In under five minutes four paramedics arrived on the scene. The paramedics in this city were very familiar with this facility and the surrounding neighborhood. It was not unusual for emergency personnel to pay ten to twenty visits per week to this facility. Many of the calls they received were, in
essence, false alarms. When the paramedics arrived at the scene they would
often find that the client was very intoxicated with either alcohol, drugs, or both being the culprit. Other times they would be called out due to a client complaining of being short of breath and or having chest pain. Other occasions the calls would be for residents experiencing anxiety attacks or going into psychosis. Two years ago they had been called to the scene for an actual fatal stabbing incident.
A young blond female paramedic in her twenties and her handsome young male partner were the first to attend to the resident in the stairwell.
“He’s not breathing and I’m not getting a pulse,” the female paramedic said to her co-worker.
“He’s feeling stiff and cold to to the touch,” added her male colleague.
Just then a young police constable and his senior partner arrived on the scene.
“How’s the man doing?” asked the younger police officer.
“He’s dead,” the male paramedic answered. “He has numerous contusions on his body and his neck could possibly be broken as a result of a fall or a push.”
“The medical examiner will need to determine the exact cause of death. I’ll call for the detectives,” the senior constable said to his young partner.
Within ten minutes a big , burly detective in his early fifties named Jeff Barnes arrived with his partner, Krista Holland, a trim, attractive, strawberry blond, female detective.
As all this was happening, the security guard, Jim Bellows, had called a code blue for the building. This meant that all available staff who were available were to respond to the site of the incident. The first residential care worker to arrive at the scene was a tall, thin woman in her late forties. She was instructed to stay where she was by the male detective.
After a brief introduction to each other Constable Redding asked the residential care worker to round up the rest of the staff of the facility and have them wait in the staff room until the detectives were ready for them.
The second staff to arrive at the scene was Rick Jennings, the mental health wing supervisor. Rick was a good looking, physically fit man who had just turned forty. He quickly identified himself to the detectives. When Rick asked what had happened, the female detective, Krista Holland, told Rick to wait in the staff room but not before informing the supervisor that a resident of the facility was dead.
The body of the deceased resident was taken to the city morgue after the
detectives had taken pictures of him and had taken notes on what the resident
was wearing and to make a record of any belongings found in his clothing.
After approximately fifteen minutes the two detectives went to the staff room on the second floor to talk to the staff of the facility.
The House of Hope was a four floor building that housed approximately seventy residents. It was the brain child of the government’s Health Division and was considered to be state of the art. There were two main treatment facilities located in the building. The fourth floor contained the substance abuse treatment center. The third floor was a rehabilitation unit for clients presenting with severe and chronic psychiatric disabilities. The second floor was for female residents that had previously been homeless or were escaping from abusive relationships and the first floor was occupied by impoverished men who didn’t have a safe and permanent place to live in the community. The administrators of The House of Hope were very proud of their building as it purported to meet so many divergent needs in the poorest area of the city. When a first time visitor came to The Center, they would first notice the offensive odor that only chronic and severe poverty can produce. There was always a strong smell of body odor present in and around the building.
The Cover Up
It was around 4:00 AM Sunday morning and Cora Sanchez, the night cleaner at the House of Hope has just completed her washing of the floors on the third floor of the building. She pushed open the door that leads to the stairwell and is immediately struck by the stench of urine and feces. This was not an unfamiliar smell to Cora as residents urinating or even defecating in inappropriate places was not unheard of in this facility. As she took a look around the curving stairwell she saw a pair of blue jean covered legs. The body that they belonged to was hidden by the curve in the stairwell between the third and fourth floors.
The House of Hope is a state of the art facility designed for the treatment of multiple mental and substance abuse disorders and the general conditions of abuse, homelessness and poverty. It was a recently built multi-complex facility that was funded by a large government grant.
