Monday, August 21st, 2001 (California)
Chris’s mad dash back to his unit went fairly smoothly as there were very few people out and about. He didn’t run so as not to draw undue attention to himself but he did keep it at a brisk pace as the clock was ticking.
There were some landscaping crews pruning, cutting and doing their daily thing to keep this insane asylum looking like a Beverly Hills Country Club. He also passed a few staff members driving around in golf carts but other than that he arrived back at the unit unnoticed.
Once he got inside the building he did a quick search of the premises including the staff room and the common areas and ascertained that neither Tim Sullivan nor any of his counselor staff were on the premises. He found out through his travels that most of the peer counselors were former clients with literally no qualifications other than having been “recovering” alcoholics themselves and that they were required to attend all of the seminars themselves. He saw most of them there but he had scanned the auditorium and saw no sign of Tim. He may have been at a staff meeting or maybe enjoying some free time. The bottom line is that he didn’t know, so the possibility that he or someone else could arrive at any given moment added to the sense of urgency that he already had.
Chris quickly darted to his room and retrieved his wallet and keys along with his sunglasses and his Knicks baseball cap which he was hoping would make him just slightly harder to identify on his way back to the Center to catch his cab ride back to freedom. He thought for a brief moment of throwing caution to the wind and packing all of his clothes in his suitcase and grabbing his golf clubs while he was at it but then thought better of it. If he had to fight his way out, less was better. Besides, they’d have to send it all back anyway and even though he wasn’t sure if he was going home upon his return, he’d simply go out and buy what he needed.
Wasting no time, Chris hurried back to the common area but as he passed through the kitchen on his way to the laundry room he heard the sound of washers and dryers doing their thing. He thought for a moment that maybe some of the other residents may have started loads before they had left for their activities but then realized that way too much time had elapsed since then and concluded that it must have been someone from the housekeeping staff or something. That being the case, maybe they had a key for the storage closet and it would save him from having to bust the door down and ripping the place apart. On the other hand, whomever it was might also have the authority to question his presence there and alert security.
Realizing that he had no choice, he abruptly entered the room and was met by a staff worker in overalls who was busy filling a dryer with sheets and pillow cases. The man looked to be of Hispanic decent and was probably in his late 30’s or early 40’s and appeared to be in pretty good shape. As Chris headed for the supply closet, the man in somewhat accented English asked, “Sir, can I help you with something?”
Having just reached the supply closet door and finding it locked as expected, Chris simply replied, “Yeah, you can open up this door for me.”
The man looked at Chris suspiciously and hesitantly, “I’m afraid sir that I don’t have the key.”
Chris noticed the name tag on the guy’s vest and said, “Look Juan, you look like a nice enough fellow and I really don’t want to start any trouble here but I am getting in that closet with or without your help. So how about you do the right thing and save your buddies on the maintenance staff from having to replace the door, OK?”
Defensively the man protested, “I do not have a key, really!”
Chris knew the guy had to be full of shit as there were no fresh linens or laundry supplies anywhere else in the room to be found. Besides, there was a key ring loop hanging off of his utility belt.
“Look Juan, I don’t have time for this, are you going to help me or not?”
“Sir, I …..”
Chris turned around and gave the door a roundhouse kick right near the handle. It was one of those cheap hollow plywood jobs and it pretty much disintegrated upon impact. He turned and saw that Juan was reaching for a walkie-talkie that was clipped to his belt and was heading for the exit.
Chris quickly grabbed Juan by the collar and hurled him back into the room. The maintenance man lost his balance and fell awkwardly against the wall.
“Come on Juan, now why’d you have to go and do that? Look, I’m paying a thousand dollars a day to be here so why don’t you just be a courteous host and sit there while I retrieve my phone, Ok? I really don’t want to do to you what I just did to that door, understand?”
The loyalty and fight had left Juan and self-preservation took over as he simply nodded in agreement. It took Chris a minute or two to sift through the shelf of cell phones and find his. Time was becoming his enemy in quick order and now he also had the dilemma of what to do with Juan as well. He had no doubt that the second he left the dorm that his new friend would be on the phone to security and there would be a caravan of golf carts converging on him in seconds.
