Thirty-five minutes later, the Buick rolled through Weston, West Virginia and pulled up to what looked like a mansion. But a double-headed load of fear came crashing down on Rose when she realized it was not a mansion. It was the Trans-Alleghany Lunatic Asylum. Rose knew all about this hospital of horrors because she had heard the ghost stories as a child and seen pictures of the structure in the newspaper. The building was made of hand-cut stone masonry, and it looked like a ghoulish, old haunted house. It was supposed to house 250 patients, but there were an astounding eighteen hundred being kept there at the time—many against their will. These folks had been tagged “mentally impaired” or “unfit for society,” sometimes by nefarious-minded relatives who aimed to steal their bankroll. Rose had heard folks were admitted for most any ridiculous reason, such as for reading novels, venereal disease, marriage problems, promiscuousness, masturbation, laziness, consuming whiskey, or having an interest in politics. Some of the inmates lived in cages. She knew people went in but seldom came out. She figured two flapper-types (Laura and herself) who had made love to countless flyboys, glad lads, and big-time operators were prime candidates for “madness,” at least as far as society was concerned.
“Where are we going, fellows?” Rose feigned a sunny face.
“We’re gonna introduce you to Bill. He’s a big-time wise-head,” Thomas replied.
“A high pillow,” Joe added.
“That’s sounds truly splendid, but I need to get back to Fairmont. My mama’s gonna be worried.”
“Ish Kabiddle!” Vince said. “We’ll get you there soon enough, dream-puss.”
Rose thought about escape. But how? If she made a run for it when the car stopped, these fellows would nab her. She was in high heels and they were tough and burly. Yelling would do no good—certainly not at a looney bin where screams were as common as straightjackets. And if she pled her case to asylum staff, would they believe her?
Rose imagined a nurse saying, “Another lie by a fruitcake whore. Put the nutjob in the cage!”
Rose figured the thugs were planning to stash her in the asylum. That would keep her quiet, all right. It would prevent her from snitching about the murder or fingering anybody. Laura’s car would be found on the side of the road by the coppers in a day or two and the police chief would make a public statement: “Two young women just up and vanished.” Because Rose had lived unconventionally, the Morooses would assume she had bolted out of town and was living the high life in California or New York.
Vince parked the Buick, and everybody got out except Laura, who was fast asleep.
Thomas tried to rouse her, but she was not having it.
“The bitch is catching some Z’s,” he reported to Vince. “You want me to carry her?”
“Nah. Stay here with her.” Then, Vince gave Rose a shove in the direction of the building. “Let’s go, dilly.”
Rose felt like she was stepping off a cliff as she walked along a thin stone path. Vince and Joe were close behind and seemed ready to rough her up if need be.
“This way.” Vince pointed to the left. Rose obeyed.
The three of them passed a cemetery with loads of weeds and unmarked graves. Rose figured this hell hole of a graveyard was her future—her final resting place. But she knew she would not rest; she would be tossing and turning until the devil snatched her out of there.
“Honey, over there.” Vince pointed at a structure marked, “Medical Building.”
She and the hoodlums went up a ramp and through a set of double doors, which slammed all eerie-like. She could hear the distant screams and moans of patients. Then, the threesome turned down a dingy hallway, where Rose noticed green tiled walls, a metal gurney, and half-a-dozen metal doors with food slots. From there, they descended down steps into what seemed to be a basement with a moldy smell and what looked like blotches of green vomit on the walls. She saw a door marked, “Autopsy Room.”
“This way.” Vince held a door for Rose, and she went into a freezing cold chamber with brick walls and a concrete floor. It was the morgue, although there was a smaller “bunk bed type of freezer” for storing corpses. There were bars over a ventilator-sized window and padlocks on the bars. She turned to find Vince and Joe were still in the hallway.
“Wait here.” Vince slammed the door.
Rose was alone in the room and spiraled into a full-on panic. She began crying. “Come back. Don’t leave me. Please.” She pounded on the door.