Home > Asylum (Asylum #1)(8)

Asylum (Asylum #1)(8)
Madeleine Roux

Why do I know this room?

Dan quickly closed the door and started rubbing his arms with his hands to get rid of the chill. He tried to rationalize what had just happened. Had he opened the wrong door by mistake? That would explain it. He was extremely tired and had just taken a wrong turn and ended up at the wrong room. A nightmare room that hadn’t been used in decades.

Yeah, right.

He checked the door number. 3808.

That was his number. What was going on?

After rubbing his eyes with trembling hands, Dan opened the door again. And there was his room, two desks, two chairs, and two beds, with the sleeping lump of Felix on the nearer one.

Dan stepped in and closed the door. Leaning against it, he tried to catch his breath, coughing from the dust still lodged in his nose and throat. His mind had wandered, that was all. It had wandered far, but now he had it back.

Unsurprisingly, Dan couldn’t sleep. Tossing and turning, he’d banish the photographs from his head only to be overcome by the weird hallucination he’d had. Intermittent snores from Felix didn’t help. Around two thirty, when he finally gave up trying, he grabbed his laptop from the desk and crawled back into bed with it. Maybe he could find out more about Brookline, something that might explain those horrid photographs.

He typed in “Brookline and History,” and that brought up a list of various towns called Brookline. Adding in “New Hampshire” turned up a vague summary of the sanatorium’s history which contained nothing Dan didn’t already know—that it had housed the mentally ill, both men and women, and had been bought by the college after it closed. He decided to try an image search. Instantly, a results page full of vintage photographs of Brookline’s exterior showed up. In black and white, the building looked even more menacing.

Narrowing the parameters further, Dan typed in “Brookline AND history AND asylum.” And there, finally, was a link that looked promising. Judging by the garish purple background and abundance of animated gifs on the page, it was a “homemade” website, to put it nicely. The title was what caught his interest, though: “Brookline—Curing the Insane or Creating Them?”

Pretty sensationalistic, Dan thought. But it only went more over the top from there. The page was long and gave off some serious conspiracy-theory paranoia vibes. Sal Weathers, investigator, hobbyist, and—oh, boy—ghost hunter, had painstakingly compiled what must have been every bit of news Brookline had ever made in local or national papers into one long text block. Statistics about how many patients had been at the asylum at its peak, stories about how when it closed in 1972 patients had been relocated to other hospitals or released . . . Repeatedly, Dan came across references to the difficulties Brookline had had in keeping a warden. The turnover sounded worse than McDonald’s.

Finally, about three-fourths of the way through Sal’s winding write-up, Dan found something—a line, a throwaway maybe, but he read it to himself several times:

It wasn’t until 1960 that Brookline found the man who would redefine and refocus its entire purpose.

And his name was? And what was the new purpose? But the article didn’t say.

“It’s called narrative focus, Sal—look it up,” Dan said aloud. Then he remembered he had a roommate. Luckily, Felix seemed to be a deep sleeper.

Dan scanned down the page. The reason behind Sal’s literary ADD quickly became obvious. Why fixate on garbage like the rate of warden employment when there were serial killers to discuss?

By far the most controversial of Brookline’s patients was the serial killer Dennis Heimline, known more commonly as the Sculptor. Between 1960 and 1965, he terrorized a small rural community in Vermont. Police estimate that he killed more than a dozen people, earning his name from the grisly way he left his victims posed like statues. One report described the “cold, terrible beauty” of a young woman found “dancing” in the wilds of the White Mountains, her mutilated arms tied to tree limbs high above. The most horrifying crime he committed occurred at a local pub. The victims were posed in various places throughout the bar—some standing, some sitting, and some engaged in a kind of revelry on the dance floor. All held in place by ropes and wires.

Perhaps more disturbing than the Sculptor himself was the fact that when Brookline closed, no trace of the Sculptor could be found. . . .

Dan was riveted. A serial killer had been a patient here, in this building. Where had they kept him? What kind of treatment had he received? And where had he gone?

Dan closed his laptop and lay back on his bed. Just as he was drifting off he remembered the photo of the struggling patient and wondered if that could have been Dennis Heimline. Maybe his parents had been right to worry about him coming here. Having a speckled past was one thing, but a serial killer? Treatment photos? Well, he wouldn’t be sharing these discoveries with Paul and Sandy, that was for sure.

“No offense, Dan, but you look like crap. Did you have trouble sleeping or something?”

Abby’s voice sounded like it was coming from the bottom of a pool. Realizing he’d begun to nod off, Dan roused himself enough to lift his head and shove a bite of cereal into his mouth. He wondered if the halo of fuzzy light that looked so at home around her head was from the morning sun through the skylight or from his almost total lack of sleep.

He decided against telling Abby about what he’d found online, because he was worried it would sound too weird—that it would make him sound too weird. He was only just getting to know her; he didn’t want to blow it in the first twenty-four hours.

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