After closing the cell's door behind him, he watched her limp body curled up over the room's sole table. Her drowsiness might've been a side effect from the clozapine or due to all the wasted energy in her latest escape attempt, but Dr. Marcel doubted the latter. Edna wasn't a heavy sleeper.
He'd been told by the guards that she usually woke up at four in the morning, and instead of trying to provoke bystanders with the cacophony of her daytime fantasies, Edna chatted with her imaginary rabbit friend. Dr. Marcel chastised the guards for letting Edna dive into her delusions, but he didn't have to worry about that any longer. Harvey was gone.
Even in her slumber, she seemed afflicted, just like the very moment she cut that enabler's head off with a pair of kid's scissors, becoming the same distraught girl Marcel had taken under his wing ten years ago. It was easy to sympathize with a child who'd just lost a parent, although her accountability for his son's death prevented him from caring for Edna as anything more than a patient.
He couldn't pity someone who caused so much collateral damage, either. Fortunately, she'd stop being said someone as soon as therapy began to work.
The lights turned on, but she hadn't flinched. Marcel took a couple of heavy steps and glanced over her bony back, uncovered by the gown two sizes too big.
"I can tell whenever you're pretending to be asleep," he spoke.
"Do you think I want to talk to you?" asked Edna.
"This isn't pleasant for any of us. We must focus on your treatment, which you willingly agreed on yesterday, remember?"
She was too worn out to backhand him. There was no way that she'd stand a chance with the man who had broken another patient's shins, and yet, she couldn't tell why he was being so uncharacteristically gentle. Edna scoffed, "Harvey might be dead, but that doesn't mean I'll listen to an old bastard."
"You know," the doctor sighed, "I could've disposed of you all the numerous times you crossed a line, left you by the riverside like any lunatic you'd see on the streets, but I have not. Do you know why is that?"
"Because you're pathetic."
"No, dear. I wouldn't let go of anyone who owed me."
Edna merely turned her head and looked up. The doctor wasn't nibbling on his pipe like usual, but the sunken black eyes under bushy grey eyebrows that had unnerved her for years remained unchanged. At that distance, she could catch a rancid sniff of his aftershave that she would've mistaken for her father's. She wanted to throw up.
"I can tell you feel guilty," he said. "It's only natural, but make no mistake. I don't hold any grudges against you. Instead, I always think of the person you can become."
A couple of hours later, she was led outside her cell by Stiesel. Last time she heard of him was after locking him up, so neither of them were eager for a reunion. Once they proceeded to the electroshock therapy room downstairs, the guard caught her by the forearm.
"I need to place sticker leads on you. Take your gown off for a moment," he murmured.
"Tough luck," she withdrew herself.
"You can be as uncooperative as you want, but I'm still your anesthetist." He dismissively nodded at her. "So maybe, just maybe, I'll decide that you'll stay conscious during your seizures if you don't respect me for once."
"You talk too much crap for a daddy's boy."
"Just take the gown off before I call Hulgor to do it."
Edna's smirk slowly washed away. Whenever she was manhandled, Harvey used to pick the right words to make her feel like she hadn't just had her arm twisted behind her back and feet strapped together. He also helped her to fake a seizure, a coma, an injury, or whatever it took to bite back. She was blank now. "Well, Doctor Marcel wouldn't like that."
"After trashing his office?" Stiesel snickered. "He couldn't care less if we starved you. Believe me, not shooting a tranquilizer at you right away is an act of mercy."
The moment she turned back, Stiesel tugged at the ties of her gown, forced her to sit down, and swiftly snatched away her clothing. He had quick hands for a puny man, specially once he slapped the safety straps on her wrists and ankles.
Edna instinctively rattled against them. That seat had never felt more stiff. A sticky plastic trail begining from the headrest latched onto her back, and the sunlight through the window caused a few drops of sweat to dribble on her ribs. Even Stiesel had taken his coat off, but he hadn't bothered to close the blinds. It was almost as if he wanted to expose her malnourished torso to the outside world, or have the highland landscape at her fingertips, with null chances of taking a whiff of anything but the stale stench of the asylum that the personnel tried to mask with bleach.
