Thursday, 28 October 2010

Chapter Five

They took a bus towards the University of South London, sitting in frightened silence.  Jamie could feel the mysterious key buzzing against her thigh as it lay nestled in her jeans pocket.  She wasn’t going to avoid whatever was happening.  She needed Dad's help to try to understand it. 
     The security-guard at USL’s main reception knew Jamie from previous visits, so he gave her and Stokes two visitors passes that they clipped to their jackets. 
     It had been Ryan Caller’s enthusiasm that helped create the new 'psychology' department, a specially designed clinical wing, but there were only a few people around on a Saturday.  The halls were mostly empty.
     Luckily, Dad was in his office.  They saw him through the window in the door, his eyes in his laptop. 
     He looked surprised when he turned at the sound of Jamie’s knocking and saw her outside.  He must have seen the purple bruise that covered half her face.  He got up quickly and opened the door.
   Oh, Jamie,” he said with a look of concern, glancing quickly at Stokes and then back at his battered daughter.  Dad and Stokes had always been very close.  Jamie often thought they had an almost telepathic connection.  A lot of the time they didn’t need words to communicate.
     “I’ll wait outside,” Stokes murmured and wandered casually back down the hall.
     Jamie hurried into the office and sat in the leather chair opposite the desk.  She sighed and muttered, “It looks worse than it is.  Don’t get freaked out, ok?”
      Her dad pulled up a wooden chair and sat right next to her, taking her hand.  “Tell me what happened to you.”  He could already sense that something else had occurred besides the bruise on her face, something much stranger. 
     She told him almost everything – the naked bleeding woman in the canal, getting clipped by the car, waking up in St Francis Hospital, everything except the mysterious key that Stokes had found.  She wasn’t ready to tell anyone about that yet, not even her father, not until she had some answers herself.  Ryan Caller listened to the whole thing with an uneasy mixture of fear and interest.
     “Wow, I’m just glad you’re not too badly hurt,” he said, leaning forward and kissing her good cheek.  “But you did the right thing trying to help this woman.  Let me see your phone.” 
     She removed the charred mobile and handed it to him.  His eyes widened a little. 
     “Dad, Stokes said that he overheard the police say this woman's name.  Isobel Finch.”
     A look of disbelief crossed her dad’s face.  That look quickly became one of fear.  “Oh, Isobel, no…”
     “She’s someone you work with, isn’t she?” 
     He nodded and pressed his hands to his eyes, maybe to stop himself from crying.  He sighed and stared at Jamie again.  “She worked in the department until about four months ago.  She got fired.  I can’t believe it…”
     Jamie felt a desire for the truth collecting steadily inside her.  “Who is she, Dad?  Tell me everything.  I need to know.”
     Ryan Caller simply nodded, perhaps realising he should have paid more attention to his daughter’s obvious gifts.  He knew his daughter was special, different from most children.  He’d known it soon after she was born.  He hadn’t wanted to turn her into a test-subject, but he didn’t want to ignore it either.  If he couldn’t protect her from it, he could at least arm her with knowledge and courage.
     “Isobel Finch worked on lots of quiet projects with the department.  ESP, mostly.  She was quite a brilliant researcher, used to be a psychoanalyst for the Army.  Last year she brought her daughter into one of our experiments.  She thought that Maddeline had some kind of psychic potential.  I think she did, but…it all went wrong.”
     Jamie was getting cold just listening to this story.  “What happened?’
     “Maddeline Finch was only a year older than you.  Maybe the environment was too restrictive or something, but…basically she went crazy.  She attacked one of the technicians…stabbed him in the hand with a pen.  Screaming about evil spirits and all sorts of things…” 
     Jamie could see that her dad was frightened.   “It could have been a lot worse, honey.  They could have shut us down, but Maddy ended up being hospitalised.  I don’t think Isobel ever got over it.  After that she lost her motivation at work, she became erratic.  Eventually the faculty fired her.  That was back in August, I think.  Didn’t hear from her since.”
     Jamie didn’t want to believe what she was hearing, but she did believe.  “Isobel knew my name.  Did you tell her about me?”  He nodded.  “But that doesn’t explain why I happened to walk past at the moment she decides to strip naked and slash herself with a razor.  Plus she was bleeding from between her legs, like she was on her period or something…”
     Ryan Caller looked deeply at his daughter.  “When we tested Maddy, she would sometimes spontaneously get her period.  It was embarrassing for her, and it frightened some of the technicians.  We never did explain it.  Maybe Isobel had some kind of precognitive ability like her daughter.  Maybe she passed it down to Maddy on a genetic level.  Oh, Jamie…you knew this was coming, didn’t you?  Why couldn’t you tell me what you were sensing?”
     Jamie frowned.  “I thought I was being stupid.  Sometimes I wonder if I can really sense those things.  Maybe I just wanted to be special…”
     In a whisper her father told her what she already knew.  “You are special. You can’t run from it.  It’s who you are.  I tried to explain that to Megan, but she didn’t want to know…”
     They both went quiet at the mention of Jamie’s Mum.  A heaviness descended in the office around them. 
     “Dad, do you know where this Maddedline Finch is now?  I think I need to meet her, talk with her.”
     Ryan Caller pursed his lips like he was deciding something.  “The last I heard, she was a patient at the Ensler psychiatric-unit.”
     Jamie shot up from her chair and marched to the door.  She glanced back at her father.
     “Stokes will take me.  I need to see her, Dad.  I’ll meet you at home when I’m done.  Don’t try to stop me.  I’m not going to run away this time.  If I’d trusted my intuition, maybe the doctors could’ve got to Mum’s cancer before it was too late.”
     Dad looked anguished, hesitant.  “Wait, honey, that wasn’t your fault…”
     Jamie held back the tears.  “I’m not running away this time.”

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