The weekend was long and tedious, filled with all kinds of worries and stress, not to mention her ever-growing rage at Maureen and Hoffritz. Especially Hoffritz since he was the one with the power of authority.
Not surprisingly, she learned that another doctor was to take over the weekly “complaints” group.
She wanted to see Lauren, but she knew she didn’t work on weekends.
Weekends were the only time, from what she was told, that the patients got a lot of “free time.” There were no groups during this time. Shania spent most of it fretting in bed, though she managed to coax herself out into the courtyard and the fresh air a few times. She also tried to bring herself to pass the time absorbed in a good book but found she couldn’t concentrate.
It wasn’t until early Monday afternoon that she finally got to meet with the lawyer.
“Hi,” said the lawyer with a smile and an extended hand. “My name’s Ashlyn Sharp.”
“It’s nice to finally meet you, Miss Sharp,” said Shania, leading her to the courtyard. They took a seat at one of the tables. Shania studied the woman intently. The middle-aged lawyer looked as no-nonsense as she seemed to be with distinct, even harsh features. Her dismally gray business suit added to her rigid austere.
“I tried to get in late Friday afternoon to see you, but they told me you were to be on restriction all weekend,” Ashlyn told her.
“Yes, I’m sure they did,” Shania said with a sigh.
“Look, Miss McCarthy, I don’t want to take up too much of your time with false hope, so I’ll just get right to the point.”
Shania felt her heartbeat speed up at the sound of the lawyer’s less-than-enthusiastic voice.
“You see, I’m afraid there’s really not a whole lot I can do for you. With no proof as to the doctor committing you solely out of spite with the urging of his niece, there’s just nothing I can do.”
“Then what can I do to enable you to help me?” Shania asked, her heart sinking to the pit of her stomach.
The lawyer shrugged. “Get me some proof. Until then, I don’t know what to tell you other than that somehow you’ve got to prove that he had you committed due to a personal vendetta against you.”
“But how am I going to do that?” Shania asked with desperation and hopelessness seeping into her voice.
The lawyer shrugged again. “Do you think there’s any way you could get him to admit what he’s done on tape?”
“Yeah, right. Like I could even get a tape recorder into this place?”
The lawyer simply gazed at Shania with pity, then she said, “I’m sorry. I wish I could help you…”
“But you can’t, so I’ll just have to get someone who can,” Shania finished with frustration as she rose from her seat. “Have a nice day, counselor.”
Shania left the lawyer in the courtyard and entered the ward. It took her eyes a moment to adjust to the cool, gloomy interior.
Early that evening, Mindy came to visit. “I finally get to see you,” she said with concern. “I was wondering how long it’d take to get in here. I’ve been so worried about you.” Then, noticing Shania’s gloomy expression, she said, “Hey, girl. I thought you’d be glad to see me.”
“The lawyer came to see me earlier,” Shania said flatly.
“And she can’t help me.”
“She can’t?” Mindy asked with surprise. “Why not?”
“Says I have no case without proof.”
Mindy digested this new information, expression turning somber as a pall came over them.
Shania looked at the four corridors that the square courtyard was enclosed in. She looked over the rooftops of the ground floor structure. “If only I could jump over that roof.”
“There’s got to be a way to prove your case,” said Mindy.
“Well, if you can find it, I’d certainly like to know about it.”
They sat in silence a moment longer, watching birds flutter amongst some hedges that ran alongside one wall of the near-empty courtyard.
“It’s a long shot, but I’m hoping my therapist can help me somehow,” Shania said. “You should see her. She’s really good-looking and really nice, too. At least I have something to brighten up my stay here.”
“Does she know you’re gay?” Mindy asked.
“Do you know if she is, too?”
“No, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she was.”
“Just a feeling. Guess it takes one to know one.”
Mindy nodded. “Yeah, I suppose it does.”
“Gay or straight, she really seems to be the only one who cares. The others don’t even believe me, but I think she does. I’ve only spoken to her once, so I can’t say anything for sure about her. All I know is that where others seem to only hear me, Lauren seems to really listen.”
“Well, I’m glad you have someone in here who’s on your side.”
