Fan Fiction by Adam Smith (USA)
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Katie was in the kitchen flouring a bundt pan for her Christmas rum cake when the knock came at the side door. She glanced at the clock radio hanging under the cabinet in the corner nook, which told her that it was 7:15 p.m. as it began to play Burl Ives’ “A Holly Jolly Christmas.” She wiped her hands on her apron, went to the door, and peered out through the sheers at the figures on the concrete stoop: Jed and Eli. She gave them a surprised smile, threw back the deadbolt, and swung open the door.
“Hello, Jed—and Eli, too. Come in, come in. Quick, before you get cold.”
Jed held the screen door and waited for Eli, but she did not enter; instead, she looked up at Katie. “Are you sure I can come in?”
Confusion flickered across Katie’s face for a fraction of a second before she answered. “Of course I am, dear.” She swung her door open wider, and Eli stepped inside, her big eyes taking in all of her surroundings. Jed followed, stamping his boots on the outside matt so he wouldn’t tramp water all over the hardwood floor.
“Getting cold out there,” Katie remarked as she closed the door behind them. “I see it’s still raining.”
Jed removed his hat. “It’s turned into a light mist.”
“Well come sit down. Let me take your coats.”
“Thanks. But you don’t need to take ‘em, ’cause we won’t be here that long.”
“All right.” She asked them if they wouldn’t mind if she continued preparing her rum cake, and Jed readily agreed. “I wouldn’t want to do anything to jeopardize getting a slice of that, dear.”
She poured the cake mix into the mixing bowl and began to break eggs. Eli sat at the kitchen table next to Jed, quietly watching Katie work.
“You all want something to drink?”
“No, that’s not necessary,” Jed replied. “We were just wondering whether you could give us the name of your family doctor. You’ve told me about him before, but for the life of me I can’t remember it. We want him to take a look at Eli and see if he can figure out this allergy problem she’s got.”
She glanced up at him and smiled. “Oh! That sounds like a good idea. It’s David Cook—he’s down in Culpeper. I can get you his number in just a second.”
“That’d be great.”
Katie glanced at Eli as she poured a half cup of rum into the bowl and began to mix. “Eli, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”
“Nice to meet you, too.”
“Jed’s told me a little bit about you. Is it true that you’re Swedish?”
“Yes.” Eli glanced at Jed. “I’m from Östergötland.”
“Is that near Malmö?”
“Umm . . . not exactly. But I lived for awhile in Malmö.”
“I see. You speak English very well. Did you learn it in Sweden?”
“Mmm hmm. It’s required in all the schools.”
“I wish I had taken the time to learn a foreign language when I was in school. I took some French when I was a sophomore, but that was about it. Parlez-vous français?”
Eli smiled. “I don’t know French. But I like to learn new things.”
“She’s a quick study, as you know, Katie.”
“So I heard—the jigsaw puzzle, right?”
Jed nodded. “Right.”
“That was quite a feat, from what I heard.”
“You should see her egg puzzle. It’ll blow you away.”
“You’ll have to show it to me sometime.” Katie slid the Bundt pan into the oven, set the timer, and began to wash her hands at the kitchen sink. “Eli, you’re very lucky to have found Jed. From what I understand, he’s taken quite a shine to you. And it’s no exaggeration to say that he’s one of the nicest persons you’ll ever meet.”
Jed huffed and waved his hand. “Oh, please.”
Eli looked to Jed and smiled again. “He’s helped me out a lot; I know that, Mrs. Enderly.”
“Call me Katie, dear.” She dried her hands with the dishtowel. “I’ve never heard of anyone having a problem like yours. Just how bad is your reaction to sunlight?”
“Very bad--I could die if I’m not careful.”
“And no one’s ever told you what it is? And there’s nothing you can take for it?”
“Not that I know of. That’s why we’re here.”
She shook her head. “Well, I doubt that Dr. Cook will know what to do, but maybe he can refer you to someone who can help.” At the nook under the clock radio, she pulled out an address book with a picture of a woman by Claude Monet on its cover and opened it as Nat King Cole began singing “The Christmas Song.” Jed pulled a small notepad out of his pocket.
Katie glanced at him. “Got a pen?”
“Okay. His phone is 540-825-0096. His office is over by the hospital on Sunset Lane. Twelve hundred, suite 320.”
“Does he have an after-hours number?”
“I don’t know . . . you’ll have to call. You’re welcome to use my phone.”
“You got a White Pages for Culpeper, Kate?”
“Sure.” She opened the bottom cupboard, pulled out a thick phone book, and brought it to the table. Jed put on his reading glasses; then flipped open the heavy book to the residential section and began scanning the pages as Eli looked on with interest. Soon his finger stopped.
“Is he a David ‘E’ or an ‘S’?”
“I think he’s . . . a David ‘E’.”
“Good. He scribbled some information onto his pad. “Mind if I use the phone in your study?”
“Go right ahead. Are you going to try him at home?”
“That’s right. Eli, why don’t you come with me.”
Together they went down the central hallway past the staircase and turned left into a room with a desk and some bookshelves that lined one wall. Jed sat down at the desk and pulled Katie’s rotary phone toward him. “Slide that door shut, will you, Eli?”
Eli looked behind him and saw that Katie did not have hinged doors; instead, they slid into the walls. He grabbed first one, and then the other, and slid them closed.
“Those’ re called pocket doors,” Jed remarked as he dialed. “Kinda neat, huh?”
“Mmm hmm.” Eli gazed briefly around the room, and then came over and stood by Jed’s side. Jed stopped dialing, and then Eli could hear, faintly, the sound of the phone ringing at the other end. Then it stopped.
A woman answered. “Hello?”
“Hi. My name is Jed Inverness. I’m trying to reach Dr. Cook.”
“May I ask why you’re calling?”
“I need to speak with him about a friend of mine who’s sick and needs to see a doctor. I got his name from Katie Enderly; she’s a patient of his.”
“Well he’s not working right now. If your friend has a problem that can’t wait, you should take him to the Emergency Room. Otherwise, you can call his office in the morning and make an appointment.”
“I can’t take her to the ER. She’s deathly afraid of hospitals, and she’s got a condition that will make it impossible to have her seen during the day. I’m very worried about her, and Katie has spoken very highly of Dr. Cook, so I thought perhaps if I could just spend a few minutes with him on the phone, he might be able to help us.”
“Well, this is very unusual, but . . . .”
“Please--it’s very important, and I don’t know any other doctors. I don’t have a regular physician, and neither does she.”
The woman sighed. “All right. Hang on.”
There was a clunk and then a pause.
“Hi. Is this Dr. Cook?”
Cautiously, the man replied. “Yes it is. And who is this?”
“My name’s Jed Inverness. I’m a good friend of one of your patients, Katie Enderly. She and I live next door to each other.”
