Welcome to FROST HARROW, my new modern (1990s) gothic horror series! If you’d like to support this and my other work, go to www.CushingHorrors.com and become my patron! You may also enjoy the Scribe Award-Winning MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE – In print, for kindle, and for all e-book formats. And check out my retro-horror-comedy classic CANOE COPS VS. THE MUMMY as well as my other books. Now… On with the show!
FIVE – GRANT
Ivy awoke to the sounds and smells of the nurse changing her bedpan.
“How are we feeling this morning?” the nurse asked when she realized Ivy was awake.
“Same as last night,” Ivy answered. “Like shit.” She noticed that the tube had been removed from her mouth, though another remained taped to her nose. And they’d unstrapped her right arm, though the IV remained attached.
Her left arm ached dully, as did her right hand where the needle and tube were inserted. Her neck felt less stiff this morning, but an empty pit gaped in her stomach. “Can I get something to eat?” she asked.
“Not yet,” the nurse said pleasantly. “The doctor will be in to see you shortly. I’m sure he’ll have some news for you. Try to relax until then. Would you like to watch TV?”
Ivy tried to shake her head, found it impossible with the neck brace, and said, “No. Some music would be nice, though.”
The nurse switched on the radio part of the TV/radio combination and bustled out the room. Ivy didn’t even have a chance to ask her to change the channel.
Muzak. Ivy hated it. But the remote control lay tantalizingly out of reach of her right hand.
Twenty-seven long minutes later the doctor came in and relieved Ivy’s discomfort by turning the radio off. He conducted a series of annoying tests on her, both physical and verbal, for an hour and fifteen minutes. Ivy avoided mentioning the strange dream she had while at death’s door. I must have been delirious, she told herself.
At the end of the tests, the doctor removed her neck brace and announced she could have some soft food later.
By questioning the doctor, Ivy discovered just how badly she’d been hurt. They’d had to jump-start her heart with defibrillators when they brought her in. After the accident, she’d lain unconscious in the hospital for the better part of three days. Her left arm had been broken in two places by the crash; the steering column cracked three of her ribs. And flying pieces of metal had cut her face and opened a small gash in her carotid artery.
She’d lost a lot of blood before a passerby used a cell phone to call for help. Fortunately, Bluff Road was only a few minutes flight away from the hospital—Beth Israel, she learned. Ivy had guessed as much from the expensive decor. Her family probably would have moved her there anyway, even if it killed her. It wouldn’t do to have a Frost in a lower-class hospital. She smiled slightly at the morbid thought. Ivy had been born in this hospital. She felt glad she hadn’t died here.
Her uncle Daniel entered the room just as the doctor finished his exams.
Daniel Frost was a tall man, with a heavy frame and trim figure. His sixty-four years had done little to diminish the power of his carriage. Nor had they dulled his blazing violet eyes. His hair remained auburn, for the most part, though silver dominated his temples.
“How is she, doctor?” he asked in his usual authoritarian tone. His voice always reminded Ivy of an opera character trying to project to the back row. She couldn’t remember ever hearing him whisper.
“She’ll be fine, Mr. Frost,” said Dr. Shapiro. The doctor turned and addressed Ivy. “Don’t worry about the bandages on your face. The cuts are mostly superficial. We’ll take them off in a day or two. You should make a full recovery, though you may want some cosmetic surgery for the scar on your neck.”
“The company insurance will, of course, cover any expenses for reconstructive procedures,” said Daniel.
Of course it will, thought Ivy. It wouldn’t do to have a receptionist that looked like the Phantom of the Opera in the outer office of Frost Shipping. But, rather than speaking her thoughts, she said, “Thanks, Uncle.”
Daniel smiled down at her. It was an annoying, official smile that he usually reserved for business occasions. “Think nothing of it, my dear,” he said.
“Well,” said the doctor, “I’ll leave you two alone. I’ve more patients to see. Use the buzzer if you need anything.”
Ivy smiled at him as he left the room. She’d insisted that, this time, both the nurse call button and the remote control for the TV be placed within reach. As the doctor exited, she idly fingered the medallion hanging on her bedpost.
“Don’t tire her out, Mr. Frost,” Shapiro called back.
“Don’t worry, doctor. I shan’t be long,” said Daniel. He looked around the room for a minute; didn’t find what he sought. “Now damn it all to Hell,” he said, his voice betraying only slight annoyance.
“What’s wrong, Uncle?”
“The office ordered a large bouquet of flowers to be delivered to you this morning. Your co-workers took up a collection. It should have been here by now.”
