The memo arrived on my desk Monday morning. It was enclosed in an unassuming white envelope with the characteristic SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED red type printed dead center.
I looked up to see my secretary, Ms. Walker, moving briskly away, her long black windbreaker consuming her thin frame. The faint scent of lilacs seemed to follow after her.
“Wait,” I called to her. Then, embarrassed by my firm tone, I smiled as she turned. “What is this?” I asked, holding up the envelope.
Ms. Walker shrugged. “I’m not sure.” The warden told me to deliver it to the supervising psychologist when I went by the psychology mailbox to get the mail. So I did.” She returned my smile and backed out of my office.
My attention returned to the envelope and I opened it. Probably just another employee assistance program referral. As much as I enjoyed working with inmates in a high security prison, my loyalty was and always would be to staff.
I ripped open the envelope and read the enclosed form. It had yesterday’s date on it. I was not at all prepared for what I would read:
January 17, 2012
To: Dr. Williams, Supervising Psychologist
From: Mr. McAdams, Facilities Supervisor
I am increasingly concerned with one of my employees, Mr. Richardson. I would like to refer him for employee assistance to address several recent behaviors which I believe warrant immediate attention. First, he is increasingly absent from work and does not always call to let me know he is taking the day off. Second, when he does come into work, he is often tardy. Third, his hygiene is poor and it is clear he often does not shower or brush his teeth. Finally, and the major source of concern, is his repeated allegations against female staff (I have submitted copies of his memos to Internal Affairs for their review). The content of his memos submitted to me in my role as his supervisor describe what appears to be delusional behavior. For instance, he describes the female staff in a multitude of departments going into the cafeteria at night at which time he describes seeing the growth of scales on their skin. He describes in curious detail the growth of claws from their fingers and the elongating of their teeth. He further reports that their hair grows longer at this time and their pupils dilate. He said they have red eyes. Beyond the absolute absurdity of his report, he is presumably not at the prison at night to observe such events and, if he is, he is further in violation of policy as he is not supposed to be at work at any time of night unless an emergency dictates his presence. But perhaps the most disturbing memo was one I received on January 15, 2012, which documented the murder of a corrections officer in the cafeteria at 1400 by female staff with the characteristics described above. The corrections officer mentioned in the memo is a Mr. Daniels, a probationary employee of six months. In this memo, Mr. Richardson details the cruel and gory execution performed reportedly by female staff. Mr. Richardson has not provided me with any names of the female workers.
I put the memo down, staring at the supervisor’s signature above his name without really seeing it. I was still sitting like that when my secretary returned, knocking on my open door.
I jumped and then attempted a smile, which I knew to look as false as it felt. “Hi, you scared me.” I said.
“Sorry, Dr. Williams. Do you need anything? Was everything okay with the mail?” Ms. Walker said, her jacket, with the name of the prison emblazoned on the front in gold, rustling as she lifted her arm to brush the dark hair out of her face.
“Oh my God,” I said, “are you okay?”
She looked confused so I clarified, only temporarily pushing the memo out of my mind. “Your hand. You have a pretty big bruise.”
“Oh,” Ms. Walker said, sighing, “The gym. I should really be more careful.”
I smiled back, “Well, everything’s fine here. I don’t need anything right now, but thanks.”
I looked down, returning my attention to the memo, knowing Ms. Walker had left only by the sound of rustling…
At noon, after I had completed staff supervision in addition to some inmate assessments, I decided to speak with Mr. McAdams directly. Lucky for me, I knew just where to find him.
The Officer’s Mess Hall was crowded at that hour. Staff in various roles lined up against the buffet-style table while inmates served hot food, piling it high on old, red trays held by impatient hands. I could find no empty seats anywhere, which is precisely why I avoided the Officer’s Mess. That and I was adamant in my idea that the inmates couldn’t be trusted not to adulterate staff food.
My eyes roved the room until they settled on a rather portly man of around forty years, wearing a beige suit and dark green tie. As if psychic, Mr. McAdams raised his eyes to mine and he smiled warmly as though expecting me. I made my way over to him. He was sitting at a table across from the Associate Warden.
