night.blind: 01.4.1: 07 December 2004: Raederle
Trish sighed and hung her jacket on the nail by the door, then
headed for the corner where her clay sat on the table, waiting
for her. She smiled slightly. It had taken her three
long years to get the equipment she needed--three years of living
in the cheapest, tiniest, most run-down slum of a studio apartment
she had been able to find in New York City, working at a job that,
half the time, didn't even pay the rent. She was lucky her
landlord had taken a liking to her sketches. He had even
gone so far as to buy her some nicer paper and sketching pencils
so she could enlarge a particular portrait she had done for him.
Now, at last, she had a kiln; it was a cheap kiln, but it was
fuel efficient, and it kept the place warm, and it did its job
just as it should. The next piece of equipment on her list
was a potter's wheel.
08 December 2004: Raederle Clay.
She settled on her stool and unwrapped the piece she was working
on. It was a coil-constructed pitcher, the base of which
was five inches in diameter. It would flare out to about
seven inches at a height of nine inches or so, then narrow to
an oval about five inches by three inches, with one side of
the oval flaring as a spout and the other side narrowing and
forming a handle. The total height would be about fifteen
inches. Trish had drawn up a sketch of it two nights before.
She was close to the nine-inch mark after six hours of work;
she didn't have to work the next day, so she planned to finish
it tonight. She already had a mental sketch of another
piece she wanted to build next.
As she settled into the rhythm of rolling, placing, and welding
the coils onto the vessel, she considered her day. She
worked in the psychiatric ward of the hospital, mostly delivering
food to the rooms and making sure everyone took their medicines.
Today had been a particularly bad day for one of the patients.
He kept insisting that someone was rummaging around in his memories,
even though he had taken his medicines. The staff had
ended up having to give the patient a sedative to calm him down,
and then they had put him in a room where he couldn't hurt himself
on anything until he stabilized. She had heard of a talent
straight out of science fiction that could allow a person to
read another's thoughts and look through their memories, and
outwardly, Trish condemned as such a fiction; inwardly, however,
she suspected otherwise. Besides, she had asked herself
hundreds of times, isn't my ability to heal small hurts without
medicines and medical treatment something right out of fantasy
She had always been able to minimize small injuries--paper cuts,
scrapes, and so on--by looking at them and imagining them to
not be there; she had never tried it on anyone else, and
she kept telling herself over and over that it was only that
she was a fast healer. But that did not explain why, if
she caused someone else pain, she felt like someone had broken
a board over her head. The doctors had called them "sporadic,
unpredictable migraines," but she wondered.
Several hours later, she recalled her attention to the delicate
matter of constructing the spout and handle, and, once she was
finished, carefully placed the piece on a shelf near the kiln
to dry. Drawing out a piece of paper, she scrawled her
next idea onto the paper. It would be a compartmentalized
box with locking lids, ideal for keeping jewelry. She
wasn't sure why she wanted to make a box that could contain
jewelry, since she never wore any herself, but she supposed
that someone would want one. If only she could find that
The next morning, Trish rose early, cringing as her feet came
down on the icy floor, cold despite the residual heat from the
kiln. There was an advantage to a cold floor, though--it
woke her up. After getting dressed for the day and tugging
on a pair of shoes, she checked the pieces in that were cooling
in the kiln after their glaze fire. So far, she could only
afford a milky, transparent glaze; it wasn't much, but it made
the pieces watertight, and most of them required that. If
she wanted any designs at all, she had to use hot wax to keep
the glaze off, and when it burned off in the heat of the kiln,
it left black scars behind, which contrasted nicely with the pale
white of the glaze and the grocery-bag brown of the fully fired
clay. The pieces she had finished firing overnight were
just cool enough to handle, and she quickly unloaded the pieces.
She let them cool for another half-hour while she ate and gathered
up her carbon sketches and her pencils and sketchbooks, then wrapped
them carefully in old newspapers before cautiously stacking them
in a box to carry out with her.
20 December 2004: Raederle Clay.
It was awkward carrying a very heavy box and her shoulder-bag
portfolio, but somehow she managed the seven blocks to the spot
in Central Park that she had picked out to try to sell her wares.
She couldn't afford a car in the big city. The other two
times she had tried hawking her pieces in the Park, she had
taken a folding table with her to set up her wares on, but with
the box of ceramics, she couldn't carry everything, so instead,
Trish had improvised makeshift easels out of kindling and brought
a hefty amount of clay, and had stuffed those and a blanket
in her backpack.
She stepped off the sidewalk onto the grass and set her burdens
Laying the blanket out on the grass, she made lumps of clay,
which she stuck the "back" of the easels into, then clipped
her carbon artwork to the the easels. It wasn't perfect,
but it worked well enough. Next, she interspersed her
ceramic pieces among the drawings.
She knew it did not very professional, but it was the best she
could do for the time being.
A dozen different people slowed their paces as they passed,
scanning the pieces on display, but only one stopped during
the morning. He was young, probably still in high school,
or maybe a college freshman, and he lingered over a piece she
had drawn during one of her previous visits, a drawing of two
young lovers holding each other as they walked down the sidewalk,
oblivious to everything around them. However, instead
of the Park surrounding them, the background showed an argument
between the faceless couple on one side, but melding into an
image of a babe wrapped in a blanket. Finally, after almost
an hour of deliberation, the young man bought the piece.
Trish gave him a slight discount--though she did not tell him
so--after considering how long he agonized over buying the piece.
She felt that he was drawn to the picture because it represented
something similar in his life. Financially, she could
not afford to give him a discount on the piece; she needed the
money herself, but she consoled the frugal part of her by telling
herself that if she gave reasonable prices now, when more people
found out about her work, they would be willing to pay more
and she could raise her prices a bit. For this reason,
she did not put a visible price on her pieces.
