Subject: Natalie C.
The following is an excerpt from the journal of patient Natalie C, given to this office by her estate.
The journal was retrieved from the patient’s burned out apartment. The human remains found in the apartment have been identified, through use of dental records, as those of the patient, Natalie C. Surprisingly, the journal was the only retrievable item left after the fire gutted the apartment. It is singed around the edges, but is nonetheless intact and very readable.
The instructions on the first page of the recovered journal state that, in the event of Natalie C’s demise, it should be given to this office.
Natalie C. was a reluctant patient, pressured to see me by her family. I recommended that she begin therapeutic journalling as a way of recording troubling dreams that seemed to have invaded her waking life.
I had concluded that the patient was living through a transient psychosis. I came to this conclusion based on the suddenness of onset; the presence of typical schizophrenic symptoms; and the presence of associated acute stress. The introduction of an atypical antipsychotic was indicated but never implemented due to the patient’s lack of compliance.
Dr Herman Wallace
January 23, 2013
* * *
What follows has been taken from the journal of Natalie C.
People will not believe me, but all I write here is true. And, Dr Wallace, I am not insane. There is no poison in my brain. Perhaps it’s you who requires a therapeutic intervention, as you appear so incapable of believing that I may indeed be experiencing all that I say I am. Please let this journal stand as proof of my experience.
October 2, 2012
Every city has its doppelgänger, existing on a parallel map. And who is to say which is the doppelgänger and which is the authentic city? Certainly not the citizens of either, each of them living their lives unconscious of their double. Each moving as the other does, but only slightly differently. Each living faintly divergent parallel realities; one gazing into a mirror with regret mere seconds before or after the other. But sometimes there is a greater divergence, with more than mere seconds separating their actions.
It may only be in our dreams that we are aware of this nearly duplicate world, and once we are awake we deny its existence. Perhaps that is why we suffer our separate solitudes.
October 3, 2012
The window above my head rattled in a violent wind and I sat up in my bed, my dream interrupted. St Michael had been standing there again, in my dream, dressed in the style of a Dashiell Hammett detective and smoking a cigarette. I was there too, next to him, wearing an elegant overcoat, but my eyes were brighter and my red lipstick stood out against the foggy sepia of a nineteen forties Vancouver street. We stood under a streetlamp. I knew he was St Michael in the way that all is known in a dream.
“You again,” I said to him, trying to sound tough.
“That’s right, doll.”
“You’re trailing me.”
“Nah,” he said. “You’re just showing up in all the right places.”
“Either way, I’m not sure I like being in the company of an archangel. You fellas have a way of flying off the handle.” I was lying.
“Only when it counts.”
“Well, I’ve been dodging you for days now. What counts with me?”
“Just a question I’ve got,” he said. “Something I need to ask.”
“Oh?” I spoke softer then, stepping closer to him and smoothing the lapel of his coat with my hand. It was an intimate gesture, our eyes meeting, with me hoping to see a longing like mine, but instead seeing violence and catastrophe. A savage scene. Angels falling from Heaven into a molten core of iron. My hand shook slightly and I tried to smile, but failed. “You got a cigarette?” I said.
“Sure.” He took a package from his pocket and offered me one. I took it. He lit it with a wooden match.
“You’ve got a lot going on under the surface, mister,” I said, flame and doomed angels in his eyes.
He said nothing.
“So, what’s this question you need to ask?”
“Just this,” he said. And that was when the window rattled and I woke from the dream.
It was 3:08 a.m. I made tea and read a book. It was raining outside and the wind blew in hard off the Pacific. There was the sound of a siren. It stopped abruptly a few blocks away. Someone in trouble. I turned a page. Then it was quiet, in the way an apartment building can be completely quiet when only a few of its tenants sit awake, still and alone.
