THURSDAY: Dead Ringer

BY NANCY BOYCE

Nancy Boyce lives in Buckhorn, Ontario with her husband John. Copyright is held by the author.

“I’M TELLING YOU, the guy’s a dead ringer for you,” Jake said as he pulled out his cell phone and showed the photo to Donovan.

“Hmm,” Donovan said, “He does look a lot like me. It might work if I shaved my goatee, but how will we make the switch?”

Jake hit the up button on the head end of the hospital bed. He handed Donovan his shaver and a mirror. “Just leave it all up to me,” he said, confidently.

***

Bri pulled up to the main hospital doors, hopped out quickly and ran around to the passenger side to get crutches out of the back seat. She gave them to her husband Dale and said, “I’ll meet you in the fracture clinic.”

As she ran back to the driver’s side of the car, she called to him, “Don’t forget, it’s on the third floor. I’ve got your wallet, so I’ll bring your health card when I meet you there.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Dale said, “I know the drill.”

This was their fourth visit to the hospital since Dale dislocated his ankle and broke his foot. The surgeon would check the swelling today and decide when surgery could be done. It was the first day of summer and with any luck, Dale would be able to start walking by the end of August. Another summer shot to hell. It was this time last year that Dale had injured his back while making a stone patio.

***

“Mr. Morgan?” Jake asked.

Dale was just about to enter the clinic when he heard someone call his name. He looked to see an intern with an empty wheelchair coming towards him. “Yes,” Dale replied.

“The doctor would like you to have another scan before your surgery and he asked me to take you there. Please have a seat. It will be easier if we use the wheelchair,” Jake said.

“Sure, but I need to let my wife know where I am. She’s meeting me here.”

“Not to worry Mr. Morgan, we’ve left word with the receptionist.”

***

Bri parked and then hurried back to the main doors. She was five minutes behind Dale, maybe less, he wasn’t moving fast. Bri took the stairs and in no time at all she entered the fracture clinic. She glanced around for Dale, but didn’t see him. They couldn’t have taken him that quickly, Bri thought. The room was jammed full of waiting patients.

“Excuse me,” Bri said to the receptionist, “has my husband Dale gone in already?”

The woman looked puzzled.

“He had a 12:15 p.m. appointment,” Bri explained. “I don’t see him in the waiting room. I dropped him off and we were meeting here.” Bri kept babbling until she got a response.

“Maybe he slipped by me. Go in and have a look,” the reception suggested.

Bri went into the clinic’s working area. Stretchers lined the walls with curtains between them giving the illusion of privacy. She walked about the room trying to sneak a peek into each cubicle without seeming obvious. She couldn’t see Dale anywhere. She became bolder in her search and an intern asked if she needed help. He hadn’t seen Dale either. She pushed past him and started flinging curtains aside and calling Dale’s name.

Bri felt that she was overreacting, but she couldn’t help herself. She thought she was going to lose Dale this winter when he had surgery, but he came through it okay and she spent two months nursing him back to health. Now this! Bri felt guilty for being so late that Dale had to go to the clinic on his own.

A strong hand took her arm and gently, but firmly led her into the hall. “Ma’am, what seems to be the problem?”

“I’m looking for my husband. He was to meet me here,” Bri said as she wrenched her arm away from the security guard and headed towards the waiting room.

“Has my husband Dale Morgan come in yet?” Bri asked the receptionist again as she glanced nervously around the room.

“Ma’am. Mrs. Morgan? Why don’t you come with me to my office? You can explain what’s happened and give me a description of your husband.”

***

Jake took Dale down the hall, through an empty waiting room and directly into the CT Scan room. The room was dark and before Dale’s eyes could adjust, he felt a rag cover his nose and mouth. He tried to struggle, but almost immediately lost consciousness and slumped in the wheelchair. Jake held the cloth in place for a couple of minutes while he waited for Dr. Gallagher to arrive. He heard voices just before the door flew open with Donovan on a stretcher and Dr. Gallagher pushing from the rear.

Dr. Gallagher removed the IV and oxygen mask from Donovan who hopped off the stretcher. The three men moved Dale’s dead weight onto the stretcher. Jake removed Dale’s t-shirt and carefully pulled Dale’s sweatpants over his cast while Donovan stripped off his hospital gown.

