The Stolen Man, Victory Episode 6-4
(S.M. Table of Contents)
“I told you?”
“No one else.”
“Gladly, Rockefeller. It was after you subjected yourself to the machine.”
“After? But how can that be? I remember everything after, and I didn’t know Dan was trying to kill me.
“Well, yeah. It was after for me, but before for you.”
Lorelei does this to you. Has as long as you’ve known her (how ever long that is, you still aren’t sure.). Makes your head spin, makes you feel dizzy. It’s not because she’s lying. That would be easy. It’s because she tells the truth but in ways that make no sense to you. You say it again, falling back into a long used habit of keeping your own words short and commanding to cover your confusion, “Explain.”
“Yeah, I’m trying. It was an envelope, an assignment, from you, obviously sent before the machine. You knew you would need help but wouldn’t be able to ask for it, on account of you being split into two. Although I don’t think you anticipated that. Anyway, the envelope had two pictures a very simple set of instructions. Protect this man (with a picture of you) from this man( a picture of Dan.)”
“But why would Dan want to kill me? He’s only been helping me.”
“I suspect it has something to do with your own homicidal urges towards him.”
“My…What? I wanted to kill him.”
“You sure did. Right up until the moment you decided to turn the machine on yourself. In fact, that was what you first approached me about.”
“I asked you to kill Dan?”
“Yep, and it surprised me too. It’s not usually your style. You saw erasing people’s lives and reprogramming them as a virtuous substitute to actually erasing them, if you get my meaning. From what I gathered you saw yourself as saving lives, by rewriting them, instead of actually just snuffing them out. And yet, occasionally stealing someone’s life was just not possible, due to time, or some other circumstance. On these occasions, you left the clean up to someone else. Usually the same person. Someone who was willing to let you continue to pretend, even to yourself, that you didn’t know what was really happening. But I guess when it came to Dan, you couldn’t very well use your usual clean up agent, could you?”
What is she talking about? Did you really hire her to kill Dan? and not the first time you’ve hired a killer? Were you really involved in contract killings, in “clean up?” Is it possible you really didn’t know? Finally you settled on the simplest, least abstract and most recent question.
“Who did I normally hire to do this…clean up… and why couldn’t I use that person in this case?” You realize the answer even as he walks in the door behind Lorelei and you and she answer at the same time,
Dan smiles at you, “That’s right ol chum. I told you I cleaned up messes around here. When your erasure’s didn’t work or you needed a little more direct solution, that’s what I was for. You and me, we were partners. Between the two of us we erased many lives.”
“No. That can’t be. I wouldn’t do that.”
Dan sneers, not at all a pleasant look, “Oh sure. You just rob them of their memories, their lives, their families, but you don’t take lives. Give me a break, friend.” Somehow the word friend comes out sounding nasty, definitely hostile.
“I do that to save lives. Why would I want to kill the people we’re protecting?”
“Your head is still swiss cheese my friend. Still remembering only what you want to remember. Our major client was not deep cover operatives. Sure it might have been at the beginning, but increasingly less so. Our major clients were not people who wanted to forget, but who paid us to make someone else forget. Sure some were criminals, some were just inconvenient to someone with a lot of money.”
“That can’t be right.” But as a chill settle over you you know it is. Still you protest, “I didn’t know.” That’s mostly true you realize. Sort of.
“It’s pretty funny, my friend, that you who has the ability to detect lies, to never forget what you hear, suddenly find’s it convenient to stop asking questions when you suspect you won’t like the answers. Questions like, who our clients are, what they do. Questions like what happens to people when their assignment is passed on to me. All you had to do was ask, but somehow, with all your curiosity and ability, those are questions you never asked. Plausible deniability, I believe people in your field call it.”
As you listen you’ve somehow moved around behind the doctors…no YOUR desk, and now you sit heavily down in the chair. (Dr. Sexton is gone, you notice. Perhaps you no longer need him, as you’re remembering more.)
“Don’t get me wrong, “ Dan continues, “I was fine with our arrangement. You carefully protecting your innocence, me handling the dirty work without guilt. We were even friends, barbecues on memorial day, bowling on Thursday kind of friends. But then you suddenly decided to start asking questions.” Dan moves forward menacingly, his face twisted in a horrible spiteful expression. Lorelei, you notice has stepped back, placing herself somewhat behind Dan, her hand in her pocket, covering him you suspect. Still on the job. She looks at you and you shake your head quickly. No killing. Not until you understand…and maybe not then. Giving such an order. It still seems hard to fathom.
Dan continues as he moves towards you, “You interrogating me! Me, who had done all your dirty work for you, taken the bruises and the numbing work, left you to cling to an illusion of morality and dignity, while I wallowed in the mud, for you! You strapped me into that stupid machine, interrogating me with your brutal soul-stripping approach. Accusing, manipulating, torturing me, trying to get a confession.”
Lorelei, from behind Dan, speaks, maybe just to remind him she still stands there, “He discovered what you were doing? He started asking the questions he avoided?”
Dan laughs jeeringly, “Oh no. Still not that. He was still too cowardly to face that. No, this was a different stupid idea he had.”
Ever since he mentioned barbecues, you’ve remembered, and although you still can’t imagine ordering his death, you begin to possibly see why you might have wanted to hurt him, badly.
It was little things. Things at Barbecues, dinners, any time the three of you were together. Lies you’d heard in Helen who had never lied to you before. Lies in Dan who lied to you a lot but suddenly about different things. Captured moments when you’d walk in on the two of them standing just a shade too close, perhaps whispering even; responding awkwardly when you’d come in the room.
Dan had been having an affair with Helen.