Chapter 2 - Amy

The worn-in Buick Lesabre sailed down the empty highway with the windows down and the speakers blaring “I want a girl with a short skirt and a loooooong jacket”. The air conditioner had crapped out years ago, but the car still ran like a beast so Theo still drove it like one. His left hand tapped the faded tan body of the Lesabre to the beat of the song and his right hand repeatedly raised to his tie, tugged at the knot, then lowered back to the steering wheel. The heat made his ‘mandatory’ dress agonizingly uncomfortable, he hated taking jobs for uppity rich snobs. Well, until he saw the look on Dorris’ face when she cashed the checks, that is. Solving this case would keep that look on her face for the rest of the year, plus it was infinitely more interesting than anything else waiting for his attention, so he guessed he could deal with the tweed monstrosity currently squeezing the life from him a little longer.

The patient and victim, Mitchell A. Walcott was in the most secure area of the Shady Acres Behavioral Facility, which was a locked seclusion room on the top floor, with security personnel and cameras in every corner, yet he’d died, with no witnesses or evidence to speak of, from a small puncture to his heart. The impossibility of the case is what drew Theo, he was so sick of catching cheaters, there was no fun in it anymore he needed a case with some substance and challenge, then he could go back to outing dirtbags for a few coins a pop.

His hand raised, yet again, to his necktie adjusting the knot, to no avail. As uncomfortable as it was, his attire could only keep his mind from the case for so long, especially as he pulled into the long magnolia tree-lined drive of Shady Acres. The drive was about half a mile long, Theo assumed that the design was to ensure the citizens of Crescent felt more secure by keeping the patients out of view. Whatever the mentality behind the design of the facility, it was astonishing. The giant red-brick facility sat in the middle of the most breathtaking garden Theo had ever seen.

There were as many plants as he could name, and a multitude more. There were all of your everyday plants that could be found in any nursery, but then there were some plants that Theo could have sworn were from some alien planet. Their vines twisted along the gnawed lower branches of the magnolia trees and flaunted giant bright purple flowers with strange lime green swirls covering the petals. He imagined that the vines were strong enough to swing from, and for a split second considered testing his theory. Under the vines were a diverse array of grass and moss. They were in every shade of green, yellow, orange, and red and some even seemed to emit glitter if Theo didn’t look directly at them. The last time he could remember being in this much awe was when he was a kid, and magic existed.

Immediately in front of the massive red brick structure was a sunlit circle of perfectly manicured grass, and several paths leading away from it like the rays of the sun. His eyes followed one of the paths and saw that it led to a dense looking forest. Another led to a path surrounded by brightly colored flower beds. The path that he’d mistakenly wandered onto was surrounded by an odd flower that he’d never seen before. It was about knee height with black leaves along the stem and bright orange flowers with tiny electric blue spheres orbiting just above each bud. “How in the fu..” Theo began aloud as he reached out to poke the strange plant when he was suddenly knocked nearly off his feet by someone colliding into him.

Before he was even aware of what was happening, his arm thrust out to catch the invader just before her head smacked the stone pathway. “Woah there” he breathed as he helped the person restore her normal stance.

The offender was just over five and a half feet tall. She had bright red hair that was jammed into a tight bun on the back of her head. Dark eyes that never seemed to stay in one place for long and pale skin that almost matched her outfit, an ill-fitting white hospital uniform with a kaleidoscope of specks and smudges spanning the front and a patch on the right breast pocket indicating that it belonged to Shady Acres Behavioral Facility . Her face was void of any makeup but was still quite stunning as her expression shifted from shock to confusion then finally settled on agitation. She looked down at her waist then looked at him over her glasses.

Theo realized that his hand was still attached to the lady’s waist, so he jerked it away in a quick motion then smiling, he re-extended the offending hand towards her. “Hi, I’m Theo. Do you, uhm, work here?”

She looked back down at her uniform, clear indication that she did, in fact, work there, then gave Theo an unamused look, “How’d you guess?” Then her expression softened and she sighed as if someone had just scolded her about something for the 100th time. “Yes, I’m a cook here. Why are you laying down on the ground?”

He lowered his rejected hand, pointing to the ground beside them, “Well I was looking at these flowers, I’ve never seen anything like them” he pointed to the strange plant with orbiting spheres.

Her eyes widened slightly and she blurted “Are you a visitor?” loud and abrupt enough to draw his attention away from the ground.

“I’m here to investigate the murder that happened here a few months ago”

He watched her face as she visibly began to get lost in tragic thoughts for a few seconds, then shook herself and replaced it with her usual apathetic scowl, “I can show you where the office is”. Before he had a chance to respond, she turned around and started walking towards the massive front doors. “Sure, that would be great” he muttered to himself then grinned and ran to catch up to the unusual woman.

Slightly out of breath, Theo asked: “So, what’s your name?”

“Does that matter?” Her eye contact didn’t shift from her intended destination

“I don’t know, just trying to make conversation” It was like he was talking to a brick wall, a brick wall that collided into him.

“Well, you can converse with the overlords” She pointed to the office in front of them. The office had a single dusty desk in the middle of the faded tile floor. Then, without a word, she turned around and began walking back the way they’d come in.

As Theo walked through the glass door into the office, he saw tan walls with a door to another room on the right and a worn couch to the left. The desk in the middle of the room was metal and had to weigh at least 300 pounds. There was an old-looking computer monitor, though much newer than Dorris’, he really needed to do something about that. Besides the computer, there were a few piles of paper and a single photo of two children. An elderly woman sat behind the desk. Her face was open-eyed and expressionless and her hands sat on the keyboard unmoving.

“Um, hello?.. Ma’am?,” Theo said approaching the desk.

The woman nearly jumped out of her chair, let out a massive snort, and cried out “OOH!” She began to compose herself as she noticed the large man standing in front of her desk, a stunned look on his face and his mouth slightly open. Then in her most sweet-tempered grandmotherly voice she proclaimed, “Welcome to Shady Acres, how can I help you?”

“Were your eyes o...” Theo shook his head, remembering why he was standing there, “Hello ma’am, I’m Theo Aide. I was hired by Mr. Walcott's' family to investigate his murder. Could you please point me in the direction of who could help me with that? Is it you?” His smile beamed brighter someh