A/N: Alright, here is the next chapter. Sorry it took me so long to update. University is now over for the year and I have headed back home. Traveling internationally is never fun, but I have finally got settled and it feels wonderful to be back in Taiwan at last. Hopefully now that everything is back normal, I will also be able to update quicker. Thank you for your patience and I hope you enjoy this chapter!
Last One Standing
Envy: A Discovery
Ryn's fingers drummed randomly on the armrest of her plane seat. It was the first time that Artemis had seen the girl do anything of such nature. Usually every one of the girl's movements was completely controlled and calculated, she left no space for unnecessary actions. Artemis also noticed that the girl's eyes were uncharacteristically unattached, gazing out of the window with no focus. The boy chalked his bodyguard's odd behavior to being nothing more than the side effects of her sleeping pills.
Or maybe it's the fact that they were about to go and meet a man who had so unceremoniously and unexpectedly dropped out of her life three years before.
The second thought that crossed Artemis' mind wasn't as easy to understand. He knew that it was odd that Matthew Ackers had been so close with Ryn's father one minute and then completely ignored the next, but he didn't see why that would Ryn would be upset over that fact. From the way that she had spoken about Matthew, it didn't seem as though the two were exceptionally close to one another.
"What are you thinking about?"
Artemis turned to the voice next to him and saw Minerva looking up at him with sparkling eyes that mirrored the crystal sky that Ryn was so carelessly staring off into.
"I was wondering what we needed to do once we landed," Artemis answered. He knew it wasn't the truth, but seeing how Minerva had gotten jealous of Ryn earlier on, he felt it best that the girl's name not be mentioned in conversation.
"Did you manage to get any information on Matthew's whereabouts?" Minerva asked, "I know you said that he was in South Africa, but the nation is over 1.2 million square kilometers…"
Artemis hid his smile. The girl was so similar to himself. It reminded him of a pair that he couldn't quite remember…
"Gogh and Gauguin" Minerva said simply, naming a pair of incredibly close and incredibly destructive artists.
"Excuse me?" Artemis asked. Minerva smiled up warmly at him.
"You've given me that look before," she answered, "the one where it seems like you are thinking about who we remind you of, but you can't remember".
"You can tell all of that from a look?" Artemis asked, eyebrows raised.
"I'm a genius," Minerva said simply, leaning back in her seat. Artemis mussed over his girlfriend's words. Gogh and Gauguin. Gogh had found a soul mate in Gauguin, had found a person who shared his same brain wave, found the only person out there who had understood him.
And in turn, the relationship had caused Gogh to become insane.
Artemis sighed to himself. It was true. Were else was he going to find a person who understood him as well as Minerva could? And where else would he find a person who could drive him as insane?
Gogh and Gauguin, the geniuses who slowly killed each other. It fit well.
The plane landed without much of a hitch. Ryn didn't even begin to contemplate how much money in fuel they had blown over the past couple of days and she was fairly certain that Aidan hadn't either. She was sure that the boy would fly the plane to the grocery store if they had an airstrip near enough for him to land there.
Not that she wasn't used to wealth. It was just that wealth as unlimited as Aidan's was always a bit incomprehensible.
"Okay, we followed your wackjob orders and flew to South Africa," Aidan said, turning towards Artemis, "so can you finally tell us what we are doing here?".
"We're here to see Matthew Ackers, of course," Minerva cut in, "isn't that obvious".
Apparently, the news wasn't so obvious to Aidan, whose eyes widened minutely.
"Ah, the mystery man himself," he muttered, "maybe he will have the key to solving this whole damn thing". Plus, even though Aidan didn't know Matthew, he had a bit of respect for the man. After all, Matthew Ackers had managed to snag the most beautiful person that Aidan had ever laid eyes on, even if it was only through pictures.
"Where does he live?" Ryn asked, looking up at Artemis. It had been years since she had last seen Matthew, but if she remembered him well, she knew that he would be living in some majestic building, probably designed and built by himself.
