“Why would I need to be sedated?” The idea made me shiver.
Noah shook his head. “I’m not sure,” he said. “Unless there’s a human indication I’m unaware of, which is possible.” He glanced at the clock. “They’re going to start waking up soon,” he said. He was silhouetted in the dark. “You look for Phoebe’s file, I’ll look for Stella’s.”
I looked without words because I couldn’t find any, not then. I kept searching, careful as I could be not to disturb anything as I tunneled through file cabinets and scoured the desk drawers. In the bottom-right one, on top of a pile of papers, I found something. But not what I had been looking for.
I withdrew the fine black cord with the silver pendants—mirror images, mine and his—that should have been hanging around Noah’s neck.
“Noah,” I said. “Your necklace.”
He turned to me, placing a manila file folder on the desk. Benicia, the label read—Stella’s last name.
I handed Noah the necklace and he fastened it around his neck. Then helped me search for Phoebe’s file.
I opened every drawer, looked under every pile of paper. There were a bunch of notebooks all stacked on a shelf—I looked between those, too, taking each one out and flipping through it—maybe her records had been stuffed inside?
He slid into Dr. Kells’s chair then. “Keep looking,” he told me, as he turned on the computer monitor on her desk. I willed myself to hold it together despite the panic that scratched below the surface, and resumed the physical search as Noah began an electronic one.
And then, just as my eyes found a notebook with Phoebe’s scrawl on the front, I heard Noah say my name in the most haunted voice I had ever heard.
His skin was pale, illuminated by the monitor’s light, which flickered over his face as he watched something on the screen, utterly riveted. I gripped Phoebe’s notebook and moved next to him to see what it was.
What I saw, framed in the glossy white monitor, was us.
An extremely high quality video on Dr. Kells’s computer screen of me on my bed. In my bedroom. At home. Of Noah straddled in my desk chair, looking at me. Talking to me.
I saw his artful smirk. My answering smile.
And a date in the corner, where a counter ticked.
It was filmed last week.
Noah did something, clicked on something, and I watched in horror as our on-screen selves appeared and disappeared in fast motion as seconds, minutes, hours of footage passed.
Noah clicked again and a window opened up, containing more files with more dates. He opened them in rapid succession and we saw my kitchen. Daniel’s bedroom. The guest bedroom.
Every room in my whole house.
Another click. The sound of Noah’s voice reached out from the speakers and out from the past.
“I won’t let Jude hurt you.”
Noah inhaled sharply. He fast-forwarded again and we watched his lean frame disappear. We watched me speed in and out of my bedroom, and then finally change and get ready for bed. And then we watched Jude walk into my bedroom that night. Watched him watch me as I slept.
Jude had hurt me, again and again and again. Noah blamed himself because he wasn’t there, but it wasn’t his fault. He was just as lost as I was, just as blind in this as me.
Dr. Kells wasn’t blind, though. She saw it all. She saw everything.
“She knew he was alive,” I said, my voice sounding dead. “She knew he was alive the whole time.”
NOAH WAS COMPLETELY SILENT.
My eyes hardened as I stared at the screen. “Evidence,” I said, and Noah looked at me, his expression chilling. “We need to copy the files, then tell everyone what’s going on.”
Noah clicked an icon and an electronic window opened—a picture of a yellow triangle around an exclamation mark appeared on-screen along with the words:
UNABLE TO CONNECT
“Fine, then,” Noah said, and kicked out of the chair. He took my hand. “We’ll leave.”
But we couldn’t. “Not without proof,” I said, thinking of my file. Delusions. Nightmares. Hallucinations. “If we have no proof that Jude’s alive, that she knew, and we get out—I could just be sent back.”
My voice cracked on the word. I tried to swallow away the tightness in my throat and handed Noah Phoebe’s journal so I could keep rifling through the desk. For CDs, a thumb drive, any way to record this.
But Noah’s voice stopped me cold.
“Jesus,” he whispered, staring inside Phoebe’s notebook. I leaned around to see.
I could barely read her chicken scratch, but I did see my name in several places, along with sketches of a crude likeness of myself with my insides spilled out.
“Not that,” Noah said. He pointed instead to the inside cover.
Where Phoebe had drawn hearts with the initials J+P inside. Where she had written in flowery, cursive script:
Phoebe’s last name was Reynard. Jude’s last name was Lowe.
J + P.
Phoebe’s words rushed back to me—what she said after she planted the note in my backpack, the one that said I see you. They tumbled and spun in my brain:
“I didn’t write it,” Phoebe had said, then lowered her eyes back to her journal. She smiled. “But I did put it there.”
I heard her voice in my mind again as bile rose in my throat.
“My boyfriend gave it to me,” she said in a singsong voice.
“Who’s your boyfriend, Phoebe?” I asked.
But I never believed she actually had one. I just thought she was playing some crazy game. When she never answered, when she started singing, it made me think I won. But now I knew I hadn’t.
“He was using her,” I said, the fear fresh and raw. “He was using her.”
Dr. Kells knew Jude was alive and knew his connection to me. Jude was meeting with Phoebe, telling her who-knew-what and giving her frightening notes to pass along. Phoebe and I were Horizons patients. Dr. Kells was the Horizons director. And Jude?
What the hell was he?
“Fuck this.” Noah snapped Phoebe’s notebook shut and took my hand. “We’re leaving now.” He pulled me, tugged me toward the door. I could barely make my leaden legs move.
“What are they doing?” l whispered.
“We’ll figure it out, let’s just go—”
My mind was shutting down in fear and confusion and shock. I wouldn’t have known what direction to go in if Noah didn’t lead me. I followed him out of Dr. Kells’s office—the door closed behind us with a click. The halls were still empty and all of the dormitory room doors were still closed. None of the counselors had woken up yet. We might be able to slip out before they did.