The shock awoke Kodek. He was still strapped in a straight-jacket to the gurney in Bedlam’s electro-therapy room. The Doctor (Mindbender) loomed over him.
“Hit him once more.”
Three days later, Kodek was in another room. Still in Bedlam, mind you… Clean, white walls, sterile table in front of him. A very basic, audition-hall chair under his ass. At least he wasn’t strapped inside the jacket any longer, but his wrists were cuffed together. Kodek tried to remember actually getting handcuffed, who originally belonged to the handcuffs — but he couldn’t bring it to mind, even though it was only half an hour ago.
Dr. Mindbender entered and took a seat in the only other chair in the room: across from Kodek.
“Good morning, Martin,” Mindbender greeted. Kodek grit his teeth. He hated that name. “So, you want to tell me about last night?”
Kodek shrugged. “Nothing happened last night.”
Mindbender raised an eyebrow. “Really?”
“Yeah,” again with a shrug. He kept his chained hands on the table in plain view, figuring he’d keep things a lot simpler by doing that.
“So why did you have to be dragged from your room screaming bloody terror in the middle of the night?” Mindbender more pointed out than asked.
Room, Kodek thought, nice word for cell.
“When they brought you into the therapy room–” Mindbender continued…
(Shock therapy, Kodek mentally corrected)
“–You were screaming about Anna and Lizzie and someone you called The Bear of Berlin,” Mindbender reminded him. It brought images of Bedlam nurses and orderlies to his mind, but he quickly shoved the thoughts deep into his mind, hoping they would say buried. They never did. Fucking thought zombies–
“What was that?” Mindbender asked.
Kodek cleared his throat. “Thought Zombies,” he said.
“Mm-hm…” Mindbender took a pen and small notepad from the breast pocket of his lab coat and quickly jotted something down, then smoothly replaced them into the pocket. “Tell me, what is the last thing you think you remember?”
Kodek tilted his head to the right – He kept his eyes focused down the train passenger car as he watched Lizzie Borden, the yellow waitress emerge from the toilet, and damn if she didn’t glance back at him, for just a fraction of a second, before instantly -yet nonchalantly as hell- turning her back to him and stepping through the connecting car doors to the next passenger car.
A few seconds later, Lizzie plunked herself down in the seat across from Kodek, who suddenly had not only an overwhelming, but a nauseating sense of deja-vu. “Still can’t remember, huh?”
“Groundhog day,” Kodek answered.
“Groundhog day didn’t happen,” Mindbender said flatly. Or at least, he wanted it to come out flatly. Kodek thought there might have be a faint edge there, though.
Kodek kept silent. His eyes flickered to his hands, resting, chained together, on the tabletop between himself and the doctor. He thought he could hear a faint ticking in his brain. Or maybe it was scratching…
“That’s what you told me yesterday. Remember?” Mindbender asked. “We’ve already established that that didn’t happen. That was a major part of your delusion, but it was only a delusion… because you’d stopped taking your medication. Do you remember us having that conversation? Do you remember it at all?” Mindbender was trying not to sound frustrated.
Kodek cleared his throat again, this time the sound had a nervous quality. “Yes, I remember now.”
“Okay then, what’s the last thing you really remember?”
Kodek thought back to Christmas eve. “I was at home. Anna was sleeping upstairs. Somebody was trying to get up the drainpipe along the wall – to the bedroom window. He was going to kill her. I had to stop him.”
Mindbender was already shaking his head. “There was no other man. It was you. You had escaped from here, and the Metro Police tracked you down to your old house where they found you scaling the wall – climbing up the drainpipe.”
Kodek said nothing, only listened.
Mindbender went on: “One of the cops shot you with a rubber bullet. You fell, landed on the lawn. You were in the hospital for two days, then they returned you here. Do you remember any of that?”
Kodek nodded. He did remember. Only not exactly in the way the doctor had just now verbalized it. No, he still remembered it his own way.
“Was Anna alright?”
“You mean your wife?”
Of course, Kodek thought, what other Anna would he have meant?
Mindbender leaned forward, which Kodek took to be an ominous sign.
