Chapter 17 in No Escape

  • June 10, 2022, 6:11 p.m.
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“You really should go to the police,” Courtney said, picking up a slice of anchovy pizza.

“I know I should,” Lauren replied, glancing around the crowded pizza parlor. “It’s just that if I go to the police, he’ll fire my ass for sure. Then how can I ever be of any help to Shania?”

Courtney shrugged. “I hate to say it, but maybe Shania can help herself. Or worse, maybe no one can help her. Maybe she’s just stuck there for however long they’re going to keep her in there, and there’s simply nothing anyone can do about it.”

Lauren shook her head. “No, I can’t accept that. I won’t accept it. There’s got to be a way out for her. There’s got to be.”

“But how?”

“I don’t know. I always figured we wouldn’t know it till it was right upon us. And I don’t know if it’s going to be because of something I do to break her out, or if she’s going to escape on her own.”

“Well, if you do break her out, you better run and keep on running, if you’re as sure of this girl as you say you are.”

Lauren nodded knowingly. “We’ll have to run for sure because I know our place is one of the first places they’ll check. I’m her therapist, after all.”

“I just hope she’s worth it. I mean, come on Lauren, you’d be throwing your career away and basically your whole damn life. What would you two do for money while on the run?”

“I’ve got a good amount saved up. Besides, it’s not like we’d have to run forever. This would be someone escaping from a psychiatric hospital, not a convicted murderer escaping from a maximum-security prison. The statute of limitations on the warrant would eventually expire.”

“That’s true, but won’t it take some time before it did and they quit looking for her?”

“According to the research I did, a warrant for her arrest would probably be out on her for a year since she was committed against her will.”

“But what about Hoffritz? If he really does have something to do with Quinn’s death, then what?” asked Courtney.

“Getting Shania out of there is more important than bringing Hoffritz down. He’ll bring his own self down in time, I’m sure.”

“You think so?”

Lauren nodded. “People like that usually do.”

“Where will you go if she does get out?”

“I don’t know yet, but hey, Courtney?”

“Yeah?”

“You know I trust you with my life, so would you be willing to be our one and only contact until enough time passes and I can return home with her?”

“Of course. Anything you say.”

“It’s very important that no matter how much people pressure you, like my folks for instance, that you never tell them or anyone else where we end up when we’re on the run.”

“My lips will be sealed.”

“Oh, thank you so much,” Lauren said with gratitude. “My parents would just die if they didn’t hear from me, or at least about me, during the time we’ll need to hide out. This way, you can fill me in on what’s going on with friends and family while you update them on Shania and I.”

Courtney nodded. “I’d just get packing if I were you, so you can be ready to go if she does bust out of there, and remember not to take your car.”

“I already have a small suitcase packed and ready to go with the bare essentials we’ll both need, so I can run home and grab it the instant she gets out. Then we’ll probably take off somewhere by bus.”

“Withdraw all your money, too,” Courtney suggested. “They could trace your whereabouts through withdrawals and whatever other transactions.”

“I know they could. That’s why I intend to deal solely in cash when the time comes.”

“If it comes. Remember Lauren, not everything in this world is possible no matter how hard we try or how positive we think.”

“Yes, I understand that,” Lauren said glumly. “I still think she’s got a damn good chance despite any odds that may be against her.”

“For her sake as well as yours, I hope you’re right.”

After having the last two days off, Lauren was barely fifteen minutes into her shift when she was summoned to Hoffritz’s office.

This ought to be good, she thought, wondering if he was going to boldly come out and deny having anything to do with Quinn’s disappearance, or even ask her if she planned to go to the police about it. Maybe threaten her into silence?

She stepped out of her office and locked the door behind her. She passed Cathy on her way up the long corridor.

“So the good doctor wants to see you, huh?”

Lauren nodded. “Exciting, isn’t it?”

“What do you suppose he wants?”

“Haven’t got a clue,” said Lauren. “Guess I better go find out.”

“Good luck,” Cathy said with a wink, then continued on her way.

Yeah, I’ll probably need it, too, Lauren thought. A lot of it.

She approached Hoffritz’s door and knocked.

“Come in,” he called.

