Episode 22 — Chapter 26
Savannah sat in her rental car in the parking structure of Layton Regional, plotting the best way to gain access to her prospective interviewee. She knew that a reporter’s access to a patient in a hospital was limited—normally written consent was required to interview a patient. Although federal regulations had recently relaxed visitation rights of family and friends, Savannah was neither family nor friend. She needed a prop to improve her odds of getting past the reception desk.
Wearing a patterned aquamarine blouse and cream-colored slacks, which complimented her athletic figure, Savannah glanced in the mirror visor, making sure her hair and make-up was in place. She applied a subtle shade of rust-colored lipstick, exited the car and trekked through the parking garage until she reached a large fountain in front of the hospital’s main entrance.
Savannah was pleasantly impressed by the modern and spacious reception area, which contained a large seating area and multiple desks. She spied a gift shop to her left and walked in. Flowers would be the perfect cover for a female patient, but what about a male one? She shrugged her shoulders and selected a model 1948 Ford pickup truck with an assortment of yellow daisies, orange roses and red carnations in the bed of the miniature truck. That should work fine for a man, she thought. Savannah paid the cashier and marched out the gift shop toward the reception area.
“May I help you?” a middle-aged lady smiled at Savannah from behind the reception desk.
“Good afternoon,” Savannah responded, holding the flower arrangement at her side. “What a lovely reception area you have. It’s so bright and open. It’s my first time here.”
“That is a lovely arrangement. What patient do you wish to see,” the lady asked in a friendly tone.
“His name is Ty Cobb. I’ve forgotten his room number. Can you tell me what room he’s in?”
“Of course. Let me see.” The receptionist typed on her keyboard for a few seconds.
“Room Forty-One Seventeen. Fourth floor. Elevators are to your right.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
“Happy Friday,” the receptionist responded.
That was easy!
Savannah took the elevator up to the fourth floor, then followed the long corridor to her left identified by the room indicator signs. After passing the nurse’s station, she turned right. A short distance later she stood in front of Room 4-117. The door was slightly ajar. Savannah took a deep breath, suddenly nervous at the prospects of meeting the man whom she had flown five hundred and fifty miles to see. She hoped that the floral arrangement would curry favor with the patient and she quietly pushed the door open.
Looking inside the room darkened by drawn shades, Savannah observed a man lying in bed, with a cast on his leg; his face was turned away towards the window. She took a couple of steps into the room, her heels sounding softly on the tile floor. As the man’s face shifted toward her, she gasped and blinked her eyes hard. Despite the MSN piece, she hadn’t expected to behold a man who bore such a striking resemblance to pictures of Ty Cobb that she had seen before. But, there was something oddly different about him. He appeared younger than she had expected. She was disarmed by the intense stare in his bluish-gray eyes. He had a round chin, slightly-beaked nose with full, but colorless lips. She didn’t remember the Ty Cobb she had researched having blondish red hair, or did he? After all, every photograph of Cobb had been in black and white. And where was his deeply receding hairline? This man had nearly a full set of hair, worn considerably longer than the photos she had seen. He wasn’t bad-looking, nor particularly handsome, but the disoriented look on his face seemed to hail from a different time and place.
Savannah gathered her thoughts and proceeded carefully. “I hope you will forgive the intrusion, Mr. Cobb. I am a huge fan of yours. I heard you were a patient here and I just had to come see you.” She placed the flower arrangement gently on the table next to his bed.
The patient studied his visitor, looking her up and down. Savannah noticed his pupils dilating, a hint of sexual attraction that she had witnessed countless times before from other men. His eyes remained a fraction of a second too long on her chest and then descended to her legs. It instantly dawned on her that a man from a century past would rarely have seen a woman wearing pants. Savannah felt his stare return to her face and particularly appraise her hair. His gaze reminded her that women from a century ago invariably wore their hair up. Never before had she felt so thoroughly examined by any man.
“Thank you ma’am.”
Savannah stepped closer and offered her hand. “My name is Savannah… Savannah Cain. I’m from South Carolina, Mr. Cobb. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would ever meet you in person.”
The patient accepted her hand and gave a polite nod.
“So, can it really be you? Ty Cobb, the greatest hitter of all time? I can’t believe I’m actually talking to you. What an honor to meet you.” Savannah hoped that she wasn’t coming on too strong.
Mr. Cobb’s face struggled to remain stoic, but a small smile appeared along with a gleam in his eyes. Savannah sensed that she may have been the first person who had responded so enthusiastically to his celebrity.