“Hi,” I said to Mr. McAdams. I gave a brief nod in the direction of Associate Warden Henrick. I held a tremendous distaste for the latter man ever since he verbalized his opinion that women should not be working in a prison and should not be doctors.
Both men said hello in unison, but I focused solely on Mr. McAdams as I stood above their table. “Hi. I received your memo and would like to speak with you if you have a moment. I’ll just take a seat in the lieutenant’s office until you’re finished eating and wait for you there.” I said, eager to leave the crowd and the presence of Mr. Henrick, whose penetrating blue eyes I could feel on my ass.
I didn’t even wait for poor Mr. McAdams to answer. I just turned on my heels and practically raced out of the room. I traversed the corridor outside of the Officer’s Mess, now filled wall-to-wall with a throng of inmates. Moments later, I made my way into the quiet of the lieutenant’s office where I sat at a computer terminal facing the corridor.
I checked my email, pretending to look busy, until I saw Mr. McAdams in the corridor making his way over to me. He opened the door and smiled as he took a seat next to me, his face red and the breaths very audible as they gushed from his mouth. I hoped he hadn’t been rushing over to meet me, but I had feeling he had. He was a kind man and probably hadn’t wanted to keep me waiting.
“Sorry about interrupting your lunch. I was just concerned about this memo.” I said.
Mr. McAdams shook his head. “No, I’m actually really glad you wanted to speak with me so quickly about this matter. I’m…I’m a little nervous about Richardson. He’s usually a good worker, but I can’t lie. He’s, uh, had some problems getting along with co-workers in the past. He’s always been a little…eccentric, I guess you could say. Anyway, I’m very worried about his mental state. He just wasn’t making much sense.”
“I understand,” I said, “Is he here today?”
Mr. McAdams sighed and shook his head. “Nope. He called out. That’s the thing, too. He’s always calling out. Well, many times he doesn’t even call anymore. He called this time, though. I think he knows I’m concerned. And…Dr. Williams, that officer that Richardson mentioned, the one who he said was brutally murdered…he hasn’t been to work in three days.”
It was late in the afternoon. Most people had left work already, but I had set up a meeting with my friend in Human Resources who often worked well into the evenings.
I crossed into the administration building, brushing my auburn curls out of my face. It never looked good to run; it got people nervous. Running was reserved for emergencies. I should not have been in any particular hurry except that every hour that passed, I felt a sense of urgency and dread in the pit of my stomach.
I opened the single glass door to the Human Resources Department, which was devoid of any decoration with the exception of some posters sloppily taped to plain white walls advertising the importance of teamwork and pride. I took a left and entered the main corridor of the department, which was lined with small offices. I swung into the second one on the right and plopped in a chair, ugly and cushioned with thin green material.
Nancy sat in front of me. She and I had been friends for a long time. We didn’t often get together after work, but we had good conversations. I admired her work ethic and she was always kind to me.
“Hey,” she greeted me from behind the small wooden desk that looked like it had been a do-it-yourself project. It probably had been with the prison’s budget.
“Hi,” I said, practically breathless.
Nancy politely ignored my disheveled appearance from my rush over here. “So you had a question about a new officer, right?”
I nodded. “Yes, a concern actually.”
Nancy sat back in her black swivel chair. She rotated back and forth ever so slightly and drummed her red polished nails on the cheap desk. Her nails matched her rosy cheeks and her eyes were bright. Bright with excitement perhaps or intrigue. Nothing exciting happened in Human Resources so anything I brought to her, however small, was probably a step up.
“Candice, after you called, I checked with Lieutenant Howard. He said Officer Daniels missed three shifts in a row, including today, with no phone call or anything. Lieutenant Howard said he made an attempt to call Daniels each time, but received no answer on his cell phone. Finally, he called his home number and his girlfriend said she hasn’t heard from him. She lives with him, but apparently they had a fight so she assumed he hadn’t been coming home because he was still mad at her. She thought maybe he was staying somewhere else. Anyway, she got sufficiently nervous after Lieutenant Howard called her and so she filed a missing person’s report with the police. She called back over to Howard to tell him that she had done so after she called numerous friends and was not able to determine his whereabouts. She’s a wreck.”
