Chapter 15 – Sunday, August 7th
We all stared at Liz, waiting for the rest of the story.
Eric was a high-level administrator at the big medical center in town. And by high-level, I mean pretty much the highest. Like CEO.
There was a reason Liz was able to devote forty hours a week to her church – her small salary was pocket change.
"You can't stop there," Sam said. "You gotta tell us the rest."
Liz closed her eyes, sighed, and slumped in her chair, shaking her head. "It's absolutely awful. I mean, I can hardly believe it."
"Come on, Liz," I said, "you have to tell us more."
She nodded, but it wasn't a strong nod. "We should clean up, first."
Cleaning up took all of nine minutes. I'd gone to town on paper products – plates, utensils, – so all we really had to do was toss everything in the trash, wash some milk glasses, and wipe the dining room table.
When we were done, we went into the living room, where Liz dropped right onto the floor, lying on her stomach with her face buried in her arms.
Her shoulders were shaking and I thought she was crying again.
But when she rolled over, her eyes were dry.
She sat up and scooted toward the couch, leaned her back against it and curled her legs to her chest, wrapping her arms around them.
It was the pose she'd always taken when confessing some big-girl secret to me and Melanie, when she was going to impart 'important, life-changing information' to her little sisters. Like when she was fourteen and Mel was eleven, and I was ten, and the topic was how parents really make babies.
"Spill it," I said, mostly because I knew she was going to.
She sighed. "The story sort of ends with me bailing Eric out of jail, so I'm just trying to figure out where it starts. Maybe with Eric's son getting sick. He didn't even tell me any of that part until this morning, but his middle son, Jacob, has always struggled with depression, and every few years he tries to commit suicide."
Huh. That was news to me. Eric, apparently, has all kinds of secrets. But while I was feeling insulted about being kept in the dark, Elizabeth was still talking. "So last week Jacob took a month's worth of his meds, got real lethargic, and ended up in the emergency room, drinking charcoal until he started puking and shitting himself, and eventually getting transferred to inpatient psych."
"Like my inpatient psych?" Melanie asked.
Liz nodded. "Yeah. But not the easy unit you were on."
Melanie rolled her eyes. "Yeah, like I started out on the easy unit. Come on, you know better."
"My story, right?" Liz said.
"Yeah, okay." Melanie agreed.
"I don't know all the details," Liz went on. "But I guess we can assume Eric was under a fair amount of stress." She raised her eyebrows and shrugged, and I almost laughed.
"He went to visit his son and have a family meeting. You know, like we had with Joe. And he didn't do it the way we do when we visit Mel, either. He let himself onto the unit with his security badge."
"So he basically snuck onto the unit?" I said.
"Well…" her mouth twisted into a wry smile. "He does have security access, you know, so maybe he didn't think on it too hard. I don't know. Whether it was appropriate or not, that's what happened. Jacob turned on him during the family meeting, blamed all his failures on Eric, said he wasn't present even when he was home, always obsessed with work, reading reports, researching processes at other hospitals, and, especially after the divorce, the only time Eric showed Jacob that he gave a shit was after Jacob tried to commit suicide. So Jacob told Eric to get the fuck out and just forget about him, since that's pretty much what Eric did most of the time anyway."
"Ouch," Josie said. "Can you imagine? I mean, there were so many of us, but we never had to do anything extreme to get attention."
"Eric stormed out of the meeting, let himself off the unit, and was going to go back to his office. But then he thought of something important he wanted to say to Jacob, which, hysterically, he can't remember now, so he turned around and went back."
"Obviously that was a bad idea." Sam, being a smart-ass.
Liz frowned at him. "Who's telling this story, anyway?"
I was distracted for a minute, remembering… something mom journaled, about Eric seeming nice and fine and upstanding, but that she always thought he was evasive, maybe even shady, but she couldn't put her finger on it. Just the fact that he never talked all that much. I couldn't remember exactly.
Liz was still relaying the minutia of Eric's thought process, using his badge to let himself back into the locked unit, storming down the hall (okay, so whatever he'd planned to say to Jacob couldn't have been all that nice), and barging into Jacob's room.
Where he found Jacob's roommate having sex with someone.
He backed out of the room, letting the door swing shut again, and stood in the hallway in shock.
I imagined the scene, and almost started laughing. All I could picture was Eric's round owl eyes even rounder behind his glasses, steam on the lenses even, hair standing on end, and Eric speechless the way Liz had been when Silas announced he was gay.
But that's not what happened, according to Liz.
What happened was that mild-mannered, administrative big-wig Eric Peoples flipped right the fuck out.
Now, understandably, he'd been under a "fair amount of strain," or whatever, as Liz had so delicately phrased it.
But an assault charge? Liz didn't explain how that came about.
She didn't get a chance.