Dr. Stephanie Benoit sat quietly as she thought of her father. Her memories were becoming less clear as she aged, but she still clearly remembered a few occasions that were notable.
One was the day he received his paramedic license. It was a grand celebration, with family and friends spending an entire Sunday congratulating her father for his efforts. At the time, she didn’t realize the significance; especially since she couldn’t understand how he’d fit his hours of training between hours of holding down a construction job. She only knew how wonderful she felt all day.
Another was the day in school when the assistant principal came for her during class. She was nervous and wondered what transgression prompted the visit. When she was kind, and sympathetic, the confusion turned to fear. When she saw her mother at the front entrance, she knew something terrible happened. Between the tears, she learned her father was killed in an automobile accident. A large truck slammed into the side of her father’s ambulance, while crossing a busy intersection. The driver said he never heard a thing. Later tests determined he was almost clinically deaf and soon lost his CDL.
Stephanie studied Dr. Carlson’s face for a few moments. His face was still surprising, since his eyebrows and mustache were missing. The explosion in the lab singed the hair and the nurses cut them short to remove the unsightly hair. A few small cuts were now almost healed. The redness from the flash disappeared within days. If she didn’t know better, she’d only think he was sleeping.
Stephanie had stayed with the doctor every day since the accident. Usually, it was the hour before work, since she could delegate that time. She’d sit and hope he would wake, although the hope was starting to fade. The neurologist was confused, since there wasn’t any severe brain injury. He knew that the removal of physical causes only left mental reasons for coma. There were no tests, or procedures to cure; only the patient could awake, or not.
Stephanie changed her focus to staring out the window. The last few days were beautiful, but the forecast was for a change, with the change for the worse. While she stared, she never noticed when the doctor opened his eyes.
“Would you get me some water? I feel as though I haven’t had any for days.”
Startled, Stephanie could only turn and stare. For a moment, she was confused, but the confusion was soon replaced by extreme joy, which brought tears to her eyes.
“You’re awake!” was all she could say.
“Of course I’m awake.”
“I’m sorry, I guess you don’t know.
“You’ve been in a coma for the last eight days.”
The doctor could only stare while he absorbed the information. “Eight days?” filled his thoughts.
After some time, Stephanie asked: “How do you feel?”
After a short thoughtful pause, Dr. Carlson replied: “Like I need to get up soon. My back feels as though I’ve been in bed too long.”
Before Stephanie could say anything, a voice came from the nurse’s intercom: “Can I help you?” A little surprised, she realized the doctor had pushed the call button.
“I’m thirsty. Can I have some water please?”
The nurse didn’t answer. Within seconds the door opened; she peered in for a few seconds; then hurried away without closing the door.
“I’m guessing she has specific instructions from my doctor. Who is my doctor?
“Your primary care physician is the same you’ve had for years. The neurologist is Dr. Langham.”
“Of Langham and Porter?”
“I think so.”
“They have a good reputation.”
“Doctor, Do you remember what happened.”
Dr. Carlson didn’t answer. He silently lay in his bed and collected his thoughts. Before he could answer, the door opened and Dr. Langham entered the room.
“It’s good you’re awake, Dr. Carlson.”
”I’d say it is. Another week of this hospital food will be the death of me.”
Dr. Langham didn’t catch the joke until Dr. Carlson smiled.
“I need to run a few tests and watch you a day or two. Do you remember what happened?”
Dr. Carlson remembered every detail of the event, from the moment the thug entered the room, until he faded into unconsciousness after the electrical discharge.”
“I remember driving to work on a particularly nasty morning. After that, I don’t remember anything.”
Dr. Carlson was cautious and wanted more time to think about the morning at the morgue. He felt the man that died wasn’t acting alone. What was most disturbing was the fact that few would know he had the locket. Nick was alone when he stopped by the morgue the evening before.
“Your white cell count is a little high, so I’m going to start you on antibiotics.”
“Judging by how it feels, I’m thinking everything will return to normal if you’d remove this damned catheter.”
“I’ll have the nurse remove it. I only require you to make a victory lap down the hall to insure you won't pass out when you stand. Do you have any pain?”
“My back is sore, but that’s typical for any long period in bed.”
