His good mood had vanished; he was back to his usual grouchy self. He should not have left his office; he should have sent someone to fetch something for him. Had he not learned in all the years he had known Edna that she always managed to do the impossible? Doctor Marcel glared at the door to his office as though it was the wood’s fault Edna escaped. But he was certain she would be back in his clutches one way or another before the night was over. After all, he had all of his minions who were currently in his mental institution searching all over the building and property for her. This time, he was going to make sure she would not be able to leave the premises. No cars she could get access to, as far as he knew, and no way to infiltrate the watch tower to open the main gates. She would be caught before she could even take a step in this direction.
Doctor Marcel moved his wheelchair away from his desk and to the fireplace to look at the old photos of times when he could still walk and had two functional eyes, of a time when the most perfect example of child raising was still alive and well. No matter how much time passed, Doctor Marcel would never get over that the proof his methods worked and were actually better than the common methods on raising a child was not among the living anymore. He had even come to genuinely care for Alfred... He was the kind of child a parent would want – obedient, did his chores, always brought good grades home, and already knew what he wanted to be when he was grown up, which not many kids knew. There were still a few minor things that had to be tweaked, like his wanting to play with toys or spending his time with Edna, nothing too bad but if Doctor Marcel would have managed to get rid of these mistakes in time, Alfred would not only have been perfect but would have been the epitome of proper child raising.
Doctor Marcel moved his head down, so that he was gazing at one of the many Harvey copies that had been produced over the years lying on his lap. It would not have been in vain if his plan would succeed and he was certain it would. What child could not resist a stuffed rabbit? And with its special eyes and the recorded lines in its voice box, all children around the world would be what Alfred was – obedient children without any childishness. Doctor Marcel’s lips formed an evil smile at the thought of it. Ah, what a perfect world it would be! Everyone would be behaving like a grown up from an early age on. No more buying and producing toys; they were only a waste of space and money, after all. But, unfortunately, new clothes would still have to be bought since he was unable to let children grow with his hypnosis. He could hypnotize them to make them believe they were the same height as their parents but it would nonetheless not prevent them from being small and growing over a certain period of time. Still, a small sacrifice for what society would actually gain.
“This time, my plan will succeed”, Doctor Marcel whispered maliciously to the Harvey copy on his lap. It resembled Edna’s own stuffed rabbit the way it looked a few years ago when he used him to try out his new therapy on Lilli...
“Ugh, we should have taken another car... or bicycles”, Amy complained as she, her sister, and Sebastian ascended the street leading up to the asylum on foot. It was not easy to get there without any mode of transportation with the institution being so high up and the hill being steep on some parts. Amy’s hair and clothes were drenched in sweat so much that she felt like she jumped with her clothes on in a pool. Hiking had never been one of her favorite activities; she had hated it when her parents took her and Anika out to hike. Amy was always more the bookish kind of person instead of athletic while her little sister was a combination of both.
“I think we’re almost there”, Sebastian tried to cheer her up. It worked pretty well but then he had to keep talking: “D’you reckon we can still manage to execute the plan?”
“I hope so! Who knows if we can get another chance to get Tina and Edna’s other friend out!“, Anika responded. “What was her name again?”
“Lilli is her name”, Amy replied, breathing heavily. “Anyone got a bottle of water with them? I’m thirsty...”
“Ah no, I expected we would be in the car all the way up”, the only male of the three hikers shook his head.
“Me neither”, Anika replied. “I thought the same as Sebastian.”
Amy sighed; she should have figured this out on her own. How would they know that Gregor’s car would have a flat tire? All she could hope was to get some beverage in the asylum... Amy looked up to the building, which came closer with every step she took. It was not like it was far away anymore but it was also not like the institution was just an arm’s length away. Still, she kept going in hopes for a bucket of water. Hopefully it was not contaminated by whatever Doctor Marcel and Anes were on.
After about half an hour, or more, the three reached the wall separating the asylum’s premises with the outer world. Usually, Amy never had any trouble getting in during day time but she had never tried at night and something told her it would not be so easy to get in. Still, it was no problem for her. During all the time she roamed around while visiting Ben at work or while passing time before her therapy session began, she had found something that seemed to have been forgotten by everybody else and that was a backdoor. Trouble, though, was that she was quite sure where it was and the security camera did not make it any better. Anika and Sebastian looked unsure at the sight of the camera too.
“Do you think we will be filmed when we try to get around the right side?“, Anika questioned, her eyes following the path on the aforementioned side.
“I’m not sure but the cam’s not moving, so I assume if we go around the left side, we won’t be caught on cam”, Amy replied. “But I’m not even sure where the back door is, so I propose we go around the left side.”
“What do you say, Sebastian?“, Anika asked the boy. He jumped and stared at them clueless.
“Uh, whatever you two say”, he said rather stupidly. The sisters rolled their eyes in exasperation, kind of wishing Bianca would punch him for this comment. Sometimes, they could not help but wonder why the half-Italian had such an obvious crush on him, even if he did not seem to realize this.
“Oh, screw that! Let’s take the right path”, Anika decided. Her sister raised an eyebrow, silently asking herself why she decided to take this side. But as long as they did get to their destination, it hardly mattered. Thus, nobody said anything to this and they all went around the right-hand side, careful not to be caught on camera...
Every single eye was directed to one single spot after Petra startled them with her scream and that was to the same door which Ben, Peter, Tiger Head, the Washing Maniac and Bruce came through. In the threshold stood a man of who Edna knew no patient trusted. She herself had not trusted him for a long time but now, she could hardly imagine her life without him. The man was the Key Master, whose eyes were only directed at Edna as though she was the only person in the room. Slowly, he approached her and plumped on the floor right in front of her. Without a word, he gave Harvey to her.
“Thanks”, she said with a small smile, taking her rabbit into her arms. A few patients whispered among themselves at this strange display but she ignored them and it seemed he did too. It was only when Tina tapped her on the shoulder did she look at the other people in the room.
“Wasn’t there something you wanted to tell us? And mind introducing your friend to me?“, she asked.
“Oh yes!“, Edna stood up, cleared her throat and began talking in the same clear voice she used a few months ago when she held her report about Goethe. “This is our current situation, the Key Master –“, she nodded at her green-skinned companion, “– and I broke in to get Tina and Lilli out of here. While we’re, we decided to look at our medical records but while the Key Master was gone to get something for me, I was caught by some weird guy. He had his face hidden under a paper bag and he claimed to be Doctor Marcel’s son.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the Key Master made a slight movement like he wanted to take her in his arms but decided against it. She wished he would have done it.
“Anyway, I was locked in the closet in Doctor Marcel’s office until the Key Master got me out. By now, Doctor Marcel’s minions, and I guess his son too, are looking for me and the Key Master. So, I’m asking you all to distract them while we two escape with Miranya, Tina and Lilli.”
“I know I’m asking much of you but think of all the fun you all could have while causing mayhem”, Edna replied to Drogglejug’s question. Tina’s jaw dropped and her eyes nearly popped out of their sockets.
“How can you understand him? He speaks like a Pokémon!“, she exclaimed. However, she was the only person to react like this. Everybody else was able to understand the fellow with a pillow on his head perfectly.
“Well, we can use the opportunity to expand the kingdom”, King Adrian decided. A patient Edna did not know exclaimed enthusiastically something in a language she did not understand.
“And we can get back at Doctor Marcel and his minions!“, a guy who did not seem to be able to stop hopping contributed to the conversation. He was next to Tiger Head, with one hand placed on her shoulder, and looked worriedly at her. “Is there a way to get her and Peter back to normal? I really do not like them being like breathing dolls...”
Edna walked over to Peter and Tiger Head, both of who had not moved a millimeter since they stopped walking. They stared ahead with their empty eyes, which reminded Edna of possessed people in movies.
“We don’t know what exactly happened when they were hypnotized. Maybe there is a way to counter the hypnosis but I don’t know how”, the tanned blond man said.
“How come you and the other guy weren’t hypnotized, uh, are you Dieter Bohlen or not?“, Tina inquired. Edna heard her mumbling something about having seen him on television a few months ago and asking herself when he ended up here under her breath.
