Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Bad Man - Fiction

Welcome back, Constant Reader, and welcome anew to the Casual. I've been a bit busy the last few weeks with other projects, so please forgive the lapse in my usual, punctual posting. This time around, I bring you an old tale with, to Constant Reader, a familiar concept. You might recognize a few character elements from this week's tale from other works, namely Shakespeare, the vampire hunter. This tale, Bad Man, was an early physical character concept for that character. Sampson complex? Perhaps. Either way, I enjoyed my time with the Bad Man, and I hope you do, too. Thank you for your readership, and I hope you enjoy this week's offering. - Author

April was late. Again. She tugged at her turtleneck, trying to pull it up higher to her chin. It was always too warm in the wards, but concealment was the necessary evil today. She hoped her rushed make–up job would stand up to the task as well. At least it was Saturday; a lot less people to notice she was late. Again. She checked in with security and trotted past the main lobby into the recesses of Mercy. Finding the locker room empty, she took a moment to check her make–up. Far heavier than she was used to, but that couldn’t be helped, either. She closed her locker and turned to find Janice sitting on a bench a few feet away. The woman had made the silent nurses’ walk an art form.

“You’re late again, April,” the tall, older woman said severely.

“I know Janice. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again…” April said, her face hot under her heavy cosmetics.

“Yes, April. It will happen again. And again. There are counseling services available through your health insurance. I suggest you use them,” she said.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” April shot back, though lacking the force she’d wanted.

Janice pulled a tissue from her pocket. With a quick, rough motion she wiped it across the young woman’s face like a mother dabbing at ice cream on a child’s chin. The fresh make–up yielded easily, revealing the hint of an angry bruise on April’s cheek. “I was sympathetic, the first few times. That was three years ago. Get your life together or I’m going to have to let you go. The work here is difficult enough. The patients deserve your full attention.”

Tears had welled unbidden in April’s eyes, threatening to spill over. “He’s not a bad man, Janice,” April said huskily yet unconvincingly through the tears. “He has problems…”

“We all have problems.” Janice didn’t bother to give her a comforting smile or even the light touch of solidarity on her shoulder. “You’re on the security ward today,” she told her as she walked away. “They had some issues last night. Stop at the pharmacy first and pick up the meds.”

“Bad issues?” April asked, wiping away her tears.

“Phillip grabbed Kevin’s hair last night. Kevin’s in isolation.”

“Is he all right?"

“Kevin is just fine. Phillip , however, is in traction.”

April didn’t say a word, didn’t need to. She hurriedly applied more make–up and pinned her long blonde hair back, making sure to grab her special bag from her locker before hurrying off.

The security ward at the mental facility was a fairly light affair, merely a wing cordoned off by a stout door with a few more surveillance cameras and locks. The guard, Bob, buzzed her through the door and stood when she came to the desk. He was a young man, tall and not hard on her eyes. A tiny stab of pain from her neck erased those thoughts instantly as the guard took her loaded–down tray so she could drop her bag by the desk.

“Glad to see you, April. Place went a little nuts last night,” Bob said, smiling. His smile faded from happiness to something near sympathy as he looked at her, his male mind slower to notice the heavy make–up and even heavier eyelids. April quickly picked up a clipboard and stared at it to break his gaze. Christ, did everyone here know her business?

“What happened last night?” April asked, scanning the clipboard but reading nothing.

“I wasn’t here, but from what Ralph told me it was TV time. Phillip grabbed Kevin’s braid…” Bob didn’t go on, didn’t have to. April quickly lifted her eyes from the clipboard.

“Anyone else hurt?”

“Phillip, of course. Two guards will be off for awhile. One of the supervisors finally brought him down. Had to taser him twice to do it, though.”

“Any of the staff?” April asked.

“Nope. The two that tried he just threw into chairs.”

“Is he sedated?”

“They gave him stuff. He’s still awake though,” Bob pointed to the small monitor mounted above his desk. She glanced at it and saw Kevin seated on the bed in the tiny segregation cell. He was wearing full restraints but looked the picture of calm, his head hung low on his chest. As she was about to look away, Kevin’s chin rose, his face swiveling upward into the camera. Even on the black and white monitor she could still see the haunting in his dark eyes. Did he know she was there, watching him? “Like I said, I’m glad you’re here. It’s no secret you’re about the only one that can handle him. Especially… well, you know how he can get.”

“Yes, I know.” For some reason, Kevin had grafted to her soon after she’d started working at Mercy. But it wasn’t as if he was overly talkative with her, or anyone else for that matter. He’d apparently been in the military, since his psychiatrist was in uniform and carried VA credentials. She checked Kevin’s chart to see what was administered and when. April wasn’t surprised to see they’d given him enough tranquilizer to drop a bull moose at a dead run. It amazed her he was even awake in the first place.

