Authors: BT Murphy
Book Two of The Criminogenic Trilogy
Peter Ronin hated the summer. He was glad that the university had closed its doors to give the students a reprieve from the unforgiving heat wave that had lasted the whole season. He missed having something productive to do, even though he wasn’t entirely sure that his students even liked him. They attended his classes, and he was grateful to share his knowledge with willing listeners, even if they were only pretending. Today was mercilessly hot, and the sun beat down on Peter’s shoulders, encouraging even more sweat to drench his shirt. He was gardening today. He tolerated gardening, and the fresh air was soothing for him, so he endured the sunburn and dirt caked fingers. Since he had so much time on his hands during the summer closure at the university, he had to fill the empty hours with something productive. He had grown up around gardeners, and their air of dirty fingernails and grassy perfume. The chore he saw it as provided him with a hint of nostalgia for a simpler time in his life.
Beatrice, the president of the Community Garden Club, came over to Peter, beaming her forced fluorescent smile at him. Peter had to stifle a scowl, twisting his mouth into a grimacing grin. It was as authentic a smile as he could manage for the woman. Her sun-weathered features and affection for
minor beautification procedures
had left her with a tight seam of leather skin. Beatrice used her position within the Garden Club to her full advantage - a former beauty queen and trophy wife – she needed some way to stay in the spotlight. Being in command over flora allowed her that minor control over her surroundings.
“Peter, darling!” she drawled. “Be a dear, and help Marguerite with her bulbs. She’s such a klutz with those bulbs, aren’t you Marguerite?” Beatrice proclaimed with her condescending discontent toward the colorful, stout woman.
Marguerite was a plump woman. She was kneeling in the dirt in front of him, tending to her garden plot. She turned around to face Peter, and acknowledged Beatrice with an empty smile. Her muddy, brown eyes gave away her dissatisfaction, while freckled cheeks plumped up under false smiles of contentment.
“Oh, umm, of course, Beatrice. Marguerite, let me, umm, help you out there.” Peter shuffled to his feet and over to Marguerite’s plot. Beatrice had moved over to Peter’s plot to give it a disapproving snort.
Peter knelt down beside Marguerite, and caught a malicious scowl on her face. He smiled at her, genuinely comforted that someone else shared in his suffering. She looked up at him and caught his moustache-hidden grin. She nervously started straightening invisible creases on the skirt of her dress, silently adjusting her expressions. Replacing the unpleasant giveaway of her unhappiness with another strained smile, Peter realized that he looked ridiculous holding his unnatural smile, and ducked his head down to handle the plants. He was coming to the realization that she may have been scowling at him and his eager gardening techniques as well. She too may have felt the same distain for Peter that Beatrice didn’t bother hiding anymore. Looking at the progress Marguerite was making with the bulbs, he saw the damage that she had done. Crushed bulbs and soggy ground, with a dirt covered Marguerite looking quite like a tubby toddler playing in the mud.
“Okay, Marguerite,” Peter said, exasperated, “the best way—“
“Maggie!” Marguerite hissed sharply.
“Excuse me,” Peter replied with forced politeness. He studied her for a moment while she struggled to overcome her frustration. With inner monologues and deep breaths, she seemed to calm herself down enough to reply.
“I prefer to be called Maggie.”
“Oh, I, umm, I didn’t know. My apologies.”
“Of course not, how could you?” she said, her irritation returning. “But Beatrice knows. She just insists on calling me by my whole name.”
“It’s a nice name though,” Peter stated coolly.
“Yes, well; I’m not a fan.”
“I’ll call you Maggie, then,” Peter announced as Maggie nodded her head in gratitude. Peter continued in the muddy patch trying to make sense of the mess, the awkward tension only worsened by the midday heat. “Hot out here today,” he proclaimed.
“Very,” Maggie agreed, stabbing the earth. She looked as though she was trying to give Nature as well as it dished out. The oversized floral print dress had started clinging to her frame, but Peter couldn’t quite decide if it was from sweat or too much water in the flowerbed. He watched her angry movements for a moment, wondering why she would put up with the heat and Beatrice? Especially when she clearly didn’t seem to enjoy either.
