I screamed and screamed and screamed – everything, the pent up emotions of the last six months, the horror I felt at everything I had seen, my fear for my children and my wife, and the horror of Reena’s death especially with the horrible way things had ended – it got to me. I had to get it out out out – all of it had to come out before it suffocated me.
A sharp slap on my face was exactly what I needed, but I couldn’t help but resent it a little. “What the heck?” I said, shaking my head as the image in front of me disappeared. Instead, I saw Jeffrey’s pale face.
“Better?” he asked.
I took a deep, steadying breath and nodded. “Is she… is she still there?” I said. He had spun me around or something. I was now facing the door and didn’t dare look behind
He frowned, then looked behind me. “There is no one here, Sean.”
“You’re sure,” I whispered.
I was grateful that he was there, that he stayed silent until I collected myself and that he kept his hands on my shoulders. “I’m good,” I said a few minutes earlier.
He peered at me then, satisfied with what he saw, took his hands off. “Want to go somewhere else? It’s a bit of a walk back home, and a coffee would do you good.”
I nodded. I still couldn’t believe I had walked all the way here and… Wait a minute…
“What are you doing here?”
He smiled, a little sheepish. “Let’s just say I was doing a little bit of unofficial investigative work.”
The sight of Reena’s dead body – I looked back, just to make sure it really wasn’t there anymore – had been too much, and my brain just wouldn’t kick back into high gear. So I just stared at him.
“I decided to review all the files you got while watching the house, in the hopes that you would have such an episode tonight,” he explained. He gestured towards the door. “Shall we?”
I started walking, a little slowly and a little halted. At least I didn’t fall. “What if I hadn’t had a dream tonight?”
“At the rate of two to four a week, I was found to see it for myself tonight, tomorrow or Monday night,” he said. I just made sure I could have mornings off.”
“You can just call and figure it out?” I asked.
“If it has to do with work, you can always figure things out,” he said, leaving it at that.
Silence feel until we got to the Round the Clock campus coffee shop. “I’m glad you’re here,” I admitted after we had placed our orders.
We had chosen the table at the far end of the room to make sure no one would disturb us – or, I suddenly realised, so that no one would overhear us.
“What time is it?” I asked Jeffrey. I hadn’t thought of putting my watch on.
He briefly checked his. “A little after midnight.”
I patted my pockets and, relieved, took out my cell phone. “Let me just send a quick text message to my wife,” I said. “If she wakes up, I don’t want her to worry.”
I took a few moments to send her a carefully worded text message that explained where I was without sending her into a worried frenzy – although my wife’s frenzies were so tame compared to some that it took a real expert to identify them.
“So, what happened?” Jeffrey asked me after we had both warmed our hands around the warm mugs the waitress set in front of us.
I frowned into mine. “It was so odd,” I said. My thoughts were still scattered; I really didn’t feel like doing this now.
“In what sense?”
There didn’t seem to be a way out. I tried to feel grateful for the fact that I recently bought a brand new pair of pyjamas which I was now wearing. My old pirate pyjamas would have been the ultimate humiliation, since my coat is short and would left the large part of them fully exposed, including the hole in the, um… Suffice to say that I wouldn’t want anyone to see me in them.
I took another deep breath, reining my thoughts in. “First of all, I was very aware of everything that was going on as it was happening.”
Jeffrey remained silent, so I went on. “Usually, I don’t feel anything while it’s happening. The last thing I consciously remember is being in bed, then I am in a room, I see the event and I wake up. This time, I remember getting out of bed, thinking about how cold it is and putting a coat on,” I preferred not to get into the whole beautiful young lady thing just yet, “walking in the street and getting into the office.”
Jeffrey slowly nodded. “What about what you saw?” he said.
“Reena…” I jerked up. “We have to go make sure she’s OK.” I was fumbling with my coat’s zipper, half standing, half sitting – generally looking awkward, I’m sure – so I didn’t catch what Jeffrey said.
“She’s fine. I already called her, while we were walking here from your office.”
For the life of me, I couldn’t remember that. Had I been in that much of a daze? Whatever the case, Reena was fine. I heavily sat back down on the bench and buried my head in my hands.
“I’m sorry,” I said a few moments later. “I feel like it’s the first time I’m seeing something like that.”
“In a way, it is,” Jeffrey said.
