The next day went as well as it could have. Al, Deidre and Dot arrived at court with two other members of the Guard to hear the verdict on Charles Standing’s theft case. He was found guilty as they had assumed he would be and the judge declared that he should be remanded in to the custody of The Gifted. They would submit a report on where he would be held and what his punishment would be and he would have to check in with one of their parole officers for the next two years. All in all they could not have asked for a better sentencing. As Charles was being processed out of their court system and in to The Gifted’s custody Deidre, Dot and Al met in the judge’s chambers.
“I believe that the most important thing is to find out what really happened and we cannot do that in our system. I am trusting that you will keep the courts apprised of the situation going forward as well as letting our forces know if we should be worried about more than just this case.”
As the judge spoke Deidre realized that though she sounded calm and precise she was actually quite scared. Her posture was defensive. She kept rubbing her hands together then placing them in her lap. All nervous gestures that belied the calm exterior she was trying to present. Deidre caught her Aunt Dot’s eye and Dot gave just the smallest shake of her head no so Deidre kept her mouth shut. But she wanted to ask the judge why she was spooked today when she hadn’t been yesterday. What had changed overnight? But in the end Deidre decided it didn’t really matter, all that mattered was they had what they wanted.
As they stood to leave Dot placed her hand on her niece’s arm. “Wait for me a moment outside the door, if you don’t mind. I would like a private word with the judge.” Deidre nodded and stepped outside with Al joining the other two members of the Guard that were accompanying them. Al turned to Deidre, “What is that about do you know? We need to pick up Charles and head back, people are waiting for us. Your Aunt can visit with her friend the judge some other time, don’t you think?”
Deidre just looked at Al for a moment until he held up his hands in surrender, “Fine, we will wait.” Deidre checked in with her guards and then took up a position directly outside the judge’s door to wait for her aunt. After a brief 10 minute wait the door opened and Aunt Dot joined them. As she was shutting the door behind her Deidre caught a glimpse of the judge sitting at the desk with her head in her hands. “Is she?” Deidre started, “She’s fine, she just wanted to tell me something privately.” Deidre took the hint and they all moved out to collect their prisoner and head back to Guard headquarters.
After they arrived at Guard headquarters Charles was taken back in to a holding cell. He would be processed again here for their own justice system. He would not be brought before a council and tried as he had already faced that with The Others but he would be given the opportunity to be questioned further and examined by a contingent of Prophets and Healers to try and ascertain what had happened to his memories of that night. If he declined permission he would be held under watch of the Guard during his parole period with The Others.
Giving permission to have your memories invaded was not done lightly by most people. Having another person invade all of your private thoughts was something different than just having a Prophet read you for lies or truth during a trial. Much more invasive. The trust level involved was great enough that most people would not agree to it unless there were no other choices. Charles, on the other hand, was eager to give his permission. He had watched the video of himself committing a crime he had no memory of. He could not find any indication that he had even been at that store or taken those items. There was no trace of them in his car or his house. He had no memory of how to even get to that location. It wasn’t someplace he had ever been before and he could not have found it on a map if he had tried. For Charles having someone walk through his thoughts was a much better idea than the idea that he might be losing his mind.
After Charles agreed to allow access to his memories a Prophet was brought in to meet with him. He had been part of the group that had examined the followers of Shakel and was familiar with what those gaps looked like in trace memory. As he explained to Charles the he would be looking not only at the day of the crime but the time before and and after Charles nodded and said he understood. What ever they needed to see he was open. “Okay, then let’s begin”
“Please put your hands on the table palms up. I find it easier to make the connection with your thoughts if we are in physical contact so I will lay my palms on yours. Just stay calm and breath with me, you can close your eyes if you would like or find a focus point and look at that. Try to keep your mind calm but you don’t need to think about anything in particular. Just relax. Meditation can be helpful. You shouldn’t feel anything but if for any reason you do feel any discomfort just slide your hands out from under mine. I will break the connection if you do and we can try again later.”
Charles nodded and placed his hands on the table.
And they began.
Deidre, Dot and Al watched from behind the glass in the observation lounge. There was really nothing that they could see but as the council that had represented Charles at his trial they were responsible for him now that he was back in their custody. Both Charles and his examiner stayed very still and breathed deeply and slowly. After a half hour had passed the Prophet lifted his hands from Charles’ and stood slowly.
“Thank you. You might feel tired now and I would suggest you take a nap if you can. I have a feeling we will be seeing each other again before too long.”
“It’s different? What does that mean?”
Dot, Deidre, Al and Greg, the Prophet who had just questioned Charles, were sitting in council reviewing his findings. “When Shakel and his followers used people and then wiped their memories it was different. Sometimes there would be a false memory covering the missing time, but always there was a very precise missing piece. Some described it as walking down a dark hallway or corridor. There was nothing there, but it was very contained. Like a surgeon excising a wound. It was clean. This was like a spill. Like an ink blot maybe? He has no memory of what he did, it’s gone, but it’s not the same. I can see him getting ready for bed and falling asleep. I can feel the dream he was having starting and then there is an edge of dark but it’s not a clean edge, kind of fuzzy. Almost a puddle? Are you understanding what I mean by that? The edges aren’t clean. It wasn’t removed precisely. More like there was a spill and he lost part of his dream.”
“But the bottom line is that he really does not have any memory of the crime he committed?” Deidre asked.
“But I think it’s there. I think we might be able to recover it. Maybe. It’s hard to describe really but the blank spot it feels, I don’t know? Temporary? Like I could lift it up and move it? I’m not sure how describe what it was like, I’ve never felt anything quite like it. It’s not the same as when Shakel cast a spell to clear memory. It’s not the same as when a gift is taken, it’s just, it…It doesn’t feel solid. And there is only that one. With the others, when crimes were committed or people were compelled to do things and then wiped, there were other spots gone. All of the interactions that were previously had were gone. Meeting Shakel, for instance, being in the circle as a spell was cast, committing the actual act, all of those were gone. Each leaving a blank tunnel in their mind, or a false memory covering that tunnel. But more than one. This was just one. He’s never experienced anything like this before or since.”
“So we are looking for a Spell-Caster though. Right? Maybe a follower of Shakel who we didn’t catch before? Someone who wants to pick up where he left off?” Deidre was starting to get anxious thinking there were those out there that they might have missed.
“Could it be just a beginner, Al?” Dot asked, “Is this a spell you could do on your own or would you need a full circle called?”
“I don’t know. Even Shakel and his group always used three minimum, more for the larger spells. Depending on how many people they were trying to control at once. I can’t imagine I would try something like this with one person. Even an advanced Spell-Caster would have to be careful. Mind walking is the area of Prophets, we understand them, but we don’t feel them the same way as you do.”
Deidre looked at the two Prophets in the room, “Could it have been a Prophet then? Someone who was able to access Charles’ thoughts but maybe didn’t have the spell casting skill to perform as neat of a wipe? Maybe they just sort of blurred the edges?”
Dot shook her head, “Memory doesn’t work that way, I can see yours, I can read them like a book or watch them like a movie, but I can’t just wave my hands over them and mess them up. Think of them as being woven like a tapestry. Or painted like a picture. The only way to change them is to paint over them or cut them out and sew in a new piece. But if you do that it never quite matches up. That’s how we found the false memories in those Shakel had abused. And when we lifted out the false memory we found where they had completely removed what had been there. No recovery, no way of ever seeing what really happened.”
“Okay, but you said this didn’t feel like that, right? So what do we do now?”
“I think we bring what we know right now out and ask for help. I need someone else to read Charles with me. Maybe two other people. And I would like to have a Healer in the room with us when we try again, just in case.”