This week’s sample is from my stand-alone novel: Tempo Rubato ~ Stolen Time my tribute to Wolfgang Mozart. Genre: Mixed Romance, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Mystery.
WEST TEXAS – Early Spring 1995The elderly gentleman pushed back one of the bothersome locks of wispy, white hair and shook his head slowly as he opened the heavy door of the cramped glass and steel control booth. Behind him, in cool, air-conditioned silence, an intricate array of lighted electronic panels, digital displays, oscillating graphs and readouts looked like something straight out of a late night Sci-Fi movie. A gust of super-cold air rushed past his ears along with a babble of seemingly incomprehensible voices speaking French, English, Italian, German and Spanish in a cacophony of confusion. He stayed back near the door to avoid being trampled by the scurrying crowd of medics, technicians and company executives all dressed in surgical blues replete with masks and gloves. All, that is, except for one: a strikingly beautiful blond woman standing aloof, oblivious to the activity around her, but critically attentive to the object of everyone‟s concern. Her clear blue eyes betrayed just a touch of coldness in contrast to the blood red rose adorning the lapel of her perfectly tailored white suit. She could have been twenty-five, thirty-five or anywhere in between. No lines or creases marred her face, only her elevated position with the company and her air of complete control indicated her age to be more the latter than the former. She turned her head slightly as if the old man‟s stare distracted her and nodded to him ever so slightly. He returned the acknowledgement with a stiff little bow and an unseen shudder before turning his attention to the center of the low-ceilinged room where the last reverberations of a high-pitched whine were dwindling along with the level of conversation as everyone seemed to pause, waiting for the cold fog swirling about the room to dissipate. The old gentleman squinted to see through the mist beyond the coiled rows of conduit encircling a depression in the center of the room.
All commotion ceased as a figure began to emerge slowly from the depths of the fog, awkwardly backing up a ladder attached to the inside of the conduits. At the top of the ladder, he stepped carefully over the frost-covered coils feeling his way with his booted feet on a raised metal platform where a team of masked medics waited with a surgical gurney. The man wore a long, wool overcoat and a black tricorne hat. He stooped under the weight of what proved to be the seemingly unconscious form of someone wearing what appeared to be a white nightgown. A second man‟s head also adorned with a tri-corn hat appeared above the coils laboring with the gowned figure‟s legs. As the threesome cleared the top of the coils, it became very apparent that their burden was not at all unconscious, but very much awake and very much unhappy with the entire situation.
The old man smiled sadly as he picked up several muffled curses directed at the two booted men. It was his native language, German. The old man edged forward, concentrating his attention, trying to see the man‟s face.
Everyone in the circular room burst into a renewed flurry of activity. The medics helped to secure the man on the gurney strapping his arms and legs down with Velcro fasteners. As soon as the gurney reached the bottom of the ramp, an agitated crew of technicians, medics and doctors immediately blocked the view. The two oddly dressed men were left standing on the platform, forgotten in the melee. It was impossible to catch a glimpse of the patient. Everyone was talking at once and the old man‟s ears were again bombarded with half a dozen different languages. He took two more steps forward.
“BP: ninety over forty,” a female voice called out.
“Respiration: rapid, shallow,” a different voice announced.
“Temp: one zero four point four,” a male voice intoned almost simultaneously with the last.
A tall man wearing glasses over the top of his surgical mask stood at the head of the gurney, apparently the doctor in charge. He issued orders left and right as he bent over to peer at the patient‟s head. The medics shifted positions in response to the doctor‟s orders to begin attaching various monitors and intravenous tubing to the patient‟s arms, chest and head.
The elderly man watching the excitement brushed back the vexatious wisp of hair subconsciously and stepped closer as the undulating crowd cleared a bit exposing the patient‟s face for the first time. The unhappy center of attention did not appear to be very old, at least not as old as some who had passed through this way before; however, it was impossible to accurately judge his age due to the hideous swelling and discoloration of his face. His long, blond hair lay in disheveled strands about his head and his large gray eyes were sunken above dark circles. It was clearly evident that he was suffering from some dreadful disease, which had taken a terrible toll on his physical appearance. The old man winced; he had not expected him to look so bad even though he knew he would have been ill for quite some time.
The patient blinked at the bright lights above the gurney in confusion and fear, and then suddenly turned to look directly at the old man who now stood not more than three feet away. The feverish gray eyes sent an almost electric shock through the old man causing him to catch his breath. A nurse stepped between them blocking the view momentarily. When she moved again, he saw that the patient was still looking at him and realized that the man was trying to speak to him. He could contain himself no longer.
“Stille, sag’ ich!” he shouted in German clearly angry.
The old man‟s outburst startled the crew into silence as they turned to look at him in disbelief.
He raised one gnarled hand to point at the man on the gurney.
“Let him speak!” he said in heavily accented English.
The patient‟s eyes were still locked on the old man.
“Wo bin ich?” his voice was scratchy and barely audible.
The medics looked at each other frowning.
“Ist’s Fantasie,” he continued with difficulty “du ich noch lebe? Sag mir, der
lustiger freund, wer du seist?”
The old man smiled through tears in his eyes as he recognized the familiar words.
“Fantasie, nein. Der Vogelfanger bin ich ja…” he answered the patient‟s question with the proper response.
The blond man turned his eyes back toward the ceiling. He was actually laughing though not loudly enough to hear clearly.
“What?!” The doctor recovered his own voice and glared at the old man. “What did he say? What did you tell him?”
The old man smiled and shrugged.
“He vanted to know vere he iss and who am I.”
“Well, what did you tell him?!” The doctor demanded again.
“I tolt him he iss not dreaming and I told him that I am the bird catcher,” the old man smiled at the irritated doctor.
“Frieda!” The doctor directed his attention to the blond woman still standing in the background. “Get this fellow out of here! I have work to do!” He nodded his head toward the elderly man.
Without further ado, the doctor went back to his examination. The old man brushed the tears from his cheeks and turned to face the woman who smiled at him and beckoned to him to join her. He walked slowly toward the doors leading from the cold, concrete room. Perhaps this one would make them sorry that they had tampered with the works of God. Perhaps this one would be the key to his own future.
“Albert?” The one called Frieda caught up with him in the brightly-lit corridor outside the chamber. “You should know better than that, my friend.”
She slipped her arm under his as they continued down the hall. He simply sighed and did not respond.
“We really should spend more time together, you and I,” she said pleasantly. “We have a lot in common, you know.”
Another shudder passed through his soul.