Monday, October 8, 2012
Syracuse University, 1967...
Elizabeth Creighton’s water broke at ten o’clock, the evening of May fifteenth. By eleven o'clock she’d been admitted to the hospital, and Doctor Hiram Weatherby arrived twenty minutes later.
“How are we doing, little lady?” he said.
“I've felt better.” She gritted her teeth against a stabbing contraction.
“Well, it shouldn't be long now.” He poked and prodded at her with thick, meaty fingers. Syringe in hand, he located a vein in her left arm.
“What's that?” she asked.
“Scopolamine, a sedative. Something to help you through the next few hours.” He smiled. “Nothing to worry about, Elizabeth.” He slipped the needle out of her arm. “I’ll be back in thirty minutes. Near as I can figure, we're two, two and a half hours, away.” He turned and strode out of the room.
He paid for his coffee, walked across the cafeteria floor, and slid into the already occupied booth.
“Should be only a couple of hours now, sir.”
“Excellent.” Colonel Prescott’s ever-present smile lit up the booth. “We've everything in order on our end. All you have to do is work your magic and we're home free.”
“You understand that you're going to have to give us a few days?" Weatherby told him.
“Of course. I’ve apprised Sister Angela that the baby is under observation and to not expect us until at least the end of the week.”
Weatherby slid out of the booth. “Right, then, I'd best get back. Nurse Baker will notify you when it’s time.” He turned, started away.
“Well done, my friend.”
“Thank you, Colonel.” With a innocuous grin, he added, “That's why you pay me the big bucks, right?”
They wheeled Elizabeth into the OR ninety minutes later.
“All right, my dear.” Weatherby stroked the hair out of her eyes while his assistants prepared her for the baby's entrance. “I'm going to give you another injection of scopolamine. It’s time to go to work, but you're going to have to help me with this, understand?”
“Yes.” Her voice was now weak with fatigue.
“All right.” He positioned himself at the end of the table between her splayed legs. “Let's get on with it, shall we?”
“Push, Liz,” he bellowed ten minutes later. “Again!”
Perspiration streamed down her face, and her heart hammered against her ribcage. The injection had eased the pain, yet the pressure between her legs threatened to rend her from crotch to sternum.
“We may have a problem here.”
“What's wrong?” Liz screamed.
“There’s some internal bleeding here, Elizabeth, and the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby's neck. I can't take any chances, I'm going to have to put you out, prevent you from moving at the wrong time. Now, please, relax, take two or three deep breaths and let me get on with my work.” He nodded to Dr. Walker. “Put her under, Jack.”
“Elizabeth?” He touched the tips of his fingers to her cheek. "Wake up, sweetheart.”
She opened her eyes, obviously struggling to focus on his face.
“Good stuff, huh?" he said. "Can you imagine if we bottled it and sold it over the counter? Talk about your all-time highs.” He’d begun to care for this one, an emotion that could prove risky in his business.
“The baby?” Liz moaned between dry, cracked lips.
“A girl, Elizabeth,” he replied, straight-faced. “But, there were complications.” He sat down on the edge of the bed, pinching his Roman nose between thumb and forefinger and wishing he hadn’t let Prescott talk him into this. Culpability festered like a malignancy in his bowels.
Elizabeth’s eyes brimmed with tears.
He stroked her face again and whispered, “She didn't make it, sweetheart.”
At eleven-fifteen, the evening of May nineteenth, Colonel Prescott's sleek, black Mercedes rolled up to St. Cecilia's.
He rang the bell. Waited.
A round, cherubic face peered out at him through the wrought iron bars. “May I help you?”
“I'm Tyrone Prescott, Sister.”
“Yes, yes, Mr. Prescott, come in, please, we've been expecting you.”
“There now,” she said, forty-five minutes later, sitting at an ornate roll-top desk. “The baby is asleep in her new bedroom. You’re leaving her in capable hands, I assure you.”
“I’ve no doubt, Sister.”
“Does your niece have a name, Mr. Prescott?”
“Erika.” His voice cracked at precisely the right moment. “Erika Kingston, named after her mother.”
“Again, I'm so very sorry about your sister's passing.”
“Her father, my brother-in-law, was killed in Vietnam six months ago. So, when my sister died in childbirth, it left only me to care for their daughter.”
“We’ll do everything within our power to look after her.”
“I have something here to help you do just that.” He handed her an envelope. “I want only the best for her, and although my vocation does not allow me to care for her directly, it does allow me the luxury of seeing that she is well taken care of.”
“And there will be another fifty-thousand every year hereafter to cover expenses. I’ll add to the kitty when it’s time for her schooling. My niece will want for nothing, Sister. Now,” he added, his face bereft of emotion. “There are a few details you need to know. First, I work for the Government, and in my line of work one tends to amass adversaries.”
Later, as the limo prepared to pull away, Prescott rolled down the window, reached out and held Sister Angela's hand. “Remember, it’s imperative that no one, I repeat, no one, know of my niece's existence. I have sworn enemies out there, some of whom would stop at nothing to get to me. Should they find out about her, all the money in the world won’t provide her adequate protection, do you understand?”
“Fully, Mr. Prescott.”
“Thank you, Sister.” His smile was broad and warm, and his lips brushed the back of her hand. “You are an Angel of God.”
“No, sir.” Her cheeks reddened. “Just another of His servants. Now along with you.” She shooed him away and turned toward the nunnery gate. “We’ll see you again next month, Mr. Prescott.”