The Erotic Mind-Control Story Archive

Dead of Night

Chapter 2

LaTanya Marsh was, in the legal sense, a superstar. She didn’t know for sure that she had top-of-class grades, but every one of her fellow students that Emma met seemed to think she did. The firm that she was working at as a paralegal had already made a standing job offer, to be accepted upon graduation; the only reason she had not accepted it was because she had received similar offers from two other high-powered firms.

Emma Williams had seen her roommate and best friend exercise her law skills only once, in a mock trial where Emma had been hired to play the role of a mugging victim. She’d been impressed, but at the same time, it had looked like a fairly simple case from where she was sitting. Emma hadn’t really seen enough to know what had separated Tanya from all of the other smart people out there; what had elevated her from star to superstar.

Now, she was finding out.

“Tell me everything you remember,” Tanya said. They were sitting on the couch, new cups of coffee poured.

“Tanya, I don’t remember anything,” Emma said.

“That’s not what I asked,” Tanya said. “I know that you don’t think you remembered anything. But when you say to the police, I don’t remember anything, they assume you’re being evasive. So you tell them what you do remember.“

“Okay.” Emma tried to breathe slowly. The idea that police might come to her door, and ask her about a murder which had occurred during a time when her memory was completely blank, was a panic-inducing thing to consider. “I met you as you were leaving work, and we went to this comedy club in Lincoln Park.”

“What was the name of the club?”

“The Laugh Riot. The word riot was in that font all the anarchy T-shirts use.“

“And when you arrived at the club?”

“All these guys started hitting on us, trying to buy us drinks, whatever.”

“What were their names?”

“Jesus, Tanya, how do I know?! You brushed them off too fast! Stop interrogating me!”

“Okay.” Tanya showed the palms of her hands, a placating maneuver. “This is not an interrogation. If the police think you’re a suspect, and they interrogate you for real, it’s gonna make this feel like an episode of Mister Rogers. I’m trying to prepare you for the sort of questions they are sure to ask, and if you get angry when the cops ask you these questions, then they start playing dirty. Okay?”

“A man is dead and I may have been the last person to see him alive! How am I not supposed to lose my cool?”

“I didn’t say be cool,” Tanya said. Emma was often frustrated by the way she word-lawyered in casual conversations. “I said, don’t get angry. Angry makes the cops think you’re being defensive, which means you have something to hide.“

“Don’t get angry. Okay.” Emma ran a hand through her hair, brushing it away from her face. It’s like you’re playing a part. Witness Number One should not get angry. “Go ahead.“

“What happened with the guys at the bar?”

“We brushed off, like, six guys. Then there were two that we kind of liked, so we agreed to sit with them during the show.”

“And their names?”

“The short one was Mark, and the tall one was, um... Tony. His name was Tony. I didn’t get their last names.”

“And what happened during the show?”

“The opening act was okay, I guess. I laughed a little. Then she introduced the hypnotist. He came out to this crappy techno music, sounded like the theme to that old TV show, Knight Rider. But worse.“

“That’s good,” Tanya said. “That’s a good detail. Detectives are mostly older guys. They’ll remember that show. Keep going.”

“He came out, and he asked if anybody in the audience had been hypnotized before. I don’t remember ever being hypnotized before, but then I realized that my hand was up.”

“Okay, here come the tough questions. I might be getting a little bitchy here. Ready?”


“Why did you raise your hand, Miss Williams?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t even realize I was doing it.”

“Did you want to be in the show?”

“I mean, I hadn’t really thought about it. Everything happened so fast.”

“Were you intending to join his show and ruin it?” In a dry tone, Tanya added, “Trolling him, I think the kids say these days?”

“Why would I want to do that?”

Tanya dropped out of her interrogation character for a moment. “Don’t. Get. Defensive. Just answer truthfully.”

“No, I was not trolling him.”

Tanya began interrogating again: “When was the previous time you were hypnotized?”

“I have no idea.”

“You not only forgot that you were hypnotized, but you forgot who the hypnotist was, or that he even brought the subject up.”

“I guess. I don’t remember any kind of hypnotic experience in my life up until yesterday.”

“But you remembered that there was a hypnotist yesterday. You remembered that he said, ‘Hey, I’m gonna hypnotize people.’ Why is that?”

“I don’t know. I have no idea how hypnosis works.”

“Did you know this man?”

“Never seen him before in my life.”

“Did you know that he was a child actor?”

“Wait, what?” Emma stood up and stalked into the kitchen. Ostensibly she wanted some water, but really she just needed to stalk her nervous energy away. “How the hell did you know he was a child actor?“

“I didn’t,” Tanya said, now out of character again. “The cops can lie to you, when they’re asking you questions. As long as they don’t use the lie in court as evidence, they’re fine. It’s like hypnosis, in way. They’re just trying to lull you into a state where you start giving things up.”

