Chapter 1: Summer Vacation
Copyright© 2008 by Shadow of Moonlite
Sex Story: Chapter 1: Summer Vacation - As if being a teenager weren't hard enough, Jimmy must now use his gift to help his friend Angela recover from her ordeal, while still helping the FBI catch the man responsible. And then there are the other little problems... Dreamweaver is the sequel to Sleepwalker, many of the same themes apply but most of the sex has been taken 'off screen'. The themes involved are adult in nature and include references to bondage, teenage sex, dominant/submissive behavior, incest, and rape.
Caution: This Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Paranormal
It was just another typical summer day in what was easily the best summer of my life. The southern California sun was shining brightly, the grass was green, and my girlfriends were having a water fight in the driveway. Yes, life was good.
I don't know exactly what started the fight. One minute we were all just washing my truck, the next there were sponges flying everywhere. My truck was a 1991 Chevy step-side. It was a deep burgundy color with a blackout package, fat alloy wheels and tires, and a killer stereo. My friend Rebecca had set me up at a federal auction selling off property seized in drug cases. Rebecca works for the FBI. She also dates my therapist.
I guess I should explain. My name is James Matthews, James to my parents, Jimmy to my close friends, Edward, my middle name, to most every one at school. It's a long story. I met Rebecca about nine months ago. Her sister introduced us ... sort of. I'm sixteen years old and in a couple weeks I'll be starting my second year of high school. Hopefully this year won't be quite as traumatic as last year. Hey, I can hope, can't I?
My freshman year had been a roller coaster ride from day one, literally. The day I registered for my classes had been a day of revelation like no other. That was the day I discovered my gift. I discovered it quite by accident, when I found myself dreaming about something that had happened on the way home after registration. My best friend's name was Mark, and I was hanging out at his house after his mother, Karen, had picked us up from registration and taken us out to lunch. Lunch of course came with a price, and we had been washing her car when Mark's little, well, younger sister, Shannon, had ridden up on her bike. Sibling rivalry quickly reared its head and in the aftermath I discovered two things. First, that Shannon was no longer a little girl and, later that night, that she had a crush on me. As shocking as that revelation was it was dwarfed to insignificance by the method of its discovery. You see, when I relived the events of that afternoon in a dream, they were different, very different. What had been a series of reasonably innocent events now became a teenage fantasy in which I had a starring roll. Only it wasn't my fantasy, it was hers. More specifically, it wasn't my dream, but hers!
That was the night I realized that I had the ability to move around in other peoples dreams. I call it sleepwalking. Apparently it's something I've been able to do all of my life, I just never realized it. Well, as soon as I realized that I must have somehow actually been in Shannon's dream, it made me wonder if I had ever been in anyone else's. The question answered itself immediately as years of memories made it clear that I had in fact been invading my own sister's dreams for years.
Allison is my sister, and from the moment she first came into my life there seemed to be a special bond and attachment between us. We lost count of the number of times our parents woke to find me asleep in the floor of her room. One night when I was sleeping over at Mark's house, Allison had a nightmare and woke our parents with a bloodcurdling scream. But by the time Mom got to her room, she was already calmed down. When Mom asked her what had happened Allison told said she had had a nightmare but that I had come and told her everything was alright. The really strange part was that I had dreamed that night of Allison having a nightmare and me going to comfort her and tell her it was okay.
You may have noticed that teenage girls talk a lot, and after the night I found myself in Shannon's dream, she just couldn't wait to tell her best friend all about this fantastic dream she'd had about finally getting me alone and what a wonderful time we'd had. Apparently Allison had realized what was really happening long before and immediately recognized that I had in fact bridged Shannon, that's what we call it when I sleepwalk into another person's dreams, 'bridging.' Allison realized that I had bridged into Shannon's fantasy and as soon as I got home from school that day she was all over me.
My first reaction was to deny it, after all, it does sound crazy. No good. She told me that she had in fact known about it for years, citing several examples that I couldn't possible ignore, including the nightmare I mentioned, and forcing me to confess what had happened. When I speculated about finding someone to talk to about it she told me point blank that under no circumstances should I tell anyone about it. At first I thought she was nuts but then she pointed out what the likely response to my ability would be with the population at large, and even worse, what could happen if the government should get wind of it. That was enough for me.
The revelation of Shannon's feelings for me came as a bit of a shock, but more shocking still was the realization that the feelings were mutual. This was almost immediately eclipsed by the discovery that she was not my first love and that there was already someone else in my life that I loved even more. When I eventually discussed it with my therapist he said that spending so much of my life in Allison's dreams had built a level of intimacy between us that was virtually unmatched. He was not the least bit surprised to discover that our feelings for each other went way beyond the normal sibling attachments.
Allison is and always will be the person I love most in this world. Shannon is a close second and, as it happens, we share the same feelings for Allison. Shannon cares a lot for me, but if it ever came down to a choice of Allison or me, I don't believe for a second that I'd come out on top. Allison swears she loves both Shannon and me the same, if that's possible, but I don't really care one way or the other; her feelings for Shannon don't interfere in the slightest with her love for me, and even if she did love Shannon more, it wouldn't make me love her any less. So at the tender age of fifteen I discovered that I suddenly had two girlfriends. Girlfriends that had in fact been waiting for me to realize the truth and couldn't wait to consummate our relationships, as a result of which my freshman year was filled with the kind of sex most people can only dream about. In fact, once we decided to tell Shannon the truth about what had happened and what I could do, we had it in our dreams as well, a lot.
I realize that most of the world would take a very different view towards our relationship. Personally, I don't presume to tell other people who they can or should love, so I really don't think they have any right to tell me, or us, either. All I can say is that if your personal morals or values have a problem with us all having sex, whether as individual couples, which we do because it's important to have that closeness, or all together because that's important as well, not to mention fun, then I feel sorry for you and I hope that someday your world view will grow enough for you to deal with it. I don't care if it ever does, but I do hope so for your sake.
The most immediate problem, though, was that we had no idea what to do now that my special ability had apparently grown to the point that I was now bridging other people. The problem solved itself when I asked my psychology teacher some basic questions about dreams and dreaming. Being a trained professional he realized that I was holding something back and that it was bothering me. Being a licensed therapist as well as a teacher, he eventually offered to take me on as patient so that anything I might discuss with him would be confidential to the point of being protected by law. Allison and I discussed the merits of the idea and agreed to take him up on it. It was an offer he came to regret almost immediately after learning the truth. His vision of the Nobel Peace Prize was immediately replaced by his fear of what could, and likely would happen if the wrong people ever got wind of what I could do. All things considered, he took it well and has done his best to help us understand and cope with the changes ever since. Much to his credit he even hung in there when things took a dark turn and I learned that my gift had a terrible price attached to it.
