The calm after the storm felt more foreboding than the calm before. Something had changed during that long night. The atmosphere was thick in the dim halls of the asylum, the oppressive silence smothering the soft, tortured sounds that emitted from the misshapen man, rocking in a tight ball on the hard concrete floor of his cell. In the cell next to him was his brother, trying to calm the man with soft spoken words, but this man was only a boy himself, just seventeen, and was just as afraid of what would be happening to them. But more than that was he angry, he was inwardly raging.
Their mother had put them there. She had damned the two children she claimed to love to the bug house, damned to waste away forever. Still, it only was confirmation of what he already knew: as soon as she discovered her children were not the perfect human beings she’d expected them to be, she had given up on them. They should have been her pride, but were her shame. So she put them away, literally; in closets, in cupboards, chained up in the attic, and if she deemed it necessary she would even do the worst of the worst. Tate had no illusions. Not anymore.
It came thus as no surprise that she’d tried to sent them to the nut house as soon as the opportunity presented itself, but what Tate had not expected was that she’d make her move so quickly and so expertly. She’d upped him one and gained the upper hand before he could even comprehend what was going on. His mother was crafty, he had to give her that, she’d played it cleverly and he could only react with rage and embitterment.
Two pair of steps echoed through the silent hall. Tate waited until they stopped at his door. Tinkling of large keys, the locked rattled as it turned, the heavy iron door sque a ked on its hinges. The people here were unhinged, the door were very much fortified. Even in his previous state, even when he’d felt at his strongest, it would’ve been impossible for him to destroy that door.
“Tate Langdon.” His name echoed through the hall solemnly as if it was the judgment of god. The speaker was nun with an iron gaze and steel features, probably around his mother’s age. Behind her was a broad guard in uniform. “My name is sister Jude. I think you know why you’re here.”
He knew. How he knew. “My mother wants to get rid of me.”
Those words seemed to trigger irritation in the stuck-up old nun, as she took an aggressive step forward with the express purpose of looming over his seated position. Good, every weakness of the staff could be turned into an advantage for him...
“You put a dagger to your own mother’s neck and threatened to push her down the stairs.” she accused bluntly. That was an outright lie from his mother, one he hadn’t heard before. Of course she would know there needed to be an acute threat to the safety of the public for him to be detained quickly and smoothly. “Beside that, you suffer from serious delusions: you believe you’re from the future and you even believed you were dead. Now I’ll tell you you’re are not, Mr. Langdon, and you do severely need our help finding the right path again. And before you deny having ever said those things, your mother also told me the cuts on your arm are caused by yourself, to ‘see if you were still invincible as you were as a ghost’. That tells me enough about whether you truly belong here.”
Tate turned his bandaged hand and forearm inwards, but he couldn’t hide his cuts from sister Jude’s hawk-like sight. The thing was, that had been the truth. Not that he was delusional, but he had been a ghost, a ghost haunting a house somewhere in the future, less than two days ago. And so had his mother, but she’d been shrewd enough to see that no one would believe them and to use this fact against him ruthlessly. She had had him fooled.
“Your mother is desperate, she wants to save you from your own depraved mind. It will be wise to remind you the only true salvation is God’s, and only He can save you from the demons of your past.”
“There is no god, and the last person he would save is me.” Tate muttered. He was raised as a Catholic, but had never really believed ‘He’ existed. And if he did, would god help someone who’d returned from the dead? If anything, Tate’s being here was the devil’s work.
He was speaking to a strictly devout woman, though; for one moment, Tate was afraid Sister Jude would hit him. Or worse, would have the strong guy behind her hit him. Instead, she just put a hand on his shoulder, strangely warm and comforting, but also commanding, holding him still and staring him down along her nose. “The world can be a harsh place, but God is merciful to us all, if we are willing to work hard and pray to his name.” she vowed. “I’ll forgive you this once for your disbelieve, Mr. Langdon. I might be a religious woman but I’m not strange to the world and this age, I can’t blame you for its growing secularity. I only hope you will find Him again within these walls, and He will be merciful if you learn to pay for your sins, that I promise you.”
