The long drive to Cincinnati began. “Four hours to Cincinnati,” Ava’s GPS said aloud. A million thoughts were going through Ava’s mind; she hadn’t seen her sister in three years, when she was still just a teenager. What would she be like now? Guilt almost overwhelmed the young woman as she rolled her window down to allow fresh air into her car. Ava felt as though it was entirely her fault that she hadn’t visited Kiara in such a long time. The last time she had visited her sister, Kiara had experienced a violent outburst. She had been off her medication and was suffering mentally; she could not control herself. To take her mind of that last visit, Ava distracted herself by thinking only of her little sister in a kind and positive way and focusing on happier memories. Growing up, the girls were very close. Kiara looked up to Ava as a role model; everything her older sister did, she would copy as best she could. Kiara stole her clothes, copied her hair styles, and even tried to play with Ava’s friends. Despite this irritating Ava, even at a young age, she knew that her sister idolized her. Ava recalled the times they played together in the backwoods of their house when they played hide and seek and the thousands of games they’d created together. Even when Kiara was just four and she broke her wrist, she barely complained; she liked the attention she received from neighboring children and friends from preschool. Ava’s thoughts started to turn sour, however. Ava was very young, just eight years old when she witnessed her father take his own life; Kiara was even younger. The trauma of the suicide left permanent damage on Kiara and changed her instantly. Throughout Ava’s life, she was taught how to block out the catastrophic incident, the professionals who tried to instill this, thought they had succeeded, but this only taught Ava to feel shame, to bottle up her emotions, unaware that this would only lead her to one-day explode. While she drove, Ava’s thoughts went back to that fateful day. She allowed herself to let in those memories and the emotions she felt.
The day Robert Hayes took his life was like any other normal Sunday. Ava and Kiara spent the morning watching television, cartoons displaying bright colors and high-pitched songs on the television. Robert entered the living room and shut off the tv, informing his daughters that it was enough screen time for the day. The young girls didn’t dispute their father, instead ran into the kitchen with their mother, watching her make her famous pancakes for brunch. Ava blinked her eyes, concentrating hard on remembering more details, however the rest of the day was a blur. Up until the moment that forever changed Ava’s life. “I’m sorry.” Robert pulled the trigger of the gun at his head. Ava teared up in her car as she remembered the horror. She then considered the next ten years of her life, and how dramatic they were for her mother and sister. The number of fights Kiara would get into at school and the amount of times Ava tried to help calm her down, hoping to stop conflict between Kiara and anyone who looked at her with pity in their eyes. When her poor sister was diagnosed with all kinds of problems, the medication she was prescribed seemed to only make her worse. It wasn’t until the age of fourteen that Kiara first overdosed. This was the turning point where she left school and spent the next four years in and out of treatment facilities. Ava had always been protective of her, always wanted to help her, but it all became too much. Ava had to focus on herself.
The young woman finally arrived in Cincinnati. This was only her second time in the city, the first time was to help her mother move in two years ago when Kiara was admitted to the new residential treatment center. Ava navigated through the streets, trying to ignore the butterflies fluttering in her belly as her GPS reminded her of how close she was getting. When she arrived, the building wasn’t at all what she was expecting. It looked like a house, a grand house but a house, nonetheless. It was old fashioned, brick, a beautifully painted and decorated porch that wrapped around the entire building. Ava parked her car out the front and took a deep breath as she exited her vehicle. The front garden of the facility was beautiful, framed by large gates that were wide open to welcome visitors. Lush green grass was neatly trimmed along the path leading up to the porch. Established trees were scattered around the grounds, providing a restful backdrop to the old mansion that had pride of place in the centre of the property. People walked quietly around the facility; some were accompanied by a caretaker, but everybody, who Ava assumed were patients, looked peaceful, not agitated, and not doped up on medication.
