My throat tightened. “Please tell me you’re kidding.”
“Mara, it’s a guy in a Patriots cap.”
I studied the screen again. The camera angle only captured the top of Jude’s head. Which was covered by the Patriots cap he always wore. Which was pulled down low, shading his eyes.
You couldn’t see his face at all.
“But I heard his voice,” I said. Pleaded, really. My brother opened his mouth to say something, but I cut him off. “No, listen.” I took a deep breath. Tried to calm down, to be less shrill. “I heard him—he asked that officer something and the officer answered him back. It was his voice. And I saw his face.” I stared at the screen, squinting as I continued to speak. “You can’t see it so well on the tape, maybe, but it’s him. It’s him.”
Daniel looked at me for a few silent seconds before he finally spoke. When he did, his voice was distressingly soft. “Mara, it can’t be him.”
My mind rushed through the facts, the ones I knew, the ones I was sure of. “Why not? They couldn’t get to his body to bury it, right?” The building was too unstable, I remembered, and it was too dangerous. “They couldn’t get to him,” I said again.
Daniel pointed at the screen, at Jude’s hands. My eyes followed his finger. “See his hands?”
“Jude wouldn’t have any. His hands were all they found.”
HIS WORDS DRAINED THE BLOOD FROM MY FACE.
“They didn’t find complete remains for any of the—for Rachel, Claire, or Jude. But they did find—they found his hands, Mara. They buried them.” He swallowed like it was painful for him, then pointed at the video screen. “This guy? Two hands.” Daniel’s voice was gentle and sad and desperate but his words refused to make sense. “I know you’re freaked out about what’s been happening. I know. And Dad—we’re all worried about Dad. But that isn’t Jude, Mara. It’s not him.”
It would have been a relief to believe that I was that crazy, to swallow that lie and their pills and shake off the guilt that had hounded me since I finally remembered what I was capable of.
But I tried that before. It didn’t work.
I took a deep, shuddering breath. “I’m not crazy.”
Daniel closed his eyes, and when he opened them again, his expression was . . . decided. “I’m not supposed to tell you this—”
“Tell me what?”
“The psychologists are calling it a perceptual distortion,” my older brother said. “A delusion, basically. That—that Jude’s alive, that you have the power to collapse buildings and kill people—they’re saying you’re losing the ability to rationally evaluate reality.”
“They’re throwing around words like ‘psychotic’ and ‘schizotypal,’ Mara.”
I ordered myself not to cry.
“Mom is hoping that, worst case scenario, this is maybe something called Brief Psychotic Disorder brought on by the PTSD and the shooting and all of the trauma—but from what I think I’m hearing, the main differences between that, schizophrenia, and a bunch of other disorders in between is basically duration.” He swallowed hard. “Meaning, the longer the delusions last, the worse the prognosis.”
I clenched my teeth and forced myself to stay quiet while my brother continued to speak.
“That’s why Mom thinks you should stay here for a while so they can adjust your meds. Then they can move you to a place, a residential treatment facility—”
“No,” I said. As badly as I had wanted to leave my family to keep them safe before, I knew now I needed to stay with them. I could not be locked up while Jude was free.
“It’s like a boarding school,” he went on, “except there’s a gourmet chef and Zen gardens and art therapy—just to take a break.”
“We’re not talking about Fiji, Daniel. She wants to send me to a mental hospital. A mental hospital!”
“It isn’t a mental hospital, it’s a residential—”
“Treatment facility, yeah,” I said, just as the tears began to well. I blinked them back furiously. “So you’re on their side?”
“I’m on your side. And it’s just for a little while, so they can teach you to cope. You’ve been through—there’s no way I could deal with school and what you’ve been through.”
I tried to swallow back the sourness in my throat. “What does Dad say?” I managed to ask.
“He feels like part of this is his fault,” he said.
The wrongness of that idea sliced me open.
“That he shouldn’t have taken on the case,” my brother went on. “He trusts Mom.”
“Daniel,” I pleaded. “I swear, I swear I’m telling the truth.”
“That’s part of it,” he said, and his voice nearly cracked. “That you believe it. Hallucinations—that fits with the PTSD. But you knew when you had them that it was all in your head. Now that you believe it’s real,” Daniel said, his voice tight, “everything you told them yesterday is consistent with—psychosis.” He blinked fiercely and swiped one of his eyes with the back of his hand.
I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. “So that’s it, then.” My voice sounded dead. “Do I even get to go home first?”
“Well, once they admit you they have to keep you for seventy-two hours, and then they reevaluate you before they make a final recommendation to Mom and Dad. So I guess that’ll happen tomorrow?”
“Wait—just seventy-two hours?” And another evaluation . . .
“Well, yeah, but they’re pushing for longer.”
But right now, it was temporary. Not permanent. Not yet.
If I could persuade them that I didn’t believe Jude was alive—that I didn’t believe I killed Rachel and Claire and the others—that none of this was real, that it was all in my head—if I could lie, and convincingly, then they might think my episode at the police station was temporary. That was what my mother wanted to believe. She just needed a push.
If I played this right, I might get to go home again.
I might get to see Noah again.
An image of him flickered in my mind, his face hard and determined at the courthouse, certain that I wouldn’t do what I did. We hadn’t spoken since.
What if I had changed to him, like he said I would?