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Old Thyme 2. Patriarch

Back in the sixties, Roseland was a dangerous city for a young woman on her own. Augustus Thyme and Susan Mills married for convenience. Susan turned out to be a big help at the funeral home, selling caskets and scheduling funerals. Business improved. Love came eventually, and soon after, Samuel Thyme arrived.

Strong lungs, the child let the entire hospital know he had met the world. Standing beside the hospital bed where Susan rested, Augustus held his son snug in his arms. When the nurse arrived to take Samuel to be checked over, the joyous father refused to let go.

“It won’t be long,” said the nurse. Her dark curly hair shined purple in the light. According to the tag on her uniform, her name was Constance. “We’ll be back in a jiffy,” said Constance, smiling.

Augustus continued admiring his son a bit longer before surrending him into the arms of the patient nurse. As he watched Nurse Constance carry Samuel Thyme out of the room, a tear traced down over his warm cheek. He smiled so big, it nearly hurt.

He turned to his wife, and spotting her long face, his grin melted away.

“Susan, what is?” he asked. “Is everything well?”

She forced a smile. “Nothing, Augustus,” she said, “just so glad to see you happy.”

Something was bothering her, Augustus could see it like paint on a wall. Her gaze avoided his. Color drained from her flesh. His heart thumped.

“Susan, what is it? What’s happened?” Susan clamped her eyes shut tight. “Remember my driver that night we first met at the funeral home?”

The black 1958 Cadillac with the tall fins, Augustus remembered it well. The old man in the driver’s seat had waited in the car while Susan had made arrangements for the passing of her father, Jack Mills. The creepy look in that old man’s face haunted him still.

“Dad had made a terrible mistake,” said Susan. Her voice cracked as she held back her tears.

“What sort of mistake? What does it have to do with us?”

“I was too old,” said Susan. Like cresting over a damn, tears flowed over her cheeks and onto the pillow. Not sadness, fear gripped her. “Augustus, he’s the patriarch of their kind.”

“Susan, you’re barely making sense,” said Augustus. Whatever was on Susan’s mind gripped her tight, and that worried him.

“My dear husband,” said Susan, “that man is the father.”

The two of them might not have always been in love, but he felt damn sure Susan never had an affair.

“The father of fathers,” she said. Tears nearly choked her as she spoke. “The original.”

Face white as the sheet, it looked as though Susan laid at Death’s door.

“Nurse!” Augustus shouted again. His heart thundered into his head.

“Augustus,” Susan said, nearly choking. “Our son.”

Leaving his wife behind, he raced into the hallway. Spotting a nurse standing beside a cart, he called to her. The nurse scurried into the room, and another followed. Augustus stood there a moment watching the two nurses tending to his wife.

Our son. She had called Samuel, our son, he reminded himself.

It him like a hammer against his head, and lit a fire burning his insides.

Perspiration streamed from his scalp. Pounding heart urged his legs into motion. He had to reach Samuel. He needed his son back in the safety of his arms.

At the end of the hall, his polished shoes squeeled on the tile as he stopped at the nurse’s station. Breathing hard, he spat at the woman seated behind the desk as he spoke. “My son. I would like to see my son, Samuel Thyme.”

Speaking on the phone, the woman held up her finger. She began shuffling clipboards.

Shouts boomed.

Looking down the hall, Augustus found the lobby full of activity. Many of the visitors seated in chairs watched a commotion going on between a physician and two young women standing in the center, the eye of a storm, it seemed. One of the women threw quite the tantrum, shouting and waving arms, and the other stood by scowling at the physician. Augustus couldn’t quite make out the words within the shrieking, but they carried undertones of recent tragedty. The old lord, Death, frequented hospitals leaving a wake of despair and anger.

Avoiding the storm, a nurse squeezed between a row of chairs, pausing for legs to move aside. Not just any nurse, either, Augustus recognized the curly dark locks glistening with purple under the lights. Nurse Constance held something in her arms as she headed for the hospital exit.

A baby. She held a baby in her arms.

Augustus bolted down the hall. His shoes squealed on the tile, and he nearly slipped, arms flying out. Hand slapping the wall, he pushed his body straight again, and continued, dodging a physician emerging from a door. He couldn’t make out the child in the nurse’s arms, but the child had to be Samuel. The fear on Susan’s face had told him so.

The front glass doors opened, and Nurse Constance stepped out into the night.

As Augustus ran into the lobby, the screaming woman whirled about into his path. He leaped sideways, but crashed into the woman, anyway, knocking her into the other frightened woman. No time for apologies, Augustus quickly bowed to the woman and spun around.

Outside, he spotted the dark Cadillac driving away through the parkling lot. At the street, its brake lights flared like blood dripping onto asphalt, and in a throaty roar of thunder, the Cadillac faded into the night. Later, after reporting Constance and the Cadillac to the police, a physician informed Augustus that his wife had died due to lingering complications with the pregancy, but as the thunder faded, he already knew the truth.

Susan Thyme had died of a broken heart.