Read The Secrets You Hide: A Mind-Blowing Thriller (The Psychosis Series) Online

Authors: Alex Crimson

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Crime, #Psychological Thrillers, #Teen & Young Adult, #Crime Fiction, #Noir, #Thrillers, #Psychological

The Secrets You Hide: A Mind-Blowing Thriller (The Psychosis Series) (9 page)

BOOK: The Secrets You Hide: A Mind-Blowing Thriller (The Psychosis Series)
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11: Robert’s Journal – Of Day 10

 

I stood in the waiting area outside my room in the clinic. I scanned through it, turning around in a circle. I looked at the set of chairs where patients and their caretakers usually waited for their appointments. I looked at the low rectangular table which stood before those chairs holding a bunch of neatly arranged magazines and newspapers on it. I turned to Alice’s desk and walked to it to check if there was anything out of place–maybe a light blue envelope waiting for me.

I entered my room and sat on the chair which I used during my appointments. Opposite me, I looked at an identical chair where Jack had been seated when we had met the previous day. I tried to visualize the conversation I had had with him. I tried to remember every movement he had made, hoping to identify a clue somewhere. But I could not recall anything extraordinary.

The drapes which usually covered the glass wall during the night were still open. Alice had probably forgotten to pull them back into place before leaving. I looked momentarily at the sheet of glass noticing the drops of mist which had condensed on it outside.

I looked out into the street and almost expected to find a pair of eyes looking right back at me from the darkness in the vicinity of the building. Finding nothing, I soon concluded that it was almost impossible for me to physically check every inch of the clinic myself. There had to be an easier way to find the clue which Jack had left for me. I went back out into the waiting area, still thinking when my eyes fell upon the two security cameras which were installed in different corners of the room.

Yes,
I told myself. I could look through the camera recordings from the previous day and track Jack’s movements before he had entered my room for his appointment. I was fairly certain that he was working alone, managing every detail of his story himself. I took a deep breath and walked to the storage room in the back of the clinic. The storage room housed a computer which was connected to the security company’s servers via the internet. The feed from the cameras fed live into the computer’s screen. The system also gave me access to recordings from any day in the preceding two months.

I opened the storage room with my key and stepped in. It was a fairly large space, almost half the size of my room. It was surprisingly clean with a bunch of cartons stacked neatly in the corner diagonally opposite the door. A few feet into the door stood a wooden table painted black on the surface with the computer set up on top of it. Besides the cartons and the table the room was empty. There wasn’t much in the clinic that required storage space.

I logged into the computer and found myself staring at the live feed of the waiting area. The feed from each camera covered one-half of the screen. The positions of the two cameras also ensured that there was no blind spot between them. I minimized the live feed window and navigated my way to the recording from the previous day.

As the video loaded, I extracted the phone from the pocket of my trousers and placed it next to the keyboard. I stood up and got out of my overcoat which I then hung behind me on the chair. The recording was now playing showing an empty waiting area. The time stamp at the bottom of the screen indicated that the feed was from a few minutes after midnight of the previous day. I clicked on the fast-forward button increasing the speed of playback. For a long time, there was nothing to be seen on the video except the changing illumination in the waiting area as the time stamp sped through the nightly hours finally giving way to the morning.

When the time stamp reach 8 am, people started to appear on the screen. It was Alice first, opening the main door at 8:13 am. A few minutes after her, the cleaning staff arrived, going about their chores for the next twenty minutes or so. I saw myself entering the clinic a few minutes before 9 am. I could see how tired I looked, how scared I looked. Then I went into my room after Alice had transferred a call from her desk. Finally, more people started to show up. With what felt like increasing rapidity, I saw them appearing on the screen and disappearing from it.

I stood up from my chair in the security room, even as the video continued to play. I stretched my limbs even as my eyes continued to be glued to the screen before me. I looked momentarily at my mobile phone to check the time. It was 2.15 am.

I sat back down, more determined to find the clue this time. More time passed as I tried to spot Jack or anybody else who seemed even remotely suspicious.

