Doctors Simon And Simon
Doctors Simon and Simon is dedicated to my friend, and former S&S publishing partner, Anne. Doctors Simon and Simon is Anne’s favorite story amongst all that I wrote. In part, because she was an obstetrical nurse by profession, and in part because her favorite type of Simon and Simon fan fiction stories are those that are similar to the television episodes – a little drama, a little comedy, and a dose of brotherly love.
Most of the circumstances portrayed in this story happened during Anne’s long career as a labor and delivery nurse, including the man who was dividing his time visiting the rooms of his two pregnant girlfriends.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
A.J. entered the Simon and Simon office shortly after noon on Monday, the smell of Big Macs and French fries wafting through the McDonald’s bag he carried. The blond used the heel of his right dress shoe to nudge the door closed.
Rick’s voice filled the room. He was so engrossed in his telephone conversation that he didn't look up as A.J. unloaded half of the food on his desk.
A.J. walked to his own desk and removed the remaining Big Mac and fries. He tossed the bag into the garbage can, then opened the mini-refrigerator and pulled out a Coke. He caught Rick's attention as he held up another can of Coke and a can of Mountain Dew.
Rick pointed at the Mountain Dew as wrote something on a piece of paper.
"Okay, yeah. I turn right at the intersection, and the hospital will be on my left a block past that. I’ve got it.
“Yeah, we'll be there at two o'clock.
“Okay, thank you, Doctor Aaronson.
“Yeah, you, too. We'll see you tomorrow afternoon. Bye."
"What was that about?" A.J. handed Rick’s the Mountain Dew as the detective hung up the phone. "Who's Doctor Aaronson?"
"Well...Mom and I were gonna keep this a secret from ya,’ but since you caught me, I guess I'll have to tell you. Kid, we've had you committed. Doctor Aaronson’ll be charge of your care at your...uh...new home. Now, it's a real nice place, so don't get upset. After all, only the best for you, little brother."
A.J. shot his sibling a long-suffering look as he sat down behind his desk. “Okay, you’ve had your fun. Now out with it. Who is Doctor Aaronson?”
“The administrator at Mercy Hospital up in L.A."
A.J. took a bite of his Big Mac, chewed, and swallowed before asking, "What's a hospital administrator from up in L.A. want with us?"
“Wants to see us about a job of some kind. He didn't wanna go into detail over the phone, so that's about all I know. He wants us to meet him at the hospital at two o'clock tomorrow afternoon."
A.J. glanced at the small calendar on the corner of his desk. "That’s fine. We don't have anything going on tomorrow. "
"I didn't think so."
"Did Aaronson give you any clue as to what this is about?"
"Nope. He was pretty secretive. But he did mention that he’s willin’ to pay us two hundred dollars more a day than we usually get if he decides to hire us. Plus, the hospital will pick up our hotel tab for however long we have to stay up there."
"Now that's the kind of job I like to see come our way.” A.J. took a swig of his Coke, then asked, “How’d he get our names? L.A.'s kind of far for our reputation to reach."
"He’s a friend of Bob Barton’s. Aaronson called Bob to see if he could give him some names and phone numbers of San Diego P.I.'s from the yellow pages. Bob told Aaronson he could do better than that - he could give him the names of two San Diego P.I.'s he's known for years."
A.J. smiled. "I knew having our family doctor as a family friend would come in handy some day."
“Seems to have. Bob gave us a good recommendation. Whatever’s goin’ on up there, Aaronson wants to keep it quiet. He doesn't wanna run the risk of hiring a P.I. from L.A. in case someone in the hospital recognizes the guy.”
“From what little we know at this point, it sounds like a good opportunity.”
“Yeah, it does. I could use the extra money right about now."
"You can always use the extra money."
"That's true. And because of that, I want us to make a good impression on Aaronson. Since he’s the hospital’s administrator, he must be a pretty important guy. ‘Cause of that, I want you to dress up tomorrow, A.J."
A.J. eyed his brother's attire of faded blue jeans, khaki work shirt, military jacket, and cowboy hat. Rick’s choice of clothing was, as usual, in sharp contrast to what A.J. was wearing - navy blue dress slacks, a gray tweed sports coat, a pale blue dress shirt, and a navy tie. He arched an eyebrow.
"What did you have in mind, Mr. Blackwell? A tuxedo?"
“No, no, that's too fancy. Just something plain, yet professional. Business-like. Your black suit will do. Black will impress a guy like this."
A.J. didn’t attempt to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. "Will my maroon tie be all right with my black suit, or do you have something else in mind?"
"Well...now...your maroon tie would have been a good choice, but...I...uh...I kinda borrowed it last week when I took Patty to that fancy restaurant you recommended. She really liked it, too, A.J."
"My tie? Or the restaurant?"
"Both, actually. But she really thought the tie looked
good on me, so I was thinkin' that maybe I'd wear it tomorrow. I mean, it's not like you don't have a lot of other ties to choose from, and I've only got two or three, and none as nice as that maroon one of yours, and--"
"Okay, Okay, stop. Your rambling is giving me a headache. Wear the tie. I'll choose another one."
"Just make sure whatever you pick out is professional looking. Something plain would be good, I think. Don't wear any with a busy pattern."
"Yeah, you know, the ones with the little geometric designs, or stripes, or whatever."
“I’ll keep that in mind, Mr. Fashion," A.J. said as he put an end to the conversation and finished his lunch.
The Simon brothers entered the massive Los Angeles hospital at twenty minutes before two o'clock the next afternoon. A.J. couldn't recall the last time his brother had been so anxious about an impending case. Rick had made sure they left San Diego an hour before they needed to, so they wouldn’t be even thirty seconds late for their appointment. A.J. wasn't naive enough to think this was a new side to his brother that he would be seeing from now on. The bottom line in this situation was, when money talked, Rick Simon listened. Especially when someone was offering to pay them more than their normal fee.
The detectives stopped at the receptionist’s desk in the lobby. Within seconds, they had directions to Doctor Aaronson’s office. They took the elevator up to the fifth floor, and stepped into a long corridor filled with clerical offices. The sound of file cabinet drawers opening and closing, and fingers keeping up steady rhythms on keyboards, drifted out to the brothers. They walked to the large office at the end of the hallway and entered through the open door. Doctor Aaronson’s secretary looked up from a file she was making notes in.
“May I help you, gentleman?”
“Yeah,” Rick said. “We’re here to see Doctor Aaronson.”
“And you are?”
“Rick and A.J. Simon of Simon and Simon Investigations. The doctor is expectin’ us.”
“Yes,” the woman acknowledged. She indicated to the couch that hugged the opposite wall. “Please have a seat. Doctor Aaronson will be with you shortly.”
As the brothers sat side by side on the sofa in the outer office, A.J. looked from himself to his sibling. By nothing other than chance, their black suits were identical from shade, to the cut of their jackets, right down to the cuffs at the bottom of their pant legs.
A.J. kept his voice low so the secretary wouldn’t overhear him.
"Rick, we look like undertakers dressed like this."
"No, we don't," Rick insisted. "We look professional.
Business-like. I don't understand what you're gripin' about anyway. You're always sayin' I don't dress up enough when we meet a client for the first time. Now that I am dressed up, all you can do is complain. Geez, A.J., there's just no pleasing you."
"That's not true! It's just that dressed like this we look more like Simon and Simon Mortuary, than we look like Simon and Simon Investigations."
"We do not. We look good. I can tell ‘cause that secretary keeps winking at me, and she's been givin’ you the eye."
A.J. glanced at the woman to see she was engrossed in her work, and didn’t appear to be the least bit interested in him or his sibling. As Rick leaned forward to pick up a magazine from the coffee table, he whispered, "Quit tryin’ to get Aaronson’s secretary to notice you. And your tie's crooked. Fix it."
A.J. lifted a hand to his gray tie, then dropped it in when he realized he had played right into Rick's little traps. He whispered, "Oh, shut up," as he, too, picked up a magazine and began reading.
Rick and A.J. looked up when two women and a man exited the administrator's office a few minutes later. The phone on the secretary’s desk rang. She had a brief conversation with her boss, then told the detectives that Doctor Aaronson would see them.
