Gadget in Chains
Written by: Loneheart
Chapter Twelve: A Tale of Two Patients
Gadget Hackwrench was moving home. Her normal cell was ready for her, at last. She was grateful for that although, she reminded herself, since she was being unjustly imprisoned it made little sense to be grateful to someone for keeping her in a cell instead of a rubber room and a straitjacket.
She had nothing to carry. That was a blessing, she thought.
The new cell had no bars. It was a tiled white room with a bed and a toilet. The door was metal and had a large hatchway that could only be opened from the outside. There was no window and the only light came from a white L.E.D. wired to the ceiling and protected by it's own metal cage. Even the light was a prisoner here, Gadget thought, and although it could slip easily between the bars and escape, the bars cut a long shadow across everything the light touched afterwards. The light had lost part of itself in the escape.
Gadget didn't need to look at the cell for very long to know that, for her, escaping would be as hard as staying.
"Here you are. The lap of luxury." One of the female orderlies told her as she stepped into the tiny, nine-inch by nine-inch room. "Make yourself comfortable. You're going to be here a long time."
"Yeah? I thought I was going to be here until you took me to see Doctor Schadenfreude at ten tomorrow." Gadget quipped bitterly.
"You know what I mean. No back chat, missy, unless you want to sleep in a straitjacket again tonight."
Gadget's lip curled but she didn't say anything. Sleeping without straps digging into her was one of the things that she was looking forward to. It wasn't until the no-nonsense matrons had left Gadget alone that she realised how out of character sniping at them at all had been, for her. There was something about being a prisoner that made you want to score points off the people confining you any way you could. It was about the only way she had to hang onto what dignity she had left.
Dignity, Gadget's conscience pricked her, or pride?
Wisecracking at the guards wasn't particularly dignified, Gadget allowed, and it lead to confrontations she couldn't win, which wouldn't help her pride. Nor would it reflect well on her when the truth eventually came out. Gadget Hackwrench the troublesome inmate.
"Ah, the witty repartee of institutional life." Came a smooth voice from the doorway.
Gadget lifted her head. She hadn't heard the door open or expected visitors so soon after arriving.
Professor Ratigan stood in the doorway wearing a fine, if rather old-fashioned, suit. He smiled at her roguishly.
"Professor! Uh, this is a surprise. A nice surprise." Gadget emphasized.
"How pleasant of you to say so, my dear." The Professor returned. "I have left it so long since my last visit that I wasn't sure you'd remember me."
Actually, Gadget hadn't been sure that she had ever met the Professor at all. She remembered his first visit to her padded cell only hazily and after the wild nightmare she had dreamed about him, Gadget had wondered whether he had been a figment of her imagination. "Of course I remember you." She said politely. "You're the only visitor I've had so far."
"I hope I haven't called at a bad time. You seemed to be in a bad mood a moment ago?"
Gadget blushed and hung her head. "It's just that I get so frustrated. I don't belong here and there's nothing I can do to convince anyone that I am who I say I am."
Ratigan stroked his chin with his long fingers as he considered this. "You didn't look frustrated, though I can certainly understand someone in your position feeling that way."
Gadget's blush deepened. "Am I in trouble with the guards?"
"Not at all, they're used to it. Taking backchat from the inmates is part of their job. I'm slightly curious as to why you would go to the trouble though " Ratigan drew out the words why and trouble for emphasis.
Gadget inwardly cringed. It was the last thing she wanted to talk about.
"Of course," the Professor continued, "if you don't trust me any more I could just leave you to it."
Gadget shook her head desperately. "No, please! Don't go. It's nice to be able to talk to someone who doesn't think I'm a raving lunatic."
"Very well, then. You were, ahem, saying?"
"About why you were being difficult with the guards." Ratigan said, pointedly.
"Oh! Well, ah, I don't know what to say. You're right, Professor. I was being rude. It was wrong of me and the next time I see that orderly I'll apologize."
"Gadget, please. You don't have to worry about saying the right thing around me." Professor Ratigan chided. "The conventional rules and manners of society can be every bit as confining as a straitjacket, and we both know that you don't need one of those."
"Gee, Professor, it's nice of you to say and all, but I really wasn't just saying that! I mean it, I'll apologize the next time I see her."
Ratigan nodded kindly. "Because you believe that it's the right thing to do?"
"Because it's important for people to know that Gadget Hackwrench is someone who does the right thing?"
Gadget nodded again.
"Because you were raised to believe that certain things are right and that certain things are wrong?"
Gadget nodded a third time.
Ratigan sighed. "Let's take those one at time. You believe it's the right thing to do because you were raised to believe that it's the right thing to do. Have you ever questioned the beliefs in right and wrong you were raised with?"
"Well, now and then, when I had an idle moment or two, but then when you have an idle moment or two, things are generally going well so there isn't any reason to doubt yourself, and when they aren't going well you're generally rushed off your feet trying to do something about it-"
"The right thing?" Ratigan interrupted.
"Exactly." Gadget agreed.
"Who raised you, Gadget?"
"My father, Gewgaw." But you know that, she almost added before remembering that she was thinking of the conversation she had dreamed and which Ratigan could not possibly remember.
"And was he perfect?"
"Oh yes." Gadget answered in a matter of fact way. She blinked at Ratigan waiting for him to move on to something more relevant.
"Er I see." Ratigan said, thrown by encountering the one blind spot of Gadget's rational mind. "And are you perfect?"
"Oh no." Gadget laughed, as though that would be silly.
"But your father was."
"A credit to all mousedom."
"As pure as the driven snow."
