I felt the strength of the guards who threw me into solitaire. "Idiots, imbeciles, you're in for the ride of your lives!" Therapy, that's what they called it. If only they would listen. "I'm trying to warn you that you won't come back alive!"
That they had trouble believing the story was understandable. I could hardly believe it myself. I escaped with my life, and now they wanted to take me back? They had to be kidding.
Okay, so I had gone from one prison on that island to another here in Colorado. The point was that at least I had escaped the physical danger of that cursed island. What kind of people were these? If they did not believe me, why were they wasting their time and money on me taking me back? Why did they have to be such bleeding hearts towards me?
Yes, they were in for the ride of their lives, and there was not a thing I could do about it. They had made up their minds that I was going to be cured and that was that. How could they be so dense?
What was the point they were trying to prove with all this anyway? Or maybe, they just wanted extra funding for their asylum next year. This was after all going to be a very expensive trip.
ho was paying for it anyway? Was it privately funded? Or were they about to waste the taxpayer's money again? One thing was sure they didn't need to pack too heavily. After all,as I had repeatedly told them, they would not be coming back.
"Are you ready for your medication, Mr. Johnston?"
I had had my fill of this place for the last six years. "Sure, pump me full of your venom one more time."
"A little on the sarcastic side today are we?"
"Just give me the pills and get out of my face!
"Now Mr. Johnston, am I going to have to call security again?"
"No, just thinking out loud."
"If you are a good boy, maybe I can convince the chief of staff to let you see a movie."
"Damn it Carl, just give me the pills."
"Okay Mr. Johnston."
There it was, he had made me curse again. Not one of my favorite things to do. Sorry Lord.
"I told you before Carl, stop calling me Mr. Johnston. My name is Steven! Is that so hard to remember?"
"And as I keep telling you, we are not supposed to address the patients by their first names. I should've stopped you a long time ago from calling me by my first name. Patients should only call their caretakers by their title. Mine is Dr. Schultz. Is that so hard for you to remember, Mr. Johnston?"
"Look, I keep telling you, I do not belong in here. I am not crazy! This place is beginning to take its toll on me. I don't know how much longer I can take it in here.
'But then, I know the administration has made the arrangements for our little trip. I guess you'll just have to see for yourself that everything I have been telling you for the last six years plus, has been true."
"You must stop repeating these wild tales; they will only make your stay here that much worse. But we will soon put those monsters back in their little box, and if we are lucky, we can cure you from your little fantasies."
"Damn you Carl!" There it slipped out again. Sorry Lord. "I could almost wish I were crazy for your sake, for all your sakes!"
"Calm down, here is your medicine."
The pills went down my throat. I had to wait another two minutes before Carl left the sound proof room before doing my usual trick of throwing them up and grinding them to powder. I evenly distributed the dust on the white floor which matched the color of the medication.
They never seemed to notice the fact that they had collected on their shoes, the very dust of my existence for the last six years. They thought it was the pills which were keeping me stable. I knew it was God's amazing grace.
If anyone would have told me I'd end up in an insane asylum while I was perfectly sane, I would have told them they needed serious help themselves. Nonetheless, here I was. I had to get myself locked in this little grave of a cell at least once a month.
I timed my outbursts around my pill taking dates. They would always tell me a few days ahead of time when they were going to give me my medication. They felt they could keep me calmer if they told me ahead of time. This had been my saving grace.
I knew it had to be the hand of God having mercy on me. It was the only explanation I could come up with. God alone knew that I did not belong in this hell hole. I refused to give in to the urge to curse Him. I knew that it was only because of Him I had been able to remain sane in this cursed place. Okay, maybe it wasn't cursed, but I sure did not belong in here.
Were others in here unnecessarily? I prayed not. My four hours of confinement were almost up. The guards would be here any moment to escort me back to my regular room. They never seemed to notice the fact that it was always when I had to take those wretched pills that I threw my fits. This had been a God send.
This was my one sustaining grace. If I had actually taken those blasted
pills for the last six years, I may well have actually needed to not only be here, but to have stayed here the rest of my life!
The guards were coming. I switched my demeanor as would have been expected. I pretended to be a little groggy and doped up. The guards always fell for it. After all, they had no idea I could force myself to throw those pills up after I had already swallowed them. I went willingly when they opened the cell.
I was a sheep awaiting his slaughter. They were taking me back to that dreadful island. I could not stop them from doing their good deed. They were in their own minds, only trying to help me. At least that's what I kept telling myself.
I did not hate these people, they had treated me decently. I just could not get them to believe that I was only trying to save their lives. My words had fallen on deaf ears.
