The Golden VisitK. Baskett / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime
The Golden Visit
By K. Baskett
Copyright © 2013 by K. Baskett
All rights reserved
On a dreary Thursday in October, Lance Hudson had one beautiful thing to look forward to: a visit with his wife. He pulled up the collar of his corduroy jacket as a chilly, moist wind attacked him, promising rain. The sky above him was heavy slate and pregnant with swollen storm clouds as Lance trekked across the parking lot of the specialty clinic, but he didn’t notice. The only thing on his mind was Melanie.
He gnashed his teeth as he entered through the double doors of the clinic. Places like this were nothing more than a symbol of death and devastation to Lance, and he’d hated them ever since he and his wife were involved in a tragic multi-vehicle pileup on the interstate 6 months ago. The interior was meant to be calming, with all the walls and furniture a pristine white, but the blinding absence of any other color only heightened Lance’s discomfort. He rubbed his hands together briskly, an act to allay tension rather than generate warmth.
The woman behind the long reception desk consulted her computer screen and walked out into the main area, dressed in a clean white skirt suit and matching stilettos. With milky skin and hair the palest shade of blond, she almost blended in with her surroundings and Lance couldn’t help but wonder if this was the intended effect.
“Mr Hudson,” she said as she approached him, her arm extended for a firm handshake. “Welcome to Bright Horizons. You will be pleased to know that your wife, Melanie, was transported here safely and she is resting comfortably.”
Lance breathed a small sigh of relief. One thing he had been gravely concerned about was whether Melanie would have made the trip without incident. “That’s great news,” he said, the cheer audible in his reply.
“If you like, I can take your jacket,” the receptionist offered. “Follow me right this way.”
Lance gratefully shrugged out of his thick jacket and allowed the receptionist to lead him down the short hallway, into a small waiting room with the same snow white decor. A middle-aged pudgy woman sat roundly in one of the plush chairs, and offered Lance a genuine smile as he entered the room and found a seat of his own.
“Hi,” the woman greeted, her green eyes brimming with warmth and kindness. “Are you feeling alright?”
Lance didn’t realize how clearly his anxiety claimed him. “A little nervous,” he admitted.
“Oh,” the woman giggled, girlishly, “there’s nothing to be nervous about, dear. It must be your first time, yes?”
“Yes.” Lance tried to swallow and couldn’t – his mouth was too dry.
The woman nodded knowingly. “The first time is always a bit nerve-racking. I could tell just by looking at you – you’re wound up tighter than my hair.” She winked and laughed some more, and that’s when Lance noticed her head was indeed covered with a dense mass of springy brown curls, infused with generous strands of gray.
Her gaiety was infectious, and Lance felt a tremulous smile alight upon his own face as he responded to the woman. “That obvious, huh?”
The woman waved him off with her chubby hand. “Honey, everyone feels that way at the first visit because they don’t know what to expect. You’ll be fine after today. I’m Nancy, by the way.”
“Lance,” he responded, and waited a beat before voicing his next question. “So do you mind me asking how many times you’ve been?”
“This will be my fifth visit. I’m here for my mother.”
Lance looked down as a fresh wave of despondency washed over him. “I’m here to visit my wife.”
“Oh, bless your heart,” Nancy replied soothingly. She wisely let a bit of silence stretch between them while Lance dealt with his own roiling emotions. Not sure if Lance would feel like continuing their conversation, she opened the book she had brought along with her – The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
After a time, Lance ended up being the one to break the silence. “Can you tell me what it’s like?”
Nancy looked up from her book with a thoughtful expression on her full face. “Well, honey, you need to be prepared for –“
Before Nancy could finish her statement, a nurse walked into the waiting room wearing a traditional white sheath and an actual old-style nurse’s cap. Lance wasn’t even aware that nurses wore hats anymore.
“Nancy Boyle?” the nurse consulted her iPad and smiled.