Glancing again at the ring of keys on Juan’s belt, Chris bent over and ripped off the walkie-talkie and told Juan to get up and start moving. As they headed down the hallway, Chris said, “Let’s take a little walk down to Timmy’s office. Please don’t try to pretend that none of those keys open his door, I really don’t want to have to pay for any more damage.”
They walked in silence and when they got there Juan fumbled with the keys but made no attempt to escape or of any deception. Chris ushered Juan to a seat in front of Tim’s desk and picked up the phone saying to him, “What cab company do you guys use?”
“Taxi Juan, what damn taxi company does Serenity use?”
“We have our own cars and drivers sir.”
Chris just glared at the man while slamming his fist on the desk and said, “I don’t have time for this shit Juan, which company?”
“Please, please sir, don’t hurt me! ABC taxi, they are right in town.”
“There, that wasn’t so hard now was it?” Chris called information, got the number and ordered a cab to pick him up on the circle in front of the Center. He then ripped the phone out of the wall and said, “Ok Juan, this is how this is going to go down. I’m going to lock you in the office and you’re going to be a gentleman and simply wait for the staff to return and let you out. I’ll even leave the keys on the other side of the door. If you try and break out of here before I have the chance to get out this Hell hole and they keep me from leaving, I WILL find you and your head will resemble that of the supply room door. Capiche?”
Juan simply nodded and said nothing. Chris walked around the desk, gave Juan a pat on the shoulder and said, “No hard feelings my friend. If I’m ever asked, you tried your best not to cooperate but had no choice. He stepped out of the office, locked the door from the outside and got the Hell out of there.
He got to the Center unscathed and unnoticed and went around to the entrance area where there were several benches in place for people waiting for transportation or simply taking a break. As there were 100’s of employees who worked there, there was a steady stream of people coming and going. His presence there as a patient wasn’t all that unusual as he could have been there for any reason ranging from financial issues, medical, or therapeutic. Just standing idly outside the main doors would have seemed a bit odd so Chris took out a cigarette and lit it. Nobody would question the fact that he couldn’t go inside until he finished.
Chris was on his 3rd chain smoked cigarette by the time he looked down the access road and saw the taxi at the security checkpoint. Just as he was thinking he was home free, none other than Jodi Swenson was exiting the Center through the main entrance.
With a look of surprise and bewilderment Jodi addressed Chris, “Mr. Adams, what are you doing here?” As his case worker she knew that there were no bills to be paid, that he had his initial psych evaluation and that he should be in group right now.
As the cab pulled around to the front of the building, Chris walked over to it and pulled open the rear door. As he was doing so he said to Ms. Adams, “Hi Jodi, what can I tell you, this place isn’t for me. This whole experience has been a major wake-up call and I realize that I need to tone it down and make some changes, but surrendering to your bizarre lifetime “program” just isn’t happening.”
“Please reconsider Chris. This thing is bigger than you are, you can’t beat this thing alone. You have a disease and you need help!”
“I appreciate your concern Jodi, I really do, but I’m out of here.”
“Mr. Adams, you are aware that if you leave that you will forfeit the entire cost of your month long treatment.”
“Not my problem darling,” said Chris.
“Not to mention,” continued Jodi, “I’m pretty sure that your employer made it clear to you that your continuing tenure with your firm is contingent upon successful completion of the program.”
Losing the thirty grand might not have been his problem but where his next paycheck was coming from and where he was going to be sleeping that night certainly were. He pretty much knew what Bryce’s reaction was going to be but he had no idea what to expect out of Julie. He figured it wouldn’t be long before he found out.
Before he closed the door to the cab, Chris added, “If my boss or my wife call looking for me, tell them I’m staying with friends in LA for a few days to sort things out.” Chris and Julie did in fact have quite a few friends in the LA area and the firm even had a subsidiary office there although Chris most certainly would not be visiting its confines. He hoped that little lie would buy him enough time to catch the next flight out before they figured it out and sent the cops or the Serenity goons to the airport looking for him.
He bid farewell to Jodi and when the cabbie asked Chris where he was headed, he replied, “LAX. There’s and extra twenty in it for you if you pretend there is no speed limit.” The guy laughed and said, “This is LA pal, I’ll do what I can.”
Hope you enjoyed it!
12 Steps to Dead will be out in early 2015 :-)
Have a great Saturday everyone!