A loud, mechanical humming disturbance electrified the windowless backroom office.
Dr. Otis Foster clutched a noisy, golden skull pendant dangling from a necklace around his neck. In the center of this dimly lit room, the face of this short, flabby man twisted with anticipation.
A blushing, bright red light streamed from the zircon crystal eyes of the miniature skull. It shapeshifted into a cloud-like substance. This dust of supernatural force moved like a slight breeze.
In its short line of travel, Lois Kidder sat slumped on a chair with her eyes closed amidst dried tears. The massive cloud circled her head.
“Lois, you should be relaxing by now,” Otis said softly. “Every muscle in your body is at ease.”
Lois took a deep breath. All of a sudden, drowsiness came over her.
Otis leaned back in his chair. “Your mind is craving peace. You are passing into a deep sleep. That is fine. I want you to experience profound rest.”
The skull’s eyes closed.
At this moment, Lois dozed off under the doctor’s magical hypnotism. The red cloud separated into fragments and entered her body through her nostrils and ears. Lois’s chin dropped. Her stiff and rigid arms fell to her side. Tentacles of spider veins emerged from the tip of the nose and expanded all over her body like stretching cracks on a damaged wall.
Otis continued. “Right now, this terminal brain cancer is only lingering in your thoughts. It is no more and no less. Consider it a product of your mind…nourished and fed by your fear. In due time, you will overcome this fear. Once all doubt is removed, the terminal illness in your body will cease to exist.”
Otis studied Lois carefully while fidgeting his prized golden skull.
“Now Lois, I want you to open your eyes.”
She lifted her head, revealing only the whiteness of the sclera blanketing her eyes. Under this trance, she had the look of a walking dead.
“Sit up straight in the chair.”
Lois pulled herself up.
“Good. Now return your pupils at once.”
Lois shut her eyes. She reopened them, and her pupils were now visible.
“Outstanding. Now, you are no longer a slave to fear.”
Otis stood with a disposable lighter in hand. He went over to Lois. He held it over her hand and flicked it. The small spark of flame touching her knuckles did not disturb her. Her susceptibility to pain had been suspended along with her subconscious mind.
Otis knelt beside her. “Tell me your full name and age.”
“Lois Jennifer Kidder,” she answered flatly. “I am 68 years old.”
“What brought you to my office today?”
“To get medical help for my terminal brain cancer.”
“According to your physician, how much longer do you have to live?”
“Four months at the most.”
Otis laughed merrily. “Good heavens! That is a shame. Before your diagnosis, have you ever considered hypnotism as an alternative medical treatment?”
“I didn’t think so,” said Otis, as he gently patted her shoulder. “Soon, your health insurance provider will wish you never walked into my office. It’s going to cost them big.” he chuckled.
This latest account meant Otis was in another position to fraudulently bill a patient’s insurance for as long as he pleased. He thought this was his right since his patients were under hypnotism despite not being under his observation outside of office hours.
While Lois remained in a trance, he was free from facing suspicions and disloyalty from her just as with the previous patients over the years. Once she was cured fully of cancer, he would release her from a deep sleep. Lois would be so relieved of his success in eliminating her fatal illness, she would never dream of criticizing his practice to anyone! His supernatural skull eliminated all kinds of illnesses instantaneously. Nonetheless, Otis tended to prolong treatment with falsified appointments for financial gain.
All Otis had to do was say Lois’s full name for her subconscious mind to resurge. It took only mere seconds for the mysterious cloud to do away with her cancer. However, it took weeks or even months of dishonest billing for Otis to be content with a sum satisfactory to him. A previous client with colon cancer netted him 10 thousand dollars in three months before his greed subsided.
Otis stood before Lois and sniffled. “You will speak of this treatment to no one.”
“Yes, I will not speak,” she answered blankly.
“You will get the hell out of my office. Your next appointment is set for next month on the 28th. That is a Tuesday. Be here at 9 am. Until then, behave and act as if your subconscious mind would.”
Lois picked up and left the room. A little bell tinkled from the small lobby to indicate her departure out the main door. Otis snickered. He sat back down. Like an excited child, he rocked back and forth in his chair.
Otis thought it was too wonderful. He just snared another patient who lived alone with no close family or friends. His surveys, which he required before treatment, contained many questions designed to provide as much personal information as possible. Otis weeded out service to those prospective patients with close relatives or caregivers who could question his rampant billing practices. The single elderly like Lois was his preferred target.
