yell for me.

The cabin was cold - she changed into jeans and a heavy fleece jacket and set to work on her fireplace - soon a fire was blazing.

She decided the cats needed a treat for being alone for so long and got a handful of tiger prawns from her freezer to thaw in front of the fire.

Then she put the coffee on and got a few homemade cinnamon rolls ready to go in the oven that was part of her intricate fireplace.

They could toast bread in front of the fire and she had some strong Italian sausage and cheese.

Yelling was never her style, so she walked to the garage. Both of the cats were sitting quietly watching Wayne work. Panda had even positioned himself right close to the overturned crate Wayne used as a stool.

Once in a while Wayne would absentmindedly scratch the big toms ears. A very different scene from when she worked on her sled and the cats kept a safe distance because she always ended up throwing tings.She decided she needed to work on both her people and her cat skills.

- Coffee's ready - what's the verdict?

He looked up and gave her a huge smile.

- Nothing wrong with the sled - must have flooded like you said.

He got up and they walked together back to the cabin and the coffee. Wayne left a little while later and for the first time her cabin resonated with loneliness. What was happening to her, was she ready to join the human race again?

Miami, Florida, March 2006
She didn't know what to expect. She would either bury her Dad by herself or it would be a carnival of people.

She knew Ortiz would be there, he had asked if she need him to sit by her or she preferred to be alone. He also told her that her ex-stepmother and her half-brother and -sister would turn up.

Her gut feeling said carnival.

Looking into her closet she realized that she had the one job in town that meant she could always dress properly for a funeral. It was all dark and somber colors. Good suites, severe shirts and blouses and serious shoes.

Off to a side was a tiny stash of stacked jeans and t-shirts - the only color in the whole lot - and two pairs of trainers.

Briefly she thought about running out to buy a red suite. Her Dad would love it, but then she would participate in the carnival and she didn't want that.

A car sent by Ortiz arrived at the designated time. Something big black and somber.

Ortiz was waiting for her in front of the chapel where the service was held. He ushered her inside as if she was a frail old woman. He let her to the front pew on the right hand side. There was room for perhaps 100 people in the pews and they were slowly filling. A few came forward and offered her their condolences, but most just left her alone.

A short while later Diana Cooper her Dad's ex-wife arrived with 17 year old Sean and 19 year old Kathy in tow. She briefly locked eyes with Kathy and saw only contempt. Diana purposely looked away from her.

- She has poisoned her kid's minds, Ortiz whispered in her ear.

It was not a conversation she wanted to have at a funeral, so she just stared straight ahead at the simple oak coffin in the middle of the room. It was tastefully decorated with red and white flowers.

The service was short and simple. Two hymns and a very short eulogy by her Dad's oldest firiend whom she hadn't seen for something like 15 years when he moved to Europe.

Her dad had wanted to be cremated so as the final hymn was sung the floor opened and the coffin glided down. It looked surreal and slightly spooky at the same time.

Then he was gone.

Tabernash, Colorado, March 2006
Soon after Wayne had left, Mo ran out of practical things to do. It's only so much of a mess two well-behaved cats can make by themselves in 24 hours. She felt restless, caged in.

Not a feeling she was familiar with on top of her mountain. Books and music was always enough to keep her occupied.

She had started some bread and gotten something out of the freezer to thaw for dinner. Empty hours stretched in front of her and Panda and Snowball had run off to their secret playgrounds.

She went outside and started up her generator and powered up her computer. She kept meaning to research some other kind of power for it, running the generator made an irritating noise and she hated the gasoline fumes it produced. Maybe solar power or wind would be good.

Her mailbox was full of e-mails from that woman again. She checked - it was the 15th e-mail Fran Ferdinand had send her and the 15th she had transferred to the trash without opening. She wondered what came next.

Miami, Florida, March 2006
Ann knew it would be a mistake if she went to work after the funeral. That she would be considered a cold-hearted woman, so she let Ortiz's driver take her home.

Upstairs she changed into shorts and a t-shirt - the sun was too strong on her balcony but she liked the smell of the hot air floating in through her open doors. Ghost had positioned himself right in front of the door, squarely in the sun, soaking it up.

She took out the material she had on PharmaMenta and Mo Bancroft. Reading through it all one more time, she found Fran Ferdinand's card and called her.

There was no warmth or even recognition in Ferdinand's voice, she just accepted Ann's decision to go with her to Colorado and talk to Mo Bancroft.

- My secretary will call you back, when the trip is booked!

A moment after Fran Ferdinand had hung up, Ann's phone chirped again. It couldn't possibly be the secretary unless the trip had been pre-booked on the assumption she would agree to go along.

- Ann Hunter

- Miss Hunter - Charles Hemming - from Hemming and Partners. I'm calling about your father's will.

- Yes

- Would a reading tomorrow be convenient?

- That soon? What about the others?

- What others?

- My step-brother and -sister?

There was a long pause

- You have no step-brother or -sister?

She sat stunned after she had agreed to an 9 o'clock appointment downtown.

Tabernash, Colorado, March 2006
After an aimless search of solar panels and miniature mills the irritating idling of the generator made Mo log off and a moment later she killed the generator. They had used them in Uganda too.