As the morning melted into the early afternoon and lunch hour,
more people passed, but no others stopped. Trish admonished
herself to stay until dark, and settled down with her sketchbook
to work. She noticed an elderly woman seated on a bench
a few yards away, feeding pigeons. She began to sketch,
first drawing in the woman, the pigeons, and the park bench.
As she moved to work on the background, she found herself drawing
in an elderly man, barely visible next to the woman on the bench.
Next, a young boy in the background, to one side, but there
was a dark shadow that seems to hover over the boy, almost ominously;
it seemed as though the shadow had a purpose. On the other
side, she drew a table with a vase of irises and piece of knitting
that was almost finished.
After she finished the piece, she stared at it, then looked
at the woman again, and shook her head. She did not understand
how it was she could feel so much from her subjects; she kept
finding that there was more emotion in her pieces than she intended
when she settled down to do the sketches. Though it continued
to surprise her, she had decided that it was only her idealistic
nature that added the other images--they made each person a
little more unique.
That did not explain some of the pieces she had done earlier
on, late at night, in her apartment--those pieces frightened
her, such was the anguish and anger in them. She had brought
one of the less-terrifying pieces here today, but it was placed
near the back: a single portrait, completely shadowed
but for the eyes, angry, glowing points that would have been
red if she had colors to work in; she did not recognize
the face, what contours you could see of it in the shadows that
prevailed over its features.
As Trish worked on the portrait of the elderly woman, she scarcely
noticed the businessman who had settled on a park bench several
yards down the path to eat his lunch. After she finished
the portrait and wrapped it onto the cardboard backing with
protective plastic, she placed the piece on the now-empty easel
from the morning's sale. Not long after doing so, she
watched the businessman rise and amble toward her setup, ostensibly
killing time on his lunch break. He carried a briefcase
in his right hand. He compared the new portrait with the
elderly woman who was starting to climb slowly to her feet to
leave. He also studied several of the other pieces on
Trish greeted him with a reserved, but friendly, "Good afternoon,
sir." He smiled and nodded to her. After about ten
minutes, the man reached down and picked up the new portrait.
"I'll take this one," he said, looking composed. Trish
thought he seemed intrigued and somewhat excited by her pieces.
"All right," she replied genially, taking the piece and wrapping
it in a paper bag to protect it. "Are there any other
pieces you'd like?" she asked as she drew out her receipt book.
Given that the piece had only taken her ten minutes to complete
and that the fellow was clearly fairly well off, she decided
the $15 would be a fair price, and wrote that down on the receipt.
The man hemmed and hawed over the other pieces for a few moments
before pulling out a small money clip. "No, not today,
I don't believe. Perhaps another day. Is there some
way I can reach you if I decide I want something else?"
"Okay, that will be $15, please," Trish responded. "I
wish I had a card I could give you, but I'm afraid I'm a poor,
starving artist and I don't have any cards yet," she smiled
self-deprecatingly, "but I come down here about once a week,
every Friday. Here's my name, if you need to look me up."
She added her name to the top of the receipt and handed him
his copy, the piece, and his change.
The man smiled and took the items, then sauntered off, presumably
back to his office for the afternoon. Trish sat and waited
out the afternoon and early evening until dusk fell, but made
no more sales. At least it was a nice day, she
thought. She had made $25 that day, which would pay for
some materials for some other glazes. While she wasn't
thrilled with her take for the day, she wasn't disappointed,
either, as she gathered up her items and lugged them back to
her rickety apartment. When she got in, she loaded the
waiting greenware pieces into the kiln for their bisque fire,
and started the kiln up; that would keep her warm through the
Strangely exhausted, she collapsed happily into bed after setting
her alarm for work the next morning.
On Monday morning, Trish pulled out the bisque-ware from her kiln,
saddened when she discovered one of her boxes had broken apart
during the firing. But it hadn't damaged any of her other
projects, so she counted her blessings. She planned to take
the $25 she had made over the weekend to the potters' shop and
purchase a dark cobalt blue glaze she had been eyeing for some
time. After unloading the kiln, she tucked the money in
her wallet and left for work.
23 January 2005: Raederle Clay.
The patient that had been causing problems on the previous Thursday
had remained unstable all weekend. Trish had gotten stuck
with the duty of caring for him, since she seemed to be the
only nurse who could get into the room with him and administer
his medicines; he tried to attack everyone else, but he would
let her in and just sit in the corner and mutter to himself.
Her temples twinged every time she had to give him a shot, but
as soon as she was out of the room, the impending headache dissipated
as though it had never been.
When she slipped in this morning, he didn't seem to notice.
He was lying on the floor with his back to the door. Her
nose wrinkled at the unfamiliar smell that pervaded the room.
She cleared her throat loudly, and when she didn't get a reaction
out of the patient, she moved over to him cautiously, half expecting
him to jump up and make a run for the door. She knelt
down and took his arm to administer his medication, and screamed,
dropping the needle and backpedaling for the door, fumbling
for the key to let herself out of the room.
Her cry roused the other nurses in the hallway, who came running.
One of them opened the door, and Trish stumbled out, unseeing,
and leaned against the far wall, gasping for breath. Another
nurse went into the room and checked the man, and came back
out, calling for a gurney to take the body away. The patient's
doctor arrived and demanded an autopsy; it came back stating
that the man had died of a heart attack, cause unknown.
The working theory was that he had died of fright. Trish's
boss sent her home for the rest of the day, telling her that
she would get paid for the day.
It took a full half hour for Trish to feel steady enough to
walk home. A coworker offered her a ride, but she turned
him down, finally leaving on her own two feet. She slowly
wandered down to the ceramics store, where she purchased the
glaze she had been coveting. Thinking about her pottery
kept her mind off seeing the body. It was not the first
one she had ever seen; she had seen plenty coming and going
out of the emergency room in previous hospitals where she had
worked, but this was different in that it was someone she had
gotten to know, after a fashion.
