Brain Sections: Trapped in the AsylumDisclaimer: Brain Sections is a fiction story. The experiment by the mental health clinic is not an actual event. Those with mental health issues should seek treatment. Those who treat the mentally ill that are homeless should also realize that over-medicating someone in this vulnerable living situation leaves the individual open to theft, abuse, and faulty decision-making.
The last thing that Vic Jones wanted to do this morning was to sit in a chair across from a homeless shelter bureaucrat and try to convince him or her that he was not sleeping in a bus station for fun, or because it was part of some strange ritual of self denial. No, it was he was broke and homeless. It happens, and to some very good people too. Even some famous people were once homeless—
Vic’s little speech to himself was interrupted by a voice calling his name. He got up and walked toward a bomb shelter-like enclosure where a wide bottomed, over quaffed figure was perched amid jumbled up file folders and cans of diet soda. Her nametag said ‘Pricilla’ with the letter i dotted with a smiley face. Unfortunately, the face of the woman herself reflected a foul mood. Perhaps even a foul disposition. Vic figured he would try some old fashioned charm to warm her up.
“Hello, Ma’am. I was wondering if there is an extra bed in the shelter. I have no where to stay and I have been out of work for some time now—” Vic caught himself using the voice he used when he occasionally went to church.
The woman interrupted him, “We do have some beds available here at St. Barth’s, but you need a TB card. Do you have a TB card?”
“Uh…” Vic suddenly felt his plans going off course.
“AND you will also need a letter from someone stating you are homeless.”
The receptionist’s stern tone of voice sounded like Vic’s former third grade math teacher, Miss Yolanda Phelps.
Vic sensed his well-laid plans were going up in flames, and then he summoned up some nerve and shot back, “The last guy I lived with tried to kill me after I mistakenly used his towel in the bathroom, so I moved out. You want me to get a letter from HIM?”
The receptionist sat staring at Vic for a few seconds. Then she shoved a packet of information at him, “Here, fill out these forms.”
After a half-hour of trying to read the thick packet of legal rigmarole, Vic filled out the forms and turned them in. The receptionist told Vic he must wait and go through an intake appointment with a caseworker before he could be a ‘guest’ at St. Barth’s Homeless Shelter. Vic shrugged and wandered back to his seat in the waiting area.
As Vic sat studying the worn out green linoleum on the floor, he realized that sleeping on a chair in the bus station didn’t make him feel as homeless, and as hopeless, as the last few minutes did. It was a strange feeling, being treated as if his existence was some one else’s problem. Being on the streets was not the reason that Vic had decided to stay at the shelter. He was hiding out. His best friend, Carter Dockery, had just been kidnapped by two staff members at Brightbrook, the local mental health clinic, and he narrowly escaped the same fate. Vic suspected the two men were conducting an experiment that would turn mentally ill people into zombies. They must have run out of patients at the clinic to do research on, and decided to use homeless people as guinea pigs.
After a wait that took about an hour, Vic was called into a small shabby back office. A thin, red haired woman greeted him; “I’m Ms. Simpson.” said the disheveled looking creature with artsy, flowing clothing and a dizzy demeanor. The social worker asked the appropriate questions and listened to Vic as if she was fascinated with every word he uttered.
The staff at the shelter seemed to be a mixed bag, polar opposites of each other. Vic hoped he would meet some staffers that fell between the two extremes. At least Ms. Simpson treated him like a person again and didn’t make him feel like the dredges of humanity just because he hit the skids in a crappy economy.
At the end of the interview, Vic picked up his bedding bundle and personal care kit and was shown his assigned cot by Chester, a worker at the shelter. His parting sarcastic remark “Enjoy” hung over Vic as he surveyed the neighborhood. Piles of personal belongings were arranged around cots that were lined up in rows. Every collection was as different as its owner. Some piles were neat and orderly, and others looked like a cyclone had hit a junk yard. He wondered if he could get use to the funky smells that wafted from those piles.
Vic figured it was time to get some fresh air, and went outside to the smoking area. He wanted to find his friend Teddy, a frequent resident at the shelter, but he knew that Teddy would have a hard time recognizing him. Vic was in disguise. It was just a precaution, incase the staffers at Brightbrook decided to look for him at the shelter. He was sure that the disguise would fool anyone, but the real test would be Teddy.
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Vic and Teddy walked out into the chilly morning air. Warehouses surrounded the shelter compound and trucks roared past them as they made the trek to 17th Street. Vic swallowed the last of his coffee from the shelter and squinted to keep the sun out of his eyes. As he ruminated about how the coffee tasted like motor oil and battery acid with a hint of Arabica bean in it, Teddy interrupted his thoughts.
“We have to stop by PJ’s Market so I can get something for Trudy,” Teddy said, “She likes her classic Coke.”
