“It’s all right,” Rose said. “I can handle it, here.” It seemed very strange to her to be so tired, and not have the voices in her head. This just didn’t happen. This Jade Pagoda thing was amazing!
Flanagan and Jackson looked at each other. Finally, Jackson shrugged and said “Hell, Mitch, I’m totally off the map here. You got questions that make any sense, you ask ’em and I’ll listen.”
Mitch nodded. “Okay.” Then he addressed Rose. “I saw the interview you did with officer Thomas last night, so let’s start there. I want to understand what it was that Thomas freaked out about. ”
Rose shook her head. “I’m real sorry about that, Detective…” she was a little startled, again, that she didn’t know his last name. “… Mitch. I was starting to have trouble keeping us separate because I was so tired, and he just kept pestering me about what happened, and finally, I just let my head and his get tangled up together and then I remembered the whole thing at him, all at once. So he’d remember it all too, and then he’d know and wouldn’t have to ask any more. It was almost accidental, really. I mean, I couldn’t keep us separate very well because I was so tired, and I was remembering it all the time because he kept asking stuff about it. And he wasn’t believing me, and I was starting to get to where I wasn’t believing me either because of that, so I was pretty desperate to convince us both that this was real…” she trailed off miserably. “It was a horrible thing to remember at anyone though. I’d like to apologize to him for that.”
Mitch was taking notes. “So fatigue is a factor here?” He looked up at Rose.
She nodded. “Yes, definitely. It’s like I have a hundred voices in my head, one for everybody around me, and one of the voices actually is me. But when I get tired, the voice that’s me starts to get quieter and make less sense, and eventually it gets lost in the crowd. It takes a conscious effort to keep track, so sleeping anywhere that’s not safe is just not an option.”
Mitch looked up, pained. “And we put you in a cell block overnight when you were already tired,” he said. “Thomas isn’t the only one who should get an apology.”
Rose grimaced, and nodded. “If I was going to get lost in a crowd, I’d have picked a different crowd. But I guess that just must be my karmic pay-back for what I did to
Officer Thomas.” She looked miserably at the floor.
“You know,” said Mike cheerfully, “You could file a lawsuit about that.” David and Mitch glanced at each other, but neither of them said a word.
Rose looked at Mike with a withering glare. “They didn’t fucking know, Mike. None of them, except for Thomas, and he thought he was just going nuts. And they couldn’t possibly let me go until they figured it out.” You really are an asshole sometimes, she thought at him, but in the shadow of the Jade Pagoda, he would never know.
“Okay, I want to talk about this Lost-in-a-crowd state,” said Mitch. “How long can that last, if it happens?”
Rose and Mike looked at each other, then Mike grimaced. “The rest of your life, unless you get lucky,” he said. “When you’re Lost, you’re not doing much of anything coherent — your own ‘voice’, to use Rose’s metaphor, is either silent or babbling or just mimicking someone else’s voice. So you don’t stand out in the crowd that’s in your own head, and you stay Lost.”
Rose nodded. “There’s two ways to get Lost,” she said. “I mean, there’s losing track of yourself, like Joe before he died, but it’s another thing when you get sucked into someone else’s perception of you — they can make you into who they need you to be or want you to be, and that’s even harder to break loose from. Then it’s all about what they need you to be, and you get Lost that way too.”
Mitch was scribbling furiously. “So, once one of you hits this Lost-in-a-crowd state, it doesn’t even matter whether you’re tired or rested?”
“Not a whole lot,” Rose said. “If someone who’s Lost is more rested than me, it’s a little dangerous to be near them. If they’re more rested they’re more likely to get my head tripped up and rambling along with them. But they never even know they’re doing it.”
“So how do you know this?” Flanagan asked. “This ever happen to you two?”
Mike grimaced and nodded. “Yeah, I’ve had an episode. Once for a few days. But I got myself mixed up with somebody who was going into the MOMA, and there was a boat with ten thousand arrows in it hanging in the lobby, and… I got the thread of myself back there. I was lucky,” he said.
