Monthly Archives: July 2015

All You Need Is…..

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Coming home from shopping the other day, a bit cranky from the heat and humidity that make me feel soggy all over, I saw something that absolutely made me smile. At the end of one row of the store parking lot was a truck. Leaning on this truck, in 80 plus temps, stood a male figure, not young but not necessarily as old as I am, dressed in khaki slacks and vest. In one hand he held a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  The other hand periodically shaded his eyes as he scanned the parking lot.  I was so tempted to stay and see the result of his vigil…..I truly hope the object of his efforts showed up and thanked him properly.

Of course, this got me thinking of what we do with love, for love, and because of love. The old “Love makes the world go ‘round” quip is something not said too often these days….lots of other, darker things can get in the way: poverty, war, general distrust of anyone we may perceive as ‘different’ all seem so much more apparent as we move through our days. And then we see a baby’s smile, hear a joyful laugh, watch two people begin a new life together, and love shows up in flowers and sunshine. It doesn’t take much to brighten someone’s day. A simple good morning or hello might startle them, but I’d wager they just might be tempted to say those same words themselves.  Smiles? Even easier. No words needed.

Not everyone will stand near his truck with a bouquet for someone special, but we do other things just as meaningful. Bake a cake for a friend, offer a ride, offer your time….be a friend. Celebrate good things and share the bad things. Friendship is Love’s true companion.

I’m not telling you something you don’t already know. I’m not suggesting anything most of you don’t already do.  We humans have a great capacity for many things, including love. But this little incident in the parking lot made me realize we don’t always take the time to see the love around us. We take it for granted or are so focused on other things that we simply miss the joys (and sometimes sorrows) that help love make the world turn a little more in tune.

What do we do because of love? Well Mae McEwan can give you all the examples you need. She gave up quite a bit to follow her brother Drummond from place to place, and sometimes she throws her hands in the air in frustration. But she loves her brother as only a sister can and will do whatever she can to protect him. Whether it’s from others or from himself.

Mae

It was another hour or so before Ray left the loft, with my warning not to do anything before letting Sylvain, and therefore me, know what he’d discovered. The only one who was happy with that order was me. Ray evidently was a take charge guy, and Sylvain already had an idea of what I was planning to do.

“You’re just asking for trouble, Mae. For both of us.”

“No one said you had to help. I thank you for getting the information I need but you can walk out that door and I will not begrudge you your choice. Drummond is my brother and my responsibility.” I knew it would be harder to do without Sylvain, but I couldn’t wait while he dithered over legalities and such. “Would you like more Earl Grey?”

“I’d like a stiff drink,” Sylvain said. “But what I want is you to be safe. Both of you. And it seems you’re set on muddying the Mississippi one more time before you journey North, so I’ll help. But we have to have a plan.”

“Like the last time?” Our attempts to rescue Celine and her new husband had met more than a few roadblocks. Still, luck and love had prevailed and as far as I knew so had the law. This time the law would have nothing to do with it.

“I’ll concede to your wisdom on that adventure, but I’m serious, Mae. We knew what we were …”

“What I was you mean.”

“What you were walking into last time.  We’re blind on just where Begonia is and who is actually running the place.  How do you plan around that?”

“Sit down,” I said. “Here’s your tea. Now listen while I give you my idea. It will work.”  I poured me own cuppa and sat across from him. “And mostly legal.” Sylvain flinched at that but kept his mouth closed. “I’m a nurse, registered and all.”

“In Scotland maybe.”

“In Scotland true. But I’m a nurse nevertheless and I can pass muster. I certainly can do a better job than that nitwit of a woman in the clinic. What I need is a certification card. Or paper to frame. Something that says I’m allowed to treat patients in the state of Louisiana.”

“Of course, Mae. No problem. I have one in my pocket.”

“Sarcasm does not become you, sir. It would help if I had a background in herbal and holistic treatments.”

“And you think I can produce these documents at the drop of my hat?”

“I think you know someone who can produce those documents, and an ID stating my name is Mae Fitzgerald. I’m sorry but I need an address for them to check as well.”

“Not the loft. That’s non-negotiable.”

“And references. Or not. Those running this place might not want an upstanding member of the nursing community to tumble to their practices.”

“We don’t know Begonia isn’t a legitimate concern, Mae. Holistic centers exist in quite a few places. Alternative medicine isn’t a scam.” Sylvain emptied his mug and stood up.

“I know it isn’t, but legitimate places don’t grab patients off the street.” I looked up at my friend’s serious expression. “I can do this myself, Sylvain. Drum and me have been in worse places in our travels.”

“You’ve never lost him before.”

“No.”

“Then you need my help. And I will get what you need. But before you head into wherever that den of kidnappers is, we need to have some safeguards.”

