The detective looked even larger in person. He barely fit through the doorframe as Dr. Susan ushered him in. If he hadn’t fit, I suspect he would have simply plowed through the wall, bricks and all. He didn’t look like the sort to accommodate to situations and things.
The rainwater puddled around the spot where he stood. He didn’t seem to notice this. Actually, he didn’t seem to notice much. It was like his mind was distant, or elevated beyond these petty things.
“What happened?” He growled, like a wild animal, I thought. Dr. Susan looked at me, and I cleared my throat before explaining the situation to the detective.
An inmate had been murdered, slashed clean across the throat. The inmate we had taken to call ‘the clown”, due to his lack of identification. He didn’t seem to mind us calling him that. He had been in here for much longer than I have, and I do not doubt that the grotesque image will forever haunt my dreams: the chemical-bleached skin, the bloodshot eyes, the yellowed teeth attached to bleeding, rotting gums in his mouth that was always wide open. In a laugh? A sneer? Maybe both. Maybe neither one of those.
I had tried once, to pull my smile as wide as it would go, and try and see how long I could hold it. I had managed only thirty seconds before my facial muscles began to spasm uncontrollably, and a cramping pain began to twist its way across my cheeks. Yet the clown held that maddening smile every waking hour, and it would only fade as he slipped into dreams. Even then, his cheeks remained taut, as though he had immediately transited into a wonderful dream.
We locked him in an isolated, soundproofed cell; but I swear by god, that if one listened closely enough, or if it was quiet enough, one could still hear his shrieking laughter rattling up and down the walls of the asylum. Dear god, that laughter! I imagine that was the laughter of Lucifer as Cain struck his brother dead in the fields, or the legions of demons in hell as Christ was flogged and nailed to the cross by his executioners. The sound could drive a man mad just for hearing it; and I hear that prior to the clown’s isolation, inmates have stuck their fingers, among other things, so deep into their ears to block out the sound, that they had began to bleed.
We had his body transported up into the morgue on the second floor. Tomorrow, we intend to cut out his brain for preservation, in hopes that future technology may be able to fully understand the nature of his psychosis; but the warden had insisted that we allow the detective to have a look, before anything else.
The detective listened to all of this with a grimace upon his face. The shadows that fell over his features made it impossible to tell what went through his mind, though I think that without the shadows, it would be equally impossible to look into his thoughts.
“What do you think?” The detective referred the question to Dr. Susan, who had her arms folded across her chest. Her shift had ended three hours ago, and she was clearly at the end of her patience.
“I don’t know what you expect to find in there,” she said simply. “The murderer? The truth? This is an insane asylum. A funhouse. People die in here, whether by their own hands or by someone else’s, and it never makes any goddamned sense.”
Dr. Susan only paused to move her hands to her hips. She cocked her head to one side as she regarded the detective. “And as far as I’m concerned, Mr. Detective; I think they’re better off dead.”
The detective nodded his acknowledgement, and turned his hawk-like gaze upon me. “And you?”
“What do you think?”
“I… I don’t know about what Dr. Susan says,” I glanced over at where she stood, more to break eye contact than anything else. “But if it were up to me… I’d want to get to the bottom of this.”
The detective made his way to the door leading into the lobby. “Come,” he said.
“Actually, that’s an electronic door. You’ll need one of our fingerprints to open-“
The doors slid open with a hiss as he approached it, and the detective stepped out into the brightly-lit lobby. I stood, mouth open, and looked at Dr. Susan, who did not seem to share my astonishment.
“You heard him,” she said, shrugging the white coat off her shoulders. “As for me, I’m heading home for a hot shower, a warm dinner, and a soft bed.”
I said my goodbyes and followed the detective out. The doors slid shut behind me.