Chapter 16

(Author's note: The name "Docie" is pronounced "Doe-see")

     Even as Verbena Beeks was entering the Waiting Room to
talk with "Evalyn" again, Howard Kirkwood was turning the gray
pickup truck into the empty visitors parking lot of the Colver
County State Hospital.  Turning off the ignition he sat in silence
for a couple of minutes, not even noticing the stifling heat
building up inside the cab as he stared out the windshield at
the building in front of him.

     The Colver County State Hospital for the mentally retarded
and the insane had occupied the same unassuming two-story
faded red brick building for as long as Howard could remember.
Even as a child he'd heard whispered tales of people who had
been committed to the quiet establishment sitting behind the
seven-foot red brick wall that encircled the entire acre and
a half of land on which the building sat. Staring at the iron
bars bolted over every window, he remembered another hot
August night....

     It wasn't the first time the screaming had jerked young
Howard from sleep like a creature snatching at prey. Not even
thinking, he had rolled off the far side of the narrow iron framed
bed and crawled under it.  Putting his head down close to floor,
he peered between the ragged fringe of the bedspread brushing
the floor at the end of his bed, his eyes fixed on the crack
under his bedroom door.  He watched bare feet rushing past,
listened to his parents' shouting to be heard over the screaming.

     "Tate, bring the car around front!  Ellen get a dose of her
medicine ready."

     "You know she won't take that pill.."

     "Then crush the damn thing an' put it in some water an' we'll
pour it down her throat."

     "But Will, how can you do this to your sister? She's not
like Granmaw Hildie.   Docie's never hurt nobody!"

     "Not yet," Howard could still hear the grim finality in his
father voice. "An' I ain't gonna give her the chance.  Me an'
Tate's taking her over to the asylum in Colver right now...

     Not until nearly an hour later when he heard the sound of the
his father's 1918 Ford wheeze to life and then fade quickly into
the night did eight year old Howard crawl out from under the bed.
He'd crept downstairs, then paused at the front screen door,
watching his mother sitting on the top porch step in her
nightclothes, staring into the darkness.  She hadn't said anything
when he came to sit beside her and lean against her.

     "Mama," he finally whispered, peering up at her face in the
dim light of a quarter moon. "Where's daddy an' Uncle Tate takin'
Aunt Docie?"

     "Over to Colver," she whispered back.

     "Is Aunt Docie sick agin?"


     "When kin she come home, mama?"

     Howard had shivered when his mother had said sadly,
"Nobody never comes home from Colver."....

     Thirty-five years later, sitting in his pickup truck with
the windows rolled up in the stifling midday heat of an August
day, Howard felt the same cold uneasy shiver run down his spine.
Getting out of the truck he walked across the empty parking lot
to the double front doors of the unassuming red brick building.
At the front doors, he paused, one hand on the door handle. Then,
feeling the heaviness in his heart, understanding exactly what his
mother had felt that night long ago, her words echoing in his mind,
Howard entered the place where "nobody never comes home from."

In the Waiting Room

     Verbena stopped just inside the Waiting Room doors, watching
the figure on the bed in the center of the large white room sit
up and turn to face her.

     "What is it, Doctor Beeks?" "Evalyn" said quietly, her gaze
meeting that of the handsome black woman.  "I can see by your
expression that somethin's the matter."

     Verbena hesitated a moment, then spoke. "Our...friend,"
she began as she moved to stand at the foot of the bed, "and
Aaron have transitioned twice today in less than two hours.
nd judging by your expression, I'd say that's not a good thing."

     "Evalyn" shook her head. "No, it isn't."

     "What's a usual time period between transitions?"

     "They vary, depending on the age and strength of the
personality, and what Perry needs at any given moment.
Or how restless Aaron is.  With the little ones," Evalyn
got up and began to pace, "it was often sudden and over
with quickly when Aaron would overpower them."

      "What about with you?"

     "I'm the only one who can deny him," "Evalyn" said. "But
I'm getting tired and as we discussed before, I don't think
I can resist him much longer."

      "Did you ever force him out of control suddenly?"

     "Is that what your friend did?" "Evalyn" asked, stopping in
front of the other woman.

     "We're not sure," Verbena admitted, then related almost
verbatim the account that Al had given her of his last two visits
with Sam.

     "To answer your question," "Evalyn" began as she got on the
bed again and smoothed the white sheet, arranging the fold
across her lap just so, "yes, I have, many times, especially when
he was stalking the little ones. Or if he was contemplating...
inflicting coarse behavior upon a young lady while in control of
Perry's body."  Though genteelly said, the look in her eyes and the
meaning of her words were quite clear to Verbena.  As the doctor
turned toward the door she said, "I've even battled with him once
when it was his intention to...harm Perry's father."

