Vital signs dmb 2, p.15

Vital Signs dmb-2, page 15

 part  #2 of  Dr. Marissa Blumenthal Series


Vital Signs dmb-2

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Marissa glanced at Wendy, who had her head down, her face pressed into a tissue. Every so often her shoulders would shake.

  Gustave, who was sitting next to her, put a hand on his wife's shoulder.

  At the conference table in the center of the room sat a no nonsense woman of about forty-five years of age. She wasn't happy to be there, as she'd let everyone know. She'd been pulled from her bed in the middle of the night. On the table in front of her was one of the many forms that had been filled out that night.

  She was completing it with exaggerated strokes of her pen.

  Glancing at her watch, the woman raised her head.

  "So where's the bail bondsman?" she asked.

  "He has been called, Madam Magistrate," Mr. Freeborn assured her.

  "I'm certain he will be here momentarily."

  "If not, these ladies are going back into the lockup," the magistrate threatened.

  "Just because they can afford a high-priced lawyer doesn't mean they should be treated any differently by the law."

  "Absolutely," Mr. Freeborn agreed.

  "I spoke with the baifll bondsman myself. He will be here immediately, I assure you."

  Marissa shuddered. She'd never been in jail before, and she didn't want to go. The experience that evening had been overwhelming.

  She'd even been handcuffed and strip-searched.

  When the fire department had arrived at the Women's Clinic, she and Wendy had been ecstatic. The flailing hose had kept the security guard at bay. But along with the firefighters had come the police, and the police had listened to the guard. In the end, Marissa and Wendy had been arrested and led away in handcuffs.

  First they'd been taken to the Cambridge police station where they had been read their rights a second time, booked, fingerprinted, and photographed. After they'd been allowed to call their husbands, they were put into the police station lockup.

  They'd even had to endure the indignities of using exposed toilets.

  Later on, Marissa and Wendy had been taken from the police station cells, re-handcuffed, and driven to the Middlesex County Courthouse, where they had been reincarcerated in a more serious appearing jail. There they'd been given dry prison garb to replace the wet clothes they'd had on.

  The magistrate was kept waiting another ten minutes before the bail bondsman arrived. He was an overweight, balding man.

  He entered carrying a vinyl briefcase.

  The bondsman strode directly to the conference table, placing his briefcase on it with a resounding thud.

  "Hello, Gertrude," he said, addressing the magistrate. He released the latch on his case.

  "Did you walk here, Harold?" asked the magistrate.

  "What are you talking about?" said the bondsman.

  "I live out near Somerville Hospital. How could I walk here?"

  "I was being sarcastic," the magistrate said with a disgusted expression.

  "Forget it. Here are the bail and bond orders for these two ladies. They are for ten thousand each."

  The bondsman took the papers. He was impressed and pleased.

  "Wow, ten thousand!" he said.

  "What did they do, hit the Bay Bank in Harvard Square?"

  "Just about," said the magistrate.

  "They're to be arraigned by Judge Burano on Monday morning for breaking and entering, trespass, malicious destruction of property, larceny through unauthorized computer entry and theft of private files, and…" The magistrate consulted the form in front of her.

  "Oh, yes! Assault and battery. Apparently they beat up on a security guard."

  "That's not true," Marissa yelled, unable to contain herself.

  Her sudden outburst brought fresh tears. She blurted out that it had been the other way around: the guards had attacked them.

  "And Paul Abrums, a retired policeman, will testify to it," she added.

  "Marissa, shut up!" Robert said. He still couldn't believe his wife's escapade.

  The magistrate glared at Marissa.

  "You are perhaps forgetting that Mr. Abrums is also a defendant in this action and will be facing the same charges when he gets out of the hospital."

  "Mrs. Buchanan is very upset," Mr. Freeborn said.

  "That's obvious," the magistrate said.

  "Which one's Buchanan and which is Anderson?" the bondsman asked, coming over to the men.

  "I'll take care of this," Mr. Freeborn said.

  "Mr. Buchanan's banker is waiting for your call to arrange collateral for both suspects. Here is the number."

