Ethel drove into the parking lot of Port Glenn Psychiatric and Forensic Hospital. If it were not for the razor wire security fence around the perimeter, it would look like any modern hospital or office building. She took a final puff of the wood tip cigar she held in her arthritic hand before putting it out in the ashtray of her old gray sedan. She looked in the rearview mirror and adjusted the green polyester scarf tied around her head. She picked up her slouchy hobo handbag and got out of her old jalopy.
A cool breeze flapped her balloon sleeves and gypsy skirt as she walked to the main entrance. She could feel small pebbles through the souls of her moccasins as she walked along the long concrete sidewalk.
She walked inside the large three-story building and across the shiny-floored lobby to the front desk.
“I’m here to see Margaret McGee,” Ethel said with her sandpapery voice.
The female guard shoved a paper in front of her. “Fill out this form, and I’ll need a picture ID.”
Ethel knew the drill; she had been visiting nearly every weekend since Maggie’s admission to the high-security forensic center. She had her driver’s license ready and a quarter for the lockers in which to lock her purse. When she was cleared to go in, she followed the guard through a metal detector and down a lengthy corridor to a locked section of the hospital. She followed the guard inside and into a visiting room where another guard sat at a desk. She filled out another form, chose a seat at the far end of the glassed partition, and waited for them to bring Maggie for her to see.
Several minutes had passed before Maggie walked in with one of the dayroom workers. Ethel waved so that Maggie would see her. Maggie walked over to Ethel and sat down in a plastic chair on the other side of the security glass. She picked up the phone.
“Hi Maggie,” Ethel said, forcing a smile. It was difficult to smile while looking at Maggie’s sad expression and drooping shoulders. “How are you doing?”
Maggie shrugged. “Fine, I suppose.”
After talking about what Maggie ate for lunch, and her other daily activities such as sitting in the small library and staring at the wall, Ethel jumped into the more serious questions before her visiting time was up.
“When is your court date?” Ethel asked.
“It’s September eleventh,” Maggie said. “Have you made any progress . . . helping me?”
Ethel smiled and nodded as if things were going well, but she was actually making little progress. At her apartment, she could hear Debbie and Bruce on the second floor laughing in glee, something she had never heard until Maggie had moved in. At times, she sensed them coming down to the main floor and standing outside her apartment door. These so-called visits coincided with the times Ethel was casting spells of protection for Maggie and herself. But the spells were weak since they did not seem to bother Debbie and Bruce much because they would mock her before disappearing. “I’m going to call Detective Becker, again, and this time I’m going to talk to him in person; I might be able to get further with him.”
Maggie did not say anything; instead, she looked down at the desktop.
“There’s a new manager who comes out periodically and checks the place,” Ethel said. “They want me to move out, but I don’t want to. My lease isn’t up and I want to stay close to the . . . others, because I have a stronger effect on them and I’m sure there’s something we’re missing when it comes to your defense.”
“You still believe I didn’t do it, don’t you?” Maggie asked, looking up with moist eyes.
“Of course, dear, there’s no doubt in my mind,” Ethel said, reaching her bent arthritic fingers across the table. She would have held Maggie’s hand if it were not for the partition. “I have an appointment to speak with your doctor while I’m here. He just wanted to talk over the phone, but I insisted I speak to him in person; it makes it easier to read him.”
“Thanks, Ethel,” Maggie said. She wiped her eye with a worn tissue. “Not knowing what will happen in court is killing me. It’s like a heavy burden on me . . . like a weight made of darkness.”
“How are you sleeping?” Ethel asked. Her eyes narrowed with concern.
“Not well,” Maggie said, still holding the wet tissue. “I feel the dark robed entity feed on me, on my mental pain. You’d think that if he was feeding on my despair that it would be sucked out of me, but instead it seems like it is fueled.” She touched the side of her neck. “I even feel bite marks in my neck, but I never see anything, I just feel these bumps under my skin.”
Ethel looked at Maggie’s neck and then down at her own arthritic hands, hands that she wished held a glass of bourbon whiskey . . . a tall glass of bourbon whiskey on the rocks. Then it occurred to her that maybe she should move because it has been over two months and she had made no progress with weakening Debbie and Bruce, and Susie for that matter. She felt she had no effect on the evil parasite attached to Maggie. She would need to take drastic measures. She looked back up at Maggie. “Don’t worry; I have one more thing I can try.”
“What’s that?” Maggie asked.
“The crystal ball,” Ethel said. Her hands trembled.
Maggie frowned. “That’s too dangerous. You know what happened the last time the crystal ball was used; it brought that demon through and it hasn’t left.”
“It brought the demon through, it can send the demon back,” Ethel said, forming a steeple with her knobby red-nailed fingers.
“Even when the demon is here with me?” Maggie asked while still touching her neck.
“I may need Claudia to help me, especially since she was the one using it when the demon came through,” Ethel said, trying hard to sound confident.
“But even if you and Claudia are able to make the demon, Debbie, Bruce, and Susie go away, it won’t help me in court,” Maggie said, dropping her hand to the tabletop. “It won’t change the evidence.”
Ethel sighed. “It might not change the evidence, but it will keep them from framing you any further and keep them from talking into the lawyers and other people’s ears.”
Maggie gave a halfhearted smile. “I suppose.”
Ethel looked at her watch. “My time is almost up. Is there anything you need?”
Maggie shrugged, and then said, “Before you go, I need to know something.”
“Sure, what’s on your mind?” Ethel said, leaning toward the glass.
“You do see the spirits, don’t you?” Maggie asked, looking Ethel straight in the eyes.
“I sense them, with my third eye,” Ethel said, touching her forehead. She noticed Maggie look to the side in despair. “But don’t you worry, I know they’re there.”
Maggie looked back at Ethel with tears in her eyes. “You don’t think I’m crazy, do you?”
Ethel shook her head. “No, you’re not crazy. Debbie and Bruce lured you to Sandpiper Bluff, back to the old psychiatric hospital where you worked in a previous life. Debbie and Bruce are selfish and evil spirits; they will do whatever they can to live here on Earth in their so-called existence of ecstasy. They will do whatever it takes to keep the dark entity happy . . . otherwise, their next stop is Hell. So, needless to say, they’re highly motivated.”