Conversations With A Madman [[Part One of Two]]

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"Breathe," Chloe reminded herself calmly. She attempted to glue an apathetic expression to her features, but the effect only lasted a brief instant. The man sitting before her chuckled at her effort and it shattered.

Under any normal circumstance, the man would have appeared as a harmless elderly man with his wispy, tenderly greyed hair and his grey eyes crinkled at the corners. But those eyes were cold to the world, indifferent to life and friends of malice and sinistry. His voice, even, was cloaked with his vile evil. "You can try to look as professional as you like, precious; you're still an amature." The man closed his reddened, maddened eyes and tilted his head back as he inhaled deeply, causing a startled jump from the young woman. "I can smell your fear," he smirked, staring at her once more.

Chloe swallowed the lump in her throat, not wanting to break under the nerves that were screaming at her brain to get out of there, and she glanced down at her papers. "Y-your file says you grew up in the United States. Why come to England to start your massacre?" she inquired shakily. She sat stiffly in her chair, her spine straight and away from the back of the seat at if she had a metal rod welded to her bone.

The man roared with apparent amusement, even pounding a shackled fist on the tabletop. "My file, my file. Enough of that load of bullocks, darling. Your statistics and little facts printed neatly on your papers will get you nowhere. Why don't you tell me why you came here?" he asked. His eyes were alive with a hungry flame as they bore into hers. Shock registered on the young woman's face, only coaxing another fit of giggles from the man. "Your accent gave you away. Where are you from? Maine? New York?"

Chloe could feel her heart in her throat and tried to gulp it back down again. "You're from the Northeast. Why don't you tell me?"

This seemed to trigger a violent reaction. The man slammed his cuffed hands on the table and she jumped visibly. "No!" he roared. "I asked you. You will tell me!"

"Manhattan," Chloe responded meekly, glancing hesitantly to her right. "I'm from Manhattan." She then turned her eyes to the man sitting across from her, still slightly startled by his reaction. She had been told he was unnervingly cool in demeanor, so his reaction had caught her entirely off-guard. "Now, why did you begin killing in England?"

Pacified, the man only smiled contently to himself, apparently pleased with having spooked the girl. "No, no, no, Miss Bane. You don't destroy such a lovely conversation with words like those," he grinned.

Now it was Chloe's turn to be aggravated. "Mr. Bell, this isn't a pleasant Sunday's conversation, as you like to believe it is. This is an evaluation, and I will be the one to dictate what is fit to be discussed," she snapped. "Now, why did you begin your killing spree in England?"

The man shook his slightly balding head sadly. "And there is where your inexperience is most evident, darling," he stated. "Do you want a free lecture from a certified psychiatrist?" He would have continued, but Chloe cut him off.

"I am well aware of your education, Doctor," she growled, correcting her previous mistake, "but you're the patient now. Answer the question please."

Dr. Bell tilted his head to one side, studying the student carefully. He then inhaled calmly. "Home is where the heart is." His tone indicated that that was all he was going to say on the matter, despite the fact he knew she was going to egg him for clarification. All things come with practice and time, and such was true for interrogation tactics. Chloe noted this, jotting his comment down in her own form of shorthand before, sure enough, asking him to explain. With a heavy sigh, he said, "You would not burn your own house down, would you?" Chloe shook her head and he simply nodded his.

The young woman wrote this down as well, then glanced over the doctor's file again. "Your victims have no certain pattern, no constant factors, but your method indicates premeditation. Why plot to kill a random somebody?" she asked, thinking herself to finally be on the correct track that would end the evaluation.

The man had his own ideas, though. "No, it is my turn to ask the question."

Chloe sighed her own heavy sigh, tired of arguing with the elderly man. "Fine. What do you want to know?"

"Were you closest to your mother or your father?" A sickening smirk was dancing deviously across his features. The young student glanced apprehensively toward the large mirror to her right, which was actually a one-way window, behind which sat her own evaluator. The rules had been simple, easy to remember, even easier to recite now in her head, but the one rule that had been stressed the most was that there was to be no form of personal information exchanged. Of course, that one was already thrown out the window . . . . .

"My father. Why did you choose random victims? Or what was your pattern?" She had hoped to move the conversation along quickly, perhaps losing her answer in the hasty shifting of topic flow.

Dr. Bell chuckled lightly. "Only one question, precious," he reminded her gently.

"Fine," Chloe huffed. "What was your pattern?"

The man appeared to be at ease, casually slumped in his stiff chair with both hands chained to the tabletop, but with her question he seemed to relax even more visually. "You're looking too hard. Step back, examine the bigger things. Commonalities are easy to find if you know how to look. That's the thing; you're looking for a 'where' when you need to learn the 'how'." Chloe was about to sputter another question, but he held up a silencing finger. "Did your father abuse you? Perhaps he whipped you without due cause, or maybe he crept into your room late at night?" he inquired, sounding as though he had just asked her to tea.

Chloe froze, her mismatched eyes widened slightly. "N-n-no. Why?" she stuttered unprofessionally, turning a pale pink. She clenched and unclenched her fists lightly, her fingers tingling and her skin feeling like its surface temperature was rising.

The doctor shrugged leisurely, his expression smug. "Most children attach themselves to an abusive parent, hoping to please the parent with childish affection to end the abuse," he explained. "But you lied to me," he accused with the next breath, still in that airy voice that made the young woman's stomach turn. He leaned forward with interest. "What was it he did?"

Chloe choked down her heart for the third time and quickly shook her head. "It's my question."

Dr. Bell laughed again. "No, you asked my why I inquired about your father. Therefore, it is my question. What did your father do?"