“Uncle, Dan, I don’t think…” Ivy began.
But the elder Frost cut her off. “There’s no excuse for such shoddy service. I’ll look into it. It won’t take a minute.” And with that he stalked out the door.
Ivy sighed and punched up American Movie Classics on the TV controller. She hadn’t yet figured out what film was showing when she heard a familiar voice at the doorway.
“Anybody home?” a man’s voice asked. It was the same voice Ivy had heard right after the accident, just before she passed out.
She turned her head from the TV to her visitor. Even looking at the man, it took her a minute to place him. When she did, her blue-grey eyes lit up and her mouth dropped open.
“Oh my God! Grant? Grant Winslow?”
Grant nodded his dusty-blond head, smiling at Ivy with both his lips and his deep green eyes as he did so.
Ivy tried to leap out of the bed to greet him, but her tubes and attachments brought her up short. The action caused numerous sharp pains to shoot through her body.
“Ouch!” she cried.
“Hey, take it easy,” said Grant, moving quickly to her bedside. He hugged her gingerly, taking care not to aggravate her discomfort. He had a warm body and strong arms. He felt good to Ivy, despite her aches.
“How’ve you been?” he asked. They wouldn’t let me see you after I brought you in—family only, you know. They probably wouldn’t have let me in now, either, but your cousin Tony’s distracting the nurse.”
“You brought me in?” Ivy asked.
“Yeah. I was coming down the road in the opposite direction when you ran off the highway and down the ravine. Your car was pretty messed up when I got there. I didn’t figure anyone could be alive inside.
“Imagine my shock to see you hanging upside down in the wreck. I’m just glad I got you out before that old Honda of yours went up. Made a nice bonfire.”
He smiled at her again.
“I guess you must have had a few rabbit’s feet in your pocket, though. I had my cell phone in the jeep with me and called for help before I hiked down the cliff to look for survivors. Good thing your family bought the hospital that Flight for Life helicopter.”
Ivy leaned back against her pillow. “Jesus,” she said, shaking her head. “It’s just like Uncle Dan not to mention that it was you who saved my life.”
Grant chuckled and settled into a leather chair beside the bed. “Yeah. I guess there’s still some bad blood there, even after all these years.”
“What are you doing here, young man?!” asked the booming voice of Daniel Frost. The older man scowled at Grant as he entered the room. “My niece’s visitors are restricted to family only.”
“Uncle Daniel…” Ivy said, “he saved my life.”
“Nevertheless,” said Daniel, puffing out his chest, “hospitals have rules and rules are to be obeyed. Young man, I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
Grant looked from Daniel to Ivy and then back again. “No sweat,” he finally said, rising from the bedside and turning to go. “See you later, Ivy. Call me. I’m staying in the old family manse.” He said the word manse in a way that told Ivy that Grant still didn’t take his family’s considerable wealth and power very seriously.
Daniel Frost glowered after him as Grant went. Then he turned back to his niece and smiled his boardroom smile. “You’ll be pleased to know that your flowers should be here soon,” he announced.
“I don’t give a shit about the flowers,” said Ivy. “Why didn’t you tell me Grant had come home? Why didn’t you tell me he saved my life?”
A stern look crossed her uncle’s face. “Such language, young lady. There would have been plenty of time for such trivialities later, after you’ve sufficiently recovered. And need I remind you of the difficulty he’s caused our family?”
“Grant hasn’t done anything to the Frosts. I know his uncle Abner gave you no end of grief, but Abner’s been dead for nearly four months now. Why don’t you get over it and move on?”
Daniel Frost paced the small room, filling it with his presence. “I can see you’re not feeling well,” he said. “I’ll let you rest and have one of your aunts look in later. But I must insist that you adhere to hospital rules. I’ll ask the doctors to see that they are strictly enforced.”
Oh yes, Ivy thought sarcastically, no sense in having my friends look in on me. I get so much warmth and support from the family.
She sighed and played with her medallion. “Yes, uncle. I’ll try not to exert myself.” She wondered how long it would take Grant to get home. Then she noticed for the first time that the room had no phone.
Daniel nodded at her, turned and exited.
Ivy blinked. It almost looked to her as though an extra shadow had left the room with him.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Read my FREE Frost Harrow Halloween stories:
“The Weeping Ghost” (2012), “A Trace of Violet” (2013), “Lunchroom Zombies” (2014), “Omens & Visitations” (2015), “Fata Morgana” (2016), “At the Appointed Hour” (2017), and “Devil’s Lake” (2018).