September 11, 2015
"Andy said sometimes you have to save the client from himself." Henry's voice was hoarse from exhaustion, and his eyes were red. He'd told Lisa he was having problems getting to sleep after their shifts.
Henry claimed he smelled burning in spots all over the museum now. He was calling in reports of it to Lisa on the radio while they were separately patrolling the building.
"Let's be sure we make a note of it," he usually added. Lisa had not detected the burning scent after that first night. Following a few arguments about it, Henry no longer asked her to come to any of the locations to verify. She had found a report on a loose electrical connection in that initial spot, and she'd forwarded it to her boss.
"It's not that," Henry told her. "I know what it is."
He also said at one point that he'd finally remembered the scene the black and white movie had shown them. He wouldn't elaborate, and she didn't try to probe. She suspected he was seeing the video in other places, but for some reason he wasn't telling her.
Then she caught him muttering something and using his sleeve to rub a mark off a wall. He'd spoken a single, two-syllable word with a hard K that made him sound angry. He'd looked up at her, and for a moment he was stunned with fear. Then he smiled awfully. He erased marks like this more than once.
"Let the big dog eat," she'd heard him say out loud to himself in a dark hall. "Let. The Big Dog. Eat." He giggled to himself.
His sleeve was black. He'd been erasing messages all night. Now they were down in the basement, just outside the door to Jespersen's office. It was 3 am, and Jespersen had clocked out a long time ago.
"It occurred to me," Henry told her carefully - and quietly, too, as if they might be overheard. "It occurred to me... that he was a B-movie actor, after all. Do you know what that means?"
"No," she said. He leaned in.
"It means... he wasn't playing characters. He was playing actors playing characters."
She gave him a blank look.
"He wasn't playing a cowboy. He played Gary Cooper playing a cowboy."
"Yes!" he said. "I know! Isn't it perfect? But Gary Cooper didn't play a cowboy either. He played the idea of a cowboy. The American idea of what a cowboy should be. And then, Reagan used that persona to play the president. So he played a role, playing a role, playing a role, playing a role. And everyone - all of them - they're all coming to this place to play him. Yes?"
His breath was obscene. But she didn't dare move, because by this point she could clearly feel the nub of the pistol just below her lowest rib.
"Leadership," he said. "Especially during times of fear... It is acting. It's always acting. Always."
"Jespersen wasn't telling us everything," he said.
"The client never tells you everything."
"So you do what you have to, right?"
She didn't know what to say.
"I want you to see something," Henry Talbot told her. "Open that door."
Inside the room, lying on the floor and wrapped tightly in canvas sheets, so that he could barely move, was Don Jespersen. He was stripped to his underwear, and he stank of urine. His mouth was covered with black tape. Dried blood spotted the skin around one ear. His eyes widened as they entered. He pleaded with a look.
Jespersen's jacket, tie, and pants hung on a stand near the desk. Behind them, scrawled in charcoal - in the neat, capital letters Henry swore were just like how their friend Andy wrote - was a message:
WHO WANTS TO WEAR MY MASK?
Read Part 4 - The Secret