Sunday, April 03, 2005

Chapter 31 / Short and Sweet

“Chirp . . . Cheerip . . . Chireap.” The muted sound came around the corner into Sinclair’s room. It was a familiar noise; J. D. had one of those Audubon Society bird calling devices. One year while on vacation Sinclair had picked it up; just a small gift to bring back to let J. D. know that he had been thought of. It became one of those little annoyances; a chirp in roll call to disrupt a bulletin being read, a cheerip in the hall while waiting for his pay check, or a chireap when the mike was open. J. D. had kept it in his pocket all through the years.

“Come on in; the door’s open J. D.”

“How’d you know it was me ?”, a smile and laugh made its way across the rounded face. J. D. never had trouble finding his way to the dinner table. His hand was still twisting away as the chirping continued.

“One of these days your gonna’ turn a corner and a three hundred pound robin will be looking back at you. What are you gonna’ do then?”

“ ‘Hope like hell its already had dinner. So, how ’re you doin’; don’t look too bad to me?”, J. D. giving him the once over. “You never was too good lookin’ to begin with. Why ‘ you in here?”

“They’re still doing some tests; a few more days of this and I’ll be talking to myself.” Sinclair was already nearing the “expert” level when it came to talking to himself.

“ ‘ Know what you mean. They had me stay an extra week just to keep a check on my blood cell count after the operation for my throat cancer. Hell, its always been . . .”, his face turning red as the vessels in his neck swelled.

“Take it easy.” Sinclair was reminded of the time the Blood Bank turned J. D. away because his blood didn’t sink to the bottom of the little blue test tube. He had stormed out, vowing never to give blood again; his ego having been bruised. The two would stop in while walking the beat at least three or four times a year to donate. Sinclair had presented them with a wooden plaque to hang on the wall; nothing fancy, just a shoulder patch from an old shirt glued to a polished crest of wood. A small brass plate had been added to make it look more official. “H. P. D. Watering Hole # 5”

“ . . . good; always been good.” Sinclair was the only one who knew about the blood donor deal. J.D. figured he needed to defend his blood just one more time.

“Hey, its no big deal. Why don’ you take a look at that letter I was tellin’ you about?”, reaching over to the desk and handing him the envelope. The muscles relaxed allowing the veins to drain. J. D. let the moment pass; growling under his breath as he got in another expletive.

“This looks interesting.”, his voice tapering as he turned the paper at an angle, letting the soft glow of the bedside lamp illuminate the minor indentions made in the paper.

“What’s that?”

“Who ever wrote this used his off hand. See?”

“No, I don’t see. Show me.”

“See there, how the line pushes unevenly into the paper; and there, where the curve of that loop . . .” J.D. pointed to the letter O as he tried to teach Sinclair some basic rules to analyzing handwriting.

“If you say so; but it just looked to me like some idiot with little or no education wrote it.”

“It was intended to. See how the ink smeared right there? That was caused by the palm of a left hand as it was dragged across the paper. Who ever wrote this used their left hand, intentionally to make it look crude, as if some ignoramus had did it.”

“Done it.”

“Yea, and quit correcting me; I never did like it when you did that.”

“Sorry, go on. How can you tell that the person normally writes with the other hand?”

“The pen would have indented the paper much more evenly.”, grabbing a piece of paper to illustrate. “First, with my right hand . . .” J.D. wrote a few words on the paper. “. . . now with my left. See where the paper almost tore when I used my left hand; and I was trying hard to keep it smooth.”

“Okay, I see what you mean.”

“Who did you say was working your incident ? Dribble, wasn’t it?” J.D. putting the paper aside as he conjured up Dibble’s features in his mind.

“That’s right; why? You know something about him that I should?”

“Not really; just some rumors.”

“So what kind of rumors?”

“Nothing much; something about his having friends linked to organized crime. He’s been under investigation for the past several months; nothing solid has come of it.”

“He always did have lots of fancy jewelry hanging around his neck.” Sinclair looked over at the large chunks of nugget gold on J. D’s wrist and fingers; waiting momentarily for an explanation for the apparent windfall.

“Now just a second. When I quit smoking those damned cigars I had three and a half dollars a day that I could spend on something else; that’s a hundred dollars a month.”

“Not a bad way to quit smoking. Looks nice, now all you need to do is go on a diet and you’d be driving a Cadillac too.”

“That reminds me. I stopped off at the store and picked up a bar of that German Chocolate; the kind you like so much. I figured you could use a change of pace after eating all that hospital stuff.”

“All right !” , reaching his hand out as J.D. withdrew the large kitchen size bar from his brief case. Sinclair took the green outer wrapper off carefully, not wishing to destroy it. The deep cut letters in each square spelling B A K E R S petitioned his indulgence.

“ Want a piece ?” , breaking off the row of B’s.

“Just one square, thanks.” J.D. accepting the offer even though he wasn’t much of a chocolate fan. Sinclair was, on the other hand, already dissolving the first chunk in his mouth. The warmth of his tongue unlocked the chocolate opiate’s aroma. His eyes rolled all the way back in their sockets as he received the “fix”.

“Ohhhh; That’s good!”, taking a second to digest. He let the vapors reserculate through his nasal passages; breathing the memory of the last swallow, arousing the subtle brain functions of pleasure. Most people gulped their chocolate too fast to enjoy the sensory ecstasy offered by the curious confectionery.

“Sorry you didn’t like it.” J.D. laughed as he watched his ex-partner wallowing in boyish delight.

