by David Adès
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
Locus 3, Segment 4, Iteration 1
“We’re not alone,” Josh Lentin said.
“There’s another Josh Lentin.”
“There’s another one. He took Cassie and brought her here. I happened to see them leaving the house and followed. He knew I was following, but he didn’t care. Cassie was in a state. She was screaming. He was rough with her. I had no idea he could be that rough with her. I should have caught them but, even with her struggling, he was too fast. I saw them disappear and I didn’t know how they did it. I was trying to work out what to do when you appeared.”
I struggled to digest the implications of what Josh Lentin was saying.
He didn’t wait for me to think things through. “I have to follow them. I need you to show me how you do it.”
I needed to think and told him so, but he just shook his head. “The more time we spend here, the colder the trail will get. I can’t let that happen.”
“There’s a problem,” I said slowly, still feeling my jaw. “I don’t know where I am going. When I walked around with my eyes closed and stumbled, I was aiming to get back home, to return to the reality I started from. Instead, I arrived here, in another one, different from the one I left, which was in turn different from my own.
“If I have no idea how to get back to my own reality, I certainly have no idea how to follow anyone through to wherever it was they were going, assuming they even knew where they were going. There might be more than one other Josh Lentin. There might be hundreds of them. And hundreds of Cassies too.”
Josh Lentin was not in the mood to be contemplative. He needed to act. His stillness belied a sense of urgency. I understood it completely. I hadn’t thought twice about trying to return to my world. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I might stumble into a third reality. But stumbling into a third reality and Josh Lentin’s oncoming fist gave me, I thought, fair reason to pause.
“I’m sorry,” Josh Lentin said, not sounding sorry at all, and grabbing me by the arm, “but I don’t have time for this. I need you to come with me.”
I should have expected him to act, but he caught me completely unawares. He threw me hard towards the tree root, holding on to me as he did so. As I fell I heard him say: “After all, two Josh Lentins have to be better than one.”
Locus 5, Segment 3, Iteration 1
I hope he is right about that.
Locus 4, Segment 1, Iteration 1
We landed in a tangled mess.
There had been a fire; recently, by the looks of it. Horsnell Gully was still smouldering. The trees were burnt and charred. Wisps of smoke were rising from the ground.
Josh Lentin and I spoke at the same time.
“Oh hell, oh hell, the bastard,” I said.
“Josh Lentin did this.”
“Don’t move,” growled a third voice from behind us. If Josh Lentin were anything like me, he would have had to bear down hard on the reflexive temptation to turn towards that voice. We both froze. Footsteps — very deliberate footsteps — crunched in a wide circle from behind us.
I half expected to see Josh Lentin, although the voice had not sounded like his. A man wearing a police uniform moved into my line of vision. There was a gun in his hand. It was pointed at us. The hand, at least, was steady. The face was grim.
Often, in moments of difficulty, a wry little voice sitting on my left shoulder whispers into my ear. I heard it now, tinged with sarcasm: Good one, Josh. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. I can’t wait to see your next move. If I were prone to self-hatred, I would hate that voice. As always, though, I just ignored it. I figured there would be plenty of time for recriminations.
More footsteps followed the first. The policeman wasn’t alone. I could hear scuffling and other sounds behind me.
“Get up, both of you. Do it slowly.” The voice was steady, too, sure of itself. It was used to being obeyed. This was not someone to trifle with or provoke. Josh Lentin must have reached the same conclusion. We both did as we were told.
“Put your hands behind your backs.”
With smooth efficiency, we were both handcuffed. A strong arm took hold of me. I stole a look at the ground. The old tree root was blackened but otherwise intact. It might be harder to find with the gully disfigured by fire, but it was still there. If I could get the chance, I could find it.
“Take them to the van. We’ll question them at the station.”
We were turned around, facing the slope heading down and out of the gully. Part way down the slope and to our right, it looked like there was a whole forensic team at work. We were marched away to the left. I suddenly noticed a pungent, cloying smell and felt queasy. Was that the smell of charred flesh? Was that a body? Was that Cassie? Oh hell, oh hell, the bastard.
