All Were Calm (Continued)

Lois in grave danger!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

... while her weak heart pounded hard and fast like the thirteen door knocks.

        ***

        Lois' eyes opened as she regained consciousness.  Her surroundings were blurry, and

she felt disoriented and confused as she lay in bed.  Just then a young doctor, clipboard

in hand, casually strolled through the unobstructed threshold into the room.  Her eyes

were focusing more clearly as her mind registered that she was in a hospital.  Dropping his

auburn-topped head to skim his clipped-on form sheet, he sought confirmation of the

woman's identity.

        "You must be... 'Lois Dollworth'."

        "Yes, I am; but why am I here," she answered and asked.

        "Heart attack," he tersely stated, not even bothering to lift his head from the clipboard

to make eye contact with his new patient.  The words 'heart attack' triggered her awful

memory of the traumatic event.

        "Did they arrest him???" she spouted.

        "Arrest whom?" the stoic doctor inquired.

        "I'm talking about the man who came in my room!!  I was afraid he was going to kill me,"

Lois responded in a voice tense with anxiety.

        "I don't know anything about that, ma'am," he flippantly said with a slight smile and a

faint chuckle.  "Excuse me, I've got to tend to other patients," he stated in a bland tone,

terminating the exchange.

        "Wait, wait, wait!!!" Lois cried out as he walked away, but it was to no avail.  He

maintained his busy stride, neither turning around nor speaking; instinctively failing to stop

in his tracks to acknowledge her desperate plea, and mentally dismissing his elderly patient

as an insignificant nut case.

        Lois' rage rose like an ignited flame.  She felt ignored, invalidated,

mistreated, and generally frustrated.  The widely venerated grand lady was always

accustomed to others taking her words seriously - beginning when she was labeled a 'child

prodigy' as a consequence of her first I.Q. test and, thereafter, indulging in the attention

and admiration of her parents, teachers, and peers alike.  Experiencing the arrogant,

condenscending attitude to the contrary was like an electric shock to her unprepared ego.

         Once in the hallway, the presumptuous doctor halted his steps and jotted 'Delusional'

on the 'Patient Information' form attached to his clipboard.  Then, he resumed his hurried

pace.

        Lois immediately reached for the ever-convenient 'Help' buzzer and pushed the button.

Promptly entering the room was a vibrant young nurse with a spring in her step.  She

embodied the ideal of 'All American Beauty'.  She was tall, had long wavy golden locks, big

warm blue eyes, smooth tanned skin, delicate features, a supermodel figure, superb

posture, and ivory-white teeth which were gloriously revealed by her radiant smile.  These

sublime attributes kindled a brief spark of nostalgia in Lois' psyche upon first impression, and

induced an instantaneous daydream.  The patient's mind's eye beheld an animated rerun of

little Lois Dollworth playing with her beloved Barbie doll, which the glamorous nurse

symbolically represented to her.  So many years ago, Lois thought to herself in reverie

with the haunted twinkle of bygone days revisiting her weary eyes.

 

4

        "Can I help you," the Barbie double asked in a southern accented, compassionate

voice.

        This caused Lois' entranced mind to switch back to present time, and the spark of

light in her eyes, which once upon a time had continuously sparkled like a midnight star,

was suddenly extinguished.

        "I hope so," Lois replied before inhaling an abundant supply of oxygen in preparation

for the non-fiction horror story she was about to recount.  And she was telling it to a

flesh-and-blood Barbie doll clad in a nurse's uniform.  What else can happen, she thought to

herself.

        "... ... ... The first thing I remembered when I awoke here was that monster hovering over

me."  Lois concluded her captivating tale to an enthralled listener.

        "Now, I know you think I was dreaming or hallucinating or I'm just plain crazy, and I'm

sure the police would think the same, but if there is some way you could get me a

composite sketch artist, I would be very grateful!"

        "Actually, my husband is a professional artist," Barbie Doll exclaimed enthusiastically.

"He's not one of these sketch artists that draws criminals' profiles for law enforcement, but

he's really great at drawing portraits.  You should see the ones he's drawn of me.  They look

exactly like me!  Would you like to use him?  I'm sure he'd go along with it," she sprightly

proposed.

