1,16 - priya
FBI Casefile 4815/1623-42
Server Access 1011011.11
Agent Priya Mehta ID 432PM31
Supervising Division XIII Liaison: name redacted
Note: Anomalous power surge at Clarksburg data campus storage facility resulting in catastrophic hard drive corruption. Data retrieval 61.72% success. Timestamp sequence of records disrupted, unrestored.
Login Update 2f4xx.
I am six years old. My father lifts me high in the air and turns me and the world spins around us. Now I have stopped crying. He says in Hindi, “Little One, how did you forget that you’re much stronger than me?” This is a game we’ve always played. We pretend I am the most powerful girl ever born: he topples over when I push him, tumbles forward when I pull on his arm—in my grip his fingers are crushed and the look on his face makes me laugh.
We are in the parking lot of the Towne Center Mall in Irving, Texas. I tripped and fell on the way from the Kmart to the minivan. My two older brothers, in the vehicle already, smirking at me, pointing, have made me very angry. My father looks at them sternly and they fall silent. Then he says to me, “Don’t pay attention to those idiots. When you’re President of the United States they’ll both be dishwashers in your Uncle’s terrible restaurant.”
Many years later, I am kneeling in the upturned soil of the vegetable garden my parents keep in their backyard. Spring break in my first year at Yale and I came home to help plant rutabagas. Because there have never been secrets between my father and me, because I have always been as honest with him as he has with me, I started crying the moment he asked me about my boyfriend, who broke up with me a week ago.
I ask my father, “Why Papa-Ji did you raise me to be like this? I can’t get a date because I think I’m better than everyone else. You’ve made me way too confident.”
My father doesn’t laugh or talk down to me or tell me I am young and I’ll figure things out someday. He wipes his forehead with the back of his hand and leaves behind a streak of dirt.
He says, “You do have a problem Priya. You are, in fact, better than everyone else. Perfect SAT scores—scholarship to Yale! You’re meant for special things. That’s why you are the way you are. If the world needs someone to save it, that someone is you.”
I am six years old in the parking lot of the Irving Towne Center Mall. I look down and see that blood from the cut on my knee has dripped down and stained my new white sneakers with spots of blossomed bright red.
Fragment of Login Update 2xd33.
He made contact. I don’t know why he selected this individual. Of course, I don’t know why he makes any of his decisions.
Madero made contact with a girl named Tess Bellamy. The girl seems insignificant to me. She’s a delivery person for an organic grocery and health food store on Beech Boulevard called Green Machine. I spoke with the owner, Mona Wrightson, and obtained information regarding possible extraordinary behavior taking place at the Mayfair Bed & Breakfast. Then I shared this information with Madero. He and I were sitting in a booth at Crazies, the Vegan Diner situated on Beech Boulevard right next to Green Machine.
“What do you think?” I asked him.
I often imagine that Madero is a hole ripped out of the world. Reality, around him, feels ready to shatter—where his edges meet the world there’s an event horizon beyond which all is lost. He will sit for an eternity like a Tibetan monk and I used to think he simply hadn’t heard me or chose not to; but then he will suddenly respond to my last question.
“Division XIII observed a direct engagement here, in Park Heights.”
“What?” I scowled at him, not that it had any effect. “How long have you known this?”
“It’s why we’re here, Priya.”
“You’re taking orders from Division XIII?”
“No, I’m acting on the intelligence they’ve released to me.”
“In return for what.”
Madero said nothing. More of his silent treatment kung fu to endure. I chose to query him again. “You’re sure that it’s him?”
It was the only time I ever saw Madero betray emotion. An almost imperceptible tightening of the wrinkles that radiate outward from the corners of his eyes.
Whenever he spoke about Gabriel Majeaux.
“Yes,” Madero said, “I’m certain. He’s here.”
Login Update Vx34fg.
I didn’t expect to fall in love with Isaac. We laughed about it all the time. It was his hair, I said. Like a black lamb’s soft, dark wool bound in tight round curls. I had no choice: I needed to run my fingers through that beautiful hair, no matter how short he sometimes had to cut it.
And his voice. The strength of it; the tenor. He would read to me, in bed, after we made love, articles from the Washington Post and sometimes poetry, believe it or not—he loved Walt Whitman, he could recite all of “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” from memory.
For I, that was a child, my tongue’s use sleeping, now I have heard you. Now in a moment I know what I am for, I awake.
