Ashes, Ashesby Charles Atkins
From page one, the chase is on and many will die unnecessarily.
Forensic psychiatrist, Ms Barrett Conyors knew that if Richard Glash weren't manacled to his chair, he would kill her. He had likely imagined every detail of her murder and then obsessively sketched the scene hundreds of times. At forty-two Richard, who'd spent all but four and a half/i>/b>
From page one, the chase is on and many will die unnecessarily.
Forensic psychiatrist, Ms Barrett Conyors knew that if Richard Glash weren't manacled to his chair, he would kill her. He had likely imagined every detail of her murder and then obsessively sketched the scene hundreds of times. At forty-two Richard, who'd spent all but four and a half years of his life locked away, had few interests, other than drawing. And killing.
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By Charles Atkins
Severn House Publishers LimitedCopyright © 2008 Charles Atkins
All rights reserved.
Forensic psychiatrist Barrett Conyors knew that if Richard Glash weren't manacled to his chair, he would kill her. She stared across the steel table into his ice-blue eyes; he didn't blink. The six-foot-five, orange-clad man with his slicked-down, jet-black hair had likely imagined every detail of her murder and then obsessively sketched the scene hundreds of times. At forty-two, Richard, who'd spent all but four and a half years of his life locked away – the last decade here in super max at Green Haven Correctional – had few interests, other than drawing and killing.
Barrett had seen many of his drawings and paintings; just thinking of the gruesome images brought a fresh wave of nausea. Glash's pictures were brilliant – some freakishly photographic, others abstract – but always with the central themes of murder and murderers. He'd pick his subjects, such as a famous serial killer or a person from his past who he believed had hurt him, and he'd fill sketchpads with variations on a theme, like a classical composer ... only different.
What are you thinking? she wondered, wishing her stomach would calm, as he held her gaze and let his attorney, Carla Phelps, speak for him. And that, Barrett knew, was just one of the awful problems in her last-ditch attempt to keep Richard Glash right here, in a super max prison cell serving four consecutive life sentences for murders he'd committed the week following his eighteenth birthday.
'Tell me about the voices,' she said, braced for the objection.
'You already asked that,' Carla Phelps, his redheaded, green-eyed, thirty-eight-year-old attorney shot back. 'In fact you've wasted our time for the past two hours going over the same material. He answered once. He told you he hears voices. Now you're badgering.' Her voice was nasal, the syllables carrying a Boston twang she'd deliberately accentuate when pounding away at a witness ... or in this case, Barrett.
Glash stared as Barrett silently counted to ten. If he was contemplating her gruesome murder, she could come up with one or two versions of her own for the tastefully dressed and perfectly made-up Carla Phelps, a woman with bipolar disorder who Barrett had once treated on an inpatient psychiatric unit – another horrible complication on a long list of all the things that were going wrong with this case. The videographer in the corner of the room was another. Barrett had been ambushed by Carla, who'd insisted that audio was inadequate and that today's interview needed a video transcript.
'Ms Phelps,' Barrett began, knowing that every word she said, her facial expressions and every gesture were being captured to be later examined and dissected by the attorney. At least she'd had the foresight to wear her most conservative navy suit with a white button-down shirt – her courtroom uniform; its severity a deliberate ploy to play down her looks, which at thirty-three and enhanced by only a hint of lipstick still turned heads, often getting her mistaken for Angelina Jolie. But Barrett wasn't thinking about her appearance or how she had been outmaneuvered and out-dressed by Carla, in her lightweight gray silk suit and flawless makeup; she'd obviously dressed for the camera, a tacky but effective legal ploy. Juries were more swayed by appearances than anything else.
Barrett was frustrated and frightened. Richard Glash, with Carla's assistance, had figured all the angles that could get him transferred to a state hospital for the criminally insane. She had to keep her cool, and resist the urge to reach across the bolted-down table and throttle Carla Phelps; this was all her fault. 'We will be here for hours more, if I am unable to thoroughly evaluate Mr Glash's contention that he has become psychotic ... and developed schizophrenia – an unusual occurrence in someone in their forties.'
