The cab arrived, and they piled into the back seat together. Having planned for the possibility that she'd have to seduce O'Keefe, Katie had prepared a room at a rent-by-the-week motel that was about halfway between his house and her downtown base of operations. This was the address she gave the driver.
During the ride, she leaned into Seth, head resting on his chest, listening to the rhythmic sounds of his heart and his breathing. She wondered about him. He really was unlike anyone she'd ever met before. He was confident and cheerful one moment, then worried and paranoid the next. He could be flirtatious, and he clearly liked her—no, he clearly liked Svetlana—but, he declined to act on his feelings beyond a certain point. She supposed he must be like her—living a double life. He must be. But how could he be so good at it? How had she not broken through his façade? She revised the balance of her mental calculations: he wasn't quite the fool he had initially appeared to be. So was that all an act? Could he be playing her the way she'd planned to play him? Was he really that good?
As they rode the rest of the way in silence, Katie wished she hadn't called Hanlon from the restroom. He had been entirely too evasive with her, which was never a good sign in an employer. As they pulled into parking lot of her cheap motel, Seth gave her a most curious look. She wasn't sure, but it almost looked like suspicion. That makes no sense, she thought. I haven't spoken a word to him since we left the Crabbapple's. She dismissed it as a combination of alcohol and paranoia.
Once in the motel room, Katie invited him to take a seat. O'Keefe chose the chair by the door. She walked to the mini-fridge across the room and retrieved one of two bottles of vodka. She poured them each a drink in a clear plastic cup, and put them on the table next to him, along with the bottle, and sat herself on the bed with a bounce.
"Since we have no place to go, we may as well have another drink, yes?"
"Oh, I suppose," he replied. "One more won't hurt."
"Zda-ró-vye," she said, raising her glass.
"Um … Yeah, that." He lifted his, as well, and they both drained their drinks. "What's that mean? Is that, like, 'Cheers' in Russian?"
"It is like that, yes. But actually means 'To your health.'"
"Oh, I see. That makes sense."
"Here," she patted the bed next to her. "Will you sit with me?"
He stood up and sat next to her, while she poured again. "I guess you're used to vodka, being from Russia, huh?"
"Da," she giggled. "What do you drink—normally, I mean?"
"Oh, I'll drink whatever's available, but usually, beer or whisky." He paused a moment, looking at the window, before adding, "I think I'm really starting to like vodka, though."
"Now that we are alone," she began, taking a sip as she kicked off her shoes, "you will tell me of these dreams, yes?"
"I suppose I can, sure." He drained his glass again and threw it across the room and, surprisingly, right into to the trash can. "No more for me, thanks."
"This is fine," Katie replied, finishing her own drink and pulling off the same shot. "Then I am done as well."
She gave him a wink and a grin before scooting across the bed and lying down, pulling him alongside. The two of them lay down on their sides, looking at one another. She made a curious arch with her right eyebrow. "Let us hear it, then."
"These are some weird and sometimes disturbing things I'm about to describe," he said. "So please stop me if you're bothered by anything I say, OK?"
"I will." She nodded and took his hand in hers.
"At first, I didn't really remember the dreams … I just sort of woke up with these impressions, you know?"
"What were these impressions?"
"Fear, mostly … then a feeling of otherness," he said. "It was like waking up in a world where everything was just … wrong, you know? It's hard to describe. You ever see The Twilight Zone? Did they have that show in Russia?"
"Not when I was a child, no. But I have seen it since. Is very good show."
"OK, then … sometimes I wake up feeling like I'm in an episode of that show—one of the ones where everything seems normal, but somehow you just know that by the end of it, the whole world's gonna be turned upside-down. Like, you'll discover that all the people around you are space aliens, or that the world doesn't exist and it's all in your head or part of some kind of experiment to test your reactions."
"I like the one where the woman is driving across country and is frightened by hitch-hiker—"
"Yeah! And by the end, you discover she had an accident back in Pennsylvania and she'd really been dead the whole time!"
"Yes, this is the one."
"Anyway, that's how I felt, at first. It wasn't until later that I realized that this feeling was just sort of … like some kind of emotional residue left over from my dreams."
"This is not unusual I think. Many people have such feelings upon waking."
"Yeah, but this would last for days. And then I started remembering bits of the dreams."
"And what were these dreams?" She wished he'd just get to the damn point already. If he had something really useful to tell her, she'd like to know what it was before she passed out. She just hoped she'd remember it, come morning. It had been a long day, and she was beat.
"I'm not always in them. Sometimes they're like movies I'm watching—like I'm just an observer, but … even then, I can feel things … as though I'm there, but without really being there."
"Usually it's in a lab or some sort of a test chamber."
"You mean Labelle?"
"I think so … sometimes, yeah, but not always," he said. "It's like a medical lab, or some sort of operating room."
"What happens in these places?"
"There are these faceless people there—or well, their faces are … fuzzy. I think they're covered—wearing masks or something, but my vision is almost always blurry in these dreams, so it's difficult to tell."