Tate wanted to call her out on her bullshit, but already knew it would achieve nothing but pain on his own. The only reason he hadn’t been punished already probably was his age. There was no talking with religious crazies. So he just acted as if he listened to her jumbo on God and discipline and patiently waited for the metal prison door to close with a dull clang.
In the next cell Sister Jude found the boy’s brother, looking uglier than a gargoyle, but Jude knew the devil was more beautiful than men. Her heart lurched for him. He clearly did not have the capabilities to know right from wrong, it seemed he couldn’t even speak. Discipline wouldn’t do a thing, the only thing they could do was offer him a good home and pray for his soul. So entirely different from his brother, whom Jude still had hopes for if they could set him straight. Beauregard Langdon would likely need to stay in Briarcliff for the rest of his life.
On the other hand, Dr. Arden had said he’d like to have a look at Beauregard first thing next morning. Jude didn’t trust the scientist in the least, but even she had to admit every now and then he had the most stunning results with the most difficult patients. Maybe he still cure a case like this, and actually help Beauregard make contact with the world.
It was only one day later that the serial murderer, ‘Bloody Face’, arrived at Briarcliff. Tate had heard the stories from the orderlies.
On January 16, Donna Burton, a librarian, was abducted from the Wausaukee County Library -- a short drive from the gas station where the killer worked. Her remains were found two days later...
Her skin had been removed.
So had her head.
In March, Allison Rydell, a secretary, was taken outside of her home. An eye-witness had told they’d seen a figure wearing a mask made of human skin. Donna’s skin. Later, also Allison’s mutilated body was found; at the edge of the road in Rosdell’s Woods surrounding the town, again, without head and without skin... by an elderly couple going on a holiday. A downer for their trip that must’ve been.
Now the killer’s own wife had disappeared. No one knew when or where her remains would turn up again, and if he’d already had time to take off the skin. Clear was, this man had a seriously sick mind. He was demented. And he was dangerous.
It was for that reason that Tate was glad his brother Beau was on some session with a Dr. Arden the morning Bloody Face arrived. Tate didn’t like the idea of his vulnerable brother being in the same room with such a fucked up man, even if there were guards and orderlies constantly breathing down everybody’s neck whose sole purpose was stopping people like Walker from harming anyone. This was because Tate knew, no matter what everybody did, some people just would not be stopped. That was what they were insane for. So Tate would need to protect his brother, to be wary of this Walker as well as every other patient in this shit hole for as long as they were here. Then they would escape, he and Beau would escape as soon as the opportunity presented itself and find out what had sent them back in the time.
Tate sat at the side of the room, at a small table by himself. His eyes where focused on the double doors at the end, where Walker would enter. He would try to assess him, so he could be prepared for the worst if the tosser ever dared to come near Beau. When in hell, better be wary…
It was after about two hours when the killer was lead in. To no real surprise of Tate’s, he was a pretty boy. Strong, handsome frame, flowing dark blond locks, probably in his twenties… Kit Walker was the perfect sixties’ Rock ‘n Roll boy, he would’ve had the ladies swooning for him. It disgusted Tate. Such a perfect, thoughtless life, and yet such a depraved, selfish mind. Why murder and skin those women, who’d done nothing to him? That was no noble war, that was no protest, that was lust of a man who never had to miss anything in life. That was the epitome of what this filthy system reduced people to: consumers, predators, monsters for whom the highest achievement in life was their own, material gain.
He had murdered his own wife. One should never hurt the people they love. And if he married a woman he didn’t love, he was even worse a monster in Tate’s books.
The woman he’d come to know as the slut of the asylum darted around the killer. He had welts on his ass. Sister Jude’s handiwork, apparently, his assessment that she would be one for corporal punishment turned out to be true. The killer rejected the slut’s advances, but Tate knew that only was form. Couldn’t kill other inmates on his first day, now could he?
Walker walked around dazedly. He aggravated towards the gramophone, where the madding tune played on and on. It was the same weird, awful, cheery French chanson that played forever on a loop, making those who were still sane actually lose their minds – seriously, Tate had once heard somewhere that playing horridly bad music on a loop was a real form of torture in some countries. If this song wasn’t the one already used for that, Tate would warmly recommend it to the secret services. However, that wasn’t the only reason Tate hoped the killer would stop the tune: those who tried were enthusiastically snatched upon and then taken up Sister Judy’s hardest cane. It was nowhere fitting the man’s crime, of course, but Tate always liked the handsome ones getting taken down a peg. He knew it was not something to be proud of, but if Tate felt it justified, he could take real pleasure seeing those who had hurt others in pain.
