Chapter Ten

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Listen Well speak Less

I sat in silence, my mind, consumed by anxiety.  It was calming to pray, while listening to the clattering of the horses’ hooves on the cobble stone.  He was watching me intently, sensing my uneasiness because of my extreme silence. 

Leaning over, he touched my hand, “Steph, you can relax, remember I’m with you.  I won’t send you in alone.  My father is bound to his bed,” he said, grinning,  “besides, he rather likes beautiful women.” I smiled, weak as a kitten.

“Thank you, it will be fine, I know.” But I wasn’t sure and it felt as if my heart was stuck in my throat.  The carriage came to a standstill in front of a rather large building.  The outer appearance of the hospital reminded me of the squares and rectangles we used to draw, representing houses, at primary school.  It was, to be blunt: plain, simple and usually unattractive.

Aland walked next to me, his hand on my back.  The matron was expecting us, waiting outside her office until we arrived.  She looked serious and not extremely friendly.  She greeted kindly, somewhat more professional than kind.  We were invited to sit down, as she ordered tea.  I was relieved, it could calm my nerves.  It hit me that hospitals in Utopia  smelled the same than those back home.

Infused with medicinal smells and the accompanying feelings it brought to mind… I noticed a piece of paper, taped to the wall above her desk. 
The words read ~“Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success.”
Biz Stone

The tea arrived.  Matron Madison Lacey didn’t mince words.  She got straight to the point and stressed that the King’s habit of smoking abundantly for years, was the main cause for his lung condition.  The reason why they delayed the king’s discharge, was that other symptoms revealed itself.  Symptoms not associated with lung disease. They included hair loss, damage to peripheral nerves and the sensation of walking on hot coals.

“What does that mean, what symptoms are these?” Aland asked alarmed.
“We have reason to believe that your father is being poisoned.  The suspected poison is Thallium because it’s colorless, odorless and tasteless.  More symptoms are severe stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.” 
A grave, shocked silence dawned on us.  Gita came in.  She was as pale as a ghost, as horrified as Aland.  The accusation was serious  It took time to assess the prognosis.

The king should be watched day and night and his visitors, monitored.  Meanwhile word was sent to his military staff to get there, taking shifts watching over him and guarding the door.  No one should be let in without a valid reason, except for family.

“I haven’t seen him since he was admitted,” Aland pleaded,  “May I please spend a few moments with him?”
She agreed but warned that it may just be for a little while.  Gita accompanied us to his room.  I felt out of place and accepted that I wouldn’t be allowed inside, as I was, a stranger afterall.  I told them that I would wait outside. 

Aland invited me in, but I saw that Gita didn’t like the idea and I couldn’t blame her.  I was just as much a suspect as anyone else.  As the door closed behind them, I was glad that I missed my introduction to the king.  After no more than ten minutes, the door opened and Aland came out, summoning me.

“Come inside please.”
“No, I’ll leave the two of you to visit with your father,” I said firmly.  He pulled me up. 
“Why would you insist on me going?  You know the situation!”
“He demanded that I bring you to meet him.” Oh dear, here we go.  I dare not keep him waiting.  On my way in, Gita came out.  Passing me she said, “I’ll wait outside until Carnell and the men come.  You must be very special.  My father has never wished to see any strangers while being sick….”

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