Authors: Keith Rommel
Tags: #thanatology, #cursed man, #keith rommel
The Cursed Man
Copyright Â© 2011 by Keith Rommel.
Cover Copyright Â© 2011 by Sunbury Press.
Moundsville State Penitentiary
by Lawrence von Knorr.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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SECOND SUNBURY PRESS EDITION
Printed in the United States of America
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-934597-03-3
Mobipocket (Kindle) ISBN: 978-1-934597-98-9
ePub (Nook) ISBN: 978-1-934597-97-2
In memory of my father
Raymond F. Rommel
There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of you. And though time has begun to take away some of my pain, the one thing it can never take away is how deeply I love you.
I dedicate this book to my wife, Jennifer, and our children, Caitlin and Travis, who are my inspiration in everything I do
To my family and friends: thank you for always being there.
Alister stood over his wife's lifeless body. “You've gotten them all. Are you happy?” he said.
She was on the bathroom floor, lying on her back. Her wide and accusing eyes were focused on him. The water that overflowed from the bathtub soaked the jeans and turtleneck sweater she wore, and they clung to her body in a farewell embrace. A razorblade that glimmered in the thick blood that painted the floor around her body held his attention.
He kicked the razorblade away and fell to his knees with clenched fists.
“Oh, Sharon, please don't look at me like that.” He brushed his hand lightly over her eyes to close them. A slash of pain in the pit of his stomach doubled him over, and he vomited next to her body.
He wiped his chin and looked to words scribbled on the wall with a finger dipped in blood:
I saw it.
He pounded his fists against the tile until flesh ripped and bone bruised. Panting like a wild animal, he glanced around the room.
“I know you're in here! Why don't you show yourself, you coward?”
The spout in the bathtub dripped and drew his attention. He shuddered at what he saw and quickly looked away. “You've crossed the line this time. Do you hear me? You've crossed the line!”
He looked at Sharon and lowered his nose to her hair in search of the familiar scent of her shampoo. He pulled away, surprised by the musty stench of stagnant water mixed with blood.
He wiped his nose with the back of his hand and noticed both vertical and horizontal cuts on her wrists. The lacerations were deep and jagged.
“Oh Sharon, what did it make you do?”
Leaning his back against the toilet, he pulled Sharon's limp body into his lap. Water and blood that dripped from her clothes soaked his legs, and he focused on her face. Her purple lips were parted ever so slightly and invited one final kiss.
He tongued the cold sting the kiss left on his mouth and rocked her gently. He looked over his shoulder. “You couldn't leave them alone, could you?”
Laughter, elusive and taunting, sent a shiver up his spine. He clamped his eyes shut and slapped his hands over his ears.
“Stop it! I've had enough of you! Do you hear me? Enough of you!”
He scanned the room and slowly took his hands away.
He lowered his wife to the floor and straightened her limbs. He neatened her wrinkled clothes and ran taut fingers through her tangled hair. “I know how you need to look presentable.”
He stood and stared at the wall as he walked to the bathtub. Taking a deep breath, he tried to control his shaking limbs and fight the swirl of pain that ripped at his insides.
He looked into the bathwater. His one-year-old daughter was floating facedown. Her naked, plump body had turned a sick shade of purple, and her short blonde hair reached out in all directions as if in a desperate attempt to grab onto something.
He gasped and held the edge of the tub to keep from falling.
“What have you done to them?”
He scooped her out of the water and held her tight. He kissed her icy cheek and squeezed her.
“Blame me for this, not your mother. It wasn't her doing.”
He wiped her body clean and dry, and then wrapped her in a towel. Then he placed her next to her mother and left the bathroom. He walked out of the house.
Alister lay prone in the path of a distant vehicle that was rapidly approaching. The vision of his dead wife and child seared inside his mind's eye filled him with such agony that he had become desperate to escape it.
“Please,” he said as he watched the vehicle approach, “let this end here. I can't take anymore.”
It was headed straight for him.
“You know I won't let you die,” a voice said. It was so loud and clear that it had to have come from his mind.
“But why?” Alister said.
“Because you invited me inside, and it is my right.”
“It was a mistake. And I can't live with what I just saw!”
“It doesn't matter. I won't let you go.”
“Why do I concern myself with the things you say? You're a thing from my imagination, and I'm through with you.”
The sound of tires screeching pulled Alister from his reverie, and he watched as the tire stopped less than a foot away from his face. Gravel in the tread and wear that exposed the steel belt was easy to see. The smell of burnt rubber disguised the stench of death that soaked his clothing. And the heat that emanated from the engine was like the breath of a savage animal that stood over him.
“Do you still believe I am inside your mind?”
The driver of the vehicle jumped out of his car and ran to Alister's side. “Are you OK?”
Alister closed his eyes and drew a deep breath.
The man hovered over Alister, unsure what to do. “I didn't see you until the last second. I could've killed you!”
