tagNovels and NovellasShattered (Entire Book)

Shattered (Entire Book)


Chapter 1

Being wheeled down a dreary, dilapidated hall, Rick Ratner's head bobbed up and down onto his shoulder. He was half conscious but had no idea where or when he was. He had never seen this place before but soon felt himself being strapped to a chair in a dimly lit room.

Outside, a tumultuous storm was brewing. Lightning could be seen through the windows of each room Rick passed. The thunder crashed like sonic booms. A tree banged hard against the building, creating a loud bang and then, a very eerie scratching sound that toyed with one's ears and mind like a crazed madman playing with his prey before the kill.

"Hello, Mr. Ratner. I'm Doctor Selis. Do you remember killing your daughter?"

"Killing my daughter? What the hell are you talking about," smirked Rick.

"Your daughter, Nataly... She was brutally murdered, Mr. Ratner, by you," retorted the doctor, as if Rick had been convicted already.

Sitting in the stiff chair, unable to move from shock, and from heavy restraints, Rick could think of nothing else to say. Trying to process what he had just been told seemed like some impossible task had been set before him.

The doctor, exacerbated by Rick's lack of cooperation, moved her chair a little closer to her desk and added, "Ok, Mr. Ratner, let's try a different approach. Do you remember the night your daughter was killed?"

"I don't remember my daughter being killed at all. I do remember bits and pieces of the last time I saw her. I remember... cooking dinner. I remember Nataly telling me she got a new job, a job in Chicago. I remember not being able to deal with it... I mean, my little girl, my only child, moving so far away from me like I wasn't important anymore. I remember dropping the pan I just took off the stove. I remember realizing, after about thirty seconds, how much my foot hurt from a heavy pan being dropped right on it." Rick sat in his chair, his mouth still gaping open after finishing his story. As everything played out in Rick's mind, the best that he could remember it, he tried to imagine the brutality of his daughter's killing. There must have been blood everywhere. She must have screamed so hard. Why would no one come running over and bust in the door, he thought.

"Mr. Ratner, your daughter was stabbed. She died from a knife tearing through her spleen and from a massive loss of blood, hemorrhaging," replied the doctor. "Do you remember the knife? It was a kitchen knife. You and your daughter were in the kitchen. You grabbed a knife and stabbed her. Do you remember any of that?"

"No! I DID NOT kill my daughter! I don't remember everything in detail, but I remember a knock on the door. I remember opening the door. I remember someone pushing past me. I remember Nataly and this strange man yelling at each other. I remember stepping toward them and trying to get between them and then being pushed down and hitting my head. I can't remember it all the greatest, but I remember small pieces... enough to paint a picture in my head." Rick responded as if he were being accused while on the witness stand in a courtroom.

"Mr. Ratner, you have been here in this hospital for a week now. You have required a heavy amount of sedation because you have been completely uncooperative and even violent. This is the first opportunity I've had to really speak with you about what happened. Mr. Ratner, we are trying to help you to accept what happened. What we know is that there was no man. It was you, all you. You stabbed your daughter. There were no signs of anyone else in the house but you and your daughter. Your fingerprints were on the knife that was used to stab her. It was her blood that covered your clothing. The police have little else to go on, but all evidence leads to that one conclusion and that one conclusion only," the doctor said calmly yet so firmly that Rick still felt like he was being examined by a prosecutor.

Rick knew courtrooms well. Having spent nearly twenty years as a litigator, there were few techniques that could be used against him that would be alien to him, even if they did come from a psychiatrist.

Rick couldn't help but think, "What does she think she's doing? Does she really think she can get me to admit to something I never did?! Like I'd fall for this! Like I don't know how interrogations and examinations work!"

"Look... I did none of this! Now, how in the hell can I tell you details about something I never did? You're trying to get me to admit to a crime, a crime I never committed. If I were to ever kill someone, not that I could actually do that, but if I did, IT WOULD NEVER BE MY OWN DAUGHTER! Nataly was everything to me! She was my life!" This was all Rick could get to come out of his mouth, still shocked and angry at the accusations.

"Mr. Ratner, are you familiar with Multiple Personality Disorder," replied the doctor.

"Yes... I mean, kind of," responded Rick.

