Vital Signs dmb-2, page 18part #2 of Dr. Marissa Blumenthal Series
Robert reached for his reading glasses and slipped them on.
Looking away from Marissa, he turned his attention back to his computer screen.
Seeing that he really didn't intend to discuss it any further, Marissa turned and walked out the door.
The problem with going to Australia was that for the most part Marissa thought Robert was right. It seemed an extravagant idea, in time as well as expense, not that finances were her top consideration. Still, she couldn't shake the feeling: it seemed unreasonable to suddenly fly halfway around the world.
Reaching for the phone, she called Wendy. Wendy answered on the first ring, as if she were waiting by the phone.
"Well?" Wendy asked.
"It doesn't look good," Marissa said.
"Robert is very much against the idea, at least of going to Australia. He likes the vacation part."
"Damn!" Wendy said.
"I'm disappointed. I was practically packing my bag. I could just feel that hot Australian sumner sun."
"Another time," Marissa said.
"Sorry to be such a drag."
"Sleep on it," Wendy said.
"Maybe tomorrow you and Robert will feel differently. I'm sure we'd have a ball."
Marissa hung up the phone. Suddenly sleep sounded good to her. She climbed the stairs, wishing that Robert would surprise her and join her for a change.
Marissa opened her eyes and immediately knew she'd overslept.
The light in the bedroom was brighter than it should have been. Rolling to the side, she glanced at the clock. She was right, it was almost eight-thirty, an hour later than usual. She wasn't surprised. Having awakened at four A.M. and unable to fall back asleep, she'd taken a piece of one of Robert's Valiums.
Pulling on her robe, she went down to the guest room and peered inside. The bed was empty and unmade. Going to the top of the stairs, she called down for Robert. If he was there, he didn't reply.
Descending the stairs, Marissa made a quick tour of the kitchen, eventually checking the garage. Robert's car was gone.
Going back inside, she looked on the planning desk for a message.
There was none. Robert had just left for work without so much as a note. Every time she'd thought their relationship had reached its nadir, it sank a little lower.
"Thanks for nothing," Marissa said aloud as she fought back tears. Then she shook herself.
"God, I've only been awake for ten minutes and already I'm crying." She made a cup of instant coffee and carried it upstairs to drink while she got dressed.
"A note wouldn't have been asking too much," she said as she stepped into the bathroom to shower.
While she was dressing and applying her makeup, Marissa decided she had to try to get her life back to some semblance of normality. For one thing, she conceded that Robert was right: her practice was in a shambles. Maybe she should start going to work on a more regular basis. Maybe then her relationship with Robert would improve. With that idea in mind, Marissa decided to head straight for her clinic.
Checking herself in the full-length hall mirror before going to her car, Marissa muttered, "I'll even start exercising again. It would be great to get back to my old weight."
With a new sense of resolve, Marissa strode down the main corridor on her floor and turned into her office. In contrast to the other waiting rooms, hers was empty. She found Mindy Valdanus at the reception desk, opening the mail.
"Dr. Blumenthal!" Mindy exclaimed.
"Don't act so surprised," Marissa said.
"Bring the scheduling book in. We have some planning to do."
"You just had a call from the intensive care unit at the Memorial,"
Wendy said. She handed Marissa a phone message slip.
"Dr. Ben Goldman asked you to return his call."
There was a stab in Marissa's heart. Her first thought was that Evelyn Welles had died.
"Hold up on the scheduling book," Marissa said. She opened the door to her office and went inside.
After hanging up her coat, Marissa rang Dr. Goldman. One of the intensive care unit nurses answered and put her on hold while she went to get the man. Marissa played with a paper clip while she waited.
A minute later, Dr. Goldman came on the line.
"I called about Evelyn Welles," he said, wasting no time.
"How is she doing?" Marissa asked, afraid to hear the answer.
"Clinically, not much change," Dr. Goldman said.
"But we did some smears of her vaginal secretions like you suggested, and they were loaded with acid-fast bacilli. I mean, loaded with TB.
My chief was impressed, but I didn't take credit for it. I have to admit I was tempted. How did you guess they'd be there?"
"It would take me an hour to explain," Marissa said.
"What about the Women's Clinic? Did you remember to ask the husband?"
"Sure did," Dr. Goldman said.
"The answer was yes. She'd been a patient there for several years."
"What about the record?" Marissa asked.
"That I don't know," Dr. Goldman admitted.
"But I asked the husband to try to get us a copy. I'll let you know if anything turns UP."
"The record could be key," Marissa said.
"I'd be very interested to have a look at it. Please call me back if you get it."
"Sure will," Dr. Goldman said.
"And thanks for the tip about looking for TB in the vagina. I've got a GYN consult coming in sometime today."
It was getting to the point where Marissa wasn't surprised to see her suspicions borne out. It was almost gratifying to have the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall so neatly into place. If Goldman didn't come through with that record, she resolved to contact Evelyn Welles' husband herself.
There was a knock on her door, then her secretary appeared.