Through a series of very unusual dreams I was introduced to a woman named Rebecca Hampton. Rebecca is an FBI agent. Her sister Amy introduced us, which was scary in itself considering that she introduced us by moving me through a series of dreams. That was really scary because it meant that someone that we didn't know, knew about what I could do and could apparently move me around. It turned out that that's not really what was happening but we didn't know that at the time. If all that wasn't scary enough, we then found out why. It seems that Rebecca was to need my help in a case she didn't even know about; a case that if I didn't help her with, she would die trying to solve on her own. The obvious question was how Amy could know all this. The even more obvious answer was she couldn't. In fact she couldn't possibly know any of this; not that I was alive, or even that her own sister was an FBI agent. You see, Amy had been in a coma for twelve years. Yeah, that kind of shocked all of us too, but she was right about all of it. It seems that a very bad man had been kidnapping, torturing, raping and eventually killing teenage girls, one a year, for the last three years. The locations were so far apart that no one had put them together, they were just unsolved murders.
Amy ... She's the biggest mystery I've encountered since this whole thing started. She's been in a coma since she was eight years old, and can't possibly know anything that's going on. Rebecca was in high school when Amy was hit by the car that put her in the coma, yet somehow Amy knows that she's with the Bureau, knows her future includes running into this killer, knows that without my help she'll die trying to stop him. And how does that work? Rebecca only knows about the case because Amy has me tell her about it, so it stands to reason that if Amy doesn't drag me into it that her sister would have been safe, so why do it? And how come she can move me around but she can't be in the same dream with her sister? The first time I met her I was in Rebecca's dream, studying her, when all of a sudden everything freezes and a little girl in a white dress and bobby socks appears in the chair next to me. Why does it hurt for her to move around on her own but if I'm there it's okay? Why can I bring her into a dream? Actually I'm not sure I do bring her in. I think about her and she comes, most of the time, but it feels like I'm somehow inviting her rather than just reaching out and dragging her in. For that matter I can't find her in dreams the way I seem to be able to with everyone else. Yet even if I bring her into my dream, she can't stay unless I stay there too. Everyone else I can leave behind and it's no different than if I'm there, but Amy is instantly wracked with pain if I leave. I've thought about trying to run two dreams that overlap with Rebecca in one and Amy in the other and then open a doorway between them but I'm almost afraid to for fear of what might happen. And then there is the apparent time limit on how long she can stay in a dream once she's there. It seems to run right at a subjective half-hour. I say subjective because dream time is variable, sometimes things seem to take no time at all, other times you feel like you barely started and suddenly you're waking up. With Amy, everyone seems to know when it's time for her to go, no one says anything, we all just seem to know that it's time. Oh, and I have almost no effect on her at all. The second time I met her was at a beach I created just for the purpose and I tried to change her into a bathing suit so her dress wouldn't get wet. In my mind I pictured a simple, red, one-piece suit that you'd expect to find on any eight year old in the world. The suit came out white with pink trim, just like her dress. Everyone else can change their own clothes in dreams, whether they are in their own or mine. Amy can't. She can move me around but she can't change her clothes - how weird is that? Anyway, like I said, she's a mystery.
Back to how this all started. In one night my youthful innocence was stripped away, shredded, burned, and scattered on the wind. All because I asked Amy if she could tell me more about the guy I need to help Rebecca stop. She said that she couldn't tell me anyting, but that maybe she could show me. (Thank God she actually didn't know any details.) I don't know how Amy does what she does, but at the end of the night I found myself in a small room, a small theater really, watching helplessly as this sick bastard stalked, kidnapped, tortured, raped, and eventually killed his first victim. Worse than that, I felt it. The price of my gift was that I had to see it all from the killer's perspective. I experienced his thrill during the hunt. I experienced his elation, rage, hatred, and lust as he tortured and raped her for weeks on end, and I had to experience his emptiness when he killed her and left her body in a hotel room. That may have actually been the worst.
That was the night I realized that the gift, or ability, or power, whatever you choose to call it, that I had been given had come with a terrible price and a huge responsibility. I dedicated myself that night to stopping this madman no matter what the cost. And that's how I came to meet and eventually work with the Special Agent Rebecca Hampton of the FBI.
Two months ago he kidnapped his latest victim. I don't know if Amy knew in advance or not, and I don't really want to know, but his victim this time was a close personal friend of mine. I spent weeks trying to find her, even enlisting the aid of a character I had stolen from a little boys nightmare.
I never actually met Bobby, but he came to my house trick-or-treating Halloween night and something was obviously wrong. Back then I frequently found myself spontaneously bridging new people I would meet. You'd be amazed what some people dream about. I'd watched a girl from my psychology class storm a mall with some friends and it had looked like Rambo Barbie invading a prisoner of war camp. Bobby's problem was a little more severe. He was having a recurring nightmare in which a beast resembling a werewolf was chasing him. I had stepped in and saved the day by making it all a game of tag; hey he was a little kid and he wanted to be safe, I told him the neighbors porch was base and had the monster chase him there then stop. I made up a name for the monster and as punishment for frightening Bobby, placed him as the boy's personal dream guardian for the next year.
As we were running out of time and options for finding Angela, Allison mentioned that bloodhounds couldn't pick up her trail and I got the wild idea of having Walter — that was the name I gave Bobby's new playmate — try to find her. It's kind of complicated the way it worked out. He actually did find her, but it didn't work out the way we had hoped so I'm not sure if you'd call it a success or not.
Eventually I was able to establish enough of a link with Angela to lead Rebecca to where she was imprisoned, in a house owned by someone named "Kenneth Riley". Of course we didn't find that out until later. Unfortunately, the killer had found out that Rebecca was looking for him and planned for the possibility of discovery. Officially, Angela had died when Riley blew up the house to cover his escape. In truth, we had gotten her out seconds before the explosion and she was now in hiding so that he couldn't find her and finish the job.
Rebecca had me call in a couple of anonymous tips during the course of her investigation in order to justify her involvement in the case. Let's face it; even an FBI agent can't just pull leads out of thin air. The truth was I had been working quietly behind the scenes, in and out of the killer's dreams for the better part of a year, trying to help her establish a reliable profile of his target group in hopes that if we could figure out who his likely next victim might be, we would have a chance to catch him. As an added bonus, it also made me eligible for any reward money that may be available. Even though Angela, my friend and his latest victim, had died, officially anyway, the anonymous tipster had still earned part of the money. Twenty-five thousand dollars to start with; there was more available if, no, when we eventually found this asshole and either convicted him or, my personal preference, killed him trying to arrest him. That may sound a little bloodthirsty but I had no doubts at all about his guilt and I just didn't trust the system to do the job. Short of catching him in the act there was nowhere near enough evidence to get a conviction. He was too slick, his first three kills had been completely devoid of any physical evidence; CSI teams at all three sites had come up empty, and since he had blown up his last one there wasn't much to go on.
I know what you're thinking, but when Kenneth Riley's driver's license photo was shown to his parents back east, they didn't recognize him. Years of family photographs confirmed that it wasn't the same man. So now we had another mystery, and most likely, another murder to lay at the feet of our killer. When we catch him, I have to keep reminding myself that it's 'when', not 'if, ' I hope for the family's sake they can at least get him to tell us what he did with Riley's body.
