Chapter 15 in No Escape

  • June 9, 2022, 2:47 p.m.
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“Are you sure you planted the pills?”

“Yes, Jonas, I’m positive,” said Quinn with exasperation, running a nervous hand through her platinum mane. She had been pacing the office and now she took a seat on the loveseat a few feet from where Hoffritz sat in his leather chair.

“But you said it was only minutes between when you made the plant and when her room was searched, so how could they have disappeared so quickly?” Hoffritz asked, sitting back in his chair. It creaked in protest.

“I have no idea. All I know is that I planted them in the top drawer of her dresser when she was with that damn therapist – Lauren – or whatever her name is, then I went to Victoria because she was the supervisor in charge that night.”

“And told her someone snitched to you about McCarthy having drugs?”

Quinn nodded.

Hoffritz sighed.

“It couldn’t have been more than five minutes later that Victoria, myself, and some other staff member did the search. I was the last one to leave the room after the search failed to turn up anything, and when I passed by the little bitch as she stood just outside the doorway, I swear she gave me one of those ha-ha-you-lose smiles. I know she did.”

Hoffritz tried to keep his voice steady. “Then somebody had to have seen you and they removed the drugs before she could get caught with them.”

Alarm sparked within Quinn’s glassy blue eyes. “God, I hope no one saw me! I was very careful about that. Really, babe, I was.”

“When did McCarthy get out of her therapy session?” asked Hoffritz.

Quinn appeared thoughtful, then said, “Well, it couldn’t have been too long after making the plant, since she was there during the entire search.”

“Did you look both ways up and down the corridor when you went to leave her room?”

Again Quinn appeared to think about it. “I don’t remember. I just wanted to get out of there, so I left the room as fast as I could and went to find Victoria.”

Hoffritz threw his head back with obvious displeasure. “Quinn, honey, you should’ve been more careful.”

“Yes, perhaps. But if I had looked in either direction and seen anybody, they probably would’ve seen me, too.”

“Not necessarily,” Hoffritz said with a trace of hope in his voice. “Not if their backs were facing you. What probably happened was that the McCarthy girl rounded the corner just as you exited her room, which means she’d have only seen you from behind and you wouldn’t have seen her at all if you didn’t look in that direction.”

Quinn was beginning to feel very inadequate. How stupid of her! Couldn’t she do anything right? As it was, she couldn’t afford to screw up. Not now. Not if she were to win Hoffritz over, and she needed to do so quite desperately. A life spent working in a funny farm, or anywhere else for that matter, just wouldn’t cut it for her. If she couldn’t get a rich man to take care of her essentials as well as her desires for clothes, jewelry, and other things, which were almost just as essential to her as the air that she breathed, she’d rather be dead.

“Let’s just lay off McCarthy for a while,” Hoffritz suddenly said.

“Huh?”

“Forget about her for a while. I have someone else that needs investigating.”

“Who, Lauren?”

Hoffritz nodded. “I’d like to see if I can find out just how much Miss Cohen knows and what she may be up to.”

“But how?”

“That’s where I’ll need your help. Think you can get this one right?”

Quinn smiled broadly, pleased to be given another chance to prove herself. “Oh, yes. Absolutely.”

Hoffritz took a key from the pocket of the white coat he had on over his gray business suit and inserted it into the keyhole of an upper desk drawer. He turned the lock and placed the key back in his pocket and opened the drawer. From it, he pulled a very small dark box.

“What’s that?” asked Quinn, brows furrowed.

The round object was perhaps two inches in diameter and maybe an inch tall. A small wire protruded from the side of it.

“It’s a bug,” Hoffritz said in a matter-of-fact tone of voice.

“A bug?”

Hoffritz nodded. “You have two jobs. Job number one is to get the bug planted somewhere in Miss Cohen’s office where it won’t be seen by her or anyone else. Job number two will be to retrieve the bug once she’s had a session or two with our star patient.”

“With her star patient,” Quinn corrected. “But how am I going to get in there to do this, babe? She’s not going to leave her office and leave the door wide open.”

“No, but she doesn’t always lock it,” Hoffritz said. “I’ve seen her announce to the staff that she was going on break, to lunch, to dinner, whatever, then simply close her door and walk away. She has all her important files locked up anyway, so there’s no real need to lock up for just a short time. She only locks up when she leaves to go home at the end of her shift.”

“I don’t know what time she goes on break, though. She never breaks at the same time. None of us do. We have to wait for moments of calm when these damn animals aren’t acting up, doing whatever it is they feel they need to do to get the attention they so desperately crave before we get a chance to even breathe around here.”

