2010-11-28: The Rabbit Hole



Guest-Starring: Dr. Jeffrey Miles

Date: November 28th, 2010


Maggie's found the mishandled agent — with some help —, only to find she'll have to go through the Institution's esteemed proprietor to get a glimpse — and a glimpse is all it is.

"The Rabbit Hole"

NY Psych Institution

"Right this way."

That's what the nurse said, muffled by the sheen of plastic walling separating the nurses' front station from the general populace — a sleek, see-through box — threshold into another, guarded realm of white walls and cold, indistinct tiling. The smell is the taint of sterilization. A couple of robed patients roam the first hallway, gaping unabashedly at Detective Powers; in the distance, someone's shouting, wailing with unknown purpose the way an infant might. When the office door closes behind her, all of this goes away. The comforts are as thick as the carpeted floor: a lush desk and chair, wall-to-wall bookcases rivaled only by wall-to-wall plaques and degrees staring them down opposite.

"It's meant to be a rather overwhelming ensemble," comments the man at the desk. "This is where I intimidate sponsors into investing more money." Grey hair does not diminish his stature, nor amass of deep wrinkles weaken his state. Dr. Jeffrey Miles is no less than the distinguished his firepower of degrees paints him to be. High forehead, the rest of his salt-and-pepper hair swept back to acknowledge the balding; he has both beard and mustache, crisply defined around thick eyebrows, grandfatherly eyes, and a very large and particular nose. Weathered, but cared for, hands part, opening in welcome. They plant to the desk and he rises off their support.

"Detective Powers," her name is uttered with all the weight of familiarity in reputation. "We meet." At last.

"So we do," his visitor chirps, friendly, but just short of smiling. Thus recognized, her eyebrows raise ever-so-slightly into sharper curves, her lips purse in study — analyzing an analyzer. "I guess my reputation precedes me," she says lightly. As for the reputation of the man whose realm she stands in, she glances to each wall perceptively; but her study is quick, and doesn't linger on any of the framed accomplishments or book spines.

If Detective Powers looks like a cop, the evidence is mostly underneath warm, comfy layers. Her coat goes a way in wrapping her in a cheerful red, and her scarf in winter white. Her recent foray through the late fall air into the hospital marks her otherwise pale cheeks like rouge, only calming now that she's been ushered through into the closed-in office.

It's nevertheless heavy black boots that take Maggie with a particularly straightforward lope to his desk. Confident, save for her greeting as she says, "Doctor— Miles." The unfamiliar way of speaking a familiar name makes her greeting unintentionally unsure. She is sure: this is the face of the psychiatrist and author revered upon on the websites she saw the night before. She holds out her hand before quite coming to a stop.

Clasp of his hand to hers, "Thus the purpose of a reputation," he says warmly in disagreement, "But not yours in particular, my dear." After their hands have parted, and through the process of easing him into his chair he proposes, "And what do you prefer I call you by? You are a detective, of course — invested in your job. But you are not here purely as a badge, at which point— well. There's no need to be unnecessarily confrontational."

There are items on the desk in front of Maggie: various scientific toys, and an old-fashioned miniature clock that doesn't tick. A distinct lack of papers, and with no filing cabinet in sight, means there's, however, nothing at all to read. Beyond the minor distractions, those letters posted on the wall, there is but little choice other than to resort to playing, gawking at credentials, or staring down the very man who earned them.

Maggie chooses to stare. While such a stare could easily be challenging, hers has not taken that turn — it's simply her steady, bright regard. Her answer is light and dismissive and a polite smile appears. "Detective is fine, so is Maggie…" Better than dear. "Wouldn't want to be confrontational." Taking a step back after her firm shake of the psychiatrist's hand, she doesn't sit down. She only stands with a wide stance and tucks her hands into the front pockets of her black slacks, hidden until now under the fall of her coat. It doesn't look like she's planning on staying long enough for Dr. Miles to use any of her monikers much at all.

"I'm here because you took Miles' settlement, from the Bureau," Maggie states— speaking of names, she clarifies, "your son's." Calm, factual… "I'm looking for him. And I think you're the one who knows where he can be found." Her gaze shifts for the first time, to the side, down, beyond, indicative of a place beyond this lavish office, and back again. Determined. "I'd like to see him." It would seem, without any work in front of him, Dr. Miles could appear at a loss. But his hands lay without need of fidgeting; his dark, consuming, watch on Maggie is unrelenting. He gives as good as he gets from the detective. "Ah, yes. That unfortunate business," comes the comment on reminder of the recent settlement. "Hopefully now it will be put to some good."

