Silent are the Bells Chapter Nineteen: 111 Maple Street, Denton
written by Sugarberry
“I can’t stand this!” Brietta snapped as she bided her time in the emergency waiting room for the doctors to assess Dorian’s wounds. What their prognosis would be was anyone’s guess. Pacing back and forth and jumping every time the door moved, Brietta was a bundle of nerves.
“Sit down, honey,” Lena begged. “You’re going to wear yourself out.”
“How can I wear myself out?” spat Brietta. “I’m not doing anything!” The feeling of helplessness that had engulfed her from the moment that she had spotted Dorian’s body at the base of the ledge still rankled.
“But you’re going to be putting in some long days until Dorian... until Dorian starts to mend. I know you’ll want to stay by his side.”
“I want to be with him now!” complained Brietta as she dropped into the chair next to her mother.
“From what you told me about his condition, he’s in for a long convalescence. You’ll have plenty of chances to play nursemaid to him.”
“Mother, if you could have seen him...” Brietta dropped her head on her hooves and tried to block the memory of the awful injuries that the fall over the ledge had inflicted on Dorian. Lena patted her shoulder.
“The main thing is that he’s alive, Brietta,” Conrad said from his corner of the waiting room. He and Aiden had been sightlessly perusing magazines; but they both now threw them down on the table, finding the passage of time to be an ordeal as well.
“He’s alive and he’s strong,” Sloan added. “He’ll fight to get back on his hooves.” The tenderness in his eyes as he looked at Brietta told Lena that this particular stallion might be willing to fight for another goal.
Brietta, however, only got to her hooves once more. “What time is it?” she asked of no one in particular.
“It’s nearly noon,” Aiden said. “Would you like to get some lunch?”
“No... no,” Brietta said. “I don’t want to miss any news. But you,” she indicated the rest of the ponies in the waiting room, “might as well go on now.”
Shayla urged the others as well. “Lena, you go; I’ll stay with Brietta.” She waggled her foreleg in the air, indicating that everyone else was expendable.
When the two mares were alone, Shayla directed Brietta to a chair and sat next to her. “Would it help to talk about Dorian?”
“Oh, Shayla, thanks for understanding!” She ran a hoof over her suddenly damp cheeks. “I can’t imagine losing him.”
“You’re not going to lose him, Brietta. Sloan was right to say he’ll fight with all he’s got; Dorian’s too much in love with you to let this get the best of him.”
“He was so battered; it looked as if someone had beaten him. Shayla, I can’t get it out of my head, how he looked lying there. And I felt so utterly helpless.”
“Try to let those memories go; concentrate on his recovery. Your mother was right; he’s going to need a lot of attention.”
Brietta finally smiled. “I’ll give him that willingly.”
“You’re very fortunate to have found such a true love, Brietta. I was worried about you those years you were away at school, and Sloan was here. But Dorian was smitten with you from the moment he met you; it was very romantic.”
“So much has happened since then; it’s been such a short while that Dorian and I have known one another, yet I can’t imagine a time without him. He’s so kind and gentle, yet he loves to have fun and laugh. I’ll spend the rest of my life making him happy.”
Shayla rolled her eyes. “A marriage made in heaven, right?”
“I’d like to think so.” Brietta said. “You and Derry are proof that it’s possible.”
“Granted, we get along very well, and I have no regrets; but every day isn’t perfect, let me tell you.”
“Well, It’s very considerate of Derry to watch the foals so you can be here with me; you’ll have to tell him that I’ll make it up to you both by foal-sitting some time soon to give the two of you a night out on the town.”
“Don’t say it if you don’t mean it; we’ll both be willing to take you up on that deal anytime.”
Hearing the sound of hoofsteps, both mares looked toward the doorway through which appeared the doctor who was in charge when Dorian was admitted to the hospital. Brietta was on her hooves instantly. “Dr. Delaney, how is Dorian?”
“For what he’s been through, he’s doing reasonably well.”
“R... reasonably well?” echoed Brietta.