“I’m not Dieter Bohlen, I’m the Washing Maniac”, he corrected her. The chubby girl nodded in acknowledgement with comprehension dawning on her face. Edna thought back of the files she read down in the archives, remembering the mention of the usage of hypnosis on patients. Trouble was, though, she had not memorized them and before she had the chance to write these pieces of information down, she had been caught. However, she had never closed but only minimized the documents and if the Key Master had not closed them while getting Harvey for her, they would have an opportunity to get Peter and Tiger Head back to normal. She went back to where he was and asked him in a whisper if he had closed the open files, receiving a no in answer. Now knowing the patients could still easily access them, Edna told everyone present about the computer in the archives and the information on the inmates.
“One of you could go down to the archives and look up what it has to say to Peter and Tiger Head. Their files are still open”, Edna concluded her explanation, looking at them all as if she expected someone to step forward and volunteer to go down to find out how to get these two back to normal. However, only a couple of patients hung on her lips and they stared at her like she had grown a second head. The majority that had not listened to her and simply looked absentmindedly around or picked their noses or ears.
“Don’t everybody go off at once”, Edna said sarcastically. No one raised their hand or did anything else, verbal or non-verbal, that showed that they wanted to go to the archives.
“I’ll go”, the Key Master volunteered. Edna exhaled in relief, glad that somebody did volunteer but...
“But aren’t you going to flee with us?“, she asked, furrowing her brows in confusion.
“I’m gonna catch up with your group. Don’t you worry, Princess”, he replied in a reassuring voice. Still, it did not make her feel better. Her face was still in a frown and she additionally bit her bottom lip. The thought to leave the Key Master behind, even if he was going to catch up, did not suit her.
“If it makes you feel better, I could accompany him and you and the others keep everyone on their toes in the meantime. That way, our group can escape without leaving anyone behind”, Tina suggested.
“Oh, say yes! We can cause mayhem! Yippie!“, Harvey cheered and even Edna could not help but to smile benignly at his reaction. It would certainly be fun to wreak havoc. Besides, the interior needed more decorations and adornments. Therefore, Edna nodded in agreement to her friend’s suggestion.
“I’ll come with them, just in case we encounter one of the minions”, Ben spoke up.
“Okay, you do that”, Edna agreed with his offer. “We’ll meet each other here. Now –“, she looked at the inmates, “– someone needs to watch over Peter and Tiger Head to keep them safe. Any volunteers?”
“I will!“, Petra raised her hand, as cheerful as ever.
“I knew you would want to help, Drogglejug! You are so courageous”, Edna sighed amorously. Oh, what a man Drogglejug was! So brave, so loyal, so attractive, and he had such a way with words! Why was he no movie star? He would be the hottest celebrity of all time!
“Is it just my imagination? Or is that Key Master guy’s skin a darker shade of green now?“, Tina mumbled, loud enough for those closest to her to hear. Edna swiveled around to see if there was some truth in her housemate’s words. However, all she could see was the heel of one of his feet as he hurried out of the room. The young woman did not like the way he left, she could not help but fear that the next person he was going to come across would not be able to regret that mistake.
“I think I should go after him...“, Tina figured, jumping up and rushing after the Key Master. Edna frowned at the spot she last saw signs of her two friends before they were out of her sight. She could only hope that her housemate could talk with him without any trouble. With a sigh, she turned to all the other inmates:
“Well, who’s up for some mayhem?”
He would probably never understand her! What was so great about Drogglejug? He was nothing more than a useless pretty boy. And he was not even that good looking! Granted, he could hardly judge what women considered as attractive but a guy like Drogglejug? That was almost like saying Elton John was an untalented singer. The Key Master continued downstairs, hardly aware of where he was going. He was too deep in thought as he stormed through the halls, miraculously not crashing against anything or anyone. Actually, he did not encounter anyone, no guards, not the guy who brought Edna to Doctor Marcel, no one. Were he not too busy being annoyed about Edna’s incomprehensible behavior towards Drogglejug, he would get suspicious. He only became aware of his surroundings when he heard a female voice behind him:
“Hey! Wait for me!”
The Key Master stopped walking and waited for the caller, who soon revealed herself to be Tina, to catch up. The two walked side by side after she caught up with him, with his still thinking about the topic that annoyed him so.
“You like her, don’t you?“, Tina suddenly asked. The Key Master stared at her, not stopping walking:
“Edna”, she replied like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “You like her more than as a friend, don’t you?”
“What gave you this idea?“, he questioned, looking away. They stopped walking.
“I see the way you look at her. And hey”, she put her hands in her hips, “I might be a single but I’ve watched enough movies to know how two in love look at each other... Plus, many of my friends are in a relationship.”
The Key Master arched an eyebrow; at once he wondered whether or not Tina was really an inmate because of her friendship with Edna. Without bothering to reply to her question, he went on his way downstairs. She followed him and, while she did not ask more questions on this matter, she kept glancing at him as if she expected he would suddenly carry a note reading ‘I have feelings for Edna Konrad’ around. Besides, why should Tina care about this? Well, she and Edna had lived together for a number of years, they are as close as sisters, a little voice in his head reminded him. That was true and pretty much the reason Edna insisted on saving her as well as this Lilli without asking anyone else, apart from him, for help. And because she did not want to drag more people than necessary in potential danger. Not that the last part actually mattered, considering her other friends were on their way here for the same reason Edna was here. Why did humanity have communication again if they were not using it?
“You know, I think she has feelings for you”, Tina suddenly spoke up, pulling the Key Master out of his reverie.
“Huh? What? Who has what kind of feelings for me? You should really be more precise.”
“What I was saying is that I reckon that Edna has romantic feelings for you. Better?”
The Key Master stared at her, unable to form any comprehensible words. Edna having romantic feelings for him? That was ridiculous! And yet, he had always suspected she might be feeling more than friendship for him but he was never sure. Now, a girl who had never seen him before and who never had a conversation with him told him her friend liked him in a romantic way. Still, he could only be certain if Edna told him by herself and seeing how she acted around Drogglejug, he found it very unlikely.
“Are you sure? Remember the way she was around that playboy Drogglejug?“, the Key Master grumbled.
“It actually reminded me of a celebrity crush”, Tina shrugged. The Key Master had no time to give a verbal response or to even turn around to raise an eyebrow at her, like he intended to. No, like Edna about an hour earlier, he felt something in his neck before seeing only blackness. The same thing also happened to Tina at the same time, though he was already unconscious when it happened.
Not far from where they were lying on the ground stood two of Doctor Marcel’s minions, one with an evil grin on his face. He approached these two, holding his blowpipe in such a way that he could easily shoot another anesthetic darts. Anes kicked the Key Master first, then Tina, to check if they were really unconscious. None of them moved, they just laid there unmoving, almost like they were dead. A few meters behind Anes stood René, also holding a blowpipe, which he pressed tightly to his body as though it would protect him from harm.
“This guy could be the Key Master Doctor Marcel had mentioned. He does have green skin, after all”, Anes concluded. He turned to his colleague, who looked uncertainly at these two unconscious persons.
“Come on, help me carry them upstairs to Doctor Marcel”, Anes demanded, picking up the Key Master and throwing him over his shoulder. René glared at him before bending down and picking Tina up, cursing under his breath that he had to carry the heavier human being of the two. Anes led the way with quick steps while the lanky guy could just barely keep up with large steps. To their horror, they found about every patient in this mental institution running around and besmirching every surface with everything they could use. Neither Anes nor René knew who to shoot first, there were just too many moving around and in such a speed that it was more likely to hit a wall instead. Anes rolled his eyes and groaned before storming off to the next floor, with René in tow. The same picture as before presented itself on the next floors.
“What the hell is going on?“, a slack jawed René asked with large eyes. Never had he seen anything like this during his time as a guard in this asylum before. Sure, there were crazy times but this had to be the craziest occurrence ever. Maestro Frank ran past him and Anes, drawing on their faces with a pink marker. They looked at each other, with the latter glaring daggers. René looked away from his colleague and hurried upstairs to Doctor Marcel’s office. It was Anes who knocked at the door and they received permission to enter a moment later.
“Sir, we found the man known as the Key Master”, Anes announced proudly before his boss could ask questions. Like Ruben did about an hour earlier with Edna, Anes unceremoniously dropped the Key Master onto the floor. Doctor Marcel took a good look at the unconscious man. Even though he had changed quite a bit over the years, he was still recognizable as the lunatic man who escaped the institution with Edna’s help. Then again, how many people with green skin were walking around? An evil smirk appeared on the old man’s face as a plan was forming in his head.
