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 15

North Miami, Florida, April 2006
Hotel Roma in North Miami had all the charm of a much used men's room at a bus depot. The bad impression started when they entered the car park and Ann had to navigate a jumble of cars and trucks parked at odd angels to each other. Not one of the not very many guests had managed to park their cars in the allotted spaces.

But then the hotel was close to the turnpike and seemed to get it's business from drivers too exhausted to drive another mile - or park their cars it seemed.

Mo and Ann had seen the hotel advertised along the I95 as they drove north - it's biggest claim to fame was 39 TV-channels, free continental breakfast, that from the picture looked like a stale croissant and a cup of weak orange juice. Oh, and then the place sported Doric columns in front of the entrance.

Mo called Fran from the car park and she told them she was in room 347. It occurred to Ann it could be some kind of trap. That they could be walking into an ambush from Ortiz's goons, but she had to trust that Mo believed Fran's story.

The elevator slowly creaked up the three floors and deposited them in a dimly lit hallway with a heavily stained carpet in a violent orange and red pattern. The door to room 347 needed a good shove from Mo to open while Fran pulled from the inside and the dreadful carpet preceded them into a room every bit as depressing as the outside of the hotel and it's surroundings. Even with the AC running the noise from the turnpike was very noticeable in the room.

Fran looked like hell. This time Ann got to see it for herself: No make up, puffy eyes, lank hair and what looked like clothes that should have been left at the bottom of the laundry basket or at least washed.

Two coarsely build pine chairs with vinyl seat covers where pushed under a round pine table scarred by cigarettes and knife cuts. Ann and Mo pulled the chairs well away so as to not actually touch the table top that looked sticky from years of halfhearted cleaning.

Fran sat on the edge of her bed.

Ann thought: Now is the time the goons jump from the bathroom and overpowers us. But all that happened was that the once so arrogant Fran said:

- I can't tell you how glad I am to see you - both of you, she looked directly at Ann maybe for the first time ever.

- Tell us what happened, Mo said.

Fran tried to get in a comfortable position with her leg cast but ended up having to sit up against the head board.

- Yesterday not long after you left I started to get these phone calls where the only thing said was my original name. It got so bad I just ended up turning it off.

Ann held up and hand and fished something up form her purse

- I have a phone here - the one you brought with you to Colorado, she handed it over.

- Ah, the phone they gave me at Velasquez, Pena and Alonzo, Fran said and laid it beside her on the bed, then she continued:

- There's not much traffic on my street at night but sometimes after 9 p.m. I noticed lights through the glass in my front door and this huge, black, Ford Explorer was parked with the motor running halfway up the sidewalk in front of my house. I could hear loud music and see the outline of two people when I peaked out behind the shades in the bedroom. As I was watching my neighbor who goes to work early and likes his sleep opened an upstairs window and yelled for them to at turn the engine off and the music down, but they didn't hear him. A moment later he came out in his nightclothes and went up to the car and rapped on the window on the drivers side. This big guy banged the door open and nearly knocked him over and yelled for him to mind his own business. He went inside, but he must have called the police because a while later a cruiser came down the street and the Ford immediately drove off.

- Do you think they were just there to scare you or to hurt you? Mo asked

- I don't know but an hour later they were back. I tried to call Hector to tell him to call them off but he didn't answer. I snuck out in my backyard and found out nobody was watching the back of the house, so I called a cab and had them pick me up at the next street over. The cabbie said he could get me a good rate here, when I told him I had boyfriend troubles, but I'm afraid they'll find me, because he was Cuban too.

The word almost vibrated in the air. They were back at the non-existing Cuban mafia or caught up in collective paranoia.

And Mo was sure that her call to Velasquez, Pena and Alonzo had landed Fran in deep water.

Miami Beach, Florida, April 2009
Ann had tactfully asked Fran about her financial situation and learned it was dire. Then she made a decision.

- I'm gonna put you in one of the expensive hotels on the beach then - it will be the last place they will look if they know you are broke. I think The Delano or The Ritz Carlton will fit the bill.

Fran looked grateful but then down at herself:

- I'm not really dressed for those kind of places.

- We'll just have to go shopping then.

An hour later Ann came out of the exclusive shopping center Bal Harbour swinging two Banana Republic bags and handed them to Fran on the back seat in the waiting car.

- There are some restrooms at Indian Beach Park where you can change while I book you a room.

While they waited outside the restrooms Mo listened to a very determined Ann book a room with an ocean view for a woman named Carrie Johnson at The Ritz Carlton on South Beach, she claimed to be the secretary of a high strung business woman and even ordered a little treat of chocolate and flowers for her injured "boss". She also asked for express check in and told them estimated time of arrival would be 20 minutes so they had better get a move on or her ass would be on the line.

- You did that very well, Mo sneaked a finger down Ann's cheek and got a wonderful Ann-smile in return.

Fran looked a lot more like Fran after changing into Ann's newly bought shirt-dress and a short trench coat.

