Charlie was awakened by a faint beeping sound. To low to be an alarm clock, but loud enough, and annoying enough to rouse him from his dream-like state of unconsciousness. He stared intently through blurry vision, struggling to gain some type of visual grasp on his surroundings. It was a heart rate monitor, the source of the incessant beeping, and confirmation that he was still alive.
He managed, through a brain-splitting headache, to focus his eyes on the only moving figure within the room, a nurse, shuffling silently at the foot of his small twin-sized bed.
Charlie looked around the room. It was small, very small, and not particularly clean. The room came off as if it were attempting to be a sterile, white, germless environment, but the dim lighting, un-swept floor, and suspiciously stained walls made it look more like a gritty gray cage than anything else. The assorted machines of simulated life whirred and beeped sporadically. The IV drip, the heart rate monitor, a blood pressure cuff and a small half-empty oxygen tank still attached to a breathing mask that, Charlie was pretty sure, probably didn’t even work. He removed it and took a deep breath of real air. He could feel strength steadily returning to his body.
“Where am I?” He choked out. His voice was hoarse and dry, he felt like he hadn’t had water in days.
“Oh!” squeaked the nurse, “You’re awake?” she said, looking rather surprised. “Well…” she paused for a second, “You’re in the hospital, gave us-…”
“Hospital? Which Hospital? How did I get here?” Charlie tried to sit up, but found himself restrained by the various tubes and cords attached to his body, there to monitor his vitals, and push him back to good health, at the moment, however, they only restricted his movement.
“Alright, calm down sir.”She said gently. The nurse moved closer to his bedside, checking the machines that did nothing but make odd noises. “You wandered into the emergency room last night. You were disoriented and pretty beaten up. The doctor’s assumed you had been in some type of car accident. You seem to be doing a lot better now though,” She hesitated to continue. “Do you remember anything from last night?”
“Last night?” Charlie mumbled, talking more to himself than to her. He looked down at his hands; his knuckles were scratched and bruised like he had spent an entire afternoon punching bricks. He tried to mentally retrace his steps, desperate to remember the chain of events that brought him to his current situation. His mind flashed, and as if struck by lightning it all came back with a violent jerk.
“I have to leave!” He said abruptly.
“No, I’m sorry sir but that’s not possible.” The nurse began to look concerned, “A man of your age, who comes in, in your condition, policy states we would have to monitor you for at least 24 hours”
“No-ho-ho now that’s not possible” Charlie wanted to laugh at the idea, but a sharp pain in his midsection overrode his sense of humor. He forced himself to sit up.
“Sir, I have to insist,” The nurse began to panic. She attempted to push Charlie back into a lying position by exerting only a moderate amount of force onto his broad shoulders. He didn’t budge.
“Look,” Charlie squinted at her name tag which was pinned securely to her powder blue scrubs stripped with little yellow ducks. “Nurse Shelia, it is absolutely imperative that I leave this hospital right now!” He swung his legs around so they hung over the edge of the bed.
Nurse Shelia gave Charlie a suspicious look, the one people give when they feel they may be conversing with a senile old man. Charlie was used to such looks.
“I’m sorry Mr. Whitman, but you just wandered in a few hours ago, went into a completely unresponsive state, basically comatose! Covered in multiple lacerations and bruising that would suggest a number of fractured bones. I know at least a couple of broken ribs, severe dehydration, and a concussion.” Nurse Shelia had a way to deal with stubborn patients who thought they knew better than years of medical experience. “Not to mention,” she continued, “You are 65 years old, men of your age are known to suffer heavily from heart failure, especially after a traumatic experience, which you obviously have just had. It’s a medical miracle that you are even conscious at this moment!” Her nostrils flared when she spoke, “There is simply no way that we could allow you to leave in your condition.” Nurse Shelia had put her foot down; sometimes you had to be stern with a patient, for their own good.
“Well, you just said I was fine a few minutes ago,” Charlie spoke with a matter-of-factly kind of accent, his head down, recklessly yanking sensors off of his upper torso from under his hospital gown, paying little attention to what Nurse Shelia was actually saying.
“Mr. Whitman I was trying to be tactful. Mr. Whitman, please don’t take those off, we’re going to have to put them right back on again. Mr. Whitman- ” She spoke as if speaking to a child whom she was tired of trying to make behave.
“How do you know my name?” Charlie asked, only because it was not his real name, but one of the many aliases that he used on a regular basis. Still, he was curious as to how she had come across that particular one. His curiosity, however, did not interfere with the vital seek and destroy mission he had waged on the sensors. He never even looked up from his work.
“We found a photo ID on your person when you came into the ER. We weren’t able to pull any type of medical history, but we were able to get in contact with your daughter.”
“My daughter?” Charlie’s head popped up like an old dog who had heard something to subtle and secret for human ears to pick up. She now had his full attention. The heart rate monitor quickened still feeding off of what sensors Charlie had not managed to already pull off.