“Get the papers first, please. Safeguards come later. And I promise I’ll listen,” I added at his quick frown.

Bless the saints and all the angels, whether Sylvain hustled because he wanted this over with or because he was as concerned about me brother as I was, he and Ray were back at the loft quicker than fish can swim the Dee with several boxes, a gadget to seal things in plastic, and some green lab jackets with my alias, M. Fitzgerald RN, embroidered on the pocket of each one.

“Still need to fit your feet, Miss Mae,” Ray said. “Nurses don’t go places in what you’ve got on.”

I looked at my leather loafers and sighed. “Size 9. But would you find something I can use after? Like those Doc Marten shoes or…?”

“I know what you mean,” Sylvain put in. “We’ll bring those and whatever else you need.”

“I need a hairpiece or something to cover me locks,” I said quickly. “Don’t want to dye ‘em but this firebrand hair of mine is a dead giveaway. Maybe a few streaks of grey? Drum would be the first to know me and that would give the game away.”

“You’ve done this before, Miss Mae?” Ray grinned as if he already knew the answer.

“When I’ve had cause,” I snapped back. “Mostly I just try to mind my and Drum’s business.  Which is what I’m doing. And could ye bring me some cards that have me name and title? And a phone you can track in case…”

“Already done, Mae.” Sylvain reached into the largest box.  He handed me a small container, some basic business cards and a battered iPhone. “Same number as the one in your jacket, GPS set up, only any calls to it end up monitored by Ray’s men. We’ll know where you are all the time.”

“And the wee container?”

“When you get in, see if you can place its contents in one of the offices.”

“So I’m going to bug Begonia?” I had to smile.

“Only if you can. Ray knows some folks who might have an interest in the dealings of that Holistic Healing clinic.”

“Drummond first,” I said. They nodded. “Now get yourselves out of here. And bring me that hairpiece first thing. Who knows what the fakers are doing to me brother.”

I locked up tight after they left.  I had lots of thinking and memory searching to do as I revisited my training as a nurse back in the days before Drum started his wanderings. I grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil and started scribbling. Begonia might be the home of medical fakery, but it could be real. Either way, I needed to know my answers before they posed the questions.

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Meanwhile Back at the Ranch…

The weirdness of 2015 continues. We’re still driving at least once a week to Danville to “follow-up” and take yet another form for a doctor to sign so the hub’s company will believe he’s recovered. The VA, like every other medical organization, has bureaucracy all over the place. And the funding cuts, personnel cuts, etc. that seem to be flowing from the government like a runaway river just make getting things done more problematic. However, the VA does its best, at least our branch does, and we have had good people helping us navigate the potholes. Still, it takes time and mileage and infinite patience.

And speaking of rivers, there’s been more rain here in the past month than we normally see in six. We haven’t gotten the worst of it by any means, but my little part of the prairie has given birth to ponds in the bean fields and muggy weather. However, today is July 1st and the sun is out, temps are mild, and I actually have the day off.  And the Star of Bethlehem was brighter than bright in the night sky—thanks Venus and Jupiter!

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We had an extra second to squander yesterday as well as the leap seconds accumulate on their way to giving us an extra day next year. I simply took a deep breath and continued doing the dishes.  Extra time is extra time after all. I’d like to make the most of it, so I’ve made a few Last Half of the Year resolutions: simple ones really. Doable.  More walking (the park district has an indoor track as well as walking trails—watch out for the geese), less snacking (do NOT keep pretzels in the house), and more salads.  Trips to the Farmers’ Market when I can are also on the agenda.

One more thing. Write. Every day. No matter what. Not that this is a new resolution of course. I try to live it, even if it’s only a few minutes a day or jotting down ideas to flesh out later. Between work and home, even on busy days, an hour is possible. In the fashion of one of today’s latest catch phrases (courtesy I believe of the UK and Mr. Churchill), Keep Calm and Write.

I’ve been talking with Mae lately. She’s teamed up with Sylvain again to try and find Drummond; this time with some additional help in the person of Raimundo (Ray) Olivier, one of Sylvain’s mysterious friends. Trouble ahead?

Mae & the Medics

To my surprise, the nurse (whose name it seemed was Renata or so said her tag) welcomed us back with a big smile.

“Mr. Lionel,” she crooned. “Whatever in the world brings you here?” She caught sight of me attached to Sylvain’s arm and frowned. “This…this vagrant giving you trouble, sir? She and her brother, so she says, were here not an hour ago. Quite insistent for charity cases I must say. I can certainly…”

“This concerned woman is not a vagrant, Miss Renata,” Sylvain’s voice could have chilled the hottest gumbo. “She and her brother have done me good service in the past and I hold her in the highest respect.” I tried not to smirk at her sudden discomfort but applauded silently. Bless Sylvain. Taking the wind out of her sails.