"Well, Mr. Ratner, a person can develop the disorder and show few signs of it until an event that is too traumatic for them to handle presents itself. At that point, the person's other personality or personalities can manifest and make the person do unspeakable things. It is as if they are an entirely different person at that moment because psychologically speaking, they are. I believe this may be what happened to you, Mr. Ratner," added the doctor, so sure of herself and her diagnosis.

"Well, "Doctor," Rick retorted, "If I had this disorder, as you believe I do, would signs of it not have manifested years ago, perhaps when my wife of nearly twenty years left me for a younger man? Would that trauma not have been enough, especially when compounded with having to raise a child on my own?! If you want to pinpoint a moment of "manifestation," "Doctor," that probably would have been it," snapped Rick.

The doctor, seeing she was making no headway with Rick, responded snidely with, "Perhaps, that is so, but at that point, you did not kill anyone. As the evidence of the scene suggests, and as the disorder I believe you to have suggests, you did kill your daughter one week ago."

By this point, Rick could take no more and saw no reason to do so. "Ok, doc. I want a lawyer then. Whether I'm locked up in a jail or in this excuse of a hospital, I'm entitled to a lawyer if I'm being accused of a crime!"

"Alright, Mr. Ratner. Have it your way. I will see to it personally that you get a lawyer. If that means that you are refusing to talk to me any further until such time, so be it... But I must warn you, there is little we can do for you to help you deal with the trauma and stress of this situation if you won't accept it and confront it head on," added Dr. Selis, having calmed down from the frustration caused by such a lack of cooperation.

Rick began to fidget in his chair, mumbling incoherently. Dr. Selis, too, started to move nervously. "Are you Richard Ratner? Is that who is still here with me," Dr. Selis asked. She got no reply, only more mumbling.

In her notes, the doctor added,

The patient remains completely disassociated and refuses to acknowledge true personality or accept what happened. Many more sessions required to absolve patient of feelings of guilt and re-establish reality. The patient is still exhibiting at least one alter.

Rick was soon escorted back to his room and given a powerful sedative. He had been ruled uncooperative and a danger to staff and patients because of supposed fits of violence. He awoke the next morning, still trying to make sense of everything he had been through lately. That was just it... nothing made sense anymore. His whole world was shattered, and the remaining pieces had been tossed about like a ship in hurricane season. He was still lying in bed, unable to move much because of the restraints and could not help but think, "How could a whole week go by without me remembering anything at all? Well, there's no way this could get any worse. They have me locked up in a psych hospital, restrained, heavily medicated, accused of murdering my only child. What else can they do to me? If I'm "proven" as mentally disturbed as they say I am, at most, I'll be locked up here forever." What little did Rick know that things could actually get much worse for him.

Just off the property of the hospital, in a black sedan, sat two men, watching the hospital. A phone rang. The driver of the car answered it, and all that could be heard was, "Ok. Good. I'll pass it on." Turning to the other man, the driver said, "The game is on."

Rick could vaguely see a shadow through the small window on his door. The door suddenly began to creak open, and in walked a very burly orderly. "Ratner, your lawyer's gonna be here in an hour. I'm gonna release you and take you to the dining area to have breakfast and then take you to the shower. You gotta make everything quick... and no biting this time."

The last thing Rick could think about at this point was eating. "I'm not hungry."

"Not your choice, Ratner. You're gonna eat whether I have to shove the food down your throat or you voluntarily pick it up and put it in your damn mouth," joked the orderly, adding, "I'm tired of messin' with you. You've been a pain in my ass for a week now. We have to sedate you so damn much... it's getting' to be a real chore."

The words seemed funny to hear, like the orderly was almost letting something slip. Why would they have to sedate someone all the time if that person never exhibited violent behavior before, and how could a person lose an entire week yet be so much trouble? It made no sense at all to Rick, unless either he really had developed multiple personality disorder or he was drugged the entire week and really had not woken up until last night.

