The State Hospital on Broad Street was familiar, almost home-like to me. Several times I week I went down with Daddy, watching him work or reading to some of the patients, helping the nurses make beds and do the thousands of tiny things that took them away from their patients, but needed doing nonetheless.
I loved the activity of it all, the bustle. But today, the urgency wasn’t exciting. We dodged around doctors and nurses as Alex led us to a room on the first floor.
The entire drive over, mother muttered to herself in the front seat in between asking Alex questions about her brother and his condition. “Where was he last night? Who was he with?”
“I don’t know,” Alex sobbed. George, crammed into the back seat with us, handed her his handkerchief. She dabbed at her eyes and blew her nose. “We were supposed to go to a party, but I lost track of him. He was fine when he came home.”
“Did you drive back together?”
She shook her head. “I couldn’t find him, so I rode with a friend.”
The words Mother uttered made me raise an eyebrow. I’d never heard such language from her. Daddy must not have either, because the car jerked slightly before he righted it. “Constance!”
“Oh, hush, Mitchell. I’ve heard worse and you know it, and if any situation calls for a little foul language, this is it. To think, two young people, not just drinking polluted liquor, but one of them driving home? Alone? He’s lucky he didn’t cause an accident. What if he’d lost consciousness on the road? It wouldn’t just be his life in danger.” She harumphed to herself and went back to muttering. “And where are the parents? Leaving their children alone…”
“Mother and Father are in Spain, I think,” Alexandra sniffled as Daddy pulled into the lot by the hospital. Mr. and Mrs. Grant traveled frequently; I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen them at home, but thought it might have been around Easter.
Alexandra sniffled again, regaining some of her natural independence–contrariness, Mother called it. “And we aren’t alone. We have the housekeep and the butler and the maid…”
Even in the dark, the look Mother gave her was sharp enough to cut off her words.
We finally arrived at a bare looking ward on the first floor. I saw father’s brow crease.
A nurse tending to one of the patients near Archie looked up when we entered and started to object, but closed her mouth when she saw Daddy.
“Dr. Faust. Can I help you?”
“Just checking in on Archie Grant. Can you tell me anything about him?” he asked, leading her away from the bed. The rest of us gathered around Archie, who lay unmoving and dead to the world on the hard mattress.
“They brought him in this morning, around ten,” Alexandra whispered, once again dabbing at her eyes. “I went to wake him. I was annoyed about not being able to find him for a ride home last night, and thought giving him an early wake up call would be comeuppance.”
Mother raised an eyebrow at the idea of ten o’clock being “early,” but didn’t say anything. When school wasn’t in session, the Grant siblings were nearly nocturnal. Instead, she asked what happened next.
“I went into his room. I had glass of iced tea, and saw him laying on his stomach. I thought it might be a laugh to stick a piece of ice down the back of his pajamas, but when I did, he didn’t even flinch. I panicked, but I couldn’t wake him. Helga heard me screaming, and called for the ambulance.” Helga was the Grant’s maid.
Daddy came back, a deep furrow in his brow. “It doesn’t look good. His doctor suspects methanol poisoning, but they don’t know for certain yet. The usual treatments aren’t having the usual effect. I’ve asked for a blood sample, to see if I can do anything to help.”
Alexandra buried her face in George’s sodden handkerchief. I put my arms around her. “It will be alright, Alex. You’ll see. Archie’s as stubborn as you are, he won’t give up. And with Daddy and I on the case, you know he’ll be just fine.” I pointedly did not look at the expression I knew Daddy was giving me.
Alex reached up to squeeze my hand, her shoulders finally relaxing. “Do you promise?”
“We’ll help him. Just you wait and see.”