“He’s suffered a great number of lacerations, abrasions, and a concussion, not to mention the fractured foreleg. All that, along with the psychological trauma of the accident, has taken its toll. We’ll have to keep a close eye on him for any complications.”
“He has regained consciousness, hasn’t he?”
“We were able to talk with him; but because of the pain, he wasn’t too coherent; he’s sedated now and is under close observation. His body will take care of the healing process, but we’ll help it along.”
“May I see him?” Brietta whispered.
“As I said, he’s sedated; you won’t be able to talk to him, so I think it would be best for you to go home and get some rest for yourself. That’s the best thing you can do for Dorian now.”
“Please... I’ve got to see him!” insisted Brietta.
“Just for a minute,” Shayla modified.
Dr. Delaney considered the request for a moment, then nodded. “It won’t do him any harm for you to check on him, but I suggest that you stay only briefly to reassure yourself that he’s in good hooves, then hurry home to take care of your own needs.”
“At the moment, he’s my only need,” Brietta admitted.
With a wink at Shayla, Dr. Delaney patted Brietta on the shoulder and led her away to the intensive care unit where Dorian’s progress was being monitored. He explained briefly the purposes of the tubes and monitors that were hooked up to the stallion, then left her alone.
“Oh, Dorian. My poor, sweet love.” She dropped a tender kiss on his pale face and stroked her hoof through his violet mane, watching the rhythm of his heartbeat as if her will alone could make it grow stronger. His foreleg was confined, his head and neck were bandaged, and his lesions were glossy with ointment. There appeared to be no part of him that was without some sign of the horrible ordeal he had been through. “How did it happen?” Brietta asked the sleeping stallion softly. “How could you have misjudged the edge of the cliff so badly that you fell? It doesn’t make sense.”
As Brietta stood by his bedside with his hoof cradled in both of hers, she sensed that someone had come to stand beside her. A quick glance revealed Sloan’s presence. The stallion’s gaze was centered first on Dorian’s face, then moved over his body taking in all the signs of injury. After some time, he looked at Brietta; her eyes held his.
“Some of those blows are so regular,” she voiced shakily. “They don’t look like something a fall on rough rocks would make.”
Sloan cleared his throat. “Dr. Delaney talked to Aiden, Brietta. He suspects there was more to Dorian’s mishap than a fall over the cliff.”
“Some of those wounds were imparted by another pony,” Brietta said, comprehending fully what Sloan’s words implied. “Who would do such a thing?” Her eyes were angry now.
“Hopefully, Dorian will be able to tell us that when he wakes up.”
Staring at Dorian’s bruised face, Brietta was silent for a while, thinking over the events of the previous evening. Had someone come to the apartment after she and Sloan had left? That thought made her groan in agony; it had been her suggestion that Dorian sleep the night at his own home rather than coming with her to Whitehall Place. If he had been under her parent’s roof, this might never have happened.
But before she could voice her misery to Sloan, another thought crept in. “Sloan, Dorian called me early this morning to set up our meeting at the ledge, and I met him in the designated twenty minutes. How could anyone have... beat him... and sent him down the cliff in that length of time? Dorian couldn’t have gotten there much more quickly than I did, and I saw no one else around as I approached.”
“That’s something else that Dr. Delaney confided to your father. He said he was confused at your statement that Dorian had been in touch with you this morning; he said that the wounds would indicate that they had occurred during the night.”
“But that’s not pos...” Brietta broke off. “The voice on the phone... it was Dorian’s!” But a dawning horror took her color away. “Yet it wasn’t. I just thought he was excited about something, which accounted for the difference.” She stared at Sloan as understanding broke over her. “It wasn’t Dorian at all! The caller said Brietta, and you know Dorian never addresses me as anything but Brie. I meant to ask him about it when I got to the ledge. Sloan, whoever called me this morning is the pony that did this to Dorian!”
“It very well could be the pony that Dorian went to Capital City to talk with yesterday.”
“His name was Hazard. Sloan, you’ve got to talk to the police. They’ve got to...”
