At eight-thirty that evening, the Simon brothers sat in the living room of their suite. The Dodgers game was broadcasting at low volume from the television set as the men discussed their case.
Rick was on the couch, a printout of names spread in front of him on the coffee table. A.J. was seated in an easy chair to Rick’s right. He leaned forward and eyed the printout.
Rick used a red pencil to cross off names they were eliminating from their suspect list.
"Okay, here's one. Katie Schneider. What about her?"
"Katie Schneider? I don't think I've met her."
"Sure you have. Cute little thing, red curly hair, freckles, big green eyes. She works on Saturdays."
"Rick! She works in the gift shop for God's sake! She's what - maybe fifteen-years-old, if she's even that. I hardly think Katie Schneider is filing falsified Medicare claims. Besides, Aaronson didn't have her name on the Labor and Delivery personnel list he gave us."
"I know. I put it there myself."
“Now why doesn’t that surprise me?”
"Hey, ya’ never know. It was worth a shot. Kids now days are pretty clever, A.J. They've gotta lot of computer knowledge. She comes up on our floor, you know."
"Yes, she does. To deliver teddy bears to babies. Rick, I think in your quest for that pot of five thousand dollars in gold at the end of the Mercy Hospital rainbow, you've lost your mind."
"So you want me to cross her off, huh?"
"That would be a good idea."
Rick ran a red line through Katie’s name. He studied his list a moment, then asked, "What about some of the nurses that are still on here?"
A.J. looked at the names Rick was pointing to - six women and two men the blond had worked beside in the past week and a half.
"You might as well cross them off."
"All of ‘em!"
"Yes, all of them," A.J. sighed with defeat. "Rick, those men and women are so busy, that they don't have the time it would take to pull off something this elaborate. They barely get a lunch break, and on a lot of days they don’t take time for lunch at all.”
Rick reluctantly began crossing off names until he came to the last one.
"What about Marilyn?"
"Cross her off."
"A.J., you’ve said she's knowledgeable - more so than some of the doctors, even. I've seen her at a computer, too."
"No. No way. She wouldn't do something like this. Number one, she's too busy. And number two, she just wouldn't do it."
Rick nodded, then crossed Marilyn's name off the list. Although she was the type of person they were looking for - knowledgeable and with access to the computer, if A.J. felt certain she wouldn't be involved in such a scam, that was good enough for Rick. The brothers had learned to trust each other's instincts over their years in business together, and rarely questioned one another anymore when it came to a gut feeling.
A half hour later, Rick finished crossing off the names of others he and A.J. had discussed. He threw his pencil down and sunk into the couch.
"Well, all we've managed to do is come up with more people who couldn't have done it, as opposed to coming up with anyone who could."
"I wouldn't put it that way,” A.J. said, as he leaned back and relaxed, as well. “I'd say we've managed to narrow it down a little more.”
"Since when did you become such an optimist?"
“Since you've become such a pessimist. Don't worry, we'll solve this one. Just give it more time."
"Time is the thing we don't have if we're gonna grab that bonus."
"Ah, the true reason for your pessimistic nature."
The brothers fell silent for a moment, the only sound in the room coming from the TV. It was A.J. who spoke first.
"You know, Rick, I've been thinking a lot about this case these past couple of days. The more I see of the daily activity on the Labor floor, the more I conclude that our thief has to be someone with a lot of time on his or her hands, and a lot of knowledge."
"Yeah, so?" Rick questioned. He and A. J. had discussed these same things before. He wasn't sure what his brother's point was.
"I don't mean just medical knowledge," A.J. clarified. "I mean knowledge of the law as well. Someone who knows how to file falsified claims, someone who knows where to obtain false I.D. and how to use it at a bank without arousing suspicion. Someone who is savvy enough to know that the risk of getting caught lessens if the funds are deposited into different banks, rather than going through the same bank all the time. Someone with a legal background possibly."
"So you're thinking everything we've been doin’, and everyone we've spent time gettin’ to know, has all been for nothing? It's all been a waste of time?"
"No, not exactly. I'm not convinced we still won’t find the person amongst our list of suspects, I'm just saying that maybe we haven't looked deep enough into some of their pasts. Maybe we need to dig further to see what we can loosen up."
Rick nodded as he mulled over his brother's words. "I've got more time than you do. I'll take our list of remaining suspects to Aaronson tomorrow and see if what information he can give us in way of their backgrounds."
"You'll have to take it to him on Monday. He stopped by to talk to me today, and said he's going to be out of town for the next three days."
"That figures," Rick sighed with disgust.
"What have you found out from all the patient files you've been studying?"
"Same thing I find out every day I study them. No patient file matches exactly to the false claims that were filed. There's parts of various files that are similar, but it's like someone took a little bit of one patient's problem and mixed it with a little bit of another's, to come up with a whole new medical history. It's like puttin' a puzzle together, only all the important parts are missing. I've had papers spread all over this room with things highlighted on them, but nothing sticks out. It's like I'm missing the most essential part, and when I locate it we'll have hit the jackpot. I just can't find the damn thing."
"I hope so," Rick said. "I always have hated paperwork. Now I know why."
"At least you get a lunch hour," A.J. pointed out.
Rick smiled. "Yeah, I noticed that look I got from you today."
"Next time you get to be the obstetrician, and I get to be the anesthesiologist."
Rick chuckled, then said, "Yep, that was the look. But look at the bright side, A.J., you're finally gettin' to be the Rough Rider."
"Yeah, well, I think I'd rather go back to being Toby. At least he gets lunch. And with an attractive woman, I might add."
Rick nodded as he laced his fingers behind his head. "I'll agree with you there. Very attractive."
A.J. thought over all he had seen and done in the past eight days.
"You know, there's a lot more to this baby stuff than what I thought."
"Well, this week alone they rushed a woman to surgery who was nine months pregnant and had jumped off the ledge of a building in a suicide attempt, and a woman seven months pregnant came in so badly beaten by her boyfriend that you couldn't even see her eyes. That's how swollen her face was, Rick. I know we've seen this kind of thing before, but my God, the woman was carrying the guy's child. I just don't understand it."
"I know. I don’t either."
"Then we had some woman strung out on cocaine. Jim told me her baby was severely deformed and addicted to coke, as well. I can't figure out what would make someone do something so ignorant to an innocent child. Then to top off my week, I saw a girl in labor today who was thirteen years old. Thirteen years old! Can you believe it? She should have been worrying about her next math test, and whether or not her mother will let her wear makeup to the school dance. Instead, she was in labor and crying for her mom while hugging a stuffed dog."
"I guess it's not always how we normally picture it, is it?" Rick commented. At A.J.'s confused look, Rick elaborated, "Stable mom and dad, happily married, a healthy baby born into a home that has a lot of love to give it. A home where it's wanted."
"No, from what I've seen recently, it's not always like that. Not often enough, that's for sure," A.J. stated. "I'll tell you something though, we owe our own mother a big thank you."
"For the fact that we were born into a happy home where we were loved and wanted."
“That’s where you’re wrong, A.J.”
“I was wanted. Now you, on the other hand, were a different story. See, Mom and Dad and I wanted a dog. We even had this furry little puppy all picked out, but then Mom and Dad had that unfortunate accident that turned out to be you, and we had to forget about the dog. I really wanted that puppy, too. I tried to convince Mom to put you up for adoption so we could get the dog, but she said--"
“All right, I get the picture,” A.J. said in an effort to put an end to the story that didn’t contain an ounce of truth. “Seriously, Rick, after seeing what some women go through, how long their labors are, the various complications that can arise, it's given me a whole new appreciation of what Mom went through for us."
