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Authors: Walter Greatshell

Mad Skills (24 page)

BOOK: Mad Skills
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“Yes? Oh, hello.”
“Could you follow me, please? I just need to ask you a few questions.”
“Okay.” Maddy ducked under the yellow caution tape. “What about?”
“Come with me.”
Leading Maddy through the maze of vehicles, the woman took her to a trailer parked on the street. The sign on its side read POLICE MOBILE COMMAND UNIT. Opening the door, Reinaldi said, “After you.”
Maddy stepped inside. The place crackled with the sound of police scanners, and there were several men in suits and dress uniforms barking orders. They hardly glanced at Maddy. Deputy Reinaldi directed her to take a seat while she conferred with them, obviously having trouble holding their attention. From the hectic chatter, Maddy could tell that the assault team had found the dead guys in the hospital, and everyone was scrambling to make sense of it. Who were the killers, and where had they gone? Clearly, the hostages needed to be interrogated, but the first priority was evacuating the building—there was still at least one homicidal maniac on the loose.
Without thinking, Maddy blurted, “I killed them.”
Nobody noticed.
“I killed them,” Maddy repeated loudly. She couldn’t believe what she was doing, but she couldn’t help herself. The feeling was like making yourself vomit—like the time she ate a whole bottle of chewable vitamins and had to drink ipecac. It was as the doctor had said:
The bad stuff has to come out.
“What?” said Deputy Reinaldi.
“Those dead guys in there. I’m the one who killed them. I broke one’s neck and shot the others in the head.”
“For Christ’s sake,” one of the men said impatiently. “Get her outta here.”
“Hold on,” said Reinaldi. “Madeline, what are you talking about?”
“I couldn’t help it. They did something to my brain that makes it easy for me to do stuff … kill people. I’ve killed a bunch now. You have to stop me.”
Suddenly, Maddy was crying, feeling her insides shiver apart.
“Please stop me,” she begged. “Stop
them
.”
Reinaldi said, “Them?”
“I already
told
you! The doctors, the
doctors
—up at Braintree! Chandra Stevens. She was just here, you must have seen her. She went into the hospital and took Ben. You have to stop them!”
“Ohhh,”
one of the men said knowingly to the others.
“Braintree.”
“No,”
Maddy cried. “That’s not it—I’m not
mental
! Officer Reinaldi, you know what happened to us. Tell them!”
The deputy held back, reluctant to speak. Finally, she said, “There’s definitely something strange going on …”
“I don’t have time for this,” the lead man said.
Reinaldi bit the bullet. “Chief, this kid stole a helicopter from the EPA quarantine site—the Bitterroot Valley reservation. The chopper went down near Junction 38, and she and a boy survived the crash. I picked them up by the side of the road and delivered them here. You saw my report.”
“I haven’t had much time to read anything tonight. What are you saying, Tina?”
“Look at her. She’s seventeen years old. She claims she has no special training or technical expertise—in fact she should barely be able to talk, much less fly a helicopter. I ran a background check, and she’s spent the last fourteen months recovering from severe brain injuries, enrolled in an experimental research study. Guess who sponsored the study?”
“Look,” the chief said, “I’m sure this is all very interesting, but I don’t have time for guessing games. In case you missed it, we’re in the middle of a situation here.”
“But that’s what I’m trying to tell you, sir. This kid
is
the situation. The boy who was with her, who had the internal bleeding? I checked him out, too. He’s listed as deceased.”
“He died last night?”
“No—
last year
.”
There was a loud knock on the door. One of the cops answered it, and said, “It’s just the guys from the firehouse. They brought coffee.”
An ax struck him in the head.
The firemen came in.
There was something wrong with them. Beneath their helmet visors, their grinning faces were too white, their lips too black, and their red-stained teeth too numerous and sharp.
Taken by surprise, a second officer went down before anyone thought to draw a gun, by which time it was too late. Cornered in the tight space, some of the cops tried screaming for help; others, like Officer Reinaldi, attempted to defend themselves, but everything happened so quickly there wasn’t much they could do.
Axes chopped through upraised hands, bit into skulls, lopped off heads … and all at once it was over. No shots had been fired. Maddy was alone, huddled in the back corner.
Then the most amazing and horrible thing of all: The firemen started to drink.
Falling on their victims, they sucked the still-pulsing blood from their open veins, guzzling the firehouse red liquid as if it was the most refreshing thing ever, their bellies visibly expanding as they gulped and gulped, until the blood stopped running so freely. Then, bloated as ticks—as gorged leeches—they burped and wiped their lips.
A woman came in.
“Hello, Maddy,” she said.
It was Dr. Stevens. She was wearing a Red Cross cap and a pink paper mask over her mouth
“Why did you have to kill them?” Maddy moaned. “You could have just killed me.”
“Just cutting through a little red tape. I’d rather avoid all this negative publicity, wouldn’t you?”
“What do you want from me?”
“Oh come on. You know what we want from you. Come back voluntarily, right now, and we can still keep you out of the system. No one needs to know what you’ve done while in recovery—you’re not responsible. As far as we’re concerned, all this was purely accidental. You should know I’m very much against having you permanently institutionalized, but once the state gets involved, it’ll all become much more complicated. None of us wants that.”
“You’re crazy,” Maddy said. “It’s you people who are the psychos, not me.”
“That’s simply not true; you’re suffering from paranoid delusions, which are only going to get worse if left untreated. Honey, you’d still be a vegetable if not for us.”
