What Penny Saw (Part II)
A four-part mystery.
by P. May Wilson
March 14, 2003
University Hospital was the biggest and newest hospital in the city. The university went to considerable expense with the ambition to become a primary diagnostic and treatment center, in addition to being a teaching hospital. In the six years since it was built, the hospital had lived up to this goal and had patients from all over the state and even from some of the surrounding states.
The psychiatric unit was a model for other hospitals. It had two wings: the diagnostic wing and the treatment wing. The diagnostic wing was for people who were admitted for observation and sometimes testing. Most only stayed 72 hours or less; 72 hours was as long as was legal to hold anyone without a hearing. There were others, like some geriatric patients, who may stay up to a week. Some of the patients on the diagnostic wing were admitted by a psychiatrist but most were put there by the police when it was suspected that they were a danger to themselves or others. Patients who were determined to require more treatment were transferred to the treatment wing after their assessments were complete. The diagnostic wing had 12 beds and the treatment wing 24. They were almost always full but there was so much turnover in the diagnostic wing that beds opened up daily. There had been no problem getting Penny admitted.
Late Tuesday morning found Detective Bridge standing at the outer door of the psychiatric unit of University hospital. He pressed the buzzer and a voice responded from a speaker set in the wall.
“Can I help you?”
Bridge held up his badge to the camera trained on him from above the door. “I’m here to talk to Penny MacLean.”
A buzzer sounded and Bridge opened the door into a small chamber with another door. There was a pause and then another buzzer and he opened the inner door and went in.
A plump middle-aged woman with a stern expression was there to greet him. Her nametag said, “Mrs. Castle, RN.” She looked Bridge up and down.
“Why do you want to talk to Miss MacLean?” she asked in a surprisingly gentle voice.
“She’s a witness in a murder investigation. I need to talk to her about what she saw.”
Mrs. Castle frowned. It was apparent she did not like this at all. “Very well,” she said finally, “But if you upset her I must ask you to leave. She’s over there.”
Penny was sitting at a small table by herself, her head bowed over something on the table, pen in hand. She was wearing bright yellow pajamas and a pinstriped blue robe. Bridge turned to Mrs. Castle.
“Why isn’t she wearing her own clothes?” he asked.
“She tried to elope yesterday evening. She got as far as the door downstairs. A security guard noticed her on her way out and thought it odd that she didn’t have a coat on. Then he saw that she didn’t have any shoes on either. So he intercepted her and brought her back up here.”
“How did she get out?” said Bridge, glancing back at the security doors and to the nursing station that faced it.
Mrs. Castle sighed. “The night shift is rather careless about leaving the nursing station unmanned. One of the interns was leaving and Miss MacLean slipped out behind him. We tell them to be careful when they are leaving but they get careless about it. He didn’t think to look behind him as he unlocked the doors.”.
Penny looked up as he approached her table. Her expression didn’t change and she looked down again at what she was working on. Bridge sat across the table from her and she visibly tensed. He looked down and saw that she was working on the New York Times Sunday Crossword, which was published in the local paper. It was about half done.
“You must be pretty smart to tackle that. I can’t get anywhere with it,” said Bridge, who had completed the same puzzle Sunday afternoon in two hours. Penny said nothing and filled in another word.
“Miss MacLean, I have some pictures I’d like you to look at to see if you recognize anybody. Will you do that for me?”
Penny glanced up, then away. “Will you go away if I do?”
Bridge held back a smile. “Sure.”
He took an envelope out of his coat pocket and removed half a dozen photographs, all of men arrested for drug trafficking but all now at large. He laid them on the table. Penny picked them up and looked at each one carefully. She paused at the fourth one.
“I’ve seen this guy around the neighborhood. I think he lives in the next building. He’s always in the laundry room watching TV when I go there. I don’t know his name.”
She looked at the last two. “That’s the only guy I recognize,” she said.
Bridge pulled out another photograph, a Polaroid. “How about him?” he asked, putting the picture face down in front of Penny. It was the morgue shot of Santos Munez.
Penny looked down at it and paled. “Is he dead?”
Bridge nodded. “Have you seen him before?”
