Aaron rubbed his forehead in frustration. “I wish I could say that it’s not a big deal, Riley but I can’t because this could go out of our hands at any point of time. Jackson is out there somewhere, doing god knows what, all because he tricked you into thinking he was Paul Bennet.”
“I know. He was just too convincing, Aaron. If you were in my place you’d probably mistake him for a doctor as well. Trust me.” I pleaded. This time the tears tricked down my face without me even realizing it. This was a big deal. A psychopathic patient was out in the open because of my mistake. I could lose my job, or worse, someone could get hurt.
“Paul wants you out of this wing.” He said handing me a wad of tissues.
“Just great.” I exclaimed.
Marvin, the ward boy came rushing into the room. The short, timid guy seemed agitated.
“What is it, Marvin?” Aaron asked.
“You’re not going to like this, doctor.” He said and without waiting he added. “We got news that a white Nissan was stashed in the woods a few miles away from the hospital. Someone broke into an apartment nearby and the man was found unconscious on the floor with....”
“Bite marks?” Aaron completed for him.
Marvin swallowed. He was terrified from even talking about it. “A chunk of flesh seems to be missing from the shoulder area.”
Aaron sighed. “Jackson.”
“Oh my god!” That’s all I said and then I remember my head spinning and someone shouting for help.
When I opened my eyes, I realized I was still in Aaron’s room. I was lying down on his patient checkup bed. I sat up straight and from the thin curtains I could see Aaron and Paul speaking to each other. It sounded coherent because my brain was still taking time to process what had happened until now.
It was Paul. The real Paul, one with the freckles and the face of Archie, talking to Aaron. It could also be categorized as an argument. He caught me staring at him and threw me a look, one that was full of disdain and I didn’t blame the guy. If I’d be tied up to the bed by a lunatic and if the nurse refused to recognize me, I’d be mad too.
“How are you feeling?” Good ol’ Aaron asked me. Still so nice and sweet despite how I had screwed up. “Can I get you a glass of water?”
I nodded. “How long was I out?”
“About an hour.” He responded, reaching for the mini-refrigerator and handing me a small bottle of water.
“Is that man...is he dead?” I asked, failing to keep the fear out of my voice. He snatched the bottle out of my hands and unscrewed the lid which is when I realized my hands were shaking.
“He’s been rushed to the hospital.” Aaron said. “Good news is that they were able to catch hold of Jackson.”
I heaved a sigh of relief. “So that means they are bringing him back here?”
“Yes. Already on their way.” Aaron smiled. “Don’t worry. Mistakes can happen, mostly where a loony like Jackson is concerned. Also, Paul tells me that when you thought he was Jackson, and when you entered the room, you removed his mouth piece. Is that right?”
“I did, but that was only because I came to give him lunch. You don’t expect a patient to eat with that thing on, do you?” That was directed towards Paul who had his hands folded across from his chest, looking bored.
Paul took a step closer, he was almost in my face and said. “He asked you a question, you are supposed to answer with a yes or a no. Nurse.”
“What’s with his attitude, Aaron?” I asked.
“Cool down, you guys.” Aaron said. “Paul, cut that attitude. And Riley, from here on, whatever Jackson tells you, don’t mess with the mouth piece unless necessary. Sometimes, well, most of the time he’s out of control and so we need to keep him strapped and his mouth piece on. It’s not always, but if it’s on his face it’s for a reason. Jackson’s an animal disguised as a human being. He can be very manipulative, he is also smart and can use your weakness against you. Very dangerous indeed, but also a great subject for research.”
“Well, you guys are forgetting that if I hadn’t removed it, Paul would still be in crying on that bed like a damn pussy. So technically, you, Paul should be thanking me.”
“Thanking you?!” Paul shrieked. “My---”
Aaron raised his hand. “Meanwhile, Riley, you can take a half day off for now. I know you’ve been stressed out since morning, so get some sleep.” Aaron said good naturally.
Paul groaned. “Seriously, Dr. Shaw!” He didn’t wait for an answer as he trotted out of the room and slammed the door on his way.
Well, looks like I’m gonna have a new best friend in the wing. Note the sarcasm.
“I’m fine, Aaron.”
Aaron seemed concerned. “I don’t want to seem rude, but the other staff here don’t think you can handle Jackson after what happened today. They want you to be assigned to another patient.”
I knew that the ‘other staff’ specifically meant Paul Bennet. He couldn’t even stand to look at my face and if I was being honest with myself, my confidence was slipping by the minute. What if Paul is saying the truth. What if I couldn’t handle Jackson? Then again, I wasn’t the type who would back out from a challenge. And that’s what Jackson was for me.
“Do you think you will be able to handle Jackson on your own? We will have a twenty-four-hour security outside his room but I really don’t want to seem like I’m imposing this on you.”
“You’re not and I know I can handle him. I’m sure.”
“We didn’t have a choice. You’re the only experienced nurse that we have around here, and we couldn’t let Roxanne continue with being his nurse, I mean, not after what he...”
Then he went silent.
“I’m sorry. You were saying Aaron? What did he do to Nurse Roxanne?”
Aaron shrugged and a pause later he said, “She was just paranoid. Jackson can be very intimidating and scary, she said she didn’t want to continue being his nurse. That’s all.”
I nodded, knowing full well that it wasn’t the truth entirely. Aaron was surely hiding something.
Despite Aaron insisting that I took the day off, I refused. I was just too guilty about the whole thing for me to take some quality rest. I knew I would be restless even though Jack was supposedly caught. My stomach groaned indicating that I was starving so I was headed down towards the hospital cafeteria to buy myself lunch when I noticed three muscular men and Marvin dragging someone forcefully with them.
“Out of the way...everyone. Out of the way.” They yelled as they made their way through the hallway.
I backed against the wall. As if I knew who they were dragging along with them, I waited and there he was. The man who had pretended to be Dr. Paul Bennet, the same deranged man who’d charmed his way out of the asylum like it was a piece of cake. His dark eyes watched me, and even with the mask holding his mouth shut, I swore I watched him grin, like he was mocking me. The men began unlocking his room at the end of the hallway. I heard hoots and whistles from the other locked up patient as if Jackson was some kind of a hero, like he’d just won a trophy in a championship.
Before entering his room, he turned to face me and continued to stare until Marvin had to push him inside the room.My hands were balled into fists. I was furious, not just because of him but because I wondered how I could be this naïve. I wanted to confront him.
Dinner in the hospital was served early. That night, even with Aaron warning me against doing it, I decided to take the meal to Jackson’s room. This time I was more cautious than before. A security stood guard by his room who informed me that Jackson was resting. I walked inside and made sure the door wasn’t locked just incase I needed to make a run.
Jackson was seated by the window in a wooden chair, leather straps around his wrists which were linked together. He probably heard me walk inside because he turned to face me, and he was grinning. It was weird to see him like that, in a patients blue uniform when just yesterday he’d deceived me by pretending to be the doctor. The handsome young doctor that may have charmed me into inviting him over a coffee.
If that wasn’t cringe worthy.
Jackson didn’t have the hideous mouth piece on, he grinned at me, like he was meeting an old friend after a long time. “Nurse Riley.” he drawled. “To what do I owe this honor?”