“You sure this lady is straight in the head enough to help us? I don’t want to get in trouble if she’s a flake and gives me the wrong information,” Vic looked down as he spoke, tracing the cracks in the sidewalk with his gaze.
“She’s loopy, but still cool. She mostly talks crazy to put people off. Trudy don’t trust nobody, after what happened to her.”
“I can understand that. How did that Witenganz chick get away with pushing her out of her job as head nurse?” Vic asked as they entered PJ’s.
“She just buttered everybody’s butt by bringing muffins and pastries to the clinic every Friday morning. Acting all sweet and stuff” Teddy scrunched up his face in repugnance as he spoke. “Speaking of pastries, get a look at those beauties.” Teddy said as he stopped in front of a glass display case inside PJ’s Market filled with fresh baked pastries and donuts.
“They look better than what we had at the mission. Want some? I’ll get us a half a dozen.” Vic started filling a sack. “You know what I miss? Sour cream cake donuts. I don’t see them any more.”
As Vic and Teddy made their way down 17th Street, they both saw a woman in a wheelchair paddling it down the sidewalk with one foot.
Teddy said to Vic, “Let me go talk to her first.”
He walked up to the woman with short gray hair and cornflower blue eyes. Vic looked at the woman, who was about 70 years old, or just seemed to be. Her hair was shorn short by someone using a scissors and was very uneven. The round sun baked face broke into a smile when she saw Teddy slip the bottle of Coke from the grocery bag. Teddy motioned for Vic to come over.
“This is Vic. He wants to know something about the place you used to work at, Brightbrook. Seems like they are messing with a friend of his—”
“That place is a hell hole.” Trudy blurted out. She shifted her body as if she intended to spring up out of the wheelchair. “If your friend got sent there for some help, he’s in deep trouble.”
Vic was stunned by her sudden burst of hostility, and finally said, “My friend Carter just went to an abandoned building up there to find a place to sleep and a guy named Ralph and a doctor drugged him and are holding him against his will.”
“Typical. You better get your friend out of there before they mess him up good.”
“My friend is not a patient. They have him there in some kind of experiment. I think a doctor, Doctor Max Woodruff,” Vic paused briefly as he glanced at Trudy’s nauseated expression at the mention of the doctor’s name, “is making zombies out of homeless people.”
Trudy’s eyes got wider. “Zombies! What kind of information do you need?” She opened up the cap from the soda bottle and took a swallow.
“I need to know about the staff up there. Is there any one who would help me? Someone—”
“Not a chance. You talk about zombies? All of them up there are zombies.” Trudy said with a knowing chortle.
“Trudy,” Teddy interrupted. “You have to know some dirt about what goes on up there.”
“Do I ever!” she snorted.
“Well, we need to know some dirt.”
So Trudy started talking about all that she knew. The two men listened intently. But Trudy would weave in nonsense talk if anyone stopped nearby to listen; still paranoid of people. She told them that Nurse Witenganz had a strange hold over Dr. Max Woodruff and she seemed sure that Witenganz was the brains behind the experiment. “Max never even scratches his butt without her say so.” Teddy nodded in agreement. Trudy guessed that the easiest nut to crack would be Ralph.
“If you got a tramp next to him, he would bust open with all the details like a sour can of beans.”
Teddy pressed for more information and Trudy mentioned John Curry, an occasional patient at the acute care section.
“He’s too honest to lie for Witenganz and too innocent to be afraid of her.” Trudy rubbed her grubby thumb under her chin, leaving a smug mark. “Anyway, if you talk to John Curry, he might have seen something. Bet he’s scared now with all that zombie making rubbish going on. Poor Johnny.” Then Trudy mentally drifted off somewhere and was incoherent.
Teddy tried to get more out of her but she started to paddle her wheelchair away from them.
“That’s okay. Teddy.” Vic said.
“I was hoping she could draw a map of the place for you. She still remembers lots of details about Brightbrook. Always talking about it, but I never really listened before.”
“Maybe you can get it later. I’ve got that appointment with Ruby in a few minutes.” Vic rushed off.
After remembering about the donuts, Teddy called out to Vic. But he was too far down the street.
“The man is too busy saving the world and forgot about his donuts.” With a chuckle, Teddy opened the greasy paper bag and pulled out a sugar-coated donut. “That Vic can sure get himself into some situations.”
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The brick exterior of the massive asylum building towered over Vic as he slipped around its contours. He peered into some of the windows as he made his way to the place were the Day Room was on his map. Moonlight shone into the large windows and gave Vic a clear view of each room’s contents. Cheap, broken furniture lay scattered beneath ornate windows and graceful high ceilings. Sweeping oak staircases hovered over checkerboard tile floors warped from water damage.
