Chapter Two Hundred and Fifty-two
Thursday morning — 8:35 a.m.
Erik La Monde knocked on the door and waited. A girl about the age of his Wanda came to the door. She took one look at him and yelled, “Mom!” He waited a few more minutes and a middle-aged woman came to the door.
“Hi, I’m Erik,” he said. “I’m from Lipson Construction. We’re replacing your sewer line today.”
“I don’t know anything about it,” the woman said. “My ex-husband set it up. We still share the house and he said we had to do it to sell.”
“Yes ma’am,” Erik said. “I’m here to explain the process and check to make sure we put everything back right.”
The woman gave him an annoyed look.
“May I come in?” Erik asked.
The woman gave an exasperated sigh and held the door open.
“Listen,” she said as Erik stepped into the home. “I don’t have a lot of time. I need to get my kids to school and . . .”
“Yes, ma’am,” Erik said. “I’m here to make this process easier, not harder.”
She gave him a long, irritated look.
“I just need to look at all your drains,” Erik said.
“Why?” she asked.
He bit his lip and tried to remember what the plumbing super had said. “We plumbers are totally expendable here. They’re only keeping us because we’re owners. Time to make our wages.” His super had talked the site managers into including plumbers on these sewer teams so they’d have something to do. Erik felt pressed to hold up his end of the bargain.
The woman tipped her head sideways and looked at him.
“You’ll notice if we do it wrong,” he said. He gave the woman a broad smile.
“I suppose you’re just doing your job,” the woman said. “Yeah, I’d like to know what you’re doing.”
The woman saw her kids looking at them through the rails of the stairwell.
“Kids, don’t bother Mr. La Monde, he . . .”
“I don’t mind, ma’am,” Erik said. “They’re going to be homeowners soon enough. We’ll go through this fast and get you on your way.”
Erik smiled again.
“Plus, ma’am, I’m an owner of this company,” Erik said. “Everybody working today owns a part of the company. We’re not just doing our jobs; we’re passionate about making sure people live comfortably.”
Erik nodded his head emphatically and the woman rewarded him with a smile. She turned around and walked toward the kitchen.
“I read about you guys in the paper,” the woman said. “Seems like you got screwed.”
“We’re owners, ma’am,” Erik said. “We made our choices and the state made theirs. That’s what happens when you own a company.”
Her kids scooted around him and reached the kitchen when their mom did.
“Let’s look out in the back,” Erik led the way to the back door.
Jacob was walking through the backyard with a thin, bent metal stake.
“What’s he doing?” the woman’s son asked.
“He’s divining where the sewer line is,” Erik said.
“Divining?” the woman asked.
“There’s always a little bit of water in a sewer line. He’s using the flow of water to interact with that metal stake in his hand,” Erik said. “See how it turns?”
“Wow,” the boy said.
“This gives us a general idea of where the sewer is located,” Erik said. “We’ll use a long probe first and then start digging to see if we can find it.”
“Does it work?” the woman asked.
“Nine times out of ten,” Erik said. “Of course, Jake there knows the neighborhood. He’s almost an expert on how these houses were built. But the divining gives us a general idea. We probe the ground and then we dig.”
“Will he show me how?” the boy asked. “Mom, please! I’m all ready for school.”
“I don’t know why not,” Erik said. The woman used her key to work the locks and Erik opened the back door. “Hey Jake, you have time to teach your wizardry?”
“You bet.” Jacob waved the boy out into the yard.
“Please!” the boy begged his mother. She nodded and he raced down the back steps.
“That’s Jake Lipson,” Erik said to the woman and her big eyed daughter. “He’s the guy who’s selling the company to us employees. He used to be the boss, but now he’s just another owner.”
Jacob yelled for another stake and a young woman stepped off the backhoe to bring him one. They watched for a moment while Jacob bent the stake and showed the boy how it worked.
“Now, I know you’re in a hurry,” Erik said.
The woman nodded.
“I just need to see your drains,” Erik said.
“What about telling us what you’re doing?” the little girl asked.
