113 Nightingale LaneStarted by Lucian MacLeod at May 14, 2020 9:18 PM
March 4, 1924
Here among my thoughts of you, I find a gentle longing to be free...
The house was a sedate Victorian lady, built of sturdy white-washed brick in the mid-1800s. It was situated two blocks inland from the beach and located on a low rise that put it approximately six-feet above sea level. The house was surrounded by live oaks, magnolias, and Florida elm. Spanish moss drooped from the branches of the magnificent oaks giving the place an almost ethereal setting. Bougainvillea vines were twined around the wrought iron fence and lent a tropical burst of color to the front of the house. Meticulously kept beds of roses, pansies, primroses, and low-growing violets added fragrance and beauty to the home. Flower boxes lined the railings of the wide, covered veranda and seemed to invite visitors to walk the cobblestone path, up the steps and in through the graceful double doors.
A driveway, hidden from the front of the house by the trees, widened into a small parking area where another cobbled pathway led to stairs at the far side of the wrap-around veranda. This allowed visitors, and in the past, there had been many, to park their car out of sight and still enter by the front door. Extending from the right side of the house was a spacious glassed-in solarium and sunroom. Elegant brick arches framed the floor-to-ceiling windows allowing an unimpeded view of the gardens to the rear, side, and front of the house. A covered and screened-in sleeping porch had been added to the front of the house above the veranda. From there, one had a view through the trees to the ocean.
Lucian MacLeod paused at the gate, taking in the view of his house. It still felt strange to call it his although he had inherited it more than a year before when the last of the Nightingales had willed it to him. He unlatched the gate and let himself in, barely noticing the click as it automatically closed itself. Alexander Nightingale, his friend and former doctor had been very proud of his engineering prowess. He had managed to have a pair of saloon door hinges made that allowed the gate to swing both ways and to automatically close, at which time the latch would drop back into its slot, holding it shut. He managed not to give in to the urge to sit in the veranda's swing where he had spent many evenings with the other Nightingale, Laura, a woman he had once planned to marry. Her death had ended those plans and had made him the owner of this house.
Sliding the key into the lock, Lucian turned it and twisted the doorknob. The double doors were set up so that you could open one or both. Lucian opened the one on the right, stepped inside, and closed it behind him. Sunlight cast colored patterns through the doors' stained glass windows onto the brilliantly polished marble floors of the entry. Although the home had stood vacant since the death of its mistress, the air was fresh, and the floors, furnishings, and woodwork were dust-free. Lucian employed a woman and her daughter to clean it from top to bottom every week and see that it was swept and dusted daily.
Lucian was about to make a cursory inspection of the house before showing it to his current doctor, who had expressed a need to rent clinic and office space. Before he had walked more than a few feet toward the sweeping grand staircase, sounds from the second floor caught his attention. For a moment, he thought he heard the sound of children's laughter and the slamming of a door upstairs. It was his imagination, of course. There was no one in the house, and he did not believe in ghosts. Shaking off the mood, Lucian went through the house, making sure everything was ship-shape. He did not bother to remove the coverings from the furniture. If the potential renter did not want the furniture, everything would need to be hauled off.
The house's rear door actually opened onto the left side of the wrap-around veranda. From there, Lucian took the stairs down to the side parking area and let himself into the house's rear addition. Alexander Nightingale had been a very successful doctor as had his father before him. His father had built a large clinic off the rear of the house, and Alex had expanded it when he took over the practice. Later, he had renovated it again and modernized it. Although it shared the rear wall of the house, there was no access from home to the clinic. Alex and his father both had wanted to keep access to the house private.
After inspecting the clinic's waiting room, treatment rooms, office, and kitchenette, Lucian exited but left the door unlocked. Pulling his pocket watch out of his pocket, he glanced at the time. Doctor Greyson Steele should be arriving at any moment, so he returned to the front veranda. This time, he gave in to his urge to relax on the wide swing, idly pushing it back and forth while he waited for the doctor.
