“Sure,” the nurse told me. “Who did you want to see?”
“A Mr. Miller. Mr. Joseph Miller. He was brought in two days ago.”
The nurse consulted her computer, frowned, then shook her head. “No, I’m sorry,” she said. “Mr. Miller is dead. He died late last night.” She looked up from her screen. “Would you like to see somebody else?”
“What? No! I really need to talk to Mr. Miller. Are you absolutely sure he’s passed away?”
“I can recheck if you want.” She typed away. “Sometimes this program mixes up some of the… ah, I see what I’ve done now.” She gave me an apologetic smile. “Stupid little me,” she said. “I had the stats of several files mixed up.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. “So, he didn’t pass away?”
“Oh, no,” the nurse said, shaking her head, “he’s still dead, but he died this morning rather than last night.” She held up her hand with a small amount of space between her thumb and index finger. “You missed him by that much.”
“I see,” I said. “Does it at least say what he died of?”
She browsed her screen, bit her lip, and mumbled, “Yes, no, wait a minute. I saw something about…. Ah, yes. Yes, it does.” She looked up again. For a long moment we stared at each other. When I finally arched an eyebrow, she said, “Are you a relative? I’m not supposed to give out this kind of information to just anybody.”
I tried to think fast. I really needed that information but I didn’t know Joseph other than from the clinic waiting area. We’d never even spoken. Then, out of nowhere, the perfect answer just occurred to me. I told her, “Yes.”
“Okay then.” She was about to tell me when her face clouded over again. “You really should be getting this information from his doctor, though.”
I waved it away, told her it would be okay.
“Well,” she said, reading from her screen, “it says here he died of dehydration and malnutrition.”
“He was found passed out in his apartment,” I told her. “Apparently he’d been out for a while. Does it say what caused him to lose consciousness in the first place?”
The nurse perused the file for a long time, then shook her head. “No, sorry,” she said. “I’ll have to get the doctor for that. Just a moment.” She reached for the phone.
“That’s okay,” I said, not wanting to get into trouble for impersonating a relative. “I need to go. Pressed for time. Thank you.”
As I turned to leave, she called after me, “Are you sure you don’t want to visit anyone else? There are some really nice people up on the second floor. Much nicer than Mr. Miller. They’d love to talk to you.”
Continued in "No Hope for Gomez!"
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