Artemis hooked the laminated Do Not Disturb sign on her hotel room’s front door knob. Still fully clothed, she flopped backwards onto the queen sized bed, she rolled the comforter around her into a warm cocoon, and then tried to sleep. But her dreams were invaded by Satan, and by her memories of Benjamin. And the moment he died in her arms as lethal bullets rained past like a metallic sandstorm.
She wrestled with the specters in her mind until almost dawn. She got up. She took a hot shower, and then began to review the claim files, and the legal documents. Later, she decided she would march into the hospital and find her contact names. As Wylie recommended there was no need to have scheduled an appointment, it was a journey to find the truth before it was hidden away by legal maneuvers.
Artemis sipped bland coffee, she sat back on the desk chair, and decided to walk over to her bedroom windows. She stared down at the town’s streets. Within the night’s last remnants she saw that the wandering spirits had reappeared. They flashed golden streaks along the sidewalks, and moved through the unsuspecting local souls that were walking toward their own living destinations. She thought it was a sign from Satan. Satan would not just disappear, it wanted to toy with her mind. She shrugged, and turned to take a long, hot shower.
“Artemis?” He said, hesitantly. He had a greasy combover, and his ruddy face advertised that Kentucky Bourbon was his best friend. “I’m Gene, Gene Haskel, general counsel, ah, she’s Loretta Dean, head of risk management, why that’s an unusual name, we weren’t expecting anyone from our reinsurance partner, least today, and all, guess its gotten pretty serious, sending you up here, all of a sudden.”
“Good to meet you,” Loretta said. She was an impish, androgynous looking middle-aged woman. “I guess.”
“My father was into antiquities,” Artemis said. She stone faced closely watched Gene and Loretta for personal ticks that might tell her their true thoughts. She could tell her comment did not answer the question. “Greek mythology, Artemis, goddess of the hunt, the moon, so forth.”
“Oh,” Loretta said. She nodded, she glanced over at Gene. “You don’t look Greek.”
Artemis was certain Gene was the decision maker, and Loretta was his stooge.
“My mother was an Olympian, Irish national team, javelin thrower, bronzed in the pentathlon,” Artemis said. She shrugged. “They met at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, as they say, love at first sight, so, I’m here, with my blazing red hair, and the rest is history.”
The three set in a vast conference room cluttered with fancy high-back chairs, gold leafed framed portraits of the hospital system’s long since deceased former CEO’s, and a statement making mahogany eagle claw footed table. A ponderous antique grandfather clock broke up the silence by metronomically marking each second.
“This lawyer makes some tough allegation,” Artemis said. She acted like she was reading her file notes on her iPad. “A lot of dead patients, any ideas where they are heading?”
Loretta looked over at Gene, he waved for her to talk.
“Drugs,” Loretta said. She cupped her ringless fingers together on top of the table. “Terrible affliction, we try to save them all, but it’s these pain medications, and all, not much work up in the coal mines, easy for them to get hooked.”
“To be clear,” Gene said. He wiped his sweating forehead with his chubby fingers. “We don’t get them hooked. But, we have to deal with them, can’t turn them away. You know as the good book says, ‘Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give’.
“Such a godly man,” Loretta said. She admiringly looked over at Gene.
Artemis resisted the urge to vomit in her mouth.
“I’d like to tour your facility,” Artemis said. “The files read like they our textbook, nothing else I should know? I’m just getting started.”
“We’d be happy to take you for a tour,” Loretta said. Her smile looked like a teeth from a stegosaurus. “We take great pride in our risk management, our electronic health records are regarded as the best in the region.”
“I can see, have any insight how we should respond?” Artemis said. She clicked her iPad pen that was fashioned with a recording device that she slipped into her breast pocket.
“Oh, this is a fishing expedition,” Gene said. He waved his hand forward. “Sorry they’ve lost family, I can understand their frustration, but we are above reproach, our records are clean.”
“Yes, they are spotless,” Artemis said. She stared over at Gene, she looked at him long enough to cause him to look away from her. “Anything I should know ahead of time? Nobody messes with the files after the fact, right?”
“Oh lands,” Loretta said. “Never, that would be wrong.”
“And, it would be criminal,” Gene said. “No ma’am, we would not allow this hospital to deal in a fraudulent sewer.”
“I understand,” Artemis said. She fake smiled. “But I had to ask, you understand?”
“Of course,” Gene said. “It’s your job, I’m sure you are quite skilled, the reason you’re here to protect us, right?”
“Well, if we have all the facts,” Artemis said. She pondered Gene’s statement. “We can at least develop a strategy to protect the hospitals interests, and our own, Caduceus Re hired me for a reason.”
“I hope you can just make them go away,” Loretta said.
Artemis retrieved two business cards from her purse. She slipped them across the table.
“Here, some old school cards, if you all come across anything unusual,” Artemis said. “I’d welcome your call, or email, it’s those minor details that might make all the difference. I just wanted to come up, introduce myself, you know.”
Gene rubbed the business card between his thumbs and forefingers like a Japanese business man.
“Lamb,” Gene said. He hummed a church song. “As in Lamb of Christ, such a wholly last name, Artemis.”
“Well, let’s take a walk,” Artemis said. She thought Gene was as honest as a dating site photo. “Always helps for me to visualize the campus while I review the files. Have to start from a basic understanding.”
Gene stuffed the business card into his sport coat pocket.
“Of course,” Gene said. “Loretta I have another important meeting, can you escort Artemis?”
“Why yes,” Loretta said. She got up and waved Artemis toward the tall conference room door. “We’re quite proud of our hospital, it’ll be my pleasure.”
Artemis and Loretta strolled through the busy hospital hallways. Loretta proudly sashayed across the marble floors pointing out the labor and delivery section, the catheter labs, surgical suites, and the all other human services offered by the facility. But as Artemis ignored Loretta’s attempted conversation she noted outside the window, down seven stories at the hospital’s rear loading docks there were numerous active eighteen wheel trucks spewing diesel fumes into the air. Artemis tapped on the windows.
“Loretta,” Artemis said. “You all eat a lot here?”
“What?” Loretta said.
“Down there,” Artemis said. “All those refrigeration trucks, they are seriously at it, in and out. That’s not body parts, right?”
“Oh, not here, nothing I know about,” Loretta said. She looked down at the trucks. And then casually moved away from the windows. “Must be delivery day, I don’t know.”
Artemis noticed as the rear of the truck container was opened, they were empty. And then they were being loaded by sturdy forklifts with stacks of neatly placed boxes on wooden skiffs. She felt Loretta tug at her arm.
“Did I show you are cafeteria?” Loretta asked.
“Oh then, come with me,” Loretta said. Her pace quickened over toward elevators. “It’s all brand new, I’m sure you’ll love it.”
“Ah,” Artemis said. She removed Loretta’s tight grip. “Maybe next time, I’ve a plane to catch back to St. Petersburg, but thank you.”
End. Chapter 3
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