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The Settlement Chapter 1

Chapter One


The sun kissed her face as Cadin Michaels carefully maneuvered her Harley Davidson down a winding country road. The wind wrapped around her, lifting her dark hair and her spirits as she rode away from her tortured past toward an unknown future.


The night before in her Atlanta Penthouse, she spread a map of the Southeast across her home office wall. She picked up a dart, hurled it at the map without aiming, and then walked forward to see where it had landed.


“Greensboro, Alabama,” she said. “Greensboro it is then.”


Cadin left the office and walked to the large bedroom she had shared with her partner Missy Dupree until six months ago. She opened an expansive closet, took out six pairs of Levi’s, and a dozen shirts, placing them on the king sized bed in the center of the room and walked back to the closet. In the far back, a dark green duffle bag, one issued by the US Army, sat waiting for the trip. The name Michael’s had been stamped on the material in blank ink.


The ink had faded, but the material was in excellent shape. The bag had belonged to David, her older brother, and helicopter pilot. Shot down during the Desert Storm operations, leaving her an only child. A soldier had delivered his personal effects to her family in the bag, and Cadin had kept it in his memory.


Cadin worshiped her big brother and only sibling. His death had sent her spiraling into a deep depression one she could not wake from until Missy appeared in her life, rescuing her from the funk of her misery.


Missy, a Social Worker had come to her office one day to request a donation for a local woman’s charity she worked for and Cadin had fallen for her instantly. Her shiny blonde hair and emerald eyes mesmerized Cadin from the start. She had listened to Missy’s request with an open mind and she could sense the passion the woman had for this cause. Missy left her office that day with a large donation and with a piece of Cadin’s heart.



Six months earlier…


“God forgive me,” Cadin groaned as she reached down to grasp a plug in the wall. Her fingers trembled as they landed on the electrical cord attached to the ventilator that breathed life into Missy’s body. She stopped and stood again at the side of the hospital bed, and gazed down at her lover. Missy’s pale body was cold to the touch. There was no machine invented that could bring the warmth of life back to her body. The doctor’s had pronounced her ‘brain dead’ three days earlier, with no hope of ever regaining consciousness.  The machines pumped breath into her body and forced her heart to keep beating, but she knew Missy would never want to go on like this.


Cadin looked up at the woman standing at the opposite side of the bed and her heart wrenched with pain. Marilyn, Missy’s twin sister stood staring down at her sister. When her tear filled eyes looked up at Cadin, she nodded slowly.


“We both know she wouldn’t want to be kept like this,” she said.


“I know, but I just don’t think I can do it,” Cadin cried.


“We can do this together,” a soft voice spoke from the end of the bed.


Cadin had forgotten her mother Marcel was in the room. Marcel reached for Marilyn’s hand and together they walked to stand beside her.. “Together,” Marcel said.


Cadin nodded and added her hand atop the others and they reached for the plug. Their fingers entwined and came to rest on the plug and together they removed it from the socket.


Alarms immediately sounded in the room and a nurse rushed in to turn them off with the exception of the heart monitor, then turned and left them in peace.


They turned back to face the bed as the nurse left the room. Cadin’s eyes searched the heart monitor to see the rate dropping quickly. “I will always love you my darling,” she whispered and leaned down to kiss Missy’s lips one last time.


She held her hand as her heart rate plummeted, and when the last beat came whispered, “Goodbye my love.”


When no other beat followed, Marcel led Marilyn from the room and waited outside for Cadin.


Tears flowed down her cheeks at the look of relief on Missy’s face. “I will make them pay for this, if it’s the last thing I do,” she vowed as her grief burned with rage.



Three days after the funeral Marcel finally consented to going back to her condo in Florida. Marilyn would fly home the next day. She rode with Cadin to drop her mother at the airport.


“Thank you for being here,” Marilyn said. “Missy loved you like a mother.”


“She was my second daughter,” Marcel said. “I was honored to know her even if it was a short time.”


“She will always be in our hearts,” Marilyn assured her.


“Are you sure you don’t want me to go in with you?” Cadin said as they pulled up to the curb outside of ticketing.


