Klementine pats her reddened eyes with a lace trimmed handkerchief as she follows her husband into Dr. Tavis's waiting room.
Dr. Barden is both exhausted and exhilarated after the events of last night. Everything is turning out to be much more difficult than it seemed in medical school, but last night he finally stood by his principles and it all worked out well.
Barden holds the bottle of Black Pills in his hand. He'd love to dump the whole thing down the outhouse, but he reminds himself that these are Tavis's supplies, not his own, and he has no right to dispose of them.
Jessep brought the hay wagon on this sad journey, with bales arranged to form a bier and a horse blanket for a pall.
Jessep: Courage, dear.
Jessep pats his wife's work-reddened hand and looks around for the doctor.
Klementine hopes that this young stand-in for reliable old Dr. Tavis hasn't already disposed of her son's... remains.
Jessep: Is anyone there?
Jessep's voice is hoarse with unshed tears.
Barden is still standing in the back room, feeling pleased with himself and a bit sleep-deprived.
Barden's voice is cheerful. He's feeling good.
Jessep frowns at the cheer. He thinks that it would be only decent for the fellow to be sober, after losing a patient a few hours before.
Barden steps out into the waiting room. He freezes and quickly rearranges his expression to an approximation of compassionate sorrow.
Klementine: Hello, doctor. My husband and I were just talking with our minister...
Jessep: He'll let our boy be buried proper, in spite of it all. Because he didn't die a snake, only a potential one.
Klementine nods and wipes her eyes again.
Barden feels a jolt of pure panic. He tries to keep it off his face, but his pale redhead's complexion always displays even the slightest flush.
Klementine: He passed the test. He came to me and let me bring him here to be sure of heaven.
Barden: Uh... um. He didn't kill, ma'am. Be glad of that.
Klementine: If he died before the signs of the soulless appeared, he's safe in heaven.
Klementine struggles not to break down.
Klementine: He did, didn't he? There should have been plenty of time, wasn't there?
Jessep puts his arm around his wife for comfort. Whose comfort he'd just as soon not specify.
Barden: There was plenty of time, ma'am. I took care of him, just like you asked me to.
Barden wonders just how long he'll be able to keep talking his way around the truth. He hopes it will be long enough.
Jessep is ~~ relieved ~~.
Jessep: Well, then, we'll take his body for a decent burial.
Barden: I, um.
Jessep: Is there a problem?
Barden: I don't have his body.
Barden: He's... it's... gone.
Jessep: Gone? Gone where?
Klementine: We should get it back, dear, wherever he's sent it, so he can be buried in hallowed ground.
Barden: Your son is in a better place, sir. What do the details matter?
Jessep: It matters to the boy's family, who loved him and want to see his earthly remains treated with the respect he deserved.
Barden: I, um... There aren't any remains.
Jessep: I won't see him discarded with the diseased carcasses from the slaughterhouse... What?
Barden pulls himself up to his full, gangly height.
Barden: If I recall correctly, sir, his mother's exact words were, "Take care of my boy." I took care of him.
Klementine: I said to see him safely to heaven, too.
Barden: Whether he eventually goes to heaven is entirely between him and God, Ma'am.
Jessep is struck by a ~~ horrifying ~~ thought.
Jessep: Don't tell me you allowed him to escape? And didn't bother to alert the authorities?
Klementine is appalled and clutches her husband's arm.
Barden: No, sir. He didn't escape. He didn't even try to. He's a good boy, and you should be proud of your son.
Jessep sighs in ~~ relief ~~.
Klementine: He was a good boy. We had such... hopes...
Klementine chokes on her words and clenches her jaw to stay composed.
Jessep: Well, then, what is the problem? We have a funeral to plan.
Barden decides it's time to bite the proverbial bullet.
Barden: No, sir, you don't.
Jessep glares at Dr. Barden.
Jessep: You, sir, are being cruel. And at such a time, too!
Barden takes a deep breath.
Barden: Your son is alive and well.
Klementine cries out in horror.
Jessep hugs Klementine.
Klementine: You let his soul be lost! I trusted you!
Jessep: How could you!
Barden: His soul is in God's hands, as are we all.
Klementine: Oh, Jessep, he let our poor boy become a demon. His soul is lost forever.
Klementine cries inconsolably.
Barden: He's not a demon, ma'am. He's a Sime. At approximately 3:15 yesterday afternoon, he received an excellent first transfer from a channel. There's no reason why he should ever kill.
Klementine: My poor dear boy. You let his soul be lost forever. We won't meet him again when we die.
Jessep: You, sir, are guilty of malpractice.
