As he lay on the kitchen table, still hot to the touch, his skin bubbling, McIntosh looked at his host through the blisters on his eyelid. He watched him work. He was diligent. Careful. Gentle even. He seemed to be a good doctor too. Able and willing to save his guest’s life. Even if it was to prolong his suffering. McIntosh had guessed that they were both around sixty years old by that point, but even though Fay had only practiced medicine on him for decades he was still as apt and capable as ever.
Sliding between the darkness of slumber and the darkness of being awake on the table, McIntosh was awash with his inherent guilt and the awe that such wounds cause in those whom they afflict. It was like being born into a new life. When awake, all McIntosh’s senses drained into his skin as Fay sliced it from his body. There were moments when the pain peaked to worse even than it had been in the basin – those moments when large slabs of skin had to be removed. After the day that he had suffered, wrapped in clothes and laid in his box to endure the healing process, a chill came upon McIntosh.
It started in his spine, then shuddered outward, around his shoulders and into his chest. His lung rattled before dawn the following day. He coughed and coughed, but it seemed to clawed its way inside of him. He couldn’t shake it, even with the medicine Fay gave him. After two weeks of gut wrenching and side splitting, Fay decided to sedate and intubate his guest. The cut in McIntosh’s throat opened a clear airway and the medicine let his body relax enough to heal. He was a sorry state of a person, like something in a horror story, Fay thought. He likely didn’t weigh half of what had when he walked out of prison, maybe not even a third. It was disgusting to Fay to see a human reduced to such a small parcel. He had never wanted to be the man he became. Full up hatred and sorrow. But that was his duty and he would never rest, until his girls called him home.
Looking at McIntosh’s swaddled frame Fay knew it would take at least four months before he healed. The bandages would need to be changed on a regular basis and medicinal creams would need to be applied, but it was a labour of love. Love for his sweet child and his adoring wife. They would never let him down and he would never let them down either. There remained pure and young forever in his dreams and though he aged they remained the same. Forever clean. Forever untainted by the filthy business with McIntosh.
Fay knew that he had until morning before he would need to check on McIntosh so he slide the box wall closed and walked upstairs into the kitchen. It was still warm from the heat of day and the front door was open, allowing the scent of the evening to waft into the house. It was the same scent that would cling to Ola’s clothes when she would walk in the woods of an evening. She used like time to herself to listen to nature and take the air. She was strong and yet soft, both qualities that had drawn Joseph Fay to her. Both now there was a bitterness in that sweet scent for Fay. Now he could only feel the pain of having lost her. Never again would she walk through that door barefoot and glowing. Never again would she bring her husband berries or flowers. Never.
Another click and slosh called the half filling of a tumbler with Spotted Green Reserve. It’s scent never reminded Fay of anything. He just liked it. Ola had never smelled it, nor tasted it. She wasn’t a whiskey drinker anyway. And so Joseph Fay took a book and slipped away from Park Castle and McIntosh for the night.
The following weeks brought nothing but deeper loss for Joseph Fay. Ola’s birthday came and went. With its usual strain on Fay’s will he drank heavily and wept for his woman, then for his child. That month he often imagined what Ola and Lina would look like if they were still alive. He was always way around their birthdays, but that year it was the hardest it had ever been. There were outbursts and things were smashed. McIntosh almost died in his sleep but for Ola’s voice whispering to her husband to make him live for as long as possible.
Autumn found Fay dishevelled and underweight. He hadn’t bothered to wash or shave and was a wreck. The isolation was getting to him and the want to murder McIntosh was becoming too much. In McIntosh’s state then it would have been all too easy. A few stomps on his chest would have finished him off. Or a minutes or so with fay’s hands around his throat. But he couldn’t do it. In a way McIntosh was the last living connection Fay had in his life to his girls. If his mission ended prematurely then not only would Fay have betrayed everything he stood for all those years.
To be continued…
© Stephen Fahey