Credence Foundation
Author:Marco Guarda

Chapter Nineteen



Trumaine had returned to the spaceport hall.

He needed to know more about the death of Raili Jarva. He had never for once doubted that the five-year-old death certificate she had been issued was invalid; that it was, as Diggs said, one of the database inconsistencies that once in a while would jar the system. It has never been an issue, so he didn’t cross-check it. But now that more tiles had clicked together, he wasn’t so sure anymore. What if Raili had really been issued a previous death certificate? What if ... she really died two times?

Trumaine approached the video message booths that lined the spaceport hall, entering one. He swept his ID card in the monitor controller and the screen lit up, activating itself.

“Call for Samuel Diggs,” he said.

After a while, the wide face of the medical examiner appeared on the monitor. From his furrowed and sweaty brow, it looked like he’d been caught in the midst of something. Diggs swept his arm over his forehead, dabbing at it, revealing a gloved hand smeared with dirt, clutching a couple of gardening shears.

“How’re your begonias doing?” asked Trumaine.

“Oh, it’s you, Trumaine. I’ve heard you solved the case, congratulations.”

“I have a question for you.”

“Sure. Shoot.”

“You still remember about the glitch in the system, according to which Raili Jarva had been dead for five years?”

“Of course I remember, what do you want to know?”

“You told me she had been issued a death certificate by mistake. Can you find out who signed the mistaken certificate?”

“I need to check,” said Diggs, again dabbing at his forehead. “Later?”

“It’s important. Can you do it now?”

“All right ... It will take just a moment.”

A blue begonia in a pot swayed briefly in and out of the monitor as Diggs lifted it and moved it out of the way. Then he was gone for a couple of minutes, leaving Trumaine to contemplate a beautiful greenhouse crowded with a hundred different varieties of begonias, orchids and roses ...

A sudden, deafening rumble drew Trumaine’s attention from the screen in front of him to the gigantic, glassed walls of the spaceport beyond.

With an explosion of steam, the purple-silver hull of the Neptune rose, taking off. The majestic spaceship pierced the clouds as it climbed into the sky, shrinking in moments to a bedazzling spot of light, leaving Earth for the depths of space.

Trumaine couldn’t help but swear under his breath.

“Here,” said a voice from the blooming screen.

It wasn’t like Diggs to rush—his face was flushed and sported one more smear of dirt. He had taken off his gloves and now his plump fingers were holding the familiar electronic pad.

He perused it at length.

“It was signed by Adam Peterson, my retired predecessor. Since the issue was invalid, I delete it.”

“What was the cause of death in the former report?”

Again, Diggs consulted his pad.

“Staving-in of the frontal bone of the skull. It’s a frequent injury in head-on car crashes, but it doesn’t say here how it happened ... Why—”

Diggs couldn’t finish, he and his begonias were gone in a second.

Trumaine dialed again.

“Call for Adam Peterson.”

At once, the thumbnails of various Petersons appeared on the screen, along with their professions. With his forefinger, Trumaine stroked the link that said: FORENSICS - RETIRED.

Again, the monitor blinked: CALL SENT.

This time, a huge, spotless-white hall flooded with sunlight appeared—it was the peaceful meditation area of a large spa.

Here and there, mostly old fellows sat on mats, silently focused on using their diaphragm to inhale and exhale. Beyond them, past a full-length window surrounding the hall, about fifty or sixty more wizened men and women could be seen, wearing white sweatsuits. They followed the moves of their instructor, bowing and rising and flexing their arms and extending and folding them back, and then again turning and again bowing, endlessly exercising their frail bodies, looking like reeds bending docilely under a gently blowing breeze ...

That vision of absolute peace and communion had a hypnotic effect on Trumaine. In fact, he almost jumped when the thin, smiling face of Peterson appeared on the screen.

He was possibly over eighty and his lips were slightly curved in the benevolent smile old people often have on their faces.

“Adam Peterson? The Peterson who used to work for the department of police?” asked Trumaine.

