The Control

Matthew Higgins laid down _The Morning Call_ and smiled vaguely. It had
been a long time since he was in the Middle West, and you got out of the
way of remembering it. He finished his coffee, motioned for his check,
paid it, leaned over the bar and said:

“That’s the best coffee roll I ever had outside of Paul’s.”

Otto beamed and cocked his head slowly.

“Fank you! Fen I fus cum to dis country, I vork in Paul’s. Two vyears.”

Matt put his weight in his shoulders and his voice was admiring.

“Why did you come West?”

Otto began wringing his towel helplessly.

“Vell, my vivfe vus humsic, so I tried to make into a Jerman settl’ment
… an’….”

He stood silent a moment. All of his verve wilted.

Higgins interposed, “Any news around town?”

Otto peered over his glasses pleasantly.

“Ve reever made four inchers, las’ night. Eif she continuers….” He
threw out his hands. His face flashed sober and he drew his hands over
his abdomen and said carefully:

“Docturr Bearr Sterlink is … dyin … k.”

Matt squared his shoulders and sat straight on the stool. He stretched
his torso upward.

“Great man I guess … that Bear Sterling! Saved the lives of lots of
people…!”

Otto reached over the counter and began carefully balancing the dishes
and his words.

“Yess. Lots. Lots of people. But even great men half der veak spots….”

Matt Higgins poised a spoon upon the saucer of the cup Otto was lifting.

“What do you mean … ‘weak spots’…?”

“Vell…,” Otto’s conscience and his philosophy collided. He peered over
his glasses again.

“Du … did you kno’, Docturr Bearr Sterlink?”

Matt Higgins shook his head definitely.

“By reputation, only. What’s his weak spot?”

Otto closed his lips completely and turned his back. When the dishes
were safely deposited, he said:

“Sum men are veak vid de knife, sum aroun’ de heart, sum like me, aroun’
de stumack…! Sum ven ve are young…. Sum ven ve are studients…. Sum
ven ve are in bed….” He whirled quickly and threw out his hands. His
head nodded the periods to his sentences.

“Ve all haf dem!”

An interne burst through the door and begged:

“Otto, gimme some coffee quick! Quick, Otto! Black!”

Matt Higgins noted the boy’s blanched face and shaking hands.

Otto soothed:

“Fut vus hit, Docturr?”

The interne gulped the coffee and shook his head pleadingly.

Otto leaned across the counter and ordered:

“Fut … frightened you, Docturr?”

The boy put down the cup.

“Hell!” he strode toward the door, “I ain’t frightened. It was a nigger
baby with a severed head. It just got my guts … that’s all…!”

When he was gone Otto turned to Matt Higgins, shrugged and smiled.

“Hiss iss … fear!” he said.

Then leaning upon the counter he asked:

“Vy did _you_ cum Vest?”

Matt looked him straight in the eyes and replied:

“I’m a New York gangster, on vacation, come to see my kid brother
interning at the hospital.”

Otto perked his head.

“Maybe … I know him.”

Matt Higgins shook his head.

“No. You couldn’t know him. He’s high-hat as hell. Only lets me see him
half a day every six months…. He’s my … weak spot!”

He slid from the stool and stepped aside. Four medical students jostled
through the door.

Otto mopped his counter, slowly, thoughtfully, painstakingly.

Matt Higgins tipped his gray hat over his narrowed eyes, and went
through the door.

That man knew something … but there was no use trying to get him
to….

He turned down Beeker Street and made his way over to Wilson Boulevard,
one end of which was façaded by the Elijah Wilson group; the other was
bounded by the River. He looked back over his shoulder to see if he
could get a glimpse of anything denoting the river. Only a curling line
of smoke from a ferry-boat.

The air was clear, still and comforting and the people all walked like
New Yorkers. But the women didn’t amount to much. No good legs. No
poise. No New York verve.

He looked at his watch as he entered the tall iron gate and approached
the main entrance. It was eight forty-five.

At the main entrance he took off his gray overcoat and stood back to let
two nurses pass. They weren’t much.

He passed the statue of Elijah Wilson, went on into the main corridor
and turned to the left. He walked with the air of a man who knows where
he is going and is not to be stopped by trifles. Long experience had
taught him that demeanor could get one almost anywhere. Especially in a
hospital.

