XIU SUN AND THE PSYCHO
“This is car seven, currently in pursuit of suspect—standby,” said Coleman, one hand tightening over the steering wheel; his whole body hunched up. He was already a thick ape-like man, but he looked like Kong in a toy-car at this point. Xiu was too busy staring at him and not focusing on the white Ford up ahead, illuminated with blue and red lights flashing across it. She turned to look at it and imagined the man inside, erratic and angry, with flickering eyes and talking to himself. Knight Lafferty was an escaped patient of the Badmoore Psychiatric Hospital in Oregon close to Columbia Falls, the town where she lived, and she’d personally wanted to catch this guy. She looked back to Coleman as he swerved. “Don’t lose him, Cole,” she said and immediately the brute spoke through gritted teeth.
“Don’t tell me how to do my f*ckin’ job, zipper.”
“Watch your mouth, Sergeant,” she spat back.
He huffed and sped up. Out here in the dark, open fields of Oregon, they could lose a car real easy under the circumstances. “Backup isn’t coming of course,” said Xiu more to herself. They were suddenly upon the Ford and attempted to pit the back end, spinning it out. After two scrapes and another fallback, Cole went in for the kill and snapped the back end of the Ford out; the bumper popping off and scraping across the road while the carspan around where it went with a ferocious screeching skid and smoke. The car stopped and rolled back, facing up an embankment. Xiu was already out of her cruiser, her hands tight on her Beretta and she was going forward. The lights of the Ford were off, she turned on her torch on her shoulder. Cole stumbled out by the door of the cruiser, ready to shoot.
In the distance there roared the approaching metal sluggishness of a train. Xiu ran up to the car and aimed in. “Freez—“ Empty seats greeted her. What the sh*t? She heard thudded footsteps and looked over to see a shape sprinting across the empty field, barely visible against the purple ocean of stars. She ran after him.
“COLE. GET THE CRUISER, RUN UP ON HIM.”
Already the sound of screeching tires was going over her voice. Up ahead the light of the freight train came into view, slowly moving. He’s gonna run for it. She sprinted after him, cold air filling her lungs as she moved across unlevel ground, the earth smell of mud filling her nose. This guy was fast, real fast. He’d already made it onto the train. She saw him move out of sight to the right and launched herself onto the open carriage. Then a noise of a crash went over the sound of the train. Cole. She leaned out and looked out into the field, his car suddenly on its side. She turned back to face the psychopath, Knight, and aimed at an empty carriage.
“Show yourself, right now,” she said, aiming her pistol towards the thin walkway of crates either side. A shape walked out of the darkness with deep breaths. It was Knight.
She moved closer to him. “You stay still.”
He raised his hands. With the light on his face she could make him out better now; he was tall, with scruffy, long black hair with streaks of gray, the same colour of his mountain man beard and a pair of dark red scrubs on his body. He was smiling at her, but it wasn’t what she expected of a criminal psychopath, it was a warm, disarming smile that took her a moment to get past. She aimed her pistol at him and he aimed his eyes at her. “You get on your front now.” He sighed and moved onto his hands and knees and then laid down with his hands behind his back. She was on him in two seconds, slipping out her cuffs and strapping them on him with the sound of zipping metal. She picked him up and put him against one of the crates before she stopped to look back out. The train began to gain speed.
She was worried about Cole. She went to reach for her radio and let out a quick gasp of air.
“No radio, huh?” said Knight with another smile. “This train doesn’t stop for three hours, officer—“ he squinted his eyes at her uniform and stared at her badge “—Sun.”
She sighed and rolled her eyes. “Dropped the damn thing when I was chasing you.”
He blew air through his nose and his cuffs clanged together. She pulled him to the floor and told him to stay facing her then sat down herself far enough for him to not lunge and crossed her legs. “We’re gonna sit here until this train stops then, and you don’t move.”
He nodded. “Sure thing.”
They sat in silence for a while and the cold air had begun to invade Xiu. She kept her aim on him and went to the open door of the carriage and pulled it across but it wouldn’t budge. She wrapped her hands on the bar and tried to pull it harder, gritting her teeth but the only thing that happened was the sound of metal scraping on metal. She clocked Knight as he stood up and bent down to tuck his arms under his legs.
“Hey, HEY. I said don’t f*cking move.” Knight ignored her and walked over to her. She let go of the bar and held her pistol at him and with one eye closed she aimed for his chest. “You jump I shoot.” He strolled to the door, lifted his cuffed hands up to the latch at the top of the door, and then slid the big door shut with a slam.
She was looking at him with wide eyes. He didn’t look back at her but just walked back to where she’d first spotted him and he sat down again. She lowered her gun and stayed staring at him while he reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He lit one up and didn’t look at her. She lowered her gun and he looked at her with the cigarette perched in his mouth.
