Currently viewing the tag: "Nights at the Sanatorium"

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

4: The Power House

Tim Ross wasn’t sure what to do. A man in white had run out of the woods around the Maryland Tuberculosis Sanatorium, calling his name. Then, just as quickly, he had disappeared back into the trees. It had been dark, but Tim thought he also saw another man pursuing the man in white, although that man had remained in the trees. Tim had just been getting ready to go after the man in white when he heard shots.

That gave him pause. He had seen some shootings in Baltimore, and he knew better than to walk blindly into a place where men were armed. That was a good way to get shot himself.

Still, someone had known his name. Only a few people on this mountain knew him.

This hospital was supposed to be a place where he could recover from TB, but it was beginning to resemble a prison with lots of rules, a stern warden, and now, armed men around it.

Tim had trouble sleeping that night. He kept waiting to hear the man call for him again or more shots. He heard neither. He fell asleep at some point, but he was awake with the sunrise.

He dressed and walked out across the field to the tree line where he had seen the man in white. He looked around, but he saw nothing that made him think someone had been here. Of course, he wasn’t a tracker. He walked to where he thought he had seen the man re-enter the trees. He looked into the forest and slowly entered. He saw a log and, just beyond it, marks in the dirt. One of them was a handprint. Someone had been along this path, although who knew how old the print was. Tim’s best guess was that the person had tripped over the tree in the dark and fallen.

He continued along the path, looking for more signs. He was about to turn back when he saw a large rock with a stain that Tim recognized. He had seen it on his clothing and boxing ring mats before. It was dried blood.

He kept walking, wondering if someone might need help, although the blood on the rock had dried. Not too far beyond the rock, he saw what looked to be more blood on the leaves of a bush. Tim set off in that direction.

He soon came to a clearing where there was a large stone building. He thought it was a home at first, but when he approached and looked in a window, he saw it had machinery inside. It must have been the power house Dr. Vallingham, the hospital’s assistant director, had told him not to go near.

Too late now.

The door was locked, but looking in the windows, he saw large boilers and a furnace. The piping to other buildings on the grounds must have been buried underground. Then, he saw something familiar. It was a moonshine still set up inside the power house. No one was around, but it looked to be in use.

He turned around and saw Frank Larkins, an orderly from the hospital. The man wasn’t wearing the friendly smile he’d seen at the train station when Frank picked him up.

“What are you doing out here, Mr. Ross?”

“I’m looking for someone.”

“In the power house where you aren’t supposed to be?”

Tim nodded. “Last night, I saw someone running in this direction, and I heard a shot. I went looking this morning and found blood.”

“Really?” Frank sighed. “You have created a problem for me and others.”

“You mean the still?” Frank nodded. “I’m from Baltimore where they are pretty much ignoring Prohibition. I don’t care about the still, although I wouldn’t be against sampling some of your product. Right now, though, I am just trying to find out what happened to that man. The blood has me worried.”

Tim was thinking about asking Dr. Cullen, the hospital director, about it, but he needed something more to tell him than a shadowy man running in the dark and some possible blood.

“Did you see anyone around here last night?” Tim asked.

Frank shook his head. “I wasn’t here. Are you serious about this man?”

“Yes. Why?”

“Well, people have been shot at near here.”

“Why?”

Frank nodded toward the power house. “Why do you think?”

“Has anyone been hurt?”

“Not here, but there are different groups on this mountain who are making a lot of money and want to protect themselves. The Clines and Russmans over in Smithsburg are in a shooting war. Each group wants to control all the moonshine in this area.”

Tim had heard about Smithsburg, but he didn’t realize it was close. The area had made national headlines as having an “old-time mountain feud” between John Cline and Henry Russman, involving night raiding, indiscriminate shooting, and fights. They were accused of wrecking a church, dynamiting a sawmill, killing one person, and wounding others.

So much for the quiet country life where he could recover from TB.

“So, if the bootleggers were doing the shooting, who were they shooting at?” Tim asked.

Frank rubbed his chin and shook his head. “We haven’t heard of any bodies being found or anyone being shot. However, if a patient was out last night, and the Smithsburg bootleggers were prowling around looking for our still, they might have thought he was one of my crew.”