Vic was overcome by how the decay, erosion, and splendor, all mixed into each other. He also wondered about the total senselessness in erecting enormous buildings and then finally abandoning them altogether. Letting them stand and rot, unwanted and forgotten; while the former residents were put out into the street to fend for them selves, as mentally ill people still are, in many cases. If the ‘system’ was wrong, why couldn’t anybody fix it? Vic shuttered from a chill. The wind blew from the East. Vic knew it was bad weather wind. He hoped any rain would come down later in the night, when he was finished with what he had to do.
The directions on the map lead him to the door that entered the Day Room. The doorway was a tangle of vines. Vic used his pocketknife to cut through the mass before he could open the door. Stepping into the ramshackle building, he felt the crunch of debris under his shoes. He was worried about the beam of his flashlight being seen from the outside, so he wrapped his handkerchief around it to dim the light.
The enormous room was a jumble of peeling paint, shattered glass, and littered objects. A large ornate arched window lay at the far end, but tracing the way to it was a set of cheap florescent light fixtures from the 1960’s. Vic glanced at Trudy’s map and tried to figure out where the Main Hall was. Finally, he found the interior passageway. It was lined with doors and had very few windows, so he could remove his handkerchief from his flashlight and let the beam shine brighter.
Vic’s intended destination was Dr. Max Woodruff’s office. He wanted answers that could only be found in Dr. Max’s files. Maybe he could find copies of the pictures that were in the file box that he had found in Ralph’s trunk, and later lost. With that evidence in hand, he could go to the police and put an end to Doctor Woodruff and Nurse Witenganz’s unethical experiment.
Walking through the Main Hall, Vic wondered how long it would take him to find the right room. There must have been more than a dozen doors along the hall. Most of the rooms were tiny. Were they used for treatments, isolation, or counseling? Vic couldn’t tell. Some doors were partially open and Vic peered into them for just a few seconds. Many of the small rooms held strange equipment and Vic could only guess what the machines were used for. One room held some kind of apparatus with electronic switches and cables running from it. There was a gauge in the shape of an arc, the danger zone marked in red. A table with arm and leg restraints was nearby. Vic guessed that this was the electro-shock room. He stared at the sweat stained leather restraint straps.
At that moment, a creak came from outside the door in the hall. Turning the flashlight off, he stood in the darkness for a few seconds. Thoughts of the three zombies he had encountered the first night he was at Brightbrook came to his mind. Vic’s heart was beating at a rapid pace. He listened and waited. No other sounds came, so slowly he walked back out into the hall and looked around carefully. Another creak came. It was the wind blowing through a broken window pane disturbing the door of another room.
Relieved, Vic progressed down the hall. He saw a door that had the sign ARCHIVES on it. He turned the door knob and cringed at the loud creak it made when he opened it. The room was filled with large, dust covered medical reference books. He stepped into the room and surveyed the shelves that were sagging under the weight of the massive volumes. Wiping the dust off of some of the bindings, he read the long ponderous titles with words like anatomy and psychiatry, blended in the mix. He flipped through pages of a few books sitting on a large table. The musty smell forced him to close the outdated volumes with crumbling pages.
Taking notice of a peculiar set of framed objects on the wall, he moved closer to get a better look. Vic was stunned when he realized they were human brains, thinly sliced and pickled in some preserving solution. He removed one of the framed brain sections from the wall and studied the gray form. Each frame gave a patient’s number, the mental illness they suffered from and, a brief description of what caused their demise. The typewriter imprinted card on the frame he was holding gave an account of patient #303’s slow and painful death. Having some medical knowledge in the Marines as a medic, his eyes scanned the card. Stroke… contractures… sepsis… gangrene… death. Seeing the words contractures, sepsis, and gangrene indicated to Vic that the patient suffered a long, painful, and avoidable death. Basically, a stroke patient was left unattended in a bed, in their own filth, for long periods until their demise finally came.
He stared out the window as the impending storm tossed the tree branches. The moonlight defined the tree branches blowing around outside the window. The shadowy black shapes danced around the floor of the room and around him. Vic was absorbed with the terrifying thought that an absurd end such as this could happen to anyone, including Carter. Unexpectedly, the frame slipped from his grip and crashed to the floor. Within seconds, the smell of formaldehyde filled the room. Afraid that the noise had attracted someone’s attention, Vic swiftly left the archives and crouched behind a desk in the Main Hall. Minutes ticked by, but no one came. With a sigh of relief, he got up slowly and went to the open door of the archives room. The brain section of the anonymous mental patient lay on the floor. It glistened in the moonlight from the window as the shadows of the tree branches moved around it, and seemed to stroke it. Vic wiped the sweat off his hands and slowly closed the creaky door. His heart was pounding in his chest.