“That’s ok. She eats dinner the same time everyone else does, doesn’t she?”

“Most of the time she does, but she usually brings a tray into her office.”

Hoffritz let out a long sigh of frustration. “Just do your best, ok?”

“Sure, babe. Anything you say.”

Hoffritz held the bug out to her. His mistress took it and examined it curiously. “Think you can handle it?”

“Easily,” Quinn said with more confidence in her voice than she really felt.

“Whatever you do, do not peel off the adhesive strip on that bug until you’re ready to stick it somewhere. I recommend the underside of her desk or the lower part of a cabinet, back close to the wall.”

“Not underneath a chair?”

Hoffritz shook his head. “Nah. Picks up too much movement when someone shifts or squirms. Go for the most secluded spot you can find that’s closest to where Miss Cohen and her patients sit.”

“So just how does this little thing pick up conversations anyway? There’s no tape or any kind of recording device in it.”

“Doesn’t need to be. All that’s going to be right here in this office. It’s voice-activated, so whenever someone’s speaking, it will record right to my hard drive.”

“All the way to here?” Quinn asked with surprise.

“Sure. It’ll transmit up to a thousand feet and Miss Cohen’s office is probably around, oh, I’d say a few hundred feet or so from here. Do you happen to know what day she’s planning to meet with Miss McCarthy?”

Quinn shook her head. “Haven’t got a clue. It seems to be pretty often, though. I think she’s meeting with her like two or three times a week, and of course, they talk elsewhere at times as well. I’ve seen Lauren go into the lounge where the bitch would be fixing herself a cup of tea, and strike up a conversation with her.”

Hoffritz chewed on a fingernail as his mistress spoke.

“She really does seem to be quite fond of her,” Quinn went on. “It’s like they’ve got something going on, though I’ve never actually seen anything out of the ordinary transpire between them. But why bother spying on her when you can just fire her if you’re that worried about her, and hire someone else?”

“It’s not that simple, I’m afraid,” said Hoffritz. “Therapists aren’t as easy to replace as housekeepers and cashiers. Also, if I fire her without just cause, maybe even with just cause, she could really make things rough for us.”

“You think she could become a problem?”

Hoffritz nodded. “I’m afraid she may do that whether she works here or not. Especially if she really is fond of the girl. That’s why I want to see if I can find out just what she knows and what she has in mind. She’s got to have meant something when she told McCarthy that they’d work on a plan together. ‘We’ll get you out of here, is what she said.’”

“But sweetie, couldn’t she have simply meant something as innocent as just urging the bitch to keep her cool, do as she’s told, attend her therapy sessions and whatever else she needs to do to get out of here?”

Hoffritz let out a quick snort. “Somehow I doubt that, my dear. My gut instinct says there’s more going on and that both of them could pose a serious threat to our careers, our reputations, and our whole lives for that matter if given the upper hand. That’s why I need your help. If I find out there is, in fact, something fishy in the air, I can simply move her somewhere else within the clinic, perhaps to the geriatric section or the infirmary, and come up with a reason she’d be likely to believe as to why she’s being transferred. I simply can’t just go to her and say, look, I think you’ve got a thing for Miss McCarthy, and I think you just might get in the way of my plans and help her break out of here, so you’re fired.”

Quinn thought a moment, then said, “Yes, I guess I can see where you’re coming from.”

It’s about time! Hoffritz thought to himself. Instead, he was willing to butter her up in any way she wanted, not just for some decent sex, but to get her to do what he wanted her to do, what he needed her to do. If he was going to save his skin and that of Maureen’s as well, he had to act fast as far as the McCarthy girl was concerned and get her out of their lives for good. The worse he made her look, the better it would be for him and Maureen if she really did go after them once she was discharged.

Deciding he’d solved his problems, he rose and went over to join Quinn on the loveseat.

Now it’s my turn to be oddly stared at and studied, thought Lauren, wondering just what in the world Quinn was up to this time around. Whatever it was, she knew it couldn’t be anything good. Between Hoffritz, Bruce, and now Quinn, what was once a quiet sanctuary for the troubled had become a jungle in which only the fittest survived.

Lauren pretended not to notice that Quinn was watching her as she let Cathy know she’d be heading to the cafeteria for dinner. The less Quinn and the doctor knew as far as her being aware of what they had in mind for Shania, the better her chances of helping her escape. She still hadn’t figured out a sure plan, but she knew she would sooner or later if no other opportunities presented themselves beforehand. Yes, whatever Quinn was up to, Lauren wanted to catch her at it and catch her off guard, too.

