Mount Dragon - Preston Douglas - Страница 2
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“Couldn’t help overhearing.” Fossey flipped open a chart, searched his lapel pocket for a pen, hesitated. “Is our noisy friend mine?”
“Dr. Garriot’s got him,” the nurse replied. She looked up. “The first one was yours.”
A door opened somewhere, and suddenly there was the screaming again, much louder now, various urgent voices acting as counterpoint. Then the door shut again and only office noises remained.
“I’d like to see the admit,” Fossey said, returning the charts and reaching for the metal binder. He scanned the vitals quickly, noting sex, age, at the same time trying to mentally reconstruct the strains of the Dvorak andante. His eye stopped when it reached the words Involuntary Unit.
“Did you see the first one come in?” he asked quietly.
The nurse shook her head. “You should talk to Will. He took the patient downstairs about an hour ago.”
There was only one window in the Involuntary Unit at Featherwood Park. This window looked out from the guard’s station onto the stairway leading down from the Ward Two basement. As he pressed the buzzer, Dr. Fossey saw Will Hartung’s pale, shaggy head appear on the far side of the Plexiglas pane. Will disappeared, and the door mechanically unlocked itself with a sound like a gunshot.
“How ya doing, Doc,” he said, sliding behind his desk and setting aside a copy of Shakespeare’s sonnets.
“Mr. W.H., all happiness,” Fossey replied, glancing at the book.
“Very funny, Dr. Fossey. Your talents are wasted on the medical profession.” Will handed him the log, sniffing loudly. At the far end of the counter, the new orderly was filling out med sheets.
“Tell me about the early arrival,” Fossey said, signing the log and passing it back, tucking the metal binder under his arm as he did so.
Will shrugged. “Retiring type. Not much for conversation.” He shrugged again. “Not surprising, given his recent diet of Haldol.”
Fossey frowned and opened the binder again, this time scanning the admitting history. “My God. A hundred milligrams in a twelve-hour period.”
“Guess they love their meds at Albuquerque General,” Will said.
“Well, I’ll write orders after the initial evaluation,” Fossey said. “Meanwhile, no Haldol. I can’t do an eval on an eggplant.”
“He’s in six,” Will said. “I’ll take you down.”
A sign over the inner door read WARNING: ELOPEMENT RISK in large red letters. The new orderly let them through, sucking air between his big front teeth.
“You know my feelings about placing arrivals in Involuntary before an admitting diagnosis is made,” Fossey said as they started down the bleak hallway. “It can color a patient’s entire perspective on the facility, set us back before we’ve even started.”
“Not my policy, Doc, sorry,” Will replied, stopping beside a scarred black door. “Albuquerque was pretty specific on that point.” He unlocked the door, pulled the heavy bolt back. “Want me inside?” he asked, hesitating.
Fossey shook his head. “I’ll call if he gets agitated.”
The patient lay faceup on the oversized transport stretcher, arms at his sides, legs straight to the ankles. From his doorway perspective, Fossey was unable to make out any facial features save a prominent nose and the knobbed arch of a chin, stubbled from a couple of days’ growth. The doctor closed the door quietly and stepped forward, never quite used to the way the floor padding rose obligingly around his shoes. He kept his eyes on the prone figure. Beneath the thick canvas straps that crossed the stretcher, bandolier-like, the chest rose slowly, rhythmically. At the end, another strap stretched tightly across the leather ankle cuffs.
Fossey braced himself, cleared his throat, waited for a reaction.
He took a step forward, then another, mentally calculating. Fourteen hours since the release from Albuquerque General. Couldn’t be the Haldol keeping him quiet.
He cleared his throat again. “Good morning, Mister—” he began, then looked down at his binder, searching for the name.
“Dr. Franklin Burt,” came the quiet voice from the stretcher. “Forgive me for not rising to shake your hand, but as you can see ...” The sentence was left incomplete.
Fossey, startled, moved up to look at the patient’s face. Dr. Franklin Burt. He knew that name.
He glanced down at the chart again, flipping the top page. There it was: Dr. Franklin Burt, molecular biologist, M.D./Ph.D. Johns Hopkins Medical School. Senior Scientist, GeneDyne Remote Desert Testing Facility. Somebody had placed marginal question marks next to the occupation.
“Dr. Burt?” Fossey said incredulously, looking again at the man’s face.