Sadly, Walker was stopped by Grace, the same French girl who also stopped Tate when he wondered if he could smash that god-damned record to pieces just two hours ago. He was no expert in reading lips, but he took a good guess she was telling him the same thing she’d told Tate: the song played while the common room was open. One of the rules of house, and rules were to be obeyed here, on pain of… well, pain.
Saved by the girl, Tate thought cynically, but then to his delight another inmate recognized the killer for who he was and started punching him in the head with steel knuckles. Patients gathered around, calling for a fight, and the two psychopaths rolling around the floor answered their request with zest. Just as it was getting entertaining – Walker had gotten on top and was now bashing into the other guy, Sister Jude came in with a few orderlies and a ghastly, shrill whistle that hurt Tate’s head, breaking the two up and spoiling everyone’s fun. Walker blamed the other guy, which made Tate chuckle, but still was the one taken away. For some kind of punishment, Tate was sure.
Killer free among other inmates
o. a. Pepper, a Pinhead
and Beau, a handicapped boy
Lana Winters had to be careful as she penned the note – she doubted Sister Jude would be merciful on her, the nun was her abductor after all. Namely, she had come to Briarcliff not as a patient, but as a reporter trying to get a scoop on the infamed Bloody Face killer, Kit Walker. Now that infamed killer was looking at her from the other side of the room.
Sister Jude had caught her snooping in her institution, and somehow had gotten her claws on a statement of her homosexuality – signed by her lover Wendy, giving her a legal allowance to keep her in the place as an inmate. The sister was determined to keep her here out of sheer spite. But Lana had her revenge already planned out, she would write down every malpractice and abuse she encountered within these walls, and once she had escaped the place, she would tear it down. The law was with her, and there was nothing that could stop her as soon as she got out. But until then, she tried to lay low and gather as much evidence as she could.
She glanced again at the killer. He was playing some kind of card game with Grace, the girl who slept in the cell opposite hers. Lana didn’t know what had led to Grace being in Briarcliff, she was one of the minority here who seemed entirely sane at first glance. What Lana didn’t understand, was why Grace chose to spend time with a known women killer of all people.
Feeling uneasy thinking about Kit Walker, she decided to seek some diversion and properly meet the duo sitting at the table to the left of her: Beau, a grotesquely malformed, but further seemingly harmless boy and his younger brother Tate, who just like Grace and Kit Walker looked and acted like a sane, perfectly normal person at first sight. Lana almost suspected Tate was just there to support his brother – the only thing she ever saw him do was leading him, playing with him or just generally taking care of him – but she knew that wasn’t very plausible. With Beau, on the other hand, it was more than obvious something was wrong. Apart from his physical handicap, he behaved like a young child; always being engrossed by the games Tate invented or the stories he told or, more and more Lana was sad to conclude, letting his brother comfort him as he was rocking back and forth, crying his heart out.
C urrently, Beau was happily being read a story by his brother; they had taken one of the books from the ancient collection in the game cupboard of the c ommon r oom. They sat side to side, Tate was showing Beau the pictures and the text as he read, so Lana sat down opposite the brothers drawing a slightly annoyed look from the younger boy.
Tate didn’t stop reading, though, and Lana listened to him telling the story of Barry the Dog and Penny the Fox with all flair and enthusiasm he could bring. Tate wasn’t a bad story teller, Lana suspected he was used telling his older brother children’s stories from when they still lived at home. Beau hardly noticed her presence, as engaged as he was in the story, and as soon as Tate had finished and put the book aside Beau opened it again and tried to nudge it back into Tate’s hands.
“That was a good story.” Lana complimented amiably, “You have real talent there.”
Tate pushed the book away, focusing on the reporter instead. “ What do you want? ”
“Just wanted to meet some friendly faces.” she told honestly, “My name is Lana Winters, if you haven’t heard, I’m a reporter. I came here to do a story on Bloody Face, but Sister Jude found me snooping in her asylum and found a way to keep me here, as a prisoner.”