"Well " Gadget frowned.
"Yes?" Ratigan asked, hopefully.
"I've never really understood that saying. Have you ever seen snow after someone, particularly a human, has driven through it? I mean, what with all the atmospheric pollution modern civilization has produced as a by-product of industrialization, neither rain nor snow can really be said to be pure any more. And once any kind of wheeled vehicle has contributed to what-"
"Miss Hackwrench, please." Ratigan said flatly. "We are both familiar with the idiosyncrasies of our native tongue. I believe you are merely trying to distract yourself from the issue at hand. I wish to be very clear on this point: Your father was a mouse with no moral, mental or physical fault whatsoever."
Gadget frowned for a moment. "Yes." She said, after a heartbeat's pause.
Ratigan massaged his forehead. "Hmm. And, ah ha, if he were here now and I were to ask him if he were perfect, what do you think he would say?"
"Oh, he'd laugh and deny it."
"And why do you think he'd do that?"
"Well, he was very modest "
"So he would lie?" Ratigan challenged. "To avoid being seen as arrogant?"
"So he'd be telling the truth when he said he wasn't perfect? And anyone else who said that would be telling the truth too?"
"Well, he would believe it was true." Gadget said reasonably. "But I could tell." She confided and with a dreamy smile.
"So he didn't believe he was perfect?"
"He didn't seem to." Gadget was staring at some fixed point that was more distant in time than space.
"But if he was perfect, how could he believe something that was so wrong? Something that even imperfect you could see?"
Gadget's eyes locked with Ratigan's. "What are you getting at?" She demanded, sternly.
"Either you believe in a father who would lie about who he really was or you believe in a father who was ignorant of, perhaps unable to understand, his own nature. Either way you do not truly believe your father is perfect."
Gadget's eyes and face were frozen. "You didn't know my father." She stated.
"This isn't really about your father. It's about you. You say that your father was perfect, you might even say it to yourself until you believe it, but you don't actually believe that he was perfect."
"I already said that I wasn't perfect."
"So, are you lying to yourself, or just to me?" Ratigan enquired, as if asking whether she preferred blue or red flowers.
Gadget blinked. "Why are you doing this? I thought you were my friend." She pleaded.
"ANSWER THE QUESTION!" Ratigan roared.
Gadget flinched at the unexpected assault. "Myself." She gasped. Her lips twitched as though trying to suck the word back into her mouth.
"Again. Louder." Ratigan commanded.
"No." Gadget turned away. "I want you to leave now."
"You can be honest with me. Friends don't judge one and other for being who they are."
Gadget kept her back to him, her shoulders hunched in silence.
"Come on now, you can manage just a little truth. What would your father say if you couldn't?"
Gadget drew a shaky breath. "Myself. I was lying to myself and my father wasn't perfect. He said so himself, many times."
"Good girl!" Ratigan praised her. "Good girl. Now I will leave you, for the time being. Until I see you again, remember this: If your father raised you and he was not perfect and you are not perfect either, then neither are your ideas of right and wrong."
"I don't really know what's right and wrong. I'll remember."
"That's the spirit." Ratigan whispered happily. "Never more will you wear your upbringing like a straitjacket. The truth has set you free."
"Yes, free." Gadget agreed, leaning against the wall of her cell.
Ratigan was been as good as his word. He left her - for a while.
Gadget was digesting a lunch of food pellets, mashed carrot and bean, with a single blueberry for afters, when he reappeared.
She had been lying on her bed looking up at the ceiling tiles, doing the same arithmetic that she had done with the bubbles in the bubble-wrap padding of the padded cell, when she heard someone clearing their throat from the doorway. She made a mental note of where she had got up to with her maths problem and set it aside for later, never doubting that she would be able to recall every figure accurately, and then she looked over to see who it was.
The hope that it might be Chip had faded to the point where she only noticed it now by it's absence.
It wasn't Chip. It was Ratigan. Her heart failed to sink with disappointment, the way it had so many times before. Why is it I never see him come or go, Gadget wondered?
"Ah, Miss Hackwrench." Ratigan purred like a cat a rather unattractive trait, to a mouse.
"I don't think I mentioned it before, but I'd rather you didn't call me Miss." Gadget said, sitting up on the corner of the bed.
"Really? Why? You aren't married, are you?" Ratigan's voice rose and fell with innocent enquiry and horrified speculation.
"Why do you ask?" Gadget looked at him innocently.
It wasn't, Ratigan noted, an outright denial. He pursed his lips and considered his options. "Well, you are a rather literal minded young lady. I wondered if your objection to being called Miss was because it was inaccurate."
"I know the typical stereotype of any person in the engineering or technical professions is of a pale, hopelessly logical individual, with no social life, weak eyes and a tendency to recite techno-babble at a speed that only makes sense if you play it back in slow motion, however I would have hoped that it would have been obvious from the moment anyone met me that such a stereotype does not reflect reality of people who work with the applied sciences." Gadget lectured at speed.
Ratigan mentally replayed this in slow motion and then nodded sagely when he was sure he understood it. "I'm certain no one could accuse you of fitting such a stereotype." He agreed, as though testing the water.
"After all, your, uh, eyes, for example, are perfect."
The "perfect" eyes looked at him, as if daring him to be making fun of her.
"Twenty-Twenty vision, I have no doubt about it." He added hastily. "And those other points you described," Ratigan laughed briefly, "why, we both know how badly you compare to them, so let us not even trouble ourselves to discuss them."
