"Stop everything this instant!" yelled a female voice, as Neil was about to ask his next question. "What are you doing with my client?"
"Excuse me?" replied Neil. He turned to see a petite woman in her forties standing at the interrogation room's door. Detective Lantz was standing behind her. Neil could make out the outlines of two other officers.
"I asked you 'what are you doing with my client?'" repeated the woman. "Who are you?"
"Are you her attorney? I'm Dr. Neil Gordon. I'm the expert witness for the evaluation test on Ms. Holbrook."
"My client's name is Nancy Thompson. She doesn't go by Holbrook."
"You need to take your conversation out of the room," said Detective Lantz gruffly, "Kincaid, stay here with the prisoner while the doctor and the attorney sort this out."
Neil and the woman exited the room. "I'm giving you two five minutes to sort his out. If you don't come to an agreement, I'm putting the prisoner back in her cell. Capiche?"
"Understood," said the female.
"There must be some misunderstanding…Ms…."
"Burroughs…Maggie Burroughs," replied the attorney curtly.
"Ms. Burroughs…I was sent here by Dr. Simms…We were hired by your firm Lockhart & Forrest…," said Neil.
"I'm the new counsel. The firm dropped Ms. Thompson as a client last week. When I took over the case from them, I cancelled your company's services. Didn't your boss get the message?"
"Dr. Simms recently suffered a stroke. So you can probably understand that she hasn't been checking her messages. I'm here in her place as a last minute replacement."
"Well, I'm sorry that you made a trip for nothing. But we don't need an evaluation test anymore.."
"And why is that?"
Maggie changed the subject. "What interaction did you have with my client?"
"I was only in there for two minutes," replied Neil.
"Two minutes is long enough. What did you ask her?"
"I asked her name, that's all," said Neil.
"And that's when she replied Holbrook," finished Maggie. "In addition to being tried for murdering children, she's also being convicted for murdering her husband Jacob Thompson, and her kids Alistair and Kristen. Didn't you review her file?"
"I wasn't really debriefed, given that the test was to happen today, and I barely got notification."
"Look, since you traveled all the way over here, I'm going to let you off the hook. But next time, you're going to have to be more careful."
"Thank you for that," said Neil. "Could you also do me the courtesy of another thing?"
"I don't follow," said Maggie, as her brow furrowed.
"May I ask why you no longer need an expert witness?" asked Neil.
"That information is privileged," said Maggie.
"I need to report something to my boss. Even if the message wasn't delivered, I'm still on company time right now," said Neil.
Maggie thought about it for a moment.
"Ms. Thompson isn't going to trial. The District Attorney hired his own expert witness. They're sending her to an institution for the criminally insane."
"I don't understand. Why aren't you keeping our services? I may not have been doing this for long, but don't you always have an expert to give a counter-testimony?"
"Because, despite my efforts to keep Ms. Thompson silent, she's been saying the same thing…"
"And what's that?"
Maggie hesitated with her words: "She's blaming the murders on a man…that came from her nightmares."
Her nightmares? thought Neil. Whatever I need to do, I'm going to be on this case. Neil pondered what he was going to say next to Maggie.
"Time's up. I'm putting her back in her cell," said Lantz.
Neil looked at Maggie. "Thank you, Detective Lantz. We'll meet with Ms. Thompson on another day."
Lantz looked at Maggie expectantly. "And…I apologize for the mix up with Dr. Gordon…this won't happen again."
As Detective Lantz walked away, he muttered to himself: "Fucking assholes…I could've been at home all this time, instead of here with this shit."
As they exited the police station, Maggie extended her hand: "Well, it was nice meeting you Dr. Gordon. I'm very sorry about this misunderstanding."
Neil shook Maggie's hand.
"Very well, my office will send you compensation for your time and travel."
"It would be easier if you just let me help you in this case," responded Neil.
"I told you, Dr. Gordon, the matter has already been settled," said Maggie.
"But you were fighting to take her to trial. Most attorneys would've wanted Nancy to be incarcerated. Why did you fight for the opposite?"
"Dr. Gordon, I told you that that information is privileged," responded Maggie.
"You found something…didn't you…that might prove she didn't do it," said Neil.
Maggie stayed silent for a moment. "During the investigation, there were certain things at the crime scenes that didn't add up…I shouldn't be discussing this with you."
"What if I told you I can help you?" said Neil.
"I don't think that will be necessary, Dr. Gordon."
"Look, if you're already compensating me for my time and travels, you might as well let me help your case—"
"Dr. Gordon, I told—"
"Call me, Neil. And you already told me about the opposing side…even if Nancy is incarcerated, at least we can give a good fight. I'll even work for half my salary. I'm sure Dr. Simms will understand…given what you're up against."
"Why are you offering to do this?" asked Maggie.
Memories of Joey Crusel flashed in Neil's mind. "I didn't do it…I didn't kill them all, Dr. Gordon…I swear." Neil remembers entering the hospital and seeing the slaughtered bodies of the other patients. As Joey was being sedated by the orderlies, Neil noticed the deep gashes on his face and arms. Blood that was smeared into his hair turned it from light brown to black red.
"Let's just say…I have some experience with pattern nightmares," said Neil.
"In that case," said Maggie," We've got our work cut out for us. I know a place down the street. I hope you like grits."
Even though it was close to midnight, there was still a wait at Springwood Diner. So, Neil and Maggie opted for counter seats. Tucked in between several guests, they tried to communicate amidst the raucous crowd.
