Teasers & Deleted Scenes
Ashton, VA, Spring 2010
You wake up in a cage. It's pretty obviously a cage, too--straight out of some science fiction movie or maybe The Silence of the Lambs, with three white walls and one transparent one. There's a built-in twin bed, basically just a shelf in the wall. You're lying on it, so you know the mattress is good. Memory foam.
You lie on it for a few moments, pretending you're not awake yet, getting the lay of the land. There's a desk built into the far wall, and a plastic lawn chair with a couple of cushions thrown on it. There's a pile of books on the desk, some writing paper, and a couple of felt-tip pens. There's a toilet.
There's a window with bars on the inside, too close together to reach a hand through. It's open a crack, letting in a breath of crisp, moist spring air and the smell of green things. The air, more than anything, tells you that you're not in California anymore.
Everything seems clean but a little worn, as if you're not the first person to be caged up here.
Something moves on the other side of the transparent wall. Supervisory Special Agent Reyes, sitting in a better chair than the one you get, hunched forward with his elbows on his knees, absorbed in a paperback novel. He frowns, licks a finger, turns a page. He holds it so he doesn't break the spine.
When you clear your throat, he glances up, straightens, and makes the book disappear into the pocket of his suitcoat.
"Good afternoon, Hector," he says. "I trust you're feeling better?"
You have a drug hangover and a series of bruises and a bitten tongue, and the taser burns under your arm sting and itch.
You grunt and turn your back to him, pulling the covers over your head.
He's not there every day. Or even every other one. It's hard to keep track, here where the days are all the same and there are no clocks. The food arrives on a regular schedule. The staff don't really carry on conversations. The only people who talk to you regularly are Dr. Allison and Dr. Ramachandran. They talk to you, but you don't talk to them.
You start keeping a calendar on the white paper they give you--as much of it as you want. You take up designing crossword puzzles, just for something to do. You finally read Moby Dick and Don Quixote. Every day, you are escorted by hazard-suited men to an otherwise-empty gymnasium where you can exercise, and every two days they bring you to a shower.
You discover you can't anticipate Reyes's schedule. Sometimes he comes two days in a row. Sometimes he's absent for ten or eleven.
All the sore places heal. The food keeps coming. And Allison, and Ramachandran, with their quiet questions and their listening expressions. "We want to help you, Hector," Allison says. "We have strategies to help you control the Anomaly. But they only work with your cooperation."
You sit with your back to the transparent cage wall and read The Innocents Abroad for the third time.
You hold out until Reyes vanishes for a long time--over thirty days--and comes back with fresh bruises black-purple on his dark cheek and forehead, a split lip, and swollen ear. He sits there, reading a book--the title is Oolong Dead, and not to judge by the cover but it looks absolutely terrible--as if he's got all day, a hundred years, just to sit in a room with you and ignore you over the top of a novel.
You can't stand it anymore. You push the plastic chair back--at least it makes a good scrape--and you scuff across the floor in your scrubs and carpet slippers until you stand in front of the bulletproof glass, fingertips pushing into the airholes as if you could octopus through and reach him.
You sigh heavily and say, "So, did you bring him back alive?"
Gingerly, Reyes probes his cheek. "No," he says. He winces, but you don't think it's from the tenderness of the bruises. "Not this time. We try, but usually we don't."
Establishing a rapport with a confidence, you know. But you also know it's working. Understanding interview technique doesn't render you immune to it, especially when you spend your whole life alone in a room with a glass wall.
He puts the book in his pocket. "I think you were a good cop, Hector."
"Gee. Thanks." You'd spit on the floor, except nobody but you will clean it up. "And the next question is, 'What happened?'"
He shakes his head. "I know what happened. Peter Torres lied to you about where he and Joey Oram were on the night Joey got murdered, and you believed him when you should have checked it out. And because of that, Brody Kaufman died. And you got pulled off the case. And it kept happening, didn't it? People who had a responsibility--to each other, to the system--kept taking the easy way out, and innocent people kept dying because of it. You were tired of it, weren't you? Bone-tired. You just wanted to show them what it was like."
You take a step back from the glass, though your hands stay pressed against it. You lock your elbows and lean heavily, knowing it won't budge. "How long have you been a fed?"
Reyes shrugs. "Twenty-odd years now. I came on board not too long after grad school."
"Academia disappointed me," he says. He meets your gaze. He doesn't look down. "The same way the legal system disappointed you. Well, not exactly the same way. I only thought about killing people."
Reyes smiles, then winces when his swollen lips stretches. "My thesis advisor. My ex-wife. Pretty normal under the circumstances. Who doesn't have a homicidal ideation once in a while?"
"So you want to know where I learned how to make people tired."
He shrugs. "We probably understand it better than you do, at this point. If you work with us, I can walk you through it. But you have to show some compliance."
"Sure," you say. "You follow the rules you get privileges. Can I have a job in the prison laundry?"
"It's not a prison," he says. "It's a treatment facility."
You push on the glass wall with your left hand. It doesn't rattle. You say, "I thought you weren't coming back."
He touches the lip again. "Sooner or later, I probably won't."
This time, you look down. You turn away, halfway, so you don't have to look him in the face but you can keep him in your peripheral vision.
He says, "So. Was Raoul Perkins the first person you killed?"
The name runs up your spine like electricity. "Perkins was a C.I.," you say, automatically. "He O.D.ed."
"And somebody lifted his stash," Reyes finishes. "I know. I also know he was your C.I. And you and your partner discovered his body. Are you really gonna try to tell me you had nothing to do with that?"
You have to reach out and grab the plastic chair, spin it around so you can straddle it, and sit. He's looking at you with a gentle expression when you finally meet his eyes.
"It was an accident," you say. "He was holding out on me. I got mad--"
Reyes nods. "Go on. You grabbed him."
"I grabbed his shirt collar. I was just going to scare him a little. But there was this thing. A sensation. Like...roomspins. And then he just fell down. And the next thing I knew, the needle was in his vein."
"And you pushed the plunger down."
You shake your head. "It wasn't like I decided to. It just...happened. Like somebody else was moving my hands."
His eyebrows rise. He sits back. He folds his hands. "Believe it or not," he says, "that might be a very good sign..."