"Don't move," Stiesel said, pinching her clenched fist with an intravenous line. Edna winced. Whatever it was, she preferred to concentrate on the liquid flowing through her veins instead of whatever he was going to say next.
"What a drama queen," he snickered. "Not even the first shock and you're already curling up your toes."
The door creaked and Stiesel's conceited facade fell. Edna didn't have to look to know who it was, yanking her cuffed hand as a reflex to cover her shame.
"Get me the mouth guard," Dr. Marcel said upon entering. The guard obeyed, silent as a mouse, and the doctor slipped his thick fingers into latex gloves. As he approached Edna, he gave her one stern glare that made her grip onto the armrest, almost causing her intravenous line to pop out.
Marcel sighed, "Why is she undressed?"
Stiesel rubbed at the base of his nose, feeling Edna's wide eyes on him."I... It's some kind of protest against her treatment."
"You... you suck-up!" She tried to jerk herself forwards, but her whole body was shockingly heavy- even speaking was a problem. Marcel abruptly grabbed her chin- she could still feel his disgustingly lukewarm fingers under the latex -and crammed the plastic mouth guard inside her. Edna slouched, knowing that he was looking at her: down to every sickly, fleshy bit; down to her greasy long hair, and her hypertrophic eyes with discolored skin underneath. She thought that he'd force her to make eye contact, but a harsh slap cut through her thoughts.
"Keep this up," Marcel said under his tobacco-stenched breath, "and there'll be worse to come."
Bawling was the last thing she wanted to do in front of him, but she ended up shedding a small tear out of anger, as saliva began to pool in her mouth guard. The portly doctor turned back to operate machinery that Edna vaguely understood, but that didn't end up making it less haunting. Stiesel, who previously stood behind like a grounded kid, was quick to press the sticker leads over her chest, and another set of wires on a temple. From the scattered bits that she remembered of past therapies, Harvey always told her that those were for mind-reading, and even if that was true, the whole staff had already invaded every shred of intimacy that she had left.
The metal on her temples blasted a shock that turned the otherwise hopeful landscape into one bright, painful blob of light. She wanted to look away, but she'd only find disfigured objects in every direction. As an otherworldly smell constricted her lungs, the effort of her eyes shooting at the back of her skull stung her like a wasp, turning everything black.
Once she could breathe again, Edna couldn't tell if her eyes were still closed or not. The drool dripping down her chin and air being forcefully pumped into her nose made her feel like an old rabid dog at the vet. She wanted to speak, to convince herself that she was still alive, but her tongue lay uselessly at the bottom of her salivating mouth. A shock pierced her brain for the second time, and this time, she was too tired to fight against passing out.
In the blink of an eye, an unbearable thirst would wake her back up. Edna managed to pry her eyelids open and scan the room: there was no one around.
No one and nothing around. She felt her weight supported by the padded floor, clutching the gown that had come back to her body by miracle. An ebbing headache forced her to look away from the light, which wasn't as nearly as warm as the sunlight from before. She tremulously sat down and looked up at an outstanding glass reflection amidst all the white cushions. Her memory wasn't great, but she was sure that she'd been at the other side of the glass before. She didn't belong there.
Whatever there was beyond, a silhouette had moved. Edna stared dumbfounded at it, until a faint click resonated inside her cell.
"You're already awake?" a masculine voice asked.
"Can I get some water?" she responded.
"You just had an IV an hour ago, so in terms of hydration, you're fine."
"I don't feel fine."
"That's only natural. I heard your last treatment was a little more intense than the previous ones."
Edna couldn't recall any previous treatment. In fact, she couldn't remember anything before being immobilized. There was just a green landscape of mountains that she longed for, which was the most vivid picture left from that awful experience.
"I shouldn't be here," she said. "I think, whatever it was, I'm already cured."
"Nice try, but no. You still got a way to go. Fortunately for you, the doctor's busy, so you'll be able to rest for a day or two."
"Rest?" Edna exasperatedly rubbed her eyes. "I feel like I've slept for an eternity. Couldn't I just stretch my legs at least?"
