“Jackson, that’s enough!” I shrieked, but it was too late. Mad-Dave’s face was bloody and his eyes were rolled back, a tooth fallen to the floor.
Cody, the Man-child didn’t seem to be bothered by this. He just casually threw us a look as if we’d just disturbed Mister Panda and his television time together.
I seized Jackson’s arm and tried to pull him away but his eyes spelled murder. It was like he was possessed. Jackson was too muscled and strong; he didn’t even budge when I pulled him. I needed to thread slowly out of this situation, one wrong move and I’d probably end up looking like Dave.
“Jackson.” I called out him. “You need to calm down. Dave is a bully; he’s just messing with you.”
Jackson turned his furious eyes at me. “Nobody fucking talks about my mother like that!” He yelled at Dave.
It was funny how one nasty word about his mother had driven him into a fit of rage when he was the one who’d killed her in cold blood. Maybe Jackson had some serious Mommy issues.
“I will kill him!” He said through gritted teeth.
Just then Marvin, the ward boy was passing by who saw the mess. “Call Dr. Shaw urgently!” I told him and turned to face Jackson. “If you tried to harm him anymore than you already have, they will put you in a strait-jacket and force you into the isolation room. Do you want that?”
Other patients were terrified to even think about being put into strait-jacket and the isolation room, but in Jackson’s case, he didn’t seem bothered.
“Didn’t you want a twenty-four hours out of the institution, do you think you’ll get it with this behavior?”
That seemed to have done it because his breathing that had been erratic a moment ago began to calm down. I placed a hand on his shoulder, and couldn’t help but notice how the hard muscles flexed beneath my fingers.
A minute later, Dave was placed on a stretcher. He opened one eye and passed me a grin, his teeth stained with blood that ran down his chin. The stretcher rolled away as Dave faked a moan.
Then, it just clicked into place.
It was all Dave’s plan just to get Jackson into trouble. He knew about Jackson’s violent nature and his bad temper and he’d taken advantage of it.
How crazy was Mad-Dave on the scale of one to ten?
I’d say a hundred.
Some nurses and two security guards arrived, followed by Aaron who seemed furious. The nurses restrained Jackson like a prisoner and put the mask back on his face. Jackson just stared impassively, his features not betraying any emotion. And just like I’d guessed, he was placed in a strait-jacket that even stopped him from moving.
“Aaron, it’s not his fault.” I said. “David instigated the fight. He said some really vile things about Jackson.” I explained. “I saw it myself!”
“Does that explain his violent behavior? Attacking people, breaking their jaw, biting off flesh.” Aaron asked, clearly irritated. I felt bad for Aaron. He already had enough work pressure from Dr. Liu as it is and it didn’t help that Jackson was always causing trouble.
“I know what he did was wrong, but we can’t always keep him shackled like an animal. Oh wait; wild animals are still treated better.” I said as I watched the security guards and two male Nurses dragging him off.
“Riley, are you aware of what Jackson is even capable of?” He asked. “He is nothing like the previous patients that you have dealt with.”
“I understand, Aaron, it’s just that...”
“I know that he is causing you trouble too, Riley, Paul told me you were feeling drowsy the other day. You need to understand that you never demand or force Jackson to take his medications. Next time, just leave it on his dinner tray. Well, it’s actually my fault I didn’t warn you before.” He said apologetically.
“I’d like to try my own way at handing Jackson if that’s okay. If we try to remove his restraints, maybe he won’t be as difficult as he is being now. I want to try a few things, taking a friendlier approach.”
He gave me the ‘Are you fucking insane’ look.
“You’re crazy, Riley and I won’t suggest you to do it.” That said he sauntered out of the room and walked down the hallway in a hurry.
The security guards and the head nurse Laila did not allow me into the isolation room that was now keeping Jackson locked up. Isolation rooms were mostly where they kept rebellious patients for a few days. On the fourth day, I went back to Laila and literally begged her to let me visit him. After much convincing and a large slice of homemade chocolate cake later, she handed me the keys. Nurse Laila had a sweet tooth, if she worked in a bank, I had no doubt she would let the robbery happen if the robber were to place a box of donuts on her table. No guns necessary here.
I carried one slice with me in a box and walked to the room where Jackson was locked away. It was like the room was devoid of any life; the walls were painted a dull off-white with scribbles all over it. If you looked closely, you would notice the disturbing imagery. There was no window and only a bed adjacent to the wall. Jackson was lying on the bed, facing the other side minus the mask.
When he heard the door open, he said. “If you brought food, take it back.”
“I just brought you cake.” I said and placed the box beside the bed.
