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Chapter 3: The Way Back
Characters: Dan Norton, Benjamin Linus, Hugo "Hurley" Reyes, Carmen Reyes, David Reyes, Nurse Lazenby
Rating: T
Length: 1928 words
Status: Complete

Dan Norton never gets enough appreciation for being Benjamin Linus's lawyer. But the day Ben walked into Agostini and Norton was the luckiest day of Dan's life. Or so it seemed at the time.

Chapter Index


Chapter 3: The Way Back

Dan Norton didn't make it out of the Civil Courts building until after three. By the time he arrived at the Los Angeles County lockup, a bored bailiff informed him that Hugo Reyes had already been released for his psych eval.

“Great,” Dan muttered. He liked the psychiatric floor of Los Angeles County General even less than the lock-up. Some instinct made Dan reach over the counter and snatch Reyes's paperwork from the top of the messy pile. The bailiff didn't even look up, engrossed as he was in his crossword puzzle.

This wasn't possible, Dan said to himself as he read. Rather than sending Reyes to County General, they shipped him straight off to Santa Rosa Mental Health Institute. How the hell had that happened so fast?

There it was, however, signed in black and white by a judge who Dan regularly tangled with when she was a prosecutor. He quickly scanned the orders: a 5150 hold pending indictment; prisoner to be remanded to the custody of Dr. Jerome Curtis, MD, with the transfer effective as of 1 PM that afternoon.

Dan sighed and dropped the papers onto the counter. As the glass door swung shut behind him, he figured there was no point in driving up to Placerita Canyon tonight. Reyes wasn't going anywhere.


* * * * * * * *


The next morning, as soon as he got out of court, Dan headed northwest out of Los Angeles to the Santa Rosa clinic. The trip should have been a reverse commute, but traffic on the freeway stood frozen. He cursed the long ribbon of red lights in front of him, cradling his cellphone as he dialed Deirdre. When she picked up, he barked, “You ever get hold of Linus?”

“Don't snap at me, Daniel,” she said back in an icy tone. “I'm doing all I can.”

Great, he was in trouble now. “Sorry, Didi. There's just something about this case that puts me on edge.” They continued to talk, Deirdre spitting out bullet points about upcoming appointments and hearings, Dan murmuring acknowledgments. When he tried his luck with the mountain road short-cut to Placerita Canyon, Los Angeles disappeared behind him and so did his cellphone signal.

Dan hated driving into the mountains. Even though the city rested securely at his back, the stark chaparral-speckled forms loomed over him. You're on our turf now, they seemed to say. Some day, after all of Los Angeles crumbled into dust-dry wilderness, the mountains would still be here.

The lemon-yellow sunlight did nothing to cheer him, either, as it filled his rear-view mirror with eye-stabbing brilliance. Finally he came to his destination: a broad white complex with red-tiled roofs, the buildings sheltering under the highest peaks of the Placerita Canyon range. The staff lot was full, but the one for visitors was completely empty.

Not surprising. From what he'd heard, he wouldn't have expected the patients here to get much company.

He was just about to get out of the car when the phone rang. Deirdre, still cool, told him that Benjamin Linus was out of the country and unreachable by phone or email.

Dan couldn't even manage to work up an expletive.


* * * * * * * *


Once inside, a smiling nurse escorted Dan through cool, dimly-lit hallways whose arches reminded him of convents and soft, chanting voices. Her name tag read, “Susan Lazenby, PMHNP,” whatever that meant. As they paused before closed double doors, she said, “Hugo just joined us yesterday, and we're still stabilizing his medications. When you speak with him, he'll probably have a bit of confusion, as well as some drowsiness.”

Nurse Lazenby flung open the doors to a brightly-lit room decorated like a nursery school, with paper cut-out bugs and flowers all over the walls. Patients, mostly men, shuffled about in slippers, their sashless bathrobes flopping about their legs. Along one wall, a fortyish man with curly brown hair carefully felt the wall as he inched along it, as if looking for an opening to magically appear there.

Dan stopped, confused at the room's silence, at how none of the patients even seemed aware of him. At least it wasn't like the VA hospital where they'd stuck his brother after he came back from Gulf War I. This place was clean, and the staff wore small, relaxed smiles along with their white scrubs.

The brown-haired man kept inching along the wall.

Susan Lazenby touched his arm, and Dan jumped. “Over here.”

In the center of the room, a fat man had spread himself out on the shabby, olive-green couch as if it were a throne. He wore the same remote, placid smile as his mug shot, which failed to do justice to his fleshy immensity.

Hugo Reyes was tied to earth just enough to give Dan a beaming smile. Great, Dan thought as he stood before Hugo. I'll be lucky to get five coherent words out of him.

Dan scowled first at the crowded community room, then at the nurse. “This isn't acceptable. I've got to talk to my client alone. How about his room?”

“Sorry, Mr. Norton. No one is allowed in rooms with patients except staff.”

“For Christ's sake—” Dan began, when a few low chimes broke the stillness.

“Lunch-time,” Nurse Lazenby said. “In a few moments this room will clear out, and then you can interview your client.”

The crowd slowly shuffled towards the door. Reyes struggled to his feet to join them, but Nurse Lazenby put a hand on his shoulder. “You have a visitor, Hugo. Your attorney. We'll bring your lunch to your room afterwards.”

