Dr. Solsen pushed forward the two pictures of the same patient towards Henry Cortman, who was now lounging in the chair across from Dr. Solsen. The man had kicked back the chair and was resting his legs on the desk. “Is it true that the picture on the left is what Mr. Sikes looked like before he entered your care, and that the picture on the right was your doing?”
Cortman looked nonplussed and didn’t even look down at the evidence, “Yes.”
Dr. Solsen frowned, and then looked back at Arnold who was crouching near the entrance, before he turned back to Cortman, “Can you tell me why you felt it necessary to shave the man’s head?”
“He looked like he had critters living in his hair. We didn’t want lice to follow them into the building, did we?” The man reached for his coat pocket to grab a cigar, “It is already growing back.”
Dr. Solsen coughed, as politely as he could, but when the man lit his cigar he tried the direct approach, “I would appreciate it if you would not smoke, Mr. Cortman. Especially since your health is also a concern at this time.”
Cortman took out his cigar to ask, “What about my health?”
“I have witnessed you coughing Mr. Cortman, and I have found the bloody rags in the trash after you have disposed of them.” Solsen watched as Cortman slowly put his chair back on two legs and started to regard him more seriously. “I need to know what health risk you pose to this facility.”
Mr. Cortman’s reply was slow and deliberate, after puffing on his cigar for a few moments, “It’s just a cough.”
“We must be certain of that before we allow you to return to work, Mr. Cortman,” Solsen said, trying to hide the feeling of satisfaction this was giving him. “I believe that there are several doctors in town who would be able to diagnose your malady, however Mr. Arnold tells me that a Dr. Watson is one of the most respected physicians in this city.”
Cortman glowered as the feline behind him seemed to be grinning. They were both very sure that Dr. Watson was unlikely to take a bribe.
“When Dr. Watson gives you a clear bill of health, or at least assures us that you are not contagious, you will be allowed to return Mr. Cortman, and then we can continue to discuss some of your methods.” Dr. Solsen’s face betrayed him as he began to smile. “Consider it a vacation.”
Cortman narrowed his eyes at the doctor suspiciously, he knew that the doctor couldn’t fire him without Canergak’s approval, but he knew that the doctor wanted to get rid of him. He stood up slowly and Dr. Solsen began to do so as well, but stopped, outraged, when he saw Cortman put out his cigar on the desk in front of him–grinding it into the wood.
Arnold moved, but Dr. Solsen held up a forestalling hand as he stood up, “It is alright, Arnold. We can afford to overlook a few of Mr. Cortman’s less pleasant habits.” He turned towards the man and stood up straight and proud, “This gentleman is simply no better than he should be.”
Dr. Solsen had a moment to revel in the rage that insult had sent through Cortman, before the man’s fist connected with his eye and Dr. Solsen fell back against the bookshelf case and then to the floor as the books he clutched at spilled on top of him.