It had been five months now since the phone call in Sister Peter Marie's office; five months since he'd last heard Chris' voice, and still sometimes Beecher would turn his head in the cafeteria, his mouth already open to whisper something to his companion, only to realize that Keller was no longer by his side.
Oh, during the day, he hardly missed Chris at all. After all, he was in Oz, and here, loosing yourself in your thoughts was not an option. Not if you wanted to survive.
Also, hacking away on the keyboard in Sister Peter Marie's office ensured that he had no time to think; evidently, a psychiatrist's work was never done, and besides, he'd never been good at typing with all ten fingers, anyway.
Then, there was his regular evening headache which also prevented him from thinking clearly. Perched in front of the computer for several hours always ensured that the area between his shoulder blades would get tense, then his neck, and both would start to hurt. Until the phantomless ache would travel to his head and hide itself behind his left eye. Soon afterwards, it would feel like a tiny creature were happily chipping away at his skull. So far, he hadn't been to the hospital ward; Beecher felt strangely reluctant to go there. The headache felt like a flashback to those awful mornings in the past when he'd been so hung over he could barely stand straight -- no pun intend --, and helped as a strong reminder why he was sober now. Besides, he didn't want painkillers. Not really. He told himself it was because he needed a clear head, but refused to question that reasoning.
He couldn't even blame it on the destruction of his glasses since, being short-sighted, he'd only needed them for distance, and - 0,5 dioptren weren't really mentionable, were they? He pinched the bridge of his nose in another one of those deeply ingrained moves (like turning towards Keller, like cuddling towards the back wall, like never looking into a CO's eyes), brushed impatiently the hair out of his face and entered Sister Peter Marie's office without knocking.
It was one o'clock in the afternoon, and he still had a few hours to go until dinner, and, ultimately, lockdown.
Half inside the door, he got pushed aside by a person exiting the room in quite a hurry. The black clothes and the talar identified the fleeing man as Father Mukada.
"Tobias." The priest halted in his steps for a moment and gave him a glance that seemed both pitiful and desperate. Beecher could only stare after him as he continued down the corridor in the same haste as before.
His stomach did a queasy roll, but he ignored the feeling and stepped into the office. Inside, he stopped abruptly at the sight of the dark-suited man standing in front of Sister Peter Marie's desk. Agent Pierce Taylor gave him a polite nod in greeting and offered him his hand. Beecher just barely contained his snarl and pointedly ignored the outstretched fingers.
Sister Peter Marie sat behind her desk, looking cool and unruffled as always. Was it just his imagination, or did she really appear a bit uncomfortable?
"Agent Taylor, what brings you here?" If not for his next parole hearing, he'd love to tell the bastard what he really thought of him. But recently, Beecher had learned caution, so he swallowed the "cunt" remarks on his tongue including his opinion about the FBI agent's parentage. Crazy Beech of old would have tried his damned best to strangle the incompetent asshole who'd led the unit that'd arrested Hank Schillinger, and in turn had managed to screw up legal proceedings so badly that the murdering, maiming little son of a bitch had gone free... He stopped his train of thoughts immediately before the black hole in the back of his head could toss him back into the hell he'd experienced during and after the kidnapping.
"I'd like to talk to you about Christopher Keller."
"Why?" Beecher looking blankly at the other man, not allowing his face to change. The fear inside his belly tried to claw its way upward into his throat.
He turned towards the nun and ignored the FBI agent, "Sister Pete, is Chris all right?! Did he get hurt? Is he..." Breathing was difficult, he thought dimly. And had his voice always sounded so thin? //Oh God, who knew what could have happened in Cedar Junction?!// His mind was already putting together worst case scenarios, Chris' death far and away taking the first place.
Sister Peter Marie looked at him, alarmed, "No, Tobias, none of the sort. Chris Keller is fine, as far as I know. Agent Taylor here has just a few questions he'd like to ask you."
