The Brookhaven Exchange
Gilded letters above manicured flowerbeds belie the purpose of the “Brookhaven Facility.” No place on Earth could be more peaceful on the outside, yet chaos-filled within.
Evaluating the criminally insane isn’t my forté, but I have the least seniority of any Social Services psychologist on staff. Therefore, I am the one staring into the security camera at the facility’s ominous wrought iron gate as a static-laden New York accent intones over the loudspeaker, “Name and purpose of visit?”
I place my department badge on the reader and smile politely. “Jeremy Walker – Vic Demint interview.”
A short delay precedes the whir of motors and screeching hinges as the gate opens, and the crackling voice adds, “See the Building Six guard.” Odd – Vic is normally in Building One.
The Building Six guard checks the roster of expected visitors, requests additional picture identification, records my arrival time, and briefs me on security procedures – Vic is now in isolation, separated from all others by a Plexiglas wall. “What’d he do this time?”
The guard shrugs and leads me to a cell in the basement – if he knows, he isn’t saying. The hardback visitors chair screeches across the raw concrete floor, as I drag it near the plastic wall. Vic is strapped to steel chair on the other side but ignores me completely. It’s part of our monthly ritual – he pretends to be in his own little world, and I pretend to give a shit. I casually pull out my pad and pen before beginning. “Hello, Vic. How’d you score a private room?”
His eyes dart nervously around his cell, as if expecting something terrifying to leap from the padded wall or slip into his body through his electronic monitor, but they eventually target me, waiting patiently for a reply. “If I’d known the horror here, I wouldn’t have let my fucking lawyer plead me insane!”
I can’t imagine why the bastard puts on this show. He requested his death sentence be carried out, but the court considered him too unstable to make the decision for himself. That’s why I’m here, but it’s all smoking mirrors – they never kill anyone. In time they’ll forget about him and he’ll die of old age here, or they’ll set him free.
I shudder at the thought, but all I can do is file monthly reports. I know him better than he knows himself – there’ll be no recommendation of leniency from me. “What’s the matter, Vic, no flat screen? No filets? No virgins to ravage?”
A bead of drool slips from the edge of his contorted mouth and oozes down his chin. He doesn’t like me any more than I like him and he strains against his restraints to get at me. Blood vessels swell across his forehead, until he finally shouts through saliva froth gathering on his lips. “Fuck you asshole! You think you know everything but don’t know shit. They told me what to do but won’t leave me alone!”
Despite the Plexiglas, I instinctively wince back from his spittle spray, and then jot “volatile and animated” in my log before looking up with indifference. “The apparitions?”
Tears momentarily well in his eyes, but his manipulative antics don’t fool me. “I can’t talk about them – they’ll tear my throat out!”
“Like they did to Charlie Watson, your high school chum?” I let the word “chum” linger, fishing for a reaction. When the police finally responded to the screams, they found Vic chewing on Charlie’s larynx.
“He knew them! I saw fear in his eyes, smelled its rancid odor in his sweat.”
Being near this creep would make me sweat fear, too. He’s a damn convincing actor, but I don’t believe he’s crazy – just mean as hell. Too bad the judge bought into his load of crap, or he’d be long dead and I wouldn’t be making these stupid reports.
Vic’s eyes resume darting about the room like those of a trapped animal; his demons must be appearing, or so he’d have me believe. I sigh loudly to mock his performance, and add, “Are they visiting now?”
Even in the basement’s deathly quiet, I can barely hear his reply. “They’re whispering messages of the damned – they want you to hear.”
He’s so goddamned convincing I strain against the silence, finally shrugging and apathetically shaking my head, but Vic becomes even more agitated. “Listen, fool! Listen!”
He glares menacingly, and I scowl back, annoyed that I’ve been suckered and prepared for a barrage of expletives. Instead, his eyes roll slowly upward until two white orbs stare at me, and a chorus of voices drift from his throat. “Beautiful women will serve you. Fulfill your desires! Find strength in their suffering!”
The message makes me nauseous. Vic’s prey were forced to serve him painfully before he violently slaughtered them, and that fleeting thought slithers down my spine, causing goose bumps to ripple across my skin. Revisiting mental imagery of his sacrifices, I suppress the urge to gag, but my breath is ripped from my lungs before I can erase them from my mind, as if a powerful vacuum covers my mouth.
I struggle to breathe, fighting impending unconsciousness, when, in my enveloping darkness, I notice several apparitions circling Vic. The moment I spot them they stop dead in their tracks, turn in unison, and rush at me with blazing speed.
A spot of urine seeps through my jeans, but a distant shriek terminates my paralysis before I totally wet myself. I lurch hard against the back of the chair, gasping for breath. Did I see dark blotches during an anxiety attack … or apparitions? Was there a scream … or just Vic’s monitor, now droning a steady tone of death?
My eyes rivet on Vic – he’s no longer fighting his restraints. His head has fallen to one side and his bluish lips are distorted into an evil oval. My chair slams to the floor as I leap for the emergency call button, but a chorus of raspy voices stop me cold, “Now, Jeremy, you are ours!”