He was struck dumb. The last night of the Fall, I was there to awaken indescribable hope coated with an insulating material. I was there to get answers.
“To be perfect, they who are gone are frozen in time, yet their bodies wither. My memory never ages,” the old man said as he approached from a dim hallway.
Dr. Joseph Needlemyer was smitten with his legacy: Us. I looked around the room at the crowd. Silent, shaking, mortified, overwhelmed by a kind of terrible surprise festering in each second.
Concern made me suddenly hesitate. Having abolished the analytical mind, I reduced these proportions to this destination. Any last hope for the journey opens now. “Imagine the overwhelming effect of the review when you speak. This is even more shimmering and attractive as the pollinated expression of their faces!” the doctor said.
I sat down and waited. Then the master of darkness answered in a low voice, “A thousand good wishes. In the end I want to be famous.” I cocked an eyebrow.
As the winds lay low and motionless in the sky, the feeling had aroused in him only the thought to use the middle of the room. “Again your inspiration will create the real dimensions of infamous ends," he said as he beckoned us. “You’ve come here at my request and I thank you. Anna thanks you as well, God bless her soul. You all were my last patients, and I wanted to see how you were doing...and the police have questions. Let’s go around the room and unravel this puzzle of people.”
“Joe B. Schick, 3191 Granville Lane, West Orange, New Jersey. You saved my wife’s right arm. It works great. You cannot tell that it was a transplant.”
Joe held his wife’s hand and smiled.
“Julia M. Reid. 4353 Stockert Hollow Road Tukwila, Washington state... left leg. ”
There was Ella E. Kocher of Houston, who after a car crash had an eye and right arm replaced. The blue eye clashed with her brown eye with a curious intensity.
And there was Nurse Jamie Watkins of Moscow, Pennsylvania. Poor girl had been severely burned, saved by the doctor’s miracle skin grafting.
They were silent and intertwined. The charms of this penetrating evening we’re coming to an end though. Why were we here? Why was the police here?
I was curious if he was -
“Excuse me, but when was the last time you saw Dr. Needlemyer’s wife?”
I turned towards the cop sharply.
“I have never met her.”
The bell rang in the background, breaking the odd air in the room. His eyes wandering and vague. I could say other things I noticed, but they were unimportant at the time.
Like a peculiar securing landlord, the doctor wanted the police out. At times he seemed absorbed in a secret thought. It seemed to be quite impossible that any foresaw the horror that was to come.
Anna Dechevsky or “Ann” as her friends called her, was born August 22, 1977. At 5’6’’ and 160 pounds she was a blue-eyed doll. Her blonde hair flowed down her back. Her skin was perfect. Other descriptions I heard was that she had a flower tattoo on her right arm, the sign of an earlier rebellion against her parents in her teenage years.
Expansive interviews led to bitter results. Sitting next to the front door I glanced at the frame of the doctor and Anna. It seemed to be taken in a hospital. She seemed happy, while the doctor’s straight face clashed with the overall atmosphere.
“So in the time Dr. Needlemyer was treating you all, no one saw his lover? Not once? She never dropped off lunch or picked him up at the end of the day?” the detective asked. We all shook our heads in decline, lost in the entire search. Even during my own treatments for injuries resulting from a knife attack I didn’t see her. But the doctor prevailed, grafting me up and making it look as if nothing had ever happened.
Beads of sweat glistened, fearful of having any thought of him doing harm to his gracious hostess, the Dr. kept his cool. However, something was really, really wrong with this situation. He couldn’t explain her whereabouts, yet he was so calm as he stared at everyone with a smile.
I felt obsessed with the idea of analyzing, for time was precious. I was in a palace of the adorned. Fancy labels in medical textbooks, physical and moral health mixed with his great talents. His admiration overcame me. Being alienated from everything else prestigious and always faithful in his community giving, Dr. Needlemyer was what I wanted to be if I were rich.
His heart however, was a foggy area.
“OH MY GODDD!!”
We ran into the living room to discover Nurse Watkins covering her mouth. “Nurse Watkins what is it??”
Our fate had must have given him hours of delight. He bore a look of excitement that wasn't concerning, but anticipating. The doctor stood beside me as the nurse backed away from the table.
This story was as changeable as water was to ice when chilled.
“I am beauty itself, ” the picture read. In the photo was Anna. The same grace of her gesture would dare do something in silence. A coincidence or symbol? The dark analysis seemed to glow with misfortune.
The doctor said nothing. He walked towards the curtain. “She is standing in the unknown vaults. There are more things in heaven and earth. The movements of the living -- the sphere of carnal desire." The doctor smiled and watched in silence. His calm was quite admirable considering he was a suspect in the case of a missing woman.
“I have that tattoo...on my side.”
“What? What tattoo?” I asked.
“The woman ... she’s got my tattoo... I mean it’s possible but I’m so confused.”
“You were burned in those areas. Doc must’ve did some serious work to keep that visible,” Ella said, walking in with her arms folded. “Is it exact?”
Nurse Jamie raised up her shirt enough for the tattoo to be evaluated. An annoyance passed over the brow of the doctor. His face bore a look of agitation, trying to understand why this was important. “Is this Anna?” I asked.
“Yes. Yes it is,” she said.
In the picture, the sunflower tattoo stood out on Anna’s skin as she wore a blue silk dress. I know his state reflects his feeling of emptiness. The doctor had a certain dignity of the heart, and to see the tattoo on a live person brought back the memories of a love missing. Staring, he shook it off and sat down in the corner. I am a better friend than you might think he remembered her saying to him. “I will survive without regrets," he said to himself. “I will survive without regrets."
I watched him talking to himself, and I began to wonder.
