After Mabel ushered them out of Mr. White’s room, she reiterated that they didn’t need to stop by his room ever again. Mary and Rachel nodded obediently, but Mary knew they had to go back. He was their only lead. They finished their shift and thanked Mabel for showing them everything. Once they were free of her, they headed back to his room.
“Do you really think he knows something?” Rachel asked.
Mary shrugged. “He seemed to. He called me out clear enough.”
“What if he’s behind the thing harming Vicky?”
“I don’t know about that. Why let on that he knew anything? I don’t even know what’s bothering Vicky. He had a clue.” They were back at his door. Mary knocked, but Mr. White didn’t call them in.
She opened the door cautiously. Mr. White was still propped up in his bed, but his eyes were closed and his mouth was hanging open. “Mr. White?” she called.
He didn’t stir. They crept up to the bed. “Mr. White?” she called again. He still didn’t stir.
“Do you think he’s dead?” Rachel whispered.
“Do I look dead?” he snapped, opening his eyes to glare at her.
Rachel jumped. “Um, yeah?”
Mr. White smacked his lips and turned to Mary. “So you’re here about the Shadowman.”
“What’s a Shadowman?”
“What you’re after.”
“But what is it?”
Mr. White just grinned.
Her eyes narrowed. “What do you know?”
Mr. White chuckled again and looked at his nails. “I know all sorts of things. Want a few things, too.”
“You mean like a bribe?” Rachel asked.
Mr. White pointed at her. “She’s quick. Can see why you keep her around.”
“What do you want?” Mary asked already getting a sinking feeling.
“Stuff that ain’t on the hospitality cart. At least not yet. Gonna bring me a few things and then I’ll tell you about the Shadowman.”
“That thing’s hurting people, and you’re going to force us to bring you stuff before you help?” Rachel demanded.
“What I got to tell is valuable, isn’t it? Can get stuff for it. Capitalism is a lovely thing.”
“What do you want?” Mary repeated.
Rachel crossed her arms, clearly not happy to be even listening to the old man’s demands.
“I want what any man wants: cigars, booze, and women. Get me a pack of Swisher Sweets blunt, a bottle of JD, and a couple issues of Hustler.”
“We aren’t old enough to buy any of those things. We’re not old enough to even touch them,” Rachel said.
“Not my problem.”
“How do you know about the Shadowman? How’d you know about me?” Mary asked.
“Can see it. How else?”
“What do you see?” Mary persisted.
Mr. White stared at her a moment and then his eyes slid away. “Can just see ya, that’s all.”
“What about the Shadowman? What do you know about him? A classmate told me it was clawing at her. She thought it was going to kill her.”
“Might do that. Better get me what I want quick, if you’re going to stop it.”
Mary stared at him. Frustration bubbled up in her. What he wanted was impossible. They couldn’t get those things. She didn’t even know where to get issues of Hustler. How could he demand these things when people were in danger? She wasn’t asking Vicky for payback for helping her. Rachel tugged at her arm.
“Come on, Mary. Let’s just go.”
She let Rachel lead her out of the room. She took one last look at Mr. White before leaving. He’d leaned back in his bed, and his eyes were closed once again.
“I can’t believe that old coot. Asking us to get those things, isn’t that like corrupting a minor or something?”
“He knows something, Rach.”
“Yeah, probably because he’s the one behind it. He’s our prime suspect. We should investigate him.”
“Mabel might know something. We should ask her. We’re supposed to come back in two days for our next shift.”
They were at the elevators again waiting for a car. Mary didn’t know what to make of Mr. White. She didn’t suspect him like Rachel. He had the gift. She couldn’t imagine someone with the gift doing wrong with it. She knew that was probably naïve, but she had to believe it. They were different, but that didn’t mean they were evil.
The elevator doors opened to reveal Cy, whose eyes narrowed when he saw them. Mary’s stomach dropped. Rachel wasn’t as thrown off by his appearance. “Hi, Cy. Glad Vicky’s still doing okay.” She edged around Cy to get into the elevator, tugging Mary with her. Cy stepped in her way.
“What are you two doing here?”
“We finished up volunteering and are now going home. It was our first day.”
