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(Here is the original first chapter for comparison.)
Umm, HUGE disclaimer for gore and language. It is a thriller, though...
September 4, 1968: 10:14am
Summer Munroe’s dad once said that timing was everything. Love was timing. Opportunity was timing. Fortune was really just a series of perfectly timed events leading up to whether you were in line for that lotto ticket at the right time or just barely made it onto the plane thirty minutes before it fell out of the sky.
As far as Summer was concerned, Timing was a high school mean girl with a personal vendetta and daddy’s car keys. And today, She would bend Summer over royally by noon.
Summer should have known better when she happened to be passing by and saw her former psychiatrist’s name on the newspaper article her co-worker was stabbing out the finishing touches on. She paused and watched over his dandruff-crusted shoulder as he jotted a note in the margin, wondering if she would have known about this if she’d decided to get the editor’s coffee immediately instead of taking time to duck behind a wall and run her middle finger up the eggshell paint in that age old gesture of catharsis.
“What’s this?” She asked.
Milton Humboldt turned in his chair and gave her a cherry-licking smile. “Ah, Munroe. I was actually going to ask you for a statement but Hoover said I had to keep it under three hundred.” He tipped his pen towards the curled page, the smudgy courier print lilting in case and kern. “Your favorite shrink is in big trouble. Apparently he’s been seducing patients—underage ones.” He watched her with interest. “Know anything about that?”
She frowned. “No… of course not. He’s a good man. He’d never do anything like that. Who’s your source?”
His caterpillar brows crawled higher. “No? Well a couple of people are saying otherwise.”
She stepped past Milton, leaning in to read what he’d written, but his hand fell over the sheet. “It’s not finished yet.” He tilted his head, flakes of dry scalp snowing down onto the dusted carpet under his chair. “But, if you say you’ll have dinner with me tonight, I’ll let you peek now.”
“Maybe.” She passed the coffee cup she was carrying off to her other hand, giving him a warm smile. “When is this running?”
“Hey. Isn’t he having some big ceremony today out at the university?”
“Milton? When is this going out?”
“It’s going to the printer in an hour.” He shifted and rolled forward, nearly running over her toe. “Too late, Munroe. Missed your chance. You’ll have to read it tonight with the rest of the city.” He paused, flipping one hand up. “Unless you want to tell me more about your therapy with him? Like… how deep did he go?”
Her face fell, heat stealing into her cheeks.
He chuckled. “I meant with his questions. Jeez. Where’s your mind at? Sure he didn’t push you for anything? It’d be great for my career if I could get an inside scoop on this before the other reporters come sniffing around you. And I know how you good research girls love to help out the guys doing all the writing. ”
She put a hand on his chair arm and leaned forward, breaching the aura of cologne and coffee around him. “Not even if I had a brain injury, Milton.”
With her prettiest smile, she stretched out the coffee and poured it over the page.
It took him a moment to realize what she’d done, and he shot to his feet, shoving her back several steps. “What the hell’s the matter with you?”
Setting the coffee cup down she turned and grabbed her purse from a nearby desk drawer.
Milton tried to save his work as the ink ran, patting the page frantically with napkins from his desk. “You really are a lunatic aren’t you? I told Hoover not to hire you. You’re damaged.”
Realizing the rest of the room was standing and her editor had emerged from his office to see what was going on, she turned and hurried towards the door. She had to warn Dr. Franklin.
“You can’t save him,” he yelled after her. “It’ll be all over the papers and on the news by six o’clock.”
After catching a bus that made it to Ann Arbor in record time, Summer got directions from a passerby and ran in heels towards the auditorium. When she got there, winded and feet aching, she was told that Dr. Franklin was staying in another building until he was supposed to come on stage for the ceremony. She made her way over to the neighboring Drama and Performing Arts building, having rehearsed everything she would say to him and feeling like none of it was going to make a difference.
As she opened the entrance door, she realized that he may not even want to see her. It’d been over a year since they last spoke, and that had been on formal terms.
Still, she had to try. She owed him that much.
Room 128. She raised her hand to knock, cringing when a familiar voice crawled up her spine with the familiarity of a wandering hand in the dark.
“Well, well. Summer Munroe. Now what are you doing here?”
She pivoted, immediately stepping away as a strapping figure approached her wearing a suit cut to show off everything a little too much. Cecil Fordham. The orderly from hell. He had lost a bunch of weight and shaved the porno mustache since she’d last seen him. She would never have recognized him if he hadn’t spoken, but that voice— she would never forget the way saliva sometimes webbed between his lips when he said her name, making every syllable sticky and moist.