"You're new to solitary confinement, aren't you Edna?" The man behind the glass let out a gruffy laugh. "If you show some improvement, then we'll see."
Another click ended the conversation and Edna pulled her knees to her chest. There was someone missing.
"Get her to solitary confinement. Doctor's orders."
"No signs of Frank, then?" Hulgor asked, glancing at the unconscious girl on a litter.
"No, and please don't bump her head into the doorframe on your way out," said Stiesel, now disposing of a catheter into a bin. The first thing he did after therapy was dressing Edna back up, all because he felt that slap she got was a little uncalled for, no matter how exasperated everyone was with her.
"Doctor Marcel probably gave up," Stiesel added. "You know, he finally cracked a ten year old case, so who's going to waste time on a guy that's most likely dead?"
"And a public danger, too. Doc can be charged for that."
"I guess, but is the press still even nagging to him about it?"
"He's gone downtown to meet with the asylum's court representative, what do you think?"
"So... the cleaning lady still has time to put his office back together."
Hulgor said nothing, lifting Edna's feeble body over his sturdy shoulder, and leaving Stiesel with a knot in his throat.
It was only because of collective incompetence that he managed to keep his job, his liberty, and the belief that, while not irreproachable, not everything fell on him.
He had not appreciated the distance from babysitting a schizophrenic girl and cleaning up human waste, to being questioned for the disappearance of two individuals and the death of two men. He was aware of the risks involved in his job after multiple escape attempts and the impassivity of his doyen boss before even the most distressing cases. The same quality that served to keep Doctor Marcel's sanity in the face of the stentorian accusations of the police and the press, which arrived once Edna and Moti were located and transferred back to the asylum.
Regardless, Stiesel remembered the way the doctor's brow wrinkled in thought and how he repeatedly cleared the cold autumn wind from his throat, not unlike his senior patients.
"No rescinded leave... Yes, we're in contact with the force control room... The two of them are apprehended now..." was all he could hear.
The faces at the second floor of the asylum reminded the guard of Goya's paintings, shifting from window to window every time something caught their eye. He had the good fortune or misfortune to be sent back inside and wait for his turn for interrogation. Not having been a crucial part of the escape served him well enough to receive some leniency from the cops, but admitting how he had been stupidly outwitted by a nineteen year old cost him all their respect.
After that, everyone had an expected overnight turn. Stiesel didn't know what'd come next.
During late hours, he'd heard a conversation from the doctor's office. Without any of the higher ups bothering to keep a stooge like him updated, he could only rely on speculation, and the awful gut feeling he had after Doctor Marcel got physical with Edna for the first time in the five years he'd been working there. New methods will be incorporated, Hulgor had mentioned, but that was all he knew.
After washing his hands, Stiesel went back to his previous guarding spot. Edna's old cell was empty, so he could only hope for somebody to take her place instead of having to look over the loonies at the entertainment room. It would be fine had they not taken his height as their new source of amusement, no matter how much he tried to remain unbothered. Something as minor as that was enough to question himself if this was truly the right profession, despite how noble it sounded to his father before passing away, unsuspecting of his son's far-from-philanthropist intentions. It was best to maintain that illusion.
If the loonies got too unbearable, Stiesel could always go back to his true passion and take a swing on top of a bright green hill to boost his confidence once every weekend. Those weirdos could only dream about it.
There was a moment when the silhouette behind the glass turned off the light and never answered Edna again. She assumed that night had fallen, but her biological clock was inaccurate, as she usually stayed up late. This time was no exception. Her memory, still fuzzy, was blooming again; the mountains of a few hours ago reminded her of a key moment. They had driven past a cliff full of larches, as she remained squatting on a brown leather seat, squeezed between two men older than her. She remembered the clean windshield and the silhouette of the man driving: languid, greenish and tall, as well as the sturdy figure of the old co-driver. Between her hands, Edna clutched something soft, with a nostalgic smell of old stuffed animal that made her want to plunge her nose into it.
Amidst the darkness, she entwined her fingers tightly. After the crash, Edna never saw the men who sat next to her again, but the sudden memory of the driver— The Keymaster, the one who ended up presumed dead —evoked in her, with horror, the image of a church pastor hanging from a rope, with stiff legs, a limp neck, and a face much like that of Mattis.