“Oh, Katie. I’ve known her for years. Her husband and I were in the Lions Club before he passed away. You live out on that mountain with her?”
“That’s right—she lives just down the road. In fact, I’m borrowin’ her phone to call you, because I live in a cabin and I don’t have a phone.”
“I see. Is she there?”
“Yes she is.”
“May I speak with her?”
“Yeah, sure.” Jed put down the phone. “Eli, tell Kate to get in here, willya?”
Jed heard the sound of one sliding door rolling back in its track, then Eli’s voice, trailing away down the hall. “Mrs. Enderly? Jed needs you.”
Soon Eli returned with Katie by her side. Jed gestured with the receiver. “I got Dr. Cook on the horn. He wants to talk with you.”
“Yeah.” Jed handed her the phone.
Katie took the phone from him and anxiously held it to her ear. “Hello?”
“Katie? Hi—this is John Cook. I just wanted to make sure this wasn’t some sort weird prank.”
“Oh, it’s no joke, John. This little girl needs to see you.”
“Little girl? How old is she?”
“I think she’s twelve.”
“Well maybe she ought to be examined by a pediatrician, then. I can give you a name. Dr. O’Shaunessy is excellent, and--”
“John, I know this is unusual, but I’d really appreciate it if you could see her yourself. Jed’s a dear friend of mine, and he’s very worried about this youngster.”
“Well, is she his daughter, or—I thought he said that—”
“No he’s not, but he’s been taking care of her since before Thanksgiving. And he cares about her a lot. She doesn’t have any family around here, and she’s got some serious medical problems. I’m so worried about both of them, and I gave Jed your name because I know what a good doctor you are, and I know you care about your patients.”
He sighed. “I don’t know, Katie. This is very unusual.” There was a long pause while he thought it over. Finally, he spoke again. “Can he bring her over to my office right now?”
Katie put down the phone and looked up at Jed. “He wants to know if you can bring her to his office tonight.”
She put the receiver back to her ear. “Yes.”
“All right. Tell him I’ll meet them in, say . . . what, 40 minutes?”
“Will do. Maybe I’ll tag along.”
“That’d be lovely. I’ll meet you at the rear entrance. See you in a few.” Katie hung up the phone.
Jed stood up. “You coming with us?”
“Do you mind?”
“Course not.” He glanced at Eli. “You don’t mind, do you, Eli?”
“Okay. But what about the rum cake?”
Katie smiled. “I’ll make another.”
Dr. Cook was waiting for them just inside the double doors at the rear of the medical office building when Jed pulled up in his truck. Eli had been sitting in between Jed and Katie on the way, and he got out on Katie’s side. The rain had finally tapered off.
He had been very quiet on the way into town, worrying about what was going to happen when the doctor began asking questions. Jed and he had talked things over at length before they had left the cabin. Except for deciding to call Eli a girl, which they both agreed would be easiest, at least for the moment, the two of them had argued vehemently for a long time about what they were going to tell the doctor that Eli was. Jed had said that there was no way they could tell any lies that would pass muster with a competent doctor. Eli had suggested one scheme after another to somehow keep from disclosing the truth while getting some help, but Jed was reluctant. He reminded Eli that even though he didn’t mean to be, being around him could be dangerous, and that meant that whoever they wound up seeing would be taking some risks, too, and he wasn’t going to be accused of misleading someone who might somehow get hurt. Eli had understood this, but was still quite anxious, and the two of them had never really agreed upon on what they would do, the discussion petering out when Jed had noticed the time and said that he wanted to do something tonight.
Eli’s nervousness had only grown worse as he sat in the pickup truck, waiting for the inevitable. A feeling of portending doom settled over him, and more than once he considered running away once Jed stopped the truck. Deeply ingrained instincts linking secrecy to self-preservation fought to override the feelings he had developed for Jed, and the desire to get help at any price. It took all of his willpower to try and remain calm and collected as they approached the entrance, and the doctor swung one of the doors open for them.
Katie was in the lead and Eli took up the rear, giving him the opportunity to size up Dr. Cook before he stepped through the doors. He was shorter and thinner than Jed, and seemed a few years older. He wore ordinary clothes—bluejeans and white sneakers—and his hair reminded him of Katie’s; blackish-gray, but a bit darker.
He gave Katie a brief, formal hug as she entered the building’s rear foyer, then shook Jed’s hand as Katie introduced him. Jed then turned to Eli and introduced him to the doctor, who extended a hand.
“Hi, I’m Dr. Cook.”
“I’m Eli.” He shook the doctor’s hand, and suddenly felt more relaxed.
“Eli, I’m pleased to meet you. So you don’t like hospitals, huh?”
The doctor offered Eli a kindly smile. “All right. Well, we’ll see if we can keep you out of one, then.” He turned away and summoned the elevator.
On the third floor they turned right and went down a hallway with bluish-gray carpet and off-white walls. Dr. Cook stopped in front of a cherry-finished door with a placard beside it that read Culpeper Family Practice Associates, produced a key, and unlocked it.
He flicked on the lights and they stepped into a patient waiting area. He didn’t stop, but went past the check-in counter and turned on some more lights. “Come on back. All three of you, I suppose.”
They went around a corner behind the front desk with its movable shelves of medical charts and entered an exam room. He turned on the light and motioned to the chairs. “Have a seat. Eli, why don’t you take off your coat and sit up on the exam table while I find a chart.” He stepped out of the room.
Eli took off his coat and handed it to Jed, who could tell by the look in his eyes that he was growing apprehensive. Jed gently touched his shoulder. “Remember what we talked about, Eli. You need to be brave, okay?”
“I’ll try to do my best. I’m just a little scared.”
“Don’t be. Remember what I said--anything you tell a doctor, they have to keep secret. They’re not allowed to go blabbing about their patients’ problems.”
“Okay.” He climbed up and sat down on the table, the paper crackling beneath him. After a short time, Dr. Cook returned wearing a white doctor’s coat, and carrying a clipboard and some papers. He handed some of the papers and a pen to Jed. “You’ll need to fill out this intake sheet and sign the other two. I won’t be able to process your insurance tonight. Can you come back tomorrow and work that out with my front office gal?”
“I’m paying for this with cash.”
Dr. Cook raised an eyebrow and smiled. “All right. Gee--I can’t remember the last time I had a private pay.” He turned to Eli and sat on a chrome stool next to a low bench; then pulled a pen out of his pocket.
“I think we’re ready. So what is the concern?”
Jed opened his mouth to speak, but Eli beat him to it. “I’m a vampire.”
Jed winched. The pen in Dr. Cook’s hand stopped a millimeter above the small box on his exam sheet entitled “Chief Complaint.” He looked up at Eli. “Excuse me?”
