“You know this won’t help him,” said Nurse Vinson.

“I’m following the wishes of my client, as expressed while he was still compos mentis,” replied Mr. Izzard the lawyer who looked at her unblinkingly. “You will remember that we have a court order.” The corners of the lawyer’s mouth turned up ever so slightly.

She felt a chill run up her spine. “Like a rabbit ran over your grave,” was what her grandmother called it. There was something just wrong about the lawyer. No, she shouldn’t even think that because thinking would lead to saying, and that led to trouble.

“Proceed,” said the lawyer.

“Go ahead, Brian.”

“Okay, Mr. Hammond, open up,” smirked the beefy orderly putting on a pair of blue rubber gloves.

Hammond was strapped to a gurney by wide leather belts at the chest, wrists, waist and ankles. Brian opened an envelope containing a thick rubber “hockey puck” bite guard which he slipped into the patient’s open and eager mouth, then made sure it was fitted in securely. He was the only orderly who would work this duty; the others were either scared off by Vinson’s rantings about deviltry, or terrified of the old bat herself. Whatever. The whole thing was amusing and gave him a break from some of his more sad and grim duties in the Profoundly Retarded Bedridden Unit.

“Very well,” said the lawyer as he sat down on the chair the hospital administration had told her she had to give him. He placed his metal briefcase on his lap and opened its clicky latches to reveal a thick leatherbound book nestled in its snug bed of black padding.

The book gave Nurse Vinson the creeps. The first time she saw it she hadn’t noticed the five-pointed star tooled into the wrinkly black leather cover; she had thought that it was an old family Bible and that the lawyer was a nice man about to read her patient a comforting lesson from the scriptures, something she was forbidden from doing herself.

She wanted not to look at the book but couldn’t help herself; she knew it was looking at her. In the center of the star an eye opened and winked at her all red and glowing before closing again. Must be one of those modern electrical gizmos – like those greeting cards that started singing when you opened them. That had to be it, right? The lawyer was trying to drive her crazy, doubtlessly in cahoots with the new Director.

Izzard carefully removed the book and used his elbows to close the case, then rested the book on top of the case.

“You remember his sinuses drain copiously, and you have to constantly aspirate his nasal passages.”

“Yes sir,” she replied, painfully aware that the lawyer was deliberately working her in front of the orderly. Retirement couldn’t come soon enough. She’d put in twenty-seven years at Eastern State Hospital caring for the lunatics and imbeciles of Virginia. She only had three more years before she could retire. It would be a long three years. Somehow, Izzard’s visits always occured when she was on shift. Administration said they didn’t know anything about it and wouldn’t lift a finger to help her. She suspected that Brian was tipping the lawyer off whenever the shift schedule came out. Nobody would switch shifts with her anymore; they were all out to get her.

She put the stethoscope into her ears and listened to the patient’s pulse so she wouldn’t have to hear the words. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the lawyer wet his lips with his tongue, preparatory to reading. The tongue was abnormally thin and quick. She closed her eyes and in her mind sang “Yes, We Shall Gather at the River.”

The first time she had heard the filthy words that lawyer read from the book she had to put a stop to things. Those were not the type of stories which would help her patient get better; if anything they would make him worse. Pornographic occult filth didn’t belong in mental hospitals; didn’t belong anyplace, really, but she knew that she was fighting a losing battle against a society which had abandoned all reason and decency.

She’d sent him packing, then he came back with a piece of paper which she tore up and she sent him packing again, and then the Sheriff’s Deputies showed up and took the Director in front of the judge to get talked to. Then she had to sit in an all-day meeting with people from DMHS headquarters in Richmond who yelled at her about legal stuff, and then she had to sign papers saying that she understood what they’d said and a whole bunch of other crap that sounded like they could fire her if she interfered again, or even looked at the lawyer cross. Apparently crazy people had a right to have pornography read to them. She knew she couldn’t preach or testify to patients, but why did she have to help them damn their poor souls to even deeper pits in hell? But she did get a week of “administrative leave” which was basically a paid vacation.

“Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn” said the lawyer.

Brian stifled a giggle. Whatever that was always sounded like the lawyer was trying to talk while eating pussy.

Hammond made a series of eager whimpering noises in response. The lawyer nodded solemnly at Hammond and began reading.

“‘The Haunting of Hillary House,’ by SugarFree.”