Interview with a Mad Doctor
By: Somer Canon
I was in the reception room of a bar in my local regional airport. The man I was there to interview requested this venue specifically, and my career would implode if I did anything to jeopardize this opportunity. Grungy and old, the room just barely met the classification of “clean” and I opted not to order anything to eat. Ice water was fine.
My interview walked in. I’d seen photographs of him and knew the basics of his appearance, but I found myself surprised by how ordinary he looked. There was nothing particularly noteworthy about his face or his height. It could all accurately be called “average” and nobody would argue that. But that’s what made it weird. This man was nothing even close to average or normal and the only thing I observed about him coming towards me was the way he walked. There was a regal quality to it, a gliding gait that conjured images of the Caesars or Habsburgs.
He held out a hand with a smile and I noted the immaculate manicure and state of his hands. His grasp was warm and firm, but not overly so. He unbuttoned his suit jacket and sat in the grimy chair with no notice of how it would look pressed against his pristine and obviously expensive attire.
“I’m so glad that I have the opportunity to talk to you,” I began.
“Of course,” he smiled back. “I’ve read some of your work and I admire your lean style.”
This man was a fugitive and I wondered for the millionth time since that first correspondence whether I would survive this encounter. He’d contacted me, with a fake name at first, but after several emails back and forth, his real identity came out. Up until the moment he walked into that reception room, I harbored thoughts, and a slight hope, that I was being pranked.
“I’d like to ask you, when I write my piece, do you mind my naming you? Do you mind if I name this location as well? I’m sure it would compromise you, but I can omit certain details.”
“There is no fear in the truth,” he replied lightly. “My name and this location will not compromise me, I promise you. I chose you for this interview, but there is much going on that you know nothing about, and I’ll be keeping it that way. You have access to publications that can tell my story in a way that isn’t a sad, sensational squawking that I so dislike. And you needn’t worry about my focus on you making a turn for the worse. You’re a tool and if you maintain the manners I’ve seen in you thus far, there’s no reason to believe you won’t be getting the story that the rest of your career as a journalist will strive to meet in terms of renown and respect.”
“O-okay,” I stammered. “Well I’d like to start with this meeting place. From what I understand of your usual haunts, particularly those in Baltimore, it’s a few big steps below where you usually like to eat. How did you happen upon this?”
“Make no mistake, I would not eat the food offered in this place, it was simply convenience that brought us here today. As for this general area, well we’re only a two hour drive away from Baltimore and when I liberated myself from my federally imposed confines, I had to make my way back to Baltimore, my home, for a few provisions before I went into total hiding. Being several states away, or even several countries away, is obvious on a level that I find vulgar. I was as safe as a baby in this area, an overlooked town in Eastern Pennsylvania. And this unkempt bar in this small regional airport happens to not have any security cameras aimed towards it.”
“And you’ll be gone from this place before I’m back home, I assume?”
“I’d avoid certain specificities if I were you,” he warned me, his polite tone never wavering.
“Of course, I’m sorry.” He nodded magnanimously.
“Well I have you here, a man of no small amount of celebrity…” I began.
“I detest that word and that categorization,” he interrupted. “I was a man of respect, a man of influence and great education. I’ve been reduced to tabloid fodder and the subject of papers written by little men who consider themselves intellectual titans of the psychiatric field.”
“This fame bothers you?” I asked.
“In the filthy form that it has taken, yes. I prefer to be known for my accomplishments.”
“Forgive me, but I believe that you are known for your accomplishments.” I said.
“I’m known for certain acts that I committed. My time as a consultant with the criminal profilers at the FBI, or my time as one of Baltimore’s most respected psychiatrists, or my extensive experience in the medical field, they’re all lying forgotten in the shadow of the more sensationally-friendly acts that caused the criminal justice system to see fit to lock me away in a dark room for the rest of my natural life being studied by halfwits and made to tolerate the rough rudeness of the staff.”
“Surely you can understand why those acts would supersede your previous accomplishments,” I prodded.
“Of course,” he said, crossing his legs and folding his hands in his lap. The way that he was looking at me made me feel studied…scrutinized…and I was uneasy. “The public at large prefers broad strokes of simplified information, wrung dry of nuance and detail. I am what I did, not what I accomplished.”
“If I may,” I began, “I’d argue that your impressive level of accomplishments and education and sophistication is what made you so ripe for sensationalizing. If an average joe had committed the crimes that you had committed,” I noticed here that his right eye twitched ever so slightly. I redirected. “The things you were accused of,” I corrected. “There would still have been extensive media coverage because of the horrific nature of those actions, but they wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting. There is a long history of people who, erm, commit such acts, and they tend to fit certain molds as you know. They mostly walk around unnoticed. They’re actually extremely normal. But you, you’re an extraordinary character. There’s nothing about you that flies under any sort of radar.”
“Therein lies the fallacy of the techniques of the criminal profilers,” he responded. “Too many factors are too easily dismissed. My extraordinariness, as you call it, was what protected me for so long.”
“May I ask why you did those horrible things?” I knew I was taking a chance. His gaze on me was steady and unwavering and I tried not to fidget or look away from him.
