The woman had long hair and wore a patient’s light pink shirt and drawstring pants and slippers.
“That’s your name,” she said. “But what do you do?”
“i’m a cop.”
She tilted her head, her hair just beginning to streak with gray.
“You’re the marshal.”
Teddy nodded. “Could you take your hands from behind your back?”
“Why?” she said.
“Because I’d like to know what you’re holding.”
“Because I’d like to know if it could hurt me.”
She gave that a small smile. “I suppose that’s fair.”
“I’m glad you do.”
She removed her hands from behind her back, and she was holding a long, thin surgical scalpel. “I’ll h01d on to it, if you don’t mind.” Teddy held up his hands. “Fine with me.”
“Do you know who I am?”
Teddy said, “A patient from Ashecliffe.”
She gave him another head tilt and touched her smock. “My. What gave me away?”
“Okay, okay. Good point.”
“Are all U.S. marshals so astute?”
Teddy said, “I haven’t eaten in a while. I’m a little slower than usual.”
“Since you’ve been on-island. Have you slept much?”
“Not well if that means anything.”
“Oh, it does.” She hiked up her pants at the knees and sat on the floor, beckoned him to do the same.
Teddy sat and stared at her over the fire.
“You’re Rachel Solando,” he said. “The real one.”
“You kill your children?” he said.
She poked a log with the scalpel. “I never had children.”
“No. I was never married. I was, you’ll be surprised to realize, more than just a patient here.”
“How can you be more than just a patient?”
She poked another log and it settled with a crunch, and sparks rose above the fire and died before hitting the roof.
“I was staff,” she said. “Since just after the war.”
“You were a nurse?”
She looked over the fire at him. “I was a doctor, Marshal. The first female doctor on staff at Drummond Hospital in Delaware. The first on staff here at Ashecliffe. You, sir, are looking at a genuine pioneer.” Or a delusional mental patient, Teddy thought.
He looked up and found her eyes on him, and hers were kind and wary and knowing. She said, “You think I’m crazy.”
“What else would you think, a woman who hides in a cave?”
“I’ve considered that there might be a reason.”
She smiled darkly and shook her head. “I’m not crazy. I’m not. Of course what else would a crazy person claim? That’s the Kaaesque genius of it all. If you’re not crazy but people have told the world you are, then all your protests to the contrary just underscore their point. Do you see what I’m saying?”
“Sort of,” Teddy said.
“Look at it as a syllogism. Let’s say the syllogism begins with this principle: ‘Insane men deny that they are insane.’ You follow?” “Sure,” Teddy said.
“Okay, part two: ‘Bob denies he is insane.’ Part three, the ‘ergo’ part. ‘Ergo—Bob is insane.’ “ She placed the scalpel on the ground by her knee and stoked the fire with a stick. “If you are deemed insane, then all actions that would oherwise prove you are not do, in actuality, fall into the framework of an insane person’s actions. Your sound protests constitute denial. Your valid fears are deemed paranoia. Your survival instincts are labeled defense mechanisms. It’s a no-win situation. It’s a death penalty really. Once you’re here, you’re not getting out. No one leaves Ward C. No one. Well, a few have, okay, I’ll grant you, a few have gotten out. But they’ve had surgery. In the brain. Squish—right through the eye. It’s a barbaric medical practice, unconscionable, and I told them that. I fought them. I wrote letters. And they could’ve removed me, you know? They could’ve fired me or dismissed me, let me take a teaching post or even practice out of state, but that wasn’t good enough. They couldn’t let me leave, just couldn’t do that. No, no, no.”
She’d grown more and more agitated as she spoke, stabbing the fire with her stick, talking more to her knees than to Teddy. “You really were a doctor?” Teddy said.
“Oh, yes. I was a doctor.” She looked up from her knees and her stick. “I still am, actually. But, yes, I was on staff here. I began to ask about large shipments of Sodium Amytal and opium-based hallucinogens. I began to wonder—aloud unfortunately—about surgical procedures that seemed highly experimental, to put it mildly.”
“What are they up to here?” Teddy said.
She gave him a grin that was both pursed and lopsided. “You have no idea?”
“I know they’re flouting the Nuremberg Code.”
“Flouting it? They’ve obliterated it.”
“I know they’re performing radical treatments.”
“Radical, yes. Treatments, no. There is no treating going on here, Marshal. You know where the funding for this hospital comes from?” Teddy nodded. “HUAC.”
“Not to mention slush funds,” she said. “Money flows into here.
Now ask yourself, how does pain enter the body?” 4,
“Depends upon where you’re hurt.”
“No.” She shook her head emphatically. “It has nothing to do with the flesh. The brain sends neural transmitters down through the nervous system. The brain controls pain,” she said. “It controls fear. Sleep. Empathy. Hunger. Everything we associate with the heart or the soul or the nervous system is actually controlled by the brain. Everything.”
Her eyes shone in the firelight. “What if you could control it?”
She nodded. “Re-create a man so that he doesn’t need sleep, doesn’t feel pain. Or love. Or sympathy. A man who can’t be interrogated because his memory banks are wiped clean.” She stoked the fire and looked up at him. “They’re creating ghosts here, Marshal. Ghosts to go out into the world and do ghostly work.”