Mental Games


Shortly after the boys got up the following morning, Adam made a very unexpected announcement.  “I’ve decided to head back to Johns Hopkins right after we finish eating breakfast.  I have quite a bit of studying I need to do and I don't want to stay up all night just to finish it.” 

“But I want us to do one more thing together first, before you take off,” Mike told him.  "Please?  It's kind of important to me."

“Why?  What do you have in mind?” Adam pressed, while giving his lover a quizzical look.  

“I want to take you somewhere and show you something,” Mike answered, before giving Adam a quick kiss.  “I promise it won’t take very long and you’ll still get back to your campus in plenty of time to do your studying.  Besides, you’ll still have all day tomorrow too, since this is only Saturday.” 

“I know, but I have a lot of reading I still have to get through and I also have to study for an anatomy quiz that I'm going to have to take on Monday," Adam explained, before hesitating briefly.  "Alright, I'll do this with you then, as long as you promise that I’ll be on the road by noon or shortly thereafter.”

"I promise," Mike quickly agreed as a smile formed on his lips. 

Now that Adam had relented, they hurriedly got dressed and raced off to grab a quick meal.  Once they'd finished eating, Mike asked Adam if he could drive, since he knew where they were going.  Adam didn’t have a problem with Mike's request and handed him the key to the car.  Before long, they reached their destination and Mike was able to find a place to park the car. 

“This is what you wanted me to see?” Adam asked, while staring at the building in front of him. 

“Yep.  Seeing I’m studying law, a few of my friends suggested I visit this place,” Mike replied, giving Adam a devilish grin.  “Since I’d rather have company while doing it, I decided to drag you along.”

“Gee, thanks,” Adam groaned as he rolled his eyes in mild disgust.  He couldn't believe Mike had talked him into doing this just so he wouldn't be alone.

“Yep.  Misery loves company and you should know I'd rather spend my time with you than anyone else,” Mike responded, while eyeing Adam's reaction.  “We do everything together and I've done plenty of things that weren't at the top of my bucket list either and I did them just because you asked.  Come on, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.  You might even find out you enjoy it.”

Reluctantly, Adam followed Mike toward the museum he had never even heard of before.  The sign said it was the 'National Museum of Crime and Punishment', and from the outside the place looked as if it might have once been a movie theater before World War II.  There was also a huge banner that looked like an oversized piece of yellow crime scene tape and it announced there were '100+ Interactivities' in huge black letters.  

As they walked through the main entrance of the building, they were nearly overwhelmed by the amount of things they saw in the exhibit area.  After talking it over briefly, the boys headed toward an area with a staged crime scene of a murder so those entering would be able to investigate. 

“Even though I’m studying to be a doctor, this is a little gruesome,” Adam quipped as they looked around.  “Maybe they shouldn't be starting people off with a murder?”

“I really want to see this though.  Murder is one of the most difficult cases for law enforcement to solve, especially if there aren’t any witnesses,” Mike answered, attempting to explain his thoughts rationally.  “Not only that, but sometimes lawyers are forced to go to court with a case that's purely circumstantial, so it's important for both the prosecutor and defense lawyer to know how the evidence was gathered.  Murder is also one of the most serious and horrific crime that a lawyer will ever deal with, so it just makes sense that we came here first.  Who knows?  One day I may be involved in a case just like this, so I should know what type of forensic analysis had been used to identify the guilty party.”

Adam merely nodded, before they attempted to see if they could spot all of the significant clues.  When they were done, it was pointed out to them the clues they missed, as well as the things they spotted, so they were now able to look at everything together.  They were also told how the various items they'd discovered were then processed and analyzed so they could determine which suspect all of the clues pointed toward. 

Once they finished up there, the boys went over to check out the model of a police station next.  This display showed a booking room, had an arrangement of mug shots, along with a simulated line-up and a mockup of a polygraph test.  There was also a display of various homemade weapons that prisoners might make and use while they are incarcerated, a recreation of Al Capone’s unusual and luxurious cell accommodations while he was being held in a Philadelphia prison, and a mockup of a prisoner escape. 

“Some of this brings back too many memories of what I saw, felt and experienced the day I spotted my attacker and we had to go over to the police station to report it,” Adam complained, as he looked slightly unnerved.  “Can we just move on?”

“Come on, sweetie, this is interesting,” Mike challenged, in an attempt to convince Adam to stay there and get more involved.  “Besides, seeing the prison cell and the types of weapons inmates might make and use on each other should give you an idea about what your attacker is probably facing now.  Knowing that his accommodations won't be nearly that nice and much more spartan should make you feel a little better about what happened.” 

