“You don’t realize how amazing it is that we’ve found our way here. No longer do we have hunger. We have food! No longer are we dying of dehydration. We have water! The elements are no longer beating down on us. We have shelter! We’re no longer searching. We have a home!”
“Sir, I must ask you. How did you find us?”
“It’s quite a story.”
“Start from the beginning, please, Mr. Jean.”
“Okay. Well, we had a home once before: My wife, son, mother, father, daughter, pets, and I. It was large and magnificent and very well furnished to say the least. But, we lost that home. They took it from us: The suede sofas, mahogany desks, oak chairs, gold light fixtures…everything. Even the grounds are their’s now. They left us in the dirt as stampedes came running-”
“Stampedes, Sir? Of what?” the young gentleman in the lab coat asked, jotting down notes on his clipboard. Across the table from him was the ragged fellow in torn jeans and flannel.
“Of what?” he asked, chortling. “Why, of buffalo.”
“Buffalo?” There were no buffalo in this country.
“Yes. May I continue?”
“My apologies. Yes, please do.”
“We were lucky to survive. Our family was lost…well, mostly. My daughter and I lasted. We held a deep fear for our lives, and so we ran. She could not move well, so I carried her as she hung limply in my arms. Sometimes I would whisper to her that we’d be okay and that we were safe, but she wouldn’t respond. How is she?”
“Your daughter?” The man looked down at the clipboard. Layla Jean: Scheduled for cremation.
“Yes. How is she? We must have walked for a few weeks before we came upon this lovely hospital.”
“Sir,” he began. Seeing the glint of hope in Mr. Jean’s eyes, he stopped. “She’s doing wonderfully.”
“Perfect. But that’s about it. We walked and walked and happened upon this hospital.”
“Wait a moment. . . Sir? You said you lived with your parents, wife, son, and daughter. Correct?”
“Yes. That’s what I said. Why do you ask?”
“Would you look at this Mr. Jean?,” he asked, holding a newspaper dated from 15 days ago. The headline? Family Murderer Yet to be Found.
“What is this?” the man asked, scanning his eyes over the page. “Dr. Kelly! This is my family!” The doctor took a step back, putting his right hand behind his back and signing a sentence to whoever was behind the one way mirror.
“What does the paper say? Who’s the prime suspect? Read that sentence out loud.”
“Two bodies are missing: The daughter, Layla, and the father, Hal Jean. According to the evidence left in the home, the prime suspect is-” His voice was cut off as he choked back a sob and fear filled his eyes. “No! I would never harm my family! You’re lying. Where is my daughter! Let me see her!” As Mr. Jean lunged toward Dr. Kelly, two burly security guards came rushing in. “What is happening?” he asked weakly, crying slightly.
“Dr. Philips, please get the police on the phone,” Dr. Kelly stated coldly as an older man entered the room, his lab coat grey from age.
“Yes. But Sir, you do know that he won’t go to jail.” Dr. Philips voice was hard and emotionless, bouncing off the room’s walls.
“I am well aware of that, Dr. Philips. But they will send him to a psychiatric facility.”
“You want him here, don’t you?” The older doctor asked and the younger grinned.
“You’re finally catching on, old man. I needed a new killer for my study.”
“You’re a monster!” Mr. Jean interjected and the guard began to move him out of the room. “I want my daughter! Let me see her! I didn’t do anything wrong!”
“The forensic analysis begs to differ, Sir,” Dr. Philips answered coldly.
“They’re wrong! Let me see my daughter!”
“We’ll send her urn to your room after court,” Dr. Kelly responded.
“You’re sick!” Hal Jean called as he was forced out.
“At least I didn’t kill my whole family!”
“Do you really think he’ll cooperate with your study, Dr. Kelly?” Dr. Philips asked as the doors slammed shut, cutting off Hal’s protests.
“They always do,” he responded, leaving down a dark hallway.
“But he must feel you’ve betrayed him,” Dr. Philips countered.
“Oh my, old man. Don’t you know? They always go to the familiar, even if they’re betrayed.”