Saturday, April 17, 2004
Talking to Carter
It's weird. It must be what it's like when Mags and I talk, except worse. I don't blame Maggie for anything that happened to me, but even though Carter says he doesn't hold me responsible for his situation, how can he not? I lied to him, I didn't notice when he'd been switched for someone else, and when he came to me for help, he had to watch his original body get shot dead. Plus, he still thinks of himself as a man, but if he thinks of himself that way, he has to think of me that way, and we've been intimate. So he's disgusted with me, and disgusted with himself. And what he really hates is that I'm the only person we know about who has been through what he's going through, and thus the only person he can really trust.
He does like Maggie, though. Mags knows the facts, and she's got a good catalog of my weaknesses from before, so they can give me a hard time. That Mags has for the most part forgiven me makes Carter feel a little better about his bitterness, that it'll pass.
I made a mistake, though, when I came to visit him today. Actually, I made it earlier - I looked out the window, noticed it was a really nice day out, and dressed for it - nothing fancy, just a sleeveless camisole that shows about an inch of cleavage, a pair of capri pants, and some not-quite-sandals, but not-quite-sneakers-either on my feet. I didn't exactly have bows in my hair, but it bespoke a level of comfort with my body that made Carter uncomfortable.
He looked at me, and asked if he were going to turn all girly, showing off his tits. I told him that he'd always liked my tits before. He said that was before he knew I was really a man, and asked me how I could stand it.
"Routine," I told him. A few months putting a bra on when you get dressed, having to look nice for work, you get into the habit. You start to take some pride in your "work". At first I was just telling myself this is what I'd like to see a girl with this body dressed like, and eventually it makes me feel good.
"But that's just me. In a way, you've got a cleaner slate. You don't have to dress up for work; you don't have these big breasts that you have to do something with. You can wear baggy jeans and a sweatshirt every day if you'd like, cut your hair, maybe pass for a teenage boy, if that's what you want to do."
"What I want," he says, "is to get back into my own body. But I can't because it's lying on a fucking slab somewhere, and you, you know your body's out there, and you even know where it is, but you just act like you're supposed to be a girl. You're happy!"
"I'm not happy." I tell him I have good days, but I miss my mother, and my old friends, and I spend so much time feeling like I'm not a whole person, that I'm like two jigsaw puzzles mixed together where someone has forced the pieces to try and make a whole person that I feel like I'm going to fall apart. "I'm not helping, am I?"
"Why didn't you ever tell me you felt this way?"
"I loved you. Maybe in the life I remember, you'd have been my best friend, maybe this body's hormones just changed the way I think, but that you felt I was special, that you liked the things you thought were just tomboyish... Well, it made me feel good about myself."
"So it's my fault."
"That's not what I'm saying! God, remember the first time we made love, and I told you that I liked who I was for the first time in months? I didn't feel good about myself because of you; I was able to be with you because I finally figured out who I was, that I wasn't just Martin Hartle stuck in this body. I realized it was part of who I am now, and what that means."
"So are you saying I should just tell myself I'm not me any more?"
"I'm saying that's what works for me."
We didn't have more to say then, and watched the game for a few innings.
"Michelle... If you found a way to switch back, would you?"
"Maybe. I could live a straightforward life again, not feel like I'm lying to everyone I know. But... I'd be afraid that who I am now would die, that it was some sort of suicide."
"Must be a nice problem to have."
"I'll let you know when I have to make that decision."
Then the nurse came, and we clammed up. When she left, I just filled him in on what had been going on at the office, who'd won the Oscars, the months he'd missed. A reminder that he was doubly a victim.
Thursday, April 15, 2004
Didn't feel comfortable posting the last few days.
I didn't want to post anything that might screw the case against Dmitri. It should be open-and-shut; I'm not the only witness and the forensic evidence is pretty conclusive about who shot the gun. But, this blog certainly won't look good if I'm called to testify. If he finds it, Dmitri's lawyer could easily use it to paint me as nuts, and not a credible witness. Heck, "my" lawyer (an old boyfriend of Kate's who agreed to give me a little advice) probably thinks I'm crazy, but I also get the impression he thinks I'm hot, so he didn't bolt when I told him why Dmitri shot Carter.
