I dragged my sleep-deprived body across the dimly lit halls, shuffling my feet as I went. I barely had the energy to walk; I was so exhausted. James' horrifying theories had kept me up half the night, my mind packed with endless assumptions and explanations.
What James had pointed out to me made sense. Harry did seem a step ahead and always seemed to know what was underlying the situation at hand. He was smart, as was he powerful. Even though he was locked up in his cell most of the day, he knew things. He had found the basement almost too quickly during that storm. And if he really did murder even more women than I had once thought, what better way to draw suspicion away from yourself than acting like the one who had merely stumbled across the bodies?
Plus, he seemed like the type who's mind could master manipulation. He could've somehow blackmailed or influenced a guard to give him the key. He may even be working with Thomas. Just the way he spoke and talked in that condescending tone like he had something on you made him seem villainous. He is a murderer, after all. It's not like he hasn't skinned women before.
All of these things James had explained to me on the way to drop me off from our date, and each sentence he spoke made sense. The more he talked, the more I began to think that the murderer wasn't an employee at all.
But as much as I wanted to believe that we had already found our killer, it just didn't sit well. Something was off. And not in James' theories, but in Harry. Something about the whole situation just didn't click. My intuition argued with my conscience, one part of me believing it was Harry and one part of me knowing that somehow it wasn't.
So now my mind was everywhere and nowhere, trying to piece together all of these events. I needed answers. Answers about Cynthia, answers as to why Kelsey was acting so strange, and answers on whether or not Harry was the killer. And what better person to ask than Harry himself?
I knew this was probably stupid, because he might target me next if he knew I was onto him. But somehow I wasn't afraid. And I didn't even care anymore. I just wanted to know what was going on for once. So I entered the cafeteria as my eyes searched the room, trying to find a tall boy with luscious lips.
But I found nothing, just the haggard, zombie-looking bodies of the other patients. He must be late again. I took a seat at the table which had unofficially become ours, lying my head on my folded arms and letting my eyes flutter closed. I would just rest until he arrived. To put my mind at bay I thought of last night and James' concerned expression as he explained his ideas after paying for our dinner. When we walked outside I had been relieved to see no stalker on our tail, the person following us had probably left. I also thought about the hug James and I shared after he dropped me off, remembering how he smelled like cinnamon. With these calming thoughts It only took about a minute for me to doze off into a state of dreams and drowsiness. I was half-asleep when my head snapped up as I heard someone approach.
"Cynthia," Harry's raspy voice spoke, coaxing me out of my sleepy state. "Cynthia Porter." His dark eyebrows were etched together in thought as he scooted a chair up beside me.
"Yeah?" I asked, rubbing my eyes. "What about her?"
I blinked a few times in attempts to wake myself up, looking over at Harry expectantly. And as my eyes scanned his figure, I could swear he got more attractive with every second. The longer you look at him the more his entirety engulfs you, seducing you into his dark world and making you never want to leave. Strong muscles were present under his skin, still smooth and tanned even though it hadn't seen the sun in months. His hair was a pile of disarrayed curls pushed back on his head away from his striking eyes and lush lips.
"What does she look like again?" he asked.
I yawned. "Dark blonde hair, around thirty, brown eyes I think. Why?"
Harry looked at me seriously, seeming deep in thought. "I think I remember her."
That woke me up.
"Really?" I asked, fully alert now.
He nodded. "Yeah, she's really skinny, right? She always has those bags under her eyes?"
"Yes!" I exclaimed. "That's her! Thank God, I thought I was going insane."
Harry chuckled at my excitement, deep dimples indenting in his cheeks. "You kind of look like her, you know," he teased. "Damn, did you get any sleep last night?"
"No," I complained, shaking my head. "I couldn't sleep . . ."
Harry's eyes widened in shock, looking at me with a surprised expression. "James kept you up pretty late then, didn't he?" He asked suggestively.
"No!" I protested, turning my head to conceal the redness creeping up on my cheeks. "Nothing like that happened."
"That's a lie," Harry continued, his voice huskier than usual. "I bet he fucked you, didn't he?"
I just stared at the wall, refusing to give him the satisfactory of seeing me blush at his words yet again. He was much bolder than I was used to, leaving me shocked by his crude vocabulary. And if that wasn't enough to take me by surprise, I jumped when I felt him much closer that I was expecting, his soft lips just barely brushing my ear.