Edna stifled a sob. The same pastor, minutes before he was hanged, promised to tell her the truth. He could've been somebody to guide her through her delusions and assure her that she wasn't completely lost. Unlike the Doctor thought, her disconnection with the world wasn't part of an escapist fantasy; either way, she was trapped inside the asylum or a distorted memory from home.
In between whimpers, Edna wiped her nose and inhaled sharply, the same old stuffed animal smell filling her lungs. She lay back on the floor cushions, not separating her intertwined hands. She couldn't tell what exactly it was that she was missing: she knew that her father gave it to her, that no one else but her was allowed to touch her, but what else? Had she really loved that doll so much?
The Doctor had done it: there was no longer the slightest hope of returning to her old house, where she would take in the patients who had helped her escape. She had intended to clean up, make them breakfast, and then plan what would become of their lives. The other men had a chance to taste real life, instead of spending their entire childhood locked up in an insane asylum, so Edna would've been in good hands. They would have cared for her at the absence of her dad, but Dr. Marcel always reminded her, again and again, that she was no longer a child, even though ten years passed in vain and everyone seemed to grow up but her.
She squeezed out, with swollen eyelids and a grimace of pain, a few last tears before trying to sleep.
After the first two weeks, Edna showed no improvement. Doctor Marcel only grew older in the face of the young woman's outbursts, which consisted of tearing walls with improvised tools or running to the nearest window to escape every time she was allowed to go to the bathroom. On one occasion, she took advantage of the new guard's feebleness to strike him, but it was only a matter of Hulgor prowling towards her, swinging his thick polar-bear arms, for Edna to surrender in terror.
She also refused to speak to anyone. At the miraculous moment she decided to do so, it was only at inanimate objects. And only then would Edna smile again, as if an old friend was visiting.
These episodes frustrated the doctor. The last thing he needed was a new Harvey and a non-verbal Edna.
To Stiesel's surprise, he again became the one to drop off Edna's food. "Nothing has worked," the asylum therapist commented to him during a lunch break, puffing on a cigarette at the doorway. "That's why they changed antipsychotics. Although I'm not a psychiatrist, it seems very sudden to me, but anyway... the doctor knows what he's doing."
At the offer of a cigarette, Stiesel declined.
"Since she's so nervous," the therapist continued, "I advise you not to say anything. You're the one she's least suspicious of, and that's only by default, so just give her the bread and water. She won't notice the difference."
Stiesel rarely went into solitary confinement. Doctor Marcel was the one who evaluated the native patients, while the nurses on duty provided the medications and food. He hated to admit it, but he didn't have enough character to deal with the more unpredictable patients. Fortunately, he had known Edna since she was a child.
Yes, the same girl he humiliated a couple of weeks ago out of spite, something the therapist and everyone else ignored.
With water in a plastic cup and two slices of whole wheat bread on a tray, Stiesel slid the door slot to let it into the padded room. To his right was a microphone on a desk, and a two-inch-thick window separating him from Edna. He sat down in front of it and took a look: the girl was crouching in a corner with her gaze lost to the ceiling, as pale as ever and no less lucid than usual. Stiesel pressed the button on the microphone.
"Aren't you going to eat?" he asked without waiting for an answer. "If you're still mad at me, I apologize, but you really have to eat. You're thinner than usual."
To his surprise, Edna turned toward him. The vigor in the young woman's eyes returned with purpose to glare at Stiesel, licking her white lips before answering:
"And why don't you stop watching me, you pervert?"
"Edna," faltered the guard, "Edna, that was never my intention. Never in a million years I'd ever see you in that way. You're like..." he searched for the right word. Not sister, they weren't that close. "You're like a... A niece to me."
Edna sat up. "A what?"
"A..." Stiesel sighed, "A niece-in-law. I mean, the Doctor is practically your legal guardian, and I work here, so-"
"You sound like a fool."
"Look, I know we've never gotten along, but you have to admit that I've always looked out for you, haven't I?"
"I don't know,"—Edna eyed the glass of water— "it's hard to tell when I get my memory wiped at every turn. All I remember is your stupid obsession with mini golf."
