Double Blind(10)
Author:Brandilyn Collins


    “Fine.”

    “You don’t sound fine.”

    “I was sleeping.”

    “Oh, sorry. When you didn’t call I got so worried.”

    The man’s hands clinched around the woman’s neck. I heard her gurgling, choking.

    I closed my eyes. Smacked a palm against my temple.

    “Lisa?”

    My throat convulsed. I really wanted to tell Sherry. I needed her right now. But then what? She’d fly over here—and . . . ? She couldn’t help me. Couldn’t make the visions go away. How would I even explain what was happening? I’d turned into some man who kept killing the same woman? Sherry would panic and rush me to a psych ward.

    “I need to go back to sleep now.”

    “Have you eaten?”

    “No.”

    “You need to get some nutrition in you.”

    “Yes, Mom.”

    I heard her breathe frustration over the line. “Do I need to come over and make you eat?”

    “No. I just want to sleep.”

    Sherry paused for a long moment. I could practically hear her calculating a reason to come anyway.

    “Really, Sherry. There’s nothing you can do. I just need to rest some more.”

    “Okay.” She still sounded reluctant. “But I’m not happy about this.”

    “It’s the right thing.”

    She sighed again. “Call me tomorrow, okay?”

    “I will.”

    “You sure you’re all right?”

    The words rushed to my tongue—No, help me. Please. I’m going crazy. But I had no energy to say them. “Yeah. I’m going now.” I ended the call.

    The woman’s fingers loosened from his arm. She dropped to the ground . . .

    I crumpled into a ball on my bed. The visions kept coming, fierce and hard. They sliced to the very heart of me, so vivid. They were real. I knew it. Deep inside, I knew. They were memories. From that man. That killer. Memories on the chip inside my head.

    Lisa, no.

    Then where else had they come from? They’d started the very day of my surgery.

    I thrashed on my bed, begging God to make them stop. And still the scenes seized me.

    By 10:00 I’d run out of denials. The scenes were from the chip. I didn’t know how or why. The Empowerment Chip had healed my grief and pain. I’d felt that—still felt it. I was different. But the procedure had left me with something new. Something even worse. An unknown terror that would crush me.

    I couldn’t keep living these visions. They would drive me totally mad.

    Panic shook me then, until I fought to breathe. And I knew there was only one thing to do.

    I had to get that chip out of my brain.





    MONDAY, MARCH 12




    Chapter 8





    WHEN I WOKE MONDAY MORNING, COTTON STUFFED MY throat. I couldn’t have slept more than a few hours. Even when I had, the woman’s murder filled my dreams. I saw the killing again and again. The man. The choking. The knife arcing down. His hands opening the suitcase. By morning the scenes had become as much a part of me as the memory of my own attack.

    No way could I live through another day like this.

    I showered, trembling, praying for strength. Got dressed and forced down some cereal. I could barely swallow.

    As soon as the clock read 8 a.m. I pulled Jerry Sterne’s business card from my purse and called his direct line. My stomach quivered as I listened to his phone ring. Please, please answer.

    The rings cut off. “Jerry Sterne.”

    “H-Hi. It’s Lisa Newberry.”

    “Lisa. Everything all right?”

    No, nothing was right. I was dying here. “I need to see you. Now.” My voice pinched. “I’m . . . seeing things. This picture of a murder plays over and over in my head. It’s coming from the chip, I know it.”

    He hesitated. “A murder?”

    “Yes.”

    “Have you ever had anything like this before?”

    He knew the answer already. Cognoscenti had interviewed me up, down and sideways before letting me into the trial. “No. This is so awful, I can’t stand it!”

    “Why do you think it’s coming from the chip?”

    “It started in the hospital. At first I thought it was just from the drugs, but it’s not. This is real.” I let out a half-sob. “I’m so scared. You have to help me.”

    “All right. Let’s talk about this.”

    “Now. I have to come see you now.”

    “I have a meeting—”

    “I don’t care!” My fingers gripped the receiver. “You have to do something!”

    “Perhaps this afternoon.”

    I’d be dead by then. “I’m coming to see you right now!”

    “Ms. Newberry, calm down. I don’t want you driving—”

    “I’ll take a cab.” I’d walk if I had to. “I’ll be there in half an hour.”

    I punched off the line before he could protest.

    Immediately I called a taxi.

    Ten minutes later the cab showed up. I climbed in, hazy and feverish. The black suitcase throbbed in my head.

    At Cognoscenti I demanded to see Jerry Sterne right away. Evidently he’d left word at the security desk that I was coming. Richard Mair phoned to tell him I’d arrived, and an assistant materialized to escort me upstairs.

    I practically stumbled into Jerry’s office. Right away my gaze landed on a Cognoscenti envelope lying faceup on his desk. No address, just my name written on it.

    What was that?

    “Please have a seat.” Jerry pointed to the same chair I’d used before.

    Ice Queen hustled in behind me. Today her business suit was jet black. Same slicked hair in a bun. She took her same place, her face set.

    Jerry closed his office door. “Can I get you something to drink, Lisa?”

    “No.”

    He sat down, paper and pen in hand. “We understand you have some concerns about the procedure. Tell us what you’re feeling.”

    Some concerns. Yeah, right. “You have to take the chip out of me.”

    Ice Queen’s eyebrows shot up.

    “Okay.” Jerry held up a hand. “Let’s start at the beginning. We need to know exactly what’s happening.”

    I took a deep breath and told them, my fingers gripping the arms of my chair. Told them how the first scene had come in the hospital when I was almost asleep, then continued the next day when I was awake. I didn’t give them every detail. But I did say the visions had come all day yesterday, getting worse. And last night.

    “It’s always the same woman. Same man. Same knife and suitcase. I don’t know who the man is. But I do know it’s all real. It truly happened.”

    The words bounced off the walls. Just saying them aloud made me shiver.

    Jerry was scribbling notes. “Why do you think that?”

    “I just know. It’s like I lived it. I’m in the man’s head, watching it all happen.”

    Jerry wrote some more, then lowered his pen. “Anything else?”

    How could he be so calm? His expression never changed. Neither did Ice Queen’s. Couldn’t they understand how this terrified me? “Isn’t that enough?”

    He surveyed me.

    “I want the chip taken out.”

    Jerry shifted in his chair. “Lisa, remember our discussions of how the Empowerment Chip emits electronic impulses that ‘turn off’ the trauma in your brain? You were sure the chip had done this for you.”

    “It did. It really made me better. Then this happened.”

    “Okay. But you have to understand the chip only emits signals. It has no data on it. It can’t place some picture in your brain.”

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