“Yea, that first piece was no good; ‘ better try another to get that taste out of my mouth.” Sinclair reciprocated as the next square made it past his lips.

“Didn’t Dribble and some other guy get into some trouble a few years back; something about improper use of the Department’s computer information?”

“I wouldn’t know about it unless it hit the papers.”

“This never made it outside; ‘ got hushed up. He was selling background files or something to some security company. I think the whole thing stunk to high heaven. The investigation was pushed through by one of his old partners. You know the guy, Perry, works Internal Affairs.

“I remember now; Fletcher, yea, R.D. Fletcher was his partner when all that was going on. He retired and moved to Florida.”

“Retired my foot, they had him against the wall. It was leave or get fired.”

“I suppose; but it still don’t seem right to . . .”

“To what?”, J.D. cocking his brow as he chomped at the imaginary cigar hanging from the corner of his mouth.

“I was only trying to give him the benefit of the . . .”, being cut off as J.D. continued to burn.

“To hell with him; he was as dirty as they come.” J.D. was red faced and puffing as he tramped around the room.

“Doesn’t.”, Sinclair injected the one word sentence and grinned.

“Doesn’t what? What the hell are you talking about?”

“Earlier; I said it don’t seem right; shoulda’ been doesn’t.” Sinclair laughed as J.D. stood dumb struck.

“Enough of this; I gotta’ get back to work.” J.D. didn’t like the word games that Sinclair played. He always felt he was being made fun of.

“Don’t run off yet; I didn’t mean nothin’ by it.”

“Naw, I got to. . .”, stopping momentarily as he caught himself, “I’ve got to work on some of these files or my butts in the ringer.”

“I guess a short visit is better than no visit at all.”

“I’ll come by again later, after I find out what the heck is goin’ on with this investigation.” J.D. latched his brief case and grabbed his umbrella.

“Glad you got to come and thanks again for the chocolate.”

“Any time; partner, anytime.”

“Good thing you brought your umbrella, huh?”

“Well would you look at that? Its pourin down rain out there. How’d you know it was gonna rain?”

“One of my ants . . . “, Sinclair whipped as he began to drift out of the conversation. He was distracted by a sudden infusion of digital information.

“482169775311kpslmxx1255556”, shaking his head to clear the steady stream of unrelated data, seemingly random bits of data passed through the air and landed in his consciousness. Garbled and unrecognizable as they bombarded his faculties all at once; it made him dizzy and nauseated.

“Your aunt? How’s she do it?” Sinclair could not hear the words. It was like having twenty or thirty stereo units on full blast, each one playing a different station. He heard the waves of computer codes, intended to make modern cars run smoothly, crashing relentlessly on the shores of his sanity. Reams of electronic data; thousands of individual spark plug firing instructions, emission valve orders, and temperature monitorings of each car that passed. Every radio wave that passed through his room; citizen band, police, mobile telephone conversations, commercial broadcasts, even the pulses from Mr. Alajandro’s quartz crystal watch buzzed in Sinclair’s head. What had been filtered out was now an interminable blasting on his nerves. The roar was intense; he reached to cover his ears.

“I’m sorry. . .”, believing that he was talking too loudly, “ . . . Once in a while I forget that I'm the one who’s hard of hearing.” J.D. reached to adjust the flesh colored hearing aid that was neatly tucked away in the recess of his ear. Sinclair slumped lifelessly into the pillow; having lost control of his auditory environment.

“Hey . . . ‘ you okay?”, leaning over to appraise the sudden change; J.D. saw that Sinclair was not responding. He found the call button that was attached to the edge of the bed and pushed it, several times in rapid succession.

Inside Sinclair’s head the coded instructions bounced and ricocheted as the seemingly random instructions could find no place to rest. His mind was trying desperately to assimilate the information.


b8549793457971 0jnvnbhfcn180979875



198rfp;i3qp;i4tou4jo. . .”

“Can I ask you to wait in the hall?” The nurse tapped on J.D’s shoulder as she motioned for him to exit the room. She saw that Sinclair’s breathing was not hampered and reached to take his pulse.

“Is he all right?” J.D. asked quietly, not wishing to interrupt and yet anxious.

“Please, wait in the hall. I’ll be with you in a few moments.” She counted silently to herself while taking his pulse. There was nothing to indicate a problem. His breathing rate was well within limits as were all the rest of his vital signs. She leaned out the door and asked J.D. to come back in.

“Is he all right?”

“I think so. What happened that made you think he was in some kind of trouble?”

“We were talking and all the sudden he grabbed his ears as if he were in pain; then he just fell back and was out of it.” J.D. acted out the part; holding his own ears for effect.

“Did he tell you what was causing the pain or anything?”

“No, he just fell back into the bed and had a blank look on his face. That’s what got me worried.”

“Well he seems to be sleeping comfortably now. He did have a very strenuous day. The sleep will do him good.”

“I guess so; but he sure fell out in a hurry. Could you keep an eye on him?”

J.D. let the last words fall more slowly as he looked to the nurse for the proper response.

“He just needs some sleep. You go on and I’ll stay for a while; go on now.”, letting her hands sweep him out of the room.

In the room just above Sinclair’s there was a man making a telephone call. He sat quietly holding the receiver to his ear as he watched the computer screen in front of him. “Good evening, Mr. Sanderson’s office; how may I help you?” The voice of the secretary was coldly professional. The call had come in on a private line that wasn’t common knowledge.