Gadget found herself quietly wondering just how she did measure up to description of a pale, hopelessly logical person with no social life and a tendency to talk at great length about things that no one else understood. In any person, there is a still, quiet part of the mind that sits at the back of the head and watches until it finds something critical to say. In Gadget's case, it tended to talk very quickly when it found something, in order to get a word in edgewise.
"Quite." She said, after a moment's pause. Her eyes were glazed from looking into her soul. The downward turn of her lips suggested that she didn't like what she had seen.
"But still, on to the reason for my, ah ha, little visit here." Ratigan's toned implied that there was nothing little about receiving a visit from him. "You have an appointment with Doctor Schadenfreude tomorrow. I, er, do trust that you haven't forgotten your promise?"
Gadget remained silent. She was thinking hard, trying to compare herself to her description of the stereotypical engineer objectively, but her normally well-behaved ego kept getting in the way.
Ratigan didn't like being ignored. In fact, he hated it. "Ah, Gadget? MISS?"
Gadget came back to reality with a jolt. She looked coldly at Ratigan. "I hope I won't have to remind you every time you open your mouth."
"Speaking of reminders and open mouths, you do remember your promise to keep my visits a secret? You have an appointment with Doctor Schadenfreude tomorrow and while he might not seem terribly insightful, he can be very disarming and very clever. I wouldn't want you to let anything slip. Anything that might land me in hot water." Ratigan light and airy tone became as heavy as lead on the last word.
"I gave you my word. I've only ever broken it once, that I can recall." Gadget replied.
"Oh? There wasn't a psychiatrist involved, I trust?"
Gadget hesitated noticeably. "Well not directly."
Ratigan gestured for her to continue. Instead she turned her large blue eyes on him and blinked as though she didn't have the faintest clue what he wanted from her. Ratigan was not about to let her off the hook.
"In view of the fact that my safety is an issue, I do feel you owe me some further explanation." He said, pointedly.
Gadget looked reluctant.
"I promise never to call you Miss again you never did say why you didn't like being called that, by the way."
"It sounds a lot like some of the playground nicknames I got. Miss-Take, Miss-Guided, Miss-Hap, Miss-Fire " she gestured that the list went on.
"Children can be so cruel. The little darlings." Ratigan smiled and nodded.
"Anyway, if you really want to know, the promise I broke was to always keep a light on at home, so that my father could find his way back."
"Yes? And, uh, did he?" Ratigan knew perfectly well her father had not.
"No. I was alone in the old aeroplane that we lived in for over a year. Then Monty and the others found me. They needed my help. Monty couldn't pilot the plane my father had left him and I had to go with them. By the time I got back, the battery had run down, so I had to recharge it. But the light had already gone out once. I kept going back, to keep it going, and to reset the death-traps periodically."
Ratigan's eyes went wide, and a genuine smile crossed his face at hearing that.
"But the light just wouldn't stay on without me there to look after it. Finally Monty sat down with me and we had a long talk about things. Monty persuaded me that my father didn't need to see the light to guide him home, because he was already there. In a spiritual sense."
"And the psychiatrist?"
Gadget hesitated again. "I didn't realise it at the time but later, a long time later, I found out that Monty had " she trailed off.
Ratigan nodded encouragingly but did nothing to fill up the silence, knowing that if he left it to her she would use anything, even the most embarrassing truth, to fill it.
"He'd been getting advice from a grief therapist on how to handle me. I never met the psychiatrist personally." She looked away. "I think Chip pushed him into it."
Ratigan looked as sympathetic as he could without looking insincere. "That must have hurt a great deal. Your best and only friends in the whole world, including the one person who ought to know you best, treating you as though you were damaged and fragile. Did they make you feel guilty for telling them off, as well?"
"I never-" Gadget broke off. This was going somewhere that she didn't really want to go.
"You never confronted them?" Ratigan whispered. "Was that because you agreed with their assessment?"
"No! Of course not! I just " Gadget realised too late that she didn't have another reason for not confronting them. "I didn't see the point in having an argument with them. They were worried about a friend, that's all."
"But they were dishonest with you. They kept something you had a right to know from you."
"I know, but they meant well."
"Well, I'm sure you're right. I can see what you mean. They didn't let on that they thought you weren't as strong as them. They went to the trouble of pretending to think you were just as level headed as they are, so as not to upset you. And after all, it was just the one time."
Gadget opened her mouth but her reply stalled in her throat. Her eyes were locked with Ratigan's. He was smiling at her innocently. She wanted to tell him a deliberate lie. To tell him that it had been the only time the boys had kept something from her that she had a right to know. But it was against her nature. This time, Gadget did not fill up the silence. She let it grow until the space between her side of the bars and his seemed as wide as the Atlantic Ocean.
"Before I forget, what would you like me to call you, instead of Miss Hackwrench?"
"Gadget. Just Gadget." She said in a bleak voice.
"Gadget, then. You can call me James, if you want." He invited.
"No thank you. I think I prefer calling you Professor." It implied her position was subordinate to Ratigan's but she accepted that, rather than risk having her invitation to use her first name misinterpreted as an opportunity to flirt.
"Are you alright, Gadget? You look sick." Ratigan worried.
Gadget weighed up her possible responses. "I'm fine."
"Quite sure. It's just I feel so alone, suddenly. Talking about my friends just then. They feel so remote now."
"Would you like to talk about it?"
Gadget considered it. "It's just that It wasn't the only time. That they kept something that I needed to know from me, I mean." Resting her elbows on her knees, she let her chin sink into her hands. "They didn't tell me that someone was impersonating me. That people were talking about me. And because I didn't know, I didn't deny it to anyone, so more and more people began to take the rumours seriously. When I did find out, it was a stupid accident, so I couldn't tell them what I was doing about it without looking like an eavesdropper and having an argument with them about whether they should have told me in the first place."