Ava entered through the large front doors of the building; the interior was beautiful, the wooden floorboards were perfectly polished and a long, multi-colored carpet lay on top. The walls were white with pictures and ornaments on the walls. It seemed designed deliberately to make the residents feel at home. The nurses and other staff members walking around looked polite and approachable. The others who were walking around the garden Ava assumed were the residents, but it was hard to tell really, as they were wearing casual clothes, their own personal clothes. “Hi there, how can I help you?” a voice kindly asked Ava from across the room. “Hi, yes, sorry. I’m here to see a resident,” Ava walked over to the reception area where she was greeted by a young female staff member. “Yes, who will you be seeing today?” the woman asked. “Kiara Hayes. I’m her sister.” Ava explained herself, “Yes, no problem and she knows you’re coming?” the receptionist asked, “Yes, she asked me to come.” Ava smiled with excitement. “Fantastic, I’ll just check you in,” the caretaker said as she typed away on the computer. “Okay, that’s all-in order. I’ll take you to her room,” the woman smiled and walked around to the other side of the desk.
As the two women walked through the hallways, the homely atmosphere comforted Ava as her nerves had well and truly settled in. She looked through some of the open doors; large rooms were filled with art supplies, musical instruments, signs leading to swimming pools and community gymnasiums. “This is a really impressive place! I’ve never been here before,” Ava said. “Isn’t it?” the woman agreed. “A lot of our residents have come from some terrible backgrounds. They often feel as though the countless doctors they’ve seen have robbed them of their humanity, so we make it our goal to help them gain their self-worth back. We reinforce that they have rights and freedom,” the nurse explained. Ava was more and more impressed with what she was seeing; the facilities were like no other, or perhaps she was just used to the sheer brutality and coldness of the Armitage Mental Asylum. The pair reached a point and turned left. “Kiara is in room 311.” Ava whipped her head around to the nurse. “I’m sorry, which room?” she asked. “Room 311. It’s just on the right up here,” the nurse pointed, confused at Ava’s strange reaction. “Right, okay, thank you.” Ava turned and walked slowly down the hallway. She was so nervous it felt like her heart was beating out of her chest. She reached the door which was wide open.
Ava found herself staring at her little sister. She was sitting at a desk and appeared to be writing something, unaware that Ava was there. “Hi,” Ava said, almost breathless. Kiara lifted her head up and at first seemed to have no idea who this person was. But then her face lit up and her eyes sparkled. “Ava!” she exclaimed. Her sister nodded. Kiara leapt out of her chair, ran two steps, and jumped into Ava’s arms, squeezing her tightly. The sisters said nothing, engrossed in their embrace. They both started to cry. “I missed you so much,” Kiara said. “You have no idea.” Ava squeezed her sister tightly in her arms, grateful that Kiara was this happy to see her. A moment later they let go of each other and Ava looked into her sister’s eyes, still brown and sparkly with long, dark eyelashes and thick brown eyebrows that Ava had always envied. Kiara blinked rapidly, struggling to make eye contact with her sister for more than a second or two. Ava noticed that her sister hadn’t looked this healthy or happy in the longest time; her cheeks had a healthy glow, and her dimples were prominent. “You look … amazing!” Ava said, looking her sister up and down. “Th-thank you. You too look ... great,” Kiara’s mouth twitched ever so slightly as she spoke. “You can sit there,” Kiara pointed to the chair at her desk, and Ava did so as her sister sat on the bed facing her. Kiara sat on the edge of the mattress, her back straight with her hands on her lap, while Ava glanced around the room. “Tell me everything,” Ava giggled with excitement, not knowing where to start. “What do you mean?” her sister responded. “Um … I mean it’s been three years for us, you’ve been here for two years, so … start from there,” Ava smiled, trying to relax and make her sister feel comfortable. “I-I’ve been getting my act together, and I’ve been doing school,” Kiara started. “That’s awesome Ki! What have you been studying?” Ava replied, happy