Nurses and doctors passed, returning from breakfast. The faces of the
lovelorn and the love-lettered were revealed by every passing window.
Intermingled with all of these were a group of abnormally sad faces, and
then he remembered that today was the day of that nurse’s funeral. She’d
been a pretty little thing, too. Her fragile little corpse had skipped
rope in all of his dreams last night! He quickened his pace and his
hairy hands were clenched in his pockets.

Halfway down the main corridor he stopped ostensibly to look from a
window at the back garden of the hospital. He took in the approaching
people in both directions at a glance. They were all of them distant
enough to risk it.

He walked several feet further, began walking close to the wall, and
faded into a door. The door opened into what had been the old laboratory
building, and with the renovating of the hospital had been left vacant.
The corridor was lighted by a series of tall windows at the far end. The
brilliant morning sun sifted through them vaguely. The grime and dust of
the panes and of the intervening corridor made its trickle thin and
eerie.

Matthew Higgins closed the door softly and stood silently against it for
a second, listening. Then he accustomed his eyes to the light and looked
at the floor. In the center were the tracks he and Dr. MacArthur and
Snod had made last night. On the far side were the tracks which he and
Snod had agreed Snod should make this morning.

He shifted his hat upon the back of his head and began walking up the
corridor next to Snod’s morning tracks. Halfway up, he stopped and
listened. Then he threw his overcoat over his shoulder and approached,
cautiously, the door of the laboratory they had decided upon. On tiptoe.
Silently. His weight was thrown forward with the expert training of a
toe-dancer. Slowly, melting into it as he did so, he pushed open the
door of the laboratory.

It was darker than the corridor. The outside window blinds had been
closed for several years. He stood silently several seconds and then
decided to chance a match. He took off his hat and struck it carefully
in the shadow the hat provided. Then when it was well-lighted he lifted
it and surveyed the room.

The dusty lab sinks, the rotting rubber hose, the two stools with their
cane bottoms gone, and upon a bamboo couch in the corner Snod Smooty,
his face totally devoid of expression, sleeping with the abandon of an
infant.

As the match burned low in his fingers Matthew Higgins leaned over and
watched Snod Smooty sleep. This was the first time in ten years he had
known Snod to sleep with someone watching him.

The night must have been a swell affair! The smell of smoke reached
Smooty’s consciousness; he turned over suddenly and opened his eyes
completely. His face was still blank with an effort to see in the
darkness, and his voice came huskily:

“Matt?”

The answer was in keeping with the dimness. The match had burned out and
Matt Higgins was killing it on the floor with his toe.

“Yeah. Wake up! Any news?”

Snod Smooty raised his slim body to a sitting posture and slung his thin
feet to the grimy floor. He ran his left hand through his colorless hair
and wiped out his eyes with the right palm.

“Cigarette?”

Matt Higgins took _The Morning Call_ from his overcoat pocket and placed
it over the hole in one of the stools. Over that he folded his overcoat
and raised himself onto the stool.

“Better not. Watchmen or something. How was the night?”

Smooty put the unlit cigarette sullenly in his hip pocket and said
sweetly:

“Hell all the time … and then some…. ’Bout ten a drunk naval
officer-beau of the dead nurse brought her a bouquet of red roses,
darling. Thought she was doing duty on the ward. Didn’t know about her
death. Shook the guts outa that student nurse when she told him and then
began playing hide-and-seek under the patients’ beds with me.”

“The devil!”

“Yeah, himself! I got him outa the hospital, socked him, and tucked him
into a parked car to sleep it off. Went over him first, though. William
Brady, U. S. N. Loot. J. G.

“Then I went back to the ward. And he had left the roses on the bed of
one old blattering fool and she took it that she’s next to go and can
she scream! So loud the others couldn’t make a squeak. Well, the Jew
doctor got there and a mess of nurses and hen medics and give them all a
bromide and then they needed bed-pans again … and then … they had to
have a drink of water. And then another bed-pan around. Like salt and
pepper, you know. Now I see why the Waldorf makes money. Pay toilets for
ladies.”

“And Lil?” Matt’s voice was demanding.

“Lil’s lost her nerve, Matt. Swears if you don’t get her outa there by
this afternoon, she’s going to walk out. Says the examination she had to
get in that damn bed was just like being frisked naked. During
pan-rounds we had some conversation.

