C. L. Gingerich
The young doctor was in suit and tie today, away from his white coat and colleagues at the University of Mental Health in Arkansas. He was on a special assignment this fine fall morning in the always beautiful Washington state. It wasn't every day he could leave the University and hop on a private jet to meet a potential new patient. Not every day indeed.
But this day was special, he knew, because of this intriguing patient the Warden of River Wood Psychiatric Center had in his care. Odd things had been happening was what Dr. Johansson, the warden, said. This patient, newly under his care since February, was an oddity. She didn't fit any stereotype the doctor of thirty years could think of.
"It's almost as if she's playing with us," he whispered over the phone, afraid to be overheard. The young doctor couldn't stop himself from laughing.
"I'm sure she's just some new brand of confused," he reassured.
"Dr. Freeman," Johansson said seriously, his voice shook, "I can assure you that she isn't anything I have seen before. Ms. Kane knows things she shouldn't, things about our campaign for government funding, things no one could know if they weren't in on it."
Dr. Freeman quieted and looked around his office slowly. He stood and locked his door and closed the shades against the beating hot sun of the summer heat.
He sat cautiously behind his desk and took in a breath, "How?"
"I have no idea, Clair. Just get up here and give me your opinion of this girl."
Clair hesitated, "I don't think I can leave the University, John. Not during the summer."
"Then come when you can. Please, Clair. Ms. Kane is scaring the other residents."
And now here he was, briefcase in hand, jacket over one shoulder, and a smile on his face. The initial shock and weariness of this Ms. Kane had worn off sometime before summer ended, but Clair was still intrigued by her. He wanted to learn more about her case. So to Washington he went when he could get away from the school.
It was well worth it, he reasoned, as he placed his briefcase on the high counter at the receptionist desk of the River Wood Psychiatric Center and was welcomed by the secretary.
"Hello, sir. Congratulations on finding your way to this nice little clinic for the mentally unstable. How may I help you?" she smiled, baring her teeth. Her three chins stuck out of her collar and jiggled as she spoke. The velvety purple suit sucked in her rolls, creating sausage links. The brooch she wore jingled and sparkled gaudily in the florescent lighting.
"I'm here to see the Dr. Johansson. I'm Dr. Freeman," he answered, smiling. The secretary looked at him and glanced down at the appointment calendar on the desk. Her chunky fingers looked like doctor gloves filled with water pressed to their limit of elasticity.
"October 3, 2012, Dr. Freeman from Arkansas' University of Mental Health. 10 AM," she read out loud. She looked back up to the doctor with a blank expression. "Are you Dr. Freeman?"
His smile faltered, "Yes."
She looked up at the clock on the wall and back down to the doctor. "You're early, Dr. Freeman. Please have a seat." Motioning for the visitors' chairs against the wall, she smiled politely and went back to reading her dieting book. The young man tapped his fingers once upon the counter and turned round to sit down. He looked at his watch and sighed, five 'til ten.
He sat there for fifteen minutes, until it was 10:10, before standing and walking over to the secretary. She glanced up at him, then to the wall clock and back down to her book.
"Can I help you, Dr. Freeman?"
"Yes, you can. My appointment with Dr. Johansson was ten minutes ago. Now, I know the doctor personally, have known him for seven years, and he is a man of punctuality. He wouldn't be late for a meeting unless something unexpected happened. May I ask where the doctor is? I don't want to wait around here for hours."
The secretary looked startled. "You are to meet Dr. Johansson?"
"Yes, ma'am. I said that to you when I came in here. Were you not listening?"
"Sir," she said, hesitant. "Dr. Johansson hasn't been in the office for a month."
"What do you mean?" he asked, raising his voice. "I made this appointment with him a month ago. He assured me that he would keep this meeting. Where is he?"
"Sir," the secretary said softly, remorse in her face. "Dr. Johansson is dead."
"The coroner who did the autopsy said it was suicide. I'm sorry."
The young doctor took a step back in shock. "How… how can he be-?"
