CHAPTER SEVEN: CAGED


Speak to me, please. I know you can, I heard you. You've got to let me help you!

Then release me.

Ohhh...so you can speak. And you can understand what I say?

Yes.

Why did you keep silent in front of Gould?

The other man means me harm. No words could change that.

I never meant you harm. You must believe that . . . Do you have a name?

Vincent.

Vincent. My name is Hughes. I have so many questionsÐYou spoke the name Catherine. Who is Catherine?

She's everything, but she lives only in my heart.

Is she like you, another of your kind?

There's only me.

Vincent, what are you?

I am only what I am. If you cut me, I will bleed. If you strike me, I will strike back. And if you keep me in chains, I will die. Look at me.

I don't know what to do!

Let me go.

Nor Iron Bars a Cage (Written by Gordon, Gansa & Perlman)



Betty Carlisle was making good time on her way back to her private office near the fifth floor nurses station. As she walked, she reflected on the conversation she'd had with Caitland...


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After her weekly staff meeting, Betty had found herself standing before the unopened door of the exercise room. Until that moment, she'd been unaware that she'd walked a straight path to where she knew Caitland would be at this time of morning. For a moment, she stopped just outside the door to think about her preoccupation with this particular patient. Like many of the staff, Betty was astonished at the remarkable change in Caitland over the past several weeks. It seemed that overnight her reclusive persona had been tossed aside to be replaced with a thriving, energetic young woman who burned with an inner passion for life. Frankly, Betty was at a loss to explain what had caused the turnaround. It certainly hadn't been anything she'd done. Thus, needing things to make sense and suspicious of a+ transformation that held no obvious explanation, Betty began making it her habit to visit Caitland daily.

Usually, Betty's schedule afforded her only the late afternoon to visit. Finding herself at the entrance of the exercise room at 8 a.m., Betty quickly rationalized that there was certainly nothing wrong with checking in on Caitland while she exercised rather than later in the day. Closer to the truth was that Caitland's entire case was one giant mystery, and Betty couldn't resist trying to 'solve' her. Thus, having reasoned through her unusual behavior to her satisfaction, Betty stepped into the room.

The fully equipped weight and exercise room was the center's most recent addition. Betty knew that Daniel intentionally led visitors by the area as an example of the progressive treatment facilities provided at Pinewillow. What he failed to inform the families, however, was that only a handful of the patients ever recovered enough to set foot in the room. This morning there were several employees at various stages of exercising and aerobics. In the far back corner, she saw the bobbing up and down of a honey-colored head and set out in that direction. Caitland was already working out at the sixth station of her exercise program, and Betty was fairly certain that she had mercilessly pushed herself to the extreme in getting there; as she did in everything she attempted lately. This, too, was a part of the new Caitland: a woman on a mad race with time and defying every standard set for accomplishing her treatment goals. Drawing up beside the young woman, Betty casually spoke to her.

"Good morning, Caitland."

A cursory nod of her head was the extent to which Caitland acknowledged the nursing supervisor. Observing Caitland's absolute focus on her routine, Betty bit down on her lip as she reconsidered this visit. Perhaps now really wasn't a very good time to try to engage Caitland in a conversation. Caitland's seemingly fragile build and calm disposition belied an inner strength and an iron will. Betty knew that when put to the test, Caitland could be more than stubborn: she could be downright unmovable. Yet even Caitland's obstinacy, Betty reasoned, served her well as her determination and fierce independence continued to beat down the debilitating effects of her long illness. Right now, however, Betty found herself wishing that Caitland was just a bit less focused on her present endeavors.

For several minutes she simply watched Caitland work out. Betty was familiar enough with her patient to know that nothing short of a natural disaster would make her stop in the middle of her routine. For that, she couldn't help but admire the woman's determination to regain her physical stamina. She also knew that her intrusion on this time would probably be unwelcome. Still, Betty was quite obstinate in her own way and equally determined to break through the wall behind which Caitland hid her true self. Putting on a smile and air of confidence she didn't quite feel, she once again broke the silence between them.

"Caitland, my staff meeting ended early this morning, and I've got a few free minutes on my hands. So how about taking a short break with me? It really would do you good, honey, I swear you work yourself as if the world's coming to an end!"