“I’ll take care of him after everyone else gets their meds,” April said as she picked up the tray and made to walk away.

“April…” Bob said softly after her. She stopped, not liking his tone yet finding a little tingle running up her spine at hearing her name called so softly, the jab of pain from her neck ignored for the moment of the sensation. “Janice wants him transferred. With his history and the security reports, it’s likely to happen. Soon. I’d rather you heard it from me than from the dragon lady.”


April finished giving the medications to the others then came back to the isolation ward. She picked up her bag and flipped it open, making sure she had everything she needed and plucked the key to Kevin’s cell from the nail board that hung above the desk.

“April… I can’t let you take that,” he said apologetically. “Janice’s orders. He’s on lock–down.”

April stared at Bob as if he’d slapped her. She strung her bag over her shoulder and leaned against a tall file cabinet beside the desk. “Bob… the man needs help. Please. Help me out here?”

The guard sighed and stared at her hooded eyes. “April, no offense, but you look like shit. Maybe today isn’t such a good day for this, especially after last night…”

“Kevin’s got more tranq’ in him than you have coffee. It’ll be fine. He just needs a little calm time. He’ll be a lot easier for you guys to handle if I can get to him. Please, Bob… I’ve never asked you for anything.”

“I know…” Bob agreed, then adding in the barest whisper, “…but maybe you should”.

April had heard him, but not clearly enough. She didn’t push the issue though. He sighed and leaned back in his chair. “Ten minutes, no more. I can turn off the camera in his cell, but if it’s off too long they’ll know if they review the tapes. Use the guard lounge sink. I’m the only one on duty for another two hours.”

“Thanks, Bob. I won’t forget this.”

“I hope not,” he said in the same tone he’d called her name before. This time she smiled; a small smile, but at least genuine. In a moment of impulse, she bent down and gave him a quick, small peck on the cheek. The act stung her bruised face but she discounted it and quickly made off down the hall.

April paused at the cell door, key in hand, and waited for Bob to wave to let her from the other end of the hall. With the camera off, she quickly went into the cell to find Kevin seated exactly where he had been when she saw him earlier. He was a large man, well muscled and exceptionally tall. Seated on the bed as he was, he could still almost look her in the eye. He looked at her, a smile sharing space with the haunting in his eyes if not on his lips.

“Bad Man was here, April…” he said. “I tried to keep him away…”

“I know, Kevin,” she said. She put an arm around him to help him up. The leg shackles would make their trip slower but it couldn’t be helped. It was enough that Bob risked his job for her. April didn’t see pushing the issue and asking for all his restraints to be removed. It would be enough that she could get the jacket off herself though she knew his wrists would be bound under the heavy canvas coat.

As they made their way down the hall Kevin leaned on her less and less. The exercise of walking had already started to work off some of the effects of the tranquilizers. “Tried to tell them. Told them you were the only one that could talk to the Bad Man. Wouldn’t listen. Tried to hurt the Bad Man. Bad Man hurt them.”

“Ssshhh. It’s okay, Kevin. I understand.”

“Hurt me, too,” Kevin said dully, “Neck hurts.”

They passed into the guards’ lounge, April locking the door behind them. “Let me see, Kevin,” she said softly. He tilted his head to the side to reveal an ugly electrical burn. They’d tasered him directly into the neck. She frowned, but all in all it probably couldn’t be helped. April had first seen Kevin’s Bad Man, his psychotic alter ego, a few years ago. It took two weeks after that before she could go near him again. But that experience had taught her a valuable lesson; how to calm the Bad Man and make him go away for weeks, even months. “Kevin, I’m going to take off the jacket now, okay?”

Kevin nodded dumbly and stood rigid while she unbuckled the canvas contraption from his torso. The guards hadn’t used the sleeves, preferring to leave his shackled wrists in front of him under the coat. The straps had been wrenched down painfully tight, evidenced by the long angry red marks across his shirtless chest and back. She rubbed a few of the worst spots gently and pushed a chair with her foot in front of the deep sink against the wall. Kevin sat down without a word and leaned his head forward.

April moved around behind him and slowly, gently took Kevin’s long braid in both hands. Bound as it was, the tip just reached his waist. She pulled it up to hang over the back of the chair and started to work at the tiny knots in the long cord. It had been a fight for her to get the hospital to even allow the long leather strip, but with the help of his psychiatrist, she achieved the exception. His psychiatrist had also counseled against forcing the cutting of his long mane, citing the mental health of the patient. No one wanted to know what would happen if Kevin awoke one morning to find his hair gone.

