Authors: R.W. Ridley
Book Three of
the Oz Chronicles
Single ‘R’ Imprint
2007 R.W Ridley
All Rights Reserved
Library of Congress Control Number: Pending
All rights reserved. No part of
this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or
mechanical means, including
photocopying, recording, or by any information storage
without written permission of the publisher, except where per
mitted by law.
Names, characters, places, and
incidents are the products of the author’s
imagination or are used
fictionally. Any resemblance to actual events,
locales, or persons, living or
dead, is entirely coincidental.
Printed in the
United States of America.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3
As always For Mom, Dad, and Marianna
writes in a vacuum. I truly appreciate the support and input from all my
friends, family, the good people of
and the fans of Book One and Book Two. I
hope Book Three
lives up to your expectations.
The dead watch me when I sleep. As you
can imagine, I don’t get a lot of sleep.
I don’t know what they want with me, but
the hate in their lifeless eyes doesn’t suggest they want to throw me a party.
“There’s all kinds of dead in the
Délon’s world.” That’s what my best friend, Gordy Flynn, told me right before
his dead sister tried to have me as an after-life snack. Then again, it’s
possible that didn’t happen at all. It’s possible I imagined the whole thing.
Even Gordy. I don’t know anymore.
My room is dark. Even in the daytime. A
single fluorescent light flickers above my head. It gives off the illusion that
the walls are breathing. At least I hope it’s an illusion. I don’t have a view
of the outside world. I can’t recall ever seeing it since I’ve been in this...
“facility.” I’m not even sure what kind of “facility” it is. Judging by the
crazy people that walk the halls, I’m guessing it’s a loony bin, but I don’t
want to think that because it will mean I’m one of the crazies.
I hear the locks on my door slide back,
and the door opens. Chester, the giant orderly steps inside. “You ready, little
I sit on my bed, exhausted from watching
the dead watch me all night. “Don’t call me that.”
“What should I call you?” Chester
“My name’s Oz.”
“All right, Oz, you ready? Doc’s on a
I don’t stand right away. I’m testing
him. “What is a DH?”
“A DH. I overheard the pharmacist call
me a DH.”
He steps farther into the room. He
lowers his head and peers down at me. “You don’t need to concern yourself with
that. Now, c’mon. Let’s go.”
I fold my arms over my chest. “What is
He sighs and rubs one of his giant hands
on the back of his neck. “You’re killing me, little man... Oz.”
“Tell me, and I’ll go with you.”
He chuckles. “You’re coming with me no
matter what.” “Not without a fight. I’ll go willingly if you tell me.”
He thinks it over. “I ain’t in the mood
for no fight today.”
He looks over his shoulder to make sure
nobody is within earshot.
Back to me. “Double homicide.”
“DH stands for double homicide.”
I can feel the blood rush to my cheeks.
I’m embarrassed, and I’m not sure that’s the proper reaction. I should be
angry. “I don’t like that.”
“You asked,” Chester says. “Now get up,
or Dr. Graham is going to sick a skinner on me.”
I cock my head. Did I hear what I think
I heard? “A what?”
“Get up!” he barks.
“What did you just say?” I bark back.
“I said get up, or Dr. Graham is going
to skin me alive.” He grabs my arm and yanks me to my feet.
“You said ‘skinner.” I say dragging my
feet as he forces me to the door.
“I said no such thing because I don’t
know what in tarnation a skinner is. You’re hearing things.” He tosses me in
the hallway. “You broke your word. You said if I told you what DH meant you
wouldn’t put up a fight. You’re fighting me like a cat going in a bag.”
“You said skinner.”
“Fine,” Chester says. “If it will make
you feel better I said skinner.”
It doesn’t make me feel better.
The hallway is lined with crazies. Some
crazier than others. A short man with saggy jowls compulsively sticks his
dentures out of his mouth and sucks them back in over and over again. He has a
vacant look in his eyes.
A fat woman with a see-through hairdo
farts, and the sound scares her as if someone had just snuck up behind her and
screamed “boo” in her ear.
We turn the corner following the yellow
line on the floor. Ahead of us to the right, leaning against a door jamb, is a
man with no eyes or nose. His face looks as though it has been scooped out. I
stare in disgusted awe.
“Stop eyeballing me, boy,” Scoop-face
How did he know?
“Relax, Mr. Maynard,” Chester says.
“Don’t nobody want to look at your ugly face.”
Scoop-face chuckles. “The uglier you are
the more people stare. You ought to know that, Chester.” He laughs revealing
his toothless mouth. “Where you taking the young crazy?”
I am struck by his use of the word
‘young.’ According to Dr. Graham, I’m forty years old. The same age I imagine
Scoop-face is. Although, it’s hard to tell. But then again, he can’t even see
me. Can he?
“Dr. Graham’s. And you need to get your
eyes checked. This crazy ain’t but a few years younger than you.”
“Ha-ha,” Scoop-face replies
sarcastically. “Ain’t nothing wrong with my eyes.” He sticks out his slimy
tongue, flicking it like a snake. Drool forms on his chin. He slurps it back in
his mouth. “You’re crazy, don’t taste no older than a boy. Fourteen or fifteen,
We pass the poor disfigured soul.
Chester is half-dragging me as I look at the man in total amazement.
“Say something, young crazy,” Scoop-face
barks. “Let me hear you talk.”
I say the first thing that comes to my
mind. “What happened to your face?”
He hesitates. If he had eyes they would
have been wide open. He is surprised by my voice. “It’s you.”
Chester tosses me ahead of him. “You’re
wearing on my last nerve, Oz. Get it in gear or I’m going to put you in
The threat is enough to get me to change
my attitude quickly. I have experienced the restraints before. I don’t know why
or when, but I have a vivid memory of the fear and pain. I know I never want to
experience that again.