for her sister’s success. “I’ve been studying languages and mathematics; I write essays on books. I have a tutor,” Kiara said. “They hire tutors and teachers here,” the girl went on. “I’m so glad! Do you want to be a writer?” Ava suggested. “I don’t know yet,” her sister replied. “Don’t you want to be a writer?” Kiara asked. “I am a writer, Ki, I work at a company in Detroit,” Ava explained. “No, I meant an author. You used to love writing books, you used to read them to me,” Kiara remembered. “Yeah well, I mean, I can always take a writing course at college, but I really like my job, and besides, I’m working on a really big project right now. It’s really interesting! It’s based on a-” Ava cut herself short, thinking it best not to mention her work at the asylum. “What?” Kiara asked. “I um… I’m just working on a really interesting project,” Ava tried to save herself. “Something is troubling you,” Kiara said. “No, no, no, I’m fine,” Ava attempted to save herself. “I don’t like it when people lie to me. It’s not good for people to lie to one another.” Ava realised that not only was her sister correct, but she shouldn’t be ashamed of what she was doing, and that there was no need for Kiara to be shielded from reality. “I’m doing a project at an abandoned mental asylum,” Ava exhaled, watching her sister for her reaction. “Th-that’s really cool,” Kiara responded. “Is it scary?” Ava smiled despite the difficulty in seeing her sister’s emotions. It was always obvious if she was offended, angry or bothered in a negative way. “It is scary, sometimes. Especially at nighttime,” Ava said. She reached to touch the back of her head and slightly winced as her finger nudged the wound. “Why were you there at nighttime?” Kiara inquired. “I just had … some work that I had to get finished before I left to go home for the day.” Ava once more tried to hide the truth. “How hard did you hit your head?” Kiara said suddenly, and Ava looked up at her sister. “What?” she said. “You hit your head at the asylum, and you woke up in the middle of the night,” Kiara said. Ava was astonished. “How did you know that?” she said, bluntly to her sister. “I read about this thing called intuition. I just know it happened. It simply makes sense,” Kiara said. Ava was still confused. She didn’t know what her sister was feeling or thinking; her body language was difficult to read and her words were spoken so monotonously. Ava stared at her, trying to meet her eyes. She quickly changed the subject. “So, do you like this place?” Ava asked, gesturing around the room. “I-I do like it here, the people are very good, and it’s very clean.” Kiara smiled at the ground. “And you can wear your own clothes and everything,” Ava said, looking for as many positives as possible. “I have my own closet over there,” Kiara pointed to the end of the bed. “I see. It’s nice outside; shall we go out for a walk?” Ava suggested. “O-Okay.” Kiara stood up, ready to follow her sister.
The pair walked down the hallways and down a flight of stairs until they reached front reception. “Now, do we have to sign out or anything?” Ava asked. “No, we can just leave. We only sign out if we’re leaving the grounds. Then we also have to give an estimated return time,” Kiara explained. “Wait … so you can just leave whenever you want?” This was surprising news for Ava; her research into the Armitage Asylum had shown that patients had no consent at all in their own movements, that they were subject to control and often violence as a normal part of their existence. Ava and Kiara walked outside the building and headed to the rear of the property. The gardens and lawns were beautifully maintained without being too formal; there were picnic tables and benches under hugely spreading shade trees, and pretty flower beds around the perimeter of the yard. Ava thought she could see a greenhouse in the lower corner of the grounds. It was a beautiful and restful place. They walked around slowly for the best part of an hour, talking about everything, catching each other up on the events that had taken place in the last three years. Ava noticed that her sister still showed some abnormal behaviors after all these years; the way her torso and left hip leaned over to the left side as she walked, how she stuttered when she spoke, and how from one minute to the next she could go from being perfectly comfortable with the person she was talking to, to acting as though she had never met them before.
