Monday, 14 June 2010

Chapter Nine

Dr Katherine Reece spent the evening in a pub, headphones of an MP3 player in her ears, listening to recordings of Prayer from back when the girl had been her patient.
She drank a Jack Daniel’s & Coke and was nursing her second while she went over the recordings, a cigarette in hand. Prayer’s voice was soft but throaty and brought back a lot of uncomfortable memories. Katherine practically abused this defenceless girl, another in a long line of abusers. Prayer trusted her at first, and Katherine had encouraged it.
“…it wasn’t like how you’d think it would be. I mean, I was scared, yeah, but I didn’t know any different, you know? I thought he loved me. Maybe he did, in his own sick way. I don’t really know. I think he got scared by what I told him…about Akin…he didn’t want to believe that Akin really existed. He would come into my room at night, and I’d be waiting for him. Kind of afraid, kind of excited.
“ At first it wasn’t anything painful. Just touching and kissing. I thought it was what daughters did, you know? But then he became violent. I realised, of course, that he wasn’t supposed to do those things. He was supposed to protect me. In the end, the only person I could ask to protect me was Akin. And he did, kind of.
“While my dad did those things to me, Akin would sort of take me out of my body, to this place in a forest. He’d be shaped like a beautiful boy there, and we would talk and play games. Fun games. But then I’d always come back to my body, feeling sick and scared and excited. I would watch as my dad finished. He would smile at me and close my door. He didn’t even have to ask me to not tell anyone. I knew I could never tell. And that’s how it began. You’re the first person that knows…apart from Maya and Akin. But then, Akin is just a dream…”
Katherine switched off the MP3 and pulled the headphones from her ears. She lit another cigarette and closed her eyes. Hearing the words again made her feel sick. She realised now that they had hoped to forget Rebecca Cole, although she had never forgotten. When she received the call, she’d known immediately.
She wasn’t really surprised by the carnage at Ensler psychiatric. Katherine didn’t want to think about it. She certainly wasn’t a doctor. Her doctorate meant nothing; she’d never healed anyone. She’d never healed a human psyche. Wasn’t that what a psychologist was supposed to do? The world was full of lies, and the biggest ones were the lies that people told themselves. Lies of survival. Even Prayer lied to herself. She pretended that her friend Maya Kistori was a prophet, and worse, that Akin was only a harmless dream.
A horrible coldness started to creep through Katherine.
She didn’t know why this was happening, but it was bigger than she’d previously thought. She’d been a fool to think she could hide it from Locus, and to think that Interregnum wasn’t overshadowing the whole sorry affair.
Interregnum; no one really discussed them for fear of being compromised. But even Locus were afraid of them and they were an organisation not easily threatened. Interregnum was a deeply covert private company, with ample resources, connected to almost every intelligence agency in the West. There were no references to them in any corporate literature or military-intelligence documents, yet their reach was incredibly substantial. Nobody with a ‘Glass-Darkly SCI’ clearance genuinely doubted their existence, and rarely would anyone with any common sense refer to them by the term ‘Interregnum’.
Unofficially, Locus Point was involved in above-classified quantum research. In actuality they were an elite seeker-cell for the Ministry of Defence, what insiders affectionately called ‘ghost-ops’, with close bonds to the highest reaches of MI5 and MI6, also to CIA and NSA in the United States. They had brushed up against Interregnum before. Co-operative Intelligence was a vast web of ambiguities, denials and counter-denials, crimes and counter-crimes. Nowhere did this feel more true than in the realm of illegal quantum research, where the veil of the real was pierced at the expense of innocent blood. She began to worry that she might make herself sick just thinking about it.
Interregnum was usually called one of a host of other names that were often littered through conspiracy literature, but for Katherine Reece they only ever had one name. It was Latin, translated it meant ‘Inter Regent’. Between Rule. It was a fitting name, she supposed. Men liked to play. Rebecca Cole was a prize to them, she was certain of that. A uniquely powerful prize. Prayer was perhaps one of a kind. If she failed to find her, in effect if she failed on Locus Point’s behalf, then Interregnum would step in.
And that would be a whole other level of madness.
“I should’ve done more to help her,” she murmured gravely to herself, realising she sounded defeated. She downed the last of her drink, slipped the MP3 into her bag and left the pub.