"So what did you do?"
"I went to a friend's place. I had a plan about changing my appearance so that no one could impersonate me. It wasn't long after that that I got drugged and then arrested."
"Hmmm." Ratigan's index finger toyed with his lip thoughtfully. "You mean the reason you're in this place is that your friends keep things from you? Because they think you are damaged? Broken even?"
Broken. Gadget did feel that way sometimes, when she thought of her father. When she was alone and it was late at night. When her latest invention didn't work, in spite of her best efforts, and she had finally realised that she could never make it work; that it was beyond her ability to make whatever idea had inspired her into a reality.
"I suppose." She agreed absentmindedly. She was too busy wondering whether she really was broken to notice that she had just blamed her friends for her imprisonment, even though she had blamed herself before.
"And they still keep secrets from you. You deserve better, don't you, Gadget?"
"I think so. I've tried to be good to them." Her voice suggested that her attention was still elsewhere.
"Gadget? What are you thinking about?"
"Oh, I was just wondering what I would be like if I hadn't met them. I think I would be alone, a little crazy, maybe. I suppose I should be grateful." She phrased it like an admission but the truth was even a master of understatement couldn't describe the Gadget Hackwrench she had imagined as only a little crazy.
"Grateful that they keep secrets from you, or that they think you're mentally unstable?" Ratigan's tone was openly cutting now. He was reasonably sure that Gadget was too now thinking too deeply to notice. She was an innocent and, like many innocents Ratigan had known, she tended to be obtuse about things like tone of voice and body language.
"What? Neither. Why would I be grateful for them being like that?"
"You said you were grateful. But you're right. Why should you be grateful for friends like that?"
Gadget blinked. She knew that wasn't what she had said, or meant, but she assumed that Ratigan had misunderstood her. It never entered her head that he was trying to guide her. She was as innocent as Ratigan believed.
For the moment.
It wouldn't last. Ratigan smiled to himself. Every day he would come to her, her only friend and confidant. Every day he would drip a little more poison in her ear, lead her a little further astray, until the day when that bright optimistic light in her eyes dulled to the glazed look of fear, anger and weariness that convicts usually had.
"Ah, well. My time's up, I'm afraid. I'll be back soon enough and you can tell me all your problems then. I'll always be happy to hear about your problems, Gadget Hackwrench." Ratigan's smile was rich with hidden meaning.
"Very well." Gadget nodded back and forced a weak smile. She was determined to watch him closely this time, so that she could see him leave. Not that she was superstitious, or still thought he was a figment of her imagination. She just wanted to see how he did it.
Ratigan smiled at her. Then, very slowly and deliberately, he raised his open hand to his mouth and yawned, stretching as he did so.
Gadget felt her jaw twitch against her will. She held back as long as she could but it was no good. She yawned and, as she did, she could not resist closing her eyes for a second. When she opened them, Ratigan was gone.
"Drat!" Gadget cussed mildly, crossed her arms and sank back onto the bed.
No one could blame her for being grouchy and irritable. She didn't belong here. It wasn't fair. And she told herself firmly, whatever she had told herself before, this wasn't her fault. She had made a few mistakes, sure, but nothing she had ever done in her life deserved being caged up like this. In fact, every mistake she'd ever made added together didn't add up to enough to merit this.
No one could blame her for being grouchy and irritable. She didn't belong here. It wasn't fair. And she told herself firmly, whatever she had told herself before, this wasn't her fault. She had made a few mistakes, sure, but nothing she had ever done in her life deserved being caged up like this. In fact, every mistake she'd ever made added together didn't add up to enough to merit this.
Lawhiney was laid up in another private room after the run in with Brandon. Chip had insisted that the hospital find her another room, because criminals now knew the location of her old room.
The doctors had been frightened half to death by what had nearly happened, even more so when someone suggested that she hadn't been ready to go home but they had tried to send her anyway to get the reporters out of their hospital.
As a result Lawhiney was now in an unfamiliar room with a large orderly permanently stationed outside the door. Her stitches had come undone the first time Brandon attacked her. The doctors had been afraid to give her an aesthetic after Doctor Bell had arrived on the scene and had a low, muttered conversation with his colleagues. After that the more senior staff had agreed that, although she had formerly been discharged from hospital, she should remain his patient. They had left Doctor Bell to gently pick at the damaged thread that wormed its way across Lawhiney's belly.
Not carefully enough, Lawhiney scowled. She snaked a hand under the crisp hospital sheets to scratch where the blood had clotted around the new stitches. Her fingers felt strange against the skin where the fur had been shaved again, just as it was starting to grow back.
Monty had come in to see her early this morning. He had stood there with tears in his eyes, the big dummy, and told her how sorry they were that he and Dale had been duped into following the false trail when she need them most. She had resisted the brief impulse to feel genuinely sorry for him and rasped that it was okay. She had asked after Chip, because she guessed that was what Gadget would have done. Monty had told her that Chip had taken quite a beating his nose was broken, effecting his speech and sense of smell, but it also now made him look almost exactly like Dale. Dale couldnt stop teasing him about it. The fact that Chip was still seeing double meant that so far Dale had escaped punishment for this, although, since Chip had a fifty-fifty chance each try, it could only be a matter of time.
Monty had wondered why her face had gone pale when he said that. Lawhiney had seen it written on his face. She had asked him to let her rest and he had left her alone.
