A Second Opinion, Chapter Five: Shelly Reyes

This is chapter 5 of a serialized novella appearing on Art For Liberty every two weeks.  Read from the beginning here.

Chapter Five: Shelly Reyes

“The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.”

Robert Heinlein

Shelly Reyes was a good person. That’s what everyone who met her said about her. She devoted countless hours outside her job (as a selfless public servant in the Office of Energy Regulation) to community service and social work. Naturally bubbly, she could carry on a conversation about absolutely nothing with just about absolutely anyone.

John had met her when she’d given a presentation to the hospital staff about energy efficiency and the necessity of using the minimum amount of electricity in order to maximize the social good of the city-owned utilities. He had initially been attracted to her earnest devotion and steadfast belief in her job and, because he was honest with himself, her low cut blouse and perfectly round posterior.

In the 2½ years they had been dating the rest of her had filled in some, adding love handles above that round posterior, but her devotion to her job and its mission hadn’t changed. At dinner each night she happily regaled John with tales of her crusade for energy efficiency. One night it was a businessman she’d caught using black-market light bulbs that gave off too much light. Another time she described, in gleeful detail, the sting operation her department had run on the manager and staff of a local power plant who had been illegally running the plant past allowed operating hours and selling the extra energy to electricity-hungry (“greedy” was the term she used) private businesses and individuals.

Morales had never doubted the necessity of her work. Shelly played an important role in preserving the resources and natural beauty of the state of Colorado (and, if the promotional brochures in her briefcase were to be believed, the world). Morales had been an avid hiker and outdoorsman, and he understood how important it was to reduce energy usage and avoid any pollution of national parks. He also knew that Shelly’s particular job, that of catching people who abused the system to their advantage, was especially important if the government-owned power plants were to continue to provide 19 hours of electricity each day to the private businesses and individuals in the city (he never questioned the 24 hour waivers for essential services and individuals–such as the hospital and certain high-ranking government employees).

For her part, Shelly had always wanted to date a doctor. She saw doctors as the ultimate public servants; selflessly devoting their lives to healing and caring for others. John had intrigued her with his straightforward manner and direct interest and, besides, he was Latino like her and his father was the mayor. Those were both important dating criteria as far as her family had been concerned.

2½ years was long enough for the pair to become familiar with each other’s eccentricities and behaviors. A slightly upraised eyebrow, a barely visible downturn of the mouth, or an imperceptibly furrowed brow were often enough to communicate volumes. So when John began acting strangely, Shelly noticed immediately.

It began with small things. He started to question her over her dinner table stories, when before he would simply accept the facts as she presented them. Occasionally he would disagree with some perfectly reasonable offhand assertion she’d made, such as the importance of following every single guideline issued from the Office of Personal Nutrition and Physical Health Management (when she pressed him about eating his green beans). One time he even hinted that perhaps such a government department was more of a resource drain on the country than a help to its citizens.

Shelly initially chalked up his strange new behavior to problems at work, or maybe a health issue. She knew he used to get stress headaches, so perhaps his sudden argumentativeness was merely a result of some imbalanced brain chemistry. She tried probing, in her own subtle way, to see what was the matter.

It was to no avail. All her attempts and caring questions failed to evince any issues with John’s health or employment. He simply responded to the matter with assertions that nothing was wrong and what was she worrying about? Shelly assured him that she only wanted to make sure he was alright. Her questions had only his best interests at heart.

But her own interest was a little more involved than she admitted. From the very outset of John’s odd behavior Shelly had concluded that he must be cheating on her. Her conclusion had no basis in fact; she could think of no precedent that would indicate her boyfriend had the propensity to cheat. Morales had always been honest with her, and she’d never caught him looking at cute hospital interns. Yet somehow she felt that John must be betraying her.

So she did what any suspicious girlfriend does; she began to hunt for evidence of infidelity. Shelly, however, had resources unavailable to most suspicious girlfriends: the full investigative power of the state government she so faithfully served. Such resources, of course, were never meant to be used for private purposes. But they were there, and Shelly had favors she could call in.

Shelly had noticed a slight increase in late nights for Morales at the hospital over the last month. Her semi-famous neurosurgeon boyfriend had always been a bit of a workaholic, and the new reporting requirements had kept a lot of physicians (at least the honest ones) in the office later than usual. Still, the timing with John’s weird behavior was entirely too coincidental. Shelly knew she couldn’t simply call his office at the hospital to see if he was there when he said he was; that would make him suspicious. So instead she decided on a more roundabout course of action.

Morales was late again, he’d texted her to say he’d be missing dinner. Shelly had been home since 3:00, city workers having been given time off as part of the new public employee labor contract with the state government.
The light blue letters glowed softly on her smartphone screen, “Late again, going to miss dinner.” Shelly decided then, not quite impulsively, to act on her dark suspicions.

She closed the doctor’s text and slowly dialed the number of a friend in the Department of Citizen Security (she’d worked closely with the DCS on several cases, most recently gathering the intel that had implicated the power plant manager and his staff of selling excess power to private individuals illegally).

The receiver rang twice and a dry voice answered, “Enoch Boyle.”

Shelly drew a breath. If she continued now she couldn’t go back. She didn’t know if Morales was breaking the law or not with his late night hospital stays, but the easiest way to allay her fears would be to pretend he might be. Otherwise the DCS wouldn’t have an excuse for spying on a private citizen. If Morales actually was breaking the law, well, he’d have to endure whatever punishment he deserved.

“Hello?” the voice on the other end of the line was impatient.

Her words came in a rush, “Enoch? It’s Shelly Reyes, we worked on the One Tree power plant case together?”

“Shelly! Of course, how can I help the Office of Energy’s rising star?”

“I um, have reason to suspect someone at the Sky Ridge hospital may be breaking the Patient Care Laws. I was wondering if I could get your Department’s cooperation on some surveillance to determine if that’s true or not. I just wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt.” The last sentence was spoken as a justification, but the voice on the other end of the phone knew it for what it really was: a rationalization.

Shelly could almost hear the man’s smile through the wires. “Well Ms. Reyes, healthcare and the PCLs don’t really fall under our purview; the Health Services Department typically handles the information gathering for those types of offenses. DCS doesn’t get involved unless it’s a potential state security issue.”

Shelly felt a paradoxical sense of relief, until Boyle continued, “But as a matter of fact, I do know a young man over at Health that can probably help you. Very bright kid, quite adept at navigating the inner workings of his department. His name is Thomas King.”

Read Chapter Six here.

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Former content marketing director and current libertarian novelist, wargamer, and bacon-recipe-tinkerer. Connect on Twitter or at my author website, JPMedved.com.

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