What Penny Saw (Part III)_P. May Wilson-A four-part mystery.
It had been snowing since late afternoon, a gentle snow that was accumulating slowly. It was supposed to keep up all night. Bridge and Rayburn were back in the squad room. It was almost quarter to ten and they had been driving around looking for Penny for hours, trying to think like her, trying to follow an imaginary trail. The city wasn’t huge but it was big enough for someone to elude the police if they wanted to. Apparently Penny wanted to. All the cops out on patrol had her picture. The bus station, train station and airport security had been alerted. Bridge and Rayburn had decided to give up the chase for the night and go home. They had come back to the station briefly to check out and were on their way out the door when Bridge’s phone rang.
“Bridge here,” he said.
The voice on the line was hard to hear because of noise in the background. “Detective Bridge,” it said, “This is Tom Schaeffer.”
Bridge conjured up the face of a big blond-haired patrolman. He said in a cordial voice, ”Yes, Tom. What’s up?
“That MacLean woman you’re looking for. She’s at Jake’s Pub in Brigstadt. That’s where I’m calling from. Do you want me to bring her in?”
Bridge replied, “Just keep an eye on her. We’ll be right there.”
Brigstadt had at one time been a town by itself but the city had grown to enfold it and it was annexed as just another neighborhood. Founded by German immigrants a hundred years before, it had maintained it’s separate identity even after fifty years as part of the city. The “Brigs,” as it’s residents were known, were still for the most part the descendants of the original settlers and had a reputation for being hard-drinking and not too fond of authority. Bridge recalled that Commander Brinkmann came from Brigstadt.
Jake’s Pub was one of five bars that were spaced only a block apart along Reich Street in Brigstadt. Reich Street was the seediest part of Brigstadt and where the cops were most likely to visit. Bridge and Rayburn parked and entered the pub. Every stool at the bar was full and there was a crowd of people around the pool table. Most of the tables had people at them. Bridge looked around and spotted Schaeffer at the bar. They made eye contact and Schaeffer nodded toward the back of the bar. Penny sat by herself at a small table. There was a half-empty glass of beer in front of her and she was lighting a cigarette. Because of the crowd, she didn’t see them until they were almost to her table. She started to get up hastily but Bridge was right there. Putting a hand on her shoulder he pushed her back down.
“No, no, Penny don’t get up. We’re in no rush. Finish your cigarette,” Bridge said sarcastically. The two detectives sat down at the table. Bridge noticed something sticking out of Penny’s coat pocket.
Penny took a drag off her cigarette. “Don’t you guys ever go home?” she asked.
Bridge ignored this. “Why did you run, Penny?”
She shrugged. “Because I could. It was an impulse.”
“You’re pretty good at running away, aren’t you?”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve run away from hospitals several times, I understand.”
“Who told you that?”
“Your dad. I spoke to him Tuesday. Do you know what else he told me?” Penny didn’t respond. She took a swallow of her beer and a drag from her cigarette.
Bridge continued. “He told me that you called Sunday night and asked him to look in the car for your wallet. You told us that you hadn’t even known it was gone.”
“You’re lying. Again.”
Bridge sighed. He leaned forward. “Why would we lie? Does it really make sense? You’re not thinking the thing through. Think about the nightmare you had. You associate Santos’s death with the death of your family. What do you suppose that means? Why don’t you make use of that genius IQ of yours, Penny? You’re not merely running away from us, you’re running away from your own mind. How far are you willing to run?”
Bridge reached into Penny’s coat pocket and pulled out a utility blade. He set it on the table. “Apparently you’d rather die than remember. Take yourself out to protect your family. It doesn’t have to come to that, Penny.”
Penny remained silent as she put out the butt of her cigarette.
“C’mon,” said Bridge and the two cops escorted Penny out of Jake’s Pub. No one spoke at all on the ride to the hospital.
The night shift on the psychiatric unit were expecting them. Rayburn had radioed dispatch to let the nurse know they were on the way. When they were let through the security doors, they approached the nurse’s station. The charge nurse, Steve Owens, was there to greet them.