“Your wife is dead,” Mindbender said, and then, as if he’d really been a magician all along, he produced several glossy 7 x 9 full-color photographs (from where? Kodek’s mind yelled at him. Inside his coat? Under the chair? He never came in here with a folder!) which he spread across the table. Each photograph showed in graphic detail Anna, blood-soaked and dead on a faux-tiled floor, dressed in a yellow waitress uniform with a name tag over her left breast. The name tag read: LIZZIE. The last photograph was a wider shot of the murder scene (slaughter) and Kodek could make out more of the diner. Even part of the window on the far left side, where some of the lettering was visible. Kodek didn’t have to stretch his mind too much to figure out the lettering would read Shotgun Mary’s, the name of the greasy-spoon.
“There was another victim, too. He was found hacked with a chainsaw and dumped into the trunk of a car.”
Kodek thought about the cook (Anna) “What happened to the cook?”
“Enough about the cook already,” Mindbender was getting exasperated, “How many more times do we have to go over this? That dead woman in the photo was the only staff member in the diner that day. Her, and some customer who had been at then end of the bar eating an all-day breakfast. That’s it. There was no one else.”
“Who was the woman? What did she do?”
“She didn’t do anything,” Mindbender said, and to Kodek he was starting to sound a lot more like a cop than a psychiatrist. “But she was your wife.”
Kodek’s stomach dropped. “Who killed her?” He was terrified that he already knew the answer to that.
“The Jack of Hearts,” Mindbender said. He let a pause hang in the air between them. “Have you heard of him?”
Kodek nodded. “Yes.”
“Good,” Mindbender seemed suddenly satisfied, and he finally leaned back in his chair. “Means you remember something.”
Kodek kept his voice at a whisper inaudible to anyone but himself. “Was it me…?”
“Even if it was only something from the media.”
“What?” Kodek lifted his head, only then realizing his chin had been drooped into his chest.
“The media. You do remember requesting all those newspapers when one of the orderlies had told you about the Jack of Hearts, right?” Mindbender leaned in again. “The San Francisco serial killer?”
“I was in here when it happened?”
“Of course you were.”
Kodek was relived when Mindbender leaned back again, then was immediately concerned about the fact he was relived.
“How long have I been in here?” Kodek asked.
“Two and a half weeks,” Mindbender said, and he took a small tin (the shape of a sardine tin) of Altoids breath mints out of his lab coat pocket with his right hand and put the tin on the table without a word.
When he moved his hand to open the tin, Kodek said, quietly, “I wouldn’t do that.”
Mindbender either ignored him or never heard him, because he nonchalantly popped the id of the tin open, and even though the lid opened on pin-hinges towards Kodek, he could still see, from his position, the scatter of chalky-white roughly-rounded breath mint. Mindbender fished into the tin with his fingers and popped one into his mouth, then snapped the lid shut and looked at Kodek, who must have had quite an expression on his face to make the doctor ask, “What?”
An hour later (seeming more like three and a half to Kodek), Kodek was let out of the psychiatric session by two orderlies, until the three of them got to the last corridor leading back to Kodek’s padded “room”. Before they stepped into that corridor, they were met by a third orderly, who gruffly ordered the other two away with a growly mutter, then immediately unlocked the handcuffs from Kodek’s wrist – and looked suspiciously like The Bear of Berlin, the man Dr. Mindbender claimed Kodek’s own imagination had invented.
“Don’t believe it,” Bear told him in that guttural German-accented voice.
“What?” Kodek was dazed. He shouldn’t have eaten that fucking Altoid.
“Don’t forget, photographs, like your memories, can be altered.” And after a dramatic beat, “Easily,” Bear nodded knowingly at him.
Anna, blood-splattered and looking pretty much dead in the yellow waitress uniform with that damned, nagging name tag pinned above her left breast – also blood-spattered – LIZZIE.
It was all wrong. It was backwards. It was like looking at something through a funhouse mirror, and that thought brought on another sensation of deja-vu. (…and then her face started to melt right off her skull) “I have to get out of here,” Kodek whispered.
“I know,” Bear said. “Don’t worry.” He took Kodek by the crook of the elbow and led him down the corridor. “Where are you going?” he asked.
“Shotgun Mary’s,” Kodek said, and was surprised by his own answer.