“Oh, right. I forgot,” Erik blushed and chuckled at his mistake. “Our first task is to find the old clay sewer. Then we’ll dig it up and replace it with new PVC line. It’s pretty simple. The real trick is hooking it into the city sewer line. Lucky for us, that guy with the clipboard standing by the backhoe set this sewer line for the city. He’s an expert at tapping it.”
“What about my garden?” The woman’s voice reflected the real reason she was irritated this morning.
“Good thing you mentioned that,” Erik said. He leaned out the door and yelled for the backhoe operator. The young woman trotted across the yard. “We have a choice of digging it up by hand or with the machine. The machine is faster and cleaner, but Josie here is fast on either a backhoe or a shovel. She’s second generation Lipson, grew up with a shovel in her hand. Why don’t you take a second and show her where you want us to be careful?”
She looked at him and he smiled.
“I’ll wait right here,” he said.
“You can look around,” she said. “We have the kitchen, a bath on this floor, and two upstairs.”
“I’ll meet you here,” Erik said.
The woman nodded. Erik went into the kitchen and checked that the drain was open. He turned the water off for each of the toilets and flushed them. He was waiting for her when she was done with Josie.
“I see that you still have your old, water-hogging toilets,” Erik said.
“Yeah,” the woman said. “I keep meaning to replace them, but . . .”
“We have a whole warehouse full of toilets left over from that big job we had to leave,” Erik said. “I bet we can work you a good deal, better than you could get at the store. And . . . well, I have to be here until they’re done outside. Changing a toilet is nothing. I can probably get them all done while they’re working outside. Bill the ex for the work; he’ll be happy because you’ll get a great deal. You’ll be happy because you get the rebate. We’ve got paper people too. They can file your rebate with Denver Water and everything.”
The woman gave him a big smile.
“What?” Erik asked.
“That would be really nice,” the woman said. “A real relief to have that done. It’s on our agent’s ‘must be done to sell’ list.”
“I’ll wait here for your son if you want to finish getting ready,” Erik said. “I turned off the toilets, but if you need them, just use it. I’ll go through again before we start digging.”
“Thanks,” the woman said and went into the house. A few minutes later, her son ran in the house. Erik shooed him upstairs. Erik took out his phone and called the plumbing super.
“Go,” the super said. An ex-military man, the super had little time for pleasantries.
“I figured out what to do with those toilets,” Erik said.
When Erik explained what happened, the super called his assistant. While Erik waited on the phone, they worked out who would fill out the rebate paperwork so the homeowners would get the rebate.
“I’ll call the others,” the super said. “Jeez, we could get rid of all of those toilets, make a profit, and give people a real service.”
“Yes, sir,” Erik said.
“Good work, La Monde.”
Erik grinned and went out into the yard to tell the crew.
Thursday morning — 10:35 a.m.
Jill shifted uncomfortably on the cracked vinyl chair. She swallowed back her nervousness. She hadn’t told Jacob that she was going to see this doctor. She knew he would insist that they stay with the fancy expert Valerie had gone to see. But Dr. Anna had been on call when Jill was ready to deliver Katy. Now that money was tight, Jill figured she might see if Dr. Anna would help her again.
A little boy ran into Jill’s knees and Jill smiled. The clinic’s waiting room was bustling with activity. Women in various stages of pregnancy sat chatting in Spanish and Chinese and Greek and Russian and two languages Jill didn’t recognize, while their young children played. It had been a while since Jill had been around the hubbub of humanity. She was having a great time watching the kids run around.
“Sorry I’m late,” Tanesha said when she sat down.
“I haven’t been called yet,” Jill said.
“Is that unusual?” Tanesha whispered.
“I don’t know,” Jill said. “Dr. Anna delivered Katy, but I went to the Denver Health Clinic for my check ups and stuff.”
“The whole place has a great feel to it,” Tanesha nodded.
“Jill Marlowe?” a nurse asked. She looked at the folder in her hands. “Jill?”
Jill and Tanesha walked over to the nurse. Focused on the folder in her hands, the nurse held the low wooden door back for them to go through. She stared at the folder for a moment and then looked up at Jill.
“This way,” the nurse said. She led them to a small examination room. “Completely naked, ties in front.”
