The Memory Palace Mystery

An author tries to solve a mystery from inside the pitch of his own story.

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My story’s pitch starts in the parking lot. The lot is empty apart from a lone convertible, a rusty old stepladder, and a thick layer of slush from last night’s snow.

The convertible is a classic, fully restored to its original mint green. Too bad someone thought to wheel it out in this nasty weather. The fenders are caked with black slush. There’s an awful mess in the interior. The windshield does little to hide the line of cocaine on the dashboard. There’s nothing but powder from the wheel to the glovebox. It looks like last night’s blizzard happened on the upholstery. A log sits on the passenger seat, too small for a support beam, too large for kindling. It leans forward. Its bark is nose deep in the fresh fallen blow.

I pace around the vehicle and wonder why the log was staged to look like it overdosed. This is the weirdest damn crime scene that I’ve ever seen. What business does a log have with such an epic line? Then it occurs to me. This is a terrible pun. It’s a “log-line.” Every pitch has got one.

A logline is the main idea sentence of a story’s pitch. It’s the bait that get’s the audience on the hook. I must have staged this mobile drug den to remind myself to lead with my logline.

I say, “Savior Complex is a thriller about a codependent private eye who infiltrates a cult to lure out the love of his life.”

Depending on my audience I could have said, “It’s Romeo and Juliet if the FBI were the Montagues and the Capulets were played by a fundamentalist cult.” Then again, I could have just said, “It’s Die Hard in a religious compound.”

I look past the convertible to discover a body beneath the stepladder. His face is lost in shadow. His trachea has collapsed under the bottom wrung. Someone choked our John Doe. They must have sat on the ladder to keep him pinned. I flash my light into his face to find it frozen in anguish. He died with one eye open. His trench coat lies open, like a pair of angel wings. Its flat, soaked in slush. Someone might have emptied his pockets. This might draw my interest if not for the giant raccoon tail unfurled between his legs.

Did I kill this man? Did he die with one eye open or did I slap a latex glove on and pry his lids apart? Did I stick a raccoon’s tail up his trousers too? I think I did, but why? I was trying to remind myself about the next part of the pitch. To sell my audience on my hero and his powerful drive.

This is a memory palace mystery. Each clue is there to trigger a word. I have to figure out how they come together, to turn this crime scene into a sentence.

Reading the scene aloud, I say, “Richard is at the bottom rung of law enforcement. He’s a private eye who specializes in tailing cheating spouses.”

The muck seeps into my socks. My footprints have run circles around the body. This is one very contaminated crime scene. There’s a pair of lines in the slush. They trail from the ladder to the street. They loop around to the underground lot beneath the apartment complex. They stop at the garage door.

I pace the length of the driveway. The fluid squishes between my toes. A cigarette finds its way into my mouth. It ashes down as the seconds tick. Seconds turn to minutes, as the nub of a filter turns into another smoke. I’ve puffed a half hour away, by the time a tenant pulls in. I keep low and creep in behind them.

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The slush trail turns to skid marks in the garage, black lines that lead to a dumpster. There’s an elderly couple inside it. The old woman’s hair is a knotted spiderweb that trails off in different directions. Ketchup is smeared down the back of her yellow cardigan.

The old man shakes an empty box of tissues. There’s an orange peel stuck to the old his scalp. Shredded strips of paper have bonded with his sweater. His glasses are askew, streaked with brown garbage juice.

The old man reaches between bags. One hand digs, while the other clutches at his back. The old woman slices a bag with a letter opener. She dumps its contents at her feet. Milk splatters down the sleeve of her cardigan.

Neither of them seem to be aware of me.

“I found one.” The old man says. He presents the old woman with a framed photograph.

She brushes a piece of lettuce off the glass. A smile comes over her somber eyes, “That’s a good one. That’s from before she was pregnant with Isobel.”

“Do you mind if I see that?” I alert them to my presence.

The couple shudder, startled to see me at the edge of their dig site. The old man grips his wife’s hand in his. They bow in unison, as if they’re in the presence of royalty. The couple is quick to oblige my request. They hold the portrait up between them, like the presenters of an exotic find. The old woman is right. It is a good picture. It’s a black and white glamour shot of a woman of classical beauty. Her lipstick has been applied to the innermost part of her lips. It makes them looks smaller. Her auburn hair is up, like Audrey Hepburn wore hers in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

This is not a portrait of the old woman from back in her youth. It’s her daughter. How do I know that? I must have put it here for the couple to find. From their conversation, I gather the old woman’s granddaughter is named Isobel. That’s a detail I reckon I’m supposed to remember. I must have led them here to remind me of the next part of my pitch: THE SITUATION.

