Sunday, November 11, 2012

The criminal mind...

The criminal mind has intrigued me since the day I met my first psychopath. It was many years ago and the story of that meeting is the most popular page on my website.

I share with you, here, that story of the man who sparked my desire to write psychological crime thrillers:

I met a man with empty eyes...

Copyright © 2009 Eileen Schuh, all rights reserved

It wasn’t that his eyes were dull.  Oh, no!  Theysparkled. That shine, however, was not emanating from his soul, but was merely reflecting the world he was seeing.

I was a young girl, eighteen, straight off the farm. He was tall. Good looking with his dark wavy hair and tanned smooth face. Broad shoulders strained at his T-shirt. His IQ was slightly above 140. He was a genius. He was a psychopath. A sociopath.

He was a dangerous man.

I knew all this because I’d read his case file. I was meeting with him so I could get the little box beside “forensic patient” on “First Year Psychiatric Nursing Required Learning Experiences” record checked off. It was only my second month of hands-on training, so there were pages of little boxes left to go. Other than the ones beside ‘attending an autopsy’ and ‘making a bed’, ‘forensic patient’ is the only one I remember.

The ‘forensic patient’ was obviously enthralled by my presence. Life on the locked ward of a Psychiatric Hospital offers few thrills to those incarcerated there. I could tell by the way his empty eyes rested on the space between my white nyloned knees and the hem of my uniform, that I’d made his day. He didn’t rest his eyes there long, however. Just a quick glance, and then he was cocking his head, raising an eyebrow, and staring deeply into my eyes. A gentle smile lifted his lips and a dimple appeared on his chin.

I knew instantly, that like Dr. Hannibal Lecter when he met Jodi Foster in the movie “Silence of the Lambs”, this man was reading my soul. After 5 seconds of gazing into my eyes, he likely knew more about me than his entire thick file revealed about him.

Psychological Thriller


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He knew I found him attractive. He knew I was naive. He sensed I was lonely and way out of my element in a place with barred windows, tiled floors, and dusty yellow brick walls. He likely even correctly guessed that I was a virgin.

I surprised us both by not blushing. I’d been warned. All of us female nursing students had been warned about the seductive lure of the psychopath. Despite the admonitions, not a year went by that a young nurse didn’t land in a heap of trouble over an illicit tryst with a ‘forensic patient’. I’d made up my mind early on, that I was too clever and wily to be that token young woman for my class.

I stared back at him, directly into his empty eyes. He was very much the textbook psychopath: male, brilliant, healthy, and handsome. He blinked and shifted uncomfortably.

The diagnosis on his chart was ‘psychopath’, although the preferred term coming into vogue was ‘sociopath’. ‘Psychopath’ suggests something is wrong with the ‘psyche’ or ‘mind’. Typically, there is very little wrong with a psychopath’s mind. They don’t suffer from hallucinations, delusions, or depression. In fact, they seldom ‘suffered’ from anything. They were generally very pleased with themselves.

Artistic rendition courtesy
Dave Brosha Photograph

Society, however, was generally not at all pleased with them. There was something dreadfully wrong with a psychopath right from birth. It wasn’t ‘wrong’ like something in their brain was miss-wired, misfiring, or damaged. But rather ‘wrong’, like something was missing from their basic human nature. Like a conscience. Like a soul.

Researchers discovered psychopaths often stand in front of mirrors and appear to be studying, or perhaps practicing, facial expression and body language. The researchers thought this behaviour suggested it was emotions that the psychopath lacked. Perhaps, they hypothesized, despite the fact that psychopaths were masters at reading other people’s emotions, they had to feign their own.

However, that suggestion was quickly dismissed. It isn’t emotions that psychopaths are missing. In fact, it is usually emotions that land them in trouble. Fits of rage, insane jealousy, love gone wrong. No, they obviously possess very intense emotions. However, those emotions don’t seem integrated with their being.