Despite all his mumblings regarding their attire, A.J. couldn't help but smile as he followed Rick into the office. The oldest Simon straightened his already straight tie for the tenth time, and pulled down on the hem of his suit coat in an effort to get rid of non-existent wrinkles.
A.J. choked back a laugh when Doctor Aaronson met them at the door. The man looked like he’d just come from the golf course. He was dressed in khaki trousers, a red polo shirt, and a khaki cardigan sweater. Rick's normal attire would have been fine for this meeting.
Rick must have been able to read his brother's mind, because he shot A.J. a look that warned, Don't even think about bringin’ this up later.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen. I'm Ken Aaronson."
Rick shook the hand extended to him. "Nice to meet you, Doctor Aaronson. I'm Rick Simon.” Rick jerked a thumb toward his sibling. “This is my brother, A. J."
A.J. and the doctor shook hands while exchanging pleasantries, then the man indicated to the chairs in front of his desk.
"Please, sit down.” Aaronson shut the door. “May I get either of you anything? Coffee, or a soft drink?"
"No, nothin’ for me, thanks."
"No, thank you."
Rick’s eyes flicked about the room. It was a typical executive’s office, from the oak paneling on the walls, to the bookshelves, to the filing cabinet on Rick’s right, and the massive oak desk in front of him that held family photographs in one corner.
The doctor himself looked like a typical executive, too, minus the black suit, of course. Rick estimated Aaronson to be in his late fifties. He was six feet tall and lean, though had a bit of a paunch hidden beneath his sweater. His hair was cut close to his head, and gray throughout, which made his blue eyes more striking.
The doctor circled the two men, stopping behind his desk and staring at their faces. A.J. and Rick traded glances.
What’s with this guy?
Just when the detectives were growing uncomfortable with the scrutiny, Aaronson smiled.
"I think this might work."
When no other words were forthcoming, A.J. asked, "Excuse me, sir, but just what might work? Rick and I are in the dark regarding what it is you’d like us to do."
"Oh, yes, I'm sorry. I guess I do owe you an explanation, Mr. Simon."
"Call me, A.J., please. If you try to carry on this conversation by referring to both my brother and me as Mr. Simon, all three of us will only end up confused."
The doctor chuckled, then said, "Yes, I can see where that could be a problem, A.J." The administrator looked from Rick to A.J. once again. “You two certainly don't look much like brothers, do you?"
Rick grinned. "No, and our mom's pretty happy about that fact."
A.J. resisted the urge to ask, “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” He focused on Aaronson once again as the man said, “Well, Rick, I'm pretty happy about that fact, too."
“Pardon me?” A.J. questioned.
“Huh?” Rick asked.
"By the looks on your faces, I can see I’d better explain what I mean by that, and what I'd like to hire you for." The doctor sat down n his high-backed black leather chair. "As I told you on the phone, Rick, I felt I had to go outside of the Los Angeles area to hire a private detective for this...situation. This is a large hospital. We employ over two thousand people. I run too much of a risk that someone on the staff will recognize any detective I hire from this area. To complicate matters further, I need two detectives. I called Bob on a whim. I was surprised, and pleased, when he was able to give me your names. He spoke highly of both of you. I also dug further and received several glowing references regarding Simon and Simon Investigations."
A.J. hid his relief upon hearing those words. Some of his and Rick's past exploits would not prompt all of their clients to give glowing references. Thank God the man had made contact with the right people.
"I need the two of you to work on the same floor. You'll be in close contact with one another, so my only concern when Bob mentioned you were brothers, was that there would be a strong family resemblance. I wasn't sure we could pull this off if you looked enough alike for people to become suspicious. That's why I made that somewhat...off the wall comment earlier. I was relieved that I couldn't detect any strong resemblance between you."
Except for our suits, A. J. thought.
"I've always been relieved there isn't a strong resemblance either," Rick said with a grin. "It's like A.J. and I always tell people - same parents, different moods."
"Very different moods," A.J. added dryly.
The doctor chuckled. "Well, genes are funny things.
They combine in many different ways."
"They sure do," A.J. agreed, as he glared at his older
Rick decided it was time to let this subject drop in favor of discovering more about the potential job.
"Just what floor do you want us to work on?
"The Labor and Delivery floor."
Labor and Delivery. You gentlemen may have read articles in the newspaper pertaining to the ever increasing costs doctors face when establishing their own practices."
Rick and A.J. nodded as the man continued.
"Those articles don’t exaggerate. It's reaching a point that
cost-wise, it's financially draining for a young man or woman to set up his or her own practice in obstetrics. That's the area that is traditionally hit by the highest amount of malpractice suits. Because of this reason, there is a growing shortage of obstetricians in some parts of the country. That's why what's happening on my Labor floor has me mad as hell."
"What exactly is happening?" A.J. asked.
"Someone is stealing patient information. Whoever is doing this, is able to find out the medical history of any patient they choose – the patient’s doctor, how long she was here for, if there was any complications with the birth, things of that nature. From there, this person has been able to file falsified Medicare claims. So far, a total of fifty thousand dollars has been paid into bank accounts that have been opened with false I.D., and then closed immediately after the Medicare funds are withdrawn.”
Rick whistled at that dollar figure. "How long has this been goin’ on?"
“A year, we think. However, it first came to light just three weeks ago when an auditor from Medicare came to see me. He was here four days examining our records. We’ve reached a point where we know what’s happened, but not how it’s taken place, nor do we know who the instigator is.”
"So as of right now, you don't know if this person is workin’ alone, or with an accomplice.”
“That’s correct, Rick. We don’t know that.”
“And you have no thoughts as to who might be behind this?” A.J. asked.
“No, I don’t.”
"We need to have a starting point,” Rick said. “We obviously can't observe two thousand employees. Can you give us a list of possible suspects? People you think are most likely to be your thief?"
The doctor sighed as he leaned back in his chair. "I can give you names, but not suspects. The reason I say that is because it could be almost anybody with access to the records of our obstetrical patients.”
The Simon brothers exchanged glances. Those few sentences had just made their job more difficult.
"Exactly what type of staff members are we talkin’ about then?"
"Well, it could be a nurse, a physician, an anesthesiologist, a lab technician, a records clerk, or even a secretary."
Rick arched an eyebrow. "That narrows it down."
"I know, I know, it's not a pretty picture," the doctor admitted.
“When you say access to patient records,” A.J. asked, “do you mean paper copies, or access via computer?”
“I suspect via computer, though I’m not one hundred percent certain.”
“What makes you suspicious someone is accessing the records usin’ a computer?”
“It would be less cumbersome and time consuming for one thing.”
“How so?” A.J. asked.
“A person would be taking a large risk of getting caught when it comes to gaining access to our records room, rifling through patient files, and making copies.”
“Is your records room locked?” Rick asked.
“So what about access to patient records on the computers?”
“That would be a lot easier for any authorized personnel.”
“Don’t tell me, let me guess. Any authorized personnel could be a nurse, a doctor, an anesthesiologist, a lab technician, a records clerk, or a secretary.”
“I’m afraid so, Rick, though I have my doubts that it's an obstetrician, simply because those doctors aren't on the floor using the computers with the frequency the other personnel I mentioned would be. But I could be wrong. Or it could be someone who is working with an obstetrician and splitting the money, or even working with a past patient, I suppose."
A.J. spoke up. “I’m a little confused by what you meant when you said you were angry over what’s happening on your Labor floor. That sounds to me as though you’re certain this is where the crime was perpetrated.”
“I can’t say I know it for certain, but I suspect that’s the case.”
“Because the computers on that floor are used frequently for updating patient information. Therefore, someone working at one of those computers wouldn’t necessarily draw the suspicions of those around him or her. In addition to that, those computers contain the only program we have for updating information on Labor and Delivery patients.”
“So in other words,” Rick said, “someone on the kids’ ward--”
“Pediatrics,” the doctor supplied.
“Yeah. Someone working at a computer on that floor, can’t access information for patients on your Labor floor?”