Nancy bounced up and collected her things. “Here I come, dear,” she called, all bubbles and sunshine. On her way out the door, she put a soft, plump hand on Lance’s shoulder and squeezed gently. “Don’t you worry about a thing, Lance. I promise you it will be the most wonderful experience you’ve ever had. Like they say here, it’s ‘Rehabilitation With Heart!’“ Her apple cheeks rounded into a sweet smile and she hurried off behind the nurse for her own visit, leaving Lance in the waiting room, reflective and alone.
With no one to distract him, Lance became overwhelmed with a pressing urge to see his wife and a tight ball of impatience formed in the center of his chest, pinging against his ribcage with every breath he took. He jumped to his feet and began pacing the room, his hands buried deep in this thick, wavy hair and tugging relentlessly. He was just about to go searching the halls himself for Melanie when the same nurse from before entered the waiting room.
“Lance Hudson,” she said, again looking at her iPad. “The doctor will see you now for your initial screening and admittance.”
Now that his wait was over, the agitation in the middle of Lance’s body began to unfurl, forming a calm ribbon of anticipation in place of the electric pellet of stress that had been ricocheting against his heart and lungs. Upon entering the doctor’s office, Lance was somewhat relieved to see it was not the same clean white as everything else in the clinic. Instead, the office was coated in neutral colors, with latte walls and cinnamon carpet. The doctor sat at a large oak desk with two brightly hued oil paintings hanging behind his head and his university degrees proudly displayed on the adjacent wall.
The doctor rose to shake Lance’s hand. “Hello, Mr Hudson. I am Dr. Gilbert, have a seat.”
“Please, call me Lance,” he said, as he took the large stuffed chair across from the doctor’s desk.
“Very well, Lance,” the doctor replied, while scrolling on a small Samsung tablet. “You are here for the first visit with your wife, Melanie?”
“Splendid,” Dr. Gilbert’s lips pressed into a thin, genteel smile. “And you took the recommended one day off work before coming in today?”
“I did,” Lance confirmed, chuckling uneasily, “although I wasn’t exactly sure why it was suggested.”
“Well, we just want to make sure you are not under any undue stress prior to visiting with loved ones, as this could potentially have a negative impact on the quality of your experience,” the doctor explained, lacing his hands atop his desk.
“Okay, that makes sense.”
“Did you share with anyone else your whereabouts for today?” the doctor asked.
“No, I didn’t tell anyone yet that Melanie was transported here. I wasn’t exactly sure if…” Lance trailed off.
“That’s alright,” Dr. Gilbert jumped in. “Some people are understandably reluctant to divulge that they have loved ones at our facility, particularly before becoming familiar with how things work. The treatments we employ here are unconventional and sometimes even controversial, as you well know. But I can assure you our methods are extremely effective and are concerned only with the recovery and well-being of our patients.”
“That’s why she’s here, doctor,” Lance replied, trying to smile.
“Of course. Sometimes it helps you deal better with it, though, if you let others know about the choice you’ve made for your wife’s care.”
Lance just nodded, not trusting himself to respond verbally. He knew very well that certain members of Melanie’s family would have his head if they found out Lance had sent her here.
Dr. Gilbert cleared his throat. “Now, even though our treatments are widely successful, you do understand that this visit potentially carries certain risks to the patient?”
“Yes, I read the packets of information provided when I transferred her here, and I’ve done a ton of research online.”
“Very well, then,” the doctor seemed satisfied. “It appears you have followed our recommendations and you are well-informed regarding the implications of your decision for Melanie’s care. Therefore, I approve the visit with your wife. Enjoy.”
Dr. Gilbert paged the nurse, informing her that Lance was ready to begin his visit, and in no time she entered the office and beckoned Lance to follow her.
“Are you excited?” she asked, cheerfully, making small talk with Lance as they walked down another short hall.
“I am,” Lance agreed. “I miss my wife.”
The nurse smiled briefly, a touch of sympathy in her eyes. “That’s why we do what we do here,” she said in a soft voice warmed with compassion.
She led Lance to a small room with dim lighting. A short counter ran along one wall with a small sink and cabinets both above and below. But the focal point was a massive black massage chair in the