A Cave, A House, A Pursuer
A one hour drive away from Edna and the Key Master’s location was Ben, making himself comfortable in his home. The young man returned from a shift at the local asylum barely half an hour ago. He hated his job and the way the patients were treated by most employees and their employer. How could people act so inhuman towards the inmates just because they had a few screws loose? This did not mean they were unable to feel or think anything and Ben was sure, the patients did not like the way they were treated at all, even if some seemed to have a permanent smile plastered on their faces. Besides, Ben always thought people like them were put in an asylum for them to get help and not to be tormented. He remembered on his first day of work, how someone once mentioned some bloke almost managed to escape but was caught and Doctor Marcel broke his legs and then locked him up and let him starve. Even if the patients tried to break out, this was certainly no way to treat a person. Ben would like to look for a new job, but he felt at least one person should be kind to the mental institution’s inmates. They were actually fun to be around and they were kind if one was nice to them. If he could find the time, he would visit them in the recreation room and just talk or play a board game with them. He noticed three he usually saw had suddenly disappeared one day; the Beeman told him they were escorted to some unknown place and had not been seen by anyone since then. Ben often wondered where they were and why they were taken away. What was Doctor Marcel planning? Well, whatever it was, he doubted it was anything good.
“Darling, I’m home!“, he heard his girlfriend call from the hallway. She appeared a second later in the living room and sat down next to him. Ben put an arm around Amy, holding her close.
“You have no idea”, the young therapist sighed. “Do you remember that guy who calls himself King Adrian?” She looked questioningly at Ben. When he nodded, she continued: “He kept trying to convince me to join him and a few others in their tabletop role play game until they realized they were in the middle of a therapy session.”
“How did they miss this? What was the session about?”
“Addiction to games.”
Amy sighed and stood up, announcing she was going to take a bath while leaving the room. Ben looked at his watch before deciding to prepare dinner for the two of them. It was not every day this couple could eat together because of Amy often doing therapy session in towns and cities far away from this village. Ben opted to make beef steak since this happened to be Amy’s favorite dish and they were on special offer in the supermarket. But before he prepared the meat, he started peeling the potatoes. He did not have to peel many, seeing it was only the two of them and if he cooked too many potatoes, they would just end up in the pot, which would stand on the stove for days until only a person who wanted to end up in a hospital would eat them. Most of the time, they either ate microwavable food or order a pizza. Ben just finished the task of peeling the potatoes when the phone rang. Seeing he was the only one currently able to answer, he picked up the receiver:
“Ben Schoenfelder speaking.”
The voice on the other line was a pleasantly familiar one:
“Hi Ben. Is Amy present?”
“Hey Anika. Amy is home but she’s taking a bath at the moment. Shall I tell her she should call you back?”
“Tomorrow morning, preferably. My work shift starts soon.”
He hung up and went back to making dinner. Anika was Amy’s little sister and he got along with her quite well; he saw her as the little sister he never had.
The Key Master and Edna sat in a corner of a café, both having just given their orders. He used the time he waited for his orders to give the interior a once-over. The café was mainly kept in dark colors, with the floors, the wall panels and tables and chairs made of mahogany. The cushions of the seats were leaf-green. In his opinion, the interior designer would never win an award with this but he preferred this over any padded cell. This place could perhaps do with some pictures on the walls or plants to give it a little more life... and to make it not look so empty. Of course, he was no expert, it was just he was sick of seeing only empty walls.
“Edna”, the Key Master spoke up. His dark haired companion, who also took her time looking around, turned her attention to him. “You once told me you were in a convent school after you found out the truth about your past, right?” Edna confirmed this with a nod. “Tell me about your time there.”
“Oh well, there’s not much to say”, she started, tugging a strand of hair behind her ear. “I wasn’t sure if those guys from the convent would know that I was one of the escaped loonies from the local asylum. Luckily, they did not realize this by looking at me but I told them my last name was ‘Kaiser’. My number one priority was to stay away from the mental institution; there I kept a low profile – believe it or not. Well, there were times when I set some things ablaze, unintentionally of course, or when I broke into the firefighter museum. But I doubt anyone ever figured out my real identity, except my friend Lilli and that’s only because I told her. Oh man, I miss her...”
Edna sighed and stared up at the ceiling. The Key Master, who listened attentively, could hardly believe that Edna, of all people, would keep a low profile. She was not afraid of defiling or even destroying other people’s properties – about every item one could interact with in Edna And Harvey: The Breakout came to mind. Then again, she once mentioned she lost Harvey before coming to the convent school. Perhaps her destructive tendencies were downplayed with the lack of a blue rabbit. Still, it made no sense to him she would tell even one person the truth about herself. Would it not make more sense if none knew of her past?
“And why did you tell this Lilli the truth?“, the Key Master questioned.
“I didn’t tell her immediately, only after I got to know her and we became friends. I could trust her with my past without her running off and telling anyone”, Edna explained. “And she never did... until the day Mother Superior let Doctor Marcel come to the school. He used hypnosis on Lilli and made her reveal I was there. Alright, I already fled by this time; I was told about this after the whole ordeal.”
It seemed the Key Master missed a lot of things while he was looking for Edna in the completely wrong places. He silently pondered how her confrontations with the mad doctor went. The only thing he could be sure of was that it ended well, more or less, for Edna. Otherwise, she would not be sitting opposite of him. Nonetheless, he would like to know the details, which he was quick to mention. Before the young woman could reply, however, a waiter appeared with their orders. He placed a caramel cappuccino and a slice of blueberry pie in front of the Key Master and hot chocolate and chocolate cake in front of Edna, giving her a flirty wink. The Key Master narrowed his eyes and clenched his fists, suddenly having the urge to pummel this guy. He watched him leave, imagining how he would break all of his bones in a freak accident.
“Uh Key Master? You’re so green... Are you okay?“, a concerned Edna inquired.
“I’m perfectly fine”, he replied tensely. He angrily got a bit of the pie on the dessert fork as if he was chopping off somebody’s head. The more feminine former inmate of an asylum made a skeptical face as he noticed a second later.
“What?“, he asked, rather defensively.
“I don’t believe you’re fine. You’re greener than usual, your mouth is a thin line and you look like you’re bursting with anger. All signs you’re mad, except the first one. Green skin is usually a sign someone’s feeling sick”, Edna said all this in a rapid voice, like she was reading off a cue card behind the Key Master. She leaned forward, narrowing her eyes at him. “Now then, won’t you tell me what’s bothering you? Or do I have to force you?”
He glared at Edna. What made her think she could make him tell her whatever she wanted to know? It was his business, not hers. If he opted not to say anything, he did not have to explain himself.
“I don’t see why I should explain myself to you”, the Key Master coldly retorted. Edna glared at him before she averted her eyes and instead started to eat her delicious looking chocolate cake, albeit with sagging shoulders.
“I was only worried about you, that’s all”, she miserably muttered, slowly picking at her food. The Key Master suddenly felt bad about his harsh words. She only meant well and he had to act like some stupid and ungrateful bastard. His behavior was almost as inexcusable as the behavior he showed in the past.
“Sorry”, he apologized. Edna shook her head:
“No, I shouldn’t have been so pushy.”
“That was still no reason for me to be so cold towards you.”
A tiny smile spread across Edna’s face as she glanced up at him.
“Let’s just say we both have a reason to apologize”, she said, making the Key Master chuckle.
“Deal”, he agreed with her suggestion. Then, at the same time as Edna, he added “I’m sorry.”
Edna giggled, barely managing to pronounce the word “jinxed”. The Key Master had no clue what this meant and, frankly, he did not really care. Seeing this young woman laughing and grinning joyously made him feel warm and fuzzy inside, for some inexplicable reason. A little bit of ignorance was a small price to pay and, besides, he could always ask her later.
