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 16

Miami, Florida, April 2006
Ann woke early with a sliver of a headache behind one ear. It had been a fun Friday. When they dropped Ronald and Magnus at Ronald's address there had been hugs and kisses all around and Ronald had said: Have a nice night ladies, with an exaggerated wink.

Getting Mo down from the slingbacks and out of the floral dress had been the easy part but the bordello red lingerie had almost defeated them both and Mo was getting desperate complaining that the bra itched and scratched. She had gone as far as suggesting Ann cut if off her when clasps and hooks finally cooperated and Ann had her woman back they way she liked her: Au natural.

Their lovemaking had been an act of great tenderness followed by lots of little giggles over remembered jokes.

Ronald had been very good at bulldozing his way through crowds and every time someone took offence at his pushiness one look at Magnus had stopped all complaints. Magnus had been happy to be enlisted in the back-up group at the Roc and promised to dress badly.

Mo was deep in sleep when Ann and Ghost snuck out on the balcony and took in the fresh morning air. A cup of coffee was valiantly fighting the headache behind Ann's ear.

She re-read her Dad's letter. It chocked her up. He realized he was in some kind of danger, but not which. He had picked up on Ortiz's con with the PharmaMenta stock while working off his community service at Saint Francis. He had helped a couple of the residents with their taxes and that's when he first heard of this great deal they felt they were part of and how it would soon help their countrymen back in Cuba.

He has simply written to the director and asked him if was true, that PharmaMenta would donate medicin if or when Castro fell and got a flat out denial. PharmaMenta did not want to stick their nose in a political powder keg. If the US government would lift the embargo they would consider Cuba an interesting market nothing more.

Her Dad had printed the two e-mails on the back of the final page of the letter. It made her wonder if it had meant to be saved behind a picture when he had taken such steps to keep the number of pages down.

In a final paragraph he told her that while he of course wished with all his heart that he had never killed a kid while driving drunk the accident had opened his eyes to many things in his life, and that he hoped she would always remember that life is precious.

Tears rolled down her cheeks as she folded the letter back in the envelope.

Life was precious and the fact that a wonderful woman was part of hers now made her wonder if she could ever return to her job. How could she be a part of a system rigged and ruled by a man like Ortiz.

Her father had certainly left her enough money to never have to work again, or she could take all the time she needed to figure out what kind of work would make sense to her now.

She went to wake up Mo - Ronald and Magnus would be there soon, and she had to start getting things rolling. She had set up her appointment with Ortiz yesterday when Magnus dolled up Mo. He had sounded guarded but he really didn't have a choice and she knew he knew that she knew that.

Miami Beach, Florida, April 2009
Mo had looked even more outrageous than yesterday when Ann had send her off to the beach with Ronald and Magnus. She had rented a cabana for them and Ronald had brought a huge, garish beach bag to carry their normal clothes.

Ann considered sneaking over early to see what the terrible three were up to. Magnus had made good on his promise to dress badly and looked like a cross between a Chippendale and the blond guy from Village People, who always dressed as a construction worker.

She wondered what the limo-driver thought they were up to.

20 minutes before her appointment she swung her Audi onto Brickell Avenue and started across to the beach. Mo, Magnus and Ronald had been there for four hours. The closer she got to the beach the heavier the traffic. Even off season a Saturday night draws a crowd.

She let the valet drive off with her car and the doorman welcome her to historical Eden Roc.

She had been right: The lobby was very busy - people going to and from several functions. There was a wedding in the grand ballroom, something she had briefly dreamed about when she was a young girl after she had seen a particularly beautiful bride. But once she realized there's only room for one bride at a wedding she had abandoned that dream.

Ortiz was in his usual place up against the window with full command of the room. He sad very straight and still looked like a very old man.

Her three musketeers where hard to overlook. They had commandeered a table at the front of the room. Once she joined Ortiz she would have them smack in her line of sight. They seemed to have picked up another couple, the woman speaking in a very loud nasal twang that almost sounded like a parody. Their table was brimming with cocktails competing with the colors of their beach wear and Magnus and the unknown man outdid each other yelling for more nuts.