He turned to face me, his brown eyes inspecting me curiously. “Stop trying to act nice!” He said, clearly irritated. “It’s making me sick.”
“There are some rules here in this asylum that you are supposed to follow. I know that Dave is wrong but attacking him like that is even worse.” I said. “Do you think this attitude of yours is going to get you anywhere? The way you’ve been treating the previous nurses, scaring them away, forcing them to consume your medication. I never told Dr. Aaron about that day because I didn’t want you to get into trouble again and yet here you are in a strait-jacket.”
I just stood there, watching him like an idiot basking in the awkward silence. He finally said. “You didn’t need to defend me back there, Nurse Riley. I think I can fight my own battles besides, I don’t see a reason why you’re trying to act like a damn psychoanalyst. I think that’s a job best suited for Paul-fucking-Bennet so do us both a favor and get the hell outta here.”
I saw the real him. He was different today, the same bitter and angry version of him that the nurses were always talking about. It wasn’t something new for me; I’d experienced far worse things.
“If you treat me with respect, I’ll do the same. I’m not here because I love to, this is my job. And if you think you can get away by talking like that to me and maintaining this behavior then you’re wrong.”
His dark eyes flashed towards me, the same dangerous look that had Nurses resigning left and right. As if he’d plugged his ears with ear muffs, he said. “When I’m out of this room and this jacket, you better believe I’m gonna kill that sonofa bitch.”
That was a clear indication towards Mad-Dave.
I placed the box of chocolate cake on the little table. “I’m not going to be here to serve you dinner, so you can ask the Nurse in charge during that time to give this to you.”
That said, I walked out of the room and locked it behind me. I had chills all of my body when he’d said that, but I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction that he scared me.
I had two days off after that day, something that I’d begged Aaron for because I’d been too stressed out. I spent those days watching Netflix and hanging out in a bookstore where they served coffee. I admit it, I was a loner and the only friend I had was Maddy who was stuck at the hospital. For two full days I tried to keep my mind off Jackson. I’d been tempted to search him online but always chickened out. I truly wanted to do my job the right way by not being judgmental but it was getting difficult to control the urge by every passing day.
I knew he was crazy.
I knew he was toxic.
I knew he had killed people.
But there was still something about him that made me so damn curious.
That night I watched some documentaries and did some research about Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy. By the end of it, I started to feel a bit ill due to the horrific details entailing the murders. I tried to tell myself it was all for research purposes, to see if Jackson had any similar symptoms. I clicked those sites off and cleared by search history, I didn’t need Ken to stumble upon them and think I was going crazy as well and possibly on a murder spree.
That night at exactly eleven p.m, my phone began buzzing. I reached for it and saw the number of the hospital flashing.
The first question I had in my mind was:
Why are they calling me at such an hour? What could be the emergency?
I wanted to ignore it, thinking that it was probably Nurse Laila calling me for something, but curiosity killed the cat and I answered the call.
“Hello.” I said. “Nurse Riley speaking, who’s this?”
There was no answer on the other end.
“Hello? This is Nurse Riley. Can I help you?” I repeated.
All I heard was silence, but I could tell the phone was on hold or someone was just listening.
That was weird.
Maybe it was Maddy playing a prank call. I hung up. A second later, the phone rang once again.
“Hey, who is calling from the hospital phone? Maddy, if this is you, it’s not funny.” I said.
“Okay, I’m hanging up.” I said.
“I loved the chocolate cake.” The voice said and the before I could say anything, the phone went dead.
My heart did a few quick somersaults. I recognized that voice. That voice. The silky, smooth voice of Jackson Wolfe. I placed my hand on my heart and it was still beating through my chest.
How had he found my number?
And then it hit me like a brick. I’d written my number on a post it card and given it to him that morning when I mistook him as Dr. Bennet. How stupid of me?
More importantly, I was surprised he’d kept it. I envisioned Jackson keeping it hidden under his pile of drawings or the black notebook that he kept on his desk. I imagined his smooth fingers running over it and him memorizing my number.
“What’s with that stupid smile on your face?” Ken asked me when he walked into the kitchen and pulled out a milk carton.
“It’s nothing. Just a wrong number.” I said.
He guzzled down the milk. I hated when my brother drank directly from the cartoon like that, but he just wouldn’t listen no matter how many times I told him. “Well, it didn’t seem like nothing to me. If you have a new boyfriend, you gotta spill.” He said, pulling a box of Oreo biscuits.
“Shut up, Ken.”
I returned to my room and lied down on my bed, starring at my phone. It was his weird way of either saying thanks or apologizing for his behavior. I wondered if he was slowly changing. That night I dreamed of Jackson being a good man.