“Yea this is Moe; I need to talk to Mr. Sanderson.”

“ Mr. Sanderson has gone for the day; may I take a message and have him get back with you tomorrow?”

“I know that’s your standard answer to give; but if he’s still back in his office, tell him that there’s a change in the status of file number sixty one.”

“Mr. Sanderson has gone for the . . .”, being cut off as she was in the middle of her response.

“Cut the crap sister and just give him the message.” Moe hung up the phone and returned to watching the computer screen. The numbers and letters flew across the monitor in flashes of mumbles and gibberish. Once in a while a recognizable word or two would stand out; but for the most part it was a mass of pure confusion. The phone rang and he picked it up.

“Moe here.”

“My secretary tells me that you were rude and that I should fire you.” There was a hint of laughter as the words hit the receiver, “ So; what has you calling me at this late hour?”

“Hey, I’ve no complaint with the way she does her job. If your happy; I’m happy.” Moe blurted out with no emotion, “That file you had me working on has some new pages that may be of interest. Why don’t you come take a look?”

“Thank you Moe. I’ll be over in a few minutes; and try to be a little nicer to Julie. She’s a very good secretary and is only doing her job the way I’ve instructed her to.”

“No problem here, boss.” Moe had been performing odd jobs for Mr. Sanderson for several years. Moe’s job was to follow instruction without asking too many questions, anything from shining shoes to polishing cars. He had no special talent that would be listed on a resume; but he was loyal past the point of doubt to Mr. Sanderson, and that alone was his meal ticket. If Mr. Sanderson asked him to kill somebody, Moe would probably do it without a second thought.

“Then I’ll see you as soon as I finish with what I have here. Thank you for calling Moe.” Mr. Sanderson handed the phone to Julie who was standing at the end of his executive desk.

“Will there be anything else, Sir?”

“If you would, have those papers ready regarding that property acquisition for the hospital. I will need to have them in the morning.” He paused for a moment as he looked over to her, “I’ve instructed Moe to be more considerate. I don’t think he meant to make you angry. Try to remember that he hasn’t the benefit of a formal education and is apt to be annoying once in a while.” He smiled, more of a reminder than a smile as he completed the suggestion.

“Yes sir; I understand. The file on the Moritz property is nearly complete now. It will only take an hour or so to finish.” Julie backed out of the room while she nodded acceptance of her employment role.

“Then I leave it in your capable hands.”, his attention returned to the items on his desk as Julie closed the door. He unlocked one side of his desk from underneath and opened the file drawer that he alone had access to. Scanning a small array of off white folders, he grasped the one labeled, “File Sixty One”. He leafed through it momentarily, catching up on the major points of interest. He rolled his finger tips a couple of times on the edge of the mahogany trim to break the silence of the large room. Returning the folder to its place in the file drawer he secured it to the locked position and got up from his chair. There was a brass coat rack off to the side of his desk; his right arm went back instinctively for his suit jacket. It was a dark navy with gray pin stripping accents, summer weight wool of the finest quality with silk lining. The suit was hand tailored; not the department store variety. His wallet was slender and long, holding only a few necessary items without causing the line of the material to bend. He exited the office via a back door and walked to a service elevator at the end of the corridor.

“You’re looking very smart today Mr. Sanderson.” One of the porters bowed as he continued mopping the right hand side of the floor.

“Thank you Reggie. I’m always pleased with the quality of your work here at the hospital.” Reggie had been a porter at the hospital for twelve years. The floors were always clean and polished to perfection. The elevator door opened and closed leaving Reggie to continue the never ending task.

“If they’s so good; how ‘bout a raise?”, talking to the floor; careful to insure that he was not overheard. He swabbed over the foot prints that had just been left.

The elevator stopped on the fifth floor and Mr. Sanderson strode with authority past the nurses station. He did not slow down to allow time for them to greet his presence; only a casual nod in their direction, “Good evening, ladies.” During the day it was common for the Director to be seen on the floors; but late in the evening, his presence caused a mild stirring. He made his way to room five sixteen and knocked as he opened the door.

“Evenin’ boss. Have a look see.”, pointing to the screen that continued to flash reams of data at a lightning fast pace.

“How long has this been going on?” Mr. Sanderson fixed his eyes on the computer monitor.

“I noticed it started about twenty minutes ago. I checked all the other readings too. All his vital signs show to be all right. What do you make of it?”

“Was there anyone in the room with him just prior to this change or did the nurse give him any medication that might have triggered this?”

“Some cop friend of his was visiting with him. I have it all here on the tape recorder. I don’t think they gave him any drugs or anything like that. He just got real tired and fell off to sleep.”

“You did just fine Moe. I’ll take the tape and you start another one.”, removing the reel from the large professional style recording unit.

“This guy is some kind of wierdo, huh boss?”

“Something like that. I have a dinner engagement to attend downtown. If you need me you have my pager number.”

“Okay boss.” Moe put a new recording tape on the machine and continued his vigil. He had followed targets before; it was much easier having one a room directly under him.

Chapter 30 / Saved

Sinclair turned on the light and left the door partially open as he led Eva into the room. He waved to Mr. Alejandro to let him know that he was back and had a visitor. Simple gestures like waving and greeting people as he walked had taken on added dimension. He was more than aware of his having been given a second chance at living. He attacked each moment will all his energies; often to the point of collapse.

“Let me close the door for you.”, Eva moved to push it.