  The bondsman took the number.

  "You can use this phone," the magistrate said, pointing to the phone on the conference table with her pen.

  As soon as the bondsman made his call, the rest of the paperwork went swiftly.

  "That's that," the magistrate announced.

  Marissa stood up.

  "Thank you," she said.

  "Sorry you didn't like our accommodations here at the courthouse," the magistrate told her, still miffed at what she thought was the special attention Marissa and Wendy had been able to arrange through Mr. Freeborn.

  Mr. Freeborn accompanied both couples as they left the deserted courthouse. Their heels echoed loudly against the marble floor.

  Marissa and Wendy were chilled by the time they got to their respective cars. They climbed in in silence. No one had spoken since leaving the conference room.

  "Thanks for coming out, George," Robert called to the lawyer.

  "Yes, thanks," Gustave called.

  "See you all Monday morning," George called back. He waved as he climbed into his sleek black Mercedes.

  Robert and Gustave exchanged glances. They shook their heads in mutual sympathy.

  Robert got into his car and slammed the door. He glanced at Marissa, but she was staring straight ahead, her jaw set. Robert started the car and pulled out into the street.

  "I'm not going to say I told you so," he said finally as they crossed over the old Charles River Dam.

  "Good. Don't say anything." After her ordeal, Marissa felt she needed comforting, not a lecture.

  "I think you owe me an explanation," Robert said.

  "And I don't think I owe you anything," Marissa said, glaring at Robert.

  "And let me tell you something: those guards were crazy back in the clinic. I was almost shot in the face at pointblank range. The man you hired told you so. They even beat us!"

  "It all sounds a little hard to believe," Robert said.

  "Are you suggesting we're lying to you?" Marissa asked, incredulous.

  "I believe that's what you believe happened," Robert said evasively.

  Marissa faced forward. Once again her emotions were caroming around like a squash ball. She didn't know whether to cry more or pound the dashboard. Undecided, she just clenched her fists and gritted her teeth.

  They drove in hostile silence along Storrow Drive. After they got on the Mass Pike, Marissa turned to him.

  "Why did you have me followed?" she demanded.

  "Apparently it was a damn good thing I did."

  "That's not the point," Marissa said.

  "Why did you have me followed?" she repeated.

  "I don't like it."

  "I had you followed to try to keep you out of trouble," Robert said.

  "Obviously it didn't work."

  "Someone has to try to follow up on these TB cases," Marissa said.

  "Occasionally risks have to be taken."

  "Not to the point of doing something plainly illegal," Robert said.

  "You are obsessed with this thing, and irrational. It's become a crusade, and it's driving me crazy. I can't believe you.

  You're still trying to justify unjustifiable behavior."

  "What if I told you we discovered eighteen cases of TB salpingitis in the Women's Clinic alone?" Marissa asked.

  "Do you think that might bear out my suspicions? And that eighteen probably isn't even counting Rebecca Ziegler. Her record was already erased from the computer. What do you think about

  Robert shrugged irritably.

  "I'll tell you what I think. I think they have something to hide," Marissa said.

  "I think there was something in Rebecca's record that they didn't want anyone to see."

  "Come on, Marissa!" Robert snapped.

  "Now you're getting melodramatic and paranoid. This is all conjecture. In the meantime, we'll he footing some all-too palpable legal fees to try to keep you out of jail."

  "So it all comes down to money," Marissa shot back.

  "That's your biggest concern, isn't it?"

  Marissa closed her eyes. Sometimes she wondered what had ever possessed her to marry this man. And now she had the threat of a jail sentence looming in her immediate future. Things seemed to be going from bad to worse to worse still, like the unraveling of a Greek tragedy.

  Marissa opened her eyes and stared at the onrushing road. Her mind jumped from one anxiety to another. She wondered what effect the guard's blows might have had on her embryo transfer.

  Monday was to be her day of reckoning in more ways than one.

  Not only was she to be arraigned on an array of criminal charges, she was scheduled for her pregnancy blood test.