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“Hey, get in here, Vic!” It was Teddy’s voice coming from a car with a few other men inside. Vic rushed over and hopped into the open rear passenger’s door. “Man, we thought you were going to bite the dust.” Teddy gave Vic a few slaps on the back, his wet shirt sprinkling the backseat with droplets.
Two other men were in the front seat of the car. The man driving was a big, husky guy named Jason. His brown hair was buzz cut short and a couple of tattooed emblems on his forearms indicated a recent stint in the military. Next to him was Jesse, a quieter, smaller version of Jason, but he seemed to have the same hard-hitting personality. Vic had seen them at the shelter once or twice during dinner and someone mentioned that they were cousins.
“When Ralph got the call to come back up here, we tried to stall him, but he was fired up to come back. We figured that you got caught, and they were going to fill you with zombie juice too. That’s why we rushed up here,” Jesse said.
“But my man got away,” Teddy smiled at Vic.
“I never even got caught. They called Ralph up here to give him the ‘zombie juice’. They found out the file box is missing and they are pissed off at him,” Vic wiped the wetness from his face as he spoke.
“No s***!” Teddy exclaimed.
“W-we got to go back. Do something,” Vic said, knowing the futility of his own words. It would be impossible to save Ralph now. “I tried to call him, but he didn’t pick up,” Vic bowed his head down toward his knees.
The rain pelted the car with a wave of hard showers and every few yards one tire or another would splash into a flooded pothole as they made their get-away. Teddy sensed Vic’s sympathy for the undeserving Ralph was his way of turning back the clock and saving Carter on the unfortunate night of the kidnapping, but everyone in the car knew that Ralph was on his own. Reaping what he had sown.
“Did you find anything about Carter?” Jason asked.
“Yeah,” Vic’s head popped up and he drew a breath. “I read a file that was in the doctor’s office. They didn’t have his name on the file, but I’m sure it was Carter .The description fit him, but it said he is like a vegetable now. They are giving Carter, Ramon, and Gina something called Datura… Stra… ah, zombie cucumber… and they use it to make the zombies obey anything they are told to do.”
“Zombie cucumber?” Teddy asked. “Is that also the stuff that makes them all smelly and weird looking?”
“No, no. They screwed up the first experiment and that’s how those zombies came out rotten—”
“What happened to those guys?” Jesse interrupted Vic.
“The stuff that they used to make zombies, something… toxin, can’t remember the name, was contaminated with some kind of bacteria that causes gangrene.”
“Didn’t they just find three weird looking guys wandering along I-97 yesterday morning? They were all rotten like that too, according to the news,” Jason said.
“What?” This was the first Vic had heard of any zombie sightings.
“Yeah, they took them to County General Hospital figuring they had gotten burned in some kind of car wreck. They were treated at the hospital, but escaped last night. A friend of mine, who works in emergency, said that one of them got a look at the meatloaf they were serving for dinner and freaked out. They all split after that,” Jason said with a laugh.
Vic sat in the Tasty Bun Restaurant filling out a job application. “My plans for the next five years…” He peered down at the job application wondering who writes these questions. Working as a burger flipper at the Tasty Bun Diner did not qualify, in Vic’s mind, as a long-term career choice. He got up and messily folded the paper before stuffing it in his back pocket. He decided to leave the greasy smoke pit before the smell that hung in the air ruined his clothes.
Walking down the street, he spotted Trudy and decided to get her a Coke. He turned into PJ’s Market and got the soda and a few snacks. After he left the store, he headed toward where Trudy had perched her wheelchair on the sidewalk. She was hustling for handouts from passing cars. Trudy was in bad shape, she had been for years, but she always seemed to last and found a way to profit from it. Vic wondered how it was like to live out in the street. He did a short stint, not more than a week, yet he marveled at those who did it for years. Of course, it affected her mind, as it would with anyone. A life out in the cold, wind, and rain. Thinking: “Why doesn’t anybody care about me?” And answering with a defiant retort: “To hell with them!”
“Hey, Trudy. I got you some Coke.”
Trudy gazed up at him; she didn’t recognize who he was at first. Bleary eyed from lack of sleep and food.
“It’s Vic. Teddy’s friend.” He nearly choked on the last part. He and Teddy were treading water in their friendship, but they always made it to dry ground together.
“Hey! How are ya?” The ice melted to a friendly smile. Her eyes darted to the plastic bag he was carrying.
“Here, it’s nice and cold.”Vic showed her the bottle. Trudy couldn’t be happier. Her eyes shined as if he was giving her a bottle of vintage champagne.
“How’re things up at Brightbrook?” She wiped her lips on her sleeve after taking a slug of from the bottle.
Vic shifted his feet and said, “I don’t work there anymore. I got fired. Carter blew the whistle on me.”
