Ever and Always
Chapter 14: The Bigger They Are - 2022
Copyright© 2015 by Banadin
"This is the voicemail of Abi Jackson. Please leave your name, message and number; I will get back to you as soon as I can."
Charles left a message to the effect he had a follow-up story on Rick the Windshield Cleaner Man. When reviewing her messages she had a hard time remembering the story, when she did think of it, she wondered how a follow-up on that story could be interesting. Even with her doubts one thing she had learned was to follow up on leads.
"Charles speaking," he said as he answered the phone in his deep voice.
Abi identified herself.
"Glad you called Abi; I thought you might be interested in following up on Rick. He now lives in Delaney Valley."
"How did he get that sort of money," asked Abi? She knew that it was one of the more expensive areas of the Baltimore suburbs.
"You need to start at the William Donald Schafer rest home to get your answer," replied Charles.
"Don't you know," asked Abi?
"I have a good idea. It appears to involve insurance fraud on the part of an insurance company, but I don't have proof."
"Charles, I have your name and phone number, so I can find out more about you. What is your role in this?"
"I'm an undercover cop with the Baltimore Police Department." This was the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship that would rock the political and criminal worlds of Baltimore for several years.
Abi decided to go straight to William Schaefer to see what would develop by dropping in. There was no one at the front desk when she entered the lobby. There wasn't evidence of human occupation for years if the three-year-old calendar was any clue. The sign in book hadn't been used in seven years. She decided not to bother signing in.
As she entered the next area, which was the wide-open common area used for meals and general meetings, she saw a harried member of housekeeping wiping down a table.
"I am looking for someone who can tell me about Richard King," she inquired.
The lady looked blank for a moment. "Oh you mean Rick, Marsha's husband. Silvia in the office knows them best. Marsha worked there." The housekeeper pointed her to the office area.
Abi walked into the open office area.
A lady looked up and said, "May I help you? Oh, you're Abi Jackson, what are you doing here?"
Abi was pleased that she had been recognized though it would change her tactics slightly.
"I am flattered that you recognized me," she replied.
"We watch your noon newscast every day. Rick got it started. I think he has a crush on you. Even though he and Marsha have moved out we still watch your show."
"What's your name," Abi asked, as she held out her hand.
"Ruth Richards, and I am pleased to meet you," was the reply as they shook hands.
"I understand that Rick and Marsha now live out in Delaney Valley; that is a real jump from working here."
"Oh they did not work here; they were both patients, though Marsha did volunteer in the office while Rick worked his corner."
"That seems to be out of the ordinary," Abi said,
"Very, but you know they were among the first returnees from Alzheimer's. It is such a blessing we have six other patients more alert and getting up now."
"No I didn't know that Ruth."
"I think that they had to do with the big law suit they won. Well at least, I heard they won a large law suit. I don't know of any of the details."
"Who would know?"
"Silvia our Office Manager might," replied Ruth.
"Where would I find her?"
"She should be back any minute; she just went to the restroom."
Abi was asking a few back ground questions of Ruth, how long she had worked at William Donald, when Silvia returned. She also recognized Abi. Abi had no complaints about having a fan base. She was still young enough to enjoy the recognition.
Abi caught Silvia up on her basic story. She was considering a follow up on Rick, one of those, where are they now stories? She was very surprised to learn that he was living in Delaney Valley.
"How did that happen," she asked Silvia. Silvia hesitated then remembered something Marsha had said not that long ago.
"If any member of the media asks about us, answer their questions, as long as they don't conflict with your professional ethics."
Silvia thought, "William Schafer wasn't involved in that law suit so that isn't a problem. Our former patients have released us from our confidentiality responsibility, besides it isn't an HIPPA issue, so why not."
She was careful to explain that reasoning to Abi. She continued on to explain that,
"They sued GHI insurance and had an out-of-court settlement with them. I do not know what the law suit was about or for how much, but it must have been quite a bit."
Abi had a few more general questions about Rick and Marsha's stay. She was also interested in the fact that they were considered to be Alzheimer's returnees but wasn't able to develop anything other than that they had severe dementia, came out of it and judged competent.