Outside on this muggy, mid-July day, Lois emerged from the doctor’s office onto a winding back street in the shabbiest part of the city. This sector of the city in Madison, MA was well known for its uneventful maze of fences, dead-end alleys, and blind streets. To ensure the safety of her vehicle from grand theft auto prevalent on this side of town, she had previously left it in a parking garage a couple of blocks away. This was where she was heading.
Oddly, she thoughtlessly started to cross a busy intersection without checking for clearance.
Lois never saw or heard the car speeding excessively toward her. A blood-curdling skid from its smoking tires exhibited the driver’s effort to stop in time. Sadly, it was a failed endeavor. The tremendous impact sent her somersaulting over the vehicle. She landed headfirst and laid motionless. An incoming mail delivery truck also skidded over her broken body.
“Oh, my goodness!” cried a bystander from a sidewalk.
The world seemed to stand still. A great many had witnessed this tragic accident and started to gather around the horrifying scene.
“I saw her walk into the street without looking,” cried a tearful old woman.
“Same here,” said a teenage boy. “Maybe she was on some drug or something.”
A middle-aged man had knelt over Lois’s bloody mangled body. He yelled, “Instead of standing around why doesn’t someone call a damn ambulance! Like right now!”
News of this unfortunate incident spread like wildfire, reaching small business owners and enticing them to stream out of surrounding buildings with their customers to get a close glimpse at the grim aftermath.
Otis was at his computer in the reception area preparing to execute an invoice for Lois’s insurance company. The loud commotion outside stirred him. Full of curiosity, he went to the window of his lobby. He watched the sight of bystanders standing over Lois’s body in the middle of the street. It was obvious to him she lost her life while crossing the street.
“Oh, no,” he said under his breath.
The wail of an ambulance siren was heard screaming through the city.
A thought had a huge corollary on Otis’s whirling mind. Possibly he might have hypnotized Lois with too much of the supernatural dust that impaired some cognitive functions. He only did this because her whimpering and shaking over her cancer diagnosis were quite excessive. Otis wanted to ensure her subconscious mind was buried deep to offset any possibility of it returning suddenly. This has never happened before, but her restless squirming was nothing he had ever encountered before in his 12-year scheme. She had him startled, but he did his best not to show it.
Otis clutched his hand over his mouth. He backed off from the window. He scratched hysterically at his bald head.
Lois’s demise meant nothing to him on a personal level. He only worried about the consequences it could have on his private practice. It could open a can of worms. If law enforcement tied the dead woman to his office, an ensuing investigation would not only reveal negligence on his part; but also expose him to stiff criminal and civil liabilities for billing the insurances of unsuspecting patients under trance for treatments that spanned for long durations. He calculated payments made to him over the years could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. With such revelations, the local media would have a field day.
Back at the front desk, Otis tore out a patient’s entry log with Lois’s signature from the guest book. He inserted it into a document shredder. He logged off his computer and sat back in his chair.
“So much for compensation on this one,” he mumbled to himself.
Instead of feeling remorseful for losing a patient for the very first time, he thought about the cocktail party he was invited to attend that night.
This yearly event was organized by Bret Hebert, his former professor and wealthy hospital administrator at his luxury estate overlooking the suburbs. This function was created to honor medical professionals and to allow them to mingle and share advice. Bret was the only one in the medical community Otis could stand since he never criticized him for his preference of psychosis over traditional medicine to combat terminal illnesses.
Otis could care less about socializing with his colleagues. He only saw this as an opportunity to get referrals for patients from other physicians he pretended to like.
To deviate his involvement in Lois’s death, he concluded it would best serve him if he kept a low profile by remaining in his office for a couple of hours. By that time, police would have already processed the accident scene and hauled off Lois’s mangled body.
“It’s not my fault the bitch couldn’t stop quivering,” he reassured himself openly. He touched at the skull hanging from his neck. “She asked for help out of her misery…she got it.”
Later that night at the outdoor cocktail party no other guests seemed to notice Dr. Otis Foster wandering.
There he was on the well-kept lawn of the vast estate overlooking the surrounding countryside. All the physicians around him seemed committed to a joyous conversation with each other.
