THAT'S SUCH A RELIEF," ANNA TOLD NICK AFTER RHONDA LEFT. "AT LEAST I don't have to worry about canceling my credit cards and getting a new driver's license. And my house key is on that ring along with my car keys. I don't like to think about what someone could have done with that."
Nick frowned. "Anna, I wish you'd let this drop. Sure, somebody stole your identity. We can see that. But trying to find out whose behind it can only get you hurt. You—"
"Hold on." Anna held up one hand, careful to choose the one without an IV. "According to Miss Brown, the reason I'm here in this bed is because I was mugged by a derelict who wanted my purse so he could buy another bottle of Thunderbird. It could just as easily have happened on my way to work or the grocery store."
"All right. I guess I can accept that. But I still worry about you. So would you be careful? And would you let me help?"
Maybe Nick's expression of concern and offer of help came from a sense of duty. But there seemed to be genuine affection there as well. And that brought up the question of how she felt about Nick. Were her feelings for him platonic? Or was something more developing? No, there was too much to think about and her brain wasn't up to it. Not yet, at least.
She realized Nick was still waiting for an answer. It seemed easier to acquiesce than argue. "I'll be careful. And once I'm out of here, I promise we'll talk about what I . . . what we need to do next."
Once Nick was gone, Anna dumped the contents of her purse onto the bedside table and began to go through them. She opened her wallet and held her breath, letting it out when she saw both her new credit cards still in place, along with her driver's license and two very special cards: a wallet-sized ID card confirming her Texas medical license and another with her DEA permit number on it. She would need to be extra careful with those in the future, although short of putting them in a vault she wasn't sure how to protect them.
Anna thumbed through the bills in the wallet, wishing that Rhonda Brown had taken the reward she'd offered. "Nope," the technician said. "I did it because it was the right thing to do, not for money. You just do something good for somebody someday. That'll be enough."
Her cell phone was clipped to an inside pocket of the purse, and Anna was surprised to see that it still held a charge. The display also showed twelve missed calls and eight voicemail messages. She scrolled through the log and saw that, along with six messages from Nick, she had two from Ross Donovan.
She listened to Nick's messages first. There was a definite progression in their tone. The first was a casual invitation to lunch, the next call expressed regret that they hadn't been able to get together, and a third asked if he could see her that evening. The fourth, fifth, and sixth demonstrated his worry when he was unable to contact her at her office, at home, or via her cell phone. Yes, no doubt about it. Nick cared for her. But she wasn't ready to answer the question of how deep her feelings for him ran. Not now. Not with all this hanging over her.
She moved to the messages from Ross Donovan, wondering if her reluctance to think about a commitment to Nick had something to do with this other man who'd come into her life. The first was fairly businesslike: "Anna, this is Ross Donovan. I enjoyed lunch with you. I think our meeting with the DEA went fairly well. I suggest you call your chairman tomorrow to make sure Hale notifies him that you're in the clear with the agency. I'll see what I can do to get the Dallas police offyour back now. Keep in touch."
So much had happened in the past twenty-four hours; Anna had almost forgotten her meeting with the DEA agents. A new permit and a call from Hale to her chairman should pave the way for her return to work. She wasn't sure how ready she was physically, but she certainly was itching to be back doing what she loved best—practicing medicine and teaching residents.
The next message from Donovan put an end to Anna's improved mood. "Anna, call me as soon as you get this message. Detective Green phoned. He and Dowling want to talk with you. They've agreed to do the interview at my office, but they say if you don't follow up with them tomorrow, they'll issue a warrant to pick you up as a material witness. I don't know what they have, but apparently something new has come up. Call me ASAP."
Anna hadn't yet entered Donovan's number on her cell phone directory, so she had to scroll back and find it in her call log. Her stomach churned as she waited for him to answer the call.
"Ross Donovan." His voice carried a smile, and she could picture his dimples deepening as he spoke.