“My house in Baltimore was built in the nineteen twenties. It had beautiful tiling and woodwork, but the plumbing was a disaster. The first plumber that I called in to fix a drainage issue in my basement was two hours late to his appointment and he spit tobacco on my front steps. He claimed that he needed specialized equipment to take care of my problem and that my bill would be double what was promised to me over the phone. I’m happy to pay for services, but I do no appreciate being taken advantage of as a fool. I asked him for his personal card so that I might keep him as a reference for additional services. Two weeks later I served a lovely Loin en Croute with a side of red wine demi-glace to a medical colleague. It was tender and delicious. Of course, I was in need of a new plumber after that, but the next one was clean and efficient and I recommended his work to several people. His name is Davit Sargsyan, and I’m certain he’s still thriving.”
I noticed my mouth was hanging open and I closed it with a snap. He had a Rolodex full of personal cards in his house when it was raided. Many were found to be the cards of missing persons who were never found. These were thought to be among this man’s staggeringly long list of victims.
“’Eat the rude’ was a slogan that became popular with the morbid underbelly of society after your capture,” I said. “Do you think you were providing a service to society? Cleaning up the muck?”
“I wouldn’t put it like that at all,” he said. “Compulsion is a word used frequently when discussing my own brand of mania. I can assure you, the benefit of society was not a main driving force.”
“You’ve been labelled as ‘insane’ and ‘psychotic’ since your capture. How do you feel about that?”
“I’m erudite and have been blessed with a perfect palate, able to distinguish all five tastes with exact accuracy. I’d rather be known for that.”
“Do you want to be divorced entirely from your reputation as a serial killer and cannibal?”
He was very quiet and very still. I thought for a moment that he had even stopped breathing. I started to feel that his good graces were starting to sour and perhaps I wasn’t so safe anymore.
“There are many out there who find my credentials intimidating and the fact that I’ve been labelled a serial killer and cannibal gives them the space to assume superiority over me. That they find my actions deviant and my psyche to be malformed gives them a sick sense of glee. That they see me as merely insane dims the shine of my accomplishments prior to my incarceration. I do not believe that, if I were writing my own life, I would keep those offensive labels from that reputation.”
His voice remained smooth, but I noticed a perturbed note. Yes, I was on thin ice. But if he didn’t want to answer the obvious questions, why sit down for an interview? I asked him and he smiled. There was no warmth to the way the corners of his eyes crinkled and I shivered.
“Your line of questioning is focused on the past. I thought perhaps you’d be interested in the future. All this talk of the past has been hashed and rehashed countless times and is, frankly, boring. Change your focus,” he replied.
“Okay,” I said, taking his bait. “What are your plans for the future? You’re a fugitive right now. The federal government is hunting you, every police force is aware of your escape, and there are even some in law enforcement who feel they have a score to settle with you over the various deaths of police officers over the course of your escape. Do you plan to continue to lay low or do you want to take your…umm…unique way of life somewhere else and live as you did before?”
This time there was amusement in his smile. I’d performed my trick as I was told and my trainer was pleased with me.
“Life is short and although I suspect that I’ve still a great number of years left on this earth, I have no intention to allow my existence to stagnate if I can help it. I cannot get into details with you about my future plans, but I can tell you that I intend to live in a way that pleases me and fulfills my desires. I…”
“Excuse me! Look, I can’t let you monopolize this room if you’re not gonna order any food,” an employee of the bar exploded into the room. He was a tall, balding man who had a red face that wore a scowl of contempt. He looked through me and glared at my interview.
“Listen, pal,” the employee said, pointing to his “MANAGER” badge. “I’ve got a group of Dungeons and Dragons players who want the room and they’re all gonna eat and drink and actually make this fine establishment some money. You gotta go. So get your stuff and get outta here.”
“I’m so sorry,” I began.
“We apologize,” my interview cut me off. “We were nearing the end of our interview anyway. Thank you for your hospitality.”
“Yeah, yeah, I said get the hell outta here, ya fruitcake. I’ve got hungry people to feed out there!”
I’d gathered my stuff and was preparing to race to my car and hopefully lose the subject of my interview. The thought of being followed by that doctor terrified me and I questioned why I had agreed to come alone. As I was heading to the door I heard the doctor speaking to the manager.
“It is a unique place you run here and although my time in this place is limited, I may want to return. Do you, by any chance, have a personal card?”
My blood turned cold and I stopped and looked at the two men. The manager rolled his eyes but produced a card case from his shirt pocket and thrust it at the doctor. The doctor received the card, took a long look at the manager, and started walking towards the door.
“Thank you for your time,” he said as he walked past me. I was too stunned to move and instead of trying to beat him to my car, I opted to let him leave first.
I didn’t have much for a story, but I had enough. I had his current location and a vague hint of his future plans. And the name of a possible future victim in the form of a very rude bar manager. It would sell all right, but at what personal cost? He knew where to find me, how to find me and if my story didn’t achieve what he was wanting, perhaps my personal safety was at risk.
I didn’t fancy having to look over my shoulder for the rest of my life, not even for a story. I did my good citizen-duty and informed the authorities before penning my tale, but who knows if it will do any good to save that poor man who was only doing his job. Who knows if any of it will save any countless number of possible victims. He was loose on the world again and from the sound of it, he intended to treat the world as his personal buffet, with us as the entrees.
Boo-graphy: Somer Canon is the Splatterpunk Award nominated author of works such as Killer Chronicles and The Hag Witch of Tripp Creek. When she’s not wreaking havoc in her minivan, she’s avoiding her neighbors and consuming all things horror. She has two sons and more cats than her husband agreed to have.
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