Back at the hotel, Katherine had a long shower then dressed in a bathrobe and stood on the balcony with a cigarette. Was it just her imagination or did the night seem darker than usual? She laughed at herself, staring out over a section of Wells Gate strung with the orange jewels of streetlights. She was asking herself the same old questions. She knew the answers but she didn’t want to deal with their implications. She couldn’t afford to start thinking like an intelligent schoolgirl; clever but virginal to the maddening ways in which she would learn to deface herself.
Courage kills.
She laughed again. She had taken a kind of dark pleasure in all of this. It was funny how she had efficiently short-changed all her dreams, carefully hollowing herself, making everything void.
I’ve given up, haven’t I? Given up on what pushed me in the direction of psychology in the first place? Psychology…Christ, how the hell did I become like them, like those sad hand-jobs? It used to mean everything to me.
It was the writings of Carl Jung that lit a fire inside her from about the age of fourteen. In her youth, Jung had struck her as a kind of cautious modern mystic, clothed in the academia of science but with an almost prophetic sensibility and a revolutionary’s heart. After that she spent endless hours reading depth psychology, renaissance poetry, reading the neo-mysticism of Meister Eckhart, Teilhard de Chardin and a dozen others. Had age now beaten that inspired romance from her? She supposed so. It was a disturbing thought.
After leaving Oxford, she remembered trying to juggle her police training at Hendon with her research papers, and how she begged everyone and anyone for grants and loans. CID came later, and then Special Branch, and she felt guided, afraid. She never let her poise slip but it was a nightmare; struggling to appear competent, and then going home and crying to Bobby about how she was in way over her head.
Slowly, very slowly, she hammered out their respect through sheer hard work and insightful perception. It also helped that she was an attractive redhead that looked sexy in a suit, it made it easier for her peers to finally elevate her to the status of legend. Katherine smiled tightly at the thought.
In the Army she matured. In fact she had slowly grown cold and surgically efficient, all behind her still-smiling psychologist eyes. She saw things that horrified and excited her in equal measure. She was disturbed by the research that was being conducted. When Locus Point first approached her, Katherine immediately caught the scent of money and power. Even her superior officer knew nothing about them. Soon after that, the research grants fell into her lap with such ease, like pennies from heaven. Suddenly she had more money than she could believe. She elaborated on her project studying the psychological bonds between identical twins. She got half a dozen other projects off the ground, bringing in a few of her classmates from Oxford who were delighted and awed at the speed with which she’d progressed. They jokingly said it was due to her glorious hair, but she guessed they smelled the money too.
Locus opened her eyes in many ways, forcing her to reconsider her concepts of reality and possibility. She’d vaguely believed in spiritual things as a child, but in her teens a lot of that fell away when she realised how chaotic the world was. She had gone to church occasionally, a Methodist church with pretty windows, but her parents never really forced religion on her. They were far too humorous for that. Laughter filled her childhood years and she thought, unlike many girls her age, that her parents were the coolest people on the planet. Surrounded by such warmth and inspiration, she had no real need for ‘spirituality’.
But her experiences at Locus Point changed all her opinions. Katherine smiled and pulled on her cigarette, tossed it over the balcony and into the wind, went back into the hotel room and switched on the television. She was feeling a little drunk, and she had to report to ISAX in an hour.

She watched the Nine O Clock News. The breaking story was the Ensler psychiatric-unit. A photograph of a man in his forties; a mane of unruly grey hair like an ageing lion, wild eyes. The perfect picture of a dangerous killer. Even Hollywood couldn’t have done better. Katherine laughed. Some live footage; the whole site cordoned off by police, thronged by news vans and numerous members of a concerned public. It cut back to the newscaster, informing the viewers of an emergency hotline to ring if anyone had family working or housed at Ensler.
The number flashed up in the corner of the screen, then went back to a live feed of a Sky News reporter standing just outside the cordoned area. “David, what do we know so far?”
The reporter glanced behind him at the building and police, “Well, John, all we know so far is what they’ve told us; apparently this is a massive crime scene, many people appear to have been killed. Details are still sketchy. We’re not sure how this man Terry Gaines managed to escape from the Hopkins wing – the maximum security wing of the Ensler unit, or indeed how he managed to kill such a large number of people. There are some unconfirmed reports that he may have had a career in the military, possibly SAS, but I must stress that these are unconfirmed reports. Apparently he was physically a very powerful man, but as I say...”
The newscaster frowned like he cared. “But it’s confirmed that this man committed suicide on site? He doesn’t pose an immediate threat to someone else?”
“Yes. All the bodies, we’re told, have been taken to St Francis Hospital for examination. To my left is DCI William Harin, of Wells Gate Police, who has been on site since last night.”
The reporter turned to his left, and the DCI that Katherine spoke to last night came into shot. He looked frustrated and tired, near exhaustion.
“Thank you, David.”
“Chief Inspector, what can you tell us? Obviously this is a massive and thoroughly unexpected tragedy, and am I correct in saying that police here have been attempting to secure these patients since last night?”
The DCI nodded, “Yes, and we’re still gathering information. They have a number of patients housed here, and we’ve had to move many of them to other institutions across London, and this has obviously taken a lot of manpower. Due to the sensitive nature of this facility and the patients housed here, a military unit that deals with domestic security has been helping us to co-ordinate our efforts. Obviously, we want to understand how this man was able to commit these acts and bypass the excellent security here, so that something of this magnitude is never allowed to happen ag-”
Katherine clicked the remote at the screen. It faded to black.
She felt sickened, but that was no surprise.
They were going to wash this all away; blitz it in the media for a few weeks and then move on to the next big grotesque. It was a tried and tested method that never failed. People would sit at their screens and pages with horrified interest, until the media didn’t cover it anymore, and then they would forget, or at least ignore. They would concern themselves again with football, and celebrities, and perhaps, occasionally, that continuing razzle-dazzle in the Middle East.
All except the families of those that had been slaughtered. The families that would be sold a cold hard lie, instead of the cold hard truth. Those families would go to their graves believing the lie. Terry Gaines would be despised and reviled for a long time; anger and pain simmering at this man they had never known. What about Gaines’s family? In an instant, Locus Point had destroyed their lives. It wouldn’t matter now who Terry Gaines really was, though he was ex-SAS; no doubt with a history of mental health problems owing to hellish raids, too little sleep and the death of too many friends.
It only mattered now who the public perceived him to be. Hell, maybe they would make a film about him. It’d definitely make millions. Sean would’ve appreciated something like that.
Katherine laughed coldly, disturbed at how calm she was.
None of this was news to her.

She dressed and left the hotel, driving from Wells Gate through the rest of South London and across the Thames, up towards Regents Park. The traffic was bad and so she chain-smoked and listened to the radio. She still felt a little drunk and knew she shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car.
She thought about Sean again, and whether she should call Robert – her ex-husband. He would call on Sean’s birthday, his voice inevitably filled with tears. She knew it was a ritual for him now. Katherine had never once called Robert, in the two years following their son’s death. She thought maybe she should break her stony resistance to it; at the very least make she and Robert’s yearly conversation her ritual as well. She doubted she had the strength to do that. No, she would wait for him to pick up the phone.

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