Occasionally, my eyes drifted to the image of the door on the screen waiting for Jack to appear. When he finally arrived on the screen, the timestamp at the bottom right of the video read exactly 4:30 pm. It was as if he had planned to be there at that very moment. For the next half an hour he sat quietly on a chair in the waiting area, doing nothing at all. The only thing which stood out was the cold stare that he gave to one of the cameras for a period that lasted many long minutes. Looking at his image on the monitor, I felt like he was staring right at me through the screen, boring into my naked soul. That strange feeling sent a shiver down my spine.
Had he known that I would be looking at his image a day later?

I paused the video and checked the time again. Almost three hours had passed since I had started looking at the security footage but I had had absolutely no success. I closed my eyes for a few minutes to give them some rest. And when I felt like I might fall asleep I snapped them open. I could not lose time.

I focused my attention onto the screen again, going back and forth in the video trying to make sure that I was not missing something. My phone rang. It was a call from Jack.

“Did you find it, doctor?” he asked as soon as I picked up the phone.

“No,” I said, uncertain if that was the right answer to give. I was going to need help and he was the only one who could help me by pointing me in the right direction.

“Where are you right now?” he asked.

I looked at my watch instinctively. It was 4:00 am.

“I am in the storage room.”

There was a pause. “Storage room?” It sounded like a question.

“We also use it as the security room. I tried looking through the clinic but I did not find anything. I thought I could look through the security camera recordings from yesterday to spot where you had left the clue. I am going through the recordings on the computer inside the room.” I explained, knowing that he would want to know every detail of it.

He took a few seconds to respond. It felt like he was planning something in his head. “That’s very smart, doctor. You are smarter than I thought. I must say that you are on the right track. Keep looking. Just remember, let time do what it does. Let it pass. You will see it eventually.

“But here’s the thing…when you do find it, I want you to write about it in your journal. I want you to write about everything you have done since the moment you arrived at the clinic. I want to know how you found it.”

“But…” I said, “I did not bring my laptop here. How do I write my journal?”

“You said you were on a computer. Use it. Try a change of habit.”

He disconnected the call.

I looked back at the screen.
Let time do what it does.
I felt as if he was not only tearing away at the people and memories that mattered to me…but also the habits which defined me. He was deconstructing me part by part as if to ensure my complete annihilation. He wanted to shock my personality out of shape, distort it into a state of confusion by making me act in ways which were not natural to me.

First, he had made me write my journal two times in the same day–something which I had never done before. Now, he was going to make me write the journal on a security terminal. It was trivial…but it mattered a lot to me at some level because it was a habit which I had lived with for more than fifteen years. But more than that, it was a habit which had served as a protection against my mind’s tendency to push me towards self-destruction. Jack was peeling it away layer by layer.

But
, I told myself,
I have a larger task at hand.
I had to find the clue. I focused on the screen again. One more time, I navigated back to the point in the video where Jack was staring right into the camera.
Let time do what it does. Let it pass.
I waited patiently till I saw him exiting the clinic on the video.

Then, in my mind, I played back the conversation I had had with him before I had left home to drive to the clinic.

Doctor, you managed to send the journal just on time. That’s good. As a favor to you, I want to give you a hint, a clue that might lead you to your wife and daughter. It is something you will find at your clinic. Wouldn’t you want to go look for it?

I thought about it once again.
It is something you will find at your clinic.
He had never said that he had left the clue at the clinic on the previous day. The moment that realization hit, I started to connect the dots.
Let time do what it does. Let it pass.

I skipped the recordings from yesterday and moved to the start of the recordings of today. Then I fast forwarded the video once again trying to check if Jack had somehow entered the clinic in the six hours since midnight. I realized that for a large chunk of those six hours I had myself been inside the clinic, sitting in that room.

The first sign of movement I saw was an image of myself entering the screen around fifty minutes after midnight. I went into my room for a while and then finally disappeared into the security room. The time stamp rushed through a few hours at the bottom of the screen through all the hours which I had spent inside that room looking through the video recordings. And suddenly Jack appeared on the screen again, standing quietly at the main door. I paused the video and looked at the time stamp. Then I checked my mobile phone to find the time when I had spoken to him last.

