"It's Mr. Carlysle!" The murmur rose up from a number of people as Andrew strode into the midst of the miniature base set up outside the asylum.
The blank stares of the policemen reminded him that no one knew his daughter was there, that no one even knew his daughter was alive. He needed to find the matron who knew where his daughter was.
Before he could voice his request, a tap came on his arm from a middle-aged woman with a somewhat military bearing. "Mr. Carlysle?"
"Yes." He looked her up and down. "I'm looking for the matron of the children's ward."
She nodded briskly, pursing her lips like the bearer of bad news. "Come with me and I will tell you what you need to know."
Moments later, she had him seated in a tiny cubicle of a room in a building across the street. He twisted his hat in his hands. The matron eyed him patiently, as if waiting for him to show her where to begin.
"Where is she?" he asked, his voice sounding weak.
"Somewhere in the building -- we're not sure exactly -- probably on the fifth floor -- her floor."
"Is she...is she okay?" A tremor crept into the words.
The matron's lips twisted wryly as if she saw some morbid humor in his question. "Probably the only one we can be relatively certain of at the moment."
"Good. Good." So she had been specially cared for and protected. He was glad of that. At least his wealth and power had ensured the best treatment, even if he himself had been absent. "She's safe." He rubbed his hands through his hair, feeling relief from those words. All of the terrors that had rushed through his head on his way down here were for naught. He suddenly felt irritated at the asylum for stirring up his fears. There was some neglect on their part. In fact, everything would have been peaceful as usual if they hadn't been so careless with their dangerous inmates. He squared his shoulders at the matron. "What kind of haphazard behavior puts a murderous lunatic on the loose in the building with my daughter in the first place?"
The matron recoiled. "With your daughter?! Sir, the murderous lunatic IS your daughter! Surely you knew that!"
It took a moment for the words to sink in, and even then Andrew didn't want to believe them. The world seemed to screech to a halt, and he felt the rise and fall of his own chest in slow motion.
The matron's lips continued to move. Andrew stared at them, hating their motion and curves. But he did not hear a word. Instead, the words "murderous lunatic" echoed around in his head. His daughter. The lunatic. Little Beth. It couldn't be. What had gone wrong? How had it come to this? And what was he to do now?
Snatches of words dashed through his ears, making no sense. Police. A force moving in. A girl on the inside was opening doors one by one. They were armed. Take whatever measures necessary. Neutralize the danger.
Andrew sagged against the back of his chair. He must be dreaming. This could not be real.
Lola could never know. It would kill her.
Just like it was killing him.
Suddenly he lurched forward, dropping his head into his hands, and a sob wrenched through his body. His shoulders shook with suppressed emotion. Outside, men with guns were rushing into an asylum. And it was his daughter they were after.