The teen, Lana guessed he was barely old enough to be even admitted to the place, frowned warily. “ On what charges? Even if Sister Jude keeps you here unjustly, she needs to have some charges. ”
O f course, Tate was right to have some suspicions, smart even. She would have asked the same. “ I am a lesbian. She got my lover to sign my papers. ” Before coming here, s he wouldn’t have been so open, but as Briarcliff already had possession of her most sensitive secret she’d decided that telling it to the other inmates couldn’t do her any more harm. The teen reacted very well on the news, he pulled a painful face out of sympathy but did not appear shocked or appalled in any way. It may be because he was used to associating with people who were different from the crowd, or because he and his brother came from a very progressive family.
“Beau and I also don’t belong here.” he confided. “Beau is obviously handicapped, but...”
H e folded his arms on the table, leaning forwards conspiratorially. “Our mother put us here on false pretenses, because we got in her way. That ’s the real reason we are here. That’s why we need to get out, as soon as possible. Beau... ” He shot an anxious glance at his brother.
“What’s with him?” she asked.
“I guess you don’t see it, because you don’t know him, but he usually never is this pale. And he usually is much more active and annoying. I try everything I can think of to cheer him up, but as soon as I stop playing with him he gets all quiet and still, and I can hear him crying at night...” Tate swallowed his his worry back. “It’s Dr. Arden, he’s doing something to him and it’s making him sick. Whenever he gets back from a session he’s worse, he’ll be curled up in a ball and it takes me hours to calm him down. He isn’t just sad anymore, he’s gotten scared.”
T ate was all choked up, but Beau didn’t seem to notice that even though he was still sitting right by his side. He indeed was very pale, almost greyish, and he was staring away from them in a soulless way. Lana had no idea what his normal proportions were, but his shirt was unhealthily loose around his arms. On his inner elbow was a small bandage, suggesting some kind of injection.
“We need to leave from this place,” Tate continued, “Beau needs to leave. I don’t want Dr. Arden touching my brother ever again.” Tate shook his head as if he was in fierce denial of the very thought. “I don’t want it. He’s hurting him.”
“I might know a way out.”
Tate head shot up, shocked. Lana herself was shocked that it had slipped her lips so easily, but it was clear that whatever was happening to the handicapped boy was wrong on an entirely different level than her detainment. If he’d die in here while she could have prevented it, she would be a monster in her own right. She would hate herself, and anyone who knew what she’d done would rightly do too.
“There is a tunnel that’s unguarded, it’s how I got in. But I don’t know how to get there without being seen, we’ll need something of a distraction.”
“We’re going with you.”
Lana whipped around. It was not the petite French woman that triggered that immediate alarm in her brain, but rather the man Lana had come to associate Grace with.
“You’re not. You heard nothing. You’re not going anywhere.”
“I heard you know a way out, and we want in.” Grace insisted, “You know me, you know I don’t belong in here, I was tricked just as the lot of you. I want to feel the sun on my skin again, I want to live my life again, just as you do.” That was true, Grace was friendly and kind to anyone and didn’t seem like she belonged in here; Lana would love to bring her along with their escape. The person she was so opposed against was the one standing behind Grace.
“Not with him...” She knew she sounded completely vile, but that was how she felt about Kit Walker. If she set him free he would just continue his horrendous practice, and every new body would be a blemish on her soul.
“I’m innocent.” he had the guts to say. “I’m not the killer you think I am.”
“Like hell you are.” Lana sneered back viciously.
“I believe him.” Grace told firmly. It saddened Lana to see her friend so gullible as to believe the man. How he had sweetened the Frenchwoman up so much was a mystery to Lana. “He’s done nothing and doesn’t deserve to be electrocuted nor to be kept here forever. We’re either both going with you or we’ll find our own way out.”
“Good luck with that!” Tate called out mockingly from behind her, his tears completely disappeared and his voice suddenly self-assured and cocky.
The orderlies were calling the evening, rounding everyone up from the common room.
“When Kit tells me he hasn’t killed those women I believe him.” Grace argued, “They have the wrong killer, Lana, and have stopped the investigation while the real Bloody Face is still out there. All evidence against Kit is purely circumstantial, there is no real proof.”
