The air conditioning was
working only at half-mast, as usual, and it was
sticky hot in the New Baptist Church of the Savior.
Otis Redmond was working his way to the end of the
morning's sermon. As the intensity of his oratory
was growing with each carefully selected phrase, the
volume of sweat running visibly down his cheeks and
invisibly down his back and in his armpits grew in a
matching tempo. The congregation was rousing from
their sermon-induced stupor in response to his
rising volume and increased agitation.
Behind him, the double-sized
plastic statue of Jesus Christ of Nazareth on the
cross was beginning to glow as the organist ran up
the rheostat mounted to the right of her keyboard.
The wound in the left side of the Christ statue
began to turn red and blood ran out of the gash,
down the length of the leg, and off the toe onto the
floor. The faithful in the first few rows saw the
blood as soon as it started flowing. The people in
the middle and back rows were not certain what they
saw, if they saw it at all. A buzz of whispers
started and grew louder until the Head Deacon seated
on the first row slowly stood up and pointed over
the shoulder of Otis Redmond.
The preacher paused and turned
to look in the indicated direction. At first he was
stunned speechless. Then he shouted, "alleluia, it's
a miracle." Otis wasn't too well educated, but he
was quick on his feet when it came to capitalizing
on a situation. However, almost immediately after
his apparently spontaneous "alleluia", he began to
wonder if he was being set-up by one of his rivals.
Paranoia was always close to the surface of Otis
The congregation responded in
kind with its own "alleluias", "praise be to Gods",
and a few "what miracles He works." The sermon was
over and the congregation filed up to the front of
the church where they could get a closer view of the
Andrew Bates Cannon sat down
without care for his fresh lab coat, as usual, which
scrunched up under and behind him in his desk chair.
He dropped the coffee and three doughnuts he had
juggled down the long hall from the coffee mess to
his office. The morning paper was still under his
arm where he had stuck it when he first got out of
his car in the parking lot behind the public health
He opened the paper over top
of the normal desk clutter and reached for his first
doughnut. In twenty seconds he had determined that
there was nothing of interest on the first page,
only homicides, which he knew more about than the
papers, and politics which interested him not a
whit. He flipped through the pages scanning each one
for articles of interest. He slowed his scan to read
about a local conservation group in Wyoming that was
suing a timber company, and then on page seven found
an article about a miracle in Daltonville, about
seventy miles south of the city.
According to the reporter, the
event took place two days ago, on Sunday, at the New
Baptist Church of the Savior. His interviews with
various members of the congregation and the Reverend
Otis Redmond indicated that the event was witnessed
by everyone in the church during the morning sermon.
Reverend Redmond clearly saw it as God's blessing of
his ministry and perhaps a call for the widening of
that ministry in a statewide or nationwide crusade.
The rest of the article gave a detailed description
of the "miracle" as reconstructed through the
Andy looked at his watch. It
was eight forty-five, and he had already put in more
than five hours since his arrival for the autopsy on
last night's homicide. He decided to indulge his
hobby for the next few hours and check back in the
afternoon on the lab work in process. He punched the
intercom button on his phone and told Janet the
receptionist and switchboard operator at the front
of the building that he would be back sometime
around mid-afternoon. Taking a last sip of coffee,
he picked up doughnut number three and headed for
his car, munching his way down the hall and trailing
small flakes of sugar.
Andy had always been
interested in the inexplicable. As a kid, he was
addicted to science fiction and fantasy, and as an
adult it hadn't changed very much. He just didn't
seem to have as much time for reading fiction of any
type. That was particularly true during his college
and medical school years, but he still managed to
read enough to keep up with the new writers. About
seven years ago when he and his wife called it quits
after only two years of marriage, he suddenly found
himself with a lot of time on his hands. He was
three years out of med school and six months into
his decision to go into pathology rather than
While Linda never said that
his decision was a factor in their breakup, he felt
it was the largest. Linda was a nurse and an
incurable yuppie and was planning on life as a
doctor's wife. Andy's take on the situation was that
she concluded if she got out quick, she still had
time to land another resident with the good sense to
take a career path that would allow her to achieve
the social and financial position she craved. After
about a year of soul searching, that is, searching
within himself for the inadequacy that caused the
divorce, he decided he liked who he was, he was
better off, and good luck to Linda.
Getting out of town had taken
about forty-five minutes, but he found himself
slowing at the outskirts of Daltonville with only
another hour having passed. There was a convenience
store on the edge of town, and he stopped to ask
directions to the church. The clerk indicated he was
one of many that had come in the last two days to
see the "bleeding Christ", as it was apparently
known around town.
The church was on the other
side of town, along a shady street of maples and
poplars. The white painted concrete-block building
with a short steeple and arched but clear windows
was unremarkable, but the crowd standing around the
WZZW News truck made it clear that something unusual
was going on. Andy parked, got his black leather
medical examination bag off the passenger's seat,
and walked up to the dozen people standing with and
talking to the television reporter. Standing on the
edge of the crowd, he heard several recitations of
the Sunday sermon events, and they added nothing to
the newspaper account he had read that morning.
Leaving the interview crowd on
the porch of the church, Andy moved into the church
and down to the pulpit. Another reporter and
cameraman were conducting an interview with a man of
about forty in a dark, inexpensive suit. After
listening to a few sentences of the man's responses
to the reporter's questions, Andy knew he was
looking at the Reverend Otis Redmond.
Andy stood quietly to the side
until the interview was over and the crew was
packing up the lights to leave. Apparently they had
gotten their shots of the Christ statue earlier.
Andy approached the preacher with his business card
in hand. From experience, he knew it helped in most
situations like this to immediately identify oneself
as a professional.
Andy spoke as the Reverend was
plucking the card from his fingers. "Hello,
Reverend. I'm Andrew Cannon, Chief Medical Examiner,
Little Rock. I wonder if you'd mind if I take a
close look at the statue and maybe even a blood
sample for analysis. Daltonville is outside of my
jurisdiction, but I've found it pays to stay fully
informed of events in the surrounding counties."