The old man nodded his head.

“It’s me,” he said.

“I’m Detective Trumaine, investigating the death of Aarmo Jarva, the scientist. I take you probably heard about it.”

“I have,” said the man in a little voice. “How can I help you, young man?”

“I need you to recall something for me. It happened some time ago—about five years ago, when you signed the death certificate of Jarva’s wife, Raili. Do you remember?”

Trumaine wondered if the old man had heard him, since he stood where he was, as if he had frozen; he didn’t even blink.

Trumaine was about to ask the same question again, when Peterson spoke.

“I’m getting old,” he said. “Very old. I have to cope with the many inconveniences of my age. Amnesia is one of them, I’m afraid. Some will tell you that being able to forget is the greatest blessing—I say it’s a curse.”

Again, he didn’t say anything for a while, then he shook his head.

“I don’t remember the woman, but if you say I have issued the document, it certainly must be so.”

He curled his lips in a little, helpless smile.

“You must remember something. Think again, it was an accident, possibly a car accident. The woman hit her head and died.”

Peterson squinted, trying very hard to come up with the faintest memory. A minute or so went by, when a flash of recognition brightened the depths of his eyes.

“I seem to recall something ... It was a car accident. The car must have skidded off the road, crashing into the Jersey barrier ...”

The flash went off in Peterson’s eyes.

“I remember the accident—I’m afraid I can’t remember the woman.”

“It can’t be gone!” growled Trumaine.

“I’m sorry, I’d really like to help you, young man, but amnesia is getting the best of my brain ...”

Peterson shifted uncomfortably on his feet, as if standing tired him.

“Please, try again,” pleaded Trumaine. “An innocent might have been charged unjustly for murdering the Jarvas—that one memory of yours could save her!”

Again, Peterson shook his head cluelessly and shrugged then, after a moment, he simply asked:

“Why don’t you ask Benedict? I’m sure he remembers ...”

It came out from him like that, without racking his brain, without thinking. As if the memories inside him weren’t really gone, but locked away in a cracked crate, and all he could glimpse were only bits of them, as disjointed fragments.

Trumaine’s eyes went wide at hearing this.

“You mean Benedict? Noah Benedict? Credence’s supervisor? What has he got to do with all this?”

Peterson frowned, then pouted. He leaned his head to the side like a short-circuited automaton.

“Didn’t he arrive first on the accident scene?”

“Benedict was there and he saw the accident? Do you mean he actually saw Raili dead or dying? Did you see them both on the accident scene? Is this what you’re telling me?” Trumaine asked frantically. “If you have seen both of them, how come you remember Benedict but you can’t remember Raili Jarva?”

But the glint in Peterson’s eyes was gone. The crack that had opened briefly inside him, leaking that one bit of information, had sealed again. The good-hearted smile returned on his face and he was again the old, likable man with amnesia.

“There’s a lot of interesting questions, young man,” he said. “I’m afraid I haven’t got the answers ...”

Trumaine bolted from the spaceport entrance, unaware that his baggage was in the belly of the Neptune and that she was flying well past twenty-five thousand miles per hour toward the rendezvous point where Credence’s believers would have picked her up and, without the tiniest jerk, delivered her safely to another point in the universe, in a galaxy so far removed even the most powerful telescope could barely glimpse.

He motioned for a taxi; one promptly swooped down from the parking area and wheeled alongside the curb, stopping right in front of him.

Trumaine jumped in, sitting in the back.

“Where to?” asked the driver.

“To the civic prison, quickly!”

The taxi peeled away, drove back toward the spaceport exit and was lost in the traffic in less than a minute.

The civic prison was a modern, translucent prism of glass. Its polished walls were coated with thin layers of liquid crystals which, when the feeblest electric field would run through them, would align with each other, behaving like the slats in a venetian blind.

By increasing or decreasing the strength of the field, the slats would rotate, intercepting the sunlight and delivering just the right amount of light that was required in the various environments, shutting the blinds at noon and letting them open in the early morning or when the sky was overcast. Light sensors automatically changed the angle of the blinds during the day, so that every room in the building would receive the same amount of light throughout all day.