Rick thought his brother's words over. Although he hadn't had the amount of patient contact A.J. had, Rick had seen, heard, and read enough over the past two weeks to have his own appreciation of their mother raised by a notch or two.
"I'll tell ya’ what, A.J. When this case is over, we'll send Mom flowers. And if we get that bonus, we'll send her lots of flowers."
A.J. chuckled as he agreed, "Okay. That sounds like a good idea to me."
“So did you decide if you're gonna drive home this weekend?"
"Yeah, I think I will. Jim's not scheduled to work on Saturday or Sunday, so I’m not going to either. I'll leave here tomorrow night as soon as I get off, unless we have some major breakthrough between now and then."
Rick nodded, not surprised at his brother's decision. A.J. didn’t enjoy living out of a suitcase for very long. Between that, and the fact that he was steadily dating a woman back in San Diego, Rick understood why his brother wanted to go home for the weekend.
"Are you staying here?" A.J. asked.
"Yeah. I'll go in on Saturday like we did last weekend. Things seem quieter then. Maybe I'll come up with something if I don't get interrupted."
“That sounds like a good idea.”
"When are you coming back?" Rick asked.
"I don't know for certain, but I’ll probably get up early on Monday morning and driving back then, rather than come back on Sunday night."
"Just let me know for sure."
"Why are you so interested in my comings and goings?"
"I might see if Rebecca wants to make use of the luxurious facilities here this weekend. I don't want you returnin’ early and surprising us, if you know what I mean."
"You don't?” A.J. teased. “Why not?"
"I'll tell you something, A.J, sittin' in the whirlpool with Rebecca, is gonna be a lot more fun than sittin' in it with you. That's why I don't want you coming back early."
“I see. Well, that explains your concerns over when I’ll be back.”
“Yeah, so make it Monday morning, kid. You got that?”
“Got it,” A.J. agreed, as he reached for the remote control on the coffee table and turned the TV’s volume up. “Heaven forbid I should interrupt your tryst.”
“You can say that again.”
A.J. didn’t bother to say it again, but instead, settled in with his brother to watch the remainder of the baseball game.
True to his word, A.J. left for San Diego on Friday evening. Rick spent Saturday at the hospital, once again trying to solve what to him was becoming an unsolvable mystery. He left the hospital at five-thirty that evening with a headache - a headache that managed to recede when he thought of the night before him.
At ten o'clock that evening, Rick and Rebecca enjoyed the soothing waters of the whirlpool tub. The rec room was fairly quiet. Three teenage boys were in the pool, and a man was in the weight room. Rick and Rebecca were alone in their little corner of the world, and secluded from the others by the plants and vines that flourished in this warm, humid area.
Rebecca sat across from Rick and stretched out her long legs. She relaxed while listening to the old Patsy Cline song, “Crazy” that filtered through the speakers of Rick’s cassette player that sat by the side of the tub.
"I've loved Patsy Cline ever since I was a little girl. This is one of my favorites."
Rick smiled. "Yeah, you told me that the first day we had lunch together."
"I did? I don't even remember that, Rick. You're really sweet."
“Yeah, well, it wasn't too hard to remember ‘cause this is one of my favorites, too."
"I've loved country music ever since I was a kid. I was practically an outcast in high school," Rebecca admitted. "While the other kids were listening to the Beatles, I was singing along with Johnny Cash and George Jones."
"I know what you mean," Rick agreed.
"The old country songs are my favorites. Songs from as far back as the forties and early fifties. Ernest Tubb, Kitty Wells, Roy Acuff, performers a lot of people today have never heard of."
"Those are some of my favorites, too. A few years ago my brother gave me a collection of classic country tapes from the forties and fifties for Christmas. I play those things over and over."
"You're lucky. I've been looking for tapes like those for a long time. Where did your brother get them?"
"I don't know. Leave it to my brother to find something obscure like that. He's the kinda guy who starts his Christmas shopping in June. I swear he picks up on anything I say I'd like to have throughout the year, 'cause come Christmas time he never asks me what I want, but some pretty good stuff always shows up under the tree." With mock disgust Rick added, "He drives me nuts."
Rebecca laughed at the face Rick made. "Why's that?"
"I'm the kinda guy that usually runs around the day before Christmas trying to find the perfect gift. I hate the fact that I'm related to someone who's so damn organized. He's been that way since he was a little kid. If one of his teachers assigned a project that wasn't due for three weeks, he'd have it done with two and a half weeks to spare. Now me, on the other hand, I'd stay up late the night before something like that was due, trying to get it done while my mom yelled at me the whole time for putting it off."
"That sounds exactly like me. I was always leaving my homework until the last minute. Half the time I'd be finishing it up at the breakfast table, or on the school bus. And yes, my mother would be yelling at me for it, too."
Now that Rebecca knew she and Rick had even more in common than she had already discovered at their daily lunch breaks, she had a desire to get to know even more about this handsome man with the humorous personality.
"How many brothers and sisters do you have?" the nurse asked, as she drank from the glass of wine that was sitting just outside the tub.
"Just one brother."
"Older or younger?"
"What is this,” Rick teased, “twenty questions?"
"No. I’d just like to get to know you better, and this is as good a place as any. Our lunches are just a little too brief."
Rick smiled at the woman who filled out her one-piece bathing suit so enticingly. “I’ll agree with you there. Much too brief."
Rebecca returned Rick's smile, then found herself returning the kiss he leaned forward to give her. As the couple parted, she said, "Now, back to my question. Is your brother older or younger?"
"Boy, you have a one track mind, don't you?"
“I sure do. So answer my question.”
"Ah, I was right. I had you pegged for an oldest child. How many years are there between the two of you?"
Rick took a sip of wine from his own glass before he answered. "A little over five."
“See there. We have more in common yet. I'm an oldest child, too. I have one sister who’s five and a half years younger than me."
Rick grinned. "I guess we do have a lot in common then."
"Is your brother in the medical profession, too?"
"No. He's a lawyer in San Diego."
"A doctor and a lawyer all in one family. Your mother must be very proud."
“Yeah, she is. Mom's proud of her sons no matter what we do. It kinda makes up for all we put her through when we were younger. Not that we were bad kids really, just ‘all boy’ I guess you'd say. I think after some of our escapades, Mom was wishin’ she’d had two quiet little girls."
Rebecca laughed, then said, "You'll have to tell her that might not have done her any good, either. My sister and I were tomboys. When Stephanie was born my mother thought she was finally getting a little girl who would wear dresses, and ribbons in her pigtails. Boy, was Mom disappointed that both of her daughters practically lived in blue jeans, and were always running off to go fishing or collect frogs.”
"Sounds like you two were as big of a handful as me and Andy were," Rick said, being careful not to refer to his brother as A.J. He knew Rebecca hadn't been formally introduced to ‘Doctor Simon,’ but he imagined she’d heard of him. Rick had no idea if she knew his first name, or had heard A.J. hailed in the hallway, so decided it was best to avoid referring to his brother as such.
“I suppose Stephanie and I were as wild as a couple of boys. Mom always said so, anyway. It was only natural though. We grew up on a farm in wine country. My dad has a vineyard, and when we were kids we had a few sheep, goats, pigs, chickens - a little bit of everything really. My sister and I had chores to do every day, so between that type of work and three hundred acres to run wild on, it only makes sense that we were tomboys."
