Insanity Peal

Posted: 6th March 2011 by Jeff Bouley / Deacon Blue in Single-run ("One off") Stories
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The man in the three-piece suit flipped the final page of the file, frowned, looked up at the man with the rumpled slacks, gaudy tie and white physician’s coat, and said, “Arthur, I don’t believe she is insane.”

Dr. Arthur Hawkings coughed sharply and briefly, leaving it vague as to whether the cough was coincidence or a sort of scoffing laugh. “Well, Mark, I think you have to be pretty far from sane to slice-and-dice a half-dozen people that way just because Janus told you to.”

Waving away the statement dismissively with his hand, Dr. Marcus Blood responded, “I never said I thought she was stable or altogether right in the head. Sociopath? Certainly. I’m simply saying that I think she knew full well what she was doing, knew right from wrong, and should be considered culpable for her actions.”

“So you’re coming into this with a preconceived notion, eh Mark?” Arthur noted. “Not very dispassionate, clinical or professional.”

“I know who butters my bread,” Marcus answered, “and I wasn’t hired to be clinical and dispassionate and compassionate. I work for the prosecution, and the judge has ordered Janet Caspian to submit to an evaluation by a prosecution-hired psychologist, and that’s that. The DA is the one giving me my directions. Call my ‘assumptions’ more of a hypothesis. She may yet prove it wrong. But I think she’s played the lot of you here, and the state wants her to go to trial, and she will. She’ll likely put in an insanity plea, and the prosecutor’s office has hired me to look at her with their needs at heart. You want to be all soft and cuddly here, that’s fine. I’m here to look for chinks in the armor she’s put on.”

“I’d hardly call us soft and cuddly,” Arthur said. “This is a high-security facility and she’s on lockdown. We get the most unstable and sometimes most dangerous people with mental illness here, Mark. It isn’t some goddamned resort we’re running. The Givens Psychiatric Detention Facility is essentially a prison. Cynthia just doesn’t see the value in making things worse by being assholes with the patients…”

“Prisoners,” Marcus corrected.

“Detainees, then,” Arthur said. “But still patients in need of care, evaluation and, if possible, treatment.”

“I gave up trying to fix people a while back, Arthur. Now my job is to tell it like it is when I take a peek inside their heads and their histories.”

“Tell it like you see, you mean,” Arthur said with a rueful smirk.

“Same thing.”

* * *

Marcus flexed his limbs awkwardly and uncomfortably in the hooded suit with the mesh in front of his face. It wasn’t that the suit was uncomfortable, precisely speaking, but it hugged him tight, almost like a full-body blood pressure cuff, and it made his movements seem sluggish and dreamlike.

I’m dressed in a giant cushioned condom with a fencing mask, he thought to himself grimly.

“Is this suit absolutely necessary?” he asked his escort, one of the security personnel at the high-security psychiatric detention facility. “I see that you aren’t wearing the same ensemble.”

“I also won’t be getting close to her unless there’s trouble, and I’ll be shooting her with a rubber slug or poking her with my extra-long baton if that’s the case, doctor,” the woman pointed out. “You’re the one who’s going to be getting close to her. You were told you could conduct the interviews through shielded glass.”

“I need to look her in the eyes; I need all then cues I can get.”

“Then you need the rubber hippo suit in case she gets feisty. Ever been tasered before? Or undergo electro-convulsive therapy?”


“Do you want to find out what those feel like?”


“Then wear the suit. Because while Ms. Caspian there doesn’t have long range, her Transmitter powers give her the ability to pack quite a wallop. The suit breathes pretty well, so you shouldn’t sweat too much in it. I think your Brooks Brothers shirt will survive without irredeemable pit stains.”

Marcus didn’t like her insubordinate tone, but then had to remind himself she also wasn’t his subordinate—she answered to the facility’s administrator, Cynthia Taggert, and secondarily to Dr. Hawkings, who headed up the clinical psychiatric operations here. So together, they entered Crazy Jane’s cell, which was larger than he had expected it would be—somewhat narrow, but long—perhaps a former conference room repurposed as a cell. At the far end of it sat the transhuman woman herself, wrapped tight in some kind of straitjacket that seemed to be made a of a similar material to his own “hippo suit.” He also took notice of the floor and walls, coated with some kind of rubber-like material and with metallic-looking strips running the length and breadth of them.

Three layers of protection to thwart or bleed off any attempt to use her electricity-based Transmitter powers, he realized, wondering how much of the day she spent in that straitjacket.

