Annie shakes my arm frantically, startling me awake from a nightmare of blood and nameless terror. I blink away my lingering fear as she peers down at me, her eyes wide.
“We leave tonight,” she whispers. “I got it.” In one hand is an access card from one of the orderlies. In the other is a set of car keys.
“How?” I say, sitting up in bed. Her eyes slide away from mine, and I don’t want to know how she got them. “Is he still alive?” I ask.
I nod and swing my legs over the side of the hospital bed. The room spins, and I clutch the mattress. I’m still a little wobbly from Dr. Goodhart’s meds. It’s only with Annie’s help that I’ve been able to avoid taking the pills over the past few days. She learned sleight of hand from a friend who worked the tourist crowds on River Street, picking pockets or doing magic, whichever paid better. Without her I’d still be comatose from the good doctor’s experimental treatments.
Annie throws me a set of scrubs. There are no real clothes in Saint Dymphna’s, just pajamas for the patients. I guess they figure jeans and T-shirts will make us think that we’re real boys and girls.
I pull the scrubs on over my pajamas. I’ve lost a lot of weight, and my hip bones jut out under the loose-fitting cotton. How long have I been here? Six months? A year? Time loses all meaning inside these walls.
Once I’m dressed, Annie leads the way out of the building. The escape was her plan all along. I think she feels like she’s rescuing me. I guess she is. Without her I’d still be a vegetable.
I trail my hand down the wall, using the connection to steady myself. I’m woozy, and my head feels like it’s filled with helium. There’s still too much of the meds in my system. Otherwise I would’ve started hearing the Furies’ whispers by now.
That’s not good. I’m going to need Their help to kill Dr. Goodhart.
Annie stops suddenly, and I almost run into her. Her eyes are wide with fear, and she has started shaking.
“What’s wrong?” I whisper.
“He’s here.” Her voice is hoarse, and I don’t have to ask who she’s talking about. I lean around her to look down the hall. The door to Dr. Goodhart’s office is open, golden light shining out into the otherwise dark hallway. Annie takes a step back.
“This was a bad idea,” she says. Annie has good reason to be afraid. She’s here only because her father is a close, personal friend of Dr. Goodhart’s. She told me her story one night in a hushed voice, as though whispering about the horrors made them less real. Annie’s dad seemed to think it was her job to help supplement the family income. Her father is a local car dealer, and his daughters are just another asset to be sold and bartered.
But Annie wasn’t so keen on the idea. She’d had enough of being used. The night she found one of her father’s friends in her bedroom, she stabbed him in the thigh with a pair of scissors. The guy almost bled to death. Daddy sent her to Saint Dymphna’s in response.
It has to be painful for her. I know the things Dr. Goodhart has done to me, and I’m here only because there’s no one left to speak for me. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have my family knowingly subject me to such treatment.
I put my hand on Annie’s shoulder, and she jumps. She pushes her too red hair out of her face, which looks bruised. I’m not sure if it’s the lights or actual damage.
“Go get the car. I’m going to take care of him,” I say.
She clutches at my upper arm. “You can’t go in there. It’s too dangerous.”
I pat her hand and disentangle myself from her fingers. “I’ll be fine. Take the access card and get the car running. I’ll meet you outside.”
“But how are you going to get out? The security system requires a badge.”
Hello, dear. We’ve missed you.
The voice in my brain fills me with a terrible kind of excitement, like waiting for an ice-skater to fall. I haven’t heard Them for so long that I was half-afraid They’d left me. I smile, and Annie draws back.
“Oh, I’ll figure out something.”
I move down the hallway without looking back to see if Annie is following my instructions. It takes only a few strides to reach Dr. Goodhart’s office, and the more I move the better I feel. Once there I slip inside on silent feet. My heart pounds with excitement. I’ve dreamed of this moment so many times, it hardly seems real.
The doctor sits at his desk, head bent over paperwork. He can’t be working on anything honest this late at night. Is he falsifying test results, or writing a glowing review about one of his experimental procedures? Either way just the sight of him is enough to fill me with rage. I close the door, locking it behind me. He looks up, his expression of surprise quickly hidden by bland disinterest.
“Hello, Amelie. Is there something I can help you with?”
I take a step forward, willing Them to manifest. I can feel the Furies deep in the back of my mind. They want to appear, but They’re sluggish and slow to respond. There are still a few too many drugs in my system.
We’re trying, dear heart, the hawk woman coos. A rustle of wings in the back of my mind indicates that They are close. But I don’t know if I can keep Dr. Goodhart occupied that long.
“I’m here to hand down your judgment,” I say, although it feels awkward to say the words without the Furies flanking me. I’m Their Third, but I’m used to acting as more of a mouthpiece than a leader.
Dr. Goodhart leans back in his chair, amusement crinkling the corners of his eyes behind his glasses. His blond hair is mussed and his tie loose, giving him a slightly rumpled look. He has the dashing good looks of a soap opera doctor, but it’s all a lie. Underneath his handsome exterior is a soul as black as tar. “Amelie, have you been taking your medicine?”
I hiss in anger just as someone begins pounding on the door behind me. An expression of smug satisfaction appears on Dr. Goodhart’s face, and I realize with a start that I forgot about the panic button under his desk. This isn’t the first time he’s used it on me. The doctor and I go way back.