She nodded and closed the door.
“That’s weird,” Tanesha whispered.
“What?” Jill asked as she undressed.
“She didn’t leave the file,” Tanesha said. “They usually slip them into the holder on the door. But she didn’t. I was going to read it.”
“What do you think that means?” Jill asked.
Tanesha shrugged. Jill put on the worn gown and sat on the exam table.
“How’s school?” Jill asked.
“I love it,” Tanesha smiled.
“Good,” Jill said.
“I know, right?” Tanesha chuckled. “The IRS is taking custody of the condo tomorrow or Monday. Then we’re done with all of that.”
“Wow,” Jill said.
“Just means he’s almost at zero,” Tanesha said.
“Zeroes are better than negative a few million,” Jill smiled.
“How are the kids?” Tanesha asked.
“Noelle’s healing, slowly,” Jill said. “Wanda’s… It’s just tough.”
“Any word on the case?” Tanesha asked.
“Nothing,” Jill said.
“Nothing?” Tanesha asked.
“Freaks us out,” Jill said. “Sandy calls a couple times a day and so far . . . nothing.”
“Weird,” Tanesha said.
There was a tap on the door. Dr. Anna and the nurse came in carrying Jill’s file.
“Jill!” Dr. Anna said. “I remember you.”
“Hi, Dr. Anna,” Jill said.
“How is Katherine?” Dr. Anna asked.
“Perfect,” Jill smiled. She was glad she’d come to see Dr. Anna.
“You were . . . Jill Mc Guinsey when I saw you last,” Dr. Anna said. “Right?”
“She upgraded,” Tanesha said.
“That’s what I’d hoped,” Dr. Anna said. “We called to get your file and . . . Gosh, Jill, it was just odd.”
“Odd?” Tanesha asked.
“My staff called yesterday,” Dr. Anna said. “They faxed the records right away, like always. But then the weirdest thing happened.”
“What?” Jill put her hand to her racing heart.
“Someone called and asked who we were,” Dr. Anna said. “Of course, we’re used to controlling ex-husband’s so we told them to stuff it — HIPAA and all that. But . . .”
The doctor walked over to Jill and showed her the file.
“Is this your signature?” Dr. Anna pointed to scribble on the form. “Pilar compared the file to the last time and . . .”
“I’ve never seen this before,” Jill said. “What is it?”
“It’s a release of medical specimens,” Dr. Anna’s face flushed. “Everything from your birth is set to go to a lab in . . .”
“Bethesda,” Pilar the nurse said. “Mary-land.”
“Can I see that?” Tanesha asked. The doctor gave Tanesha the file.
“My husband’s cousin is going to use the boys’ cord blood for a bone marrow transplant,” Jill said. “He’s going to have the radiation to kill off his bone marrow and . . .”
“Not according to this form,” Tanesha said. “Everything goes to Experiri Genetics.
“What about Blane?” Jill asked.
“There’s an order in here for cord blood from the depository,” Dr. Anna said.
“Oh my God,” Jill said.
“That document says they can have one of your son’s,” Pilar said.
“What?” Jill said.
“Now Pilar,” Dr. Anna said. “No one is going to take a child.”
“My sister lost her baby to her ex with a form that had those same words on it,” Pilar crossed her arms and gave a firm nod. “That’s why I showed it to the doctor. I recognized the words.”
“What?” Tanesha said.
Dr. Anna, Jill, and Tanesha stared at the nurse.
“I have a copy in my email,” the nurse said. “I’ll show you.”
The nurse took out her Android phone and began tapping buttons on the screen.
“Here.” Pilar held out the phone to the doctor.
The doctor took the file from Tanesha. She squinted at the form on the phone and then at the form in the file. Her face went from pink to red. Tanesha grabbed the phone and the file.
“That’s fucked up,” Tanesha said.
For a moment, the women looked at each other. The doctor nodded to herself.
“Here’s what we do,” Dr. Anna said. “We use our old file. From now on, you’re Jill Mc Guinsey.”
“They’ll find me.” Jill shook her head.