He had entered the clinic just after our last conversation an hour and a half earlier. My heart was ready to explode, not because I was closer to the clue, but because at some level I thought that he might still be inside the clinic’s premises, lurking in some corner, waiting to attack me. I had closed the door of the storage room behind me.
What if he had somehow locked it from outside just to keep me in?

I stood up and rushed to the door of the room, holding the mobile phone in my hand. I turned the knob and opened it with a jerk. Then, as I put my foot forward, I found myself stepping onto a light blue envelope which lay on the floor right outside the storage room. I picked it up and slipped it into the pocket of my trousers.

I checked every corner of the clinic to make sure that Jack was not inside. I stepped outside the main door into the cold morning and scanned the street. A shiver made me realize that I had forgotten my overcoat in the security room. I went back in and this time I locked the main door from the inside. I wanted to read through the next part of the script that Jack had left for me. But first, I needed to write my journal describing all the events which had taken place till that point in the day. I had spent six more hours going without sleep in the hunt for the latest part of Jack’s script. I looked at my watch. It was 6:25 am.

12: Robert’s Recollection – Of Day 10

 

It took me twenty minutes to write the journal and send it to Jack. Finally, I had time to read through the latest set of pages that he had left behind for me. It contained details of what he wanted me to do next.

I stepped out of the clinic around 7:00 am and drove along Interstate-5 in the direction of San Francisco. According to Jack’s script, it was the same route that Annie and Sarah had taken a couple of days earlier. He wanted me to go out on the search for them. He wanted me to find a specific diner that they had halted at. Then, he wanted me to look at the camera feed there to find out what had happened, to find out how he had taken them.

I could not see how, if at all, any of it was going to help me find Annie and Sarah. It felt like yet another diversion intended to push me into a maze of useless information. But it was the only trail I could follow–the only trail that kept the hope alive.

There was something different about Jack’s latest set of pages, though. Unlike all of his earlier instructions, they seemed deliberately vague. He had not specified the name or location of the diner that I was to look for even though he could have done so had he wanted to. Given that I was moving along the highway, there was an infinite set of possible places for me to visit. I had to find a way to narrow things down.

I tried to recall the events of the day of the kidnapping. I remembered that I had spoken to Annie at around 7.10 pm as she was driving out of the garage at home. And I remembered that Jack had placed his first call to me at around 10 pm that night. The kidnapping had to have happened within that duration.

I also knew that with Sarah in the car, Annie would have been driving at a slower speed. She was a responsible parent and a loving mother. She would never let impatience come in the way of Sarah’s safety.

Thinking of it from Jack’s perspective, I guessed that he would have needed at least thirty minutes to an hour after the kidnapping to make sure that he could place a call to me safely.

All of those factors combined, I predicted that the kidnapping had happened during the one hour between 8 pm and 9 pm. It was as specific as it could get. At the least it gave me a starting point. The implication was clear. I would have to stop at a series of diners along the length of the highway to check if anybody remembered seeing Annie and Sarah.

The first diner I found stood alongside a shop which sold memorabilia of some sort. As I got out of the car to enter the diner, I heard Jack’s voice inside my head, threatening me with a typical calm.
I want you to follow their trail, doctor. I want you to grasp for them…and realize that how much ever you try…you won't be able to find them unless I want you to.
I knew that the voice was an invention of my mind but in the moment it felt real as if Jack was accompanying me and speaking into my ears even as I walked.

Once inside the diner, I followed the very steps and spoke the exact words which Jack had mentioned in his script. I walked up to the manager of the diner and showed him a picture of Annie and Sarah.

“Umm...sir, my wife and daughter have been missing for two days. Do you remember seeing them here? Sometime in the evening, two days back?”

The manager looked at the picture and shook his head. He looked at me sympathetically.

“I don’t. But my employees might.”

He called one of the waitresses who had been on duty at the time that I had mentioned. She looked at the picture and responded in the negative.