The more she stared at him the less she felt like she was with an insane convict but then the evil ones always seemed sane. He seemed lucid, and he could have just lunged for her or jumped from the train. But no, instead he’d locked the door and that was that. She walked over to him and sat across from him. “Why haven’t you tried to run?”
He shrugged. “I don’t wanna get shot, you know? Your partner nearly clipped me back at Columbia Falls, when I was coming out the convenience store.”
“He thought you’d attacked the cashier and he took a shot to incapacitate you. What did you do in there?”
He tapped the pocket on his chest and inhaled. “I feel like I’ve seen you before,” he replied. “Badmoore?”
“I don’t think so.”
“You sure about that, saw you come in a few times when I was doing garden work—not many Asian cops around Columbia Falls, and I’ve heard of you by name.”
“Okay, so you know me, so what?”
“Just making conversation, I’m a talker. I talk a lot. I yammer on when I get nervous but funny enough, never spoke to a therapist in Badmoore.”
“Been meaning to ask you about that, how’d you escape?”
He looked at his cuffs and then took the cigarette out his mouth and slid his eyes back to her. “I killed the janitor and ate his liver, and used his keys—murdered the nurse on duty and stole her scrubs.”
Xiu instinctively slid her hand back to her pistol and he noticed her move and then gave her another warm smile. “I was doing garden work and the security guy walked off to go get blown by the receptionist and I snuck out through the back way, there’s a broken hole in the wall out back in the garden.”
She found herself smiling for a moment and sat back on a crate. “You’re not funny.”
“I see you smilin’ though,” he said. “So you came to Badmoore a few times, eh? I wonder why.”
“Don’t act like you know me, psycho.”
“I knew your brother, think his name was Thai, no—wait,” he clicked his fingers, “Towel—Tao. Tao! I remember him, I mean who wouldn’t? This is Oregon, and he was the only other Asian guy in the joint. And I saw you visit him a few times, you’d just sit with him and look awkward in your uniform, but one time you came in this, I think it was a teal dress—real cute.”
She was staring at him with wide eyes, breathing heavily. He noticed it and then mouthed the words “okay,” and closed his mouth. He dropped the stub of his cigarette and stamped it out. Her eyes were still on him and she felt a rush of heat in her stomach. Hearing the name Tao, it flushed through her and she felt fresh saliva build in her mouth and a tightness on her head. “You knew him well?”
He shrugged. “We spoke a few times and played cards, well, I played cards and cheated lookin’ at his hands because you know, the catatonic sh*t but I spoke a lot to him. He spoke to me a few times too.”
“I was a Marauder, Second Battallion, Fifth Marines. I noticed he had a Semper Fi tattoo on his left arm that had faded a little and I look at him and I say ‘Semper Gumby’ and he looks at me and smiles for a moment, just a little smile, and then I ask him what Batallion he was with but he never responded. I never saw him but always found it crazy to be shacked up in Badmoore of all places with a guy I’d been in the war with. I don’t know what battalion though, never found out.”
She’d crossed her legs and moved closer to him now and was more interested in what he was saying. She wanted to hear about Tao, she’d missed him so much in the last few months and didn’t know how coincidences or irony worked this well, but the supposedly psycho man in front of her had told her more about him than she’d heard of Tao in three years. Dad never even bothered to go up there and look at his own son, he just kept on doing his job and so she did the same. She rubbed one of her eyes and then said: “He was a Wardog, Seventh, Second Batallion.”
Knight smiled. “Ready for anything, countin’ on nothin’.”
She wiped her eyes and said “Yeah,” as she looked away. “He spoke to you?”
“No, he was too far gone for that.”
“You saw action yourself?”
“Was stationed in Helmand. I saw some rough sh*t. Worst thing that happened to me was when an IED near a rusted out car launched a piece of metal—slice through my head,” he turned his head around and said “lift up my hair at the back and you can see.”
She froze for a moment, reached out but her hands stopped, and then she felt his hair to lift it. As she crouched to peek she expected his head to smash her face and leaned back but when he remained still and said “Ya see it?” she knew he was okay. She looked at the huge line that went diagonally across the back of his head. Like a graph chart across his head.
“Must have really slit you bad.”
She moved back and sat down and he turned back to face her. “Came flying at me. There was that, got clipped with a very old Colt in my leg, and got a nice twenty-two going straight through my gut during a routine sweep on an ol’ highway. Did Tao ever get hit?”
“I don’t know...”
“I’m sure he did. He was in the thick of it.”
“Don’t talk like you know him cause you were shacked up in a loony bin with him. Don’t mention my f*cking brother again, I’m warning you.” Her words flowed like venom and she always hated it. Tao was a touchy issue when she was in the best of moods. She took a moment and kept quiet and then waited for him to talk again. Don’t think about Tao. But Knight just shrugged and kept quiet, looked around, whistled, and then looked back at her.
“Gonna have to face those demons one day, but fine,” he raised his hands in defeat, “what about you? Tell me about you, miss Sun.”