The preacher was reading
Andy's card during this request and was impressed by
the official stature of his visitor. "Why would a
medical examiner be interested in this miracle at my
Andy could answer this
truthfully and tell the preacher that investigating
the mysterious was a hobby of his or he could lie by
inferring that it might preclude any trouble with
the authorities to let him examine the scene. Since
he wanted permission for a close examination, he
decided, as usual, to lie, at least a little bit.
"Well, Reverend, when there is any kind of incident
involving strange blood, state health policies
require official investigation. I'm surprised
someone from the county hasn't been here already."
A look of quizzical concern
gradually replaced the normally blank countenance of
the Reverend. "No, I haven't seen or heard from the
courthouse on this, but I guess it's all right if
you take a closer look. I just don't want the
government writin' reports that see this as anything
other than the miracle it is—a simple sign of the
strength of my ministry here in Daltonville."
Andy struggled hard with the
ridiculous display of pomposity. He rapidly
oscillated between a flare of temper and busting out
laughing, but he managed to suppress both. "I assure
you, Reverend, that I'll treat the entire event with
the dignity it deserves."
Andy could tell by the slight
upturn at the corners of the Reverend's mouth that
he had struck the right chord. The statement managed
to appeal to the preacher's inflated sense of
importance even though it didn't really promise
anything. He had learned how to make those kinds of
statements over the years in dealing with the
political pressures of his job. He didn't like
double-speak, but after being burned enough times
for his natural candor, he had learned to fight fire
Andy moved around the pulpit
to the statue hung on the painted concrete block
wall. It was roughly twice real-size and wasn't
particularly well done. It was undoubtedly
mass-produced with little artistry being exercised
on the painting of the plastic shell. The sculpted
wound in the side of the figure was stained a dark
red-brown from what appeared to be dried blood. On
the floor below the feet, a small pool of dried
blood was still apparent.
Turning back toward the
preacher, Andy asked if any of the blood had been
removed since Sunday and was assured that no one had
touched the blood or the statue until now. Andy took
out his small notebook and wrote, "about 400 ml of
Reaching inside his bag, Andy
removed a small ziplock bag, and a scalpel with a
plastic sheath. With the scalpel, he neatly carved
off a penny-sized hunk of the blood from the floor
and put it into the bag, along with the re-sheathed
scalpel. He zipped the seal shut with his thumb and
forefinger, placed it in his examination bag, and
stood up where he could again examine the blood on
the side of the statue.
He reached again inside his
examination bag and pulled out a xenon bulb
flashlight and thin flexible strip of stainless
steel about ten inches long and one inch wide. With
the flashlight, he carefully examined the apparent
blood in the sculpted wound. He was looking for some
sign of a hole where the blood could have come from,
but he couldn't see any sort of opening or crack.
Moving so his body blocked the preacher's view, he
took the stainless steel strip and ran it behind the
figure, between the wall and the fiber glass shell.
Well, that was about all he
could do here. The next step was to examine the
blood and determine the animal of origin. He needed
the lab for that, so he closed his bag with the
sample, thanked the preacher again, and headed back
to the office.
With the stereo on loud and
the cruise control set about ten miles per hour
faster than the speed limit, Andy ruminated about
the New Baptist Church of the Savior and the
Reverend Otis Redmond on his way back to Daltonville
the next day. He concluded that the Reverend just
didn't seem smart enough to even try a faked
miracle, much less pull it off. It was perplexing.
He would have taken a bet and
given odds that it was chicken, cow, or pig blood he
had taken from the church, but surprisingly, the lab
tests showed it was definitely human. The type,
however, was a different matter. The type matching
tests were inconclusive, showing some signs of being
simultaneously A, B, and O, but not really any one
type. But the strangest thing about the blood was
the red and white cell count. The red cell count was
extremely low and the white count extremely high.
Whoever this blood came from was extremely sick.
That is, of course, it you didn't count it as a
miracle of some sort to begin with.
As a man of much science and
little religion, Andy had a hard time accepting the
blood as part of some miracle. However, he had been
unable to detect any way that the blood could have
been made to manifest itself during the sermon,
right there in front of the whole congregation. A
mystery he would concede, but not a miracle. He
needed to talk to the town's general practitioner,
and his appointment was in about fifteen minutes.
He entered Dr. Helman's
office, attached to what was obviously his home,
with about a minute to spare before his appointment.
He was intercepted by a uniformed nurse sitting at a
desk in front of about fifteen old oak filing
cabinets. She appeared to be past retirement age,
but was busy ripping across a keyboard apparently
attached to the computer on the side of her desk.
Her fingers worked more like they were thirty than
sixty. She looked up over the top of her
half-glasses. "Can I help you Mr."
Andy donned his best,
hopefully-expectant expression and replied. "Cannon.
Andrew Cannon. I have an appointment with the
Her eyes settled back down
into the lower half-moons of her glasses and her
fingers again started their rhythm on the keyboard.
"Take a seat Mr. Cannon. The doctor will be with you
in a few minutes."
The "few minutes" turned out
to be about thirty-five, but eventually he was
directed through the door on the right-hand side of
the sitting room, at no apparent signal, into the
office of Dr. Bryant Helman. The doctor was seated
behind his desk and rose, extending his hand, as
Andy entered the office. He was an obviously gentle
man, with ramrod straight posture, even though he
seemed well into his seventies, and his handshake
was firm but quiet.
Andy knew that Dr. Helman had
to be a man of infinite patience to be a small town
doctor, dealing with the pettiness of the patient
for a disproportionate amount of time out of every
day. It was that very necessity of dealing
face-to-face with patients that had sent Andy
seeking a medical specialty where patient
communication was not a requirement.
"My appointment card tells me
you're the Chief Medical Examiner for Little Rock,
Dr. Cannon. What can I help you with?"