When he read poetry to me the schoolboy’s earnest expression that came over his handsome face made him intensely irresistible. I would turn toward him in the bed, entwine my legs in his, pull him into me.
Isaac broke protocol to tell me about Division XIII. At first I thought he was joking. A secret war against hidden powers: uh-huh. Then I understood that he’d served his entire career in Intelligence seconded to this other organization. That’s just how it had been for him, right since basic training.
In a certain way, telling me about Division XIII was a culmination of our prohibited relationship. It was a burden, this knowledge, this secret. A weight at the heart of him that only got heavier.
Then he was killed in the line of duty.
I think of his hands. Holding a tumbler of scotch on the rocks. Fingers turning the pages of a book. Pads of the fingers brushing against the skin of my arm. Burst of sunlight through the window.
There’s a pain I feel in my body when I think about him. It must be grief, I don’t know—it’s a distinct, physical, measurable thing inside of me. It has a shape; it has edges and corners. Sometimes I think of it like a puzzle, like something that can be turned and folded. Solved.
Undressing Isaac. His hands twisting my hair. My mouth on his mouth. Then I take my time. I take slow, small bites of the skin of his stomach between my teeth. I work my way down.
Out of the cradle endlessly rocking, Out of the mocking-bird’s throat.
I miss him. I miss him so much. When does this get better? When does it stop?
Login Update R451sT.
Our rooms were at the Evergreen Motel. While checking in, Madero showed his badge to the proprietor, Gary Cooper. This feels like an error. It’s reckless. I don’t understand why Madero would have done this.
“Gary Cooper!” Madero said.
“That’s my name alright,” the proprietor returned.
“I guess Gregory Peck works nights,” Madero joked inanely.
Gary Cooper didn’t even hesitate. “’It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird, I reckon because mockingbirds don’t do anything but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.’”
Madero’s eyes squinted up as he smiled. “Well done.”
“I must have seen that movie a thousand times,” Gary Cooper said.
Madero looked over at me. My face remained impassive. “Aren’t you impressed?” he asked.
“When you take away the lens of white privilege,” I said, “you’re left with yet another fantasy about how amazing white people are when they’re helping people of color with no agency. I must have seen that crap a hundred thousand times.”
Gary Cooper simply said, “Oh my.”
“You’ll have to forgive her,” Madero said. “She forgets that the rest of us aren’t angry all the time.”
Gary Cooper passed a piece of paper across the counter. “Information sheet. Even though you’re secret agents, I still need you to sign on the dotted line.”
“Not sure how ‘secret’ we are,” I said as Madero put on his glasses to have a look at the sheet of paper.
This was when I noticed a stack of these sheets in a TO FILE tray on the counter space next to Gary Cooper’s left elbow: the same pieces of paper filled out by previous guests at the motel. I didn’t think about it. I reach out quickly and snatched the stack out of the tray.
“Hey!” Gary Cooper looked astonished. “I don’t think you’re allowed to do that! Without a warrant. Not even if you’re secret agents.”
“It’s government business,” Madero said. “And the USA thanks you for your service.”
I reacted with a sharp intake of breath. There it was, the third information sheet in the pile. In his own handwriting. His name. We didn’t know why but he always used his real name when an alias would have extended the subterfuge.
“You’re right,” I said, turning to Madero. “Majeaux was here.”
Madero took the paper from me and looked down at the name. He closed his eyes.
Fragment of Login Update 4xd2kl.
If I understand my orders correctly I am to log on to this server with my company laptop and write a daily report on one or both of two subjects. Failure to comply without proper extenuating circumstances will result in reprimands.
Well here I am. Logged on. Writing.
Deputy Director Wallace has ordered me to record in full detail all that takes place in the line of duty including my observations of the mental acuity and stability of Agent Juan Garcia Madero.
Doctor Park has ordered me to record memories, dreams, impressions, feelings. To be considered as part of my pending Psychological Evaluation.
I resent both of these things, deeply.
First of all there’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t need a Psych Eval. Isaac is gone. I did what I did and saw what I saw in Chicago. I’ve moved on. I wish Management would too.
Secondly. I’m not holding Madero’s hand. I’m not Scully to his Mulder. Yes he is beyond unorthodox and yes I believe he should be retired from active duty. I’ve stated all of this before.