“Yes your daughter, she apparently has been calling hospitals all over town looking for you, when that didn’t work she called the police station and told them you were missing, the moment we found out who you were, we called them and got in contact with her. She should be on her way here.” Nurse Shelia spoke now with her hands on her hips and an attitude like she would start wagging her finger at Charlie any minute. The nerve of him, to have such a sweet daughter worried sick about him, and then to come in here and give her such a hard time. Charlie, however, seemed to have had his mind in other places. He didn’t even bother looking for the remaining sensors, he stood up from the hospital bed, his face drained of the gentleness and boyish charm that Shelia had been taking for granted during their conversation. With a single fluid motion, Charlie ripped off the hospital gown, revealing his large protruding potbelly, offset oddly by an incredibly chiseled physique. He looked, Shelia thought, distinctly how Santa Claus would look if he had been a professional bodybuilder, except his six-pack was replaced with a perfectly round beer belly.
“Mr. Whitman PLEASE!” Nurse Shelia instinctively threw her hands up to shield her eyes but found herself peeking back through her fingers
“How long ago?” Charlie asked.
“Wha? I’m not sure – Mr. Whitman please, your gown.”
“Five maybe ten minutes ago!” Nurse Shelia yelled still covering her eyes.
Charlie spotted the clothing he had worn into the hospital. They lay folded neatly in a corner of the room. When he moved towards his belongings he pulled the machines, as well as the bed along with him. By the pure force of movement, the sensors cords snapped as they popped off of Charlie’s naked body. The IV tube ripped itself violently from his arm, squirting blood and clear liquid onto the already dirty floor. Shelia accidentally let out a small yelp at the sight of blood and sudden movement. Charlie didn’t flinch. He quickly slid on the denim blue jeans and a white t-shirt he had worn into the ER. He took a second look at the once white button-down collar shirt that he was wearing also, it was covered in blood stains, jagged holes, and even a few burn marks, he threw it into the trash. He grabbed a brown leather jacket, which somehow seemed to be the only piece of clothing that came in unscathed, Charlie threw it on and headed for the door. Before he could even grab the knob he stopped short, took a few steps back and decided against it. He looked over at Nurse Shelia who seemed to be still in shock over the general nakedness.
“What floor are we own?” He asked with a look of deep curiosity.
“The 5th.” Her answer was automatic, her mind couldn’t process why he would ask a random question about what floor they were on, after displaying such erratic behavior.
“It’ll have to do.” And with that, Charlie broke into a full-fledged sprint and hurled himself through the hospital room window. Shattered glass flew in every direction. Shelia covered her eyes and screamed in horror as the deranged old man flung himself out of the building and down 50 feet to his death.
Charlie was dropping like a brick. He kept his eyes on the fast-approaching pavement and his legs squarely underneath him as if he were aiming at a particular target below. He landed with a resounding BOOM, bending his knees slightly as he made contact with the ground and leaving a rather large and perfectly round indention in the earth before standing erect for a brief moment, only to ensure that he had indeed landed firmly and with as much force as a human meteorite. And then as if he hadn’t just jumped from a five-story window, Charlie immediately burst into a sprint putting as much distance between him and the hospital as inhumanly possible.
Nurse Shelia stood there… alone. Her mouth gaping open as she stared at the shattered glass window that a Mr. Charleston Whitman had just thrown himself out. The cold night air swooped in cooling the small room that had grown hot with tension as she had tried to keep Charlie still. Now she dare not move, though she knew that she should. She should have run screaming down the hospital corridor telling everyone what had just happened. She should have run outside to find, cover and or possibly even collect Mr. Whitman’s broken body, which undoubtedly now lay prostrate and utterly destroyed just 50 feet below. She should have tried contacting Mr. Whitman’s daughter. She should have been doing all of these things, but she didn’t. She couldn’t. She simply stood there, staring into nothingness, a mind-numbing silence filled the room, as now, not even the worthless medical equipment dare make a noise. Minutes passed, but for Shelia time had stopped. Maybe this was ‘shock’, she thought. An acute stress reaction. Witnessing an event so traumatic that the brain ceases to function properly, leaving the victim dazed, confused, numb. Is this how those ER patients felt when they stumbled in or brought in loved ones; maimed and mutilated, their psyche’s shattered like the broken glass that littered the already disgusting hospital floor? No wonder they didn’t want to fill out that damn paperwork. And how in the fuck was she going to explain this to Dr. Manicotti?
The door handle jiggled. Shelia’s head snapped to attention as the break in silence brought her crashing back to Earth. A beautiful young woman, brown and slender, with long jet black hair walked cautiously into the room. She was 34, no older than 35 years old and looked as if she could pass for 10 years younger if she ever had the inclination, but, she wouldn’t, she didn’t need to. She was breathtaking. Shelia’s heart broke. This must be Mr. Whitman’s daughter, she thought. She looked like she’d never cried a day in her sweet little life and now… now Shelia had to be the one to tell her, that, her father had just thrown himself out of a window not five minutes before she arrived.