The orderly quickly undid Rick's restraints and yanked him out of bed. Being almost shoved out the door, Rick found his body nearly floating to the dining area, as if some unknown force was guiding him. His will was no longer his own. He was violently pushed down into a chair and had a tray of what could only be described as garbage someone had made into food set before his face. Rick took one bite and realized that the food they served in the hospital looked much better than it tasted. The orderly kept watch over Rick, so there was no use feigning lack of hunger. Rick took another bite and soon another. He had to fight with every fiber of his being to keep the "food" from coming back out the same way it went into his body. After what seemed like hours, Rick finally finished his breakfast, and before his body could process and settle what it had just been forced to endure, Rick was quickly pulled from his chair and led down another hallway.

The shower area looked like something out of the 1950s. The showers looked greatly dilapidated, as if they would soon fall from the walls. Rick turned on the water, expecting it to turn hot. After waiting more than a minute and constantly checking the water with his hand, he realized the water would not get any hotter. Plus, the same orderly that had bossed him around for the last half an hour was standing watch, like a guard dog that knew no other purpose. Rick could not keep himself from exclaiming, though in a hushed voice, "They must have hired that guy for his brains. What a dumb prick! Hey, at least they give us all the cold water we could want!"

After barely getting more than half of his body washed and not yet being allowed to wash his hair, the orderly shouted, "Hey, Ratner! That's enough! Time to get dressed and meet with your lawyer."

Rick had never thrown on clothes so fast as he did that morning. His hope was that if he complied fully with the burly orderly, he would be saved from at least a few of the orderly's abrasive quips. Rick couldn't help but wonder, as he finished dressing, "Why did they not give me any meds? Do they want me to seem totally normal so no one realized how they abuse their patients? Or is it that they hope my lawyer will think he has a case he can build in my favor so I have some kind of hope? Who's doing this? Why do they want me to suffer? What did I do to piss somebody off this much?!"

The room Rick was given for meeting with his lawyer was the nicest one he had seen yet. It wasn't much, but it sure beat all the others... Rick's room, the dining room, the shower area, even the doctor's office. Somebody was trying to make the place look better than it was and make it seem like abuse was not occurring. Rick knew that if he were the lawyer this time instead of the defendant, he would have one hell of a case, maybe even a real shot at winning. Unfortunately, no lawyer he would be appointed would be half as good as Rick himself. It would probably end up being some court appointed public defender, some guy fresh out of law school, or, if the guy had any experience, it would probably be someone who was paid so little that he didn't care at all if he won or lost. In public defense, there is little need for effort. There is no substantial win record to make, like there is working as a District Attorney. In fact, what would a public defender gain by actually winning this case? If anything, the public defender would be working against Rick, trying to help the fellow bureaucrats that Rick so desperately despised, one of the reasons why he left such a job years ago and went into private practice.

Rick was utterly surprised when in walked not a fresh out of law school man but a woman, and not just any woman. This woman looked seasoned, prepared, and like she might not even be a public defender. She was tall, slender, and had dark brown hair tied in a bun. She looked almost too professional.

"Hello, Mr. Ratner. I'm Denise Hunter. I heard about your case, and out of respect for what you've done in the legal world, I'd like to volunteer my services... if that's ok." These words from Denise's lips almost fell on deaf ears. Rick wasn't exactly what Denise expected either. Obviously, being locked up in a hospital and accused of murder would change anyone, but Rick looked so languid that it was shocking. It was as if he had no life left in him.

"Ummmm.... Yeah. Sure. Sounds good. But I can't help but ask, what are you getting out of this," something anyone would wonder, and Rick, being the veteran lawyer he was, had to ask.

"Good question. Well, to be honest, nothing financially. And again, to be honest, I am hoping that if I win, it will boost my career. But really, it's because I believe you are innocent, Mr. Ratner. I know lawyers aren't supposed to care if their clients are guilty or innocent but only whether or not they can be acquitted. I believe in what you do, or... in what you've done. I think the cases you've won on behalf of ordinary people are astounding. You are the epitome of why I went into law. I think that too much emphasis is placed on money and power and not enough on helping people. I've tried to do something similar to what you've done, help people by defending the innocent. Sure, I haven't gone after big corporations like you have, building class action lawsuits, but I have defended people for crimes they have been unjustly accused of, usually minorities," responded Denise, almost out of breath from so many words.

"So, I really impressed you that much that you'd take a case pro bono," asked Rick a little jokingly.