"Sounds like a nice place. Do your folks still live there?"
"Yes, they do. Although they're semi-retired. My sister's husband runs the farm now. Stephanie and Mark just built a new home on the property for themselves last year. My folks still live in the old farmhouse we grew up in.”
"What's your sister do?"
"She's a chemist - quite famous in her field, actually. She and her husband also have two little girls, so between Stephanie’s work, the papers she writes, and the teaching she does, she’s quite busy. The girls are four and eight now, and are carbon copies of Stephanie and me at that age. I was up there for a few days last month and had to laugh as I watched the two of them. My oldest niece, Alison, was trying to put little Jennifer up to no good. Jen held her ground for a while, but pretty soon Alison had strong-armed her into making mischief."
Rick laughed at Rebecca's story, prompting the woman to raise an inquiring eyebrow.
"I’d say it's not too much different with brothers, either."
"No, not too much," Rick admitted with a smile. "I used to con
A...Andy into doing all kinds of things he didn't want to. The two of us had some mighty good times when we were kids."
Rebecca nodded as her own memories of childhood came forth. "Yeah. Steph and I did, too. One of our favorite games was to play something we referred to as Rough Rider and Toby. Do you remember the old Rough Rider series, Rick?"
"Remember it? You're lookin' at a member of the official Rough Rider fan club. I even had a Rough Rider outfit, complete with hat, boots, and spurs."
"Lucky you. I really wanted an outfit like that, too, but my mom would never buy me one. She thought it was bad enough to have a daughter playing Rough Rider, she didn't want one dressing like him, too."
"I can't believe this. That you and your sister used to play Rough Rider, I mean. Andy and I played Rough Rider all the time. Of course, I was always the Rough Rider."
Rebecca's laughter echoed off the vaulted ceiling. "Me, too. Always. Steph would get so mad at me because I made her be Toby. She wanted a chance to be the Rough Rider."
"Yeah, Andy, too. He was always after me to let him be the Rough Rider. But I was enough of a bully that I always told him no."
"Oh, Rick, I can't picture you being a bully."
Rick shrugged. "Well, I guess I wasn't very often. My kid brother and me got along well. We didn't fight too often, not seriously anyway. Even my mom will tell you that."
"Stephanie and didn't fight often, either. Of course, living out in the country like we did, meant we didn't have anyone to play with but each other. We used to run through the vineyards and fields on our farm playing the Rough Rider and Toby for hours."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. Dad used to laugh at Andy and me over the way we never got tired of playin’ that game. One time when we were...oh, four and nine, I think, Mom let us wander a little ways from home if I promised to keep an eye on Andy. There were a bunch of vacant lots in our neighborhood back then, and most of ‘em were overgrown with shrubby and grass - the perfect place to play Rough Rider and Toby. I don’t know how long we were there, when I realized I hadn’t seen Andy for a while. I started callin' for him, and lookin' for him, but I couldn't find him. I really started to panic then, and ran home to get our mom. She ran back there with me, and the two of us called and searched for what seemed like hours. I was almost crying g3cause I thought I'd lost my baby brother. My mom was just about to call out every cop in San Diego when we stumbled across him, sound asleep in some tall grass. The little twirp had the gall to be mad at us then because we woke him up."
“Did you get in trouble from your mom for losing him?"
"Nah. Mom knew it was just an accident, and it was pretty obvious to her that I was upset over the whole thing. Although our exploring was limited to the backyard and the local playground for quite a while after that little adventure."
"I can imagine it was." Rebecca moved to sit next to Rick and snuggle against his side. "You're really a sweet guy, you know that?"
"What makes you say that?"
"Oh, I don't know. Lots of things. I've enjoyed our lunches, and it was nice of you to treat me to dinner tonight and invite me back here. It's been fun. And, not many men would admit to almost crying over a lost little brother. It gives me more insight to your character." Poking Rick playfully in the ribs, the nurse added, "It sounds like your family is very important to you. Based on what you’ve told me, I’d say you’re a pretty terrific big brother."
Rick rubbed the woman's bare arm. "I don't know about that. I'd better not blow my own horn. You'll have to ask my kid brother about that sometime."
"I will," Rebecca stated. "I plan on meeting him, you know. "
Rick smiled as a warm feeling ran through him. "Glad to hear it."
The couple talked late into the night, oblivious to the fact that they were the only people left in the recreation room. The more they talked, the more they discovered they had in common.
Just when Rick was about to suggest they get out of the whirlpool before they wrinkled, Rebecca commented, "You know, I really envy your brother."
"Why? 'Cause he's related to me?" Rick teased.
"There's that," Rebecca teased back, then said, "He's doing exactly what I always dreamed of doing."
"You wanted to be a lawyer?"
"I more than wanted to be a lawyer, Rick. I studied law in college."
A small, faint warning light went off in Rick's brain. "You did?"
"I sure did. I graduated with a law degree, but I couldn't pass the bar exam. I failed it three times."
"And you never tried again?"
"Rick, you know the expression three strikes and you're out, I'm sure."
"Humiliating myself three times was enough. When I failed the bar the third time, I just couldn't face taking it again. I felt like I had let my folks down. I was the oldest, and they put a lot of pressure on me to succeed. It seemed like everything came so easy for my little sister - the grades, the boys, college. Just once I wanted something to come easy for me. I wanted to do something to make my parents proud of me."
Rick didn't say anything, just nodded his understanding. Some of Rebecca's words had struck a cord with him.
"So, anyway, I gave up law and went back to college and studied nursing."
"I'm surprised you didn't decide to become a doctor," Rick commented.
"You know me too well, Doctor Marlowe," Rebecca conceded. "I would have liked to become an M.D., but by the time I went back to school for the second time around, I just couldn't face all the years it would have taken me to become a full-fledged doctor. A nurse was the second best thing." The woman sighed heavily as she finished with, "And I guess in a round about way I've managed to attain my dream of working in a courtroom."
"Because of my law background, I act as a witness for the hospital in medical malpractice cases that go to court. The ones that involve maternity lawsuits that is. I often consult with the hospital's lawyers in these cases as well, even if they don't wind up in court."
"Oh," was all Rick said, as the little warning light in his brain changed to a siren. That change came along with the sinking feeling he got in his stomach as his mind echoed A.J.'s words of two nights earlier.
"I don't mean just medical knowledge. I mean knowledge of the law as well. Someone who knows how to file falsified claims, someone who knows where to obtain false I.D. and how to use it at a bank without arousing suspicion. Someone who is savvy enough to know that the risk of getting caught lessens if the funds are deposited into different banks, rather than going through the same bank all the time. Someone with a legal background possibly."
Rick focused back on the nurse as she said, "I enjoy doing it, and it's a good way to make some extra money."
"Going to court for the hospital, silly. What we were just talking about. I said it's a good way to make some extra money, because I draw an additional salary for it, and for the time I spend putting things together for those cases."
"Oh...yeah, I suppose it is. A good way to make extra money, I mean," a distracted Rick agreed as his mind began to replay the last part of their conversation. The part where the woman to whom he was attracted, unwittingly revealed that she had a lot of knowledge of the judicial system.
“What? Oh...uh, did you say something?"
"What's wrong? All of a sudden you seem like you're a thousand miles away."
"No...no, I'm just tired, I guess. It's been a long week."
The nurse glanced at her watch to see that it was almost one a.m. "It is getting late. I should be going. Before I do though, I'll repeat what I just asked you."
Rick blushed self-consciously. "Sorry. What'd you ask me?"
