“What did she say?” Madge whispered softly.
We were in the dormitory. We had ended our long shifts, eaten a few bites, washed up as best we could, and were lying in our bunks in night gowns, bundled in coarse army issue woolen blankets to guard against the chill. Moonlight streamed in from a tiny window at the end of the long room. The only other light came from the glow of the wood stove at the center of the room, used for heating. Other women were already asleep or had just awakened to begin the night shift.
I did not want to discuss this with Madge. I rolled over and said, “Go to sleep.”
“No! Tell me.” Her bed creaked as her body shifted and suddenly her head was peeking over the mattress above me. Her hair dangled in a long plait that stretched almost comically to my own mattress, swaying to and fro.
“Madge! Go to sleep.”
In seconds, she had slid down off of the bunk and was kneeling barefoot beside me. She knelt there silently, inches away from my face, making it clear that she did not intend to go anywhere until I had told her what she wanted. Damn it!
I whispered, “She said that Dr. Jenkins had told her that I had disobeyed an order and put a patient at risk.”
“You didn’t did you?” she whispered back.
“No, of course not!”
She nodded. “I hate him.”
I sat up. “You have met him?”
“Yes.” She started to climb back up. “More than met him.”
“Wait! What do you mean?” I grabbed her arm.
She paused a moment, thoughtfully, then spoke. “He told me that I had to perform certain services for him or he would report me to her. Watch out for him, Evie.”
“Did he touch you?” I had to ask.
Again, she paused. She uttered a very quiet, almost imperceptible, “Yes,” then launched herself back up atop her bunk.
I was not sure what to say. Should I comfort her? Tell her my plan? Pretend I had not heard?
I allowed a few minutes to pass, the bed frame creaking again overhead as she settled into a comfortable position beneath her covers.
“Madge?” I whispered.
Perhaps it was best that way. I did not want to talk about the details of my experiences with him. One could not predict human nature. Would she feel compelled to purge her conscience by telling others of what happened to me? In this case I could trust no one.
Clearly, this man was a predator. In the short time he had been here, he had managed to threaten his way into the drawers of how many women? And in the intervening years between my time in Edinburgh and now, how many hundreds more had he hurt? Guilt ate at the fringes of my mind. I had known what he was then, but I had not tried to stop him.
In a dark corner of my trunk, at the end of the bed, lay the small, glass vial that would be his undoing.