'You're not here'
“How much is that doggie in the window (arf, arf)-
-I do hope that doggie’s for sale”
The man was crouched next to him and stood with an audible knee crack. He groaned and patted James on the head. “I’m sorry I had to hit you, but it was the only way. You’re very sick James, you’ve done terrible things.”
The man walked around James, cocooned as he was in the chair, in the dark box. He stood in front of him, he wore a clear mask and a white smock which covered all of his clothes. An unnecessary precaution in such a darkened room. He spoke softly “I’m here to help you James. You do want help, don’t you?”
James felt like he’d been buried. It was warm and seemed hard to breathe, he couldn’t talk, he couldn’t think of anything to say.
“You called me, don’t you remember?” The man stood silently for a moment, waiting for a response that wouldn’t come. “You don’t believe me, do you? I can prove it to you.”
“I must take a trip to California-
-And leave my poor sweetheart alone”
“Let me just turn this off.” The man scurried behind James there was a screeching noise as he lifted the needle off the record. Then a squeaky noise around James’ right side as the man struggled with something. It was an old TV and VCR on a wheeled shelf like the ones they use to have in elementary schools until DVD was a thing.
He wheeled it around until it was lined up with James’s chair and he could clearly see the screen. He fumbled in the dark for a second trying to find the extension and when he plugged it in the static was deafening for a moment. “Oh I’m sorry” He said as he reached for the remote on the bottom shelf just above the VCR. He turned it down and said “Now is everybody sitting comfortably?” He pressed play and James eyes widened as an image emerged from the static. It was a woman, but to his relief, it was a blonde anchor-woman reading the news.
“This is KCRA 3 News with Kristi Summers. In local news, a shocking series of seemingly random murders along West Capitol Avenue rocks West Sacramento”.
A young girl’s face was super imposed onto the screen. The girl had mousey brown hair and smiled sweetly. It looked like a prom photo, her hair was all done up and it was over-exposed.
“A waitress named Becki Clarke was strangled in her place of work, a diner along west capitol avenue.” She was found in the bathroom of the diner. Along with two co-workers who had also been brutally murdered in what police are calling an ‘unprovoked spree killing’.
“Another man, Howard Blum the owner and operator of a local motel. Was also found mysteriously murdered in another seemingly unrelated and random act of violence. Mr Blum- “A picture of the old man from the motel was also super-imposed onto the screen. He was a few years younger, standing topless next to a creek holding up a large fish with his dog at his side. “- the seventy-year-old motel owner was found dead in the office of the motel. The motel also located on West Capitol avenue only a stone throw away from the diner homicides.” The picture of the old man faded and the anchor-woman appeared again in her blue blazer and her over starched hair. “Police are yet to comment on whether the murders are at all related. But witnesses spotted an unusual man who may have been in a minor car accident leaving the diner around the time of the murders.” He shut the tape off and let the TV fall back into quiet static.
The man leant forward so James could smell his breath. It was a sickly-sweet smell.
“You see now; you remember them, don’t you? You’re a monster, you must be stopped” The man sighed as he wheeled the TV back behind James’ head. “It’s my fault, the human mind is a delicate thing, it’s not an exact science what I do. But I’m learning.”
He came back around James’ front as if it was a stage and he was putting on a personal in box performance of Hamlet.
“I’m going to tell you a story, two stories in fact. One may be a lie and one may be truth” He paused and scratched his chin theatrically. “Or both may be the truth and both may be lies. It’s often the case with lies to have some semblance of the truth. As it is the case of truth to be smattered with lies and half-truths, lies of omission and outright fabrications.” He got a little closer. “As you should know by now, memory is not as reliable as a VHS tape” He breathed out. “It’s more like a mirror. A mirror that’s broken over and over and each time you try to piece it together it comes together in a different order. Or there are pieces missing. Or there are even pieces added that shouldn’t be there at all.” He got quiet for a moment before adding “You have to admit; mirrors are more fun than television.”
He stepped to the side briefly watching James’s eyes as he glanced behind the man. “Oh of course, you want to see under this tarp, don’t you? I’m sorry, I can’t do that, not yet, we’re not quite ready.” He turned back to the strange misshapen thing hanging on the back wall. “She has dyed her hair red for you and she is patient, you should be too.”
Banville came back with his cup of gritty looking coffee. He was wearing a leather biker jacket, trying to look younger, or older or not as scrawny as his chicken neck gave him away as.
He slurped at it grinning as he saw the puzzled faces of the two FBI agents. As they milled around in the hall of the Riverside sheriff’s department.
“Yep, I told you, he’s fucking gonzo. Out of his tree.” He took an obnoxious sip of his watery coffee and looked through the peephole. “We’d be lucky to get finger-paintings with his own shit out of this guy.” He turned to prostrate at the agents who fought every fibre of their beings to not roll their eyes so hard they fell out of their skulls. “I’m just getting ready to clear out, I don’t know about you guys but a beer and basket of salty pretzels are in my future”.