It was only a matter of time before the odds ran out on Dale, Lawhiney thought, and it was only a matter of time before the odds ran out on her.
She wanted to run but knew it would be impossible for several weeks at least. The doctors had been clear about that. No running, no walking, no standing on her own two feet for at least six weeks and she should count herself lucky she wasn't a human or it would have been much longer.
Lawhiney had hoped that she would spend the six weeks in hospital and safely away from the Rangers for most of that time but Doctor Bell had disillusioned her. Three days for observation, he had said, and then she'd be sent home. Unless there was something wrong. He didn't actually say that last bit but it was implied. What would be the point in keeping her in to "observe" her if they were only going to say, "Yep, something wrong, alright. Now get out of here!" when the three days were up?
The thought had followed in Lawhiney's mind that she could extend the period by making herself appear sick. She had been a great malingerer as a child. But these were professional doctors, she reminded herself, she wouldn't be able to fool them if she didn't have real symptoms. She would have to make herself sick to stay here longer and that might harm her baby. That was the one thing that she could never do.
She was trapped. However good her Gadget impersonation was, it wouldn't stand up to being actually living with the Rescue Rangers. It was hard enough to get through visiting hours without saying something that made them raise their eyebrows or look at her oddly.
Squeezing her eyes tight shut against the tears that were welling up from deep inside her, Lawhiney tried to hold on to some sense of control. Everything was working against her, conspiring towards the moment when a sea of grim faces would surround her and the handcuffs were slapped on. She had nightmares almost every night now. Last night it was falling. The night before she had dreamed that the doctors and the Rangers knew everything and were merely pretending to go along with her impersonation to justify sending her to some horrible madhouse that was worse than any prison.
She hated the nightmares but she was glad that she had asked them to leave the lights turned down so that she could catch up on her sleep. It meant that if anyone came in she would have a couple of seconds to brush any tears away and prepare her lies.
Lawhiney heard a slight noise beside her. She hadn't heard the door but the light switch for the bedside lamp was by her hand. She opened her eyes to see a bright light overhead. Everything was blurred and misty. If she hadn't already had one near-death experience that month, she might well have started rehearsing some fast talking patter to get her through the pearly gates. Knowing better, she was having none of it.
"Someone get that damn light out of my eyes!" she snarled.
A large, dark shadow eclipsed the light. Lawhiney squinted at it.
"Well that's fine language for someone who could just as easily be talking to Saint Peter. Again, I might add." Her spirit guide reproved her.
"Well, I'm not, no thanks to you." Lawhiney stated.
"I gave you plenty of help."
"Yep. I told you exactly what to do in order to avoid that happening. You just didn't want to do it."
"I was thinking of a more active kind of assistance. But I guess you're not exactly a hands on kind a guy, are you?"
"Unlike your friend, Brandon, who is now in the custody of the Street Watch."
"That's not funny." Lawhiney said quietly. Then she was quiet for a while.
The Guide allowed her to be quiet. It made a nice change, he thought, and it meant that she was thinking (which was also a nice change). When she had reached a conclusion she would talk, probably expecting him to talk her into what she really wanted to do.
When she eventually spoke, her voice was quiet and to the point. "I want to change."
The Guide took a deep breath and smiled in the depths of his hood. As quietly as possible he whispered a grateful prayer that he'd lived uh, been able to hear that.
"You know what you have to do then. Confess everything and accept the consequences." He said; his tone carefully balanced between being firm and gentle.
"No." Lawhiney looked at him with her lower lip sticking out. Her voice was high and childish.
Her guide took a deep breath and put his hands on his hips. "Now see here, young lady "
"No." Lawhiney repeated.
The Guide saw that her eyes had taken on a slightly glazed look and realised that any argument would be on the level of an adult talking to a five year old. "Why no?" he asked gently.
"I don't want give birth, alone, in a prison and have my baby taken away." She said.
"I told you before: What you were shown is most likely to happen if you do not repent your wicked ways and start living your life right."
"Will I go to jail if I do repent?" Lawhiney asked him, her eyes huge.
The Guide hesitated. He couldn't lie to her his conditions of employment forbade it.
"Yes." He told her.
"Will I give birth alone, in prison?"
The Guide looked at his feet and bit his lip. "Well, not entirely alone. I'll be with you." He smiled at her and pretended to pat her hand, although the absence of a physical body meant that Lawhiney felt nothing.
Lawhiney's eyes narrowed and her voice lost its child-like quality. "Will they take my baby away?"
The pause between them could only be described as pregnant.
"I'm afraid so." The Guide admitted.
Lawhiney pulled her self up onto her elbows, so that she was nose to nose with him. "If my child ever finds out how he was born, he won't find out that his mother did less than everything she could to keep him."
The Guide nodded, accepting and understanding her feelings at one and the same time. He could even admire them. It seemed that his mission to reform Lawhiney had floundered on the one laudable part of her character. While he was thinking about it, he failed to notice Lawhiney's face hardening against him.
"You weren't there for me." She accused.
The Guide looked guilty for a moment, then glared at her. "That's right and you know why, too. You can destroy your life if you want to, but don't expect me to watch."
"You could have helped."
The Guide hesitated. "I asked. They wouldn't let me."
"You seemed to think that I was a goner." Lawhiney said petulantly.
"I did. They give us these forecasts, you see. It looked grim for you. Brandon had it all worked out and the chances of him changing his mind like that "
Lawhiney lay back on the bed and looked at the ceiling. "He wanted to murder me but he changed his mind." Her eyes met those of her guide. "Why was that?"
"Why did he want to strangle you or why did he change his mind?"
