Chapter 16 in No Escape

  • June 10, 2022, 2:38 a.m.
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Shania hung up the phone after talking with Mindy two days later. Her hand shook so bad she could barely get the phone back on its hook. The news Mindy had shared with her had stunned her so intensely. Wait till I tell Lauren! she thought to herself, though she may have already heard the news as well.

“Did you hear?” asked Larisa, who had come up to where she stood by the payphones.

Shania nodded. “Quinn’s missing.”

“Serves the bitch right, if you ask me,” said Larisa. “Now if only Bruce could disappear right along with her.”

“I hear you on that one,” said Shania, and although it may’ve been easy to say it at times, she didn’t really wish any serious harm done to Quinn. She was just glad she wasn’t around. Even so, she couldn’t help but wonder about what may’ve happened to her. Was Hoffritz connected to her disappearance? Somehow she felt that he was. She also wondered if she should contact the police, though she wasn’t too sure that the police would take someone in a loony bin all that seriously.

“Maybe not, though they’d probably take a licensed therapist somewhat seriously,” Lauren later told her during one of their sessions, the only thing Shania now had to live for.

“But what would you tell them? That you suspect the doctor that runs the clinic you work at killed a co-worker? One he was probably dating?”

“Well, I don’t know if I’d word it quite like that, but first I’d tell them how you ended up here, then I’d go on to explain why I think he may have something to do with her disappearance. The worse they can do is ignore me and not check into it.”

“Which would leave me with the same problem I’ve had since day one – Hoffritz. What if he goes after me next?”

Lauren thought about this possibility a moment, not bothering to hide the concern she felt. “Just make sure you don’t let him know you suspect him of being involved in Quinn’s disappearance, ok?”

Shania nodded. “So her car’s still here, but she’s nowhere to be found?”

“The police took her car not too long ago. They’ll go through it to see if they can find any evidence as to what may’ve happened to her.”

“If her car was found here, then that must mean that she left with someone else, probably him.”

“Yeah, probably.”

“What do you suppose he did to her?”

Lauren shrugged. “Haven’t got a clue.”

Shania slowly began to shake her head, despair taking over her features. “We’re never going to bring that sick, deranged asshole down. Never.”

“Come on, Shania, remember what I said about positive thinking.”

“But it’s been just over a month now.”

“It’s hard, I know, but we mustn’t give up hope. I hate to say it, but Quinn’s murder, if that’s what really happened, may be your lucky break as far as you getting out of here.”

“But how? If you can’t convince the police, and if he gets away with whatever it is he’s done to her, I’m screwed. Totally screwed.”

“No, you’re not.”

“What if they never find her?”

Lauren shrugged. “Well, there are no guarantees. He may’ve covered his tracks really well, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never get out of here. He can’t keep you here forever and neither can anyone else. At least not as far as I know they can’t.”

At the end of their session, Shania asked for a hug, though not without timidity evident in her voice.

“Of course you can have a hug, honey,” Lauren said with a smile, rising along with Shania for a firm embrace.”

When they pulled back from one another, Shania smiled weakly, then turned to head back to her room which had become more or less a virtual prison cell to her. She gazed through the bars on the window and wondered two things. What had happened to Quinn, and what would happen to her? Was a similar fate awaiting her just around the corner? One where she would simply vanish without a trace, leaving others to speculate and suspect, but never to know for sure what happened to her?

Lauren sat down at the table in the breakroom with her hot chocolate and flipped open the fashion magazine that lay before her.

Cathy and Sue entered the room a moment later, speculating on Quinn’s disappearance.

“I swear that girl had something going on with Doctor Hoffritz. Even Victoria thinks so,” said Cathy.

Lauren’s head snapped upwards to face the two women.

“You know something we don’t?” asked Sue, noticing her reaction.

“I think so,” said Lauren.

“What do you think?” Sue prodded.

“That they were having an affair.”

Cathy and Sue exchanged glances.

“For real?” Cathy asked with surprise.

Lauren nodded. “And you didn’t hear it from me.”