“She’s took it into her head that that student nurse, the niece of the
head nurse, is doing the murders. She’s took it that the girl is like
that moll she caught in the circus last spring (she says you know which
one) working for a hypnotist and selling dope. Damn if Lil ain’t decided
that the head nurse of the clinic, Miss Kerr, who got her stout old tail
up there before it was all over, ain’t making her niece work for
somebody … ain’t both of them working for some control … who is
having them murder patients.”

“Lord God! That ties up, too…. Go on … finish your story.”

“It’s Lil’s idea, Matt, that they are doing it because they hate young
Sterling and are trying to ruin him, and get him out … and nothing I
could say … between bed-pans and glasses of water … could change her
mind a nits worth. When Lil is out of reach … you know what I mean …
she’s hard to reason with.

“And she’s got the creeps bad as the rest of them, now, and told me if I
let that little bitch come within fifteen feet of her the rest of the
night she’d….

“So after we’d gotten all them females quieted inside and out, I had to
spend till seven this A. M. doing things that would keep me where I
could see the nurse. Sweeping corridors and asking questions and messing
up the guts of the electric refrigerator and, you know … having the
hell of a good time….”

He threw out his hands futilely.

“Women who can walk and talk is bad enough, but when they ain’t got
nothing to do, except lay out in bed … thirty strong … I ain’t been
this tired since I worked in a prison camp in Germany in ’16.

“That student nurse and her aunt suspect me, too. And I had to put up
some alibi about having been a hospital orderly in London and when I was
always in the place I was told not to be, that was the way … you
know…. Lil says if I ain’t back on the ward by three this afternoon,
time the aunt usually makes floor rounds, pretending to be learning the
ways from the day orderly, she will be outa there … and … you
know….”

“Good work, Snod.” Higgins complimented, and then ordered, “Good idea.
Be back on by three. Sleep here this morning. After last night, the
murderer will either strike quick, or lay off for some time. I’ll wire
for another man this morning; but he may not get here until tomorrow….
We’ll have to do double time all around….”

Snod’s voice was flat and caustic.

“Yeah.”

Higgins ignored it and said:

“After you went on, MacArthur and I had another talk, and he took me to
see the nurse’s body. Lovely thing. Seems this coniine can be prepared
synthetically but the toxicologist laughs off the idea that it was. Too
hard to do. And I brought out that however prepared the first thing to
do was to stop the ‘shots’. MacArthur agrees, but he won’t commit
anybody. You were right. I told him it’s a crazy nurse or doctor and he
had apoplexy. He’s straight. I like him. I’m to see the heads of all
departments today and see what I can find out, unobserved. And I’ll meet
you here again at two-forty, before you go back on the ward.

“If Lil’s right, they are working for the psychiatrist, and if she’s
not, then it’s the man MacArthur is shielding. See anybody last night
took your eye?”

“No. They were all too shocked. The murderer wasn’t there.” Smooty, who
had a habit of talking “in character” was too interested to “think” as
an orderly. “The person in authority was the Jew and he’s white. Jew
doctors are! Those Kerr women, head nurse and student, took it too
calmly.”

“Want any breakfast?” Higgins asked from the door.

“No. Just a bed-pan, please!”

Snod’s voice fluted after him.

With the overcoat, Snod Smooty made himself a pillow, and was asleep
before Mr. Higgins had retraced his steps halfway up the corridor.

When Higgins reached the place where the basement steps came up into the
corridor of the vacant building, he struck another match, again under
the protection of his hat and looked for the tracks he and Dr. MacArthur
had made last night. Then he descended the steps and stood in the dark
basement corridor. He stood erect, with his shoulders thrown back,
listening. When the silence assured his mind and hurt his eardrums he
began walking up the basement corridor, toward the entrance into the
main service corridor, which ran directly under the main hospital
corridor. He and Dr. MacArthur had decided the best way to get out of
the lab building would be through the service corridor, the door of
which had a spring lock, and then up the service elevator to the main
floor of the Administration Building.

The basement corridor was black as night, but totally dead. The worn-out
odor of old chemicals mingled with that of damp plaster. The smell began
to permeate his nostrils and made each creak of the sagging floor hit
his brain like a pistol shot. The soft blackness closed in like a
sweating fog.