“Now, Kevin… I’m going to take out the braid. Okay?” April said with a hint of nervousness. Kevin had never made any motion of any kind against her, though this part of the ritual always tensed her a bit. April was compassionate, not stupid.

“Thank you, April.” he answered in a whisper. “Hair itches. Can’t scratch,” he said, shaking the manacles on his wrists as evidence.

“I know, Kevin. We’ll take care of that.” Finally freeing the small knots, April slowly pulled the leather away. Kevin tensed but only for a moment before she handed him the thong to hold in his bound hands as she worked her fingers into the tightly–laced braid, a braid she herself had wound just the week before. “Kevin, are you okay?” she asked as more and more of his thick hair came loose from the weave.

“Yes, April. Feels good. Thank you.”

She finally worked the last loop of the braid free, letting his hair fall across the back of the chair. “Still okay, Kevin?” He nodded slightly, but now a small, low sound was coming from his throat. Far from a growl, and not necessarily an unpleasant sound, more of a purr. That was how it usually went when the transition from Kevin to, well… not Kevin came to pass. “Is Kevin still here?” April asked apprehensively, her fingers shaking slightly as they slowly raked down his mane.

“He is here, but not.” Kevin and the Bad Man shared the same voice, but when Kevin went away, the voice took on a far deeper, almost sinister quality. Her hands paused, but only for a moment before continuing to separate the long–bound strands.

“Do I need to be afraid?” April asked quietly, her hands still tracing through his hair.

“I am the only man you have nothing to fear from, April.”

April shivered slightly. The Bad Man could be cryptic, maddeningly so. Oftentimes, the tone of his voice and the things he said seemed to reverberate in her head for hours afterward. “I’m going to run a brush through it. Is that okay?” she asked.

“Do what you will, and what only you alone will do,” he said, the words melding with his purr. April pulled a brush from the bag and started working it through, pulling out the small knots and tangles as she went. The Bad Man sat still yet relaxed, his purr buzzing comfortably in her ears. She finished with the brush and put it back in the bag, pulling two bottles from it as she went.

“Lean your head back,” April said. He complied, his dark eyes now staring up at her. Where Kevin’s always seemed to be haunted and distant, the Bad Man’s were nothing of the sort. Dark and glistening, she thought she could almost see the madness in them. There was no lost way, no haunted vacancy. They were cold, calculating; dangerous. April shook her head, breaking their stare. Like the hypnotic trance of a cobra those eyes could lock you in place; the prey waiting, almost wanting, for the kill.

“You are very good to me, April. And to Kevin. He needs you, you know,” the Bad Man said conversationally, as if talking about a shared friend. He closed his eyes as she hauled his mane into the sink and started running hot water through it.

“What happened last night?” April asked as she worked his hair through the falling water.

“Last night? Oh! I see.” He smiled, looking much like a great cat that had just finished dinner. “The lunatic would not leave Kevin alone. I cared little about the proceedings. But when the madman touched me… well, I could not let such insult pass without answer.” The Bad Man sniffed the steamy air a moment and opened his eyes to slits. “April, you are not wearing your perfume today. I do so enjoy the scent.”

“I… slept in this morning.” April said, her voice strained from the memory of her latest altercation with her husband. “I didn’t have time for my usual morning rituals.”

“Ah. I see,” he said mockingly as she applied shampoo through his tresses. “Yet, oddly enough, you still had time to apply that mess you have on your face. Perhaps in the future you will more rightly concern yourself with the finer things, eh?” The tone of his voice, still ominous, had taken on a different, almost mocking tone. April fell silent at that and busied herself with washing. It was usually a week or more between times and she wanted to make sure the job was done thoroughly. The Bad Man continued to purr all the while though left his eyes open to slits, making April consciously avoid looking into them. “You should let your hair down more often, April,” he said, referring to her own severe ponytail.

“Work rules,” April said as she rinsed the shampoo from his hair. Finished with that, she applied conditioner and started working it through. He sniffed the air again, continuing to purr.

“You use a different product for me than what you use for yourself,” he noted.

“Your hair is thicker than mine…“ April stopped her fingers and risked a look at him. “You can smell that?”

“Ah, April. Scent is so important. It is how man finds woman, how the world warns of dangers, how slayer finds prey.” That last example set April's mind on edge. Mixed with the heavy–lidded, glinting gaze it was almost unbearable.