Penny looked away and then glanced at the photo again. “No.”
Bridge pressed the point, “You’re sure?”
Penny shoved the photo across the table so hard that it landed in Bridge’s lap. “I told you, NO!”
Leroy and Sandra, the two aides, both looked in the direction of the table where Penny and Bridge sat, then looked at each other, then back at Penny and Bridge.
“Please go away now,” said Penny, not as loud as before but with an edge to her voice.
“One more thing,” said Bridge, pulling a small cassette player out of his coat pocket. He put it on the table and pressed “play.”
Penny’s voice, breathless and excited came out of the machine. “A cop’s been shot! He’s still alive!” there was another sound and then silence.
Bridge looked at Penny, who was pale and whose expression was that of a trapped animal.
“That’s not me,” she hissed.
“Oh, I think it is,” replied Bridge, “You tried to help Santos and then you ran to the pay phone on the corner and dialed 911. Why did you hang up?”
Penny stood up suddenly, her chair crashing down behind her. Now Leroy and Sandra were heading to the table at a brisk pace. Mrs. Castle and another nurse were coming out of the nurse’s station. “I TOLD YOU! I WASN’T THERE! I DIDN’T SEE ANYTHING! LEAVE ME ALONE! LEAVE ME ALONE!”
The patients watching TV and playing cribbage were all staring at Penny. Leroy and Sandra reached the table and were standing on either side of Penny. Penny looked at Leroy. “Make him stop. Make him stop talking to me. I don’t want to talk to him anymore!” her voice was raising with each sentence, threatening to reach the level it had been before.
“You don’t have to talk to anybody if you don’t want to,” said Leroy reassuringly, “Come on, let’s go have a cigarette, Penny.” He took her by the arm and she allowed herself to be led away, Sandra trailing behind.
Bridge stood up and started to follow Penny and the aides, who were going into the smoking room. A hand clamped down on his arm. He looked into the fuming eyes of Mrs. Castle. “You have done quite enough, Detective Bridge. I want you to leave. Now.”
Bridge shrugged off her grip on his arm. “Miss MacLean is an important witness in a murder investigation. I have to find out what she knows.”
Mrs. Castle took a deep breath. She was furious. “Miss MacLean is a patient on a psychiatric ward. My patient. I will not have her interrogated and agitated in this manner. Right now she is under observation. When she has been evaluated it can be determined whether or not she can be of assistance to you. For now, however, I must ask you to leave and not to return while she is here on the diagnostic wing. You are no longer welcome here, Detective Bridge. Good day.”
Bridge started to protest but Mrs. Castle raised her voice, “Good day, Detective.”
Bridge picked up the cassette player and put it in his pocket. He considered going over Mrs. Castle’s head but decided to let it slide for now. Mrs. Castle followed him to the door and let him out herself.
Sam Giaconte, a.k.a. Mouse, was sitting on the sofa in front of the TV in the laundry room that served Penny’s building and the one adjacent, both owned by Oakbridge Enterprises. He had just completed a business transaction and smoked a joint in the john. With a nice buzz going he was so absorbed in Oprah’s interview with a little boy in a wheel chair who wrote poems that he didn’t notice the two uniformed cops until one of them plopped down on the sofa next to him.
“Hello, Mouse,” said Officer Kominski. His partner, Liz Sanchez hovered behind the sofa. “Whatcha got in your pocket?”
Mouse’s heart sank. He had a lot of trouble in his pocket, that’s what he had. “Come on guys,” he whined. “Give me a break. I ain’t hurting nobody.”
In response Kominski gripped Mouse’s arm and pulled him to his feet. “Put your hands on your head,” he ordered and patted Mouse down, his hand pausing at the large right-hand pocket of Mouse’s ratty coat. Reaching in, Kominski pulled out a handful of small packets of white powder.
“Oh, Mouse,” he said sympathetically. “This doesn’t look good at all.”
“Three strikes and your out, Mouse.” Rayburn was sitting across the table from Mouse in interrogation room 2. Bridge was staring out the window at the snow falling on the visitor’s parking lot.. Their supervisor, Commander Brinkmann was in the dark little room behind the two-way glass with Assistant District Attorney Mac Friedman.
