All In Jest – Chapter 12

All In Jest


There were seven continuances, in all, for the van der Hoef case, stretching over nearly as many years, before the day finally arrived that it suited the plaintiff’s attorney to schedule one that he intended to take place. Volumes of pretrial motions, affidavits, interoffice letters, and complaints to the judge and to the bar association mounted up in anticipation of the deposition. Sybil was the first deponent on Bel Geddes’s list for the van der Hoef vs. Norcroft and Joseph Noble Memorial Hospital case even after the extended period since the filing of the suit.

In the interim seven years since the date of receiving her ninety day notice that she was to be sued by van der Hoef, she had been free of any further malpractice suits. The main reason was that the state passed a California-type law that made the simple requirement that malpractice cases have merit as evidenced by the fact that an expert, one in the same specialty as the defendant doctor, be willing to act for the plaintiff and that expert must produce a list of professional complaints upon which the accusation of malpractice was to be based throughout the course of the suit, from filing, through the evidentiary–fishing–phase, during depositions, and in trial or in binding arbitration hearings.

Sybil’s state went beyond the California model. Part of the malpractice suit act made former testimony of medical witnesses admissible in the present action’s early phases. If the professional witness’s current testimony was found during the evidentiary phase to be contradictory to his previous sworn testimony, then that witness had to be summarily disqualified by the sitting judge. The result was that the number of flagrant medical whores, advocating, nonobjective physicians, who peddled their M.D.’s into courtrooms and pandered to the requirements of each succeeding attorney and client irrespective of medical evidence, dropped precipitously.

As a consequence, the number of malpractice suits had leveled off to the point that the malpractice defense firms were now advocating settlement much more commonly because they believed that the principal cause of filing malpractice suits in the past two or three years was, in fact, malpractice.

Defense attorneys and their clients, the doctors, and their insurance companies, were now openly advocating a no-fault insurance plan to reimburse and to help medically injured individuals irrespective of fault by a medical provider, even to the point of recommending a provision for sensible punitive damages. The plaintiff’s attorneys’ organizations, one of which was headed by Paul Bel Geddes, were mounting an implacable opposition against the discontinuation of the golden cash cow that the previous system represented. The other, more personal result, was that Sybil Norcroft had all but forgotten about the problem of malpractice in her own work and had begun to go about her practice with more zeal and compassion and less paranoia.

It was a reality check to have the van der Hoef case brought back into the sharp focus of reality again. Bel Geddes had filed the suit before the change in the state law and was not bound by the common sense rules of the Medical Malpractice Act. Despite the fact that he had not yet been able to find a medical prostitute expert to use in the case, he was obviously going to continue on his course of attacking her, the lack of an expert witness being considered not to be a crucial factor in achieving that aim.

As soon as Sybil received the eighth notice of the scheduling of her deposition, she called Carter Tarkington.

“Carter, am I expected to drop everything for this year’s deposition or can you get it canceled without going through the usual rigmarole with Bel Geddes?”

“It’s his show, Dr. Norcroft. He called the office a week ago. He sounded serious. I think he’s beginning to feel the pinch from the approach of the statute of limitations. I think he may be getting static from his client, the other abused victim in all of this.”

“Since when has the statute of limitations ever affected a plaintiff? I didn’t think any legal protections extended to civil defendants, especially doctors, and especially for a statute of limitations to be beneficial to me. Come now, Carter, you know as well as I do that Bel Geddes will get an extension just for the asking if he lets it go right up to the wire.”

“I know it seems that way, Dr. Norcroft, but there finally comes a point when every judge’s patience wears out. Judge Hicken has agreed to be present to ensure against the silliness factor. I had a serious talk with the judge about the abuses of the continuation privilege in this case. Bel Geddes was invited but failed to show at the meeting at the last minute. Judge Hicken was miffed and had us go ahead with our complaints anyway. The judge definitely means business, as near as I can determine.”

“What about the Medical Malpractice Act and the need for a qualified expert witness against me, and a list of supposed wrongdoings to be consistently presented and defended, and all that?”

She knew the answer. She was just ventilating.

“Can’t go retroactive, Dr. Norcroft. You know this case was filed well before the new law. No way around it. Bel Geddes can proceed his merry, irrational, emotional, way. That has made him a rich man, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to get religion at this late date. He wants to use the old rules to every advantage he possibly can before he has to bend to the new law, kicking and screaming all the way.”

“I know that. It just bothers me that it is all so illogical and prejudicial towards me and any other person or company thought to have deep pockets by those vultures.”

“We call them learned colleagues,” Tarkington laughed.

“Reptiles and vultures…present company excepted.”

“Thanks for that vote of confidence. At any rate, I think it would be good for us to prepare for the scheduled date. Feel ready?”

“Not the least bit. I’ll have to go over the entire case again from Able to Zots. And, by the way, that means that you and I will have to put in another session.”

“I anticipated that. I have blanked out two days in advance of the deposition for us to go over the case and your testimony. Can you rearrange your schedule and come to the office?”

“Why not? I didn’t have anything important to do–just half a dozen major operations. I’ll do it again, but you know that that jerk will just get another continuance.”

“We’ll have to see. One thing that occurred to me is that you might like to have sort of a mock deposition with a video. That way we can critique your answers and tweak them until they are the best we can produce.”

“I don’t feel up to that. I think I might clutch up on the video, or at least, I won’t behave naturally or think spontaneously. I would rather take my chances with a review and another verbal joust with the Emissary of Darkness, himself.”

“Whatever you like best. I’ll look forward to seeing you again on the 21st of February. That will give us three days before the actual deposition date, enough time to work on the case, to give you a day off to rest, and have the material fresh in mind on the 24th when we are once again braced by the lion in his own den. That’s two months away. Let me do the worrying in the meantime.”

“I can hardly wait, and I will worry despite your platitudes, but maybe there’s hope that this will bring this absurd case nearer to a close.”

Sybil took note of the fact that she could not even discuss this case or anything to do with attorney Paul Bel Geddes without losing her temper–to her own detriment. She would have to do something about that.

“See you then. Bye.”

Sybil eased back into her desk chair and willed herself to calm down. She was successful, although she did not achieve outright placidity, she did avoid developing the fierce competitive edge that Paul Bel Geddes always brought out. She wanted to be able to think clearly, rationally, ruthlessly, and with a mind to the smallest details. Sybil had ruminated on a plan for nearly seven years.

At first she had approached her idea with an inflammatory passion. As the years passed, and she knew that the day of the deposition would have to come despite all her hopes to the contrary, she became less impassioned and more calculating. She had eventually written down a matured plan complete in every detail of its execution of how to deal with her nemesis, Paul Bel Geddes, if or when he elected to open the old sore again. She kept the hand-written plan in her personal safe.