Great going! Betty thought to herself. Her invitation sounded ludicrous even to her own ears. Here was a woman drenched in sweat in the middle of a strenuous workout and the best she could come up with was to ask her to take a break just because she had a few extra minutes to kill. Without anything more urgent to divert Caitland's attention, Betty wasn't surprised when she didn't respond and she had just decided to leave when abruptly, Caitland paused and turned around to face her. Her feet were spread apart and hands placed defiantly on her hips. The sweat from her workout caused her dampened hair to spill into her eyes and off her shoulders in unruly ringlets, and at that moment she looked more like a warrior preparing for battle than a patient recovering from a long and serious illness. And when she spoke, there was a bitter intensity to her voice that Betty had never heard before.

"To tell you the truth, Betty, I feel like it's the end of the world...at least my world. I'm frustrated at having to be here and even more infuriated at how slow my rehabilitation is going. I feel like I'm a prisoner here, and don't tell me my feelings aren't rational! They don't have to be. What matters is that I've already lost eighteen months in this place! Why is it so hard for everyone to believe that I've had enough....that I just want to get out of here....put this all behind me and go on with my life? And it isn't that I'm not grateful for the care you've given me. I truly am. It's just that I want my life back."

"May I assume that you've been talking with Dr. Tallenger about when you'd be ready to leave?" Betty asked mildly in counterpoint to Caitland's obvious agitation.

"Talking with him was not exactly what we did. I asked. He said no time soon. End of conversation. So what's the deal deal with him? He won't even acknowledge that I'm better. In fact, he said that he'll need at least six months to be observe me before he will even consider recommending me for release! "

Caitland's eyes were flashing with barely contained anger and frustration, so much so that Betty actually took a step back from the intense young woman. Seeing the alarm in the nursing supervisor suddenly brought Caitland to herself. She closed her eyes and slowly drew in a deep breath. When she let it go, she also let go of her anger. Looking up at the astonished nursing supervisor, Caitland managed a weak smile. She really did like this nurse whose interest in her had always been sincere, if unfortunately ill-timed. Anyway, it certainly wasn't her fault that the one person who could authorize her release was stalling. Tempering her voice, she leaned on the railing and spoke more softly.

"Look, I'm truly sorry for that outburst. I know you're concerned about me, but I'm not crazy and I'm not on the edge. I just want to know when I can look forward to getting out of here. Betty, I just want to be in control of my own life. Can you understand that?"

Betty looked back at Caitland and smiled. "Of course I understand. How can you think I wouldn't?"

Caitland let out a soft sigh, and straightened up. "Then you're about the only one here who does. Look. I would like to talk, but right really isn't good. I still have a lot to do before I plan to take a break. So why don't we get together at our usual time this afternoon?"

"I'd like that," Betty responded truthfully. "And please forgive the interruption."

"No problem," Caitland replied.

"Well, until this afternoon, take care."

Caitland merely nodded her head and with nothing more to say, she turned back to the treadmill, flipped the switch on, and continued to exercise. Even in something as routine as that, she appeared to be running rather than walking on the platform. Try as she might, Betty still didn't understand what was pushing this woman at such a frantic pace. Patients always wanted to leave Pinewillow, at least those who recovered. Yet, few were as driven as Caitland, and none accelerated their program as she did. For all that she might disagree with Daniel's assessment of her patient, she was forced to admit that he'd been right about one thing: Caitland had indeed proven herself to be a handful.

While Betty yet stood to the side silently observing, Caitland finished on the treadmill. Singularly intent on her workout, she had completely dismissed the nursing supervisor from her thoughts and, without missing a beat, proceeded to the next piece of equipment. Betty was again forced to admit that the exercise room was not a place where she could corner Caitland into a conversation.

Shaking her head on the way out, she stopped and turned back to look at her patient once more. Caitland was now reclined on a bench, alternately lifting her legs which, in turn, raised corresponding weights. Perspiration shone on her body as she labored under the strain, and Betty could hear her grunt with each exertion. Caitland's face was a grim mask of concentration, and grit determination filled the room like a tangible force. Betty could practically feel the crackle of energy surrounding her, and for several minutes she stood mesmerized by the sight. With an effort, she finally pulled herself away and quietly left the room.