"Well, this is where it gets a little odd…" Artemis answered.
"We can deal with odd," Aidan said.
The Johannesburg Central Mental Institution looked like something straight from a horror drama. It was a plain building with whitewashed walls and a few windows, all barred, all randomly placed—marring the snow-white exterior. A couple of trees had been planted in front of the building, a single, peeling swing tied to one of them.
A severe and direct, "No trespassing" sign was pushed into the caked dirt that collected in front of the large, wrought iron gate that led to the institution. But besides the ominous "No trespassing" that greeted them, there was no other sign in sight. No sign to tell them what the building was used for, no sign to give them any clue of what they were supposed to do.
"So do we just go in there?" Aidan asked after the group had stood in front of the iron wrought gate for a few moments. All of them knew that they would have to enter the building. But for some reason none of them could bring themselves to do so. It was as though there was some type of force just holding them back.
Ryn sighed and stepped inside the gate. Out of all four of them she was the bravest. After all, she was the bodyguard.
After all, she had been through much more terrifying situations.
Artemis followed the girl, and Minerva followed him. Aidan stood where he was, firmly planted to the ground outside of the institution gates. If there was one thing that the boy believed, it was that he was precious. How could the prize son of the Masters group put himself in any kind of danger? That was just stupid.
"Aidan…" Minerva said, calling out to the boy. Aidan shook his head.
"If the only heir to the Masters group were to get injured, that would be detrimental to the whole European pop…"
Ryn grabbed the boy by the collar of his neatly pressed shirt and drug him through the gate.
"If I hear one more thing about the Masters family, I might just kill you," she said simply to him, letting go of his collar. Aidan rubbed his neck and glared at the girl.
"What do you think your doing? Do you how much this body is worth? You can't just go dragging me wherever you want!" he cried out.
"You agreed to be part of the group, you should comply with us," Ryn answered, her tone clipped.
"You're one to talk!" Aidan yelled at her, "Who is the one that won't tell us anything about her past no matter how useful the information might be?"
"That is completely different," Ryn answered, her voice become icier, "it is in my job description to not disclose any personal information".
"Well it is in my job description to not die!" Aidan retorted. Artemis sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. It seemed as though the rare times that Ryn chose to speak, she always managed to rile up Aidan's temper. It was a constant bickering between the two of them.
"Aidan no one is going to die," Artemis said simply, "this is a mental institution. It's a hospital, not some sort of haunted house."
"Oh please, you've read books before," Aidan said, "people always end up dying or nearly dying whenever they go into a mental house."
"I am afraid I don't read those types of books," Artemis said curtly. He turned towards Ryn and nodded, motioning for her to move on ahead. Though Artemis was not particularly afraid of the institution, it was still the duty of the bodyguard to walk in front of her employer in order to scout out danger. And with the mastermind still out there, who knew what lay ahead of them.
Ryn nodded back at the boy and started to make her way to the front door of the building. The wind was not blowing at all, so the tree swing stood perfectly stationary, a direct contrast from the horror movies where such a swing would be creakily moving.
In ways, this way was even more terrifying.
The whole place was just so still. No wind blew, no noises could be heard. The cracking of the dry grass under their feet was the only sound coming from anywhere.
"Okay, is it okay to move a little faster?" Aidan asked Ryn, eyes darting nervously over everything. Ryn nodded her head fractionally and picked up her speed a little. She wasn't afraid, but she was completely comfortable either.
Finally, the group reached the front door. Ryn grabbed the ancient knob and pried the door open.
They were met by a loud, blood-curdling scream.
Aidan blanched and hid himself behind Ryn's tall frame, grabbing onto her shoulders in hoped that she would be able to protect him from whatever monster made that scream. Minerva gave off a little gasp, and calm Artemis just started to calculate what the cause of the noise could be.
"I told you ghosts and other things lived in mental houses," Aidan whispered to Ryn, still clutching on to the girl for dear life.
