I take zero credit for this story, it was written by Franco. I'm posting here on his approval.
Chapter 7: Phoenix, Arizona - Part 1
Irma's Lexus was parked in the waiting zone. When we came out, a cop was just about to write a ticket. I convinced him that because we would be moving the car right away we didn't deserve a ticket.
After starting the large, gray Lexus, Irma fiddled with the air conditioner controls for a few seconds before she got it going full blast. "I'm not sure how to work everything in this car," she said. "This is Louise's. She thought it'd be better to pick you up in the Lexus. My car is a Miata." As we wound our way out of the maze of roads around Sky Harbor Airport, Irma told me about my dad's accident.
According to the information they had from the police, Friday night, as he was driving home from the Scottsdale Airport, his Mercedes was run off the road by a pickup. The car overturned several times, falling into a dry wash. Even though he was wearing his seatbelt and the airbag deployed successfully, he was badly injured.
Irma looked over at me. "He's hurt pretty bad. It was touch and go for a while, but now the doctors think he'll make it. But he still wants to see you. That was the most important thing to him, that you be here with him. I guess you're his favorite son."
I looked at Irma. She was an attractive young woman - with a golden complexion, high cheekbones, dark eyes, dark, wavy hair, falling over her starched, white blouse. Sitting as she was, I couldn't completely evaluate her figure, but from what I could see and from what I remembered from the terminal, it was more than acceptable. I wondered if she might be a girl my dad provided for me, like Bobbi and Claudia, but a glimpse into her mind revealed that she was one of my father's women. That glimpse also showed how worried she was about my father.
My dad was in the hospital wing with the biggest - and most expensive - private rooms. Outside his room was seated a beautiful black woman - I guessed in her late twenties - hugging her son, who looked like he might have a white father. I guessed she was my father's wife.
Standing, offering me her hand, the black woman looked into my eyes. "I'm Carol McDowell, and this is Jimmy, our son - Eric's and mine. Eric's wife, Louise, is in with him now. When she comes out, you can go in."
I stuck my hand out to Jimmy, my half-brother, introducing myself.
The waiting was awkward. Jimmy - I guessed about five or six years old - was clearly very bored, complaining, bouncing against his mother's legs. At the end of the hall I found some magazines and looked through them with Jimmy, pointing out pictures of helicopters and fast cars, trying to keep him amused.
After about fifteen minutes of waiting and entertaining Jimmy, Louise Mannheim, my father's wife - a very attractive, coifed blond in what I guessed was her mid or late thirties, wearing a tailored pants suit - and two children (more of my half-siblings), a boy and a girl, both pre-teens, came out.
After introductions, they insisted I see my dad at once. "He's conscious, and he wants to see you," Louise said, ushering me into the room. While I waited by the door, she approached my dad, who seemed to have dozed off. Gently stroking his forehead, a look of love and concern on her face I will never forget, she said, "Eric... Eric, Rob's here. You wanted him to come... remember?"
Opening his eyes, "Of course I remember, Louise. Please leave us alone for a few minutes." Then, to me, "Come closer, Rob, I need to tell you something."
My father looked at least ten years older now. His face was pale, his right arm and lower body wrapped in casts and pressure bandages, tubes in his nose and arm. But his eyes were bright with intelligence as he looked up at me.
"I don't know if I'm going to make it," he said abruptly. As I cleared my throat, trying to think of a response, he continued. "They say my leg needs to come off, but they need to wait for me to get stronger."
"Dad, how could something like this happen? From what I heard, it sounds like they ran you off the road and just drove away."
Grasping my hand in a surprisingly tight grip, "It wasn't an accident - I'm sure of that. I don't know why they did it - I think it's because of my connection to the aliens - but I'm sure I was run off the road on purpose."
Then staring into my eyes, "I'm very weak... too weak and drugged to focus well enough to use the power. I want you to use your power for me, to make the doctors and nurses do their best to save me... I want to live."
His grip loosened on my arm, and he seemed to drift off. As I walked out of the room, Carol, Jimmy and Irma entered. I saw the love and concern on the women's faces as they approached my dad's bed.
When I walked out of the room, Louise stood. "I'm glad we're finally meeting, Rob. Though, these aren't the best circumstances."
"I want to see his doctor," I said. "Do you know who it is."
"His primary physician is Doctor Meisner. I appreciate you trying to help, but I don't know what more can be done."
"Maybe I won't be able to do much, but I want to try," I said, walking toward the nurses' station at the end of the hall.
There were two nurses there, an older one at the desk, and a younger one working on papers in the back. I influenced the nurses to do their best for my father, and be responsive to me. Confirming that Dr. Meisner was in charge of dad's case, I asked if I could meet with him.
