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Blackwood Farm

Page 19



"BY THE TIME we reached Mayfair Medical I was a gibbering idiot in a bloody nightshirt. I was in the back of Aunt Queen's limo with her on one side and Clem on the other and Big Ramona in front of us, on the J seat, and Jasmine at the far end of the J, back to the driver, everybody begging me to calm down. Clem's fingers were biting into my arm and Aunt Queen was exerting as much pressure as she could. At one point, Big Ramona told Aunt Queen to move, and she took ahold of me like a professional wrestler.

"It was the old story. The more you tell people you're not insane the crazier they think you are. And they clearly thought I was crazy.

"How many times did I say that the intruder had been in the house? How many times did they tell me that was impossible? How many times did I tell them that Goblin broke the glass, Goblin saved my life, how many times did they exchange their urgent heartfelt glances?

"I was still raving when we pulled into the Emergency porte cochere, and they had a gurney ready for me. Of course I swore up and down that I didn't need it. Then I realized I was barefoot and my feet were scratched from the glass. All right. Hospital regulations.

"I could have dressed properly before we ever left home, if only people had listened.

"But off I went into the Emergency Room, where the nightshirt was unceremoniously cut off and topical medicines were applied to the cuts and scrapes all over me.

"As to my head, I told them that the pain was killing me. The stranger had slammed me against the wall. Give me something for my headache if you do nothing else. You can forget about the scratches and bruises.

"And bruises there were aplenty. And when I saw how bad they were, I started yelling for Aunt Queen and Jasmine to come. Oh, if only Pops were here! Oh, damn!

"They began to tie me down and I went truly crazy.

"All the time, Goblin was with me, very strong, very visible, his face full of concern, but I didn't dare try to speak to him and he knew it. After the energy he had used I couldn't understand why he still looked so dense and so powerful. He didn't like what was happening. He made no bones about it. And suddenly I became terrified that he would start breaking the glass and the whole scene would devolve into chaos.

" 'Goblin, don't do anything in here,' I said, staring at him. 'It will only make it worse. Let me just play it on out.¡¯

"Then Dr. Winn Mayfair himself, proud scion of the legendary Mayfair family and working head of the whole complex, approached the gurney. It seemed a spell fell over the Emergency Room, doctors and nurses mesmerized by the mere presence of the guy.

"I calmed down too. I was quite literally bound hand and foot, and why should I object to this doctor examining me?

"Now, the only reason I knew anything about Dr. Winn Mayfair was that Lynelle had told me all about him. He had been born in New Orleans, reared in Boston and become a physician up North, coming South only when the family here contacted him and offered him a dream job at the new medical center.

"He had become the partner and confidant of Rowan Mayfair, the other M.D. member of the famous clan, the one who had created and endowed the center and designed all its special features.

"It was Dr. Winn who took over the actual day-to-day management of everything, whereas Dr. Rowan worked tirelessly in research having to do with human growth hormone, Lynelle's old dream.

"Somewhere behind the scenes was Dr. Winn's father, Dr. Elliott Mayfair, a cardiac surgeon, and he had also been persuaded to transplant back home, and Rowan, Elliott and Winn Mayfair were the backbone of the establishment.

"Dr. Winn had a reputation for having a very quiet voice and a very gentle touch. His field had been neurosurgery -- the same field as that of Dr. Rowan Mayfair -- and the two were said to be cousins who resembled each other in temperament and gifts, as well as physical looks, though they had only met recently, each quite astonished at the other.

"Lynelle had worshiped the guy.

"What I saw was a smooth, brilliant and attentive man, tall and lean, who had been roused from bed to meet Miss Lorraine McQueen and her legendary boy prodigy who communed with the Dead.

"He had beautifully groomed silver blond hair and cold blue eyes behind rectangular wire-rimmed glasses, and he talked to me under his breath, which tended to give his words a confidential tone, which I frankly welcomed. He also spoke slowly.

"At once he took my blood pressure himself, though a nurse had done it before, and then he looked into both my pupils. He put his stethoscope to my head, listening for the longest time, as though my brain were talking to him. Then he felt my glands and he inspected the bruises on my arms. His touch was reverent.