“Hiya,” she said sweetly, in a manner that was so in tune with the tattoos of abstract butterflies, happy faces and rainbows on various parts of her face and neck—and yet so out of sync with the cohabitating ultra-realistic tattoos of skulls, bloody razor blades, screaming mouths, cockroaches, barbed wire and more.

The artwork of her face and neck seemed to blend together too well, in a way that made Marcus’ stomach flutter in a brief surge of panic. Her face was not ruined by tattoos but instead was transformed to some kind of unnerving and utterly engaging canvas displaying grotesque art. Her beauty was evident even through all that ink, and he wondered how much more pretty she had been before Janus had made her be marked thus—or perhaps she had chosen to have herself marked by a tattooist’s needle after she had become Janus’ pet.

“Earth to enemy doctor. Come in, doctor,” Crazy Jane said with a taunting edge.

Without missing a beat, Marcus said, simply, “Just assessing things.”

“Janus might not like you staring at his main girl,” she said with a playful tone of menace.

“I’ll take my chances,” Marcus said. “So, mind if I ask you a few questions?”

“My lawyer says I have to let you. Says the judge won’t let him sit in on this.”

“Sounds like you’re sane enough to not want to cooperate because you don’t want anyone to burst your safe little insanity plea bubble,” Marcus said. “Maybe I can just leave now and file my report.”

“Really? Do all insane people just jabber and drool and mutter? Besides, I never said I was crazy all the time. Being away from Janus’ world has been very calming. No one telling me to hurt or kill anyone. Refreshing, really.”

“So, are you saying you weren’t in control of your actions when you tortured and killed those people?”

“Does that seem like the kind of thing someone does when they’re in control?” she countered.

“Some. Some people like doing those kinds of things. Some just don’t care. Being sociopathic doesn’t get you off the hook for prison—or maybe the death penalty.”

“Are you a shrink, an interrogator, or one of the guys who’s gonna grill me in court if I end up there? Because you aren’t acting much like a shrink.”

“You aren’t acting much like a person with serious mental health issues right now, either.”

“Do you have any idea what Janus did to me in the years I was with him?”

“Actually, no.”

“That’s because I don’t want to talk about it. Bad memories. Hurts.”

“But you need to convince me you’re insane if you want any chance of the DA giving you an insanity plea without argument—or of having me give even an inkling that you were insane if he takes it to trial and I have to testify as to your competence when you killed those people.”

Crazy Jane chewed her upper lip a bit. “The people who work here have been a lot sweeter to me than you’re being, and I’d feel a little bad telling you things I don’t even want to tell them.”

“I’m not a negotiator, and I’m not on your side.”

Crazy Jane chewed her lower lip this time as she considered, and then sighed. She shook her head slowly, a lock of her hair falling over one eye, and she nodded. “OK. But can you get this stupid hair out of my face first? It’s tickling, and my arms are a little limited right now mobility-wise.”

Marcus looked at her dubiously, and his eyes flashed in the general direction of the female guard, who was watching but not really in a position to hear anything clearly, as softly as Janet Caspian was speaking.

“Oh, don’t be a baby,” Crazy Jane said. “You’re suited up and I’m wrapped up. Just slide the damn hair back behind my ear before it drives me even nuttier than I already am.”

He reached forward quickly, brushed the hair back, and saw a reflection of the guard in the room’s mirrored window, her body suddenly stiffening in alarm and then relaxing as Marcus finished and pulled back.

“If I scream, you’ll know I need you,” he said to the guard with annoyance, a trace of venom in his voice. “Tell me a tale,” Marcus said to Crazy Jane. “Better yet, tell me the truth.”

She smiled, nodded and began to talk.

* * *

Marcus considered his notes from the initial interview, feeling both a bit of smug satisfaction to have gotten historical information from the woman that the institution’s staff had failed to elicit from her, as well as a sinking feeling that his discoveries could hurt the DA’s case more than a little.

He rotated his neck a bit to get some kinks out, and slid the tip of his pinky finger into one ear in response to a nagging little flare-up of tinnitus—a vague and annoying combination of buzzing and ringing.

“Do you need anything else?” asked one of the clinical psychologists on staff at the institution, who had brought in some files at Marcus’ request.

“No, not right now,” Marcus answered, wondering if the man’s name was “Stan” or “Dan” or something else along those lines. They’d only been given cursory introduction to one another.

