By Robert J Lanz, LCSW
“Life is full of loneliness, misery and suffering – and it’s all over much too soon.” -Woody Allen
I knew she was naked under the blanket, even though all I could see were her feet and a few little twists of rope binding her slender ankles together. If she wasn’t naked, why would they have wrapped her in a hospital issue blanket on a California summer night, which despite the late hour, was still pretty warm? She was in the custody of Joe, head of security at the hospital and an old work friend of mine, a man who professed to know a lot about the great outdoors. Joe was in his most protective mode as he rolled the woman into my office in a wheelchair, hovering over her like she was his own daughter. I always liked that quality in Joe, and even though he was displaying it at the wrong time and with the wrong patient, it was clear that he cared in a fatherly way.
The other security guards standing around watching seemed to be equally excited, not so much about the naked woman herself, but about the circumstances under which she had been found. They were all talking at once, reveling in the discovery of what might actually have been a real crime on hospital property. Not another boring case of a nurse stealing some morphine from a patient and shooting up in the bathroom, or another silly ticket on the window of some poor fool who parked in the neurosurgeon’s space. No, this might be a crime worthy of investigation and our guys were right there on the front lines.
“We found her in the doctors’ parking lot. Tied up and naked, just laying there groaning. Says she was tied up and raped and kidnapped—but not in that I order, I don’t think,” Joe offered in his typically minimalist style.
Outdoorsy guy that he was, and claiming to know about such things; he had untied the knots on her arms and legs enough to make her comfortable. Security guard that he was, and ever mindful of the rules of evidence; he left the knots in place. After all, he didn’t want to screw up the forensics. Joe and the other guards were certain that they had been first to discover a heinous crime, but I didn’t think so. I smelled a rat.
The doctors’ parking lot is right across the street from the entrance to the ER and clearly visible from our doorway. That meant a steady stream of doctors coming and going had walked right by the crime scene all night long. It also meant there were cops, paramedics, patients and families coming and going and walking past the crime scene all night long, too.
If I were going to kidnap someone, and I have to say other than some occasional Pamela Anderson fantasies, the idea has never entered my mind; I would probably do it in seclusion somewhere. Even though I have minimal experience with the concept, and none with the actual execution, I doubt that part of any good kidnapping and rape plan would include dropping the victim off across from a busy emergency room entrance where getting caught in the act would be a certainty. I’d have chosen some remote part of the hospital where there was never anyone around. Or I would have chosen the arroyo about a half-mile away. This area was covered in brush and small trees, a place where homeless guys lived and drank, and who, at this time of night, would all be passed out. Almost anyone would have chosen a location other than the place our security staff found the lady all tied up.
Anyone, that is, except a person with a borderline personality disorder, a person able to make such craziness seem sensible in her twisted mind. This troubled individual might have tied herself up and thrashed around in the parking lot, generating enough attention so she was found quickly. She could then make her claim of having been kidnapped, bound and raped. In the big picture of probabilities, that was my best guess. So while everyone else was feeling sorry for the lady who had made a pretty good case for her victimization, I already had a pretty good idea about what really happened.
Of course, I didn’t blurt out my theory immediately because that would have killed all of the drama. No, I’d save my revelations for a better time. Everyone was too worked up about the whole deal for me to come in and spoil the party too soon by shooting off my mouth and entering reality into the equation. It wasn’t often this sort of thing took place in the parking lot, and everyone was too high on their own adrenaline and self-importance to listen to anything I had to say right then, anyway. Instead, I let the boys speculate and retell the story enough times that, in their own minds, each of them played bigger parts than they did in reality. If it turned out I was right, these would end up being big parts in a very small play. It was going to be hard for me to be the one to burst their bubbles, but at some point I knew I was going to have to.
“Call the cops and get them down here. They need to get involved with this,” I said, my voice ringing with a certain authority.
Everyone could hear that I was up to speed on the incident and fully involved.
“Joe, you know a lot about knots and rope and things. When you untied her hands, did it seem like the knots were fairly tight?”
Joe looked puzzled. “Tight? Not really. What are you getting at, Bob?”
“I guess what I mean is, did it seem to you that she could have possibly tied herself up?”