She briskly walked around the sunken central part of the lobby bar and approached Ortiz from the left. She spotted his goons - two gentlemen dressed for a funeral, at a table up against the bar to the right of their boss. They were big and mean looking, but she had Magnus and did not intend to let it come to blows.

Ortiz got up as she approached and did his kissing on both cheeks routine and greeted her like always:

- Me hija.

But this time there was no "When are you getting married Ana" and he let her do her own ordering when the harassed waitress came over. Ann ordered a club soda and vowed to somehow get her a decent tip, as it would be out of character for the Allinghams to do that.

Ortiz regarded her over the rim of his highball glass. It was impossible to say what he was drinking, it would be water, it could be vodka straight, it could be white rum or it could be gin and tonic. Gone were the elaborate drinks he usually partook and ordered for her.

- You wanted to see me.

- Yes, I did, I wanted to show you something my father left me.

Ann had copied the e-mail correspondence between her father and the director of PharmaMenta, she handed the copy to him. He quickly scanned it.

- I'm not sure I follow. Has this got anything to do with the doctor in Colorado you went to visit with Fran Ferdinand?

- No, it has to do with the fact that you have been conning gullible old people into buying worthless PharmaMenta stock for a long time.

- I have not.

- Yes you have and my father confronted you about it on the evening he got killed.

- I don't know what you are talking about.

She let him have it. Without ever raising her voice she told him that she knew that PharmaMenta was in trouble because they only had a US patent for their wonder drug. That someone had come up with the idea of getting money out of Mo's so called misuse of their experimental drug by threatening her insurance company with a law suite.

- And the malpractice suite has you written all over it, always harping on people being held personal responsible. But you know what? Mo Bancroft isn't even insured.

The revelation startled him, she could tell.

- Mi hija, why would I do all this? I don't even have PharmaMenta stock - just a few shares for old friendships sake, he only just resisted using a fake Spanish accent, but the body language was there.

- Ah yes old friendship you are big on that - my Dad's and yours, mine and yours and did you called Fran a friend before you yanked her chain.

Another score she, could see it in his face.

- But you do have stock - and lots of it. It's just hidden in an offshore company on Turks and Caicos. You don't need a PhD to figure out who is behind Zitro Corp.

It had taken a while for her stockbroker to get back to her on exactly how deep in the water PharmaMenta was, after she told him about the missing world patent. When he called back he had told her about an offshore company named Zitro Corp desperately trying to unload huge chunks of stock without drawing any attention. And he had let a few people know that any attempt to sell short should be denied that particular company.

The old man was still sitting ramrod straight in his best three button sand-colored linen suite, but all life had left his face and he pulled a brilliantly white handkerchief from an inside pocket and wiped his brow before taking a sip of his glass.

For a brief moment Ann had eye contact with Mo across the room. Calm, sane, alert eyes in that made up face. Eyes that gave her strength.

Ortiz reached for his Panama and his cane.

- Walk with me Ana.

- Only if you leave your goons behind, she nodded at the two dark suited gentlemen in the corner.

He gave them a discreet hand signal to stay put and reached for her elbow. He moved slowly. The crowd and the din seemed to make him almost confused. She steered him out on the patio and they walked past the pool towards the water.

When they reached the boardwalk that runs the length of the beach and separate the hotel grounds from the sand he indicated a left hand turn. They walked slowly in silence. Somewhere behind her she heard loud voices and she got a glimpse of Mo and Magnus running onto the beach - Magnus pretending to tackle Mo into the water. Ronald was probably behind them on the boardwalk

Up ahead a bench came into sight and he invited her to sit. Her friends stayed back but kept up the pretend play she heard: A drunken Norwegian song echoed across the water.

- When we started working here, your Dad and I, we were different people. Your Dad wanted to save the world, I just wanted to get rich, to be able to stay in the best suite and dine at Café Pompai. I don't know when it all changed. Your Dad ended up rich - and I changed a bit of the world for a while at least.