"I can't say I'm not jealous," he whispered, hot breath sending shivers throughout me. I felt my whole body ignite as if it had just gone up in flames. Harry was so sexy, his presence alone alluring anyone around him. But this was almost too much to handle, and I didn't know how to react. I should shove him away and slap him for his incorrect assumptions, but for some reason I didn't. He made me so confused. He was sarcastic, cocky, and provocative one minute, and then confessing his greatest fears and saving my life the next. It seemed as if the darker side of him was just some kind of front, like a mask to conceal himself from this harsh institute. Or at least that's what I hoped, because I liked the second Harry much better.
He still hadn't changed his position, every breath he exhaled making the skin on my neck tingle and I could smell the faint scent of cigarettes on his breath. He was making me feel uncomfortable and yet too comfortable all at once. I waited for him to do something, anything so that I wouldn't have to. But he stayed put.
"Aren't you gonna move?" I asked of his proximity.
"Aren't you?" he replied, still darkly whispering, and I could almost hear his lips turn up into a smirk. Right. I should move.
"About Cynthia," I said to change subject quickly, abruptly scooting away from him. He chuckled darkly but was still looking at me with hungry eyes, and it reminded me of the first time we sat here together. When he had dragged a hand up my thy and I was trembling with fear. I wasn't afraid anymore, though.
Wow, that seemed like months ago, when it had really only been a few weeks. I had grown much fonder of Harry than the loathing and hatred I felt then. But how can I even hate him after he saved my life? I mean just look at his deep dimples and beautiful eyes . . .
"I'm listening . . ." Harry said in attempts to continue the conversation.
"Right," I said, realizing that I had been too busy staring at him to finish my sentence. Come on, Rose, keep your shit together.
"So you remember her?"
"Yeah," he said. "I was thinking about it last night and her face just popped into my mind. I think I remember hearing her talk in those "group sessions" we have every week which are stupid as hell. We already go to a therapist, this isn't fucking alcoholics anonymous. I don't get the point of sitting in circles and sharing our little sob stories."
"Yeah, I don't care about any of that," I replied bluntly. "I'm just glad somebody remembers her, at least I'm not going insane."
"Yeah, but how come nobody else remembers her? Why is it just us?" Harry asked.
"I don't know," I answered. "That's the part I don't get. Why would Mrs. Hellman lie? Why would Kelsey lie?"
"Maybe Mrs. Hellman knows who Cynthia is and is making Kelsey stay quiet," he suggested.
"Yeah, but why?"
Harry and I both sat there for a moment, trying to figure out a reasonable explanation. His eyebrows came together as he stared out into nowhere, deep in thought as if he sincerely wanted to help. Just a minute ago he was basically saying he wanted to have sex with me, and now here we were trying to solve a mystery.
"What if . . ." Harry began, seeming to still be collecting his thoughts. "What if she was like a test."
"A test?" I echoed.
"Yeah, yeah, a test."
The confusion must've been evident on my face as Harry continued. "Just listen. When I was down in the basement and found those bodies, I saw some other stuff. I saw all of these diagrams and drawings of the human brain and dozens of bloody hospital beds. It was weird. So I'm saying what if they run tests on patients, look at their brains and shit. And when tests go wrong or something maybe they get rid of the bodies and don't want anyone asking questions so Mrs. Hellman is making everybody act like they never existed. I know it's a long shot but that's the only explanation I can think of."
It took me a minute to process his theory, and their was something familiar about it. Suddenly I remembered what I had found during my "exploring" a few weeks ago. I remembered seeing a woman's name and the words "test #309 patient 20" scribbled in messy handwriting on a sheet of paper in that room filled with files. His theory made sense. That would explain the whole Cynthia issue and why I had seen those drawings.
"Harry, I think you might be right," I told him in fear and in shock. "What if they're doing surgeries and trying to alter people's brains or something?"
"Wow, that's genius. I wish I would've thought of it," Harry said sarcastically. "But I'm not positive, it's just an idea. Plus, it's not like we could do anything about it. We don't even know for sure if that's what's going on," he said.
My mind was reeling, even more cluttered than before. "Well I'm an employee, so I can just listen for anything suspicious and investigate out here. But you, on the other hand, are on the inside. You probably know more than I do. Get anything you can on the subject and ask around about Cynthia and the surgeries. That is if you want to, I mean."
"Of course," he told me. "I want to know what happened to her as much as you do, it's fucking weird that we're the only two people who can remember her."
I nodded, glad that we were on the same page. He would be a big help.
"Do you think these surgeries could have anything to do with the killer?" I asked.
"No," he said, shaking his head. "That wouldn't make sense, they wouldn't have to skin people once their done with them. But let's not get to far ahead of ourselves, we don't know any of this for sure."