" 'I know your head hurts,' he said in a liquid voice, 'but we can't give you anything for the pain that might mask the symptoms of the head injury. As soon as they've finished with these lacerations, we're taking you for a CAT scan.¡¯

" 'I didn't do this to myself,' I said. 'I'm not insane. You won't find any lesions in my temporal lobe. Mark my word. I'm miserable right now, but I'm not crazy.¡¯

"He looked at me intently and for a long moment, and then he said, 'They told me you were eighteen, is that right?¡¯

" 'Just about nineteen,' I said. 'Does eighteen and a half mean anything?¡¯

"He smiled. 'Yes, I suppose it does,' he said. 'We won't be looking for seizures or lesions now. We're looking for bleeding from the wound that's causing your headache. We're going to be waking you up if you fall asleep. Now I'm going to get out of the way, and I'll see you after the CAT scan.¡¯

" 'You're a neurosurgeon, right?' I said. I wanted to hold on to him. 'Well, I swear to you that what I saw didn't come from my brain and I don't want you to cut a piece out of it. I'd rather rave in a padded cell than have that happen.¡¯

"Two orderlies, or at least that's what I thought they were, had come to take me away, but he gestured for them to wait.

" 'Tell me yourself,' he said, 'what happened to you.¡¯

" 'This stranger, this man who'd been trespassing on a swamp hermitage on our property -- he got into my bedroom in spite of the guards around our house, and he dragged me out of bed, pulled me into the bathroom, banged my head against the wall and cursed at me and threatened me.¡¯

"I stopped. I didn't want to tell him about Goblin. Some deep instinct told me not to tell him about Goblin. But that instinct didn't stop me from silently summoning Goblin, and, quite suddenly, Goblin stood at the foot of the gurney, still looking extremely solid and vividly colored, which was amazing after his ordeal, and he shook his head in a firm negation.

" 'There was broken glass,' I said, 'from the lavatory mirror and the shower door. I think I got a few scrapes, nothing more than that.¡¯

" 'How did this intruder drag you from bed?' Dr. Winn asked.

" 'By my arms.¡¯

"Dr. Winn looked at both my arms. They were black and blue now. He studied them thoughtfully.

"Dr. Winn then asked me to lean forward so he could see the back of my head. I did, and I felt his amazingly gentle fingers touching a huge bump there. His touch sent a tingling all through me.

"Again, Goblin shook his head No. Don't tell him about us. He will hurt me.

" 'Do you believe me now?' I asked. 'That I didn't do this to myself?¡¯

" 'Oh, yes, I believe you completely,' he said. 'None of your injuries are self-inflicted. For a variety of reasons it's quite impossible for them to have been self-inflicted. But we've got to get that CAT scan.¡¯

"I was immensely relieved.

"The CAT scan was a relatively simple ordeal, which revealed that there was no bleeding inside of my head and that my brain was not swelling, and immediately after Dr. Mayfair confirmed these results I was wheeled to a fairly lavish suite consisting of a living room and two bedrooms. One bedroom was mine. Aunt Queen was setting up shop in the other one. Jasmine, who had gone home for her clothes, was already back but would soon have to leave again.

"I promised to leave the IV alone and to cooperate with everything if the restraints were removed, and Dr. Mayfair agreed to this readily.

" 'There are guards on the door, aren't there?' I asked.

"Aunt Queen confirmed that there were. A uniformed police officer was right down the hall. And Clem was in the parlor.

"I could see that Aunt Queen had been crying. But even more distressing to me was the fact that she still wore her feathered negligee. She hadn't had time to change. I felt bitterly angry and at the same time frightened.