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Now reaching her office, Betty entered and dropped her files on her desk. Her mind was still on Caitland, and she sifted through her impressions. With so many unusual circumstances surrounding the woman, Betty had been prepared to maintain a comfortable level of detachment while overseeing her rehabilitation. It seemed both the professional and prudent thing to do. Quite unexpectedly, however, Betty had found herself genuinely liking her patient. Caitland was determined to make the best of a dismal situation, and in that respect, they were on common ground. Betty Carlisle had also had her share of collisions with life's hard knocks.

In ways that she was reluctant to admit, the apparent hopelessness of Caitland's condition reminded her of the daughter she had lost many years before. With the exception of Daniel, no one on the staff had known Betty in her earlier years when she had been both a wife and mother. For Betty, it was another life that had ended one tragic night on a slick, rain-paved road when a drunk driver had crashed into her husband and daughter. Frank's death had been mercifully quick at the scene of the accident. But her daughter, Theresa, had lingered on, battling seizures that left her body weakened until a massive stroke finally claimed her.

The pain of her loss had almost destroyed Betty, and in the end, it was her work at Pinewillow that brought her through the terrible grief. She sold the family home, moved into a condo unit, and flung herself into her duties. Betty became known for both her efficiency and compassion, and it seemed that the more hopeless a patient's condition, the harder Betty worked. Within a year she had been promoted to shift supervisor, and two years later had risen to Supervisor of Nursing for Pinewillow. In her heart, Betty viewed each of her patients as an extension of the family she had lost. It showed in her care of them, and now it was extended to one very driven young woman.

Knowing Caitland's strength of character as she did now, Betty was absolutely certain that Caitland must have experienced a horrible tragedy to not only decimate her body, but to nearly destroy her emotional stability. Even now the thought of the amount of morphine in Caitland's system, combined with her weakened state from childbirth and the enormous loss of blood, made Betty shudder. It was a miracle that she hadn't died that night, and yet, this same woman had climbed from the brink of death and the battering of her inner self to recapture the person Betty had seen working out with such energy this morning.

Although Betty had lost her husband and only child, she had gained something invaluable. She now understood the relentless drive of the human spirit to survive despite seemingly insurmountable odds. Sometimes one lost, as her Frank and Theresa had, but then there were the miracles. Caitland was such a miracle. Betty had observed Caitland closely over the past month; and through her relentless drive and refusal to settle for anything less than a full recovery, Caitland had made an ally out of one, Betty Carlisle. Yet, for all that Caitland was determined to recover and leave Pinewillow, Betty knew that she needed more than just sheer desire. She needed the support of someone on the staff. Soon after Caitland had begun, in earnest, to achieve her therapy goals, Betty had accepted that role. And despite the unanswered questions; despite the mystery that underscored everything about Caitland's presence at Pinewillow; and despite the certainty that Daniel would be furious if he knew, Betty Carlisle had become Caitland's silent partner in her recovery.

Thus, it wasn't luck that Caitland had received approval for the acceleration of her treatment plan, the additional time in physical therapy, and virtually unlimited access to the exercise facilities. Betty had authorized it all for her patient. Through Daniel orders, Caitland's case had been placed under Betty's direct administrative supervision, and although it would have been standard procedure for her to confer with Daniel regarding any changes to Caitland's recovery plan, Betty found herself convinced that the less said, the better. After weeks of observing Caitland's strides to reestablish control over her weakened body, Betty knew that she had progressed further than anyone on the staff could have predicted. Yet, Daniel's reaction to Caitland had grown more negative with each passing week. Daniel still viewed her as long-term care, and he was being extremely conservative in his judgment, and had not yet certified her as a candidate for re-integration into the mainstream society.

