“I thought you said you had to go,” I reminded him.
Looking back at me, he said, “I’ve got a couple of things I want to ask you first.”
“Oh yeah,” I said. “Like what?”
“Like, what you were doing at Kiera’s flat tonight?”
Potter lit the fire, and pulling up two battered armchairs, we sat before the roaring flames. The light from the fire cast away that pale look his skin had, and gave his face and chest a warm glow. He held his hands before the fire and rubbed them together and I could see that they were still streaked with blood from the cops he had killed at the flat.
“So how come you were at Kiera’s flat?”
he asked me.
“My life hasn’t been the same since she woke up that night in the morgue,” I started to explain. “When the police arrived, I stole the sample of blood that I had taken from her for DNA analysis. I didn’t want the cops to have it.”
“Why not?” he asked me.
“It’s not every day that a corpse you’re working on suddenly sits up and strolls out of the lab,” I told him. “I hoped that her blood would hold the answers. So instead of following the cop back to the police station to give my statement, I gave him the slip and went to Marty’s. He worked in a lab that did work on the human genes. I knew that if anyone could find out what this Kiera Hudson was all about, then he could.”
“And what did he find out?” he asked me, moving to the edge of the armchair.
“That her blood wasn’t strictly human,” I said, looking him straight in the eyes. “He said that her blood wasn’t too dissimilar to that of a vampire bat. He told me to look after the blood and not to tell anyone about it.”
“And that was it?” he pushed.
“I think so, but it’s like things became muddled after that,” I said thoughtfully.
“Marty and I had been separated for over six months, he had met someone else,” I told him, and part of me, on a subconscious level, wanted to let him know that I was single. “I thought of him as a friend, that was all. But I think he tried to seduce me or something, because I remember him laying me down onto his bed and kissing me. It was then that he asked me what had been the girl’s name that the sample of blood had come from, so I told him. I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I can remember is waking up on his bed and hearing him shouting in the street outside. It was then that he was hit by the car.”
Potter sat quietly as I explained what had happened when the happy-zapper cop had turned up. I told him how he had driven me out into the country and the other cop had killed him. I went on to explain how I fled. I didn’t know what to do or where to run. I knew that I couldn’t go back to my parents’ house, as that would have been the first place that the cops would look for me.
“My parents are getting on now,” I said, and to think of them hurt me. “I haven’t had any contact with them for weeks, and I miss Archie.”
“Archie?” Potter asked, cocking an eyebrow at me.
“My dog,” I told him, and an odd look came over his face. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, fine,” he nodded.
So I started to tell Potter how, by accident more than anything, I had ended up in Beechers Hope and at the farm. “I knew that I couldn’t just keep aimlessly wandering the countryside,” I said.
“I needed to start making plans. I went into town to buy some supplies and new clothes and it was while I was there that I found this in the coat that I bought.” Then, fishing the driving licence out of my pocket, I handed it to him.
Potter leant forward in his chair and studied the plastic I.D. in the light of the fire. “It’s a good likeness, but that isn’t you, is it?”
I shook my head. “When I saw it, I thought that I could become her, you know, dye my hair, and if I did ever get stopped by the cops, I could flash that and they would believe that I was her – Caroline Hughes.”“So what were you doing in Kiera’s flat tonight?” Potter asked again, handing me back the I.D.
“Once I had dyed my hair, put on my new clothes and got used to the idea of being Caroline Hughes, I got more daring, and over the next few days I left the farmhouse and took some walks along the coastal paths. I needed to get my head together and decide exactly what I was going to do. I couldn’t pretend that I was Caroline forever.
The sea air cleared my head and the quietness of the place helped me focus. I hardly ever saw anyone on my walks, except for this girl and boy I would occasionally see. They seemed to be very much in love as they were always looking into each other’s eyes and holding hands. I let them be, as they obviously wanted to be left alone as much as I did.
“I knew that your friend, Kiera Hudson was the key to this somehow, so I thought that perhaps if I could find out who she was, where she lived and so on, I could start to figure out what was happening. Remembering that I had seen a library in the town square, it took me another week or so to pluck up the courage to venture into town in my disguise. When I did, I dressed in the coat that I had bought, pulled the fur collar up about my face, and made sure that I had Caroline Hughes’s I.D. with me, just in case I got stopped.
