The Human Puppet is the sad story of a disintegrated mind: a woman convinced that she is being controlled by hypnotic forces emanating from one of her work colleagues. The disturbing fact that while in this clearly delusional state she was employed as a hospital nurse gives her narrative a most peculiar character, one in which her paranoid fantasies are interwoven with the icky mundanities of caring for the ill and infirm.
Thus, after describing how she had administered a catheter to a patient without permission, fearing that without it his bladder might burst, she tells how she started feeling uneasy:
Something seemed to be going on behind the scenes. I know of no other way to describe it but to tell it how it seemed to me. I had the distinct impression Dr. Lamprey used hypnosis on his own wife and in her subjugated state he could cause her to be "identified" psychically with another person's psyche and could by doing so "read" this other person's life story and manipulate him or her to some degree while they were closely associated in this manner.
This is typical of Nurse Leach's diagnostic approach, in which the unfortunate Dr. Lamprey is held responsible for all sorts of vague bad feelings that she has, without his needing even to be present at the time:
Dr. Lamprey's identifying with me was awful uncomfortable. I simply did not know what to do, so I went out to the nurses' station, still not knowing how to cope with the situation. One of the nurses looked toward me, then as if startled took a second look, as if just to make sure what she was seeing was really what she was seeing. Then she made some sort of signal to the other nurse and she went through the same behaviour.
No, she hasn't got spinach on her teeth:
I went into the ladies' room to see what was so "interesting" that they were now obviously talking to one another about. And I too was startled to find my face was slightly flushed and I did look more like Dr. Lamprey than myself.
It's the sort of thing that can wreck your mood, finding your boss is into you and not in a nice way.
Desperate to escape Lamprey's invisible influence, Leach writes to Oral Roberts, Marcus Bach and Jeane Dixon for help, but all in vain. Using his occult powers to control her, he finally gets her fired, by making her perform a weird (if disappointingly mild) act of unprofessional behaviour towards a comatose patient:
Because of her open lesions, Mrs. Blimp had a metal cradle up over her so the bed linen did not touch her body directly. [...] I took all of Mrs. Blimp's linens off and dropped them right on the floor - something I would never do [...] Then I took the metal cradle off her and put it in the far corner of the room. [...] I stood at the head of the patient's bed and had to stand there in that cataleptic state and wait for the inspector I knew was coming to view the mess.
Even after she leaves the hospital, Lamprey continues his evil work upon her, causing her to drive incautiously and even to put her hand into a kitchen wringer. She makes contact on the astral plane with Alexander Cannon, but cannot decide whether he is friend or foe, in league with Dr. Lamprey or against him:
It seemed as though Dr. Lamprey had informed Dr. Cannon I was an oversexed hussy and all I needed to put things right was to get over my overly pronounced prudishness.
Sounds plausible. Finally, things come to a head when one of her car accidents results in her having to pay "court costs of fifty-three dollars and twenty dollars to the woman who had offered to testify against me." Sinisterly, not only had hypnosis caused the accident but it was also used against her in the court room, to make her unable to speak out and reveal the terrible truth.
Nothing very bad happens to Leach, nor, even more mercifully, to those in her care. She hints in a mysterious way about the universe taking its revenge on Dr. Lamprey for his crimes yet as far as one can tell this cosmic justice takes place in the same dimension as much else in this book - in the unhappy mind of its unfortunate author. Not recommended as hospital bedside reading, it goes without saying.