Cat Got Your Tongue: (A Short Story)
SilverCore Sanctuary for the Criminally Insane --- Roswell, New Mexico
The criminally insane. Did their crimes cause their insanity? Did their insanity lead to the commission of their crimes? If they are cured of their insanity, will they become law-abiding, upstanding citizens? Or will they merely become rationally criminal-minded?
If it is a simple matter of their crimes having caused their insanity, then if we merely return them to sanity, they can be fit to take responsibility for their crimes. In some cases this will undoubtedly mean a lethal injection.
But suppose, while they are still in a state of crazy, we could rehabilitate them of their criminality, would this cure them of their insanity? Or at least blunt their insanity's lethality? But this way, even if it were possible, would surely be less than satisfactory from the perspective of the criminal justice system; rehabilitive therapy that effectively, somehow, deals with the criminality of the criminally insane, would leave us with a being whom the state could not, in good conscience, execute.
But, then again, what if it could be shown that a subject is faking his insanity? Naturally, that would mean that he is, presently, now sane and had been sane during the commission of his crimes. Therefore, he could be tried, hopefully convicted, and then executed.
But, then again, even if he faked his insanity, does that necessarily mean that he was not insane during the commission of his crimes? Repeated bouts of temporary insanity? Unheard of! But is it?
Is there yet another option? Could an insane man, believing himself to be sane, then purport to "fake" insanity? What would you even call that? Suppose, after having penetrated the first level of deception and we get to the insane man who thinks he is sane, how would we go about penetrating the sane mask? Remember, his mask of sanity is not contrived here, since he really believes he is sane.
Maybe some personalities are just plain naturally crazy and criminal at the same time. In which case there is no use overthinking it. Except that the law says that a defendant must be competent to stand trial, able to assist his lawyer with his own defense; because a man deserves to know why you're killing him.
What happens when we can't, for whatever reason, separate the crazy from the criminal?
"Those are the people who get warehoused here, doctor," the outgoing administrative head of SilverCore, Dr. Stephanovic said to his replacement. "Our inmates here are too crazy for regular prison, too devious and dangerous for a regular mental health facility."
The outgoing Dr. Stephanovic and his replacement were on a little tour of the place. Meeting: the professional clinical staff; the maintenane personnel; the guards and orderlies; and, when feasible and mostly from a distance, some of the suspect-inmate/patients.
They stopped in front of the cell of patient/inmate #10043567, otherwise known as Maurice Spenser.
"His friends called him Mo," Dr. Stephanovic said, as the two psychiatrists looked on through the one-way glass. "A real piece of work. Lifetime criminal. Worked his way up through the ranks. Preferred assassin of the east coast Cosa Nostra. The Mob."
"I understand that life attracts quite a few psychotics," the replacement said.
"Quite right," Dr. Stephanovic said. "Quite right. Even so, though, this one stood out."
"Oh?" the replacement said.
Dr. Stephanovic knew a prompt when he heard one. Since he liked the sound of his own voice anyway...
Maurice Spenser. Larry Hammond. Cumberland Jones. 'Mo,' 'Larry,' and 'Curly,' respectively. Best friends since first grade. Partners in crime, figuratively and literally since junior high school.
Three guys walk into a liquor store. Find the owner/proprietor/operator/manager alone at the cash register.
They pull out their guns and say reach for the sky, Pops, and don't make any sudden moves. Touching that alarm button beneath the edge of the counter, for example, would qualify. And precipitate severe repercussions.
"Pops" reluctantly raises his hands. Larry locks the door and turns the sign around, so the part that says 'Sorry, We're Closed' faces outside.
The three guys converge around Pops and tell him to empty the register into an outstretched sack.
Pops is angry, irritated, pissed off like his basketball team, the Celtics lost last night and cost him fifty bucks. "What is this?" he says.
Curly smiles and says, "You hear that, Larry? Pops wants to know what this is."
Larry smiles and says, "You hear that, Mo? Pops wants to know what this is."
Mo smiles and says to Larry, "Why don't you tell him?"
Larry smiles, shakes his head and says, "I'm not gonna tell him. You tell him, Curly."