Even newly arrived gatherers, huddled together at the corner of a bar, seemed to be enjoying the moment. Their interactions were so warm, so charming, and so friendly. This was lacking in Otis’s socialization skills because he only preferred talking about himself and his controversial theory regarding psychosomatic medicine, the treatment of illnesses through the mind.
His hand felt the outline of the skull hidden beneath his dress shirt. No one knew that he possessed a centuries-old gothic pendant with supernatural forces to alter even the worst fatal human disease.
Fourteen years ago, before he claimed ownership of this glorious antique supposedly linked to ancient China, he was an intern at West Madison hospital. By then, he was already a believer in psychology over surgery to treat a majority of terminal cases. His theory began to drift him apart from his peers who considered him a lunatic for his outrageous hunch.
While on vacation in those days, he was touring Boston’s Chinatown when an odd-looking proprietor invited him to venture into his strange dimly lit shop. This old merchant was short with sinister-looking green eyes. There appeared to be an abundance of artifacts collecting dust on the shelves and in the enclosed glass jewelry booth. The lack of light made it nearly impossible to examine the items for sale.
The storekeeper cracked a smile and declared, “For what you seek, I have.”
Otis’s eyes panned the room. “Sure, but can we get some more light in here?”
“Why when your eyes can deceive you? Just speak of your desires, and I shall guide you to a fulfilling artifact.”
At this point, Otis found himself mysteriously infatuated with this storekeeper. He couldn’t pinpoint why, but he felt drawn to him like a bee to honey. It seemed like some strange force was compelling him to share his deepest thoughts.
“I am an intern at a hospital,” Otis told the strange merchant. “Unlike many of my peers in the medical field, I say a majority of the illnesses are nothing more than a stigma from the faltering mind. Illnesses are rooted in psychological flaws. I wish there was an easy way to prove……my hunch… if you want to call it that.”
It was at this point the stranger opened Otis’s hand and dropped the golden skull pendant necklace in it.
“With this powerful artifact, you will have the ability to conqueror souls and diseases.” said the Merchant. He gently closed Otis’s fingers over the skull. “In time, you will understand how it works. Once you put this on over your neck, never take it off. For the day you do, its power diminishes forever… and so will your life.”
Otis nodded appreciatively. He paid the merchant his asking price of five hundred dollars and set out to test this odd product. Once outside the store, he looped the skull penchant over his head.”
That same day, his first unofficial patient was a homeless man he found half-asleep in an alley. Otis quickly learned he could apply the penchant just as the storekeeper promised. He commanded for the man to throw down his beer bottle and to never drink alcohol again. Otis was taken aback by the dusting red flowing from the skull’s red heated eyes. The cloudy spell entered the subject’s body. Protruding veins appearing all over the tramp’s body frightened him at first. After learning from the man that he bailed on his wife and children weeks earlier, Otis instructed him to return to his home and make peace with his family. The homeless man said he would do so and left. Otis was not certain if this directive was carried out successfully, but it became quite clear that the skull pendant was quite an impressive instrument.
While Otis was reflecting on this past event at the cocktail party, he suddenly felt someone gently nudging at his shoulder. He turned to find the smiling party host Bret Hebert standing before him. Bret’s old and wrinkled face was jovial. Beside Bret was a tall nervous-looking man with glasses he never saw before.
Bret offered his hand. “Gene,” he greeted, mistaking him for someone else. “Welcome to my elegant function. I take it you are enjoying yourself?”
“Very much so, Brett,” said Otis smiling as he shook his hand. “But I am Otis. Not Gene. Please don’t confuse me with my idiot brother.”
“Oh, dear,” Bret replied, worriedly covering his mouth. “That’s right. You are the bald fella. Gene still has a bit of hair.”
Otis shrugged annoyingly.
The excited tall man cleared his throat and started to offer his hand to Otis as well. “Mr. Foster, I am finally happy to….”
Bret waved his hand, gesturing for silence without facing the tall man. His embarrassed guest recognized this, and his eyes fell pitifully.
Otis made an angry face at the stranger. Instantly, he didn’t like him at all. He didn’t like anyone acting in an intrusive manner. His estranged brother, Gene, had a similar controlling nature that he strongly opposed.
“Otis,” Bret said, “This year, I have more physicians on the guest list than ever before. Have you had a chance to mingle?”