I nodded. Harry was so smart, especially for somebody who was supposed to be insane. He's in here for skinning three women and possibly murdered even more, but yet he wants to help me figure out what happened and also saved my life. If he could really kill women like the judge and jury said he did, why didn't he just let me die that night?
"But speaking of the killer," Harry continued before I could finish my thoughts. "I wanted to talk to you about something."
"Okay," I said, urging him to continue.
He looked at me seriously, jade eyes growing darker as they looked into mine. "I want you to stay away from James."
His request took me by surprise as I spoke my thoughts. "Why?"
"I think he's the murderer."
Are you kidding me? Now both of them think that the other is the murderer? I swear my brain was going to literally explode.
"Why would you think that?" I asked, feeling defensive of James.
"I just don't get a good vibe from him. He's too innocent and I'm not buying it."
I shook my head, bewildered. James' theory at least made sense. He had reasoning as to why Harry might have been to blame. But Harry's whole "I don't get a good vibe from him" explanation wasn't exactly convincing.
"Harry, James and I walk home from work together almost everyday. We even went to dinner last night. If he really was the murderer, why not make me his next victim and use one of the dozens of opportunities he's had to kill me? If he was the killer I would be dead already."
"Don't fucking say things like that," Harry commanded, his voice hoarse. "Look, I know it doesn't make sense but it just doesn't feel right. Not at all, Rose. You have to stay away from him."
"I don't have to do anything, Harry. Sure I'll be more cautious around James but unless you can give me some real reasons as to why he would do something like that, I'll remain friends with him for as long as I want."
Harry stayed quiet, looking down at the table. It was then that I realized he never seemed to eat during lunch. But I couldn't blame him, the food here was awful. His jaw was clenched and I could tell he wanted to try and convince me that James had killed those women, but he didn't have any further evidence. Even though James didn't seem to be the type to commit murder, Harry was usually right about a lot of things. I could at least be more cautious, though I highly doubted that anything bad would happen around him. Like I had said, if he were going to kill me he would have done it already.
"Let's not talk about this right now," I said to break the silence. "Why don't we play Clue again or something," I suggested, even though it seemed stupid to be playing board games right now.
Harry released a long sigh before his electric eyes met mine again, taking my breath away. "Alright, but just promise me two things."
"Okay, what are they?" I asked.
"The first thing is to be careful. I don't want anything bad to happen to you, okay? You're the only person I can talk to here, and somehow I seem to open up to you more than I do any of these therapists. If I don't have you to talk to, I'll go even crazier than I already am. I need you Rose."
My heart pounded in my chest as he spoke, his last sentence taking me by utter surprise. The first day I met him I thought he had only talked to me because he was playing some kind of game. Like I was some kind of toy he used to provoke a reaction from. But after he had saved me from Norman two weeks ago I realized he might have actually enjoyed his time with me. And now I understand that I was even more than a girl he could play cards with. I was the only person who would talk to him, and I mean really talk to him, and treat him like an actual human being. If I left he wouldn't have any friends to share his thoughts with, just therapists who were trying to figure out his mental state. Were we even friends? I know he was a mental patient and I was a nurses assistant, but this definitely wasn't just a patient-to-employee type of relationship. Maybe he really did need me.
I remembered reading somewhere that psychopaths were excellent at mimicking human emotion, and that could very well be what Harry was doing. But his words seemed sincere and I believed that the last sentence he spoke was nothing but the truth.
"Okay," I promised. "I will."
"Good," he nodded. "And second, I need you to promise me a favor."
This can't be good. "If I beat you at Clue," he began, and I couldn't help but laugh. I was expecting something slightly more . . . intense. My laughter seized a grin from Harry, the mood changing dramatically in a matter of seconds.
"If I beat you, you have to bring me something."
"What?" I asked.
A playful smile formed on his lips. "A chocolate bar. I haven't had anything to eat lately besides the shit food here made of who knows what; chocolate is seriously all I've been thinking about."
"Alright, fine. I could get into huge trouble for doing that but you're gonna lose anyway so I guess it doesn't matter."
"You're on," Harry challenged.
He won. Each move he made was perfectly planned out and took him ten minutes to finally execute with the utmost care. He really had his heart set on this candy. And it paid off, because I had finally been beaten. Once Harry had successfully guessed the murderer, the weapon, and the room, he screamed, "YESSSS!" and even stood up from his chair as if sitting didn't do a good enough job of showing his excitement, his fists clenched above his head in victory. The smile on his face was so wide that I couldn't help but smile as well. His deep dimples and and white teeth were stunning, and I was in awe.
"You owe me a chocolate bar," he grinned after he had calmed down from his win.
