A Study in Dots
Carl Bennett drummed his fingers on the coffee table, flipping through channels while he waited for the pizza he ordered nearly an hour ago. He lingered on the news channel, just long enough to see a picture of a pretty redhead and the word “missing” flash across the screen before turning the TV off– he dealt with enough crimes as it was. Sparing another glance at the clock to see that another five minutes had passed, Carl ran his fingers through his hair and reached for his phone, intending to tell the pizza parlor just what he thought of their promised swift deliveries.
A knock echoed through the apartment, and Carl hurried to the door, not bothering to take his wallet along. Wrenching open the door, he prepared to see a bored teenage face, over an hour late, and Carl planned to tell the sorry excuse for a human being exactly why he should expect an angry call to the manager.
The only flaw with this plan was that the pizza man wasn’t at the door. Instead, a sharply dressed man stood at the door, hand poised to knock again. A briefcase rested by his feet, the same black as the man’s coat. The stranger lowered his hand and glanced critically over Carl and into the apartment, a frown growing on the man’s face.
“Carl Bennett?” The stranger asked, folding his arms. Carl nodded, and the stranger looked briefly disappointed. “The police lackey Carl Bennett?”
“Computer forensic investigator,” Carl corrected, annoyed. The man rolled his eyes and muttered ‘same thing’. “Who’s asking?”
“Addison Greene. I was interested in hiring you for a case.” The stranger – Mr. Greene – emphasized the past tense, giving another disapproving glance over Carl’s shoulder. Carl could already tell this would be a difficult client, one of those people that make you want to put your gun in your mouth. Still, he had bills and alimonies and child support to pay, and the police didn’t pay much.
“Would you like to come in?”
“Oh, God no,” Mr. Greene said, barely pausing to think over the words. “Your apartment looks worse than you do.”
Carl glanced over his shoulder at his apartment – sure, it was a little messy, but he was newly single, and it wasn’t like there were mounds of mold growing everywhere. Mr. Greene ran a hand over his face, looking like dealing with Carl was physically painful.
“If you’re going to cry over the fact that I think you’re dirty, maybe knowing I’m mysophobic will comfort you.” Mr. Greene tapped his foot; acting like this encounter was taking up precious time.
“You’re afraid of germs?” Working with computers lead to looking random things up. Carl remembered one Thursday night when he and his psychologist colleagues passed the time by researching strange phobias that popped in the case files. Mysophobia was one of the first ones Carl looked up.
“Oh good – you’re not completely incompetent.” Mr. Greene almost looked impressed, Almost. “Now, tell me why I should hire you?”
“You tell me,” Carl deflected – how was he supposed to sell himself to the man if he didn’t even know what the case was? The other man straightened his back, looking down at Carl; internally, the investigator damned ridiculously tall people. Mr. Greene pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket, unfolding it meticulously.
“Two ex–wives, two kids, and a lot of bills. You don’t commit crimes, but you’re willing to bend the rules and freelance on the side for the right amount,” Mr. Greene paused to refold the paper.
“Highly recommended for dealing with rather… embarrassing situations in an affordable, professional manner.” Carl ignored how Mr. Greene’s voice hitched through the sentence. Putting the paper back into his packet, he looked over Carl once more, making the policeman uncomfortable under the analysis. “Plus, you’re much cleaner than other individuals I have met.”
Carl chose to view that comment as a compliment rather than an insult. “Well, there you have it.” Leaning against the doorway, Carl shoved his hands in his pockets. “The next question is whether I will accept your case or not.”
Mr. Greene clicked his tongue before reaching down and grabbing the briefcase. Carl caught a glimpse of several papers, covered in equations he never bothered to remember past his chemistry final in high school, while Mr. Greene pulled out a small, worn journal, which he handed over. A superhero adorned the cover, and the pages were scribbled with doodles and barely legible writings.
“The owner of this journal is Joseph Scarlett, though he responds to Joe or Joey.” Mr. Greene paused for a moment, and worry flickered through his grey eyes. “He’s missing.”