"Do you want to go to the Dodgers game with me tomorrow? It's a double-header against the Pirates. One of the doctors had tickets, but was called out of town for a family emergency, so he gave them to me on Friday and told me to use them or find someone who could. So, do you want to go?"
“Sure, but only if I can buy you dinner afterwards."
"That's not necessary. You bought me lunch all this week, and dinner tonight as well. I'll treat tomorrow evening. "
"No, I insist. I have this rule, see. If a lady takes me to a Dodgers game, I buy her dinner."
“Oh, that’s a rule you have, huh?”
“And just how many women have taken you to Dodgers games?”
“You’re the first, and it’s been worth the wait.”
Rebecca kissed Rick’s cheek as she got out of the whirlpool. She reached for her towel and dried off. “You really are a sweet guy, Rick Marlowe."
The smile Rick answered the lady wasn’t nearly as broad as it might have been. He hoped things wouldn't change in such a way that Rebecca would come to feel differently towards him.
Rick climbed out of the whirlpool and dried off, too. He shut off his cassette player and picked it up, then waited while Rebecca changed clothes in the ladies' locker room. When she emerged carrying a gym bag that held her wet swimming suit, he walked the nurse to her car.
Troubling thoughts swirled through Rick Simon's mind as he made his way back to the suite. He found himself wishing A.J. hadn't gone home for the weekend. He could use a good dose of A.J. Simon practicality right about now. Upon entering his suite, Rick headed straight for bed, where he tossed and turned for the remainder of the night.
The next morning Rick was up and dressed by seven-thirty. By eight o'clock, he was walking the two blocks to Mercy Hospital. Rick had forgone his usual hospital attire of dress slacks, dress shirt, and one of A.J. 's ties, in favor of a pair of jeans and a safari shirt. He wasn't planning on being in the building for any great length of time, only long enough to print some files that he could study in the privacy of his hotel room. And besides, he wasn't Doctor Marlowe on this particular morning, at least not in his own mind. Today he was very much Rick Simon, and very much afraid he was about to solve the mystery that he had so wanted to solve a mere twenty-four hours earlier. Now, he was beginning to wish that he could just walk away from it all.
Rick wished that even more as he rounded a corner on the Labor floor, heading for the alcove where he usually sat at one of the computers. For there with her back to him, dressed as casually as he was, was Rebecca.
Rick stopped a moment, then walked up behind the woman.
"Rick!" Rebecca smiled, as she closed the program she was working on. "Good morning. What are you doing here?"
"I was just about to ask you the same thing."
"I asked you first, Doctor Marlowe."
"Yeah, I guess you did," Rick conceded. "I forgot some papers here yesterday that I need to finish up my research. I thought I’d work on them this morning at the hotel before we leave for the game. How about you? What are you doin’ here?"
"Oh, I come in
sometimes on Sunday mornings to input some things on the computer. It's usually
quiet here on Sundays as far as staff activity goes. Tests and surgeries are
delayed until Monday when at all possible.”
"Makes sense,” Rick said, though in fact, it didn’t considering Doctor Aaronson had never mentioned anyone from the Antepartum Unit having reason to use the computers on the Labor floor. Rick wondered why no Labor floor staff members found this odd, but he supposed given Rebecca’s position as the supervisor of the Antepartum Unit, no one would think to question her if they did see her working here on a Sunday.
Rick sat at the computer next to Rebecca. It was funny, but now that he was here, she seemed anxious to leave. She fiddled with the keyboard a moment, then said, “I’ll see you at noon?”
“Yep, I’ll pick you up then.”
Rebecca stood. "I'll be waiting. Don't work so hard that you forget our date."
"I won't," Rick promised as the woman walked away.
"Hey, Rick!" Rebecca hailed from halfway down the hall.
Rick looked up to see the woman giving him a thumbs-up.
"I like the hat, cowboy. You really are the Rough Rider, aren't you? Who rides for justice?"
Rick smiled back. As Rebecca entered an elevator, Rick muttered, "Yeah, who rides for justice?"
Rick allowed five minutes to pass before moving from the computer he was sitting in front of, to the computer Rebecca had been sitting in front of. It didn’t take him long to figure out what Rebecca had been doing. With a heavy heart, he hit the print command. While the documents were created in paper form, he took note of the way Rebecca had named the file. A search through files that had been deleted brought up damning evidence.
For all her education, Rebecca apparently doesn’t know that deleting a file doesn’t remove it form the hard drive unless you reformat the drive, too. You just gotta know where to look to find it.
Within forty minutes, Rick had everything he needed. Other staff members had come and gone from the alcove in that time period, but Rick took little notice of them beyond offering a preoccupied, “Hi.”
By nine-fifteen the detective was collecting all of his papers. He had some comparisons to do when he got back to his suite, but he already knew what he was going to find. Rebecca Sanders was Doctor Aaronson’s thief. Which wouldn’t have been a big deal to Rick one way or another, if he wasn’t in the process of falling in love with her.
A.J. woke long before dawn on Monday morning. He drove from San Diego to L.A. in time to change his clothes in the men’s locker room and report to work by seven a.m. He had enjoyed his weekend at home, and despite the early hour in which he had to awaken, A.J. felt relaxed and rested. He hoped he and Rick could solve the case this week. A.J. didn't relish the thought of living in a hotel room for another two or three weeks - even if it was a luxurious one.
The Labor and Delivery floor was busier than A.J. had ever seen it. Aside from the fact that all sixty beds were filled with patients, a bad flu bug was going around and half the staff was out sick - doctors and nurses alike. Marilyn kept A.J. busy, but not so busy that he didn’t notice Rick was nowhere to be found. When noon rolled around and A.J. still hadn't caught sight of his brother, he approached a nurse who was working on a computer.
"Hi, Kathy. Have you seen Doctor Marlowe today?"
The woman looked up. "Hi, Doctor Simon. Busy day, isn't it? No, I haven't seen Rick...Doctor Marlowe, at all today, come to think of it. Maybe he's out sick with the flu."
"Yeah, maybe," A.J. agreed. “Thanks.”
A.J. walked away from the alcove. He was fairly certain Rick wasn’t ill. Had that been the case, Rick would have gotten in touch with his brother to let A.J. know why he wasn’t going to be at the hospital. Therefore, A.J. assumed the man was one of two places. Either staking out the records room again, or up on the Antepartum Unit passing time with Rebecca Sanders. Before he had the opportunity to leave the floor and look for Rick, Marilyn shagged his right arm.
“Come on, Doctor Simon, we still have eight patients to see before we can even think about taking ten minutes out of our day to eat lunch.”
The blond’s stomach rumbled with hunger as he fell in step beside the woman.
A career in medicine isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I’ll take a stake out in the pouring rain over this any day.
A.J. pushed those thoughts aside as he once again concentrated on being Doctor Simon.
A.J. was walking down the hallway by himself at two o'clock that afternoon when he heard, "AJ! Hey, AJ.”
A.J. turned around. Rick was standing outside the staff lounge.
“Come in here for a minute.”
As A.J. approached, Rick walked into the empty room. The blond followed and shut the door.
"Where have you been?"
"I stayed at the hotel this morning to study some patient files I printed from a computer. I didn't get through them yesterday ‘cause Rebecca and I went to a Dodgers game."
"Ah, so you and the lovely lady caught a ball game together. Did you have a good time?"
A.J. couldn't read the expression on Rick's face.
