Monthly Archives: September 2023
To read this serialized blog of A Relationship Beckons from the beginning, click here: Crisis Averted #1. Then navigate to subsequent posts using the links in the upper corners.
Check out the special advance offer at the end of this blog for a new book scheduled for release later this year from local authors Dr. Lisa Spiller and Sylvia Weinstein Craft…
Caroline sat at her small kitchen table, drinking coffee. It was her third cup this morning. She’d had the first early this morning trying to settle her nerves after the incident with Luca’s bitch staking out her house followed by Joe Beck’s intervention. The second cup had been with the pharmacist named Jake on Warwick Boulevard at the restaurant of the same name. She could feel her nerves unraveling. It was a combination of the caffeine and the ominous thoughts about all the had happened recently. She needed to call in a refill on her Ativan. She fished out a small key from her purse and a sickening feeling grew in her belly. This tiny key would unlock a whole new dimension to her life. That dimension was not one she ever envisioned and one she hoped she would never have to employ.
After she’d recovered from the shock of waking up to the sight of the BMW across the street, she’d left Peter with her mother who would take him to his first grade class. The school year was winding down and soon he would home all day long during summer break. She looked forward to spending more unfettered quality time with him, uninterrupted by Luca’s disruptive antics. Unfortunately, that was a pipe dream.
As the steaming cup sat before her, Caroline longed for better circumstances for the two of them. Peter’s asthmatic episode had scared her. She’d been so frazzled about forgetting his inhaler. But the heroic pharmacist whose name she now knew to be Jake had saved the day. Her enormous relief and sense of guilt was still all-consuming and lurking just below the surface of her consciousness.
Then Jake had returned her lost phone. Her near-breakdown at Schooner’s had nearly overwhelmed her. But with his patience and assistance, she’d recovered and managed to keep it together and properly thank him. In the short time they’d spent together she had not learned much about him. He had a gorgeous daughter. There was a wife. But Jake had been extremely tight lipped about her. There was something going on there. Caroline didn’t know what. She sensed it was something less than positive. A kind of tragic desolation lingered behind his eyes. It intrigued her. He intrigued her. He had been kind to her when she was weak. He’d downplayed the whole scene. That told her a lot about the kind of man he was.
She had no business expecting romance right now. With everything, it was the last thing she needed. But there was a niggle of expectation about him. She shook the thought from her mind. She needed to focus on her situation and Luca.
Luckily, she didn’t need to work right now. The divorce from Luca had left her with a one time windfall with which she’d been able to buy this carriage home for all cash. The court had ordered her crazy Italian Ex to pay enough alimony and child support for the two of them to live a modest existence. But she knew that Luca’s money would stop someday. Probably sooner than later.
Luca technically owned a small chain of dry cleaner’s in southeastern Virginia, may be five or six total. She also knew that those businesses could not support his expensive car, decent sized home and his growing drug addiction. Luca Clivio was a mobster through-and-through. Right down to his Sicilian toes inside those ugly patent leather shoes. He made his real money running a gang for Big Tommy Romano. Guns, dealing drugs, human trafficking and an underground gambling operation. One of her attorney’s crack investigators had managed to unearth Luca’s books. He’d been running his drug money through the dry cleaners to wash it. But he and his bookkeepers had done a poor job of hiding it. Luckily for Caroline–and Luca– the judge had admitted those books as evidence in the divorce proceedings. Luca had been ordered to pay more than he legitimate income called for. Then ordered the judgment sealed. So the Feds and the local Virginia authorities had not been apprised of his dirty dealing. If they had, Luca would probably be turning government’s evidence and headed for witness protection. That would mean her alimony and Peter’s child support would go away.
It was also very possible that Caroline would be asked to testify about her knowledge of Luca’s criminal dealings in the future. It was only a matter of time. And that would mean she–and Peter–would have to go into hiding also.
Even if none of that happened, Caroline could foresee the end. It was barreling at her like a planet-killing meteor. Luca’s drug addiction and his illegitimate profession would either land him in prison–or in an early but well-deserved grave. Caroline had to get Peter away from Luca and his destructive influence. As it stood now, Luca was entitled to see Peter every other weekend. Luckily, Luca’s unpredictable schedule and frequent benders made him unreliable. He had seen his son three times in the last four months, not counting his recent visit to the emergency room. And then all Luca did was berate her. He’d paid no attention to Peter. Only during periods of extreme lucidity and sobriety did he ask to see Peter. Caroline had learned not to expect Luca to take Peter on his appointed weekends. In fact, she prayed it would not happen.
All of these factors had played into her decision to file for sole custody. It was a necessary but calculated risk. Luca would go off the deep end when he learned of her filing.
She stood and moved away from the table to a built-in desk beside the refrigerator. She used the space to pay bills, shop online and surf the internet. Beneath the desktop hung a small dainty drawer with a locking mechanism. Caroline slipped the key into the lock and turned. She slowly pulled it open. Resting atop a stack of restaurant menus and surrounded by pens, pencils and other assorted items was a 0.38 caliber Smith and Wesson six-shot revolver and a box of bullets. She’d scraped together five hundred dollars and purchased it two weeks ago from a local gun shop. The whole transaction made her sick. It looked sinister and alien in the drawer juxtaposed with the ordinary desk items. She had taken a concealed carry class two months ago and filed the necessary paperwork with the Clerk of the Court’s office. Her permit had arrived a week later. She had put off carrying the gun as long as possible. But Luca’s actions had pushed her into a corner. From this day forward, Caroline would not go anywhere without it.