Unlike the rest of us, whose emotional nature is deeply tied to past life experiences, it appears the psychopath can choose whatever emotion suits the moment, with little regard for either the past or the future.

A normal mother loves her children intensely. Day after day, night after night, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. That intense love continually governs a mother’s behaviour and affects her choices. The psychopathic mother loves her children intensely--until she decides to kill them because her new lover doesn’t like kids.

My forensic patient’s discomfort lasted only a split second. He settled back in his chair. “How old are you?” he asked.

Warning bells went off in my head. I wasn’t supposed to let a forensic patient steer the conversation to a personal level. It was up to me to keep our meeting professional. I knew that he knew I’d been taught that. He’d spent hours in counselling sessions, knew all the ropes, all the buzz words, all the standard responses. His was a trick question.

From the length of hesitation before I answered, from the tone of my voice, from the flick of my eyes, from the movement of my hands--from my response to his simple question, he was going to learn reams about me. And, what he learned, he was going to use against me to get what he wanted.

I’d been taught the answer I should give was, “We are here to talk about you, not me.” He’d probably heard that response a million times. He was expecting those words from me, a young naive female. He likely had his next move already planned.

I needed to outwit him. Do the unexpected. Let him know that I knew where he was coming from and was unafraid. “How old am I?” I echoed. I crossed my legs and my uniform rode higher up my thighs. “Old enough to know better.”

My words seemed to please him as much as the new length of leg I’d exposed. I believe he actually chuckled. He was thinking how lucky he was that not only did he have a beautiful nubile woman engaging him in conversation, but he had someone with whom he could match wits--and he never lost such matches.

Although I wished my answer had not been so pleasing to him, I was grateful that at least the conversation had moved to an intellectual level. I figured losing to him at mind games was a much more desirable outcome than losing to him at games of the heart.

I let him stare into my eyes. I had nothing to hide--no secrets, no misgivings, no fears. At least that is what I was telling him. He kept studying my face, well aware that I was challenging him to find my silent lambs. I stared back into his eyes, not that I could see anything there other than the reflected squares of light from the window behind me. He finally gave up looking for lambs.

As there is no known cure for psychopathy, no effective treatment, no souls available for transplant, there was no need for me to attempt to counsel him. Just as society’s only recourse when dealing with dangerous psychopaths is to keep itself safe by locking them up, my sole intent was to shield myself from becoming this murderer, philanderer’s, fraudster’s, soulless being’s, next victim. It was the only victory available--aside from getting a check mark in that little square box.

I was determined to ensure both victories would be mine.

I uncrossed my legs and opened my notebook on my lap. I clicked my pen and peered across at him over the top of my glasses. “Is there anything you’d like to talk about?” I asked.

This time he did not chuckle. There was no smile, no dimple. He pulled his lips into a straight line and bared his teeth. Before I had time to gasp, the magazines on the end table were flying across the room.

“Bitch!” he hissed, as he stormed from the room.

A burly aide poked his head in the door. A giant ring of keys jangled from his belt. “Are you okay?” he shouted, looking quickly from me to the forensic patient marching down the hall.

I closed my notebook. Took off my glasses and folded them. I stood.

The aide’s name was Jim and there was worry in his blue eyes. He wasn’t all that tall, but he was taller than I was. I liked his blond curls. Not only were his shoulders stretching the seams of his short-sleeved white coat, but his biceps were straining against the cuffs. There was no ring on his finger.

“I’m fine,” I said demurely.“Thank you...Jim.”


If the psychopathic mind intrigues you, check out my psychological crime thrillers:


THE TRAZ in the UK



And here are the Amazon links to my SciFi psychological mystery:

Schrodinger's Cat

Schrodinger's Cat in the UK

All my books available in eBook and paperbacks and THE TRAZ also comes in a School Edition with a Discussion Guide. They are also available on other fine online bookstores. You can ask your neighbourhood bookstores and libraries to bring them in for you if they're not on the shelves.

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