Novelist and more.
Champions of the Veil is one of the first full length novels I’ve written in the last decade. My writing technique and knowledge has improved vastly since I finished it. I really never planned to publish it, but after my bout with pneumonia, I picked it up while centralizing all my written work on disk and took another look. After some rewrites. So without further ado, here’s the complete, finished, not to be forgotten, chaptered story of the Champions of the Veil.
Samuel Brady tried to mask his nervousness, he was just committing a felony, but he felt if he could get the interview with one of the most notorious murderers in recent history, it would be worth taking such a huge risk to gain admittance to the Shreveport Facility for the Criminally Insane. It had another name but everyone knew that’s what it really was.
His business suit was brand new, mimicking an air of authority a real FBI agent might exhibit. His hair had been trimmed two days ago exposing more of his premature gray and balding patch. He straightened his back after realizing his nervousness caused him to stoop, making his slight paunch push over his belt. FBI agents were supposed to walk with purpose and his cynical nature fought with his self-confidence. He just knew at any moment his credentials were going to be double-checked and he would be seeing real agents in his face and the interior of a prison cell himself.
Nevertheless, for now he had to play his role.
Doctor Brenigan, the patient’s primary therapist, was in mid-sentence when Sam realized he wasn’t fully listening as he tried to replace his forged documents and court orders, allowing him entry, back into his suit pocket.
“– Wilcox was admitted seven years ago suffering from an extreme form of schizophrenia, dementia, anti-socialism, violent outbursts, and his extreme hallucinations after his guilty by insanity verdict. Due to the violent nature of his crime and the notoriety of the family involved, and our facility having room and a research grant to study patients with his particular proclivities…he was transferred to us from Denver. When released into the general population on his initial arrival, we found he was having recurring episodes of uncontrolled violent outbursts. He requested isolation himself. Due to danger to the other patients and staff, we thought it was prudent to give him this request. The doctor motioned toward a heavily muscled Asian guard as they approached a reinforced door.
Doctor Brenigan looked the part of a stereotypical doctor. Lab coat, glasses, harried look, short gray hair in his mid-fifties, tennis shoes, slim, jangling keys as he waited for the guard to inspect their ID’s. Sam signed a waiver for insurance purposes; allowing them into an alcove just past the reinforced door. The guard then asked them to remove all sharp objects, pens, glasses, remove his shoes, his tie, and his belt. Brenigan did so automatically. Then, using his keys opened the second gate which Sam felt would be better located in an old style western jailhouse opening into a long hallway with windowed doors lining either side.
A black man, in the facilities common attendant uniform, came toward them.
The man smiled, “Doctor Brenigan, he’s waiting for you, he appears to be in good spirits today.”
“Thank you Roy.”
The attendant nodded at Sam, as Doctor Brenigan introduced him.
Roy Tillman was a giant. Six foot two and thick muscled; his pleasant demeanor gave him an easygoing smile, his dark skin contrasted with his white uniform, with a shaved bald head. All appearances to the contrary, he may have been an intimidating man, but even Sam’s cynicism told him the giant was only dangerous if he needed to be, but it was not his typical nature.
They made their way down the hallway to a door marked 821 with a nameplate reading Robert Wilcox slid into a slot on the door.
A square window above an oblong hatch allowed food passed through to the patient and limited access. To the right, an intercom allowed communication.
The doctor glanced into the room and pressed a button on the pad.
“Robert?” He waited, “Robert? How are we feeling today?”
A welcoming upbeat voice replied, “Well Doc, I feel fairly decent. How are the we part of you feeling?”
“I’m well, thank you; the man I spoke to you about is here with me. Are you feeling up to talking to him?”
“Sure. But I guess that means Roy is going to come in too, huh?”
Each glanced at the attendant, “Yes, Roy is going to have to come in.”
“Is he still mad at me about the finger? I really am sorry.”
Roy leaned over, “Its healed fine, and I’m over it. Don’t worry, I’m not mad.”
“Alright then, let them in.”
“Your arm first please.” The doctor requested the patient, opening the hatch.
“Ahh, come on doc, I’m feeling fine today. We don’t need a sedative.”
“That’s what you said when you attacked Roy, remember?”
A pause, “Yeah, you’ve got a good point.”
“Why does he need a sedative?” whispered Sam.
“To…relax him.” The doctor whispered while an arm extended from the opening, Roy took the patients wrist as the doctor injected a sedative.
The welcoming voice echoed from the hatch, “You’re getting better doc, though I’m beginning to look like a heroin addict. I hardly felt that one. Give me about thirty seconds, and then pop the door.”
“Fine.” The doctor replied, closing the hatch, switching off the intercom.