She opened the door and stepped inside. “You wanted to see me?”

“Yes,” he said curtly as he scribbled something down on his desk. “Have a seat, please, Miss Cohen.”

Lauren sat and tried not to fidget with the discomfort she felt by being so close to someone she loathed as much as she had come to loathe this doctor, a man whom she once felt much respect for. Funny how things could change so drastically and so fast too, she mused as she waited for him to finish whatever it was he was writing. Lauren studied his profile and wondered if she was looking at a murderer.

When he finished writing, he put his gold pen in his shirt pocket, cleared his throat and turned to face Lauren. “Remember Steve Lamont over in the infirmary?”

Lauren, caught off guard, nodded. This wasn’t what she expected.

“He left that department, which means I’ll need someone to fill in over there.”

“But then who will work here?”

“Edith can cover both the juvies and the adults by herself.”

“Wow. That’s a lot of people to cover,” Lauren said, picturing the older therapist in her mind, who was perhaps in her late fifties.

Hoffritz studied Lauren. There was no mistaking the challenging glint in his eyes. “Any problems with me transferring you?”

“No, not at all,” Lauren said, putting on her best act, determined not to let Hoffritz see that she had a huge problem with it. On the other hand, should she really be all that surprised?

“Very well,” Hoffritz said with a forced smile. “You’ll start in that department immediately. The sick always needs all the chatter they can get to help cheer them up and into a speedy recovery.”

“Yes, they do, but can I first say goodbye to my patients here and let them know I’ll be transferring? It seems like it’d only be fair. That way, if they know what to expect they won’t be so caught off guard when Edith takes over.”

Hoffritz appeared to consider this, then nodded. “Ok, you can do that. Then I’d like you to head on over there as soon as you can. They’re expecting you.”

“Ok,” said Lauren as she rose from her seat, putting on her best of phony smiles. “I’ll get right to it.”

Lauren left the office before anything more could be said, and went to find Shania. She did a search of the lounge first since she was closest to it. When she saw that Shania wasn’t there, she headed for the courtyard next. She wasn’t present there either. Next, she headed to her room and found her brushing her long, lustrous locks. She was standing by the sink, looking into the mirror above it.

Shania turned to face her as soon as she entered the room. She knew something was wrong just by the expression on her face.

“My second worst fear has come true, I’m afraid,” Lauren began.

“What do you mean?” asked Shania, heartbeat suddenly jump-starting.

“My first fear was him firing me. My second was a transfer, and that’s just what I got a few minutes ago.”

Shania’s eyes widened. “No! You’re going to another clinic?”

“No, I’ll still be here. Just in the infirmary.”

Tears welled up in Shania’s eyes as the two stood gazing longingly into one another’s eyes.

“I’ll just have to get sick sometime then,” said Shania.

Lauren nodded. “Just give it a week or so if you’re still here. Wouldn’t want to make it look too obvious.”

The two threw their arms around each other in a fierce embrace, not caring if anyone saw them, though no one did.

When they finally let go of each other, Shania could see tears evident in Lauren’s eyes as well, and she whispered, “I love you, Shania.”

“I love you, too,” Shania said back in a shaky voice before Lauren turned and left her alone to sob in bed. She was grateful that she still didn’t have a roommate so she could cry alone. Misery was something she never preferred to share if she could help it.

Lauren hadn’t been gone from his office more than five minutes when Maureen called. Hoffritz had to wait for his niece to stop crying hysterically before he could find out what was wrong. When she finally settled down, she told him she’d suffered a miscarriage.

“It’s all her fault, that bitch! That asshole, that…”

“Maureen, calm down. You can always get pregnant again sometime in the future, can’t you?”

“That sick bitch better hope so, because as far as I’m concerned, she’s the one who caused this with the stress she’s put on me. And on you too, uncle Jonas.”

When Hoffritz was able to hang up from Maureen, he decided that he’d had enough of Miss McCarthy and that it was time to take appropriate action. Since they hadn’t yet questioned him regarding Quinn, they weren’t likely to question him about her either. He rose from his chair just as the quaking began.

