“Sir, you forgot your card.” Janet hurried to the door and looked out, but he’d already disappeared into the busy sidewalk traffic.
She walked back into the bank and took her place behind the counter.
A handsome young man came in.
Janet’s smile drew him to her station. “I need to make a withdrawal.”
“I’ll be glad to help you with that, Sir.”
“And then I’ll be closing my account.”
“Well, I hate to hear that,” said Janet. “Have our services not lived up to your expectations? What can I do to make it right?”
“Nothing. There’s nothing you can do. Just, please, process my withdrawal.”
“No problem, Sir.” She walked around to the end of the counter. “Please follow me.”
She led him into Processing Room 3. “I’ll need your member card.”
He handed her the plastic card.
“So you want to withdraw everything, Mr…,” She checked the name on his card before putting it into the pocket of her smock. “…Jones?”
“Okay. But you understand that this could take a couple of hours.”
“Look, I never realized how important my memories were to me. Sure, there are some bad ones—some things I thought I wanted to forget. But it’s no good. Extracting them left a big hole. I can feel it. So I’ve got to have them back. I need to deal with them. Otherwise my mind will never be right. I’ll never be at peace.”
“I understand.” Janet strapped him into the chair, and attached the harness to his head, draping the cables across his shoulder.
She took out his card, swiped it through the reader, and put it back into her pocket. Then she keyed in the necessary codes to process the withdrawal. The timer came to life.
“Looks like it will take two hours and twenty-seven minutes,” said Janet.
Mr. Jones remained quiet.
She walked out of the room, turned off the lights, closed the door, and locked it.
Janet’s computer beeped, and she went to Processing Room 3. “You’re all done, Mr. Jones.”
“Good. Just get this thing off of me.”
She removed the harness from his head and unlocked the straps from his torso. “You’re good to go.”
“None too soon.” He jumped up from the chair and bolted for the door.
She reached into her pocket. “Mr. Jones, don’t forget your card.” She followed him out to the lobby.
“Keep it,” he said, without looking back. “I won’t be needing it anymore.”
Mr. Jones’ cell phone rang again. This time he turned it off. “Why can’t she just leave me alone?”
The man on the bar stool next to him said, “I know what you mean, Man. My Old Lady just keeps calling me too. She says, bring that paycheck home to me. Don’t you go out wasting it on booze. But I need my booze. She just don’t understand. Women just don’t get it. A man works hard—”
“—yeah, right. I hear you, Man.” Mr. Jones tossed a few bills on the bar, got up and walked outside to the dark parking lot. He spotted a young man standing at his car, fumbling with his keys.
A memory flashed through his mind. He remembered how good it felt. He’d do it just like the other times. And unlike the other guys, this one had it coming.
Mr. Jones rushed up behind the man and grabbed him. “Do what I say, and you won’t get hurt.”
“Buddy, you don’t want to do this. Come on.”
Mr. Jones could feel the evil smile forming on his face. “Oh, yes I do. And I’m gonna enjoy it.”
Mr. Jones thrust the knife up into the man’s side, just below the ribcage. He yanked it out and let him fall to the ground. His heart began to race as he watched the young man struggle to stay alive. “Oh, my God. What have I done?”
Janet fidgeted, across the table from the police detective.
“So you believe the reason Mr. Jones committed the murder was because you accidentally got these two cards mixed up?”
“Yes, as I told you before, Mr. Smith made a deposit, and then left before I could give him his card back. I put it in my pocket and forgot about it.”
“And then when Mr. Jones came in to withdraw all of his memories, you inserted Mr. Smith’s card into the machine instead of his.”
“Yes. And since Mr. Smith is a convicted murderer…”
“But that’s not true. Mr. Smith has never killed anyone.”
“He’s an ex-con. He told me that.”
“Yes. For embezzlement—not murder.”
“Oh,” said Janet. “Well then I guess it wasn’t my fault after all. What a relief.” She started to get up. “Thanks for letting me know.”
“Sit down, Ma’am. There’s more.” He got up and began to walk around the room. “Did you know that we now have top-notch forensic computer specialists working for the city?”
“Apparently somebody hacked your system, allowing them to insert fake memories into Mr. Jones’ mind. They weren’t Mr. Smith’s memories. They were fabricated memories.”
“Wow—that’s amazing. But why would anyone want to do that?”
“That’s what we wondered,” said the detective. “The victim was new in town. Only been living here a few weeks. But he told a co-worker that a woman was stalking him. He met her online and went out with her once. But when he didn’t call her back, she went all Fatal Attraction on him.”
“So you think this woman somehow hacked into our system so she could program one of our customers to kill the man? That’s pretty farfetched.”
The detective just stared at her.
Janet cleared her throat. “So how are you going to catch this mystery woman? Only the victim knew who she was, right?”
“Too bad he’s dead.”
“Did I say he was dead?” He looked over her head at the door behind her.
Janet gulped and slowly turned around.
“That was a lie for the press.”
An officer was looking through the window in the door.
The detective motioned to him.
The door opened, and a handsome young man walked in. “Hello, Janet.”
She lunged at him like a cheetah, screaming and clawing.
The officer stopped her cold with an iron fist to the jaw.
She lay on the floor dazed, looking up at the young man.
“You just couldn’t leave me alone, could you, Janet?”
“Mr. Jones is okay too, by the way. I’m not pressing charges against him. It wasn’t his fault.”
“And I’ve decided to go easy on you too—even though you nearly had me killed. The state has this new program for criminals. It’s called Total Memory Erasure. Heard of it?”
“It will wipe out your criminal memories and thoughts. Perhaps it will cure you. Unfortunately, the process has not been fully perfected. You’ll have to wear diapers at first, and learn to eat with a spoon.”
“God, no. Don’t do this to me.”
“All I care about is that you won’t remember me. Good luck, Janet.”
She screamed as he walked out of the room, and continued to scream until her throat was raw. “No! No! No! No! No! No!”
Janet lay in her adult-size crib, wetting herself, remembering nothing.