It comes down to this: Dmitri is the next link up the chain from Carter. Except it's not Carter, and hasn't been for a couple months.
Let me start from the beginning. I know this, but I gather anyone else reading this would be pretty confused. That's probably why it took me up until Monday night's phone call for me to put it all together; trying to figure out which mind is in which body is like trying to follow a shell game with more than the usual number of shells, each of which has a ball under it, and you've got to remember the color. But I'll try.
I'm not sure how Dmitri got hold of the mechanism to switch the contents of brains around, but last July, he switched his father (who has been in a coma for the past five years) with the original Michelle Garber. Maybe it was only meant as a pitstop, or maybe Alexei just couldn't hack being an Alexis. So, after a couple weeks, they find someone with minimal connections - an only child who's moving clear across the country the next day, and I wake up like this. The smart thing to do would probably be to stick "me" into Alexei's body, just leaving Michelle with a gap in her memory. But maybe Alexei was telling the truth when I called him New Year's Day, and he felt he owed me. So I start making connections, it's no longer safe to switch us up, and I become Michelle.
And maybe I'd never have had a name to hang on the person in my original body, but someone gets greedy. This thing would be the perfect way to smuggle illegal aliens into the country. Dmitri spots Samantha, this barely-legal runaway girl, takes her in, figuring no-one would know if she disappeared or became someone else. Except she's terrified of flying, and there's no way he can bring her to Europe. But "Shelley", the original Michelle, might not have so many qualms.
I don't even know the name of the person who came back from Europe with Dmitri; I just assumed it was Shelley inside. God, I wonder if I made such a good impression that day that that's when he decided he wanted me for a girlfriend. One more switch, and this nameless person is in Carter's body and Carter's in Sam's.
And I knew it! Not consciously, but I'll bet that's when thing started to go wrong between me and "Carter" the first time, and then he goes for the "love potion", and I think everything's fine until I get a cold. And even then, I don't glom on to Carter not being Carter until Sam somehow escapes and calls me.
Yeah - escapes. I don't know where Dmitri had her (him) but she did not look good when she got to my place. The girl who showed up must have been barefoot before getting to Carter's apartment (I recognized the too-large sneakers on her tiny feet), she looked underfed, and Carlos tells me that the bruises on her arms and legs come from restraints. Carter must have been running on adrenaline to break into the apartment, find his old sidearm, and call me. Then fake-Carter shows up, and he must have called Dmitri, and they almost got to my building before she did.
She was ready to collapse when I saw "Sam" coming down the street. I ran out to meet him/her, Dmitri and Carter are there, he/she draws the gun but is too weak to keep hold of it. I'm just getting there when Dmitri picks the gun up, says something in Russian, gets a response in what I assume is the same language from "Carter", says something more insistent, then points the gun at me... or Sam/Carter. In our general direction. I thought I was going to die right then. I'm not ashamed to say I pissed my panties.
And then... I don't know why the guy in Carter's body does it. Maybe he thinks us loose ends can be talked to. Maybe he really likes me, but he tries to wrestle the gun out of of Dmitri's hands.
It goes off and the bullet catches Carter's body right between the eyes.
Well, the girl I'm trying to hold on to screams. Dmitri just stands there, just stunned, and it seems like an eternity (but can't be more than a few seconds) before I hear Carlos screaming at Dmitri to put the gun down, and he and his partner cuff Dmitri, call in Homicide, and also call for an ambulance because "Sam" looks like complete shit.
The detectives question me that night at the hospital; I don't tell them the whole story I'd just figured out - just that I had just broken up with "the victim" and I thought "Sam" had been going out with Dmitri up until about a month ago. They say it looks pretty straightforward. I stay with Carter at the hospital; the doctors say she's in shock, and malnourished, and it was pretty cold so she might be suffering from exposure. Around midnight, Jen shows up; Carlos must have called her.
