Nighthawks – Chapter Ten: The Preordained Destiny of a Madman

The paralyzed man lay in a crumpled heap on the floor of his cell.  It was the same general position, in which, the two orderlies had dumped him and left.  He was alone in the dark.  His muscles twitched, and spasmed involuntarily. His nostrils were filled with the stench of burned hair.  He hadn’t the strength or control to even lift his shaking frame to the cot – He lay.  His breaths came in ragged rasps.  He knew it would be hours before he began to recover from the Cross.

The demons were gone.  They fled at the first jolt of electricity to his brain.  His mind was at peace – a painful, dark peace.  He began humming a mysterious tune.  It was very weak and thready at first, but began gaining strength.  He had nothing of his old life in this godforsaken place – except the music.  It never abandoned him.  It had been weeks since he had been able to write any of these melodies down.  The orderlies had discovered and confiscated the pencil he had pilfered from an unaware nurse.

He heard the slow, rhythmic shuffling of footsteps approaching his tiny cell.  It was a very distinctive rhythm.  He knew, without having to see, that it was the doctor.  The reptilian, doctor Smith.  When the shuffling halted, he could feel the doctor’s cold eyes looking upon his aching form on the floor.

“Now, doesn’t that feel better, Mr. Simpson?”  The doctor said, in his smooth, flat voice.  It was almost a whisper.

Simpson pretended to be unconscious.  He just wanted the doctor to go away.  Let him torture someone else.  He didn’t wish this treatment upon anyone, but in his current state, he just wanted to slip into blackness.

 

The doctor turned from the cell door and walked away from the whimpering mess on the cell floor.  He had more pressing matters at that moment.  He needed to find out why a police detective had been to visit Dr. Swann.  How close were they to him?  What did they know?  Emile Smith never panicked, but the situation was quickly becoming untenable for him.  It wasn’t long before he was at the administrator’s office.  For the first time, in his recollection, he took no pleasure in Nurse Hansen’s blatant dislike for him.  He barely perceived her involuntary shudder at his arrival.  He had no time for games at that moment.  He was shown in to Swann’s office almost immediately.

As Smith entered the office, his eyes were immediately drawn to a beautiful clock perched on a table to the side of the administrator’s desk.

Dr. Swann noticed Smith’s gaze and spoke up, “Noticed the new procurement, I see.”

Smith’s blood boiled with jealousy, “Quite exquisite.  French?”

“Yes, 1670’s.  A Balthazar Martinot clock with case by Andre-Charles Boulle.” Swann explained in a self-congratulatory tone.

Smith was awestruck.  How did he get a national treasure such as this out of Paris?

“Beautiful.”  Smith murmured, pretending to show little interest, and sat opposite the fat doctor.

“Damn weird, though.  Everything is in perfect working order, but the thing keeps losing time.  I just don’t understand it.  Anyway, on to more pressing matters.  What did you want to see me about?”

Dr. Smith played coy, “I hope it is nothing of import, but word around the hospital is a metropolitan police detective was here.  I wanted to know if there was any assistance I could provide.”

Swann cursed himself.  He should have known Smith would have eyes and ears all over the hospital.  It was stupid of him not to consider inquiries from the staff.  He needed to appease Dr. Smith without letting him know about the journal, Travis had given him.  He measured his thoughts and provided a simple, yet plausible lie, “Oh.  There is no need to bother about that.  Mike is a childhood friend.  Mike…that’s detective Travis, and I grew up together.  It was a social call, nothing to do with anything.”

Smith knew the fat man was lying, but smiled, nonetheless, “That’s is reassuring to hear, sir.  I’m glad it was nothing serious,” Smith continued, but he couldn’t resist throwing in a barb, “Especially with that leak still unexplained.”

“Well, we do still have that problem to deal with, but I am no further along that inquiry than I was before.  Have you made any progress?”

“Not yet, but I am working on it.  Unless there is anything else, I’ll excuse myself and attend to my duties.”

Swann hated the man, now more than ever, “No, you may go.”

Smith headed for the exit, but stole one more look at the clock.  He knew he had been lied to, but didn’t know why.  He couldn’t take any chances.  It was time to start covering his tracks.  He had come too far to be stopped now.  He made a beeline for his two most trusted assistants: Nurse Packard and the even more trusted and valuable, Kruk.  He trusted the orderly implicitly, but just came to the realization that he had no idea the man’s first name.

 

*

He wasn’t sure he was about to do the right thing, but he felt he needed to intervene.  The thought his actions would directly influence events going forward made him queasy.  There was still no sign of the watchmaker and something had to be done or all their hard work would be undone.  He had to take matters into his own hands, but he couldn’t be discovered, either.  He needed to give them a push in the right direction without drawing any more attention to his presence.

The fog in the night air hid his presence across from the Elysium.  It also obscured his glasses.  He took them off, wiped them with a rag and returned them to his face.  He took long, even breaths. For decades, he had merely watched the denizens of the city, but now he was about to influence events.  It was time…he had a small window of time to pull this off.  He slipped into the Elysium just as the musician called Jake walked by on his way to the washroom.  The man in the glasses waited outside the washroom until he was sure the piano-player was occupied.

The man pulled a yellowed envelope from his jacket breast pocket.  He took one last look at it before sliding it under the door.  After his task was complete, he quickly made for the exit.  He didn’t look back until he was outside the Elysium.  It was then he knew he had successfully gotten away.  He had done what little he could, it was now up to them.  He quietly and inconspicuously faded back into the shadows.  The street was dark and silent.

