She's Taken Away

(Originally published in Howls From Hell, May 2021)




[File #351b]

[Property of Wichita Police Department]

--REPRINT--

[Date: October 10, 1941]

[Time: 14:15 - 14:24]

[Official Law Enforcement Transcription]

[Transcribed by: Howard L. Phillips]

[Session: 4]

[Doctor: Jay M. Landry, PsyD]

[Patient: Annie Ellis]


JML: It’s okay, Annie. Breathe. Let’s start over. Can you describe your feelings regarding your sister’s situation?


AE: Um, well. I hate it. I hate when she’s taken away. Barbara and Father console me by saying she will be back in no time, but she never comes back that fast. It’s always a while.


JML: I noticed this toward the end of our last session. Is there a reason you call your mother by her first name? She is your birth mother, correct?


AE: Yes . . . no reason.


JML: All right then. (Scribbles on notepad.) And when your sister is gone for all that time, do you feel alone? What goes through your mind?


AE: Well, yes and no. I miss spending time with her and having someone to talk to outside of my circle of friends. But I also cherish my alone time. Doesn’t everybody? But now, my skin crawls every time I have to stare at that empty chair at the dinner table.


JML: You and your parents still eat together at the dinner table? That’s good. I know you miss her often, but it is good to keep routines. Broken routines could lead to other things breaking apart. We should avoid disunity . . . besides, more leftovers for you, right?


AE: (Clears throat. Offers a forced chuckle.)


JML: I apologize. That wasn’t very professional of me. I know—


AE: No, no. It’s fine. You’re trying to lighten the mood. I get it. But no, Barbara rarely prepares dinner anymore. No sharp objects and all. Lately, we have eaten little. Father’s wallet can only stretch so far. Barbara has been ordering dinner from White Castle on Friday nights. We’ve been cutting corners where we can. Thank heavens the country is starting to recover.


JML: Ah, yes. President Roosevelt is doing wonders for us. I’m still sorry. You were saying you cherish your alone time. How do you use your time? Why the word “cherish”?


AE: Oh, I don’t know. I sing along to Crosby and Sinatra on the radio, draw in my notebook, or go on short walks. Pay no mind to that last part. My parents don’t let me go out anymore.


JML: Because of your sister?


AE: Neighbors stare at our house all hours of the day because of her—well, you know. They want us to leave the neighborhood, but I don’t think we can. My sister’s medical bills and my therapy with you must run their pockets dry. I reckon it’s all very expensive. I hate how they all stare.


JML: Right. Can we broach that subject today? The incidents, I mean. Do you need more time? I figure it’s the fourth session, and we’re already making so much progress. I understand if you’re hesitant.


AE: (Long pause.) I guess it’s okay now. I’ve been trying to avoid it, but maybe today is the day. Let’s proceed, then. Actually, could you fetch me some water, doctor? I’m parched.


JML: Um, yeah, yeah. Allow me to get you a glass.


(Dr. Landry exits the room. The door clicks shut.)

(Shuffling. A repeated smacking of skin followed by forceful breathing. Hurried and indecipherable speech. The utterances abruptly cease.)

(Door clicks open and shut. Dr. Landry’s chair swivels and creaks.)


JML: All right, here we are.

AE: (Gulps water. Slides glass onto table.) Thank you.


JML: Let’s start from the top.


AE: (Shallow sigh.) I never thought my sister would be capable of such things. When we were little, she would always set the best example: good grades, impeccable manners, and she never lied. Somewhere in our early teenage years, we switched. I got on the beam while she received bad marks in school and became a bit of an active crop.


JML: “Active . . . crop?”

AE: You know. A girl who becomes a bit boy-crazy.


JML: Ah, I see. Sometimes the newfangled colloquialisms escape me. Please proceed.


AE: (Giggles.) So, yes. Just crazy about boys. Later, she dated a certain boy, a troublemaker. I became infatuated with him too, that amazing head of hair . . . oh well. (Long sigh.) My grades were improving, but it was mostly because I used crib notes.