Klementine: He betrayed my trust. Dr. Tavis would never have done anything so cruel!
Barden: I am guilty only of saving a life. I can't speak for what Dr. Tavis would have done, but my conscience is my own, not his.
Jessep: You condemned our boy to live as a Sime!
Barden: If he lives a good life, sir, and never kills, what God would be so cruel as to send him to Hell?
Klementine: You're a unbeliever, aren't you? You don't believe in God's word.
Jessep: Which congregation ordained you? And who are you to second-guess the plain Word of God?
Barden: I believe in God. A God of justice and mercy. A God who would not condemn a man just for the shape of his body.
Klementine: He's not in Hell. His soul is just gone. He'll never see the face of God, after all his courage in coming to us when he knew it might be happening. And we'll never see him again, in Heaven, after we die.
Barden: He's the same person he was yesterday, with the same heart and the same soul. He's not a killer. He's not a berserker. No God worth worshiping would love him less today that he did yesterday.
Jessep: You arrogant... Who are you to decide whether God is worthy of worship? A doctor who won't care for a patient in accordance with the wishes of his family? And himself? Our boy was good. He would not have rejected the chance at salvation for an earthly existence.
Klementine: He proved it, too. And you destroyed him.
Barden: I discussed the alternatives with him. He didn't want to die, if he could live without killing.
Barden recalls the two hours of argument it took to bring the boy around to this point of view.
Klementine: I don't believe you. You forced him to fail his test. You wouldn't give him the pill like you promised. Oh, Jessep, I should have waited for you to come home, but I was afraid it would be too late. And I thought the pill would be easier for all of us.
Jessep: You did what you thought best, Klementine. If he had done his part, our boy would be with God now, waiting for us.
Barden: He held the Pill in his hand, ma'am, all the way to the Sime Center. If we'd been too late, he would have swallowed it. I truly believe he would have.
Barden remembers how the boy did, indeed, swallow the Black Pill on the doorstep of the Sime Center. The placebo, that is.
Klementine: Sime Center... that wicked place... our poor boy...
Klementine buries her face in Jessep's broad shoulder.
Barden: And if I'd been wrong, ma'am, I would have been the Gen standing nearest him.
Klementine: Jessep... should we go to the police? Or back to the minister's house?
Klementine turns her ravaged face to Barden.
Klementine: You evil evil man, to let our son's soul be destroyed when you promised you'd see him safe. God will surely punish you as you deserve in God's own good time.
Barden finally loses it and shouts.
Barden: Who the Hell are you to speak of evil, who worship such a vicious, worthless God?
Klementine is speechless with horror.
Jessep: We are the parents of the child you deprived of hope.
Barden gets a grip on himself again, immediately.
Klementine: You monster. You devil.
Barden: I'm sorry. I shouldn't have shouted.
Klementine: That's not the only thing you shouldn't have done.
Jessep: Why not? You have no morals, it appears, and no conscience. No respect for others, or for our Maker.
Barden reminds himself, again, that these parents are in shock and he mustn't take their anger personally.
Barden: I'm sorry you feel that way.
Klementine: You'll be even sorrier when good Dr. Tavis comes back here.
Jessep: You're a sorry excuse for a doctor all around, and I'm sure he will tell his colleagues exactly what you did.
Barden is quite sure of that.
Jessep takes some poor satisfaction in the knowledge that such blackballing will be devastating for a young doctor without his own established practice.
Klementine: Do you think we should talk to the police, dear? Or maybe not. The chief is one of Brown clan. Maybe lawyer Vested?
Jessep: Lawyer Vested, definitely. If this isn't malpractice, I don't know what is.
Klementine: Breach of trust, maybe. Or we could write to the medical society, the people who license doctors.
Barden decides to hold his tongue. Dammit, why didn't this kind of situation come up during those fierce debates in med school?
Klementine: Mr. Vested will know. A letter from him will be even better.
Klementine is holding herself together by making these plans.
Jessep: And, sir, I intend to follow your career, if you have one, and make sure that your superiors and prospective patients know exactly what sort of treatment they can expect at your hands. Even the Browns might hesitate to entrust their care to someone who doesn't bother with gaining consent for a treatment.
Klementine: But our poor boy... there's no hope for his soul now... after he was so brave in coming to me, and coming here with me.
Klementine chokes and sobs.
Barden wonders what kind of medical career he might make if he changes his name and moves to Nivet.
Jessep hands his wife his spare handkerchief.
Jessep: Come, darling. Let's go talk to Lawyer Vested.
Jessep leads his wife out the door, glaring at Barden over his shoulder.