“Hello Penny, I’m Steve. You are aware that you’ll be admitted to the general ward?” Penny nodded. Bridge took the utility knife out of his coat pocket and laid it on the counter. "She had this on her. You’d better put her on suicide precautions.”
The general wing of the psychiatric unit at University Hospital was not a bad place to be for people who needed to be in such a place. Penny had been in far worse places, to be sure. It had twenty-four beds and each patient had their own room. The dayroom was spacious, with a TV in one corner surrounded by padded chairs. There were several tables at which the patients ate their meals and could play cards and board games or whatever else they might need a table for. In addition to the dayroom, there was an Occupational Therapy room, a smoking lounge and a game room that had a pool table and a ping pong table. The game room was kept locked and patients could use it only under supervision due to the possibility of using the balls, cues and ping pong paddles as weapons. There was also an acute care “pod” where patients were put who needed close supervision. In it was a restraint room which was only used when absolutely necessary. It also had three beds and a small room with one table and chairs and some austere padded chairs around a TV set. This is where Penny spent Thursday night.
The Behavioral Health Clinic that Penny had been going to for drug monitoring by a psychiatrist had closed a month before. Penny had made an appointment with another psychiatrist but had not yet seen him. Dr. Akmed saw very few patients in the general wing as many of them had their own psychiatrists who would come in to see them. Dr. Rizzo, a semi-retired psychiatrist would treat those who were without their own psychiatrists but occasionally there were more than he could handle. So Dr. Akmed took up the slack.
Friday morning Penny was smoking an after-breakfast cigarette when Dr. Akmed came to see her. He sat down at the table and Penny put out her half-finished cigarette. Dr. Akmed looked at her chart for a minute, then at her.
“How are you feeling this morning, Penny?”
Penny shrugged. “All right, I guess. Kind of down.”
Dr. Akmed nodded. “I understand that when the police picked you up you had a blade in your pocket. What was it for?”
Penny looked down at her hands. “I guess I was thinking about maybe killing myself.”
“And why would you want to do that.?”
“I felt like there was no way out of the situation I was in. I didn’t want to come back here and I didn’t have enough money to buy a bus ticket. I couldn’t go home because the cops would find me.”
“What do you mean by “the situation” you’re in?”
Penny sighed. “All this garbage about the shooting. I knew the police want me locked up and everybody else have been taken in by them. It seemed like everybody was against me and I felt trapped.”
“I notice you’re using the past tense. Has something changed your mind about your situation?”
“I guess so. Last night Detective Bridge told me that my dad told him I had called them Sunday evening and asked him to look in the car for my wallet. If that is true then apparently I’m wrong about a lot of stuff. It opens up the possibility that what the cops have been saying happened really did happen. I was planning on calling my folks to see if I really had called them Sunday night.”
“I see. Well, why don’t you do that right now?”
Penny hesitated. It seemed to Dr. Akmed that she wanted to cling to her own version of what happened Sunday night and was a little afraid to face the truth. “Yeah, okay. I might as well.”
Ruth, who was supervising the acute pod, had been listening and brought the cordless phone out to Penny. Penny dialed the number. Her mother answered.
“Hello, this is Doris.”
“Hi Mom. I have a question for you. Did I call you Sunday night and ask Dad to look in the car for my wallet?”
“Yes, you did. Why, do you remember it now? Are you recovering your memory?”
“No. Detective Bridge told me. I didn’t believe him but I knew I could trust you to tell me the truth. I guess this changes everything.”
“I believe so. Maybe you’ll start to remember now.”
“Maybe. Thanks, Mom. I have to go.”
Penny pushed Off on the phone and handed it back to Ruth. She looked thoughtful. Dr. Akmed waited for her to speak.
“Now what do I do?” she asked finally.
“Now you get to work.” Dr. Akmed leaned forward. “We have an excellent psychologist here. Her name is Linda Carroll. She specializes in post-traumatic stress. I believe she can be a great help to you in remembering what happened. That is, if you’re willing to remember.”
Penny looked over his head for a moment, then back at him. “I guess it’s the right thing to do. I could help the police. There’s still part of me that resists the idea though.”