"Dr. Meisner is on rounds," the older nurse told me. At my request she left to find him. While waiting, I looked at the younger nurse. Beth, the name on her ID tag, came to the desk, brushing back her hair.
"Mr. Mannheim," she said. "If there's anything you want for your father, just let me know. I'm here until 4:30, then I'm off for the rest of the night," she said, looking into my eyes.
"That's nice to know," I said, realizing she must have been attracted to me because of my aura. "I appreciate your dedication," using the power to ensure she would have no hard feelings about being rejected by me.
After a few minutes, the older nurse returned with Doctor Meisner. He was a little annoyed at being summoned to meet me, but became more cooperative after I used the power on him.
"Your father is making good progress," Doctor Meisner told me. "It's unfortunate he'll have to lose that leg, but they're doing great things with prosthetics these days. We'll probably be able to operate in about two days, after he's stronger. After the operation and recuperating, I don't see any reason why he shouldn't make a complete recovery."
Using the power, I influenced Dr. Meisner to commit himself to giving my father the very best care possible. A meeting with the entire team of physicians and nurses was arranged for tomorrow.
When I got back to the waiting area outside my dad's room, the two pre-teens were talking quietly together. Louise came up to me. "Did you get to see Dr. Meisner?"
"I talked to him about my father," I said. "I'm going to meet with the rest of the doctors tomorrow."
"I hope it helps," Louise said.
Carol and Johnny came out of the room. The three women talked together for a few seconds, then Louise came up to me again. "We've got a big house, Robert... Rob, you're welcome to stay with us while you're here," she said. "Or, if you think you would prefer a hotel, we can arrange that too."
She didn't know it, but while they were talking together, I influenced Louise to suggest the hotel room. "Thanks," I said. "But I think it would be better for all of us if I stayed at a hotel."
Louise was relieved not to have me as a house guest at this difficult time. She had Irma telephone to reserve a room for me at one of the better hotels in Scottsdale. I said I'd like a rental car too, and Irma arranged for a car to be delivered to the hotel.
Irma said, "Rob, if you're ready, I can drop you off at the hotel now."
I agreed, realizing there wasn't anything more I could do at the hospital. I looked in on my dad before leaving. He was sleeping soundly.
Irma drove me to the hotel in Louise's Lexus. I registered, Irma telling the clerk to charge all my expenses to her credit card. I assumed the costs would ultimately be paid by my dad.
I went up to my room, took a shower and fell asleep. I was awakened by the desk clerk calling to tell me the rental car had been delivered. I dressed, went down and signed for the car. Then, went back to my room, ordered dinner from room service, and went to bed about 9:30.
I was awakened by the phone Monday morning. It was Louise: "Rob, he's gone. Carol just called me. He... Eric... your father, died about an hour ago."
"What happened? They thought he was doing better, that he was going to be okay."
"I don't know," Louise said, her voice husky. "The doctors don't seem to know anything. I think they're just as surprised as we are. Everyone here is pretty much in a state of shock. I think we need to talk things over. Can you come here? Can you drive, or would you like Irma to pick you up?"
I told her I could get directions at the hotel. She gave me the address - in Paradise Valley - and I agreed to meet her at her home. I called the hospital, confirmed the 10:00 meeting with my dad's doctors was cancelled, and asked to talk to Dr. Meisner. He wasn't available, but I made an appointment to meet with him after I finished with Louise.
I showered, dressed, had a light breakfast, and then drove to Louise's home in Paradise Valley. Whoever was in charge of security must have been notified I would be coming because the electronic gate opened as soon as I pulled up in front of it.
The grounds, screened by walls and strategically placed hedges, were larger than could be guessed from the road. Towards the right side as I entered, I could see what looked like a guesthouse. The main building was on a north-south axis, a long single-story ranch style house. As I turned up the drive, I caught a glimpse of a swimming pool surrounded by cabanas.
Irma, in shorts and a halter-top, was at the door, "Louise is in the study with Stanley Schneider, our lawyer," she said, leading me through the house. In the study I found Louise dressed in black tailored slacks and a white sleeveless blouse, and a tall, thin man who was introduced to me as Stanley Schneider.
Louise took my hand, "Rob, I'm glad you were able to come."
"Louise, I'm sorry," I said squeezing her hand. "What went wrong? He seemed to be improving."
"The doctors don't seem to know how it happened. The children are very upset. Carol has them at her house - Johnny and my two, so we can take care of business. She was with Eric when he died and she's pretty upset too." Then, looking at the lawyer, "Stanley is here because Eric wanted him to meet with you as soon as possible if something like this happened."