" 'You know, this is a strange situation, my Little Boy,' she said as she came to sit by my bed. (Goblin was hovering in the corner.) 'We have two possible explanations for what happened tonight and either one is monstrous.¡¯

" 'Believe me, there's only one explanation,' I said, 'and this man is a threat!' I then confessed to her how I had burnt the stranger's books and how this had provoked him. 'He's an eccentric, I can vouch for that by the cut of his handsome black clothes and his long hair, but he's strong as an ox, and Goblin gave him a terrific scare. He didn't know what was hitting him or where the glass was coming from.¡¯

"I stopped. I realized I had told her all this in the car. I had told her over and over. Was she listening to me now because Dr. Winn had said my wounds weren't self-inflicted?

"She was deeply troubled. I wanted to be strong for her, not weak, not in a hospital bed. I picked up the small control pad for the bed and cranked it so that I could sit up.

"Dr. Winn came in to take his leave. 'The CAT scan's fine,' he repeated. 'And in the next few days we'll run some more tests. All you have to do, Quinn, is stay in bed. I'll be talking to you later this morning.¡¯

" 'Doctor,' I said, 'would I try your patience if I asked you a question?¡¯

" 'No, not at all, what is it?¡¯

" 'There was a brilliant premed student; a friend of mine. She'd been accepted into a research project here. She died as the result of a traffic accident. I wonder if you knew her.¡¯

"A change came into his calm face that was very eloquent of suffering. 'You're speaking of Lynelle Springer,' he said.

"I nodded.

" 'You're the boy she taught, the boy she talked so much about, aren't you?' he asked. 'Of course. Tarquin Blackwood, her pride and joy. She loved you the way she loved her own children.¡¯

"I swallowed. I was about to cry. I hadn't expected this much of an answer. 'Is it true?' I asked, 'that after the accident she never regained consciousness? She never knew how badly she was hurt?¡¯

" 'It's true,' he said. He spoke in a humble voice, a voice that was reverent. 'We had her here for two weeks. Her daughters came. They played tapes for her of music and poetry readings,' he said. 'But she was down too deep and her injuries were too great. Everything was done that could be done, and then she left us.¡¯

"I felt immeasurable relief knowing all this. I felt like some key chapter in my life was finally closed so that it could remain with me in its entirety now without a host of little distractions. I also felt sure this man wouldn't lie to me -- ever -- about anything.

"Aunt Queen inundated me with kisses and told me she was going to get dressed.

"Fr. Kevin Mayfair came into the room and sat down beside me. Goblin, who still stood solidly at the end of the bed, eyed him suspiciously.

" 'So what do you want me to say?' I asked Fr. Kevin. 'They've probably told you all I told them. They've told you that Goblin rescued me. You know Goblin. Goblin comes to Mass with me every Sunday.¡¯

" 'Don't be so scared of me, Quinn,' he said, his tone firmer and a little higher in timbre than that of Dr. Winn. 'I'm not the enemy. I'm not here to haul you up before the Spanish Inquisition. Your housekeeper, Ramona, she saw all this flying glass. If I'd seen it, maybe I'd never doubt Almighty God again. Maybe the Devil can do that for us.¡¯

" 'It wasn't the Devil in that bathroom,' I said. 'It was an angry man, a tall, good-looking, vain man. He got past the guards and yanked me right out of sleep. And then Goblin, my Goblin' -- I looked at him at the foot of the bed and saw him anxiously eyeing Fr. Kevin -- 'my Goblin, he broke the glass to drive the man away from me. He sent the glass flying at the man and the man couldn't see Goblin any more than you can. The man didn't know what was happening. You've got to understand, Goblin isn't from the Devil. There has to be some in-between kind of spirit that's neither devil nor angel. There has to be.¡¯

"Fr. Kevin nodded. 'Maybe you're right,' he said, to my surprise. He looked off for a moment in an almost dreamy way, then back to me. I found him distractingly handsome. It wasn't just the true red hair and the green eyes, it was the alert expression and the excellent proportions of his face, the shortness of the nose and the length of his full mouth. His voice was kind.

" 'Two years ago,' he said, 'or maybe less, I wouldn't have believed you. But now? Since coming South I've heard so much of ghosts and family curses that I'm more flexible of mind and disposition.' He paused. 'But I'll tell you this. Whether they come from the Devil or inside our brains, whether they're ghosts or disembodied beings with no true origin, spirits don't do us any good. I'm sure of it.¡¯

"Goblin was becoming agitated. He was staring at Fr. Kevin with a cold hate.