I reach my hand out, “Do you mind if I hold that?”

The old woman gives her daughter’s portrait to me. There’s something weird about the way the light reflects off the glass. Someone has cut a symbol into the lower left corner. I tilt it to catch it in the right light. It’s an etching of a pair of crisscrossed skeleton keys.

I say, “Does this symbol mean anything to you?”

The old woman shakes her head. She says, “It’s supposed to mean something to you. You put it there. Now get in here and help us dig the rest out.”

Ignoring her suggestion, I press my finger into the indentation. The situation starts to add up.

“Richard is at the bottom rung of law enforcement.” I mutter to myself, “He’s a private eye who specializes in tailing cheating spouses.” Pointing to the elderly couple I say, “That all changes when the parents of Amy, his ex-girlfriend, come to him with an odd job.” Tapping the etching I say, “Rescue their daughter, and their granddaughter Isobel, from a cult.”

The couple nod in unison, as if I had just spoken the pass phrase for a secret society. They no longer seem that concerned with the contents of the dumpster. Amy’s mother tilts her head toward the rear of the lot. She says, “You left the something in your parking space.”

Confused, I say, “But I don’t have a car.”

The old woman says, “I know, but it’s your parking space.”

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There’s a white substance leading from the dumpster to the spaces in the far side of the garage. It’s thick with ripples. When I dip my glove in, it sticks between my fingers. I tap it against my tongue. It’s vanilla frosting.

The frosting leads around the corner to a giant wedding cake. The base layer takes up three parking spaces. One of them must be mine. An avalanche of batter has spilled down the row. The dividing lines are lost beneath a layer of frosting. The cake itself has collapsed under the weight of the bride and groom. They’re not candy mannequins, oh no, they’re flesh and blood. The couple are treading flour, bobbing up and down in the cake mix.

The bride seems taller than the groom. She’s waist deep while he’s up to his collar. Still, her veil is thick with sugar. She blows on it to get a better look at me. I catch enough of her face to know who she is.

I say, “Amy, I presume?”

The woman from the photograph nods. She says, “You ought to know. You dumped me in here.”

I turn my attention to the groom. He’s drenched in frosting. I can just make out the outline of his collar, his suit, his tie, and his carnation. He gasps for air. Looks like he’s been treading cake mix for some time. So what’s keeping Amy afloat? Then it occurs to me, it’s not what’s keeping her up, but what’s tugging him down.

There’s a thick chain around the groom’s neck. He bobs up to reveal a pair of large skeleton keys hanging from it. They’re as big the keys to any city.

I say, “So you’re the conflict of this little story?”

“Fuck you.” He shouts as the weight of his keys tug him back under.

I say, “I’ll take that as a ‘yes.’”

I make a pair of L’s with my fingers and hold them up to frame the scene. The clues come together as I review the pitch under my breath, “Amy’s parents come to him with an odd job: rescue their daughter from a cult.” I stand to address the couple. I say, “Richard is surprised to learn that Amy has married Paul, the cult’s sociopathic leader.”

Paul spits frosting at my feet. There’s a ding behind me. I turn to find a pair of elevator doors. They open.

“Well, that’s odd.” I say to the sight before me.

Here’s Amy showered and clean. There’s no trace of frosting in her auburn hair. She’s building up a sweat on an exercise bike. Right beside her, is Richard alive and well. There’s no sign of the deep recess in his neck. I turn back to the cake to find only Paul, sinking under the weight of his gaudy jewelry. Back in the elevator, Amy and Richard ride in place. They’re cramped in so tight that their tires grind against the paneling. They don’t seem to notice. Richard’s eyes are on Amy, and Amy’s eyes are on the floor.

Richard says, “What’s the first line out of a missionary’s mouth when they approach a potential convert?”

Amy drums her thumbs along the handlebars, “Have you heard the good news?”

“Which is?” Richard dabs his forehead with a towel.

Amy rolls her eyes, “Our lord and savior Jesus Christ died for your sins–”

“Right.” Richard claps his hands together. He says, “See you missionaries lead with your dogma. A cult’s more like an onion. It hides its belief system under layers. There are no missionaries, just smiling faces flirty fishing at the local watering hole. The dogma hides behind all the love-bombing. You don’t learn the cult’s agenda until you’re in too deep.”