“No, that’s the way I would prefer to have it; wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. You know how hospital rumors get around.” Sinclair took the opportunity to take in the full beauty of her figure, head to toe. “Yes, leave it open.”, as he turned away, nodding to himself; he switched the computer on.

“Okay.”, not really grasping at first, then blushing as she measured his glance. Sinclair waited for the orange glow of the monitor screen to come on before explaining how it all worked. While he had taken it with him to therapy sessions many times, he had never gone into any detailed explanation of how the unit worked. Eva sat patiently in the chair as he pointed to the various components; describing the function of each one.

“This is the heart of the synthesizer. It makes the words that are in the computer sound like human sounds. We spent several hours programming the individual qualities that make it sound like a specific human being.” He switched the screen to display the Attribute Selection Menu.

“You said we; who’s we?”

“Oh, you mean Vern, Vern Rylan. He’s a friend of mine; works on all the electronic stuff here at the hospital.

“So the two of you just fiddle with the sound until it matches what your hearing?”

“In a nut shell, yes.” Let me surprise you with some data that is saved to memory.” Sinclair thought for a moment; the computer paused, then immediately played back the selection that had been stored away.

“ ‘ Be right with you; gotta’ finish up with this first.” It was Eva’s voice, as if recorded by a hidden microphone.

“That sounds like me. So where’d you get that?”, exhibiting bewilderment. Sinclair put his finger to his lips as he motioned for her to be quiet, turning his attentions to the sounds that were being created by the computer. No “recording” had been made, at least no tape recording in the usual sense. The words spoken had been heard by Sinclair and redirected into the computer’s memory. The playback continued.

“Okay, so where’s this cop; or is he invisible?” Her face responded favorably as she recognized the conversation. Waiting for the next words, her ear bent slightly toward the speaker, anticipating her own words. She mouthed them, precisely only a moment before the sound came out. “Dr. Chatterly . . .”

“I’m sorry . . . he’s just outside.” Looking over to where Sinclair sat on the corner of the bed, applauding with her eyes. Eva listened; the synthesizer mimicked the original sound of Dr. Chatterly's voice very well.

“That’s Dr. Chatterly all right! Even the hesitation as his words got caught in his throat sounded the same.” The more she listened the more she wanted to hear.

“Mr. Dosilmeyer I’m Eva. Dr. Chatterly tells me that you are here to use our facilities.” Sinclair extended his hand as he too remembered how inviting the first meeting had been. The computer had given Eva’s voice a silkiness. It landed on the ear gently, almost lovingly. Eva picked up on it and wondered how many hours Sinclair had spent to create the effect. It was very flattering to have been “saved” in such a pleasant way.

“That is remarkable. How many people did you say were; how did you put it, saved to memory?” Sinclair was unaware that by spending so many hours manipulating and creating certain specific voices; intricacies of his own personality had surfaced. He was like an open book for all to read.

“Like I told you earlier, there’s Bev, Maime Stuart, Vern Rylan, Dr. Gwyne, Dr. Chatterly and you.” Sinclair had explained that to her just a short time ago. He wondered how she could have forgotten so quickly.

“Could I here some more? Something different; something from Dr. Gwyne. I used to work in the E. R. when I first started here. I’d like to here what you think he sounds like.”

“I not think that American’s treat minorities with respect; make things difficult for us.” The oriental snapping off at the end of certain words, almost silencing the last two letters, was pretty close; but lacked something. He had stereotyped all Orientals who had learned English as a second language.

“ I know, it sounds kind of flat. I didn’t spend that much time on his.” Sinclair discounted the lack of effort. He had not intended to play back that particular voice, at least not for someone who was listening so intensely.

“How come my voice sounds so . . .”, thoughtfully reaching for words that would describe what she perceived to be almost a flirtation of sound. “. . . how do I put it?”

“Sexy?; that’s because the first time I heard you talking with Dr. Chatterly that’s what I heard too. Does it bother you that I included that tonal quality? I could change it; make it sound a little less romantic.” Sinclair thought for a moment; the computer screen flashed and it was done.

“How come my voice sounds so . . .”, only now the voice was bland, having virtually no appeal of any kind. Eva listened to the adjusted voice; her face devoid of expression.

“I like it the other way too.” Sinclair changed it; only his time taking it just one notch short of afternoon delight.

“How come my voice sounds so . . .”, a sultry provocative sound oozed across the room.

“That’s what I call the Kathleen Turner sound. Great huh?”

“I think you’ve made your point. Could you adjust it back to where it was?” Eva smiled as she envisioned a secluded isle covered with palm trees, water falls and a beach to lay on as the summer sun ducked behind evening clouds on the ocean.

“A penny for you thoughts.” Sinclair waited as the distant look faded from her and she was again in the same room.

“Not for sale.” Eva looked at the computer as if it were alive. Realizing that the computer was only an extension of Sinclair’s thoughts, Eva avoided looking at him.

“Something the matter?”

“No, I was just wondering when your wife was coming. I need to get home to get dinner started.” Eva felt uncomfortable as she stood up and went to the window.

“Would you like to talk to some ants?” Sinclair was not sure what he had done.

“What?” Eva had rested on the window sill, looking out across the parking lot, where her car had been only a short while ago. She heard something that didn’t fit, something about ants.

“Ants, would you like to talk to those ants on the other side of that window?”

Eva looked; sure enough, there was an endless track of ants marching along an invisible
corridor at the edge of the brick work.