“Maybe a little,” Adam confessed, as he shrugged his shoulders slightly.  “I know he was hoping he wouldn’t get caught, so I pray he’s learning what it’s like to be the target for someone else.  I don't really wish him any serious harm, but I hope he ends up finding out what it's like to be attacked for stupid reasons or even no reason at all.” 

After Mike nodded in agreement, the boys perused the capital punishment exhibit next.  There they saw a guillotine, a gas chamber, an electric chair that had actually been used at one time and a lethal injection machine and table.  Even though none of those devices were currently operational, it still left an indelible impression on them. 

“I could have lived happily for the rest of my life without seeing those things,” Adam whined, while making a face.  “I know sometimes that type of punishment might be necessary, but I’m afraid that too often it has been used on innocent people or in cases that didn’t really call for such extreme measures.  Besides, as a future doctor I'm more about saving lives than taking one.”

“What you said is probably true, but if I’m ever involved in a capital case, it will be good that I can mentally call up this visual reminder of the stakes involved in such a trail.” Mike replied. 

“I guess,” Adam responded, unimpressed.  “I just hope you’ll consider all of the facts carefully and be totally convinced of the person's guilt before you call for such an extreme punishment as a prosecutor.  If you're a defense attorney, I hope you’ll do your very best to defend a client facing a death sentence and use every trick in the book to tear the prosecution's case apart.” 

“Oh, I plan to,” Mike agreed. 

After that, they were introduced to the section of the museum on the F.B.I.  This area featured displays about two of the most famous people associated with the F.B.I., Director J. Edgar Hoover and Elliot Ness. 

“I know who Hoover was, because he was the first director of the F.B.I., but I’m not familiar with the other guy,” Adam admitted.  “Was he another director or was he like one of the top agents?”

“Ness was the leader of the group of F.B.I. agents known as the ‘Untouchables’.  They were supposedly incorruptible agents during prohibition, because that was a major problem at the time,” Mike explained.  “Back then, many of the guys in law enforcement were on the payrolls of the criminals, which meant many of the cops on duty were helping to protect the bad guys, instead of upholding the law.  That’s why it was considered important to have a group that couldn’t be bought off and were considered incorruptible or untouchable.” 

“Oh, I didn’t know that,” Adam confessed, as they continued to look around.  "You know now that I think about it, I'm reminded of some of the shows I've seen on TV, like 'Gotham' and 'Public Morals' where a bunch of the cops were on the take and getting paid off by the bad guys, so I guess that wasn't completely made up."

Mike concurred with that fact and they continued to look around the area.  It also included a wide range of law enforcement uniforms and badges that had been used both past and present, as well as an assortment of the various types of weapons and restraints issued throughout the years.  There were even some devices that would be used by the bomb squad when they were called out to defuse a potential situation with an explosive device.

“Isn’t this like giving the criminals a chance to see what they’re up against so they can prepare better?” Adam wondered after seeing these displays. 

“I’m sure they’re not showing us all the latest equipment and I’d be willing to bet the cops still have a trick or two up their sleeves,” Mike countered, giving Adam a wink.  “I think they show some of this stuff to let criminals know they have many methods and devices to combat whatever they’re doing or that will assist them in discovering their identity.  I suspect those in charge are hoping stuff like this will be enough to discourage most criminals from even getting started.  If they have already begun their life of crime, it may help to convince them to stop what they’re doing before they end up spending the rest of their lives in prison or get killed in a shootout.  This is just law enforcement's way of letting the crooks know that they’re going to get caught sooner or later, especially if they continue what they’re doing.”

Once they left this area, the boys got a chance to participate in some other really neat activities.  They were not only given the chance to work in a simulated crime lab, but they were also able to shoot weapons at a simulated firing range.  They were also provided with an opportunity to drive a police car in a simulated high-speed chase and had their fingerprints taken digitally. 

“Wow, that was really neat!” Adam exclaimed, once they had tried everything. 

“See?” Mike shot back, feeling vindicated.  "I told you that you might like it once you gave it a chance."

“Yeah, I have to admit it’s definitely interesting that the police can now actually record fingerprints using technology and no longer have to use ink pads, rollers and fingerprint cards,” Adam observed. 

“Yes, technology seems to be making things much easier for the good guys and harder for the criminals to get away with breaking the law,” Mike agreed. 

“Hey, do you think they are going to make you pay for that digital police car you wrecked during the chase?” Adam teased with a huge grin plastered across his face, since he had done much better at it than Mike. 

