Chapter 23

Claire wants to keep investigating.  “We’re on such a roll,” she says. “Let’s drive down to the nearby hospital, where your father used to work.”

“Let’s call it a day,” I say. “This day was productive enough, plus my father has not worked there for over thirty years. I doubt anyone there will remember him.”

“If you stop now, you will procrastinate this for weeks. Let’s just get it over with.”

“Okay, “ I agree, because Claire always gives good advice.

We arrive at the hospital and park the car in the visitor parking lot. We walk towards the automatic doors, and when they open, we are greeted by noisy chaos. Children are crying, women are yelling at their husbands, men are breathing heavily, and amid this sickness people dressed in blue and green scrubs are running around. A receptionist, who is in her mid-thirties, sits at the front desk and chews gum loudly.

I walk directly to her and ask, “are there any old people who work here Mam?”

Her eyes lazily move toward my face, and she replies with irritation, “what kind of question is that?”

Claire comes to my rescue and says, “I’m sorry Mam. You see we want to find out information about a doctor who quit abruptly thirty years ago. We were hoping that perhaps someone who worked in this hospital a long time ago might help us.  We would really appreciate it if you could help us find such a person.”

“Listen, I have more important things to do than to help you find old people to bother. I have patients dying in the waiting room. This is why people hire private investigators.” She is about to say something else, but a nurse demands her attention, and she turns away from us. I glare at Claire, but she mirrors my expression.

“Are there any old people who work here Mam,” She mimics. “Really Ann, did you get autism on the way here. What kind of reaction did you think she was going to have? “

“I just found out my mom faked her own death and my dad helped. You could show some sympathy,” I tell Claire in an angry whisper because the probing eyes of an old lady in a wheel chair are staring at me.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Claire says. Her expression softens and then she adds, “maybe we should hire a private investigator.”

“Excuse me ladies,” the old lady in the wheel chair calls to us as we began to walk away.  Claire and I stop walking; Claire smiles, and she asks the lady if she needs any help.

“It’s I who might help you ,” she says. “ I couldn’t help but over hear, and I know it’s none of my business, but were the two of you talking about Dr. John Smith by any chance?”

“Yes, how did you know,” Claire asks.

“Well he used to be my doctor. He was such a good doctor. I was born with this genetic disease that causes me to visit the hospital every couple of months. The thing is I was constantly misdiagnosed until I was twenty-four, and I spent my entire childhood going through uncomfortable tests and being constantly told to tell my parents goodbye.  Dr. Smith correctly diagnosed me. He changed my life! You don’t forget your savior. Not to mention he was an amazing doctor, too good for this hospital to tell you the truth. Then, one day, when I came to the hospital for an appointment I had made with him a month before, the receptionist tells me he quit. ‘Why,’ I asked. I was nosy even then. ‘I have no idea,’ the receptionist had replied. ‘It’s the strangest thing, he was about to get a promotion, and he was so excited about it, and then he just quits. Everyone was surprised. He did not even give us a two-week notice’”

“So no one knew why he quit,” I ask.

“Well, a nurse told me he was saddened by the death of one of his patients, so the theory around the hospital was that he had a nervous breakdown, and had to take some time off. But I don’t think that’s the reason.  I mean if it was, wouldn’t he have come back? I have a theory; it’s a bit of a conspiracy theory though.”

“I would love to hear it,” Claire says.

“The day after I found out Dr. Smith quit, I was watching TV with my parents. There was a news story about a man found murdered in the woods. This wasn’t an ordinary man. He was the brother of a known leader of a vicious gang at the time. They never did find the murderer, and many suspected that the gang leader killed him to avenge his brother’s death. Even If he didn’t kill him, he was probably looking for him. You know how it is with gangs. It’s all about reputation! Anyway, you might say this is a coincidence, but I find it strange that Dr. Smith disappeared around the time this body was found. Gang members need doctors to take care of all those illegal wounds they get, and although Dr. Smith was an amazing physician, he was quite young, and he might have been working for the gang. Perhaps he was somehow involved with this murder, and he fled to hide from them. That’s my theory anyway. I hope they didn’t find him.”

“Thank you for telling us this,” I say.

“Oh, no problem. Thank you for listening! May I ask why you ladies are interested in Dr. Smith?

“He used to date my mother,” I reply automatically. “She always wondered what happened to him, and I’ve been trying to help her find him.”

“Do you happen to know anything about his patient who died?” Claire adds.

“Oh, I don’t know about any of his other patients. He never talked about them; he was very professional. Good luck with your search.”

“Thank you,” I say, as Claire and I wave good-bye and walk out of the hospital.

“Do you think your parents were involved with the gang,” Claire asks me when we are back in her car.

“I don’t know. I want to say ‘no that’s crazy’, but I found out today that my parents faked my mom’s death so anything is possible.”

“I mean I’ve met your parents, and I would even be shocked if I found out they were part of the neighborhood watch. But you’re right. After what we found out today, anything is possible. Will you be visiting you grandparents again?”

“No,” I reply. “Not my grandparents.  I ‘m going to visit my uncles. “

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