“Well, someone was out there, running from someone, and it was someone who knew me. I want to find him. I couldn’t care less about your operation.”

Frank stared at him for a moment. “I believe you. You seem like a stand-up guy. My men work at the hospital and in town. I’ll have them ask around and listen for anyone who is talking about someone missing.”

“I appreciate it. Your still is what I saw in the power house?”

Frank nodded. “It’s isolated and no one but people who I work with come here. It’s also close to the train station, where we ship out a lot of our product. Being on the hospital ground gives us some protection from other moonshiners. Plus, the revenuers never think to look there.”

“Is that why Dr. Vallingham tells patients not to come out here?”

Frank chuckled. “No, Dr. Vallingham is a drinker, but he would never be caught dead drinking moonshine. He has his private pre-Prohibition stash. Besides, Vallingham is a jerk. He would turn us in if he knew what we were doing.” Tim smiled. “Dr. Cullen would, too, but at least he is polite to the staff. We would much rather deal with him than Vallingham.”

Tim shook Frank’s hand and started walking away. Then he paused and turned back. “If I come back sometime, can I buy a bottle?”

“I’ll give you the best we have.”

Tim followed a path up the hill and through the woods. When it came out in a clearing, he saw the laboratory building. It was a two-story stone building, much smaller than the power house. This was where medicines were prepared for the patients.

He walked over to the windows and looked inside. He could see tables with test tubes, bottles, Bunsen burners, and the other types of things one would expect to see. Nothing looked out of place. It didn’t look like it was used often.

He tried the door and found it open. He walked inside and up the staircase to the second floor. Here, he found a cabinet filled with vials. A small desk sat in one corner. What disturbed Tim was the three beds with straps that would be used to restrain who ever lay in the bed.

What was going on here?

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

3: A Voice In the Night

Tim Ross closed the door to Dr. Vallingham’s office in the Maryland State Sanatorium Administration Building. He paused for a moment before releasing his grip on the doorknob, feeling like he had been hauled before the principal of his high school.

Tim turned and saw Dr. Vallingham sitting behind a large oak desk that was entirely empty, without even a blotter or desk lamp. The man who was second-in-charge at the hospital didn’t even bother standing up. He simply motioned to a wooden chair in front of the desk.

“Please have a seat, Mr. Ross.”

No hello or handshake. He was not a warm fellow by any stretch.

Tim sat in the chair and noticed it was low, making him have to raise his head to look over the desk at the doctor.

“I am Dr. Jeremy Vallingham. I will oversee your treatment while you are a patient here.”

“What about Dr. Cullen?” Victor Cullen was the doctor in charge of the hospital and also the reason it had an excellent reputation for treating patients with tuberculosis.

“I am his… associate. The demand for our services here is so great that it requires two doctors.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Tim wouldn’t wish his disease on anyone. He had lost weight and strength. He coughed up blood or just felt pain while breathing at times. He had a fever during the day and chills at night. He felt like he could feel himself slowly fading away, slowly dying.

Dr. Vallingham’s brow furrowed. “Hmmm… oh, yes, I see what you mean. Your tuberculosis was detected early and seems mild. That is good news. It means you won’t be placed in the reception hospital.” This was the building where the sicker patients were housed.

Tim nodded. “Yes, I am in shack five.” Shacks were what everyone called the pavilions that were barrack-like buildings with large floor-to-ceiling windows that could be opened to allow plenty of air to pass through the buildings.

“Shacks. That is the colloquial term. It does not do them justice. They are specially designed housing units to augment my treatments.”

“Which are?”

Dr. Vallingham’s nose lifted a bit. He did not like being questioned. “Treatments vary depending on the patient. It will require some testing to fine tune the best treatment for you. Tomorrow morning at 8 a.m., a nurse or orderly will come to your pavilion to take your temperature and pulse. You will also be given your first dose of medication. From there, we will see how things progress.”

Tim nodded. “What are my chances of recovery?”

“I don’t like to speculate, but I have an excellent track record. You are in good hands, Mr. Ross.”