"Let me get right to it, sir.
I was making an examination of some blood samples of
unknown origin here in Daltonville and discovered
that the red cell counts were very low and the white
cell counts were very high. I was wondering if you
were aware of any patients you are seeing that could
fit this profile?"
Dr. Helman frowned. "This
`blood of unknown origin' have anything to do with
the miracle at the Baptist church?"
Andy looked the doctor
straight in the eyes thinking, "he might be in his
seventies, but he's still sharp." Andy continued.
"Well, yes. It was a sample I took from underneath
"What was the blood type?"
"Well, I was unable to get a
definitive match from the sample."
"Got a partial match on all
Andy was at the end of his
string. "Obviously, doctor, you have a good idea
whose blood this is."
"Oh, I have more than a good
idea. I know precisely whose blood it is, and I
don't like it a bit. One of Otis Redmond's youngest
sons has leukemia and a blood that they couldn't
type at Johns Hopkins from the sample I sent them.
If Otis is mistreating them again, I'll have the
sheriff on him this time."
"One of the preacher's
"Actually, he's the youngest
son by about seven minutes. I delivered both of
them. Luke and John, identical twins. It's still
hard to tell them apart, even though John's lost a
lot of weight over the last year. I couldn't believe
it when John got sick. The only other times either
of them had been sick was when I gave them
immunization shots. The first time was the DPT shot.
They both came down with a high fever and all the
symptoms of diphtheria by evening. The next morning
when I went out to see them, they looked like they
had never been sick. The next time was when I gave
them the polio vaccine. Same response; came down
with the symptoms of polio by nightfall and the next
morning - clean as a whistle. I gave up on trying to
immunize them from anything after that; figured they
were somehow already equipped to handle anything
life would through at 'em. I was right too, until
John came down with leukemia, which I still don't
Andy was thoroughly hooked now
by the doctor's recitation. "Is there anything else
unusual in these boys' medical history that you know
Dr. Helman gave a short
chuckle. "That I know about? Hell son, I know the
medical history of everybody in this town and a lot
of their other history as well. The answer is, yes.
There's a lot of strange things in their medical
history. In fact, all of their medical history is
strange. Umm, let's see, like when Luke stepped on a
nail in the barn, old piece of siding with a rusty
nail, damn near went clean through his foot. I had
the tetanus vaccine in my hand, ready to give it to
him, before I remembered their early reactions to
vaccines. I debated with myself for a long minute
but decided not to give it. Needless to say, Luke
didn't contract tetanus, but his foot was healed
well enough that when I stopped off to see him the
next day on my way home, he was running around in
the front yard, barefoot, playing with his brother."
"The most memorable oddity
though was when their mother was killed in the auto
accident. Damn fool from the city; didn't slow down
when he came into town and drunk as a lord.
According to two witnesses, a dog ran out into the
street and the guy jerked the wheel over, running
right into the driver's door on Otis Redmond's
pickup truck. Mary was driving to the hardware store
with the boys, her boys, the twins, with her. Mary
was killed, I'd say pretty instantly when her head
hit the metal rim of the door, just above the
window. The boys, they got a lot of cuts and bruises
all over but nothing real serious. I can't remember
how many stitches I put in them, but I found out it
was probably a waste of effort. Three days later
there wasn't a sign of a bruise and the cuts were
healed. I even went ahead and took out the stitches.
Three days after that, I couldn't even find the
"You know this is pretty
unbelievable, don't you?"
Dr. Helman replied with a
crinkle in his voice if not on his face. "Sure I do,
that's why I've never spoken to anyone about this
before except my wife, and she doesn't believe half
of what I tell her anyway. But you haven't asked me
about their mother yet. Are you curious?"
Andy couldn't get his response
out quick enough. "After what you've already told
me, I'm curious about everything involving these
boys. What do you know about the mother?"
"Now, the mother is even more
interesting than the boys, but I don't know much in
a medical way, but then, what I do know medically is
also out of the ordinary. She never came to me
during her pregnancy, which appears to have been
normal, but Otis insisted that I be called for the
delivery, since his first wife had died giving birth
to his third child, Naomi. The birth of the twins
was absolutely normal, but Mary's heartbeat was the
strangest thing you ever heard. Sounded suspiciously
like two hearts beating, instead of one. You had to
listen close because most of the time they were
beating together, but when she was having a
contraction the beats seemed to get out of step. I
was sorely tempted to have a look after the
accident, but there was no real cause for an
"Two hearts! You're not
pulling my leg?"
"No son, I wouldn't do that,
even to a city slicker." Dr. Helman was clearly
enjoying this conversation.
"Was Mary Redmond a native of
"Well son, you've saved the
best question for last. Not only was she not a
native of the area, she was found collapsed on Mabel
Jensen's porch in the middle of a thunderstorm.
Mabel lives pretty far out of town and never
remarried after her husband was killed in Vietnam.
Mabel said she heard someone pounding on her door,
and being alone, went to look out the window before
going to the door. She said she saw Mary lying on
her back, apparently collapsed after getting to the
door. Mabel gave her that name when she didn't seem
to know her own and it stuck. Anyway, Mabel got her
raincoat and went out in the rain. Mary roused when
she tried to get her in the house and was able to
walk. Mabel said she appeared dazed and didn't
respond to any questions; didn't make any sounds at
all, in fact. Mabel gets a little vague with her
story here and claims she doesn't know why she did
it, but she just helped Mary up the stairs to her
spare room. She helped her take off her wet clothes,
which were like silk pajamas with no underclothes,
put her to bed, and didn't call a soul to tell them
about the stranger on her doorstep. Just went to
bed. Next morning, Mary appeared physically fine,
but she still appeared to be dazed. She appeared
dazed or drugged or shocked or retarded or something
similar all the rest of her life, which was only
about four years."
"How in the hell did she
become Otis Redmond's wife?"