"Questions about Chris." It was more a statement than a question, and he didn't need the gray-haired woman's nod for confirmation. Ugly suspicions were already raising their heads, but he was finally able to breathe again. And his stomach had returned from whatever endless abyss it had fallen into. It felt leaden all of a sudden. He knew what was coming.
Apparently, Agent Pierce hadn't given up his quixotic quest to see Chris convicted of those three homosexual murders. And he didn't seem to give a fuck that Chris was already serving a life sentence in Massachusetts for confessing to Hank Schillinger's murder.
"Tobias, take a seat. Do you want me to stay? If you prefer, I could step outside for a moment. I need to see Tim about Omar White anyway." The nun made a face and raised a small stack of papers in illustration.
"No, Sister, please stay." Beecher's response was fast enough that Taylor didn't get further than opening his mouth. //You'd much prefer to talk to me alone, wouldn't you, bastard?//, thought Beecher cynically. //Well, bad luck. Take it or leave it; no intimidating the witness, asshole.//
He sat down in his customary seat in front of the computer and carefully composed his face. A quick glance around confirmed that this time, no CO was present. But then, Sister Pete was right in knowing that he wouldn't blow his top in her presence and go for the bastard's throat. With enough provocation, though... He grinned nastily and looked Taylor in the eye.
The agent was the first to drop his gaze. But all under the pretense of moving his chair closer to Toby.
Beecher sat unmovingly while the man bent down, opened his fancy briefcase and took out a thin plastic folder. When the agent looked up again, he was once more in control of the meeting.
"As you know, Christopher Keller is currently serving a life sentence in Massachusetts for ordering a hitman to kill your son's murderer, Hank Schillinger." Taylor's eyes showed him clearly how much the agent doubted that confession, "But the murders of Mark Carachi, Byam Lewis and Bryce Tibbets are still marked 'unsolved' in our files. They died cruelly. Do you know what it feels like, to be tied down, raped and tortured?"
Sister Peter Marie made a small sound, an aborted movement. Beecher's face remained calm, unflinching. It was good that the FBI agent couldn't read his thoughts -- Beecher was seriously contemplating smashing the bastard's face against the pristine white of the office's wall. How dare he...?
The delighted little glitter in Taylor's eyes showed him exactly that the man was very aware of the undertones of his question, and expected a violent reaction. Well, he wasn't going to follow his script. Carefully concealing his rage, Beecher asked sweetly: "No, how could I? Here, protected by the walls of Oz from the big, baaad reality outside?" He smirked as the agent went still for a heartbeat. "Is there a point to this interview, Agent Taylor?"
Hell, Toby had been a lawyer for close to eight years before... before. He knew all about composure and projected honesty, about bland politeness and fake smiles. In the courtroom, he'd won more often than lost. And now, it seemed he was gambling with Chris' life -- a much higher stake. He stared at Taylor, expressionless. //No, asshole, you won't get to me. Not today.//
"Christopher Keller was a frequent guest at the same gay bar those three young men used to go to, on Friday nights. In fact, he had recently moved to the city before the killings started -- Mark Carachi died on January 2nd, 1998, Byam Lewis on March 28th and Bryce Tibbetts on May 2nd. Keller had gotten divorced from his fourth wife, Roberta Keller née Falham, on December 18th. He moved away the day afterwards. And I've got witnesses who saw him leave the bar with at least two of these young men. All three of them turned up dead later. Very much later, in fact, but the medical examiners were still able to give us the gruesome details. You can read the reports, if you like. See, young Mark Carachi for example left the bar around 1 a.m. that night, or at least so his friends say. The ME estimated his death to have occurred between 3 a.m. and 8 a.m. Even given the fact that they went up north on the highway, crossed the state line, that still means that it most likely took Mark Carachi at least an hour to die. Beaten, suffocating, bleeding, violated. Want to see what he looked like, when two ten-year-olds found him two months later?"