Mouse was sweating and his mind was racing. He really, really did not want to go to prison. He’d done two years of pure hell in the penitentiary upstate. A little guy like him, a two-bit player didn’t have a chance in prison. He looked up at Rayburn. She could see naked fear in his eyes. Mouse laughed nervously. “Come on guys,” he said, “I know how this works. You don’t want me. I’m nothing. How about I scratch your back, you scratch mine?”
“Okay, Mouse. Tell us about Rikky.” Rayburn leaned back in her chair and folded her arms on her stomach. “We know he was your source. You met him at the drop on 3rd Street. The parking garage. Where he was killed.”
Rayburn and Bridge had gotten this information from Lila Jackson. They were keeping “Rikky’s” identity a secret in order to find out who knew what. For now, nobody but the police knew the circumstances surrounding the death of Santos Munez. Rayburn watched as the implication of her statement sunk into Mouse’s tiny little brain. His eyes widened with fear. “Hey, man, it wasn’t me. I was at Pete’s Sunday night, till closing. You can ask Pete.”
Pete’s was a dive on the east side that lowlifes like Mouse frequented. Pete ran a craps game in the storeroom.
“So who did it, Mouse?” Bridge had walked up alongside Mouse and his mouth was inches from Mouse’s ear. Mouse stared straight ahead and didn’t answer.
“Come on, Mouse, what’s the word?” Bridge grasped Mouse’s jaw and turned his face toward his own. Mouse shrugged him off and faced forward again.
“Word is, he stepped on toes. I don’t know who. There was some hassle over turf. Anyway, I hadn’t seen him in a couple months. He wasn’t my supplier no more.” Mouse wiped the sweat off his upper lip.
“So who is your supplier now?” asked Rayburn. Mouse was trembling now. “Come on, Mouse. We can’t help you if you don’t help us.”
Mouse sighed. “She calls herself Butterfly. She’s one bad-ass bitch.” He looked pleadingly from Rayburn to Bridge. “Don’t tell her I ratted her out. She’ll kill me.”
It was getting on towards quitting time. Rayburn was writing up the report of their interrogation of Mouse. Bridge was working his way through some paperwork he had been putting off because he hated it.. The phone on his desk rang. Glad to get a respite from the paperwork, Bridge picked up the phone. “Bridge here.”
The voice on the line was strong and clear. “I’m Penny’s father, Elliott MacLean. Actually, I think maybe I can help you. We were just in to see Penny. She told us all about how she ended up in the hospital. It really got her worked up. She was insistent that she was being framed and that she hadn’t even known her wallet was missing until you and your partner showed up at her apartment. The thing is, Penny did know her wallet was missing. She called Sunday night around nine and asked me to look in the car for it. I did and of course it wasn’t there. I called her back and let her know.”
“Did you tell her about the phone conversation?” Bridge asked. There was silence for a moment. Mr. MacLean continued, not sounding as self-assured as before. “She was so upset about being in the hospital and convinced that she was being lied to. We were afraid that if we brought up the conversation about the wallet it would alienate her from us as well. But I thought you should know.”
“Has she ever been like this before? I’m aware of her history of mental illness.”
“This is something different. She’s been irrational before and her perception of events and conversations has at times been distorted. But she hasn’t had amnesia. And she’s never been quite so paranoid.”
“Has she ever tried to run away from the hospital before?”
“Yes, and succeeded several times. Some of the facilities she’s been in have not been locked and the staff have failed to watch her closely. That is, until she’s run away, in some cases more than once. She’s even run away wearing pajamas. In the winter. She didn’t get very far of course.”
“Do you know why she runs away?”
MacLean sighed. “I’m afraid she’s been motivated by wanting to kill herself. When she was in a more restrictive facility she even attempted suicide on the unit. But she hasn’t been suicidal for a couple years now. She’s been doing quite well. She had been living with us but moved out three months ago. We’ve been in close contact and have had no indication that she was having problems.”
“Do you live in the city?”
“No. We live north about half-an-hour. In Chester.”
“Are you retired, Mr. MacLean?”
