Ama clung to Kostic in the truck as the old man drove. He breathed through it. He did not like to be touched but Ama was the exception. Ama was the exception to everything. He could talk to her. See her. Help her. She was, he supposed, the child he might have had once upon a time. He touched her once. Patted her head. “Where are we going, Papa?” she asked him.
The old man Pepperidge spoke to him but kept his eyes on the swirl of white outside. “It’s a bad night, Robert,” he warned.
“I know it’s a bad night, but it’s the best night for this.” Kostic said. The words were a struggle for him.
“Why do you want to go back to the asylum? It’s foolish. Surely my sister would take you back in again. She loves you.”
Robert Kostic clenched his teeth, flexing his muscles as he did. Ama clung ever fiercely to him. He did not like to talk about his mother, nor did he like anyone knowing that the old grounds man was his uncle. Kostic was well enough to know that he was the family’s secret; what they didn’t know was that they were his secret in return. No one knew about them.
The truck lurched on the road, tires locked. “Hold on!” Bill said. His thin arms flexed and spun the wheel. Without thinking, Kostic reached over and with a single hand, wrestled the truck back on the road. The truck swerved, wheels spun, snow swirled, they turned sideways and then came to a stop. “Jesus,” Bill muttered. “If that’s not a sign you shouldn’t go back, I don’t know what is.”
Robert pointed into the snow. The headlights lit a path in front of them that was only inches wide, but even then they could see the dark figure standing in front of them.
Ama began to cry.
“It’s not possible,” Bill said. “He was back at the house.”
Kostic held onto Ama, pulling her close. He knew that not only was it possible, it was predictable. Dr. Elliott Kinney was a demon and everyone knew that demons could fly.
He kissed Ama’s forehead. “Take her home,” he said to his uncle. And then Kostic released her, opened the door, and climbed out of the truck, grabbing the baseball bat that had been resting at his feet.
“Kostic,” Dr. Kinney sneered.
As a form of greeting, Kostic raised the bat and swung.
“What’s happening!” Ama cried. She tried to see what was in front of them but the old man was reversing the truck so quickly that soon her husband and her papa were swallowed whole by the storm.
“Don’t pay attention to them,” he said, his voice loud and piercing. “We’ll be home soon enough.”
Ama tried to stop herself from shaking. It was too much to bear. Too much! She’d left the only home she’d ever had and moved to that horrible room. She’d loved Kinney as her mothers had instructed her, with her body, but he had wanted to possess all of her. He had tried to make her into something she was not. She was not his wife. She was not a Rose. And now there was a child growing within her, a creature with His brain and His soul and she could not stand it. She could not stand it!
“Stop crying,” the old man said. “It’s a helluva drive. A horrible storm. I need to think.”
She tried to swallow the tears. They wedged in her throat. She closed her eyes. If she closed her eyes, she could pretend that none of this was real. She was not on the road in the cold in a storm. She was in her little room with the pictures on the walls and her family around her. She was happy. She was not going to grow a baby. She was a baby herself. She was Ama. Just Ama. And she was loved.
Just then the truck came to a sliding stop. “We’re here,” he said.
Ama opened her eyes. She opened her eyes and smiled. He had taken her home, just as he’d said. Building 50 of the asylum loomed in front of them. “Home!” she breathed and then she was running.
It was more than a storm. It was like being inside a sheet of ice. The wind and snow attacked his skin, tearing at him. Kinney staggered forward. He could feel blood running from his temple and dribbling down his cheek. He could taste the iron in his lips. His only thought now was to trudge forward. He could not feel his body. He was too cold for that. He knew that the asylum was within reach. Behind the gusts of wind, he could see the outline of her in the distance. That’s where he would head.
Forward. One step at a time.
He spared no thoughts of Kostic’s body in the snow. By morning he would be fully covered. And if anyone asked, he could tell them he was attacked. A poor psychiatric doctor attacked by a wayward inmate.
He thought of reaching his wife. Of taking her back to his house and his bed and locking the doors. He was done with work and trying to help mankind. He had plenty of money on which to live. He needed only his wife and the warmth of her body to help him feel alive. He needed no one else.
These were the thoughts in his mind as he walked through the storm.
Just before he entered Building 50, he thought of a reason for the cut on his forehead and his condition. As an after thought, he tossed the knife, the tip frozen in with red and bits of brain matter, into the bushes. Maybe they’d find it in spring when the snow melted. Kinney doubted it. Many things that were covered were never found again.