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 5

Tabernash, Colorado, March 2006
Mo listened to the radio as she washed the few dished from her evening meal. They predicted at least 3 days of gorgeous spring weather, with day temperatures in the upper 20’s.

She decided to go down into town the next morning. If Dawn were up for a trip to the movies in Fraser, then perhaps she’d stay in town for the night.

Granby, Colorado, March 2000
Twice Fran had had to stop and ask directions. Twice some sourly gas station attendant had shrugged when she asked, if there was a motel near by.

Finally, as they drove into Granby population 1525 at 7.30 p.m., the first person they met had pointed down the street and directed them to The Frontier Motel, complete with a flashing neon sign of a cowboy and a talkative receptionist, who introduced himself as Louis.

Ann felt Fran hesitate, when he asked if they wanted one or two rooms.

She couldn’t believe it. The rooms where priced at $60 a night, and that bloody woman wanted to save on a room, but Fran finally muttered two.

He gave them their keys and directed them upstairs and down the corridor to the right.

As they approached their rooms Fran said:

- I’m tired, I’ll just turn in, see you in the morning, and quickly unlocked her door.

Ann was left starring at the closed door to room 17 a second before she took the few extra steps and let her self into room 19. She could hear the TV next door being turned on, and Fran starting to flip through the channels. Not that there were many.

The room was your generic frontier motel room. Certainly early pioneer style with wood paneled walls and a somewhat dirty and smelly maroon carpet.

The bed looked solid enough to accommodate two elephants having sex, but on closer inspection it was haphazardly put together from cheap timber stained dark to look like some kind of exotic wood.

Nightstands with gaudy bronze lamps on either side, a large photo of some Colorado view hung over the bed and a huge TV armoire at the wall opposite the bed completed the decor.

Next to the armoire a small fridge hummed – empty and stale smelling. On top an impotent microwave oven. And a tiny coffeemaker.

The bathroom smelled a little moldy and had a combination bathtub and shower. She put her forlorn toothbrush in one of the glasses.

There was no way she was going to spend any more time in the room than necessary.

She washed her face and hands, combed her hair and struggled into the heavy, red parka. She knew she needed it. On the short walk from the car to the reception of the motel, she had felt the cold bite.

Tabernash, Colorado, March 2006
The day dawned beautiful, clear and bright. Mo sat for a while in her open doorway with the first coffee of the day and watched her cats check out all the interesting smells friends and foes had left behind during the night.

Panda’s breath hung in a small cloud around his black and white head. At times Snowball seemed to completely disappear against the brilliant backdrop of snow.

They loved this first trip outside every morning. Perhaps it was cruel to keeo them in at night.

But no mountain cat was going to snack on one of her babies, not that she had ever seen one. It was probably irrational. Mountain cats or other predators could just as easily get them during the daytime.

Maybe it was an African thing. Every night guards were posted around their medical compound. True – they were there just as much to keep rebels out as the wildlife, but she knew that some animals like hippos that accounted for the largest amount of deaths in Uganda every year, were nocturnal.

After coffee she locked the cats in, suited up and pulled her sled out of the garage. It started up like a charm.

Dawn hadn’t answered her email about coming down, but she resisted the temptation to check one last time. And then she drove off.

Granby, Colorado, March 2006
Ann convinced Fran that they should do breakfast before the last leg of their trip. She knew just the place. She had been there for dinner the night before.

When she had dropped off her key to Louis she had asked directions to a place for some dinner.

He had told her there were several options, which surprised her a bit. Then she had asked for the place he would choose if he was going out. He had thought about for a second and then recommended Remington’s Restaurant on 4th street.

Remington’s had been a pleasant surprise. Good food, nice people and no constant starring at the stranger. Her waitress hadn’t even attempted to pump her for information.

But still Fran wasn’t convinced saying they could pick up coffee on the way, which Ann doubted and she needed food more than anything after a long and satisfying sleep in the surprisingly comfortable bed in her drab room.