Otis took a quick sip of his wine glass and cracked a fake smile. “I just arrived. You know every year at these events I am fond of meeting old and new acquaintances.” He saluted his glass. “As soon as I get my feet and mind wet, I’ll be thrilled to be your subject of introduction.”
Bret looked to the tall man. “You don’t have to look that far. Allow me to introduce Christopher Gray. When I was an undergraduate, I worked with his mother as an attendant at the city morgue.”
Otis paused for a moment.
“I work at the morgue as well,” Chris said with a nervous smile. He extended his hand again.
Otis paused for a moment. Doctors and their immediate relatives and sometimes wealthy patients were typically invited to Bret’s yearly cocktail. Otis was puzzled as to why a lowly morgue attendant received an invitation. Nevertheless, he reluctantly took Chris’s hand.
“Dear boy Chris,” said Hebert, “Otis was one of my top-performing students in medical school just as his brother Gene was before him. As I said before, he specializes in alternative treatment for many problems such as sleep deprivation.” His eyes beamed back to Otis. “Maybe you can explain your private practice to Chris? He is eager to get help for his lack of rest. Excuse me while you two get acquainted.”
As Bret walked passed Otis to join a nearby group, he playfully slapped him on the back.
There was a cold silence.
Chris was politely waiting for Otis to initiate the conversation. In all actuality, Chris didn’t meet Otis’s qualifications as a prospective patient. For one, Chris was a young man apparently in his mid-thirties just like Otis himself. Otis’s ideal clients were elderly and lived alone with no relative, friend, or caregiver to manage important aspects of their lives. He discreetly required his patients to have some form of short or long term memory loss.
Chris finally broke the ice. “Dr. Foster, I heard a great deal about your alternative treatment. Dr. Hebert recommended I should talk to you about my problem.”
“Is that so?” Otis asked sarcastically.
“Yes. I am willing to pay you whatever it takes to sleep normally again.”
Uninterested, Otis took a drink from his wine and started looking around the party. “Why would somebody like you have difficulties sleeping?”
“I tell you, Mr. Foster, working as a morgue attendant dealing with corpses day in and day out, I have had my fair share of shakes and shivers. That’s how my late mother described her experience at the morgue.”
“Have you tried taking over-the-counter sleep-aid?”
“I sampled multiple brands. None of them worked. I am lucky to get three hours of sleep occasionally. This has been going on for years. I am drained mentally and physically. I don’t how much longer I can handle this.”
“For crying out loud, you deal with corpses!” Otis protested. “What did you expect after your mother put in a word for you to get that city job? Not to ever have to look at the faces of the dead? Grow a pair, will you?”
Chris stammered. “I assure you there’s nothing pleasant about inventorying and washing up bodies. But my issue isn’t about that at all. It’s….”
Otis suddenly grasped. His world was infringed by a troubling sight behind Chris. Chris abruptly spun to see the source of this diversion.
At the far end of the bar, Otis spotted his estranged brother, Gene, at a corner table all by himself, observing him and drinking. This is the first time they have seen each other since their mother died several years earlier from brain cancer.
Otis has always held Gene directly responsible for their mother’s death because instead of supporting his treatment of hypnotism to cure her, Gene successfully convinced a hospital board in a neighboring district to perform a one-in-ten chance, delicate operation to save her. It failed miserably, and she died an excruciating death. This profound event severed a relationship between two brothers that was already fragile since childhood.
Otis stormed past Chris, bumping roughly against him and nearly knocking him off balance.
Chris brushed it off. “Dr. Foster,” he called out, “Can I call your office tomorrow morning to set up an appointment?”
Otis ignored him as he hissed through clenched teeth.
Before long, Otis was at Gene’s table wringing his finger. “You damn fool!” he snapped. “You have some nerve showing your face around her.”
Otis’s harsh and loud conduct alerted the other guests.
“Otis, I am not here to pick a fight with you,” Gene said calmly. “It serves no purpose to be irate. I advise you to turn down our thermostat. Please sit down so we can talk like gentlemen.”
“What the hell do you know about being a gentleman? You killed our mother!”
By now, the shocked elegant guests were blown away by the itchy disturbance. Bret managed to push his way up to the front. He was taken aback to find two brothers, whom he mentored on separate occasions, in a fiery confrontation. He never expected to see them up close together again after their mother’s funeral. Gene winked directly at him to ensure he had everything under control.