Emma looked at her frankly. “Do you think I killed him?”

Tanya rose from the couch and came into the kitchen. “Why the hell would you say that to me?”

“I was there at the right time, and I don’t have an alibi.”

“Okay, but you’re wearing the same clothes, and there’s no blood on them.”

“Maybe he was strangled.”

Tanya put her hands on her roommate’s shoulders. The Straight Talk position. “Emma, I’ve been rooming with you for five years. They’ve been good years. And I am telling you: you are not a murderer.”

“Maybe I’m having a psychotic break,” a morose Emma said. “Maybe I have a brain tumor and it’s affecting my behavior.”

“Huh,” Tanya said, with her crooked grin. “I didn’t think of the brain tumor angle. Maybe I should set up a firing squad just in case.”

Emma could not help but smile. She punched Tanya in the shoulder, lightly, and went to grab her water glass. Tanya caught her wrist with one hand.

“When they interview you, no water, no coffee, no soda,” Tanya said. “They won’t let you go to the bathroom. Makes you more eager to talk.”

“If you think I didn’t do it,” Emma said quietly, “Why do you think the cops will treat me like the killer?”

Tanya cocked an eyebrow, as though asking You really need me to explain? “Because they are cops,” she said. “Now come on. We haven’t even gotten to the important part of the story yet.“

* * *

The Laugh Riot had opened early on Saturday, but it was hosting no comedy. The stage space had been turned into a staging area for all of the police investigating the corpse in the alley out back. There were half a dozen uniforms, who went into and out of the alley in shifts, to maintain the cordon that would keep the media, deliveries, and trash trucks away. In the center of the stage, consulting a small paper notebook, looking for all the world like a rumpled comedian consulting the notes for his new material, was Raymond O’Reilly.

At forty-eight, O’Reilly had nearly thirty years on the Chicago force, twenty of them spent as a detective. He had made hundreds of felony arrests. He had shot seven men in the line of duty, none of whom had survived. He had a commendation from the mayor of Chicago for his work in arresting the Crimson Cross serial killer. He had, in short, seen it all.

And goddamned if this wasn’t the weirdest crime scene he’d ever come across.

“Ray!” A voice rang out from across the room. O’Reilly looked up to see his partner, Jay Chen, jogging across the seating space. He winced.

“Got some good stuff from the owner, Ray,” Chen said as he hopped up the stairs to the stage.

“Don’t run, and don’t shout,” O’Reilly told him. “Makes civilians think we’re not in control of the scene.”

“There’s only cops back here, Ray,” Chen said.

Chen was the only Asian detective on the force, and he’d only been in the bureau a year or two. He had that know-it-all tone in his voice that O’Reilly heard all the time from his own children, and hated. But the kid had also done two rotations in Iraq, with some shrapnel still stuck in his left arm, so O’Reilly bit his tongue and counted to five before saying, “Are the crime scene guys here yet?”

“Sorry, Ray,” Chen said. “It’s not driving weather.”

“God damn it,” O’Reilly growled. “By the time they get here, the body is going to be a fucking mess!”

“And if they drive too fast, the next body we catch is from their car accident,” Chen said. “Patience, Ray.”

Caught some shrapnel in the service, O’Reilly told himself again. That’s why you just don’t punch him in the mouth. “What’d you get from the owners?“

Chen pulled out his phone. He kept notes on the thing, which O’Reilly also hated, but the issue this time was not notes. Chen showed him a photo of a body lying facedown in the alley out back. The clothes, which were covered with far less snow than they were right now, showed that it was indeed the same body whose death they were investigating.

“Owner took pictures,” Chen said. “He asked permission of the uniforms, since we weren’t here yet. He even got one of the stab wounds.”

Chen swiped past a few pictures of the body, to show a closeup of a gory cut that appeared to be in the man’s neck.

“He didn’t touch the body, did he?”

“No,” Chen said. “Uniforms made sure.”

“Finally, a lucky fuckin break,” O’Reilly said.

“Stab wound,” Chen said. “Knife’s probably from the bar.”

“What makes you think that?”

“Wound’s too messy,” Chen said. “Professional-grade gear cuts cleaner, makes smaller holes.”

O’Reilly had to admit, the kid was pretty good. “Walk with me,” he growled.

They walked off stage, into an area that the club called its green room, but the police all referred to as “the hallway.” It was a hallway long enough to accommodate three doors, each one leading to a dressing room. A trail of blood emerged from the furthest of the doors, and sketched its maroon path on the floor until it reached the door that led to the back alley. Just in case, the entire hallway had been blocked off with police tape; O’Reilly and Chen paused just before this barrier.

“I don’t like it,” Chen said.

“Tell me what you don’t like.”

“The owner said he wasn’t planning to open the place today, not in this storm,” Chen said.