“Listen you two, I... what the hell happened to your faces?“, Doctor Marcel only realized just now the pink lines on his employees’ faces.
“It’s like hell downstairs!“, René exclaimed, arms wildly flailing about. Anes put his face in his hand and shook his head. Doctor Marcel raised an eyebrow and stared at them both.
“Every patient is running around freely and like crazed chickens, besmirching everything”, Anes explained, much calmer than his lanky colleague.
“What!?“, Doctor Marcel shouted, his usually gray tinted skin took on an ugly red shade. However, he calmed down fairly quickly and cleared his throat. “Well, no matter, there is another, more important matter at hand.”
René stared incredulously at his boss for practically saying he did not care. The lanky man had a bad feeling about this and it only got worse when Doctor Marcel told them about his plan.
The way the patients ran past Edna out of the recreation room was like a stampede of about every animal living in the savannah. Some ran upstairs, some downstairs and some remained on the floor, every single one of them having the same goal. They had previously taken pens, crayons, paints and everything else they could use to besmirch every surface. Many ran around, drawing on the walls while doing so. Some just chose a spot and write or drew something on the wall, like a bee sitting on a flower and sipping coffee. King Adrian traipsed around and wrote ‘King Adrian’s Kingdom’ here and there in large letters. Rebecca drew hearts all around and Max painted random geometrical shapes. Hoppy Hop attempted to draw frogs but since he could not stop hopping, so it was hard to discern what it was supposed to be. The woman in a potato sack drew a crude but accurate graffiti of Doctor Marcel. But no matter where the patients were, they did not let the guards, who eventually found them, bother them. Not even when they tried to capture them or when one of them peeked into the surveillance room to ask for Bladder’s assistance. The patients did not even notice Anes and René carrying the unconscious Key Master and the unconscious Tina on their backs, except Maestro Frank since he ran past them and painted on their faces. However, his brain did not register who they were carrying until the two employees were long gone.
Meanwhile, in the surveillance room, Bladder kept watching his movie wishing he had some popcorn. Now and then, he glanced at the monitors, noting a girl who resembled Edna walking around as well as the patients painting the walls. The door opened and a rather harassed looking colleague looked right at him.
“Bladder, we... we need your help. There are... too many r-running around”, the colleague said, taking a couple of deep and exhausted breaths in-between.
“Yeah okay. I’ll be there in a minute”, Bladder waved him off. His colleague removed himself from the surveillance room and Bladder turned back to the television. So, Edna did seem to come to her friends’ rescue, he thought to himself remembering the woman he saw on the monitors. Whether he liked her or not, he had to admit her distraction was a good one; no one would be able to capture her and her friends since they were too busy restraining the wild patients. But he had no plans of going out there; he would only lose some of his nerves.
In all the chaos of every patient running around freely for the first time in ages, Edna ran downstairs to the cafeteria, from where she went through the door on the other end of the room. She ended up in a small hallway with one purpose in mind. Last time she was in this particular hallway, she found three portraits of three individuals, namely Freud, Jung, and Doctor Marcel. Back then, she had much joy in ruining the third portrait and she wanted to see if the damage she caused were still there. Unfortunately, though, it was replaced by a new portrait, a bigger one to cover up the words she had written on the wall around the old one.
“Ah man, they eliminated your improvements of the picture”, Harvey pouted.
“Don’t worry, I have enough items in my inventory to make this one even better than the old one”, Edna consoled her oldest friend while taking out a bottle of ketchup. She squirted it at several areas, like ears or mouth, to make it look like Doctor Marcel was bleeding there. After she was done with the ketchup, she took the mustard out and sprayed it all over the grumpy man’s skin. Edna took a step back to admire the more colorful picture. Next, she punctured holes around the doctor with a fork, followed by slashes here and there with a knife. After putting those away, she cut some pattern with her scissors at the edge of the portrait.
“Almost perfect”, she mumbled to herself, taking out her ballpoint pen and writing the word ‘idiot’ on the wall above the frame as well as the phrase ‘I eat poop’ in Doctor Marcel’s hand writing and drawing devil horns above his head. Edna topped it all off by denting the frame with her polo mallet.
“There, much better”, the young woman declared, smiling in satisfaction.
“Oh yes, you captured Doctor Marcel’s essence perfectly!“, Harvey praised. Edna smirked at her blue rabbit before running off to find more things she could make more beautiful with her items.
Ben needed several minutes to notice that the two he wanted to accompany to the archives were already gone, having been deep in thought. It was only when Petra pulled him out of his reverie by calling his name did he notice he was the only one left, aside from her, Drogglejug and the two hypnotized inmates. Without further ado, Ben ran out of the recreation room and found all the other patients happily causing mayhem wherever they could. He even saw some of his colleagues trying to capture them, only to fail miserably. He chuckled to himself when one of them slipped on a pencil that lay on the floor and crashed against a wall. Still, Ben thought it might be better if it appeared he was there to catch the patients too and did some, quite half-hearted, attempts on his way downstairs. However, when he reached the archives, it was devoid of any human life. Ben wondered if the Key Master and Tina had already found what they were looking for and had gone to rejoin Edna. He decided to go to her too but not before take a look at the files as he was, admittedly, curious about the content and so, he moved the mouse to get the computer out of standby mode. Assuming the open files would be about Peter and Tiger Head, since they were their current main concerns, se was surprised to find that the open file that revealed itself was neither about the two but about someone else. However, he found that more files were open, including those two’s. He enlarged them, skimmed through them. Not sure if they could still need the information stored in the computer, he just closed the files and turned the screen off to save electricity. Then he decided to rejoin Edna too and therefore left the archives. Some inmates had started redecorating in the basement, judging from the caricature of Babbitt cuddling his beloved golf club, which made Ben chuckle. Around the corner was the Beeman, who was busy smudging old porridge he stole from the kitchen on the wall.
“At least this is good for something”, he remarked as Ben walked past him. Well, he had a point; the porridge served in the asylum was generally bad and it did not help that it looked like someone already ate it and regurgitated it. He walked upstairs to the ground floor and past the backdoor the same moment it opened to reveal Amy, Anika and Sebastian. Ben stared at the three, having almost given up on them ever arriving.
“Well, here we are”, Amy grinned sheepishly. “Hope we’re not too late.”
“You guys missed quite a bit, like Edna convincing every patient to wreak havoc”, the only one of them who was employed in this asylum explained casually. He soon realized it would have been better if he had not said anything at all, judging from their astounded and disbelieving faces.
“Did you just say Edna?“, Sebastian questioned as though he wanted to make sure he had not misheard him.
“Um... yes?“, Ben replied with a sheepish grin similar to that of his girlfriend, drawing out the word of confirmation.
“What!?“, Amy and Anika exclaimed together before the former stepped forward and poked her boyfriend on the chest with each syllable: “Why did you call her? You knew we didn’t want to let her know!”
“Hey, I didn’t call her! She came here along with some guy on her own!“, Ben defended himself and went on to tell them what had occurred so far. “It seemed that she already knew about Tina and Lilli’s capture for some time.”
“Well, we can’t change it now. The best we can do is to help them”, Anika said sagely before anyone had the chance to say anything. The others murmured in agreement and accompanied Ben on his way to rejoin Edna.
It did not take very long to find her, not even five minutes, since she was in the main area of the ground floor. They almost missed her and walked past her but Sebastian fortunately took a closer look and recognized her. Edna, however, did not seem to have noticed them, being too busy to give a potted plant zigzag look. Ketchup dripped from one slashed leaf while mustard dripped from another one. A third leaf was punctured with tiny holes and the pot itself had a face drawn on it with Doctor Marcel’s signature on its left and three Xs on its right.
“... I’m not gonna ask”, Anika commented while watching Edna at her work. The purple haired woman stopped cutting and slowly turned around as if she could not believe who she just heard talking. Her jaw dropped upon seeing Amy, Anika and Sebastian.
“W-when did you guys arrive?“, Edna asked quite dumbfounded.
“A little while ago”, Anika explained. “And we only just learned you already knew about the kidnappings. Guess we should have talked about it instead of just making assumptions.”
Ben only listened with one ear while Edna agreed with her friend; he was taking a look around, expecting to see the man Edna arrived with and Tina around.
“Say, where is that guy you came with and Tina? Are they in the recreation room? Or are they also having fun causing mayhem?“, Ben asked after failing to spot the two. Edna frowned at him:
“What are you talking about? Aren’t the Key Master and Tina in the archives?”
