I can't believe I'm doing this again. All I want to do is run as far and as fast away
from here, away from Cascade as I can. Instead, I wait patiently for Harris to open the
door and let me through to see Chapel.
Warren looks please to see me. "Back so soon, Cassie? You'll spoil me."
I'm not in the mood to play his games today. I get straight to the point. "There was another killing last night. You still going to tell me you did it?"
Chapel looks thoughtful. "Well, let's see. By now you've checked on O'Doyle's loafers. Didn't you just love the tassels? So you tell me." He comes to stand a few inches away from me.
This time I hold my ground. "Will there be more?"
A knife-like smile crawls across his face. "Oh, yes, Cassie. There will be."
"Who?" I demand.
He wags a finger at me. "That would be too easy. The fun's all in the game, Cassie, in you trying to figure out what's going to happen next. Let's just say it will be those who have managed to elude justice. So, I have my work cut out for me, don't I?"
Damn it, he's getting off on this, and I'm getting nowhere. Wonder what would happen if I choose not to play? "You know what I think? I think you enjoy this too much. I think you'll tell me because you'll miss these little conversations of ours. When you're ready to talk, have someone come and get me." Turning my back on him, I start to leave.
"Oh by the way, Cassie," he calls after me, "I still hold you responsible for my incarceration. Someday we'll have to reconcile that, hmm?"
I manage to make it back through the gate before the memory hits me. Glint of steel, flash of light, then pain and terror. Cold, dead eyes staring down at me as the gun is lifted again .
I find myself leaning against the wall of the corridor, breathing like I've just run ten miles. Get a grip, Cassie. Ignore him and do the job. Throwing off the images with a shudder, I square my shoulders and go to meet Jim and Blair.
By the time I reach the monitor room, I've managed to pull myself back together somewhat. Shaking my arms to try and release any lingering tension, I paste a smile on my face and go through the door. "Sorry, you guys. I thought I'd get him to say more."
Blair immediately jumps up from his seat and moves to stand at my side in silent support.
"Are you all right?" Jim asks.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. Why?"
"He threatened you."
The protective note in Jim's voice surprises me. I shrug off Chapel's words. "Oh that's just his way of playing. You know, he thinks it'll keep me off balance."
Jim's brow furrows, then he turns to Dr. Burke. "Any chance he's getting off the grounds somehow?"
Burke shakes his head. "No. It's impossible. Security's way too tight. Even if he did get out, why would he come back?"
Blair speaks up. "What about on the outside? He could be pulling strings from in here."
Again Burke denies any possibility his security might be faulty. "No, no. I don't know how he'd be doing it."
"Well, he's doing something, that's for sure," Jim says, his folded arms betraying his frustration. "And he's going to continue to do it until we stop him. I need to get somebody close to him."
There's a moment of silence, then Blair says, "I could do it."
Cassie hauls me bodily into the empty break room at the station and closes the door.
"You cannot do this, Blair," she says vehemently.
"Cassie, look, I can do this. I'm the only one who can do this. You know that."
Shaking her head, she paces away from me. "No. It's too dangerous."
I follow her. "I'll be perfectly safe. You heard the arrangements we made with Dr. Burke. I'll be fine."
"No " she says again, her voice breaking.
Putting a hand on her shoulder, I turn her around to face me. What I see in her eyes shocks me. She's terrified, and damn near tears.
"Please, Blair, don't do this. You don't know Chapel. He'll hurt you and if he thinks you're connected in any way to me, he'll kill you."
"Jesus," I breathe. "No wonder you've been so upset lately. Why in the hell is he so obsessed with you?"
"Because he blames me for his arrest. I was working the case and got too close. He tried to kill me, and damn near succeeded. If the detectives hunting him hadn't showed up then, I'd be dead." She blinks and a tear slides down her cheek.
When I put my arms around her, she leans into me, hugging me tightly. "Please, Blair, please, don't do this. Find another way."
"There is no other way, you know that. If we want to stop Chapel, we have to catch him in the act."
Her hold on me increases, and her cheek presses against mine. "Blair oh, god I don't want to lose you," she whispers in my ear. She pulls back to look at me. "I haven't cared this much for anyone in not since not since before Chapel shot me. I'm just now starting to get back to who I was, to enjoying the world again. I don't want to lose the best thing that's happened me in a long time."
Me she's talking about me I'm her 'best thing.' Despite the tension of the moment, I feel ten feet tall. Brushing away the wetness on her cheek, I kiss her softly. "It'll be okay, Cassie. I promise. I can do this."
She nods slowly, knowing Chapel has to be stopped, but not liking it one bit.