His gaze does not exactly intensify on her searching, requests. Though some further wrinkles consume his narrow eyes, he betrays no additional reaction but a devotion to hear her out. Fingers curling around each other, deliberate, calculating motions of folding, he rests on planted elbows. His regard has become that of an authority, contemplating and then doling out the law. "I'm unhappy to say that Laurence is not in a place to receive visitors at this time."

"He's here, isn't he— " Maggie asserts, taking a step closer to the man's all-important desk. Her hands are jarred out of her pockets and swing stiffly to her sides. Again, her gaze moves off the psychiatrist, this time making it all the way over her shoulder to the door before it returns, pointed by her increasingly evident need-to-know and, for a moment, suspicion. " — here or somewhere like here." Legitimate curiosity washes over Dr. Miles from the detective; that, rather than accusation, paints her question: "What harm could possibly come from him having visitors?" she asks, trying, attentively, to work out this logic.

"He's in a very tentative mental state," levels Dr. Miles, his fingers readjusting only once and without agitation. It isn't readable off his face that he's speaking about his own flesh and blood; the voice, while full-bodied in tone, is clinical in scope. "Visitors from his old life, especially one such as yourself, would only excite him, counteracting any progress so far."

"His old… life— " Maggie, with a downward flicker of her brows, weighs over the Dr. Miles' wording and seems to find it not to her liking. "How would that… counteract— no," she determines, gesturing with one hand and a quick movement of her red sleeve, "how is that a bad thing." Though she seems impassioned on this point, Maggie's words slow down, even out, posed sensibly. "I'm not… a psychiatrist, and I'm not looking for a psych profile on … your son, Dr. Miles, but…"

But … she's quite willing to have a different opinion on Laurie than that of the renowned mind doctor.

"I know that if he's here— he didn't want to be. He'll need a reminder that there's more than this. He'll need something good." Maggie's hand falls slowly from the air; she smiles once, a brief brightness between complete seriousness before she rationally implores of Dr. Miles, suggesting, "Let me see him once. If it somehow … sets … him back? I'll go. I'll wait."

A trace of a nod — old life — with none of Maggie's prejudices. Bringing his head in, Dr. Miles lets his mouth tap several times to the top knuckles of his folded hands; already, he scripts an answer to her unfinished questions. Perceived naivety earns the detective more patience, and the hints of upturn around the edges of his mouth that suggest a smile without giving one. People's minds might fill in the blank where his expression doesn't quite make.

"No, he won't." He corrects her amiably, and nonjudgmental. "You see, Maggie, revisiting past interactions, such as with yourself, reverts behavior — whether conscious or not — and tempts our patient to indulge in old habits, thought patterns…" A crisp shake of his head, mouth pulling. His hands separate to cup in holding around either side of his face. "If there was any good back then, it is far too embroiled in the mind with the delusions. No, no," his hands fall to the pattern of a second shake of the head — again, deliberate; the impression becomes that he makes the gesture more for her than any inclination of his. "He may not want to be here, but many do not recognize what they need. Especially not at first. Some day he'll come to see it… and I am prepared should he not."

"However," now the mouth dips again, forming several notes of approval without truly confining itself to a state. "As you were the one to bring this to our attention — you asked to see him? I can arrange that. However — you will not be able to speak. I'll inform the nurse."

Dr. Miles is eyed, at length, for each of his answers: every gesture and every impression of one. Maggie's gaze is on its way to hardening, and after her stand-still pause at the end of his statement, it's solid; sharp; she's not content. But through this, she nods once, one little curt bob of her head, and she, too, hints at a smile without a smile actually showing itself — polite as she can be while eyeing the psychiatrist in such a way. Inform the nurse; she'll take what she can get.

Once skepticism flashes in the eyes of the detective, as it does now, however, it's hard to dull the spark. That her opinions on these matters should mean less than that of the successful psychiatrist in front of her doesn't seem to put a damper on her speaking them; only slows her down for a moment. "Miles is … many … things," she begins to pose politely; her doubt shows through, "but … delusional?"

"Gets it from his mother," laments the father, by giving the impression of doing so, "He was really rather irresponsibly affected when she passed." With his hand on the phone, but delayed in dialing, he holds the receiver against his shoulder in rest. "These are lesser symptoms we're seeing so far, but we are armed enough for the signs here. Especially self-harm in the broad spectrum he was displaying. He might as well have been shouting it— Hold, please— " nodding that she exhibit patience, he depresses buttons for the extension, ringing up a station below.