“Right. Just like someone sitting at a computer on the Labor and Delivery floor, can’t access the records of our pediatric patients.”
“That narrows the possibilities down somewhat,” A.J. said.
Hope lit the doctor’s eyes. “Does it?”
“Yes. Provided the person is using a computer at all, rather than breaking into your records room in the dead of night.”
“Do you think that could be happening? Someone would actually take that kind of a risk?”
“Doctor, one thing my brother and I have learned through the years, is that people will take a lot of risks where money is involved.”
“Yes, I suppose that is an ugly fact of life, isn’t it.”
“Seems to be,” Rick said.
“Someone committing Medicare fraud based on information he or she has gained from this hospital concerns me enough,” the administrator confessed, “but what concerns me even more, is that this could be taken to another level.”
“What’s that?” A.J. asked.
“Insurance fraud. Falsified malpractice claims aren’t unheard of in the medical community. I’m afraid that if my...thief has gone this far, he or she will go even farther given the opportunity to do so.”
Rick nodded. “It’s a possibility.”
“As I said, it’s bad enough that young doctors are turning away from obstetrics because of the costs involved. What makes it even worse, is when someone in the field perpetrates a crime like this.”
“I understand how you feel,” A.J. said. "So, based on what you’ve told us, more than likely whoever is filing these false claims does work, however briefly, on your Labor and Delivery floor. No one from Pediatrics, for example, would go to the Labor floor to use a computer there, would they?"
"No. No, they'd have no reason to. Each floor has their own computers and printers.”
“Do you use a password system for computer access?” Rick asked.
“We haven’t been, but we certainly will be now.”
“Not now,” A.J. advised. “Don’t put any changes in place until after Rick and I have a chance to see what’s going on. Making a change could cause your thief to bolt.”
“All right,” the doctor agreed.
“Please get us a list of all personnel who would have access to the computers on your labor floor. Even the physicians whom you say aren't there long enough to use them. Rick and I know from experience that sometimes the last place you look, is where you should have started."
Aaronson nodded. "I'll provide you with that list before you leave here today."
"What other personnel would commonly be seen on this floor?" Rick questioned, as he finally gave in and loosened the tie that had been driving him nuts all afternoon.
At the administrator's puzzled look, Rick elaborated. "A.J. and I will need to go undercover. And since we don't qualify as pregnant women by a long shot, we'll have to come up with something else. We need to be able to access the computers whenever we want to, and we'll need some freedom to come and go as we please." Rick paused in thought, then suggested, "How about janitors, or orderlies, or something like that?"
"You'd have freedom to come and go in those roles, Rick, but you'd have no reason to be near the computers."
"Actually, I've given this a lot of thought, gentlemen, and after talking at length with the members of the hospital board, I'm hopeful we can pull this off."
"Pull what off?" A.J. questioned.
The administrator looked from one brother to the other. “Rick, I want you to pose as an anesthesiologist. And you, A.J., as an obstetrician."
Rick grinned, while A.J. exclaimed, "What!"
After he was able to bring his voice down to it’s normal octave, A.J. informed the man, "Doctor, if you think you have the potential for malpractice claims now, you haven't seen anything yet. Rick and I know nothing about delivering babies. We're not doctors! I never even got my merit badge for First Aid in Boy Scouts because I hate the sight of blood. The Scoutmaster gave up on me after I passed out for the third time, and the blood wasn't even real."
"Believe me, A.J., you and Rick won't be delivering any babies. All three of us would be in hot water if that happens. Rick will be posing as an anesthesiologist who is here doing research pertaining to a multi-centered study on the motor-sensory anesthetic advantages of Ropivicaine verses Bupivicaine."
"I hope I don't have to explain that to anyone,” Rick said. “On second thought, I hope I don't have to say that to anyone. I can’t even pronounce it, not to mention that I have no idea what it means.”
The doctor smiled. "I'll help you with your pronunciation just in case anyone asks, Rick. But no, you won't have to explain it. Any medical person would know what it means."
“In that role you'll have all the reason you need to sit at a computer, or to get up and leave the area if your investigation warrants it.”
Rick nodded his agreement to this suggestion. The administrator had questioned him on the phone as to how knowledgeable he and A.J. were concerning computers. Rick had been able to assure the man that both he and his brother were skilled in this area. They’d had a computer at the Simon and Simon office for two years, and though Rick had balked about the idea at first, he and A.J. had also taken numerous computer courses at a junior college since buying the instrument. Considering what the administrator was willing to pay for this job, Rick decided the night classes he had been forced to take were finally going to payoff.
Interrupting his brother's thoughts, A.J. asked, "And...uh...where does that leave me?"
"Well, A. J., how does Doctor Simon sound to you?"
"Oh, no," A.J. groaned.
"Gee, that'll be great, A.J. Mom always did want you to be a doctor."
"Mom wanted me to be a lawyer, Rick."
Rick shrugged, "Lawyer, doctor, whatever. They both make a lot of money."
“A.J., you're going to be labeled as an observer here from a small, rural hospital in Franksville, Oregon. I have a vacation home there. It's a town of about five thousand people right on the Pacific coast. It does have a small hospital that serves the area. No one will question you about this, as I've brought young doctors from there in the past for a few weeks of training and observation. One of my closest friends is the administrator at Franksville Community Hospital. We work together to coordinate this training program. He believes it’s beneficial for the interns to see what the fast paced environment of a big city hospital is like."
"You just said this training was for young doctors,” A.J. pointed out. “How young are these doctors you're talking about?"
"Oh, usually around twenty-seven or twenty-eight. Why?"
A.J. smiled, thinking that what he was about to reveal would be his ticket to freedom, or at least to a job as a janitor.
"You don't look it. You could easily pass as being in your early thirties. Regardless, it doesn't make that much difference. If someone questions you about your age, you can say you went to college later than most people do, or that you were in a different career, then decided to go back to school and pursue medicine. These days anything goes, believe me. Not that long ago we had a female intern who was fifty-four. She had raised her family and then had gone to college for the first time at the age of forty-two."
"Oh," was all A.J. said, as the full impact of being Doctor Simon sunk in.
Aaronson detected the man’s concern. "Don't worry, A.J. I'll make it clear to the staff prior to your arrival that you're not here to assist with deliveries or medical procedures, but just here to observe the workings of a city hospital. That should allow you freedom to get to know the other staff members, overhear their conversations, and just generally be in places that a staff doctor normally isn't."
A.J. reluctantly nodded, praying that this man knew what he was talking about.
Doctor Aaronson rose from his chair and crossed to his bookshelves. "Are either of you fathers?"
Rick grinned. "Not that we're aware of."
"Rick..." A.J. hissed.
The doctor returned to his desk carrying two large books. "Then I don't suppose either one of you has ever been present at the delivery of a baby."
"Now, wait a minute," A. J. protested, as he leaned forward and took the books the man handed him. "You just got through saying we wouldn't have to worry about that."
"That part you won't," the doctor reassured. "But it will be to your benefits to read those books. Throughout the course of a day, you both may encounter many unfamiliar medical terms. You'll have to bluff your way through those encounters, and I would assume those bluffs will come easier with knowledge. A.J., you especially, may run into instances where some elementary medical knowledge is necessary."
A.J. nodded in agreement. This wouldn’t be the first time that he and Rick had done research to prepare for an undercover role. The blond man looked down now at the two massive volumes that lay in his lap. One was labeled William's Obstetrics, and the other was titled Gabbe's Medical Complications of Pregnancy.
Rick looked down at the books as well, then smiled. "Don't worry, Doctor Aaronson, A.J. will get through those books in no time. He loves to read. He'll probably even be back here asking you for more when he finishes these."
A.J. gave his brother a withering look as the doctor shared a grin with Rick, already recognizing the Simon brothers’ humor.
"There's plenty more where those came from if you're interested, A.J.," the man offered.
The overwhelmed A.J. assured, "I'll let you know if I am."
"When do you want us to start?" Rick asked.
"As soon as possible. In an attempt to avoid anyone associating the two of you with one another, I'd like you to start two or three days ahead of A.J., Rick. It’s important that you act as though you've never met."