“I’ve retired from teaching at the university. Now I just teach one class here at the community college.”
“Do you and your wife have any other children?”
“We had another daughter, Norma. She was four years younger than Penny. She got pregnant when she was twenty, out of wedlock. She died in childbirth. We’ve been raising her son Roger. He’s sixteen.”
“Well, Mr. MacLean, thank-you very much for calling. You have been very helpful.”
They said their good-byes and Bridge hung up the phone thoughtfully. Rayburn had finished her report and was looking at him expectantly from her desk, which was facing his. Bridge gave her a synopsis of his conversation with Elliott MacLean.
“So now we know what we already knew, that Penny was there looking for her wallet.” Rayburn said.
“And that her family lives close by.” added Bridge.
Rayburn looked at him curiously. “Why does that matter?”
Bridge got up and put on his coat. “I think in this case, everything matters. C’mon.”
Dr. Costello sat in another small room with recliners facing each other, this time it was in the diagnostic wing of the psych unit at University hospital. It was a little after nine but Penny had still been sleeping when he arrived. He was informed that she “had a bad night” but that it was time to get her up anyway. So he waited. After about ten minutes the door opened and in came Penny, in pajamas and a robe and carrying a Styrofoam cup of coffee. She smiled at him as she sat down and said, ”Hi, Dr. Costello. Sorry to be late.” The transformation in her affect was quite striking. Her eyes were bright and her voice cheerful. Dr. Costello masked his surprise and merely said, “You seem to be feeling better, Penny.”
Penny laughed and took a sip of her coffee. “Yeah, I do. I feel like myself again.”
“Do you know why you feel better?”
“Well, it’s kind of strange. I got REALLY upset yesterday morning but when I calmed down, the spell was broken. I felt…present, not far away like yesterday.”
Costello knew what had upset her the morning before but decided not to pursue it for right then. Instead he said, “I understand you had a bad night. Couldn’t sleep?”
Penny made a face, “That Detective Bridge showed me a picture of a dead guy yesterday. It gave me nightmares.”
“What were the nightmares about?”
Penny sipped her coffee thoughtfully and looked him in the eyes. As she related her dreams she maintained eye-contact, another striking difference from her previous interview.
“I dreamed that I saw the dead guy get shot. I go over to help him but it’s not him, it’s my Dad. That woke me up and it took a while to go back to sleep. I finally got to sleep and there I was again, watching the guy get shot only when I go to help this time it’s my Mom lying there. I woke up again and when I went to sleep again I saw the guy get shot again and I go over to help him again but instead of him it’s my nephew. Then I was really afraid to go back to sleep. I mean, was I going to run through all my aunts and uncles and cousins? So I got up and went to the nurse's station and the night nurse gave me a sleeping pill. I didn’t have any more dreams after that.” Penny yawned big enough to make Costello feel like yawning. He didn’t. Penny leaned back in the chair and resumed sipping her coffee.
“What do you think the dreams mean?” Dr. Costello was pretty sure he knew, but he wanted to know what Penny thought.
Penny shrugged. “It means Bridge shouldn’t go around showing people pictures of dead guys, I guess.”
“You said earlier that something had upset you a lot yesterday morning. Was it the picture Detective Bridge showed you?”
Penny’s faced clouded over. “That, and he was telling more lies. He had a tape recorder and said it was my voice on the tape. Which it wasn’t. He should spend more time looking for the real killer, not trying to frame me.”
“What did the voice say, on the tape?”
Penny rolled her eyes. “It seemed to be a 911 call. Something about a cop being shot.. It was a woman’s voice, but not mine.”
Costello waited while Penny took two more sips. “It sounds to me like Detective Bridge thinks you were a witness, not the killer.”
Penny’s eyes narrowed. “Oh, really? I think you’re just dancing to Bridge’s tune. You don’t care about the truth, you just want to collect your fee so you’ll say whatever Bridge wants you to say. I wasn’t there. I didn’t see anything. Get it through your thick skulls. I can’t remember what happened. I don’t remember what happened that night but I certainly would have remembered all the stuff that was supposed to have happened. I got drunk. I went home and passed out. End. of. story.”
