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| Three Dollar Phoenix

                                 The Three Dollar Phoenix
                                      W. Sautter

Chapter I

Newark, New Jersey - 1984
“Goddamn! it” Ed yelled as he stumbled from the shower towards the phone in the bedroom.
“It never fails - probably a wrong number too.” He picked up the receiver.
“Hello, Ed—Ed Bennett” the voice on the other end replied.
“Yes,, this is Ed Bennett.”
The caller’s voice sounded vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it.
“Who is this?” he added immediately.
“Charlie Rhode” the voice said,
“Holy Christ! I haven’t seen you in seven years. How the hell are you doing?”
Ed hadn’t spoken to Charlie since, he had to
think now, 1978. Yes, and it was June 1978 to be exact. Charlie probably didn’t even
remember it. He was so drunk that he could just about talk, much less remember. That was the day the
Raiders drafted him.
“I read about you being traded to the Giants” said Ed.
“I thought the only things you’d be reading by now would be x-rays and stock reports” Charlie
Ed drifted back to the days when dreams of success were a common bond between him and
Charlie. They had spent many nights at Terry’s Tavern rehearsing the conversations they
would have after Charlie made the Pros and Ed got his M.D. It seemed to Ed that he knew exactly what
would be said next. It had all been said before, many years ago, at Terry’s. The next line would be
about meeting to talk over the old days, if he’d remembered the script right.
“How about going out for a drink, now that I’m in town, and we’ll talk about old times” Charlie said.
“Somehow I thought you were going to say that.” replied Ed.
“How about I meet you at Finnegan’s Rainbow” said Ed. “Tomorrow night O.K.? Around nine?
“Sounds good to me” said Charlie.
“We’ve got a lot of talking to do after seven years.”
Ed proceeded to give Charlie directions to the place.
As Ed put down the receiver, he flashed back to all the sights and sounds of his years at Penn
State. He and Charlie had some good times alright. They both pledged Kappa Delta Chi. How Ed got into
that frat still puzzled him. He was a pretty good athlete but not a jock. Maybe i t was because he
was a real good handball player. In four years nobody ever beat him, not even All American
Charlie Rode. Handball had made him a lot of friends and kept him in drinking money for four years
at State. It was joked that the reason he was asked to pledge Kappa was so the brothers could get
the bi l l of sales back for their cars from him.
“How did I first get friendly with Charlie anyway?”
mused Ed as he dried himself.
“I think it was because of old Dr. Stevens. That bastard could give a mean chemistry test. I
saved Charlie’s ass a couple of times in that course” thought Ed.
“That was when we first began to hang around together.”
Charlie wasn’t dumb. It was all that football that kept him away from the books. I guess it
paid off for him though. He went to the Pros like he said he would.”
The next night Ed drove to Finnegan’s. As his lights flashed across the neatly lined cars, he
saw the license plate, ALL PRO on a blue BMW.
“That’s probably Charlie’s car” he thought. Ed parked his car and walked into Finnegan’s. It
was a large, dimly lit room. Charlie was sitting at the far and of the bar. Ed saw him immediately, he
couldn’t mi s s him.
How could anybody mi s s Char l ie? Two hundred and forty-five pounds takes up a lot of
space. Charlie looked up and caught Ed’s eye. With that he instantaneously jumped to his feet and let
out hi s old cowboy hol l e r . The doz en or so customers sitting at the bar straightened up as if
the stools had been electrified. Ed felt Charlie’s powerful grasp.
“You haven’t changed a bi t’ exclaimed Charlie, “Only a little uglier.”
“You look good yourself, you two ton tub of shit” said Ed.
As the evening wore on, Ed and Charlie felt the old bonds of friendship regrew. Their conversation
was a collage of old memories and old stories. It was as if time had been suspended for the past
seven years.
“Last call for alcohol” came the bartender’s voice.
Ed glanced at his watch. Two A.M. already! It seemed like the evening had just begun and the
bartender was closing up.
Give me a call tomorrow, afternoon that is, and I’ll show you around’ said Ed as they walked out
into the parking lot.
“I’ve been here two dozen times but only to play and run so to speak. Now that I’m going to
be living here it would help to know where I’m going.” r epl i ed Cha r l i e .