Remington’s was full of people, the windows where covered in condensation from all of the body heat and steaming food.

The hostess recognized Ann and after a short wait they got a booth.

- Chummy with the help again, Fran murmured as they navigated the full restaurant.

- It’s called friendliness, simple human interaction – you should try it, Ann answered but not so loud, the hostess could hear her.

- Enjoy your breakfast!

Fran hardly offered the considerable menu a glance and started ordering with a bored air:

- Since you probably don’t have latte I’ll have regular coffee, skimmed milk and toast – whole grain and lightly toasted no butter.

The waitress blinked,

- We do have latte and we have a very light cream cheese…

- I’ll stick to my order, Fran cut her off.

Ann remembered her father’s saying that people who are rude to taxi drivers, waiters, and supermarket clerks are bad people.

For the first time since his death, she missed him acutely. She knew this Colorado-caper was running away from mourning him. And she promised herself that she would allow herself to do just that – when she got back.

She smiled brightly at the waitress.

- It’s hard to choose from all of these goodies, the smell in here is divine, but I’ll have a short stack, and two eggs scrambled with Maplewood smoked sausage and toast – any kind. I’ll like to try the light cream cheese and your latte, please.

The waitress smiled and turned.

- So what’s the plan when we get there?

Fran shrugged

- We’ll find someone who can drive us up there.

- Drive – how? If she’s on a mountain top we can’t just drive up in the car

- No, on a snowmobile.

Again Ann gave thanks for her parka.

When the waitress bought their food over, Ann asked,

- Do you know a place called Tabernash?

- Sure it’s the next village over – up towards Denver. Small place, no skiing but a nice coffee shop named Mocca Mecca – run by a really sweet lady.

Tabernash, Colorado, March 2006
The trip down the mountain was wonderful. This time no storm chased Mo and she had to fight an urge to race down. Instead she let the scenery overwhelm her, took her time, and enjoyed the amazing scenery.

45 minutes later, she turned the engine off and pulled her sled to the side of the road leading to her cabin well before it intersected with the main road into town. She stashed her helmet in the compartment under the seat of the machine and opened her jacket. She was tempted to stash that too, but bundled it up and squeezed it into her knapsack.

Then she started down the road towards town, company and good coffee.

Tabernash, Colorado, March 2006
It was only a forty-five minute drive from Granby to Tabernash. With Fran at the wheel Ann could really enjoy the breathtaking scenery around them. Much as she loved her native Florida and wasn’t completely comfortable this far from the ocean, she did appreciate the majesty of this place and the quality of light and air could not be found even in rural Florida.

She realized that the light headache she had suffered since arriving in Denver was gone. In fact she felt a little lightheaded.

A sigh welcomed them to Tabernash elevation 8.333 and population 165. Fran finally eased up on the gas a little. Ann had considered telling her, they were not driving on the turnpike, but had figured it would only have induced her to drive even faster.

They passed a tall woman walking along side the road. Ann spotted Mocca Mecca and pointed it out. Fran shook her head:

- Too fancy

- What?

- We need a tavern or someplace like that, not a place full of women and soft men.

Ann realized Fran was looking for an unsavory character, someone who don’t drink decent coffee.

Tabernash, Colorado, March 2006
Mo reached Mocca Mecca and was startled to discover it was closed. A sign on the door stated the owner was away for a week.

She walked towards the general store sure that Lauren could tell her what was up. Lauren smiled when she entered:

- I saw you looking lost in front of Dawns place

- I didn’t know she was going on a vacation

- Not a vacation honey, she’s visiting her sister, she’s in some kind of trouble.

- Oh

Mo felt strangely disappointed, she pulled a sweatshirt out of her knapsack

- Here is the shirt I borrowed the last time I was here. Thanks again.

Then she handed Lauren a list of things she needed for her supply cupboard. She realized the next time she was coming down she would just drive down in her Land cruiser. Winter was almost over.