I am good at what I do. I am better than that. Diminishing me in this way, turning me into a tattletale watchdog over an unstable partner—this is clearly a misuse of FBI resources.
I can’t stand it.
And that’s my first report.
Pressing Enter now.
Fragment of Login Update 5b3d0oi.
There wasn’t going to be backup. Madero had placed a call to his Division XIII Liaison. No-one had come. We didn’t know that their Triads were responding to another incident only a few blocks away.
Madero finally said, “Your weapon, Agent Mehta.”
I drew my pistol. Then I followed Agent Madero into the building, through the door next to the Chinatown butcher shop, up the stairs.
First floor clear. Second floor, third floor. Empty rooms, empty apartments. Stained linoleum. Spider-webbed cracks in the ceilings.
Fourth floor landing. Hallway. Locked door. Madero flattened against the wall.
Intake of breath.
I kicked the door down, breaking the frame into splinters. Then met Madero’s eyes. He should have been past me already, entering the apartment, but he hadn’t moved. In his eyes: amusement at my frustration. I swung around, pistol raised, going first through the door.
“And there you are.”
An old man was seated at a small, white plastic table, facing us. His bald head was mottled with brown spots; wire-frame glasses brokenly canted on the bridge of his hawk-like nose.
“Warlock.” Madero barked the word.
“You may call me Yilmaz.” The old man regarded us calmly. “But I’m not who you want, am I? As for him, you missed him again!” He made a wheezing, coughing sound that I belatedly identified as laughter. “Don’t you realize you’re after a trickster like no other? You’ll have to bring more than guns with you to catch that one.”
“We’ll find him,” Madero said. “It’s inevitable.”
“And what will you say to him when you meet him?” The old man was talking but I saw his hands twitch. “Or will you just shoot him?” I saw light moving in the palms of his hands. “And you, my dear,” he said, turning to me, “you don’t even know the stakes of the game you’re playing, and when you….”
I discharged my weapon. The bullet entered the old man’s left cheekbone and exited the back of his head at a deflected angle, shattering the the window behind him. His body slumped back in the chair and blood poured out from his face.
“We’ll just shoot him,” I said.
And that’s when Madero received a call from Division XIII.
We ran the three Chicago city blocks from the Warlock’s apartment to the diner where several Triads had come into engagement with hostile opposition.
As we approached the scene I saw the body of a man punched through the side of the diner, flung into the street. And I saw, through the hole that had been made, the thing that was inside the diner.
The demon. Its distended, inhuman arms flexing, human blood dripping from the raking predator’s claws.
I saw Majeaux next to it, moving closer.
Then they vanished.
Login Update Vc2g14.
Growing up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I was a big city girl through and through with little experience of country life, except for two weeks every summer. My brothers and I were sent to the country to Cowboy Camp, or so we called it—I don’t remember its real name. This was a ranch in the West Texas hills where preteens were taught grooming and riding, outdoor camping and backpacking skills. Why we were made to go this camp is something I still don’t fully understand. I think my parents chose it because it was one of the only summer programs around unaffiliated with Christianity. And clearly they wanted us out of the house for those two weeks.
I will write about something that took place at this camp. I was fourteen years old.
It is late in the afternoon, hot as only Texas is hot. I am in the far field on my own. I have been sent to bring in one of the horses. Her name is Applejack. Another girl was supposed to be with me but she’s disappeared from my side because she had a secret rendezvous with one of the boys, down by the creek. That kind of thing never happens to me, not ever: at this age I am graceless and weirdly quiet and left alone by boys.
And so I am on my own. I move slowly, with difficulty, stepping through the tall, dry yellow grass. I can see the line of pecan trees that marks the edge of the property, drawing closer. Then the grass parts and I come upon the horse, standing apart, out here on its own where the fields have run to little more than hard-baked dirt, far from the stables. As I approach I notice movement, a strange seething movement of something across the horse’s legs and flanks and mane and back.
It’s flies. Fat, slow, crawling horseflies massed as thick as a blanket over the body of the animal. Normally a horse shakes its mane, flicks its tail, stamps its hooves to knock flies clear before they descend again: Applejack’s head is low and her body is motionless as the flies swarm over her ceaselessly.
She lifts her head just a little and turns her eyes toward me, the whites showing. The whites of the eyes encircling the pain and the terror of being helpless and having to still be alive.
Login Update Fs9x4xx.
