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'The Pretender' and it's characters are property of…someone else…not sure who, but they certainly don't belong to me…though sometimes I may like to pretend otherwise…This story wandered into my head one day and refused to leave except by way of my fingers on the keyboard. It's completely unrelated to my other Pretenders stories (except for using the same characters, naturally).



Room 413
By Donna





She slammed the phone down as she dropped into her desk chair.

She couldn't believe that he had managed to elude her again.

'The loony bin,' Miss Parker thought. 'He's trying to drive me to the nut house...and doing a pretty darn good job of it, too."

*************************************************************

"So what's the story with this one?" the man asked, looking through the small, thick window set in the upper part of the door.

The man with him looked through the same window, a sad smile on his face.

"A real shame, that's what her story is."

His eyes were fixed on the figure huddled in the corner of the room. For a moment, it seemed he would say no more. Finally, he shook his head, as if to shake away disturbing thoughts.

"Her father is really high up in one of the local 'families', if you understand my meaning?"

The other man nodded.

"She was almost a teenager when her mother was gunned down right in front of her by one of the family's rivals. She was spared only so that she could pass the warning along to her father."

"Poor kid."

"Yeah. Her father was smart enough to realize that she needed professional help to deal with what had happened, but he wasn't very careful about choosing it. He turned her over to Dr. William Raines."

"I think I remember hearing about him. Wasn't he that guy they did an investigation on about fifteen years ago? Ran that private hospital? There were all kinds of allegations about patient abuses and stuff."

"That's the guy."

"Seems like I remember that his hospital burned down and he disappeared."

"Disappeared!"

There was a snort of laughter. "That's the official story anyway."

At the other man's questioning glance, he continued, a mirthless smile on his face.

"Her father does not take well to being betrayed."

He received a nod of understanding.

"That's when she was brought here. Officially, she's listed as catatonic, but she has occasional violent outbursts..."

"She certainly looks pretty quiet to me."

"Right now she is, but I'd certainly love to know what's going through her mind sometimes."

"A couple of the other orderlies warned me about her...said that she can be pretty unpleasant to be around."

"Her outbursts...they can be nasty, but they're pretty rare. And they're usually directed at specific people...like her brother and her stepmother. For some reason, they seem to really set her off. Most people, though, she simply ignores."

"They said she likes you, though."

"I don't know that I'd say that she 'likes' me, but she seems to tolerate me better than she does most. There are only about three or four people that she really likes. Dr. Jacobs is one of them."

"I don't think I've met him."

"Dr. Sidney Jacobs. He's a psychiatrist...older guy...been around here forever. He goes in to talk to her every couple of days. She never talks to him, but she sure gets agitated if he doesn't show up when he's supposed to. A couple of years ago, he had a family emergency and had to return to France for a couple of weeks. She was completely unmanageable until he returned...no one dared to go into her room. When he got back, she gave him a nasty stare for a couple of minutes, then everything was back to normal."

He smiled, shaking his head.

"Then there's Bruce. He's another one of the orderlies."

"Thin, balding guy?...always looks kind of nervous about something?"

"That's him. Her attention makes him more nervous than ever, but she seems to enjoy that. She sure doesn't like for anyone else to mess with him, though. He had taken her down to the TV room one night, and one other guys on staff was picking at him...saying the only way he could spend time with a beautiful woman was to pick one up in the vegetable department...she actually physically attacked the guy. He was a big guy, but she just tore right into him...broke his nose...nobody picks on Bruce much anymore...especially if she's in earshot."

"I'll keep that in mind."

"Then there's Bruce's daughter, Debbie. He's doing the single parent thing...had to bring her in one night when he had to work. She was supposed to be sleeping in the on call lounge, but disappeared. We
finally found her in here. Don't know how she got in, but the two of them were sitting there on the bed, the kid reading to her while she braided her hair. Now, Debbie comes in at least once a week to read to her. I think they've been through 'Little Women' about five times."

"Yeah...that's my daughter's favorite."

"Then there's Jarod."

He stopped.

"Jarod?"

"He's another patient. No one is real sure where he came from. One of the staff members at Dr. Raines' hospital said that he had been there since he was a child. They told her father that Jarod had tried to protect her from Raines, so daddy is paying for his care, too. He likes to come visit her."

"He's not locked up?"

"Actually, he is. We don't know how, but he keeps getting out of his room. We've changed the locks several times and moved him into about three different rooms, but it keeps happening. He's there, then all of a sudden, he's not. I don't know why it worries the administration so much, though. He always comes to her. They've even moved her a couple of times, but he always finds her. Any time he's missing, we always know where to look."

"What do they do?"

"Nothing. They're always just sitting in the floor...looking into each other's eyes...not quite touching...and smiling...like they know this grand secret that they're not letting anyone else in on."

"Hmm."

"So...are you ready?"

"I guess so..."

He knocked on the door of room 413 before unlocking it and leading the other man in. They crossed the floor to the woman sitting in the corner, her arms locked around her legs.

*****************************************************************

Miss Parker looked up at the knock on the door. Sam came in, followed by a nervous looking young man dressed in the dark suit that shouted 'sweeper'.

They stopped in front of her desk and waited for a moment until she raised an eyebrow at Sam.

"Miss Parker, this is Eric. He'll be working with me."

She looked him over, snorted slightly, and returned to the paperwork on her desk, effectively dismissing them.

They took the cue and left quietly.


***********************************************************

As Sam locked the door back behind them, he looked at the new orderly.

"Well, that's Miss Parker. What do you think?"

Eric shivered slightly.

"I'm really hoping to be one of those people that she mostly ignores.

Sam just laughed.



The End.











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