Ginny walked out of the stark white exam room into the hallway. She sighed heavily as she shut the door behind her. With all of the commotion surrounding the Harrison boy now she could no longer hide out in his room. Attempting to resume her work she had started interviewing the kids again. They all seemed to be waking from their quiet eerily calm states. Most were talking now, although not a one of them were making much sense.
Looking down at her watch, she realized it was getting late again. The day, which started for her in the ridiculously wee hours of the morning, had gone by in a flash. Soon it would be 24 hours since the kids had started to return and they were not even close to figuring out where they had been all this time. She tapped the face of the watch, just to be sure. Yes, it was still running. Old faithful. Her watch was not a dainty, sophisticated or girly watch by any means. It was a humongous hunk of thick fake gold, bulky and cheap; a man’s watch.
Her stomach growled loudly but the thought of food sent it churning, warning her that eating was not a good idea. Her nerves were shot and a full bottle of red wine paired with a hot bath was the only thing she wanted.
She had spent the last thirty minutes talking in circles with one of the returned teens, a boy named Ryan. No, he didn’t remember where he had been up until this morning when he was found sitting on a bench in the county park. No, he didn’t remember what he was doing the night he went missing. In fact, he didn’t remember being missing or even just “being” at all. He didn’t like to be called Ryan.
“So, what should I call you instead,” Ginny had asked.
The boy shrugged.
“OK, close your eyes and think of yourself. Think of what you look like, what you are feeling right now at this very moment. Just keep thinking, and in a moment I’m going to ask you what your name is. Answer with whatever comes to mind, OK?”
The boy sat silently, eyes closed. Ginny watched him breathing deep and evenly. Most people with amnesia were jittery, scared or nervous. These kids were all calm, detached; as if these events were happening to someone else far away.
“What is your name?”
The boy opened his eyes, blinked slowly and said, “Seven.”
“Seven isn’t a name,” Ginny answered, “it’s a number.”
“You said to answer with whatever came to my mind. I did. How can my answer be wrong?” The boy closed his eyes again, apparently ready to tackle that riddle again.
“Never mind. Let’s try something else.”
The sound of heavy footsteps quickly approaching pulled Ginny’s attention back to the present. Her eyes followed the sound and she saw a uniformed police officer half walking half running down the hall. David Sellers, she remembered. This was the police officer whose daughter was one of the sixteen missing, now returned, teens. He stopped next to her, beads of sweat breaking out on his forehead from his jog.
“Have you seen the Chief lately? I need to find him.”
Ginny shook her head, “No, not in a while. I’ve been busy talking to kids who have no idea who they are.”
“My Katie knows who she is. She remembers me and her mom, even her little brother,” Sellers said, confused.
Ginny got a cold chill remembering Kate locking and unlocking the car door over and over, the cold lifeless look in her eyes when she asked why everyone kept calling her Kate. Maybe she did remember it all now, or maybe she was just acting. Ginny made a mental note to check back in with Kate and see for herself.
“If I see the Chief, I’ll tell him you’re looking for him.” Ginny pushed herself away from the door and started to walk away.
“Wait! I wanted to ask you something. Kate got really freaked out when she found out the FBI was here. So did her friends. You think that means something, like about where they’ve been or something?”
“I found her hiding in the basement with Sadie, her friend from the cheerleader squad and that delinquent Park kid. Sadie was crying she was so frightened.”
Curious, Ginny hadn’t noticed the kids interacting with each other, except when she woke up to find Kate in Troy’s room. Kate was an important key to figuring this whole thing out, Ginny was certain of it.
“It seems rather hard to believe that all sixteen kids have been on the run from a crime spree or something if that’s what you’re worried about. It is odd though.”
“Yea, I guess you’re right.” David scratched his head. “It just really bothered me is all, they were really worked up. They were pissed at me actually, I think, because I said we called them.” Ginny had turned from him to walk away again. “The men in black,” Sellers said the haunting words out loud for the first time.
Ginny stopped. “What did you say?”
“Kate called them ‘the men in black,’ she never said FBI really. Just sounds creepy, accurate I guess, but still creepy.”
Ginny let the words sink in. What the hell kind of small world coincidence was this? She rubbed her right wrist where the hunk of metal watch chaffed her skin.
“Means something to you, doesn’t it?” Sellers reached for her arm, gently nudging her attention back to himself.
“Well,” said Ginny, “it’s a common delusion shared by paranoid schizophrenics. Fear of government officials is kind of a big underlying theme but there are a sizable number of cases specific to the men in black. Usually the delusion includes fear of being watched or stalked by these men in black suits for varying amounts of time, then the fantasy evolves and becomes more violent. The patients are convinced that these men are out to harm them, steal their secrets, or interrogate them about alien activity.”
Ginny gave a slight nod, trying not to give too much away. She did not like to discuss her personal connection with the mental health field. The driving force that pulled her through school, urged her through her doctoral thesis on this very subject, was the desire to understand, if not cure, an incurable condition. She touched the watch dangling from her arm again, it was a habit.