She hitched her purse up, sliding it in front of her. “I have to talk to Dr. Franklin.”
She fought the urge to take another step back as he drew close.
He looked at her as if she were some fascinating slug that crawled out from underneath a rock. “I expected we’d have seen you back in the asylum by now. Still crying at night about Mommy and Sissy?”
“Please tell me that you know security dog is a step down from orderly. I can explain it to you with some drawings if it’s easier.”
Trace amusement touched his features, but his eyes were unlit— like an attic window life had forgotten. “Oh you’d be surprised at how things have changed since you were last in.” He pointed up the hall. “Out, or I will toss you out of the building.”
She went to try the door and Cecil’s hand flew up in front of her, blocking her.
“Dr. Franklin!” She yelled, knocking on the wall just outside the door since Cecil was blocking her access.
Cecil rolled his eyes and reached for her as she tried to step back, his fingers winding like a vise around her arm. She tried to throw him off, wrenching on her arm, but his fingers crushed tighter, bruising.
He turned her around and force-marched her back towards the door. “You know,” he said casually, “this brings back fond memories of forcing you to the ground when you were freaking out about the straps. Remember that? Want to kiss the tiles for old time’s sake? You always looked your best prone.”
“Go to hell,” she said, hunching her shoulder and ceasing to struggle as he shoved her out the front door.
“If I see you here again, I’ll have you arrested for trespassing and will personally testify to what a danger you can be to others.”
“You have to let me see him, Cecil. It’s important. If you care anything for him, you’ll let me talk to him. I just need five minutes.”
“He’s not here yet. But I’ll take it under advisement.” Cecil signaled someone across the square of shorn green between buildings. “Escort this former patient off the premises. She’s a threat to the doctor.”
A campus cop jogged over and she held up her hands, moving away from the building. “I’m going.”
“Do drop by and see us at the asylum, Summer. I’d love to show you all of the new changes. Personally.”
She backed away until she felt safe enough to turn her back on Cecil and headed off towards the parking lot, the cop trailing until she was a few blocks away.
What had she been thinking? Risking her job to warn Dr. Franklin— the best gig she could get since waitressing. No one would hire her, not in Wayne. Not with her reputation. She’d only gotten the job at the paper because the editor went to her landlady’s church.
Screw this. She wasn’t giving up. Dr. Franklin had risked a lot to help her. Besides, there was no way she was going to allow the human equivalent of a white panel van to foil her.
Figuring she’d waited long enough in the nearby diner for the cop to lose interest and for Dr. Franklin to arrive by now, she dug a pair of sunglasses and red scarf out of her purse and used the latter to cover up her white-blonde hair. She left her sweater in the diner bathroom, grateful for the late summer warmth. There wasn’t anything she could do about her dress except hope they remember her white sweater more than the sleeveless blue A-line.
She cut around two blocks so that she would approach the building from a angle and be less visible to anyone near the auditorium. The sunlight was brilliant and warm, only a few clouds strewn across the sky as she made her way up to the back of the building, peeking in the different windows until she saw Franklin’s briefcase sitting on the ground next to a desk. She’d know it anywhere, having stared at it more than once when trying to avoid some of his deeper questions in therapy.
The window was open to allow the breeze in but there was no one in the office-turned-dressing room. Inside a few relics of old plays had been brought in for Franklin— including a cushioned chair from a period piece and a wardrobe straight from Narnia. A long mirror leaned against the wall atop the desk like a hobo from the prop department, creating a makeshift vanity.
Laughter rang somewhere up the block and she looked up to see a small group of men coming her way. She wasn’t completely out of view from the street, so she had to move fast.
Finding a small tear in the screen, she ripped the metal with her finger until she’d worked a serious slit into the fabric. Reaching through, she unhooked the screen and slid it up. With one last look around to make sure no one was watching, she hiked up her skirt and climbed through the window into the shadowed office, wincing as a nail in the framework caught her dress and shredded through the material, nicking her thigh.
She only had time to duck behind the door when she heard Dr. Franklin and Cecil approaching.
“Tell Holdstadt I’m the man of honor here and next time I get the main dressing room. This is ridiculous. I have to hike over to the auditorium where my own ceremony is.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll let him know,” Cecil said, just within the door way as Franklin entered. Summer could smell Cecil’s cologne through the crack in the door and was weirded out that she found it mildly attractive, even though her skin was still crawling from where he’d manhandled her.