Ava’s phone buzzed in her pocket, breaking the spell of the sister’s conversation. “Sorry, is it okay if I get this super quickly?” she guiltily asked her sister. “T-take it,” Kiara said. The display read Private Number, and with some confusion Ava quickly answered the call. “Hello Ava speaking,” she said. “Hello Ms Hayes, this is Pleasant Ridge Medical Centre.” Ava’s heart plunged to her stomach; shit, she thought to herself. “We are calling to confirm that you’re still available to come in for your appointment today at five thirty?” Ava, her palm against her forehead, she felt like an idiot; “Oh my god, um what time is it now?” She looked at her watch to see that it was already two o’clock in the afternoon. There was no way that she was going to make it back in time, even if she left now. “I-I’m so sorry, I’m not going to be able to make it to the appointment. I completely forgot that it was today,” Ava pleaded. “No, it’s totally fine. Would you like to reschedule?” the receptionist offered. Ava thought about it. She felt a bit overwhelmed with everything that was going on in her life at that moment and decided that making another appointment would just add to her stress. “Look, I’ll just cancel this one and maybe reschedule in a few days?” Ava offered. “Yes of course whatever suits you, ma’am. We’ll wait to hear from you.” “Thank you for calling me. Again, I’m so sorry,” Ava said, her face wincing with guilt. “No problem at all. You have a good day ma’am.” Ava hung up the phone. “Why am I so stupid?” she said to herself. “Y-you’re not stupid,” Kiara reassured her sister. “You can go home now if you need, you might make it in time,” she suggested. “No, no, I want to spend time with you, and even if I did leave now there’s no way that I would make it in time,” Ava said. A nurse approached the two sisters. “Hi, excuse me, I don’t mean to interrupt, but Kiara could I please talk to you for a short moment?” The nurse motioned to Kiara to walk with her. “I’ll just be over here,” Ava pointed to a bench at the end of a footpath. She slowly walked down the path, feeling the small pebbles crunch beneath her shoes, and focused on the sounds in the garden. This calmed her down and distracted her from feeling overwhelmed by the events that have taken place in the past few weeks. She felt the sun warming her scalp, and the gentle breeze on her face. Something drew her attention from her reverie, and she looked up. Something whispered, a faint, barely-there type whisper, the sound of wind yet it came from a human mouth. It was all too familiar. She looked around, searching the area until she saw it. Standing, half concealed behind one of the large trees in the middle distance, the shadow. It stared through Ava. She could see what looked to be its arm, its leg, its torso, and its head, staring past the tree trunk. It didn’t move but remained perfectly still, as Ava was at that point. Then it whispered something that Ava could not quite make out. It seemed to be repeating itself over and over again. It tilted its head ever so slightly to the side. Ava copied its small movement, as if to let it know that she could see it, that she was aware of it.
“Ava!” Ava got a fright as her focus was broken. “Kiara, hi, sorry.” Ava was quite clearly unnerved. “Are… are you okay?” Kiara asked. “Yes, I’m fine, I just thought I saw…” Ava cut herself off. She tried to rationalize the experience by reminding herself that she’d just had a head injury and what she thought she saw and heard was most likely a symptom of the head trauma. Surely the worst thing to do would be to feed into it. “Did you see something?” her little sister asked. “No, no, I just, I get headaches sometimes, from the concussion,” Ava tried to draw the attention away from her own abnormal behavior. “Anyway, what did the nurse want?” the journalist changed the subject. “Oh, just that my tutor will be an hour late tomorrow,” Kiara said, clearly proud to make her sister aware that she was educating herself. They kept chatting happily as they slowly made their way back to reception, enjoying the afternoon sun shining through the leaves of the huge trees. Ava could not help but look back several times to see if the shadow were still there, but the black figure had gone, along with the whispers.
