03-03-2012, 06:50 PM
Chapter Eleven: The Prisoner
October 8th, 2007, dawned bright and clear in New York, but clouds gathered over Luke Blade as the jury assembled in the jury room to decide Luke's innocence or guilt. The suspense was nerve-racking to say the least. At least the trial did not last as long as OJ Simpson's, to everyone's relief. With such incontrovertable evidence behind the prosecution, there would be no doubt about the outcome. His guilt was practically confirmed--it was his sanity that was debatable. Was Luke fully accountable for his actions, or were they the product of a damaged mind? Did Luke know what he was doing, or not? Should he be imprisoned, or committed?
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome became the hot-button topic around the country: it worked its way into everything from talk shows to daytime drama. The Discovery Health Channel devoted an entire hour-long program about it. Pamphlets about FAS were distributed by the Department of Health; they could be found in every doctor's office and women's clinic in North America. Bars and restaurants serving alcohol printed warnings about it on their menus. "A pregnant woman never drinks alone," became the catchphrase. It showed up on billboards and magazine ads everywhere. In time, Luke Blade became the unofficial poster boy for FAS.
Luke, however, was totally unaware of all this. He sat in his holding cell as fourteen people whom he never even met argued over his fate. He was looking at triple life if convicted. Luke laughed at that. How do you serve three life sentences when you only live once? Were you reincarnated to serve the second and third? Did they force you to live forever? No one could do that, he realized. But he did not relish the thought of being imprisoned for the rest of his life. He had grown up in institutions--the home for distrubed children, St. Mary's children's asylum, the psychiatric hospital for teens. All his life he never had a place he could call "home". He had no mother, no father, no blood relation alive--his biological father, George Clark, had died three years prior to the trial. Clark had died in prison while serving a twenty-year sentence for sexual assault on a minor girl. That was how they found the DNA link to Luke. His own real father had betrayed him, just like all the others.
The jury deliberated for the better part of the day. At 4:39 PM, they were ready to announce the verdict. The court reconviened to hear what the jury had decided. Luke was taken out of the holding cell and made to stand as the foreperson handed the verdict to Judge Williams: Guilty by reason of insanity.
Luke looked around, bewildered. Was that good or bad? Would he still have to go to prison? He would not know until December, when sentencing would be given. In the meantime, he would be returned to the mental hospital for "observation".
The weeks dragged on for Luke. Beckie Winslow came to visit as often as her new job at a commercial laundry and her meager expenses allowed. She tried to present Luke with a bouquet of silk daffodils, but they were confiscated by security, as the stems and leaves of the artificial flowers had metal wire in them. She gave him a photo album she had made with pictures of happier days, such as the Colorado ski trip, and Baby Luke's first Christmas. Beckie had talked to anyone who would listen to get Luke released. She had promised that he would be "good", and she would "take care of him". Luke had never hurt her, she had insisted. He wasn't a "bad" person, just "sick", and Beckie would help him "get well". She still loved Luke in spite of everything.
Luke accepted the photo album once it passed inspection. She was his "baby sister", he said, and he loved her as much as she loved him. They would be together again, he promised her, but his hopes were built on sand. Things would never be the same again. Luke was a prisoner, never to see the outside in his lifetime.
December 17th, 2007. Two days before Luke's thirty-second birthday, the sentencing phase of the trial commenced. Luke stood before the judge in shackles as usual. He looked haggard; he was several days away from a shave, and his hair had grown longer, giving him a wild-man look. He was no longer the debonaire man-about-Hollywood, schmoozing it up with the Beautiful People. He was a physical and emotional wreck.
Judge Thomas stared at Luke severely. "Luke Blade, you have been tried before a jury of your peers for two counts of murder in the first degree, and attempted murder in the first degree, and have been found guilty as charged. Do you have anything to say before sentencing?"
Luke remained silent, his eyes glowering with inner rage through the scraggly hair. He wanted to kill them all--the jury, the judge, Mac Taylor and his team, Sylvia Walker, everybody who had turned against him. Only gutteral growls were all the judge heard.
"What have you become, Mr. Blade?" Judge Williams asked almost pityingly. "You had so much talent, you could have done a great deal of good in the world. Instead, you used it to kill two innocent people who were close to you, and then you tried to kill your mother--"
"She's not my mother!" Luke shouted at the judge. "She abandoned me! She never was my mother!"
The judge hammered his gavel to silence him. "You tried to kill your mother, the woman who chose you over hundreds of babies to adopt. From your record, giving you up was probably the smartest choice she made."
Luke lunged at the judge, but was restrained by the two guards at his sides.
"If there is still a part of you that can still reason, if there is still a rational area in your brain that can still function, think on this: you have escaped from a lot of things in your career, but you cannot escape justice. You are still accountable for your actions despite what the jury said. Regardless of what distorted logic drove you to commit these crimes, you are stll a criminal. Therefore, this court sentences you, Luke Blade, to the Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane. Term: for life, without parole, effective immediatly. This will satisfy both the law and the psychiatric community. You may prove to be a very interesting case study. but don't entertain any hopes for escape, as you will be placed under round-the-clock supervision. Not even your skills will help you there. You will live there, you will grow old there, and you will die there. Case dismissed."
There were murmurs and flashbulbs popping as Luke Blade, former master illusionist, was escorted out of the courtroom to face the reality of his life behind bars. His magic career was over. His life was over. His last act of defiance was a vicious stare at Mac Taylor, the detective/scientist who had condemned him to a lifetime of misery at the most notorious institution in the world.
Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane was founded in 1783 by Jeremiah Arkham as an instiution for the mentally unstable. It was an act of philanthropy by the civic-minded Arkham to rid New York of the derelicts and mental cases swarming the streets, causing terror among the citizenry. While Arkham was lauded by the governor of New York for his humanitarianism, the methods used to control the inmates were criminal by today's standards. Beatings, cold water, restraints, poor sanitaiton, abuse by guards, and perpetual confinement did worse damage than whatever they had suffered from in the first place. Various reforms were put into practice over the two-hundred years of its existance, but the conditions were still brutal. Because of the fortresslike building, it was decided around the beginning of the twentieth century that it would house the most dangerous, most psychopathic and most violent crimimals, ones who could not be kept in a standard prison such as Sing-Sing or Reiker's Island, or in a mental hospital like Bellevue. Technology at Arkham had kept pace with the times: camera surveillance, electronic sensors, metal detectors and the like, but its reputation was as brutal as it had been in the eighteenth century.
It was to this dungeon of a building that Luke Blade found himself transported. Passing through the wrought-iron gates was like going through the gates of Hell. He had no possessions of any kind with him except the clothes on his back, and they were prison orange. No bling, no black leather jackets, not even his beloved magic set which he had carried around since childhood. Yet Luke was surprisingly calm as he was led into "processing", where he was stripped, body searched, and examined for any noticible scars or tattoos. He was bathed, given the standard uniform of the Asylum (olive green surgical gear with white canvas loafers), and assigned his cell. It was little bigger than one of his walk-in closets in his Las Vegas home. The security reports for that day stated that "the prisoner was co-operative with no sign of trouble".
The truth was, Luke was biding his time. He was still an escape artist, and he would make his greatest escape ever from this place. All he needed was time to case out the place for possible routes. And time was what he had in abundance.