Title: The Wrong Road Home – A story of treachery and deceit inspired by true events
Author: Ian A. O’Connor
Release Date: March 31, 2016
Publisher: Pegasus Publishing & Entertainment Group
Genre: Historical Medical Crime
Format: Trade paperback and EBook
Purchase on Amazon
“An intimate look at a life lived as a lie.” – Kirkus Reviews
Inspired by a true story, The Wrong Road Home is the story of Desmond Donahue. Born into abject poverty in Ireland, Donahue went on to successfully practice his craft as a surgeon for 20 years—first in Ireland and then the United States. So isn’t Donahue’s tale a classic rags-to-riches, American dream story? Hardly. Donahue was girded with nothing more than a Chicago School System GED and several counterfeit medical diplomas. It seems impossible—and understandably so—but it’s a story based on a Miami Herald Sunday edition front page exposé. An Oprah producer pursued the imposter for weeks, as did Bill O’Reilly. Simply put, Desmond Donahue’s story is a story that really happened.
A gripping story that is alternately shocking, heartbreaking, and unbelievable, The Wrong Road Home will leave readers spellbound. Ian A. O’Connor, an imaginative and skillful storyteller, paints a vivid portrait of a complicated, complex character who comes alive within the story’s pages. Reminiscent of Catch Me if You Can, The Wrong Road Homefuses elements of true crime, memoir, and drama. Groundbreaking, inventive and innovative, The Wrong Road Home is an extraordinary story exceptionally well told.
I arrived at the law offices of Middleton and Ives, P.A., in Coral Gables, Florida, at nine o’clock on a clear November morning in 1992. Eighteen months earlier, I had been seriously injured in an auto accident, and still wore a cumbersome neck and back brace. Pain was my constant companion.
The task this day was to prepare me for a pre-trial deposition scheduled for midweek. My attorneys had realized soon after filing a claim in court that things could turn dicey simply because I was a longtime friend of the car’s driver, Kathy Murray. Indeed, her insurance carrier had remained steadfast in refusing to entertain any thoughts of a settlement, and had drawn a new line in the sand by hiring a top Miami attorney named Carl Weston.
“Relax, Desmond,” my friend, Mike Middleton, said. “Your case is a slam dunk. Just answer all questions truthfully, and don’t volunteer any information.”
“You know this insurance company lawyer?”
Mike chuckled. “Yeah, I know Carl. He’s no Perry Mason, but he can turn into one tough little bulldog if he smells blood. But Carl has nothing to go after here because the facts are the facts.” Mike led me into the conference room then headed for the gargantuan leather chair at the head of the table while motioning me to take the seat on his right. As he reached for a yellow legal pad, his partner entered.
“Sorry I’m late,” Drew Ives said, and, with a nod, signaled for Mike to begin.
They went over the facts of the accident at least a dozen times, all the while lobbing every imaginable question at me. They then helped polish my responses, and three hours later pronounced me ready. “Just tell the truth,” was Mike’s last piece of advice.
Michael Middleton and Drew Ives oozed confidence from every pore.
* * *
We were ushered into the floor-to-ceiling book-lined conference room of the law firm of Weston, Hailey and Strunk, P.A., at three o’clock, on the afternoon of November 20, 1992. After the requisite introductions, and going over a few technical legal housekeeping matters, the deposition started at 3:20 p.m., and lasted ninety minutes. A court stenographer videotaped the proceeding.
Carl Weston began by guiding me through the preliminaries, those mundane, innocuous items, such as having me state my full name, age, place of birth, city of residence, and marital status.
I began to relax. I had answered the last question by saying I was a widower these past eighteen years, and how my wife, Margaret, had died in childbirth, as did our child.
Carl Weston wore a suitably sad face as he listened to my recounting.
Then he moved on to wanting to know about my education, beginning in Chicago, where I told how I had attended college at Loyola University, followed by medical school in Cork, Ireland.
“When did you start these Irish medical studies, and when did you finish?”
“Nineteen sixty-nine until nineteen seventy-six.”
“It was a seven year course?” Carl Weston couldn’t keep the surprise out of his voice as he peered at me over the rim of his half-frames.
“Well, it’s normally five, but I did some other things while I was there.” I then went on to explain away my particular circumstances. Mike remained silent. And why not? The facts were facts, and he had heard me parrot them ad nauseam.
“So, from nineteen sixty-nine to nineteen seventy-six you were a student at the medical school in Ireland?”
“That’s seven years?” Carl Weston was now repeating himself
“Did you finally get your degree?”