Part of the reward money for finding Angela had gone to pay for my truck; the rest was sitting in my savings account. Okay, technically it was all sitting in savings but there were two accounts. You see, I couldn't afford to attract any undue attention and since I'd never had a job it would be really hard to explain how I got the truck. So my dad took a loan out to buy it, and then set it up so that each month the loan payment came directly out of one of my accounts. It meant that I would pay a little more than I had to due to the interest charges, but at least the lower insurance balanced it out. Full coverage insurance on a truck like mine is really expensive for a teenager, so it's insured in his name, with me listed as an authorized driver. The savings balanced what I was paying in interest so I didn't actually end up paying any extra. There is an even bigger reward waiting when we actually catch him. Several actually, although the one for Angela's killer is much bigger than for the other victims. Angela's parents were members of the 'Player's Club' at one of the casinos. The casino had sponsored a slots tournament to raise money. There was almost three hundred thousand dollars sitting in an escrow account for tips and/or the reward for catching whoever had killed her. One of the other girls had just over a hundred thousand, the other two totaled about sixty, so all in all, just under half a million 'when' we finally nail the bastard.
So where was I? Oh yeah, the water fight. One minute everything was fine, Shannon was just rinsing the last of the soap off of the truck, the next thing you know a sponge the size of a small football hits her smack in the chest, spattering suds everywhere. My eyes tracked the incoming trajectory backwards and found Allison laughing at the shocked expression on her girlfriend's face as the thick suds began dripping down her tanned and toned stomach.
"Why you little bitch!" Shannon whispered.
I suddenly realized I was between them and beat a hasty retreat back onto the grass as Shannon dropped the hose and went after Allison, who of course did her best to keep the truck between them as she ran away, laughing all the while.
Allison is a perfect five-foot-five, with long blonde hair, grayish-blue eyes, and a smile that could light Times Square on New Years Eve. Shannon is about eight months older, four inches taller and proportionally larger in pretty much every category. She has dark hair, brown eyes, a flawless tan, and a kill shot that will take your head off if you're on the wrong side of a volleyball net and not paying attention.
She's also sneaky. She appeared to be crouching low in order to try and sneak up on Allison, but instead she was actually getting the second sponge out of the bucket. She then moved along the edge of the truck until she was once more on the side with the hose. Ducking down, she forced Allison to stand on her toes to try and keep track of her. As soon as Allison went up on her toes, Shannon bounced back up and pitched a perfect strike with the sponge, catching Allison right in the throat. Before her young friend could react she snatched up the hose and hit the trigger, soaking both Allison and the almost dry truck all over again. Both dissolved into laughter.
"You know Sha', you're getting downright sneaky. I never even saw you pick up the sponge," Allison said as she came around the truck, wiping suds off as she came. "You better rinse me before I spot," she said, turning her back and holding her hands over her head.
Shannon obligingly held the hose and sprayed her gently as she turned. I was enjoying the show while at the same time mentally shaking my head. Shannon may be getting sneaky, but Allison was a grand master at it and I had a pretty good idea what was coming. Sure enough Allison finished and offered to return the favor, and of course Shannon fell for it, handing over the hose. Allison moved in close and using the smallest stream possible began rinsing the suds off of the taller girl, brushing gently with her free hand as she went. Once the front was clear Shannon turned around and, just as I expected, Allison ran her hand gently down the other girls back until she came to the strap on her bathing suit, which she deftly unsnapped. Okay, that part I hadn't expected, Shannon shrieked and pulled her arms down quickly to keep from completely exposing herself. Now came the part I had expected, Allison triggered the nozzle to full, locked it and stuck it down the back of Shannon's bikini bottoms. There's not a lot of extra room in there, if you know what I mean, so the nozzle was pretty firmly held as it released its torrent of, by now, very cold water. Shannon, having her hands full trying to keep her top in place, was at a severe disadvantage as she danced around and tried to dislodge the hose without losing the other half of her suit.
I had been witnessing variations of this all summer from these two. It was usually Allison who started it, not always, but usually; it was their idea of foreplay. Since Shannon was at serious risk of flashing the neighborhood any second, I moved in, grabbed her around the waist to hold her still and tried to extract the nozzle from her suit. It was a little trickier than I anticipated as the mechanism had snagged on the waistband. I had to use both hands, one to pull the bottom of her suit away from her body and the other to try and release the trigger lock so the nozzle would hold still long enough to get it loose from the material. The up side to all this was I got to stare at one of the most perfect asses I had ever seen. It was one of my favorite sights. In addition to the visuals there was the smell. Sun-baked teenager liberally basted in coconut oil and sweat, with just a hint of strawberry shampoo, an olfactory delight to say the least.
Now that I was handling the problems below the waist, Shannon was free to handle the ones above. She carefully repositioned her top and secured the strap just as I finally got the nozzle released from her briefs.
"Thank you, Jimmy. Was it really stuck or were you just enjoying the view?"
I smiled sweetly and replied, "Both actually. It wasn't the best angle so I really couldn't get the full effect, but what I could see was spectacular. I didn't see any damage, but as I said, it wasn't a good angle. Maybe you should have it looked at."
"What a wonderful idea. Do you have time?"
"I always have time for you, but when Allison tries that hard to get attention it usually means she's feeling neglected. Why don't you two go kiss and make up? I'll dry the truck off and then maybe pull it into the garage and wax it. That should kill an hour or so."
Shannon leaned in and kissed my cheek. We're very careful with PDAs. No one knows how deeply we are really involved and we want to keep it that way. Actually my parents know about me and Allison; I suspect that my mom knows about all of it but she is carefully playing 'don't ask-don't tell' with the whole thing. Publicly Allison and Shannon are just best friends and I am just the best friend's brother.
"You're too sweet. I'm a little worried we might be rewarding bad behavior though." She turned to Allison. "She's been a bit of brat lately."
Allison did her best 'little girl in trouble' routine, hands behind her back, head down, biting her lip before saying, "Please? I promise I'll be good." A wicked gleam lit her eyes and a smile just as bad curled her mouth. "I'll be really, really, good."
Shannon rolled her eyes. "Okay, come on."
Allison jumped up and down and then bounced over to kiss my other cheek. "Thanks. Maybe you should just dry it off and then come join us while it cools off. You know you can't wax it when it's hot."
Yeah, it was turning out to be really great summer. I smacked her lightly on the butt and said, "Okay, you two better get going, I need to get that water off before it spots."
They headed off through the garage and I spent a few seconds admiring the view before returning to the task at hand. I would have liked to take more time but I really did need to get the water dried off. In fact, I decided the best idea was to spray the whole thing down again so I had more time to dry it before any one area got too hot. All in all I managed to kill about twenty minutes before I got it into the garage.
