It is approximately thirty minutes after my last report, and I’m back in the waiting room at Melmoth Memorial, enjoying a steaming hot cup of coffee I sweet-talked off one of the nurses. I don’t know what the patients drink, but the Nurses’ Lounge is stocked with a damn fine brew. Alexandra is still not back from her examination, but I’ve just spent some time with her erstwhile kidnapper, Possum Reynolds. Or rather, with something purporting to be Possum Reynolds. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I was informed, if you’ll recall, that Possum had awakened and was asking to speak with the Sheriff. I decided that he should perhaps speak to me instead, and had the nurse lead me to him. Rooms in the intensive care unit are usually small, and cramped with machines. Possum’s room had those features, but it was also dark, and unnaturally humid. Like someone had just taken a shower in it. But instead of the clean smell of soap, it smelled… Well, it’s difficult to describe what it did smell like. Dirt, I suppose. Dirt and blood.
Possum seemed surprised to see me. “Ii. Ast. For. The. Sheriff,” he said, and immediately I knew that whatever was wrong with the room, it emanated from him. His lips were moving in a series of jerky stop-motion twitches around a mouthful of broken teeth. Each word was a spasm. Clipped. Brittle. And not entirely in synch with his lips. It was simultaneously disorienting, abhorrent, and fascinating.
My curious stare must have angered him, because he repeated himself with a shout. “Ii said! Ii ast! For the! Sheriff!”
“I know you did, Possum. But you got me instead.”
“Ii. Got. No business. With you. Guvmit. Man.”
“Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong. I’m in charge of the Melmoth kidnapping now, so you’re going to have to talk to me. But you already knew that, didn’t you? How’d you know that, Possum? How’d you know I work for the government? I haven’t even introduced myself.”
He knitted his brows with the same kind of twitching effort it took to move his lips, and I realized that his face had otherwise been slack for the entire conversation. His body hadn’t moved, either. Overall, he had the abated stillness of a corpse. Except, of course, for that mouth. That horrible mouth.
“’Course. Ii know. Who. You. Are. Guv. Mit. Man. You come. Into town. To work. On that. Mountain. Murder. Ii paid. Spe. Cial. Atten. Tion. ‘Cause. Ii did. It.”
“The! Mur! Der!”
“Yes! Ii. Kidnapped. That. Melmoth. Bitch. And killed. Her. Boyfriend. When. He tried. To stop. Me.”
“I see. You and Jase Peterson, you mean.”
“Jase Peterson. The man who was actually holding the girl at his house.”
“Oh! Oh. Yeah. I-Ii. Mean. No. Jase. Was just. Keeping. Her. For me. Ii. Did. It. Ii killed. The boyfriend. And did. The kid. Napping.”
“So… This is a confession?”
He exploded. “Of! Course! It’s! A! Con! Fession! You! Fool! I’m! Handing! You! Your! Case! On! A! Sil! Ver! Plat! Ter! You! Id! Iot!”
“What if I were to tell you that I know with some certainty that the crimes you’re confessing to were committed by a group of owl-headed hermaphrodites?”
His eyes bulged. He didn’t reply, but slightly raised his one unbroken arm to make a rictus fist. I grabbed the wrist and leaned in close over his twitching face. That smell of bloody earth was emanating from his mouth in putrid waves that nearly gagged me. Leaning in closer still, I stared into the black depths of his dead eyes, hoping in vain to see whatever was on the other end of them.
“Whoever you are in there, you can give this up. I’ve been on your mountain, and I’ve seen your door, and I’ve killed a Nukpana in a dream. I am Yanaba, Confronter of Enemies. I will run you to ground, and I will see you dead!”
The arm went limp in my grasp, and Possum’s face stopped twitching. His eyes slowly closed. His mouth hung slackly open, however, and with a hiss of escaping air, his breath returned to normal. And I suddenly found myself staring intently at the bruised, swollen visage of a very frail man. Placing his arm gently back down on the bed, I climbed down, straightened my suit, and left the room. On the way back here, I let the nurse know that Possum seemed to have sunk back into his coma.
It occurs to me that I never finished telling you the story of my day among the Alo, and how I earned my Mountain Name. So it may not be apparent to you how rash my closing words were. You’ll have to trust me on that for now, though. I’ve finished that cup of joe, but Alexandra is still not back from her examination. I think it’s time for me to go have a word with her doctors.
Agent X-23, signing off.