The Hypnotist

I’ve always been interested in hypnotism to some degree. Not in an eager way, but the same way some people are fascinated by ghost stories and serial killers. I just think it’s incredibly eerie, and its another demonstration of a theme I love so much: the power of the mind. Anyway, it was fun. Listen to the hypnotist and you might find his hidden message…

The Hypnotist

 

By Ben Pienaar

 

Through fog thick enough to conceal a person at ten feet, two men approached a cottage and stopped at the front door. Neither was afraid, because there was nothing to be afraid of, but they hesitated all the same.

The taller man was sergeant, and he spoke first. ‘In a minute, we’ll go in. He probably won’t be expecting us, but he might be. I don’t think he’ll be armed, either, but then again he got twenty women to kill themselves and that suggests he’s no stranger to violence.’

Gordon, the newbie (at least to Sergeant Jerry Raimes, who’d been on the force thirty years), glanced down the path that led through the front garden and out to the road. He couldn’t make out their car through the mist. ‘How are we going to get him?’ he said.

Jerry smiled and pulled a little recorder from the pocket next to his holster. ‘Confession,’ he said.

Gordon raised his eyebrows. ‘He’s just going to tell us, then? He’ll see us and panic and just spill it all?’

‘Sure he will. We have everything but hard evidence on him, don’t we? He’s connected in every way that’s not crucial. He knows he did it, we know he did it, and he knows we know. Doesn’t take much from there to get him to say something. Most of the time, these people are just dying to talk about it.’

‘Really?’

Jerry tried to remember what it was like to be a newbie. To believe things about people and then have the beliefs beaten out of you day by day until you woke up and realised you’d seen it all. He saw Gordon’s unlined face and his wide, sceptical eyes and he found himself a little bit jealous and a lot scornful. Kid would learn, he thought. Today, definitely.

‘One thing to remember, when you talk to a guilty man,’ Jerry said, slipping the recorder back into his pocket. ‘Every silence is a guilty silence. They can’t bear it, so they talk, and every lie makes them feel better because it covers up their guilt. Eventually, though, they put one too many lies on the stack and the whole thing comes crumbling down.’

‘Give them enough rope and they hang themselves,’ Gordon said, nodding.

‘Whatever. Bottom line is, shut up and let him talk.’ With that, he raised his hand and rapped on the door three times.

A few seconds later, a cheerful looking man with wide eyes and misty glasses opened the door. He was spindly and intelligent looking, exactly the kind of guy Jerry had expected. The violence was in the murders, sure, but it wasn’t done directly by this weed of a person. Must have been contract kills – but hadn’t they ruled that out already? That part would be interesting to find out.

‘Hello, officers, how can I help you?’ Given his frame, his voice was oddly deep. Even in that short sentence, Jerry thought he could sense a slightly different emphasis on each word, as if the man was trying to make him hear some things and not others. It was unsettling.

‘Are you Mr. Geoffrey Dallum?’

‘I am indeed.’

‘We’d just like to come in and ask a few questions, if you don’t mind,’ Jerry said.

‘Of course,’ the man said, stepping back.

They entered the little cottage and followed him into a cosy living room area where a fire was crackling in the corner. Geoffrey picked up a small log, and while his back was turned Jerry stuck his hand in his pocket and switched on the recorder.

‘Would either of you like tea?’ Geoffrey said.

Jerry sensed Gordon about to say yes and he stood on his toe. ‘I – no, thank you,’ he said instead.

‘Alright, then. What are your names?’

‘This is officer Gale, and I’m Sergeant Raimes,’ Jerry said, and they shook his hand one at a time. Jerry marvelled at the strength in the scrawny arm, and he saw Gordon wince beneath the grip as well.

‘Gale and Raimes, nice to meet you. Well, take a seat.’ They sat down on the comfortable leather couch, and Geoffrey sat opposite, with a bemused smile on his face. He knows, Jerry thought. Smug bastard. Maybe it won’t be so easy.

‘So what’s the problem, officers? No one’s died, I hope.’ He said this with some concern, and Jerry had an idea that only he had heard the mocking in it.

‘Actually, I’m afraid someone has. Twenty someones, in fact,’ Jerry said. There was a silence, and Geoffrey looked – looked – shocked. .

‘Now,’ he said, ‘I thought those were all suicides.’

‘They were, strictly speaking, but they had a funny pattern that made us think differently.’ Gordon stayed quiet and serious. He was really just the backup in this one, just watching and learning, and it seemed he knew it, which was good. ‘For one thing, the first three were patients of yours. The following three were all in this area, and after that they were spread out but still pretty close. I’d have thought a guy like you would have been careful from the beginning.’ He saw Gordon’s look in the corner of his eye but he didn’t care. He’d made a split second decision: this guy was too smart to blurt anything out. He’d have to be scared into it.

‘You aren’t suggesting I had something to do with it?’ he said, again with that mocking voice. Jerry noticed he had a strange habit of pausing for a split second after the first word he spoke, as if he were calculating every syllable of the following sentence.

‘What is it you do for a living, Mr. Dallum?’

