"Let me out of this thing!" I yelled.
The shapely psychiatrist, the two doctors, both burly guards -- everybody ignored me. The strait jacket's canvas held my arms tight. My wrenched shoulder ached. My head ached. My back ached. Hell, I ached all over.
My six-two was horizontal on a stretcher and the two bruisers carried it and my 205 pounds easily down the long corridor. I was as confused as modern art, and being in this stupid insane asylum didn't help.
Consciousness had just returned and my eyes wouldn't yet focus properly, but I could see the two doctors, Wolfe and Yancey, walking at the left side of the stretcher. I shouted at them, "What the hell is this? Are you damn fools part of the staff, or patients? I'm Shell Scott, a private detective. And I'm not crazy. Do I look crazy?"
They didn't even glance around. Maybe that was the wrong thing to ask them, anyway. Inch-long white hair sticking up in the air like a scalp-sized cowlick, peculiarly angled whitish eyebrows, and a slightly bent nose may not be glamour, but they're no indication of cackling gray matter.
I turned my head to the right side of the stretcher and there, in her starched white uniform, was the lovely little psychiatrist with the shape that should have unstarched her uniform, and my eyes suddenly focused improperly. The stretcher veered left. I was carried into a room, lights blazed, and I was dumped unceremoniously onto a narrow bed, yelling like a fiend.
Dr. Wolfe stared down at me, light glancing from rimless glasses perched on his bulbous nose. He looked like a silver-eyed owl as he said, "He's getting violent again." He left, returned shortly with a gleaming hypodermic syringe in one hand. I felt a stinging sensation as the needle entered my neck.
Seconds later the light flicked out and all of them left the room. The door slammed shut and I was alone in darkness. All those characters thought I was goofy. Either that, I groaned to myself, or the inmates had taken over the asylum. The drug had started taking effect almost at once and I fought to keep from going to sleep; but, finally, I let my eyelids close. There was a soft, sharp clicking sound and I forced my eyes open. Somebody stepped inside my room, then pushed the door shut again. A thin beam of light shot from a small flashlight held in the person's hand. Reflections sparkled from a large diamond ring on one finger of the other hand -- and on something that was gripped in those fingers, some kind of blade, long, sharp-edged, like a knife or scalpel.
"Hey," I said thickly, my voice sounding muffled. "What the hell --"
There was a muttered curse, and light flashed upon my face. The blade moved upward through the beam of light. And suddenly I was wide-awake, thinking: This idiot is about to stab me.
The rest of it was just sound and movement. The yelling I had done before was nothing compared to this; everybody in the cackle factory must have heard me. I jerked my body aside, the jacket binding me, got my heels hooked over the bed's edge, and rolled. The blade sliced across my back as I strained my leg muscles and felt myself slide, then fall to the floor. I rolled onto my back and drew up my legs to kick at the figure above me, but the flashlight winked out and the figure jumped past me. I heard a scraping sound like that of a window being raised.
Rapid footsteps slapped in the corridor outside. The door opened again and lights blazed. A strange nurse stood in the doorway, blinking. Feet pounded in the hall and one of the guards came inside, then the little psychiatrist and another doctor. Hands lifted me to the bed again as Dr. Yancey came in, followed by Dr. Wolfe and another man. People were babbling at me. I babbled right back at them, much louder than they: "You've got a nut running around loose. Tried to stab me. Get this goddamned jacket off me."
Dr. Yancey said slowly, soothingly, "We don't have any homicidal cases here."
"That's what you think." My thoughts were blurred, my muscles leaden from the drug. "I tell you, somebody tried to kill me. Went out the window."
The psychiatrist pressed a cool hand on my forehead. "Don't get excited," she said. "You must have dreamed it."
"The hell I dreamed it!"
They all moved away from my bed and the light went out. The door closed and I was alone again, warm wetness beneath me from blood draining through the cut in my back.
The pulse beat heavily in my temples. I knew I could yell my head off now and nobody would come. And I knew that too many crazy things had happened too quickly here tonight. It might not have been a maniac at all that had tried to kill me. Maybe this had happened because of the case I was on, because of something I'd done earlier today. Maybe somebody very sane, and frightened, wanted me dead. I thought back to this morning, when it had begun. I felt my eyes closing and forced them open, kept them stretched wide in the darkness.
Copyright © 1982 by Richard S. Prather