They were about to learn the most expensive lesson of their lives, and the most deadly. Try as I might, I could not help but feel a little sorry for these guys. I had told them the truth, but they only saw a delusionary fool.
They would have to learn the hard way, and that was that. I for my part was getting a little paranoid about having to go back. But I had to keep my paranoia under wraps. I did not want to give them any more reasons to think I truly was crazy. I reasoned that at least they felt they had everything under control.
I was not going to make them think otherwise. This might be my only chance to break free. This might be my only chance to prove my own sanity. Not just to them, but to myself. As I have said, I could hardly believe it myself.
I had survived the island once; I was not so sure I could survive again. If the opportunity presented itself, I would try to escape. Not in the city, they would only find me again. No, I would have to go all the way back to the island. Once there, I could outmaneuver them since I already knew the outlay of the place.
I had lived there a year before I discovered the truth about the place. It had been an accident waiting to happen. It had been a nightmare which I had not been able to wake up from.
Now, they were taking me back. They were going to try to wake me up from my dream state.
Fools! They had no idea they would soon be joining me in my nightmare. They would know the truth as I know the truth. They would know what I already know. They would know, and then they would pray to forget. They would pray they had listened!
Back in my normal cell, I could hear the others mumbling and making their racket. I longed for the peace afforded me in the sound proof room. But I had to hold off until my next round of medicine.
I had to play it cool. Each and every day had been like a wrestling match. I was pitted against my fellow inmates.
That's what I called them. We were after all, prisoners of the state, even if not officially tagged as criminals. The bell had rung; it was me against the whole block of poor devils. I had to hang on. The trip would be in just a few days.
This would either be my total salvation, or my total destruction depending on how things went on the island. I had to think positive. I could not let fear take control of me. Even, if the fear was well founded.
I had to keep focused on the positive aspects of this whole thing. It would get me away from this place and these people. I felt for them, but I did not belong cooped up with them. I was a victim of telling the truth to a blind society. I was a victim unjustly accused. I had been declared guilty without a trial. There was no jury of my peers. There was no courtroom decision. No, there was no due process at all, only guilt by admission of the truth.
I could not change my story my integrity would not let me. They acted out of fear not rationale. They heard what they needed to hear in order to deny the truth. They heard a raving lunatic. They heard someone who needed to be locked up while they attempted to bring him back to sane thinking.
That's all they heard, they did not hear the truth, they did not hear the desperation of a man who knew more about their government than they did. They only heard and saw what they wanted to hear and see. The alternative would have been too much for them.
They would have had to admit that they were not in control of their own government. They would have had to admit that the science that they had learned in school and through the media was in fact a lie. They would have had to face the truth. But they were not at all prepared to do that.
Living in a get-ahead society took all their time and energy. There was little time left to spend on government cover ups and military secrets. These were things for their elected politicians and the media to think about. This is what they paid them for. This is what kept them from having to think too hard about things.
They were in fact children looking to their elected parents to solve their daily
problems. Society had conditioned them well. Their needs were all but met. Why would they even think to question what had been drilled into their heads from the time they began to be educated by society.
Uncle Sam and his counterparts across the globe had done their jobs well. They had not only staged the most elaborate production ever produced, but they had done it all right under our noses, mine included.
Had it not been for the fact that my editor in chief had insisted I get some live shots of the Solomon Islands from a personal point of view, I would have been spared the truth. I could have continued living my hustle and bustle life just like the rest of society.
I had been a prisoner on that island. I became a prisoner again when I returned home. The mystery was not why I had been made to suffer this fate; the mystery was how society had allowed this to happen. How we had not kept a tighter rein on those we had elected. This was the true mystery.
How wide and how deep this deception penetrated, remained to be seen. One thing was sure; I had opened "Pandora's box," and there appeared to be no way to ever seal it again. Not at least, for myself.
For those still in the dark, it remained a mystery untainted by discovery. Lucky bastards; ignorance is bliss. But they will have to find out sooner or later. I just happened to find out a little sooner than our government would have liked. They hadn't made a ruckus, they simply handed me over to the nice men to have me fitted for my new suit.
I had heard about strait jackets, I never imagined they were so irritatingly maddening. Just my luck I found out through personal experience.
I could point the finger at a number of people. I could shift the blame on society, I could blame my editor, and I could even blame God. But in the end, it was as much my fault as it was theirs. I first had to point the finger at myself. This was my cross to bear, I could not shirk it. My penance was to do my best to help others to see the truth.
I knew it was already too late. The powers that be had already been allowed to complete all but the final stages of their project. The Unsuspecting souls of today's world; they would soon have to deal with it no matter what their status in society was.
"All lights, out!"