“Otis, you are making a spectacle of yourself as usual,” whispered Gene. “I am here on serious business that involves you. If you don’t get a grip on yourself, I will be forced to leave without informing you of what’s to come.”
Then Otis became interested in what Gene had to say. He sounded so firm. Gene knew something about him. Did he somehow become aware of his secret supernatural pendant? This lack of knowledge made him feel uneasy. All neighboring eyes were fixed on Otis’s next reaction.
“I apologize for my outbursts,” Otis told the party-goers. “Everything is fine here.” He politely waved them off. “Please return to what you were doing.”
The guests reluctantly dispersed as their soft commotion revolved around what they had just seen and heard. Bret shook his head in disgust and followed the crowd.
When all was out of earshot, Otis cracked a smile down at his older brother. “So, what do I owe this pleasure for the great surgeon Dr. Gene Foster? Did another hospital in Western Massachusetts endorse you for another community achievement award?”
“I see your disdain for traditional surgery hasn’t changed.”
“Damn right. I correctly chose the path of psychosomatic medicine…the treatment of illnesses through the mind while you opted for surgery…the worthless treatment of sickness by scalpel, needle, and pills.”
“Otis, you don’t have to remind me of our opposing theories regarding medicine.” Gene gestured. “Why don’t you have a seat?”
Otis sat down across from Gene. “Gene, you are the one that has always been mad….jealous of my potential. Mom saw that. It’s no surprise she always favored me over you.”
Gene sighed but remained calm. “That is a load of amphibian crap and you know it. Mother preferred you because I looked exactly like dad…the man who created turmoil in our lives after he abandoned us.” Gene reflected. “I was five years old, and mom was pregnant with you when her hatred for him was taken out on me. Despite her disapproval of me, I still loved her…”
“You had no right to push for a risky operation.” interrupted Otis.
“I did what I thought was right.”
“But you were wrong,” Otis said frowning viciously. “It backfired! If you supported my proposal to the board, hypnosis would’ve saved mom.”
Gene tried not to laugh and looked away from him briefly. “Please! You can’t stop a tumor with psychology. It’s just as worthless as a silk hat on a hog tussling about in the mud.”
“I can attest to the validity of hypnosis for the most terminal cases. What the hell do you know? You’re just a surgeon…a jellyfish with no backbone. All you know how to do is cut and operate. Cut and operate. You are not inventive. You blasted surgeons are incapable of thinking outside the box. I am creative. I don’t have to take unnecessary risks to preserve life. “
“Is that so?” smirked Gene.
“Damn right! It may not look like it on paper, but my private practice is doing considerably well in saving lives…”
“Like the poor woman you saved this morning?” Gene inquired coldly.
A chill ran up Otis’s spine. Could Gene be referring to the tragic accident involving Lois Kidder outside his office this morning? He swallowed a tightness in his throat. Gene’s piercing eyes seemed to plow through his soul.
Instinctively, Otis acted innocent. “I have no idea what you are inferring.”
“I am the last person you can play like a fool. Your imaginary psychoanalysis won’t succeed here.”
A loss for words, Otis took a drink.
Gene looked around to ensure no one was nearby to listen to what he had to say. When he was convinced the coast, was clear he leaned forward.
“Initially, Lois Kidder was my patient,” Gene whispered.
There was a thick, heavy silence over their world of stillness. For a moment, it felt as though Otis’s heart stopped. For a man who liked to defend himself and bash others, he was at a loss for words.
Gene continued. “After her diagnosis, I told Lois she had terminal brain cancer. The symptoms were unmistakable.” He leaned back. “She only had four months to live. An operation or chemotherapy was useless at that stage.”
Otis tried to sit up straight, but he found himself sick to his stomach and unable to refrain from slightly swaying sideways.
“But,” Gene continued, “she tearfully begged for me to recommend a specialist that might be able to help her.” He struggled not to break down himself. After getting ahold of himself he resumed. “For a woman who was passionate about life, I decided to assist her. So, Otis, I gave her the number and address to your office. I knew you were fond of hypnosis as an alternative to traditional medicine. There was nothing to lose. I had little hope that you could, save her but my options were limited.”
Otis’s trembling hand put the glass up to his lips and then he realized it was empty.