Carter doesn't wake up until late yesterday afternoon. The police don't get much from him/her, although I just get what I'd pretty much already pieced together. By then, I've called Maggie and Kate's come by; she asks if I need a lawyer and I say I don't need one, but there are some things I'd like to know. I feel terrible leaving Carter to see this guy - Douglas Hastings, his name is - and I feel even worse coming home, but the nurses say I've got to get some sleep. I make Maggie promise to call me if Carter wants me.
Gads, those nurses are right. I really do need to get some sleep. Maybe tomorrow things will start looking up.
Monday, April 12, 2004
That was Sam on the phone... Well, not really, since it hasn't been Sam for months, but even beyond that, I had it wrong.
Shit, I feel so damn stupid. I hope Carter forgives me. I mean I, of all people, should have seen.
Damn it, this is going to be ugly. She'll be here in like ten minutes, and somehow knowing that she's got the gun makes me feel even less safe. Fuck... Even as a man, I wasn't cut out for this sort of crap.
At least it all makes sense now - Me, Carter, Michelle, Sam, the guy in my body... Damn, what's his name? It's in here somewhere. Wish I had time to look for it.
That's if "Sam/Michelle" was telling the truth, but it makes too much sense to be anything else. If she is lying, though, I can't see what good it would do her - the people behind this whole body-switching thing would want us all calm and collected, not panicky, right?
I should call Carlos... If what she said is true, it might be a good idea to have a cop or two around.
Didn't have to tell my boss everything
He is going to have one of his own contacts do the analysis on the stuff, though. That's fine; if he finds something other than what Maggie found, that's certainly of interest to me. I mean, everything about this whole deal since July makes me think that it wasn't about me, but about getting the current Martin Hartle into a new life - if I were important, would I be allowed just to live my life in relative freedom for the past nine months? But if Maggie was involved, and thought that turning her jerk of an ex into a woman would be some sort of fringe benefit, then everything in the last two weeks could just be some sort of scam. Sure, it could also be delayed remorse, or exactly what it appears to be. I completely expect Mr. Kraft's old college friend to find the same thing Mags did, though.
I think Mr. K hopes he finds it soon. The entire environment has gotten tense, as everybody knows that Carter and I broke up, and that I was very angry. He's just gotten mean over the past few days, and while most of the folks in the think he's out of line, there are one or two who think I'm the bitch. But, as Kate points out, you can't discipline someone just because they broke up with one of the programmers or the receptionist. As much as Mr. K may be disgusted with Carter's conduct the past couple of days, it doesn't quite cross the line into harassment yet. If that cologne is the psychoactive substance I say it is, though, not only does he get to fire Carter, but there's a very real possibility that the company would support me in a civil suit. And if it turns out that the stuff is connected to one of BioSoft's clients, he'll be in real trouble.
There's more, but I've got to go, since the phone's ringing.
Sunday, April 11, 2004
Not over until the end
So, what do you do with the weekend after the week where your entire life gets turned upside down?
Me, I took a bus out of town. Went up to Portsmouth, NH, and just walked around Saturday. It wasn't that exciting because that coastal area doesn't really open up until Memorial Day, but the quiet was kind of nice (and the off-season prices at the hotel weren't bad either). I suppose there are more productive ways to spend the time, but it was the weekend, and I didn't want to be productive. I just wanted to go to a place where nobody knew me, or knew Michelle, or Martin, or anybody. Where I didn't have to wonder if things were other than as they seemed. I should have gone farther, but I worried about getting back to work tomorrow. Besides, everyone else I know besides Carter has a family, and would be spending the holiday elsewhere. If I'm going to be by myself, it'll be on my own terms.
I got back at about four this afternoon feeling refreshed, and saw I had two messages on the machine. One was from Carter, trying to explain. Saying that it had been going so well, and then I'd started pulling away, and he had gotten desperate. He was really sorry, and saw that what he'd done was wrong, but that we had to be together. I supposed he couldn't know that I'd been a guy in his position before, and that I was therefore in a good position to know that getting a custom pheremone formulation to make the girl love you is not effing normal. It was creepy as hell. I'm bringing it in to work tomorrow, to give Mr. Kraft a listen. I suppose I'll have to tell him what Carter did if he asks, but this is a threat to my safety. But I guess I set this in motion when I decided to take the bottle and get rid of Carter rather than play along. Or, rather, keep playing along. I suppose the smart thing to do would be to keep studying the situtation until I could move with confidence. Now, Carter and anyone who's in league with him have some idea of how much I know and that I won't be entirely content to just keep pretending like I'm a normal girl content in her life.