  Fresh tears welled in her eyes. The way things were going, it wasn't hard to predict how that blood test would turn out. All of a sudden it wasn't so surprising that Rebecca Ziegler had jumped to her death. Maybe she'd been under similar stress.

  But, then again, maybe she hadn't jumped. Maybe she'd been pushed….


  April 2, 1990

  9:35 A.M.

  Although Marissa and Wendy had spoken on the phone early Saturday morning, Marissa did not see her friend until Monday morning at the courthouse. As she and Robert entered the courtroom, they saw Wendy, Gustave, and their lawyer sitting in the pew like benches on the left. Robert tried to steer Marissa to an empty row on the right, but she resisted and went over to her friend.

  Wendy looked awful. She stared ahead as if in a trance. Her eyes were red, rimmed, and sunken. It was obvious she'd been crying, probably a lot. Marissa touched her on the shoulder and whispered her name. Seeing Marissa, fresh tears began to streak down her cheeks.

  "What's the matter?" Marissa asked. Wendy seemed more distraught than expected.

  Wendy tried to speak but couldn't. All she could do was shake her head. Marissa grabbed her arm and pulled her out of her seat.

  Together they walked back through the milling crowd and out of the courtroom.

  Spotting a ladies' room, Marissa steered her friend into the lavatory.

  "What is it?" Marissa asked.

  "Is it something between you and Gustave?"

  Wendy shook her head again and sobbed. Marissa hugged her tight.

  "Is it this legal stuff?" she asked.

  Wendy shook her head.

  "It's my blood test," she said at last.

  "I had it drawn on Saturday. I'm not pregnant."

  "But that was only the first test," Marissa said.

  "They'll have to do another to see how much the hormone goes up." She was trying to be optimistic, but she knew that if Wendy thought she wasn't pregnant, then she probably wasn't. The news sent an icicle through Marissa's heart. Just that morning before coming to the courthouse, Marissa had stopped at the Memorial for her blood to be drawn for the same test.

  "The hormone level was so low," Wendy sobbed, "I can't be pregnant. I just know it."

  "I'm so sorry," Marissa said.

  "Do you think what happened at the clinic Friday night could have had an effect on the transfer?" Wendy asked.

  "Oh, no!" Marissa said, even though the same awful thought was in her mind.

  "Excuse me," said a gum-chewing woman in a tight miniskirt.

  "Either of you Dr. Blumenthal?"

  "I am," Marissa said with surprise.

  The woman hooked a thumb over her shoulder.

  "Your husband is waiting. Says he wants you out there immediately."

  "They must be starting the arraignments," Marissa said to Wendy.

  "We have to be there."

  "I know," Wendy said, still crying. She took tissue from Marissa and wiped her eyes.

  "I look terrible," she said.

  "I'm afraid to look in the mirror."

  "You look fine," Marissa lied.

  The two women left the ladies' room together. Robert was standing right outside the door with his hands on his hips.

  "What's the matter now?" he asked with exasperation after taking one look at Wendy.

  "You do understand that you have to be in the courtroom when your cases are called, don't you?"

  Marissa addressed him in a low, barely civil tone.

  "Look, I know it's hard for you to appreciate, but Wendy is grief-stricken because her latest embryo transfer didn't take. To us, it's as bad and as real as a miscarriage."

  Robert rolled his eyes.

  "Come on," he said.

  "She can save it for her therapist. I'm not about to let you jeopardize yourselves by missing your arraignment."

  Despite Robert's concern, Marissa and Wendy weren't called for another thirty minutes. As they nervously waited, Mr. Freeborn explained that the cases were taken in the order that the involved arresting authority completed the appropriate paperwork.

  So they had to wait while a parade of characters were arraigned on a variety of charges such as manslaughter, robbery, attempted rape, drug trafficking, driving under the influence, receiving stolen goods, and assault and battery. Finally, at ten-twenty, the clerk of the court called out: "Cases 9045CR-987 and 988, the Commonwealth versus BlumenthalBuchanan and Wilson-Anderson."

  "Okay, that's us," Mr. Freeborn said, standing and motioning for Marissa to do the same.

