Don’t Panic: A Short Story

His shiny black eyes stared up at her from her lap as she admired his permanent red smile. Fingering his tiny overalls, she pictured the little ones’ faces, pressed against the icy windowpanes, waiting for her to arrive with another basket of her lifelike, homemade gifts. She put the last strand of hair was in place. As she inserted the needle to tie a knot, doll lurched in her hand, and a high-pitched voice yelled, “That hurt!”

She stared at the doll squirming in her hand. Okay don’t panic, she thought. The Doctor said this could happen. This is not real. The doll grabbed the needle and stabbed her leg. She jumped up, dropping the doll to the floor. She watched in disbelief as the doll ran into her bedroom. Well, I certainly felt that. She lifted up her dress and saw a small drop of blood where the needle stuck her. She touched her finger to the drop of blood and then put her finger into her mouth. It tastes like blood. I need to renew the prescription.

She walked toward the bedroom to get her jacket. She never saw the lamp cord strung ankle high across the doorway. She tripped and fell forward, striking her head on the corner of her dresser and landing on the floor unconscious.


Chief Williams flashed his badge at the officer at the door and walked inside. He saw detective Sam talking to a young woman in the living room. Sam looked up and came over to greet him. “What have we got, Sam?” Chief Williams asked.

“I think we have a suicide, but you won’t believe it. Take a look and then let me explain.”

Sam gestured toward the bedroom and both men walked over to the door.

“Brace yourself!” Sam said. You ain’t seen no suicide like this.”

Chief Williams entered the room. On the floor was a young woman laying on her back. A plastic bag was over her head and tied around her neck with a lamp cord. One of her arms was tied by the wrist to a leg of her bed with a cord while the other arm was tied to her dresser. All around the body lay pint-sized homemade dolls. The Chief looked at Sam, “She’s tied up.”

“I know Chief, but I have seen it before. She made a loop like a noose on one cord and tied it to the bed. Then when she was ready, she tied the other hand, lay down and slipped her wrist through the loop. Once pulled tight, she couldn’t untie it. That way if she panicked, she couldn’t chicken out. Check the knot on her right wrist. It’s a slip knot.”

Chief Williams bent down to exam the knot. Then he glanced over to the young woman’s face.

“Damn!” he exclaimed and stepped back.

“That’s the part I was warning you about,” said Sam.

“Are her lips sewn together?”

“Yeah, like a voodoo head or something. Her nose too. The sewing needle’s still attached. That alone would have killed her. The plastic bag was just an extra measure.”

“And you consider this a suicide?” asked the Chief.

“Yeah. The woman in the other room is her sister. She said the vic was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia, so she called her every day. When she did not get an answer for twenty-four hours, she called the police. She IDed the body.”

The Chief ordered one of the officers, “Check the medicine cabinets. See what she was taking.” Turning back toward Sam, “What else?”

“No sign of forced entry. The door was locked and bolted from the inside. We cannot find any other fingerprints except for the vic’s. Also no sign of a struggle. No sign of sexual assault.”

“Any note?”

“Nope. We checked her e-mails too. Her sister thinks it was suicide.”

An officer strode over and handed the Chief a hand full of pill bottles. The Chief examined the bottles. “No. No. Ah Ha!” Holding up two bottles for Sam to see, “Olanzapine and fluoxetine! Commonly used for the treatment of schizophrenia. Both empty.”

“How did you know that?” Sam asked.

“I just know things,” the Chief said, handing the bottles back to the uniformed officer. “Call the pharmacy and find out if she called in a subscription. But why go to all the trouble of sewing your mouth and nose shut? That had to be painful. Wouldn’t it be easier just to overdose with pills?”

“But if she was hallucinating maybe she did not feel the pain.”

“Could be. Keep checking for clues that someone else was here.”

“Chief!” called an officer from the phone, “The pharmacy says she called in a refill four days ago but never picked it up.”

“Thanks.” Then half aloud, “She ran out of her meds.” The Chief walked over and stood over the body to examine one of the dolls. The doll looked at him and said, “What are you looking at, fat boy?”

The chief picked up the doll and put it into his coat pocket. Okay, don’t panic. The doctor said this might happen occasionally. It is just a hallucination. Forgot to take my meds this morning, that’s all.


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