The Broken Line, 59: Trained Monkeys

Missed the last chapter? Go to 58: Green Warrant)

AS I DROVE TO Rolfe’s office, I worked on a plan. My first idea was to walk in, kick him in the nuts, and tell him John could shove the trust fund up his ass.

I spent a few happy moments contemplating that scenario, but there was one flaw: if I came on strong, I might never find out where they’d taken Dorothy.

John thought my entire family was his property, did he? I pounded the steering wheel with my fist, which gave me a bruise, but no relief. I fought the urge to pull into the nearest bar. Just a couple of drinks to calm down. But then I might not be able to hear the voices. Whatever they were, I needed all the help I could get.

I took a deep breath and remembered what my dad used to say when I would get frustrated. Set emotions aside, use logic and build your solution one step at a time. What do you do with property?

“You use it, or invest in it.” I said out loud. When John gave up executorship of my father’s estate and put the money in a trust, he put the fund out of his immediate control, as well as mine. So much for the idea that John was after money.

By stipulating that I had to check in with Dr. Rolfe, John hoped to keep me under control. If I failed to comply, he would have me locked up. This wasn’t about cash or real estate. He was after human capital.

Human capital. The phrase filled my mind with a dark fog. Some of us, like Dorothy, got used until they ran dry. Kat had fought back, maybe slowed him down for a while. Now he was trying again with me. But the nagging question came at me again: why us?

Any number of women would be willing to provide John with a child. He’ll do anything to get that child! A screechy woman’s voice broke in. Seduction’s the highest prestige. If that doesn’t work, kidnapping, artificial means, and if he succeeds—

“Stop!” I cried. The hair rose on the back of my neck. The fabric of the world¾buildings, trees and sky¾shifted and shimmered and vanished into the dark gray fog.

When I came back to myself, I was almost to Monroe Park, blocks away. By some miracle I hadn’t wrecked, but I felt sick with vertigo.

 

ROLFE’S OFFICE LOOKED NEW. The day John and I came with Dorothy, it had contained comfortable furniture, potted plants and stacks of magazines. The old circus prints on the wall had struck me as quirky, but at least they were evidence of a personality. Now the room was mist colored, with stark, off-white furniture and recessed lighting. The plants were gone, and the magazines, too.

On the walls, prints of vertiginous pastel geometric patterns hung, the kind where you’re supposed to find a hidden unicorn or some shit. I never could look at them without feeling like I was going to get a migraine. I couldn’t imagine how those psychedelic mind-games were supposed to soothe psychiatric patients.

And there, behind the front desk, sat my old friend Wanda—fire-engine-red dye-job and painted eyebrows, like exclamation points.

“I thought you didn’t work here.”

“I never said that.” Wanda didn’t even look up from her crossword.

I wanted to reach across the desk and grab Wanda by her scrawny neck. Ask her if she’d enjoyed drugging me, leaving me alone for hours, screaming in terror until I couldn’t even hold my piss. I wanted to ask if she’d always been a soulless sack of meat who got off on preying on the weak. I wanted to ask her if she was still in love with John, and how it felt to know she was no more than a trained monkey to him. But I had to play nice until I found Dorothy.

Strangling on rage, I muttered, “Tell Rolfe I’m here.”

Still, she didn’t look up. “You don’t have an appointment.”

“Tell him John sent me.”

Wanda’s eyes flicked up, involuntarily. Coming to attention at her master’s name.

“That’s right. Dr. John Strong, my husband wants me to see Dr. Rolfe immediately. Don’t want to disappoint him!”

“Dr. Strong is your uncle, not your husband,” Wanda hissed.

“Oh, right. I don’t know how I got that confused.”

Wanda’s eyes traveled up and down, taking me in. My tee shirt that said F.U. in big letters with Florida University written below, much smaller. My hair, which went frizzy when I didn’t blow it dry, hung in ropes.

“You’re off your meds, aren’t you?”

I smiled through gritted teeth and said in a saccharine tone, “Never been saner in my life, thanks to you and Rolfe and uncle John. You guys opened my eyes, and one day, I will repay you for all you did.”

Wanda glared at me as she picked up the phone. “Lacy Keyes is here.”

“That’s Legacy.”

Wanda slammed the phone down. “What?”

“My real name is Legacy. Never understood it before today. Turns out it fits.”

“Of course, it’s all about you. The princess who inherits the world through no virtue of her own,” she lowered her voice to a hiss. “You’re all he cares about, but you don’t appreciate it, you don’t understand anything. You’re nothing but trash.”

I resisted the urge to slap her. If John’s pet was running off-leash and off-script, I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to glean whatever facts she might drop.

“What do you know about my family?” I said.

Wanda smirked, gloating. “I’m just the receptionist. We’re not even having this conversation.”

“You know, you can get in a lot of trouble for the things you did to me.”

“Who’s going to believe you?” Wanda leaned so close I could smell the rot of her breath. “You’re a drug addict, a criminal who deserves the electric chair.”

“Except that I’m not. How do you live with yourself?”

Wanda sucked her teeth. “Tragic story, but what can you expect from someone like you?”

I fumed angrily, berating myself for getting caught up in a tit for tat with Wanda—too dimwitted to be moved by logic, too immoral to be moved by conscience.

The door to Rolfe’s office opened. “Lacy, please come in.”

As I walked toward him, my bravado evaporated. I found myself uncomfortable in my clothes, and wanting desperately to brush and blow-dry my hair—as if I really was a doctor’s wife with some kind of social standing to uphold. What if Rolfe had alerted John that I was here? What if John was inside the office, waiting?

I wanted to run. The trust stipulated that I could be put in a psychiatric facility if I didn’t meet with Dr. Rolf, but how did I know John wouldn’t have me committed at the first opportunity—remanded into the hands of a psychopath like Dr. Grey? Drugged and powerless again. Like Dorothy. God only knew what John and his pets had done to her. Torn between terror for my aunt and terror for myself, I stood rooted.

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