Sternwick Ch 8
Each bump and jolt from the carriage caused Con to wince in pain. The last time his mechanical heart hurt this much was after his mother and soon father died 5 years ago. Since then, he’d always taken the best care not to avoid anything that would cause that kind of pain. But what could have caused it to act up now? He honestly didn’t have a clue and his thoughts were interrupted as the carriage jerked to the left around a sharp corner and clanked towards the center of town. During the day, the center was usually crowed with people coming and going, but now the streets were emptying out due to the late hour. The night watchman began to light the street lamps while the people locked up their shops for the night. Not many lamps were lit like before, due to the ever increasing fire safety rules enforced by the Mayor and the Bonders. And the small amounts of glow couldn’t light up all the roads and alleyways. If streets aren’t lit, you can’t see whose coming towards you, or who could be hiding, waiting for you to pass by unexpectedly.
After a few minutes the carriage came to a sudden halt in front of the clock shop and Mr. Cogsworth carefully helped Con out of the carriage and walked him towards the door. The clock shop was very tall and rose higher than many of the other buildings in the center. Con looked up at the large glass windows as the last rays of the setting sun reflected an orangeish purple glow that stretched across the glass like liquid fire. Soon to would be dark and the light would be reduced to a dark blue shimmer, leaving behind no warmth for the night.
Con shivered as they both walked through the front doors and upon entering the harmonious sound of ticking began to fill his ears. To some, the sound could get annoying after a while, but to him it was quite soothing. It was the sound of hundreds of clocks lined up and down the walls, their cogs and gears clicked and turned as they peacefully sat high on shelves, hung on hooks and wire, or leaned against the walls on the floor. Some of them were large with elaborate designs fit for a fancy rich buyer, while others were smaller and simpler, perfect for a workman’s desk. There was even a tall grandfather clock in the corner that looked just like the town’s main clock tower. Con admired the different clock designs while Mr. Cogsworth helped him into a chair by the front door and called for his daughter.
“Felicity, please come here its quite urgent.”
It didn’t take long before a tall, 19 year old girl with straight strawberry blond hair that was pulled back in a bun came around the corner from another room. She carried a small black clock in her hands and a rag as she slowly polished the smooth wooden surface so it shone like wet ink.
“Hey, how’d your ‘other business’ go father?” She asked, setting the clock on the table, not bothering to taking her eyes off it. Con watched as she blew her bangs out from her eyes and remembered how often she did that when they were little. Felicity and he became friends ever since he had his first operation on his heart. His parents would take him each week to her father’s shop to get his heart checked and sometimes pieces replaced. Felicity would stand by him and talk his ear off while her father worked, but he didn’t mind, it kept him from being scared and since then their friendship grew.
Felicity was such a free spirited playmate, always run around in pants, trying to beat Con at everything yet supporting him in all he did. As she grew older, she continued to act that same and didn’t mind the look of shock from town folks as to how un-lady like she acted. It wasn’t easy working in a clock-shop and wearing a dress all the time only made things harder.
Con watched as she continued to polish the clock with her right gloved hand and check the surface with the other. Very few knew that under that glove was a hand not of flesh and bone, but a mechanical device, much like his heart, built to function as a replacement of the original. When Felicity was young her hand was crushed in an accident and it had to be amputated. Afterwards her father constructed a mechanical hand, equipped with moving finger and an opposable thumb that worked just as good as her original one. She understood what it was like to be teased for being different.
There was only a few moments pause before she looked over her shoulder and smiled at Con.
“Hey Con!” The rag, now forgotten, lay over her shoulder as she went to his side. Her smile turned into a smirk as she pretending to be cross with him. “Twelve months, It’s been twelve months since you’ve visited me?”
“Has it been that long?” He’d been so busy with work, and his heart had given him troubles (till now) that he’d completely spaced coming to visit. “My apologies Felicity, I don’t know where the time has gone.” He tried to give her a smile but the pain in his chest was making it hard to breath and instead he gritted his teeth and slouched over in the chair.
At that moment Felicity noticed something wasn’t right and quickly dropped her act.
“Con, what’s wrong? It’s that metal heart isn’t it? I told you to be careful.” A hint of worry shone in her eyes as she placed a hand on his old metal heart covering.
Mr. Cogsworth took her by the shoulder while adjusting his glasses. “Now Felicity, I need you to go next door and get Dr. Killpatient for me.”
“Killpatient?” She took a step away and folded her arms in protest. “Father we can adjust his heart just fine without having that old fat walrus looking over our shoulders.” She didn’t trust that doctor by any means. He wasn’t welcomed here, at least not from her.
