Serial Saturday: The Stolen Man. Episode 1-3

And so it continues. Poor Troy (or is it Troy?)

Miss an earlier episode? (S.M. Table of Contents)

The Beginning: episode 1-3.

You enjoyed the caramel macchiato more than you would have expected given the circumstances. When you entered the Starbucks, breathless and confused, you weren’t sure why you were there or whether you were going to get anything to drink, but as soon as the barista asked, the answer had come immediately without thought. Drinking it had been almost like remembering, almost but not quite. It felt right, you liked it. Whoever you were, you liked it.

Tap, tap.

You had ordered a bran muffin too, which also felt right to order, but not to eat, and it sits untouched next to the half empty cup.

Tap, tap.

Now, though your drink is cold and you have lost any interest in drinking the rest. You have no idea what’s  next. Back to Sunnyvale?

Tap, tap.

You frown at the older gentlemen at a table to your right. He’s been reading the newspaper and tapping that stupid coin since the moment you came in. Except it isn’t a coin. You  spent a few minutes when you first sat, trying to determine by sound what kind of coin it was and  decided that it was no coin you’d ever heard before. It only mildly surprised you that you were so conversant with coin sounds. After all, if you were a banker, you probably heard those sounds every day.

Tap, tap.

More surprising was whatever strange maneuver you’d used to get you away from those guys at Sunnyvale. and  how easily you’d been taken in by Helen, if that was even her name.

Tap, clink, roll.

And there she is: Helen, walking in the door right now. You jump up from your table, but as you move towards the door, Helen blocks your way. You easily sidestep her and she doesn’t resist, but she does say,

“Your coat.”

Looking back, you see that you left your jacket draped over the chair. The older gentlemen is bent down just behind your coat, retrieving his coin.

“Let me explain.”  says Helen.  You look back incredulously at her.

“We tried that already.”

You glance towards the man again, he’s back at his table, head still buried in his paper, now tossing the coin and easily catching it without looking. Something about him is annoying you.

You look back at Helen. She’s turned to grab your coat from the chair and hands it to you.

As you reach to grab it, she holds on to it just long enough to say,

“Caramel macchiato, double shot, but half-drunk.”

You take the jacket, and turn to go. Sighing you turn back, frustrated,

“Ok. How’d you know?”

“It’s not all I know.”

“I didn’t even know what I was going to order. I didn’t even know I was going to come here.”

“I did, and I know you’ve ordered that stupid muffin again. The one you can’t stand, but feel like you have to order for reasons beyond me.”

She sits down in front of the coin tossing man, and watches you. You don’t sit but you don’t leave either.

“I understand you don’t trust me, but you need to know what’s going on. I know that too, Troy, you need to know. You always need to know.”

You hesitate. Glancing over at the man behind her, you are tempted to ask, “heads or tails?” as he continues to toss that stupid coin, head still buried in his paper.

“I just want to explain” she continues, ” I’ll tell you everything I know.”

As she knew you would, you sit down across from her with a sigh of resignation. What else can you do? She’s right. You need to know, and she’s the closest to answers you’ve come.

“I haven’t been entirely honest with you.”

“No kidding.”

Helen nods and continues, “Remember when I said we’d been here before?”

You just glare, which is apparently answer enough for Helen.

“Right. Of course you do. Well, I meant it. We’ve been in this exact same situation before. Just like this. You woke up and remembered nothing of me, of your life. Dr. Sexton said it was a defense against the stress of a life you couldn’t deal with. Powerful men with their millions, maybe billions, I don’t even know, depend on you. They entrust you with the things most valuable to them and you make them happy. Maybe that’s the stress of it. That and things with us. That and…”

Helen pauses. Her eyes shift uncomfortably to the table. She takes a deep shaky breath and looking back up continues.

“Anyway, you had some kind of break. Just like now, you remembered nothing. You began seeing Dr. Sexton. You saw him for a month refusing to accept your life. You kept claiming someone had stolen your life, stolen you. Then one day, you woke up and it was like the month had never happened. You remembered everything except that month. It was like it never happened. That was about five months ago.”

She is looking so earnestly at you now; it’s your turn to shift your gaze. That man is still tossing his stupid coin. You frown.

Helen leans over, seeking to get your attention again, but speaking softer, “Troy. I don’t know why it started again.”

You look back at her, determined to be determined. “You’re really good. But not this time. See, I remember. I remember the building, and I’ve seen the building. I’m not imagining it. I saw the building and I saw the men.”

“What are you talking about? Sunnyvale?”