It's a family legacy, ungrateful brat, Stiesel thought, but he really needed to get her to take her diluted meds in that glass. Besides, he couldn't be mad at being the first to successfully exercise communication with her: the doctor would be proud! "Sure, but there are times when you forget that again. And believe me, it's always a pleasure to talk it over."
"I can imagine."
"I also remember five years ago, when I first came to work," he began, as Edna's expression softened, "you asked me to teach you a two-plane swing. It was a mistake I never made again."
Edna frowned, looking at a fixed point in the room. "I'm not sure if I remember."
"It was a hazing. The whole... the whole staff laughed at me," Stiesel sighed, before adding, "I'll tell you all about it if you finish what I left you."
The guard's fingers drummed on the desk as Edna turned to look at the tray, before crawling over to it and taking a few sips from the glass of water. Stiesel could breathe easy; an embarrassing story was a fair sacrifice. If he was lucky, Edna would forget it by the next shock therapy, but for the moment, she had to content herself with the anecdote of how she broke a window with a putter and he had to be hospitalized for a broken rib.
The girl drank, ate and smiled, while Stiesel tried not to mention any blue hares.
"Apparently so," Doctor Marcel muttered, scrutinizing the papers on his desk. He snorted, closing the files with a heavy slap, and leaned back against the wide back of his custom-made seat. The therapist, tall before him, waited patiently for his verdict.
"Frankly, I'm surprised at Moti's progress," the doctor continued. "I'm going to summon his family this Friday. If all remains well, I may discharge him." With a gesture toward the door, he added, "You may go. I'll take care of the rest."
The woman nodded. Just as the doctor stood up to open a neighboring drawer, she again peeked through the door. "Von Stiesel is asking for you, doctor."
"Tell him to be quick," he replied without looking up. His sturdy index and middle finger walked through folders of different initials until he selected the one he wanted. He held out his arm and narrowed his dark eyes, reading the small letters he wrote with his expensive fountain pen. Yes, this was it.
When he turned around, Stiesel was already waiting for him inside, as rickety as usual.
"Good afternoon, doctor. It is my pleasure to inform you of today's progress regarding Edna," he said, and, though tense, he smiled. "She and I had a chat."
The doctor arched his eyebrows and looked at the guard in disbelief. "About what?"
"Well, she, at first, insulted me, but gradually I got us to talk about anecdotes from the past. Regardless of her negative or positive reaction, I believe that..."
"You don't believe anything," interrupted the doctor, tossing the folder on his desk. "What do you think I've been doing for the last ten years, Stiesel?"
The guard hesitated, "Your job, doctor. Of course."
"And what does my job consist of?"
"Curing your patients," Stiesel mused. At this point, it wasn't worth trying to be blunt.
"It consists of eradicating defects," the doctor proffered. "In Edna's case, hers are tied to her troubling history. Now, if you have witnessed all my attempts to erase her memory, why did you think it was a good idea to externalize that which I specifically tried to suppress?"
There was a prolonged silence. Then:
"We are at a key point, Stiesel. I do not detract from your achievement, but if the instructions were only to deliver medication, you obey. The next time you intervene in any other way, you're fired."
"Yes, doctor," the guard languidly replied. Before leaving, Marcel stopped him.
"One last favor," he paused, drawing a finger to his chin. "Tell the medical staff to prepare for a possible case of neuroleptic malignant syndrome."
"If you touch me, I swear I'll kill myself!"
"I'm the one who will kill you!"
And with a squeeze to the wrist that'd mark a red ring around it, Horatio Marcel threw Edna against the wooden beams of the floor, only being cushioned by a blue hare stuffed animal. In the kid's eyes was a suicidal fearlessness; Horatio had no doubt, at any moment, that Edna was capable of causing him another displeasure out of sheer spite. One insolence after another had culminated in tragedy with Alfred's death, the impact of which on the father had not lessened one bit.
Lock him up.
With her stuffed animal in hand, Edna bolted for the door, locking it behind her. Horatio tried to force the doorknob, then his furious voice erupted:
"You damned brat! Open up at once!"