Back to Ben and Amy, who were currently eating dinner in their living room while the news were on air on television. They only listened with one ear to the news; they were more focused on consuming beef steaks, potatoes and vegetables. The dining table was in front of the fireplace, close enough to feel the warmth when a fire was burning but far enough away for the table to not catch any flames. On the mantelpiece were a couple of photos of them on dates or on vacation. Between two pictures was a small gargoyle Ben bought while he was on vacation in England a couple of months before he met Amy. He loved the few weeks he spent there. Admittedly, he hoped he could go there again on vacation but this time, with his girlfriend accompanying him.
“Your sister called earlier”, Ben told his girlfriend. “She wants you to call her back tomorrow morning.”
“Why not now?“, Amy inquired.
“Her work shift”, were the only three words her boyfriend said. Comprehension dawned on the woman’s face and she simply nodded. They knew Anika had her phone with her wherever she was but they were also aware she would be too busy with her job to answer and by the time her shift was over, both Ben and Amy were in the land of dreams. Nevertheless, Amy wondered what her sister wanted to talk about. Normally, Anika would come over for a visit every second weekend and they would have conversations about how life had been treating them. Aside from Ben, Anika was the only person who knew of her dislike for working for Doctor Marcel the few cases she got to hold a therapy session at his institution. Even her boyfriend entrusted her younger sister with his hatred for working for this bitter old man. If they would not talk to someone about this, they would loose their minds. Fortunately, Anika was willing to listen and, in turn, confided in them when she needed help. Those three helped each other out, no matter how miserable they were feeling.
The young couple finished their dinner and brought the dirty dishes to the kitchen, storing them in the dishwasher. Afterwards they returned to the living room and got comfortable on the black leather couch. Ben reached for the remote on the oak coffee table and zapped through the channels until he found some action film on one channel. Amy, meanwhile, skimmed through the television program.
“Just leave this one on, there’s nothing of interest on TV today”, she commented, throwing the magazine on the table. The dark skinned and dark haired beauty leaned against her boyfriend, putting her arms around his waist. Action films were not her most favorite movie genre but she liked them, nonetheless. They were exciting and usually kept her on the edge of her seat, though she would take a romantic comedy over this any day. Her eyes traveled over to the drawers, which were also made of oak, and she remembered they had some chips stored in there.
“How about some snacks?“, she suggested.
“Sure, why not?“, Ben replied. Amy let go of him and walked over to the drawers, opening one and getting out a bag of chips with paprika flavor. With this in hands, she went to the kitchen to get a big bowl in which she emptied the bag and then returned to Ben with the snacks. The bowl was placed between them, their hands wandering towards the snacks made of potatoes over and over again.
The Key Master received the spare keys from Edna before the latter went home to get ready for work. He would get the materials for the drawers later; there were too many people out and about to his liking. The last thing he needed were several members of the species Homo sapiens gawking at him like he was some sort of exhibit. If they wanted to gape at something, then they should go to the zoo or Madame Tussauds. Alright, he would not mind visiting the latter some day. Anyway, Edna was also kind enough to give him some money, so he could go somewhere, though he could not think of any place he wanted to visit right now. Thus, he leisurely strolled through town, memorizing the various public places in case he ever wanted to visit one. The Key Master noticed there was a bar not far from the apartment complex Edna lived in. In theory, she could work there and would not have a long way to work. However, the Key Master figured why she did not work there and he could not blame her. People tended to look deeper in the glass than they should and the result tended to be unpleasant. It was already bad enough that some man, who seemed to be sober, harassed Edna; the Key Master did not want to imagine how drunken men would act towards her. The thought made his blood boil; he loathed men who think women were nothing but sex dolls, though he also could not stand women who would want to sleep with every men. Speaking of which, the young woman up ahead seemed to be one of the sort. She had dark red hair was up in a high ponytail, her small beady eyes were too far apart. The dress she was wearing was inappropriately small and showed so much cleavage that the Key Master thought the designer had no materials left when he made this dress. She winked at him and blew him a kiss. He felt disgusted and swiftly turned around to walk another way, ignoring her calls to wait for her. Her calls faded the faster he walked and farther away he was. She could very well sleep with other men and get their diseases or give them her diseases – or both. But not with him. The Key Master was so lost in thought he only realized his current location when the sun was slowly but surely sinking over the horizon. He saw a quaint little restaurant with white exterior walls and a turquoise entrance door. A few tables and chairs were outside, underneath a couple of parasols. Only one table was currently occupied by four adolescents, who were waited by a dark haired waitress, who looked familiar. It took the Key Master a moment until he realized this young woman was Edna. He was so used in seeing her clad in dark colors he did not recognize her immediately in a pale blue dress, despite having seen her in this once. She seemed to have sensed him looking at her because she turned around with furrowed brows. However, this expression was immediately replaced by a happy smile and she waved at him. He waved back and then continued on his way. It was not his plan to visit Edna at her work place but it was nice to see a pleasant face and see her smile at him, nonetheless. Well, it was slowly getting dark, he should return to Edna’s place of residence and get the materials for the drawers from her basement as well as the cordless drill from her apartment – fortunately, her housemate was not home.
“Hey Edna, who was this man outside you were waving at?“, Anika asked Edna while getting the ordered refreshments for the patrons.
“Oh, he was just an old friend. I guess it was just coincidence he was here and saw me”, Edna replied while filling a glass with Fanta. She was surprised when she noticed the Key Master standing there outside but also pleased. Her mood, while not miserable at all, had lifted upon seeing him and now she felt like nothing could bring her down.
“I see. By the way, would you mind if I’d invite my sister to our girls’ night out? That is, if she can join us”, Anika said, filling two glasses with beer.
“I don’t see why not. I didn’t even know you have a sister”, Edna responded, now carrying the tray with filled glasses towards the table outside. Her black skinned friend gave her a bashful grin before heading towards a group of men and women joyfully laughing and talking. Edna chuckled to herself and then served the table with the four adolescents, telling them their meals would be there momentarily.
Her work shift was stressful, like always, but she tried to not let it get her down. She preferred this over being locked up any day. It gave her something to do and she was not judged by anyone because her sanity. Well, true, not everyone liked her but no one was liked by everyone. This was as impossible as Hulgor with an enormously high intelligent quotient. The thought of this huge, muscular bloke being an educated person amused Edna so much she giggled to herself. That guy was more brawns than brains, the complete opposite of the Key Master in a way. At least the Key Master did not sound like a Homo sapiens neanderthalensis when speaking. Instead, he had a clear, intelligible voice that was pleasant to Edna’s ears. Now she could understand Tina, who tended to drool every time she heard Chris Sarandon’s voice or the voice of Tim Curry. Edna suddenly had the image of her housemate drooling upon hearing the Key Master talking stuck in her head. It was amusing but also somewhat disturbing.
“Welcome home”, the chubby blond woman greeted Edna the moment she stepped into the living room. Once again, Tina was watching a DVD but this time it was not Star Trek. It was another show she liked. Edna had only seen bits and pieces of it. Still, she would like to take her time to watch this show too.
"Pushing Daisies. I was kind of in the mood for this... and now I want pie...”
Edna chuckled and shook her head good-naturedly at her friend and housemate. She stood behind the couch and watched along for a few minutes until she decided to get to bed and read for a bit. So, she bid Tina a good night and got ready for bed, getting comfortable with Harvey and her mother’s diary. Edna wanted to read a few entries before drifting away in the land of fleeting dreams. Her mother wrote about trips she made with her friends and her sister, like shopping in Hamburg or vacationing in the mountains. She mentioned in her writings how much she liked spending her free time in the great outdoors, although she would never say no to shopping. Edna chuckled at a little written anecdote by her mother in this diary about a little accident one of her friends had. During one camping trips to the mountains, they put up their tents next to a babbling brook. When it was dark outside, they sat on fallen logs, one of which was right in front of the brook, around a campfire and told each other scary stories. One was apparently so frightening that this particular friend lost her balance and fell into the water behind her. Edna pondered whatever happened to her mother’s old friends; she could not recall ever having met them. Perhaps she did when she was very little but she could hardly remember anything from the time Vivian Konrad was still alive.