“You just decided to start volunteering?” he asked. He sounded suspicious. Mary didn’t know what he could be thinking. She doubted he’d consider the possibility that Vicky had visited her in a dream and asked for her help, and it wasn’t like she could tell him that.
“Rachel’s mom is a nurse. She encouraged us to volunteer. It’ll look good on college applications.” The lie came out without any thought. A while back, she’d accepted the fact that she would have to lie Cy to have any sort of relationship with him. She tried not to think about the fact that she needed to lie to a boy she liked. It gave her the suspicion that she was somehow lying to herself, and she didn’t want to know that.
“Yeah, my mom’s all about creating the stellar college application.”
Cy crossed his arms with his shoulders hunched over. He stared at the floor for a bit before he spoke. “Look, don’t mess with Vicky. I know she has never been your friend, but she’s in a coma. That’s bad. It’s not some opportunity to get one up on her or something. Just leave her alone. A lot of people do care about her, and we’re all praying that she makes it through this. Just respect that, okay? Please?”
Mary didn't know what to say. He really thought this was just one big ploy to mess with Vicky? Her world didn’t revolve around her, though currently she did affect the orbit some, but still, every minute of every day was not spent conspiring against Vicky, and she suddenly knew what to say, “There are over a hundred patients in this hospital. Only one of them happens to be Vicky. We just spent the last two hours going around and helping some of them. We aren’t here to mess with her. We’re trying to help others. Get over yourself.”
She stomped into the elevator and jabbed the door close button. Rachel slipped in behind her. Cy stared at them as the doors shut. His gaze was sad. She’d snapped at a guy who was worried about his hurt girlfriend. She needed to shake off the guilt that welled up. He’d deserved it, and she hadn’t been that harsh. At least, she didn’t think so. She wasn’t going to apologize. Why did she like him?
“What floor, please?”
“Are there any other coma patients?”
Rachel had slumped against the wall. She straightened at her question. “I don’t know. But Vicky can’t be the only one.”
Mary raised her hand with a shake of her head. “Are there any other coma patients?” she repeated.
The elevator stopped in its decent, and the button for floor three lit up. The elevator car began to rise. Rachel jumped. “Uh, what’s going on?”
The elevator doors opened. “Room 308.”
“Thank you, sir. Rachel, come on.” She got off and took a quick look at the room signs and began going down the hall.
“Where are we going?” Rachel asked as she caught up.
“To see another coma patient. We need to figure out if this thing is targeting all coma patients or just Vicky.”
“Was there a ghost on the elevator?”
“Yeah, and he said to go to room 308.”
As they walked down the hallway, the florescent lights flickered and dimmed. The hallway was empty. No hospital staff was in sight. Rachel stepped closer to her. “Is it me, or has it gotten really creepy?”
Rachel was right. Something was wrong. They came to room 308. The door was closed. Mary grabbed the door knob and turned. The door wasn’t locked. It swung open to reveal a pitch black room.
“This isn’t right,” Rachel said.
Mary flipped the light switch, and the room lit up. For a second, a dark shadow was draped over the patient. It was humanoid like a person’s shadow except two red eyes peered out from the head. When the lights came on, it slithered off the patient and under the bed. As if the light switch had also turned back on the medical equipment, alarms started going off. Remembering her training given only a few hours before, Rachel rushed to the bed and hit the code blue button.
Steeling herself, Mary dropped to her knees and looked underneath the bed, but the Shadowman was gone. She saw a ventilation grill on the wall. It must have gone through it to escape.
Nurses and doctors rushed into the room and were checking the patient. Rachel’s mother was one of them. “Girls, get back! What are you two doing in here?”
“We heard something and looked in. I hit the call button because he wasn’t breathing right,” Rachel said.
Mary stepped back from the bed. “Is it gone?” Rachel whispered. She nodded.
Mrs. Pillar spared them another glance. “Girls, you should go home.”
They left the room without any more urging. Mary had no idea what that thing had been. Except for clairvoyants, people never saw ghosts. Ghosts couldn't make themselves visible, even if they were strong enough to move stuff. She'd never seen a ghost, though of course she'd heard plenty. But that thing hadn't been a ghost. The feeling she'd gotten from it was so strange. When it had looked at her, she knew that it had never been human. “We need to talk to Gran.”