Trish crept into her apartment, immediately mixing the glaze.
She settled into her seat, pulling out a pencil and sketching
on the side of the pitcher that waited to be glaze fired.
She scarcely saw what she was drawing. To one side of
the handle, a stretched, star-like figure, looking like a crucifix
without the cross. In the center, beneath the spout, a
throne with a figure sitting on it. To the other side,
a silhouette of a person, apparently pointing at the figure
on the throne. There were virtually no details as Trish
only had two colors. She painted on the glaze, the dark
blue in the images, and the semi-opaque white everywhere else.
She also used the cobalt for the inside of the pitcher.
As a decorative element, she painted on egyptian-style cats
around the base and lip of the pitcher, as well as down the
After applying the glaze to the pitcher, she shook herself,
finally taking a real look at the piece. She did not understand
where the inspiration for the sketch had come from, but she
often found that to be so. She turned to the various other
pieces, including the jewelry box, and dipped them creatively
in the glazes. One of her coworkers had been complaining
about not having anywhere to keep her jewelry, and her birthday
was coming up; Trish decided the box would make an excellent
A few hours later, she finished glazing the pieces, and loaded
them back in the kiln for the glaze fire. Weary, she sank
down on her bed after starting the kiln, finally curling up
and falling asleep, hoping the next day would not be as stressful
as this day had been.
The rest of Trish's work-week was not nearly as stressful, but
much busier. When her day off came, one of the other nurses
called in ill, and she had to work overtime to pick up the slack.
Because of this, she was unable to make a trip to Central Park
to try to sell her art pieces, and she worked double shifts for
the next three days.
17 February 2005: Raederle Clay.
However, she was not ungrateful for the overtime--they paid
her half-again her normal wage, which meant she'd be able to
make her rent this month and still have a little left over.
She considered going out to pick up another glaze, but decided
against that in favor of getting some more clay.
Trish passed the weekend in a haze of bed-pan cleaning, sheet-changing,
and drug-administration, coming home only to fall into her bed
in exhaustion. Tuesday was more or less normal; her boss
had given her leave to come in an hour later if she would stay
that extra hour at the end of her shift, so she was able to
get a little more sleep Monday night, and she returned to her
normal schedule on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, she realized she hadn't produced any new ceramic
or charcoal pieces to sell on the coming Friday. She tallied
up her inventory and decided she had enough pieces for her next
jaunt to the Park.
Wednesday and Thursday rolled by with nothing spectacular occuring,
either at work or at home. Friday morning, Trish woke
early, excited by the prospect of trekking down to the Park
with her pieces and possibly making some more money. This
had been a good month so far, and she was pleased. She
had bisque-fired a few platters and slab bowls with the intention
of taking them with her to sketch on, anticipating glazing the
sketches onto the pieces. She only had to unload them
and add them to the box she used to carry the ceramics and she
could get on down to the park.
As she struggled with the heavy, bulky box and her portfolio,
she decided that, instead of saving the extra money, she was
going to find a cheap cart to use to wheel her pieces the seven
blocks to the Park.
She hoped she could get a "retired" grocery cart from one of
the grocers in the area, which should be cheap enough that she'd
still have a little extra money to save.
Trish set up her "shop" much as she had two weeks before, strategically
interspersing the charcoal and ceramic pieces and using kindling
and lumps of clay for easels. After setting up, she noticed
the same old woman on the nearby bench, feeding the pigeons
again this week. She smiled and nodded cordially at the
woman as she settled down and pulled out a blank platter.
The weak early summer sunshine felt good on her back and head,
and she relaxed, noticing a rosebush nearby. Lazily, she
began sketching a rose in the center of the platter, and after
completing it, decided that she should make an entire set of
rose blossom plates; she even decided on making some cups to
match, but those would come during the week. She sketched
the blossom onto three blank plates and bowls, which gave her
a full set of bowls and plates and one serving platter.
By the time Trish finished the plates and bowls, it was nearly
noon, and working on dishes was making her hungry. She
grinned to herself, and reached toward her small pack where
her lunch was stored. She'd only been interrupted once
by someone who was looking at her rose blossom set and asked
how long it would be before they were finished; after she told
the woman, the latter purchased a charcoal piece with a similar
rose on it for eight dollars. As Trish dug through her
pack and pulled out a can of soda and a tunafish sandwich, she
had the idea of completing her dishes set with a matching set
of ceramic eating utensils; they would be tricky, but she was
confident in her skills.
After wolfing down the sandwich, she pulled out some fresh clay
and began pinching out the utensils, pausing now and again for
sips of soda. She carved the delicate blossom into the
ends of the handles rather than leaving them blank and glazing
the flower on--on a design that small, the glaze would run horribly.
As an afterthought, she also added a two-tined serving fork,
a broad serving spoon, and a deep gravy spoon. After mentally
pricing each piece individually, she guestimated that the total
would be worth about $100, but she doubted she could get that
price for the set, so she decided that if someone bought them
as a set, she would sell them the whole set for $75.
Pleased with her work, she sprawled backward against her pack.
She realized that she had subconsciously placed the odd pitcher
near the rear of the display, and decided that it wasn't as
horrible as her emotions at the time had made it seem, so she
rearranged her display, placing the pitcher as the centerpiece
instead. Finally, feeling drowsy, Trish laid back again
and people-watched, wondering absently if anyone else would
buy something from her. After several hours, she noticed
a man several benches down and realized that he had been there
for several hours. Mostly out of boredom, she plucked
up her sketchbook and started sketching him.
