Home > Sanctum (Asylum #2)(4)

Sanctum (Asylum #2)(4)
Madeleine Roux

After these awkward pleasantries—exchanged in a McDonald’s parking lot—Dan had gotten in the car, and the ride had been silent ever since.

Not that he wasn’t dying to know more about what he was in for, exactly. He just couldn’t muster up the nerve to ask.

Instead he stared at his phone, reading responses from Abby and Jordan to a message he’d sent that morning, informing them both that he was going to visit Felix. This proved they were still reading his messages, at least. But right now, Dan was wishing he had gotten their responses sooner, before he was trapped in someone else’s car.

Lipcott, Jordan

to me, avaldez

So I read your message and thought, “Are you sure about this?” And that was before my mom brought in the mail. Somebody mailed me a photo, Dan. Abby got one, too. It feels like some kind of sick joke. Circuses and sideshows and crap. I’ll attach the picture for you, but there was no return address. What the hell is going on?

—J

PS Wait until you see the back, blegh.

[Download Attachment 2/2]

And Abby’s response proved even more surprising. . . .

Valdez, Abby

to me, jlipcott

I’ve been trying to move on, Dan, but I got a picture in the mail, too. I really, really don’t want to rehash the past, but . . . I don’t know. Did you get a photo? It seems weird that only Jordan and I did. This is freaking me out, Dan. It feels like someone is targeting us. Be careful, okay? Let us know how it goes with Felix so I don’t worry so much.

Why can’t we just be allowed to move on?

Abby

[Download Attachment 2/2]

It was all well and good to want to move on, but that was such an abstract, nothing phrase in his head. How was he supposed to forget that he had been strapped down to a gurney and almost killed? Forget that after he broke free, he was almost the one doing the killing? How did a person move on from something like that? Abby’s use of the word just was especially cruel. Just decide to move on. Just decide to forget. Just stop having nightmares. As if it were as simple as unpacking a bag of groceries and putting the milk and juice away in the fridge.

Dan tapped on the two attachment links and waited for the network to kick in and download the images. His foot shook anxiously as he watched the black-and-white pictures fill his screen—first Jordan’s, then Abby’s.

He squinted, turning them this way and that. They looked like they could have been taken on the same day at the same place—they were even torn as if maybe they had been ripped from the same photo. When he examined the backs of the photos more closely, he understood why Jordan was so creeped out.

A single word in black ink was scrawled on the back of each picture. Jordan’s read, “You’re,” and Abby’s read, “finished.”

You’re finished.

Dan glanced up and away, then focused on Felix’s mother. She didn’t notice his darting eyes. Why did they get photos and not me? If it’s some kind of warning, why would I be left out?

That’s a good thing, Dan, he reminded himself wryly. Nobody should want to get a note saying “You’re finished.”

Though it was orange and red now instead of green, the densely wooded terrain outside the car triggered a memory. He could practically smell the cheap air freshener from the cab that had first brought him to New Hampshire College.

“How much farther?” Dan asked, glancing up from his phone.

“Half an hour,” Mrs. Sheridan said. “Maybe forty minutes.”

Dan’s knee bounced; they had been driving for an hour already. The only way to Morthwaite Clinic, apparently, was through miles and miles of forest far from any main traffic arteries.

A text message arrived from his mother.

Hope you are having fun with Missy and Tariq. Please be responsible but call if you need a ride after the party tonight! Love you.

At last there came a break in the trees and Dan pressed himself closer to the window, watching as they drove up a steep climb that brought them to a wide-open field, fenced and gated. Dan had hoped to find a cheerful, modern clinic, but Morthwaite looked like it could be Brookline’s twin. It was cleaner, at least, although nobody had bothered to clear the vines overtaking the stone facade. Gray and tall, the building perched like a weary sentinel on the hill, and even at this distance Dan could make out grates protecting the windows.

Mrs. Sheridan stopped the Prius at the gate and a security guard asked to see both of their IDs. The pimply, heavyset guard scrutinized Dan’s license with hooded eyes, looking skeptically from the card to Dan’s face before finally calling up to the main building to confirm their appointment.

“Looks like you check out. Here’s your guest badge,” the guard said, practically tossing Dan’s ID and a plastic name card back through the window. “Have a nice day.”

Dan tucked his license away and clipped the visitor badge to his coat. The car slowly navigated the gravel driveway, then idled under the stone overhang that enclosed the entrance to the clinic. Dan wiped his slick palms on his jeans and looked across the center console to Mrs. Sheridan.

“So this is it,” Dan murmured.

“If you need a minute . . .”

“No,” he said. “Let’s get this over with.”

Gravel crunched under Dan’s shoes as he got out and stared ahead into the clinic. He shuddered, struck by the same sense of foreboding he’d felt when he first set foot in Brookline. He couldn’t believe this was an actual, functioning mental hospital, where people still went for treatment and even, in some cases, long-term stays. Maybe this summer he had been one more fainting spell away from just such a fate. He put his hand in his jeans pocket and closed it around the familiar shape of his pill bottle. It felt like an anchor, like a ward. He was seeing a counselor and keeping up with his meds; there was no reason he couldn’t live a normal life.

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