“He didn’t find the body,” O’Reilly said. “We got an anonymous tip. Uniforms found him.”

“Right,” Chen said. “But the tip came, what, four hours after the killing? Maybe less? That fast, with that many details, it had to be someone who saw it happen. The killer, or an accomplice.”

It was a reasonable guess, O’Reilly thought. “So?”

“So why call? Everyone’s snowed in. The club’s not opening. You wait, that body gets found Sunday afternoon. Or maybe not till Monday, if it gets buried under enough snow. Our jobs get a hundred times harder, and this case is no picnic already. They cover their tracks better if they don’t call.”

“You can’t read too much logic into it, Jay,” O’Reilly said. “Some killers want to get caught. Some can’t deal with the guilt. Maybe there was two of them and they had a falling out. Or there’s a hundred other reasons they might have called it in, and like ninety-nine of them are not gonna make sense.”

“But you’re thinking the same thing, right? Why the hell would anyone make that call?”

O’Reilly had, in fact, been thinking the exact same thing. “When the crime scene techs get here, put them in that room,” he said, pointing at the dressing room door. “The body is already a lost cause. No DNA or prints to be had there. Dressing room first. Got it?”

Chen nodded. “I’ll be out front, waiting for them, trying to get more from the owner.”

O’Reilly nodded. As Chen left the room, he thumbed through his notebook, hoping some detail, heretofore neglected, would jump out at him. Nothing did.

* * *

The storm had so darkened the sky outside that Emma lost track of time. Tanya had turned off CH1 so that Emma did not have a clock face in her eyeline. The questions went on and on, and when Emma thought Tanya was done, Tanya would simply snap, “Okay, back to the beginning.”

Emma was reminded of the time that an up-and-coming movie director, “the next David Fincher,” supposedly, had done an episode of The Adventures of Virginia West. He had never explained his motives for taking a job so far outside the reputation he was developing; sometimes big-time directors would talk about doing an episode to impress their kids, but this director was unmarried and childless at the time. Like Fincher was infamous for doing, the director called for take after take of the same scene, working the actors and crew to the bone, until they all despised him. Emma took to bursting into (fake, but astonishingly realistic) tears after take seven or so, her small-child sobs shaming the director into moving on. A story had appeared in Variety about this debacle, savaging the director with anonymous quotes and mockery, ending his career before it had really begun. He was shooting direct-to-video pictures in Bulgaria these days, she’d heard.

And for all of that, when the episode finally aired, Emma had admitted that it was the best the show had ever looked, and maybe the best she’d ever acted. She tolerated Tanya’s approach now, because Tanya was trying to make her look just as good for the police.

“So, the hypnosis show,” Tanya said for perhaps the fourth or fifth time. “You don’t remember anything.”

“I remember him talking about how we all go into hypnosis two or three times a day,” Emma said. Tanya had repeatedly warned her that Yes, I don’t remember anything was a terrible answer. “Next thing I remember is opening my eyes to applause.“

“And everything in between is just, what, black? Like you passed out for forty-five minutes?”

“More like ... a blur, I guess. I kept my sense of time passing. Lights and sounds and voices, but all of them indistinct. Like a dream that you don’t remember after waking up.”

“When you woke up, were you embarrassed?”


“No?” Tanya did that a lot, just repeating Emma’s answers back to her in an arch tone. Cops like to do that, she’d said.

“I’ve been an actor for twenty years. America watched me go through puberty in front of cameras. I can’t get embarrassed on stage.”

“That’s a good answer,” Tanya said, dropping character momentarily. “Memorize that. So, Miss Williams, you weren’t embarrassed when people told you that you had appeared to proposition Mister Durowitz for sex on stage? That they thought you were about to strip out of your clothes?”

“I did a student play in college called ‘Five Blowjobs.’ I both gave and received simulated fellatio in that play. There were fewer people in the audience than blowjobs in the play, and all of them were homeless men who were openly masturbating. I repeat: I can’t get embarrassed on stage.”

“Hey,” Tanya said, breaking character again. “I saw that play! It sucked, in both the literal and symbolic sense, but I was there!”

Emma laughed, real laughter, for the first time since she’d learned that Michael Night had died. Tanya waited her out, then took her hand.

“Tell me,” Tanya said. “Tell me as your friend. Did he try something? Did you have to defend yourself? I’ll understand if you did. Self-defense is not murder.”

Emma pulled her hand away. “So you do think I did it.”

“Emma, I have to ask,” Tanya said. “Either it’s true, or I need to hear you say that it’s not true. And if it’s true, I swear I will support you anyway.”

I don’t know!” Emma stood up, backing away from the couch, toward her room. “I don’t know if it’s true or not! Maybe I killed him in self defense, or maybe a fucking asteroid hit him! I don’t know, because I don’t remember!


