I thought that, at the very least, Tanya would be supportive of my decision not to encourage Reena’s feelings by spending one-on-one time together. What I didn’t expect was for her to start laughing, so much so that I hung up on her, something I had never done before. It rankled that she didn’t seem to grasp how I felt. I had the impression everything was piling up, from the dreams to the cops meddling to Reena’s supposed crush on me. The wound on my heart was being piled up with salt, and Talya’s laugh had ground it right in.
I had always known that on many facets, Talya was stronger than me; she compensated my weaknesses, and I compensated hers. But this was the first time it felt like a barrier between up rather than something that bonded us together. We usually fed off each other’s strengths; this time, her strength seemed to sap out the little I had left.
I shook the thoughts out of my head; they didn’t serve any purpose. This was one of my particular strengths, and I decided to make good use of it. I chose to focus on my work and soon got myself into an efficient rhythm; it allowed me to get more work done in three hours that I had been able to accomplish all week-end.
All in all, it was a great beginning to the afternoon. I had the house to myself and the dining room where I had set myself up was bathed in sunlight; the only sounds were that of my keyboard and my favorite songs blasting from the computer’s speakers.
The crick in my neck didn’t get to me, but the phone’s ringing did. Thinking it might be Talya, my heart leapt; I still felt bad for hanging up on her.
“Sorry to bother you Sean,” Jeffrey said.
I squelched the disappointment. “It’s not a problem. How may I help you?”
“Do you have a minute for me to drop by? I’m in the neighborhood, and I need to talk to you.”
Why did he need to talk to me in person? Why couldn’t he do it on the phone? “Of course,” I calmly said, refusing to give any hint as to my true state of mind.
He was there a mere couple of minutes later.
“Come in,” I said, taking his coat and ushering him into the kitchen.
I had already taken out cake and plates; I took out cutlery while going through the usual preliminary civilities.
“I just wanted to make sure you were OK,” Jeffrey said as he watched me pour him some tea.
“Yesterday; the attitude of the two officers who interviewed you and Talya mustn’t have been the easiest thing to bear.”
Wait a second; Talya told me her interview had gone well. If Jeffrey was apologizing for both sets of interviewers, it meant… I swallowed the heavy sigh that was rising in my chest. “They were just doing their job,” I said, still maintaining an outward calm I was far from feeling.
“You’re being nice, and I appreciate that,” Jeffrey said “But I know they were pretty harsh. After all, your story does sound pretty incredible. Until they have had the time to examine the evidence and see you sleep walking for themselves, they probably are not going to believe you enough to use the data you provide us with.”
Great. Not only was I going through hell, but apparently, it was for nothing. “I can understand that they would want proof as to the validity of my claims,” I said, “but to be dismissed out of hand is pretty hard to swallow.”
He nodded. “I agree. But, and again, I’m only saying this to keep things clear, since you are probably going to work closely with law enforcement for a very long time… Well, you can come off as a little unsettling.”
“What do you mean?”
Jeffrey fiddled with his mug. It was clear he had spent a lot of time thinking about what he was going to say to me. “You did seem a little detached when you were talking about some of the things you had seen. The jokes were a little odd for the guys to hear when the situation is so dire. And your attitude was flippant. We are trained to identify inconsistencies, and your reaction seemed pretty inconsistent to the events happening in your life.”
I could understand he wanted to defend his colleagues; and I was certain that, at the end of the day, they were good people. But it was just too much. “Thank you for coming here to tell me this, Jeffrey,” I said, intending to keep this short and sweet. “I understand your colleagues’ reaction; I wouldn’t have expected anything less from a good cop. After all, like you said it yourself, this is a pretty incredible story.” So much for short and sweet; but there was too much going on that it just spilt over. “But there are some comments I really didn’t appreciate. I know I might sound flippant or callous and uncaring when I talk about crimes, especially when I talk about those I ‘saw’ in dreams, it doesn’t mean I don’t care. Unfortunately, it’s the most effective defence mechanism I have yet to find. Alongside an increased penchant for black humour, this emotional detachment allows me to remain functional. The first dream I had, the one in the jungle of West Africa, affected me like no case study ever had before – and I have had some rough ones. The clarity of the dream, the horrific details and the brutality – all of which I had theorized about in the safety of seminars and classrooms before – had been painted vividly for me. You guys are trained for this; you see crime scenes, but only after the crimes have been committed. I’m there during the actual act, and until one witnessed such an act, one can’t understand at the level that I now do. I had my second dream a very short time later, and it also broke me into a thousand pieces. As the frequency of the dreams increased and I realised that they were here to stay, I had to quickly build a ramshackle defence mechanism or risk losing my sanity. Hence the rather crude but efficient detachment and cynicism.”