“I’ll call you about two or three.”
Ed and Charlie saw each other several times the fol lowing weeks in between Charl ie’s
pract ice sessions and Ed’s hours at the clinic. it began to seem almost like old times all over again.
The huge gray gothic topped by dozens of fluttering red and blue flags rose out of the swamp
plain. A large blue banner hung from its wall. it read “METRO STADIUM HOME OF THE
GIANTS.” It waved in the light breeze off the meadows. The bright afternoon sunlight gave it all the
appeal of an animated neon display as it gently moved. Ed pulled into the huge, almost empty
parking lot.
He shut off the car and sat motionless for a moment. He had been here hundreds of times
before, but not since the stadium was built, but many years ago, when he was a kid. All this
was nothing but marshes then, marshes and garbage. Thousands of sea gulls and rats lived
here, all eager to attend the daily banquets brought to them by the convoy of garbage trucks
moving continuously in and out of the meadows. The air was heavy with the foul odor of
decaying refuse. Even now, an occasional unfavorable wind brings that same unpleasant
reminder of the past up from areas further south that are not yet completely finished. As a
boy Ed had been on many a treasure hunt here. He could still hear his mother’s screams as he
entered the house after one of those expeditions. He would have to take off his clothes on the
outside porch and put them in a plastic bag to contain the gagging smell. After he showered
and changed she would give him a dollar and send him to the launder mat to wash them.
Well, all that is gone now, the marshes/the garbage and most of the time the smell. Not so
much as an empty beer bottle is left in view. It’s all buried below where he was standing
waiting for the year five thousand to become the priceless artifacts found by some lucky
archaeologist. For a moment the whole thing seemed unbelievable
Ed awoke from his momentary trance, and exited the car. He walked towards a waiting security
guard at the main gate. He instinctively reached for his wallet and withdrew the pass Charley had given
him. As he entered the mammoth building, he could hear the echoes of a callisthenic cadence resounding
through the thousands of rows of empty seats. He walked in the direction of its source. As he rounded
the final turn of the maze he had been following and walked into the center of the stadium. he glanced
upwards towards the rim of the bowl like structure. The rows of vacant seats appeared to be endless in
all directions. He tried to imagine how it would look four weeks from now. The Giants opened against
Detroit on September 10th. It would be a sea of yelling, screaming bodies, about sixty thousand to be
Out at the center of the field, he saw five neat rows of bright blue clad players, all responding in
perfect unison to We instructions barked by several men whom they were facing. Ed looked for
number sixty-six. That was Charlie’s number. it was usually easy to spot him in a crowd. He stood out
like a grizzly bear at the zoo. This time it wasn’t that simple. They were all grizzlies. Ed sat down at the
edge of the field by the railing and watched. He never was a football nut but he’d watched a game now
and then. It was usually a Penn State game or a pro game in wh i c h a n o l d f r i e n d f r om St a t e
wa s p l a yi n g. Th r e e guys were in the Pros now, Buck Horn for Miami, Joe Petaliza for Dallas and
of course Charlie.
Soon the lines of players separated and formed several smaller groups. Ed caught a glimpse
of number sixty-six in the group closest to the far sideline. He tried to keep his eyes keyed on that
number. From what he knew about football appeared to him that number sixty-six was doing a
pretty good job or at least he was in on most of the Ed hoped Charlie would do well. Of course there was
no reason to suspect that he wouldn’t. He had been All Pro two years ago at Oakland. Ed liked the idea
of having Charlie around and he didn’t want to see that
About two hours passed. The hot summer Sun had
moved around to where Ed was sitting and it was uncomfortable now. He wanted to move but he
had to be by the entrance to the locker rooms. This was the third time he’d promised Charlie that he
would be there. This time he’d made it. He had to be sure that Charlie saw him. Just then he heard a
long, hard whistle sound. All the players moved hurriedly to the center of the field. Two minutes
later another loud whistle and they headed straight towards him. He saw Charlie clearly for the
first time during the session. He looked even bigger than usual in full equipment. He looked at Ed
and smiled.
“No emergencies at the clinic today? Wait for me. I’ll be out in a few minutes” Charlie said
as he disappeared under the stands towards the lockers.