When the sun was gone and the evening fell, the reverse would happen, and the prison would turn into a shiny finger of light.

The civic prison wasn’t like that just for the fancy of the architect who had designed it; it was meant to be both incitement and warning for all, civilians and inmates. For the criminals, to see from within what they had lost—the freedom and the right of the righteous man. For the righteous man to look at from without—to see what was in store for him and anyone who dared to challenge the law.

The taxi stopped in front of the polished steps of the prison entrance.

Trumaine slid his credit card in the slot embedded in the rear seat, then, with a nod to the driver, he left.

The driver glanced through the windshield at the detective as he bounded upstairs and finally disappeared inside the prison, then he too left.

Trumaine’s blue badge shone brightly from his hands. Along with his ID card, it was guarantee enough for the day sergeant to let him into the prison. More, there wasn’t any restriction or special binding on the prisoner he wanted to see, so the officer made no objection at the detective’s request—he pushed a button on the console on his desktop, summoning the guard that would lead Trumaine to cell 5422.

Faith’s detainment cell was on the fifth floor. As the glass elevator rose through the levels of the prison, Trumaine could see the many cubicles and the inmates that occupied them.

They weren’t anything like the cramped, damp and dirty equivalent of the centuries past, it was ages since the law had ruled that every cubicle should host only one inmate. The cubicles were champions of cleanness and efficiency and in most case they looked more like small meditation environments than means of coercion. In fact, many of the detained fellows sat at the center of their rooms, their legs crossed and their palms opened upward on their knees, in the yoga stance of “the Lotus,” self-analyzing themselves, hopefully going over what their life before imprisonment had been, thinking about whatever evil they had done, possibly striving for change and redemption.

As the elevator kept going, Trumaine saw that the guard accompanying him wasn’t carrying any weapon at all. It wasn’t necessary; in the unlikely case an inmate would try to break through, the glass partitions that formed the level block could be moved around at the turn of a switch, sealing entire areas like watertight compartments, preventing any breakout.

The elevator arrived on the fifth floor and stopped with a soft jolt and a hiss. As the doors opened, the guard preceded Trumaine to the level reception, where another guard stood, looking more a high-tech hotel concierge than a warden.

The two guards conferred for a moment, then the latter pushed a button on his console and a second series of crystal doors slid open in front of Trumaine, letting him past.

The unarmed guard led him through the maze the level was, moving along the seemingly endless rows of glass cubicles. At long last, they arrived at a branch in the corridor; a large, purple number hung on the wall, reading: 54. Below the section number, two smaller numbers showed the subsections that would be found further down that branch: from 00 to 50.

The guard motioned Trumaine over; he would wait for him there.

Trumaine walked on, keeping an eye on the small subsection numbers marking the cubicles as he passed them.

At last, number 22 came up, on the left side of the corridor. Beyond the transparent wall, a young woman rested on a stool, her back to the world, apparently doing nothing but staring absently past the cubicle window into the distant horizon.

Trumaine knocked on the slab, but Faith didn’t seem to hear, or didn’t want to.

He shifted to the speaker embedded in the partition wall and spoke into it.

“I need to talk to you,” he said softly.

He must admit he had been a bit harsh with Faith lately, not without a reason, of course. But now that he knew that she might be innocent, he felt guilty for how he had treated her.

Again, Faith gave no sign of having heard, she just kept looking away.

“Faith ...”

“Go away,” she said in an embittered whisper.

Trumaine studied her; while in modern prisons inmates weren’t beaten, bullied or mistreated anymore, all the same, the sudden deprivation of freedom often resulted in a severe shock.

From where he stood, Trumaine couldn’t see if there was anything wrong with Faith—she probably hated him for having thrown her in.

Trumaine sighed. Again, he spoke into the speaker, talking to Faith’s back, trying to soften her.