“That’s something you should take to the police, not a freelance computer geek.” Carl tried to give the notebook back, but Mr. Greene shook his head and refused it, clicking the briefcase closed.
“I know where he is –”
“If you know where he is, then he’s not missing”, Carl interrupted. Mr. Greene huffed and glared at the policeman.
“He ran off. I know where he is, but I don’t know what made him run away,” He gave Carl an irritated look. “That is why I want to hire you. I need you to figure out what happened two days ago.”
“With this?” Carl held up the journal, as if holding it higher would show Mr. Greene just how impossible this case seemed. “And what does it matter if you know where he is already? Why not just ask him?”
“That journal is all that I can give you right now, and I can’t – I can’t just talk to Joe.” For a second Mr. Greene lost his composure, looking like a little kid trying to play grown up. “Do we have a deal, Mr. Bennett?”
Carl was ready to say no – he wanted to say no, he really did, but bills were beginning to pile up again, and there hadn’t been any jealous wives willing to pay to have him crack their husbands’ private emails in a while.
“We have a deal.” Mr. Greene nodded his head, a small smile softening his features. He gave Carl his phone number and left, leaving Carl sorely tempted to either get drunk or hit something. Slamming the door shut, Carl stormed towards the couch, figuring he might as well spare a better look at the journal.
The pizza man never came.
* * *
This case was full of nothing but dead ends. For two days Carl analyzed Joe’s journal. The boy – Carl assumed it was a boy; he’d yet to meet an adult who wrote in crayons – wanted to be a detective and documented everything he saw. Entries from two days ago had him going downtown, past a candy shop (with red gumballs that looked like bouncy balls), an apartment complex (where a bulldog lived. Joe really liked the bulldog), and past a park (apparently the left swing was the best, because it went the highest). After that point, the careful, childish observations stopped and the word ‘’dots’ was scribbled over and over again on the last few pages.
Carl did his best to follow Joe’s footsteps. The cashier at the candy shop remembered the journal, but according to her it didn’t belong to a little boy. Rather, she described a young man with gray eyes and strawberry blond hair. After he left the candy shop – with a bag of truffles in tow – he visited the apartment building a few houses down. It took a while to convince the landlady that no he did not want to rent her spare apartment, no he was not there to deal with whatever died in there and was stinking up the place, and no he did not want to join her for tea. The park, just like the first two leads, proved to be a bust. He left when the parents started sending him suspicious stares.
Giving one more glance through the journal, Carl tossed it onto the couch and picked up the phone; if Addison wanted this case solved, he needed to give more information. By the fifth ring he was tempted to hang up and try again later, but then someone finally picked up the phone.
“Hello?” Machines hummed in the background – Carl recognized the sound from his own job; Mr. Greene probably worked in a lab.
“Addison Greene?” Carl heard a huff, and could picture the man rolling his eyes.
“No, it’s Sally Field. Of course it’s Addison Greene.” The policeman was beginning to think Mr. Greene only had two emotions – annoyed and exasperated. “I’m assuming this is Mr. Bennett?” Carl didn’t answer the question.
“I need more to go on than an overused notebook,”
“I already gave you all the information I –”
“Well, it’s not enough,” Carl interrupted, listening to Mr. Greene huff on the other end of the phone. “If you want to find out what happened to little Joey, You got to give me more.”
For a while, the whining machines were the only sound Carl could hear on the other line. This case was giving Carl a headache, and Mr. Greene only amplified it with his secrets and silence. Carl wouldn’t put it past him to have done something with the missing boy himself, but if he was going to prove that, he needed more evidence. Either way, cooperating with the strange man was the best course of action.
“Fine. I’ll be over as soon as I can,” Mr. Greene hung up. Burying his head in his hands, Carl realized he was right – he regretted taking this case already.
It took two hours for Mr. Greene to arrive at Carl’s apartment.
“This is as soon as you can?” Carl asked as soon as he opened the door. He considered inviting Mr. Greene inside, but that had gone oh so well last time.
“I was at work.”