Svetlana held his hand and asked, "What is it that these faceless people do?"
"They're hurting me. They're sticking me with needles and they're … cutting me. Sometimes I can even see my own insides … like my organs and stuff. My heartbeat always sounds really loud in my ears, and there are tubes in my mouth, going down my throat."
"This sounds like … have you ever had surgery?"
"No—well, I had my tonsils out as a kid, but that hardly counts."
"I see, so this would not be memory from this. What else happens in these dreams?"
"I—I hear this … it's a raspy voice from behind me. It sounds … inhuman and scary … kind of like," he coughed and closed his eyes, breathing deeply. Katie saw that this was difficult for him. He wiped a tear off the bridge of his nose before continuing. "You ever see someone who's had throat cancer, and they put one of those electronic devices in their throat so they can talk? It sounds kind of like that but less robotic. And more sibilant."
"What does this voice say?" She took his hand again, and gave it a gentle squeeze.
"It's giving instructions. It's telling the faceless ones what to do. It's mostly a lot of medical jargon that I don't even understand. I guess I must be making up nonsense words, or my mind is just throwing back words I've heard from watching hospital shows on TV, or something. I can never really remember what it says … except when it—it tells me things."
"It tells me things to do. It tells me how to …" He sat up again and swallowed hard. "It tells me to kill, how to kill—about people who it wants me to kill, and … and how it's my duty to do what it says, and I don't have a choice … and then," He was openly crying now.
"Is just bad dream, yes?" Katie asked. Her own heart pounded quickly in her chest, sharing the pain and fear that were plain on his face. She felt for him, this poor man. What had he been through? Were these really just dreams, or were they echoes of something horrific that his mind had blocked—had someone actually experimented on him while he slept? Could a rival government have done this to him in order to use him as some sort of unwitting agent? Was that who was spying on him? It was no wonder the man was so paranoid!
"I don't know," said Seth. "I can't tell sometimes whether these are dreams or … or repressed memories or if whoever is watching me is doing things to my brain to make me see these things. I just … I want them to go away." He collapsed on the bed beside her, shaking with … was it anger? Or was this the simple expression of hurt without outlet?
She reached over and stroked his hair. He looked up at her, and as their eyes met, she pulled him close and into an embrace. He turned his face up to hers and she kissed him again. This time it wasn't simply for a distraction. She felt sorry for him, and she wanted to make him feel better. And this time he kissed her back, tentatively, then firmly, then suddenly their clothes were coming off …
O'Keefe fumbled around nervously at first, much as Katie had expected. Before long, however, he fell into a workmanlike rhythm with which he somehow managed to bring her to a minor climax. It wasn't until past that point, though, that the real surprises occurred: Seth seemed to lose his inhibitions and his lovemaking became passionate and intense. After the initial shock, Katie lost herself in the moment. The two of them fed off one another's energy, moving and breathing as one being. She climaxed again, this time much more intensely, before he lost it completely and fell on top of her in a ragged heap of exhaustion.
Afterwards, as they lay side-by-side on the bed, their breathing coming only with effort, she began clearing her mind. She hadn't intended for things to go this far—had never thought it would be necessary. But here they were, energy spent, having shared what? A moment of honest passion? How the hell had he made her feel this way?
She rolled onto her stomach and rested her head on his chest. He ran his hand up her back and massaged her neck, gently.
"I never," he began. "I never meant—"
"You hush now," she replied, laying a finger across his lips. "Do not worry yourself. That was ... very nice. It was what I wanted—better, even."
"Are you sure?"
"I would not say it, otherwise."
They lay there in silence for a while. Having finally caught her own breath, Katie could feel Seth's respiration ease into calm. He was falling asleep. After several minutes, she joined him.
The harsh light of the morning sun poured through the gap between the curtains, waking Katie. Somehow Seth had turned over on his stomach during the night while she had barely shifted her position at all. She rolled over off the bed and arose, taking care not to rouse him, and went to the bathroom.
While showering, she thought about what she'd managed to find out. She knew someone had been spying on Seth. She knew he had been having dreams that may well have been repressed memories. He didn't appear to have any memories of his time in the service. If Gavrilo's intel had been faulty, it was the first time she had heard of such a thing happening. The man was world-renowned for getting timely, accurate information—and he charged for it like a man who knew its value.
So, O'Keefe was either a world-class liar or … well, O'Keefe must be suffering from some sort of memory loss. It was probably something brought on by whatever terrible trauma that he seemed to be repressing—the events in his dreams. She strongly suspected those had been real events.
It all added up: the sudden starts and stops in conversation, the trailing off, the blur that was his childhood. Of course he didn't show any signs of lying! As far as he knew he was being completely honest with her.
So here was O'Keefe with his paranoia. And then there was Wright, with his neuroses. These two men must be suffering from the after-effects of Labelle's TIER and WIERD experiments!
Labelle had created some strange animals, indeed.