Ed looked at his watch. It was 4:25. He was due at the clinic at 6:30 and that was a twenty
minute drive. If the traffic was bad downtown, it could be thirty minutes or more.
In about fifteen minutes, Charlie emerged from the doors leading under the stands wearing a
smile almost as broad as his shoulders.
“How’d I do?”
“Looked pretty good to me” replied Ed.
“The way things are going so far, I think I’ll be here for a while “ said Charlie.
“Let me show you around this place” he said eagerly.
One of Charlie’s greatest assets was enthusiasm. He did everything with enthusiasm, no
matter how trivial the task and when you were with him it always seemed to rub off a little. In a
few moments Ed found himself a willing member of Charlie’s private tour.
“This field is a miracle of modern science. Astroturf. Out in Oakland it was strictly grass.”
This stuff is great. I met a guy here on the grounds crew that I knew at Oakland. He left there
about four years ago to come east. His wife’s mother was sick and so he had to come out. He got
a job here because he had experience out there. He says even the guys on maintenance love it. All
they need is a vacuum cleaner. It really plays fine.”
“Do you wanna see the locker room?”
“You’ll like the training equipment.”
Charlie showed all the emotions of a kindergartner showing off his classroom. He paraded Ed
through every nook and cranny of the stadium explaining each and every detail of its functioning.
Ed looked at his watch uneasily. It was 5:50 now. He had to be downtown by 6:30. Fortunately,
Charlie had just about run out of superlatives and the tour was coming to an end.
Ed and Charlie emerged from the stadium into the parking lot. They walked towards their cars.
“What do you think of this baby?” Ed said as he pointed to his 1972 Chevy convertible.
“There’s my Mercedes. Pretty nice for an
aspiring young medicine man, huh,” he added
The car was old in years but not in appearance. it shone in the bright sun as if it were new. There
wasn’t a speck of rust on it anywhere.
The chrome had a mirror like luster and the interior was mint from the dash to the carpeting. Ed was
particularly proud of it because to him it represented real success. Its brilliant paint and fine running
engine were not the features he prized the most. It meant much more. Any M.D. four years out of med
school could have a new Mercedes or Porsche but few could ever own a car like this one. This was
reserved for someone who went to the ghetto in the poorest city in the country and lived the Hippocratic
Oath on a daily basis.
It started about four years ago at Albert Einstein when Ed met Rita. Rita was a year behind him in
med school. She was a tall, slim, black haired girl with a dark complexion. As a matter of fact, her great
grandmother was Negro, Black that is. That’s one of the things that helped get her into Einstein. Ethnic
quotas and all. On her application she listed race as black. After all the state courts down South had just
ruled that one twentieth black is considered all black. Her features contained the most desirable of both
ethnic origins and resulted in a beautiful composite.
Rita’s mother was one of the original Flower Children from the sixties. She’d been at Woodstock, in
Chicago in 68 and in the March on Washington in 70. Her appearance now, according to Rita,
gave no clue to her past. Feelings however, are often transmitted to offspring without overt proselytizing. and
so Rita shared her mother’s old sympathies.
Rita’s ambitions likewise influenced Ed and his desire for monetary success was transformed into a
lust for healing. Neither could remember whose idea it was first, the idea of opening a store front
clinic in Newark. It was Ed though who pounded the pavements to obtain the needed financial backing.
That was probably because he finished met school first. The clinic was three years old now and the car
was one testament to its success in Ed’s mind it was a gift from his patients, not a fee, a gift of
appreciation from people who felt a deep need to say “Thank you” for what he had done for them.
Ed looked at that car as a medal for his service to his fellow man, a Nobel Prize of sorts.
As he drove across the parking lot towards the exit, Ed glanced in his rear view mirror. The
stark, gray walls of the stadium loomed large in the background. It couldn’t help but remind him of a
huge decorated mausoleum.
He pulled onto the highway and headed south towards Newark. As he drove past the lines
of stopped, overheating cars attempting to escape the city before nightfall, he thought of the
day’s events. He was glad that he had finally kept his promise to Charlie. It was Friday, one of the days
that the clinic stayed open late. A long, hard night was ahead and hi s mind dr i f ted to
the schedule that awaited him.