I feel the eyeless stare of Scoop-face
as we turn the corner.
Dr. Graham is annoyed by me today. I
haven’t done anything, but his impatience for my mere existence is obvious in
the way he sits in his chair. He purses his lips together as he taps his Bic
pen on a small yellow notepad in his lap.
“That’s weird,” I say.
The doctor stops tapping the pen.
“I never thought of it before.” I stare
at the pen.
He twirls his penned hand signaling me
to elaborate. “You’re using a pen... and paper.”
“I often do when I want to write
something down,” the doctor says.
I scratch my head. “But this is... the
2030s, I would think we’d have come up with something better by now. More high
The doctor smiles. “If it makes you feel
any better, the pen does have a nice cushiony easy grip.”
I look at his clothes. “Styles haven’t
changed much in 30 years.”
He looks down at his coat. “It’s hard to
improve on the white lab coat.” He writes something on the yellow pad. “What
year would you like it to be, Oz?” A smirk forms on his face.
I watch him write. Ignoring his question
I say, “I didn’t kill anyone.”
He stops writing and looks at me, right
eyebrow raised, lips taut.
“I know that’s what you want me to
“I want you to get better, Oz. I’m
afraid that may mean you facing some uncomfortable truths.” His posture
changes. He’s gone from irritated to confused. He doesn’t know what to do next.
“How did I do it?” The words come out of
my mouth with little thought. I am instantly sorry I asked the question. I pray
he won’t answer.
“You tell me,” he says. He is studying
me. This is some game they teach you in shrink school. If I play, he wins.
I twist in my chair and face the
“Very well, Oz.” He clears his throat.
“New topic. Do you know a woman by the name of Millie B. Story?”
“No.” I answer with my back still to
“She’s written me,” the doctor says.
“She wants permission to visit with
I slowly turn toward him. I run the name
over and over again in my head. I can’t place it. “Why?”
When a shrink asks you a question, even
if it’s the simplest question in the world, you have to measure your response
carefully. He cares more about how you answer than what you answer. He is
mining your face, your body, your tone for the secret to who you really are.
The truth is I didn’t know who I was, and I didn’t want the doc finding out
“I don’t know her,” I say, coating every
inch of my response in disinterest. In point of fact, I am dying to know who
she is. “But if she wants to visit me, let her visit me. What do I care?”
I can see the gears turning in the doc’s
head. “I’ll give it some thought.” He returns to tapping his pen on the yellow
notepad. “We should return to last week’s session.”
“What about it?”
“Some things remain unanswered,” he says
as he flips through his notebook. “The Source, for one.” He clears his throat.
“We still don’t know where or what it is.”
“Does it matter?”
He looks surprised. “I believe it does.
It’s the key to you getting better. I’m sure of it.”
“I’m not so sure.” I look at my hands.
They are unnaturally old. “It’s just crazy talk.”
He shakes his head. “We don’t like that
word, Oz.” “What word?”
“Crazy. Crazy is used by people who
don’t understand how the mind works.”
I snicker. “Then it’s okay for me to use
it because I don’t understand how the mind works.”
“Nevertheless, I’d prefer if we steer
clear of that word.” He is stern but sympathetic.
I shrug my shoulders.
He looks back at his notepad. “You
know...” he says as he jots something down in the margins of the pad. “You
mentioned that there were nine dogs.”
“Yeah,” I say impatiently.
“Well, all but Kimball seem to be
missing from the end of your last story.” He flips through the pages. “Yes,
yes, Kimball is with Wes and the others, but you don’t mention the other dogs.”
I run the story over in my head. “Oh...
hmmmm. I don’t know. Is that important?”
The doc taps his pen on the notepad.
“I’m not sure. I just find it puzzling.”
I share his bewilderment. I had not
given those other dogs a second thought until now. They just disappeared.
Perhaps my twisted imagination was running dry.
Doctor Graham stands unexpectedly. The
act of it startles me. His hands fall to his waist, right hand holding the
notepad, the left holding the pen. I scan them quickly. Just a week ago, he had
a purple rash. No signs of it now.
“Perhaps, we should try another regression.”
He motions for me to enter the back part of his office. I look past him and
stare at the couch. My throat goes dry. I can hear the blood rushing through my
head. I am glued to my chair.
“Oz?” he says.
I am frozen. The sound of the metronome
hits me for the first time. Has it been going the whole time?
“I...” My palms start to sweat. I look
up at him. “Not today, Doc.” The room starts to spin.
When Doctor Graham talks, he sounds a
million miles away. “The Pure won’t be happy.”
The room starts to vibrate. I feel a
thump in my throat. I think it’s clogging my ears. It sounded like the doc just
said something about the Pure. “Oz,” his voice is now strikingly clear. “It’s
purely up to you. I’m not going to force you to do anything you don’t want to.”
I shake my head and blow out a big puff
of air. “I want to go back to my room. Can I?” It feels strange for me to call
it “my room.” Part of me finds the phrase completely foreign although I know I
have spoken it before.
“Of course,” Doctor Graham taps a silver
bell on his desk. It lets out a high-pitched tone that screeches through the
room. It’s oddly low-tech. Just one more thing that doesn’t fit.
Chester enters the room. “Trouble?”
“No...” the doctor looks at me with a
sympathy I did not think he was capable of. “No, not at all. Oz isn’t feeling
well. Can you escort him back to his room?” He turns to walk to his desk, but
then stops. “Have Nurse Kline put Mr. Griffin on her rounds tonight. I want her
looking in on him every hour.” He addresses me with a loud and deliberate tone.
“Just as a precaution, Oz. For your own good.”