Chapter Four

"Sure, but you'll have to talk with Robert Manzelle about that."

Officer Ethan Gibbs looked up from his notebook.

“Who is Robert Manzelle?”

“ Our maintenance supervisor,” Tim explained as he closed the panel door.

“ Could you get him up here for me, please? Ask him to bring his maintenance records for the whole building, not just for this office. Perhaps an accomplice sabotaged the alarm system from a remote location inside the hospital.”

“Tim nodded. “That's what I was thinking, too. Robert is down in the electrical room where all the main power panels and alarm system relays are located. He's been trying to diagnose the stoppage and get it fixed since the incident happened.”

“That's good. I'll need a printout of his diagnostic results as well as the maintenance records. Maybe we can pin down what caused the alarm failure, and where it originated. I'd also like a copy of the patient's medical records. If he's a danger to the public, that presents a whole new problem for the police force.”

“I can't do that, sir. Patient confidentiality laws won't allow it.” Tim's voice took on an irritated edge. This cop should have known that, before he even asked.

“I understand that, but you are allowed to release his records with a court order, which my partner is now getting from the presiding judge. He'll probably have it for you by the time you get back up here with Mr. Manzelle.”

“Oh. I guess I have no choice, then. I'll be back as soon as I can.” Tim answered begrudgingly, as he left the office.

Ethan took his police radio from its hook on his belt, and buzzed his partner, Officer Michael Litcombe.

“Litcombe here. What is it, Ethan?”

“How are you coming with that court order, Mike?”

“The judge wasn't happy about being pulled away from his breakfast at home, but he listened to reason when I told him we had an escaped mental patient. I guess he didn't want to take any chances with the public safety. I met him in his chambers a half hour later, and got the court order. I'm at hospital administration right now. I'll be up there shortly.”

“Good, I'll buzz you in. Gibbs out.”

Ethan looked at the monitor into the isolation room, and shuddered. He wasn't claustrophobic usually, but he thought that might change if he were forced to spend any amount of time in that stark little cubical. He couldn't understand the reasoning behind isolating patients in a little white box, to calm them down. He was pretty sure isolation would have the exact opposite effect on his own nerves.

Ethan looked into the monitor that covered the main hallway leading to the office. The door at the end opened, and Tim, Ethan's partner Mike, and a man he didn't recognize, walked toward the fishbowl door. He buzzed them in, without waiting for a request. When they entered, Tim handed Ethan a thick folder.

“Your partner gave me the court order. These are Paul's medical records. I looked over them quickly myself. I hope the police can find him sooner than later. He's a nightmare waiting to happen.”

“Why?” Ethan asked, as he flipped through the thick folder, looking for any graphics, or bold type that might stand out, and give him a starting point to focus on.

“Mentally ill patients often strike out physically against the demons they are fighting within themselves. Sometimes they turn their anger on themselves, but just as often they turn on the people around them. Hitting, biting, spitting, urinating and defecating in inappropriate places, and self harming, is common in this hospital, and hardly an occasion for alarm. His behaviour was predictable. His escape, wasn't.”

“Why do you say he's a nightmare waiting to happen?” Ethan asked.

“Paul's aggression has escalated. He admitted himself to the hospital three months ago. He claimed he couldn't be trusted, and he needed to be locked up. He said he was having  hallucinations of running through the slum area where he lived on the streets, biting people, craving raw meat. Then he started having blackouts. When he woke up in some previously unknown part of town, he had the taste of blood in his mouth. This scared him, and he came here. Homeless people often fake mental illness to get food, and a warm, safe place to sleep.”

“Was he faking it?”

Tim shrugged. As the medical director, he saw unusual behaviour all the time. He could tell the difference between real illness and a good performance.

“Can you tell the difference between a real criminal and a wannabe gangster?” He asked Ethan.

“Sure. A trained cop can almost smell real guilt.”

“Exactly, it's the same way here. We are wary of self admittances, so we're pretty thorough about evaluations. We don't have the budget to provide room and board for the homeless, if they aren't a danger to themselves or others. Within the first week he scratched at the walls, bit himself, then withdrew into a catatonic state for a couple of days. When he woke up out of that, he started asking for raw meat.”

“I see. Why would his eating eating habits concern you?”  Mike asked, from over by the monitors.

Tim turned toward Mike.

“It wasn't just his eating habits. His personality changed. He went from being shy, withdrawn, self effacing, to dangerously aggressive, practically overnight.  He was initially in an unlocked ward where he could come and go, but then he bit two other patients, so he was transferred to this ward.  He kept going on about his hair and nails growing, and he howled all the time. We sedated him, and put him in isolation. Eventually, he calmed down.”

“Did his hair and nails grow?” Ethan asked.

Tim smiled. He was beginning to like this cop.

“No. We even took pictures of these aggressive events to show him. He still insisted that there was a vicious animal inside him, trying to get out. May I see Paul's records, please?” he said, holding out his hand. Ethan gave it to him. Tim rifled through the pages, and handed him back three photographs.

“These are pictures of Paul before, during, and after his  psychotic episode a month ago.”

Ethan studied the pictures carefully. There was no real difference in Paul's appearance, except the aggressive body language, and the wild look on his face.

“He doesn't look too dangerous, “Ethan commented.

“I know,” Tim said, handing Ethan the rest of the folder.

“The two patients Paul bit when he first got here, have changed their initial behaviour to more or less match Paul's aggression. One of them damn near chewed a doctor's nose off. My biggest concern is that whatever illness, pathogen, or psychosis he has succumbed to, appears to be contagious. We have to catch him before he infects someone else, or worse, kills somebody!”

The End

5 comments about this story Feed