Chapter 32: Meeting Miki
Poulsen called a few days after we got the solar power project started.
“Hey,” he said over the lo-fi cell connection, “I’ve been thinking about your new avocation, and I realized that I have a contact for you.”
“Yeah?” I replied.
“My little sister Miki runs the hospital’s PT department. It didn’t immediately occur to me, but she does massage-like stuff as part of that, so I called her and told her about what you’re doing here. She wants to meet you two.”
I replied cautiously, “Sure, could be interesting.”
I could veritably hear his eyes squint over the connection as he continued, “I’m guessing you two are doing this massage thing as more than just a simple side business.” Then without letting me offer some kind of deflecting explanation, he added, “You two might be able to find some people in greater need of your, ah, special services through the hospital than a middle-aged patrol cop and a low-level US government bureaucrat.”
As ascended Turing is my witness, Poulsen is capable of amazing leaps of intuition at times. It’s doubtless why he’s a successful cop, I knew. “Yes, thank you,” I replied evasively, “that is definitely something to think about.”
“Yes indeed, my batman,” he replied seriously.
And with that, I knew he’d just tasked his personal magical servants to once again aid him in upholding the social fabric in ways that he couldn’t as a mundane city cop. It wasn’t an offer, it was an oblique yet formal request from our local controller: go chase down that PT gig and use it to find sick people and help them. We were going to be undercover operatives, of a sort!
“You’ve got it, Officer Poulsen. Thank you,” I replied formally.
“Good day, Mr. Bhat,” he told me, recalling our first interactions, though I didn’t need that to know he was dead serious in his adjuration.
Suited me. It was about what we’d intended to do anyway, just a little more directly than we’d have managed on our own without the inside link.
We arranged a late lunch date to discuss the ways we could help each other.
Miki’s middle-aged, a few years younger than her brother. Her eyes are darker than his, but she shares his flaxen blond Northern European hair, kept in a pixie cut even shorter than Kaitlyn’s.
Jasper told us she’d reverted to her maiden name following a failed marriage, so when she arrived at the restaurant, I greeted her, “It is good to meet you, Ms. Poulsen.”
“It’d better be Miki if we’re going to be working together, and never, ever, ever Michaela,” she grinned tightly as she gave a comic shudder.
We returned her handshake and smile, then found a booth near the back of the restaurant where we could speak in relative confidence. I guessed that our circumspect Officer Poulsen hadn’t told his sister about our powers, but better safe than sorry, right?
Kaitlyn guided us through the social niceties for a time until Miki began in on the meat of the offer.
“The way I see this working is that you come in at least a few hours a week, but probably no more than 20, mostly on weekends and after normal business hours, since that’s when we get acute combinations of rushed appointments and thin staffing. Lunchtime, too, which is why I’m taking this meeting late in the day; none of the full-timers get to leave between about eleven and one.”
We nodded our understanding.
Miki continued, “Still, I don’t expect you to sacrifice your day jobs’ lunch breaks for us; evenings and weekends will be a big enough help as it is. During those times, my schedule will overlap yours for supervisory reasons: the hospital management will not allow you to practice without supervision by someone sufficiently highly trained, like me. In fact, I’m going to have to do a bit of fancy dancing to get you on staff without a PTA to begin with. If it wasn’t for Jasper’s recommendation…”
Kaitlyn interrupted, “Wait, PTA?”
“Physical Therapy Assistant,” Miki explained. “It’s the normal entry-level degree for what I’m going to have you doing. It’s an Associate’s level degree, giving basic PT training without getting too deep into the underlying medicine. I think the only way to sell this to the hospital’s board is to have you two promise to pursue your PTA degrees in parallel with all of this.”
Kaitlyn looked less than thrilled by going back to school again so soon, but I said, “I think we can agree to that, Miki.”
My wife looked betrayed, so I told her, “She’s actually offering us a pretty good deal, love. She’ll get some cheap labor, and in exchange, we’ll move a good ways further down the path that led us to massage therapy in the first place.”
Kaitlyn knew I meant we’d become better healers, so she said, “All right, Davie.”
I added, “As a bonus, we’ll get a few more letters to put after our names on our business cards. Besides, it’ll be local schooling this time: I’m sure I saw that USU Moab had a course for this.”
Miki nodded. “Yes, I know the people running the program. My brother said you two have degrees already?”
“Bachelor’s,” my wife confirmed.
“Master’s in computer science.” I offered. Then in response to Miki’s raised eyebrow, I explained, “I worked for a few years at it first in India and then later up in Salt Lake, but I gave it up shortly after getting naturalized, preferring the calmer life down here, willing to take the pay cut to get it. I assume your brother told you about my day job at that computer repair shop a few blocks back from Main on Second?”
“He did, and now you’re starting a massage business?”
“Life is strange,” I stated, as if this should explain everything.
“In that case,” Miki said, “I should be able to get them to waive your non-core course requirements, since you’ve both got more advanced degrees already. I might even be able to get them to give you a few core credits for working under me, since I will basically be supplementing your education in the same field. You should be able to complete the course in about three semesters, so a solid year if you start this summer.”
“I think we can manage that,” I replied.
Miki nodded again and said, “As long as you two are engaged in that course and I keep you closely supervised, your massage therapy licenses should suffice. Once you’ve got your PTAs, you’ll have more autonomy. After that, I’ll be able to offer accredited CEUs to maintain your massage therapy licenses.”
My wife replied, “Yes, a big draw for us is that education, Miki. It’ll be good to augment our massage and PTA coursework, but the main thing we’d be after as far as on-the-job education goes is stuff we couldn’t get in either course, y’know? How the body fails, how to heal it, how the parts interact… That sort of thing.”
“Why that?” Miki asked, sounding concerned. “I expected that you’d just want more of what you got in class. I hope you aren’t planning to try practicing medicine without a license!”
So, Poulsen hadn’t told his sister about our powers after all.
Thinking fast, I deflected Miki’s worry, “Are we not going to be working on unwell people? We’ll need to know how to interleave our work with what the medical professionals are doing. Doesn’t the road to Do No Harm pass through the Forest of Knowledge?”
“Well, I suppose it does,” acknowledged Miki with an impressed set to her mouth.
“I think you’ll find us to be educationally omnivorous.”
In a tone of inference, Miki asked, “I should expect a wide variety of questions?”
Kaitlyn returned a definite nod. “Oh yeah.”