All Were Calm (Continued)

Lois in grave danger!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

        ***

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

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

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

were focusing clearer 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... [pause] '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 to surface.

        "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 go 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's rage rose like an ignited flame.  She felt ignored, disrespected, 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 IQ 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.  For she was tall, had long wavy golden locks, big

blue warm 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's 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 whispered 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's 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

TV.  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 6'2", 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's 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 was 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 others' company made this little

get-together a bona fide party!

        Following the last commercial break, the final feature commenced.

        Washburn: "Springmeadow Nursing Center is located in Raleigh, North Carolina."  [Lois's

eyes widened and, had she been a canine, her ears would've perked straight up.  "That's MY

resthome," she excitedly proclaimed!]  "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 21 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."

        VISUAL: 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: "At some point, he entered 89 year-old Lois Dollworth's room."  [The cops

got your case on North America's Most Wanted," Farrah shrieked!]  "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."

        VISUAL: The actor is repeatedly pounding on the door and convulsively bobbing his

head to the loud beat like a gangsta 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."

        VISUAL: Middle-aged, haggard looking blonde nurse entering room; she places her

hand over her mouth, then dashes to the actress prone on the carpet and kneels 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 460 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 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 resthome 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 TV 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: "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."

        VISUAL: Action-packed sequence of events, including assault on the cop and

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."

        VISUAL: Ralph Oxner's sobbing mother pleading with him to turn himself in.

        "If you see this man... " [Ralph Oxner's photograph 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

        VISUAL: Ralph Oxner's psychiatrist, Dr. Krouse, speaking: "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: "Again, do not approach, or even speak to, this disturbed

man!!  His psychiatrist knows him best!  If you spot him, please call 911 immediately.  If you

think you know his whereabouts, you can call 1-800-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 others' 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.