Neither of them acknowledge me as I step into the elevator. It takes some effort to slide into the space between them. It takes even more to turn around and hit the button for the ground floor. I doubt the exercise bikes are another visual pun. I think this is a scene from my story, playing out the way that it was meant to.

It’s supposed to remind me that, “Amy believes she’s part of a relief effort, not a cult.”

The elevator takes a moment to level when it reaches the ground floor.

The doors open to reveal Paul, frozen in place with a shit eating grin. He looks like a televangelist with his big blond hair and baby blue tie.

I say, “You clean up fast.”

He opens his hand to reveal an FBI badge. The photo shows Richard with his hair flattened, combed to the side. Richard is clean shaven. He flashes a bleached white smile. That’s odd, I wrote Richard as a private detective not an FBI agent. He would never make it through the bureau’s stringent psychological screening.

I turn to Amy, still peddling behind me. I repeat myself, “Amy believes she’s part of a relief effort, not a cult.” I look to Paul and say, “Paul believes that Richard is an FBI agent…”

I brush past Paul, suspecting there’s more to that sentence to be sussed out by my surroundings. Paul stays put, a statue stuck in place.

The hall is drab. The carpet, the walls, the panelling, are all different shades of beige. This must be what it feels like to be color blind.

Someone tugs at my shirt. I jump back. My arms flail through the space that’s been violated. There’s a freckle faced boy at my side. He peers up at me from his hooded sweatshirt. He wraps his hand around my thumb. Then he jerks forward like he’s trying to tug a boulder down the hall.

I pull my hand away and make the universal sign for time out. I say, “Uh, stranger danger.”

The boy reclaims my thumb and tugs forward, “You’re not a stranger.” He grinds his little sneakers into the carpet for traction.

I say, “You’re a stranger to me kid.”

I follow him until I notice the skeleton key pattern on the back of his hood. Tearing my hand free, I say, “You’re with Deacon Dick-bag back there aren’t you?”

The kid spins on his heal. He shrugs, “You knew what this was.”

I can’t help but nod. The kid is right. He’s just another reminder along the way, a plot point personified, a mnemonic landmark there to jog my memory. He’s a delegate for the details that represent the story’s central conflict.

I look back the way I’d come, “If the cause is that Paul believes Richard is an FBI agent, then the effect is…” I hone in on the kid, “That Paul keeps the cult in a state of paranoia by using the children to test his member’s loyalty.”

The boy buries his hands deep into his sweatshirt. He shrugs, “Yeah, but what are you gonna do?” He skips down the hall, stops at the door for the laundry room, and throws it open. Then he bows his head and waves me in, a tiny bell hop who isn’t getting a tip.

I peer inside to find Paul sitting in the window. His face has gone gaunt. It’s covered with lesions and cysts. His hair has thinned, gone grey around the edges. His televangelist bangs have revealed themselves as a combover.

I say, “Well speak of the dick-hole.”

Paul opens his gob. His tongue rolls out, swollen, dry, and grey. He’s got meth mouth. His teeth are brown. His canines are cracked down the middle. His bicuspids are riddled with holes so big I can see them from the door. His incisors are missing.

I say, “This must be the place in the pitch where our hero starts to achieve his goals.”

Paul nods. His jaw goes slack. Drool spills down his tie. It turns the baby blue color navy blue.

I recap, “Paul keeps the cult in a state of paranoia blah-blah-blah… Richard tries to prove Paul’s corruption to Amy.”

Something rattles in the washing machine. It sounds like pipes falling down a staircase. It vibrates. There’s a bang. The machine hops off the floor. The door shoots open. Paul nods toward it. He waves an emaciated finger.

I cock my head to the side, “Do you think?”

Under the fluorescents, the machine looks like its full of tree branches. Branches with pebbles where their leaves should be. With one quick flick of the zippo I see that those aren’t pebbles. They’re phalanges. These aren’t branches. They’re bones. Driving the zippo deeper in, I discover a skull. My hand hits the roof of the machine and drops the lighter in the remains. The fire glints down the edge of a pair of skeleton keys.

I snatch them up. The words: ROOM 101 are etched into them.

I say, “Richard sets out on a heist to find the skeletons in Paul’s closet… Err, washing machine.”

Paul’s gaze shifts to the floor. Water pools at my feet. Before long its up to my ankles. There’s nothing but dust coming out of the washing machine. The spill must be coming from the room next door. I splash out into the hall.

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The puddles lead to ROOM 101. I ready the skeleton keys. I knock The door falls open. I toss the keys over my shoulder.

