She'd wondered if there ought to be a funeral. A part of her, the part that had lived with Leland Palmer for two decades and had felt the wrongness of him each minute of each day, said no. Not after what he'd done. To lay him to rest would mean as much as forgiving him, and even the other part of her, the part that had loved him despite her worst fears, couldn't bear the thought. The least Sarah had expected was for anyone to try and change her mind. People talked, after all, and what little talk that carried as far as the house was as merciless as her own thoughts. No one wanted to bury a man who'd killed his own daughter.
But then Sheriff Truman came to see her, Agent Cooper at his shoulder, and they'd sung a rather different tune.
"Please understand, Mrs. Palmer," the Sheriff said. His mouth twisted around the last name. "What happened to Laura and Maddy was a terrible thing, and it's not our intention to detract from that. But we thought you had a right to know the whole story."
"My experience," Cooper said, hands folded in his lap, "is that some evils in this world are simply too strong for any one man, or woman, to fight. That doesn't lift the blame away from them. But it can help us in trying to understand."
There was something in his tone that made her sit up and take notice, something that suggested he wasn't just speaking academically. Sarah mulled over his words for a long time. If they were true, then Leland had been a victim, of a sort. Not that it stopped her from hating him. Yes, there were evils in this world, but he should have died before allowing them to hurt their Laura. She would have died, without hesitation. So why not him?
She made up her mind after they sent Maddy's body home. It was a small service, quiet, just a priest and a coffin and an unmarked grave. The Sheriff had come, along with Agent Cooper and a handful of others. No one else had shown up, which suited her fine. It was the strangest thing, though. Living with Leland had always been punctuated with flashes of fear, of creeping danger, and with his death she'd felt free of those for the first time in years. But as she walked away from the coffin, something stirred inside her. Something old. Something familiar. Something she should have known better than to think she was rid of.
The evil wasn't gone, she knew then. It had just gone… elsewhere.
Albert felt stumped. It was a feeling he avoided having as a general rule. Of course he knew plenty of people in which that state of mind was a permanent condition, either by accident of birth or by sheer lack of effort, but for himself it was rare. Considering what he'd been exposed to since joining the Bureau, he was pretty confident that by now he’d seen, if not everything, then at least enough to know just how much he hadn’t seen yet. But this? This was a first. It seemed, to all intents and purposes, that he was being ‘seen off’. Not by a pissed-looking junior lawman who’d picked the short straw, which was regular fare when Albert wrapped up a case, but by what had to be the full complement of Twin Peaks' law enforcement. Plus, of course, one Dale Cooper.
Putting down his suitcase, Albert exchanged solemn handshakes with Lucy, Andy, Truman and Hawk. He didn’t know why they'd bother to say goodbye, but he could take a wild guess. These were the people who’d heard Leland Palmer's confession last night; the ones who’d seen the body afterwards. Death might no longer rattle Albert, but the act of dying still could, and he'd seen Palmer's face on the back of his eyelids all of last night. He knew the others had seen it too. He knew they felt the same.
Cooper was the last one to extend his hand, and Albert shook it with the same sense of surreality he’d been dragging around since this circus began. He'd finished Palmer's autopsy three hours ago, then driven back to the hotel to clean up and pack his gear, just in time to show his face at the funeral. Even after half an hour under a scalding hot shower, he still felt dirty. Not your regular post-case grittiness, but the cloying grime of unfinished business.
He hated to leave. He especially hated to leave while Cooper was staying.
“It's fine, Albert," Cooper said, reading his mind like only he could. He clasped Albert's shoulder, the intimacy of the gesture catching him mid-retort. "There's just a few loose ends that need tying up. I'll be back before you know it."
Albert was not a man who liked to trust instincts, his own even less than anyone else's. He hoped to hell he was right in not trusting them now.
The day after Cooper vanished without a trace, Harry Truman handed in his resignation. At some level he knew he ought to feel ashamed for leaving. Ironically, what convinced him it was the right decision was that he barely felt a thing at all. Passing Hawk the keys to the Sheriff's station, his weapon, then finally his badge, he felt strangely devoid of emotion for the first time since… losing Josie, he'd have said once, but now he wasn't sure. Deep down he knew that Josie, at least, had been aware of the game she'd been playing; Josie had had her chance to walk away. Laura and Maddy certainly hadn't. And the horror didn't stop. Annie was alive, thank God, not that the credit was his, but the bank was a pile of rubble, Andrew Packard was (now conclusively, incontestably) dead, and Audrey and Pete were still fighting for their lives. He was Sheriff, dammit, yet nothing he'd done had made a bit of difference. He felt useless; unreliable. There was a darkness to this town, he'd known that when he took the job. For a while he'd actually had the illusion he could smoke out the evil, fight it from within. He wasn't sure if he still believed it. Not after it had taken Cooper too. If Cooper was corruptible, then all of them were.
"You sure about this?" Hawk still looked unconvinced. "A good lawman's work is never done. And you're far more than that; you're a good man, and Twin Peaks needs good people, now more than ever."