“So, is Kevin’s doctor to arrive today?” The rapid change in subject threw her off balance as did his odd inflection on the word ‘doctor’. April swallowed hard and returned to her work.

“I think he’s scheduled this afternoon.”

“Good. Your therapy has a way of making me over–calm. But I will endeavor to be sufficiently awake to assist Kevin. The boy so needs tending, and the doctor, as you call him, he can be quite persuasive to a weak mind.”

April was becoming confused. The Bad Man was not normally this talkative. And his obvious disdain for his psychiatrist was something they’d never discussed before. Not wanting the avenue to close, April decided to risk pressing the issue. “You don’t care for your… for Kevin’s doctor?”

“Doctor? Oh, do not tell me you have fallen for ruse, sweet April. The man is no doctor.”

“What? How… why do you say that?” April finished working the conditioner through and had a few minutes to wait for it to work its magic. She turned the water off and wiped her hands on a towel from the bag.

“You must become more observant of the human condition, April,” the Bad Man admonished her. “You did not strike me as one to be taken in by charlatans and snake oil. Tell me, April. You are a nurse. Well trained and highly skilled, yes? Tell me, April. Do you see patients with dirty hands?”

April stood and stared at his now–closed eyes. “I don’t know what you’re talking about…”

“And thus my point,” he said. “Though I still appreciate the tender mercies you place upon Kevin and me. I will miss them.”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you think me daft? I know well that my time here is short, for I no longer belong here… though I would ask you not to tell Kevin of it. He can be excitable sometimes.”

“As excitable as putting men in the hospital?” April said before she could regulate the words. He opened one eye, his expression giving the gesture more to a wink than to vision.

“I do not willingly suffer injustice, especially from the likes of lunatics and stupid men. I allowed Kevin to warn them. If they did not take heed, I take no blame for their conditions.” He closed his eye and settled his head more comfortably on the chair back. “It has been one minute thirty seconds; the normal amount of time you allot for the conditioning process.”

“What? Oh…” April turned the water back on and started working his hair through it. She knew she was already past her ten minute window but it couldn’t be helped. She would need to dry his hair thoroughly before braiding it. With his doctor coming in this afternoon, wet hair would be a dead giveaway he’d been out of restraints. Finished with the rinsing, April took up the brush and plugged in her hair dryer.

“Thank you, but that contraption will not be necessary,” he said dryly. “I do not wish to have that incessant whining in my ear.”

“If I don’t dry it… after your little stunt last night…” April forced herself to calm down. She couldn’t let familiarity lull her into saying the wrong thing to the dangerous man sitting before her. She measured her words carefully. “You’re not even supposed to be out.”

“Ah, but I am, am I not? All things occur for a reason, April. All things are connected, related. Time is no barrier, only hindrance. You have helped me, April. And you have helped Kevin. For that, you have our gratitude, though I doubt Kevin's simple mind could express them with the proper eloquence. Why, if it were not for you, I would have perhaps gone mad in my years spent in this fine institution.” The Bad Man smiled as he leaned his head up off the chair to allow her to brush and braid it. April stepped fully behind him and started running the brush through the water–logged strands.

“I would miss both of you, if you went anywhere that is,” April said. “You have beautiful hair.” The buzzing of the intercom split the room.

“April…” Bob’s slightly panicked voice came through, “… you really need to hurry it up.”

“Sorry Bob, almost finished.” April hurried the brush a bit more though still running it through all the way to the ends.

“Bob is a Nice Man, yes?” he asked.

“Yes. He is.”

“And a handsome young lad to boot, I wager.”

April stopped her brushing for a moment, again taken aback. The Bad Man was full of unusual observations this morning. “I wouldn’t know. I’m not looking…”

In less time than it took her to blink she found her feet dangling above the floor. The Bad Man had stood, turned and dropped his manacled wrists around her, lifting her in a bear hug so tight her arms were pinned to her sides. At the end of that blink she was eye to eye with him. Shocked to silence, April could only tremble and stare, caught in that cobra’s glance. “If that were true, you would not have his scent upon you.” The Bad Man smiled wickedly and completed the venomous image as he licked her lips gently, with just the barest tip of his tongue. “Especially upon your lips…” Nose to nose, gazes locked, the Bad Man sniffed gently again, this time frowning slightly. “There are... other scents upon you. One exhilarates… sweet… oh, so sweet… but yet from you it carries a dark taint, spoiling it, really.” Using his teeth he pulled down the tall neck of her sweater to reveal a large bruise shaped suspiciously like the hand of a small man. “Blood trapped beneath the skin… such a waste of its color… its scent. And that other foul scent? One I have tasted upon you since our first meeting; one of a weakling, a coward. Only such a disgusting creature as this would leave such sweetness trapped between vein and skin with not the courage or nerve to neither honor it in the vein nor free it for the world to see.”