There it was the final stage of the day. Another day would begin tomorrow. The darkness could not shut out the screams filling the halls. It was part of the misery we all shared. Nights were the worst.
I held my pillow over my ears to deaden the shrieks. I finally drifted off to sleep. I dreamed a good dream; I dreamed of a happier time when I was ignorant with child like aspirations. I dreamed until the morning sun crossed my eyelids and woke me like a gentle reminder of my predicament.
I had gotten a good night's sleep for the first time in months. I attributed this to pure mental exhaustion.
It was a soft voice. Not what I was used too in this place. I turned to see the face associated with this voice.
"My name is Dr. Jennifer Cowell."
She was a stunning beauty. She had the blackest hair I had ever seen. It was long and straight. Her figure was impeccable. I sat up at attention immediately in more ways than one. I saw a slight smile cross her face as she could tell I was more than a just a little pleased with her appearance.
"How are you feeling today?"
Now that question had been on the lips of every doctor in this place for the past six years, but for the first time I actually felt like answering it.
"I'm feeling like a breath of fresh air just crossed my path."
I could tell she was caught off guard with my response. She smiled and continued with her questioning.
"Have they told you about your soon to be trip?"
It wasn't that I meant to be curt, it was just that her beauty had me tongue tied. I kept thinking I was going to wake up again and it was all going to be part of my previous dream.
"So are you ready to start preparing for it?"
I wasn't quite sure what she meant, but I would have agreed to anything this beauty was going to be part of.
"Sure, why not. I've got nothing better on my agenda."
"Good. Let's start with your name."
"Don't you know it?"
"Yes, but I need to know just how much you are with me."
"Why all the way of course."
She sensed the tone and I saw her blush. She quickly recovered.
"Can you relate to me why you believe you are in here?"
I looked down at the floor and thought a minute.
"I'm in here for safe keeping."
"Can you elaborate on that just a little?"
Again I looked down to collect my thoughts.
"There are those who think I could cause myself harm if I were released."
"And would you cause yourself harm?"
"Well that depends on what angle you view this from."
"What do you mean?"
"If I was to reveal what I know, it might just be the death of me. So in that sense, I guess you could say that I would cause myself harm."
"And what is it that you think you know?"
"It is not what I think I know it is just what I know."
"Okay, so what is it that you know?"
"I know too much."
"You know too much about what?"
"I know too much about what is going on behind closed doors."
"You know what is going on behind which closed doors?"
"I know what is going on behind the closed doors of our government, and the governments of the world in general."
"Oh, I see."
"Look, I know you have pre-conceived ideas about things. So did I until I experienced what I experienced on that island. Now they want to drag me back there. I'll go willingly and without a fight, but I will tell you what I have told them. They better be ready to die if they take me back there."
"So are you planning on killing us?"
"Are you going too?"
"I hope for your sake you change your mind."
"Are you threatening me?"
"No, you have it wrong."
"I have no animosity towards anyone here. I have been trying to tell them the truth about what is on that island."
"And what do you believe is on that island?"
"I believe that no matter what I tell you, it will not matter, you are already convinced that I am out of my mind."
"Why not tell me anyway."
"You must have read my files."
"Yes, but I want to hear it from you."
"Will it make any difference?"
"Probably not, but try me."
I could not help myself, I blurted out the first phrase that came to my mind. "There are secrets and monsters!"
I felt foolish for phrasing it that way, but that's just how it came out.
I knew I was in trouble now. I was still having trouble focusing on the conversation and not on her appearance. Yes, I knew I had probably just blown my one and only chance to convince yet another person of my sanity. Dear God, why hadn't I phrased it differently? No, I might as well have signed my own death warrant.
"These monsters, what do they look like?"
"Look, it is all in the report you have in your hands. Read it and get back with me!"
"I didn't mean to upset you, it's just good therapy to talk things through."
"Go to hell!"
Again they had forced me to curse.
"You are not here to help me you are here to see the freak!"
"I think we have talked enough for today, I'll come back tomorrow."
"Why? Do you think my story is going to sound any different to you tomorrow or the next day or the next? Let's get something straight besides what's between my legs."
She blushed at this remark, but I was very angry at her patronage.
"I saw what I saw, and tomorrow I'll tell you the same story. If you come back later, I'll tell you the same story. I call them monsters not in the sense that a child calls things monsters, I call them monsters because that is what they are! They are your worst nightmare come true, they are virtually unstoppable and harder yet to kill!"
"Okay, like I said, I'll come back tomorrow. Until then, try to calm down so we can actually talk instead of scream. Is that agreeable to you?"