Her father gave her a kind look and after whispering something in her ear, which was enough to convince her, she sighed and turned to look at Con before quickly heading out the door. As much as she hated to admit it, they do need a doctor around in case things when wrong. Con’s heart was very complicated. She’s made clocks with her father before and that wasn’t the easiest job by any means. How she and Killpatient managed to make Con this artificial heart without killing him was beyond her knowledge. Her father may trust this doctor, but Felicity felt there was something off about that man.
Killpatient was the first real doctor to work in the town of Sternwick. Before he came, there had been a few who claimed they could cure anything with their remedies and elixirs but they were all quickly proven wrong. Then, about 20 years ago a very large young man came into town. He came in riding a carriage full of tools and books. He was quiet, didn’t smile much and always carried a large black briefcase with him wherever he went. At first the people were skeptical of his so called vast knowledge of the human body and his claim to cure just about anything. He’d claimed to have received some schooling from an unknown university and although the people didn’t believe in his methods at first they quickly changed their minds after seeing him heal the sick. Now, being the only true doctor in Sternwick kept him busy, and very wealthy since he could charge any amount for his work.
He built a large mansion with the money he’d earn and used part of its many rooms to house patients that needed constant care. Many nurses worked there daily, and were always available to assist, but Killpatient was usually away on house calls. Felicity hoped that since it was getting late he’d returned home so she wouldn’t have to go far to find him.
She quickly walked down the street but slowed her pace as a man with a rather tall hat waved at her while lighting a street lamp. She cautiously waved back, and quickly moved on, a little confused as to who that man was. She couldn’t make out any distinct features in the dim light, but she didn’t bother with it. Right now, she had more important things to think about.
Felicity quickly reached Killpatient’s mansion and entered through its double doors. The large lobby was empty except for a few passing nurses who were carrying blankets and pales of water, no doubt for the patients in the rooms nearby. At the front desk sat the head nurse reading a small book. Her curly red hair was placed in a high bun, face covered in makeup and wearing a clean white nurse’s dress covered in lace, no doubt something she added herself or took it in for Ritz to spruce up. She took one look at Felicity and wrinkled her nose as the tomboyish girl approached her.
“The doctor is with a patient now. You’ll have to wait.” She said in a snobbish, high pitched voice, nose turned up to look down on her.
“It’s an emergency; he’s needed at my father’s clock shop.” Felicity placed both hands on the desk leaning towards the nurse. She means business and there’s no way she was going to let the doc’s pampered desk nurse get in her way.
“I said he’s busy, you’ll have to wait…” The nursed frowned as a staring contest began between the two. After a few moments of silence Felicity clenched her fists and threw her hands up. “Fine, I can wait, but you’ll have to explain to the mayor why his scribe suddenly died because the doctor’s nurse failed to let him be seen.”
The nurse clenched her jaw and pursed her lips realizing that she’d lost. “He’s in his office.” She pointed to the left as her response was more like the hissing of a snake.
Felicity smiled “Much obliged” and without another word walked down the left hallway towards the doctor’s office. She’d been down this hallway many times before, but the creaking of the old wooden floor and paintings on the walls of old black barns and empty wheat fields still gave her an eerie feeling. In fact, this whole mansion gave her the creeps. There was that feeling of being watched by many eyes, and staked by death itself. A shiver shot up her spine, even if she knew the mansion wasn’t haunted but full of sick patients. She walked faster and headed towards Killpetient’s office door, at the end of the hall. It was open a crack and the candle light poured down the hall in threads of gold. Felicity cleared her throat before poking her head in the office while knocking on the door as she did to announce her presence. She wasn’t at all surprised to see that the office was a complete mess. Piles of papers, books, quills and other items were scattered all over the place while behind a huge oak desk sat Dr. Killpatient. The fat man was leaning back in a large arm chair that sagged heavily under his weight. One beefy hand held a letter while the other rested on a black ribbon that lay on what little empty space was on his desk.
Felicity cleared her throat again and this time it caught his attention. “Doctor, my dad needs you in our shop, it’s Con, his heart isn’t doing too well, it’s very urgent.”