Taylor took a handful of glossy photographs from the file folder on his lap and shuffled them on the desk like playing cards. They were extremely colorful.
Beecher tried not to look, but too late. The first two or three were already permanently seared into his memory. He swallowed and felt bile coming up. With a superhuman effort, he kept from vomiting. Sister Pete had thrown up her hands in front of her face and swayed a little in her seat. She composed herself quickly, though, and jumped up, outraged.
In the meantime, Beecher and Taylor's eyes were locked in a mute battle of will.
"You have no proof, no proof at all, have you?" Beecher said quietly, slowly, "Or you wouldn't be here at all, and Chris would be standing trial. Yes, he and I were lovers when he was in Oz. Yes, he broke my arms -- Schillinger broke my legs. And Chris admitted it afterwards. And he has, at no time, ever tied me down, raped and tortured me, like you said. Or tried to kill me. To the contrary, he saved my life when Schillinger attempted to murder me in the gym!"
His voice had gotten louder and louder until he was almost screaming. A CO's knock on the door and Sister Pete's energetic outburst saved him from losing his temper entirely. Unseen, he pressed his left hand against the underside of the desk so hard his whole arm hurt. He couldn't afford this, couldn't afford to say too much.
After the little 'consultation' with Ronnie Barlog, he'd been a hundred percent sure that Chris had, in fact, killed those three men. Even before, he'd strongly suspected it, but he still hoped he'd never have to hear a confession from Chris' mouth. Without it, he could still pretend. He thought, fatalistically, that it was all the fault of Oz, anyway -- you spent too much time locked in here, and necessity made you cut down your priorities to the barest minimum. You just couldn't afford to care for too many people; you formed your own little circle of protection and stayed within its narrow borders. You just went mad otherwise... and wasn't he the perfect person to talk about 'mad'? He snickered under his breath.
"Are you out of your mind, Agent Taylor?!" My, Sister Pete's voice had quite a volume when she was seriously pissed. "I didn't agree to let you interview Tobias just so that you could badger him! There was no need for these pictures, no need at all!"
Whatever the nun was thinking, Beecher didn't want to know. Had she even been aware of the details of those murders, and of the extend of Taylor's FBI investigation? How did it feel like, to be attracted to a serial killer? But then, he wasn't the right person to ask. After all, he'd done way more than just being 'attracted' to one Chris Keller, and he didn't regret a second of it.
He resolutely pushed away the small sliver of doubt.
No, Chris had saved his life, saved Holly's life, sacrificed himself so that his family could live free from fear. Whatever else he'd done was in the past, and should stay there... He would never be able to reconcile the tender lover of the endless nights in Oz with the monster who'd... the pictures... Beecher swallowed convulsively. No, Taylor wouldn't get to him, wouldn't get to Chris.
"This meeting is over!"
"I can always go to the warden and request an interrogation room for several hours, you know. This is a still ongoing murder investigation, and it's well within the FBI's rights to question possible witnesses. I just allowed you to stay out of consideration to Mr. Beecher who's suffered such a horrible loss last year -- since you're his psychologist, isn't that right?"
Agent Taylor's deliberate reminder of Gary's death made Beecher grind his teeth. //You just lost all possibility of my cooperation, asshole,// he thought viciously.
"Agent Taylor, I must insist--"
"No, Sister, it's really more pleasant in here, I'd say. Besides, I might need your psychological expertise. Have you ever heard of the Hare Psychopathy Assessment Scale?" Agent Taylor was all politeness now, addressing Sister Peter Marie. The prison psychologist stopped her protests, ignoring Beecher.
"Ah -- Hare. Oh yes, Robert D. Hare, pretty much a colleague of mine. He's a Canadian psychologist who had access to prison populations and devised his own assessment of Hervey Checkley's work, re-defining psychopathy and clearly setting it apart from other antisocial personality disorders. He reviewed over 500 inmate files across three studies and finally published his own checklist for psychopathy, the PCL-R, nine years ago. It made quite an uproar in psychological circles, and is being used by more and more of my colleagues to measure traits of psychopathic personality disorder..."