I nodded. “It’s a night of firsts,” I admitted. “First time I was so aware of everything, first night I saw an event” I still refused to call it anything but that, “about someone I know and first time I saw something that hadn’t happened yet.”
“So all the, um, dreams, you have had up to now, they are only about the past, right?”
“I wonder…” Jeffrey murmured.
I waited, taking the time to sip on my coffee. Amazing how something so bitter – especially when purchased on campus – could taste so perfect.
“How do you usually react to stress?” Jeffrey asked.
“I’m OK with, up until a certain point. Then I tend to lose it.”
“Would you say that with an accumulation of 6 months of dreams, figuring out this week that they weren’t just dreams but a sort of vision, taking in your friends on the confidence, having an accident, being hospitalised and having an officer of the law know about it might have take you to that point?”
When he put it that way, it did make me look better than I felt I was. “I guess it’s not big deal that I feel like sleeping for a year, huh.”
A small smile touched the corner of Jeffrey’s lips. “Do you think there is a remote possibility that tonight was not about seeing something, but actually dreaming about it?”
“You think tonight was a fake,” I said.
He nodded. “A good old, stress-induced nightmare.”
“And I would have dreamt about Reena because I feel guilty about the way things ended earlier at my place.”
“Ah, guilt,” Jeffrey said. “The age-old trigger of so many life-altering events. So tell me more about the dream, Sean.”
“Why? It was a fake… Wasn’t it?”
The same small smile touched Jeffrey’s lips, I noticed it was a little lopsided, just like mine – something Talya loved about me. I couldn’t help the totally irrational feeling of jealousy that touched me at that moment.
“It probably is. But just in case, we should record all the details of it, make another file for it. Speaking of which, your files will be returned to you Monday morning.”
“Thanks,” I said, watching him take out a notepad and a pen.
He waited patiently for me to start. However repulsive it was (even more so than usual), I took a few moments to walk myself through the entire dream. As the caffeine kicked in, details of my dream started coming back to me. And suddenly, one detail, seemingly random but so important, hit me as hard as that car had a few nights ago.
“It’s going to happen,” I said. “Reena. On the 15th. She has a conference. She always stays late after conferences. It had just happened, around eleven thirty – that’s when she would have been leaving the office after typing up her notes.”
“Slow down, cowboy,” Jeffrey said with a frown. “What are you talking about?”
“In my dream, the electronic calendar on Reena’s desk – she actually has one – was marked 11h30 on the 15th. We have conferences every 15th of the month. They tend to finish around 10, 10h30, at which time Reena goes back to her offices and types her notes up.” Another detail suddenly clicked into place. “She hadn’t taken her coat off, and her notes were still on paper,” I said. “So she came back to her office, maybe with someone, and he killed her.”
Jeffrey was frowning a little darkly now. “I still think this entire dream is just a figment of an overtired mind, but you know what, how about we treat it as an omen and warn Reena?”
“Yes. Better safe than sorry.” My brain felt like it was about to explode and I really didn’t want to start crying in front of a big, strong investigator. “Would you terribly mind if we continue this another time, maybe in the afternoon?”
“Yes, sure. You look like you are ready to fall off your feet. Are you OK to walk all the way home?”
“Are you coming with me?”
He nodded. “My car’s there.”
Good. I didn’t feel like walking alone. We paid – actually no, he paid; I hadn’t had the presence of mind to bring my wallet with me – and left. The night was cool but I needed the walk; I think it helped Jeffrey too, because he kept taking out his notepad to jot things down.
We finally got to my street. I stopped by his car. “Thank you,” I said. And I meant it. Somehow, his strength and calm had seeped into me. I was back to my normal self.
“No problem,” he said. “Go in. I’ll be here until you turn the porch light off.”
I nodded. “Should I call you in the morning?”
“Yes. You have my card.”
I had one more thing to do. After I turned off the porch light, took a warm shower and changed into a new set of pyjamas, I went first to Shona’s room, then to Patrick’s. I watched them sleep for a little while, wondering what kind of world I had brought them in, a world where some people commit heinous acts and others just don’t seem to care. It almost didn’t seem responsible that Talya and I wanted to bring another innocent soul into such a sick, twisted world. I would have to talk to her about that, maybe wait until this entire thing blew over before we continued trying.