I was sitting in my glass walled office trying to figure out exactly what my next move should be. It wasn't a pleasant task. I'd gone over every scrap of data I had and kept coming back to the same conclusion. Finally I got up and walked the short distance to my boss's office.
Samuel Rodriguez, Director of Operations for the Los Angeles office of the Bureau saw me crossing the office and waved me in before I had a chance to knock. We had known each other for years; Rod had been Michael's best man at our wedding. He had been a rock I could cling to six months later when Michael was killed rescuing a kidnap victim. I had been Michael's partner and backing him up at the time. As I sped toward the scene, I heard over the radio as the kidnapper shot my husband, who had stumbled over a trip wire breaking in the door, and left him for dead. After firing two shots into Michael he had calmly turned away, picked up the knife he had dropped and turned back to the bound and terrified girl Michael had come to save. I was still listening as Michael uttered his last words, not a message of love or regret to the wife he knew he would never see again, but a simple "No," as he raised his weapon and shot his own killer in the act of stabbing the girl.
In addition to killing him, the two shots were enough to throw the killer off and the blow meant to pierce the girl's heart had gone just wide enough to miss and puncture a lung instead. The knife was still sticking out of her when I arrived, thirty seconds too late. Thirty seconds that would haunt me for the rest of her life.
Despite our close friendship, Rod and I work well together. By the way, my name is Rebecca Hampton; Special Agent Rebecca Hampton, United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, currently assigned to the Los Angeles Office. Try fitting all that on a standard business card. I specialize in sex crimes. Rod specializes in getting the best efforts out of all of his agents and staff.
Settling into one of the comfortable chairs facing his desk, I started to swing my feet up onto his desk, halting the motion at the glare that was immediately directed my way. Rod was downright anal about his desk. In the entire time I'd worked for him, I'd never seen more than a single sheet of paper, or a single case file on his desk at one time. It was a game I played with him often, if I ever managed to get my feet onto the surface it will most likely mean I need to call for paramedics and begin CPR.
The greeting ritual now complete, I settled comfortably into the chair and waited for him to finish his phone call. I wasn't worried about hearing anything I shouldn't; if that was a possibility he would have had me wait outside. Finally he hung up the phone, leaned back in his chair, and turned to me.
"We found Angela's car," I said. Always start a meeting with your boss on a positive note.
'Angela, ' was Angela Osborne, a five foot-ten inch brunette from San Bernardino. Two year California State Champion in girl's cross country, scheduled to try out for the US Track and Field team this summer before starting her freshman year at Arizona State University in Phoenix in the fall on a full ride sports scholarship in track and field. Okay, technically it was in Tempe but that's like saying Los Angeles when you mean Monterey Park. Look at any map of Southern California and you'll know what I mean. It didn't really matter since she had been kidnapped two months earlier and had died several weeks later as I moved in on the house she was imprisoned in.
That was the official story. In truth, I had carried her unconscious body out seconds before the explosion. Angela's Olympic dreams had actually died some weeks before the explosion, when her kidnapper had damaged her knee to the point that without immediate surgery it would never heal correctly. The required surgery came weeks too late, and even if the damage had been repairable at that point, the two toes they had been forced to amputate to prevent the gangrene from spreading up her leg would have ruined her stride anyway. It would take a few more months of therapy before she could walk without a limp. Months she would spend in a special facility where she would also receive counseling to help her deal with the weeks of rape and torture she had endured before 'dying.' She would also spend many hours learning about her new life. Angela Osborne had died in the explosion. Amber Olsen, on the other hand, had damaged her knee and lost two toes in an automobile accident, and, after several months of recovery, would begin the spring semester in an all-girl's college in Indiana.
"How the hell did you manage that? It's been on the hot sheet for almost two months, I figured it had been through a chop shop by now."
"Why would you think that?" I asked. "You should have asked me. The Pena girl was found in her car after she was killed, McKenzie and Watkins were hotel jobs, so unless he planned to dump Angela in a hotel somewhere, his MO to date says he would keep the car, planning to use it when he was through with her. McKenzie's purse was found in her car after she disappeared. The fact that Angela's car was still missing indicated he planned to use it. Anyway, we caught a break. I'd love to claim credit but essentially 'Kenneth Riley' got a reminder in his mail that he had a payment past due on his storage unit. We're processing all of his mail before it goes into the box, I doubt if he would be stupid enough to actually go looking for any of it but we're sending it through anyway. They send me copies of everything that's not junk mail or magazines. As soon as I got the notice I got a search warrant, opened the door and there it was. We sent a team out to go over it then locked it back up. Again, I don't see him ever coming for it but ... I'm going to check with the family to see if they want it back or not. If they don't then I'll let it go to lien sale just like any other abandoned property. That takes close to six months so it'll buy us plenty of time, if it goes that long we'll 'find' it when the storage office opens the unit for auction.
"Find anything in the car?"
"Actually yes. Apparently he hadn't gotten around to doing anything with the car yet. We found the device he used to knock her out, some fibers, and even a few hairs that we're pretty sure are his. No fingerprints but considering the grease on the steering wheel we figure he was wearing work gloves. I don't think I've ever met a tow-truck driver who didn't. The storage unit was less than two blocks from where he ditched the tow truck. The lab is working on matching the DNA from the hair to what we have. It won't get us any closer to identifying him but at least it'll confirm that it was the same guy."
"Your ID should be here in the morning. I got a call from Washington earlier. Your new partner will be on the seven o'clock out of Dulles in the morning. The plane lands at 9:40 in Long Beach. Eleanor has the information for you."
Sitting up straighter in the chair I asked, "What do you mean new partner? I thought they were just sending someone out to brief us on who and what we were dealing with. What's going on, Rod?"
"What's going on is that a whole shit load of people are now very interested in your killer. Interpol has loaned us their lead agent on The Sandman until we catch him, kill him, or give up. You want to guess what their preference is?"
"Oh shit, don't tell me; they want him alive no matter what it takes."
"You got it."
I stood and began pacing his small office as I answered, "Just fucking great! And I suppose if we do catch him they want him extradited?" One look gave me the answer I feared. "Son of a bitch! I've got four deaths officially linked to the bastard; four girls raped, tortured, and cold bloodedly executed; I think we can safely add the real Kenneth Riley to the list; and they want me to just hand him over for extradition? What the fuck could he have possibly done to top that?"
"They're not saying." He could see me about to blow and held up his hand, "I understand what you're saying, Bex, and before you start shooting the messenger, let me just make a couple things perfectly clear. I don't give a shit what they want him for; none of my people are going to be put at risk to get him for them. They wrote him off years ago; as far as I'm concerned he's our man. Now, officially we are going to do everything in our power to accommodate our guests and help them get their man. Unofficially, I don't want you to so much as break a fucking nail keeping this bastard alive. You are to do your best to take him alive, but if it's him or you, or him or your partner, or a bystander, a beat cop, hell I don't care who it is, if there is an innocent life at stake, you take him out. If it's kill him or let him get away I'll take the heat and apologize to the brass for the unfortunate circumstances. What I don't want is to have to apologize to your sister for letting you get killed because your hands were tied. Do I make myself, unofficially, clear?"