     Verbena turned and stared at the visitor. "He was going to
hurt Perry's father?" she said, a note of unexpected incredulity in
her voice.

     "No doctor," "Evalyn" said plainly, keeping her eyes level.
"He meant to kill him."

     "Ziggy!" Verbena ordered loudly. "Tell the Admiral I need
him in here right now!"

In the Control Room

     "Admiral Calavicci," Ziggy announced over the speakers in
the Control Room, "Doctor Beeks demands your presence in the
Waiting Room immediately."

     "Tell Doctor Beeks..." Al began.

     "Now..Al!" the computer's voice had a sharper edge than
anyone in the room could ever recall hearing Ziggy use.  And she
had addressed him by his first name.  It was one of the few times
that the Observer's train of thought had been so suddenly derailed
that he just stood for a moment, speechless, and then strode out
of the room.  Upon entering the Waiting Room, Al still didn't get
the chance to speak, cut off when Verbena said sharply, "Sit
down, Al. There's something you need to hear."

     There was a time to talk, a time to command and a time to
listen. Now, as he perched carefully on the end of the bed, Al
knew it was time to listen. "Go on," was all he said as he looked
first at Verbena, then "Evalyn", doing what he'd instructed Sam as
he gave his complete and undivided attention to what was about
to be said.

     "When you told me that Sam had just come out of a transition
when you got to him this last time, less than two hours after the
first one," Verbena began, "it worried me.  I'm not up to date
on...Multiple Personality Disorder," she said, deciding to keep it
simple, "but I've read up on it since this leap began.  According to
what I've read, and remember from the course I took on it in
college, rapid transitions between personalities usually occur
when the subject is under high emotional stress."

     "But Perry's the one with the emotional problem," Al pointed

     "True," Verbena agreed. "But..."

     "...but when your friend..exchanged places with him," "Evalyn"
pointed out, "a part of Perry's mind remained and joined with
your friend's mind."

     "And even though Perry is physically here," Verbena pressed
on, "he's still experiencing M.P.D. because waking,
caused him emotional stress.  That's why "Evalyn's" here," she
flicked a glance at the visitor. "She's helping Perry to cope and
understand that he's safe here."

     There was a moment of silence. Al waited. He knew he'd just
heard the preliminaries.  Glancing between Verbena and "Evalyn"
he knew they were about to get down to the main event.
After another moment, Verbena quickly outlined her earlier
conversation with "Evalyn"; not by so much as a flicker of an
eyebrow did Al react.  Only when she finished did he speak.

     "So in essence," Al said, "you're telling me that because one
of Perry's alternate personalities is in Sam's mind, that every
time any sudden emotional change.."

     "Any sudden strong emotional change," Verbena corrected,
"such as anger or fear..."

     "Okay, whenever any sudden strong emotional change pops
up that it's going to make Sam more vulnerable to "Aaron" taking
control of Sam's body. Correct?"


     "Then what about the incident in the bathroom?" Al asked.
"He was just listening to what I was telling him.  No anger
or fear."

     "But you said he was anxious," Verbena reminded, "because
of Perry's father watching him get dressed for school..."

     "For one thing," Evalyn" interjected, "you said you'd just
mentioned Aaron to him.  Aaron is always listenin'.  And if he's
had a chance to..explore your friend's mind, depending on what
he's learned about him, it sounds to me like he's determined that
your friend know as little about him as possible.  And," "Evalyn"
went on, meeting Al's gaze, "if Howard was in the room watching
your friend, it would be because he suspected that a transition
either had or was about to occur."  She glanced between the
admiral and the doctor.  "Over the years Howard has become
quite adept at reading the signs of impending personality

     Her words took Al by surprise. "Years?!  How long has Perry
...been like..he is?"

     "The first time Perry...needed me," "Evalyn" said quietly,
"was the night his mother... left.  He was four."  She nodded at
Al's surprised expression. "The others, the little ones came
along in time."

     "What about Aaron?" Al demanded. "When did he "come along"?
Why would Perry need a punk like him?"

     But Verbena interrupted with a question of her own. "How old
is Aaron, "Evalyn"?"

     "He's twenty."

     "And when did he first appear?"

     "Shortly after Perry's fifteenth birthday."  She smiled, a
soft blush coloring "her" cheeks. "It was about the time that
Perry first became interested in a girl in his class." Her smile
widened.  "From the moment he laid eyes on Margie Hennessey,
he's never looked at another girl."  But Al's next question
dimmed the smile.

     "And what did his old man think about that?"

     "At first he didn't mind," "Evalyn" replied slowly. "But he
quickly became more strict with him."