JML: How did that make you feel? Did your status of being viewed as the “good” twin influence you in any way?


AE: I don’t know. It’s complicated. I’m not sure what I could have done differently. Could I have prevented it all from happening? I don’t know. I just know for all my efforts I get bupkis. What’s the point?


JML: She did some horrific things. The institution’s nurses have said that the chemicals in her brain aren’t functioning as they should. Synapses, hormones. She has no control over what she does, and neither do you. Don’t blame yourself for any of her actions.


AE: Oh, I don’t. I know—she did what she did. There were early warning signs, mind you.


JML: Like what?


AE: Well, she would pull these schoolyard tricks. You know, harmless pranks. Tying kids’ shoes together, placing thumbtacks on the teacher’s chair, putting itching powder down the pants of schoolmates, pushing—


JML: Down their pants? Goodness.


AE: Yeah, well, that’s all innocent in comparison, don’t you think?


JML: Well, but—


AE: Then she began stealing greenbacks out of Barbara’s purse when she wasn’t looking. Peanuts at first, but more money later on. Barbara would snap her cap and scold both of us, but I’d always point my finger at her. She always protested it. She was so over the top. It was almost laughable. Who knows where she spent the money. I saw nothing new in her bedroom or at school.


JML: Laughable? Interesting word choice, Annie. We must remember that your sister isn’t well. Her brain doesn’t work like ours. It’s out of order. God has a plan for all, and we must trust that He knows what’s best. Perhaps . . . otherworldly beings influenced your sister. Demons? What else could drive a young female to perform such unspeakable acts?


AE: (Laughter.) Demons? You think demons made her nail all the neighborhood cats to trees? You think a little red devil forced her to put rat poison in the milkman’s delivery bottles? To spread blood and feces all over the school gymnasium’s walls?


JML: Well, I . . . okay, you’re right. I—


AE: Do you know the worst thing she did?


JML: I have a list of her incidents in this folder, but I haven’t reviewed them all.


AE: She made her boyfriend go to sleep forever. Yeah, the troublemaker one. She said she force-fed him stolen barbiturates. Soon after, he started slurring his words and gasping for breath. Then the euphoria kicked in and he could no longer move. Apparently, his pretty little eyes were dancing against his will.


(Dr. Landry’s chair squeaks.)


AE: After that, she separated each of his fingernails from their nail bed and superglued them all to his chest in the shape of an M. Then she shaved his head, stuffed the hair into his throat, and watched his body writhe as he choked for air. She then carved M’s all over his lower torso with a utility knife. She left a kiss on his forehead with her favorite red lipstick.


JML: (Loudly clears throat.)


AE: That’s not even the weirdest part. She encircled his body with thirteen kerosene-soaked pigeon heads and set them aflame. And placed a queen of hearts playing card below his groin. (Long pause.) I’ve had dreams—I mean nightmares—about that ever since she told me. Rumor had it he was necking with our school’s head cheerleader, Mary Miller, out at Griffin Park. (Loud scoff.)


JML: Excuse me, I feel a bit ill . . . (Slurps from coffee mug.) That’s a level of detail I wasn’t expecting. I don’t see that on this list. She killed him? (Shuffling of notes.) I . . . wasn’t told she was the prime suspect for the case. I’m—I’m just a therapist and their communication leaves much to be desired. This is . . . (Pen scribbling. Clears throat.) I must, um, report this additional information, you understand? This is above my pay grade. (Long sigh.) If she’s not proven to be insane, they may execute her for murder. Now, I assure you, she is receiving help from the state’s best physicians. I hear they’re using novel methods to cure whatever awful disease has plagued her, beguiled her to do these nasty, demonic things.


AE: Yes, she told me before she went away last. I don’t have any evidence myself, but I suspect the police can match the lipstick to the one on her nightstand. Maybe it’s not a dysfunctional brain. Maybe she’s finally revealed her true self. There could be a bunch of things she’s done that we’ve yet to discover.


JML: Why are you smiling?


AE: I didn’t mean to. I don’t know. Smiling, I guess, to keep the tears away?