Cora suspected that she would find a resident who had soiled himself before passing out in the stairwell. Although the facility’s policy was not to allow alcohol or illicit drugs in the residence, they could not prevent a client from obtaining their drug of choice from the street.
As the facility was located in an industrial warehouse district of town there were always drug dealers near the premises. Cora climbed down the flight of stairs until she was on the landing. She found a young man probably in his twenties passed out on the stairs. It was obvious that he had soiled himself. He was wearing a red hoodie with matching red sweat pants. His body appeared to be positioned in an unnatural position as if twisted the wrong way. Cora did not recognize the man. As the cleaner worked the overnight shift she didn’t get to know many of the residents of the treatment facility.
Cora asked the man in a loud voice if he was okay to see if he would respond. She waited about five seconds but did not hear any response from the man. Cora got down on her knees in order to give the gentleman a shake.
As she got close to his face she realized that the man was not breathing. There was a stream of saliva and red spittle coming from his mouth that had dried on his chin.
Becoming alarmed Cora ran out of the stairwell to get help.
As she opened the door to the stairs she saw a security guard doing his rounds. She called out that a man was down in the stairway. The security guard immediately called 911.
About the Author (Part One)
As I have acquired some new followers on WordPress.com, facebook, figment, Booksie, twitter and Wattpad recently, I decided to write a rough draft for a new video blog I hope to release soon.
My internet video blog show is called What’s Up? which is a really casual video blog on a large variety of topics, themes and recent developments.
I have been a substitute teacher for River East Transcona School Division for about three years now. I absolutely love the job for a variety of reasons. When I’m not out subbing I can usually be found on my computer listening to music and audio books, reading ebooks, writing my own written, audio and video blogs and watching some movies and tv shows.
My second job at this time is that of an aspiring writer. I started writing my own original work when I was working in a mental health rehabilitation facility. While I worked there I taught a drama class to the residents. When I found that I was having a difficult time finding both age appropriate and entertaining educational plays for my students I started writing my own plays. I started off by writing a drama version of The Escaped Convict. This was followed by my personal favorite, Roswell 1947. Over the years I have revised this play at least three times and still have to work on a ready to be published edition.
I had so much fun writing my plays that I decided to continue writing after I left my job at The Mental Health Center. I thought I might try my hand at writing short stories, novellas and novels and possibly a few poems this time around. I will likely even write a devotional book. I have found that writing can be quite addictive. The aspect of the writing life that I find most challenging is formatting but I’m trying to teach myself how to do this properly.
Probably my personal favorite of my original works that I have written is The Roswell 1947 Play. I found that this play almost wrote itself and that I would often burst out laughing at the inherent comedy in the play as I was writing it. There is a lot of slap stick and bathroom humour in this piece of writing. Actually it’s a very bizarre play that I would highly recommend to my readers, fans and followers.
A few years ago I wrote a short novella called Lake Mariposa. I also got a lot of enjoyment writing this one. Its theme is a coming of age story that takes place in the nineteen sixties and that focuses on the exhilarating pleasure and devastating pain of unrequited young love.
I presently have three works in progress. They are all novels. One is titled The Cover Up. Thematically it deals with the abysmal failure of our present mental health system. The second work in progress is about life on the independent wrestling circuit.
I am presently working most actively on my third work in progress, a novel called The Lake Demon. This is a sort of stream of conscious novel that on one level deals with an expedition to search for the elusive, Canadian lake monster, Ogopogo. On another level the story is about man’s attempts to wrestle with his own personal demons. I am basically writing this novel using a flying by the seat of my pants approach.
Recently I have signed on as a member of a few internet writers’ sites including Wattpad, WordPress.com, Booksie, Figment and Mibba. While perusing these sights I have had the privilege of reading other aspiring writers’ works. I was amazed to see how good their writing is and that the majority of new writers are young people. This is good to see. I hope they don’t get discouraged and keep on rocking out with their personal writing.
