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~ the raven chronicles ~ 1

17 Jan

(Chapters are stored chronologically in ARCHIVES.)

Dr. Sylvester Agnostica, MD.
Sterns-Carson Sanitarium
Green Pines, Ohio

November 12, 1932

Approximately ten days ago, I received into my care a new patient. The circumstances of her admittance to this institution were unusual, to say the least; her stay so far, has been relatively uneventful. I don’t know the exact reason for my disquiet, but a nagging sense of foreboding regarding the entire affair has compelled me to set down the particulars.

On November 1st, All Saints Day, sometime around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, I was in my office adjacent to the Sanitarium’s main entrance, finishing the day’s paperwork. On the previous night, Halloween, a violent storm passed through the area. Its wake left one of our outbuildings collapsed and limbs and debris strewn over the grounds. In front of the hospital, a majestic oak cleaved by lightning stood against the cold, cirrus-streaked sky like a wounded Titan.

As I studied the damaged tree from my desk, I noticed a two-tone, copper colored Packard rolling up the circular driveway. Suspecting a surprise visit by members of the hospital’s board, I hurriedly set my papers aside, left my desk and crossed the foyer. I hoped to intercept and greet the arrivals in the parking area, but just as I opened the front door and stepped out onto the porch, the car came to a stop at the foot of the main entrance’s wide stairs. A uniformed chauffeur, and another man dressed in a dark suit, sat in the front seat. I couldn’t clearly see the back occupants due to the partially drawn privacy curtains, but I could discern that another man, and a woman, were in the rear.

The front passenger got out, came up the steps and introduced himself as Robert Cannon. Though we had never met before, I knew him to be a high-profile Cleveland attorney that represents the Sterns-Carson Board of Directors, and some of its members individually. Without preliminary, he asked if we might step into my office for a word in private.

We silently walked to my office and I closed the door behind. Mr. Cannon declined my offer of a chair and proceeded quickly to his point, as if staying at Sterns-Carson for any longer than absolutely necessary would somehow affect his mental abilities. He informed me that a new patient was in the back seat of the Packard. I informed him that the hospital was at capacity. He withdrew an envelope from inside his topcoat, handed it over and told me to open it. Inside, a hand-written letter from Dr. Watkins, head of the Sterns-Carson Board of Directors, instructed me to accept the new patient without question, and to follow any instructions given to me by Mr. Cannon; a large endowment had been pledged to Sterns-Carson, dependent on the fulfillment of the stipulations for the care of this new inmate. After I finished reading the letter, Mr. Cannon wasted no time in giving me the particulars: the patient was to be kept isolated, as much as possible, from the general population of the hospital; should any inquiring members of the press contact the hospital or show up unannounced, they were to be turned away without comment and Mr. Cannon was to be notified immediately; the patient would be kept here indefinitely, until a decision was made otherwise, and that decision would not hinge on any diagnosis made by myself or any other doctor on the hospital staff.

Mr. Cannon asked me if I had any questions. I told him I had more questions than he could possibly answer. He smiled ruefully and asked if I was ready to meet my new ward. I glanced at the letter in my hand, then again at Mr. Cannon. He simply turned and walked out of my office. Resigned to the situation, I followed.

Outside, the chauffeur now stood next to the car, and upon a nod from Mr. Cannon, opened the rear door. At the same time, the back door opposite opened and someone got out from the far side. A large, muscular individual quickly appeared from around the rear of the Packard; he had a look about him that indicated his IQ matched the dumbbells with which he was obviously so well acquainted. Mr. Cannon bent down and spoke a few words into the backseat, waited a moment, repeated them, then stood up and looked into the car with an expression of disgust. With a quiet brusqueness, the attorney then told the muscular man to “get her out”.

The jug-eared Sampson climbed partway into the back seat, brought the reluctant passenger out of the car and to her feet. He held her erect while she swayed in his iron grasp. I quickly surveyed the woman from head to toe: dressed in a dark wool coat over a plain white shift and low shoes; long blonde hair gathered and tied loose at the base of her neck; she wore no makeup, but smelled strongly of soap and lavender; her skin had the cast of bone china, which probably accounted for the marked crimson hue of her lips; her eyes, though somewhat rheumy, were of a shocking blue color that looked quite unnatural; obviously sedated, her head lolled for the most part, but came erect several times, whereupon she would mumble, unintelligibly.

Mr. Cannon informed me that this was my new ward, Mrs. Rhea Sinclair. The mention of her name jolted me with a degree of enlightenment that helped clarify the cryptic letter from Dr. Watkins. The daughter of powerful Cleveland industrialist, Jacob Drummond, and the wife of the flamboyant millionaire, Kendree Sinclair, brought to my door like a foundling, to be locked away until the family saw fit to do otherwise.

Mr. Cannon said we needed to get Mrs. Sinclair inside, and out of sight, immediately. There is only one area of the sanitarium that met all the criteria specified in the letter, so I led our party deep into the hospital, to the isolate wing, where the most violent and unpredictable patients are housed in high-windowed, iron-doored cells. The furnishings in these rooms consist of a narrow cot, small table, wash basin, and bedpan. I expected Mr. Cannon to find the austere appointments unacceptable, but he looked inside the room and pronounced the accommodations “perfect”. The matron of the ward appeared and I had her take Mrs. Sinclair away to be outfitted in hospital clothing.

As we watched the two women disappear through a door at the end of the hallway, Mr. Cannon told me of one other proviso: if Mrs. Sinclair’s husband were to ever show up, I was to deny him entrance, call the local police without hesitation, and then call Mr. Cannon. He said that, so far, he’d been able to restrain Mr. Drummond’s murderous intent toward Mr. Sinclair, but further provocation could have dire consequences.

With a quick handshake, the attorney thanked me for my cooperation and said that he would be in touch in the near future. Assuring me that his party did not need to be shown the way to the main entrance, Mr. Cannon and the muscular man hastened up the hall and left me standing there, dumbfounded by the whole transaction.

As of this morning, Mrs. Sinclair remains in some sort of catatonia; she has done little more than sit or lie on her bed without speaking. One of our nurses, Mary Wallace, has taken it upon herself to feed and bathe the patient regularly, daily ministrations that Mrs. Sinclair seems capable of, but disinclined to perform of her own volition.

I intend to start some type of treatment for Mrs. Sinclair in the near future, but remain undecided as to what that regimen shall be.

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