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In which a case of mistaken identity leads to a startling discovery.



February 10, 1987

So this is how shock feels. Like weightlessness. Like there's nothing but air on the inside of my skin.

To anyone who might be reading this some day: please excuse my handwriting. It's been one hell of a morning.
    I don't want to write this down, make it real, lend it any credibility at all, but I've got to give myself something to do, force myself to think it through when all I really want to do is curl up and make the world go away. Maybe if I write it down, it'll make more sense.
    I wish I could believe that.
    I'm not usually up and around at that time of day, but it was one of those mornings; you wake up bright and early, full of energy, and if you go back to sleep you not only lose it all but it seems to turn you to lead for the rest of the day. So I got up, had my coffee and mused over the ways and means of our quarry until the phone rang.
    "This is the voice of sanity for the Revolution," I answered cheerfully.
    "Needle? You're all right?!" Reilly sounded more than a little startled.
    "I'm fine." Last night hadn't been that strenuous. "What's up?"
    His tone changed rapidly to one of slightly uncertain seriousness. "I think maybe you guys should come out here. There's something I think you ought to see."
    I got everyone together and met him at the address he had specified, which meant hauling Talon out of bed and lying to Lucky, who doesn't like Reilly (the feeling is mutual, as far as I can see) and didn't want to go if he would be there. I was a little worried at that point about all the mystery. Proof that I don't have any precognitive skills to speak of, I guess.
    Reilly met us outside the apartment building; he looked tired and grim. "There's been a murder," he informed us without preamble. "I thought you might be interested in this." A woman in a coroner's office jacket passed us in the hall.
    "We're just about done," she said. "Let us know when you want to move her."
    "It happened late last night. There's no mark on the body, we're assuming it was a psychic attack of some kind." He nodded to the uniformed officer at the door, who looked briefly surprised but let us pass.
    It was a loft apartment, airy and sparsely furnished in an oddly, faintly familiar style by someone with a taste for elegance, presumably the woman lying on the floor, blank gaze directed toward the ceiling. Blood had pooled darkly around her head. She lay at the center of a storm of small objects, as if a miniature tornado had touched down on her.

    Well, I got that far before I had to stop for a minute. There goes the handwriting again. Sorry. She looks exactly like me.
    "I waited to make the call until the fingerprint check came back," Reilly went on. "They match your file." His neutral glance invited comment.
    "But—h—who is she?" I managed to ask after a couple of false starts.
    "Susan Bates. Age 33, worked for a marketing firm in Back Bay, something Vision. We haven't got hold of a family yet."
    Traveler found the wrong target; that should have been me. That was bad enough, but the mystery was worse. The same fingerprints? I was entirely at a loss for what to think, or what to feel. The others wandered around the apartment, seeking clues while the photographers finished their work. Reilly leafed through a folder from the late Ms. Bates' cabinet, frowning. I stood there helplessly looking around, trying to imagine an explanation and coming up with nothing I was willing to consider. I did realize why the space felt so familiar, though; hers were more expensive, but the objects themselves and their very minimalism reminded me of the way my own apartment is arranged.
    "Needle?" Reilly said after a moment.
    "Where'd you go to school?"
    "UC Berkeley."
    "What'd you major in?"
    "God, I don't remember. Three something."
    "Three point six nine. Have a Professor... Simms?"
    "Yes. What is this?"
    He passed over the file. "Take a look." Those were my transcripts, all the way back to high school. Only the name was different. I gave up all attempts to look calm and sat down on the carpet. Phoenix found a photo album; that was much worse, and I realized as I looked at it that I was on the edge of panicking.
    "Tell you what," Reilly suggested after a moment, "why don't we head back to the station? You might want to get in touch with your parents."
    I was staring blankly at photos of people and places I knew, taken under the clear California sun, and his words took a moment to penetrate. "Huh? Oh. Okay." We drove slowly through the steadily falling snow, and neither of us said anything until the door to his office had closed. I dialed my parents' number with a slightly shaky hand. The phone rang for a long time, and it occurred to me that it was awfully early there still.
    "Hello?" came the answer at last.

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© 1999 Rebecca J. Stevenson