  Across the aisle, Marissa could see Wendy stand With her lawyer. He was a tall, thin man whose jacket sleeves were too short, making his arms and bony hands seem unnaturally long.

  Together the foursome moved from the gallery section to a spot before the bench.

  Judge Burano appeared disinterested. He continued to peruse the array of papers laid out in front of him. He was a heavyset man in his sixties, with wrinkled features that gave him an uncanny resemblance to a bulldog. Reading glasses pinched the end of his broad nose.

  The clerk cleared his throat, then read in a loud voice for all to hear.

  "Marissa Blumenthal-Buchanan, you are hereby charged by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with breaking and entering. How do you so plead?"

  "Mrs. Marissa Blumenthal-Buchanan pleads not guilty," Mr.

  Freeborn said with his commanding voice.

  "Marissa Blumenthal-Buchanan, you are hereby charged by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with trespass," the clerk of the court droned on. He went through the entire list of charges, and each time Mr. Freeborn entered the same not-guilty plea.

  When Marissa's charges had been read and recorded and her pleas entered, the clerk of the court repeated the same process with Wendy.

  At that point a woman Marissa guessed to be an assistant district attorney stood up. With several sheets in her hand for reference, she addressed the court: "Your honor, the Commonwealth requests the re imposition of the bail previously set by the magistrate in these two cases. These are serious charges, and it is our understanding that there was significant property damage at the involved clinic."

  "Your Honor, if I may," Mr. Freeborn said.

  "My client, Dr. Blumenthal-Buchanan, is an esteemed physician in our state who has received national recognition for her work. I believe strongly that she should be released on her own recognizance. I would like to make a motion that the bail set by the magistrate be dropped."

  "Your Honor," Wendy's lawyer said, "I would like to echo MY esteemed colleague's motion. My client, Dr. Wendy Wilson Anderson is on the staff at the renowned Massachusetts Eye and

  Ear Infirmary as an ophthafinologist. She is also a property owner in the Commonwealth."

  For the first time since Mariss
a and Wendy had come forth, the judge glanced up from his paperwork. He regarded the group before him with a cold eye.

  "I will reduce bail to five thousand for each defendant," he said.

  Just then, a well-dressed man in a handsome business suit approached the prosecution's table. He tapped the woman ADA on the shoulder and spoke to her at length. Once he had finished, the woman began conferring with her two colleagues.

  "We will set a pre-trial conference date for May 8, 1990," the clerk of the court said.

  "If it please the court, Your Honor," the assistant district attorney said, once again approaching the bench, "there has been a development in this case. Mr. Brian Pearson would like to address the court."

  "And who is Mr. Brian Pearson?" Judge Burano demanded.

  "I am counsel for the Women's Clinic, Your Honor," Mr.

  Pearson said.

  "It was within the premises of the Women's Clinic that the alleged crimes were committed by the defendants. Dr.

  Wingate, the director of the clinic, has instructed me to petition the court with respect to this matter. Although the defendants' behavior is not condoned in any way, the clinic does not wish to press charges, provided the women acknowledge their liability and give their word that they will respect the property of the clinic in future and pay reasonable compensation for the repair of damages their acts caused."

  "This is unusual, to say the least," Judge Burano said. He cleared his throat. Turning to the assistant district attorney, he asked: "What is the Commonwealth's opinion of this development?"

  "We do not object, Your Honor," the assistant district attorney said.

  "If the clinic doesn't want to press charges, then the Commonwealth won't insist."

  "Well, isn't this curious," the judge said, turning his attention back to Maxissa and Wendy.

  "Nolle prosequi! This certainly is a first in my court. But if no one wants to prosecute, then it behooves me to lessen the judicial burden of the Commonwealth by dropping the case. But before doing so, I intend to voice an opinion."

  Judge Burano leaned forward, studying the women.

  "From the material I've gone over, it suggests to me that you two adults have been acting mighty irresponsibly, especially in your capacity as physicians. I don't countenance such obvious disrespect for the law and for private property. The case is dismissed, but you two women should feel indebted to the Women's Clinic for its generosity."

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