'Yes' – Carla's lip curled – 'let the record show that Dr Conyors has just asserted that my client, who has been diagnosed by a true expert in the field as having paranoid schizophrenia, is lying and malingering.'
For two hours now there had been many of these asides for the video. Barrett knew that Carla was laying traps, thinking down the road that if this were viewed in court, it would appear that she was hounding poor Richard Glash – a man who following his release from a locked adolescent state psychiatric hospital went on a copy-cat killing spree that had left four social workers and one judge dead. His sixth intended victim had barely escaped. For that lucky woman it had been her second assault by Glash; the first when they'd both been children and he'd attempted to scalp her with a butcher's knife – he'd been four, she three.
Barrett ignored Carla, and still holding Glash's gaze, asked again, 'Tell me about the voices.'
'You can answer,' Carla said, and then smirked. 'I'm certain that Judge Garrett will rule this entire interview inadmissible anyway.'
Glash spoke, his voice deep and flat. It reverberated off the walls of the concrete room. 'I hear a man's voice.'
'What does it say?' Barrett asked, knowing she'd been over this before, but hoping for a change, some small inconsistency with which to trap Glash in a lie.
'It tells me to kill people.'
'Is it inside your head or outside?'
'When did you first hear it?' she continued, noting how his answers never varied. Somehow, somewhere he'd gotten his hands on the answer book. Unlike most convicts who attempted to fake mental illnesses to get transferred to a forensic hospital or to buy a not-guilty-by-reason-of-mental-defect plea, Glash was holding tight to a good impersonation of a paranoid schizophrenic. Barrett was desperate to find the chink. She knew Glash did not have schizophrenia, and even if he did, he'd always known that his crimes were wrong. Richard Glash killed because that was his obsession.
'I've always heard it.'
'When were you first aware of it?'
'I've always heard it.'
'Yes, but when did you realize you were hearing voices?'
'Not voices,' his tone was pedantic, as though he were correcting a child who couldn't get the answer straight. His eyes focused on hers. 'A voice. A man's voice that tells me to kill people.'
'Describe the voice,' she said, as the nausea returned; it was bad this morning.
'It's deep and raspy.'
Nice touch, she mused, a bit of detail but not too much. 'Did you hear it as a child?' She swallowed hard as salty saliva flooded into her mouth.
Carla shook her head, her short spiky hair glowing copper under the fluorescents. 'I can't believe the incredibly stupid line of this questioning. My client has explained that he has always heard the voice. I think that would include his childhood.'
'Did you hear it as a child?' Barrett repeated, putting a fist to her mouth. She tried to take slow breaths. She started to dry heave, hiding it behind her hand.
'You're sick,' Glash stated.
Barrett felt sweat bead her forehead. 'It'll pass,' she said, hoping that saying it would make it so. 'Tell me about the voice.'
'Are you going to throw up?' he asked.
She shook her head. 'Tell me about the voice.'
'I've always heard it.'
'I see,' Barrett said, imagining how Carla Phelps must have groomed Glash for the taped interview. His shock of jet-black hair had been pruned and combed with a right-sided part. If he weren't in the prison jumpsuit with chains at his wrists, waist and ankles, he'd almost pass for normal. Almost, she thought, but not quite. Somewhere between the unflinching gaze and the flat voice you quickly sensed that something was off, like talking to a robot. Richard Glash had an illness – some might call it a condition – but it wasn't schizophrenia. He had a form of autism – Asperger's Syndrome – that was first diagnosed when he was three. He had no ability to feel for others, and couldn't grasp human interactions. Even gestures as simple as a handshake were impossible for him to understand. He was obsessive and prone to violent attacks of rage if anyone attempted to vary his routines. As a result, he'd spent the majority of his last twenty-seven years in either solitary or super max.
She shifted her line of questions. 'If you've heard these voices—'
'A voice,' he interjected.
'Right, a voice, a man's raspy voice, why is it that you've only recently mentioned it?'
