by Jeff C. Carter
Enforcer Keepagami stood before the St. Christina’s Clinic video wall and watched red handprints blink into existence, swarm and fade like a frenzied school of squid.
“Take me back further,” he said.
Nurse Vuong dialed back the art therapy wall’s timeline, jumping days into the past. The crimson marks dwindled, crowded out by finger painted beetles, faces and space ships.
“Run it forward. Stop,” he said.
The first handprint appeared, roughly forced onto the digital canvas in blood red, wavy strokes flaring out from the fingers like tentacles. Enforcer Keepagami double tapped on the handprint and information blossomed forth.
St. Christina, Smitz. AKA ‘Smudge’. No last name on file. Ward of Avenir. Committed for pyromania, self mutilation, and violent behavior. He was the first to draw that handprint symbol, the ‘mark of Rahab’. Could he have incited the inmates into the bloody riot? His I.Q. and social skills were non-existent. Was his simply the spark of madness that ignited a mass psychosis?
“Who was his doctor?”
“Smudge? His therapist was Dr. Loomis. But Smudge hated everyone. He would only talk to Dr. Lev,” the nurse said.
“When can I speak with the doctors?”
Nurse Vuong stared at him, confused. “Dr. Lev went missing during the riot and Dr. Loomis disappeared a week ago,” she said. “I thought you were trying to find them!”
Enforcer Keepagami rubbed his face to mask his irritation. He was semi-retired. He didn’t mind thawing out a cold case now and then for extra income. This case was still bloody and raw, and he would have to build it from the ground up.
“We’re still gathering info for our investigation. Can you pull up the video for the day of the riot?”
Nurse Vuong glared at the enforcer and then prodded her control panel. A renewed look of confusion crept across her face. “It’s gone. The entire day!” she gasped.
Enforcer Keepagami confirmed it for himself. A full twenty five hours, deleted. He closed his eyes and stood motionless for a long moment.
Smudge hardly seemed capable of breaking into the computer and erasing the video, either. Did he have help from the staff? The nurse seemed an unlikely suspect. Where were the doctors? Dead? One went missing during the riot. One vanished only days ago. Was it connected? Was there more behind the ‘mark of Rahab’ than the feverish chaos of a broken mind?
“Enforcer?” Nurse Vuong rousted him from his meditation.
He opened his eyes and they sparkled with renewed light. “I need personnel records for everyone on staff, including doctors. I want patient files, therapy recordings, and specs for the clinic,” he said.
Nurse Vuong prodded her control panel. “I can transmit most of the files now. Some hard copies from the archives will take longer,” she said. Her shoulders drooped suddenly under an invisible burden.
He realized that she was completely alone. The clinic had been empty since the riot, leaving her with nothing but grief and survivor’s guilt.
“You will find the doctors, won’t you?” she asked.
Enforcer Keepagami nodded. “I promise to do my best. I’ll get started looking for them right now.”
His footsteps echoed in the hollow clinic as he headed towards the morgue.