I looked at myself in the mirror the next morning and realized that I looked haggard and exhausted. I didn’t remember the last time I had any proper sleep. Jackson Wolfe had been on my mind. I’d played out my first meeting with him and there were a few scenarios that I imagined it would play like and all that came to my mind was Agent Starling and Hannibal Lector and it didn’t help because then I kept rolling from side to side all night until my alarm went off at five-thirty a.m.
I stared at the bags under my eyes and decided to dab some concealer, apply some compact powder, and a nude shade of lipstick. Nurse Maddy who was also my good friend in the faculty said that darker shades always suited me but wearing heavy makeup wasn’t even allowed in the hospital.
I heard the shower turn on in Ken’s room which was my cue to prepare breakfast for him. I cooked fried eggs on toast since that topped his list of most favorite breakfast of all time. My brother was a low maintenance guy, if you told him you were too busy and made frozen pizzas for dinner every single day, he wouldn’t complain.
Leaving early today. See you at dinner.
I left a small note for him beside the breakfast plate, pulled on my canvas shoes, grabbed my bag and made my way outside in the chilly weather.
Once I reached the hospital, it was quite easy to find Dr. Bennett’s office. I knocked once and stepped inside the office to find a young doctor leaning against the desk with his back to me, ruffling through a file. I cleared my throat. “Dr. Paul Bennett?”
“Yes?” He turned his full attention to me. “You must be...”
“I’m Nurse Riley Frazer. Just transferred to the C wing. I’m guessing Dr. Aaron told you about me?”
He smiled knowingly. “Yes, of course, Nurse Riley. Please have a seat.”
“You can call me Riley.”
He passed me a lady-killer smile. Dr. Bennett was tall, probably six foot three, lean with wavy raven black hair, caramel brown eyes that reminded me of honey. His face was sculpted and had a sharp jawline that could cut through glass. He had the kind of face that would have the people passing on the street to stop and look back twice. If Aaron had warned that the new ‘trainee’ looked like he was fresh out of fashion tv, I would have at least tried a little harder at my makeup skills.
Screw you, Aaron Shaw.
I bet the nurses on the floor wished this doctor took advantage of them. I knew some who would.
“Earth to Riley?”
I’d totally spaced out. “I’m...I’m sorry...Doctor. You were saying?”
Dr. Bennett chuckled and pushed a few papers towards me. “Read it carefully. You don’t want to sign something you’re not ready for.”
I laughed. Was that supposed to be a joke?
I scanned through the papers. It had the patient’s name on it with all the other information and my name printed down below for a signature. It read that the patient was going to be under my care from here on and he was going to be my responsibility. I signed it without hesitation. I’d done this a lot of times. A mentally insane wasn’t going to make me run for the hills. Plus if Paul Bennett, trainee slash-Aaron’s errand boy was going to work in the same wing, then why the hell not? It wasn’t every day that I saw good looking doctors around here. Aaron did qualify as good looking, but Paul was on another level altogether.
Paul checked his silver Rolex, tapping a fountain pen on the mahogany desk between us. “I should warn you. Jackson is nothing like the other patients around here who may be mentally ill but are still easy to handle. I’m suggesting you think wisely before signing anything concerning him.”
I smiled. He was concerned for me. “Dr. Paul, I really appreciate your warning but I gave Aaron my word, and I have previous experience of working in a mental institution so I know it will be fine.”
“If you say so.”
“Weren’t you going to help me with the fast introductions?”
“Well, I would love to...” His sentence was cut off by the phone ringing on his desk. He sighed, “This thing never stops ringing.” Putting the receiver to his ear, he said, “Dr. Bennett speaking, may I know who this is? Oh no, is that right?” He passed me a worried look. “It’s an emergency? Okay then. Yes, okay...well, guess I don’t have a choice, I’ll be right there.”
He hung up the call, and turned to me, “I’m sorry, Riley. I guess introductions with the patient would have to wait. They need me in the E.R department since they are running short on staff.” He reached for his desk and retrieved a pair of keys. “Tell you what. It’s not exactly safe to be going to his room alone so either you wait a few hours until I’m free or we can do this tomorrow.”
“You don’t need to worry. I’ll be fine Paul...Oh, I’m sorry...” I laughed. “I mean Dr. Bennett.”
“Paul is fine.” He grinned and handed me the keys. He continued to stare at my hair. “Is that a bit of violet color I see in your hair?”
“Yes, actually. Dark lavender highlights but when I come for work I just have to tie it up in a bun so it’s hardly noticeable.” I was even surprised he’d noticed my hair color, not most people look that closely.
“It’s a nice color, suits you. Almost like purple cotton candy that I used to have at the fair when I was little.” He said, smiling at the distant memory.
“Cotton candy is a good comparison. Someone compared me to prune the other day.”
He laughed. “Seriously?”
“Stupid, right?” I laughed with him, totally working those charms and like I’d been possessed by a daring spirit I asked. “Are you free for coffee tomorrow?”
And then I quickly looked at his ring finger and found no band there, but what if he had a girlfriend?
He arched a brow and passed me a grin. “Your treat?”