He began to feel as a swimmer feels against strong tides. The door at
the end of the corridor was diminishing as the door in _Alice in
Wonderland_, or had it been Alice who diminished? He had just convinced
himself that the last sound and the newest smell were caused by a
leaking water tap and an escaping gas jet, when something struck his
foot, ran up his pants’ leg to his waist, and down the other side.

Rats!

He jumped with the agility of a fencing expert into an open door and
threw up his arm automatically. He stood with his muscles flexed,
listening and beginning to feel the beads of perspiration starting under
his arms and trickling down his thighs.

And then he laughed at himself and tried to lower his arm. It wouldn’t
come. He tugged and he could feel his coat sleeve beginning to give. The
tap continued its regular drip, drip, and his nerves became strung and
he reached his free hand in his pocket and drew out a match and lit it
upon the seat of his pants, regardless.

Then he saw the trouble instantly. His arm was caught by a long iron
hook suspended from the ceiling. He looked around and saw the room was
full of such hooks.

“Wuuh!”

The ejaculation came naturally. He was in the room where they had once
hung the cadavers. His coat was caught upon a cadaver hook! And with the
realization his reflexes began working automatically. He leaped and
freed his arm and struck his head upon the ceiling.

Then he leaned against the wall and shivered. The feel of the burning
match against his flesh brought him to, like a pain.

“Fool!” he muttered reprovingly and his perspiring body was seared dry
by a consuming shame. “Lighting matches in a basement with escaping gas
and getting hysterical over rats. Get out of here!”

He regained the corridor and proceeded quickly in the direction of the
door. When his hand was upon the handle he stopped for a moment to
consider and get himself together.

Was Snod safe in this building? Had those feelings he had just been
through been entirely hysterical or were they partly occasioned by the
presence of the murderer, somewhere, in that basement?

He checked over it all step by step and decided that they were pure …
might as well admit it … pure hysteria. An innate fear of dead people,
which he knew perfectly well he had had ever since that boy in Mexico
took so long to die when he shot him fifteen years ago. And he had
glassed his eyes on him when he finally did go.

Nobody but Snod was in this building. A murderer left tracks just like
any other man and he had examined all of the tracks.

You had to take a chance….

He snapped the spring lock and stepped out into the service corridor.
The door slammed behind him and he looked both ways.

The corridor was whitewashed and brilliantly lighted with electric
lights, like a subway station. In the distance were two orderlies
pushing two large laundry bins. They had their backs to him. In the
other direction were three maids standing around a woman who was talking
hurriedly and gesticulating wildly. They were standing in a knot and did
not see him. He started to walk and as he lifted his foot it caught upon
something. He looked down.

He had kicked a huge bunch of American Beauty roses from in front of the
door. Somehow he side-stepped them and began making his feet rise, fall,
and move.

Should he go back? Should he go on? Should he pick them up? The great
thing was to keep moving … the great thing, and by the time he had
begun moving he had decided to ignore the flowers … temporarily …
and try to remember MacArthur’s directions. Past the print shop, past
the laundry entrance, and then the first door to the left….

He had accomplished the print shop when he discovered that walking
beside him was a small faded woman, and she was carrying the roses. And
then he decided to find out.

“Is this the main corridor of the hospital?” He had removed his hat and
was giving her the “somebody’s mother” treatment. “Pretty flowers!”

She began to gasp out respectfully:

“No, sir. Take the elevator there, Doctor,” she pointed. “Pretty, ain’t
they? Miss Kerr told that maid,” she pointed again toward a retreating
figure, “to bring them over to the Nurses’ Home for Miss Standish’s
funeral (she was of that simple class which believes everybody knows her
acquaintances) and an orderly in the corridor told the maid….”

The elevator door opened and Matt Higgins had learned all he needed to
know, immediately.

He gave the woman his “silver threads among the gold” smile and asked
the elevator boy:

“Is the main corridor above this?”

“Yes, sir. Lost? It’s easy to get lost around here.”

They reached the main floor and Matt Higgins stepped from the elevator
and began walking toward the entrance from the main corridor to the
Administration Building.

He was dead tired….

But when he saw Dr. Henry MacArthur, through the open door of his
office, he knew that whatever he had just been through he must hide.

The last man he had seen with that look of steely panic was the
president of the bank in Wall Street during the first days of the 1929
collapse. That kind of panic was followed by icicles of fear in the
brain and after that….