“There wasn’t anyone when I was there”, Ben shook his head. “So I thought they were with you.”
“I haven’t seen them since they left the recreation room. Maybe they’re there?”
Amy, Anika and Sebastian listened interestedly, wondering what they were talking about. Anika raised her hand:
“Does that Key Master guy have an actual name?”
Her question was left unanswered. It was quickly decided that they checked up the recreation room while the two sisters and the boy were asked to look for them on the other floors, after receiving a description of the Key Master by Edna. The five friends walked two floors up together before separating with Edna and Ben going to the recreation room. The other three went upstairs to the next floor. Unlike every other room in the mental institution, it was awfully quiet in the recreation room with the exception of Petra talking to the only persons in her company. None of the others said anything, probably because they did not get the chance to since the perpetual cheerful woman never shut up. So, expecting to find her in the company of Drogglejug, a cured Peter and a cured Tiger Head as well as the Key Master and Tina, Edna and Ben entered the recreation room’s main area. Several things became apparent the moment they stepped through the door; Peter and Tiger Head were still hypnotized, Petra was mostly talking to herself and neither the Key Master nor Tina were anywhere to be seen.
“But if they’re not here, where are they?“, Edna mumbled to herself.
“Do you think the guy Ben and Edna were talking about was the same one we met at the funfair the other day?“, Sebastian asked his two female companions the moment the Edna and Ben were out of earshot.
“I would reckon so”, Anika confirmed before raising an eyebrow at him. “Why? Are you jealous? I always thought you and Bianca were an item.”
“No, Bianca and I are just friends... I think...“, Sebastian averted his eyes, staring at a nearby corner without really seeing it mumbling something about finding her cute under his breath. Anika, feeling sisterly affection towards the younger boy, placed a hand on his shoulder. He looked at her and she smiled kindly at him.
“Maybe you should try to get together with Bianca”, she advised before being interrupted by her sister:
“Uh guys? Don’t you think we should save the relationship advice part for later?”
Both decided that Amy had a point and agreed to split too to cover more areas. They would meet up here in twenty minutes and report their findings. Wishing each other good luck and silently hoping to find the missing persons, Amy ran downstairs to the ground floor, Anika ran to the third floor and Sebastian hurried upstairs to check the next floor.
The sisters immediately saw that the patients had gone all out in decorating the asylum with their artistic skills. There was hardly any spot on the walls that was not painted with pictures by inmates expressing their feelings and emotions. Amy even took her time to look at the pictures. She always liked it when the patients drew something since it was about the only time they actually showed what they really felt. Also, some were even really talented to the point that they were on par with famous artists. However, they hardly ever got the chance to take their time and paint actual portraits... and inspiration rarely struck them being cooped up in this building every day for every hour. But Amy knew there was a reason why the inmates were patients in this asylum. Nonetheless, she wished they would get the chance to actually go outside but remain on the premises. She had heard of a brief time when patients were free to move around on the property, the Beeman even escaped somehow. Though when she asked him, he just told her he flew, something she could hardly believe.
Amy decided she had spent enough time looking at the artworks. Her sister had already gone off to search for the two missing persons. So, Amy went down to the ground floor and through the cafeteria to the hallway behind it. The first place she looked for the Key Master and Tina was the room where therapy sessions for game designers were held on a regular basis. On her way there, she walked past the three portraits, stopped and stared at the one closest to the door.
“Looks much better now”, Amy commented after a few seconds before turning away and walking through the door. She stepped into the dark room. She could make out the outlines of the furniture thanks to the light of the moon shining through the large window. Amy turned the light on, shielding her eyes to prevent herself from getting blinded by it. She scanned the room, there was hardly any place to hide, and found she was the only human in here. With a sigh, she turned the lights off and left the room, going back to the cafeteria. Earlier, Amy had just gone through the place where patients consumed their meals but this time, she crouched down and bothered to look under the tables, even though she could not imagine why the Key Master and Tina would hide there. And it remained a question she would never be able to answer since she could not find anyone. She decided to check the kitchen just when she heard frantic footsteps. Amy froze, thinking it could be some of Doctor Marcel’s employees. The sound of a deep voice telling someone to check the cafeteria pulled the woman out of her trance. She knew she could not make it to the door leading to the kitchen in time, so she rushed through the one she came through just three minutes ago and not a moment too soon for two of Doctor Marcel’s guards entered the cafeteria. Amy left the door slightly ajar and watched them through the crack, wondering who or what they were trying to find. Were they trying to find the same people she was looking for? Or were they checking whether or not any patients have caused mayhem in here too? But whatever it was, it seemed they hardly cared for whatever or whoever they were looking for. If they would actually take their searching seriously, they would also check the hallway Amy was hiding in as well as the room the hallway led to. Instead, they left the cafeteria after just five minutes after they looked in the corners and under the table with the same success Amy had. She waited for a short moment in case they came before daring to step out of the hallway. She knew she had to be more careful, lest she would be caught. That reminded her, what about the security cameras? Could Bladder be keeping an eye on them and know where her friends were? Amy really hoped he drank so much that his abnormally large bladder was so full that he was having the pee break of the century. She walked through the cafeteria to the kitchen where she also found nobody and she had her doubts the Key Master and Tina were hiding in the cupboards and drawers unless they could turn into tiny little fairies. Amy leaned against the cold stove, trying to think of another place to look for them. She ruled out the door that was on the same side as the door leading to the cafeteria since it led to the front entrance and it was always guarded. They would have to be exceptionally stupid to go through there. Her next thought was the backdoor; perhaps they were waiting for the others somewhere in the yard? It could be a possibility, though she figured she could speak with Edna and the others about this before leaving the building.
Anika stood next to her sister and looked at a picture some patient had drawn on a wall. However, unlike Amy, who seemed to be mesmerized by it, she could pull herself away from it. She knew they had to find Edna’s friends as soon as possible, it was only a matter of time before they were caught and based on what she had heard about Doctor Marcel, she would rather avoid this. Anika walked to one of the two grates on the third floor but quickly decided neither the Key Master nor Tina could be in any of the rooms behind the grate. Otherwise the lock would not keep it locked and yet, she felt she should check there just to be sure. They could have locked the grate after having walked through to make the employees believe no one was there. Silently thanking Ben for having grabbed several duplicates of the master key, she used it to unlock the grate. The moment she was on the other side, she tried opening the first door on her left-hand side only to find it locked. Her first thought was that they could not possibly be behind that door but nonetheless, she unlocked the door and entered the room. Her reason was that it was better to check too many rooms for Edna’s crush and for her housemate than to ignore potential hiding places.
The first two things Anika noticed were a large viewing window behind a desk and a large metal door. She figured that psychologists or perhaps even family members would speak with the patient in here, judging from the holes in the window big enough to stick a finger through and the microphone on the table. But aside from the cell and under the table, there were no hiding places. Therefore, she left the room after checking those two places and went through the door on the opposite. She spotted a hose attached to a wall, three washing basins, showers and four urinals. Above the shower heads were ropes from where cloths that looked a lot like hospital gowns, albeit in yellow, hung lazily as though they were being dried after being washed. On the floor were heaps of clothes. Inside the urinals were four different colored stones, one color for each – red, blue, yellow, and green. Anika wondered to herself how the male patients were able to take care of their hygienic needs with all those things lying around before deciding she did not want to know. But here, too, was no one and she thought it would be awkward encountering the Key Master doing his business. Anika left the bathroom and once again went through a door opposite of the one she stepped through. It let to a small, overfilled room with an oven taking up most of the space. On the far end of the room was a work table, though there was nothing to indicate that someone was working on something. Next to the oven was a small refrigerator with a flyer for Spermy’s Pizza lying on top of it. Above the refrigerator was an old-fashioned telephone attached to the wall. Opposite of the refrigerator stood a clothes rack that was devoid of any coats. It would have surprised her if there had been one since it had been quite warm, almost boiling hot, recently. She checked inside the oven but only saw darkness, so she left this room too. Her next destinations were the laundry room and the dormitory, both with the same result. Anika sighed and shook her head; she had been so sure she would find those two in one of those rooms. However, on the other side of the floor was another grate behind which were several rooms. Thus, she decided to check these out.
