Jack had learned the most about himself from the recorder. He was smart. He was paranoid. He had sense of the greater good and he was willing to do what he needed to in order to make sure that it was protected. But he was also a goddamned bully and it sounded like he used people – even himself – to get what he wanted in the end. And even though the recording had taught him a lot, he’d left it in box 345. He’d taken most of the money, choosing to leave everything else in case he needed it. He’d replaced both boxes and left the bank thinking that there were some things he would have rather not known about himself.
Getting to NYC was easy enough. It was the hub of the known universe, after all. However, the place was also a pit men could disappear into and never emerge from. Finding Danny Devine should have been a royal pain in the ass. Finding one man in a sea of the millions of people? Yeah, that sounded like a headache waiting to happen if he were honest with himself. But as it turned out, whoever he used to be, he knew enough to point Jack in the right direction with all the clues he needed.
The first thing he did when he got off the subway in Brooklyn two days after he’d heard the recording was to ask one of the shop owners if he could borrow his phone book for a few minutes. As it turned out, Danny Devine wasn’t listed. He wasn’t all that surprised. Anyone with a name like that wouldn’t be. It sounded far too...invented, like Danny had picked the name out for himself. In fact, it sounded like the kind of name a drug dealing pimp would pick because it was ridiculous for the cops to try to track down a guy named Devine, but it was easy enough for his drug addled customers to remember. The guy probably had a whole handful of names to keep under the radar. Jack was really one to talk, though. So far he’d had more names than he could count and not a single one appeared to be his real name. His current ID read Bob Seger and he knew that was the least inventive one yet. If he ever got his memory back and needed to erase it again, he was going to make sure his name and age were tattooed between his toes or something (and yes, he’d looked there, but it was a bust) so that he could avoid this conundrum in the future.
When the phone book was a bust, he did the next logical thing. He left the shop and found a group of teens leaning against the building. Kids were great. They were fun and intelligent and the future of America, if you believed the spiels presidential candidates shouted from their soap boxes. They were also entirely too easy to manipulate. He’d started out by asking if they knew his dear old war buddy, Danny Devine. When that had gotten him some mutters about ‘who wants to know?’ he’d pulled out the wad of cash he was carrying, carefully counting out bills as he talked about wanting to see his old friend while he was in town. It had taken about twenty seconds for the kids to agree to tell him where Danny was, and for another ten dollars added onto the pile, they even led the way. As they walked, the kids talked all about Devine. Apparently he had a reputation in the neighbourhood as the guy who could get anyone anything that they wanted – for a price. He mostly operated in drugs, but he’d been known to deal in boosted cars and stereos or two over the years. From what Jack picked up, either Danny Devine bribed the cops or was just too slick to be caught by them, because this had been going on for years without Devine having been arrested even once. It was ridiculous what people could get away with these days. It was a wonder that there were any decent people left in the world.
Danny lived in an apartment building that looked like it had seen better days. It was an older building with bars on the main floor windows, and spray paint over those bars. It was like something out of a racial movie and Jack suddenly wondered if flashing off money to those kids would land him in a bigger pot of hot water than he currently was. After all, he was still walking with a limp, and the gun resting against the small of his back wasn’t going to do him any good if he were ambushed. The thought had his senses on high alert as he walked through the front doors of the building and pressed the button on the elevator for the right floor. This was one of those buildings from the time where builders were superstitious. The buttons in the machine skipped the number thirteen completely, the floor counts jumping from twelve to fourteen. According to the kids, Danny resided in 14E. Apparently, superstition or not, Danny just wasn’t a lucky guy. His other self was right – he could smell the drugs cooking from all the way down the hall. The smell of a lab working was something he instinctively recognised. It smelled kind of nice to him, but knowing what was being cooked wasn’t so nice.
Checking the gun in his waistband again, Jack straightened his shirt before knocking on the door and leaning against the wall out of sight from the peephole. It took only a moment before he heard shuffling footsteps on the other side and the sound of someone leaning heavily against the other side of the door.
“Something divine,” Jack repeated, remembering that the
teens had said that was how the people looking for things often greeted Danny
at the door. Even though Jack didn't get it, Devine pronounced his name 'divine' so he supposed there was some logic to it.
It paid off. A moment later, the door swung open to reveal Danny Devine himself. He was about five foot six and looked like he hadn’t showered in a few days. There was reddish stubble on his jaw and his blue eyes were bloodshot. He was leaning on the frame like it was the only thing holding him up as the heel of his hand pushed against his right eye to rid the sleep from it. He didn’t even look at Jack for a full thirty seconds, but when he did, Jack knew he had the right guy. Danny’s frame tightened like a bow string and the guy’s jaw dropped a little before he reached a hand out to touch Jack’s arm, like he was making sure that the other man was real.
“You’re alive. Come in and have a drink. I need one.”
Well now, that was an interesting way to start a conversation. Closing the door behind him, Jack walked into the apartment and looked down at the man that he’d come here to get answers out of. Devine was watching him with wonder in his eyes, making it clear that he definitely thought Jack should be dead. It was a little disconcerting. Jack looked away, taking in the loft apartment. Most of it was like a science lab, clearly the man slept where he worked.
