Extraction: Episode 8 “The Visit”
Bryant pulled into the university parking lot, checking the address Zander gave him once more. The man Skylar was going to meet was a professor and a scientist who worked at Fairfield University.
Bryant parked his car and pulled out his phone. He called Mallory’s number one last time.
“Mallory, please answer,” he said to her voicemail. “How many times can I say I’m sorry?” He sighed. “I made it. I’m about to find out what Skylar came here to find. I’ll call you after.”
Bryant stepped out of the car and walked toward the entrance Zander told him about, watching the shadows on the ground as he passed. An alert sounded on his phone, and he glanced down at it. A text message from Mallory read, “I’m praying for you. I’m sorry I’ve been distant. With my mom for her birthday, so can’t talk now. Call when you can.”
He put the phone back in his pocket, thinking about the first part of her message. “I’m praying for you” seemed like something Skylar would send. Everything about Mallory was reminding him of Skylar, and it terrified him. Part of him wanted to be Mallory’s friend, but the darkest part of him wanted to drown out the pain of Skylar’s death by erasing Mallory from his mind and giving into the madness that told him Mallory was Skylar.
Bryant walked down a darkened corridor and found the office number Zander gave him.
Bryant stepped into the dimly lit office, expecting the man behind the large oak desk to turn around. In the silence of the room, Bryant could almost hear his heart pounding. He had to stop his hands from trembling.
“Sir?” he said. “My name is Bryant Summers.”
“Bryant,” the man said, still facing the wall. “Why don’t you have a seat?”
Bryant hesitated, wondering why the man wouldn’t face him. The man’s voice sounded familiar.
“Go ahead,” the man said. “You came a long way, am I right?”
Bryant wondered how the man knew that. “Yes, sir.” He pulled a chair back from the desk and sat down.
The man didn’t move, and Bryant wondered if he’d made a mistake in coming here. Then Skylar’s face appeared in his mind. First the image of the beautiful girl he’d asked to marry him, then the pale thin shell of the woman who had said yes. Bryant gripped the arm of the chair and felt his nails digging in.
“Why did Bill Evans call you the night he died?” The words came out of his mouth dripping with accusation.
The man’s head tilted back as if he were looking at the ceiling. Bryant noticed a picture of what he assumed was the man and his wife and daughter. The man was tall with a smile on his face as his arm pulled the woman and the teenage girl close to him. The girl looked familiar. Where had he seen her before?
“That is the question, isn’t it?” the main said. “Listen, kid. I’m not sure where you got the idea that I could give you any answers, but Bill and I hadn’t been close in years. I already told the police why he called me. If it’s that important to you, read the police report. But you’ll be sadly disappointed, I’m afraid.”
“Skylar wrote in her journal that she was coming to see you the day before…” Bryant stopped.
The man turned around. The first thing Bryant noticed were the bags beneath the man’s eyes and the deep frown lines. He looked like the man in the picture, but a more weathered version. He recognized the man from Skylar’s funeral. He was the man who had been standing in the back next to Zander.
“Skylar wanted answers,” the man said. “Just like you. Unfortunately, I didn’t have them.” The man sighed. “I wish I would have.”
Bryant’s eyes went back to the picture on the wall. Back to the girl in the picture. His eyes widened as he glanced back at the man.
“You’re Emily Westfield’s father,” he said, remembering the name he saw posted outside the office: Dr. Henry Westfield. “Skylar was coming to see you?”
Westfield sighed, averting his gaze from Bryant. “Skylar believed she could see her parents again.” His voice was softer and marked with sadness. “She thought I could help. When I told her I couldn’t, she stormed out.” He met Bryant’s gaze again. “I never imagined she’d go home and… “ He stopped, seemingly unable to say the words.
“Why would she think you could help her see her parents again?”
“I’ve spent the last two years of my life trying to understand what happens to the part of a person that lives on after their body dies,” Westfield said. “Of course, we all talk about heaven and all that, but I’ve always wondered if a person’s soul really disappears from our world at the moment of dying.”
Bryant felts his pulse quicken as the man spoke. His pain was evident, and his desperation and unwillingness to accept death’s finality resonated with Bryant.
“I wondered,” the man continued, “what if I could see Emily again and find out why she was so unhappy?” Westfield closed his eyes, the frown lines on his face deepening. He took a deep breath and opened his eyes. “Of course, you hear how crazy that sounds. I can’t bring Emily back. I can’t bring Bill and Catherine back. And now I can’t bring Skylar back.”
Bryant’s hands began to shake. “Why?” he said, frustration in his voice. “Why would she believe something so crazy?”
The corners of the man’s mouth turned upward into a tiny smile. “Has your heart not desperately fought to see Skylar alive again?” he said. “The deepest pain will often lead us to grasp for the most impossible of things.”
Bryant looked down at the floor, unable to look at the man anymore. It was true. His heart fought to see Skylar in Mallory, no matter how crazy it was. His mind returned to the journal entry that led him here. “You were the last person to talk to Skylar’s dad,” he said. “Why did he call you?”
“My daughter would’ve graduated that night. He was being a good friend.”
Bryant’s phone rang in his pocket. He pulled it out. It was Mallory.
He glanced up at Dr. Westfield. “I’ve gotta take this real quick.”
“Bryant.” Mallory’s voice sounded frantic. She’d been crying.
“What’s going on, Mal?”
“Bryant,” she said, voice shaky. “It’s my mom… She was in a car accident.”
“She’s dead.” She began sobbing into the phone.
“Stay where you’re at,” Bryant said, glancing at Dr. Westfield, who had a blank stare on his face. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
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