“Good morning, Doctor,” his voice was calm and confident.

With its tone, MacArthur’s courtesy revived, but it was automatic. He
rose with an obvious effort and motioned the detective to a chair,
closed the door into the corridor, and offered Higgins a cigarette.

“Thanks.”

Neither of them noted the brilliant sun upon the mahogany director’s
table, nor the glint it gave the diamond upon the finger of Elijah
Wilson in the portrait hanging behind MacArthur’s desk.

MacArthur re-seated himself, rubbed his eyelids listlessly and then, his
blue eyes upon Higgins’ gray ones, asked:

“You know about last night?”

Higgins nodded and replied:

“We must do something, Doctor. After that the murderer will either
strike immediately, or wait indefinitely. In either case, we need a man
on the ward day as well as night. May I call the agency now?”

“Why not use a local man?”

Higgins shook his head decisively.

“Too much depends on the man to take someone I am not sure of. With your
permission?”

He reached for the telephone and MacArthur said, “You have it.”

“New York. Digby 4-3872. Mr. Anderson. James P. Anderson. Put it through
right away, please.”

He held the receiver and put his hand over the mouthpiece. Dr. MacArthur
began pacing the room. He carried himself with a brittle straightness,
and Higgins watched him closely while the girls were saying,
“Indianapolis? Chicago? Hello Buffalo?” … and then … “New York?” and
then Anderson’s voice.




“Anderson?” Higgins knew the voice immediately. “Higgins. Can you get
Rogers on the Westbound mail plane in twenty minutes? Then the other
plane and he’ll have to change at Chicago, or charter a plane from
there. Yes, shaping up. No news yet. Good! O.K.”

MacArthur wheeled.

“He will be here this afternoon?”

Higgins pushed the telephone over upon the desk.

“If he makes the plane leaving in twenty minutes. Otherwise about eight
tonight. Next to Smooty I’d rather have him than any man on the force.

“Smooty passed himself off as an orderly from a London hospital and will
go back on at three to watch things and learn the Elijah Wilson routine
from the day orderly. So you can rest easily, as to the vigilance,
Doctor.”

His voice, like his person, was strong and commanding.

Dr. MacArthur slackened his pace and Higgins continued:

“Doctor, Miss Parkins thinks that the head nurse and her niece are
mediums murdering for some control … some doctor….”

Dr. MacArthur sat down suddenly and an imperceptible shadow of relief
passed over his graven face.

Last night he would have exploded at the mere mention of such an idea,
while this morning….

His voice was old and unconvinced.

“I don’t believe it, Higgins. I have known doctors by the thousand.
Good. Bad. And indifferent. But I do not believe any doctor….”

“A crazy doctor?”

MacArthur threw up his hands helplessly.

“A crazy somebody, yes. But not a doctor….”

Higgins decided to pass up the point and continued:

“Whoever it is must be caught quickly. I suggest we give up the idea of
putting me through as a patient. Last night it appeared feasible but I
spent most of the night thinking, and I feel certain, Doctor MacArthur,
that after the episode on the ward, we must hasten everything. Put me
through the hospital as a member of the administrative staff of some
distant hospital. Thereby I get a chance to see the heads of every
department, including the Psychiatrist, and the Physician-in-Chief….”

Dr. MacArthur winced. Then that was the man! Higgins continued,
placidly, “And decide who I must question, and also permit me … if
necessary … to get about the hospital suddenly. After last night….”

Dr. MacArthur interrupted him. His panic was welling up.

“I’ll agree to anything … almost, Mr. Higgins. After last night action
is vital. Tomorrow is visiting day throughout the hospital. By tomorrow
night relatives of every patient on that ward will know that Rose
Standish was murdered! And we cannot avoid their knowing it. If we close
the ward to visitors … we have never in all the years the hospital has
been in existence done … that! Public confidence is our greatest
asset. Has been. What shall we do? The newspapers, the police, the
reputation of the hospital, d’y’see?”

“Too well, sir.”

But the tension was wearing itself out in speech and Dr. MacArthur went
on:

“The hysteria among the nursing and medical staffs was bad enough, God
knows, but before today is over, we must face the hysteria manifesting
itself among the menial staff. How can a hospital run without orderlies,
electricians, cooks? If the menials become hysterical…?”