“So, you quit doing the investigation?”
“No need to, besides, Carter wants me to keep out of it.”
“Big mistake!” Trudy jolted with aggravation.
“I’m with you. But it’s not my call.” Vic looked down the street. “Well, I got to get on with my job hunting. Catch you later.”
“I know of a job that would be perfect for you, and it would keep you on the inside of the loop.” Trudy whispered like a conspirator in some international intrigue.
“Yeah, I’m listening.”
“Witenganz needs a handyman to do repairs in her home. It’s here in the paper.” She scooted over to a pile of clippings in an old Manila envelope latched on to her shopping cart. “She advertised for a handyman last week. The pay is cheap.” She looked up to Vic and curled her lip in disgust. “That b**** always was a skinflint.” She read the listing to Vic and said that she knows it is Witenganz from the phone number. “I called it, just to make sure it was her, and hung up. Ha.”
“Sounds good. Uh, thanks Trudy. I appreciate it.” Vic said, studying the stained scrap of paper. He folded it and put it in his shirt pocket. Saying his goodbyes, he turned and headed down the street.
Vic walked north a few blocks and entered the Lucky Spot Inn. He didn’t want to spend too much money on lunch, so he got the special: Ham on rye and tomato bisque. He hated tomato bisque, but decided to choke it down. Vic got a seat and hailed Daisy to his table. In the middle of his order, he felt a slap on his back.
“Hey, Vic,” Teddy perked, “How about ordering some coffee for your ol’ pal?”
“Yeah, if I see him, I’ll order him a cup.” Vic shot back.
“Whoo! Nasty.” Teddy winked at Daisy. “Bring me a large coffee and put it on Mr. Jones’ tab.”
“So what’s going on with Amanda… and Nadine… and Wanda… and Emily? Who else? Did I forget anybody? Hey, are you horning that redhead Ms. Simpson from St. Barth’s, too?”
“So that’s it. You’re jealous.” Vic glanced up at Teddy.
Daisy brought over Vic’s ham on rye and soup. Teddy noticed she brought over extra crackers for his soup. He picked up a package and started to open the cellophane wrapper.
“Here have the soup, too.” Vic shoved the bowl across the table, almost spilling it.
Teddy took a spoonful up to his lips and slurped it. Noting the wince Vic experienced on the left side of his face.
“Now if you can only get into Witenganz’s drawers, the mystery of the Brightbrook zombies would be solved.”
“You must be psychic.” Vic put his sandwich down.
“No. I’ve occasionally been psychotic and have tried some psychedelics, but, no, I have never been psychic. Why?” Teddy slurped up more soup.
“Trudy just gave me a clipping of an ad put in the newspaper by Witenganz; she’s looking for a handyman.” Vic raised one eyebrow and remarked, “I can get inside her house.”
“Didn’t Doctor Max pull the reins in on that?” Teddy said with another slurp.
“I’m not going to Brightbrook and I’m not going as Duane. She’ll never know it’s me.”
“And what do you hope to accomplish by getting in to Nurse W’s house?” Teddy patted the soup spill on his chin, but overlooked the trail of drips down his shirt.
“I don’t know. Keep tabs on the stuff going on with Carter. Find out why she is seeing Howard Hemmings.”
“Finding out why he is seeing her, is a more interesting question.” Teddy laughed.
“Anyway, Trudy thinks that Carter could still be in danger.”
“Trudy thinks everybody is in danger. Trudy is afraid of being poisoned by aliens from outer space. Don’t take everything she says so seriously, or she’ll drive you nuts.” Teddy said.
“Well, it’s a job. The only other places I found were for janitor at PJ’s Market and flipping burgers at the Tasty Bun.”
“I would advise you to stay away from the Tasty Bun. The Board of Health is seriously eye-balling that place, and it’s on the shut down list.”
Teddy poured an extra large helping of sugar into his coffee when Daisy had her back turned and took three creamer packets to put in his coffee, and put three in his pocket. He stirred his coffee like refined gentleman. “Well, the job at Witenganz’s probably pays cheap.”
“That’s what Trudy tells me.”
“But if you can find some dirt on her and Hemmings, you could make a tidy sum from blackmail.”
“Yeah, well, that could be Plan B.” Vic wiped his mouth with a napkin and threw down enough cash for the tab and a decent tip. “Got to go now. Have to contact Witenganz before some other poor turkey gets the job.”
Vic got up, put on his jacket and left. Teddy slyly pulled out two dollars from the pile of bills on the table and left after his last slurp of coffee. Daisy gave him a dirty look as he sailed by her toward the exit.
Leroy pointed Vic out to the men and then they slowed the SUV, letting him off at Merrick Boulevard. He happily counted a fist full of cash as he strolled down the street.