"Yeah...yeah, I did." There was a long pause before Rick added, "A.J., she did it. Rebecca. She filed the false claims."
"Yeah," came the quiet affirmation.
Rick sighed. "Yeah, I'm sure." Another long pause followed, then, "Can we go somewhere so we can talk without worrying about someone walkin’ in on us? I can tell you everything I've got, and we can decide how we're gonna present it to Aaronson." Rick gave a small smile and shrugged his shoulders. "Besides, I'm kinda in need of my kid brother's ear right now."
"Okay, let's go to the restaurant across the street. I haven't had lunch yet, so no one will question it. Jim's on the floor today. Give me a minute to find him and tell that I won’t be back for the rest of the day, and then give me two minutes to change my clothes."
"Sure,” Rick agreed, knowing that A.J. wouldn’t want to be impersonating a physician outside the hospital in the event an emergency arose and someone expected him to offer assistance. “Thanks."
A.J. turned to leave the room, then turned around as he reached the door. "Rick, I'm sorry."
"Yeah, I know. Thanks. I'll meet you in the lobby, okay?"
"Okay," A.J. replied, as he studied his subdued brother a moment longer before exiting the room.
The Simon brothers spent the next hour sitting in a booth at the Silver Spoon Restaurant. While A.J. ate, Rick recounted the weekend and all he had discovered. After A.J. paid his bill they crossed the street to the hospital parking lot and got in A.J.’s Camaro. The brothers went to their suite, where they spent another two hours studying the papers Rick had left there.
It was after five o’clock when A.J. leaned back against the couch. He eyed the papers that were spread over the coffee table. Rick had definitely discovered the missing pieces to the puzzle. Although the names on the Medicare claims were pseudonyms, Rick had finally been able to match the falsified claims to eight actual patients. Seven of these patients had been transferred from the Labor floor to the Antepartum Unit because of serious complications regarding their pregnancies, the records of the eighth patient showed that she had been slated to be transferred to the Antepartum Unit as well, but then wasn't, due to space limitations.
“I looked at the hard copy files in the records room today.”
“How’d you get in there?”
“I didn’t have to break in, if that’s what you’re askin.’ Aaronson’s secretary gave me a key.”
“So anyway, I looked at the hard copy files for these patients. Every single one of ‘em had Rebecca’s initials on ‘em.”
“Meaning she’d reviewed the files when the patients were on her floor,” A.J. stated of what he knew was hospital procedure.
“Exactly. And she’d reviewed the file of the patient that never ended up being transferred to her floor.”
When A.J. didn’t say anything in response, his brother prompted him with, "Well?”
"Well, I think you've found our culprit."
"Yeah,” Rick sighed. “That's what I think, too."
“What are you going to do now?"
"I'm supposed to pick up Rebecca for dinner tonight. She made reservations at some fancy place for seven o'clock. Over dinner I'll lay out to her exactly what we've discovered. I'd like to give her a chance to tell me we're wrong...even though I'm pretty sure we're not. If there is any hope...well, I hate to drag her to Aaronson if we're off base on this.”
A.J. knew Rick was grasping at straws, and he knew Rick was aware that fact, too. The look on Rick's face said the man had no doubts that Rebecca Sanders was guilty.
"Rick, do you think going about it this way is wise? What if she takes off on you at the restaurant, or disappears sometime between tonight and tomorrow morning?"
"I don't think she'll do that," Rick said with more conviction than he was feeling. From where he sat in the easy chair, Rick locked gazes with his brother. "I've got to give her as much of a chance as I can, A.J. I'm hoping she'll turn herself in. I know I'm asking a lot when I ask you to trust me on this. If she runs, I realize it hurts not only my reputation, but yours, too. It's just that I’ve got a feelin’ she won’t. Run, I mean."
A.J. gave his brother a smile and a nod. "That's good enough for me then. You do what you think is best."
Rick managed a small smile in return. "Thanks, A. J. Thanks."
The blond glanced at his watch. "You'd better get going if you've got dinner reservations for seven."
The enthusiasm Rick had so recently possessed when it came to the prospect of a date with Rebecca Sanders, was now gone.
"Yeah, I guess so."
Rick stood to head for his room.
"Rick, if you need me, I'll be here. Just call, okay?"
"Yeah, I will. Thanks again, little brother. It helped...havin’ someone to talk to, ya' know?"
"Yes, I know."
Rick grinned a little. "I guess that's what the Rough Rider has Toby for, huh?"
A.J. grinned back. "Yeah, Rough Rider, that's what Toby is here for."
The blond sat lost in thought until he heard water thumping against the shower walls. He sighed as he reached for the remote control and turned on the evening news. He’d been anxious for this case to end, but not this way – at Rick’s expense.
Not this way at all.
At eight o'clock that evening, Rick and his date were seated at a quiet corner table at an elegant steakhouse. This atmosphere only served to make the night harder on the detective. Rebecca already knew him so well, that while she had picked an establishment that was far more fancy than he normally enjoyed, she had made sure Rick would feel comfortable here. Rick could read and pronounce everything on the menu, and felt like he was eating, as he put it, "Good old American food."
Rick was picking at the dessert that had just been served him and Rebecca, warm cherry pie and ice cream. Again, under different circumstances this was something Rick would have been raving over. Now, he found himself moving the dessert around the plate with his spoon, having no more interest in it than he’d had in his dinner.
"Rick, are you feeling all right?"
Looking up, Rick offered the best smile he could muster. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine."
"Are you sure? You've hardly eaten a thing, and you've been so quiet. You didn't have much to say yesterday either, when we were at the game, and then at the restaurant afterwards. Maybe you're coming down with this flu that's going around."
"I'm okay, Becca. It's not the flu," Rick assured, as he debated if now was the time to lay his cards on the table. Maybe here, in a public place, there would be less chance of an emotional scene. Maybe.
Rick put his spoon down on his dessert plate and pushed the plate aside. He made eye contact with his date.
"Rebecca...Rebecca, I know about the falsified Medicare claims. I know that you filed them, and I know that you collected the money for them."
Te latter part of Rick’s sentence was a bluff, because he didn’t know for certain she’d collected the money for them. However, the likelihood that she hadn’t was slim.
“What are you talking about?”
“You know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the fact that you’re pulling up patient records in an area, and on computers, you have no business bein’ at. I’m talking about records for Maria Gonzalez, and Patricia Taylor, and Natalie Zimenski, and Kathrine--”
It was quickly apparent to Rick that Rebecca was not a hardened criminal by any means. She paled and briefly dropped her eyes, her expression telling Rick all he needed to know. Guilty.
There was silence for a minute, then the nurse laid her spoon down "How did you find out?"
"I was hired by Doctor Aaronson to find the person who had filed the falsified claims."
"You - an anesthesiologist?" Rebecca questioned with surprise, not yet grasping the full picture.
"Becca, I'm not an anesthesiologist. I'm a private investigator."
The woman folded her hands in her lap. "Oh, I see." Silence again, then, "So, I guess I've been some kind of game to you these past two weeks. You've been the spider and I've been the fly, is that it?"
Rick shook his head. "No, Rebecca, that's not it. It wasn't until Saturday night when you mentioned that you had a background in law, that I even began to suspect, and it wasn't until today that I knew for sure. This hasn't been a game. I really like...liked you. I...I’m sorry this is how things turned out."
"I don't suppose we really have anything in common, do we? I suppose your name isn't really Rick, and I suppose you're not from San Diego. I don't even suppose you have a younger brother, do you? You've probably got four older sisters, or something like that."
