Chapter 23

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Although faith is often put to the test and weighing in our hearts is pounds of fear, we always wonder. Although there seemed to be a sea of disaster as large as our worry of drowning under love's heavy burden, we always seek help. Each person is plagued with love as it is either our greatest strength or our most devastating weakness. Under it's seductive spell we can thrive or break. When bodies are weary with suffering and lungs are gasping for clean air to replenish lost strength, crushed are their hopes and disintegrated is their power. No matter how hard of face or light of heart, under the skin are emotions of love and weaknesses.

These underlying feelings are what renders spirits crushed and hearts broken. Sometimes even so much so that it changes us. Because even the toughest of criminals and most malicious of villains have a breaking point. By the hands of sanity we can all become psychotic, slipping through wisdom's careless fingers as insanity fills our veins. There is nothing we can do and nowhere we can hide as darkness consumes our former light, now shadowed by fear's linger. This doesn't happen to everyone, or at least not to such an extremity. Only the one's who have seen the darkness of the world which causes their own to be cruel seem to be subjected to this kind of mental instability. But we do all hit rock-bottom at some point, psychotic or not.

And with being locked up at a mental institution came the uncertainty of when this "rock-bottom" would occur. It could be now, with my back still bandaged and the hope of escaping looking more impossible every day. Considering my dull surroundings, the bleakness and fear of the place I was living in could be the deepest of my troubles. Or could it get worse?

Mostly, my time was spent asleep in the dark shadows cast in this dreary cell, but maybe there would eventually be a day when sleep wouldn't come. There may be a time where I would spend the long nights curled up in a ball mumbling as I rocked back and forth, or joining the other patients as I screamed and tried to escape the thick metal bars that kept me contained night after night.

Until that day, though, which would hopefully never come, I kept my mind at ease with the previously mentioned sleep. Dreams could dull pain's reality and fade away the present's walls. They could be extracted from pleasant thoughts like the memory of going to the zoo with my mother and ice cream and laughter and Rose Winters with her long hair hanging in loose waves. But inflicted in your sleepy mind could also be nightmares, like those of being at Wickendale in my bed when I'm old and frail or being beaten to death by guards or being eaten alive by the monsters in the shadows cast along the cement floor.

But at least dreams provided a way to live somewhere else for a while, be someone else. I would stay in my dreams, the happy ones, forever if I could. Even if I knew they weren't real I would rather live in my mind asleep than my mind awake, because my conscious thoughts were even scarier than my darkest nightmares.

Day by day as my boredom grew and my thoughts started to scramble, I feared that eventually my world of dreams and mind of sanity would shatter, and I will have had enough. My lingering rock-bottom and breaking-point will creep up on me and I will morph into a much more deranged version of myself. Usually I was confident and indifferently calm but those qualities were ever-so-slowly being chipped away as my heart pounded at the sight of a whip and I was drenched in worry with the thought of someone I love being taken away from me. I had been struck with the feeling to kill, and if James had been there that day there wasn't a doubt in my mind that I would have done it. These feelings weren't ones of normalcy, feelings to murder. But I couldn't control them and I knew that escaping Wickendale was the only way to stop it.

Hopefully Rose could manage to get me out of here, she was my only hope. And if she couldn't then hopefully she would stay. She was beginning to be the only thing that I cared about, and I needed her more than ever. She could stay here now that James didn't seem to be anywhere in sight, and I could know that she was safe and that she was happy. It was selfish, I know, because she deserved better than Wickendale, but I couldn't help but hope that she wouldn't leave me here on my own.

She was naive and always had to know everything, constantly asking questions and at first it annoyed the hell out of me. I just thought she was hot and I was bored. But then I realized that she was just curious, she was fascinated by everything that she didn't know already. She also listened to what I had to say from the start. Most would ignore me and wouldn't take a second look, but she at least gave me the time of day. She was caring and she was smart, too. She also had a little fire in her, I mean she did escape a serial killer all on her own. That's what drew me to her, I think, was her fire. And in the time I've spent with her I realized that I had forgotten what falling in love feels like, and I've missed the feeling.


The terrifying events that had occurred at James' home just a few days ago hadn't stopped replaying in my mind. The memories had been dulled at times, but I still couldn't diminish the thoughts. I had never been more afraid in my entire life and the paralyzing and shocking fear had permanently burned themselves into my mind. And what was almost as terrifying was the fact that he had been missing since then, his whereabouts unknown.

But just as puzzling was his mother. Ms. Hellman was sadistic and evil but maybe not so much so that she would take part in him skinning those women. She was probably unaware of his horrendous actions and didn't know what he was doing. With her strict order and intolerance she couldn't possibly condone her son murdering three women. But I still didn't want to be the one to tell her, because somehow I didn't think it would go over too well. If she didn't believe me I had a bad feeling accusing her son of murder would be the last straw and I would be fired. So when I finished talking to Kelsey I just went back to Lori's office, which is all I could really do. I had already asked about Cynthia and there wasn't much I could do about arresting James until after work when I went to the police. So for now I had to just do my job.

Upon entering I found Lori sitting in a chair, facing a patient who I think was named Abigail. She was dressed in uniform as her head hung, blonde hair falling in front of her face. Lori was holding a needle in her forearm, pushing some type of medication into her veins. There was a guard standing against the wall, probably the one that brought Abigail here.

