Credence Foundation
Author:Marco Guarda

Chapter Seventeen

Time was up.

The three days Firrell had given Trumaine to find the crawler were gone, with the only result that the Hibiscus was still astray and Jarva’s murderer was on the loose.

Things couldn’t be worse.

Trumaine stood by the gallery parapet, looking down at the sea of believers floating in front of him, aware that the murderer was there, in that same moment; fast asleep, dreaming jeering dreams about the clueless detectives of the world.

Trumaine couldn’t stop thinking that Benedict could be wrong and that he could have used more profitably the time he had spent in the chamber.

He had considered all possible clues and leads: they paved a highway that brought unfailingly back to Credence. Unfortunately for him, the roadway stopped before the gate guarded by the mousy guard with his ridiculous bellhop cap.

Who was the believer whose mind was so developed to make him a telepath? Who had convinced a great enough number of believers into believing that the murderer was going to be in the bunker first, and then that he wasn’t there anymore, to the point that it had really happened? Why was Jarva studying telepathy?

Trumaine racked his brain for some bit of information he might have overlooked, anything that could help him get closer to the crawler, but he didn’t find anything—he had failed.

What was going to happen now? Was the TSA really going to shut down Credence forever, knowing that so many people depended on its services? Was Trumaine’s failure really going to be the end of Credence?

He glanced into the distance, at the choice believers floating in formation, looking for the Hibiscus, then he turned his head to his right.

That day, a person he knew very well had been granted access to the gallery. It was a stubborn man who, once assigned a case, wouldn’t let go until a solution was found. A satisfactory solution had always been found since he had been in charge—except in this case.

Firrell kept looking into the chamber, from time to time shaking his head in disappointment.

“Nothing,” he said, without taking his eyes off the floating couches. “We have nothing and we have run out of time.”

He turned, and his face was sad and tired. “I must report to the Feds. I’m sorry, Chris, time’s up.”

“Look at them,” said Trumaine, “They’re sleeping like babies. The bastard is floating in front of my eyes, right now, but I just can’t get him.”

He clutched the parapet so hard his knuckles went white.

“It’s over. I’m sure you could have used that citizenship.”

Firrell peered into Trumaine’s eyes for a moment. It was all there: the regret, the crushed hope, the pitying for an old friend, the shame for not being able to find the murderer through Trumaine.

Firrell always thought that even if the Feds had given up on the case, that didn’t mean a darned thing; it didn’t mean that the case was impossible, it didn’t mean they were supposed to fail. He had taken it on and it was his duty to find and bring the killer to justice. Firrell felt the responsibility of the failure weigh on him like a boulder, squashing him.

He shook his head disconsolately.

“See you at the central.”

He shuffled away, until he was lost in the stream of the believers turning over.

“Damn crawler!”

The Feds had set him up real swell, thought Trumaine. With the promise of a first-class Aquarian citizenship they had lured him like a school of mackerel and now he was trapped.

For the umpteenth time, he went over in his mind what had happened in those three days.

According to Benedict, the telepath had all that time at his disposal to come visit him. Except for the dolphin, Trumaine had only dreamed about four characters. He was sure that the crawler couldn’t be Maia, because what she did and what she told him rang too fresh and immediate to come from anyone else but from her.

The crawler couldn’t be Starshanna, either. Not one single word, not a move of her, not even one hair in her eyebrows had moved differently from how it should have.

If the telepath hadn’t assumed their identities, who was left?

He had dreamed of the Aquarian nurse, what about her? She wasn’t exactly a real character; she had been given just a supporting role, so to speak. She never said much and, after Maia had born, he had never ever dreamed about her. How could she be the telepath?

That left the Aquarian clerk. Trumaine was sure that if the telepath had come to visit him in the feed, he must have taken the shape of the spiteful clerk. He had suspected him from the very first time he had dreamed about him. What if he was the character the crawler had chosen to impersonate?

He recalled the words of the Aquarian clerk, played them over and over with the voice of his mind, trying to find out some hidden clue in what the clerk had said in the feed that could reveal who he was in the real world ... Once again, Trumaine didn’t find anything.