- I've got a room for you at The Ritz Carlton, your name is Carrie Johnson - it's prepaid and just sign something unreadable for room service they'll deduct it on my credit card. I'll call you in the morning and then we can move you to another location. The security at the hotel is good, and I've told them you are high strung so just act the part and hang out the do not disturb sign.

Fran nodded.

- Why...why are you doing this... the way I treated you...both of you?

Ann and Mo briefly glanced at each other. Then Ann turned towards her in the back seat.

- I just don't like bullies and you have been bullied.

Miami, Florida, April 2009
Ann could not remember when she had last been so exhausted when they finally made it back to her apartment on Brickell Avenue.

- That was a very nice thing you did, put her in that hotel.

- Could you see her on the couch and us in the bedroom, Ann replied.

Mo almost snorted water through her nose at that.

- The three of us have actually shared a stranger night than that!

Ann looked about ready to drop, but Mo forced her to eat a small snack before they turned in.

- You need your strength for tomorrow.

Mo had a feeling that Ann would confront Ortiz as quick as she could.

Miami Beach, Florida, April 2009
Ann was up long before Mo was even awake but finally the smell of coffee penetrated her sleep defence and she started to stretch. She wondered if Ann could levitate or apparate like in Harry Potter because her gluteus maximus had hardly reached it's maximum before a mug of the good stuff was handed to her. She pulled herself into a sitting position and Ann straddled her.

- I've talked to Fran - she had a quiet night and says she's feeling a lot better. Her problem now is that her cast needs to come off and she's afraid to go to the clinic since her injury has been handled by Velasquez, Pena and Alonzo.

Mo tried to figure that one out.

- Two options: I cut the damn thing off - or she puts her bag woman's clothes back on and we drive her to a medicare facility and she plays destitute.

Ann mulled it over.

- Is it safe for you to do it?

- No problem in cutting it off, but an x-ray to determine if everything looks good would be the proper procedure.

- Hmm - I could hassle The Ritz Carlton - as Carrie Johnson's secretary - to put me in contact with a private clinic and have them do it.

Mo nodded.

- I like Carrie Johnson's secretary almost at much as stern, naked judge.

Ann whacked her shoulder and she spilled coffee on her arm.

- Hey, that's gonna cost you!

It certainly cost them both almost an hour before Ann jumped into the shower and since Mo decided to help the environment by joining her they were further delay but they were finally ready to go to the beach.

Fran looked rested, her hair was clean and didn't hang from her head as a dirty floor mop anymore and she continued to surprise.

She had ordered coffee, juice and some lovely looking pastries and they all sat down in front of her ocean view and enjoyed a quick breakfast together.

- I'll go down and talk to the manager and have him make an appointment for you at a private clinic to have the cast off. Mo says you need to be x-rayed or she could do it. After that I'm taking you to a house that used to belong to my Dad in Coconut Grove - I doubt they will make a connection between the two of us.

Fran looked relieved and Ann left the room.

Mo had to ask.

- Fran do you know anything about what happened to Ann's father?

Fran looked completely surprised.

- I didn't know anything happened to him

- He was killed about three weeks ago - after Ann asked him to check out PharmaMenta for her.

- I had no idea.

Again Mo had to trust her instinct and it said Fran was once again telling the truth. She didn't want to go into details so she left it at that. A moment later a pretty irate Ann knocked on the door.

- Damn doctors won't treat anyone without an insurance form or a personal credit card. I tried to tell them yours was accidentally left behind in your home state of California, and I would pay but it's a no go.

- When we get to your Dad's house, I'll have a look at it, OK?

Fran remembered to look high strung as they crossed the lobby with Ann playing her secretary role behind her signing the bill and reminding the whole hotel how disappointed her boss was that a five star hotel couldn't sort out a simple medical problem.

Once they got to Coconut Grove and Ann had shown Fran the ropes - maintenance had done a good job at cleaning up - Mo went into the garden shed to look for tools. Normally a small electric round saw is used but she figured some sort of pliers would do and found a nice little set.

She positioned Fran on the patio with one leg in the pool and her cast resting on a piece of tarpaulin the shed had also supplied. Then she went to work.

- Don't be surprised if it looks dreadfully and smells a bit, she said.

Fran nodded and kept her leg as straight and into the ground as she had been told and 10 minutes later Mo splintered the last lump of plaster. The leg actually didn't look too bad. She had been restitched by an expert and just had a neat row of black knots running across her shin.

- You can go into the cabana and wash the leg down, then I'll look for something to remove the stitches with.

Fran hoppled off. Mo was happy to see that the leg could take the woman's weight and hadn't atrophied too much, but she would still need physiotherapy she was sure.

Ann had a pair of tweezers and they found a small pair of scissors in the bathroom. Both were boiled and then she looked for rubbing alcohol but couldn't find any. But the liquor cabinet held a fine bottle of overproof rum.

- It may sting a bit - first when I pour on the rum and then when I start pulling the thread through, you think you can manage?

Fran nodded and didn't say a word, but she did hang onto the lounger with a fierce grip.

For the second time in less than three weeks Mo's bush medicin talents came in handy.

- You are good to go, but I do hope we can find a way to have it x-rayed soon.