JML: Hmm, yes. Could be your defense mechanism. These mechanisms are things we do to cope with our negative feelings. They mask them. Perfectly normal. I’ve seen patients smirking when speaking of their children drowning. The human body is not equipped to deal with such horrors.


AE: Defense mechanisms, interesting. Yes, I guess that’s why I smile here and there. You said my sister is receiving top medical treatment. What exactly are they doing to her? Last time she went away, they shot electricity into her head. Are they still doing that?


JML: Ah, yes. I see it here . . . her last treatment of electroshock therapy was in June. I don’t see another instance of it. That’s not to say they haven’t done it recently and have yet to fill out the paperwork. Oh, good. They’re administering Metrazol—today’s first line in mental instability treatment. It’s a medication used to induce seizures. They were trying to shake her disease out of her brain. To fix her. Seizures can help rid the body of many illnesses, including schizophrenia. You said your sister has acted like many people in the past?


AE: Yes, she has acted like different people, not herself. Sometimes she would take on an unfamiliar accent or hold wildly different opinions on things. It was strange. It was only me who saw it, though. Whenever we were at school or in front of our parents, she always acted normal. She only revealed that side of her to me. No one else.


JML: Are you alright? Your eye is twitching uncontrollably.


AE: Oh, yes. Quite alright. It has been on the fritz lately . . . unsure why.


JML: Hmm, very interesting. Oh, my. It says here that one of her Metrazol-induced seizures broke a few of her vertebrae.


AE: Doctor, are you allowed to share her sensitive information with me?


JML: Yes, the current law states medical information can be shared among family members, and seeing as your sister is currently incapacitated, I don’t see her objecting to it. Do you wish for me to stop?


AE: No, no. It’s quite alright. Please do share.


JML: So, yes, her seizures. A pity. And afterward, it appears she suffered from episodic amnesia. (Inaudible muttering.) Yes, it looks like they are closer to her cure. She has had no violent episodes or bouts of cursing or crying since her last treatment.


AE: So she’s okay? (Long pause.) Do you think I can ever get my sister back? Do you think she will return home?


JML: She’s done terrible deeds, monstrous deeds—and if what you’ve told me is true, far worse deeds than we’ve realized—she’s a diagnosed schizophrenic. I’m uncertain, but I believe she will spend her life in the ward. I’m also not sure about visitations. She’s in solitary confinement and on suicide watch.


AE: Suicide watch?


JML: Yes. Nurses and guards take extra precautions regarding their every interaction with your sister. It’s terrible and upsetting, and I’m sorry. There’s not much we can do about it. She’s committed heinous acts. She belongs there and you belong here. You’re the good sister.


AE: (Sobbing. Sniffling.) Good sister . . .


JML: Oh dear. Did I put my foot in my mouth again? I sincerely apologize. I have disposable handkerchiefs in one of these drawers. (Rustling in desk drawer.) Ah, here we are. (Shallow sigh.) In all my years, none of my patients have progressed this much—at least this quickly. You’ve displayed such moxie today.


AE: (An increasingly measured voice.) I hate when she’s taken away. And now it sounds like she’ll be away forever.


(Chair legs skid against linoleum floor.)


JML: Wait, what in—what in God’s name are you doing?


(Shuffling. Shattering glass.)


JML: Put the glass down. Down this instant! Annie . . .


AE: I don’t want to pretend anymore!


JML: Pretend—pretend what? Jesus, Mary, and Joseph . . .


AE: That I didn’t do all those things. That I’m the good twin!


(Papers scatter. Dr. Landry’s chair screeches and crashes.)


JML: (Gurgling. Labored inhalations.) No, no, no, no, no . . .


(Hammering. Door slamming. Scuffling of feet.)

(A drawn out shriek. Indecipherable speech in a guttural voice.)

(Microphone levels peak. More shattering glass. Filing cabinet crashes to floor.)


[End of wire recording]

[Note: Original recording missing three days after initial transcription.]

[File #351b]

[Property of Wichita Police Department]


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