“I need to brush my teeth, and shower, and change!” Emma shouted, then followed with acid sarcasm: “I’ll leave my clothes on the floor so you can call the CSI lab in.”

Her bedroom door slammed shut.

“Shit,” LaTanya Marsh muttered. She sat there for a few silent moments, wishing that they had a cat or something to hug at times like this.

* * *

Thirty minutes after his conversation with Jay Chen, Ray O’Reilly was still standing in front of the police barrier at the mouth of the green room hallway.

O’Reilly looked up. He glanced down the hallway, to the door that led outside. Then he turned and looked through the RESTRICTED ACCESS door and into the bar, where he could see Jay Chen talking with the owners. O’Reilly turned and looked back into the green room hallway. He turned again to watch Chen talk to the owners. Back and forth, his head on a swivel, maintaining each position for exactly five seconds.

Finally, O’Reilly stopped turning his head. He walked through the backstage area, and up onto the stage itself. “Hey,” he called out, addressing the room. Every head rose to look at him: he was the highest-ranking cop at the crime scene, after all. “Somebody here call for me?”

He received a general sense of negation from the room: cops shaking their heads, mumbling no, turning back to their work.

O’Reilly stood on the stage for a solid minute, saying nothing, unmoving. None of the other police in the room seemed to notice this. Finally, O’Reilly stepped down off the stage and walked over to the highest-ranking uniformed cop in the room. They’d worked together on the Crimson Cross cases, had known each other for years. “Torelli,” the detective said. “Gotta cigarette?”

The officer shook his head. “Quit two years ago, Ray. Thought you quit, too.”

“Yeah, I did,” O’Reilly muttered. He’d shown a slight heart murmur on a doctor’s exam a few years back. The doctor had told him to quit smoking and quit the police force; O’Reilly had met him halfway. “Guess I just ...”

O’Reilly did not finish his sentence. He stared off into the middle distance, eyes wide and glassy.

“Ray?” Sergeant William Torelli did not know what he was seeing. Ray had always been a thinker. Not a smart man—they said he’d only graduated high school, and his grades had not been great—but the sort of guy who would just chew on something forever until he figured it out. That was how he’d broken the Crimson Cross thing wide open: just in a room with the evidence for hours, deep in thought, until he’d found an unlikely connection. But this did not look like deep thought.

As Torelli watched, a small ribbon of drool slipped from the corner of Ray’s mouth and splattered on his suit coat.

“Ray!” Torelli gave the detective a little whack, backhand, on his bicep.

The detective started violently. He gasped for breath and jumped a foot backward. Torelli noted, with alarm, that his hand had dropped to his pistol.

“Ray! Ray, it’s okay!” Torelli tried to speak in a low voice. No one else in the room seemed to have noticed what he was seeing right now, and he wanted it to stay that way. He knew that O’Reilly had two kids, and though he had forgotten their ages, the oldest had to be close to college. Ray couldn’t afford to lose his job right now.

What the fuck did you just say to me?” Ray O’Reilly whispered. There was such fury in his tone that, just for the space of a second, Torelli accepted the certainty of his own death. He’s going to haul off and shoot me. All of his concern for the detective’s job and kids vanished. He thought of his own wife, who was infertile. We had a good run, Liz.

If Torelli had thought of his own gun at that moment, they might have exchanged bullets. Instead, the words came out of Torelli’s mouth without any plan to say them: “I thought you quit smokin’, Ray! That’s all I said!”

O’Reilly’s face changed, completely, in an instant. He went from furious to puzzled so quickly that Torelli was still certain he was going to die as O’Reilly said, “Yeah, I did. Four years ago. Best decision I ever made. That fuckin’ nicotine, it gets ahold of your brain.”

“Why ... Why’re you lookin’ to draw your gun, there, Ray?”

O’Reilly looked down at his holster, saw his hand on the butt of his pistol, and took it away quickly. He chuckled, sheepishly, as he said, “Aw, geez. Sorry bout that. I haven’t drawn my piece in years. I guess sometimes I just forget it’s there.”

O’Reilly turned and walked away, to ask one of the auxiliary officers about something. Torelli was left standing there, mouth agape. He looked around the room, hoping one of the other officers had noticed what had just happened, and would meet the What the FUCK? look that he knew was on his face. But none did.

Ray is losing it, Torelli thought. His hands were shaking. We’re trying to solve a murder and the highest-ranked cop on the scene is losing his shit. Fuck his job, fuck his kids, he needs to be in a goddamn mental hospital. His partner is the second-ranking man on the scene. I have to tell his partner.

He decided he would save that conversation until Ray couldn’t see him having it. Just in case.

* * *

LaTanya Marsh crept out of her room, laptop under one arm. Emma’s bedroom door was still closed, as it had been ever since her shower had ended.