I didn’t know what to say. My mind was racing. “So what do you do in a case like this? I guess he keeps his job here until we find out where he is?”
Nancy nodded slowly. “Yeah, I mean, he can’t be fired, even during his probationary year, if he’s missing, Candice.” She smiled slightly.
I didn’t smile. I couldn’t. I was scared.
When I didn’t say anything, she continued, “You called me to ask about this officer, but you never said why. What’s going on?”
“Unfortunately, I can’t say. Please know it’s an Employee Assistance issue.” I responded, wishing I could say more, but required to keep the issue confidential in my role as a psychologist.
“I completely understand. I hope everything works out. You know, you don’t look so good.”
I weakly waved my hand at her as if waving away the issue. “No, I’m fine. I’m just thinking, I guess.”
“Go home, Candice. In fact, I’m going to take my own advice. I’ll walk out with you,” Nancy said, moving her hand over to her computer, shutting it down.
She got up from her chair and grabbed her pale blue coat where it was slung over papers on a nearby table. She squeezed her slightly overweight frame between the desk and table, and stood over me expectantly as I got up from the chair. It had been nice to just sit down.
We walked out of the department and made our way past the front security desk, waving goodbye to the officer stationed there, before pushing open the double glass doors leading outside…leading right smack dab into a dead body.
“What the…” I said, looking at the mess in front of me. I heard Nancy gasp as I stared ahead at the blood—albeit not a tremendous amount—leading to the small road, practically a path, that circled the entire circumference of the prison. On that road, the mobile patrol car had come to a halt and Officer Preston, the officer manning it, stood directly in front of it, staring at what appeared to be human remains.
It was eerily silent. No one said anything. I looked at Nancy who stood still with her hand over her mouth, looking terrified. Suddenly, behind us, the door swung open, causing Nancy and me to jump. The front desk officer stood there, emulating our surprised and horrified expressions.
“What the fuck?” He said.
“I just…I just found this…whatever it is. Is it an animal?” Officer Preston asked, his voice shaking.
“No,” I said, “It’s human. When did you find…it?” I asked, finding my voice and contemplating the next step, but not knowing what the heck to do.
“I just…I was driving around. It wasn’t here just twenty minutes ago, on my last round. I stopped the car just before you ladies came out.” He grabbed his head in both his hands, looking like he wanted to rip it off. I could tell he was getting ready to become undone so I mustered whatever strength I had, went over to him, placed my hands gently around him to guide him away from the scene and back into the building. I had him take a seat inside. Then I fumbled my way through the longest night I had ever had.
It was five o’clock in the morning. I opened the door to my home, empty and dark. I was exhausted and tired from answering questions all night. Nothing happened in this town so, when something does happen, it’s surprising. But at least I felt it made things go quicker. In a town where nothing happens, everything is rushed and eager. Everyone wants answers and they want it five minutes ago. And that’s why they were able to determine the identity of the body so quickly. And that’s why we knew the body belonged to Officer Daniels. Despite the gore and despite the fact that much of the body appeared to be missing, there was still a set of teeth, which by some miracle of miracles, was mostly intact. Officer Daniels had been dead for a few days based on a report from forensics.
I closed the door behind me and leaned against it, wishing I could just collapse right there. Instead, I shook off my shoes, complete with the blood I hadn’t had the time to clean off and wandered up the carpeted staircase to my bedroom, knowing there was just one more thing I had to do before I could shut my eyes and reach sweet, sweet bliss brought on by sleep. I reached my bedroom, tore off my blouse and black pants, my underwear and bra, and replaced it all with a light pink tank top and sweatpants. I crawled into bed and grabbed the phone from my nightstand. This couldn’t wait.
“Hi, this is Dr. Williams…is this Mr. Richardson?”
I awoke at noon. I had no clue what had disrupted my slumber. At first, I just tried to go back to sleep, thinking Mr. Richardson’s account of a terrible murder was invading my thoughts, but then I heard a noise that seemed to come from downstairs. It sounded like a crash and then like plastic brushing against plastic or some other kind of fabric. I heard a screech from what sounded like an animal and my heart stilled. Then only seconds later I heard a window break. I gripped the bed and ever so slowly reached for my phone on the nightstand. Then Fuck that and grabbed my gun from the nightstand. Ever so slowly, I walked into the hallway and headed down the stairs. The first step creaked and I inwardly cringed. There was no other noise now. Just quiet.