        Lois wasn't particularly thrilled with the concept.  She responded in a pessimistic

tone, "Well, I'm no artist, but I would think that drawing to a visual reference is much

different from drawing to a verbal description!  Thanks for offering up your husband, but... "

She abruptly reconsidered her rejection of the plan.

        After pausing for a few seconds of contemplation, she committed to the idea, "What

the heck; we'll give it a try!  What have we got to lose, anyway?!  By the way, I didn't catch

your name, honey."

        "My name is Farrah."

        "'Farrah'; that's a lovely name.  Were you named after Farrah Fawcett, by any chance?"

        "Yeah, actually, I was.  Farrah Fawcett was my mother's favorite actress because

everyone said she looked like her, except better.  They're the same age, as a matter of fact."

        "Well, I won't keep you any longer.  It was nice meeting you, Farrah."

        "Nice meeting you, too, Ms. Dollworth.  And interesting, as well!"

        Right after Farrah departed the room, Lois picked up the remote and turned on the

television.  To her astonishment, 'Charlie's Angels' was the first thing that flashed on the screen.  In

particular, Farrah Fawcett was engaged in an action sequence.  The life-long skeptic of the

paranormal, diehard materialist, and staunch opponent of any theory or claim that

countered the 'official scientific line' suddenly felt a surge of superstition course through

her being.  For the first time, she had a feeling shared by millions of others throughout the

ages.  It was a splendid sense that events in the cosmos are synchronized, and life is

mysteriously meaningful.  Sadly, that wondrously enchanting higher consciousness was long

ago abandoned in favor of cold, hard logic.

***

        Farrah's husband punctually arrived three days thence to undertake the daunting art

project with the enigmatic patient he'd heard about.  Lois found him to be more than

aesthetically fitting for a mate so stunning; Lawrence not only matched, but exceeded, his

wife's visual appeal!  That's something Lois previously would've considered unattainable and

unimaginable.  The young man's dazzling light blue eyes and milky white skin contrasted

magnificently with his jet-black hair.  Furthermore, his arching eyebrows, straight nose, full

lips, square jaw, prominent cheekbones, and strong chin were flawless - seemingly chiseled

by divine hands.  At six feet two inches tall, his stature was ideal.  And his broad

shouldered, muscular physique was sculpted like a Roman gladiator.  However, in place of a

sword and shield, Lois' warrior entered the room armed with a pencil box and his sketch

pad to battle the arcane villain.  After he cordially introduced himself, they shook hands,

exchanged pleasantries, and quickly got down to business.

       

5

        Lois initially gave Lawrence a basic verbal overview of the audacious intruder's

unsightly visage.  He had to keep starting over.  Many sheets were ripped out of the pad,

wadded up, and tossed in, or near, the trash can, which was twelve feet away in the

corner of the room.  The ones he missed kept accumulating on the floor.

        Eventually, something nearing enough of a resemblence to 'work with' was achieved.

That preliminary rough sketch certainly would have been flattering to the monstrosity had

he seen it.  Lois first instructed Lawrence to fatten up the cheeks.  They spent about

thirty minutes on the shape and structure of the head and face.  Then, they progressed to

the hair, working their way down.  Lois carefully inspected every minute alteration he

made, and painstakingly ordered further refinement.

        The way they worked was, Lawrence would momentarily halt his drawing to hold it in

front of Lois' face.  She would scrutinize it and dictate the appropriate modifications to be

made.  Then he'd resume sketching, sometimes erasing, always penciling in the changes.

This cycle was continuously repeated.  Drawing, conferring, drawing, conferring, drawing,

conferring, drawing conferring...  It was a gradual process of trial and error which

required deep concentration and thoughtful consideration on behalf of both parties

partaking of the challenging endeavor.

        After three straight, uninterrupted hours, Lois studied the evolved sketch for possible

touch-ups once again.  She couldn't detect any more room for improvement and considered

it a perfect reconstruction.

        Following a deep breath and a long exhale, she commented, "That looks exactly like

him."  It was an unintentional compliment; she felt drained and was just glad the grueling

job was over.

        Then, in a triumphant voice, she 'officially' proclaimed that the composite sketch was

done.