I know there is a secret war against the darkness. I know that Division XIII represents the front line of that war, fielding teams of three operatives, Triads. Isaac told me everything. Warlocks and the demons they summon to protect them. Other things.
Isaac told me it’s a war that’s claimed many lives. Then he went on his last mission and he was killed.
I know that Madero has been searching for this one man, this one Warlock—Gabriel Majeaux—since 1989, since the events of San Francisco that the rest of the world will never know about. He will not speak of it but clearly whatever happened to him at that time has marked his life indelibly.
Madero has never wavered in his pursuit. It is to be admired. I understand that his wife left him soon after San Francisco. Indeed, his wife would have been my age when she filed for divorce. Since then Madero has never made another personal attachment, not one. He has given everything to the FBI and to Division XIII.
And yet something’s happened to him. Something’s changed. He’s not who he was.
When I became his partner I heard countless tall tales and myths about this man, this legendary Agent. All of the impossible things he’s accomplished. So many stories. And he doesn’t live up to them. It’s the opposite. If I didn’t know better I would say that he’s tired, I would say that he makes mistakes on purpose. He is a danger to all of us.
As for me, I know it’s only a matter of time before Division XIII brings me in and makes me one of them. I am certain that even my awareness of their existence is, in itself, a breach, and will be addressed in the future in some manner. However, for now, I’ve been placed with Madero as his partner, and all of our work is with them, with Division XIII. Obviously they know that I know about them.
So they’ll come for me. And they’ll recruit me. The FBI is wasting my potential. And Division XIII: I believe they will use me properly.
Login Update 23T1sd6.
“They’ve re-tasked a satellite,” Madero told me. We were in our vehicle, parked on Mayfair Street, conducting surveillance of the Bed & Breakfast from several blocks away—too far away, as it happened, to obtain conclusive evidence that Majeaux was there or not there. Yet Madero wanted us to keep our distance.
“A satellite,” I repeated, yawning.
“We’ll have full imaging across the spectrum,” he continued. “If he’s in there, we’ll see him.”
I shrugged. “I’m almost more interested in what that girl’s doing at the Bed & Breakfast every day. If Majeaux’s holed-up in there, is she going to meet him? For what purpose?”
“Maybe she works there,” Madero suggested, “as a maid.”
“She’s the daughter of a billionaire so I don’t think she’s cleaning rooms for minimum wage.”
“No, probably not.”
“Do you care to speculate on what’s going on?” I asked him.
Madero took a bite of the stale egg-salad sandwich he had bought at a gas station. “Why don’t you give it a go?”
“I’m not sure, to be honest.” I considered the situation. “At first I took the girl’s coming and going as definite proof that Majeaux is not, in fact, at this location. It doesn’t make sense. But after watching her these few days…. There’s something obsessive about it, isn’t there? And she’s always dressed like she’s going on a date. Whatever’s taking place here, it’s nothing good.”
“Hmmm,” Madero said.
“And if Majeaux is here. If he’s in the B&B. What then?”
Madero looked at me. “Division XIII will take over.”
“Wasn’t one of their Triads already eliminated here in Park Heights? By Majeaux?”
“He’s dangerous and powerful, yes.”
“As dangerous and powerful as the one in Chicago?” I pointed out.
Madero frowned. “Yilmaz allowed you to kill him. He provoked you. It was what he wanted. That’s not going to happen with Majeaux.”
“Don’t you want to take him down yourself?” I asked, incredulous.
Then he was silent again for an ice age. I think I fell asleep.
At last he said, “They’re old, the Warlocks. They’re old and scared and at the end. It makes them deadly, like trapped animals, which is why you and I will keep clear of any and all engagements. And it’s why, despite all the harm they’ve done and the people they’ve killed, I feel sorry for them. I truly do.”
Fragment of Login Update 7gCV4r.
I don’t think anyone is reading this.
Not Deputy Director Wallace, not Doctor Park, not anyone else.
Psych Eval and reportage on Madero: my ass. Those orders were issued and immediately forgotten. That’s what I think.
And yet I’m still writing.
These words don’t even exist, not really. Not on paper anywhere. They’re data on a server no-one will access, stored until the lights go out forever.
Maybe it makes it easier to write, knowing that no-one is reading. I never kept a diary when I was growing up, it seemed like something other girls would do, girls who believed in their own high worth before all else. And now out of nowhere I’m keeping this ridiculous diary, as if I’m an Emo teen who can’t cope. Thanks for that, FBI.