“That’s why I came here.”

Dr. Vallingham nodded. “And now that you are here, there are some rules you need to follow. No fraternizing with the nurses. It is allowed between patients, of course, but no intimate relations. No alcohol is allowed. Feel free to walk the yard and even over to the reception hospital should the need arise, but avoid the pharmacy, powerhouse, and nurse’s quarters.”

“Why’s that?”

The doctor stiffened at being challenged. “Because those are not areas patients need to be. Also, this area has problems with men making illegal liquor, and we wouldn’t want them to mistake you for a federal agent.”

Tim knew that was possible. He had heard about the moonshining war in nearby Smithsburg, even in Baltimore City. “For patients caught breaking the rules, there are consequences,” the doctor continued.

“Consequences? What sort of consequences? Do you send me to bed without my dinner?”

Tim smiled to show Dr. Vallingham he was making a joke, but the doctor did not have much of a sense of humor. He was the king of his kingdom. Tim had seen it with some fight promoters when he was still able to box. They were all friendly and smiles when things were going their way, but let one customer try to welch on a bet or a fighter not take a fall, and those smiles suddenly seemed like a way to show sharp teeth to those people right before they got hurt.

Dr. Vallingham said, “It varies based on what rule is violated, but rest assured, patients don’t like them and rarely make the same mistake twice.”

Was this man the reason people here seemed nervous? He and his rules and punishments?

Tim shrugged. “OK.”

The doctor nodded. “Fine. That is all, then.”

Tim knew when he was being dismissed, so he left. He walked back to the shack. He saw a few more of the residents of pavilion five. Eleven people were currently in the shack. Tim introduced himself to four other people who had returned to their beds. They were all men who weren’t severely sick. Tim introduced himself to them. Then he sat on a deck chair on the porch and stared out into the forest, trying to process what was happening here.

He felt like he was in a prison without walls. People walked on egg shells, afraid of violating one of Dr. Vallingham’s rules. This was not going to be an enjoyable stay, but was any hospital stay? Best he take his treatment and leave as quickly as possible.

Frank Ziolkowski, another resident, shook his shoulder. Tim looked up.

“We’re heading over for dinner. Want to come?” Frank asked.

Tim nodded and stood up. The small group of patients walked over to the dining room and got in line for the meal. He looked around for Max Wenschof. Tim wanted to talk to him about Dr. Vallingham, but Tim didn’t see him.

He saw the young nurse who had fetched him at lunchtime and stopped her.

“Have you seen Max Wenschof?” Tim asked.

“Who?”

“Max Wenschof, the man who was eating lunch with me when you came to get me.”

“Him? Oh, yes, Mr. Wenschof is no longer a patient here.”

“No longer a patient? Was he cured?”

The young nurse frowned. “Patient information is confidential.”

“It’s not like we don’t know what he has or had. Everyone is here because they have TB. And if he’s no longer a patient, then it’s no longer a breach of confidence.”

She looked around nervously. “Mr. Ross…”

Tim held up his hand. “Nevermind.”

He was drawing stares from some of the other patients. He didn’t feel like getting punished, especially when he wasn’t sure what it would be for.

He skipped dinner and walked back to the shack. The windows were all open, allowing a light breeze to flow through the building. It was quiet outside. Did he smell alcohol, or was he imagining it? The hidden stills couldn’t be that close, could they?

“Tim…”

Tim sat up and listened. Had he heard someone calling for him?

“Tim…”

He walked through one of the open windows to the railing of the porch. It was dark out, except for the starlight. There was no moon, but he could still make out shadows on the field in front of the forest.

Had he imagined the voice?

He saw a white figure emerge from the forest. It wasn’t a ghost, but someone dressed in white like an orderly. The figure was running and seemed to be looking over his shoulder, but Tim couldn’t be sure in the dark.

Tim looked at the forest. He couldn’t make out anyone else there, but something was scaring this man. Was he the one who had called for Tim? If so, who could it be? Only a few people around here knew his name.

The man in white veered off in another direction and ran back into the trees. A short time later, Tim heard a shot.

Then everything went quiet again.

written by James Rada, Jr.