"Grasp my hands Doctor."
Dr. Carlson grabbed his hands and squeezed as hard as he could. The small grimace on Dr. Langham's face let him know he still had his strength. Dr. Langham appeared pleased.
"No problems there. Do you feel any numbness, or having problems with your sight?"
"Other than astigmatism and the usual hyperopia problems with old age, I'd say my sight is perfect."
Stephanie, realizing she had the doctor's new glasses, responded with: "I have your glasses. I'm afraid your old glasses didn't last the accident, so these are your replacements."
After placing the glasses on his face, the doctor took a few moments to determine the fit, which turned out to be perfect. They were identical to his other pair; Stephanie had taken time to insure they were the same.
With a smile, the doctor made the remark: "I might be wrong about you missing your true calling. These are perfect."
Stephanie beamed after the remark and, again, realized how fond she was of the doctor.
In the beginning of her residency, she felt Dr. Carlson was too harsh; his demands appeared arbitrary and capricious. After time, she realized he only wanted her to be the best in her field. He rewarded her performance on her last birthday. The gold plated scalpel he gave her had the inscription "Scientia De Mortis" engraved on the handle. "Knowledge From Death". The scalpel was framed in a shadow box on the wall of her small office at the morgue. She would value it forever. When she finally took her test, her experience with the doctor guaranteed her pick of where she wanted to practice. He was rare in his field. How he choose his assistants wasn't known, but in the end, their skills were sought; few had the degree of training she would eventually have.
"I'll be back in a few hours, doctor. Try to stay out of trouble."
After the neurologist left, Dr. Carlson asked Stephanie: "What about Nick?"
"I thought you didn't remember anything?"
"I remember that much. Have you heard from Nick?"
"I haven't, but Eric has something to tell you. He's come in every day and told me to call if you woke."
"I'll call him. You have enough to do. What about the morgue? You said there was an explosion."
"It was mostly cosmetic, although there was substantial electrical damage. Since you demanded all wiring and conduit runs were exposed when you built your lab, the wiring was complete yesterday. The electricians told me to thank you for making their life easier."
"My first morgue was an electrical nightmare. Lights would flicker, receptacles were a crap shoot and the entire mess was a constant pain in my butt. I talked to an electrical engineer about the problems and he told me the best way to avoid them in the future."
"I need to go doctor. I've been swamped, and the temporary examiner is only focused on his golf game. I do have some results from the samples we sent off before the accident. I'll review them, but you should be back in the morgue in a few days to make the final determination."
"One other thing: a really pleasant woman stopped by a few times during the last week. She said her name was Carol Stanton and that she was like family. I told her I would tell you she stopped by."
Dr. Carlson paused in his thoughts at the comment. Carol was definitely family, since she was his wife up to almost thirty years ago. They parted as friends when they both realized their marriage would never last their careers. They never had children together, although she had two from her second marriage. He still missed her on some occasions."
"Thank you, Dr. Benoit."
Stephanie paused after she heard the doctor's words. It was a first and a compliment. She hid her tears as she left the room.
Stephanie was gone only for a few seconds, when the phone rang. Waiting for it to ring a few more times, Dr. Carlson finally answered with a short "hello"
Recognizing Eric's voice, he immediately replied: "Eric. What about Nick?"
"Doctor, It's very important you don't say anything to anyone about the explosion in the morgue."
The doctor didn't reply. Thoughts raced through his mind about the event, the events of the day before and the fact the man that died in his morgue wanted the locket.
"I'll tell you about Nick after you're released. I want to pick you up at the hospital when you're discharged"
A feeling of foreboding came over the doctor. There were too many unanswered questions and his immediate thought was that dangerous times were ahead.
"I'll call you and let you know."
"Thanks Doc. I'll see you later"
As the doctor analyzed the last few days, his thoughts turned to the tangled information that seemed to lead to something larger than what appeared. He would have a few days to think about these things, but knew any contribution to determining what it was would never happen while he stayed at the hospital.
"I'm here to see if you can walk."
The doctor looked up at the nurse that entered the room.
"It's a good damn thing you're here. I've had all this catheter I want. Let's go make the "victory lap", so I can pee like a normal human being."