As Dr. Stevens spoke, Maddy found it hard to follow the words, which seemed to echo from a deep cavern. Her vision blurred and strained to refocus. With an abrupt lurch, she had the feeling of snapping out of a dream. Suddenly, the police trailer was clean. There were no bodies, no blood, no signs of violence. The firemen and Dr. Stevens were not monsters, just ordinary people dealing with an unstable mental patient. The thought was impossibly hopeful and at the same time too horrible to take:
I’m mad—I’m completely insane, oh God.
Her legs started to fold, and she drew breath to scream.
Out of nowhere, a voice whispered in her ear. “Hey, yo-yo. They’re just jerkin’ your string.” It was Moses.
Averting her own fall, she begged,
How? How?
“They’re running a line on you, baby. Don’t believe the hype.”
Maddy looked at Dr. Stevens and the firemen. Yes, there was something odd about them; the image was being doctored. Cleaned up. Maddy’s head hurt as she fought to block the alien signal that was creating the optical illusion—digging its claws into her brain. In desperation, she focused her mind on the babbling police radios, tuning them all to the same ultrahigh-frequency bandwidth and broadcasting a wall of white noise. A scene of red carnage faded in like a double exposure. Maddy shrieked,
“What have you done with Ben?”
“Ben is back on the road to recovery.”
“Back to being a robot, you mean.”
“Back to living a productive life, a life of service to his country and community. How many people can say that? A mind is a terrible thing to waste, Madeline, and we’re in the recycling business. Our only crime is taking damaged goods and trying to create solid, useful citizens.”
“Is that what you call it? What about those guys back there—the four ninjas? Are they graduates of the program, too?”
“Who?”
“Those criminals inside the hospital!”
“Oh, yes. Wasn’t that interesting? All of us ending up here at the same time like this?”
“As if it was an accident.”
“Madeline, you of all people should understand the quirks of probability. Or maybe you’d prefer to call it fate.”
“Give me a break. I don’t believe any of this is coincidence.”
“Neither do I. We’re all governed by the dictates of our subconscious. Free will is an illusion.”
“Bullcrap. I’m sure that’s what you’d like me to think, but I’m not one of your zombies.”
“Oh no?”
“You’re rigging the odds so nobody has a choice.”
Dr. Stevens stepped forward, backing Maddy even more tightly into the corner.
“No, you do have a choice,” she said mildly. “You can either come with us and get the help and support you need, or you can go to the authorities and test these conspiracy theories on them. You’ve had quite the spree tonight, Madeline—whom do you think they’ll believe? But you’re welcome to try—no one’s stopping you.”
She stood aside, offering Maddy the door. The friendly firemen made a path for her through the gore.
“Fine, then I’m out of here.”
As Maddy passed between them, surrounded, Dr. Stevens made a lightning move behind her back, jabbing a long syringe at her jugular.
Maddy’s reaction was explosive. Before the needle even broke the skin, she was moving, recoiling, trapping the syringe between her shoulder and jawbone so the plunger could not be depressed, and using the same lateral motion to shove both forefingers of her right hand all the way up the doctor’s nose, deep into the funnel-like infundibulum, grabbing her by the moist sinus cavity and gouging the sensitive tissues of the nasal septum as hard as she could.
The fluid-filled needle twanged in Maddy’s neck as Chandra Stevens’s hands flew to protect her face. The pressure on the doctor’s ophthalmic ganglia and arteries caused her to go temporarily blind; her throat filled with mucus and blood, and in an instant all her senses were gone; she was in agony, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think; the escalating shock had a domino effect on her consciousness, and she momentarily blacked out.
Maddy jumped clear. The nearest fireman grabbed her, so she rammed the doctor’s syringe into his neck and pressed the plunger. The effect was like letting the air out of a balloon—the man simply deflated, sliding to the floor and all but handing her his ax.
Bruised and bloody, Maddy stepped into the aisle, breathing hard and brandishing the ax in both hands.
“All right, assholes,” she said. “Step aside.”
They came for her.
The first one swung for her head, and when she dodged that, the second one swung at where her head was expected to be. It was a clever double-play, one that had cost the cops their lives, but Maddy saw it coming a mile away. It was all very simple, or she couldn’t have done it. There was no guesswork involved, merely a matter of following the dotted lines. The air was full of these ghostly hypothetical trajectories, swirling around the room like weird cobwebs, constantly realigning to her changing position relative to her opponents. There were multiple options, but the easiest path was always the brightest, elementary as a game of hopscotch.
In plotting these pathways to their inevitably neat resolution, Maddy felt the same pleasant tingle that she used to feel solving minor brainteasers like sudoku. Fear was no part of it, any more than one would be afraid of dying on an escalator. Sure, she could get hurt if she was very, very clumsy. But she wasn’t.
She ducked inside the first man’s swing, close enough to touch him, and arced her own weapon down to the floor and up again, exploiting its weight like a pendulum so that on the upswing it had enough force to drive its pick end under the second man’s sternum and into his heart. He toppled over dead while the first one pinned her against his chest, trying to strangle her with his ax handle.
Swinging her legs up and kneeing the man in the face, Maddy noticed Dr. Stevens pulling herself upright. The doc was a wreck, gushing blood and snot, feeling her way along like a blind person, barely aware of the death match that was going on right beside her. Tipping her head back and applying pressure to the bridge of her nose, Chandra Stevens shakily left the trailer.
Enough now, come
on
!
Wrenching her ax free of the dead man’s body, Maddy again used the weapon’s pendulum-like mass to swing it forward up over her head, then laterally into the fireman’s right Achilles tendon. The heavy blade almost severed his ankle, and he toppled sideways. As they went down together, Maddy twisted her upper torso, guiding their fall so that the man landed face-first on his own ax.
Smeared with blood, she crawled free of her attacker and left the trailer.
BOOK: Mad Skills
2.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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