“So, just one entry and then let’s go to sleep. How does that sound, Harv?”
No answer from the blue lagomorph made of terry cloth. Edna glanced at him, only to realize he was already dozing. Edna smiled fondly at Harvey before turning her attention back to the diary. This entry was once again about Vivian and Mattis, this time about them being alone at her house while her parents and sister were not home. Her mother once again described the intimate relation she had that night with her future husband in disturbing detail. It was hard for Edna to imagine her father used to have such an active life in bed. A miracle he did not manage to get Vivian pregnant long before she was expecting Edna or long afterwards. Nevertheless, reading about something like this in regards to her parents disturbed Edna greatly. She would not sleep well that night...
And she was right with this. Her dreams were quite naughty, which was usually not the case. Normally, she had violent, funny, or adventurous dreams, but also disturbing dreams – like the time she dreamt of a figure with empty eyes slowly approaching her with a knife – or memories, never naughty though. She blamed her mother’s libertine writings about her intimate relations. One thing was sure, Edna would never talk to anyone – not even to the pictures of Sigmund Freud or C.G. Jung – about her erotic dreams involving her and, for some inexplicable reason, the Key Master. It confused her why she would have such dreams about him. He was just a friend and now, she doubted she could look at him without blushing. Furthermore it was unlikely the Key Master would feel the same... not that Edna would feel more than friendship towards him.
Edna was pulled out of her reverie upon noticing an enticing smell. She got out of bed and followed her nose towards the kitchen where she found Tina making pancakes for breakfast. It was only at this moment when the purple haired woman realized how hungry she was. After all, she had not eaten anything since the cake at the café.
“Morning”, Tina greeted her when she noticed her in the doorway. “Breakfast is almost ready. Could you please set up the table?”
Edna nodded and got two plates as well as cutlery out of the cupboards and drawers, which she placed on the dining table in the living room. Then she returned to the kitchen to get the syrup and mugs for the morning coffee. Tina arrived with a big stack of pancakes not long afterwards, placing it in the middle of the table. Edna filled her plate with some while her housemate got the coffee and poured it into their mugs. After Tina also filed her plate, they both commenced consuming their breakfast. Edna let her thoughts wander while munching this sweetness of flour, milk, sugar, eggs and syrup. She had a feeling she had forgotten something but could not think of what. Oh well, she should not dwell on it too much; she was going to remember sooner or later.
After breakfast, Edna and Tina, both well-fed, washed the used kitchen utensils – if they would wait until later, they would be too lazy to clean them and soon, they would have a mountain of dirty dishes.
“Any plans of what you’re gonna do today?”
Edna, who took a dripping wet plate Tina held out to her, shrugged.
“Dunno. I reckon I’m going outside”, she replied as she started to dry the plate.
“I don’t know what I’m gonna do, either”, the blond woman said while cleaning the forks. “But we could do something together. How about it?”
“I don’t see why not”, Edna, who was now drying the cutlery, responded. Tina started scrubbing the bowl in which she whisked flour, sugar, milk and eggs together. Edna leaned against the counter and gazed out of the window while absentmindedly playing with the dish towel in her hands. A bird flew past. She watched the little chirpy until it was out of sight. Her mind was filled with thoughts of how marvelous it would be to fly freely like a bird. She could see the world without being restricted by boat or train or even plane. She could go wherever she wanted to and whenever she wanted to. She could visit her old home every day and then take a quick trip to Australia. Wait a minute... Edna’s brows furrowed when she realized something.
“You know, I just realized we forgot to visit my old hideout yesterday”, she voiced her thoughts. She heard how Tina stopped scrubbing and, when she looked at her, saw she was deep in thought.
“You’re right... But how could we forget it? There wasn’t anything that occupied our minds”, Tina responded, talking very fast. She sighed and continued cleaning the bowl. “Well, we could take the trip later, how about it?”
Edna nodded in agreement, also asking if they could stop by a flower shop. Tina, although confused, answered positively without asking any questions.
Around midday, both Edna and Tina found themselves in the latter’s car on the way to the hometown of the former. Of course, the desired detour to a flower shop occurred while they were still in town. Three different bouquets lay on the backseats of the car, one for each of the graves Edna wanted to visit. Her housemate had figured ages ago who two of the bouquets were for but she racked her brain while trying to figure out who the final one was destined for. Edna watched the passing landscapes while holding Harvey close to her. This would be the first time she would return to the village she grew up in since her and the Key Master’s reunion. Although it was only two weeks ago, it still felt like an eternity had passed. Edna really hoped they would not be seen by anyone whose working place happened to be an institution on top of a mountain. She did not want to be captured again or set a foot in this establishment ever again. It made her angry to think Doctor Marcel was not behind bars where he ought to be. After the doctor was put in jail, Gerret told her, Lilli and Mother Superior that the asylum would get a new owner and that the patients would be relocated until then. Edna had no idea when Doctor Marcel’s second son she never heard of before bailed this mad man out but she was sure the attempts for finding a new owner were abandoned. Sometimes, Edna wondered if the doctor would still be in prison if he did not have so much influence. Probably, she thought with a sigh.
“Something’s troubling you?“, Tina asked, quickly glancing at Edna.
“It’s just... life’s so unfair. It’s always the good guys horrible things happen to. I mean, my parents were good people but they’re dead while a man I know who is evil is free and surely tormenting his patients”, Edna explained, clenching her fists in anger.
“Patients?“, Tina repeated. “Is that guy a doctor or something?”
“He runs the local asylum...“, the former patient of the establishment answered. She looked at her friend to see she had her brows furrowed in thought.
“Wait a minute... are you talking about the asylum you were stuck in for the majority of your life? The one with the mad doctor?“, she inquired.
“Yep, that’s the one”, Edna confirmed with a nod of her head.
“But when you moved in with me, Gerret told me he would be put in prison. That guy can’t be out already, can he?”
Tina said this all very fast, her befuddlement was evident in every single syllable. Edna took a deep breath and told her what she heard from Gerret when she happened upon him. Her housemate, while focusing on the street ahead of her, listened intently. The blonde’s brows creased deeper and deeper the more she heard. Eventually, her jaw dropped upon hearing the doctor apparently had a second son. Tina knew of Alfred and that he was dead, but not the circumstance of his death and its connection to Edna and her being stuck in a padded cell.
“I was also astonished to hear he had more than one son”, Edna commented. Tina looked like her brain had a complete crash down. It was a miracle she caused no accident.
The rest of the ride was relatively quiet, with only Tina sometimes singing along the songs she was listening to on CD. Edna found herself humming to a few of them. Soon, she spotted the abandoned convent school and the much hated asylum on the horizon. If the latter were not there, she would seriously consider moving back here after she finished school. However, as long as this establishment ominously loomed over the village like a dark, mythological creature she would not move back here.
“You need to tell me where I can park the car”, Tina pointed out.
“There’s a supermarket when you turn left. You can park there”, Edna told her friend. Tina nodded and took the next turn to the left. The old supermarket had changed since the last time Edna was there. In her childhood, it looked like it never left the fifties but now, it was bigger and the exterior was almost sterile looking. Edna preferred the old-fashioned style the place used to have. At least it looked more colorful but not so much that one would think a clown was the architect. Perhaps the supermarket would look much better with some dirt. But one thing had not changed at all; there was still a forest behind it, although with less trees than before.
“Now then, where to first?“, Tina asked after parking her car.
“The cemetery”, the answer was given before the final letter of Tina’s question left her mouth. Edna had a feeling this would always be the first place she would want to go to whenever she was in this village. It was always the first thing she thought of, even if she had entirely different reasons for coming here.
