"Hiya, docky!" a silver-haired woman in a bright blue
shift, Adidas sneakers and a headband called out, marching along
the corridor toward him. Her face was a mass of wrinkles, her
lips rubbery and daubed with crimson lipstick. "You come to
see me today?"
"Not today, Margie. Sorry."
"Shit! Docky, I need a bridge partner! Everybody's crazy up
here!" Margie looked long and hard at Kay Douglas.
"Who's this? Your girlfriend?"
"No. Just ... a friend," he said, to simplify things.
"Red hair on the head don't exactly mean red hair on the
pussy," Margie warned, and Kay's face flushed to a similar
hue. A gaunt, elderly man dressed immaculately in a pinstriped
suit, white shirt and tie strode up, making a low grunting noise
in his throat. "Stop that shit, Ritter!" Margie
demanded. "Nobody wants to hear your 'gator
Other people were approaching from up and down the corridor. Kay
retreated a pace, and heard the elevator doors hiss shut at her
back. She looked over her shoulder, noting that the elevator on
this floor had no button, but was summoned by a key.
"Now you're caught!" Margie said to her, with a crooked
smile. "Just like us!"
"Ain't nobody said we was gonna have us a parade this
mornin'!" a mighty voice boomed. "Give Doc Shannon room
to breathe, now!" A husky black nurse with white hair,
massive girth and legs like dark logs moved toward Jack and Kay.
Ritter gave her one more throaty grunt, like an alligator's love
song, and then obeyed the nurse.
"Docky's come up to see me today, Rosalee!" Margie
protested. "Don't be rude!"
"He ain't come up to see nobody on our ward," Rosalee
told her. The black woman had gray eyes, set in a square and
rugged face. "He's got other business."
"What other business?"
"Rosalee means Dr. Shannon's on his way to see the new
arrival," said a younger man. He sat in a chair across the
corridor, turned to face the elevator. "You know. The crazy
"Watch your mouth, Mr. Chambers," Rosalee said curtly.
"There are ladies present."
"Women, yeah. Ladies, I'm not so sure." He was in his
mid-thirties, wore faded jeans and a blue-checked shirt with
rolled-up sleeves, and he took a draw on a cigarette and plumed
smoke into the air. "You a lady, miss?" he asked Kay,
staring at her with dark brown, deep-socketed eyes.
She met his gaze. The man had a brown crewcut and the grizzle of
a beard, and he might have been handsome but for the boniness of
his face and those haunted eyes. "I've been told so."
she answered, and her voice only quavered a little bit.
"Yeah?" he grinned wolfishly. "Well. . . somebody
"Show some respect now, Mr. Chambers." Rosalee
cautioned. "We want to be courteous to our visitors, and all
those who don't care to be courteous might have their smokin'
privileges yanked. Got it?" She stood, hands on huge hips,
waiting for a response.
He regarded the cigarette's burning end for a few seconds in
silence. Then, grudgingly: "Got it."
"How're you feeling today, Dave?" Jack asked, glad the
little drama had been resolved. "You still have
"Uh huh. One big fat black bitch of a headache."
"Out." Rosalee's voice was low this time, and Jack knew
she meant business. "Put your cigarette out, Mr.
He puffed on it, still grinning.
"I said put the cigarette out, please sir." She stepped
toward him. "I won't ask you again."
One last long draw, and Dave Chambers let the smoke leak through
his nostrils. Then he opened his mouth and popped the burning
butt inside. Kay gasped as the man's throat worked.
A little whorl of smoke escaped from between his lips. "That
suit you?" he asked the nurse.
"Yes, thank you." She glanced at Kay. "Don't fret,
ma'am. He does that trick all the time. Puts it out with his spit
before he swallers it."
"Better than some of the pigshit they give you to eat around
this joint," Dave said, drawing his legs up to his chest. He
wore scuffed brown loafers and white socks.
"I think I'd like some water." Kay walked past Rosalee
to a water fountain. A small woman with a bird's-nest of orange
hair followed beside her like a shadow, and Kay tried very hard
not to pay any attention. Foster had told her Marbury Memorial's
mental ward was a rough place, full of county cases and
understaffed as well, but he'd voiced his confidence that she
could handle the task. She was twenty-eight years old, fresh from
a legal practice in south Alabama, and it was important to her
that she fit in at Foster's office. She'd only been on the job
for two months, and she presumed this was another one of the
public defender's tests; the first test, not three weeks ago, had
involved counting the bullet holes in a bloated, gassy corpse
dredged up from the bottom of Logan Martin lake.
"Good water. Yum yum," the woman with orange hair said,
right in her ear, and Kay gurgled water up her nose and dug
frantically in her purse for a tissue.
"Dr. Cawthorn's already in there." Rosalee nodded
toward the white door, way down at the end of the hallway. At
this distance the doorway seemed to float in the air, framed
between white walls and white ceiling. "Been there for maybe
"Has he pulled the boy out of containment yet?" Jack
"Doubt it. Wouldn't do that without you and the lawyer
there. She is a lawyer, ain't she?"
"Thought so. Got the lawyer's look about her. Anyways, you
know how Dr. Cawthorn is. Probably just sittin' in there,
"We're late. We'd better go in."
Margie grasped at his sleeve. "Docky, you watch out for that
fella. Saw his face when they brung him in. He'll shoot rays out
of his eyes and kill you dead, I swear to God he will."
"I'll remember that, thanks." He pulled gently free,
and gave Margie a composed smile that was totally false. His guts
had begun to chum, and his hands were icy. "Who's on
security?" he asked Rosalee.
"Gil Moon's on the door. Bobby Crisp's on desk duty."