“Work? It’s Sunday night – what could you possibly be working on?” Carl wondered if Mr. Greene knew how suspicious he seemed – everything he did only made him look guilty.
“It’s a personal project that I happened to conduct at work,” Mr. Greene retorted, clenching his jaw.
“A personal project? Just what kind of project–”
“Is this some sort of interrogation?” Now it was Mr. Greene’s turn to interrupt, glaring at the shorter man. “How is this relevant to your job?”
“Because my job is to find out what happened, and right now you are the best lead.” Carl pushed himself off the wall and straightened his back. He may be shorter, but he worked for the police and knew how to carry himself. Mr. Greene flinched back, then crossed his arms. “What project were you working on?”
“I work as a lab tech at the hospital,” Mr. Greene’s eyes flickered down, his body tensing. “I was checking test results.”
“Whose results?” Silence – Mr. Greene seemed to be awfully good at saying nothing. “Whose results were they?”
“Mine,” Mr. Greene finally snarled. “I was testing myself for diseases.”
“You’re sick?” Carl sank back against the door, guilty about how he’d been treating Mr. Greene – the man’s health was his own business. The taller man looked down the hallway, at the floor, at the hideous wallpaper – anywhere to avoid Carl’s eyes.
“No, I’m not,” Mr. Greene snapped, fiddling with his coat sleeve. “But it’s important to keep on top of it, to make sure I don’t contract some fatal illness. So I test myself.”
“Wait, are you telling me that you test yourself for diseases in your spare time? Just to make sure you’re not dying?” Mr. Greene’s silence was enough. Carl laughed in disbelief, pressing the palms of his hand against his eyes –his client was a hypochondriac as well as mysophobic. Fantastic. Carl’s headache increased tenfold.
“There are many diseases that are quickly fatal if not caught and treated early, like Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or –”
“AIDS? You’re worried about AIDS?” Carl cut him off; this was by far the strangest client he ever had. “If you don’t want AIDS, then use a condom and avoid dirty needles. It’s really not that hard!”
“Look, can we stop talking about me being cautious–”
“You’re a goddamn nutcase”
“–And focus on the situation at hand?” Mr. Greene spoke through clenched teeth. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a few wrinkled papers along with a photograph and handed them to Carl. “There’s your new evidence, Mr. Detective.”
Carl ignored the sarcasm and glanced over the papers in his hands. They were wrinkled and obviously torn from some sort of notebook. A diary by the looks of it – the tops of the pages were dated. Doodles littered the paper, along with quotes Carl recognized from Shakespeare plays he read in high school.
“The pages belong to an… associate of mine, Gerald Blanc, who was also acquainted with Joe. I managed to take these pages before he destroyed the rest of the journal,” Mr. Greene paused, biting his lip as Carl scrutinized the pages. “I don’t know who the girl is.”
Whoever she was, she was young and beautiful. Red hair framed her face in tight curls, and her skin was sun–kissed with freckles. Carl figured she was an actress of some sort, since she wore a medieval dress and stood in front of a stage.
“Is there anything else you need?” Mr. Greene took the time Carl was distracted to compose himself, standing as straight and tall as a tree, confident and sturdy.
“I want to meet this Gerald.” Carl noticed the other man’s jaw twitch, but other than that his expression didn’t change.
“I’m sorry, but that’s not possible.” Mr. Greene fished a pen out of his pocket, and stole back the photo to scribble on it. “You can talk to him through his instant messenger, but that’s it.”
He gave the photo back to Carl and didn’t even wait for his response before turning on his heels and storming down the stairs. The policeman thought about following him, but Carl decided this was enough for now. It was still early in the evening, so he went to contact Gerald. Besides, he was a computer forensic investigator – he could trace the IM address. It took a while for Gerald to come online. While waiting, Carl read through the pages; they were basic, day-to-day accounts and didn’t say much. Gerald loved theater, and he spent his spare time painting set designs for the community acting company. He wanted to be an artist, but he didn’t think he was good enough to be professional yet. Although going by the doodles, Carl would say he was pretty decent.
