The 13th Installment

Nate hit the floor hard. The guard twisted Nate’s arm back and jerked back to his feet.

“Hey man,” Nate managed. “You don’t…” He stumbled. “I don’t want any trouble.”

The guard said nothing but pushed him onward down the hall.

Bruises from his previous encounter with security ached and his muscles twinged. He and Clem had gotten away, and now Nate regretted not going home. Hannah was doing fine on her own, running around with an old woman. He stumbled again.

“Man, take it easy. I’m coming with you, okay?”

But the guard said nothing.

What had happened to Clem? The woods disoriented them both. Their promise to stick together quickly broke in the darkness of the Asylum grounds. Maybe the big jerk had gone home. Coward.

This time Nate stumbled and spun into a narrow table against the wall. “Goddamn it.”

The reached a door and the security guard shoved Nate in. There was a table secured to the floor and a chair, but Nate staggered away from the chair and leaned against the wall.

Taking a deep breath, he finally looked into the face of the security guard. A cold washed over him and the question he was about to ask disappeared.

The guard said nothing.

* * *

Hannah and the two women ventured into the narrow basement hall. It was poorly lit and empty.

“If it weren’t for you two, I’d think I was about to go on my rounds,” Nurse Stillmark said.

“I don’t trust it.” The old woman narrowed her gaze toward the stairs.

“You shouldn’t.”

Hannah clutched the shoulder bag tightly and followed the nurse and the patient. The three of them made their way in silence, not encountering anyone, and each lost in her own thoughts.

Hannah wondered if her parents had discovered her absence. Would they? It seemed unlikely, but not impossible. She imagined them freaking out, calling the police or maybe her therapist. What would be her punishment? Best not to worry about it. She’d be home before morning, her parents none the wiser. Until, of course, she told them what she’d learned for she was certain the office held the answers she sought.

What would they say when they could no longer deny the truth? For the rest of the walk to the office she imagined their possible reactions, and though she thought of various recriminations, what she really wanted was for them to tell her the truth. She wanted them to say they were sorry. Somehow that was going to fix things.

* * *

Clem woke, scared of the darkness and weight over him. He kicked and swung out his arms. But his arms struck the sides of his confined space. He jerked and hit his head on the floor.

The flailing of his arms pulled the blanket away from his face. He was looking at the roof of a truck. It made no sense. He sat up. He hurt. His chest felt as if it had been kicked.

He rubbed his eyes and remembered that he had been kicked in the chest. He’d been kicked all over.

What was he doing in the back of a truck? The guards? Were they taking him somewhere? The fear in his gut swelled. They were going to take him somewhere and dump him. Bury him alive. His family would never know what had happened to him.

Using the back of the front seat as leverage, he pulled himself further up. The truck door hung open. Clem looked out into the dark. He looked around the inside of the cab. Why would they leave him with the door open? Did they think he was dead?

Clem climbed into the front seat. No one was anywhere to be seen. He sat in the driver’s seat. He put both arms across the steering wheel and leaned forward to look up through the windshield at the night sky.

The stars gleamed sharply. His head ached. He sat back and took in his surroundings. The keys dangled in the ignition, and Clem wasn’t sure if he should be happy or alarmed. He could leave. He could drive home.

But it made no sense that security guards would leave a truck unattended with the door open, the headlights on, and the keys for the taking.

Cautiously, he closed the truck door. He waited a second, until he was sure nothing was going to happen. He turned the key.

The truck came to life. Hannah finally came to mind, and Nate. Maybe he should try to find them. He shook his head. He couldn’t do anything without help. All this was Hannah’s idea anyway. He had no interest in the Asylum. What was the point in learning secrets? As the gash over his left eye proved, knowing secrets brought only trouble.

Clem put the truck into gear. Leaving Hannah wasn’t really an option. He’d help her, but he couldn’t do it alone. The truck rolled forward. The headlights revealed a dark wide stain in the dirt road. He took no note of it. Nor did he give any thought to the wide-open gate as he drove away from the Asylum determined to find help.

To continue, go to the 14th installment.