     Al didn't say what was on his mind at that response,
repeating instead, a still unanswered question.  "Why did Aaron
appear?" he asked, making a real effort to keep his voice calm.

     "In the early evening of Perry's fifteenth birthday, Howard
allowed him to invite a few of his friends to the house for a small
party. Hot dogs and ice cream and cake. He only invited five.
Margie was one of the two girls he invited."  "Evalyn" paused,
the look in her eyes telling Al and Verbena she was remembering
that time. Shaking herself, she hurried on. "Anyway, it didn't
last long but they seemed to have fun. Margie was the last one
to leave, and Perry ...and Howard walked her home." She glanced
up at Al.

     The Observer read the glance unerringly.  "What happened?"
Al asked. Though it had been a very long time since his fifteenth
birthday, he had a fairly good idea of what was about to be said.
He wasn't far off the mark.

     Verbena however was noticing that "Evalyn" was beginning to
fidget as the discussion intensified.  Unobtrusively she caught
Al's eye, then glanced at "Evalyn's" hands endlessly twisting a
section of the sheet as she talked.  She caught the almost
imperceptible nod of understanding but did not interrupt the flow
of information.

     "...Margie lives just two blocks from Perry's house, and it
was a nice evening so they decided to walk to her house instead
of driving.  Howard walked a little ways behind them. Anyway,"
she said, her agitation growing as the memory became ever more
vivid, "when they got to her house, Perry walked her up to her
door.  Howard waited on the sidewalk, watching. And then..."

     Al's eyes kept darting from "Evalyn's" face to her hands, now
twisting the section of sheet even tighter.  Getting up he moved to
stand beside the visitor and gently laid his hand on "hers". "Are
you okay?" he asked quietly.

     At Al's touch "Evalyn's" eyes flew up to meet the Observer's
dark eyes.  Reassured by the strength "she" saw there, "Evalyn"
felt the tension within her ease a little.  "Yes..thank you," she
said with a hesitant smile. She was unaware though, that "she"
continued to hold Al's hand tightly as "she" continued relating the

     "It was perfectly innocent," "she" said earnestly.

     "What was?" Verbena asked.  It was Al who answered her question.

     "Perry kissed her goodnight...didn't he?" Al said softly.

     "Evalyn" nodded. "It was his first kiss," she whispered.
"A soft,sweet, shy little kiss."

     "What did his father do?"

     "He yelled, "Stop that!" "Evalyn" said, talking as fast as
she could.  "Then he stomped up onto the porch, grabbed Perry by
the arm and dragged him down the steps just as Margie's mother
opened the front door."  By now tears were standing in "Evalyn's"
eyes. "He was so shamed and embarrassed, being dragged down
the street like..... Anyway, when they got back to the house..."

     "Evalyn's" inner turmoil had renewed, now an almost viable,
living thing pervading the Waiting Room as Al and Verbena waited
for more of the memory to be spoken.  A long, nerve-stretching
moment of silence passed.  It was Verbena who finally broke it.
Moving to stand on the other side of the bed, she laid her hand on
"Evalyn's" shoulder.

     "What happened after Howard and Perry got back to the house?"
she asked, her voice quietly encouraging. "It's okay," she
reassured the now trembling figure on the bed when the tear filled
gray-blue eyes looked up at her. "It's an ugly, painful memory
that's been buried far too long, "Evalyn". And often the healing
process can be as painful as whatever caused the injury in the
first place. But it has to be brought out into the light and dealt
with openly and honestly if Perry's ever going to have any chance
at a normal life."

     As "Evalyn" talked tears spilled down "her" cheeks, and Al
felt his guts begin to twist as an old war-spawned rage buried over
thirty years ago began to burn afresh within him.  It took every
ounce of self-control he had not to give vent to it as he listened.

     "Howard locked the front door," "Evalyn" said, "and then
turned around and slammed his fist into Perry's face, knocking
him halfway down the hall.  Then while Perry was still dazed, he
dragged him the attic."

     "Why the attic?"

     "It's where he always takes the boy to...punish him," "Evalyn"
whispered.  "Perry cried and begged his father not to punish him.
Promised that he'd never do it again, but Howard wouldn't listen.
I..I don't think he even heard Perry."

 "Go on," Verbena said.