He watched objects dance around on his desk and books jump off of his shelves, assuming it’d settle down in a few seconds and that all would go on peacefully.

But he assumed wrong, for he would never get the chance to deal with Miss McCarthy one last time any more than his wife would get the chance to tell him that she planned to leave him as she was going to do that night.

Shania wasn’t all that alarmed when the tremors first began, but it wasn’t long afterward that her sorrow quickly turned to that of sheer terror as the tremors began to gain more force. In the past, she’d experienced nothing more than a slight tremor, as if the earth were suddenly stricken with a chill that vibrated through it. However, this was no slight tremor. This was turning into an actual earthquake.

She rose from the bed, arms stretched out to her sides for balance and headed towards the doorway. This was when the screams began, along with the sound of things falling.

She stepped into the doorway of her room, having been taught that doorways were reinforced, making them stronger. She glanced into the corridor and looked to the right just as the ceiling crumbled about twenty feet away. Sparks were flying everywhere as the lights blinked out.

It took only seconds for the emergency lights to come on, though it seemed like an eternity.

Heart pounding like a jackhammer, she turned left. Nothing had caved in down in that direction as of yet.

She ran towards the door, hoping the quaking had jarred it open. She’d gotten about sixty feet down the corridor when she turned to look behind her. More of the ceiling had collapsed and the tumbling debris was creeping closer and closer to her. Now it seemed the entire building itself was screaming in pain as the earth tore it to pieces.

Shania’s fear was intense, though it didn’t keep her from propelling herself forward towards the door.

She rounded the corner to find Sue and Larisa exiting the ward and shouted, “Hey, wait for me!”

Sue turned to face her. “Hurry up!” she shrieked.

Shania ran, fighting to keep her balance, and shot through the door behind Sue and Larisa.

“I can’t believe this is happening!” Larisa yelled above the echoing chaos.

“You and me both,” Shania agreed.

The trio headed down the stairs as fast as they could without falling.

Sue was the first to reach the ground-level door. She pushed on it frantically. “It won’t open!” she cried.

By now Shania’s heart was beating thunderously. Larisa looked as if she were about to faint.

“Go back up!” Sue shouted. “I can’t get the damn door open.”

The three ran back up, past the ward.

“What’s up here?” Shania asked.

“Geriatrics,” Sue answered.

“Aren’t there elevators around here?” Larisa asked.

“Yeah, there’s one leading up to the geriatrics ward, but we can’t get to it from here,” Sue told her.

Shania reached the door first and tugged at it. “It won’t open.”

“Well, of course it’s not going to be unlocked,” said Sue, pulling a ring of keys from her pocket. She went to insert a key into the lock, but before she got the chance to open the door, the building was rocked with a tremendous force, leaving Shania to wonder if she’d live to ever see Lauren again as all went blissfully black.

When the quaking started, all Lauren could think about was Shania. Fortunate enough to be near an exit, she ran out the door with other staff members.

“Boy, you sure were transferred just in time, Lauren,” said Nurse Sarah, who had worked in the infirmary for many years.

“Yeah, just in time,” Lauren muttered as she watched the building shake itself apart in shocked astonishment from outside on the beautifully manicured grounds.

A tremor nearly knocked her off her feet as she headed towards the center of a nearby field, along with the others, to lessen the chances of being hit by falling debris.

Lauren stood quivering as she stared at the clinic. Although the entire building hadn’t collapsed, she couldn’t believe that Shania could possibly have survived the disaster. Especially since the adult ward appeared to have crumbled to pieces from what she could see.

She tore her eyes away from the hospital and surveyed her surroundings. Most buildings in the area had some damage done to them by the quake’s fury. Traffic was at a standstill in the street with people too afraid to attempt to drive over the trembling earth.

At the coming of dusk, Lauren learned that approximately two hundred of the estimated five hundred people in the clinic had been killed and another hundred or so injured. Although the death toll was a high number in itself, it also gave her hope that Shania was amongst the survivors.

This news sparked another hope as well. Perhaps… just perhaps… the good doctor himself was amongst the casualties. She never thought she’d hope for a person to die, but in light of the circumstances, it may not be such a bad thing if this one, in particular, had done just that.


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