Rick’s voice was filled with regret over the role he’d been forced to play out.
"My name is really Rick, but not Rick Marlowe. Rick Simon. I am from San Diego, and I am an oldest child. I do have a brother five years younger than me named Andrew, but we don't call him Andy, we call him A.J. And he's not a lawyer; he's a P.I., too. We're partners."
Rebecca thought a moment, wondering why the initials A.J. and the name Simon rang a bell with her.
"The blond guy who has the student nurses drooling? That’s your brother?"
"Yeah, that's A.J."
"I see. Two detectives, huh? They really called in the heavy artillery for this one."
Rick nodded. "Aaronson wanted it solved."
"So, I suppose I'm just another paycheck to you, aren't I, Rick Simon?"
"Rebecca, no. Believe me, I wish I'd never solved this case. I wish it could have worked out differently."
"It could, Rick."
Rick eyed the woman. "Whatta ya’ mean?"
"Have you told anyone about this yet?"
"Then things could work out differently, Rick. I don't have to do it again. I won’t do it again. It's not like it's a fix for me or anything. I can stop. We can go on from here. I care so much for you, Rick. I...I’m falling in love with you. And I think you feel the same way about me."
"I do, Rebecca...I did, but it'll never work. I can't do that."
"Why not? You can if you love me."
"Rebecca, I have an obligation to uphold to my employer - Doctor Aaronson. And as much as I ...like you, I have to be able to look at myself in the mirror tomorrow morning. And then there's A. J."
“But A.J. won't tell if you ask him not to."
"I can't do that, Rebecca. I would never put my brother in a position like that. Besides, even if I were willing to do that, A.J. would go to Doctor Aaronson with this anyway. It's been a lot of years since I've been able to bully my brother into doing something he doesn't want to. A.J. Simon has higher d moral values than Mother Teresa," Rick informed the woman, then shrugged his shoulders. "Anyway, like I said, no matter what the circumstances, I wouldn't do that to him."
"I guess that's it then, isn't it? I suppose you have the police waiting outside for me."
"No. No, I don't. I want you to turn yourself in to Doctor Aaronson. I think things will go easier on you if you do, Becca. I've worked on cases like this one before. Usually the company doesn't want to press charges if they can avoid it because of the publicity it will cause. A lot of times the employee is simply fired and forced to make financial restitution."
"Do you think that's what Aaronson will do?" Rebecca asked quietly.
"I really don't know. I can't promise you anything, and the fact that the government is involved means there’s an additional side to this when it comes to the possibility of being charged with a crime."
Rebecca absorbed all this, and realized that she’d likely spend time in a federal prison.
"Rick, why did you decide to tell me about this now? Why didn't you just go to Aaronson, or to the cops, and have me arrested?"
"I think you know why."
Rebecca looked down at the table as she nodded her head.
“What if I take off on you tonight? What if I run?"
"I'm taking a chance that you won't do that, Rebecca. I don't think you're that kind of person. I can tell you from experience that life on the run isn't easy. It doesn't matter if you're runnin' from the cops...or like in my case at one time, from yourself. Eventually you'll get caught, Beck. Eventually, you have to pay the piper."
Rebecca thought Rick's words over and seemed to reach a decision.
"What do we do now?"
"I want you to turn yourself in to Aaronson tomorrow morning."
"Will...will you go with me?"
"If you want me to."
"Okay, tomorrow morning at eight o'clock in his office. Do you want me to pick you up?"
"No. No, I'll drive myself." Seeing the doubt in Rick's eyes, the nurse assured, "I'll be there, Rick. I will."
"Okay," Rick said with a nod.
It was a subdued couple that rode in Rick's pickup truck back to Rebecca's condo. Rick walked the woman to her door, then waited while she unlocked it. Once the door was open, Rebecca turned, speaking her first words since leaving the restaurant.
"Rick...tomorrow in Aaronson's office, can it be just you and me? I don't want your brother there."
Rick nodded, sensing the woman's embarrassment. "It will be just you and me. I promise."
"Thank you," Rebecca said as she turned to enter her home. On impulse, she turned around to face the detective again. "You know, I was going to ask you to spend the night tonight. I guess there's no chance of that now, is there?"
"No." The hurt shone from Rick's eyes as he asked, "Why? Why did you do it, Rebecca?"
"Let’s put it this way, Rick. I...I’ve spent a lot of years trying to be as good at things as my little sister is. That includes financially as well.”
Rick didn’t question the woman further. He assumed she made a good salary given her education and position at the hospital, but he also knew she liked to live well. Her luxurious condo, her Mercedes Benz sports coupe, the designer clothes she wore when she wasn’t in her nurse’s uniform, and the overseas traveling she had mentioned to Rick that she enjoyed doing, led the detective to conclude the woman had been living outside her means for a long time now.
Rebecca entered her home, stopping in the threshold. She turned around and looked up at the detective. "Rick, I'm sorry."
“I am, too, Becca. I am, too."
Rick heard Rebecca's door close as he walked to his truck with his shoulders slumped in defeat. The detective unlocked the truck door and leaned against the frame of the vehicle, closing his eyes. His mind drifted back to Saturday night, and heard Pasty Cline’s words echoing in his head.
I'm crazy for tryin’, and crazy for cryin’, and I'm crazy for lovin' you.
Rick shook off the remnants of that sad song, straightened, climbed into his truck, pulled away from the curb, and headed back to his hotel.
Rebecca met Rick outside Kenneth Aaronson's office at eight the following morning. A half hour later, the doctor and Rick exited the room. Aaronson allowed Rebecca to remain inside to use the phone to call a lawyer.
"Rebecca was the farthest person from my mind as far as suspects go, Rick. I worked closely with her on the Antepartum Unit for eight years. She's been employed here eleven. I can't believe this. If she hadn't just confessed to me, I wouldn't believe it."
“Situations like this are difficult when you’ve known the person a long time,” Rick said, while thinking, and sometimes when you haven’t known the person very long, too.
"I’d like to keep this as quiet as possible. I'll have personnel issue a memo that states Rebecca has resigned as of today. Could I get you and A.J. to stay on a couple of more days? I'll pay you, of course. I prefer that no one associate Rebecca's sudden departure with you and your brother. I'm afraid if you both leave today that will happen. The rumor mill works overtime enough around here as it is."
"How about if I work through tomorrow, and A.J. stays until Friday?"
"That's fine," Doctor Aaronson agreed. He held out his right hand to Rick. “Thank you for everything. You and A.J. have netted yourselves that five thousand dollar bonus, as well.”
The bonus that once had Rick so excited, now seemed bittersweet.
"Just make the check out to A.J. He handles all our finances anyway."
Rick exited the outer office as two police officers entered. He hurried down the corridor and into the elevator, not wanting to be around when Rebecca was led from Doctor Aaronson’s office wearing handcuffs.
Rick pulled ‘Doctor Simon’ aside long enough that morning to explain what had transpired in the administrator's office, and to let A.J. know that Aaronson requested they continue with their charade for a few days yet. A.J. reluctantly agreed. He wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of working at Mercy Hospital until Friday, but since they were being paid and their accommodations were free, the blond didn't argue.
The Labor and Delivery floor was woefully short staffed that day due to the flu that was being passed around. At three-thirty that afternoon, A.J. turned around when he was hailed from behind.
"Doctor Simon! Doctor Simon!”
A young nurse ran toward him. "They need you in Delivery Room One!"
"Marilyn needs you in Delivery Room One right away. Come on!"