Gene pointed at him. “Otis, I know the date and time she went to see you. Lois wanted you to cure her of cancer by hypnotism. You did promise her that. I’m not sure exactly how this procedure went but I’m sure she left your office under the influence of some mind-altering drug you put in her body. That explains why witnesses said she appeared to be in a trance when she was crossing the street and was killed by oncoming traffic.”
Otis found himself in a hopeless predicament but tried to minimize his involvement. “You are wrong. Besides, after an office visit, I am not responsible for holding a patient’s hand.”
“Under the law, you are not exempt if she was under the influence of an illegal drug administered by you.”
It was becoming increasingly difficult to fool Gene, and they both knew it.
“Ms. Kidder didn’t leave my office with any unauthorized drug in her system.”
“Otis, for once, refrain being a pathological liar,” said Gene. “Enough of this madness already.”
“What do you plan to do with this information?”
“That depends on your next course of action. As medical professionals, we have a responsibility to share what we know with the authorities.”
Otis’s eyes narrowed. He ran his hand down his sweaty head. The outcome of a thorough police investigation would likely reveal his fraudulent billing practices to insurance companies on a massive scale. That alone would ensure a guilty verdict in a court of law.
“Do you have any idea what this will do to my career?” Otis asked meekly.
“Undoubtedly, it will destroy you for your hideous usage of illegal substances. You could very well spend many years in prison.”
“Who else knows about this?”
“So far, just me.”
“Gene, what if I paid you ten thousand dollars to keep quiet about this?”
Stunned, Gene’s eyebrows raised. “I am deeply offended by your attempt to bribe me. Lois Kidder is dead. Due to your incompetence, she endured a horrifying death. Have you no remorse for your role in that?”
Gene got up. He straightened out the bow affixed to his collar before he concluded. “Otis, my position on this matter is crystal clear. I am giving you exactly 48 hours to get your affairs in order before I alert the police with everything I know. Before I initiate contact, I hope you can manage to do this yourself. The ball now is in your court to do the right thing.”
“This is outrageous,” Otis fussed. “You earned your Ph.D. in pissing me the hell off, you dipshit!”
Once again, the shocked guests caught a whiff of the heated moment.
Gene smiled slightly. He laid his business card on the table. “Here is my number, Otis. I will await your decision.” Then he departed.
Otis angrily pointed his middle finger at Gene.
One hour later, Otis was driving home on a lonely country road. His car radio blasted loud music. He sniffled. Brooding darkly, he expanded his imagination as a way to erase his dilemma.
His mind lingered on his ideal setting some seventy miles away. The ocean near his beach house on the Massachusetts coast in Clayton was saturated with man-eating sharks this time of the year. They have reportedly mauled several swimmers over the past three years with no limbs to spare for burial. Witnesses claimed these predators knifed their way as far as twenty feet from the shoreline. Thus, the residents there regarded those waters as unofficially the Death Sea. Otis chuckled. The teenagers who lost their lives deserved it for trespassing on his property. At the wave of a magic wand, Otis wished he could snatch Gene and drop him in that shark-infested sea and be done with him forever.
“Bastard!” he barked.
As far as he was concerned, Gene sought payback for all the times their mother shunned him. All through their lives, it was Otis who was showered by their mother with unconditional love, the expensive clothes, and financial stability. Gene, on the other hand, was treated as if he was an annoying little parasite in their home. He had to beg for half of the things Otis was entitled to.
This is why Otis was convinced Gene wanted their mother to lose her battle with cancer. It was payback. Now Gene was back to finish his diabolic mission by destroying his luxurious career and freedom.
Otis pondered how he could pull himself out of this wretched mess. His snapping curses plodded one profanity after the other.
Then the words of the radio host came on the airway. She spoke of how the police were baffled by the strange death of Lois Kidder. The host wondered why a reclusive woman like her frequented a crime-ridden part of town. Listeners with tips were invited to contact the police department. Authorities promised to look at all leads.
“Why this damn charade!?” Otis blasted. “That woman died from a simple traffic accident! Period! Get a life, people!”
This media obsession with Lois’s death was too much for him. Gene’s knowledge of his connection to Lois didn’t make this any easier.
At that very moment, a spark of realization seeped into his consciousness. He knew what he must do. Otis turned off the radio.
Otis believed Gene had to die to keep his involvement in Lois’s tragic accident and fraudulent activities out of reach from the police. Gene’s death was the only solution to saving his skin. Oddly, after their mother’s death, Otis always felt it was only a matter of time before their bitter feelings for one another would mount to an ultimate finale someday.