Locus 5, Segment 3, Iteration 1
I have had no contact with Josh Lentin for days now. We were put into separate cells and have been separately interrogated. I was DNA tested. The results are pending. I haven’t been charged with anything yet.
Although I have neither asked questions nor been given answers, I have been able to glean some things by the questions asked of me.
A woman’s body was found in the gully, burnt beyond recognition. Tests have been undertaken but she is yet to be identified. I don’t doubt that it is Cassie.
Another woman’s body was found at the house in Clarke Street. She had been stabbed and the knife found and taken into evidence. The body has been formally identified as that of Cassie Anderson.
DNA testing will no doubt reveal Josh Lentin as the murderer. That Josh Lentin is not just a killer: he is a serial killer, but possibly of only one woman. I believe he’s killed Cassie twice and might even now be in pursuit of another Cassie. My Cassie is in danger and I have no way to warn her.
The clever bastard has framed Josh Lentin and me and fled the scene.
I can only hope for divergences in our histories. That Josh Lentin has diverged enormously from the template I am familiar with, the non-violent, somewhat mild and meek man. It seems that the name is always the same, the Clarke Street address, the obsession with Cassie, but there surely must be many points of divergence, of which differences in clothing and the state of Josh Lentin’s car are just two examples.
I spend most of my time in my cell pondering alternatives.
Maybe the DNA testing will show differences between that Josh Lentin, the Josh Lentin in the next cell and me. If so, maybe we will be in the clear and will have to be released. We were apprehended immediately upon our arrival in this world, so our DNA won’t be found at either crime scene.
What if the three of us have the same DNA? Is that even possible? Even identical twins don’t have the same DNA, do they?
I don’t know to what extent the judicial system here has diverged from the one I know. I just have to hope that there are grounds for creating reasonable doubt in the minds of any judge or jury. If we all have the same DNA, then which one of us is the murderer? How could one of us be proved as murderer beyond reasonable doubt?
Are the police going to try to turn Josh Lentin against me, and me against him? We can corroborate each other’s story. We can take the court up to Horsnell Gully and trip over that old root in front of it.
What if the Josh Lentin of this world was in a violent, abusive relationship with Cassie, and there were witnesses to it? What if Cassie’s friends and relatives see Josh Lentin and me in a line-up and identify one or both of us?
Locus 5, Segment 4, Iteration 1
I have many questions and no answers.
I only know one thing for certain: a future is coming for me. More than ever, I don’t know which one.
Locus 5, Segment 4, Iteration 17
A hood has been placed over my head. My hands have been tied. I have been part walked, part shoved from my cell to somewhere else, where I have been roughly shackled to a chair and told not to speak. I can hear breathing nearby, to my right. Someone else is in the room. We wait, listening to the anxiety in each other’s breath. Listening, I realise that I can hear more than one other person breathing.
The hood is ripped from my head.
“Hello, gentlemen. How are you enjoying your little predicament?”
It is a rhetorical question. The mouth is curved in a sneer, the eyes full of malice. Josh Lentin. He leans forward conspiratorially, voice low and hard. “Let me make this perfectly clear. I am not here to save you. And you will not save her.”
Locus 5, Segment 4, Iteration 59
After five days, I am taken from my cell to an interrogation room. A burly guard accompanies me, points to a chair and tells me to sit. Moments later Josh Lentin enters with another guard and is also directed to a chair.
We exchange glances but say nothing, enveloped in the cone of silence palpably emanating from the guards standing behind us. The room is bare but for three chairs, a table and a door. We wait. When the door finally opens and Josh Lentin walks in, I feel a lurch, a displacement, a sudden wave of dizziness. I am so tired of not seeing things coming.
“At least introductions aren’t necessary,” Josh Lentin says, with a strained laugh.
On the contrary, I think but don’t say.
“I know you two have already met,” he continues. “Let me cut to the chase. We have a problem. I don’t have a solution. I need your help.”
Copyright © 2016 by David Adès