In spite of a huge potential for solar energy the country relied on hydroelectric power, but since both the Nile and Lake Victoria had dropping water levels service was very erratic.

Generators were a necessary part of all medical services and many a night she had tossed and turned listening to the endless pounding. Like an 18 wheel truck idling.

Perhaps that's why she hated her generator so much?

She decided to get her bread finished for the oven and got busy with shaping loaves and buns. The cats came through their cat flap a few minutes apart and were very excited when they smelled their tiger prawns.

Slowly she made the passage from 24 hours of regular human interaction to her usual solitude.

But for some reason the book she choose when she was ready to settle down in her chair with a cup of tea and homemade bread was her diary from Uganda.

She had never read the whole thing. She got comfortable under a heavy throw and Snowball - the more cuddly of the two - immediately jumped up and positioned itself on Mo's lap.

She read far into the night - read and remembered.

Miami, Florida, March 2006
Ann sat stunned - no siblings. What did the lawyer mean?

She remembered when her Dad had visited her, when she was away at college to tell her he was getting married.

She hadn't really felt anything at the announcement. She was only six when her mother died and had very few clear memories of her.

She certainly didn't have any feelings that her Dad was betraying her mother or anything. But she was a little upset that he his choice of new spouse was that perfect rich businessman cliché: The young intern from his company. Diana was just 5 years older than Ann.

And she did remember a very hollow feeling in her stomach when he told her, that Diana was pregnant.

She had asked if that's why he married her. He picked up on her mood and shrugged it off.

Logically Kathy the oldest could be somebody else's child, but what about Sean who was born two years later? It did not make any sense.

Her thoughts were interrupted when Fran Ferdinand's secretary called to tell her that they were flying to Colorado the day after tomorrow. From Miami to Denver and then from Denver to some rural airstrip close to where the doctor lived.

The secretary told her to wear sensible clothes and hung up.

The next morning Ann waited just a few minutes in front of a gorgeous mahogany door before she was ushered into Charles Hemming's office promptly at nine.

He offered her coffee and tea but when she refused both, he got right down to business. He had a very nice baritone:

- We actually don't read the will any more, but I have a copy for you of course and your Dad did write it himself and just had us notarize it.

She nodded of course he had written it himself what lawyer could resist.

- The bulk of his estate goes to you. He has made provisions for Ms. Diana Cooper and her two children. They get a lump sum of $200.000 and can divide the money between them as they see fit.

Again she could only nod,

- There's a college trust fund for each of the Cooper children.

- Why did he pass them off as is own, when he knew they wasn't?

Charles Hemming looked at her over his reading glasses:

- I have no idea?

- When did he find out they weren't his?

- He always knew - he had a vasectomy years and years ago.

Things you don't want to know about your father.

- To get back to the will…

Another nod from Ann

- The total of the estate stands at no less than $8.500.000 invested in stocks and bonds and four properties worth about $13.000.000. His home here in Miami, one in Havanna, Cuba, one in New York City and one in…..let me get this straight…Belle Glades, Florida. You understand that the exact amount depends on the value of his properties and his investments. An accountant calculated the value this morning just before the stock exchange opened - and it's impossible to place a value on the property in Havanna, so it's left out. You are a very wealthy woman Miss Hunter.

She was stunned. Not so much about the value of everything, the sum was so huge that it really meant nothing at all, yet.

She was stunned because he still owned his parents house in Belle Glades. A place he had such dark memories from. A place he hated with all his heart.

She knew she had to visit - to pay some sort of homage - for him, for her, for the grandparents she never knew, but who from all accounts were very unpleasant people.

But first she had to go to Colorado.

- Do you know of a place around here, where I can buy skiing equipment?

Finally Mr. Hemming's demeanor cracked a little?

- Skiing equipment?

- Yes, you know jackets, gloves, hats, boots stuff like that?

He ushered her outside, and directed his secretary to help her.

- If you have any questions, about the will, don't hesitate to call, it will take about a month to probate, and then I'll set up another meeting, Mr. Hemming said, as he offered her his hand.

Tabernash, Colorado, March 2006
It took Mo a long time to read through her diary from her years in Uganda, yes it was a lot of pages, but also because she could only read in increments before her mind wandered back to all that she had not written down.

The heat, the smells, the sounds, the suffering and all the people who she had met and most of whom had abandoned after that awful conference in Nairobi back in 2000.

She wondered how Robert was doing. No reason he shouldn't be doing great, Perhaps he had left Uganda to seek his fortune in a western country. But for some reason she was sure he was still there, still helping his countrymen.

When she finally put the four thick moleskin notebooks back on her shelf she felt something slowly running through her: Acceptance of her past and a knowledge she had done the best she could under very difficult circumstances.

Also she knew without a doubt she would do the whole thing over again - all of it.

It was time to face that annoying Ferdinand woman. Get her off her back. She went outside to turn on her generator.

Miami, Florida, March 2006
Ann had looked up the place they were going to in Colorado. It was called Tabernash and had a population of less than 200.