I stared into his eyes for a moment before nodding.
"If you're looking for speculation, given what we already suspect I would guess that there are some high profile unsolved cases, most likely political cases, that are currently leaving black marks all over someone's record. They need someone to parade around for the press to show how diligent and hard working they are."
"The Mounties always get their man," I said.
"Something like that, yeah. Now sit down before you wear a hole in my carpet. You're giving me stiff neck just watching you."
I rolled my eyes and flopped back down in the chair. "Do we have anything on who they're sending?"
"All I know so far is that it's a woman."
"Well at least I won't have to deal with some macho European Uber-cop. Ego I don't need."
"Sometimes you have to take the breaks you can get."
"Anybody asking questions about Jimmy?"
"No reason they would; no one outside of this office knows he exists."
"You know what I mean, Rod. I got a tip the night he killed her. He blew up the house when I got there. I don't think anyone is going to buy that I was really playing cat and mouse with the killer."
"Why not? You played cat and mouse and he tried to catch you when he killed the girl. Sheer luck you didn't get there five minutes sooner. The roses play right into the story."
"They bought that?"
He gave me a raised eyebrow and I knew it was time to go.
There was a light flashing on my phone when I got back to my office, indicating an urgent message; I hit the button and keyed in my code to retrieve it.
"Agent Hampton, this is Doctor Winslow in San Diego and if you have some time this afternoon I would really appreciate it if you could give me a call, the number is..."
I jotted the number on a sticky note and checked my watch. It was just after noon, what were the chances Winslow hadn't gone to lunch already? Right on cue my stomach growled.
"Quiet, you," I muttered as I hit the speaker and dialed the number before picking up the handset.
"Is this Doctor Winslow?"
"Yes, is this Agent Hampton?"
"Yes it is. How can I help you, doctor?"
"Truthfully, I don't know if you can. One thing you can do is forget this call ever took place."
That got my attention. "Okay, we never spoke. What didn't we speak about?"
"Do you know a Detective Mikkelson with the San Diego County Sheriff's office?"
"I wouldn't say I know him. I met him not too long ago at a crime scene. We didn't exactly hit it off. Why do you ask?"
"He's been a patient of mine for about six weeks and I'm afraid if something doesn't change that you may be in danger."
I sat up a little straighter in my chair. "Why would you possibly think that I might be at risk from a fellow law enforcement officer?"
"It's a bizarre case. Stephen came to me about six weeks ago because he was having trouble sleeping. That's not really that uncommon but this was more than simple stress. He claimed to be suffering from a recurring nightmare in which he kept seeing a young woman being tortured and ... assaulted."
"You mean raped?" I asked.
"Yes. At first I assumed it was related to a case he was working but he claimed he had never seen her before the dreams started. He claimed that he was being punished for something he hadn't done."
"Sounds a bit like a guilt complex. I still don't see what all this has to do with me."
"I'm surprised you would use that particular term."
"I specialize in sex crimes, Doctor, and I'm dating a therapist.
"Oh, I see," he said with a chuckle. "That would explain it. I thought the same thing at first but he swore he didn't do anything. I prescribed a sleep aid so he could get some rest but it didn't work. In fact, he claimed the dreams got worse. Now instead of one girl, it was two, and he still swears he's never seen either of them before."
By now I was sitting up very straight and had pulled a scratch pad out of my desk. "That seems to me like it would be a significant change."
"Yes, very serious."
"Did he happen to describe either of these girls, Doctor Winslow?"
"The first one was a blonde girl, five eight or so, athletic, blue eyes; he saw her running track in his dreams. The second was a Hispanic girl, dark hair, dark eyes, around the same height, softball player."
I had two names written on my pad, Diane McKenzie and Maria Pena.
"Do either of these girls sound familiar to you, Miss Hampton?"
"They sound like about sixty percent of the girls in southern California. This is all fascinating doctor, but I don't see what it has to do with me."
There was a pause, "I have your word that you won't repeat any of this or try to use it?"
My interest level went up a couple more notches, "Of course."
"About two weeks ago he admitted to me that he had leaked information to the press regarding a case you were working on; a case involving the death of several young girls over the past few years. He blames you for the nightmares, says you're punishing him somehow for outing your investigation."
In my head I was doing the Rocky dance and high-fiving the crowd at ring side. "He blames me? That makes no sense at all. I did suspect him of leaking the story to the press, not a story so much as just leaking the information that we were watching a girl that had died in your area. Mikkelson was Officer in Charge at the scene. I told him about my case to justify getting a look at the crime scene. He refused. Later I got a copy of a press clipping sent to me by my killer. It quoted an unknown source telling the press that we were watching the girl and why. Whoever tipped the paper, tipped my killer that we were on to him. Later, another girl died. The killer credited the article with tipping him off, so while I can't know for sure, there is a chance that we might have caught him if he hadn't known we were on to him."
"Curious. Did you ever actually accuse him of leaking the information?"
"What would be the point? I made the obligatory complaint through the necessary channels and did my best to work around it. I couldn't prove it so there was no point in pursuing it. I never spoke to Mikkelson personally after the first night."
"Yet he blames you for his nightmares."
"Well, I've been accused of many things over the years, Doctor, a lot of them not nice, some of them were even true, but this is the first time anyone has accused me of witchcraft. You said you're worried that he may come after me."
"I'm afraid I am. Miss Hampton, this is one of the most unusual cases I've seen in a very long time. He's now up to four girls. If something doesn't change soon I may have to put him on administrative leave. I think you know what that means."
"Yes, I do, and while I understand that it's policy, I think it would be more likely to push him over the edge than anything else."
"I would have to agree with you on that; that's why we're not having this conversation."
"I understand. Doctor Winslow, would you mind if I called my friend and asked his advice? I promise not to name any names but I would like his opinion."
"At this point I'd welcome almost any suggestion you could throw out."
"Thank you, I'll call you back and let you know if he has any suggestions." I hung up the phone and stared at the note pad. Mikkelson had blown the whistle to the press about my case and now he was having nightmares about the four girls that had been kidnapped and killed. There was only one possible explanation. Opening my desk drawer I retrieved my Glock, popped in the clip and holstered it. I logged myself out to lunch, picked up my cell phone and headed for the elevator. When I was safely outside I hit a speed dial button and waited for the call to connect.
"You have reached the psychic hot-line, I see rose petals in our future, they are surrounding you on a set of very red satin sheets, a tall, handsome man is..."
I stifled a giggle and interrupted, "We've got a problem."
"Damn! Why do we always have a problem in the middle of my best fantasies? I've been practicing that all morning just waiting for you to call."
"I'm sorry, Bob, really I am. It sounded very interesting and I would love to hear the rest sometime, but right now I need to talk to Jimmy like five minutes ago."
"Okay, I'll see if I can track him down. I'll have him call you."