"Sure, come back tomorrow, but be ready to listen. Don't talk to me like a child. I am a man as sane as you are. I just have a fantastic unbelievable yet horrifying story I have to tell to whoever will listen. If you can just let go of your pre-conceived ideas about your government, you just might have a chance at learning the truth about them. In the mean time, try to tell yourself that I just might not be making this stuff up."
As she got up to leave, Carl came and unlocked the cell. I knew that he had only allowed her to come into my cell because he knew by experience that I was not really violent. He knew I could get angry, and yet not get physical. They had long since removed the straight jacket.
They knew I was not going to harm them or myself. I had been without the jacket for two years. They knew I would not hurt Jennifer. I had however, frightened her a little with my outburst of anger.
But now, for the first time in over six years, I had something to look forward too. I had a real reason to look forward to tomorrow. It would be a joy to wake up tomorrow. It would be spring for the first time in a very, very, long time.
The day droned on. I paced the floor and listened to the patients make their noises at each other. I tried not thinking about Jennifer. I tried not to think of how she had affected me. The more I tried not to think of her, the more I realized that it was useless. What else did I have to think about?
I could think about how miserable I was. That was not an option. I could think about the misery of the others in this place. That was not a very positive option either. I could think about the trip. That only served to aggravate me.
I sat there thinking of Jennifer for hours. She was the only good thing I could think of to think about. I thought about her black hair. I thought about her beautiful teeth. I thought about how I had blown my chance at befriending her. I thought about how I wished I could have met her under different circumstances.
I hadn't seen any ring on her finger. That was the second thing I noticed about her. The first of course was how beautiful, how perfect she was made.
Why was I doing this to myself? What possible chance did I think I had with a woman of her caliber? Especially now, being here in this place. Still, I could not help but entertain the thoughts. She was a dream come true for any man. She was water to a thirsty soul.
She was going to need my help in the worst of ways when we made the journey back to that cursed island. She would need me just to survive, let alone keep her sanity.
I felt strangely satisfied that she would be eating her own words. She would in fact be begging for my help.
I seized my own thoughts before they got out of control. What was I thinking? I had to convince her not to go on this expedition. I had to make her understand at all costs! She did not deserve that hell hole. She was an innocent child trying to save humanity, one soul at a time.
A new goal came to mind. I would keep her from going on this trip I had too, for her own good. This would be my new mindset. This would be my goal. I began to work on a plan to either stop this mission of madness, or stop her from going. Whichever of the two was more plausible.
"All lights out," bellowed the nightly cry.
It was going to be another sleepless night. I lay all night thinking up my plan. I fell asleep with no more of a plan than I had gone to bed with. No matter which way I twisted this story, I saw her insisting on going. No, I knew in my gut that she would be going on this mission of supposed mercy, come hell or high water. It was my last thought before drifting off to sleep.
SEEING THROUGH JENNIFER.S EYES
Hearing the exact same words I heard her speak the previous day, I almost believed, that I had slipped once again into another dream state. It took me a minute to realize that she was really there again. Just as before, I shot up at attention.
"We've got to stop meeting like this."
I saw a smile cross her gorgeous lips.
"That will be entirely up to you Mr. Johnston."
"Please, call me Steven."
"If that's what you want."
I noticed her tone was different. I heard no condescending tone in it this time. I wondered if it was because I had frightened her yesterday.
"I wanted to apologize for yesterday. I should have kept my cool. I was wrong to attack you the way I did. I know you are only doing what you consider to be your job. It's just that I have been in here over six years and have had to tell my story to so many people…"
"I don't think you do. Every time I have to relive that nightmare, I feel the sheer terror I felt back then on that island. I have to contend with the fact that I am labeled as a lunatic just because I have no physical proof of what I saw. We are going to go back to something that neither you nor anyone else should be forced to deal with."
"No one is forcing me to go."
"I know that, but I am very concerned for your safety."
"I can take care of myself."
"I'm sure you can under normal circumstances, but normal is not what you will encounter on that island. I want you to understand that if you go on this trip, and I am sure you are going, that you may pay with your life. I am not interested in keeping you from going just to keep you out of my hair; I am actually concerned for your very life."
"Why don't you let me decide, if I want to take that chance."
"That's fair enough. I just know better than you what is on that island, I was there."
"You mean as a prisoner?"
"No, I was there taking pictures of the topography."
"Funny, your file mentions nothing about you being a photographer."
"Of course not, the army does not want you to dig any deeper into this than necessary. My old boss Mr. Finchley must think I'm dead by now. I was supposed to be gone for no more than a couple of years. They were sending me checks to fund my photography of the Solomon Islands. They were going to do a whole issue based on my pictures. They were going to call it; 'Living like a King on the Solomon Islands;' I had shots of me on the beach sipping makeshift margaritas. I don't actually drink, but it's the image that sells it."