“We can work with that,” said Dr. Akmed. “Now then. Do you still feel like hurting yourself?”
Penny hesitated. “Yeah. Some.”
Dr. Akmed considered this. “Given the deep conflict that you’re dealing with I don’t think you’re ready to leave the pod. I don’t think you know yourself what you are capable of at this point. You have made a breakthrough but I think that you still feel trapped by your circumstances. Is that so?
“Maybe. Like I said, there is some resistance to the idea of remembering what happened and it’s pretty strong. In my head I know that it would be a good thing but my gut is telling me to resist. At all costs.”
“Then you certainly need to be under close supervision.” Dr. Akmed stood up. “I think Dr. Carroll should be able to see you sometime today. I’ll be by again tomorrow morning to see if you are feeling more in control. If you need anything, just tell Ruth. It can get kind of boring in here so maybe she can find something for you to do.” With that, Dr. Akmed took his leave.
Police Officer Slain
Police Sgt. Santos Munez, age 32, was killed Sunday night by an unknown assailant. Sgt. Munez, a ten year veteran, was in the Narcotics Squad of the city police department. In a statement to the press, Lila Jackson, the director of the Narcotics Squad, said, “Sgt. Munez was killed in the line of duty. He was an outstanding officer and will be missed.” She would not comment further on the details of the slaying. A reliable source at the Police Department told this reporter than Munez was in fact working undercover in order to break up the drug business that is plaguing the city. Services for Sgt. Munez will be held at 2 p.m. today at St. Michael’s church.
There was a photograph of Santos above the article, which was on page 2 of the Chronicle in the Metro section. Bridge tossed the paper on Lila Jackson’s desk in exasperation. He and Rayburn were in Jackson’s office to confer.
Jackson’s brow was furrowed. “I’d sure like to get my hands on that “reliable source” and kick his reliable ass.”
Bridge and Rayburn nodded sympathetically.
“It was bound to come out,” said Bridge.
Jackson looked at him grimly. “It puts my other agents in jeopardy. It severely compromises the investigation. It was bad enough to lose Santos but now the dealers are going to be on guard, suspicious of any unfamiliar faces. But that’s not what you came here to discuss, was it?”
“No.” said Bridge. “We were wondering what you could tell us about Santos’s private life. Our commander suggested that perhaps the hit wasn’t drug related, that it was about something else.”
“He was your partner for six months. Do you think he would have any personal enemies?”
“That was almost ten years ago. But yeah, I see what you mean. He was as straight and clean as they come. A devout Catholic, a health nut,…no vices as far as I could see. Didn’t he get married a while back?”
“Six years ago. She died in a car accident less than two years after they were married. No kids.”
“The only family he had that I knew of was one sister and her family, in Chicago. I know his parents were both dead. I don’t think he had a lot of friends either.”
“One reason Santos got this job was his lack of ties. It was relatively easy for him to disappear and become ‘Rikky.’ Anyway, I am positive he didn’t have any enemies or vices that would get him in trouble. We did a thorough background check on him before we gave him the job. He was a straight arrow, 100%.”
“That’s what I thought. But you know how Brinkmann is. He will ask us if we followed up and now we can tell him we did. Have you gotten any useful information from your snitches?”
“Maybe. One of my agents reported that everybody seemed to know now that Rikky was a cop, but nobody knew who killed him. Which is odd.”
“How so?” asked Rayburn.
“Killing a nark would make someone an instant hero among the lowlifes. I was surprised we hadn’t heard about it right away. That kind of news is too good to keep to yourself, if you’re in “the business.”
“That gets us back to the idea that it wasn’t drug-related.”
Jackson frowned. “Good point. But for the life of me I can’t think of any other answer.”
Bridge stood up and Rayburn followed suit.
“Thank you, Lila,” said Bridge, “We’ll let you know if we come up with anything.”
Penny was sitting in one of the padded chairs, watching “Days of Our Lives.” Her day hadn’t been going so well. She could feel herself sinking deeper into depression. Thoughts were racing around in her head. Would she remember? Could she remember? Did she want to? What about Mom and Dad and Roger? She thought about the nightmare that Bridge brought up to her. What if he was right? She certainly didn’t want to put their lives in jeopardy. But could she let a killer go free? She knew she couldn't live with this thing locked away in her mind. There seemed to be no way out. Her thoughts were interrupted by the ringing phone. Ruth answered it, then brought it out to Penny.
