State Hospital South
Grove City, Idaho
“I really must ask you to reconsider Agent, her mental health is already fragile as it is.” Dr. Harrison regarded Amy and plunged both hands into his lab coat pockets. “You must realize that any information you may glean from her will be suspect.”
Rathdrum and Shanderly trailed behind them, the latter walked hands inside the pockets of his suit coat a smirk touching the corner of his lips and the former seemed as if he were on automatic pilot, heedless of anything but putting one foot in front of another.
Amy kept her face neutral, suppressed a sigh and met his gaze. “I understand your concern, Doctor, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’d interrogated an unreliable witness. If she can provide me with even one lead, it could be of great use to our investigation.”
Harrison’s eyes scanned the agent, lips twisting into a sneer and nodded before releasing a sigh that seemed just a little too forced. “Very well, this way.”
Harrison led them further into the building and Amy scanned her surroundings as they passed. One hallway was more or less indistinguishable from the next. The walls were flat white and they bore no adornments or furnishings. She’d been in more than a few hospitals, and while they tended to be sterile, this one took the cake. It felt and looked more like a prison than a place of healing. They passed dozens of rooms, but if any of the patients within were aware they were moving through the corridor, none called out. It was quiet, Amy thought, lips creasing into a frown, too quiet.
The shadow woman’s warning came screaming back to the forefront of her mind. She had no reason to trust the mysterious apparition, but she would walk into any potentially dangerous situation unprepared.
She moved one hand into her jacket as if to reassure herself her pistol was still there and caught Harrison eying the weapon, his sneer curling into a scowl. Her insistence on bringing it into the hospital had been the first point of contention with the staff and later the good doctor and things had gone downhill from there.
Amy understood his reasoning, the very thought of a gun in the hands of a mental patient was enough to give anyone pause, but she knew of no agent who would have agreed to give up their only means of defense unless they were obligated to do so by law or ordered by a superior officer. She would have been a fool to do so under the circumstances, there were too many unknown factors and at least one potential threat, two if the shadow woman was not on the level, and three if you counted the girl.
The room the doctor led them to was at the far back of the corridor. He flicked the lights on and gestured them inside. Once inside, he regarded them each before promising to return with the girl, a pretentious smile stretched across his wide face and disappeared through the door.
“Pleasant fellow,” Rathdrum remarked, leaning against the wall. “Seems quite convinced of his own moral superiority.”
Van den Broeke didn’t comment. She pressed her lips together and emitted a long sigh. She turned toward Shanderly who had taken up residence on one of the seats in the room’s corner. The deputy was hunched over and his skin was a shade or two paler than usual.
“Shanderly, you all right?” Rathdrum asked beating the other agent to it. “You’re looking a little worse for the wear.”
Shanderly’s eyes shot up and he met the other man’s gaze. “Uh, don’t think my lunch quite agreed with me. I’ll be fine, just let me sit for a while.”
The agents exchanged looks but didn’t press him for details. She couldn’t say why Shanderly’s sudden sickness did not sit well with her. Her hands shook and she peered down at them before slipping one into her blazer. She did not have nerves of steel, but she wasn’t the type to get herself so worked up. Something felt wrong about this whole ordeal and she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.
Van den Broeke took the time to surveil her surroundings. The room possessed the same sterile white undecorated walls as the rest of the hospital. The only furnishings were the row of seats where Shanderly had seated himself, a long steel table and matching chair were bolted to the ground and a pair of padded seats sat on the opposite side.
Amy turned, catching movement out of the corner of her eyes, an inky black substance slinked through the air in the doorway and a form jerked into view. The shadow woman stood before her. Amy strained her eyes trying to get a better look at her face, but, other than a vague outline, all she made out was her eyes.
“They’re coming now. Be ready,” the woman said, peering over her shoulder at Shanderly before turning back to meet Amy’s gaze. “And don’t trust anyone they–”
The visitor stopped, glanced back into the corridor, before dissolving into the air like a wisp of smoke. Amy sucked her breath in, eyeballing first Rathdrum then Shanderly, neither seemed the slightest bit aware that anything strange had happened and she wasn’t sure she should illuminate them. Yes, the stranger had warned her of danger, but she doubted the deputy would open to the idea of portents of doom from an apparition only she could see.
“Rathdrum,” she said slipping a hand over her holster and released the thumb break. “Be prepared.”
Rathdrum stiffened, snaking a hand up to strain his tie and turned to meet her gaze. It seemed almost as if someone had flicked a switch. The facade he so carefully laid out evaporated, laying bare the man who lurked just below the surface. Here stood a person who knew what to do in a fight, someone who did what was necessary and didn’t pull any punches. He didn’t enjoy that side of himself, which is why he kept it locked away, but he was always ready to let it out, like a lion unleashed from its cage. All pretense of good humor had faded away from his face and all his rough-edged features seemed all that harsher.
When Harrison returned, he stopped dead in his tracks, peering through the doorway like a deer ready to bolt. He eyed Rathdrum and Van den Broeke, no doubt picking up on their shift in demeanor and shook his head as he stepped inside.
A slender figure bound in restraints that was so tiny, Amelia mistook her for a child, came next, and was trailed into the room by two orderlies adorned in all white coveralls. The taller of the pair, a woman with broad shoulders and a stern frown moved to secure the door behind them, while the second an aging skeleton of a man with a shock of scraggly brown hair guided the girl toward the steel chair and began to fasten her in place.
The girl did not make eye contact with anyone, staring down at the floor instead. Amy might have supposed that it was the behavior of a beaten and dejected soul if not for the fire that burned within those golden cat’s eyes. She had the look of a caged lioness, one who had accepted she’d been imprisoned, but who was biding her time until she had the opportunity to escape.
A loud clang sounded from the door and Amy’s hands shook, and she slipped one of them inside her blazer. The lights flickered and the room went dark.