"Mr. Donovan . . . Ross, this is Anna McIntyre. I won't be able to meet with the detectives today. It's—"
There was no smile in Donovan's voice this time. "Anna, I think they were serious about picking you up as a material witness. You'd better make time for this."
"Ross, a lot has happened since I left you yesterday. You'd better come by my hospital room and let me explain."
Ross Donovan looked up from the yellow legal pad balanced on his knee. It was almost filled with scribbling in the personal shorthand he'd developed over the years. Only he could read it, sometimes only after a second and third effort, but he figured that represented another level of security and privacy for his clients.
"So, Anna, you don't think this attack on you had anything to do with the identity theft?"
Anna didn't answer, just shook her head. She leaned back against her pillows and closed her eyes, obviously spent after filling him in on the events of the past twenty-four hours.
Ross tapped his fountain pen against his front teeth and looked at the ceiling. "You know, when you came to my office the first time, you started by telling me you had problems with the police and the DEA. I managed to pry the information out of you that someone had stolen your credit card numbers as well. But I get the sense that this problem is even broader than that. What aren't you telling me?"
Anna reached toward the pitcher and glass on her bedside table. Ross rose and poured water for her. He waited until she'd emptied the glass before resuming his seat.
"I guess I need to give you the whole story," she said.
"That usually helps your attorney. Just remember two things. First of all, what you tell me is in confidence. I can't be required to divulge it." He uncapped his pen and sat back.
"What's the second thing?" she asked.
"The other thing to remember is that I've been a liar, a cheat, and a drunk. So whatever you've done, I've probably done worse."
He grinned when that elicited a chuckle. He sensed that she was teetering on the brink of exhaustion, and he hated to put her through this, but if he was to help her he needed the full story.
A half hour later, he dropped the legal pad to the floor and leaned toward Anna's bed, his forearms on his thighs. "Okay, here's a summary of the problem, as I understand it. Correct me if I'm wrong anywhere." He began to tick offpoints on his fingers. "First, someone stole your credit card information and maxed out the accounts, temporarily damaging your credit in the process. Second, someone used your DEA number and name to float a bunch of narcotics prescriptions in the area, and although Agents Kramer and Hale are ready to ease up on you, the Dallas police—for whatever reason—are still intent on proving you're a criminal. And third, both you and one of your patients had your insurance information used by someone else to obtain care. That maneuver cost your patient his life and made you a target for a malpractice suit. It also resulted in your name being associated with a positive test for HIV." He leaned back and spread his hands like a magician showing the rabbit."Right?"
Anna seemed to sink deeper into the bed, as though she were deflating. "Right."
"So here's what we do. And notice, I said, 'we.' The credit repair isn't rocket science, but it takes a bit of work. As soon as you're discharged, get me the paperwork you've already started. I'll look at it and try to help. But that may have to go on the back burner, because it's not our immediate problem. Our first priority is to keep you out of jail and clear you with the Dallas police. I'll call Green or Dowling as soon as I leave here and explain to them that you've been hospitalized for a serious head injury. If they insist on interviewing you anyway, I'll start claiming police brutality, infringement of your constitutional rights, and anything else I can think of. After all, you're not competent to answer questions because of your hazy mental condition."
"Hey, your mental status may be fine. But we've been given a perfect excuse to delay this interview, and the longer we can put it off, the more information we'll have when it comes time to talk with them. Let me take care of this."
Anna nodded her understanding. "And the malpractice suit?"
"I suppose you have malpractice insurance?"
"Yes, the medical school covers me. Actually, all of the state med schools self-insure through a trust. But I think I'd better talk about engaging you to represent me as well. The way Ms. Ernst has reacted so far, I don't get a warm and fuzzy feeling about her."
Ross was silent.
"Oh," Anna said, understanding lighting her eyes. "I forgot."
"Never mind. When we divorced, there weren't many warm and fuzzy feelings on either side."
"But if you represented me, you'd be working with your exwife," Anna said. "Is that going to present a problem?"
Ross rubbed his chin. "We'll have to see, won't we?"