Lawhiney scowled at him.
"Lawhiney, I've only been with you a week and a half, counting the time before you woke up, and I've already wanted to wring your neck more times than I can remember. And in case you hadn't noticed, I'm supposed to be one of the good guys."
The Guide chuckled hopefully but Lawhiney didn't join in. He sighed.
"Okay, fine. Look, I don't know Brandon. I've never met Brandon. But " The Guide's eyes softened. "He does remind me of someone a long time ago.
"I think he really was in love with you, but he was so used to being a tough-guy that he didn't know how to deal with the feeling. He was probably green with envy every time you batted your eyelids at another male but he couldnt admit he was jealous without admitting how he felt about you and that was the one thing he couldn't do.
"When he thought you were dead he finally had to up face how he felt about you and he had to face up to losing you at the same time. That must have taken a heavy toll. Then something gave him an excuse to be angry at you and he was so used to feeling angry with the whole world that he grabbed the emotion like a lifeline and clung on to it for all he was worth."
The Guide smiled down at Lawhiney sadly. "Does that make sense to you?" He asked her.
Lawhiney thought about it for a long time, her face sad. "I said something similar to him in the elevator but I was talking about me, not him. I said that if I had ever loved anyone, I had probably crushed the feeling like a bug without ever really knowing what it was, for fear of being weak."
Her guide sat beside her. The part of the bed under him remained as flat as a plank of wood. "I dare say that's true. But the fact that you could face that and admit it to yourself and to another person, that shows that you are changing and for the better."
They were both quiet for a time. Eventually, Lawhiney asked a question. Her voice was shaky and uncertain, as though it were travelling down a difficult and unfamiliar path. "What about Brandon?"
The Guide's jaw dropped. Truly, he thought, miracles never cease.
"Well, I asked around and it seems that Brandon's had his own guide for quiet a while. Apparently, she could never do much with him until yesterday, but now that's all changed."
"What he did for me should count in his favour, right? With your people, I mean."
"Well, it was a selfless action for the benefit of another person and it cost him a great deal." The Guide allowed. "But it was also done to sustain a great injustice. Gadget is still in jail, in your place, and a she could come to great harm there." He reminded her, reprovingly.
"She's a Rescue Ranger, she should be used to it. Should be used to looking after herself, too." Lawhiney said.
The Guide shook his head ruefully. She still had a ways to go. Ah well, you could only expect so many miracles in one day.
Gadget was sitting on a chair made from matchsticks, a bottle cap and wood glue. Although she knew it was daylight somewhere up above, she was somewhere around sewer level, back in the tiny room where Doctor Schadenfreude had first visited her. She suddenly realised how long it had been since she had last seen the sun. Her trial had been during the day but the windowless courtroom had been located in the attic of a cigar shop and she had seen no sunlight then. It had been evening when they took her into the sewers to be transported to the prison and she had been below ground ever since. The last sunlight she had seen, she remembered, was when she had been on the way to the café with the French rat who had drugged her.
Call the day I was arrested day one, she thought, the day I was tried and sentenced day two. They should have kept me in the holding cells overnight and shipped me off to prison the following morning, but they didn't for some reason, so I arrived here on day two. I spent the first night with my hair tied to the bars of a cell after the inmates heard me say who I was, so day two ran into day three for me, which was when I got to see the warden. She thought I was crazy and put me away in here, and my first session with Schadenfreude was the next day, day four. He always sees patients on the same day of the week that he originally saw them, so seven days have passed since then.
There was no calendar, weather, television, or friendly conversations to make one day different from any other and give her something to remember any particular day by, so the days had run together. It meant that counting the days she had been confined required careful thought, even though Gadget was an intuitive mathematician and knew the answer to difficult maths problems the way most people knew where their hands were without looking.
Doctor Schadenfreude entered the cell. He was wearing the same white coat that she had last seen him in and carrying the same briefcase. Gadget expected him to repeat the performance of using the chair, table and briefcase as a stepladder so he could hang by his feet from the bars in the roof of the cage. Instead, he put the briefcase on the table and opened it, before pulling out a pair of earmuffs.
Gadget looked at the earmuffs.
"Uh, Doctor, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the whole point of this that you're supposed to listen to me?"
"Oh Yah." Doctor Schadenfreude agreed. "But last time you got into my face and shouted at me and I had a ringing in my ears for several hours afterwards that made listening to the part of the infrasonic spectrum very difficult. It was most annoying. So this time I will be wearing the protective earmuffs during our little interview. Do not worry, my little potato in a jacket. I have very fine hearing. I will be able to hear your every word and possibly also the gurgling of your stomach."
Gadget found herself perilously close to accusing the psychiatrist of being insane. She suppressed the urge. Bats did have astounding hearing, she reminded herself. She shouldn't have shouted at him last time and it would do no good shouting at him this time.
"Well," she began when the Doctor was comfortable. "First off I'd like to make it quite clear that when the orderly looked in at me and saw me making strange faces at him I was just trying to smother a sneeze and I didnt realise that I was being watched until he closed the peephole again, or I would have explained. And that time someone checked on me and I was banging my head against the floor I know it's exactly the kind of thing that might be a symptom of obsessive compulsive behaviour but I was just so incredibly bored with the being locked in a cell all the time."
Doctor Schadenfreude frowned at her and lifted one of the muffs away from his ear. "What? I didn't quiet hear that."
Gadget took a deep breath. "Doctor, I thought you said that you would be able to hear everything up to and including my digestive processes."
