William Doonan

I write books and stories.

MedicineLand: Chapter Sixty-Two

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Julia and Carson tied Condor Nyle in a series of bungie knots as Billy St. Clair stood motionless by the window.

“Rocky should be here soon,” Julia said.  “I don’t really want to be here alone for much longer.”

“We’re not alone.”  Carson looked around.  “She’s here.  She’s here right now, I can feel her.”


“Karen Sorrows.”

“You know this how?”  Alice demanded.

Carson tapped his head.  “She told me just now.”

“No way.”  Alice stared at the shotgun that rested by the wheelchair.  “If she’s here, I’ll bet dollars to donuts, she’s not alone.  This isn’t good, Julia.”

“Agreed.”  Julia picked up the shotgun. “If Ruth Black wants to talk with me, she can send me an e-mail.”

They heard a knock on the door, but Carson was already maneuvering his chair.  “It’s for me,” he said.

Karen Sorrows stood at the entrance.  She was wearing a blue blazer over gray sweatpants.  She looked like a healthy young woman.  She looked alluring.  “I’m going to need you,” she told Carson.  “I’m going to need you for a long time.”

Tim Murphy sped through the open door.  He scooped up Karen and carried her inside.  They heard the car a moment later as it roared up the low stairs and came to a stop in front of the open door.
“No,” Carson screamed as Rocky leapt out of the driver’s seat.  “Leave her alone.”

Tim Murphy bound the girl’s hands and left her at Julia’s feet.  Then he moved out onto the terrace where half a dozen men lumbered toward the door. “In or out, Rocky?  I think we have too many here right now to get us all out.”

“In then.”

“Wait,” Carson screamed.  “You too,” he screamed at the figures outside.  “We can resolve this.”

Tim Murphy counted at least a dozen of them now.  He held two pistols, each with sixteen rounds, and he had always considered himself devilishly fast at reloading.  He felt good about their chances.  It would be dirty, like that time in Mozambique when he had taken a job he shouldn’t have.  “I’m going to start shooting in three seconds,” he said.

“Wait,” Julia told him.  “You wait, Tim.  You wait till I tell you.”

In deploying personnel, it is important to consider both the temperament and potential of each individual.  This much Adam learned the hard way, toiling at SUBA.  When one exhaustive direct mail campaign had failed, Adam detailed its author to the Candlestick floor, where the man proved incapable of even the most rudimentary retail packet assembly duties.  Now, he himself felt ill-used.  A master of chemistry and love, he, Adam, had been detailed to climb a decaying stairway and break into the second floor, to approach from above.

Adam cursed as his foot punched through a step and he maneuvered himself onto the next step.  “I should be directing this from some console somewhere.”

“Don’t you come in here,” called out a voice from inside.

Adam pulled a giant splinter from his hand.  He was  breathing heavily.  So far none of them have been armed, he told himself.  He kicked the door open.

A thick slate fireplace dominated most of one wall, but his attention was fixed on the woman who sat on a decaying  armoire across the room.

“And who might you be?”

“You don’t know?” she asked.  She was an older black woman, dolled up, fashionable even.

“No, ma’am,” Adam said.  “I don’t.”  He held the policeman’s big automatic pistol before him.

“Do you all even talk with one another, share information?  You might by now have some awareness of who I am.”

Adam hiked up his pants.  “I’m going to guess that you’re the number one priestess or the number two priestess.  I’m told both are senior citizens.”

“You’re a funny man,” she said.  “But this has nothing to so whatsoever with priestesses.  I’m a simple woman, nothing more.  But if you were to sit with me for a spell, I could tell you some grand things.”

“What kind of grand things?”

“How you might live to see a man walk on the moon.”

Adam frowned.  “They did that in 1969.”

Millicent Sorrows frowned too.  “Memory serves only now and again.”  She pulled what looked like a cigarette from a thin silver case.  “Wait just one moment and I will open up your world.”

Adam inhaled half a breath and stopped.  Something new here, something very old, a dewy, earthy scent.

“Come closer.” Millicent Sorrows stood.  She had the cigarette-thing in her hand now and took a step toward him.

“I’ll shoot you,” he said, holding the gun unsteadily before him.

“I’m only here to protect my daughter.”

Adam inhaled again, not deeply.  He couldn’t smell any tobacco, though a trace amount of the tea-like substance he had brewed for Karen lingered in the room.  “I helped her,” he said.  “Do you know that?  I made the drink, the tea, that helped her.”

Millicent Sorrows stood still.

“I want her to be safe too,” Adam said.

She stared at him, locked her eyes onto his and sniffed.  “And yet you came to kill her.”

He shook his head and pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, placed it over his nose and mouth.  “I didn’t come to kill anyone.”

She held his gaze a moment longer.  “Troubled man,” she said.  “You have much to atone for.”

“I’m trying,” he said.  “I’m trying every day.  Please don’t make me kill you.”

She opened the case and gingerly set the cigarette inside.  “These days, so few men have any sense of decorum.  You may be the last man in the country who carries a handkerchief.  Is it silk?”

He nodded.

“You should know that it wouldn’t have helped; you would still have died.”

“I believe you,” Adam said.  “And with five bullets from my gun, you would have died too.”

“An impasse.”  Millicent Sorrows looked down at the floor.  “Sometimes it isn’t clear what one should do.  I felt that way in the voting booth some years back, but in the end, I cast my lot with William Howard Taft.  I thought he did well in the Philippines.”

“He was a heavy man,” Adam noted.  “Powerfully built.  Also wise.”

Millicent Sorrows picked up her bag.  “This has gone on too long,” she said.  Then she handed him the cigarette case.  “Help my daughter.”

Adam pointed the gun at the floor as she walked out the door.


Written by williamdoonan

August 29, 2013 at 11:38 am

Posted in Fiction, MedicineLand

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