It might have been an unkind thought, but Reyes didn't get to that size by missing many lunches. Immediately Dan felt bad, because Reyes turned luminous brown eyes on him and mumbled, “Yeah, my dad told me.”

The wall-crawler still fumbled along the fingerprint-stained surface. “What about him?” Dan grumbled to the nurse, who was almost out the door.

“Oh, I don't think he'll be any problem,” Nurse Lazenby said. Was that amusement Dan heard in her tone? “He doesn't even know you're here.”


* * * * * * * *


Alone with Dan, Reyes sank into the couch as if he could sit there all afternoon. All Dan could think was, Sad. Just sad. He tried not to feel sorry for clients, and especially not for their family members. This one, though, what a case for the textbooks.

The interview started off fairly well, with Reyes agreeing to let Dan's firm represent him. He could mostly string words together in sentences, but sometimes he drifted off like an unmoored boat, only to float back after a moment. His mostly-coherent account of the car chase matched Detective Walton's report, which was a pleasant surprise.

Dan told himself that at least he didn't have to wade through a thicket of lies.

He arranged his paperwork to go, but Reyes wasn't done yet. He leaned forward and said, “There's something else, but I'm not supposed to tell.”

“Tell what?” There was more? Dan groaned inside, his hand cramped from an hour of writing.

“You do that lawyer confidential stuff, right?”

“Confidentiality, you mean? Absolutely. Whatever you tell me stays with me, just like a priest.”

The big man's shoulders slumped as if weight rolled off them. He looked to the left, then right, but the wall-crawler wasn't paying them a scrap of attention, so Reyes began to speak in slurred tones.

What followed was the most ludicrous, insane tale Dan had ever heard. He didn't even bother to write it down: a miracle crash onto an uncharted Island, a column of black smoke that chased people, armed mercenaries who wanted to kill them, a bird that spoke his name as it flew by. Lots of people dying, like Boone, Charlie, a girl named Libby. Another girl named Claire vanished into the forest one night, abandoning her baby. At the women's names, tears stood in Reyes's eyes.

All of it orchestrated by a man named Ben. He was the one the mercs were after.

Dan's insides froze, and he sprang up like a puppet yanked on a string. “Benjamin... Linus? You know Benjamin Linus?”

Reyes heaved his bulk to his feet too, sending the couch skidding across the linoleum to crash into a metal table. “What?” he shouted, his mouth forming into a round “O” of terror. “Ben? What about Ben? He's not here, is he?”

Dan cursed his slip-up. The interview was over, because at Reyes's first cry, Nurse Lazenby and a strapping aide rushed in to flank the hysterical man. Nurse Lazenby placed her face very close to Reyes's and said, “Hugo, you're going to go with Barney now.”

Reyes kept hyperventilating, eyes wide with terror.

“Do you need a shot?” she said, still calm as a nun kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament. Dan had seen that look before. It took him right back to Sister Robert Bellarmine's catechism class. “It's all right,” she went on. “I'll give you a shot if you want.”

“I just wanna go to my room now,” Reyes whimpered. “I don't need a shot.”

Dan tried to pick up his legal pad, but his hands shook so badly that he stopped. First, that unbelievable story, and now this.

Wall-crawler turned the inside corner and started on the next section.

“Barney, take Hugo along," Nurse Lazenby said.

The aide brushed by Norton, putting a thick, muscular arm around Reyes's shoulder. “Come on, Hugo. We're gonna get you your lunch.” Barney smiled, showing off a mouthful of enamel-white teeth. “Just a little low blood sugar, right? Get some lasagna in you, you be right as rain.”

After the orderly left with Reyes in tow, Nurse Lazenby gave Dan a critical, clinical look-over. “Are you all right, Mr. Norton?”

Dan wasn't, not by a long shot, not with his knees shaking as badly as his hands. Hating his weakness, he sank back onto a metal folding chair. “I just need... a moment.” Head reeling, stomach churning, he pointed to the silent, creeping patient. “What the hell is the deal with him?”

Nurse Lazenby smiled the same calm smile. “He's looking for the opening in the wall that will take him back.”

“Take him back? Back where?” As Dan asked, he already knew the answer, and everything inside rose up his gorge. “Back where, damn it?”

She fixed him with eyes black as a beetle's shell. “You know where, Mr. Norton. Didn't Hugo tell you?”

That monstrous story. A horrific possibility rose in Dan. “That one, he's been there too, hasn't he? Like Reyes.”

Instead of answering, she glanced over to the far corner of the ceiling, where a camera blinked with its single red eye.

Words tumbled through Dan's mind about how he was going to fucking sue them all right into Riverside County, that he had a right to meet privately with his clients, that heads were going to roll, but every word died on his lips.

The wall-crawler inched his snail's-pace course across the surface and the camera tracked his every movement, ignoring everything except the creeping man.

“Why?” Dan whispered, finally.

“Because, Mr. Norton, perhaps some day the door in the wall will open, and when it does, he'll find it.”

“Find it,” Dan mouthed like an echolalic patient.

“You never know. Someday he might find his way back.”

Dan stared at the empty doorway, as if the ghost of Hugo Reyes's form still lingered there.

(the end)


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