Exhaling in a long sigh, he stepped over to a nearby electronic spyglass. Benedict had it installed for him the day before, after he had been at Faith’s for the first time. Benedict had told him it was a broadly shared psychoanalytic belief; looking at people’s faces could help recall details about them we don’t consciously remember. Trumaine had scoffed at that, but now that he had nothing to lose, he bent over and looked into it.

The lens focused on every single face of the believers floating in the chamber. One by one, it peeked at them all, as if it could single out the telepath from his features alone. The lens kept sweeping left and right, low and high, until it came to rest on the couch where Faith was lying:

She looked beautiful and at peace, lost in a dream Trumaine would never be part of ...

As he studied her, he realized how much she reminded him of Starshanna. Both were sparkling with life, each crazy in their own, special way; both proud, unyielding to any compromise that would have lessened them—

All of a sudden, Trumaine found himself lost in the stream of past and recent memories about Faith and Starshanna ...

He was back to the living room of the beach house, the first time he had shown it to Starshanna.

The house was silent, except for the moans of pleasure coming from behind the sofa.

A sweaty and flushed Starshanna rolled away from Trumaine.

“They offered me the job,” she said, still panting.

“That’s great. You don’t get that kind of offer every day. Did you accept?”

“I don’t know, Aquaria isn’t exactly around the corner ...”

“But you’re dying to go.”

“It will be the chance of a lifetime ...”

“Then what are you waiting for? Go grab it, before they think again and give the job to someone who doesn’t give a damn about what he’s doing.”

“Are you okay with that, Tru? I’ll be away most of the time. We’ll be seeing each other far, far less—we’ll be together only on the holidays ...”

“I’ll get a first-class Aquarian citizenship,” promised Trumaine. “And then I’ll be with you all the time.”

“Come here, you,” said Starshanna, straddling him. She started kissing him, then stopped at once and looked straight in his eyes.

“Life’s a beautiful dream ...” she said.

Another scene emerged from Trumaine’s recent memory. He was in Credence’s canteen, sitting at the table in the corner, the picture of Maia in front of him. Faith was looking at him from the next chair, waiting for him to answer to her last question.

“There’s no point in living in the past,” he said.

“What about meaning?”

“Once your lesson is learned, the past is better left behind, forgotten once and for all.”

“Is that why you keep looking at that picture? To forget her?” asked Faith.

A third scene appeared in front of Trumaine’s eyes.

It was a memory from the night before. It wasn’t anything he had seen or heard in the feed; that scene had been real and it had taken place on the beach in the back of Faith’s house.

They were sitting in the sand. The wind mussed Faith’s hair and she kept sweeping it off her disappointed face: even if she half expected Trumaine to refuse to make love to her, all the same, his rejection had hurt her.

It was only in that moment that Trumaine had realized that his allegiance to Starshanna was stronger than anything else.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized. “It’s just—I’m still in love with Starshanna ...”

“I can understand ...” said Faith with a small voice.

Trumaine scowled. “Ain’t life a bitch ...”

It was in that precise moment that Faith had turned her head and had said the words.

They were the same words a billion people around the universe used in their conversation, every single day, but once Faith had uttered them, they weren’t words anymore, because they had turned into the key to a whole another world—Trumaine’s world.

And the words were:

“Life’s a beautiful dream ...”

Trumaine came to with a jerk, suddenly aware of the simplest thing he and Benedict had overlooked; that the telepath might have approached him in the real life.

“Christ—Faith is the crawler!” he shouted.

At once, he turned on his heels and ran toward the turnstiles, leaving the gallery.

A stunned and disbelieving Benedict typed away on his computer console, looking for Faith’s profile. When Trumaine had told him that he had possibly discovered who the crawler was, Benedict had smiled in delight, but when he had heard who it was, the grin had faded, replaced with doubt.

“You are accusing one of our best believers,” said Benedict. “She has been with us for over seven years now. I wonder if she really is the telepath we’re looking for, Detective—I’d hate to lose her.”

