Here in Episode V of "The Truth Will Out," Francie
LeVillard, the world's finest consulting detective, is back on
the case of Walter Myers. We'll begin this episode with some
* * * * *
When Pao Oulong emigrated from China to California, probably
in the early 1860s, it was for a job in a San Francisco laundry
owned by a distant cousin, ostensibly for him to make enough
money to bring over his two younger sisters, something he
eventually did. But according to sketchy records, Pao didn’t
stay long at the laundry. Instead he quickly discovered that he
could make a lot more money as a procurer of services for the
sailors who arrived at the largest port on the West Coast. Pao
expanded his business interests and became the largest owner of
brothels in San Francisco and Sacramento before he retired with
his considerable wealth to the Monterey Peninsula. His sisters,
Maylin and Soulin, took over the operations.
Some say it was a change of heart, or maybe it’s just who he
was all the time since he protected his people, paid them well,
and took care of their health care needs. But Pao took his
considerations a step further and opened up a clinic in Monterey
to treat his employees, and their offspring. The Oulong Center
for Health was also open to the general public. Those who could
afford to pay were required to do so, but many people who lacked
the resources were treated on credit, often never to repay...but
The health center was expanded over the years, first by Pao
and later by his sisters. In their advanced years, they turned
it over to the county along with a funding trust with the
codicil that the name always remains the same, honoring their
dear departed brother. The facility was one of the finest in
California, at least, and a vital community fixture.
That is, up until the end of the Twentieth Century when the
board of directors decided that there had been too little focus
on profit. They started channeling the trust money into such
budget items as marketing, public relations, and advertising,
plus executive suite renovation and executive bonuses. The funds
were shifted from budget lines like equipment upgrades and
The result, sad to say, was that the Oulong became less of a
community health center that promoted prevention, hygiene, and
nutrition, and more of a medical facility for the wealthy and
well-insured. But even the well-heeled were not as well-healed.
The center didn’t keep up with important advancements in
technology, both equipment and training, and an increasing
number of serious cases were shuttled north to up-to-date
hospitals in San Jose and Stanford. While there were risks in
sending some patients on a hundred-mile trip in an ambulance or
helicopter, it was often better than having patients die on an
Oulong operating table.
Such is what Francie found out in just a couple of days of
digging. It helped that she had been in the area for as
long as she had, and had developed a reputation for integrity
throughout the professional community, from law enforcement to
Cass Street medicos, from the attorneys to the business
magnates. With just a few calls, she was able to establish the
fact that almost no one had good things to say about OuCH, and
that fact was underscored by the fact that most of them used the
acronym. Virtually all agreed that if they got sick, they would
go to Stanford without a second thought.
One wag, a doctor who had watched the center’s reputation
slide, asked Francie if she had seen the George C. Scott film
The Hospital. She told him that she had. "It’s like that,"
he said. "Everyone who knows anything about medicine would
rather send their family to a clinic in Salinas than to OuCH.
People die there who shouldn’t."
During a long follow-up call with Wally Myers, Francie had
culled three names that were worth her detecting time. The first
was Marshall Pitun, the chief of neurosurgery at OuCH. Wally
said Pitun had wanted to join his operation, but Wally had told
him that the card was already filled. In fact, he hadn’t found
people for the last two slots, but he didn’t want Pitun anywhere
near his enterprise. "He’s crazy, Francie. I mean that.
Clinically he’s off his nut. I could tell you stories...."
"The guy’s a surgeon, right? He goes into the OR at
Natividad, cuts open a patient for a simple appendectomy, gets
all woozy and passes out. Not only that, but he fell on top of
"Why did he pass out?"
"According to two nurses, it was the sight of blood."
"That doesn’t make any sense. A surgeon, fainting at the
sight of blood? How could he cut people open?"
"Well that’s the point. He doesn’t any more. That was his
last time in the OR. His friends at OuCH moved him up to Chief
of Staff. He couldn’t cut anymore so they made him an
"That sounds sick, if you don’t mind the pun."
"Sick doesn’t begin to describe that creep. He blamed the
anesthesiologist for releasing gas that made him faint."