October 3, 2012
I boarded the number 5 Downtown bus on Denman Street at 7:30 a.m., and rode up Robson to my office in the financial district. At 1:00 p.m. I took lunch, sitting in a café on Melville Street, watching civilization through the window. And saw him again. He was standing across the street, leaning against a lamppost smoking a cigarette. The brim of his hat low over his eyes.
I paid my cheque, then made my way out onto the street. He was still there, unmoving, on the opposite side. He looked up and saw me crossing, and snuffed out his cigarette beneath a polished brogue. Then he vanished, slowly.
“Dream of me,” I heard him whisper.
October 3, 2012 – Later
There are things other than archangels in a person’s life. There are necessities and desires. There are work and commitments.
I spent the early evening with friends, over dinner and wine. We went to a galley opening later. Paintings by a newly popular contemporary artist, one from the east end of the city. One picture caught my eye. I stood looking at it for a long time. Acrylic on canvas. Angels flying grim-faced over the Land of Oz, each with a handgun. Each firing their weapons at four helpless figures below on a yellow brick road. Its title was God’s Work. I examined each of the angels but he wasn’t there.
October 4, 2012
I dreamed of him again last night. In an office this time. I could tell from the view that we were several floors up. He sat at a desk wearing an automatic in a shoulder holster, the foggy harbour visible through the window behind him. A calendar was open to October, 1949. The wall clock said 12:15. It was night. The harbour lights haloed yellow in the fog, steamships on the water.
I sat opposite him, the desk between us. He wore a white shirt, top button opened, sleeves rolled up and a large tattoo of a sacred heart wreathed in thorns on his left forearm. His tie was blue. He had his hat on but it’d been pushed back to reveal a broad smooth forehead and thick brown hair. My eyes searched his once more, looking for warmth, but I found none. They were blue, I realised for the first time. Not really cold, I thought. Valour and tragedy. He was someone’s strongman, sent to perform tasks that for others would have been impossible or undignified.
“There’s a customer up the road,” he said, leaning back in his swivel chair. “Some rich guy with an office in the Marine Building.”
“And?” I said.
“And sometimes a fella in my business needs a partner, someone to confirm his suspicions.”
“You think that’s me?”
“You’ll do in a pinch,” he said, almost smiling.
“Are you in a pinch?”
“Nah. But if I was, you might just be the dame to pull me out.”
“That’s fine, but what’s a girl call a saint when he’s playing the shamus on the prowl?”
“This ain’t playin’, doll; this is for real. And you can 86 the saint malarkey. They just call me Michael. Close associates call me Mick.”
“Well whatever it is you need, Mick,” I said, “you can count me in.”
“I already have,” he said, taking something from a drawer and sliding it across the desktop.
“It might help in a scrape.”
I looked at the ugly iron item, a hard cold sub-nosed .38 revolver.
“Loaded?” I said.
“Put it in your bag,” he said, “just in case.”
“So,” I said, “is this the question you were so hot to ask me the other night?”
“I guess it is.”
“What’s the dope on the rich customer in the Marine Building?”
“Someone tells me he’s got a wife with mutable morals. Wants me to watch her for a while and compile some data.”
“You don’t think you’re a little over qualified for a job like that?”
“You don’t know the guy.”
“Right now,” he said, “all you need to know is that the obvious is usually a distraction.”
“Then I’m easily distracted.”
“Anyway,” Mick said, “he’s working late and wants to fill us in.”
He stood up and put on his overcoat. “Let’s go. I’m parked on Hastings.”
We drove west on Hastings, parked on Burrard Street and entered the Marine Building through a revolving door. Stepping off of the elevator on the twentieth floor, we entered the offices of Mr Martyn Drache, Attorney at Law. A man in a black suit greeted us.
“Hello,” said the suit. “You must be the private investigator.”
“I am,” Mick said.
“And who is this?”
“My partner,” said Mick.
“Yours is the only name in the appointment book.”
“Look, partner,” Mick said, “it’s nearly 1:00 a.m. I charge double this time of night and the meter’s running.”
