Case VIII: Chapter 1: A Path Forward
Matthew Dudley was sitting in the main dining room with the Wall Street Journal and a cup of coffee in front of him. The coffee was cold and he’d been staring at the same unread page for quite some time. He remained deeply troubled. In his short time at La Vida Aureo there had been several deaths. The deaths of the Maintenance Man (Case I, September, 2014) and Ms. Carmine Felicio (Case III, November, 2014) were accidents, but he was struggling with the murder of Martha Arthur.
He was most concerned with the fact that personal information had so easily been stolen and used in that situation. The concept of identity theft was relatively new to him and he had this gnawing sense in his gut that he had not seen its full extent nor the variety of nefarious actions that could result.
He realized that he had to get his mind back to the present and the best way to do that was to stay busy and actively engaged. He needed to focus on the positive aspects of his life and there was much to be done for the residents. Also, the LVA Community Assist Program was taking shape and he was confident that there would be many positive outcomes from their efforts. He was hopeful that there would not be any surprises as they became more active and involved in the community
The replacement for Janetta Johari was due today. He had recommended to Isabella that they permit Beth Ford and the Team do the actual hiring. They both realized that team chemistry was critical, particularly at this early stage and the Team had to be comfortable with Janetta’s replacement. He had promised to sit in on their meeting which was currently in progress.
Dudley heard the laughter before he entered the meeting room. Beth greeted him. “Doc, let me introduce you to Mikaylah Willis who will be taking over Janetta’s responsibilities. She was just telling us a bit about her background in pharmaceuticals when you came in. I can assure you that Mikaylah is very well-qualified and the Team is excited about having her join us. But, some of the details of her previous experience with Pfizer might be a bit embarrassing for an older gentleman like you.”
“Not to worry. I don’t embarrass easily. I’m eager to meet Ms. Willis and learn about her background.”
“OK, don’t say I didn’t warn you! Why don’t you continue, Mikaylah?”
“I guess I was a math nerd in high school and one of my teachers recommended me for an intern position with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals doing data analysis for one of their trials of a drug to treat cardiovascular problems. I was a quiet kid and pretty much stayed in my cubicle working on my assignments, but one day, there was a rather loud discussion going on that I could not help but overhear. Apparently, the Manager in charge of this study was unhappy with the results. The study participants were not showing any improvements in their cardiovascular system, but most were refusing to return the unused pills. The Manager was concerned about Pfizer’s potential liability with this medicine remaining in the public once the trial was officially cancelled. So, he decided to send a team of research scientists out to interview selective participants, particularly the ones who were most adamant about keeping the remaining pills. What they learned was so unexpected that the news spread throughout the office and pretty soon everyone was repeating the story, often with much laughter. Today, Pfizer markets that “failed cardiovascular drug” as Viagra and it has been far more profitable than even their most optimistic estimates for the original intended market.”
“I continued to work for Pfizer on a part-time basis throughout college and joined them permanently after graduation. I had many interesting and challenging assignments and learned a great deal about the pharmaceutical industry. But, I suspect the remarkable success of Viagra eventually began to affect people’s judgement. I grew increasingly disillusioned as the marketing focused less on medicine and more about enhancing your lifestyle. I mean, have you seen some of the ads on TV and in magazines? Anyway, I eventually left Pfizer and began working with various agencies to help them manage their pharmacy benefit programs. When JJ called me a few weeks ago and described this program, I jumped at the opportunity. Prescription medication has become an important part of many people’s lives and I believe it is essential that people have the necessary information about these powerful substances.”
When she finished, it was obvious to Dudley that Mikaylah Willis would be an asset, not only to the Team, but to the program in general. He turned to the entire group, “I’m eager to hear what you have learned in your initial visits.”
Mila Espalin spoke first. “One of the main things I learned was that so many of the people out there that we could help have no access to computers. I never realized how naïve we were at the State to assume that we could just put information on the Internet and it would be readily available to everyone. We need to keep that in mind and Minot and I have already been talking about alternative means of communication.”
“One of the things I’ve seen too much of, said Arnetta, is people ending up in the hospital or becoming permanently disabled because of an accident in the home. I believe we could make a huge impact if we provided some information or instructions to make homes safer. I suspect that the money spent on building a ramp to get a wheelchair into the house could be better spent making a series of simple modifications in the house. Then, maybe the wheelchair wouldn’t be needed in the first place.”
The other Team members joined the discussion, but Dudley missed much of the content. His mind wandered and he began to imagine the amount of good this Program would do in the community. He realized they were off to a good start.
