Authors: Jonas Saul
Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller
Sarah Roberts hated this part of the game. The sitting, the waiting, locked in her underground cell, writing out her dead sister’s notes for Hank Frommer, her active role in dealing with the messages all but abolished.
It had been at least six days since Hank had locked her in the underground bunker. Boredom could be defined as staring at the walls, studying the corners and edges in minute detail until she felt she was losing her mind. The food was worse. No one cooked. It was all takeout and breakfast was last night’s takeout.
She had supplied Hank with five days of prophecies written on little pieces of paper. Each morning he had entered her cell, acknowledged what she had said the previous day to be true and picked up the next one.
It was almost time for Hank’s personal prophecy. The one that was supposed to get Sarah out of her prison in North Bay, Ontario’s American facility, sixty stories under the earth.
Day one’s prophecy had been a car accident where an expectant mother needed to be delayed by twenty seconds to miss a red-light runner. Sarah had instructed Hank to block the woman in the parking lot at the grocery store while pretending to talk on his cell. Wait twenty seconds and then let her go. He would save the life of her unborn child as well as the mother.
Day two, a school fight would turn nasty at Widdifield High School. A seventeen-year-old student would pull a knife and spend three years in the system. It was unnecessary, as he had coaxed a student to give it to him earlier in order to diffuse a different altercation. The seventeen-year-old did the right thing and was now being bullied.
Hank was given all the information he needed to fix it.
Days three and four were domestic disputes. In both cases, the women would be beaten and end up in the hospital, one of them in ICU for a week.
Day five was the easiest. Hank had taken the note that morning and ran with it. One of his guards was going to have a heart attack and die on shift at 3:17 p.m.
What Hank had done with the information she had supplied him, Sarah had no idea. Each morning, her breakfast had arrived. After that, Hank was buzzed into her room and asked for another prophecy.
But all that was over now. The next message was about Hank’s wife and how she would die tomorrow, downtown Toronto. Hank believed in Sarah by now and would take her seriously when she finally told him about Joan Frommer’s death.
She waited for Hank to enter her cell so she could inform him of the grim news and how he could stop it. All this would be over soon. She had done what he’d asked. She had supplied him with real-time crystal-ball prophecies. That had been the deal. To get the Sophia Project men off her back for good, she had complied.
But compliance came with a price, and Sarah wasn’t willing to pay anymore. She held the last prophecy in her hand and contemplated ripping it up. She’d done her part. They would work with her now. Release her. Did she really have to tell him that his wife was about to be killed? Or couldn’t she? If it was her husband, would she want to know?
Of course I would.
The door buzzed and opened.
Sarah slipped the note into her pants’ pocket and crossed her arms.
Hank Frommer stepped inside the small room, followed by two armed guards. He eased the door closed behind him. He looked better than previous days, dressed in a corduroy jacket, beige slacks and spit-shined shoes.
“What are you dressed up for?” Sarah asked. “We heading somewhere special?”
He regarded her with half a smile. His eyes narrowed as he looked her up and down. A creep vibe coursed through her. Or maybe he brought the cyanide he’d prepared for her untimely demise and that was why he needed his two guards for muscle.
Just try it,
The knowledge of your wife would die with me.
Her hands clenched, feet ready to spring.
“Rod Howley called,” Hank said at last.
Sarah uncoiled. “What’d he want?”
Hank hadn’t talked to her all week. Nothing about Drake Bellamy, nothing about her parents or if anyone was looking for her. She was cut off from society down here. She hadn’t seen the sun for a week and had no idea what the hell was happening topside.
The armed men moved closer, flanking her. Hank must’ve brought them because he had something disturbing to tell her and wanted to know he’d leave the room in one piece. Or they had a plan for her that she wouldn’t agree with. There was no good reason for them to be here, any way she looked at it.
“He wanted you,” Hank said.
“Me?” Sarah asked, eyebrows raised. “What would he want with little old me?”
“Come on, Sarah.” Hank leaned back against the wall by the door and rested on his shoulder blades. “We both know that Rod lied to us about you, trying to pass you off as having no abilities. After what you did for me this week, we know that’s not true. What we want to know is why he would do that.” He raised his index finger and waved it. “You don’t know Rod like I do. He’s dedicated. A company man. Nothing could sway him. So tell me, what do you have on him?”
Sarah shook her head. “You sicken me.”
“Instead of fighting your kind, I decided to let you in. We have a deal. You see what I can do and we work together for the good of mankind and yada yada. But instead, I’m locked up for a week in this bunker with no contact with the outside. I’m your little prisoner. Then Rod wants to see what’s happening and you think that’s on me. I have no idea why Mr. Howley would lie about my abilities. Maybe he knows you’re an asshole. Maybe he knows I would be subjected to this kind of treatment and wanted to spare me from the likes of you. It’s not my job to figure it out. I didn’t employ Rod. You guys did. You figure it out.”
Hank pushed off the wall. “Fair enough. Got any notes for me?”
Sarah glared at him, in no mood to help right now. “No.”