"It was a person," Ryn whispered back, "ghosts aren't real".
"Like that's better," Aidan hisses fiercely, "Did you hear how evil that scream sounded? I bet it was made by a crazy person!"
"Well we are at a mental institution…" Ryn answered.
"You two, stop whispering and come over here," Minerva called out to the two of them, eyebrows raised as she saw how close Aidan was to Ryn. Aidan immediately let go of the bodyguard's shoulders and the two of them walked over to Minerva and Artemis.
"What is it?" Aidan asked quickly, trying to ignore Minerva's pointed stare, "what caused that noise?"
"Electroshock therapy," Artemis answered, wrinkling his nose slightly. Ryn cocked her head and frowned.
"I thought that hasn't been used in a long time," she said.
"It is still used," Minerva answered matter of factly, "but only in extreme cases. Usually with extreme depression or schizophrenia".
"I don't think this place is a normal mental institution," Artemis whispered. "It wasn't on any maps, there wasn't a sign on the door stating what this was".
"What are you four doing here?"
The group turned around to find a woman with a very angry expression on her face. She was wearing a plain white knee-length dress and her lips were pressed into a very thin line.
"We…" Ryn started.
"Didn't you see the no trespassing sign outside?" she asked, her accented voice harsh, "we don't take lightly to intruders here".
"We aren't intruders," Minerva said quickly, stepping in front of Ryn. Artemis stood back. In his absence, Minerva had learned to have a special way with words. He was sure that the girl's smooth talking mixed with her baby doll looks would get them where they needed to go.
The woman looked at Minerva's large sky blue eyes and head of Shirley Temple curls and noticeably relaxed a bit. Minerva's deceivingly innocent looks had that affect on people. Compared to Ryn, who was all sharp angles and deep, rich colors, Minerva was soft and light. It put people at ease.
"Then do you have business here?' the woman asked. Minerva nodded her head.
"We are here to see Matthew Ackers," she answered. The woman still seemed a little put off guard. She didn't such an innocent looking girl could lie, but still she wasn't completely sure. Aidan saw the situation and smiled.
"Let me handle this," he whispered to Minerva. If there was one thing the boy could do, it was work wonders with women. The boy casually strode up to the lady and pinned her with his brightest smile. The lady's breath caught in her throat.
"I am very sorry to bother you, miss," he said, his beautiful emerald eyes sparkling up at her through the bangs of his platinum hair, "but today is our uncle's birthday".
"Uncle…" the woman breathed, a hand reaching up and clutching her chest as Aidan's intense emerald gaze stayed on her face. His angelic face broke out into a pitiful expression that made the woman just want to embrace and comfort the boy.
"Matthew Ackers is our uncle," he said, "he was always our favorite uncle, and it killed us when he was admitted into there. We thought that he might be lonely, so we decided to come and visit him on his birthday".
"Oh, that is so kind," the lady said. Aidan nodded and reached out, grabbing one of the woman's hands. Ryn nearly gagged at the cheesy gesture, but the lady looked as though she was in heaven.
"Will you please let us go see him?" Aidan asked her, eyes full of sincerity, "we are all that he has left".
"Oh yes, of course you can go," the woman said. Aidan smiled brightly at the woman and she looked as though she was about to faint, "…let me find out where his room is".
"Incredible," Minerva whispered, watching the interaction between Aidan and the institution employee. The boy was not exaggerating when he was describing his woman-wooing skills.
Aidan turned around and smirked at the group.
"Come on, dear siblings," he said, trying to control his laughter, "let's go visit our precious uncle."
"I can't believe that worked," Ryn grumbled as the group of them followed the dazed woman through a very thick set of doors.
"Why not?' Aidan asked, falling back and matching the girl's stride, "I can be pretty impressive when I put my mind to it".
"Then maybe you should do that more often," Ryn retorted before falling into silence once again. Aidan figured she had probably reached her talking quota for the day.
