One Minute Earlier…
Mack, the nightwatchman, breathed hard and was sweating despite the cold wet night; he was an old man who had thought such exertions were long behind him. He’d helped subdue the suspect until the town constables had arrived and then dashed off to fetch Doctor Roundtree. To his surprise, he’d met the grim faced doctor rushing into the hospital grounds, apparently already aware of the night’s events.
Mack struggled to keep up with Roundtree as the clearly furious man strode along the corridor like an angry bear. The room ahead of them was bustling with people with young Doctor Hayes at the centre of the chaos surrounded by a gaggle of nurses.
“SILENCE!” bellowed the older Doctor. Everyone fell quiet, even Doctor Hayes, “Now tell me Hayes, what has been happening?”
“It’s the Antfarm man, Doctor Roundtree. She tried to kill him with opium!” the younger man was gabbling, trying to put everything into one sentence and failing.
Two of Caledon’s finest constables shuffled through the hospital staff and out of the room, between them a hooded figure hung, iron handcuffs on her slender wrists.
Roundtree stepped up the woman and took hold of her hood, “Sister Grace! If you have killed him…” he said as he pulled it back.
Five Minutes Earlier…
“I’m coming, I’m coming” Roundtree said irritably. Someone was rapping on his front door in an entirely unnecessary fashion, “I hope you have not damaged my paint!” he added as he opened the door to the cold night.
He narrowed his eyes and glared into the dark street “If I catch you rascals, I’ll box your ears!” he shouted in to the night.
“I’d rather you didn’t,” the voice from the shadows was deep and commanding.
“Gods! You made me jump!” snapped Roundtree, clearly flustered. “Who are you and why are you skulking out there? Come on, speak up! What is the meaning of all this nonsense?”
There was the faintest of ripples in the shadows as a man dressed entirely in black with his face hidden beneath the rim of a striking top hat stepped forward into the light and replied “Who I am is not important, safe to say I am a man of science and medicine such as yourself. Why I am here is far more important as I think you will find we have a patient in common, the burnt gentleman in room fifteen and he is in great danger.”
“You’ve come to my house to tell me that? I know he’s in danger you fool! I’m his doctor!”
“You misunderstand,” the night caller spoke over the doctor, “He is in danger right now, from a killer in your hospital…”
Ten Minutes Earlier…
“That is enough of that, Sister!” said the young nurse from the darkness of the room as she reached out to grab the wrist of the cloaked and hooded figure bent over the bed. The woman beneath the hood whirled round in shock and with a shriek jabbed the glass pipette at the nurse. There was a shimmering in the inky shadows, as if the night was unfolding like a black flower kissed by moonlight, and the young nurse was replaced by a beautiful creature of wings and teeth and eyes of pure cobalt fire.
The woman beneath the hood gasped, too terrified to scream or run. A nightmare made real fixed its terrible eyes upon her and she fainted dead away.
The creature looked down at the face beneath the hood and coolly registered her shock before she once more slid into the shape of a young nurse and walked out of the room and into the corridor. Behind she heard the night nurse enter the room and bark orders to fetch the nightwatchman and the duty doctor.
Twenty Minutes Earlier…
It was there again, that tang, that wave, that sense. She was back. Amarantis Belfire looked down from her vantage point on the roof and peered at the hospital with her glowing blue eyes as if trying to peel away the layers of brick and plaster and paint so she could see inside. Somewhere in there a killer in the guise of a healer was making her way towards her next victim as surely as a spider crept over its web towards its trapped, helpless prey.
She had to do something! She leapt into the night and to the rain-wet stones below. From the shadows emerged a non-descript trainee nurse who, after straightening her uniform and checking her hat was attached correctly, briskly made her way inside and headed for room fifteen.
Two Hours Earlier…
The incinerator room was thankfully empty. She pushed the laundry cart over to the large, belching fire and carefully opened the heavy metal door. The body in the bag was heavy, she’d have to feed it in feet first and hope it folded up as it went. It was hard and she grunted as she struggled.
“Ere’ I can’t have you doing that!” She froze. The old boilerman was stood in the doorway, looking at her with a stern face lined with soot. She didn’t know what to say, just stood there as he limped his way towards her and the body in her arms. “Let me ‘elp yer, eh? Can’t have ladies lumping around great ‘eavy loads now can we?” She mutely shook her head, lowered the sheet-wrapped body back into the cart and backed away. The old man gave her a grimy smile and bent over the cart. She inched her way behind him until her fingers closing around the stout wooden shaft of a coal shovel lent against some pipework. He stopped, suddenly surprised, and began pulling back the sheets “Ere! What’s this?” She raised the shovel high over her head. An arm rolled out of the wrappings “Bloody ‘ell! What’s go’in on?” He turned to face her. The shovel sliced down once. Twice. Three times.
Panting, she closed and locked the door and went back to her grizzly task.
Five Hours Earlier…
Ward Sister Grace strode down the scrubbed corridors of Caledon’s Regency Hospital as she headed towards the laundry room and Trainee Nurse Rain. Terrified nurses peeled back and gazed down at floors before her as she stalked past. She was a fearsome beast at the best of times, but it was clear from her face that someone, somewhere was in for one hell of a roasting.
Thirteen Hours Earlier…
Trainee Nurse Rain looked up from under her bonnet at the fuming Sister and found her staring at the wretched figure on the bed.
“Sister?” she ventured timidly.
Without shifting her gaze from the patient, Sister Grace said in a voice dripping with ice “You will report to laundry and work there until further notice. I do not want to see you snooping around here again, am I understood?”
Doctor Roundtree pulled back Sister Grace’s hood and gasped, “Nurse Rain?” The young woman was almost unrecognisable, her face twisted into a terrible mask of rage and fury. She spat at the Doctor, cursing him with words foul enough to shock a navvy, she bellowed at him demanding release so she could end her patient’s suffering. Her strength, fuelled by her raw, naked anger was terrible, but the constables held her fast until she became calm and once more went limp between them.
“Why? Damn you, tell me why!” he demanded, his voice shaking with barely controlled anger.
“To help, you stupid stupid man,” she said simply, an ice chill dripping from her lips.
“You call this help? It’s murder, damn it! Murder!” hissed the doctor.
“I help them escape their pain. You merely prolong it, you arrogant bastard. You and all your kind, you just want to watch these souls writhe in agony to satisfy your twisted need to feel like a God.”
Her eyes were twin points of hatred, each carrying the joy of more murder than he could imagine. A shiver ran down his spine, “You… you accuse me?” he demanded.
“I do.” She had gone limp and compliant between the arms of the constables but it had been a ruse. She leapt forward, an animal snarl on her lips as she dove at Roundtree. The police caught her and yanked her hard to the ground, but not before she had bloodied his nose with her forehead.
“Good god!” he stammered, staggering back with blood streaming from between the fingers he held to his face. “Get this filthy animal out of here! Get her out of my sight!”
“Physician heal thyself,” she chuckled as they dragged her out and man handled her into the night.
Roundtree held to his face and entered the room to see if his patient was dead. Amazingly he could see his chest rise and falling in slow, unsteady breaths. Could nothing kill this man, he thought?
“Will he make it?” asked a nurse.
Roundtree looked at the burnt man in the bed and wondered about what Nurse Rain had said about keeping him alive to prolong his suffering. He sighed and through a handkerchief said, “If he makes it through tonight it’ll be a miracle. After that, who knows my dear, who knows.”
To be continued…
All the “Far From Home” posts can be read here.