"Good enough." He glanced back to make sure Kay was
ready to go. She was wiping her nose with a tissue and trying to
get away from the small orange-haired woman everyone knew as
'Kitten'. He started for the door, with Rosalee at his side and
Kay lagging behind.
"Better not go in there. Dr. Shannon!" Dave Chambers
warned. "Better stay away from that crazy fucker!"
"Sorry. It's my job," he answered.
"Fuck the job, man. You've only got one life."
Jack didn't reply. He passed the nurse's desk, where Mrs. Marion
and Mrs. Stewart were on duty, and continued on toward the door.
It seemed to be coming up much too fast. The documents and
photographs in his satchel emerged from memory with startling
clarity, and almost hobbled him. But he was a
psychiatrist—a very good one, according to his
credentials—and had worked with the criminally insane many
times before. This ought not to bother him. Ought not to.
Determining whether a person was fit to stand trial or not was
part of his job, and in that capacity he'd seen many things that
were distasteful. But this . . . this was different. The
photographs, the circumstances, the plain white house with
burglar bars inside the windows . . . very different, and deeply
The white door was there before he was ready for it. He pressed a
button on the wall and heard the buzzer go off inside. Through
the square of glass inset in the door. Jack watched Gil Moon
approach and take the proper key from the ring at his belt. Gil,
a barrel-chested man with close-cropped gray hair and eyes as
droopy as a hound's, nodded recognition and slid the key into the
lock. At the same time, Rosalee Partain put her own key into the
second lock. They disengaged with gunshot cracks, so loud they
made Kay jump. Steady! she told herself. You're supposed to be a
professional, so by God you'd better act like one!
The door, made of wood over metal, was pulled open. Gil said,
"Mornin', Dr. Shannon. Been expectin' you."
"Have fun," Rosalee said to Kay, and the nurse relocked
the door on her side after Gil had pushed it shut again.
He locked his side. "Dr. Cawthorn's down in the conference
room. Howdy do, miss."
"Hello," she said uneasily, and she followed Jack
Shannon and the attendant along a green tile-floored corridor
with locked doors on each side. The light was fluorescent and
harsh, and at the corridor's end was a single barred window that
faced gray woods. A slender young black man, wearing the same
white uniform as Gil Moon, sat behind a desk at the corridor's
midpoint; he'd been reading a Rolling Stone magazine and
listening to music over headphones, but he stood up as Shannon
approached. Bobby Crisp had large, slightly protuberant dark
brown eyes and wore a gold pin in his right nostril. "Hi,
Dr. Shannon," he said, glanced quickly at the red-haired
woman and gave her a nod of greeting.
"Morning, Bobby. How goes it?"
"It goes," he answered, with a shrug. "Just
floating between the worms and the angels, I guess."
"Guess so. Are we all set up?"
"Yes sir. Dr. Cawthorn's waiting in there." He motioned
toward the closed door marked Conference. "Do you want
Clausen out of containment now?"
"Yes, that'd be fine. Shall we?" Jack moved to the
conference room, opened it and held it for Kay.
Inside, there was gray carpet on the floor and pine paneling on
the walls. Barred windows with frosted glass admitted murky
light, and recessed squares of fluorescents glowed at the
ceiling. There was a single long table with three chairs at one
end and a single chair down at the other. At one of the three sat
a bald and brown-bearded man wearing horn-rimmed glasses and
reading from a file folder. He stood up when he saw Kay. "Uh
. . . hello. I thought Mr. Foster was coming."
"This is Kay Douglas, from Foster's office," Jack
explained. "Miss Douglas, this is Dr. Eric Cawthorn, head of
"Good to meet you." They shook hands, and Kay propped
her umbrella up in a comer, took off her damp raincoat and hung
it on a wall hook. Underneath, she was wearing a plain dark
pinstriped jacket and skirt.
"Well, I guess we're ready to proceed." Jack sat down
at the head of the table and put his satchel beside him, popping
it open. "I've asked that Clausen be brought out of
containment. Has he been difficult?"
"No, not at all." Cawthorn took his seat. "He's
been quiet since they brought him in, but for security reasons
we've kept him suppressed."
"Suppressed?" Kay sat down opposite Cawthorn.
"What's that mean?"
"Straitjacketed," he answered. His pale blue eyes cut
quickly to Jack and then returned to the woman. "It's
standard procedure when we have a case of vio—"
"But you said Mr. Clausen's been quiet since he was given
over to your custody. How do you justify a straitjacket for a
"Miss Douglas?" Jack brought a folder up from his
satchel and put it before him. "How much do you know about
this case? I know Foster must've briefed you, you've seen the
newspaper stories. But have you seen the police
"No. Mr. Foster said he wanted a fresh and unbiased
Jack smiled grimly. "Bullshit," he said. "Foster
knew you'd see the pictures here. He probably knew I'd show them
to you. Well, I won't disappoint him ... or you." He opened
the folder and pushed a half-dozen photographs across the table
Kay reached out for them. Jack saw her hand freeze in midair. The
picture on top showed a room with furniture shattered into
pieces, and on the walls were brown patterns that could only be
sprays of blood flung by violent motion. The words HAIL SATAN had
been drawn in gore, the letters oozing down to the baseboard.
Near those words, stuck to the wall, were yellow clots of ...
yes, she knew what they must be. Human tissue.
With one finger, she moved the top picture aside. The second
photograph drove a cold nail through her throat; it showed a pile
of broken limbs that had been flung like garbage into a room's
comer. A severed leg was propped up not unlike the umbrella she'd
just put aside. A smashed head lay in a gray puddle of brains.
Fingers clawed upward on disembodied hands. A torso had been
ripped open, spilling all its secrets.
"Oh," she whispered, and tasted hot bile.
And then the conference room's door opened again, and the boy who
had torn his mother, father and ten-year-old sister to pieces