The Horror in the Island
The next morning I awoke feeling quite excited about seeing my first patients. My housekeeper Mrs Stewart brought up some breakfast and I got quickly dressed and ready to face the day. That first morning I saw only two patients. A woman had a sprained wrist, and a man in his sixties had a bad cough. I suspected he had had that cough for quite a while. As soon as he left my surgery, I saw through the window he immediately lit up a cigarette and walked off. I had told him to cut down on smoking. I also recommended he go to the mainland for some further tests. He shrugged that idea off. I was then about to have lunch when a man burst through my door. He smelt strongly of fish, so I reckoned he was a fisherman, but many of the men that lived here were.
“Doctor, you’re needed on the beach!” he exclaimed. I grabbed my bag and followed him out to the beach. A fishing boat was there with a large group of people assembling in front of it. I ran up to them and they parted to let me through. There on the ground lay a man. He was very pale and completely wet. I kneeled in front of him and found there were no life signs.
“He fell off the boat into the sea. He suddenly thrashed about. When we brought him back onboard he seemed to be dead.” One of the fisherman told me. I nodded at his words. When I moved his head, I was rather taken aback: the left side of his face had deep claw marks down it. It was something I had never seen before.
“Was there something in the water? Was he attacked?” I asked hurriedly.
“No, the claw marks were there when we brought back onboard. We didn’t see anything else in the sea.”
“Have you ever seen anything like this before?” All the fishermen shook their heads.
“No. I have no idea what caused that.” Another fisherman said. I stood up.
“Can anyone help me take his body back to my surgery?” I asked. Thankfully plenty of them volunteered to help, and we quickly got his body back to my rooms. I had them lay the body on a table.
“Is he dead Doctor?” One of them asked. I nodded gravely.
“What’s his name?” I asked.
“Was he married?” They all nodded. “Can someone fetch his wife, so she identify him?” Not much later Catriona, the man’s wife, was brought in. She looked down at his body rather sadly, but did not say a word. When I asked if it was her husband, she nodded silently. After that she left without saying a word, which struck me as odd, but I was new to all this.
The rest of the afternoon I examined Leslie Scott’s body. The claw marks went down the left side of his face and down his neck. As ghastly as they were, I knew these claw marks hadn’t killed him. When he had been brought ashore there was water in his lungs. He had drowned, but whatever creature had clawed him could have possibly held him down in the water long enough to drown him. It was hard to know.
It was getting towards the evening when I had a visitor. It was a tall thin man wearing a long black gown. He had short dark hair and wore glasses. He smiled at me.
“Forgive me, I was going to introduce myself a wee bit later, but since we’ve had a tragedy I thought I should come around to see you now. My name is the Reverend Ewan Cameron. I’m the minister here.” He held out his hand. I shook it, but found his hand was cold and clammy.
“I am Doctor James MacMann.” I replied.
“Aye I know.” He replied smiling. “So how soon will you release Leslie Scott’s body to his family?” I was rather taken aback by the suddenness of the question.
“Well, I want to have the marks on his body looked at. There are deep claw marks on the left side of his face. I would like to have his body sent to the mainland to be examined.” I told him. He frowned at me.
“Surely there’s no need for that Doctor. The marks were probably from his face being dragged across the side of the boat.” Revered Cameron assured me. I shook my head.
“To me they look like claw marks.” I insisted.
“And what could make marks like that?” He asked.
“I have no idea.”
“Then you don’t know what they are. I have been here for a while now, and sometimes things aren’t what they seem.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Just what I said.” He replied. I noticed a flicker of anger in his voice. “Are these claw marks what killed him?”
“No he drowned.” I admitted. His eyes looked heavenwards.
“Then if those marks had no bearing on his death, surely they don’t really matter.” He pointed out.
“But something may have held him down.”
“I see. You think some sea monster clawed him and dragged him down to this death?” He asked sarcastically.
“That’s not what I said.”
“Do I have to get the Laird to force you to release the body?” He threatened.
“You can try, but he’s away at the moment.” Just as I said that, another tall man walked into the surgery. He had greying short hair and a beard. He was wearing a tweed jacket and a kilt. He held out his hand.
“Hello Doctor, I am Alasdair Ferguson. The Laird of this island.” He had a deep voice.
“Your son, Jamie, told me you were away.” I replied feeling rather surprised. I shook his hand.
“I just got back today. Sorry I wasn’t here to greet you when you arrived.” The Laird told me. I knew of no boat arriving today. I felt mystified.
“Perhaps you can help me. The Doctor will not release the body of Leslie Scott.” Reverend Cameron stated to the Laird. The Laird smiled and looked at me.
“There are strange claw marks on his body. I want the body sent to the mainland to be examined.” I told the Laird.
“Are these claw marks the reason he was killed?” The Laird asked.
“No he drowned.” The Reverend shot in. The Laird looked at me.
“That’s not certain. Whatever made the claw marks could also be responsible for his death.” I explained.
“Yes some sea monster killed him apparently, or so the Doctor thinks.” The Reverend responded.
“I never said that.” I replied.
“Surely if he drowned, it would be better to release the body now to his family, so they can bury him.” The Laird suggested.
“I would rather not until I can be sure of what killed him.” I replied. The Laird looked displeased at my reply.
“You have only just started here Doctor. Do you really want to start off on the wrong foot with both myself and the Reverend here? On your first day? You may end up having a shorter stay on this island than you expected.” The Laird threatened.
“Fine. I will release the body.” I relented. The Laird smiled.
“Be sure to put drowning as the cause of death on the Death Certificate. Please don’t mention the claw marks.” The Laird advised. “You must come for dinner sometime Doctor.” With that he left.
I wasn’t happy about giving in, but I’d rather not have gone against the Laird the first time we met. As he advised I put drowning as the cause of death on the Death Certificate and nothing else. The body was taken away and the Reverend looked at me with a smug look. I would certainly never forget that look, nor would I ever forgive it.
to be continued…
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