“Alright”, Tina nodded and both women and a blue rabbit got out of the car. Edna opened the door to the backseats and got the three bouquets. Somehow, she managed to carry these, along with Harvey at once, albeit with some difficulty. She only handed Tina one bouquet and Harvey when she offered to carry those. Then they headed for the cemetery, unaware that they being watched from the shadows.
Hidden among the trees, was a hooded figure whose face was hidden under a paper bag. Two holes enabled him to see, though one made no sense since the incident involving a little convent girl and a broken off chair leg. It was hard to see with only one eye, although his father managed quite well, even better than him. The night Ruben lost his one eye, he thought he saw Alfred’s ghost and tried strangling him until his father entered the storeroom and told him it was just a hat rack with a bowling ball over which sheets were draped and a picture of Alfred was reflected on. His father had half the mind to put Ruben in one of the cells before the police captured him. By the time he was bailed out, he had already forgotten about this thought. Since then, his father actually paid more attention to his patients than he did, but that was not to say he cared for or about them. In fact, he cared about the loonies as much as he would about a random bug he would swat. But the doctor did not let them do as they liked and pleased anymore while also pursuing his plan for vengeance against Edna. Ruben knew his father had been forcing a few patients to sew copies of the rag doll rabbit Harvey for years. The first results of the loony who did this the longest were horrible, to put it mildly, but she had improved. Over the years after she was forced to begin with the work, Doctor Marcel forced more patients to make more of those, though he kept them separated, so that they could concentrate on only the dolls and nothing else. One could say the asylum had also become a factory. Now and then, Ruben would secretly check on their progress and inform his father if new materials were needed or if there was hardly any space left for an additional terry cloth rabbit. Of course, the doctor would check on them himself before either agreeing or disagreeing with his son.
“Um Edna? How about I hold two bouquets for you? Or one and Harvey too?“, Ruben heard the blond woman offer. If this was the same Edna, who killed his brother and escaped from his father’s asylum and if this blue thing that Ruben could not really recognize behind all those flowers was really the infamous Harvey, then maybe he, Ruben, had just found a way for his father to be proud of him. All he had to do was to wait until they were gone, which they fortunately were only a moment later. Ruben waited an additional minute before he snuck towards the car. In his pockets, he usually carried a small notepad and pencil around, both of which proved to be useful now. He got the items out of his pocket and slowly wrote down the license plate number, staring at each individual number of letter several times to make sure he did not get a single one wrong. Perhaps this could be a big help for his father. Once Ruben had it all written down, he pocketed his notepad and pencil and walked through the forest and up the hill to the only mental institution for miles around. He used the backdoor entrance, which was hardly ever used by anyone except him, so it was a convenient way for him to get in or out of the property whenever he pleased.
“Enter!“, Doctor Marcel called from the other side of his office door when Ruben knocked a few minutes later. The young man opened the door and stepped into the room; a groan emitted from his father the moment he realized who silently asked for permission to enter the room.
“Father, I think I just found Edna”, Ruben spoke up before Doctor Marcel could utter a single word. The glare on the curmudgeon old man’s face turned into an interested expression. If he had not given his attention to his oldest son before, he certainly did now.
“You did? You really found Edna Konrad? And her rag doll rabbit Harvey?”
“Well, she had dark hair and had something blue with her that she called Harvey. So, yeah, I think that is her. She was at a car in company of some blond woman, on their way to the cemetery. I wrote down the number of the license plate”, Ruben spoke fast and excitedly. He removed his notepad from his pocket and put it on the table. “I thought it could be of help for you.”
Doctor Marcel picked up the note and stared at the letters and numbers in silence.
“I will see what I can do with it”, he said a minute later. “You may go now.”
The same time Ruben made a note of the license plate and went to the asylum to his father, Edna, Harvey and Tina visited the graveyard. This time, Edna wanted to visit Alfred’s grave first, after having neglected to visit it last time she was in town. It did not really make sense for Edna to visit her childhood friend’s grave since his urn with his ashes was in Doctor Marcel’s altar room in his institution. However, since it was impossible for her to just walk in this building to pay her respect for this innocent boy, she opted for the next best thing, which was his tombstone. Edna missed this little toad greatly; he was her only friend when she was little, aside from Harvey of course. This made it only harder for her to live with the knowledge that she was responsible for his death.
“Hi Alfred”, Edna muttered remorsefully to the tombstone. It was perhaps the best kept one in the whole graveyard. The marble stone shone in the sunlight like a slug hit by lightning and the carvings were so easy to read that she could stay ten meters away from it and still make out every letter. Obviously, Doctor Marcel made a point in keeping his son’s final resting place as neatly as possible. Edna briefly pondered how this cranky old man would react if he saw a flower bouquet from an unknown person on Alfred’s grave before deciding she did not care about his reaction and placed the flowers at the marble tombstone.
“Alfred Marcel...“, Tina read aloud. “The same Alfred you told me about? And wasn’t the last name of the doctor who kept you in his asylum Marcel, just like his?”
“Yes... Alfred was his son...“, Edna replied, her eyes set on the name and dates of birth and death. She realized his birthday was, or rather would have been, a week ago. With a fond grin, she remembered the final birthday he celebrated. She had made a frame with Mattis’s help, in which there was a photo of them taking a brief rest during one of their many bicycle tours. Alfred had been both pleased and surprised at the gesture – he had been afraid she would have given him a swarm angry bees or something that was also dangerous. But it had been a fun day and, as she could recall, he did not annoy her once during the celebration. Days like those were the reason why she sometimes did not mind playing with Alfred, even though there were a lot of times when she would have rather had constipations.
“If this is the son of the man who kept you locked in, then why are we visiting his grave?“, a thoroughly confused Tina questioned.
“Because his ashes are kept in Doctor Marcel’s asylum”, Edna responded. She moved her index finger along the letters of the name ‘Alfred Marcel’ while adding, “He was my only friend, aside from Harvey, when I was a child and...” She hesitated. Should she really tell Tina about this? Maybe she should... Tina was her friend, after all, and she let her live with her without even knowing her. The least Edna could do was to tell her why she ended up in an asylum. So, she continued: “And it was my fault he died... I pushed him down the stairs. I-I didn’t mean to. We had a fight and it just happened. My father took the blame to protect me and I was put under Doctor Marcel’s care.”
If she would have looked at Tina while speaking, she would have seen her puzzled facial expression or how she opened and closed her mouth several times in an attempt to say something. But whatever Tina wanted to say, she opted not to say anything. Edna whispered an apology and a good bye to the grave before standing up and walking away. The closest grave she wanted to visit was Vivian’s grave, so that was where she was headed. Edna was glad she learned more about her mother since the last time she was here. It made her feel like she actually knew her and not like her mother was a stranger.
The flowers Edna had placed on Vivian’s grave were already dead. Perhaps they would have held out longer if these would have been regularly watered. Was there no one who took care of the graves and tombstones? Well, considering how well kept Mattis’s grave was, she doubted it. But every other grave she saw the night of her escape looked like it had been well cared for, so perhaps there was one and he or she deliberately ignored his. Edna did not know what to think. She took the dead flowers from Vivian’s grave and placed the fresh bouquet on the same spot.
“Hey Mom...it’s me, your daughter Edna”, she did not know why she began talking but she felt a heavy weight fell from her shoulders. Tina silently took a few steps back to give her some privacy. “I wish you were here, I could really need a mother now and... and I want to know more about you. But I could also need some relationship advice.”
She was not sure why she needed this; it was not like she had a boyfriend. Well, she spent a lot of time with the Key Master and she liked him, but like that? And yet, when Edna wanted to deny this, she found it hard to. Did she really like him as more than a friend? If so, then why did she have this epiphany in a graveyard? Could she not have realized this at another place, like a zoo or the cinema? Among the deceased seemed to be such an inappropriate location.
“I guess you could help me with how to deal with all this, especially when there’s quite the age gap. Well, eight years is not as bad as, say, twenty. But I could still need some advice.”