Portia Dots was the most important thing Carl learned from the journal pages. A budding actress, the girl was the center of Gerald’s world- if he didn’t write about her, he at least doodled her in the corner, affectionately calling her Polka Dots. The Internet offered even more about the girl; there were articles that ripped apart her performances, degrading her to something barely human. About six months ago she was arrested as an accessory for a drug bust, receiving a sentence of community service.
And Portia Dots had been missing for four days, just like Joe Scarlett.
Around nine o’clock, the computer beeped, indicating a message. Surprisingly Gerald had contacted Carl first.
romeoDorsett13: Y r u looking 4 me?
Carl winced at the bad grammar. It took him a moment to think of a proper answer, not wanting to scare Gerald right off the bat.
caBnenett: I just want to talk.
Carl glanced over to the superhero journal, drumming his fingers against the desk, and Portia Dots’ photo rested on top of it. There were some many places to start – he might as well begin where he began.
caBnenett: Do you know Joe Scarlett?
romeoDorsett13: hes not here.
caBennett: Do you know where he is?
Carl groaned, running his fingers through his hair – this guy was as difficult to talk to as Mr. Greene. Only it was worse, because he couldn’t see Gerald, couldn’t read his facial expressions.
caBennett: Where is he hiding?
romeoDorsett13: n/m. doesnt matter
romeoDorsett13: dont look 4 him. hes just hiding.
Carl tried to coax an answer of out him a couple of more times, but every time Gerald put up the same resistance. This wasn’t going anywhere; picking up the picture of the missing girl, Carl decided to try a different tactic.
caBennett: What about Portia Dots?
caBennett: You called her Polka Dots in your journal. Is she a girlfriend?
caBennett: She’s missing. Has been for four days, just like Joe.
caBennett: Do you know what happened?
Gerald quickly signed off, marking himself as the prime suspect. Pinching his nose, Carl tried to will his headache away. It didn’t work, of course, because that would just be too simple. The phone suddenly shrilling in the quiet apartment didn’t help much either.
“Ubljudok vonjuchiy,” Wincing, Carl yanked the phone away from his ear. The angry, foreign tirade continued for a few more minutes before it finally quieted, and even then Carl waited a few seconds before risking his hearing again.
“I’m sorry. I, uh, I no hablo what you speak.” The policeman regretted not paying attention in language classes while in school. There was a huff on the other line before the heavily accented voice returned, struggling with the English words.
“I am Yuri Chornji” Carl’s mind scrambled, trying to place the name or accent – it didn’t sound Spanish or French, but he wasn’t sure. Still, Yuri had an Asian ring to it, didn’t it? Perhaps the caller was Japanese.
“Uh… Konnichiwa?” Scurrying around his apartment, Carl started to trace the call, hoping that this ‘Yuri’ would stay on long enough. He only needed a minute.
“Leave Gerald lone,”
“What will you do if I don’t? Send ninjas after me?” Forty seconds left. Yuri growled before screaming into the phone again.
“I am Russian, Poshoil na tri bukvui!” Carl wrenched the phone away from his ear again. Thirty more seconds.
“Leave Gerald lone.” The tone in Yuri’s voice signaled the end of the conversation, and Carl swore – he needed only twenty seconds. Cornered, Carl decided he could afford to sink low for this case. “Oh, a commie – now I’m really scared,” In all fairness, Carl felt guilty about playing the communism card, but the Russian screaming more profanities bought him the twenty seconds he needed. Ending the call, Carl sank into his chair to wrap his mind around the phone call and to catalogue it with the rest of the information about the case before scribbling the address down, prepared to face the angry caller.
If Carl had made a list of things that would absolutely, nearly-stop-his-heart shock him at the apartment, seeing Addison Greene like this would have been at the top. The taller man was relaxed, leaning against the door with his hip jutting out. Mr. Greene bit his lip and looked Carl up and down – not in the critical, ‘you’re covered in filth and if you touch me I’ll sue you for everything you own’ look that he’d had before. This look treated Carl as if he was on display – as if Mr. Greene was mentally undressing him.
It was the single most awkward moment of Carl’s forty-three years.
