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The woman seemed to be looking at them as her eyes appeared to move from one person to the next, then back again.
“Can she see us?”
“No. From her side, it’s a mirror.”
“Then why . . ?”
“To make us nervous. One thing everyone needs to understand is that Arla Miller is the most dangerous person we’ve ever had on this ward. She is a serial killer. She’s suspected in over two dozen murders in six states from Wisconsin to New Hampshire, Florida, the Midwest, and now here. A passerby caught her . . .”
“She’s the Needle Killer.”
“Yes. Our job is to maintain visual contact with her at all times. If you can’t see her, check all the video monitors, including the one in her bathroom. If you don’t see her anywhere, alert Security immediately, and do not leave this room or let anyone in without visual identification. Everyone got that? Good.” He sighed. “I’m sorry we’re in this situation, but that’s the way it is. We’re safe so long as we see her. If she goes missing, everyone is in danger, as she will seek revenge. As you can see from looking at her, her nondescript appearance makes her nearly invisible. It’s next to impossible to pick her out of a lineup, definitely impossible in a crowd. It’s the way she’s avoided arrest over the years. She kills by inserting a hairlike needle between and spine and the base of the skull. Someone happened to see her as she attacked her last victim, and grabbed her. The victim was lucky. All she got was a scratch.
“Well, that’s about it. When you leave after your shift, leave with someone, never alone. Someone from Security who will show you his I.D. will go with you. Remember, visual contact at all times.”
* * *
Arla turned away from the mirror and began to move around her room. To the staff, she seemed to know the mirror was a window to whoever was on the other side, as she kept looking at the mirror and smiling. The smile was chilling.
When her evening meal arrived, a buzzer sounded, alerting her and the attendants. Opening a small square metal door opposite the mirror, Arla reached in, removed her meal, and placed it on the table. Pulling out the single chair, she looked up at the mirror and stared as she slowly chewed her meal. The attendants wanted to look away, but couldn’t. The woman’s eyes were blank and hypnotizing.
* * *
“Time to go,” Archie Munn said, yawning. “We’ll walk together to the bus stop, watch as the bus pulls away with Billie on it, then go together to the parking lot, pick up our cars and go home. I don’t think I’ve ever had a creepier shift than this one.” Everyone agreed.
And no one was looking forward to tomorrow’s shift.
* * *
“Catch the phone, will you; I’m trying to see where she is, and I’m not having one damn bit of luck.”
“What? Where? In the car park? How many? All three? Oh, Jesus H. Christ! Security’s on the way? Send someone up here, too. We can’t find Arla. Right. We had a visual about ten minutes ago when she went to bed. We haven’t seen any movement since. Frank just turned the lights on in her room. No. She’s vanished.”
* * *
Each of the bodies had the same nearly invisible mark where the spinal column met the base of the skull. It was Arla’s signature. The only member of the shift to survive was Billie. The bus driver stopped for one passenger at the next stop, a plain, fortyish-looking woman who sat in a front seat and remained on the bus when Billie got off. The driver let the woman off in downtown Tacoma.
The police looked everywhere for her, but never found her. Neither did they find Arla. Where could she be? Who would she kill next? There was no way to know. How did she escape from that secure ward at the hospital for the criminally insane? She must have hidden one of those hairlike needles somewhere on or in her person. Perhaps that was why she had smiled as she lay down and pulled the covers over herself, knowing that, when the lights went out, so would she, as silent as a ghost, to continue her ways . . . somewhere . . . sometime.