The stories that I most enjoy have very strong and unusual characters. The writer who I believe does the best job of characterization is Stephen King. I’m running out of gas so I’ll just wrap this session up as Part One and continue on with Part Two later. Have a great day,
Ken David Stewart
PS I’m also a fanatic professional wrestling fan.
After Detective Barnes left Rick tried calling Bret’s mental health worker but only got her answering service. Rick also left a phone message for Bret’s psychiatrist. Rick then put on his sport jacket and informed Holly that he would be leaving the facility or the day. He asked her to call him at home if there were any updates on the situation..Rick also told Holly that she could give Bret’s parents his home phone number if they returned his call.
Rick drove home in his dark brown Chevy Impala. As soon as he got home, Rick was about to call Central Pharmacy to order a new bubble pack of meds when the thought suddenly occurred to him, “Wouldn’t the pharmacy wonder why he was ordering replacement meds for a dead client?” Rick knew that he would have to change his cover up plan but right now he was simply too exhausted to think clearly. He spread out on his sofa and would take a nap first.
Jeff Barnes left for home around the same time as Rick did. When arrived at his apartment he was immediately greeted by his orange tabby cat, Zelda. Like Rick he was very exhausted. Jeff took off his shoes and lay back in his sofa. He placed a cushion behind his head and tried to relax. He found it very hard to unwind from his job. There were too many thoughts and questions buzzing around in his head. Jeff felt uneasy about his interviews with Rick that morning. The detective had a suspicion that Rick knew more information than he had told him.
It had been a difficult shift for Holly. Every resident dropped by at least once to ask what happened during the night. Most of them were very shaken up when they heard that Bret had passed away. When they came by the office to talk to Holly about it, most of them were asking the question, why? Holly really didn’t have any answers for them but she tried to console them the best she knew how. Many therapists believe that talking about the crisis situation is good therapy in itself.
At 3:45 PM the evening counselor/teacher/residential care worker showed up for his shift. His coworkers nicknamed him Slash due to the variety of jobs that Drake Stephens did. Holly had phoned Drake earlier in the day to tell him what happened with Bret.
Drake had just turned sixty last month. He was obese and wore his long white hair in a ponytail. Although he was obviously overweight, Drake carried his weight reasonably well. In the early afternoons he would usually go for a forty-five minute ride on his mountain bike. If he had enough energy left after his evening shift he would go to the gym after work and pump iron for another thirty to forty minutes. Even with all this exercise Drake Stephens was starting to slow down. His shift were taking much more out of him than they had even a couple of years ago. He didn’t cherish the thought but realized that he probably only had a year or two left before he would have to retire. Drake cracked opened a Rockstar energy drink and let out a deep sigh.”Shit” was all Drake could say.
“I know how you feel Rick. We all liked Bret,” Holly said.
“He was one of the few guys who could have made it out there.” Drake was referring to the “real world”, the world outside the facility.
“I know and we don’t even know how he died yet.”
“ Oh, I’m sure we will know in a day or two,” sighed Drake. “I just hope there wasn’t any foul play involved.”
‘How is that even possible, Drake? Everybody liked Bret, “said Holly.
“Well, let’s just say that this building and the surrounding area isn’t the safest place to live.” said Drake.
“Yeah, you’re right Drake. Two years ago a guy from the hostel was fatally knifed because he wouldn’t give some one a cigarette.” said Holly.
“Unfortunately, there are people in this world that would run over their grandmother for fifty bucks,” Drake stated.
“Yeah, and that’s only the staff we’re talking about.” joked Holly.
“Good one, Holly,”. Rick and Holly both broke out laughing at the same time.
Rick had a very restless sleep on his couch. He began a dream that turned into a nightmare. Rick dreamed that he saw Brett Harkness crawling out of his grave and chasing him out of the cemetery yelling, “You murdered me, you asshole!”
