Teasers & Deleted ScenesAshton, VA, 2007 - 2008
They are putting Mr. Friendly back together.
Roger Weathers was sixty-two years old, childless, and widowed when he broke apart.
He was sixty-one years old and recently bereaved of an arthritic cat named Minnow when the neighbourhood children began to disappear.
In his prior life--and Stephen Reyes knows all about his prior life, because Roger Weathers will gladly discuss anything in interview except those missing children--he was a retired public librarian living in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota, active in his local Quaker meeting. He was kind; never raised his voice. He was good with children. A pity, the neighbourhood mothers said, before the investigation fixed firmly upon him; Roger and Betty never could have their own.
As best as the ACTF can tell, a group of neighbourhood children playing street hockey in the cul-de-sac where Weathers lived knocked their ball into his back yard and, when they went after it, neglected to close the gate. Minnow, the last cat Betty Weathers took in before her death at fifty-six of ovarian cancer, escaped into the road and was found two days later, hit by a car the next block over.
The neighbourhood children helped him put up Minnow's missing posters in the two days before her discovery. Two weeks later, the first boy vanished.
They do not know if he broke before or after Stephen Reyes and Solomon Todd found him, keening and wailing, in front of the jar of human eyeballs in his refrigerator.
He was the first one who came quietly.
Dwayne George, Tyler O'Brien, Joshua Chanku, Brandon Meyer, and Daniel Li.
Reyes recites the names of the dead boys to himself every time he goes to take Roger Weathers' testimony. The team has nicknamed him well; their Mr. Friendly always says please and thank you, smiles sincerely at his interrogators, and does what he can to make them feel welcome. In Idlewood more than anywhere else, all doors open to courtesy, or at least, all privilege levels. There is not one black mark on his institutional behavioural record. Roger Weathers alone, of all the Idlewood inmates, has supervised grounds privileges.
He is also the second-last interview on a new agent's tour of Idlewood, running just behind Joseph Lawrence Hakes. Gammas like Weathers present their own unique challenges. It is too easy, Reyes feels, for another agent to forget that this man killed five children.
The first time Reyes asks about the children, Weathers trembles. "I'm worried about them," he says, not confidingly but stark with concern. The worry is visible on the video, the way his cheerful demeanor clouds up. "You still have someone looking out there, don't you?"
"For what?" Reyes asks. It's a chilly day, mid-March, in the narrow gap between the annual shutdown of Idlewood's ancient hot water radiator heating system and the actual advent of spring. Weathers is wearing an old navy cardigan. His wife, he'd mentioned, knitted it for him before she died, and he spends the interview wrapping it around himself like armor. Reyes has put all these details in his notes. Initial impressions are useful, sometimes. He rereads them when he watches the videos, late nights in D.C..
"The one who was hurting them," Weathers replies. The camera does not move. His eyes are uplifted unto Reyes's best poker face, from whence he hopes will come his help. "You must have someone looking, right?"
Dwayne George, Reyes writes in his notes, three times to underscore the point, and asks the next question.
"I couldn't have done that," Roger Weathers says the second time Reyes brings up the children. This time it's April, with the trees in full bud and bursting outside Idlewood's reinforced windows. "I don't know if I've told you this--" and he has "--but I adhere to the Peace Testimony. I don't even kill spiders."
Roger Weathers is distraught. Reyes is upsetting him.
"We knocked on your door on July the twenty-first," Reyes repeats. He doesn't need notes to tell this story anymore. "There was no answer. Agent Todd and I proceeded to the kitchen door, and it was open. You were on the kitchen floor."
"This never happened," Weathers says. "You're making this up."
"You were in front of the refrigerator," Reyes says. Pauses. "We need to know where the bodies are."
"You've got this all wrong," Weathers tells him, and then stubbornly refuses to speak a word.
Tyler O'Brien, Reyes tells himself, and goes through it again.
The third time, Reyes brings pictures.
The smile slides off Roger Weathers's face the moment his failing eyes focus on them. Crime scene photos: the fridge, the jar, the 1970s brown tile of the kitchen floor that's since been pried up, fished under, the foundation broken in a hunt for the scraps of five children's bodies. Reyes slaps down another one, another, deals them out like a hand of cards. Five children's faces. Five dead kids.
Weathers's hand reaches out, touches the image of the jar lid as if he can't believe it's there. Recoils.