“You really aren’t that cute, are you?” Taken aback by Mr. Greene’s comment, Carl struggled to find a way to respond.
“I, uh – ”
“I don’t like boys, but you’re not even fun to look at!” Sighing dramatically, Mr. Greene sauntered into the apartment, settling onto a plush couch. Patting the cushion next to him, he urged Carl to come in. Still trying to figure out what the hell was going on, Carl wordlessly followed, choosing to sit in the chair beside the couch instead.
“R-right. Missy… are you high or something?” Mr. Greene – well, Missy – just laughed, his entire body erupting in laughter while Carl sat there, wondering when he stumbled down a rabbit hole.
“I am completely sober, Gramps-”
“I’m not that old!”
“Oh, please! You’re more gray than brown at this point,” Missy rolled his eyes, leaning forward and running a pale hand through Carl’s hair. Carl jerked back, triggering another laughing fit from Missy.
“You poor thing – old and idiotic. No wonder you’re twice divorced.” Missy reached forward, plucking a truffle off of the coffee table, plopping it into his mouth, and moaning around the sweet confection. “You’re kind of annoying too. I don’t know how Addison deals with you.”
“Aren’t you Addison?” Carl prided himself on being a bit of a puzzle master, able to figure out Internet codes and decipher hidden html messages. But, he couldn’t follow Missy’s thinking. The other man just shook his head, hopping to his feet and strolling to the kitchen.
“Nah, but I’ll get him for you. And a beer – this is going be one long conversation,” Missy called over his shoulder before disappearing into the kitchen, leaving Carl to wallow in his confusion.
While waiting for Missy to return with Addison, Carl tried to make sense of the situation. Perhaps Addison had a twin brother with a… questionable sexuality. Maybe it was an evil twin – which at this point would not be that crazy.
Carl really, really regretted taking this case.
A loud crash from the kitchen shocked Carl out of his thoughts. A few curses fly through the air, and Missy stumbled back out, limbs stiff and eyes cold. He leveled a glare at Carl before storming over to the couch and sitting down with his back straight, avoiding the investigator’s questioning glance. Silence encompassed the room until Carl worked up the courage to speak.
“There’s no beer?”
“No.” Missy’s answer was short, curt, and left no room for discussion. The two men reached another standstill, and once again Carl was the first to yield.
“So, Missy -”
“Addison.” His jaw clenched, tightening around the name. Missy’s fingers weaved together, turning the pale skin chalk white. “My name is Addison.”
“Okay, then.” Missy (who was apparently Addison again) was still rigid, his tense muscles twitching tightly.
“Who’s Missy?” Addison’s eyes flickered to Carl’s before returning to the floor. The investigator sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. His headache grew worse. “Addison – what is going on here?”
“Missy is a- she’s a personality -”
“Stop interrupting!” Carl flinched at Addison’s explosion. The other man stood up, wringing his hands and pacing in a desperate attempt to calm down. It wasn’t working very well. Pausing in front of Carl, he folded his arms across his chest and took several deep breaths.
“I -I have Dissociative Identity Disorder, and Marissa is one of my identities.” Addison whispered, afraid of sharing his secret too loudly. He began to fidget as he waited for Carl to answer, but this was not something Carl could wrap his head around so quickly.
“It’s uh, it’s when a person has more than one personality, and -”
“I know what DID is.” He wasn’t a psychologist, but Carl knew the basics; multiple personality disorder was one of those things Carl had assumed was 90% Hollywood rubbish, 9% public fascination, and 1% real. It was science fiction – different people all in the same body; it sounded like a bad Star Trek episode.
“Oh.” Addison trailed off, looking like a little kid – lost and terrified. He began to wring his hands together again, the skin turning red from friction.
“How many are there?”
“Five. I’m, well, you’d call me the main personality. Then there’s Yuri, who’s Russian, Marissa, who’s a lesbian -”
“You have a lesbian inside of you?” Now Missy made a lot more sense.
“Is that really important, Carl?” Addison shouted, his fists curled at his side. He clenched and unclenched his hands, taking quite a minute to collect himself. Carl ran his fingers through his hair before looking up at Addison.
