Monthly Archives: March 2023

A Relationship Beckons: Returning The Phone: Jake and Caroline(#8) Tuesday

To read this serialized blog of A Relationship Beckons from the beginning, click here: Crisis Averted #1 . Then navigate to the next post using the links in the upper corners

Awakening

Jake fidgeted as Olivia’s soft curves undulated back and forth over him. He lie on his back gazing up at her, drinking in her vague beauty. The cloudy lines in and around her partially obscured his sight of her. But he knew it was her. The familiar, comfortable feel of her warmth; the curve of her angelic face; the penetrating ice blue eyes and, of course, her alluring, intimate curves. He ran his fingertips over her hips moving them upward navigating the topography of the torso, guiding her, encouraging her. His body moved in perfect concert with hers, gyrating faster with each passing second toward the anticipated crescendo.

Out of the corner of his dream’s eye, he spied a nebulous figure in the shadows, murky and hesitant, lurking near the lingerie chest visible but out of focus. As his dead wife pleased herself atop him, Jake’s attention remained riveted on the mysterious form. Olivia–in silent pleading and protestations–began tugging at Jake’s subconscious, willing his eyes back to hers. But Jake’s stare stayed on the dubious silhouette. As ripples of pleasure rocked him, propelling him toward a heavenly climax. As his pleasure mounted, her unspoken words grated in his ears.

Her hips ground harder and deeper as her remonstrations grew harsher. In response, Jake pushed harder against her. When their bodies could go no faster, grind no harder, the figure moved away from the chest, stepping closer to them. It rushed to their side impatiently, interrupting their love-making. Olivia’s image disintegrated, melting away. The face belonging to the figure lowered itself toward Jake, leaving the misty shroud concealing it.

Rather than lingering the face receded and a new torrent of images assaulted him. The face of the stranger was replaced by the mug of Stephan Willings, the pinch-faced pharmacy manager, from a different angle.  The disgusted, frustrated moues of dissatisfied customers and patients clicked onto the screen of his subconscious like clinical slides showing the carnage of hatred and intolerance alternating on either side of Olivia moving body. Jake’s head jerked from side to side. There was Lizzie’s chubby-cheeked smile smeared with spaghetti sauce chopping on snippets of pasta with her plump fingers. The mangled metal and shattered glass of the devastating car wreck.

Olivia, feeling his distraction, re-doubled her efforts, pressing her body into him, lowering her breasts onto his chest and allowing her nipples to caress him. She battled desperately for his attention…

Then the little boy, blue and pale, sped past his eyes, pleading with Jake for assistance. Willings. Patients. Helen, the middle-aged pharmacy technician. More patients. Lizzie. Olivia. The wreck.

Then the first stranger reappeared jutting her face at him. It was not harsh nor an unpleasant experience. It was interruption. It was the face of kindness and gratitude. Jake was transported back to the waiting area in the pharmacy. The boy–what was his name–sitting in his mother’s lap as he administered the breathing medication. In this version of events in his dream, Jake was not focused on the boy as he had been that day. Now at this moment, his subconscious brought forth the pleasing scent of his mother, the nearness of her breasts, the soft, silken curtain of hair framing a concerned, pleasing visage.

Then everything disappeared…

Jake woke with a start. His lungs burned. His chest heaved. He was covered in perspiration. His eyes locked on the ceiling because it was above him and the only image available to him. Everything from his disjointed, sensual yet upsetting carnal episode lingered. Momentarily paralyzed, he tried to assimilate, to understand where he was and what had happened. After a time, blinking rapidly, he calmed his breathing and realized it had been a dream. An extremely realistic and jarring dream. With great effort, he pulled back the bed covers and rose to a sitting position. He dragged his hands down his face and sucked in several deep breaths. He swung his legs off the bed. Padding to the toilet, he lowered his briefs, placed one hand on the wall and whizzed into the bowl. He trudged to the kitchen, placed a K-cup into the Keurig and brewed a large cup of java. As it brewed, he moved to the sink and splashed several handfuls of cold water onto his face. He patted it dry with a dish towel and expelled another long sigh.

His vision bothered him. He hadn’t dreamt about Olivia in weeks. And it had been at least six months since he’d fantasized that she was making love to him. The memory and sensation had felt as real as it ever had. The memory pleased and shocked him. But what frightened him more was the presence of the image that had intruded, expelling Olivia from his reverie. The last few seconds, it had transformed it from a near wet dream to a breath-stealing intrusion, thrusting him into the present reality. It had been…her.

The unnamed woman. The easy-on-the eyes mother of Peter–that was his name–the boy Jake had saved at the pharmacy.