With a sudden motion Penny threw her empty cup at the waste basket. It hit the side and landed on the floor. Dr. Costello reached down and put it in the waste basket.
“Do you want to remember, Penny?”
“THERE’S NOTHING TO REMEMBER!” Penny pounded the arms of the chair with her fists. She was breathing hard and fast. She closed her eyes and Costello waited till her breathing had returned to normal and she had opened her eyes.
“I understand your family came to see you yesterday. How do you get along with them?”
“Great. They’ve been through some tough times with me but they never gave up. We’re very close.” Penny laughed. “Roger, my nephew, was all excited yesterday. He passed his driver’s test on the first try. He’s going to go halves with Dad on buying a car. He’s saved up almost enough already. Mom thinks he drives too fast, but then she thinks everybody drives too fast.”
The two of them talked for another ten minutes about her family and growing up, just chitchat apparently. Finally Dr. Costello looked at his watch. “Well, Penny, I think that’s enough. Thanks for talking to me.”
Penny smiled and shook his hand. “My pleasure, Doctor.”
Costello walked out to the nurse’s desk and watched Penny go into the smoking room. Mrs. Castle looked up at him expectantly. “Has Penny MacLean had the whole battery of psych tests?” he asked her.
Mrs. Castle nodded. “Except the IQ test. That’s this afternoon.”
Dr. Costello looked thoughtful. “What has her affect been the past twenty-four hours, Mrs. Castle?”
Mrs. Castle smiled a rare smile. “So you noticed the difference. It’s like night and day how she is now from when she was admitted. I was very angry with that Detective Bridge for upsetting her the way he did but it turned out to have been some kind of catharsis. She was brighter and more talkative after she calmed down.”
Dr. Costello nodded. “Are the results of yesterday’s tests ready? I’d like to take a copy with me.”
Mrs. Castle turned to the young woman at the computer on the nurse’s desk. “Nina, could you go make copies of Penny MacLean’s test results? They’re in her chart.”
About ten minutes later Costello had the documents in his hand. He thanked Nina and she buzzed him out.
Commander Brinkmann was beating a tattoo on his desk with a pencil. His round red face was crinkled in a frown, making his bushy white eyebrows bristle. Bridge, Rayburn and Dr. Costello were sitting in three uncomfortable chairs facing the desk. Costello had just finished reporting on his interview with Penny MacLean. Brinkmann dropped the pencil and leaned forward.
“What about hypnosis?” he growled.
Dr. Costello stirred in his chair, shaking his head. “Even if she would consent to it, she would probably resist being put under. Hypnosis requires a willing subject. Miss MacLean is guarding her secret very closely. She won’t give it up easily.”
Brinkmann’s frown deepened, if that was possible. He was not a patient man and this MacLean woman, it seemed to him, was deliberately hindering the investigation.
Bridge had something else on his mind. “She equates Santos’s death with her family’s death.”
Costello nodded. Bridge continued. “Someone got to her. Threatened her family.”
He took the little tape recorder out of his pocket and set it on the desk, rewound it and pushed Play. “Listen to the end.”
They listened to Penny’s breathless voice. “A cop’s been shot! He’s still alive.” And then that extra sound, maybe a vocalization. Bridge pressed Stop.
“She was starting to say something else,” said Rayburn, “Someone else hung the phone up.”
Costello joined in. “The killer said something to her that made her walk away. She had to walk out on a dying man in order to save her family. She made the decision but she couldn’t live with it. And she had to be sure that she did not in any way jeopardize her family. So she forgot..”
Brinkmann had been listening with growing impatience. “You people are missing the obvious. If the perp got to her like you said, why didn’t he just kill her? Why all the pussy-footing around that you seem to think happened? Maybe this MacLean woman is more involved than you think. Maybe she’s an accomplice. She could be faking all this mental stuff. Right, Doctor?”
“That is extremely unlikely. People who feign mental illness and amnesia are easy to spot. They mimic the stereotypes that have been popularized in books and movies, or they take the trouble to research it and exhibit textbook symptoms. Miss MacLean’s behavior is neither histrionic nor typical. Real mental illness is as diverse as the individuals afflicted, despite the practice of labeling people with a diagnosis.”