She turned from the nurses’ station and headed down the long part of the I. She didn’t have to look behind her to know that Quinn was staring at her, for she could feel the heat of her stare on her back. She wanted to stop off at Shania’s room to warn her that Quinn may have trouble in mind, though she didn’t because she knew that would look suspicious. Instead, she breezed past Shania’s room, getting just a quick image of the girl sitting propped up in bed with a book in hand.

Once the steel door to the ward locked tightly behind her, she hurried towards the cafeteria. She didn’t want to take any more time than was necessary getting her tray. She didn’t even want to do that much, but she had to. She was starving. She hadn’t eaten since early in the morning. It was no wonder her mother was getting on her about being too thin. She could use an extra ten pounds on her otherwise fit and muscular body.

Not wanting to waste time waiting for the elevator, Lauren took the stairs, passing Steve Lamont along the way, the therapist and helping hand at the unit’s infirmary.

“Well, hello there, Lauren,” he said in a cheery voice. “And how are you doing this evening?”

“Great, Steve. How are you?” she said, politely trying to hurry him along. She had a distinct feeling that wasting any time would be a very bad idea.

“Oh, I’m just swell. Would you be interested in getting together with me sometime? Perhaps we could do dinner and a movie.”

“No, thank you, Steve. I really don’t like to mix business with pleasure, though I appreciate you’re asking.” She nearly laughed at herself when she thought of just how much she had been breaking that rule of hers lately.

“Ah, but it wouldn’t be. You see, I’m going to transfer to Natchaug, a hospital much like this one about thirty miles from here real soon.”

“Why’s that?” Lauren asked. She didn’t dislike guys in general despite her attraction to women, though being alone in a stairwell with this one wasn’t exactly her idea of a good time. Especially since it was getting more and more obvious these days that the staff couldn’t be trusted any more than the patients could be.

“I’m moving.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. It’s time for a change.”

“Oh, well good luck to you. Meanwhile, I hate to cut you off, but I’m in a serious hurry.”

Steve laughed as if what she had said was funny.

Lauren rolled her eyes and continued down the stairs.

“I’ll be seeing you,” Steve called down to her a few seconds later.

Balancing her tray on one arm, Lauren unlocked the door to the adult ward with the other.

Because her office was right across from the door, she could see that its door was wide open as soon as she entered the ward. Hurrying across to the open doorway, she stepped across the threshold to find Quinn visually scanning the room as if in search of something.

“What the hell are you doing in here?” Lauren asked, startling Quinn.

Quinn’s head snapped towards Lauren. “I-uh-I just thought I heard some strange sounds in here, that’s all. So I thought I should check it out.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you did,” Lauren said with unhidden sarcasm as she set her tray of food down on her desk. That’s when she saw that Quinn was holding something in one hand. “What’s that?”

Quinn looked down at her hand as if she’d forgotten all about whatever it was she was holding. “Oh, just something I had in my hand when I heard the sounds.”

“I’d like to see it, please,” Lauren said, extending her hand.

“It’s nothing really.” She was getting nervous.

“I’d still like to see it anyway.”

“I’m sorry. I can’t do that,” Quinn said, moving towards the door.

Lauren blocked her and they came face to face with one another. They were about the same height. She grabbed Quinn’s hand and squeezed it hard enough to get the blond to drop the object. Lauren quickly snatched it up from the floor.

“Owe! How dare you, you bitch! Give that back to me!” screamed Quinn, trying to wrestle the object, which Lauren could now clearly see was a bug, back into her possession.

“I wouldn’t go yelling like that,” Lauren warned her. “After all, silence is golden in your case. Of that, I can assure you.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Quinn demanded breathlessly. “Please! You have to give that back to me.”

“And why must I do that? So Hoffritz won’t throw you out on your ass?”

Quinn’s eyes bulged with surprise as she struggled to catch her breath.

“Don’t look so surprised,” Lauren said, dark eyes blazing. “You didn’t think I was born yesterday, did you? I know damn well you’re carrying on some kind of sordid affair with the bastard and that he’s trying to get you to do things to ensure Shania McCarthy a long stay here at Lakeview.

Suddenly, Quinn broke down sobbing like a little girl, collapsing in the chair Lauren’s patients usually sat in during their sessions. “P-please, don’t say anything to anyone. Please! I won’t do a damn thing to the girl ever again, I swear. Just please don’t say anything, Lauren.”

