Although I knew that the minds of this man and that of a woman had been transmuted, it was disconcerting to see a grown man bawling like a child. I wondered how I would've reacted had my mind been put into the head of a woman and my body was being occupied by the woman's mind. From what I'd heard and what I'd seen, it was not something I would wish on anyone.
Comforted by Susan who was holding onto her hand and offering tissues to dry her eyes Michelle tried to finish telling us what had happened the night their minds had been switched.
"All three of them had their way with Michael. They couldn't have known that the woman they were raping was actually a man. Then they ... they pissed on him! Can you believe it? They actually pissed on the body."
"Scum," I said, "That's all they were, scumbags!"
Delegating the men to a lower species of life form did little to make her feel better. "Then the same one who had kicked me ... he kicked Michael ... hard in the side of the head," she said. "I was looking at my body lying still and naked and I was not ten feet away ... and I didn't lift a finger to help. I couldn't move. Then everything went dark. I must have lost consciousness."
She grew silent again and hid her face against Susan's shoulder. In the masculine body she must have felt awkward while her femininity was seeking comfort. Sitting up and offering a cursory smile to Susan, she continued to relay her painful memories of that fateful night.
"Then I came to ... I don't know how long I was out. I could see a lot of people milling about. Someone had covered Michael with a coat, and for that I was both thankful and relieved. I could see the glow on the ground from flashing lights, and that meant the police and an ambulance were on the scene too. When I saw the paramedics lifting him onto a stretcher I tried to get up ... but someone held me back." She began rubbing her temples, her face twisted in pain, "Ow! These damned headaches!"
"The headaches," I said, "you don't suppose they are a result of that attack? Were you examined for a possible concussion?"
"No," she replied. "I refused treatment. I told them I was okay and I promised I'd get checked out later. I was more concerned about Michael. The policeman ... he said he was Sgt. O'Day ... asked me if I thought I could stand."
My brow furrowed as I interrupted her, "O'Day? Sgt. Brock O'Day?"
Michelle looked over at me and said, "He didn't give his first name. You know him?"
Dismayed I answered, "Yeah, I know him. He's the only O'Day on the force. Why did it have to be him? Of all of Boston's finest, why him?" I noticed the puzzled look on Susan's face and added, "Brock O'Day, I call him 'Break O'Day,' is married to my ex-wife." I cleared my throat and turned back to Michelle, "Please continue. What happened next?"
"He asked me for my name and if I knew the identity of the injured victim. I said that I was Michelle Gray and that he was Michael Black. The minute the words came out of my mouth I realized my mistake. I tried to correct my statement ... that I was Michael and that she was Michelle. I said I was sorry, but I was still dazed and confused. He asked me for an ID, but I didn't have one on me." She shook her head and addressed me, "We had left our IDs back at the lab, to maintain anonymity during our playful adventure ... all in the name of science. Yeah, right!"
"Your confusion was understandable," Susan noted, "under the existing circumstances."
"I began to panic when I saw the ambulance pulling away. I tried to go after it, but the cop was restraining me. I said I had to go with the ambulance, that I had be with my boyfriend. I cursed under my breath for repeating the same error. He told me that she was in good hands. He then led me to his police cruiser and said he would drive me."
I shook my head guessing what had happened next, "Except he wasn't taking you to the hospital, was he? He took you downtown to precinct headquarters instead."
"The bastard even handcuffed me and then shoved me into the back seat. He said that I was being taken there for a statement and to answer some questions. He said I wasn't under arrest and that the cuffs were for my own protection." She looked at me and said angrily, "You know him, do you? Do me a favor, the next time you see him ... kick him in the balls ... just for me!"
"Trust me, Michelle," I answered, "I have enough reasons of my own to knock him on his keister, and should that opportunity arise, I'll get a lick in for you too."
Susan had been lost in thought for several minutes and finally spoke, "O'Day. I know that name too. It was several years ago. Except he wasn't a sergeant then. He put me under arrest."
I looked her way and said, "Really? What for? What were the charges?"
She sighed, "Possession. There was a drug raid at the place where I was partying." She grinned, "But that's a story for some other time." She turned to Michelle and said, "I'm sorry for interrupting. What happened to you? What happened to Michael?"
"When we were leaving the alley, our cop friend pointed to a man in a green military uniform. He was an officer with three stars on his collars. I think he was a general. Sgt. O'Day then told me that the man and his driver were a witness to the whole incident and that he had taken their statements."
Once again I interjected my thought processes into her account of that evening, "Of course, their statements and your statement were not the same, in fact the two versions were miles apart."
She nodded, "Michael and I were right when we chose you, Ben. We thought that if anyone would be able to help us, it was you!"
