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written by: Mark Kuglin



Barely a month into his new orderly job at the Armstrong Sanitarium, Roberto Salazar found himself on the verge of being forced to quit in protest. His earlier attempt to help a patient— the passing on of a note—  had led to Dr. Richards snatching it from his hand and throwing it in the trash unread. As far as he was concerned, it was an unforgivable act.  And what she had said, while doing it, played on an endless loop in his head.

We don't make mistakes…Everyone— including your dear Mrs. Nelson— is exactly where they are supposed to be…You weren't hired to become her friend or to help any of the others…The only reason you're here is to clean up the messes they make.

After vigorously shaking his head, to clear away his anger, Roberto refocused his attention and pondered his next move. He knew he needed to proceed carefully and he wanted to be absolutely certain of his motivation. Pausing a moment, to take a deep breath, he then reached into his shirt pocket and carefully unfolded Mrs. Nelson’s note— which he had rescued from the trash— and read it once again.


To whoever can help me:
I am Mary Nelson and I did not kill anyone. My twin sister Ann is the one you want. She has framed me and taken my place. I know this sounds crazy but it's true, I didn't even know she existed until a few years ago. We were separated at birth and adopted by different families. She was raised in California and I grew up in Ohio.

There have to be adoption records somewhere. Please, I’m begging you! You have to find them!
Being here is a living nightmare and I want to go home. I miss my husband and children.


Roberto was instantly popped back to reality when the tone of his watch signaled his break was over. Upon hearing it, Roberto slowly stood and made his way to the door. As soon as he exited, he could hear a cacophony of disturbed voices and assorted noises in the distance. He knew that with each step toward the ward, it's shrillness and intensity would increase. It was like walking into the belly of the beast.

When he reached the locked door of the ward, he paused for a moment before keying in the code that would grant him access. As he did, a new resolve came to him.

I’m going to get her out of here….I believe her….She didn't do it

The moment the door opened, Roberto immediately sensed trouble. But before he could place the source, his ears were assaulted by a high-pitched scream and then Mrs. Nelson’s terrified cry, “She’s trying to kill me!”

Momentarily stunned, Roberto became fully enraged when he heard Dr. Richard’s commanding voice yell back, “Damm you, hold still!”

Racing down the hall, Roberto felt an overwhelming sense of urgency. Halfway down, the voices stopped and were replaced by the sounds of a violent struggle. His adrenaline now pumping full force, Roberto covered the remaining distance in seconds. He was moving so fast— when he turned into Mrs. Nelson’s room— he crashed into the door and landed in a heap on the floor.

Turning his head slightly, he saw both women locked in a desperate struggle over the control of a pair of scissors. Pushing himself off the floor, he lunged in their direction. In an instant, it was all over. The struggle ended and was replaced by Dr. Richard’s blood-curdling scream.


Shortly after the police arrived, a detective— assigned to ascertain what happened— leaned over to the gurney Dr. Richard's was on and asked, “What happened?”

“I warned him!” she hissed. “Marian Nelson isn't here by mistake.”

Mark Kuglin

Mark Kuglin

JULY 2018 AUTHOR OF THE MONTH at Spillwords.com
Mark Kuglin is an American expat currently living and working near Ensenada, Mexico. He writes fiction, poetry and the occasional essay. Samples of his work can be found on his website 'Mark Kuglin'.
Mark Kuglin

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