Chapter 22 Verbena was in her office, reviewing her latest notes on Perry when there was a single sharp knock on her door. Before she could respond, the door opened and Al stuck his head in. "What are you doing back so quickly?" she asked. Al's response wasn't an answer. It was an order. "Let's go," the Observer said tersely, and left, leaving the door ajar. Verbena caught up with him just as the Waiting Room doors slid open in front of him. She started to demand an explanation, then got a good look at his expression. She decided that silence and close observation would yield more answers to questions than words. She followed him into the Waiting Room. By the third sentence out of his mouth to the visitor, the psychiatrist knew that Sam's situation had escalated to either immediate or impending danger. -------------------- Perry had wakened from a troubled sleep only minutes before he heard the low 'whoosh' signaling that the doors to the large quiet room were about to open. His gaze focused immediately on the man who had reached out to comfort him in a moment when he had dared to trust as he exposed an especially painful childhood memory. Now, the expression on the man's face made him uneasy. Inside he felt the first prickles of panic. "Good morning, Perry," Al said quietly. "Did you sleep well?" "Not really," Perry replied. "Bad dream?" "Sort of." "Who's Philip, Perry?" Al asked bluntly. Seeing the young man jump as if he'd been shot told him that he would quickly have an answer. The Admiral's question as well as his intense, though not unkind, expression opened the floodgates of panic inside Perry. His mouth and throat felt dry as dirt as he croaked, "W-who?" "What are you doing?" Verbena hissed softly behind Al. She was even more startled when Al shot a look at her that said louder than words.... Be quiet! "Who's Philip?" Al repeated, using the strength of his voice and the intensity of his gaze to hold Perry's unwavering attention. "I-I don't know," Perry whispered nervously. "Then who does?" Al maintained the low forceful tone that had gotten more results for him in his active duty Navy years than any other tactic. It worked again now. He didn't bat an eye or make a move as he watched Perry's body go limp and fall back on the pillow. After a minute, the figure on the bed stirred and the eyes fluttered open. He locked eyes with Evalyn. "Who told you about Philip, Admiral?" she asked, sitting up. "Philip told my friend, and my friend told me." Al decided that the safest thing was pure honesty, or as close to it as he could get without jeopardizing Sam's life. "Why didn't you tell us about him before?" He didn't like the sting of her answer, recognizing it as one he himself had uttered in the same tone of voice to others on many different occasions. "I decided that it was a 'need to know' situation, sir," she responded with a certain crispness in her voice. "And in my opinion at that moment, you didn't need to know." "Well things have changed," he matched her tone for tone. "I need to know, and I need to know now!" Having dealt with Aaron for as long as she had, however, Evalyn wasn't easily intimidated. She maintained a locked gaze with Al. "How have things changed?" "My friend has effected a small, positive change in Perry's life," Al said, choosing his words carefully. "But that change has caused other changes that may not be so positive. In fact, they may be detrimental to Perry and my friend." For a moment Observer and visitor studied each other, neither one's expression giving anything away. It was Evalyn who spoke first. "What do you need to know?" Al's authoritative tone hadn't shifted a whit. "Those not so positive changes I mentioned will affect both Perry and my friend. Information you know about this Philip and other things may be vital in saving both of their lives. I need straight answers. Am I going to get them?" Evalyn repeated herself. "What do you need to know, Admiral?" "How long has Philip been in existence?" "As I've told you, I...appeared first. Next was Timmy, then Henry, and then Marian. Philip appeared shortly after she did." "What aspect of Perry does Philip represent?" Verbena asked, stepping forward. "Perry's compassion and his intellectual capabilities," Evalyn said. "Perry has an IQ of 196. At least that's as high as the tests he's taken can measure." "How do you know that?" Al asked. He already knew the answer. "By doing what I was...intended to do," Evalyn answered. "As I'm sure you've figured out, I am a mother figure to Perry. Whenever he becomes uncomfortable or frightened I listen and talk to him, as any good mother would." She paused, looking at Al pointedly. "Because I'm a part of Perry's mind, I also hear what is said to him." "What brings you out?" Verbena asked. "Exactly what I said, doctor. When Perry feels overwhelmed by certain interactions, especially with authority figures," again she glanced at Al, "I... 