Ryn, however, was merely deep in thought. The institution that they were in was not at all a normal one. Each door was made out of strong metal and had bars on it, as though the staff here was more afraid of going in the rooms than they were the people in the rooms escaping. Load moans and screams regularly verberated on the cold white walls.
"As I am sure you know, this particular hospital is where we keep all of our high risk patients," the woman said as she led them through the halls, "each floor is a different risk level".
"How many floors are there in total?" Artemis asked trying to make a mental blueprint of the building.
"There are four floors in total," the lady answered, "floor one are where we keep the patients that pose the least threat, while the patients on floor four are the ones that are the most dangerous."
"And where is Matthew… I mean, our uncle…What floor is he on?" Aidan asked. The lady walked over to a large set of files at the end of the hallway.
"That is just what I am about to look up," she said, opening the A cabinet. She flipped through a few files until she pulled out one that said "Matthew Ackers" in bold letters. She opened the file and looked in it, eyebrows shooting up.
"Mr. Ackers is a floor four patient," she said quietly, looking up at the group of teens in front of her, "only those on the visitors list have access to see him".
"Those on the list?" Aidan asked. The woman nodded.
"There is one person who is in charge of the list that the names are put on," the woman continued, "and that person is the only one that can add or take off names from the list of approved guests".
"Who is in charge of Matthew's list?" Minerva asked.
"I am most certainly not allowed to disclose of that information," the lady said, "though it seems as though that person just added four more names to the list just yesterday".
"Artemis Fowl, Minerva Paradizo, Aidan Masters, and Diana Rynnon," Artemis said quickly. Ryn blanched as Artemis said her name out loud. She looked at him with wide eyes.
How did he know her real name? And if he knew that, what else did he know about her?
She decided to push those thoughts out of her head for right now. If Artemis had known her whole story, he surely would have confronted her about it by now.
"Well…yes," the woman said, looking up at them, "are those the four of you?"
"Of course they are," Minerva snapped, "how else would Artemis know the names?"
"But I thought you were all siblings," the woman said.
"Different fathers," Aidan answered, curtly, "now can you take us up to see Matthew?"
"I am not authorized to go to the fourth floor, let me get an attendant for you," she said quickly. She turned and went in a door that was next to the file cabinets.
"Matthew is crazy enough to be on the forth floor," Adian whispered to the rest of the group, "this is becoming more dangerous than I would have hoped for".
"The mastermind wanted us to come here," Artemis answered, "it is obvious that he is the one that is in control of the list".
"But who would know so much about this?" Ryn wondered out loud, "who would know so much about our fathers' pasts? Plus, how did this person end up in charge of Matthew Acker's list? He must have obviously been very close to him".
"How do we know it's a man?" Minerva cut in, "the mastermind could every well be a woman. And a woman that we all have heard much about, at that".
"What are you trying to say?" Aidan asked, turning towards the small girl.
"Well what if Cerrith really isn't dead?" Minerva asked, "we didn't find a death certificate in her belongings. She could still be alive and making up play all these games".
"Well, that is a possibility," Artemis said, "though I don't think that Butler would lie to us about her death, unless she faked it".
"That is probably it," Minerva said, eyes lighting up, "she most likely faked her own death and left".
"Why in the world would she have any motive to do that?" Aidan asked. Minerva just shrugged.
"I guess we have to keep playing to find out," she answered.
Suddenly, a burly looking woman stepped out of the room. The group looked up and saw that she was holding a small silver box tied together with a blood red ribbon, identical to the box that they had found in Cambridge.
"You are the group of four here to see Matthew Ackers?" she asked. The teens nodded. The woman held out the box, which Artemis hesitantly took.
"The person who put you on the list told me to give this to you on your arrival here," she said. Artemis opened the box to find another puzzle piece, this one of a woman.
"The mother of the baby," Minerva whispered, remembering the other puzzle piece that they had received, "that is probably supposed to represent Cerrith and her daughter".
" That's not too big of a secret. We found out about Cerrith and her kid ages ago," Aidan said.