“I’ll just get you to sign yourself out if that’s okay?” Ava completed the form for the receptionist, and then turned to her younger sister. “Can I give you a hug?” The two embraced tightly. “I-I’m really glad you came to see me,” Kiara said almost timidly. “Me too! Would you like me to visit again soon?” Ava suggested, “Y-yes, I would,” Kiara said, her eyes shining with emotion. They hugged each other again before Ava walked through the large open doors, looking back twice to wave to her sister. Ava’s head was spinning with thoughts for the entire four-hour drive back home to Detroit. She was so thrilled that she had been able to see her sister, and that she had been so happy and healthy. Kiara had never looked better. Ava felt she had never hugged anybody so tightly before in her life and had never been hugged back like that. For almost the first decade of their lives, they were as close as sisters could be. They did everything together, even planning that when they were older, they would be a famous girl group, singing around the world and driving fancy cars. Then three years ago, they had lost each other, and Ava had been so worried that all of that love and all of their shared memories had disappeared. A new wave of guilt washed over Ava; she should have visited her sister sooner. But how could she? She had been convinced that her sister blamed her for the bad place she’d been in for so many years and hated her for it. Now a heavy weight had been lifted off her shoulders.
Other thoughts were going through Ava’s head as well; what is this shadow I’m seeing? She forced herself not to think about it too much. She put it down to her recent head trauma. She simply convinced herself to forget about it. It started to rain as she approached the border between Ohio and Michigan. Ava rolled her window down and breathed in the nostalgic scent of fresh fallen rain on the asphalt. It was close to six thirty in the evening by the time Ava reached the sign that read, Welcome to Detroit. The rain was pouring by the time she turned the corner to her street, and she noticed a familiar car in her driveway. Kate was there. Ava parked her car and sprinted to the front door, trying unsuccessfully to avoid getting drenched. “Hi!” Kate welcomed her into the flat as Ava remembered she recently got a second key cut for her best friend. “Hello, boy am I out of shape!” Ava said, panting as she hung her coat on the coat-hook behind the door. “How was it?” Ava filled Kate in on all the details of the day’s trip interstate. “To be honest, I think that she is kind of lonely,” Ava said part way through their conversation. “I don’t know exactly what it was, I just … I got the feeling that people ask her what’s wrong, but nobody asks her what’s really wrong. But I could just be reading things into the situation,” Ava laughed as she ate another forkful of the takeaway noodles, kindly brought home by Kate. “Because growing up, when I saw thousands of therapists and things like that, I was always told to ignore my emotions to get better, when really that’s just a nice way of saying mask your true feelings. I just don’t want that to be happening to her,” Ava said with true concern for her sister. “Listen, I know that it sucks, but you have to realize that times have changed. I know that it really was only recently, but there are entirely new methods in dealing with traumatic events and emotions. Therapies are evolving all the time.” Kate held her friend’s hand. “Also, I’m glad that you care about your sister. In fact, it’s good that you care as much as you do, and care more, but don’t worry about her.” Ava gave her friend a strange look. “There’s a difference between caring and worrying. Believe me,” she said.
“Now, of course I came over here to hear about this important day, but also to give you a present.” Kate reached into her bag that sat on the coffee table in the living room. “As promised, I conducted some professional, FBI level investigating and I found our Jane Doe,” Kate said. “Oh god, she’s not dead, is she?” Ava asked, bracing for disappointment. “No need to fret my friend, she is not dead!” The young researcher pulled out a manilla folder. “Her name is Christine Hampton, she is sixty-six years old, and she lives in Lansing with her daughter-” “Lansing sounds familiar,” Ava interrupted. “Yes, because you did in fact mention Hampton Law Firm, and the young Miss Christine Hampton, is in fact Christine Hampton’s daughter.” Ava gives her friend another weird look. “What?” asked Ava. “She gave her daughter her own name? So what? She’s just old fashioned,” Kate defended her. “Wait, wait, wait. How did you work all that out?” Ava put her bowl on the coffee table. “Because I emailed Christine Hampton about Christine Hampton.” Kate smiled a smile that said, you can thank me later. “What? You emailed Christine, the daughter, about Christine, the mother?” Ava was spellbound, impressed with her friend’s research skills. “Well, what did she say? What did you say?” The young woman’s eyes lit up. “I simply asked if her mother was in fact the woman who was in the Armitage Mental Asylum. As first she was defensive, asking me who I was and who I worked for. But after I explained myself, she was happy enough to give me her phone number. She’s expecting you to phone her tomorrow,” Kate finished triumphantly. She took a small, folded piece of paper from her jeans pocket, and handed it to Ava. “I. Have. No. Words!” Ava smiled widely. She leant over and hugged her friend tightly. “I can’t thank you enough! You’re not messing with me? I’m not going to call this number and be asked how many burgers I want?” Ava joked. “Nope, this is the real deal, and she’s definitely expecting your call tomorrow.” Ava squealed with excitement. Talking to this woman and getting first-hand information could be a main selling point of her project. Ava hoped that she was on the verge of a breakthrough.