“Good fit,” Donovan said as he put on Dale’s clothes.

Jake looked at the t-shirt that Donovan was wearing now. “I hear Sanibel is a great winter retreat,” Jake said, chuckling.

“Oh, I plan to retreat much further south than Florida,” Donovan said.

Donovan Brady was involved in organized crime in Montreal and was suspected of drug trafficking, prostitution and money laundering. He had been vacationing north east of Toronto in the heart of cottage country when the RCMP attempted to arrest him. Donovan tried to evade the RCMP by jumping out of a window, but broke his foot and hit his head sustaining a concussion. Local police had been stationed outside Donovan’s hospital room since he was admitted. Donovan was known for being ruthless, but it was Jake Carson that carried out his dirty work.

Dr. Gallagher hooked Dale up to the IV and added Propofol to the saline solution to keep him unconscious. “What did you do to him?” he asked Jake.

“I used a bit of chloroform on this rag. Want a whiff?” Jake asked, laughing.

“Chloroform, where the hell did you get chloroform?” Dr. Gallagher exclaimed. “No, no,” he said as he held up his hand, “I don’t want to know. I hope this guy has a good heart; you could have killed him.”

“He looked healthy to me Doc, don’t worry about it.”

They moved the patch from Donovan’s forehead to Dale’s. Dr. Gallagher placed the oxygen mask over Dale’s face and fastened the hospital gown around him.

As Dr. Gallagher pushed Dale out through the waiting room, the police officer joined him and escorted him to the elevator that was reserved for hospital staff and then back to Donovan’s room.

***

“Kim, I need your help,” Bri said frantically.

“Where are you? What’s wrong?” Kim had picked up on her friend’s desperate tone.

“I’m at the hospital. I dropped Dale off and went to park the car. I can’t find him anywhere. Something’s happened to him,” Bri cried.

“I’ll be right there. Wait for me outside the main doors,” Kim told her.

As Bri approached the main doors, she saw the familiar red hair of her husband Dale. A wave of relief swept over her as she ran towards him. He approached a waiting car and the driver of the car got out and opened the passenger door for him.

“Dale!” she cried as she ran towards him. Bri pushed in front of the other man and grabbed Dale’s arm. He turned to look at her. It wasn’t Dale. The stranger stared at her for a moment and Bri noticed the barely healed wound on his forehead.

“I’m sorry, you must have me confused with someone else,” the man told her.

The other man held her back as the man that she thought was her husband got into the car. He was wearing Dale’s clothes and she recognized the crutches in the other man’s hands. The crutches had the same floral padding held on with duct tape. The man closed the passenger door and went to the open driver’s side door. He threw the crutches into the car hastily before he got in and sped out of the parking lot. Bri fumbled for her phone as she ran after the car. Despite all the confusion, she had the presence of mind to take a photo of the car and got a clear shot of the license plate. As the car turned the corner, she took another shot, this time of the man looking out at her through the passenger side window.

Bri continued to run after the car. “Where is my husband?” she cried.

Suddenly someone stepped in front of Bri and grabbed her. She struggled to get away. Bri could hear a woman calling her name; felt a gentle hand on her shoulder. Slowly Bri became aware of her surroundings and the people with her.

“Bri, it’s okay Bri. We’re here now,” Kim said soothingly. Bri looked towards her friend and then gazed up into the face of Kim’s husband Ted. She collapsed into his arms.

***

“Do you think that was Morgan’s wife?” Donovan asked, feeling shaken by the experience.

“It could have been, but don’t worry, she’ll never be able to put it all together,” Jake answered.

“How long will it take to get to Buffalo?” Donovan asked.

“We’re stopping in Hamilton. I have a connection there. He’s going to make you a passport and driver’s license with Morgan’s name. We’ll rest up there before I drive you to Buffalo. You have a 6:20 a.m. flight with a stopover in Boston. You’ll be in Bermuda in time for lunch,” Jake explained.

“Aren’t you coming?” Donovan asked.

“I need to get you out of the country as soon as possible. I’m going to stay here and tie up a few loose ends.”

***

Bri wrapped her hands around a warm mug of chamomile tea. She was curled up on Kim and Ted’s sofa in as tight a ball as her not so limber limbs would allow. An afghan throw was wrapped around her. Despite the warm night, Bri felt chilled to the bone.

