Replicate (Insanity #3) will be released on September 25, 2018. Read below for the first two chapters!
Jeremy Heston may have avoided jail time, but he was still very much in prison. When he arrived at Rocky Mountain Mental Health Institute on Thanksgiving day, they rushed him into a back room, not much bigger than a closet, and immediately placed him in a straitjacket.
A monstrous black man with biceps as large as Jeremy’s torso stood guard while two doctors fastened the straps on the straitjacket and scribbled notes on a clipboard.
“Okay, Mr. Heston, I believe we’re ready,” said the short doctor in a squeaky voice. The light glared off the bald spot he was trying to hide underneath his thinning comb-over.
Jeremy attempted to move his arms, but the compression of the straitjacket made it impossible. His arms were crossed below his rib cage and would apparently stay there for a while.
“This is more of a precaution,” the other doctor said. He was tall and bony, but still had a full head of thick brown hair.
“How long do I need to be in this?” Jeremy asked. After spending the last two years acting insane, he now needed to flip the script and act normal. Aside from meetings with his defense attorney, Linda, he had lacked social interaction over the last two years. Talking to himself grew old, and when the man in the shadows visited him in his jail cell, that’s when Jeremy knew it was time to get out.
“Until Dr. Carpenter downgrades your status. It’s common procedure for someone in your predicament.” The tall doctor explained this, his droopy eyes suggesting he had seen some shit in the loony bin.
My predicament? You mean a mass murderer who walked away from it all as an innocent man. Jeremy fought off a smirk.
“When do I meet Dr. Carpenter?” Jeremy asked.
“She won’t be in until Monday. She has a long weekend for the holiday break.”
Four days in this shit? Fuck.
“Now, Mr. Heston, if you’ll allow us to guide you to your room, we can get you settled in and explain your stay with us. Please follow us.”
The short doctor left the room without a word, followed by the tall doctor. The security man, whose name badge read COOPER, placed a surprisingly gentle hand on Jeremy’s shoulder and directed him out of the room.
They walked down a long hallway, passing multiple closed doors that Jeremy assumed belonged to other patients. He always imagined a mental hospital as a miserable place: dim lighting, pissed off guards, dirty walls, and shitty food. Prison, basically. He was glad to be proven wrong.
The facility appeared more like an assisted living home: immaculate carpeting, bright lights, nurses and guards with wide smiles. Before they reached the end of the hall, where the doctors called an elevator, Jeremy caught a glimpse of a community room with board games, a TV, and a group of people playing cards around a coffee table. Behind the room was a door that led outside to a small courtyard. It was a cold day, so no one was outdoors, but Jeremy hoped he would get actual time in nature after being cooped up inside for the last two years.
The elevator doors parted as Jeremy and Cooper arrived and they stood together as the doctors stood to the sides facing each other. Jeremy glanced at the neon red number inside as the elevator rose multiple floors. A bell chimed as it flashed a 5 and the doors opened.
Another long hallway greeted them and the doctors immediately started down it. The lights on this floor flickered suspiciously, revealing light, cream-colored walls and a handful of doors spaced apart. They walked to the last door, where the tall doctor jiggled a key in the lock and pushed it open.
Jeremy entered the room and squinted as the brightness blinded him. White padding covered every inch of the room except for the lone window that stood ten feet above a bed pushed in the corner.
Sheets! A comforter and pillow!
He had acclimated to sleeping on a cot, but the thought of a real bed made him feel like a king. A couch awaited on the opposite side of the bed, but that was it.
“Where do I go to the bathroom?” he asked, used to having his toilet within five steps at all times.
“Please have a seat, Jeremy,” the short doctor said and gestured to the couch. He held his clipboard and crossed off something with a hard stroke of his pen.
“What are your names?” Jeremy demanded.
“I’m Dr. Mullin,” the short doctor said. “And that is Dr. Holtzman. You won’t see too much of us, but we may assist Dr. Carpenter at times. She’s the head psychiatrist at the hospital and you’ll meet with her nearly every day.”
Dr. Holtzman cut in, “She’s the sole person in charge of making decisions like when you can get out of that jacket.”
“Does she decide when I can go home?” Jeremy asked.
The doctors stared at each other with raised eyebrows. “We’ll let Dr. Carpenter discuss the discharge process with you,” Dr. Holtzman said. “Now, please, let’s move on. You may have noticed we came to the fifth floor; this is the top floor of the building. You’re in the furthest room from the elevator and stairs. This is because you’re a maximum security threat. Should you somehow find a way out of this room, alarms will go off and you will be tranquilized immediately.
“Meals and restroom breaks will be handled by a nurse. We have a team of nurses who will rotate to feed you and help you use the bathroom. Obviously, in a straitjacket you can’t do much on your own. Once you’re out of the jacket, you’ll be feeding yourself and using the restroom in your permanent room on the fourth floor. For now your meals will be at 7 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. A nurse will check with you every two hours to see if you need to use the restroom. That is how the next four days will go and possibly more, depending on Dr. Carpenter’s decision. Questions?”
Jeremy nodded. “What am I supposed to do?”
“Nothing,” Dr. Mullin said. For a doctor he sure was a prick.