“Raili Jarva’s first death certificate wasn’t issued by mistake, was it?”

Faith didn’t move, didn’t say anything.

Trumaine went on talking to the wall, suddenly surprised at his own words.

“Because Raili Jarva died two times ...”

This time, Faith shuddered slightly.

“Didn’t she?”

Faith turned her head slowly; her eyes were swollen and flushed from long crying. They pierced him with the squashing weight of unfairness. They weren’t just accusing eyes, they were the distressed, despairing eyes of someone who felt betrayed in the deep of her heart.

“I don’t want to talk about that,” she said, and again turned her head.

“You told me that Jarva wanted for Credence to be the cornerstone of a new Eden,” continued Trumaine, knowing that she was now listening. “But what was the one thing that was possible in Eden that’s lost to our world, beside the fact that Adam and Eve could see their Lord?”

Faith was silent.

“They were immortal! If they didn’t eat from the apple, they would have lived forever, because death was not allowed in Eden! Is that so?”

Faith’s eyes were stubbornly set on the horizon.

“IS THAT SO!?”

Her shoulders jerked again.

“You want to rot in here!? Is that what you want? Then you better talk! What was Jarva up to, reviving people? Will you tell me?”

“I can’t trust you ...”

Trumaine rolled his eyes and scowled. Talking to Faith was like talking to Maia when she was persuaded that something was some way but it wasn’t; what infuriated him the most was that Faith wasn’t twelve anymore, damn her! Trumaine glared at the crystal wall standing between them. All of a sudden, he wanted to uproot it and fling it out of his way, get hold of Faith and slap her hard across her face.

He set his jaw and groaned instead, then sighed, then wiped his face and ... tried a different approach.

“I’m on your side! If you’re a victim too, I want to know!”

Trumaine leaned his forehead against the glass surface—it felt refreshing and easing. When the idea came to him, he felt the dumbest person in the world for not having thought it before.

He slapped his forehead then, again, he rested it on the glass partition.

“There’s a surefire way for you to know if I’m lying or if I’m telling the truth, isn’t there? Because you can see for yourself what’s inside my head!”

Faith turned, clearly intrigued by the idea, but still undecided.

“You hated me for entering your mind. I thought about that, a lot ... And you were right, I have no right of doing that to the other people ... it’s a horrible thing to do ...”

“I’m asking you!” snarled Trumaine.

“You really sure ...?”

He felt he was going to have a stroke now.

But then Faith stood, approaching him. She looked deeply into his eyes, then closed hers for one brief moment and touched her forehead to the glass partition as well.

They remained in that position for some time.

When Faith looked up again, she was relieved.

“Am I telling the truth?” asked Trumaine.

“Yes, you are ...”

Faith was suddenly lost in thought as memories of things long gone came to life and washed over her.

“Five years ago, I was a fresh believer. Back then, Jarva and Benedict were on good terms, Jarva was welcomed in Credence and granted access to the chamber to study the feed and the believers. One rainy night, Raili, who had come to pick up Jarva, had a car accident. It was Jarva’s old car—it had none of the safety restraints modern cars have. She careened off the road and crashed into a low wall. When Benedict left Credence, about half an hour later, he was driving along the same road and saw the car. Knowing that it was the same model Raili drove, he was suddenly worried that something bad might have happened to her. So he stopped and hurried over to see if he could help. When he realized it really was Raili in the car, he tried all he could do to save her, but she had hit her head hard against the windshield, she was unconscious and had already lost a lot of blood. Benedict packed the wound as best as he could, then he called the medics, but it was too late to save her ...”

Faith looked up again.

“That’s when the first death certificate was issued,” said Trumaine. “It was Adam Peterson who signed it!”

Faith nodded her head.

“You weren’t there, how do you know all that?” asked Trumaine.

“I read it in Benedict’s mind, later on.”

“What happened, then?”

“You see, Aarmo was used to having Raili around, she was a constant inspiration to him and helped him with his work. He could never do without her.”