“And she has no ties at all with the drug trade. She didn’t even move to the city till three months ago.” Bridge hoped to get the conversation back on track, but to no avail.
“So maybe this isn’t about the drugs at all,” retorted Brinkmann. “Maybe this was something in Munez’s personal life; a jilted lover, unpaid debt. You people have got to think outside the box. Don’t assume anything. What about this Butterfly woman?”
“A dead end,” said Rayburn, “According to Lila Jackson, she’s a bottom feeder, like Mouse. NS got her for possession but she layered up. Lila is pretty sure she doesn’t know anything.”
Brinkmann acknowledged this with a harrumph and turned to Dr. Costello. “So what’s the deal? Can we keep this MacLean woman locked up?”
Costello cleared his throat. “Her probable cause hearing is tomorrow. Probable cause hearings in this situation are very informal. Their purpose is to determine whether someone who has been placed on a 72 hour hold is in need of further short-term treatment and if they are a candidate for committal. The judge can order an involuntary stay of up to 30 days, after which the court will proceed with a commitment hearing if that is still deemed necessary. The 30 days is open ended; if the patient is determined by the psychiatrist to be fit to leave the hospital, the hold is dropped. Penny’s psych tests reveal her to be a well-adjusted, stable person. It’s the way she sees herself. She is quite oblivious to the other Penny, the frightened and angry Penny that could be seen in my interview with her this morning. At any rate, based on the psychological profile she presented, it is Dr. Akmed’s opinion that she should be released to the care of her private psychiatrist and to get psychotherapy. He does not feel that her amnesia is in and of itself a reason to keep her in the hospital. He thinks outpatient treatment would suffice and that she is quite able to look after her own well-being. I disagree. She told me that in the past she has tried to kill herself because she “felt trapped.” She is certainly in that kind of situation now. I don’t think she can be trusted on her own or even in a supervised group home. Penny MacLean needs to be hospitalized, for her own safety and because it is a non-threatening environment where it is safe to remember and deal with the memories. She needs intensive therapy to help unlock that dark room in her mind where she keeps her secret. Dr. Akmed and I will both testify at the hearing. Anyone with information germane to the case can testify. I think it would be helpful if Hal were there. He can explain how the evidence is clear that Penny was at the crime scene. It is bound to provoke a strong reaction from Penny which I think will convince the judge more than just my testimony that she needs to remain hospitalized.”
Brinkmann nodded. “Thank you, Doctor, I think that is a good idea. Now you two: get to work and think outside the box!”
Bridge and Rayburn were sitting at their desks, eating bagels in silence. Rayburn sighed. “I hate to say this, but the commander has a point.”
Bridge nodded. “Yeah. Why didn’t the perp just kill Penny instead of threatening her? Not what you’d expect from a low-life drug dealer.”
Rayburn sighed again. “Maybe we’re looking in the wrong place.”
Bridge looked around him in feigned wonder. “So this is what it’s like outside the box.”
Rayburn laughed ruefully and they turned their attention back to their bagels.
Seventy-one hours after she was admitted to the hospital, Penny MacLean’s probable cause hearing convened in consulting room 4 on the third floor of the courthouse. It was, as Dr. Costello had said, very informal. The judge sat at the head of the table and the court reporter at the other end. Although not officially an adversarial proceeding, Dr. Costello and Detective Bridge were on one side of the table and Dr. Akmed and Penny were on the other, along with a young nurse named Celia Simmons, who had escorted Penny.
Judge Brant had considerable experience at hearings such as these. He had learned to expect anything and had developed a keen instinct for “cutting through the bull” as he put it, to determine what was in the best interests of the individual involved. He looked down at his notes and then back up at the people at the table, his eyes settling on Dr. Costello. “Virgil, why don’t you make your statement first.”