“Maybe, but only after they charge me for shooting you, since I did much better on the firing range,” Mike retaliated, as he shot Adam a dirty look. 

“You didn’t do THAT much better, but at least I didn’t demolish police property,” Adam quipped, but Mike was smart enough to drop the current discussion before it got out of hand. 

The next few exhibits were just as interesting, although they weren’t exactly the types of things they might have been expecting.  First, the boys examined the pirate gallery, and that was followed by the Wild West shooting gallery and the mob gallery.  They also got to see Bonnie and Clyde’s death car and a replica of the ‘America’s Most Wanted’ TV studio - the show that had been responsible for bringing a great many criminals to justice. 

“Ok, I can see mobsters being singled out and Bonnie and Clyde too, since they were gangsters in the early part of the last century,” Adam offered as he tried to explain his thoughts to Mike.  “I can even understand the Wild West exhibit and the TV studio, but pirates?”

“Yes!  Pirates were some of the most productive and intimidating criminals of their day,” Mike pointed out.  "They were not only thieves that robbed ships of their cargo, but the pirates also committed many murders, as well as various other crimes."

“But didn’t kings, queens and governments use pirates to attack their foes?” Adam challenged, to question if pirates were really criminals.  "How could those people try and convict the pirates later if those in power had sent them out to do those things?"

“That did complicate the issue and in some cases the pirates had been sent out by those in power, but they weren't prosecuted for those particular crimes,” Mike agreed, impressed that Adam was getting involved.  "The pirates were often granted immunity for those types of crimes, as long as they only attacked enemy vessels and didn't break any laws of the country that had sent them out.  Most of the charges happened when they went beyond that and broke laws or attacked merchant ships from the country that was sanctioning their actions. 

"It's an unfortunate fact, but things like that actually happened," Mike continued.  "It's also true that throughout history some crimes were ignored, especially if those crimes helped the government or the law enforcement agency that was using them to accomplish a goal and was willing to look the other way.  Since governments used pirates to do their dirty work on some occasions, it made it even more difficult to get the pirates to stop afterward, when the country had no enemies for them to attack and didn't need them any longer.  That was when the pirates often turned on their former benefactors.”

Adam nodded he understood, and after they finished their discussion, the boys walked to the next area.  Here they came to what Mike called the 'piece de resistance' -- the serial killers gallery. 

“Look at all of those sick bastards!” Adam exclaimed, with a look of disgust on his face.  “How can anyone kill another person, except in a war or in self-defense, let alone kill so many?”

“That’s a good question and I wish there was a simple answer for it,” Mike replied.  "It's a complicated issue and there are probably many different reasons as to why each of those people did what they did.  Some may have just liked killing or the thrill they got from doing it.  Others may have just lacked empathy for their victims and still others might have done those things in response to some harm or wrong they had suffered in their life and were now lashing out indiscriminately.  I'm sure there are other possibilities as well, but those are the ones I can think of at the moment." 

“Look at this!  They’ve even got separate exhibits for some of them,” Adam pointed out.  “Here are the tools that the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, used to make his bombs.  Over there is Ted Bundy’s VW, which he used to get to all the women that he raped and murdered.  And there’s a pair of Jeffrey Dahmer’s handcuffs, which he used to restrain those poor guys he tortured, killed and mutilated.  These things might be interesting to look at, but those guys were all sick fuckers and did some really terrible shit.” 

“Kinda gives you a whole different perspective on things when you actually get to see these items up close.  Doesn’t it?” Mike wondered and Adam merely nodded. 

The boys had now come to the end of the exhibits and were ready to leave.  Before that happened, though, Mike wanted to get Adam's opinion about being dragged here.

“Well?  What did you think of this place and everything you saw?” Mike pressed, as they walked outside.

“I guess it wasn’t so bad after all,” Adam relented.  "Some of it was really interesting, but some of the stuff I wouldn't have missed if I'd never seen it."  

“Well I’m glad you weren't totally disgusted coming here and that you enjoyed some of it,” Mike stated, while looking pleased with himself.  After they exited the building and had stepped out on the street, Mike spoke again.  “I guess now I can tell you the real reason why I brought you here in the first place.” 

“Real reason?  I knew it!” Adam grumbled, while giving Mike an evil glare.  “I had the feeling you were up to something.”  Mike then urged Adam to continue walking toward the parking lot, so they could get in Adam's car, when Mike began speaking again. 