A new serial fiction story for your enjoyment

2: Learning the Rules

Tim Ross straightened up from the railing of the barracks-like housing unit at the Maryland Tuberculosis Hospital. He looked at his hands. They were shaking.

He wasn’t afraid. He knew that. It would take a lot more than a whispered warning to cause him fear. The air this high up was a little chilly, but not enough to make him shake. Had he lost his tolerance to cold? Or was it the tuberculosis (TB)? He had lost his speed and stamina to the TB that racked his body. His strength was going.

Tim focused on his hands and stilled the trembling. Then he closed his hands into fists and hammered them down onto the railing and was rewarded with a deep “wham” that seemed to vibrate through the wood.

Tim smiled. He might not be strong enough to fight any longer, but he was far from weak… and far from giving in to the TB. He would fight this, and just like with his boxing matches, he would win.

He left the pavilion and walked to the dining hall. He enjoyed the walk and paused occasionally for quick sets of deep-knee bends or to throw shadow punches.

The dining hall was a stone building connected to the rear of the administration building and was roughly in the center of the surrounding pavilions. He entered the building and paused. The room was filled with rectangular tables covered with tablecloths and surrounded with wooden chairs. People moved through a cafeteria line with trays of food.

What caught Tim’s attention was the people. They didn’t look sick, or at least not very sick. Should he take that as a good sign? They were young adults in their 20s to the elderly. Some were dressed as if this was a night out. Others looked like they had walked in from a garden.

Tim got in line with a tray and got an open-faced turkey sandwich covered in gravy, green beans, and mashed potatoes. He found an empty table and sat down. He ate slowly, paying more attention to the people in the dining room. They seemed too quiet. People were talking, but they acted as if they were in a library, whispering to each other. Some cast suspicious glances around themselves. More than a few watched Tim as if he was a threat as a new person at the hospital.

He had finished half of his sandwich when a man about his age sat down across the table from him.

“Hi, there. My name is Max Wenschof,” the man said.

“Tim Ross.” He reached across the table and shook Max’s hand.

“You’re the new guy. You don’t look too sick. Well, I guess if you were, you wouldn’t be in here. Where are you staying?”

“I’m in Pavillion Five. What do you mean if I was sick, I wouldn’t be in here? Doesn’t everyone in here have TB?”

“Sure, sure, but we either have mild cases or we’re on the mend. Some might even be ready to go home. The real sick patients stay in the receiving hospital. Nurses and orderlies bring them their meals.”

“Oh, it’s good to know I’m not too sick.”

Max clapped him on the shoulder. “Of course not. You can walk around.” Max cut into his sandwich and took a bite.“By the way, I’m in the shack right next door to you. Four.”

“Shack?”

“That’s what everyone calls the pavilions. Too fancy schmancy. They’re shacks.” Max paused. “Are you from Baltimore? You sound like you might be.”

Tim nodded. “I lived out near Sparrows Point.”

“This place must be a bit of a shock for you, then.”

Tim snorted. “You don’t know the half of it.”

“Don’t worry. You’ll get along fine once you learn the rules.”

“That’s what I hear, but no one has told me what they are.”

Max chuckled. “They are vague on purpose. They would rather you break a rule and catch you at it, so they can correct you. And if you don’t break enough rules, I think they make them up, so they can punish you.”

“Punish?”

Max nodded and concentrated on his feet.

Tim wondered what sort of punishment they could inflict, but Max seemed not to want to talk about it.

“So, what is there to do here?”

“Officially, you can go to the recreation hall. It has cards, games, and a radio, although you can’t pick up much up here on the mountain at night.”

“That doesn’t sound like much.”

“It’s not.”

“You said officially. Are there things to do that are unofficial?”

“Well…” Max looked around and then lowered his voice. “A good-looking guy like your yourself could probably find a cute nurse for a little romance. They’re not supposed to fraternize in that way, but it has happened. You could even find a woman among the patients. It depends on how much you want to kiss a gal with TB, but hey, I say, it can’t make you any sicker.” Tim didn’t point out that was exactly what Max was expecting the nurses to do.

