I remained intrigued by the man with empty eyes throughout my posting on that ward. It was a mutual fascination--he was as intent on seducing me as I was of learning about him. My ongoing interest in my forensic patient prompted several one-on-one lessons from my nursing instructor on the dangers of a psychopath.
She wasn’t just worrying about my heart. “He’s clever enough to realize that another murder or assault conviction charge won’t change his life one bit,” she warned. “His crimes have put him behind bars for the rest of his days; he has nothing to lose.”
“Does someone born without a soul,” I asked, “ever have anything to lose?
I upped my guard, but I wasn’t scared of him. I believed he was after my love, not my body. I assumed from his charm that he knew hearts weren’t things he could capture with physical force. I was young and felt invincible. I ought to have been afraid of him, though.
His file showed that if he couldn’t control someone with his wits and his words, he was prone to exercise his ultimate power—he knew how to end a life. If he’d sensed he was losing the game to me, he may have staved off defeat by claiming such a decisive, permanent victory. He truly did have nothing to lose.
After his outburst that ended our first meeting, I learned to avoid riling him. I greeted him with smiles. I avoided challenging him; let him win all the mind games; let him think he had a chance. I wanted him to keep coming back so I could learn more about his psyche. I volunteered to be his required staff escort when he left the ward, sat with him in the dining hall; listened to him; watched him. For my full four-week posting to that ward, I kept him interested in me.
He persisted in asking personal questions, often prefacing them with intimate revelations about himself. I’d respond with smiles, sometimes blushes. I’d look away, look down, play with my fingers. Rattle my keys. I refused, however, to answer his questions. With a conviction bordering on smugness, he’d often answer them for me.
He believed he was gaining access to the secrets of my soul by reading my body language. I believed that I was getting to know him by analyzing his assumptions. However, it slowly became apparent that there was little about him, in the traditional sense, to get to know.
I’d never find out what he considered his favourite colour or favourite food, or, what his idea of a romantic evening was. He had no prejudices to reveal, no political preferences, no tales of his childhood. When asked about these things, he’d answer with whatever words he thought I wished to hear, whatever he believed would stir my heart and help him win the game.
He was like a robot in a human body. His words were calculated; his gestures—practiced; his emotions—chosen. His soulful revelations were lies. It became abundantly clear that his quest for my heart (as all his past quests had been) was an intellectual one. He was playing a game he intended to win. He wanted one more trophy, one more conquest, one more person under his spell.
By the time my posting was up, I knew without a doubt--my forensic patient’s heart was as empty as his eyes.
Not all psychopaths are locked up; many walk among us. Their charm, intellect, wit, and good looks, make them charismatic con artists, leaders of criminal organizations, and breakers of hearts. Their lack of a conscience, coupled with their severed emotions, gives them incredible power over others; a power that enables them to do the unthinkable, the unspeakable, the unforgiveable—repeatedly, without shame, without regret. Their victims are often the very ones they’ve charmed into loving them.
Psychopathy is a personality disorder, not a mental disorder, and therefore the law generally deems psychopaths sane, responsible for their actions, and incorrigible. Forensic psychiatric evaluations sometime contain the diagnoses ‘borderline psychopathic personality’ or ‘psychopathic tendencies’. These labels indicate that the accused, unlike a full-blown psychopath, possess at least a few human qualities.
The villains in my novels often fit the parameters of those diagnoses. Sometimes, my protagonists do, too, because. . .
. . . forced into the presence of such evil, even the strongest amongst us eventually succumbs to the seductive lure of its power.