Jed hastily intervened. “She means she’s allergic to the sun. It burns her skin if she’s exposed to it for only a few seconds. It’s so bad that she never goes outside during the day.”
“All right.” He gave Eli a cautionary look. “I’ll just write ‘skin allergy’ for now.
“How long have you had this problem?”
“It started when I was twelve.”
“But you’re twelve now, right? So this year, sometime?”
“Um . . . yeah, but it seems like a lot longer.”
“All right. Well . . . why don’t we take a look at you.” He stood and took an electric thermometer from the bench. He popped a plastic sleeve over one end and stepped up to the table. “Open up and let’s put this under your tongue.” He poked it into Eli’s mouth and waited for a little while until it beeped; then withdrew it. He frowned when he looked at the small, plastic window.
“I told you to keep it under your tongue.”
“Let’s try again.”
Once more they waited until the device beeped. This time he swore softly when he read it.
“Take off your shirt, please.” Eli complied.
“Huh—well, you certainly are pale. You never go outside in the sunshine?”
Eli shook his head.
“So you’ve become a real nightowl, huh?”
“Yes. I’m always awake at night now; never during the day.”
“Well, I’m gonna put this under your armpit and check your temperature there, okay?”
Eli lifted an arm briefly while Dr. Cook pressed the thermometer into place. Within a minute, it beeped and he removed it.
He shook his head. “It’s the same--twenty-one degrees. Room temperature. Well, I’m writing it down, even though it doesn’t make sense.” He looked carefully at Eli. “You shouldn’t be able to talk with a temperature like that.” Eli did not reply.
“Let me have your hand.” Carefully he checked Eli’s wrist for a pulse. Jed watched him carefully and could see the bewilderment grow on his face. “Can’t be right.” Then put his fingers in the soft, hollow area on one side of Eli’s jaw and checked there.
“I’ll be goddamned. It’s the same.” He stared at her, obviously shaken. “Your heart’s beating four times a minute. It should be around 80.”
He uttered a nervous laugh. “It’s nothing to be sorry about. It’s just . . . extremely unusual. If you weren’t talking to me right now, I’d be calling 911 to get you to the ER ASAP, and starting CPR.”
Jed spoke. “He means he’d be trying to save your life.”
“Exactly. You mind if I listen to your heart?” Eli shook his head while he put on his stethoscope and placed the diaphragm on Eli’s chest. After a few seconds he frowned and moved it slightly to a different position; then listened again. Then he took the stethoscope out of his ears and frowned as he jotted a note. “Her second heart sound is extremely delayed. Let me check your lungs.” Once again he used the stethoscope to listen, this time to the front and back of Eli’s chest, asking him to breathe deeply.
“Well, your lungs sound good.” He took a blood pressure cuff from the table. “This might be a little big for you, but I want to try and get a reading. Mind if I put this on your arm?”
“No.” Eli held out an arm.
“Thanks.” He wrapped it around Eli’s arm, the Velcro making a scratchy sound as he finished. Then he inflated the sleeve with the small rubber ball and began to watch the dial carefully as it deflated, listening for Eli’s pulse with his stethoscope.
“Didn’t catch one.” He shook his head. “Let me try again.” Once more he pumped the bulb in his hand while everyone watched in silence. Soon he sighed and removed the cuff, placing it back on the table.
“Eli, your blood pressure is about 40 over 40. I can’t understand how you’re alive.”
Eli solemnly returned his stare. “I don’t want to be like this anymore. Can you help me?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know. Let me check out a few more things. Open wide and say ‘ahh.’”
“Ahh.” He peered into Eli’s mouth; then felt once again under Eli’s chin. Then he removed an otoscope from his pocket and turned it on. “You mind looking up at the ceiling?”
Eli complied and Dr. Cook examined the inside of his nose; then stepped to the side of the table and put the scope into Eli’s ears, first one side, then the other.
“All normal. That’s good.” He sat back down.
“You can put your shirt back on. Let me ask you some questions.”
“When you have this reaction, what kind of rash is it? Is it red, blisters, any itchiness, or . . . .”
“Umm . . .” Eli glanced at Jed, looking for guidance.
“Tell him what happens, Eli.”
“My skin catches fire.”
“Catches fire. But you’re not . . .” He looked up at the fluorescents in the ceiling. “. . . this light isn’t bothering you? Or, I mean, from an incandescent bulb? That doesn’t hurt?”
“It’s only sunlight.”
“Nobody’s skin catches fire from sunlight, Eli. That doesn’t make any sense.”
“That’s what happens. I’m sorry.”
Dr. Cook laughed nervously. “You don’t need to apologize; I just . . . I’m not sure what questions to ask, here.
“Are there any other symptoms when this happens? Or, do you have any other allergies?”
“No. But sunlight will kill me if I’m out in it even for a few seconds. I burn.”
“How did this problem first develop? I mean, was there any sort of trigger?” He looked to Jed for help. “You know . . . an environmental exposure of some kind.”
“I think my blood got infected with something. That’s when I began to notice that I don’t get cold like normal.”
“I see.” He made a note. “What makes you think your blood is infected?”
“I think something bit me. I don’t remember exactly, but when I woke up, I had these problems.”
“Where were you bitten?”
Eli pointed to the left side of his neck. “Here, I think.”
Dr. Cook stood and examined him carefully. “I don’t see any mark. Do you remember how it looked after you were bitten?”
“Did you have a fever?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Have you had any muscle soreness, joint pain or inflammation?”
“How about episodes of weakness or dizziness since this happened?”
“Feeling of malaise . . . you know, kind of feeling run down. Tired?”
“Sometimes I go to sleep for a really long time.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I fall asleep and then I don’t wake up for days. Even . . . weeks.”
Dr. Cook did not seem to respond; just continued dutifully making notes. Katie, however, who had been increasingly astonished by what his examination had revealed, looked at Jed, utterly dumbfounded. Jed looked at her and shrugged.
“You’re telling me that you’re literally asleep for weeks at a time. Correct?”
“And then you just wake up.”
“Hmm. Okay. What day is it?”
“Tuesday, December 17, 2002.”
“Where are you?”
“In an office building . . . on Sunset Boulevard?”
“Close enough. Now I want you to count backwards by sevens, starting with one hundred.”
“One hundred . . . 93 . . . 86 . . . 79 . . . 72 . . . 65 . . . 58 . . .”
“Okay, that’s enough. What do you weigh?”
“I don’t know.”
He gestured at a set of scales. “Step up on there, will you, please?” Eli complied and he moved the counterweights on the bars until they balanced.
“Fifty-three pounds—light as a feather for a kid your age. Have you had any unusual weight loss or weight gain?”