“What if I just want a drink?”

Max drew back. “Officially, the word is that absolutely no alcohol is allowed on the property. Not only is it Dr. Cullen’s rule, but it’s the law.”

“And, unofficially?” Tim asked softly.

Max clapped him on the shoulder. “See? You are learning about this place already. We are near the Pen-Mar resort and far from police. There are stories of lots of stills and moonshiners in the woods on this mountain. They sell to the resort and places like Hagerstown and Frederick.” He slowed his speech. “Some of them are very close by.”

“Are you saying there’s a still on the property?”

“I would never say that. You can draw your own conclusions.”

Tim shook his head. “Why does everyone seem so nervous that they won’t talk directly?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He suddenly concentrated on his sandwich as an orderly walked past the table.            

“I just don’t get it,” Tim said.

Max sighed and looked around. “You seem like a nice guy, Tim, but you’ve got to be careful. You don’t want to be corrected too many times. Watch what you say and who you say it to. Don’t attract too much attention to yourself, but you also want people to notice if you are gone.”

“Gone?”

“That’s all I can say.”

Tim shook his head. He didn’t need another cryptic warning. He needed answers. He wondered if he tried to leave the hospital and go elsewhere, would he even be allowed?

A cute red-headed nurse who still looked like a teen walked into the dining hall. She looked around and then walked over to Tim’s table.

“Mr. Ross?” she asked.

“That’s me,” Tim said with a forced smile.

“Dr. Vallingham will see you now.”

“Dr. Vallingham? I thought Dr. Cullen was in charge?”

The nurse smiled. “Oh, he is, but he can’t see all the patients here and run the hospital, too. Dr. Vallingham is the assistant director.”

Tim wondered why he had not heard of this doctor before now. Dr. Victor Cullen was the man credited for the hospital’s success. Not only had he saved the lives of many of the patients here, he had also recovered from TB himself. He was the one Tim wanted treating him.

Tim stood up. Max laid a hand on Tim’s arm. He glanced at the nurse, then back at Tim.

“Remember what I said.”

Tim nodded. “I will, and I will see you around.”

He turned and followed the nurse out of the dining hall. They walked through the hallway back to the administration building.

“You look barely old enough to be out of high school,” Tim said to the nurse.

The girl laughed. “That’s about right. I graduated last year. I go to the nursing school here.”

“Are all the nurses here students?”

“Most of them. Most of the nurses here are also former patients.”

Tim paused and stared at her. “You had TB?”

The young woman shook her head. “No, but my father did. He was a patient here until he died. I wanted to do something to honor him.”

“How do you like it here?” Tim asked, wondering if he would be given another mysterious warning.

“I enjoy it. People are sick but not as bad as a lot of patients in regular hospitals. It’s given me time to get used to dealing with ill people.”

“I guess that would be important.”

“Some of the pictures I’ve seen in class make me queasy, so I definitely need time to make the adjustment.”

She led Tim to an office on the second floor and knocked on the door.

“Come in,” said a voice from inside.

The nurse opened the door. Tim stepped inside and met the man whose hands his life was in.

Administration Building, Maryland Sanatorium

written by James Rada, Jr.

A new serial fiction story for your enjoyment

2: Learning the Rules

Tim Ross straightened up from the railing of the barracks-like housing unit at the Maryland Tuberculosis Hospital. He looked at his hands. They were shaking.

He wasn’t afraid. He knew that. It would take a lot more than a whispered warning to cause him fear. The air this high up was a little chilly, but not enough to make him shake. Had he lost his tolerance to cold? Or was it the tuberculosis (TB)? He had lost his speed and stamina to the TB that racked his body. His strength was going.

Tim focused on his hands and stilled the trembling. Then he closed his hands into fists and hammered them down onto the railing and was rewarded with a deep “wham” that seemed to vibrate through the wood.

Tim smiled. He might not be strong enough to fight any longer, but he was far from weak… and far from giving in to the TB. He would fight this, and just like with his boxing matches, he would win.

He left the pavilion and walked to the dining hall. He enjoyed the walk and paused occasionally for quick sets of deep-knee bends or to throw shadow punches.