"No way. Absolutely not, Jim," Simon snaps after I've outlined our plan to
"Come on, Simon," Blair complains, "why do you always say that? Why is that always your first reaction?"
"Three reasons, Sandburg: One, you're not a cop. Two, you're not a cop. Three, you're not a cop."
Sandburg gives me his soulful look. "Jim, come on, help me out here, man. Talk to him--one cop to another cop."
I sigh. I don't like the idea any more than the captain does, but I've been around and around the problem and I just don't see any other way. Even I have to admit that there's no way in hell I could pass myself off as a Conover patient. "Simon, I've given it a lot of consideration. I just think you should hear him out, please."
Simon leans back in his chair, resting his elbows on the arms and steepling his fingers. "All right, Sandburg, you got one shot. You better make it convincing."
Blair stands up a little taller. "Okay. When I was an undergraduate, I did a paper on the social structure in institutions to see if the same sort of pecking orders that exist in our society find their way into the microcosmic societies in prisons and mental institutions. Anyway, I spent a semester working nights at Conover. I know the facility. I'm familiar with the case studies and the therapeutic practices."
"So what are you saying, you want to go in as a staff worker?"
Blair shakes his head. "No, as a patient. It's the only way I'm gonna get close to Chapel. He won't let his guard down unless he thinks I'm mentally ill."
The captain rolls his eyes. "You being mentally ill is the only part of this that's believable."
I put in another plug. "Now, I'm not crazy about it, but the kid has proved himself to be pretty damn resourceful. I think it's worth a shot."
Simon shakes his head. "Jim, there has got to be another cop somewhere in this damn city with enough experience to pull this off."
"It can't be a cop," Cassie speaks up from her position by the window. I don't know what she and Sandburg talked about before they came in here, but she looks rougher than she did after playing Chapel's games back at Conover. "Chapel will know; it's instinctive. He will smell a cop, and he will kill him."
Blair looks over at her and something unspoken passes between them. "I'll be fine, all right? My door's going to be unlocked. I'm gonna have access to the whole place. There are video surveillance cameras all over. I'm gonna be fine. I can do it."
Somehow I get the feeling he's trying to convince himself, as well as us. Reluctantly, Simon gives his approval.
I'm working late in the lab, trying to get my mind off Blair, and the stupid, stupid
plan we agreed to. I should have supported Simon earlier, for Blair's own safety. There's
a creak behind me and I startle, whirling around and scrabbling at the table for anything
I can use as a weapon. When I realize it's only the sound of the door opening as Jim
enters, I chuckle weakly. "Scare a girl, why don't you?"
He gives me a searching look, then says, "Sorry but I wanted to talk to you about something." He leans against one of the counters and crosses his legs at the ankles, folding his arms across his chest. Whatever it is, I can already see he's not going to be receptive to my side of the story. "I put a call in to the San Francisco police department to do some background checking on our friend Chapel, and I found out he tried to kill you. I'm wondering why you didn't tell me."
Reaching behind me, I grip the edge of the table for support. "Because it wasn't relevant."
"I need to know these things. Sandburg is risking his life here," he says forcefully.
A shudder of dread runs through me. "Don't you think I know that? I told Blair Chapel tried to kill me, tried to tell him why he shouldn't do this, but he convinced me there was no other way, the same way he won over you and Captain Banks. I care about Blair. You think I want him in there with that psycho?"
"Cassie, Cassie, please, calm down, I'm not blaming you. I just need to know what happened between you and Chapel in San Francisco. "
"God " I scrub my hands over my face, then push my hair back. "I had gone back to one of the old crime scenes, to see if there was something I missed. I was walking down the hallway, and this guy came out of a door. For some reason I just felt I knew him, that I'd seen him before. He stared right back at me, like he knew me, too, knew I was with the cops."
Our eyes meet for just a moment, but that's enough for each of us to know the other for what we are and I know he is evil. A flash of metal catches my eye, and I dive to the side. Pain explodes in my shoulder and I scream .
"Cassie? You okay?"
Jim's in my face, looking down at me, his expression concerned. Great, now he's probably thinking I'm the one that needs the stay in the loony bin. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. I saw the reflection off of his gun, and I moved. He got me in the shoulder."
"Why didn't he finish the job?"
I can't hold his gaze. "He was going to. But someone had tipped the cops working the case that he was there. They caught him standing over me and he ran. When he finally ran out of ammo, he surrendered."
"Is there more?"