Vic quickly changed directions and tried to get lost in the crowd. The SUV passed him, but then doubled back. He tried to ask for help from the people on the street.
Finally, Vic decided to use his cell phone and call the police on his own. He ducked into a tiny Chinese restaurant and took a seat by the curtained window. A waiter came by to take his order, and Vic fumbled through the menu. He only had enough cash on him to order an egg roll. After seeing the waiter grimace and walk away scribbling his order on a pad, Vic called 911 and got a busy signal.
He resumed peaking through the curtains on the window to see if he could spot the two men in the SUV. After his eggroll was deposited on the table, Vic nibbled slowly on the greasy bundle to kill time, but he knew soon he would have to get out on the street again. He tried calling everyone he could think of to see if they could swing by and pick him up, but no dice. Everyone was incommunicado.
“Are you Vic Jones?” A husky voice asked. The man must have entered the restaurant from the alley door. Vic was startled and dropped the last hunk of his eggroll onto his lap.
“Uh, no. You must have the wrong person.”
“Yeah? I don’t think so.” A smile curled along the lips of the large man that looked as if he had spent too much time in a rock quarry moving around chunks of stone. He sat down across from Vic.
“We can play this nice or we can play this not-so-nice.” The large hands that seemed to be made of cement folded together in front of him. His face was weathered with steel blue eyes.
“What do you want to know?” Vic asked, choking down a swallow of ice water from the trembling glass in his hand.
“Uh, not here. I want you to take a little drive with me and an associate of mine. We want to ask you some questions.”
Vic glanced around looking for a quick escape. The waiter from the restaurant seemed not to be the type to intervene in emergency situations, although Vic had a momentary flash of him doing a killer Kung Fu move and saving the day. Vic decided to play compliant and go along, so he got up and walked out the door of the restaurant, as the man made of stone walked behind him with a hand on Vic’s left shoulder and what felt like the barrel of a gun to his back. The unpaid bill for the eggroll bothered the waiter and when he said a few words to that effect, the large man gave him a hard look. The waiter’s mouth snapped shut, and Vic was escorted down the street.
“I really don’t know anything.” Vic tried to say calmly.
“Witenganz thinks you know enough.”
As they made their way to the parked SUV, a group of children came toward them on the sidewalk. They were in a rambunctious mood, busy shoving each other, yelling, and laughing. Vic tried to get out of their way and moved to the edge of the sidewalk; exposing stone man to a hard whack to the crotch as one of the little tikes flung his lunch box toward another in the group and missed. As stone man collapsed and lay crumpled on the ground in agony, Vic decided to make his get-away. He ran down the crowded street, but soon the sound of screeching tires convinced Vic that they didn’t intend to let him disappear that easily.
Not knowing much about the south side of town, Vic turned blindly into an alley, and one of the guys got out of the SUV to follow him on foot. Adrenalin started overflowing and Vic’s mind was evaluating every crevice to duck into as he ran though the alley. He contemplated phoning the cops again, until he realized he left his cell phone on the table at the Chinese restaurant. After trying to ask several people on the street to phone the police for him, and getting nothing but strange looks, he ran into an alley and tried to hide.
In a few minutes, the black polished shoes of the man made of stone came into view. Vic had squatted behind some trash cans and held his breath. Stone man was in an angry mood.
“Where did that friggin’ loser go?” Stone man asked as he overturned some boxes and crates. His associate was content to stand near the entrance to the alley with his hand resting on a pistol just inside his lapel. He did not want to muss up his nice gray silk suit, it seemed. Chasing quarry can be messy work.
As the stone man was making his way over to where Vic was hiding, it was becoming clear that staying put was not going to be a viable option, so he ran toward a doorway that opened to the alley and scrambled up a darkened set of stairs. The old ramshackle building had several businesses operating out of it. Dewberry’s Pawn Shop held down the first floor; Sister Ruth’s Spiritual Resource Center shared the second floor with Mertz’s Bookstore; and the top floor was occupied by Taffy’s Massage Parlor. Vic ran up to the second floor landing, as he did, he heard the pounding steps of the two men coming up the stairs behind him. He had to think fast and figured it was better to duck into one of the businesses then to stay out in the hall and give them an easy target to shoot at.
Vic rushed to a flimsy door along the hall on the second floor and forced it open. Inside the small, darkened room a séance was being held and four elderly participants sat in shock as they watched Vic stumble through the room. The two hoods entered the doorway and ordered Vic to get down on the floor. He was now cornered, and would have to give up.
Vic nervously tried to find enough space to lay flat on the floor of the small room. He was wedged between a table full of lit candles and a pedestal with an imitation Egyptian artifact perched on it. Trying not to knock over anything, he finally got nose down on Sister Ruth’s incense infused Turkish rug when a shot rang out.
