THE DEVIL ITSELF
THEORY OF THE CASE - CHAPTER TWO
"I haven't a clue what you're talking about, doctor. Now I think it's about time you left. I'd tuck that journal away, before you do something you end up regretting. I'll see you out," the Warden said, standing immediately from his desk and motioning toward the door politely.
He walked to the door alone. Dr. Dorian Vinnit remained seated, staring up at him blankly. "I'm afraid that isn't how this is going to work, Warden Miles, so I suggest you take your seat and listen to me," Vinnit replied, his gaze colder than frost on glass.
Warden Miles didn't know what to think of the situation at first. Sure, he was used to psychiatrists having unbearable egos derived from the wealth of knowledge they thought they possessed. But none had ever openly defied him to his face like this. But here sat a man who genuinely hadn't a shit to give for the chain of command or the power the Warden held over him.
"Excuse me?" Miles snapped, the two words being the only two words that came to mind. He was dumbfounded.
"You seem to not understand the state of things, Warden Miles," Dr. Vinnit replied, his tone talking down to him as if he were a child. "So I'm going to explain this to you real slow-like so you get it. Dr. Jagen possessed one of the most impressive minds psychology has seen in the 21st century. The man rehabilitated Urvine Taylor, a brown-level serial killer mind you, back to white. Brown is the second highest ranking color on the spectrum, Warden Miles. They're referred to as Parasites in our field. They leech off society, doing only what benefits them. Most of the time they are sociopaths and psychopaths doing whatever it is they see fit. Manipulating the system, walking around with fish hooks in the corner of their mouths, putting on a good show for normal people like me and you.
"But this," Vinnit says, shaking the black journal in his hand firmly, his anger rising every second it remained in plain view. "Do you have any idea what this means? There have only been six documented cases of a designated black journal in the entire history of Vayben's Theory! And you have the balls to look me in the eyes right now and tell me you haven't a clue what I'm talking about? If word of this gets out Warden Miles, you will have a hell-of-a-lot more than a lawsuit waiting on your doorstep. Now sit down. Right now," Dr. Vinnit snapped.
The doctor's face was menacing, and after seeing that he wouldn't concede Warden Miles smoothed out out his pants and walked back to reclaim his seat. A decisive battle over control of the conversation lost to a subordinate employee.
"That's what all this is, Dr. Vinnit," Warden Miles countered. "The current lawsuit? It's from Dr. Jagen's family concerning the manner of his death. They're claiming negligence. I am forbidden by law to discuss the manner of the patient—"
"Like hell you are!" Vinnit scoffed. "You must not have any idea what the hell this means! Has Dr. Jagen told you what we call people diagnosed with the color black?"
Warden Miles sighed heavily, then rubbed his temples. It's as if he'd sat through this conversation a dozen times before. A dozen times before, but with Dr. Jagen seated across the table ranting at him instead of Dorian Vinnit. "Those declared morally irredeemable are called—"
"The Desolate," Warden Miles said, cutting off Dr. Vinnit before he had the chance to build steam in his rant.
"How about you let me tell you the current state of things, Dr. Vinnit, before you go and make yourself look an even greater ass than you currently do." The Warden sunk back in his seat, crossed his leg and lifted a single eyebrow at the doctor. It was a shift in expression that managed to add several IQ points to his demeanor in the blink of an eye.
Dr. Vinnit reluctantly gestured for him to proceed.
"You have a theory of the case, that much is plain to see," Warden Miles began. "If you didn't you wouldn't currently be here. Coming to see me is your last resort. I could see the disdain you feel towards me from the moment you entered this room. Better yet, you spent a week here trying to find your own answers before you sunk so low as to bark up my tree. You've been operating independently, and with great caution—you're smart enough to know that if that black book in your hand holds even a shred of validity then we are currently housing an evil so malignant within Seoborn that we've had to lock it away where the light of day never shines.
"But let me ask you this, Dr. Vinnit—have you ever seen one of the Desolate?" Warden Miles asked, the air in the room dropping several degrees as the question hung transient like a dark cloud. It wasn't a rhetorical question, though they both knew the answer.
"No," Dr. Vinnit answered with embarassment.
"No? Ten years studying the human mind and its predisposed inclination to malevolent patterns, and you're telling me you've never looked the devil in the eyes?" The question was aimed violently in the doctor's direction. Experience will always trump knowledge, and the Warden was suggesting he held the upper hand in this scenario.
Dorian Vinnit stared blankly at the Warden, paying his backhanded question no mind.
