The 10th Installment

The old woman opened the first locker. The locker was, of course, empty, but Hannah wasn’t about to admit to anything.

“It’s empty,” the old woman replied. “This was the one that held Laila’s comb, was it?”

“Laila? I don’t know who you’re talking about,” Nurse Stillmark said.

“Don’t play dumb, Nurse. Laila in room 12.”

Nurse Stillmark frowned. “You think you’re clever, but—”

The old woman kept her eyes on Nurse Stillmark as she moved to the next locker. “I am clever.”

Nurse Stillmark risked coming closer to the old woman. She had to reach past the old woman to touch the lock. “How can it be unlocked?”

“Ask someone who knows her way around a lock,” the old woman said.

The old woman and Nurse Stillmark turned to Hannah at the same time.

Nurse Stillmark lunged at Hannah, her arms stretched out for Hannah’s bag. The old woman stuck out a foot, sending Nurse Stillmark to the floor. “Don’t touch the girl.”

Nurse Stillmark rolled on to her side and pushed herself up. The cuts on her face opened a bit more. “What the hell’s wrong with you?”

“Go read my chart.”

Nurse Stillmark smoothed out her white skirt. “I know it by heart.”


“Shut up. Both of you.” Hannah jutted out her chin. “I didn’t come here for this.” She gripped her bag more tightly. “I’m not staying in a basement until we get caught.”

Nurse Stillmark smoothed out her skirt again. “In a few minutes Security will be here, and I’ll make sure you’re punished.”

The familiar burn of rage pressed out from within Hannah’s chest. “No, you won’t. When Security gets here, you’ll lose your job.”

Nurse Stillmark opened her mouth, and then she shut it again. The old woman laughed.

Hannah fumed. Whatever the truth of the Asylum, the nurse took part in its lies and cruelties. Hannah wanted nothing to do with her. “I’m not afraid of you. Either of you.” She was almost sure she meant it.

* * *

Nurse Stillmark wasn’t used to anyone else being in charge. Certainly she wouldn’t listen to an old woman and a teenager, but she couldn’t walk away from them.

She wanted the bag. The girl didn’t know what she had. If the girl reached into her bag the wrong way, she’d be dead. Nurse Stillmark kept that to herself. Her determination to burn the Asylum to the ground hardened in her heart. She needed only a plan and an opportunity.

The old woman was whispering in Hannah’s ear, and Nurse Stillmark’s mind raced. There wasn’t much time. They’d be caught soon if they didn’t do something. Gasoline would work. She kept her gaze on the old woman and the girl, but her mind searched through her knowledge of the Asylum grounds, the outer buildings, and the odd hidden storerooms.

A tank of gasoline was usually kept in the garage where the Night Ambulance parked. A lighter or matches were harder to find.

“Oh, Nurse,” the old woman said. “Are you listening?”

Nurse Stillmark snapped out of her thoughts. “Of course.”

“So, you’re going to help?”

Nurse Stillmark nodded. “Of course.” She looked to the girl for a clue for what she’d agreed to.

But Hannah smiled back at her. “Thanks,” the girl said. “I’m glad you’re willing to make a difference.”

“That’s my purpose in this life,” Nurse Stillmark replied. “To make a difference.”

* * *

Seeing no one else around, Hasher knelt over the boy’s still form. To his relief, the boy was breathing even though each breath caught and shuddered. Closer now, Hasher could see bruises on the boy’s face and stains on the boy’s shirt.

“Hey, kid,” Hasher said and nudged the boy’s shoulder.

The boy winced but didn’t open his eyes. Hasher didn’t know what to do. Anywhere else, he’d immediately scoop the boy up into his truck and get him straight to an emergency room. But they were on the Asylum grounds and normal choices didn’t make sense.

Then again, his night delivery wasn’t going normally anyway. For years, he made his deliveries in dark silence. Tonight’s lights and noises rattled him. If the boy were a patient, though he wasn’t dressed like one, Hasher knew he had to take him back to the Asylum. Taking a patient off the grounds was never done.

More likely, the boy was a local teen trespassing and stirring up trouble. “Bit off too much, didn’t you, kid?” Hasher said. He knew he should turn the boy over to Security. Not to would cost him his job or worse.

Hasher sighed. He gathered the boy up in his arms. At his truck, he placed the boy on the floor in the narrow space behind the front seats. He covered the teen with a heavy blue moving blanket. In good light, he might recognize the boy. Not that it mattered much. Hasher had enough bad dreams about his deliveries to the Asylum. He wasn’t about to hand over a breathing human being.

A scream came from over the trees somewhere from within the Asylum. Hasher backed up his truck. He knew his life was about to change. Maybe a lot of lives were about to change.


Go to the 11th Installment