“Oh, God!” Vic murmured, waiting for the executioner’s bullet to enter his brain matter.
“Take that, you hoodlum!” The cracked voice of an old lady interrupted the silence after the deafening blast of the shot.
Vic lifted his head just in time to see his two tormenters hastily leaving the room. The faint sound of a siren could be heard in the distance as Vic slowly stood up and saw that one of the old women at the table was holding a pretty good sized Smith and Wesson in her sagging grip.
“That little f***** mugged my Willy almost 20 years ago and stole our rent money. I almost got him, Willy! Did you see that?” She looked up as she spoke.
Vic glanced up at the stained ceiling. He was saved. The sound of the siren was getting louder. Vic wondered if the police were coming to investigate his kidnapping from the restaurant, or if it was merely a coincidence that they were in the neighborhood. It didn’t matter though, the two thugs were gone. The old woman slipped the weapon back into her black alligator purse as Vic silently glided out of the room, glancing at the bullet hole in the door frame as he exited. Sister Ruth and the others sat at the table in shock, not being able to foretell what would happen next.
As Vic cautiously went down the dark stairwell to the first floor, he was met by the local police. Their guns were drawn. They had been told about the shot fired, but somehow missed capturing stone man and his accomplice.
“Are you the guy that stole the eggroll?” One cop shouted at Vic.
They watched as the car made its way up a side road and toward the rear of the asylum. It parked on the west lawn next to the white washed building with a chimney.
“That must be the crematoria.” Nadine felt antsy sitting in the car, but had to wait to see what was going to go down.
After a few minutes, a white van appeared at the entrance; it traced the path of Woodruff’s car and pulled up next to it. Woodruff and Vic got out and talked to the driver. A few moments later, Carter came out of the van and started to shout at Vic. Doctor Woodruff, turned on Vic at this moment, and ordered the driver to subdue him. As Vic struggled with the burly driver, Jesse started up his car and sped toward the crematoria. The turf on the lawn was mangled under the speeding tires and everyone inside grabbed a hold of something to keep upright.
Doctor Woodruff, shocked to see the approaching car, ran toward Brightbrook’s main buildings and disappeared. The driver let go of Vic and did a half step in Woodruff’s direction, but then decided to play hero and confront the two men and the woman in the approaching car. Jesse jolted the car to a stop and flew out of the driver’s seat, running toward the van driver. One flying punch knocked him to the ground. Jesse and Teddy got on top of the driver to keep him from getting away.
Nadine ran up to Carter and pled with him, “You have to go with Vic. Ralph is back in town and he wants blackmail money. Witenganz might get rid of you guys to cover things up.”
“Who the hell are you?” Carter asked.
Gina got out of the van before Nadine could answer and said, “If that’s so, man, we got to leave, Carter! The games over.”
Ramon slowly got out of the van and said, “Look. They’re cutting us off.” Everyone, including the driver who had his head pressed into the ground, looked toward the entrance gate. A large truck was being pulled up to block the entrance.
“We’re trapped,” Gina said.
“Not really,” Vic said, “We can hide in the asylum.” He ran toward the Day Room entrance and the others followed. The driver wisely decided to remain on the ground, faking an injury.
“Smash in the door!” Carter shouted.
Vic knew that anyone chasing them would have a hell of a time finding him and the others in this twisted maze of a building. Jesse heaved his body toward the large wooden door, which put up a fight but termites and age made it finally break into fragments. They ran through the main hall, tripping over debris that covered the floor as they went. When they got to the central part of the building, Vic spotted a stairway going down to the basement; he knew it lead to the cafeteria and kitchen. He didn’t want to go down into the cafeteria; the staff might still be socializing down there after the breakfast service had ended, but they could chance raiding the kitchen. Roland, the cafeteria chef, would be taking his break to watch his favorite soaps on TV around this time, and the area would be empty.
Vic thought this would be a good way to get some knives for self-defense, and grab some food, in case they needed to hide out down in the tunnels for a while.
“Why don’t we just stay put and call the cops?” Nadine asked.
“Yeah, we can call the cops, but if the doc claims we’re mental patients trying to escape, we’re screwed,” Carter replied.
Vic hadn’t thought of that, but then he said, “I’ll call Wanda and she can call the cops.” Thinking that having a third party to vouch for their sanity may help them when the cops arrived.
Vic nervously dialed Wanda’s number. After a few rings, Wanda answered the phone, “Hello.” Vic could tell by the sound of her voice that she was hung over.
“Uh, Wanda. It’s Vic.” He was unsure how to start the explanation. “We, uh… Teddy and I… are in some trouble up at Brightbrook. We tried to get Carter, Ramon, and Gina out this morning, but some things went wrong and now we are hiding out in the building. We need you to call the cops for us, and can you come over yourself?”