“Sure, right.” Eva looked back over her shoulder. A smile, similar to the one that hit Dr. Chatterly the first time that Sinclair had been to the pool, beamed from her face. Her child like enthusiasm wishing to believe the impossible and at the same time skeptical of such a preposterous feat.

“Good afternoon.” Sinclair concentrated on the line of ants.

“Give me a break. You expect me to believe that the ants just said that.” Eva rolled her eyes back exaggerating her total disbelief. “They told me it was the other guy who landed on his head.” Eva knew immediately that she had said the wrong thing. Sinclair closed his eyes and took in a breath as his insides chewed on him. Defending himself automatically, his words came out sharply.

“I don’t expect you to believe anything.” Eva looked at Sinclair and then back to the ants. The column had come to a halt. One of the ants had walked up on the window, away from the rest.

“We must be going now. Enjoy the sunshine for tonight it will rain.”

“You are putting me on, right?” Eva watched as the lone ant returned to its position and the line again moved forward. She studied Sinclair as he answered; hoping that he would forgive her careless remark.

“They never stop very long. It’s their military way of life.” Sinclair was not sure how to explain how the ants knew about the change of weather. Scientists had studied insects and how they acted strangely before earthquakes. There were many things that the lower life forms could teach the human race.

“Goodbye.” Eva quietly breathed out, not wishing Sinclair to hear.

“They said thank you.”, relaying the ants reply.

“So who’s this that you have talking to the ants?” Bev walked in; having found the door open, she didn’t knock.

“Hun, this is Eva; I’m sorry, but I don’t know your last name.” Sinclair was blank as to how to proceed as he turned back hoping that Eva would finish.

“Eva Fiarona, I work in the Physical Therapy Department. You must be Bev. He has told me so much about you; I feel as if we were already friends.” Eva felt more at ease having Bev in the room.

“Bev Dosilmeyer.”, reaching to shake hands. Bev felt a twinge of rivalry; wondering how to compete with such a young and attractive woman. The hospital issued skirt and blouse looked as if it had been tailored especially for her; matching her olive skin tones perfectly. Bev completed the greeting; smiling only after Sinclair’s eyes met with her own. Sinclair’s wink gave Bev the confidence needed to confirm the love stored in his heart.

“Hun, Eva needs a ride home. They repo’d her car from the parking lot this afternoon. Would you mind?”

“I’d be glad to. Where do you live?”

“Not too far from here. I could try my brother again.” Eva went to pick up the phone.

“Nonsense; I’m already here. It won’t be any trouble at all. You can tell me what you do for my Sinclair on the way there.” Bev made it a point to be possessive as she structured her reply.

“Hun . . .”, handing Sinclair a letter that had been left, “. . . I found this in the mail today. I thought it looked a little odd; not having a stamp on it and no address either. See . . .”, pointing to letter with only the name Dosilmeyer .

Sinclair held the envelope up to light but could see nothing. He slit the top off and removed the one page letter. Sinclair read to himself and folded the letter carefully, placing it back inside the envelope.

“Well, what did it say?” Bev watched as the lines on his forehead deepened.

“Eva, could you wait out in the hall for a moment? I need to talk to Bev.” A serious look, his “policeman’s face” found its way back from the long vacation it had taken.

“Sure, no problem.” Eva wasn’t sure what had been in the letter; didn’t want to know. The door closed quietly behind her.

“Where did you say you found this letter? Its important.”

“It was in with the rest of the mail. I found it on the floor under the mail slot. Is anything the matter?”

“Here, take a look.” Sinclair made sure to hold the letter exactly as he had before; not wishing to disturb any finger prints that may have been left. “Don’t touch! Just look.” The letter had been hand written on plain white paper, no ruled lines.

“It should have been you that died in the fall.”

“Oh my, who would send you such a hateful letter?”

“I don’t think it was sent. I think it was hand delivered. How else would it have gotten there, no stamp, no address?”

“It was on the top of the stack, now that you mention it.”

“Let me call that Sargent in Homicide Division. Maybe he can offer some help.” Sinclair dialed the number without even a glance at the phone, having called it so many times.

“I think you should spend some time with your father this week. Why don’t you and the children go fishing or something.”

“That didn’t sound like a question. You don’t want me to stay at the house; do you?” Bev waited for an answer but Sinclair had gotten through to Homicide.

“Let me speak with Sgt. Dribble, please; this is Officer Dosilmeyer.” The desk clerk quietly looked over the roster.

“He’s not in today. I think he started his vacation; let me check . . . Yes, he took the next two weeks off. Would you like to talk with one of the others?”

“Who’s there today; could you read me the list?”

“Let’s see; there’s Abernathy, Bowles, Cook, Franklin . . .”

“Keep going.”

“Givens, Kennedy, McDade, Needlhalter, Pearson, Tucker and White.”

“Let me talk with White; he knows me.”

“Just a moment while I ring his office.”

“I know this guy from a long time ago.” cupping the phone, “He’s okay.”

“White here. What can I do for you?” Sinclair listened to the voice, not recognizing it.

“Is this J. D. White; worked Point Control years ago?”

“Yea, who’s this?”

“M.S. Dosilmeyer, remember me?”, glad to have hit the right one.

“Oh yea; heard about your accident. Sorry to hear about it. You back to work yet?”

“I’m still trying to get out of this danged hospital. Hey, I hardly recognized you at first, what’s with you?”

“I know, hardly recognized myself after they cut that cancer out of my throat; damned cigars ate a whole in me.”