He doused his coffee with a healthy portion of creamer, stirred it. Returning to the bedroom, he retrieved both phones and tapped the screen on the unknown woman’s phone. The image of the smiling Peter reappeared as he gulped the hot coffee.

He needed to get this thing back to her…or someone somehow. The need was urgent now. Though he’d only had the phone in his possession for a few hours. Less than ten. It felt heavy and burdensome. He wanted to be rid of it. He needed to put this in his past.

A Plea For Help

Latent images rushed her. Caroline lowered Peter’s binoculars from her eyes. She stared out the window but she did not see beyond the glass or the louvres of the blind. She saw only what her mind regurgitated. Scattered disconnected images collected from the last twenty-four hours.

Pressing the accelerator of her Escalade, the monstrous vehicle fishtailing out of the soft, wet grass of the shoulder and nearly colliding with another car screaming past as Peter struggled for breath in the backseat. The sliver of a memory cut at her:…the driver making a animated gesture at her in the millisecond as it passed. No, as she passed. The vehicle was dark blue or black. The logo on the rear hatch of the SUV. The circle divided into quadrants of alternating blue and white, resembling that of a spinning propeller. A BMW.

Then that same SUV skidding to a halt behind her in the pharmacy parking lot as Caroline carried a barely-breathing Peter across the pavement. It hadn’t registered then. It was the same BMV, gleaming and polished in the brilliant spring sun. But Caroline’s mind must have recorded it as she bolted toward the pharmacy door. The image of the Virginia license plate had been burned in her mind like a searing brand on her cerebrum: BTCHY.

Later in the emergency room, Caroline remembered thinking she had seen this woman before as she angled herself against the wall. Luca’s–whatever–concubine, slut, bitch, drug dealer, whore. She recalled the thin, wry smile creeping across this witch’s features. In this revelatory moment despite her growing consternation, Caroline begrudgingly admitted that this woman was not unattractive. Caroline raised the orange field glasses again. This time she could she that the she-devil looked haggard and exhausted as she thumbed through the images on her phone in the early morning light.

But an obvious fact impatiently elbowed away her memories. Luca was having this woman follow her. That’s how he had known that Peter was in the emergency room. That’s how he had arrived so quickly even without Caroline calling him. Which she had never done. He must have been in the middle of shooting up or snorting a few lines. He had been high in the hospital.

How long had she been following her? Had she been parked on Caroline’s street corner all night long? Caroline swore at Luca and her own naivete. She was foolish for not realizing Luca would resort to such tactics. Luca’s paranoia was fueled by his criminal activities, his nature and stoked by his relentless drug use.

Caroline checked the clock over the small gas fireplace. It was still very early just before six in the morning. The man living in the other unit of this duplex was an older gentleman with whom she had a congenial relationship. They had been neighbors for about six months and spoke twice a week about neighborly, irrelevant matters. Caroline once let it slip that she was divorced. He had told her that he was retired and his wife had died two years ago. Caroline guessed he was about seventy. But he was kind and tended to look out for them.

Caroline pondered for a moment. Then she retreated to the back door and opened it slowly. She slipped outside and circled the fence partition separating her part of the backyard from her neighbor’s. Knocking three times, Caroline ran a hand through her disheveled hair. After several moments, she lifted her fist to hit the door again when it swung open.

“Oh!'” she started. “You surprised me!”

The elderly black man with a cloud of white hair and white moustache and wearing a wrinkled t-shirt and pajama pants registered surprise. “Good morning Caroline. I surprised you? You did knock on my door, didn’t you?”

Blushing, she replied, “Yes, Mr. Beck. I didn’t think you’d answer so quickly. Thought you’d still be asleep.”

“I get up at five every day. With this damn prostate, I have to pee three times a night”

“I’m sorry to disturb. But I don’t know what to do. I need your help.”

Instantly concerned, Joe Beck said, “Is it Peter? Not another asthma attack, I hope?”

Caroline shook her head. “No nothing like that.” She hesitated then continued. “It could be nothing, but something doesn’t seem right.”

“Tell me.”

“It’s out front,” she said.

Joe Beck turned and looked to the front of his unit. He spun back to Caroline and said, “Show me.”

He stepped aside and allowed her to enter. The kitchen was a mirror image of hers, small but functional with the basic amenities. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee filled the air. A steaming mug sat beside an open laptop. The Wall Street Journal website shone on the screen.

Caroline followed him into the living room around which resided stacks of novels and magazines. She spied a gun of some kind–not a revolver–lying on one of the side tables. He approached the front door and was about to grab the knob when she stopped him.

“Don’t open the door!”

Beck halted and rotated, looking confused then concerned. “What?!”

