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Chapter 24

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James Robert Hellman was my father. He was twenty-three when my mother gave birth to me, and my mother was twenty.

When I turned sixteen my mother started to act differently. She would say things that weren’t sensible. She would act out aggressively for reasons undeterminable to my father and I. She talked about things that weren’t there and easily forgot recent events. At first it was hard to notice; an odd sentence here, an unexpected shout there. But soon it got much worse and I fled. At 17 I left a note for my father and was gone in search for somewhere else to live.

I returned home at nineteen in the midst of my father’s “project.” He hadn’t found anywhere local for my mother to go that would give her serious help, so he created a place of his own. Wickendale Mental Hospital For the Criminally Insane. His goal was to provide a safe place for the mentally ill to get help. Why he specified it for felons, I was never sure.

Ten years later he died in a terrible accident, and my mother committed suicide shortly after. With my father gone I was left to take the position as Warden. I had loved the power and the authority of my job; the whole institution was in my hands. But with the position came pressure. I felt as if I had to make my father proud. For this reason I kept strict order. I became the eyes and ears of this place. I knew every corner, every patient, every employee. I made sure there were no reporters, no visitors that weren’t family, nothing from the world outside that might effect how I run things.

But in this virtually perfect keeping of Wickendale, some things have managed to slip and a very small few were growing suspicious. Usually the questionable ones were clueless employees that were easy to threaten and scare to keep in line. But Rose was a different story. I had whipped her little boyfriend and made her well aware of possible consequences to any wrong actions. But she still tried to play detective, still saw Harry as a “good person,” still wanted to get James arrested and expose Wickendale for its treachery. And in our previous argument, foreshadowed to me was a devastating future.
With the sudden increase of eager reporter’s and employees’ suspicions I knew that the protective layers set in the institution’s walls were being peeled back one by one. And if Rose went to the police it would all shatter. They would figure out what we were doing here and that would be the last straw; my father’s dream would be crushed and I would be to blame.

The only way to avoid this from happening was to keep her under my watch and away from the cops by putting her in the institution. I was well aware that this would only heighten suspicions and conjure up more questions, but at least it delayed the dreaded day that my son would be imprisoned.

He was all I had left. I had known from the day he was born that something wasn’t right with him, though. He was always up to no good even as a child. His current felonies were awful, he was a serial killer, I knew that. I just never wanted to face it, so instead I ignored the problem. Of course, I didn’t condone his activities, but I wouldn’t be the one to throw him in jail. I had to keep him away from there. Killer or not, a prison or mental asylum was no place for my boy.

That is the precise reason why I would tell everyone that Rose was a mere employee. She had always seemed off, and especially so when she started talking to Harry. The guards saw, too, that the image of a patient and employee together wasn’t right. No sane person could possibly fall in love with a psychotic man that had skinned three women. She was insane, that was the only explanation. Working here only deepened the insanity that lied within her, and she finally reached her breaking point. When I had tried to speak with her in the hall she yelled threats not of exposing Wickendale, but threats of murder. She had even tried to claw at my face, but only managed one scratch. I thought it best to lock her up right away; this was the best place for her, there was no sense in shipping her off somewhere else. If others believed my story, and I don’t see why they wouldn’t, then that girl should be locked up in this institution for a long time.

Welcome to Wickendale, Rose Winters.


My first reaction was not one of sadness, it was not one of fear, it was not one of anger. My fists did not clench and the pounding of my heart wasn’t audible in my current state. At first I felt absolutely nothing.

Maybe the view before me just hadn't clicked yet, or maybe my heart had stopped altogether. But I was too stunned and too shocked to notice. It took me a while to process what I was seeing, like the image was there but hadn't yet connected to a coherent thought.  She couldn't be here, it was a hallucination, it was a dream. A terrible nightmare like the ones  that haunted my restless sleep each night. I would wake up soon and she would still be in that horrid nurses outfit with her hair in a tight bun, siting at the table with a deck of cards or game of Clue like ever other day.

I blinked and turned around, squeezed my eyes shut and then opened them up again; but Rose remained. She stood there with her bottom lip between her teeth, her right hand holding her left arm nervously. With big worried eyes she scanned the room. She was afraid, I could tell. I remembered feeling the same way the first time I arrived here. Finally her scared eyes met mine, and they were wide and anxious as if to be pleading help me.

And then I felt it. The realization hit me right in the gut, like getting the wind knocked out of you except much worse. My throat went dry and my lungs struggled to inhale a breath. My stomach flipped, my fists tightened, my jaw clenched. The room started to spin and an interminable wave of questions flooded my brain. She shouldn’t be here as a patient. She couldn’t be, Rose wasn’t crazy.

And yet she was here. I didn’t know when, I didn’t know why, I didn’t know how, and I didn’t know what to do about it. But I did know that I was scared for her. I didn’t really give a fuck that Rose wouldn’t be able to get me out of here or that I would have to stay in Wickendale for who knows how long. What scared me was the fact that whatever horrors were still hidden in the corners of this building, Rose would experience them, too. She was so much more vulnerable than me, so much smaller and so much more naive. There is no way she would last in this place.