Kim and Ted had been following news reports about Donovan Brady who was in their local hospital. Words entered into Bri’s ears, but she wasn’t processing them. “We bring you this late breaking news. Donovan Brady is now in a drug-induced coma to relieve swelling to the brain as a result of his head injury 10 days ago.”

***

“C’mon Bri. Get up and have a shower while I make you some breakfast. My friend Joe’s coming by to meet with you this morning. He’s going to help us find Dale.”

After her shower Bri sank into a kitchen chair and took a steaming mug of tea from Kim. “Thanks. Ah tea, my drug of choice,” Bri said as she sipped her tea. “Sorry I wasn’t paying much attention last night. Tell me about Joe. You mentioned that he’s a private detective.”

“Joe used to be our next door neighbour, but now he’s living in that new Royal Meadows townhouse complex on the west side.”

“He must be quite successful to be living there,” Bri commented.

“He got back together with his ex-wife Tammy recently. I don’t know the whole story, but apparently she came into some money,” Kim explained.

“Do you really think we need a private investigator?” Bri asked.

“When I called Joe last night to ask for advice, he said even though the hospital security guard was going to report the incident to the police, they wouldn’t do much about it for a few days. He thought it imperative to move quickly. We’re not hiring him; he’s just going to make enquiries on our behalf.”

***

“Doc, it’s Jake. How’s the patient?”

“I told the police that Donovan is in a drug-induced coma to help relieve the swelling on his brain. It was on the news last night. I don’t know this man’s health history; his heart may be at risk. How much longer do I need to keep him in this state?” Dr. Gallagher asked.

“Not much longer. Donovan will be at his new location shortly. He’ll wire the down payment into your account later today.”

“I want this all behind me Jake. I need to be with my wife,” Dr. Gallagher said.

***

“Do you have a photo of your husband?” Joe asked.

“Yes, Kim printed a photo from our last visit with them,” Bri answered.

“I also printed the photos from Bri’s phone,” Kim said as she handed the photos to Joe. “As you can see, that car is from Quebec.”

“Your husband looks familiar,” Joe commented. “Kim, would you please open up that photo on your computer, zoom in on the window, crop it and print it out again.”

Joe turned to Bri. “What was Dale wearing when you dropped him off?”

“Everything that man was wearing, thin grey sweatpants and a blue t-shirt with Sanibel Island written on the front,” Bri explained.

“Besides looking similar to Dale, did you notice anything else about the man?” Joe asked.

“He had a wound and bruising on his left temple,” Bri said.

***

“I told you Joe, he can’t be considered missing until Sunday. My hands are tied,” Steve said.

Steve was Joe’s old friend from when they were on the police force together and was always a good place to start any investigation, but he might need extra prodding on this case.

“Dale didn’t leave the hospital without help. Bri said he didn’t have his wallet with him and was using crutches to walk because of a broken foot. Maybe he’s still in the hospital somewhere,” Joe said.

“For all we know, Dale Morgan never even made it to the hospital. It’s just her word.”

“Have a look at these photos. Bri said the man in this car was wearing her husband’s clothes and had his crutches.”

“The close-up through the window is pretty grainy, but I agree that there is a similarity between her husband Dale and the man in the car,” Steve said.

“Would you please run the license plate and see what comes up?” Joe asked, pleadingly.

“Come back around 4 p.m. Joe. I’ll see what I can find out.”

***

“I can get plane tickets to Tijuana for tomorrow afternoon. For my sake and the sake of that poor man, I don’t want to stretch this out any longer,” Dr. Gallagher said.

“Don’t worry, you won’t have to. Donovan is safe now,” Jake said.

Dr. Gallagher sighed heavily. He wanted this nightmare to be over so that he could join his wife and she could get the treatment that she needed in Mexico. He had used every cent of their equity on alternative treatments to cure his wife of cancer.

“If the police find out that it’s Dale Morgan and not Donovan, they’re going to come looking for you,” Jake said.

“I’m not worried about that. I can take a job at one of the private clinics in a poor area. No one will look for me there and if they do, I understand the local police are easily bribed.”

“I can see how that will work for you, but it’s still a bit too messy for Donovan and me. I need you to give some extra drugs to Dale Morgan. It would be better if he didn’t wake up. You need to sign a death certificate stating it’s Donovan Brady,” Jake said.

