An Inside Connection: A Suspense-Horror Short, Short Story
University of Connecticut (UConn) Health Center
An Inside Connection
Paul stood in front of his Victorian house near Hartford, happy to finally be home. Six months before, a psychiatrist at UConn Medical Center had tried to talk to him about chronic schizophrenia and anti-psychotic drugs. For all the doctor’s training and experience, she had not been prepared for Paul’s outburst of anger. Fortunately for her, two orderlies had been waiting in an adjoining room. It had taken Paul months in the hospital to convince the right people that he was well enough to return home.
He had convinced everyone except Ann Price, the doctor who had originally diagnosed him. In Paul’s estimation, she had one motive for continuing to treat him. He knew something about her he should not have known and she wasn’t about to release him to someone else’s care. Dr. Price was addicted to a prescription medication called Adderall, and she was the prescribing doctor.
Paul had talked this matter over with his closest friend and confidante, Francine. She dictated everything about Paul’s life. It might have been as simple as what pair of shoes to wear that day or which landscaping company he should hire to tend his lawn. Francine was a jealous woman, and she hadn’t been pleased when the attractive Dr. Price entered the picture.
In reality, Paul had never seen Francine. She came to him when she decided and communicated only in the depths of his mind. He loved her. He would do anything she told him to do. Francine had revealed to Paul the information about the doctor’s secret addiction and the scheme that had lead to his discharge from the hospital that very morning.
Dr. Ann price sat at her office desk in the UConn School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry. He was gone. In a self-centered way, she was relieved. But she wasn’t the only person Paul Mangioni might harm. He was a potential danger to anyone around him. After the collaborative discharge session of the departments involved in his care, Paul had put his few belongings in a plastic UConn bag and took an Uber ride out to the town of Simsbury where his home was located.
Her head ached and she felt exhausted. The bottle of pills she kept in her desk drawer was nearly empty. She’d have to arrange to have another prescription filled soon. She wondered again how Paul had known about the Adderall. He had brought it up in one of their sessions. She had, of course, denied it, but Paul had nodded toward her desk and asked what was in the top right-hand drawer. She was sure he had never been left in the room alone, yet somehow he had known.
If word ever got out about her addiction, her license to practice medicine would be revoked and her career would be over. Paul had implied just that when he said, I’d hate for anyone here at the hospital to find out. You are so good at what you do. He was blackmailing her into approving his discharge. As his primary caregiver, her report would influence everyone’s decision. That was why the vote in today’s discharge session had been unanimous.
She would have to accept the fact that she was responsible for discharging Paul when even that morning his rage had resurfaced. He thought she would not recommend his release, and he threw his chair against the wall. But what troubled her most was not knowing how he had found out about the pills and their exact location in her desk.
Ann sat on her couch at home that evening, still wrestling with the same thoughts. Her cell phone lay on the coffee table in front of her. A followup call to a discharged patient would not be out of the ordinary. She was glad she had decided to save his number on her phone before leaving work. She pulled it up and pressed dial.
“Hello, Dr. Price,” Paul answered without giving her a chance to identify herself. “Or may I call you Ann now that I’m no longer your patient?”
“How did you know it was me calling?”
“I obviously have your number stored in my phone.”
“But I don’t give out my number to patients.”
“Let’s just say I have an—inside connection.”
Dr. Price was livid. “No one in my department would give out my number.”
“It isn’t anyone in your department. Calm down, Doctor. Your level of anger is very unprofessional.”
Ann took a deep breath. “You said you had an inside connection.”
Paul laughed. “A play on words, Dr. Price.”
“I need to ask you a question.”
“About the Adderall?”
“Yes. How did you know?”
“Like I said—”
“Your inside connection again?”
“She’s never wrong.”
“If she isn’t in my department, why do you call her an inside connection?”
“I told you before. It’s a play on words.”
“I’m not in the mood for riddles, Paul. Who is it?”
“Her name is Francine.”
“How did Francine get my phone number?” Ann’s emotions and voice were rising again. “How did she know about the Adderall?”
“I—I don’t know, and I don’t feel like talking anymore.” He ended the call.
As Ann got ready for bed, she went over her discussions with Paul during the previous six months. When that turned up nothing, she pondered what they had not discussed about schizophrenia. She bent over to rinse her mouth after brushing her teeth and it struck her. She raised up and looked into the mirror. “Voices.”
She was back in the living room, pacing. The play on words, inside connection, made sense. Paul was telling her that a voice in his head named Francine had given him her phone number and told him about the Adderall. That’s where it stopped making sense. How would a voice that was nothing more than the disease taunting him know anything about her? She grabbed her phone and dialed again. It was after midnight.
“Dr. Price, this is becoming slightly annoying.” Paul’s voice was strained as though he had just woken up.
“Francine, your inside connection, she’s a voice you hear.”
“Congratulations, Doctor, you figured it out. Now hang up and let me go back to bed.”
“She isn’t real, Paul. It’s the disease.”
“Stop it!” She is real.”
“You’re wrong. And there is one way I can prove it to you.”
“I’m finished with you, your hospital, and your damned drugs, now leave me alone!”
“Listen to me, Paul. Whether Francine is a voice of the disease or something else, how did she know about the Adderall?”
“She knows everything.”
“So she’s God?
“I didn’t say that.”
“Two weeks. Give the drugs two weeks to work, and I’ll leave you alone.”
At the end of two weeks, the voice of Francine had stopped completely. Paul sat in Dr. Price’s office.
“You need to continue taking the medication. It looks like we’ve gotten the dose right.” Dr. Price was writing in his file. When she looked up, Paul’s eyes were open wide. His jaw sagged. It was a look that might have said, I can’t believe my eyes.
But it wasn’t what he saw that frightened him.
Dr. Price listened to one side of the conversation.
“Where have you been, Francine?”
“Of course I want to talk to you.”
“I’m doing it to prove to the Doctor that you’re real.”
Paul walked to a bookcase behind the desk and moved a picture frame exposing a new bottle of Adderall.
Dr. Price backed across the room. “Paul, voices caused by schizophrenia can’t do this.”
The one-sided conversation continued.
“Who are you?” Paul nearly whispered into the air.
“What are you?”
“Why are you laughing?”
“I want you to leave.”
“I want you out, get out, get out, get out!”
A woman’s laughter filled the room
Two orderlies burst through the office door. Paul turned to them. “Help me!” He collapsed in their arms.
Dr. Price watched the picture frame fly off the shelf. She tried to duck but the frame hit her on the side of the head, knocking her to the floor. She struggled to her knees, and a woman’s voice spoke inside her head.
“Hello, Dr. Price.”
“Who are you?”
“You can call me, Francine.”
“What do you want with me?”
I suddenly find myself in need of a new...friend. May I call you Ann?”
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Chris Mills