A.J. backed away from the woman. "No. I...no, I can't. I..."
"Come on! Hurry!” The nurse grabbed A.J.’s arm. “Marilyn needs you right now."
Despite A.J. 's protests, he was dragged to Delivery Room One. Ten minutes later, the same young nurse rushed out of the delivery room once again, this time with orders from Doctor Andrew Simon.
As the woman rounded the corner and came upon the alcove where the computers were located she called, "Doctor Marlowe! Doctor Marlowe!"
Rick looked up from the computer in time to be told, "You're needed in Delivery Room One!"
Rick's reaction to that order was the same as A.J.'s had been.
"You're needed in Delivery Room One, right now," the nurse repeated, as she pulled Rick from his chair.
"Wait. Whoa. Hold on. I--"
"Come on, Doctor. Hurry! Doctor Simon said he needs you."
"Come on," the woman urged, as she pushed Rick to the delivery room. “Hurry!”
Rick entered Delivery Room One just as someone cried out in pain. He caught sight of the woman with her feet up in the stirrups and stumbled backwards. "Oh, my God."
A.J. looked up from where he and Marilyn stood between the woman's legs. "Rick! Don't you dare walk out that door.”
What little Rick could see of A.J.’s face above the surgical mask the blond wore, was pale and pinched with tension. Rick knew better than to walk out on his sibling at a moment like this, so in a small, uncharacteristic tone of voice he squeaked, "What do you want me to do?"
"Do what you did in Nam."
"What you did in Nam, Rick. Coach her. Her husband isn't here yet, and she needs someone."
Rick gave a hesitant nod while the little nurse who had pushed him in the room helped him put a sterile gown on over his street clothes. While the nurse did the same so she could assist Marilyn and A.J., Rick took a deep breath, then walked over to the delivery table. He smiled down at the woman with a confidence that he wasn't feeling.
"Hi. I'm Rick...uh, Doctor Marlowe. But you can call me Rick."
In-between gasps for air the mother about-to-be replied, "I'm Diane. Diane Delfield. I'm sor...sorry about...about this. The baby isn't due for three more weeks, so my husband’s in Fresno at a conference. I...I was able to reach him, but he’s not...he’s not here yet."
"That's all right,” Rick said as he took the woman's questing hand. “I’ll help you.”
As Diane gasped for air again, Marilyn instructed, "Deep breaths, Mrs. Delfield. Deep breaths."
Rick reiterated Marilyn's instructions when it became evident that the patient hadn't heard her, or had been oblivious to her words.
"Come on, deep breaths. You're hyperventilating. You don't wanna do that. Take some deep breaths now."
The woman focused on Rick's face, copying the breathing pattern he was demonstrating. The one he remembered from Lamaze class.
"I need you to push, Mrs. Delfield," Marilyn instructed.
"Push," Rick said to the woman whose blue eyes never left his face.
"I can't. I...I can't."
"Yes, you can,” Rick encouraged "Come on, push."
The woman bore down and gave a long push while squeezing Rick's hand. When she collapsed back with exhaustion she said, "I...can't...I can’t lose this baby. We...we had a baby last year that was...stillborn. Our first. I don't want to...I don’t want to lose this baby."
Again, Marilyn took command of the situation. "The baby's heartbeat is strong, Diane. There aren't any problems. Now come on, push for me again."
"No...no, I can't lose this baby," the woman cried again, seemingly unable to focus on the situation at hand. “I can’t lose this baby.”
Rick squeezed Diane's hand. "You're not gonna lose this baby, darlin'. Now come on, we need your help here. The baby can't do this all by itself. Now push for me. Push.”
Bolstered by Rick's words and gentle manner, Diane bore down and pushed again. This time as she laid back Marilyn said, "The head's out. I need another good push."
Rick looked down at the end of the table, just barely able to see the baby's head and his brother's hands supporting it. Although sweat was pouring down A.J.'s pale face, he seemed to be holding his own. Recalling his mother's words from their Thursday night dinner, Rick thought, Oh, geez, I hope A.J. doesn't pass out. I'm kinda busy here. I don't think I'll get to him fast enough to catch him.
Shaking off those thoughts, Rick looked back down at Diane. "Come on, darling,’ push. Push for me."
The woman strained again as she pushed, and was rewarded with A.J.'s excited cry of, "I've got a shoulder!"
"Okay, push again, Diane,” Marilyn ordered. “Come on, we're almost there."
Again the woman pushed as she squeezed Rick's hand. Once again she collapsed back against the table as Marilyn said, "You're almost there. We've got both shoulders now. One more push, Diane."
"I can't," the exhausted woman moaned.
"Sure you can," Rick encouraged. "Come on, one more time."
"I can’t. No. No, I can’t.”
Rick squeezed the woman's hand. "Now come on, Diane, you can do it. Hey, you can't walk around like this for the rest of your life. People will look at you funny."
That last comment made the woman chuckle. She locked gazes with Rick, and at his nod braced herself to push again. After one long, hard, straining push, Rick heard a wail and looked up to see a wet, bloody infant in his brother's arms.
A.J.’s eyes were suspiciously bright as he grinned and announced, "It's a boy! "
"A healthy boy," Marilyn added for the benefit of the concerned mother.
The new mother started crying as she squeezed Rick's hand. "A boy. A healthy boy. A boy."
Marilyn took the baby from A.J. and placed him on his mother's stomach. To Rick’s surprise, tears sprang to his eyes as well, as he watched Diane tenderly stroke her squalling baby and whisper, "A boy. A baby boy. A boy."
Rick and A. J. helped Marilyn and the young nurse as much as they could, then unobtrusively exited the delivery room when another nurse arrived. As the door swung shut behind them, the men sunk against the wall.
Rick’s eyes slid sideways as A.J. pulled his surgical mask down. The blond was still pale, covered with perspiration, and his hair stood up in tangled spikes. "You okay?"
"Yeah. Yeah...I’m fine.”
A.J. nodded. "I'm sure."
"Why did you send that nurse to come get me?"
"Because I decided if I had to go through that, you were going through it with me."
Rick chuckled, then agreed, "I guess that's fair. How did you wind up in there anyway?"
"Same way you did. That insistent little nurse dragged me in there."
“Out with the flu, like just about every other doctor is today. They’re really short handed, so I assume my name came up from the bottom of Marilyn's list when there was no obstetrician available to help her."
"I hope Aaronson's okay with this."
"I hope so, too," A.J. said. "I didn't really do anything, just held the baby, so I think it’ll be all right. Marilyn did all the work."
"Marilyn and the mother," Rick pointed out.
“Yes,” the blond agreed while wiping the sweat off his brow. "You know, I finally understand a comment I heard Mom make once."
"That once you get to hold that new baby in your arms, it makes all the pain you go through worth it."
Rick nodded his understanding, his mind's eye seeing once again the love that shone from Diane Delfield’s face as she caressed her new baby boy.
"You know, A.J., when we get home I think Mom deserves flowers and a dinner out."
"I'll second that."
After another minute of rest, Rick and A.J. found the energy to move away from the wall.
"I don't know about you, Doctor Simon, but I could sure go for a cold beer right about now."
"That does sound good to me, Doctor Marlowe."
Rick slung an arm over his brother's shoulders and walked A.J. toward the elevator. "I know just the place, too. There's this nice quiet little tavern right down the block. They make terrific burgers and fries. I'm buying."
"That sounds even better," A. J. said at the thought of Rick spending some money for a change. "I think I'll pass on the burger though."