“Penny MacLean is a very smart woman, with an IQ of 141. Her psychological evaluation depicts her as a pleasant, well-adjusted person. However, just three days ago she was disoriented and dissociative, apparently traumatized by a crime she had witnessed the night before. Since then she has repeatedly displayed irrational rage and acute paranoia when confronted with the evidence of her presence at the crime scene, insisting that she wasn’t even there. It is my opinion that Penny MacLean is deeply conflicted and therefore unstable. She has a history of mental illness and repeated hospitalizations. By her own word she has attempted suicide multiple times. It is also my opinion that if she were to be released from the hospital she would be unable to look after her own welfare due to mental instability even though in the controlled environment of the hospital she exhibits appropriate behavior and appears to be untroubled. However, so great is the burden of repressing this traumatic memory, Penny will, as she has done in the past, attempt to take her own life rather than live with her secret or the responsibility of remembering it. I recommend that Penny MacLean be remanded to University Hospital for a period of not more than 30 days, during which time she will undergo aggressive therapy and treatment that will enable her to successfully deal with the trauma she has experienced. I believe she can be restored to the mental health that she has been recently enjoying if these steps are taken.”
“Thank you, Dr. Costello,” said Judge Brant. “Dr. Akmed, now we’ll hear from you.”
Dr. Ismail Akmed was a handsome man in his late thirties. He was the oldest son of one of the wealthiest families in Iraq. He went to college and medical school in Toronto and distinguished himself academically and professionally. He did his residency at Clark Psychiatric Institute in Toronto and quickly rose to a position as director of the Diagnostic Medicine Department there. It was from this position that University Hospital had recruited him to head their new psychiatric unit . Although relatively young for such a position he had easily met the high expectations of the hospital’s administration. Dr. Akmed’s manner with both his staff and his patients was very professional but also charming, which won him respect from both groups. In a melodic accent, Dr. Akmed gave his statement.
“I disagree with Dr. Costello on the central issue of Penny MacLean’s fitness to be released at this time. There is no doubt that she is suffering from post-traumatic stress brought on by this incident referred to by Dr. Costello. However, she has presented to me the skills to cope with this admittedly troubling condition. She has assured me that she has no intention of doing harm to herself. She has told me that it has been two years since she last experienced suicidal ideations and much longer since she has actually attempted suicide. It is my opinion that Penny MacLean would be better off being treated on an outpatient basis. Being hospitalized unnecessarily can itself be stressful, especially for someone who equates hospitalization with being symptomatic. That is to say, it is possible that Miss MacLean could regress in an institutional environment. It is my opinion that Penny MacLean should be released to her home and receive treatment under the care of her personal psychiatrist, Dr. James Dubinski and therapist Sheila Farrell.”
“Thank you Dr. Akmed,” said Judge Brant. He looked around the table and his eyes fell on Bridge. “And you are…?”
“Detective Harold Bridge, sir. I’m here at the request of Dr. Costello to present the evidence of Penny MacLean’s presence at the scene of a shooting of an undercover officer Sunday night.”
“And why do you feel this is germane to the case, Dr. Costello?” asked the judge.
Costello hesitated a moment. “Your honor, Miss MacLean has repeatedly insisted that she was not at the scene, despite all the evidence to the contrary. It reveals the depth of her denial and irrational reasoning, which are factors that have led me to my conclusions about her stability.”
Judge Brant nodded. “Very well. Proceed, Detective.”
As Bridge gave his statement, Costello watched Penny. Throughout Bridge’s testimony Penny’s hands were folded on the table in front of her, clenched so tightly that her knuckles were white. Her eyes were tightly shut and she was breathing slowly and deeply through her nose. When Bridge was finished, Penny opened her eyes.
“Thank-you Detective. And now,” the judge turned to Penny, “Do you have anything to say?”
“Your Honor, it is no doubt clear to you the travesty of justice that is being perpetrated here. The police department, as represented by these two”—she nodded across the table— “are attempting to railroad me. They pretend to think that I killed that officer while they let the real killer off. I am a convenient target for such a scheme because of my medical history. It is, unfortunately, relatively easy to “prove” a person is mentally unstable if it has been confirmed that the person has been in the past. They want to pin this murder on me and say that it is because I’m insane. Their so-called evidence has all been contrived. No doubt they can produce the bloody clothes that supposedly belong to me just like they faked that 911 call to make it sound like me. Judge, I did not kill that man. I wasn’t there. I didn’t see anything. I appeal to you for justice. Rise above this collusion and corruption. I am at your mercy. If you are a part of this plot, there is no hope.”