“You always did have one of those ugly green ones hanging out the corner of your mouth. Didn’t know; did they get it all out, the cancer I mean?”

“Yea, had to quit smoking though. Hey, I know you called to talk about something other than my cigars. What’s on your mind?”

“I just got a strange letter, more like a threat. I wanted Dribble to take a look at it since he was the one assigned to work the case.”

“Oh, what’d it say?”

“All it says is, It should have been you that died in the fall. That's all. My wife found it with the rest of the mail on the floor below the mail slot. There was no stamp and no address on it.”

“No stamp, no address; you say it was on the floor with the rest of the mail?”

“That’s what she said.” Bev was nodding as she listened intently. “As soon as I saw what it was I put it away. Maybe there could be some finger prints . . .”

“Yea, sounds like you better have him take a look at it; but before you do, why don’t you let me look at it too. I just transferred over from Forgery; maybe I can help.”

Changing the subject and laughing before he spoke, a devious little boy at the heart of it,
“Farted in any elevators lately?” J. D. was crude to the bottom line. He would wait until the doors were closed and the elevator was jammed full before expelling any gas that had built up.

“I knew there was a reason for my wanting to work alone.”

“Hey, you take care of yourself and save that letter for me; before that jerk Dribble gets his paws all over it; okay?”

“Sure thing J. D.”, then adding, “Why don’t you take a lunch break out this way; I’ll even buy you a cup of coffee.”, thinking of the first time they had been assigned as partners. There had been a major restructuring of the Department. Officers were given new partners and new areas to ride. It had been a cold Winter morning, Sinclair was driving with J. D. as shot gun. J. D. never did like to drive; Sinclair, on the other hand was never too comfortable when someone else was at the wheel. They had gone to the local Stop and Go for a hot cup; Sinclair a hot chocolate and J. D. for his coffee. Each took a sip, sitting in their respective positions as Sinclair threw it in gear.

“Son of a . . .” Each word highlighted as J. D. hit a higher octave. The fresh coffee, still steaming, hit the dark blue material of his trousers. Looking at Sinclair as if there was a motive; some plot to rid himself of a lousy partner; J. D. ranted and raved.

“Any officer with as many years on the force as you should certainly be expected to hold a simple cup of coffee while the car is moving.” Sinclair had laughed at J. D. as he showed him the technique of holding the Styrofoam cup, thumb at the top and ring finger on the bottom; the cup gently bobbing as the car eased on down the road.

J. D. was angry; he’d been shown up. He clamed up for the next couple of days; the silent treatment. After a few days, Sinclair found a way to buy J. D. a cup of coffee,
sort of a peace offering. From that day on they got along well enough to put up with each other.

“I still have a red mark from the first cup. Let me grab a folder from the “Lew’s” desk; make it look like I’m working.”

“Great, haven’t had too many visitors. You’d think I had the plague.” Sinclair was glad to have an old buddy; someone he could depend on for an honest reaction.

“Oh yea; take your umbrella. Its supposed to rain.”

“You always did kid me about my umbrella.”, looking out the window. The late afternoon sun baked the air into delirious waves of bent blue vapor. J. D. was the only beat officer in the history of the Department that ever used an umbrella while walking a beat. He had kept one stored behind the soda machine where he could easily get to it at the newsstand. It gave him an opportunity to visit with the old woman there. He called her “ Negs”, not because it was her name; but each time they would talk she would tell him about all the rotten things in her life. “Negs” could top any sad song. If J. D. told her that his back was sore; she’d remind him that she had a ruptured disk and had no money for pain medicine.

“See you when you get here.”, hanging up the phone as he remembered the past.

“What did he say?” Bev waited as Sinclair reminisced.

“J. D. is on his way out here now; no sense in you waiting. Call your Dad and see if you and the children can spend the night there; maybe stay the rest of the week. Why don't you and Eva Grab a bite on the way home?”

“Okay . . .”, unable to put her fears into words.

“It’ll be fine; I’m just a little paranoid, remember?” He closed his eyes as he leaned back against the pillows.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay. I can always call a cab for Eva?” Bev watched Sinclair as he struggled to remain awake.

“No, you go ahead. I need some time to think; I’ll be all right, honest.”, curling up and wrapping his arm around a pillow.

“Good night, Dear. I love you.”

“ Love you too.”

Chapter 29 / The Path

Walking the halls of the hospital was about the only chance Sinclair had to exercise, excepting his regular visits to the therapy room. He had a “walker” very much like the kind that little children or old men use, an aluminum frame that encircled him and gave him support between strides. There were springs within the wheel housings that provided sufficient resilience to accommodate his body weight and at the same time pushed the frame away from the floor as Sinclair adjusted his balance between steps. If he should move the walker ahead to fast the wheels would lock into place automatically.

He got to roam about anywhere he wanted as long as he didn’t exit the hospital grounds. He particularly enjoyed the sidewalk that led behind the service area. There were some large old pecan trees that had escaped all of man’s attempts to eradicate them. The expansive parking lot had grown around them, leaving each with a portion of breathable ground; massive ornamental iron gratings protected each hallowed plot.

Twice a week the yard man would place canisters of fresh chrysanthemums along the red brick pathway that snaked its way around the trees. It was like a concrete oriental garden. As Sinclair would scoot along, always mindful of exactly how many steps he had taken in his effort to regain full use of his legs, the breeze rushing by the leaves acted as a tranquilizer. He was able to enjoy the beauty that was all around him. He would look up as jets streaked on their last leg toward Hobby Airport. The thundering of the engines as they began to power down was exhilarating.