“The last time I saw you, my friend, you were brain dead, or at least on your way to getting there,” Devine offered, pulling a couple beers from the fridge and offering one to Jack.
“I don’t really remember that night,” Jack replied, popping the cap off the long neck. Also something familiar. He must have drank a lot of beer.
“I’m not surprised. The fact you’re walking is the surprise,” Devine replied, taking a sip from his own beer. “But then, you always did survive a slippery situation. Make yourself at home in Casa Devine.”
“I want to know what happened that night,” Jack replied, taking a sip from his own drink. “Especially the part where I ended up in a tub of ice.”
Devine shrugged a bit, flopping down on the couch and gesturing to the worn looking recliner to the side of it. Jack sat down, gun pressing into his lower back like an old friend.
“My name was once Dr. Daniel Dumont,” Devine started, gesturing to where there were certificates on the walls that said just that. “I specialized in pharmacology. Drugs and such. I made a good living at it, until I got busted selling surplus on the streets.”
“It seems like you’ve still got a good business going on in that,” Jack replied dryly.
“Now? Yes, I do. But right when I was busted, I took a deal. I went to work for certain parties in the government, working on certain pharmaceutical combinations for various intents. I came up with a pill that would make men tell the truth, injections to reprogram others, and even a funky botox that would change a man’s face for an hour. That one was fun, if fatal, but sacrifices must be made. But the most interesting thing I worked on involved a neuro-blocker that would help bypass memory. The idea was to use it on people with severe PTSD.”
Having heard what he had about the state of the world, he could imagine that it would have come in handy for abuse victims and soldiers. He could also see it working in other areas, like making people forget they’d been interrogated or that they’d committed a crime. He was a mad scientist if there ever was one.
“If you dosed a man or woman with enough of it, you could fry their brains like an egg.”
Jack felt his lip twitch at the imagery. That wasn’t a pleasant thought.
“But those who survived were blank slates. No memory outside of general knowledge. They were completely blank to be whatever the program wanted them to be. My deal was up after that was discovered and now you see how I live in the lap of luxury.”
Jack felt his stomach drop. Yeah, this was sounding relevant. The doctor was looking at him with a slight smile curling his lips, like he was amused by all this. He must have been the type to sample his own concoctions.
“You dosed me.”
“Aww, don’t say it like that. You came to me, Keith. You told me that you needed to forget. I asked what you needed to forget and your answer was everything,” Devine replied, studying him closely. “And it worked. I gather you don’t even know your own name.”
Well, he wasn’t wrong there, but Jack wasn’t about to tell him that.
“So I met you in Boston and I gave you an overview on what would happen. Your brain would literally start rewiring itself around your long term memory. So you cut out your tracking chip, stitched yourself up, took the pills and climbed into the tub to wait it out. To keep you from dying, I covered you in ice and let you ride it out. You had some impressive seizures, my friend.”
Well, that explained that, then. Jack had wondered who had stitched up his arm so sloppily. It was almost a relief to know he’d done it to himself. At least it kept it from being some random wound. However, it also tied in what Rand had told him and anything that made that story believable wasn’t something that sat well with him.
Devine didn’t seem to have anything more to say, so Jack levelled him with a look. After all, there was the matter of how he’d been found alone and what had been done to him while he was asleep.
“And how about the fact they found me with my organs outlined in blue ink?”
For the first time there was a flash of guilt. Good. Jack was feeling a bit more vindicated now.
“Yeah, that,” Jack echoed. “Where’d that come from?”
“I’ve had two patients in one hundred survive. That was in a controlled lab with supplies and nurses and equipment. So forgive me for not having a lot of faith in your chances,” Devine replied. “I had buyers lined up for a few of your more popular organs. I would have been living big for months.”
“What stopped you?” Jack asked, curious about that. If he was worth as much as the other man said, then there was no reason for him to stop shy of butchering him up. Devine was sitting on an unconscious nest egg, after all.
“Curiosity. I wanted to see if it would work,” the man replied, like it was the most natural answer in the world. “After you stopped seizing, you had an hour to either die or recover. That’s how it’s always happened in past trials. So, I loaded you with anticonvulsants, set an alarm on your phone and went for a drink. Imagine my surprise when I returned to an ambulance wheeling you out of there without having placed you in a black bag first.”
Jack considered that for a long moment. Devin was an asshole. It was the most polite way of putting it. He’d shot him up with a potentially lethal drug, left him alone to see whether he’d pull himself through or not, and then, to top it all off, he’d already found buyers for his organs. Such an asshole.
But Jack had gone to him. Jack wanted this. Knowing what he did, he knew it was the case. His other self had told him just that. He’d even paid for the treatment that this man had bestowed upon him. The worst part was that there was nothing he could do about it. Spilt milk at this point, but there was one thing he wanted to know – one thing he really needed to know.