“Joe- is he one of your personalities?”
“Yes, he is.” At least Addison had the decency to look guilty. Carl laughed – he couldn’t help it, this night was just too crazy. Standing up Carl gave Addison a bitter smile.
“No, no, no! You can’t do that!” Addison eyes grew wide with panic.
“Yes I can. You want me to find you! Do you know how crazy that is?”
“I didn’t want you to find me -I wanted you to find out what scared Joe off! There’s a difference!” The man glared at Carl, trying to intimidate the investigator, but Carl snickered at his attempts to make himself seem powerful.
“You were there, you know what happened-”
“No, I don’t!” he shrieked, shocking Carl into stumbling backwards. Addison glowered at him with red-rimmed red eyes. He seemed on the verge of tears, or a tirade.
“That’s how DID works – someone else is in control of my body, and I’m not me anymore. The switch takes a second and then these eyes and hands and memories are someone else’s. Two days ago Addison Greene didn’t exist, because Joe Scarlett was in control.” The explosive anger was gone, and Addison spoke in a soft, shaking voice, barely in control of his emotions.
“There are entire years of my life that I don’t remember because I wasn’t the one living through them. Do you understand, Mr. Bennett?”
Carl never heard his name spoken with such bitterness before – not even by his ex-wives. His first reaction was to snap back, answer Addison with all the frustration and confusion that had been building up since the beginning of this case. He didn’t though, because he’d been through enough training to know it wasn’t a good idea to taunt crazy people, especially not ones like Addison.
“If it’s such a problem, why not see some therapist-”
“Tried that,” Addison shook his head. “That’s how we personalities got to know each other. The plan is to have a little meet-and-greet inside your head and then assimilate into one person.”
“Then why are you still five people?”
“Because I stopped going to therapy. Because I couldn’t…” Addison trailed off, his eyes losing focus. Carl could fill in the blanks- DID developed in mainly child abuse victims.
“You should go back, Addison. Five people in one body – that just can’t work. It’s not healthy.” Addison snapped back to attention, eyes widening in panic before glaring at the policeman.
“I don’t need too. I’ve managed the way I am for thirty two years and I can continue just fine.”
“You are not fine-”
“I am perfectly fine!” Addison cut him off again, his body shaking with anger and voice quickly gaining volume. Carl’s head was pounding, and he just couldn’t deal with this anymore.
“One of your personalities may have killed a girl!” The effect was immediate – Addison shrank in on himself, his hands wrapping around his body like they could keep cold reality out.
“Remember the photo you gave me? That girl is Portia Dots, and she’s been missing for four days- just like Joe.” Addison stumbled backwards, sinking into the couch.
“No, that’s not – I don’t even know her-”
“Gerald certainly did. Called her the Juliet to his Romeo. You know what happened to them, right?” Carl watched as Addison broke – his eyes growing unfocused and his arms wrapping around his legs. He could hear the other man muttering ‘no’ over and over again under his breath.
It hurt to watch a grown man regress into a child, but it was nearly midnight and Carl had work in the morning. Sparing a quick glance at Addison -poor, crazy Addison- Carl turned and left the apartment. He had quit- it wasn’t his problem anymore. The phone shrilled through the apartment, rousing Carl from his sleep. Fumbling for his cell, Carl cursed as he caught a glimpse of the clock: three am.
“Bennett,” Carl murmured, his head flopping onto the pillow. There was no answer on the other end, only some dog barking in the distance. There was only one person who would call Carl in the middle of the night. Carl pinched the bridge of his nose; it was too early to play this game.
“Addison, I’m going back to bed now.” Small whimpers carried over the phone, preventing Carl from just hitting end call and going back to sleep. Addison was a nutcase, but he didn’t whimper, not like this.
“Addison?” Again, there was no verbal response – just more sad, pathetic sounds. Carl threw the covers off the bed, trying to wake. Maybe he wasn’t talking to Addison at all; maybe he was talking to a scared little boy.