"Pro bono? Many of my cases have been pro bono, Mr. Ratner. I don't believe a person should have to pay twice by being accused unjustly of a crime and then paying money they can't afford, though I'm sure in your case, money isn't a problem. I know you've won some pretty astounding cases in your career. But still... I'm not asking for money here. I just want to do what's right and help an innocent man clear his name." Denise said these words almost without feeling herself form them. She was so transfixed on Rick that she seemed in a daze.

Rick found himself somewhat transfixed on Denise as well, like they had known each other for a long time or a woman was finally having the effect on Rick he'd always heard was possible. The suspense got to be too much for Rick to take any longer. "Have we met before? You look so familiar."

"I don't think so, Mr. Ratner. Like I said, I've been following your career. I'd remember meeting you, believe me! Plus, I am very good with faces," these words from Denise again trance-like.

"Ok. So where do we start, Miss Hunter?"

"Well, why don't we start with the events of the night your daughter died," asked Denise, a little puzzled why a veteran attorney would not assume to start with such details.

"I remember Nataly coming over. I remember us sitting in the kitchen, talking. She kept talking and talking, and I didn't want to interrupt her, so I started to fix dinner while she stayed at the table. She said she was offered a great job in Chicago. I told her that Chicago might as well have been a million miles away, that she was all I had, that I didn't think I could make it without her around, that..."

"Mr. Ratner, let me stop you right there for a second. Unless asked on the stand, I wouldn't say anything about the Chicago thing. A prosecutor will look at that as motive... a distraught father dealing with new-found grief by lashing out violently, especially given what Dr. Selis is putting as your official diagnosis. I know you know this stuff, but I just feel I should remind you," said Denise, quite casually, having regained her train of thought and finally being able to focus.

"So, there I was, cooking dinner... not knowing what to say next. The phone rang. I answered it, but no sooner than I said hello, some man I'd never seen before burst through the front door and started to argue with Nataly. I threw the phone down and rushed into the other room and got between them. He looked as though he was going to push her or hit her. I nearly lost it. I was about to grab him and throw him out the door when he shoved me down. I vaguely remember hitting my head, but I didn't wake up until last night, here in this hospital." Rick had to fight to keep back tears as he said these words, thinking about what had happened to his only child, the love of his life.

"Not to sound inconsiderate, Mr. Ratner, but as I'm sure you're well aware, juries eat up sad stories. It would definitely help you to shed some tears on the stand when you retell this story. Just make sure to leave out the Chicago part of it. If it's somehow brought up after the fact, say you forgot with all the stress of the situation and sadness of what happened to your daughter. You didn't tell anyone about Chicago, did you? Please say you didn't," these last words sounding almost strangled as Denise found herself placing her hand on Rick's wrist.

"I... I think I told the doctor."

"Not good. Definitely not good. Well, still... try to leave it out, and just say you forgot if asked. Don't bring it up, under any circumstances. I know all of this is old hat to you, but I still have to remind you just to make sure," responded Denise, feeling herself becoming more and more sympathetic.

"I would've never told anyone. I know the cost of such a thing. But when I met with the doctor, it was the first time I can remember being conscious for a week. I was still so drugged up. It took me a while before I could really control myself or my words." Rick could feel himself start to choke as these words were uttered.

"Ok. So, here's what the police have on you, at least, what they say they have on you. They say they a kitchen knife, the murder weapon, with your prints on it. They have..."

"Of course they have a kitchen knife with my prints! It was my knife! It was from my kitchen! I was cooking dinner!" Rick could feel unquenchable anger with every word.

"No, Mr. Ratner. I'm not accusing you. I'm just telling you what evidence is being used. Anyway, they have the knife. They have your clothes soaked in your daughter's blood. They have a witness that claims to have heard fighting... And, with what you told me a minute ago, they may very soon have your doctor's testimony, perhaps even notes from last night's session, attesting that your daughter was moving far away... again, motive." Denise hated saying these words. She felt so much sympathy for Rick. She also found herself feeling more and more some kind of animal passion that she was not used to feeling. "Mr. Ratner, can you think of anyone who would want to put you away? Anyone who ever made threats against you... anyone whose career, business, or personal life you may have damaged through legal or personal means? Someone is framing you, and they're doing a damn good job of it."

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