Curly smiles and shakes his head and says, "I'm not gonna tell him. You tell him, Larry."
Larry smiles and shakes his head again and says, "I'm not gonna tell him. You tell him, Mo."
"This is a robbery, Pops," Mo says. They empty the register.
"With aggravated assault on the side," Curly says. He cracks Pops across the jaw. Pops goes down hard.
As the three of them drive away, Curly shakes his hand. "Next time you hit him," he says to Larry.
"You dope," Mo says, "that's what brass knuckles are for."
Another time Mo, Larry, and Curly, with a little extra back up, line up three drug dealers along the edge of a cliff.
They blindfold them and bind their hands behind their backs.
One of them, a real tough guy. Expletive. "Do you know who I am?" he says.
Curly smiles and shakes his head. "Hey Larry, the man is asking if we know who he is."
Larry smiles and shakes his head. "Hey Mo, the man wants to know if we know who he is."
Mo smiles and says, "Why don't you answer him?"
Larry smiles and shakes his head. "I'm not gonna tell him. You tell him, Curly."
Curly smiles and shakes his head. "I'm not gonna tell him. You tell him, Mo."
Mo smiles and says, "Why don't we all tell him? Sure, we know who you all are, mister. You're fish food."
At that Mo, Larry, and Curly fire their shotguns into the bodies of the blindfolded me. They fall over. Curly runs to the edge and looks over.
Mo says, "What are you looking for? They're dead."
Larry says, "If they're not, God bless 'em. Come on, let's pick up these shells and get the hell out of here."
The three of them pick up the spent shells and get the hell out of there.
Another time Mo, Larry, and Curly talk to this bank president: age in his fifties; salt-n-pepper hair; respectable; member of the rotary club, treasurer of his bowling league; got a wife from serious, old money; likes to gamble, hates to pay.
Mo, Larry, and Curly represent concerned Las Vegas interests.
The conversation with the bank president is rather one-sided. He is tied to a chair with his mouth gagged.
Its for the best. There's nothing the bank president could say, at this point, to save himself. Mo, Larry, and Curly don't do negotiation. They are sent out when all hope of financial settlement is lost.
But since the man keeps garbling, trying to talk under his gag. Might as well let him have his last words. Mo removes his gag.
The bank president begs for his life much more clearly now. He tells the trio that they don't have to do this---"this" being kill him.
Mo says, quite somberly, "If you knew our employers, you would understand that we most certainly do have to do this. If we don't, we, the three of us would get done!"
The bank president seems not to have absorbed that. He begged like James Brown---please, please, please don't kill me. I have a wife, kids, grandchildren, a mother sick with cancer, an abused cat I rescued from a shelter.
"Everybody's got somebody," Curly said wisely.
The bank president, to his credit, did not cry at least. But he certainly wanted to. He said that he would give them anything. Anything. "How much are you getting paid to do this? I"ll double it. Triple it. Please."
Larry says, "If you are prepared to give us 'anything,' double or triple whatever fee we're getting to kill you, why didn't you just pay the gambling debts you owe, to the people you owe them to?"
"Because he thought he could get away with not paying," Curly says. "That proves that his death is just."
"Thank you," Mo says to the man. "Whenever possible, we like to kill people who deserve to die. It doesn't always work out that way for us. In which case our conscience bothers us."
"Yeah, we feel real bad at times like that," Curly says.
"We sure do," Larry says.
"But we'll sleep real good after doing you," Mo says to the man.
"Like babies," Larry says.
"Three innocent little babies," Curly says.
"Please," the bank president says. "What do you want?"
Here we go again. But Mo puts up a hand and says, "Hold that thought. Put the gag back in his mouth.
Curly puts the gag back in the bank president's mouth.
"Let's go," Mo says headed for the door.
The other two follow. But Mo stops and jerks a thumb back at the bank president, who is left alone, sitting in the middle of the room.
Larry slaps his own forehead. "Oh yeah, we should probably bring him along."
"Probably," Mo agrees.
The bank president rides in the back, sandwiched between Larry and Curly. Mo drives.
We're we going? Larry and Curly would like to know.
"To the circus, boys," Mo says. "To the circus."