Rick then forced himself to wake up. He was drenched in sweat. Rick got up and went to the kitchen to make himself a coffee. He really wanted a shot of Jack Daniels but he had been on the wagon for a year now. Just as he was pouring the water into his coffee maker, Rick heard his phone ring. He automatically looked for his cigarettes. This was an addiction that Rick was still unable to break. He found a pack in his sports jacket pocket. He had thrown the jacket onto a Lazy Boy chair when he came home. He found a lighter on his glass coffee table in the living room. Rick grabbed the receiver of the phone with one hand while he shakily tried to light his cigarette
“What kinds of things would Bret do to piss off Simon and Matthew?”
“Bret would spoil their game.
If he witnessed anyone bullying the other residents Bret would quickly put a stop to it. Bret didn’t have to do or say much to get a bully to back down. A good stern look from Bret was usually sufficient. Bret still went to the gym four or five times per week and he had developed an impressive physique. Simon and Matthew did not exercise at all and appeared scrawny by comparison. Another factor was that Bret was their intellectual equal. He had a university degree and read books voraciously. He was onto their game and they knew it.”
“So, Simon and Matthew would like to have Bret out of the program?” asked Barnes.
“No doubt,” Rick responded.
As the line of questioning continued Rick was starting to feel unwell. “Look detective, I haven’t had much sleep and I am really not feeling that well. I also have to phone Brett’s community mental health worker and try to get a hold of his parents one more time. Could we continue the interview at a later date?”
“Of course, Rick. I would like to see the medical examiner’s report anyway so that we would have more to go on. The ME’s report will likely not be completed until at least tomorrow morning. Can I call you tomorrow?” asked Detective Barnes, stifling a yawn.
Detective Barnes shook his head. “ A structured routine is part of the treatment plan.”
“Exactly,” replied Rick. “There are other similarities to a prison. There is a pecking order among the residents. There are weak residents and strong residents. The stronger ones like Simon use manipulation and intimidation to control the weak ones.”
“Can you give me some examples?” asked Barnes.
“Sure, replied Rick. “ Most of our residents are heavy smokers and cigarettes are the equivalent of money to most of them. Several of the residents are on smoke plans where they are only allotted so many cigarettes per day for both health concerns and their financial limitations. Naturally, most of the residents run out of their daily supply of cigarettes long before their day is over. Then, the wheeling and dealing begins. Some of the weaker residents that still have cigarettes left over can be intimidated into giving their cigarettes to the residents that they fear.”
Barnes looked puzzled,”Can’t your staff do something about this?”
“They try their best. Often if they catch one resident trying to take advantage of another resident they will make the offender pay back the resident that they bummed the cigarettes off. The problem is that they can’t see everything. There is often only one staff on duty per shift. It’s like a referee at a hockey game. He can’t watch the whole ice surface all of the time.”
“That’s ridiculous!” said the detective. “One staff for twenty plus residents?”
“That’s all we can afford on the limited budget that they give us.”
“Okay, let’s get back to Bret,” said Barnes impatiently
“There are two guys on the floor that resent Brett,”
“Who are they?”
“Simon Piper and Matthew Richards,” answered Rick.
“Why do they resent Bret?”
“They resent him because they can’t control him. He is not intimidated by them and he won’t play their game,” Rick explained.
“What’s their game?”
“Controlling the others residents in the facility. Simon is the leader and Matthew is just his follower. I think that Matthew felt he would be a lot safer if he became a friend to Simon,” added Rick. “Of course, there is a price to pay for being Simon’s friend. If you’re his friend you must never criticize or question him and you must always do what he says.”
“In other words surrender your individuality to Simon.”
“For the most part, yes,” answered Rick. You see a mental health treatment facility is much like a prison in some ways. The residents often feel like inmates. Our counselors and residential care workers often function like guards in a penal institution. They regulate the schedules and lives of their clients for the most part.
There are set times for several of the resident daily agendas. Meals are always at the same time, medications are given out at a certain time. There are set times for life skills classes and recreation periods. And we can’t forget curfews.”