" 'No, Goblin,' I said. 'Don't do anything, Goblin.' In a sudden fit of alarm, I looked around. There was a mirror above the lavatory. What if he broke it into fragments? He knew he could do this now!

"Goblin, the Learner.

"Goblin looked at me with the strangest smile, as if to say, Don't you think I know better?

" 'Listen, he's here,' I said to Fr. Kevin. 'You can't see him but he's at the foot of the bed. And it's rude to him to speak in his presence as if he were evil. He isn't evil. How he became attached to me, I don't know. Maybe he was just drifting, drifting and looking for someone who could see him, and then I came along, a child who had the gift. And we made our little brotherhood, him and me. I have no answers. But he saved me tonight. He saved me with an extraordinary show of strength. He broke the glass, not me, and I don't want him to think for one moment that I am ungrateful.¡¯

"Fr. Kevin studied me intently throughout this speech and then he nodded. 'Well, let's leave it at this. If you need to talk to me, you call me. I've given my number to your Aunt Queen, and I'm in and out of Mayfair Medical doing rounds every day. I'm fast becoming the full-time chaplain here, and you'd be surprised what Dr. Rowan wants me to investigate. I'll stop back in later to see you.¡¯

" 'What does she want you to investigate?' I asked. I was plenty intrigued. And I was simmering down, and I liked talking to him. He wasn't the clich¨¦ I'd expected him to be.

" 'Near-death experiences,' he said, 'that's what I'm investigating. You know, when people are pronounced dead and they see a bright light when they pass through a tunnel and greet a being of light -- and then they're revived and they come back here to tell us about it.¡¯

" 'Yes, I know. I read everything on that subject that I can find. I believe in it. I believe it happens.¡¯

" 'Often those people aren't believed,' he said. 'I'm here to believe, but never to ask a leading question or maybe make a suggestive statement.¡¯

" 'I follow you,' I said. 'Have you talked to people who've had the experience?¡¯

" 'Yes,' he said, 'I have. Of course I give the Sacrament for the Sick too. And I hear confessions, and I bring Communion.¡¯

" 'Do you believe me -- what I've just told you?¡¯

" 'I believe you believe what you're saying,' he said. 'Now do you want the Sacrament for the Sick? You know it doesn't require much of one.¡¯

" 'I'm not sick,' I replied, 'and as to my sexual sins, well, I'm not ready to give all that up. I can't go to Confession just now. I can't take Communion. Sex is brand-new to me.¡¯

" 'Yes,' he said with a weary little smile, 'it's difficult at your time of life.' He shrugged. And then he flashed a brighter smile on me and said, 'I thought it was Hell when I was your age, and frankly I think so sometimes now. Priests go to Confession, you know. They go to other priests. It's not so easy.¡¯

" 'I like you. I know that may not matter much --.¡¯

" 'Oh, yes, it matters,' he said. 'But I have to get back to St. Mary's. I have my parish duties as well as some work later at the university. I'll see you this afternoon.¡¯

"He stood up.

"Something flashed into my head. 'Father,' I said, 'what if you do see a ghost that's evil, a ghost that leads you into harm, a ghost who wants some kind of dark vengeance? What do you do? You make the Sign of the Cross and you pray? Is that your only weapon?¡¯

"He looked at me for a long time before he answered. Then he said, 'Don't talk to it,' he said. 'Don't entertain it with talk or looks or any form of attention. Remember, it can't do much to you without your helping it. Just maybe it can't do anything to you without your helping it. Take the ghost of Hamlet's father, for instance. Suppose Hamlet had never gone to meet it and spoken to it. Suppose he had never given the ghost an opportunity to put a story of murder into his mind. The result was pure destruction for innocent and guilty. Think on it. What if Hamlet had refused to speak to that ghost?¡¯

" 'You mean the ghost was evil?' I asked.

" 'The play tells us so,' he said. 'It could be named The Damnation of Hamlet.¡¯

"I nodded.