That night, Ava slept more soundly than she had for a while, a substantial amount of weight having been lifted from her shoulders over the past few days. She woke to the sound of her alarm the next morning, and after her breakfast of fruit and yogurt, a quick shower and tidy up of her flat, she was on her way to work, feeling excited about her day. This was the first job she’d ever had where she truly enjoyed waking up in the mornings to leave and go to work. Despite the toll this project was taking on her, she knew that long term it would help greatly to advance her career. It was definitely worth the effort.
Ava parked her car in a spot just one block from her building. She stopped at Starbucks in the city before crossing the busy street. The familiar office foyer welcomed her back, along with her colleagues. “Hey, I got your favorite.” Ava handed Kate a takeaway cup of coffee as she continued down the corridor. But the further she walked along the passageway, it seemed to grow darker, gloomier. The portraits on the walls had always spooked Ava; in a childish sort of way, she felt as though their eyes followed her as she walked, haunting her movements. She stopped at the closed office door, knock, knock, knock, she tapped lightly. “Yes, come in,” the voice on the inside called. “Ms Hayes!” Mr Nikita welcomed the young woman into his office. “How are you today?” He gestured for her to sit in the chair on the other side of his desk. “I’m very well, actually thank you,” Ava smiled. “Very good, very good,” he answered. “So, I just wanted to come in and say that I am in fact back, and also that I have the phone number of a potential asset to my project,” Ava announced proudly. “Is that so?” the man said as he sipped on a tall glass of water. “Yes. I’ve located a woman whose mother was a patient at the Armitage, and I’m hoping she will let me talk to her about her experiences at the hospital, from a patient’s perspective –” Mr Nikita choked on his water. “Sir, are you okay?” Ava asked worried. “An ex-patient? Between what years was she at the hospital?” His tone had suddenly become quite defensive. “I’m not entirely sure, but it must’ve been towards the end if she’s … you know … still alive,” Ava said, confused as to why her boss suddenly appeared negative. “How did you get a hold of an ex-patient? How did you get that name?” Ava was silent. Mr Nikita was visibly hostile. “Um-um…” Ava hesitated in answering his questions, partly because of his evident agitation, and partly because she would have to admit that her source was a child. “Answer me please,” Mr Nikita insisted. “I met a girl at the hospital, and she said she’d spoken to a few of the ex-patients. She gave me some names, but I could only do research on one; well, it was actually Kate who did -” “Ms Hayes, don’t see this woman,” Ava was taken aback. She thought her boss would only be happy, even proud that one of his employees was able to take advantage of such an opportunity. “And what do you mean you met a girl?” he asked. “I just - there’s a girl who lives near the asylum and she’s obviously done a lot of research and -” “That’s impossible! There aren’t any houses near the hospital.” Ava was once again shocked. She’d never seen Mr Nikita act so strangely. “What about the other house that’s just down the road from it? We drove past it,” Ava replied. “That house is a rental property which has been vacant for years. Nobody wants to live even ten miles distance from the asylum,” Ava’s boss appeared quite distracted, flustered. “Sir, I’m sorry, I thought you’d be happy.” Ava stood up. “No, no, no, I am happy, believe me I am. But do you really think it’s necessary to delve this far into your project? You can still get the same number of credits for it -” “Sir, with all due respect, I don’t embark on something if I can’t give it my all,” Ava stated, surprising herself at standing up to her boss. “Of course, Ava, of course. But just … you’re researching into someone’s private life; are you sure you want them to relive it? Do you really want someone to have to explain something potentially traumatic that happened to them?” Mr Nikita stood up and started pacing the floor behind his desk. “If I didn’t know any better, I would think you don’t want me to do well,” Ava said, confused. “No, no, of course I do. I’m sorry, I just … I have a lot on my mind at the moment, so I’m rather preoccupied …” Mr Nikita trailed off. “Good luck with your research,” he finished absentmindedly. Ava took that as her cue to leave.
