My right arm stretched out along the bedrail as I perched on the doctor's examination stool.

My right arm stretched out along the bedrail as I perched on the doctor's examination stool.

Wrapping my left leg around the uncomfortable straight chair I used for a leaning post, I rested my chin in my right palm while my elbow found a home on the inside of my knee.

No one would get through the door as I held a vigil over my aunt.

Marian's change in medication had convinced her that people were trying to kill her.

"Go ahead and rest," I said, patting the shoulder of my late father's sister-in-law. "I'll stand guard."

The fear in her eyes immediately disappeared and was replaced by relief.

"I'm not afraid of the devil himself," I said. "Nobody gets past me."

Her blue eyes glittered with humor. "I know," she said.

It was my turn to experience humor; a wicked laugh jarred around in the pit of my stomach as I valiantly stifled it.

A male friend recently described me as "intense." It was a polite term for how most people view me, but then, I do not care if people like me or not.

Marian and I have never been close, although her daughter, Vicki, is like a sister to me. Despite our lack of bonding in the past, Marian knows me well.

When I give my word, I plan to keep it.

I have little tolerance for others, which makes me the perfect candidate for guard duty. And above and beyond all other traits, I am loyal.

The claddagh -- representing loyalty, friendship and love -- best suits me. I give none of these traits easily, but when they are offered, it is generally for life.

Assassins, albeit imaginary, cannot come between me and my family.

I never determined if that strong sense of loyalty comes from my Irish father or my Irish-Indian mother. It is probably a combination of the two, since both were fiercely loyal.

Even in her delusional state, Marian knew that I would not let harm come to my family. She leaned back against the pillow and slipped into semi-consciousness.

Vicki curled up in another of the uncomfortable chairs, stretching her legs into the one I leaned against, and covered her head with a hooded jacket to catch some sleep. I flipped off the light switch and an audible sigh came from beneath the hoodie.

For the next five or 10 minutes, they slept for the first time in three days.

Marian became convinced on Tuesday that thieves, who allegedly stole jewelry and other items from her house, were angry because 22 or 24 of them were jailed. The rage inside the imaginary thieves brought them back in droves, but this time it was to steal her life.

Vic took her to a lodge, thinking that the isolation would help Marian feel protected.

After about three hours, Marian was convinced they had been found.

Vic then took her to the nearest city and they holed up in a hotel

Each time Vic tried to drift off to sleep, Marian shook the bed. She was not about to let her daughter doze as assassins slipped quietly into the room.

When Vic finally reached my mother and me, she was in the second of three Walmart parking lots. Her goal was to get Marian to a hospital in a community where neither was known. The problem was, the assassins had gained access to the car, according to Marian.

My mother and I were worried that Marian might think Vic was in cahoots with the assassins and attack her while she was driving. We also knew Vic was operating on 20 minutes of sleep over a course of three days.

"Tell her I'm on my way," I said as Mom spoke to Vic on a borrowed phone.

I could see the relief on my cousin's face as I walked through the emergency room doors.

The mother and daughter were barely asleep when a nurse barged up to the doorway. She could not get all the way into the room, because I stopped her.

"Were you asleep?" she said in a loud, accusing voice as Vic jumped up with a start.

"They haven't slept in three days," I said in the harshest tone I have used for a while.

Marian sprang to life, telling the nurse of the people trying to kill her. I scowled at the woman who disrupted their slumber.

Vic stepped outside the door to keep the conversation low.

"Lie back now," I said. "She is not getting in here without showing her credentials."

"You know they sometimes use fake credentials," Marian said.

"Well, if I don't know them personally, none of the doctors or nurses is coming into this room," I said, knowing full well that I did not know a soul on staff.

Marian leaned back and resumed her sleep.

When Vic finished, she headed to the car to catch a few minutes of sleep. The nurse would return in about 20 minutes to let her know if Marian was being admitted.

"Call me," she said. "Don't leave Mom. I don't know what she will do if I am not here."

"I won't leave her," I said.

Thirty minutes later, the nurse poked her head in the door and looked around for Vic.

"Where is she?" she asked.

"She went to the car to try and get some sleep," I growled. "She hasn't slept in three days and you people are doing nothing to help the situation."

She started to pass on information from the doctor.

"Don't tell me," I said. "I am only the niece. You need to talk to her daughter."

I picked up my cell phone to dial Vic, but I had no service.

"You don't have service in this part of the building?" I asked.

"No, you will have to go out and get her," she said.

"No, you will have to go out and get her," I said. "I need to stay here and guard my aunt."

I told her what Vic's car looked like and where it was parked. The nurse looked dazed, but she could tell that I took my duties seriously and there was no room for compromise.

"That'll teach her," Marian said.

I turned to see the sneer on her face.

"It's OK," I said, easing her back into the bed. "Those killers aren't getting past me."

Vic came into the room shortly after that and told me that they were going to admit her mother to another hospital.

Marian came up with a plan to cover herself with a sheet so the killers would think she was dead as she was wheeled to the ambulance.

"You can head home now, if you want," Vic said.

"My job is to drive you home because you cannot drive that far without sleep," I said.

"Don't let 'em get her," Marian said, intent that my new ward was Vic.

"Don't worry, Aunt Marian," I said. "I won't let anything happen to Vic."

"Good," she said, closing her eyes as a look of peace crossed her face.

Defending insanity is not an easy job, but I do it well.

Cathy Wogan is a staff writer for ThisWeek.

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