Logan wasn’t sure how long he’d been tied to the rusty metal folding chair in the windowless room they’d shoved him into soon after their arrival at… wherever they were. The van they’d been shoved into was one of the white vans he’d seen in Axton several days earlier, or at least one just like those. It hadn’t had any windows either, so he had no idea where they’d been taken.
He wondered where Candy was, and then he asked himself why he cared, even though he already knew the answer to that question.
Shonda was on her way, too, but she could take care of herself. Hopefully.
He looked up when the door opened, and two armed men in gray camo fatigues, bulletproof vests and gas masks entered the room.
“I could really use some water in here,” he said. “And some answers.”
“The way I see it,” said a voice coming from behind the two men, “you aren’t in a position to demand anything.”
A tall, old man wearing a navy blue suit, a white shirt and a red tie shuffled into view. He locked eyes with Logan.
“Get him some water.”
One of the two goons behind him left.
The old man ventured further into the room, stopping just short of Logan’s chair.
“Tell me, Mr. Hayes, what exactly have you found out here? And who, may I ask, have you shared it with?”
“The answers to those questions are nothing and no one,” he replied.
The old man smiled. “I didn’t think it would be that easy. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a hypodermic needle filled with a clear, greenish-tinted liquid. “Do you know what this is?”
“Green Berry Rush Hawaiian Punch,” said Logan. “It’s my kid’s favorite.
“We’ll soon see how long your jovial mood can withstand the ordeal you’re about to endure, Mr. Hayes. What I’ve got here in my hand is a diluted form of the chemical additive that was introduced into Groundswell’s water supply back in the seventies. You know the one.”
“I really don’t,” said Logan.
The old man continued. “As you know, the intended effect was mood-stabilization. It was expected to do for the mind what adding fluoride to water supplies did for the nation’s dental health.”
“Except it didn’t,” said Logan, pretending to fully understand what he was hearing. “And Groundswell was the guinea pig.”
“Precisely. And yet you say you know nothing.”
“I didn’t until you told me.”
The man smiled and wagged a long, bony finger at him. “You’re very clever. How much do you actually know? Where is the disk, anyway? I assumed you accessed it with one of the old computers at the library, but clearly you did not, given your ignorance. Unless, of course, it’s feigned.”
Logan opened his mouth to ask what disk he was talking about, but thought better of it. He had a bargaining chip–one that might save his life.
He was confused by the old man’s explanation as well, because none of this had anything to do with Prismara or drilling. None of it added up. Unless…
What if this drug had been used to render the people of Groundswell more agreeable to a buyout?
Whatever was going on, this disk apparently explained it all.
“The disk is somewhere safe,” he said. Somewhere you’ll never find it.”
“Oh, I see.”
He leaned forward and jabbed the needle into Logan’s leg.
Logan grunted And clenched his eyes shut as the fluid inside of it was injected into his bloodstream. It burned. He felt like his skin was on fire. After a moment, the discomfort subsided and he felt normal again. His fear, though, had given way to anger. Not just any anger, either–but white-hot rage, the likes of which he’d never before experienced.
The anger he’d felt over discovering Helen had cheated on him? That was nothing.
Back when he was on the force, he helped capture a man named Rodney Wood who’d kidnapped a little girl and put her through hell for three days before neatly tucking her corpse back into her bed for her parents to find… At the trial, the monster had actually turned around and smiled at them while the prosecutor described to the court exactly what had happened to the poor child.
Oh yeah, that one made him angry. Really angry. He still thought about it every day, Again, though, nothing.
There was something else, too. The guilt he’d been carrying ever since he’d killed Carl Stintson was gone. He didn’t care anymore, and that should’ve disturbed him, he knew, but it didn’t. And not even that disturbed him.
The only thing that did disturb him was his inability to satiate his urgent need to kill.
Kill who? The old man? No, kill everybody. Had Everett been present and within reach, he might’ve strangled him to death–his own son. Kill kill kill kill kill. The word echoed over and over in his head, matching the the rapid, heavy thump of his heart.
“Imagine a whole town feeling like you do right now,” said the old man. “A husband tears into the throat of his wife of many years, with his teeth. A child stabs her mother in the eye with a screwdriver before falling victim to the wrath of her younger brother, who bashes her face into a bloody pulp with a T-ball bat. An elementary school teacher brings a gun to class and shoots every single one of her students. These stories are the tip of the iceberg, a small sampling of what we found here before the project was cancelled and buried.”
With infuriating calm, he leaned down and looked Logan directly in the eyes. “Yes, there it is. That directionless, homicidal hatred. It’s taken over, hasn’t it? Silenced all other emotions. It would feel so good to just… let loose, right? Break my neck. Stomp on my face. You want blood. You want to taste fear and suffering. You crave it like a man wandering the desert craves water.”
Logan bared his teeth, growled and rocked his chair back and forth.
“Pure savagery,” said the old man with an unmistakable note of admiration in his tone. He leaned forward and whispered in his captive’s ear.
“Tell me where the disk is, and I’ll leave you alone, untied, with one of my men, here in this room. I’ll lock you in together. You can do whatever you want with him.”
Logan said nothing.
The old man stood up, drew back his arm and slapped Logan hard across the face. “Where’s the disk? Don’t play dumb with me, you washed-up pretend cop! Where is it?”
Logan spat at the old man and shook his body as hard as he could, like a rabid, wild animal desperately trying to free itself from a trap.
“I don’t know about any fucking disk!”
“You deny paying a visit to Walter Scheckley? He had the disk, until he met you. He’s been mailing anonymous letters to all kinds of important people about it, for the past couple of decades. You know, a real Ted Kacyzynski type. We’ve been cleaning up his messes for some time. You know, debunking his claims, confusing the narrative by spreading false information. Taking care of people who were just too much of a liability.
“I could scarcely believe my luck, then, when a chance encounter with some of my agents led to the identification and elimination of a man responsible for so many, many sleepless nights… For a lot of people. Including myself. He knew everything.”
“You were there first!” Logan roared. “He was already dead and gone before I got a chance to talk to him!”
“And yet when my men searched the house, they failed to find it. Oh, I suppose he could’ve had it stashed it somewhere else, but I doubt it. He liked to keep things close. It would have been there, and I believe it was, until you took it.”
Logan couldn’t believe how much he wanted to choke the life out of this old bastard. He wanted to do all sorts of horrible things to him. To anyone.
“Go to hell,” said Logan.
The old man gritted hit teeth and grabbed Logan by the chin, squeezing hard. “You grimy little fucker,” he hissed. “I’ve dined with presidents. I’ve changed the course of American history, on multiple occasions. You’re just a failure. You’re not even shit on the bottom of my shoe. But in hell, we’ll be equals.”
Logan jerked his head and bit down hard on the old man’s index finger. He could feel teeth scraping on bone, and the taste of his blood was exquisite.
The old man freed himself and hopped around the room, screaming at the top of his lungs and gushing blood all over himself and the floor. When his men rushed forward, he raised his other hand and ordered them to stand down.
I’ll make sure you get there first,” said Logan.