“This will be hard at first,” Dr. Holtzman, the compassionate one, said. “You’re confined to this room and your jacket until otherwise instructed. Once you’re deemed safe, you’ll have more activities you can do.”
“Will I get to mingle with others?”
“That’s much further down the road, and again at the discretion of Dr. Carpenter.”
“Anything else?” Dr. Mullin asked.
“I guess not,” Jeremy said. Guess I’ll sit here and stare at the wall for four days. I can’t even fondle myself in this damn jacket.
“Perfect. Lindsay, our head nurse, will be in to introduce herself to you later and let you know a little more on what to expect from the nurses. We’ll see you later.”
The doctors exited the room with Cooper, who had stood silently by the open door the whole time. The door closed and Jeremy listened as the lock bolted shut, trapping him in the room against his will.
This is prison, he thought. Only they don’t call it that because I have a real bed and padded walls to not injure my crazy self.
He stood in the middle of the room and stared at the window above him. A glimpse of the gray sky was all he could see. For all he knew, he could be on another planet. He longed for the chance to roam more than a confined space.
Dr. Carpenter seems to be the key to everything.
He noticed a camera in the top corner beside the window.
They’re watching me. I’ll probably be under constant surveillance my whole time here.
Jeremy had achieved his goal of obtaining the insanity verdict, but felt more of a prisoner than before. For so long, the trial had seemed to be his biggest obstacle, but now he saw that the trial was elementary compared to the challenge of trying to get out of this place.
Connor Chappell spent his Thanksgiving night on the Internet, researching every bit of information available about Rocky Mountain Mental Health Institute. The news had mentioned that Jeremy Heston had been transported to the mental hospital. He had returned from spending the afternoon with his parents, but no one felt like eating turkey.
Just when they thought they’d be able to move on from the loss of their family’s youngest member, Charlie, the brainwashed jury decided to set his killer free. The decision the week prior had reopened the wounds that had never fully healed.
Thanksgiving 2017 was supposed to be spent celebrating Charlie’s killer rotting on death row. Instead, the bullshit excuse of mental health let the fucker off the hook.
“I’ll make it right, Charlie,” Connor said in his empty apartment. He had childhood pictures scattered on his kitchen table, where he sat with an open laptop. His kid brother didn’t deserve this, none of the victims did. Charlie had loved his job and often bragged to Connor about how fun it was, sending him selfies taking shots of vodka from his desk. Connor worked in construction, specializing in demolition.
Connor had celebrated his thirty-second birthday in Las Vegas with his brother, only two months before his death in March of 2014. That trip felt like decades ago.
The months following Charlie’s murder led to a downward spiral in which Connor consoled himself with alcohol, cocaine, LSD, and anything that didn’t require poking himself with a needle.
The thought of having a normal life again vanished when the verdict came back as not guilty. There was too much work to do while that fucker lived a cushy life in the hospital with no regrets. Heavy bags formed under his bloodshot eyes while the drugs took their toll on his once-chiseled body. He managed to keep his job through all the shit. Blowing shit up while strung out on coke was a match made in heaven.
He lit a cigarette as he stared at a picture of him and Charlie from more than twenty years ago. Connor was Batman, Charlie was Robin. The dynamic duo of two blond boys from Littleton, Colorado, stood with their chests puffed out and their twig arms flexed, in the front yard of their childhood home. His parents sold the place after Charlie was killed.
Connor stood from the table and walked to the front door, where he had pinned Jeremy Heston’s mugshot. “It’s a daily reminder that a piece of shit can ruin everything,” he had explained to his parents when they questioned the disturbing picture during a visit. The man in the picture had long, wavy hair splayed out in a mess, wide eyes, and a smirk of evil. He looked every bit as crazy as the liberal doctors said he was, but Connor knew it was all bullshit. Only guilty cowards hid behind an insanity defense.
He blew smoke at the picture. “You’re going to pay for what you did.” Connor smiled, inhaled more smoke, and blew it back at the picture. “I’m not resting until your body’s cold in the ground.” He returned to the laptop.
After a week of intensive research, Connor had concluded that getting into the hospital would be nearly impossible. Only close relatives, doctors, and legal representatives were allowed to visit patients, and that was once they were cleared for visitation. Jeremy wouldn’t likely receive visitation rights for quite some time. He might, however, receive clearance for outdoor time, and that would be Connor’s chance.
The hospital wasn’t isolated like a prison. It was a block away from a shopping center, and there were other surrounding buildings on the medical campus. A look at the satellite map of the area showed a few places Connor could perch with a rifle. He’d need to refresh his skills, as it would be a long-distance shot, but he knew he could do it.
The main issue was the distance to Pueblo. It was at least a two hour drive from his home in Denver, and with all the California hipsters moving to town, traffic was always a problem, making the drive closer to two hours on a good day.
Working in construction, he could request work in Pueblo. He could rent a shithole to live in for a couple months until the project completed, and find time to visit the shooting range, to practice his accuracy with his hunting rifle. He would need to scope out the possible spots he could shoot from as well, requiring a clear view to the hospital’s courtyard, tucked behind the back of the building.
Whatever it takes, Connor thought as he pulled the map of the hospital back up on his screen, a picture of a young Charlie smiling at him from the table.