"Oh joy," Curly says to the bank president. "We'll have fun!" He sings, "...peanuts and popcorn and cracker jacks. I don't care if I ever get back..." Etc, etc.
"That's baseball," Larry says.
"What's baseball?" Curly says.
Larry says, "That song. Its the song for the national past time of baseball."
"Really?" Curly is wary.
"Yes." Larry sings some lyrics which incorporate the ones Curly belted out and ends the song with "... We'll root, root, root for the home team. If they don't win its a shame. Cause its one, two, three strikes, you're out at the old ball game."
"I'll be darned," Curly says. "What's the circus song?"
Larry hums a few bars.
"How 'bout the words?" Curly says.
"No words. Its an instrumental song."
"Really?" Curly says.
"Really," Larry says.
"Mo?" Curly wants to take this to a higher court.
"Afraid so," Mo says.
What happens next is basically this: Along the way, by way of making conversation, Mo reveals to the bank president that the three amigos have recently become the proud owners of a circus. The previous owner had some weaknesses: prostitutes, gambling, and the drink. There was some embezzlement, double-dealing, and so forth. He went bankrupt and the three amigos bought the enterprise for a song at a bank-held auction.
They get there, get out and breathe it all in. Mo says that it may not look like much now, but wait until they get everything fixed up. They were going to have elephants, clowns, jugglers, trapeze artists, acrobats. Mo talked about the innovative marketing scheme he had in mind. And on and on.
Mo, Larry, and Curly are all a-flutter with the prospects for the future.
Under the big top now. Saw dust on the floor. Ragged bleachers. Center stage. Tied up bank president sitting on the ground, on his butt. Gag left in. Mo, Larry, and Curly standing around him. Mo re-commenced the discussion thread started by the bank president, who had previously asked them all "what [they] want[ed]."
Curly says, "I want to see New Zeeland before I die."
Larry says, "I want to boink a movie star. One whose big at the time. On top of her game. Millions of fans screaming her name wherever she goes. Not a has-been you see on The Surreal Life."
While they were talking, Mo had disappeared through a side door. By the time his turn comes, he's rolling a canon in. The three of them scoop up the bank president and stuff him into the canon, over his protests. Mo picks up a box marked 'Gun Powder' and pours it into the mouth of the canon.
"Me?" Mo says. "I'm a simple person really. I take the greatest pleasure from helping people. Helping them reach their full potential." He puts in earplugs and hands earplugs to Larry and Curly. "Helping people go as far as they can possibly go." He lights the fuse on the side.
The bank president went splat! There's blood and guts anywhere. Veterans of the city police crime scene unit would later call this the worst crime scene they had come across in ten, twenty, and thirty years.
Larry scratches his head. To Mo he says, "You mean to tell me you dragged our butts all the way out here, just so you could say 'go as far as you can go,' and shoot the guy out of a canon?"
"Yes," Mo says.
"See, that's what I love about you," Larry says.
"Beautiful tableau," Curly says.
Another time business takes them to Detroit. Midtown. The Man sits them down at the back of a neighborhood deli. Sound-proof walls. Sweep for bugs daily. Brown pleather everywhere. Air redolent with the aroma of spicy meats and cheeses.
Get comfortable. The Man offers cigars. Mo and Curly politely decline. Larry accepts. Smokes it cause he's feeling nauseous. Figures somebody must be on the take at the Health Department.
The Man tells them that a gang from Jamaica or Trinidad or Barbados, somewhere around there has moved into his territory. Strangling his beloved city with the twin vices of narcotics and prostitution. That's the way the Man puts it. Mo, Larry, and Curly don't laugh.
The Man says the Jamaicans don't show respect. Which means they haven't been paying royalties.
The Man gives over pictures. What the gang leaders look like. Their instructions are clear. Find them and take them down. The Man says for emphasis: "Strike them down---everyone!"
In the way of payment, Mo, Larry, and Curly would be allowed to keep all they find. Drugs and money. They could even sell the drugs if they like. And keep one hundred percent of the profit. The Man would give them a special dispensation for this.
Strange arrangement. Highly irregular. But you don't say no to the Man. And you don't contradict him either. Fine. "Wel'll be in touch," Mo says as they rise to leave.