“Don't worry, Doctor Aaronson,” A.J. said, “we do this type of thing all the time."
"Yes, I'm sure you do. I'm sorry, I don't mean to sound like I'm telling you how to do your jobs. I'll leave the detective work to you. Now, would it be possible for Rick to start on Monday of next week, and you on Wednesday, A.J.?"
A.J. mentally reviewed his desk calendar. "I think that's possible. I'll try and rearrange the things we have scheduled for the latter part of next week. How about if I call you to let you know for sure?"
"That’s fine. How long do you think a case like this will take?"
Rick shrugged. "It's hard to say. It could take as little as three or four days, or as long as three or four weeks. "
Again, the administrator nodded his agreement. "If you can do it in three weeks time, the board of directors has authorized me to give you a five thousand dollar bonus."
A.J. saw Rick's eyes light up. Before Rick could answer the man by saying, “You’ve got yourself a deal, Doc,” A.J. promised, "We'll do our best, Doctor."
“I'll instruct my secretary to make reservations at the Stafford Inn. It's two blocks north of here. We usually book a suite there for any visiting doctors, so I'll do the same for you. Will that be all right?"
Considering the detectives had slept in Rick’s truck on more than one occasion while working a case, a suite was far grander than what they were used to...and grander than what they needed. A.J. contemplated telling Doctor Aaronson this, but the look on Rick’s face indicated to the blond he’d better not do anything other than agree to the administrator’s proposal.
This case will have Rick acting like a kid in a candy store before it’s over. Between the suite and the bonus money, he’s going to drive me nuts until we get it solved.
"Certainly. That will be fine."
Rick had one last question as the brothers stood to leave. "What members of your staff will know who A.J. and I really are?"
"Just myself, the board members, and my secretary. But all of these people I'd trust with my life, Rick."
Rick nodded. "That's good enough for us then."
The brothers waited another fifteen minutes while the administrator printed out a list of all personnel attached to the Labor and Delivery floor. The detectives stood shoulder-to-shoulder scanning the list, then A.J. folded it and put it in a pocket of his suit coat.
“Would it be helpful if I provide you with copies of the false claims that were filed, too?” the doctor asked.
“Yeah,” Rick said, “it would be. You don’t have to get those now, though. You can give them to me on my first day here.”
“I’ll have them ready for you.”
Doctor Aaronson walked the detectives to the door. He held out his right hand to Rick, and then to A.J.
“Gentlemen, thank you. I’ll talk to you later in the week?”
“Yes,” A.J. promised. “I’ll call you on Friday to finalize what we’ve discussed.”
With a final goodbye to the administrator, the brothers exited the office, walked through the outer office, said goodbye to Aaronson’s secretary, and headed for the bank of elevators at the other end of the long corridor.
An hour into the return drive, Rick glanced at his brother.
"You wanna stop and eat somewhere when we get to San Diego? It's almost five now, and with this traffic it’ll be at least six-thirty before we get home."
A.J. answered with a preoccupied, "Yeah, that sounds fine." The blond man had handed Rick the keys to the Camaro back in the hospital parking lot. He wanted to take advantage of the long drive home in rush hour traffic to begin reading one of the medical textbooks the administrator had given him.
"Where do you wanna go?"
A.J. looked up from his book and shrugged. "Wherever. You pick. I don't care. I'm not that hungry anyway."
Rick took in A.J.’s pale features. "Are you feelin' okay? You don't look so good all of a sudden."
A.J. glanced back down at the open book in his lap, Gabbe's Medical Complications of Pregnancy, and studied the graphic picture of a woman in distress during a difficult delivery. He shut the book after a moment and said, “Yeah...yeah, I'm fine."
A.J. eyed the traffic outside of the car, then admitted, "Rick, I don't know about this job. I mean, just from what little I've read there's a lot that could go wrong. There are a lot of things I'll never be able to learn or completely understand in just one week's time. I don't know anything about medicine other than the elementary stuff most of us have knowledge of.”
Rick glanced from the freeway to his brother. "A.J., don't worry about it. This is gonna be a piece of cake."
"Oh, like you'd know. You don't know any more about babies, and hospitals, and doctors, than I do."
"Well, I do know a little about birthin' babies, and from what I've seen, it looks fairly simple."
"And where exactly did you acquire this vast knowledge, Doctor Spock?"
"In Nam. One time my platoon came upon this woman - well actually, she was more of a girl really, a tiny little thing of only seventeen or eighteen, I'd guess. Anyway, she was layin' out in the jungle, right in the middle of the war, tryin' to deliver her baby all by herself. There was a medic with us who helped her. He had me hold her hand and coach her, I guess you'd say. I doubt if she understood a single word I said, but it seemed to help her just to have someone's hand to hold on to. Basically, she just had to take some real deep breaths and push. Before too long the baby slid right out."
A.J. absorbed all these words amidst the blaring of car horns. "So, it was that easy, huh?"
Pleased with himself and the way he had calmed his brother's fears, Rick smiled and assured, "Yep, it was that easy. "
"And just how much of this birth did you actually witness, Rick?"
Rick turned his attention back to the road as he stammered, "Well...it was dark out and I...I kinda kept my eyes on her face ‘cause I was talkin' to her and all, but--"
"But you didn't actually see any of it, did you?"
"Well...not really," Rick admitted. "But that's not the point."
"Oh, so what is the point?"
"The point is that I was there and everything went fine. Real smooth. A piece of cake, like I already told you." Rick caught the look of skepticism on his younger brother's face. "Look, A.J., you worry too much, that's all. You're borrowin' trouble again. Doctor Aaronson already promised us we wouldn’t be anywhere near a delivery room. And as far as I'm concerned, you can forget about all that medical mumbo
jumbo." Rick waved a hand at the books in A.J.'s lap. "You'll be able to bluff your way out of anything. We've always been good at that."
"Look at the bright side, little brother, despite the fact that we don't know too much about bein' doctors, this is a dream job."
"What makes you say that?"
"That list Aaronson gave us? The one of the personnel on the Labor and Delivery floor?"
"A.J., there's five women for every man on that floor. And most of those men are doctors who are hardly ever on the floor. I'm tellin' you, little brother, we have finally arrived in paradise."
"Paradise, huh? I can hardly contain my excitement. Rick Simon's version of paradise awaits me."
Rick ignored A. J. 's sarcasm. "Yep, it sure does. Besides the women, this job pays great, provides great housing, and that bonus is just hangin' out there, waiting for us to pocket it."
"If we can crack this case in less than three weeks," A.J. reminded.
"We can do it. No doubt about it. No problem. "
"How come every time you say ‘no problem,’ ‘don't worry about it,’ and ‘it'll be a piece of cake,’ my headache gets worse?"
“ ‘Cause like I already told you, you worry too much. Look at it this way, it'll be like a vacation. We'll have a chance to get away for a couple of weeks and stay in a suite."
"I like to sleep in my own bed just fine, unlike some people I know."
"You'd complain if someone handed you a million dollars, you know that? A.J., this is gonna be great. Remember when we stayed at that Stafford Inn in Sacramento for the Berman case last year? It had that indoor rec room with the swimming pool, sauna, whirlpool, weight room - the whole nine yards. You loved it. I could hardly get you out of there. You were the one who said you'd like to stay at one of those places for about a week."
"Yeah, I guess."
"And now we're gonna to get to stay at one for a couple of weeks, in a suite, and someone else is pickin' up the tab."
The look of uncertainty was still on A.J.'s face as Rick was finally able to exit the crowded freeway and open up his speed on a less traveled two-lane highway. The last thing he said before he turned his attention back to his driving was, "I’m telling ya,’ A.J., quit your worryin.’ After all, what could possibly go wrong?"
A.J. chose not to answer that question as he opened Gabbe’s Medical Complications in Pregnancy.
Oh right, Rick, the blond thought as he started reading a chapter devoted to fetal distress, what could possibly go wrong? Allow me to give you a list.