“Okay,” said the man in the black suit. “But you must surrender all weapons before entering Mr Drache’s office.”
“Like hell,” said Mick, and the black suited smiled as a voice came over the intercom.
“That’s fine, William,” came a voice. “Send Mick and his partner in just as they are. I have an idea that the .45 under his arm is the least of his lethal weapons.”
William escorted us in to Drache’s office. It was a prewar Art Deco masterpiece with a view of the dark ocean. Drache was older, corpulent and balding, and wore a dark pinstripe. His pale doughy face glistened in the low light and he had the dilated pupils of a dope fiend.
“Please take a seat,” he said with a wave of his hand. “Can my man William get you anything, a drink perhaps?”
I too my cue from Mick. He said no, and so did I.
“Let’s get to it, Drache,” Mick said. “What’s all this about your wife?”
“Right to business, eh Mick,” said Drache. “I like that. But I must say that I have you here under false pretenses.”
“Is that right?”
“Yes, you see I’m not a married man at all.”
“No?” Mick said.
“No,” said Drache. “No, but I must admit that upon hearing of your presence in the city, I rushed to invite you here. We’ve encountered one another before in the past, have we not? I thought a fidelity case might be up your alley at the moment, so I had William give you a jingle and wave one under your nose.”
“Funny,” said Mick, “I don’t recall your face.”
“Well, I am a man of many moods.”
“How enigmatic,” Mick said.
“Just so,” said Drache. “But don’t we both have that in common?”
“I don’t think we have one damn thing in common, Drache. And unless you’re about to drop some paid work in my lap, I think I’d better get on my way.”
“Not so fast, my boy,” Drache said holding up a halting hand. “Allow me to ask you something. Do you think that a man on his rise to some grand but intangible pinnacle, wanting to take the world by storm, can start first by influencing a small city of men?”
“I don’t know,” Mick said. “But I’ve never believed in giving a sucker an even break. Is that what you’re on about?”
“Well put, Mick. It might be what I’m on about. And this might be my city of suckers.”
“Then have at ‘em. You don’t need me for that.”
“Oh,” Drache said, “but you’re being disingenuous, Mick. You know very well that I don’t need your help in any conventional way. I just need you not to interfere. And for that I’m willing to pay a very high price. A very high price, indeed.”
“If what you’re up to is kosher and within the law,” Mick said, “then go to it. If it ain’t, then it’s up to the cops to find you out. I’m just a private businessman trying to make a living.”
Now the mood in the room changed. Drache showed his teeth and seemed to grow larger. He slammed a fist down on his desk and hissed, “Enough with this deception. It’s beneath you and it’s an insult to me. You are the Leader of God’s Army of Angels. You’ve been a plague upon me and the others you cast out for an eternity. But now, with the whole world of man at stake, will you stand down and witness my rise or will you cause the spark of Armageddon?”
“Those my only choices?” Mick said coolly.
“You know they are.”
“Then I choose to go home and get some shuteye.”
I turned and looked at Mick – Michael. I couldn’t believe his casual answer.
“That’s a very unsatisfying response, Michael,” Drache said.
“Yeah well, life is hard and then you go to hell,” said Mick.
He stood and took me by the hand and we left Drache’s office and the building. A street sweeper manoeuvred round Mick’s car as we approached it. I was uncomfortable with his silence.
“You don’t have anything else to say?” I said.
“It’s all been said before.”
“But what now?”
October 5, 2012
I awoke to the phone ringing. It was 6:17 a.m.
I answered, “Hello?”
“That Drache fella sure was a crumb, eh?”
“Who was he?”
“Just a lingering odour.”
“He scares me.”
“He’s a bully, doll. The kind that figures he’s invincible ‘cause he picks on little guys. But one way or another, he keeps getting his ass kicked.”
“Where are you?”
“No, I mean are you here in 2012 or there in 1949?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
He rang off.