Jake had been sitting in his Toyota Tundra for the last forty-five minutes. At least, that was his best guess. Time had stood still since he’d received the devastating news. Since Althea Downs, the regional vice president of Alliance, had dropped the pharmacy equivalent of an atomic bomb on Jake in the non-descript conference room. According to the pharmacy executive, he had made an error. And it wasn’t a minor error. It was the kind of error every pharmacist dreaded and lo Jake recalled the last moments of the conversation that had taken place less than an hour ago as the weasel Stephan Willings looked on as an ever-expanding shit-eating grin spread across his mocking visage.
“What are you talking about?” Jake demanded. A nugget of concern fanned out over his solar plexus penetrating his abdomen and over his heart and lungs.
Althea Downs frowned tragically. “You filled a prescription two days ago for an elderly man. The doctor prescribed a short-acting insulin Humalog to be injected three times a day with meals. The medication which was dispensed was a long-acting insulin, Lantus. As you know it should only be used once a day.”
Jake recalled sitting in stunned silence for a long time. A potent nexus of fear ricocheted through from one ganglion to the next in Jake’s body at the speed of a lightning bolt. He shook his head incredulously. “That can’t be,” he said reflexively. But at the same time, he knew with the horrible working conditions deteriorating every day and distractions increasing every hour the possibility of any error was real. And the chance for a devastating or lethal consequence always hung over a pharmacist’s head like the Sword of Damocles.
“I’m afraid it is, Jake,” Downs replied. Jake didn’t think her voice could sound more grave. But it did. It seemed to reach into his chest, clutched his heart and squeezed the cardiac fibers. “He used the wrong insulin three times a day for the last two days. He’s in the Tidewater Regional Medical Center in the ICU.” She hesitated then plowed forward. “Jake, he’s in a coma.” His heart felt as if would seize.
His eyes closed involuntarily. His head swam. The room began to spin. He felt like he was going to fall out of the uncomfortable chair.
Downs continued explaining the facts of the incident as Jake’s mind fogged with malignant trepidation. His body deflated. Her words sounded as if they were coming through a long, cold tunnel. The patient’s name was John Harper. A fifty-two year old a type 2 diabetic. Jake recognized the name. It was familiar to him. But because so many patient’s names and prescriptions crossed his computer every day and in such rapid fashion, he had a hard time placing a face.
A bolus of nausea surged in his gut followed by a caustic wave of bile. Jake pushed open the truck door, leaned out and emptied the contents of his stomach onto the cracked, faded asphalt. A minute later, he straightened, wiped his mouth with his sleeve and closed the door. The effort was so weak, it did not close completely. A tiny chill developed in his lower back. It expanded gradually at first then moved exponentially over him until his entire body shook. Sweat poured from his pores like he was sick with fever.
A woman who’d just parked her car nearby studied him as she approached the Toyota, concern carved on her face. “Are you okay?” She asked.
Jake waved at her and lowered the window. “Yes, I’m good now. Something I ate,” he lied. The woman hesitated and finally waved apparently satisfied that Jake wasn’t going to die in front of her. She spun and headed to her destination.
Jake watched her go for a minute. Then he lowered his head, resting it against the steering wheel and muttered, “What the hell am I going to do now?”
Inside her Hampton condo, Debra woke and checked the digital clock on the nightstand. She had slept for about ninety minutes. It was a partially restful repose. She felt better. Not great but there was more charge in her battery. With great effort, she peeled back the bed covers and swung her legs over the edge of the bed. She ran her hands over her face. As her fingers slid past her eyes, she spied her clothes scattered haphazardly on the floor. Naked, she padded into the bathroom and studied her lithe form in the mirror.
Her body was firm, tan and would make a porn star envious. Such a waste! She was a tough woman who’d been through her share of troubles In the beginning, her relationship with Luca was filled with heat and sparks. He had been charming and confident. That first night, he’d approached her at a holiday party at a hotel in Norfolk put on by Big Tommy Romano. A girlfriend had told her about Luca’s recent separation and divorce. She’d introduced them that same night. Luca and Debra spent the entire evening drinking, dancing and with their heads very close whispering intimate and carnal messages. Around midnight, he’d invited to leave with him.
They’d gone back to his place and made love three times, resting for periods between each episode. In the morning, they woke tired but sated. He made her a breakfast of bagels and sour cream, scrambled eggs and Bloody Mary’s. Debra had had great hope for their union. It had only taken six months before things began a downward slide. As she stood admiring her naked form in the mirror. She now chided herself for allowing her situation to deteriorate to its current state even as she remembered that passionate, desperate night of lovemaking.
It was time! She needed to act…to take steps. Do it now, she told herself, before you chicken out. She turned on the shower to let the water steam. Then returning to the bedroom, Debra retrieved her phone from the nightstand. She pulled up the number and activated the call.
The gruff voice answered after after three rings.
“I need to see you,” she declared in a soft but firm tone. “Luca is becoming a problem. He’s out of control!”
“I know,” came the reply instantly. “Meet me this evening at eight and we will discuss how you will eliminate this problem.”
The line went dead. Debra expelled a long shaky breath. She tapped the silent phone against her temple. She swore out loud. “What the hell did you think he was going to say?”
-To Be Continued-
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