By Trish Hubschman
Mr. Hogan was having bad chest pains one evening. He didn’t want to upset his wife. “I think I’ll turn in early, Livvy,” he announced, slowly rising from his recliner in the family room. The television was on but he didn’t think she was paying much attention to it. Her knitting needles were slapping together rhythmically. Normally, this would get a chuckle from him but tonight he didn’t have the strength. Mrs. Hogan didn’t look up when responding. “Go up to bed, Walter. You looked a little pale at dinner. Get some rest,” she replied. They’d been married forty-eight years. Walter sometimes thought she could see inside him. “I’ll be up after this show is over.” She waved one of the needles at the TV set.
Without another word, Mr. Hogan retired to bed. He had a difficult time sleeping and breathing but he tried to keep still, so as not to wake his wife. He finally dozed off. When he awoke the next morning, he found himself alone in bed. Mrs. Hogan had already risen and was down in the kitchen. Mr. Hogan could smell fresh coffee brewing. He got out of bed too fast and was wobbly on his feet. He realized that he still had chest pains. He took a moment to steady himself and catch his breath before going downstairs.
“What’s wrong?” Mrs. Hogan asked, plopping a steaming cup of black coffee on the table in front of Mr. Hogan. He had sunk down heavily into his chair, his hand pressed tightly to the middle of his chest.
Mr. Hogan would have loved nothing more than to tell his wife a fib right then but he didn’t have the strength. “Don’t feel very good, Livy. Started last night,” he explained.
Automatically, Mrs. Hogan’s hand went to her husband’s forehead. “You should see the doctor today,” she said.
Mr. Hogan made a face. “Not Dr. Kill, Livvy. You know I can’t stand him,” he snapped.
Mrs. Hogan didn’t miss a beat. She waved her hand dismissively. “Nonsense, Walter. Dr. Kill is a lovely man and he cares about his patients.”
Mr. Hogan’s eyes widened and he stared at his wife but he didn’t voice any more complaints.
At two that afternoon, Mr. Hogan found himself stumbling into Dr. Kill’s empty waiting room. He grumbled something to the receptionist, and then plopped down into a chair. He was half asleep when his name was finally called half an hour later. He followed a nurse into an examining room.
He sat on the table. Dr. Kill sat in front of a computer. Mr. Hogan explained why he was in the doctor’s office and described the symptoms. Dr. Kill asked the same questions he did every time Mr. Hogan was there. “Do you drink or smoke? Do you eat a high fat diet? Are you overweight?” The answers were all no. Dr. Kill jumped to his feet. “Let’s take a look then.” He wrapped the blood pressure cuff around Mr. Hogan’s upper arm and pumped it up. He relayed the numbers to the patient. They sounded terribly high to Mr. Hogan and made him nervous but Dr. Kill’s expression didn’t change. “Should I see a cardiologist?” Mr. Hogan asked. That would be what Mrs. Hogan would recommend.
Dr. Kill shook his head. “It’s not necessary. Just take some Advil and rest. I’ll see you in two weeks.” With that, Dr. Kill hurried from the room.
Mr. Hogan was flabbergasted. He didn’t know if he should simply take the Advil advice, which was Dr. Kill’s remedy for everything, or go to Urgent Care. The second seemed too much of a hassle, besides, his wife had faith in Dr. Kill. He stopped at CVS on the way home and bought two bottles of Advil.
At three a.m. the following morning, Mr. Hogan had cardiac arrest and died on route to the local medical center.
. . .
Thomas Hogan sat beside his mother on a sofa in the hospital waiting area. He held her hand as she tearfully relayed the events of his father’s last days, of the terrible chest pains, of his going to their family physician, of Dr. Kill’s recommendation of Advil and rest for the patient. Thomas’s fury mounted. Normally, he’d get a good laugh out of the doctor’s rather off-key medical advice but not in this case. “Why didn’t he send Dad to a cardiologist?” he asked his mother. As a grieving son and an attorney of law, Thomas knew it was a primary doctor’s responsibility to refer a patient to the pertinent specialists.
Mrs. Hogan looked at her son confused, shrugging. “Maybe he didn’t feel it was necessary,” she replied.
Thomas squeezed his mother’s hand and lowered his voice when he spoke. “We both know it was necessary, Mom, don’t we? Dad should have been sent to a cardiologist, if not, the emergency room?’