But it ends tonight.
A sudden pressure on the inside of my skull makes me clutch my head. The room heats, and the Furies break free with a scream, mine and Theirs. It’s like surfacing after being underwater for too long. Essentially female, They are barely human. Tisiphone, whose name rhymes with “epiphany,” stands to my left, her giant hawk wings folded close in the small space. On my right is Megaera, snakes writhing where her hair should be. They are terrifying in Their beauty, and the look of fear on Dr. Goodhart’s face fills me with a manic glee.
I point at him. The silver chains that bind Them to me, invisible up to now, hang low on my arms. “You will pay for what you’ve done to me.”
I take a step forward. Before I can reach him, the door explodes inward behind me. I spin around. Two of the larger orderlies stand silhouetted in the doorway. They draw back when they see the Furies.
“Holy fuck!” One of the orderlies takes a step back out into the hallway. I look between them and Dr. Goodhart. I can’t kill with witnesses around. That’s how I ended up here in the first place.
Tisiphone screams in rage, the sound of a hawk hunting. I turn in time to see Dr. Goodhart lunge for me, syringe in hand. Before he can get me, Tisiphone reaches out with her talons and rakes them down his face. He screams and falls back. Blood wells up in the long gashes, and I have to fight back my nausea. I don’t do so well with blood.
One of the orderlies goes running down the hallway, screaming for a Taser. The other orderly keeps looking from me to his fleeing friend, as though he can’t decide between duty and saving his ass. I make the decision for him. Things are quickly spiraling out of control, and I can see my chances of escape evaporating.
“Window!” I yell, and Megaera is there, knocking out the glass before ripping out the bars and part of the surrounding wall with scaled hands. Concrete dust rains down on me as she throws the window bars over my head at the orderly. He scrambles out of the way just in time to avoid being crushed. With him gone I can focus on my true goal.
Dr. Goodhart is on the floor holding his injured face. Blood seeps between his fingers, but I ignore it. I want to hurt him so much that it’s a physical pain, a slight cramping in my middle.
I settle for picking up the syringe and jamming it into his thigh. He whimpers a little as the meds flood his system. “This isn’t over,” I hiss. People are running toward us, shouts of alarm echoing down the hallway. There’s no more time. I launch myself out the window.
Luckily, we’re on the first floor. I roll as I land on the grass, but it still hurts. The Furies retreat into the back of my mind, but They’ve been denied justice. They gnash Their teeth in frustration, and it’s all I can do not to mimic Them. I’ve waited so long for this moment, and now it’s gone. I want to scream out my disappointment.
I’ll never get this opportunity again.
Patience, Megaera says. We will have our revenge.
I sprint across the lawn, my rage melting away into relief when I see the pickup truck idling with its parking lights on. Annie smiles when I dive into the cab.
“Did you get him?”
I shake my head. “Orderlies.”
She gives me a look but doesn’t say anything, throwing the truck into gear and peeling out of the parking lot. I wonder if her disappointment is as heavy as mine.
There’s a moment of panic when we pass a police car and an ambulance heading toward Saint Dymphna’s, but they don’t stop or turn around, and we whoop in triumph.
“They must not know that you took the truck,” I say.
Annie nods, her lips pursed. We drive along in silence for a while before I put a gentle hand on her arm. Tension rides her shoulders even though we escaped. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. It’s just . . . I have to go home.”
She swallows hard, and looks at me with haunted eyes. “My sister. It’s the reason I had to get out. Tomorrow’s her birthday. She’s going to be fifteen.” She knows firsthand what happens to the girls in her family on their fifteenth birthday.
“Oh,” I say. But in the back of my mind the Furies are screaming in joy. Hurting men like Annie’s dad is Their idea of fun.
She looks at me. “You have to help me.” She swallows hard and turns back to the road. “I looked at your file. Before I started palming your meds. That’s why I had to save you.” A heavy pause. “I know what you did.”
She’s talking about the suspected homicide that landed me in Saint Dymphna’s in the first place. I was cleared of the charges because it’s hard to convict a fourteen-year-old girl of giving a grown man a heart attack. But the charges were enough to kill my poor grandmother, and for Dr. Goodhart to convince the state of Georgia that I needed specialized “care” after it took over guardianship.
“Yes,” I say, even though she has yet to ask the question. The Furies are too hungry for me to say no. And I owe her one, no matter what her reasons for helping me. Without her I’d still be lying comatose on a bunk.
“You’ll help me,” she says, surprise lacing her voice. I guess she didn’t think I’d agree so easily.
“Yes, I’ll help you.” I look out the window, weighing my words. “Do you have somewhere you and your sister can go?”
She nods. “My aunt’s. She’s been trying to get custody of us for a while, but Daddy has too many connections.” She pauses. “What’re you going to do?”
“I’m going to handle it.”
She frowns, and I grin at her. It feels strange to smile after being a near vegetable for so long. “Don’t worry,” I say. “He’ll never see it coming, and you and your sister will be safe.”
She doesn’t say anything, and I look out the window. I’ve been free for less than an hour, and I’m already back to my same old tricks. The Furies are all I have left.
But I’m not afraid anymore. Not this time.
I know They’ll take care of me.