"Because if you truly believe in the accusations you bring to me, you'll know that I'm a man who has looked the devil itself in its eyes. And you're smart, so you'll know I'd have sat in on nearly every session Dr. Jagen held with such a morally decrepit individual, if such a person actually exists. And though you find me to be an utter imbecile because I don't hang my PhD in psychology on my office wall like you do, I'll have you know I myself have the exact education you do. I won't claim to be smart, but you should certainly know that I am smart enough to delineate the difference between a human and a monster. You should know that if such a being actually did currently reside within this facility and I had looked in its eyes and saw pure evil, I would have spent hours on end bickering with Dr. Jagen. Hours trying to put an end to his obsession. Hours trying to convince him that such a being is morally irredeemable. But as you said, Dr. Jagen was a legend. You may not have known him, but he was my best friend. I knew him better than most. He was my child's godfather. We barbecued together on the weekends, do you follow?"
Dr. Vinnit nodded, now feeling rather embarassed for how headstrong he had come in here without knowing any of the facts.
"His reputation had gotten to his head. The man's pride was insufferable. So much so that—hypothetically speaking—he wouldn't have listened to me. Would have insisted that one of the Desolate can be rehabilitated. That they could still be one of the Redeemed. There's a reason why there are only six documented cases of the Desolate among the estimated 107 billion people that have ever existed. A star must die for a black hole to be born, Dr. Vinnit. That suggests that it's a law of nature that something so dark, so devoid of light, cannot exist without set preconditions. And nothing escapes the grasp of a black hole, Mr. Dorian. Nothing.
"It stands for me to say that if something that reflected such a malevolent nature as suggested, it should be killed swiftly and burned until not even its ashes can float among the beautiful creation we walk upon. But the things I speak of are hypothetical, of course," Warden Miles concluded, his pale face regaining its color as a smile returned to his lips once more.
Dr. Vinnit cleared his throat, not quite sure where to start. "Dr. Jagen, how did he—what happened?" The question had been living rent free in his mind since the black journal had shown up at his doorstep. The manner of the famed psychiatrist's death had been withheld from the public. The funeral had been closed casket, open to family members only. Little reporting on the event occurred and to this day the means of death remained unpublished.
But something bad had happened. There wouldn't be a pending lawsuit if that much wasn't true.
"Dr. Jagen is dead," Warden Miles snapped, leaning forward slightly. "His academic hubris got the best of him, and now he is dead. I'm not permitted to speak on the matter, Dr. Vinnit."
"But why me? Why woud he send this to me?" Dr. Vinnit didn't raise the black journal in the air this time. He just simply gestured toward it, his expression puzzled.
"Finally!" Warden Miles exclaimed, sighing with relief. "Now you are asking the right questions, Dr. Vinnit. Take that question and run with it. Let it drive you mad. So mad that you froth from the mouth and find yourself locked behind the bars of this fine facility. Because I haven't the faintest clue why the grouchy bastard would have sent that to you, no offense. But I do know that if it catches wind that you possess such an item, the district attorney will find you faster than Jagen dug his own grave."
"I didn't know him though, did he ever say anything about—"
"What is your theory of the case?" the Warden asked, interrupting Vinnit in his train of thought.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Let's pretend the hypothetical sitution I've painted is true, for all intents and purposes. Moments ago you talked down to me like I was a child, so now I'm asking you to tell me your theory of the case," Warden Miles said, his fingers now drumming against the stained tabletop, jostling crumpled papers in the process.
"Well, if Seoborn actually does house one of the Desolate, which I think it does, then I'd have to imply that this individual had something to do with Dr. Jagen's mysterious death."
"Well that goes without being said, Dr. Vinnit. I'm asking you to dig deep. You're the one Dr. Jagen sent the journal to, not me. You must be the one who knows something I don't. Now, if such an imaginary being was in fact involved in the death of my friend Dr. Jagen, the law would demand what action be taken?"
The question seemed almost too easy at first, almost as if it were a trick. But Dr. Vinnit had already made himself look foolish enough, so he answered with what his common sense told him. "There would be penal consequences for the offending individual."
"Precisely, and what is the punishment for homicide in the great state of North Carolina?"
"Life with no parole, I believe," Dr. Vinnit guessed, his knowledge of penal statutes foggy at best.
"The death penalty, Dr. Vinnit. We treat murderers with the death penalty in North Carolina," Warden Miles replied. His face was colder and more emotionless than ever before. The corner of his mouth twitched slightly, and he all of a sudden looked older. It wasn't until now that Dr. Vinnit noticed the bags under the man's eyes. The gray hairs atop his head. The exhaustion in his demeanor.
It finally all made sense. The chaotic clutter that filled the room. Papers discarded everywhere. The irritable man who sat behind the desk with the taste of whiskey on his breath.
"Dr. Jagen's family is..."
"Making a deposition for the death sentence. Yes."
"With what evidence?" Dr. Vinnit said, the question a gut reaction he couldn't keep down.
