Blackbird Has Spoken: Part 10
From Blackbird has Spoken: Part 9
Cloe is discharged having turned a huge corner. She leaves a thank you card for Ivy that she made in an art class.
Grammy had me memorize this verse when I was a little girl. It came to me today that it fits with the song Grammy and Nana taught us. The song that brought us together, remember? Here is our blackbird from the song that spoke of morning breaking. He holds a key that represents the unlocking of hope for us. God's mercies are new EVERY morning. He's faithful to give them. We both entered this place by trying to end what we thought a hopeless life. Through God's mercy and compassion we met, and somehow through the mess we went through together he's showed us the way to freedom. You pledged that you'd be willing to live for me, to give me hope, not die for me. What a gift to me that was. Thank you seems insufficient, but thank you to the moon and back, dear friend.
I'm going to work hard toward recovery and trust God even when the road gets bumpy. You do the same, and when you are discharged from here, which I know will be soon, we'll help and cheer one another on. I can't wait.
With Love, Cloe
PS Keep an eye on Dr. Wong for me! ♥
Two days later Cloe is met with evil.
Staff grief and loss group
Though the entire staff of the mental health unit (save a few to work the ward) were gathered in the staff room, the heavy silence of grief and shock hung thick. Director of nursing Elizabeth Strathem, and Thomas Gimmler, hospital administrator were present.
"This is a tough day for you all with the tragic death of Ms. Ludlow yesterday," Gimmler said. "You've all become fond of Cloe. This is a good reminder to beware of getting too emotionally attached to patients. Elizabeth will take it from here." He checked his watch.
"Have somewhere to be, Thomas?" Elizabeth arched an eyebrow.
"I have a meeting in twenty minutes. I'm sure we'll be done by then."
"You are excused if you need to leave, Thomas," said Elizabeth.
Sidelong glances went around the room at Elizabeth's nerve. Chagrined, Gimmler stepped out and rescheduled his meeting and returned.
"There, all set," he said, feigning interest.
"The tears and sad faces around this table tell me it would be helpful for you to talk about Cloe," said Elizabeth. "I'm opening it up. Just say whatever's on your mind."
Tiffany Mayhew was first off the starting line.
"I am still in shock. She tried to end her life several times, yet she made it, and turned this big corner. She told me the day she left she hoped to start an art therapy group. This isn't the way it was supposed to be."
"It seems a cruel trick of fate," said Clara. "So much hope and promise." She swiped her tears off her cheeks.
"I'll always remember how encouraging she was to the other patients, especially the new ones," said nurse Trish.
Nods of agreement and more sharing went around the table. Tears threatened to seep at Dr. Wong's turn, but he kept them at bay and passed on speaking. Then questions began. Questions with no answers yet.
"Can you give us any details on what happened?" Dr. Fairfax asked Gimmler.
"I only know she was struck by a car in the underground parking lot. The police are looking at the security film today. A detective told me the car must have been going fast to have killed her instantly."
There was a collective wince around the table.
"I wonder if it was a reckless driver or done deliberately?" asked Nick, a social worker. "People don't usually speed in underground parking lots."
"Deliberate, very plausible. Stricklen is in deep trouble for what he did to Cloe, and out on bail," said Clara.
"Wo, Ms. Cyborn," said Gimmler, holding up both hands. "Let's not go there. We simply don't know. Besides, I know Stricklen like a brother. He's not a murderer. The speculations stop here. Understood?"
No one responded.
Elizabeth broke in. "Okay. Let's keep the communication going. If you're struggling, please come by and see me. Thank you all for coming."
"Wait, one more thing," said Clara. "We have the delicate issue of telling Ivy."
"This is delicate issue. Clara and I tell her," Dr. Wong said.
"That sounds good," Elizabeth said. "Let's dismiss, everyone."
"Thanks, everyone. My door is open for anything further on your mind," Gimmler lied. No one believed him. He checked his watch and raced off.
The staff filed out without a sound, sick at heart.
Breaking the news
Ivy stepped through the office door. Dr. Wong was not behind his desk as usual. He and Clara were both in chairs in front of the desk, with one in between them for Ivy.
"Okay, what's going on? Something's wrong, I can tell," said Ivy.
"Hello Ivy, please sit down," Dr. Wong said in a neutral tone. "We have difficult news for you."
Ivy's eyes went wide with fear. "Now I'm really scared," Ivy said.
"Ivy," Dr. Wong said, "Nurse Clara and I here for you. Cloe was in accident. She not survive."
The news did not register. Ivy's mouth was open but words would not come. They gave her a minute to take it in then repeated it.
"Ivy, Cloe was in an accident yesterday. She passed away," said Clara.
Ivy felt as though all the air had been sucked out of the room. Her mind short circuited and simply could not comprehend this harsh reality. Her body was reacting - mouth went dry, heart tripping, muscles went weak; but her mind exited her body. She looked down on the three of them from the ceiling. She saw her own face drain of color and horror appear in her eyes. She saw Clara and Dr. Wong looking at her with concern.
Ivy's eyes were somewhere else, another realm.
