Chapter 6: The Dreams That Stuff Is Made Of
The man at the bakery had told him that there wasn't much left of the charred body they'd taken away in the ambulance. Herbie looked up at what remained of the still smoldering apartment. The tragedy had been attributed to a natural gas explosion.
....A tear formed in the corner of his eyes. Dr. Rheinberg had been a father figure to him. He swallowed hard the sob that had been surging within his throat. He had let the doctor down. He'd betrayed his trust. He'd even reneged on the vow that they'd all taken so long ago.
....Once he and the others met on the roof of that warehouse, he was going to remove a terrible burden from his shoulders. He was going to come clean. He had to! He dreaded facing them all. A warm glow came to his heart as he visualized Mae Lee's face in his thoughts. He didn't wish to hurt her.
....Then there was Milton. Would he be so willing as he for their dark secret to be revealed? Both Rhonda and Mae Lee were going to be hurt, for they were unwitting victims of his and Milton's misguided improprieties. There were going to be huge rifts and strains placed upon their friendships that day.
....He sighed heavily and walked away. He would take his backpack and camp out on the roof and wait for the others to arrive.
Milton looked out of the window as they pulled into the rest stop. The bad thing about travelling by bus was all the stops along the way. It was a minor nuisance though. He had opted to take a bus to afford him the time to think. Soul searching would have been too taxing if he had to also concentrate on operating a vehicle on unfamiliar roads. Besides, it kept his hands free to run a series of programs he had written years before.
....The fact that he was now accessing those files meant that Dr. Rheinberg's fears had come to fruition. Dream Lover was in fact in the wrong hands. Rheinberg knew it, hence the e-mail he had sent him and the others.
....The others, who like him were certainly in transit to the rendezvous point, must have also realized that a crisis was at hand. All of them were in possible mortal danger. If someone else was in possession of Dream Lover, it would follow that that someone knew all about them. That someone, whomever it was, would not want to share the power of Dream Lover. They were expendable.
....He produced a state-of-the-art PDA and connected it to the computer. He pressed the 'enter' key and started the transfer of data.
"Rhonda," Mae Lee said, "When we meet up with the guys, are you planning to bring up our little clandestine experiment?"
...."We have to, don't you think?" she replied.
...."Yes, I suppose we must. I'm just not sure I can face them. Won't you be embarrassed?"
....Rhonda looked into her friend's eyes and said sternly, "After what has happened to us? You in the baggage claim area? Me in the conference room? Not to mention what happened in that hotel bed! Embarrassed, Mae Lee? I should think we would be invulnerable to embarrassment."
....Mae Lee hung her head, "I don't think I am as strong as you, Rhonda."
...."Did it ever occur to you, Mae Lee, that the boys might have conducted a similar experiment of their own?"
...."What?" she exclaimed in horror. "They wouldn't have! That would be like .. rape!"
...."Yes, mind rape. You're exercising a double standard, aren't you? What's good for the goose isn't good for the gander?"
...."Well, when you put it that way ... You're right, of course."
...."If you and I came up with the idea, isn't quite possible they did also? Don't you think they must have weighed the morality of their actions just as you and I did that night so long ago?"
...."True. I guess I wasn't giving them enough credit to place scientific pursuits ahead of their libidos." She looked up at Rhonda and added, "I have to admit that it was a rewarding experiment."
....A knowing smile appeared on Rhonda's face. "Yes, very rewarding."
His "to-do" list was growing shorter. He drew a line through the last completed task, the stripper. He held up the list and read the numbered items one by one.
1.Ah yes, he thought, the cop he'd met in that tavern was the contact that had led him to the discovery of the possible location of Dream Lover. That cop had been only too cooperative to retrieve the report the stripper and her boyfriend had given in exchange for a C-note. It was most unfortunate that he would happen to walk into the path of a semi only moments after handing him the report.
cop from the bar
Smith, the porno man
Misty the stripper
Jimmy, Misty's boyfriend
6. Herbert Jennings
7. Milton Sinclair
8. Rhonda Fisher
9. Mae Lee Tan
....There were only four 'items' left on his list, the students themselves. Once they were eliminated, he'd be the sole person alive with any knowledge of Dream Lover or of its existence. He's was on the verge of becoming a very filthy rich and very powerful lawyer. There could not be anyone left alive who might get in his way.
....He patted the cell phone in his breast pocket. He could scratch the broads off the list as sure as he was sitting there in sight of their hotel. Later, he thought, later. He needed them at present. He didn't know when or where, but they would be meeting the two men soon. All that would be left to do would be to follow the girls. They would lead him to them.
The upload completed, Milton disconnected the PDA from the laptop. He typed in a set of instructions followed by the command to transmit.
....He let his mind wander back to the last time he and Dr. Rheinberg had met, scarcely six months earlier. The doctor had gotten himself into trouble and had called him for help. Funny, Milton thought, but he'd never imagined his mentor being obsessed with a woman.
....He was shamed, but he told Milton the whole story. He'd begun a habit of stopping into a strip club for a couple of drinks and a little escapism after work. He'd become infatuated with a stripper who used the stage name Misty. After he'd become a regular customer, he had gotten to know the girl. Not being the man-of-the-world type, Rheinberg had misinterpreted that part of the woman's job to coerce the male customers to spend their money buying the dancers drinks.
....The woman, of course, had rejected his advances. Then one night, his persistence in spite of her protests had led to a confrontation with a bouncer. He was thrown out of the place and ordered to never return. As it turned out, the bouncer was the girl's boyfriend.
....Banned from the club, the doctor had become desperate. He began to stalk her until he'd learned her address. It was an easy matter to obtain her telephone number. He was chagrined to learn that the two lived together. Not wanting to risk contact with the bouncer, Rheinberg had at that point lost all sense of discretion. He activated Dream Lover with the intention of projecting his mind into the mind of the boyfriend.
....He'd reasoned that if he couldn't have sex with Misty himself, then he would see, hear and feel what the man experienced. The sensations had been so realistic that he'd felt like it was he who'd been having sex with the woman. Not only had he become erect, but he had ejaculated at the same instant the man had.
....Then one night something went wrong. It was something they had never anticipated when they were working on the project. Instead of picking up the phone, one of them had switched the call to speaker. Rheinberg's mind had been transferred into both the minds of the woman and the man in the same instant. There was severe pain in his head as two sets of thoughts mingled with his own. He had then immediately broken the connection.
....As it turned out, there had been some lasting after effects. Lingering thoughts of the pair remained in his brain for several hours. He'd told Milton that he suspected that fragments of his thoughts may have been lodged in the minds of the couple also.
....A few days later he had been visited by a policeman who had informed him that the couple had filed a report at the police station that he'd been reading their minds, thus invading their privacy. The officer laughed at the ludicrous claims but had felt duty bound to inform him of the charges. He'd wanted to warn an upstanding college professor that someone might be harrassing him.
....That was when he had became certain that they'd picked up on his thoughts. They'd given the police his full name and address, information they could not have known.
....With his mentor's assistance they had hastily created a software application that would prevent in the future any occurences like the one that had nearly brought Dream Lover to unwanted public attention. Before he returned home, Milton had suggested that he take a long vacation just to get away and to forget.
....He liked to twist Sam Spade's words from his favorite movie, The Maltese Falcon, into some more to his liking, "The dreams that stuff is made of!"
....He tensed and touched the keys hanging from the ignition switch. The two women were leaving the hotel. The game had resumed.
To be continued... Conclusion