“Yeah, Sunnyvale. You didn’t think I’d recognize it, but I did. Something didn’t quite work. You stole my life, but the new life you engineered for me didn’t take, so you took me back there to finish the job. That was no bank and you know it.”

“No, you’re right Troy. Sunnyvale’s not a bank. It’s a mental health center.”

“Euphemisms. I remember the machine, Helen. I remember hallway 76. I remember the machine and I remember the two men who hooked me up and interrogated me. They did this to me and no matter how much sympathy you pretend, you took me back to them. ”

She’s pleading, or maybe just whining now, her words spilling out in a rush, “Troy, It’s a mental health facility. It’s where you spent the month with Dr. Sexton. What you’re remembering must be the treatment, not the cause. They helped you, Troy. They brought you back. They can help you again. I knew you wouldn’t go willingly, so I took you. Please, just talk with Dr. Sexton. He can help you again. He’s a good man.”

“It seems to me you’ve forgotten your part, Helen, dear. You’re supposed to be the scorned woman. What do you care if I come back or not?”

Helen sighs. “Honestly, Troy. earlier today I was ready to give up, even with… well even with what we once had, I was ready to give up. There was no way I could do this again. But in the car, the things you said. It’s been a long time… maybe… I don’t know. Just come back with me and talk to Dr. Sexton. If he can’t convince you, I won’t force anything.”

“I can’t Helen. You don’t get it, I remember. They wanted me to forget, you wanted me to forget. But, I remember the interrogation. I remember the weird rooms on Hallway 76. I remember the diamond room and a door with that symbol” – (you suddenly remember what that black and white swirl is called)- “Yin-Yang.”

Helen’s eyes take on new focus.

“Wait, what? Diamond Room?”

“Right, I remember, so…”

Helen doesn’t seem concerned. Why doesn’t she seem concerned? She is starting to look excited instead. That can’t be good.

“Troy, you’re right you do remember. But not like you think. Troy, the “interrogation” was therapy. Last week, we went out, for real. It was like before, when it was good. We were celebrating… well, anyway, it was a rare moment. That must be why it stuck in your head.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Yin-Yang–that’s the circle with the black and white swirls in it right?”

“Yeah.”

“I know that because you told me. You told me on that night. You told me because you gave me this.”

Helen pulls on a chain lifting a necklace  which has been hanging down behind her shirt. It’s half a Yin-Yang pendant.

“I gave you that?” You are trying to sound sarcastic but it’s coming out curious.

“Yeah, Troy, you did. You had the other half. And you know where we were on that night? You were really trying, I’ll give you that. Went all out. Took me to a very fancy place. A kind of millionaires club. Some perk you got from a real millionaire.”

“Look, Helen, is this going anywhere?”

“The Diamond Room, Troy! That’s the restaurant where you took me. It’s called the Diamond Room. And that’s where you gave me this pendant. Don’t you see? You’re confusing the events in your head. I mean, think about what you’re saying: that two men hooked you up to some crazy machine and brainwashed you. A mysterious hall 76 with doors and symbols. And for what, Troy? You’re just a banker. Why would anyone do this to you? Isn’t it possible, that what I’m saying is true? And if you have the slightest doubt, don’t you owe it to us to find out?

The flash, the vision comes more softly this time, like it’s overlaid on the scene you are in, less jarring and disorienting.

You are still sitting, but not in the coffee shop, but not in the diamond machine. No weird machine at all. Six is here, but he’s speaking calmly not yelling.

Who are you? He is asking reasonably, like he’s helping you remember.

“No, that can’t be right.” you say out loud.

But it could be couldn’t it?   You can’t tell if she’s telling the truth and that’s extremely troubling.

“Can’t it be, Troy? Couldn’t it be?”

Helen places her hand on yours. It’s warm. It feels good and you leave it.

“Will you just come with me to Sunnyvale and talk with someone, please? Even if you’re right, you need the truth and where else are you going to find it?”

Slam!

Helen jumps. She’s as surprised as you are by the sound. The elderly man is leaving, his back to you. He looks vaguely familiar, which today is saying something.

You eyes drop to the table the man left. The coin. He slammed it on the table.

You walk over to it. You pick it up. Your head is hurting again. What can this even mean? It has to mean something, doesn’t it?

Without saying anything, feeling dizzy but alert enough to hide your actions from Helen, just in case, you deftly palm the object which was not a coin. Turning to Helen, you pocket it while studying the pendant hanging from her neck.  No doubt about it the one in your pocket is the other half.  The one you are supposed to have.

And the man who left it was Seven.

(Click here for episode 1-4)

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