During the next several weeks Ed and Charlie saw each other only a couple of times.
The season was in full swing and Charlie was on the road as much as he was home. Ed was busy
too. The start of a new school year required hundreds of kids needing shots or treatment for colds
and viruses.
September slid into October. The Giants were doing well, three and one so far. Ed had seen a
game or two on TV. Charlie offered him tickets for every game but that would mean an entire day and
he really didn’t have the time. From what he read in the paper, Charlie was doing pretty well and
it looked like he would be staying.
Ed was glad of that. He liked going out for a drink together or just bullshitting, even if it was only
once in a while. It took his mind off things and with Charlie he always had a few laughs.
It was late October or early November when he got the call. He couldn’t remember the exact date but
he did remember being at the clinic.
“How’ve you been Old Buddy? Been watchin’ any football lately?” the voice said. it was
Charlie. He hadn’t spoken to him in about three weeks.
“Not bad” replied Ed.
“Don’t got much time but I did see you against Miami. Weather’s pretty nice there I bet.”
“Sure is“ replied Charlie.
“Ed, I want you to do me a favor.”
“Sure, said Ed. He wasn’t in the habit of agreeing to anything before he knew the
details, but in Charlie’s case it was different
“Do you remember I told you about the guy I knew in Oakland who came out here and was working at
the stadium?’
“The one who’s on the grounds crew?” replied Ed.
“That’s right. His name is Al Druse. Did you ever meet him?” asked Charlie.
“No, but I remember you telling me about him when I came to the practice at the stadium last August.”
“Well” said Charlie, “I didn’t see him around yesterday one of the other grounds guys came around
to collect a few bucks from everybody for a gift for him. They said he was sick but nobody knew
what was wrong with him. I called his wife to find out how he was and she didn’t know what was
wrong either.”
“Didn’t he go to the doctor?” asked Ed.
“Sure he did, and his doctor sent him to the hospital and they’re not sure what’s wrong. Ed, would
you go down to the hospital with me and take a look at him? I don’t mean go down and try to take over
the case, but just go to visit and tell me what you think.”
“What does Al’s wife say?” asked Ed.
“She just wants to know what’s the matter with him. I told her that I thought you knew your stuff
and might be able to help. You did graduate from Einstein?”
There was a pause.
“I’ll pick you up tonight, about six, O.K.?”
There was another silence,
“Alright, I think I can make it. Pick me up at the clinic” said Ed.
Charlie arrived at six o’clock sharp. He pulled up and tapped his horn. Ed peered out through the
window. It was difficult to see clearly. The street light in front of the of the building had been
broken since June and a cold drizzle coated the pane making everything even less visible.
Ed recognized the outline of the car and its burly driver behind the wheel.
“Guess you remembered how to get here alright” said Ed as he entered the car.
“It wasn’t that long ago” replied Charlie. He had been to the clinic in early September and received a
tour in s imi lar detai l to the one Ed had experienced at the stadium in August.
“You’ll have to help me find the hospital, St. Anne’s in Jersey City. The car twisted and turned
through the city streets under Charlie’s control and Ed’s direction.
“How did you get involved in this anyway?” asked Ed.
“Well, I was pretty friendly with Al out in California. I’d even been to his house once or
twice for dinner. When I went to Oakland, he was one of the first guys I met from the east. As
a matter of fact, he grew up in a town about five miles from my hometown. We even used to
hang around there once in while, when I was in high school. I knew a lot of the guys he did and
so we had something in common, plus he and his wife were good people.
When I called Angie, that’s his wife, she was pretty upset and so I felt the least I could do
is try to help out. That’s when I volunteered you.”
The hospital was a large, brick building, situated on a crowded street at the heart of the
city. It appeared to be one of many buildings in that area whose date with the wrecking ball
was long past due. It sported a small modern addition which was probably the reason for its
over extended life span.
Ed and Charlie parked the car and walked towards the front door. Inside, the ten foot
ceiling made it look more like a train station than a hospital. In the center of the lobby, amidst
the array of worn sofas and chairs, sat the receptionist’s desk. Behind it sat a heavy, middle
aged, black woman equipped with a stack of five by seven file cards. Several visitors sat in
small groups at the corners of the room.