As the meeting broke up, Dudley stopped Beth Ford and Minot Atkinson to thank them once again for their assistance with the computer theft of Martha Arthur’s nieces’ information and for locating the site where Atrisca tried to sell the jewelry. “I don’t know exactly how you were able to find out what you did, but it was critical to the investigation. Thank you once again. I remain apprehensive about how easy it is to steal information and I hope to never have to call on you again, but I fear that is a distinct possibility.”
“I am concerned that, as more people sign up for health insurance with the Affordable Care Act, there will be more opportunities for fraud. So much information is required and many of the folks signing up are less educated and sophisticated. I fear that there is an increase in the likelihood of being deceived by a stranger who offers to help them. I don’t think it’s necessary to mention my concern to the entire Team, but please be on the alert for this kind of activity. I think it will take many forms.”
Minot said, “I share your concern. Computers have just become another tool for people to conduct criminal activity. It is something the Team has talked about and you can rest assured that we are all aware of the potential and will remain vigilant.”
As Minot turned to walk away, Janetta Johari approached with a bright smile on her face. “I’m glad you came to our meeting this morning and had an opportunity to meet Mikaylah. I’m certain she will fit right in and quickly become a valuable member of the Team.” Then, touching his arm, she said, “Don’t forget dinner on Thursday.”
Dudley returned to the dining room to retrieve his ToDo list that he had left on the table earlier. Paloma Angostura was waiting with the list in her hand as he approached. She suggested he sit and relax for a few minutes before starting his maintenance and repairs for the day. He looked toward the door and said to Paloma, “Well, here come two people and even I can tell that they have a secret by the smiles on their faces. Something tells me that they are about to share that secret with us.”
“Señor Doc. It is no secret, at least not to anyone who has been watching them lately!”
Larry Blackburn and JoAnne Elliott were still smiling broadly when they took the two empty seats at the table with Dudley and Señora Angostura. Larry spoke first. “Doc, I’d like to get your opinion about what I think is a policy issue at La Vida Aureo. When I moved in here, I surrendered my life insurance policy to purchase what Ms. Duncan referred to as a Lifetime Contract. My understanding is that the contract allows me to live here for the rest of my life regardless of my health or medical needs. Right now, I’m living in an apartment that’s part of the Independent Living Unit, but as my situation changes, I’ll be able to move to other areas of the facility.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s correct. A number of residents have a similar arrangement.”
“What if I wanted to change it?”
“I don’t know. You’d have to talk to Isabella. Why? What did you have in mind? I certainly hope you’re not thinking of leaving.” Dudley felt a sharp kick under the table and noticed that Paloma had an expression on her face that seemed to say, “Are you really that blind?”
JoAnne continued. “Larry and I want to live together in my casita. We’d like to see if there is some way that Isabella would consider combining our individual contracts so that we could both spend the rest of our lives here, together.”
“Oh. Uh. That would be nice. I’m certain Isabella would do whatever she can to accommodate your wishes. Yes, I’m sure she would.”
“Then, we’ll try to see her as soon as possible. Thank you for your support.”
JoAnne added, “And for being instrumental in getting us together in the first place.”
As they got up to leave, JoAnne smiled at Dudley and asked, “Who were all those pretty young women I saw you with earlier? Is there something about your love life that you’re not telling?”
Dudley was certain that JoAnne had seen Janetta touching his arm and smiling at him. He tried to think fast. “Ah, er, No,” he stammered. I assume you saw me with one of the women who are part of our Community Assist Program. In fact, it might be a very good idea if you could spend some time with them talking about your experiences with the VA. If it’s OK, I’ll have Beth Ford or Minot Atkinson give you a call.”
JoAnne was in such a happy mood, she couldn’t resist teasing Dudley a bit more. “A young French girl, no less? Are you sure you’re not keeping secrets, Doc?”
It took Dudley a few seconds to recover once he realized that JoAnne was NOT referring to Janetta. “Uh, I don’t think so. Minot’s from Albuquerque. I think her folks are both associated with the Air Force at Kirtland in some capacity.”
“Really? You might ask her if she was actually born in North Dakota. If so and her folks are with the Air Force, I believe her name is pronounced My-Not rather than Min-Oh. I suspect she was named after the Air Force base in Minot, North Dakota. I met lots of vets who were stationed there. There’s a huge billboard that the local Chamber of Commerce put up that says Why not, Minot? And some Air Force hotshots added Freezin’s the Reason! in letters just as big. But, I’ll leave that little bit of trivia for you to deal with as you see fit. Anyway, we need to see Isabella.”
Larry and JoAnne walked toward Isabella’s office holding hands. “I’m happy for them,” said Dudley. “And, I‘m glad they found each other at this point in their lives.”
Paloma gave him an all-knowing look and said, “We all need someone in our life, Señor Doc, even you.”
Dudley didn’t know quite how to respond. He thought his best course of action would be to pick up his List and attend to his responsibilities, which is exactly what he did.