There were times when she felt that her plan was beneath her dignity and that she should just forget it and go along with the standard judicial program. There were times when she felt an outright sense of guilt, and she had not yet put into motion a single step of her plan of action and payback. With the announcement of the newest date for her deposition and the expressed feeling on her part and on that of her attorney that this one was for real, Sybil shed her illusions, her trepidations, and the conventional mores of her thinking as a civilized woman–interpreted victim–in her mind. She sought out her Mexican friends to set her plan in motion.
It was a week before she could get free enough of her work schedule to meet with Pancho, Jose, and Marcos. This was one talk that had to be in person, no phones or memos. She had long since destroyed her own incriminating notes.

Sybil pulled up to the circle drive parking area in front of the ranch house at seven in the evening. She was half an hour late. The Mexicans were always late in their meetings with her, but it bothered her that she could do no better; she was always late, too. The three couples who ran the ranch were seated at supper when Sybil entered. The kitchen was warm with inviting aromas.
“Sientate, Patrona,” invited Maria-Innocenta.

The smiling woman pointed to a vacant chair with a ready table setting. She got up to fetch warm food.

“Gracias,” said Sybil.

She was glad to sit down after a long day of standing at the operating table. It was a relief not to have to cook. Charles Daniels was in Mexico City attending an agri-business convention sponsored by United Nations Development Organization. Sybil had purposefully waited until his departure before having this meeting. She did not want to neglect him on one of the sparse occasions when she was home of late, and she was determined to keep him completely away from the plan germinating in her angry fertile mind.

Maria-Innocenta offered a platter.

“Bocaditos, botanas, and antitojitos, Patrona.”

These little bites, appetite stoppers, and little whims were Maria-Innocenta’s claim to fame. The appetizers were interesting, and the antitojitos were a nice hint of the larger versions to come. A pumpkin-seed sauce, pián verde, in a small earthen pot complimented the small dishes.

There was little talking and nothing serious until the mariscos, black bean and rice salad, and fresh tortillas and butter were finished and the seven of them could savor their sweet potato flan. The seafood dishes were Carlita’s specialties and were never better. Viviana contributed the flan.

Sybil helped the women clean up and enjoyed the amiable chatting. They all had a gossipy laugh over a package of penne pasta that Carlita had used in one of her seafood dishes. Viviana told about her husband being asked by a store clerk if he had a penny he would like to give her to take care of the tax. Sybil knew that the penne was the male organ of reproduction and that Hispanics thought it hilarious that Anglos used the term so frequently in public.

“It is almost time for my plan to begin, amigos,” Sybil said when the time for serious talk came. “The whole thing must be completed before February 24th. I have written out the plan. Please read it now, then we will burn it. We don’t want papers around.”

The co-conspirators all nodded their heads in agreement.

The Mexicans took their time to read and to digest the very detailed plan presented to them by Dr. Norcroft. It was not a matter of acquiescence; they had all agreed to execute her plan when the time came. It was now only a matter of understanding and memorizing details. The Mexicans had no more qualms or waverings of conscience than did the author of the plan. They read in silence. When all had finished, they looked at Sybil in an invitation to proceed.

“First thing is to get the place ready,” Sybil said.

Paul Bel Geddes was jubilant as he walked from the courthouse to his Mercedes. In the past month and a half he had won three straight court cases that would result in his firm garnering two and a half million dollars in contingency fees. The latest and the largest judgment had been handed down twenty minutes previously in favor of his client, Michael Drummond, an unfortunate who had been bicycling along the city’s scenic aqueduct bike and jogging path when his front bicycle tire struck a pebble on the asphalt. It may well have been the only uneven fragment in the entire fifty miles of pathway. His wheel had swerved, and he had toppled face first into the shallow waterway, breaking his neck.

A passer-by had pulled him out of the water and undoubtedly saved him from drowning. Ever after the fall, Michael Drummond had been quadriplegic. Through the good offices of the firm of Bel Geddes and Loughlin, Mr. Drummond had sued the city corporation as being 90% responsible and the Good Samaritan for being 10% responsible. It just so happened that the Good Samaritan was well-to-do, and the city and the state’s Good Samaritan laws applied only to highway situations. Those responsible for the lifelong paralysis of the plaintiff were found liable in the amount of $l,750,000 and to provide lifelong medical care. Bel Geddes was going to use this case in his TV ad.

He planned to treat himself to a picante dinner–crab cakes stuffed with a sauce of sour cream and fruity Caribbean hot sauce and deviled eggs with an Asian sriracha–to compliment the main treat–the picante new secretary in his office who had been overjoyed to have dinner at his penthouse with him.

The thought of the vivacious girl was the last one he had before strong arms encircled his neck and forced a chemical with a strong smell, something like a sweet smelling fabric stain remover, to his face.

“This chloroform is good estuff, no, Marcos?” observed Jose as the two men hoisted the unconscious attorney into the back seat of his own long silver and black vintage 600 class Mercedes.

“Roses are red; violets are blue does this rag smell like chloroform to you?” laughed Pancho, remembering a little ditty his mother, an itinerant nurse anesthetist, used to quote.

Pancho had been standing watch, innocuously sweeping the curb and gutter near Bel Geddes’s large black car.

“Nobody seen a thing, compadres,” he said.

What little activity there was in the large parking lot was nearer the front entrance to the court building. Bel Geddes liked to park well away from the crowds to prevent dings on the gleaming paint job of his classic car.

“Les go,” Pancho said as he slipped into the back seat beside Bel Geddes’s inert body.

As they approached the exit, Pancho pushed the attorney into a sitting position. Marcos was driving. He showed the attendant the plastic card key that had been conveniently set in the car’s immaculate ashtray. No one took notice of the attorney and his Latino driver and his body guards as the Mercedes pulled out onto the busy thoroughfare. It was a sign of the times.

The men drove past the city building and Joseph Noble Memorial Hospital and out onto the interstate. It took them an hour to reach the small cabin in the foothills beyond the city. Pancho had to apply the chloroform soaked gauze pad briefly one more time during the trip.

The cabin was in the perfect location; its nearest neighbor was thirty miles to the west, and the small private road with its locked gate was obscure and uninviting. The cabin belonged to Henri DuChamps Moncrief, a citizen of the village of Altos de Chavón in the Dominican Republic. The unfortunate man had a glioblastoma multiforme and had undergone a major resection of his malignant brain tumor by Dr. Sybil Norcroft. He had lived in the cabin during the early postoperative convalescence with a nurse from the home health care pool. When Moncrief was able to care for himself and to resume his passion for reading and to do a little business, he returned to Hispañola Island to enjoy his last few months of life.