Tanya had hoped that the shower would cool Emma’s temper off, but she had flounced from the bathroom into her room in her bathrobe and slammed the door so hard that a picture had fallen off of the nearest living-room wall. Not only had the door remained closed ever since, but no sounds could be heard. Tanya had no clue what was going on in there.

The snow stopped blowing outside, and the sky lightened briefly before darkening into evening, but Emma never emerged from the room. When Tanya made herself a sandwich for dinner, she had knocked on the door, offering to make one for Emma as well, but there had been no answer.

Tanya’s googling had uncovered some useful results. The Sun-Times website had briefly mentioned an anonymous police source, saying that the cause of death had been stabbing, before taking that version down and deleting that paragraph from subsequent stories. The deletion had happened so fast, Tanya felt sure that the detail had been true, and the cops wanted it withheld to eliminate false confessions. This in turn reinforced her original lawyer’s instinct: even if Emma had done it, for self-defense or any other reason, the lack of blood on her clothes would be a strong point in front of a jury.

At this point, the half-eaten sandwich forgotten on the plate she had set down on the coffee table, Tanya caught herself. This is why she’s mad at you, she thought. She couldn’t give a shit about cop psychology or jury analysis, even if you think she’s in danger of going to prison for life. Her problems are more ... immediate.

Tanya closed all of the windows she had been using to investigate the crime, and googled hypnosis.

It was too big a subject to be easily tackled with Google. The Wikipedia page on hypnosis was overlong and contained a surprising amount of technical jargon. Tanya didn’t realize the subject had been so heavily explored by scientists.

She switched to searching michael night hypnotist. He didn’t have his own website, but she found pages on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. His most recent post on each platform was identical, basically an ad for his upcoming tour, which would take him to comedy clubs in Des Moines, Lincoln, Kansas City, St. Louis ... and Chicago.

She visited his Instagram last, and the profile picture took her breath away. It was Michael Night, standing amidst the tables at the Laugh Riot, Emma’s entranced body sprawled out at his feet. Clearly the hypnotist had not taken the photo himself, but there was no credited photographer listed. Judging from the time stamp, he’d uploaded it between the end of the show and when he had come out into the bar to make his move on Emma. He’d not known at the time of uploading that he had less than twelve hours to live.

“That’s fucking creepy,” Tanya whispered to herself.

Perusing deeper down in the Google results showed message-board posts about the killing. Tanya had once taken a course, Media And The Law, where the professor had said to avoid the Internet entirely in the first 24 hours of a high-profile case. “That first day is nothing but speculation, conspiracy theory, and unmitigated bullshit,” she’d said, to laughs from all the students.

The hypnosis message boards showed that principle in action. The first post merely stated the facts of the case—stage hypnotist killed right after one of his shows—but the very next post stated, as though it were fact, that the deceased had been a Mossad agent responsible for brainwashing assassins. The following post, after chiding the previous one for its not-so-veiled anti-Semitism, immediately claimed that Michael Night had been the man to teach mind-control techniques to Barack Obama. The next post after that asserted that Night was involved in a coverup of the 9/11 attacks, which the poster seemed to believe had happened in Chicago.

“Christ,” Tanya muttered, rubbing her eyelids as she closed the window. “To say, ‘their brains are rotting’ assumes they had brains to begin with.”

She googled hypnosis memory recovery and received a legion of sites willing to tell her all about their past-life regressions. There were also a host of stories about the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s, and how the unethical use of hypnotic memory recovery had convinced young children of abuse that had never occurred. Tanya had studied one of these cases during her second year of law school and did not need the refresher course; that was, in fact, why she had not participated at all during the show.

Finally, with the clock on her computer showing 8 p.m., Tanya stood up and walked over to Emma’s door. “We need to figure out why you can’t remember being hypnotized before,” she said to the unmoving wood.

No answer from inside the room.

“Everything I’ve looked at says, sure, you can forget the things that happened during the trance,” Tanya told the door. “But making someone forget that they were even hypnotized, that’s TV shit.”

Nothing. Tanya thought, She’s gonna make me say it, isn’t she?

“Um,” Tanya said to the door. “This is more important than what you should say to the cops. You will need to know that eventually, but I think I got ... overzealous.”

Silence. Yeah, I gotta say it.

“I wasn’t listening to you,” Tanya said. “You don’t remember what happened yesterday and it’s freaking you out. I get it.”

Still nothing. The memory came on so strong that her mother’s voice seemed to fill the quiet: What do we say, LaTanya?

“I’m sorry, Em.”

She heard footsteps on hardwood. The door opened, and Emma was looking up at her. Tanya could see from her red eyes that she had been crying at one point, but the tears had long dried.

“You don’t need a lawyer,” Tanya said. “You need a detective.”

Emma said, stone-faced, “Since when did you become a PI?”

