“He came to see me again last night. The man with no face.” Her voice was low and shaky. One hand automatically slipped to her left side. She wanted to feel the soothing touch of her weapon. It added a measure of safety, but her 9mm was missing. It was out at the reception desk, locked in a drawer. Guns were forbidden in here. God knows how many death threats he’d had from the crazies he counseled. However, Bobby Beckett didn’t fit into the category of a crazy or did she?
Was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder a permanent form of madness, or was it temporary? She recalled the talk about Vietnam veterans who’d been stricken either during active duty or after their return home. Some were still living in institutions, while others functioned but were barely holding on. That war, or police action, or whatever the hell it was had been full of horrors on a 24/7 basis. Singapore slings—booby traps set up by the enemy—shot out of trees and severed them in half. Well-hidden land mines shattered bodies, or took legs and delivered souvenirs of shock and disbelief. Women and children strapped with explosives approached the troops and blew up nearly entire units.
While the trauma of dealing with Micah Travis hardly compared, it was bad enough, taking her back to her original question: was this permanent or temporary? Maybe she’d call that doc from the hospital who’d warned them—Dan, August, and herself—months ago that this might happen. See what his opinion was. She sighed and felt pains lacing her chest. “Soon as I drifted off, he was there, waiting for me. And again, his face was gone. Missing.”
“Did he catch you this time?”
“No. I escaped. I ran through the rooms of his home. Saw the bodies. Decomposing. Some with that pasty, cardboard look that comes when their flesh is gone.”
“Decomposition, you know,” she said, staring at him. She was able to see his face as outlined by daylight fighting the restraints of a closed set of blinds. The image was unnerving; he was unnerving, mainly because this strange man was utilizing what he’d learned from Bobby as part of his intended cure. She stiffened.
Both sets of white, vertical blinds covering the windows were closed. A desk lamp sat on his desk but he hadn’t turned it on. The atmosphere in the room, although not dark, was dreary. She felt uncomfortable. And yet, the blame for the lack of illumination went right back to Bobby; to something she’d told him in the beginning when the sessions started. She’d mentioned that darkness still frightened her. Odd creatures hid in the shadows cast by it, on the streets; your home. Waiting for a chance to strike. Due to her confession he wanted her to deal with that fear, to face it head on.
Now he was doing everything in his power to mimic the effects of complete darkness but his effort wasn’t successful. The sun was still out and some of it filtered in despite the closed blinds. Perhaps if these sessions were held at night…
Oh, God. She shuddered.
When he continued to gaze at her wordlessly, she raised her head to match that gaze. And nearly fainted. The smile masking that face was Micah’s. He was leering while silently uttering threats of death, torture. However, Micah’s lips didn’t move. So the words promising several forms of demented torture were locked inside of her mind, in the deepest recesses of her subconscious and she tried holding them back, but Micah was stronger. He’d transcended death and now lived inside of Bobby Beckett, fouling her thoughts with descriptions of his heinous handiwork. She wanted to scream but held on. She dropped her head because she could no longer bear to look at the shrink and see Micah reflected in his gaze.
“What else did you see in the dream?” he asked.
“Knick-knacks. Jars filled with knick-knacks. Body parts floating in preservatives. A few heads. But not in jars. This time he’d stuffed them with sand, shrunk them down to fist size like the headhunters in a jungle. I remember the floors and walls were still lined with plastic. It was slippery from body fluids leaking from the corpses. I kept loosing my balance. But he didn’t. He was sure footed.” Like a mountain goat scaling cliffs she wanted to add, yet held back.
“Describe him. The man with no face.”
“Fuck,” she raged, facing him head on. “I’ve done it dozens of times. You really have to hear it again?”
He nodded. Smiled. She took it as a condescending grin and suddenly understood the death threats against him. As the shrink’s smile held, the words inside of her—Micah’s words—were even more threatening, obscene. Micah was painting pictures with those words of his need for August and his longing to feel her body pressed against his in the throes of passion. He wanted to reduce August to the status of a cold, unyielding corpse with a removable leg and then make love to her. In death, August would be more desirable. Bobby tried shaking herself free of the endless, psychotic diatribe but Micah held firm. He was fighting to dominate what little was left of Bobby’s nerves.
“I asked you to describe him—the man with no face. His height, weight—”
“Medium, medium, medium,” she answered with her eyes shut. “His shoe size—everything; medium.” Why was he making her remember when she’d come here to forget? She needed to get out of there.
“It’s late,” she said, pushing a dial on the side of her watch, illuminating the face. Lopez had the same watch. He wore it everyday until Micah cut his throat. “There’s no time left!” she raged. Besides, in describing Micah he’d become more vivid in her mind and he’d chase her again through her dreams. Maybe catch her this time. She glanced at the nondescript man in the brown suit sitting casually slumped in a chair facing her from behind his desk. She often felt the desk was a barrier meant to protect him from the crazies. He was still smiling, urging her on with that smile. It was meant to appear kindly. She saw it as another condescending grin. She was undergoing intensive therapy. She was one of his patients. A crazy.
And he looked like Micah Travis. Was wearing his face. He was a crazy, as well. And he wouldn’t let go. He kept beating at her with his endlessly nonsensical questions.
“We have a few minutes. Tell me, the man in your dreams, why does it frighten you that his face is missing?”
Because you’re wearing it, she wanted to scream.
Instead, she sucked in heavily, exhaled noisily. “Because face or no face, I sensed the rage in him. The lunacy. The determination to kill me. Only not fast. Never fast. He tortures, mutilates. This time the dream went on a different path. I didn’t run down the same hall, enter the same bedroom and wake up. This time I ran into the room where he did his victims. It was a cold, dank place with concrete walls and a table laden with instruments of torture.”
“Would you describe those instruments?”
“I don’t think so.” Rising abruptly, she glanced at her watch again. “Time’s up.” He started to respond but she stopped him. “August is waiting outside. Don’t want to keep her.”
“You’re still staying with her? In the Village?”
“No. I have my own place. But we hang out a lot. It’s safer that way. For both of us.” She started to huff out but there was one last point to make, even if it meant insulting this egotistical bastard of a doctor. “Next time I come I want the lights on. All of them.”
“Why does that bother you so much, Bobby? That the lights are off.”
“It just does, OK!”
“According to you, the discomforts you experience in darkened rooms—the heart palpitations, the tremors in your body—these are all connected to Micah Travis. Correct?” He waited for an answer but none came. He continued on. “Until you’re willing to explore the truth the lights stay off.”
“Whatever! August is waiting.”