Once again, her hand took over and didn't give her mind any
say in what was going down on the paper. The final sketch
showed him sitting, but the bench had melted, leaving the impression
that the man was sitting on a nameless casino. Above the
casino, several faceless figures in business suits hovered,
one holding a folder as though shoving toward the man on the
bench. To the left and above the man, a bar scene materialized--several
tables, some with patrons, backed by a small stage with a piano
on it; a figure standing before the piano who appeared to be
two people, an older woman and a comparatively very young girl,
but the features of the two blurred together as to make each
one unrecognizable. The sidewalk before the casino ran
right, turning into a paved path like the one in the park, and
wound its way up through the bar scene and terminating at the
end of the folder the businessman held. A newspaper obscured
the man's face, so Trish couldn't get any facial details on
him, but she imagined him wearing a low hat or hood, and added
a fedora that shadowed his features, lowering the paper down
so it only obscured the lower half of his face. She smoothed
and darkened the man's shirt, giving it a glossy look, which
melded into the jeans that the man was actually wearing.
When she was done, Trish smiled at the portrait. It was
nowhere near as haunting as some of her other pieces, though
no less puzzling.
Slipping into a cheap plastic cover and paperboard frame, she
set it out with the others, placing it near the pitcher.
Finally, the end of the workday rolled around, and suddenly
there were dozens of people passing by her makeshift shop.
Several people slowed and looked over her work as they walked
by, but no one stopped.
After an hour of this, the number of people
dropped drastically, and it would be dark in a couple of hours.
With a slightly disappointed sigh, Trish began packing up her
pieces and replacing them in the box.
She had forgotten the man on the bench
as she hefted her things and began the awkward journey back
to her apartment.
After she staggered into her apartment, she gently set her pieces
down and turned toward the door to close it. Somewhere
above her, she heard raised voices, then a scream and thuds
coming down the stairs toward her door. As she reached
the door, something sprawled in front of it. Startled,
she stopped and stared for a long moment before she recognized
her landlord and rushed to administer first aid. She glanced
up the stairs a saw a young man who looked much like the landlord
rushing down the stairs; she guess he was her landlord's son.
She waved him in her door while telling
him to call 9-1-1 and that she was a nurse and could administer
first aid. It didn't take her long to realize that the
older man was dead of a broken neck, nor did it take long for
paramedics and police officers to arrive. The son claimed
he and his father were coming down the stairs to leave and the
old man tripped and fell.
The officers also spoke to Trish on the matter, and she reported
the raised voices she had heard, though she couldn't say for
certain if it might have been the landlord and his son.
They said they would look into it, and that she need not worry
about anything. She never got a chance to talk to the
son and find out who she would be paying rent to after this.
He didn't seem to want to have anything to do with her, so she
just shrugged it off that he might be blaming her for not saving
his father's life, even though there was nothing she could have
done. She was shaken by the occurence, although she had
not really known her landlord that well, but she decided to
turn in early and try to sleep it off.
* * *
On Tuesday, Trish came home to find movers at the place, taking
things out of the rest of her late landlord's house, whose basement
apartment she had been renting. She slipped past the boxes
and crates and down and turned the lock on her door, reading
a piece of paper tacked to the door. It read: "Eviction
Notice. You hearby have 48 hours to remove all your belongings.
Signed," and some illegible signature. Alarmed, she looked
about for the son and, spotting him, went to ask for the new
key. He looked at her disgustedly, relented a little and
told her she had to all of her things out by the next evening;
he had sold the place, and the new owners wanted the basement
apartment for their college-age son. He had been going
to dump all her things on the sidewalk and remove the eviction
notice if she hadn't shown up this evening; now he was going
to have to put up with her through the next day.
Trish thought to protest, but given the way he was treating
her, she decided that if she protested, he would probably throw
her and all her things out on the sidewalk right then and there.
Swallowing her protests and stifling a sigh, she turned back
to her apartment and called one of the other nurses at the hospital,
begging a place to stay for a week or two until she found a
new place. She began packing immediately, thankful for
once that she didn't own more than she did.
It took them two taxis, but they moved all of
her things in one trip, including the kiln, which, fortunately,
was cool enough to handle after the previous days' bisque- and
glaze-fires of her rose-blossom set.
She hardly slept that night, knowing that she'd be hard-pressed
to find another place to live where she could pay the rent from
month to month, and considered looking for another job.
She wondered if she'd be able to make it back out to the park
that Friday to try to sell more of her pieces.
27 April 2005: Raederle Clay.
Early Thursday afternoon, the nurses from downstairs escorted
a young girl, Michelle, in a wheelchair and her hysterical parents
up to Trish's floor. She was just about to come on duty,
reaching for her clock-in slip even as the nurses arrived, so,
of course, she was landed with dealing with the girl and her family,
even though it wasn't really her area of expertise. There
was no one else in the front office who COULD help right at that
moment, so Trish resigned herself and set the pitcher, which she
had brought to work because someone had expressed an interest
in more of her work, after seeing the jewelry box she had made
for one of her coworkers, on the counter, in full view of everyone
who came by, and asked the receptionist on duty to keep an eye
on it for her. The nurses from downstairs handed her the
family's medical files and the paperwork containing the current
Trish waved the family to the side of the lobby, to where there
were three chairs clustered together, and wheeled the girl over
herself before sitting down to talk to the family. She
skimmed today's paperwork on the girl, and noted that everything
seemed to point toward catatonia, except that the girl would
feed herself if presented with food. Trish started asking
the parents some basic questions
about the girl's state, and quickly discovered
that they had been waiting for hours in the Emergency Room lobby,
waiting for someone to help them; she apologized for asking
seemingly unimportant questions, but they were necessary, which
seemed to mollify the mother, if not the father, who continued
to insist that she was faking it. None of them noticed
that the girl, who was facing the counter, was staring fixedly
at the vase. Finally, one of the doctors came out, and
Trish told him what the girl's parents had told her, and the
doctor prescribed that they keep her for a few days for observation
and see what happened. He also informed them that they
shouldn't come to visit her until he told them to; since it
was possible, albeit unlikely, that it was something her parents
had done (or not done) that had caused this, the best thing
to do would to be remove everything that might remind her of
whatever had caused this for a couple of days to see if she
would come around. Signing the paperwork took only a matter
of seconds, and the doctor sent Trish to set the girl up in
Room 682, the room that two weeks previous had been vacated
by the patient who had died and scared Trish out of her wits--the
one who had complained of people rummaging around in his thoughts.