Once, after having been to a Cub’s game in Chicago, he and Bev had flown over basically the same path and they were able to identify many of the ground locations. He didn’t really like to fly, but the ability to do so was high on his list of marvelous wonders. The perspective from the air was a humbling experience. It forced him to realize how small men’s works were in comparison to the world.

A thoughtless individual had tossed a cigar butt to the ground defiling the spirit that resided there. The pale greenish brown stub had also been “heeled”, leaving a stain of soot on the stark white concrete. Sinclair was reminded of the many times he had seen Pecaw reach down to pick up a discarded candy wrapper or a soda can as he walked through the courtyard of their apartments in New York. It was not enough to have yard men and janitors, it was important that everyone do his part. Sinclair was prompted to retrieve it; but was painfully reminded of his body’s limited ability to respond. For a moment he was stymied, unable to figure out how to accomplish the simple act of bending; in the therapy room pool it had been so easy.

“Well . . . are you going to stand there the rest of the day or what?” He turned slowly to see who was harassing him; the voice was familiar. Eva was standing at the rear entrance to the hospital watching to see what he was about to do. She had taken off a little early to take her car in for repairs before the shop closed. The motor had developed a menacing noise. The employee’s parking lot was on the other side of the air ambulance landing pad. Her genuine concern echoed in her tone, it was not sarcastic or harsh. It was more like soft laughter that made him feel better.

“Oh . . , ah . . , I was just trying to figure out whether that was a domestic or an imported variety of cigar.” Blushing, but at such a distance that it could not be seen, “I think its terrible that someone would mess up such a beautiful garden.” Many times on her way into work she had walked the short brick path from her car to the back door; not once had she thought of it as a garden. Letting the words bounce around for a moment and at the same time pausing to look around, Eva had to admit that it truly was a fine garden. It bothered her that she had never appreciated it before.

“See there . . .”, pointing with his index finger, “ . . .over there, just past the light pole?” Sinclair had spotted one of the community cats; one that all the nurses liked to feed and take care of. The furry white cat was crouched low on its belly behind some creeping jasmine; stalking a small green lizard. The short wait was fruitful as the cat’s lightning fast paws reached out and snared it. The cat’s tail whipped back and forth in triumph as it carried the prize off in its mouth. The garden was full of interesting sights, for those willing to watch.

“How terrible, that poor little thing!” Eva did not enjoy seeing the cat destroying the lizard with such enthusiasm.

“Terrible, . . . for who; the cat or the lizard?” Sinclair wanted to turn the question inside out. He had conceded the laws of nature and could find no fault with the cat’s ability to find a meal on its own. He waited as he watched the angle of Eva’s head change ever so slightly; pondering his remark.

“Well I guess if you put it that way . . .” She continued to watch the cat dismember the remains of the lizard. In a few moments the cat was done; taking a few quick strides toward the automatic double glass Emergency Room doors. The cat deposited the lizard’s head and scurried off.

“A prize left at your door step; what an honor.” Sinclair had found many lizard heads, bird wings and rat tails on his way to get the morning paper. His own cat was quite a hunter.

“I still think its cruel.” Changing the subject back to Sinclair’s walking mode,

“You’d better be careful or I might find that the cat has left your head at our door step. Are you having trouble? Do you want me to get you a wheel chair?”

Sinclair could feel his defensive side bristle; then relax, realizing that her questions were only out of regard for his best interests. He did not like having to admit to anyone that he was not yet in total command of himself.

“Let me help you back inside.” Eva walked up beside him not waiting for him to either accept or decline her offer. The two walked methodically along the path. Sinclair’s steps were marked with a metallic clicking as one of the rubber end caps had worn through.

“Sounds like I’m a quart low; better check under the hood.” Sinclair made fun of himself as he breathed a little harder. He had just about run out of energy for the day. He stood, arms stiff and locked, as he searched for the last few drops at the bottom of the tank.

“More like your out of gas. Wait here while I pop inside to grab a wheel chair.” Eva disappeared around the corner. It was only after she was gone that Sinclair let his face feel the pain. His teeth clenched firmly as he muscled up, trying to take some of the weight from his legs. The breeze felt good as it hit the beads of sweat that had formed across his brow.

“What took you so long?” Sinclair heckled her as she came back with the chair. She eased up behind him, guiding the foot supports past the walker, thereby eliminating the possibility of his falling.

“Just lean back. . .”, placing her hand on his shoulder, “. . .and let me do all the work.” He sank back into the chair; his eyes closed momentarily when he relaxed his grip on the walker. Eva folded the aluminum frame and placed it on his lap.

“Your timing was perfect; thanks.” Sinclair hung his head as he worked to overcome the moment. His shirt was soaked clean through with perspiration. He felt a bit of nausea welling up as his head became light.

“I think we need to get you inside; you don’t look so hot.” His skin tone was a pale olive/gray and cold to the touch.

“I’ll be fine. Just let me sit for a moment.” Taking a deep breath to steady himself. Once, when he was with William in one of those four seater airplanes for a special birthday gift, he had become air sick. He knew that if he concentrated all his efforts that he could get past it. As the plane bounced and bobbed along on the invisible currents, Sinclair played back the music that was stored away in his mind. He carefully eliminated the noise of the engine, the notes of each instrument played on. When the plane landed he sat for a bit, not wishing to upset the delicate balance that had been established. William wanted to go up again; adding that it was okay for Sinclair to stay on the ground.

