فصل 03

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فصل 03

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CHAPTER THREE

Meeting the other doctors

The following morning Latto woke up with a terrible headache. He took a couple of aspirin and made himself some coffee. He put on a light blue shirt and some jeans, and sat outside his room. As he looked down on the beach, he could see a few people already playing volleyball. Over to the right, in front of the Coast Santa Cruz Hotel, there were about twenty surfers out on their surfboards. Life here was very different. His hometown of Melrose in the south of Scotland was small compared to Santa Cruz. It wasn’t by the sea and the weather was often cold and wet, especially at this time of year. He smiled to himself and thought about why he was here. There were people at home who needed him, patients with Parkinson’s Disease who needed his help. At the moment that was far more important than sun, sand and surf.

Latto realised that he hadn’t checked his email since he arrived. He went back into his room, got his computer out of his suitcase, started it up and got onto the internet. Emails were just starting to appear when there was a knock at the door. He went and opened it.

A young woman and an older, rather unhappy-looking man were standing outside. The woman spoke first.

‘Mark Latto?’ she asked.

‘Yes.’

‘Hi! I’m Sylvia Koning and this is Ray Molinaro.’ She put out her hand. Latto shook hands first with her and then with Molinaro. Koning continued, ‘We work, well, we worked with Deborah Spencer. She told us all about you. We’ve just been with Detective Martinez. He said you were staying here so we thought we should come along and introduce ourselves.’

Sylvia Koning was in her late twenties. She had long brown hair tied back, clear grey eyes and a nice smile. She was wearing dark blue trousers and a pink shirt. Ray Molinaro was probably in his late thirties. He was wearing a white T-shirt, jeans and light brown boots. He had thick black hair and there were dark circles under his eyes.

‘Well, it’s nice to meet you,’ said Latto. ‘Actually I was just trying to decide how to find you. Deborah talked about working with two other doctors. I knew you were called Ray and Sylvia, but she didn’t tell me anything else about you. But then, I never thought…’ Latto stopped talking. Nobody spoke for a moment. Then Latto said, ‘It’s a terrible business, her death, but… anyway, sorry, please sit down.’

They sat at the table outside Latto’s room in the warm Californian sunshine.

‘It’s so sad about Deborah,’ began Latto. ‘Are the police saying any more about what happened?’

Molinaro spoke for the first time. He had a high, rather thin voice.

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘the police scientists believe that Deborah had a heart problem and she just suddenly dropped dead. That’s what Martinez told us this morning.’

‘Strange,’ said Latto, shaking his head. ‘I only met her once a couple of years ago, but she seemed so healthy, so full of life.’

‘She was,’ said Koning. ‘And it is strange - but sometimes these things happen.’

‘Yes,’ said Latto. ‘True.’

It was quiet for a moment. Then Molinaro spoke. ‘Detective Martinez said you’d had some trouble yourself last night.’

‘That’s right,’ replied Latto, and started to explain about his visit to Deborah Spencer’s house in the evening. As he described what had happened with the man with the earring, Koning’s hand went up to her mouth.

‘Oh no!’ she said. ‘Her laptop! The book! You say the man stole Deborah’s computer?’

‘What? Yes.’ Not understanding, Latto looked from Koning to Molinaro and back.

‘Deborah was writing a book,’ explained Molinaro. ‘It was a book about what we do: our work with our patients, what helps them, what doesn’t help them, and so on.’

‘Oh! I see,’ said Latto. ‘She hadn’t told me that. But are you saying the book was on her computer?’

‘Yes,’ said Koning, ‘and that was almost certainly the only copy.’

‘But there must be other copies,’ said Latto, ‘on CD or paper.’

Molinaro shook his head. ‘There aren’t. She wanted to finish it first, then make copies for Sylvia and me to read. That’s what she said. I told her to copy it onto a CD from time to time in case her computer broke down or someone stole it. But I’m sure she never did. She just didn’t worry about things like that.’

Koning put her head in her hands. ‘I can’t believe it,’ she said. ‘All that work - just gone.’

Molinaro looked at his watch, then at Latto. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I’ve got to leave. I’ve got some patients waiting for me. Could I use your bathroom before I go?’

‘Sure,’ said Latto, and waved a hand towards the open door of his room. Molinaro stood up and went into Latto’s room. Latto sat quietly, thinking that a lot of people, like Deborah Spencer, didn’t keep copies of important things that they had on computer. Koning was looking out at the ocean and shaking her head slowly.

Latto looked at her and said, ‘But you and Ray could write the book again, couldn’t you?’

Koning shook her head. ‘It would take years. Deborah knew so much more about how to help patients than either of us. We were still learning from her. All the time.’

Molinaro came back out of Latto’s room. Hearing Koning’s last words, he said, ‘Deborah was our leader really - she started this new way of looking at the disease. Everything Sylvia and I know Deborah taught us. She was really the only person who could write about it.’ Then, looking at his watch again, he said, ‘I’m sorry. I really must go.’

Latto watched Molinaro walk down the stairs to the road, then he turned to Koning and asked, ‘So Martinez didn’t tell you someone had stolen the computer then?’

‘No, he didn’t,’ replied Koning.

‘So he doesn’t know about the book?’ asked Latto.

‘Probably not,’ said Koning. ‘Why? Do you think it’s important?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Latto. He half closed his eyes in thought. ‘It just all seems quite strange to me. Anyway, the police are coming round this afternoon to show me some photos. I’ll tell them about the book and see what Martinez thinks about Deborah’s death then.’

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