What do you have for us? asks Lestrade.

Schubert is playing in the background.

As I’ve been telling the judge, I say, or the doctor, or whatever he is, Skinner, I think, is what he asked me to call him.

You can call me Skinner, says Lestrade.

You know, I’m really okay with calling you Lestrade. I think the people have gotten quite used to it. I mean, two Skinners? How would they know who was who?

Will you at least picture me as Skinner? he asks.

I can do that.

We need to talk about ello.

You understand why I have to go back there, right?

There is salt spilling between my words and riding in the stream of blood pouring from my eyes.

What exactly keeps pulling you back there? Lestrade asks.

Perhaps I’m having separation anxiety. It doesn’t feel like things should be over yet. There are still strings untied. It’s hard to call this an ending. It feels like an ending before the ending. The false ending. Something has yet to be resolved, and as an agent of the force, I feel it’s my job to set things right.

But there’s more to it than that, isn’t there?

What do you mean?

I mean, you are deriving something from that place. This isn’t all about global justice. You have a vendetta. You are personally involved.

Well, of course. So much of the current conflict centers around me. I am a source of power for the current ruling faction. I have expressed to the audience a great fear I have of missing out, but it’s more than that. I feel like something of mine, an artifact maybe, has been taken from me. I’ve told you this, haven’t I? Like how I feel as though I have been sucked through a mirror and am now watching an impostor parade my life? It’s hard for me to back away from this. I’m not one to give up.

I stop and think, tapping my fingers on the desk before clasping them around my knee, rocking in my chair.

I feel as though if I don’t deal with this it could haunt me for the rest of my life.

It’s a dangerous road, says Lestrade. Look at what it’s doing to you. I need you to really listen to me when I tell you to be careful. Et has warned you personally about psychological warfare. It’s difficult to know what is a trustworthy feeling and what is inserted impetus from the other side.

Who is the judge? I ask.

That’s classified.

Can I trust him?

I would be concerned with even listening to him if I were you.

He calls himself Skinner. Why would you both call yourself Skinner? It hasn’t been long since you last betrayed me as a pack of Marlboro Menthols.

That was a different version of me. A different time. Time is life. It was a different life.


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