The Gentleman in 114, Part II

You can read the first installment of our round robin short here.

Mr. Cantor sat on the bed. His fingers curled around the bottom edge of his shirt, teasing for loose threads at the hem in the relentless, insistent manner of the occupied manic. He was not, Lauren noted with surprise, wearing any restraints. Her initial urge was to back out, lock the door, and go read Judy the riot act.

But it would be a retreat, and he would know she was afraid of him.

As Lauren hesitated in the doorway, Mr. Cantor relinquished his shirt hem and rose to his feet. He stood, spread his arms wide, his body filling the cell’s space. Lauren fought down the urge to step back.

“How are we doing this evening, Mr. Cantor?” she said, feeling like a solicitous parrot. The serious head cases often had this effect on her.

Mr. Cantor cocked his head, his eyes sparkling, opened his mouth, and sang in a ringing tenor, “Pardon me boy, is that the Chatanooga Choo-Choo?

He did a little soft-shoe around the room.

“Have a seat, Mr. Cantor.” Lauren said. “I’m Dr. Barstand. I’ve come to ask you a few questions.”

“You like questions? I got one for ya.” Cantor bounced back down onto his seat, loosely crossing his legs. “What’s a fella gotta do to get a drink in this joint?” He gave her a twinkling white smile, a smile full of friendly creases and charm, a smile that said stick with me kid, and we’ll go places.

“That’s the trouble with hospitals, isn’t it? Short on bartenders.”

Cantor uncrossed his legs and put both feet on the floor. “So?” His knees jittered as he bounced his heels.

“So, you should answer my questions. Then maybe you can get out of here.”

“Then maybe,” he muttered, “Then maybe then maybe Say, could you get me a newspaper, sweetheart? I need to do the crossword.”

Lauren frowned. She splayed open Cantor’s file,  plucked up the photo, and handed it to him.

“Can you-”

He crumpled and stuffed it crackling into his mouth. His jaws pumped. His eyes were like a rabid dog’s.

“That’s not going to do you any good.” Her voice was soft.

“Needs salt.” The wild hate in his eyes receded.

“It’s you in that photo, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

“You don’t belong there, do you?”

“Baby I was born to belong there!” He jumped to his feet, began pacing. “Don’t you get it? Good God protect me from doctor dames. Anyway it’s a phoney. We was doing an art project.”

“‘We’?”

Cantor rolled his eyes. “Yeah, protect her. You broads all stick together like a flock of chickens. Gobble-gobble-gobble.”

“That’s a turkey, Mr. Cantor.”

“You’re all birds to me.” Pause. “Dirty double crossing bitch.”

“Excuse me?”

“Tell her this- The fundamental things apply as time goes by.”

“Goodnight Mr. Cantor.” She shut the door, feeling pressure slide off her shoulders as she threw the lock. Time for a chat with Ms. Portman. If she wasn’t too sedated.

To be continued…

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