For all I know, the moment I close the lid of the laptop all of the words I wrote are deleted. Count them down to zero as they’re erased.
I turned 32 a few days ago. I called my father. “Little One,” he said in Hindi, “You sound so far away. Come home for a while if you can. You’re going to forget who you are.” He’s right.
I don’t know. If I keep writing this. If I stop writing this. What does it matter.
Indifference is a killer.
Login Update 4dT3kl.
Isaac and I were in basic training together. That’s where we met. The attraction was there, of course, but he had a girlfriend at the time, a beautiful blond girl, an artist named Isabel. I was dating indiscriminately without much purpose to it and I envied Isaac and Isabel, I was jealous of their perfect couplehood. They seemed destined to marry, to breed children as beautiful and talented as they were, to die old and happy in each other’s arms.
Years later, Isaac and I met again by chance in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, at a wine bar. Seated next to me was a grossly overweight businessman: the flabby sides of his stomach were hanging over the stool, touching the outside of my right thigh. He drained his pint of Bud Light in one gulp and slid off the stool to sprint to his departure gate, revealing Isaac, right there in the seat next to him.
“Oh my fucking god it’s Priya Mehta,” was what Isaac said. We hugged and held the embrace for a moment too long. Then we drank. He’s aged, I thought, he’s different, he’s lonely. I liked him even more than I had before.
“I was married to Isabel for three years,” Isaac explained. “Then it fell apart. You know how it is. With this job.”
We drank and we caught up and then, later, we discussed canceling our flights and getting a hotel room. And that was what we did.
I didn’t think I would fall in love with him.
That night, lying in the king-sized hotel bed together after sex, with the sound of speeding vehicles on the nearby freeway a faded echo of the sound of our breathing, we started talking about what we’d experienced in the course of our duties. Inevitably our storytelling turned to the failures. The indecisions and uncertainties that define the worst moments in the lives of officers of the law. The work we had done that became undone in an instant. The people we could not save from themselves.
“I always envied your conviction,” Isaac said.
“I envied your relationship with Isabel,” I admitted.
“And you still have it, that confidence,” he continued undeterred. “You still believe that you’re making a difference, that you’re doing the right thing.”
He took in a deep breath. “I’ve seen a lot of things.”
I didn’t tell him then what I’d never told anyone. What I really believed.
After Isaac had been killed I used up most if not all accrued in-house favors to access the incident report of his death. Finally I received the file in a manila folder slipped under the door of my D.C. apartment. Much of it was redacted because of the special advisory security mandate applied by Division XIII. However I learned what I needed to know.
Kansas City, April 17. Agents Isaac Goldmund and Juan Garcia Madero. Confrontation with Hostile Assailant.
Agent Isaac Goldmund eviscerated with extreme force.
Agent Juan Garcia Madero unharmed.
Agent Madero’s Debrief Statement, extracted from audio recording: “Agent Goldmund entered the basement ahead of me. He was attacked out of the darkness at the bottom of the stairs. It was the xxxxx. <inaudible query> Yes I ordered him to go ahead, to go first down the stairs. <inaudible response> Because I am too valuable to die. It’s very simple. No-one living other than me possesses the body of knowledge required to win this war. To that end, Agent Goldmund served his duty well.”
Arrogance. Recklessness. Indifference. How many agents have been killed because they were Madero’s partner? What kind of price is this to pay for Madero’s failings? This must be stopped.
I blame him. I blame Madero for Isaac.
Deputy Director Wallace, give me the order. Allow me to remove Madero from duty.
There will always be my oath to my country, my badge, and I will never break it, not for anything. That is certain.
Now there’s also what I’ve lost. What I had, with Isaac, and what was taken from me.
So what is it that I really believe? What is it that I’ve never told a soul, not my father, not Isaac—the thing that drives me, the belief that shapes the decisions I make and the actions I choose? It is exactly this: everything, absolutely everything that exists, must be broken and transformed.
I believe the world is evil.
© 2017 by C.D. Miller
1. Father's Game
2. Park Heights Arrival
3. Isaac I
4. "Unappetizing Chorale" by Erik Satie from Sports et Divertissements
5. Logging In
6. Infiltrating Yilmaz
8. Division XIII
11. Isaac II