        "Thank God," Lawrence exclaimed in relief.

        Holding the pad up in front of his face, he bluntly emphasized the obvious, "He's one

ugly dude!"

        "That's exactly what I thought when I saw him," Lois concurred with a chuckle. 

"Hey, let's party to celebrate your accomplishment," the young-minded senior proposed.

        "Our accomplishment," Lawrence emphatically corrected!

***

        Two nights later, Lawrence and an off-duty Farrah showed up for the big celebration

with grocery bags full of snacks; potato chips and dip, cookies, popcorn, pizza slices, and

canned soft drinks.

        "This is the first time I've seen my gorgeous crime-fighting partners together," the

hostess cheerfully remarked after they entered the hospital room.

        "Together we'll stay till death do us part," the eternally devoted Farrah directed to

Lawrence as their eyes adoringly met in a fleeting romantic moment.

        Lois was less than purely happy for them; she was smitten by the strapping young man

and a tad jealous of Farrah, but only a tad.

        "You ready to party, Lois?" Lawrence asked in a manufactured upbeat tone.  He was

attempting to lift the old woman's spirits through feigned enthusiasm.  But he didn't know

that she was far too smart for it to work.

        "Ready as I'll ever be; less ready than I used to be," she concisely replied.  She was

aware of his well-disposed intent, but sympathy was something she'd never desired.

        "Yummy, yummy, yummy," said Lois, rubbing her hands together as Lawrence lifted the

junk food out of the plastic bags, placing each item on the bedside table before her eyes.

        "I'm sure going to enjoy all this food, but there's no nutritional value in any of it!  My

cholesterol is going to sky-rocket!  Are you guys trying to kill me with this stuff or what?"

Lois gruffly exclaimed in a rhetorical manner.  "You know it goes against my diet," she

continued to gripe.

        "That's why we had to sneak it in," Farrah said, with a sly wink.

        Then, Lawrence quipped, "We have no reason to kill you - we're not in your Will!"

Farrah chuckled at the dark joke.

        "Yeah you are; I will you to find the creep that caused me to have a heart attack and

wind up in this place," Lois quickly retorted.

        "So, how's it coming along, partners," she inquired.  "Any leads?"

        Lawrence reported, "Well, we took my sketch to the police department.  But the

chief said that, by law, they couldn't search the subject's identity because it wasn't an

official investigation.  He said that you would have to file a police report, but I know you

don't have much faith in the system.  So, I guess we'll have to conduct our own

investigation somehow," he accepted in a rather disheartened tone, for he was both

disppointed by the cops' lack of cooperation and simultaneously dreading the arduous task

that lay ahead.

        "I think the police chief thought we were crazy," speculated Farrah.

        "Yeah, did you see the way he looked at us?" Lawrence agreed.

 

6

        "It's almost nine o'clock; time for my favorite show," Lois enthusiastically announced,

while again reaching for the remote.  She arbitrarily decided to watch it, rather than

democratically requesting consensus.  Fortunately, however, the young couple were regular

viewers of 'North America's Most Wanted', as well!

        "John Washburn is the best," Lois opined as he presented the show in his consistently

professional and charismatic style.

        Farrah introduced the delicious buttery popcorn to her mouth, and Lawrence poured

the Pepsi Cola to the familiar sizzle.  It was like sweet music to every Pepsi lover's ears.

Lois was busy digging into the bag of potato chips.  As the triad team of amateur detectives

intently watched the first murder case in exciting reenactment on the screen and

munched on their snacks, they completely forgot about their 'Most Wanted.'  Letting loose,

escaping their concerns, having fun, and enjoying each other's' company made this little

'get-together' a bona fide party!

        Following the last commercial break, the final feature commenced as Washburn said

"Springmeadow Nursing Center is located in Raleigh, North Carolina."

        Lois' eyes widened and, had she been a caine, her ears would've perked straight up. 

"That's my rest home," she excitedly proclaimed!