'Don't answer that!' Carla pushed forward in her chair. 'For the record, Dr Conyors is attempting to lead the prisoner.'
Barrett turned to the attorney, relieved that the nausea had subsided. 'I'm doing no such thing. I'm attempting to conduct a psychiatric interview with your client. Your constant objections and interruptions are inhibiting my ability to do this.'
'Dr Conyors, with all due respect,' Carla said, her voice dripping with sarcasm, 'I don't think it's my objections that are interfering with your ability to conduct an interview.'
Barrett was used to these kinds of attacks from attorneys. As a forensic psychiatrist she expected ploys meant to throw her off and to try and discredit her. But with Carla, this was now personal. The woman held a whopping grudge against her. Barrett knew that she blamed her for the break-up of her marriage and the loss of custody of her baby girl seven years ago. What had happened was tragic and way too common. Carla had developed a postpartum psychosis – a frequent occurrence in women with bipolar disorder. She had attempted to take her newborn from the nursery and leave the hospital in the dead of night. When stopped, wearing nothing but a paper hospital gown, she'd rambled about how demons were trying to enter her baby, and she needed to get her away. She was taken from maternity to the psych ward, and that's where the two women's lives had first intersected. Barrett, the chief psychiatric resident, took on Carla's case, and watched the woman's life – that had been so filled with hope and promise – totally unravel.
Now, as Barrett looked at the attorney she could see the hatred in her green eyes. 'I'll rephrase,' Barrett said. 'Mr Glash, who did you first tell about your voice?' She then looked at Carla.
'Go ahead,' the lawyer said.
'The consultant psychiatrist here?'
'When did you tell him?'
'Three years ago.'
Of course, Barrett thought, just as word would have been spreading about the class action case being brought by Carla's Patient and Prisoners' Rights Group. Similar suits were then popping up all over the country. They alleged that prisoners with severe mental illnesses were being deprived of their Fourteenth Amendment Rights – Freedom from Cruel and Unusual Punishment. Carla's contention was that a group of identified prisoners – all convicted murderers – had mental illnesses, and were not receiving adequate treatment in the prison. She had found the ear of a sympathetic Superior Court judge who'd issued a consent decree against the Department of Corrections. Either the department had to provide adequate and appropriate treatment in the prison system, or the four prisoners would need to be transferred to a state forensic hospital.
The videographer, a plump young man who seemed out of place in chinos and a polo shirt, signaled that he needed to change tapes.
Barrett glanced at the clock overhead, they'd been at this for over two hours. She was getting nowhere and it was just a matter of weeks, maybe even days, before the judge made good on his threats to transfer the prisoners, because Corrections had shown a stunning lack of response to his edict. This was her last shot at keeping Glash here where he had to be. As the camera's red light went back on, she shifted tactics.
'Enough about your voices,' she said.
'Voice,' he corrected.
'As you say. Tell me about your interest in murder.'
Carla nearly choked. 'What's that got to do with your diagnostic evaluation?'
She looked Carla dead on. 'If you continue to object to my every question I'll petition the court for additional interview times. Is that in your client's best interest?'
Carla glared, but knew Barrett was right. This could drag on for days, and the last thing she wanted was to lose Judge Wilson Garrett's good will. 'You can answer,' she said.
This wasn't Barrett's first interview with Glash and she watched for the effect the change in topic would have. For the first time that day he smiled, over broad, even teeth.
'Tell me about murder and murderers,' she coaxed.
'What would you like to know?' he answered. 'I know everything that's ever been written. Who would you like to talk about?' His deep voice boomed in the small interview room, like a professor warming to a favorite thesis. 'Gacy? Manson?
Hinckley? Starkeweather? Ramirez?'
'They are interesting,' she said, meeting his smile with one of her own. 'What do you know about the others in your case?'
'Everything,' he said, as both boast and statement of fact.
'I object,' Carla said. 'This is completely irrelevant and a waste of everyone's time.'
Glash turned to Carla. 'No it's not. I like these questions. This is what we will talk about. You will be quiet now.'
Carla opened her mouth to speak.