Trying to make small talk, Savannah continued. “I was told you had a terrible accident. How are you doing?”
I hope I can get more than one-word answers from him, Savannah thought to herself, or this will be a very short interview.
“I’ll bet your itchin’ to get back on the ball field,” Savannah continued. “Spring training starts next month.”
The patient looked at her, with an expression that conveyed that the thought of playing baseball was the furthest thing from his mind. “What I’m itchin’ to do, ma’am, is to get out of this place.” He was quiet for a few moments as Savannah kept to herself.
Mr. Cobb looked away, his head shaking slightly. “No one’s been able to find my wife or kids…”
“I’m so sorry to hear that. It must be so very lonely for you.”
“I feel like a prisoner here.”
“I’m sure you’ll be able to leave soon, once you’re fully healed,” Savannah responded meekly.
The patient stared out the window, talking more to himself than to his visitor. “I don’t know where the hell I am. I’ve never seen such a razzle-dazzle place. And some doctor is trying to convince me that I just woke up from a hundred years’ sleep. I didn’t just come in by boat.”
Savannah was caught off guard by the statement. “It must come as quite a shock.”
Mr. Cobb angrily turned her way. “You too? You’re part of ‘em, aren’t you? Get the hell out!” he said in a forceful tone.
Stunned by the sudden rebuke, Savannah started walking toward the door, but she stopped before stepping into the hallway, gathered herself and turned back.
“Mr. Cobb, I’m truly sorry,” she said with a sympathetic look. “I didn’t mean to anger you. I’m not with the hospital, I swear. I heard on the news that you were a patient in this hospital and I’ve read so much about you, I wanted to see if it was really you.”
The patient just shook his head. “Just tell me what in tarnation is going on. That’s all! Why is everything so damned… peculiar?”
“Now, please don’t get upset. I am speaking the truth,” Savannah started in a very calm and polite tone. “It’s not 1911 any more.”
“The hell it ain’t!”
“Mr. Cobb. I have no reason to deceive you. Aren’t you wondering why things are so different now? Surely the world you’ve come to know since your accident is vastly different than before.” Savannah saw the patient’s subtle acknowledgment to that truth. Gently, she said, “More than a hundred years have come and gone since then.”
Mr. Cobb looked away and began shaking his head. “That can’t be. It’s impossible,” he mumbled to himself.
“The world has changed dramatically. We have large airplanes flying in the sky carrying hundreds of thousands of passengers daily to every destination in the world. Man has set foot on the moon and will be soon traveling to Mars. We talk to people on hand-held phones and see them as we talk.” Savannah took out her mobile phone and handed it to the patient.
The patient examined the object, “What’s this?”
“It’s a telephone and much more. Look, let me show you how it works.” She took back the phone, took a picture. “This is a photograph I just took of you.”
Mr. Cobb looked at it wild-eyed.
“There’s seven billion people on the planet today. We’ve had a couple of world wars. There’s been an incredible technological revolution over the last century.”
“If what you say is true, how did I end up here and how the hell do I get back to where I come from?” the patient asked. “Can you answer me that?”
“I wish I could,” Savannah shook her head. “There have been a few reported cases of people, like yourself, who claimed to have come from the past. Never been corroborated, as far as I know. It’s called time travel. Have you ever heard of that?”
Mr. Cobb nodded. “H.G. Wells wrote a book about that. Pure fantasy.”
“Yes, I would have agreed with you until a few minutes ago. Yet, you look exactly like the Ty Cobb from the early twentieth century–the man you claim to be. I should know, I’m a journalist for a sports magazine and I’ve spent a lot of time researching the game of baseball as it was played in the early 1900’s. Of all the ball players from that era, I’ve studied your life and career the most. You were, by far, the greatest player of that age.”
Mr. Cobb turned his head back toward the window.
Savannah could tell that the patient was tired; it was too much to process.
“Can I come back and talk to you tomorrow?” Savannah asked.
“I reckon I’ll still be here,” Mr. Cobb muttered to himself.
Savannah walked down the hallway, shaking her head. She had been talking with the patient as if he truly was Ty Cobb. There was no question that the likeness was beyond remarkable, but that was easily explained by the facial reconstruction.
Those doctors did an amazing job.
As she walked in the parking lot toward her rental car, Savannah wondered who the lost soul truly was and if it was really worth returning for a second visit.