Chapter 61

Ray stirred his coffee slowly, the red plastic straw rasping a on the bottom of the styrofoam cup. 

“Apparently the IJS doesn't have to follow the UN’s Green Guidelines.” Ray said to Piwitti, sitting at her desk. “Everyone knows that styrofoam is one of the worst things for the environment.”

The arm holding the cup was wrapped in the white plaster of a cast. His arm had been broken during the crash and the doctors here had fixed it. He'd refused drugs, and now his heart beat in time with the pain in his arm. 

Piwitti sat across from him, much like she had back when she'd told him never to tell Alex about her time in the military; pad of paper in front of her, phone in her hand, her fingers flying over the touch screen keyboard while she stayed up to date with a million assistants and underlings. 

“What's this about, Piwitti?” Ray gave up casual conversation. He wasn't too good at it anyway. “If you couldn't get me to talk under heavy medication, I highly doubt you can get me to say anything now.”

“I don't want you to talk.” Piwitti put her phone down on the desk. She steepled her fingers. Ray almost rolled his eyes; she was pulling out all the super villain stops. 

“Attitude? Just when I'm about to tell you a few things?”

“Are you going to monologue?” Ray put his head in his hands. “Are you seriously going to sit here and tell me your evil plan? In meticulous detail so I know how to stop it? Seriously?”

Piwitti stared blankly at him. At first Ray thought she was going to suddenly turn into a character from a sit-com. Say something like “Why do you have to ruin everything?” Or “No! Your mom is gonna tell you all my evil plans in meticulous detail.”

She didn't, of course, because this wasn't a sit-com. Ray knew it. 

“That statement reveals more about you than you realize.” She started to smile. “It reveals that you think of yourself as some sort of hero. Like James Bond. That you think you're going to be the one to ’stop’ whatever nefarious scheme you think I'm up to. Did it ever occur to you that what I'm doing is for the benefit of humanity? That I'm trying to help your sister?”

“Nope.” Ray said. “The bullets whizzing past my head and being framed for murder kinda tips me off to that particular lie.”

“Ray, your sister needs help. She's been refusing it for her PTSD for months. She has a problem. I'm just trying to fix her.”

“Again, by framing us for murder? That's a hard sell.”

Piwitti sighed, ducking her head and shaking it. 

“You think I did that? How does it benefit my program to have ex-soldiers running around killing people with their head not screwed on straight? That's all this Media and their conflated view of the world.”

“You CONFIRMED your ’suspicions’ on national television!” Ray was angry enough to shout, now. Few people could get him that way. “You told everyone that we were murderers! Stop back talking! I know what's going on here!”

“Do you?” She smiled. “Enlighten me.”

“You're using Alex’s PTSD to refund a new program. You want to ’fix’ what you've broken. But really you can't stand to be without your precious programs. You can spend grant money however you want and in this economy, that's a gift from God. You can't imagine living any other way than you have been. You need this life to stay afloat.”

Piwitti’s smile stayed plastered on here face. Ray couldn't tell if he'd hit the right nerve or not. She stood, turning away from him. 

“This is not a sustainable business plan!” He rages at her, unable to make himself stop talking. “There not way you could get funding at this point! It's insane to think otherwise!”

“That is where you are wrong, again.” She poured herself a drink, her back still to him. “I'm capitalizing on the inanity of others. Your sister. Leo and Sam. Even Maya has diagnosable faults. You're not like them. You're different. You're like me.” She turned to him with a smile.

“Say that again.” Ray growled. “See what happens.”

“You know it.” Piwitti sat back down, with her drink, ice clinking in the glass. “You're not like them. I'd diagnose you with Functional Aspergers. That's not insane. I'm my view, you're more sane than everyone else. But people have to diagnose you to feel better about themselves.”

Ray sat silent. Please, let me face be still. Don't let her see that my stomach is. Twisting. She’s the bad guy. She's evil. Your are not. And just because Alex is “normal” doesn't mean your abnormal.

“I've never been officially diagnosed. So what?”

“Why have you never told your sister you're vegan?” The knots in his stomach twisted tighter.

“I don't see why it's relevant to her life.”

“That's very Aspergers.” Piwitti nodded, as if to convey that she understood him. Don't fall for it. Stay with your friends.

“So?” Ray shrugged. 

“So. Piwitti was still like a bobble head. “Either you're a pathological liar or you just don't see why revealing those details of your lifestyle are relevant. Or you reveal far too much about yourself.”

No problem there. The anxiety stopped pricking out the roof of his mouth with stippling. She continued on the assault. 

“Alex with never understand you.” She reached out and touched his hand. He pulled it away. “She will always be haunted by what happened to her and David at IJS. Because of her PTSD, if she doesn't get help, she will never have the capacitor understand you. 

“Isn't this an odd tactics for trying to turn me?” Ray decided to call her bluff.

“Of course it is!” Piwitti laughed. “Using the truth to turn anyone is an insane tactic! It's a far easier okay to twist the truth into a new truth. But why would I try to turn you with a half truth when we both know your doubts are enough? Don't you think that running was foolish? Don't you think you all should have stayed put and proven your innocence?”

“My sister and I, perhaps.” Ray nodded, not mentioning Sam, Leo, and Maya. 

“So you disagree with the tactics your fellow fugitives have chosen.”

“Just the one.”

“It's a big one.”

“Maybe.”

“You'll see, Ray.” Piwitti nodded. “You'll see that I'm right and that you've always been on my side.”

Zoe FleischerComment