“No, I’m good. I can manage from here. I’ll call you tonight to let you know I’ve made it home.”


Cadin walked to the trunk to remove her mother’s bag. “Are you sure I can’t stay longer?” Marcel asked.


“I appreciate you so much Mom, but I need to be on my own right now,” Cadin said.


“I’m only a phone call away,” Marcel said as she hugged her daughter.


Cadin managed a weak smile. “I love you mom.”


“I love you too. You could always fly down for some beach time you know.”


“Thanks Mom. I’ll wait for your call tonight.”


Marcel hugged Marilyn and picked up her bag. “Take care of you,” she said and walked inside the terminal.



Cadin picked over the salad they had prepared for dinner.


“Do you plan to go back to work soon or take some time off?” Marilyn asked.


“I think I’ll go back next week, but there’s something I need to do first. I wanted to discuss it with you before taking any action.”


“What is it?”


“I plan on suing the hospital over Missy’s death, and I plan to start a foundation in her honor.”


“Do you really think she would want that?” Marilyn asked.


“They have to be made to pay for ruining her life. She did so much good work for the community there has to be a way to continue her legacy. I know she would agree to that.”


“Do you have any idea what the foundation would support, scholarships, or something like that?”


“That part hasn’t come to me yet,” she admitted. “I have to win the suit for her first.”


“You know I’ll support whatever you decide. It won’t bring her back, but it would carry on the work she loved.”


“I have to do this for her,” Cadin said with tears in her eyes. Even looking at Marilyn pained her. Marilyn’s hair was a shade darker and curlier than Missy’s, but they had they had same green eyes. Her heart ached for the loss of her lover, and though she loved Marilyn, and appreciated her being here for support, looking at her twin reminded her so much of Missy.


Marilyn moved around to take Cadin in her arms. “I know you do, and you’ll come up with something really great.”


They talked deep into the night and when they went to bed, Cadin cried herself to sleep snuggled into Missy’s pillow.



After dropping Marilyn at the airport the next morning, she stopped by her office. Her business partner Pam Jordan met her at the door to her office.


“It’s good to see you. How are you feeling?”


“Lost and still in shock, I think.”


“I think that’s a pretty normal response. It’s only been a few days. So what are you doing here? I didn’t expect you back before next week.”


“I want you to do something for me.”


“What can I do?”


“I want you to set up a foundation for me. I plan to sue the pants off the hospital, and the physician that killed Missy, and I want a foundation set up in her honor to continue the work that she loved.”


“I can do that,” Pam said. “Have you filed suit yet?”


“I’ve finished the draft. I’m going to review it today and send it to the hospital attorney later. If he’s smart he’ll approach me with a mediation request quickly.”


“Are you sure that’s what you want to do?”


“I made a promise to Missy to make them pay for what they did to her. I know it won’t bring her back, but they need to be made to pay for what they did.” Cadin looked at her friend. They had been partners for ten years. “I’m not asking you to participate, just set up the foundation, and sit on the board with Marilyn, and me.”


“I will do whatever you need me to do, but I’m worried about you. If you’re involved in a suit, you won’t be able to grieve properly. Can’t we engage another firm to handle it for you?”


“There’s no way I’ll give up forty percent to a firm on such a slam dunk case. I handle wrongful death cases all the time remember?”


“But, not one regarding your lover,” Pam argued.


“I know it’s crazy, but no one will handle the case with the passion I can bring to it.”


“I definitely can’t argue with that,” Pam said, and wrapped her arms around her partner.


Cadin smiled for the first time since entering the office. “The crazy part or the passion?” she teased.


“Both. I’ll start drafting the papers this week,” she said. “Now get out of here before I put you to work.”


“Thanks Pam. I’ll see you Monday.”


“Call if you need anything.”


“I will,” Cadin said and left the office.



Cadin rode the elevator up to the penthouse and sighed deeply as she unlocked the door. This was the first time she had been alone in the apartment since Missy’s death and the dread weighed heavy on her shoulders. She stepped through the door and turned to hang her keys on the key holder one of Missy’s clients had made for her. The keys to her SUV hung where she had left them, the day she went to the hospital for what was supposed to be a simple procedure.


