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Caught them at it, at last. They knew, somehow, instinctively, where all the cameras in the day room were; they stayed out of the various lines of sight, rarely showing up on the monitors. But I was standing in the doorway, watching them crawl under the tables and around next to each chairbed positioned before the main screen which kept the residents sedate.

They'd crouch next to a resident with a tin mug or a paper cup or just one cupped hand, hold it under the patient's ear and then gently tip the head to the side. A couple of gentle taps and the dry rot started sifting into their cups, a light grey powder, about half a cupful in each head. Then they would crawl under a table and start scooping the stuff into their mouths. Within a fortnight, each would be in a chairbed of their own. The chairbed would roll them from dormitory to dining room to day room to dining room to dormitory, would spoon nutrient mush into their slack mouths, prop them up to watch television, lay them back at night in the poses of sleep. Within a month their heads would be dry all the way through, brains rotted to dust, and some other nerve-licker would sneak in and knock on their heads until the grey dust flowed.

I sighed and went back to the security station. Half a dozen heroin bees were drifting about; one landed on my cheek, sensed I was down and gave me a shot. On one of the monitors a patient fell out of a chairbed and two nerve-lickers scattered like cockroaches. "Goddamn junkies got no class to them," I muttered.