Dr. ZACK Scarlatto’s dreams of an easy life practising psychiatry among the rich and eccentric in Mexico City are abruptly shattered when he gets caught in the middle of a hit on a Mexican drug cartel from within their own territory. Until now, Zack has enjoyed the benefits of having minor connections within the cartel, not the least of which is an introduction to the sexy and irresistible MARIA, step-daughter of the cartel leader, SALAZAR.
But the organization has been betrayed from within, and Zack decides that it would be prudent to return to the United States and take up the position he has been offered at the Sean O’Flanagan Medical Centre in San Diego.
Before he leaves, however, he reaches out to his treasured Maria, and tries to convince her to come with him to the relative safety of the U.S.A. But the two of them are soon attacked—by Salazar’s own men. And Zack realizes that he is more connected than he ever wanted to be.
It seems the same traitor, this quisling who has ratted out Salazar’s organization to the feds, saved Maria from her step-father’s clutches years ago, and now she is returning the favour. Maria knows where the quisling, CARLOS, is hiding, and Salazar is furious over this personal betrayal.
Without a word to Zack, Maria vanishes, and doesn’t show up for their planned rendezvous. Dejected, Zack leaves Maria and his life in Mexico behind, but not without a feeling of subtle relief that it may be for the better.
At home in the U.S., Zack has plenty of his own troubles to occupy his time. The psychiatric ward that he has been assigned to is a wreck: understaffed and hygienically unkempt, with patients that show signs of abuse and a director that is described as, at best, despicably negligent and depraved. Zack intends to make some changes, most notably who shall sit in the director’s chair.
With these aspirations in mind, Zack sets forth to undermine his superior, using whatever allies come his way: the Chief of Medicine’s recently disfigured wife; a local influential businessman suffering from bipolar disorder; a young, sexually abused anorexic on suicide watch; and a city councillor who has been trying to sue the hospital for the past year.
But the cartel isn’t willing to forget about Zack so easily, and San Diego isn’t as safe a place for him as he thought. Salazar’s men are out to get him, because Maria is still alive, fully involved, it seems, in Carlos the quisling’s plans—and she was last seen with Zack.
Although fearing for his life, Zack can’t get Maria out of his mind. So when she shows up in San Diego, the offer she makes him is one he cannot refuse: she will stay here, with him, provided he can get Carlos out of the country to start a new identity. For Zack has made it no secret that his best friend in med school has become a world-renowned plastic surgeon in England—who specializes in facial reconstruction.
And so, despite the attacks against him growing more violent and claiming the lives of those around him, Zack does everything he can to aid Maria and Carlos. But Zack is torn in his priorities: the psych ward is finally turning around. Zack has the political support of the Chief of Medicine and city council, financial backing for a new, restored psychiatric wing, and, best of all, the wing’s profligate director finally out of the way.
In the wake of this, Zack finds himself questioning Maria’s devoutly loyal connection to Carlos, and if the ‘perfect’ future he had pictured for them together can ever really be as he envisioned it.
The night of Carlos’ departure arrives, but Salazar’s men have been tipped off to his presence, and Salazar himself decides to make an appearance and deal with this quisling once and for all. Out of his depth in a gunfight, Zack still manages to keep his cool and hold his own, exacting his revenge on the men who have infused his recent life with death and violence. Maria ends the threat of Salazar for both herself and her beloved Carlos, and Zack finally sees what he has been denying this whole time: that Maria’s heart has only ever belonged to Carlos, and only ever will.
And so he lets her go, knowing now that he can finally be free from the cartel to focus on the new priority in his life: the psych ward.
A Brief Note on Mr. Vidkun Quisling
Vidkun Quisling (1887-1945) was a military officer and politician in Norway before the Second World War. He became a close collaborator with Nazi Germany during the war. After Norway was invaded by Germany in 1940, he became the Prime Minister of the Norwegian government, but as a puppet of Hitler, known as “The Quisling Regime”.
In 1945, after the war, Quisling was tried for embezzlement, the murder of many Jews, and high treason for collaboration with Germany. Found guilty, he was executed by firing squad in October, 1945. The word “quisling”, often used by Churchill after the war, became synonymous with “collaborator,” “traitor,” and “rat fink” in many languages.