He set her down gently, making sure her legs were under her before removing his support. April stood shaking uncontrollably, the brush falling from her hand. “You should tress me up now, April. I do not want you to fall into disfavor for showing Kevin and me such kindness as you have. That kindness will surely not be forgotten... and will yet be repaid.”

After she’d put herself back together, gathered her things and wound his mane tightly, Kevin returned. Though not seemingly observant of the world around him, he was enough so he could tell April had been affected by her visit with the Bad Man. She wouldn’t answer his few simple questions about the time he seemed to have lost. But that didn’t mean she didn’t have questions for him. She took a moment to fight a stray wisp of her own hair from her eyes, realizing she must have lost a bobby pin when the Bad Man plucked her up. She would have to replace it later. Janice was a stickler for appearance.

“Kevin,” April asked as she put him back into his restraints, leaving them far looser than they had been, “ you like your doctor?” Kevin stayed silent as she fastened buckles and straps. “Kevin? Can you hear me?”

“Yes, April.” he answered. “Bad Man says he’s not a doctor… I shouldn’t tell him anything. If I tell him, he’ll kill me.”

“Kevin! That’s absurd! Your doctor wouldn’t do that!” She moved in front of him and looked up into eyes that just moments ago had placed fear such as she’d never known into her. “He’s your doctor.”

“Bad Man says doctors don’t have dirty hands. Bad Man says if we tell him what he wants to know… we… we will have… outlived our usefulness.” April gasped at the last words, all issued in the Bad Man’s voice.

“Kevin,” April said, choosing her words carefully. “What does your doctor ask you?”

“About stuff. Places. Stuff when I was in the army… that’s where I met the Bad Man… he takes care of me… keeps them from hurting me. If I don’t tell what they want to know… he can protect me…”

“Kevin… what did you do? In the army?”

“I killed people.” he said as if he had just told her he was a pilot or a garbage man.

“You mean the Bad Man killed people,” April corrected.

“No… I killed them… Bad Man came after that.”

There was so much more April wanted to ask but they had already reached his cell. She helped him sit back down on his bed and smoothed a stray wisp of hair from his cheek that had slipped from its bonds. “Kevin, listen to your doctor. He’s here to help you. He won’t hurt you. Maybe if you listen to him…”

“He’ll kill me…” Kevin said softly. “Bad Man says so.”

April shook her head and left the room. Just as she reached Bob’s desk two men in dress-green Army uniforms came around the corner. April stepped out of their way and breathed a sigh of relief. Had she been a few moments longer with Kevin it would have gone badly for all of them.

“Dr. Korbin,” Bob greeted him as he handed the doctor a clipboard. “Who’s your friend?”

“This is my associate, Dr. Keller. He will be assisting me today.” The tall, thin doctor scribbled on the clipboard then handed it to the other, shorter but far more solidly–built officer to sign. As they handed it off April glanced at their fingers. The tall one, Korbin, had bits of black grit under a few of his nails. The shorter had several rough calluses on his thumbs. Her eyes wide, April took another step back and tried to be invisible while in plain sight. She dealt with doctors everyday. Not one of them would see a patient without washing up first. “I understand Kevin had an incident last night? Nothing too serious I hope?” Korbin asked.

“If you call putting a few guards in the hospital not serious, then yes, I guess so,” Bob said as wryly as his uniform would allow. Korbin gave him a smirk then turned down the hall, his associate in tow. “Standard procedure if you would, Officer Martin,” he called over his shoulder.

“Standard procedure?” April repeated. “And won’t they need the key?” She held up the key to Kevin’s cell and dropped it on Bob's desk.

“Dr. Korbin has his own key. And the standard procedure is the camera in the cell goes off and the intercom is disabled.”

“What? Why?”

“Don’t know. Those are standing orders. Guess you’ve never been on the ward when his doctor comes, have you? Very cloak and dagger stuff. I was told not to question it. They’ll be in there for about 20 minutes or so and be gone.”

April looked up at the monitor just as Bob’s hand reached to turn it off. She saw that Kevin had got up from the bed and was now standing, his face up against the intercom. “Bob, wait... I think he wants to talk to us.” April reached over and flicked the intercom on just as Bob’s finger fell on the camera button.

“Too late now…” Bob said as they both heard the cell door open farther down the hall. But instead of turning off the intercom, April touched the mute button to close off their end. “April, what are you doing? This isn’t just a firing thing, this is messing with the Army thing…”

“I know, it's just something Kevin told me today. I just want to know what’s going on.”