“Are you sure?” I asked to confirm.

“Yes,” she said, “I am very sure. I was the only one on duty the day before.”

I nodded even as my heart sank. Then I looked back at the manager, “Would you know how many other diners there are in a twenty mile stretch starting here towards San Francisco?”

He looked at me for a second, taken aback by the odd question. “Six,” he said, after spending some time trying to count every single competitor he could remember.

I thanked him and got out of there without uttering a word. I drove down to the next diner and the next following the exact same process, using similar gestures and the very same words. Occasionally, I checked my cell phone, expecting a call or a message that I needed to respond to.

At the fourth diner, I finally got an answer in the affirmative.

“Yes, they were here,” one of the waiters said, confidently.

I showed him a picture of Jack on my mobile phone. It was a snapshot I had extracted from the footage of the security cameras at the clinic. “What about him?”

The image was unclear so the waiter took some time to process it and watch it closely. “Yes, I think I saw him too. But they were not together.”

“Can I look at the feed of your security cameras?” I asked the manager. He looked at his employee and nodded. The latter walked away to serve customers, leaving me in a one on one conversation with his boss.

The manager shook his head. “I am sorry. But I can’t. How can I be sure that the woman whose picture you have shown is actually your wife? I will have to see some ID before I give you access to the camera feed. Are you with law enforcement?”

I pursed my lips, staring at him. I did not want to waste time convincing him. Jack’s script had not foreseen a situation like this. So I improvised.

I looked around to make sure that no one was eavesdropping on us. I pulled out my wallet and placed a hundred dollar bill on the table before the manager. “Can I look at the feed of your security cameras?” I asked again.

He looked down at my hand which hid the bill underneath it and nodded.

As we went in, the manager called the waiter to join us. Somewhere in one of the back rooms of the diner, the manager sat down at a computer as the waiter and I stood behind him looking at the monitor.

“They were here around 8.30 pm,” the waiter said. The manager nodded, more to himself than at us.

He navigated through the video files and we were soon looking at the footage from two days earlier. I spotted Annie and Sarah sitting at one of the tables. My heart skipped a beat and for a second all I could see were their images moving on the screen.

“Can you show me the footage from the camera outside?” I asked. I had noticed a camera fixed on the wall next to the door when I was entering the diner.

The manager did as I had asked. On the screen, I saw Annie and Sarah enter the diner. Then some time later, Jack followed them.

We shifted again to the feed from the camera inside the diner. I noticed Jack sitting two tables behind Annie and Sarah. He had ordered something to drink and seemed to be observing them from a distance.

About twenty minutes later, Annie called for the check. Simultaneously, Jack left some money on the table and walked out of the diner. Shifting back to the outside camera, we saw Jack standing motionless a few feet away from the door. He looked momentarily at the camera, with the same cold stare which he had used with the camera at my clinic.

A few more minutes passed before Annie and Sarah exited the diner and walked towards their car. Jack let them pass by him and when they were a few feet ahead of him he started to follow them. Soon, all three of them were far away from the camera and their faces could hardly be recognized on the pixelated video.

Annie and Sarah got into the car–Sarah into the backseat, while Annie into the driver’s seat. Neither of them had noticed Jack. Jack walked past the car and then around it, finally coming to a stop next to the passenger seat. He turned to his right and then to his left probably to make sure that no one was watching them.

We saw him extract something from his overcoat–something that looked like a gun. He pointed it at Annie through the window. The glass on the side of the passenger seat had been lowered and he had a direct shot at her. We saw Annie through the windshield as she bent backward in shock, her hands lifted in defense. Then a few seconds later Jack got into the car and sat in the passenger seat. Immediately after, they drove away.

“We need to inform the police about this!” the waiter exclaimed.

The manager nodded and turned in his chair to look at me. I could see that he was embarrassed about taking the bribe earlier. I felt their gaze as I processed what to do. I felt like I finally understood why Jack was making me look for Annie and Sarah this way.