The layout was pretty much the same with an empty solitary cell, a bathroom – though this one was obviously for females – and a dormitory. Only the room with the work table was different, this one was instead full of cleaning supplies. Not having found either the Key Master or Tina, she left this part of the floor and decided to check the only two rooms left. The first one was one that made her feel uneasy with the yellow triangle shaped sign attached to the wood. Anika took a deep breath, steeling herself for whatever was behind it. Her jaw dropped the moment her eyes fell on the electric chair. She did not know much about therapies used in mental institutions but she had a feeling that an electric chair was not required. She checked behind the controls – the Key Master and Tina could have crouched down when they heard the door open – and left the room after finding she was once again the only human being in the room. Only one room left. She remembered how her sister once told her there was a room on this floor that could not be opened with the master key. By that logic, it would impossible to find the Key Master and Tina there. This was why she decided not to check there.
Sebastian was the only one of the three not to be distracted by a drawing and instead went straight up to one of the upper floors. Here, too, was every centimeter of the walls a victim to the patients’ artistic talents as well as the window to his left. He looked through the bit of the glass that was not covered in color but could only see a tiny bit of the room behind it and that was a man who was bald on top of his head. Sebastian was not sure if he should really check this room. However, the man seemed to be preoccupied with something. The teenage boy considered leaving this room out or checking it out after all. Admittedly, he was curious to see what was behind the door and if the man in there had actually noticed anything that was going on.
“Ah the hell”, Sebastian muttered to himself and quietly opened the door, immediately seeing a wall filled with monitors, each one showing a different room in the asylum. He spotted in a room with a large metal door on one monitor but could not see Amy or the others anywhere. He looked to his right and saw the man watching something on television. It did not seem he would pay attention to anything else that was going on. Aside from the monitors, there was nothing of particular interest in here and Sebastian and the man were the only ones in this room, so he left. Sebastian started walking down the hallway and was about to turn the corner when he collided with a patient.
“Sorry mate”, he apologized.
“I’m not your mate, boy”, the patient said pompously. “I am Maestro Frank!”
“Yeah whatever. But I’m not looking for you but for a green-skinned guy and a chubby girl”, Sebastian said dismissively, about to go on when Maestro Frank spoke up:
“I saw them.”
Hardly believing his ears, Sebastian turned to him and asked:
“René and Anes brought them upstairs while they were unconscious. I presume they brought them to Doctor Marcel’s office but I’m not sure.”
Sebastian gulped, his eyes widening. Edna had told him and Bianca a lot about Doctor Marcel and from what she said; he was the kind of man one never wanted to meet. To think that he might have to meet him. Oh, he did not like this thought at all. But there was no way he was going alone. No, he would return to the recreation room and report to Edna. She knew the doctor better than anyone else he knew, so he thought it would be better if she would come along. He thought of the irony of how he needed her help to confront Doctor Marcel when he and the girls did not want to involve in this whole rescuing issue. But whatever, it did not matter anymore. But what mattered was getting to her as quickly as possible, so he rushed back downstairs into the recreation room.
Edna had decided to stay behind in case the Key Master and Tina would appear here. Harvey kept telling her to go and wreak havoc too, just like she did earlier before she met Amy, Anika and Sebastian. But she ignored him; her only desire was to get away from this asylum as soon as possible. She had once vowed she would never return here but circumstances forced her to return – this being the second time. She wanted to make sure that this time was going to be the last time for the rest of her life. Ben was here with her, Drogglejug, Petra and the still hypnotized Peter and Tiger Head too. He circled around the latter two like a vulture, poking them and even putting his index fingers and thumbs to the corners of Peter’s mouth to force them upwards. Then they moved downwards again the moment he removed his fingers.
“Well, time to get them back to normal”, Ben remarked. “Felicitousness! Panthera tigris!”
Edna was flabbergasted when the void on their eyes disappeared and confusion instead appeared. She turned to Ben:
“Why does Doctor Marcel have code words to them out of their hypnosis?”
“Well, the mayor sometimes comes to visit the asylum and check on things here, including the patients. I guess it would shed a bad light on the doctor if the mayor finds several patients in a hypnotized state, so he has code words to get them out of it. And to make sure they would not accidentally get back to their being hypnotized, he used words no one would ever say in a conversation”, Ben explained.
“Well, I doubt anything related to the word ‘felicitous’ would be said when talking about or with Peter”, Edna commented while they watched Peter and Tiger Head starting to move around, first only on the spot to look around. Edna reckoned they were wondering how they got from her old cell to the recreation room. Tiger Head was the first to notice her. She tilted her head and looked questioningly at her as though she was wondering who this was.
“What happened? How did I get here? Last thing I remember was Doctor Marcel with a pocket watch...“, Peter mumbled in a voice that suggested he just woke up from a long slumber.
“PETER!“, Petra happily shouted and glomped him before anyone had the chance to answer his questions. Having her arms suddenly around him caused the usually depressive but now confused man to stand like he had a pencil stuck up his behind and his eyes nearly popping out of their sockets. Tiger Head watched this and silently laughed behind her hand.
“Aren’t they a sweet couple?“, Edna asked no one in particular. Peter turned towards her, despite being held by Petra like her life depended on him, and did not bother to hide his surprise:
“Yes me”, Edna replied so nonchalantly as though it was a normal occurrence that she was sitting in the recreation room. Peter stared at her in astonishment with a dropped jaw.
“Can anyone tell me what’s going on?“, Peter demanded, pleadingly looking at everyone who was with him in the recreation room. Edna gestured to Ben to tell the poor guy what happened from Tina and Lilli’s kidnapping over his being hypnotized alongside Tiger Head and Edna appearing to get her friends out of here. Both patients, who were in a trance until a few minutes ago, listened intently. Not once did they interrupt him, though it was difficult for Tiger Head to do so verbally since she never spoke. They had taken a seat on the floor while Ben told them everything with Peter having some difficulties thanks to Petra’s attachment to him. During his explanation, Miranya and Lilli reappeared in the recreation room after going on a rampage to give the asylum a new décor alongside everyone else.
“So, you and your friends would be gone if the Key Master and this Tina hadn’t disappeared?“, Peter asked Edna after Ben was done explaining. “How did you manage to befriend the Key Master?”
“By treating him like he wasn’t a lunatic... I think”, Edna replied, though she did not really know it herself. Something must have happened between the two for him to actually want to change and her trusting him. Was it perhaps because she was the only one who knew what was like to be all alone for a decade and thus how he felt? Or was their desire for freedom the reason they were drawn to each other? Whatever it was, it caused her to get to know the Key Master and develop feelings for him. She just wished she would know his name to refer him by it.
“Does anyone have an idea where the Key Master and Tina could be?“, Edna questioned, addressing Lilli and Miranya more than anyone else around here in hopes they had seen them. But it was not them who answered but Sebastian, who just walked through the door:
“I know where they are! Some guy named Maestro Frank saw them being brought upstairs to Doctor Marcel’s office.”
Doctor Marcel, who just finished telling his employees of his plan, waited for Anes and René’s reaction. The former let the same evil smile Doctor Marcel had spread across his face. The latter, however, looked like he had his doubts about it. But what did he know? He was just a lowly guard who started in this job a few years ago. René knew nothing of the dangers of childishness, especially from insubordinate ones.
“And how is hypnotizing the Key Master going to help you to reach your goal?“, he questioned. “Why would you be able to get your revenge on Edna if you put him in a trance? And what do these two have to do with your wish to sell all these rabbits –“, he nodded at the stuffed rabbit on Doctor Marcel’s lap, “– all over the world?”
The old man and Anes shared a look, obviously annoyed by the young man’s lack of understanding. However, Doctor Marcel did not want to explain everything to him and therefore, he was dismissed by him but not before ordering the lanky man to send Hulgor to him. René nodded without asking any questions and left the office. Doctor Marcel turned to Anes:
“I want you to get huge amounts of thread and a needle. Get them from the solitary cells where we forced some of the loonies to knit these rag doll rabbits.”