Shania’s face darkened again. “Look, Mindy, I’m obviously not going to be able to contribute my share of the expenses this month. If you need to go ahead and store my stuff somewhere and either get a new roommate or a smaller place, I’ll understand.”
“Oh, don’t talk like that! I wouldn’t do that to you.”
“But you may have to.”
Mindy looked thoughtful a moment.
“All I’m saying is that it’s ok to do whatever it is you need to do because I don’t know how long I’m going to be trapped here with no escape,” Shania said.
Mindy nodded, then changed the subject. She asked about the food, the people, and how she spent her time.
“I spend my time trying to get out of here, but when I’m unable to do that, they keep me busy enough.”
After a moment of each girl being lost in her own thoughts, Mindy spoke up. “You know, I have an idea.”
Mindy nodded. “One you’re not going to like, but we may have no choice but to resort to it. It’s up to you, though. Totally.”
“What is it?”
“My brother knows some people.”
At first, Shania was confused. Then it hit her. “Oh, as in violent people?”
Mindy nodded again. “Keep your voice down. Violent, but not deadly.”
Shania considered the proposition. “I’ll let you know,” she said a moment later.
The two spoke a while longer and then a staff member came out to announce the end of visiting hours.
Now with her friend gone and the lawyer’s bad news, a deep depression began to overtake Shania as she realized that there truly may be no way out of the mess Maureen and her uncle had created for her. Certainly no quick and easy one.
The corridors seemed oddly deserted, though she knew that most of the patients were in groups or meetings of various kinds. Still, it wasn’t usually this quiet, so Shania figured it was as good a time as any to go snooping around. Perhaps she needed to take desperate measures after all. Especially if no one else could or would help her. Besides, it was true that there was no way to prove her case. Her perpetrators weren’t about to admit what they’d done. At least not to anyone who wouldn’t keep their evil deed a secret or who had enough power to use it against them.
She decided to head down towards Lauren’s office. She’d only taken a few steps when she heard voices coming from that direction. She turned and quickly headed the other way. She was approaching the nurses’ station. If she hung a left, she’d surely be seen. If she went right, she may not. It would depend on whatever the precise location was of the staff inside the station was at the moment. Either way, she was curious to know what was off of that corridor, as short as it was, so she was willing to chance it. There were only a few doors branching off its sides. However, if any of them had a chance of leading to freedom, she wanted to know about it.
Certain that she hadn’t been detected, she rounded the corner. Then, beginning on one side, she tried the knobs of the first two doors. They were locked tight.
Suddenly, the sound of whistling came to her and she realized it was coming from the last room on the opposite side. She couldn’t see into the room from where she was, though she could see that its door was open and the room was brightly lit.
She slowly approached the door, and when she was close enough, she took a deep breath and peered inside.
Rage seeped into her and absorbed her like a sponge. She thought of Mindy’s offer and then an idea came to her.
She stepped into the room. As she came up behind Hoffritz, she could see a few pictures on his desk, one of which was Maureen, the other of which she assumed were family photos, judging by the similar hair color and facial characteristics.
He was unaware of her at first. Shania watched him as he sat back in his swivel leather chair, thumbing through a file folder, occasionally glancing at his computer screen.
Shania crept even closer.
He seemed to be viewing a legal web page while browsing through the file he held.
“Looking for ways to con your way out of the serious legal jam you got your ass in?” Shania asked with unhidden sarcasm.
Hoffritz spun around fast. “What are you doing here?” he asked with both shock and anger.
“The question is, what are you doing here? You’re certainly no real doctor.”
Hoffritz stared hard at Shania with cold, steely eyes. Then calmly yet firmly he said, “Miss McCarthy, you need to leave now.”
Shania ignored him and said, “I agree. So why don’t you discharge me.”
“Why are you doing this to me?”
He turned back towards his monitor.
“Huh? Answer me, Doc. Look me in the face and tell me why you’re doing this.”
He turned and looked up at Shania, patience wearing thin. “You’re only making things worse for yourself, you know.”
“Oh, am I really?”
He turned away again. This would be a mistake on his part.
As Shania’s anger boiled over, she whipped out a fist and boxed Hoffritz in the temple with a strength she didn’t even know she possessed. He slid off his chair as if he’d melted to liquid and hit the floor hard.
