“HeeHeeHeeHee” the familiar evil laugh echoed down the halls of the asylum letting the detainees and the guards know he was back. The patients, as they were called, both welcomed and feared his return. They knew the guards would pay them less attention now that he was back but it also meant they were less safe. On his last visit to the asylum he killed six people; four guards and two patients. No one understood why he kept being placed in here and not a maximum security prison. Or better yet-death row.
It would only be a matter of time before he escaped again. His evil was only overshadowed by his intelligence. He was smart enough to get sentenced to the asylum after all. Most serial killers are killed, either by the state or during their capture, but not him. He always had a back-up plan, one they never saw coming.
The patient at the end of the corridor knew all too well how diabolical he could be. He had once been on the other side of the law, fighting side-by-side with the city’s most celebrated hero in order to keep the citizens safe. Now he was nothing more than a common criminal, reduced to taking meds three times a day and living in a padded cell and it was all because of that laugh. Patient “three” was all he was known for now. It was all he could remember after that night. The number haunted him in his dreams and now the laugh was back as well.
The silence of the night was pierced only by that laugh; no one else dared to make a sound. For hours it seeped into every part of the asylum until it had covered the whole of the compound.
No one was going to sleep that night. With each cackle, Patient Three began to have images of that fateful night. He saw images of himself killing the Laughing Man, putting a stop to his terror forever, but he knew that couldn’t be right. He saw an image of a trial. Was he on trial? The city’s top officials were there. Why were they there? Nothing was making sense. If only he could think.
“Shut up!” he screamed. “Stop that stupid laughing.”
For a moment things became quiet. Only a trickle of water could be heard from one of the leaking pipes in the old asylum. The other patients held their breath waiting for a response.
“Number Three,” came his voice like a whisper. “Is that you?” He laughed again knowing full well who he was talking to. Three didn’t say anything. He was only grateful for the temporary reprieve in laughter.
“Oh, Three. Oh, Threeeeeeee,” he said as he drew out the name. “Still can’t remember why you’re here?”
“You put me here; that’s all I need to know.”
“HeeHeeHeeHee, but’s there’s so much more to the story.”
“Shut up!” With that he put his hands over his ears and laid down on his cot.
The next thing Three knew it was morning. He was allowed one hour of free time in the morning before pill call. He knew the Laughing Man would be outside his cell, but when he looked out he saw no one. He walked around the common rooms but saw no sign of him. Maybe he had already escaped again. After the pills are given out, the patients were required to go back to their rooms for two hours. This gives the medicine time to take effect. Three’s pills made him tired, so he lay down.
He wasn’t sure if it was real or the meds messing with his mind. He tried to rest and forgot about the laughing but he couldn’t. He stayed there for two hours listening to the wicked noise. At one point he drifted off to sleep. He dreamed of the Laughing Man; again he saw the man’s death. Three’s vision was blurry, scenes coming and going, not making sense. The Laughing Man was looking at him but something wasn’t right. How did the knife get in his hands? The Hero never taught him to use knives.
The banging on the door brought him back to reality. He looked up and saw one of the orderlies knocking on his door.
“Come on, Three. Get on up. I gotta change your sheets.”
Three stared at him for a moment before getting up and walking to the common area. The place was pretty full today. There was a lot of chatter about the Laughing Man being back. No one had seen him since last night but the laugher was still heard. At least by Three it was.
“Do you know why they call you Three?” the Laughing Man’s voice came behind him.
“Shut up!” he said and turned to face him but there was no one there.
“HeeHeeHeeHee. Now who’s the crazy one?”
Three started to argue with him but the T.V. caught his attention. They were only allowed two channels, the news in the afternoon and cartoons at night. Something looked familiar to him on the news. The city is erecting a statue to honor their fallen hero. That fateful night they kept repeating. What night? Five years ago. Has it been that long?
The next week went on in the same way. The laugher was never ending. The other patients didn’t seem to mind. Three couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, and couldn’t think. The visions of that night were becoming stronger but without answering any questions. Who was the Hero?
“Three, you have visitors. Please report to the waiting area,” came a voice over the intercom. Three didn’t know if it was real but went anyway. He was escorted to one of the visitor tables where a woman sat, her red hair was long and it curved around her neck. When he sat down his foot hit something that shouldn’t be there. He looked down and saw a wheel under the table.
“Tim, do you remember me?” she asked.
“Why are there wheels under the table?” he mumbled.
“Those go to my wheelchair, Tim. It’s me, Barbara.”
“Do you remember me? We trained together all the time.”
After several minutes of trying to get Three to talk, Barbara gave up.
“I just wanted you to know the Laughing Man is dead. Dick killed him last week. It was self-defense.”
For the first time since she arrived, Three looked into her eyes.
“No! That can’t be. The Laughing Man is here. I heard him. They call me Three. Not the first or even the second. I am Three. The Laughing Man says I am Three.”
“You were his third partner, Tim. It was the Laughing Man who made you this way,” she said as a tear fell down her cheek. “Don’t you remember anything?”
“That’s not true. You were stronger than all of us. It’s because of you we have a cure for the Laughing Man’s poison. You were the only one who didn’t die from the poison.”
“My life in here is not really alive, is it?”
“I guess not.”
“We were friends a long time ago?”
“Yes, we were best friends.”
“Can I go home now?”
More tears flowed from Barbara’s eyes now. The doctors said Three would never be able to have a normal life. The poison had eaten away at too many parts of his brain.
“The city is building a statue to honor all of us. They said they wouldn’t put you in it because of what you did but Dick and I told them we wouldn’t give them the rights if you wasn’t included.”
“HeeHeeHeeHee, no one wants a statue of you. You killed the hero.”
“What I did? I killed the hero?”
“Yes, Tim you did but the Laughing Man drugged you. Poisoned your brain and made you think you were saving him. It was him who put the knife in your hand.”
“I’m sorry. I remember him. The hero. He was our knight, right? He protected the city. Saved thousands of lives. I killed him. I’m so sorry. I thought he was the Laughing Man. I was confused.”
“It’s okay, Tim. It wasn’t your fault. We all know that. Dick protects the city now.”
Barbara’s hopes that Tim was doing better were dashed when he asked her who Dick was. The doctors said Tim may have bouts of remembrance but they wouldn’t last long.
“Why are there wheels under the table?” he asked again. The vacant look in his eyes told Barbara it was time to go.
“I’ll see you next week, Tim,” she said and left. Her quiet sobs were drowned out by the laugher.
Three sat there for some time before one of the orderlies came and took him back to the common room. He kept waiting for the Laughing Man.