Henri Moncrief had rejected Dr. Norcroft’s suggestion that he undergo radiation therapy and a course of chemotherapy. He preferred to avoid the attendant miseries of the treatments and to fade away in the city of his birth and that, for all of his worldly urbanity, he still loved. He wanted nothing more to do with hospitals, doctors, needles, and operations. He planned to finish out his days among the 16th Century red-tiled European architecture, the stone arches, and cobbled streets.

At a small farewell gathering at the cabin, he told Dr. Norcroft that he would leave the cabin and property to his heirs rather than selling it and would let his executors handle all the details. Sybil kept up with him by post cards and knew that Henri was still alive, and, in fact, still lucid and able to be up and about. She knew that the cabin would be undisturbed for as long as she might like to make use of it.

The three Mexican men carried the unconscious Bel Geddes into the cabin. Pancho turned on the light to the basement, then they carefully lugged the heavy corpulence of the attorney down the narrow stairs and over to an old army cot. Jose and Marcos shackled Bel Geddes to the cot with bindings on all four extremities. They took care to pad the shackle sites well to protect against causing any visible marks. They covered his eyes with duct tape. Pancho busied himself upstairs in the kitchen laying in supplies for a two week stay.

Sybil remained in the city carrying out her part of the plan. She called on Karen Mollison, one of her oldest friends from her years at her boarding school, the Cate School, on the California coast.
“It’s been way too long, Sybil. I was so glad to hear your voice again. The invitation to lunch couldn’t have come at a better time. I have been having a serious case of the blahs lately,” Karen said after the two women embraced in the entryway of Karen’s house in the exclusive suburb of Glen-to-Glen Heights.

“I never even see you and Stan at the Country Club anymore,” Sybil said solicitously.

“Probably that’s because you’re never there. Annette di Contini told me how hard she tried to get you to work on the Autumn decorating committee last year. I even remember what you said when she chided you with the old saw, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’”

“And what am I supposed to have said?”

“‘All work and no play makes Jill.’”

She looked at Sybil with mock severity as if daring the famous doctor to contradict her.

“I didn’t,” Sybil said, laughing. “You made that up.”

“You did.”

“You’re right to get after me. My vain ambitions have been getting the best of me for the past couple of years. I am turning over a new leaf, however, you may be glad to hear. Today’s little tête-à-tête is the first step in my rehabilitation.”

“It’s about time. Welcome back. I propose a rule for today: no business talk.”

“Deal,” smiled Sybil.

The two old friends decided to lunch at The House of Mezedhes, a Cypriot cafe, on the walking street. They were seated at the front window with a view of the street, a great place to watch the parade of strange urbanites passing by.

“Can I bring you something to drink?” asked the Mediterranean looking middle-aged man who stepped softly up to their table.

“Perrier, please,” requested Karen.

“Diet Coke for me,” asked Sybil.

“I presume that’s the owner,” said Karen. “I’m curious about the name of the place.”

“Your drinks, ladies,” the waiter said. “Can I tell you about our specialties?”

“Why not surprise us? You choose for us. We don’t know anything about Cypriot food. Are you the owner?” Karen asked in a staccato stream.

Sybil was very familiar with Cyprus, its customs, and its food, but she did not interrupt the dialogue between Karen and the restaurant owner.

“This humble place is mine. The name means Little Delicacies. It is a Cypriot word. In my country we usually serve twenty or more little dishes.”

“I’ll start with that,” Karen grinned. “I’m famished.”

“The best way to come here. Would you like for me to treat you to my best?”

“Pamper us,” said Sybil.

The Cypriot gave them a courtly bow and an infectious grin.

He and two assistants returned with great platters of food. Karen and Sybil could only laugh, they had no one but themselves to blame.

“Now, ladies, I tell you that this Cypriot food I bring is a nice mixture of Italian, Turkish, Lebanese, Syrian, Armenian, French, and British influences. Enjoy!”

The owner and waiter spread cold plates with bread, Greek salad, hard crackers and dips–one made of yogurt, cucumber, and mint, and one made of sesame and pureed chick peas. There were little dishes of creamed fish roe, cracked olives with coriander seeds, cold potatoes in oil, thinly sliced ham, snails in tomato sauce, and pickled squid and octopus.

Sybil and Karen felt like they would need to gasp for air by the time they had sampled the cold fare, and then the trio of servers brought on the hot food–Greek moussaka, tavas, pork in red wine, kebabs of grilled lamb. Before either woman could protest the servers returned with sugar drenched pastry filled with fresh curds. Sybil was afraid she would be unable to talk, and that was the purpose of her get together with Karen.

They were sipping lightly minted espresso that was strong enough to hold a spoon upright.

Sybil said, “I heard you are going to go off gallivanting again.”

“Yep. Stan and I are off to the Canaries for Carnaval.”

“Some people get all the luck.”

“I hear it’s great fun there. Maggie Best told me about one of their traditions. They have a thing called “Burial of the Sardine”. They have parades that are a mock funeral for a big stone, wood, and cardboard fish. Maggie said the whole thing’s full of eroticized sight gags. They believe in whatever that sardine is supposed to represent; so, it’s an exotic mingling of the sacred and the profane. Mick and I plan to get involved in all the hiding the sardine we can.”

Karen laughed wickedly.

“You’re naughty, Karen. I don’t know if I would feel comfortable in all of that,” Sybil said, looking ingenuous.

She was having vivid recollections of her trip to those islands off the coast of Western Sahara. She remembered the sardine tradition with particular fondness although she did not admit to Karen that she had ever been there.

“You need to loosen up a bit. All of a sudden you and Charles will be old, and all of the fun stuff will have passed you by, and you will wonder what happened to that business of living while you were so engrossed in making a name for yourself.”

Sybil said, “I know you’re right. Hopefully, next year. Oh, your mentioning fun reminded me. I’d like you to do me a little favor while you’re over there.”

“Sure. Tell me about the fun part.”

“I want to play a little joke on a guy I know.”

“I’m into jokes. What do I have to do?”

“Just mail these cards from the Canaries. Put a date on them and mail one of them every three days or so. They’re numbered.”

Sybil handed a neat package of assorted tourist post cards, all prominently emblazoned with the name of the Canary Islands. She had picked them up the previous year when she and Charles had attended a tax write-off international meeting in the Spanish Islands.

