With my guidance and Andromeda's "motivation," we reached
the Neopian General Hospital in no time flat. All of us except Andromeda had seen
it before; still, it is an impressive sight to behold. We stood among the landscaping
for a moment, catching our collective breath and taking it all in.
Since the Neopian General is the only hospital
in the area, it's a very busy place. There is an emergency room and several
floors of patient rooms as in a regular hospital, but the entire top two-thirds
of the building is taken up by the private clinics of every type of doctor imaginable.
We were headed for the psychiatric ward on floor 37.
Orayny and I gathered our crew together and
squeezed through the packed reception room and into an elevator. The ride up
seemed to take forever. We were all quiet for once; each of us was trying to
think of a foolproof way to get us past Samaritain's secretary. Celestilla didn't
seem too concerned; I felt fairly sure that she had had a plan by the time she
went to bed the night before. I admit that I was completely stumped.
The elevator doors opened and the five of us
stepped out into the hall. Expectantly we turned to Celestilla. After a moment's
pause, Orayny patiently inquired, "Well? What do we do now?"
Why ask me?" said Celestilla. "You all know
as well as I that there's only one in our little party who wouldn't be recognized.
Make Taffy do it."
I narrowed my eyes at Celestilla. "No," I said
flatly. "I absolutely will not do this alone. I had to paint her, and look at
the mess we got into! We started this together, and we're going to finish it
together. You're all coming."
Orayny nodded her head firmly in agreement.
"I won't stand out here while another person takes my baby to see that mean
old doctor," she cooed to Wisteria, bending down to tickle her wet nose. Sensing
that she was being left out of the conversation, she had been sulking off to
the side. Now her tail fin slapped the floor in happiness from the attention
she was getting.
Celestilla's brow creased as she did some quick
thinking. "I'll see what I can do. Stay here for a minute." She trotted down
the hall, scanning the nameplates on the doors until she found the one she wanted.
She opened the door a crack and pushed her head in, then quickly pulled the
door shut again. She gave a whinny of laughter as she beckoned us over.
"It's just perfect. The waiting room's empty
and the receptionist is a middle-aged Wocky. Mid-life crisis material if I've
ever seen it. Stay out here and let me do the talking. When her eyes start looking
glazed, slowly make your way over to Samaritain's office. You're on your own
from there." She tore out a few pages of her notebook and solemnly handed them
to Andromeda, along with a spare pen. "I expect you to take copious notes of
everything that goes on in there-you know as well as I do what makes a story.
Good luck," she added, looking up at Orayny.
Celestilla shouldered the door open and pranced
in, making as big an entrance as is possible in an empty waiting room. "Celestilla,
Neopian Extra," she trumpeted to the startled receptionist. "You must be Samaritain."
"Samaritain is a male, silly," said the
plump Wocky, obviously flattered.
"No? Well, surely you're his partner? Head nurse?
My goodness," she said when blushes, giggles and negative nods were the answer,
"you certainly look important. I never would have guessed that you aren't a
doctor. Perhaps it is because you're such a good actress!" Celestilla was rewarded
for this with mild protests and a large grin. Now my Uni took on a girl-to-girl
confiding tone. As we sneaked past the front desk we caught a few words of what
she was murmuring to her victim: "Really, though, you had me completely taken
in. Would you mind doing a short interview for a piece I'm researching? I think
you're a perfect…"
As the door of Samaritain's office latched behind
us, Orayny shook her head in disbelief. "How could anyone fall for such ridiculously
I gave her a surprised look. "Haven't you ever
been confronted with Celestilla before? She has…well, 'a way with words' would
be putting it mildly. If she really turned on the charm, she could tell you
that you are a Dr. Sloth look-alike with long red hair and a terrible singing
voice and you would blush and thank her for the compliment. She can make you
say things that you didn't even dare to think and remember things that you didn't
know you knew in the first place. Why do you think she's so notorious among
celebrities?" Orayny gaped at me. Or rather, at something over my shoulder...
I turned around.
"Amazingly interesting, but I have a feeling
Celestilla isn't the reason you're here," came a voice from the corner. A dashing
male Gelert in a lab coat appeared in the door opposite us, carrying some files
in his teeth. Laying them down on a countertop already strewn with folders,
he came to stand before us.
"Sorry, but I couldn't help but hear four complete
strangers having a loud discussion in my private office, especially when they
don't have an appointment or any sign of a search warrant," he said acidly.
Andromeda hung her head.
Orayny spoke up boldly. "How do you know you
secretary didn't send us back? For your information, we're here on completely
legal and legitimate business. May we sit down, please?"
Samaritain blew out his breath in surprise at
the sheer rudeness of his unexpected guest. "All right. Normally I would throw
people like you out, especially after a display like that one, but I have a
hunch about your little group. I suppose you left one of your number in the
lobby to charm my receptionist?"
I nodded dumbly.
Samaritain's ears began to twitch, a sure sign
of amusement. "She must be pretty talented, then. Borealis has seen a lot of
charmers, and no one's gotten past her in years. Anyway, let me show you to
an examination room. I'll be in to see the patient in a few moments," he said,
glancing Wisteria, who was sniffing his stethoscope with interest.
He led us back to the waiting room and through
another door behind the front desk. Andromeda gave Celestilla's mane a furtive
tug as she passed the front desk and she silently followed us, leaving Borealis
staring at a spot on the far wall with a dreamy look on her face.
The door led to a hall with four more doors.
Samaritain opened one of them on the left side and ushered us into a comfortable
examination room. He took Orayny back out with him and shut the door.
Celestilla's first thought was, of course, her
notes. "Did you get anything?" she hissed at Andromeda, who handed over the
few lines of notes she had had time to take. The two of them removed to a corner
of the room to discuss these, leaving me with Wisteria for company.
She had been remarkably good ever since we entered
the hospital. She had rarely cried or chewed on things as most baby Neopets
are wont to do. Odd, since at my NeoHome and in the coffee shop her behavior
had been much more baby-like…
Samaritain and Orayny entered the room, breaking
my train of thought. "From the story Orayny has told me, I think this matter
is beyond my control. The problem is most likely in the paintbrush and not in
the mind of Wisteria. I want to run a few tests on her, though, just to make
Orayny half-heartedly called Wisteria over to
her, but surprisingly she perked up and trotted over to her owner. More un-baby-like
behavior, I thought. Looking mildly surprised, Orayny shut the door and left
with Samaritain and her pet.
I turned to Celestilla to see if she had noticed
Wisteria's change in behavior. I found Andromeda busy taking pictures of the
room while my Uni scrawled in her notebook.
"Did you see Wisteria?" I asked her.
"No," she said distractedly. "I was taking notes
on Samaritain's preliminary diagnosis."
"She was acting more like a toddler than an
infant. I think she might be growing out of it!"
To be continued...