“Come here, doctor, I don’t understand this.” It was seven in the morning and the receptionist had already listened to the voicemail three times to catch at least part of the message. Everything was moving so fast. Doctor Lukáš stopped at the reception desk. The receptionist was standing by her chair; it was evident she was upset. With her long nails she brushed through her coiffed locks and with each movement she stirred more of her expensive perfume into the air.
“What is it? Did someone call? Let’s hear it then, Olga.” For the fourth time, the receptionist pressed the button. Commanding and sharp female voice quickly declared some statement in English. It sounded dangerously cold. Dr. Lukáš didn’t have problems with English when he was presenting at symposiums, read some announcement or was making small-talk with a cocktail glass. But this message was unclear.
“Hang on, one more time and I’ll concentrate.” In the meantime another physician had entered through the glass doors of the Medrentcentrum.
“What’s going on here. Some sort of a party?”
“No, listen. Try to understand it. Olga found it this morning. But it’s quite fast. I only caught ’lojsfis…onbaaaf….I don’t know. Play it, Olga.” The unpleasant and serious female voice once again cut through the silence above the reception desk.
“I got some of it, it said Dr. Velich. Write it down and we’ll fill it in: ‘will call…morning hours…lawyer’s office…on behalf…’ do you have it, Olga?”
The doors opened and in came Dr. Janík.
“Did something happen?”
“We don’t know that yet. We’re trying to decipher a phone message. It’s in English and it’s very fast. Some bitchy woman.”
“Wait a moment then, Aleš Martinec is on his way here, he’ll understand it.” In the foyer appeared another man.
“We’re waiting for you. Alright, Olga, play it. Hang on one sec. Aleš, it’s in English, some woman is speaking very fast and so far we know that it’s regarding some lawyer. Did we ever treat some lawyer here? Maybe an American one?”
“I don’t think so. I don’t know, let’s listen to it.” Again that short message. Martinec raised his head and looked around at all the participants of this matinee.
“So listen up. Today during the morning hours we will receive a call from the lawyer’s office representing company HeartGong. They will conduct a preliminary investigation relating to a false accusation and…, something else I didn’t catch.”
“What? What is that?” Now the cards were on the table. Olga looked from one to the other and didn’t understand the connections.
“It’s Říha! He made a ton of money, took off, over there he’s rolling in it and now he’s sending some lawyers on us?” Inside the foyer now appeared Dr. Štĕrba and nurse Lacinová.
“Hey, we’ve got some ‘present’ here from Říha.”
“What is it?”
“His lawyer’s calling. Actually the secretary from his lawyer’s office.”
“He must be filthy rich, if he’s keeping lawyers. He always reeked.”
“I wouldn’t take it too lightly. Those lawyers will soon phone here. Do we know what this is about?”
“It’s not too hard to figure that out, we all know. But how did he sniff us out?”
“That’s what frightens me a bit, buddy. If he’s got money, he’s got ways. That’s no joke. Did that wench say when they’d call?”
“During the morning hours. That’s all we know.”
“Alright, let’s dissolve this, patients will start arriving soon. Let’s meet up at ten. We have to get ready for this. And we’ll bring Dr. Paseka into it, too. He’s a lawyer and he’ll know what to do. Olga, please get a hold of Dr. Paseka’s office, tell him to come right away, we’ll cover his costs.”
“How come that Stránský isn’t here? He was supposed to be here and isn’t. And Petřina. Also Chabarovský should be around. They’re not here!”
They were talking one over top of the other, the foyer filled with anxiety and all participants felt tense.
“So Franta Stránský is involved. He was always a bit of a jerk. Surely he’s in cahoots with Říha.”
“Don’t say that. Stránský is in that training session, he said he’d be back around noon.”
“Well, we’ll see. Let’s get to work then. At ten we’ll convene in the back conference room. Olga, who’s supposed to come in today? Take a look if there’s anyone…, someone, you know what I mean. Otherwise you can move them all to another date.”
They all went their ways in the long corridor, still discussing and pondering the phone message. They could be heard from the end of the hall, all the way to the reception: “…we’ll let him stew in it. Isn’t that convenient, rolling in it across the ocean.”
Ten minutes to eight the phone rang again. Receptionist Olga picked up, just as she was in the middle of a conversation with a client.
“You have reached clinic Medrentcentr. One moment please…,” before she could put the call on hold she’d heard something in English. She quickly returned to the receiver, “…hello, hello, moment…hello, hello…ein moment bitte, please…hello….” She covered the microphone with her palm and turned back to the client, “…wait a moment please, I’ll be right back.” She didn’t wait for agreement and ran into the first door.
“Please, doctor, quickly, they’re calling already.”