 

*

 

The dream came to Jackson Cooper in fragmented bits and pieces.  There was the smiling baby wrapped in rags; then there was his mentor – Simon Graves, then there was his friend – Mike Travis; then there was there was the unstable writer – Eddie Parker.  It was all a mass of confusing images.  He tossed and turned, covered in sweat.  The alcohol made his dreams vivid, yet disjointed.

He felt relief at holding the infant.  She was healthy, despite all she had been through in her short life.  She was smiling up at him, despite her obvious hunger.  Cooper believed Graves when he said the child was special.  He didn’t clarify or expound on the statement, but Jackson could tell Graves was right.

Then Jack Burris entered the dream in mid-conversation, “It’s for her own good.  It’s the only way to make sure he can’t find her.  She’ll have a better life out there…this city is no place for her, especially with him looking for her.”

Cooper knew he was right, but something in his gut didn’t set right.  He glanced over to see a young child playing with a dolly.  The young girl was five and in serious conversation with the dolly.  Jackson turned back to Burris and nodded in sad agreement.

Then Simon Graves appeared and spoke, “No one else can know about this.  No one.  The fewer who know the safer she will be.  Jack is taking us to the city limit tonight and we’ll will have a ride to take us out into the country, waiting for us.  There is a good family waiting for her.  She’ll have a wonderful life and eventually, this place will be mere buried memories, half-remembered.  I’ll be near, just as a precaution.  I’ve already shuttered the house and won’t be going back.”

Then there was the face of Eddie Parker, disappearing into the cold river that night.  The fog hid his flailing form as the current pulled him away; his screams becoming fainter and fainter until there was only the sounds of the river.    He looked to Travis, severely hurt on the river bank and rushed to him.  He got to him quickly – unconscious, but breathing, at least.

Jackson Cooper awoke to find himself doused in sweat, and on the floor of his office.  He had thrashed about so much while asleep, he had fallen to the floor.  He crawled to his desk and used it to help lift himself up.  As he steadied himself, he glanced down and saw the note.  It was written in Emma’s hand.  It only had the day’s date and the name: Elysium.  He poured himself a belt of bourbon, downed it, and headed for the door.  He may have slipped recently, but he was still a damned good journalist and it was high time he turned himself around.  Emma had covered for him for too long.  As he reached the office door, he paused, turned back and grabbed a flask from his desk drawer.  He needed to find out what Emma was working on and why she was going to the waterfront alone.

 

*

 

The demons were back.  They were subdued and it took several moments for him to realize they were with him.  They were whispering warnings to him.  Something was terribly wrong and even the demons were scared.  He still couldn’t move; his body lie crumpled on the cell floor.  There was nothing he could do to heed the demons’ warnings.  Then he heard the quickly paced footfalls approaching.  It was too soon for them to be coming for him.

He was wrong.  He heard the key in the door and then the door opened.  He felt two sets of huge hands lift him to his feet.  They dragged him out of the cell and away to his unknown destiny.  He was dead weight and it was a struggle, even for the large men to maneuver his limp body through the maze of corridors to an examining room.  This was something different.  He had never been to this place.  Just as his hopes were beginning to rise, they were dashed the instant Nurse Packard entered the room.  Smith’s crony.

The reedy old nurse ignored him upon her entrance.  Her vulture-like features betrayed her ruthless personality.  The orderlies roughly lifted him to a bed and strapped him down.  The restraints were pointless, he was immobile as he was.  The nurse prepared a hypodermic and approached the weakened patient.  She checked his pulse, and lifted an eyelid to examine his pupil’s activity.  She was so close to him, he could smell her putrid breath.  He wished he could just reach up and strangle the evil nurse.

It was then the doctor entered.  He approached the patient, shaking his head, “It’s a shame, really.  We were making so much progress with this one.  He lasted so much longer than the others.  We are on the verge of something wonderful; if only these simpletons could see that.  Now we must take a small step back, so we can lunge forward in the future.”

The nurse hung on his every word.  She was the most dangerous type of evil – a true believer.  “Yes, doctor.”

She handed him the syringe and stepped back.  He examined it and approached Simpson, “I’m sorry it has come to this.  We were so close to curing you, but just know it was not in vain.  What we learned from you will be used going forward.”

Simpson knew what the doctor meant.  He didn’t know what was in the syringe, but his heart sank.  He knew he would not be waking up from this shot.  He tried to resist, but he couldn’t move.  His muscles still refused to obey him.  First, he felt the cold of the syringe against his skin; then the sharp jab of the needle entering his flesh.  Soon, he felt euphoric and warm all over.  As he drifted off, he thought, Dying’s not so bad…

     Doctor Smith gave orders to the orderlies on the disposal of the body, when he realized they were not listening to him, but staring at the corpse on the bed.

“What is it, you fools?”  He asked.

“He’s smiling.”  One of the orderlies murmured.

Doctor Smith slapped the orderly to regain his undivided attention, “Take the body down to the incinerator.  Kruk has started it up, by now, and is waiting for it.  There must not be any evidence.  After you have disposed of the body, destroy anything in his room and scrub it down.  Go, now.”

The doctor walked out and sighed.  He was almost in the clear; a few more loose-ends had to be dealt with, sooner than later.  He knew he could trust Kruk to eliminate the two orderlies.  Some fabricating of the records will show both men had the night off and were nowhere near the hospital when they disappeared.  Now, he had to find out exactly what Swann knew.

 

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