From Denver they were to fly on a chartered plane to Kremmling with a slightly larger population, a tiny airport and a car rental place. From Kremmling they would drive to Tabernash.

She had noticed that the secretary had not mentioned anything about a hotel booking and wondered if that was a mistake or they just assumed that the road between Kremmling and Tabernash would be full of motels.

Also she wondered if they even had an appointment with Mo Bancroft or Fran Ferdinand just intended to turn up on her doorstep and shock her into talking to them.

She had made arrangements with Ronald Allingham to look after Ghost. He had promised to come by every afternoon for feeding and an hour of quality cat time.

A taxi picked her up the next morning and took her to the airport. Fran Ferdinand was already there partly hidden behind a grande cup of Starbucks something or other.

She gave Ann the once over and did not looked pleased with her choice of clothing. She was wearing jeans, a t-shirt, a very light fleece jacket, hiking boots, her brand new red Canadian Goose fur rimmed parka over one arm and she had put her hair in a ponytail.

Fran Ferdinand's only concession to their destination was a pair of sensible low heel shoes. She was carrying a light Burburry coat over her arm.

- I see you got the message about bringing sensible clothes, Fran said.

Ann met her eyes:

- Easier to wear them than carrying them, old explorers trick. I'll just get some coffee, too.

She stressed the too, and Fran looked away.

Their flight was on time and it was a pleasant three hour journey. Ann worked a bit on her laptop. Fran fell asleep the moment the plane took off.

In Denver they were met at the gate by a guy, who escorted them to the charter section of the airport. Small jets and commuter planes were lined up in front of what might have been the original Denver terminal.

Their plane looked tiny. Ann saw Fran shiver. The air in Denver was certainly cool, but she wondered if it wasn't a reaction to the plan. She almost smiled. So Fran might actually be afraid of something.

They strapped into their seats - there were just four seats in the plane in total, in single rows. They could clearly hear the pilot's conversation with the tower and a moment later they taxied down a slightly bumpy runway - or it may just have seemed bumpy because of the tiny plane.

Ann couldn't resist turning her head and looking at Fran, when they took off. She sat with her eyes closed and her knuckles were white around the ends of her armrests.

Once they were at cruising altitude, the pilot banged the door to the cockpit open and yelled, I've good room for one person, if one of you want to take in the beautiful mountains.

Fran opened her eyes and shook her head.

Ann jumped at the chance.

The pilot gave her an appreciative once over:

- I'm Jack, he said

- Ann, she answered.

He obviously loved the area, and he talked non-stop during the 25 minutes flight. Pointing out famous lodges, peaks and skiing areas.

- You want to stay up here, during landing? he soon asked.

- Can I?

- Sure, just don't touch anything!

10 minutes later they were on the ground. She knew he was showing off when he put the plane down with hardly a bump.

- Where are you two going?

- To someplace called Tabanash.

- Beautiful up there, very quiet.

- Up there?

- Sure we are at 7.000 feet here, you go up about another 2.000.

- So how long is the drive?

- About an hour and a half. Roads are all good though and should be open this time of year.

She was wondering about that - should be open - as she left the plane behind Fran. Jack was ready to turn around and head back to Denver.

She shook his hand and thanked him for the trip.

- You are awfully nice to the hired help, Fran said sourly as they walked towards the tiny terminal.

- Hired help. He is just guy earning his living, like you and me.

- He is like a cab driver only slightly more skilled, Fran sneered.

- Yeah and lawyers are like garbage collectors, only slightly more skilled, Ann replied.

The temperature in the hired car was subzero as they headed out following directions on a map supplied by the rental company.

Fran was an erratic driver, and Ann was grateful traffic was very light, but she wondered what would happen if they ran into snow. She assumed that's what Jack was referring to with his should be open remark.

Tabernash, Colorado, March 2006

Mo had scanned through the last couple of e-mails from the Ferdinand woman that she has pulled out of the trash can in her mail application.

They were quite shrill in their tone - accusing her of anything from theft to murder. It was clear that Ferdinand had some kind of deadline that she was getting more and more anxious to meet, but what kind was not clear.

Mo wrote a very terse mail telling her that there could be no kind of interaction between her and the lawyer unless the threats stopped. She did not like to be bullied.

Mo also dropped Dawn an e-mail hinting that she might be coming into town soon. She really didn't need to, but something was pulling her down off the mountain. Maybe just the desire for contact with another human being.

She knew it might be a few days before she'd get an answer to any of her mails - Dawn and she kept up a very irregular correspondence and the lawyer probably needed to archive her e-mail and figure out a lawyerly response - something two faced and devious.

Mo had decided that unless the next contact from Fran Ferdinand was more constructive she would contact an attorney and see what she could do to stop the harassment. She had considered just abandoning the e-mail account and setting up another one, but that would be letting they bully win. Kremmling, Colorado, March 2006

- Do we have an appointment?

Fran did not take her eyes of the road or turn her head for which Ann was grateful

- Not really

There was no point in pointing out that was no answer that either they did or they did not.

- So we are just going to turn up at her doorstep?

- Yes!

- What if she turns us away?

- She won't!

To be continued in chapter 52

Return to the Academy