“Vic,” she moaned, “why do you always get yourself into these messes?” He could hear her crawling out of bed and stumbling across the bedroom floor.
“Sorry, Babe. I didn’t know who else to contact,” Vic apologized.
“I’ll call the cops right now, but it’s going to take me about a half hour to get up there myself. Where are you in the building?”
“Right now we are near the kitchen located in the basement, in some old storage rooms.” Vic tried to keep his voice low, in case Roland had left his soaps during a commercial break to forage for snacks nearby. After Wanda hung up, Vic asked Jesse and Carter to help him raid the kitchen for supplies and weapons, just in case this thing was going to last longer than expected.
“How long do you think we are going to have to be down here?” Gina asked.
“I don’t know. It may be a while,” Vic said.
“This place gives me the creeps,” Gina said with a shudder.
“It gets creepier down in the tunnels,” Teddy said.
“How do you know?” Carter asked.
“Because, I’ve heard things about stuff down there in the tunnels… ghosts of dead patients and skeletons of people who got lost down there,” Teddy paused, “and, of course, the zombies could still be hanging around.” He glanced over his shoulder for emphasis.
“Take them up to the third floor. Sedate them and I’ll be up shortly,” Witenganz told the orderlies.
Nurse Witenganz parted from them and walked toward the clinic’s lobby. She was being paged by the first floor nursing station. Instinctively, she knew that the situation was becoming more and more complicated. She would have to think quickly. As she descended the oak staircase and walked down the gleaming waxed floor in the hall, the tack, tack, tack of her heels had a methodic resonance that echoed through the massive old asylum building. Turning the corner into the lobby, she was somewhat startled by the sight of two uniformed police officers standing next to the reception desk.
“G-good morning, officers,” Witenganz glanced at her watch and noticed it was just past eleven.
“Hello, ma’am. We have had a report about a group of people being in danger and hiding in the buildings here.”
Witenganz faked a perplexed look on her face. “Why, this is the first I have heard of it. Mary Jane, have any of the patients had access to the phone?” Before Mary Jane could give a reply, Witenganz added, “We sometimes have patients make prank calls like this.”
In a tone of tired resignation, she explained how patients had done similar things in the past. She quickly convinced the police that there was nothing going on but mischief. The two officers were ready to depart, when Wanda Cummings came through the clinic’s entrance.
“I’m the one who called,” Wanda said.
In her effort to get up to the asylum quickly, Wanda rushed out of her apartment and looked disheveled. Her hair still needed to be brushed, and she wore a black and white print blouse and red skirt thrown on in a hurry.
“What seems to be the problem?” One of the officers asked her.
“This clinic is conducting an illegal experiment on homeless people and has been holding three people here for several days,” She said between gasps for breath from sprinting up the steps.
Witenganz’s eyes got wider, but she kept her composure.
“Several of my friends tried to free those people this morning, but now they are trapped in this building,” Wanda continued.
“Isn’t your name Rose Williams?” Witenganz asked.
“What?” Wanda asked.
“I’m sure of it,” Witenganz turned to the officers, “She was a patient of our about a year ago. We couldn’t manage her, and referred her to another clinic in town.”
“What?” Wanda shouted, “Are you trying to say I’m nuts?”
The two cops took protective positions around Witenganz, and Wanda saw a vague smile creep across the nurses thin lips.
“Well, we’ll see about this!” Wanda reached into her purse for her cell phone with the intention of calling someone, anyone, who could vouch for her sanity. At this, one of the cops grabbed for her arm, thinking she was reaching for a weapon. Wanda dodged his grasp and ran into the main hall of the clinic, screaming for Vic. The two officers then scrambled off after her.
Witenganz called the orderly that was holding Gina and Ramon on her cell phone. “They have to be moved from the third floor. Take them back to the crematoria.”
“Witenganz wants them moved,” One orderly said to the others.
“The cops are downstairs; soon they will be up here. I don’t want my hands on those two if they find us,” The other orderly said as he glanced out the window at the patrol car parked in front of Brightbrook’s entrance.
Gina and Ramon had already been sedated and were laid out on gurneys. The orderlies decided to roll them into a darkened procedure room and leave the grounds of the asylum, maybe for good. Three of the men left the building by the back entrance, got into their cars and drove out off the property. The one remaining orderly walked to the crematoria and stuffed all of Carter, Gina, and Ramon’s belongings under blankets, making two of the beds look as if they were occupied. Then, he left the crematoria, walked to his car, and drove out the front gate.
Witenganz’s was now in her office, she stopped shredding papers long enough to look out the window at the defection. Her eyes followed the last orderly’s car as it left the grounds. “Cowards,” She murmured.
You can find out the exciting ending to Brain Sections by downloading the entire novel at Smashwords.com