“Ah, certainly, sir. Any friend of yours is….”

“Indeed. Now, I have some questions for you.” To his credit, my friend wasted no time getting to the details. “According to Miss Mae here, she and her brother Drummond were in here earlier to seek treatment for his illness and…”

“Oh yes sir. They came in and it was determined that her brother had a bronchial infection. The doctor prescribed amoxicillin and pred…”

“I know. Mae told me the details of their visit. What I need to know is if you watched them leave or if you might know where her brother currently is.”

“I’m sorry Mr. Lionel.  We were really quite engaged with other patients this morning and I only saw them through the doorway. After that….”

“And ye didn’t see me brother standin’ right out in front of your clinic while I went to fetch his medications?” I’d caught her slantwise glance toward me and knew she wasn’t telling Sylvain everything. “Ye didn’t step to the door after we left just to make sure we were gone?”

“Mae….” Sylvain cautioned me, knowing my tendency for blunt speaking.

“I felt someone’s eyes on our backs,” I said. “And she treated us shabbily.” I glared at Renata, watching her turn red at my words. “Ask her again.”

“Renata?”

“Well, I might have stepped to the door, but not for that reason at all. I was simply…”

“So you did see her brother? Show me.” Sylvain watched as Renata indicated the small area where Drummond had sat to wait for me while I filled the scripts.

“I was watching him because he didn’t look at all like she should have left him. You know, weak and all.” The nurse glared at me in accusation. “But he seemed to perk up when these two friends of his showed up and offered him a ride in their car.”

“Drummond doesn’t have any friends with cars,” I said. “What color? The friends. And the cars.”

“Well it wasn’t a car really, more like one of those SUV vehicles. Yellow I think. And I only saw one. White, with long hair. There must have been a driver though because as soon at your brother got in, the car took off.  Turned onto Decatur last I saw. Now if I can get back to my work…”

“Of course, Miss Renata.” Sylvain flashed his charming smile at her and was rewarded by a blush. “Thank you so much for talking with us.”

“Any time, Mr. Lionel. And you know, you might check the bar across the street. They were setting out tables for the lunch crowd and….”

“What a good idea, ma’am.” Sylvain bowed and took my elbow, steering me away from the clinic before I could say one word more.

“Bollocks,” I fumed. “She was going to lie through her teeth. If I hadn’t…” I flinched as his grip on my arm tightened. “I’m not goin’ back, so no fear….Mr. Lionel. No need to leave me bruised either.”

“Well, Miss Mae, I figured we would get more with honey than with vinegar, and you are feisty when you get yourself all worked up.” He released my arm as we stepped under an ornate iron framework and stood at the entry to Cordelia’s, a dimly lit bar/café.

“It’s Drummond.”

“I know, Mae. We’ll find him.” Sylvain headed for the bar at the rear of the café and the small figure standing behind it, a dish towel in one hand and a tall glass in the other.

“We’ll be open momentarily folks, if y’all would care to sit at one of the tables. Got some fresh oysters if you’re in the mood.” The bartender smiled and waved the towel toward one of the window tables.
“Thank you kindly, ma’am, but we can’t stay. We were hoping you could help us with a bit of a mystery.” I’ll say this for Sylvain. He knows how to charm. It just wells out of his pores like spring water. “We’re lookin’ for my friend’s brother. It seems he went off with…”

“I did happen to see an older gentleman across the way by the clinic,” she said, moving from behind the bar and crossing the floor with a grace that belied her size. “I happen to be April Ann, by the way. Owner of this café and noticer of many things.  Is he is some trouble?”

“We’re not sure.” Sylvain’s phrase overrode my definite “Yes.”

“So it’s that way,” April Ann smiled. “Which is it?”

I jumped in first. “My brother Drummond was at the clinic to get some medicine for his illness.” I held up the brown bag. “He was sitting outside while I went to see the chemist…pharmacist… and when I came out he was gone. The puffed up nurse at the clinic….”

“…the nurse at the clinic mentioned seeing him get into a car. A yellow SUV. Did you see anything that might help us?” Sylvain as usual tempered my words. I glowered at him but he just gave me a concerned look. “We need to find him and get his medicine started so he doesn’t get sicker than he is.”

April Ann studied us for a moment. We are a strange looking pair if you recall my description of Sylvain, and my own smaller physical stature. I was at least wearing my best traveling clothes, having packed my bag lady ensembles for the trip north. I managed a smile in her direction but let my worry stay visible in my eyes.

