Two sour faced guards escorted teenager Daniel Warren into the interview cell, shackled him to the metal grommets bolted to the table, and pushed him down into a chair. The boy’s orange prisoner suit did not fit, but someone, perhaps one of the guards, rolled the cuffs and sleeves up so he wouldn’t trip and fall. The lock clattered after the door slammed shut.
To the state appointed psychologist Raoul Hadras, the young man who sat in silence across from him at the table appeared not unlike many of the other troubled youths of this generation – thin, only a few weeks past his fifteenth birthday, a dozen pimples on his face, and expressive brown eyes. A shock of blond hair completed the image.
Daniel murdered his father and mother if the police report proved true. After his arrest, he demanded the death penalty from the court appointed attorney, and created quite a scene in the courtroom when the attorney plead not guilty on his behalf. The judge also thought the demand strange and questioned the boy’s sanity.
Most other youths Raoul evaluated often claimed insanity, and enacted performances that would make movie stars jealous – anything to avoid justice.
Daniel sat with yes turned down, and did not speak.
“May I call you Dan?” The doctor made a note in the evaluation folder.
“Sure. Why not? You wanna find out why I killed my old man.” The boy fidgeted in the chair, but did not try to escape the restraints. “I wanna die.”
“I must determine if you are fit to stand trial.”
“Yeah.” The voice came slow and sullen.
“So. May I call you Dan?” Raoul’s question, fashioned to create a familiar, less formal atmosphere, dated back to the time of Freud. The ploy worked sometimes, but sometimes it did not.
No answer. Raoul tried again with a gentle tone in his voice. “May I call you Dan?”
“I don’t care what you call me. Send me back to my cell,” he snapped back.
“Sometimes circumstances cause us to do things we wouldn’t normally do. Would you please tell me about what happened?”
“He deserved it. Am I done?”
“Not quite. Why do you say he deserved it?” His question probed for anything to free the boy from his defensive shell.
“He beat me and my mother up all the time. When I was a little kid, he’d jerk me up by my arm and whip me with that leather belt of his. I hated the belt. I got whipped even if I didn’t do nothin’.”
“Your mother too?” Situations like the boy described usually meant the abuse affected other family members. Raoul understood the answer.
“Yeah, she got it bad. If she tried to protect me, he’d beat her with his fists. She didn’t tell people what he did, but behind her back everyone talked about her black eyes and the bruises all over her arms, and face. I got into fights with kids who said things about her.”
“Many fights?” The question sought to let deep emotions rise. He made another note in the folder.
Dan avoided the question. “My mother. I loved her. I didn’t kill her like the police said. I didn’t do it.”
“But you did kill your father?”
“Yeah.” His head rolled back and he stared at the ceiling. “Like I said. He had it comin’.”
Trigger point. The father. Raoul wondered what other triggers might provoke Dan to continue his story. “So you blame your father for your crime?”
Dan kept his gaze focused on the ceiling. “Everyone hated him.”
His head fell forward and his eyes locked onto Raoul’s face. “Everyone.”
The face softened for a moment. “His eyes frightened everyone. One of my friends, Jimmy, came to the house one night after school.” Dad screamed at him to get out.”
“That’s all your father said?”
“Uh, huh. He stared at Jimmy with those cold blue eyes – they could see right through you. When I try to sleep I see them. They’re always in my dreams. I didn’t like to sleep. Neighbors avoided him. They’d go to the other side of the street when they saw him comin’.”
“It’s called post traumatic stress, Dan. He frightened you the night you killed him?”
“I came home from school late. I heard him telling from the street. When I went inside the house everything was broken. Smashed chairs, curtains ripped off the windows. I went into the kitchen. Dad grabbed the refrigerator and threw it on the floor. He swung at Mom and missed, but his second punch hit her in the stomach. She fell down. I went over to her and tried to help, but he grabbed me by the shirt and threw me into the counter by the sink. Then he turned back to Mom. I knew he was gonna hurt her more.”
His eyes smoldered with tears and his head dropped to his chest.
“Relax for a minute, Dan. I understand why you are frightened. I want to help.”
Dan disregarded Raoul’s comment and continued. “I got up and took one of the broken chair’s legs and swung it as hard as I could. I hit him on the back of his head. He turned and started to get up, but I hit him again. I hit him two more times before he fell. I went to Mom. She said ‘Run Danny, run. He’ll kill you for sure if he catches you. Please run. I love you.’ Last time I heard Mom’s voice.” He jerked his head to the side and shook it. His wet cheeks glistened in the light of the single bulb that swung from a wire above his head.
Raoul took a handkerchief from his pocket and went to the other side of the table to wipe the boy’s tears. “Calm, calm. Nobody will hurt you while you’re with me.” Genuine sadness gripped the doctor and he felt his own eyes water. He thought to leave the handkerchief with Dan, but remembered the restraints and realized the pointlessness of such an act. He returned to his seat, sat in silence, while he made a few more notes in the folder.
Dan’s chin fell back onto his chest. His voice lowered and he mumbled, “Found the gun – Dad’s nine millimeter, in the stand by the bed where he kept it, made sure it was loaded, tucked it into my pants, and ran. I went across the street to Mrs. Thompson’s house. Her lights were off. She wasn’t home, so I ran around to the back, jumped the fence and hid under some cucumber vines. I tried to hold my breath, but was breathing too hard.” He swallowed, and waited a moment before he continued. “I thought he might hear my breathing so I crawled over the back fence and ran down the alley. There’s an old wooden shed there. I went in and hid behind some boxes.”
“And . . .” Raoul’s voice faded into a whisper.
“I heard his crazy screams. He was trying to find me. I kept as quiet as I could because I was scared more than ever before. I heard his shoes crunchin’ in the alley gravel. When I peeked through a crack in the wall I saw him standin’ outside the shed, I held my breath and hoped he wouldn’t hear me. I hoped he’d go away. He didn’t. He pushed through the broken door and came into the shed yelling ‘little bastard! I’ll break your neck and piss on you. Come on out coward!’”
The doctor’s voice became sympathetic for the first time since the interview began. “Now I understand.”
“After I made sure a round was in the chamber.” The boy continued as if he could not hold back the story. Tormented words gushed from his lips at a frantic pace. “I crawled out from behind the crates and held the gun where he couldn’t see it. He moved, and I shot him in the chest, but he wasn’t dead.” His voice quieted when he remembered the moment. “I shot him in the head two times, but he’s here with me. I have to die to get rid of him. I want to die! It’s the only way I can escape.”
The softness of the boy’s voice surprised Raoul. “You’ve no need to fear your father. I think you acted in self-defense and I’ll inform the authorities. I see a full life in front of you.” Raoul wrote another note in the folder. “Your father’s gone and he can’t hurt you anymore.” He raised his head and noticed the change in Dan’s eyes.
Cold, ice blue eyes glared at the doctor. “I’m not dead.”
David Alan Owens’ stories and non-fiction works have been published internationally. From Alien Dimensions magazine, the High Strange Horror Anthology, and other periodicals, his audiences are as varied as his stories. He prefers to write science fiction, but sometimes a story of a different genre asks to be written. He lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee with his wife Ann and his Boston Terrier, Mayla.