While a marathon of Vikings played in the background and the Genesis Lyceum concert from 1980 played in my earbuds, I got to writing. Going is getting better, but still: there’s a lot on my mind, and I was reminded last night that I gotta get to work on something this weekend, because promises to keep, and all that BS about sleep–which, actually, was strange as hell last night, because I woke up at one point feeling as if I’d had the most relaxing sleep in the world, and when I checked the time I discovered I’d been out for about seventy-five minutes. Which means it sucks to be me.
Another nine hundred words right on the nose, a little further into the mess that is becoming the lives of my kids. Of course we haven’t seen either of them yet, but it’s coming. First we have to hear about where my ladies are gonna meet up. And Erywin’s got a good place in mind–
All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015, 2016 by Cassidy Frazee)
“The best place to meet is the third floor.” Erywin glanced towards the ceiling. “The only people allowed up there are those you approve, and there’s video access. It’d be the best place to discuss things without fearing interruption. We can also eat lunch as well, since there’s plenty of room.”
Coraline thought the suggestion was perfect. At one time the third floor of the hospital was used as an isolation ward for the diseased and the mentally unstable, but today it was a large open space that could be configured for any purpose, and when Coraline needed to do something requiring absolute privacy she’d head there. The only people in the school with full access to the area were the hospital staff as well as Isis and her respective staff, and Coraline was the only one authorized to allow other access to the floor. “That’s as good a place as any to begin getting everything together.”
The seer seemed ready to start the inquiry now. “Perhaps we should speak—”
“Not now, Deanna.” Coraline expect that one of both of the counselors would suggest questioning Kerry, but she couldn’t allow that. “Kerry’s not in any shape for the three of us to start grilling him. As soon as you’re both out of here I’m going to ask him a few questions to see what he remembers, and then I’m putting him down for the evening.”
“I understand.” It wouldn’t do any good to press Coraline on this: they were in her hospital, and here her word was final.
“All right, then.” Coraline quickly glanced out into the ward. “We’ll met about eleven-fifteen, and I’ll ask for lunch to be delivered about noon; be sure to email the kitchen and tell them what you want. Sound okay?” Without any objection from the other women Coraline opened the office door. “Then I’ll see you after morning classes.”
“See you then.” Erywin was nearly out the office door when she realized she was alone. “Deanna, you coming?”
“I’ll be along shortly.” She motioned towards Coraline. “I have something I wanted to follow up.”
Erywin wasn’t about to ask for she knew she’d not get an answer. “Then I’ll see you tomorrow. Night, ladies.”
Once Erywin was out of the hospital Deanna waved the office door shut, which did nothing to set Coraline’s mind at ease. “What’s on your mind?”
Hard to believe this place had to care for the diseased and mentally unstable, but things weren’t always as pretty in the late 1700s and early 1800s as they are today. We’ve already heard a bit of gossip about one of the school’s founders losing her mind and going off to die a slow death, and it’s not much of a stretch imagining that more than a few people have cracked from stress around this joint. Around Salem it’s not the possibility of murder that worries the instructors and staff, but suicide, ’cause here you don’t need to OD on pills or go in the shower and slash your wrist, not when you can encase your body in Cold Fire or bleed yourself out or simply stop your heart with a thought. Around this school, the expression “Suicide Squad” has nothing to do with a group of DC characters . . .
But that’s not what Coraline and Company are worried about, not yet. And they don’t need the third floor for keeping mental patients quiet and away from everyone else. So what does Deanna have on her mind? Well–
“Do you believe Annie’s story?”
“About hearing Kerry’s screams?” The doctor shrugged. “It’s what she said.”
“But really—” Deanna looked over Coraline’s head as she spoke. “She heard Kerry screaming in his room—”
“While she was asleep in her room—”
“From across the tower—”
“I know, Deanna.” Coraline closed her eyes as she released an exasperated sign. “I know those rooms are designed to be as sound proof as possible—”
“You also have the restrooms in the B Level sections—”
“I know what the towers are like, okay?” Coraline forced a grin on to her face. “I was a B Level in Åsgårdsreia Tower, just like you, so I’m familiar with the layout. And, yes, I agree it’s somewhat difficult to believe that Annie could have heard Kerry screaming in the middle of the night when you can’t hear someone carrying on a conversation outside your door.” She threw up her arms and shrugged. “What would you like me to do?”
For Deanna the answer was simple. “While you’re speaking with Kerry—”
Coraline cast open her office door, aware that while the privacy curtain for Bay #1 was sealed, there wasn’t any way her words would be heard. “Do you really want to question Annie? Right now?” She pointed towards the bay. “You go in there and tell that upset little sorceress that her story sounds like bullshit, and it won’t matter how friendly you two are, she’s gonna go off on you—and it won’t be pretty.” She crossed her arms as she leaned against the door jam. “But if you’d like to try—”
Yeah, Deanna: go down to the bay and tell Annie her story sounds like bullshit. What’s the worse she could do to a person?
If Kerry ever tells Annie about Liz Sherman, look out. That’s a whole new hell that can get unleashed on the school.
If you want to see why Deanna is having a little difficulty believing Annie’s story, I gotta pull out another bit of history from almost five years ago. I’ve mentioned before that each of the coven towers were designed by me some time ago for a role playing game, which means I’ve got layouts of them somewhere, yeah? Of course I do. Below is one of those early designs:
You have to forgive the whole “Stairs to Fifth/Sixth Floor” thing, because I had things numbered differently back then. Also, the current coven has smaller rooms–for two to four people, mostly–and the boys and girls sides are switched: in my novels the girls are on the left and the boys on the right. Annie’s room would be near the door below “Boy’s Dorm Side” and Kerry’s room would pretty much be on the opposite side of the tower, and with the bathrooms between them it’s easy to see why Deanna is skeptical of Annie’s story.
It’s a good thing that Coraline’s there to put the brakes on Deanna’s plans, for the alternative might be the need to get another seer and coven leader. Or maybe Deanna saw something in Coraline’s words? Ha ha, I know. Either way . . .
Deanna shook her head. “No, you’re right. Now would not be the time to question her.” She squeezed her way into the doorway and faced the larger woman. She leaned in, putting only centimeters between them so she could speak in a low voice. “There has to be another reason why she heard Kerry, for what she says isn’t possible.”
“And I agree with you.” Coraline spoke in the same hushed tones. “But we can look for that answer later. Right now—” She glanced into the ward before taking a step out into the open space to her right. “I need to see to Kerry.”
“Then you better see to him.” Deanna slid out of the doorway and took a couple of short steps back towards the entrance. “I’ll see you at lunch.”
Coraline put on a slight smile. “Good night, Deanna.”
“Good night.” She turned and headed out of the hospital and into the shadowy corridor beyond.
It wasn’t that Coraline didn’t think Deanna’s argument didn’t have merit, but she’d seen Annie when she check in on the two, and she knew the young Bulgarian would not be open to having anyone question her story right now. I’ve enough to deal with tonight— She went straight to the bay and unlocked the privacy curtain. We’ll leaving Annie’s grilling for when she’s in a better mood.
She gently parted the curtain and slipped inside the bay.
Now we’re getting into the gritty, ’cause you know Coraline will have a few things to ask and say, and it’s all coming together–
And from some unlikely sources, too.