“I never did got stopped. I made my way in and of town without so much as a stare. In the library I paid for half an hour’s Internet access and searched for your friend on 192.com. There were three other women listed with that name. I wrote down their home addresses and telephone numbers, which were on the website. One of them was way too old to be your friend and the second had since emigrated. That only left one. I called her number from a public phone box. After several rings, her answer phone cut in and I recognised her voice from when she had spoken to me as she fled the morgue. Over the next few days, I rang that number again several times and each time there was no response, just the message left on her answer phone. Each time I listened to it, the more I became convinced that I had the right Kiera Hudson. But, I knew that I could only be sure if I went to her flat and checked it out for myself.
“So I packed up my things, and running out of cash before leaving Beechers Hope, I withdrew some money from a cash machine. I know I shouldn’t have done it, because if anyone was checking my bank records they would know where I was, but as I was leaving the town, I guessed it wouldn’t matter,” I told him.
“What did you find at the flat?” he asked me.
“Not much,” I said. “I’d only been there long enough to check out a picture that was by the window when you showed up. But as soon as I saw that picture, I recognised her and knew that I had found the right Kiera Hudson.”
“So what are you going to do now?” he asked me.
I didn’t know what I was going to do, if I were to be honest. I hoped that by going to Kiera’s flat I would find something, although I wasn’t exactly sure what, and prove my innocence in some way. “I could come with you,”
I suggested, lowering my eyes so I didn’t have to look at him.
“Impossible,” Potter said.
To hear him dismiss my idea so quickly hurt me, but also made me angry. “You can’t just leave me, Potter,” I said, staring at him. “What am I meant to do?”
“Hide,” he said, and now it was he who looked away from me and into the fire.
“Hide!” I snapped. “What sort of plan is that? What, you’re seriously suggesting that I spend the rest of my life pretending to be somebody else?”
“So what where you planning on doing?”
he grunted, taking a cigarette from his trouser pocket and lighting it.
“Not ripping the fucking heads off of several cops, that’s for sure!” I shouted. “So you just walk back into my life, cause a massacre, and then disappear again? You know, it isn’t going to take a freaking genius to work out that those cops were killed by something other than a human.” “I never walked back into your life,” Potter said, blowing smoke into the air. “You walked into mine.”
“You said that you came looking for me,”
I reminded him.
“Yeah, well maybe I shouldn’t have,” he snapped. “I made a mistake, okay?”
“No, it’s not okay!” I hissed, standing up.
“You can’t just walk back into my life, stir up old feelings, then disappear again!”
“What old feelings?” he asked, looking up at me as I stood before the fire. “You said you didn’t remember me.”
Clenching my fists, I shouted, “Why don’t you just piss off, Potter!”
Without looking back at him, I stomped up the stairs. I went to the room with the pink coloured bedding, closed the door, lit a candle, and threw myself onto the bed. I just wanted to scream, but I didn’t want him to hear it, so I placed a pillow over my head. I felt lost, confused, and angry. I was angrier at myself than Potter – I hated the feelings that I had for him.
But hadn’t they always been there, hidden just beneath the surface? Potter said before the world had been pushed we had been lovers. Maybe somehow those feelings – just like the letters – had seeped across time, through a tear in the fabric of reality and come back to haunt me.
However hard I tried, I couldn’t help but feel love for the obnoxious prick who sat downstairs before the fire. I didn’t doubt what Potter had told me. I knew in my heart that we had once shared some kind of life together. As I lay on my front, my head buried beneath the pillow, I remembered how sometimes, when Marty was smoking a cigarette, he had reminded me of someone else and that someone else had been Potter. It was like he had been seeping through into my life for as long as I could remember. Maybe I hadn’t wanted to remember him – but now that he was back, I just couldn’t forget.
I’d heard a story once about a young woman who’d had an accident and had been in a coma for five years or more. When she finally woke, her fiancé had moved on and married someone else – but she had woken feeling the same for him, just as she had when she had slipped into that coma. At the time I had thought how awful that must have been for her – and now I really understood the pain she must have felt. I wanted to go with him. I didn’t want to be left alone. I’d been scared of him once – but I was different then. I didn’t want to think about him anymore, I just wanted to go to sleep. So swinging my legs over the edge of the bed and standing in the centre of the room, I slipped off my tree-hugger dress and my underwear. Then, as I stood naked, the door to my room swung slowly open and Potter stepped inside.