Dr. Costello was surprised by the measured tones and articulation of Penny’s speech. She did not raise her voice nor present the tension she had shown during Bridge’s statement. Her manner of speech was one of a reasonable person, in stark contrast to the paranoia and delusion that were presented. Even though it wasn’t the angry outburst he had predicted, Dr. Costello knew that his would be the recommendation taken by Judge Brant.
Judge Brant cleared his throat. “Thank you, Miss MacLean. You have presented your position very clearly. However, I am concerned that you persist in saying that you were not at the crime scene when there is no doubt you were. I am concerned that if you are unclear on that point, there may be other things about which your judgment is not reliable. I don’t want you to in any way endanger your own life due to these impairments of judgment. So I am remanding you to University Hospital for observation and treatment, for a period of time not to exceed 30 days. Do you understand my decision, Miss MacLean?”
Penny’s face was clouded with anger. She brought both her fists down onto the tabletop. “I understand, Judge. All too well.”
Judge Brant looked like he was going to say something further, then thought better of it. “This hearing is adjourned. Thank you all for your participation.”
Penny and Celia had left, Penny with her head down and fists clenched. The others lingered in the room. Dr. Akmed spoke first. “I feel like something of a fool. I too easily dismissed Penny’s denial about what she witnessed and actually avoided the subject with her since it seemed to upset her to talk about it. I thought it would be best to leave that to her therapist. After that first morning she was so very open and rational that I assumed she was more in control than apparently she really was. I was also swayed by the results of her psychological testing. I’m afraid I, ah, ‘dropped the ball.’ Thanks to you, Dr. Costello, Miss MacLean will get the treatment she evidently needs.”
Dr. Akmed had just finished speaking when Celia burst through the door. She was breathing hard. “She got away from me! I…”
Bridge didn’t wait to hear more. He pushed past Celia and headed for the stairwell. In two minutes he was on the main floor, tearing through the lobby to the main entrance. The security guard posted at the door looked at him suspiciously. Bridge flashed his badge as he came to a stop. “A woman, average height, very heavy, dark hair, black coat.. Did she come through here?” The guard nodded, getting excited himself. “Yessir! Right before you came out of the stairwell.” Bridge burst through the double doors onto the sidewalk, looking left and right. He spotted her on the next block, getting on a city bus. Number five. Bridge barged back through the entrance and turned to the guard. “The number 5 bus. Where does it go?” The guard thought for a moment. “Number five,” he said, “Number 5 goes to the Southside mall. From here it’s heading to the terminal, on 15th St. You can transfer to any bus there of course.”
Bridge’s heart sank. “Yes, of course.”
He took out his cellphone and called central dispatch. “Put out an APB on one Penny MacLean, forty years old, five-five, 250, black hair, blue eyes, glasses. She’s wearing a black leather coat. Last seen boarding the number 5 bus on Haviland. Units in the vicinity proceed immediately to the downtown terminal and search all buses and question the drivers. Got it?”
Receiving an “affirmative,” Bridge pressed Off and dialed Rayburn’s cellphone. She answered after one ring. “I’m picking you up. Be ready.” Without waiting for a reply, Bridge hung up.
While Bridge was talking on the phone Dr. Akmed, Dr. Costello and Celia came off the elevator and approached him. Bridge glared at Celia. “What the hell happened?” he demanded.
Celia shrank back a little. “We were waiting for the elevator. By the time it came there were a bunch of other people waiting there too. When the doors opened everybody just kind of crowded inside. I had been standing right next to Penny but somehow with everyone getting on like that I didn’t realize she wasn’t with me till I was inside and saw her walking away from the elevator. I was at the back and I hollered for someone to hold the door but it was too late. So I got off on the next floor and ran up the stairs to the meeting room.”
Bridge shook his head with disgust. “Instead of running upstairs you should have gone downstairs. You could have intercepted her. What were you thinking?"
Celia, close to tears, couldn’t think of an answer but Bridge didn’t wait around for one anyway. He stalked off toward the door to the parking lot.
» Part I
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