Tears were pouring down her cheeks. She nodded. “Of course, I do, Thomas, and I’m sure Dr. Kill does too. He made a mistake.”
Thomas shook his head. That wasn’t good enough! Dr. Kill acted negligently. “Mom, I think after Dad’s funeral, you should consider filing charges against Dr. Kill for malpractice.”
Mrs. Hogan’s expression conveyed horror. Oh, Thomas, no! Dr. Kill is such a lovely, caring man. I’m sure he’s very sorry about your father’s passing and he’ll be at the funeral and tell us both so.”
. . .
Dr. Kill was not at Walter Hogan’s funeral, nor did he send flowers or a card expressing his sympathies to the widow. Instead, he was at his office instructing his receptionist to purge Mr. Walter Hogan’s medical records from the computer.
The malpractice suit went to court. Without the records, there was no proof of any wrongdoing, accidental or intentional. The Hogans lost the case. The publicity had been bad for Dr. Kill’s reputation, so in retaliation, he filed a slander suit against the Hogans. He won. The mounting stress over the eight months since Walter’s death was too much for Olivia Hogan. She had a stroke and passed away. She was buried in Coconut Creek Cemetery beside her husband.
. . .
What was Thomas to do? Both his parents were gone and he blamed it all on Dr. Kill. He needed to have some sense of revenge, even if he couldn’t do it directly. He needed some peace of mind.
He sat back in his big, leather desk chair staring at the computer screen, and then it hit him. Thomas jumped forward and placed his fingers on the keyboard. He logged onto Facebook and opened an account in an assumed name, and then wrote his parents sad story. He, of course, gave them assumed names too. Tears poured down his cheeks as he typed. When he finished, he closed the program and sat back again in his chair. He felt a weight had been lifted off his shoulders.
A week later, he opened the fake account. What he found made him smile. There were dozens of comments and questions about Dr. Kill and similar stories to his own. Thomas did not respond to any of the posts, though he longed to. He doubted Dr. Kill was aware of any of this Facebook onslaught but maybe that was for the best.
A few weeks later, Thomas saw it in the newspaper. He wasn’t sure how it made him feel. Dr. Martin Kill had been found hanging from the ceiling fan in his private home office. His death had been put down to suicide but those close to him didn’t believe the good doctor had taken his own life.
Thomas found himself smiling, not because the doctor had perished but because his mother would have been very upset if she knew about Dr. Kill’s death.
“Sorry, Mom,” Thomas said to the sky, and then got back to his work.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND HER WORK…
RATINGS GAME (TALK SHOW QUEEN)
by Trish Hubschman (C 2019)
In print ($9.50) and e-book ($2.99) from Amazon, Smashwords, and other online sellers.
Cover image, free text preview, buying links, and more:
Trish Hubschman has three previous Tracy Gayle mysteries in print: The Fire, Unlucky Break, and Stiff Competition (Miss America).
Synopsis of Ratings Game:
The Danny Tide story continues.
Somebody’s trying to kill the rock star’s second wife, talk–show hostess Blair Nelson. Danny and Tracy, now a couple expecting a baby, get pulled into it because Danny finally agrees to do an interview with his ex–wife. She’s been bugging him for a while.
That evening, after a draining day at Blair’s studio, when Danny and Tracy are home in bed, Danny’s phone goes off. It’s his and Blair’s daughter, Liz, announcing that she found her mother unconscious on her bathroom floor. Blair ingested a drug overdose.
Who would want to eliminate the talk show queen, and why? Could the perpetrator be Blair’s housekeeper? Her personal assistant? The owner of the television station? The show’s producer? Even Danny and Liz are on the suspect list.
Everyone had opportunity, but no one has a motive. They’re all devoted to Blair. They need Blair to wake up and give them some answers.
In the foreground, a black TV camera is in sharp focus against a blurry blue and orange background. The words “A Tracy Gayle Mystery” are centered at the top of the cover, and the author’s name is at the bottom of the cover, off to the right. Both of those are in white letters. The main title, Ratings Game, is in red-orange letters just above the camera. The subtitle, Talk Show Queen, is in parentheses in dark gray letters on an off-white background on the small screen on the top of the camera.
Editing, cover design, print layout, and e-book conversion are by DLD Books Editing and Self-Publishing Services. Cover photo is by Joshua Hanson on Unsplash.