And there's gotta be folks in league with him. The second call was from Maggie, this morning, saying she'd been thinking about my situation and had a couple questions. I was a little shaken up by Carter's message, so I decided to drop in on her.
Her roommate answered the door, I pretended I didn't know him, and he called to Mags. She was surprised to see me. "How'd you know where I live...oh."
"Yeah. Welcome to the weirdness that is my secret life."
She'd been watching the game, so we got settled in her living room. She told me I should have hit on Glen, for form's sake. I reminded her that Mike was gay, she reminded me that women never realize that until someone tells them. Then she asks if I think he's cute. I point out, again, that he's gay, and she says just from a physical standpoint. I say that I guess he's a decent-looking guy, but she'd understand if I was kind of down on the whole trusting men deal, what with Kurt having had a second girlfriend and Carter drugging me and one of the guys I nearly slept with during my wild period being HIV-positive.
Then she's all shocked that I had a wild period. I say, hey, the brain is wired to enjoy sex, I had a fairly male attitude toward casual sex, and was looking to avoid attachment. She basically avoids thinking about that and just says it's ironic, because Glen sort of had a crush on me, or rather, she said, on Martin, but it's close enough that it would be really funny if I liked him. I laugh politely, but it's a weird thing to think of. He's a good guy, really, and I never really thought of myself as homophobic, but the thought that he was thinking of me that way is kind of unsettling, even if I knew he would never act on it. And now, I don't know, if I were to date again I'd want it to be someone like Glen, except straight. Not that that's happening soon.
Maggie senses we're in weird territory, so she asks me if I know anything about how the "love potion" was made. I mention that BioSoft works with several firms which might be doing research in a similar area, and Carter might have his own contacts. She knows that, of course - BioSoft was a bidder on a system for her firm, a couple months back - but she asks where they got my cells to work with. I said I figured Carter could have given them hairs or something, but she says she doesn't think that would be enough. She reminds me that hair follicles are actually part of the human excretory system, used to push certain waste products out of the body. Hair's not living tissue, and wouldn't be sufficient to test for a reaction. Sure, there's follicles at the end, but unless the cells were preserved quickly, they'd be dead and pretty useless for research. It seemed unlikely he could do that without me noticing it.
But what, I asked her, about cell cultures like the ones she took from me? She said, yeah, that would do it, but it was unlikely he could swab a bunch out of my cheek without me noticing. We figured it would have had to have happened before this became my body, that the cultures would have been taken from the original Michelle, or possibly from the person who had this body between her and me. Maggie figured it could very well have taken six months to create a formula that would react properly with my cells, and I pointed out that even so, they'd only know it reacted to my cells - not how it would affect my entire system. They probably created several, one of which made me nauseous, maybe a couple which didn't do anything I'd notice, and the one that made me goofy.
(It was at this point David Ortiz hit a walk-off homer and we realized that we'd been so engrossed in this subject that we had completely ignored an exciting, extra-inning baseball game. Pretty uncharacteristic for both of us)
Anyway, we went out to find a place that was open on Easter - harder than you might think; we do seem to love our church in this city - and discussed a plan of attack. Maggie knows folks in the biochem industry, so she'd try to find people working on something similar. I'd try to get Carter to talk. She figures if I go to Mr. K with the tape from my answering machine and a sample of the stuff for him to get analyzed in any lab he trusts, he might be able to put pressure on Carter. If he's in on it... Well, we'd probably find that out, at least. I probably wouldn't be in any immediate danger if I did it during work hours.
So, we've got a plan. Probably won't bear any fruit for a couple of weeks, but it feels good to be on the attack.