A tattered, beige folder slapped onto the surface of the desk; dust particles exploded from the impact, momentarily hovered in the beam of the dim light, and floated to the ground. The cardboard cover was thrust open, revealing a colorless image of a middle-aged, somber face. A pair of dull, gray eyes seemed to sag within deep sockets, and a receding hair line faded towards the back of the man’s shriveled skull.
Peter Madison adjusted a pair of thick-rimmed glasses on the edge of his hooked nose. “His name is Harold Kane, and I have his file right here. You wanna know more about him? Here. Take it. I have no use for it; the man’s worthless to me.”
A mysterious presence perched forward in a feeble, leather chair, his face contoured only by the shadow produced beneath the brim of his fedora hat. He watched the bare bulb above him sway back and forth from a loose chain, and a faint glow crawled across the walls of the clouded office. He spoke in a low, ominous voice. “I want to know what you think about Mr. Kane. As you can imagine, a record of his misconduct can only produce a limited amount of information on an individual. No. I want to know his likes and dislikes, where he sleeps, what he does in his spare time, who he talks to. I want to know everything about him.”
“He doesn’t talk to anyone. He doesn’t speak. Hasn’t spoken since the first day he transferred to Rochester Asylum. No one cares about him. He’s a nut, a loony, a psychopath… a truly incurable patient. No conscience at all. He doesn’t even know simple right from wrong; good from evil.”
“And I suppose that’s what got him here, Dr. Madison?”
Dr. Madison sighed as he reclined into his office chair. He removed his glasses from his face and ran a weary hand along his perspiring forehead. “I’m sorry, who did you say you were again?”
“Let’s just say I’m an old acquaintance of Mr. Kane’s. And let’s just say, hypothetically of course, Mr. Kane owes me a lot of money – in which case, he is of great interest to me.”
The doctor chuckled under his breath. “Mr. Kane has been a patient at my asylum for the last five years. Probably end up dying here, too. No record of any family existing outside of this place, never had a visitor in his life… and now, all of a sudden, Mr. Kane is ‘of great interest’ to one of you mafia-types? I assure you, you won’t get anything out of him. He’s a nobody. Lost in his own fantasy world. Just a small-time punk who pled innocent for insanity after allegedly killing a police officer. According to the file, that’s why he’s here.”
“As I said, Dr. Madison, a record of his misconduct can only produce a limited amount of information.”
“Are you suggesting Mr. Kane has a history I don’t know about?”
From the darkness, a loaded revolver clicked into position. “I’m suggesting you tell me everything you know about Mr. Kane. Now.”
The dark room remained still and silent. Dr. Madison leaned forward in his chair again, ready to cooperate with the mysterious stranger. “You know, the first – and last – words Harold ever said to me were that he was going to escape from this place. That was five years ago, and he hasn’t spoken since. I know what you want. Don’t underestimate my intelligence. You’re here to bust him out. I know nothing of Harold’s involvement with your kind, but I know what this is all about.”
The stranger continued to listen quietly in the darkness.
“What I’m curious about,” Dr. Madison continued. “Is why you’re wasting your time with me. You want to help Harold Kane escape from this place? I won’t stop you. As I said, the man’s worthless to me. But please – I’m a man of great importance, and I’m not in the position to have my time wasted by other loonies on the street. Take your friend and get out of here. What do you care about my opinion of Mr. Kane?”
The stranger slowly stood to his feet, emerging from the abyss as his face entered the beam of light that illuminated from the bare bulb above. He removed his fedora, revealing a receding line of fading, gray hair. He stiffened his arm, directing the barrel of the revolver in the doctor’s direction. “Because I wanted to see the look on your face when I killed you and escaped from this f*cking place. I wanted to hear every God-forsaken word out of your mouth – every insult you’ve made about me – before I silenced you once and for all. This asylum has been my hell for the last five years, and I’m done.”
“Harold,” the doctor pled. “Put the gun down. We can talk this out.”
“No more talking. I don’t want to hear it. No more talking from you. No more talking.”
“Harold, you don’t know what you’re doing. Give me the gun.”
“I’m not crazy!”
Harold aggressively squeezed the trigger, discharging two, rapid bullets into the doctor’s chest. The doctor gazed into his lap, where splashes of blood began to ooze from his open wounds. Blotches of rose-red expanded across his pure-white lab coat, and he desperately grasped his chest as he fell forward out of the chair, collapsing onto the floor. He moaned in pain as he gasped for air, fighting for every second of his life.
Harold fired three more rounds into the doctor’s back. He screamed in agony; each shot stinging with throbbing torment. The doctor lay still, reflecting in a pool of devastation and defeat. Transparent tears began to glide along his cheeks, and he howled in desperation. Harold silenced the man with a single shot to the head.
As the piercing ring of the explosive revolver began to fade into nothingness, a shadow of tranquility overcame Harold. For five years, he had suffered within the chains of an oppressive regime behind the screaming walls of an anarchic world. At last, he had beheaded the snake – silenced the dictator – and at last, it was time for his glorious escape. A peaceful grin spread from ear to ear, and Harold closed his eyes as he sighed in triumph. He felt the barrel of the gun against his head; his trembling finger glazed along the surface of the trigger. He embraced the vision in his mind, clearer than the daylight he hadn’t seen in so long: his body would collapse. His spirit would arise. At last, he would be free.
Harold pulled the trigger, and there was silence.
The six-shooter again clicked empty, refusing to grant Harold his only desire: to hear the savage shot ring out in the last moments of his life. No. Instead, there was silence.
“No – it can’t be!”
The office door jolted as it lashed open, inviting a squad of security guards into the room. “Get on the ground, Kane! Get the f*ck on the ground!” Harold surrendered at the mercy of the guards and was thrust to the floor, shattering into tears as he was forced to listen to the click-clack noise of handcuffs behind him.
“You’re going away for a long time, Kane.”
"No! It can't be!" Harold shrieked in horror. “No! It can’t be!”
The silence faded away, and his glorious escape – escaped him.