Beecher just barely refrained from rolling his eyes. Give Sister Pete something to enthuse and sprout technical terms about, and she'd forget all her other concerns. Great. That bitch had no backbone at all.
He quickly squelched that ungrateful thought.
Agent Taylor had pulled another bag of goodies -- sorry, a paperback -- out of his suitcase and thrown it on the table. "And he wrote a book about it that even non-psychologists can understand, "Without Conscience". Was quite successful, too. In fact, it's very interesting." He turned to Toby, "Mr. Beecher, perhaps you ought to read it too."
He opened it on a place he'd evidently marked before and began to read out loud:
"Psychopathy is a clinical syndrome characterized by a callous, selfish, remorseless use of individuals and disregard for the feelings and concerns of others..." Beecher tuned him out and thought of Chris.
In his head, he saw his face more clearly than he had in the last weeks, with the telltale Keller smirk that seemed to proclaim that, yes, Chris Keller cared for no other person beside himself.
But then, what did they know? Chris cared. He could no longer doubt it, not with Chris taking the rap for Hank's murder.
"Are you here with us, Mr. Beecher?" Unfailingly polite, that FBI bastard was. "Of course -- you were saying?"
"In my admittedly lay opinion, Christopher Keller appears to be the perfect example for Hale's studies, wouldn't you say so, Sister?" Agent Taylor had won her over, Beecher thought resentfully, and reflexively caught the stack of printouts Taylor dropped on the desk in front of him. "The Psychopathy Checklist, Revised. A great read."
Beecher stared down on the first sheet and suddenly wished he were in EmCity. Playing cards with Rebadow, Busmalis and the O'Reilys. Watching 'Miss Sally' or, heck, 'Up your Ante'. Or even facing the Muslim's tangible disdain at attending Said's little Koran lessons. All better than this. He was gone far enough that he even contemplated one of those so-called 'interaction sessions' with Schillinger. He imagined ripping Taylor's throat to shreds, like Metzger's, but instead only felt his nails digging into his own palm.
Taylor evidently couldn't stop himself:
"Let's see -- superficial charm."
"That's a perfect description of Chris Keller if I've ever heard one!" uttered Sister Pete. //Still angry about the fact that you almost fell for him, huh, Sister?//, Toby thought aggressively.
"Check. Grandiose sense of self-worth."
Sister Peter Marie's answer to that sounded negative, but Beecher didn't hear it. //Quite the contrary, Chris -- I always got the feeling that you saw yourself as worthless, unworthy of love, trust, happiness... and I didn't exactly teach you to trust in these things, now, did I? Who really loved you in the past, I wonder? Bonnie?//
"That's still debatable, then. What about 'Pathological lying'? I'd say that's a 'yes', too, since it includes repeated lies, use of aliases, conning others for personal profit or pleasure, the like--"
Of course, Sister Pete wholeheartedly agreed with that, and was downright delirious at the next point, 'conning/manipulative'. Naturally, that had to be expected. //Bitch.//
"Check. Okay. Then, let's see: Lack of remorse or guilt."
This time, Beecher threw in sarcastically: "He regretted what he did to me, as you well know.", but immediately afterwards wished that he'd have kept his mouth shut, because now, Sister Pete was on a roll.
"He only confessed to breaking your arms because he wanted back your trust, your love, Tobias. He saw it as a necessary trade. He didn't do it because he actually regretted the deed."
Beecher bit his lip so hard it bled, but kept the bubbling words inside -- //No, he did regret it, I'm sure of that, and after his heart stopped on that operation table, he regretted all he's done, he has a conscience, he does feel remorse, you bastards! I held him that night when his demons came knocking on his door, I saw his tears, I felt him shaking, how can you say--//
"Shallow affect... lack of empathy... fails to accept responsibility for his own actions..."
