'A World of Madness'
There was an annoying buzzing sound rattling the real wood bedside table of the Thunderbird lodge.
Some stirring under the covers.
A brown naked arm stretched out to pick the phone off the bedside table and retracted back under the warmth of the covers.
“Special agent Harriet Jageur speaking” A muffled voice under the covers said.
A few moments of silence passed as she dazedly listened to the rushed voice on the other end.
“Thank you for informing us, we’ll be in touch”
As soon as the call ended Harriet launched out of the bed flinging the covers off her nude body.
“Shit fuck shit!”
Con lay exposed under the tossed over covers naked in Harri’s bed awoken by the immediate sense of immediacy.
“What is it?”
“Banville’s been murdered in the fucking interrogation room! Mirra got away in his car, he could be in the next fucking state by now!” Harri spoke as she faced away from him quickly putting on a bra and panties that were tossed out the front of the bed. She sprang for the cupboard’s and started to dress as fast as humanly possible.
“So what now?” Con lay struck in her bed.
“We need to slow down and think this through. We have no idea where’s he’s going. There’s gotta be an APB already out on Banville’s car, they’ll turn him up.”
“And go where?”
Harri took in a harsh rasping breath and looked at the floor, she tensed her jaw and her eyes got moist. “This is my fault”. She paused and heaved a few more long wet breathes. “I opened his cuffs, I was too fucking caught up in all this hoodoo voodoo spooky bullshit and now someone is dead because of me! Because I forgot to lock a pair of fucking cuffs”
“This is not your fault. We need to be smart, what do you wanna do just barrel out the door and follow the sirens? You think he left us a trail of breadcrumbs?”
Harri was quiet for a moment. She closed her eyes and a few nervous tears leaked out as she stood looking a mess with her clothes hastily assembled. Buttons skew and her skirt on backwards.
An hour later she was changed into a dressing gown. Her hair pinned back sitting on the bed, her back against the back board. Calm after a steady application of coffee. A laptop on her knees as she checked Mirra’s bank records they’d had subpoenaed the moment he was taken into custody.
Con sat at the writing desk with a pair of pyjama bottoms on with no top checking flights in and out of the state and any activity in Mirra’s credit cards.
“Anything?” Harri said without looking up.
“Not much, you?”
“I have something, two flights purchased on his credit card. Two seats premium economy to Sacramento, he paid for a room in some motel down there.”
“Doesn’t seem like much”
“Not on its own” Harri looked up scornful. But then there’s a return journey with only one seat booked.”
“So you think he planned a little vacation and then what? Maybe she got sick and had to take the bus back, maybe they had a fight and he left her there? It doesn’t explain how he could kill her there, if that’s what you’re suggesting and get the body back”
“These days’ airlines weigh and record the weight of your luggage so they can charge you more, especially with budget airlines. His luggage going coming back was almost ninety pounds heavier”
“That’s a lot of souvenirs. It’s a cute theory but it could be anything. Maybe he was picking something up from craigslist, a ninety-pound paperweight.” He looked back and gave her a silly grin. “Doesn’t the airport have sniffer dogs?”
She gave him a narrow eyed look and chupsed. “They do” She paused and exhaled as she looked down at her laptop “For bombs” She took a sip of her coffee. “She’s not a bomb”.
“There’s a little boy in my dreams, he whispers. He tells me about a woman with red hair” The man sounded like he was weeping now, or laughing. “I know he’s me, but he’s not me, there’s only one me, are you sure there’s only one you?” The man laughed. “You think I’m insane, when sanity was a temporary status effect in an RPG videogame.”
“You came here looking for a woman you don’t remember. A woman who doesn’t exist” He breathed in deeply through his nose, wheezing. “Love makes us do strange things, the ghosts of love haunt us both.” He turned his head as he spoke “It’s different for me but it’s also the same. It’s impossible to go back, no matter how much we want to we can never recapture that same feeling.”
“When I was little in Nicaragua, my father was a drinker. But he was a good man, and he loved my mother, he loved her too much” He sighed. She was a whore, she fucked any man that owned her with their eyes. My father knew, she kept lovers at the bottom of the lawn in trailers, but he loved her”.
He gritted his teeth “Even as she beat him with her high heel shoes he worked his fingers to the bone to pay for, he loved her. He never raised a finger to her, never.” He swallowed hard “He was too afraid to tell anyone, what they might think, that he was a coward, that he was a pussy. He took it, because he loved her, he loved someone incapable of love. He was a fool.”
He paused and took a few deep breathes “I remember brushing her hair, she made me brush her long dark hair every day, I hated it. I wanted to strangle her for what she did to him. Humiliated him, belittled him, turned him into a drunk. I wanted him to kill her, I dreamt about it”
“But he never did, he died of an aneurysm and she got everything. And when the money ran out she didn’t even have the decency to kill herself. She just crawled along, like a half-squashed bug.”
