“I’m with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI,” Bailey said, holding up a badge and handing over a business card.
The woman eyed his badge, taking the card for closer inspection.
“What can I do for you, Mr. Bailey?”
“That’s Agent Bailey,” he corrected her.
He glanced around the reception area. It seemed clean and tidy enough, with several potted plants and plenty of sunlight, not quite what he had expected. A US flag and a picture of President Harding hung on a wall next to several diplomas displaying the credentials of various staff members.
“I want to see a patient of yours. Her name is Jane Marley,” he said.
“You’ll need a warrant to speak with our patients. You can’t just walk in here,” she replied in a terse manner.
Bailey produced a paper from the pocket of his gray jacket, making sure the woman caught a glimpse of his revolver.
“I have just the thing, Mrs?”
“Doctor Freidman,” she answered, taking the paper with a snap.
She looked it over thoroughly.
“You won’t get anything out of her,” she said, walking away.
They passed through a corridor that ended at a wrought iron gate, painted long ago in a dull institutional green hue. The chipped paint left areas of rusty, corroded metal exposed.
Doctor Freidman unlocked the gate, holding it open for him as they entered.
She slammed it shut behind them and locked it again, her keys jangling. They continued down another dimly lit corridor, painted in that same sickening green.
There was a second gate; this one manned by a bulbous fat man dressed in a dingy, once-white uniform.
“Doctor Freidman,” he addressed her in a local Southern drawl.
“Benny, this gentleman is from the FBI. He wants to speak with Jane Marley,” she said.
Benny chortled, shaking his bloated head.
“Darn waste of time, that,” he said, unlocking the gate.
Doctor Freidman took her leave without any further pleasantries. Benny beckoned for Bailey to follow him along yet another corridor. He carried a long, thick stick and tapped the wall periodically as they proceeded.
The paint was peeling in entire sections now, the walls incrementally growing more dirty and damp. Smells of feces and vomit fought against the odor of bleach that lingered in the air.
Bailey had never been in a state psychiatric hospital, but the scene before him was closer to what he’d expected, perhaps even a bit worse.
Some of the inmates peered out of rooms, while others lay on beds, shaking, crying, scratching, mumbling, and raving.
They were dressed in thin cotton gowns, threadbare and frayed with age and filthy. Some of the patients wore slippers or socks, but most were barefoot.
Benny pushed an approaching inmate away from him with the point of his stick. Her hands shook as she recoiled, her expression a mask of terror.
A frail old man grabbed at Bailey’s hat. It was an appalling sight; the man was emaciated, almost no flesh at all hanging from his curved skeleton. Benny shook his stick aggressively, and he backed off hissing.
They passed through another locked gate. The corridors were empty now, each room fortified by thick, windowless doors.
“Marley is down here,” Benny said, “She can get violent.”
He opened a locked cupboard and pulled out a long broom handle. A hypodermic needle was attached to the end, loaded with liquid.
“Looks kinda crude, huh?” he said, “We invented it especially for Marley. When she flips, she really flips. Spends most of her time in a padded cell.”
Bailey felt the urge to pound Benny’s face in, disgusted by the man’s detached cruelty toward those under his care. He resisted. Perhaps working within these walls could damage a man, eventually rendering him as insane as the patients.
Benny unlocked the door, and Bailey peered inside.
The young woman he saw before him was gaunt and sunken, her matted hair black and curly. Her big eyes were deeply set, with dark circles underneath. Bailey instantly felt a wave of pity for the girl.
She was wearing a filthy straightjacket, untied to allow the movement of her arms, but ready for quick restraint.
The walls were covered with drawings, intricate renderings of distorted monsters, humanlike but deformed and twisted. Bailey had seen these creatures before, in real life.
Jane looked up at him. She was holding a piece of charcoal in her hand. A metal bowl lay by her feet, maggots wriggling on top of the rotten food left inside.
“We let her have charcoal. She draws this sick shit, but it’s the only thing keeps her calm, bar the drugs.” Benny said, snorting.
Jane eyed Benny with hatred, and moved her shoulders in a feline manner, leaning forward like a hunting cat. Benny held the injection rig out in front of him, a posture of defense.
“Reckon she’s for the lobotomy soon. Docs’re getting’ bored with her,” Benny added, grinning.
“Leave us,” Bailey demanded.
“No way, she fucks you up and it’s my job,” he protested.
