Normally, my confession would have elicited gasps of surprise. Pale faces. Nervous sweat. Stifled screams. An overturned chair or two as people scrambled to get away before I buried a knife in their heart-or back. A sucking wound was a sucking wound. I wasn't picky about where I caused it.
"Hi, Gin," four people chorused back to me in perfect, dull, monotone unison.
But not in this place. Within the walled confines of Ashland Asylum, my confession, true though it might be, didn't even merit a raised eyebrow, much less shock and frightened awe. I was relatively normal compared to the freaks of nature and magic who populated the grounds. Like Jackson, the seven-foot-tall albino giant seated to my left who drooled worse than a mastiff and gurgled like a three-month-old child.
A long string of clear, glistening spittle dripped out of his oversize lips, but Jackson was too busy cooing nonsense to the crude daisy tattooed on the back of his hand to pay attention. Or do something sane and hygienic, like wipe his mouth. I shifted away from him so I wouldn't come in contact with the oozing mucus.
Disgusting. But Jackson was typical of the sorts of folks in the asylum. Asylum. The word always made me smile. Such a pretty name for a hellhole.
It was bad enough I'd been stuck here for almost a week. But what really set me on edge was the noise-and having to listen to the building around me. The screams of the damned and deranged had long ago sunk into the granite walls and floors of the asylum, the way all emotions and actions do over time. Being a Stone elemental, I could feel the vibrations in the rock and hear the constant, insane chatter even through the industrial carpet and my white, cotton socks.
When I'd first gotten here, I'd tried to reach out to the stone, to use my own magic to bring it a bit of comfort. Or at least quiet the screams so I could get some sleep at night. But it had been no use. The stones were too far gone to listen or respond to my magic. Just like the poor souls who shuffled along on top of them.
Now, I just blocked out the damn noise-the way I did so many other things.
A woman at the head of the circle of plastic chairs leaned forward. She was directly across from me, so it was easy for her light eyes to find mine. "Now, Gin, you've made this claim before. We've discussed this. You only think you're an assassin. You are most certainly not one."
Evelyn Edwards. The shrink who was supposed to cure all the crazies in this magical nuthouse. She radiated professional cool and confidence in her tight black pantsuit, ivory blouse, and kitten heels. Square black glasses hung on the end of her pointed nose, highlighting her greenish eyes, and her sandy hair was cropped into a short, tousled bob. Evelyn was pretty enough, but a hungry look pinched her pasty face-a look I recognized. The hard gaze of a sly predator.
The reason I was here today.
"I most certainly am not a mere assassin," I countered. "I'm the Spider. Surely, you've heard of me."
Evelyn rolled her eyes and looked at the tall orderly standing just beyond the ring of chairs. He snickered, then raised his finger to his temple and made a circle.
"Of course I've heard of the Spider," Evelyn said, attempting to be patient. "Everybody's heard of the Spider. But you are certainly not him."
"Her," I corrected.
The orderly snickered again. I raised an eyebrow in displeasure. The joke was on him because that laugh had just cost him his life. I didn't care to be mocked, even if I'd spent the last few days masquerading as a loon.
In order to kill people, you have to get close to them. Put yourself in their world. Make their likes your likes. Their habits your habits. Their thoughts your thoughts.