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Twisted
Author:Andrew E. Kaufman

Twisted by Andrew E. Kaufman

 

 

 

Much Madness is divinest sense

 

—EMILY DICKINSON

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

Dead bolts.

 

Steel bars.

 

Metal slamming against metal.

 

This is my unyielding world, where I mend ruptured minds and fuse cognitive wires. A world that—if emotions were physical—would be a tangled mess of hooks and thorns.

 

But it’s not just the sights and sounds: it’s the smell, a musty hybrid of human waste and perspiration. Even the steel has a fug all its own, a mineral tang seasoned by rust and time.

 

The stench of insanity.

 

How long have I been here? Six years? Eight?

 

Sometimes it’s hard to remember, and sometimes I forget who’s serving time.

 

“Welcome to the jungle, gentlemen,” my boss says, brittle shades of cynicism coloring his words. Jeremy Firestone’s sentiment is not unwarranted, but it’s hardly necessary. Calling Loveland Psychiatric Hospital a jungle is at best an optimist’s euphemism, much like calling hell a tropical destination. And right now we are moving deeper into its cavernous underbelly, a subsurface passageway that dead-ends at a high-security plaster box called Alpha Twelve. Home to the worst of the worst.

 

The killers.

 

The rapists.

 

The dark souls with an incurable addiction to evil.

 

Dr. Adam Wiley and I exchange vigilant glances. Neither of us knows the purpose of this trip. I steal a glimpse at Jeremy, his steps determined, his gaze aimed ahead, his expression set. On a normal day, our boss is the consummate image of emotional economy, but on this day, reading his face is like studying the side of a concrete slab.

 

We hit Security Checkpoint One, a gateway that leads to the long corridor, which will take us into Alpha Twelve. The guard spares us a prudent nod, punches a button, and the buzzer goes off. A yellow light flashes once, flashes twice, then turns to green. The gate slides open, and we enter; its bars slam behind us, letting out a thunderous crack that cuts the air and ping-pongs ahead through formless shadows.

 

Something hard and icy pushes through me.

 

This place is so cold.

 

But I wonder if my perception is driven more by emotion than climate, whether this hole in the ground is cheating my senses and blowing a chill through my mind.

 

I try to chase the thought away with a deep breath, but my only payoff is a double shot of noxious-nasty that fills my lungs. I force the air out and with my gaze set ahead, keep walking.

 

It would be fair to say that Loveland is by no means a modern or up-to-date facility. Calling our setup archaic would be a compliment. Three years ago, Arizona officials agreed. They stepped in and slapped us with numerous building code citations. Once we were on their radar, allegations of human rights violations went flying. Feeling the heat, our board acted quickly, and plans were soon under way for a new building and a complete program overhaul. But it will be years before everything is up and running. In the meantime, we make do with what we’ve got, watch our Ps and Qs, and keep guardedly mindful that we’re under a microscope.

 

“So, Chris, how’s that beautiful boy of yours doing?” Adam asks. An obvious attempt to cut through the tension, but I appreciate it.

 

“Growing too damned fast,” I say.

 

“And the more-than-beautiful wife?”

 

“More beautiful than ev—”

 

“Gentlemen.” Jeremy interrupts our small talk, his voice booming louder as we round the next corner. “There’s a new patient at Loveland.”

 

Neither Adam nor I respond. Our boss didn’t bring us all this way just for that.

 

“And I can’t stress enough how important this case is,” he continues. “It’s one of the biggest we’ve ever had. Needless to say, we have to get this right.”

 

Adam raises a brow. “And the mystery patient would be . . .”

 

Jeremy’s gaze drops to the floor, and for the first time, I see worry break through his stoic demeanor—worry that pulls us closer toward Alpha Twelve.

 

“Donny Ray Smith. He’s been transferred from the Miller Institute in Northern Arizona.”

 

“The reason?”

 

“A court-ordered eval. His lawyers are going for the insanity defense.”

 

“How come Miller sent him to us?”

 

“Miller didn’t—the judge did. The institute had an internal shake-up just as their review of Smith was near completion. A neuropsychologist working the case is about to get her license yanked. When the DA found out, he put in a request for reevaluation.”

 

“He got nervous,” I say.

 

“Very nervous. This story’s been all over the news up there. Another reason why we must proceed flawlessly. With everything that’s been happening around here—”

 

“We don’t need more negative publicity.”

 

“Exactly,” Jeremy agrees. “Incidentally, because of all the delays, the judge has us on a tight turnaround.”

 

“How tight?” I ask.

 

“Your evaluations are due in a week. Until then, I’ll be clearing your caseloads.”

 

“Did the folks at Miller reach any decisions before trouble broke out?” Adam asks.

 

“The psychologist’s findings were inconclusive, but the neurologist begged to differ. He concluded that Smith is memory malingering.”

 

My gaze sharpens on the doors leading into Alpha Twelve. “What’s his crime?”

 

“How many would you like?”

 

“I’d like as many as you’ve got.”

 

“Murder.” Jeremy nods once. “So many young girls, you can count them on two hands. Unfortunately, so far they’ve only been able to nail him on the last, a six-year-old.”