The gray eyes focused in surprise. “Do I know you?”
The face was the same—a bit older, of course, more tanned than he remembered it, but still remarkably free of the gradual accretion of cares and worries that gravitate to the fronts of foreheads, the corners of eyes. There was a gauze bandage on one temple and the eyes were badly bloodshot.
Fossey was shaken. He’d heard this man lecture. In a way, the course of his own career had been shaped by admiration for this charismatic, witty professor. How could he possibly be here, in four-point leather restraint, surrounded by mattressed walls?
“It’s Lloyd Fossey, Doctor,” Fossey said. “I heard you speak at Yale med school. We spoke for a while afterwards. About synthetic hormones ...?”
Fossey found his mind reaching out to the man on the stretcher, willing Burt to remember.
A moment passed. Burt sighed, nodded his head slightly. “Yes. Forgive me. I do remember. You challenged me on the link between synthetic erythropoietin and metastization.”
Something inside Fossey relaxed. “I’m flattered you remember,” he said.
Burt seemed to hesitate, as if considering. “I’m glad to see you practicing,” he said at last, his lips twitching as if faintly amused by the awkward situation.
Now more than anything Fossey wanted to look at the binder in his hand. He wanted to read and reread the medical clearance and the consults, to find some explanation. But he felt Burt’s eyes on him and knew the older man was following the course of his thoughts.
Of their own accord his eyes glanced down, scanning the typed columns on the chart. He looked up instantly, but not before he’d made out the words fulminant psychosis ... extremely delusional ... rapid neuroleptization.
Dr. Burt was looking at him mildly. Feeling a strange embarrassment, Fossey reached out a hand and found a pulse under the wrist straps.
Burt blinked, moistened dry lips. He drew in a long breath of basement air. “I was driving north from Albuquerque,” he said. “You know where I’m affiliated now.”
Fossey nodded. When Burt had gone into private industry and stopped publishing, there had been the usual talk about “brain-drain” into the corporate sector.
“We’re doing experiments with influencing chimp behavior patterns. It’s a small setup, you know, we do a lot of our own running and fetching. I’d picked up lab equipment and some proprietary compounds from the GeneDyne site in Albuquerque. Including a test agent we’d developed, a synthetic derivative of phencyclidine, suspended in a gaseous medium.”
Fossey nodded again. PCP in a gaseous state. Angel dust you could breathe like laughing gas. Strange use of research money.
Burt watched Fossey’s eyes, smiled a little, or maybe winced, Fossey wasn’t sure. “We were measuring inspiration rate through lung tissue versus capillary absorption. In any case, I was driving back. I was tired and not paying attention. I ran off the road into a stony wash just past Los Lunas. Nothing serious. Except the beaker broke in the accident.”
Fossey grunted. That would do it, all right. He knew what even garden-variety angel dust could do to an otherwise normal person. In high doses, it simulated aggressive lunatic behavior. He’d seen it firsthand. It would also explain the bloodshot eyes.
There was a silence. Pupils normal, no dilation, Fossey noted. Good color. Some resting tachycardia, but Fossey knew that if he was strapped to a stretcher in a rubber room his heart might beat a little fast, too. There were absolutely no presentations of psychosis, mania, anything.
“I don’t remember a lot of details afterwards,” Burt said, a look of deep exhaustion passing across his face for the first time. “I had no credentials, of course, just a driver’s license. Amiko, my wife, is in Venice with her sister. I have no other family. They kept me heavily medicated. I guess I wasn’t too coherent.”
Fossey wasn’t surprised. An unknown man, battered from the accident, wigged out, perhaps violent, raving about being an important molecular biologist. What overworked emergency room would believe it? Easier to just arrange a psych transfer. Fossey pursed his lips, shook his head. Idiots.
“Thank God I ran into you, Lloyd,” Burt said. “It’s been a nightmare, I can’t begin to tell you. Where am I, anyway?”
“Featherwood Park, Dr. Burt,” he replied.
“I thought as much.” Burt nodded. “I’m sure you’ll straighten all this out. You can call GeneDyne now, if you like. I’m overdue and they’re no doubt worrying about me.”
“We’ll do that shortly, Dr. Burt, I promise,” Fossey said.
“Thank you, Lloyd,” Burt said, with a slight wince. No mistaking it this time.
“Anything wrong?” Fossey asked immediately.