"Dead? I'm not sure, Dr. Freeman."
"No, how can he be suicidal? Did he ever seem suicidal to you?"
She cleared her throat as to end the uncomfortable conversation and looked down at her calendar. "Sir, this says you were to see the patient 18793. Do you still want to?"
"What? Yes. Yes, of course I do. I came here to see her."
"Well, then, you should follow me. I think you should see her file and meet her doctor before you meet her in person."
"That's probably the smart thing to do, ma'am."
She stood, her sausage rolls moving as she did, and he followed her behind the desk into a locked room where all the files of the patients were held. There were no fancy coding system or fingerprint scanners to allow access into the room. Riverwood was a small community, and no one expected a break in at the psycho ward.
Making her way to a filing cabinet labeled "17000 – 19500," she sighed and shook her head. "I've no idea why you want to see Kane. She's a basket case. No one thinks there's hope for her. Dr Johansson even thought she was beyond repair. What do you want with her?"
"I'm not sure. Maybe Dr. Johansson wanted my opinion of her before he would pull the plug on her," he answered, looking over the short woman's shoulder as she flipped through the files. "I'm not sure."
"Here it is," she replied, holding up a clean office file filled with papers of different sizes. Across the top corner ran "18793 – Kane, Alex." She gave it to the doctor and closed the filing cabinet.
He opened it hungrily and dove into the papers, and immediately noticed a missing piece to the girl's identity.
"Does she not have a birth date?" he asked, looking up.
"Yes, she does," a new voice said. A woman stood in the doorway, smiling. "We just don't know it."
"Hello, I'm Dr. Freeman," he stated. "I had an appointment."
"Hello," she greeted with an extended hand. "I'm Dr. Nimrichter. You're here to see Alex."
He nodded, holding the file open before him like a great novel just released. He let go with one hand to shake hers. "You're her doctor?"
"Yes, most of the time. A few of us doctors take turns to watch over her. If she gets too used to any one of us, she may find a weak spot and make for it. She's tried before."
"You mean escape."
"Yes, Dr. Freeman. Escape."
He looked from the secretary to the doctor. "Should you be here, ma'am?" he asked the plump grape. "I thought the patients' files were classified."
"Oh," Dr. Nimrichter said, smiling, "Mrs. Graham here does lots for us. She is a certified nurse. She works with the patients when she's not behind the desk."
"Oh," he answered. He looked back down at the file. "Ms. Kane here has attempted suicide?"
"Yes, twice now."
"Twice? This only says once, March 8th of this year. When was the other time?"
"The same day Dr. Johansson… passed away."
"Are the two connected?"
Dr. Nimrichter shook her head, "I don't think so. Alex was in the isolation room when Dr. Johansson's body was found. She didn't hate the doctor either, and she couldn't have in any way gotten out of our care to murder him. We never let her out of our sight."
"Yet you didn't find it odd that I questioned her capability of murdering someone while in here? Is she capable of killing?"
Dr. Nimrichter paused a moment, "The people who brought her here told us not to ask any questions, so we didn't."
"What was the price?"
"Excuse me?" she asked indignantly.
"What was the price they offered for shutting you up?"
Dr. Nimrichter didn't answer.
"I see," he replied. "But these people seemed to think her capable of something like that?"
"Yes," she said reluctantly.
Clair nodded once, "May I see her?"
"Yes, come with me," Dr. Nimrichter said. "Thank you Mrs. Graham for showing Dr. Freeman here." The secretary nodded and walked back out of the room to help a man in a suit standing at the receptionist counter.
Ms. Kane's doctor led him to double doors and pushed past them.
He sat in uneasiness on the cold metal chair with his elbows on the metal table bolted to the floor. Having been briefed for fifteen minutes on how to and how not to act while in Kane's presence, Clair didn't want to breathe too loudly, fearing a sudden murderous side of Kane would come out.