Miami, as different a town as a man might find from the windy city and its freezing winters. Doctor Greyson Steel had been in the Sunshine State, or so they called it, for almost a year, not always sunny, but never freezing. He didn’t mind the rain, hurricanes were another story, but all in all, he was enjoying living in South Florida.
So far his practice had taken off, both as a surgeon and as a physician. He was not what one would call a pill pusher, though if that was what was required he had no qualms with that. Surgery paid the bills more so that than seeing regular patients, but he had as yet to get his private surgical office set up as he had initially planned and that was why he was driving through the streets of Miami, a patient, one Lucian McLeod, claimed to have just the set up for him, and that was music to his ears.
There were clients of his that just couldn’t afford to be seen at a hospital, and they were not all victims of foul play, some were victims of insufficient funds which the victims of foul play covered the cost for, as they paid handsomely for Doctor Steel’s services. They made sure Greyson could afford the bright red Cadillac V-63 Phaeton, the expensive suits, and the apartment in South Beach, and his upscale office space without counting the money he wired to his mother monthly.
Now Lucian McLeod was to present him with the answer to the dream he had had since leaving Chicago and the neighborhoods he was passing through were getting better and better as he went along. He ha no idea what to expect from the property McLeod was offering, or what the cost would be, except that if it came close to what he was hoping for he would take it no matter the cost. Of course, there would be no office rent, and, no apartment rent. He would balance it out, that was well within his reach to do so
Greyson wheeled up to the address, almost driving past it as he admired the houses along the avenue, older, stately, well-manicured Victorians. How could this be possible, he wondered aloud. He backed up and turned into the drive and honked twice as he had been instructed. He could see the home and he was impressed, which was probably a poor choice of words for how it affected him. He got out of the car and lifted the latch, hopped back in the Cadillac and drove through, the gate closing behind him, automatically. Another feature he liked.
Doctor Greyson Steel was about to enter what he would soon call a “dreamland.” He drove in and parked in front of the house, noticing Lucian McLeod sitting on the front porch swing. He grabbed his bag, just in case, and got out.
“Hello Lucian, nice place!” He called out.
Here among my thoughts of you, I find a gentle longing to be free...
Lucian watched as the red Cadillac approached and, almost like an apparition, seemed to flit in and out between the trees that gave the home its privacy and shade. It was, of course, an optical illusion caused by his swinging motion and the way the sunlight angled down through the trees, sometimes revealing the car, other times obscuring it. Lucian got a clear view when the car passed directly in front of the house and realized it was the man that planned on viewing the property. Doctor Steele continued to the gated driveway and, per Lucian's directions, parked in the small car park at the stately home's side.
"Welcome to 113 Nightingale Lane," Lucian answered the doctor's hale, raising his voice only high enough to be heard from the veranda. "Do you wish to see the house or clinic first?"
Standing just five foot six the doctor looked up to the veranda, a slight laugh escaped him. “First Lucian, let’s see how you’re doing, time enough for all that in a few moments.” The laugh had to do with the property itself, and secondly that he was standing there even considering it. He was still not used to all that he could afford, though he was learning to appreciate his newfound wealth. Well, it seemed to be new found.
“And how is the malaria since your last appointment? Have you enough quinine on hand? We need to be cautious with this, Lucian.” Ever cautious due to the symptoms of a high fever in addition to chills, muscle, and joint aches and pain. Greyson Steel had grown to like Lucian a great deal in the year he had known him. Besides the fact that malaria was nothing to fool with.
Here among my thoughts of you, I find a gentle longing to be free...
Lucian felt a knot tighten in his chest at the doctor's words. It was uncanny, really. So often, in the past, when he had come to this house, the host's first question had been about Lucian's health. He had met the Nightingales when he had needed a doctor and had randomly picked the one closest to the marina. The doctor-patient relationship between Alexander and Lucian had grown into a friendship. Alexander's fraternal twin sister had captured Lucian's heart. Each visit had started with Alexander asking after his health, wanting to assure himself that his friend taking care of himself.
