Atonement

The sequel to the short story "Coming Home," some time has passed since the incident between Simon and the doctor which resulted in their deaths. If you haven't read the first story "Coming Home" I suggest reading it first to clear up any confusion about the beginning. The aim was to answer questions left in the short story; please comment, and enjoy.

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6. A Bad Day at the Office

 

   As November began to come to a close the first snow fall came on as a blizzard so violent as to threaten the very livelihood of anybody fool hardy enough to try and go out into its icy clutches. The icy touch of death that was the onset of winter only complicated things at the institute; Disease and death began to become a common place in the lower ward where Dr. Duquesne worked. This morning, a Monday in fact was a horrendous example. Dr. Duquesne had come through the main entrance of the institute covered from head to toe in thick wet clumps of snow and ice that fell away onto the floor as he walked.

            “Damn this blizzard!” he shouted in disgust. “I almost crashed three times on the way over here! I don’t see what Edward or any child for that matter sees in the desolate white out that is snow.” As he walked his boots temporarily lost grip as he walked across the wet floor causing him to slide into the receptionist’s desk with a loud thud.

            “Oh my, are you okay Dr. Duquesne!?” squeaked the receptionist in complete surprise at the incident that had just occurred at her desk. Out stretching her hand to help the doctor up she pulled him to his feet and proceeded to give him his work for the day and his usual cup of coffee.

            “Dear Ms. Convert you are all too kind to me. You perhaps are the only good that inhabits this eternal hell of an institution,” Dr. Duquesne smiled as he removed his coat hung on the hanger behind the desk, taking his coffee and work orders from the young receptionist. “Now if you’ll excuse me I must get to my office,” he smiled as he proceed down the hall to the elevator that would take him to his office in the basement or lower wing where he would be continuing to finish what Dr. Murdoch had started. As he ventured to his office the coughing, moaning, and occasional scream that came from the solitary rooms where the children that were being tested on were kept wore on the doctor’s heart; it killed him to have to do the children what Murdoch started.

            “Doctor Duquesne, do you have a minute?” asked a nurse in the stereotypical medical garb with a face mask bound to her mouth. “It’s little Marcy, she’s terribly ill.”

            “Let me take a look at her,” Dr. Duquesne replied following the nurse to a room with an open door and medical cart in the room. The room was like any other room in the lower wing, simple beige painted walls, a simple metal framed bed with the most basic mattress and sheets. Marcy’s room was different only in the fact that over the months she had become quite stable minded and so Dr. Duquesne allowed her paper and crayons as part of her therapy. Her room was covered in assorted drawings ranging from random streaks of color to pictures of simple people and places Marcy conjured up from either her memories or her imagination. Seeing the doctor approaching her, the little curly haired brunet girl sat up in her bed and managed a weak smile.

            “Hi Doctor Duquesne,” Marcy managed to whisper quietly.

            “Hello Marcy, how are you feeling today? You look a little sick,” Dr. Duquesne replied in an even low tone. Approaching her he put a face mask on and knelt beside her bed. Checking her pulse and breathing he noticed the poor girl had a temperature.

            “Yeah, I’m a little sick but otherwise I feel good,” Marcy replied smiling her toothy grin.

            “That’s good, now Marcy I’m going to give you a little shot to lower the temperature alright?” Dr. Duquesne calmly spoke to the little girl. Before she could reply or protest the doctor had already given her the shot of medication and withdrew the needle before she could register it. Turning to the nurse he gave a small bottle of pills and said, “She has a minor fever being aggravated by a cold, give her two of the pills every six hours and she should be fine.”

Walking out of the room Dr. Duquesne was intercepted by Ms. Tenmore as he walked to his office. With a minor scowl of disgust on her face she quietly addressed Dr. Duquesne.

            “I don’t see why you bother wasting precious medical supplies on those children; they are all destined to die eventually at some point. Dr. Murdoch would never show them compassion for he surmised that they would take advantage of him, besides he knew work was more important,” Ms. Tenmore began ramble.

            “You and that bastard of a doctor can burn in hell if you can’t even show compassion for children. These children harbor hatred yes, but they are all too afraid of the consequences of what would happen if they acted on their hatred,” Dr. Duquesne replied becoming annoyed at the insistence of this devil of an assistant. Walking into the lab and office Dr. Duquesne was surprised to see a child in his office not sedated or strapped to the table. “Odd, Miss Tenmore did you let this child in here?” Turning around Dr. Duquesne found that Ms. Tenmore had fled behind the doors to the lab and barred them shut.

            “I hope you like him, his name is Brian and boy does he have a violent streak,” Miss Tenmore chuckled through the glass. “Try to talk your way out of this one doctor.”

Turning to face Brian the doctor noticed that the child was hiding something in his right sleeve. As he sidestepped to the other side of the room Brian mirrored him, finally catching a glint of the stainless steel blade Dr. Duquesne knew exactly what it was. ‘You stupid women you’ve gone mad and when I’m done with this kid I’m going to put you in a straight jacket and lock you in the closet,’ Dr. Duquesne thought to himself.

            “So, you’re the replacement for Dr. Murdoch? That’s fine I’ll just do to you what he did to me for three years,” Brian spoke, breaking the doctor’s train of thought. Smiling an evil smile of dark intentions, Brian withdrew the surgical blade and lunged at Dr. Duquesne.