"Due to her stroke, Dr. Simms didn't give me the specifics about Nancy's case…just the police station address and something about Nancy being a female serial killer. So, could you fill me in on Nancy?" said Neil, as the waitress poured him some coffee. He had a throbbing headache from the spirits he had before arriving at Springwood.
"What to tell? Nancy Holbrook Thompson was born in San Luis Obispo, California on March 15, 1972. She had a normal upbringing—straight "A" student, track and field star…she even played the clarinet in her high school band…"
"Adult life?" said Neil.
"She attended Stanford University, and worked as a copy editor while she earned her degree in political science. That's where she met her husband Jacob Thompson. They got married, and moved to Oregon when Jacob's political aspirations didn't pan out in California…"
"They had two children, Alistair, 17, and Kristen, 15. Nancy was content at being the housewife as Jacob rose in the political scene: he was mayor of Springwood, and that opened the door to him being a senator."
Maggie emphasized her points by showing family photographs. First, there was Nancy at her college graduation. A wedding photo of her and Jacob…Jacob looked primed for politics with his wavy blond hair and light bulb smile. A family photograph of Nancy, Alistair, Kristen and Jacob. Jacob and Alistair were in tuxedos, while Nancy and Kristen were in ball gowns. Kristen had a wreath of white roses framing her blonde hair.
"What a shame that it ended up like this," said Maggie. She looked around first at the other diners before showing Neil the last set of photographs. "Here…try not to let anyone see."
Neil was startled at what he saw in the photos:
Kristen's corpse was sprawled on her bed. She had four deep gashes on her torso. Her eyes were ajar, as if she was looking up towards the top of her head. She was scalped. A farther photo showed drag marks on the walls—which ended to a pile of flesh and blonde hair left on the floor.
Alistair was face down on the kitchen floor. The back of his shirt was ripped open. He had deep gashes on his back. There was a strip of skin missing on either side of his spine. There were four puncture wounds on the back of his head. They were so deep that blood and brain matter had oozed out onto the tile.
Jacob's crime scene looked the worst of all. He was hung naked from the ceiling with a bed sheet. His eyes and mouth were bounded by the skin ripped from Alistair's back. Jacob was disemboweled. His intestines were hanging so low that it covered his genitals.
Neil turned over the pictures, and handed them back to Maggie.
"Monstrous," uttered Neil. Maggie nodded her head.
The waitress placed Neil's steak platter on the counter. Neil's stomach felt queasy. "I changed my mind, miss. I'm not hungry anymore. I'll just stick with coffee."
"Have it your way," said the waitress in an annoyed tone.
Neil gave an astonished look to Maggie, as she dug into her vegetarian omelet.
"Normally, I'd have reacted the same as you. But I haven't eaten since this morning," said Maggie.
"It's practically morning already. So, how did they find Nancy?" asked Neil.
"Nancy was hiding in a closet. She had blood all over her…from her face down to her slippers. Later, it became apparent that some of the blood was hers. She had deep gash marks on her upper arm that required stitching. She also had a concussion, and bruising all over her body."
"What was her mental state?" asked Neil.
"She was absolutely hysterical. They had to put her in a stretcher, and keep her restrained ever after the stitching and treatment. She was catatonic…until finally regaining her senses days later."
"Is that when she pointed the finger at someone else?" asked Neil.
"When I learned what happened, I rushed to the hospital. I discouraged her from speaking to the authorities until I had a firm grasp of what happened. At first, I believed her when she said that somebody else perpetrated the crimes."
"I don't blame you. By the looks of the crime scene, there's no way that Nancy could've had the physical strength to do all of that. She looks so petite in all of the photographs."
"That's what I was thinking. She was 5'4" to Jacob's 6'3". Even her children were taller than her. Alistair played junior varsity football. But then…"
"She started claiming that somebody from her nightmares did the killings."
"Not at first. She wasn't forthcoming with her recollection. Looking back, I would've had her undergo a psychological evaluation, but I figured Nancy was just in shock. Then, it all came to head when the sheriff confronted Nancy about the other murders…"
"Yes…the dead bodies of missing children were found in the basement. By the state of decay, some of them had been in the basement for weeks."
"Did she address the children?" asked Neil.
"Not at all. She kept blaming the murders on another person. I'm trying to find out if there might've been somebody else. She gave a name once when I spoke with her."
"A name?" asked Neil.
"Yes…she identified the man as Freddy Krueger. I did my own investigation, and that name doesn't come up in any records."
"There's a reason for that," said Neil.
"You've heard of the person. Is he wanted in California?" asked Maggie.
"No, he was supposedly a man burned to death in the 1800's. He's become an urban legend in certain places in the U.S."
"Then…Nancy might be crazy after all," sighed Maggie.
Neil remembered Joey Crusel again. In a straitjacket, singing the familiar rhyme:
One, two, Freddy's coming for you.
Three, four, better lock your doors.
Five, six, grab your crucifix.
Seven, eight, better stay up late.
Nine, ten, never sleep again.
Neil didn't respond to Maggie's statement. "I better call it a night, Maggie. Do you know of a decent hotel in this area?"
"There's a bed and breakfast a few doors down. It's an older place, so they seem to always have vacancies."
"I'll give that a try," said Neil. "Can I set up a meeting with you tomorrow?"
"You mean 'today.' Why don't we meet back here at 9:00am?"
"Sounds good," said Neil. "It allows me to have my beauty sleep."
Maggie didn't respond to the lame joke. "9:00 a.m. sharp."
Neil took out some money. "Could you give this to the…?"
Maggie nodded as she drank her tea and grabbed Neil's money for his coffee.
Neil gave a nod back as he maneuvered passed the customers out of the diner.