Jeffrey had patiently listened to me, and, as I stopped to catch my breath, he took advantage to get a word in. “You don’t need to defend yourself to me or anyone else, Sean. What you are going through has got to be hard, even if you are working in criminal psychology. You’re right; we only see the aftermaths of a crime and it’s already hard enough. I can’t begin to imagine what seeing a crime while it is being committed must be like. I just wanted to warn you to play it a little differently when you are talking to people who don’t believe you yet, just to make sure they don’t drag their feet on this.”
I watched him for a couple of second, then blurted out a question that had been floating in my head for the last couple of days. “Why are you helping me?”
“Excuse me?” he said, clearly surprised.
“You believe me. It only took you one sleepwalking experience to convince you. It took me six months to accept what was happening to me and channel it in a more positive way; it took you two days. Why?”
Although he was very good at hiding it, I could tell that Jeffrey seemed a little uncomfortable by the very brief tightening of his fingers on the mug. “I was taught at a young age to keep an open mind, that the most obvious answer is often the best one, even if it seems incredible.”
“You would have gotten along with Fox Mulder,” I mumbled.
Jeffrey chuckled. “Absolutely. I mean, if it all fits, every single bit, doesn’t it make sense to at least give it a try?”
I shook my head. “It’s not enough. I’m sorry, but I can’t believe that someone with your reputation, who was the youngest investigator in his precinct and who has the highest ratio of solved to unsolved crimes…” My voice trailed off as a thought hit me.
“It’s because I take risks without losing my head,” Jeffrey said.
“Or,” I slowly said, “it’s because you yourself have some kind of ability that helps you achieve this amazing ration.”
Jeffrey grinned at me. “I don’t sleepwalk, Sean, if that’s what you’re asking. I’m happy to leave that to you.”
But I didn’t take the bait; it seemed like such a logical answer, the one that, because we didn’t believe in the paranormal, we wouldn’t immediately turn to, but the one that was the simplest. “You have an ability,” I said. It was a statement, not a question.
“No, I don’t,” Jeffrey said.
I only stared at him.
Jeffrey sighed. “I’m sorry I gave you the wrong impression Sean, but I don’t have an ability. I do believe that the potential for abilities is within everyone, but that we have a ways to go before we can tap into them. You are one of the lucky ones. Maybe you are more advanced in the evolutionary process,” that’s not what Talya would say, but I liked where he was going with this, “or maybe you accidentally tapped into your latent potentiality. Whatever the case, I have spent a lot of time looking into everything, the timelines, your alibis, the crimes, everything – and I have no reason to believe there is any foul play involved. Don’t get me wrong – I am, and always will be, on the look-out for foul play, just in case, but until then, I refuse to let go of a potential link directly into crimes that have been committed, a link that will help put away countless criminals who have ruined the lives of families in this city.”
His passion and vehemence convinced me where his sincerity hadn’t; at that very moment, I trusted Jeffrey like (almost) no one else.
“Sean Derek Baynes, I have a bone to pick with you,” Talya called out even before she had fully stepped into the house. Speaking of the devil.
Jeffrey’s eyebrow rose. “I see I’m not the only one you’ve been busy irking today.”
I shrugged. “It’s Olympics season. I’m practicing. Hello, honey,” I said to Talya. “Look who has come by for a visit.”
“Good afternoon, Jeffrey,” Talya said, immediately switching for irate wife to charming hostess. “What a pleasant surprise.”
Jeffrey stood up to greet her, then took a step back. “Actually, I was on my way out. I have a meeting in a few minutes that I’d like to invite Sean to.”
“What kind of meeting?” I asked.
“The precinct has decided to assign a special team to work with you on this entire thing,” Jeffrey said, pushing his chair back under the table. “I’m the head of this team, thankfully, and have only chosen the most open minded men and women on the force to work with. If you are available, I’d like you to come meet them now.”
I swallowed heavily and, before having the chance to change my mind nodded. “You don’t mind, Talya?”
“Not at all. When should I be expecting you home?”
“The meeting shouldn’t take more than two hours,” Jeffrey said, “and only because I’d like them to hear the story directly from you.”
She probably felt how nervous I was because Talya gave me a huge hug at the door. “Don’t ever hang up on me again,” she whispered in my ear.
“Don’t ever make light of something important to me again,” I whispered in hers.
“Deal,” she said.
“Deal,” I repeated with a smile.
I left the house with a bounce in my step.