“I’d like to get a blood sample and run some tests. Urine, too.” He looked at Jed. “You’re not her dad, right?”
“And so, where are her parents?”
Eli spoke. “They’re both dead.”
He gave Jed a puzzled look. “What is your relation to her? Extended family, or are you her guardian, or . . . .”
“We’re not related. I . . . I guess I’ll need to apply to be her guardian.”
“I doubt that I can take a blood sample without a signed consent by a parent or legal guardian.”
“Well, what if I just say that I’m in the process of getting that?”
Dr. Cook thought for a moment. “I’ll tell you what: if Eli agrees, I’m going to take it without your consent, Mr. Inverness. I think these are emergent circumstances that would justify doing it that way. Given her vital signs, she could be in serious danger at any time. In fact, I’d really like to admit her, if we could, but I know she won’t agree to that.” He turned back to Eli and gave his leg a reassuring pat. “It’s been awhile since I drew someone’s blood. I can, but I’d prefer to have one of the nurses at the hospital do it, if you’re willing to go to the ER.”
“I don’t want to.”
“You won’t have to stay very long. I’ll call them and tell them that you’re coming.”
“I really don’t want to.”
He sighed. “Okay. I’ll do it, then. You don’t mind if I take a little of your blood, do you?”
“I can’t promise it won’t hurt a little when I put the needle in. Think you can handle that?”
“Okay. Let me get some things pulled together. Why don’t you hop down from there and go into the bathroom on the other side of the hall. You’ll find some cups on a shelf next to the sink. Pee into one of them, and then put the lid back on and leave it.”
“I don’t need to pee.” He glanced at Jed.
“Oh. You sure you can’t do just a little?”
“All right. Well maybe we’ll try in a little bit, okay?”
Dr. Cook proved to be more adept at drawing blood than he had hoped; he had no difficulty finding a vein and taking two vials. After he had given Eli a cotton ball and then taped a band-aid over the draw site, he asked for a last name and date of birth so he could prepare the lab slips.
“Eriksson. Eli Ericksson is my name,” Eli replied. Jed said nothing.
“And your date of birth?”
“May 30, 1990.”
Katie stared at Eli and then at Jed, flummoxed. Quietly Jed reached over, squeezed her knee, and very subtly, shook his head.
“I’ll take these over to the hospital tonight so they can be processed in. We usually use an outside lab, but they can’t sit that long. Think you can go to the bathroom for me now?”
“I can’t. Sorry.”
“Okay. I’m going to give Jed a cup to take home. When you feel the urge, use the cup. Jed, I want you to bring it back in here tomorrow.”
“You say you don’t have a phone?”
“I want you to get one—a cell phone would be best. You can do that, can’t you?”
“Good. Sign up tomorrow, then call my office and leave your number. Whatever Eli’s got, it’s very, very unusual, and I would feel better if I can reach you without having to go through Katie.” He nodded at her. “No offense to you, of course.”
“I understand,” Katie replied as they stood to leave.
Dr. Cook produced a card and jotted some numbers on it. “This is our back office line and my pager. If you need to reach me, use one of those.”
Jed took the card. “Thanks. And thanks for coming out to see us tonight—I know that’s really asking a lot.” They shook hands. “Any ideas on what it could be?”
Dr. Cook shook his head. “I’m afraid not, at this point. I’m going to call Dr. Silver first thing in the morning—she’s an allergist—and discuss Eli’s case with her. She may want to do some skin testing, and perhaps a biopsy. I don’t know.”
“I wish I had more answers for you. I understand how anxious all of you are about this.” He turned to Eli. “Especially you.”
“Thank you for everything. I feel better, knowing you’ve agreed to help me.”
“You’re welcome. I hope we can get to the bottom of this.”
“What do I owe you?”
Dr. Cook smiled. “I’ll bill you.”
As they were leaving, he pulled Jed aside to speak with him privately. “Mr. Inverness—”
“Call me Jed.”
“Okay. Jed, I’ll be very frank with you. Eli should not be alive, let alone walking and talking, with her vital signs. I’ve been practicing medicine for thirty years, and I’ve never seen or read anything like it.”
“No—I don’t think you do. If she runs into trouble and you call 911, they could try to resuscitate her and potentially cause more harm than good. If anything happens, call me on one of those numbers, or use my home, for that matter. I don’t want someone who doesn’t know what the hell’s going on touching her.”
Jed nodded. “I gotcha.”
“I’ll be in touch as soon as we get the blood work back.”
“Thanks a million, doc. You’ve been a great help to us.”
NAME: Eriksson, Eli
INFORMANT: Patient/friend RELIABILITY: Good
CC: Severe skin reaction to sunlight
HISTORY OF PRESENT ILLNESS: This is an initial evalution of a 12 y.o. female who presents with a complaint of suffering severe skin reaction to sunlight which began earlier this year. Patient states that skin “catches fire” when exposed to sunlight, but no reaction to artificial light; associates onset of symptoms with bite on neck while sleeping. No complaint of fever, arthralgia, myalgia, or joint effusion. No dizziness or headache, but complains of intermittent periods of extended sleep (days, weeks?). No unexplained weight loss.
PAST MEDICAL HISTORY: Unknown.
ALLERGIES: NKDA other than as described above.
PERINATAL HISTORY: Unknown.
PRESENT MEDICATIONS: None.
GROWTH/DEVELOPMENT: Unknown. Age-appropriate verbal/motor skills, but < 3rd percentile for weight, although does not appear emaciated or malnourished.
NUTRITIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Deferred.
REVIEW OF SYMPTOMS: As per HPI. No shortness of breath, no nausea/vomiting/diarrhea/constipation; no chest pain, no fever.
FAMILY HISTORY: Parents deceased.
SOCIAL & ENVIRONMENTAL: Living temporarily with friend.
Temp: 21 C. oral, 21.5 axial; Pulse: 4 bpm; Resp. 12; B/P: 40/40 repeated
Weight: 52 lbs. ( < 3rd %) Height: 58 in. (25th %) Head Circ.: ( %)
General: Pleasant, anxious, cooperative 12 y.o. female; Head/Neck: atraumatic/normocephalic, supple with full range of motion; Eyes: extraocular movements intact, conjunctiva clear, pupils equal, round, reactive to light; Ears: tympanic membranes clear bilaterally; Nose: no flaring, rhinnorrhea, bleeding; Mouth: moist mucous membranes, oropharynx benign, no tonsillar exudate, no pharyngeal erythema; Lungs: clear to auscultation bilaterally, no wheezes, no rhonchi, no crackles, no retractions; Cardiovascular: S1, S2 delayed, no murmur, gallop or rub; pulse pathologically slow (4 bpm); Lymph Nodes: no lymphandenopathy; Abdomen: soft, nontender/nondistended, no hepatosplenomegaly, no masses; Genitourinary: deferred; Neuro: cranial nerves normal, distal tendon reflexes 2+ all extremities; good tone, normal gait, mini-mental status exam within normal limits; Skin: pale but otherwise normal; Extremities: full range of motion, no edema.