“Al Druse, room 309 “ Charlie said. The woman silently shuffled through the stack for
several seconds.
“No such name here” she announced.
“Are you sure?” questioned Charlie.
“Al Druse, room 309” he repeated. Again the woman searched the cards, finally holding
the file open between Drose and Dew.
"If Druse was here, he'd be right here” she said as she pointed to the vacant space in the
pile. "You don't see a card there, do you?” she added.
Charlie looked at Ed with a disbelieving expression.
"I talked to Angie just yesterday and she said he was here. This is St. Anne's in Jersey City
isn't it? Is there another St. Anne's in this town?”
"No, this is it” Ed replied.
"Is there a phone around here?” Charlie asked the receptionist. She gestured toward the far
side of the lobby. He reached into his pocket as he moved in that direction.
"I'll be right back.”
Ed sat down to await his return. He hadn't even gotten comfortable before he saw Charlie
coming towards him.
"I called Angie. No answer.”
Ed walked back to desk. "
Was a patient named Al Druse here during the past week?"
The woman looked up at him with a thoughtful stare.
"I think I remember that name, but I'm not sure" she said in a slow drawling voice.
"We got over two hundred people here and you only remember the ones that stay for a
long time or get lots of visitors. He couldn't have been one of those or I'd remember for sure
but that name sounds a little familiar."
Ed motioned to Charlie. "Let's go. I'll call the business office tomorrow and we'll find out
exactly what 's going on here” he said.
Ed was on the phone to St. Anne's the next morning before he left for work. Despite his
persistence, he obtained little information. Al Druse had been a patient there for three days. He
was moved to a private hospital in upstate New York on Tuesday. The reason for his move or
any details of his illness we’re not able. Ed did find out the name of his doctor though, it was
Dr. Robert Alpert, phone 693-8818.
Ed dialed the number as soon as he hung up from the hospital call.
“Dr. Alpert’s office” a woman’s voice answered.
“Hello, this is Dr. Ed Bennett. Is Dr. Alpert available?”
“I’ll find out doctor” she replied.
After a brief moment, Ed was greeted pleasantly by “Hello, this is Dr. Alpert speaking.”
“Hello, this is Ed Bennett. Do you have a few minutes?”
“Sure, I’m calling about one of your patients, Al Druse.”
“I don’t have a patient by that name” Alpert responded instantaneously in an irritated manner.
It was as if the name had suddenly changed light into darkness.
“He was hospitalized by you last week according to the business office at St. Anne’s,” said
There was a pause.
“Well, he’s not a patient of mine now” replied Alpert.
There was another even longer pause.
“I’ll have to check my records. I’m pretty busy right now. Give my girl your number and I’ll
get back to you.”
“Can you give me any information about..” Ed suddenly realized Alpert had put the phone on
“Now what is your number Dr. Bennett?” the woman’s voice interrupted the silence.
Ed was puzzled as he mechanically recited his phone number. Why did Alpert go from Jekyll
to Hyde when he heard Druse’s name? How could he not remember the name of a patient he had
hospitalized only three days before? As he put down the phone, Ed stared into space. It was very
strange to say the least. Ed didn’t remember the drive to work that morning. It was as if he was
Captain Kirk rather than Ed Bennett and had been beamed to the clinic. During the trip, he was
thinking about conversations he had just had with Alpert.
“Oh, it was a routine call about a patient and Alpert would call back and that would be
that” he told himself in an unconvincing manner.
He was glad that this was Rita’s morning on the road, making house calls. It allowed him
to answer the phone. Every time it rang he expected to hear Alpert’s voice. It never was. His
curiosity rose with each ring.
He glanced at the clock on the wall. It was one o’clock now. She would be back any
minute. Soon he heard the familiar sound of Sam’s Caddy. Seconds later they entered. It
looked like beauty and the beast. Rita’s petite good looks stood in sharp contrast to those of
Sam. Sam was a huge, bearded, black man with thick protruding scars on his face and upper
arms. His mere presence cast an aura of intimidation.
Sam was Rita’s self appointed body guard and chauffeur. It was his way of paying a debt.