‘Are you suggesting it? Really?’ The half smile on his face was fading. Weren’t expecting me to come right out and say it, were you? Jerry thought. Figured I’d try to trick you. Bet you’re wondering what we have that makes me so sure, don’t you?  He said nothing, and waited for more words to spill out of the man. More rope for the hanging, as Gordon put it.

‘Both of you… you already… This is an arrest, isn’t it?’ At last, the fear, the dawning certainty of capture. It always amazed Jerry, no matter how many times he saw it, how ready every criminal was to be caught. It haunted them, he thought, every day. They never seemed that surprised when he came knocking, and when it was finally time to go he always swore that amidst the despair he caught a glimmer of relief.

‘We got you, buddy,’ said Jerry. ‘Everything but DNA.’ And suddenly he saw it – he knew how it went down and he knew what he could use to tip the guy over, get the full confession. He went for it. ‘We had recorders in here for the third girl, since you were already a suspect by then.’

It wasn’t true, but it worked: the man’s neat, calm demeanour shattered and he looked at the floor, broken.

‘You hypnotised them,’ Jerry said, making it sound like a statement instead of a question, which was really what it was. The look on Geoffrey’s face answered it.

‘Hypnotised,’ he said, dreamily.

The word hung in the air, and Jerry almost felt he had to say something to make it go away.

‘That’s right,’ he said. ‘You are a hypnotist, are you not?’

‘Yes,’ he said. Jerry thought he sounded very far away, now, distant from everything, and that wasn’t unusual – in fact it was a good sign. What wasn’t such a good sign was that the look on his face had changed. He didn’t look despairing, although the relief was still there.

‘It was so easy to do,’ he began. ‘And I have always been exceptional at it. I have a special talent, you see – I was made for it. My voice is just right, and so are my eyes.’ He took off his glasses and laid them on his lap, fixing them with a wide stare, as if to prove his point. ‘I had to start with patients, you see, because they were so willing. I started to wonder, if I could get them to quit smoking, to lose weight, could I get them to do things they didn’t want so much? Things they weren’t willing to do?’

‘And, what, suicide sounded like fun?’ Gordon said, and Jerry heard the anger in his voice. He shot him a warning glance. Stay cool, it said, and we’ll take him in.

‘It was a challenge, at first,’ Geoffrey went on. ‘But then it became easy. I wondered if I could do it on people who didn’t want to be hypnotised in the first place, and that was a challenge, too, for a while.’ He gave them a half smile, then, and Jerry got the impression he was recounting fond memories. He realised the man was very much insane, and he was glad both for the tape recorder still running in his pocket and the gun in the holster right next to it. There was something else, too: the hypnotist had stopped that strange habit of pausing after his first words. Jerry wasn’t sure what that meant, but he took note of it.

‘Only then did I realise how vulnerable I was to your investigation,’ he said, chuckling. ‘So I went for victims even further away. Too late, it seems. Ah, well. I will have to relocate somewhere else and start again.’

Jerry shook his head, and he and Gordon stood up together. He drew the recorder from his pocket and held it up, and now it was his turn to be smug. ‘Actually, you sick bastard, you aren’t going anywhere.’

Geoffrey stared at it, apparently unfazed. In that faraway voice, still staring at the recorder, he spoke: ‘Gale, shoot it.’

There was an explosion and the recorder exploded out of Jerry’s hands. For a second, bizarrely, he thought the man had destroyed it with his sheer gaze. Then he turned and saw Gordon pointing a smoking barrel his way. The look of shock on his face was almost comical. ‘Sarge!’ he said. ‘I’m so sorry!’

Jerry, his right hand still holding a shard of recorder and his ears ringing from the sound of the shot, had not quite recovered his mind when Geoffrey spoke again.

‘Gale, shoot yourself.’

As his right arm levelled the barrel with the side of his head, Gordon’s eyes widened. ‘Sarge. Help me,’ he said, his voice a choke of terror.

Jerry saw it, but did not understand, until Gordon pulled the trigger and spread brain and skull fragments all over the yellow and gold wallpaper. Then he understood.

He watched as Gordon dropped to the floor, the remainder of his face pouring blood onto the white carpet, and he tried to get himself to move. He was frozen with terror.

In an instant, it broke and he swivelled back to face Geoffrey, who was still standing in the same place, calm as ever. ‘Raimes, stop now,’ he said.

Jerry stopped, his hand on the handle of his gun.

‘You’ll die in a minute, sergeant, but first you’ll have to help me, alright?’ He spoke as assuring a child that if he ate his greens, he would get dessert.

Jerry thought about it, and found that helping this charming man was all of a sudden an excellent idea. It was so good, he thought, that he couldn’t believe he hadn’t seen it before. ‘Alright,’ he said.

Geoffrey beamed and clapped his hands. ‘Excellent. Now, before we get started, I’m going to go through everything you need to do. Do you think you can listen?’

Jerry didn’t really want to listen, but he felt his head go up and down and he felt his body lean forward, and he realised he was going to listen all the same.

Geoffrey began to talk.

Jerry listened, and when he was done, he got to work.

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