Experiencing a rage like never before, Shania kicked him in the mouth. Blood oozed down his chin. She would never forget the stunned look on his face as she let her anger consume her and continued to kick at Hoffritz. “Not what you expected, huh Doc?”
He said nothing, just continued to sit there in a daze, wiping blood from his lips and chin with his hand.
“Ain’t it funny how some people victimize others assuming they’ll just sit back and take it, never expecting a reaction, then boom, they fight back! And when they do, it’s like - surprise, surprise, right Doc? It didn’t occur to you that sometimes the people you pick on just might get even, did it? And I know there’s got to be others. Certainly, I can’t be the only one.”
Hoffritz remained silent. Perhaps this was because he didn’t feel obligated to explain or defend himself to a mental patient of all people. Perhaps pleading with one would’ve been the ultimate humiliation for the so-called doctor, so instead, he merely struggled to pull himself to his feet.
Shania was quick to kick him back down, this time in the ribs, causing a quick whoosh of air to escape his lungs. She watched him struggle to breathe a moment, then said, “Here’s the ultimatum, Doc. It’s simple. Very simple. Either you release me or your family gets it, understand?”
Hoffritz still said nothing, though she could see his own anger was beginning to grow as much as he tried to hide it and maintain his cool air of professionalism. He continued to sit leaning on one arm, panting.
“We’ll find out who means more to you; me or your precious little niece and wife.” Shania knelt down so that she was at eye level with the bleeding doctor. Although he wouldn’t look her in the eye due to his obvious fear and embarrassment, she spoke anyway. “Am I worth the lives of your family, Doc? Do I mean that much to you that you would sacrifice your own family for me?”
For a split second, Hoffritz’s eyes met hers. He was pissed. Good, thought Shania. But hopefully, he’s even more scared.
“Let’s hope you love your family more than you hate me,” she said, rising to her full height and administering one last kick to the rib cage before leaving the room.
The corridors were still fairly deserted, so she took the opportunity to call Mindy once she left Hoffritz’s office.
“Hello?” she answered in a sleepy voice.
“Mindy? I’m sorry to have to wake you up,” said Shania.
“It’s ok. What’s up?”
“I may need to take you up on your offer about your brother’s friend going after every Hoffritz he can find, Maureen and Jonas in particular.”
“Ok, but what’s going on?”
Shania quickly filled her friend in.
“Oh, my God! Do you think he’ll keep his mouth shut and discharge you?”
“Depends on how seriously he takes me as well as the safety of his family,” Shania answered. “I’ll let you know if I need your brother’s friend to take action. If he does open his mouth and they restrict me from visits and phone calls, I’ll write to you.”
“Ok, honey. Just hang tough. We’ll figure out a way to get you out of there if this doesn’t work.”
“Let’s hope so.”
“We will. Just don’t lose hope.”
Just as Shania hung up the phone, she heard a series of shouts coming from the direction of Hoffritz’s office. A few seconds later, a handful of staff rounded the corner.
Obviously, the good doc had chosen her over his beloved family. Bad choice, she thought, amazed that one’s hate could cause them to risk the lives of their loved ones so easily.
“There she is!” one of the staff members shouted.
Shania’s eyes widened as they charged forth. Her gut instinct told her it’d be best to play dumb. “What’s going on?” she asked with feigned surprise.
“Why did you assault Doctor Hoffritz?” demanded a stocky staff member named Derek. “Huh?”
“I didn’t assault anyone!” Shania insisted.
“Then why would he say you did?” asked a heavyset woman named Stella.
“I told you people why. It’s all a spite trip he’s on for my getting the promotion his niece wanted. Can’t you people see that yet?”
“This is awfully extreme for a lost promotion, Miss McCarthy,” said Stella.
“Then maybe it’s also because I refused his drunken advances at the party we all attended for the boss.”
They studied her as if they weren’t sure she was even real, then Derek said, “Let’s go.”
“Let’s go where?” asked Shania.
“You’re going to be placed in isolation,” he said.
“But I never laid a hand on the guy! Look at me and look at him. Think I’m physically capable of taking on someone more than twice my size?”
