By the time I had returned, Talya had had the time to create something of a cozy scene in the living room. Everyone was laughing (although Reena’s laugh was forced and Connor’s overcompensated) and our guest seemed to be enjoying himself.
He stood up when I walked in.
Talya also stood. “And this is my husband, Sean,” she said with a smile. “Sean, this is Jeffrey, Reena’s cousin.”
“By marriage,” Jeffrey said with a smile, extending his hand.
I shook it. “I take it you get that question a lot?”
Jeffrey chuckled. “All the time. People can’t seem to instinctively grasp that a white guy like me can marry into an Indian family.”
Reena grinned. “It’s worth the expression on their faces though.”
“Definitely,” agreed Jeffrey, watching me as I carefully sat in the remaining couch. “I hear you were in an accident?”
I nodded. “I have a bad tendency of wandering into the night while I sleep.”
Jeffrey winced. “What did you run into?”
“Thankfully it was the first time in six months he got hurt while sleepwalking,” Talya said.
“You got hurt six months ago, too?” Jeffrey asked me.
I shook my head. “I started sleepwalking six months ago.”
“Isn’t that highly unusual, to start sleepwalking in adulthood?”
“It is,” Connor said, “Usually, a person starts sleepwalking during childhood and loses the habit; some adults keep sleepwalking throughout their entire lives. However, it might simply be that Sean has always sleepwalked and only recently noticed it.”
Jeffrey was nodding thoughtfully. I liked him – he seemed to be ruled by logic, someone who would listen to my story and give it a chance rather than judge me on the get-go. “Other than that, does your current sleepwalking fit the normal pattern?”
“Yes and no,” I said. “I do seem to be somewhat aware of my surroundings, like the time I went out in the cold and came back in to get a coat.”
“How did you figure that out?”
I smiled. “It had snowed, and my footmarks were visible when I came back home.”
Jeffrey nodded again.
“Interestingly enough, being exhausted decreases the frequency of my sleep-walking episodes,” I added.
“What about the actual dream?” Jeffrey asked.
My heart skipped a beat. This man wasn’t beating around the bush, was he. He had probably connected the dots and figured out Reena had wanted him to come to meet with me. “What do you mean?”
“From the little I know,” he said in a tone I understood meant he had read a lot about the subject, “somnambulism usually happens when a person dreams of something and acts it out. Usually it’s a traumatic event. There is the case of a woman whose name slips my mind – she was convinced her house was on fire, and threw her infant out of the window, screaming ‘Save my children!’. Only there wasn’t a fire, and no one had been standing directly under the window.”
I shuddered, grateful that the only harm that had happened up to now was to me (and, to a certain extent, to Talya). “Thankfully, nothing like that happened to me.”
Jeffrey made a face. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have been so callous as to tell you that particular story.” I’m pretty sure he meant it, but I couldn’t tell – I was fighting off waves of nausea.
My eyes met those of my wife, which were reflecting the same turmoil I was feeling. “We could always lock you in somewhere to sleep,” she tried to joke. But I actually thought it was a good idea.
“There are some lifestyle changes you could make,” Jeffrey said, still sounding apologetic. “You can also be put on medication if your case is extreme. There are many interventions that can keep your family and yourself safe.”
“What if,” Talya said, “he wanted to have these dreams?”
Jeffrey frowned. “What do you mean?”
Talya hesitated briefly. “Purely hypothetically…”
“Of course,” Jeffrey said rapidly – meaning that he understood that while this was off the record, it was anything but hypothetical. I wondered if my wife really knew what she was doing, and tried to get the image of myself in an orange jumpsuit behind bars out of my head. The tights and cape had seemed like a much better idea.
“Hypothetically, if someone was having dreams about events…”
“What kind of events?”
Talya hesitated again, a little less briefly. “Crimes.”
“If a sleep-walker was attracted, somehow, to places where crimes had been committed and that, in his dream, he saw how things happened, should he go to the police or not?”
“It depends on what he saw,” Jeffrey said, putting his glass down. The air in the room had suddenly and irrevocably changed, and from the tightening in everyone’s face, I knew they had felt it too. “If he is just imagining something, then there is no reason why he should bother the police.”
Reena suddenly stood up, mumbled a sorry, and left the room.
“What if he had reason to believe what he is seeing might be true?”
“Does he think they are true, or does he know?”
Talya hesitated again. “He knows they are true.”
“Can this person who is dreaming about these things, and sleepwalking to the scenes of the crimes he claims to be able to see in his sleep, prove that he wasn’t there at the moment of the crime?”
“Not always,” Talya said. “What if, to make it realistic, this guy sees some crimes that happened before he was born, others before he had even come here, and for the rest, he had some alibis for a couple but none for most of them?”
Jeffrey kept his gaze fixed on Talya for a couple of moments before answering. “If someone is sleepwalking to various locations where various crimes have been committed, I think he should definitely come to the police station since some of these crimes might still not have been solved. I think a combination of the person’s criminal record, his status as a citizen and his cooperation with the police would make the lack of alibis for many of the recent crimes fly by.”
“You don’t think this person won’t have problems?” Talya insisted.
Jeffrey smiled. “I never said that. Quite the contrary; it can easily be assumed that until all the alibis available aren’t checked, this person will be the prime suspect. And even in the cases where the alibis do check out, the police will still keep this person under close watch until his innocence can be conclusively proven.”
Reena walked back into the room with a paper in her hands. “What if this person didn’t have an alibi only for crimes that have been solved, say, about forty, and only for two crimes that have yet to be solved?” she said.
My mouth dropped open.
“It would definitely help this person,” Jeffrey said, “but police officers and inspectors have been trained to hold everyone as suspicious. This person might be considered as an accomplice instead.”
“I think it’s obvious that this person should contact police enforcement,” I said.
Jeffrey nodded. “I would even say the sooner the better, to show this person’s good faith.”
“What if this person is only worried about the effect of this entire process on his family?” I asked.
He looked me straight in the eye. “I would give that person my solemn promise that we would do everything in our power to make the experience easier.”
I nodded, then looked up at Talya, who had since long come to stand behind me and had put her hand on my shoulder. “I think this person should get in touch with Jeffrey as soon as possible,” I said.
She hesitated, sighed then nodded. “Go for it.”