“What? I’m with a client. Alright, I’m on my way.” He turned to the man sitting in a chair stripped to the waist, “…I’ll be right back.”
He ran out the door and rushed to the reception, “…you could’ve transferred the call, Olga. Why do we have to tell you everything. I’m tired of it.” Angrily, he grabbed the receiver and immediately moved it away from his ear again. “Olga, nobody’s there! Did they hang up? What on earth do you do here? You’ve got a single task. Monitor the phones. And you’re not able to hold that inside that fancy pretty head of yours. A single thing!” He forcefully slammed down the receiver, hard enough that a small black piece of plastic broke off and flew far into the hallway. In the foyer in front of the reception stood four individuals.
“I don’t need to be here,” said the receptionist with tears in her voice, reached for her red purse and in her stiletto shoes she rushed to the door. There, she turned around, rudely pushed past an elderly gentleman standing in line and grabbed her cell phone. Then she walked out onto the street.
“My apologies, I’m sorry. Personnel problem. Everything’s alright.”
An elderly woman and the man against whom Olga had brushed both stepped out of the line-up, and without a word they left the clinic. Without any explanation the physician entered back inside the door from which he’d come a minute ago. The patient, who had been sitting in the chair only a moment ago, was now in the doorway.
“Will you excuse me, doctor?” The door into the hallway remained opened the entire time. The patient followed those who’d left a minute ago.
Phone. This time another member of the team was faster. He picked up the phone and was silent for a moment. In the background, as though in a distance, he could hear a fast, English-speaking male voice. Then followed a woman’s voice, speaking directly into the receiver. The woman spoke in Czech, with a heavy, rounded and typically English accent.
“Is this the Med-rent-center clinic, please?”
“Yes. Yes. Who’s calling?”
In the background a man spoke, incomprehensibly. The woman continued, evidently struggling with the Czech language.
“This is an investigation of one repeated case of assault of the business of Dr. Říha.”
“What assault? What happened?” He sat down.
“One moment, please. The investigation continues, one moment please.” The woman spoke coolly, calmly, presenting facts like a machine. From another door came out one of the other clinic’s employees. He quickly approached the reception desk and listened.
“Do they know about it?” he whispered. The physician on the phone nodded. Both of them were near the receiver now so that they could hear the stern voice clearly. In the waiting room one patient was reading a paper. Waiting. Was it even a patient? Neither of them knew him. They were nervous and irritated. On the other end of the line the man was speaking quickly and the woman was translating his statement.
“A false accusation appeared on the internet attacking company HeartGong. The President and CEO of the firm has requested an investigation.”
“But…it wasn’t an attack…we don’t know about anything, it must be a mistake….”
“One moment, please. Certain documents exist that point to the direct participation of members of Medrentcentr. It is an accusation of defective instruments and technology distributed by HeartGong. After an analysis of all documents the evidence clearly points to a conclusion.”
“Please, this is not any…, nothing! Nobody here knows about any accusations of Dr. Říha.”
“One moment, please.” The coldness in her voice was crushing. Weakly they could also hear the unfamiliar male voice that was being translated into a merciless torrent. “…now Medrentcentr is being sued in a legal process.”
“Please, hold on, what legal process? For what? You can’t do that! How can you track down a website? You have no evidence or right to do that….”
“One moment, please. There is a proposal of two-hundred and thirty thousand dollars for unwarranted attack via public accusation on the internet.”
“What? How can you…?”
“One moment, please. Loss of company’s prestige is valued at seven million dollars.”
The physician on the phone slumped to the ground and was now leaning on the reception desk. He was clutching the receiver and was unable to respond. All others present gathered around. Another employee of the clinic took over the phone.
“Please, I’m begging you, stop the process. Stop the legal process.”
“One moment, please. Personal restitution of the president of the company as well as all its members, specialists and representatives of the company, is set at twelve million seven hundred and thirty-two thousand, eight hundred and six dollars and twelve cents.”
In the background, like a relentless machine, the voice continued.
“The process cannot be stopped, sorry. A specific instigator has been identified; we are not permitted to disclose the name over the phone. You will be officially informed, also about the date of the hearing.”
“Don’t do this, I’m begging you, don’t do this. Please, please…,” his voice was now on the verge of sobbing, “we will delete it from the website. We will delete it. Please….”
“One moment, please. You are required to arrive at court one day prior. The reason is acclimatization to the time difference in the interest of full concentration during court proceedings.”
“Stop it. Stop it. We will take it down right away, immediately and it will be gone.”
“After payment of the above-stated sums the court may rule to halt ongoing processes.”
“We’re trying to tell you that we’ll take it down. Delete, remove it…. Please! Please!”