The dining hall was a stone building connected to the rear of the administration building and was roughly in the center of the surrounding pavilions. He entered the building and paused. The room was filled with rectangular tables covered with tablecloths and surrounded with wooden chairs. People moved through a cafeteria line with trays of food.

What caught Tim’s attention was the people. They didn’t look sick, or at least not very sick. Should he take that as a good sign? They were young adults in their 20s to the elderly. Some were dressed as if this was a night out. Others looked like they had walked in from a garden.

Tim got in line with a tray and got an open-faced turkey sandwich covered in gravy, green beans, and mashed potatoes. He found an empty table and sat down. He ate slowly, paying more attention to the people in the dining room. They seemed too quiet. People were talking, but they acted as if they were in a library, whispering to each other. Some cast suspicious glances around themselves. More than a few watched Tim as if he was a threat as a new person at the hospital.

He had finished half of his sandwich when a man about his age sat down across the table from him.

“Hi, there. My name is Max Wenschof,” the man said.

“Tim Ross.” He reached across the table and shook Max’s hand.

“You’re the new guy. You don’t look too sick. Well, I guess if you were, you wouldn’t be in here. Where are you staying?”

“I’m in Pavillion Five. What do you mean if I was sick, I wouldn’t be in here? Doesn’t everyone in here have TB?”

“Sure, sure, but we either have mild cases or we’re on the mend. Some might even be ready to go home. The real sick patients stay in the receiving hospital. Nurses and orderlies bring them their meals.”

“Oh, it’s good to know I’m not too sick.”

Max clapped him on the shoulder. “Of course not. You can walk around.” Max cut into his sandwich and took a bite.“By the way, I’m in the shack right next door to you. Four.”

“Shack?”

“That’s what everyone calls the pavilions. Too fancy schmancy. They’re shacks.” Max paused. “Are you from Baltimore? You sound like you might be.”

Tim nodded. “I lived out near Sparrows Point.”

“This place must be a bit of a shock for you, then.”

Tim snorted. “You don’t know the half of it.”

“Don’t worry. You’ll get along fine once you learn the rules.”

“That’s what I hear, but no one has told me what they are.”

Max chuckled. “They are vague on purpose. They would rather you break a rule and catch you at it, so they can correct you. And if you don’t break enough rules, I think they make them up, so they can punish you.”

“Punish?”

Max nodded and concentrated on his feet.

Tim wondered what sort of punishment they could inflict, but Max seemed not to want to talk about it.

“So, what is there to do here?”

“Officially, you can go to the recreation hall. It has cards, games, and a radio, although you can’t pick up much up here on the mountain at night.”

“That doesn’t sound like much.”

“It’s not.”

“You said officially. Are there things to do that are unofficial?”

“Well…” Max looked around and then lowered his voice. “A good-looking guy like your yourself could probably find a cute nurse for a little romance. They’re not supposed to fraternize in that way, but it has happened. You could even find a woman among the patients. It depends on how much you want to kiss a gal with TB, but hey, I say, it can’t make you any sicker.” Tim didn’t point out that was exactly what Max was expecting the nurses to do.

“What if I just want a drink?”

Max drew back. “Officially, the word is that absolutely no alcohol is allowed on the property. Not only is it Dr. Cullen’s rule, but it’s the law.”

“And, unofficially?” Tim asked softly.

Max clapped him on the shoulder. “See? You are learning about this place already. We are near the Pen-Mar resort and far from police. There are stories of lots of stills and moonshiners in the woods on this mountain. They sell to the resort and places like Hagerstown and Frederick.” He slowed his speech. “Some of them are very close by.”

“Are you saying there’s a still on the property?”

“I would never say that. You can draw your own conclusions.”

Tim shook his head. “Why does everyone seem so nervous that they won’t talk directly?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He suddenly concentrated on his sandwich as an orderly walked past the table.            

“I just don’t get it,” Tim said.

Max sighed and looked around. “You seem like a nice guy, Tim, but you’ve got to be careful. You don’t want to be corrected too many times. Watch what you say and who you say it to. Don’t attract too much attention to yourself, but you also want people to notice if you are gone.”

