Insanity by Cameron Jace
Copyright©by Cameron Jace
December 27 2018
VIP WARD, THE RADCLIFFE LUNATIC ASYLUM, OXFORD
Dr. Tom Truckle, director of the Radcliffe Lunatic Asylum, stood mouth agape among his assistants. They were staring at a cell in the VIP Ward, where they kept the most dangerous patients. Well, it was only one patient the ward was built for: Professor Carter Pillar, publicly known as Pillar the Killer, one of the world's most dangerous psychopaths.
Unlike Alice's cell, this one was almost as big as a luxurious single room in a five-star hotel. The walls were the color of ripe mushrooms, with all kinds of vintage portraits hung on them. They were mostly portraits of plants and flowers, and they made the room look like a forest. The furniture was modern, mostly curvy, with dominant motifs of green and cream colors. It had a refrigerator, a widescreen TV, and a writing desk the color of ravens. Books were piled up in one corner with a couple of tobacco packs on top. A Cuban cigar, a pipe, and dried mushrooms were scattered on the couch. Two lamp stands, shaped like bending roses and violets, added a sincere, cozy light onto the big creamy couch in the middle, all facing the bars overlooking the hallway where Dr. Tom Truckle stood. A blue hookah stood right before the couch, threads of smoke still spiraling in the air.
There was one thing slightly wrong with Professor Pillar's cell. The professor wasn't there.
“This is a joke, right?” Dr. Truckle growled at the wardens and nurses, who were rarely allowed to leave the underground ward—today was an exception, due to the Pillar's disappearance.
The staff lowered their heads, afraid to meet Dr. Truckle's intimidating eyes. Truckle had fired employees for much lesser issues than an escaping patient in the past. The asylum's reputation meant everything to him.
“I think—” a recently hired nurse began.
“You think?” Truckle grimaced. “You don't get to think in my asylum. I'll tell you what I think: you're fired.”
Immediately, Ogier took her by the arm and showed her out.
“I don't even know how he does it, Dr. Truckle,” Waltraud Wagner said slowly. She'd always been among Dr. Truckle's favorites. “The cell is still locked from the outside. There is no sign of breaking out. And he is the one and only patient in the ward.”
“Professor Carter Pillar is one of the world's most dangerous psychopaths.” Dr. Truckle faced his staff. “He used to teach philosophy at Oxford University, until something happened to him and compromised his sanity.” Truckle's eyes widened under his glasses when he pronounced the word “sanity.” His thinning blonde hair almost prickled, sending goose bumps to his staff's arms. “Pillar the Killer killed twelve innocent people afterward. The fact that he tricked the court by pleading insanity does not deter from the other fact: that he is a cold-blooded serial killer disguising as an insane man.” Truckle enjoyed the fear he saw in his staff's eyes. He'd always liked being feared. Otherwise, he felt he'd fail in controlling the asylum. “The Pillar might fool you with his charms, hypnotizing eyes, and nonsensical sarcasm. But if you think his stay here is for treatment, then you're on the verge of insanity yourself. The asylum is more of a prison for him. He's doing time here because neither Interpol nor the FBI could convict him. We're supposed to keep him locked here, to protect the world outside from him.” He knuckled his fingers as if preparing to punch somebody. “So can anyone explain to me how he managed to escape for the third time this month?” he screamed at the top of his lungs, his veins protruding from his neck like hot hookah hoses. Most of the staff swallowed hard. There was a saying in the asylum: that the only one madder than a hatter was the Truckle.
“With all due respect, Dr. Truckle,” Waltraud said, “I think we should finally inform the authorities.”
“You know I can't do that, nurse Waltraud.” Truckle gritted his teeth. “We're all going to lose our jobs instantly if we tell them that the man they asked us to simply lock away is gone. Besides, everyone is head over heels looking for this Cheshire Cat killer right now. Knowing the Pillar escaped will worsen things for everyone.”
“What really puzzles me, Dr. Truckle, is why Professor Carter Pillar always returns from his escape,” Waltraud said. “I mean, we never report his escape and yet he still returns to his cell, as if it's a walk in the park.”
Truckle's face reddened as he stared back at the empty cell. “He's mocking us, Waltraud.” He tucked his hands in his pockets and was about to pull out one of the pills his psychiatrist prescribed him. He didn't want to expose himself in front of his staff. If they knew their boss needed help just like any other madman in the asylum, it'd be the end of his career. “He is bloody mocking us, and I am dying to know what he has on his mind,” he said, crushing the pill into powder with his fingers. He didn't mind leaving it in the bottom of his pockets. He had a lot of pills, as he took four to six a day to calm down.
“Maybe he really is mad,” Ogier moved from behind. No one even paid attention to him. “Or why would he always come back?”
“I think it's that Alice in Under Ground book he always keeps with him,” Waltraud suggested, pointing at the book that lay on the couch. “I heard he started killing after reading it.”
Silence invaded the room, as everyone wondered where Professor Carter Pillar was at the moment.