Rose just shook her head. “It never happened to me before last night,” she explained. “I just knew about it because there’s always a few Lost Ones around the city, and when I see them, I understand how it is with them.”
“Lost Ones,” echoed Mitch, writing it down. “Are they dangerous to ordinary people?”
Mike shrugged. “Mainly just dangerous to us freaks. Imagine having a radio welded to your head and there’s somebody wandering around broadcasting static. But when they do random things they’re just as dangerous as anybody else doing random things.”
“Wait,” Rose said. “I don’t know if this counts, but I’ve deliberately lost track of myself a few times when I was trying to make someone else forget about me too. I’ve only ever done that inside fairly safe places, though, and it’s never lasted for more than a few minutes.”
Mike stared at her as though she had suddenly grown a three-foot beard. “You can do that?”
She shrugged. “Yeah… It’s kind of a Zen thing, I guess.”
Mitch was scribbling again. “Okay, let me get a handle on this. You did this forgetting yourself thing because you wanted other people to forget you? So, you couldn’t make somebody else think something you’re not also thinking?”
“Yeah, that’s how it usually works,” Rose said. “You can think any sequence of words, but that kind of symbol thing only really works on people who are kind of weak-minded or not very sure why they’re thinking what they think in the first place. If you don’t believe it, they’ll usually share your disbelief along with the words. The only way to affect fundamentals like believing, or remembering, or wanting, or forgetting, or valuing, is to share the thought itself with them, not just words about it.”
“Okay, about the crash…” Mitch looked up, found Rose’s green eyes suddenly wide.
“You. You’re the guy who was driving that car,” she said. “I — I saw you. Through her eyes.” Her eyes darted back to David. “And you, you were in the passenger seat. It was you who reached over to… ” and her eyes came back to Mitch ” …but it was too late, you couldn’t compensate in time to crash head-on … and neither could Laura … ” Rose sat down on the floor. “Oh Goddess, he must have been right there with you.”
“Wait,” Mitch said. “Too fast, not connected enough. Who must have been right there?”
“The Hook,” said Rose. “The killer. The one who’s been doing this for the last three years.”
“The Hook?” said Mitch. “You know who that is?”
“No,” said Rose, “But that poor girl driving the truck did. One of the things she thought was that The Hook had promised her that if she managed to kill you, then she could just die.” Rose paused. “I know that sounds like a threat, but it was a promise to her. She really wanted to just die.”
Jackson cut in. “Uh, I hate to bring this up, but with most of her skin gone, there wasn’t much way she could possibly have not died. So this promise doesn’t sound like much.”
Rose stopped, and a tear came from her eye. “She knew that her skin was gone and that she was going to die. The promise was that nothing worse would happen to her first.”
“So”, said Mitch. “Can the kind of thing the Hook did to the driver of that truck be done without him having to think the same thoughts she had to be thinking?”
Rose shook her head. “Honestly, I don’t understand what he did to her. Whatever that was, it went way past what I was thinking of as fundamentals; he’d distorted the basic shape of her mind, made it into something … else.” She shuddered, and looked away. “He does something to people that changes who and what they are, not just what they’re thinking or wanting or believing right now.”
Mitch wanted to ask what the Hook had threatened Laura Houang with, but he didn’t want to hear the answer just yet, and Rose looked like she didn’t want to say it just yet either. So he asked a different question. “Did Laura know The Hook’s real name, or what he looked like, or anything?”
Rose just shook her head. “Probably, but neither one of us thought about those things while I was there with her. I’m sorry, but it was … pretty overwhelming…. ”
“I don’t think I can even imagine how overwhelming that must have been, Miss DeCourtney,” Mitch said with genuine sympathy, kneeling down on the carpeted floor to be more on her level. “But let me ask about something else. What did you mean about it being too late for me to compensate and crash head-on?”
Rose shook her head as though trying to clear it of something. But she was sure. “For a second or so the Hook was thinking, in your head, that you might not hit the truck. He was there with you, Mitch. He was trying to get you to crash.”
This is one chapter of The Hook, a novel which is being published serially on this site. This page links to all chapters so far serialized.
The complete novel is available from Amazon.