Edna fell silent for a short moment before speaking again. This time, she talked to her mother about the Key Master, about his plan that enabled her to escape, what kind of person he was and how much he had changed. Perhaps it was morally unacceptable to have feeling for a murderer, she did not know, but it was not like she could control her emotions. The Key Master had not killed anyone for a long time, so maybe there was hope he would never have a relapse. Edna knew he tried to hold back and had complete faith in him but she could not say how she would react if he would give in to his urge.
“I’m going to visit Dad now. See you, Mom”, Edna told Vivian and stood up. Turning around, she noticed Tina wandering around the cemetery and reading the names on the many graves. She walked to her friend, who still held Harvey and the final bouquet.
“Hi Edna”, the blue lagomorph greeted her. Tina, who saw her approaching, smiled at her.
“To my father’s grave”, Edna gloomily said. Her friend and housemate nodded and accompanied her to the place of Mattis Konrad’s last resting place.
Ruben had long left the office. Doctor Marcel was alone with his thoughts, smoking a pipe and looking out of his window towards the village. Somewhere out there was the girl responsible for his younger son’s death and his disability. If only he had someone reliable, like Anes, out there to capture her but his most trusted employees were currently inside this building doing their jobs. Edna might as well be gone by the time on of his trusted minions had worked their shift. Doctor Marcel could only hope she would still be in the village. He turned away from the window and back to his desk, taking the note Ruben had left in his hands. If he remembered correctly, Babbitt would be the next one of those he trusted who would be going home, in an hour or two. Doctor Marcel decided to give this mini golf maniac the task of capturing Edna in case she was still in the village. If not, well the license plate number could still be of use. He put the note back down when a knock emitted from the other side of the door.
The door opened to reveal Bladder pushing a cart towards the doctor’s desk. The old wheelchair-bound man made some room on his desk for his afternoon tea. Bladder placed the cup on the free space, as well as the teapot and a plate with a slice of cheesecake.
“Excellent”, Doctor Marcel commented. Bladder was about to leave, when the older man added: “Tell Babbitt he shall come and see me when he’s about to leave for home.”
“Yes sir”, Bladder nodded and left the room. The doctor poured his tea into the cup and then he began eating his cheesecake. He doubted Babbitt would be able to capture Edna but at last, he had a hint regarding this girl’s whereabouts. His good-for-nothing son was useful for something after all. It was a pleasant surprise after years of Ruben being as useful as a smashed car. Of course, he, Doctor Horatio Marcel, would be furious if what his son said proved to be false. Ruben would feel his wrath and it would not be pretty. There was no reason for Doctor Marcel to be conciliatory to Ruben just because he was his son. However, it would be an entirely different matter if it had been Alfred who provided the information. With a heavy sigh, the doctor began thinking of his deceased son. Alfred was a perfect example of how children should be like, although there was still some tinkering needed. Otherwise, he would have never wanted to play with this insubordinate brat. Doctor Marcel never understood why Alfred spent so much time at the house of the Konrad family outside of school lessons. He would have preferred if the boy would have just gone over for the classes and then back home immediately. The classroom for the lessons was about the only thing the Konrad family was good for since it meant Doctor Marcel had no need to turn one of the rooms in his house into a classroom and he did not have to send Alfred to a public school with all the other ill-bred children. Doctor Marcel finished his tea and rolled back to the window, once again looking out of it.
Edna was already at Mattis’s grave. Here, too, were the flowers she placed there dead. It made this grave seem like it was in a worse shape than it actually was. Unable to accept this, she replaced the dead flowers with the fresh ones. The tombstone was still covered in moss, something that made Edna sad and forlorn when she surveyed all the other graves. It was only Mattis’s last resting place that never seemed to be cared for. But why? Because it was thought he was a murderer? That was ludicrous and no reason to pretend like his grave did not exist. Besides, Mattis could not be the only supposed murderer buried in this cemetery. Edna was sure there were other people responsible for other persons’ premature death under the ground around here. Sighing heavily, Edna began to wipe off some of the moss with her hands. Tina kneeled down next to her and helped her, much to her joy.
“There’s something I don’t understand”, Tina commented. Without waiting for an answer, she went on: “Why is your father buried so far away from your mother?”
“I don’t know... perhaps they decided he was not worth to be laid to rest next to Mom”, Edna hated herself for saying this. She knew her father was a good man, even if there were a lot of things they both had different opinions on, and he did his best to raise her. Although she did not make it easy for him and although his punishments always involved locking her in her room or in the basement, she nevertheless appreciated his efforts. He was always there for her when she needed him. Edna blamed herself for his death, which he did not deserve, just like Alfred and Vivian did not deserve to be among the deceased. They all should be alive and live their life until it was time for them to die of natural causes.
A considerable amount of moss had been wiped away by the time Edna and Tina stopped. Edna’s hands with all that moss and she was sure it was the same with her friend. It did not take long until Tina commented “I really want to wash my hands right now...”
“There’s a pub in the village, where you can wash your hands”, Edna told her friend. “I’ll go to my old hideout to get my tools. We can meet at the car.”
“Alright but... uh... don’t you want to wash your hands too?“, Tina pointed out.
“Hm nah. I don’t need to.”
Tina arched an eyebrow at Edna before suddenly grabbing her hand to examine at the palm. The blond made a couple of disapproving noises while looking at Edna’s moss covered hand. Eventually, she let her go.
“I would suggest you wash your hands too.”
There was a commanding tone in her voice that made Edna feel like she should do what Tina told her to. Fortunately, she rarely used that but one could never know when she talked like that. Edna was glad she had not asked in this tone where she spent her leisure time at yet. She did want to tell her some day but only when she knew how to word it. Also, she would want to talk with the Key Master about it first before introducing him to Tina. There might as well be the possibility that he did not want to meet any of her friends.
“Oh alright”, Edna relented with an exasperated sigh. “Come on, follow me.”
They left the cemetery and headed for the village, where they entered the local pub. The barkeeper, a burly man in a white undershirt and blue jeans, stood behind the counter and wiped a glass. Music was playing in the background, some song with the title Needle And Stitch. Tina approached the barkeeper.
“Excuse me, could we please wash our hands here?”
“Blimey! Sure, Ma’am. Just go fruff there. Nuff said, yeah?“, the barkeeper replied, pointing with his thumb to the back area. Tina nodded and mumbled a word of thanks before heading in that direction with Edna following her. The ladies’ room was brightly lit and spacious with four cubicles on one side and the sinks with soap dispensers opposite of them. On the wall to the left was a towel dispenser, underneath was a waste basket. Edna and Tina both washed their hands – Harvey was situated between the arm and the side of the former. Once the moss was gone from their hands, they used the towels to dry their hands.
“Do you know if they also serve non-alcoholic drinks?“, Tina asked. “I’m a little thirsty.”
“Dunno”, Edna shrugged clueless. “I suppose you have to ask.”
“Guess you’re right. Do you want something too?”
“Nah, I’m not thirsty. But how about I go to my old hideout and get my things while you drink something here? We could meet at your car.”
“Okay”, Tina agreed with a nod. They left the ladies’ room; Tina took a seat at the counter while Edna and Harvey left the pub with a “see you later”.
The Key Master wiped the sweat off his forehead. He just finished assembling the drawers together. It stood now at the wall on the right of the entrance door, still devoid of any content. The Key Master, though exhausted and sweating like an Inuit in the Sahara desert, admired his work with a satisfied smirk. He would fill the drawers later but first, he needed some rest and cooling down. He decided to go for a swim, thus he took his clothes off and changed into his swimming trunks, in case a certain dark haired woman with a blue rabbit suddenly appeared. Speaking of Edna, he would have expected she would already be here. Normally, she would have been with him since around midday. But evening was slowly approaching and still no sign of her. The Key Master did not even see her when he took a walk through town. However, he saw the boy she was conversing with the other day in company of a pale skinned, black haired girl. He had not spoken to them; he simply walked past them to a café, where he enjoyed an ice coffee. The Key Master had taken his time to watch the other patrons of this establishment from his seat in the corner. Most, if not everybody else, was in company of one or more persons. Only the fewest were as alone as he was, though they were gone quite quickly. The Key Master left the café about an hour after he finished his ice coffee and went back to his place, where he took his time to assemble the drawers. Now, he was cooling himself off by taking a swim in the pond. He wondered if Edna would still come over for a visit, though he had his doubts. She still had school the next day and, as far as he knew, she had to work tonight. Oh well, he could live with one day of her not being here. It was not like the world would end or he would unexpectedly drop dead. Besides, he planned to get the table from her basement later, so there could be a possibility he would see her on her way to or from work.
