Every time Norman called B-2 to connect with Zettler, she was either busy with a group or was with a patient. He looked at his watch for the twentieth time today. It was 2100. Saturday was almost gone. Oh hell, he’d call her first thing in the morning.
The loud banging on Paul Norman’s door at the BOQ snapped him from his reverie between sleep and watching the small TV on his bureau. “Who is it?” It was 2200 hours.
“Lootenen Norman. ‘mergecy telepho’ call downstair.” It was the evening Philippino steward.
Norman followed him downstairs. Norman wore jeans, a white tee shirt and thong shower slippers. He picked up the phone. “Hello. This is Dr. Norman.”
“Paul, this is Frank Portico. I’m JMOOD tonight.” Portico was a senior Internal Medicine Resident. The senior residents shared JMOOD duty with the GMOs. “I have a problem with one of your psych patients.”
“I only have one psych patient left.” Norman’s pulse increased.
“Julio Marco, right?”
“What happened?” Norman could feel his heart skip beats.
“I put him in a padded cell. He had an altercation with his roommate – a patient named Gupas. He got violent because he caught this Gupas stealing something from him.”
“For Christ’s sake, Frank, will you tell me what happened?”
“The patient Gupas apparently broke into a box belonging to Julio Marco. Marco came into the room and caught him red-handed. Marco reclaimed the contents of the box and then turned his anger onto Gupas who escaped Marco’s clutches but ran screaming down the B-2 main corridor and locked himself in Farnswort’s office. Farnswort wasn’t in because of the weekend. The problem came when the nurse on duty went in to talk to Marco.”
“Zettler.” Norman shouted into the telephone receiver. “Oh my God! Is she okay?”
“I think so, but you better come on in. She’s quite teary and all she wants is for you to be with her.”
“I’ll be right in.” Norman started to hang up.
“One other thing. I have to warn you. Captain Darmin is on the way in too. You know what she’s like when one of her nurses has a problem because of a patient. The doctor is guilty until proven otherwise. But in this case, I think it will be clear about what happened.”
“Thanks. I think I can handle Cindy Darmin.” Norman knew something bad had happened if Darmin was coming in.
“I saved the worst for last.” Portico lowered his voice. “Captain Foaming is on the way in too. This is all happening on my watch. I probably should start packing my bags for Vietnam right now.”
“Don’t panic just yet. Let me try to get a handle on it. You’re sure Ensign Zettler is okay?”
“She’s okay. She’s just shaken up. Marco kind of tore up her uniform trying to grab something she took from him but the MP’s immobilized Marco straight-away. They got Marco’s clothes off, put him in a straight jacket and threw him into one of the padded cells.”
“Why immobilized? Was he combative?” Norman didn’t think so. If Marco was combative it would have taken six or more Marines to sack him.
“No. Once Ensign Zettler gave him back his stuff for the box, he calmed right down. The MP’s were going by the book. Any violence or attempted violence is treated with isolation and restraints. Marco actually became kind of catatonic. They led him to the padded cell and he behaved like domestic livestock.”
“What did he say? What were his words?”
“Look Paul, just get your ass in here and I’ll tell you more in person. I’ve got a lot of tactical and strategic writing to do. I have to document this in a way so my next immediate duty assignment isn’t Saigon.”
Paul Norman arrived 15-minutes later in a hastily donned white work uniform and leaned on the bell at the locked B-2 gate. Crumbett, the corpsman on the 1500-2300 shift, let him in and one of the senior nurses on duty came to greet him.
“Where’s Ensign Zettler?” Norman looked around the Nurse’s Station.
“I put her in the examining room, Dr. Norman.” Her nameplate spelled Morgan. She saw him staring at her nametag. “Florence. Florence Morgan. Flo.”
“Flo, please come with me into the exam room.” Norman spoke quietly.
Zettler looked disheveled. Sections of her light brown hair were seeking independent directions with a one-inch paintbrush of hair covering her right eye. She pushed the lock to the side behind her right ear at the sound of Norman’s voice. Her eyes were reddened from crying and her eye makeup had run to clown tears. She was wearing an examination hospital Johnny. When she saw Paul Norman she stood up from sitting on the side of the table and threw her arms around him.
“Paul, it was awful. The eyes. The eyes. They’re awful.” Wet sobbing punctuated with jerky breaths only allowed spurts of speech.
“They’ll look better in the morning, Minnie. Tell me what happened.”
“Not my eyes! His eyes!” Zettler covered her face with both of her hands.