Doesn't take the hunters long to find their prey. Turns out there's a house the gang likes to use. To kick back. Stop and smell the roses. Count their money. Do a little dance. Make a little love. Get down tonight.
More of a shack than a house. One of those freaking Little House on the Prairie-looking "shotgun" houses. Good. Operational risk declines significantly. Located just outside an abandoned industrial park. Junkyard on one side; closed for business at this hour. On the other side, a railroad station from the 1860s.
Mo, Larry, and Curly watch the house. Watch the gang. Do their due diligence. Prepare to make their move.
The day comes. Mo, Larry, and Curly are prepared. Dressed head-to-foot in black: gloves, helmet, and bullet-proof vests. Lightweight uzi machine guns with shoulder straps. Cleaned, oiled, and ready to go.
Mo says, "One for the money..."
Larry says, "Two for the show..."
Curly says, "Grab your balls and doe-see-doe."
Sneak up to the house. Unseen under the cover of darkness. Deep breath. Let it out slowly. Bust in there. Catch them all unawares. Handle their business. Kill every mother-bleeping one of them.
Success. But there's one more thing. Something they have to do before they can take off with the cash and drugs. The Man had told the trio to give their victims a "special beauty treatment," so that their mothers---if such soulless pricks have mothers---won't be able to have open caskets at the funerals.
Thirty minutes later. That bit of knife work done. Now they can leave with their cash and narcotics. While leaving behind no useful forensic evidence, as usual.
Veteran police officers and crime scene analysts would say that the place was the worst crime scene they had seen in five, ten, fifteen, twenty years or more on the job.
"How did it all end?" the replacement asked Dr. Stephanovic.
"A jewelry store robbery," Dr. Stephanovic said. "It was supposed to be quick and easy, in and out, but..."
"The best laid plans of mice and me, and all that?" the replacement said.
"Something like that," Dr. Stephanovic said.
Scenario: Daytime job. Broad daylight. Few customers. Mo, Larry, and Curly go in calmly. Pull out guns shortly thereafter. Take control of customers, employees. Everybody sit down against the far wall. Empty your pockets.
Lock the door. Turn the sign around so that the 'Sorry, we're closed' part faces outward.
One of the customers was an off-duty cop with a gun in an ankle holster. Hadn't expected that. Confronts the trio. Stand off ensues. The trio tries to use employees as human shields. Word is gotten out to the cops.
Cops and SWAT team comes. Bull horn. You inside. You have nowhere to go. Give it up and come out with your hands up. And you won't be harmed.
Mo, Larry, and Curly aren't about giving up and going to jail. Fight. Shoot it out. Larry and Curly get taken out by police snipers.
"When that happened," Dr. Stephanovic said, "it seemed to take the air right out of him." Him being Maurice Spenser ('Mo'). "He gave up, slid to the floor, drops his gun, and curled up in the fetal position."
"Really?" the replacement said.
"Any idea why?"
"Apparently, he found himself suddenly and hopelessly lost without the other two."
"They meant that much to each other?" the replacement said, incredulous.
"Well, they were twins. Triplets," Dr. Stephanovic said. "You know about the powerful bond between twins. We still don't fully understand it."
"Different last names," the replacement said.
"They were separated at birth. The mother couldn't take care of them; crack addiction. No one, including the mother, even knew who the father was."
"Sounds familiar," the replacement said.
"He hasn't spoken a word in five years," Dr. Stephanovic said.
"Well, except that... the only talking he does these days, is to himself."
They looked in at him through the one-way glass. Maurice Spenser was on his knees, on the floor. And he seemed to be... playing with dolls.
The replacement narrowed his eyes. "What is he saying?"
Dr. Stephanovic hit a button on the wall panel, turning on the room's hidden microphones.
"You hear that, Larry?" "You hear that,?" "You hear that, Mo? The man wants to know what this is." "Why don't you tell him?"
"Oh, I'm not going to tell him. You tell him, Curly." "I"m not going to tell him. You tell him, Larry." "I'm not going to tell him. You tell him, Mo." "Let's all tell him..."
The replacement said, "Jesus!"
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