Lana wanted to respond, but the guards had gotten t o o close by now. Grace hadn’t been out in the world for a long time, the only things she’d heard about Kit’s case came from either the staff or the murderer himself. Of course she would tend to believe her fellow inmates above the authority that abused and mistreated her. But Lana had been out in the world, and had researched the entire investigation closely.
There was no doubt: Kit Walker was Bloody Face.
“What’s your name, Miss?”
John had difficulty not eyeing up the gorgeous woman at his desk too conspicuously. That would only give trouble, and John didn’t do trouble. He had a wife, three beautiful young children – going on four – a cozy home in the outskirts of the town, he always was and had been a troublefree man. He’d take a peek, nothing wrong with that, but he kept his paws to himself. He was just decent like that. It was his greatest virtue. But now also a great miss .
“Elizabeth Mary-Ann Short.” The vowels glided smoothly as a soft, tingling melody. “I’m from Boston, but I’m supposed to be in Los Angeles. I have an audition there, you see?”
“An audition?” John asked curiously.
“I’m going to be a movie star.” she pronounced the words ‘movie star’ with the conviction of a little girl sure to have a Hollywood career as she’d grow up. It did not lend her aspirations much credibility, but she sounded sexy as hell saying it.
“Well, then it is an honor to have met you, Miss.” He showed her a toothy grin. “But how did you then end up sleeping on a bench in Framingham?”
“Well, that’s the thing officer, I’ve forgotten. One moment I was in Los Angeles, making my dreams come true, and the other I was in this cold, dreary town without my money and even without my coat! How is that possible, officer?”
“I couldn’t say...” he replied, scribbling bullet points in his note block. “What is the last thing you can remember, where were you, what was the date?”
“I’m not sure, it’s all so blurry.” she complained. “But it certainly was in California. The third, fourth of August? Maybe a week later...”
H is pen rose from the paper. “Miss, it’s October.”
She frowned her perfectly groomed eyebrows. “How can that be? I can’t have missed more than a month? I’ll have missed my audition!”
At that point Saul came in, leaning in the door. “John, we’ve contact with the men in L.A.. We need her name and date of birth.”
“Elizabeth Short, November twelfth nineteen-twenty-two.”
That surprised John. “You’re forty-two? I’m sorry, Miss, I had estimated you a lot younger.”
“What are you talking about? I am twenty-four years old.”
“But you said you were born in twenty-two!”
“Yes, and now it’s forty-seven and I am twenty-four.” she claimed straight-faced.
“When you said it was August last you could remember, you mean August nineteen-forty-seven?”
“Yes, of course.”
This beautiful woman was obviously a madwoman. She indeed was dressed as John imagined someone from the forty’s would, but he’d assumed it just to be a matter of taste. Her exaggerated intonation too was something out of a somewhat old-fashioned Hollywood. She was from another era.
“John!” Saul called from the doorway again. He beckoned him to join him in the hall.
“What’s the report?” John asked lowly after he’d closed the door behind him, shutting the astounded woman in the questioning room.
“They found an Elizabeth Short from Boston born in nineteen-twenty-two in the civilian register in L.A.” Saul informed him, “Only, that can’t be this woman. Elizabeth Short was found murdered and sawed in half in a park in Los Angeles in August nineteen-forty-seven.”
John grimaced. “That’s gruesome. You think this woman took on a false identity?”
“The case was huge. She was nick-named “the Black Dahlia”, it remained one of the highest profile unsolved cases to this day. We also had an old paper with the article in our own archives, look at the photo’s...”
Saul handed the paper over to John. At the front page were two photo’s, one a portrait of Elizabeth Short as she was alive and one the mutilated body found among the bushes. To John surprise the woman on the pictures looked exactly the same as the woman at his very desk, the likeliness was uncanny.
“So, what do we do?”
John considered it for a moment. Then he looked his friend and colleague in the eye with a great smile. “What do you think? Impostor or ghost, what does it matter? The woman is homeless and confused, so we should be gentlemen and offer her a place to stay at the office.”
John would always be a good, decent man.
