Coming up the stairs I knew something was amiss. The quiet. That stillness that precedes a wave of dread. At the top of the stairs I found the door to his library blocked. Jammed almost closed.
“Are you in there?”
I gave the door another shove but it barely moved. A few steps back and my shoulder finally got it to move and the dead weight blocking it to roll over and groan. He had a pulse. He hadn’t bathed, but that was par for the course, current events aside.
His coffee table was littered with a final binge of every illicit substance he had squirreled away. He had the curtains drawn and his favorite record was being scratched to ribbons on the gramophone. His evening robe was burned at one corner and he had what looked like the blissful stupor of opium.
A few prods with my cane got him to roll over onto his back. White powder at the nostrils. Tobacco stains on the fingers. An all too typical reaction really.
I drew back the curtains, opened the windows and called for a pail of the most frigid water the housekeeper could find.
“Preferably with a thick crust of ice if you can manage,” I said.
I stopped the record, righted the turned over armchairs and waited for the bucket’s arrival. All the while I pondered our present situation and felt each tick of the clock on the mantel.
“Here it is doctor,” she said.
Her tired face barely flinched at the sight of him passed out on the floor. He on the other hand jumped up screaming when the water hit him.
“What’s the hell is going on? Can’t a man catch a few moments peace in his own quarters? Is that too much to ask!”
“Enough. We’re short on time.”
“I, more than any of us present.”
“All the more reason for you to be productive.”
“I was being productive.”
“You were passed out.”
“I was meditating.”
“You were on drugs.”
“I needed clarity.”
“You have an idea, to right the current mess we’re in. Before the hangman’s noose finds that neck of yours?”
“Not an idea precisely.”
“You going to tell me?”
“Not just yet.”