- I’ll have it ready for you when you come by, Lauren said.

- Are you stopping by Wayne’s then? she added.

Mo nodded and walked outside. Wayne was sitting on a high stool looking a bit lost with heaps of papers to go through and no business in sight.

He greeted her warmly.

- You fancy coffee at TJ’s, now that Dawn is out of town?

She nodded and they walked down the street towards TJ’s. Wayne greeted every single person they met and Mo just nodded, figuring that was the polite thing to do.

TJ’s was the town’s original deli during the daytime and tavern at night. It was a pleasant enough place, but Mo just preferred Dawn’s place.

Wayne was greeted by a lot of people, and someone yelled:

- Is that you new girlfriend?

Mo noticed he turned bright red; she tried to hide her smile,

She noticed two women at the back of the place they looked like out-of-towner’s, probably rich skiers from Wintergarden who had gotten lost.

One of them had shrugged out of a bright red expensive parka. She was wearing a sensible blue fleece jacket. She had a lovely face and had tied her blond hair back in a ponytail.

The other women looked cold even in the warm interior of TJ’s. She was wearing a fancy blouse, and Mo couldn’t see any kind of outer garment.

She had a bored look on her face and she gave off a very unfriendly vibe.

Wayne had finished talking to some of the guys and they found a table. Once in a while she looked at the woman with the red parka, she didn’t talk much with her companion but took a keen interest in what was going on in the small deli.

Wayne told Mo that Dawns sister had been in a bad relationship for a while with a guy. She had finally ended it, when he beat her up, after she had gone out for a drink after work with her coworkers.

She had moved in with a friend, but Dawn had gone to Atlanta to help her find her own place to live and get her stuff from the boyfriends place.

- Oh man, I hope she’s careful that guy sounds like bad news.

- Yeah, but I think she’ll manage, she used to work with battered women when she was in the social services

- I didn’t know she was in the social services.

- Up in Denver, quit when some irate husband beat her up.

That explained why Dawn knew how bruised or even broken ribs felt.

- I still hope she’s careful.

He nodded.

- Your sled doing ok?

She told him about the beautiful trip down the mountain and how everything seemed to work fine.

- You going back up today?

- Sure, I just need to pick up a few things from Lauren’ s and then I’m done.

He stretched and looked at his watch

- You parked in your usual place?

She nodded.

- I’ll run your stores up to your sled then, I have to be at the Hilfermans at 11.30.

She tanked him and told him the coffee was on her

- You trust us with your girlfriend, Wayne? someone yelled as he walked out,

Mo’s eyes met the woman with the red parka’s, she smiled at her. A lovely, friendly smile.

Tabernash, Colorado, March 2006
Fran pulled up in front of the place called TJ’s. It was right where the woman in the general store had said it would be: On the road going through town, squeezed in between a hardware store and a women’s hairdresser.

It looked like an old fashioned deli. Had a long counter with high stools down one side of the room and lot’s of tables for four crammed into the rest of the tiny space.

A couple of neon beer signs in the windows indicated it doubled as a tavern at night.

They walked in and got the usual small town head turns from the entire room.

Fran chose a table at the back of the room, not that there were many to choose from. The place only had regular coffee in stoneware mugs.

Ann asked for a piece of pie, which made Fran lift an eyebrow

- Didn’t you just have a huge, unhealthy breakfast.

Ann laughed,

- Sure, but then you are not my mother and if we are going to sit here for a while until your phantom snowmobile pilot walk in, we better spend some money or they’ll get suspicious.

Right after the pie arrived, the door opened to let in a man and the tall woman they had passed walking along side the road.

Everybody greeted the man, and someone teased him about a girlfriend. Ann noticed the tall woman smile at the word. She was pretty sure, she was not his girlfriend. Actually Ann’s gaydar started pinging the moment she saw her.

The tall woman had short brown hair and very strong features, she actually looked somewhat familiar.

