NO ONE WAS allowed out of their assigned rooms the next day. According to the rumors and gossip Violet managed to catch from the nurses that passed her doors, a patient had apparently died in the middle of the night.
“Grisly,” one woman said, speaking to the man that walked beside her. “You shouldn’t see it if you can avoid it. It was definitely a murder.”
Violet couldn’t help but let her imagination run wild after that. She hadn’t seen Luna the night before during dinner time and now that they were locked in their rooms with no way to tell when they would be let out, Violet couldn’t confirm her friend’s safety.
It was a coincidence. It had to be. There was no way Luna would be involved in such an unfortunate case.
“Worried for your friend?”
As she paced back and forth in front of her door, she heard a familiar voice speak from the other side of it. Immediately, she pulled open the peephole, glancing out to find Maddox Haster standing before her. He had the nurse’s uniform on, fitting in perfectly with the people walking outside in the corridors freely. With his head dipped low and face hidden, no one seemed to be able to recognize him and realize a patient was gallivanting the corridors during what should’ve been a lockdown.
“How are you here?” Violet hissed, keeping her voice as soft as possible. She stood on the tips of her toes to peer outside, making sure there were no guards or nurses nearby. There were none. “We’ll both get into trouble if anyone catches you.”
“You have such little faith in me.” Haster pouted.
“Well pardon me but I don’t know you very well.” Violet frowned. “It’s unwise to put faith in a stranger.”
To that, Haster merely smiled. He tipped his head slightly to a side, nodding in agreement.
“I suppose I see your point,” he mumbled in good humor.
“So, are you going to tell me what you’re doing here?”
Through the peephole, Haster looked pointedly at the necklace dangling on Violet’s neck. He didn’t need to gesture to it outright and Violet could already guess the purpose of his visit. She reached up, clasping the key in her hands despite the sear it seemingly had on her skin.
“Just wanted to check if you’ll be coming with me. There’s no second chances or take-backs once tonight passes.”
Violet’s eyebrows shot up her forehead.
“You’re planning on escaping?”
“It’s a matter of sooner or later.” Haster shrugged.
“Why me?” Violet asked, curious. She couldn’t deny that his offer was appealing. While a part of her had grown accustomed to life within the cold brick walls of Steinfield, she still wanted to venture beyond those bars and see the world beyond. “Of all the other patients in Steinfield, why are you asking me to go with you?”
Haster smiled cryptically. He stayed silent for a few lingering seconds, simply watching Violet until his gaze soon turned uncomfortable. However, there was no malice in those forest eyes of his, as far as Violet could tell. They were soft, the color of spring and life, thriving with vibrancy. Those were not eyes belonging to a murderer. They were eyes that belonged to a victim.
“You’re like a songbird,” he finally said, voice cracking a little at the end. “Caged yet innocent, singing for songs of freedom. I merely wish to set you free.”
Haster’s reply caught Violet stupefied. She hadn’t thought that he would lose his boyishly playful pretenses for even a second. However, he had spoken the words in such seriousness that it kept Violet’s lips tightly locked shut with speechlessness.
Of course, Haster didn’t rush for a reply. He had already stated his stance. With or without Violet, he planned on leaving the place. Steinfield Asylum was just another wall for him to scale, not an impossible roadblock.
“If you’re coming along, tonight at midnight. Meet me under the tree in the garden, the one with the chess table you and your friend were playing on two days ago. That pendant—” Haster paused, knocking on the door of Violet’s room with the back of his index and middle fingers, “—it does more than you think.”
He turned, ready to leave. But, it seemed to be a habit of his to forget what he needed to say until the very last second. Haster turned on his heel, offering Violet a smile that was warm even in the frigid winter cold. It was radiant, a gentle glow that resembled sunlight as dawn peaked past the hills across the horizon.
Violet was once again blinded by the facade Maddox Haster expertly wore. He seemed nothing more than an innocent man, labeled a monster by a guilty world.
“Your friend,” he mentioned, “She is fine. Caught a little cold and couldn’t come down for dinner last night. She wasn’t a part of the murder. You can stop worrying now.”
With that as his parting words, Haster took a quick glance at his surroundings before stepping down the corridor and disappearing past a corner. Violet’s eyes trailed after him as far as she could, watching until he vanished past her point of view.
All the while, he was never caught. Violet had even waited with bated breath, pressing her ears against the doors to try and catch any commotion that might result from his capture. However, none came. The hallways were deadly silent, not even the usual screaming and shouting of deranged patients could be heard. It was as though everyone had fallen into a deep slumber, allowing such a malicious figure to explore the world without shackles to keep him contained.
For hours, no guards came to check on Violet nor were there any gossip and chatter about an escaped convict. That led Violet to firmly believe that Haster had managed to slip back into his room without detection. She saluted him for being able to do something so effortlessly when many others had gotten themselves caught and received their due punishment for it.
When her hallway was particularly silent after night had fallen, Violet stood to her feet and inched towards the door. She had packed all she owned and was precious to her, nothing more than what could be fitted into a single pillow case.
With the pendant of her necklace removed from her neck and now between her fingers, she slotted it into the keyhole in the door. It went in smoothly and Violet held her breath. In her head, she counted down till zero from three before twisting the key.
To her surprise, her door unlocked with a faint click.