As Cecil closed the door, she stepped forward, removing her sunglasses. “Dr. Franklin.”
He whirled around, surprised. “Summer?” He threw the closed door a nervous look. “What are you doing here?”
“I need to talk to you.”
“This isn’t a good time. I have to be on stage in thirty minutes.”
“I know, look, there’s something important I have to tell you…”
He raised his hand, staying her words as he approached. He looked wooly and warm in his brown wool suit and she found herself craving a hug from him. Something personal. Some semblance of the fact that she was more than just 120 expensive minutes a week to him. “Summer, I cannot be found in a closed room with a young woman. My wife is here. She could stop by at any minute. ”
“The newspapers are printing an article tonight about you messing around with your patients.”
She felt like she’d physically punched him. His shoulders rolled forward and his growing belly caved in on itself. He stumbled back and eased down onto the vanity chair. “Tonight?”
“Is it true?”
He took his glasses off and plucked a cloth from his pocket, wiping them like his soul depended on leaving no smears. “Which paper?”
“All of them."
He bowe his head as he slid the glasses back on.
"Is it true, Dr. Franklin?” She asked, anger uncoiling like a serpent inside, slithering through her veins, along with something else… something bright and neon, whispering how she didn’t matter as much as she thought she did. “Please say it isn’t true."
A sharp knock on the door startled her. Franklin shot to his feet, yelling, “Just a moment.”
He looked at her, pleading quietly, “You have to hide. You can’t be here.”
She looked around, noting several people across the street outside the window. She couldn’t leave without being seen. Instead, she went over to the wardrobe, opening it to the scent of his jackets, recently pressed and starched, and slipped in between their limp forms.
A sliver of light from the room peeked into the closet, painting a dividing line down her brow and face, like a baptism of knowledge. She could see the vanity, but the mirror was angled so she could only see the opposite wall in it.
The door opened and she heard Dr. Franklin say, “Ah good. You’re here. Did you find out when they need me on stage?”
A voice, smooth and black as silk, filled the room. “There’s been a change in plans, Gene.”
“What do you mean?” Franklin said.
“Have a seat.” It was Cecil’s voice.
“What do you mean by a change in—”
She saw Franklin back up into her line of sight and ease down on the plus white vanity stool, his body heavy. “Just tell me already,” he said, defeat deflating his spine.
She saw Cecil move in front of her slivered view, picking up the doctor’s briefcase and fishing through it. He put a large family bible on the vanity, and then followed it up with another book, lining both up and angling them as if he were expecting a drill sergeant to inspect them. Franklin watched him a moment and looked back towards the door.
Cecil didn’t come alone, she realized.
“You name someone in your new book— a Jane Doe #4. Who is she?” The silk voice asked.
Franklin shook his head after a moment. “It is my work. I’ll share it with whomever I want— but it won’t be this backwards attempt at religion you all are disguising as science.”
After a weird staring contest between Franklin and whomever the third person was, Cecil abruptly stepped forward and hauled the doctor’s hands behind his back.
“What do you think you are doing?” Franklin tried to lean forward, yanking on his hands. “I’ll have you fired for this.”
Effortlessly, Cecil held the man’s wrists hostage, reaching around front to yank Franklin’s tie loose and slide it free of its collar. He began winding the tie around Franklin’s wrists. Franklin seemed to be struggling with all of his might but somehow Cecil held him fast, as effortlessly as an anemic toddler.
Summer pressed her fingers against the door, ready to shout for them to stop. To burst free and save Franklin. But the sound of a switchblade opening cut through the air, locking her in place. Oh God.
Franklin froze, “What the hell is going on?”
“Who is she? She is of interest to me.”
“Put that away.” Franklin said. “Look, this is a ridiculous prank. You know me. Why the hell would you do this?”
“I know, I know,” the patient voice said. “It’s your day. Your grand awards day.”
The third figure crouched down in front of Franklin. She could see his knees only— expensive slacks cut to fit lean legs. Nothing more. He was just out of view. She tried shifting and froze when a hanger creaked.
Cecil looked over his shoulder towards the wardrobe and her heart dive-bombed into her stomach. She held her breath.
“Look,” Franklin said. “You don’t need to bother with her. If you don’t want me on stage because of the news, I understand. I’ll submit my resignation tonight if need be. Just…let me go. I’ll leave your lives and never be back again.”
“Oh, you are correct about that part. You never will be back again.”
Cecil’s hand clamped down on Franklin’s mouth, bracing him back against his body.