     "In the attic..." "Evalyn" got off the bed and began pacing
agitatedly round and round as if attempting to get away from the
ugliness pouring out of "her" mouth. "...Howard forced Perry to
strip, then stuffed a rag in his mouth and tied another across he does every time.  He tied his wrists with ropes he had
attached to two rings he'd bolted to one of the rafter beams, and
then tied ropes around his ankles and secured each one to a ring
set in the floor, then pulled the ropes tight until he was stretched
until he couldn't move. was like he was spreadeagled in the

     The mothering side of Verbena clamored at her to take the
young man in her arms and try to sooth him, but the experienced
psychiatrist ignored that inner urging, instead keeping her
attention focused on the visitor.  She not only heard, even more
Verbena listened to the agony being relived as the young man
who had endured the atrocities struggled through "Evalyn" to fight
his way out of the black hole of pain and terror that had
incarcerated him for most of his life.  But all of her experience
couldn't keep the Project's psychiatrist's hands from balling into
fists inside the pockets of her lab coat.

     "Evalyn" couldn't stop moving as she continued exposing the
horror endured by the young man who was her host.  Like a
lanced boil that has festered far too long, the fetid corruption of
ugliness of physical and emotional abuse continued to pour out.
The longer "she" talked the rawer the emotion in "her" voice the
more tortured the look in "her" eyes.

     "He...took off his belt and began to beat Perry and...scream
at him," "Evalyn" gasped the words as if they were being jerked
out of "her".  "Lash..after..lash..swinging that belt so hard...
it left welts.  Horrible welts..that bled. And the whole time
he never stopped screaming..."

     "What was he screaming "Evalyn"?" Verbena asked, speaking in
a loud, firm voice in order to be heard.

     "..."Don't you never touch a woman again, boy!"..." "Evalyn"
shrieked, the raging words echoing off the Waiting Room walls,
the intensity of emotion causing a sort of shock wave to ricochet
off of and over the room's occupants. "You may have her blood,
but s'long as there's breath in me, you ain't never gonna be like
one of 'em. Arrogant, chicken stealin', shifty-eyed..... Never!
Never! Never!"

     "Verbena, do something!" Al shouted.  "He's gonna have a
nervous breakdown!" Not waiting for the psychiatrist to respond,
he moved to restrain the young man now acting out the beating
even while his "protectress" continued to scream.  But...

     "AL! DON'T TOUCH HIM!" Verbena shouted, darting forward to push
the Observer away from Perry/"Evalyn".

     "Why the hell not?" Al demanded, his tone and attitude
slipping into "admiral mode" as Sam had once dubbed it. It was a
tone he reserved for visiting officials and other stuffed shirt
types.  At the moment though he needed it, needed the security of
his authority to shield him, to push the old memories back. To keep
them at bay until the drenching, cold sweat that had sprung up all
over his body could evaporate, taking the memories with it.

     "Because he might think it's his father," Verbena said, her
tone sharply decisive, "and he could turn violent."  For a few
seconds she locked gazes with the Observer, then nodded slightly
when she saw his expression relent, watching him step back a few

     From that brief distance Al watched, listening as Verbena,
her voice firm and calm, began moving toward Perry/"Evalyn".
Talking reassuringly, her words slow and even, helping the
tormented young man understand, to calm him.

     "It's okay," Verbena said quietly, repeating it over and
over as she moved closer until she could put a hand gently on
one of the visitor's up-stretched arms. "It's okay.  He's not
here. You're safe."

     Her attention sharpened, watching as the visitor's expression
changed, the eyes blinking then closing, the body swaying slightly,
then as suddenly as it had begun, the screaming stopped. She
didn't move her hand, not flinching when the visitor placed a hand
over hers.  Then...Perry opened his eyes.

     "Easy! Easy!" Verbena reassured when he gasped at the sight
of his hand over hers. "It's okay."

     "But daddy said..." Perry began, his eyes darting nervously
around the large white room.

     Verbena reached out her free hand, her fingertips brushing
lightly across his forehead, gently pushing the sweat soaked hair
out of his eyes. "I know what your daddy said.  But I'm not him,
and I don't mind."

     It was the longest fifteen minutes of Al's life as far as
he could remember, waiting and watching as Verbena talked with
Perry.  He moved unobtrusively closer to the Waiting Room door
to give her and the now exhausted young man as much privacy as
he could, yet kept a keen eye on them.  He listened as she talked
openly with Ziggy, ordering a low dosage of a mild tranquilizer to
be brought to the Waiting Room.

     Several minutes later after administering the tranquilizer and
helping the visitor get settled on the bed again, Verbena joined the
Observer by the door.  She watched Al put his hand on the
recessed recognition plate, and when the door slid open, followed
him out.  In the hall they stood for a long moment staring at each
other.  Finally she glanced at her watch; so did Al.

     "It's almost time for you to contact Sam, again," she said,
then looked up when he moved away from her, heading down the
hall in the opposite direction.

     "I need a shower first," he said in a tone that forbade any
argument.  "A very cold shower," and then disappeared around
the corner.  A few seconds later the low hum of the elevator
activating was Verbena's only companion in the empty hall.
Another moment passed and then she, too, went to the elevator.