Along with fear I grew angry, too. They have no fucking right to put her in here. She wasn’t a criminal nor was she insane; she was pure, she was innocent. This wasn’t fair to her, this was all my fault. If it weren’t for me she wouldn’t be here. But she was, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I just had to watch while her uniform labeled her “insane” along with everyone else in the room, as she took a seat at the only empty table in the far corner. But the thought of her actually being a patient still wasn’t definite, and the connection still hadn’t been fully made between her and Wickendale. It still felt as if it could be a hallucination, even though I knew it wasn’t. She just looked so out of place, like an angel that had landed in hell. Maybe it was the contrast between her and the rest of the room. Her fair skin and delicate features stood out against the dark, grimy walls behind her. She also was much more clean than everyone else, much more beautiful. And I wasn’t the only one that seemed to notice. A few of the male patients were starting to eye the surprisingly attractive new girl.

God, I swear if anyone here so much as touches her I’ll beat the fucking shit out of them. With every person that scanned her figure I became more and more nervous. She was just sitting there by herself, looking worried and vulnerable. Anyone could approach her at any moment or slip their hand up her thigh like I had shortly after we met. Any one of these people would so easily be able to dominate her.

Fuck, I couldn’t take it anymore; let Ms. Hellman whip me, I didn’t care. I shoved away from the table with a small squeak and walked quickly over to Rose, sliding into the seat right next to her before anyone else could. “Rose, what the fuck happened to you?” I asked before she could even look up. “Why are you in here?”

“Harry,” she almost whispered. “You can’t be seen talking to me, I don’t want you to get hurt again. Ms. Hellman will-”

“I don’t give a fuck what Ms. Hellman does anymore. Just tell me what happened.”

She looked around nervously, like she was afraid of something I couldn’t identify. Her eyes were fixed on a view that was far off. “Rose,” I said softly. “Rose, look at me.” I reached for her hand underneath the table, and once my skin touched hers her eyes finally came back to me. They were that impossible blend between blue and green, neither color more dominate than the other. They were filled with worry, but were more reassured than they had been at first while they were focused on me. “It’ll be okay, I promise. Just tell me what happened.” Despite my anger and fear I tried to stay calm for her, because I knew that she was feeling the same thing I was but only 100 times worse. Freaking out would just add to her stress.

“Lori saw the bruises on my wrist from James and asked about them . . . it was only us two in the room so I told her what he did a few nights ago and I guess Ms. Hellman overheard. She barged in the room and asked me if we could talk in private. So we went out into the hall and I . . . I told her what happened with James and said that I was going to go to the police.”

“Fuck, Rose,” I sighed.

“I know, I know. It was stupid. But I thought she would be a little threatened or at least consider what I was saying, I didn’t know that she was going to throw me into a fucking mental institution because of it!”

I shook my head in disapproval, agreeing with Rose. Not only did Ms. Hellman defend her son for skinning three women, but she went so far as to throw someone in an insane asylum for trying to go to the police about it. “Shit. What are we going to do now?” I asked to mostly myself.

“I don’t know,” Rose said, her voiced laced with what sounded like defeat. “I’m so sorry Harry. I’m such an idiot. I was supposed to get you out of here and now look where I am. There’s no way I can help you anymore and that’s not fair to you because you deserve so much better than this . . .”

I interrupted her when her voice cracked and tears began to pool in her eyes. “It’s okay, not your fault. You couldn’t have possibly known that she would do that.”

Rose nodded, but when she blinked a single tear fell onto her cheek. She always cried during about everything, but I still thought of her as strong in the sense that she endured the emotional situations without a single complaint, pushing through even if she was afraid.

“Come here,” I mumbled, removing my hand from hers only to wrap my arms around her petite body. This time there wasn’t any hesitation as she turned and leaned into me, her face nuzzled into my chest while her arm rested across my torso. I took a look around to see that the guards weren’t paying much attention, and if they were they didn’t seem to care. It probably wasn’t as big a deal that we were together now, considering that we were both patients and it didn’t matter what we did; everyone thought we were crazy anyway.

“Harry?” she asked.


Her voice lowered, just barely above a whisper. “I’m scared.”

That was everything I felt but didn’t want to admit summed up into two words. “Don’t be. I promise that we’ll find a way out. But until then I’ll protect you with my life, Rose. I lost Emily once; I’m not losing you.” I felt her nod against the fabric of my uniform but she didn’t say anything; probably still crying, knowing her.

Eventually we both pulled away, not wanting to catch the guards’ attention, I still held her hand under the table, though. But I noticed that Rose wasn’t wearing handcuffs; usually, in the first week or two, patients always had handcuffs just in case. But Rose didn’t. Probably because Ms. Hellman knew that she was harmless and didn’t want to waste a pair.

There is no way she was getting away with this. Rose and I were getting out of Wickendale one way or another, and we will throw her arse in jail once we do.

The doors of the cafeteria swung open, bringing me back to present as another guard entered the room. Usually I would think nothing of it, but this particular person was different. It wasn’t just a guard; it was James.

And when he stood against the far wall, smirking as he eyed Rose, I realized just how hard protecting her would really be.

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