“Well, if you have anything else you need, ask one of the nurses or something,” the man said. “I have a counseling session right now with Crazy Jane, and I’m already a few minutes late. Hope you didn’t leave her in a mess.”

“No, I didn’t,” Marcus responded, noting the slightly eager and nervous look in the man’s eyes—clearly more than ready to be done here and counseling the transhuman woman. “You called her by her transhuman nickname, not her real name.”

“She prefers it that way,” he answered in a clipped tone. “I have to get going now.”

“Fine. Go.”

Returning to his own notes and glancing at the files, still irritated at the ringing in his ears, Marcus considered the facts thus far—or at least the data thus far, since it was unclear still what was fact and what was fiction. If even half of what Crazy Jane had told him was true, she’d have a strong case for some kind of plea of diminished competence.

But he wasn’t buying it hook, line and sinker just yet. The fact she was sharing these details now, when a prosecution-hired psychiatrist was grilling her, made it suspicious. On the other hand, it was a horrific story, and she looked visibly pained at recalling some of the more abusive moments at Janus’ hands, forcing her to try to reconcile her lingering attachment to the villain and sense of responsibility to him with the reminders that he had—if her story was true—done utterly heinous things to her. He already felt a pull to return to her cell, even though they didn’t have another session for a couple days. There was so much he still needed to sort out in person with her.

By Crazy Jane’s account, she was a transhuman already long before her crimes, which is what had attracted Janus’ attention, but he had decided her powers needed boosting. So he’d engaged in quite a lot of highly unethical work on her with chemicals, nanos and gene therapies to tweak her transhuman characteristics. At the same time, he’d mind-fucked her on a regularly basis and done things to her that seemed to be one part sensual to three parts depraved and cruel. He’d messed with her body and her mind—not to mention sick manipulations of her affections—to get his results. And those results had been to make her even more strongly transhuman as well as make her utterly loyal, whether through some twisted version of love, abject fear or—probably most attractive to him—a combination of both.

If he had boosted her powers somewhat, it could explain her becoming unhinged. Her original powers had emerged when she was younger, so the probability that any acute and clinical mental health issues had been brought on by the emergence of her powers then was relatively low. But since emergence in later life increased the chances of concomitant mental illness, boosting her powers as an adult might have brought that factor into play.

Or, perhaps, Janus triggered some new powers, which almost certainly would have put her at risk of psychological changes, Marcus considered. She’s dropped enough hints that her Transmitter powers aren’t all she has. I’ll have to get more out of her on that front.

In short, he thought, Thursday couldn’t come soon enough, so that he could speak with her again and, hopefully, find some chinks in her armor by finding inconsistencies in her story.

It couldn’t come soon enough.

* * *

“I’m not keeping you from anything, am I, Dr. Danny?” Crazy Jane asked the psychologist when they were already 30 minutes past the scheduled end of their session.

“No, not at all,” Dan Wilson said quickly. “It’s important for me to be here for you, and it sounds like you’ve been through quite a lot today with Dr. Blood. Many breakthroughs and probably no small amount of stress with an adversarial face attached to so many questions.”

“I’m all right. Now that we’ve talked. Or I will be soon. If you can stay a bit longer. How are you? You look a little pale.”

“Just a…it’s just a little something in my head. Like a ringing in my ears. Been going on for a while, but it’s really picked up in the past couple days.”

“Oh, I remember something like that,” she said suddenly, almost breathlessly. “I probably should have told the DA’s pet shrink earlier. Way back when Janus started in on me I had such odd tones and notes in my head. He made me describe them and he had the tattooist design a lot of my markings based on my feelings about those sounds. It was like some ghoulish bell in my head, but so lyrical, too. Tinkling sometimes, screaming at others. My insanity peal. Isn’t that funny, doctor? Insanity peal? My lawyer is aiming for an insanity plea, and I once had an insanity peal? Isn’t that funny?”

“It’s interesting, Jane. Very interesting. Would you like to talk about it some more?”

“Oh, yes. Yes, I would.”

And they did, for another hour, and then he finally and reluctantly ended their session, realizing that his wife was going to be livid that he was coming home late yet again.

* * *

Neither the guard on duty—a male this time—nor the administrative staff at the institution were happy that Marcus had chosen to forego the padded suit for his second go-round with Crazy Jane.