“They already are, Doctor. When I came out of the basement entrance of
the old lab building into the service corridor fifteen minutes ago, my
feet caught upon a bunch of red roses.”

“What?”

“I said, sir, my feet caught….”

“I heard you. Where did they come from?”

“They had been dropped, Doctor, by a maid who had been ordered by Miss
Kerr, the head nurse in Medicine Clinic, to take them over to the
Nurses’ Home for the funeral of Miss Standish. An orderly told the maid
where they came from….”

“God!”

The panic re-entered Dr. MacArthur’s eyes and Higgins took advantage of
it.

“You are right about time, Doctor. It’s everything. To save time I must
have every atom of knowledge which you have. Last night I hoped to work
independently, but now….”

He leaned forward and shot his gimlet gray eyes into the horror stricken
ones of MacArthur.

“Is the man everybody but you suspects, young Sterling?”

MacArthur’s groan was evidence.

“Well, I thought so. Last night you suggested I question him last on
account of his father.”

MacArthur’s fight seemed suddenly to return and he shot back:

“This morning I demand it. His father will be dead by midnight. I
appreciate your position, but I must ask you to respect my wishes. Have
you given up the idea that Bear Sterling is implicated?”

“No, sir. But we cannot await another murder to clear him.”

“Precisely. Nor anybody else, Mr. Higgins. I see that. But I also see
that if Cub Sterling does not leave his father’s side today and is not
questioned until after his death, supposing … the other … to be
correct … you will have not lost anything. They must all be checked,
automatically, since you believe the murderer is a crazy doctor. Check
them today, Mr. Higgins. And if….”

He rose and began to pace the floor, and his figure was more than erect.
It was almost illuminated.

“You belong, sir, to that type of man which can appreciate trust between
strong men. Between Cub Sterling and his father such a trust has always
existed. Within twenty hours it will be broken and … why, Mr. Higgins,
if you wish, I shall sit outside the door of the room in which he is
fighting for Bear’s life, from now until you release me…. But my
position … d’y’see?”

“I do, and I respect you for it, Doctor. But the two men who have
attended all of the dead patients were the Doctors Sterling. Regarding
the questioning, I shall do as you desire, provided, sir, that when the
superintendent of nurses takes me to Medicine Clinic, you will insist
that Dr. Cub Sterling accompany us over the clinic, in precisely the
same manner in which the other men are to do. Thereby I can at least
judge the man. Otherwise I throw up the case, here and now. My position
would be hopeless, if I were to be denied at least a summary … not
made through the eyes of personal esteem and family fame … of one of
the two chief suspects. Perhaps it is brutal to put it so, but the chief
suspect in the eyes of the nursing and menial staffs.”

“I know it, Higgins. I’ll do as you wish.”

His voice and his face were parched and sad.

Their eyes locked again and Higgins said:

“You brought me here to find the criminal. In many things we shall have
to fight each other. Mainly because all evidence points to a crazy
doctor and you cannot accept the evidence. Somehow I’m glad you can’t,
Doctor.”

Higgins stretched out his large hairy hand and Dr. MacArthur gripped it
firmly.

Then MacArthur looked at his watch and reached for the telephone.

“Superintendent of nurses, please.”

“Miss Carruthers? Dr. MacArthur. Will you please come over to my office
immediately?”

As he hung up, he seemed to have regained his old authoritative manner.

“About Miss Standish’s funeral. Do you think it worth your while to
attend? Would a murderer of this type go to the funeral of a person he
had murdered?”

“Hardly, Doctor. What time is it?”

“Four-fifteen.”

“The Kerrs?”

“Have both asked to come.”

“Then I will.”

They were interrupted by a knock upon the door and the figure of Miss
Carruthers.

Dr. MacArthur rose and smiled her into a chair.

“May I present Mr. Immerheld, Miss Carruthers. He is on the
administrative staff of the Cornell Medical Centre, and I want him to
see the Elijah Wilson. He came unexpectedly and this morning I am upset
about Dr. Sterling. Mr. Immerheld used to know Dr. Sterling … and
understands…. Will you please take him around, and see that he sees
the heads of all clinics? Cornell has been very kind about approving our
rebuilding plans and Mr. Immerheld has been a great prop … to the
hospital. His advice….”

Miss. Carruthers smiled politely at Matthew Higgins, and rose.

