Duke's front door blew open and banged into the bookshelf, sending his three prized Hemingway hard-backed novels cascading to the floor. This woke him up from his deep slumber but he ignored it at first and simply turned over while rolling up in the comforting quilt handcrafted years ago by his grandma. That is until he started shivering from the cold, Idaho air attacking his now exposed tiny, tidy living room. He sat up and felt a jolt of energy provoked by fear. He paused, testing if this was once again another of the wild nightmares that had started haunting him regularly some weeks ago.
Another crash-glass breaking- got him up and he raced to the doorway. Papers were flying around from his desk and the carpet was already showing white flecks from the snow drifting inside. The screen door was banging over and over again so he reached out on the porch to close it when he was grabbed by the right arm and spun outside. Duke could not be called a cowardly man; he was a trained, skilled combatant and decorated war veteran and did not scare or startle easily. But he was suddenly frightened to the point he couldn't even get out a scream even though he tried several times. He knew whatever had him possessed a superior strength that he instantly calculated as unbeatable. He knew none of his tricks or tactics would work. After a few seconds, he wanted only one thing-to see this force face-to-face and witness what it was that was going to kill him.
He heard the phone ringing in the distance-the emergency line- and jumped off the couch in the living room and raced toward the bedroom where he always kept the phone handy. He was puzzled during the dash as he didn't recall going out to the couch and wondered why his socks got wet from the carpet. He answered on the fourth ring. “ Yeah, this is Duke.”
“How you doing down there Duke? Hell of a storm up here last night,” spoke a voice that Duke didn't instantly recognize.
“Yeah, it blew my door open,” answered Duke and the words surprised him.
“This is Jim at the Moscow Mental Health office. Afraid I have some bad news for you. Nate Phillips had what sounds like a psychotic break last night. He needs to be taken down to Hospital North. We got him an emergency bed early this morning.”
“What the hell happened to Nate? I just saw him two days ago and he was doing fine. Do you really think he needs to go into the hospital?”
“Oh, yeah. He needs to go. All of us on the crisis team agree. You say you saw him on Friday? He didn't mention that to any of us.”
“No, Wednesday afternoon. I really don't think he needs to go back down there. Damn, he's been going to school, working full time, and taking his meds. I don't get what happened.”
“Well, he drove himself to the emergency room Saturday night-actually early this morning. Said he couldn't get in touch with you. Something about your phone not working. Sounds like a lot happened since you last had contact with him. You said Wednesday, right?”
Duke didn't respond immediately as he tried to process what he had been told. Today was Sunday? He had lost two days?
“Duke, you still there?”
“Oh, yeah, excuse me. This is such a shock. So, what do you want me to do?”
“Need you to give him a ride down to the hospital. It is either you or the cops will take him down. I talked the crisis team into allowing me to phone you before we got the police involved.”
“Where do I meet you guys?”
“Nate is sleeping in my office right now. I'll wait for you,” said Jim.
Duke was on the road in minutes inching along the slick grade and up to the Palouse hills like he had done hundreds of times on other lonely rides over the last twelve years of being a traveling mental health counselor, specializing in those dealing with the challenges of schizophrenia. He popped in a CD copied from one of his many play-lists and by the third tune, the fog cleared and he was able to go near the speed limit until the last steep hill leading into Moscow.
Jim saw him pull up and came out to greet him. “Hey, Duke. Any trouble getting up here? I got the state SUV warmed up and ready for you.”
“No problem after the fog cleared. I don't need the state car; I always use my own vehicle.”
“Well, you kind of have to use the state car, Duke. It has restraints in it and Nate is going down in restraints; that's one of the things I had to agree to in order to keep the cops out of it.”
“That's bullshit. That kid doesn't need to be in restraints. I won't have one damn thing to do with this if you force me to use restraints on that boy. I will not be part of it at all. “
Jim looked at Duke for a long few moments and then excused himself. He came back a couple of minutes later with Nate and another man Duke had seen around the office a time or two.
“Okay, Nate is going down without any restraints but I have to send Doug down with you and you have to take the state car. Deal?” Jim asked but it wasn't really a question.
Doug took the wheel and Duke joined Nate in the backseat. They were following the twisting turns of the Clearwater River road within minutes heading up to Orofino, a sleepy once thriving logging community located right on the wild river. The town was now home to a new prison and the old Hospital North.
“Thanks for coming and getting me, Duke," Nate said before dozing off.
“Hey, Doug, pull over at the Lenore Store would you?” asked Duke. He did and Duke hopped up front for the last twenty minutes of the ride.
Doug won Duke over in a few miles as he started talking about his latest golfing trip and his short time as a minor-league third baseman, both huge interests of Duke. They pulled into the hospital emergency stop area. Three young men in white uniforms came hustling out to greet them.
The wide awake Nate popped out of the backseat and said, “Duke, I am so sorry, man.”
Doug snapped the handcuff on Duke's left wrist just as the door flew open. He was no match for the three sets of young arms that now held him in the wheelchair. He knew there was again no reason to resist-he was up against overwhelming force. But he did fight-to no avail-when they got the needle out. His screams made no noise.