“I’m sure she entered my dreams! I’m sure she took Starshanna’s identity! As I go over in my head the words Faith said when we were on the beach, the way she said them, it’s clear they weren’t her own, but Starshanna’s. And the only place Faith could have heard them was in my dreams! She did enter my dreams, Benedict, it’s true! There actually is a telepath—it’s her, it’s always been her! If only I had realized that sooner ...”

“You must have solid proof to make such accusations, Detective. If she really is the crawler we have been looking for, we will need real evidence to arrest her. With all respect, I don’t think your words will be enough.”

“I’ll get that evidence, even if I have to wring it out of her.”

Trumaine stood, about to leave.

“Where are you going?” asked Benedict.

“Why, to confront her ...”

Trumaine returned to the gallery, looking for Faith, when he realized that her couch was in its cradle and she was nowhere to be seen.

He asked the gallery guard about Faith’s last turn; the guard checked in his computer and told him that Faith had finished half an hour before—if she wasn’t at the canteen, she certainly was at home.

Trumaine combed the canteen, but she wasn’t there, either—she must be at home.

He returned to the parking lot and climbed in his car, but when he tried to start it, nothing happened. He tried once more—nothing. At long last, a feeble message blinked on the dashboard, reading: BATTERY FAILURE - REPLACE BATTERY.

“Damn!” cried Trumaine.

The last thing he needed now was a broken car. He reached out for his cell phone.

“Detective Trumaine, 4415. This is a request for car service.”

As soon as his call had been processed, he shut the phone, crossed his arms angrily and slumped down on the front fender of the unmarked car.

Twenty minutes later, the battery had finally been replaced. Trumaine watched the bulky tow truck the police department garage had sent over as it turned around, loaded with the flat yet cumbersome pack of faulty batteries, passed him again, then drove up the main street, disappearing from view.

He jumped into his car and started it. The vehicle squealed away, finally getting into traffic.

Trumaine drove past the porch of the Goldmars’, under which the Meteor ’55 sat, collecting dust, and parked at the end of Faith’s house’s driveway.

He bounded up to the house and rang the bell. Nobody answered him, so he rang a second time. This time, the lock of the door clicked open.

It was a deserted living room that he set foot in.

Wondering where the hell Faith had gone, he suddenly heard her voice from the bathroom upstairs.

“I’m in the shower!” she shouted. “Why don’t you sit down? Give me one minute, I’ll be right back!”

Trumaine grunted from impatience. Once again, he studied the room. Once again, his attention was drawn to the wicker chest sitting under the ebony African mask.

He approached it, kneeling in front of it.

He reached out his hand, unsure if he should open it ... To hell with good manners, he said to himself—she had lied to him.

He threw the lid.

The chest contained various junk:

A discarded patchwork comforter, a tennis racket, an old pan, framed pictures that hadn’t found a hanging place anywhere on the walls, and a few old-fashioned toys.

It was one of them that left Trumaine flabbergasted; it was a one-half-foot, cast-iron Pinocchio toy doll which sneered nastily from behind the black, curved line it had for a mouth.

He retrieved it, weighted it in his hands—it felt heavy. He looked at the sharp, pointed nose of the toy—it made for a terribly effective spiked club.

He had already seen its twin; it was on the scene of a murder. It was the weapon that killed a famous neuroscientist. The question formed quickly and clearly in Trumaine’s head: why was a perfect copy of the toy that had killed Jarva in Faith’s junk chest?

“Here I am,” said a voice from behind him.

Faith entered the room. Barefooted, she wore a couple of Syntex jeans under a striped sweater and held a towel around her head.

She noticed immediately the doll in Trumaine’s hands.

“You found Grandma’s old toy,” she said cheerfully. “It’s an old thing, but I’ve grown fond of it. I could never get rid of it.”

Trumaine was impressed by the total control Faith had over herself. Even if she knew what he had just discovered—because she was a telepath—all the same she pretended she didn’t know.

Just thinking about the many times she had been like that, lying to him, pretending she was innocent, drove Trumaine mad.