Doctor Brenigan addressed Sam with a serious tone, “Now, Mr. Brady, Roy is going to enter the cell ahead of you. You’re to sit or stand near the door, Roy will take a position near you. The sedative will make Mr. Wilcox slightly woozy, but if anything should happen, let Roy take control. I’ll remain outside.”
Sam grimaced, “He doesn’t seem like the violent type. Is he usually?”
The doctor shook his head, “Not usually, but it never hurts to be prepared. You did read his police file?”
Sam nodded, “Yes, but I wanted to hear the specifics from Mr. Wilcox himself. I like to go in with an open mind and it would make a better impact on the job if he is agreeable.” Sam just knew they both could tell he was lying.
“Then I’ll leave it to him, to explain.” He checked his wristwatch and nodded, “Roy, go ahead.”
Roy opened the door slowly, asking Robert to sit in the far left corner of the room motioning for Sam to enter.
As the doctor locked the door behind him, Sam looked around the padded cell.
Written in crayon in varied colors were symbols, runes or pictograms, they seemed to form a pattern but there was no telling where they began or ended.
The occupant of the padded cell sat with his knees up, his arms circling them, his head leaning back into the corner with his eyes closed.
Robert Wilcox looked twenty-eight. Caucasian; slim, wearing a patient’s light green attire, his hair was trimmed short and dark brown. He had a contented smile on his face.
Sam cleared his throat, “Mr. Wilcox, my name is Samuel Brady. I’m a special agent for the FBI and I’ve come to ask your help in what my superiors called a similar case to…for…the reasons you’re here.”
Robert Wilcox leaned his head forward; he leisurely opened his eyes to display the deepest, darkest, brown eyes Sam had ever seen.
Suddenly, vertigo hit Sam like a wave and he found he couldn’t break away from Wilcox’s gaze.
Roy gripped his shoulder, “Mr. Brady are you okay?”
Sam shook his head to clear it, “Yes, thank you, I just got dizzy there for a second.”
“It’s the marks.” Robert announced.
Robert raised his hands waving them about the room, “The marks, the words, the answers to the questions, or the questions to the answers.”
Sam nodded slowly, “Um…Yes. I wanted to ask you about them, why have you written on the walls and marked up your room? What do they mean? Do they have a meaning?”
Robert rubbed his eyes, “They come to me. I have no idea what they mean. I’ve what the good doctor says are blackouts and when I come to; the crayons I have are worn down to the nubs. I don’t know why.” He grinned, “Didn’t they tell you I was crazy?”
“Robert, come on, tell him.” Roy chided him and shook his head.
Robert winked at Roy, “Robert is what I prefer to be called by the way. Samuel Brady? What do you go by?”
Sam shrugged, “You can call me Sam.”
Robert’s smile brightened, “Ah, you’re a Sam! Sam is a friendly name, a pal’s name, a buddy. I like you, Sam I am. As to what my good friend Roy is referring to? On his own time, Roy wrote down some of my scribbling. I think he wants to be a detective.” He whispered conspiratorially, “He then went on the internet to see if he could find a comparison. Pray tell him, Roy, after all, it was your hard work.”
Sam thought Robert was just being theatrical but he turned to Roy for an explanation.
Roy nodded, “It took me a while and the doc’s think I’ve just wasted my time, but Robert here is not really one of the bad ones. Well, except for what got him in here. Anyway, I found examples of his writings and found them on the undeciphered parts of the philosophers’ stone.”
Sam considered them both, not knowing what it was.
Roy smiled, “The Philosophers Stone is an ancient stone with several different dialects on it, some have been deciphered and some haven’t. Some of the words he has on these walls are just like words on the stone. There’s also ancient Latin, Aramaic or the language of Christ, runes, Babylonian pictographs, and a few Egyptian hieroglyphs, he covers the walls with them.”
“Really? Did you study all these languages?” Brady asked.
Robert drunkenly nodded his head, “My father and grandfather were archeologists. It runs in the family. To answer your question, I only know some Spanish, Portuguese, English, and a little Latin. The rest I couldn’t tell you what means what,” he swept his arms around again indicating the walls, “I think Roy has too much time on his hands.”
“So you just write whatever comes to you?”
“The Doc says it’s a form of automatic writing, like a medium.”
Sam frowned and nodded, “You said you were from a family of archeologists, did you travel a lot? Could you be remembering what you saw there?”
Robert was quiet for a moment and then dropped his head.
Roy stiffened pulling Sam back a little, “Robert, how are you?”
He didn’t respond.
“Robert? Is there anything there?” Roy asked again.
Robert jerked his head up.
“No, I’m fine Roy. There’s just you and Sam. Sammy. I think the sedative kicked in for a moment. Your question reminded me of my family, I haven’t thought of them in some time. My father and mother are deceased, my sister has cut all ties with me at my request and my brother and I haven’t talked to since I’ve been here. I requested he didn’t contact me anymore either.”