“It’s your dad,” she said, handing the phone over.
“Hello.” said Penny.
“Remember what I told you?” said a strangely familiar voice. Definitely not Dad.
“Who is this?” For some reason her heart was pounding.
“You talk and I’ll kill you and your family.” With that, the caller hung up.
Suddenly Penny was standing at a payphone. The same voice, the words a little different, “You tell anyone about this and I’ll kill you and your family.” An arm was around her throat and a hand was over hers on the receiver, forcing her to hang it up. She was making the call to 911. She was running down the ramp of the parking garage. She was desperately trying to stop the bleeding. Santos was looking at her, gasping for air. She was hiding behind a pillar, listening to retreating footsteps. There was a shot. She was listening to a conversation. She was ducking behind the pillar at the sound of footsteps approaching. She was walking up the ramp, flashlight in hand, to look for her wallet.
The memories flooded over her, unbearably real. Penny slid off the chair, dropping the phone. She sat on the floor and drew her knees up. Putting her head on her knees, she clasped her hands over the back of her head. She was trembling. Penny was falling down, down into a deep hole, and the words of the caller were falling with her.
In the office, Ruth heard the phone hit the floor and saw Penny there, on the floor. Quickly she got up and hurried to Penny’s side.
“Penny? Penny? What’s wrong? Did your father upset you?” No response. Ruth tapped Penny gently on the shoulder. Nothing. Ruth decided to just leave her alone for a while and see if she came out of it on her own. She sat down in the chair next to Penny.
Fifteen minutes later there was no change. Penny remained curled up and trembling. Ruth got up and went into the office and pressed the intercom button for the nurse’s station.
“Yes, Ruth?” It was Mrs. Castle.
Not taking her eyes off of Penny, Ruth said, “I think you better come in here, Mrs. Castle. Something’s wrong with Penny.”
“I’ll be right there.”
Mrs. Castle came through the door between the nurse’s station and Ruth’s office. She glanced at Penny and then at Ruth.
“She got a phone call from her dad. The next thing I knew she was like this.”
Mrs. Castle went over to Penny and bent over. “Penny!” She gently shook Penny by the shoulders. No response.
“Now, Penny. We can’t help you if you don’t tell us what’s wrong,” said Mrs. Castle in her no-nonsense voice. Penny just continued to tremble. Mrs. Castle tried another tack.
“Penny, why don’t we sit down at the table and have a cup of coffee. Ruth can go get you a donut. Doesn’t that sound nice?” Nothing. Mrs. Castle shook her by the shoulders again.
“Penny! That’s enough sulking. You’re acting like a child. Get up and tell us what is wrong.” Nothing changed.
Mrs. Castle straightened up and looked at Ruth. “Dr. Akmed is in a meeting for another twenty minutes. I’ll get him as soon as he’s finished. In the meanwhile I’ll call Dr. MacLean and find out what he said to her.
“Did you say ‘Dr.’ MacLean? He’s a doctor?”
“A professor. Why?”
“The voice on the phone referred to himself as ‘Mr.’ MacLean.”
Mrs. Castle nodded grimly and went back into the nurse’s station. Getting the number from Penny’s chart, she called the MacLean residence. A cheerful woman’s voice answered. “Hello, this is Doris.”
“Hello, Mrs. MacLean. This is Mrs. Castle at University Hospital. Can I speak to your husband?”
“Oh, he’s not here. He teaches a class from one till two-thirty.” Mrs. Castle glanced at her watch. It was 1:45.
“Would there be any reason why he would call Penny during his class? Any kind of family emergency, something like that?”
“No. That is, if there were an emergency he would certainly have called me as well. Why? Is something wrong?”
Mrs. Castle considered how much information to give out at this point. “Penny got a phone call that has upset her. We thought it was from her father.”
“Oh, dear,” said Mrs. MacLean. “Won’t Penny tell you what’s wrong?”