Setting a restraining hoof on Brietta’s foreleg, Sloan silenced her. “Dr. Delaney has already notified the police that there is something irregular about this incident. They’ll be checking things out. What’s important now is that we tell Aiden and Conrad about the ruse this Hazard intended to pull on them to get possession of Whitehall Place before the police talk to us all.”
“How can I worry about Whitehall Place when Dorian is lying here in this condition?” worried Brietta. “I can’t leave him!”
“There’s nothing you can do here, Brietta,” Sloan quietly compelled her. “Dorian won’t be awake for hours yet, and your family needs to be informed of everything we know before the police start asking questions.” His voice softened as he pushed back a stray tendril of mane. “And you haven’t had breakfast or lunch yet; you know Anna will be displeased with you if you don’t take care of yourself.”
Brietta looked as if she was going to contradict Sloan’s good intentions, but the arrival of a nurse stopped her arguments.
“Dr. Delaney’s orders were for no visitors for Dorian at least until tomorrow morning,” the nurse stated with authority.
“But I can’t just leave him here alone!” Brietta countered.
The nurse, an aqua and purple pony named Alana, had to do a considerable amount of talking, but was finally able to assure Brietta that the patient would be in good hooves; and Brietta, whispering words of encouragement and planting a gentle kiss on Dorian’s bruised countenance, accepted Sloan’s guidance to where her parents waited, Shayla having gone home to be with her own family.
There was so much to share with Aiden, Lena, and Conrad, some of which would hurt them deeply; but Brietta knew the telling could not be delayed. If only Dorian were with her to explain his part in the dealings with this Hazard! If only... Brietta shook her head. There was no use wishing what might have been.
* * *
The session with Aiden, Lena, and Conrad went better than Brietta had anticipated. As Dorian was already considered a part of the family, Aiden and Conrad said nothing to reprove the stallion’s actions which was a great comfort to Brietta’s peace of mind. Sloan would work with them to close the gaps that made Whitehall Place vulnerable to Hazard’s anticipated ploy to force a change in ownership of the stately and gracious property. Conrad was confident that everything would work out as the Manning family had been paying all the necessary taxes on the property for as far back as records were maintained. He was anxious, however, to go to the courthouse and check the records for himself.
Sending Brietta to her room to rest proved futile for Lena; the mare did take a quick shower to refresh her sagging energy and ate a bowl of soup that Anna set before her, but she then set off for the hospital to continue her vigil at Dorian’s bedside. It proved fruitless as the stallion slept on, rousing only slightly when the nurses had to administer care to him; but Brietta could not be persuaded to abandon her watch. She took great comfort in simply watching him breathe, that regular flow of life giving her the strength to fight the hovering demons that preyed on her mind; for if Hazard had done this to Dorian, what further damage would he be willing to inflict to get what he wanted?
The rhythm of the hospital schedule pulsed regularly throughout the night just as it did during the day; it was late before Brietta would consent to lie down for a rest. She had resisted the nurses’ efforts to convince her to sleep, but she was finding it difficult to hold her eyes open and her head up. Stopping first at the chapel to whisper her heartfelt prayers for Dorian’s benefit, she made her way to the assigned room and had no sooner pulled a blanket over her tired body when she was asleep.
She and Dorian were walking along the top of the ledge, hoof in hoof. Brietta felt shy under Dorian’s steady gaze as he professed his love for her. Then, he asked her to marry him. She said yes. The stallion leaned toward her to seal their betrothal with a kiss, but their lips never met. Instead, Dorian was slipping away from her... falling... falling... falling...
With an anguished scream, Brietta sat up, her breath coming in ragged gasps. Her hooves hit the floor before she could fully separate fantasy from reality; she raced to Dorian’s bedside, coming to a standstill only when she could see the steady rise and fall of the blanket that covered him.
She dropped into a chair, cradling her head on her hooves, trying to regain her composure; but if she closed her eyes, she experienced anew that sensation of his falling... falling... never-ending plummeting to the ground below... and she could not get him back.
