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“So, what do think?” Claire said. She and her neighbor Mike sat watching the video of Lucius playing guitar in the isolation room. Claire lived in an apartment complex and her neighbor Mike, who lived across the hall, was the first person Claire had thought of who played guitar. Claire had wired the camcorder up to her television so that Mike could see the playing better.

“Wow! Even though you can’t hear it, you can see how well his playing is,” Mike said as he sat on the edge of Claire’s couch and leaned forward to study the playing of Lucius. “And you say that this guy attacked you and escaped the asylum?”

“Something like that. Attack might be a pretty strong word for it. He tackled me and took my swipe card, then he ran out before anyone could stop him.”

“I’m so confused, Claire. Why were you taping him and then he just ‘tackled’ you and fled? There’s something you’re not telling me.”

“What? You think I helped him escape?”

“No. I didn’t say that. It’s just all so weird.”

“Oh, it’s weird alright. Before he tackled me he literally clawed his own face. I mean diagonally across his entire face he dug all his fingernails in and just gouged long cuts across his face. He told me to stop and that he wanted to see me for what I was; then, I just watched in horror as he did it. The blood just started pouring from the wounds and then I started screaming. That’s when he tackled me and knocked me out.”

“What the hell! He knocked you out? Claire, I thought you said he just tackled you?”

“Would you relax? I’m fine. And I don’t think he was trying to hurt me or single me out. I just happened to be the one who was there when he decided to escape. He was just trying to go, ya know?”

“Do you think he was upset about you recording him?”

“No. He didn’t know I was recording him. At least I don’t think he did. Besides, he didn’t take the camera. He just took his guitar and my card and left.”

They sat in silence for a moment while Mike thought about the scene Claire had described. After a moment Claire said, “So, do you think you can learn what he’s playing?”

“I doubt it. Claire, I just plunk around on the guitar. I can’t even play fingerstyle without a pick, much less execute some of the things that guy is playing with his right hand.”

“Oh,” Claire said, her dejection evident in her tone.

“But I bet there’s someone who could.”

“Really! Who?”

“I don’t know. I mean I know a guy who probably can, though. I work with a guy named Ted who plays in a band. He’s a much better guitarist than I am and I bet he could do it. If not, I bet he knows someone who could.”

***

Lucius Rivers had made it to the Springs. It was a hard couple of weeks following his escape. He had no food, no money, no warm clothes, nothing but the guitar slung across his back. But the Baron had provided. Still, it was hard going and his spirit faltered.

He had crossed paths with other vagrants and homeless folks who had helped him to improve his situation ever so slightly. A ragged coat here. A worn out pair of shoes there. A scrap of food to stave off the gnawing pains of hunger.

This particular day had been the best so far. He arrived at the mission for the lunchtime doling out of hot soup and bottles of water. It was like a feast to Lucius. Afterwards, Lucius wandered the nearby streets looking for a secluded alley in which to rest. He found a spot off the main path within an alley and sat down. His belly was actually full and he proceeded to unsling the guitar from his back.

Lucius ran his hand over his face feeling the long scabs from where he had finally peeled away the mask for the last time. Naked to the world and to the new reality he now inhabited, Lucius tuned his guitar and prepared to play his first real performance of the suite.

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