But Rick wasn’t interested in any lists about things that might go wrong while they were working on their new case. Instead, he was interested in filling his stomach. He swung the Carmaro into a restaurant parking lot, made A.J. leave the medical texts in the vehicle, and ushered his brother toward the building.
On Thursday evening, the Simon brothers ate dinner at their mother’s home as they did every Thursday if a case didn’t prevent them from arriving. As they ate, Rick and A.J. took turns explaining the job they’d been hired to do at Mercy Hospital.
"You're going to what?" Cecilia exclaimed. "I can't recall the last time I saw either of you hold a baby, much less deliver one."
Showing more confidence on the outside than he was feeling within, A.J. tried to reassure his mother.
"Mom, don't worry, we'll do fine. Doctor Aaronson gave us two medical books on births and we've been reading those. Well, at least I've been reading them. Rick looked at the pictures. Besides, we aren't really going to deliver any babies, we just have to pretend we're doctors."
"Oh, that should bring some poor woman in pain an immense amount of relief."
"Mom, there's nothin' to this baby stuff, believe me. You don't need to worry. Me and A.J. went to one of those Lamaze classes last night just to kinda study up, you might say. Carlos's cousin, Theresa, teaches them. Anyway, it's easy. Breathe and push. Breathe and push. Anybody can do that."
Cecilia looked at her sons with an, ‘I can't believe what I'm hearing’ expression on her face.
"Right, Richard, breathe and push, that's all there is to it. You'd know, I'm sure. I can tell you both from personal experience that there’s a little more to it than that." Shaking her head with disbelief over what her sons were up to now, Cecilia asked, "Who did you boys take to this Lamaze class, anyway? I assume you had a pregnant woman with you.”
"No," Rick shook his head. "A.J. was the mother, and I was the dad. He lost the coin toss we had before we went in.”
"You rigged the coin toss we had is what you mean."
"A.J., just how can someone rig a coin toss? Will you explain that to me, please? You can't rig a coin toss. I’ve been tellin’ you that for years."
“If there is a way, you'd figure it out."
“Well, there isn’t. I’ve told you that a couple of hundred times since you were six.”
Cecilia smiled to herself at the nonsense of her children that dated back to their boyhood. "I'm sure it was an interesting evening for all concerned."
"Yeah, we got a few strange looks," Rick admitted. "But Theresa just told everyone that we were doctors sent there to observe the class. Besides, Mom, A.J. breathes and pushes real good. You'd have been proud of him."
A.J. glared at his sibling. "Oh, shut up."
The brothers left their mother's house three hours later, after making arrangements with her to pick up their office mail, their personal mail, and to water A.J. 's plants. As well, Rick's four-year-old golden retriever, Rex, would be staying with Cecilia during his master’s absence.
As the brothers stood in the threshold of the doorway saying their good-byes, Cecilia requested, "Rick, do me a favor, please."
"Sure, Mom. Whatta ya’ need?
"If you boys do end up in a delivery room, please make sure you stand behind your brother. Someone will have to catch him when he faints."
Rick laughed, then promised as he kissed his mother’s cheek, "Okay, Mom, I'll do that."
"Very funny, Mom," A.J. said, as he, too, kissed his mother good-bye and then walked to his car.
Rick climbed in his truck, while A.J. got in the Camaro. Cecilia stood on her front step and watched until she could no longer see the taillights of her sons’ vehicles. She entered the house and shut the door. She couldn’t help but shake her head and laugh at this new case Rick and A.J. had taken on.
“What they don’t get themselves into,” the woman murmured while locking the door. “I have a feeling that after a week on a Labor and Delivery floor, they’ll both know there’s more to this ‘baby stuff’ as Rick put it, than they currently think.”
If nothing else, Cecilia had a suspicion that her sons would have some interesting stories to share the next time the three of them had dinner together.
At seven-fifteen the following Wednesday morning, A.J. parked his car in the Mercy Hospital lot. Rick had driven up to L.A. on Sunday afternoon and had reported for work on Monday morning. A.J. had talked to his brother on both Monday and Tuesday evening. He had been pleased to find out that, so far, things were progressing without incident.
So far, things had been progressing without incident for A.J., as well. He had rearranged their business calendar without any problems, and had even found time to continue reading the medical textbooks he had been given. As A.J. walked toward the administrator's office, he felt halfway confident that he’d be able to bluff his way through just about any medical term regarding pregnancy someone might throw at him. He hoped so, anyway.
Today Doctor Kenneth Aaronson was dressed in the type of attire A.J. assumed a hospital administrator normally wore – a dark suit, white dress shirt, and sedate tie. After greeting A.J., the man shut his office door. A.J. gave him a brief report in regards to Rick’s progress.
“Rick’s comfortable with your computer system, and is getting to know a number of your staff members on the Labor floor. That probably doesn’t sound like much, but considering he’d only been here two days when I spoke with him last night, we’re both pretty happy with that.”
“If you and Rick are happy,” the doctor said, “then I’m happy, too.”
Aaronson led A.J. from the office. As they walked toward the elevators the older man spoke in a hushed tone.
"I've decided that it's necessary to let one more person in on our secret. I'm going to have you ‘observing’ with one of our residents. I'm confident he doesn't have anything to do with our problem, so you'll be working with him."
At A.J. 's startled expression at the word ‘working,’ the doctor offered reassurance in regards to the detective’s role.
"Jim Nicholson will introduce you to the other staff members on the floor, and from there you'll follow him as he makes his rounds. He knows who you are and what you're trying to discover, so believe me, you'll have no problems. He realizes that he may turn around at any time and find you gone. He knows he's not to question that, or to look for you." As the men got in the elevator, the administrator stressed, "Jim also knows that you are not to help with any type of procedures, and aren't to go near a delivery room."
Thinking of all the pictures he had seen in the books he had studied, and the complications he had read of that were possible, A.J. answered the man with a heartfelt, "Good."
The men exited the elevator on the Labor and Delivery floor. They emerged into bustling activity, despite the early hour of eight a.m. Several staff members stood at what A.J. took to be the nurses’ station. Doctor Aaronson ushered the blond man in that direction and introduced him to a female doctor, the resident he would be working with, and the head nurse.
“This is Doctor Andrew Simon from Franksville Community Hospital in Franksville, Oregon."
Jim Nicholson knew, of course, what A.J.’s real purpose at the hospital was. The other staff members gathered around the nurses’ station, like the rest of the Labor floor staff, had been notified of his impending arrival by memo.
As the female physician shook A.J.’s hand she said, "So, you're from that same beautiful part of the country Doctor Aaronson is always telling me about. Is the fishing really as good as he claims, or is Ken just telling another one of his tall tales?"
A.J. was glad he had taken the time to find out about Franksville, Oregon from Doctor Aaronson when they’d spoken on the phone on Friday. He smiled and replied with confidence, "He's telling you the truth. The fishing is great. You should come up sometime and try it."
"I just might have to do that," the woman answered. "My husband and daughter would love it. They're the fishermen in the family."
As the five people stood making small talk, a harried looking nurse hurried past followed by a group of young women who were nursing students. The girls, none of whom looked older than twenty, eyed A.J. as they passed. One stage whispered, "He's the best thing I've seen on this floor in weeks. It's about time they hire a good looking doctor around here."
“No, kidding,” one whispered back, while another said, “Amen to that.”
A.J. felt his face flush as he tried to pretend he hadn't overheard the girls.
Doctor Aaronson clapped him on the back. "I have a feeling you're going to be made to feel right at home here, Doctor Simon. I'll leave you in Jim's capable hands now."
Falling into his assumed role, A.J. shook hands with the administrator. "Thank you, Doctor Aaronson. Have a good day, sir."
With that, the older man turned and headed for the elevator. Jim and A.J. turned from the nurses’ station and made their way down the corridor. Jim introduced A.J. to anyone he came in contact with, just as Doctor Aaronson had instructed him to do when they’d met in Aaronson’s office on Monday.
In just a few minutes time, A.J. found Jim to be friendly and easy to talk to. He guessed the man to be in his late thirties. He had dark hair, a moustache, and a beard he kept trimmed neatly around his face that was beginning to show a few streaks of gray. He was an inch shorter than A.J., and twenty pounds heavier.