"The puzzle isn't complete yet," Artemis answered, handing over the piece to Ryn, who stored it in her ever-present bag, along side the other piece and the locket she had found on the first day in the Fowl manor.
"Are the lot of you ready?" the burly woman asked. The group looked up at her and nodded collectively. The lady led them to an elevator at the end of the hallway. She swiped her ID card and the doors smoothly opened. The group walked into the elevator. As soon as they were all in, the door shut and metal bars fell from the elevator ceiling, confining the group in a cold, steel cage.
"We have these for protection," the lady said as she noticed the groups discomfort and confusion, "normally we transport patients in the elevators, so we have to make sure there is no way for them to escape".
"Escape?" Aidan asked, "it's as though they are prisoners".
"The patients here are much more dangerous than prisoners," the lady said as the elevator whirled up. It finally stopped on the first floor. The metal gates went up and the door opened once more.
The teens were faced with a long, white hallway—four metal doors on either side. There was no sound coming from any of the rooms. Artemis figured that the inhabitants of the fourth floor were all very heavily sedated.
"This is Mr. Acker's room," the woman said, pointing to the first door on the right, "I can open the lock, but I am not authorized to enter the room, but there is a guard inside of it for your protection".
"Oh," Minerva said lamely. How dangerous was Matthew?
The woman opened the door and quickly scooted away, "I will be waiting here near the elevators for when you are finished," she said.
"Thank you," Artemis said quickly, opening the door of the room. With a long look at the rest of the group, the boy entered, followed by a hesitant Ryn, and even more hesitant Minerva, and a terrified Aidan.
The room wasn't at all like they expected. Instead of it being stark white, the walls were painted a dull shade of grey. The floor was hard cement and there was no window. The room consisted of nothing but a bed with a trunk at its foot, and a slowly revolving fan on the roof. There was a burly man standing next to the door (Ryn assumed that this was the guard), and an emaciated man with long, brown hair sitting on the bed. The man on the bed did not even lift his head to look at the group as they came in.
"Is that Matthew?" Artemis whispered to Ryn.
The man on the bed was considerably thinner and more haggard looking than Matthew, but there was no doubt in Ryns mind that it was him. She nodded her head resolutely and walked over to him.
"Mr. Ackers?" she said out loud, "It's me…Diana".
The man looked down, though he started to shake a bit. The rest of the group came over to Ryn, as though they subconsciously thought that the girl would be safer if they were there. Though none of them wanted to admit it, they were becoming steadily closer to one another as the odd game continued. They had been near complete strangers a couple of days ago, and already they were trying to protect one another.
"It's been a long time since we have seen each other," Ryn said, trying to keep all emotions out of her voice—but it was difficult, even with her new, stoic persona. Matthew had been a very close friend of her family's. She remembered him being a jovial and slightly excessive person, always laughing and dressing himself in the latest fashions. To think that the man that had almost been like a dad to her was now in this condition… it was hard for the girl.
Matthew still didn't say a word.
"Maybe he can't recognize me," Ryn said finally.
"Ma'am, it's probably for the best that he can't recognize you," the guard next to the door said. All four teens turned to look at him.
"Excuse me?" Aidan asked, eyebrows raised.
"Well, ever since he came here, Mr. Ackers has been saying awful things about a girl called Diana," the guard explained, "I assume that would be you, miss".
"What kind of things?" Ryn asked, a bit taken aback. She did not remember ever being rude to Matthew; there should be no reason why he would say awful things about her.
"About how it was because of you that everything happened, though I don't quite know what he is referring to," the guard answered, "but he is highly delusional, so you can't really trust anything he says," the man added in quickly once seeing a look of horror creep on to Ryn's face.
But the damage was already done.
Artemis, who had never seen Ryn express any emotion, was a bit taken aback by how quickly her stoic face was seized with a look of terror. It was as though the guard had just vocalized the girl's greatest fear.
"What happened because of Ryn?" Aidan whispered to Artemis. The boy just shrugged. He was as clueless to his bodyguard's past as the rest of them.