“Not…at this point..” Mrs. Castle was choosing her words carefully. “Listen, I’ll give you a call a little later when we get this straightened out, all right?”
“I…okay,” said Mrs. MacLean. “Maybe I could talk to Penny then.”
“Sure,” said Mrs. Castle, thinking, “I certainly hope so.” They exchanged good-byes.
Mrs. MacLean stepped back into Ruth’s office. Ruth was still sitting in the chair next to Penny. “Good. You stay right there for now. Let me know if there’s any change. I’ll bring Dr. Akmed as soon as possible.”
Committee meetings being what they are, it was thirty minutes before Dr. Akmed was free. Mrs. Castle immediately apprised him of the situation and the two of them went into the acute pod. Everything was the same — Penny on the floor, trembling and Ruth sitting next to her.
“How long has she been like this?” asked Dr. Akmed.
“Almost an hour.” said Ruth.
Dr. Akmed went over and crouched down directly in front of Penny. Like Mrs. Castle, he shook her gently by the shoulders and called her name, first softly then louder. No response. Dr. Akmed took Penny by the wrists and pried her hands apart.. He let go and Penny’s hands fell down to her sides. Next he took her face in his hands and lifted up her head. Her eyes were squeezed shut.
“Penny!” Dr. Akmed’s voice was commanding. “Open your eyes, Penny!”
They remained shut.. “Come on now, Penny, open your eyes. You’re safe, Penny. No one here will hurt you. We won’t let anybody hurt you. We can’t help you when you’re like this. Penny! Open your eyes!”
Penny’s eyelids fluttered and opened. She couldn’t help but look directly into Dr. Akmed’s face. He saw fear in her eyes. Penny scrambled to her feet, breaking Dr. Akmed’s hold on her face. She looked around her. She was breathing hard.
“Penny, you’re okay. You’re safe. We’re here to help you.” Dr. Akmed’s voice was gentle now. “Why don’t you sit here at the table. Would you like a cigarette?” Dr. Akmed glanced at Ruth, who went into the office to get a cigarette. Penny allowed herself to be led to the table. Dr. Akmed and Mrs. Castle sat down on either side of her. They waited for Penny to light her cigarette and take a drag before they spoke.
“Penny. I understand you had a phone call that upset you. Why don’t you tell us about it.?” said Dr. Akmed.
Penny blew out smoke and opened her mouth but all that came out was “Uh.” Dr. Akmed and Mrs. Castle glanced at each other.
“We want to help you, Penny,” said Mrs. Castle, “but you have to talk to us.”
Penny opened her mouth again. “Uh.” Her eyes widened in surprise and confusion. She looked from one of them to another. “Uh. Uh.” Now there was fear in her eyes as well.
“All right, Penny. Stop playing games.” said Mrs. Castle in her stern voice. Dr. Akmed looked at her and gave a slight shake of the head.
Penny was in tears. She looked panic-stricken. Dr. Akmed put his hand on hers. “Penny? Can’t you talk?”
She shook her head and sniffed, then took off her glasses to wipe her eyes. Ruth brought a box of tissues out of the office and handed them to Penny.
“Well then, why don’t you write down what you want to say.” said Dr. Akmed, producing a small notebook and pen.
Penny took them eagerly and started to write. Then she became more agitated and wrote faster and then suddenly threw the pen on the table. “Uh!”
Dr. Akmed picked up the notebook. All there was were scribbles, getting bigger as Penny got frantic. Dr. Akmed frowned.
“You mean you can’t write either?” he asked Penny. Penny’s head was in her hands. She shook her head and sobbed.
Dr. Akmed looked at Mrs. Castle and nodded toward the office. They both got up. Ruth, who had been standing in the office doorway went and sat down next to Penny without being asked.
The other two went into the office and closed the door. ”What do you think, Mrs. Castle?”
Mrs. Castle sniffed. “If she’s faking, she should win an academy award for that performance.”