“You didn’t answer my question?” Sam said.
Robert smiled at him, “No, I didn’t, but the answer is: No, I didn’t”
“Forgive me for asking this but I heard Roy asking you ‘is anything there?’ What did he mean by that?”
Rob smirked at Roy, “Whoever sent him didn’t tell him much did they?”
Roy shrugged, “He wants to hear it from you.”
“Well then, have a seat on this nice soft padding and I’ll try to tell you what I am, who I am, what I supposedly did, and why I remain here, Samuel.”
Sam sat down cross-legged on the cushions beside the door.
Robert waved his hands as he spoke, “I see things Sam. Roy there came in here recently with a thing crawling on his arm and biting his finger. I jumped him and in the process of removing this thing, I broke his finger. Again, I’m sorry Roy.”
Roy nodded and shrugged it off.
“Doctor Brenigan might have told you I requested solitary confinement. That’s true, because once I was thought well enough to join the others in the group room, I turned violent. Why, you might ask? Things. Things were on, around, chewing, feeding, biting, and clawing at the patients. When I tried to get them off, they sedated me. After several more tries to ignore the little beasties, I gave up and asked for isolation. Ipso Facto, here I am.”
Sam nodded, “That was after you were already here, what did you do to get yourself imprisoned and involuntary committed?”
Robert smiled, “Hmm? Let me see. Sam Brady: FBI Special Agent. Why would an FBI man be coming to see me?”
Sam’s heart thumped for a moment, hoping his story sounded plausible enough to fool Robert and Roy at the same time. He had rehearsed it enough.
“To be totally honest, my superiors thought the case I was assigned was a lot like yours that warranted your commitment. In other words, they compared you; I’m only quoting here, to a sadistic killer.”
Robert frowned, “Well isn’t that nice of them?”
“They said it looked like something out of a horror movie.”
Robert eyes brightened, “Oh, movies! I’m sorry Sam; the last movie I remember seeing was about a trucker and a sports car giving the police a run for their money. It was a comedy I remember, so forgive me for not knowing any movie references.”
Sam thought about what movie he might mean, “You’ve not seen a movie since the Eighties?” he gawked.
Robert smiled and shrugged, “I’ve moved around a lot. Archeology isn’t known for locations with the best amenities. Neither is appraising objects of antiquities. I think I understand your reference though, perhaps you could tell me about the case a bit, photographic evidence, that sort of thing.”
Sam nodded and played into character, “Well the chief would show me only part of the photos and who the victims were.” He had to think fast; even with his preparations for any questions Wilcox might bring up, he had to remember he was an FBI agent.
Robert held up his hand to stop him, “Wait, let me stop you there. They were rich and affluent, their bodies torn to shreds and blood was everywhere.”
Sam nodded, “That’s the quick synopsis of things.”
Robert reached out to one of the letters or runes on the wall nearest him. He didn’t move or speak for a moment.
“Robert?” Roy spoke up.
Robert tilted back his head, closing his eyes, holding onto the wall.
“Robert?” he asked again.
Robert voice when he spoke, was differently toned, “It was when I was twenty four, my father died at the age of one hundred and ten just before my birthday.”
Sam’s eyes widened.
Robert continued, “I went to meet the Scaletti family to appraise an item they purchased in Rome from what I considered a disreputable art dealer. The Scaletti family lived in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado. They were from old money, Sicilian I believe, but not mob related as some thought, very well thought of as fair and decent people. Mr. Scaletti was a shrewd executive; he was married to a beautiful woman and had five children. Two adult boys, one teenage girl, one preteen boy, and a newborn. They were a wonderful family, loved each other dearly. They even fed me while I was there, as if I was family before they showed me what the dealer sold them. We gathered in their family room, oh, it was beautiful. The house was three storied, the family room had a domed roof, a crystal chandelier, and works of art were everywhere. Sitting in the middle of the room on the floor was the crate holding the item I was going to appraise. The crate measured five feet by five feet. The family gathered around. Mr. Scaletti, a Catholic, asked for us all to pray it was a good buy, and then he opened the container-”
Robert suddenly stopped talking.
Sam and Roy jumped as Robert released the most bloodcurdling scream either had ever heard. The pain and anguish coming from the man mixed with his frightened, horror-filled face.
Roy restrained Sam and mouthed that Sam was safe.
Robert eyes remained shut as he swung his head back and forth, “Blood! Blood! Dear GOD! Scaletti! Miss Scaletti? Where! NO! NO! Who? Who is on the ceiling? Why am I covered in blood! Blood, Blood in my mouth.” He scrubbed his mouth with his free hand, “Oh dear God, the baby! It’s been torn in two! The head….its insides! The boys they’re dismembered! The girl, the teenager, she’s been……what could go inside of her and tear her…..where is the other boy? Miss Scaletti…..Miss Scaletti….her skin…blackened…beaten…sliced….Mr. Scaletti where is he? No, NO! That’s Mr. Scaletti’s legs stuck to the ceiling. The boy, have to find the boy! What is that! What are you! You…you’re eating the boy? I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE!”