Bob shot her an odd glance then turned the volume down, low enough that a passerby couldn’t hear, low enough to force her to move her head mere inches from his own to hear.

“Captain Beloit…” Keller said over the unknown intercom. “Good to see you again. You remember Dr. Keller?”

“You’re not doctors.” Kevin’s soft voice buzzed over the intercom. “None of you are.”

“You know…” Bob whispered, “…they’re going to know we’re listening. The little green light will be flashing on the intercom with the line open.”

“They haven’t noticed yet. If they do, I’ll take full responsibility,” April whispered back, not taking her eyes off the tiny speaker on the desk.

“Captain, you know who we are. We’re here to help you.” Korbin said. Apparently Keller was just an assistant, or a guard for the rail–thin Korbin.

“Bad Man says I shouldn’t talk to you.” Kevin said.

“Kevin, let’s be reasonable. Why don’t you let us talk to the Bad Man for once…”

April and Bob exchanged nervous glances. “Are they nuts?” Bob whispered. “I’m going to call for back–up. If Kevin freaks out in there…”

“No Bob… please, wait. Let’s just hear what they have to say. They won’t let him out. They know better than us what he’s capable of.”

“Yeah… let the Bad Man out so we can talk to him,” Keller finally piped in. A loud metallic sound crackled over the intercom.

“What was that?” April asked.

“A pistol being chambered,” Bob whispered. “I have to get in there…”

April was already moving. She snagged the key from the desk and made it just a few steps before the intercom came alive with shouts and screams of pain. The sounds stopped her, but the next voice froze her in her tracks.

“Now, Doctor Korbin…” the Bad Man said quite clearly over the intercom, accompanied by Korbin's pained gurgling. “I’m sure the viewing public would be interested in this sight.”

April walked slowly back around the desk and nodded at Bob. “Turn the camera back on.”

Hesitantly, with one hand on his radio, Bob flicked the camera’s eye back to life. The screen brightened to show Keller on the floor. The barrel and slide of the pistol they’d heard only a moment before had been shoved through Keller's neck, a large, black pool of ichor spreading on the floor under him. Keller's right arm had been rotated far from its designed angle, making him look like a slack–eyed rag doll cast onto the floor. Kevin stood against the wall, Korbin’s neck wrapped firmly in the crook of his left arm. Korbin’s face was obscured by the thick shock of the Bad Man’s mane as it spilled freely down his shoulders. The Bad Man looked up at the camera, winked then spat something tiny and hard at the lens.

“What the hell was that?” Bob asked, squinting.

“The little green light that was supposed to flash on the intercom,” April said without a missing a beat.

“How did his hair…?” Bob asked. “And the restraints?”

April had sudden flashes of memory, like pieces to a puzzle. She had put the restraints back on more loosely, and she'd handed the leather thong to Kevin to hold while she worked. Her missing pin. “It’s my fault,” April breathed.

“Now, good doctor. I want you to tell all our listeners exactly why you are here. This will tell them why Kevin is here. And, why both of us will be departing very soon.”

“I have to get help up here,” Bob growled as he turned his chair and keyed the radio. April didn’t try to stop him. If the Bad Man were loose… if he picked up the pistol…

“Now, doctor. You will die otherwise. It will be slow. It will be very, very painful, and it will involve the loss of each of your bodily fluids in turn.” There was a slight pause, then “Why is Kevin here?”

“You know… you… why…” Korbin gasped, blood gurgling in his throat.

“I am not Kevin. You destroyed Kevin. Destroyed him with your drugs, did you not? Destroyed him for participating in that most basic instinct… self preservation. Isn’t that right? Do not tell our listeners of the details, else they would become hunted by honorless dogs just as Kevin has been all these years.”

“Listen…” Korbin’s voice pleaded over the intercom, “whoever may be out there… contact the authorities… he’s going to kill me…”

“Korbin; Kevin hid something from you, did he not? What did he hide from you, Korbin?” the Bad Man said.

The gurgling intensified for a moment over the intercom, finally ending in gasps and gulps for air. “Yes!... for the love of God yes!” Korbin gasped, choking on the words.

“Kevin had been such a Nice Man. One bad mission too many for Nice Kevin, was it not? He knew too much, yet he was far smarter than any of you. He hid details… evidence… of his black operations… the depravities and atrocities he committed for you and your clandestine agencies and operations… did he not? So much information, so much proof… things no one would ever want leaked to the press in any nation. Is that not so?” The intercom fell silent just as the sound of running feet came from the elevator down the hall from the security desk. Bob’s reinforcements had arrived.

