Stolen by Daniel Palmer Read Free Book Online

Book: Stolen by Daniel Palmer Read Free Book Online
Authors: Daniel Palmer
Tags: Suspense
wire transfer with a promise to visit soon.
    Ruby was right not to hold her breath.
    Winifred Dawes—Winnie, to her drinking buddies—hadn’t left St. John once in the ten years since moving to the Caribbean retreat. Ruby had wanted to send her mother an e-mail, an impersonal update on her cancer treatment, but I insisted that we chat via Skype. Winnie talked to us from below deck. It was ten o’clock in the morning, but I knew her mug of coffee was really filled with wine. Five times in the course of our conversation, Winnie remarked on how great Ruby looked. This wasn’t meant to be encouraging. It was Winnie’s way of saying, “You don’t really need to see me just yet.” Guess the five hundred bucks bought Winnie several guilt-free weeks of getting sauced in the sun.
    My mother, Pauline, a petite woman with curly gray hair and a face weathered by the weather, had flown in from Denver shortly after we gave her the news. She took a week off work from her job as a payroll clerk for Boulder, Colorado, the same city where I grew up. My mom didn’t have much money to lend, but contributed what she could. I could see the heartbreak in my mother’s eyes when it came time to leave. She gave Ruby a long embrace at Logan Airport, brushing aside tears as we departed. Ruby got from my mother what she never got from her own.
    “I love you both,” Mom had said.
    She left us with a promise to return soon, which I knew would be well before Winnie ever came.
    A case worker from Dr. Adams’s office had been given the impossible task of finding us grants and other programs to help cover the cost of Verbilifide. The best option, Prescription Assistance, a nonprofit that helped the low income and uninsured obtain unaffordable medications, did not count Verbilifide among the two thousand-some odd drugs in their program.
    Strike one.
    We maxed out our credit cards in procuring Ruby’s next course of treatment. Strike two. Thankfully (that’s sarcasm), the medication’s side effects—lethargy, nausea, moodiness—were far more present and available than our limited funds. Ruby’s school friends managed to raise a thousand dollars from a walkathon, while her former employer pitched in another grand. The red tape of the Wilhelm Genetics Access Solutions program didn’t make life any easier. There was a rather lengthy time lag between being approved for the twelve-thousand-dollar grant and actually having the cash deposited in our bank account.
    Strike three.
    I kept a running tally in my head. Accounting for all funds raised, we were short a mere $270,000. Good thing I knew how to ameliorate our financial situation. The hard part would be convincing Ruby to go along with my plan.

    T he UniSol Health phone tree might have been the most annoying of them all. That was probably because it felt like I’d listened to the same computerized female voice a thousand times. She sounded less pleasant to me than Freddy Krueger’s nails traveling down an endless chalkboard.
    Press three if you’d like to cut down this phone tree with a chain saw!
    I pressed five to speak with a customer service representative—same as I’d done the last twenty-three times. Odds were good I’d get a hit eventually. Going by the numbers on the UniSol Web site, the company insured one out of every four Americans.
    Ruby was out with friends from school, enjoying a little get-together, which I helped to arrange. I needed privacy to make my calls, and Ruby rarely ventured farther than our front door. The desire to socialize was just one of many things Verbilifide had extinguished, along with her appetite, ability to sleep, and a host of other activities we used to take for granted.
    Ruby still had her hair—this wasn’t chemo—but she looked noticeably thinner to the four girls and one guy who came over to take her out to lunch and a movie. Her friend Elisa, whose olive skin and dark hair made Ruby’s sickly pallor all the more pronounced, told

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