And he starts to scream.
The orderlies rush in, hands low, ready for anything. "Get clear, sir--" one says, a white-uniformed balding man built like a luchador. Stephen Reyes complies.
"Where are they, Roger?" he asks, low and calm.
Weathers is still screaming. He flings himself backwards, off his chair, bounces his own head off the hard stone floor. The orderlies move in but he's up too fast, faster than a man of his age should be, and he throws himself away from that jar, away from the smiling school pictures, crawls into the opposite corner and presses his face against the seam between concrete and glass until he realizes it won't give, won't let him farther away.
DwayneGeorgeTylerO'BrienJoshuaChanku, Reyes repeats as Roger Weathers flings himself against the mirrored wall again, and again, and again.
It is sublimely difficult to tell a human being that they're a bad person. This does not just apply to gammas. Every day, people of all faiths, creeds, genders, races, and situations are putting contortionists to shame to create a world where they're the good guy. "People have an infinite capacity for self-delusion, Stephen," Casey Ramachandran tells him, as if Reyes doesn't know that.
"So you think he's telling the truth," Reyes says. Some of his team do. This is August, the day when the DID-based therapy has been officially put on the table. He is in Ramachandran's office. There is no video of this occasion, and there are no notes. His hand, throughout this meeting, is fussing for want of a pen.
The theory is this: If Weathers has isolated the anomalous portion of him somewhere far away, wadded it up like a cyst, a used tissue, perhaps it can be broken open and reintegrated. Perhaps they can get from it the truth.
If he's telling the truth.
"I don't know," says the doctor, and flips the pages of their inch-thick psych profile back and forth, back and forth.
Reyes isn't sure either if Weathers is lying, if this partitioning is his adaptation or the anomaly's. People have walled away worse things: genocide, torture, abuse. There is such thing as rehabilitation. Sometimes people develop coping mechanisms. Ways to keep themselves sane. Some of his team think that this is what's happened. Roger Weathers has adapted, and they should let him be.
And sometimes the anomaly finds ways to not be studied.
Brandon Meyer, Reyes thinks, like a mantra, like a sigh. "Try the integration therapy," he tells Dr. Ramachandran, and lets himself out.
They have tried dogs. They have tried echolocation in the Weathers backyard, his basement, around his properties and the public parks of nearby St. Paul. A twenty-mile search was engaged when the children disappeared, and no traces were found. There was nothing human in Roger Weathers's digestive tract when he was taken into custody, and besides, as Todd pointed out, there would be the matter of the bones.
Nearly seven years on, nothing has turned up the bodies. Without his testimony it is unlikely that Dwayne George, Tyler O'Brien, Joshua Chanku, Brandon Meyer, or Daniel Li will ever be found. There is a memorial donated by the community to their families, but a memorial is not the same.
More to the point, Stephen Reyes counted eleven eyeballs in the jar.
And it's March again now, brisk and chilly, the week between the quieting of Idlewood's heating system and the full-on start of spring. Reyes does not interview Roger Weathers anymore. They have a specialist for that now, someone who sits with him every other day and talks about disassociation and memories. She talks about Minnow and his dead wife. She talks about other people's children, and what it feels like to see them when you can't have your own. She talks about other people's carelessness, about boundaries. About repressing one's anger.
Mr. Friendly expresses anger now. He snaps at the orderlies. He has lost his grounds privileges for throwing his lunch tray across the room and giving his attending nurse a cut that required five stitches. It will get worse before it gets better, his therapist assures them in the monthly meetings that she, Dr. Ramachandran, and Reyes hold. Balzac was right: Courtesy is only a thin veneer on the general selfishness.
Some months, in a vain sort of hope, they show him the picture.
"You're a bad person," Ramachandran says as he watches Weathers scream and seize, as the orderlies rush in and grab each of his flailing arms, inject the sedative. This has happened nearly three times this month. Dr. Ramachandran worries that one day he'll trip himself--he's on calcium supplements for osteoporosis--and break bones.
It is mid-March. Roger Weathers turns seventy in June. There is no data on the natural life expectancy of a gamma.
"Yes," says Reyes, two steps back from the glass. He is tired, but his gaze never wavers. "I know."
They are putting Mr. Friendly back together. Stephen Reyes attends monthly, on the other side of that crack-proof mirrored glass, to watch them, to hear the screams.