On the answer, "Yes, it's Dr. Miles. I have a visitor here to be taken to see Laurence … — no, leave him there; she'll only be looking in. Yes. Thank you."

Phone drops into its holster, Dr. Miles' hand giving it a satisfied pat before returning to the other. "Now then," he describes, with the same cool allowance, light; polite, "We have a couple of minutes if you'd like to get any of the rest of that off your mind."

With a flicker, Maggie's eyes narrow right around "irresponsibly affected" and remain such; this dubious, sharp-eyed expression — critical — is still what greets Dr. Miles after the phone call. She opens her mouth in what begins as incredulity, leaning toward a question; she clamps it shut. Slightly rushed politeness and the brief, tight smile to match have Maggie saying only, "I— no, thank you, if it's all the same I'm going to wait in the hall…" And so she does; or so that's the plan. She regards Dr. Miles a quick moment longer, turns, and heads to wait for that nurse with the rest of what's on her mind staying there.

That mere notion of a comment reads as if a whole sentence to Dr. Miles, whose noncommittal expressions lean towards amusement, gently wrinkling his eyes; he remains calm, pleasant, and give a languidly accepting nod to Maggie's forced politeness. "Go ahead, my dear," precedes her steps, sounding as much that he's allowed her to go as it was her suggestion. Strings of insinuated puppetry walk the detective out, clinging like cobwebs even after his, "We'll speak next time, perhaps," has ushered her out the door. Perhaps, the perhaps does not sound so meant at all.

Perhaps not, my dear — but the venerated psychiatrist cannot see the exacting arch of Maggie's eyebrows that would say so. Stepping out of the office is like stepping into another world again, and it's not a particularly welcoming one, given its purpose — but once the door closes behind her, she appears faintly relieved to have left Dr. Miles behind. She rolls her shoulders, as if brushing off his presence — the remnants those invisible puppet strings he thinks to be there. She can feel them try to pull.

Rather than wait, stationary, to be led, Maggie takes up an idle stroll down the hallway, her hands in her pockets, her steps slow. Curiosity guides her direction and inches her along a little farther every few moments.

Despite what it's interior might suggest, Dr. Miles' office is not so far separated from the general mill of hospital life. Not that much is there to embody that; every door is kept shut, and all are clearly labeled for their purpose. Classrooms and other offices, supply cabinets. There's another figure loitering at the end of the hall in a white, tie-less robe, staring out of a window done up with irons bars; his fingers curl around this restraint forlornly.

But in a couple of minutes — exactly as the good doctor predicted — there are footsteps from beyond, that turn of the hallway that first led to the office. "Excuse me," comes the sharp insert down the hallway, leaning more like a hey you from the sharp-nosed nurse, "There is no wandering without escort."

Spun straight out of her look down the hall, the harmlessly lurking visitor faces the nurse precisely, her eyes wide in an instant — only in mild, short-lived, blinking surprise, no guilt to be found. "Oh, I'm sorry!" Maggie says, her benign smile flooding with warm with apology; she didn't mean to break a hospital rule. She strides quickly toward the nurse to resolve the escort dilemma. "I didn't intend— I know someone's supposed to take me to see a patient. Laurence Miles…?"

"Harumph," the nurse pronounces quite specifically, too long here to care much who hears her say what, "Are you really? Bein' pretty isn't gonna help you with me, so you can just put that away," she gives a scrub-off wave to Maggie's face — somewhere she can't rightfully reach at her height versus the detective's. "Come on, then, miss no intentions. Your little friend's got himself in the quiet room." She's already by now been leading the way, around sterile halls and now reaching a flight of stairs. It takes some time for her to grasp onto the railing and heave herself, grumbling, down.

Down, and down. One flight past is a peek into a common room — also white — there's peeks of color here and there in patients' arts and crafts, or a couple of childish toys and board games. For the most part, everyone huddles away from everyone else, muttering to themselves or intermittently shouting.
Then down some more; this hallway, while white, has a brush of cold that paints it even duller. Standing at the end to the left, a bodyguard in pale blue scrubs, his hands folded behind his back. He gives no regard but stares, uncaring, ahead.

Maggie, unable to put away her face, is at least bewildered into silence by the nurse. She follows down, down into the depths of the hospital; this faraway section in which Laurie has apparently been confined. Each step further down this hallway brings with it a sort of unease that has Maggie shifting her arms about within her roomy coat. Having kept a few wide paces behind the nurse, she now catches up as she regards the guard and his imitation of a statue. When she speaks again, she's quiet, the way one might speak with a hush while in church. "What exactly is the quiet room?"