That look. That moment of awareness. That painful moment when you can feel your glory slipping away and you can’t keep it from showing in your eyes. A lesser man might have missed what was coming. A guy who had never worked with me might have missed it, too. Someone who was too entrenched in his own dream to recognize reality would probably have missed it. But not Joe. He knew from my voice I was onto something, and experience had taught him he probably better get onto it, too.
“Actually, that was my first thought,” Joe said, covering his tracks. “The ropes really weren’t very tight.”
The other security guards looked displeased.
“What now?” the expressions on their faces said. “We finally get a real crime and Joe lets it slip away. What the hell is he thinking?”
“Hey Joe. Maybe you ought to have one of these guys go out and see who owns the car she was laying next to,” I suggested. I thought it might be valuable information, and besides, the remaining security guards were going to need an excuse to do something to distance themselves from what they began to suspect was not such a big deal as they had thought just moments earlier.
“Good idea,” Joe said. “One of you guys go out and get the license number of the car where she was found and check it in the security office. Let’s see who owns it.”
One guard took off and the rest of us stood around. In most cases, it’s hard to get victims to stop talking about the crime long enough to get the important details. They are too busy with the emotional details that help them make sense of the situation, but not tonight. Our lady had clammed up, and her original story about kidnap and rape was now on the back burner. If I was right, and she was a Borderline, she would be perceptive enough to know things weren’t going exactly as she planned, and that her little drama was about to fall flat.
Of course I could have been wrong in my hasty assessment of the situation, but I’d become too jaded to think the best of people. I was too experienced and too often disappointed to just believe things because they come, shall we say, well-wrapped. Sometimes, assessing the situation comes down to common sense. If you have enough of it, you can ride the adrenaline pony and not fall off. Without common sense, sometimes the pony heads right for the cliff with you on it and the next thing you know, you’re off the cliff-but it was a hell of a ride. The problem is, going off the cliff is usually expensive in one way or another.
You go off the cliff because you miss the truth. You misdiagnose a patient. You look silly because you let your own feelings cloud your judgment. If you do your assessment right, it’s like getting high without losing contact with reality. If you do it wrong you end up looking goofy, and no one wants to look goofy, especially in a crowd.
The security guard came back and announced, “The Mercedes belongs to Dr. T.”
“That would be Dr. T, the psychiatrist,” I said casually. “Let’s call him and see what he knows about this lady.”
“Oh no, not that crazy woman,” Dr. T. blurted out. “She came into my office with a gun last week demanding that I have sex with her. I had to jump out the window and I’m still on crutches. I’m getting too old for these borderlines. Can’t you take her somewhere else? You don’t expect me to admit her here, do you?”
I could have said no, and I probably should have, but then I thought back to the time I needed Dr. T. to come in and consult on a patient. He refused, and I had to call the police to take that patient down to the county hospital. I thought at the time it was a little insensitive, bordering on unethical. Sort of like the approach I was about to take with him.
“Well, she is your patient, Dr. T. and she obviously needs to be in the hospital.”
I let the implied request hang in the air for a few seconds. I could practically hear his blood pressure rising as he saw the trap he had fallen into. I don’t think he was perceptive enough to realize I was getting even for his past transgression, but I do think he may have been perceptive enough to realize he had contributed to his current dilemma in some way. After all, he was a psychiatrist. I let the moment linger a little longer before speaking. “I guess I could call the cops and have them take her down to the county hospital. That would be all right with you wouldn’t it?”
“Yeah. Yeah! That’s a good idea. The county hospital. We aren’t set up here for that kind of violent patient. This should be a police matter.”
“Well, okay then. The county hospital it is.”
I didn’t want her to be around our hospital either, especially when I was in it. She knew I was the one that had thwarted her twisted romantic desires, and with her borderline personality disorder, she would likely zero in on me as a prime target for retaliation.
“Joe. Can you get the cops down here for me?”
“Sure thing,” He moved in next to me and out of earshot of everyone else in the room.
“Good call. How’d you know?”
“Lucky guess,” I replied. “Just a lucky guess.”
Joe had worked with me long enough to know that I was just saying that to lessen the damage to his ego caused by not figuring it out himself, but he didn’t say anything. Why would he? All that really mattered is that we got the job done, and the patient, who would surely cause us more trouble the longer she stayed, was being transferred to another hospital, where the trouble she caused would be someone else’s to deal with.