"He left the room and I lay there, getting sleepy and woozy and thankful that Goblin now took the chair by the bed, and I took his hand in mine.

"I thought of the malicious stranger. 'Who was that bastard, Goblin?' I asked. 'How did he get in my room?¡¯

"When I heard no telepathic answer I turned and looked at him, and I saw that same grave expression on his face that I had remarked down in the cemetery, after I'd buried the remains of Rebecca.

" 'Can't you talk to me, Goblin?' I said. 'Listen, I'll have them bring me paper and crayons tomorrow-a big sketchpad, you know-and we can write to each other.¡¯

"He shook his head. He almost sneered. He did sneer. He looked cold and then angry. Computer, Quinn, bring a computer here.

" 'Of course,' I replied. 'Why didn't I think of that? I'll get a laptop, I'll tell them I have to have it.¡¯

"I was getting sleepier and sleepier. He sat there, my guardian, and then he spoke to me telepathically again. Anger makes me strong, Quinn.

" 'Anger's bad,' I murmured. I was drifting off. I woke with a start, then reminded myself that I was safe. Aunt Queen came in. I heard her telling the nurse that I was falling asleep. They had to wake me up.

"I heard Jasmine at my ear:

" 'Little Boss, listen to me,' Jasmine said, 'we're booked solid at the Manor for the next two weeks. I have to go on back home again and so does Mamma. We have no choice. But Miss Queen is all set up. And the guards are outside. Don't you worry on that account. I'll be back when I can.¡¯

" 'Kiss me,' I murmured. I was falling asleep.

"Was it sleep? Rebecca and I were on the lawn again in the big wicker peacock chairs and the sun was slanting down on the zinnias that Pops had planted all along the side of the house, and Rebecca said in a rippling, rhythmic voice, 'Oh, of course I'd like to live in a civilized fashion and pretend it all never took place, that he married me and made me mistress of this house and that my children would have been loved by him, and you know that you always had love, you always had love, you don't know what it means to not have love, to have nothing, simply nothing, and you, with Jasmine, you didn't taken any measures, and what if a child came from that union, would you love that child, the child you had with that colored bitch!¡¯

"I tried to wake up. I had to ask Jasmine. Could she have gotten pregnant, but then it seemed dreamlike that I'd been with her, and I feared she'd be mean to me if I brought it up, and I knew she hadn't taken measures and neither had I, and maybe there could be a baby, and it almost made me happy.

"I couldn't move my hands.

"I opened my eyes. They had tied my hands to the bed! 'What are you doing?' I tried to say more but Rebecca was talking. They had tied my feet. I began to shout for help.

"Aunt Queen stood over me: 'Quinn, darling, you ripped out the IV. You were talking out loud to someone. You were agitated. You pushed the intern away. He has to put the IV back.¡¯

"This was too terrible, simply too terrible. I looked at the ceiling tiles. To get away, to get far away, I went into unconsciousness. And of course Rebecca was there, she was pouring coffee for me and smiling, and the marguerites were blooming with the zinnias, and I loved the marguerites so much, those little white-and-yellow daisies.

" 'You've got to find a way to get out of here,' I told Rebecca. 'You have got to find a way to escape this place and go into the Light. God's waiting for you. God knows what's happened to you, he knows about the hook, he knows what they did. Don't you understand that it's God who's going to give you justice?¡¯

"('Wake up, Quinn. Quinn, wake up.')

" 'And why should I go when it's so nice here,' Rebecca said. 'Here, look, this is the blouse you found upstairs in the trunk. Big Ramona's been washing and ironing all my clothes just like you told her to do. I wore this specially for you, and you see my cameo? How pretty it is. It's Venus with the little cupid at her side. I took it from Aunt Queen's display. Oh, I just love being with you. Have some more coffee. What are you going to do with all my old clothes?¡¯

"('Wake up, Quinn, come on, open your eyes.')

" 'What am I going to do with you is more the question,' I replied, 'and I'm telling you, you're going home to God. We all do. It's just a matter of time.' "</





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