Dr. Akmed smiled. He could always count on a direct answer from Mrs. Castle. He knew that she had over thirty years of experience as a psych nurse and he valued her opinion. “I agree. For some reason she feels that she must not communicate with us. She wants to, apparently, but something deeper is stopping her. I think the call that she received must have pertained in some way to her amnesia. She was already in conflict over recovering her memory. Something that was said in that phone conversation must have tipped the balance in a very big way.”
“What can we do about it?” asked Mrs. Castle.
“There’s not much we can do,” said Dr. Akmed. “Until Penny no longer feels threatened, she will keep silent. She shows some indication that she does want to communicate. Maybe there’s some other way…what about drawing? Maybe she can draw pictures.”
“It’s certainly worth a try.” said Mrs. Castle. “I’ll talk to Joan.” Joan was the occupational therapist on the unit..
While they were talking, Penny had gotten up from the table. Ruth followed her into her room. Penny climbed into bed, pulling the covers over her head. Dr. Akmed and Mrs. Castle came to the door of Penny’s room. Mrs. Castle spoke softly. “You can watch her from the monitor in your office. I think we should just let her be for now.”
Mrs. Castle regretted these words when she came in at 7:30 on Monday morning to discover that Penny had spent the entire weekend in bed. Cursing the typical lack of initiative of the weekend staff, she marched into the acute pod as soon as report was over. Ruth was sitting at the desk with a cup of coffee.
“Come with me,” said Mrs. Castle.
They went to Penny’s room. Penny was just as Mrs. Castle had left her on Friday afternoon.
“Penny! Penny, sit up. Now.”
Slowly Penny sat up in bed, casting off the blanket. She swung her legs around and sat on the edge of the bed. She was looking at her toes, which were wiggling.
“Penny, you have been moping enough. You are going to get up now. You are going to take a shower and then you are going to get dressed and you are going to eat breakfast. You will not go back to bed at any time before lunch. After lunch you may have a half-hour nap. You will not go back to bed. You will eat supper. You will not go to bed any earlier than 10:00. Do you understand?”
Penny sighed heavily and nodded. Mrs. Castle continued, in a softer tone. “Dr. Akmed will be in to see you after breakfast and Joan will bring you things to do later. There are books you can read and the TV. I’m sure Ruth will play cards with you if you like. There is no reason for you to be in bed all day. Now go take your shower.”
Reluctantly, Penny obeyed. Mrs. Castle turned to Ruth. “Lock her room after she gets dressed.”
Penny was just finishing a bowl of cereal when Dr. Akmed came to see her. The rest of the breakfast was untouched but she pushed the tray away in a final manner. Dr. Akmed sat down across the table from her. Penny sipped her coffee, keeping her eyes on the cup.
“You look depressed, Penny. Are you depressed?” Penny nodded, not looking up.
Dr. Akmed continued. “Are you having suicidal thoughts?” Penny nodded again.
“Penny, look at me.” Penny shook her head, staring down at the table. Dr. Akmed frowned. He opened her chart and made some notations.
“Penny, I’m going to increase your medications just a little. But you have to do some of the work to get better yourself. You have to talk about what is upsetting you.”
This time she looked at him. “Uh.”
“I know you can’t talk with your mouth. But there are other ways to communicate. You’re going to have to find some way to communicate. I think Joan may be able to help you with that.. But you can’t just withdraw and give up, if you want to get better. Do you want to get better, Penny?”
Mid-morning Joan Astin bustled into the acute pod. “Look what I have for you, Penny!” she said cheerfully. “A nice, new, big box of crayons and an art pad. Wouldn’t you like to draw? I know you like to, you drew some neat pictures when you were on the other side.”
Penny looked at the crayons and paper but made no move. Joan dragged a chair around the table so she was sitting next to Penny. She took the pad and opened it to the first page, setting it right in front of Penny. Then she took the box of crayons and opened them, setting them in front of the pad. “Draw me a picture of your house, Penny. I want to see where you live.”
Slowly Penny took a crayon out of the box and began to draw. She was pretty good at it. A two story house took shape on the paper. It had dormers and a front porch. Penny was drawing from the perspective of someone standing a little distance away. She drew siding on the house and then colored the whole thing yellow. There were blinds on the upstairs windows and blue curtains rustling in the windows on the first floor.