“It’s my backup plan if I fail the bar exam. Virginia West Investigations. You do all the media appearances, I’m the bad-ass assistant who secretly solves all the crimes.”

Emma tried to keep her stone face, but her mouth slowly cracked. “God damn it,” she muttered, lowering her head as she tried to hide her smile. “That’s actually a good pitch. I should write that down.”

They shared a long hug.

* * *

The good news for Jay Chen was, the crime scene techs had finally arrived. The better news was, he had obtained a great lead in the case without them.

“Torelli!” Chen said, as he approached the sergeant. “Where’s Ray at?”

Torelli grabbed the lapel on Chen’s jacket, pulling him off-stage, where the conversation would be more private. “I don’t know and I’m happy not knowing,” he said. “Ray is losing it.”

“What are you talking about?” Chen said. “What do you mean, ‘losing it’?”

“I had a conversation with him a little while ago,” Torelli said. “He had mood swings like you would not believe. At one point he got so mad I thought he was going to pull his piece and blow me away. Then, two seconds later, he’s all sheepish and good-natured.”

Chen frowned. “I’ve never seen—”

Torelli cut him off. “I know you’ve never seen anything like that from him before,” Torelli said. “I haven’t either. But I’m telling you it happened.

“Hey, Detective,” the lead crime tech said. He was out in the hallway, standing in front of the barrier. The patch on his chest read Lazic, J. “This whole hallway here?“

“That whole hallway,” Chen told him. “There’s only one of you?”

“Other guys are in the alley,” Lazic said.

“Forget the body,” Chen said. “All that snow, you’re not gonna get anything useful.”

The tech just grinned. Chen was about to raise his voice, give some orders, when his radio crackled. “This is Smith, in the alley,” the voice said. “Looks like we got a weapon.”

“Millimeter wave radar,” Lazic said to Chen. “Maybe we can’t get DNA or prints, but if there’s anything to get out there, my guys will get it.”

“Fine,” Chen said. “Do what you do. When you have a report to give, give it to me. Only me, you understand?”

“Whatever you say, Detective.”

As the tech went to work, Chen turned back to Torelli. “Just what in the hell do you think you’re going to do with that story?”

“I don’t have the authority to order a detective off the scene, sir.” Torelli said. “You do.”

“Shit,” Chen sighed.

“Look, it’s a mental health thing, bipolar, whatever,” Torelli said. “He should be seeing a doctor. But he sure as hell should not be at a murder scene.”

Turning to look over the room, Chen said, “Even if I believe that, where the hell is—Jesus!

Chen jumped as he saw Ray O’Reilly standing not five feet away. He was standing hear the gathered stage curtains, almost shrouded by them, as though hiding. The man must have surely heard their entire conversation, but he wasn’t reacting as if he had.

“Ray?” As Chen stepped closer, he saw that O’Reilly was facing away from them. He was standing a couple of feet from an array of stage lights. Chen came around O’Reilly’s shoulder, and saw that he was looking directly at one of the bulbs. “Raymond?”

“Bright,” O’Reilly muttered. His eyes were wide, the pupils so dilated that the irises were barely visible.

“The light’s off, Ray.”

“So ... bright.”

Chen walked over to Torelli, whispering harshly. “Tell me how I’m supposed to order that off the fucking crime scene.”

* * *

Emma finally accepted the offer of a sandwich. Then they sat together on the couch, to share notes and make a plan.

“I was Googling hypnotherapists in the city,” Emma said. “Every ad I saw was for quit-smoking specialists.”

“The message boards I read were pessimistic,” Tanya said. “Professional hypnotherapy is a dying art, because of all that Satanic Panic stuff. Pretty soon it’ll be just stage hypnotists and hack fortune-teller types.”

“I’m not sure there’s anyone up to this task,” Emma said.

“Well, to figure that out, we’ve gotta be sure what the task is,” Tanya said.

“I forgot because I was hypnotized,” Emma said. “Stands to reason that I need to go under again, if I want to remember.”

“Michael Night didn’t look like a Ph. D.,” Tanya said. “Maybe we can handle it ourselves.”

“Come on,” Emma said. “You’re a lawyer. If I actually did this—”

“You couldn’t have done it,” Tanya said.

“—you think the cops are going to believe anything we learn that way?”

“The law isn’t going to believe it, no matter what,” Tanya said. “Testimony delivered under hypnosis isn’t admissible in court. Hasn’t been for decades.”

“Shit,” Emma muttered, and took a bite of turkey and cheese.

“Forget about the law, for now,” Tanya said. “You’ve still got me around for that part later. We have to figure out why you couldn’t remember the previous time you were hypnotized.”

“Wait, why?” Emma said. “All I care about is what happened in that club after you left.”

“There are videos all over YouTube that are similar to what happened in the club,” Tanya said. “People falling over in the audience of a hypnosis show and not remembering anything later. That’s not weird. What’s weird is your mind not thinking you were hypnotized before, and your hand claiming otherwise.”