“She was irritated with me, but not hostile,” he had pointed out. “I don’t need a bunch of crap distracting me from my interviews and assessments of her. I’ll trust the other two layers of protection in her cell, along with the fact I don’t think she’s crazy enough to risk shocking me so that she can get put down with a taser or rubber bullet or an injection.”

So he had won his victory there. No doubt that he would; he didn’t work for Cynthia or Arthur.

Her stories weren’t changing today, making Marcus very reluctant to report back to the DA. He was supposed to find inroads for a death penalty case, not bolster the defense position, and the differences in the story today weren’t anything suspicious—just the normal differences of humans never remembering things perfectly. Crazy Jane’s tales of abuse and alteration at Janus’ hands were as compelling and consistent as they had been before.

He dug at his ear a bit with his finger, and noticed Crazy Jane take careful note of the action.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

“Hmmmm. Yes. Nothing. Just a little ringing in my ear.”

“In your ears?”

“Yes, in my ears,” he responded, wiggling a fingertip in his other ear now, absently. “Annoying, but nothing to concern yourself with. I’m more interested in you going over your story again.”

“Again? You still think I’m lying, don’t you?” she said with a pout. “Oh! I forgot. Did I tell you about my insanity peal?”

“What? Your…you mean your insanity plea.”

“No, my insanity peal, silly. I’m crazy, not stupid about words. Oh, this will be so interesting…just another example of how naughty Janus was with me.”

* * *

“You’re taking more time with Ms. Caspian than I thought you would, Mark.”

“I still don’t buy her not being in control of her actions, Art,” Marcus snapped back. “But I have to admit she’s an interesting case, and the fact is that I have to be thorough if I’m going to give the district attorney an accurate assessment. I may need several more sessions with her.”

“Sounds to me like you’re coming around to our way of thinking and seeing who the real villain here is: Janus. And who the victim is: Janet.”

“It remains to be seen if Janet Caspian can be separated from Crazy Jane in looking at her actions—her crimes,” Marcus said. “I’m still not on your side—and certainly not hers.”

Arthur shrugged. “Whatever you say, Mark. Sounds to me like the clinician in you is trying to claw his way out of your bureaucratic ass.”

Marcus snorted in derision, and made his way to Crazy Jane’s cell.

* * *

Dan fidgeted in his car seat. He was supposed to be going to the store to get a few groceries, and all he wanted to do was get back to work and see Crazy Jane, even though it was his day off. A sharp and warbling ghost of a sound shot through his head, and he smacked himself to drive it off. A few more waves of the irritating peal rolled through his head, and then quieted again.

He drove uncertainly to the store, and bought everything in a half-daze. On the way back home, he realized he was going down the wrong road and had been for 10 minutes—heading toward the Givens institution—toward his workplace. He turned around as soon as he could and righted himself to get back home, before he ended up with a pissed-off wife yet again.

Lucy was feeling randy that night, as it turned out, so she wasn’t mad at his overlong visit to and back from the store. She was more interested in getting done with dinner, snuggling a bit, and then getting intimate.

Through his entire performance in their marriage bed, Dan could only see Crazy Jane’s face in his mind, and when he finally had his orgasm, shortly after his wife’s, he felt both elation and horror at the pealing that ran through his head until he finally drifted off to uneasy slumber.

* * *

“How’s your head today, Dr. Mark?” Crazy Jane asked, a look of concern in her eyes that seemed tinged with hunger as well. It was their seventh session, and Marcus was trying to figure out how to put the district attorney off just a bit longer. He just needed a little more…

“Is it that obvious?” he asked. “It will pass.”

“Oh, yes, it always does. But it always comes back. I think Dan is over his bout with it, though.”

“Huh? Who?”

“My staff psychologist. Dr. Wilson. I called him Dr. Danny.”

Past tense. She used past tense.

“It’s just tinnitus,” Marcus said. “What about Dr. …what about Danny?”

“Oh, it’s more than just ringing in the ears, Dr. Mark. I know better than anyone. It’s the insanity peal. Patented and trademarked. Or it should be anyway. Dr. Danny should be over it now because chances are he committed suicide last night. Unless his wife got to him in time or something. I don’t think he was far enough along to take my hints about killing her first.”

Marcus felt a surge of panic at the terrifyingly morbid implications of her words. He was about to alert the guard, then felt another surge of panic at the thought of cutting his time short with Crazy Jane. He’d already had to wait three days for this session with her…

“Your hints?” Marcus asked carefully. “What about them?”