Trish grabbed the pitcher on the way by, and stopped briefly
at her locker on the way to the room.
She nearly screamed and dropped the pitcher when something grabbed
the hem of her scrub shirt, whirling to gape at the girl in
the wheelchair. "Michelle?" she gasped quietly.
The girl raised a finger to her lips, reaching up with the other
hand to touch the pitcher.
Trish quickly shut her locker and whisked the girl down to the
room, taking the pitcher with her. After closing the door,
she turned to the girl again, "So, was your father right and
this is all an act?"
Michelle shook her head mutely. After staring at the pitcher
for a moment, she held her hands out to see it, and Trish handed
it to her.
She turned it around and around, finally speaking, "Did you
"Yes, I did," Trish replied, a little acerbically.
"Do you see things in other people's heads, too?"
Trish was startled. That was not a question she had expected
to hear. Nevertheless, "No. I sometimes feel more
about a person than is obvious on the surface, and sometimes
I blank out and draw things like what's on that pitcher.
But no, I don't 'see things in other people's heads.'"
"I do," Michelle said simply, with the innocence of a child
who doesn't know better. "I saw something yesterday.
I didn't want to see it. He killed her."
Trish stood, silent, waiting for her to continue. When
she didn't, "Who did?"
"Daddy's friend Sam. He killed Julie."
Trish had no idea who Sam or Julie were.
"They were supposed to go to the lake. Sam told Daddy
that Julie never showed up and that she is not at home.
But she was at the lake. I saw it. I was in her
head because I was bored in class."
Trish flipped through the paperwork that was still in her hand,
waiting to be put in the pouch outside the door. Yes,
it did say that she had been in class, and the account said
she had screamed, scaring everyone else in the room, and since
that point she had been catatonic. "I see," she told Michelle,
a little absently while she skimmed the account.
"I DID!" the girl squalled. "Sam killed Julie at the lake."
At this point, another nurse stuck her head in, having heard
the girl's high-pitched voice, and Michelle fell silent, staring
blankly at a wall, but still clutching the pitcher. She
frowned at Trish, who sighed and slipped the pitcher out of
the girl's grasp, and left the room.
She told the other nurse what Michelle had said, and after staring
at her for a moment, the nurse started laughing hysterically.
"Well, let's give her a placebo then, and see if she won't come
around on her own."
Trish didn't think that would solve it, but she did as she was
told and cleared it with the girl's doctor, after telling him
the story and receiving the same reaction. Due to the
possibility of the parents having caused the problem, the police
had already been called, and when they arrived, Trish was just
leaving the girl's room after administering the placebo.
Because she had a more intimate knowledge of her condition than
her doctor did as yet, the officers were turned over to her.
She stifled a sigh and settled down with the officers to discuss
the girl's condition. She told them what the parents had
told her, gave them a summary of the account in the girl's paperwork
(due to privacy, she couldn't SHOW them the written account),
and finally told them what had passed between them in the room
after the girl's parents left. When she came to that part,
the officers exchanged a troubled look.
"Odd, that," one officer said. "A call came in this morning
about a girl named Julie who was missing. Her boyfriend
called it in. Said they were supposed to meet at a lake
upstate, and that she hadn't ever shown, and when he came back
and checked at her home, she wasn't there, either. He
called it in because he thought there might have been a car
accident or something. We're not the officers assigned
to that, though."
A chill ran through Trish at that. "Yes, that is odd,"
she answered noncommittally.
"I think we'd best report back, and send the investigator assigned
to that out to talk to you, and maybe to the girl if she's coherent
again when he gets here," the other officer said, his eyes narrowed
as he studied Trish. She didn't like the way he was looking
at her. The first officer agreed, and they rose and thanked
her for her time; the second officer seemed to have already
forgotten that he'd been staring at her.
She was startled to find she was shaking after they left.
She sat back down and put her head in her hands for a couple
of minutes before returning to her normal duties.
* * *
The next day, thankfully, was her day off. She was too
far away from the Park to walk to her normal place, so she had
to get a taxi instead. Inwardly, she still felt a little
guilty that she was doing this rather than looking for another
apartment, but her friend, Maria, told her that morning that
she was looking for a roommate anyway and would be happy to
have Trish live with her. So Trish taxied her things to
Central Park, as close to "her spot" as he could get her, and
she settled in for a potentially unsuccessful day. The
weather was fairly good, but there was a cold wind, and low
clouds scudded across the sky. Nothing promising rain
yet, but that could change over the course of the day, and that
sort of weather discouraged people going outside.
The old woman who was normally out feeding pigeons was not here
this week, but she scarcely noticed. She was too troubled
by yesterday's occurrences to pay much attention to anything
that wasn't right in front of her or directly affecting her.
The chilly wind encouraged her to sit and close off her peripheral
vision some as she huddled behind her setup and shivered, despite
the blanket and coat she wore.
She had brought her sketchbook, but no clay, after looking at
the weather this morning, and as cold as it was, she didn't
really think she'd be using her sketchbook in any case.
As she had figured, no one gave a second glance to her artwork
this week, though one older gentleman brought her a small cup
of soup from a nearby shop when he saw her sitting out there.
With a sigh, she flagged down a taxi around mid-afternoon, when
the weather began threatening a bit of rain, and handed over
another $8 to have him drive her back to Maria's place.
She scuttled inside with her things and took a shower as soon
as she'd put everything away.
