Nadine Malcolm finished inputting the data sheets she’d been assigned, then shoved her cheap black-framed glasses up her nose. With a surreptitious sideways glance, she verified that the guard was busy poisoning his health with sugar and coffee. Swiftly, she hit a series of keys.
The guard turned around before she could do more. The repetitive message she’d stored would automatically go out to the phone numbers she’d recorded. She didn’t hold out much hope that any of the recipients would follow up, but she could annoy the tar out of them if they didn’t. She’d left politeness behind in a faraway time and place.
She innocently fiddled with her too-long Orphan Annie curls and flipped a page, pretending she was checking her work.
Once she handed in the data sheets, she focused on the code numbers she was mentally sending into the universe. She needed to hold them in her head until she snagged an opportunity to type them into her cloud cache for physical sending.
“Thirty-four, twenty-two,” she told the guard in genial tones as they traversed the cold tile corridors to the cafeteria. “Eleven-eighty.”
“Yeah, and H-E-double hockey sticks back atcha,” the guard grumped, following her to the cafeteria where she could get a plate of cardboard eggs.
The amusement of playing this role had worn thin since learning Vera was no longer safely in the college boarding house where she belonged. Buttering her toast, Nadine debated cutting herself with a plastic knife. Would they take her to a real hospital in a real town? She’d have a better chance of escaping closer to civilization than this remote outpost.
As an experiment, she tried breaking the plastic knife while she forked her dry eggs, but she couldn’t produce an edge sharp enough to even poke out an eye. If she poked any eyes, it would be the evil eye of her own personal Nurse Ratchet.
The vibrations in the universe seemed exceptionally intense today. Or maybe she was just on edge because of Vera and picking up more disturbances than usual. With no means of finding out, she blocked out the distraction by repeating the code numbers in her head, just in case anyone was listening. She knew there were others out there who could receive her psychic transmissions, but she didn’t know if they paid attention.
Usually, rumbling in her universe meant the general was coming. She might want to escape this asylum—but not into his dangerous spider trap.
Tucking the broken plastic knife into the aluminum foil that had wrapped her tray, Nadine amused her audience by wrapping the foil around her orange curls. She stuck a plastic fork like a feather into the foil turban.
“Eight hundred,” she told the guard, rising from the heavy bench. They didn’t allow patients near chairs that could be used as weapons or shields. She was average-sized chubby, not a weightlifter. A physical fight for escape wasn’t happening.
The skinny scarecrow of a guard scratched his crotch and led her down the fluorescent-lit tile corridor to the reception desk in the lobby. “Bingo,” she told the nurse waiting with her meds and a paper cup of juice.
“We’re all winners, dear,” Nurse Ratchet said with that gleam in her eye that Nadine wanted to punch out.
She figured the witch was sleeping with the General and getting paid well to do so.
“Burp.” Nadine took the pills and dropped them into her orange juice, then dumped the concoction on Wretched Ratchet’s pristine white SAS walking shoes.
“You bitch, you did that on purpose!” Wretched grabbed a towel to wipe the leather.
“Ta-ta,” Nadine agreed. She’d used similar diversionary tactics when she’d first been brought here, with every intention of escaping.
Her prior attempts had merely taught her the location of every guard post in the building—and exhausted her chances. They made her sleep during the day now so that her waking hours were in the dark, when she was their sole focus. She wasn’t a nature lover. They probably thought she’d be afraid of the mountain at night.
She had run out of waiting time if they’d taken Vera. She’d finally reached the point where she’d risk bears, cougars, and rabid squirrels to escape this loony bin.
She shouldn’t let distant vibrations raise her hopes, but she was in a mood to fight for her freedom.
If she stabbed Wretched in the eye, would they take her to jail?
Wait a minute…
Whoever was driving up the road boiled like a thunderstorm. Power like that was worthy of a diversion.
With several million books in print and New York Times and USA Today’s lists under her belt, former CPA Patricia Rice is one of romance’s hottest authors. Her emotionally-charged romances have won numerous awards and been honored as RITA® finalists in the historical, regency and contemporary categories. She is thrilled to be expanding into mystery and urban fantasy.