there were any closer than that.”

“There are two private springs about a mile from here,” she said. They rounded the corner and walked down the long second story hallway that looked just like the one below, but the walls had begun to cracks in spots, the plaster patches peeling back as they had tried to cover them on the slowly yellowing walls. “This place actually served as something of a hospital for those who could afford it. There was a full time staff that catered not only to the needs of Mr. Cavenaugh’s dying daughter, but to the degenerating condition of his health, as well.”

“He was sick, too?”

“He did not have tuberculosis, if that is what you are asking, but imagine, if you will, the torment of watching your lone child die slowly over a long period of time, and in an ugly and heart-breaking fashion. It was that from which he suffered.”

“So then, they would just load these people up and take them down to the springs every day so that they could get some sort of therapeutic treatment?”

“People handled sickness much differently in those days then they do now, doctor. Those suffering from tuberculosis were treated as though they had the plague. They were not transported out in the open for everyone to see. They were huddled beneath blankets and shuttled through the catacombs beneath this building, through the very mines that made the Cavenaugh fortune, right to the edge of the springs where the tunnels opened up in the side of a hill. There is quite an intricate system of tunnels that runs beneath this entire area, from here all the way to Manitou Springs to the south.”

“Impressive. So how is it that this land came into your possession?”

“It was willed to our order by Mr. Cavenaugh himself. After his daughter died, he faded very quickly. Having lost his wife during the birth of that child, we believe his loneliness and loss took their toll, and he willed the estate to the church, which designated it as the convent that you see today.”

Sister Catherine opened the furthest door on the right. Even the distilled sunlight from the clouded sky outside the large window in the room stung his eyes after wandering through the dimly lit halls. Tiny particles of dust floated on the thin rays of light in bright contrast to the somber colors of the barren stucco room. Four children, none of them more than a year old lay in small, hand-carved wooden cribs lined up one after the other against the back wall of the room, right beneath the line of large windows, ivy peeking up from the sills. A pair of nuns, dressed identically to Sister Catherine sat in heavy wooden chairs, intently watching the slumbering children.

The oily-looking hardwood floor creaked beneath Harry’s feet as he strode across the room, producing a stethoscope from the interior pocket of his jacket. He stopped at the first crib, the Sister barely steering her gaze from the child long enough to acknowledge his presence. She appeared lost in contemplation, the dull glimmer in her eyes and the crease in her brow betraying some sort of melancholy or sorrow. With a curt nod, he inserted the ends of the scope into his ears and leaned into the crib.

The small girl had deep black hair, barely a half an inch long, and bright red lips. There was a small brown ovular mole above her right eyebrow. A crisp white sheet and thinly knit yellow blanket covered the child’s body, tucking neatly beneath her armpits. Smiling at the sight of the innocent child, she mirrored his expression at whatever images danced through her head. Harry pulled down the blanket and warmed the end of the stethoscope with his hot breath in his cupped hand. Placing it first atop her heart, and then beneath each of her arms along her ribs, he listened intently as the child shifted in her sleep. Nodding to himself, he pulled the blanket down past her tiny toes and performed a visual inspection. She wore a small white cloth diaper, fastened with enormous metal pins right beneath her belly. There was a small plaster cast on her right leg, only her toenails visible through the roughly sealed opening. He rolled her onto her side and listened to her breathing from her back to either side of her spine before rolling her onto her back again and covering her up.

    “Everything looks good here,” Harry said, turning back to Sister Catherine. “What’s her name?”

    “We’ve decided to call her Madeline.”

    “After the children’s book character?”

    “Yes,” the Sister said, smiling momentarily.

    Returning her smile, Harry made his way to the next crib, pulling down the blanket and beginning his inspection with the stethoscope. This child was a boy. He had light hair, nearly white, and brows so light they were transparent. He couldn’t have been more than three months old.

    “Generally, my paperwork is quite specific as to the origin of the children within your care,” Harry said, without looking up. “But there’s nothing in my records to indicate how these children arrived with you.”

    Sister Catherine shot a glance across the room to one of the other nuns, who slowly rose, and with the other Sister at her hip, slipped from the room and into the hallway, the heavy door closing with a hollow thud behind them.

    Harry looked quizzically to Sister Catherine, who crept towards him. Tilting his head, he pulled the plugs from his ears and looked over at the Sister before sliding a few feet to the next crib.

    “Due to the nature of their appearance here, and for their own future welfare, we have asked that the details be kept from all paperwork. It is a very sensitive situation, doctor.”

    “How so?” Harry asked as he once again donned the stethoscope and began to inspect the third child, a slumbering dark-haired boy who nearly woke as he pulled down the blanket.

    “What I tell you is for your benefit only, doctor, and is not to be shared with anyone outside of this room. I understand as a doctor that any information about your patients is to be kept beneath a veil of privacy. Am I correct?”

    “Yes, ma’am,” Harry said. “I am here to make sure that these children are all right, and for no other reason than that. And, in order for me to treat them properly, any and all unusual circumstances need to be taken into account.”

“All right,” she said, lowering her voice and taking a step closer, her look nothing short of grave. “About two weeks ago, close to midnight on a Saturday night, a young woman—she couldn’t have been more than twenty years old—showed up here at the convent, banging on the door and screaming to be granted admittance. She had one child strapped across her back, two cradled in her left arm against her chest, and the fourth in a basket she carried in her right. She stood barefoot in the snow, her bright red feet chafed and cracking from the crusted snow.

“She kept looking over her shoulder as though she were being followed. Her cheeks were covered with tears; her nightgown torn; frayed and tattered. I ushered her into the dining room and sat her down at the table. After rousing a couple of the other Sisters, we set up the cribs for the children and poured a warm cup of tea for the woman, a pot of water for her to sink her feet into. Her hands trembled and her legs shook as she slowly began to talk… to tell us her story.”

Glancing at Sister Catherine, Harry could see her eyes glaze over, as she became lost in the past. Her lips appeared to tremble from the words. Moving on to the fourth child, he began his inspection as she continued.

“She lived on some sort of commune here in the foothills, some remnant from the sixties in the next valley over. She had been born and raised right there, had grown up wandering these very woods as a child. In all there had been five families living together, raising livestock, making their own clothing; it was a wonder no one had stumbled across them in these past ten years, with the city pushing its boundaries so far to the north.

“Her father was the head of the family unit, a minister of his own religion, something of a devotee to the occult. He believed that unlike the devil of Christianity, who dwells in hell,” she said, toying with her rosary, “that the fallen angel walked the earth in human guise.”

“You know, there is something of a Satanic following in Manitou Springs. Turns out the satanic bible was even written there by Anton LaVey before he moved to San Francisco to begin his church,” Harry said, turning to face her. From the look on her face, he could tell that had been far too much information for her, so he backed out a bit. “You’d be amazed what you learn in an emergency room. I had this guy come in with this big arc he had started to carve right beneath his lower intestines like he was trying to commit hara kiri. This guy said Satan told him to do it, but…”

She just stared coldly at him.

“Please,” Harry said, clearing his throat. “Continue…”

“This young girl told me that her father felt it to be his purpose to help create the spawn of this devil, not the whelp of Satan per se, but a physical perpetuation of the evil. Revelations speaks of the antichrist, doctor, are you familiar?'

“Somewhat…” he said aloud, hoping this wasn’t going to become a sermon. After all it was already beginning

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