The doctor set down the letter, ruffled his mustache with his hand and looked over at her. “Con, with the mechanical heart?” His voice was deep and a sounded a little hoarse but she could tell he was concerned. “Well, then” he quickly folded up the letter, locked it in the top drawer of his desk and stood up “let’s waste any time then.” He grabbed a nearby black bag, stuffed in a few tools and waddled out the office. Felicity had to squish herself against the wall to avoid being crushed as he passed by. They excited the mansion to Killpatient’s personal carriage and Felicity quickly turned down his offer for a ride but thanked him in return. She worried that there wasn’t enough room for the two of them. “I can make it faster on foot.” He nodded and closed the carriage door as she quickly ran down the street glad to be heading back home. Hopefully it wasn’t going to be anything too serious that couldn’t be fixed in a wink.
While Felicty was gone Cogsworth carefully lead Con to the back room where all broken clocks were repaired, and tools stored. A table was quickly cleared for Con to lie down and more candles and lamps were lit to brighten up the room. Con tried to lie still while his heart’s metal covering was removed by Cogsworth, revealing the many tiny interior gears, cogs and springs. He took a deep breath as the clock creaked with the movement of his rising and falling chest.
While Cogworth gathered his tools Felicity suddenly burst into the room, panting from the lack of air.
“For goodness sakes child” Cogsworth jumped at her sudden entrance “did you get the doctor?” Cogsworth handed her a tool and she nodded her head, bent over slightly still trying to catch her breath.
“He’s…..here….” She gasped as the doctor entered the room.
“Mr. Vacheron, Cogsworth.” They both nodded in greeting as the doctor began listening to Con’s heartbeat and checked his blood pressure and pulse. “Tell me everything. How did this happen?” Con explained how the pain started, how it felt and what made it worse. While he told the story, Mr. Cogsworth and Felicity silently looked over each visible piece trying to find the cause of Con’s discomfort.
“What’s wrong with it?” Con asked shifting into a more comfortable position when they weren’t tinkering. If felt so strange to have so many people look over him.
“Hold on Con.” Felicity sighed gently pushed Con back into a laying position while Cogsworth and Killpatient exchanged whispers over the situation. This time all three carefully looked over the heart while Con glanced around the room, not wanting to see the expressions on their faces or the bushy nose hairs that blended with Killpatient’s mustache.
After a while of pulling, turning and checking the visible pieces without going too deep Killpatient finally stood up, cracked his back and let out a loud sigh. “The real question is…what’s right with it?” He began putting away his tools in the bag, feeling his work here for today was done.
“I beg your pardon?” Felicity shot back, feeling as if he were attacking her father’s work.
“Well, it is doing its job, the problem is it’s old, and can’t keep up with your body.” He looked over at Con before placing on its metal covering. Con slowly sat up and waited for the doctor to continue.
“It’s time you got a new heart Mr. Vacheron.”
“A new one?” Pieces of his small heart had been replaced as he grew older, but the thought of getting the whole thing replaced sounded risky.
“Most of the pieces need to be replaced entirely. We’ll have to get you a new one immediately.” Killpatient added closing his black bag, feeling that there wasn’t more he could do for the night but he knew he had a big job ahead of him.
“Wait hold on, couldn’t we just slowly replace it over time? I mean, getting it all replaced at once?! Is that even possible?” Felicity asked not trusting in what the doctor said.
“Felicity this isn’t your choice.” Her father came to her side.
“Well, it’s been done before and if it’s not done soon, then it will stop altogether. Replacing a little at a time will only delay getting a new one. It won’t take much more, and small surgeries just won’t due. I’m sorry.”
“I don’t have any other choice then?” Con swung his legs over slowly getting off the table. The pain was still there, but not as when he first arrived.
"I suppose I’ll get working right away on another design.” Cogsworth commented while placing his tools back in their right place.
Killpatient turned around with some difficulty in the small workroom, knocking down a few gears from the countertop but didn’t pay it any mind. “I’ll come back tomorrow. I think I have something that may change how this new heart will be constructed.” He brushed his mustache before heading out the door. “I’ll see you then.”
The room was silent enough to hear the clocks from the other room and front door close at Killpatient’s departure.
It was Cogsworth who finally broke the uncomfortable silence. “Con, you can stay in the guest room for the night. I’m going to need you for tomorrow.” Con was too tired to protest and nodded while Felicity led him to the guest room for the nigh.
Not far down the road, close to hospital mansion, Killpatient stopped the carriage and stuck his head out the window, waiting. It didn’t take long before a figure with a tall hat crept over to the carriage, taking a look to the left and right, making sure he wasn’t being watched.
“What’s the outlook?” The stranger whispered, lowering his head so his face couldn’t be seen.
“Not good…It’s worse than expected. This could change things, but don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”
“See that you do.” The stranger smiled and Killpatient nodded before hollering to the driver to continue on home.