Five years later
"I don't know about you," the brown-haired boy wheezed as he pushed his bike up the hill. "But I can't wait until we're done with this school uniform thing."
It was a very hot May afternoon after school. Billy Blaze and Edie Mammon had in an attempt to be healthier, decided to ride their bikes to and from school, which was OK one way, which was downhill. The other one was a different story. They wiped the sweat from their brows.
"Well, I know I need something to drink." Edie straightened her book bag and continued pushing.
There was a grocery store near the crossing that led from their street to their way to school, where a slushie vendor had set up shop. Billy chose lime and pear, while Edie had no flavor in hers; she was diabetic.
"I don't think I've ever asked you this, but do you ever miss candy?" Billy asked as they sat down under a tree, away from the scorching sun.
"You have asked me that before. Twice last week. Anyone who's ever tried getting slushie syrup out of white cotton would feel the same." She referred to the stiff school uniforms they were required to wear, regardless of the weather.
There was plenty of interesting people walking by for them to watch, so Billy let his friend alone to rest for a while. When Edie was refreshed enough, she continued the conversation.
"You know, in one month school's out," she began.
"Yeah," Billy replied, a little too quickly. "One fourth of our education will be over and done."
"That's not where I was going, William, and you know it. It's time to visit Mortimer."
Billy groaned. They had done this twice a year since they were eight; once at Christmas, and once the month before summer vacation, the month which Mort's birthday occurred.
"I'm not going this year, and you're not either." He said brusquely.
"Whoa," Edie warned him; "Where do you get off ordering me around?"
"I'm not ordering you around. It just boggles my mind that you let a guy who set out to kill the both of us guilt trip you into attending his demented coffee dates."
Edie sighed at this epithet – filled rant. "Billy… We're spending a whole month at your grandparents' cabin by the beach in New Hampshire. We're gonna visit the national forest and be far away from computers and cell phones and aliens and giant toasters full of hydrogen. Just weeks of boating, and swimming and fishing, cold soda pops and weird luau's aplenty; if I know your grampa. And after all that, what does Mortimer get; apart from air conditioning, that is?"
"You do realize that you have nothing to feel guilty about, right? You're not making me doubt your sanity, right?" Billy jovially nudged her shoulder.
"It's a girl thing," Edie smiled awkwardly. "You don't have to come with me, but please sign the card, at least."
"Fine," Billy said and mimed writing. "'Greetings from New Hampshire, sucker'…"
Freaky Fred Memorial was an upscale psychiatric facility in downtown Milwaukee. It rested on the ground of the Home for Freaky Barbers, which had burned to the ground some fifteen years prior. One of the, um, residents had saved several of the others before succumbing to the smoke and fire, and had the new hospital built in his honor.
Edie's throat always dried up when she visited this godforsaken, marble ice cube. The water in the cooler in the lobby was stale, and didn't help much. Edie knew the drill; she emptied her pockets and left her belongings, a Swiss Army knife, an emery board, and her compact mirror which contained a foldable slim Jim, on a tray on the receptionist's counter.
"Is that all?" Her breath was hot and sour, and smelled like coffee and cigarettes.
Edie was also carrying a bunch of overpriced tulips from the gift shop in the lobby. A rather brazen new hospital policy forbade people to bring gifts bought elsewhere, that's why they charged whatever they wanted.
She read from a plastic board inside the elevator. "Home for Freaky Barbers II… Evil Dentists, Beaver Tranquillizer Addicts – there it is; Scum of the Earth."
Scum of the Earth, SOTE, was the ward where Mortimer lived "in between his performances"; to quote Billy's favorite comic book villain. A lot of kids from all over the world, also other worlds, were sent here and they all had one thing in common – blood on their hands. One Christmas Eve the inmates all conspired to drug their keepers into a coma, and brutally murder the head psychiatrist. Afterwards, they had gathered around the fireplace to make S'mores and were found the next day; sleeping and holding hands. It happened long before Mortimer's time there.
Edie could see some of the residents watching TV and playing in the dayroom; behind three inches of bulletproof sheet glass that was. But Mortimer was not among them; he never was. Sounds angered him. He was in his cell, also found behind armored glass.
Mortimer's cell was padded from floor to ceiling and the wall facing the ward and Edie was so clean it looked as if there was no wall. There was no visible door to the room, but there was a shelf on the outside where she could place the flowers. Mortimer himself was ashen and pallid, skinny, with an unkempt mane of bluish black hair, and it appeared as if the gloom inside his cell had stunted his growth.
"Good morning, Morty," she said. He looked at her through his cold, grey eyes.
"I want out of this," he grunted and tugged at his straightjacket.
Edie just raised her eyebrow. "If it's any consolation, you can do way more harm with your mind than those bony girl arms." She sat down on the zabuton facing the window, and Mortimer gritted his teeth.
"I warn you, Mortimer," she said. "If you try one of your mind games on me, I will leave and it will be the last time you'll ever see me. Also, I'll tell the orderlies to put on the Barney – DVD again. You know I'm serious."
"Well, I know my biggest mistake was to not take you seriously, Edie Mammon. Although I must say that visiting me with your heart on your sleeve is a bad idea."
"What do you mean; heart on my sleeve?"
Morty chuckled. "Three Fourteen might be oblivious, but I see right through the ordinary, boring female you are. Something is troubling your sweet, do-good mind."
And that's where Edie made a grievous error of judgment. Because Billy would never visit his rival, she thought it would be safe to divulge her secrets.
"My parents separated. Mom wants to move back to Brooklyn with me after summer."
The news hit Mortimer like semi-trailer hit a deer. It genuinely shocked him, but he was not about to let her know it did. Edie tore a tulip leaf into little pieces while brooding.
"I don't want to go back to Brooklyn," she sighed. "Everybody here have been so nice to me, and apart from Jeffrey Dahmer and you, nothing bad has ever happened."
Mortimer grinned. "Thanks."
She looked up, and her face was upset, which he really liked. "There are summer jobs everywhere here; picking strawberries, babysitting, helping old people. I don't know what you would call my last summer job in Brooklyn, but I'm pretty sure it was "flushing evidence". And I have no friends there."
"Boo hoo," Mortimer taunted as Edie wiped her tears. He didn't mean it; it was just his nature talking. "If you want, I can make sure that this will never happen. I can make what's troubling you disappear. Just… Get me out of here. You can do it. All you need to do is to take Pi-hole's Stunner and knock the orderlies out before, you know…"
Edie looked at him, stone-faced. "You'd actually help me stay in Wisconsin?"
"And all you need me to do, is to betray my best friend, Stun a lot of innocent people and turn the most evil Wunderkind history ever did see loose in the streets?"
"Yes!" Mortimer sneered.
Edie Mammon pursed her lips, got up on her feet, and rested her hands on her hips.
"Billy and I just graduated from elementary school, and we are going to New Hampshire for the summer. We worked all winter to earn enough money to do whatever we want there. I have a new wardrobe, and I'm getting a haircut. Also, Billy has promised to take me to the national forest, so we can study the flora there. And after the vacation is over, we're starting Junior High. It's a brand new chapter for both of us. You may be a smart kid, Morty, but it's hard to buy if you can think that I'd ever double-cross my friends. And what do you have to look forward to? Have a nice life."
She grabbed her things and was out of the institute so fast, while effectively purging the conversation from her mind. But Mortimer couldn't stop thinking about it. His brilliant, although evil mind was however, kept from working optimally by the prospect of Edie leaving town. He couldn't have that; lest Billy have his feelings hurt and Morty not be the one behind it.
But he would never give up. Never. In the end, he would get exactly what he wanted.