Glash cocked his head and repeated, 'Be quiet.' Carla clearly was at a loss.
He turned back to Barrett. 'There are four of us, as you know. You know a lot, Dr Conyors, and that's why we must talk about murder. You're an expert; you're famous. You've been in the newspapers and I've seen you on TV. I'll begin. The other three are Jane Saunders, Dr Clarence Albert, and Allison Tessavian. We're all different, although three of us carry diagnoses of schizophrenia. Dr Albert and I have paranoid schizophrenia, Jane Saunders is schizoaffective bipolar type and Allison Tessavian has delusional disorder erotomanic type.'
As Barrett listened to his deep monotone, she had the sense of being lectured to. This was Glash's passion, or so she'd come to believe. He lived and breathed anything related to murder. Should he ever be released, or escape, he would immediately resume killing. She had no doubt of that.
'On June the twentieth 1992, Jane Saunders,' he said, as though reading from a script, 'who'd recently given birth to her third child, killed all three of her kids between nine forty-five A.M. and ten thirty. She then called nine-one-one to tell them what she'd done.' His eyelids fluttered, and his tone shifted to a dull falsetto – not a perfect imitation of Saunders' infamous call, but chilling: 'Something is wrong with my babies. God has taken them; it could have been the devil. They're all dead; they're not moving anymore, someone should come.'
Carla stiffened, and Barrett wondered what the attorney must have been thinking. The connection with Jane Saunders was too close for comfort – both mothers who had become psychotic. Carla had never hurt her daughter, but that was the fear that had driven her husband away and made him seek full custody. Barrett remembered the heartbroken man, an attorney who'd fallen in love with Carla when they'd both been in school. He'd sobbed in her office, and despite a halfhearted attempt to understand his wife's illness, he'd quickly and cruelly set about dissolving their marriage.
Glash continued, displaying a detailed knowledge of Jane's case, her arrest, the psychiatric evaluations, her failed attempt at a not-guilty-by-reason-of-mental-defect plea. He then discussed the recent bestseller written by her husband, John J. Saunders. 'Have you read it?' he asked Barrett.
His question surprised her. 'Yes,' she said.
'Tell me what you thought of it.'
For the first time Barrett caught a sense of emotion in his voice, an urgency, a desire to know. She was torn; her critique of a tell-all book did not belong in this taped interview. But this was the first time there'd been anything like a normally paced conversation with Glash. She couldn't risk losing this sliver of an opportunity. 'I thought it was sad and exploitative.'
'It sold over a million copies in hardcover,' Glash replied. 'The paperback is coming out September first. I think he'll use his wife's transfer and court case to generate publicity. Don't you agree, Dr Conyors?'
Excerpted from Ashes, Ashes by Charles Atkins. Copyright © 2008 Charles Atkins. Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
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Meet the Author
Charles Atkins is a practising psychiatrist, writer, professional speaker and member of the clinical faculty at Yale. He is the author of several psychological thrillers, as well as numerous short stories, articles and essays, and two non-fiction books. He is also the author of the new, well-regarded mystery series featuring elderly sleuths Lil and Ada.
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This tale begins with psychiatrist Barrett in prison interviewing a convicted murderer, Glash. Glash's attorney is trying to get him transferred to a mental hospital. Glash begins asking Barrett how many she has killed, before trying to attack necessitating his restraint by guards. Oh, and the attorney was once a client of Barrett's. The attorney, Carla, tried to sneak her baby out of the hospital just after giving birth claiming demons wanted the child. She attempted it in the night wearing only a paper hospital gown. From that beginning, I anticipated a psychological thriller that would keep me reading almost non-stop. I was disappointed. Mr. Atkins adds in occurrences that just do not seem plausible. It was almost humorous to read these unbelievable events since Glash continues to talk about probability of success. It was such a conflict with events that seemed to have roughly zero probability of occurring. I was disappointed with this tale. Mr. Atkins began with a nice flair and shows a talent for writing. Too bad he then went about giving us a set of totally implausible events to get to the end.