The two men came upon Rick sitting at a long Formica countertop that held five computers. The clerical working area was recessed in a wide alcove off the main corridor. A nurse was standing at a filing cabinet, and another member of the medical staff was seated at this workstation as well, writing on a patient's chart. It wasn't lost on A.J. that this was, indeed, Rick Simon's idea of a dream job. In A.J.’s opinion, his brother wasn't working nearly as hard at the computer, as he was working at flirting with the young woman seated next to him.
The woman and Rick were engrossed in conversation and seemingly oblivious to the two men standing in front of them. Jim gave A.J. a look of uncertainty, a look A.J. answered with a small smile and a nod of encouragement. Doctor Nicholson was confident in his abilities as an obstetrician, but nervous about this private detective business. He knew that Rick and A.J. were brothers, and wasn't sure if he could pull off introducing them as if they'd never met before. Another encouraging nod from A.J. prompted Jim to clear his throat.
"Uh...Doctor Marlowe, Kathy, Charlene, I'd like to introduce you to someone."
The trio of workers focused on Jim.
"This is Doctor Andrew Simon. He's here from Community Hospital in Franksville, Oregon." Indicating to each individual, Jim introduced, "This is Kathy, one of our obstetrical nurses. This is Charlene, a lab tech, and this is...uh...uh...Doctor Marlowe. He's an anesthesiologist from San Diego who will be here for the next few weeks doing some research."
Each of the women smiled at A.J. and shook the hand he
“It's nice to meet you, Doctor Simon."
"It's nice to meet you, too, Kathy."
“Nice to meet you, Doctor.”
“Thank you, Charlene. Nice to meet you, as well.”
A.J. held his hand out to Rick. Rick shook his brother’s hand while saying, "It's good to know there's another visitor here for a while. Now I'm not the only guy who doesn't know where the bathroom is, and who can't find the coffee pot."
Everyone chuckled at Rick's words, while A.J. replied with, "It's nice to meet you, Doctor Marlowe."
"Pardon me?" A.J. apologized.
"Rick. My first name is Rick. I'm not into this formal doctor crap. Just call me Rick."
A.J. almost sighed out loud. Rick Simon was Rick Simon no matter where he went, or what role he was assuming. For the benefit of all the people around them, A.J. smiled and agreed, "Very well. Rick it is."
Jim and A.J. said their good-byes to Rick and the two women, then continued down the hallway. Jim pointed out various rooms to A.J. as they went along. When they were out of earshot of any listeners, Jim said with admiration, "You guys are good. I would never have guessed you knew each other, let alone that you're brothers."
"Believe me, that was the easy part. I'll be anxious to see if you still think we're that good after a few days have passed."
Jim shrugged. "I've been watching your brother these last two days and he seems to know what he's doing. He's fit in very well. Nobody suspects a thing. Besides, Doctor Aaronson wouldn't have hired you if he didn't have faith in your abilities. He's a pretty tough guy. He probably checked you out so thoroughly that he can tell you the name of your first grade teacher. Hell, he probably even talked to your first grade teacher."
A.J. laughed a little, appreciating Jim's candor. This was just the kind of person he needed to work with on this job - someone who was easy to talk to and could give him an honest assessment of the various personalities he would encounter in his role as Doctor Simon.
"This is pretty interesting,” Jim whispered. “I've never done anything like this before - been undercover, I mean. Is being a detective as exciting as it seems on television?"
A.J. smiled at the man’s naive enthusiasm. "Oh, sometimes it is, but sometimes it’s boring. Spending a rainy night in the bushes with my brother while watching somebody's back door isn't exactly my idea of excitement. Take it from me, your mother will be a lot happier if you continue in your chosen profession."
The doctor shot A.J. a puzzled look, then nodded in understanding as A.J. attempted to put a damper on his enthusiasm.
"I don't think we'd better talk about being undercover anymore if we don't want our cover blown. "
"I understand, Doctor Simon," the man agreed, catching A.J.'s unspoken meaning.
After A.J. was familiarized with the floor, Jim took him to the male doctors’ locker room. The detective changed into the light blue scrubs Jim handed him and donned and a crisp white lab coat. From there, A.J. tagged along behind Jim as the doctor made his rounds. A.J. knew, via Doctor Aaronson, that this hospital had approximately ten thousand deliveries a year. He quickly came to believe that startling figure as he observed the hectic pace on the Labor floor. It seemed to the blond man that there were thirty things going on at once. Activity abounded as nurses scurried in and out of patients’ rooms, while interns and residents stood conferring in the high-risk area on several patients with serious complications.
Jim and A.J. had just walked out of one room and were headed for another, when Jim was hailed from behind.
“Doctor Nicholson, you’re needed for an emergency C-section stat.”
The resident looked around, then shagged the arm of a passing nurse.
"Marilyn, can I get you to do me a favor, please? This is Doctor Simon, the visiting intern from Oregon we were told about the other day. Can I leave him with you for a while? He's here to observe our floor at its most chaotic, and I think this morning qualifies as that. I'm going to be tied up in the O.R. for a while. I prefer A.J. stays here and continues his observations.”
Knowing Jim was headed for emergency surgery, A.J. thought to himself, I prefer to stay here, too.
A.J. gave an internal sigh of relief as the capable looking nurse in her mid-fifties smiled and replied, "Sure, Doctor. No problem."
Jim gave A.J. a quick, "I'll see you later," and hurried off down the corridor. He turned around when he was halfway to the elevators and called, "Oh! Hey, Marilyn! Go easy on Doctor Simon for me. He's just beginning his internship, and our hospital is a new experience for him. He's a little gun shy yet."
Marilyn gave Jim a nod and an, "All right!" then turned and smiled at A.J.
"Follow me, please."
Fortunately for Rick and A.J., the staff members on this floor was used to nursing students and young interns coming and going, as well as doctors from other parts of the country that were simply here to observe. Therefore, Marilyn didn't question A.J.'s presence, and put the blond further at ease when she observed his pinched features and teased, "Don't look so worried, Doctor Simon. I won't ask you to do anything alone today."
A relieved A.J. teased the nurse right back. "You'd better not ask me to do anything alone on any day."
The woman didn't realize just how serious A.J. was when he said those words. She chuckled at what she perceived to be his use of humor.
A.J. tried to keep the various patients straight that he saw as he and Marilyn moved from room to room. The nurse kept up a steady stream of informative chatter, filling A.J. in on each patient she was assigned to that day. A.J. was grateful to this friendly, outgoing professional. She made his job easier. The more she talked, the less he had to, which he knew was for the best. Fortunately for A.J., the nurse was so busy that she seemed to take no notice of his lack of verbal responses, and was satisfied with an occasional nod of his head, or simple yes or no. Although A.J. was far from an expert in the field of obstetrics, at least the medical books he had studied made most of the terms he was hearing familiar, and the sights he was seeing pretty much what he had expected.
The staff was so overwhelmed with work that no one got a lunch break that day. Well, no one but Rick, A.J. noticed. He caught sight of his brother leaving the floor at noon with a woman A.J. hadn't met.
As A.J. observed his brother heading to the cafeteria, Marilyn hurried past him, then returned a few minutes later with a brown paper lunch bag. She leaned against the counter at the nurses’ station while opening the bag.
"Is it always this busy around here?" A.J. asked.
"Today is unusually busy, but even on what we consider to be quiet days, things are often hectic."
"You don't even get a chance to sit down for lunch, huh?"
"Not on some days we don't. We're lucky today, in that we have time for this short break. On many days I end up skipping lunch completely, which isn't good for my waistline. I find myself nibbling on junk food all afternoon when that happens."
A.J. smiled. "Another hazard of being a nurse, I guess."
“It tends to be,” Marilyn agreed, while handing A.J. half of a tuna fish sandwich.
"No, I can't eat your lunch. I'm fine, really."
"Doctor Simon, the first rule you'll learn about a hospital as busy as ours, is that you eat when you can and you don't question what someone offers you. Unless you don't like tuna, that is."
