Home > Asylum (Asylum #1)(7)

Asylum (Asylum #1)(7)
Madeleine Roux

“Wait, you guys, come take a look at this. . . .” Jordan said, and the catch in his voice got their attention.

He was standing on the far side of the desk, his flashlight pointed at the wall, where there were even more photos, hanging in frames.

“How awful,” Dan said.

“Quiet.” Abby spoke in barely a whisper.

She moved closer to one of the pictures, gently wiping the dust off the glass frame with her sleeve. It was a photograph of a little girl, no older than nine or ten, with light-colored hair down to her shoulders. She was standing up, her hand resting on what looked like the armrest of a chair, like she was posing for a formal portrait. She had on a patterned dress and was wearing fine jewelry. But a jagged scar slashed across her forehead and there was something wrong with her eyes.

“She looks so sad,” Abby said.

Sad was one way to put it. Empty was another.

Abby stood still, staring so deeply into the photograph that it looked like she was in a trance. Dan didn’t have the heart to tell her that given the scar on the little girl’s forehead and the emptiness in her eyes, it was likely that she’d been given a lobotomy. What kind of monsters would perform a lobotomy on a little girl?

The picture hanging next to it shocked him from his thoughts. It showed a patient struggling, pinned by two orderlies in white aprons and restrained by a muzzle on his face. One of the orderlies holding him looked positively evil. Dan was mesmerized by the photograph. Who had taken it, or any of these pictures for that matter, and who had hung them up on the wall?

“It’s hard to remember they were here to get help,” Jordan said.

“He was ill,” Dan replied automatically.

“So? Does that look humane to you? Those doctors wouldn’t know the Hippocratic oath if it kneed them in the balls.”

“You have no idea what was going on,” Dan shot back. Then he stopped himself. Why did he feel the need to defend the very doctors who had probably performed a lobotomy on a child? Or who were getting ready to torture a man? When he looked down at his crossed arms, a bolt of fear shot through his body, and he rushed to fill the awkward silence. “I guess we’re just lucky the field has come a long way since then.”

“Why leave these here?” Abby cried suddenly, gesturing at the photographs. Her chin was quivering. “They’re . . . horrible.”

“Well, at least it’s honest,” Jordan replied, putting an arm around her. Abby shrugged him off. “I hate when people skirt around the truth. And lest we forget, this was locked.”

“I don’t care if they locked it up.” She wouldn’t stop looking at the photograph of the girl. Dan had an urge to grab Abby away before the hollow girl in the frame could reach out and pull her in. But of course that was ridiculous. “She shouldn’t be here. She should be put somewhere safe.”

Slowly, Abby raised both her hands and pulled the frame off its hook. A light patch showed on the wall where the picture had been. Abby hugged the photograph to her chest, her arms wrapping protectively around it.

“What are you doing?” Dan said, unable to stop himself.

“I’m going to take her back to my room. She’ll be safe there.”

“You can’t take it, Abby,” said Dan, trying to keep the desperation out of his voice. “It’s supposed to be down here. You need to leave it alone.”

Abby was about to say something else when Jordan spoke up. “Hey, relax, both of you. It’s not like you know her, Abs. You should put it back. Someone might notice it’s missing.”

“Who?” she demanded with a soft little scoff.

“Someone,” Jordan replied testily. “I don’t know. . . . Maybe there’s a catalog of all the crap in here somewhere.”

Abby didn’t seem to hear what Jordan had said. She stood silently, like a statue, gripping the picture to her chest.

“Please, Abby, leave her where she is. She belongs with the others,” Dan insisted. “Please.” He couldn’t believe he was arguing with one of the hottest girls he’d ever met.

Just let her have it, Dan. You want her to like you.

But the need to speak was more compelling.

Abby’s eyes seemed almost as vacant as those of the girl in the photograph. Then a shiver came over her and she blinked. Gently, almost affectionately, she put the picture back on the wall. She touched it one last time and said, “Poor little bird. I wonder if she ever escaped her cage.”

With the picture in place, Dan felt a sense of relief. He couldn’t exactly say why.

“Come on,” Abby said. “Let’s go back. I’ve had enough.”

That was all they needed. They scrambled out of the old office like it was a race, and Dan was only too glad to shut the door behind them.

“Hey, the lock,” Jordan said, just as they reached the vending machines.

“Don’t worry, I already took care of it,” Dan said, ready to be far, far away.

“You sure?”

Without waiting for an answer, Jordan turned back to double-check. The lock was still hanging on the door where he’d left it.

“My bad,” said Dan, laughing nervously. He really could have sworn he’d locked it. But then, his memory had been known to play tricks on him.

Dan was dusty and exhausted by the time he got back to his room. Opening the door carefully, so as not to wake Felix, he took a step in and was gripped by cold.

This isn’t my room. Dan blinked, disoriented. It looked like a cell of some sort, with floors and walls made of heavy gray stone. An operating table covered with a thin, white sheet stood in the middle of the room. In the corner nearest him was a drain—why, Dan could only guess. A small window cut into the top of the far wall was covered by crisscrossing metal bars. But the most unnerving thing about the room was the pair of shackles that were bolted to the wall on the left. At first, Dan had thought they were rusty, but now that he really looked at them, he could see that the dark red stains were far too wet to be rust.

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