"I guess I do," I smiled, and I was actually glad that my record had been shattered, because seeing him this happy seemed to be a reward in itself. I don't know what it was about that dimpled smile, but I wanted to see it as many times as I could, murderer or not.
But both of our smiles disappeared, though, as James approached the table, seeming displeased that I was here laughing with Harry after what he had told me last night. "Hi," I greeted.
Harry looked up at the guard and he immediately stiffened. I looked at both of them, the tension so evident it could be felt from a mile away. Both of them had accused the other of being a murderer, despising each other to the utmost extreme. At least it seemed like it by the way they eyed each other now. Either one of them was the killer, or neither of them were. It could be someone we are completely overlooking on another floor of the building. It could be any employee at Wickendale.
But somehow I knew that wasn't the case. Something told me that the killer was right in this room. It made more sense for that person to be Harry, but James' spotless innocence was a little suspicious. The worst part, though, wasn't not knowing which person it was. The worst part was how involved I was with the both of them. And I realized with an extraordinary horror that whichever handsome man was the murderer, I would no doubt be his next victim.
"Harry," James spoke, and I was surprised to hear him talking to the patient rather than me.
Harry didn't reply, but just looked at him with an angered intensity.
"Your guard Brian went home sick, so I'm the one that has to take you back to your cell."
"Now?" Harry asked.
Oh shit. Lunch wasn't over for another half hour, I had to stay here. There's no way I could follow them or take Harry back to his cell myself. And the thought of the two of them alone in the empty hallways sent shivers down my spine. I hope they don't end up killing each other.
"Bye Rose," Harry said before shoving away from the table and standing up, almost half a head taller than James. The guard didn't seem afraid, though, probably with the comfort of knowing that he had a gun and taser in his holster.
I watched as the two made their way out of the cafeteria, exiting through the doors until they were out of my sight.
James and I walked down the vacant hallway towards my cell, and it took every ounce of my being not to punch his stupid boyish face. It wasn't a very long walk, but it sure fucking felt like it. I swear every minute seemed like a year, and the tension-filled silence was screaming, the absence of sound almost deafening. But I'd rather have silence than hear what James said to break it.
"Harry, I wanted to talk to you about something."
I didn't reply, hoping he would just shut up. But he continued. "I don't know you. I've hardly spoken to you before, but I can tell you're up to something. And whatever it is, I don't want Rose to be a part of it. I care about her and I want you to stay away from her."
I literally stopped where I was, my fists immediately clenching with anger.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" I asked. "You're so fake, James. With your nighttime walks and romantic dinners. You think you have everyone fooled. You think you've got her fooled. But I'm not buying you're shit for a second. And you're not just fake, you're fucking stupid. What would make you think I'm the one that killed those women? How would I even manage to do that when I'm locked up in my cell half the time?"
I was hoping to catch James off guard by my accusation, but apparently I was unsuccessful.
"Don't even try that," he said. "I know you killed those women. You've done it before. I mean that is what you're in here for, isn't it?"
I didn't have an answer and didn't need one, because James kept taking. "I'm gonna make sure you don't do the same to Rose. You're sick. You're disgusting scum and I hope you burn in hell for what you did to those women."
At that I exploded. Anger coursed through my veins as my jaw clenched tight, and fury took over before I could even think about what I was doing. I grabbed James' collar with both hands and shoved him up against the wall with as much force as I could manage as his head collided with the brick wall. His feet were barely touching the ground and I could feel the physical tax on my arms as I held him there, my biceps burning. But I didn't care. I had him pinned and I wasn't about to let him down so that he could just whip out his taser. I looked him dead in the eye, wanting to see his scared expression. He wasn't so tough now, was he?
"Don't ever talk to me like that again," I said through clenched teeth, my voice so low and deep I could feel it vibrating in my chest. "Or I'll fucking kill you."
A most likely horrific smile spread across my face as I saw the fear in his eyes, holding my harsh gaze on him for just a bit longer. I could walk away right now, I thought, and he wouldn't be able to stop me. But something held me back from running away. Something told me not to leave.
So I didn't. Instead I dropped him and turned around, walking into my cell while he was left dumbfounded behind me. As I took a seat on my creaking bed I saw him standing across the hall, still unmoving.
"I think you're supposed to lock me up now, sir. Thank you for your service."
He finally became unfrozen as I spoke, quickly coming over to lock the cell door without looking me in the eye or saying a word. I heard the door click shut, James' keys rattling as he put them back in his pocket.
I gave him the middle finger as he walked back down the long hallway and then disappeared from sight.