LABS & RADIOLOGY: Blood drawn for complete blood count with differential, blood culture, and electrolytes. Will order urinalysis and urine culture once sample obtained as patient states not able to urinate at time of exam. Consider CT or MRI for cardiac workup.
1. Malignant hypothermia, cause unknown. Patient with body temperature not compatible with life, yet mental status and motor function are within normal limits. Will await results of blood/urine tests and refer patient to Dr. Louis Ferris for an infectious disease workup.
2. Severe hypotension, cause unknown. Patient’s pulse and blood pressure not compatible with life. Will await results of blood/urine tests and arrange immediate consult by Dr. Tom Goodwin for cardiolgy consult and possible chest CT or MRI.
3. Severe skin reaction to sunlight per history. Will refer to Dr. Rebecca Silver for allergy consult and possible skin biopsy.
4. Recurrent primary hypersomnia. Will request consult from Dr. Deborah Harper.
D: 12/17/02 22:23 T: 12/19/02 9:32
Katie felt very uneasy during the drive back to the mountain. Because of what Jed had reported to her the day before about Eli’s age, she had been upset when Eli had told Dr. Cook that she was born in 1990. On the other hand, she hadn’t believed what Jed had said about Eli being more than 200 years old—it was, after all, impossible—so perhaps, she hoped, Jed had had that big talk with her that she’d suggested, and made Eli tell him the truth. But because of her uncertainty, and because she did not want to raise something that might be a sore spot between Jed and Eli, she kept quiet, hoping to clarify things with Jed after Eli had gone asleep.
Jed felt happier than he had been in awhile. He hung a left onto Eggbornsville Road, accelerated smoothly up the hill, and flicked on his highbeams. He glanced over at Eli, pleased to have him sitting next to him, and smiled. “Sure am glad I got one with a bench seat, rather than the buckets. So what’d you think of Dr. Cook?”
“It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.” Eli looked at Katie and smiled. “Thanks for introducing us to him.”
“You’re more than welcome, dear. I think Dr. Cook will find you a very challenging patient, from what I saw.”
Eli looked down at his lap. “I don’t mean to be. I just want to be normal, like everyone else.”
“We understand that, Eli. And Jed and I will do what we can to help you.” She glanced at Eli before continuing. “Fifty-two pounds--I had no idea you were so underweight. Aren’t you eating right?” She looked over at Jed. “Have you been feeding her, Jed?”
“Yep, but she was skinny to start with, weren’t you, Eli? It takes time for a person to get back to where they should be.”
“Well if you need me to run to the supermarket for you, just let me know. I realize that leg of yours is still a hindrance. But you really need to eat more, child. That’s not healthy.”
“I know. I’m trying.”
“Good. Plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables—that’s the secret to staying healthy. Do you like blueberries?”
“My mother and I used to go out and pick wild raspberries and blueberries.”
“Well I still can my own, so maybe you can come over some time and I’ll treat you to some with a bit of ice cream. How’s that sound?”
“Thank you. I’d like that sometime. But not tonight—I’m kind of tired.”
“No, I understand. It’s been a long night. Do you miss your mom and dad? It must be hard, losing them at such a young age.”
Eli looked to Jed before answering. “I miss them more than anything. And it has been hard—very hard.”
Jed tried to change the subject. “Well now that we’ve enlisted Dr. Cook, maybe he can help us find a cure. So you can go back outside in the sunshine and play like you used to.”
“I hope so.”
They rode the rest of the way back to Katie’s house in silence. By the time they reached Route 211, Eli had slumped over against Jed and closed his eyes. Jed and Katie exchanged a muted goodbye in her driveway, fearful that they might wake Eli up. But as Jed rumbled to a stop outside his cabin, Eli opened his eyes and sat up.
Jed cut off the engine and pulled his keys out of the ignition. Eli sat quietly beside him, unfastening his seatbelt. Jed did the same, then stopped.
“Eli . . .”
Jed caught his gaze. “How much time do we have?”
Eli was quiet for a moment before speaking. “About a week.”
“You’re going to let me know, right?”
“Yes, I will.”
“You won’t run off, like before.”
He stared at Jed, his face very pale in the glow of the courtesy light. “On what I can do to satisfy it.”
“Well . . . I feel like we’re workin on that now. Don’t you?”
“Yes—but I’m still afraid.”
Eli looked surprised. “Why’re you afraid? You haven’t done anything wrong.”
He put his hand on Eli’s shoulder. “I don’t want to lose you, that’s all. I’m gonna get that phone in the morning and start makin some calls to see what I need to do about becoming your guardian. ’Cause I reckon we got some tough choices comin down the road.”
“What good will that do? You’re letting me stay with you, so . . . .”
“You heard Dr. Cook tonight. When a kid is by himself, something as simple as drawing blood can be a hurdle. Doctors are used to having an adult around to help make decisions about how to treat children.”
“So if you become my guardian, you could decide what should happen to me, even if I disagree?”
“Technically, yeah. But I wouldn’t do that, if I knew what you wanted. You’re no ordinary twelve-year-old, Eli. I know you’ve been walking the earth a helluva lot longer than me.”
“I don’t know if I like the idea.”
“I told you I love you--I don’t know what else I could say to persuade you. You know, I don’t even know if it’s possible, given that you’re Swedish. That, plus it occurs to me that someone, at some point, will probably be asking for your passport and a birth certificate.”
“I don’t have those things.”
“This isn’t going to work. Someone’s going to ask me what I eat. And then . . . I don’t know what I’ll do. Because someone will put two and two together and call the police.”
“I don’t think the doctors can do that.”
“But you don’t know that, do you.”
“No. I mean, I suppose if someone walked into an ER with a gunshot wound, they could. But I don’t know what else—”
The thought came to him, out of the blue: child abuse. Damn it. Why hadn’t he thought of that before?
“What?” Eli looked at him, puzzled.
“Um . . . if they thought you were a victim of child abuse, they’d probably have to report that, too.”
Eli thought for a moment. “You mean my—”
“Yeah—I think so. Unless maybe they thought you were just born that way.”
He laughed cynically. “Chances of that are about zero.” He shook his head. “This isn’t going to work.”
“Eli, we’re talking about getting help from trained medical professionals for a serious problem that none of them have ever dealt with before. You can’t expect that kind of thing without revealing some things about yourself. Maybe we could persuade Dr. Cook that what happened to you, happened a long time ago when you were in Sweden. After all, it’s not like it looks as though it happened yesterday.”