“Completely spontaneous, I see,” Karen laughed with a dubious look on her face.
Each of the cards she held was addressed to the office of Bel Geddes and Loughlin and had a typed message on the order of “wish you were here,” “Having a great time roasting myself. It’s tough work, but somebody has to do it,” “Don’t work to hard. I’ll be back in a week or so if I sober up. Go ahead without me if I don’t show.” Each card was signed “PBG” in ink.

Sybil had seen his signature initials enough times to be able to copy them well enough to fool anyone but a seasoned handwriting expert. Bel Geddes had made it easy for her by always using his initials, an affectation he had picked up from one of his senior professors in law school.

“I’m getting back at this guy. He and I have little tit for tats–all in jest. He is one up on me, and it’s my turn. He’s off to a very serious set of meetings, and I want him to have to explain to his partner and the office staff about this evidence that he has been kicking back during Carnaval in the Canary Islands instead. Will you do it for me?”

“Sure, anything for you. Anything else?”

“A small thing.”

Karen lifted her eyebrows.

“I have gone so far as to buy a round trip plane ticket in this Bel Geddes guy’s name. Why don’t you take that nice brother-in-law of yours along with you, the traveler; and he can use the ticket? I’m serious enough about this practical joke to be able to enjoy treating that handsome hunk.”

Karen shook her head and laughed.

“You’re something else, Sybil. And here I thought you were a stick-in-the-mud old doctor working yourself to death. It restores my faith in you to see that you still have some sparkle. Is that about it for this little prank?”

“That’s about it… Oh, Charles doesn’t know anything about any of this, doesn’t need to know, okay?”

“Ooh, a little mystery. You having a little playtime on the side, Sybil dear? You used to tell me everything. Out with it.”

Sybil groaned inwardly. It was all she would need to have get back to Charles, a rumor about her having an affair. It would probably blow her real activities vis-à-vis Paul Bel Geddes.

“You know me better than that, Karen. Don’t get the rumor mill started.”

“Ooh, touchy. Sorry, no offense meant.”

Karen was smiling an appeal. She was relieved to see Sybil’s responding smile.

“No, I just want to do this myself. Charles will know when it hits the fan for old PBG. Everyone in the club will know. I don’t want to release the pussy from the container too soon, so’s to speak.”

“My lip’s zipped. You can count on me to carry out the mission and to keep mum. This will put me in good with Mick’s family forever. His brother Alex is a travel bum and never has any money. They’re tired of footing the bill and will be grateful for a little help.”

Somehow, the look on Sybil’s face suggested that she already knew that.

Karen added, “Okay if I take credit?”

Sybil nodded.

“Now…how’s about some shopping?” Karen suggested, getting to the serious work of the afternoon.

Paul Bel Geddes began to wake up and to retch. He felt like a spherical hangover. His tongue was furry; his head ached; and he was having trouble moving. It was pitch dark. It occurred to him that he might have drunk some methyl alcohol or something that had blinded him. He began to panic. As the fog cleared in his head, he became aware of the restraints on his wrists and ankles. He moved his eyelids and felt the sticky constricting pressure of the duct tape and could tell that his eyes were taped shut. It was completely silent in the room…wherever the room was. He began to yell.

“Our hesteemed guest waked up,” Jose said grinning.

He, Pancho, and Marcos were finishing up their lunches.

“I’ll go and see if he’s okay,” said Marcos.

“Remember, Marcos, not a word. Don’t say nothing to that one,” reminded Pancho.

“The Patrona told us fifty times. You think I’m a viajito that I can’t remember anything?” asked Marcos, taking mock offense.

“Just remember. We got a long time to go. We got to keep alert, not make any slips.”

Pancho wanted the last word.

Marcos shrugged and left for the basement. He walked on rubber soled shoes, so he was able to step right beside the prisoner without being heard. He could have ridden a motorcycle and not been heard over the stream of shouted imprecations, threats, and curses that came from the bound man.

Marcos wanted to tell him that he could make all the noise he wanted, no one would be able to hear him, but he remembered the plan to say nothing for the full time they kept the man in the basement. He knew the plan was for self protection, but the noise was getting on his nerves. He reached out and tapped Bel Geddes on the shoulder.

Paul started in fright. He had been terrified that he had been shackled and blindfolded and left to starve. Now he was terrified that the monster who had done this thing to him was standing right beside him like a specter.

“Who are you? What’s this all about? What do you want?”

The disembodied hand no longer touched him, and there was no reply to his questions
“I gotta go,” he shouted, for fear the specter had gone or was deaf or something. “I’m dying of thirst.”

Still no sound.

Then he heard water running from a faucet into a sink. A hand lay firmly on his forehead and the rim of a cup touched his lips. His first thought was poison. He started to shake his head. Then his thirst bothered him more than his thought; so, he opened his lips enough to allow a little of the liquid in. It was water, but it tasted faintly of metal. He touched the cup with his tongue. Probably pewter. Still, it might be some sort of metallic poison. He clamped his lips and turned his head away.
“Look,” he said. “Enough is enough. Now let me out of here, and I promise that I won’t press charges. I’ll leave the cops out of it. You’ve gotten yourself into trouble, but I’m not really hurt, so I’m willing to drop the whole thing.” Paul said.

In a pig’s eye, he thought.

“Hey, you listening?”

There was not a sound. During Paul’s last speech, Marcos had ascended the stairs and returned to a cup of coffee.

“Hey, you moron!” shouted Paul.

He stopped to listen.

“You simpleton!” he screamed.

He was a man who had a serious temper but had spent a professional career controlling it and channeling it into more vindictive and less self-destructive avenues. Now he allowed himself to lose his temper completely. He scrolled down his entire list of profane and obscene expressions, imprecations and invectives, oaths and curses until he was tired.

Also, he had had no further contact with the hand, and that convinced him that no one was listening. He felt a little silly. And he was thirsty. He did not know how long he could hold out without having something to drink.

The celebration in the offices of Bel Geddes and Loughlin started at noon that same day. Paul Bel Geddes, the author of the current avalanche of money into the firm’s coffers, was late, which was not unusual.

“Where’s Paul?” Martin Loughlin asked of Bel Geddes’s secretary. “It’s not like him to be late to accept kudos.”

“Oh, yes it is,” said Petra Sloan, Martin’s secretary of seventeen years, sweetly. “You, of all people, should know that Mr. Bel Geddes operates on BGST?”

“That some sort of new computereze?” asked Horace Pilgrim Stewart, who had taken a break from his golfing retirement to attend the firm’s success.

He was puffing on a contraband Cuban Cohiba.

Petra laughed.

“Just Bel Geddes Standard Time,” she said. “And he’ll show up sometime, no doubt with a good excuse.”