The third guest opened up Franklin’s pants and laid them open in a wide smile. Franklin began to screech against Cecil’s hand, panic setting in.
“Unless you are telling me where I can find Jane Doe #4, I am afraid our business must continue,” the third man said, a trace of Irish brogue stealing through the syllables.
Cecil let his hand up long enough for Franklin catch his breath. His eyes rolled in her direction for a moment, disbelieving. Panic surged through her and she shook her head in the darkness.
Franklin turned back to his attacker and spat out, “Go to hell, monster.”
The figure murmured, “It’s a beautiful walk all the way there.”
Oh God. Summer saw the knife sweep out between Franklin’s legs and her doctor screamed, eyes tight, and a spray of blood spouted up, misting down onto his shoes and the linoleum beneath. A slug of meat, pulsing and hemorrhaging hit the floor with a wet thud. Summer buried her mouth in her hand, swallowing down her scream.
Two long fingers, bloody and artful, picked up the dismembered penis, moving it out of view.
Crushing her fist against her mouth to keep from blurting something out and giving away her position, Summer squeezed her eyes shut. She needed to say something. She had to stop them.
But she knew she would be next. There was no way she could win against two of them. She was a coward and Franklin knew she was in here, watching everything.
The click click snick of a lighter starting and restarting until it took echoed inside the room along with Franklin’s tortured cries… blood pouring down into a puddle between his splayed legs. His body started to go limp.
The room began to tremble, hangers chattering above her head. Summer fell to her knees in the closet, clinging to the floor to try and keep from toppling out through the doors. The earthquake rolled through her, forcing her teeth through the side of her tongue. Her nails bit into the soft cedar bottom of the wardrobe as nausea roiled, wrecking her stomach and disappearing as cold mud into her bowels. She pressed her cheek to the floor, trying to draw a breath that wouldn’t make her puke.
Blackness stepped on her senses, crushing them until she let go of consciousness.
Blood, iron and tang, filled her nostrils as she came to in the darkness of cedar and woolen suit jackets. She jerked upward, peering through the small gap in the closet doors.
No voices. No movements.
She cracked the door open, peering out into the room.
Blood stained the floor and spattered the walls, a slick red, still glistening.
Franklin sat slumped in the chair, facing the mirror, his hands tied behind his back, his features vacated of any color. Red flowered across his crotch, the fly of his slacks open with smiling brass teeth.
On the desk, between his family bible and an advanced reader copy of his book sat a slug of flesh, skirted by blood that dripped slowly over the edge of the desk.
Hand clasped over her mouth, her breathing hitching and soggy, Summer moved closer, putting a hand on Franklin’s shoulder to try and shake him. His head lolled forward and she stepped back with a restrained cry.
Oh, God. Dr. Franklin. I'm so sorry.
Why? Why would anyone do this to him?
She stared down at the penis they’d shorn from his body, tears blurring her vision. She started to turn when something caught her eye. The penis was branded with a single word, the letters outlined with dark crusted blood.
She grabbed her purse from the closet and looked around, heading for the window. They would be coming soon for him if they still expected him on stage. And she had been seen in the vicinity. She had to get out of here.
Pausing, she glanced back at the copy of his new book.
She bolted back over and picked it up, hugging it close to her chest and smearing a few drops of blood into her dress. With it held tight, she slipped back out through the window and ran as fast as she could away from the campus.
In the diner bathroom, she huddled inside a stall with the book, trying not to sob as her mind replayed everything that had just happened. She flipped it open and began scanning the index for the first mention of Jane Doe #4. Finding it, she turned to page 49.
Jane Doe #4 was a remarkably clever if arrogant young woman with light blonde hair and glacial blue eyes. She came to me wild and incandescent with rage and confusion. Hers was a rare example of mono-theistic delusion. While others had trouble identifying their own limbs or their loved ones or even the hospital they were in, preferring to believe it was a hospital from another part of town, Jane Doe #4 had a particularly unique challenge. She could not recognize her own time, instead her mind chose to believe with rather convincing detail that she was from forty years in the future.
The book hit the floor, narrowly missing her feet.
They were looking for her.
So what did you think? Please take the poll and share your thoughts.
Wow! That was a ride. I'm definitely turning the page.
Yeah, that was pretty good. I like the changes.
Meh. It was decent. I can't decide if I like this better than the first one.
First one was better.
Too gross to enjoy.
Other Thoughts (Leave a note in the comment section)
Agent of Insight
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