“Gone?”

“That’s all I can say.”

Tim shook his head. He didn’t need another cryptic warning. He needed answers. He wondered if he tried to leave the hospital and go elsewhere, would he even be allowed?

A cute red-headed nurse who still looked like a teen walked into the dining hall. She looked around and then walked over to Tim’s table.

“Mr. Ross?” she asked.

“That’s me,” Tim said with a forced smile.

“Dr. Vallingham will see you now.”

“Dr. Vallingham? I thought Dr. Cullen was in charge?”

The nurse smiled. “Oh, he is, but he can’t see all the patients here and run the hospital, too. Dr. Vallingham is the assistant director.”

Tim wondered why he had not heard of this doctor before now. Dr. Victor Cullen was the man credited for the hospital’s success. Not only had he saved the lives of many of the patients here, he had also recovered from TB himself. He was the one Tim wanted treating him.

Tim stood up. Max laid a hand on Tim’s arm. He glanced at the nurse, then back at Tim.

“Remember what I said.”

Tim nodded. “I will, and I will see you around.”

He turned and followed the nurse out of the dining hall. They walked through the hallway back to the administration building.

“You look barely old enough to be out of high school,” Tim said to the nurse.

The girl laughed. “That’s about right. I graduated last year. I go to the nursing school here.”

“Are all the nurses here students?”

“Most of them. Most of the nurses here are also former patients.”

Tim paused and stared at her. “You had TB?”

The young woman shook her head. “No, but my father did. He was a patient here until he died. I wanted to do something to honor him.”

“How do you like it here?” Tim asked, wondering if he would be given another mysterious warning.

“I enjoy it. People are sick but not as bad as a lot of patients in regular hospitals. It’s given me time to get used to dealing with ill people.”

“I guess that would be important.”

“Some of the pictures I’ve seen in class make me queasy, so I definitely need time to make the adjustment.”

She led Tim to an office on the second floor and knocked on the door.

“Come in,” said a voice from inside.

The nurse opened the door. Tim stepped inside and met the man whose hands his life was in.

Administration Building, Maryland Sanatorium

written by James Rada, Jr.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

1: Arrival

Timothy Ross stepped off the passenger car at the train depot near the Maryland Tuberculosis Hospital. He was used to the large platforms in cities like Baltimore, Washington, and Philadelphia. This was a small 15×30-foot wooden building surrounded on all sides by a wide porch. It could fit inside of the washroom of Penn Station, where he had boarded the train.

He noticed he was the only person on the platform. He expected more activity here, but it was still a bit early in the season for vacationers to be heading to Pen Mar, the nearby resort area. Green was starting to appear on the trees, and the sky was a bright blue. He felt just a hint of chill in the air. It wouldn’t be long before vacationers sought to escape the heat and humidity in the cities and headed for higher ground.

“So this is where I’ll die,” he whispered to himself.

He wondered if he had made the right choice coming here. He was a city boy, born and raised. He had never been able to escape the city, even in the heat of the summer, to come to a place like this. Tim lived in the night, in the gyms and arenas where he made his living in the ring…or at least he had.

His chest heaved, and he started coughing. He grabbed for his handkerchief and covered his mouth. When the hacking stopped, he pulled the handkerchief away and saw phlegm and spots of blood. So much for the clean, fresh mountain air helping him.

Tim walked into the station. He saw no people, just empty benches. There wasn’t even a stationmaster. It was as if people were only dropped off here, and no one ever left on the train, so no one needed to buy a ticket. That thought sent a chill down his back.

A door opened, and a man walked out of the washroom, drying his hands. He was a large man, almost as large as Tim had been before he had gotten sick. He was dressed in white, so Tim guessed this was the man he was supposed to meet.

“Are you from the sanatorium?” Tim asked.

The man nodded. “I’m Frank Larkins, one of the orderlies there and a driver when they need one.”

“I’m Tim Ross.”

Frank smiled and clapped his hands together. “Great! Let’s load your bags in the car and get you to the administration building.”

“Is it far away?”

“Not at all. You’re actually on the sanatorium property now. This is our station.”