Annoyed with herself for having wasted the opportunity to gather more information and end the interrogation, she stared intently at the table's smooth, faux granite, laminated surface. She now understood why they had told her not to share anything personal with the doctor. He was trying to get into her head, but she had to answer him to get another chance to put in a question. Thinking quickly, she said, "He pushed me around a bit, that's all. But the pattern. We looked through any and all records. They shared nothing at all. What was the pattern?"

The man heaved a huff of air. "Your questions bore me, precious. Dig deeper, but look at a distance. Now, why are you still lying to me?" Chloe tried to wear an expression of innocent confusion, but the man's piercing grey eyes saw through it with the same ease a close friend would. "Your tattoo is the Ouroboros, a symbol that is often associated with the seven deadly sins of Christian belief. Which was it that spurred your dear father to prey on you?" Dr. Bell was still resting at ease judging by the placid expression he wore, while his eyes caught every fraction of panic that passed over the insecure features of his interrogator's youthful face.

Chloe had attempted to steel her nerves against his questions, but her defenses cracked. "Pride," she coughed out hastily. "If your pattern came from their pasts, maybe even distant pasts, then you must have known them personally. Did you?" She was beginning to think she was asking the right questions, and her confidence lifted her heavy spirit just enough to soothe her panic-stricken mind.

However, the doctor shattered any hope she had for a break in the case when he replied, "No. You'd be surprised what people will spill to a perfect stranger." He leaned in closer, clasping his hands together. "Pride is the predecessor of the other six sins. So, of the remaining six, which was your father's demon?" he asked slyly, again returning to the topic of Chloe's father.

The young woman paled noticeably, but her expression hardened. Her fingertips were alive with stings and short flares of pain from her need of relief; her skin was burning, feverish to the touch. "Lust," she stated quickly before rushing into her own question, still hoping to throw him off. "You covered all of your victim's faces, which would mean either shame-slash-remorse or familiarity. You don't strike me as the sort of person to be ashamed of the blood on your hands," she reasoned, her voice icy. "How did you know them?"

Dr. Bell smiled broadly at her. "Good, darling. Now you're using your head," he commented. Then he paused, considering her question. "I've never been much of an office-sort of psychiatrist," he stated vaguely as he motioned about the room with the restricted movement of his hands. "How long did this. . . . act go on?" Interest gleamed in the man's eyes, and Chloe felt like she was going to be sick as her stomach turned over itself yet again.

"Seven years. Were you an online psychiatrist?"

"Yes, specifically for rape victims suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome and suicidal inclinations." Dr. Bell leaned back casually, returning to his previously noted position of relaxation. "So it went from seven to fourteen?" The woman arched an inquiring eyebrow, so he explained his hypothesis. "You're a cutter. Past or not, that's what you are. Those scars are from a smooth blade, a Swiss Army knife, perhaps, and their order is man-made, noticeably so despite your attempt at randomization. Most cutters begin, if not immediately following a traumatic event, during their middle school years, ages twelve to fifteen."

Chloe self-consciously rubbed her arms, but she stared the man in the eyes. Apathy was an easy mask to wear now. "Eight to fifteen, and I started self-injury at thirteen," she stated.

Dr. Bell made a pfft sound with his lips, rolling his eyes. "Is that what your counselor told you to call it?" He laughed coldly. "It's mutilation, darling." By now, he was leaning in again, watching her in anticipation.

"Darling," Chloe repeated, thinking. Then something dawned on her, causing fear to rise and begin clawing at her heart, but she remained seating despite every survival instinct in her gut that was screaming at her to get out. "Darling, precious. These are names of familiarity, commonly used in the South as general polite terms, but you're from the Northeast, so you don't possess Southern hospitality. Did you call your victim's these things?" she asked, her voice low and shaky.

The previous hungry shine leaped into the man's eyes at this connection. "Yes."

There was a long pause while Chloe stood quickly and walked to the door, clearly unnerved by this. Taking deep breaths, she slowly returned to her seat after a moment or two and reorganized some of her papers. "So, you were killing your online patients. I'm sure you had several from other countries as well. Why England?" She asked this while keeping her eyes on the rustling papers in her hands, not wanting to meet those cold, sadistic eyes.

The doctor seemed to dismiss his previous restriction of personal information for professional, for he replied, "They all bore the same scars you do. I had talked all of them out of suicide at least once. They were ready to die. . . . England has higher statistics for cutting and suicide among younger women." He was so at ease with what he was saying; he really was sick.

Chloe heard a faint tapping echoing from the glass to her right. The young woman then closed her notebook, flipped off the voice recorder, and gathered all of her papers. "Thank you, Doctor, for letting me evaluate you. This will conclude our interrogation," she told him as she stood.

Dr. Bell found his feet as well while the guard entered the interrogation room and unlocked one wrist from the table restraint. "You would have been an interesting subject for my studies," he smiled sadistically. "I find myself wondering if you would scream."

This comment was met with a hasty departure from Chloe. She didn't stop walking until she was outside in the brisk, fresh air. Once free from the confinements of the building, she fell against the wall, hugging her papers to her chest as she slid down the rough brick. Her mismatched eyes fell immediately to her left forearm, where multiple smooth scars ran this way and that across her pale but heated skin. She pulled her knees up to her chest to free her hands of her files and eased her index finger over one of the longer scars. "I'll be okay," she told herself, watching the motion of her finger with mild interest. "He's just another twisted mind condemned to the companionship of his own insanity because of his actions." She was thinking aloud to herself in a faint voice, like she normally did when she was seeking some form of escape in her mind. There was a twinge of pain as she pressed down with her fingernail along the one scar's path from the crook of her elbow to the outside of her wrist. There was nowhere near enough pressure or a sharp enough edge for her to draw blood, but the tiny spark lifted her spirits a tiny fraction. "I'll be okay," Chloe repeated with more conviction as she rose from the ground and returned inside.





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