"So what you are telling me is that no one here has checked out your story?"
"It's either that, or they have gotten to my editor with scare tactics or worse."
"So if I wanted to check out your story, where would I begin looking for Mr. Finchley?"
"They brought me here to Colorado. I worked in New York. I lived in Manhattan to be exact. I have told them this stuff a thousand times over."
"I'll tell you what, if you promise not to condemn me to hell again, I'll check this out personally."
A smile crossed her lips again. I wondered if she was actually going to be the first person I had met in this place that was actually going to give me the benefit of the doubt, at least for now.
"Is there anything else you want to tell me before I make this trip to check out your story? Do you have any family? Maybe they could corroborate your story."
"Unfortunately, I don't have any family, I lost my parents when I was eighteen."
"It's okay. I've gotten used, to making it on my own, but there is someone who may be able to help if you can't find Mr. Finchley, or he is not willing to corroborate my story."
"And who would that be?"
"He is the captain of the small boat I took to get to the island in the first place. His name is Charlie Brooks. He is the last person I had contact with before I was left on one of the inhabited islands. I could hardly believe they even had a way for me to receive my money; the island was not that well developed. They were hoping my being there was going to generate more tourism."
"So if I can't find your Mr. Finchley, I should try to locate this Charlie Brooks."
"That is correct."
"Where would I begin to look for him?"
"He frequents a small restaurant called 'Sailor's delight' in Manhattan; usually around 6:00 P.M. Of course, it has been over six years. They say old habits die hard, let's just hope the saying holds true in this case."
"I'll check it out. I'm not making any promises mind you."
"I understand, I know it's a long shot anyway. I found out the hard way, our government does not like to leave loose ends."
"I'll get back with you in a couple of days. It won't be any longer than that, "cause that's when we leave for the island."
"Don't remind me."
"Sorry, it's my job."
I watched her leave as Carl came back to let her out. I was gaining a new admiration for this woman whom I hardly knew. For someone to come into a place like this and actually bother to check out what might end up being a wild goose chase of a story, said more about her character than I could have imagined. It was like I was seeing things through a fresh set of eyes.
I was seeing things not from my own point of view; I was seeing things looking through Jennifer's eyes. She was even more woman than I could see with my own eyes.
Time seemed to stand still. I realized she was my best shot at freedom. I realized that she was giving me more than I could ever have hoped for from the staff here at this place. I also realized, that she could lose her job if they found out that she was investigating things.
I was not sure if this stuff had been checked out by the staff here or not. I knew that if they had checked into it, they either met with dead ends, or were threatened into keeping silent about what they had found out about my previous life.
Either way, it was a gutsy move on her part. I was more than just a little impressed with her actions.
She had made my day. In fact, she had made my year! I hoped against hope, that she would be able to reach Mr. Finchley or Charlie Brooks. But I had to find a way to keep myself occupied in the meantime. I had to keep from looking more anxious than normal while I waited.
I decided to ask if I could be let out into the gated yard outside. This was not by any means an unusual request from me. I had asked many times before to be allowed outside. They usually complied with my requests. It posed no threat to anyone. They knew I was not violent.
The others outside were in their own worlds and so not much interaction occurred anyway. They granted me my request, they allowed me two hours.
The outside air was fresh and warm. I sat on the bench which was bolted to the ground on the only piece of cement in the yard. It was big enough to seat four people of normal size, or two people with above normal weight. I was the only one sitting though. The others were chasing imaginary butterflies or simply standing in one place twisting their bodies and flailing their arms.
I wondered how much the medicines had to do with their actions.
My mind drifted in and out of thoughts of Jennifer and her beauty. I tried to imagine how such a beautiful woman had escaped marriage for so long. I tried to see myself from her point of view.
I could not blame her for her skepticism. If I were in her shoes, I would be just as cautious if not more. I probably would not have given me the benefit of any doubt. But there you have it; she had shown me she was made of more than I could see on the outside.
Two hours came and went. That is at least by my time clock. Where is Carl? He should have been here by now to open the door to let me back inside. Not that I was in any hurry, it just seemed a little strange. Carl was usually right on schedule. He was my time clock. I knew what time it was by his punctuality. I hoped it was just my imagination that Carl was late. I did not want to start second guessing what time of the day it actually was.
The door opened and Carl motioned me that it was time to come inside. There were other workers outside, and I could have asked any of them to let me inside. They only needed to ring the bell and announce through the speaker box that they needed access.
But Carl and I had created a sort of a bond. It was still a business as usual type of bond, but a bond nonetheless. That's why I still called him by his first name when we were alone. I didn't do it when we were in mixed company. I did not wish to get him into trouble.
