That Night

I went home that night in a state of mind that my grandmother no doubt would have referred to as A State, proper noun, and would have treated with a pot of my favorite tea and a box of Thin Mints kept frozen for just such an occasion. I had no Thin Mints, frozen or otherwise, but I did have good tea and bought a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream with which to treat my aggravation. I also applied the balm of a series of increasingly passive-aggressive notes that I ultimately didn’t stick in my mailbox, mostly because I couldn’t think of a genuinely cutting way to say nice tie, asshole in a way that came across as properly sarcastic in print.

Once I got that out of my system and my irritation throttled down to manageable levels, I realized a couple things in quick succession.

Firstly, that my presumed contact Delgado was, in all likelihood, sticking his neck out on this matter, as well. If the goal of seizing and sealing the scene at John Q’s house in October was to control the flow of information out of that investigation — and possibly to prevent other investigators from stumbling over the same weirdnesses that I had — they’d succeeded at achieving that objective. Succeeded so well, point in fact, that they might have closed off useful avenues of inquiry for themselves. If I could take the response to my initial inquiry at face value, “they” had no idea where Doe Four was, and that in itself was a matter of significant concern. Doe Four had disappeared and one of the few people who had had verifiable contact with him that night had just been murdered, along with her husband, amid circumstances that recalled the state of John Q’s house, the only differences being quantity of crazy, not so much kind. The other verifiable/possible contacts were the officers in the patrol unit that had found him, the other members of the ambulance crew, the detectives that had responded to the call, any hospital personnel that had been in the emergency room of the hospital he’d been taken to. The ambulance was already gone by the time I arrived, and Delgado had arrived on the scene a quarter-hour after I had.

“They” either couldn’t or wouldn’t approach the police for help with this situation. I lean toward “couldn’t” — the detective in charge of the Christmas day case had indicated that they’d been willing to interject themselves into investigations in the past, which suggests a constraint of some kind that precluded such action. “They” needed an intermediary, someone who was involved-but-not-involved, to function is an information conduit/communications accessory/filtration device. I couldn’t tell the detectives about four anomalous inches of physical space in John Q’s basement without being politely called into my supervisor’s office and remanded to psych evaluation, but I could tell them about the still-disturbing aspects that tied together into the Christmas case, and do so in a way that might point them in the right direction.

Secondly, I realized that the events that unfolded at John Q’s house in October — whatever those events had ultimately been — could not possibly have come as a surprise to “them.” “Their” response was fast — the place was already on “their” radar. By way of contrast, the Christmas day murders were clearly not something “they” had been expecting and the situation was now far outside of “their” control. The crime scene had been processed by people other than their own investigators, the autopsies conducted by someone other than their own coroner/examiner/forensic pathologist, and they either couldn’t or wouldn’t swoop in, seize everything, and tell everyone involved at this point to forget they’d seen anything unusual. “They’d” lost the chance to control that situation from the outset and attempting to assert control after the fact would draw more attention to their activities, which I suspect “they” really didn’t want. So a more oblique approach was required.

Thirdly, it occurred to me that I was under surveillance. That I had, in fact, probably been under surveillance for quite some time. Yes, I really am that slow sometimes. The question was, why me? The best answer I could come up with, beyond my Hardy Boy activities at the site of John Q’s house, was that I’d once been the subject of rather high level security clearance screening by both the FBI and the DHS during the investigation into Pan-Oceanic 332, which I imagine is the sort of thing that’d turn up for Federal employees looking into my recent activities. The thing is, of course, that the Hardy Boying could not possibly have been the trigger for the surveillance. Delgado was close enough during my first trip to the house to render emergency assistance when I caught a double barreled dose of migraine in the face. Either that was an amazingly convenient (for me) coincidence or else…

Yeah.

That is, I confess, where I decided to stop thinking about this stuff for the night, because I was making myself incredibly paranoid. Instead I put down my notebook and did a bunch of perfectly ordinary stuff until I felt a little more normal. Did the dishes. Brewed the coffee for the next morning. Checked and caught up with email. Took my interdiction meds and got ready for bed. My cell started ringing while I was still in the shower. When I checked the messages, there was no mail and since there was no second call, I assumed that it wasn’t the office. Went to bed.

I woke up very suddenly and very completely, startled awake by the silence. I’ve said before that my apartment building isn’t what you’d call the quietest place in the world — it’s a refurbished factory, and those “high, exposed wood beam ceilings” and “original wood floors” that the rental agency uses as selling points actually translate to “lots of cracks in both the floor and the ceiling through which sound and other things can flow almost unimpeded.” It’s never totally quiet, no matter what the hour — even off the ground floor, there’s always street noise or neighbors who work the graveyard shift coming in or going out or the Demon Auffenpinscher spazzing out over something. The closest I come to actual silence is when I’m wearing sound-suppression headphones. Similarly, it’s never totally dark, either. Some of the apartment windows — like the ones in the bedroom and the bathroom — are frosted two-thirds of their length and let in minimal light, and I’ve got blinds on the others, but the ambient level of light in the city isn’t anywhere near the ambient level of, say, my grandparents’ place in Backside of Nowhere, Oregon. The hallway lights leaked around the edges of my front door. I have a socket night light in the kitchen and bathroom so I can make my way around without turning on any other lights. The city sky glows at night, especially when it’s overcast. There’s always light coming from somewhere.

It was absolutely silent when I woke up — I reached up to make sure I wasn’t wearing my phones for some reason, the lack of standard background noise was so complete. I felt it almost like a physical thing — a hand pressed down on my chest so I couldn’t get up, across my mouth so I couldn’t scream. It was dark — too damn dark. My heart was beating like I’d just run a mile, so hard I could feel the pulse of blood in my temples, and knew — I just fucking knew — that I wasn’t alone. I could feel something there in the too-dark and the too-quiet with me. I couldn’t see anything, but I knew something was there, like it was when you were a kid and you knew there’s a monster under your bed or in your closet and if you move or breathe or turn on the light, then it’ll know you’re there, too. Just like that. And I couldn’t move, and I was breathing too loudly, and I wanted to reach over and turn the light on so badly, but I didn’t dare. Because there was something right there and it WANTED me to reach out, to close the gap, so it could reach for me, too.

The worst part is, I almost did it. Almost reached. I was lifting my hand to do it.

And my phone rang.

The silence…broke. I don’t know how else to put it. Almost literally broke — the phone rang, and a huge truck rattled past on the road outside, and the Demon Auffenpinscher started barking its stupid head off, and the light making it through the frosted glass and bedroom blinds speared me in the eyes like a red hot icepick. My vision blurred immediately and my head throbbed, all at once, no prodrome, no aura, just zero to kill me, kill me now in…seconds? Minutes? Not long. Even the dim, dull light from the windows and the numerals on my digital clock were killing me and every ring of the phone brought me closer to heaving up a lung, the nausea and sound sensitivity were that bad. I got it open, just to shut it up.

No phone number on the incoming screen. No bars of connection. I’m not sure what I croaked out around the urge to hurl, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a standard greeting. The voice on the other end said: “Dr. Harada, stay where you are. Do not hang up the phone.”

I did not hang up the phone. I do not even remember hanging up the phone. I do not, in fact, remember the rest of that night.

I woke up three days later in the hospital.

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~ by Dr. Nate Harada on January 18, 2012.

One Response to “That Night”

  1. I was going to make some dry comment about “you know you’re in trouble when you start putting ‘they’ in quotes…”

    Then I got to the “woke up three days later in the hospital.”

    You seriously need a higher-tier wtf tag, because the usual doesn’t cover it.

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