This was another mystery surrounding Caitland that Betty had yet to solve. For the hundredth time, she found herself wondering what it was about Caitland that brought out the worst in the good doctor. It was a well-known fact that Daniel's brusque personality left much to be desired in his bedside manner. Yet, in the past Betty had never doubted his commitment to the center's patients. His attitude toward Caitland, however, was unprecedented. To Betty's knowledge, Daniel had still not notified Caitland's anonymous benefactor that she was recovering. Even more disturbing were his progress summaries on Caitland. They invariably focused exclusively on the reclusive, maladaptive behaviors displayed when she'd first awakened. Caitland had improved so much that she was virtually unrecognizable from that time, and yet Daniel made no mention of her improvement anywhere in her charts. To read her file, one would think the woman was still being led about the grounds by the staff.
In the face of so much inconsistency, Betty's absolute faith in Daniel had begun to waver. She hated being suspicious of him, and she was thankful, for Caitland's sake, that Daniel's responsibilities as chief administrator prevented him from being directly involved with her. It was an uncomfortable position that she found herself in. Never before had she been forced to chose between loyalty to the doctor and the best interests of a patient. On that score, Daniel and she had always been of one accord. Now, however, Daniel's actions was corroding the very core of Betty's personal and professional ethics. Try as she might, she couldn't put her suspicions aside, and until she could determine the connection between Caitland and the doctor's uncharacteristic antagonism, she would continue to wait and watch.

Suddenly realizing that she had been sitting and staring out of the window for quite a while, Betty turned back to her desk. With a sigh of resignation, she forced her mind away from Caitland and her problems to the large stack of patient folders on her desk. She'd just have to trust that with time things would sort themselves out, for while Caitland was definitely her most challenging patient, she was, by no means, her only one.


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Several floors below Betty Carlisle's office, Caitland completed her morning workout. From the third floor window of the exercise room she could see beyond the perimeter gates to the wooded area that stretched out as a natural barrier between Pinewillow and the neighboring town of Bridgemoor. A faint sigh escaped her lips, and her expression turned wistful. She still didn't have an idea of how she was going to get out of Pinewillow, but it wouldn't be long now before she would be ready. Earlier this morning Dr. Tallenger had made it perfectly clear that he wouldn't even consider her petition for release for at least six months to a year from now. What was left unsaid but had hung between them like an oppressive cloud was the very real possibility that he might never certify her fit to be released into society. Picking up her towel, she stood and stretched. Every muscle in her body seemed to protest, but the discomfort only reminded her that she was getting better. With every passing day she could feel more of her strength returning. Her body's quick response to the therapy and exercise told her that she had kept herself in good physical condition in her life before. That gave her some comfort.

Thinking back on Betty Carlisle's visit, Caitland broke out in a smile. Although it was unintentional, Betty seemed to have an uncanny knack for approaching her when she was in no mood to talk: and most definitely not about herself. It wasn't that she purposely pushed away Betty's overtures of friendship, for she knew and appreciated what a kind and compassionate person she was. Yes, Nurse Carlisle was definitely in her corner. She had acknowledged and encouraged her progress from the very beginning, but of course along with her help had come the nursing supervisor's insistent curiosity about her past. And although Caitland trusted Betty, that trust did not extend to admitting that she had regained her memory or anything that involved her life with Vincent.

Glancing through the window again to the outer gates, she watched the security guards as they routinely checked each incoming car. If she couldn't be released officially, then she would just have to break out. She frowned as she thought skeptically of how she could escape Pinewillow. With the security measures in place, she couldn't just walk out. Pinewillow's reputation was largely founded on its guarantee of security and privacy for its patients. Affluent patrons who desired to keep out of the public eye found Pinewillow an ideal facility in which to sequester hopelessly ill family members. Ironically, the same measures employed by Pinewillow to keep outsiders from entering the grounds, which thereby had insured her safety, were the same measures that she'd have to breach to get herself out. What she had learned about Pinewillow's security system didn't inspire much optimism. The entire complex was linked by closed circuit television with around-the-clock guards at the gate's main entrance. Those exits not monitored by the security staff or cameras could only be accessed with a computerized key card possessed solely by supervisors. Then there was the general alarm system that was activated by nine o'clock each evening; and as if that weren't enough, there were also regular room checks every twelve hours.

