“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I stared at Ezra in disbelief. “Did Ken say that?”
I may have forgotten how to blink. I shifted my gaze towards Flint to see if he would crack into a smile and declare that it was Ezra’s idea to play the joke.
No such thing happened.
I had turned from suspect to victim and now I was reduced to being an actual murderer by my own brother. I stared at the grey walls of the interrogation room. A table separated the distance between me and the FBI Agents.
Ezra was the first to speak. “Would you like anything to drink, Riley? Tea, coffee or water?”
“I just need an answer.”
“The answer to your question is a yes. He didn’t outright say you killed all those people but he suggested that you may have something to do with it.” Ezra explained keeping a poker face. I couldn’t guess what was going on in his mind. And something else was different.
They thought I was deranged.
I didn’t like that look. “Do you really believe that I killed Mad-Dave, Nurse Roxy and my best friend Madeline?”
Ezra didn’t answer this time, it was Flint who did. “Your brother has reason to believe that you may have done it without having knowledge of it.”
I was baffled by all of this, and my anger was going to shoot through the freakin’ roof. “Agent Flint Knight, would you kindly stop talking in riddles and get to the point?!”
“Very well, Kenneth told us that you were experiencing some headaches and blackouts, and upon some investigation on our part...” he paused and looked at Ezra, “The staff at WoodVille’s confirmed that it was indeed true that you were found in the empty wards dozing off from consuming a heavy amount of sleeping pills.”
“That happened just once when I accidentally swallowed Jack’s medication.” I said.
“And do you remember how it happened? How did you manage to swallow the medication prescribed to your patient?”
“As far as I remember, Jackson was not co-operative. He had been under the impression that I was going to force it down his throat like all the other nurses before me, but I wasn’t.”
“Your brother also showed us the diary you wrote, all the type of research about the criminally insane.” Flint said.
Ezra just continued to stare at me like I was a puzzle he needed to solve. He had his legs stretched out in front of him, his posture relaxed.
“I did the researches as a means to help me understand the mental health of my patients. In fact Dr. Aaron encouraged it. It was nothing more than a study about something that I was passionate about.”
This was supposed to be us trying to unravel the killer. How had it turned into an interrogation and more importantly, why had Ken told the FBI that I had done the killings?
“There’s going to be a thorough investigation, Riley, we are going to go through your apartment again. Your mental health will be confirmed by a psychiatrist and until then you will remain under police custody.”
“So you think I’m crazy?”
“We haven’t implied that.”
“You’re not implying it because you’re insinuating it. You cannot lock me up in an asylum!” I shrieked. “What proof do you have that I murdered those people?”
Flint passed me a bored look, like he wanted to be done with this interrogation, get a nice hot meal and get laid with a beautiful woman that evening. And I was in his way.
“Ezra, would you like to do the honors?” Flint asked.
Ezra crossed his legs in front of him. His expressions turning cold. It was clear that I was being cornered. “When Mad-Dave was killed you were on duty at the time and you told Dr. Aaron that you needed to get some rest and left home early that day. Jack was locked away in a straight-jacket. So far into the investigation, we’ve been able to understand that the killer is someone who knows about the inner exits of the hospital that no one else does.”
“But that doesn’t explain—”
“I’m not finished yet, Riley.” Ezra cut me off in a curt manner.
“I’m sorry. Please go on.” I said
“Dr. Aaron Shaw mentioned that before you were taken by Jack to live with him in the cabin, you saw the body of Nurse Roxy in the old wing.”
“I did.” I admitted. The killer had laid all the traps and I’d walked right into it.
“And when Dr. Aaron went to check on it, he couldn’t find the body.”
“So that proves I’m the killer?”
“Your fingerprints were all over Madeline’s house.”
“I need to place a call to my attorney, James. I won’t talk any further without him being present; neither will I give any explanation because it seems to me like you guys are hell-bent on putting the blame on me. You want me to go to a shrink? Fine.” I sat back and folded my hands against my chest.
“Nothing personal, Riley. I hope you understand.”
I passed him a smile. “I understand, Agent Wolfe. Do what you have to.”
Twenty-four hours. That’s all it took for me to turn from a completely normal person to someone who experienced blackouts and killed people. I looked at myself in the mirror, I had turned pale and wasn’t getting enough sleep. The hospital food was just adding to my depression. Ezra was supposed to be my friend, but he’d betrayed my trust in the end. Then again, how could I expect anything from Ezra who I had recently met when my own brother had lied to the police?
I had called him that evening and given him an earful and he refused to give me answers. “You’re a coward, Ken. You lied to the police. There are going to be people wanting to know the answers. I will get hanged!” Hot tears ran down my cheeks.
“I did that to protect you!” Ken shrieked over the phone.
“To protect me?” I laughed. “How are you going to protect me by framing me for these murders?”
“You did it, Riley. You murdered those people without even realizing it. You killed them because you were totally in love with Jackson. I promise though, everything is going to be okay now, you’re going to get the help you need.” He said. “The only way I can keep you from getting convicted is by making sure you’re locked up.”
“Do you hear yourself? You’re sounding insane! You’re the killer aren’t you?”
There was a long silence on the other end of the line. “Ken?”
