The White Room
HIS FIRST SESSION with Kooning after the escape bid was a wretched hour of recrimination.
"I'm very disappointed in you, Joe."
"I only wanted to try it on the outside. I would have thought that you'd be pleased with my progress toward recovery."
"I'm not pleased at all, Joe. I think your behavior was willful and childish. Did you really think that you could survive out there?"
"I was going to give it a shot."
"What did you think you were going to do?"
"I was going to be a wino on Forty-second Street."
"Please don't be flippant."
"Is it flippant to want to be free?"
"Here at the clinic, we have a responsibility to keep you from doing yourself harm."
"So freedom's harmful?"
"You are a very sick man, Joe, sicker than you realize. Your freedom was only removed from you because you were a danger to yourself."
"So freedom is dangerous?"
"Freedom is an idea that you shouldn't dwell on. It's largely an illusion at the best of times."
"Perhaps I like the illusion."
"That's hardly the point. Recovery can only come when you recognize your illusions for what they are."
"I always thought that freedom was reality, or maybe nothing else to lose."
"Don't paraphrase pop songs at me."
"They're my business."
"Your business is getting well."
"I got well when I stopped taking the medicine."
Kooning rubbed her chin.
"Perhaps we should talk about the way that you attempted to deceive those who were looking after you regarding your medication."
"I felt better than I do now. I'm so fucked up I can hardly count my legs."
"You can't be an objective judge of that."
"I can't? I thought how one felt was a pretty subjective thing."
"You decided to exercise your free will regarding your medication and all you succeeded in doing was to throw the whole regimen out of balance and precipitate this ridiculous display of defiance."
The conversation went on and on like this for more than forty-five minutes, and then, just as Gibson was thinking that it hid to be over, there was a knocking on the door. Kooning looked up and frowned. Therapy sessions were never interrupted.
"What is it?"
" Urgent call for Doctor Kooning."
As she opened the door to the cubicle, two men pushed their way inside. They were dirty, unshaven men wearing stained duster coats and wide-brimmed hats. They smelled bad and had guns in their hands, grins on their faces, and Errol Flynn attitudes. Gibson's jaw dropped. The clinic had finally gone over the line with the medication and he was in total hallucination.
"How the fuck did you guys get here?"
Yancey Slide and Gideon Windemere were crowded into the small cubicle. The only thing that convinced Gibson he wasn't losing his mind was Kooning bleating with fury. "I'm going to call the police."
Slide laughed and pushed Kooning back down into her chair. "Can it, lady. We're having a reunion." He winked at Gibson. "We figured that we ought to get you out of here, particularly when we found that some associates of Rampton were picking up the tab."
"What took you so long?"
"We've both been kept a little busy."
Kooning looked as though she was about to explode. "You men are in very serious trouble."
Slide pointed his pistol at her and thumbed back the hammer. "You keep your mouth shut, Doc, or I'll do a job on your head, show you what trouble really is."
He turned to Gibson. "Are you ready to get up and go?"
Gibson nodded. "I've been trying to get up and go for months."
Gibson was so medicated that the race through the clinic and out through the front entrance took on an air of pure fantasy. On the final landing, a bunch of male nurses came at them but quickly backed away when they saw the guns. Undoubtedly they were straight on the phone to the cops, but this didn't seem to worry Slide in the slightest,
"We'll be long gone by the time the cops get organized."
The black Hudson was waiting at the curb. Gibson noticed with a smile that it was illegally parked. The three of them quickly ducked inside, Slide and Windemere in the front and Gibson in the back.
"Where's Nephredana? Is she okay?"
Slide glanced back and nodded. "Sure. She'll be where we're going by the time we get there."
Windemere turned and grinned at Gibson. "Christobelle will be there, too, so you may have a little sorting out to do."
Slide laughed. "Or they will."
"Where are we going?"
"Some secluded spot where we can get you dried out of all the crap that fucking place has been pumping into you."
"My dimension or yours?"
"Do you care?"
Gibson shook his head. "No."
They were now in the Midtown Tunnel running out to Queens. Gibson lay sprawled in the backseat. "So who are we all working for now? The God with No Name?"
Slide grinned. "You can't say His name anymore, either?"
Windemere looked curiously at Gibson. "How come you aren't demanding to know what's going on? You usually do."
Gibson closed his eyes. "I think I have a headache."
Windemere and Slide both guffawed. "And we're drunk."
"What weird shit are we being pitchforked into now?"
Slide shook his head. "No weird shit, kid. We can do exactly what we want to do for the moment. We're free men."
Gibson scowled. "We're men out of time."
"So make the most of it."
Gibson wished that he was drank, too. "It won't last. Events have a habit of catching up with us."
Slide didn't seem to be in the mood for any negative input.
"Shit, kid, events are like cosmic waves. You just gotta ride them."
Gibson fell into line with a half smile. "Are you suggesting we all go cosmic surfing?"
Slide roared. "Exactly that, kid. Exactly that."