“Aye sir”, Anes answered obediently like a soldier to his commanding officer. He, too, left the office, leaving the wheelchair-bound man alone with the two still unconscious human beings. The doctor looked at them, silently praising the anesthetic created by his most trusted minion. They were far more effective than any other, including even those used in surgeries. He did not know if these special anesthetics had any side effects nor did he care. As long as the loonies in his mental institution would never be able to escape, it did not matter. Besides, it was not like he would actually bother to treat and heal them. Doctor Marcel looked at his prisoner he had captured to lure Edna here and at his former patient but especially at the latter. He recalled how the same man who had a part-time job in his asylum became a patient. It had been quite a surprise, even more so when he heard what happened that led to the Key Master becoming an inmate. At first, he had been together with the other patients but some became too bothersome for Doctor Marcel, so he used his hypnosis and made the Key Master kill them. It had not been easy to find the right technique, which was the reason why the doctor wrote down each progress he made. Of course, he did not keep these records here. No, he kept them safely at home, where nobody but him could access them. This was the same case with some of the other records, including Edna’s. Doctor Marcel did not want anyone but himself to take a look at their files and know what he had been doing. Sure, some of his minions were there and knew about it but he blackmailed them to stay silent about it all. And it had been a wise decision to hide these records in his home for when he was in jail for a brief time, the police searched through his archives. However, before they got the permission to search his home, he was a free man again.
“Dad? Is there anything I can do to help you with these two?“, the reason why he was out of jail asked from the corner he was hiding in. Ruben had been in his father’s office for a little over five minutes before René and Anes appeared with the Key Master and Tina. The boy had heard every word that had been said after their arrival; he knew what was going on.
“No, not with them”, Doctor Marcel turned his attention from the Key Master to his son. “But there is something else you could do. As you may have heard, the nutters who are my patients are wreaking havoc. Try to stop them, will you?”
Doctor Marcel could imagine Ruben making an even more stupid face he usually made. But it would keep the boy busy and out of whatever hair Doctor Marcel had left. The only minions he needed to execute his plan were Anes and Hulgor and that was to tie both the Key Master and Tina up. Ruben would actually be more of a hindrance than help but the old man would not be surprised if his son would protest and tell him his task was impossible. However, what he did instead astounded Doctor Marcel, although he did not show it outwardly, and that was simply saying “okay” before leaving the office. It was just incomprehensible how far Ruben would go to get his father’s approval. Would he even go so far that he would kill somebody? Actually, Doctor Marcel would think he would be capable of doing somebody in if it meant he would not hide him from the world anymore. After all, he had constantly denied his existence and forbade him to come to him when other people were present. Well, Doctor Marcel would not have done those things if Ruben had not resisted his therapy. But the old man did not have time to dwell on this for too long since Anes returned with thread and needle and with Hulgor in his company.
“Take these two to Edna’s former cell”, Doctor Marcel ordered before anyone could utter a word. Without asking questions, Anes took the Key Master over his shoulder while Hulgor took Tina. Doctor Marcel led the way to Edna’s former cell and this was the moment when the huge blond man clad in blue questioned:
“Isn’t this the room where the anesthetic darts are produced?”
“He’s got a point”, Anes remarked. “What are we going to do with the four in there? Use the darts on them?”
“Yes, it’s not like it matters whether they’re sleeping there or not”, Doctor Marcel replied. “As long as my plan succeeds.”
They reached the cell; Doctor Marcel took the master key out of his pocket to unlock the door only to find it was already in an unlocked state. He looked questioningly at his two minions but they were as clueless as he was. The only other person who had the master key was Bladder but would he have really done this? However, according to Hulgor, Bladder had not left the surveillance room at all since he arrived for work. Who could have done it instead? Doctor Marcel hoped he would find out soon, so he could punish the culprit. Whatever, the small group nevertheless entered the now empty cell. Well, empty apart from the table with thousands, if not millions, of anesthetic darts.
“Anes, move the table away, or at least the darts. Hulgor, use needle and thread to tie that girl onto the wall”, the doctor ordered. Anes threw the Key Master unceremoniously on the padded floor and gave his colleague the needle and the ridiculously large amount of thread he got from the storeroom. Then they did as they were told while their boss watched.
The words that left Sebastian’s mouth caused everyone present to stare at him in shock but the person who looked like she was petrified was Edna. Peter and Tiger Head were more confused than anything, particularly the latter who had never heard of the Key Master before. Slowly, as if her legs were made of lead, Edna approached her friend and put a hand on his shoulder.
“Are you sure?”
“That’s what I’ve been told”, Sebastian confirmed. Edna removed her hand and turned away from him to look at the others, then back to him, all the while she had a frown on her face. Would it be wise to take them all up to Doctor Marcel’s office? No, it would be better if less people accompanied her. But who should she take with her? Edna eyed each person in the room, all of who glanced at each other. She knew Petra, Peter, Drogglejug, and Sebastian were not fond of the Key Master but not what the first three thought of Tina. As for everyone else who was in the room, she knew what they thought of the two prisoners as much as she knew about the mating ritual of Species Eight Four Seven One and that was nothing at all. Perhaps it would be a good idea to take Lilli with her. She had confronted Doctor Marcel too, after all. Sebastian and Ben could take Amy and Anika and look for a vehicle to escape, as well as find a way to open the main gate. But she was not sure about Miranya. Should she take with her or should she have her join her friends? Edna took one look at the red head and at once, she knew what she had to do. She turned to Ben and Sebastian:
“You take Amy and Anika, and try to open the main gate – you can do so in the watchtower – and look for some kind of vehicle where we all fit in.”
She looked expectantly at the two males, waiting for a sign that they understood her instructions. She did not have to wait long for one of them to nod to indicate that they could comprehend what she just asked them to do. Satisfied about this, Edna turned to the four patients – Petra was still attached to Peter as though someone glued them together.
“How about you guys cause some mayhem too?“, she suggested. “I’m sure there are some things y’all always wanted to do.”
“Oh yes! Come on, Peter!“, Petra exclaimed, finally letting go of him but immediately taking his hand and dragging him out of the recreation room. All the poor guy could do was to sputter some unintelligible words. Everyone else who Edna spoke with followed them out, so that she was left with only Lilli and Miranya.
“I need your help to save my two friends”, Edna simply stated in an unusually soft voice. She hoped they would be willing to help her but she could hardly blame them if they said no. After all, she had not seen Lilli for so long and only met Miranya a few hours ago. Asking them to confront Doctor Marcel with her was already too much to ask for.
“Well, I’ve wanted to get back at him for forcing me to knit those rabbits since you got me out of the cell. Now is as good as any other time”, the red head shrugged.
“And I think he deserves to be humiliated a bit more”, Lilli smirked. Edna pondered to herself what actually happened when the blonde confronted the old man with a knife. She knew she had not attacked him, otherwise there would have been a bloody wound when Edna saw him a bit later. But whatever happened, Lilli had started from then on to speak loud and clear and she suddenly had had more confidence. Also Doctor Marcel had stared at her with his eye full of contempt and hate. Then again, he always seemed to have this expression.
“Let’s go then”, Edna said calmly but bravely, taking her polo mallet out of her inventory. She felt nervous, she did not know what she had to expect, even though she knew what Doctor Marcel was capable of. But she did not know who was with him and what he had done to the Key Master and to Tina. Harvey seemed to notice her nervousness for he spoke to her in a comforting and encouraging voice:
“Hey, we beat him once before and we can to it again! Don’t you worry, Edna.”
The young woman glanced at the blue lagomorph in her left hand, the corners of her mouth moving slightly upwards. Yes, they were going to do this; Doctor Marcel had no chance against them.
They knew they had to hurry just so they could leave immediately when Edna and her friends caught up with them. Thus, Ben and Sebastian rushed down the stairs, skipping two or three steps at once, all the while looking for their female companions. Sebastian had told the older male that they had gone a few more floors down but he did not know where they were exactly. For all they knew, she could have gone to the top floors after not having found anything. The males had agreed to rush out through the backdoor and hope they would meet up with the girls on their way. If not, one of them would look for them while the other waited at the vehicle.
Ben bumped against something tall and soft as he turned a corner. Sebastian stopped on his tracks behind him and looked at what he bumped against.
“Amy!“, he exclaimed the moment he recognized her. Behind her was... “Anika!”
“Geez, what’s the rush, guys?“, Anika asked while helping her older sister up. The younger male began to explain what was going on and what Edna asked them to do with Ben adding some things here and there after he was back on his feet. The two listened intently with worried facial expressions. After they were done telling the girls everything, they flickered their eyes at each other and then back at the males. It was obvious they were worried about Edna but knew there was nothing they could do. Edna would insist they would not help, even though the four friends really wanted to assist her in her confrontation against Doctor Marcel. However, they also knew they would be more of a hindrance than help. Ben and Amy worked for him, they were aware of how evil he could be and Anika and Sebastian only knew it from what Edna told them. The thought of Doctor Marcel’s evilness frightened them a little if they were honest with themselves.
