Chapter 8 (6)

reached an office and he opened the door with his security card again and made a motion for me to sit in a leather-clad chair in front of his large wooden desk.  The office was lined with bookshelves and was probably handsome when it had been new.  It had the same well-worn look as the reception area out front.  He dumped a packet of brochures in my lap.  “What type of care are you looking at for your relative?”
I glanced down at the brochures and thumbed through one quickly.  Mental health services provided by The Manors range from in-home check-ins to complete secure inpatient facilities.
“I’m not quite sure what I need at the moment,” I hedged.  “Christy isn’t violent but I don’t trust her to stay at home alone anymore.”
“You just described the majority of our patients here,” the doctor said with a smile.  “Has she been formally diagnosed?”
I scrambled to come up with an answer.  “She’s autistic,” I replied.  I decided to take a chance before he questioned me further about my made-up relative.  “Casey Leech suggested I check out your facilities.”
The doctor grew white, “Yes, of course.  How is he doing?”
“She’s doing great,” I said, emphasizing the she’s.  Why had the good doctor suddenly appeared afraid?  He obviously mistook Casey for someone else was my first thought.  He didn’t even know she was a woman.
“Oh, the girl,” he mumbled.  “Yes, that’s good to hear.”  He shuffled some papers around nervously on his desk.  “So back to your relative, Christy right?”
“Yes,” I said.  “She’s high functioning and after Mom died, she seemed to be okay staying home alone while I went to work but last week, she wandered off and I had to call the police to help find her.  Luckily, she hadn’t gone far but she seemed confused when they picked her up.”  The story sounded plausible but I’m not sure how much more I could convincingly make up on the spot.  “How about a tour?”  I suggested.
“Yes, of course,” the doctor replied, seemingly eager to rush me on my way now.
He led me to a cafeteria where the residents were eating from trays that I hadn’t seen since my school days.  Many of the patients were middle aged but I saw some younger adults as well.  They looked cared for and one woman that appeared roughly my own age smiled at me.  I felt slightly better about the place.  The furnishings might be dated but at first glance, it appeared the residents were treated well.
Dr. Stevens used his secure card again and we walked outside where some patients were drawing while others were grouped around a card game.  “Whose monitoring them?”  I asked when I didn’t see anyone in a uniform.
He carefully pointed out a man and woman and I then noticed the nametags.  “We don’t like to use uniforms.  We want to make the facility homelike.”
“Doesn’t that make it hard to tell the patients from the employees?  What if one of them stole your keycard?”  I asked.
Dr. Stevens smiled, “It wouldn’t do them any good.  We have to use our card plus a five-digit code.  Anyway, these patients are all extremely low risk.”
“I’m not sure if I want my sister around someone that could hurt her if they got away from their caregiver,” I said with concern.
“You have no worries, there.  None of these patients have ever exhibited violent tendencies,” Dr. Stevens assured me.
“So you don’t keep any residents with more serious disorders?”  I prompted.
“We treat a wide array of patients at The Manors but we have a separate wing for our more serious cases.  We’ve never had an incident in our in our low risk areas.  Your sister would be perfectly safe here.”
I nodded back at him.  I noticed he’d said there’d been no incidents in this wing.  Had he excluded the other half of the facility on purpose?  Something had put him ill at ease when I’d mentioned Casey’s name.
He led me back to his office hurriedly.  He brought a stack of papers from his desk drawer, “If you’ll start filling these out, we can start to work on getting Christy admitted as a resident.”
I pushed the papers aside.  “I don’t think I’m prepared to do that yet.  I have a few more options I’d like to check out first.”
“We are a much more affordable option than The Burke Center,” Dr. Stevens interjected.  “We offer first rate care here at The Manors but we do it at an attractive price.”
I suddenly felt like I’d been latched onto by a used car salesman.  “I’ll keep that in mind, Dr. Stevens.  I really have to be going.”  I held out my hand and he grasped it firmly.
He shoved a business card into my palm.  “Call me anytime or drop back in and we can complete the paperwork.”
I pocketed the card, “Thank you,” I said.”

He continued to extol the virtues of the place as he led me out the glass doors.  I breathed with relief when I got into the truck and backed out of the parking space.  I guessed The Burke Center was edging out the tired looking facility.  Either that, or there had been some unsavory happenings at The Manors.  I shivered.  Dr. Miles would have loved to stick me in a place just like it-if not worse.
I pulled out of the parking lot and followed the road into a small town.  I needed to find out the local gossip.  I spied a worn sign that said Antiques.  I drove by the storefront, noting some pieces had been placed out onto the sidewalk.  The building itself was old and the facade could have used a litany of repairs.
I smiled when I opened the door to see an elderly lady behind the counter and the store empty.  I was sure she wouldn’t mind wasting the afternoon talking to me, especially if I bought something.
“Hello, can I help you find anything?” she asked at once.
I glanced over the crowded store.  I didn’t see anything that caught my eye.  “Do you have any costume jewelry?”  I could always sell that on eBay.  With my dwindling savings, I hated the thought of having to buy something completely useless that I couldn’t resell.
The woman grinned, “I sure do!”  She stepped out from behind  Next page