“Joe? Is this you?” The crying got louder, and the dog howled in the background. Stumbling over to his computer, Carl started to trace the call. “Joey, are you there?”
“‘m scared.” Addison was definitely speaking, but his voice was small and broken. Resting the phone in the crook of his shoulder, Carl’s fingers flurried across the keyboard.
“It’s okay, Joe. It’s all going to be-”
“I don’t want to die.” Carl nearly dropped the phone, his fingers freezing and body tensing. There were fifty more seconds for the trace.
“Why do you think you’re going to die?” For a while, Joe didn’t answer, and it was harder to remain calm with each passing second of silence. “Where are you, Joey?
“Dead like Polka Dots.” The crying grew into sobs, and Carl muttered the sweet niceties he used to tell his little girls when tucking them into bed. Somewhere during the one-sided conversation, Joe stopped crying. Twenty seconds left.
“L-l-leave me alone.” The dial tone droned into Carl’s ear, mocking him as Joe hung up the phone with ten seconds to spare. Except it wasn’t Joe, at least not anymore. In the past few days Carl has talked to four personalities, and each one had a distinct way of speaking. This voice, this stutter was new – Carl hadn’t spoken to this personality, at least not verbally. It didn’t take long for Carl to realize who had been on the other line: Gerald Blanc.
Addison’s body was running away, controlled by a maybe-murderer. Running his hands through his hair, Carl racked his mind for anything Joe had said that could help him find Gerald. The only piece of information Joe had been able to give was ‘dead like Polka Dots’, but Portia Dots was still missing – he didn’t know where her body was.
Flipping through Joe’s journal, Carl searched for anything that could tell him where Gerald was, something he could connect to the phone call. The only relevant information Carl could find was the final pages, detailing Joe’s last footsteps before the words degraded into ‘Dots’ scribbled over and over on the pages. He mentioned the park, the candy, shop, the apartment building –
Carl suddenly knew where Gerald was. The landlady at the apartment complex had a noisy bulldog. It was obvious now that Carl thought about it – she had talked about a stench coming from the spare apartment, stating that she was waiting for her son to visit and get rid of the rodent that died in there. Only it wasn’t a rodent – it was Portia Dots. Grabbing his coat and his gun, Carl raced out the door.
It only took ten minutes to run downtown, and the door to the apartment complex was cracked open. Carl paused, listening for any sound of Gerald, but he could only hear the bulldog’s barking. Creaking upstairs, Carl headed to the spare apartment and drew his gun. Like the front door, this door was ajar, light spilling into the hallway. Nudging the door open, Carl entered the apartment – his eyes trained on Gerald and avoiding the bloody mess of the girl on the floor.
Gerald whirled around, a gun in his shaking hands. Dried tears stained his face, and blood soaked into his shirt. He had a panicked, wild look – his eyes darting from Carl to search the room, looking for an escape.
“I-I-I told you to l-l-leave me alone!”
“I can’t do that, Gerald.” Unlike the man in front of him, Carl’s hands were steady, wrapped naturally around the handle. “Put the gun down, Gerald.”
“I didn’t k-kill her,” Gerald pressed the gun against his own head, his entire body shaking. “She’s my J-Juliet! And they were going to send her a-a-a-way!”
Sparing a glance to Portia, Carl noticed that she wore the same medieval dress she did in her photo. Her arms were crossed over her chest, and flies buzzed around her body, swarming over on her slit wrists.
“Send her where, Gerald?” It was best to keep him talking and keep the bullet out of his head.
“S-some hospital, like a c-crazy person. Her parents just d-d-didn’t understand her, not like I-I-I did.” Gerald took a step back, pressing the gun closer to his head.
“So you decided to commit suicide together? That doesn’t exactly scream sanity.” Gerald glared at Carl, bringing the gun away from his head to point it at the investigator. Carl’s body tensed, but he remained steady.
“Y-you just think I’m c-c-crazy too! You don’t understand w-what its like!”
“Why don’t you tell me what its like?” Just keep him talking – have to just keep his mouth moving until Carl could come up with some miracle plan. Gerald lowered the gun a bit, contemplating Carl’s request.