"Well, even though she
appeared a bit retarded, she was a strikingly good
looking woman. Now, Otis is a bit raw-boned, but
he's a strapping and handsome enough man. She was
about five-nine or ten, white blond hair, just like
her boys, big blue eyes, and fine-boned features.
Also just a hint of an almond shape to her eyes,
like an oriental without any epicanthan folds. As I
said, Otis had lost his wife in childbirth about
five years before, and he was having a devil of a
time with the kids, particularly the young girl.
Seems like he had no idea how to raise a girl.
"After a couple of months
living with Mabel and helping around the farm, local
people sort of got used to Mary as part of the
community. When you have the ability to fix damn
near anything that's broke, you find it easy to get
along with people living out in the country, and she
could do most anything that needed doing around the
farm according to Mabel. One day, Otis just went to
Mabel and asked if he could hire Mary as a live-in
housekeeper. Mabel was taken aback by the preacher's
asking her permission. She pointed out that Mary was
obviously an adult and that Otis would have to speak
with her about a job. Which he did, and took her to
meet the kids.
"By this time Mary was
speaking a little but not much, only short phrases
and simple words, but she made herself clear that
she would take the job and moved in with Otis and
his family. I'm not sure what happened between Otis
and Mary after that. I suspect that having Mary in
the house was more than Otis could stand as a man
without a wife for five years, and he decided he
needed to marry her. I didn't go to the wedding, but
my wife went, and she swears that Mary had no idea
what was going on. Mary was like that. If you
watched her actions and responses to things going on
around her, you would think she was retarded, but
she was very very bright when it came to getting
things done. Mabel said she fixed everything on the
farm that had broken down since her husband had
Andy sat in the chair across
from Dr. Helman, his mouth hanging slightly open in
amazement at what he had just heard. "Doctor, I'm
really happy you decided to talk to me about this.
Do you think Mabel would be willing to talk to me?"
Dr. Helman grinned. "Well son,
I expect she would if I gave her a call before you
Andy couldn't contain his
enthusiasm. "Would you do that, please?"
"Well, I might. What's your
interest in all this?"
Andy had to decide again if he
was going to tell the whole truth, a shade of the
truth, or an outright lie. This time he decided on
the whole truth, because he doubted this
unsophisticated but wise old country doctor would be
fooled by a simple or even a clever lie. "It has
nothing to do with my official capacity as a medical
examiner. It's sort of a hobby of mine to
investigate strange events, particularly those that
brush up against my professional acumen. I read
about the bleeding statue in the paper yesterday and
came out to take a look—or perhaps to debunk the
"Uh huh. Looks like you
might've gotten more than you can chew this time
though. All right. I'll call Mabel for you, and you
keep me informed about anything you find out."
"Uh, one more thing, doctor.
You said something about Otis Redmond abusing his
children. Did you observe this abuse or the results
The question brought a frown
to Dr. Helman's face. "Yes, I did. Once, and the
boys told me it went on all the time, and I believed
"Otis brought Luke in to the
office about four years ago with his thumb
dislocated, told me Luke had done it falling down
the cellar stairs. Otis was real agitated, like he
was mad at the world for having to bring the boy to
the doctor. Otis stayed in the reception room, and I
took Luke in the back room and told him to sit in
the chair while I fixed his thumb. I saw him wince
when he sat in the chair, and I asked him what was
wrong. He said he was all right, but after I got his
thumb back in place and taped, I told him to take
his pants off so I could take a look at that too. He
didn't want to; said it would be all right by the
afternoon, but I insisted. It was no wonder he
winced. He had flaming red welts all over his bottom
and upper legs, many of them severe enough along the
edges to bleed. I asked him how this happened, but
he said he did it falling down the cellar steps. I
told him I knew that wasn't true, and I wouldn't ask
about it again, but I wanted him to know he could
always come and tell me about such things if he
thought he needed to. The boy was only eight at the
time, but he was already as bright as his mother
without her worldly detachment. He understood me
"Has he ever come to talk to
"Not specifically for that
purpose, but I've had quite a lot of time with them
over the last year and a half, since John came down
with leukemia. Otis doesn't have much money and not
any insurance, so I've been doing all I could for
John myself. The church did come up with money for
one try at chemotherapy for John, but it didn't seem
to help at all. While John was apparently compatible
with any blood type, only his brother Luke's blood
seemed to help any. So as often as I can, I've been
giving John a transfusion of Luke's blood right here
in my office."
Andy sat quietly for a few
seconds, trying to absorb the information he had
just taken in. It was quite apparent that Dr Helman
suspected the twin's mother had been something other
than completely human. A strange position for a
simple, country doctor.
Andy decided to probe just a
little more before going to talk to Mabel Jensen.
"So, how do you think they got John's blood to come
out of the statue?"
Dr. Helman gave a short
chuckle and a shrug of his shoulders. "Well, son, it
seems to me like you're the expert in solving
mysteries here. I'm just a simple country doctor
with a young boy patient that has leukemia and no
money for treatment."
He was right of course, and
Andy had not been able to find any mechanism for
delivering the blood to the statue. But aside from
that, Andy's medical curiosity was bursting at the
seams. "Is the disease progressing or have the
transfusions arrested development?"
Dr. Helman twisted in his
swivel chair, and the worried frown played over his
face again. "It's still progressing. The
transfusions seem only to slow the rate, so I've
been looking at alternatives and Johns Hopkins says
they'll take John as a possible bone marrow
transplant candidate in return for a more thorough
analysis of his unusual blood type. They were
mightily stirred-up when I sent the original sample
to them for typing. I can't get Otis to agree yet,
but I'll keep chipping at him."
It looked to Andy like he had
gotten all he could out of Dr. Helman. He stood to
leave and held out his hand. "Well, thank you for
your candor, Dr. Helman. If you could make that call
to Mabel Jensen and give me some directions, I would
sure appreciate it."