“Well, I did see a yellow SUV not that long ago although I didn’t pay much attention to whether anyone got in. I’ve seen it before around this time. There’s a logo on the sides.  And a flower….Begonia something….Begonia Health?  Begonia Holistic? Begonia for sure. They were only here for a minute or so, then they drove off. Didn’t see where they went. Does that help? Because that’s all I have, and I need to get my luncheon customers served. Are you sure you’re not hungry?”

“No, thank you Miss April Ann. Maybe another time, but we are short on time. We appreciate your help.”  Sylvain took my elbow again and steered us out.

“I could do with a cuppa, you know,” I protested. “Or even a bit of water.” A quick look at my friend’s face told me I’d get neither. He pulled out his cell and punched in a number. Spoke in that mishmash he calls patois. Except for the word Begonia. Then he put the cell back in his jeans pocket.

“And? Sylvain?”  I let him have my elbow to get his attention. “Are you going to tell me just who you were jabberin’ to just now? And what it has to do with me brother?” Just for good measure I gave him another elbow jab.

“Patience. Assaulting me won’t get you anywhere. I called an associate of mine. Morales knows him. He used to be a cop, now he operates a bit differently. That’s all you need to know. I gave him the information on Drummond and the word Begonia. He’ll call me when he has something.”

“And that will happen when? We don’t have time to waste waiting for the meaning of “begonia”, flower or whatever. Don’t haver w’me, ye scunner. Me patience is about done.” Despite me bein’ angry and all, I couldn’t keep a quiver out of my voice. Damn. I glared at Sylvain and bit my lip.

“Let’s head back to the loft, Mae.” I felt his hand take mine. “It’s a small chance but maybe Drum headed back there. Or had the people in the van take him there. My friend will call. Ray is good at what he does. It just means we need to give him time.”

“What if we don’t have time?” I had to ask because Drum was…well, Drum. He’s never been good in bad situations and my bones told me this was bad. Sylvain gave me a reassuring squeeze as we headed toward his vehicle.

Thirty minutes later, me with a mug of hot Earl Grey curled in me hands and Sylvain pacing like a caged cat, the trill of his cell broke the silence.

Eske ou gen…?” Sylvain stopped short, listened for more time than I wanted, and then said “Ah Bien” and clicked off. “Any more tea, Mae?”

“Tea? You want me to…”

“My friend will be here in a moment. He is fond of tea. A pot of the Earl grey will be nice.”

I fumed a bit but set about getting more water on the steam, warming the pot, and the other little things that make a good cuppa. The tea was steeping nicely when a sharp knock sounded on the door to my home. Sylvain walked quickly to the entrance and knocked back. Code? I almost snickered. Men! And then I remembered my own man, poor Drummond, was missing.

“Miss Mae?” Sylvain’s voice called me out of my thoughts. “Miss Mae, may I present my friend Raimundo Olivier? Ray, this is Miss Mae McEwan. It is her brother who has gone missing. Would you care for some tea?”  I produced a clean mug, canned creamer and some sugar was but satisfied to see my new acquaintance took his tea as God intended, unadorned.

Miss Mae?” Ray’s voice was as smooth as Sylvain’s but an octave deeper. “A pleasure to meet you. Now Sylvain here has told me of your dilemma and I am glad to say I have some information for you.” Damn, the man was good. “It is not all of a positive nature but I will give you what I have and you decide how to proceed. Bien?”

“Go on, Ray,” Sylvain said before I could.

“Well, first, I have so far not discovered the whereabouts of your brother. However,” he held up a hand as I opened my mouth, “I can give you details on Begonia, which might help you locate him, although it should be done soon. Begonia, as in Begonia Holistic Health and Welfare Center, is not an easy place to leave.”

“Ray?” Sylvain again. “Maybe you need to explain what and where this Begonia Holistic is because I’ve never heard of the damn place.”

Mon ami, you know as well as anyone the folk medicine and holistic cures have a large place in bayou history. Plants we think lovely to look at can be deadly and those we prefer to ignore can treat many things. The begonia, lovely flower in itself, has been used in various forms to treat everything from rheumatism to liver ailments. The Begonia Center has been using formulations based on old recipes with some modern tweaks to offer treatment and well-being to people not helped by traditional means.”

“But my brother…” The information was good but I wanted more.

“They also conduct workshops and offer free treatments to those who cannot pay.” Ray looked at Sylvain. “They have not been here long, but I have heard of other centers where these practices are followed. Patients who take advantage of the free treatments…must end up paying for them by labor or…”

“And if my brother is there?”

“If he is there, he will stay as long as they need him to.”

“This is ludicrous,” Sylvain broke in. “Why haven’t I heard of this before now? What they’re doing is illegal, non? They would need permits, a building…”

“We both know they can be had for the right price, my friend. I have an associate who will see if your brother is there Miss Mae. And where the building is. Then we can…”

“No,” I said. “Then I can do something about it. Sylvain, I need a favor.”

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