THE WOMAN SEATED BEFORE ME HAD PAIN AND SADNESS ETCHED deeply into her face. Her eyes were dark and hollow; her gray-brown hair tired and stiff. The corners of her mouth were fixed in a dry frown. She had the look of a frightened, skittish animal, betrayed and immensely fragile. She appeared on the verge of lunging for the door, poised to make a run for it before uttering a word. Watching her as she fidgeted with the papers on her lap, struggling to maintain her composure, I felt an air of uneasy tension settling in between us.

A few years earlier, Joan Hangarter had everything going for her. She had a successful chiropractic practice; two great kids; a nice house in upscale and comfortable Novato in Marin County, ...

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