August the 24th
Yesterday after noontide, I had a most interesting encounter. I woke from my postprandial slumber and made my way out to the gardens for my evening game of draughts with my dear Margaret – who, like many of nature’s most graceful creatures, is most active about the hours of dawn and dusk. I found her in the gardens already, and accompanied: accompanied by a vision of beauty that set my heart to racing, and dazzled my poor rattled brain.
‘Twas Margaret’s grand-daughter, one Meredith Vance. Tall she is, for a lass, and slender and shapely, by Jove. Locks of deep red, nearly crimson, and skin of ivory, and a smile that would charm a dead man, with a voice so melodious that the birds themselves must hush to listen. I did approach, nowise showing my flusteration, and made my courtesies and obeisances; I flatter myself to think that I did detect a becoming flush in Meredith Vance’s cheek when I smiled and bowed to kiss her soft hand.
Then she crushed me at draughts. While Margaret sat and watched and the two of them laughed and laughed.
A most fetching woman, this Meredith Vance. Alas that she must see me thus, aswaddle in bandages and without my finery, my weaponry, my gold, or my ship. My humble self did seem to her liking, though, so perhaps I can impress her anon.
I hope she will visit Margaret again.
Ah, and here I thought la policia would be the dread and torment of this serene place. But Drucker and Rice have been as mere gadflies to he whom I did encounter this day.
Today, at luncheon’s hour, I was visited by one Tobias Sanderson, hospital accountman. A factor, it seems. A rabbity fellow, of damp eyes and pale flesh; one more at home with books and parchment than wind and rain, or sun and moon and sky.
Master Sanderson made a brief courtesy, and then moved right to the heart of the matter: the bill for my keep. Apparently, the hospital had contacted my mother country, as Ireland now offers her aegis to her sons when they ail; something called the National Health Service pays the doctors’ wergild – the blood price, that is. But neither the consulate, an office I know nothing of, nor the National Health, had heard of an Irish son by the name of Damnation Kane.
Aye, I thought, for such a name surely vanished when I did so, in 1678.
But I smiled my most charming grin, and told Master Sanderson: Nay! Damnation be but a friend’s name for my humble self. My Christian name is Nathaniel, known also as Nate. What kind of mother, I scoffed, would name her child “Damnation?”
As he wrote this new intelligence in his folio (I have my own folio?), my mind was racing. Once he fails to find this Nate Kane, I thought – or, if one such there be, by chance, once the accountman discovers that he is not I – I feared this acquaintance would grow rapidly discomfortable. How does one dissuade and put off a functionary, I wondered. Then it came to me: like a nobleman, of course; the bane of all government.
“My good man,” quoth I, in my haughtiest tones, “There is no need to search me out in this, this – National Health. I am here. I am all that you will ever require. The Kane name is one of the finest in all of Europe; of course we will stand for our obligations. I will make good on whatever is owed; for myself and my companions, as well.”
He looked me askance, then, peering over the top of the folio and the spectacles he wore. “Well, Mister Kane,” he said slowly.
“Lord Kane,” I interrupted him. In for a penny, in for a pound, so they do say.
He coughed dryly into his fist. “Excuse me, of course. Lord Kane. You should be aware, er, sir, that the American health care system is quite different from the British system you’re used to. Primarily in the matter of cost.”
I waved my hand impatiently. “Bah! Money is not a concern, I say. It matters not to me – bother me not with your pounds and shillings and pence, I – “
As I preparing to wax rhapsodic on the matter of my supposed immunity to Mammon, he flipped through the papers in the folio, and then put his finger on one and interrupted me (Clearly he has no experience with nobility; lucky to still have his head and whole skin, I should say.), saying, “Your current amount owed is just under 85,000 dollars. Lord Kane.”
Into the dead silence that followed this pronouncement, while my mind reeled – by Lucifer’s ballocks, Master MacNally asked less than a fifth that for freeing all of my men from the Florida gaol! – Sanderson looked at me again and then added a second blow while I reeled: “The balances on your companions’ accounts are considerably higher, as both required the aid of surgical specialists, as I recall.”
Were I but myself at this moment, I would have swallowed my tongue and spat fire at this highway robbery – and this man’s name is Toby, the very word the English use for such iniquity! – but Lord Kane must care nothing for amounts, no matter how exorbitant; he must not haggle like a merchant. And so, to cover my discomfiture, I put my hand to my head as though my wound pained me, and then waved him off again, repeating that money was no matter, that the Kanes ever paid their debts. I dismissed him, peremptorily, and ordered him out so I could rest. Sanderson closed his mouth – as tight as his pursestrings, I wager – bowed over his folio, and left the room, muttering about telephone calls he would make.