“Jarva must’ve thought that if he could borrow the powers of Credence, he could try and bring her back,” argued Trumaine, “but that meant breaking the law ...”

“Jarva proposed that to Benedict, his long time friend, but he refused. It was illegal and that settled it. Jarva had undervalued Benedict’s loyalty to Credence and to the Federal law. They argued, they shouted at each other. In the end, Benedict forbade Jarva to enter Credence ever again. Jarva left. A few months later, he was offered a job on Aquaria and Jimmy went with him. It was studying the Aquarian Leviathan that they stumbled in something Jarva thought impossible ...”

“They discovered that, despite the Leviathans having none of the usual organs living creatures use to communicate, nonetheless, they understood each other—because they were telepaths,” said Trumaine in a flurry. “With proof that telepathy was possible, Jarva must’ve wondered if the human brain was also capable of such an extraordinary means of communication.”

“Jarva still had the data he had collected in the believers’ chamber,” continued Faith. “He thought that past a certain level of belief, a believer had high chances to become a telepath.”

“Wait a minute, one becomes a telepath?”

“You see, telepathy, like all human skills, needs training to develop.”

Trumaine, beside himself with wonderment, scowled.

“Jarva had seen your resume as a believer,” he said. “He contacted you.”

“He told me I had an unprecedented belief level. He asked me to help him create a parasite feed inside Credence. Also, I should keep it secret, since Benedict would report us.”

“You accepted and, unbeknown to Benedict, Raili was revived. But you had to take care of all the incident witnesses as well. Old Peterson thinks he’s got amnesia, the truth is, his memory was tampered with—you did it.”

Faith nodded.

“Why didn’t you change Benedict’s memory, too?”

“We did, but something happened ...”

“One day, somehow, Benedict realized that Raili was still alive, when she should be long dead,” said Trumaine. “That very moment, Benedict knew that Jarva had infiltrated a crawler among the believers, because without the believers, no parasite belief would be possible.”

“Yes,” admitted Faith.

Trumaine thought hard and aloud: “Benedict must have been furious at finding that Jarva had used him and Credence, his creature, to carry out his personal, illegal plans. He needed to stop Jarva, or his career would be forever compromised.”

Trumaine looked up at Faith, realizing something that drove him mad.

“Either Benedict is the murderer or he’s the principal behind Jarva’s murder!”

“But Benedict never enters the chamber,” argued Faith. “He’s no believer, I’ve seen his test chart. How could he possibly convert the believers?”

At once, the answer dawned on Trumaine like a cold shower.

“He must have found—”

“Another telepath!” said Faith.

“Christ, this is getting insane—there’s always been two telepaths in Credence!”

Trumaine groaned, cursing himself for having fallen into Benedict’s trap like a fool: all that Benedict had told him since he had first set foot in Credence was part of a big plan woven around him to frame Jarva’s telepath—Faith.

“Who is the other telepath?” he wondered. “How am I gonna get him now?”

His brain whirred like mad. It had taken an awful lot of time just to single out Faith, and that was only because she had been “curious” about him, because she had entered his mind of her own will. If Benedict had instructed his telepath to stay away from Trumaine, there wasn’t a chance in the world he could find him.

Trumaine racked his brain for a solution, but he couldn’t find any. Yes, he could use Faith as a witness to try and charge Benedict with Jarva’s murder, but would her word be enough to nail Benedict?

Trumaine glanced at her: she was standing just inches behind the glass partition, looking as helpless as she could ever be, waiting for him to come up with an idea that would save her and put Benedict in her place.

Damn, he thought, even if he was the cop, even if he was supposed to come up with the brilliant ideas, he was stuck. He sighed, then pulled his chin, then wiped his face, clueless as to what to do next ...

The most obvious thing in the world hit him with the strength of a mallet and he felt the dumbest person that had ever walked the planet for not having thought about it already.

He turned toward the end of the corridor.

“Guard! GUARD!” he shouted.

Then he glanced back at Faith.

“You’re coming with me ...” he said.