Fran thanked her and then Ann and Mo left her to her own devices.

Miami, Florida, April 2006
- You are going to confront him, right?

They had barely made it to the apartment before Mo had to ask the question.

- Yes, I see no other way, really.

- It could be dangerous, you know that right?

Ann nodded and bit her lip,

- But I have an idea.

She proposed to arrange for a meeting with Ortiz at the lobby bar of the Eden Roc Saturday around 7 p.m. when the place was usually quite busy with the weekend crowd getting ready for the night life on South Beach. And she wanted Mo and Ronald as a backup.

- You could dress as the typical cabana-renting nouveau riche couple from up north and I doubt he or his goon's will notice you at all.

It made sense. Mo couldn't be sure they had actually had a good look at her when she visited Fran in Kendall. But then she had been dressed in cargo pants and a t-shirt. If she dressed in some kind of sun dress, put make up on, styled her hair and showed her legs off while playing Barbie to a stock broker Ken would they notice? Especially if Mo and this guy Ronald got there early.

- So does that mean, we have to go shopping again?

- Oh yes, and I know just the place, let me call Ronald.

On the drive from downtown Miami to the Dolphin Outlet Mall Mo decided she liked Ronald very much. He was easy going and listened carefully to Ann as she explained the plan. Then he laughed with delight at the prospect of being dressed as a nouveau riche and even looked like he was looking forward to the shopping - perhaps because Ann had promised them both a very good dinner, at a fancy place on the beach to try out their new personas.

It was obvious that Ann had a fully formed plan in her head when she marched Mo into a place called Charlotte Russe that she had never heard of. A moment later she was in a dressing room with a sundress in a color called raisin sporting a huge sequined butterfly across the front and a somewhat more discreet satin floral thing that actually look a bit like the upholstery on the furniture in Ann's grandparent's house.

She was also handed a bit of chocolate lingerie and a set in bordello red, a pair of silver braided T-strap flats and a pair of pretty outrageous slingbacks in what looked like python.

The next time Ann came by - with a bomber jacket in faux leather with shorts sleeves - she pulled her behind the curtain and kissed her.

- Are you enjoying yourself?

Ann's eyes sparkled with delight.

- Wait until I do your hair and makeup, she laughed.

Mo was grateful when Ann whet off to pay for everything and she could put her comfortable clothes back on.

While they had been shopping Ronald had done a bit of research and steered Ann towards the Ralph Lauren outlet, when he got a pair of applegreen and white seersucker shorts, a white polo with a huge green polo player covering half his chest and a lemon colored sweater to wear casually around his shoulders. It would clash wonderfully with Mo's raisin colored butterfly dress.

- Now choose something for tonight - Mo's has a burgundy and lilac floral dress, Ann could barely contain her laughter at that statement.

Ronald did not let her down. He chose bright red chinos. A shirt striped in blue, red, orange and green and a royal blue sports coat with a crest on the chest pocket the size of a trivet and huge golden buttons.

When he picked up a bright pink pocket square he winked at Mo. To go with both outfits he chose a pair of canvas deck shoes in a very loud madras.

- I hope you are rich, he said, as Ann carried his choices to the check out.

Miami Beach, Florida, April 2009
Once back at Ann's apartment the first phase of the transformation of Mo started with Ann digging an old curling iron out of a cupboard in the bathroom and plugged it in. Mo was placed on a chair in front of the mirror in the bathroom and had her shoulders professionally draped with a towel. But whatever Ann tried to do to Mo's light fawn hair it didn't really hold.

Ronald was watching from the door.

- I figured you needed help with that, I've invited a friend, he said and went to answer the door phone.

A giant of a viking blocked the bathroom door a moment later. He was at least 6'5'' and had piercing blue eyes and blond hair. His face cracked in a huge friendly smile when he introduced himself as Magnus the Norwegian hairdresser.

Ann let him take over, and explained that Mo needed to look like one of the tourists from up north flocking to Miami to flaunt their husband's money. And he set to work with tools he had brought with him.

In the time it took for Ronald to put on his fake yacht captain's outfit Mo's hair had taken on an artificial sheen and was teased into what looked like a wheat field after a particularly bad hail storm. He had done a very loud evening make up on a base of mauve after having seen the dress. It clashed perfectly with her own color.

Ann invited Magnus to join them for dinner as a token of her appreciation especially if he would show up the next day to do Mo before the final show down.

Neither Ann nor Magnus could stop tears from rolling down their faces when they first saw the Allinghams. They were over the top gauche in a wonderful Miami way.

Ann had ordered a limo and pretty soon the four new friends were sipping Californian bubbly on their way to The Blue Door at The Delano on Collins Avenue. And the Allinghams fit right in as Mo snapped her fingers and pestered the waiters for more bread and Ronald ordered wines in exceedingly bad French.

It was a lovely evening and behind all the Philippe Starck decor and floating gauze drapes some serious good eats and fine beverages were served.

Just before midnight Ronald offered a toast:

- To my boss for finally showing her true self.

To be continued in chapter 16

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