“Oh, I knew the insanity peal wasn’t quite far enough along, but there was just no more time,” Crazy Jane said with a painful note of regret in her voice. “I put it in his head, and I was so careful cultivating it and I made such good use of our time together. But I had to rush things. And I haven’t gotten nearly far enough along with you, Dr. Mark. And now it’s too late.”

The sounds in his head. The near-obsession to keep interacting with her. It all fell into place.

A part of Marcus wanted to get up, grab her by the shoulders and shake her until she was ready to fall over. The thought that she had messed with his head…but then he considered how assaulting her would probably get him removed from her presence. That thought filled him with a terrible, aching anxiety.

“Too late?” he asked her nervously. “For what? Too late to drive me insane? Is that one of your other powers?”

“Of course, silly. Just one of them, though. Not that it matters for you anymore. But…well, it could, I suppose. It could still matter. It doesn’t have to end. Just do something about the guard,” she said in a conspiratorial whisper, “and then get me out of this straitjacket. If you leave the door to my room open, he might be gentle with you. Maybe I can keep you. You can keep asking me questions and I can keep filling your head with new things. We both win.”

Marcus couldn’t speak for a moment, trying to reconcile his desire to flee with the unbearable thought of being wrested away from Crazy Jane after having only been with her for a few minutes. Not enough time. Not enough.

“Who will be gentle with me if I help you? Janus?”

“Of course, silly boy. Dr. Mark, you are so dense sometimes. But I love you for it. My boyfriend’s back. If he’s on schedule, and he always is, there are already dead bodies. I figure he’ll be here in minutes; maybe moments. You still have time. You can still be my newest pet project. I’ll be slow with you. You can be near me for a long, long time. You’ll be a work of art.”

“You’ve been waiting for him all this time. You wanted Janus to come for you. You aren’t afraid of him at all.”

“Oh, of course I am—sometimes—and a little part of me will always hate him for the things he did to me. But mostly it’s love. He’s my man,” she said, and went into a sing-song voice as she warbled, “My boyfriend’s back he’s gonna save my reputation, hey la, hey la, my boyfriend’s back…”

She stopped singing the old ‘60s tune as alarms began to sound. The guard that had accompanied Marcus came to attention and looked to be checking in with someone via the radio on his belt to see what was happening.

“I…I…” Marcus began, feeling afraid and lost. For the first time in a very long time, he didn’t know what to do. Warring feelings of betrayal and attraction buffeted his mind. Terror and exhilaration. Suddenly, Crazy Jane seemed to be the one to turn to—the one who had the answers, but still his rational mind held him back. He stared into her tattooed face, silently pleading. For mercy. For guidance. For release. For instruction.

“There’s not much time left, Dr. Mark,” she whispered, and he heard the peals of madness rippling through his mind once more. “Not much time. You need to choose. I’ll make a masterpiece of madness of you. I’ll mold you. Be my pet and you might yet live for weeks or months or maybe years. You won’t ever have to be away from me for long, and after a while, even when you are my will can be trilling through your mind.”

Marcus wanted to scream to the guard that Janus was coming; that they were doomed. He wanted to urge the man to call for reinforcements and to tell him this wasn’t some routine prisoner disturbance taking place. And then, at once, as he heard crashing sounds outside the locked door and muffled screams, Crazy Jane’s eyes caught his own and he saw the madness in them and found it delicious and tempting. He wanted to swim in it and drown in it. He wanted the tempest of her manipulations to wash away his sanity.

The door was blown inward, and Marcus felt himself move suddenly forward, wondering if the force of whatever explosion had torn it asunder was driving him or if the eyes of the woman before him were pulling him, and he lunged for her.

He frantically reached for her restraints to show he would free her. To show her and Janus that he wasn’t their enemy. That he wanted to help.

As his fingers scrabbled at the buckles and Crazy Jane laughed a quiet, manic, victorious jeering sound, he heard the guard cry out and heard wet, sickening sounds and knew Janus was there—and who knew who else, and he hoped there would be mercy.

He hoped there was yet time.

Time to live.

Time to be driven mad.

Time to be molded into something dark and twisted and lost while also being held and cherished and valued as a work of psychological art.


Hoped for time.

Prayed for the chance to be near her a while longer.

As he felt and saw the shadow of her lover fall over him.


Hope and despair filled him.

But mostly a panicked hope as the sounds that weren’t really sounds pealed through his brain and he released the first of the buckles that held her in her restraints, hoping to be part of delivering her to freedom and his sanity into bondage.