"Same as all of them?" I said.
"Incompetent to stand trial," said Dollard. "Your basic 1026."
"How many do you have here?" said Milo.
"Twelve hundred or so. Old Chet's case is kinda sad. He was living on top of a mountain down near the Mexican border--some kind of hermit deal, sleeping in caves, eating weeds, all that good stuff. Couple of hikers just happened to be unlucky enough to find the wrong cave, wrong time, woke him up. He tore 'em up--really went at 'em with his bare hands. He actually managed to rip both the girl's arms off and was working on one of her legs when they found him. Some park ranger or sheriff shotgunned Chet's leg charging in, that's why it looks like that. He wasn't resisting arrest, just sitting there next to the body pieces, looking scared someone was gonna hit him. No big challenge getting a 1026 on something like that. He's been here three years. First six months he did nothing but stay curled up, crying, sucking his thumb. We had to IV-feed him."
"Now he beats people up," said Milo. "Progress."
Dollard flexed his fingers. He was in his late fifties, husky and sunburnt, no visible body fat. The lips beneath the mustache were thin, parched, amused. "What do you want we should do, haul him out and shoot him?"
Dollard said, "Yeah, I know what you're thinking: good riddance to bad rubbish, you'd be happy to be on the firing squad." He chuckled. "Cop thinking. I worked patrol in Hemet for ten years, woulda said the exact same thing before I came here. Couple of years on the wards and now I know reality: some of them really are sick." He touched his mustache. "Old Chet's no Ted Bundy. He couldn't help himself any more than a baby crapping its diaper. Same with old Sharbno back there, pissing in the dirt." He tapped his temple. "The wiring's screwy, some people just turn to garbage. And this place is the Dumpster."
"Exactly why we're here," said Milo.
Dollard raised an eyebrow. "That I don't know about. Our garbage doesn't get taken out. I can't see how we're gonna be able to help you on Dr. Argent."
He flexed his fingers again. His nails were yellow horn. "I liked Dr. Argent. Real nice lady. But she met her end out there." He pointed randomly. "Out in the civilized world."
"Did you work with her?"
"Not steadily. We talked about cases from time to time, she'd tell me if a patient needed something. But you can tell about people. Nice lady. A little naive, but she was new."
"Naive in what way?"
"She started this group. Skills for Daily Living. Weekly discussions, supposedly helping some guys cope with the world. As if any of 'em are ever getting out."
"She ran it by herself."
"Her and a tech."
"Who's the tech?"
"Girl named Heidi Ott."
"Two women handling a group of killers?"
Dollard smiled. "The state says it's safe."
"You think different?"
"I'm not paid to think."
We neared the chain-link wall. Milo said, "Any idea why someone in the civilized world would kill Dr. Argent? Speaking as an ex-cop."
Dollard said, "From what you told me--the way you found her in that car trunk, all cleaned up--I'd say some sociopath, right? Someone who knew damn well what he was doing, and enjoyed it. More of a 1368 than a 1026--your basic lowlife criminal trying to fake being crazy 'cause they're under the mistaken impression it'll be easier here than in jail. We've got two, three hundred of those on the fifth floor, maybe a few more, 'cause of Three Strikes. They come here ranting and drooling, smearing shit on the walls, learn quickly they can't B.S. the docs here. Less than one percent succeed. The official eval period's ninety days, but plenty of them ask to leave sooner."
Excerpted from Monster by Jonathan Kellerman. Copyright© 1999 by Jonathan Kellerman. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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