“I’m not a fan,” Peter continued, borrowing Maggie’s phrase.
“Neither am I.”
“I can tell.”
“What gave it away, Peter? The sweat literally dripping from my forehead or watering these damned little flower things? Perhaps it was that the flower things are mostly crushed because I don’t know what I am doing?”
Peter looked up at her, his eyebrows slightly raised in surprise. Another roll of sweat down his spine reminded him that he shared her sentiments.
Maggie might be more careful with her face than Peter was, but he was far more careful with his words. The sarcasm was refreshing, though. It made him grin boyishly, ducking his head all the while to hide his guilty glee. Each edgy quip was like sugar to his ears.
Peter thought that he had her measured up. He was so well versed in fraud that he recognized the practiced behavior of a fellow fraudster when he saw it. Maggie was clearly as cunningly hidden as he was, but she was also more cautious of others. She was less likely to handover her trust on a whim, and Maggie wasn’t as sure about Peter as he was of her. She watched him for a while before deciding to give him a chance.
“Detest is a word I’d use, Peter. Despise. Hate. You can choose the appropriate verb.”
Peter nodded in agreement, in a secret hope of kinship with this woman. Maggie and her sneaky sarcasm, dressed in the finest hand-me-down garbs to hide her plump frame. Maggie seemed like the kind of person who had been hiding herself away from the world for years, and Peter felt like he’d stumbled across a counterfeit gem.
Beatrice trotted back over to the two outcast gardeners. Her eyes narrowed while she wondered about their secret snickering over broken bulbs.
Evelyn walked through the bleached halls of the hospital where she had been summoned. She’d heard that Jonathan Phelps was in critical condition, but she wanted to see his demise for herself. There were rumors running rife through the Regions that a Zone 4 castaway had attacked him, but this couldn’t be confirmed. The D.A.E had revved up the security around the Zones, everyone was a suspect, and no one would understand how this could happen. All the Would’s and Could’s were supposed to be detained. It was inconceivable that the Director was brutally attacked. Her mass of pitch-black curls bounced wildly behind her as she walked defiantly past the security ensemble that had been assigned to the Director. The attack wasn’t common knowledge. The State feared that if the citizens knew of the gross breach in command, that there would be an uprising. They wouldn’t be wrong. Evelyn knew that it was only a matter of time before the Foresworn would sweep in and use this information to their advantage. She could only keep them on hold for a short while, but she knew that she had to confirm the rumor before sending the troops in.
Using her worn out Level 1 pass, Evelyn sauntered past guards and nursing staff with a regal grace. She was playing the role of a concerned friend, and no one questioned her presence. She played the part too well. Finally reaching the isolated ward where the Director was being treated, she flashed her card once again to the Bulldogs on guard. They might recognize who she really was and shatter the façade that she had established. Plastering on her most charming smile, her heart started racing a little bit faster when she was faced with the gargantuan men.
“Name?” one brute commanded gruffly.
“Evelyn Millicent Winston,” she responded coolly, not wanting to give away any lack of confidence.
“Card please, Ms. Winston.” He had softened his approach, her flawless elocution and Zone 1 mannerisms winning over the guards.
She presented the card to the tall man with confidence. It was very worn, but she hoped that he wouldn’t notice the outdated information. Too many questions could destroy her plans and see her being detained for impersonation. She had been so careful to stay off of the radar for years, that changing it would be her ruin.
The guard studied her card for several painful minutes. Beady eyes darting between her face and scanning the card again. Curling his mouth into a grimace, he spoke: “This card is outdated Madam.”
“Oh, I know,” Evelyn sighed, trying her best to remain casual. “Commissioner Winston keeps reminding me, but you know how absent minded women can be.” She hated using her father’s name, but some situations called for name-dropping. They would never know either, her Could father was the State’s best kept secret. The Bulldog was curt, and silently waved her in with a polite nod.
