William Doonan

I write books and stories.

MedicineLand: Chapter Three

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Julia couldn’t sleep.  The moonlight washed over Rocky, who snored quietly beside her.  She could just make out the tattoo on his forearm; St. Brendan, wearing a Bishop’s miter and standing at the bow of a sailboat.  Rocky told her about the gang he ran with as a kid in South Philadelphia.  Billy St. Clair had the same tattoo but he had it removed when they made their first million.   Rocky declined to do the same.  It’s an artifact of my life, he told her once.

Julia climbed out of bed and moved quietly to her office.  She turned on one of the desk lights and looked down into the atrium at the indoor pool, whose low safety lights made it glow like an alien ship.  She shook her head in amazement.  Have I really lived here a whole year?

But it had been more than a year, she remembered as she leaned back into the ergonomic chair.  She moved in after their engagement; her father wasn’t pleased.  You know this gringo six months and you’re going to give it up before you even see a ring?

Julia had laughed.  She had a two carat engagement ring, and she had given it up some time ago.  You’re the one who introduced me to him, she told him.

She first met Rocky at the site of a minor industrial accident.  Her father was overseeing the renovation of an old factory when a floor caved in.  Julia went with him when the call came.

Two men had gotten tangled in beams that broke four ribs, collectively, but the ambulance was there before they arrived.  Julia checked with the paramedics to be sure they didn’t need a doctor, and then found her father talking with a tall man wearing a gray sweater.

“We figured most of the floor needed to go,” her father said, “but sometimes the rot gets deeper than you think.”

“But your men will be OK?” the man asked when Julia came over.  He looked straight at her.  “There’s little worth dying for; certainly not this old building.”

“The paramedics say they’ll be fine,” she told him.

“My daughter,” her father said, “Julia.  She’s a doctor.”

“Rocky Shannon,” the man said.  “Lovely to meet you.  I’d like to follow up with the men who were hurt, to make sure they’re OK.  Could you help me with that?”

She paused.  “I’m a research doctor.  I don’t really…”

“Of course she can,” her father interrupted.

Julia produced a card.

“I will be in touch,” Rocky said, placing the card into a silver card holder.

And he was.  The dinner invitation was alarming at first.  She ran it by her father, for facts not permission, and learned little about Rocky Shannon except that he was local, was apparently wealthy, and had been engaged in some renovation work for the past few years.  He might even have paid for part of your medical school, her father said.  Julia reminded him that she had a full scholarship.

Rocky took her to a pizza restaurant.  And afterwards they walked by the old governor’s mansion, and then past the notorious Dorothea Puente house, where Ms. Puente had systematically poisoned old men over a period of several years so she could steal their social security.

“And you want to renovate that house?”

Rocky laughed.  “Are you kidding?  I’m afraid of it myself.  But we’re working on a house behind it.  I’m hoping the bad karma doesn’t spill over.”

“All karma is bad karma,” Julia told him, in what would become the first of many conversations about karma.

On their second date, he took her to the executive airport where a small plane sat, fueled and ready.  “It’s going to be loud,” he warned her.  And it was.  They headed to Napa, a flight that should take no more than half an hour but Rocky made a detour south toward Lake Berryessa, flying low.  “Look over there.”  He pointed to an abandoned mansion that had seen better days.  “Isn’t it lovely?”

“What is it?” she asked.

“I love you too,” Rocky said above the noise.

“That’s not what I said.”

Rocky grinned, banking hard so that she moved as close to him as her seat restraints allowed.  “That,” he began, “is the most beautiful property left to be developed in the Central Valley.  That’s Lundt Castle.”

“I’ve heard of that,” Julia yelled.  “The Lundts, they were show biz people back in the 30s.”

Rocky nodded.  “Arthur and Grace Lundt.  They were big in the horror film circuit.  They hung out with Bela Lugosi and that crowd.”

Julia stared at the mansion as the plane banked.

“I’m trying to buy it,” Rocky said.  They flew in silence to a small Napa airstrip where a car waited to take them to a winery for dinner.

“Does this work on all your girls?” she asked, when the wine had been poured.

“No,” he said  “Most girls wouldn’t get into a plane with a man they hardly know.”


A week later she took him to a retirement party at the university and then to her favorite Tapas restaurant.  “Still not clear on what you do?” she said.

“We renovate properties with historic significance.  That’s mostly what we do.  We tried gold mining.  We bought rights to exhausted gold mines and reopened them, using new extraction processes, but we’re getting out of that, focusing more now on the real estate.  Mostly we just renovate.”

“You said we.  You work for a company?”

“No,” he said.  “I have a partner.  You’ll meet him.”

He took her back to his house and showed her the pool, the squash court.  They ate powdered donuts from a box in a stainless steel kitchen.  He put the milk back in the refrigerator and came around behind her.  “I think…,” he said, touching her hair.

Julia turned around.  “I think too,” she said, and she kissed him.


The light was blinking on the answering machine.  She had forgotten to check earlier.  The message was from her mother, wishing her a happy anniversary.  I wonder if she’s still up, Julia thought.  It’s only about two.  She dialed.

“Of course I’m up, mi hija,” her mother said.  “I don’t get off until three.  How does it feel, un año entero, a whole year.”

Julia smiled.  “It feels good, mama.”

“You love him still?”

“Of course I do.”

“Don’t let that money get to your head, amor.”

“Mama, I make like a hundred and fifty thousand a year.  I don’t need a man for money.”

“I’ve got to go, baby.  One of the nurses is out tonight, so we’re running around like on ER.  We’ve had four overdoses already.  The drugs are killing this city.”

“You want me to come over?”

“Not on your anniversary night, baby.  You can be a fancy doctor by day but tonight you should be a love slave.”


“Or, you know, these gender roles are reversing.  Maybe you make him your love slave, tie that boy up with the string from the cake box.”

Julia stared at the phone.  “I can’t believe this is you.  Did the doctors leave a little of the codeine unattended?”

“Sleep well, baby.”

Julia smiled as she hung up the phone and snuck back to bed.


Written by williamdoonan

October 7, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Posted in MedicineLand, Mystery

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