Saturday, 2 October 2010

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Deacon was afraid, she’d seen it in his eyes. That didn’t matter. All that mattered was finding this ‘Prayer’, this communion with something that the girl had now become.
Angelina Rose was listening to the recording on headphones, sitting in the back of a moving black Saab, gloved hands in her lap.
“…friendship, Katherine? You want to be my friend? Listen, I only have one friend. What you’re talking about is trust. At the end of the day who do you trust, doctor? Not the people you work for, right? And not what they create on TV and in the newspapers. You think because I’m locked in here that I don’t know what manipulation is? We both do. So you could never be my friend. You need to see a psychologist, Katherine…”
The sound of Prayer’s quiet giggles. Miss Rose smiled.
“…You know what the word ‘Maya’ means? It can mean ‘Illusion’. I see faces in rainbows, but people would say that the synapses in my temporal lobes are misfiring. I’d say the world is a landscape of living symbols, entirely metaphorical…they’d say I’m schizophrenic…psychotic. I talk about love and they say I have no conscience.”
There was a brief hissing silence on the tape.
“…You know the only thing I’m grateful for? That you gave me access to the library. If I had no books I’d be dead. You would’ve killed me, you and your kind. I learned to read from a very young age; I only had to let my eyes skim the words but I understood it all. I felt it, even when the books were full of big word, that I shouldn’t have known. Somehow I knew it intuitively. Being able to read; it’s the one thing for which I thank Akin every day. Now, Dr Reece, if you can learn to read, then you’ll know all you need to about friendship. All your sins will fall away. I know you can hear me. Everything you fear, all your secret hatred and shame; it all falls away…”
Angelina Rose switched off the digital player and pulled the headphones from her ears. Prayer’s voice was full of echoed storms, soft and suspiciously throaty. She sounded high on the vision of her soul. Did she ever think she’d be free of the groups that deified her? She doubted that Prayer was unaware of her own nature. One of a scattered sisterhood; singularly powerful, yet also a deeper spiral consciousness like the others. She was certain that Prayer could sense their existence.
Magic; it’s what little girls were made of.
The black Saab was moving smoothly. The driver glanced at her in the rear-view mirror and said, “We’re coming up, Miss Rose.”
It was raining and the sky was still grey. There were half a dozen television news vans outside St Francis Hospital – BBC, SKY, Channel 4. Reporters milling around, moving cameras in the drizzle. They cruised the path up to where Army soldiers dressed in fatigues had set up a temporary gate, rolling up alongside the security booth. She flashed an NSA identity card at one of the soldiers who stared awe-struck, wondering briefly if the ID was real. It was, but she wasn’t technically an operative of that agency.
“NSA? Shit. I mean, we knew there were Americans around, but…”
“How agitated are the civilians?” The guard shrugged and she laughed. “Just make the call, soldier.”
He picked up the phone, spoke to someone and then hurried from the booth, flicking a switch and opening the gate for her. “My apologies ma’am.”
As they pulled up towards the car park she spotted three Army trucks. She frowned, thinking how brazen it all was, and how powerful Interregnum truly were. She supposed it was because soon it might not matter at all about plausible deniability. Soon it might not matter about anything.
She spoke to a soldier in the waiting area, who directed her to a series of offices in the east wing of the third floor. In the elevator she pulled off leather gloves. As the doors opened she was greeted by another armed soldier, who stared a moment too long at her albino-like complexion. “Uh, Miss Rose?”
“Where’s Corporal John Haddon?”
He gestured down the hallway, still watching her. As she walked away she glanced back at him, giving him a pink-eyed stare. He looked perturbed at the sight of her. Most people did. She followed the corridor across to the east wing, rounded the corner and saw a guy in his early fifties. He was dressed in a shirt and tie loosened at the collar, looking more like a handsome university lecturer than a military man. He was standing outside a locked office door, smoking a cigarette.
“Corporal,” she nodded. “How many on site?”
He gave her a blank stare. “You never told me about this woman.”
“Meaning what?”
He pulled deliberately on his cigarette, eyeing her. “One of the boys had an epileptic seizure on the floor of that room, Miss Rose. Right in front of this woman. The others are afraid to go in there, they think she’s a witch…” He stared pointedly at her. “…and frankly I don’t blame them.”
Miss Rose shrugged, “Smart boys.”
“We had to give her a shot of sedative. She was screaming like a bloody demon.” The Corporal continued his unequivocal stare, smoking his cigarette. “What are we doing here? This unit should be in Surrey for a training exercise right now. What is this?”