"Yah, I mean, yes. I think that perhaps there must be something wrong with my hearing. Everything seems normal, yet the mouse I purchased the earmuffs from definitely said that they had been returned by a bat who complained that he could still hear too much noise to sleep while wearing them. Perhaps I should be cancelling our appointment and seeking the opinion of a doctor."
"Doctor, our session is only ten minutes long. And we've just had three minutes of that!"
"Are you sure? I could have sworn I had been here longer. Five minutes at least."
"No, three. I have a very good sense of time. Usually. Being in here hasn't helped. But it's definitely three minutes."
"No, no. It must be four minutes, at least."
"It's three minutes."
"Are you sure?"
Doctor Schadenfreude had not shut his briefcase. He was peering into it with a squint as if there was something crawling around in it. Her curiosity piqued, Gadget frowned. Without realising it, she was trying to rise out of the chair and peek into the briefcase. Schadenfreude caught her and fixed her with raised eyebrows and an amused stare. He reached in and brought out an old-fashioned pocket watch.
Gadget returned his stare coolly.
"Now it's four minutes." She said after a few seconds silence.
The psychiatrist fleetingly broke eye contact to look at the watch. When he looked back he gave her a grudging smile. "Ach, they say your sense of time is the first thing to go when you start to lose your grip on reality, you know. But it's just an old wives tale."
"Then why spend four minutes of our session on it?"
"It proves nothing that you have a good sense of time. A bad sense of time on the other hand, or should I say wing, might have been a symptom of certain kinds of neurological disorders."
"And the earmuffs?"
"Quiet genuine, I intend to wear them for all my shouty patients from now on. I have not tried them before but I noted your lack of reaction to them as most interesting."
"There was a bat called Foxglove who was a good friend to all of the rangers for a time. But she left to look for her family and we haven't heard from her since. I wish I knew where she was. She had super hearing. She could tell that I'm the real Gadget before I even opened my mouth, just by listening to my heartbeat."
"Isn't it possible that she will hear of your plight and come to your rescue?" The Doctor asked slyly.
"She'll hear the same thing as everyone else on the outside and assume that I'm an evil impostor who's getting everything she deserves."
"I'd like you to think back over what you said a moment ago. You said: There was a bat called Foxglove who was a good friend to all of the rangers for a time."
"Not us rangers?"
Gadget allowed herself enough time to blink before answering. "It's a perfectly acceptable way of phrasing it, even if I am a Ranger myself."
The doctor watched her closely. She watched back.
"Yes, it is." He conceded.
"Doctor, even if I'm not crazy now, I'm worried that the boredom will drive me crazy before I can leave this place."
"If you're not crazy?"
"Please stop doing that. I'm sure that there are a lot of things that I've said, and that I probably will say, that could be taken to out of context to suggest that I'm crazy, or lying. I could check every single thing that I say three times before I say it out loud but I dont think it would really achieve anything except maybe to slow down the speed that I talk at a little. After all, if I really was an impostor, that's probably exactly what I would be doing. I'm not an impostor. I don't want to have to act like one just to persuade people that I'm not. If I was an impostor, I probably would have escaped by now."
Doctor Schadenfreude raised one eyebrow, but did not say that anything that slowed down the speed at which Gadget spoke at would be a worthwhile achievement. He was a bat and could cope but he knew a great many other creatures could not. Instead he asked: "If you could escape at any time, why do you remain here?"
"Because I'm a Rescue Ranger. Escaping from lawful custody is a crime. I'm supposed to uphold the law and breaking out just because I don't agree with the decision of a judge would be hypocrisy."
"Even if the decision the judge has made in your case is based on a mistaken identity?"
"Even then! You see it's like engineering. A system, whatever it is, works the way it should do it's own or it needs repairing. It just it just needs a little time sometimes, like an engine in cold weather." Gadget looked like she was about to cry. "Doctor, I miss my friends so much. I love them; they're the closest thing to a family I have left. And every day that I'm being kept from them is like a day of my life thats been stolen from me. I know I'll get to see them eventually because this has to get sorted out sooner or later, but it's not like I'll get the time I've spent in here tacked onto the end of my life expectancy or anything like that."
"Ach, you must be very sad. Let it out. Let it out, young lady."
Gadget sniffled for a moment, but resisted the urge to cry openly. It would cost too much of her precious session time. "Doctor, please. You can see that I'm rational. I'm not raving. I mean what I say and I'm not crazy. There must be a rational, logical argument that can persuade you that I am a sane person. Should I tell you what I know of engineering, aerodynamics, chemistry and first aid? Build you a new invention, here on the table top, from scrap wire, cardboard and an elastic band?"
"Please, young lady. I am not being supposed to determine your identity. My job is merely to determine whether you are being addled in the head or not. If your head is screwed on right and not merely screwed, you will then have to return to the normal prison population and take up your fight to have the nature of your identity determined there. If you are being successful, I am sure that your lawyer will be able to appeal your conviction successfully." Doctor Schadenfreude said, trying to sound upbeat about it. "In the meantime, you absolutely must not be trying to persuade me that you are not crazy. I am a professional psychiatrist and my job is to assess whether your normal thinking processes fall on the right or the wrong side of the line between being alright in the head and being totally doolally. I cannot do this if you are not thinking and behaving as comes naturally."
Gadget gaped at him. "You mean to say that even if I convince you that I'm not crazy, I'm still not going to be released? Surely, if I'm not mad then that means you have to accept I am who I say I am. And if I am Gadget Hackwrench, then that means I have to be released!" she insisted.
"If?" Doctor Schadenfreude asked, gently.
