03-02-2012, 03:10 PM
Chapter Nine: The Psychopath
With Vienna Hyatt and Austin Cannon gruesomely murdered in imitation of Luke's stunts, investigators looked into the illusionist's past. A detailed report showed Luke's rejection and abandonment as a child, and his affliction with FAS. With the DNA evidence of the skin sample taken from the wand, Luke's guilt was confirmed as far as Austin Cannon was concerned. Vienna Hyatt's murder needed more investigation. The plastic handcuffs which bound Vienna's feet in the box matched that of the magic kit Luke had carried around with him since childhood. But both murders took place when Luke was on stage in front of a live audience. How could he, even with his skills as a magician, be two places at once?
The investigators watched video footage of Luke during his human torch stunt. They discovered that Luke's assistants covered him with a fuel-soaked sheet every half hour. At 10:30 PM, Luke turned his back to the audience and the cameras to make a switch with an assistant dressed like himself in flames. The murder of Austin Cannon took place about 10:58 PM that same evening, three blocks away. Luke had allegedly beaten Cannon, doused him with gasoline, and ignited him with a flaming wand. Then he returned to the stage area to complete his act--and give himself an alibi.
Now that the show had been cancelled, there was no alibi to hide behind for Luke. While he openly co-operated with the police regarding the murders, he was secretly planning his final act of revenge on the one person whom he believed had wronged him more than anyone in his life.
Sylvia Walker was a middle-aged divorcee living in a small suburb in Long Island, New York. She and her then husband, Gary Walker, had adopted Luke as an infant, but had been forced to give him up at the age of six because of her pregnancy and her fear of what the uncontrollable youngster would do to a newborn. It had been a painful decision for her, but one she felt she had to make to preserve the peace and the safety of her baby. Six months later, she gave birth to a healthy daughter, Amanda Elizabeth.
On the morning of the third day of Luke's "Death Becomes Me" show, Sylvia was on her way to the supermarket when she was abducted from the parking lot into a truck, according to eyewitnesses. The license plate was never recorded. The police were notified, and forensic evidence was taken, but it was too late. Sylvia was gone. A missing person's report was filed the same day; this prompt action would save Sylvia's life.
Sylvia was bound and gagged, and taken to a warehouse on 23rd Street and !1th, where Luke stored his props and other equipment. There, she was forced to confront the son she had given up twenty-five years earlier. Worse, she discovered she was to suffer an unspeakable horror.
The investigating team tried to contact Luke at his hotel, office and everywhere else. A "make" was done on Sylvia Walker, in hopes of getting any information from her about her former adopted son. That was when the missing person's report showed up, explaining the abduction. The team knew that Luke's third and final stunt was Houdini's famous underwater escape, as a homage to Luke's hero and idol. They put two and two together, and realized that the missing Sylvia Walker was Luke Blade's finale--and potential third victim. A big break came when a member of the Family reported one of their trucks missing; the Lojack system Luke had installed on all his vehicles to prevent theft was activated, revealing the location at the 23rd Street warehouse. The investigating team moved quickly, hoping they were not too late.
From Sylvia's testimony, Luke had bound her mouth with duct tape, trussed her in a straitjacket, chained and shackled her, then hoisted her up by her ankles over a large tank of water, all the while addressing an imaginary audience. Then she was slowly lowered into the tank. Luke released the clamp from the hoist, dropping Sylvia into the tank. He stepped off the stage to the rows of seats to enjoy the show. Sylvia lost consciousness. Suddenly, like the calvary charging to the rescue, Mac Taylor and his team burst in with guns drawn. With one shot, Taylor shattered the glass tank. Water rushed over the stage in a torrent. Luke howled in outrage, charging through the water and onto the stage. The officers tackled Luke, forcing him to his knees and pinioning his arms behind his back, while Taylor rescued Sylvia Walker. Detective Taylor stated later in a candid interview that he never forgot the experssion of pure animal rage on Luke Blade's face as he was being placed under arrest.
The arrest of Luke Blade for attempted murder made international headlines; it was on the same scale as the OJ Simpson case in popularity. As in the case of the famous former football star and actor, the public was divided into two camps as to Luke's guilt or innocence. His merchandise, however, continued to sell in enormous quantities. Luke Blade was never more popular.
The Family was questioned carefully by the authorities. Most did not want to be identified, for fear of reprisal. There were claims of Luke treating his crew like "dirt", yet always referring to them as his "family". Some, like Austin Cannon, were ready to quit. The few who were brave enough to confront Luke about their dissatisfaction were either ignored or accused of disloyalty. Even Nurse Soames, who had some degree of control over the tempestuous star, was ready to leave the Family. Only Beckie Winslow, the "baby" of the Family, stuck with Luke. Having no one to care for her, Luke became her big brother. She defended him to the end, fervently believing in his innocence and pleading for his release.
Criminal psychologists were called in to determine Luke's fitness to stand trial. His medical and personal records were scrutinized carefully. Luke Blade, they determined, suffered from the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, coupled with deep feelings of rejection and abandonment, and delusions of grandeur. When the Family pulled away in fear and loathing of what Luke had become, he had snapped, triggering the psychopathic responses which led to his crimes. If they could not stay with him, then they would suffer the consequences. Luke Blade, they concluded, was criminally insane.
As the evidence piled up against Luke, more and more people were convinced of his guilt. His friends among the glitterati deep-sixed him. His assets were frozen. A fundamentalist church in North Carolina publicly burned Luke Blade paraphenalia in protest of "the depravity of the so-called entertainment world, which corrupts the souls of young people". The tabloids milked the story for all it was worth, exaggerating the truth in their headlines as usual. Luke Blade had ridden high, and now he had crashed and burned.
He was incarcerated in a mental hospital, since the jails were so overcrowded, and, given Luke's reputation as an escape artist, he was considered a security risk and, therefore, put under twenty-four hour surveillance. For the first time since his rise to fame, Luke Blade was once again institutionalized.