Chapter One: Cleaning Up Her Mess
The hall below Camden Manor was cool and damp. Water dripped down the walls, pooling on the concrete floor. The smell of mold was strong, and the moisture in the air was making it difficult for my guide to breathe. He was a heavy set man of about forty, with big, lumbering steps and a wheeze that only became worse as we went on. He glanced over his shoulder at me, a bit warily. Sweat had gathered on his brow, and began slipping down his face and settling in his moustache.
"You doin' all right back there buddy?" he asked. The southern twang of his voice grated on my nerves.
"Wanna take a little rest?"
I took in his heavy breathing and sagging shoulders. The slightly uneven beating of his heart worried me.
He leaned back against the wall, either not noticing or not caring that he was soaking the back of his shirt. Pressing his palms against his knees, he took a deep and shaky breath. "Hate these halls," he admitted. "Long and twisting and fucking confusing. Gotten lost myself more times than I care to count."
He blinked up at me, head cocked slightly to the side.
"Aren't you tired, kid?"
I smiled slightly. "Not really."
"You in the labor force or somethin'?" he asked. "Like construction?"
"Something like that." I crossed my arms and rocked back on my heals. "Have you worked here for long, Mister…?" I read his nametag, "Douglas?"
"Hell yeah, near ten years," he laughed. "I'll tell you what though; in all my time here I've never seen somebody like who they got locked up down here now."
I tried to keep my face neutral. "That so?"
"Oh yeah. Little spitfire, that one. Pretty, too." He squinted me. "That's who you're goin' to see, right? The Pierce girl?"
"I'm here to see Genevieve," I corrected him, confused.
"Yeah, Genevieve Pierce."
"No, her last name isn't…"
He shrugged. "I don't know man, that's what they've been callin' her. "
I wondered when she changed her name, or if she even remembered her old one. Memory loss was sometimes a side effect of our condition. But someone as sharp minded as her shouldn't have had that problem.
"You her lawyer, Mr. Blackburn?"
"I'm representing her." But I'm more than just her lawyer, I thought.
"Well, between you and me, you might want to file a complaint against the folks here," he advised, lowering his voice and leaning toward me.
"What do you mean?"
"They haven't been treating her right."
I bristled, my fists clenching together. "Can you elaborate?"
"They don't bring her anything to eat. Ever. Just bottles of what looks like V8. And she hasn't left her cell once since she's been here. And they brought her in over a month ago. Girl hasn't showered in who knows how long."
I ground my teeth together. "Is that all?"
"No. When I have the night shift, I can hear her screaming all through The Manor. Even upstairs in the offices. I don't know what they've been doin' to her—that's above my pay grade—but whatever it is, it aint right."
"I appreciate your concern. I'll take care of it," I told him.
"I've got a daughter myself, and she's around Pierce's age. Can't stand by and let a kid be mistreated like that, no matter what they've done. "
His face changed when he said that, twisting into something like barely contained horror. He knew. Despite all his caring concern, he still thought Genevieve belonged right where she was, in this hell.
And the worst part was that I agreed. Monsters shouldn't be allowed to live. But for some reason, the boss didn't think her number was up just yet.
Lucky little bitch. Even when she was behind bars, she still had every man on the council wrapped around her finger.
Officer Douglas took one last deep breath and pushed himself up off the wall. His heart sounded more normal now, not quite as erratic.
"Her cell is just down this way, Mr. Blackburn. Right around the corner."
I already knew that—Genevieve's laughter echoed quietly through the halls. It had been growing steadily louder for a while now. It was the giddy laughter you might expect from a happy child, or a mad woman.
We rounded the corner, and I could make out a quiet whispering through the walls. It was Genevieve's voice, prattling on about the Second World War. It sounded like she was spilling out random facts, with no real order or pattern.
"She's a bit off her rocker," Douglas warned me. "Not quite right."
"I hear her," I agreed.
Douglas looked at me strangely. "What are you talking about?"
"Never mind," I said, shaking my head.
He stopped in front of a large metal door, faded an ugly brown from the water that coated it. There was a sliding lock on it, made from what looked like steal. Unlike the rest of the door, it was shiny and silver and looked brand new. "Here we are," Douglas announced. "Cell number one-eighteen, residence of Genevieve Pierce."
With some strain, he tugged the lock out of place. It groaned and scraped against the wall with an uncomfortable screech. The door squeaked as it slid open, as if it wasn't used to the effort.
It was pitch black inside the cell, and it smelled like a dead animal had been decomposing inside. Light from the hall spilled in and illuminated half of the tiny room, and lightened the shadow that partially hid Genevieve.
She was huddled in a corner, her knees pulled up to her chest and her head down. Her usually loose curls were matted into a rat's nest. Her fingernails dug into her arms, already having left long red marks all over her skin. She looked up, squinting, and her eyes flashed a vibrant green. Her lips pulled back over her teeth in an unconscious snarl.
"Get up," I ordered.
She blinked at me, her expressing morphing into the confused frown of a frightened child. "Josiah?"
"You're a mess, Evie." Dried blood covered the corners of her mouth and most of her chin. Bottles of what Douglas had mistaken as V8 were scattered around the cell, most with only the red stain remaining inside of them. They were the cause of the smell.