I took a deep breath and continued. When I was mid-way down the stairs, I saw it. I screamed, gun in hand, and ran back up the stairs, grabbed my phone and called the police. I told them what was lying on my kitchen floor. No, who was lying on my kitchen floor.
“This is Candice Williams, Richmont Road. I have—I have a body in my house, on my floor. I know the victim. I have no idea what happened. Please…please come quickly.”
“Nancy, it’s Mr. Richardson. I saw him. I had just spoken with him when I got home from work. It was early. I woke at noon and he was on my floor, half eaten, but I could see his face and I knew it was him. I’m so scared.”
Nancy put her arm around me. She had just asked for the third time if I was sure it was Mr. Richardson despite the fact that she knew the body had been identified and despite the fact that I had told her seven thousand times that I had seen his face very, very clearly. I had told her the part that troubled me the most because I had to tell someone: I told her that I believed what Mr. Richardson had told me. It was crazy, but then the whole thing didn’t make any sense. And it couldn’t have been a coincidence that his body ended up on my floor after I spoke with him. He knew something. And now I knew something.
We were sitting on a bed in a hotel room, side by side. It was nearly midnight and I didn’t know how much more I could take. I knew I was at my limit. Too many bodies, too little time. I couldn’t go back home. Emotionally, I couldn’t stand to see the gore on my floor. I knew I couldn’t look at the broken kitchen window through which the perpetrator had likely escaped. I couldn’t handle anymore questions from the police. As paranoid as I was about it, the police clearly didn’t think I had anything to do with it. Maybe they figured no one can act as scared as I clearly was. I didn’t know. But they did ask me a ton of questions before allowing me to leave. My house was covered in crime scene tape and someone had been nice enough to board up my window. I briefly wondered if anyone had cleaned my kitchen…
“Do you want me to stay with you?” Nancy asked quietly.
I shook my head. “No, just coming here for a bit is good enough. Go home to your family. Your kids miss you and you’ve already been through enough, too.”
Nancy was quiet for a moment before replying. “You know, Candice, a day off might do you some good. I hope I don’t see you in work tomorrow.”
“I have to go in. There are a ton of staff who will be upset and who will want to talk to someone. I need to be able to speak with them. Plus, I’m sure administration will have a ton of questions of their own. I have to go.” I said.
Nancy just shook her head and, despite everything, smiled a little.
“What?” I asked.
Then she burst out laughing.
“What?” I said, looking at her with what must have been a confused or horrified—I didn’t know which—expression on my face.
“It’s just that—I always said that someone has to literally die before you’d take a day off…and now…” Nancy stopped talking so she could laugh in my face.
I rolled my eyes and before I knew it, I was smiling, too. It felt so good.
“And now, someone has died, and you still won’t miss work!” Nancy said, remaining in hysterics.
“That’s me,” I said, “I need a hobby, I guess. I mean, besides finding dead bodies.”
It was eleven in the morning the next day. I had slept until nine and then decided to drive to work. I sat in my office, staring vacantly, unable to do anything. It was quiet, but I could hear the rustle of plastic…on plastic…or something plastic-like. I froze. When I looked up, she was there, right in front of my desk, standing over me.
“Can I get you anything? You want coffee?” Ms. Walker asked.
“N-no, I just—I’ll just drink my water,” I stammered. I held up the bottle in front of me and mustered a smile. All the while, I thought I was going to pee my pants. Shit, I thought, as I felt urine trickle down my beige slacks. I stood abruptly, surprised by the warmth on my leg, but Ms. Walker, from her position in front of me, threw me back into my seat.
“Listen to me, BITCH!” Ms. Walker screamed, her voice taking on a demonic quality as her dark hair grew thicker and longer before my eyes. I was stunned by her strength, so much so that I had trouble focusing and could barely comprehend my situation.
