"Let's just address some of the basics first, some of the key characteristics and risk factors for serial killers and psychopaths. You're blaming it on this facility, but it was probably something always there ready to be triggered. We find the trigger, we find his motivation and the pattern and then Ben. I need an idea of who he is and why and how."
Without the whole truth, Normal was only reinventing the wheel, adding an extra person going around in circles trying to figure out Ben. It was better than nothing. He was an unbiased outsider, he might notice some extra detail or make connections that she could not.
"Was Ben adopted? Physically or emotionally abused by your parents? A bed-wetter? Above average intelligence?"
Normal rattled out the questions and waited with his pen poised over a notepad for Max's answers. He gestured impatiently with his hand. "Simple yes no questions. Keep up."
"No. Um, yeah I guess. It's complicated, but yeah it probably falls under abuse. No to the bed wetting, but wicked smart," said Max after a delay.
She shifted and toyed with her sleeve hems. She wasn't just telling Normal about Ben. By extension, she was revealing herself and it made her vulnerable. She didn't want his pity.
"You don't feel these urges do you? Or feel like you were born with a part of yourself missing? It can be his genetics or up-bringing thing or both. Any family history of violence or murder?"
Not yet anyway. Ben could be the sole anomaly, or they might all be ticking time bombs ready to implode. That day in the woods got very messy. Lydecker himself was disturbed. It never happened again. Not like that. Max had written it off as a fluke. She couldn't speak for the others, but she didn't enjoy killing.
"Hmm. Were the victims vulnerable people like runaways or prostitutes? Were they completely unconnected to Ben? Was the method of killing symbolic?"
"No, yes and yes."
"They were just normal people with families, jobs and friends. Different ages, genders, races, socio-economic status, hobbies, but you know, regular folk. I don't know think Ben knew them. Otherwise the organisation would have tracked them down already. It's a very distinctive killing, but I can't really tell you what."
"Right. Did he hear voices or have an obsession with anything? Pornography? Clowns? God? Maths? Trains? Authority figures? Anything? Suffer any childhood traumas or imaginary friends?"
"No voices. There was this thing though. A woman in a picture. She wasn't an imaginary friend. She didn't talk or exist really. It was like an idea or a myth. It was pretty important to him. "
"That's it. Everything he is doing, it's because of this woman."
"He described her as honourable and strong and pure. She wasn't exactly an evil sinister presence. It was harmless," Max protested.
She wasn't disagreeing as such. The teeth made it pretty clear that it was related to the Blue Lady, but Max didn't get it. The Blue Lady was their version of the tooth fairy. They believed for a while and then they grew up. It was a nice story. It wasn't one that led onto someone ripping other people's teeth out. Except in Ben's head that was. How did that happen?
"And then he grew up and she changed. Memories and ideas are vulnerable. You said that they did something to him. It's probably a side effect."
They were all treated the same. Manticore was equal opportunities in that way, no favourites or victims. Or, at least, her unit was treated the same. There were different standards amongst units resulting in different training and expectations, but this was between and not within units. If Manticore were to blame, all her former unit would be on the same slippery slope as Ben, including Max herself. That meant it was something on the outside that set Ben off.
"There were others too. They believed in the woman. For a while anyway. They seem to be okay," said Max. She wasn't sure how to phrase this without implicating herself or inventing a whole bunch of siblings that would stretch the credibility of her back-story.
"People are different. Identical twins sharing a bedroom, for example, same genetics and environment, one of them is schizophrenic and the other healthy. Or one is an athlete and the other a scientist. Tell me the myth."
Max hesitated. "I can't. I'm could be putting you in danger by saying anything let alone going into specifics."
"I'm an adult. I can make that call for myself. It's my life to endanger," said Normal.
There it was. Permission to kill him for getting in too deep. She didn't have to feel guilty now. This was a fun little academic puzzle for Normal. For the first time in years, he could put his sociology and theology expertise into use.
"Don't come crying to me when you're dead then," said Max.
In a way, she wanted to tell someone. It was constantly going around in her head, the same circles over and over again. And she was blinded by Ben's virtue to see events clearly. Normal, however, was an unbiased outsider. It would be easier for him to help her rather than her floundering alone.