Carl really did not seem to mind me calling him by his first name. He would pull rank once in awhile, just to remind me who was in charge. That's why he did it the other day; it was his way of reminding me to respect his position.
I actually did respect Carl; he had done a lot for me over the last six years. I just couldn't convince him I was as sane as he was. But that was not his fault it was the fault of the army. They were the ones to blame for causing these people to believe I was out of my mind.
They had convinced them that I was a civilian under contract with them who had simply lost it after spending too much time working and not enough time on R& R. They even hinted on LSD usage when I wasn't supervised. They had swallowed the story hook, line, and sinker.
How were they to know any different? Especially when I came to them ranting and raving like a maniac about this being part of a government cover-up. I must have really appeared to them to be out of my mind.
Things were different now. I had since become more sedate. Partly because I knew it was pointless to keep on fighting quite so hard, and partly because I was just tired of telling my story. They were never going to believe it anyway. I still maintained my story; I just mostly kept it between Carl and myself.
Although he did not believe me, at least he did not try to bring down the system's wrath like some of the others had.
I kept hoping one day to convince at least Carl of my sanity. This was one of the things that helped me cope. Carl had in his own way become my best friend. I'm sure he had no idea of this. But it was true just the same.
"Time to come in, Mr. Johnston."
"Coming, Mr. Schultz." I waltzed in like I was dancing. "Does this make me appear like I'm a crazy man?"
I was being cute, and I saw Carl smile. It was a rare occasion, but it did come out once in awhile. It took my mind off of Jennifer just for a moment. Carl escorted me back to my cell.
"Thank you, Carl."
"Will there be anything else? May I get you room service or something?"
Now you had to know when Carl was actually being friendly. He was not meaning to be snide, he was actually showing friendship, in his own awkward way. It had taken me a few years to figure him out. But that was Carl, and I considered him my friend.
I ate dinner with a new outlook that night. I had renewed hope. Jennifer was out there searching out the truth. I had confidence that if Mr. Finch was out there; she would find him. If not, there was still Charlie Brooks.
My mind was going like gang busters. If I kept thinking about it, I would get no
sleep at all. I forced myself to listen to the sounds the others were making. I began to see them as potential victims just like I was. Maybe not quite as wronged but at least in the sense that they were in fact suffering just as I was in their own rite.
"All lights, out!"
There it was; the call of the wild. Somehow the darkness quelled the storm within that night. I sank into my pillow without covering my head and went fast asleep. There was no female voice to waken me the following morning. It was the sound of one of the inmates screaming as they hauled him away to give him his weekly bathing.
These baths could be taken voluntarily if one had the reasoning to at least do this for oneself.
However, there were plenty in here who could not perform this chore on their own. I was one of the few lucky ones who could. I decided to take advantage of this fact. I asked Carl to allow me to shower. He granted my request.
The shower seemed to cleanse my soul. It had been a week since I had engaged in this ritual cleansing. I needed it badly. We were allowed up to two showers per week. More if the staff felt it was necessary. I simply had not felt like taking one.
I realized now that this was a sign of my depression. But things had taken a sudden turn. Things looked a whole lot brighter these last few days. It felt as if the light at the end of the tunnel was in fact becoming visible.
I dried myself with my towel. Carl had brought me a fresh set of clothes. I put them on quickly. My energy seemed to be renewed. Even Carl seemed to have a puzzled look in his eyes. I just smiled.
"You must be thinking of someone."
"Why do you say that?"
"I'm noticing a little bit of a change in your demeanor lately."
"It could be just your imagination."
"Or maybe it's a certain someone? Could it be someone with the name Jennifer?"
"You mean Dr. Cowell?"
"Okay, yes, Dr. Cowell."
"I can't deny she has had a positive effect on me. She seems to have caught your attention also Carl. But I can see why. She is very beautiful, and smart too."
"And how can you tell she is smart? It was my understanding that you all but threw her out the first time she tried to talk to you."
"Yes, but I was a little on the cranky side that day. Now I think she is smarter than YOU!"
Carl could not help but laugh.
He escorted me back to my cell and left me alone to think about Jennifer. My thoughts were becoming filled with her and with hope that she could help me prove my sanity. But who was I kidding, I was falling fast and I did not want to let that happen. I knew she had to have someone.
Maybe she didn't have a husband, but at least a boyfriend. She was gorgeous!
I spent the rest of the day daydreaming about her. I did not realize how much time had passed, until I heard the famous words;
"All lights out!"
I dreamed of Jennifer that night. I dreamed she had found Mr. Finchley. I dreamed she had gotten word to those in charge. I dreamed that she had freed me and we were married. No dream was sweeter.