“Well, what’s he going to say when he finds out I don’t even pee? You got that little cup? ‘Urine sample.’” He laughed again, more harshly this time. “The last time I went was . . . I can’t remember when.”
“Look, there’s a lot to talk about. What do you say we go inside and warm up, huh?”
For a moment, Jed thought Eli would refuse; might just announce that he was leaving. Then he sighed. “Okay.”
Eli started the fire so Jed could get off his feet; then offered to make some coffee for him. Once it was brewing they sat down in their favorite spot in front of the stove.
“That’s a good little fire you got started.”
“You wanna whittle?”
“No, I don’t feel like it.”
Eli shook his head.
“Want to show me how your egg works?”
Eli brightened. “You really want to see?”
“Yeah, sure. But can you put it back together all right?”
“Uh huh. It just takes awhile, that’s all.” He got up and went to his backpack, then brought the box back to the table. Jed got up and sat at the table with him.
“That sure is a nice box you have for it. Did you make it?”
Eli smiled broadly, clearly relishing a happy memory. “No—Oskar made it. He enjoyed working in wood.”
“That’s a traditional Swedish thing, isn’t it?”
“Yes. He gave it to me for a birthday present one year.”
“When do you celebrate your birthday?”
“May 30, like I told Dr. Cook. But it was actually Oskar’s. He let me adopt it.” He pulled the egg out.
Jed stood. “Let me get a cloth for that.” He brought a white dishtowel over from the kitchen area and laid it out on the table. Eli gently handed the egg to Jed. “Here. Hold it sideways and rock it.” He did as Eli instructed, and it fell apart in his hand. The pieces spilled out of his cupped palms and onto the towel, leaving something round and heavy. Jed carefully shook his hands so the remaining shards fell free, and then stared at the gold ball that remained.
“I’ll be damned.” He held it up to the light and saw his reflection. “This what I think it is?”
He put the ball down on the towel next to the pile of black and gold metal shards, then sat down and peered at them. “I’m afraid you’re on your own with this one--I can’t hardly see them things.”
She smiled at him. “It’s okay. I’ve done it many times.”
“You say your dad gave this to you?”
She sat down and began poking at the pieces. “Not my real father. We were very poor. I meant the father of what I am now.”
“You mean the guy who bit you.”
“That’s right.” She picked up a piece and scrutinized it carefully, then set it aside. “That one goes near the bottom.”
“I got the feelin Dr. Cook thinks it was a tick or a spider, or something like that.”
“I know. But he wouldn’t have believed me if I’d told him the truth.”
“Want to tell me about it?” He got up to check the coffee.
“Do you really want to know? It might upset you.”
“Well . . . not if you think it’ll make you feel bad.”
“It might, but maybe it’d be fair to you, so you know what you’ve fallen in love with.”
“I’m getting the picture, but shoot.”
Eli was quiet for a few moments as he thought about where to begin. “He picked me because of how I looked. It took me awhile to figure that out, actually. For the longest time, I couldn’t understand it. I thought it was because I’d been bad--that I was being punished for something I’d done. And then I came to learn that I wasn’t the first—just the last.
“He was our lord. We were in what was called ‘villeinage’ to him. Do you know what that is?”
“We were serfs—tenants. My father worked his land. And one day we were called to his castle. All of the families who worked his land were required to participate. Just the boys, actually, from age 8 to 12. For a ‘competition.’ So you see, if I’d only been a year older, this never would’ve happened to me.”
“What kind of a competition was it?”
“It wasn’t, really. He just rolled some dice and my number came up. I was number seven. Only at first I thought he’d rolled a six. But he changed it—because he wanted me.”
“How’d he change it? I don’t understand. And why you?”
Eli stopped sorting the pieces and looked up at Jed. “He had the power to change it, just like I have the power to change. And like I said, he picked me because he liked how I looked. He liked pretty boys.”
“No one was there to stop him? Where was your dad? Your mom?”
“You don’t know what it means to be a serf, do you? I guess that shouldn’t surprise me—why would you?”
“So your parents had no say in this?”
“No. My mother tried to stop them, but they held her—she couldn’t do anything. And my father . . . he wasn’t even there.”
“So he took you away and bit you?”
“Yes. But first he cut off everything down there.”
Jed shook his head. “That’s . . . unbelievably sick.”
“Defiling children was his way of defying God. We became his dark angels.”
“How many kids did he do this to?”
“I don’t know. But I know he was very old. Ancient. So probably hundreds.”
Jed continued to shake his head. “Sounds like something straight out of a twisted fairy tale. If I hadn’t seen you myself, I would never’ve believed it.
“So what happened to you after that?”
“He kept me locked away in his castle for a long time, to teach me about my new life, and turn me into the monster he wanted me to be. Which is why I’ll never go to prison, Jed. Ever. I’d rather die than be locked up like that again.”
“How long did this go on, for God’s sake?”
“I don’t really know, because I had no sense of time in that place. Weeks? Months, maybe.”
“How’d you get away?”
“One night he kept me in his room and made the mistake of falling asleep before I did. I set him on fire with a torch. Then I set the tapestries on fire, too. The fire spread and they couldn’t put it out. That whole wing of his castle burned down. That’s when I ran away. And that’s when I got the egg.”
Jed stared at him, incredulous. He couldn’t believe that the small, unassuming person sitting beside him was telling a story like this, of being imprisoned in a castle and burning someone to death. “Eli, I . . . but you’re just a child. I mean . . . .”
“Jed, if you knew half the things that I’ve been through—no, a quarter—I wouldn’t have to beg you to use your gun on me; you’d do it in a heartbeat. Or you’d run away from me as fast as you could. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”
“Jed, if you knew half the things that I’ve been through—no, a quarter—I wouldn’t have to beg you to use your gun on me; you’d do it in a heartbeat. Or you’d run away from me as fast as you could. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”
Jed put down his coffee, crossed his arms, and was quiet for a moment. When he spoke, his voice was soft, but carried an undercurrent of anger. “Do you want me to know all of these things, Eli? I’m not stupid—I can do the math. Do you want to . . . argue me out of loving you? Tell you that I’m going to stop caring about you because you’ve been a bad person? Should I just call Dr. Cook tomorrow and tell him to forget the whole thing?”
“Jed, I can’t—”
“You just be quiet for a minute. You’ve done a lot of talking, thrown your tantrum, and so on. Now it’s my turn to tell you what I think.”
Eli closed his mouth and fell silent.
“Oskar’s dead. No amount of mopin’ around is going to bring him back. People die and leave their loved ones behind every day. It’s part of the human condition. And for awhile, if you’re one of those left behind, it’s as if the world has come to an end. A big fat hole blown through the middle of your life. You miss that person terribly; you feel as if you can’t go on. You have these memories of who that person was; the times you spent together, and you want to . . . I don’t know, relive those in your mind, because if you can bring those memories back, it’s as though maybe that person really isn’t gone, and if they’re not really gone, then maybe the pain will go away.”