“Maintenance.” I call out to an empty room. Of course there’s no one home, this must be my apartment, or a facsimile of my apartment. A set dressed up to look like my entryway. A piece of familiar real estate on my stretch of the imagination.

Am I here? Am I dreaming? Am I awake, if not in this place, then somewhere else? Am I off reciting the information that I’m gathering?

The carpet squishes beneath my heals. There’s a brown pool in the kitchen. Water ripples around my ankles. A dustpan floats by. It goes beneath the refrigerator. There’s a series of brown streaks running from the freezer to the floor. I reckon there’s something in their for me. The door doesn’t want to give. I jerk with all my might. My effort is rewarded with a tidal wave of freezer juice. It washes the crease out of my shirt and the pleat out of my pants.

“Well, see there’s your problem.” I say to myself, “Someone has crammed an exercise machine into the refrigerator, an Ab-Chiseler by the look of it.”

There’s a mold in the shape of six-pack abs. Its filled with water. The contraption’s patented “Chiseling Technology” has breached the roof of the fridge and gone straight through the freezer. Why did I put this here? What does it say about the skeletons in Paul’s closet?

The words float across my mind’s eye. All I have to do is read them. I say, “Richard discovers evidence of torture.” After all there’s nothing more agonizing than exercise equipment.

Something stirs inside the oven. It slaps the glass and kicks the metal. The window is fogged over, apart from a single hand print. The thing whimpers through the door. I can just make out its silhouette kneeling and rising, like its praying from beneath the burners. There’s a gasp. It’s trailed by a grunt.

I open the oven to find a tiny version of Paul. He’s putting the “mission” into the missionary position. He’s thrusting into one of his parishioners, biting his lip as beads of sweat roll off his forehead. The parishioner’s legs are up in the air. They’re covered in plaid knee-high socks.

Paul says, “Hey, get your own oven.”

“This is my oven.” I say.

Paul tongues his cheek, “Well come back in an hour. I’ve gotta add another coat of glaze to this Christmas ham.”

“Gross.” I slam the door on him. I say, “There’s evidence of torture and sexual abuse.”

“How is this abuse?” Paul says, through oven door.

I hit the window, “It’s abusing my eyes.”

There’s a surge of white noise in the living room. The television has set the walls aglow. There are four too many remotes on the coffee table. I grab one at random and hit POWER. White noise blasts through the speakers all around me. I mash each of the remotes until it stops. The static blinks off, but an image remains.

On screen is a hospice with a field of beds, heart rate monitors, and I.V. bags. It could be a military hospital or the scene of a massive quarantine. Something strange happens when I move toward it. The image shifts to match my perspective, like I’m looking through a window. The nearest patient is gaunt. He’s not getting much nourishment from the feeding tube strung through his nose. His head has been shaved. There are uneven patches of hair above his ears. His tongue hangs from his mouth. His medical gown is wet with drool.

The closer I get, the more apparent it is that there’s no screen in the TV. This is literally a window. I lean over the sill and into the sunlight. The first thing I notice is that patient’s bedpan needs to be changed. The second is the twin key emblem printed on the I.V. bag. This poor comatose bastard is one of Paul’s flock. They all are.

Looks like the sentence is finally complete. I say, “Richard discovers evidence of torture, sexual abuse, and a disturbed ward where Paul leaves all who oppose him in a chemically induced coma.”

The window closes, leaving a screen in its wake. There’s a light in the reflection. I spin around to find Richard sprawled out on the coffee table. He has one hand on his heart. An arrow juts out his fingers. Red tinsel streams out in lieu of blood. Richard’s other hand is filled with polaroids. They spill onto the floor.

I reach down to examine one. It’s the disturbed ward I’d seen through the window. This is Richard’s proof of Paul’s wrongdoing.

Amy stands over him. Her attention is on the tinsel streaming from his heart, not the pictures falling from his hand. She looks like a religious icon, a statue of the Madonna with her hair haloed in light.

I duck into her sightline, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a third act.”

Either the couple is frozen in place or they can’t be bothered to notice me.

I say, “Richard shows Amy his evidence, but the only thing that moves her is when he admits that he’s still in love.”

Amy shrugs, “I mean the stuff he dredged up on Paul certainly helped, but I chose to take his evidence as a sign of his affection.”