When I looked at her, dazed, I could see the red eyes and the fangs…and there was a scent…lilacs. I recalled what Mr. Richardson, in his panicked and seemingly paranoid state, had told me. “I began following them at night. I watched them. The red eyes…oh my God, the red eyes…and their huge fucking teeth. There was a leader and she had a scent…like flowers maybe, like lilacs, but they all had them. All of them. They ate him, they ate him. They knelt by that guy and they literally just sunk those fangs into him. He was screaming! I know you don’t believe me. Who would? I won’t tell you who the women are. Why would I? So you could laugh at me? But I know what I saw and I know evil when I see it!”
From somewhere deep within myself, I knew this was fight or die. I just felt blessed to be in a place where there was hope because help was around the corner.
“HELP! HELP!” I hit my radio that I carried on the belt around my waist and an alarm activated throughout the building.
Ms. Walker came around the desk quickly and grabbed a clump of hair, throwing me against the wall. She was coming for me again and I could see her long claws, her wild eyes, and her grotesque scaly face. I dove right at her and took her to the ground. I could feel her claws as they slashed across my back as she tried to grab onto me. The desk was in front of me. I grabbed a pen and, as I was about to jam it into her eye, she managed to get me under her. She held down my arms so that they were pinned to my sides.
“I always liked you, Dr. Williams. I always thought we’d make an excellent team before you started asking questions. I was merely trying to get rid of the slime who preyed on us. Men like that never wanted us around here, walking around like they own the place. Fuck them. I’m stronger than they are, I’m smarter than they are.” Ms. Walker practically screamed, her foul-smelling breath hot on my face. I shrunk away as her fangs came toward my face.
Then I heard it. The most beautiful sound of all. Keys on belts accompanied by footsteps and yelling. Tears were streaming down my face as it took five strong men and one strong woman to lift Ms. Walker off of me. By my own account, I don’t know what happened after that. I passed out, letting the darkness envelope me.
Five days later, I sat in front of an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I had already been through several rounds of questioning. I knew this was it and I was relieved. They had detained Ms. Walker and she was now at a medical facility being treated for what they believed—but what I knew to be incorrect—was exposure to rabies. I tried to reason with everyone who disagreed, which was mostly the FBI agents who merely wanted to be done with this whole thing so they could go home to their families. I couldn’t blame them, but I had to try to speak my piece. After all, who were the other women who worked with Ms. Walker to complete the killing? I told them about the fangs and the claws. Some of them laughed at me even though the correctional officers who had responded to my emergency saw it, too. I had spoken with them and they all had the same confused, desperate expressions on their faces, even several days later. Aside from that, the only other person who believed me—or said she believed me—was Nancy. Everyone else, especially the warden, keeping in mind my good reputation and solid work ethic, believed that the assault following the discovery of the body on my floor had emotionally scarred me and driven me to hallucinate. How’s that for diagnosing the psychologist? “Dr. Williams, there’s nothing a good vacation can’t do for anyone! Take the next couple of weeks off, on us. You can have administrative leave; you don’t even have to use your own time! How does that sound? But we need you back once you’re rested.” [Wink]
I had seen enough to know I wasn’t psychotic or having some sort of “episode”. I sighed as my interview ended. I crossed the lobby to the front door, but I could feel someone’s eyes on me. I turned around to see Nancy standing beside the agent who had questioned me the other day and who had been interviewing another woman today…one of several agents who had laughed at my story.
Nancy smiled as she looked at me. I could see fangs. I could see the smile around her blood red eyes.
“NOOOOOOOOO!” I screamed as I tried to lunge at the agent to move him away from her. I didn’t get to him in time and I watched in horror as she sank her fangs into the poor agent’s right cheek…
Bio: I am currently a prison psychologist and my story is a fictitious account of the prison environment. The story’s protagonist, Dr. Williams, is also a prison psychologist who confronts the deaths of two correctional workers, leading her down a sinister path.
My professional career has allowed me the opportunity to publish academic material in the psychology literature. Writing works of fiction is a hobby of mine, something merely fed by my work. I have one other publication, Housing Unit Four, which was published in November of 2011 by Dark Moon Digest.