She slept no more that night.
* * *
The police had been busy but were stymied. Using information provided by Sloan, they had searched Dorian’s apartment for the file on the development of Whitehall Place but had come up empty. Neither had they found any apparent signs of a scuffle- they noted specifically that the furniture was neatly in place. Brietta glanced at Sloan as they heard that information from Officer Neil, for Dorian’s housekeeping skills would argue that properly arranged furniture was a definite sign that someone had taken pains to cover whatever had gone on there after Sloan and Brietta’s departure. The neighbors had heard nothing out of the ordinary nor had they noticed any of the comings and goings of any visitors, not even Sloan and Brietta’s arrival or leaving.
The ledge itself was as barren of clues as the apartment; the rescue operation and the curious onlookers had managed to obliterate any hoofprints that might have pointed to how many ponies were involved in the events that had ended with Dorian’s battered body at the foot of the cliff.
This shortage of facts disappointed Brietta, but it was the questioning that Officer Neil directed at her after conveying that information that riled the mare the most. It seemed that Colly had been more than willing to put forth her interpretation of the previous day’s events, informing the police that Brietta was unduly agitated earlier in the day and hinting that Dorian was the cause of her perturbation.
“Why were you at the ledge yesterday morning, Miss Manning?” asked Officer Neil with his usual wearied manner.
“Dorian called me at six and asked me to meet him at the ledge in twenty minutes... or at least I thought it was Dorian at the time.”
“Did you quarrel with Dorian at the cliff?”
“No. He wasn’t there when I arrived... or that’s what I thought. He didn’t show up, so I was just waiting when I happened to see...when I saw him lying at the bottom of the incline.”
“Did you see anyone else there or in the vicinity?”
“Just young Glyn further down the path toward Whitehall Place... the colt I sent to get help.”
“The voice on the phone... you say you thought at the time that it was Dorian.”
“Yes. He... the voice was excited and talking fast, but I didn’t suspect then that it wasn’t Dorian. He had used my full name though- Brietta- while Dorian only ever calls me Brie, but I attributed that to the hurry he was in.”
“You and Dorian are still planning on getting married?”
Sloan began to object to that question, but Brietta answered anyway. “Yes, of course.”
“And you’re sure there hasn’t been any major problems between you?”
“No, there weren’t.”
“Did learning of Dorian’s involvement with a land speculator concerning Whitehall Place set well with you?”
“Of course it didn’t!” Brietta snapped before Sloan could stop her. “But as Dorian was able to explain that he was an unwilling participant in the scheme, I only wanted to help him.”
“Did Dorian want your help?”
“He knew that my father and grandfather would know how to handle the problem.”
“Maybe after he thought about it, he decided to throw his cards in with Hazard. Would that have angered you, Miss Manning, enough to push your fiancé over the ledge?”
“You are despicable!” Brietta spat, once more ignoring Sloan’s attempt to silence her.
Officer Neil only grinned... or was it a leer? “Okay. That’ll be all for now.”
* * *
As fate would have it- some would say providence- Dorian came to his senses while Brietta was occupied with Officer Neil’s questions. Dr. Delaney, accompanied by Dr. Finella, was checking on the patient when his bloodshot eyes opened for longer than the usual couple of seconds since the accident; he looked warily at the white- coated ponies staring down at him. “You’re at the hospital,” Dr. Finella rushed to reassure the bewildered-looking stallion. “You’ve had a bad accident, but you’re going to be all right.”
The stallion moved his head to take in more of his surroundings, but winced at the pain it caused. His eyes closed as he fought the nausea welling up within him. “Going to be...” he moaned, just in time for Finella to grab a basin for the purpose. As Dorian relaxed after the ordeal and Nurse Alana fussed over him, Dr. Delaney quizzed him. “What’s your name?”
The response was slow, but it was correct. “Dor... ian.”
“How old are you, Dorian.”
The doctor discontinued the questioning as Dorian was overwhelmed once more by a wave of nausea. After this experience, he closed his eyes and settled into the deep sleep that had claimed most of the last thirty hours for him.
