~ the raven chronicles ~ 3

13 Feb

(Chapters are stored chronologically in ARCHIVES.)

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

November 16, 1932

Yesterday’s troubles seemed to follow me home like a lost and worrisome dog. Upon entering the house, an aroma redolent of cinders assailed my nostrils. Maddie, our cook, looked askance at me and I was informed by Mrs. Agnostica that due to my late arrival, the roast for dinner was overcooked. Following the subsequent underwhelming repast, my wife and I had an awful row. She took umbrage at my comments regarding her discussion of the affairs of the hospital with the likes of Uncle Luigi, stormed up the stairs, and slammed her bedroom door for emphasis.

After several hours of sitting alone in front of the fire with a cigar and a decanter of port, I finally gave up on my attempt to spin the wool of my bewilderments into a garment of logic. I went to my bed and tossed and turned most of the few hours that I spent there. Despite retiring late, I awoke inexplicably early, looked out my window and discovered the world under a blanket of white. I decided to leave for the hospital immediately in case the roads proved treacherous.

Travel was easy enough, and I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at Sterns-Carson earlier than usual. I parked my car, and as I trudged through the snow to the hospital, I realized that my early arrival afforded me the opportunity to make up for the time I had lost yesterday fretting during Fr. Leavell’s visit.

As I passed through the big double doors of the main entrance, I saw Mr. Jenkins and Mrs. Wallace waiting in the hall just beyondresizemod hospital hallway the foyer. Nurse Wallace seemed a bit agitated, and Mr. Jenkins, somewhat distracted. After perfunctory greetings, they both followed me into my office. Mr. Jenkins closed the door behind us.

Before I could hang up my coat, Mrs. Wallace breathlessly told me that Zeke had gone missing sometime during the night, that he’d been at dinner, in his bed at vespers, and then this morning he was gone. It’s like he’s vanished, she said with a tone of incredulity.

I told her I thought her assessment of the situation was a bit melodramatic. With a chastened look, she apologized. Then Mr. Jenkins piped up and said he felt the same way as Mrs. Wallace; it was all very odd to him. Seized by a strange impulse, I asked if Mrs. Scott (in the heat of the moment, I nearly said, Mrs. Sinclair) was accounted for. Nurse Wallace gave me a quizzical look and said that, yes, she was in her room; she’d looked in on her first thing. (Which indicated that Mrs. Wallace had spent another night in the hospital; something she’s done with greater frequency since Mrs. Sinclair has arrived.)

I asked them to both calm themselves. If the authorities were to be notified, I needed a concise description of events and a clear understanding of the facts, not hysteria. Mrs. Wallace, I said, I left you with Zeke in the dayroom, yesterday afternoon, what happened after that?

Mrs. Wallace told me that the boy had spent the rest of the afternoon just staring out the window. I couldn’t get his attention away from it, she said, until he heard the dinner bell, it was like an alarm to him. Then he got up, took my hand and we walked to the dining hall together. After dinner, I read him a book and then tucked him into bed. He laid there and just looked at me for a minute with that strange expression of his that isn’t quite a smile, rolled over and went to sleep. That’s the last I saw of him. I went to the nurse’s dormitory, read a bit for myself, and then retired for the night.

I then asked Mr. Jenkins when and where he’d last seen the boy. He replied, in the dayroom, yesterday afternoon, when Jenkins had repaired a broken window latch. He’d not seen the boy again after that.

Jenkins then said that he’d risen before sunrise today, just like every other day, and shortly thereafter, Mrs. Wallace came to his room and informed him that Zeke was was nowhere to be found. We searched inside the hospital, he said, then I figured I’d better look outside. Snowfall began around dinner yesterday and continued after the lights were turned out in the dormitories. An orderly on night guard at the small room near the rear entrance had seen nothing unusual during his watch and had not unlocked the door the entire night. Mr. Jenkins said he stepped outside in the dim light of predawn and found the backyard snow undisturbed; except for the tracks from a single deer that trailed out from the woods, across the yard and up the rear steps of the hospital right to the back door.

It was the durndest thing, he said, no tracks going back down, like that deer just went to thin air. I told him perhaps the tracks belonged to a bird. He said, ‘No Sir, I don’t know a lot, but I do know deer tracks in snow.’ I told him that may very well be, but since we were looking for a missing child, not a missing deer, the point was hardly germane. I asked him what he did next. He said he then went to the main entrance, unlocked the door, checked in front of the hospital and found the snow out front completely undisturbed. Then he walked outside, around the entire building, checked beneath all the low windows for any sign of footprints, and had found none.

So, the child is somewhere on the premises, I said, and there’s no reason to call the authorities. We need to search the entire hospital from top to bottom and again if need be, until we find him.

I then sent Mrs. Wallace off to tend to her duties and instructed Mr. Jenkins to recruit an orderly of his choosing to aid him in a more thorough search of the hospital and the sanitarium grounds. He said that he’d get Kleiner to help him, since he’d been here longer than any other orderly and knew the hospital nearly as well as himself. I agreed with his choice, told him to keep me informed, and sent him off.

Alone again in my office, behind the closed door, I just sat at my desk and pondered the turn my life and the routine of the hospital had taken. I reasoned over and over one more time what might have caused these changes. There was one constant in all my equations: the arrival of Mrs. Sinclair. But coincidence is not causality; science is not based on divining meaning from embers. Perhaps my perspective had been affected by Mr. Cannon’s veiled threats. Maybe I finally noticed what a strange creature Zeke is. The mysterious visit from Fr. Leavell had certainly not helped matters. But I am master of my own destiny, the captain of this ship of stone and mortar. I decided to visit Mrs. Sinclair immediately, complete the diagnostic interview I had postponed since her arrival, and chart a course of treatment for her. She is after all, a patient in a sanitarium, not a guest in a patrician resort.

I rose and went to the cabinet, poured a cognac and drank it down to calm myself. I make note of this, so that there is no misunderstanding later; I took a drink for purely medicinal purposes; I often administer a tablespoon of grain alcohol to agitated patients; I am not becoming a closet toper.

I have my diagnostic journal in hand and, after completing this account, I will leave directly to interview Mrs. Sinclair. Then, I shall return to this office, devise a schedule of appropriate treatment for her, and spend the rest of the day attending to the business of running this hospital.

©2011 j.edwardfitzgerald all rights reserved

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One Response to “~ the raven chronicles ~ 3”

  1. gary laney February 15, 2011 at 9:03 am #

    I like the grammar as it seems like it comes from the 30’s.
    But of course now I have to wait for the rest of the story.

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