“Is it permanent?”
“So far, we’ve found that to be the case. Patients have had flashes of things from before the drugs, but the longer they’re in your blood, the less that will come back to you. It continues to work until all you can accumulate is new memory. Handy, no?”
Blood. Son of a bitch. That explained Dr. Jones and his blood fetish. He was probably trying to figure out exactly what was going on in his system.
“Right,” Jack replied, setting his beer down on the table beside the chair. “Listen, I need you to go give me the bag that held the money I paid you with,” Jack directed, earning another look from Devine.
“Now, why do you want that?”
Devine was smart. He may have been cooking drugs, but he was still a scientist and clearly he was interested in learning everything he could about his craft. No doubt the man wanted to know how he remembered any of that and Jack wasn’t terribly inclined to explain it to him right then. A little mystery in life would be good for him.
“Because I do,” Jack replied, keeping his tone firm. “Get it. Now.”
Devine laughed. Clearly he thought that was funny. Still, the man got up and dug through his closet. He tossed a couple items over his shoulder, but it didn’t make the room look any messier than it was. Where the lab area was surrounded by clear plastic and was immaculate, the living portion was a mess. Devine was a slob. There were pizza crusts on the coffee table, laundry on the furniture, burn marks on the arms of the couch, garbage bags against the wall – and from the smell, they held actual garbage – and there was even a dirty magazine hanging on one corner of the TV. Jack knew enough about himself to know that he could never live like this. It was appalling. It made him wonder how this man ever garnered a reputation for being able to produce anything of quality, but he could see the division of the man’s life for himself.
“There you are,” Devine muttered, nearly falling over as he pulled a grey sports bag out of the closet.
He brought it over to the coffee table, shoving pop cans and ash trays off the piece of furniture so he could open up the bag and dump the money out. The drug must have been expensive. That or it cost more to keep a man like Devine quiet than Jack thought it was worth, because there were stacks of money all over the table. It must have been thirty or forty grand in total.
Jack took the bag, looking into it and then running his fingers along the lining to see if there was anything he was missing. It seemed like an ordinary sports bag, nothing to it, beyond the fact that it had once held a fair sum of money. But then, if he were hiding something on the bag or in the bag, he wouldn’t want someone like Devine to know he had it. If Devine knew he had important information, he would have had it sold in a heartbeat, after all. No, he knew he’d hidden it well.
Bringing the bag over to where Devine’s lamp was, he held it to the light, noticing that there was something faint on one side of the bag. It looked like it had once been words...or maybe it still was. He held it closer to the bulb knowing that some kinds of secret messages appeared when there was the presence of heat. The random fact popped into his head, just like everything else he seemed to know, and it seemed to be paying off. The longer he held it there, the more words appeared.
“Does 621 Construct mean anything to you?”
“No,” Devine replied, coming closer to look at the bag. “You were always a clever boy, Keith.”
Jack didn’t bother replying to that. Devine had been trying to bait him since he’d walked in. He was more concerned with what he was seeing on the page. He was starting to think that his other self had a real great sense of humor. Jack had no idea what 621 Construct was. It could be a place, maybe part of a date or it had some hint in it to a period in history. It could have been a part number. It could have been a library filing number. He couldn’t keep guessing at these things or he was going to fail miserably.
“Next time, you should leave yourself something easier to follow.” Devine smirked a bit before making his way back to where he had been seated on the couch, enjoying his beer once more.
“Believe me, I’m not doing this again,” Jack replied, thinking he must have had his reasons to be such a cryptic dick at the time. Now, though... he was going to have a long talk with himself when all this was over and done with. He didn’t have time for these games.
“You wouldn’t survive it anyway,” Devine assured him. “I’m keeping the money.”
“Yeah, sure,” Jack replied, still trying to figure out what 621 Construct was.
“And the bag.”
Jack raised an eyebrow, wondering what game he was playing. Devine merely shrugged his shoulders. “I do not trust banks.”
Of course he didn’t. Seedy mad scientists didn’t trust much.
“Yeah, why not,” Jack offered, handing it over to the smaller man. “Go nuts.”
Devine smirked, dropping the bag back on the table, covering up some of the money. He didn’t seem to concerned with getting the rest of it sorted, though. He was back to Jack-watching with that twisted, curious look in his eyes. It was disconcerting.
“What?” Jack asked, done playing games.
“I thought you would be more curious, have more questions,” the man replied like it was obvious. Yeah, Jack had questions, but he didn’t know if he wanted the answers from Danny Devine. “Don’t you want to know who you were, Keith?”
Jack looked back down at his hands for a moment, considering. Finally, he looked up and gave the other man a slow shake of his head.
“It doesn’t matter now, does it? I chose to forget for a reason.”
With that, Jack left the man to his life and walked back out of the apartment and into the elevator. He could hear Devine calling after him to stop in if he changed his mind. That was one thing that Jack was sure he wouldn’t be doing any time soon, but once everything was sorted out and he was done following the breadcrumbs...he might actually have some use for Danny Devine.