Thursday, 28 October 2010

Chapter Six

Stokes was looking particularly unnerved when they stepped out of USL’s main entrance.  It had finally started to rain, a light spatter of diamond-like droplets on the pavement.  Jamie sighed and pulled the hood over her head.  Her body still ached.
     As they walked briskly down the street, Stokes said, “Listen, partner, I don’t want to scare you, but there was someone watching me while you were talking to your dad.  This guy in a suit standing at the end of the corridor.  He had the most piercing eyes I’ve ever seen, just watching me.  Then he walked away, like he wanted me to know.  I didn’t see where he went.  I really don’t think he worked at the university.  I think he’s connected to all this, which means somebody knows every move we’re making.”
     Jamie stared at him as they walked.  She knew he wasn’t making it up, even though it sounded paranoid and creepy.  Stokes had never been too fond of authority, and he’d always been amused or intriuged by conspiracy theories and stuff like that.  Even the idea of UFO’s and aliens wasn’t too far-fetched for his hungry imagination.  But he was also the most perceptive boy she had known in her young life.  He wasn’t one to invent crazy stories like this.
     “Sinister guys in suits at the end of hallways.  That’s just great.  Did this man have an ID card clipped to him?”
     Stokes nodded, fear in his expression.  “That doesn’t mean he was supposed to be there, Jamie.  ID’s can be faked.  I could just feel that he didn’t belong there.”
     “I believe you,” Jamie assured him.  “I almost feel like I’m dreaming, you know?  Everything feels surreal.”
     “It’s because we’re afraid.  There’s some kind of presence around us.  This isn’t kids stuff, whatever’s going on.  I think we’re in way over our heads.”
     The rain began to fall a little heavier around them.  They picked up the pace.
     Jamie took her friend’s hand and gripped it.  “I need to know what’s unfolding here,” she told him plainly.  “I’m tired of denying what’s inside me.  So, for now I have to look at all this as a big mystery.  And mysteries demand to be solved.” 
     Jamie could still sense his unease.  She took a deep breath and started telling him what she’d learned about Isobel and Maddeline Finch.  

Asking directions from sullen people in the rain, they eventually found their way to the Ensler psychiatric-unit, hidden within a residential area on Dascus Road, about twenty minutes walk from the university. 
     It was still raining when they got there, and they were soaked.  The building was partially contained by tall iron railings.  It didn’t look particularly gothic or menacing like the asylums in Hollywood movies, despite the rain and grey skies.  Yet the quiet atmosphere of the place was still unsettling to Jamie.  She had left a hospital only a few hours ago, and here she was outside another. 
     The main entrance was a clinical, brightly-lit space.  Jamie shook the rainwater from her hair and asked one of the staff about their visiting procedures.  She gave Maddeline Finch’s name and waited as the clerk checked his flat-screen computer terminal. 
     With a flush of paranoia Jamie thought they might be stopped from visiting the girl, but the clerk nodded as though it were business as usual.  He directed them to a wing that was called the ‘Children’s Care Facility’, on the opposite side of the building. 
     It was strange walking around the outside of this place, wondering at the kinds of people that must be inside.  All the people here were damaged or different in some way.  Jamie wondered if any of them were able to get better.  Perhaps she herself might have ended up in a place like this, under different circumstances.
     The Children’s Care Facility was totally different from what Jamie or Stokes had been expecting.  The reception area was painted in pleasing shades of sky blue and sunrise yellow.  There were small rainbows and cloud designs on the walls.  The place looked sophisticated and innocent at the same time.
     There was a fat, attractive nurse at the desk, watching them both as they surveyed the decor.  The woman looked like a supermodel who had put on far too much weight, but who still couldn’t disguise her natural beauty.  She had quick, playful eyes and Jamie noticed a vague smile on her lips.
     “Not what you were expecting?” the nurse asked them.  Jamie shook her head.  “Well, we have a range of kids here from ten to seventeen years old.  We try to create an environment that fosters a sense of general mental health.”
     They approached the desk and Jamie was about to speak when the nurse added, “I don’t want to alarm you, but are you someone called Janey or Jamie?”
     Jamie froze, her mouth half open to speak.  Stokes shifted nervously on his heels. Jamie could only nod at the fat, beautiful nurse.
     “It’s just that we have a patient here – Maddy Finch.  She was certain that someone called Janey or Jamie was going to show up today.  I don’t know how she could have guessed.”  The vague smile didn’t leave the woman’s lips.
     Jamie glanced fearfully at Stokes and then back at the nurse.  “We wanted to visit her, as soon as possible, if that’s ok?  It’s kind of an emergency.  It concerns her mother…”
     The nurse’s playful expression seemed to evaporate.  “Oh, Maddy already knows about that.  A policeman turned up this morning.  She’s a tough little cookie.  I think she’ll definitely want to see you.”             

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