She had Marissa's scheduling book in hand.
"Do you want to go over the scheduling book now?" she asked.
"No, not now," Marissa said.
"I've had a slight change of plans. I've got to go out for a little while. We'll do it as soon as I come back."
Marissa got her coat. She'd made a snap decision. The salpingitis problem was too important to ignore. She had to follow up on it. Robert had to understand. What she needed to do was have a real talk with him. No more of these halfhearted attempts. She decided to go to his office. Now that they'd both had a good night's sleep, maybe they would be in better shape to discuss their problems.
Getting into her car, and pulling out of the clinic's garage, Marissa already felt better than she had for months. She was doing something she should have done long ago. She had to explain to Robert what her feelings were and listen to his. They had to stop the downward spiral.
Parking was at a premium in downtown Boston. Marissa left her car with the doorman at the Omni Parker House Hotel, slipping him a five-dollar bill. When his expression didn't change, she gave him another five. She wasn't in a position to bargain.
Crossing School Street, she entered the elegant, refurbished old City Hall building that housed Robert's office. She took the elevator to the fourth floor, making her way to a door with HEALTH RESOURCE CORPORATION etched on the glass. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door and walked in.
The reception area of the office was handsomely decorated with rich mahogany paneled walls, leather seating, and Oriental rugs. The main receptionist recognized Marissa and smiled. She was on the phone.
Marissa passed the receptionist's desk. Familiar with the office, she walked straight back to Robert's corner office. His secretary, Donna, wasn't at her desk but the steaming cup of coffee in the middle of the blotter indicated she couldn't be far away.
Marissa went to Robert's door. She glanced back at Donna's telephone to see if any of the extension lines were lit. She didn't want to interrupt Robert if he was in the middle of a call. Seeing that no one was on the phone, Marissa knocked softly and entered.
Marissa was first aware of a flu
Stunned, Marissa stared at her husband. His tie was loosened and the top two buttons of his shirt were undone. His sandy hair, usually so neatly combed, was mussed. On the carpet by Robert's desk, Marissa spotted two high-heeled shoes.
The scene was so trite, Marissa didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
"Maybe I should wait outside for a few minutes," she said at last.
"It'll give you two time to finish your dictation." With that, she started to back out of the office.
"Marissa!" Robert said.
"Wait! This is not what you are thinking.
Donna was merely rubbing my shoulders. Tell her, Donna!"
"Yes!" Donna said.
"I was just rubbing his shoulders. He's been so tense."
"Whatever," Marissa said with a false smile.
"I think I'll be leaving. In fact, I've just reconsidered that idea I mentioned last night. I think I'll be going to Australia for a few days after all."
"No!" Robert said.
"I forbid you to go to Australia!"
"Oh, really?" Marissa said.
With that, Marissa spun on her heels and walked out of Robert's office. She heard him call after her, insisting she come back immediately, but she ignored him. The receptionist looked up at her with a quizzical expression, having heard her boss's cry, but Marissa merely smiled and kept moving. She went directly to the elevators and punched the Down button, refusing to so much as glance back at Robert's office door.
Inside the elevator, Marissa was glad to be alone. In spite of her rage, she felt a few hot tears slide down her face.
"Bastard!" she muttered.
Crossing School Street, Marissa ducked into the Omni Parker House and used a pay phone to call the airlines. Then, after picking up her keys from the doorman, she made a loop through downtown Boston and headed out Cambridge Street. She parked in the parking lot of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and went into the emergency area.
After checking both eye emergency rooms, she found Wendy helping a junior resident with a procedure in one of the minor surgical rooms.
When Wendy was through, Marissa took her out by the emergency room desk.
"Are you still up for the Australian trip?" Marissa asked.
"Sure!" Wendy said.
"You look kind of tense. Everything okay?"
Marissa ignored her question.
"How soon could you leave?"
"Pretty much anytime," Wendy answered.
"When do you want to go?"
"How about today," Marissa said.
"There's a United flight that leaves at five-fifteen that can get us to Sydney with connections to Brisbane. I think we may need visas, too. I'll call the Australian consulate to check."
"Wow!" Wendy said.
"I'll see what I can do. Why the rush?"
"So I don't change my mind," Marissa said.
"I'll explain once we're on our way."
"My God!" Wendy said as she and Marissa waited for their baggage in the Brisbane airport.
"I never had any idea the Pacific was so immense."
"I feel like we've been traveling for a week," Marissa agreed.
They had flown from Boston to L.A. Then from L.A. they had taken a nonstop to Sydney. It was the longest flight either had ever been on: almost fifteen hours. Then, as soon as they'd passed through formalities at Sydney, they boarded an Australian Airlines plane for the final leg to Brisbane.
"I knew Australia was far away," Wendy continued, "but I didn't know it was this far."
When their luggage appeared, they cheered. Having traveled on so many flights, they were afraid they'd never see it again.
They loaded the bags onto an airport pushcart and headed for the taxi stand.
"Certainly a modern-looking airport," Wendy commented.