“No, not at all,” Cathy went on. “Hey, listen. Do you think the McCarthy girl’s allegations about Quinn and the doctor conspiring against her could be true? Something about his niece losing a job promotion to her.”

“I think it could be true,” said Lauren, not wanting to let on all that she really believed.

The two women exchanged another round of glances.

“Damn,” said Sue. “All this over a lousy job?”

“I’m afraid some people are rather poor losers,” said Lauren.

“But what does this have to do with Quinn disappearing?” asked Cathy.

The women sat in silence a moment, then Sue said, “Maybe she was planning to give him away.”

Exactly, thought Lauren, for it had become rather obvious to her as soon as she learned of her disappearance, that Hoffritz had no doubt been aware of the fact that Quinn was unable to plant the bug successfully. In fact, he had probably heard every word they had said to each other that day when she caught her in her office in search of the best place to plant it.

She found it hard to believe that Hoffritz wouldn’t believe that she would suspect him of having something to do with Quinn’s disappearance and wondered if that meant he may try to do something to her out of paranoia. Or perhaps it was the other way around. Perhaps the smug bastard felt that he was invincible and that she could suspect him all she wanted to and even express her suspicions to the police, yet never could she bring him down. Some people were like that; they believed they were God, above the law, forever untouchable.

“Maybe we should think of going to the police,” said Cathy.

“But we have no proof,” countered Sue.

“I would think that suspicions would be enough to start with in cases where people go missing,” said Lauren.

“Are you going to go to them with what you know?” Sue asked.

Lauren shrugged. “I might. Just remember, though, we never had this conversation.”

“Nope, never had it,” Cathy assured her with a firm shake of her golden curls.

The ringing of the telephone nearly sent Hoffritz through the roof of his living room.

Damn it, get a hold of yourself! he silently chastised. Even his wife was beginning to sense that something was up.

His wife picked up the phone and announced that it was Maureen calling.

Great. Just what he needed.

Her brows furrowed with confusion as she covered the mouthpiece. “She wants to talk to you. She says it’s urgent.”

“I’ll take it in the study.”

“Why is she calling so much lately? Is something going on that I don’t know about?”

Hoffritz had to think fast. “She’s seeing someone with psychiatric problems. She’s just calling for advice is all.”

Erin rolled her eyes. “Good God. When’s that girl ever going to learn when it comes to men? Can’t she find someone sane and devoted for once? Someone who will want to have a family with her instead of just playing around and running once she ends up pregnant?”

Hoffritz rose from his recliner. “I’ll grab it in the study.”

Once he was in the study, he picked up the phone and told Erin to hang up the living room extension. When he heard the click of the receiver, he began to speak. “What’s up, Maureen?”

“Hi, Uncle Jonas. I’m sorry to bother you, but I just heard on the news that a lady who works at your clinic has gone missing. Is this true?”

“I suppose it is, though this person was said to be rather flighty, so she’ll probably turn up soon enough. She probably decided to run off somewhere on a whim, but she’ll return.”

“Oh, I see. Uncle Jonas, were you having an affair with this woman?”

Hoffritz inhaled a sharp breath of air. He hadn’t expected this. “That’s none of your – no, I wasn’t, Maureen!”

“What’s up with crazy Shania?”

“Nothing, but listen, Maureen, you can’t keep calling so much, ok? It’s starting to make aunt Erin wonder what the hell’s going on. Having that damn therapist know we spited the McCarthy girl into the clinic is bad enough.”

“What! She really does know?” asked Maureen, panic rising in her voice.

“Relax, will you?” he said, trying to keep his voice down. “She can’t prove anything, but still, she suspects, and that’s not a good thing.”

A thick silence penetrated the phone line. “What do we do now?” Maureen asked a moment later.

“I told you. We stop talking so much and just lay low. If anyone asks you anything, you don’t know a thing, ok?”

“Ok.”

“No matter what they may bribe or threaten you with, you know nothing.

“Ok,” Maureen said again, though not without worry present in her voice.

He exhaled a deep breath of air once they hung up, at which time his wife hung up as well.


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