“And what degree did you get?”
“Similar to an American M.D. degree.”
“An MB, Bch., BAO.”
“That’s quite the mouthful of alphabet soup. Just what do all those letter mean?”
“MB, Bch., stands for Medical Bachelor, and Bachelor of Surgery. BAO, Bachelor of Obstetrics and Gynecology.”
“So in other words, you got this MB, Bch., BAO degree in Ireland?”
“I did.” I was beginning to think this hotshot lawyer was somewhat slow in the understanding department. And still Mike said nothing.
Weston then wanted to know what hospital I had attended for my clinical training while in Cork, and I told him there were several the students rotated through. That answer seemed to satisfy him. He next queried the date and the facts leading up to my marriage, then delicately probed for more details about Margaret’s demise and that of our child.
Then he led me through a recitation of events from the time I left Ireland, until my being hired by St. Anslem’s Hospital in Coral Gables, a dozen years earlier.
“And at St. Anslem’s you wear a white doctor’s coat?”
“And it has Desmond Donahue, M.D. embroidered over the left breast?”
Weston scribbled a quick notation, rifled through some pages, selected one, and began asking about my life and duties at St. Anslem’s. He wanted to know how much was I paid. How long was my workday? What exactly did I do at the hospital? He then followed with questions regarding the general state of my health before the accident, and an in-depth asking as to my several life insurance policies, and who my beneficiary was. Ditto for my disability coverage. Then he wanted to know about my relationship with the defendant, Kathy Murray. I explained she was the widow of a long-time friend who had died of lymphoma three years earlier.
Finally, after many repeated questions, the discussion turned to the accident. Carl Weston led me through the mishap, minute-by-minute, blow-by-blow, my many injuries being duly noted. He then asked for the names of all the physicians who had, and still were, treating me.
The session ended with a probing of my limited surgical work schedule since the accident, with me explaining how my injuries had curtailed most of the activities I had enjoyed prior to that fateful day.
At last, it was over. I sank into my chair, exhausted.
Twenty minutes later, I was riding back to Coral Gables with Mike. “Went well,” he said as we crawled along in bumper-to-bumper traffic on South Dixie Highway. “I told you Carl’s a bulldog! Get him fixated on a line of questioning and he will beat it to frigging death. Hell, there were times in there I had no idea where the man was going.” Mike let loose a whoop of delight. “Poor old Carl went on a fishing expedition only to find there were no fish in the pond. You handled him great, Desmond.”
* * *
I got a call from Mike two days before the end of the year. “I need you in my office as soon as possible.”
“Well, I’m kind of tied up for the next…”
“You’re not listening, Desmond” he interrupted. “As soon as possible means just that.” No ranting, no raving, just a command.
I immediately went on red alert. Something big was up. “Then I’ll be there this afternoon. Care to tell me what it’s about?”
“This afternoon will be fine, I’ll see you then.”
I made my appearance shortly after two o’clock where a poker-faced Mike Middleton walked me into the conference room and shut the door. He strode over to the table and scooped up an overstuffed manila envelope which he began waving in front of my nose. “This was delivered by courier from Carl Weston’s office at nine o’clock this morning. Care to guess what’s inside?”
I immediately knew the answer. Carl Weston had dug deep into my past and had struck the mother lode of all mother lodes. Mike Middleton’s tenacious little bulldog had done what no one else had been able to do in twenty years—he had discovered that my life was a lie, and that I was a fraud.
I hung my head in silent disgrace inside my brace and collar, too mortified to look Mike in the eye.
“Sit down, Desmond,” Mike finally said, then heeding his own advice, sank wearily into his oversized chair and began a vigorous rubbing of his face, a ritual I had witnessed many times.
“It’s time for you to come clean, Doctor Donahue,” he finally said in a voice as dry as dust, deliberately emphasizing the word doctor. “I want the truth, but first, answer me this: Is your real name even Desmond Donahue? Because if it isn’t, I sure as hell need to know that particular fact right up front.”
I shook my head and sighed. “Desmond Donahue is my real name.”
“Well, that’s a start, I suppose. Forget that we’ve been friends for ten years, I want to hear only the truth from here on out. No bullshitting, no spinning, no you deciding what to tell and what to withhold. I need to know everything about you from the day you were born, because very soon you’re going to be facing one really pissed-off judge who could send you away for a very long time. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
I nodded, took a deep breath, held it for what seemed like an eternity, then exhaled in one long swoosh and began to talk.