She knew she would tell him eventually, but not until she was ready. Especially not when she was angry. She had to take the power back, even if it was a little at a time.
“Really?” he asked. “Not even a little message? No expectant mothers about to have an accident, no kids with knives or guards that need a doctor …”
“Did you attend to my notes personally?” Sarah asked.
“Each and every one.”
She stepped closer. Both guards moved with her in unison. Hank waved them down.
“How did they turn out?” she asked.
“You were bang on. Not a single person deviated from what you said. To be honest, I’m amazed. You’re the best little psychic we’ve ever had.”
“Great. So when do we leave?”
The door to the room buzzed then opened. Hank stepped over and leaned against it. “
don’t leave. When you dry up and there’s no more messages, that’s when you leave … in a body bag.”
She hated it when someone felt they could threaten her so easily, as if they were talking about the weather.
While Hank leaned on the door, his guards edged even closer. “You didn’t think we could ever let someone like you loose on the streets, did you? You have the ability to change the future. We can’t have that. We want to study you, get you to foretell future political events.”
If she lunged for him, she wouldn’t make it. All he had to do was slip out and slam the door. She wouldn’t get three steps before the guards were on her.
“What about the five messages I gave you this week?” Sarah asked, her jaw tightening.
“I already told you, they came true.”
Then she realized what Hank had done as she studied his eyes. He had allowed the prophecies to go … unchecked. The muscles in her face slackened with the realization. Hank was a monster. That he could allow the expectant mother to have her car accident, the boy with the knife, those women in the hospital, his own guard …
“That’s right,” he broke into her thoughts. “They all happened as you predicted.” He grabbed a couple of newspapers from outside the door, then turned back to her. “Here, read these. It’s the North Bay Nugget. They ran three of the five stories you warned us about.” He moved back into the room a couple of feet. “Now, give me another prophecy today and maybe I’ll let you keep breathing. In the meantime, as Rod’s employer, I’ll go find out why he didn’t do his job with you. I’ll go ‘figure it out,’ as you told me to.”
Hank’s voice grated on Sarah’s nerves. She didn’t want to hear him anymore. Tears welled in her eyes and her stomach felt like a bowl of rocks.
How could he let my messages go unchecked? That’s not what they were for.
All week, message after message, she’d thought he was helping people, saving them from their own fate. Instead, he had sat on the sidelines and watched the pain and suffering like it was his own personal morbid show. Her faith in humanity, or her understanding of it, sunk so low in that moment, she wondered why she bothered.
“It’s okay, Sarah,” Hank said. “If those events were supposed to happen to those people at those set times, then who are we to step in and change that? You may be able to see the future, but we aren’t God. We don’t get the right to alter it. That’s the foundation of our organization. We hunt real psychics to quell them. Eventually you will die down here, Sarah Roberts, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Not you, not me, not even God.”
Hank’s armed men headed for the door and slipped out. Hank smiled and waved goodbye to her like they were old friends.
She moved with speed and agility, making it two steps before Hank reacted. Then she dove for him, hands outstretched. Hank disappeared behind the door, slamming it. The familiar buzz of the lock engaged as she hit the floor and rolled, the breath momentarily knocked out of her.
“We’ll see about that, Hank,” she said between breaths. “We’ll see who dies down here.”
Sarah curled up in the corner of her cell and wrapped her arms around her legs. She wondered why she was here in the first place and how her sister, Vivian, had let it happen. What was the purpose of life when there were people like Hank Frommer? Was it Vivian’s fault? Why give Sarah five messages for Hank just to have them come true and secure her in this hellhole? Weren’t they supposed to help people?
Sarah understood that there was too much carnage in the world to help everybody, but she could make a difference, even if that difference was small. Every bit counted. That’s why she did what she did. When Vivian sent a message through her, she complied. Maybe the people she helped weren’t supposed to have bad things happen to them, but by some odd twist of fate, they got stuck in front of the fate train.
In the past, Sarah had helped strangers avoid being kidnapped, tortured, raped, beat up and even broke up a human trafficking ring. She had done good deeds and freed numerous people from the shackles of evil, performing random acts of kindness times a million. But all it ever got her was more vileness. Maybe that was the balance. Maybe she had to deal with the filth and scum so the people she liberated didn’t have to. If that was the case, she was okay with it. Over the years she had grown stronger, better able to deal with it.
But Hank Frommer was a different animal. He was smart and powerful. Most of her adversaries were small-time crooks, running from the law, making mistakes, afraid of doing the time. Hank worked for the American government in a black project that put massive resources and people at his disposal. Unless Sarah could out-think Hank, she would die at his hands.
She jumped at the door buzzer. Men filed in, one after another, until she counted eight. All armed, they stood in a semi-circle with the open door between them.
“What?” Sarah asked. “You don’t think you have enough men? A 120-pound girl to eight armed men. Wow, you guys really are pussies.”
To their credit, none of them budged.
The door opened wider, and Hank stepped in.
“Give it to me,” he said.