Edna was now inside her old hideout, barely able to see anything. She wished she would have thought to bring a flashlight along. Since she forgot it, she opted to stay where she was until her eyes got accustomed to the darkness. Fortunately, Edna still remembered where she kept her tools, so the lack of a light, while inconvenient, was not so bad. Her eyes got used to the darkness and she slowly walked towards the nearest crate. She opened it and got her tools, consisting of a lighter, even though this was not an actual tool, a hammer and a screwdriver. She was sure the Key Master could need those, as well as most objects in the tool shed of her old home. Now that she thought about it, perhaps she should go to her house too. Well, she got what she needed from here, so there was no reason for her to not take a detour to her old home. Thus, Edna left the cave and headed, through the forest, to the house she used to call her home in her childhood.
On her way to her home, she called Tina on her phone, telling her where she was going and giving her the directions. Her friend responded that she would meet her there. Edna once again reminisced of days past while strolling through the woods. It was impossible for her not to; those were all places she frequented regularly in her childhood, either alone or with Alfred or her father or both. Doctor Marcel had never joined her, much to her joy, although he kept emphasizing his disapproval of Alfred coming along with them. He only let his son with them if there was no other way, albeit reluctantly. Edna was usually annoyed when Alfred had to stay with them when his father was away but, in retrospect, she actually liked it when he was sleeping over at their house. It was so hilarious when they all watched a creepy movie and he screamed like a girl. Once, he even wet his pants, something that still made Edna giggle when she recalled the incident. The movie they watched that night was not even that creepy; it was The Black Cauldron. Mattis had bought the movie, thinking it was just like any other movie from this studio, only to realize it was a bit darker. Of course, Alfred’s father was less than happy about this little accident but it amused both Edna and Harvey greatly. She only needed to mention the Horned King and Alfred nearly wet himself again. No surprise she did mention the character for some time whenever she felt like it.
Edna arrived at her house, looking just like it did over two weeks ago. Tina was not there yet, so Edna decided to wander around the property. Not much had changed since the night she found out the truth. The garden gnomes she smashed in search of the front door key were still at their rightful spots as was the garden furniture on the porch. Only the overgrown weed, the increased amount of moss and the fact the mailbox had detached itself from the exterior wall of the house were indications that a few years had passed. The night had been difficult for Edna; more often than not she was about to cry and could, at times, not hold her tears back. Her desire to turn back the clocks to the days of innocent childhood had been great and, truth to be told, still was. Things used to be more fun back then... and less complicated. Sighing heavily, Edna stared at the moss-covered garden furniture. Only a tiny amount of their original color was still visible. She was always happy when the weather was warm and sunny enough to eat outside, like when Mattis barbecued steaks and bratwurst or when they decided to take their lunch outside.
“Edna?“, she heard a female voice call from the front. Recognizing it to be Tina’s, Edna walked back to the area with the smashed garden gnomes, where she found her housemate staring at these.
“Whoever destroyed these has an anger management problem”, the blond commented. She turned away from the colorful pieces and instead gave the property a once-over with a smile on her face. “So, this is where you used to live?”
“Yes”, Edna nodded, watching her. Tina’s face fell the longer she looked around but it was not a disgusted face she made. If anything, it could be described as depressing.
“There’s something sad about it...“, Tina quietly remarked.
“I know...“, Edna agreed with a dejected voice. She beckoned her housemate to follow her, leading her to the tool shed in the backyard. They entered it, with Edna telling Tina to take the snow shovel while she took the rake. Tina did not quite understand why she wanted to take those things, especially the snow shovel, seeing it was summer and not winter, but took it nonetheless. Edna glanced for a moment at the wheel, the only thing that was left of her father’s bicycle. She briefly considered taking it along with her but, in the end, she opted not to. It would be a bit cumbersome to additionally carry this around.
“Bladder said you wanted to speak with me, Doctor?”
Babbitt stood in Doctor Marcel’s office, right in front of the latter’s desk. The older man had his back turned, smoking his pipe. Babbitt nervously shuffled his feet. One never knew what to expect when they were called to their employer’s office until the answer would leave the old man’s mouth. It could be anything, like the status of unemployment, certain task to keep the loonies in check or serving Doctor Marcel his tea. Because of that, every employee felt nervous upon hearing the doctor wanted to see them. Well, maybe except Anes, who only seemed to feel sadism, hate and a sick pleasure of mistreating the patients.
“Yes Babbitt, I indeed do”, the one-eyed doctor confirmed, facing the mini golf maniac at last. “Edna is apparently in this village. I want you to look for her and, if you find her, capture her.”
The black haired man swallowed uncertainly. He was supposed to get this crazy girl on his own? Without any help? Bladder and René once managed to catch her but that was because they knocked her out with an electroshock gun, which he, Babbitt, did not have. Actually, none of them had them after some of the loonies somehow managed to steal them all and used them for some kind of Frankenstein experiment during a thunderstorm a year ago. The result was that every single electroshock gun ended up broken and useless.
“Anes might have something that will help you if I’m not mistaken”, Doctor Marcel stated. “Go talk to him.”
“Yes sir”, Babbitt nodded. “Is there anything else, sir?”
“You are dismissed”, Doctor Marcel replied and Babbitt quickly left the office. He was annoyed that he had to look for Anes first and then for Edna. He had been looking forward to playing mini golf in his backyard all day long and now his precious time was cut short because some crazy girl happened to be in the village, apparently. How did the doctor know about this anyway? As far as Babbitt knew, he had not left the building once all day long. Did he have a secret informant stationed in the village? Or did Doctor Marcel perhaps leave the institution once and he simply did not notice? Oh well, it did not matter. The sooner he would get over his task, the sooner he could play mini golf. Babbitt walked down the stairs to the surveillance room, where he last saw Anes. The dark haired man still sat in his chair, leaning back and keeping his emotionless eyes on the monitors with crossed arms.
“Hello Babbitt”, he greeted his colleague without turning around to look at him.
“How... how did you know it was me?“, Babbitt asked both in fear and astonishment.
“I can see your reflection on the monitors”, Anes replied curtly. “It’s hard to see but it’s there. Now then...” He turned around to face Babbitt. “What can I do for you?”
Babbitt told him about the task he got from Doctor Marcel. Anes listened attentively, twisting his beard. When Babbitt finished speaking, Anes stood up and indicated Babbitt to follow him, leading him to the cell where Peter, Washing Maniac, Bruce Broker and Tiger Head were all locked in. Ignoring the woes of the four patients, who all complained about hunger, he took a handful of the darts and left the cell. Now he led Babbitt to the lockers, where employees kept their personal things, like their jackets or car keys, during work hours. Anes opened his locker and took out a long, wooden pole, which was as hollow as a pipe. Babbitt noticed there were quite a few in that locker.
“Put one of the darts in there and then blow. If you hit your target, they’ll be knocked out”, Anes instructed. “Grab them and make sure they’re unable to escape when they wake up. Any questions?”
“Yes. Why do you have so many blowpipes?“, Babbitt questioned. Anes made a scrunched face and thrust both the wooden pipe and the darts into his colleague’s hands. Babbitt was about to leave when Anes threw a rope around his shoulders like a feather boa.
