“I’m afraid you cannot speak to the patient, it’s simply out of the question.”
Sergeant Gendarme Arpin held up his hands.
“I don’t need to speak with him, we only need-“
“To see his medical records and speak with his chirurgeon,” said Doctor Flandrin.
The director of the Manoir de la Lune flared his nostrils.
“That is if that is not an inconvenience,” added Aprin.
“The Manoir de la Lune is dedicated to the psycho-hygiene of our patients, and as such, we strictly avoid disturbances to the environment.”
“Don’t be a bigger idiot than you were in school, Andre!” spat Doctor Flandrin, “We don’t need to speak to the patient! All we require is to look over the records and speak to the chirurgeon who treated him! Just nod as if you understand!”
“Good day gentlemen! Behind you is the door, please make use of it immediately!”
Arpin sighed and stood.
“I’m sorry to hear that. I will need to go to the Tribunal for a writ of discovery. It will take time but we will return. I had hoped that you might help with our investigation. Now I will be discrete but if the fourth estate gets wind of this, I fear that the public will misinterpret your intent. Such is life, good day.”
“Is that a threat?”
“No director, just a theory of what might happen. You’ll forgive me, but it is an occupational quirk for someone who does what I do. Possibilities suggest themselves unbidden.
With that, he and Doctor Flandrin began to leave. Just as they reached the door.
“The Manoir de la Lune is a friend of justice. Let it not be said otherwise.”
Doctor Flandrin snorted and the director ignored it. He pressed a button on his desk and a large orderly entered.
“Gustav, please escort our guests to chirurgeon Berthod’s office.”
The hallways of the Manoir de la Lune were tiled in silver and white, with a seemingly abstract pattern that suggested a soothing pearly light. After being lead through several long corridors, they arrived.
Berthod had kind eyes and wore his salt and pepper hair very short with an accompanying beard. He gestured for Arpin and Flandrin to sit.
“What can I do for you?”
“You were the chirurgeon who worked on Jules Thibault when he was brought in?”
“I was on call when he was brought in, terrible business.”
“In what way?” asked Arpin.
“He was in a kind of rage, it took six orderlies to restrain him.”
“Kind of rage? Is that your diagnosis?” said Flandrin.
“No, that is not a clinical term,” replied Berthod calmly as he opened a bright red folder, “The patient displayed preternatural strength but a lack of outward emotional expression.”
“Did you even test-“ began Flandrin.
“Of course, we tested for alchemical enhancements as well and non-arcane stimulants but all tests came back negative. I wish I could tell you how he tossed full-grown people about like toys but I’ve no idea.”
“How are you treating him?”
“We’ve had to put him in an induced fugue, otherwise he would be a danger to himself and others.”
“I see,” said Arpin, “Doctor, if you would please?”
Flandrin took out a binder from his attaché and opened it up.
“I did the post-mortis on the burglar who broke into that famous clock-maker’s home. He was electrocuted.”
“What did you discover?”
“Nothing out of the ordinary, at first. There was no blood to draw so I couldn’t run any tests, not that I had any reason to. However, once the Sergeant Gendarme told me about Monsieur Thibault’s fantastic strength, I did a more thorough post mortis.”
“In what way?”
“I dissected him.”
“But that is your job, isn’t it?”
“True, but I removed all his flesh, down to the bones. He was burned very badly so I needed to soak his body to make it possible to remove the tissue. Let me tell you he was very- ”
“I think the chirurgeon gets the idea, doctor,” interjected Arpin.
“He was a Monsieur Tout-le-monde so there are no angry family members,” added Flandrin.
“Please show what you found.”
Flandrin took a handful of daguerreotypes and spread them on the desk. Berthod squinted at them then took a magnifying glass to look closer.
“What am I looking at?”
“Tiny glyphs, carved into the bones and inlaid with gold.”
“I know it’s unbelievable.”
“It’s impossible! No one could survive this! It’s monstrous! To do this to a living person, I can’t imagine…”
Berthod leaned back in his chair and shook his head. Arpin could smell his horror, it reminded him of ammonia and wet smoke.
“It speaks well of your compassion chirurgeon Berthod, but we wondered if you noticed anything similar in your examination of Monsieur Thibault?”
“Did Thibault have any scars indicating that-“
“I did have to ask.”
“No one could survive that! A living body could not recover from it. I have no idea how that was done but it is an abomination.”
“Mysteries abound chirurgeon Berthod.”
They sat in silence for a while, each lost in their thoughts while birds sang outside the window, unaware and joyful.
“What do they mean? Those symbols.”
Arpin stroked his whiskers and said, “We’ve sent copies to experts that we consult with and they think that they would enhance physical strength, reflexes as well as heighten one’s resistance to pain.”
“Indeed, but they also think that it comes at a cost, as these sorts things often do.”
“Whatever it is, it is too high a price,” said Berthod.
“For most absolutely, but clearly not for all.”