Toni pulled the rent-a-car into the parking area of the Louisiana State Psychiatric Center. The detectives walked toward a concrete stairwell. The stairwell was covered entirely by a purple bougainvillea. The bougainvillea was entwined so tightly, the rays from the sun that passed through made it look liked laser beams.
“There must be over a hundred steps,” Isis said as she looked into the tunnel at the stairwell. The aroma was heavenly. Isis and Toni climbed ten steps before they came to the first landing, which was about ten feet long. There were two wooden love seats on both sides of each landing.
At the top of the stairwell, the renowned Dr. Susan Patterson stood waiting. At fifty-three years of age, Dr. Patterson was a stunning sight. Five- feet five and one hundred and twenty pounds, Dr. Paterson could make a blind man see.
The doctor held out her hand to the detectives as they reached the top of the stairwell. “Hi, I’m Dr. Susan Paterson.”
Isis took her hand first, “I’m Detective Isis Williams, and this here is my partner, Detective Annette Toni.” Isis stared at the doctor’s face as she shook Toni’s hand. Dr. Patterson wore no makeup. Her sparkling green, almond-shaped eye danced when she smiled. Her long black hair, which was tied into a ponytail, glistened in the sunlight.
Dr. Patterson received her master’s degree from Brown University and her Ph.D. from Harvard. She’d taught Abnormal Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin. She’d also written two books and wrote numerous papers on the subject.
“Welcome, Detectives, to the Louisiana State Psychiatric Center. Come, follow me.” The women walked down a cobblestone walkway. A six–foot-high fence, which was also covered with bougainvillea, blocked the rest of the compound. But as soon as the ladies got to the end of the fence, eleven acres of heaven greeted them. “Oh my God!” Toni said as she covered her mouth with her hands. “This is so beautiful. It’s like the garden of Eden.”
Isis said, “Oh my God, is that a peacock?”
As Dr. Patterson escorted the detectives toward the main building, Isis noticed that she walked with a slight limp. Dr. Patterson talked about the exotic animals that roamed the compound. She told Isis that the founders of the institution were all members of the FFI.
“The what?” Isis asked.
“The Fauna and Flora International Society. It’s an international conservative charity founded in 1903 by the British. Its original goal was to safeguard the future of Africa’s large mammals,” Toni said.
“Very good, Detective.” Dr. Patterson said, smiling.
Isis stared at Toni with her mouth slightly agape.
“Wikipedia.” Toni winked.
“Aside from having exotic animals, we’ve collected plants and insects from all over the South American Rain Forest.” Dr. Patterson stopped at the door of the main building. “The founders of this institution felt that an environment such as this…” Dr. Patterson stretched out her hands, “...would have a positive effect on the residents…”
“Does it work?” Isis asked.
“Like a charm.”
Dr. Susan Patterson’s office was large. And it was obvious, after meeting Dr. Patterson, her office would look like a mini rainforest. The carpet was forest green, and so were the walls. There were plants in every corner of her room. Her desk and all the other furniture in her office had a tree like look to them. The sounds of birds gently flowed from hidden speakers. “Have a seat, Detectives.”
Isis thanked the doctor and the detectives sat down in two matching forest green Kennedy rocking chairs. As soon as Isis got comfortable, she jumped out of her chair screaming. “Oh my God, Toni, there’s a roach crawling up your leg!”
Toni looked down at her leg. There was a giant Madagascar Hissing Cockroach attached to her jeans.
Isis screamed, “Kill it!”
Toni reached down and held her hand out so the giant roach could climb onto it.
“Take it easy, Detective. That’s Sam, he’s harmless,” Dr. Patterson said.
Isis stared at Toni and cringed as the giant roach slowly made its way up her arm. “Where should I put it, Doctor?”
Dr. Patterson pointed at a large fish tank. “The Gromphadorhina Portentosa are kept as pets by a lot of people, Detective Williams. Please have a seat.”
Isis sat back down and nervously looked around. “You got anything else crawling around here, Doc?”
Dr. Patterson smiled.
“Come now, Detective, we have a lot to talk about.”