"I'm sure it does, but don't think it needs me. Not right now." Harry fingered his belt, which felt empty without the strap and holster. He shoved his hands into his pockets instead. "You know the reason, Hawk. There's something I need to find out before I trust myself to do this again."
"Cooper?" Hawk said. Truman nodded, less for Hawk's benefit than for Lucy's, who was following the conversation with wide-eyed horror. He felt guilty about leaving her and Andy to fend for themselves, but Hawk was more than capable. God knew, the change might even do them good.
"B- but Sheriff Truman?" Lucy touched his sleeve almost reverently. "Do you know when you asked me last week to start rearranging all those files? You know, the ones in the back room, in the big file cabinet that we lost the spare key of; the blue cabinet with the poster on it, not the ugly green one?" At some point, even Lucy had to pause for breath. "Well, now you won't even see it finished."
"I'm sure you'll do a terrific job, Lucy," Harry said. "On more fronts than one." This with a significant glance at the bulge below her sweater. Lucy didn't smile, but her shoulders lifted. She'd be all right, Harry thought. In a way, they'd always been the strong ones, Lucy and Hawk. You could rely on them to bounce back.
"If you find Cooper," Hawk said, "don't go in on your own. Call us."
If he didn't answer that, it was because he didn't trust himself to.
The light was very strange, Audrey thought. There was a liquid quality to it, like swimming in a giant bowl of lemon soda, all cool and flowing and spicy in her mouth. Just like swimming, except for the bit where she couldn't move her legs, or her arms, or her eyelids, or any other part of her. She felt dizzy, and something prickled under her skin. It came back to her in fits and starts: the vault, the chains, a huge crash and a ball of heat, then… this. Here. It was actually kind of nice, being wrapped in a giant cotton ball, drifting. So peaceful, all by herself –
Except for the bit where she wasn't. Someone else was here, watching her. Someone familiar. Someone... in need.
Johnny? she felt, but didn't hear herself say. Are you there? But no, that wasn't right. Johnny's mind, if it was here, would be chaotic and buzzing and frantic and warm. The mind that brushed hers was all order and brilliance, mixed in with something like quiet despair. That, and a hint of – affection? Pride?
Her world flipped over like a coin. Now she wasn't drifting but falling, plummeting down onto a tiled stone floor. It hurt, but only for a moment. Then the floor bounced back, bending around her in shaky slow-motion, until she was standing and blinking down at her feet. They were bare, pale toes splayed against jagged white and red. Audrey shivered. The light was strange here too, but not in a friendly way. And there, at the back of the room, wasn't that –
"tnegA repooC," she said, and swallowed. That couldn't be right. She tried again, putting more effort into it. Agent Cooper? She took a deep breath. What is this place? Are you all right?
"hE. iS. herE," a voice said. She blinked; a dwarf-like figure had appeared in front of her, grinning. "hE. iS. noT. alL. righT. NoR. wilL. yoU. bE."
"Why is that? What does that mean?" Audrey said. This was wrong, this was all wrong. She wasn't supposed to be here. In the far corner, the man who looked like Dale Cooper smiled at her, a brave, broken thing of a smile. He gestured to the dwarf, who frowned deeply, then shrugged.
"shE. iS. dyinG," the dwarf told Cooper. "telL. heR. whaT. yoU. musT. IT. wilL. noT. savE. yoU."
Cooper nodded at Audrey. She closed her eyes.
A hand found her forehead, cold but alive, pulse pounding frantically beneath the skin. She leaned into the touch, straining to pick up the words whispered into her ear. They're looking for me. Harry and Albert, they're looking, but they don't know what to do. You must tell them, Audrey. Live, please, and tell them what to do.
Audrey opened her mouth to promise, but suddenly there was pain, crashing down and tipping her over like a wave. Real pain, from the real world, which meant she still had some fight left in her. She pressed her head into the whiteness of hospital sheets; into the warmth of Johnny, cradling her in those long, clumsy arms while she gasped and sobbed and gasped again. All the while, she clung to the memory with all the strength she could muster, all the stubbornness she had.
She knew what had to be done. She'd be damned if any of it involved dying.
He was slipping. Not backwards like he had been, away from the light and into the shattered blackness of the Lodge; no. This time he was slipping forwards, towards the light, which could only mean one thing. They had listened. They had found him. They would, he was sure, see it through to the end.
For a second, Dale swallowed down panic. How long had it been? Months, surely; years, perhaps, cut off from his body and what BOB had turned it into. The Lodge was a nightmare, yes, but nothing like the nightmare of waking up in the real world, facing demons not of his own making. He understood, now, why men like Leland Palmer had spent a lifetime refusing to face the truth about what they were. This wasn't the kind of truth that set a person free. It was a merciless truth, terrifying and cold. It was a truth that killed.
He would not be another Leland. He owed people that: those who'd risked their lives to save him, and those whose lives BOB had destroyed.
One way or another, he was coming home.