She returned to her desk with a weird feeling after the meeting with her boss. Trying to shake the sensation off, she resolved to concentrate on the task at hand and got settled at her desk. She took out the phone number that Kate gave her yesterday and dialed the number on her work phone. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath to focus herself and quell her nerves as the phone rang. She desperately wanted a positive answer. There’s no reason for it to be no, she said to herself, otherwise why would she give Kate her number if she wasn’t going to say yes. “Hello Hampton’s law firm,” a male voice answered on the other end. “Hello, my name is Ava Hayes. I was hoping to speak to Ms Christine Hampton?” Ava said, her pen tapping on the pad of paper in front of her. “Okay, do you have an appointment with Ms Hampton?” the voice asked. “No, I don’t but I was given her phone number and I was hoping to speak to her as soon as possible please,” Ava said. “I’m sorry, she’s quite busy right now. If you’d give me your number, I can tell her you’ve phoned, and she can get back to you when she’s free.” Ava rolled her eyes; she was quite used to being fobbed off like this, and knew if she went along with it, she would never get a call back. “No-” Ava was about to get curt with the receptionist, but cut herself off, not wanting to come across as aggressive. “Um, would you mind giving her the name, Kate Cohn?” There was a brief moment of silence on the line, and then, “Please hold.” Ava chewed her nails, and her leg was shaking on her chair with nerves. “Hello, this is Christine Hampton.” Ava’s stomach lurched as she heard the voice. “Hello, my name is Ava Hayes. I believe you spoke with my colleague yesterday, Kate?” Ava introduced herself. “Oh yes! I’ve been expecting your call. What can I do for you?” The woman sounded chirpy and kind, which instantly put Ava’s nerves to rest. “Well, as I believe Kate mentioned to you, I was actually hoping to speak with your mother.” Ava hoped her request didn’t sound silly or strange. “Yes, she did mention it. You’re a journalist working at the Armitage Asylum, if I remember correctly?” the woman said. “That is right, yes, and it would be a great help if I could get some inside information from an ex-patient,” Ava explained. “Yes, yes of course. As soon as Kate mentioned the context, I was more than happy to help out.” Ava was curious. “Well, that’s very generous of you. If you’ll forgive me for seeming nosy, why did that interest you?” Ava squeezed her eyes shut on the other end of the line, praying she didn’t come across as too pushy. “Well, I was hoping that once your project or column or whatever it is, you’re working on gets published, it might shed light on the terrible events that so many people, my own mother included, experienced at that dreadful place,” Christine explained. “Oh, of course, yes I totally agree with you, Ms Hampton. It’s so important that the true story is recorded and published. So, I wonder, when would be a good time to see your mother?” Ava gently pressed. “How about I give her a call tonight, and she can have a day or so to think it over. But assuming she’ll agree, shall we say … this Thursday if that suits you?” the lawyer proposed. “Yes, that would be great! That’s a lot of driving for me lately,” Ava laughed, secretly dreading the long journey again. “Well, I do hope that it will be worth it. My mother has told me some very interesting stories, to say the least, about the Armitage Asylum,” Ms Hampton said. “I believe it will be entirely worth it. I appreciate your help, Ms Hampton.”
Ava stretched her arms out and spun around on her chair, happy that she’d secured an appointment with Christine Hampton, and with so little fuss. She got up and walked over to Kate’s desk. “I don’t know if you know this, but you’re in the wrong profession. You do need to be in the FBI,” Ava exclaimed to her friend. “I’m eternally grateful to you and your brilliant research skills!”