Bailey looked him in the eye, and parted his jacket, revealing his revolver. Benny’s eyes darted between Bailey’s piercing stare and the gun.
“Either I’m in here alone with her, or you are.”
Benny was easily intimidated.
“Your funeral,” he said, backing out and closing the door.
Bailey entered the filthy cell, eyeing the images.
“They’re called Wraiths,” he said.
Jane seemed to relax a little, her face puzzled.
“Where did you first see them?” Bailey continued.
She toyed with the charcoal in her black fingertips.
“Went to places with my daddy. Used to travel with him, to drop things off,” she said.
Her voice was timid.
“They were there in the shadows. I could feel them,” she said, “They wanted to hurt me.”
“New York?” he asked.
“And Chicago, and Boston,” she said.
Bailey sat on his haunches in front of her and looked into her eyes. He could see her fear.
“I have seen them in New York. I was captured by them, but I escaped,” he said.
“They hate us,” she said.
“Yes, they do. And if they find out you are here, they will kill you – but you know this already.”
“I want to take you out of here, somewhere safe, where they won’t find you,” he said.
She shuffled back against the wall.
“I don’t think you can. I’ve tried every way possible to escape.”
He pulled out his revolver and cocked it.
“Ever tried this?”
Her face stretched into a broad smile.
“Why don’t we go get some fresh air, and you can tell me about the Wraiths,” he offered.
“On one condition – you let me say goodbye to Benny myself.”
Her eyes were filled with rage as she mentioned his name.
“He pokes me with that stick, and when the drugs make it hard to move, he fucks me,” she said, her plainness striking a chilling note that startled Bailey.
He stood up and banged on the door.
Benny opened it a crack and peered in.
Bailey pulled him inside, disarming him with a single fluid movement. Benny lost his balance and fell onto the filthy floor, his stick clattering at Jane’s feet. Bailey tipped his hat to Jane and left, closing the door behind him.
He stood with his back to the wall, listening to the mayhem that ensued.
Jane emerged a moment later with a sheepish grin, her straight jacked covered in fresh blood, Benny’s stick in her hands.
She handed Bailey a set of keys.
“I knew you would come. I dreamed of you,” she said, “I didn’t think you would take so long. I don’t like it here.”
Bailey didn’t reply, quietly leading her down the hall with his gun ready.
He had dreamed of her too. He had been searching for someone like Jane for ten years, close to giving up on many occasions. A random encounter with a guy in a bar had led him here. The old drunk had babbled on about some local girl who went insane, drawing monsters. The part that had intrigued him most, though, was that it had taken twenty grown men to corner and subdue her.
He’d traced her to this asylum, and now, all he had to do was get her out. She would be able to find more like her. For several hundred years, The Rising had existed without Seers, like an army without guns. His heart quickened.
Soon this will change.
They walked fast, passing the disoriented inmates.
Instinctually, Jane ducked into a cell, taking no notice of its walls, which were smeared with dried shit. Bailey followed her.
The footsteps approaching were hard and heavy. Three cops accompanied Doctor Freidman down the corridor.
Bailey hadn’t expected his forged documents to stand up for long. They had bought him the time he needed though, and that was all that mattered.
Jane leapt from the cell before Bailey had the chance to react. She brought the stick down on the first cop’s neck, snapping it like a dry twig. She caught his falling gun mid-air and pumped shots into the other two, sending them reeling.
Screams of distress sounded as pandemonium broke out amongst the patients. Doctor Freidman was speechless, terrified by the overwhelming sight before her. She cowered against a wall, her authority instantly eroded.
This girl is definitely the real thing.
He had found a Seer, the first one in hundreds of years. He had read the accounts of Ivanka, Mei and Armel, and knew of their violence, speed, and precision.
What had he expected?
Doctor Freidman trembled as Jane approached her. The tiny girl removed a knife from a dead deputy’s belt.
“How about a lobotomy?” she asked, her voice hissing.
Bailey pumped two bullets into the doctor’s skull. She was dead any way he cut it; Jane may have had a score to settle, but he had a job to do.
Jane wore an innocent look of disappointment, like a child who had been told she couldn’t eat the last slice of cake.
“We need to leave before the Wraiths come,” he said, “And this incident will bring them fast.”
Mention of the Wraiths was enough to refocus her attention.
Jane took his hand in hers, and they set off together like a father and daughter out for a walk in the park. She smiled at him as they passed the last gate together, crossing over into freedom, and a new hope for The Rising.