Richter Harris ascended to director of Los Angeles General Hospital. The hospital's staff and patients alike were delighted that such a renowned and gentle doctor was stationed at the top. Even after becoming director, Richter didn't put down his scalpel. Patients gathered from across the country, seeking his skills as a heart surgeon. His scalpel served as the saviour of many lives.
Richter worked tirelessly, thinking that if he threw himself into his work he might forget, but he could not. The darkness within him had fallen silent since Laura had left. It was an eerie silence. Instead of speaking, it began to swell little by little. It dwelled there constantly, writhing faintly, slowly violating Richter.
Just as it had always done, the dark lump crawled up into his throat every time he took up his scalpel. As if urged on by the lump, the scalpel raced toward the wound, tearing through it. His skilled fingertips moved fluidly through the pools of blood, manipulating the needle.
But even once the operation was over, the lump remained. Richter changed his clothes and slumped into his chair in the director's office. It was like he was drowning; like his inner darkness was trying to spill over and swallow his self like a festering sea.
I can't breathe... I fought the darkness for so long, all for Lenore and Laura. Now that I'm all alone, I have no way to resist it. I'm drowning... It's swallowing me.
His secretary watched him worriedly through the open door.
"Doctor... If you're tired, perhaps you'd rather leave the operation to another doctor?"
"No..." Richter finally replied, dabbing at the sweat with his handkerchief. "When surgery is the best course of action, I'd like to perform it myself if at all possible. It's not as if I don't trust my team. It's just..."
"Yes. The other doctors say that you are faster, and the prognosis is always good. But Dr. Harris, you're so busy filling the role of director, too. Please don't push yourself too hard."
Richter looked up and smirked. The secretary looked at the director's smiling face in surprise. What she saw was not his usual warmth, but a dark iciness.
On every break, Laura appeared to be well. Beginning to transition from girlhood to womanhood, the sparkle about her grew and grew each time he saw her.
"...Have you lost some weight, Daddy?"
"No, I haven't. I'm just enjoying my life of bachelorhood."
Laura frowned at his jovial tone. "Don't push yourself too hard, okay?"
"Yes, I know."
Richter winked. Laura smiled in relief and rose from her seat. Richter shut his eyes tightly.
One day in 1997.
The director's secretary heard a strange sound from inside his office. It was laughter. Dr. Harris, who had completed his operation a little while earlier, came in still in his white coat. The secretary had called out to him several times since then, concerned. His face was twisted, almost like it belonged to someone else entirely, and drenched with sweat. Are you alright? she asked, and he simply responded I'm fine, making no further noise.
Hearing the laughter, the secretary sat bolt upright. It wasn't the director's voice. The voice that emanated from the room only he should be occupying was low, like it had echoed from the depths of the earth, and distorted in a way that seemed surely inhuman. The secretary trotted over to the door and knocked forcefully upon it.
"Doctor! Dr. Harris! Whatever is going on, Doctor!?"
The door was locked. It didn't stay that way for long. The secretary gulped.
On the other side of the door stood Director Harris, his face bearing a smile resembling an odd mask, training a pistol on her. A bullet burst through the secretary's chest, sending blood splattering across the room.
No!! Richter wanted to yell, but his fingers squeezed the trigger without a moment's hesitation. His capable and ever-faithful secretary collapsed to the floor, a look of astonishment still upon her face. He could see the light fading from her wide-open eyes. No! Richter moaned once more. Yes!! said a satisfied-sounding voice that slipped from between the same lips. They twitched, holding their cruel smile in place.
He stepped over the growing pool of his secretary's blood, exiting into the hallway. The deep red rug laid out on the floor looked to all appearances like a river of blood.
Briefly, he took the lift down. There was a waiting room right inside the front entrance. People who had undergone examinations and were awaiting medication sat scattered here and there on chairs. A nurse tended to a patient in a wheelchair. A clerk clutching a chart to her chest bowed to him in passing.
He came to a stop in the centre of the hall, then produced the pistol from inside the pocket of his white doctor's coat and casually fired bullets into each of the seated patients one by one.
Richter, his body already robbed from him by the voice of darkness, let out a scream, melding with the ones let out by the others.
The patients attempted to flee, shouting in fright and surprise. The clerk collapsed to the floor, overcome by shock, and went still. The nurse, pushing the wheelchair along, scurried behind a pillar.
His vision was plunged into deep red. He coolly replaced the magazine, then returned to the massacre. He pointed the gun at the clerk, still clutching the chart and unable to speak with tears rolling down her cheeks, and pulled the trigger with a grin. He nimbly circled the pillar and aimed the pistol straight at the nurse, shielding the wheelchair with her back as she trembled.
"D... Doctor... Why...?" the still-young nurse whispered, tallow-faced.
"Why...? I wonder..."
He smiled another convulsive grin. Then he pulled the trigger. He brushed aside the crumpled nurse, easily shooting the trembling patient who sat there, arms cradling head.