When Caitland looked outside the window again, she no longer saw the beauty of the spacious and meticulously manicured landscape. She felt trapped, just as surely as if she were behind bars. Her confidence faltered against the reality of her confinement, and just then the idea of escaping Pinewillow's walls wasn't just difficult--it was down right impossible. Her hope withered even more as she mentally considered her options and then summarily dismissed them all. The longer she stood and pondered her dilemma, the more she questioned her ability to pull the escape off. She tried to resist the doubts and fears, but her keen mind gave her no respite. With a lawyer's practicality, it told her she had to be crazy to think that she could get past the security measures that were in place. But the alternative was to stay and risk Vincent's ultimate realization that she was alive. Looking out to where the security guards were stationed, she shuddered uncontrollably. She had no doubt he'd be killed trying to come to her. The certainty of that hit her with a force that left her cold, and she briskly rubbed her arms against the chill that was more within than without.

In desperation she closed her eyes, blocking out the light, and reached deep within for any sense of him. Although it had been over a month since that fateful night when Vincent had come to her in her dreams, she remembered it as if it were yesterday. Without warning, she felt a sudden warmth flood through her, spreading to all the empty places and filling them with so much love and strength. Tears came to her eyes as she recognized the presence that was surrounding her. She didn't know how it was possible, and it didn't occur to her to wonder if what she felt of him ran both ways. All that mattered was the heady mixture of love and relief that swept over her with such intensity that she placed a hand against the wall to steady herself. She understood then what Vincent had tried to tell her. She had the strength and the courage, for in her heart she carried his love. With love, all things were truly possible, and ever so slowly, the smile returned to her face.

She quickly showered and changed into the white cotton shirt and draw-string pants that had been issued for her to wear around the grounds. As she headed down the hall, she suddenly realized that there was only one person in all of Pinewillow who might help her escape: Betty. It would be a risk to ask for her help, but it was a risk she had to take. Each day she grew stronger but, without help, the odds stacked against her were simply insurmountable. In a few more hours, she would meet with Nurse Carlisle again, and then she would take the first step to her freedom. And with no more assurance than the feeling that still lingered just beyond her subconscious, she knew that somehow she would return to Vincent and her son again.


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Hundreds of miles away, Vincent sat across from Father with an exquisitely carved chess set separating the two men. In predictable fashion, Vincent was on a fast track to winning the game that he had, so far, completely dominated. While Father complained continuously of life's injustice in which those he taught chess invariably excelled over his own skill, Vincent knew that Father was proud of his many proteges. However, he also liked to win, and when the unexpected occurred, and Father managed to take a game from Vincent or one of the children, his elation was the topic of discussion for many days afterward.

It was Vincent's turn to move, and Father released a low sigh. Although he was prepared to concede the game to his son, he didn't have to enjoy it. Then just as Vincent was about to place his Queen, he stopped. His eyes widened in surprise, and the chess piece fell from his hand unnoticed. Father looked up sharply and knew at once that something had pulled at Vincent's inner sense.

"Vincent, are you alright? Is it Jacob?" Father asked, worrying that something might have happened to his grandson which had been communicated to Vincent through the bond they shared. But Vincent didn't reply. In fact, with the exception of lowering his hand, he was perfectly still. Since he showed no signs of physical distress, Father resisted the urge to shake him from his apparent trance. Still, in the tense silence of the chamber, the minutes seemed to stretch into an eternity as he helplessly sat by and waited for Vincent to re-emerge.

When finally Vincent blinked and slowly shook his head, Father nearly upset the entire chess board in his rush to reach Vincent's side. Placing a hand on his brow, Father noted that with the exception of an unhealthy pallor, Vincent exhibited no outward signs of illness. Yet, it was obvious that whatever he had experienced inside the bond had thoroughly shaken him Still unsure of Jacob's safety, Father felt his own fear, and in a voice that was little more than a whisper, he tried again to reach his son. "Vincent, can you tell me?...What is it?"

Looking for all the world as if he'd just arisen from a deep sleep, Vincent nodded his head tentatively, and raised his eyes to Father. "I'm alright, Father. Forgive me for upsetting you, it's just that for a moment..."

Scarcely able to contain his rising anxiety, Father gripped Vincent's shoulder and pushed him to continue. "Yes...for a moment, what?"

"For a moment I felt....her....here," and Vincent placed a large furred hand over his heart.

"Her???" Father asked, only to stop as he suddenly understood Vincent's shock and the stricken look in his son's eyes. Faced with the impossible, Father spoke aloud what Vincent could not say.

"Catherine."


Continued in Chapter 8