“About time,” Rachel said.
Gran was watching TV with Chowder’s body tucked beside her on the sofa when they arrived. She quickly shut off the TV when she saw their faces and gestured for them to take seats. “What happened?”
Mary sat down beside Gran and Rachel sat on her other side. She knew she should’ve told Gran about Vicky the moment she’d known that her dreams were more than dreams, but she hadn’t wanted to burden her with it, but now, she didn’t know what to do and needed help. Thinking she could do this on her own had been wishful thinking. She still didn’t know much about the supernatural, and the only person who did was Gran.
“Remember I told you about that girl from school in a coma?”
“Yes, Vicky right? A friend of Cyrus’s?”
“Yeah, she’s somehow communicating with me through dreams. She says she’s in trouble and needs my help.”
“How is she in trouble?”
“She thinks something supernatural is attacking her. That’s why I signed up to volunteer at the hospital. I wanted to see if I could find out what could be hurting her. And I did find something out. I met a patient who seemed to know stuff. He said he’d tell me about what’s doing this, but he wanted Rach and me to get him things that we can’t get, like cigars, alcohol, and porno mags.”
“Good Lord, who in blazes would ask that of teenage girls?”
“His name’s Mr. White. I don’t—”
“I don’t know his first name. He’s an old man with white hair. He has the gift. He knew straight away about me.”
Gran nodded her head. “Ezekiel White.”
“You know him, Mrs. Dubont?”
A faraway look came into her eyes. “Yes, a long time ago. He was a rare book dealer and occultist. His shop has been closed for years. I thought he’d retired and moved away.”
“Tell her about what the thing attacking coma patients,” Rachel said.
“Mr. White called it a Shadowman.”
Gran’s eyes widened. “Are you sure? Is that exactly what he said?”
“Yeah, and we saw it. It was lying on top of a coma patient, not Vicky, when we turned on the lights. It left, but it was a black misty form with red eyes.”
Gran shook her head and got up. “This is bad, girls. You two should not be dealing with this. Leave it to me. I’ll talk to Ezekiel and work on removing the Shadowman. Don’t worry about it anymore. Your friend will be fine.”
“Gran, let us help.”
“No, I’ll take care of it. I mean it. You both should probably not volunteer anymore until I’ve dealt with this.”
“I mean it, Mary. Do as I say. This is far too dark for you. You too, Rachel. Swear to me that you won’t go to the hospital until I say it’s safe.”
“We swear, Gran. Just be careful.”
“I’m always careful, dear. No need to worry about me.”
“So what have you found out?”
Mary would really like it when she could once again claim sleep as a Vicky-free zone. She turned to the girl in the hospital bed. “There is something supernatural attacking coma patients, but I think if someone’s with you, and you keep the lights on, you should be fine.”
“Oh, that should be simple to manage. I’ll just--Oh whoops! I’m in a coma!”
“Don’t worry. My grandmother is coming to the hospital to deal with this thing. You’ll be fine. She knows this stuff.”
“Is your grandmother a real witch? I always thought so, but…”
“She’s not a witch. She’s a fortuneteller and a medium. She doesn’t cast spells or perform ceremonies.”
“Then what’s she going to do?”
Mary didn’t answer because she had no idea. She wished she’d gotten more information from Mr. White. Instead, she asked, "Has the Shadowman bothered you any since last time?”
“Not really. I’ve felt him sort of pass by a few times, but he hasn’t come after me again.”
“Probably because your mom and Cy are with you.”
“You saw my mom?”
“She seems nice. She really cares about you.”
Vicky looked away. “Well, she is my mom.”
“You’re going to be okay.”
Vicky didn’t turn her eyes back to her. She looked toward the end of her bed with a small furrow between her brows. “Even if this thing is taken care of, it doesn’t mean I’ll wake up.”
“You don’t know that.”
“This thing didn’t put me in a coma.”
“But it might be what’s keeping you in one.”
“Thanks for helping me, Mary. And thank your grandmother. And I guess Rachel also. She’s been helping hasn’t she?”
“Yeah, she has.”
“Then thank her too.”