"Why are you here?"
"Caleb sent me. He wants to talk to you."
"Caleb lives right above me, in that fancy mansion of his," she said. "If he wants to talk to me, tell him to drag his sorry ass down here. I will not be led around like a dog on a leash."
"The whole council wants to see you, Evie. They're reconsidering your sentence."
"What's that supposed to mean?" she asked suspiciously.
"That you might be walking out of here with me after the meeting, if it goes well."
Genevieve's jaw dropped, and she struggled to stand up. Her legs shook, and she clawed at the wall to pull herself up. Douglas reached his arm out and stepped forward to help her, and I put my arm out to block him. She didn't deserve anyone's help after what she did.
"Right now?" she asked hopefully.
"Yes. Come on."
She stumbled toward me, and I caught her arms to steady her. "If you trip on the way in, you can forget them letting you off easy," I warned.
She swallowed hard and nodded. "Okay."
"This way," Douglas said. "There's another staircase that's closer to the meeting room."
I took Genevieve's arm in hand and pulled her into the hall, feeling suddenly rushed to go back upstairs. She tripped over her own feet, only keeping up because I was dragging her. I wasn't running, but a brusque walk must have been difficult for someone who had hardly moved at all over a month's time.
"I look terrible," she whispered to herself as she tried desperately to smooth down her matted hair. "Drew would never look at me again if he saw me this way. I need to clean myself up for when he comes home."
"You've been better," I agreed. "Who is Drew?"
"My husband," she said. She looked up at me, eyes wide and Bambi like. "He's fighting in the war, but he'll be back soon."
I didn't remember anyone mentioning she was married, but then again all I had been told were the details of her crimes. "When did you marry?"
"Five months ago. Drew was afraid he would die before he got married, so we eloped. His parents were so furious." She smiled at the thought. "They thought I dressed like one of those flapper girls from the twenties."
I glanced down at her jean and t-shirt ensemble and had a hard time imagining it. "A flapper? Did they even know what one looks like?"
Genevieve looked at me strangely. "Of course. Linda, Drew's mother, grew up in New York. She and her friends used to sneak into big fancy parties during the Prohibition."
"Evie…that was ninety years ago," I told her. "What war did you say Drew is fighting in?"
"He's in Germany. But he'll be back soon."
I stopped. "Wait a minute Douglas," I called ahead.
"Why?" Douglas complained.
I ignored him. "Evie, we aren't fighting against Germany anymore. The only war going on right now is the one in the Middle East. With Iraq and Afghanistan."
She blinked hard and cocked her head to the side. "I know that Josiah. I was even there about a year ago. Why are you talking about World War Two?"
"She does that sometimes, Mr. Blackburn," Douglas said. "Yesterday she was chattering on about her father's plantation in South Carolina and the two slaves he set free for saving her life when she fell in a river and almost drowned. Like I said, she's isn't quite right."
Genevieve seemed oblivious to the fact that we were discussing her incoherency right in front of her. She was humming a Beatles song, off in her own little world.
When we came to the winding stone stair case I stopped and pulled a navy satin ribbon from my pocket and held it out to her. She looked at me blankly.
"For your hair," I explained.
"I haven't worn my hair back in years," she said as she took the ribbon from me. "Not since Woodstock. Everyone else had their hair down," she explained.
"You went to Woodstock?"
"Yes."She smiled. "It was wonderful. Everyone was in a good mood, and everyone was high."
"Did Drew go with you to Woodstock?" I asked.
She glared at me. "Don't be ridiculous."
"Are you going to braid my hair like I'm twelve again, Josiah?"
"Would you rather face the council looking like you've been living in a dark cave?"
"I have been." Her voice was harsh, her eyes angry as she glowered at me.
"But you don't need to give them the satisfaction of knowing that."
She sighed and turned her back to me, giving in. I pulled her hair in a quick braid, like I had so many times all those years ago. Once upon a time, this was a daily routine. Her hair was silky and smooth in my memories, but it felt as coarse as straw after going so long without being washed.
When she faced me, I had to admit she did look young with her hair out of her face. Not quite twelve, but much younger than she really was.
"Ready?" I asked.
She took a deep breath. "Yes. Let's go."
I went up first. As we emerged into the sunlight, I could hear her breathing quicken. In, out. In, out. And then faster and faster. If she had actually needed to breathe to survive, I would have been worried about how fast it was.
Genevieve knew her way to the council room, and she led us there rather than Douglas. He trailed behind us, breathing heavily again. I imagined she had spent a lot of time there over the last hundred years. Even when she was a child she was always getting herself into trouble.
We reached the huge oak door, and my hand hovered over the old fashioned gold knocker. "Are you ready?" I asked again.
She took a deep breath, letting her eyes drift closed. When she snapped them open, she rolled her shoulders back, stood up straight, and her face morphed into an expression of defiance and confidence. I had seen that expression on my clients a thousand times. They all were either positive they were going to skirt by with a slap on the wrist, or they were terrified and didn't want anyone to see their fear. I knew Genevieve well enough to realize it was a mixture of both for her.
I admired her. Even facing death, my baby sister was so much braver than I ever could hope to be.