“Check his collar for lipstick,” said Loughlin.

They all laughed and went back to their partying.

Sybil alighted from her cab and entered the Rent-a-Wreck office on 12th and A Street in the middle of the city. She did not get into the heart of the city often and was always surprised at how much more the center city deteriorated each time she did. Or, at least, it seemed to get worse, maybe it was only that her capacity to tolerate the dirt and squalor diminished over time.

“Yes’m, kin I help ye?” the young man with an acne studded face inquired.

He had a tattoo of Jesus hanging on a cross in the middle of his forehead.

Sybil watched his eyes as he appraised her. She imagined the wheels in his mind trying to decide if she might be a looker if she wore decent clothes, put on some makeup, and shed the old scarf. She suppressed a smile.

“I’d like to rent a car for a couple of weeks, something cheap. I understand you have that sort of thing.”

“Ye’ve come to the right place. We got wrecks and old wrecks. You’cn take yer pick.”

He gave her a vacuous gap-toothed grin.

Sybil wondered if her difficulty in understanding the young man’s speech came from the unfortunate crookedness of his teeth.

“It has to run–start when I turn on the key and stop when I put on the brakes. I don’t much care about looks except I don’t want it to be gaudy.”

“What’s Goddy?” he asked.

Sybil figured that he must think she was some sort of anti-religion intellectual.
“Too bright or showy.”

“I gotcha,” he said, the light bulb coming on over his head.

“Do you have that sort of thing?”


His dull face looked at her expectantly.

This was getting difficult. She wondered if sign language or a simple drawing would help.

“A decent used car with blah colors, nothing fancy.”


“Could I look at it?”


After their interesting chat, the two of them walked down a row of nondescript automobiles of various makes and types.

“How about this one?” Sybil asked.

It was a faded grey Ford with a dented front bumper that was otherwise serviceable looking.

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll get’ye the keys.”

He started the engine, and it sounded fine. The seats were none too clean, but she could put a blanket over them. For her limited purposes, it would do.

“Sure it will work for two weeks?” she asked.
“Yup. Garrunteed,” he said, stressing the ‘gar’ in garrunteed.

As it turned out, there was an actual guarantee–in writing. Sybil drove the vehicle away from the lot with confidence. She had written illegibly on the forms but paid cash in advance which assuaged any trepidations the young man might have had. Most of the information she had tendered had been false, but her conscience was relatively clear. The last thing in the world she intended was to steal the car.

She drove to Henri Moncrief’s cabin in the beat-up Ford. She was assiduous about avoidance of association of her own car with the roads leading to the cabin. She was equally careful to dress in bulky drab clothing that would subdue any display of her statuesque figure and to cover her well coifed blond locks with a plain scarf.

“Do you have him?” she asked Pancho as soon as she walked into the kitchen in the cabin.

He was taking his shift as the guard of the prisoner. The other two men had returned to the ranch to do the day’s chores. Pancho nodded and pointed with his thumb at the basement door.

“Is he okay?”

She was a little worried that he might have been roughed up in the kidnapping or made ill by the chloroform she had provided.

“Fine. Except he won’t eat or drink. Keeps saying we’re going to poison him.”

“No problem. I have the solution for that. I planned to feed him IV anyway. This makes it all the more necessary. I don’t want him to be able to connect any kind of food or utensil or anything to this place or to any of us. I hope nobody has talked to him.”

“No, Patrona. We have been very careful. Just like you said.”

“Good. I’ll get the stuff to put in the feeding line.”

“I have to warn you, he stinks. We didn’t let him up, and he finally did it in his clothes. Both kinds.”

“Good,” she said blandly.

It gave her a perverse pleasure to think of Paul Bel Geddes, in all his sartorial splendor, undergoing the humiliation of soiling himself.

In the basement, Paul seemed to be asleep. Sybil and Pancho padded silently up to him. She moistened a pad with chloroform. He started when he smelled the pungent aromatic anesthetic but responded to its powerful effects in seconds after the pad was applied to his face. Sybil worked swiftly to insert the long IV cannula into his antecubital vein and to thread it up his arm and over into his heart. At least she estimated that it was in his heart. She maintained strict sterile technique. When the tube was securely taped in place, she attached a total parenteral feeding mixture to the intravenous tubing and started it dripping.

She made several large needle holes in the line of the large vein in the bend of Paul’s anterior forearm that did not penetrate the vein. Pancho, who was looking on with fascination, raised his eyebrows in a silent question. Sybil pointed upwards, indicating the kitchen and later. Pancho nodded his understanding.

Sybil had Pancho help her strip the once elegant clothing from Paul, taking care not to damage them. The smell was thoroughly rank. They dumped the $1800 suit, Sea Island cotton shirt, Jacquard silk tie, and Bruno Magli shoes unceremoniously into a corner of the basement.
Once again in the kitchen, Sybil said, “The extra holes in his arm?”


“They’ll look like needle tracks like you see on all of the dopers.”

Pancho smiled in understanding and agreement with this little extra touch.

“Give him two bottles of that mixture every day. They are to run in at the rate of one and a half drops a second. Give him one bottle of this as well, every day at ten o’clock am sharp.”

She showed Pancho a 500cc glass IV bottle of USP Ethyl Alcohol.

“I have a box in my car trunk. I have the IV food, too.”

Together they brought in the load of medical supplies and the food stores for the watchers that she had purchased at several different supermarkets. When the instructions were repeated and appeared to be fully understood, Sybil bade her old friend farewell and returned to the ranch where she had just enough time to change and get to the hospital in time for her eleven o’clock case.

Paul was disoriented again. He felt nauseated and had a headache, but had no memory of what had happened to him. It took an hour for him to feel that his mind was clear, but, even then, he was unable to string together and hold thoughts with his usual sharpness. He had lost all sense of the passage of time. He had no idea how long he had been in this place.

His only sensations were of being almost naked, of being covered with his own filth, of being blindfolded, and of being shackled. There was a new sensation: his left arm was bound down on some sort of splint. He was virtually unable to move it. He ran his tongue around in his mouth and over his lips. He could not recall having had anything to drink, but he did not feel thirsty. He could not recall going to sleep, but he felt rested. It was all very confusing.

Then, a new, odd thing happened. He had heard nothing, but suddenly his bed began to move. He was being wheeled somewhere. A creaky door opened, and by the feel of it, he was being pushed up a ramp. It was quite warm, given the time of the year. He could feel the sun on his bare skin, could hear birds, insects, and the gentle rustle of wind through leaves, could smell grass and dirt, country smells. He made a mental note of the few things he could learn about his environment. Maybe it would be useful to the police when he got free. If he got free.

