The asylum was filled with shouts and cries, both eerie and plaintive. Nurses in starched white uniforms moved apace at the direction of doctors in long white laboratory coats. Odors mingled: the antiseptic tang of alcohol, perspiration, urine, and fear. “If I had to stay here any length of time, I would go mad,” I told Roland. He placed a steadying hand on my arm.
“We’re here to see Miss Katherine Jameson,” I announced to the matron at the desk. Behind her were – not to mince words – cages where the inmates sat, stood, slept, screamed, or cried, as they saw fit.
She did not look up. “Are you both kin?”
“I am her sister. This is our friend, Mr. Roland Luminos.”
“Worry not, my dear girl. I shall content myself by sitting in this rather austere waiting area and perusing the latest news of the atrocity that has the townspeople so agitated.”
After signing some paperwork, the matron led me through a set of solid doors with sturdy locks, down a corridor, and into a small cell. The walls were heavily padded, and nothing sharp was inside the room, not even on the furniture, which consisted of a stained mattress on which lay a single bedsheet. On the mattress sat Kathy, staring blankly at the far wall, her hair a wild tangle.
At the sound of the door lock tumbling open, Kathy turned around. Her face contained no trace of makeup, and its pallor gave her the appearance of a ghost. For a moment it appeared she did not recognize me, or could not decide whether I was human or apparition, then a broad smile formed and she threw her arms around me.
“Rhianon! Bless me, you came!”
“Of course I came, silly. As did Roland, though he was not allowed to see you, and is waiting outside the secure area. Now, in the name of the Guvnah, tell me what is going on? Are you ill?”
Her grin widened. “Not any longer! Please, please, Rhianon, get me out of here.”
I looked at the matron, who shook her head. “Only Doctor Steinwald can authorize release of a patient involuntarily committed. Her chart says he wants two more days of observation, at the very least.” Kathy blanched.
“May I stay here, and keep my sister company?”
“Until visitors’ hours are over, at eight p.m. That’s a little more than two hours from now. I have to lock you in here. If she becomes violent –”
“I’ll give her a good crack on the head, just as I did when we were younger.”
Matron did not look amused. “If she becomes violent, call for one of the guards.” She left, locking the door behind her.
I looked directly at Kathy and crossed my arms. “Now, do tell how you managed to find yourself in this situation.”
“It’s like this…”