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 9

Tabernash, Colorado, March 2006
They had twisted and turned the significance of Ann's research showing that PharmaMenta had been working on a drug to help hemophiliacs and Mo having been send a drug with similar characteristics but against cuts and wounds.

They hadn't come up with a solid explanation and in the end they had been too exhausted by the previous nights lack of sleep and had called it a fairly early night.

Ann had booked a flight out the next day from Denver. Mo would take her down to the rental car at the foot of her postal road and she would drive to the airport from there. She figured Fran's company could work it out with the rental company that the car wasn't returned at the originally designated spot. Lawyers were good at stuff like that.

She woke just after first light. She could hear Mo talk to the cats downstairs. She could also smell coffee and pancakes. She took a quick shower and pulled on her clothes - she couldn't wait to put on fresh clothes back in Miami - clothes that was clean and hadn't twice been drenched in snow and adrenalin induced sweat.

She straightened the guest room and walked downstairs.

- Have you got a pen and paper, she asked Mo.

Mo was still flipping pancakes and had started frying bacon when she heard the shower, she pointed to a place next to the fridge.

- This is my cell phone number, my e-mail address and my number at work. My clerk answers it if I'm not in.

- You want mine?

Ann jotted down Mo's number and e-mail on another piece of paper and stuck it in her back pocket.

- Are you online often?

- Every other day pretty much - now that Fran can't spam me I might be on more often.

- Do you have any of her e-mails you could forward to me?

- I'll see what I can get out of the bin, Mo said.

Riding down the mountain with her arms around Mo was a lot more fun than going half way up behind Fran. The weather was nice and there were some spectacular vistas along the way.

The car was parked where they had left it. Ann pulled Fran's big, blue nylon parka from the storage under the seat of Mo's sled. The car keys where in one of the pockets along with Fran's mobile phone.

- Ups forgot to send her phone with her.

The battery was dead, so she couldn't check for calls or messages.

Finally the time came to say goodbye. Awkwardness grew between them like green fungus.

- It was nice getting to know you a little, Ann was after all a southerner.

- Yeah, you two, Mo was actually stepping on her own toes.

- You will stay in touch?

Mo nodded vigorously.

- Drive safe and have a good trip home.

They gave each other a surprisingly long hug, and then Ann got in the car.

The car started up with no problems. As Ann pulled on to the road she saw Mo in her rearview mirror giving her a quick wave and then cross towards the coffee shop across from the postal route.

Miami, Florida, March 2006
Ann had an uneventful trip home except for getting Fran's bag on the plane. She had to explain the situation several times and it wasn't until she explained to the airport cops that she was actually a judge that it was allowed - at a hefty fee and after the cops had rummaged through the bag.

The plane was on time and fours hours later it touched down in Miami.

She started sweating the moment she walked into the car park towards her Audi TT even if she had shed both the fleece and the parka - she was gonna keep that as a souvenir, it already felt like a trusted travel companion and it looked a little battle worn too, but still nice.

A few minutes later she merged unto the Dophin Expressway and headed home.

Ghost was ecstatic to see her and kept rubbing himself against her legs. Ronald had left a nice bunch of flowers on her coffee table and a typed note detailing what Ghost had eaten and how many time the small cat had jumped to catch a toy mouse on a string.

She smiled at how serious he had taken the job. The report was every bit as thorough as the reports she got from him when he was a detective and not a cat sitter. He had a secretary typing up reports that he dictated, since he was incapabe of writing them herself due to his dyslexia. What must the secretary have thought as she typede away sentences like: Saturday morning - Ghost ate two spoonfulls of Purina Cat Chow. I cleaned his litter and played with him for 30 minutes - mostly mouse on string but also peek a boo with pink feather.

After a long, satisfying shower she dressed in clean shorts and a t-shirt and a moment later she and Ghost were in their usual positions on the lounger on the balcony. She closed her eyes for a moment.

A slow sadness crept through her. She missed her Dad. She also felt part of her soul was still in a beautiful cabin in Colorado with an enigmatic woman and two cats.

A small sob escaped her to her own surprise and she finally cried for what she could never get back.

Tabernash, Colorado, March 2006
Dawn gave her a huge smile when she entered MoccaMecca a moment after Ann drove off. Wayne was sitting on the corner stool eating a deliciously looking piece of pie.

- Ah our resident hero, he managed to get out between bites.

Of course everybody knew already. She had phoned Lauren the evening she had set Fran's leg to let her know both of the women were accounted for and that one of them would be medivaced out the next morning with some pretty bad injuries.

She just gave Wayne a level look,

- I can do for people what you can do for cars and sleds!

