Recursion - Blake Crouch
November 2, 2018
Barry Sutton pulls over into the fire lane at the main entrance of the Poe Building, an Art Deco tower glowing white in the illumination of its exterior sconces. He climbs out of his Crown Vic, rushes across the sidewalk, and pushes through the revolving door into the lobby.
The night watchman is standing by the bank of elevators, holding one open as Barry hurries toward him, his shoes echoing off the marble.
“What floor?” Barry asks as he steps into the elevator car.
“Forty-one. When you get up there, take a right and go all the way down the hall.”
“More cops will be here in a minute. Tell them I said to hang back until I give a signal.”
The elevator races upward, belying the age of the building around it, and Barry’s ears pop after a few seconds. When the doors finally part, he moves past a sign for a law firm. There’s a light on here and there, but the floor stands mostly dark. He runs along the carpet, passing silent offices, a conference room, a break room, a library. The hallway finally opens into a reception area that’s paired with the largest office.
In the dim light, the details are all in shades of gray. A sprawling mahogany desk buried under files and paperwork. A circular table covered in notepads and mugs of cold, bitter-smelling coffee. A wet bar stocked exclusively with bottles of Macallan Rare. A glowing aquarium that hums on the far side of the room and contains a small shark and several tropical fish.
As Barry approaches the French doors, he silences his phone and removes his shoes. Taking the handle, he eases the door open and slips out onto the terrace.
The surrounding skyscrapers of the Upper West Side look mystical in their luminous shrouds of fog. The noise of the city is loud and close—car horns ricocheting between the buildings and distant ambulances racing toward some other tragedy. The pinnacle of the Poe Building is less than fifty feet above—a crown of glass and steel and gothic masonry.
The woman sits fifteen feet away beside an eroding gargoyle, her back to Barry, her legs dangling over the edge.
He inches closer, the wet flagstones soaking through his socks. If he can get close enough without detection, he’ll drag her off the edge before she knows what—
“I smell your cologne,” she says without looking back.
She looks back at him, says, “Another step and I’m gone.”
It’s difficult to tell in the ambient light, but she appears to be in the vicinity of forty. She wears a dark blazer and matching skirt, and she must have been sitting out here for a while, because her hair has been flattened by the mist.
“Who are you?” she asks.
“Barry Sutton. I’m a detective in the Central Robbery Division of NYPD.”
“They sent someone from the Robbery—?”
“I happened to be closest. What’s your name?”
“Ann Voss Peters.”
“May I call you Ann?”
“Is there anyone I can call for you?”
She shakes her head.
“I’m going to step over here so you don’t have to keep straining your neck to look at me.”
Barry moves away from her at an angle that also brings him to the parapet, eight feet down from where she’s sitting. He glances once over the edge, his insides contracting.
“All right, let’s hear it,” she says.
“Aren’t you here to talk me off? Give it your best shot.”
He decided what he would say riding up in the elevator, recalling his suicide training. Now, squarely in the moment, he feels less confident. The only thing he’s sure of is that his feet are freezing.
“I know everything feels hopeless to you in this moment, but this is just a moment, and moments pass.”
Ann stares straight down the side of the building, four hundred feet to the street below, her palms flat against the stone that has been weathered by decades of acid rain. All she would have to do is push off. He suspects she’s walking herself through the motions, tiptoeing up to the thought of doing it. Amassing that final head of steam.
He notices she’s shivering.
“May I give you my jacket?” he asks.
“I’m pretty sure you don’t want to come any closer, Detective.”
“Why is that?”
“I have FMS.”
Barry resists the urge to run. Of course he’s heard of False Memory Syndrome, but he’s never known or met someone with the affliction. Never breathed the same air. He isn’t sure he should attempt to grab her now. Doesn’t even want to be this close. No, fuck that. If she