How in the hell can he know I'm holding something back? Sighing, I answer, "Yeah. I think he was stalking me. I didn't then, but he said something to me on my first visit to Conover that made me think he was. Who knows? But in his own psychotic way, Chapel blamed me for getting him arrested. If he was following me, it was his own damn fault. Anyway, after I got out of the hospital, I decided to take a leave of absence, get my head together. I finally went back to work but there were too many memories, and when I got a chance to leave San Francisco, start over someplace new, I took it. I thought I'd finally gotten him out of my head. Ironic, isn't it, that I move to get away from him, and end up right where he is." I shiver. "Maybe it's a good idea if I stay out of this from here on. Somebody else might get hurt." I send a silent plea out for it not to be Blair. I don't know if I could handle him getting hurt again because of me.
Jim nods slowly, then rests his hand for a moment on my shoulder as he starts to leave. "You want to know what I think?"
I raise an eyebrow at him.
"We're pretty damn lucky to have you."
"Thanks," I call after him, but even rare praise from him can't completely erase my self-doubt.
I stand outside the therapy room, psyching myself up. I can do this. I can do this.
But fear flutters in my stomach despite my self-encouragement. Cassie's terror has rubbed
off on me. Doesn't help any that it seems like she's been avoiding me ever since I came up
with this hare-brained idea. It's almost like she expects me to get into trouble and she's
pushing me away to protect herself. Detach with love
like my mom says. Can't say I
haven't done it a time or two myself. Hurts, though. I could have used some moral support
from her, but I understand, or so I tell myself.
The guard opens the door, and I'm on. Dr. Burke looks up at my entrance. "We have a new member of our group here today. Everybody, this is Blair Sandburg. Why don't you have a seat there, Blair, next to Warren?"
Okay, this was not what I meant when I talked about getting close to Chapel. But it's the nearest vacant seat. I walk over to stand beside it, eyeing it suspiciously. "Is it clean? The chair. I have to know if it's clean because, uh sometimes, uh staphylococcus bacteria lives in upholstery and I have to know if it's clean or not."
Burke looks a little startled, but plays along. "I-I think the chair's okay. No one's ever gotten infected."
I give him, and the chair, my best dubious look. "Okay." Reaching into the pocket of the hospital issue scrubs I'm wearing, I pull out a handkerchief and carefully unfold it. "I'm going to put this down just in case." I place it on the seat. "It's nothing personal, of course." I sit down, taking care not to touch the chair's arms.
Burke waits until I'm settled, then he picks up where he left off. "Great. Okay, we were just discussing anger. Perhaps you'd like to contribute?"
I'm a little startled by the request, but ad-lib. "Mm-hmm. Okay." I laugh nervously. "Um, well, anger has nothing to do with it. Yeah, um mad has nothing to do with it. Nothing." I settle back in the chair, figuring that's cryptic enough.
One of the other inmates, a large black man a few seats down from me, leans in my direction, staring. "Mad has nothing to do with what?"
It takes me a moment, but I realize he's talking to me. I say the first thing that pops into my head. "Getting what I'm entitled to."
"Perhaps you could explain," Burke says.
Great. Now what? "Um, you see, uh..to enjoy the good life, to, uh, enjoy the material wealth that was promised me."
The doctor looks as confused as I feel. "Who promised you, Blair?"
"Uh well, that'd be my higher power, you see." Great, now I'm turning myself into a schizophrenic. "Yeah. You see, I have a covenant with her and she tells me what I can take, when I can take it, and from whom I can take it."
For some reason, that seems to upset the patient who spoke before. "Oh..yeah," he sneers in a disbelieving voice. "That's right. Your higher power. He's got a higher power!"
"Reggie," Burke begins, but Reggie cuts him off.
Leaping to his feet, he yells, "That only talks to him!"
"Reggie, calm down "
Reggie takes a step toward me, continuing to yell. "Doesn't talk to anybody else! Like he's something special. Like he got some personal membership to the higher power club!"
Burke stands up and comes between Reggie and me. "Reggie! Enough."
All the fight seems to go out of the patient then. "I was just I was just making a point. I was just making a point." Meekly, he returns to his seat.
He might be calm, but I'm not. My heart is racing, and it's all I can do to keep an impassive expression on my face. I can see Chapel looking at me out of the corner of my eye.
Burke's getting Reggie settled, saying, "We appreciate your insight. Why don't we let someone else comment?" He retakes his seat. "Warren. What do you think about all this?"
Chapel says quietly, "I don't know. If the man says he has a higher power that tells him things to do I guess it's true." Slowly he turns his head toward me, his cold, flat gaze going right through me. "Why would he lie?"
Swallowing nervously, I look away, running my fingers over my lips, trying to hide my fear. Why did I let myself talk everyone into this?