The cry echoed throughout the hall. Turning around, he saw a security guard stood there and aiming a gun at him. The guard still couldn't believe that the usually calm and gentle director was the one who had wrought this tragedy upon them. His finger stalled on the trigger.
He smirked. To Richter, it felt as if the hospital walls were shaking violently. A shadow flickered behind the guard, caught unawares.
"A... Ahh... Ahh..."
The silver suit of armour that stepped out from the darkness pinned back the guard's arms. He watched the man's terrified face with satisfaction as he pierced his chest with a bullet.
The hospital twisted like a double-exposed photograph. The linoleum floor of the hallway turned into flagstones, the fluorescent lights fading into a chandelier. He walked leisurely down the hallway.
It's the manor. No... It's the castle. The castle from Eastern Europe that the manor was based on - D's castle.
People, frightened by the gunshots, dashed into the hallway. Without a hint of hesitation, his gun spat fire. To Richter, the crumpled bodies appeared to have sharp stakes and spines piercing their backs. Those who attempted to resist were pinned down by the suit of armour and shadow.
He was invincible. Within D's castle, all humans prostrated themselves before D.
The patients in their beds. He didn't even show mercy to the patient Richter had operated on and finally managed to save mere hours prior. His bullet ripped through the very same spot he had sutured.
Stop, Richter screamed. The blood splashed back over him, seeping into his white coat.
"This is what you wanted."
"No! I'm a doctor! My job is to save lives..."
"It was the blood of D that drove your scalpel. You liked the way the blood of living humans felt against your fingers, didn't you?"
"You did. Your scalpel was a stand-in for the stake."
"Please, just stop all of this..."
The doctors Richter trusted. The nurses. The many patients who trusted him. He shot those who lay crying, begging for forgiveness, the same faint smile on his lips all the while.
"'Stop'? Whatever do you mean? You are the one who is doing this. The blood of D within you has truly awoken. This is what you wished for. And..."
He returned to his office once more. He circled around the secretary's dead body, approached the desk and picked up the phone.
"...It's not over yet. This is where the true objective begins."
The Los Angeles Police were plunged into chaos. The reports from downtown were so disastrous that, at first, they had taken it as a prank. But before the gunshots had stopped ringing out, they received a phone call from the perpetrator himself.
"...Send for my daughter, Laura Harris, in San Francisco."
"I told you to call for Laura. There are still many patients inside the hospital. If you want them to live, send my daughter here alone."
"Stop being so ridiculous! I don't know what it is you want, but you're not going... Hello? Hello!?"
The detective looked up, his face ashen.
"He hung up on me. I think he's cut the line. I can't hear anything."
"What in the hell would cause something like this? I just can't believe it."
"He's lost his mind. I can't think of any other explanation."
"Let's get in touch with his daughter," said an aging detective glumly, having stood silently with his arms folded amongst the clamouring crowd. The other detectives all turned to look at him.
"You don't mean you're going to send her there alone just as he says, right?"
The aging detective sighed. "It's a big hospital, and he knows it better than we do. We have no idea where he might be. We can't just go running in there blindly."
"Either way, let's call the daughter and talk her into it. He said San Francisco, didn't he? Must be the university. She should be about that age by now."
"...You know her!?"
The detective let out another dark sigh. "Yeah. I'm familiar."
Keeping my eyes forward, I stepped on the gas. My mind was blank.
I had heard the news in the university cafeteria. A sudden emergency broadcast interrupted the show that was playing on TV. There had been a massacre at Los Angeles General Hospital. The director was slaughtering the patients and staff one by one. The hospital was a sea of blood. The perpetrator, Richter Harris, seemed to have shut himself inside with hostages.
I froze to the spot. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the friends around me standing up and backing away, as if trying to avoid me. The TV showed pictures of the familiar hospital gates and entrance. They showed a photo of my father.
A wave of dizziness struck me. The chatter faded away, replaced by a high-pitched, metallic sound resounding inside my head. The killer was the director, Richter Harris. No way!!
I got to my feet, feeling like I was going mad. It didn't seem real. It was like a bad dream.
Then, suddenly, someone called my name. A panicked university staff member was shouting my name from the cafeteria entrance. I walked towards them, my legs like jelly. Everyone avoided me, looking at me like I was some sort of monster. The staffer took me by the arm, as if escorting me.
It seemed to me like there was a large crowd gathered in the office. I went inside, practically dragged along, and they all fell silent at once.
"...Laura Harris," someone almost moaned. "There's a phone call for you."
The receiver was pressed into my hand. I held it against my ear.
"Miss Laura Harris?"
"This is the Los Angeles Police."
Red tail lights. The car behind me moved closer, closing the distance between us, and overtook me.
Daddy. Daddy's calling me.
One mile. One mile. I was almost in Los Angeles - almost to Daddy.
All alone, I stepped into the hospital.