This gave Abi two lines of investigation. First, were the legal records of their competency judgment, second was the law suit filed against GHI. It did not take long at the courthouse to find, and purchase copies of all the relevant documents. This was much more interesting than a follow up on a guy who washed windshields.
Abi took this to her producer, before she could spend more time; she had to have his buy in. After lying out what she knew the producer was eager to follow the story. He also came up with the thought that they should do a local story on the other returnees at the rest home.
The major networks were all over the story, but a home segment would go over well. If they followed some of the local returnees and report their progress once a month it would help ratings.
Abi was able to build on that by adding, "You should let sales know. I bet there would be some health care types that would be glad to sponsor those segments."
The producer went on, "This really doesn't sit well, but the patients at William Schafer have no one to return to, check at places like Northeast. It would be good to have families with loving grandchildren. It would be much more photogenic."
Abi sighed, "You are right, but in the meantime I am going to follow up on this GHI story. I will start with Rick and Marsha."
Silvia had given her their phone number, so she returned to her cubicle and made the call.
"Is this the King residence," she inquired when a woman answered the phone.
"Yes it is who is calling."
"This is Abi Jackson with WBAL, I was wondering if I could come to your house and ask a few questions."
"You are that lovely young newscaster whom Rick always listens to. When would you like to come over?"
"Now if it is not too soon."
"Oh dear I will have to hurry and clean up our apartment."
"It will take me almost an hour to get there is that alright," Abi inquired."
"Yes that will be fine, what needs cleaning the most is Rick. I have to get him out of those grubby old clothes he likes into something decent. When he hears it is you coming that will help."
She gave the address before hanging up.
Abi went to her station provided car with WBAL in large letters and spoke the address to the built in GPS. It took her fifty five minutes to get there, so she went right to the door.
The door was answered by a lady who looked to be healthy mid-seventy. She was dressed in a pair of green slacks and brown sweater with a long necklace with copper disks. With her low-cut heels and light make up, she looked very elegant.
A man also in his seventy's was standing back slightly. He wore light tan chinos, with a blue-button down collar shirt; he had on a tweed sport coat with elbow patches.
Abi looked at them and said, "Are you Rick and Marsha."
Marsha replied, "That's us."
Abi responded, "Well you certainly look better than when I interviewed Rick last Christmas."
"Exercise and good food really help," replied Rick.
"I must say my pay was much better on the street when I appeared to be older."
Abi thought, "This story just keeps getting better."
"That is very interesting, but what I was interested in was the law suit you just won against GHI. What was the fraud they perpetuated against you?"
Rick and Marsha exchanged glances.
Rick replied, "I wish I could tell you but part of the settlement was that we wouldn't talk about our suit."
"You say 'our' suit like there could be others."
"As I said we can't discuss how we were admitted to William Donald Schafer."
"Could I talk you into an interview of how your life has changed since you have got off the street?"
"I don't see how," replied Rick, "It would bring up questions of how we got our money. I don't want to be accused of welfare fraud."
"Well thank you for your time," said Abi.
"Uh, before you go could I have your autograph," asked Rick. Marsha just barked a laugh and said, "Boys."
Abi thought about it on the drive back to town. It was like they were trying to say something without saying it. There would be other law suits if people knew how they were admitted to Schafer. How were they admitted, and how could she find out? Then she remembered that the law suit mentioned they had been admitted from Northeast.
She gave the voice command to the GPS, "Northeast Baltimore rest home." She arrived in fifteen minutes.
This lobby area was completely different from the other rest home.
As soon as she entered there was a cheerful, "Hello may I help you?"
The lobby was bright; there were fresh flowers at the desk. There was clean carpeting instead of dingy tile. The calendar was current and she was immediately asked to sign in, as she explained that she would like to speak to the director if it was convenient.
No she did not have an appointment. When told that Abi Jackson from WBAL was in the lobby the Director immediately found time for her.
Unfortunately for Abi that was almost the last thing he found for her. After settling her in a comfortable fabric-covered chair in his office, and her declining coffee, he had to tell her that he couldn't share the contents of the files of Marsha Wren and Richard King. It would be in the violation of the HIPPA laws.