A smile touched her lips. “This is the current location of the Hotel California – what goes around comes around.”
The Corporal didn’t seem amused. “Is that a joke?”
“Yes, that’s a joke.”
“It’s very funny.”
She smiled. “It’s funny if you’re me.” She brushed past him and stepped into the room, closing the door behind her.
The office was large, with blinds and a black desk. A brown leather couch stood in the corner by the wall. There was an Indian woman lying asleep on it, using a soldier’s camouflage jacket as a modest blanket. Maya Kistori. Miss Rose watched her, moving across to the couch and kneeling. The Indian woman’s eyelids trembled rapidly. She was deep in some emotional dream. This was the woman that Rebecca Cole had loved. The woman she called a prophet on the recordings that Dr Reece had done.
Miss Rose closed her eyes. She touched Maya Kistori’s cheek. For a moment her pale white hand seemed to change, taking on the caramel brown of the Indian woman’s skin, seeping up her fingers and across the back of her hand. Miss Rose pulled away. Her hand quickly paled to its ashen white again. She opened her eyes and stared at the Indian woman.
“Not strong enough,” she muttered. “I’d burn it up in a few months, Maya. Sweet as you are.” Maya Kistori stirred as Miss Rose leaned forward and kissed her, bleaching her cheek for a moment.
“I knew it’d have to be the girl. I’m sorry for all this, just so you know. Not that you’d ever believe it. And why should you?”
She climbed to her feet and left the office. Outside, Corporal Haddon was smoking the same cigarette. “She’s sleeping like the dead,” she told him. “Did you learn anything?”
He nodded, picking up a file from a chair in the hallway. He handed it to her.
“Give me the gist of it.”
He blew a thin stream of smoke. “She said that the gods are always watching.” He laughed and then coughed on his cigarette. “She said that we’re all power-seeking whores, and that we’ll die bleeding on the altar of meaninglessness that we’ve created for the world. Can’t argue with that, can you?”
Miss Rose opened the file, glancing at its pages. “She has two children…?”
“A boy and a girl.”
She began to chuckle, “And the bodies?”
“The bodies were shipped this morning to a secure location and incinerated. We’ll have St Francis back on line by tomorrow morning.”
“Excellent,” she told him.
She laughed at that and left him smoking his cigarette. She found an empty office down the corridor and ducked inside, removing her cell phone from a coat pocket. She speed-dialled a number.
“It’s Angel. How’s your wrist?”
“It hurts like a bastard. But I think I’ll live.”
“Forget Dr Reece for the moment,” she told him. “I’ve got an address. And two names. It’s probable that Cole will try to contact them there.”
“Let me just get a pen….okay, go ahead.”
She glanced from the windows at the relentless grey sky, the rain.
“Jobe and Serima Vesson – brother and sister. The address is 30 Abbey House, Castor Estate, Cromwell Road, Wells Gate. You got that?” She heard him laugh.
“Abbey House? Are you serious?”
“He laughed again, “I think you just brightened up my whole day.”
“Wonderful, Carl. Have you got the address?”
“Yeah, I’ve got it.”
“I’ll send you an interesting e-mail in a few minutes.” She paused and then said, “Just you, okay? And don’t hurt them.”
“You said Rebecca Cole might be there…”
“Might be. Check it out first. If she is there, signal the extraction team. The coil is ready and in Jack’s possession. You’re on point, they’re rearguard.”
She could hear a smile in his voice. “It’s done.” The line went dead. Miss Rose pressed the cell phone to her lips. She was excited. She was sure the girl would be the one. She was sure of it.


Robert had given her the keys to the Audi without any questions. He had given her a brief kiss on the cheek, and Katherine had known it was a goodbye kiss. He recoiled even as his lips touched her skin. He’d whispered in her ear, I don’t ever want to see you again, then he climbed into the other car beside his pregnant wife. Isabelle gave Katherine the darkest glance as their car reversed from the driveway. She watched them disappear down the tree-lined road, her heart heavier that she ever thought possible. Now, behind the wheel of her ex-husband’s Audi, Katherine drove feeling like a helpless pawn. She felt like a minor character in a novel; only half real, inconsequential except for the purpose she would be used to achieve. It was a horrible sensation inside her like an oily chest-cold.
Like she had lost everything.
She didn’t want it like this. He would hate her forever, and that hatred would only fuel his love for Isabelle and his new daughter. She’d been hoping somehow she and Bobby would work it all out, that he would cast aside his new marriage and return to her once all the scars had healed.
