Rion’s next recollection was staring at the back alley through a window, watching the rain fall.
He remembered fragments. Everything between losing consciousness and now had been marred by abject pain–head, arms, ribs, stomach, all nauseatingly raw and tender. Someone had picked him up, dragged him by the arm to this room.
Someone had bandaged him up, rubbed something on his wounds, fed him water. He didn’t remember waking or sitting down, but now he was here, in a hotel room washed in hazy blue coming from the window.
His savior came out of the bathroom. No wonder he’d been dragged. She was a tiny woman, barely above five feet tall, with feathered blond hair. She wore a blue police uniform, but Rion thought she looked too young to be a cop.
She held a steaming styrofoam cup. “How you feeling? Any pain?”
Rion shook his head. He became aware there was thick gauze wrapped around his head. It felt moist to the touch, hopefully not with blood. His torso and arm were wrapped the same way. But nothing felt bad–even his headache had disappeared.
“No, no pain at all.”
“Good. I must have given you enough Relaxin and Toverol to put you in detox.” She handed him the mug. “Think you can keep this down?”
“Good. Here, it’s decaf.”
Rion wrinkled his nose. It smelled good, but looked awful. He must never have had coffee before, even though he knew what it was. He took a sip, and nearly spit it out. “I guess I don’t like coffee,” he said as he sat it on the windowsill.
She smiled and sat down on the bed. “Really? It’s a cop’s best friend. Even more than her gun.”
“Guess I’m not a cop,” Rion shrugged. “Are you?”
“You couldn’t tell by the uniform?” she chirped.
She smiled. “Sergeant Tuesday Huxley.”
“Tuesday. Last name, Huxley.”
Rion frowned. “Were your parents hippies too?”
She laughed. “No, I was named after an old song my dad liked. Really bad song. Sounds like yowling cats.”
Rion nodded and picked up the cup, not because he wanted a drink, but he felt uncomfortable without something in his hands.
“I didn’t catch your name, stranger,” she said as she kicked her legs back and forth.
“Rion,” he said as he returned to the window.
“Does ‘Rion’ have a last name?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know? I suppose you don’t know why you got wailed on either?”
Rion glared at her. “Listen ‘Tuesday’. I’m having a hard day. I can’t remember the last time I slept. I’ve thrown up from a massive migraine. I spent half an hour in a dumpster. I have psychic powers, but no memory. I can talk to objects, but it gives me a splitting headache. And I have no money, no transportation, no one I can contact, and all I want to do is find someone who can help me, but everyone’s being a fucking jerk, and now I just got the shit beaten out of me so LAY OFF!”
Huxley scooted back, eyes alert.
Rion bowed his head. “Sorry,” he said, “I didn’t mean to yell at you.”
Neither said anything, letting the silence diffuse the tension. Then she said, “Let’s start over. Hi, my name’s Tuesday.”
Rion sighed. “Hi, my name is Rion. I don’t know my last name because I have no memory of who I am. I woke up sitting on a park bench, and have spent the entire day trying to find someone who could help me.”
“Okay, good. Now we’re on the right track,” she said. “So if you don’t know your last name, how do you know your first name?”
“I don’t,” he shook his head. “I had to come up with something to call myself. It’s just a name I heard somewhere.”
Rion tried another sip of coffee. “What are you doing here? Patrolling the hallway for saps who get the shit kicked out of them?”
She giggled. “No, actually, I’m… it’s complicated. I’m sort of security for the convention. I guess they got some pressure from the press on some insider trading scandal, and they wanted to show they were ‘taking the allegations seriously’. So they contracted some rent-a-cops to walk around and act tough.”
“Sounds like a bullshit job,” Rion said.
“Yep, exactly,” Tuesday said. “Us rookies drew straws. You’re lucky I got the night shift.”
Rion looked at his arm. “I appreciate you bandaging me up and everything, but why didn’t you take me to a hospital?”
“Well, you didn’t need a hospital.”
Rion’s jaw dropped. “What? B-but I had, my ribs… everything hurt. I blacked out.”
“It always feels worse than it is. Plus I gave you enough painkillers to make a terminal cancer patient tip-toe through the tulips.”
There was an open medkit resting on the nightstand with pill bottles and tubes strewn about. Rion wiggled his arm. No pain. He was sure his arm had been broken at some point.
“I heal fast, I guess,” Rion mumbled. “Wonder if that’s related.”
“Related to what?”
“My psychic powers. My memory loss. I don’t know. I’m trying to figure out what it all means. When I woke up, all I had was a bag beside me, with a gun. I don’t think it was even a real gun.” And Rion cursed himself for ever thinking it was. It never looked like a real gun, why would he think it would be one? “And a bottle of pills, and a fuzzy pink sweater.”
Tuesday furrowed her eyebrows. “What?”
“Yeah, you can see why I’m confused. No ID or phone numbers or anything.”
“What kind of pills are they? Did they come in a bottle?”
“No label. There were red and yellow capsules. And I have no idea what they are, but I think they’re for my headaches.”
“What headaches? Is this related to the ‘psychic powers’?”
Rion rubbed his temple, thinking of how to explain. “It’s like… object memory. I can see what… a thing remembers… about itself. It’s like a little vision.” Tuesday still looked confused. “Like, I can touch a doorknob, and I can see where the key is.”
“Okay,” she said. “And this happens with everything you touch?”
“Sometimes. I tried it on my remote, and nothing happened. But I tried it on a book, and I could see someone picking it up at the store.”
“Here,” she arched back on the bed and grabbed a paperback from the nightstand. “Try it on this.”
Rion read the title–The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, nothing he expected a cop to be reading. But he sighed and sensed the book.