"Did that really happen?"
"No, of course not. First of all, it would be dispersed
immediately into the air and become ineffective. That’s why it’s
administered to the patient with a mask. Second, how come the
nurses weren’t affected, since they were closer to the gas than
Pitun was? It was all hogwash. But worst of all, when he was
made CoS, he had the gas man’s privileges cancelled at the
"That’s the kind of guy we’re dealing with, Francie. So watch
When Francie ended the call, she opened a locked drawer in
her desk and pulled out her seven-shot Kel-Tec P32. She slipped
out the magazine, and looked down the barrel. It was smooth and
shiny as it should have been. She always cleaned it after she
came back from the range. She tested the action, then slipped
the magazine back in the butt of the gun. She pulled back the
slide and chambered a bullet. She put on the safety and then
pulled back the slide seven more times, ejecting the bullets
onto her desk. Then she removed the magazine again, checked the
barrel to make sure it was empty, released the safety and pulled
the trigger. Then she reloaded the bullets into the clip and put
the clip back into the gun, leaving the chamber empty. She put
the gun in her jacket pocket.
* * * * *
The other two names Myers had given her were Dixon Krobat and
Melba Cheeth. Krobat was a urologist on staff at OuCH. He, too,
had wanted to be part of Myers’ deal but the hospital wouldn’t
let him. They threatened to fire him if he signed up. Myers told
Francie that Krobat had resented him ever since. Then he lowered
his voice and told her there might be something else to say
about him. Then he gave a stage cough. They agreed to meet that
evening at Vesuvio’s for a glass of wine.
Melba Cheeth had been Myers’ office manager until around the
time the Varian was installed. The installation necessitated a
thorough going-over of accounts to separate the accounts of the
doctor’s office and the radiation operation. The accounting
review turned up some anomalies, as they say in polite society,
which indicated some unapproved expenditures had been made
by the office manager.
Myers, not one for a confrontation, discussed the situation
with his sister, an attorney who was in town for the holidays
and she told him she would take care of the situation. As she
recounted to her brother later, she met Cheeth off site and
showed her the report with a dozen discrepancies circled in red.
They totaled just over $6,000.
"She was great, my sister Melody is great. She told the woman
that she had gone through her desk and removed all of her
personal belongings. They were in a box in the restaurant
manager’s office. She had to sign a document she handed her that
didn’t say she took the money; just that she was responsible for
the accounts that came up short. And she told her that if she
didn’t sign it right then and there, and hand over her office
keys, Melody would personally hand the matter over to the
Monterey County District Attorney the next morning and ask that
she be charged with embezzlement."
"And Cheeth complied?"
"Well yah, she had to. You don’t know my sister. You’ll have
to meet Melody some day. She used to prosecute labor racketeers
for the Department of Justice. She got more convictions and
guilty pleas than anyone in the department. Yeah, she just
signed the admission. Melody said her face was white and her
fingers had trouble taking the keys off the ring."
"Nice result," Francie told him.
"Yeah, and I want something similar on this matter, too."
Francie said soothingly, "The best thing you can do to see
that that happens is to keep your cool. Just tell yourself that
it’s going to turn out for the best. Every time you feel like
you’re getting upset, tell yourself that. You’re an excellent
brain surgeon, aren’t you?"
There was just a moment’s hesitation and Myers said he was.
"Well I’m as good at what I do as you are at what you do, so
lighten up." There was a pause and then she told him, "See you
* * * * *
Francie spent part of the day making phone calls to other
acquaintances, including to Sheriff Telford Spivac. His nickname
– in his line he needed one – was Bogie, probably because he
could do a great imitation of the great actor. He had grown up
on The Peninsula fifty-some-odd years earlier, and had seen a
lot, heard a lot. Francie had met him when she was a reporter
with the San Francisco station, coming down to cover stories in
Monterey. They had reconnected when she first moved to town, and
they had subsequently collaborated on a half dozen cases in
which she had provided critical information to enable him to
put a number of criminals behind bars.