Eli sniffed and put his face into his hands, but Jed continued.
“But then one day, when the sun has continued to rise for the umpteenth time, you wake up and realize that doin’ what you’re doin’ isn’t very healthy. That no amount of wishing is going to bring that person back. And as far as I’m concerned, when that happens there’s only one thing to do—only one way out. You say to yourself, I’m gonna take what was best about that person, what I loved the most about him, and make it a part a me. You internalize it, and allow it to transform your life, if you haven’t done that already. That’s the only way I know of that you can keep on growin as a person and face the next day. Because this old world just keeps spinning. It’s not gonna wait for you. As one important person said, ‘Let the dead bury the dead.’ That seems kinda harsh, but there’s truth in it. And if you can do that, then you’ll be happy knowing that a part of that person who meant so much to you is living on, inside of you.”
Eli had begun to sob as Jed spoke, and did not stop as he paused.
“Now let me tell you what I think about this other thing. I know you’ve done bad things—includin’ killing people. I also know you’re really just a twelve-year-old kid—a kid whose life ground to a halt a coupla centuries ago and took a turn for the positively surreal. And twelve-year-olds aren’t held to the same standards as adults—least not in this country, anyways. People understand that kids don’t behave like grownups—you’re not held to make the same sort of judgments that adults are expected to make. I also know that you’re the most unique person walking around on the planet right now.” He laughed self-consciously. “Right here in my own damn cabin.
“Now nobody, and I mean nobody, has ever been handed the kinda deal that was forced upon you. And I can’t imagine there’s any judge in this country who would look down from up there on his bench and condemn a little person like you to death, or to life in prison, no matter how high the prosecutor stacked the bodies. ’Cause believe me, you are well outside the assumptions the law makes about human behavior.”
Eli’s crying began to slacken. He uncovered his face and looked bleakly at Jed, his eyes red and his face red with tears.
“So the question you gotta answer is, what sorta person do I want to be tomorrow? The past is dead--it’s over. You have an opportunity here with Dr. Cook. You said yourself that you hate this thing that’s living inside of you. Well, god dammit, let’s try and do something about it, if that’s the case. Stare it in the face and say ‘Fuck you--I’m gonna kick your ass. I’m gonna be shed of you, come hell or high water.’ You do that, and I’ll be there with you all the way. I’ll bleed for you to keep you alive, and I’d warrant that Katie would too, if she really understood what you are. So I say, let’s stop all this sneakin around and just lay it all out for Dr. Cook. Tell him that you can’t give him a cup of piss ’cause you ain’t got nothin to pee with no more, and that—I guess—you don’t even need to pee any more. That’ll throw him for a loop, but at least it’ll get his mind thinking about what you are, and what he might do to help you.
“And if we do all of that, and the doctors can’t help, and no one can help because this thing is so strong, and you feel that you just can’t keep on living any more, then I will take you up to the mountaintop and put you out of your misery after you say whatever it is you want to say to God. Because I’ll understand by then that I’ll be doing you a kindness.”
Eli looked down and spoke softly. “It’s what Oskar would want me to do—I know that.”
“So . . . .”
“So I’m going to go through with it. Come hell or high water, like you said.”
“And we’ll let the chips fall where they may.”
He nodded. “Good.” He slid his chair around so that it was beside Eli’s. “You wanna talk about Oskar?”
His face brightened. “Uh huh.”
“Super. Tell me all about this boy who loved you so much.”
They talked into the wee hours of the morning about Eli’s life with Oskar. It was the first time Eli had been able to tell anyone about him since his death, and about how much he had meant. The words poured out--the experiences together, the stories, the good times and the bad; so much that Eli surprised himself, and became afraid that Jed would grow weary or bored. But he merely listened quietly, nodding and sometimes offering comments. Sometimes Eli cried and Jed wept with him, and before both of them realized how late it was and Eli’s words tapered off, each of them had their own handkerchiefs in front of their places at the table, crumpled and damp.
Jed pushed back from the table, physically and emotionally wiped out. “Eli, I’m pooped.” He took his coffee mug over to the sink. “You want me to set up that cot down here again?”
“I . . . I don’t know. I can sleep up in the loft, if you want.”
Jed turned and came back to the table. Once again he felt that fragile, intangible something between them. He could be proper, or he could be honest with Eli and himself. Which was the greater good?
“I don’t want you to.” There--it was out.
Eli nodded and said nothing. Wordlessly, they prepared for bed.
Sleep evaded him, even though he was beat. He kept hearing Dr. Cook in his head, talking about how Eli’s vital signs were incompatible with life. What did that mean?
It means the person pressed against you should be dead.
Yes. Yet, somehow, Eli wasn’t dead.
He ran his hand through Eli’s hair, feeling the soft, thick curls, and touched his back with the hand that clasped him to his side. Robbed of sight in the blackness of the cabin, the butter-smooth texture beneath his fingers felt that much more unique, that much more amazing. So old, this skin, yet so beautiful. Preserved in youth for all eternity.
No, Eli was not human. Jed was quite certain that the more Dr. Cook learned about him, the more he would come to understand just how strange and alien Eli really was. Yet, he was also human. A beautiful, amazing boy--chock full of hopes and fears, joy and sadness, like every other person on the planet.
His soul is human.
Yes. And maybe, when all was said and done, that would be all that Eli would have left to call his own. Jed would do everything in his power to prevent that from coming true, but if it did, he knew he’d go with Eli to wherever people went after death. Hand in hand.
Eli lay against Jed on the narrow bed, pleased that Jed had not wanted him to go up to the loft. Something momentous had happened today; he felt it in his heart. A shift in how he felt about himself; about his future. For the first time since Oskar’s death, he imagined that he might actually have a future—all because of the man who now held him in his arms.
Eli’s thoughts turned to how Oskar had held him in the same way, and how much joy it had brought him in those moments before he had fallen asleep. It was so much like things had been back then—the warmth of his embrace, the feeling of being wanted, of being cared for. Beneath the blanket he extended his arm further across Jed’s chest and held him more tightly.
Oskar, I . . .
No. He’s not Oskar. He’s Jed—a different person. Someone else who has chosen to love you. It wasn’t right to think of him as Oskar.
Jed’s hands moved through his hair and touched his back, their movements tentative and light. Eli could feel the respect in them; could sense the wonder and awe in the gentle strokes. Their touch betrayed a child-like innocence that lived beneath the gruff exterior of this wonderful person who had allowed Eli into his life. Nothing lurked in the shadows of his touch--only a desire to know and understand; to bring happiness and fulfillment. Eli was terrified of what was coming, but for now, Jed’s hands were sufficient. In this place and with this person, he was free. He let go of his fear, and promptly fell asleep.