There was no doubt lingering in Otis’s mind. Gene had dug his own grave by routing Lois to his office in the first place. She should’ve told him Gene recommended him. The dreadful outcome was their fault.
Suddenly it had come to Otis… a diabolic plan. A plan to rid himself of Gene and to carry on with his medical billing scheme. But to do so, he must put his latest theory to the test. He had to be patient. After all, psychology was all about careful timing.
Gene told him he had two days to confess his involvement in Lois’s death to the authorities. Gene had no idea he declared his death warrant to be carried out within that time frame.
Early the next morning, Morgue Attendant Christopher Gray was slipping a corpse inside freezer storage when a loud buzzer alerted him. Groggily at the tail end of his third shift, he assumed it was a delivery driver from Dallas Forensic Institute arriving to pick up an unidentified body.
When he swung open the lab door he was shocked to find Otis cracking a smile at him.
“Ah, Chris!” exclaimed Otis as he barged in. “I hope you have a minute.”
Taken aback, Chris swept back in after him.
Otis surveyed the open floor. “Chris, is there anybody here on duty with you at the moment?”
“No, just call me Dr. Foster. What can I do for you?”
“I wish to apologize for my conduct last night at the party.” Otis gestured toward the multiple storage compartments lined up all around the room. “Let’s just say the doctor had a little too much to drink while under a great strain. This is mostly due to competing doctors in private practice such as mine. Without a shadow of the doubt, my peers wish I’d fall off the face of the Earth.”
Chris blushed at what he perceived to be a crude joke. “No need to apologize. I can’t imagine the stress day you are subjected to day in and day out.”
“It comes with the territory. Why don’t you have a seat and tell me more about your sleep issues.”
“Oh, sure!” Chris delicately turned and sat down in a dark leather armchair. “Thank you.”
Otis slumped himself on a desk above Chris. He lowered his voice as if this was one of his hypnosis sessions. “So, why do you think you experience sleeplessness?”
“It’s the bodies of young children transferred here sometimes,” he answered.
“Their innocent….cold and lifeless faces. Short lives ended too soon for a variety of reasons….” His voice trembled. “How can people, in general, go on with their lives as if kids don’t matter?” He paused for a moment. “After hearing breaking news about them in tragic car accidents or victim to negligence or abuse… how can people manage to sleep through it all? If there’s a secret to handling all this…so far it has been elusive to me.”
Otis nodded. “You are not alone, my friend. I have helped many patients with the same problems and concerns as you.”
“Is that so, Dr. Foster? Well, sleep medications have not helped me at all. Do you think my case may come down to surgery?”
“Heaven’s no and please call me Otis. There’s only one way to correct this burden, Chris.”
There was a moment of silence as Chris eagerly waited.
Otis’s face grew very serious. “Hypnosis is the only solution.” He eyed Chris’s surprised face for a moment and then continued. “I can use psychosis to repair the cognitive nerves that permit sleep. You see, growth is controlled by the brain. Once I get your subconscious mind rested, my technique will enable your brain to naturally regain sleep patterns without taking a single pill.”
“What will become of me during this treatment?”
“Absolutely nothing. You will be under my care for a few hours. Once I release you, no further treatment will be required. You will never again experience sleep deprivation.”
“Yesterday, you spoked of the medical community’s disapproval of your practice? Why is that?”
“Glad you asked.” Otis lowered his voice still further. “Except for my mentor, Brett Hebert, whom you already know, many of my peers dislike me. They are jealous. I am driving away business from those money-hungry surgeons. Most sicknesses are the product of the weak-minded.” Otis pointed repeatedly at his head. “It’s all in here. Why would anyone risk being cut up during a risky operation when they can experience a quicker resolution pain-free in my office? I offer the lowest out-of-pocket expenses in the Pioneer Valley.”
Chris was convinced. “High premiums in health insurance are burning a hole in my pocket.”
“I accept all insurance plans,” Otis added. “Affordable copayments are second to none.”
“When can I make this appointment?”
“My schedule is open this afternoon. Why don’t you come in today, and we can get the ball rolling?”
Otis and Chris agreed to the visit for later that same day. Otis even got Chris to promise he wouldn’t mention this upcoming treatment with anyone due to the medical community’s deep dislike for him and anyone who did business with him. When Otis was halfway out the door smiling back at him, Chris felt a sense of relief that his sleep difficulty will finally be rectified.