“It’s been done before,” said Stella.
Shania was made to gather up what little she had from her room.
“Where is she going?” asked a concerned Bianca who had been propped up in bed with a book.
“They’re throwing me in isolation, saying I assaulted Hoffritz.”
“Oh, that’s bullshit,” said Bianca. “When’s that bastard going to leave her alone? She’s never going back to work where his demented niece is anyway.”
“Well, right now we just want to get her into isolation so we can get to the bottom of the matter,” said Stacey, a young, tall, slender blond girl who had been silent up till now.
“You are at the bottom of the matter!” snapped Shania. “Only you don’t want to face it.”
“Yeah,” Bianca added, “it’s like it’s patients against staff and staff against patients. Aren’t we all supposed to be on the same side here?”
“We are on the same side,” said Stella, “but when one of us is discovered bruised and bleeding, we need to take appropriate action.”
“How appropriate,” Shania said sarcastically. “That sicko has no proof whatsoever that I laid a hand on him.”
They began leading Shania away.
“Just be cool,” Bianca called out after her. “You’ll expose him yet and get your freedom back. You’ll see.”
Yet as Shania was being led away, she had a distinct feeling that freedom wasn’t very close.
She was taken down towards Lauren’s office, only instead of turning right, they hung a left. Six rooms branched off this short hallway, three on each side. They were small rooms with just one bed, along with a sink and toilet in the corner. Shania gasped at the toilet that was in plain view of anyone who happened to pass by. “What is this you’re throwing me in, a jail cell?”
“It’s where you need to be for now,” Derek said sternly.
Shania had had more than she could take. It was said that everyone had their breaking point, a point they reached in which they snapped, and Shania had reached hers.
She dropped her stuff and spun around fast, clipping Derek on the jaw with a fist she shot forward with lightning speed. Caught off guard, he staggered backward.
Shania then turned towards Stella, whose eyes were wide with shock. She kicked her in the solar plexus, then rammed past Stacey, knocking her to the ground.
By now, Derek was recovering from the blow to his jaw and moved forward to lunge for Shania. She was ready for him, however, and kicked him in the balls. He cried out as he doubled up in agony, then he hit the floor.
“My God!” Stella screamed, glancing down at Derek. “You ok, man?”
“I think she cracked my jaw,” he sputtered.
Shania bolted towards the exit with Stella and Stacey hot on her heels.
“Get back here!” Stella shouted. “Now, you crazy loon!”
The timing was perfect. Just as Shania reached the locked steel door, it opened. Doctor Joganic was entering the ward. Shania took him by surprise as well. This wasn’t too difficult, since the man was in his early sixties and not very fit.
Shania whipped past him, knocking him back against the door. She ran full speed down a flight of stairs and through a door at the bottom. Then she came to a fork where two long corridors branched off.
Unable to remember the way she had first been brought in, Shania veered left. She could see a door with an ‘exit’ sign above it at the end of the long corridor.
Shania pumped her legs as fast as she could, the setting sun just beyond the door never looking so good as it did now. She had just placed a hand on the metal bar that would push the door to freedom open when they grabbed her. They had been waiting for her just around the corner in another corridor Shania hadn’t seen, being solely focused on the door straight ahead of her.
Hoffritz pulled into the garage and hit the remote to close the garage door behind him. He dreaded the thought of going into the house and facing his wife of too many years, Erin. Nor did he wish to face his nag of a daughter. Already he felt his bruised face blush with embarrassment at the thought of having to explain himself to his wife. He gently touched the tender swelling under his eye, then exited his Mercedes.
He had barely taken two steps inside the house, when sure enough, Erin was right there to question him. “Oh, my God!” she exclaimed. “What in the world happened to you? Oh, I told you this would happen sooner or later and that one of those nuts you work with would attack you.”
“Erin, please,” Hoffritz pleaded, holding a hand to his head. “All I need right now is a good dose of aspirin, not lectures.”
“I’m only concerned for you, Jonas. Who did this? Why did they do it?”
“The aspirin, Erin, the aspirin. Then I’ll tell you.”
Hoffritz went right to the living room and settled into his favorite recliner. He closed his eyes and waited for the aspirin.
