A routine doctor visit
5:19 PM Thursday
I looked around like a hunter protecting his kill, in case whoever lost it came back. But there was no one around. I stuffed the bag into my jacket trying to hide it, and carried on to the doctor’s office for my appointment.
The late autumn sun hung low in the purple orange sky at a blinding angle. If it was wasn’t for a puddle, I might’ve missed seeing the bag at all.
“Hi, Tim. Late again. Boy, you’re in for it this time”, greeted Jennifer, the senior assistant.
“You know how it is. Traffic was especially heavy today.”
“We know how how it is, alright”, her co-worker flashed a knowing grin before returning to her stack of files.
“Take a seat, Tim. He’s double booked, but should be able to see you before he goes home.”
I sat in my favourite spot by the coat rack, but after a couple of minutes realized how strange I must look, sitting there with a bulging jacket. It would have to come off.
After a moment, I got up and took a chair on the same side of the room as the other two people. Usually people don’t watch those sitting next to them. As carefully as I could, I slipped off my jacket & hid the bag in it.
The silence was broken by the voice of my doctor, who sounded very agitated, not like himself at all.
“Not this one, the file for Mrs. Johnson, I said. She’s got to get a blood test soon. Where’s that fax. number, I’ll send it.”
“Yes, Doctor, I’ll get on it right away. The number’s right there”, the younger assistant replied.
“Just going to the bathroom, be right back”, I told Barb, noticing she seemed more intent on her work than usual. “Say, what’s up with the Doctor today? Normally we can hear him kidding around and telling jokes while we wait. . .”
“Oh, don’t ask. He’s been like this all afternoon.” She glanced towards one of the rooms, then lowered her voice even further. “Apparently he lost something. He’s quite upset”, she confided.
“Oh, that’s too bad. Nice pictures”, I said, motioning to the wall behind her. “Where were those taken?”
“”Yes, aren’t they? He just got back from Africa two weeks ago. Took the whole family. Said he had to get away from all the repairs on his house. He could’ve torn it down and been better off.” She laughed.
“Yeah, construction costs have climbed steadily the last few years.”
“Well, he’s very meticulous, as you know. So it’ll all be sorted out soon enough. He’s very determined.”
By the time I got out of the doctor’s office and had the prescription filled, it was dark and raining. All I wanted to do was get home and count the money I’d found. I made my way back to the car as quickly as I could and tossed the paper bag onto the floor. About 20 minutes later it became obvious I was being followed. A large black SUV was still behind me ever since I could remember, despite a number of turns. Sometimes he would drop back a car length or two, but the more I drove, the more apparent it became that I would have to do something, and fast.
I buckled my seat belt and dialled 911 on my cell phone and kept driving east, past my last turn-off home. The line was busy. Just as well, I thought. What would I tell the police? That I’d found a few hundred grand, and now someone was following me? How long would it take them to intercept, and what would happen to the money? I tossed the phone onto the seat, and realized I had to lose the SUV.
7:42 PM Thursday
The heat from the hot chocolate and fireplace behind me had finally begun to warm me up. And enough time had elapsed that I could think. I stared at the phone and finally dialled my friend. She answered just as the image flashed through my mind. The terror of slamming the pedal to the floor at the red light, and closing my eyes. It seemed like a stupid thing to do now, but at the time, it came out of pure instinct. Either do this, and do it now, or this could be it.
“Hey Tim, what’s up?”
“Everything. I’m kind of in trouble, big trouble. I found this paper bag today, with a whole lot of money in it.”
“What?! How much? Where?”
“I. . . I don’t know, exactly, it’s in the hundreds of thousands. It was just sitting there in the grass, on the way to my doctor’s office.”
“Oh Lord. Are you okay? Why are you in trouble?”
“As okay as I can be, I guess. But some guy in a truck chased me, on the way home, so I lost him.”
“Why? Are you sure they were chasing you?”
“Yes they were after me. All I know is, I got the fuck out of there.”
“Yeah, right. Well Tim, I hate to say this, but I’m getting a little afraid here. It sounds like somebody knows you have the money. Do you get where I’m going with this?”
For a moment I didn’t know what to say, and there was a long silence over the phone. I turned to watch the flames, but found myself listening for any unusual sounds around the house.
“Tim?” Her voice was calm and neutral.
“Look, why don’t we take this one step at a time. Count the money first, find out how much you’ve got there.”
“Okay, but maybe this isn’t the right time for this.”
“Well, see if there’s anything else, something which might help shed some light on this.”
“Oh shit. That’s a good idea. Hadn’t even occurred to me.”
“Well, that’s not too surprising; sounds like you haven’t had any time.”
“Yeah, okay, hang on. I’m gonna check the bag right now.”
I put the phone down, and dragged the bag across the floor. For a moment, it was fascinating to hold the bundles of cash in my hands, then I turned the bag upside down. At least a dozen bundles of thousand dollar bills tumbled out, then a scrap of paper with some writing on it.
I picked it up and could tell in the dimly lit room that it was a note. I huddled as close to the fire as I could get, and read the note into the phone.
“Mr. Wong, here is the 400 thousand dollars as agreed. Please accept this as partial payment on my loan. The remainder will follow shortly..”
“Wow, does it say anything else.?”
“No, that’s it.”
“Are you sure, Tim? Nothing else? Turn it over.”
“Yeah, there is. Hang on. It says. . it’s an address. Holy shit. Guess what?”
“What, Tim? What is it?”
“Its my doctor’s address. Apparently this is his medical stationery. Holy shit, this is his money.”
“Or else this Wong guy.”
“Yeah, that’s true. Could be. What am I gonna do?”
“Breathe, just calm down. Okay?”
I knew she’d say that, but it didn’t make me feel any better.
“Tim? Hello? Are you breathing?”
“No, I’m. .. listening. Thought I heard something. What am I gonna do?”
“Tim, does your doctor make house calls?”
“Nothing, just kidding. But I think you might need a doctor soon.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“A new one, that’s all.”
“Right, let’s figure this out, what am I gonna do?”
“I think. . I think you’ve got to get out of there. Just hang up, get your shit, and go.”
“Yeah I guess so, but I don’t feel so good. I feel sick.”
I listened for her answer, but there was only silence. The line was dead.