Dr. Helman shook his hand with
a wry smile. "But, son, you haven't asked me about
the boys' hearts yet, and you the mystery sleuth."
Andy was speechless for a
moment. By God, Helman was right. It had completely
gotten by him. He hadn't even thought to ask about
any of their other physical characteristics.
Observing the stunned look on
Andy's face, Dr. Helman hurried on. "I'm just funnin'
you, son. There isn't anything else to tell you.
When I ordered John's x-rays I slipped in a few that
would show me a good view of the heart and other
internal organs. It all looked as normal as apple
Mabel Jensen did live a long
way out of town, but there was only one road, so it
was fairly easy not to get lost. Andy had spotted
the name on the weathered, galvanized steel mailbox
and turned up the lane to a simple frame house about
a hundred yards off the road. The house sat in a
small copse of thirty to forty-year-old oaks and
walnuts, completely surrounded by alternating fields
of corn and beans. There was a ten-year old, blue
pickup jutting out of the front of a small barn-like
structure to the right of the house itself. Someone
was hanging clothes on a series of lines stretched
out between the barn and the house. She turned to
look as Andy came up the drive.
The woman Andy assumed was
Mabel Jensen bent over and picked up the small
sapling pole lying on the ground at her feet and
caught the line in the notched V at one end. She
pushed the foot of the pole away from her, driving
the line higher off the ground. She took off her
apron, which was filled with clothespins, folded it
onto the top of the laundry basket now half-filled
with wet clothes, and started toward Andy's car.
As Andy climbed out of the
car, she started talking, even though she was still
thirty feet away. "Dr. Cannon?"
Andy pulled up one of his glad
to meet you smiles. "Yes, just Andy will do. I guess
you must be Mabel Jensen. Dr. Helman said he'd call
you. I guess he did."
Mabel closed the ground
between them quickly, stopping just a few feet in
front of Andy. She was short and chunky, but there
didn't look like any fat on the bare arms sticking
out of the short sleeved chambray shirt she was
"Oh yes. He called. Said you
were the Medical Examiner in Little Rock and wanted
to ask some questions about Mary Redmond. I told him
that was fine, but after I hung up I wondered what
kind of questions you might want to be asking about
a woman that died ten years ago."
Andy quickly decided that
partial truth was called for in this instance and
replied, "I was inquiring primarily about the
Redmond boy, John, that has leukemia, and Dr. Helman
told me about the strange appearance of Mary Redmond
on your doorstep. He also told me that Mary might
have had some unusual physical traits that could
have been passed to her boys, so I wanted to speak
with you about Mary and find out first hand if you
were aware of anything physically unusual about
Mabel looked a little taken
aback, but recovered quickly. "Well, I never noticed
much about her physically except she was darned
pretty, almost exotic you might say. What I noticed
most was her mental condition. She was plenty smart,
don't get me wrong, but she didn't know her name
when I brought her into the house, and as far as I
know, never did remember it. Amnesia, I guess. She
certainly seemed to have suffered some kind of
trauma. She got better over the years, but she was
always just slightly out of focus with what was
going on around her. It was like she was listening
to some other conversation, not yours, when you
tried to talk to her. Not that she was much of a
conversationalist anyway. She hardly ever had much
to say, and at first she could hardly find the words
to tell you what she wanted for breakfast. Sweet as
a young child though. Do anything I asked her, once
she understood me. Never complained. And she could
fix anything that was broken: trucks, television,
plumbing, anything at all. Oh yeah, she was real
strong. I never saw her do anything out of the
ordinary, but some of the things she did around the
farm would have taken a very strong man to get them
done. I don't know how she did them, and when I
would ask her about it, she would just smile and say
she was persistent and good at doing things
different from most people. I never really figured
out what that meant."
Andy was waiting to get a word
in, and when Mabel paused, he jumped in. " Was she
"Not a day the whole time I
knew her. She was in none too good a condition that
first night on my porch, but that seemed more like
being tired out than sick. Nope, she was never sick,
and she always seemed to be in a good mood too.
Never grumpy, even early in the morning or late at
night. Otis Redmond got himself a better catch with
her than he did the first time around, and she was
better to the kids than their own mother had been.
You could tell just by seeing the change in the kids
once she started taking care of them."
Andy only had one more
question, so he asked it. "Did she ever say anything
about where she came from, or did she have any
identification on her that night when she showed up
on your porch?"
"Nope. Just had on that black
jump-suit-like outfit, with no shoes. Made out of
some kind of material that felt like silk. Real thin
material, but it didn't stretch and didn't tear when
I took it off of her, even though it was wet and
tight, and I had to pull awful hard to get it down
off her legs and over her feet. She never put it on
again after that night. I left it on a hanger in her
room that night so it could dry, but to tell you the
truth, it seemed dry when I got it off her. I gave
her some of my clothes to wear even though they were
a mite short for her, and she wore those until we
could buy her something in town. A few days later I
noticed the jump suit or pajamas or whatever it was
still hanging in her room, folded it up, and put it
in a drawer. They're still there. Only thing left of
hers around here now."
God, what luck. Andy tried not
to show too much excitement. "Do you think I could
see the jump suit?"
"Sure. I guess it's still
there. Come on in the house. I should have asked you
in for a glass of tea on a day like this anyway. I
don't get many visitors way out here as it is. I got
to be more careful about running them off with bad
manners. Come on."
Mabel turned on the ball of
her foot and lit out for the house in a good country
stride. Instead of heading in the front door, Mabel
circled to the back of the house and went in through
the kitchen door. Motioning for Andy to sit in one
of the kitchen chairs, it took her about a minute to
grab some glasses, retrieve some ice from the
freezing compartment of the refrigerator, and pour
some already sweetened tea from a ready pitcher on
the top shelf of the refrigerator itself.
As Andy took a slug of the
heavily sweetened tea, Mabel took a sip of hers, set
the glass on the kitchen table, and rushed into the
interior of the house trailing words behind her.