“Just listen to what I have to say,” Mike urged, while trying his best to calm Adam down.  “I want you to think about something for a minute.  What if you had been around at the same time when some of those guys were active and had been able to use your power to stop them?  You might have prevented someone like Ted Kaczynski, Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer from killing all the people that they murdered.  If you had been able to do that, then wouldn’t you think that might have qualified you as a superhero?” 

“Maybe, but I wasn’t there and didn't stop any of them, so it doesn’t count,” Adam insisted, as he rolled his eyes in disgust thinking that Mike was really stretching things to make his point.  “Besides, no matter what you think, I haven’t dealt with any people who were that bad or did those types of things.” 

“How do you know that?  How can you be so sure that you haven’t already prevented someone who might have turned out just like one of those serial killers from getting started?” Mike challenged.  “How about the guy who beat you up and you got to confess?  Maybe you stopped him from doing the same thing, or possibly something even worse to someone else.  He might have even killed someone eventually.  And how about the guy who was shooting everyone at the National Mall?  If you hadn't been there and stopped him from reloading, the death toll could have easily jumped from numbering in the teens to a hundred or more."  Mike then paused briefly to give Adam a few seconds to absorb all of that before he started in again. 

"Don't roll your eyes and shake your head.  You know it's possible!  He could have walked around and finished off all the people lying on the ground that he had wounded, as well as killing the officers rushing toward him, but there were many, many more people around there that he could have killed too, including us,"  Once again Mike stopped briefly, but this time it was so they could get in the car and begin the drive back to Mike's room. 

"And that's not all!" Mike continued as he started the engine.  "How about the guy who was harassing the waitress at Denny's or the male student you told me about at Johns Hopkins that was stalking the nurse?  You might have stopped one or both of them from turning into a serial rapists or murderers too.  Then there was the guy stealing the car.  Who’s to say that you didn’t keep him from one day killing a person just to get his vehicle?  How do you know that by stopping any of those guys that you didn’t prevent them from becoming really vicious criminals?  Any one of them might have turned out to be just as bad as any of the serial killers we saw on display in the museum today.  You might very well have changed history when you helped to capture or discourage them.” 

As they were pulling out of the parking lot, Mike wondered if he'd got through to Adam.  Outwardly, Adam didn’t appear convinced by any of what Mike had to say, but he didn't know that inwardly Adam was wondering if Mike might possibly be right.  Had he actually prevented more than just a few minor crimes by stopping those people?  Maybe Mike had a point.  Even if he did though, Adam still wasn’t ready to agree that he was some sort of superhero. 

A short time later, Mike pulled up in front of his residence hall and put the car in park.  After he leaned over and kissed Adam goodbye, he spoke to Adam one final time.  "Just think about those things.  They might help to change your mind.  Just drive safely on your way back," he urged as they both got out of the car so they could kiss and hug goodbye, and then Mike went inside as Adam got into the driver's seat of his car. 

Adam sat there for a few more seconds after Mike had gone before putting the car in drive and starting the trip back to Baltimore.  All throughout the ride back, Adam couldn’t stop thinking about all the things Mike had told him.  By the time he reached the JHU campus, he was beginning to think there might actually be something to Mike's idea, although Adam still wasn’t about to let the idea go to his head.  Even if he was some sort of superhero, he certainly wasn't like the ones in the comic books or movies.  No matter what he thought of himself or his ability, he was going to remain the same guy he had always been.  He wasn’t about to change in any way and he certainly wasn't going to get a swelled head over it. 

Adam spent the rest of the day and the next studying, but every now and then he would stop and think back on what Mike had said while they had been together.  In his own way, Mike had given Adam something to think about and was gradually chipping away at his resistance to see that he might be more than he was willing to admit.  In his own devious way, Mike had made an argument that Adam was having trouble dismissing.  Maybe if someone had been able to stop those other criminals before they became too bad or had committed their first or worst crimes, then that would have changed history and saved lives.  Maybe in his own way, Adam was doing that as well, but did it really make him a superhero? 

Adam went to sleep with all of those questions and thoughts still filling his mind.  He slept restlessly that night and his dreams were filled with visions of how things might have turned out differently in those various other situations he'd been involved with so far, both with and without his intervention.  Had he really changed history already?  If so, was it for the better or worse?  He eventually concluded that only time could tell. 

Adam tried not to think about any of those things for the rest of the semester, but it wasn’t always easy to ignore those thoughts that kept popping into his mind.  Although he was busy with his studies, there were moments when these questions and thoughts came flooding into his head.  What was Mike doing to him?  Was thinking about this going to help or hurt him in the long run?