“What darling curtains!” gushed Joan. “Is there a tree by your house, Penny?” Penny nodded.
Just then the door between the office and the nursing station opened. Annie, one of the nurses held the door open. “Joan can you come here? It will just take a minute.”
“All right, Penny. You draw your tree and I’ll be right back.” Joan got up from the table and followed Annie into the nurse’s station.
When she got back, Penny was staring off into space, her hands in her lap. As Joan approached the table, the smile froze on her face as she looked at the picture. There was the jagged stump of a tree next to the house. Most of the tree had crashed through the roof of the house, some of its leafless branches poking out of the gaping hole it had made. There was smoke coming out of the broken dormer windows and the darling curtains were in flames.
The next morning Dr. Akmed sipped coffee and looked at the pictures Penny had drawn the day before. Besides the picture of her house there were five others. The first had a nice landscape with a sunny sky, snow capped mountains in the background, foothills, a plain with a river flowing through it with trees lining its banks. That was on the left 2/3 of the picture. There was a jagged crack cutting off this landscape and in the landscape that began where the first broke off, the river ran dark red. Blackened stumps lined the bank. The plain was dark brown with smoking black craters. The mountains were hulking black in the distance. There was a black crescent in a red sky. Dr. Akmed shook his head and looked at the next picture. There were a row of big houses lining a river that he recognized as those on Elizabeth Drive where the well-to-do lived. In the middle of the picture was a jagged hole. Gray worms were wriggling out of the hole. The mass of worms got darker and darker as they got closer to the center of the hole, which was black. The other three pictures were more like designs with geometric figures interspersed with twisting ribbons and squiggly lines. They were all in shades of red and gray, and had black backgrounds. Conflict and depression, thought Dr. Akmed, no surprises there. He looked through the pictures again and realized they were better than average, showing a sense of style and order even as they came from a disordered mind. Dr. Akmed finished his coffee and went out to do rounds.
In the acute pod, the art pad and crayons were sitting at one end of the table, a half-eaten breakfast on its tray in the middle. Penny was sitting in front of the TV. Diane Sawyer was interviewing a man who saved a little girl and her kitten from a house fire. “I did what anybody would have done in that situation,” the man was saying.
“Good morning, Penny,” said Dr. Akmed, “Why don’t we sit at the table.” Penny turned off the TV and came over to the table and sat down. Dr. Akmed sat down across from her.
Penny’s affect was noticeable improved from the day before. Her eyes were brighter and her face was not slack as it had been yesterday.
“Are you feeling better than yesterday?” asked the psychiatrist. Penny nodded and shrugged, her eyes trained on the middle of the table.
“Are you still having suicidal thoughts?” Penny nodded again.
“I saw the pictures you drew yesterday. They were not very happy, were they? Because you’re not happy?” Penny didn’t respond.
“I want you to do something for me, Penny. I want you to draw some more pictures, but I don’t want you to use any red or black or gray crayons. I want you to draw pictures of things that you care about, the good things in your life, happy memories. Will you do that for me?”
Penny shrugged. Dr. Akmed got up to leave. Penny touched his arm, then took something out of the pad of paper. Dr. Akmed sat down again. She handed him another picture. It was a man’s face, a squarish face. It had thinning brown hair that needed to be brushed; brown eyes under heavy brows; a puggish nose; full lips; and a cleft chin. The complexion was sallow. Dr. Akmed frowned. It was pretty rough—cartoonish—but the face looked familiar. Dr. Akmed looked at Penny, who was leaned forward, looking at him.
“Do I know this person, Penny?” She nodded. Dr. Akmed looked at the picture again, then smiled.
“It’s Detective Bridge, isn’t it?” Penny nodded vigorously. “It’s very good. Why don’t you draw some other faces?”
Penny shook her head and tapped the picture. She looked at Dr. Akmed, her eyes pleading.
“Do you…do you want to see Detective Bridge? Do you want him to come here?” Penny nodded vigorously. “I’ll see what I can do, Penny.”
After Dr. Akmed left, Penny opened the art pad, selected the black crayon, sharpened it, and began to draw.
» Part IV
» Part I
» Part II