“Yes!” Korbin screamed, his voice tight with unimaginable pain.

“And it was your doing, your drugs… your pathetic attempts to make Kevin reveal the location of his proof… it was these things that brought him to me. It was these things that brought me into the world. To protect Kevin. And to seek his vengeance. Your services are no longer required, doctor. Kevin is now in my care. You will live, if only so you may tell others our good listeners shall be kept free of charges or suspicions. They know nothing. But that does not mean you shall not bear the marks of this day.”

April watched the monitor in growing horror as the Bad Man spun Korbin around, facing away from him. The Bad Man drew back his fist and launched a punch that blurred on the screen as the pixels scrambled to keep up. Korbin didn’t scream. Instead, his eyes went wide as he crumpled silently to the floor, his legs splayed in an unnatural state. “You stole Kevin’s life, I have stolen your legs. The two of you now stand even. Do not seek to up the score.”

“My God… “ Bob wheezed, “…he just crippled him…”

Jack, the captain of the guard, and three additional guards with Janice in tow arrived breathlessly at the desk just as Korbin’s body fell. “Holy shit! What the hell’s going on in there?” Jack barked, his finger jutting at the screen.

“He got loose,” Bob said as he put on his web belt as he rushed past April to join the other guards.

“I think his doctor released him from the restraints, something about therapy…” April lied. In for a penny, in for a pound they say.

“Lock it down, damn it!” the captain roared.

“Won’t help… he’s got a key,” Bob said. He formed a line across the hall with the rest of the guards, trying to cordon off the way out. Each was armed with a retractable baton in one hand and a can of pepper spray in the other.

“A key? What…” the captain turned to Janice. The elder nurse gave him a sniff and looked away.

“His doctor has the highest of military credentials. I couldn’t have denied him access if I’d wanted to,” Janice said.

“Then get on the phone and get the army or the cops… get somebody in here, Janice. This is about to get real ugly real fast. I saw what this guy can do…”

“And he was successfully contained with a taser last night, much like the one you’re carrying, Captain. Simply subdue him. He will be medicated and will be transported to a proper criminal facility this evening. I don’t see what all the bother is, really. He’s only one man,” Janice said, paying only the faintest interest to the proceedings. “The last thing this hospital needs is negative press, especially from the psychiatric ward. The police won’t be necessary, captain. I have the utmost faith in your abilities.”

“There’s a gun in the cell,” Bob warned.

“A what?” Jack almost screamed.

“The other one with Korbin brought it in. Last I saw it was buried up to the trigger in the guy’s neck,” Bob said. Just then, the door to Kevin’s cell swung open. To the left was the guard lounge and a dead end, not even a window from which to escape. The only way out for Kevin was through the guards. But, it wasn’t Kevin that emerged from the cell.

The Bad Man stepped out and turned to face the assembled force. He closed his eyes and turned his neck to each side with loud cracking sounds for reward. His hair hung loose and free, the longest it had done so without being in April’s hands for more than a decade. And even over the twenty–odd yards that separated him from them, April could see the dark eyes gleaming.

“Clear my path, lest you leave your wives widows and your sons bastards,” the Bad Man growled as he stalked slowly down the hall. April saw no fear, no apprehension from the lone man as he walked straight into the path of four armed ones. In place of those was a near maniacal glee; a wet, black glint. What Kevin once did as an occupation, the Bad Man did for sheer pleasure.

“Bob…” April whispered as the Bad Man came towards them, “…get the hell out of here… now… all of you… get out of his way… it’s not worth it…” April leaned against the wall, willing her weak knees to slide her along it to the elevators. She made a few sidling steps before she looked up and locked eyes with the Bad Man, freezing her in place. She knew she needed to run, must run, but she was snared. The Bad Man continued staring at her, holding her in his own way. Even when he met with the wall of guards, still his eyes held hers.

There was no fight, no squaring off of opponents or courtly salutes. To a man the guards knew their training was useless. To aim to subdue would lead them to a quick and painful end. When the Bad Man came within arms’ reach the hall erupted into a dervish of arms and legs, bodies and blood. The steel batons rose and fell with lightning speed, but not nearly fast enough to catch their target. With speed belying his size the Bad Man avoided a half dozen blows before snatching up two of the guards and snapping a wrist in each of his hands. Now armed with their batons he fell upon them with a savage glee. Years of institutional solitude rolled off of his weapons as he pummeled the men into the floor.