“The bureau thanks you for your cooperation” Harri parroted as she pushed past him down the hall. Banville deftly swung out of the way guarding his cup with his other hand. Con exchanged a quick smile and a nod and wink with Him. Banville tipped his head as if to say with his eyes “Women” smiling and sipping from his deathly cup of coffee like substance. Con smiled politely and speed walked after Harri down the hall.
Banville burst into the interrogation room. “Welp, funs over Jimmyboy! we’re tossing you into the general population. No more comfy private rooms for you. You gonna be meeting bubba tonight and you’re gonna be staying there until this goes to trial, eh maybe sometime next year. Fun times.” Banville took a sip of coffee as the cogs in his head began to grind. James wasn’t sitting at the table; he wasn’t face down napping. The chair was empty and the handcuffs were gone. “What the fuck”.
Banville swung around the table “Get the fuck up! Who unlocked the handcuffs, fucking fed pussies!” All he saw was a bundle of cloth. A shivering lump under the blanket that could only be James as there was only one way in and out of the room. But the sight of it was all together jarring for Banville for the unhuman nature of the shuddering happening under the blanket. It looked to him like a cocoon on the nature channel. Something shifting underneath the shell, turning into something new, something unknown.
“Hey, get the fuck up!” He took off his jacket and balled it up and threw it down on the table. Bending down he reached for the edge of the blanked. It was soaking wet and cold to the touch. He began to pull it away from James as he lay in the foetal position at the foot of the metal chair.
As he pulled back the blanket his skin was pale and pasty and looked wet to the touch. It looked almost like the skin of a fish. See through almost, all the veins and sinews and nerves raised and tensed. The skin drawn so tight it was little more than a cellophane wrap keeping the muscle and wiring all in one place.
“What the fuck dude, you need serious help. I’m calling a nurse or something.” Just as Banville started to rise a pale hand snatched at his wrist and pulled him down, off balancing him. “Hey get the fuck offa me” Banville instinctively thumbed the latch on his hip holster. “Is this what you want huh? Suicide by cop? Because I will blow your fucking brains out right here and no one will blink an eye.” James’s hand loosened a little. “I’m giving you to the count of three! One, two!” At two James’s hand flopped listlessly on the dirty floor of the interrogation room. “That’s what I thought” Banville said as he straightened up.
He went back around the desk heading towards the door. “I’m gonna get someone to straighten you out and then we’ll get you a jump suit to change into”
He opened the door of the interrogation room. Without warning the chair on the other side of the interrogation room was slid across the floor hard, pinning the door shut. In his surprise Banville tumbled over the chair putting his hands out to soften his fall. He fumbled for his gun underneath him. He saw him crawling towards him like an animal, naked and wet with an unhuman fury in his cold dark eyes. The open ring of the handcuffs in one hand as he scuttled along the hard dirt floor on all fours.
Banville rasped as the blunt point of the open handcuff was punched over and over into his oesophagus. Each time it penetrated it made a cracking clicking sound as his cartilage resisted. A release of gas like a stuck tire, blood bubbling up through the holes in his neck. He lay motionless in shock, his irises getting smaller and smaller as he choked on his own blood.
James rose shaking. Shocked at the growing puddle of thick dark red blood, as hot as popcorn butter on his cold skin. He shook his head and blinked like he was waking up with a bad hangover. He saw it all but from the perspective of an observer. It was all happening but it seemed like he watched it unfurl like a memory. He was a passenger.
His hand snatched up the jacket on the table. The thing James had become put on the leather biker jacket and smoothed out its hair. He felt invincible for a moment, he padded the pocket and found a set of car keys to a late model Taurus.
“Do you remember the day you came to me?” The man paused, a smile in his voice and a smacking of his lips. “No, of course you don’t”.
He walked around James in the cramped space.
“You asked me to bring back the love you felt for your wife on the first day you met.” He breathed in. “An impossible task. To bring back something from the past long since buried. But I did my best”. He walked to James’ right, always checking to make sure James’s eyes followed him.
“I did what you asked, I brought them back but-.” He paused and raised his finger “Something, else, came with them. Something inside you, you’d locked away. Something dark, something evil, a memory of another person, another person you were. Caged like an animal”
James swallowed hard as the man spoke.
“You told me about a plane crash you witnessed as a child. Seeing the bodies scattered over a tree in a field. That moment awoke something inside you or it let something in. Something you buried but I brought it back.”. He took in a deep inhalation of breath “How was I supposed to know? But it’s my problem and I’m going to fix it” He stopped talking and scanned James’s face up close.
“Liar” James whispered.
The man let out a little breathy laugh “You think so?” He stopped smiling with his voice and started talking in a harsher but hushed tone. “What do you think the police are more likely to believe, that I made you this way or you were always this way?” The man was close to James’s face now breathing heavily.
He stepped away from him and levelled his breathing. “Regardless, you will believe that by the time you leave here. Or something close to that anyway.”
“You’re not going to kill me?”
“I’m not the killer”.