'talk' with him. Sometimes all he needs is to be reassured and guided through a situation. Other times, like now, he becomes so frightened that he retreats and I come out to get him through the situation with as much dignity as possible." "What about Philip?" Al asked. "What brings him out?" Her answer took him by surprise. "This is only the second time since he appeared that Philip has revealed himself," Evalyn said quietly. "Why?" "Aaron appeared as a result of the abuse that Perry's father had begun to inflict upon him. Much as I abhor Aaron," she said, "at the time he appeared, he was very much needed." She hesitated, then went on. "But then I became concerned about the little ones. They're the sweet, gentle, innocent aspects of Perry," Evalyn said carefully. "None of the personalities, myself included, had a chance against Mr. Kirkwood's abusiveness. And certainly not Perry." "Why not?" Verbena answered the Observer's question. "Because," she said, "in spite of everything that's been done to him, Perry genuinely loves his father. Really loves him. But he's also afraid of him." She saw the disgust in the Observer's eyes at that and went on. "Al, Perry's nineteen, almost a man himself, but in his emotional mind, he's still a little boy. A little boy whose mother left when he was small." Verbena noticed the line of Al's jaw tightening. "Left him with his father, a man who...." "...has more than a few screws loose," the Observer muttered darkly. "...who loves his son, but in either too possessive or too protective a manner than is good or healthy for either of them." "He's ashamed of his son," Evalyn interjected sadly. She nodded at Verbena's surprised expression. All of what was being said was information which, in the hands of the right professional could probably go a long way in helping Perry. But Al also knew there wasn't time to allow Verbena to get into an in-depth discussion with Evalyn. Deliberately, he broke their train of thought. "What aspect of Perry does Aaron represent?" Al demanded. "Survival." Evalyn said, returning her attention to Al. "As I told you when we first talked, Aaron is like an animal. He snaps and snarls and bites, and when necessary, will strike out when he feels threatened. And, like an animal, he can sense and smell fear. But it was what was needed to keep Perry's father from beating him to death on more than one occasion." "But once he got a taste of freedom," Al followed the line of thought, "he preferred it to cooling his heels in the shadows." Evalyn nodded. "He began coming out at any moment he could force the personality out at that time to retreat." Again she hesitated. "He began forcing Perry out and taking his place at school. The first time Aaron got into a screaming match with Howard, he almost hit him." Al waited silently when Evalyn paused again. "The first time I denied him was when I became aware that he intended to inflict a rather coarse and reprehensible behavior upon one of Perry's classmates..." The Observer called it what it was. "He was going to rape a girl, wasn't he?" Evalyn met his gaze levelly. "Yes. Anyway, when I refused to retreat, he threatened that if I ever did it again, that he would go after one of the little ones. That's when Philip...approached me." "Why?" "He, like the rest of us, had listened to my confrontation with Aaron. He suggested that if Aaron should ever try to harm one of the little ones, that he would shelter him...or her." "Aaron's as crafty as they come," Al said. "It couldn't have been easy. How did you pull it off?" "Whenever Aaron gets into a rage, Perry's mind becomes very chaotic. When I denied him the next time, he started raging. During his rage, it was easy for Philip to take in Henry and hide him. When Aaron finally cooled off and saw that Henry was gone, he assumed he'd destroyed him." "And then you hid Philip," Al said. It seemed like he'd asked the next question at least a dozen times since he'd walked into the Waiting Room a short while ago. "Why?" Again, it was the Project's chief psychiatrist who answered his question. "Because," she said, "after self- preservation and love, there's nothing more powerful or determined than a mother protecting her young." Her eyes met Evalyn's before returning to met the Observer's own dark gaze. "In Perry's case, it was a combination of both." For the next five minutes the only sound in the Waiting Room was of Al's footsteps as he paced back and forth. Finally, he turned back to Verbena and the visitor. "Sam and I have a plan," he said quietly looking directly at each of them in turn.. "But it's going to depend a lot on Philip." He looked directly at Evalyn. "Can he be trusted?" Evalyn searched the Admiral's eyes, searched their depths. She nodded once. "Yes," she said without reservation. Al considered her answer for another moment. Then he took a deep breath and let it out. "Okay," he said slowly. "I'm about to take, as they say, a tremendous leap of faith." In the hour that followed the Observer outlined the plan he and Sam had come up with. Halfway through, Gooshie was brought into it as well.