She'd been warned the doctor was eccentric, but this nurse discovers his cures are of a mechanical nature...
Note: This 5000-word short story was previously published as part of the CARNAL MACHINES anthology. It may be short in length, but it's not short in passion!
I'd been warned the doctor was a bit eccentric. That he dabbled in machinery and had been ostracized by others in his profession for the lengths he went to please his patients.
"You'll never find another employer," I was told. "Not once they see your only reference is Doctor Mullaley." The mad Irishman. The charlatan who promised cures to bored housewives and whose waiting room hadn't been empty since I'd arrived for my first day's work. If I hadn't already been turned away at every other respectable physician's practice, I might have heeded the advice. However, those warnings only served to stir my interest.
I was intensely curious about the nature of the doctor's cures. Even more so about the conditions he treated, but they were only spoken of in whispers and never in the presence of an unmarried woman. Which made me wonder why he'd hired me. Not that I was going to complain. One glance at his tall rangy frame, frosty blue eyes and dark, slicked-back hair, and my misgivings evaporated.
However, my curiosity about the man and his practice wasn't to be satisfied at that moment, because the doctor waved me toward the reception desk where I worked at fitting in patients who arrived without an appointment. A task I found akin to cinching in the waist of a corset. There was only so much ribbon one could pull before something gave.
That something was the inimitable Mrs. Davies. She arrived in a dudgeon. Cheeks flushed, eyes a little wild. The afternoon was very balmy, and the painstaking curls at the sides of her cheeks had wilted and stretched toward her jaw like earthworms. I couldn't help staring while she tapped the counter with a sturdy finger, insisting her needs were of the highest import. If she didn't receive a treatment that afternoon, somebody would hear about it.
At wit's end, I gave her a false smile, said I'd find the doctor, and escaped down the corridor to the treatment rooms.
The corridor was as handsomely appointed as the waiting room with rich oak paneling below the rail, and burgundy brocade above. But gaslight sconces were placed so far apart that shadows loomed between the doorways.
I paused at the first room to listen, hoping to hear the low timbre of the doctor's voice. Faint moans came through the door, but since they didn't have an urgent edge, I hurried to the next and pressed my ear against the wood.
Hands curved over my shoulders. "Pardon me, Nurse Percy." The doctor firmly pushed me to the side and strode into the room.
Glancing around his tall frame, I spotted Mrs. Headley who lay on a table that tilted with the lower half split in two. My jaw sagged as I noted that while she was clothed in a sack-like gown, Mrs. Headley lay bared from the waist down, her legs strapped to the split "legs" of a leather-padded tabletop. Her fingers dug into handles at the sides.
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