After a few seconds of trying, nothing happened. Maybe the book had nothing to remember, or it had nothing Rion wanted from it. “I’m not getting anything.” He handed it back to her. “It doesn’t always work. Plus it gives me a headache.”
Tuesday took it back. “You know, we had a psychic come into the office one time. To help on a case. We were trying to find a missing person. No leads whatsoever, so someone called him in. He wasn’t one of these swamis with the turban and the crystals. He was actually a nice guy, very professional. A week later, someone called in that they found her body in a dumpster. Then we got a bill from him for five thousand dollars. For services rendered.” She paused. “So forgive me if I’m a little skeptical.”
Rion nodded. He knew the truth for himself, so it didn’t matter what anyone else thought. He wasn’t trying to gain anything.
Tuesday said, “So were your psychic powers related to you lying in the hall, beaten and bruised? Did you charge them for services rendered?”
Rion shook his head. “No, not really.”
He told her the whole story of Memory and Paul, but left out the part about breaking into their room. Instead he said that he knocked on the door and confronted him without the gun. Tempers flared and Paul attacked him when Rion threatened to attack.
“Yeah, probably not a good idea to interrupt people at two in the morning. Not that it warranted a walloping. Some people are real assholes.”
“Can you do anything about it?” Rion asked. “Can you arrest him?”
“No, not enough evidence.”
“What? But he beat me up. I can tell you who did it.”
“I know, but I didn’t see him beat you up. I found you when you were lying in the hallway alone. So I can’t verify that it was this guy, even if you were laying out in front of his room. That’s circumstantial evidence.”
“What kind of evidence do you need?”
“If he used only his fists and feet, there won’t be traces on your body. I need a third party who witnessed it, and I mean a really neutral third party. And that’s hard, because the hotel’s full of this guy’s friends. And the hotel staff are profiting from his stay, so they’re out. So that leaves no one to vouch for you.”
“What do you mean? He’s the one who beat me up, I can verify it.”
“You could have some sort of vendetta against him. You could have beaten yourself up and then laid outside his door.”
“That’s bullshit.” Rion stood up with his fists clenched.
“Hey, whoa, whoa, take it easy. I’m not saying that’s what I think. I’m saying that’s what the system’s gonna say. Believe me, I’d change it if I could. I wish I could help you, I really do. But there’s nothing the law can do about it.”
Rion looked down at the floor and slammed the heel of his fist into the wall.
Tuesday said, “Plus, if you don’t have a driver’s license or social security number, or anything like that you couldn’t even get into the computer system to make a complaint. In fact, they might detain you.”
Rion sat down again. “So, what? That’s it? You can’t do anything?”
“Sorry,” she said. “I really wish we could do something, but it would all be for naught. This kind of shit happens all the time. It’s all the legal loopholes that were made because of people lying. I’ve seen people lie on their best friends to get some money out of them. So instead of dealing with the liars, they raise the bar of evidence higher so that no one can accuse anyone.”
“So then how do the cops arrest anyone?”
“You need some really hard evidence, and that’s hard to get for the small stuff. So it slips through the cracks.”
“So should I take the law into my own hands then?” Rion said, half-serious. He was expecting a firm no. Instead, Tuesday looked out at the rain.
“I don’t know. Every law that gets passed these days has got something in it for the business sector. Twenty years ago feels like the wild west now. But every week there’s a news report about police corruption, or brutality, and they keep taking our powers away. Like if you’re undercover, you can’t participate in any illegal activity or they’ll consider you a criminal. So for some people, that’s the only solution. And I can understand,” she sighed, “I don’t agree with it. But I understand.”
Rion didn’t want to take the law into his own hands either. But he also expected the law to be there when he was in trouble, not to throw up its hands and say ‘well, what can ya do’.
Rion faced the window. “Seems like there’s no place to turn to anymore.”
“Yeah, I guess you pretty vulnerable right now.” She put a hand on his shoulder. “Hey, if you want, I can take you back to the station. Maybe we can put out an announcement or something.”
Rion grinned. This was what he was searching for. Someone to believe in him. Someone with the power to lend a hand.
But then he thought of Memory, and his elation was squelched. His leaving would mean her staying. With Paul. Boorish, violent, arrogant, son-of-a-bitch Paul. Paul who could beat up a kid and get away with it Paul would never let her leave, until it suited his needs. And that would destroy her.
Rion shook his head. “No. Thank you, but… I have to stay here.”
“You sure? I bet we could find something if we put your stuff in the lab.”
Rion thought. The gun was destroyed. The pills he needed. But the sweater… “If I give you something, could you take it in and analyze it?”
Tuesday bit her lip. “Well, I think so, but unless you come in and I register you as a case, I can’t work on it officially. I’ll have to pull some favors.”
“Please,” Rion said, “I can’t leave… yet.”
Tuesday eyed him. “You promise you won’t do anything stupid?”
“All right, how about this. When I get back to the office, I’ll do some sleuthing. Check out Missing Persons. If someone’s looking for you, it’s bound to ping me. And I’ll call your room if I find anything.”
“I’d like that,” Rion said.
He didn’t know else to say. This was such a dismal place: rooms that looked into brick walls and back alleys, key cards that let anyone in, people that looked the other way for a price, the clientele that would rather spit on you than look at you. And here was a single spark.
“Thank you,” Rion said. “You’re the first person that’s offered to help me. You can’t even imagine… what this means.”
“You’re right.” She stood up and put a hand on his shoulder. “I can’t imagine what you must be going through.”
“It’s not even the lack of memory that’s screwing me up. It’s the loneliness.” He swallowed, afraid he might cry again. “I have no one out there. No one to turn to. No friends or enemies or anyone in between. No one knows who I am.”
“Well, you got someone on your side now.” Tuesday stroked his hair once.
Rion nuzzled into her and breathed out as he watched the rain fall.