His voice became rough and cold in seconds; it was the merciless, uncompromising growl he reserved for felons.

“What is this!?” he snarled.

Faith was shocked by his manners, but she’d better get used to them, it was all she was getting from him from now on.

“Is it some fetish so deeply rooted in your subconscious that you couldn’t help but replicate it in the parasite feed, when you were planning to kill Jarva?” he asked.

“What are you talking about?”

Faith seemed truly confused—what a class act she could be!

Trumaine stood on his feet and strode up to her with the toy in his hands. He thrust it under her nose.

“Your plan would have worked just fine, if you hadn’t left a copy of this behind,” he hissed.

“I—I don’t understand ...”

Trumaine had never heard her stutter before. Someone should give her a prize, he thought—a slap, also.

“Stop lying to me!” he exploded. “If you’re innocent, if you are no telepath, how did this get in Jarva’s bunker?”

“I—I don’t know ...”

“You don’t know, huh?”

Trumaine got an inch from her, pressing on.

“I’ll tell you, then! Your subconscious put it in there! This thing slipped from your mind! This toy doesn’t belong to Jarva, it belongs to you!”

“I didn’t kill him!” she squealed.

She lowered her hands, forgetting about the towel she was holding—it slid off her head and crumpled to the floor. She stood that way, anguished and flushed, her damp hair falling over her shoulders.

He could’ve kissed her, but he continued instead.

“Benedict was right! You got into my head out of sheer curiosity! Because you couldn’t help it, you had to take a peek at my mind! It was so easy, I was close at hand, why not try? Why not look? What might be hiding in the intricate head of this little, conceited detective who had no business with Credence’s believers and who didn’t have a darned idea about things bigger than him?”

Faith shook her head and her eyes were wide with confusion. Trumaine looked at her hands—they were shaking. He stepped toward her and she backed up against the wall where the hairy African mask hung.

“Isn’t that so?” he asked, chasing her.

“No ...” said Faith in a whisper.



At Faith’s scream, Trumaine’s whole world turned into the cold blade of a knife. Everything he looked at—the African masks on the wall, the Indian runner on the floor, the armchairs, the knickknacks sitting on the corner tables—all slashed back painfully at his mind like a many-bladed weapon.

Trumaine grabbed his head, his face twisted in excruciating pain, and dropped to his knees.

“AAARGH ...!!!” he kept shouting, but he couldn’t hear himself.

Faith moved next to the African mask and both looked down at him for a while, then she stepped forth with a crazed, triumphant gaze, and circled him, never taking her eyes off him.

“You want the truth, Detective Christian Trumaine? I’ll tell you the truth!” she shrieked like a witch.

“You’re right, I was curious. I looked into your mind, that’s true. I’ve seen everything ... I’ve seen the charming, golden-haired Starshanna. I was there with you when poor Maia died and when you tried to revive her. I felt your despair and I felt sorry for her, Tru! I cried with you! I’m so sorry she died, I’m so sorry she died that way. I would do anything to bring her back, but I can’t ... I just can’t ...”

“AAARGH ...!!!” The pain inside Trumaine was searing—Faith’s words tore into him like meat hooks.

She reached out, caressing his jerking head ... and, suddenly, she was Faith again.

“Can’t you understand?” she said softly. “All I did was comfort you ...”

Despite the pain she was sharing because of her powers, she looked truly compassionate and caring. She glanced at him lovingly and tears started to fall from her eyes.

For a brief moment, the pain dimmed in Trumaine’s mind ...

It was the chance he was waiting for. He exploded suddenly, forward and up, driving his head into Faith’s stomach, pushing and slamming her into the next wall, so hard that even the mask had jerked, about to topple off the nail that held it.

Faith let out a squelching sound; winded and wide eyed, she held her belly, her mental hold broken at last.

An aching Trumaine rose to his feet, wiping the dribble from his mouth on the sleeve of his suit.

“I hope I’ve been up to your sexual expectations ...” he said. “You’re under arrest for the murder of Aarmo and Raili Jarva.”

He backhanded her, sending her unconscious to the floor.