Feeling better after her shower, she sat down and did some sketches
of ceramic pieces she would like to make. One thing about
not doing anything while she sat behind her display was that
she came up with some fabulous (and some ridiculous) ideas.
She wondered briefly what she would find when she returned to
work the next day.
Trish focused on getting through work for the next few days.
The girl, Michelle, troubled her a great deal. The Monday
following the girl's arrival at the hospital, she was due to be
transfered to another facility; Trish arrived to a workplace boiling
over with tension and frantic search parties--Michelle had disappeared.
As soon as someone recognized her, Trish was accosted by the same
two officers that she had spoken with on Thursday. They
were accompanied by two investigators, one on the trail of the
woman, Julie, whose body had turned up over the weekend, the other
looking for Michelle. The second police officer still gave
her chills, so she spent as little time as possible in the company
of the four officials, quickly relating what she knew then pleading
a need to finish her morning duties in order to escape them.
Because there was nothing else to ask her, the investigators let
her go, though throughout the rest of the day, she caught glimpses
of them watching her.
22 May 2005: Raederle Clay.
The warm summer air was refreshing, so during her break, Trish
walked over to a garden--more like a miniature park--nearby
to enjoy it for a little before heading back to work.
In spite of her attempt to enjoy it, there was a nagging in
the back of her mind that suggested it was time to move somewhere
else. It was the same nagging that had been present on
Friday, and so she'd begun to pack some of her things on Saturday
and Sunday, figuring that she would turn in her two weeks notice
on Monday or Tuesday. She'd been too harried so far to
turn it in today, so she decided to turn it in tomorrow.
There were always demands for nurses of her skills in other
cities, and quitting politely was always better than being fired.
As an explanation, she would put that she felt the need to see
more of the world, as she had for every other job. She
always stuck around for a few years; it kept employers from
getting edgy about how often she changed jobs, and she had been
here for a little over three years now, the longest she'd kept
any job, since most of her contracts were two years. She
half-closed her eyes and thought about where she had been, where
she would like to go, and where she should go next, letting
the early summer breezes and sunlight play across her skin in
a purely selfish moment of pleasure.
As she relaxed, a shadow loomed over her. She sensed the
presence of someone else before that person blocked the sunlight
on her face, and opened her eyes, squinting at the figure before
her. She glanced down at her watch to see if she was late
getting back to work, and noted that she still had another fifteen
mintues for break.
"Well, Cher, it's been a long time," the figure before her purred
silkily, the voice vaguely familiar as it triggered long-suppressed
Trish nearly jumped out of her skin. No one called her
"Cher" anymore, except her parents, and she made a point of
never talking to them because of it. She hadn't heard
that name since high school, nearly a decade before. Fear
crawled up her spine, temporarily numbing her mind to anything
but blank thoughts of "Who?" The man laughed triumphantly
and reached for her arm, but even though her mind was frozen,
her body was far from it. She twisted and lunged toward
the man's knees, tumbling and rolling away from him before jumping
to her feet to bolt back to the relative safety of the bustling
The man's laugh faded to a soft yell as she dove past him, and
he turned to chase her, as her benumbed mind flitted through
each of her memories and nightmares. She had always feared
that Jason, her high school boyfriend, would some day catch
up with her to punish her for his imprisonment all those years
before, but in her heart, she always thought that it would never
happen, she had changed so much since then. Her fears
had been well-founded it would seem; somehow he had found her,
and she realized that he was the second police officer, the
one that had given her the creeps. Now she knew why, and
knew why she had felt the urge to move again.
To her immense relief, she ducked in the door and among her
peers and colleagues before he managed to catch up with her.
She immediately turned to head for the offices, near the main
reception area of her department, to tell supervisor what had
happened, and beg to leave the area as soon as she could get
out of the hospital. She paused briefly at the main desk
to make sure her boss was in his office and not with someone
before she burst into his office. As she arrived, she
saw someone come into the hospital, and head for the desk.
She scarcely looked at him, only long enough to recognize him
as the man from the park bench, with the casino in her portrait
As she turned to head for the office, she heard the man mutter
to the clerk, ". . .looking. . .nurse. . .Trish."
"Trish!" the receptionist called before she'd gotten too far
Trish turned, confused, as the woman pointed the stranger toward
her, and he hurried over.
"Trish?" The man lowered his voice, "You're in danger.
Come with me so we can talk somewhere less. . .Shit, just come
with me, I'll explain later."
"I think I know," she snapped, a little irritated this man thought
he could do something about Jason, but he might be her best
way out of the hospital. "And first, I need to leave a
note for somone." She grabbed a sticky pad from the desk
and scribbled a note:
"Maria: Something's happened, had to leave in hurry.
Please stay away from home for a few days with a friend.
No time to explain. Take my last paycheck, put anything
I leave behind in storage. Be back to get it some time
Trish handed the note to the clerk and requested that Maria
get it immediately. Turning back to the man, she asked,
"I'd like to get home and get my stuff. Think you can
get me that far?"
The man smirked. "I'll drop you off. You take care of what you
need to do as fast as possible and don't get caught. Meet me
here," he slipped a piece of paper into her hand, "when you're
done. I also have some.. business to take care of." He turned
to leave, apparently expecting her to follow.
"Whoa. Who ever said I was going anywhere else with you?"
Trish demanded. "And who are you, anyway?"
He turned to face her again but then looked up, past her, presumably
at someone coming towards them. "We do NOT have time for this
A shiver ran up her back as he looked beyond her. She
hurried her steps after him, but still demanded to know who
he was and why he thought she was going anywhere but to her
home with him.
The man headed straight for a motorcycle parked across the way
from the hospital. He handed her a helmet as he climbed
onto the bike and put his own over his head. Flipping
open the visor, he said, "What other option do you have?" And
with that he flipped the visor closed again and steadied the
bike for her to climb on behind him.