Getting a cab was a breeze. The driver helped them with their bags and even opened and closed the cab doors for them. Once they were all settled, he turned to them and said: "Where to, luvs?"
"Mayfair Crest International Hotel, please," Marissa told him. Marissa had gotten the name of the hotel from an agent at Beacon Hill Travel. The agent had been an enormous help, essentially accomplishing the impossible: getting documents and reservations to leave the same afternoon.
"Do up your seat belts, ladies," the taxi driver said as he eyed them in the rearview mirror.
"Forty dollars if the coppers catch you without them."
Marissa and Wendy did as they were told. They were too tired to question.
"Is the Mayfair a good hotel?" Marissa asked.
"It's a bit dear," the driver said, "but it's or right
Marissa smiled at Wendy.
"I like the Australian accent," she whispered.
"It's like an English accent, but with a. down-home coziness."
"You ladies Yanks?" the driver asked them.
Marissa said that they were.
"We're from Boston, Massachusetts.
"Welcome to the Lucky Country," the driver said.
"Been here before?"
"First time," Marissa admitted.
With that, the cabdriver launched into a colorful history of Brisbane, including mention of its origins as a penal colony for the worst convicts of Sydney.
Both Marissa and Wendy were surprised by the lush greenness of the land. Luxuriant tropical vegetation lined the roads, engulfing entire buildings in a riot of colors. Purple jacaranda trees competed with pink oleander and blood-red bougainvillaea.
When the undistinguished, glass-faced high-rises of the downtown area came into view, Marissa and Wendy were less impressed.
"Looks like a city anywhere," Wendy said.
"You'd think they could have taken a hint from the local natural beauty and done something original."
"You wonder with all this land why they have to build so high," Marissa said.
Entering the city itself, their impressions improved. Although it was past rush hour, there were people everywhere. Everyone looked tanned and healthy. Almost all the men were in shorts.
"I think I'm going to like Australia," Wendy quipped.
As they waited at a light, Marissa looked at the parade of sunburnt faces. Many of the men had sandy blond hair and angular jaws.
"They remind me of Robert," Marissa said.
"Forget Robert!" Wendy said.
"At least for now."
During the flight, Marissa had told Wendy about her experience at Robert's office. Wendy had been horrified and sympathetic.
"No wonder you'd been so eager to leave," Wendy had said.
"I don't know what I'll do when I get back," Marissa had said.
"If Robert and Donna are truly having an affair, then our marriage is over."
The taxi entered a large square lined with palm trees.
"That's your hotel over there," the driver said, pointing with his free hand. Then, hooking a thumb over his shoulder, he said, "On the other side, that sandstone building with the clock tower, that's Brisbane City Hall. Built in the twenties. It's got a great marble staircase. There's a good view of the whole city from the top."
Checking into the hotel was effortless. Soon the women found themselves in a plainly decorated, air-conditioned room with a city view that included a portion of the Brisbane River.
After hanging up some of their clothes, they spread out on their respective beds.
"Are you as tired as I am?" Wendy asked.
"I sure am," Marissa said.
"But it's a good exhaustion: like a catharsis. I'm glad we came and I'm eager to see some of the city."
"All I need is a shower and a nap," Wendy said.
"Who's the tour director?"
"Sounds good to me," Marissa said.
"But I don't think we should sleep too long. Otherwise we won't be able to adjust to the time difference. I think we should call the desk and have someone wake us up in a couple of hours. Then we could do some sightseeing.
We'll save the clinic for tomorrow when we're fresh."
"I want to find out about getting out to the Great Barrier Reef," Wendy said.
"I can't wait. I've heard it's the best diving in the world."
"Why don't you hop in the shower first?" Marissa said.
"I want to look up Female Care Australia in the phone book and figure out where it is on the city map."
Wendy didn't argue. She scooted off the bed and disappeared into the bathroom while Marissa flipped through the phone book on the night-table between the beds. The clinic was located in a nearby suburb called Herston. Checking the map provided by the hotel, she noted that Herston was just north of Brisbane. She grabbed a scratch pad bearing the hotel's name to write down the address.
Marissa. was about to replace the phone book when she thought about Tristan Williams. Opening the directory to the his, she ran her finger down the column.
Just then, the door to the bathroom opened. Steam billowed out.
"Your turn," Wendy called. She had one towel wrapped around her head, another around her body.
"I can't believe how good it felt, especially washing my hair."
"Our pathologist friend's not in the phone book," Marissa said.
"That would have been too easy."
Marissa put the phone book away, then stepped into the bathroom for her shower.
When the phone rang, Marissa had trouble rousing herself.
Groggily she groped for the receiver. A cheerful voice at the other end of the line told her it was noon. Marissa hardly knew what to make of it. It wasn't until she saw Wendy soundly sleeping in the bed next to her that she recalled where she was.
Lying back down again, Marissa almost fell back to sleep. But remembering her own advice, she forced herself to get up. For the moment she was so exhausted that she was nauseated, yet she knew she had to adapt to the time difference.
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