“Sometimes, I-I don’t even know if I exist. There are just b-b-black spots in my mind, filled with someone else.” Fresh tears began to trail down Gerald’s face; he pressed the gun back against his head. Carl was losing him; if he didn’t act fast there would be two corpses in front of him.
“Someone else like Addison? I bet he’s screaming in your mind right now, isn’t he?” This was a stupid, far-fetched plan, but it was the only one Carl had. Gerald’s face twisted in confusion before Carl explained himself.
“I did some research – Portia Dots was a sweet girl, but she had some bad habits. Shooting up, getting high – you’ve seen her do it before, haven’t you? Fill a syringe up with some short time happiness and inject herself-”
“S-s-stop it! Shut up!” Gerald snarled, eyes flickering down towards Portia. His hands were shaking even harder now.
“How many dirty needles has she used? For all you know she could have AIDS-”
“S-s-she doesn’t!” Gerald didn’t sound very sure of himself, and there was a panicked glimpse in his eye. Maybe this would work after all.
“Do you know that without a doubt? Do you know that her blood is clean? If I were you I’d be worried, because she’s all over you.”
The reaction was nearly instantaneous – Gerald’s eyes hazed over for a split second before clearing again; his body stiffened and Addison was in control again. It took him a moment to look around and assess the situation. He paled when he saw Portia Dots, and Carl darted forward to grab the gun from Addison’s hands and catch him before his knees gave out.
“Carl-Carl! There’s a dead girl on the floor!” Addison gripped Carl’s coat, nearly in hysterics. The policeman awkwardly patted his back as he fished his phone out of his pocket, dialing 911.
Carl gave his statement, watching as the coroner examined the body and reached the same conclusion that he had – suicide. Since he was off-duty (and, as a computer forensics investigator, typically not needed at crime scenes,), he went outside, eager for some fresh air. Addison was still at the scene, talking to one of the new detectives about what happened, a shock blanket draped over his shoulders. The poor man looked miserable as he sat on the back of the ambulance. Terrified too, probably thinking they were going to ship him off to some mental hospital.
“You all right?” Addison jumped, not having seen Carl walk up. He glanced up at the investigator before wrapping the blanket tighter around his shoulders.
“No,” he choked, glancing every so often at the apartment building. “The detectives won’t tell me the details.”
Carl leaned over to pat Addison on the back -to offer some sort of comfort- but the other man flinched away. They sat in silence for a little while, watching the police scurry around, nosey neighbors poke their heads out, and the coroner bring Portia Dots’ body down.
“Carl…tell me I didn’t…” Addison’s eyes lingered on the body bag, his eyes burning with fresh tears. He only whispered, as if speaking any louder would kill him. “Tell me I’m not a murderer.”
“You really don’t remember?” Carl tried to imagine what it must be like to share your body, to live through life one second and then have no memory of it the next. He tried to picture what kind of abuse would cause someone to break like that. He couldn’t fathom it.
“Suicide. It was supposed to be a double, but Gerald didn’t get that far.” Addison started laughing hysterically, hiding his face in his knees. After a few moments he calmed down, wiping tears away from his face.
“And here I thought I had enough control to beat that symptom.” Addison started laughing again, Carl awkwardly standing next to him. It took him longer to stop this time.
“I think…I think maybe I should start going back to therapy.” He starting wringing his hands, and Carl was happy to see him start to revert back to his anal retentive, Addison self.
“Not entirely sure you have a choice now.” Addison laughed again, softer and more in control. Biting his lip, he stared off for a while before looking up at Carl.
“Thank you, for…you know.” Addison waved his arm towards the building, and Carl put together what he was saying: thank you for saving my life. Carl smiled at Addison before the paramedic finally shooed him away. With Addison taken care of, he headed home. Carl buzzed with adrenaline, but he knew that as soon as he hit the mattress he’d be out – he decided to take a sick day tomorrow – he deserved a break, damn it. Entering his apartment, Carl realized he had been wrong.
He didn’t regret taking the case.