"I'll be right back. I know just where it is."
Andy looked around the
kitchen. There were little plates with pictures on
them hanging on every wall in groups of three, four,
and five. Every surface had something decorative on
it, but the clutter was carefully aligned and
without a speck of dust he could detect. He could
hear Mabel walking in the room over the kitchen. As
his inspection of the kitchen was noticing the
multi-layers of bright new paint on the cabinets and
walls, Mabel popped back through the door with what
looked like a black silk kerchief in her hand.
"It was right where I remember
putting it all those years ago," she chuckled as she
handed it to Andy. "It looks like it got squashed
though from the old winter clothes that I'd put on
Andy could feel the almost
weightless silkiness of the black material in his
right hand and quickly brought his left hand up to
feel its texture and thickness. It was so thin that
it virtually had no substance, but it was totally
opaque. He couldn't tell if it was woven or a film
like a plastic wrap, but he noted with amazement
that as he unfolded it, there were no wrinkles of
any kind in the material. Each former fold was as
flat and creaseless as if it had never been made.
There was no trace of any form of joining or
seaming, like it had been formed from some base
material directly into its present shape. When he
picked up a single layer of the material and tried
to stretch it he detected a slight give, and he
found that the material would stretch, but very
slowly. In fact, as he continued to apply pressure,
the material continued to stretch. With a little
experimental effort, he was able to pull a portion
of the material to about ten times its normal size
over a period of about a minte of steady pressure.
When he released the material, he watched as it
flowed back to its original shape in about half the
time it had taken to distort it.
He had forgotten about Mabel,
and he was startled when she spoke. "Kind a spooky
ain't it? I remember struggling to get that stuff
off her that night, but I really haven't thought
about it since then. I got no use for it, so you can
take it with you if it will be of any use to you."
Andy looked up at Mabel
standing over his chair. She was smiling. He was
stunned. He shook his head up and down in lieu of
trying to speak in this state and stood slowly,
pushing his chair out behind him on the smooth vinyl
floor as he did so.
He remembered mumbling profuse
words of thanks as he stumbled out of Mabel Jensen's
kitchen, but he was almost back to town before he
really came to his senses. He dug in his glove box
for the computer-generated map of Daltonville. He
flipped it open with his right hand, his left on the
steering wheel, and held it up where he could take
darting glances from the road to the map and back.
He found the circled area where the Redmond house
was located, noting that he would have to go back to
the center of town to get there. He put the map on
the seat beside him and slipped back into a reverie
of wonder, only rousing himself occasionally to look
at the map.
After a terrible egg salad
sandwich and a coke from a service station along the
way to make up for the lunch he had missed three
hours ago, Andy found himself at the Redmond house.
There were two pre-teen boys in the front yard in
shorts and T-shirts kicking a soccer ball back and
forth between them. The house behind them was a
simple, two-story frame structure in bad need of
paint. There was a rail-less porch running all the
way across the front of the house that held a rusty
steel glider and two equally rusty steel chairs. No
cushions were in evidence.
There was no car in the
driveway and no other place than the road for one to
be parked, so Andy pulled in and stopped. The boys
looked his way but kept kicking the ball. As Andy
swiveled himself out and up, one of the boys picked
up the ball and started towards the car. "You want
"I wanted to talk with the
Reverend Otis Redmond. Are you boys Luke and John?"
The boy holding the ball spoke
up again. "I'm Luke. That's John over there. Papa
ain't here. He and my sister Ruth went to DePaul's
store for groceries. There's just John and me. Did
you want something?"
Of course Andy wanted
something. He wanted to talk to the boys not the
Reverend anyway. Andy decided on a half-truth
approach with the boys. "I wanted to talk to your
Dad about the bleeding statue in the church last
Sunday. Did you boys see that?"
Luke got a little grin on his
face, and John, still standing over in front of the
house studied the ground. "Yeah, we seen it. We
gotta go to church every Sunday."
Andy considered his options
and decided he might as well jump in. "Well, I was
here yesterday and took a sample of the blood on the
floor. I'm the Medical Examiner up in Little Rock,
and I ran some tests on the blood. Turns out that
whoever's blood it was has a blood disease called
leukemia, so I came back to town today and talked
with Dr. Helman. He tells me that John has
Andy stopped there, waiting to
see if he would get any response from one of the
boys. John still studied the ground, and Luke's
expression went from the grin to one of
apprehension. Neither one said a word.
"Did you boys play some kind
of joke on your Dad using John's blood?"
There was no response from
either boy. "How did you get that much blood from
John? In his condition, he needs to hold on to all
the red blood cells he can get. It's dangerous for
him to loose that much blood just for a joke."
Luke's expression lost its
apprehension in anger. "We're not stupid mister. I'd
never do anything to hurt John. He wasn't feeling
very good last Sunday, so we decided to give him
some more of my blood to make him feel better." As
the angry blurb came ripping out, Luke appeared to
catch himself and shut his mouth abruptly. His face
clearly showed that he knew he had said too much.
"We didn't hurt nobody. We were just makin' fun of
Papa and the other people at church who are oh-so
holy on Sunday and do whatever they want the rest of
the time. We didn't mean nothin' by it."
Andy was stunned. Did Luke
just say he gave John a blood transfusion to make
him feel better? How the Hell did he do that? "Did
Dr. Helman give you some of John's blood from the
blood transfusion? What are you saying?"
Luke turned abruptly from Andy
and walked back to his brother. John never took his
eyes off the ground while Luke said something to
him, and they both walked to the house, up the
porch, and inside, letting the screen door bang
Andy was left standing dumb in
the driveway. He shook himself a little and climbed
back in the car. As he backed out of the driveway,
he said aloud to himself and the otherwise empty
car, "well, I'm glad I cleared that up." He shifted
from reverse to drive and didn't stop until he got
to the suburbs of Little Rock.