Roberts’s eyes opened spastically to show his eyes rolling back, exposing the whites.
Robert’s body stiffened, “Vidictum. Malefalicius. Qundana. Bene, Bene, Vide!” he screamed in a guttural language neither man had ever heard.
Robert sagged and shook his head back and forth again, his free arm trying to ward off an unseen attacker, “No! No! It wasn’t me! It wasn’t me! I’m putting the baby back together. He’ll live. He will! No! Not me! There! There on the ceiling!” Robert finger jabbed at the ceiling of the cell, “That’s what did this! On the ceiling! Why are you handcuffing me? Shoot it! Shoot it! Damn you! I don’t know what happened! It was that thing! There! There! Shoot it! Shoot-”
He slumped forward.
Roy motioned to Sam to wait a moment.
Robert shook his head and sat back up.
He glanced at Roy and Sam’s expressions, “I’m assuming, judging by your faces, I just relived the events putting me here. Here, because this appeared to be the best facility to study me and my psychosis.” He brushed back his hair casually with the hand he pressed against the wall, “Was the murder scene you’re investigating anything like it?”
Sam swallowed, “There was…blood, and a family but no one was captured. We thought it was a random killing, a slaughter, but there was no crate or box. What was in the box?”
Robert scrubbed his face, “To this day, I can’t tell you, Sam I am. I’ve done regressive therapy, which is what you probably just experienced. All I really know is the police knocked me out; I woke up in the hospital, and charged with seven counts of murder.” He shrugged and leaned back, “Murders I don’t believe I ever committed. They said I was covered in gore, I had flesh in my mouth, I was tearing the baby apart, and they still don’t know how I was able to stick Scaletti’s legs to the ceiling: it was three stories high. They said I was raving about something crawling on the ceiling and telling them to shoot it. Hence, I’m a raving, homicidal, lunatic.” He grimaced and interlaced his fingers in front of him over his bent knees.
Sam nodded, “So you have no idea what really happened? Did you black out?”
Robert shrugged, “As I’ve said, I don’t remember. I’ve tried to explain to the doctors what I saw was real, that what I saw in the common room is real but they all believe I believe I see them but they’re not actually there.”
“I…see.” Sam thought for a moment.
Robert grinned at him, “Sam I am, tell me why you’re here other than to get information about a similar case if you would.”
Sam was momentarily startled, “Well, your case is not the only one over the last two years. You’ve been here seven and beginning two years ago we believe a copycat has been reenacting your crime.”
Robert sat a little straighter, blinking with surprise, “My ‘alleged’ crime. What do you mean by a copycat, a slaughter as vicious as the Scaletti’s couldn’t be copied.”
Sam stood up since his legs were going to sleep, “Well to put it plainly, two years ago a family in Phoenix, Arizona, looked as if they had been put through a wood chipper but neighbors heard nothing, noticed nothing out of the unusual the night they were murdered.”
Robert squirmed, “And recently?”
Sam scratched his forehead, “The last case took place in Oklahoma City. Same thing, a rich family, three preteen children, all girls, and all sexual assaulted. All the bodies shredded, torn and pieces missing they couldn’t find.”
Robert rubbed his face, leaned his head back, closing his eyes.
Sam continued, “So my superiors sent me to ask you about your case and see if you could shed light on the situation.”
Robert ground his teeth, “Certainly, I can. Whatever attacked the Scaletti’s seems to have traveled south and east.”
Sam looked at Roy in confusion, “So you’re saying someone, uh, something is making its way south? Do you know why?”
“Sure, It’s hungry.” Robert kept his eyes closed.
“Do you have any way of giving us any information on how to stop this person?”
Robert dropped his head, “You’re not listening, Sam. IT, IT, is moving this way.”
Sam agreed, “Okay, sorry; It. Any idea how we can track it or catch it?” he thought it best to play along.
“Actually I do. Roy?” He leaned his head forward.
Roy straightened from leaning against the wall, “Yes, do you need something?”
“I’m sorry.” Robert said with an angelic smile as he opened his eyes.
Sam stumbled backward as Robert; from a seated, reclining position instantly leapt across a ten by ten foot room smashing his open palm into Roy’s chin, giving Roy a successive number of chops to his neck before the massive attendant could react. It appeared as if Robert had flown, he moved so fast. Roy fell to the padded floor in an unconscious slump.
Sam scrambled backwards away from him as Robert turned to Sam, placed a single finger over his lips and said, “Shh.”
To be continued