Max traced shapes onto the tabletop between them and avoided Normal's stare as she recounted the origins of the Blue Lady. It wasn't the entire truth. She wrote herself out of the story, for starters, but told him about the card, the apparent miracle, the teeth sacrifices and the good and bad places.
"It's like I was there," said Max, with a half-shrug. "Ben was a born story teller."
Normal was on the edge of his seat, wide-eyed and fascinated. He picked up his pen and scribbled down a few notes, which he'd forgotten to do during story time.
"I don't want to make this about you, Max, but how does that tie into your life? Your family were strong Evangelical Christians. You're saying that you didn't recognise Mary, the mother of God?"
"Your background check was clearly half-assed," said Max, rolling her eyes. "Did you notice the lack of Ben? They wiped him out as if this could make him cease to exist. Rewrote my family history. They made up that stuff. It's like damage control or something. It's not true, it was never true, that's why I'm calling myself a lapsed Christian and ticked the no religion box on your form."
This was a coincidence, completely unrelated to Ben or the Blue Lady, just details of a complex and rich back-story that ought to throw off Lydecker if she were a runaway. Transgenic were invented by man. There was no whitewashing this fact and it was hard to reconcile that with faith.
"The conspiracy grows," Normal murmured. "How come you were able to walk free, knowing all this? You could have gone straight to the media and not just me."
"Because it's crazy. No one would believe me. At best, I'd also get a one-way ticket to the loony bin but more likely I'd be locked up in their facility, at their mercy. I was only there once and I never want to see it again. I never told them all that stuff. And they paid us off, assuming family loyalty only goes so far, especially when that's the skeleton in the closet."
"The victims…they had their teeth ripped out, didn't they?"
The killings are either testing the faith of others or sacrifices that she calls for," Normal speculated.
"One of the victims was a Pastor. He wasn't Catholic though. The rest were affiliated to varying degrees with different faiths and branches," said Max.
"None of them believe in Ben's exact version, this so-called Blue Lady, so he isn't necessarily targeting those who worship Mary, just those of faith."
Max shrugged. The Blue Lady didn't save Jack or Eva and they had believed. Any further testing seemed redundant. Clearly, it didn't work. Serial killers were supposed to be logical. It didn't add up. This wasn't even considering Ben stamping his barcode on them all. This she couldn't share with Normal.
"You said before that you wanted to be a potential victim, bait. That this was your endgame."
"You're in luck. That's very achievable, perhaps inevitable, given that you know the true story," Normal predicted.
Max shivered. She hadn't considered Ben tracking down one of the others. It was reckless, they were equipped to fight him unlike the normal people, but it had a certain poetry that seemed to fit in with Ben's MO.
"You got a plan?"
"You need to unlapse. Convert to Catholicism. Use your fabricated history to your benefit. Play up your transfer to a secular school to study science. Can you arrange it that your parents disowned you for this decision?"
Max was two steps ahead of Normal there. This already happened. It wasn't anything to do with Ben. Max just wanted to make her story airtight. Creating an entire family took work so it was easier to cut them off, give them a reason to deny her existence and set them on the other side of the country if anyone went looking. She had toyed with the orphan approach, but it seemed like that would be too obvious for an escapee, surely Manticore had flagged that.
Max nodded. She could get her fake parent's disapproval without any difficulties.
"Good. Join the local religious community. Prayer circles. Retreats. Helping out at homeless shelters. Do it all. Make your presence felt without sacrificing the controversy. You can research that yourself. Ben comes to town and hits the local churches; you want him to hear the gossip about you. The big twist is that this is all nonsense and you're you."
Funny that Max, who spent her life resenting being bossed around, was happy to get this plan. With this, it was like maybe she could pull off this job. She had a fighting chance. She could do all that stuff and Normal seemed to think it could work. Maybe it wouldn't, but it had potential and she had nothing else going on.
It was a waiting game then.
Sounds like a decent plan? A new (but familiar) character will be introduced next chapter that will stir things up. Please comment. Like I said, I'm remixing season 1. What do you think? It will become clear sooner when exactly this is taking place and why events in certain episodes are glossed over or pushed back.