"Thanks. I need to go see if I can borrow Rod's office."
"That's not good. Anything I can do besides find him?"
"Not unless you can find a way to be there."
"Actually I can. I had him do me a while back. I could have Allison handle the triggers and meet you. Do you actually need me or are you just being polite?"
"No, if you can be there I definitely need you. I'm on my way to the deli, call me back as soon as you find him and we'll set up a time. While I've got you on the phone, do you have any serious plans for the weekend?"
"Oh, the usual, grading papers, porn surfing the internet, that kind of thing. Nothing I can't get out of. Did you need me for something else?"
"I was thinking of taking you to meet Amy."
There was a long pause before he answered, "Rebecca, I can think of nothing I would rather do this weekend than meet your sister. Does this mean dinner with Rod and Selena on Sunday, too?"
"Yeah, I think it's time to meet the whole family."
"I'm honored; I'll try not to make a fool of myself. I'll call you back as soon as I find our boy."
I had just finished parking the truck and was headed for the refrigerator for a cold bottle of water when the phone rang.
"Jimmy, it's Bob, I'm glad you're home. Is Allison with you?"
"Yeah, she's here. So is Shannon. What's up?"
"Rebecca just called, something's happened. She didn't want to talk on the phone. Can you get us all together?"
"Sure, how soon?"
"Maybe thirty minutes; does that work for you."
I thought about what I was missing in the other room and it was a tough decision, but if Rebecca had called Bob to reach me, it had to be important. Rebecca can't call me directly because officially I don't exist; I have an unregistered and untraceable cell phone that the Bureau provided, and paid for, which I use to reach her, but no one can call me on it. Fortunately, she's dating Bob and there's no reason he can't call me... "That should be fine. I'll see you in a half hour."
I hung up the phone, got two water bottles out of the fridge, and went to break the news to the girls that there was to be a change in plans. They were spooned up in my bed when I got there.
"I set my phone to wake us up in an hour," Shannon said. "Come snuggle with us and then we'll help you finish the truck."
I kissed her cheek. "Sounds like a wonderful idea, but it will have to wait. That was Bob; Rebecca needs to see me. Since we're all three here we might as well all go; in fact I think that's what she had in mind. It must be important or she would have waited until tonight."
Allison had perked up as soon as I mentioned Rebecca, by the time I finished they were already up and moving towards the chair where their suits were piled. "This can't be good. How soon?" she asked.
"Bob said thirty minutes."
"Plenty of time; anybody else want a snack first?"
"Just had one thanks," Shannon answered with a smile. "Maybe just some water, which my loving man has already thought of." She looked at me. "Hate to see you miss all the fun; we've got time for a quickie if you want."
I pulled her in close and kissed her. "I would rather wait and take my time." I moved down to nuzzle and kiss her neck. "But if you really want..."
"Mmm," she sighed. "You know me, I always want, but I like it when you take your time so I can wait." She pulled my face back up with both hands and kissed me thoroughly. "Where do you want to do this?"
"I don't think it matters, here or the living room is fine. Just somewhere we can be comfortable. I think we should stay inside though, I don't think it will take that long but I'd hate to wake up sunburned because I was wrong."
"You're so smart," she said, kissing my cheek. She took my hand and pulled me toward the door. "C'mon, before all the good spots are gone."
Allison was just sticking a cup of soup in the microwave when we got to the kitchen. She hit the start button, leaned over the counter, and said, "Dibs on Mom's chair."
"You can have it; I always wake up with a stiff neck if I sleep too long in it. Shannon and I can share the couch. Toss me an apple, would you, please?"
She reached into the bowl of fruit, pulled out a Granny Smith and tossed it to me. "Mom bought bananas, Sha', want one?"
"Sure. You gonna eat all that soup?"
"Nah, we can share. I really just wanted the noodles." She pulled a large yellow fruit from the bowl and handed it over.
I was halfway to the couch when Shannon called me.
"Jimmy, are you sure..." I looked back and she pushed the whole fruit into her mouth so that only the tiny stem was left, then pulled it back out. " ... I can't talk you into that quickie?"
I felt a surge race through me at the sexy sight and just shook my head, "Oh, I'm sure you could, but I'd still rather wait until I can give you my undivided attention, right now I'm a little distracted wondering what's so important that Rebecca needs to actually see me in the middle of the day rather than just having me call her."
"Yeah, no shit," Allison said as the microwave chimed and she retrieved her soup. She scooped a big mound of noodles into a bowl, poured in some broth and handed the cup to Shannon. "Chopsticks?" she asked as Shannon took the cup.
"No thanks, you got most of the noodles; I'll just drink the rest. Oh no you don't! Cyndi will kill you if you spill that in the living room, again, and me if I let you ... Table!" She pointed at the dining room for emphasis.
"Well aren't you miss bossy-britches all of a sudden," Allison replied, sticking out her tongue, but she did go back and sit at the table.
Shannon set the cup down and ruffled her hair before pulling out a chair for herself. "That's my good girl," she said, then jerked her hand back as Allison snapped at her wrist. "Down girl! Don't make me get your leash."
I glanced at the clock. "Time's ticking, ladies; Shannon, did you remember to turn off the alarm on your phone?"
"Thanks for reminding me," she answered, covering her mouth as she swallowed, "Wouldn't do for that to go off before we're done. I'll go do it before I forget. Should we turn the ringer off on the house phone?"
"I'll get it," Allison answered, reaching behind her for the phone on the counter. "Mom keeps hers low enough that we won't hear it, and the one out by the pool is un-plugged. Dad got mad last night when a couple of telemarketers called during dinner."
Shannon used the last of the soup broth to chase the last bite of banana, then stuffed the peel into the cup and dropped them both in the trash can on her way back to the bedroom to turn off her phone. Allison rinsed her bowl and stuck it in the dishwasher before settling herself in Mom's rocker-recliner. I wrapped my apple core in a tissue and set it on the coffee table before stretching out on one end of the couch to wait for Shannon. She was back quickly and, bless her heart, had brought pillows off my bed. She tossed me one and then settled herself on the other end of the bed, stretching her long legs out towards me. I took one of her feet and started massaging it.
"Stop that!" Allison said. "You know that just makes her horny. If you get her started, we'll be late for sure."
Shannon squirmed and bit her lip as I bent forward and kissed her instep before setting her foot back down. Glancing at the clock I saw we only had a few minutes, "Close enough, everybody ready?" The girls snuggled themselves into comfortable positions.
Back when we were trying to locate Angela, we had come up with the idea of using a hypnotic sleep suggestion to allow me to bring Rebecca into a dream immediately if I reached her. Since then we had set up multiple trigger phrases for me and the girls that could be used depending on the circumstances. Bob and Rebecca each had one of their own. Before I could use ours I needed to make sure everyone else was ready. I flipped open my phone and called Rebecca first. She confirmed she was safely in Rod's office. It had become necessary to tell Rod what was going on so now he helped out where he could. In cases like this he let Rebecca use his office and pulled her trigger. I called Bob next.