Evelyn was met with the frail excuse of what power was supposed to look like. A maze of pipes and tubes webbed around the grey haired man, his handsome face ashen and vacant. She’d been assured that he was able to hear her, and that if his energy levels allowed it, he could talk to her. She didn’t care if he spoke to her though, and she didn’t want to hear his voice. Evelyn took sharp, frantic breaths and walked closer to the sleeping man. She knew that with a flick of a switch, the magnanimous Director Phelps could be expunged, and she knew that she could do it. It took a few moments before Evelyn snapped out of her trance. She shook herself off, trying to rid herself of the uncomfortable feelings washing over her. Reprimanding herself silently, she reminded herself that she just needed to confirm his condition. It was clear that Jonathan Phelps was in a bad way, but recovering. Evelyn studied his vital signs for a while to be sure he’d pull through. There would be repercussions felt throughout the Lower Zones because of his attack. His death would further intensify the lock down for citizens.
Evelyn had seen enough. She turned to leave the stinging smell of death and the deafening sound of machinery keeping organs alive. Before she reached the door, she heard a shuffling groan from behind her and a whisper for her to wait. She hesitated, eyes shut tightly to avoid seeing her surroundings. She had woken him up. She turned to face him, defiant and proud. Evelyn took one step forward with her head held high.
“Evie?” That was all the weakened Jonathan could muster, his eyes pleading with her to stay. Trying to get her to understand him, he mouthed a few inaudible words while he slipped in and out of consciousness. Evelyn tried to stay unaffected, but her resistance was failing her. With a resigned sigh, she returned to his side.
“You’re a bastard, Jonathan Phelps,” she said, choking back the tears. His eyes pleading with her to stay, his mouth was gasping for words to tell her. Using the energy that he had left, he reached for her soft, caramel colored hand. Gently caressing her warmth with his ice-cold hand. Evelyn let him rest his hand on hers for a moment before withdrawing slowly; too many memories and emotions were flooding her mind. She tried to remain calm and determined, but her humanity forced her to relinquish her hatred toward the system.
She smiled sadly, looking at Jonathan. Those eyes were capable of melting the coldest hearts, she was certain of that. Those were the same eyes that she saw every day, the same cheeky glint that was there nineteen years ago that could get anyone into trouble.
“Oh Jonathan, even with one foot in the grave, those eyes are still on fire.” She touched his temples, slowly examining his aging face. He tried to speak, and mouthed a few silent words, but the tracheostomy tube made it impossible for more than breathed sounds to escape.
She placed one finger over his lips, signaling him to be still. “Save your energy, my lost love. You need to heal. Calvin has been asking for you. He has your eyes, you know? ”
Giselle Harmon pressed her thumbs into the guard’s eyes, her sharpened nails piercing painfully into the ill equipped guard’s reddened flesh. A sturdy hulk of a man came to pull the raging woman off of his colleague, only to infuriate her further. A wild, unwashed blonde mass of hair covered her snarling face, while her reflexes managed to leave a parting reminder of her rage. She kicked the guard square in the face as she was being pulled away from him. This had become a frequent outburst from the feral girl. For weeks, Giselle had erupted with inexplicable violence and anger toward anyone who would come near her. The guards bore the brunt of her rage, and while they all hoped that she would tire – six weeks later, she was still as wild.
She never tired of fighting - nor did it seem that she ever would – Giselle was defiant and as strong willed as they came. She would rebel against any authority figure, any command given to her – even being asked to eat was defied by her stubborn insubordination. Being confined to solitary was the perfect opportunity for her to start plotting violent attacks with fellow coherent inmates against orderlies within the facility. But keeping her in the general population was impossible to maintain without anarchy and rioting breaking out.
The only solution that The Facility could come up with to contain her rage, was to transfer her to the ward with other violent inmates. The kind of people that society was eager to forget existed, and those who were beyond any psychological help. Keeping her with other medicated shells of humanity meant that she couldn’t plan revolts with them. They tried to subdue her with the same overly medicated Treatment, but as soon as the pills were forced down her throat, she would vomit them back up again. Her self-mutilation and retaliation against all those who wanted to help her had created a husk of a woman, surviving off of rage and left over slop from the other patients.
Giselle wasn’t always the rebellious, wild creature being carted from one institution to the next. She was once the ideal
Daughter of the State
. She was once the shining beacon of impeccable behavior and obedience. That was until she discovered how the State kept a close watch over her and her obedient family. The once sweet, subservient blonde princess had become a threat, a wild force hell-bent on destroying the establishment that was controlling the world like cattle.