"It's just what it sounds like," is the snappy explanation, "For those who need a little time-out." Without further adieu to the room, she swipes a security card — without cord — on a door labeled Observation. Pushing it the first inch with a wizened hand, she eyes Maggie narrowly. "Now, you haven't gone through security so you ain't safe to wander abouts, missy. Not wearing that coat all willy-nilly like. No pass, no wandering. So when you're done, you just hold tight until someone comes to get you." The nurse clearly is not following; she barely even holds the door long enough for it to be caught before she's shuffling off.

The inside holds a familiar setting to the detective at home in a station. This observation room entails only space for a small audience, sans furniture; another bodyguard hovers near one wall, staring with unwavering concentration at another: the fourth wall; it's made, except for the last few feet to the ground, of a shaded plastic. The fake window does not allow glimpses in, but shows an uninterrupted view of the one beyond. Four white walls, a plastic table secured to the floor. And Laurie.

The consultant has made use of the only available item inside the bland room. Lying with his back on the table, his arms wrapped behind his head in support, he is also equipped with a stare — his to the ceiling, as though it were full of stars instead of white endlessness. Both legs bent, one is propped over the other. He could be relaxing anywhere. But in a grey v-neck shirt, lifeless grey slacks — bare feet — and clean-shaven — gone are the goatee and mustache — he's in the hospital's care.

She doesn't see him at first; she's busy catching the door and inching it open enough for her and her security risk of a coat to slip through. She's busy taking in the sight of the observation room and its familiar set-up, glancing at the second body guard and giving him a vague nod of hello, not quite sure whether or not he saw or that he cares about her existence beyond keeping her from breaking a rule.

But then she does see him; she sees him and she's drawn to the glass like a magnet, stepping straight up to it right in the middle. Maggie's smile is almost instantaneous, and for that instant, it's brilliant— before it wavers down to small and unsteady … relieved. Her right hand presses against the glass — lightly, just enough to flatten the highest points of her palm and fingertips against the one-way surface. Her fingers curl and move in random successions as if contemplating making noise, or reaching straight through. Her gaze is much less still than that of the man inside: it's ever-moving, searching, alive.

Once in a while, Laurie's crossed foot bobs. Besides the rise and fall of his chest, it's the singular only movement in the substantially featureless room. No slight noise permeates from Maggie to him; she sees him, but they are separated. A button just below her is to the potential intercom system. Though touching it seems as likely to bring the sharp-nosed nurse down upon her as anything else.

The other eyes in the room glue same as hers: searching, watching, being absolutely sure of movement in a man not moving. This bodyguard is not so still always. He shifts, fidgets once in a while. After there's been quiet for some time, his hands folding and unfolding a few times more in habit than discomfort, he breaks the meditation: "This is— pretty much all he ever does in there. Whenever you're— ready?"

"No— " Maggie answers straight away, then slows, "…not yet— " she says with the calm that would otherwise make her a child asking for a later bedtime, " — another minute." She continues to look in, to watch. It's a strange observatory. Her eyes, with their faint gleam, are acutely empathetic against the odds — she has never been contained in this way — and her smile fades as her watch becomes studying of Laurie's walls.

She glances to her right, trying to look over her shoulder to get the guard's attention again. It doesn't work— that is, she doesn't get that far; she only looks back through the window again, at Laurie. It's momentum, second time's the charm. "What did he do that he has to stay in the quiet room?" she asks over her shoulder. "How long does he have to be in here?"

"Disruptive behavior or other excess is the usual cause," informs the bodyguard easily; his stance loosens some, though he cannot return the courtesy of Maggie's glance. His eyes remain fastened as though permanently on the room through the window. "Duration… is typically until they've settled and can prove they'll behave. In this case— " He gives an open-ended shrug — confused, not wanting to be judging. "Anyway, he's always been fine with me — then again… I wasn't here in the beginning…"

"He looks like he's behaving up to standard…" Maggie comments and, on that note, "Your job must get boring sometimes." You know — essentially the job she's been doing for the last few minutes, staring in so watchfully; hers, granted, a less clinical regard. It's the guard she looks to with interest now rather than the patient — though her hand remains upon the glass, flattening more solidly there. A perceptive glint in her eye for the guard's non-judgmental confusion, she asks, curious — but soft; this isn't an interrogation, even though it looks like one side of an interrogation room, "What's different about this case? What happened in the beginning?"