“Okay,” Emma said, with some hesitation. She didn’t sound convinced, and she didn’t feel convinced, but Tanya had clearly been doing just as much research as she had.

“Now think back,” Tanya said. “Think hard. Have you ever seen a psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, anything like that?”

“Well, I had a child psychologist on the show,” Emma said.

What? You’re just telling me this now?!“

“You were interrogating me about Michael Night all day, and then we had a fight! It never came up!”

“You had a psychologist on the show and you can’t figure out who hypnotized you?!”

“He never hypnotized me!” Emma said. “He never needed to! I never had any problems on the show! All the adults got weirded out by how okay I was!”

Well, I gotta agree with that, Tanya thought. “What was his name?“

“Travis Warwick,” Emma said.

“How can I reach him?”

“I’ll talk to him,” Emma said. “My agent has his number, and my parents still see him, from time to time.”

“No, you just put me in touch, I’ll talk to him,” Tanya said. “If he hypnotized you and made you forget it—“

“I just told you he didn’t—”

“—then you being on the call could make it hard for him to talk about it.”

“Well, I have a picture of him somewhere,” Emma said. “Let me find it.”

Emma got off the couch and went into her room, rummaging in her landfill of a desk. Tanya followed her just far enough to lean on the door jamb. “If you were so okay, why did you need a psychologist on the show?”

“My parents made a rule never to touch my acting money,” Emma said. “So, they had to be at their jobs all the time, and they weren’t on set with me very often. Travis was there to make sure that I didn’t get depressed over it. He was like my on-set dad, basically.”

“And there was no...”

No,” Emma said, shooting her a look. “Whatever you’re thinking, whatever you’re about to say, no fucking way. He was as good and decent a man as I ever met. He reported in person to my parents every week, and they loved him. I told you, my mom still has him over for dinner sometimes.“

“Okay,” Tanya said. “I’m not trying to insult anyone or freak you out. But I have to ask these questions. You need to have me watching your blind spot.”

“I get it,” Emma said. “The lawyer thing. But it wasn’t him, or I already would have told you. Here he is.”

She produced a small un-framed photo from one of the desk drawers. It showed a ten-year-old Emma sitting in a director’s chair that said Virginia West on the back. Standing next to the chair was a dark-skinned African-American man of about fifty, smiling warmly.

“Put me in touch with him,” Tanya said. “I’ll Skype him from the bubble tea cafe with the good wi-fi.”

“It’s not him, I’m telling you,” Emma said.

“I believe you that he’s a good man, Em,” Tanya said. “But I would be a fool not to ask him some questions.”

“It’s just a coincidence,” Emma insisted.

“Marsh’s Law,” Tanya said. “No coincidences.”

* * *

Emma felt too keyed up to sleep, but Tanya insisted that Emma turn in early. “You’d be surprised how strongly correlated sleep deprivation and wrongful conviction are,” she said. “Police keep them awake for hours and hours, all the sleep loss causes them to crack, say dumb shit under interrogation. Sleep deprivation can cause you to say things that aren’t even true. Take a sleeping pill if you have to.”

Tanya herself stayed up, researching the public record on Emma’s life; in particular, The Adventures of Virginia West. She combed its IMDB. She went deep on its Wikipedia, following the links at each cited source and reading those articles as well. She looked at the Wiki pages for every actor on the show except the man that played Virginia’s father, who somehow did not have a Wikipedia entry.

The Adventures of Virginia West had started slow, but its razor-sharp balance between childlike escapism and real-world relevance soon attracted fans. There were magazine covers in Season Two, and it was one of the ten highest-rated shows in America throughout Season Three. It seemed that the network killed the golden goose at that point, moving the show all around its schedule. Ratings plummeted in Season Four, and the show was quickly canceled.

Tanya found a few retrospective articles from the ten-year anniversary of its debut, claiming that it could have been a classic and that Emma Williams should have been a superstar. Emma was not interviewed in any of these stories; Tanya made a note of this.

Shortly after glancing at her computer clock and seeing 1:04 A.M. staring back at her, Tanya heard a door open behind her. “Need that sleeping pill, huh?” she said, without looking up.

No answer. She heard Emma’s bare feet padding on the hardwood floor. No slippers? After the blizzard of the year? This caused Tanya to look up.

Emma was walking past the couch. Like her daytime wear, her night wear tended toward all black; the profile of her pale face floated through Tanya’s eyeline like a crescent moon in the night sky.

Tanya said, “Em?” Not seeing any reason to speak too loudly. Her roommate was just five or six feet away, after all. But Emma showed no sign of hearing her.