That one opportunity they’d all been waiting for since the talk of escape had started, came a lot sooner than anticipated. No one knew what exactly was going on, but that night all doors in all cell blocks started to rattle – creating a sound as if a herd of a thousand horses galloped through the hall, as if an army of an era past stormed along just at the other side of the door. The light turned a hellish red and then – in perfect synchrony – all doors flew open.
Uncertain, Lana stepped out, seeing the other inmates hovering just as confused near their doors. Grace too had woken up and peered through the eerily red hall.
“What’s going on?” Lana asked her lowly.
“I don’t know, power failure? Come on, this is our chance!” Grace tugged her along as they went hastily to the men’s residence. They hadn’t agreed yet on whether to take Kit with them, but Lana was to astounded to bicker. There was no time now, and maybe they wouldn’t find Kit, maybe they would just find Tate and Beau and leave before the killer was there.
As they hurried through the corridors, the opportunity they had became more and more clear. The guards were too busy with the panicking crazies, sister Jude and sister Mary-Eunice were no where to be seen, everywhere was chaos. Lana began to hope, to actually hope, their freedom might finally be real. Grace as well, suddenly stepped much lighter and got almost giddy with the prospect of leaving the place. Soon they found Tate and Beau, the younger boy wide-eyed and tense, roughly pulling his brother along with him.
“We’re escaping, right?” He sounded short of breath, his adrenaline choking him. The light made his dark eyes glow up red, he was almost crazed with despair, but there was a cheerful spark of hope and anticipation there as well. Lana was glad having met them before she had left and being able to save Beau from whatever was going on in Dr. Arden’s lab.
“Yes, follow me.” Lana turned to leave, to where she knew the tunnel to be. She didn’t want to linger. The quicker they got away from the men’s cell block, the smaller the possibility Kit Walker had spotted them.
In no time they reached the lowest floor, running to the end of a corridor just past some closets and storage rooms. That hall seemed to perpetually smell like strong chemical cleaning products. “It’s just through that door.” Lana told the others.
The entire group whipped around, looking at Kit Walker standing just behind them. He must’ve followed them all the way here, why else would he suddenly appear at this floor? But why had he decided to show himself now?
Grace didn’t have such contemplations. “Come on, Lana knows a way out –”
“No!” Lana interrupted Grace. “He can’t come with us.” She turned sneeringly to Kit. “Get away from us!”
“Lana, please, I know what everyone thinks of me but I swear: am not crazy, I didn’t kill those women!” He sounded as Lana had expected him to sound, like an innocent, naive young man who still believed in his dreams and ideals. That must’ve been what Grace had fallen for, but Lana saw it for what it was: a mask, not of human skin but one of innocence, created by a psychopath and a master manipulator. A monster.
In his attempt to sway her he’d taken a step forwards, she took one back to maintain distance. “I will not let you. You’re a disgusting excuse for a human being, you can get the electric chair for all I –”
“Lana! It doesn’t matter if he escapes or not, we need to go.” Tate pressed frantically. He stared at her like a frightened little boy. Beau hung weakly on Tate’s shoulder, he had practically been carrying his brother all the way down here.
“He’ll follow us!” Lana tried to argue, but Tate would have none of it and interrupted her again.
Grace agreed. “We’ll find the rest of the way ourselves. Let’s go!”
Tate, Grace and Kit all ran past her, to the white double doors she had shown. Behind that would be the unguarded storage room for the chute cars, and there the started the tunnel. Kit couldn’t leave. Kit couldn’t escape! He’d murder and torture people!
“HELP!” Three faces turned to her, wide-eyed, not believing what she was doing. “HELP, THE KILLER IS ESCAPING!!!”
Suddenly guards poured in from all corners, crannies and corridors, tackling the four prisoners. Kit was cudgeled down aggressively. Grace was pushed up the wall, catching Lana’s eyes. She got the hard, betrayed glare she deserved. But the most unsettling was Tate. Beau fell from his shoulder as he furiously tried to struggle free. But Tate wasn’t just trying to get out of the jumble, he tried to get to her, he was staring at her with murderous hatred – like he wanted nothing more at that moment than to rip the limps from her body with his bare hands.
He was quickly thrown down to the ground, two guards diving after him to keep him in control, however, nothing stopped him from letting out a primal, blood-curdling scream that even seemed to startle the guards. Tate too, was cudgeled into unconsciousness.