“Hello,” a sleepy voice answered on the fourth ring.
“Roxy, it’s Carson; we need to talk. I need to find that shithead Albright—is he with you?”
Roxy answered slowly. “No . . . why the hell are you phoning me so early? You know I work nights. He’s your goddamned doctor, and aren’t you two buddies . . . don’t you know where he is?”
“Look . . . Roxy, I just had a call from the hospital, and they say my results were mixed up with someone else. Albright is gone and so is my check for five million. When was the last time you saw him?”
“I don’t know . . . maybe two or three weeks ago when he stopped by the bar.”
“So you two are no longer an item?”
Roxy’s voice took on a pissed off tone. “Carson, he’s just another needy man who wanted a woman to be his therapist and a good lay. I need a hell of a lot more than that—isn’t that why we broke it off?”
“I thought we broke it off because I was dying. Obviously that’s not the case . . . and I was thinking . . .”
“Seriously? You think because you’re no longer dying you’d come over here for a welcome back lay . . . you’re kidding me, right?”
“No . . . no . . . of course not. I wasn’t thinking that Roxy,” Carson said. He massaged his temples realizing how badly this conversation was going. “I’m sorry, Roxy, I’m still in a bit of shock over this news. You know one minute it’s all about me dying in a few months, then I’m given a clean bill of health but my bank account’s empty.”
Roxy sighed into the phone. “Yeah, Carson, I’m sorry for unloading on you. This must be a hell of a time for you. Tell you what; drop by the bar tonight if you’re up for it. The drinks are on me. We’ll call it our welcome back to the world party.” She let out a giggle. “Who knows, maybe we’ll end up back at my place for a special welcome.”
“Damn, Roxy, you know how to restore a man to life. I doubt if Lazarus would’ve had such a nice welcome back party.”
Carson chuckled, “Never mind, just some guy from the Bible. I’ll see you later at the bar. I’ve got a doctor I need to find.”
Carson ended the call. For a moment he let the vision of Roxanne Winter, the beautiful bartender at Maguire’s Bar and Grill, fill his mind. He’d met her over five years ago. He was well on his way to becoming the top realtor and investor in San Bernardino County. His relationship with Barbara was strained . . . there was no love. They only loved the money they made. The brown-eyed, auburn-haired Roxy with the infectious laughter and lovely smile was a breath of fresh air.
Carson was turning forty—Roxy was mid-twenties. He was ready for something new, something exciting. Roxy was all that. A girl from a small town in the Midwest with an excitement for life—nothing was jaded or crass to her. She loved all of life.
She claimed all the men in her life had been losers. She found Carson intelligent, mature, just the kind of man she’d always wanted.
Carson became her part-time mentor and part-time lover. He would never sacrifice his marriage to Barbara, as she was his partner in his real estate and investment firm. In Orange County they were the “It” couple who threw lavish parties at country clubs. Their gourmet dinners were the buzz of the gossip column.
At one time Carson Winfield and Barbara Saunders had been wildly in love. When they first met in a real estate office they realized they wanted the same thing: money and prestige. They fell in love, or lust, got married, and built up one of the largest real estate firms in the valley. They called it Win Realty. Barbara thought the name was catchy.
Win Realty billboards sprouted up all over the county. Carson in his dark suits with perfect hair, and Barbara who looked like she’d stepped out of a Hollywood movie. They were quite the team. A team made up of deceit.
Within two years, Barbara was having affairs. Her lust for money was only surpassed by her lust for other men. He responded by doing the same with numerous women. There were so many he couldn’t keep track. By the time he’d met Roxy, he was tired of the games.
Roxy was different. She was an attractive young lady from North Dakota who didn’t put on airs. They’d go to her place, order a pizza, watch a movie, and make love. But it ended when Barbara was diagnosed with cancer.
Carson remembered how he’d been almost ready to pack it in with Barbara before the diagnosis. He was thinking of asking for a divorce . . . maybe move in with Roxy. Then the report came back from the lab. It was in Doctor Jerry Albright’s office where they got the news.
Thinking about Jerry Albright, Carson dialed his bank manager, John Kulak. John was his banker and golfing buddy, and they’d been to dinner at each other’s houses a few times.
“Hey, Carson, how’s it going?” John said when Carson was put through. “I just got off the phone with Carla. She said you’d been given good news.”
“How could your wife know about the change in my condition?” Carson stammered. “I heard about it not even twenty minutes ago.”
John laughed, “Hey, good news travels fast. The hospital put out a press release; they’re probably hoping you won’t sue them. Frankly, I think you got a hell of case if you wanted to. Even after you’ve given them five million.”
“Yeah . . . about that money. Did the money get transferred out of my account?” Carson asked. It was a shot in the dark. If Albright hadn’t cashed the check, there was a chance he could put a stop payment on it. The issue would be closed. He could do little public relations patch up with the hospital later, maybe a half a million now, and a trust over time.
“Yes, about forty-eight hours ago I saw it go through myself. I did think it strange that you made it out to Albright instead of a Trust in the name of the hospital . . . but what the hell, you’re the customer.”
“I guess this is the one time I should have listened to you, John.”
“That would’ve been a first,” John laughed. He paused for a moment, lowering his voice. “Now that I got you one the phone, I wanted to mention a visit I had from the FBI this morning.”
“Why would the FBI be visiting you?”
“They wanted information on the transactions in your mortgage company, and any information I had on you and Scott Price.”
“What did they ask for?”
“They wanted all your past banking files. I told them they needed a court order. They looked all pissy as they marched out of here to go get one. I wasn’t going to bother you until they appeared with the order—but now that you’re among the living, I thought you’d like a heads up.”
“Thanks for that. Look, I’ll catch up with you later . . . say hi to Carla.” Carson hung up.
Carson dialed the number of WinPrice Mortgage, a company he’d set up with Scott Price at the constant urging of Barbara. He’d wanted nothing to do with mortgages, but Barbara insisted this was the new “gold mine.”
After the housing market crash of 2008, so many mortgage companies were running for the exits, that they picked up one for very little. Scott Price came with it. Carson would’ve left both Scott and the mortgage company where he’d found it—in the trash.
“WinPrice Mortgage, how may I help you?” a nervous voice answered.
Carson recognized the voice of Alyssia Washington, the receptionist. She was a bright young African American with an easy smile. “Alyssia, this is Carson Winfield. I need to speak with Scott . . . is he in?”
“Mr. Price is busy right now, Mr. Winfield, he’s being questioned . . . I mean, he’s in a meeting with some gentlemen.”
“Would that be the FBI he’s with, Alyssia?”
“Um, huh, that would be right, Mr. Winfield. I grew up in East LA, Mr. Winfield; I know men with guns and badges are not your usual businessmen.”
Carson thanked her and ended the call. He was about to put his car in reverse when a police car and a dark blue sedan pulled up behind him. Two uniformed officers leapt out of their car. They stood on both sides of his car. Their hands rested on their guns in their holsters.
Carson put the car in park and rested his hands on the steering wheel. A man wearing blue jeans and short sleeve shirt came up to the car, “Mr. Carson Winfield, I’m Detective Roberto Sanchez of the San Bernardino Police Department. We’d like you to come down to the station to answer a few questions about the disappearance of Doctor Jerry Albright.”
Carson took off his sunglasses, looking up at the detective. He was a slim Latino with an angular face framed in a neatly trimmed beard. Except for the gun and badge he looked like a dad that might coach a soccer game.
Carson raised his hands off the steering wheel in a sign of resignation. “You know, detective, I was about to start looking for him myself, and as this day couldn’t get any stranger, sure. You got a fresh pot of coffee at your police station?”
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