Unfortunately, when Jennifer returned, she did not have very good news. In fact, it seemed to me that every fabric of society had conspired against me to keep me in here.
Not only had she found Mr. Finchley; but she found out that he had been dead for most of my six year stay in this hole. As for Mr. Charlie Brooks, the word was that he had taken ill with some exotic flu about the same time as Mr. Finchey's death, and expired himself.
"I'm sorry that the results were not what you had hoped for."
"At least I know what their status is. I would rather know the truth than to go on wondering. This should at least make you wonder, right?"
"I must admit, it does seem a little strange that two of your acquaintances would end up dying so close together. But that in itself does not constitute a conspiracy. Let me make a few phone calls. Maybe we can find out a little more about your employment with Mr. Finchley if in fact you actually worked for him. I'm still not convinced you did, but your information about these people seems to have panned out. Mr. Finchley did in fact run a magazine, and Charlie Brooks was in fact the owner of a boat. This may end up working in your favor yet."
"Don't give up on me. I promise you that if you dig a little deeper, you will be able to prove that I was a reporter for the magazine. Don't quit on me."
"I have no intention of quitting on anyone. I want to figure this out for my own curiosity as much as for your freedom if in fact you really don't belong here."
Jennifer smiled again. I knew it was one that was meant to assure me, but I could not help but smile back. Yes, she was having quite an effect on my demeanor.
She left me alone in my cell, Carl having let her out. I could see Carl smiling more these days. Of course, I also knew why. She had changed his demeanor as well. That was a given. Who could blame him? She was one gorgeous package. I would have been worried if she had no affect on him.
There I sat, alone with my thoughts again. Where will they take me this time?
By mid morning I felt the need to backtrack my thoughts in an effort to find some piece of information which might help Jennifer figure out what had happened to both Mr. Finchley and Charlie Brooks. It was then that I realized I had forgotten a very important fact. I should have asked Jennifer to try to track down the checks which I had been receiving in the mail on the islands.
It was a long shot once again, but I had to try to get her to understand the full scope of things before we set sail. Time was running out, and I did not want her aboard that ship. I did not want me aboard that ship either if I could avoid it!
"Carl! Is Jennifer still on the grounds?"
"You mean Dr. Cowell?"
"Of course, forgive me."
Carl threw me a semi-stern look.
"What do you need her for?"
"I just need two minutes of her time."
"I'll see if she is willing to come see you."
Carl was gone for quite awhile. When he reappeared, Jennifer was with him.
"What can I do for you?"
Jennifer looked at Carl in a way that asked him to leave. Carl got the hint and left.
"I just need to ask you to see if you can check out my former bank account. This should show that I received monthly support, from my editor at the magazine."
"Do you still remember your bank account number?"
"I can not only tell you which bank and what number, I can also tell the name of the person I used to deal with in the bank before I left for the island. She will definitely remember me; I took her out a few times."
"Well, normally I would refuse such a request, but since the other information you gave me panned out, let me have the information."
"It is Chase Manhattan bank account; #*************. Ask for an employee named Ann Margaret."
Jennifer's eyebrows went up.
"I know, I know, I'm not making her name up. She really worked there, and that was her name. Anyway, you can find out if you just call as if it's official business. They will give you the information."
"I'll have to get a court order, but I have a judge who owes me a favor. It should not be too hard; I'll give him a call as soon as I leave here."
Carl was summoned and escorted her away. I could feel the hope beginning to grow once again. I concentrated on trying to convince myself that this would be the ticket to freedom. Funny thing was, I already almost missed Carl. Like I said, he had all but become my best friend. I knew that tomorrow was the big day. I knew that even if Jennifer could track down my cashed checks, it was going to be an uphill battle from there to freedom. But every battle won, is one more chance to win the war. I waited for her to bring me the good news.
It was just before lights out, when Jennifer appeared with Carl at my cell to give me the bad news. Of course Jennifer waited until Carl had left before spilling the beans. My heart sank when she told me that Ann had been killed in a tragic car accident. But she now had three people I had been involved with, who had died at almost the exact same time. Her curiosity had been peaked.
"I must admit, I keep running into dead people who supposedly used to know you."
"This news is not easy for me to deal with. When I left for that island, all these people were alive. What about the account number?"
"Now that is where I found another puzzling thing."
"What is that?"
"I found out that the account number is still active, but it is registered to Mr. Carl Schultz."
My mind went numb!
"Have you had access to Carl's personal data lately?"
"I swear to you, this is part of some massive cover-up!"
"I must admit, it seems extremely unlikely that you would be able to find out Dr. Schultz's personal bank account number. I mean, it is not something you blurt out by accident during any type of a normal conversation. I don't know what to think."