Rick laughed as they walked toward the men’s locker room while taking note of A.J.’s still pale features.
"I think you'd better, little brother. I don't want you gettin' sick now, 'cause I think my days as Doctor Marlowe are just about over."
“I think so, too,” A.J. agreed, as he and Rick pulled off the blue gowns they were wearing.
It didn’t take A.J. long to change his clothes and wash up at one of the sinks. By five-fifteen they were eating supper at the tavern Rick had told A.J. about. By six-thirty they were back in their suite, happy that their days as Doctor Simon and Doctor Marlowe were almost over.
Three weeks had passed since the Mercy Hospital case had drawn to a close. Rick was sitting at his desk in the Simon and Simon office making notes in a file regarding a new case. He looked up as A.J. walked in with the mail in his hands.
The blond sorted through the envelopes, depositing the bills and client correspondence on his desk, then walking over and dumping the junk mail on Rick's.
"Why do you always give me the junk mail?"
"I don't know. Seems appropriate." A.J. crossed back over to his desk and studied the mail closer. He picked up a white business sized envelope. "I wonder what this is? It's from Mercy Hospital."
Rick put his head in his hands and groaned. "Probably a lawsuit.”
"I hope not," A.J. replied with little concern as he opened the envelope.
Doctor Aaronson had been alarmed upon first finding out that ‘Doctor Simon and Doctor Marlowe’ had somehow wound up delivering a baby. Upon questioning the two detectives, and later questioning Marilyn, the man was relieved to discover their role in the birth hadn't been any more involved than that of a father who has attended Lamaze classes. Since the mother and baby involved were both healthy, and no one was the wiser concerning Rick and A.J., the administrator let the entire affair drop, assuring the two detectives that no problems should come of it.
The only person Ken Aaronson had to deal with after Rick and A.J. had ended their business dealings with Mercy Hospital, was a wise nurse by the name of Marilyn who stopped by his office the next Monday morning. She had a lot of questions and suspicions concerning Doctors Simon and Marlowe, questions Doctor Aaronson answered in a vague fashion. Their conversation ended with the administrator assuring the woman that imposters had not infiltrated their hospital, and that he knew exactly who Doctor Simon and Doctor Marlowe were.
Although Marilyn wasn't completely satisfied with what she had been told, she knew she’d have to make do with it.
“Just let me give you one piece of advice,” the woman had said before she left Aaronson’s office.
“The next time you bring an obstetrical intern here from Oregon, make sure he’s not shy where pregnant females are concerned.”
“I’ll do that,” Ken had promised, while ushering Marilyn to the door before she completely figured out the ruse that had taken place.
The former Doctor Simon now stood reading the letter he held in his hands.
"What's it say?" Rick asked.
A.J. finished reading silently, then his eyes moved to the top of the page and he read out loud for the benefit of his brother.
“Dear Rick and A. J.,
Thank you again for all of your hard work. The timely manner in which you solved our case is greatly appreciated. Feel free to use my name as a reference at any tune.
Rick, Rebecca is out on bail, but will be facing charges of fraud. I don’t know what will ultimately happen to her, and it saddens me to think that someone of her potential stooped to this.
Enclosed you will find an envelope that was nailed here to the hospital addressed to Doctor Simon and Doctor Marlowe.
Again, thank you both for your services.
Kenneth Aaronson, M.D., Administrator Mercy Hospital.”
When A.J. finished reading and looked at his brother, he could tell Rick was a million miles away. That wasn't unusual lately. It happened whenever Rebecca's name was mentioned.
Rick had said little about the woman in the three weeks since they'd been home, but A.J. knew his brother was hurting. Among other things, Rick had taken no interest in the five thousand dollar check they had been given. When A.J. had inquired if Rick wanted a portion of the bonus ‘fun money’ Rick had shaken his head no, then said, "I can't think of anything I need. You take what you want and put the rest in our business account."
A.J. didn't say any more about the money after that. He deposited the entire five thousand in the bank, almost hoping that the old Rick would come to him with one hundred reasons as to why he needed some of that bonus money.
"I wonder what this is?" A.J. asked, in an effort to gain Rick's attention.
The ploy worked, Rick looked at the envelope A.J. held up that was about the size of an invitation.
"I don't know," Rick shrugged. "Open it."
The blond man opened the envelope that had been addressed to Doctor Simon and Doctor Marlowe in care of Mercy Hospital. He pulled out a card that had a cartoon drawing of a baby wearing a baseball uniform on the front of it. A.J. held the card up for Rick to see as he read, "It's a boy." He then held up the picture of a baby that looked to be just hours old that fell from inside the card.
Rick squinted at the picture. "Kid looks like a rat."
A.J. opened the card and read silently, then broke into a broad grin.
"What's it say?" Rick asked.
"It says, ‘Diane and Gregory Delfield are proud to announce the arrival of their new son. Our little ballplayer was born on September 21, 1992. Weight: 6 pounds, 10 1/2 ounces. Length: 20 inches. Please welcome to our family..." A.J. looked over at Rick and smiled as he finished with, "Richard Andrew Delfield."
Rick grinned with surprise and pleasure. "They named the baby after us?"
"Sounds that way. There's a note in here, too."
A.J. unfolded the flowered stationary, then read out loud:
“Dear Doctor Marlowe and Doctor Simon,
Thank you again for all your help with bringing our baby into the world. A special thanks to you, Doctor Marlowe, for your kindness. I really needed someone that afternoon, and you were there for me. Our little Richard Andrew is healthy and happy, and already very spoiled. His mom and dad couldn't love him more.
Thank you again for helping to make our lives complete.
Diane and Greg Delfield.”
As A.J. finished reading Rick stood up and walked toward him.
"Let me see that picture again." Upon studying the picture closer, Rick announced proudly, "This kid doesn't look like a rat. He's actually pretty cute."
A.J. hid his amusement as he watched Rick read the card and letter. When he was finished, Rick broke into the first real smile A.J. had seen in weeks.
"You know, little brother, I think this calls for a celebration. After all, it isn't every day we get a baby named after us."
"You’re right about that," A.J. agreed. "What did you have in mind?"
"How about let's close the office and take an extended lunch hour? A thick juicy steak sounds pretty good right now, along with a good bottle of wine to wash it all down."
"That does sound good."
The brothers shut the office lights off and locked the door. Rick had a jaunty bounce to his step as he preceded A.J. to the elevator. As the brothers rode down to the ground floor, Rick said, "You know, A.J., I've been thinkin', there are a couple of things I'd like for the boat. Maybe I could use some of that bonus money after all."
"Yeah, and Mom's been wanting that porch swing for the patio. I think I'll buy it for her. And maybe there's something you've been wanting. Just let me know, and I'll get it for you. It can be an early Christmas present. And you know, maybe we should get this little baby a gift. Richard Andrew - I like that. What do you think he'd want? A teddy bear? A little toy of some kind? Or maybe we could get him his first baseball glove. I know he won't be able to use it for a while, but I really think..."
A.J. smiled as he followed Rick to the truck. The old Rick was back now, the Delfield's baby, Richard Andrew, somehow relieving the man of the remaining hurt he still carried inside concerning Rebecca.
As A.J. climbed in the passenger side of the pickup, he looked across the seat at his brother and smiled.
"All in all, Doctor Marlowe, I'd say another job well done."
Rick smiled back as he pulled away from the curb and headed to his favorite steakhouse.
"I couldn't agree more, Doctor Simon. I couldn't agree more."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~