Lauren was speechless, unsure of what to make of Quinn’s sudden transition to a scared and babbling child. “Give me a reason I shouldn’t,” she finally said.

“B-because I really need this job. If he finds out you caught me trying to plant the bug, he’ll not only fire my ass for sure, but he’ll also make the rest of my life hell because I won’t be able to get anything else in the mental health field.”

“Well, Quinn, did you ever think that maybe the mental health field isn’t for you? Why did he put you up to this anyway? What the hell is his fixation on Shania all about and when is it going to end?”

“I don’t know,” Quinn said, shaking her head miserably. “All I know is that his niece has got him wrapped around her finger real tight. He’s also got a frigid wife at home and the burdens of a daughter to deal with, and so he turned to me.”

“I don’t think he turned to you just for sex, Quinn. I think he’s using you to get at Shania. Notice how you were transferred here right around the time she was admitted?” Lauren took her usual seat and faced Quinn.

“I know, I know. But this is the only good-paying job I can get right now, and if I have to go back to a minimum wage job it’ll take me years to get back on my feet. Don’t you see? It’s just not that easy. It only takes a second to get torn down and hit rock bottom, but it almost always takes years to climb back up and get reestablished, you know?”

“Yes, I do, but I can’t just stand by and let you two ruin a perfectly innocent girl’s life either. Can you understand that?”

Quinn nodded. “I just don’t know what to do. Oh, what do we do, Lauren?”

Lauren looked thoughtful, then said, “I don’t know yet. Let me think about it. For now, just tell Hoffritz you were unable to get a chance to plant the bug. Is that thing activated right now? Can he hear us?”

Quinn shook her head. “I don’t think so. He said something about starting to record tomorrow’s sessions because that’s when you’ll probably be seeing her.”

Lauren nodded dubiously. “Well, like I said, you just couldn’t make the plant, ok?”

“But he’s only going to insist I keep trying.”

After a moment of silence, Lauren spoke up. “Ok, we’ll plant it.”

“Huh?” asked Quinn with confusion.

“We’ll plant the damn thing and then I’ll cover it with tape or something to muffle sounds so that he’ll hear voices, but not what’s being said. Hopefully this way he’ll just think there’s something wrong with the transmitter or something like that.”

Quinn’s expression brightened. “Oh, hey, that’s a great idea! Ok, we’ll do it that way, and thank you so much for not giving me away, Lauren.”

“Yeah, well, if one more thing happens to that girl, and I find out you’re behind it, I’m going to do a lot more than just give you away.”

“It’s a deal.” Quinn rose to her feet. “Plant it on your filing cabinet close to the wall or under your desk.”

“I mean it, Quinn,” Lauren said as she placed a small strip of masking tape on the microphone of the bug, “not a word about this to Hoffritz. Was he planning on having you leave the bug in here forever, or what?”

“He was going to tell me when to retrieve it.”

Lauren chewed on her lip thoughtfully, then a moment later said, “I’ll give it to you when he wants it. Now get out of here and remember our deal.”

Quinn left, grateful to be out of there at last, and headed straight for Hoffritz’s office as Lauren stuck the bug under her desk and began to eat her cold chicken nuggets.

After eating her dinner, Lauren went to fetch Shania for their session. The one Hoffritz thought was on for tomorrow instead of today. Actually, it was on whenever they had time to chat without drawing attention to themselves.

She spotted Shania heading towards her just as she rounded the corner. “Hey there, what’s up?”

“Same old, same old,” Shania replied. “Is now still a good time?”

“Oh, yes. Now’s a great time.”

As soon as they stepped into the office, Lauren swung the door shut and put a finger to her lips.

Shania regarded her with a curious expression.

In a hushed whisper, Lauren alerted Shania as to the bug that was planted under her desk.

Shania’s confused expression turned into that of a worrisome one.

“He still may pick up some words, so no talk of escaping,” Lauren warned, still whispering.

Shania nodded, and the two took their seats just as a slight yet obvious tremor shook the room. “Are we in for a big one soon or what?” Shania asked.

“You never know, though I doubt it.”

“So is there anything new going on in the world that I’ve missed since being in here?” Shania asked with a wink.

Catching on, Lauren stood up long enough to snatch a pad and a pen from her desk. She wrote briefly about her encounter with Quinn.

When she finished reading, Shania’s head snapped back up towards Lauren with shock and worry written all over her delicate features.