Stanley asked Irma and Louise to leave so we could talk privately. "Your father recently revised his will in your favor. We can go over the main provisions in a moment." Then, pulling a sealed manila envelope from his briefcase. "He directed that I hand this to you as soon as possible after his death."
In the envelope were two sheets of paper covered with my father's handwriting. The first was a note dated August 1. He must have written it shortly after I left Santa Barbara. The note stressed that I was to contact Candace Stephens at the Santa Barbara ranch as soon as possible. On the back, was a hand drawn map to "that place we stopped on our way to Las Vegas," and the statement, "Better visit our friends as soon as possible." The other sheet contained a list of all the projects my father was working on for the aliens, and noted that more complete information could be found at the ranch. Nowhere were the aliens explicitly mentioned.
After looking over the two sheets of paper, I slipped them back into the envelope. "Now, what about my father's will?" I asked Stanley.
"We estimate an estate valued at more than half a billion dollars - five hundred million." I was surprised at this, but said nothing. Stanley continued, "Eric Mannheim, your father, made some very good investments. He wanted half his fortune to go to you, and the remainder to go to his children, and the women he cared for, with you as co-executor with our firm." I was also to receive the Santa Barbara ranch, an apartment in New York, and some other property.
When Louise and Irma came back in, I asked if Candace had been told about my father's death. "We haven't told anyone yet. We just haven't had time," Louise said, her voice trembling. "Then there's the funeral to arrange..."
"Don't worry about the funeral. I'll help with that," I said, at the same time using my power to calm her.
Irma brought me a phone, and I called Candace. When I told her my father was dead, I could tell from her voice that she was taking the news pretty hard. I insisted she remain calm, telling her to prepare for my arrival in Santa Barbara tomorrow. "I don't know when I'll get there. As soon as I reserve a flight, we'll let you know so you can pick me up at the airport."
Irma booked a flight for me to Santa Barbara tomorrow morning, then called Candace asking her to meet me at the Santa Barbara airport at 9:30.
Apparently Irma was responsible for keeping the family records. She would inform my father's women and children about his death. Also, she would meet with Schneider to give him the information he needed so the various families could receive their bequests from my father.
"What about the funeral?" Louise asked. "Don't we need to decide on that so we can let everyone know when to come?"
"We can't decide that now," I told Louise. "I think we need to have an autopsy done. This happened too fast, especially when he seemed to be doing so much better. If we decide on an autopsy, we can't schedule the funeral until we know when it will be completed."
Louise resisted the idea of performing an autopsy on my father's body until I used the power to make her accept it. I knew that as my father's wife, her permission would be required for an autopsy to be performed. After using my power to ensure Louise and Irma would remain calm enough to do what was needed, I left for the hospital.
Dr. Meisner and the other staff members weren't able to explain my father's unexpected death. According to their evaluation of his condition, he should have been on his way to recovery. Carol was with him, dozing in a chair in his room, when she was awakened by the alarm on my dad's monitor. According to Doctor Meisner, the doctors and nurses did everything possible, but he couldn't be saved.
I influenced Doctor Meisner to agree that performing an autopsy would be useful. I told him Louise would sign the necessary permission forms.
Exhausted, probably more by stress than physical exertion, I returned to my hotel room. I called Bobbi and Claudia in LA. "When can you come here?" Bobbi asked. "We really miss you."
On another phone, Claudia said, "We want to be with you, Rob. And you need to see our condo here. It's a great place - you know your father is helping us with the payments - and we've fixed it up real cute."
The two girls were shocked to hear the news of my dad's unexpected death. They understood why I wouldn't be able to visit them now. I told them that if things worked out, I would try to see them either at the ranch in Santa Barbara or I would visit them in LA, if possible.
It was after 3:00 and I realized I hadn't had lunch yet. I ordered a cheeseburger from room service, then remembering the shandies I liked at the Santa Barbara ranch, ordered a light beer and lemonade. The operator questioned whether I was old enough to order beer, but luckily my room was close enough that I could use the power to make sure I got what I wanted.
While waiting for my food to arrive, I finally had time to think about what my dad's death meant. Of course, I missed him. Over the summer we had grown closer than we had ever been before. But, more than that, his death meant I would have to take over his duties for the aliens. My whole life was going to change, and I didn't like that. Now I would have to pay for everything the aliens had given me.
When the food arrived, I mixed the beer and lemonade, drinking it with my meal. I then took a nap - probably the beer made me sleepy, waking around 7:30. I ordered dinner from room service, with more beer and lemonade. I took a shower while I waited for the food, then watched tv while I ate. The beer helped make me sleepy, that's why I ordered it. I fell asleep with the tv on. I woke early in the morning. Then drove to the airport, leaving the car at the rental lot, and arrived in Santa Barbara around 9:30.