The Doctor and Mr. Dylan (37 page)

BOOK: The Doctor and Mr. Dylan
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Dylan scurried in front of me and said, “Hey, Doctor, give me a chance. Can I show you something?” He pulled a cell phone out of his pocket, and held it toward me at eye level.

“What’s this?” I said.

“Read it.” He pushed the screen into my face.

The phone displayed a text message. The message was addressed to Johnny Antone. The words read, “
Ask Nico where the cefazolin went.
” The date of the text was January 19th.

“It was you?”

“It was me.”

“Ed Martinovich tried to trace that phone number. It was unlisted.”

“It’s a throwaway phone I bought at Walmart. I didn’t think it would be smart to have my name mixed up in the evidence.”

“That text was the breakthrough that pointed us to Lena. That one sentence turned my life around. Because of that text, I’m free.”

Dylan turned his palms up, as if to catch the compliment.

“You knew she did it?”

Dylan shook his head. “No, I did not know.”

“You didn’t know?”

“I did not know. All I knew was that I didn’t kill your wife. In the beginning I was sure you did it, and I thought they caught you fair and square. But after Echo survived that snowmobile crash, it was like a curtain lifted. I stopped hating you. I laid awake that night wishing you were innocent, and the Kefzol question popped into my mind. I knew Dr. Perpich always ordered prophylactic Kefzol before every case. Who gave the Kefzol? What if whoever gave the Kefzol never really gave it? What if that person gave insulin instead? I didn’t have access to the medical records, but you did. I wanted to look for the cefazolin in the blood tests. If the cefazolin was in your wife’s blood, then my theory was wrong and you were the murderer. If there was no cefazolin, then ... Poof.” Dylan bit off the invisible shackles between his wrists. “You’d go free.”

I shook my head in amazement. “I can’t thank you enough. You sent your wife to jail. You sprang me out.”

“You weren’t guilty. She was. It’s that simple. Say no more.” Dylan slapped me on the back. “How about that burger?”

“I can’t.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. We miss you at Hibbing General. You were a damn smart doc. All the best.” He extended his hand, and I shook it this time. I welcomed the warm roughness of his grip.

“Thanks. For everything.”

“No prob, Doctor.”

Dylan turned to walk away. I called out after him, “Bobby, can I ask you one last question? Something that always gnawed at me?”

“Sure. Shoot.”

“Why Bobby Dylan? Why try to be someone that you’re not?”

He shrugged and blossomed a wry smile. “I didn’t want to be the millionth Robert Johnson in this world, Doctor. Would you?”

“Good point. I’ll have to think about that one.”

Dylan crossed the parking lot and climbed into his Chevy pickup. He started the engine, rolled down the window, and said, “Tell you what, Doctor. Me and the boys are playing Heaven’s Door tonight. We could use a bass player. Why don’t you join us, one last time?”

“Thanks, Bobby, but I’ve got a 2,000 mile drive ahead of me, and I need to get as far as Minneapolis by tonight.”

“OK, I had to ask. You’re always welcome, if you’re ever back in town.”

“I appreciate that.” I fit myself into the driver’s seat for the long journey. I looked over at the passenger seat, where a much-younger Johnny Antone sat when we arrived in Hibbing a lifetime ago. I could still picture him sitting there with the breeze from Highway 61 fluttering through his hair.

I fired up the engine and tried to ignore the ache in my stomach. As awful as jail had been, the prison of this one-man road trip toward the checkered flag of loneliness in California was almost unthinkable.

I put the car in gear and eased it toward the airport exit. I leaned on the brakes at the stop sign when I reached Highway 37. The highway was flat and empty to the left, and flat and empty to the right. Both roads traced a narrow stripe of pavement through a corridor of trees. The sun was setting low behind the woods in the west. The clouds to the east were painted in shades of orange and yellow. A flock of Canada geese flew overhead in a V-formation, their leader guiding them south with a distant honking. I’d soon follow them.

There was a rumble as the red Chevrolet truck pulled up alongside me at the stop sign. Dylan flashed me one of his crooked grins. He brought his hands up into view and twiddled his fingers in the ecstatic movements of an air guitar solo. Then Dylan’s left hand abandoned the imaginary fret board and morphed into a thumbs-up motion. He flashed me one more zany smile, and he made the left turn down Highway 37 back into town.

I sat there and watched Bobby’s taillights grow smaller along the narrowing road toward Hibbing. Another loss on this rollercoaster day.

I idled the engine there at the airport exit. Two road signs faced me from the opposite side of the highway. The first sign had an arrow pointing to the right, and read:
Duluth 70 Miles, Minneapolis 203 Miles
.

The second sign had an arrow pointing to the left and read:
Hibbing 6 Miles
.

I stared at the words on the two signs until my eyes blurred, then I dropped my forehead against the steering wheel with a resounding thump. The jumbled emotions dancing through my head disappeared in a single instant of certainty. I looked up to see the tiny image of the red truck, now just a fleck in the distance. I looked in the opposite direction and saw the ribbon of highway that led back to California.

Life is a series of choices. I stuck my forefinger into the crook of the steering wheel, spun it hard to the left, and turned down the road toward Heaven’s Door.

 

BOOK: The Doctor and Mr. Dylan
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