Available Darkness: Chapter 34
(Serial and Milk: Available Darkness is a serialized horror thriller co-written by David Wright and Sean Platt. A new chapter appears here each Friday. If you missed previous chapters, you can read them here.)
Jack kneaded his temples and stared at the screen. On a safari for clues to his foggy past, he’d accessed a database in the bureau computer, wound his way through a series of gateways, and finally located his full file. While he’d pieced together many puzzles via public and classified records during his years with the agency—lives collected neatly in folders filled with facts, photos and crime scene reports—it was another thing altogether, attempting to quilt the fragments of his own scattered existence.
Facts stared back at Baldwin; things remembered and forgotten, both seeming as ancient as he was feeling. He saw nothing which indicated that his parents, William and Elizabeth Winslow, died in a violent crime. Their deaths were listed as a car accident, just as he recalled. Driving home one rainy night, their car lost control on a slick road and wrapped around a light post.
Death on impact. Survived by one son, Jack. No mention of another.
Shortly following the accident, Jack was adopted by Ed and Myriam Baldwin. Ed was an agent with the FBI, leaving a career’s worth of footsteps for Jack to eventually follow. According to the gospel which Jack had never thought to question, Ed and Myriam were a freshly married couple, unable to conceive. Ed had been on his way home from work when he arrived at the scene of the accident, Jack’s parents hugging the lamppost, twisted inside a couple tons of metal. After a long talk with Myriam, they decided to adopt Jack. They got their child and saved the world from one more orphan.
Jack sighed and put his elbows on the desk. He’d already searched for records of his birth parents, but turned up nothing. Not too surprising. If they died in a car accident, they shouldn’t have been in the database unless they had been flagged for some reason, or were victims of a crime the bureau was investigating.
Another few seconds in front of the screen and the corners of Jack’s mouth suddenly twitched. He leaned forward and let his fingers dance across the keyboard. He typed John Winslow in the search box, and then ENTER.
Four names, three of them with no relation to him; the fourth, a huge question mark.
When Jack clicked on the fourth name, he received a message window. ACCESS DENIED, the red letters said. PROPER CLEARANCE REQUIRED, the green ones agreed. Below the lines, a message showed his IP address and mentioned that his search and failure to meet clearance had been noted. Great.
What the hell is going on? Why would John Winslow, possibly his brother, be a secret FBI file?
Jack continued to stare at the monitor, the corners of his mouth curled in frustration. He had no memories of a brother, yet something in the name tickled the deep recesses of his brain.
Could he have completely forgotten having a brother? He’d known of people forgetting things and blocking things out after traumatic events. Hell, he could understand wanting to forget your parents’ murders and burning the reels of the mind movie. But this, if it were true, went well beyond forgetting. There was a paper trail noting his parents’ death in a car accident, implicating lie as truth. That meant conspiracy.
Why cover up a murder? Why cover up the existence of a brother? Could the government really have rinsed his memories, not only of murder but of a younger brother as well?
A week ago he would’ve thought it was impossible or at least downright lunacy. But it had been a long week, even without the dream. The dream! Jack shuddered at the involuntary image of his father’s burned heap of a body; a sack of ashy flesh no different from those which had littered the last few of his days; no different than his wife, Julia’s.
Something brought Jack to life, out of his drugged fog, like an animal perking to a strange and sudden scent.
The monster in his dream had claimed to be his brother, Jacob.
Two brothers, one nightmare.
Jack entered the name Jacob Winslow.
ACCESS DENIED, PROPER CLEARANCE REQUIRED
Jack thought of the killer he was tracking. The killer, who finally had a name, thanks to Bob’s information—John Sullivan. He entered the name and held his breath.
ACCESS DENIED, PROPER CLEARANCE REQUIRED
What the hell?
Jack’s mind was crackling, connections slowly clicking into place. Something inside him shuddered. What if the killer, John, was also his brother? It didn’t make sense, of course. According to Bob, the killer wasn’t from this planet. The killer also seemed younger, though Bob said he was in fact, much older.
The boy in the dream was distinctly younger than Jack.
Yet when Jack thought of the damage Jacob had done to his father’s body, and the damage this John Sullivan was doing to others right now, the connections, as crazy as they seemed, almost arranged themselves with an impossible sort of certainty. If both brothers were real and both some sort of otherworldly feeders, then …
What in the hell does that make me?
Jack leaned back in his chair and pondered the question. His cell phone rang. His boss, Bob.
“Hello?” Jack said, feigning grogginess so Bob would think he was still asleep rather than launching an investigation into some half-cocked tapestry of deception, based on a dream, more likely inspired by his drugs than actual memories.
“What are you looking for, Jack?” Bob said.
Jack’s heart started pounding. They’re monitoring me? Why? He swallowed, “What do you mean, Bob?”
“Don’t make me drag it out of you, Jack. Why are you accessing department databases and dredging up ancient history? What is it you’re trying to find?”
Jack, normally quick with a lie, was frozen.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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