“To incapacitate your prey”, he explained while slamming the door of his locker. He rushed past Babbitt presumably back to the surveillance room. The mini golf enthusiast rolled his eyes at him and removed the rope from around his shoulders and pocketed it. Then he hurried after his colleague out of the room but instead of going to the surveillance room, he headed for the garages. Babbitt opened one of the many garage doors and got into an off-white truck. He placed all the items Anes had given him on the passenger seat and started the vehicle.
Babbitt drove the long, winding road of the mountain down, slowing down the closer he got to the foot of the mountain. He kept his eyes open for an adult with a blue rag doll rabbit. This would be the only way he would recognize Edna, otherwise she could walk right past him and he would not know it. Well, René did show him an Internet video where a girl, who had a striking resemblance to Edna, was seen in the background. Nonetheless, they could not be sure it was really her or that she decided to change her looks, hence him focusing more on Harvey in his search. However, the streets were empty for most part with the exception of some adolescents heading for the bar – Babbitt rolled his eyes at today’s youth – and a family returning from a trip. Oh, and those two girls with the rake, snow shovel and blue stuffed lagomorph leaving the property with the rundown house. The small, black haired man just drove past when comprehension dawned on his face and his eyes increased their sizes to the size of saucers. Two adult girls, both around the same age, although he would estimate the blond to be younger, and a plush rabbit in one of the three primary colors! Babbitt would eat his precious “Babbitt & Son” titanium seven iron golf club if one of the girls was not Edna. He turned the car around, slowly following them as they walked down the street. He wondered why they had a snow shovel with them. Chances of snowing in were lower than the probability of a meteor suddenly crashing on his head. But maybe he should not think too much about this; he kept watch at Edna’s cell door often and long enough to know she had lost her marbles a very long time ago. From what he could see, they were heading for the forest.
Babbitt stopped the truck at the edge of the forest, grabbed the items he received from Anes and followed the two females inside the patch of Mother Nature on foot. He had to be careful if he wanted to knock out Edna without having to deal with the other girl. The best way would be if they would somehow get separated, maybe by being chased by a saber-toothed boar. Trouble was, these animals only roamed around at nightfall and only around areas with Artemisia. Also, Babbitt had his doubts they would still wander around the forest late in the night. Nevertheless, he loaded the blowpipe with one of the darts in case he would get the opportunity to shoot it at Edna. He kept on pursuing these two girls by hiding behind trees and keeping enough distance for them to not notice him but also for him not to be too far away. The blond spoke about the bar and the weird names and ingredients for the beverages – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic – they had to offer. From what Babbitt could hear, she was in the bar earlier and ordered a non-alcoholic drink. She still had to, according to her own words, drive the car. Babbitt’s face fell when he heard this. If they reached their vehicle before he was able to knock out Edna and capture her, he would never be able to. He sincerely hoped Doctor Marcel had a Plan B on hand. Lost in thought and too focused on the girls ahead of him, Babbitt failed to notice one particularly large root sticking up from under the ground and therefore tripped over it. He was sprawled over the ground, his inventory lying everywhere. Holding back a groan, he stood up and recovered his items. But, to his misfortune, he had lost sight of the girls.
“Doctor Marcel is going to kill me...“, Babbitt muttered in misery.
Neither Edna nor Tina had realized a man followed them through the woods. Not that it mattered anymore at the moment, he lost them and they were now in the car on their way back home. Edna was awfully quiet, her mind was filled with thoughts about the deceased she visited and the epiphany she had. For the former, she wished she had a way to communicate with the dead just to talk with her parents and with Alfred. As for the latter, she was not sure how or if she should tell the Key Master about this. She did not even know how much she liked him. It could just be a fleeting crush, gone in a few weeks’ time. But it could also be more than that. Perhaps it would be better if she said nothing at all until she was absolutely sure about her own feelings... and perhaps of the way he felt for her. The last thing she wanted was to ruin their friendship. No, she would keep her feelings to herself; it would be better this way.
“You know, when we girls all hang out together, I would suggest we spend the day at the beach and then have a movie night at someone’s place, maybe ours”, Tina suggested, causing Edna to think of something else. “What do you think? Do you have any suggestions too?”
“Sounds good in my opinion. I could ask Bianca if we can have the movie night at her place”, Edna replied. “She lives in a house, so we wouldn’t be bothering the neighbors.”
“Since when do you care about that?“, Harvey commented from his place on her lap. Edna ignored him.
“Sounds good to me”, Tina nodded at Edna’s suggestion. The latter grinned as she thought of more:
“We could also order a pizza and have an actual party. Y’know, with music, lights and dancing.”
“Is this supposed to be a day for just four girls or the whole town?“, her housemate asked in an amused voice.
“Just for four, although we might be five girls. Anika wanted to invite her sister too”, Edna replied. “She doesn’t know if her Sis can find the time on the day, though. By the way, when are we having our day?”
Edna looked questioningly with furrowed brows at her housemate. Tina stared straight ahead to the street in front of her. She seemed to be deep in thought, although it might as well be because she was focusing on driving.
“Hm, how about after you had your hearing?“, she eventually proposed. “That way, there wouldn’t be anything unpleasant on your mind.”
“Yeah, sounds good to me”, Edna agreed quietly. She had not thought about her hearing since the day she got her summons. The mention of it made her feel uneasy. What would happen to her? Would she end up in an asylum again? Or would she be locked in jail, which actually sounded to her like the lesser of the two evils? Whatever it was, she would ultimately not like her sentence. Edna wished she had not pushed Heike – even if she was a brainless, obnoxious, whiny, conceited bitch. Or that she let Harvey animate her to do this despite being fully aware that it never ended well when she pushed a person.
“Hey, are you okay?“, Tina asked in a soft, caring voice, glancing at her with a frown. Edna inhaled deeply and then exhaled.
“I was just thinking of the hearing...“, the former inmate of an asylum responded in a low voice.
“Don’t worry, it’s gonna be alright”, Tina tried to cheer her up. Edna sincerely hoped she was right. She knew Heike was incredibly stupid but not how far she would go to get what she wanted and Edna was sure she wanted to see her behind bars.
“Come on, think of something else! Think of something that would make you happy”, Tina added when she noticed Edna still had a miserable expression on her face. Perhaps she was right, Edna reckoned, and it also made no sense to depress oneself with thoughts of a hearing that was still a couple of weeks away. Therefore she closed her eyes and let her mind wander. Well, she had her friends who were always there for her and she had her mother’s diary she liked reading whenever she could. For years, Edna had wondered how her mother was like, since not even Harvey could tell her or tempomorph her to a time she was still alive, and having something of Vivian Konrad’s was like a friendly wave from a long forgotten past. It might not be the same as actually having her beside her but it was better than nothing and Edna could not help but smile when she read it. She was actually looking forward to the entries about her when she was still an infant and how her parents’ life had changed with her birth. Was she the child Mattis and Vivian had wished for? Or was the pregnancy unintentional but bound with the decision to raise the child as best as they could? Did they actually plan to get more kids if it were not for Vivian’s sudden death? Edna hoped so, she always wanted a sibling. Perhaps this was why she got along so well with Lilli in the convent school, since the little girl was like the sister she never had. If only she knew where Lilli lived now, she would like to visit her and see how she had been doing. Besides, if it had not been for her, Edna would have never reunited with Harvey. Sure, his appearance had changed but he was still the cuddly blue rabbit she had known for all her life. His cuteness even cheered Mother Superior up when she felt miserable for the way she treated children in the convent school. If she had asked if she could keep Harvey, Edna would probably have said yes since she looked like she could need a friend. But instead Mother Superior had given him back to Edna, who had told her he was actually hers. This was the first and last time Edna saw Ignatz being somewhat kind to her and Lilli. The last thing she heard was that she was sent to a therapist, one who could actually help her. Thinking about Mother Superior made Edna wonder how she had been doing over the last few years. Was she perhaps kinder to children now? Did she still have her job, albeit at a different place? There was so much Edna wanted to know about the people she met from between her escape to where she was currently in her life. She remembered how she wanted to invite Aluman, Hoti and Moti to her house for a big breakfast. Unfortunately, the plan never came to fruition and she was unable to contact them. But should she ever find them, she would invite them. It might get a little snug in the apartment but she did not care, although a picnic would be a great alternative. Whatever, she would think about the details if she ever found them.