"Don't make me repeat my self! I already-" Gadget stopped herself at the sight of Doctor Schadenfreude placing the earmuffs over his ears again. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to shout. I promise I won't do it again."
"I promise not to shout anymore." She repeated, a little louder.
"I can't quite hear you. It is a shame the amount of noise these earmuffs block cannot be adjusted." He reflected. "They would have been a good idea, otherwise."
"I said, I promise not to shout!" Gadget yelled. "Golly, I'm sorry! I didn't realise that you were taking them off again."
The bat shuddered, his wings over the ears. "Young lady, you are a most cruel person, I think. That is not at all funny and if you are thinking that it is, then you are being most mistaken."
Gadget was aghast. She had never been called cruel in her whole life. "I'm sorry!" She said. "Please, Doctor, I didn't mean it. I'm very sorry."
"Very well, I accept your apology. Now, I believe that concludes this week's session." The Doctor said, standing up.
"Concludes? But doctor, we've barely scratched the surface. You haven't even inverted yourself. Don't you want to hang from the roof of the cage again, like you did last week?"
"I would but the ear muffs fall off, I have discovered."
"Please, doctor, a little longer."
"Even if I did not have another patient to go to, what would be the point? You insist that you are not insane. If you are not mad, I cannot treat you."
"I I have something important to tell you, something I should have told you last week only I forgot."
"If it's so important, why didn't you tell an orderly? They're here to help you, you know."
"I tried but she said she wasn't interested in any of my tall tales. My conviction is for fraud and misrepresentation. That's lying. It doesn't inspire much confidence."
"And why should I believe you either?"
"You can check for evidence. If you find something that confirms what I tell you then you'll know that I'm telling the truth. You have an understanding of scientific method. First, observe the subject, then formulate a theory, then test the theory under controlled conditions."
"I take it you wish my theory to be that you are sane and Gadget Hackwrench and that you are about to send me on some wild goose chase that is supposed to prove it. I am not interested, young lady."
"No! It's about someone else, someone I was sharing a cell with before the warden sent me here. Her name is Bubbles McGee. She was sentenced to fifteen years for her part in a warehouse robbery."
"That much is certainly easy to check. I must be talking to the warden before I leave today anyway."
"Her share of the loot was never recovered. She told me that she was being bullied by one of the officers, who wanted the loot for her self. She said the guard had hit her."
"Really? And you are worried that this mistreatment might have continued, now after two weeks of doing nothing?"
"I told you, the orderly-"
"Didn't believe you, yes, you said. If what you have told me is true, then after ten days such treatment your friend must surely have given in to this guard."
"Perhaps, but I'm still worried about her."
"And you want me to do something about this?"
"If you could talk to the warden, just ask her to see Bubbles for herself. Give Bubbles a chance to make the complaint herself, direct to the warden." Gadget looked at him with pleading eyes. She wasn't intentionally using her looks to influence the doctor, but it would have been a strong male who could have resisted.
The Doctor sighed. "Very well. You make your case well, young mouse lady, whoever you are. Do you have the name of the guard your friend accused of harming her?"
"Haggs, Officer Haggs." Gadget spoke with tone of distaste.
Doctor Schadenfreude looked at her with some interest. "Do you have any reason to be resentful of Officer Haggs yourself? If you do, you had better tell me now. It would look bad if it came out after I spoke to the warden. As if you were trying to get someone into trouble."
Gadget hesitated, wondering if Doctor Schadenfreude would do anything at all if she admitted the truth. Her natural honesty won through. "Yes. I do resent her. I made a silly mistake when I arrived here and she pretended to be nice about it. But it was just so that the other prisoners would laugh when she hit me."
"Well, prison is a very rough place and takes hard people to control them properly. Prison reform, it is a slow process but things have come a long way, I am being told, since the old days."
"Then later, when I did the right thing and handed over a lock pick I was carrying, she, Officer Haggs I mean, wanted to take me away for one of those horrible searches where they-"
"Yes, quite, I know about the searches!" Doctor Schadenfreude said rapidly.
"I was lucky and the Deputy Warden stopped her but then she locked me into a cell with all these mean old hardened convicts who heard me say who I was and they tied my hair to the bars of the cell!"
"Haggs or the Deputy Warden?"
"Well who do you think? Haggs, of course! And the next day she suspended all my privileges for nothing at all!"
"Yes, so it's fair to say that you have some feelings of resentment towards this particular guard?" The Doctor said wryly.
"Well, wouldn't you?" Gadget protested. "But that's not the point! I just want to know that Bubbles is okay and that she's being properly looked after. I'm not asking you to do anything to Haggs or do anything official at all unless you decide Bubbles is in danger."
"I see. Hmmm. If this Miss McGee is your friend, how do I know the two of you have not arranged some charade between the two of you to- (What is the phrase?) -frame this guard who you both despise sso much?"
"I've been in here for two weeks! I met Bubbles on the barge to prison for the first time, where we were watched. They only moved me into her cell the morning of the day that I was transferred to the psychiatric wing, so I've only spent about three hours with her."
"Long enough, but I take your point."
"Doctor, weigh the evidence as you like but consider how you would feel if you ignored me and what I said turned out to be true." Gadget looked at him with her big blue eyes again.
"Very well." The doctor surrendered. "I will look into your claim. But if I am finding it not to be genuine I shall be very annoyed, young mouse-woman. Possibly, I shall return you to the rubber room instead of the cell you have now."
Having given her the sternest warning that he could, Doctor Schadenfreude packed away his earmuffs and left her to worry about whether she should have kept her mouth shut.
Back to the stories