Alister felt the dull thump of his own heart. “I can only wish.”
“Where are you hurt?”
“You're covered in blood.” The man's hands continued to drift over Alister, but he didn't touch him. “Try not to move.”
“It's not my blood,” Alister said. He didn't look at the man's face because it would be another to haunt his dreams.
“I'm going to call for help.”
The man paused.
“My wife and daughter,” Alister said.
“What?” The man moved his ear close to Alister's lips.
“They're dead.” He raised an unsteady hand and extended a finger. “They are over there.”
“Where?” The man looked in the direction Alister was pointing. Houses, one after the other, all looked the same. “Which one?”
“It doesn't matter. You should go before it's too late.”
The man stood. “I'm calling the police.” He pulled a phone from his pocket and quickly dialed. He lifted the phone to his ear and grunted.
“No, not again!” Alister said and sat up. He watched the man drop to his knees and clutch his chest. The man flopped forward, and the cell phone clattered across the pavement.
“Nine one one, what's your emergency?”
Dr. Anna Lee looked up at the three-story, gothic revival limestone structure. Steel bars covered every window, and two towers, one on either side of the large stairway, gave the impression of a well-guarded fort.
Located in the town of Binghamton, New York, Sunnyside Capable Care Mental Institution was well secluded on a one-hundred-sixty-five-acre site. Surrounded by a thick outlying forest, unoccupied dirt roads stretched to all corners of the compound.
Anna climbed twenty steep weather-stained cement steps leading to a vast air-conditioned lobby. The cool air that caressed her body demanded a groan of satisfaction. She tugged on the collar of her blouse and mopped the sweat from her brow with a handkerchief.
A dozen rows of auditorium-style seating off to her right were vacant, and a flat-screen television mounted on the wall flickered with no volume. Fifteen-foot-high ceilings exaggerated every sound, and a plump woman working on a computer behind a large semicircular desk in the back of the room went about her business without pause.
Anna moved to the desk and set the heavy briefcase she was carrying down. Its small metal feet clacked loudly against the porcelain tile floor. She cleared her throat. “Excuse me.”
The woman stopped working and looked at Anna. “Yes?”
“I am Dr. Lee.” She motioned to the identification tag clipped to her breast pocket. “I am here to see a patient.”
“We have three 335 patients in this facility, doctor. What is the name of the patient you've come to see?”
The plump woman paused and held Anna's gaze. “I'm sorry, but Mr. Kunkle isn't allowed visitors.” She returned her focus to the computer screen.
“I'm not here to visit the patient. I have come to perform an evaluation of both Mr. Kunkle and the hospital on behalf of Miles Griffen and the American Psychological Association.”
The woman sighed and dropped her hands onto the desktop. “I'm sorry you've made the trip here, but there are no exceptions to this rule, and you're interrupting me. I have a lot of work to do, so if you'll excuse me...”
Anna's cheeks reddened. “I don't think you seem to understand. If I don't receive this hospital's full cooperation, I can see to it that the funding is reevaluated.”
The woman peered over the computer monitor. “Threats aren't necessary, doctor. It is merely protocol, and I am following the rules.”
Anna unclipped her identification tag and dropped it on the keyboard. “And I am following mine. What is your name?”
“Bonnie,” she said as she eyed the glossy badge with Anna's photo and job title. She compared the picture to the person that stood before her.
Anna pressed her hands on the desktop and leaned forward. “Well, Bonnie, I suggest you get off of your ass and make the necessary arrangements to get me in to see Mr. Kunkle.”
Bonnie didn't question whether the person pictured was the same as the one that stood before her. She was just another state employee that had come to flex their muscles.
“I have been nothing less than courteous to you and you have been nothing less than rude to me,” Anna said. “Before I get Miles Griffin on the phone, it would behoove you to get me in to see my patient.”
“But there is something you should know about the man you're about to see.”
“I'm sorry, I didn't realize you were qualified to give me a prognosis on the patient,” Anna said. “Are you a doctor?”
“Then get me inside so I can see my patient.”
“But I don't think you understand.”
Anna removed a cell phone from her pocket and flipped it open. “No, I don't think you understand. Last chance or it's your job.”
Bonnie took Anna's identification tag and stood. “I don't have authorization to allow you access, Dr. Lee, but I will get you the director.”
“Very well.” She flipped her phone closed, picked up her briefcase and pointed at the seats. “I'll wait right over there. Don't keep me too long.” Â
“I won't be gone but a minute.”
Bonnie spun on her heels and entered digits on a digital keypad mounted on the wall. A buzzer sounded and she opened a door several feet from her desk. Bonnie exited the room.
Anna sat and placed the briefcase on the seat next to her. She slapped a hand over her mouth to mute a chuckle. Confrontation wasn't her strong suit, but this one she handled like a pro.