Edna watched the scenery change from forest as far as the eyes can see to wide open fields and streets until the landscape was back to forest everywhere. With the change of the scenery, the color of the skies change from a bright blue to the warm and romantic array of orange and crimson as the sun peeked over the horizon. She knew her shift would soon start; she would have no time to visit the Key Master. Well, at least she did not have to worry about homework, seeing she got none, so there was a silver lining. Also, the two weeks she had to work every day instead of only on weekends would be over, so she would have more time for her hobbies. Tina slowed her car down until it came to a complete stop in front of the apartment complex.
“I bring the tools to the basement, you can go ahead to our apartment with Harvey”, Edna said while unbuckling her seatbelt.
“Alright”, Tina agreed before they got out of the car. The chubby blond got the blue rabbit from her housemate into her arms while she got all the tools from the car trunk. Tina locked her vehicle and went on ahead to the building, opening the door for herself and Edna. The former inmate of an asylum watched her friend using the elevator before she went to the door that led to the stairs down to the basement. When she opened device for entering and leaving four walls, she found that the lights were already on, to her surprise. Her first thought was that one of the neighbors was currently in the basement but as she listened intently, she heard sounds coming from behind the door where she stored the furniture for the Key Master. Well, at least she thought she heard noises there and she noticed light shining through the gap between door and floor. Also, the door stood slightly ajar. Ready to defend herself should the need arise, Edna descended the stairs and headed for the door, thinking of what kind of demon might be lurking behind it. She took one deep breath and opened the door, ready to clobber the unknown demon to death with a snow shovel, until she realized it was just the Key Master.
“Oh! Heh heh heh”, she chuckled nervously, letting her weapons sink. “It’s you.”
“You sound very enthusiastic to see me”, the Key Master commented dryly with a raised eyebrow. In his arms, he held all four table legs.
“I thought a demon or some other creature was in here”, Edna explained while placing the smaller tools on a shelf.
“Did you read fantasy novels all day long to have such thoughts?“, the Key Master asked while the young woman was in the process of leaning both the snow shovel and the rake against the wall. He nodded towards them. “What’s with those tools?”
“I was in my old hideout and at my father’s house to get some tools for you. I would like to help you bring these to your place but I have no time. Gotta go to work”, she replied. “But I have time tomorrow.”
“Okay, then I guess I see you tomorrow”, he said with a nod. “Have fun at work and at school tomorrow.”
Edna watched him walking towards the door. He had his free hand on the handle when he turned around and added:
“I’ll be looking forward to your visit.”
With these words, he left the room. Edna stared after him with a goofy smile that was so unlike her. Since she realized she had a crush on the Key Master, she felt like she could giggle non-stop. Or maybe there was something in her pancakes... Anyway, she was glad she still got a chance to see him without waiting for the afternoon of the next day. She got so used to see him on a daily basis, it was impossible to think of a day without spotting him for even a minute. Was this a sign of the feelings she had for the green-skinned man? Still thinking about this, she left the basement and went up to her and Tina’s apartment where she got ready for work.
An hour on the highway away from Edna’s current position was Babbitt, still wandering around in the forest even after the sun had switched places with the glowing white moon. He was exhausted and in a bad mood, mumbling insults for Edna, Doctor Marcel and Anes under his breath. All he wanted was to play mini golf in his backyard but no, thanks to his boss’s unhealthy obsession with the girl, he was instead straying around the forest after dark. All he wanted now was to eat and sleep and not leave Hypnos’s cradling arms until after summer. He leaned against a tree trunk in exhaustion and looked up to the little patch of heaven he could see through the treetops. A few stars twinkled in the sky as if to greet him or to mock him, he was not sure. Babbitt filled his thoughts with roast pork and potatoes swimming in gravy and vegetables as a side dish when he heard a squeaky grunt. Stiff as a board and eyes almost bulging out of their sockets, Babbitt turned to his left hand side and looked down. He noticed some kind of plant growing at the base of the tree, something that had a remarkable resemblance to...
“Artemisia! Oh shit!“, Babbitt cursed. He had to get away from here as fast as possible, unless he wanted to be chased by a saber-toothed boar like a mouse being hunted by a cat. The grunt resonated again, this time much closer than it did before. Babbitt turned his heel and headed back the way he came from. He barely walked five steps when he heard the grunt again and felt hot breath at his hand. Knowing what it could mean and hoping against hope it was not the case, he turned around. Bigger than a normal boar with tusks as big and wide as Babbitt himself, its fur as brown as mud and its hooves as black as ebony, the mini golf maniac found himself face to face with a saber-toothed boar and it looked angry. Babbitt knew he had to keep cool and not panic; he was not supposed to make any sudden movements. Therefore, he stood still, not moving a single muscle.
Well, he would have if he was smart enough to do as he was supposed to instead of running and screaming for his mother. Babbitt ran faster than he ever ran in his life, jumping over logs, stones and other things that were on the ground. His whole life flashed before his inner eye; he thought about how he never became such a professional mini golf player like his late father, how he never found a soul mate and how he never got the respect he earned. Oh, and he thought he should have turned his heel when he lost sight of Edna and the other girl while it was still bright outside.
“I DON’T WANNA DIE!”
Unexpectedly, he bumped into something soft and fell on his behind. He heard the soft something gasp but he ignored it. He looked behind himself, expecting to see the saber-toothed boar. However, he found himself well out of the woods, with no pork in sight. In fact, he was back in the village; near the place he parked his vehicle.
“Hey, how about an apology?“, a female voice demanded indignantly. At last, Babbitt turned his attention to the soft thing he bumped against. It was a young, black skinned woman, whose black hair was up in a ponytail. Babbitt had seen this person a few times before but he could not think of where.
“Hey, aren’t you one of the guards in Doctor Marcel’s asylum?“, the woman asked.
“Uh yes”, Babbitt confirmed while getting up. “Do I know you?”
“We’ve crossed ways before. My boyfriend – Ben – works there as a guard too and I held a few therapy sessions”, she explained. “I’m Amy Straube.”
Now he remembered her. He saw wandering around the institution and visiting the patients in the recreation room before and after her sessions began. Babbitt knew she would converse with them but also with the employees every now and then.
“Ah yes, I remember now. Aren’t you the one who joins the loonies in their board games now and then?“, Babbitt remarked.
“Please don’t call them ‘loonies’, it’s degrading”, Amy responded reprovingly. “Anyway, yes I am. Just because they’re a little cuckoo doesn’t it mean we should treat them in any inhuman way.”
Babbitt never thought about it that way. Since he started working in the asylum, he saw the patients being treated like they had a contagious disease. Some of his colleagues went even so far that they did not consider the patients as living, feeling beings. Babbitt himself did not think the patients had no feeling but he also did not treat them like they were his equals. If he thought about it, only Amy and her boyfriend Ben showed genuine concern for the loonies. Everybody else just did their jobs, with no complaints – unless Doctor Marcel was going to neglect the loonies and everything else in the asylum again. Hopefully, this would not happen because he, Babbitt, lost Edna.
“Well, see you next time you’re holding a therapy session”, Babbitt said and headed for the truck, deciding to drive home and get some rest. Still, Amy’s words caused him to think... Perhaps he should be friendlier to the patients, even if they were annoying. After all, they had never done anything to hurt him, not even Edna – unless he counted his pride and the fact he still was no professional mini golf player. The only thing they did to him was to annoy him, with Edna being a champion at that.