Searching [Sophie]

I took the car early the next morning, before Nick woke up. I hadn't told him yet what had happened to Shelley, because we never mentioned her. Within minutes of leaving I was speeding down the motorway with my heart in my mouth. "Come on, come on..." I was muttering under my breath. "I have to get there."

Soon I saw the signpost and swung off the road. Apollo Mental Hospital. The car park was reasonably early, because nobody ever drove there except the doctors and the nurses. That made it easy to find a space and I pulled in, jumping out and locking the car in one movement before racing up the front steps.

I burst in like a madwomen, strode over to the desk and demanded, "Where is my daughter?" The secretary looked at me with blank eyes. I knew she was hiding something.

"We told you on the phone. Michelle is not here. We do not know where she is."

I flipped. "All right then. You've lost my daughter, who was left in your care. You've also neglected to tell either me or her father and you haven't told the police -- I've no doubt about that one. You're doing nothing nothing to look for her and don't even seem to care. Why? I demand to see someone in charge. I demand to see the management!"

"Very well," said the secretary, a secret smile on her face. She pressed an intercom. "Management, there is a woman here who would like to talk to you about Michelle. Will you see her?"

The voice that came from the other end made me grow pale with fear. "We will see her," it hissed. "Send her upstairs to us." Still smiling, the secretary showed me to the stairs and told me to keep on going until I reached the top. I climbed them slowly, one by one, and found myself looking around at the hospital around me. It didn't look like too bad a place: Michelle wouldn't have been unhappy. But lonely, that was quite possible.

Her doctor disappeared at the same time. Had he run away with her, trying to get her away from this lonely, clinical place? Had she run away with him, wanting excitement and romance in a life that was dull and uninteresting? But that wasn't like Shelley. Or was it? I was hardly in a position to say, given that we hadn't spoken for so long.

When I reached the top of the stairs there was just a black, shining door. No words, no nameplate. I knocked.

"Come in!" called a voice, or several voices. It was impossible to tell. Nervously I pushed it open and walked inside.

And there I came face to face with the Management of the place to which I had sent my only daughter. There I came face to face with the people responsible for her disappearance.

The End

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