And after another oath, Edna stood transfixed between her room and the stair railing as she clawed at her stuffed animal's bulging eyes.
Don't freak out. He's out of it, but we've got it under control.
She listened as Horatio pounded on the door like a wild baboon, away from that stoic but polite doctor who had never laid a finger on her, much less in the presence of her father. Mattis used to be a mediator between the two, defending Edna while she stood behind him, looking at the tall doctor with cold resentment.
She'd never have thought that such kindness would be his undoing. Edna would've preferred to rot in prison rather than have her dad act like a selfless idiot and take the blame for the murder. The heat of the moment gave no room for a proper explanation: while the investigation was taking place at the Konrad home, father and daughter were residing in a motel where the days passed in stony silence. Mattis had confessed and Dr. Marcel did nothing to stop him. Edna only remembered how she slept hugging her father's chest as he sobbed, one last night before he was locked up, and subsequently, executed.
It was all the doctor's fault, remember?
"That's right, rot!" screamed Edna at the top of her lungs before the doorway, but that courage froze as soon as she heard footsteps coming from the staircase.
Get out of there before we get caught!
But it was too late. Without a word, Horatio's chauffeur galloped toward the girl and snatched her up to the second floor, heading for the back of a van parked in front of the Konrad house, where Edna would end locked up in the blink of an eye.
It had to be the doctor's flunkey! But don't worry, this isn't over yet. As soon as they open the door for us, we'll run out.
"Where to?" whispered Edna, sticking her breath against the chubby stuffed animal.
The cemetery sounds like a good idea.
Edna remained thoughtful. A few minutes later, waiting in the dark cube with no seats, she felt the van start up.
The dining room was empty except for a guard in a white coat. Judging by the faint blue of the sky, it was still noon. Time in the asylum was passing in vain. No matter how gaudy the red of the chairs were or how impotent the long windows looked, every corner of the place was miserable. The scent of drugstore and vinegar harassed Edna's nose. She did nothing but rock on a chair with one leg uneven from the others.
And you're going to let us get caught so easily?
Edna had sat the stuffed animal next to her, who lay discarded on the backrest.
"No, I have a plan. I'm going to kill Dr. Marcel," she mused with the determination of a nine-year-old killer.
You think you can do it again?
"Yes, and I'm going to burn him alive."
She couldn't swallow her own words, but the resentment won against her sadness. Once inside this horrible situation, the best thing to do was to fight back like a madman, if that's how they treated her.
The guard opened one of the glass doors with flyers attached to them, followed by a raspy voice complaining about it. Edna heard sturdy footsteps approaching, before averting her gaze to one of the windows as Horatio dragged a chair in front of her and took a seat with a heavy sigh.
He took his time in speaking, for it was also not easy to look at the girl directly in such a way as to not interfere with his psychiatrist's professionalism.
"I don't want any more of your little scenes, Konrad," — he drummed his fingers on the table— "but it wasn't right for me to treat you like that either. Forgive me."
The apology had come out so dryly that Edna merely frowned.
"You and I are going through a terrible process," he continued, "and I would like to use every resource at my disposal to improve your situation. From now on, and due to the absence of any contactable family members, I will be taking care of you."
"Well, I'll kill myself," Edna retorted against the sleeve of her sweater.
The words that were about to come out were replaced by tears that threatened to escape her eyes. Horatio remained serious, without any sign of commotion.
"If you don't cooperate, you're just giving me more reasons to be harder on you - is that what you want?"
Edna sank her face fully into her hands. "I don't want to go live with you."
"You won't," he replied. "The results of your evaluation show that you need professional intervention, and it's my duty to make sure you comply with your treatment before I allow you to live like any other civilian. For the time being, you will stay here, you will listen to the adults, you will take your medication, and you will behave yourself. Understood?"
Don't cry, you coward, Edna repeated to herself, but she couldn't help peeking her intense face of despair from behind her fingers. Horatio looked at her briefly as if bored, before standing up and pushing the chair back into place.
"Show her to her room and have her change," Horatio murmured to the guard, who was more tactful as he leaned down next to Edna and laid a sympathetic hand on her shoulder.