She’d hoped to continue lying to the only man she ever really loved.
She couldn’t think about that right now, but she didn’t know where to begin. All she knew distinctly was that she had to find Prayer. Maybe she could find some way of helping her, atoning for what she had let happen to the girl in the first place. She didn’t know how she was going to do that, she couldn’t really think clearly, but she knew it was the only possible card to play. Somehow she had to find a way to roll the dice, one last time.
She knew the connection had to be Maya Kistori; a woman who’s name had come up frequently in Cole’s sessions. Katherine also remembered glancing at the Ensler files with the DCI on the way to the ambulance crash site, two nights ago. The doctor had scrawled something like, Cole believes herself to share a psychic connection with Kistori; a shared delusion confirmed by Kistori’s own beliefs. Under mutual staff agreement, Cole and the older woman have been forcibly separated.
The connection had to be the woman. Prayer mentioned her many times during their sessions. There was no way to know where Containment had taken her. The logical place was St Francis Hospital, where they had taken the bodies from the Ensler unit. St Francis was currently under military guard. Katherine would most likely be shot on sight.
An even deeper fear began to creep through her, making her shoulders tense. The fear that Prayer had some insane and spectacular plan, encouraged by the entity that she referred to as Akin. The imaginary friend who seemed for no particular reason to wear the face of Katherine’s dead son. She grimaced behind the wheel.
Was it because she had been the girl’s psychologist, and this thing simply wanted to taunt her for it, to wreck her emotionally with something it knew she couldn’t handle? Had it, in fact, chosen its face with her in mind and not for Prayer? There was more at work than Katherine could see right now, but she knew it was there. She knew. The agent in the car park. Interregnum.
The fact that today was Sean’s birthday.
Connected somehow. She didn’t doubt that everything was connected.

While she drove into Wells Gate it was raining the whole time. She parked the car behind a pub and walked round to the front entrance, shaking the rain from her trench coat. The place was big; not many patrons, just a few old men, smoking and watching a football match. She glanced at the big screen. 2-1 to Chelsea.
She ordered a Jack Daniel’s & Coke and found an empty corner booth right at the back. She took a trembling sip of the drink, lit a cigarette and began searching the old mindiscs in her rucksack. Her hands were shaking slightly and she struggled to calm them.
“Shhhhh…” she murmured to soothe herself.
One of the discs was labelled ‘COLE- 18 / 7 / 05 -VIVID APOCALYPSE NARRATIVES’. She had a vague memory of Prayer talking about Maya Kistori on this particular disc. She slipped it into the old player and put the headphones in her ears.
“…if I could? Do you see why? It’s a corruption of soul, all of it, and yet it is soul. These shifts, they draw things together but they blow them apart too…”
Katherine hit the fast-forward button for a few moments.
“…genesis myths, apocalypse myths; it’s all the same…you think I don’t realise that? It changes nothing, consciousness is a part of physical reality…”
She hit fast-forward again.
“…could listen to me! I’m not the only one, Maya’s seen it too! She felt the reality of these things long before I was even a glimmer in Victor’s eye. Do you understand? None of this is new, Katherine, it’s all happened before, all of it…”
She pressed her thumb to the button and held it for a good thirty seconds.
“…on Cromwell Road. She loves them. They’re afraid to see her. That’s where responsibility can leave you, Kathy. I’ve seen what she’s seen. She was kind enough to share it with me. These two have seen. They’re not the only ones. I’m not the only one…soon enough we’ll find one another…”
Katherine hit the rewind button for a few seconds, knowing she’d caught something.
“…about children! You know? Like Sean! Yeah, like my beautiful little prince. She’d rather have killed them herself than let them face it alone…She has two; a boy and a girl. She says they live here in Wells Gate, not far from St Francis, in a flat on Cromwell Road. She loves them. They’re afraid to see her. That’s where responsibility can leave you, Kathy…”
Katherine hit the stop button. “Jesus Christ…”
Behind the pub, in the car, she found a London A-Z in the glove compartment. She’d left her drink untouched. She would bet her life that Prayer would go there. It had been staring her in the face the whole time.
Christ, she could be there now. Anyone could be there. Wesley had managed to copy her discs. Interregnum had access to the same recordings that she did. These kids could already be dead. She realised with morbid certainty that she’d simply wasted her time going to Robert. They couldn’t have cared less about him.
“Oh shit…shit…”
Katherine quickly started the engine and pulled out from behind the pub.

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