Mary was getting uncomfortable with the way Vicky was talking. Why did anyone need thanking? They hadn’t really done anything yet. It was like she was saying good bye. “You’re going to be okay.”
“Tell my parents that I love them, and tell Cy that he’s a really great guy. I wish I’d had more time with him.”
Vicky finally turned her head to her. “What do you mean ‘no’?”
“I’m not telling your parents or Cy any of that. In fact, if you don’t wake up, I’m telling them all sorts of horrible things. I’ve got plenty of stuff I could tell them, true stuff at that, and if you’re not awake by the time I’m done, I’ll start making up stuff. I’ll lie, and you won’t be able to stop me.”
“You’re bluffing. You wouldn’t dare.”
“Don’t wake up and find out.”
“I know what you’re trying to do.”
“And I know what you’re trying to do too. Oh boohoo, you’re in a coma. Let’s all build a shrine to the poor, unfortunate cheerleader. No way. I’ll tear it down. I’ll spray paint Vicky The Hickey on it, burn all the flowers, and eviscerate the stuffed animals. You don’t get to be a tragedy.”
“Yeah, and how am I supposed to stop you? How am I supposed to wake up?”
“I don’t know, but you’ll figure it out. You better. You don’t want to leave me out here to do as I please, and I’ll have Rachel to help me. It’ll be fun.”
Vicky glowered at her from the hospital bed and then the dream snapped off. The room disappeared. Like a phone being slammed. As she drifted back to normal sleep, Mary hoped she’d convinced Vicky to not give up.
Mary and Rachel were sitting together in the Crafts classroom during TAB. It was Rachel’s next class.
“So what do you think Gran’s going to do?”
Mary shrugged. “I have no idea. I wish she’d let me help her on this.”
She looked up and saw Kyle. He was on his own. He came over to their table.
“Hey, what’s up?”
“Heard you went by to see Vicky.”
She rolled her eyes. “It wasn’t a big deal. We were already there for something else.”
Kyle sort of shuffled his feet and ducked his head. If he weren’t a two hundred pound wrestler, he’d have looked bashful. “I think it was pretty cool of you that you did. Not as many people as you’d think have been by to see her.”
“Who has been by?” Rachel asked.
Mary threw her a look. Why’d she ask that? Rachel wasn’t paying attention to her. She’d opened a spiral notebook and had a pen ready.
“Well, me and my brother obviously, her parents, Carolyn, Mary-Jo, and I think that’s it, except for you two.”
“Anyone else not from school or the hospital?” Rachel asked writing down the names he’d given.
Kyle thought about it a moment and shrugged. “No, I don’t think so. Mrs. Neilson hasn’t mentioned anyone else.”
“Helen, Brittany, Gloria, Denise, Bobby, Trevor, Harry, none of them have been by?” Mary rattled off the names in surprise. Those were some of Vicky’s closest friends. She figured they’d go by at least once to see her. Really she figured a lot more people would have gone by. She wouldn’t have been surprised to find a bunch of them holding a vigil for when the queen bee woke up.
Kyle shook his head. “I think the girls may have sent some flowers, but they haven’t been by.”
That news made Mary feel bad for Vicky, which put a nasty taste in her mouth. She may have been in a coma and was getting attacked by a Shadowman, but to be abandoned by her supposed friends was the worst thing of all. “That sucks.”
“Yeah, I think her mom isn’t taking it well. I mean she knows how popular Vicky is, and for no one to be coming to see her is really bothering her.”
“Have any of the medical staff been acting weird? Have any of them been overly attentive? Wait, not just medical staff but anyone like volunteers or janitorial staff?”
Kyle squinted at Rachel. “I don’t know. Why are you asking?”
Rachel scribbled a few words in her notebook and shrugged. “No reason. Just making conversation.”
Kyle looked at Mary, clearly not buying Rachel’s lie. Mary knew what she was doing, but she wasn’t about to blab to him either.
“Mary Hellick, please come to principal’s office.”
Everyone in the room turned to look at her and made ‘Oooh’ sounds like little kids. “What’d you do?” Rachel asked.
She sighed as she picked up her book bag. “I have no idea. Bye, Kyle. Thanks for the update.”
Continue to Chapter 7.