"What kind of place is Madagascar?" Sabrina asked. The three of us were in the back of the room watching Planet Of The Apes, an old movie we'd seen a hundred times before. There was an old VHS player and a box filled with old movies, all of them from the 1960s and before, that we were sometimes allowed to watch as a group, movie nights, they called it, but nothing we hadn't seen a hundred times.
"I don't really know," I answered.
"Is it a communist country?" Irene asked.
"I think it's a monarchy," I answered.
"A monarchy?" Sabrina asked, "with like kings and queens and stuff?"
"That or tribal chiefs," I replied.
"I'm not so sure I like it here," Irene said.
"Here, in Asylumland or here in Madagascar?" I questioned.
"Neither," both Sabrina and Irene replied almost in unison. I'd noticed the two of them had been doing that a lot of late.
"I've got an idea," I said. "that is, if you want to."
"What is it?" Irene asked.
"There's an old set of World Book Encyclopedias in the library, 1968, I think. Why don't you girls spend some of your spare time reading up on Madagascar and see what you can find out about it?
"That sounds like a good idea," Sabrina said.
"Gives us something to do," Irene agreed.
Something else I'd noticed of late was that Sabrina seemed to be paying a lot of attention to GI Joe. So far Irene hadn't seemed to notice and even Joe didn't seem to realize he had caught Sabrina's eye. I wasn't surprised as Irene had always been sort of my favorite and nobody wants to play second fiddle. Had it happened earlier I might have been concerned for Sabrina's welfare but the women that had been entrusted to Joe under the encomienda system seemed about as happy as anyone could be under the circumstances and now that the encomienda system was on its last legs there might be a chance for a few couples to have some at least somewhat normal relationships in Asylumland.
Of course there was still that thing between Irene and Sabrina that continued to complicate matters. Could Joe and I deal with the women in our lives having a thing with one another in which neither Joe nor I was a part of? After all, I didn't know about Joe but I wasn't going to be a part of any foursome that involved another man. Not for a night and certainly not for a life.
As promised, Joe went about gathering intelligence the best he could. He began by watching the key pads on the doors as guards and staff members came and went to see which keys they pressed. Eventually he watched from enough different angles to figure out the entire six digit combination.
Night after night, Joe and Sara scouted out the other rooms of the institution drawing a map as they went and always checking the combinations on every door they opened before shutting it behind them to make sure they'd not lock themselves behind some door the couldn't unlock.
Eventually they began to find doors with combinations that were different than the combinations to the doors that lead back to our rooms. On the map they marked each one of those doors with a red X so that in future trips they or whoever else might be following the map would know not to go there or if they did go there to block the door open so they could get back out later.
During their scouting trips they stocked us up on supplies for things we might need for our escape. Things like first aid supplies, canned foods and even the occasional screwdriver, wrench or pair of pliers found in someone's desk drawer might come in handy.
One night Sara managed to get her hands on patient files for most of Dr Stoner's patients, myself included, but in reading them we realized everything was fabricated. For starters, Stoner's records indicated weekly sessions with each and every one of us but never had any of us seen him more than once a month.
"Billy," Irene asked as we waited for Joe and Sara to return. "Sabrina and I are here because our sick, twisted families are rich as hell and don't want anyone to know the perverted things they did to us but why are you here?"
"Someone didn't want me to publish what I knew about a big corporation," I answered.
"And why is Janice here," Sabrina asked.
"Her husband wanted her gone."
"And Joe and Sara?" Irene asked.
"Joe knows secrets the government doesn't want us to know and Sara watched someone kill a cop." I answered.
"Looks like they would have wanted Sara to testify." Irene said.
"It was another cop that did the killing," I answered. "Sara thought she was going into the witness protection program and ended up here."
"Wow, talk about protection," the girls both laughed. It was uncanny the way they each knew what the other was about to say.