Excerpt from City of Dreams by Beverly Swerling, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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City of Dreams

A Novel of Early Manhattan

By Beverly Swerling

City of Dreams
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2001,
    591 pages.
    Paperback: Jun 2002,
    592 pages.

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Lucas yanked the bucket into position below his patient's dangling genitals. He withdrew his finger from the governor's body and took up his scalpel. One quick cut between testes and rectum. Two inches long. Deft and swift, with his arm wrapped around the man's waist to hold him in position. Stuyvesant's body jerked once, but in a second he was again rigid, and he made no sound except for a soft groan.

Blood was obliterating the cut. Lucas grabbed the pincers and inserted them into the wound. One quick snap and the handle opened wide, spreading the flesh apart. He could see the wall of the bladder. He chose another scalpel, smaller than the first, made another quick cut. Less than half an inch, but the sharp reek of urine told him he'd opened the right place. And through it all, Peter Stuyvesant neither moaned nor twitched.

Piss gushed into the leather bucket. And a second later, clearly, a sound that could not be mistaken in the silence broken only by his patient's wheezing breath, the ping made by the stone as it fell. Thanks be to God, he wouldn't have to probe for it.

Lucas had three ligatures ready, thin strands of sheep's intestine. He tied off the blood vessels and mopped the wound with the cloths Anna Stuyvesant had given him. A slow but steady flow of blood was oozing from some vessel he'd cut but couldn't see. There was nothing for it but to lengthen the original opening and tie off the vessel. A lesson he'd learned from bitter experience. Fail to do that and no matter how tightly and neatly you sewed together the flesh, the patient died.

Thirty-five seconds were gone. If he was to live up to his boast he must begin to stitch, but he dared not.

He reached for the smaller scalpel, made the wound half an inch longer at each end. There, the source of the blood was near the top of the cut, close to the kidneys. Lucas grabbed the vessel with his probe, pulled it forward, and tied it off. Forty-two seconds. And not a sound or a movement from the man who was bent over the chest. If anything, the silence was deeper than it had been.

Sweet Jesus Christ, maybe Stuyvesant had stopped breathing. "Mijnheer Governor," Lucas whispered, "can you hear me?"

"Ja." The voice was weak.

Lucas felt a moment of triumph. He and Sally -- finally, fate was smiling on them. "Just checking on you, mijnheer, almost finished." He sponged the wound with hot water, sprinkled on some of Sally's stanching powder. Finally he released the spring on the handles of the pincers, removed the instrument and tossed it aside, then grabbed the needle threaded with a thin strip of sheep's intestines and began to stitch.

"Done," he said a few seconds later. "It's over, Governor. The stone is out. Such pain as you'll have for the next few days is from the wound, and when it heals you'll be cured. Meanwhile you must have a bran and salt enema every day. There is to be no straining at stool."

Lucas helped his patient back to bed while he spoke, supporting the other man with an arm around his waist. "I'll call your sister, shall I," he said when the governor was back in bed and the covers were drawn up over him. "Perhaps you'll sip some ale to restore your -- "

"Fifty-two seconds," Stuyvesant said. "I counted." There was a thin line of blood along the margin of his lower lip. And tooth marks. He'd bitten through his own flesh rather than cry out. "It took you fifty-two seconds, barber, not forty-five."

Lucas nodded. "You had a high bleeder. I had to make a second cut to find it. If I had not, Governor, though I sewed you well up, you would bleed inside your body and be dead before morning."

For a moment he thought Stuyvesant might denounce him as not the stone expert he claimed to be. Instead, "Go down to the waterside. Tell Heini the clerk I said to let you sleep inside the fort tonight, in the storehouse. And that he should come see me in the morning. Tell him I mean to change your land appropriation."

Copyright © 2001 by MichaelA, Ltd.

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