"He always looks like he's behaving," argues the bodyguard, shifting defensively before forcing it away with several rapid blinks. "Then suddenly you realize he's dancing with somebody, or painting faces instead of canvasses…" Blurs of feelings conflict: amusement, exasperation — that sharp monotony from when you've been reprimanded a few too many times. Then, suddenly, his mouth claps shut. His eyes flicker, hating their post for a second where he wants to stare down Maggie. "Ma'am— you're not a reporter, are you? We've been told to be very careful about reporters at this time."
Smiling in a way that seems almost fond, Maggie seems heartened by the account of Laurie's antics. "I'm not sure I'd call it misbehaving… so much as… just behaving. That sounds like Miles." She glances in for a moment with a little frown; poor guy.

"And no, I'm not a reporter," she informs the guard with a smile over her shoulder. He might not be able to see it in completeness, but her voice is full of calm reassurance. She's less reassured herself when she turns back to look through into Laurie's quiet room and the vague hint of her own reflection, looking back at her and clamping down on an uneasy guilt. "I work at the police department," she explains. "I'm his partner." Except when she technically is not — like now. Maggie slides her hand slowly off the glass and folds her arms, spending a moment with her head down looking at the intercom.

"They're not supposed to touch," the young man explains more openly to Maggie after her identification, his head dipping towards her as if he were to glance that way, but his eyes remaining straight on. Keenly, he's attentive as Laurie stretches his arms out to either side, letting them fall off the not so roomy table. "But every time he gets in here, it's just— well, this." The lying. The staring. "Director says he's testing us and we have to be sharp on, but then again— Director and he got into a huge row that first week. Same time he banged himself up so bad."

Now, the guard's folded arm unwinds, pointing Maggie back to her observance through the plastic. Sure enough, there's faded red marks all up and down those stretched arms. "Police, though, huh… somehow," he squints as ever at the star-gazing quiet room resident, "I'm not sure I see it."

"Yeah…" Maggie says — agrees, in fact, with a touch of knowing amusement. As she looks in on the familiar patient, she shares quietly with the guard: "I didn't either. At first."

She spends the next few moments continuing her watch of the uneventful room, noting the marks along Laurie's arms with a frown and a tip of her head thoughtfully to one side. Ever thinking. Turning, then, to more or less face the guard, she folds her arms behind her along the lower edge of the observation window and leans.

"For the record … he could be testing you… or… he could just be laying there," Maggie informs him lightly, conversational and familiar with the oddity behind the glass, her brows high as she goes on, "he can stay remarkably still for someone who's always in the middle of wandering away. He looks pretty zen in there. I know it's the rules, or what … seems … to be the rules from … the Director, but— " She shrugs and, behind her, makes tiny adjustments: a quiet stretch of one arm there, an exact reach of her fingers there.

The presumed off-limits intercom activates at her covert touch. On her pause, as she holds down the button just out of sight between conversation, nothing but dead air transfers through. The quality of sound beyond the barrier is changed from sheer quiet to expectant quiet before her voice, its echo likely giving her away to the guard, rings through to the other side. It's serene in its opinion, and distinctly hers. "… He shouldn't … have … to be alone."

It's that technological buzzing, inescapable at first button's touch, that drags the guard's eyes finally away from his post of watching the man through the window. A stern, but not unsympathetic, line becomes of his eyebrows. His hand parts in order to gesture briskly upwards in the air; lift, it instructs, get off it. After a longer second, his instruction not held up but replaced by that patient folding in front of him, he speaks the same way he looked: sad in sympathy, apologetically factual. "I'm sorry, ma'am, but— like I said, that's— all he does… I don't think he even knows you're here."

Covert mission statement passed — and, true to the guard's word, Laurie remains in holding pattern. Foot slightly bouncing, arms out to his side, and his eyes passing beyond the white ceiling. The same.

Maggie, looking over her shoulder through to Laurie, gives him a rather critical eye. It turns thoughtful, and the button remains pressed— as if she's contemplating saying something further, despite the words of the guard. Eventully, though, her eyes roll all the way back to the watchful employee, and she complies without argument — she lifts off the intercom slowly, the technological noise fading, the last of her words caught in the intercom, "Well, he will," she says, distant even besides drifting through the speaker. For the most part, she seems to bypass the sympathy given to her; she doesn't react, she doesn't respond. Her voice now only for the guard, she asks, polite, pleasant, despite her little transgression seconds ago, "Do I wait for the nurse to come back now, or…"

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