            “You poor tortured child, I have pity on you,” Dr. Duquesne spoke evenly frowning at the clearly unstable child. While he was side stepping about the room the doctor had taken from the cart a syringe with a heavy sedative in it in case Brian was going to attack. Waiting until the last possible moment he sidestepped Brian and in one fluid motion withdrew the needle and slammed it into the back of the boy’s neck and pushed the plunger. As the last clear drop of the fluid raced into the boy’s body the doctor withdrew the needle and stepped back. Brian spun around enraged by the pain that now emanated from his neck.

            “You bastard!” Brian shouted. “Fight me like a man, not a coward!” With rage filling every part of his being Brian again charged the doctor. The sedative was clearly taking effect for as he charged Dr. Duquesne, Brian’s vision became blurred and he swung the scalpel too early missing the doctor. Taking advantage Dr. Duquesne stuck out his arm and clothes lined the charging boy. Kicking the scalpel from his hand Dr. Duquesne grabbed Brian by the shoulders, picked him up and deposited him on the table restraining his arms so he couldn’t attack again.

            “You lack enough discipline to have taken me, but a worthy effort Brian,” Dr. Duquesne smiled wildly. “Now just let the sedative take over and drift away into sleep.” Hearing these words Brian wanted to cuss out the doctor but found he couldn’t. To his horror he watched as his vision faded the doctor grabbed a second syringe and mumbled something. He then proceeded to inject Brian in the lower abdomen. Suddenly unaware he was becoming delusional he felt as though he was being strangled and he realized the second syringe probably had cyanide in it. As he faded into blackness felt scarred and one thought crossed his mind, ‘I’m going to die.’  

Having given Brian a stabilizer Dr. Duquesne watched as Brian seemed to hallucinate and then pass out. Checking his pulse and breathing to see he was stable Dr. Duquesne walked over to his oak chair and sank into it. Picking up the phone he called the police and told them of what happened. He then phoned the front desk to get Ms. Convert to come down and unbar the doors. By the time all this had taken place Ms. Tenmore was long gone, disappeared into the storm through the woods as luck would have it. Waiting for Ms. Convert to come down Dr. Duquesne turned in his chair sipping his coffee watching the even rise and fall of Brian’s chest as the unconscious boy breathed.

            “You know Brian I don’t know what Murdoch did to you but I assure you I can sympathize with your pain. I was once his patient myself,” Dr. Duquesne spoke to the unconscious child as to justify what he had just done. “In fact I was in a similar position to what we just went through except I was smart enough then to grab a sedative so I could knock him out and make my escape.” Seeing as though the boy no longer posed a risk Dr. Duquesne unstrapped Brian and laid him on a gurney in preparation for him to be moved back to his room.

            “Dr. Duquesne, are you alright?” came the alarmed voice of Ms. Convert as she came through the now unbarred doors. She had a genuine look of concern on her face as she walked slowly over to where the doctor had seated himself.

            “What? Oh yes, I’m fine,” Dr. Duquesne replied as his thoughts became coherent once more at the sound of Ms. Convert’s melodic voice. Turning to face Ms. Convert with a look of distance and deep pensive thought he asked her a question.

            “Ms. Convert, as a professional opinion to another, do you think people are born evil or do you believe people are all born the same but that a series of unfortunate events can turn a person to do evil things?”

            “In my honest opinion, I’d have to say people are all born the same but a series of events could turn a person to do evil things,” she replied after an extended period of silence. Seeing the distant look in the doctor’s eyes she knew something was bothering him. Sitting on the desk she put a hand on his shoulder. “If something is bothering you Charles you can tell me.”

            “It’s just doing all this work, and specifically the type of work I am doing is terrible. I should be damned for even taking this job; and the worst part is I think I’m actually starting to enjoy doing this work for a living,” Dr. Duquesne seemed to mumble staring into space.

Ms. Convert smiled, “Maybe you just need to take some time off, all the research you have completed has more than satisfied the director, and you managed to even get Marcy cured of her mental problem; I heard pending an inspection she could be released. That has to count for something.”

            “I suppose you’re right but then there’s that problem to deal with also,” Dr. Duquesne frowned slightly sipping from his coffee.

            “What problem? Do you mean having Edward living with you; I thought you said he was benefiting from it in which case I don’t see the problem,” Ms. Convert replied coolly. “Or are you afraid that you’re getting attached to him?”

            “I think I’m becoming attached to him, and I don’t know why. I’m probably too young to be a good parent and yet spending time with him is nice and he seems to enjoy it; he’s decided to take up poetry as of late and the piano to boot,” Dr. Duquesne smiled slightly. “You know I had the idea of trying to find a way to adopt him but I know that as long as he’s still a patient I can’t do a damn thing.” Opening a draw in his desk he took out two glasses and a bottle of 1887 Bordeaux Red wine. “Do you drink Ms. Convert?”

            “Not usually but in this case I’ll make an exception, this day has just really been spiteful,” she answered taking the glass in hand. Dr. Duquesne poured the wine until the glass was full and he then proceeded to pour his own glass.

            Laughing lightly he replied, “Yes, this has been one hell of a day so I propose a toast; A toast to hating Mondays.”

            “To hating Mondays then,” Ms. Convert giggled tapping the glasses together to completing the toast they each downed their respective glass of wine. After which they put Brian in his room, signing out for the night they said good night to each other and parted ways. On the ride home the doctor had never felt so happy before, however, he disregarded the feeling accrediting it to his consumption of the wine earlier. Getting attached to his patients was one thing, but to get attached and have a relationship at work would just get in the way of the mission at hand. He would come Hell or high-water, erase the institute from the face of the Earth. As he walked in the door he took off his coat and wandered up to his room. Closing the door behind him he kicked off his shoes and flopped on his bed. As he thought about how the day went he found himself becoming drowsy until he fell into a deep slumber.

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