"Yeah, it's me; everyone else is set, Rebecca is in Rod's office, you ready."
"Ready and anxious, glad we put in the trigger. I'd have a hell of a time sleeping on my own right now."
I spoke Bob's trigger into the phone, "Demonstrable interactive ineptitude,"
I flipped the phone closed and settled myself onto my own pillow, closed my eyes and said, "Black roses don't melt in the rain."
One of the things that we hadn't shared with the others is my ability to overlap dreams and reality, to see in both realms at once. It was a recent development that had manifested just before the end of school. It had proven the critical difference in locating Angela before it was too late. Even as I felt myself slipping into sleep I could see both the girls slump down, instantly asleep when I spoke the hypnotic trigger phrase. It's really weird to be in two places at once; even as I watched them 'go, ' I was already there ahead of them. I can't be sure where they started but they quickly joined me in my office. Seconds later Bob and Rebecca came in together.
Rebecca wasted no time at all, "Glad you could all be here. We have a problem. Jimmy, what did you do to Mikkelson?"
"You remember," Allison said. "He's the guy who outed Rebecca to the press when the Boudreaux girl died."
"Oh, him. I showed up as his boss one night, chewed him out for shooting his mouth off and then made him watch the scenes from my vision of Diane McKenzie's."
"Just McKenzie, none of the others?"
"No, just her."
"And you only went the one time?"
"Yeah, that's hard enough to see even once; I had no doubts about him getting the message so there was no need to go back. Rebecca, what's going on?"
"Less than an hour ago I 'didn't get a call, '" she actually hung air quotes to emphasize her meaning, "from a shrink down in San Diego that works with the local cops when they have issues. Mikkelson has been having nightmares, apparently every night for a couple months, about four young girls being tortured and raped. He doesn't know who they are, swears he has never seen them before, but he described Diane McKenzie and Maria Pena to the shrink in enough detail that I knew who he was talking about."
I could feel the blood draining from my face as she told the story.
"He called to warn me that Mikkelson blames me for the nightmares and that if something doesn't break soon he's going to have to put him on forced leave. He was worried that Mikkelson might snap and come after me."
"How is that even possible?" Shannon asked. "Jimmy only showed him the one girl. We were there; Allison and I went along in 'observer' to watch. Jimmy doesn't trust himself alone with some of these people so he likes to have at least one of us along to make sure he doesn't do anything really bad. We thought it was a terrible thing to do to someone but agreed it was, if not necessary, then at least justified in this case so he understood what we were dealing with and that he was the one responsible if the killer got away because he outed you. Basically we all agreed he deserved it, but that what he got was plenty."
"Wait," Bob interjected. "You said he's had nightmares of four girls. Jimmy, when did you lay this little guilt trip on him?"
"Right after Angela was kidnapped."
"So you couldn't have known any of the details of her torture. And since you never went back, where did those images come from? I can sort of see how you may have inadvertently left behind the images of Maria and Amanda when you ran him through Diane's death, just thinking about it may have been enough to hide the other sets of images in his subconscious, but you didn't know about Angela then. So where did those images come from?"
"Right now I don't care where any of it came from," Rebecca said. "All I care about is putting a stop to it. Jimmy, you've got to go back and fix this. Yes, what he did was wrong, very wrong. But what's happening to him is just as bad if not worse. These visions are driving him crazy; he's afraid to go to sleep. The doctor is worried he could get violent. He may not be my favorite person but..."
I cut her off, "Stop. Enough, I understand what you're saying and you're right; this is wrong. But you have to believe it when I say I didn't mean for this to happen. I just gave him the one nightmare; that was all. It was supposed to be a one-time thing to show him that his shooting off his mouth could be the difference in whether we stopped the killer or not. And that this was the kind of man that was going to be walking around free because he shot his mouth off to the paper. I made him watch my vision of what happened to Diane, the whole thing, but I never showed him the other girls and I certainly didn't show him anything about Angela."
"Then where did those images come from?" Allison asked.
"We'll worry about that later," Shannon said. "Rebecca's right; what matters now is fixing it before officer butt-head loses it and hurts someone, or himself. I think it's safe to say that he's learned his lesson and won't be talking to the press any more, and that was the whole point to begin with so now we just need to stop the nightmares before they drive him over the edge."
We were all nodding in agreement. I caught Rebecca's eye and said, "I'll go tonight."
"Wait," Allison said. "How do we explain it to the shrink that the nightmares just suddenly stopped when he called Rebecca about it? That would seem to encourage the idea that she had something to do with it."
"I think I've got that covered," Rebecca answered. "I told Winslow that I was dating a therapist and got permission to ask him about it if I didn't name any names. I think we just play it up as guilt."
"That is the most plausible explanation," Bob agreed. "He has this overwhelming guilt about what happened and he can't get rid of it. Tell the doctor that I said Mikkelson needs forgiveness, and that the only way to get it is to admit what he did, to you. Assure him that it will all be confidential and that you won't pursue it beyond that point. Tell him to have Mikkelson call you directly and admit what he did. Forgive him and tell him not to do it again. Make sure you use the word forgive. As soon as you get the call, let me know and I'll give Jimmy the go ahead. He may not do it right away so, Jimmy, if you go tonight, only plan to go as an observer unless you hear from me first. Don't fix it unless you hear from me first. Otherwise Allison is right and it will just feed into his idea that Rebecca was somehow responsible." He looked around the room. "Anyone else have anything to add?"
No one did so I let the scene fade and everyone woke up again. I was still staring at the ceiling when Allison stated the obvious.
"I guess this means vacation is over."
Since rescuing Angela and losing the killer I had limited my dream time to purely recreational activities. The only exception was bringing Angela in to see Bob and occasionally to hang out with us at the beach. The people at the center where she was staying had mixed reviews on her progress. It was normal for new people to have good days and bad days, and although they didn't know it, Angela did have a bit of an edge. Where most people in witness protection had to deal with a complete and total separation from their former lives; Angela, Amber now, had the benefit of being able to spend time with at least some of the people she cared for, even if it was only in dreams. She was even getting to the point where she could hug me without shaking, sometimes. Most of the people the government were hiding had the fear of death motivating them, what they didn't have was memories of a month's worth of pain, torture, and abuse.
"Yeah, I guess the party's over and now it's back to the nightly grind," I said. "That's okay though, this shouldn't take that much to fix and I've been thinking I really need to get started on the Vegas problem. I've been feeling a little like we have abandoned Samantha."
"I know what you mean," Allison said, "but I've been worried about how to tell her that Amanda's killer got away."
"Why would you want to lie to her like that?" Shannon asked.
That got my attention and I sat up to look at her. "What do you mean? He did get away?"
"No he didn't. We just haven't caught him yet. I think you're beating yourself up a little too much over that. Maybe we didn't catch him, but we got Angela out before he killed her, and if you think about it, odds are his concentration is not as high because you've disrupted his plans. If that is true you may be able to take advantage of that to reach the guy in the cell again."