12/18/02 Culpeper Regional Hospital, Culpeper, VA 22701
Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology
Roger Eggleston, M.D., Chair
NAME: ERIKSSON, ELI LOC: OUTPT AGE: 12 Y SEX: F
ACCT: 05356-12593 DR: COOK, DAVID
WBC 6.02 [4.19 - 9.43 K/uL]
RBC 4.08 [3.93 - 4.90 M/uL]
Hemoglobin 11.0 [10.8 - 13.3 g/dL]
Hematocrit 37.2 [33.4 - 40.4 %]
MCV 80.6 [76.9 - 90.6 fL]
MCH 27.0 [24.8 - 30.2 Pg]
MCHC 33.4 [31.5 - 34.2 g/dL]
RDW 13.3 [12.3 - 14.6 %]
Platelet Count/Auto 293 [194 - 345 K/uL]
Abs. Gran/Auto 9.03 [>1.00 K/uL]
Abs. Mono/Auto 0.47 [K/uL]
Abs. Lymph/Auto 1.35 [K/uL]
Abs. Eos/Auto 0.08 [K/uL]
Abs. Baso/Auto 0.02 [K/uL]
Automated Gran % 57.2 [50 - 65 K/uL]
Automated Mono % 4.3 [4 - 10 %]
Automated Lymph % 32.1 [25 - 40 %]
Automated Eos % 0.7 [0 - 3 %]
Prothrombin Time 13.1 [12.6 – 14.1 Sec]
Prothrombin Time INR 0.95 [0.8 – 1.11]
PTT Activated (aPTT) 29.9 [22.6 – 34.8 Sec]
Glucose 0.0 (L) [54 – 117 mg/dL]
Sodium 135 [132 – 141 mmol/L]
Potassium 5.2 (H) [3.3 – 4.7 mmol/L]
Chloride 42 (L) [97 – 107 mmol/L]
Total CO2 0.0 (L) [16 – 25 mmol/L]
BUN 0.0 (L) [7 – 21 mg/dL]
Creatinine 0.0 (L) [0.5 – 1.1 mg/dL]
Total Protein 7.1 [6.4 – 8.6 g/dL]
Albumin 4.9 [3.8 – 5.6 g/dL]
AST 12 [0 – 26 U/L]
ALT 32 [19 – 49 U/L]
Alk. Phosphatase 102 [82 - 169 U/L]
LDH 165 [117 – 213 U/L]
Total Bilirubin 0.3 [<0.8 mg/dL]
Creatine Kinase 53 [28 – 142 U/L]
Uric Acid 0.0 (L) [3.0 – 5.9 mg/dL]
Calcium 9.8 9.0 – 10.7 mg/dL]
Jed sat in his truck in the parking lot of a strip mall along the main drag in Warrenton, Dr. Cook’s business card on his thigh and a black Nokia cell phone in his hand. It was a beautiful, cloudless day, and the mid-morning temperature had risen into the 40s. It felt very strange to be talking on a telephone behind his steering wheel, and he felt out of phase anyway, because he had gone to bed late and had gotten less than five hours of sleep, a restless sleep that had been marred by a nightmare that he was unable to remember upon awakening. The big cup of coffee he had taken with him into town was beginning to kick in, replacing his weariness with an unpleasant, jittery feeling.
He looked doubtfully at the phone. The guy in the store had tried to explain some of its features, but most of the details had gone right over his head because he hadn’t been paying attention. All he was interested in was how to make and receive a call. The rest of it was so much crap.
He dialed Dr. Cook’s back line and screwed it up; the damn buttons were so small, he could hardly press one at a time. Frustrated, he started over, and on the second try, got it right.
“Culpeper Family Practice Associates.”
“Hi. My name’s Jed Inverness. I need to leave a cell phone number for Dr. Cook. He asked me to call him with my number.”
“What is the patient’s name?”
“Eriksson. Eli Eriksson.”
A pause; then: “Just a moment, sir. Dr. Cook needs to speak with you.”
“Is this about the blood test?”
“Just a moment.”
“Yep. Hi, Dr. Cook.”
“Hi. How are you?”
“Pretty good. I thought I’d call and give you my number, like you said.”
“Go ahead.” Jed gave it to him.
“Thanks. So how’s Eli?”
“Fine. She’s asleep up at the cabin.”
“Is anybody with her?”
“No. But she sleeps like a rock during the day. I can tell you that she won’t be getting up until tonight
(when it gets dark)
. . . at least, that’s the way it’s been since she moved in with me.”
There was silence on the line; Jed could tell that Dr. Cook was pondering whether to challenge the wisdom of leaving Eli by herself. Finally he said, “Okay—I understand you’re by yourself. Can you come to my office this morning? We need to talk about the test results, and about arranging for some consults by some specialists.”
“You mean the allergist?”
“Yes. That and . . . I think also we need to discuss getting a cardiologist and Infectious Disease specialist involved.”
A surge of unease passed through Jed. How would Eli react to so many doctors?
Come hell or high water . . .
“All right. When do you want me to come?”
“Now, if possible. I made some phone calls this morning, and I’d like to call some of these folks again with you present, since you’re apparently the closest thing to a surrogate she has. They may want some additional history before they see her. I’ll have to cancel some of my patients, but that’s okay--it’s important.”
“I’ll head over right now.”
“Did you have any luck with a urine sample?”
“No, I didn’t—and there’s a reason for that.”
“Yes. But it would be easier to talk with you about it when I get there.”
“All right. See you in a few.”
He held the phone away from his face and peered at it so he could press the “no” button; then slipped it into his pocket. “No.” What the hell did that mean? Why wasn’t it “off” or “hang up”? He started his truck.
Four doctors in less than twelve hours. Damn--things were getting complicated already.
Eli: a tidal wave in the form of a child, sweeping through his life and ripping up everything, knocking all before it hither and yon and leaving him stunned and topsy-turvy in its wake. And now, the wave had receded a bit and he was beginning to catch a glimpse of an even bigger wave behind the first: huge, dark, and full of uncertainty and danger.
He closed his eyes and tried to relax. They were doctors and they wanted to help; that was all. Of course there would be several of them, because Eli’s case was medically complicated and making a diagnosis would be difficult. He just needed to stay calm and keep his head screwed on, and everything would turn out all right. With any luck, the doctors would find a cure and no one would ask any questions about Eli’s dark past. Then he’d adopt Eli, and they’d live happily ever after up at his cabin. Yeah—that was how it was going to work. Everything would fall into place if he could just keep his wits about him. After a moment, he put the truck in gear and headed for Culpeper.
Continued next week