“I think we should do what Edna said”, Anika suggested. “She knows best about what we ought to do, she was here long enough.”
“Yeah, and the sooner we open the main gate and find a vehicle, the better”, Ben agreed. They had been standing at one spot for too long; it was only a matter of time before someone they did not want to see would find them. It was better if they hurried to the watchtower and the garages. Amy, Anika, Ben and Sebastian were about to go on their way when they heard a voice the couple knew well:
“Halt! Who goes there?”
Ben and Amy groaned and rolled their eyes, saying together “Babbitt...” in an unnerved voice. These two, as well as Anika and Sebastian, turned around and saw him with golf club in hands a few meters behind them.
“Honestly? Don’t you have anything better to do?“, Amy asked dryly.
“Amy? I thought you were with your sister on vacation”, Babbitt retorted, puzzled to see her here.
“Something came up”, she responded curtly. “And shouldn’t you be playing mini golf?”
“I would love to but I have to catch some loonies. Who let them out of their dorms anyway?”
Ben, Anika, and Sebastian glanced at each other, trying their hardest not too laugh out loud. However, none of them could prevent a grin forming on their faces. Babbitt did not seem to notice; he was too focused on talking with Amy.
“Don’t you call them ‘loonies’ and don’t you treat them like they’re no human beings”, Amy admonished the mini gold enthusiast in a venomous voice. She narrowed her eyes at him; one could expect daggers flying from her brown eyes into Babbitt’s black ones. He gulped fearfully and took a step backwards.
“Y-yes, ma’am”, he stuttered and was gone a second later. The two who were not employed were astonished to see that a man who could easily knock them out with his golf club would be so scared.
“Wow, I didn’t know you were so feared, Sis”, Anika commented dumbfounded. Amy shrugged with a self-satisfied smirk.
“He’s the only guy who’s afraid of me, though I don’t know why”, she explained as the small group finally continued their way to the outside of the building. “Although, I once encountered him after he ran out of the woods after dark and he looked like he was about to crap his pants.”
“Aren’t saber-toothed boars out and about after dark? Maybe he was chased by one?“, Ben theorized.
“Could be a possibility.”
Anes and Hulgor had finished tying Tina onto the padded wall; the blue-clad man also used thread to tie the Key Master’s feet together and his hands behind his back. It would be so much easier for Doctor Marcel to hypnotize him when he was unable to fight. While his two employees were busy disabling their prisoners’ movements, the old man was sitting in his wheelchair with the rabbit he was going to use. Everything had to be perfect; he could not afford any mistakes. Last time he hypnotized the Key Master, he had used his pocket watch and let it swing back and forth as seen in movies and television shows. It had been effective back then but the old man found the light diodes in Alfred’s teddy’s eyes to be more efficient. Then again, he used the bear for his son’s therapy and after some adjustments – and transferring the eyes onto the blue lagomorph – he had an almost perfect device for hypnotizing people, especially children.
“Boss, shall I wake this vile vermin here?“, Anes asked, prodding the Key Master with his foot.
“Do that, and her too”, Doctor Marcel replied, nodding towards Tina. Anes reached to somewhere on his backside and pulled out a syringe. Hulgor wondered if he just pulled out of his derrière while he woke first Tina and then the Key Master up with the remedy. The chubby girl tied to the wall groggily opened her eyes. They nearly popped out a second later when she realized she was one, at least one meter off the ground, two, in a padded cell, and three, unable to move because of large amounts of blue thread attaching her to the wall.
“What the hell is going on? Where the fuck am I!?“, she exclaimed while moving her head around to get a better look at the cell. Soon, her eyes fell on the Key Master, who was also tied up, albeit only his hands and feet. She wondered why he was tied up this way and she that way when she heard an evil chuckle. She turned her head to the direction where it came from, which was the corner farthest from her, to see an old man in a wheelchair.
“Doctor Marcel”, this was no question, it was a statement, and her voice was so icy that one could expect a small blizzard forming.
“I see you still remember me”, the old man smirked. He indicated at the Key Master, who just woke up. “I suppose you have met the Key Master?”
The expression on Tina’s face was unreadable; she gave no sign that she recognized him, despite having been caught in his company. But whether or not they knew each other was going to be unimportant once the doctor was done with the green-skinned man. He rolled closer to the Key Master, who glared at the old man with so much hate.
“Hello, my green-skinned friend”, Doctor Marcel greeted him with so much irony that he was mocking the Key Master.
“I see your handicap has not taken away the personality traits that make you an asshole”, he dryly retorted. Hatred and contempt filled the single visible eye of Doctor Marcel; his mouth formed an incredibly thin line. Without saying anything else, before anyone could even blink, he pushed the blue rabbit on his lap into the Key Master’s face, so that it was inevitable for him to look into its eyes, and the doctor pulled the string...
Amy, Anika and Sebastian were at last outside the building but still on the premises. Ben had briefly left the group to free the other patients stuck in solitary cells but was due to return soon. On their way to the backdoor, the other three had stolen the keys to the garages and the keys for the vehicles and had agreed that one of them would open the main gate while the other two would find a vehicle for the escape. Sebastian started looking for a car while Anika contacted Gregor and Bianca to tell them to wait at her sister’s house. When asked why, she just promised them to explain it all later. Then she helped Sebastian opening the garage doors, either finding nothing behind it or cars that were too small for them and Edna, Tina, Lilli, Miranya, and the Key Master.
“Weird... Amy told me they had plenty of trucks”, Anika mumbled. Her eyebrows were furrowed in her confusion.
“Wherever they are, they’re not here”, Sebastian remarked after opening another door. “But I can’t think of any reason why they would not be here. I mean, they can’t all be in use, can they?”
“Nope, and even if they were, it would a little suspicious to have them all in use, especially in the middle of the night”, the dark skinned woman replied. She opened another garage door and turned on the light, finding something very interesting this time. It seemed like one wall had been destroyed and the interior had been expanded to make it look like a workshop or something similar. There were six long narrow tables with equally long benches on either side of Anika and Sebastian. On the tables were small cardboard boxes full of tiny red objects. The white walls were empty for the most part, except for three huge shelves and countless giant cardboard boxes; all of them full something blue. At first, Anika wondered if this was part of the occupational therapy she had heard about but soon realized these blue objects in the shelves and boxes were blue rag doll rabbits that looked a lot like Edna’s terry cloth lagomorph, except for the eyes. Just what was this place? Why were here so many rabbits that there were enough for every child in the world? Although Anika could not explain this all, she nonetheless had a bad feeling about this.
“Why are there so many stuffed rabbits? I thought the head of the asylum despised children”, Sebastian remarked after taking a look around.
“Something tells me they were not produced to make children happy”, Anika replied, taking one of the rabbits in her hand. “Creepy how they look like Edna’s own toy. Only the eyes are different... I think Edna’s rabbit looks much better with its big eyes. These are just nightmare-inducing.”
She threw the one she was holding back to the others. Sebastian, meanwhile, had also taken one and pulled the string.
“You must not play with fire. You must not contradict adults. Woogie, woogie”, the rabbit said. Out of the corner of his eyes, he noticed its red eyes illuminated in a regular pattern.
“D’you reckon it’s supposed to make kids more obedient?“, Sebastian questioned while throwing this one back to its companions.
“Well, from what I know about Doctor Marcel, it would certainly fit to his characteristics”, Anika replied, taking another look around the room. “C’mon, let’s go see if Amy has opened the main gate and Ben has returned.”
They left the large hall and Anika turned off the light as she passed the switch. Then they walked to their left, the path that would lead to the front entrance of the asylum. Both saw that the main gate was open when they reached a limousine. They could see Amy running towards them from the watchtower over the field between the gate and front door. Ben ran from the backdoor to them. The four met right at the long vehicle, which was the most luxurious of all available on the property.
“And? Found any mode of transportations?“, Ben asked.
“Only cars where four, five at most, would fit in”, Sebastian replied, shaking his head. “For some reason, there were no trucks around. But Anika found something interesting.”
He pointed at her with his thumb and she nodded in confirmation. She waved at her sister and her sister’s boyfriend to follow her as she led them to the huge garage where the interior was more like a workshop.