It’s the twenty-first century; of course, women can ask men out. Like I don’t even know who made up that stupid rule that only men could make their first move. Get outta here. It’s not like we were going to hold hands or kiss in the backseat which I’d clarify I’d totally love, but Paul seemed nice. And it’s his genuine sweetness and gentleman nature that I just had to get to know him better. And it didn’t hurt that he was good for the eyes.
We could totally be lunch buddies. That’s all I was hoping for at the moment.
I wrote my number down on a sticky pad. He checked his watch. “Well, unfortunately, I’ll have to cut our conversation short because duty calls and all that jazz.”
I laughed. “Right.”
He pushed the number into his trouser pockets and slid his arms through the coat, making his way towards the office door. He stood back for me to pass through. “Are you sure you don’t need someone to accompany you to his room?”
“No. I’ll be fine, Paul. Thanks.” I said, staring at the key of doom. Room number 606.
He probably caught the fact that I was a bit nervous. His expressions turned serious, “He’s not on his best behavior today so I gave him some meds. He’s mostly asleep by now. If he wakes up and causes trouble again, just give him a shot of anesthesia. It will keep him subdued.”
“If you need anything else, you can call Nurse Laila. She’s the supervisor around here. Any questions?”
I shook my head, “Thanks for briefing me, Paul.”
“No problem and I’ll see you around.” He said and swaggered down the hallway.
It didn’t take me much time to find Room 606. It was right at the end of the hallway. A man in a patient’s uniform was peeking through the little transparent see-through part of the door. He was grinning at me, showing all his teeth. He was saying something that I couldn’t hear. Then again, he could be reciting a nursery rhyme for all I knew.
My heart was beating out of my rib-cage as I slid the key into the slot. I took a deep breath before I turned it. I was surprised that the room was more spacious than the other rooms that I’d seen before. The windows had bars and a man was sleeping soundlessly on the bed, he was wearing the sky-blue patient’s uniform. His hands were tied to the bed railing with a robe. His face was shut with a mouth restraint. From the looks of it, I should’ve been running for the hills but I was overcome by a wave of sympathy and guilt. I saw a lot worse in my line of work, but every time I came across something like this, I couldn’t help but feel sad.
Jackson was tall, with dirty blond hair bordering to red and freckles scattered all over his cheeks and nose. He had a babyish face. If he was a comic book character, he’d definitely be Archie. The desk across from the bed was flat on the floor, along with papers and stationery which appeared to be scattered everywhere. A black diary was face down.
I decided not to wake him up and instead cleaned up the room, putting everything back to its original place. I was tempted to peek into the black diary but refrained from doing so. I didn’t want to rob him of the little privacy that he had in here. If he wanted to show it to me, he would by his own free will.
After cleaning the room, I quietly tiptoed out and shut the door behind me locking it back. I decided to do other work in the meantime. When I glanced at the clock an hour later, it was already lunchtime so I decided to take the tray of lunch to his room myself. I didn’t want to start off at the wrong foot.
When I entered the room, he was already seated. His face twisted in agony as he tried to wiggle out of the ropes at his wrist, trying to loosen it up. He obviously hadn’t heard me open the door and walk inside.
“Jackson?” I called out to him as politely as I could. “I brought your lunch.”
He tried to say something to me desperately but his mouth restraint wasn’t allowing him. Poor thing. He could be hungry too. I despised Dr. Paul for a minute even though I knew feeling sympathy and guilty for any patient wasn’t part of the job description.
“I will remove your mouth restraint and also loosen the ropes if you will play nice,” I said. “Do you promise me to be nice?”
He nodded earnestly; his clear blue eyes watched me carefully as I unbuckled his mouth restraint. As soon as the mask was off he shrieked. “Get me out of these fucking ropes!”
“Now, Jackson. You promised me to play nice.” I reminded him.
He gritted his teeth, “I’m not Jackson! Please take off these damn ropes and I’ll explain everything.”
“Ha. Do you think I’d fall for that? Try again, sweetie.”
Jackson closed his eyes, took a few deep breaths and continued. “I’m Dr. Paul Bennett, the new psychiatrist in charge of Jackson Wolfe’s case. When I came to do a routine check up on him this morning, to fucking talk to that psycho...he...he knocked me out, dressed me up in his clothes and tied me up to this bed. Seriously, Miss Frazer, how could you be so stupid?!”
I pursed my lips. He didn’t just call me stupid?
“I’m not stupid. I met Dr. Bennett this morning. Do you take me for a fool?”
“Call Dr. Shaw right now and have him speak to me.” He said furiously, his face going full red.
I put the mouth restraint back on his face and buckled it, tightly. Without another word, I shut the door behind me and locked it. I could hear him screaming at the top of his lungs. Then I went straight to the reception. The receptionist, Mary clicked off something on her computer, passing me her bored look. “Can I help you with something Riley?”
“The patient in room 606. Can you describe him?”
Mary giggled. “You mean Loony Jackson? Honestly, if he wasn’t so crazy, I’d think he was a movie star. He’s gorgeous. All the nurses would bang him but they don’t want to end up in a freezer either.”
“Does Jackson have blondish-red hair and freckles over his face?”
Mary stared at me like I’d grown horns. “What the hell are you talking about? Of course not, I mean not unless he was Paul Bennett’s twin.” She laughed.
All the blood left my face. I was probably as white as a sheet.
At that moment, I knew I’d screwed up.
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