James’s eyes cast back to the animal figure on the back wall. The man followed his eyes and looked over his shoulder.
“Oh no you’re wrong, that’s not her, that’s something else entirely. You’ve seen her in your dreams, I’m sure of it. I opened the door for her, my crimson mistress, the red queen, she has lots of names. She sees all this, her unseen hand in the shadows pushing the levers and working the gears of chaos towards it’s inevitable end. Her palace is not far from here.”
He stopped and caught his breath “I’m sorry I’m rambling.”
“After he died I left home and joined a group of rebels. Guerrilla fighters who lived in the forests.” He stopped and breathed “I don’t know why, I guess I was looking for someone to follow, someone to believe in, I guess I still am.” He paused.
“They were little more than petty criminals, gangsters. We’d kidnap people, Americans, and ransom them off to their families. In some cases, it took years, sometimes we killed them for no particular reason, it was fun for us. But during the contras the government hired us out to do dirty work fighting the socialists. When there was too much heat on them from the American government. We could step in and then we’d just be labelled ‘terrorists’ or ‘rebels’, something vague. We’d do hits, move drugs, sabotage. But in the midst of this I discovered my true talent, that of torture”. As he said it he walked behind James.
There was a clinking of metal instruments and he returned into James’ field of view with a sharp scalpel close to the base of his eye. Cold clean surgical steel pressed against his soft warm skin. “You see in those few years I really got to know people, the human race. The human mind was like putty in my hands. I could get people to tell me anything with only a few hours and a car battery.” He quickly took the scalpel away from James’ eye. “But soon I realised what the Spanish inquisition in the dark ages must have realised; torture doesn’t work.”
He paced back and forth in front of the tarp. “You can torture someone for days. Keeping them alive with blood transfusions, they’ll tell you they’re the queen of England, or that they’re a space alien.” He chortled.
“I was at a loss when I realised this. But what was more profound to me was not that they would do and say anything to cease the pain. But they themselves would believe their own lies.” He smiled with his voice again. “Do you understand? They became what I wanted, whatever I wanted. Like an animal in a trap gnawing off its own leg. They would look into my mind and find whatever it was in me that would stop the pain, they would become like a mirror.” He stopped and swallowed. “An empty mirror that I could cast my twisted reflection on. I could mould them in my image, or whatever image I desired”.
He walked around the room a little bit to let that sink in.
“Do you understand?” He sucked his gums for a moment.
He sighed, “After a while I didn’t even need the pain, getting the truth out of them was no longer my concern. I found a concoction of drugs that would get them in a perfectly pliable state akin to hours of constant torture.” He walked around in front of James moving his hands like a composer, one hand behind his back. “I could teach them things; I could teach them lies that they would hold onto like the face of god. I could make them remember things that never happened and forget things like their own birth or the number nine. With mere suggestion alone I could mould their memories like a sculptor, like an editor snipping reels of film”.
He stopped in front of James raising his one hand. “You may be wondering why I’m telling you this. The uses of such a practice however unethical are infinite.” He waved his hand around theatrically. “Given enough time and resources I could create an army of mindless drones but for what purpose? A man needs a goal, he needs a purpose, to toil without purpose is no life at all.” He raised his hand and pointed behind him at the thing on the wall.
“But I have purpose, she gave it to me. A nobody, she came to me and I brought her you.” He laughed “I know you must think I’m mad, I did too when they approached me. She’s a symbol, she doesn’t have to be real, but they see everything. I do this for them because in return they grant me the recognition I deserve.” He breathed deeply. “When they see what I’ve done, they will engrave my name in the black book of history forever”.
“Why?” James croaked.
“It’s a good question. ‘Why?’ a perfect question but the crimson lady doesn’t trifle with simple mortal concepts of ‘why?’. She much prefers ‘how’ and ‘when’ and ‘now’ and ‘if’. She doesn’t need a reason; my reason is her. She calls to me and others, lots of others, we’re linked, you and I and them, you may not know it yet, but you will.” He sighed loudly. “I’m sorry I can’t tell you more but that’s all I know; we know only what we need to know”.
“What have you done with her?” James said, the strength leaving his body with every word.
“Only what you asked me to”
“Tell me” Even now James could feel his consciousness slipping away.
“I don’t need to tell you, you’ll tell me. The next story is locked in that head of yours” He said as he traced a finger along the side of James’ head. “I just need to shake it loose a little.” As he said that he swooped around James’ side behind his head and he heard the distinct rattling of surgical equipment.
The needle went in to the soft flesh of James’ upturned arm, helplessly locked down with the restraints. The solution was cold but burned all the way up. He could feel it working its wicked way through the veins in his arms, counting back from ten as it made its way to his head.