By Saint Patrick, what bloody money-grubbing bastard has been allowed to run rampant over the medics here? Who permits this pillaging? Have they no king, no chieftain, no man of honor to defend holy justice? I recall what I was paid for my service as the Enchantress’s maid-man; how would a working man ever earn enough to pay such a debt as this place would load onto my shoulders? Let alone a sick man, in need of such care? It was the sort of thing I might expect in my Ireland, the Ireland held firmly under a conqueror’s bootheel, and pillaged by foreign soldiers every single day; but I had thought that these people were free citizens under a sovereign state. But it seems they are in truth ruled by these avaricious doctors – or else by the functionaries who keep the books, by Sanderson and his High-Toby ilk. ‘Tis madness. Sheer madness.
And so, it seems, we will not be staying in this hospital. My lies may have earned us two days, perhaps three, but before such time passes and Sanderson returns, we must be gone from here.
I must rest, now. I will need my strength later.
I bid farewell to Margaret this morning – and in a fit of foolishness, bid her give my fond regards to her lovely and charming grand-daughter. To no good purpose, as I do not expect to see them ever again in this life. Still, she has my regard, and it is no ill thing for her to know it. Lynch, MacManus and I had laid out much of our plan, this yesternight, after I rolled Lynch’s chair down to Shane’s room and informed them of the exorbitant wealth I had purported but in fact lacked, and our need, therefore, to flee.
This afternoon, then, Lynch and I must explore these halls. I know the route we must follow to escape the building entirely, but before then, we will need uniforms for myself and for Lynch, and ordinary clothes for MacManus. We will pretend to be in service here, Lynch and I, like that simpleton attending Margaret when first she and I met, and we will claim to any interrogatories that we are taking Master MacManus for some fresh air out of doors. Lynch is sure that he can walk, though not far; he will lean on the chair as he rolls it, for support, and I will help when I can.
We must find, too, some means to disguise this stone sheath on my arm.. I have asked the doctor, and it must not come off for at minimum another fortnight, or my arm will be too weak to be of any use to me. Then, with the quiet confusion of the hours before dawn to conceal our disappearance, we hope to walk right out of St. Vincent’s hospital, and seek out my ship and our shipmates, if they still be free, and if we can find them.
Damn it all.
We have it. The attendants arrive in clothes suitable for wear in the city streets, and then re-dress themselves in hospitallers’ uniforms. There is a chamber, at the end of a hall that crosses ours, where they effect this change and then store their unused clothing. We watched two women enter wearing the blue livery of the staff here, and then depart in ordinary habiliments; at the same time, a man made the reverse transformation. There are two doors to two chambers, it seems, dividing the sexes and preserving propriety; I cannot be sure as I was prevented from entering. We will endeavor to go there undetected this night, and obtain such apparel as we need.
I cannot sleep. I know I must, I need rest so that I might have all of my faculties and all of my strength, as I must not merely captain this journey, but also lend my good right arm to my companions, a shoulder to lean on and a hand to help, perhaps even an arm to shield. But I have no good arm left me.
This reminds me: I must find armament for us. La policia may pursue us, and I feel sure that the accountman Sanderson will have strongarms at his disposal, and will likely set them on our trail, considering the clink they say we owe, the which we will not, of course, be paying. I must be ready. I must be strong. I must sleep.
My mind will not be still. I find myself pondering the possibilities, and dithering. Me! I am Damnation Kane, captain of the Irish rover the Grace of Ireland, and master of the manly and barbarous scalawags what crew her. I am not this indecisive namby-pamby who fears to be caught on the spot without a plan formulated already. I have no need to predict and counterbalance every contingency: I will face what comes when it comes, and confront it, and conquer it! Who is this coward that occupies my mind? Who made my hands tremble when questioned – without a single threat, without one instant of torture either implied or applied – by a pair of fat, aged West English policias? Who keeps me from my rest now?
Who am I become? Am I not me? Am I not Damnation Kane, dread pirate of the Irish seas?
I know not what to do. And that, too, is not me.
Perhaps the blow to my head has addled my wits. Perhaps the long time abed and away from my ship has stolen the strength from me, has cooled the fires of my blood. Perhaps the medicaments, the potions and infusions and tinctures, and perhaps the limp and tasteless food, have all served to weaken my heart and mind.
Bah. Perhaps I just need a drink.
It matters not. Whatever fear I feel, however I may lack rest – on the morrow, I depart. Then we will see if I am who I should be, and if I can do what must be done.
Then we will see if I am still Damnation Kane.