William Doonan

I write books and stories.

MedicineLand: Chapter Forty-Two

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Julia found Adam LaPorte hovering over Karen’s face.  “What are you doing?” she asked, irritated.

“It’s OK,” Alice said.  “He says he can smell things.”

Karen Sorrows lay motionless on the couch, her eyes closed.

“It’s not cinnamon,” Adam said, “but that’s not really it.  It’s in her breath, and coming out of her pores.”

“So what is it?” Julia asked.

Adam pressed his nose to the girl’s neck.  “A little Cardamon, Oil of Cloves, very mild pepper. Why do I keep hearing the word tea?  Could that just be semantic, a construct my mind makes to account for the smell?”

“We’re not sure,” Julia said.  “If it is, it’s culture-bound.  By sharing in a common culture, we have a neurological pattern for tea that would be similar in all our brains.  That pattern, the neurons themselves could be activated by any stimulus suggestive or tea – a picture of a cup, a photograph of a tea bag.”

“But it’s not tea in the organic sense,” Adam said.  He leaned over again and pulled up her collar, his lips almost touching her clavicle.  “Something like celery but poutier.”


“Yes, like some kind of fermented celery.  I can replicate it.”

“Replicate it?”

“Well, not exactly.  I mean, who knows what the actual ingredients are?  But I can make something  close.  You ever eat strawberry ice cream?”

“Love it,” Alice said.

“It doesn’t have any actual strawberries in it, just raw chemicals.  Most of the flavoring in processed and packaged food is produced that way.  Fast food hamburgers might be three months old by the time you eat them.  So spray on a little burger flavor and we’re back in business.  Have you ever wondered why every single fast food french fry you’ve ever eaten tastes the same?”

“So they just spritz on the flavor?” Carson frowned.

“That’s right.”

“You think you can copy this tea, whatever it is?” Julia asked.

“I could if we had a sample, but we don’t.  All we have is her sweat.  So I have to filter out the chicken noodle soup and others chemistry.  You  just gave her some Valium, didn’t you?”

Alice nodded.  “You can smell that?”

“Yes I can.  Do you have a spice rack?”

Julia nodded.

“Good.  I’ll need that, and some white vinegar.”

“Vodka,” Adam continued, following her to the kitchen.  “Chocolate, just a little, like one M&M.  Baking soda, garlic, hydrogen peroxide, digitalis, and about a pound of licorice.”

“That’s quite a list.”  Julia opened the freezer and removed a liter of Vodka.  “I doubt we have any licorice around.  You’re serious about this?”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he said, moving around the kitchen opening cabinets.  “We need licorice.  Two pounds of celery.”

Julia made a list as he dictated the ingredients.

“A couple of those little packets of yeast, a box of raisins, and about a case of Moosehead.  That should do it.”

“Moosehead, as in beer?”

“Yeah, we’re looking at a full day of work.  I get thirsty.”

Julia stared at him.

“How about the other things.  You have digitalis?”

She nodded.

“I’m impressed.  We’ll also need some lab stuff.  I have to make a little still.  I can probably get the equipment from work, but it will take a day or so.”

“We don’t have a day or so,” she said.  “Write it down and we will get it from the hospital.  How long will this take?”

“Most of a day, if we can get all the equipment and supplies.”

Julia left him in the kitchen and went back to the living room where Carson and Alice sat reading the printouts of the article Rocky had printed.

“Check this out.”  Alice, held up a copy.  “It’s from CNN.”

Julia fell into a chair and began reading.

“St. Rose, Louisiana: Concordia Parish Medical Examiner Vernon LaPlace had just turned off the lights and was ready to head home when he heard knocking.  He returned the the examination room and determined the source of the knocking – the freezer.  Opening one of the three refrigerated compartments used to store corpses, Dr. LaPlace was surprised to find Martin Gregory Charbonne, formerly of New Orleans, shivering and asking for something to drink.  Even more surprised was Martin Gregory Charbonne, who had been pronounced dead six hours earlier.

Mr. Charbonne’s ‘body’ was discovered by a housekeeper at the Cricket Motel in St. Rose.  In his report, Concordia Sheriff Verbus Cole noted that Mr. Charbonne, an itinerant construction worker, checked into the motel the night before with a female companion who is still being sought for questioning.  Mr. Charbonne was pronounced dead at the scene and transported to the county morgue, where he awaited an autopsy.  According to Dr. LaPlace, the cause of death was a coronary infarction.

“It was a shock,” Mr. Charbonne told reporters from Concordia General Hospital, where he was transported for a blood transfusion and for stitches to close up the chest incision made during the autopsy.  “I woke up and it was dark and cold.  I was pretty sure I was buried.  I got real scared so I started banging on the walls and after a few minutes, the doctor let me out.  I still can’t really think right.”

“I’m a little surprised myself,” said Dr. LaPlace.  “I have heard of this kind of thing but I never thought I would see it first hand.”

When asked how it was possible to misdiagnose death, Dr. LaPlace shrugged.  “All I can say is the man had no heartbeat, no pulse, no respiration, and had a core temperature of 86 degrees when we examined him.  That means he is dead.”

When confronted with the obvious evidence – Mr. Charbonne holding up his toe tag as a souvenir — Dr. LaPlace suggested he might give some thoughts to early retirement.

This incident is outstanding in itself, but even more striking in light of two, possibly three similar, but seemingly unconnected incidents, both of which transpired in the last three weeks.

In Bellingham, Washington, the body of Pediatric Surgeon Steven Berhane was found sprawled on the deck of his forty-four foot fishing boat by the harbor master early Sunday morning.  He was pronounced dead on the scene by paramedics but ‘recovered’ en route to Mercy General.  Mr. Berhane appears to have suffered a small stroke but is otherwise quite alive.

The body of convicted rapist Edward Lee Washington, an inmate at California State Prison at Avenal, was discovered in his cell when he failed to appear at morning roll call.  Mr. Washington’s body was housed in the prison morgue for four days while the department of corrections attempted to locate relatives.  Mr. Washington was subsequently spotted running from the low-security medical facility and shot dead by prison guards when he failed to respond to commands and warning shots.

Pending notification of next of kin, management of Sacramento Medical Center have still not released details of the death of knife sharpener, Weldon “Cooter” Corman, who may or may not have woken up during his autopsy.

Although these incidents are apparently unrelated, the misdiagnosis of several deaths within a two-week period has left medical experts baffled.”

“Baffled indeed,” said Carson.  “I’ll bet these three gents had one thing in common.”

“A construction worker, a surgeon, and a rapist,” Alice began, “and a knife sharpener.  “They are all men.”

“And they are all junkies.”

“You think?” Alice asked.

Carson told her what Adam had told him.

Written by williamdoonan

June 20, 2013 at 1:24 pm

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