Hours later, Chris did show up at the front door of Otis’s office. Otis opened the door before Chris had a chance to even hit the buzzer. With his eyes as narrow as a toothpick, Chris did indeed look like a man in need of rest.
“Welcome, Chris! Considering the severity of your case, we can handle the new patient paperwork sometime later.”
Once inside Otis led Chris through a curtain to the rear room of his windowless office. Chris anxiously looked around the dimly lit room. Otis directed Chris to sit down in a comfortable chair. He pulled up a chair for himself and sat across from his patient. Otis studied him for a moment and got down to business in his soothing tone. “This treatment is officially underway,” said Otis. “No speaking is allowed until I say otherwise. Now, I want you to close your eyes. You will keep them shut until I instruct you to reopen them. Just relax, Chris.”
Chris did as he was told. Several minutes elapsed before Otis continued. “Chris, I want you to empty your thoughts. I command you to rest…sleep.”
Chris wondered how Otis was going to pull this off. He was incapable of sleeping soundly on his own.
By this time, Otis had removed the skull pendant concealed beneath his shirt. While he fingered it, its eyelids opened and balls of fire roared within its sockets. Dust of red cloud streamed from the supernatural artifact and meshed together while sailing ahead.
This zigzag-like radiation convened all around Chris’s head. Soon, Chris’s eyes grew heavy. He was extremely tired. His thick dark eyebrows twitched. The process for induced sleep was underway.
“It is time for you to enter profound sleep, Chris,” said Otis. “Rest is all you need at this moment. Rest is long overdue.”
The cloud separated into chunks. Each part of floating dust entered Chris’s body through his nose, mouth, and ears. At this moment, he found his mind whirling in a void of infinite darkness beyond human imagination. Under the spell of the magical skull, his subconscious mind drifted away. Suddenly, webs of thick veins protruded over his face and spread all over his body. Chris had completely passed out. His head tilted awkwardly and his body slumped sideways.
Otis let out a sigh of relief. “Chris, your subconscious mind is gone until I decide to bring it back by mentioning your full name. Until that time, you will obey my every command.”
A heavily tranced Chris mumbled, “Yes…”
“I want you to sit up straight.”
Otis watched Chris pull himself up in the chair with his eyes remaining sealed. Otis knew only he could return the subconscious mind of Christopher Gray. “Let me see your eyes.”
Chris’s eyelids opened to reveal only pure whiteness.
“Outstanding.” Otis continued. “Tell me, who does your subconscious mind most despise and where does he or she work?
“A driver by the name of Robert Chase,” Chris answered flatly. “He works for Dallas Forensics Institute.”
“Tell me exactly why you harbor hatred towards Mr. Chase.”
“Mr. Chase usually thinks the corpses of children are a laughing matter. Last night, when he transported the body of a child to the City Morgue he said to me, “Chris, here is another stiff for your collection.” This insulting behavior over the years finally resulted in an explosive reaction. I referred to him as a stubborn bastard. Mr. Chase put his hands tightly around my neck and forced me back into the corner of the laboratory. Mr. Chase threatened to knock my lights out if I ever insulted him again. This ordeal terrified me.”
“Interesting,” Otis reacted in deep thought. “You are a big guy who looks like he can handle himself well. I guess looks can be deceiving. When will you see this Mr. Chase again?”
“He is expected to stop by at the City Morgue sometime tonight. He is scheduled to pick up an unidentified body.”
This was a promising opportunity for Otis to test his theory before his master plan was set in motion to exterminate his brother. Otis eagerly leaned forward. “I have a strict directive for you to follow. Once it is all over, the subconscious mind of Christopher Gray will return temporarily. Do you follow me?”
The shady doctor explained the diabolic conspiracy in great detail. Once he was finished, he ordered his patient to slightly close his eyes to form narrow slits. This ensured he didn’t draw public attention to himself by his gleaming white eyes. Then Otis directed Chris to leave his office at once.
Otis watched him go. After he heard the sound of the front doorbell alerting his patient’s departure, he crossed over to the lobby. There, he pressed his face against the dusty window. He observed Chris looking and safely crossing the street.
Otis flashed a wicked smile. Destruction had been set in motion.
Copyright Ken Harris