Sam did more than just driving her around on her calls. He was also the reason that the clinic
was the only operating store front in twenty blocks that didn’t need pull down window
gratings or Fort Knox type security equipment. He had been Ed and Rita’s “main man” as he
called himself, almost since they started.
He had come stumbling through the door about three years ago. It was early on a Saturday
morning and Rita had only been there about ten minutes when suddenly she heard a thud on
the front window. A man was leaning against the glass and sliding towards the door. As he
moved across the pane a stripe of blood traced a zigzag line behind him.
He flung the door open and stood tottering its opening. She instinctively drew back at
first, but then reached towards him and guided him to a cot at the rear of the room. A large red
blotch covered the upper left shoulder and arm. He spoke weakly but in a demanding tone.
“Get my arm fixed and I’ll get goin’.”
Rita opened the shirt to examine the wound.
“I can’t just fix your arm. It’s a mess. You’ve got to go to a hospital for this” she said.
“I don’t want no hospital shit. This is a bullet in my arm, girl. Can’t you see? Hospitals
mean cops and I don’t need no cops in my life” he said in a loud voice as he struggled vainly to
get up. It was clear that he was not going to a hospital.
Rita must have worked on his arm for two hours.
Three days later Sam got up from that cot. Rita had stayed by him for the entire time. She
never told him how close he’d come but somehow he must have known. He drilled a hole in
the bullet and put it on a chain around his neck for a good luck charm. Sam never told anybody
how he got shot that Friday night and no one ever dared ask. Ed thought he knew what had
probably happened though. In the three years since the incident he had picked up bits and
pieces from different people.
Sam was an enforcer for the drug trade or so was told. He made sure that the local dealers
didn’t decide to keep some extra profits for themselves. The guy who shot him had some
different ideas on free enterprise. Three months after Sam recovered, they found the guy dead
of a heroin overdose. The cops never could figure out why he had injected himself through the
throat with the needle.
Although Ed really never knew for sure if it was all true, things did add up. Sam dressed
well, drove a year old Eldorado, always had a pocket full of money and never held a job. Rita
said that every once in a while when they were making calls, he would drive to an out of the
way spot, down off Feylinghesuen Ave. and meet a couple of white guys in a black Mercedes.
They would talk for fifteen or twenty minutes while she waited in Sam’s car. He always
returned with a box of expensive cigars and a smile. She often wondered if there were really
cigars in the box. She had never seen him smoke one in all the time she knew him.
Ed didn’t care about Sam’s sordid business affairs. All he knew is that without him things
would be much tougher than they were already. Sam had laid a protective veil over the clinic
and its people. He saved its life as surely as Rita had saved his. Every mugger and drug addict
in the city knew him and his reputation and he knew them. The word was out, don’t screw
around with Sam’s people.
As the two of them stood in the doorway, the phone began to ring. Ed gestured a welcome
as he quickly snatched the receiver from its cradle. It was Charlie, “I just called Al’s wife for
the four hundredth time and I finally got her. She had been up at the hospital by Al. She said he
was moved up there the day before yesterday and she tried to call me before she left but didn’t
get an answer. She says she doesn’t understand what’s going on.”
“Is she home now?” asked Ed.
“Yeah, she had to come back because she couldn’t afford to stay in the motel any more.
She said she’s going to go up on weekends if she can. She wants to talk to you” said Charlie.
“O.K., I’ll go over and talk to her. What’s her address?”
He hesitantly jotted it down as he hung up the phone.
Rita had removed her coat and was beginning to fill out one of the many forms which
made up the daily routine. Sam was gone. He probably went to “collect his eggs” as he put it.
“That was Charlie” he said as he looked up.
“Let me tell you about what’s been happening.” He proceeded to explain about Charlie’s
call the previous evening, the trip to St. Anne’s and the conversation with Alpert. Rita listened
intently. She agreed that some of it did seem a bit peculiar but dismissed much of it as his over
active imagination.
“Do you think you can hold down the fort here for a while?” asked Ed.
“I’m going to take a run over to see what Al’s wife can tell me. I’d like to see her in person. I
think she might need some hand holding about now.”
“If it’ll make you feel better then you better go. I’ll be OK here” replied Rita.
