After he shut the door behind him, Henry Clark stood with his hand on the doorknob trying to rein in his emotions. Intense anger against Albert was warring with equally intense compassion for Erik in his mind. He thought he knew exactly what had happened in that cabin the night before; even though Erik had not actually accused his father, Henry was certain Albert had caused Erik's injuries. He was furious that a father could be capable of doing such things to his own son, and as he thought about it more, he knew what he had to do.
He released the doorknob and quickly walked toward his office. Shirley Williams was in there at the filing cabinet. As he walked in, she stopped what she was doing, closed the drawer, and turned to face him.
“How is he, Henry?” she asked.
“As far as the concussion is concerned, I think he'll be fine in another day or so,” Henry answered as he sat in the chair behind his desk. “The cut itself, of course, will take much longer to heal, and I am afraid there will be quite a scar. I am more worried about the situation at home, though.” He placed his elbows on his desk and steepled his fingers. “Erik won’t admit it, but I know that Albert had something to do with this.” He suddenly slapped his hands down on the desk and stood up. Shirley jumped from the sound as he continued, “I am going to go talk to Albert and his wife. Maybe one of them will tell me the truth.”
Shirley looked at Henry worriedly. “You will be careful, right? After all, a man who can do this to his own child is obviously not right in the head.”
Henry released a small, ironic chuckle. “I will do my utmost to keep everyone calm. However, if Albert decides to be stupid and escalate the situation, at least that will be an excuse to bring in the authorities.”
He strode around his desk to the coat rack by the front door. He felt better since he had a definite plan. As he put on his overcoat and hat, he turned to Shirley. “Erik is asleep right now, but I told him not to do anything by himself. When he wakes up, please help him to the bathroom. Also, he is not too much shorter than I am, so go ahead and give him some of my clothes to wear. If he is not too embarrassed, you can offer to help him bathe, but he is a teenage boy, so I'm not sure if he will allow that. He can wait to clean up until I get back, if necessary. As for medication, the only thing I want him to have is aspirin for the pain, and then only if he needs it. Of course, check the wound on his head and keep it clean. Send for me immediately if it looks like it may be getting infected. Hopefully, I won’t be gone too long; I may even be back before he wakes up.”
Shirley listened to these instructions with a small smile on her face. She had been working for Doctor Clark for the last five years, ever since finishing training at the School of Nursing in Memphis. She knew all of the things she needed to do for Erik, but she let Henry tell her anyway. Some people might have been annoyed with the way he acted—like she didn’t know what she was doing—but Shirley knew that he was just being thorough, and she hadn’t thought about how to get Erik clean clothes.
“I'll make sure he is taken care of, Doctor,” she responded when he was finished. “Don’t worry; we'll be fine until you get back.”Doctor Clark nodded and turned to open the front door. As he left the house, his mind turned toward the conversation he was about to have with Albert Taylor and his wife. Even though he had told Shirley that he would be all right, he was actually quite nervous about confronting the man. Henry had known Albert since they were both in grammar school, Albert had never been a small person, and it had been over sixteen years since Henry had seen him. The man had only gotten bigger. From everything he had seen the night before, he could say that the Albert Taylor he grew up with was not the same man as the one in that hovel. As he drove out to the Taylor cabin, Henry ran different conversations through his head, trying to think of the best way to get the answers he needed without endangering himself or Rebecca Taylor.