Bob had wisely hung back. Sizing up his opponent, Bob stepped in and brought his baton up and over his head, the high arc meaning to bury the weapon in the Bad Man’s skull. But he merely brought one of his own weapons up over his crown to meet it, the jar of steel on steel sending a shock wave through Bob’s weapon and down his own arm. Numbed, his fingers lost control and his baton fell with an empty clang to the floor. Bob staggered back and nearly fell over his desk as the Bad Man advanced on him. From somewhere far off April heard herself scream at the Bad Man, to tell him not to hurt Bob. But it seemed the Bad Man wasn’t listening. His attentions turned to Bob, April was able to break that gaze and fell forward directly into Janice.

“Janice… call the police… call someone…” April screamed frantically. Janice simply reared her hand and slapped Janice across the mouth.

“Calm down, nurse. The captain has the situation in hand.”

“Yeah… right…" Jack said through clenched teeth as he brought the taser to bear. He pointed it at the Bad Man and touched the trigger, sending the twin barbs with their trailing steel lines hurtling through the air. Without missing a beat the Bad Man grabbed Bob from the desk and swung him in the path of the missiles. The barbs stuck in Bob’s shoulder blades, causing his body to contort and heave in the Bad Man’s hand.

“April believes you to be a Nice Man, Robert,” the Bad Man whispered in Bob's ear as the electricity finished its course through him. “And because April thinks you are a Nice Man, I will allow you to live.” He dropped Bob’s still–quaking body to the floor, more gently than one would have suspected, and turned his attentions on the captain. “You have another trigger yet to pull,” the Bad Man said to the captain, nodding at the remaining two leads jutting out of the weapon. “Use them. It will make your death more sporting for me and more heroic for the children of your children to hear.”

Jack licked his parched lips and continued to hold the taser in front of him like a crucifix to ward off evil. As the Bad Man closed Jack suddenly dropped the weapon and put his hands in front of him in a gesture of surrender, backing up to keep the two women protectively behind him. “Now, Kevin… we can talk this out… no need for anyone else to get hurt. Why don’t you put the clubs down and we’ll talk about this…”

The Bad Man did, in fact, drop the batons. But he kept coming. With a swipe of his hand he knocked Jack the floor. The captain was unconscious before he touched the tile. With that same hand he snatched Janice up by her lab coat and hauled her into the air so they could look each other in the eye. “You, dear woman, should invest in the touch of a man. Any man. Perhaps your mood would not fall to saccharin as easily for the effort.”

Janice stared at him in wide–eyed terror, her fingers wrapped tightly around his tensed wrist. He pulled her face in as close as he could without their features touching and reduced his eyes to cat–like slits. “Boo!” he suddenly hissed at her, the sudden epitaph being all the old woman needed to short–circuit her already fragile grip on the situation. She fainted dead away in his hands, leaving April and the Bad Man the only conscious, breathing things in the hall.

The Bad Man looked down at April and smiled. Though a wolf’s grin, it almost seemed genuine. “I will be taking my leave now, April. Though in my passing you, too, will be free of your own prison. Again, Kevin and I are in your debt for your sweet ministrations and kind words. You have kept him on at least the brink of sanity in our time here.” The Bad Man grabbed her waist and suddenly pulled her into him, the smell of blood and musk heavy on his skin. April gasped, her body trembling as if on the brink. She closed her eyes and waited for… she felt a soft kiss on her forehead, nothing more, nothing less. When she opened her eyes, the Bad Man was gone.


A week later, April stood in her best black dress at her late husband’s grave. The publicity Janice so desperately tried to avoid had come anyway. Kevin had removed April’s wallet from her coat at some point in the hall, including the spare car key kept within. Her key gave him her car, her wallet her address. The papers said that Kevin had went to her home, found her husband there and killed him in coldest blood, so much so that they could only guess that all his parts were in the box before her. He was still at large, they said. She doubted they would find him. The Bad Man was taking care of Kevin now. She felt sorry for whoever did find them.

She made the sign of the cross over her breast and walked back down the hill towards the waiting family car. Her husband’s death had been brutal, savage. As she walked, she tried to feel sympathy, tried to feel anything towards the man. The bruise at her neck, healing but still evident enough to require a scarf, twinged again. She put a hand to it self–consciously and got in the empty limousine. It seemed even his family hadn’t thought much of him, either. A flash of color on the seat beside her turned her head. A single, long–stem rose lay there, a small note stuck to long and numerous thorns. She read the note several times then folded it neatly and stowed it away in her purse. She sniffed the delicate bloom then smiled a small smile.

Sometimes, a Good Girl had need of a Bad Man after all.
Just write, damn it. - Author

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