He probably knew that I could not have obtained direct access to the video recordings that we were looking at. He probably knew that the employees of the diner would have accompanied me as I watched the footage, just like they had. And, he wanted me to convince them to not involve the police. Maybe even lie to them that I already had. If ever there was an investigation into the events related to the kidnapping, I could end up being implicated directly or indirectly because I had intentionally kept the police out of it. And now there would be eyewitnesses who could testify to that.

The waiter shook me by the shoulder and I realized that I had just stood there in silence longer than I should have.

“The police already know.” I said.

Both of them nodded. “We are very sorry, sir,” the manager said. “Please let us know if we can offer any other help.”

I said nothing and walked out of the diner. I got into my car and sat there for a few minutes. My hands were on the steering, shivering and numb. The weather had nothing to do with it. It was not the cold which was causing the shiver. It was fear.

What is Jack trying to do?
I asked myself.
What was this visit about?
I could not shake the feeling that there was a hidden motive behind this.

Sitting in the car, I made a list of observations trying to connect the pieces of information that I had. All calls that Jack had made to me were from Annie’s cellphone. There was no recording of our phone conversations to prove that it was Jack who was actually making the calls and not Annie. I had lied to Frank–Annie’s father–that everything was okay and that we would visit him over the weekend. I had been forced to act normal even though both my patients and my employees at the clinic had noticed that I was highly stressed the previous day.

The only pieces of evidence which could prove that I was acting under Jack’s direct control were the scripts that he had sent to me and the journals which I had sent to him. Finally, Jack had forced me, somehow, to tell the manager of the diner that I had informed the police even though I had been specifically warned not to. I could see how it could all be twisted out of shape and made to look like we–Jack and I–were both engaging in a mutually conceived crime. It could all be made to look like I was complicit in, maybe even solely responsible for, the kidnapping of Annie and Sarah and whatever followed. I pushed myself harder only realizing that I was in no position to think through all the details at the time. I felt increasingly tired and incapable to critically analyze the situation.

I turned my head to look down at the latest part of Jack’s script which I had left on the passenger seat in the car. According to it, the next step for me was to call Annie’s cell. That’s where the script ended–with me making that call. I was yet to find out what was going to happen after. I dialed Annie’s number.

“Yes,” Jack said, picking up the call.

“I found the diner” I continued, “And I looked at the camera footage just like you wanted me to.”

He said nothing.

“The manager resisted initially, so I had to deviate from the script.”

“How is that?”

“I bribed him to get access.”

“Very spontaneous of you, doctor.”

“There is one more thing, Jack.”

“There is? What is it, doctor?”

“I want to talk to you.”

“We are talking, aren’t we?”

“No…not like this, Jack. I want to talk to you in person. I want to talk to you without any distractions, without any threats. A conversation between us where we keep the pretense aside.”

“What are you trying to do, doctor?”

“Improvising, Jack. It is, like you said, my contribution to this story. I have decided to be a more active participant…to make this story more than what it already is.”

A long, cold silence followed. What I had initiated was a risky maneuver. The question was if Jack would react to it the way I wanted him to.

“What will we talk about, doctor?”

“Are we still pretending, Jack? Are we keeping the truth hidden?”

“I don’t know, doctor. Are we?”

Silence.

“No, we aren’t.” I said, “It would defeat the purpose of everything you have done.”

“So, answer the question…what do you want to talk about?”

“I want to talk you out of this, Jack…to stop what you are doing. I want to convince you that you are ill. I want to show you the error of everything you have done.”

Silence.
Is it working?
I was beginning to question myself, uncertain if the risk was going to pay off.

A few more seconds passed. Vehicles–large and small–passed along the highway, some honking… some moving quietly. A group of people who looked like college grads exited the diner and stood outside in a circle, smoking cigarettes and cracking jokes. Inside the diner, waiters and waitresses scampered around bringing food to the tables and carrying used plates back into the kitchen. An SUV drove into the parking space and an elderly couple stepped out and headed into the diner.

BOOK: The Secrets You Hide: A Mind-Blowing Thriller (The Psychosis Series)
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