“Flo. I have to do a quick exam just to make sure we don’t miss anything with all this hysteria. Just stand-by for me will you?” Norman turned back to Zettler. Stand-by was a military term for chaperone. All female patients examined by a male doctor required a stand-by female presence to acknowledge that violation of the patient of the opposite sex did not take place. It actually had legal roots in its civilian counterpart.
“Minnie, if you want another doctor to do this, I’ll get Dr. Portico?”
“No, Paul. I’d rather have you take care of me tonight.” She started to cry again.
He completed his exam with full regard for modesty and propriety. She had two minor bruises. One was on her right shoulder and the other was on the back of her neck where her uniform had been torn.
“Physically you’re all right Minnie. Tonight you’ll stay in SOQ after I get X-rays of your neck and shoulder.”
Zettler reached out and hugged him in a tight embrace.
“Minnie, I have to talk to Marco. I’ll be right back. Flo will you stay with her?”
“Of course.” Morgan assembled Norman’s medical notes and attached her incident report.
Norman looked through the six-inch long and one-inch wide slit in the metal door of the padded cell. Inside, the cell was padded wall-to-wall and ceiling-to-ceiling with what looked like thick, pale-blue down-filled, four-inch-by-two-inch quilting squares. Julio Marco was staring at Norman. He was in a straightjacket with sleeved arms criss-crossing his chest. There were no outlets for the hands in the sleeves, which were tied around the back like a hospital Johnny.
“Marco? What happened tonight?” Norman’s voice was decibel above a whisper.
“She tried to take my eyes.” Marco was emotionless as usual. It was more of a statement.
Norman looked at Marco’s eyes. “Your eyes are okay.”
“She tried to take my eyes.” His voice was a little louder but still with flat affect. He stared straight ahead focusing on nothing. “She tried to take my eyes.” Marco was babbling and not processing external input.
Norman left the padded cell after examining Marco with the restraining gear in place. Marco was all right physically. He went back to talk to the corpsman on duty.
“Crumbett?” Norman walked toward the corpsman in the chart anteroom. “What’s been going on?”
Corpsman Second Class Chauncy Crumbett was sitting in the small gray workroom at the standard gray, Navy-issue desk writing in the chart.
“Have a seat, Doc.” He appeared nonchalant. “It was pretty weird.”
“Speak to me Crumbett.” Norman’s demand was assertive but non-threatening. He sat on the other Navy issue armless gray chair.
“I heard some commotion coming from 6-D, you know, Gupas’ and Marco’s room. I was almost run down by Gupas running past me. He locked himself in Farnswort’s office. Marco was picking up stuff from one of them boxes he says he has to deliver to the family of his dead friend Leon. I think what happened was Gupas opened one of the boxes when Marco was in the head taking a leak. He found Gupas taking apart the contents of the box and made a grab for him but Gupas got away.” Crumbett paused and then looked at the notes he wrote in Marco’s chart. The five-second pause seemed like 50-minutes to Norman.
“Come on Crumbett, don’t stop now.”
“Yes, sir. Marco looked okay when I got there so I went to see about Gupas in Farnswort’s office. Gupas refused to come out. He said Marco would kill him.”
“What about Ensign Zettler and Marco? Was she there? Did you leave her with Marco?” Norman was on the verge of getting testy.
“No. After I saw Gupas was okay, I called the MPs up here, which is what I’m supposed to do. That’s when I heard Ensign Zettler screaming at Marco.” Crumbett continued a little more animated. “I got there just before the Marine MPs. I saw she had this jar the size of a quart of soda she’s holding away from him and he’s shouting he wants it back. Marco grabbed the bottle and pulled it away from her. Her uniform got caught in the struggle. I didn’t see Ensign Zettler get hit or anything. Marco wanted to put the bottle back in the box. A few seconds after the scuffle and right after her clothes got torn, the MPs came in and took over. He didn’t struggle much once we put the bottle back in the box and closed it up like Marco wanted.”
“Is the bottle still in the box?” Norman stood up to go to room 6-D.
“Yes. It is.” Crumbett was wary. “I guess you can see it. It was somethin’, I’ll tell ya. Even in Vietnam I never saw anything like it.” Crumbett continued talking as they both walked into 6-D.
Norman opened the box with Marco’s address on it and found a large bottle wrapped in an olive drab poncho. He unwrapped it and held it up to the light. Norman’s breathing stopped at full inspiration and he held his breath involuntarily. He stared wide-eyed at the contents of the 32-ounce-size glass container.
Forty-eight human eyeballs, floating in clear liquid, stared sightlessly back at him.
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