No one knows how or what relevance the “Dr.” part of Dr. Sheldon Lucien ever came from; it’s just always been his name. That’s always been his secret to know and when to share. You would assume there would be a doctoral certificate, perhaps hanging in his office somewhere, framed, but the only thing adorning his walls were the art of a dead Spanish painter who loved sunsets. Well, also the skeletons of the animals inhabiting his floral desert surrounding his home in the big mansion at the top of the hill.
More often than even being called “Dr.” , Sheldon Lucien was also called “Mayor.” That one wasn’t just a funny title; he actually had been voted the Mayor more than 6 years ago and somehow managed to stay in office during that time. A lot of things that are law in other parts of the country are more of a guideline in Nothing. And Dr. Lucien knew all the government-paid entities around these parts, in all the neighboring counties and they seemed to leave him alone to do his work. In fact, everything in Nothing seemed to be Dr. Lucien’s personal business.
So, two days ago, when a young man who happened to be in Dr. Lucien’s employ was assaulted (his arm was shattered) and he was taken in to cool off in jail, Dr. Lucien was curious as to the circumstances surrounding this unique incident. What he found out was a stranger to town had been involved; seemed he was trying to protect the young lady that his employee was so interested in. This stranger got himself shot in the process; but it wasn’t so much that he got shot, it was how it all happened. And Dr. Lucien kept sure that all who give him what he desired most would be well rewarded: That thing is information.
“Yeah, he changed color; it was weird, he looked surprised himself. Then, he started bleedin’; seen nothin’ like it around here,” said Rush, a man long in Dr. Lucien’s employ, who loved to saunter around town but he was actually watching. Waiting and watching to sell information.
“You don’t say? Well, let’s not have this poor stranger thinking we in Nothing are ill-mannered. Send down a bouquet for him; perhaps the aroma will make this ill-fortuned accident seem a distant memory.”
2 days later…
John Crawford stepped out onto the sidewalk a new man; at least, he was still alive and that was the important thing. While he’d been recovering, he’d been visited by Rush twice, some curious locals and Wanda. She was a sweet girl and she seemed really spooked about what had happened. She revealed the young man after her was Curt, her ex who she had enough of over six months ago and he hadn’t gotten the clue.
“He was just too over-bearing, untrusting of everything. I had to work a late shift, he’s in the parking lot watching me, as if I’m going to run off with another man right in the middle of refilling Old Hank’s coffee. I couldn’t take it. But, he wouldn’t take no as an answer and I’m sorry, that just doesn’t fly with me; I’m talking too much right? Waay too much info, Panda.”
“Panda; Oh, my dad called me that; it looks like Wanda but sounds nothing like it; he was quirky that way.”
“Where’s he at these days? Does he live in Nothing, also?”
“He’s…gone. It’s fine; it’s been 7 years. But, yeah he lived in Nothing his whole life. Never left. That’s why I’m so determined to leave. Been saving up. Sorry, won’t stop talking again.”
John smiled,” I like it. I’m not a huge talker, so takes the pressure off. I’m sorry about your father.”
John felt the hot, suffocating desert air pushing onto his face but he still cracked a smile re-thinking about that conversation. Wanda’s eyes were so bright; so alive. Something about her….
John looked over and saw a vulture taking light steps near him. Ugly creature.
“Get out of here, you mutated pigeon,” John said. It looked up at him with small, black beads like darts that hone in on you and make you feel uneasy. John’s stomach turned as he saw a hunk of meat hanging from it’s jaw. He decided he needed to make some headway on his investigation and not draw any more attention to himself.
“Sir, you forgot this,” an orderly came out and handed him an envelope. John didn’t remember having anything with him but he was out of it for who knows how long. He hated missing time like that. He thanked the young man and started off down the street ; he didn’t know where he was going but the first place he saw serving breakfast seemed like a good start.
He found Abe’s, a diner already open and serving fresh hot coffee. He ordered it black. Nothing else except black coffee in the world could startle you out of a lagging morning like it. He opened the envelope and reached in; all he found was a small slip of paper, purple construction paper it seemed. All it said was :
“Keep walking with Pride”
If this was a joke, it wasn’t funny. John left a tip and left Abe’s to try and find a way into that mansion to see what records were there. The bird was still out there, like it was waiting for him.
“Ok, if we’re going to be friends, you need a name,” he said. He thought to himself, ugly pigeon. And I’m going to need a plan.
Up in that mansion…..
Dr. Lucien was brought a stack of files he had requested. They were marked “Desert Baby”. In it, he scanned through the photos taken some twenty years before. It was a young infant, newly born, wrapped in a blanket. His skin was blue; and to the touch, ice cold. He had been pulled and dragged by the woman who had delivered him for more than 8 miles through the sandy hot desert. Yet, he was perfectly fine. And very, very cold. Dr. Lucien smirked to himself.