Quinn knocked on Hoffritz’s door.

“Come in,” she heard him say curtly.

She turned the knob and opened the door. She knew in an instant that he knew she had botched yet another attempt to free them of the evil cast upon them by the McCarthy bitch.

“Damn you!” he hissed, trying to keep his voice down. “Can’t you do anything right?”

“I’m sorry, babe. I’m so, so sorry. It’s like I told you, she’s unpredictable and I…”

“Yes, I know,” Hoffritz interrupted. “I heard the whole damn thing. Just get out of here, will you?”

Quinn froze.

“Go on, go!”

Her fearful expression turned to that of anger. “Hey, now wait a minute, buddy. I’m the one putting my ass on the line just so you can…”

“I said get out of here, Quinn.”

Fireworks darted from Quinn’s eyes. “You fire me and so help me God I’ll go to your wife and tell her everything, and I mean everything. I’ll expose you and your spoiled, conceited niece for every single evil deed you’ve ever committed!”

Hoffritz tried to hide the icy tendrils of fear that her words caused him to feel. Instead, he softened and said, “Hey look, babe, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have gone off on you like that.”

“No, you shouldn’t have.”

“I know it’s not your fault that Miss Cohen came in when she did. Again, I’m sorry I let you have it like that.” He went to her and gathered her into his arms. She was stiff at first, but he felt her relax a moment later. “What do you say we get together after work?”

Quinn looked hesitant.

“Maybe it really is high time we discussed the possibility of me leaving Erin. She and I simply have no future together.”

Quinn’s eyes suddenly brightened as if a light bulb were behind them that had been snapped on. “Are you serious?”

He smiled and nodded.

A broad, white smile spread across Quinn’s face and she said, “Let’s meet at my place.”

“Actually, I had a better idea in mind.”

“What’s that?”

“How about we go to our favorite, secret little hideaway in the woods?”

Quinn nodded. “Ok, but what are you going to tell her?”

“Oh, don’t you worry your pretty little head about her. I’ll call and tell her I’m so swamped in paperwork that I’ll be a couple of hours late. She’s used to it. Besides, if I’m going to be trading her in for you, she’s going to have to get used to my absence.”

“You got that right,” Quinn said grinning. “See you after work, hot hunk.” She kissed him on the lips and left his office.

The “secret hideaway” was actually a cabin in the woods which his best buddy owned. His buddy, who was aware of his philandering ways, didn’t use it year-round. He spent most of the time up in Idaho and had told him he could use it anytime he wanted to. They had kept it a secret from his wife.

He waited nervously in the parking lot. Calm down, he told himself. You can’t afford to screw up now, and if she sees you sweating like a pig, she’s going to know something’s up. Yes, sometimes even a stupid idiot like Quinn could be rather perceptive.

He stared through the gloomy darkness at the door from which Quinn would emerge from any minute. Hopefully, no one else would come along, so others wouldn’t wonder why the good doctor was whisking one of his youngest and sexiest employees into his shiny gold Cadillac. That would spread around the clinic in no time.

The instant she finally did appear, he jumped out of his car and quickly strode towards her. “Come on,” he called to her.

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” she said, quickening her pace and reaching to pull her car keys from her purse.

“No. With me.”

“With you?”

“Yeah, it’ll be quicker and easier if we went in one car. Afterward, I’ll drop you off back here. It’s on the way to your place anyway.”

“Ok.”

“Hurry up and hop in.”

“I’m hurrying.”

On the road, Hoffritz watched as Quinn began her tritely corny and immature flirting tactics. Sometimes she’d expose a long, lean leg, other times she’d place a hand either inside her shirt or down her pants. Did she really think she needed to do this in order to get some?

Trying to act like he was enjoying the show, he made sure to smile suggestively at her from time to time, but not often enough to lose concentration on the road ahead.

“So when are you going to break the news to her?” she suddenly asked him.

“Hmmm?”

“Erin. When are you going to tell her goodbye?”

“Oh. Soon. Real soon.”

“I think I may’ve heard that before, Jonas.”

“But you never heard me say that I’m going to have a heart-to-heart with her as soon as I get home.”

“And tell her what?”

“The obvious.”

“The obvious?”

He nodded. “I’ll tell her I met someone new that I love more than I’ve ever loved her and that I’m going to move out.”

“And in with me!” Quinn finished with glee. “That is until we can get a bigger, better place than my little studio apartment.”

Hoffritz looked over at the busty blond. What a naïve little idiot! He pressed down on the accelerator.


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