Mr. Z thought, as he entered room two, that she looked almost fragile and helpless sitting there behind the table. But he knew she was far from either. Kate Austen glanced up and smiled. The harsh room lights didn’t diminish her beauty, in fact the lights enhanced it, highlighting the freckles spread across her pixie-like nose.

“Anyone ever nickname you ‘freckles’?” Mr. Z immediately asked.

That first question threw Kate for a loop! Of all the things she could have been asked first, that was the last question she could have ever anticipated!

“Only one,” she softly answered.

Kate immediately reinforced her mental defenses. She had dealt with a lot of interrogators in her young life. Usually local or state cops and, of course, her on again, off again, encounters with the Feds. She knew how to handle them but… this guy! This guy was no local cop! She sensed he wasn’t even a Fed. She couldn’t get a grasp of who he was and that was why she felt a slight sense of dread the moment he walked in!

Mr. Z chuckled to himself, then continued on.

“I’ve been looking over your record, Ms. Austen,” he began, “you have a remarkable ability to get into trouble then get right out somehow or another, don’t you?!”

“It’s a gift!” Kate replied, unemotionally.

“I’m not going to bore you too much with your own life story, however exciting it has appeared to be,” Mr. Z smiled, “because, at this point, it is irrelevant to our little meeting. However, I’m going to ask you to cooperate with me in obtaining some information. If you chose to cooperate, fine! If you choose not to, then your life story will suddenly become very important indeed!”

“What information are you talking about?” Kate suspiciously asked.

Mr. Z sighed, as he sat down opposite Kate at the table.

“You mysteriously disappear,” Mr. Z began, “mysteriously reappear. Then disappear again. And now, tonight, you reappear once more! I bet there’s a good story behind all of that and I want to know what it is!”

“If you’ve read my files,” Kate replied, “and you obviously have, then you already know my story!”

Mr. Z glanced through the files he held in his hands.

“Yes. Yes, it is all in here isn’t it?” Z said, “petty thefts since you were a child. Killed your step-father by blowing him up! Oh, excuse me, Ms. Austen. He was your real father, wasn’t he?!”

“What do you want??!!” Kate angrily replied.

“I told you, Ms. Austen,” Z answered, “just your cooperation. Now lets see. You went on the run right after you murdered your father, didn’t you? Along the way, you were also the cause of your former boyfriend’s death! A good doctor and family man! He died trying to help you, didn’t he? I bet his family really misses him, don’t you think?”

Kate looked away, as tears began to flow down her face.

Z smiled, as he continued, “you used your beauty and charisma to charm and con some guys to help you rob a bank. During that escapade, the bank’s customers and employees were terrorized! Shots were fired! And what you were you after that was in a lock box? Was it money? Gold? Jewelry? Stocks and Bonds? No, what you were after all along was a toy airplane!”

Kate held her head down. Z could hear her softly sobbing.

Z continued, “you even married a cop once! How did that turn out? Oh, yeah, you drugged him then left him, didn’t you? You’ve been one busy girl all your life, haven’t you?”

Kate said nothing, as she tried to wipe away the tears.

“Then you crash on an island!” Z said, “conveniently for you, since you were being brought back to face those murder charges!”

“I eventually stood trial for those charges!” Kate angrily replied.

“Yes, you did,” Z replied, “wasn’t a very satisfactory outcome for the state prosecutors, was it?”

“It was satisfactory enough for me!” Kate sarcastically replied.

“Don’t be coy, Ms. Austen,” Z angrily replied, “and don’t treat me like you’ve treated all those other amateur interrogators you’ve encountered in your life! They all may have been stupid but I, you’ll find, am not!”

Mr. Z took out a micro-recorder from his coat pocket and placed it on the table directly in front of Kate. She glanced down quizzically.

“You are to tell me what really happened on that island when you crashed the first time!” Mr. Z sternly ordered, “you will tell me what you saw, who you saw, and what you experienced on that island! You will tell me where that island is and, if you don’t know where it is, you will tell me why you don’t know! Finally, you will tell me what happened with Ajira flight 316 in full detail and why, all this time later, you just happen to show up here tonight! Just press the small red button to begin recording, what I anticipate to be, a fascinating tale!”

Kate frowned, “I don’t know where to begin or how to tell you because I really don’t know anything!”

Mr. Z nodded, “Well for starters, you can begin from the beginning and I know you know something! You just don’t want to tell, isn’t that right, Kate?!!”

Kate remained silent.

Mr. Z took the folder and glanced through it, as if he were looking for a particular page. He suddenly stopped to read a section.

“Aren’t you excited being back so you can be reunited with your son?” Mr. Z asked, “what’s his name? Oh, here it is, Aaron, isn’t it?”

Kate sat up straight in the chair.

“Yes,” she softly replied, “his name is Aaron.”

“Hmm,” Mr. Z exclaimed, “as I continue to peruse your files, there seemed to have been some questions, when you first returned, about the legitimacy of your motherhood to this child. This Aaron.”

“He is my son!” Kate answered impatiently.

“Oh, I’m sure he is, Ms. Austen,” Mr. Z replied, “and I want to help you to dispel any more rumors to the contrary. Since we already have a sample of your blood, I will arrange a DNA test to match it up to a sample of Aaron’s blood, which we also have!”

“You leave my son alone!” Kate said, raising her voice, “you stay away from him! Whoever you are!”

“Why, Ms. Austen,” Mr. Z began, “I figured you would want to have definitive proof that Aaron is yours! Or am I mistaken? Have I misunderstood? Are you telling me that there may be some legitimate questions about who Aaron’s mother really is?”

“What do you want from me?!” Kate wearily asked.

“I’ve already told you what I want, Kate,” Mr. Z answered, “I want you to tell me all about your wonderous adventures. Leave no detail out! If you don’t, I’ll order the results of the DNA test to be released to child protective services back in the states! I’ll then see to it that you be charged with kidnapping! I’ll make sure you’ll never see Aaron again!”

“Why are you doing this?” Kate cried.

“Because you have information that is very important to the security of the world,” Mr. Z explained, “and I have been assigned to gather that information! And I have been authorized to use anything and everything at my disposal to accomplish that goal!”

Mr. Z got up and headed for the door.

“Please press record, whenever you are ready,” he said, “I’ll be back in an hour. If you need more tape let me know! Oh, by the way!”

Kate slowly glanced up.

“There was another passenger with you on the Oceanic flight. Ms. Claire Littleton. She was apparently headed to L.A. to adopt out the baby she was carrying. I find it very interesting that she has now arrived back with you on the Ajira flight, sans pregnancy and sans baby. Be sure to mention in your report what happened to her child, would you? Or do I already know?!”

Kate shot an angry glance at Mr. Z, as he opened the door and exited the room. She stared at the recorder in front of her, sighed, then pressed the red record button.

“So what’s her story?” Smaller asked, as Mr. Z came out of room two.

“She’ll cooperate,” Mr. Z answered, “I really gave her no choice! Now, who’s next on the agenda?”

Smaller handed Z another file. This one was noticeably thinner than the rest.

“You’ve got a real ‘shadow man’ next,” Smaller said

Z frowned, as he looked over the thin file.

“Well, I’ve always wanted to meet someone who seems to exist and not exist at the same time!” Z replied, “I guess Richard Albert has given me that chance!” Next: Chap. Six “The Richard Alpert Interrogation”

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