Mr. Robinson and Clem followed he child. Most of the patients at the gate had vanished. A few lingered but ignored the father, teen, and their child guide.
The child tilted her head, listening and sniffing the air, Mr. Robinson couldn’t tell.
“Nurse.” The child walked back toward the building.
“I feel bad for the staff,” Mr. Robinson said to Clem, who looked this way and that and stumbled. “Their hands full must be full,” Mr. Robinson continued. “I sure do hope my Hannah isn’t responsible but got to admit it’s quite a coincidence, don’t you think?”
They walked off the paved path. Lights from the main building gave a soft glow to the grass. Sounds, random shouts, the clang of a falling object, the slam of door, were muffled, and it could almost feel like an evening stroll. But the bald child in a nightdress pulled Mr. Robinson from any reverie.
“Bite!” the girl said. “Nurse!”
“She say she’s gonna bite the nurse?” Clem asked.
“I suspect we misheard,” Mr. Robinson said. “It’s not like we’re facing each other.” The ground gently sloped upward as they neared the corner of the main building. “Children tend to stop biting by her age, anyway. And a place like this is going to have rules about that sort of thing. Can’t have children biting the staff.”
The child disappeared around the corner.
Clem stopped. “You sure we should be following her, sir? We don’t know where she’d taking us. She’s a patient here at this asylum and we don’t know what for.”
Mr. Robinson turned to the teenager. “Buck up, young man. Stop worrying about folks who’re different. Now hurry up or we’ll lose her and have to find this nurse on our own.”
“But she said she’d gonna bite the nurse,” Clem replied. “Sir.”
“Now, Clem. I don’t agree that’s what she said, but even if she had a mind to bite the nurse, I never met a nurse who couldn’t handle a tough situation. Now, let’s go. The child’s going to be out of sight.”
Mr. Robinson needn’t have worried. When he and Clem rounded the corner, the nearly ran into the girl. It was darker on this side of the building, less light coming from the windows, but they saw the scene before them surprisingly well.
Sprawled on the ground was a woman, a nurse by the look of her. Mr. Robinson ran past the child, his bathrobe flapping about him. He dropped to his knees and knelt over her. “Breathing. Thank goodness. Clem. Call 911.”
“I don’t got my phone.”
“What?” Mr. Robinson almost argued the probability of a teenager without a phone. He knew the kids all had them. “Then go find one. Go inside! I bet they have medical staff inside. Go get them. Get some help.”
Clem ran back the way they’d come, and Mr. Robinson stared down at the nurse. “I’m just a fool in pajamas. Good lord, what am I doing here?” He startled at a movement nearby.
“Bite!” The child stood on the other side of the nurse, pointing.
“We do not bite, young lady.” He got back to his feet to take off his robe. It would be a poor blanket, but he wanted to do something useful.
“No,” said the child. “Nurse. Bite.”
He arranged the robe to cover her as best he could. Her knee looked angled the wrong way but moving her seemed unwise. He might make things worse. He so often did. This, however, he was going to get right.
“Nurses don’t bite. Maybe you’ve been having bad dreams.”
The child pushed up the sleeve of her nightgown and thrust her arm at him.
Mr. Robinson squinted. “Those aren’t teeth marks. Now, shots aren’t bites. I realize that they hurt, but giving shots is part of a nurse’s job. She isn’t trying to hurt you.”
This was all getting to be too much for Hannah’s father. He looked for any sign help was coming and hoped Clem wasn’t lost. “Little girl, you should best stand to the side and make room for the medics.” He finally scanned the grounds around him. A garage of some kind wasn’t far. Maybe a storeroom.
He looked up at the Asylum. Maybe someone was looking out a window. It was impossible to tell that close to the building. “Look,” he said to the child. “You wait here. I’m just going to walk a little that way.” He pointed. “Okay? I’m not going to leave you. I just want a better view of the windows and I can wave for help. All right?”
“Window!” She pointed to the roof of the building’s east wing.
“That’s right. I’ll look at all the windows.” His knees popped. Brushing bits of grass from his pajama pants, Mr. Robinson sighed. Why had he agreed to get into that truck with Clem? Money said his daughter was already home asleep in her own bed. Well, he’d take care of this woman and make sure the child was safe, and then he’d go straight home. He’d pretend this whole night never happened.
But first he’d go look up at the windows. Maybe he’d see someone.
To read the 21st Installment, go here.