She pointed to the window facing the street. Caroline walked over and separated the slats of the blind an inch or two. “That car has been parked their all night. There’s a woman sitting in it.”

“All night?”

“I heard Peter rustling around three. I happened to glance out the window. The driver was looking at her phone and her face was lit up,” she lied. “When I got up again a few minutes ago, I saw that the car and the woman were still there.”

“A friend of yours?” Beck studied Caroline. Caroline did not meet his gaze. But she replied honestly. “No, it looks suspicious. But I don’t want to call the police if it’s nothing.”

Beck scratched his balding head. “I spent thirty years in HR. I’ll find out what’s going on.”

The Black Man

Debra read the text she’d just composed: “Been here most of the night. Her car is in the drive way. No other cars around. No signs of a man. Appears to be alone!” She tapped the send arrow.

Two sharp raps on the passenger side window caused Debra to start. Her heart jumped into her throat. Her head swiveled toward the sound. Her hand instinctively moved to the blade slipped into her open bag at her feet. A tall, aging black man with white hair and moustache bent at the waist appeared ready to knock on the glass again. He was wrapped in a tan robe and the wrinkled collar of a t-shirt created a white triangle below his chin. His eyes were hard, penetrating and not inviting.

He motioned for her to lower the window. Debra depressed the door button and lowered the glass a few inches.

“Can I help you?” She asked.

“Morning.”

A ding told her that Luca had replied to her text. Good. Did you place the tracker on her car?

Debra hesitated and looked at her phone. “Good morning,” she replied with her eyes lowered, reading the response.

“You live around here?”

“Who’s asking?”

The black man hefted a thumb over his shoulder. “I live right back there. Noticed you sitting here for a while. Just checking to make sure you don’t need anything. I’m part of the neighborhood watch. Been watching you for a while now.”

He straightened and removed a cell phone from the pocket of his robe. Moving past the right front headlight, the stranger held the phone in such a way Debra could tell he was shooting a pic of her tag number.

Another ding. Did you place it?

“Ah….I was just trying to find…a place to have breakfast. There’s no need to do that,” she said when he returned to the window.

“Just a precaution. Can’t be too careful,” he retorted, bending back down to the slightly open window.

“I don’t mean any harm.”

A Third ding. Did you?

“Then you shouldn’t care if I record your plate.” The man’s eyes shifted to her phone. “Your boyfriend’s getting impatient?”

Debra looked up from the device but said nothing. Their eyes locked for a tortuous quintet of seconds.

The old man moved his gaze from the front to the back of the car. “Nice!” He smiled. The smile disintegrated just as quickly as it had appeared. “Not from around here, huh?”

“Not really.”

“Too much violence. Damn mass shootings on the television every week. Crazy ass kids doing drug deals, shooting teachers–each other. Like I said can’t be too careful. You should be careful where you hang out, young lady.”

“Ah…yeah…right,” Debra croaked. Her heart rate spiked. She could feel it pounding in her temples. The fatigue was catching up with her.

“You be moving on now. I got some neighbors who aren’t so patient as me. Try Shorty’s Diner. Opens at six in just a few minutes. Best home fries around.”

Debra put the phone in the console tray and pressed the car’s starter button. The Beamer fired up. She rammed the shift into drive and punched the accelerator. The car lurched taking the corner in a high squeal.

The phone rang through the car’s speakers. The displayed showed it was Luca. She hit the talk button and shouted, “What?”

Luca’s tired and drug-addled voice slurred. “Did you put it on her car?”

“God Damnit! Yes!”

Finding The Phone’s Owner

Ninety minutes later, Jake entered through the garage. Sweat stained his Semper Fi t-shirt in circles under the armpits and in an imverted V down the middle. It clung to his torso over a pair of red shorts trimmed in gold. The thigh of the right leg was emblazoned with the Eagle, Globe and Anchor. Jake had pushed himself harder than normal this morning. Normally, he covered the five miles in about forty-five minutes. Today, he’d done it thirty-five.

He needed to exorcize the visions. He figured he could accomplish this in three ways. First, the exertion pumped the blood hard through his veins, clearing his head and cleansing his soul. Second, he was going to get the damn phone off of his person and out of his house. Then he was going to get Lizzie from his mom and they would go do something fun. Distraction. Focus on what’s important.

He ate two pieces of toast slathered with jam and downed a second cup of coffee then hopped in a steamy shower. Twenty minutes later, he donned a pair of jeans and pulled a blue Polo over his head. He grabbed his phone from the night stand along with the unknown woman’s.