The woman's attitude reminded A.J. so much of his mother that he smiled and accepted the sandwich handed him. He walked over to a soda machine and pulled some change out of his pocket. He returned to the nurses’ station carrying two cans of Coca Cola.
"Okay, here's my contribution to today's lunch."
Marilyn smiled her thanks at the detective. They ate together, and then ten minutes later their period of rest period was over.
After lunch, A.J. returned to his role as observer. At two-thirty, he found himself to be a displaced person. Marilyn had disappeared somewhere in a rush, and Jim was nowhere to be found, so A.J. was on his own. Because of that, the detective decided to focus his attention on the Labor floor’s personnel now that he had some freedom.
A.J. walked past various staff members intent on their jobs, and even walked past Rick without his brother ever knowing it. ‘Doctor Marlowe’ was concentrating on a paper he had printed off of a computer terminal. In an effort to keep up his ruse, Rick had folders and medical textbooks spread out all around him. As A.J. turned a corner and walked past a patient's room, he heard his name called from within.
"Doctor Simon! Doctor Simon! "
The blond hesitantly entered the room of a woman whom he had seen with Marilyn several times that day. The patient was twenty-one years old and had been in active labor since seven o'clock that morning.
A.J. tried his best to smile at the woman and her young husband.
"Yes, Mrs. DeLoria, what can I do for you?"
The young woman with the long chestnut hair and big doe eyes grabbed A.J.'s hand. The detective felt like he was the victim of bad soap opera acting when she pleaded, "Please, Doctor Simon, I need something for the pain. I'm really hurting."
"OK, I'll...uh...I’ll see what I can do."
"How much longer do you think it will be?" the husband inquired.
"I...uh...I don't know. I...I'm sure it will be soon, though." A.J. glanced at the woman's rotund stomach. "Very soon."
"Shouldn't you check me to see if I've dilated any further?" the soon-to-be mother asked.
A.J. backed toward the doorway. "No...uh...no. Everything's
okay. Really, I'm sure it is. I'll be right back."
The detective ran through the maze of hallways until he came upon the person he was looking for exiting another patient’s room.
"Marilyn, Mrs. DeLoria needs you!"
"Is she ready to have the baby?" the nurse inquired as she followed the rushing A.J.
"I don't know, maybe...I don’t...she might be...well, I guess I'm not sure."
Marilyn gave A.J. a funny look that he took no notice of as he hurried down the hallway.
A.J. and Marilyn entered Amy DeLoria’s room together.
"I need something for the pain,” Amy said.
"Let's just take a look first," Marilyn answered. "Doctor Simon, would you like to see how far Mrs. DeLoria has dilated since I last checked her?" Looking at the patient's chart, Marilyn added, "She was at four."
A.J. stumbled for the head of the bed. "No, I think...I think you'd better do that, Marilyn. I'll uh...I'll uh....Mrs. DeLoria, would you like some ice chips? I'm sure you would. I'll get those for you right now."
A.J. scrambled for the door. Marilyn shook her head, confused by this new doctor. So far each time she had asked him to check a patient, he had some excuse as to why he couldn't. As she then went about checking the various patients herself, Marilyn would notice that Doctor Simon was either staring at the wall, or talking baseball in a preoccupied manner with the waiting fathers, or that he had left the room entirely. In all her thirty years as a nurse, this was the first obstetrician Marilyn had ever met who was shy where the pregnant female body was concerned.
Oh, well, maybe they do things differently in Oregon. Very differently.
A few minutes later, A.J. returned with a cupful of ice chips. Amy smiled at the handsome doctor and acted as though he was her knight in shining armor.
Marilyn gained the woman's attention. "Everything is progressing nicely, Mrs. DeLoria. Both you and the baby are doing just fine."
"But I'm hurting, nurse. Please can't I have something for the pain?"
"I’ll see what your doctor has ordered.” Marilyn unhooked the monitor and looked at the husband. “In the meantime, why don't you two take a walk up and down the hallway. A little exercises really will help move things along."
Mike Deloria and A.J. helped Amy rise. The young woman clung to A.J.'s hand a moment. “Doctor Simon, will you be back in to see me again this afternoon?"
"Well, I...I don’t...I’m not--"
Now Marilyn was disgusted. Here she was the one doing all the work, and the patient was acting like this shy doctor could walk on water. Interrupting A.J’s stammering, she said, "Doctor Simon and I will be back to check on you one more time before we go off duty, Mrs. DeLoria, but your own doctor will be delivering your baby. He's on the floor right now in the delivery room with another woman. I'm sure he'll be in to see you soon."
As A.J. and Marilyn left the room the nurse overheard the mother-to-be say to her husband, "But Doctor Wilson is old. He delivered me! I'd rather have Doctor Simon deliver our baby. I sure wish I would have known about him nine months ago."
Looking up at A.J.’s face, Marilyn wasn’t sure if the man was blushing because he’d overheard Amy DeLoria’s remark, or if he was still embarrassed over the thought of checking the woman to see how far she was dilated. Whatever the reason, Marilyn had her doubts this man would succeed as an obstetrician.
If you ask me, he’s better suited for orthopedics.
But since no one had asked her, the pudgy nurse beckoned with one hand.
“Follow me, Doctor Simon. We have more work to do before our shift is over.”
At eleven o'clock on Saturday evening, warm water spraying from the jets of the large whirlpool tub massaged A.J.’s aching legs. The Simon brothers were dressed in their swimming trunks, while enjoying the atmosphere of the Polynesian style rec room within the Stafford Inn. At this late hour, they had the room almost to themselves. Other than a family using the swimming pool, the area was empty.
A.J. relaxed against the wide lip of the tub. He had worked non- stop since Wednesday, arriving at the hospital for the start of the seven a.m. shift, and not leaving the Labor floor until sometime after seven p.m. By that time Marilyn was usually gone since her shift ended at three, therefore A.J. had the freedom to roam without anyone wondering where he was.
Rick had been staying at the hospital until early evening as well, but at least he spent most of his days sitting down, A.J. thought ruefully. And going to lunch with an attractive female A.J. still hadn’t met.
"I promise I'll never think doctors have a cushy job again,” A.J. moaned.
"Oh, come on, A. J. It's not that bad."
"Not that bad!" A.J. opened his eyes and lifted his head from the tub. "Rick, I've stood on my feet for at least twelve hours every day since Wednesday. I never knew a doctor stood so much. Not to mention the nurses. I have a whole new respect for them, let me tell you."
"I think you're just gettin' old, little brother."
"Old? Yeah, right." A.J. hesitated, then reluctantly admitted, "Okay, okay, I am beginning to feel old. There was a time in my life, and it wasn't that long ago, when all doctors seemed old to me. Really old. Over the past few days I've noticed that I'm few years older than a couple of the doctors on that floor."
"A couple?" Rick teased as he raised his eyebrows. "Come on, A.J., be honest here. Just 'cause Aaronson said you could pass for someone in his early thirties, doesn't mean you are. Your thirties are gone, kid."
"If my thirties are gone, then why are you still calling me kid?"
“ ‘Cause my thirties have been gone a lot longer than yours have.”
A.J. chuckled, but couldn’t disagree with his brother. Rick was now closer to fifty than he was to forty.
“Regardless of your age, kid, I don't think you have anything to worry about. You haven't lost your appeal with the fairer sex yet."
"What do you mean?"
“The nursing students seem to think you’re hot.”
“Yeah, and if I wanted to bring a twenty-year-old home to meet Mom, that would be great, but I don’t.”
“You’re that much against datin’ a younger woman, huh?”
“When she’s young enough to be my daughter, yes. I’ve always pictured my future father-in-law to be considerably older than me, as opposed to being my age.”
“You’ve got a point there,” Rick agreed.
"Speaking of women, who's the one I've seen you take to lunch all week?"
Rick closed his eyes and grinned. "Ah, the Goddess Rebecca."
"That's a strange name."
Rick opened his eyes and smirked. "Very funny, A.J. Her name's Rebecca Sanders."
"She's not from our floor, is she?"
"No, she works on the Antepartum Unit. It’s one floor above us. She's the supervisor up there."