"Wait, if Carl, I mean Dr. Schultz has taken over my bank account, maybe you can trace any monies that he has been receiving for the last six years plus."
My mind was still numb from this information, but it was slowly coming back around.
"Actually, I'm way ahead of you there. I tried to trace the money he has been receiving based on the court order."
"What did you find?"
"That's just it, I ran into another brick wall. It seems the more I dig, the more I have questions."
"Have you confided in anyone else that you have been checking into this?"
"I could lose my license for doing this. The judge only agreed to it because he trusts me implicitly. No one else knows what I have been doing."
"Good, keep it that way; I don't want anything mysterious happening to you."
"Do you really think that could happen?"
"You can see the death toll's rising can't you?"
Jennifer got a look of concern, but tried to hide it with a joke.
"I don't die easily."
I tried to laugh, but only managed a small grin.
"I'm serious don't tell anyone what you have checked into. Specifically, don't tell our friend Dr. Schultz! He and I will become even closer in the days ahead."
"What do you mean?"
"I need to watch more closely whom he talks to. Maybe I can learn just why he took over my bank account instead of just using his own."
"Look, you leave any detective work up to me," said Jennifer. "I don't want you getting into any trouble."
"I'm afraid it is too late for that,"
"Why do you say that?"
"Because if Carl has been receiving money from someone to keep an eye on me, you can bet he knows more than he has let on. Furthermore, you can bet he will be on board that ship tomorrow, even though he is not scheduled to go. He is not scheduled to go; you can check this out by looking at the roster in the main office. I have not seen the roster, but Carl has repeatedly told me he is not scheduled to go on that ship. But I expect he definitely will be on board tomorrow, mark my words."
"What possible reason could he have for getting on the ship, if he is not scheduled to be on it?"
"I'm not sure, maybe it will just be out of curiosity, or maybe for a more sinister reason. Do me a favor and stop by the office before lights out, tell them you left some paper work there or something. Take a look at the roster for the trip. His name will not be on it guaranteed."
Jennifer called for Dr. Schultz. Carl showed up and escorted her out of my view. I heard her ask for permission to go back to the office to pick up some paper work she had left there by mistake. I knew she needed to be careful around Carl from now on. I knew I needed to do the same. If he got even a whiff of us knowing something about his involvement, we were to coin a phrase, "Dead meat!"
I heard for the millionth time;
"All lights out!"
The sleepless night drug on. I prayed Jennifer could keep her cool around Carl. She seemed to have everything under control, but people tend to get nervous under pressure. I prayed she could keep her composure while deceiving Carl in order to find out more.
I had peaked her interest, now the stakes were about to get much higher. I wondered would she stay in the game, or would she cash out while she still had her career, indeed, possibly her life.
Part of me hoped she would just leave while she could. Part of me hoped she could gather the information necessary to free me. I struggled between the two all night before exhaustion took over and I slept.
I heard it, but I could not believe it. Once again this bold woman had graced me with her presence. Carl was gone already, just like before.
"I checked the roster; Dr. Schultz is not on it. But, I also found out he is scheduled for vacation the week of our trip."
"Okay, so maybe I was wrong."
"Don't sell yourself short just yet."
"What do you mean?"
"I had an interesting talk with Dr. Shultz about his vacation this morning under pretense I was looking for a good vacation spot myself. He suggested I visit one of the other islands nearby our destination. He said he was a frequent visitor to this little known vacation spot. He told me we would practically be neighbors while we were on our island. It was just a hop skip and a jump away from his vacation spot."
"I knew it!"
"It does seem a little odd, but this is still not proof of a conspiracy."
"I only ask that you reconsider going to the island with us. I don't want you getting hurt."
"I was assigned to help you, and I am going to do my best to help you."
"I admire your fortitude, but I really am concerned for your safety."
"I have no choice but to go, you are my patient."
"I wish you would not call me that."
"I was only speaking from a professional standpoint."
"I am getting a little suspicious about things, but I can't rule out coincidence either."
"I understand, but those monsters aren't going to care how dedicated to your work you are, they'll digest you like a mid day snack."
"Are we going back to talking about the monsters?"
"This is no joking matter! Just promise me that you will stick close by me during this trip."
"That's the whole idea. I need to observe your actions there."
"Well, while you are observing my actions, please be very careful to listen to my words as well. They may save your life!"
"I'll do my best to listen to every word you say."
"Look, let's not go back to square one here. You have already seen three dead people. I don't want you to be number four!"
I saw Jennifer flinch just a hair. I knew I was starting to get through to her.
BACK TO THE ISLAND