This was probably one of the hardest books in the series to write. Why? It deals with suicide. I'm one of those people who sometimes thought that the world would be better off without me and went so far as to plan how I would die. So yes, this one was quite personal for me and there were a couple of times I had to sit back and wander around online so I could keep my head together.
Trust is book 8 of the 13 part series, book 6 of the year, and the second book I wrote during April's Camp NaNo. I finished it on May 2 which brought my April Camp NaNo total to 145,067. My goal had been 70K but then the whole NaNo excitement set in and I went a bit crazy. My cabin didn't win but we wrote 500K in total. It was awesome. Onwards to the details:
Genre: Mystery/Thriller fiction
Word Count: 77,312
Prompt: Being honest: Saw. Originally the killer was supposed to be a psychologist who captured suicidal teens and put them through a Saw-esque test to see if they wanted to live. When I mentioned the name of the psychologist, he informed me that he wasn't the killer. It changed a bunch of things but I like it better.
Main Characters: James Reeves, Mia Liu, Lucy McGregor, Michael Brown, Sable Abella, and our killer.
Minor Characters of Note: Patterson the Chief of Police, David Jones (yeah, he came back), Cade Golding, and Brent Mitchelle.
Summation: Crazy person kidnaps teens and puts them in a sort of trust game, hence the title.
High Points: Lucy finally getting her cat. She was supposed to have had one for the whole series but it didn't happen until this book. I'm not sure why but it worked out.
Low Points: The entire freaking novel because of subject matter.
The World: Ours.
"It's a trust game, right? I mean that's all life is too: a big trust game. You have to trust the people around you to help you when they say they will and all that. So, this is like life. You either trust that I'll be back before you like, starve to death or dehydrate or well, you don't." Killer to his first batch of victims.
"You do know that sometimes this shit happens and the people wanted to disappear, right?" Brown asked.
"I know but I don't think this will be like that." James said.
Brown looked at him and scowled. Boss had a feeling this wasn't going to be a normal missing person's case. The last time that had happened they had lost their person in Cynthia Fucking Myers.
"Yeah?" Brown questioned.
"Yes. This is different. I'm not sure how but it's not a case of three teens simply running away together." James answered.
Yep. They were fucked. Brown wouldn't be getting any sleep for at least two more days unless the rest of the team couldn't make sense of what he had. But this was his team. They would figure out what was different almost as fast as his system could pull all the information.
"I have every text you've ever sent in your entire life. Think about that for a minute." (This is why Brown is called Dragon-God)
"I'm not being replaced by Lucy, am I?" Mia asked.
"I don't think she can take down unsubs or kick in doors like you can. You think of things differently than her and I. We're logical, sometimes too logical, where you're more, well, not emotional but you see things like a human being. We don't sometimes. We need you." James said. (Foreshadowing...woah...)
"What if the perp knows they're suicidal and hates that?" Mia asked. (And the prize goes to Mia! Self doubting can take a hike.)
Brown wished he could keep his big mouth shut. It would keep him out of a lot of problems. He couldn't. That just wasn't in his coding.
"Do you really need to find him?" Brown asked (Lucy about her father).
That was the one thing he couldn't understand. Finding Chang wouldn't change who she was as a person. It would give her a full identity but it wouldn't change how she'd been raised or what choices she'd made up to this point. It probably wouldn't even effect what choices she'd make in the future. Hell, it could make everything worse, especially if Chang didn't accept her or believe her.
"Yes." Lucy replied.
Brown wondered if he could re-code his brain so he knew when to stay quiet and accept things. That wouldn't happen until he could figure out how to upload his brain onto the net. That might take a few more decades.
"Why?" Brown enquired.
He could feel McGregor's stare on him and turned. It was McGregor. She was glaring and scowling. That was always a bad combination.
"I just need to." McGregor said.
She was switching more than she had before her mom died. Brown knew it was because Lucy, the weaker half was still dealing with the death and couldn't handle complicated conversations that dealt with emotions yet. McGregor, the unemotional and stronger one could. So whenever something big went down that would fuck up Lucy emotionally, McGregor jumped in like some kind of alternate personality super-villain. It was weird.
"Would finding him really make a difference?" Brown asked.
He watches at Lucy and McGregor struggled. It was strange to see because it only happened in her eyes. They flicked back and forth from wanting to cry and wanting to make his head explode. Brown wondered if there was any mental illness in her family history but it wouldn't cropped up by now. Maybe McGregor existed because of stress. That made sense.
"It would to me." She said.
Brown wasn't sure who she was now. He didn't want to think about that for too long because that would fuck his head up. Whoever she was kept her stare on him and Brown sighed. He ran a hand through his hair and met the imposing stare.
"Fine. I'll do my best, okay?"