Chapter II
It was an old neighborhood with well kept closely spaced two family houses shaded by an
occasional tree sprouting from the sidewalk. Cars lined both sides of the street. One ninety two
one ninety four, one ninety six. It was a yellow house with aluminum siding. A statue of the
Virgin stood in the front surrounded by a bunch of plastic daisies. He found a parking spot,
walked up the gray wooden steps to the door and rang the bell. In a few minutes the door
opened. A short woman, with long brown hair and a round face greeted him in a heavy accent.
He couldn’t quite decide if it was Spanish or Portuguese.
“Mrs. Druse?” she nodded.
“I’m Ed Bennett, a friend of Charlie Rode “ he said.
“Dr. Bennett?” she replied.
“Yes, Charlie and I tried to see Al at St. Anne’s last night.”
“He’s not there” she said as she turned and began to walk in to the house.
“Come on in” she shouted over she shoulder from the halfway down the hall. Ed followed
her into the living room.
“Can I give you a drink?.”
His host hurriedly picked up several newspapers from the floor and attempted to straighten
the bunched up slip cover on an adjacent easy chair. Then she disappeared into the kitchen
shouting as she did so, “A soda, beer, ice tea?”
“Soda’s OK” he replied as he sat down on the sofa. He looked around the room while he
waited. His eve caught several pictures, in small frames on the mantle.
They looked like children’s school pictures and family snapshots. There was one that looked
like a New Year’s Eve picture of Al and his wife. Well, he assumed it was Al anyway. They
were wearing hats and a banner in the background read “Welcome 1980”
Al’s wife returned carrying a tray with two glasses of soda.
“My name’s Angie” she said as she put down the tray.
“Tell me what happened to Al, Angie” he said.
Angie began to explain the events of the past several weeks. She spoke in a staccato like
fashion. Her speech was punctuated by pauses during which she searched for the right words to
be used in the next phrase.
“Al” she began, “He didn’t feel too good the week before last.”
She told of his beginning to feel fatigued and nauseous Evidently, he had been feeling
poorly on and off for some time. It finally came to a point where she persuaded him to see a
“We went to Dr. Alpert last week. He took a lot of tests, blood and stuff.”
She continued, “Last week he really started to get bad, sick almost every day, so I called the
doctor again and he put him in the hospital.”
“Did the doctor say what was wrong with him?” asked Ed.
“He said he wasn’t sure. He didn’t know” she replied.
“What happened at the hospital?”
“Al was there for about three days. Then one day Dr. Alpert called me. He said that he
should be moved to a hospital in upstate New York. He said he knew what was wrong with Al
and this hospital was the best place for him.”
“Well, what was the matter with him?” asked Ed again.
“He didn’t tell me. Just that he should go to this new hospital.”
She paused and drew a deep breath.
“Dr. Bennett, you have to find out what’s going on with my Al” she pleaded tearfully.
Al had been sent to the Caramore Clinic up around Ellensville. Ed had heard of the place but
didn’t know much about it. They had told Angie that he would be there for an “extended time.”
That was hospital lingo for not being sure when he would be released.
As he drove back towards Newark he tried to remember what he could about Caramore
Clinic. He seemed to recall, reading something about it in a magazine someplace.
When Ed arrived, he was greeted by a chorus of shrill screams. He opened the door just in
time to see Rita withdrawing a hypodermic needle from a three year olds bottom while the child’s
mother struggled to hold him still. He walked over to his desk and obviously searched through the
pile of notes and messages lying there. There were about ten in all and none of them from Alpert.
Rita had finished with her unappreciative patient.
“Did you ever hear of Caramore Clinic in Ellensville, New York?” he asked her.
She thought for a moment.
“Isn’t that the place where they dry out movie stars and politicians?” she responded.
Ed paused, then his face lit up.
“That’s it. I knew I read about it recently. I thought I read about it in a medical journal but it
was one of those movie star mags in the barber shop. That was the place they put the rock group
“The Slugs.” All of them were druggies and they all signed up at once to get straight at Caramore.
They played a concert at the place the day they were released and it made the paper and the
“Why are you interested in it?” asked Rita.
“That’s a big money operation: It costs big bucks to stay there” she added.