"I appreciate your faith in me, Michelle," I replied, "but I'm afraid I haven't been much help so far. I mean, I failed at getting your story made public."
Susan stood up and exclaimed, "Now that you and Ben know what happened at the police station, that leaves just me who's still in the dark."
"Sorry," Michelle offered. "I've already told you what happened in the alley, and you know that the general and his driver claimed something altogether different happened." She paused until Susan nodded in agreement. "According to the general, he and his driver saw me assaulting the woman in the red dress. They saw me beat her and rip off her dress. They saw me ... raping her while she was unconscious! Then, according to that military hero, he rushed to the helpless woman's rescue. He then pulled me off of her and subdued me. In his own words, he rendered me unconscious. Meanwhile, his driver covered the woman's naked body with his jacket. And being the ever responsible citizens, they called for an ambulance and the police."
"They set you up for rape and assault!" Susan gasped.
"Yes. They read me my rights and began to process me. They were going to lock me up and hold for a hearing. The general and his driver were to report to the station the next day to positively ID me as the man who committed the crime."
Susan looked perplexed and was about to say something, but I spoke first, "Michelle was released on her own cognizance. The charges were dropped and she was told not to leave town and to remain available for possible questions later."
Michelle nodded, "Right. Sgt. O'Day received a phone call while I was being finger printed. I heard his part of the conversation. He hung up and said to me that I must have friends in high places. He said I was free to go. When I got up to leave he told me that even though I could go, he was going to keep an eye on me."
"Interesting and odd at the same time," I muttered. "I'm going to venture a guess that that phone call to O'Day was from the one and only and very enigmatic Mr. X."
"You're killing me, you two," Susan yelped, "What about Michael?"
"The sergeant had made a call to the ambulance company and was told that the EMTs had reported that the Jane Doe was alive and her vitals were okay, however she had lapsed into a comatose state. She was being observed at the Massachusetts General Hospital," said Michelle in response to Susan's outburst.
"So you went to see her ... him. I'm glad. Do the doctors think he'll come out of the coma soon?" asked Susan.
Michelle lowered his head succumbing once more to tears, "I went to see him. He wasn't there!"
"Not there?" I asked. "Was he moved to another department? Another hospital specializing in head trauma maybe?"
Her head began to move in violent jerks, "You don't understand. There was no Jane Doe delivered there that night! He wasn't taken there. I called the ambulance service and was told they had not picked up any patients in the Financial District of Boston, let alone a woman who had been raped and beaten. The dispatcher said they had not transported a single Jane Doe in the whole month."
"Oh no!" exclaimed Susan. "That's why we haven't met him yet."
"When I got home that night, I set in motion a plan Michael and I had discussed when we first learned that our project was going to be taken away. Anonymous arrangements had been made with three students from the campus, each of them paid in advance to carry out our requests once they were notified," Michelle said. She glanced at me, "One student was to send an e-mail to you Ben from a Newberry Street location. One was given the task of procuring the taxi which was used to take you north out of Boston." She turned and smiled at Susan, "The third was this girl, and she was to obtain another vehicle in which you were to be transported back into Boston by a predetermined circuitous route."
"So," I said, "Here we are."
"Yes, here we are. I asked Susan to find you and to bring you here again, because of these nagging headaches. You touched upon it before, Ben. I too am thinking that somehow there is indeed a third mind at work ... in my head. It is because of that possibility I felt it was necessary that you viewed all of the recordings of our work. I wanted you to know that this research has been going on for some time, longer than you have been led to believe."
"I don't see where you're going with this, Michelle," I said a bewildered daze to my countenance.
"Ben, please bear with me. I'll explain fully later ... after you have viewed all of the recordings."
"There are more recordings? I thought we saw the last of them. The one with your ... ah ... merger wasn't that the last disc?"
"Well, yes" she replied, "but it isn't the last of the recordings you need to see. Ben, those discs I gave you to hold onto ... you have them in a safe place, right?"
I got up and walked into the bedroom. I returned with the book I'd been carrying around with my police scanner. I held the book up and said, "You told me these were backup discs. You wanted me to hold onto them in case something happened to you and Michael. Are you trying to tell me they are not backups?"
"They are not," was her terse answer. "They are earlier recordings which I had copied from old VHS tapes onto disc."
"Earlier recordings? How much earlier?" I shuddered suddenly not certain I needed to hear an answer that I might not want to hear.
"I won't say anymore until you've studied them," she replied. She looked at Susan and a sad mood shown upon her face, "Susan my dear, I'm afraid you need to see them too!" She turned and headed to her bedroom and said over her shoulder, "All I ask of the two of you is that you reserve judgment of Michael and me until I've had a chance to explain. Please!"
(To be continued in part 17 on Friday 1/23 with A Dark Reunion.)