“They got our records when you started with the other doctor,” Pilar said.
“Shit,” the doctor said.
“She could go by her maiden name,” Tanesha said. “Roper.”
“Let’s look,” Dr. Anna said.
The four women leaned over the file to see if Jill’s maiden name was listed.
“No,” Pilar said.
“I don’t see it either,” Dr. Anna said. “Good.”
She looked at Pilar.
“We’ll start a new patient package,” Dr. Anna said. “From now on, you’re Jill Roper.”
“We’re hoping to have my midwife help deliver,” Jill said.
“Who is your midwife?
“Camilla,” Jill said. “I don’t know her last name.”
Jill looked at Tanesha and she shrugged.
“Do you know her?” Jill asked.
“Camilla Escobar? Short, thick accent when she wants one?” Dr. Anna asked. “I work with her a lot. Wait? Your husband’s name is Jacob Lipson Marlowe. His cousin wouldn’t happen to be Blane Lipson?”
Jill nodded. Pilar gasped. She watched the muscles in the doctor’s jaw work. Tanesha scowled.
“Why?” Tanesha asked.
“This just got personal,” Dr. Anna said.
“We love Blane,” Pilar said.
“A new name isn’t enough,” Dr. Anna said. “We need to give you a whole new identity.”
“What about insurance?” Pilar asked.
“You need to use your insurance?” Dr. Anna asked.
“My husband’s company is in trouble and . . .” Jill chewed her lip and nodded.
“They’re broke,” Tanesha said.
“Fuck it,” Dr. Anna said. “We’ll do it pro bono. It won’t be the first time. Can you deliver at home?”
“They have a medical office at the house,” Tanesha said.
“You do?” Dr. Anna asked.
“You mean like Valerie Lipson?” Pilar asked.
“Exactly like Valerie Lipson,” Tanesha said. “She’s Jill’s sister-in-law. You’ve read that she’s broke now too?”
The women nodded and Jill blushed.
“I’ll come by tonight to take a look,” Dr. Anna said. “Blane will be with you when you deliver?”
“Good,” Dr. Anna said. “I can’t promise anything. If there’s trouble, you’ll have to go to the hospital. But you’re healthy so far, right?”
“Give me a minute, then we’ll do an exam,” Dr. Anna said.
With a nod to Jill, the doctor left the room. Pilar looked at Jill and then at Tanesha.
“What’s Valerie like?” Pilar asked.
“Not what they say in the magazines,” Tanesha said. “She’s really sweet, funny, nice.”
“Mike is Jill’s brother,” Tanesha said. “He’s great.”
“I knew it,” Pilar said. “Those magazines are garbage.”
She smiled at Jill and left the room.
“Wow,” Tanesha said.
“What am I going to do?” Jill whispered. “I thought I’d avoided this stuff by going to Val’s doctor. He promised me and . . . sold me out to some . . . genetics place! You heard what Pilar said. They could take one of the boys to be their lab rat!”
“That’s just not going to happen,” Tanesha said.
“To start with, your husband can move objects with his mind,” Tanesha smiled to reassure Jill. “Your grandfather is Russian mafia and we still aren’t real sure who your father works for. Plus there’s me.”
“What about you?” Jill asked.
“I’ll kill anybody who even thinks about taking one of my boys.” Tanesha nodded.
Jill gave her a wide-eyed look.
“Kill?” Jill whispered.
Tanesha gave a firm nod of her head.
“What about the Hippocratic oath and saving the world and everything?” Jill whispered.
They looked at each other and laughed.
“I’m really glad we came here,” Tanesha nodded.
“Me too,” Jill said.
There was a tap on the door and Dr. Anna came in. Pilar wheeled in an ultrasound machine.
“We just called your other doctor and told them you didn’t come in,” Dr. Anna said. “You have another appointment with them?”
“Tomorrow,” Jill said.
“Go,” Dr. Anna said. “Keep your appointments with them. They’re covered under your insurance. They’ll never suspect a thing.”
“Thanks,” Jill said.
“Don’t thank me yet,” Dr. Anna said. “We still have to pull this off. Now lie back and let’s take a look.”
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