I nod, “I guess I could see how that could be taken as a romantic gesture–”

There’s a thump. Amy’s hair goes white with specks. They make her look all the more statuesque. There’s another thump. I turn toward the wall only to get a face full of sheet rock. My eyes close around the debris they’ve absorbed. Coughing involuntarily, a large chunk of wall finds its way into my mouth. It shoots down my throat.

I collapse, as my lungs spend my last few gasps of oxygen. My hands go to work. One feels for my mouth while the other feels for my throat. One reaches inside while the other presses against the chunk. It protrudes through the skin like a second Adam’s apple. I press it back up my throat. My fingers intersect with the drywall at my gag reflex. I cough. The chunk rides a wave of vomit to the floor.

Blinded by the debris, I get a handful of my own sick. I wipe it off across my thigh before I pinch my eyelashes. My tear ducts go to work. They wash the specks of paint out.

My apartment returns in a blur, an endless field of beige carpet, white with debris.

A hail of drywall bursts through the living room. Dust trails behind it like snow. I cover my mouth and dive for the hall. I crawl forward. There’s a room on the right and a room on the left. A light turns on in the room on the right. There’s a frenzy of shadows on the carpet. Silhouettes draw their arms back as they swing something forward.

I peer into the bedroom to find four FBI agents, in windbreakers and bulletproof vests. They ready a battering ram to take another chunk out of the wall. They’ve already made a substantial hole. It leads from the book shelf to the dresser. The force of their blows have knocked the paperbacks and dresser drawers to the floor. No one seems to care that they’re stepping on my boxer-briefs.

An agent at the front commands the group, “On three. One… Two… Three.”

They heave the battering ram with all of their might. The bookshelf collapses into a heap of lumber. The dresser falls forward. The ram crashes through the sheetrock. The hole expands as the wall crumbles around it.

Amy stands there on the other side, a statue painted in dust. Richard lies on the coffee table, a sculpture protruding from a headstone.

The agents step through the breach. They set the ram down and reach for their sidearms. Dust trickles across their sunglasses. The room shakes. The ceiling collapses on top of them. One moment there are four agents. Then there are none. They must have knocked out a load bearing wall.

“Ghastly,” Paul says as he steps out of the closet. He leers at me, an unwelcome guest in my own home. He turns his attention to the bed. There’s a lump under the covers. Paul digs his talons into the comforter, rolls the corner up, and tugs it off the mattress. Paul reveals Richard cowering beneath the sheets.

The stink of the agent’s bodies wafts from the rubble. It smells like an outhouse bubbling up through the floor boards.

I say, “The FBI lays siege to the cult’s compound…”

My attention shifts back to the handsome couple on and near the mattress.

I say, “Which forces Paul to blow Richard’s cover, so to speak.”

A ceiling panel crashes on Paul’s head. It poofs into dust as it cracks in two. The pieces part his hair as they fall to the floor. Paul, committed to his role, does not break his sneer. I give his resolve the nod it deserves.

An hour glass worth of dust collects at his feet. I step forward to peer into the hole in the drop ceiling. A pipe vibrates in the gap. Droplets run down its length. The wall must have knocked the pipe out of alignment. Its hanger has given way under the stress. There’s a pop. A ceiling tile lands on my toes. I throw my hand up in time to keep a second tile from knocking me on the noggin. There’s three more pops, followed by the spray of running water.

The ceiling darkens. A brown line bleeds across it. The tiles dip. The leak spills into the room. Paul is doused in an instant. He stands as motionless as a department store dummy. It flattens his bangs, spills over his bottom lip, and runs down his chest, turning his baby blue tie black.

The spill pattern draws a diagonal line across the ceiling tiles. It leads from my bedroom to the office across the hall. I follow it.

My hand feels the office wall for a switch. The light flicks on without any help from me. I turn to stare down a .357 magnum. The barrel quivers. The eye at the end of the sightline squints. Amy doesn’t look happy to see me. She uses both hands to wield the gun, and still it shakes.

I throw my hands up, “You’re not going to shoot me to jog my memory, are you?”

Amy cocks the trigger back, “Would it help?”

There’s movement behind her. A little girl peers out from Amy’s skirt. The girl wears a bonnet and a pilgrim’s blouse. I kneel down to look at her. Amy shifts her aim to follow my movements. She grits her teeth as if she’s putting her jaw into supporting the weight of the gun.

I say, “At this range, I doubt the angle matters all that much.”

Amy presses the barrel into my forehead, “Let’s find out.”

I lean away from the barrel so that the child can see me. I say, “Isobel, is that your name?”

Isobel nods.

