Teasers & Deleted Scenes
Ashton, VA, October 19, 2011
It starts, like so many things, with a chance encounter.
One Wednesday afternoon in Virginia, Angelique Gates holds an insistent elevator door for Dyson Cieslewicz. And she smiles.
They come forward quietly.
Ingrid Lessing finds him first, through a labyrinthine system of SEO keyword filters and online alerts her last summer intern set up to monitor campus crime. He's posted his brother's pathology on true crime boards, on forums where people crowdsource unsolved disappearances, on blogs dedicated to the too-weird-to-be-true. Do you recognize this? Did this happen to you? Do you wake up, shaking, every night?
Ingrid reads the posting twice, three times, fifteen that day. She puts fingers to keyboard the night after that, suddenly trembling: He seemed so dedicated, she writes, sends off into the void. Solid. Competent. We had no chance.
Later, once they've talked more; once they're writing each day, or every other: Here. We can word this thing better.
Ingrid's professional description finds Bethany Strange. He said it was magic, she writes from a college server in Memphis; white print on black background in a way that makes Dice's eyes ache. I swam away. I ran. The FBI shot him to pieces.
Morgan Ross shows up in January, online all hours of the night, hospital-bound and bored. Ingrid Fromberg and Peter Hsiung first log into the new website Ingrid's old intern designs in March. They type in abbreviations and snatches. They post, after a while, an endless stream of baby pictures.
"You see this?" Solomon Todd asks late one evening, having stepped into Stephen Reyes's sanctum long after the office cleaners have gone home. Reyes runs a finger down the proffered iPad screen, scrolling, scrolling: She got hungry. He changed. That's when it started to happen. That's when she hurt me.
There's a pattern here.
It's so amazing being able to talk about this with people who understand.
We should all meet.
"No," Reyes says deliberately, leaning back in his leather chair. "Can't say I do."
"Good," Todd says, and blanks the screen dark.
Sunday is not Dyson Cieslewicz's usual day at Idlewood. Chaz Villette blinks when he comes around the corner, already tired, already low, and there's Dice in the elevator.
He wedges an arm against the door to hold it open. He smiles.
"Everything okay?" is the first thing Chaz says. People keep routines like Catholics keep rosaries; when they break them there is usually something wrong.
"Yeah," Dice says, ducking away, standing back to make too much room in the elevator car. The doors finally close. The wheels and cables hum. "Just heading down to the cafeteria for something."
"I could use a bite too," Chaz admits. He always could, really. Dice blinks--strange, because they've done this before--and finally nods.
"Sure," he says. "Come on down."
They've rearranged the cafeteria: There's a circle of chairs at the back, spread loose around a table covered in better-than-usual fare: bowls of salad, thermoses of coffee. A stack of cups straggles loosely along one end. Casey Ramachandran is there holding a clipboard, but dressed in sweater and sleek blue jeans. People stand in clumps or pairs, chatting, awkward, hesitant.
And every face in the room is familiar.
He counts Memphis. He counts L.A. and Mississippi.
He sees Hafidha's mother and father, and his chest constricts.
"Who organized this?" he asks, turning to Dice, back to the wall like a rat in a trap.
Dice shrugs, hands open, spread wide to the sky. "We all did."
"Chaz," Hafidha's father says, heads turn, and Ingrid Fromberg sucks in a breath.
"Agent Villette," Ramachandran says, and puts down his clipboard. "Come on in."
"I probably shouldn't be here," Chaz says. It's plain to see what this is. This is for survivors; this is for the people who made it out. This is for the ones who didn't know what was coming for them, building like a hurricane, until it landed on their heads and blew apart their lives. "I don't belong here. I don't want to intrude."
There's something pressing on his chest, about the size of a nighttime devil. Something that makes his breath come fast and his face as blank as quarried stone.
"I'd say you belong here," Angelique Gates says, low and irrefutable, and steps forward to take his arm.
"It's all right," she says, and pats a red plastic chair. "Coffee's on. Stay a while."
He steps into the room, and sits.