He sat at his computer desk in the downstairs office and touched the screen. The smiling image of Peter again stared up at him. In the upper left hand corner of the screen, he saw in small letters the name of the provider. He searched for the nearest outlet for that company. They opened at nine. The time on his computer screen read 8:23am.

He needed to cool his heels for about twenty minutes. He would leave then and he should get there when they opened.

His phone rang. He checked the screen and saw the name: Stephan Willings. He would keep calling until Jake answered that’s the kind of dickhead he was.

“Hello?”

Willings did not even bother with a greeting. “I need to see you this morning. I am writing you up for closing the drive-thru.”

“It was in the best interests of my patients and my practice. It was unsafe to have it remain open. We were understaffed and the chance of mistakes happening were too high.”

“Company policy does not allow you to close the drive-thru with approval.”

“I don’t care, Willings. I don’t need your approval. My name is on those prescriptions. Not yours. I’m the one who will have to answer for any mistakes made.”

“I’m not asking. I’m demanding. You come into the district office today.”

“We’ll see what the Board of Pharmacy says. It’s my day off. We’ll talk when I get back to work two days from now. Go haunt someone else!”

The benefits of the run and the shower dissolved. His ire returned climbing high in his back and neck along with a bolus of bile in his gut. I’m calling the BOP laterhe told himself. This crap is going to stop. He paced around the house for a good five minutes stewing. The retail pharmacy industry was killing itself because of management’s lack of concern for its employees and their work environment. Boards of Pharmacy around the country including Virginia had begun to take action to correct the dire situation. The public was in danger from understaffed and overworked pharmacists and technicians.

Jake knew that Virginia’s Board had issued a guidance document stating the expectations for the work environment. Corporations were being advised to no longer place quotas on pharmacist for immunizations, prescriptions or time expectations. They were also mandating that staffing be appropriate. The document also said that the pharmacist on-duty had the final say as to what happened, if it happened and how it happened, not the corporations. Though the document did not have the force of law, Jake also had read that it soon would, at least, in Virginia.

His belly roiling he checked his watch. He bounded out the door and into his car. He arrived just as the customer service associate unlocked the front door.

“What can I help you with?”

“I found someone’s phone and I need to get it back to them.”

Jake place the device on the counter. The young woman turned it to her, tapped the screen and read their company’s names in the upper left corner. “Okay, I see we are the provider. I assume since you are here that you do not know whose phone it is.”

“No, I don’t. I thought maybe you could look up a serial number or something?”

“No, can’t do that. But if you want to leave it with us. Since they use our service, I can try to re-unite it with its owner if possible.”

Jake considered the offer. Considering his torment from this morning, he should take her up on it. “Ah,” Jake hesitated. “No, is there anything else you can do?”

She pressed the side buttons on the iPhone then re-started it. She explained. “Sometimes folks will put ‘In Case of Emergency’ on the Lock Screen or will put emergency contacts there as well.” The phone rebooted. The woman swiped up on the screen and the “Enter Passcode” screen appeared at the bottom the word “Emergency” and “Cancel” appeared. She tapped emergency. “They can also set up the Medical ID with emergency contacts.” She swiped at the screen again. “But that has not been done with this phone.”

“Crap,” Jake muttered.

With some effort, the woman removed the phone case and examined it. “Sometimes folks will put contact info on the phone for just this reason. But I don’t see anything. She put a finger to her mouth as she thought. “Let’s try this.” She held the phone to her face and said, “Call Mom.”

An ID popped onto the Lock Screen. The image of an elderly woman appeared and the name, “Mom”. The attendant pressed the call button. and placed the call on speaker. It rang several times and then gave that frustrating three-note tone followed by a computer voice: The voicemail box has not been set up.

“Looks like I’m outta luck,” Jake sighed.

“Well, that call should be registered on the mom’s caller log. Perhaps she’ll call back. Then you can explain you have the phone. ”

The young woman shook her head. “Sorry none of those things worked. I’ll be happy to hold it for you and see if she calls back. Or you can turn it in to the police.”

Give her the phone and be done with it!

“No,” Jake replied, tapping the phone. “I’ll think I’ll hold onto it…for now.”

Back in his car, Jake navigated back onto Jefferson Avenue headed to his mother’s to pick up Lizzie. As he braked for a light, the stranger’s phone chimed some kind of peppy tune. Jake picked up the device and clicked on.

“Hello?”

To Be Continued-

If you have a pharmacy story or a story (heroic or challenging) of everyday life in your healthcare world, send it to me by clicking the link below…

Courtney Johnson and Yezellia Bray of Victra, an authorized Verizon dealer, in Suffolk, Virginia for their assistance with the research for this month’s blog.
The author also utilized the New York Times article (04/24/2019) How to Return a Lost Phone

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