“There is a green field far away . . .”, his mind wandered to a place within himself as he listened to one of his favorite hymns.

“Mr. Dosilmeyer are you okay ?” Eva pushed the chair into the emergency room. “ . . . Mr. Dosilmeyer?”

“ . . . with out a city wall . . .”

“Could you give me a hand?”, stopping in front of one of the rooms where a nurse was stocking one of the crash carts.

“ . . . but we believe it was for us . . .”

“He was walking out there and I think he over exerted. When I got him to sit in the wheel chair he just collapsed.”

“ . . . and try his works to do.”

“His color is coming back. I think he’ll be okay.” The nurse took his pulse; counting off the sweep of the second hand as it ticked its way across the dial of her watch.

“That’s good to hear.” Sinclair sarcastically babbled as he raised one eyelid to peer out.

“You scared the bejebers out of me.” Eva brought her arm up to hold her stomach.

“I’m sorry; didn’t mean too.”

“I just now realized. . .”, looking at the wheel chair that had been borrowed, “ . . .you don’t have your gizmo thing.”

“It weighs too much, and besides I don’t really need it.”

“But your voice; its the same; well, almost.” Eva watched carefully as Sinclair formed his words. After having accepted the computer generated voice, it seemed somehow odd to have him talk without it.

“What did you expect, Perry Como?” Sinclair forced a smile while still battling the nausea.

“Oh, that’s good. I like that.” The E.R. nurse had no idea what Eva was talking about.

“You have a very nice voice. Why do you still use that . . . “, pausing slightly, “. . . computer thing?”

“I guess I’m just lazy. With the computer I can edit what I say before it goes out. It saves me from saying things I might regret later on. It also stores all my conversations so that later on I can replay them when I’m by myself.”

Eva wasn’t sure if he was pulling her leg or telling the truth. She looked over at the nurse to see how she was reacting to the tall tale.

“Right.” Letting the word extend to express her disbelief.

“ ‘ For real. I even have your voice; well almost yours, matched up in the synthesizer. It will hold up to eight separate and distinct voices.”

“I’m flattered.” Eva wanted to hear what characteristics had been assigned to her voice. “Who else do you have locked away in that box?”

“Well, let’s see. There’s me and Bev, Vern Rylan, Dr. Gwynn, Maime Stuart, Dr. Chatterly and you. I had a real hard time with Dr. Gwynn’s voice; but I had to get his down first. I used his voice to get authorization to order food from the Burger King. They were a little suspicious at the nurses station so I had to use Maime Stuart’s voice to verify the orders.”

“Who’s next; John Wayne?” Eva shook her head; quite sure that he had made the whole thing up.

“You don’t believe me, do you?”

“Should I ?”

“Well, I guess it does sound a little far fetched.”

“A little?. . .”, raising her brow for emphasis. “. . . a little? This qualifies for the brown shoe award.”

“Why don’t you wheel me up to my room and listen for a few minutes? It won’t hurt to do that; now will it?”

“I’d like to; but I need to get my car to the mechanic and I’m already running late as it is.”, remembering that she was on her way to the parking lot when she stopped to help.

“Was it that black Cutlass; the one the wrecker was hooking onto?”

“What do you mean? What wrecker?” Eva had a panicked look as she thought about her past due car note.

“While I was out for my walk I saw a wrecker back up to a car and latch onto it. When you said that you were having car trouble; well I just assumed that . . .”

“Damn!” Eva ran out the door to the parking lot. She had a gut feeling that the car would not be there; she was right. It had been snatched up by the “repo” man. Walking slowly back to the emergency room, a few tears trickled down her cheek. “They got my car; they got it. What am I going to do now?”

“What do you mean? Did they steal it?”

“No, I’ve been late on my payments. The bank told me that if I quit paying on the insurance that they could take it at any time. Its my own fault.”

“Oh . . .”, Sinclair was familiar with how the wreckers would follow a “target”, waiting for just the right moment to retrieve a car. “. . . I see.”

Wiping away a stray tear and sniffling to clear her nose, “Well I guess I can spare a few minutes to listen to what you have in that computer voice machine while I wait for my brother to come get me.” Turning to the nurse to get permission to use the telephone, “Is it okay?”

“Use that one.”, pointing to the one on the wall. Eva punched in the numbers and waited. She looked at the floor, the ceiling and the walls as she avoided looking at either Sinclair or the nurse. She was embarrassed by the situation.

“Any luck?”, the nurse asked as the phone continued to ring. Eva ignored her and let the phone ring a few more times.

“Answer the phone, dammit!”, talking to the piece plastic handset. A few more tears formed as it became apparent that there would be no answer. Eva hung up the receiver and thought for a few moments. She had no other family that she could turn to.

“My wife will be here around five thirty.”, looking at the large wall clock in the emergency room. “She might be able to give you a lift home.”

“You don’t think she’d mind?”

“Of course not, Bev would enjoy the company.”

“I don’t live too far from here.”

“Consider it done.” Sinclair felt good at having offered to help. It had been a while, too long, since he had been able to offer help to another.

“I guess you can take him on to his room now.”, the nurse was satisfied that Sinclair was reasonably stable now.

“I’ll have the nurse upstairs check him out when I get up there; thanks again.”
Eva pushed the wheel chair out and down the hall toward the elevators.