367 Days

By: Jessica Gadziala


Riya-1 hour

I wasn't crazy.

That was pretty much the only thing I knew for sure as I sat on the stiff emergency room hospital bed on top of the scratchy white sheet, confused, scared, a little frustrated, and not quite like myself. But sane. I was perfectly sound of mind.

That being said, I was pretty sure I was the only one who thought that.

The cops, well, they had taken my statement, but the sheer disinterest in which they did it seemed to imply they thought I was a head case. That detective was who had pointed me toward the hospital in the first place.

The nurse, when I told her my story, lost her soft smile. Her shoulders went a little more square; her back stiffened. She checked my vitals and listened as I spilled what I knew about what happened.

"Okay, Riya," she said, pronouncing it "ree-uh" when it was supposed to be "Ry-uh", but I was too concerned with more pressing issues to correct her. "The doctor will be with you in a moment," she told me as she flipped my chart closed and walked out of my room.

I watched as she walked back to the nurses' station, flipped open my chart, picked up the phone, and called someone.

Not only was I not crazy, I wasn't stupid either.

I knew exactly why she was picking up that phone.

The words: psych evaluation flashed across my head as I pulled the little finger clip that monitored my heartbeat off my finger and slid off the bed.

"Miss. Miss!" the nurse called as I walked out of my little curtain room and made my way toward the door. "Miss, you really need to be seen by the doctor."

"I have the right to refuse treatment," I said, not looking over at her, feeling a small pit of hopelessness settle in my belly. I wasn't sure where I had to turn if the hospital wanted to take me up to the psych ward and keep me there for a couple days.

"Ms. Sweeney," she called, still following me. "Please, you really should..."

"Find someone who believes me," I answered, my voice a little gruff. Actually, my voice sounded a little off in general and my throat was sore. I needed to add that to the long list of things that were wrong.

With that, I walked out onto the street, moving down the small circle of a parking lot toward the dock, where I leaned against the railing and looked at the water. I had stood in that very spot countless times before. I found water comforting.

And right about then, I needed all the comfort I could get.

Because my life had suddenly become some creepy mystery movie. And I was the reluctant, clueless, unexceptional heroine.

I sighed, my breath catching slightly in the cool October air, moving out in a small cloud. Where were you supposed to turn when something was wrong with you and the hospital couldn't, or wouldn't, help?

And the police, used to a ton of off-their-meds people coming in and making fake claims, filing silly reports that wasted their time, yeah, they just lumped me in with the rest of the nutters.

I turned back to walk up the hill toward town. My town. Navesink Bank. It had been my town for most of my teens and adulthood. Again, comforting and familiar.

But it felt oddly different as I walked and walked and walked, having literally no other way to get around and nowhere to be.

It was like some crazy twist of fate that I walked down a side street I wasn't overly familiar with and walked up to a building I had never really needed to take notice of before. It looked like many of the others on the side streets-big, streamlined, modern, with slate gray stucco, a wide staircase up the front that led to sturdy black doors. There were two floors with shiny, tinted windows against the sun.

But there was a sign above the door that stopped me dead in my tracks.

Sawyer Investigations.

See? Fate.

When the hospital wouldn't help you and the police couldn't help you, where was there to turn but a private investigator?

I self-consciously flattened my hair, having no clue what I looked like, as I climbed up the stairs, my leg muscles screaming in objection for reasons I did not understand. Pulling the heavy front door open, my arm muscles did the same.

The reception area of Sawyer Investigations was, well, all male. There was no mistaking when someone hired an interior designer who, in all likelihood, would be a woman, and when someone didn't. Sawyer, whoever he was, didn't. Because every inch of the place was clean lines, stark, and just a tad unwelcoming.

The floors were a dark hardwood. The walls were a gray that matched the outside of the building. And all the furniture, from the rounded reception desk directly ahead to the chairs framing the three walls behind the desk, was black. There was no artwork and no magazines cluttered the coffee table. There was a small coffee station near the hallway that led to the left, a simple black Keurig sitting on top of one of those wire racks that held all the single serving cups. To my right directly inside the front door, was a door to the bathroom and another hallway.

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