The paper had been folded and unfolded so many times that the creases were worn through, but the intact areas retained the stiffness that was characteristic of a formal document. Maeve briefly wondered how he had been able to fold it up so small, but she ignored the thought and focused on the letter itself. It was dated several weeks ago, though the abysmal quality of the handwriting made it hard to tell, and it took her far longer than it should have to decipher it.
When she did, however, she immediately wished she hadn’t.
Duke, it read, I’m sorry that I was unable to see you today, something came up that was unavoidable. However, I did want to let you know that I’ve been thinking about what you told me during our last couple of sessions. I know this isn’t going to be what you want to hear, but I really think that in the long run, it would be best if we stopped your prescription and placed you in a psychiatric hospital for a short time. Based on what you’ve said, it seems like your current prescription coupled with the environment you’re in is having an adverse effect on your overall mental condition. Again, I know it’s not what you want to hear, and we’ll talk it over during our next session. — Dr. Rheau, PhD.
It was only through an immense amount of effort that Maeve was able to keep her composure. Her best friend being sick was one thing, but him being sick enough that they wanted him institutionalized? That was another thing entirely, and it wasn’t something that she could just let go.
Craning her neck so that she could see the side mirror, she stole a glance at Duke as he stared out the window. He didn’t look to be particularly distressed, but she supposed that that was just it. His stare was still and empty, like he was looking at something far off in the distance.
“You lookin’ at something?” Sextus asked.
Maeve jumped, suppressing a squeak of surprise. “N-No,” she said. She smiled innocently at him, hoping in vain that he would believe it.
To her dismay, he matched her own grin with a wry smirk. “I think you were lookin’ at something,” he said, “and I think I know exactly what it is.”
She felt her cheeks grow warm. “Is that so?”
“Mm-hmm.” His smirk softened, but it didn’t disappear. “Don’t worry your pretty little head, kid, I won’t say anything.”
She bobbed her head rapidly. She knew exactly what he was insinuating, but she had no choice but to go along with it. To deny it would only raise further questions, and that would accomplish nothing but ending badly for everyone. The fact that she was still blushing furiously didn’t help matters.
“Aw, c’mon, Sextus, lay off the poor girl,” Cooper said. “She’s had a long day as it is, no need to go on harassin’ her.”
“I wasn’t harassing her, I was asking a question.”
“Then why’s she pinker than a flamingo?”
Sextus crossed his arms. “I dunno. Ask ‘er yourself.”
“Both of you shut up,” Joanna said, “we’re here. Everybody get out and start unloading stuff while I go talk to the guy in charge.”
Maeve slid the door open and stepped out of the van, Cooper and Sextus close behind. She looked at the building in front of them. The bar wasn’t the classiest place in town, but it was a popular destination on a Saturday night and they were guaranteed to have an audience.
She wasn’t worried about playing to an empty room, however. She stared down at the letter in her hand. To hell with keeping promises, this was serious, and she knew she had to do something
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