“Wait a minute. We never discussed murder. I can’t be a party to that!” Dr. Gallagher exclaimed.

“If you want the rest of the money, I need to read in Saturday’s paper that Donovan Brady is dead,” Jake said as he hung up the phone.

***

“Joe, I got a name for that Quebec license plate owner. The car belongs to Jake Carson,” Steve explained.

“I’ve never heard of him,” Joe said.

“Ah yes, but you’ve probably heard of his employer, Donovan Brady,” Steve said.

Steve gave the photos back to Joe and then slid another one in front of him. “This is a mug shot of Donovan Brady.”

“Holy crap! Bri saw Donovan Brady getting into that car,” Joe exclaimed. “I saw Donovan on the news last week. That’s why Dale looked familiar to me.”

“I have to admit the resemblance is remarkable, but Donovan Brady is in a coma. Besides, he’s been under police watch ever since he was admitted,” Steve said.

***

“Bri, would you please eat some food instead of just moving it around on your plate,” Kim pleaded.

The local news was on in the adjoining family room. “Donovan Brady died late this afternoon. He had been in a drug-induced coma to reduce swelling to the brain after sustaining a head injury. Mr. Brady…”

Bri walked to the television as they showed a mug shot of Donovan Brady. “That’s him, that’s the man that was wearing Dale’s clothes,” she said as she collapsed onto the sofa.

The phone started to ring as Kim went to comfort Bri.

“Bri,” Ted said as he came into the room, “Joe’s coming by with a police officer. They’ve found Dale.”

***

Joe led Bri into the hospital room. There in the bed looking pale and weak, was Dale. Bri rushed to him and buried her head against his chest and wept. Dale wrapped his arms around her with as much strength as he could muster.

“They need to keep your husband for observation tonight Mrs. Morgan,” Steve said.

“Then they better make up a bed for me, because I’m not leaving him here alone.”

***

“Room service,” Kim announced as she burst into the room with Ted close behind her.

Bri was sitting beside Dale’s bed and was all smiles. She stood and hugged Kim close to her, unable to speak for fear she might start to cry again.

Kim handed a coffee to Dale who was sitting up in bed. “Hope you’re feeling up to it.”

“Tea for Bri and biscuits for all of us,” Kim said, cheerily.

Ted handed a large shopping bag to Dale. “Thanks,” Dale said with a big grin on his face as he opened the bag of clothing.

“We’re about the same size and I figured you’d be anxious to get dressed and get out of here.”

The group talked of old times as they ate their breakfast together.

“Knock, knock,” Joe called as he entered the room.

“Hi Joe,” Ted said, “What did you find out?”

“Plenty, Steve filled me in this morning,” Joe said as he grabbed a biscuit.

“Where do I start? The doctor that put Dale into a coma turned himself into police yesterday and Donovan Brady has been arrested in Bermuda. They’ve been having difficulty making charges stick to Brady, but they’ve got him now.”

“What about that man that was driving the car?” Bri asked.

“Jake Carson. Yeah, he’s a real piece of work. Seems he didn’t want any loose ends and attempted to murder the doctor in his home last night.”

A collective gasp filled the room.

“The police anticipated that and had his house staked out. Apparently Carson shot what he thought was the doctor lying in bed, but the doctor wasn’t even home. Carson shot a dummy. He’s in police custody now.”

“Loose ends? Was I a loose end?” Dale asked.

“I’m afraid so. I’m sorry to tell you this, but the doctor was asked to up your medication and kill you. That’s when he turned himself in to the local police.”

They were all silent for a few minutes as they absorbed the news.

“You’re having a party and you didn’t invite me,” Dr. Bell said as he came into the room. “I thought I’d have a look at that foot, since you missed my clinic on Thursday.” He removed the partial cast and tensor bandages and took a quick look at Dale’s foot.

“The swelling is down enough to operate, but you’re going to need a few days to recover from your ordeal. I can operate on Wednesday.”

“It will be nice to get the surgery over with,” Dale said.

“Bri, you’ll be able to stay with Dale right until he goes into the operating room,” Dr. Bell explained.

“That’s good, because he’s never getting out of my sight again,” Bri said.

“Poor Dale,” the rest of them said in unison.

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