It had been two days since his
last visit to Daltonville, and Andy still hadn't
decided what to do with the less than an ounce of
black jump suit that had been Mary Redmond's. His
examination of the material had revealed nothing of
its origin or composition. He could neither cut it
nor pierce it. It didn't burn and it didn't melt.
While it would slowly stretch to about 20 times its
normal size before finally resisting further
distortion, if struck rapidly, like trying to pierce
it with a knife thrust, it gave not at all. The
whole piece of material just seemed to grow
absolutely rigid, like it had turned into armor
The strongest acids available
in his lab had shown no effect on the material, and
examination under his scanning microscope showed the
strangest mystery of all. The high-resolution screen
of the microscope might as well have been black and
white, since even the high magnification and the
various-spectrum light sources he used failed to
elicit anything but a uniform absence of color, or
black. There was, however, a pattern to the material
that could be perceived at the highest levels of
magnification. It was a perfect filigree of linked
triangles. The side of each open triangle was about
three times as long as the thickness of material
that surrounded it, and the linked strands appeared
to be cylindrical along their lengths and filleted
to each other at their intersections. It almost
looked like crystal growth in its regularity of
Whatever the material was and
whatever its origin, it would be worth a fortune to
the right company. Of course, the U. S. Government
would snatch it up as soon as its existence became
known, and it would probably never be seen or heard
of again. The fact of its very existence would
probably be denied vigorously. So Andy did nothing
with it except examine it in every way he had at his
disposal and think about it twenty hours a day,
since he wasn't getting much sleep the last couple
Still trying to wake up from
the sleep he didn't get, Andy sat at his kitchen
table drinking coffee and reading the newspaper
before going to work. He had pushed his mostly empty
bowl of granola-nut cereal and one-percent milk to
the center of the table and had the paper spread out
before him. About five pages into it he saw a small
head, "Minister of Daltonville Miracle Church
Disappears." He read the small box of text under the
head, "The Sheriff of Belkingham County reported
Friday that his department was searching for the
Reverend Otis Redmond who mysteriously disappeared
from his residence on Thursday. The Reverend was
reportedly in his home with his three children still
living there when he abruptly left the house and
never returned. His car was left in the driveway,
and a search of the surrounding area has produced no
hint of his whereabouts. The Sheriff's office said
that the search was continued on Friday using the
entire department and local volunteers, mostly from
the Reverend's congregation. No clues were found.
"This is the same Reverend
Otis Redmond that reported a miracle in his church
last Sunday, where the statue of Christ in his
church appeared to be bleeding from the area of the
spear wound in his side. Paul Satterwhite of the
Little Rock Tribune investigated that claim last
Monday and found what appeared to be blood on the
statue. Interviews with the members of the
congregation appeared to confirm the Reverend's
contention that the blood started flowing
spontaneously, in the middle of his Sunday morning
"When asked, the Sheriff
replied that it was not known if there was any
connection between the "miracle" and the mysterious
Andy left his half finished
coffee on the table, grabbed his cell phone from the
kitchen counter, plucked his sport coat from the
back of a kitchen chair, and headed for his car. As
he pulled out of his driveway, he punched the speed
dial for his office and informed his secretary that
he would be in later today and would get back with
her when he had a more specific time. He was heading
As he pulled into the driveway
of the Redmond house, he could tell the place was
shut up. It was a beautiful early May day and it was
already getting hot. He guessed the boys were at
school, and he wasn't sure about the age of the
Reverend's daughter. As he gave a peremptory knock
on the door and peered in the small windows at the
top of it, it was apparent that whatever the other
children's ages, they were not at the Redmond house.
He slid back into his car and
started looking for the local police station, if
there was one. As he found out from the small Mom
and Pop store about a half-mile down the road, the
sheriff's office was in Daltonville, since it was
the county seat.
The sheriff's office was one
of several offices arranged in a strip mall line of
brick-fronted county offices, fronted by a narrow
parking lot. Andy made his inquiry at the desk of a
deputy who looked like he was not enjoying his turn
at pulling the office duty. A secretary or clerk sat
at another desk behind the deputy wearing a small
telephone headset and boom mike with a radio
microphone in front of her. She was reading a
"You say you're the Medical
Examiner in Little Rock? What does Little Rock have
to do with the missing Reverend?"
Andy was getting tired of the
verbal jousting already. "I told you. Little Rock
has no official interest in the case. I was here
Tuesday making a personal investigation of the
supposed miracle at the Reverend's church, and I was
concerned for the children when I saw that the
Reverend had disappeared. Can you just tell me where
the children are staying? I guess they're at school
now, but where are they staying? Is there any family
in the area that could take them in?"
The deputy still wasn't
placated. "I still don't see what concern it is of
yours, but I guess it's okay to tell you that
they're staying with the sister of Reverend
Redmond's first wife. It's Amy's aunt. That's the
Reverend's daughter, and her aunt said she would
look after the boys and Amy until we found Reverend
Redmond. She lives just up the road from Redmond's
house." The deputy pulled a sheet of paper off the
pad in front of him and drew a crude but adequate
map to the aunt's house. He pushed it across to Andy
who mumbled a thanks and left.
The house came into view
through a sketchy thicket of scrub pines on the left
as Andy came around the turn. He was focused on the
mailbox so he could read the name on it as soon as
he was close enough, but his eyes caught the motion
of someone going up the narrow wooden steps to the
porch of the white frame house. He watched while
they yanked open the screen door and slammed open
the wooden front door of the house with their
shoulder. He wasn't sure, but it looked like Otis
Andy took the turn into the
driveway with a slight skid and drove up to the side
of the house. He snatched the keys out of the dash
almost before the car had completely stopped and ran
for the door of the house. The front door was still
open and he could hear a loud voice that sounded
like one of the twins. "It was me, Papa. John didn't
do anything, Papa. It was just me. Don't hurt him,
Just as Andy was getting to
the door, he heard Otis Redmond's voice rising in
all the fire-and-brimstone fury of a southern
preacher. "Devil's spawn. That's what you are. Your
mother was an incarnation of the devil that came to
tempt me in the Garden, and I fell, just like Adam,
but I'll end it now. I'll send you both back to Hell
where you belong."