“Legal representative of President Říha and of company HeartGong demands full information in the press and television about this illegal…how to say…immoral activity of the company Medrentcentr. Immediately after the legal process.”
“Yes, yes, it will be taken down, please.”
“In addition, the activity of every member of the company Medrentcentr will be under ongoing monitoring.”
“What can we do? Please, just ask, what can we do? We will delete it from the web, please, what else can we do?”
“One moment, please.” Somewhere in the back they could hear the tapping of a keyboard, other office sounds, clicking, opening and closing of doors, the man speaking to someone on the phone, so quietly and in the distance that they couldn’t understand anything. The wait was endless. Now they were all standing around the reception desk. They knew it was bad. It was a mistake. How could they have found them? They caught them. One hundred percent they found them. They know the name Medrentcentr. But they’d posted it from a public computer. What kinds of systems have they got over there? How did they find their tracks? Somehow they uncovered them, there’s no doubt about that. They just wanted to bite him a bit. They pushed him out of one gold-mine and now he’s lounging on a beach somewhere. For that! He doesn’t have to have everything. Just bite him a bit. So that he knows that not everything is golden all the time.
“The president of the company is willing to offer the ongoing monitoring of each member of the company Medrentcentr. Only. If all accusations are removed from the internet within ten minutes. The president of HeartGong is now on the line and is personally timing it.”
“…Quick, quick!...get started…someone! Who knows how to do it?”
“Stránský. Franta Stránský, he’s not here! Who knows how to do this?” Panic ruled around the reception area.
“Someone has to delete it right now. What instruments is Říha using? What insane power has he got? He’s drowning in money, that’s why he can do anything. Someone delete it!”
“Doktor Říha has a question for you. He would like to know if it’s been deleted yet.”
“No, not yet, we’re working on it. Please, please. Give us more time. Please….”
“You won’t delete it, then we will see you in court.”
They were all yelling at each other now.
“Somebody call him. Franta. His cell. Franta has always been a good guy.”
“You said he was always a bit of a jerk. Is that not true anymore?”
“No. We need him. You’re the jerk.”
“One moment, please,” they heard on the phone, “president Dr. Říha is now personally watching the website in his office. He’s saying that no change has been noted so far. The public accusation is still there. He wants to know your decision.”
“We want to contact our engineer. Please, wait. We need more time.”
“That’s not possible, sorry. Three minutes are left. Dr. Říha has expressed his displeasure. He feels he’s wasting his time. He is afraid his generosity has been wasted.”
“Yes, yes…, is someone calling him or not?”
“…yeah...hang on…it’s going to voicemail. That idiotic voicemail.”
“Hello. Hello. We can’t find our expert. Please, we need another hour. Half an hour.”
“It’s not possible. One minute and the illegal, false public accusation will be removed.”
“We can’t. We don’t have a computer right here. We can’t do it. Please, please.”
All of the patients had left the clinic. Around the reception table was chaos, an atmosphere of fear, tension and silent blaming of one person or another.
“Please, give us….”
The line went dead on the other end – the connection was lost. Everyone looked at each other, pale and with droplets of cold sweat, as they awaited the crushing impact, the awful and devastating harvest after their innocent ‘scratch’ into the reputation of one ‘fat cat’.
Somewhere far, across the grey waves of the ocean, three individuals were sitting in a tiny office. Alice, Jenny and David.
“You couldn’t have been better. I think that now we can continue to work in peace. That’s enough. In an hour it will be gone.”
“Did the man from Vancouver trigger this, Ray?”
“That’s why we’re not where we’d like to be with Alice and Kačka. It was a truly dissonant game of the whole gang. I didn’t know how to play that game. I don’t have it in my repertoire.”
“I’m really glad that he appeared on that photograph.
“For sure, that’s true. I’ve got luck on my side. As soon as I saw the picture, I knew he wasn’t going to apply for work with us. But I had no idea he’d do something like this.”
“You’ve known him for long time?”
“And…, he used to work with you before? At the cardiological clinic where you used to be?”
“Yes, that’s where I met him. That whole pack of them.”
“Now, tell me honestly, Ray, I can’t often figure out people, would you have guessed it? Him or any of them?”
“No. Never. I probably don’t have the right instinct for it. You can’t learn that. But I learnt something else, Jenny.” Alice was still sitting next to the phone, where she’d perfectly played the role of the translator, exactly according to the script. Jenny Cleveland, who’d proven herself during the recording of the voicemail the way David needed her to, was sitting beside her. They were waiting for David’s words. “…at the cardiological clinic I learnt that without a heart a person cannot live. But later, I came to understand something more important, deeper and more beautiful. Now I know that without a Heart a person cannot Live.”
He was quiet for a moment and then added: “I think it’s time to order pizza.”
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