The line went dead.
My mother had always said that I was strong. I had promised her that I would always protect my brother even though we didn’t have much of an age-gap, and now he said he was protecting me in some twisted way. Did he really think I killed people?
It had just been a few days since I was admitted into the asylum. I had a lot of time to think in my ward room. I spent my time, staring into the plain walls thinking of the answers to my questions.
I wasn’t crazy. I knew that for sure. I hadn’t killed people unknowingly. It was just maddening to think of me doing something like that.
When I saw James, I felt utmost relief. My attorney was my best option to get out of this situation. He was dressed in a formal grey suit, a serious expression on his face. I guess he didn’t think he would see me in such bad circumstances such as me locked up in a mental health facility.
“What are you thinking?” I asked him out of curiosity.
“Can’t you tell?”
I caught his hand in mine. “I’m not crazy; James and I never killed anyone.” Probably the hundredth time I had said it this week.
We stared at each other in silence. The only sound in the room was the other patients talking to their visitors. “Riley, I’m your attorney and if I’m representing you, I have to know everything. If you are having blackouts and have no recollection of the lost time, I have to know.”
I squeezed his hand. “You’ve got to believe me. I’m not having any blackouts. There is some misunderstanding. I have no idea why my brother is lying to everyone.” I said with as much conviction as I could muster.
James remained silent for a while. “Do you think he is the killer?”
I gave out a laugh. “Honestly, I don’t know. I can’t imagine Ken killing so many people.” I paused and thought for a moment. “Okay, let’s say he is the killer, what motive would he have?”
“A serial killer doesn’t need a motive, Riley. It could be an addiction, or he could be killing just for fun. They do it because they find it entertaining, and can’t stop. Sometimes they continue to kill until they are apprehended, it’s like a cry for help.”
I pondered over that thought. “James, I need a favor from you.”
James had been quite a good friend, I was yet to pay him fully for his services and he’d been generous enough to let me know that I could take my time which was quite nice of him.
“I want you to get inside my apartment and go through Ken’s room, there are some files in his wardrobe, I want you to take copies of it and bring it to me. You will find the copy machine in the living area.”
James face was drained from his usual color. “You suggest I break into your apartment” He lowered down his voice a little, “I could go to jail for it.”
“There’s no need to break in. I always keep a spare key of my apartment below the ‘Welcome’ mat outside the door. You’re the only person I can trust to get me these documents.”
James appeared to be thinking. I pressed on. “Please, James. I need your help.”
“I will try my best.”
“Not try, James, I want you to do it, But be very careful.”
Two days later I received a call.
“Riley, I found something. You’re not going to believe this.” I heard James say on the other end of the line.
“I went to your apartment and got my hands on some really strange stuff. I don’t know how this links to the murders, but I know it surely does.”
“Come see me in the hospital tonight. Bring the things you found, let’s talk about it.” Whatever that James was going to tell me, I had to be ready.
“I’ll visit you tonight when I can.” He said and ended the call.
If James had acquired some proof against Ken, I had to be strong. It hurt a lot to think my own brother, my own flesh and blood would kill people and frame me for it but if there really was solid proof then it meant that all this madness would end. I was exhausted from staying high on alert, always looking behind my back. I craved for a normal life, to be a normal woman for once.
I waited for patiently for James that night, anticipating what he had in store but when I didn’t hear from him, I went to bed deciding that James had changed his mind about meeting me tonight. Maybe he had other important work that day.
At around eleven p.m, a nurse came to tell me that there was a call for me. I thought it had to be James.
I picked up the receiver. “Yes, James?”
“Sorry to disappoint you, Riley, but this is Ezra speaking.”
“Cutting straight to the chase. I have two news to give you. One good and one bad. Which one would you like to hear first?”
My heart began racing faster. “Um, good?”
“Okay, the good news is that Jack woke up from the coma. He opened his eyes and the first person he asked for was you—”
I think I may have started sobbing in relief. “Jack woke up?”
Then suddenly I started to feel ill. What was the bad news going to be? I hoped he didn’t tell me that Jack stepped on a bar of soap and slipped back into the coma or something or that he forgot who I was in a matter of seconds.
“What’s the bad news? Is Jack alright?”
“Riley. Your attorney James McIntyre was found in his apartment.”
“No!” I whispered. “He can’t be dead!”
“A cord was around his neck, damaging his windpipe. We reached on time to find that he was still alive. We’ve taken James to the hospital. He’s been treated in the intensive care unit. His apartment is in shambles. Everything turned upside down.”
“It’s my fault.” I mumbled.
“You kill people telepathically? Next thing, you’re going to tell me you’re in possession of a Death Note.”
I didn’t know how Ezra could even joke at a time like this.
“I told James to acquire some important things from my apartment and look what happened.” I held the receiver tightly in my hand, feeling my knuckles go white. “I know who did it. It’s clear now.”
“Oh yeah, you didn’t let me complete, Riley.” Ezra said. “One of James neighbors ran into a person while she was waiting for the elevator. The man was running down the stairs in a hurry.”
“Well, the description matches only one person.” He said.
For the first time. I didn’t need to ask Ezra who this person was.
“The descriptions match your brother Ken.”