Andy could see Otis through
the gray dimming of the screen door as he was
reaching to open it. He had a fireplace poker in his
hand, raised above his head. On the floor in front
of him on his knees was one of the twins with his
head down and his hands and arms in front of his
face. Andy got the screen door open just as the
poker was descending in its lethal arc, and then it
was gone. The poker and Otis Redmond simply
vanished, leaving a pop ringing in the room like
someone had clapped their hands.
Andy's momentum took him into
the center of the living room before he could catch
himself, and when he did, it made a strange tableau.
Over on the far side of the room, sitting on the
floor with his knees drawn up and his back against
the wall was Luke, blood on his lower lip and
trickling down the left corner to his chin. His left
eye was swollen and had the light blue-yellow of bad
bruises a week old. John was still on his knees,
just a few feet from Andy. He hadn't moved during
the whole episode.
Finally, Andy gave motion to
the strange scene as he reached down to take one of
the hands covering John's head and face. "John, it's
Dr. Cannon, I talked to you boys a couple of days
ago. Are you all right?"
John dropped his other hand
and turned his head up slowly to look at Andy. He
shook his head, yes, but he didn't say anything.
Luke interjected himself from across the room. "He's
all right, Dr. Cannon. I didn't let Papa hit him."
Under different circumstances,
Andy would have greeted Luke's words with the
observation that that was the understatement of a
lifetime, but his concern for the boys suppressed
his normal wry humor. "What happened to your Father,
Luke's eyes narrowed and his
chin lifted slightly. "I sent him away again," he
"Again," Andy repeated.
"You've done this before?"
"Yeah, I did it the other day
when he took the strap to me and started to take it
to John, who hadn't said anything to sass him. And I
sent him without his clothes and shoes too, not like
last year when he hitchhiked and came back in a few
Andy felt a need to sit down.
He gently lowered John's hand, patted him on the
shoulder, and made his way to the battered sofa
against the wall, roughly between Luke and John. The
boys stayed where they were. "Luke, where did you
'send' your Father, and how did you do it?"
Luke shrugged his shoulders.
"John and me, we could always send things from one
place to the other. We used to throw a ball without
touching it when Papa wasn't around, but he'd beat
us if he caught us at it. John hasn't been as good
at it since he's been sick, but he still helps when
we do some things. Last summer I sent Papa up to our
campsite on Potts' Creek when he started after John
with a hickory stick. It's about twenty-five miles
from here. We used to go there a lot with Papa to
fish when we were smaller, but he hasn't taken us
there in a lot of years, least not since John and me
started 'moving' things. But I didn't send him to
Potts' Creek this time. I just sent him away, like I
do snakes and other things we don't want to see no
more. I don't know where they go when I do that, but
ain't nothin' ever come back when I did it."
"My God," thought Andy, "has
he murdered his Father? Of course it would be
self-defense. It was clear that Otis Redmond was
going to kill his boys with that poker."
"Luke, can you tell me how you
do this 'moving' and 'sending away'?"
"I don't know. We just do it,
but it helps to know what things look like when we
do something really hard like me giving John some of
Andy's mind jumped back to the
"miracle" in the church. "So that was John's blood
on the statue in the church?"
"Yeah, I was just trying to
make Papa look silly to the people in the church.
John wasn't feeling very good and it was another
three weeks before Dr. Helman would let me give him
any blood the way the doctor did it. So we did it
right there in church like we always do, except
instead of just sending some of John's blood away to
make room for mine, I sent it to the statue. We just
thought it would embarrass Papa. We didn't know
there'd be such a fuss about it."
Andy sat back on the sofa,
trying to collect the multitude of thoughts spinning
in his head. He needed to ask the right questions
while Luke was still in an adrenaline induced,
talkative mood. "You said it was easier to do this
'sending' when you knew what things looked like.
What did you mean by that?"
"You know, like what your
blood looks like. The red and white cells, how it
moves through the heart and the veins and
everything. I read about it and looked at the
pictures in the encyclopedia and on the Internet in
the school's library. When I knew better what it was
supposed to look like, it was like I could 'see' it
running through John's veins. It made it easier to
"You've been giving John your
blood on a regular basis?"
"It was after Dr. Helman
started giving John the transfusions and they really
made him feel better, but the doctor wouldn't give 'em
to him but every eight weeks. He said it wouldn't be
good for me, but since I figured out how to do it,
I've been giving John some of my blood about every
week now for the past year, and I ain't felt bad
Andy thought, "Yeah, your
metabolism probably isn't any more normal than your
brain functions." He asked Luke, "So you're saying
you can see the blood cells in your body and
A smile played at the corners
of Luke's mouth. " I can see yours too."
"What about the bones and
The smile gave way to a
perplexed look. "Well, I can see a little bit of
that, but it really helps, like I told you, to be
able to know what I'm looking for."
Andy sat back on the sofa
again. The intensity of the moment seemed to keep
bringing him to the edge of the cushions, and as he
settled back, he had an idea. "So you could even
'move' bones if you wanted to?"
"I don't know, probably, but
why would I want to move somebody's bones? Wouldn't
that kill 'em?"
It was Andy's turn to smile.
"Not if you were moving just a bit of bone marrow,
Luke. I think I have an idea that will fix John's
problem, not just make him feel better for a little
while. You'll have to spend some time looking at
medical texts and photographs taken through
microscopes, but it might be possible for you to
really cure your brother by clearing out the cancer
in his bones and providing a little bit of your own
bone marrow to get things back to the way they ought
to be inside his bones. That's where your body makes
red blood cells. Are you willing to do the studying
and give it a try?"
"If it'll help John, I'll do
it. I learn real quick."