"She dissociating," Dr. Wong said to Clara.
"Yes, in shock.".
Clara reached over to Ivy's hand and held it. Sometimes touch could help ground someone. Finally Ivy repeated the news in a question.
"Cloe was in an accident and she died? Is that what you said?" Her voice quavered.
"Yes, Ivy," said Dr. Wong.
"She was in an accident and she died." This time it was a statement, but her mind was still unable to grasp it in it's totality. She began to tremble slightly.
"Ivy, I have some medication for you to rest. Would you like to rest and we'll talk later?"
"Yes," Ivy said, not knowing or caring what she agreed to.
Clara gave Ivy the pill and walked Ivy to her room and waited for the medication to take effect. When she was asleep, Clara and Dr. Wong returned to the office to talk.
Dr. Wong sighed deeply, stared at the floor, and shook his head. "Poor Ivy. This not supposed to happen."
"Dr. Wong, we've seen some amazing comebacks here at Mercy. There's lots of hope, it's just going to take time."
"I should not get close to patients. Not professional, like Gimmler say."
"Dr. Wong, don't even go there. Your caring and kindness have helped hundreds of people. Cloe and Ivy included. You build trust, treat them like people with souls, not as diagnoses."
"Maybe I lose perspective. Maybe I should have other doctor treat her.
"Dr. Wong, you can't turn Ivy over to one of the other doctors. They are wonderful, but you are the only one she knows and trusts. She needs people to work with her who are familiar to her, who know her best."
With a last sigh he looked at Clara with defeated eyes. "You know, sometime life suck."
Nightmares were unrelenting while Ivy slept. A cacophony of cruel voices whispered, spoke, and shouted from every direction, "Cloe's dead. Cloe's dead." As Ivy wept in the dream the sickening violence of ravens circled the center of her eyes. Suddenly they exploded out of her, stealing her tears. The pain was excruciating. The birds soared and circled the universe around her. "She's dead, she abandoned you. How stupid you were to have hoped," they cackled. "Stupid, stupid, stupid. Jokes on you. Might as well kill yourself stupid girl."
Ivy shot up from her torment drenched with a cold sweat and nausea. Her head was pounding. She held her head as she sat in bed and rocked. "Cloe, why did you leave me?"
Murder, suspicion, and lies
A dead John Doe lay in an empty warehouse twenty five miles away from Mercy Hospital with a single round through the head. He never collected his million dollar purse or made it to the private jet ride to Bangkok.
Thomas Gimmler read the headlines: Man Found Murdered In Empty Warehouse. He read the article and didn't think much of it as there was not yet much information available. He went about reading the rest of the paper. There was also an update on the Cloe Ludlow case. The authorities found the license plate of the car in the security tape, but the trace found it registered to a deceased man three counties away. The investigation was in full force.
Later that night he retired with his wife but could not get to sleep. He couldn't stop thinking about Clara Cyborn's comment about Stricklen possibly being the one to hit Cloe. 'Murray's not that stupid or bold,' he thought. 'I just don't think he's capable.' And yet, since Stricklen's arrest, and subsequent release on bail, Thomas had stayed away from him. The association would be bad for him at the hospital. They'd been friends for many years and he couldn't deny that Stricklen was a egomaniac and had a cold hearted disdain for the people he was trained, sworn, and paid to help. He also knew that Stricklen had a rather sick preoccupation with young women. He bragged a few times in the past about taking advantage of a few by being rough. Thomas was no saint by any stretch. He'd had his share of extramarital flings with young women, but it was always consensual. He felt revolted hearing those stories. He tossed and turned all night, finally drifting off into a fitful sleep at five a.m.
Awake at seven he decided to call his friend. Stricklen saw it was Thomas and picked up.
"Hello Thomas. Long time no see. What's with the shunning?"
"Murray, I have to distance myself until you are cleared. It will jeopardize my credibility and the trust of Mercy Board of Directors. I have to look unbiased."
"So why are you calling me now?"
"I...I just want to know if you did it?"
"You mean touch that cracker head Cloe Ludlow? Look, a brief touch is no big deal. I have the best defense attorney in the state. I'll be exonerated."
"Murray, you do know she's dead, don't you? Hit and run in the hospital parking lot. Don't tell me you haven't heard. It's all over the papers."
Stricklen paused. "Okay, yes, I confess I've heard. How could I not? Good riddance to the little twit."
"So why the act that you'll be exonerated? Murray, please tell me you had nothing to do with it."
"Gotta run, Thomas. Thanks for the crumb of support."
Stricklen leaned back in his office chair with confidence. He'd done a clean job of taking Cloe down via the meathead he'd hired. Just to make sure all his bases were covered, he'd taken care of meathead also. Thomas could no longer be trusted. "He knows me too well."
He'd use the million he'd promised and leave the country himself. Maybe he should have Thomas taken out. He was weakening under the pressure. He thought against it though feeling it would actually bring the authorities closer to him.
Thomas felt sick to his stomach. He knew, that he knew, that he knew Stricklen was responsible for Cloe's death.
© 2016 Lori Colbo. All rights reserved.