Emery eased open the heavy door and scanned the roof. It was empty. "Coast is clear. Come on, Beth."
Beth followed her onto the flat roof of the asylum. "Why aren't they guarding this door?"
"Because they think it is locked securely. Thanks to this control box in my hands, they knew they couldn't get in this way and so they assume we can't get out." Emery crept along the roof, keeping low. To her left hung a clothesline where she had once dried asylum laundry. To her right was the low wall that encircled the roof.
As she had hoped, the crowd of people milling around the asylum had gathered at the temporary police base set up in front of the building. The locked doors had lured them all into a sense of security, and the excitement of the forces entering the building had everyone's attention. Emery set the box down on the roof and switched open the doors to the fifth floor, including the doors to Beastly's room.
"That should keep everybody's full focus," she murmured. "Let's go."
"You're smart." Beth said matter-of-factly.
"No, I'm not. I'm stupid and I want to go home to my mother. Hurry up."
One corner of the asylum stood relatively close to a neighboring building. Emery tried not to think about what she was about to do as she grabbed some leftover planks and dragged them to the edge of the roof.
Beth stood back watching her and chewing on her thumb. "You going to make a bridge?"
At the edge, Emery glanced down at the empty alleyway. Big mistake. It danced dizzily beneath her, and an image flashed through her mind of her own body crumpled on the bricks below. She closed her eyes and clutched at the low wall as she felt herself sway.
The side of the plank in her hand clinked against the wall, bringing her back to the present. Just don't look down. She focused on the neighboring roof as she lifted the end of the plank over the wall and eased it across the great expanse.
Don't think about the great expanse. Don't think about the great expanse. She felt another wave of dizziness and closed her eyes.
"It's across." Beth said.
Emery opened her eyes and realized that the plank was far enough. She lowered it, letting it settle into place.
Beth stood to the side, legs apart, head cocked, as she watched Emery. "Your eyes were shut."
Emery dragged the back of her hand across her forehead. "Yeah."
The makeshift bridge was in place. It won't work. This was their only way of escape. Too narrow. Too risky. It was the best she could do. But what if you fall? They just had to go. Here lies Emery Clayton...
"I'll go first." Beth's gentle little hands shoved Emery to one side, and she lunged upward onto the board.
"Wait, Beth...be careful!" Emery reached for the girl, hoping to stablize her, keep her safe.
But Beth didn't wait. She walked across the plank, arms spread wide, with as much confidence as a woman walking across her kitchen floor. In a matter of seconds, she was across the alley and safely landed on the neighboring roof.
"Come on, Emery," she called back impatiently.
Emery reached for the plank with trembling hands. Don't look down. Don't look down. The plank quivered blurrily in her vision, separating into two planks and merging back into one.
"Just sit on it and scoot your way across," Beth said.
Emery eased herself into a sidesaddle position.
"Not like that! You'll fall for sure as shaky as you are. Put a leg on each side." Beth snorted.
"In this dress?" Emery protested. And somehow she felt just a tiny bit better, complaining about her wardrobe rather than thinking about what would be on her tombstone if she fell.
Beth shrugged one shoulder. "Who would see?"
Hopefully, no one. That was the whole plan of the escape, right? But every second she wasted put Beth more in danger. Emery swung a leg over the plank until she straddled it.
"That's it. Now you're secure. So just look at me and scoot across." Beth sounded so unconcerned, as if this were the easiest thing in the world.
Emery took a deep breath and started scooting.