03-04-2012, 05:29 PM
Chapter Twelve: The Fugitive
Of all the institutions in which Luke Blade had been incarcerated, Arkham Asylum was the worst. It was worse than St, Mary's Children's Asylum, worse than the psychiatric ward where he was held as a teenager, worse than the mental hospital where he was imprisoned before his trial. The inmates were not so much committed as interred alive within the mausoleum-like stone walls. There was little contact between inmates, and none with the outside world. What few letters arrived were opened and scrutinized by the guards, then either passed on (which seldom happened) or were discarded for "security reasons". Arkham was a city of the living dead, shunned by society, all hope abandoned by and for those who lived there. Even Luke was cut off completely. No friends, no Family came to see him. The only letter he ever received there was from the Society of the Brotherhood of Magicians, telling him that his membership had been revoked. It was the final blow for the once famous illusionist.
But hope still burned within Luke. He had escaped jail cells before in his career. He made it his mission in life to escape from that hellhole the state of New York had sent him. It was the only thing which kept him going, helped him endure the isolation and misery. He would show the world that Luke Blade was still the master of illusion and escape. No matter how long it took, he would have his freedom!
The days turned into weeks, weeks into months. Luke slogged through the dreary chores of "work detail", sat through hour after fruitless hour of psychiatric therapy, swallowed the tasteless meals, and brooded in his cell, all the while taking in the smallest details of the Asylum: where the guards were posted, when they changed shifts, what door led where, the kinds of locks they used, the venting system--nothing was overlooked by the keen eye of the Master.
Plan after plan was designed, but just when it seemed to be perfect, some small detail crept in to put the kibosh on the whole scheme. Undeterred, Luke kept planning and scheming his greatest escape yet. It had taken months, if not years, to execute his stunts in the past; this would be more challenging.
One morning, in late August of 2008, the six AM alarm rang out to awaken the inmates for another day. The morning shift guards made the rounds as usual to make sure everyone was out of their bunks. When they came to Luke's cell, there was no response. The guard hammered on the cell door. Nothing. He immediatly reported the problem to the secruity station and went in the cell.
Luke was there all right, but he lay collapsed on the floor, writhing in pain. The small steel toilet revealed a greenish bile. The guard called for the infirmary to come to Luke's aid. He covered Luke with the thin blanket from his bunk and waited for the medics to arrive. The medics took his temperature. It was 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
Luke was wheeled to the Asylum's infirmary, where he was diagnosed with peritonitis. The infirmary did not have the resources to treat this disease, so arrangements were made to transfer him to a local hospital. Even though Luke was too sick to move, let alone try to escape, he would still be placed under guard. He was wheeled through the labrynthian corridors of the Asylum to a waiting ambulance, securely strapped down on the gurney, and taken to the hospital.
What happened next is a matter of conjecture. The first week was uneventful as Luke recovered from his illness. He was due to be returned to Arkham the following Monday. On Saturday, August 28th, a nurse making her rounds that morning discovered Luke missing. She reported it to her supervisor, who in turn reported it to the authorities. Police arrived to investigate the hospital room. There was the rooftop of a cocktail lounge under his hospital room window, so the theory was that he had climbed out of it. The guard at the door was not held liable as this was an unforseen act; at any rate, the window had a keyed lock on it to prevent such an occurance. It is strongly believed that Luke had picked the lock and freed himself. There was also a cover from a vent on the ceiling missing. It was large enough to accomodate him as well. Yet no one heard any noise from any of the vents during their shift. And no one had entered or left the room at any time, the gurard confirmed.
So how and when did Luke Blade escape? Investigators were called in to find out. Every doctor, nurse, medical assistant, food service worker, and custodian were carefully questioned, but no leads turned up. It had been a very quiet night, they all told the authorities. Nothing unusual; just the same routine.
A statewide manhunt began for the fugitive magician. Once again, Blade was front-page news. A toll-free hotline was set up for any person who had information about Luke's whereabouts. As was the case of any crime story, there were the usual false leads and crank calls. No real leads were made. Some suggested that Luke had been so sick at the time that he probably died on the run. The morgue was called, but no bodies fitting Luke's description was turned in.
His former Family members were contacted, but they had severed all ties with their former employer and wanted nothing to do with him. They were free to live their own lives now. The only one who stayed loyal was Beckie Winslow, who was living with Victoria Soames, Luke's former personal nurse. Neither had any knowledge of Luke's whereabouts, but investigators decided to keep watch over Beckie, as she might become an accomplice should Luke turn up.
Despite the seriousness of the crimes Luke had committed and the fear generated by his escape, the whole thing deteriorated into a national joke, in line with the "Who Shot JR?" mystery generated by the television series Dallas. "I Saw Luke Blade!" bumper stickers and t-shirts were produced by small independant merchants. An underground fan club connected by the Internet had formed during Luke's imprisonment, cheering him on. His merchandise was fetching astronomical prices on eBay and other websites. The tabloids fed on the frenzy with lurid headlines about Luke's whereabouts. Armchair detectives and self-professed psychics all had theories and "sightings".
Yet for all the media attention, no real progress had been made. Investigators and forensics experts went over the few facts they had and followed every lead, however remote or absurd. They struggled to keep a tight lid on the case so as not to have anything interfere with the investigation. Very little if any news was released, leading conspiracy theorists to draw their own conclusions: Luke had been taken by the US Government because of his special skills to free American servicemen held prisoner in Iraq, or he had plotted revenge against the judge/jury/police officers/CSI team/witnesses/Family members who put him away, or he was living in another country under an assumed name with funds secreted in offshore tax shelters.
As time went on, the escape of Luke Blade began to take on mythical qualities. It became one of America's greatest unsolved mysteries, ranking among Judge Carter and Jimmy Hoffa. To "pull a Luke Blade", meaning to escape, entered current slang among American young. His hairstyle and Gothic wardrobe were copied by rebellious teens everywhere. He became an antihero to the outcast youth. By October of 2008, one year after his conviction, the case was growing cold, but his popularity was never hotter