We still hadn’t found Ashby, but we had found Ginesbury. Paul was in a frenzy, spinning around like a squirrel, preparing for his long-awaited revenge and I did my best to help. I was still concerned about Paul. As natural as he made his episodes sound, there was no world I could think of where those kinds of compulsions could be healthy. Not that he could afford to go to a hospital and get it checked out. And he couldn’t exactly fix it himself like he did with everything else.
Paul had had the entire thing planned out explicitly ever since we had met and he told me about it whenever he was in a reflective mood or whenever things weren’t going well.
“You know, this is all Ginesbury’s fault, the turd!” he’d say if he broke a scalpel, was insulted by one of his clients, or had too much wine. “He set me back a full year! I wouldn’t be having these problems if I hadn’t had to deal with the complications he caused.”
As far as I could tell, Ginesbury had hurt Paul emotionally and physically, and pretty badly in both. He was the reason Paul’s voice box had been destroyed.
From what little Paul actually said about the incident itself, I had gathered that when Ginesbury deserted, Paul had been left utterly alone. So alone that he’d had to operate on himself using local anesthetic and a mirror. It was horrific to think about.
The plan was simple in its clinicality. Once we had an address, we would break into Ginesbury’s house. Paul would steal his research and other information, and then I would do my thing: set his house on fire.
Paul went back and forth on an additional eye-for-an-eye thing by damaging Ginesbury’s own voice box, but I hoped he would decide not to do that. That was a bit gruesome for me.
While I think I really did plan on killing Ashby eventually, torture of any sort freaked me out. I had seen Ashby do it too much, so now it was like he owned it. I don’t know if I could torture anyone ever, for any reason. Hypocritical morals, I know, but there it is.
We spent the night packing and planning. Paul, in his wizardly way, remembered a sequence of five numbers that turned out to be a Florida zip code. We both agreed that, for whatever unearthly reason, that is where Ginesbury was most likely to be.
He rescheduled patient appointments for the rest of the week for those patients he could reach. Those he couldn’t, he didn’t. They would show up at his door and he wouldn’t be there. He couldn’t care with revenge on Ginesbury before his eyes. When I asked if that would make him lose patients, he said” Where else are they going to go? And even if they do, others will take their place just fine.”
I’d never seen him so reckless. It was unnerving. It made me watch him even more closely.
We packed the car and left early in the morning. Paul drove faster than even I was comfortable with and I just prayed we wouldn’t get arrested or in an accident. I had finally healed from my previous injury. I didn’t want another one.
We stopped for dinner in Arkansas. I couldn’t believe we had just covered in eight hours a trek that had taken me a month to walk.
“We’d better stop here for the night,” I said, peering out the diner window at the darkening sky.
Paul scraped at the last of his butter and garlic pasta. “Out of the question,” he said as quietly as he could. “We can’t afford to waste time.”
“Paul, look at you,” I sighed. “It’s getting dark, we’re out of gas, and there’s a motel across the street. You can’t drive nonstop and you won’t let me drive because of my leg. Staying here makes the most sense.
“I can do it,” Paul frowned. “I have to.”
I looked around the empty diner and then leaned in. “Look,” I whispered. “I’ve walked across, like, a state and a half on foot. The two things I learned for a successful quest is, you’ve gotta stay healthy,” I ticked them off on my fingers, “ and you’ve gotta stay sane. You can’t do either if you don’t get regular sleep.”
Paul fingered his glass thoughtfully. Then he smiled a little and shook his head. “When did you become the sensible one?”
I shrugged. He patted the back of my hand like an old man.
“Alright, Lu, alright. We’ll stay here tonight. But we’re leaving at five tomorrow morning.”
“Fine, okay,” I said. “That sounds fair.”
A/N: “Paul, what are you doing?” “Oh, this tooth has been giving me trouble, so I’m taking it out. It’s fine, don’t worry. I’ve performed heart surgery. Teeth can’t be that hard.” “For Pete’s sake, please just go a dentist, Paul.”