“Are you sure this is okay, ma’am?” Max asks as he is led down the sterile hallway. He sees other patients resting in their rooms or the common areas, all of them wearing the same white gown. “I know you treat sensitive cases here, so I fully understand if you want me to come back another time. Honestly, I’m not exactly thrilled that my boss is pushing this. Give him a day and he’ll probably change his mind.”
“That may be true, but he was very adamant about the situation,” the nurse replies with a calming smile. Stopping at a locked room, she fumbles with her keys while someone on the other side taps at the frosted glass. “Kate comes and goes, so she might be better and home by the end of the day. It’s been like this for about ten years. Nobody ever comes to visit, so maybe you will cheer her up.”
“That would be the highlight of my week,” the detective mutters while they wait for the tapping to stop. The noise shifts to a banging rhythm that Max recognizes as a popular lullaby from nearly forty years ago. “Not sure if you’ve lived in the area for a while, but do you know anything about her daughter? She’s a person of interest and we’re trying to find information about her past to help with a case.”
The nurse turns a little pale, her hand gripping the key instead of turning it. “Lived in Riverhead all my life and I went to school with Dawn. She was quiet and didn’t have many friends. I’d like to say she was normal, but people didn’t really go near her. We always saw her talking to herself and the world felt creepy when she was around. Beyond that, I couldn’t tell you anything about her.”
“Thanks. Figured it was worth asking.”
“If it helps, Kate has been very calm and talkative this morning.”
“Hope she stays that way.”
The woman inside hurries to her bed as the door opens, her eyes wide when Max walks into the room. Kate Addison’s brown hair is a tangled mess that rolls down to her waist and is has crayons stuck in many of the knots. Her white gown has been colored with child-like pictures, most of which are people and birds. She does her best to smile, but the corners of her lips repeatedly threaten to turn it into a frown. In contrast to her disheveled clothes and hair, Kate’s nails are beautifully done in red and orange. She puts her back against the wall and folds her legs, her hands gently tapping rhythmically on her knees.
Max takes note of the bandages around her wrists while he claims the only chair in the room. He gulps down a lump in his throat as the nurse leaves the door open and moves far enough away that she can only hear loud voices. Pulling out his phone, the detective prepares to record their conversation, but is surprised to see that it is out of power. Max realizes that it is for the best since Kate is staring at the device like it is a gun aimed at her head. He puts it away and rubs his eyes while clearing his mind in the hopes of remembering everything that the woman tells him.
“I am detective Max Boros and I’m investigating a case where your daughter is a prime suspect,” he explains, watching Kate’s face for reactions. A spark of fear is in her dilated eyes, but it is quickly replaced by anger. “We are looking into her past for signs of a pattern or an explanation for what is going on. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to, but we could really use some help getting insight. Your daughter is very guarded, so I’m sorry to say that you might be our only source of information. Sorry for the rambling, but I’m trying to figure out the best approach for this. I don’t want to upset you, ma’am.”
“It also sounds like you don’t want to be here, Mr. Boros,” the woman says with a sudden smirk. Drawing a green crayon from her hair, she lazily reaches out to draw on the wall. “I haven’t heard from my daughter since she moved out of the house. Not unless you count unsigned Mother’s Day cards. Can you tell me what she’s suspected of?”
The detective scratches his chin as he considers sharing that information, but senses that she already knows the answer. “Several murders and disappearances that took place in her hotel. We don’t know if she did them herself, hired somebody, or if this mysterious husband is behind the whole thing. Right now, she’s our top suspect because whenever we catch a killer, the incidents keep coming.”
With a chuckle, Kate gets off the bed and goes to the desk, which she climbs on top of to see through a high window. She can see a river surrounded by reeds and picks out the spot that she once took her daughter to feed some ducks. The birds can be seen outside as rain begins to trickle down, leaving trails along the glass. For a terrifying moment, the woman swears she sees Dawn standing on the water, but the vision disappears after a few blinks. Returning to the bed, she lies down with her feet on the pillow and her eyes locked on the ceiling.
“I never wanted the child. We were too young and he was just starting to move up in his career,” Kate explains as she scratches at her bandages. She ignores the sense of being watched, which is a feeling that has persisted for years even with proper medication. “Thought we used all the protection we could, but it still happened. Tried to abort her, but Dawn remained strong. I even lied and paid money to get two more attempts with the same result. Drank heavily, started smoking, and did whatever I could outside of having my optimistic husband beat me. He kept talking about making it work and he got his way when the baby arrived. Even when she was a few hours old, I knew she was wrong. Something in her cries made my stomach twist.”
“I’m not sure this information is relevant,” Max blurts out, unnerved by the rising venom in the woman’s voice. His mouth goes dry when she glares at him and he reaches up to push his glasses back up. “My apologies. All I mean is that I don’t see how this would influence your daughter due to her age at the time. We did learn that you raised her instead of putting her up for adoption.”
“My husband stopped me and look where that got him. Dawn and her imaginary friend collapsed a house because he sent her to bed without dessert,” the woman says, turning to stare wide-eyed at the detective. Taking two crayons out of her tresses, she makes matching spirals that eventually become a tangled mess. “That’s when I knew I was trapped with her until she decided to leave. Had to do homeschooling after a kid she claimed was bullying her in first grade went missing. She told me Corvus did it to prove a point. That’s her imaginary husband who comes and goes depending on her mood. Anyway, I knew it could get me in trouble if she was allowed in public. Dawn eventually wore me down by the age of thirteen and I was on some powerful meds that made me forget what kind of creature I brought into this world. Two if you count Corvus, but I usually don’t bother with that ghost.”
“So is your daughter the devil or something?”
“I wish. The devil would be a blessing compared to Dawn.”
“Think I’ve heard all I need to hear.”
“If you don’t believe me then go to our old home. A lot of stuff is still there because nobody dares to go inside.”
“Thanks. I hope you get better and can leave here soon.”
Kate breaks into maniacal laughter, which draws the nurses into the room with syringes to calm her down. Max hurries into the hallway as the woman snatches one of the needles and jams it into her own neck. Her eyes flutter from the medication, but she does not fall. Moving faster than anyone expected, Kate wrestles away two more of the syringes and plunges them into her temples. Twitching and gurgling, she collapses onto the bed where the workers fight to keep her alive.