Dealing with McGregor all the time was like running through a maze full of mines blind. You never knew what to say or when or if saying the wrong thing would set her off. (He then leaves the office WILLINGLY to go home to sleep. He was always dragged out before.)
"Morning." Samson greeted.
"Still looks like night to me but I'll take it." McGregor said.
"No signs of struggle but he was chained down by the right ankle with his boot on. Like I said before: he drank the bleach." McGregor said. (Literally, drank bleach. Yes, this is why this one was difficult to write.)
"So it's the second type of perp? The one that wants to help them? How is this helping them?"
(This is the scene that makes Sable stick around: )
"McGregor?" Sable asked.
"Yeah?" McGregor returned.
"You stopped recording." Sable said.
"Yep." McGregor said.
"Um, why?" Sable questioned.
"I'm taking a breather." McGregor said.
It was almost six in the morning. Her head was throbbing because of the smell of bleach and the thought that Adam Muller had given up. She couldn't get over that fact because she had been him at one point. She had been a loner, a freak, made fun of, and thought that she was worthless. At least he had friends. McGregor never had a friend until James, Mia, Michael and now Sable.
"I, um, well; I didn't think any part of this job would affect you." Sable said.
"When the job stops affecting you then you have to worry. You'll get nightmares. You'll see the dead in your dreams and sometimes you'll wake up and smell death, burned skin, bleach, or chemicals in general. Sometimes you'll dream that you're performing an autopsy on yourself. You'll start to look at people differently, wondering what's under their skin, literally. You won't flinch at gory scenes in horror moves and you'll start pointing out inaccuracies. And sometimes, like now, a case will hit close to home in ways you didn't expect. Other times the torture, the pain, and the dead will be so horrific that you can't afford to think of the body on the table as a human or you'll just want to sit in a corner and cry. You've only been at this a year. You haven't seen anything yet and working with me, well, it's not going to make anything easier.
"I've seen people have their faces torn away, be thrown into dryers, get burned at the stake, and get tortured so badly that not even dental records could be used to identify them. That's only been in the past three years.
"This kid might not be as marked up but I could relate to him. I was him in High School. Sometimes it's better to deal with the burned and the tortured than cutting up someone who you could relate to." McGregor said.
"So why do you still do it?" Sable asked.
"In the end I'm helping people. I'm giving families closure and I'm making sure that the people who are sick enough to do this are put in a place where they can't do it again. I'm weeding through all this shit so the world's a cleaner place."
"I seriously considered Michael not being in his office." McGregor said. (She'd tried calling him to no response, yes this is right after he left.)
"Where did he go? I didn't think he left the office." Sable said.
"He doesn't, not willingly. There was one time when Mia and James had to physically drag him away so he could sleep. Heck, we still have to bodily drag him away for birthdays and he doesn't leave for holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving. This is beyond weird." McGregor said.
"Okay. Are we the only survivors in some kind of end of the world thing?" James questioned.
(Not in this story. Funny how that's the first thing they all think of when Michael leaves the office. :P )
"Um, I hate waking you but we need you to hack into a laptop and look up some things for Lucy." James said.
Michael made some kind of unholy noise from under the sheets and James almost took a step back. He remembered this was Michael. Michael wouldn't physically hurt him.
"I'm on strike." Michael said.
"You're not part of a union." James told him.
"Ha." Michael said.
James waited but Michael didn't move. When James was about to shake him, Michael flipped the sheet down and sat up. James stood then yelped when Michael thwacked him with a pillow.
"That kind of hurt." James said.
"Sorry, not sorry." Michael said.
"I slept." Michael announced.
He looked proud of it. Hell, James was proud of him for leaving the office and sleeping.
"I know. I'm happy for you and still a little freaked out that you left the office to sleep in the first place." James said.
"I'll find him in the phonebook." James said.
"Do you mean Michael?" McGregor asked.
"I mean the actual phonebook. Michael's busy with other things and I'd rather not distract him with something so simple. Besides, the day I need Michael to look up a listed phone number is the day I should seriously consider retiring." James said.
Jameson was a large, intimidating, African-American while Miller was a small Asian man. It reminded Sable of a movie but she couldn't remember the name of it.
"Well we got Rush Hour this time." McGregor said.
"Huh?" Sable asked.
"Rush Hour: Jameson and Miller. You know the movie with Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker?" (Hehe)
"He's meeting them online through some kind of game or internet forum." James said.
"Okay, great, but why didn't Brown see that?" McGregor asked.
"Brown missed it because three good friends being a part of the same online group wouldn't look strange." James said.