“That’s where they’ve got Al Druse, the guy Charlie and I tried to visit last night at St.
Anne’s. His wife just told me” replied Ed.
Why was Al in a drug rehab hospital? Angie didn’t mention anything about drugs or
booze, but then, of course, he didn’t ask either. If he did have a habit, why didn’t Alpert just
tell me, thought Ed? And why did somebody put him a place like Caramore that costs
thousands and is all the way up in New York state and even more puzzling is who’s paying for
it? It sure isn’t Angie from what Ed could see.
Ed picked up the phone and dialed Alpert’s number.
He’d waited long enough. After a customary greeting from the receptionist, and a long
pause, Alpert answered.
“Dr. Bennett, I tried to reach you this morning. Your phone was busy. You were interested
in Albert Druse, one of my patients. I’m sorry I couldn’t talk to you yesterday but the office
was very busy and this requires some time. Mr. Druse came to me last week complaining of
nausea and fatigue. I sent him for several tests. Upper and lower GI, blood work, urine and so
Alpert spoke in along string of unbroken sentences with little or no pause separating them.
It sounded like a sixth grader reciting his part on the opening night of the school play.
“His condition persisted so I admitted him to St. Anne’s” he continued, still in a rehearsed
“How did he wind up at Caramore?” Ed interrupted.
“The second day he was at the hospital, the hospital administrator called me and said that
his staff physicians had reviewed the case and decided it was best to move him up there.”
“Did you request a review of the case?” asked Ed.
“No” replied Alpert.
“I was told Mrs. Druse had requested that” he added.
“Did Mr. Druse have a drug problem, drugs or alcohol?”
“Not that I know of” said Alpert
“May I see his records and test results? I’ll get authorization form the patient’s wife if you
like” said Ed.
“I don’t have them.”
“Who does?”
“A representative from the state medical examiner’s office called me the day Mr. Druse was
to be moved and asked for all records”
“Isn’t that a bit unusual?” asked Ed.
“Well, that’s not for me to say” replied Alpert. He spoke more calmly now.
“Don’t you have the originals?”
“Two days after the state call me about the records, my office was robbed. I never even
really got a chance to take a good look at them. I knew the patient had been removed from my
care and so I didn’t see any point in rushing to look at the results.”
“You were robbed?” repeated Ed in a surprised voice.
“Patient records were stolen?” he added.
“Some drugs and records” said Alpert.
“That’s a strange combination. Why would a druggie steal patient records?” asked Ed.
“I think the drugs were a try to cover the break in. The records they took looked like
somebody just took a couple of handful Is. Maybe that was because the night watchman
interrupted them and they were in too much of a rush to just select the file they wanted. If the
watchman hadn’t come they could have just taken the one file and no one would have known
until he looked for that particular file. Up until then the whole thing would have been a drug
theft. If a long time passed between the robbery and the discovery of the missing file who
would even relate the two?” said Alpert.
“And Druse was in one of the handfuls that were taken?” said Ed.
“Right. That’s why when you called yesterday and asked about him it took me by surprise.
That combined with all the other incidents involving this guy. I called the County Medical
Association to see who you were. To be honest the whole thing is getting nerve racking. The
robbery, cops, calls from the state. I didn’t want to be talking to the wrong people, so I
“What was wrong with Druse?” asked Ed.
“I really don’t know. Like I said I never really even got a chance to look at the test
results” said Alpert.
As Ed ended his conversation with Alpert he at least understood Alpert’s reluctance to talk
with him the day before. The circumstances surrounding the whole situation, however had
become even more perplexing.
The next day he called the state Medical Examiner’s Office. He wasn’t quite sure to whom
he should speak. They didn’t have anyone in charge of stolen records or mysteriously
transferred patients. Alpert wasn’t sure of the title of the inspector who had picked up the
papers from him, but he did remember his name, Bickford. No one named Bickford worked for
the examiner’s office according to them. His call to Caramore didn’t help either. They said that
they couldn’t discuss any patients on the phone and they wouldn’t even acknowledge Druse’s
being there. That of course, was what Ed might have expected from a high class, private rehab
hospital like Caramore.
Read the entire story at: AMAZON  &  SMASHWORDS

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