- Yes, you were an outstanding judge.

He smiled a sad little smile of gratitude.

- I didn't mean for him to get hurt, I just wanted him to stop nosing into PharmaMenta - I thought they were solid, that I would finally get rich. You know I've even enquired how much it would cost to take the penthouse here on a permanent basis.

She couldn't believe he would think his retirement would be more important to her, than her Dad's murder.

- And yet he died, it was a dry, biting remark and it brought him out of his cloud of dream riches.

- They say he taunted them. Called them my brac-squad. Pedro's father was killed by the brac.
- So Pedro shot him?
- Yes.
- Is Pedro one of the guys sitting inside right now, her voice had taken on a sharp edge.
- No, no I've sent him away - out of state.
- And why was it necessary to break in to the house to smash his must treasured possessions?
- Don't you see, I had to protect myself, get the letter.

Like a Don.

She could feel her jaw clench with pent-up rage.

- Listen to me old man. Here is what's gonna happen: You are going to resign as a judge Monday morning. You will let the police know where they can find Pedro. You are going to give Fran a fair amount for the work she has done for you and make sure she gets a new identity where ever she wants. And then you are personally going to reimburse every single pensioner for any loss they may incur if and when PharmaMenta goes under. You understand?

He was wiping his brow again.

- If I don't comply?
- Then I'm going to send the police the recording of the conversation we just had. It was a stroke of luck for me you wanted to get away from the noise.

He looked at her.

- You are wired?

She just nodded.

He got up - slowly on stiff knees.

- Oh and Hector - she had never called him that before, it made him turn sharply - I never want to see you again.

He started back towards the hotel and she got a short glimpse of something green and yellow jumping off the boardwalk and into the shrubbery on the land side. Probably Ronald.

She also saw Magnus cutting back towards the hotel a little behind Ortiz.

Mo had turned and was walking in her direction. Ann took off her shoes and walk the two steps down on the sand. Mo caught her in a gentle hug when she collapsed against her. They stood like that for a long time. Long enough for Ronald to get back on the boardwalk and down on the beach. They heard his cell phone ring.

- Magnus just saw Ortiz and the two goons leave in a limo, Ronald said.

Ann's face was streaked with tears, when she turned towards him.

- My Dad's taunt - the brac-squad one - that's what got him killed.

He looked stricken.

She pulled herself together.

- Would it be very unpleasant for you and Magnus to spend a night together here? Then we can talk tomorrow.

He just nodded and walked back towards the hotel.

- Damn I want out of these clown clothes, Mo muttered.

Miami Beach, Florida, April 2009
Considering how much time Ann had spent at the Roc, she had stayed overnight only rarely. She could remember one time, when her Dad's business, had taken longer than planned and a nice receptionist had taken her to a room and put her to bed.

And one time when she was a bridesmaid at the weeding for the daughter of one of her Dad's cronies. Part of the deal was that everybody overnighted to see the happy couple off on their honeymoon to the Bahamas after breakfast.

The groom had looked terribly hung over and his friends had kidded him relentlessly about the seaplane that would take them to their destination. He had looked green long before left the hotel.

This morning as she opened the door to the balcony and went outside to watched a brilliant sunrise over the ocean from a 12Th floor room she once again connected to the magic of the place and her Dad's obsession with all things Roc.

She and Mo had talked long into the night. Mo had agreed that putting an old man in jail was not the right solution but stripping him of all position might teach him a final humility before his God perhaps would.

They had talked about their future. Ann had told Mo that she would resign as a judge too. That decision was made the moment she had decided that the legal system shouldn't deal with Ortiz. Now she had to figure out what to do with the rest of her life and her new wealth.

Mo had told her that she was thinking about taking up medicin again. She would never sell her cabin in Tabernash but she had a strong feeling that she and her cats needed to get down off the mountain.

- I'm looking for somewhere flat, and warm perhaps, somewhere like Florida, Mo had said.

Ann went back to bed.

The End

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