"I hope you never have to. I'm not supposed to be bring my daughter. I'm meant to be guarding her from guys until she finds the right one then walk her down the aisle. I'm expected to be excited when she gets pregnant then hold my grandchild in my arms. I'm supposed to be giving her advice on how to deal with the terrible twos and other little things. She was to bury me when her kids were in their double digits and I'd lived a life seeing her grow into the beautiful, smart woman she had the potential to be. I'll never get that. Some monster took that away from me and I'll never forgive him."
McGregor wasn't just the part Lucy used to separate herself from her work like the other people in forensics or the detectives like Boss and Bossette did. McGregor wasn't a calmer more collected Lucy. No, McGregor was a shield, a weapon to use so Lucy didn't take the final plunge and end up sitting in a bathtub of her own blood.
Without that mental break, or whatever the fuck it had been, Lucy McGregor wouldn't be here right now. The snapping of her brain and the creation of McGregor had saved Lucy's life. It was horrifying and sad at the same time. Brown wanted to know what had caused the snap, what had caused McGregor to be born. It might help them understand both McGregor and Lucy a little bit more.
"You're getting help?" Lucy asked.
"Well, no, not for the variety of mental problems I probably have..." Brown said. (and we take a moment to remember who he's saying this to.)
"Is it sad that I think she reminds me of me?" McGregor asked.
"One of you is enough. We don't need two." Miller said. (Well technically...)
"Are you all right now?" James questioned.
"Yes, well, mostly." McGregor replied.
"Is Lucy all right?" James asked.
McGregor stared at him and he stared right back. He knew. Of course he knew. He was James Reeves, Doctor James Reeves and Criminal Physiologist. One woman with a bit of multiple personality disorder wouldn't throw him for a loop.
"Lucy's fine. You know, you're the first person to notice that." McGregor said.
(Tells her story)
"I've felt the same as you." James said.
McGregor swallowed hard to get rid of the tears but it didn't work. James was there to hold her when she fell into his arms and started sobbing. It had been the song lyrics. James probably didn't even know that his last sentence was tattooed on her back and had been one of the few things that helped Lucy get through the first year of High School.
"Good job, you broke McGregor." Mia said.
Michael was seriously considering leaving his office without being forced. James wanted to check the weather in Michigan and the Grand Cayman's to see if both Hells had frozen over.
"Where do you put it all?" Sable asked.
"In my belly." Michael told her.
"Well you must have two bellies." Sable said.
"Maybe but you ain't cutting me up to find out." Michael said.
"Aw, but it'd be fun. Besides, we know how to put you back together." Lucy added.
"Funny but it's still a no. I like my skin all in one piece, ya know?" Michael said.
"Fine, be that way. We could have made a scientific discovery and been famous." Sable said.
"Hm, fame brings fortune and chicks but if I'm normal anyway then it was for nothing. I'll think about it." Michael said.
"Gotcha you sonofabitch. No one escapes the Dragon-God."
On Lucy making 12 dozen (YES, 12 DOZEN) cookies:
"I didn't say anything. You kind of learn to take the quirks as they come because over-thinking them just hurts the brain." Abella said.
"What would the name DrKiller signify?" James asked.
"That he was in the medical profession and made some mistakes." Lucy answered.
He was about to tell her that he was being serious but so was she.
"Or it's just a name he pulled out of his ass to fit in with the forum. I asked Michael what Drag0n meant one time and he said that "dragons are cool and 0 usually means the beginning or end of all" so, yeah." Mia said.
"One of his online friends is named Karma. She's a 19 year old Russian punk Goth girl with a huge dragon tattoo on her entire back. Actually, that's kind of how I would picture a human manifestation of Karma." Lucy said.
"David wouldn't mind coming out." James said (as in running with him but it's too late.)
"David as in David Jones? I think he's all ready come out, but you know." Lucy said.
Baking did something to her brain, James was sure of it. She hadn't joked this much since before everything happened with Anne and her mother.
"Don't eat all the cookies and get crumbs all over my map while I'm gone." James said.
"We make no promises." Lucy said.
"Now if we could combine you three into one person." Sable said.
"That would bring forth havoc on the world unseen in all of history..." McGregor said.
(about to go out in the rain):
"I'm made of spice and rock n' roll so I won't melt in the rain." McGregor told him.
"I thought you wouldn't melt?" James questioned.
"There's a point where even spice and rock n' roll gets a bit rusty." McGregor told him.
"There are two kinds of people in the world: the ones who can power through the suicidal thoughts and the ones who can't. You're obviously one of the formers. So am I. Those kids weren't. Why do you think that is?" McGregor asked.
"I realized that if I took those pills then they won. All the taunts, the beating, the rape, all of it would have made them right. It would have made me another statistic. I didn't want to be a statistic anymore. I was, no, I am better than them."
"The fun part is figuring out what you're meant to do."