Home > Sanctum (Asylum #2)(7)

Sanctum (Asylum #2)(7)
Madeleine Roux

No, not a note—a photo on heavy card stock. Black-and-white faces stared at him, vacant—two little boys in front of a striped circus tent. He was sure of it now: Abby’s and Jordan’s photos were connected. The photo in his hands was the missing link.

“What the hell is this?” Dan mumbled.

He flipped the card over to find rows of numbers scribbled hastily on the back. Felix’s voice echoed in his head.

Follow them, Daniel. You’ll see. You’ll see!

“Follow what?” he said aloud. “And to where?”

Under the numbers he found a single word: not. He imagined this photo in a line between Jordan’s and Abby’s, and he realized the message was only now complete. Felix must have sent them those pictures, then. Or maybe he had some help.

The hairs at the back of Dan’s neck stood up as he pieced together the sentence.

You’re not finished.

Dan peered at his friends as, in two pixelated windows, they blinked into their webcams, momentarily mute. Abby pushed a piece of black hair behind her ear, flashing a thin wrist blotched with ink and paint stains.

“Poor Felix,” she murmured. There was a half-second delay between when her mouth moved and when Dan heard her. In a normal conversation, the effect might be comical. “I was sure he’d be at least a little better by now.”

“No way,” Jordan cut in, tossing his head of shaggy curls. He took off his thick hipster glasses and wiped them on his shirtfront. “I wasn’t hoping for anything with that kid. He tried to kill us, Abby. And now these pictures? Frankly, I almost liked it better when they just said ‘You’re finished.’”

“It sounds to me like he’s still haunted by what he did. You heard what Dan said—Felix wanted forgiveness. Even if he’s still . . . Even if he’s not better, it does sound like part of him is sorry.” She yawned, leaning closer to her camera, just close enough to show the dark smudges under her eyes. “Be cynical if you want, Jordan, but it’s not like you’re getting much sleep either.”

“Nope, but my calc grades are ridiculous. Who knew insomnia could be so great for your work ethic?” He forced a laugh. “Listen, Dan, I’m taking a look at these numbers for you, but I’m not promising much. It sounds to me like Felix has gone way, way off the deep end. Probably best just to forget we ever met the guy and move on. We can burn these pictures and never think about him again.”

“You didn’t see him,” Dan insisted. “He wasn’t just urgent . . . He was . . . possessed, almost.”

What we did to you . . . Awful. Terrible. I don’t know if it can be undone. . . .

An icy stone settled in Dan’s stomach. Felix didn’t know if what could be undone?

“Not a word I like to think about in conjunction with that creep,” Jordan muttered. The camera caught a head full of hair while he looked down toward his lap. Over the microphone, Dan heard the scratch of a pen on paper.

“Jeez, I have got to get some sleep. These stupid numbers keep turning into blobs,” Jordan said with a sigh. “I swear the pattern looks familiar, though. It’s like it’s on the tip of my tongue. . . . Freaking frustrating.”

“You can do it, Jordan,” Abby said, perking up in her video window. “If anyone can figure them out, you can.”

“I don’t know,” he replied. He really did sound exhausted.

“Let’s start from the top,” Dan suggested. “You said it’s probably a code of some kind, right? This is Felix we’re talking about. He was a wackjob, sure, but he was smart. A genius. We have to assume he gave me the code knowing it was something we could figure out.”

“I’m not even sure it’s a code anymore,” Jordan said. “They’re groupings, but there are so few of them. The way they’re spaced looks intentional, but . . .”

Dan had been so sure Jordan would know what to do with the numbers. The kid could solve a master sudoku puzzle in his sleep, or ace the kind of calc test that made Dan sick with stress. If Jordan couldn’t crack this puzzle, they’d be left with nothing.

“But what?” Abby prompted. She squinted into her webcam. Dan had emailed them both a copy of the numbers on the back of Felix’s photo, along with the image on the front.

“But I don’t know. Sometimes these things are crazy complex. Not like A equals one, B equals two,” he explained. “Maybe it can’t be solved on its own. We might need the cipher—”

“Did you guys hear that?” Abby suddenly whispered, glancing over her shoulder and into the dark bedroom behind her.

“Hear what?” Jordan asked absently.

“That voice.” Her eyes grew wide and she shrank back in her chair. “You really didn’t hear it?” she whispered.

Dan leaned closer to the computer screen, brows knitted with concern. “Hear what? Abby, I mean, are you okay? I didn’t hear anything.” He hadn’t. “Did you, Jordan?”

“No . . .”

Abby’s head flew to the side. “There it is again!”

Dan was beginning to worry. He didn’t hear anything but the impatient tapping of Jordan’s pen on his desk. “I really don’t hear it, Abs.”

She blinked, hard, trembling a little in the window on Dan’s screen. “It sounded like . . . Never mind.”

“Like what?” Dan prompted.

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