Emma walked to the front door of the apartment. Her carriage was erect, formal, not at all the posture of an exhausted person. Tanya saw that her feet were indeed bare. Emma arrived at the door, grabbed the doorknob, and turned it. The knob clicked in place, as it should; Tanya had locked the door after taking out the trash, hours ago.

Then Emma walked into the door. Tanya heard a soft thump as her breasts impacted on it. Emma didn’t seem to hit her head on the door, as far as Tanya could tell, but she wasn’t going to assume anything.

Emma.” Tanya stood up and moved over to her roommate. As she went, Emma turned the knob again. Click. And walked into the door again. Thump.

As Tanya got close enough to grab Emma and pull her away from the door, she got a good look at Emma’s face. Her eyes were open, not too wide and not too heavy, and completely blank. The irises may as well have been blue glass.

Click. Thump.

Emma’s lips were moving. She was mutter something to herself. It didn’t sound like English, didn’t sound like anything: fbsyd kuhn hlifs dugf lskjdg ...

Tanya turned away, hustling back to her computer while trying not to make too much noise. “Fucking hypnotist,” she muttered to herself as she went. “Kill him myself if he wasn’t already dead.”

She Googled how do i wake up a sleepwalker. An article from was thumbnailed at the top of the search results:

Taking care not to touch the sleepwalker too much, gently turn him or her in the direction of her bed, and walk near the person until he or she gets back into bed...

From the door: Click. Thump.

“Okay,” Tanya muttered to herself, standing back up again. “Okay. Piece of cake.”

She walked over to Emma, reaching her just as she turned the knob, fruitlessly, again. Tanya placed her hand gently on Emma’s wrist, whispering, “Okay, that’s enough, not gonna need to do that...”

She put her other hand on Emma’s opposite shoulder, and pulled as gently as she could. Emma did not try to walk into the door again, which Tanya took as a win. “Okay,” she whispered again. “Let’s go to bed.”

Emma suddenly spun on her heels. The hand that Tanya was holding on to pulled down, and Emma jumped up onto tiptoe. Before Tanya could say anything, Emma kissed her passionately. No, passionately was the wrong word. More like hungrily.

Tanya stumbled backward, trying to break the kiss, mumbling “Mmmuuhh!” around the lips that were all over her own. She could not entirely break away, but she was able to stagger backward across the living room, Emma half in and half out of her mouth the entire way.

Only one thought was going through Tanya’s mind: Get her into her room. Get her into her room. Get her into her room. She turned the corner on the door jamb a little quicker than Emma did, and found herself with a moment’s worth of air. “Emma, hang on, you’re dreaming—”

Sadh lifhsa flgjk,” Emma said, and jumped into Tanya’s arms. Tanya was taller and exercised a fair amount, but she wasn’t ready for a hundred pounds of warm roommate striking her torso. Tanya fell back onto the bed, Emma on top of her.

“Em—” Tanya began, and then she was being kissed again. She had to admit, her roommate was not a bad kisser, but she was neither into women nor into sleepwalkers. She had to do something about this.

She put her hands on Emma’s shoulders, intending to push as hard as she could. But Emma broke this kiss herself. She arched her back, grabbing Tanya’s hands and using them to massage her breasts. Her pelvis pressed against Tanya’s own pelvis, hard, and Emma sighed with passion despite the fact that neither woman had removed her sweatpants.

Like she’s on top, Tanya thought. Her confusion was so complete that it had come back around to a sort of scientific fascination. In her head, I’m a guy, and she’s on top.

Emma’s pelvis thumped against Tanya, again and again. Her moans of passion escalated slowly, until Tanya was no longer able to figure out if she was saying the nonsense words or simply moaning indiscriminately. Her cheeks flushed, and underneath Tanya’s palms Emma’s nipples were rock-hard.

Finally, Emma cried out, and flopped face-down onto the bed next to Tanya. Tanya had not even counted ten seconds before Emma’s breathing became deep and regular. Tanya crawled out of the bed and left the room, turning out the light and closing the door behind her.

Tanya made a beehive for the bathroom, turning on the sink. She did something that she had only ever seen characters on television do: splashed a handful of cold water directly into her eyes. Then, her face and the top of her nightshirt dripping wet, she looked at the reflection in the mirror.

“You are a lawyer,” she whispered. “Hell, you’re not even a lawyer yet. You can’t deal with this.”

No fucking way you call the cops, a voice in her head said. They shoot mentally ill people at an even higher rate than they shoot Black people. Plus you’re not even sure if she’s mentally ill.

“You need a professional,” she whispered at the reflection.

It’s one a.m. Sunday morning, the voice replied. Whatever professionals could help with this, they don’t show up at work for about thirty hours. Maybe longer, if they decide to close the schools or the plows don’t get moving fast enough.

Thirty hours. Maybe more. Stuck in this snowed-in apartment with ...

“She’s still Emma,” Tanya told the reflection.

The eyes staring back were full of doubt.