At the age of five, Lucian and his mother had both contracted malaria. Isabella had not survived. Lucian had been fortunate. A few years later, he had been infected again. At that time, the strain of malaria had been resistant to treatment and became chronic. Occasionally, he suffered relapses, which was why he needed a doctor that knew something about tropical diseases and understood that Lucian had to keep a supply of quinine on had.
He also liked Greyson Steele. The man's approach with his patients, at least with Lucian, had never been overbearing and arrogant as so many doctors were. Lucian rose from the swing and crossed the veranda to offer his hand in a warm clasp.
"I am well, Doctor," Lucian replied, "I have a full prescription of the medicine. And yourself? I hope you are well also?"
“Well, as they say...so far, so good. Now, this home, I mean it is beautiful.” One of the things he liked about Lucian was the firm handshake and the smile that came with it. “I suppose seeing the interior of this grand lady would be an optimal starting point. The grounds are quite beautiful so I imagine whatever is inside would be equal to that.”
It amazed Greyson that he and Lucian had hit it off so quickly, of course, personalities had a great deal to do with it. Greyson was a surgeon by trade, one might say, but he was a doctor after all and he added the study of malaria once Lucian became a patient. A voracious reader, Greyson maintained studies of several fields besides those pertaining to surgery.
He turned and glanced again at the front of the mansion, “Quite the vision. After you Lucian.”
Lucian opened the door and stepped inside. Again, the house seemed to sigh. Looking at the doctor, he gestured at the interior, "The furnishings can stay or go. I feel I should let you know that the previous owner died on the premises."
“I don’t mind that, happens for all of us sooner or later,” Greyson responded with a knowing smile. "As long as the cadaver's not still here, then there's no problem, and yes, the furnishings can stay."
Greyson really liked what he was seeing in the home. Perhaps a bit more than he was used to, but he was sure it would grow on him.
Lucian could not help wincing slightly as Greyson referred to the deceased as a cadaver. However, the moment was fleeting, "If you choose to take the place and change your mind about the furnishings later, we can have them removed to storage. If you will follow me, I will show you the rest of the house."
Pulling back one of the covers he smiled. The furnishings matched the opulence of the house itself. “No need to go to all that trouble, the furnishings are certainly a part of the house, and I’d rather not be tasked with trying to match the appointments of this place.” He smiled as he pulled the cover back in place. “I am right behind you, Lucian.”
Although the house was large, it was laid out well with each room flowing logically into the next. Lucian led the way up the stairs to the second floor where he showed Greyson the four bedrooms including a large master suite that included its own bathroom, a novelty normally reserved for far more modern homes. He explained that the doctor that had previously lived in the home enjoyed the modern conveniences and updated the home every chance he got. Lucian lingered on the wide upstairs veranda for a bit, explaining the logic behind homes in the south having a sleeping porch. He also showed the doctor to the third floor which had been renovated and modernized as well since the Nightingales had believed in keeping the household staff comfortable.
From there, he showed the doctor the hidden rear stairway that ended just off the large kitchen and included an exit to a breezeway that gave onto the clinic's rear door. Lucian gestured at the building, "Would you like to see the clinic now?"
“How could I resist, this place is the ritz.” Greyson was thoroughly impressed and enthralled with the home, a home that could be his, even though there had not been any talk of purchase or lease, he already knew, whatever the agreement, he would take it. He had never seen anything like the place. Oh he’d seen mansions, been in several, but none that matched this one. And there was more?
“I have to say, Lucian, this place goes way beyond the beauty of the exterior.” He stated emphatically. “So let’s have a look at the piece de resistance. I’m thinking that this would work quite favorably for me. But after seeing the house, I can only imagine what awaits.”
Lucian unlocked the clinic's door and pushed it open. Just inside the rear entrance was a small mud-room with hooks for coats and lab jackets. There was also a small break room and bathroom for the clinic's doctors and staff. From there, a door-lined corridor ran the length of the building. Each door bore a neat sign that indicated what the room beyond was. At the front of the clinic was a receptionist's vestibule and waiting room. Beyond that was a small foyer where patients could hang their coats or jackets and the plate glass from door. Lucian stood back, allowing Greyson to examine the clinic for himself.