        Washburn continued, "This particular facility integrates psychiatric patients with the

general population.  It's a highly controversial policy which proved to be a

fatal one on October the 31st of this year, Halloween night.  It was then that a twenty-one

year-old paranoid schizophrenic aimlessly wandered out of his room, located on the East

Wing of the building.  Shamefully, he made his way past staff members who were supposed

to have been monitoring the halls.  Ralph Oxner eventually wound up on the West Wing,

which is the senior citizens' section."

        A visual appeared on the screen as an obese, disheveled actor portraying, and closely

resembling Mr. Oxner, is cloaked in a white hospital gown.  He's lumbering along in the

middle of the hall, taking short, quick steps with swinging hips.  It's reminiscent of a toddler

learning to walk.  Additional body movements are equally gawky.  His arms and hands

resemble the purposeless kinetic expressions of a mime.  He's continuously shifting his big

head side-to-side.  It occasionally drops down so his myopic eyes can survey his flat feet.

He has on heavy, black-framed bifocals.  And, behind those thick lenses, his eyes appear

wild and crazy.  The actor's mouth stays agape throughout the hallway scene, as if he's on

the verge of drooling.

        The skilled actor successfully personified a bumbling, zombie-like character of horror

movie proportions.  Although it was solely for theatrical effect, he only slightly exaggerated

the real Mr. Oxner's highly abnormal, spastic mannerisms and whacked-out facial

expressions.

        Washburn's voice, coming again, said, "At some point, he entered eighty-nine year-old

Lois Dollworth's room."

        "The cops got your case on 'North America's Most Wanted', Farrah shrieked!

        The television voice continued, "Nine patients, all of whom were sequestered inside

their own rooms, informed investigators that they heard banging on a door.  Yet, incredibly,

all attending staff members denied hearing any commotion."

        Another visual appears on the screen as the actor is repeatedly pounding on the door

and convulsively bobbing his head to the loud beat like a gangster rapper during the

improvised 'fist on door' drum solo.

        "The next morning, a nurse went to check on Ms. Dollworth.  When she opened the

door, she saw her patient lying face down on the floor by the bed while Ralph Oxner was

sleeping in it."

        As the narrator continued, another visual appeared of a middle-aged, haggard looking

blonde nurse entering the room; she places her hand over her mouth, then dashes to the

actress prone on the carpet and goes down on one knee beside her body.

        "The shocked nurse checked her pulse, which revealed that Ms. Dollworth was dead."

        "'Dead'??!!  I'm not dead!" Lois shouted, as if the man inside the tube who had just

announced her demise to four hundred and sixty million people could hear her words.  All

three were dumbfounded that the highest rated television program in the world could

actually disseminate such an inconceivable factual error to its international audience.  Lois

glanced over at her friends and saw their dropped jaws and shocked eyes staring at the

television screen.  Then, she thought that she sensed a subtle shift in the ambiance of the

hospital room.  It was as if the density of the solid forms around her were somehow

thinning.

 

7

        Washburn, the television presenter, said, "The autopsy report concluded that her

death was the result of a heart attack.  However, there were no external wounds on her

body, not even a small bruise.  The coroner theorized that she died of sheer fright.  That's

right!  Evidently, Mr. Oxner literally scared the poor woman to death.  Again, to reiterate,

there is no indication that Ralph Oxner assaulted Ms. Dollworth.  When questioned by

investigators at the scene, Mr. Oxner claimed that while he was 'trick or treating' along the

halls, a lit Jack O' Lantern displayed on a window seal in the rest home spoke to him with an

urgent warning.  According to the pumpkin-face, evil spirits were floating around in his

room, awaiting his return so they could possess him.  Therefore, he set out to find another

bed to sleep in for the night.  He said that, after opening numerous unlocked doors and

failing to find any uninhabited beds, he attempted to telepathically ask Ms. Dollworth to

slide over to make room for him in her bed.  When she didn't consent to his telepathic

request, he lifted her out of bed and placed her on the floor.  Mr. Oxner indicated that he

tried to be very gentle with Ms. Dollworth while picking her up and laying her down

because he didn't want to hurt her.  Based on the autopsy, there is no doubt that this is

true.  It should be noted that the police do not blame Mr. Oxner for Ms. Dollworth's death. 

Due to his mental disability, they do not, and should not, hold him responsible for his

actions.  However, blame should be placed where blame is due!  On that premise, Ms.