She walked over to the sofa and collapsed into the soft cushions. The silence closed in around her. Cadin imagined closing her eyes and hearing Missy’s cheerful banter echoing through the rooms.



Missy had invited Cadin to a fund raising event a week after their first meeting and afterwards invited her for a drink. They talked and laughed late into the night and it wasn’t long before they realized there was more than a friendship growing between them. It had been six years since Missy had walked into her life and now she was gone, never to return.


Missy had suffered with gallstones and the surgeon she had met with assured her that it was a simple procedure and he performed on average five surgeries per day, many the same procedure she would be having. Scheduled to be his third procedure of the day, Cadin waited anxiously beside Missy. Surgery would last less than two hours and she would spend a night in the hospital before going home. His previous case had developed complications during the procedure and instead of postponing her case he kept on schedule without taking a break between surgeries.  


Maybe it was exhaustion or just a general lack of focus, but during the procedure he severed a major artery, triggering cardiac arrest as her body bled out. The team worked feverishly to save her life, but the loss of blood, and oxygen to her brain could not prevent damage to her brain. A ventilator, forced breathing, and blood flow, through her body. The tests revealed she had total loss of brain function. There was no hope of recovery. The only decision left was when to pull the plug on the machines.


At first she argued that Missy should be given time to see if she would make a recovery, but common sense and the pleading of her twin sister to let her go convinced Cadin it was the right thing to do.


Cadin fell asleep with the sound of a dying heartbeat ringing in her ears.



When she woke three hours later curled up on the sofa, reality closed around her heart with a steel grip. Missy was gone, and she was all alone. She stood and walked to the bar to pour the first of many drinks she would drink that night and then powered up her computer.


She finalized the draft of her suit, emailed it to the respective counsel for the hospital, and the physician of the anesthesiology group, filing for wrongful death, medical negligence, and malpractice. When she pushed the button to send the email she stood and rushed to the bathroom to purge her body of the whiskey poisoning her memories. Cadin showered and then crashed naked onto her bed.



Within a week, Cadin had begun dialoging with the opposing counsel, and had a date set for mediation a month away.


She managed to struggle through her work, delving into her cases to delay returning home to an empty apartment.


The first mediation ended without a settlement and Cadin told them to prepare to go to trial as she exited the office. She was furious at their pitiful attempts to settle the case at a pittance of what it was worth. Cadin’s resolve steeled and she was determined to play hardball as the price of her settlement award skyrocketed.


Two weeks later, she received a request for a second mediation attempt. The attorney’s had begun the discovery process and realized the indefensible case they were faced with and reconsidered reaching a settlement.


Six months after Missy’s death, Cadin received an award check for ten million dollars, and a signed agreement that the physician would make a personal donation of one hundred thousand dollars each year on the date of her death for the next ten years to Missy’s Foundation. From her years of practice, Cadin understood the insurance carrier would make the settlement payment, and she wanted to ensure the man would not forget the fatal error he made that cost Missy her life. She felt little satisfaction with the award, and not having the battle for the settlement to focus on, Cadin felt more lost than ever.


When she returned to the office the following Monday morning, she handed Pam the check.


“Holy shit, you did it,” Pam said.


Cadin sat on her office sofa and looked at her with a blank expression.


“What’s wrong?”


“Missy was my life and I’m so lost without her. I don’t know how I go about finding me again.”


Pam walked over to sit beside her. “I think my friend, it’s time for you to take a sabbatical and find who you are and make some decisions about how you will administer Missy’s Foundation.”


“But how, I have no clue,” Cadin admitted.


“Pull out that Fat Boy you used to love to ride and hit the road. Just ride and think. See some places you’ve never been.”


Cadin allowed Pam’s suggestions to sink in and she thought Pam was onto a great idea. “You know, you’re right. Is this the right time to leave you on your own though?”


“Business is steady, but nothing I can’t handle for a few months. Go find the Cadin I love again. Quite honestly the new you is bumming me out,” Pam teased.


“Let me finish up a few projects and I’ll take off next week.”


“That sounds like a plan. Let’s go deposit this check and I’ll buy you an early lunch,” Pam said.


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