His thoughts drifted. He just had to pretend that this was one of Sister Pete's phone calls with colleagues, and they were simply discussing a textbook case.
"...proneness to boredom, that is, need for stimulation..."
That brought him back into reality, though. Because at the word 'stimulation', he had a vivid picture in his head that started with Chris pacing their pod like a caged tiger during lockdown, his voiced frustration and the aggressive, extensive bout of sex that had followed that confession. Well, no more. Chris was in Cedar Junction, far far away. And he couldn't even remember what Chris' skin tasted like, not after Mondo, Shemin and the others... Fuck.
"Check. Good. What about 'parasitic lifestyle'?"
"As far as I know, Chris has never held a truly 'regular' job, but his three ex-wives had all been working, I think. Bonnie is... hmm. Oh yes, she works in a supermarket. Kitty is a secretary, and Angelique... something with art. Pottery, I think. A small, but quite well-selling little shop. That is, if Chris told me the truth for a change. Which brings us immediately to some of the points further below on this page--" She pushed her glasses up, "promiscuous sexual behavior, many short-term relationships. I couldn't agree more."
Beecher jumped up. "I don't have to listen to this shit any longer!"
"Oh, but I have barely started," Agent Taylor remarked calmly, "Keller was married four times. I'm sure you know that. And all three of his ex-wives stated that he'd never been completely faithful, not after the first bliss had disappeared. He doesn't care who he has sex with, as long as it's always someone new..."
"You don't have to twist yourself up in knots, not for Sister Pete's sake. She's used to prison talk; so why don't you say what you really think -- that Chris doesn't care where he sticks it, as long as it's warm and moving?! That's what you're implying, right?" Beecher hissed, now beyond caring about the consequences of his actions.
Taylor had the upper hand, and visibly enjoyed it, "Well, Keller did have sex with his old buddy Barlog, now, didn't he? And several men in Unit B have stated that you weren't the only guy he fucked during your happy little love affair--"
Beecher's knuckles were white, but the last remark was too much for his self-restraint. With a cry of wordless anger he launched himself at the FBI agent. Taylor's face snapped back with an audible crunch, and blood started to flow down his chin. The FBI agent just looked surprised, like he'd never have thought this could happen. Beecher only grinned like a madman and hit him again. He even succeeded in getting another solid punch in; the man was too surprised to react in time. By then, COs were storming through the office door and dragging him away, kicking and screaming, face contorted in fury and pain. The last thing he saw was Sister Peter Marie's stricken, remorseful gaze, then the steel door of the hole slammed shut behind him again.
Beecher hit the wall twice in the unabated need to hurt, to inflict the pain he was feeling on someone else, before he dropped to the icy cement floor and cradled his hurting hand, rocking back and forth. "Little red riding hood went through the forest alone..." He laughed out loud, but didn't seem to notice that it ended in a sob. No, Chris couldn't have cheated on him with someone else, that was something he was sure of. With Chris Keller, you couldn't be sure of many things, but-- "'...once the sex sucks' -- no, sex between us never sucked, not even after more than a year, Chris, I know that, so--" No, Keller had never bothered looking elsewhere, and no, he hadn't imagined the soft look that came into the dark blue eyes sometimes after they'd made love. A look that spoke of contentment, maybe even happiness. That look had been real.
But unbidden, the other items on Taylor's list flashed before his eyes: 'Poor behavioral controls. Early behavorial problems. Lack of realistic, long-term goals. Impulsivity. Irresponsibility. Juvenile delinquency. Revocation of conditional release. Criminal versatility.'
He didn't know how many of them actually fit, but he feared most might. So what? Even if it did make Chris Keller a psychopath as per the psychological textbooks -- who cared?
Toby laughed out loud delightedly and told the ceiling: "He might be a psychopath, but he's my psychopath."
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