“Who’s there? What’s going on?” he demanded with his authoritarian voice.
He did not want to have his captors think he was cowed by them.

No one replied.

It was most disconcerting. He felt rattled.

“C’mon, what do you guys want? We can negotiate.”

Nobody negotiated.

After what seemed like about ten minutes, his shackles were undone, one at a time, and he was forced to turn over onto his abdomen. His backside was exposed to the strong rays of the sun for about ten minutes, then he was again roughly turned onto his back again and wheeled back into the building. He laid plans to break free the next time his shackles were loosed for whatever reason. He heard a slight clink of glass against metal, a completely unfamiliar sound.

“Hey, you guys. What’s going on now?”

No reply.

“I gotta go…You know. I don’t want to do it on your nice bed!”

It was the worst bed he had ever been in, but somehow, it did not seem to be the time nor the place to lodge a petty complaint. His voice was becoming shrill. He tried to control the quality of his voice that suggested that he might be begging but knew that he was only partially successful. There was no more activity, no more sound from anyone or anything but himself. It was strange, but he felt quite drunk, not really drugged, but drunk. It was a giddy, escapist feeling. He soiled himself again.

“There,” he said aloud, not knowing if there was anyone in the room with him or not. “See how you like that.”

That stank. He, for one, did not like that.

Carter Tarkington called Sybil Norcroft at her office.
“Hello, Carter,” she said after her administrative assistant told her who was on the line.
“Hello, Dr. Norcroft. Everything all right?”

“Pretty much. How about with you?”

“Can’t complain. I think we are about as ready for the deposition as we are ever going to be. I just called to confirm a date for us to meet and go over your testimony.”

“You said that you wanted me to be available for the two days before the depo. I’ve cleared my schedule for the tenth time to accommodate our nice Mr. Bel Geddes. Still think it’s a go this time?”

“So far, so good. I put in a call to Paul’s office. They said that they had not heard of any scheduling conflicts and expected that the deposition would go as scheduled. I told them that Judge Hicken planned to be in attendance and reminded the secretary that their office was going to pay for the judge’s time. The secretary sounded like the idea had sobered her, but it did not change her conviction that the depo would go on as planned.”

“Did you talk to Bel Geddes himself?” Sybil asked ingenuously.

“No, I didn’t. In keeping with his usual zany life-style, he seems to have taken a sudden fancy to go to the Canary Islands for Carnaval, of all things. The office read me a post card he wrote from there indicating that he would be back two days or maybe only one day before the depo. He told them not to worry, he was completely prepared.”

“Well, good for him,” said Sybil crossly.

“And good for us. Don’t forget the positive side, Dr. Norcroft.”

“Um-hmm,” she hummed reflectively. “We’ll see. Frankly, I doubt that we’ve seen the last antic on the part of Paul Bel Geddes.”

“One day at a time. I don’t have anything else to report. I’ll see you in the office on the 19th. Call if you have any problems or concerns.”

“Will do. See you then, Carter. Thanks for the call.”

Alex Butterfield, the nineteen year old brother-in-law of Karen Mollison, enjoyed his good fortune without questioning why anyone would be nice enough to give him a round trip ticket to the Canary Islands during Carnaval. Karen told him only that a rich friend was playing a little prank, and that he was not to ask questions. She assigned him the task of seeing to it that the numbered post cards were sent back to the states in the order of their numbers. Otherwise, she gave him no directions about how to spend his time and did not ask for any accounting. She asked him no questions, and he told her no lies. She and his brother–her husband, LaVell–put him up in the Hotel Mencey and told him they were on their second honeymoon and not to bother them. They would see him on departure day.

The Carnaval of Santa Cruz de Tennerife, held from February 7 to February 16, was the best Carnaval Alex had ever seen. He had been to Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama, the oldest in the United States, with all its parties, coronations, and mystic societies and exhausted himself watching 22 parades. He had survived the ubiquitous masked balls at the Winter Carnival in Quebec City and participated in the silly canoe race across the icy St. Lawrence River, and to Carnevale in Venice that dated back to the 15th Century. The big public bash in the Piazza San Marco with its Brazilian music had been great.
The Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, billed as the “world’s biggest party”, had been big but seemed overly commercialized. His favorite to date had been the Carnival in Port of Spain, Trinidad–steel bands, calypso dancing parties in costume, willing girls. The total package in the Canaries was the best, perhaps because it was this year’s party, and Alex had a short memory.
Gorgeous, gregarious, uninhibited, skimpily clad girls everywhere. Noise, booze, food, and music all day and all night. He must be getting old. It was almost too much. He strolled around the crowded streets half drunk, half exhausted, and with near sensory burn-out. Murgas–street bands with their Latin flavored music, and rondollas–impromptu choral groups–roamed the streets and alleys day and night. It was heaven, or close enough for Alex.

The mailbox stood immediately outside La Gabarro, his favorite restaurant. It made the mailing of the practical joke post cards convenient and jogged his memory, which needed some jogging what with the lack of sleep and largely liquid diet. Alex was in the restaurant twice a week anyway to sample from the large seafood menu; so, it was simple for him to remember his one little task.

He could eat papas arrugadas, the island specialty of unpeeled potatoes boiled in heavy salt and chipirones en mojo–grilled squid in a garlic and cilantro sauce–watch the world go by, and contemplate the profundities of life, like how good it was for him at that moment and how difficult it must be for other people, like his benefactor back home, who had to work.

After a week of absence, Paul Bel Geddes’s secretary, Amber Winters, was quietly furious at her boss. It was all well and good to live the life of the carefree bon vivant, but there was such a thing as responsibility, especially for an attorney. The call-back messages were piling up. The DPIC in-house defense firm was calling daily and insistently about the depo with the doctor from Joseph Noble Memorial. She–the doctor–had been put off Lord knows how many times in the course of this case, and the bar was not going to wink at any more phony continuances. The judge had even agreed to be in attendance at the deposition to ensure that her boss behaved himself. It was humiliating to Amber even if it didn’t seem to bother Bel Geddes that much. Somebody had to be responsible around here. The Canary Islands, indeed!

Amber could do little but fend off the most persistent of Bel Geddes’s callers. He had made no provision for this absence; the callers were becoming angrier by the day; and all Amber could do in reality was to lie. It came with the turf in that office, she grudgingly had to admit. Amber made sure that everything was set up for the deposition because Bel Geddes had told her in the first stupid postcard, one with a bare chested native girl on it, that he would be back no sooner than two days, and maybe even only one day, before what she had been led to believe was one of his key depos. The conference room was scheduled; the famous depo and trial brief case was stuffed with the chart; the pertinent letters from opposing counsel and the court, and his yellow legal pad work product, without which he was lost. The computer files were completely up to date, checked and rechecked.