"Why didn't you bring that up before?"
"I hadn't really thought about it until you brought it up, but Bob said he thought the killer's control would get better as he approached time to kill and really be impossible to break once we had the girl. Well then, by contrast, since his carefully laid plays went down the drain it figures that he may be a little off balance right now."
"That makes sense," Allison said. "He lost the girl, his base of operations, even his carefully crafted and maintained identity all in one night. It's going to take him time to relocate, re-establish himself and rebuild his life to the point that he can start again. There's a very good chance that all the distractions may leave him vulnerable."
"So you're saying that I should have gone straight after him instead of taking time to relax."
"No!" This time the answer came in stereo. The girls looked at each other, then Allison got up and came to sit on the couch with us. Shannon and I rolled onto our sides to make room. Shannon tucked her feet up so Allison would have a place to sit. Once she was settled she continued, "You needed the time to recover too. You were a wreck. You'd been running yourself ragged the whole time Angela was missing. You hardly slept, and when you did it was just long enough to see if she had shown up yet."
"But I may have blown the best chance I had to really get to him."
"You had other things that needed doing. Like helping Angela get over her ordeal and back in touch with the real world. Yes, you may have been able to do something if you had been able to reach the guy in the cell, but remember, Bob said that the personalities may know about each other. It's obvious the guy in the cell knows at least some of what's going on outside. What if the guy outside knows what's going on in the cell? He may have been watching closer then to see if anything else was wrong."
"That's kind of a stretch, don't you think?"
Shannon laughed. "It's not any more of a stretch than thinking you may have been able to take advantage of something. Let's face it; we really don't have a clue one way or the other so there is no sense in second-guessing ourselves about what we should have or could have done that might have made a difference. Right now let's just concentrate on the immediate problem. What the heck went wrong with officer butt-head?"
"Yes, and why?" Allison added.
"Well, I'm open to suggestions," I said. "I don't have a clue. I mean all I did -- all I ever intended to do was just the one scene, basically to punish him for being an asshole."
"Then where did the other visions come from?" Shannon asked. "I mean, I'm not saying Bob is wrong, but I don't buy you 'accidentally' leaving the images of the other girls floating around waiting to pounce on the guy."
"I don't either," I said. "I was concentrating on the one set and that's all. I knew before I got there what I was going to do; there was no hesitation about what scenes to let him see."
"Then where did the rest come from?" she persisted.
"I don't know, and right now that can't be our first concern; you said it yourself, our first priority has to be fixing the problem."
"Then what's the game plan?" Allison asked. "I mean, let's just assume that it goes our way and he calls Rebecca and apologizes, she forgives him, yada-yada-yada, so what do we do then? How do you go in and fix it? You can't just magically make it go away. It will look too ... I don't know."
"That's okay, I get your point. I think we do the scene the same way we it did the first time. Let it start out as familiar. I don't know which parts he's been re-living but he should recognize it either way. Then we change the scene so that instead of accusing him and offering up punishment we're letting him know that he's done the right thing and he's off the hook. Then we, or rather I, do a little monitoring to make sure he doesn't have any more of those visions."
"Okay, then what?"
"What do you mean 'then what'? It either works or we look for another solution."
"And what if he's not the only one?" Allison asked.
"Oh shit!" Shannon said. "The guy in the SUV?"
"Right," Allison said. "And?"
"That's it isn't it? Unless he's done something with someone else he didn't tell us about."
"What about Frank Watkins?"
"Screw him!" Shannon answered hotly. "That bastard can melt down for all I care."
"No, Allison's right," I said. "We've got to think big picture here. Don't get me wrong, I'd like to see him rotting in a rubber room too, but not because I made a mistake. We need to check on him just to verify whether or not there is a problem. Besides I don't want anything happening to him until I've managed to find out everything I can from him, then he can rot, but I still don't want it to be because I screwed up. Those are the only three I have done anything ... punitive to."
"Okay then," Allison said. "If we get the call we go take care of Mikkelson first. If not, then we go check on the others and see what's going on and figure out how to fix it if there's a problem. So, are we going to wax the truck before or after we get that nap we were so rudely screwed out of?"
We did eventually get the truck waxed. Bob still hadn't called by the time the 'rents got home. After dinner Shannon and I did dishes and then Allison and I took her home. Mark was still at work but Tom and Karen, their parents, were home so we got the latest update from Tom's doctors on his cancer. The news was all good, Tom had only one more round of chemo to get through and based on preliminary indicators they expected him to be declared free and clear. It was still too soon to celebrate but it was very positive. The doctors couldn't believe how well he was doing. The minor modifications I had made when he first started treatment were still holding; which meant that he was eating well and maintaining his weight. Of all the things my ability had allowed me to do; only rescuing Angela gave me more pride than the results I had achieved with Tom.
One of the biggest problems for cancer patients is food. Chemotherapy patients had a real hard time eating. The chemical cocktails swirling through their systems ruins the way everything tastes and does awful things to their appetites. As a result, at a time when their bodies need every scrap of energy it can muster, some don't eat at all. No fuel to work with makes it hard for the body to repair itself. It will start by draining what it has available in the form of stored body fat, but it doesn't stop there. Muscle mass drops, nutrients are leached from bone material, anywhere the body can pull from it does. I guess the system figures that if you die it's not going to do you any good anyway so it might as well use it while it can.
Tom was one of the more extreme cases. He had zero appetite and anything you put in his mouth tasted horrible. It was all Karen could do to get him to swallow. He had been dropping weight fast and had no energy at all. One night I had a radical idea.
Allison had been watching what was going on not just in my dreams but in reality as well and come to the conclusion that I was what she referred to as 'subconsciously projective.' She suggested to Bob that I was subconsciously projecting my feelings and emotions onto people I was in physical contact with, and even more so in dreams. She cited several examples and Bob was forced to concede the possibility In dreams, where I was interacting directly with someone's subconscious, it seemed to work as sort of an instant hypnotic suggestion. One night, after seeing Tom looking truly horrible on the way home from treatment, I had a flash of brilliance. I think I must have been channeling Allison because she's the genius of the group. I talked to Bob and he agreed to go along and help me try something. I bridged Tom and implanted two suggestions. First, that chemotherapy was an intense workout and he was always hungry after a treatment. The second suggestion was somewhat trickier. I essentially bypassed his taste buds so he didn't taste his food at all, instead what he experienced was the most vivid memory of how that particular food was supposed to taste. Suddenly everything tasted not only the way it should, but like it was the best he had ever tasted of whatever it was.
This was also how we had implanted the sleep triggers that allowed any of us to go from waking to dreaming in less than a minute. It had been the difference in rescuing Angela. The triggers came with built in safeties. They only worked if the right person said them, they wouldn't work unless you felt it was safe for them to work at that time, and you could cancel them any time you wanted. We only used them when we had to. Usually we just met at night after falling asleep normally.