Sharon’s Note: Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether the trail is hot or cold, and the only way to know for sure is to follow it. Warning: Nearing the end.
Given the situation, it might have been inappropriate to be disappointed in the appearance of the insane asylum.
It wasn’t even like, an actual asylum. It was a specialized hospital. It was just a squat, cement building with highly mirrored windows and a nicely manicured lawn. I wanted to cry out that it was a soul crushing cookie cutter every-office building, but I couldn’t bring myself to care that much. It was too boring. Even the staff were disappointingly normal. A bunch of men and women running around in scrubs trying to get too much stuff done, but for the most part trying to smile.
The receptionist had cheerfully greeted us, and asked if Ruben was there to see Mr. Watts again. This was our first stroke of actual luck, since we didn’t have the name of the guy we were looking for. We ended up in a commons room full of small tables and comfy chairs, waiting for them to bring Watts out to us.
“Well, look, Billy! You have people here to see you.” A woman in baby blue scrubs led a man by the hand like he was a toddler. He was no toddler. If I had to guess, I’d say he was a little over six foot and maybe forty years old. There were a few white hairs in his close shaven dark fuzz, and crows feet around his eyes, but there was a child’s shy smile on his face.
“Hi.” Billy Watts said, barely audible. The nurse was at least six inches shorter than him, but he still tried to hide behind her.
Patting Billy’s hand the nurse said, “I’m glad to see you back, Mr. Cruz. Billy really enjoyed your visit last time. Although, I don’t know what else you hope to get from another interview. The doctor told you that Billy has no memories from before being found in his apartment. There’s been no new insights into his condition.”
“Yeah, but there was a problem with my computer, and I lost all my notes.” Ruben said, smiling sheepishly. I was impressed at the ease with which he lied. “I’m going to have to redo the interview, if that’s ok?”
“As long as Billy doesn’t get upset, it doesn’t bother me.” The nurse shrugged.
Billy didn’t do much talking. According to the nurse, he couldn’t. Three years ago, he’d been found in his apartment after disappearing for four days. He’d been physically healthy, but mentally had somehow been reduced to an infant. He couldn’t walk or talk or do anything else a forty three year old with a P.H.D in psychology should be able to do. With the help of doctors, he had learned to walk again, and could talk some, but it was like a baby learning. They never could find a reason.
It was horrifying. Here was this accomplished, grown man who had disappeared, just like Ruben, just like me, but instead of losing a few days, he’s lost everything. While Ruben and the nurse spoke, he quickly grew bored, and started fidgeting. Thoughtlessly, the nurse pulled a small toy car out of her deep pockets and Billy happily sat on the floor and rolled it around. Occasionally, he crashed the car gently into the table leg while making explosion noises.
There wasn’t much to find out, except that this could have been much, much worse. When we got up to leave, the nurse had Billy wave goodbye, before taking him by the hand again and leading him away. She patted his hand asking, “So, Billy, are you ready for lunch? We’re having chicken nuggets.”
Billy skipped and made a noise not unlike a yip, “Yay!”
I followed Ruben out, my stomach churning. “Well, that was useless.”
“No, we have a direction now. We can go ask his friends and family what he was working on. There has to be something here, because I found something that made them come after me.” We made it to Ruben’s car. Before opening the door he shot me a wide grin. He was enjoying himself.
There was a noise like wood cracking, and something like a wasp sting hit me in the butt. I slapped at it, and hit something small and hard that clattered to the concrete. Ruben shouted, pointing behind me. I turned, nausea and dizziness rising in my gut and mind. Out of sight of the front doors of the hospital was one of the black vans. I had just enough time, as I started to sway and the world began to dim, to see two men in tactical gear, loping towards us across the parking lot.