“I shall be delighted, Dr. MacArthur.”

Her voice, body and face were brittle, and at the same time
authoritative. She was the spun-glass skeleton of what had been a
buxomly commanding woman.

“May I leave my hat, Doctor?”

Higgins rose and stood beside Miss Carruthers; as he opened the door, he
gave her the “silver threads among the gold” look and she took it as
sand does water.

Dr. MacArthur’s voice halted their pleasant unity.

“By the way, Miss Carruthers. Will you be so good as to telephone Miss
Kerr just before you go to Medicine Clinic? I am especially anxious for
Mr. Immerheld to meet Ethridge Sterling. Go over the building with him.
He knew Dr. Bear when he was….”

His voice faded and hers filled the gap.

“Certainly, Dr. MacArthur.”

And as they started up the corridor, her words floated back:

“As a great teaching hospital, Mr. Immerheld, the Elijah Wilson has
always….”

“Been free from crazy doctors.” Dr. MacArthur thought and his hands
pounded his desk … hopelessly.

“What are you smoothing my bed for?” Lil Parkins’ voice was irritable.
She had been awake for twenty hours now and her nerves were fraying.

“Rounds.” Miss Kexter, the day white nurse, was brisk and snappish.
These murders were beginning to get on her nerves. Not that she was
scary. Or that she had liked Rose Standish. But just the same, those
roses against her face, when she had gone to breakfast, and gone up to
“look at her,” left the stomach kind of…. And then “Foots” Kerr was
trying to behave….

Lil Parkins looked her over casually and decided that she was out of it.
Spineless as a stick of cooked macaroni and … and….

The conversation in the ward had died and all of the women were either
sitting or lying respectfully still. Dr. Cub Sterling, Dr. Mattus had
telephoned, was going to leave his dying father and come down to see how
they were.

The lull was welcome to Lil Parkins and she felt, suddenly, for a few
hours at least, she was safe and free to just relax a little.

She awoke to find a tall, angular man with bushy hair leaning over her
and saying, “Pretty fair. Considering. Strengthened in the night?”

The Jew doctor, who had admitted her, stood beside the tall man whose
left shoulder was cocked at a queer angle.

“Good bit, Dr. Sterling. When she came in….” he slid off into medical
terms and Lil Parkins’ face took on one of its flashes of sudden
intensity and Cub Sterling’s responded. His response was slow and he was
tired, but his eyes were gorgeous and his hands were soothing.

“Pretty tired, weren’t you?”

The question was put in the voice one used with a social equal and Lil
Parkins knew she really liked him. He recognized that she wasn’t just
“another free patient.”

“Has your name come back?”

He had straightened up and stood at the foot of her bed looking kindly
into her eyes. With a supreme effort, Lil knew that she must manage to
act, really act!

She shook her head slowly, and her face faded blank again.

“It will,” he said confidently. “What you needed was rest. How did you
get that scar?”

He pointed to one halfway up her left forearm and Lil, mesmerized by his
eyes, actually told the truth.

“In the circus. Trapeze work.”

“With that heart!” his voice carried both reprimand and admiration,
“What circus?”

“Ringling Brothers.”

“You did!”

The heart case two beds up was sitting boldly erect. “You don’t say? An
old trouper! Well, I’ll be doggone! Ringling Brothers, too! Top-notcher
ain’t you, kid? Is Fred Bradna still ringmaster? How far out did you get
last year? Playing Texas this spring? Is Old Bill, the bull elephant,
you know … still alive…?”

Dr. Cub Sterling laughed spontaneously and every woman in the ward
smiled.

“You’ll have to wait till she’s better. And then she’ll remember
everything.”

His voice was crisp and final. The other doctors had passed on and were
discussing Mrs. Witherspoon’s condition. Cub Sterling joined them, but
he turned suddenly and smiled into the limpid, waiting eyes of Lil
Parkins.

“Go to sleep!”

His lips formed the words noiselessly, and her tension snapped and her
eyes began to close, listlessly.

Cub started toward Room Two. Mattus’ voice halted his steps. Mattus
said:

“She’s all right, Doctor! Slept clear through it! I just saw her ten
minutes ago. Your father’s latest tank of oxygen is half gone, sir. Do
you wish me…?”

Cub nodded silently and walked down the corridor toward the waiting
elevator.

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