Marvin's office was a door off the aquatic ward, and it swung open sharply as Darnelle approached it. A young nurse, a woman Darnelle recognised by the green stripes in her hair that had bled into green patches on the back of her neck, stumbled out, the tears running down her face competing with her mascara to reach her chin first. Darnelle stepped to the side, out of the nurse's way, letting her run for cover. Marvin appeared in the doorway and looked at Darnelle, then at his watch.
"Barely on time," he said without inflection. "Come in, and wait at the counter."
Darnelle hurried in, and stopped in the doorway, surprised by Marvin's office layout. The desk and chair that she'd expected were pushed over to one side of the room, in front of a large aquarium window that looked into a filled tank. Somewhere inside the tank she could see dark shapes moving, possibly the merchildren, possible just other children learning to swim. On the other side of the room was a bookcase filled with thick, leather-bound books with gold lettering on the spines, and a short, formica counter. In front of the counter were three stools, quite similar to those found in bars, and behind the counter was a dispensary: shelves neatly stocked with packets, packages, boxes, cartons and tubs of medicines. There were drawers beneath the shelves, each neatly labeled, and on the counter were a couple of prescription pads and a jar of olives. Sat on one of the stools was a scared-looking boy, probably six or seven she estimated, wearing a dark suit and Winnie-the-Pooh green wellington boots.
She sat down at the counter next to him, smiled in her friendliest manner, and asked him his name.
"He's called Derek," said Marvin, not looking up from what he was writing at his desk. "And you're on the wrong side of the counter, Darnelle. You don't dose patients from that side."
"I don't remember any Dereks," she said, flushing red and getting up. She walked round the counter and found another stool on that side, plain, hard metal and so small that she overspilled all sides of it when she sat down. "I thought the last one drown--" she stopped, realising that the new Derek was listening.
"He left us," said Marvin, laying his pen down. "This Derek is new. He's just come from the crematorium. Can you check and make sure that he's not on fire anywhere still? I'm sure I can smell something burning."
Darnelle leaned over the counter and checked, but Derek was unsinged. "They tried to burn him?"
"No. He can... somehow... summon brownies, little creatures that run around and do household chores. He summoned them at the crematorium and they found their way into the furnace, where they caught fire. Then they ran back, burning and screaming, and set fire to the entire place, and most of the mourners."
"Who was being cremated?"
"Before or after? It doesn't really matter, Darnelle, all of his relatives are dead, and we've been tasked with looking after him until he's old enough to be tried for his crime and then probably be sentenced to death. We don't want any brownies running around, so you'll be responsible for sedating him to just this side of insensibility."
Darnelle stared at Marvin in horror. "We don't do that!"
"Yes, we do. Now, you'll find syringes in the drawer labeled sharps, and I think for Derek we will start with a buffered 3ml solution of Pethocor..." Marvin carried on talking, and Darnelle looked for what he was telling her on autopilot, her mind reeling in shock that they used drug-based methods instead of letting her carry out her psychiatry. She'd injected Derek before she could form coherent words again.
"Why isn't Derek sent to me? He's a perfect case for psychoanalysis."
"You get your fair share," said Marvin. "And Dr. Conjeeca is clearly extending your role now; you're learning the dosing regimen. What more do you want?"