For a moment no one said everything and then everyone started laughing Mo included and pretty soon she had had four mighty pads on her shoulder and a big hug from first Wayne and then Dawn.

In the middle of the celebration she realized that was what she could and should do. That maybe she should set up shop somewhere and join the human race and be a doctor to real people.

- When are you going back up? Dawn asked her when she gave her a double latte in a MoccaMecca mug.

- I thought I would go and talk to Lauren for a while and then stop by the hardware store to chew Phil out for letting two strangers rent a sled, without knowing if they could drive it, and then pointing them to my house.

- Would you stay the night and come round for dinner?

She agreed while at the same time wondering why a dinner invitation form Dawn didn't raise her heart temperature twenty degrees like it usually did.

Lauren was glad to see her and even closed the store for an hour while Mo told her all about what had happened.

- What did they want from you?

- It's something from my past - nothing criminal or anything - just unfinished business, and it's really only one of them.

- Not the woman in the red parka, then?

Mo felt herself flush.

- No, she just went along.

- Why?

Mo realized she had no idea what the answer was to that question and quickly changed the subject.

- Uhm, can I borrow you couch tonight? Dawn has asked me to dinner.

Lauren agreed and told her she was invited too.

At the hardware store the normally very cocky Phil was as deflated as a party balloon three days after the fiesta and agreed with most of her points.

The owner told her that Phil had forgot to get one Francesca Ferdinand to sign the insurance forms because he was too busy starring at her boobs. That meant they were looking at a civil lawsuit to recover the cost of the sled that undoubtedly would be a complete wreck by the time the snow melted and they could get to it.

Mo figured it was punishment enough for the young man and left it at that.

Miami, Florida, March 2006
She rarely felt sorry for herself - and her tears stopped as suddenly as the had started a few sobs later. Good thing too because it clearly upset her cat, his tiny gray body was tense as a spring against her leg.

She padded him reassuringly and went into the kitchen to find him a few shrimp to apologize for upsetting him.

Her father's will was on a sideboard in her living room. She had not opened it since Mr. Hemmings gave it to her. She did remember that she was rich, but not how rich nor rich in what.

The two most startling facts from that meeting had been the discovery that she had no half-siblings and that her father still owned his parents house in Belle Glades.

While Ghost took up his position at her feet and started to clean his entire body that somehow must have gotten covered in some mysterious substance oozing from two tiny shrimp she opened the document.

And then her father was right there. It was beautifully written even funny in places if you had an eye for lawyer humour.

She almost started crying again because she knew he had written it for her. She also sensed he had written it before he started serving his 90 day sentence for vehicular manslaughter in Miami-Dade jail.

Everybody knew it was not a maximum security facility but he most have feared for his life nevertheless.

She remembered when Ortiz had called her and told her her father was in the jail downtown after having hit a 5 year old kid on Calle Ocho in the Little Havanna part of Miami after a business lunch involving several dry martinis.

The kid died during the night and the charges against him was vehicular manslaughter. She had just made partner at Miami's leading criminal defence law firm. Probably the firm her father would have called if it wasn't because he knew that she had her heart set on becoming a judge and this case could screw that plan up.

Looking back she wasn't proud at the way she had let Ortiz deal with the mess. He had found a defence attorney for her Dad who had worked out a deal where he pleaded guilty, served 90 days, agreed to two years of house arrest, 8 years on suspension and turn his drivers license in forever.

The family got an undisclosed amount - Ann's guess was about $ 2.000.000 - and her Dad committed to 1000 hours of community work at a nursing home right after his house arrest ended.

It was a good deal he could have gotten 15 years in jail - many less influential people with no money to buy a good defence had. She wasn't even sure she could have worked out as good a deal if she had handled the case.

They had never talked about what he had done. She had distanced herself as far as she could from it. She didn't know how he felt about it, if he blamed himself, if he had met the family of the kid. Nothing.

Most importantly she didn't know how she felt about it. She had read the first news reports on the accident. Her dad had been driving a little too fast and the kid had run into the street after a piece of candy wrapper that blew out of his hand. He just wanted to throw it in a bin, his mum had explained.

The news papers didn't lash onto the fact that he had been drinking till the next day when other guests from the restaurant had told reporters her Dad and the two men he had been meeting with had ordered several martinis.

Then the stories changed from: Influential lawyer fatally hits child. To: Big shot lawyer drunk when he mowed kid down.

Those headlines were bad enough but she had to admit her biggest fear had been: Father of future judge kills kid in DUI-accident.

It never came. She didn't visit him in jail, she had visited him during his house arrest. During the house arrest he had been allowed to work, sans martini lunches of course. And then he had started doing commuity work. Once he had mentioned that he was going fishing with some of the guys from the nursing home where he did the service.

