The outer shell of the carriage house was still the original brick-built in the 1880s by a wealthy textile family in what was then a more rural part of East Greenwich, Rhode Island. It sat back about thirty yards off of the main house and could be accessed either by a flagstone path leading from the back porch, or by a dirt driveway that veered off its paved sister and cut through the trees at the western edge of the heavily wooded property.
The house itself was a rambling, three-story affair graced by a long, circular driveway with a waterless fountain at its center. The “front door” was actually located around the side of the house, facing a line of trees to the east. Hence, most visitors (although there were very few nowadays) climbed the steps leading up to the mud room, which was located just past the library windows that overlooked the driveway.
The Sculptor, however, almost always used the back door; for The Sculptor almost always had business to attend to in the carriage house before joining his father in the home of his youth. The Sculptor’s family had lived there since 1975-moved there just after The Sculptor was born. By that time, the carriage house had long since been converted to a two-car garage with a room above it in which the previous owner’s caretaker had lived. And as a boy, The Sculptor would often play alone in the empty loft for hours. Most of the time, however, he would just hide out there when his parents fought, or when his mother got drunk and hit him.
The Sculptor’s mother hit him quite a lot as a boy-when his father was away on business or playing golf at the country club. And when he was super naughty, sometimes his mother would fill the bathtub with ice water and hold him under until he started choking. Sometimes she would lock The Sculptor in the bathroom and pour bleach on the floor and make him breathe the fumes. Most of the time, however, she just hit him-always on the back of the head, so the bruises and lumps beneath his curly mane of dark brown hair would not show. The Sculptor’s mother told him that if he ever squealed to anyone she would die and his father would kill himself. And for a long time The Sculptor believed her-after all, The Sculptor loved his mother and his father very much and would do anything to protect them. The Sculptor’s father called him Christian back then-had no trouble remembering his name. But that was a long, long time ago, and now Christian’s father never called him Christian.
Christian almost never called himself Christian now either; hardly ever thought of himself as having been anything other than The Sculptor-only when it could not be avoided, in public, when he signed for his father’s prescriptions or when he had to purchase medical supplies over the Internet. The Sculptor hated the Internet, but had long ago resigned himself to accepting it as a necessary tool to accomplish his work. And as long as it stayed out back in the carriage house he could tolerate it-for out back in the carriage house was where the technology lived; out back in the carriage house was where all the work was done.
The Sculptor’s father did not know about his son’s work in the carriage house-did not know much of anything anymore. He spent most of his time in his bedroom-on the second floor, directly above the kitchen-looking out the window at the bird feeders his son had installed many years ago in one of the large oak trees. Sometimes The Sculptor would play music for his father on the old record player-mostly crackly 33-1/3s of classical music, the kind of stuff his father had been fond of before the accident. The Sculptor also installed a CD player inside the shell of an old Philco, jury-rigging it to play recordings of vintage radio shows from the 1930s and ’40s. This seemed to please his father greatly, who in turn would sit smiling at the radio for hours.
Mostly, however, The Sculptor’s father just sat motionless in his wheelchair by the window. He still could turn his head, still had use of his right hand, but he rarely spoke except now and then to ask for someone named “Albert.” For the first few years after the accident, The Sculptor had no idea who Albert was. But after digging into his family’s history, The Sculptor discovered that his father had an older brother named Albert who had committed suicide when his father was just a boy.
As Cathy Hildebrant and Agent Markham turned onto Route 95 on their way to Watch Hill, miles away, The Sculptor was removing an intravenous line from his father’s wrist. He usually fed his father by hand-a mixture of oatmeal and other ingredients that he had researched for optimum nutrition-but found over the years that after a night of barbiturates, this method was more effective to stabilize his father’s system. He had been out for nearly sixteen hours-had been intravenously fed a steady dose of mild sedatives while his son had been away-and now all his father needed was just a little extra TLC to bring him back around.
“That’s it,” said The Sculptor, wiping off the spittle from his father’s chin. He threw the rag into a white bin marked LINENS and with one arm lifted his father from his bed to his wheelchair. He turned the steamer beside the bed on to low, for sometimes his father’s nostrils dried out and his nose bled. Indeed, almost everything The Sculptor needed to care for his father was at hand in his father’s bedroom: boxes upon boxes of medical supplies; an adjoining bathroom that had been outfitted with a sit-down shower; a small refrigerator in the corner for his father’s medicines; and three intravenous units-each holding different bags of different liquids for different purposes. And were it not for the red wallpaper, the richly stained woodwork, and the four-poster bed, his father’s bedroom would have looked no different than a hospital ward.
“Time to watch the birdies,” The Sculptor said, parking his father before the large bay window. The Sculptor dropped a record on the turntable-Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata in D Minor-and as the first strains of Baroque guitar washed over the room, The Sculptor headed down the servants’ stairs to the kitchen. There he rinsed his hands and fixed himself a protein drink, gulping it down with a handful of vitamins and supplements. He was hungry, ravenous from his work the night before, but resisted the temptation to eat more and stepped out onto the back porch. Yes, he must stick to his diet, must be in tip-top condition for all the hard work ahead of him.
Even back when he was known as Christian, The Sculptor always kept himself in good shape. Six-foot-five since the age of seventeen, before the accident he had lettered in both football and lacrosse for Phillips Exeter Academy. Since the accident, however, he had focused only on building up his body-what he saw from the beginning as a necessary component of caring for his father. The accident had been his mother’s fault. Christian would never know the exact details-had been away at boarding school when it all happened. But from what he could gather, there had been an incident at the country club. His father’s lawyer told Christian a week after the funeral-the same week he turned eighteen and became legal custodian of his family’s fortune-that his mother had been cheating on his father with a young tennis pro not much older than Christian himself. There had been a scene, a fist fight at the country club-Christian’s father laying out the tennis pro and dragging his wife out by the hair. They had just turned onto Route 95 when the semi broadsided them. His mother died instantly, but his father survived-paralyzed from the waist down, his left arm useless, his brain a vegetable soup.
Christian had been granted early acceptance to Brown-had planned on majoring in history like his mother-but after finishing out his final year at Phillips, opted to enroll in nursing school in order to best take care of his father. There had been a lawsuit filed against the trucking company on Christian’s behalf. The driver of the semi had been drinking when he slammed into Christian’s parents, and a settlement was reached out of court awarding Christian both compensation for his mother’s death and enough money to care for his father for the rest of his life. The judgment gave Christian little consolation, as the young man would not have needed the money anyway. No, Christian’s father had earned enough money in his lifetime to care for a dozen invalids a dozen lifetimes over. And at first Christian kept his father in an adult care facility, but after graduating from nursing school, Christian took the burden of caring for his father solely upon himself.
Besides, Christian knew he would never ever have to work for money.
No, Christian’s work would be of a different kind-would serve a different purpose. That purpose had only become clear to him in the last few years, when he fully began to understand why his mother had beaten him and cheated on his father and, consequently, caused him to become the vegetable upstairs. Yes, his own life, his own personal tragedy was only a symptom of a much larger disease. And now that he had become The Sculptor, now that he understood his purpose, the man who once called himself Christian also understood that the disease could be cured; that he could use his insight to help others; and that he was put on this planet to save mankind from its own spiritual destruction. And so, just as he himself had awakened from a lifetime of slumber, The Sculptor would see to it that others would awaken as well.
The Sculptor stepped off the back porch and headed down the flagstone path to the carriage house. He began to giggle, for even though The Sculptor hated the Internet, he could not help feeling excited about what was waiting for him.
Yes, The Sculptor had the utmost faith that his plan would succeed.
And Dr. Catherine Hildebrant would be the one to help him.