He opened his eyes to find his teenage daughter looking down at him. The girl was cute but scrawny and appeared closer to twelve years of age than fifteen. He was beginning to wonder if she’d ever grow. “Hi, honey. I’m sorry I didn’t get in sooner, but I have a splitting headache right now, so you can tell me all about the dance later.”
Jasmine eyed her father with obvious displeasure as well as curiosity as to his injuries. An auburn lock of hair that fell free of her ponytail cascaded down one side of her face. “It wasn’t a dance, dad. That was last week.”
Hoffritz mouthed a silent O, scanning his brain in search of what magical event he was supposed to have missed attending this time around.
“I was auditioning for a part in a play,” Jasmine reminded him. Impatience and disappointment were thick in her voice.
“Oh, the play. Yes, that’s right. What was I thinking when I mentioned the dance,” he quickly said, trying to cover his embarrassment and discomfort. “Guess that goes to show how bad my headache is.”
“Oh, just a patient that got a little out of control,” he said, trying to smile and make as if it was no big deal. He decided to change the subject. “Again, I’m sorry about the play. ”
“You wouldn’t have cared to go anyway,” Jasmine muttered, turning to leave.
“It’s not that I don’t care, honey. I’m sorry I missed the audition. Did you get the part?”
but Jasmine was gone, having headed upstairs to her room.
“She won’t know that for a few days,” Erin said, entering the room with a glass of water flavored with white grape and a couple of aspirin. “Here. Take these.”
Hoffritz took the aspirin.
“Now tell me what happened,” Erin said, sitting on the loveseat nearby.
“There’s nothing to tell. It was just a wacky patient that got out of hand. She came into my office and attacked me while I was seated at my desk. Sometimes this is what happens when you work with a bunch of people who aren’t wired right. It’s no big deal, though. It’s just a few scrapes and bruises.
“A woman did this to you?”
Hoffritz felt his face flood with heat.
“My goodness. I guess men aren’t necessarily the tougher sex, are they?”
“It’s not my job to be tough, Erin,” Hoffritz said with annoyance. “It’s only my job to keep people like Shania McCarthy subdued and locked up for as long as possible.”
“Shania McCarthy? Isn’t this the one that threatened Maureen and the mayor?”
Hoffritz nodded. “Yes, it is.”
“Why did she attack you?” asked Erin.
“She threatened to have us all harmed if I didn’t release her.”
Erin stood up fast. “Damn it, Jonas! You should have discharged her for our sake. What if something happens to us, especially Jasmine, all because you had to be the so-called powerful one, the one with the last word and say in the matter?” She paced the room in a frenzy.
“Relax, Erin, will you? It’s going to be just fine. She’s all talk and no action.”
“That’s what people said about that horrible woman up in Sacramento who threatened to kill her six kids for years, then guess what? She decided to one day put her actions where her mouth was, that’s what! And how about that guy in San Francisco that openly threatened his girlfriend for a good five years or so before he too, finally made good on his word.”
“I know how you feel, dear, but look at the odds. What are the odds of someone making good on their threats? Come on, honey, you know she was just bluffing.”
“No, I don’t know that,” Erin said, sitting down on the love seat once again. “My God, Jonas, couldn’t you have been some other kind of a doctor? One that dealt with mending the body and not the mind, which quite often can’t be mended anyway?”
“Please, Erin. Not tonight. Tonight I just want to relax, ok?”
“Well, what do you intend to do about this woman?”
“She’s being dealt with accordingly.”
“How accordingly is that?”
“Just have a little faith in me,” Hoffritz said with an exasperated sigh. “She’s been taken care of. She’s under constant supervision. Nothing she does will go undetected, so if she has any sinister plans up her sleeve, not that she’ll be discharged any time soon to act on them, we’ll know about it.”
Jasmine stepped back away from the top of the stairs just as her mother said, “Let’s hope so.” Then she quietly entered her room, flicked on the light, and closed the door behind her. Laying on the bed and looking up at the ceiling, she silently cursed the girl who had taken her father’s time and attention away from her earlier in the evening. She hated her for it, even though she knew she had messed up her lines terribly and didn’t stand a chance of becoming Romeo’s Juliet.