The halls were eerily quiet. The clock on the wall droned on with its constant ticking, yet the woman at the desk couldn’t be bothered. Her fingers glided across the pages of a magazine, turning the page finally after a few minutes of reading. It was around two o’clock, and it was her lunch break.
Her boss had been locked up in his office with one of the higher-ups, Jeremy Blaire, she believed. She knew that the two were close, and if anything this meeting was supposed to be over an hour ago. They were just talking now, catching up; talking about when they would meet up outside of work again. She couldn’t bother to focus on what was being said behind closed doors, after all, she was too caught up in her gossip magazine.
The soft ticking of the clock was slowly overtaken by the sound of heels clicking against the linoleum floors. The woman couldn’t help but look up, intrigued by the sudden presence of another person. The day was usually dead around that time, and aside from brief visits from Mr. Blaire, not a soul would be seen walking down the hall. She watched as a woman approached her desk.
She was rather tall, with a cold demeanor and a piercing stare. She wore mostly black and white, with the only accent color coming in the form of her hair which was the color of chocolate. When she arrived, Denise could have sworn she felt the room drop in temperature. Yet, she smiled, hoping the woman would be on her way sooner or later.
“Can I help you, ma’am?” The older woman asked, sitting a bit straighter in her seat and sliding her magazine away. The woman’s steely gaze flickered between the empty tupperware, the magazine, and Denise before she finally spoke.
“I’m sorry to bother you, but I was wondering where I might be able to find Dr. Wernicke?” The woman asked, her voice just as aloof as her demeanor. Denise’s eyes widened, though her smile never faded. She wasn’t quite sure how to answer her question, seeing as she herself didn’t know the answer. She had almost nothing to do with Dr. Wernicke, yet here was this woman who was clearly lost, asking for her help. She felt her mouth go dry.
“Well, um, I don’t work in that division so I’m not exactly sure where he is…” Denise trailed off before she reached for the phone. Is he even alive? Denise wondered. She could have sworn that she heard somewhere that they used treatments from the late Dr. Wernicke, meaning he would be dead.
“I’ll ask for you.” She finished, bringing the phone up to her ear and pressing on the keys frantically. The woman flashed a tight-lipped smile before returning back to her blank stare.
“Thanks.” She muttered. Behind Denise, the door opened, revealing two men. The woman’s eyes snapped to the new disturbances, and - somehow - she became colder than before. Denise leaned up, the phone concealed on her shoulder.
“Sorry but, what was your name?” She asked.
“Dr. Catarina Crane. I’m Wernicke’s therapist and he hasn’t been at my office in a while.” The woman, Dr. Crane, explained. Denise nodded, seemingly ignoring the men behind her who were still chatting nonchalantly. One was shorter than the other, with black hair that was slicked back and subtle facial hair. He wore a black suit that was neat and seemingly tailored. The other man, on the other hand, had wild, honey colored curls that looked like there was an attempt to pull them back. He wore a bright pink button down shirt that was only half tucked into his khaki pants. To top off his flamboyant attire, he wore a blue sweater over his shoulders. She barely noticed that the shorter one was paying more attention when she announced who she was.
“Well, apparently he’s on the lower floors, but I don’t think you have the clearance-”
“I can get her down there.” The shorter man announced. Dr. Crane stared at the man for a brief moment, waiting for him to continue. He reminded her of a rat, though she couldn’t put her finger on why. It was something about his beady eyes, they were off-putting. He checked his watch, then put a finger up, shaking it with slight urgency.
“Actually, I’ve gotta check on something real quick. Just stay here, then I’ll escort you to Wernicke.” The man muttered, not making eye contact with Dr. Crane the entire time. He looked behind him at the other man, smiling.
“I’ll see you Saturday, Rick.” The man stated before running off in the other direction. The hall was silent for a few moments, with the only noise being the soft ticking of the clock. Dr. Crane didn’t even notice the flamboyant man turn his attention to her.
“So, Wernicke has a therapist?” He began, catching the doctor’s attention.
“Yes.” Her answer was short and simple, lacking emotion or care. She wasn’t there to make small talk, she was there to do her job and make sure her patient was okay. She knew he did time consuming work, but she didn’t think it would affect their appointments. He was an interesting specimen, someone obsessed with his nightmares and fears, and Dr. Crane knew a lot about fear.
“Catarina, huh? How about I call you Cat?” The man continued, leaning against his assistant’s desk. Dr. Crane glared at him.