Each scene was set with perfect accuracy. “Be gracious enough to allow us some time alone,” A voice said at the door. I turned around to see Julia, looking at me. “This is not a vain sham. I'm not here for anyone.”
“Do you notice much?” I asked.
“Their secret has been lost," Julia said. “There’s nothing here."
The years had a beautiful sadness for the doctor. “These new allegations are very problematic for charity,” I said. The few natural seductions remaining was the smile. I would have distanced myself, but the curvaceous puzzle piece could not be read yet. It was killing us all inside. The irresistible and undeniable gift of charm made her story addictive, if not fatal to the mind.
“I often wonder why people vanish. What led to their demise is usually something crazy as per the movies and TV shows I watch,” Julia said as she rubbed the fronts of the books stacked on a table. "It seemed strange. the unknown adventure - love without shame. You are introduced the wonderful palace where she called home. I would have preferred a longer honorable life, so where as she? Where was Anna?" Julia asked. "Maybe it wasn't for her. Maybe it was for someone else." To ask the doctor was not helpful. He was not in our reality, dedicated to his captivity sitting in silence.
This demonstration no one will buy. That unpleasant idea had returned: Anna died at the hand of Dr. Needlemyer. I do not know what I expected. A harmless, beautiful mistress, the victim of a juvenile evil. Wanting to dispel the idea the for more reasonable options failed. There was no other option.
“I think she’s already dead," I heard myself say and Julia looked over at me. I knew in my heart there's only one man that can confirm that, and he’s acting off in the head. But he's still smart enough to cover his tracks.
Just then he and Julia locked eyes.
In many circumstances you'd think love or desire emerges in a beautiful movement. But the sculptor of mystery tends to disorient the multitude looking for the truth. The dark pain of a missing soul began to fill each room like smoke.
“Life, it will not be the same, becoming a singer of mourning, more unintelligible than this look.”
I turned to see the doctor at the door. “And you think she’s dead?”
The fixed eye, facial expressions, this is the only good point I want to establish. "On the contrary, the mysterious heresy you speak is in a tone so strangely serious.”
“That’s because I am,” I replied.
“In any moment of daily life these events deliver questions I feel are complex. A dream, a moment of love, that wonderful light Anna was to me. We should not be demanding an almost divine request."
“And what request is that?” he asked.
“Where is Anna?” I responded. An accusation is tough and feeds more heinous faults . “You are the most noble man I’ve known. Such a peaceful nature. I am worth less than a dead flower compared to what you’ve done in your life, and what you’ve done in our lives. However, I’ve been given the opportunity by God to see the strange surrounded by lakes of questions that lead to no greater body of water. I must ask the one question that taints you.”
The doctor dropped his head. “The moonlight was admirable. By then the actress did not play for me.”
“STOP IT! STOP WITH THE WORDS WITHIN WORDS! YOU KNOW WHAT I’M ASKING! IT’S THE REASON WE’VE ALL BEEN CALLED HERE! THE POLICE IN THE OTHER ROOM THINK YOU KILLED HER! DO YOU REALIZE THAT? HAS IT KICKED IN YET?”
My anger had officially boiled over. Lost in the emotion I didn’t care about what he had done for the community, for me, for the patients who joined me in this hell-ridden version of the game Clue. I needed clarity. I wanted to go home.
The doctor’s glare at me still withheld information. He smirked. “I am a punished dreamer, wanting to see Anna just one more time. How many times I've thought about this — holding her hand, having dinner with her. A balancing act between a desire to love and unmet expectations. She was unpolished, you could say. She had her bright spots, but they were far and few. When she vanished I laid in bed for 24 hours staring at the ceiling, wanting to see her again. But she was gone."
He walked up to me so no one else could hear his next words. “We know too much about the real dimensions of infamous ends. It’s special for you. You’ll see everything in time. They will see she was nothing more than a transient play wife. Gazettes and magazines will read like epic novels. People will play this story in their head like the moved soul of a violin as they say, “While horrible in nature, she helped so many people. This body is illuminated by both victim and killer."
He added, “This heavy carnal brilliance you accuse me of publicly is the end of this story arc. I’m not capable. If anything, I just wanted to see her one last time to give our relationship closure. I didn’t kill her.”
Brushing past me I stood there.
Ella tripped and fell down the stairs hard, resulting in a bruise on her head and a tipped over corner dresser on her back. As she picked herself up off the floor, moving the dresser off her back, papers fell everywhere. Picking up the papers, she came across a journal that had opened during the collision. The sweet smell of roses appeared to come from the pages and immediately enticed her to read its words:
“As I laid there looking at the man that I have loved, nothing sent a bright light to the depths of his eyes. I certify these particulars up close and bear witness that my beloved is nothing more than a metal ghost. I often wondered if he had ever heard there are more things in heaven and earth and in the air and seen by cordial eyes than what he considered existence. Alas, light whisper reminders from the crowd, comments indistinct and vague, some sublime. To deny faith , love , transfigured to a scientifically clutching mind is educated sadness....
...For you any objects whether a diamond or artwork deserves all my love. According to your same confidences, or deafness the human soul seemed to sample memories of an unknown generation, tones perfected in coldness. I can only hope to come close to being someone you could call wife one day. I know I don’t, and for that, I know I must either prepare to walk a tragic way or recite some noble verse from head to foot to distract you enough in mind to leave....
...Blood and flesh without nothingness is a serious start to the entry of evil. And it’s here in this lovely home everyone in this community adores. If they only knew the fear I knew when the lights went dark.”
“What are you reading?” the policemen said as he walked down the stairs. “We’re trying to keep everyone together. Why are you down here?”
“I fell and hit this corner dresser. I found this,” she said as she handed the policeman the notebook. “I think it was her journal. She seemed very...sad.”
“What I heard you reading it appeared as much. We’ll check it out upstairs. Let’s go.”