“Well,” Dr. Delaney mused, “it’s a good sign that he was able to recall those facts about himself; with a severe blow to the head like he took, we have to be alert for head injuries.” He jotted some notes on the chart.
“The MRI came back negative,” Dr. Finella reminded him.
“Regardless of that, it still comes down to what the patient is capable of,” Dr. Delaney said, looking over his glasses at the mare. “He isn’t out of the woods yet, not by a long stretch.”
* * *
Over the ensuing hours, Brietta had the opportunity to encounter Dorian’s open eyes several times. Her spoken sentiments, however, seemed not to enter the stallion’s consciousness as he stared at her without full comprehension and without uttering a single word to fortify her wavering confidence in his well-being. She found herself weakening in her bedside vigil as time went by with no real connection made with the stallion. When Shayla made an appearance, Brietta was more than willing to take a break.
“He looks so vulnerable,” Shayla sympathized as she and Brietta walked to the cafeteria after another visit to the chapel. “But his body does need to rest so that it can begin healing.”
“I know,” Brietta concurred, “but I wish I could hear him speak my name. He looks at me with such empty eyes.”
“He’s been through a lot, Brietta. You can’t expect him to bounce back too quickly.”
“I suppose you’re right.” Sighing, Brietta tried to smile.
* * *
While Brietta ate a light repast with Shayla, Dr. Delaney made a final check at the end of the day on Dorian and was pleased to see that the stallion was awake and more interested in the events going on around him. Checking his vital signs, Dr. Delaney once more assured the stallion of his care.
“You’re at Whitehall Hospital, Dorian. You’ve taken some rough hits, but we’re going to get you back on your hooves in no time.” The doctor looked up to acknowledge Dr. Finella’s entrance.
“White... hall,” Dorian croaked. “What am I... doing... here?”
Dr. Finella leaned close to the stallion. “You were involved in an accident at the ledge outside of town. You’ve received enough injuries to insure a few days spent under our protection.”
“You took a fall, Dorian, among other things,” Dr. Delaney said, checking the various injures. “Now, can you tell me again how old you are?”
“And your birth date?”
This took some thought. “November twentieth.”
“What’s your address?”
“111 Maple Street, Denton.”
Dr. Delaney glanced at Dr. Finella, then back to the patient.
“And your occupation?”
“Lawyer... with... Rawlings, Scott, and Simpson... in Denton.”
Offering Dorian a sip of water, Finella asked, “What day is it?”
Dorian closed his eyes as if in deep thought. When he opened his eyes, he admitted, “I have no idea.”
“This law firm you’re with...” Dr. Delaney began, “how long have you worked there?”
“Since... I got... my law degree.”
“And the town you live in again?”
Dr. Finella frowned. “Do you have a special mare in your life?”
Mirroring the frown, Dorian replied emphatically, “No!”
“Who’s your best friend?”
Exchanging a puzzled glance, the two doctors assured Dorian that his body was beginning to heal and advised him to take advantage of his predicament and get some more sleep; as they moved from the room, Dr. Finella trailed behind Dr. Delaney until it was safe for them to talk.
“What do you make of that? He answered some of the questions correctly, but not others. Is this a typical reaction?”
“No, it’s not typical; but I want to repeat the questions tomorrow to see if there is any change; the problem may correct itself yet.”
“And if it doesn’t?”
“The memory is a complicated thing; we’ll do the best we can to remedy the situation... that’s all I can say for now.”
As Dr. Delaney started down the hall, Finella hurried to ask him one more thing. “Could I invite Sloan to participate in tomorrow’s questioning? Other than Brietta, he knows the most about Dorian’s past.”
“Brietta... I’d appreciate it if you didn’t mention this to her just yet. She’s worried enough now, and this may be just a false alarm. But it might be a good idea to include Sloan; thanks for the suggestion.”
“I’ll get in touch with him,” Finella said, turning to look back toward Dorian’s room once more. She puzzled for a moment, then walked briskly to her office.