"Certainly not with that black journal, that's for sure," the Warden replied with a wink so small it could've passed for a twitch.
Realization sparked. This was all happening so fast. Dr. Vinnit barely had enough time to process the facts before Warden Miles broke the silence once more.
"Dr. Jagen was a smart man, and this particular case, if it actually existed that is, would have been the prized possession of his entire career. He obviously sent the journal away before his untimely death because he knew the legal power it would hold in a place so sinister as court," Warden Miles said, then asked, "Are you religious, Dr. Vinnit?"
"Not particularly, no," Vinnit answered, puzzled by the sudden shift in the conversation.
"Well do you believe in God?"
Vinnit paused, contemplating the question as if it demanded more than a yes-or-no answer. He rubbed is face nervously, then replied, "No, not really. Do you?"
"There was a time when I didn't," Warden Miles replied. "Used to think only brainwashed bafoons believed in such trivial things. But I have locked eyes with the devil itself, Dr. Vinnit, and I am a wiser man for it. I now know that such an evil cannot exist without an opposite force to counter it.
"I've been going to St. Gabriel's for the past year or so. Find that it clears my conscience well, Dr. Vinnit. I recall a clipping from the Paramore Exposé about five years ago or so—something about an exorcism gone wrong there. Resulted in the death of Cardinal Grisham. Old man had been a member of that clergy his entire life. Sad event, but not much reporting happened concerning the manner of his death either? If you're to prove your theory of the case, I'd think that would be the most logical place for you to go asking these sorts of questions. After all, the Catholic Church isn't bound by law to keep their mouths shut like me, Dr. Vinnit."
"An exorcism? You can't be ser—"
"You're going to have to tuck your ego away if you're going to solve this one, Dr. Vinnit. I believe in the power of science as much as the next guy, but there are many things it hasn't the power to explain. And, hypothetically speaking of course, some mysteries are better off left alone in the dark, doctor. This goes without saying I'm sure, but I'd advise you to not go digging in the dark unless you're willing to get lost in it. Now get the fuck out of my office," Miles said, this time his face more serious than before.
He reached for the decanter and poured a generous shot of whiskey for himself, the weight of the conversation demanding that his brain take an escape elsewhere. Warden Miles grabbed the glass and lifted it to his lips. For a long, solemn second the two adults sat there, locking eyes. And it was in that moment that Dorian Vinnit could see for the first time that Miles was on his side.
Though the law forbid it, Warden Miles was on Dr. Vinnit's side. A reserved bystander bound by court orders to do nothing. But why? It makes little sense.
Miles wanted this patient dead, so why let Dr. Vinnit walk out of this office with the journal in hand? This journal had the potential to possibly prove the patient innocent. Worst case scenario it will allow for the insanity defence, and simultaneously prove negligence on Dr. Jagen's behalf. With this journal, Dr. Vinnit had the power to issue a stay of execution in court. Dr. Vinnit could single-handedly save the life of this anonymous patient. And then Dorian Vinnit would be the one granted the chance to rehabilitate one deemed morally irredeemable. Go down in history as the first psychiatrist to bring back one of the Desolate.
It didn't make any sense. But then again, this whole situation made very little sense at all.
"One more word, if I may," Dr. Vinnit asked.
"You know the consequence of letting me walk out of here with this journal," Vinnit whispered, leaning forward in his chair. "So why let me leave with it?"
Warden Miles smiled. The smile of a man who had something to hide? No. The smile of a man who had an unclear agenda? Absolutely.
"I couldn't stop Dr. Jagen despite all my reasoning, Dr. Vinnit. I took the wrong approach, thinking sound logic would talk him out of pursuing this case. I'm trying something different with you, now that I see the journal has chosen a new owner. I'm going to let you track down the long chain of events that led to that journal's creation. Learn all the horrific details surrounding its mysticism. Let your questions take you on an adventure. And by the time you learn the story of its origin, I hypothesize the experience alone will be enough to stop you from trying to save this patient as your predecessor did. Let's hope I'm right."
And with that, the conversation was over. As if it never happened. Warden Miles broke eye contact with the subordinate doctor and went back to tending to the mess on his desk.
Dr. Vinnit tucked the journal back in its briefcase and clasped the clips tight. Without a single word spoken he rose from his seat, nodded politely, and proceeded to the door.
Just as his hand made contact with the brass knob, Warden Miles breached the silence once more.
"Oh, and doctor! I do suggest you hurry in your research. We go to court one week from today, and I can assure you that in the current state of things the killer will be sentenced to death if you bring no further evidence forward."
About the author
I am a 22-year-old recent graduate from Mars Hill University. I have a double major in Criminal Justice and Religion & Philosophy. I also played collegiate lacrosse! In my free time you can find me writing fiction and hiking with my dog.