I nod with her, “I think I met your grand parents in a dumpster in the basement. You see I put them there, just like I put you and your mother here. To remind me of something. A detail from my story. Do you know what that detail is?”

Isobel’s eyes scan her brow from side to side. She says, “The FBI lays siege to the compound, which forces Paul to blow Richard’s cover,” she looks to her mother and says, “Amy to lose his trust and,” she looks at something on the far side of the room and says, “his one ally in the cult to get killed.”

A high pitched pulse echoes throughout the room. I look to the ceiling. There are flashes of green light, but no smoke detector. The pulse turns to a drone. The light stops flashing. I look down to see a flatline stream across a heart rate monitor. It’s next to a gurney that wasn’t there a second ago. There are streaks on the carpet from where it had been wheeled in. An I.V. Bag swings back and forth as if it had just been hung.

Lying in the gurney is the same emaciated patient from the TV. His chest sinks as he exhales his last breath. His hand goes limp and falls over the side of the rails.

I push Amy’s barrel out of my face to acknowledge Isobel. I say, “Well, that just about covers plot point 2. So where’s the climax of this beast hiding?”

A toilet flushes down the hall. Isobel nods in that direction.

I sigh, “Of course.”

There’s a wanted poster on the bathroom mirror. It runs the length from the sink to the ceiling. It’s frayed around the edges. The paper is in several shades of sepia. It features an unflattering shot of Richard. His forehead is full of creases. His eyebrows are crossed. He gnashes his teeth.

The caption says, “WANTED: FOR CHALLENGING THE WISDOM OF OUR DIVINE LEADER.”

I dig my fingers beneath the poster. Then I rip it in half. I see Richard behind it, the real one, reflected over my shoulder. He’s standing in the bathtub. He might have been there the entire time. I discard my half of the poster. The tearing sound continues, like an echo that never dissipates. That’s because Richard is standing in the tub tearing up posters of his own. His posters feature Amy on one side and Paul’s congregation, kneeling in prayer, on the other.

I say, “I’d like to solve the puzzle,” loud enough for each of my house guests to hear.

Facing the hall, I cup my hands around my mouth, “Savior Complex is a thriller about a codependent private eye who infiltrates a cult to lure out the love of his life.”

I lower my hands. I say, “Richard is at the bottom rung of law enforcement. He’s a private eye who specializes in tailing cheating spouses. That changes when the parents of his ex-girlfriend Amy, come to him with an odd job: rescue their daughter, and their granddaughter Isobel, from a cult.”

I spin around to face Richard in the shower. I say, “Richard is surprised to learn that Amy has married Paul, the group’s sociopathic leader. She believes she’s part of a relief effort, not a cult. Paul believes that Richard is an FBI agent sent to spy on them. Paul keeps his members in a state of paranoia. He uses their own children to test their loyalty. Richard tries to prove Paul’s corruption to Amy. He sets out to find the skeletons in Paul’s closet. Richard discovers evidence of torture, sexual abuse, and a disturbed ward where Paul leaves all who oppose him in chemically induced comas. Richard presents Amy with his evidence, but the only thing that moves her is when he admits that he’s still in love.”

I point to the spill now trickling into the hall.

“That’s when the FBI lays siege to the compound, which causes Paul to blow Richard’s cover, Amy to lose trust in him, and his one ally to get killed.”

I point to the WANTED poster I’d torn from the mirror, then to the strips at Richard’s feet.

“Richard finds himself a fugitive inside the compound, torn between getting Amy out, or saving the entire congregation.”

Richard nods at his bathtub full of shreds, then back to me. He says, “But how does it end?”

I stick a finger up, “Hold that thought.” I spin around, bend down, and throw the doors for the sink open. There’s nothing but pipes.

I look over my shoulder. Richard shrugs. I shrug back.

Biting my lip, I say, “I think I ran out of space for it.”

Richards hands fall to his sides, “You’re shitting me.”

I shake my head, ‘This is an elevator pitch. You’re not supposed to tell people the ending.”

The WANTED poster slides over the side of the counter. Its sepia tone turns black the instant it hits the floor. The leak has run down the hallway and spilled into the bathroom. The apartment has flooded.

A ceiling tile crashes on my head. The pieces scrape my ears as they slide over my shoulders. Dazed, I watch them float away.

I splash down the hall. My cast of mnemonic reminders stare daggers at me as I pass. They hold their breath. They wait for closure that’s never going to come.

I keep my eyes fixed on the floor. The beige carpet turned black. No amount of rug shampooing is going to bring my damage deposit back.

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