THE LAST FLIGHT OF ACE ARCHER, SPACE PIONEER!, Part 9

Last time on ACE ARCHER: Ace Archer, trapped in a hospital ward by guards, cameras and old age, decided it was time to leave… but memories and infirmity held him back. Can Ace find the strength and will to escape?

archerMY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN SPACEMEN

Chapter Eight

Dr. Christina Rapp was a woman in her mid-fifties, with long blonde hair that was slowly going to grey. She wore the kind of glasses that didn’t have any frame and she greeted Caryn with a smile that said she was too busy to talk but would anyway.

Caryn liked her immediately.

“Dr. Rapp, my name is Caryn Alexander, thanks so much for meeting with me.” Caryn sat down on the grey office chair across from the doctor’s fastidiously neat desk.

“Not a problem,” Dr. Rapp said. “What can I do for you?”

Caryn had rehearsed her story. She knew that there was no way that she was going to get through the doctor-patient confidentiality regulations to get information about Ace Archer, but if she played it right she might be able to social engineer some useful tidbits out of the enchephalogist.

“I know this is kind of a weird request, but I don’t know where else to turn…” Caryn had acted enough in college to be able to summon up teary eyes with little effort. “My grandmother passed away a few years ago.” Caryn paused for sympathy.

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

Caryn nodded, wordlessly. “Yeah, well… when she died, we kind of found some of her old diaries and we discovered that… well, our grandfather wasn’t actually our real grandfather.”

Dr. Rapp nodded, listening patiently. Caryn felt bad she was lying to the only doctor she had ever met who didn’t think that her time was worth more than gold.

“Anyway, we had a few ideas of who he might actually be… but no way of finding out for sure. Then last night I was reading a book of Granne’s and one of your cards fell out.” Caryn put the business card down on the desk.

“Oh my goodness,” Dr. Rapp said, picking up the card and looking at it. “This was one of my first business cards… I had just started here right out of Yale. Look, you can see they spelled ‘Presbyterian’ wrong.” A nostalgic smile crossed Dr. Rapp’s face.

“When… when was that?” Caryn asked, her fact checker curiosity overriding her attempt to stick to her innocent role.

“Oh, I started here in 1990,” Dr. Rapp said. “What was your grandmother’s name?”

“Anne Stevens,” Caryn said truthfully. “But I don’t think she was one of your patients, she was healthy up until she died… I thought maybe my real grandfather might have been, though.”

“Well, I can’t promise that I’m going to remember a twenty-year-ago patient,” Dr. Rapp said, “but I’ll try.”

Caryn pulled out a list. Two of the names on it were made up, but she wanted to give her story versimillitude.

“Okay, there are three people that Granne wrote about who might have been involved… the first one was Jay Heller…”

Dr. Rapp pursed her lips, but shook her head. “The name doesn’t ring a bell. Would you know what any of these patients might have had, medical condition-wise?”

“No,” Caryn said, sighing with mock resignation. “How about Wallace Runyon?” Caryn had tried to make the names distinctive enough that Dr. Rapp would have been sure she hadn’t recognized them. She had ended up going with 20th century satirists as her inspiration.

“No, don’t remember that either. You know, it’s possible that it was someone I dealt with on hospital rounds, or covering for another doctor.” Dr. Rapp looked sympathetic. “It’s rather a small straw you’re pulling at.”

“I know,” Caryn said. “One more, though? The last one was Allen Archer.”

The doctor’s face remained blank, but it was a slightly more deliberate blank than it had been just a minute ago.

“I’m sorry, Ms. Alexander,” Dr. Rapp smiled. “But I’m sure I would have remembered having a patient named after Ace Archer.”

Caryn wanted to slap her own head. So much for subtlety. It was just her luck that she would be interrogating a neurologist who had actually heard of Ace Archer. This one even knew his real name. Caryn might as well have asked if she had treated Captain Kirk or Luke Skywalker.

“Yeah, funny coincidence,” Caryn agreed.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t have been of more help,” Dr. Rapp said, standing and beginning to gather her things. The audience was obviously over and doctor time had begun again.

“No problem,” Caryn said, opening the door to the office and starting to step out. Her last good lead hadn’t panned out; now it was time to put away the flight of fancy and get back to her real job. Fortunately, she was a fast enough worker that she could do a week’s work in a day, so her boss wouldn’t bother her about having taken two days off. He probably wouldn’t even notice, so long as she handed in all her reports on time Friday.

At the last moment, though, one last roll of the dice occurred to her. Caryn turned back to Dr. Rapp. “Um, what about Harold Brakura?”

Yo-leven, front line winner.

Dr. Rapp’s face paled. Her mouth opened as if about to speak, then shut again. It was a second or two before she said, “W-what was that name again?”

Caryn felt her heart rise. “Brakura? Harold Brakura?”

Dr. Rapp regained her composure. “I’d have to check my records… obviously I couldn’t give any private information, but…”

“But you think you might remember someone by that name?” Caryn asked. She was sure by the way the doctor had blanched at the question that she did.

“Ms. Alexander, if you leave me your number I’ll call you if I find anything… it’s really the best I can do.” It seemed like the doctor wanted to say more, but there was actually a level of fear stopping her from committing to it.

Caryn gave Dr. Rapp a card with her cel number on it. “Thank you so much,” she said, placing one hand on the older woman’s shoulder in a gesture of support. It wasn’t the sort of thing Caryn usually did, but it seemed to reassure Dr. Rapp, who smiled back wanly and then hurried off to her rounds. As the doctor walked briskly away, she looked around nervously, as if to see if someone was watching.

Caryn headed back down the hallway to the bank of elevators. She remembered that there was a large directory map of the hospital there and next to that, a red phone for contacting the hospital operator. Caryn picked it up.

“Columbia Presbyterian,” the voice on the other end answered, “How may I direct your call?”

“Yes, I’m looking for a patient in your hospital,” Caryn said authoritatively. “May I please be be connected to Harold Brakura?”

To be continued…

© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.

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