Dollworth's family informed the media that they are planning to sue Springmeadow Nursing

Center for liability and negligence in her death."  Although no one admitted it and,

therefore, it could not be proved, what happened is that the staff breached the rules by

slipping into the dining area for a Halloween party.

        At this point in the show's progress, all three viewers unmistakably noticed the

television set, and their surroundings in general, transmuting into translucent structures.

And the lifting of a physical veil to reveal something magnificent beyond the scope of

sensory perception or mental conception seemed imminent.

        Washburn continued, "Unfortunately, this is not the end of the tragic story; there's

yet another twist to this bizarre drama.  The authorities at the scene had established that

Mr. Oxner was not of sound mind when he lifted Ms. Dollworth out of her bed.  Although

there was no criminal intent or malice involved in the act, they still had to charge him with

second degree manslaughter.  Officer Dayshine Bright ordered Mr. Oxner to turn around

and put his hands behind his back.  Mr. Oxner reacted to this command by lunging forward,

tackling him, and wrapping his hands around Officer Bright's neck.  While they were

grappling on the floor, Mr. Oxner managed to take the officer's gun out of its holster.  He

repeatedly pistol-whipped his head, finally knocking him unconscious.  Then he ran out of

the building with the gun, and into the parking lot where he spotted a female getting out of

her car.  She'd come to Springmeadow Nursing Center on a routine trip to visit her

grandmother...  but, on this day, it was anything but routine!!!  The next thing she knew,

she had a gun pointed at her head.  He took her keys, got in her car, and drove off.  He

hasn't been seen since."

        An action-packed sequence of events appeared on the screen, including the assault

on the cop and the carjacking, depicted in exciting reenactment.

        "She was driving a silver-colored, 2003 Volkswagen Passat, which is still missing.  Mr.

Oxner is believed to still be traveling in it, possibly along Interstate 96, heading south.  He

has family in Florida, and he might want to visit them," Washburn narrated.

        On the television Ralph Oxner's sobbing mother is pleading with him to turn himself in.

        "If you see this man..." Washburn continues as Ralph Oxner's photograph is displayed

on the screen "... do not approach him!!!  Remember, he is a paranoid schizophrenic, and

severely bipolar to boot!  To make matters even worse, he's off his medication.  And if that

wasn't enough, he has a loaded handgun.  Needless to say, these multiple factors add up to

a cocktail for disaster."

 

8

        Ralph Oxner's psychiatrist, Dr. Krouse, now appears on the television and says, "As long

as that gun is in his possession, death is inevitable!  Either he'll kill... or get killed by the

police.  Unfortunately, the latter may be necessary to deter the former.  One must take

into consideration the fact that he has a history of violent outbursts.  That means that he's

prone to expressing his illness through acts of hostile aggression.  Therefore, I seriously

doubt that my patient would simply lay down his gun when confronted by a policeman. 

Time and time again, he's demonstrated that he has absolutely no respect for authority

figures.  The scary thing is that he has no fear of them either.  Remember, instead of

submitting to handcuffs, he viciously attacked the officer.  What we're dealing with here is

an extremely violent, antisocial, and irrational individual.  My patient is extraordinarily

dangerous when he's not medicated.  So, I urge law enforcement personnel to do what

they have to do to protect themselves and the citizenry!"

        Washburn, in summation says, "Again, do not approach, or even speak to, this

disturbed man!!  His psychiatrist knows him best!  If you spot him, please call nine-one-one

immediately.  If you think you know his whereabouts, you can call one-eight hundred-no

crime.  Remember folks, be safe, protect the inncocents, and report the criminals.  That's

our motto here at 'North America's Most Wanted'!"

        By now, brilliant rays of light were permeating the room, and everything of a material

nature in it was only faintly visible.  Lois was aware that she was in limbo on the other side,

and her diembodied guests now recalled their fatal car crash.  The three ghosts gazed at

each other's' transparent bodies with solemn eyes.  Their emancipated spirits ascended

toward the vortex of luminous white light engulfing the astral atmosphere, whilst the

holographic hospital completely vanished from their shared illusion.  All were calm.