The pie was a delicious cherry pie, and the coffee wasn’t half bad, but there was something surreal about the whole outing. She felt like she had been beamed into a scene from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.

Suddenly she knew why the woman looked familiar. She was Mo Bancroft.

Her hair was a little longer, and she looked bulkier in her winter clothes, but it was the woman from the grainy picture in the African newspaper, being helped off the podium by the man in the loudly patterned shirt.

Silently she debated whether she should tell Fran her discovery, but she decided that would be too easy.

Also she wanted to see what Fran would do to get them a ride up the mountain.

When the man called Wayne left, the regulars again chided him about his girlfriend, Ann locked eyes with Mo Bancroft.

She had a really lovely smile.

Tabernash, Colorado, March 2006
Mo couldn’t help wondering why Wayne blushed every time the world girlfriend was mentioned. He was such a nice guy, she could only hope he found someone, although the pickings in Tabernash were pretty slim.

She actually enjoyed hanging out at TJ’s and making illicit eye contact with the woman with the red Parka.

But something about the two women puzzled her. If they were lost skiers, then why where one of them dressed in a fancy blouse, and while the red parka was nice and expensive it was too heavy for any kind of exercise?

Well, what they were doing tin the tiny town was none of her business.

She decided it was tome to go back up her mountain and placed a couple of bills under her mug. She waved at the waitress, who yelled safe trip home, and walked out.

She stopped by Lauren’s again. Waited while an elderly man got his cigarettes and TV-times. Nothing else to do in a place like this when you got too old to work – smoke and watch TV.

- Wayne pick up my stuff?

Lauren nodded and Mo settled her bill.

- Did two women stop by here this morning? One of them in a red parka?

Lauren looked surprised,

- How did you know? Right after you left, they asked after a tavern. I mean really at 10 in the morning, and nice women too. Though the other one was only wearing something like a cotton coat, in Colorado in March. Really the tourists are getting more and more strange.

Mo laughed – and told Lauren that she and Wayne at stopped at TJ’s for coffee and that’s where she’d seen them and wondered what they were doing in town.

Mo gave Lauren a hug and started back up to her sled.

Tabernash, Colorado, March 2006
When Ann saw Mo Bancroft walk out of the deli, she briefly doubted her decision to not tell Fran who she was, but almost at the same time, Fran got up and walked over to a vacant stool next to a small man wearing an oversized checked flannel shirt.

He was the only person drinking beer at 11.45 a.m.

After a moment she heard him laugh, and she saw Fran leaning into him.

Maybe she had to revise her idea that lawyers are like garbage collector only more skilled.

A moment later Fran sashayed back to their table.

- A guy name Wayne would have been out first choice, but he just left on a job out of town. Instead we should go next door and ask after Phil. He’ll rent us a snowmobile and point the way. There’s nothing to ride one, it’s like riding a bicycle, he said.

Ann wasn’t concerned about actually driving the machine, she suspected it should be very much like driving a jet ski and she had done that often enough off the beach at Eden Roc.

It was getting lost in deep snow on a mountain in the middle of winter, which worried her.

Fran was impatient and threw $10 at the table and walked out. Before Ann got up, struggled into her parka and got out the door Fran was already in the hardware store.

She was laughing up a storm with the guy named Phil. He asked where they were going and she took out a notebook from her purse.

- We are going up Postal Route 142

- That’s where the strange doctor lives, Phil replied.

- Yes Mo Bancroft, we are visiting her, Fran replied.

Phil’s brow wrinkled,

- I could have sworn I just saw her, he said.

Before he could say anything more Ann broke into the conversation,

- Do you have a map with Postal Route 142 on it?

He shook his head, but told them the post office might have one. He also talked Fran into getting a heavier coat and boots before driving up.

- You are going up another 1000 feet. It’ll be cold even in this weather.

Fran bought a pair of Canadian boots and a big blue nylon parka.

He told them, he would load the sled on his pick up truck, while they went to the post office and then wait for them, at the point where the postal route intersected with the main road. It was just after Mocca Mecca.