"What's that? The Antepartum Unit, I mean."
"It's where women go who have major complications in their pregnancies. Women that have been in premature labor, or are pregnant with twins or triplets, or women with diabetes or sickle cell anemia, all kind of different things. The way Rebecca explained it to me, these women have come into the hospital before their baby is due because of serious problems. Sometimes they're even in labor when they arrive. Once the baby and the mother are stabilized, they're moved off of our floor and over to hers. Some of them stay there, bedridden, until the baby is born. It just depends on each individual case."
"Oh. I see." A.J. mulled over what Rick had told him, then asked, "Was Rebecca, or any of her staff members, on our list of suspects?"
"No. No, none of them."
"I wonder why?"
"What do you mean?"
"It seems to me her whole staff would have access to some of the same information the staff on the Labor and Delivery floor do. Sure, maybe they don't see the volume of patients that the Labor floor does, but basically they're doing the same job."
"Yeah, you're right. But remember, Aaronson said the patient information was stored on the Labor and Delivery computers. He never said anything about information being input on the Antepartum Unit.”
“You’re right, he didn’t. Damn, I thought maybe we were on to something here."
"Don't feel bad, little brother. I'd be happy to discover we're suddenly on to something, too. I gotta admit I'm not getting too far with the names we've been working with. How about you?"
"Not at all. But on the other hand, I've only been there four days, and you for six. Since we’ll be more settled in and used to the routine come Monday, I’m hoping we'll begin to make progress."
"Me, too. We gotta get that bonus, A.J. I've already got my half of that five thousand bucks spent."
"Your quarter of it spent, you mean.”
"You can have a quarter of it, if we even get it, but you can't have half. Some of it has to go back into the business."
"You're a hard man to do business with, A.J. Simon. And not a very fun one either, either."
"Yes, well, I think you'll live. Someday when there's an emergency and we need extra cash, you'll thank me for hanging on to some of that money. "
Rick closed his eyes and leaned back against the tub. "Don't count on it."
A.J. didn’t respond to his brother, but instead, copied his brother’s body language and let the warm water lull him into a state of half sleep. A state that was intruded upon twenty minutes later when Rick splashed him as the older man rose to get out of the tub.
"I'm going back to the suite. Are you coming with?"
"In a little while."
Rick dried off with a thick towel, shoved his feet into his deck shoes, said, “See ya’ later,” and headed for the suite he and his brother were sharing.
A.J. was left alone to mull over the events of the past week. He hoped his thoughts would lead him to the person or persons he and Rick had been hired to catch. Fifteen minutes and no bright ideas later, A.J. climbed out of the tub, picked up his towel, put on his tennis shoes, and headed back to the luxurious rooms he and Rick were temporarily calling home.
Early on Monday morning, A.J. was once again busy playing Doctor Simon as he stood at the back of a small room on the Labor and Delivery floor. He listened as doctors presented the case histories of each of the patients that were presently there.
The detective spent the entire fifteen-minute briefing hiding behind other staff members, while praying he wouldn't be asked what his treatment of choice would be for a particular patient, as was happening to other physicians in the room. When the meeting came to an end and the staff was released, A.J. breathed a sigh of relief. Once again he had managed to get through a morning briefing without being called upon to give an answer or an opinion.
A.J. spent his fifth day on the Labor and Delivery floor much like he had spent the previous ones. He started out the morning with Jim, but whenever Jim was called away for a delivery or surgery, A.J. would find himself on his own. At those times, A.J. would usually attach himself to Marilyn. In part, because of the knowledge of the other staff members she unwittingly passed on to him, and in part because he liked her and felt comfortable in her presence.
That afternoon A.J. and Marilyn were scurrying from room to room, checking on the progress of five different women in labor. Well, Marilyn was checking. Doctor Simon was retrieving ice chips, magazines, teddy bears from the gift shop, or anything else any woman requested of him.
As A.J. and Marilyn entered the room of their fifth patient, A.J. did a double take. A man was standing beside the patient's bed, kissing her, which wouldn’t have been so odd if A.J. hadn’t seen him kissing another woman down the hall not ten minutes earlier.
Marilyn recognized the man as well. She exchanged a glance of bemusement with A.J. as they went about their business. The two were just finishing up and leaving the room when the man said to the patient, "I'll be right back, sweetheart. I need to go check on Karen."
A.J.’s curiosity got the better of him when he and the gentleman stepped out into the hallway. I
“I know this isn't any of my business,” A.J. said, “but is that your wife?"
The man shook his head. "No, she's my girlfriend."
"Well, then, who's Karen?"
"She's my girlfriend, too."
"You've got two girlfriends here who are both in labor?"
"Yeah. Neat, isn't it?"
"And neither of them mind? I mean...well...I--"
"No, neither of them mind. They're even going to help each other out with the babies. I'm hoping for a boy and a girl."
"I see. Well...uh...you'll have to let me know what you get."
"Okay, Doctor, I will," the man promised as he smiled and sauntered down the hallway.
Marilyn laughed at A.J. 's startled expression.
"I can't believe it," the detective muttered.
"Doctor Simon, around here we see a little bit of everything."
"That doesn't shock you?"
"Not in the slightest. I don't agree with it, but it doesn't shock me. After thirty years on this floor I think I've seen it all. Sometime I'll have to tell you about the bigamist with three wives all in active labor. Or the young woman I took care of last year that had tattoos over almost every inch of her body. And I do mean every inch. She had a snake tattooed on her backside. Its tail coiled all the way around to her frontside, if you know what I mean."
Marilyn chuckled at the memory. "I've never been in such a distracted delivery room in my life. Everyone was paying more attention to that tattoo than they were to the mother and baby. The interns were fighting over who was going to get to check her just so they could see the tattoo everyone was talking about. She created quite a stir around here."
"Sounds like the type of woman my brother would date."
“Oh really? Is he unorthodox?”
“When the mood strikes him, he can be. And the mood tends to strike on a frequent basis.”
Before Marilyn could reply, she and A.J. were summoned to another room. The detective curled his toes inside his shoes, longing for the end of the day to arrive so he could return to the Stafford Inn and soak in the whirlpool.
By Thursday of that week, Rick Simon was frustrated. He'd been printing and studying patient histories, and hospital personnel records, for over a week now and was getting nowhere. He’d also spent a lot of time studying stored data on each Labor floor computer, but since no inquires were tied to passwords, it was impossible to tell who might have been looking at patient records that had no business doing so.
On Monday night and Wednesday night, and then throughout the day on Tuesday, Rick had done a stake-out of the hospital records room that housed on the main floor. He’d seen no activity thus far that aroused his suspicions.
Rick had also spent the past week and a half observing and talking to everyone from anesthesiologists, to nurses, to obstetricians, to lab technicians, and in a final act of desperation, even a candy striper. None of these conversations or observations had produced results. Rick didn't have one solid lead, and concluded that Aaronson’s thief knew what he or she was doing, and knew how to avoid getting caught.
"Someone has gotta be behind this," Rick muttered to himself as he sat in the alcove studying the notes he had made over the past week.
"Behind what?" a female voice asked.
Rick turned around in his chair, then smiled as he looked up at the lovely form of Rebecca Sanders. The woman was thirty-seven, and a slender five feet nine inches tall. Her auburn hair fell in waves to her shoulder blades, and framed a heart shaped face.
"Nothing," Rick answered, quickly gaining his composure while closing his notebook. "Just the research I've been doing. It's getting frustrating."
"Then I think you need a break," the brown-eyed woman suggested. "It's twelve-thirty. How about some lunch?"
"Sounds good," Rick agreed. Rebecca was the only bright spot he had in his day since things had gotten so fruitless.
As Rick and Rebecca strolled past A.J. and Marilyn, who were wolfing down sandwiches as they stood at the nurses’ station, Rick smiled and shot his brother a wink. He almost burst out laughing when A.J. shot him a sneer in return that Rick could easily read.
Next time I get to be the anesthesiologist, and you can be the obstetrician.
I don’t think so, little brother, Rick thought in return as he walked to the cafeteria with a beautiful woman at his side. I don’t think so.