That was all, she didn't even know what nursing home it was or if he had finished his 1000 hours.

There was a lot of things about him she didn't know.

Tabernash, Colorado, March 2006
Dawn lived in a cute little bungalow just down the road from MoccaMecca. Nothing big or fancy but she had painted pretty much every room in bright, yummy ice cream colors and that made a sweet contrast with the stark colors outside her windows.

Mo smelled fried chicken and hoped for mash potatoes and coleslaw.

Dawn handed her and Lauren each a cold, perspiring glass of chardonnay. Mo had spend the afternoon running Laurens store, she figured that was a way of paying for the use of that couch. It had allowed Lauren to go to Fraser and visit the library and run a few errands.

There hadn't been many customers but enough to keep her busy.

Now the three women were crowding Dawn's tiny kitchen where the heat from the cooking was steaming up the windows.

- So Mo are you ready to become the town doctor? Dawn asked.

Lauren had already told her, that folks were suggesting she take over from old Doc Jackson.

- I was nothing, just a broken leg, anybody could have set it, she tried.

- Nonsense don't be so modest, Dawn replied. With a twinkle in her eye she added:

- It would be like me claiming anybody could make as good coffee as I can.

They laughed at that and sat down to the delicious food and more of the good Oregon wine. It was a lovely evening with lots of laughs and also moments of seriousness. Like when Mo told them what had happened to Fran and how.

- City fools - just hope they are glad they didn't die, Lauren said.

- Well I don't think any of them will do it again, Mo said.

Then Dawn went on to tell Mo and Lauren about her trip to Atlanta and how she hoped her sister would finally break free from her abusive husband.

Suddenly Dawn made a big deal of dinging her wine glass with her dessert spoon like she wanted to make a speech.

- Ladies it's official - Wayne and I are an item, we are going on a weekend together in May and I'm very happy! Lauren hooted and Mo vigorously applauded the announcement.

- Let's celebrate with mudcake and some bubbels, Dawn continued.

The rest of the evening passed with plenty of sparkling wine and the taste of Dawns coffee rich mudcake covered in dark chocolate ganache icing.

A little before midnight Lauren and Mo walked the few yards to the general store and called it a night.

One of Mo's last thoughts before she fell asleep on Laurens couch was: I'm glad she got together with Wayne, but why am I not a tiny bit jealous of him?

Miami, Florida, March 2006
Ann woke when her door buzzer chimed. She didn't get many unexpected visitors and certainly not at 7.30 a.m. so it took her a while to figure out what the sound was. Ghost didn't want to take any chances so he had immediately jumped under her bed.

She pushed the button on her door phone.

- Yes?

- Are you Ann Hunter ma'am? I'm officer Wilson from the Miami police department, I have your fathers personal belongings for you.

She wasn't prepared for that. Couldn't figure out why they would release them so quickly, there had to be an ongoing investigation, but she buzzed him in.

She had time to put on a robe over her cotton boxers and tank top.

Officer Wilson stood almost at attention on her door step as he handed her a yellow envelope and made her sign for it.

- Why are his things released already, don't you have an ongoing investigation? she asked.

- I don't know ma'am, I was just told to deliver the envelope to you. But you might call sergeant Zinna and ask him. He turned smartly on his heels and walked back towards the bank of elevators.

It was not how she pictured she would have breakfast. Starring at the envelope and feeling too overwhelmed to open it knowing it would contain his wrist watch, wallet, his keys, his blackberry and his reading glasses.

Ortiz must have dealt with his clothes when his funeral was planned.

She finally got enough courage to finger the metal clasp that held the contents captive. She shook his things out on her breakfast bar.

She picked up his Cartier watch and looked at her own wrist. His was the male version of the Tank American in white gold that she wore. He had given it to her when she graduated law school and it was the only one of his lavish gifts she really treasured. It was a beautiful watch and not too flashy.

The wallet was made of shiny black expensive leather made to look like crocodile but without endangering any animals other than cows whom nobody felt sorry for other than a few true fanatics.

His credit cards, a couple of his own business cards, some he had received lately and about $200 in twenties and tens, was all that was in it. A small plastic bag held the few coins he must have carried in his pocket.

His keys were on a heavy silver ring with his initials as a pendant. She had no idea what any of them opened. There must be keys to his house in the Grove, his office and maybe his apartment in Manhattan.

She casually switched his blackberry on and was promptly asked for a password. She would have to go online and see if there were any tricks for circumventing it.

But first she would write Mo an e-mail telling her she had made it home. Hopefully she would get a reply soon.

To be continued in chapter 10


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