“I thought this was the station for the resort.”

Frank shook his head. “That’s Blue Ridge Summit. It’s a little further up the line, just across the Mason-Dixon in Pennsylvania.”

Frank grabbed the two suitcases Tim had brought with him and headed out the front door. He walked down the steps from the front porch to the waiting car. It was a gray four-door Ajax sedan. Tim had seen plenty of them in Baltimore, but this was a newer model that had come out in 1926. Frank went around to the far side and put the suitcases in the back while Tim climbed into the car.

Then, Frank climbed into the driver’s seat. He started the engine and drove along a dirt road that led uphill.

“I used to live in Baltimore until I got this job,” Frank said. “I saw you fight Rusty Barrett last year. I won five dollars when you knocked him out.”

Tim grinned. “Seems like a lifetime ago.”

He hadn’t fought in three months. His stamina and speed were gone. He was withering away. Even if he got rid of the tuberculosis, he wondered if there would be enough of him left to recover.

Frank seemed to read his mind. “Don’t you worry, Mr. Ross. You got diagnosed early enough that this place can help you. You aren’t even in the main hospital. You’re in a cottage. That’s where they put the people who are in good shape.”

Tim shook his head. “No, they put them on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. There’s as many trees here as there are people in Baltimore.”

“And that’s why you’ll get better. You aren’t in Baltimore. That’s what made you sick. They did a study last year that said there’s an area of the city that has the highest death rate in the country from TB. The best thing you could do was get out of that cesspool.”

He turned onto a drive that swung around in front of a three-story stone building that could have passed for one of the rich people’s homes in Mount Washington. Frank turned off the engine, and they walked onto the porch and through the front doors. They were in a hallway that led to a staircase to the second floor or the rear of the building. The rooms off the hallway all had closed doors. At a desk near the door, an attractive young nurse sat smiling up at them.

She looked at Tim and smiled, showing bright white teeth.

“Emily, this is Tim Ross, a new patient,” Frank said. He glanced at Tim. “Emily is one of the student nurses at the training school here, and if she wasn’t behind that desk, you’d see she has great gams.” Emily blushed and giggled. “I need to know what shack he’s in.”

Emily nodded and looked at her notes. “He’s in pavilion five. Also, I’ll need you to come back here after you finish putting your things away. I’ll have the paperwork you need to sign, your schedule, a map of the grounds, and a few other things.”

Frank and Tim walked back outside. Frank drove the car around the side of the administration building. Tim saw two rows of long, wooden buildings leading away from the back of the administration building. Frank stopped in front of one, and they walked to the entrance. Tim saw four people sitting on chairs on the porch that ran the length of the front of the building. The building was wood frame, but it sat on brick piers.

Inside, there were two wards, one off to either side of the entryway, which was a large sitting room. Frank looked at a chart on the wall, turned left, and walked to an empty bed near the end of the ward. Tim saw that all the windows on the ward were open, as well as doors that led onto the porch. More fresh air.

“So, this is your bed, but you’ll keep your things in the back,” Frank said.

He walked through a doorway behind the bed that led into a long rear room that nearly ran the length of the building.

“These compartments are where you can change and store your stuff. You have compartment three, which is also your bed number. The toilet room is in the middle.”

Tim nodded numbly.

Frank laid a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t worry, Mr. Ross. It’s confusing now, but everything will be all right.” Then, he looked around, leaned closer, and whispered, “Be careful. Don’t wander off alone and don’t trust anyone. No one is safe. Don’t say anything about this.”

Frank then straightened up and smiled, but Tim could tell it was a fake smile.

“I’m going to leave you to unpack, because I have some other things to do. Once you’re finished, head back and talk to Emily.”

Tim nodded. “Thank you.”

Frank left and Tim walked out onto the porch, although with the large sliding windows between the wall columns, it was almost as if the ward was part of the porch.

He had to admit, the view was nice if you liked to look at trees and lawn. He started coughing so hard, he nearly dropped to his knees. Instead, he leaned on the rail and watched Frank drive off.

What had the man been talking about? More importantly, what had Tim gotten himself into?