“Hi! I’m Deborah, I’m looking for my father a Mr. Charleston Whitman?” She was beaming, smiling ear to ear with a face that would make a movie star jealous. Shelia began to cry.
“Oh my God sweetie your father… your father just jumped out of the window!” between the sobs she could hardly get her words out. Her voice panicky and high pitched as she cried and spoke at the same time. Deborah looked across the room, her smile hardly fading a bit before talking again.
“Oh my! Did you speak to him, did he say anything?” She seemed oddly chipper for someone who just found out their oddly and extraordinarily healthy father was now dead. Shelia stopped crying long enough to give one of her suspicious looks, one she kept handy for relatives who took the death of their loved ones better than she, who had only known them for 15 to 20 minutes, did.
“Well not much sweetie, *sniff-sniff* He kinda just went on about how he couldn’t stay here and he was just so determined to leave and, *sob-sob*” she began to cry again, “He just jumped, he ran straight through the window and he just jumped!” Shelia was borderline hysterical. Deborah, on the other hand, was still wearing her movie star smile. Her big brown eyes blinked twice as if she was waiting for Shelia to say something she hadn’t heard already.
“So,” Deborah said, tired of waiting “did he say where he had to go, did he mention a specific city, a destination?”
Shelia was stupefied. Deborah’s face held the same grin as when she entered the room, and in Shelia’s mind that smile which at first seemed innocent and beautiful suddenly changed to something blank and emotionless something bordering the grotesque. Shelia noted that Debora’s face physically changed in the slightest it was only Shelia’s interpretation that had changed. Deborah’s big glossy eyes fluttered, awaiting some answer that Shelia did not have. Shelia caught a chill, maybe this was another side effect of shock, or maybe Deborah was in shock.
“Hun, I’m sorry but he’s dead, he killed himself, right here in front of me. I’m sorry that he didn’t… ugh!” Shelia’s speech was cut off by a whip-like black tentacle that had wrapped itself securely around her throat. With a hard tug, it yanked Shelia off of her feet and into Deborah’s finely French manicured hand. Her fingers gripped Shelia’s neck tightly as the tentacle receded back into Deborah’s wrist and disappeared beneath her skin which sealed itself back up, showing no evidence that it had ever opened, or that it would ever open again. Deborah’s smile had morphed into a scowl, and her doe-like eyes transformed to large pools of unadulterated wrath and malice. Shelia’s feet dangled an inch above the dirty floor; her toes reached desperately for the ground but managed only to swirl around the broken glass that Charlie had left behind during his escape. Deborah let out a heavy sigh.
“You are useless,” she said with so much contempt and disgust at the time she had wasted talking to this worm of a human being. And with a twist of her thumb, she snapped the nurse’s neck as quickly and as easily as she might snap a twig. Then, as if she were an old rag doll that had failed to hold her interest, she slung Shelia’s limp body out of the same window that Charlie had jumped from, her broken shell landing violently in the hole below.
Just then, a middle-aged man with a striking resemblance to the recently missing Charlie Whitman appeared in the doorway.
“Sister,” he said in a low and somber tone. “It appears Father has escaped… Yet again.” The man sighed.
“Well, aren’t you great at pointing out the obvious?” Deborah replied coldly, her movie star smile and chipper upbeat voice had vanished completely.
“Mother will be most displeased,” he said in the same monotone voice.
“You let me deal with Mother.”
“I had every intention to.” even his quips came out monotonous. She ignored him.
“Phillip!” She yelled, her voice; authoritative and commanding.
“Yes, Sister!” Another man answered from already inside the room. He was kneeling over the trash can, his face buried in the shirt that Charlie had left behind. He had entered unsuspectingly at the same time Deborah had. Shelia had never even known he was there, which, was only significant because he had planned on killing her in a most delightful way if only Deborah had not to beat him to it.
“Pick up his trail and find him NOW!” she ordered.
“Yes Sister, of course,” Phillip replied, his voice both sniveling and gruff at the same time.
“And take Simon with you, I don’t need him standing around telling me s@#! I already know!”
“Such unbecoming language of a lady.” Simon chimed in from the doorway.
Deborah cut her eyes sharply is his direction, but before she could even turn her head, he vanished with a smile and the flash of a shadow.
Phillip leaped from an armchair in the corner, to the vacant hospital bed that his father had lay in, only 15 minutes prior. He sniffed around at the hospital gown Charlie had ripped off, then like his father, leaped head first out of the broken window.
Deborah stood in the empty hospital room with a look of pent up rage plastered across her face. Her beauty sparkled with the twinkling of an evil bitterness that seemed to only enhance her supernatural good looks, magnified now by the moonlight that poured in through the hole-in-the-wall left by her narrowly escaped prey. Her brothers would never find him now, not with the amount of time that he’s had to distance himself, set false trails, and plan his next move. She took a heavy breath, how in the fuck was she going to explain this to Mother?