Amy and Ben stood slack-jawed once they saw countless blue terry cloth rabbits in the shelves or in the boxes, the small red objects on the tables. The couple looked just like how Anika felt when she first saw it all several minutes ago – they looked shocked and amazed but also like they had a premonition about this all. It seemed no one felt well when they saw this all. Granted, the only people Anika had seen here, aside from herself, were Amy, Ben and Sebastian. She had no clue how other people would react but she reckoned Edna would not like this either.
“You know, when I once checked what was behind the doors only Doctor Marcel and his most trusted minions entered, I found some patients knitting those rabbits, albeit eyeless”, Amy told them all. “Seems like I now know where they end up...”
“Do you think the trucks are all gone because they’re shipping them to toy stores?“, Ben asked, examining the red objects in the small cardboard boxes.
“Who knows? Only his most trusted minions know what he was doing or planning and even then, only a few really know”, Amy responded. “But it’s common knowledge the grumpy old man hates kids, so...”
“Listen to this”, Sebastian interrupted and took one of the rabbits. He pulled the string; its red eyes glowed and it spoke in voice like someone with a high-pitched voice tried to make his voice sound deeper:
“You must not wander off to dangerous places. You must not lie. Woogie, woogie...”
The two who had not heard the prohibitions from the toys earlier frowned. They liked this workshop less and less. There was one thing the four friends agreed on, they should inform the police. Higher authorities were actually afraid of Doctor Marcel but there had to be something done. They could not possibly let him ship out rag doll rabbits whose only purpose was to turn children into miniature adults.
It was ridiculous how long the towing service needed to arrive at last! After waiting for approximately ninety minutes, Bianca got back into the car and dozed off. Gregor, meanwhile, paced behind his car, cursing at the towing service for taking so long. To think they could have joined the others at the asylum and escaped by now! It was infuriating. Gregor kicked the tire of his car to vent off his anger. It seemed to have woken up Bianca, who got out of the vehicle and went behind the car, where she found him leaning against it.
“Still not here?“, she asked when she realized they were still at the same location on the street leading up to the asylum.
“Nope”, Gregor shook his head. “Wonder if all of their vehicles have flat tires.”
His cell phone rang, its tone sounding exceptionally loud in the night air. He answered:
“Hello? Oh hey, sweetie.”
He was silent after his greeting, listening to what Anika told him. Bianca kept a lookout for the towing service in the meantime. Occasionally, she glanced at him and saw how he furrowed his eyebrows. She wondered what he heard from his girlfriend. After a few minutes, Gregor hung up and looked at Bianca with a serious face.
“Is something wrong?”
“Well, for one, Edna knew her housemate has been kidnapped and brought here and it seemed she had found her and her other friend”, he explained.
“I can see a huge ‘but’ coming my way”, the half-Italian commented.
“And you’re right to. Edna was there with the friend we met at the funfair but he and Tina got separated from her”, Gregor told her. “They went looking for them and Sebastian heard from one patient that they were caught and brought to Doctor Marcel.”
Bianca dropped her jaw in shock and gasped; she and Gregor, too, had heard a lot about him. While she thought that Edna might have exaggerated with some aspects about the old man, she was still pretty sure that she caught his essential character traits in her tales. Gregor nodded grimly.
“Yep. Edna and two other girls are trying to save them and she sent Amy, Anika, Ben and Sebastian off to find a getaway car and open the main gate.”
Bianca averted her eyes and frowned at her feet. At the moment, she wished she was there to help them any way she could.
“Anika asked us to wait at Amy and Ben’s house for them”, Gregor said casually, looking up at the starry moonlit sky. “But...“, he looked at her, “don’t you agree we should contact the police?”
“It won’t do any good. We’ve got no evidence and it’s more likely we get in trouble for breaking and entering. Well...“, Bianca shrugged and nodded towards the asylum, “they will...”
“Guess you’re right”, Gregor sighed. A moment later, he and Bianca spotted two headlights coming their way and, another minute later, the towing service had arrived.
Edna had not walked around the asylum for so long that it felt kind of weird now to do so. However, it was even weirder for her to have people walking around, considering most rooms had been empty when she walked around freely when she was eighteen years old. It somehow made the mental institution more vigorous than it usually was. Still, it did not take away the oppressive and creepy nature of the building. This alone would be a reason to want to break out, even if it had not been for Edna’s enormous desire for freedom and finding out the truth about her father and what had happened on the third of August in 1998. She really hated this asylum for everything that happened to her inside its four walls.
They reached the topmost floor; the one Edna spent a decade of her life in. Lilli, too, recognized this place. She had once snuck around here to save her only friend. Miranya was the only one who had no connection to this floor, having never seen anything but the cells she was kept in and the bathroom. Edna could hear faint voices coming from her former cell but she ignored them for now. She was going to check out Doctor Marcel’s office and perhaps the storeroom first. The three girls turned the corner to the two rooms when they bumped into someone. Edna, and it seemed Lilli too, recognized him at once. It was not hard since he was the only person miles around who had his face hidden under a paper bag. Neither Edna nor Lilli were happy to see him for their own reason; the former had not forgotten that he had knocked her out and presented her to his father. She suddenly got the urge to give him a good beating with her mallet.
“Come on, Edna. You know you want to”, Harvey edged her on. It reminded her of the time he told her to push Alfred and Doctor Marcel down the stairs and Heike in the pond. The first and third times she had done this, it had ended badly for her. The second was bad for Doctor Marcel, for her not so much. And once again, she stood before a member of the Marcel family, about to hurt this one too with Harvey edging her on. But she hesitated; the memory of Alfred’s lifeless form came back to her. She remembered how he lay on the floor with his neck and limbs spread in odd angles and drenching the carpet with his blood that seeped from his head. This was her worst memory and no matter how often she told herself it was an accident, she could not help but feel guilty. Yes, Edna was mad at the older Marcel son but she did not want to risk killing him too.
“Hey! What are you doing!?”
His shout pulled Edna out of her reverie. His hand and feet were tied together behind his back with pink thread and he lay on the floor. Miranya stared at Lilli, who smirked with self-satisfaction. Edna decided not to ask.
“Er, alright... you two check here and I check there”, she first pointed at the storeroom and then at Doctor Marcel’s office. Lilli and Miranya did as they were told while Edna went through the other door, leaving the oldest Marcel child alone and tied up on the floor. The former patient of this institution kind of wished the column that used to be here was still there. What a delight it would have been to have him tied with pink thread at it! Oh well, the way Lilli did it in the end was fine too.
Edna opened the door and stepped through the threshold. The office was dark and just like it was not many hours ago when the Key Master saved her. Large windows that could not be opened behind the desk; the chimney and its mantelpiece with the photos next to the door; the drawers at the wall on her left-hand side. Above it was his diploma and above it, a glass case with the trophies Doctor Marcel won in polo. In the corner was the closet Edna was locked in for a short time. But what she could not spot were any members of the species Homo sapiens. Even the closet was empty when she checked there.
“Hm... Do you suppose they might be in my former cell?“, Edna asked Harvey.
“I think so, we did hear voices there after all”, he replied. “But why not cause some mayhem while you’re still here? Doctor Marcel deserved it.”
“Alright, just as long as we don’t stay here for too long”, Edna relented and went on drawing a smiley, writing Doctor Marcel’s name in his hand writing, and spraying ketchup and mustard on the closet. The table got a makeover too by her drawing a heart and writing the names ‘Doctor Marcel + Anes’ – Petra and Drogglejug had told her about the latter while Amy, Anika, Ben and Sebastian were searching for the Key Master and Tina – in it. Then she wrote ‘Sorry Hulgor, but I love Anes now’ in the doctor’s hand writing on the desktop and she carved “I’m a Barbie girl in a Barbie world” with her knife on the table, left a nice dent with her mallet, and sprayed ketchup and mustard on the desk. Edna took a step back and admired her work. She should have taken more things with her but this would do for now, except...
She looked at the heart and crossed out the ‘E’ in the second name and wrote a ‘U’ above it. Now it was perfect. Also, she did not have time for anything else because Lilli and Miranya entered the office too. Edna looked expectantly at them but after the blond shook her head, she knew her old cell was the only place to look. Therefore, the three females went out to the hallway and walked past the young man with the paper bag, who was still struggling with his bounds, to the heavy metal door. An uncomfortable looking chair stood in front of it. Edna took a deep breath. This was it, another confrontation with Doctor Marcel, and this time, it was not for her freedom but for two very important people in her life. Edna clutched her polo mallet and opened the door...