DR. FREDERICK DOOLITTLE is a rotund fellow, pleasant, a fixed smile on his cherry-tinted face, the farthest thing from Rex Harrison, who played the good doctor in the first Dr. Doolittle movie, or Eddie Mur- phy, who played him in the remake. His amiability is immediately ap- parent, as Charlotte introduces him to Meredith and me.
“As I understand it, you believe the woman who died last week might have been the object of some dastardly intentions. Let’s see now, the name was…we’ve had two deaths in the past week…uh, ClaireHazelton. Ah yes, the bathroom. Seemed peaceful enough…no marks, no struggles, hardly seemed like foulplay.”
“She was perfectly healthy, Doctor, and, in fact–aside from her blindness–enviously vigorous. She could get weary, but seemed al- ways to push through with energy,” Charlotte says, herself completely amiable. I can see she is currying the good doctor, carefully avoiding any criticism.
“Yes, yes, well that’s the thing with geriatric populations. Genetic predisposition steps in at any time, and nobody knows when or how. I don’t hold to destiny, but sometimes even I have to allow that a person’s time has come.”
“Ms. Hazelton’s niece, here, has reason to believe–since she has inside information on history and relationships, and possible insults one way or the other–that it may not have been a natural death. So, the family is officially requesting an autopsy.”
“I see. Yes, well, that certainly is possible. Let me set the wheels in motion. I’ll need you to fill out some forms, and write down what has led you to desire such a radical request.”
Meredith does what Doolittle asks, as Charlotte and I wander about the examination room, a room Charlotte knows, as the residents are seen here whenever an illness of any kind arises. She pauses at a cabinet with a glass-paneled door as if reading the labels of the many medicines within. I notice there is a keyhole in the cabinet that, I am certain, only the doctors may access.
“How many doctors work at Bigelow?” I whisper.
“I believe there are three or four. They rotate times and days, and no one is here more than five or sixhours in a row, since they all have private practices.”
“Any specialists? I mean like urologists or proctologists? Or maybe even internists?”
“I don’t know their specialties. I’m sure each has one. Dr. Doolittle likes to broadcast that he is a general practitioner.”
Meredith finishes with the forms and we thank the doctor. As we are about to exit the clinic, Charlotte says, “Doctor, would you have a record of the medications or supplements Ms. Hazelton was taking?”
Amazing! My sister seems to know exactly the critical things to ask.
“Oh,” Doolittle mumbles. “Well, Overstreet was her regular doctor, but, of course, all the files are here. As next of kin, young Ms. Hazelton, here, certainly can peruse them.”
“How about if we get a photocopy of her medications and treatment over the past six months or so,” Charlotte persists.
“Give me a moment, and I’ll get the nurse to copy what you want.”
After another ten minutes, we are walking toward Charlotte’s apartment and Meredith says, “He’s a nice fellow, a bit preoccupied, or maybe diffident.”
“Just his style,” Charlotte replies. “I’ve actually seen him irritated, primarily when he feels disrespected. I show him a lot of respect.”
The hallway from the medical area of Bigelow to where Char- lotte’s apartment is located is as long as a city block. One may stand at the beginning and peer down an extended tunnel that seems to go on forever. We turn off, however, after only fifty feet, to the right, then through an automatic door that requires a tap on a silver wall cylinder to be activated. We pass through a lounge area with an out- side door that leads to the parking lot, then up a small elevator to the second floor. Charlotte’s rooms are only ten steps from the elevator.
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