"Alright, we're just about done," Lori said as she pulled the needle from the girl's skin. She grabbed a bandage from the counter and placed it over the small insicion. "You can take her back to her cell now." The guard complied and grabbed the patient's arm while I stepped out of their way, walking over to Lori.

"Sorry I'm late," I apologized.

"It's fine, dear."

I smiled and took a seat at the opposite side of her desk, getting to work and pulling out a pile of paperwork that I had recently started to help Lori go through. I took a pen and started to write meaningless information ranging from patients to medicines. I was about three pages in when Lori spoke. "So, how've you been Rose?" She seemed to ask me that every day, but I didn't mind.

"Okay, I guess. I just have a lot going on right now," I said honestly.

She nodded. "Like what?" I knew she was just trying to make conversation, but what she was asking would take way too long to explain.

"It's a long story, trust me."

"Does that long story include what happened to your wrists?" I looked up at her in confusion and surprise. "I saw the bruises there yesterday and was worried about them, but I didn't have much time to ask."

I set down the pen I was writing with and met her soft, wrinkle-lined eyes. By her actions yesterday I knew that she was trustworthy. If I told her what happened I was sure that she wouldn't tell anyone. She might even be able to help me decide what to do about it. Plus, it was probably a good thing to have someone else know of Harry's innocence besides just me,

"Well," I started. "I, um . . . there was a bit of an incident."

Lori nodded for me to continue. "Do you know that guard, James?" I asked.

"Oh, yes. Ms. Hellman's son, right? He's a sweet boy."

I almost laughed at her comment. "Yeah, I thought so too. I went to his house the other night and at first everything was fine. But then he just pinned me against the wall and grabbed my wrists, and that caused the bruises."

Lori gasped, her eyes growing worried. "Really? Why? What happened?"

"This parts a little harder to explain, but he basically confessed to Harry's crimes and said that it was him who skinned the women, and then he tried to make me his next victim. But I ran away before he could actually hurt me." I tried to keep it as short as possible, not wanting to relive the horrifying details. No point in dragging out the story when I could just get it all out at once. It was probably a lot for Lori to take in, though, considering she stayed quiet for so long. Her face was thoughtful as she looked at the desk in front of her. I waited and waited, but it was silent for an eternity before she finally spoke.

"I have worked at Wickendale for a long time, and I know an insane person from a sane one. I always had the intuition that Harry wasn't crazed; somehow knew he wouldn't harm a woman like that."

I nodded, silently thanking God for Lori's wisdom. "I just can't believe James is the one who did it. Rose, you have to go to the police about this."

Lori had barely finished her sentence when the door creaked open and a third person entered the conversation. "Go to the police about what?"

The venom of the hard voice instantly gave me chills, and I knew immediately who it was. I turned and saw Ms. Hellman in the doorway, confirming my suspicions.

"Rose, you have to tell her. This is serious," Lori whispered to me.

"Tell me what?" Ms. Hellman asked. Well, I guess I didn't really have a choice now.

"It's, uh . . . it's about your son."

Ms. Hellman's face grew hard and her eyes narrowed. At that moment I knew that she must know of her sons horrid acts, because instead of confusion on her face there seemed to be anger. "Come with me, Rose, so we can speak in private."

I obliged to her orders and stood, following her out the door. We stayed right near the office, not going too far, but Ms. Hellman made sure nobody was in sight before I spoke.

"Look, I don't know how you're going to take this, but James . . . he isn't who you think he is."

"Hmm," she said, a constant condescending smirk on her lips. "So who is he, then?"

"He's the one who skinned those women. He attacked me two nights ago, Ms. Hellman. He pushed me against the wall and even said I was going to be be his next victim."

Her smirk grew into an amused smile and she actually laughed at me; her patronizing superiority was infuriating. "Is that so?" She asked in a mocking tone.

"Yes!" I exclaimed. "Look at these bruises."

"Are you sure those bruises aren't from Harry when he attacked you?"

"Harry is innocent and you know it!" I almost yelled at her. "And I'm going to the police whether you believe me or not!"

My frustration seemed to only further amuse her. "Rose, you need to calm down. I think you're confused; are you sure you're feeling okay?"


The usual table at which Rose and I sat was once again abandoned, containing myself and a single deck of cards. The only people to be seen were those of the other patients and the guards. Looking around I noticed that most of the guards were chatting amongst each other while the patients talked to themselves or their food. Some have even grouped together while they exchanged meaningless chatter over shitty food. They probably couldn't understand what the other was saying since each individual had a mind if their own, but maybe they just wanted some company.

My eyes had wandered to a small, frail woman in the far left corner when I noticed a change. Her head went from facing down at her tray to looking up at the front doors of the cafeteria. And so did the man at the table beside her, and so did the group at the table beside him. I followed everyone's eyes to find that two guards had come into the room walking side by side through the doors' archway. And there was someone behind them.

It was rare to see this kind of entrance, and there was something strange about it. It could only mean that there was a new patient arriving. Behind the guards' stocky bodies did I catch small glimpses of whoever was trailing behind them. A piece of a pale blue uniform, a head of dark hair, a quick view of the person's small height. But soon the guards parted, joining the rest of their kind protectively lining the walls. That's when I saw the new patient in full; my heart pounded in my chest and my breath grew ragged with anger and worry.

It was Rose.

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