Trish gaped at the motorcycle--the common nickname for the vehicles'
riders were "organ donors"--the helmet hanging limply in her
hands for a moment. She yanked the thing on, though, as
the man's comment struck home. But that doesn't mean I
have to follow him after he takes me home, she thought to herself
as she awkwardly straddled the back of the bike. She opened
her mouth to tell him where she lived, but the words were whipped
out of her mouth as he gunned the bike and shot out into the
street. As she struggled for breath to tell him how to
get to her home, the man kept going, as though he knew exactly
where she lived. And minutes later, there it was, her
apartment. He stopped out in front as she practically
fell from bike in her haste to get off. She turned to
stammer a "How did you know where I live?" but didn't get a
chance as he roared back onto the street and off.
Grumbling after him, she turned and rushed up the stairs to
her apartment and started gathering up the few things she hadn't
Less than an hour later, she was reaching for the phone to call
a couple of taxis when the front door blew open.
"You are NOT getting away from me!" Jason bellowed as she froze
by the phone. Once again, her reflexes took over and she
grabbed her small travel kit, containing her clothes, some other
necessities, and, of all unexpected things, her throwing knives,
a weapon she had developed skill in as a hobby and a way to
get exercise, since she had yet to purchase a throwing wheel
for her ceramics. She turned and bolted for the back door,
abandoning the rest of her belongings without only a brief disappointment
that all that work and expense was going to be left behind.
She pelted down the fire escape off the rear balcony, dodging
around trash bins on the ground as she raced for the street,
fumbling for the scrap of paper the stranger with the motorcycle
had handed her earlier. As she skidded around the corner
of the building, she stopped abruptly, fear closing her throat
as she stared down the barrel of a pistol. Her eyes flitted
to the face of the person who held the gun--the motorcycle rider--and
let out the breath she'd gathered for a scream.
"You don't listen too well." The man lowered the gun and
motioned for her to move towards the bike that was parked a
short distance behind him. He backed slowly in that direction,
watching for her
With another sign that was somewhere between resigned and relieved,
Trish tugged the helmet back over her tangled hair and waited
by the bike, uncertain what to do with her small dufflebag,
and even less sure of taking off to who-knew-where with this
stranger. It occured to her that he had yet to tell her
his name. She turned to ask him, but just at that moment,
Jason came bursting around the corner in hot pursuit.
The stranger fired a round at Jason. Dodging the bullet, he
dove for cover. This gave the man enough time to get to
the bike and on it, gun trained on where Jason had hidden himself.
"Put the strap across your chest so the bag rides on your back
and get on the bike." The words came out like a growl;
it seemed he was getting a bit impatient with her.
Trish did as she was told, though she had to bite back a bit
of a retort; she had no interest in being left with Jason so
near. She had barely settled herself when the stranger
gave Jason another shot to think about before spinning the bike
back out onto the street and taking off. She considered
asking him where they were going, but she doubted she could
hear the answer, if she could even yell loud enough for him
to hear her.
21 September 2005: Raederle Clay.
Trish almost couldn't believe how casually the man said he'd killed
some people; she was unsure how many, but imagined that it was
probably more than a few. She tried to watch him as he looked
at the image she'd drawn of him, and was inwardly pleased that
she apparently caught him off-guard over something in the portrait.
Though she had recognized him at the hospital as the man in that
extenuating circumstances had erased the realization
from her mind until he had said something.
After the man, Carl, she reminded herself, settled in
to sleep, she riffled through her things for a bit, looking
for something quiet to do that would maybe keep her mind off
everything he'd told her just
long enough to get tired enough to sleep.
Her sketchbook and clay made her shudder now, though she doubted
she could stay away from them for long. Instead she dumped
that stuff back into her pack, where a glint of light from the
street flickered on something inside. She stopped and
stared at the spot for a moment, rubbing her thumb and forefinger
together lightly. Making sure she wouldn't wake Carl,
she slipped the leather sheaths free of her bag, laying them
carefully on the bed, hidden from him. Swiping the rest
of her belongings back into her bag, she rose and, trying to
be quiet, deposited the duffle at the foot of her bed, picking
up the knives, rising and stepping away from her bed.
Despite her aversion to causing pain, her knives were exceedingly
sharp; she'd often used them for more than just knife practice,
and had decided that the sharper, the better. She stared
at herself in
the mirror in the darkness for a long moment,
remembering a time about ten years before when she'd taken a
last look at Cher before she'd shorn her hair and Trish came
to life. As Cher, her single vanity had been her hip-length,
raven-black straight hair, and in her transition from one person
to another, she had chopped it off a little above her shoulders.
It had since grown to a little above the points of her
shoulderblades. Now she picked up one of
her throwing knives from its sheath and began slicing at her
hair. By the time she finished, her hair was close-cropped
about her ears, no strand longer than two
inches. She ran her hand through it after
she was finished, dumping the locks into the tiny garbage can,
and ducked into the bathroom to shower off the bits of hair
that clung to her no matter how she tried
to remove them.
After she showered, she looked over at Carl again, deciding
he was fast enough asleep that she could slip out. Quietly,
she gathered up the garbage can and crept to the door and slipped
out, closing it softly behind her. She wandered down to
the parking lot, finding a garbage bin, which she dumped the
room's garbage can into, and a dumpster full of boxes.
Pulling a couple out, she stacked them
against a tree, settling her knife sheaths on
her hip, and began to loose the knives, taking out her fear
and frustration on the hapless boxes. Her hands shook
so that the first couple of throws were
nowhere near the center of the box, but she soon
fell into a rhythm, her need to forget the last several hours
narrowing her consciousness to the target--aim, throw, thunk
of knife into box, gather knives
together and do it again. She never notices
Carl casually wandering out onto the wooden walkway and watching
her for a bit before strolling over.
"Nice shot," he commented as she sank a knife into the center
of the upper box, what would be heart-level on a man.