"Do you think she killed someone?" Minerva whispered to the two of them.
"I don't think she could," Aidan answered back. Sure, Ryn was an odd one, but she seemed physically incapable of harming anyone.
"I can hear all of you," Ryn said shortly, turning towards the group. They had the decency to look embarrassed.
"If you don't mind, I would like some time alone with Matthew," she continued. Aidan looked towards Minerva and Minerva looked at Artemis. The genius boy mulled over the thought for a few seconds.
"Five minutes," he finally answered, making his way to the door. He didn't know if Ryn's presence would make Matthew talk to just enrage him; but Artemis had to admit that Ryn was likely the only one of them that had the ability to extract some useful information from the man.
Aidan and Minerva followed Artemis out of the room. They closed the door behind them and stood there for a few seconds, saying nothing.
"This doesn't feel right," Aidan said, breaking the silence, "what if Matthew suddenly cracks? I mean, I am sure he is on the fourth floor for a reason"
"Are you worried about Ryn?" Minerva asked the boy, slightly amazed.
"Of course—she is obviously a large piece of the puzzle," Aidan answered, "If she dies now we'll be playing this game forever".
"Excuse me, are you ready to leave?"
The three teens turned to find the burly woman from earlier standing by the elevator.
"We're obviously missing one," Aidan snapped, "is your memory that bad?"
Artemis nudged the boy in the side to quiet him.
"We are still waiting on a person from our group," he explained.
"Oh, the Rynnon girl?" the woman asked. Artemis noticed that she had said that comment in an odd way.
"Yes…" he answered slowly.
"Oh, bless that girl," the woman said, "what an awful past she has".
"You know about her past?" Aidan asked, ears perking up. The woman frowned.
"You three seem close to her, I am sure you know as well," she said.
"We don't," Artemis said curtly, providing no further explanation.
"Well, I am not to gossip…" the woman continued. Aidan sighed and walked over to the woman. He slipped a couple of rather large bills in her hand.
"I am sure you can change your habits," he whispered to her. The woman's eyes widened.
"A little change never did hurt," she answered. Aidan walked back to Artemis and Minerva, smirking.
"Ah, I am too good at this," he said happily. Artemis shook his head. Buttering hands required no skills whatsoever.
"Alright, so what happened to Ryn?" Minerva demanded.
"Well, I am sure that you have all heard about the Rynnon patricide," the woman whispered. Artemis and Minerva's eyebrows rose significantly.
"Ah, that is where I heard those three names before," Artemis mussed, thinking back to the picture.
"Patricide?" Aidan asked.
"It is when a child kills his or her parents," Minerva explained. Aidan gaped.
"Ryn killed her own parents?" he asked, not able to believe it.
"Obviously not," Artemis drawled, "or else she would be in jail right now".
"It happened three years ago," the woman continued; the three teens all came closer to hear the lady better, "the Rynnons were a very influential family—the father a famous architect and the mother the principal of the best international school in the city. Then one day, their house burned down. The parents and the youngest daughter all died in the fire—and the son and older daughter both escaped".
"Those three from the picture!" Aidan gasped, suddenly realizing the very fact that Artemis has realized minutes ago.
"They said that the son was responsible for setting the fire," the woman continued, "apparently he had some type of row with his parents."
"Where is he now?" Aidan asked The woman shrugged.
"In a jail somewhere, I suspect," she answered. Artemis straightened up and looked at the door. So this was what Ryn was trying to hide from them? It did make sense that she wouldn't want to talk about it.
"Ryn, what else are you hiding?" Artemis whispered. He always had a feeling that him and Ryn were the two main players in this game and that whatever the outcome was would affect them both deeply.
He had no idea how right he was.
A/N: Okay, there it is. I know it was rather long, but I guess I wrote a lot to make up for the fact that I haven't updated in a while. As always, any comments you have are always welcome and very appreciated. Gracias y besos!