Amber had called the court reporter service herself and had been insulted to have to send a facsimile of the check that they were to receive before they would agree to come. The service secretary had been outright curt, insisting that the check be handed over at the time the deposition was to begin, not after, and whether or not it actually took place. The woman from the court reporter service office would not take no or maybe for an answer.

Everything was ready. Now all the firm needed was for the Great Man himself to make his entrance.

After one week in total darkness–except for twice daily sunbathing sessions– without eating a bite of food, and in near total silence Paul Bel Geddes was thoroughly disoriented. He did not know the time, not even whether it was night or day. He could not estimate with the least assurance how much time had elapsed since he had materialized in this dreadful place. It could have been two days or ten or even a month. It seemed like a month. He had not been abused, exactly, unless you counted neglect. He smelled to high heaven. His greatest longing was for a shower, probably with a fire hose.

He had the strange sensation of becoming drunk at about the same time every day. He knew that the feeling followed a visit by one of the phantoms who came by him and did small things but who never spoke. He thought he might be able to count days by the number of times he felt drunk, but the problem was that he could not make his mind work that well.

One of the worst things about the entire ordeal was not knowing what it was about. The other worst thing was that he was finding himself looking forward to the drunkenness and was developing a craving at about the same time each day like one of Pavlov’s dogs. It seemed to him that he was getting a little more drunk each day and that it was lasting a little longer as each day passed. It was hard to bring himself to care overmuch about that or any other problem.

In the interim periods when his mind fog cleared somewhat, he tried to concentrate on his pending cases. He was going to have to depose that snotty FemmaNazi, Dr. Norcroft. If he did not show at that depo, his butt was going to be grass. Judge Hicken had told him that he had had his last continuance. No depo this time, and he would have to show cause why a summary judgment should not be rendered for the doctor.

He had put off his preparation for the depo that–for personal and philosophical reasons–was of critical importance to him. Norcroft was one enemy he had to best. He could taste sweet victory and wanted to see defeat on her face and on that of her pseudo-patrician attorney, Carter Tarkington. He would have to do his homework in order to accomplish that laudable goal, and here he was frittering away his time, the victim of some lunatic. He tried to bring up the pictures of the case files and the medical chart into his consciousness and to go over the devastating questions he was going to hurl at the ivory tower doctor, but he was only partially successful.

At times he almost wished the lunatic or lunatics would come in and start the torture sessions. It would be a break in the routine, at least. He was a physical coward; he knew that and admitted it to himself, so he did not take his momentary wishes for change that seriously. His mind wandered, and he was afraid that he would go nuts.

Sybil checked at the cabin daily, always driving her Rent-a-Wreck, always remembering to wear her country matron babushka outfit and varying the times of arrival. The day of her meeting with Carter Tarkington and Hyrum Willis to go over her testimony in the van der Hoef case was no exception although she had had to leave early.

“Any problems, Jose?” she asked.

He was the only one in the house that time of day, other than Bel Geddes in the basement.

“Nada. All routine. Looks like he’s losing a little weight. I think he looks better.”

“Let’s take a look.”

“Be warned, Patrona, it smells like an outhouse down there.”

“Nice work, Jose,” Sybil commented deadpan.

He laughed and shook his head. She was the coolest.

The two kidnappers padded silently to where Bel Geddes lay. He still had the duct tape over his eyes. It was going to be miserable when that finally came off. He seemed to sense their presence and began to shout obscenities at the darkness. They smiled at one another and otherwise ignored him.

Sybil did an inspection of her patient. Aside from being filthy–encrusted filthy–and smelling like a concentrate from ten outhouses, he looked quite good, none the worse for wear. He had developed a great all over tan with the Mexicans taking him outside to slow roast every day on a graduated schedule determined in advance by Dr. Norcroft.

When she and Jose were back upstairs and out of Bel Geddes’s earshot, Sybil asked Jose to, “give him a bottle and a half of the alcohol starting today. Get him up and make him exercise hard twice a day, run him around the yard and make him do pushups, sit-ups, and the like until he is tired. He will protest tomorrow but make him keep doing it.

“And make sure his car is in running order. Put these in the back seat.”

She handed him a small stack of Carnaval posters, ads, Tenerife menus, and travel brochures relating to Santa Cruz de Tenerife and its splendid Carnaval.

“Oh, I almost forgot, hang on a minute.”

She trotted out to her Rent-a-Wreck and picked a suitcase out of the trunk. She brought it to Jose.

“Put this in the trunk of his car, okay?”


The suitcase had several stickers from the Canaries. She opened it. Inside were assorted garish articles of beach attire. They were large sized, appropriate to the needs of Bel Geddes. The suitcase also contained a few dozen flagrantly pornographic photos including some perilously close to child porn. A copy of the round trip plane ticket and three hotel receipts rounded off the vacation collection. Jose closed it up, and after she left, did as she had asked, and dropped the case into the trunk of Bel Geddes’s sleek silver and grey Mercedes.

Amber Winters checked through the incoming mail. She spied another of the now famous postcards and set aside everything else to read it.

Dear Everybody,
All good things must come to an end. I’ll be back at the salt mines on the 22nd ready for bear. I had a great time and will come back carrying gifts for all. That will soften the renewed slave driver that I will become. Amber, will you be sure to set out all my materials for the depo on van der Hoef vs Norcroft on my desk? I’ll need it all at my fingertips because I have been a naughty boy and left everything to the last minute. It will be like law school. I’ll get in late, cram like crazy all night, and be brilliant the next day in the depo. My best to all.

Amber shook her head and laughed. This was PBG to the max. He probably would be brilliant just like he said. More than once she had seen the mercurial character leave everything to the eleventh hour and then study furiously for the few hours before he had to perform. Most of the time he was able to pull it off. She hoped this was going to be one of those times. Amber gave a sigh of relief and dialed the law offices of Schmid, Principle, Tarkington, and Henley and asked for Hyrum Willis.

“Mr. Willis, this is Amber Winters, secretary to Paul Bel Geddes. I’m calling about the van der Hoef vs Norcroft case.”

“Let me guess… his majesty has been called to advise the pope and won’t be able to attend our lowly deposition. He regrets the need for a continuation but knows that we will be interested in the greater good of humanity and will sacrifice.”

“No, Mr. Willis…”

“So who’s sick this time?”

“If you’ll give me a chance to tell you…”

“Go ahead, I’m all ears.”

“He will be there for the Norcroft depo. He sent a card assuring me. No continuation this time. We trust your principals are ready.”