Ann told Fran she would get the map, while she put on her new outfit.

The clerk at the post office was a very nice elderly woman, who didn’t call Mo Bancroft the strange doctor and gave her a map of all rural postal routes.

Without knowing anything about navigation, the map looked a bit scary. Tiny black lines winding round in strange patterns.

- Once you get on the route it will be marked by red topped sticks. 142 doesn’t split up, so you’ll be fine, the clerk told her.

- So nice of you to surprise your friend, the clerk added.

Ann felt a little ashamed at the lie she had told her, but thanked the woman and walked out.

She spotted Fran from across the street, she was waiting by the car in the parka that was at least two sizes too big and practically giving off sparks from all the nylon static.

The boots looked enormous on her. She had to hide a smile – all of the Florida-chick had disappeared in hardware-store practical.

They found the turn off easy. Phil was waiting for them and had unloaded the sled.

Again Fran turned on her charm like a kitchen faucet. She smiled, laughed at his feeble jokes and touched his arm every time he showed signs of loosing interest in the conversation.

He told them to stay on the track and chose wide turns whenever possible. And then he drove off.

Fran went back to her sourly self in an instant.

- I’ll drive!

Ann didn’t care one way or another and just nodded.

- Shouldn’t you just take a few test drives up and down that slope, to get a feel for the machine?

Fran almost lost control of the sled, the first time she twisted the gas handle, but fortunately that made her ease up on the power. After a few tries she actually seemed to have gotten the hang of it.

Ann got on behind her, she had hoped she could find something to hold on to on the sled, but she had to circle Fran’s waist.

And then they were off.

The first part of the journey went fine. The track was easy to find – especially someone had been on it recently – someone being Mo, Ann was sure.

But then the slope got steeper, and Ann realized it took quite a bit of strength to stay on track. Fran was struggling, but determined not to show any kind of weakness,

Suddenly Fran took a wild swing to the right, Ann was almost thrown off. It seemed Fran had decided to make a shortcut from a point on the track where it made a wide curve to the left, thinking to cut across the wide pristine expanse of snow inside the curve.

It was a mad idea. A foolish idea. A moment after leaving the track, the sled hid a huge rock, hidden under the deep snow.

Ann felt her body being lifted of the back of the sled, as if a giant had picked her up by the scruff of her neck and pitched her forward. She couldn’t hold on to Fran and went flying up and over the other woman.

She was lucky, she landed in deep snow, at a point, where no rocks we poking up. She did hit her knee on something hidden in the snow, but mostly she just got the wind knocked out of her.

As she slowly started to recover from the fall and got her breath back, she heard a loud keening sound. Like an animal in pain.

She tried to get up, but it was impossible, the snow was too deep, and every time she tried to get her footing, the snow just disappeared under her boots.

She quickly realized she would tire herself out if she kept trying. Instead she turned on her back and used her arms to turn herself around like the needle on a compass, when she thought she pointed back towards the track she rolled back on her stomach and lifted her head.

She could see the sled, sticking out of the snow about 50 feet away from her. But she couldn’t see Fran, just hear her moans.

Ann never knew, how she knew, but maybe watching Discovery Channel when bored, finally payed off – she simply swam on her back through the snow, using her arms and legs to propel herself forward.

It took a while and she could feel her body breaking out in a sweat in the heavy parka, but she knew it was helping, distributing her weight over a larger area.

Fran was under the sled. Her head was the only thing not pressed down by it.

Ann changed her position, like she would in the ocean to where she could thread water. Her foot hit the rock that had stopped them.

The sled was heavy. And she knew she only had once chance to tip it off Fran, or she would hurt her even worse.

She struggled out of the parka, felt snow instantly creep up under her fleece jacket and down her jeans.

She placed the parka under Fran’s head. She was paler than a ghost and just moaned.

- Hang on, I’ll get the sled off you.

To be continued in chapter 6

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