The Treatment was cruel and unforgiving. They needed to break her defiant spirit at all costs. They had to use force to give her the Treatment, keeping her tightly strapped down so that they could start dulling her will to fight. But all that did was fuel her fire to fight. Giselle would claw away at the palms of her hands to stay within her own mind, digging her nails deeper into the fleshy skin each time. Her violent insistence on being present had started to concern the orderlies, who would cut her fingernails so deep into the nail bed that they would bleed. For Giselle, this just gave her another way to try retaining her clarity. The Treatment was starting to take effect though, and she found herself unable to recall moments in the day. Soon, the lost time would become hours, and then days. Until finally, Giselle was only able to remember fleeting moments during the Treatment. One such moment was during a routine visit to one of the many Doctors treating her at the Facility. She must have been complacent, because when he came to at the bottom of the staircase, she was not shackled or bound, as she would have usually been. The orderlies must have been distracted long enough to let her slip from their hold, and she went tumbling, painfully down the stairs. The pain brought her back to the present. Her mind reawakened by the unbelievable pain she felt on her side. This was all that she needed to reignite her fire. She saw this as the perfect opportunity to run. Giselle had no idea where she was. The Facility that housed her for months was an unfamiliar prison that she didn’t recognize at all. Still, she raced clumsily toward doorways and exit signs with the blinded hope that freedom was within reach. Speeding past startled figures in their starch white coats, and countless droopy-headed inmates, she felt the blood rush through her veins. Being driven entirely by the sudden surge of adrenalin and purpose, Giselle ran instinctively toward what she thought would be her redemption. She could hear the screams and panic ringing around her as she frantically paced from one passageway to the next. The maze of doors and wards were starting to overwhelm her until finally she could go no further. Orderlies and guards were closing in with their batons and syringes full of forced complacence, and her only choice was a four story leap of faith from a steel bar window. She was trapped.
They dragged her huddled body back to the ward. A trail of matted, blonde hair following behind her as the guards lashed out at the insolence of this insignificant experiment.
“If anyone get’s wind of this, we’re done for,” gruffed the larger of the guards as Giselle was roughly hurled into a cell.
“Who’d believe any of these nut jobs anyway? They’re the only ones that would blab,” replied a red faced orderly trying to catch his breath.
Lying in a heap of disappointment and exhaustion, Giselle watched as her final chance for freedom slammed behind the cold steel door. Somewhere between the staircase fall and the lashing received from the guards, she had broken her arm. As soon as the adrenalin had worn off, the pain was excruciating, and with no help from the guards, she was left to suffer alone and in the dark. She slipped into a state of delirium over the days that followed. Untreated pain of her broken bone, along with the systematic withdrawal she was experiencing from not being subjected to the Treatment was making her mad. Fellow patients shouted and wailed for attention in the rooms surrounding her isolation, their cries piercing her sanity. Taunting jeers from disgruntled orderlies woke her from her numb trance as they would push trays of unrecognizable slop toward her. She knew that she had to eat, but she couldn’t bring herself to fight anymore. The Facility was slowly winning, slowly taking hold of her will to live and twisting it cruelly. Her will to live was slowly fading as well.
The click clack of pristine heels echoed through the silent halls of the Community Facility for the Criminally Insane. The familiar hum of fluorescent lighting provided the only soundtrack to the determined figure making its way toward a forgotten part of the building. With a sharp wave of the hand, the immaculately dressed individual had guards and orderlies on high alert. Asserting their commands with a series of silent gestures, the figure was staring coolly at the huddled mess in the corner of a solitary cell. Long, perfectly manicured fingers curled around the bars separating them from the troublemaker that was Giselle Harmon. Cold, grey eyes glared down at the defeated girl lying in the corner of the dark, damp exile. Lacquered red lips pursed with sadistic satisfaction that they had been able to break this wild spirit. Andrea Clinton motioned for the door to be opened. Taking a step inside the forgotten hole, she knelt down to meet the frightened woman. She slowly extended her hand while a sympathetic smile crossed her face and exhaled calmly.
“Giselle. My name is Doctor Andrea Clinton. I am here to help you.”