“Yes, as always, and so is our client, Dr. Norcroft. Please be sure to remind Mr. Bel Geddes to bring his principles. That should not be a particularly heavy burden.”

His voice dripped with irony.

She ignored the jibe.

“Thank you, Mr. Willis. We will see you in the office in two day’s time.”

Amber detested that firm. They were forever sending complaints to the state bar about Mr. Bel Geddes like kids tattling in a school yard. She sighed and resigned herself that not all attorneys could be the complete professional her boss was.

She had already put together all the files and had filled Mr. Bel Geddes’s brief case with every conceivably pertinent paper relating to the van der Hoef case. She rechecked to be sure nothing was left in the file cabinet. The two file boxes of motions and legal maneuvers plus an extra copy of the medical chart and van der Hoef’s statements were neatly stacked along side his desk. She made a second copy of his depo notes and proposed questions and put that into the file boxes as a back up for good measure. She made sure the computer files were up to date and orderly.

She left a small instruction note to help her boss get into the van der Hoef file immediately if he needed to. The firm of Bel Geddes and Loughlin were as ready as they could be to take on the devil’s advocates from Schmid, Principle, Tarkington, and Henley. As an afterthought, she put the stack of postcards from the Canary Islands on the desktop beside his case.


At first, Paul had welcomed the significant change in routine. He had transitorily thought that his captors might be about to let him go when they unshackled his ankles and wrists from the bed. But they promptly bound his wrists together and applied a second set of shackles on his ankles, this set had a longer chain between the cuffs. Despite his great disappointment that he was evidently not to be released, Paul was thrilled at the prospects of being able to walk, even to exercise. It seemed like an eon since he had been able to get in touch with his body in a set of exercises.

At first his legs were wobbly and unsure. He worried that he would fall. He vowed to get back into some sort of healthy routine when he got out of this. He had let himself get soft. A man should keep in trim, he reminded himself. One never knew what might come up. The first day he had been taken outside to exercise twice, dressed only in his briefs.

He had hoped his kidnappers would let him have a shower after he worked up a sweat, but nothing had changed in that department. No one spoke to him, and he stayed dirty. The afternoon exercise session had been more difficult, more forced, since he was tired and achy from the first session and was now drunk, drunker than usual. He was in misery the following morning when his captors came in to force him to do their exercises.
His muscles were sore everywhere, stiff and unresponsive. He groaned at every exertion and attempt at effort. They were torturing him, mercilessly pushing him to continue to work his screaming muscles. He walked like a halting old arthritic.


There was nothing left for her to do, so Amber left the office early. Mr. Loughlin took the afternoon off for a golfing rainmaking date. The associate attorneys, paralegals, secretaries, and file and mail room clerks all took their cue and vacated the office suite before five o’clock.

Pancho and Jose entered the building at half past two a.m. the next morning, the day of the deposition, using the key Sybil had provided them. Use of the door key prevented the tripping of any alarm, and they had taken the usual precaution of wearing rubber gloves. They swiftly walked to the bank of elevators, pushed the up button, and in less than two minutes they were standing in front of the office suites of Bel Geddes and Loughlin on the eighth floor.

The two men looked around swiftly and furtively, then Pancho used the office key and let the two of them in. He looked for a key punch alarm and saw none. They looked at one another for confirmation then moved into the lighted hallway and walked with the assurance of familiarity to Bel Geddes’s office. Pancho fumbled with the keys for a moment, found the right one, and they were inside. Bel Geddes’s inner office door was ajar. Pancho and Jose halted to be sure the brief case was as full as before. He saw the two file boxes on the floor, read the caption on them, and knew that they related to his Patrona’s case.

Jose returned.

Pancho whispered.

“We take these. You find two more just like these and bring them to me.”
Jose looked at him a moment.

“Please,” Pancho added.

Jose grinned, his large white teeth gleaming in the ambient light.

While Jose was gone, Pancho found the note left by Amber Winters to Mr. Bel Geddes. It told about where in the computer to find the van der Hoef vs Norcroft file and how to do it most quickly. Pancho was adept with computers, this one was IBM compatible like the ones he used to keep the ranch records. He did a few key punches as directed by Amber’s note and shortly was looking at the complete file relating to Sybil Norcroft.

He thought for a moment then highlighted the entire file and pressed delete. The printing disappeared. In its place came up another file, another case against a physician. For spite, Pancho deleted that one as well. Jose returned and watched as his compadre scrolled through a dozen files and got rid of them.

“So amigo, what did you come up with?” asked Pancho after shutting down the computer.

“A couple of empty boxes, like thee ones we are taking.”

“Ah,” Pancho murmured. “Bueno. We’ll put some junk in them and leave those boxes sitting here as a little surprise.”

“In a series of surprises,” laughed Jose.

He was getting to enjoy this spy stuff. He could envision how the tormentor of his Patrona was going to react, and it gave him pleasure. The evil abogado deserved everything he was going to suffer.

“Si,” said Pancho. “Now let’s get to work before some cleaning lady or night watchman pops in here.”

They swiftly transferred files at random from the steel filing cabinet and into the new grey file boxes. They were careful not to take too many from any one file drawer to lessen the likelihood of immediate detection of their handiwork.

Pancho rummaged around in the desk drawers until he found a Magic Marker. He carefully wrote van der Hoef, plaintiff vs Joseph Noble Memorial Hospital and Sybil Norcroft, defendants as exactly as he could to correspond to the captioning on the older boxes. The entire process took ten minutes from the time Jose had entered the room with the new boxes.

They made a quick inspection of the room to assure themselves that they were leaving nothing incriminating, then each man picked up a file box, Pancho hefted the brief case, and they slipped out of the office, down the elevator, and exited the building.

The night security guard arrived in his company’s car ten minutes later. He covered four buildings for a cooperative of owners who had united to save some of the escalating costs of security. He methodically checked every office door in the building over the next hour and a half. Finding them all secure, he called it a night and reported back to central that all was quiet, as usual. It was one of those deadening jobs where nothing ever happened.

I chose to use a pseudonym for personal reasons. I’m a retired neurosurgeon living in a rural paradise and am at rest from the turbulent life of my profession. I lived in an era when resident trainees worked 120 hours a week–a form of bondage no longer permitted by law. I served as a Navy Seabee general surgeon during the unpleasantness in Viet Nam, and spent the remainder of my ten-year service as a neurosurgeon in a major naval regional medical center. I’ve lived in every section of the country, saw all the inhumanity of man to man, practiced in private settings large and small, the military, academia, and as a medical humanitarian in the Third World.