Chapter 43:

Questions from the back of the train

The Sequence of Kai

I waste the rest of the day trying to find someone who will talk to me. Not so surprising that no one on a secret train is particularly chatty, especially when it comes across like an interrogation.

Know anything about a serial killer?

Nobody ever knows anything, it’s for their own good.

Bastien is sleuthing around the second carriage while I scope out the third. The door to the next has a message crudely painted on in white.


That warning seems to have gone mostly unheeded. Despite the fact I’ve knocked on every room in this carriage, only one of them is occupied, by that twat from social control and his prisoner.

Not a surprise either that people willing to risk their life to buy a ticket are willing to risk their lives using it to its greatest extent. I’m sure a lot of people like the fact that there’s no kind of oversight beyond the third carriage. Can’t blame them, the watchful eye of Kohsan has left very few places for things to be done in private.

It got dark some time ago, so I think it’s time I call it a day, see if Bastien turned up any leads. I traipse back to the second carriage and open the door to the compartment Maxim had arranged for us.

“No one wants to talk.”

“No one ever wants to talk.”

As I close the door behind me, I’m caught off guard. That voice isn’t Bastien’s, it’s someone else’s. It’s unassuming and certain, I can’t put a finger on it.

In the room, sitting on one of the beds is a person. A man I think. Neither too tall nor too short, too wide or thin. I can’t land on any defining features he has, every time I focus in on one thing it all becomes a blur. If I don’t focus though, he begins to resemble something.

“You took your damn time, Kai.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m who you’ve been looking for. I’m the guy.”

I give him a second to tell me he’s joking but when that second passes in silence, I can’t help myself.


“What’s so funny, Kai?”

“You’re not the guy. We both know, you’re not the guy. And the idea that there’s someone out there stupid enough to pretend they’re what I’m looking for? That’s downright hilarious.”

The man sighs and stands up off the bed, taking the sheet with him. Underneath he reveals the corpse of the Social Control officer from earlier. How he got it from the other carriage to here, without me noticing, is a mystery.

“How much did he cost?”

“Just a bit of my time. I know your type, thought we could skip past the whole burden of proof bit if I brought a gift.”

“What do you think this proves?”

“It proves that I’m extraordinary, someone worth taking seriously.”

“A surprising number of men think a dead body or two broadens their shoulders.”

The man covers the body up again and sits back down on the bed as if it wasn’t there.

“Why don’t you believe me?”

“It’s never this easy, you don’t find what you’re looking for without… well, looking for it.”

“That’s true, but you do have to look if you want to find.”

“I’ve been looking all day.”

“No, you haven’t, Kai. You were told where I was, and it wasn’t before the fourth carriage, was it?”

I’ve been trying to get a read on this guy but no matter what I do, I can’t. He could be a normal guy or someone distinctly dangerous, something is obscuring my connection to the sequences. I suppose that in itself suggests he’s no normal man.

“Maybe not trying was my way of drawing you to me.”

“Sure, if you want to fail at doing one thing your whole life, not trying is a great way.”

“One of us has found the other now either way.”

“Exactly, so we should talk.”

“We should.”

I take a seat on the bed across from him, careful not to blink reflexively. Things like him love to move about if you stop looking at them.

“Only if you really want to though.”

He’s taunting me. He’s always been taunting me!

“I just said we should.”

“But you didn’t mean it.”

Without even realizing it, I’ve got him by the neck. The distance I covered between us didn’t register in my mind. I speak without realizing it too.

“If you don’t stop fucking with me, I’m going to kill you.”

His neck is so fragile, I could finish things right now if I wanted to. How could a man like this be the cause of anything?

“Killing me would suggest that you aren’t that interested in talking you know?”

For a few seconds, my mind and my hands do battle. In the end, it’s my mind that wins out. Barely. As I drop him back to bed, I feel things go a bit hazy.

“Fine, I don’t care! If you wanna talk, then talk away.”

“Conversation is a two-way street, Kai.”

“I don’t care.”

“Why do you have to be so difficult? It is you who came looking for me.”

“Start talking. I’m serious.”

“You can’t just get your way by sounding scary and staring daggers darling, you have to work for things sometimes.”

“Why don’t you tell me what you want then? You always want something.”

“I think we could start with some proper introductions. That seems as good a place as any to break the ice.”

“You already know my name.”

“But you don’t know mine.”

“Then what is it?”

“I don’t have one. Why don’t you name me?”

“I’m not going to name you. You’re not my fucking pet, you’re barely my child.”

“It’s difficult to have a dialogue without names.”

“We’ll make do.”


“I’m not naming you, piss off.”

“Fine. Always the long way round with you, always.”

“How do you want to do this?”

“Let’s trade questions.”

“Sure, I’ll go first; what the fuck are you?”

“I’m not allowed to tell you that. My turn; why are you avoiding me?”

“I don’t feel like telling you that. My turn; which one of your bones would you like me to break first?”

“Second question and you’re already resorting to threats of violence.”

“Yeah, that’s who I am.”

“That’s who you became.”

“That’s who I am.”

“If you say so. My turn; why-”

“No, it’s not. You asked the last question.”

“Did I now?”

“Yeah, and now you’ve asked the last two. Are you going to give me any straight answers?”

“That depends.”

“So no.”

“No, I said that depends. I can’t say anything that you don’t want to hear.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’ll kill me.”

“Because you deserve to be killed. My tu-”

“No, it’s not. It’s mine. I want to ask you a real question this time.”

“Finally. We can go about getting somewhere with this circus.”

“You’re the one making it a merry-go-round.”

“Question, please! I don’t have all day.”

“Yet you act like you have the rest of your life and then some.”

“You don’t think I’ll kill you if you keep pushing me? I’ve killed better men for less.”

“You won’t, no. And that was another question, I get two turns now.”

“Then fucking ask them.”

“Ok; why did you come here looking for me? And don’t tell me that it was because you were told to. I’m not stupid, I know you work on other people’s whims. Tell me why Kai came looking for me.”

“If you’re not stupid it should be obvious; I’m here to stop you from killing more innocent people.”

“You kill people all the time Kai. What makes me so different.”

“I’m not you.”

“That’s it? You’d kill me just because we’re different people? I saw a lot of living souls on my way here, why not kill any of them? They’re not you either.”

“I don’t need to justify myself to you. I don’t like what you’re doing, I don’t like who you are and I’m going to kill you for it.”

“Why don’t you like what I’m doing.”

“Because it’s wrong.”


“I don’t have to justify myself to you.”

“Why is it wrong?”

“You’ve been asking all the questions.”

“Why is it so different?”

“It was my turn a long time ago.”


“Why won’t you leave me alone!”

My body lunged for him with the intent to kill. The knife is pulled from my jacket, aiming for his eyes but he was never there in the first place. The blade gets lodged in the bed frame after it strikes air, and that very same air whispers a message right past my ears.

“Come and find me. You know where to look.”