“Ooo, the stove, the stove and the water. Boil the water, boil the water, and the paper—somebody get the paper. Up-down, up-down, sit, sit, sit, up-down and the stove, the stove and the water. Boil the water, and the…” When she was awake, she was talking. In the psych ward, in her bed, and when she was awake, Lottie was always talking.

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“Honest to God, Brennan, if she sits up and starts talking I’m outta here. Elevator takes for-goddam-ever. You been down here before?”

“Three… two… one…”

“Have you?!”

“Basement.”

The doors opened and Bob backed out at the head of the gurney. “You got the brakes? I’m gonna swing my end around and we gotta point this mother down the tunnel. You got the brakes, right?”

The narrow tunnel was lit by caged incandescent bulbs every twenty feet and connected the main building with the heating plant, laundry, the new annex and the morgue. Insulated steam pipes and electrical conduit ran the length of the low ceiling. Bob was in emotional overload—I was, too, and the ringing in my ears and my scalp itched and the air was hot and dry and it sucked your face. Bob’s hands inches from Lottie’s head, mine at her feet, and why the hell didn’t they have signs at the intersections? “Which way, Brennan?”

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