Bogie echoed what she had learned about the hospital falling
into avaricious hands. He was also aware of numerous complaints
filed about collection agencies harassing patients and their
families over bills, some of them small amounts. Not
infrequently the collection agencies had gone after the
survivors of those who hadn’t made it out of OuCH alive. Bogie
himself had quietly organized some of the area's top business
people to persuade the hospital to find a better approach to
balancing their books. Of course it wasn’t really about
balancing anything but human decency against greed because for
the hospital it was a matter of how much profit they would make.
Mark David, who headed a top flight public relations firm in
Monterey, was another who had his finger on the pulse of the
community. More than once Francie had helped one of his clients
who needed some unofficial assistance dealing with a personal
matter. Francie had earned a reputation for discretion, if that
doesn’t sound like an oxymoron, so Mark was always happy to take
"I always thought that place was simmering on an open flame,"
he told her. "I’m sure there have been some large pay-outs to
"You didn’t represent them, did you, Mark?" she asked, and
then submitted, "You know I wouldn’t have asked if I thought
they were a client of yours."
"No, no, no they’re not a client." He chuckled. "There was a
time when I tried to get a piece of their publicity work but
they went with firms in San Francisco. Same with their
advertising agencies. They could have gotten just as good work
down here, and it would have been better for their image, but
they didn’t think that way. They were – they are – such arrogant
SOB’s that they thought it made a better impression if they
bought the high-priced spread. Of course it didn’t, since their
market was down here. I mean, it wasn’t like people outside of
the area were coming here for the medical work. Dumb, just dumb.
Moreover they spent a ton more than they needed to. Probably a
half-million a year in inflated fees alone."
"They could have bought a lot of Mercurochrome for that kind
Mark’s voice tightened. "They could have done what they were
supposed to be doing and that was serving the community. That’s
the furthest thing from their minds today."
"Any good guys up there?"
"Some, but most of the people with real talent set up on Cass
or over in Ryan Ranch. Some over in Salinas. They have their
privileges at the hospital for their patients, and keep their
mouths quiet for the most part about what they know. Still, word
Mark was fired up. "Yes, like about their chief of staff.
He’s been known to throw tantrums for no reason at all. He’ll
start screaming at his staff, at his patients. More than once
he’s chased after a patient, yelling at them for this or that as
they raced out the door of his waiting room. Once, I heard, it
was a woman wearing a hospital gown who was screaming as loud as
"And he’s their chief of staff? Why do they keep him? Does he
have something on them?"
"From what I heard, he’s golfing buddies with a couple of the
directors. I think probably they thought it would be easier to
ease him out rather than go through the expense of getting rid
of him. Anyway, his term as CoS is up this year so life should
be easier for them."
"And the person who’s replacing him?"
Mark laughed. "I think they’re going from the frying pan into
the fire. It’s a woman named Stephany Klave. A heart specialist
by trade. Ironic but true, because from what I’ve heard about
her, she’s as cold as they come. At Sloan-Kettering where she
was before, they referred to her as the Wicked Witch of the
East. She went through staff like a wood-chipper."
"Sounds like she’ll fit right in."
Mark wasn’t so sure. "Maybe. She’s a lesbian. Very, very hard
woman. And that’s pretty much an old boys’ network up there.
It’s not like they were going to pinch her butt, but you can be
sure they expect her to know her place. And you can be sure that
she got them to believe she would like to get the appointment. I
expect the honeymoon will be over before the end of the first
"No wonder they call the place OuCH. Is there anything that
can be done? Certainly the community would benefit from a
quality hospital that put health care first."
"Certainly would," Mark said. "Maybe if they made some big mistakes up
there that they couldn’t cover up, and there was a bunch of
them, they could be put on probation, maybe lose their
accreditation. That could leave them open for a take-over. Maybe
by an Asian émigré who runs a chain of houses of ill repute?"
Francie laughed. "It would be better than what we have now."
Before Mark hung up, he shared with her some gossip that she might
be able to put to good use. That would be up to her.
* * * * *
Some interesting new developments coming up in Episode VI of "The Truth Will Out," right here as MontereyMystery.com
on May 1st.