“It’s Dr. Crane.” She corrected, her voice bordering on irritated. She wasn’t angry, not yet at least. His grin was annoying as it was.
“I figured I’d call you something a little more personal, I like to do that. Skip the formalities and cut to the chase.” His carefree tone was slightly grating to Dr. Crane, and the fact that he was still talking to her bothered her to no end.
“You know, I wanted to be a doctor when I was younger.” He muttered while Dr. Crane nodded along, barely listening to what he was saying.
“Yeah, I didn’t really get too far with that one…” He stood up straight and held out his hand, and on his face was a large grin that set Dr. Crane on edge.
“Richard Trager, but you can call me Rick.” She glanced down at his hand, then looked him in the eye. She was surprised he didn’t wink, like others would have. He seemed like he was genuinely trying to be friendly, but she wasn’t there to make friends. She flashed him a brief smile.
“I appreciate the sentiment, Mr. Trager, but I don’t think we’ll be seeing each other again.” She stated, trying her best to not be rude. She watched his smile falter as she said ‘mister,’ which she quickly took note of. She figured she struck a nerve, and hopefully she could use that to get him to leave her alone. Just beyond Trager, she saw the man rushing back, his eyes trained on the floor.
“Never say never, Dr. Crane.” She couldn’t bother to react to what he was saying. She was sick of him already, and all she wanted was to get in and get out. Not only was Trager unnerving her (which was not a common occurrence in her life), but the whole aura of the asylum was off putting. The dingy, yellow walls looked like they needed a new coat of paint, and the furniture looked like it had been there since the seventies. Everything in the asylum looked like it had been there since the seventies, including the people. Especially the man who couldn’t seem to keep his eyes off of her.
“Dr. Crane, right this way.” The shorter man said with a smile on his face. She nodded briefly, following the man toward the elevator, passing by Trager without another glance. As a matter of fact, she seemed smug, as if she was right about never seeing him again.
As the elevator doors closed, which were more like gates if anything, she could still see the bright pink of Trager’s shirt. It stood out compared to the dull backgrounds of Mount Massive, but she knew it wasn’t a welcome sight. If she saw that damn shirt, she’d go in the other direction. She felt like she could breathe again when the cement from the other floors overtook the view of whatever floor that was.
“So you’re Dr. Crane.” The man muttered. She nodded, hoping that this wasn’t a cheap attempt at flirting like Trager was doing.
“I’m Jeremy Blaire, head of Global Development at Murkoff.” He introduced, holding out his hand for her to shake. He wasn’t quite as unnerving as Trager, but she knew no harm would come to her career if she pissed off Trager. This man, though, could do some damage. She appreciated his slight professionalism, so she shook his hand.
“We’ve heard of you, and honestly we’re interested in hiring. Your father’s work in his field was revolutionary, and while I don’t know anything about what you study, I know that we’re interested in hiring.” He proposed. Dr. Crane’s eyes widened. She couldn’t believe that he knew who her father was, and now she wondered how much Murkoff knew about her. She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, but regained her composure.
“Hiring who, me or my father?” She quipped, smirking slightly.
“Well, I know your father’s retired. So’s your mother. You followed in his footsteps for a little bit. You started in Arkham, correct?” He continued, and she was slightly impressed. He knew where she came from, where she worked for a while, and she assumed he knew everything else about her and her family.
“Yes, that’s correct.”
“And the experiments?” He asked. Her heart practically stopped. Of course, she wasn’t the only one in her family to perform experiments on her patients, her father did the same thing. Neither of them were caught, so she had to wonder what lengths this company went through to uncover this information. What would happen if she refused the job?
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mr. Blaire.” She deflected, hoping it would work. Her cold demeanor should have been enough to throw him off of her trail, but she knew better. He was clearly a businessman, there was no throwing him off.
“I think you do. There’s a reason why your father was revolutionary, Dr. Crane. He experimented on patients, and so did you, well, before you moved on, that is. All I’m offering here is a new place to continue your research. We have our own project that we feel your research would help. You’re more than qualified I would say.” Jeremy went on, though Dr. Crane only felt like he was trying to butter her up. She was intrigued though, the idea of new test subjects was something she was interested in. It wouldn’t hurt her to ask further about the potential job, would it?
“So this job you’re offering involves me continuing my research?” She inquired. Jeremy nodded.
“Our project practically depends on it.”
“If I do this, I won’t get caught?” She continued, and once again, Jeremy nodded.
“Looks like I’m in, Mr. Blaire.”