Trish yelped and spun around, targeting and taking aim on him
before a warning twinge in her head stopped her hand before
she let loose.
"Careful, wildcat, those claws can kill. But I suspect
you've never heard the sickening sound of one of those pretties
going through flesh." He raised an eyebrow at her.
"Don't pretend you know me," she said softly, eyes glinting.
Instead, she flung the knife at the boxes. However, this
one slapped sharply against the box as it hit broadside.
She stood with her back to him, hands clenched, and finally
stalked over to pick up the knives, trying to hide the shaking
in her hands. She rubbed the bridge of her nose the the
impending headache dissipated with her anger.
"I'm not pretending to know you. But I know someone who's
had a lot happen to them and felt helpless to stop it.
I've seen escapism. And it rarely manifests in people who have
killed. At least not the type of escapism you've developed."
She tried to ignore him. The careless way he took in her
and everything that had happened over the last several hours
infuriated her. She knew that she wouldn't be able to
focus on knife-throwing
now, not as long as he was hovering around, as
though he thought she was helpless. She forced away the
tiny voice that whispered, But you are helpless, except to
run away like a coward. It made her sick, knowing
that the only thing she'd ever do is run away from the memories,
and hope that running away from them would make the memories
into horrible nightmares that never happened.
She tossed the boxes back in their dumpster, storming back to
their shared room and flinging herself onto the bed, tugging
out a small terrycloth to wipe down the blades before sliding
them home in their sheaths. Laying them pointedly on the
nightstand, she rolled up under the covers, facing out the window,
burying her face beneath the covers to hide her tears of frustration
Carl followed her in, and with an exasperated sigh, told her,
"Well, if you want to stop running and do something with all
of this frustration, you can come with me. I'm going after
my employer's enemy. The other ones who wanted you. Otherwise,
we'll find a safe place to go our separate ways." He climbed
back into bed, turning his back on her, and drifted back to
Trish's imagination and emotions swirled around those parting
words until she was completely exhausted, and thinking, He'll
get me killed, she fell into a restless sleep, haunted by
dream, a gruesome combination her more distant
past with the nightmares of the past few hours.
tied Jason up in the bathtub, Trish fumbled in her bag for her
medicines, pulling out a dose and tossing it back without anything
to wash it down. By the time Carl brought her water, the
quick-acting anesthetic had started to kick in, and she climbed
slowly and carefully to her feet shortly after drinking the water.
Hefting her bag, she picked up the knife sheath, glancing around
for the knife
she'd used, wondering whether to take it or leave it. She
looked askance at Carl. He had reached for the door, but
at her glance, returned to the bathroom and removed the knife
from Jason's hand.
want to leave tracks," he muttered, handing her the knife.
slung her pack over her back and tugged on the helmet, still
not entirely satisfied with their vehicle. Only after
they were back on the road did she pause to wonder that she
was still able to move. The last time she'd hurt Jason,
it had been a textbook to the side of his head, and she was
completely incapacitated for several hours, and yet here she
was, having stuck a knife in his hand—indubitably more painful
than a textbook—her headache already almost gone and she could
focus on other things.
back on the ten years since that incident, Trish realized that
there had been a change in her violent reaction to causing others
pain. As the years passed, she'd been able to administer
medications that caused pain with less hesitation and less agony
for herself. She wondered if she had learned to distinguish
between necessary and unnecessary pain, in which case defending
her own life would be necessary.
wasn't paying attention to where Carl was driving. She
was more interested in not interfering with his driving any
more. Eventually, she realized that the sun was rising
behind them, and she thought about asking Carl where they were
going, but decided to wait until they stopped since he couldn't
meantime, she thought about him. He had admitted himself
that he had killed many people, and he didn't strike her as
the sort that normally risked his life for anyone else.
However, he seemed genuinely interested in Trish's well-being.
She decided that it had to be a professional interest—keeping
her alive might get him answers, and if nothing else, she would
be a bargaining chip for his life. She could almost resent
that, but she also respected that he was keeping her safe from
Jason, and that if Carl did use her as a way out for himself,
it most likely wouldn't be by turning her over to her Jason;
she had seen the look of disgust Carl spared for Jason back
in the hotel room.
sun continued to rise, her stomach rumbled uncomfortably, reminding
Trish she hadn't had much to eat before they got on the road.
She wondered what time it was and how long it would be before
Carl stopped for anything. Besides her stomach, her legs
were aching from the unfamiliar seat on the back of the bike.
long afterward, Carl slowed the bike and coasted into a gas
station. Wincing behind the helmet's face shield, Trish
eased off the seat, feeling every joint in her body creak as
she stretched. Carl hadn't removed his helmet, but her
stomach was insistent that she get some food. She rummaged
around in her bag for some cash, pulling out a few dollars,
and removed her helmet, carefully walking into the store to
buy a sandwich and drink to tide her over until they stopped
watched her pull the money out of her bag as he fueled the bike.
turned to go into the store, he dug a five-dollar bill out of
grab me a sandwich and 20 ounce Pepsi while you're in there,"
he ordered, handing her the bill.
was a little surprised, but shrugged and headed inside.
She scanned the shelves, deciding to get herself an energy bar
instead of a sandwich, grabbing the Pepsi and a ham-and-cheese
sandwich for Carl and a Gatorade for her. She paid the
clerk and limped out.
she looked about; the bike wasn't where she'd left it.
A hand fell on her shoulder as Carl steered her around the corner
to a small picnic table. She barely nibbled at the energy
bar, despite her hunger, while she watched Carl wolf down the
sandwich and most of the soda. She put what was left in
her pack and hefted the helmet again, sparing a resigned look
for the bike.
there any chance we could get some other vehicle?" she asked
shrugged and dumped the remains of his meal in the garbage can,
swinging onto the bike and waiting for her to do the same.