The heavy door opened on squeaky hinges and three guards entered with a young woman in between them. Clair took in a sharp breath and held it as two guards pushed the tall girl to the chair across from him and strapped her down. A serene look was in her eyes, influenced by the drugs in her system. As long as she remained nice and sedated, everything would be okay.
Her bright blue eyes stared into the doctor's with no sign of life. Her pale face was so thin and stretched, she looked starved and dead. Her once blonde hair was greasy with many weeks worth of musk and body soil. The smell coming from her was wretched, and even the guards seemed to hold their breath.
Once they were done with strapping her in, they made for the door quickly. They went through and bolted it. Clair shivered, alone with this new brand of psycho. Sweat ran down his back and he felt suffocated.
He had twenty minutes, or until Ms. Kane threw a fit, to ask her questions. But now he didn't want to even look at her. The smell was overpowering him. His mind was telling him to panic.
She continued staring in his eyes.
He cleared his throat and shuffled through his papers. Where to start? Something simple. He would work his way into harder questions as she answered the simpler ones. But he couldn't bring himself to look her in the eye.
"Don't be afraid," her soft voice whispered across the table.
Clair blinked and stuttered.
"You came here because you want to know, right?"
He looked at her bewildered. "What do you mean?"
"You want to know like everyone else wants to know. They all want to see inside my brain. All of them. You want to know, too, just like them."
"Alex," he said calmly, "who are these people you are talking about?"
She smiled ruefully and shook her head, "You know them. You know all of them."
"Alex," he started, holding her gaze, "I'm going to ask you questions about yourself. I don't want to know anything other than who you are and what's troubling you. Do you understand, Alex? Tell me yes or no."
She nodded once but looked unconvinced. "Yes."
He smiled gently before glancing to his papers and starting the interrogation. "Can you tell me your full name?"
"Alex, please answer the question. All I want to know is your full name. Can you tell me your full name, Alex?"
He tried not to sigh, but it came out a grunt. He decided to try another approach. "Do you go by the name Alex Kane?"
"Yes," she said, smiling.
He smiled back, encouraged by her response. "What is your name?"
He sighed this time and shifted in his chair. "How old are you, Alex?"
She stared at him without expression.
The silence in the room was deafening as her blue eyes bore into his with crystal clarity, nothing insane about them. The moment was ruined when the noise of the bolt being drawn back on the door echoed through the room. In stepped Dr. Nimrichter with a clip board and a frown.
"Dr. Freeman, I have to ask you to leave," she said in a deadpan voice.
"What? Why? My twenty minutes isn't up," he answered, looking at his watch. Alex looked straight ahead, fear hidden beneath a calm exterior.
"I'm sorry, but something has come up. I must ask you to leave now. Really, I'm very sorry for this inconvenience." Her face showed no sign of that.
He let out a long breath and said nothing, fearing he'd say the wrong thing. He stood and gathered his papers. Looking once more at the calm patient across the table, he shook his head in remorse and headed for the door. This girl was troublesome.
The guards in the hall looked tense as he walked out into the brightly lit corridor. Dr. Nimrichter didn't follow behind him; instead, she leaned over Alex's shoulder and whispered something in her ear. It must have been bad from the reaction it caused in Alex.
Clair frowned and walked back towards the doors leading to the lobby when it opened and a man escorted by another guard came through. The man smiled at Clair and held the door for him.
"Thank you," he said, distracted with thoughts of the girl.
"No problem, mate," the distinct Australian accent echoed the smile on the man's face. He wore a dark blue suit and held a briefcase in one hand. His blond hair was combed back. He looked the part of someone important, but he probably was most at ease among the surf.
Then he was out the door and then out of the clinic a few minutes later after arranging another visit with Alex. This long awaited vacation away from the university wasn't as wonderful and full of opportunity as he first thought it was. With the sudden odd death of Dr. Johansson and the oddness about this new patient, he couldn't fill his mind with thoughts of the beautiful scenery and lovely temperature. He would go back to his hotel and rest. Maybe sleep would bring some answers.
…to be continued