Part 38 of an original tale that delves into the unexplored realms of the human mind. Hired by her lover to find a raven haired beauty, Benjamin Bering must avoid the local police as well as the agents of a nonexistent government agency who are after him and the woman. There are just two problems. The woman is in a coma and her body has been stolen. (Part 1 can be found HERE.)
I watched the general with guarded amusement. He was in his element. It was as if he were standing before his troops, addressing them before sending them off to battle. I couldn't help but think, he was doing just that.
He stood still looking down upon the first casualty of the personal war he had declared. Faye had been injured by his physical and verbal assaults and could not bring herself to look into the face of her father.
He spoke with a deliberate but forcible tone, "Faye, you are dismissed!" He executed a smart about face and with a slight turn of his head he softened his delivery and said, "Faye, get to your office."
"Dismissed? Dismissed?" Faye screeched jumping to her feet. "Who do you think you're talking to? I'm not one of your god damned soldiers!" She stood nose to nose with him. She was trembling with the fire of anger and the chill of humiliation.
The general didn't flinch but raised his own voice, "Your presence is no longer required. Don't force me to take any action against you. Return to your job while the position is still yours." He cleared his throat and added, "Have a pot of coffee ready. You can expect to see me at N.I.M.H. at 1700 hours."
Her lip was quivering and more tears began to run with her mascara down onto her cheeks. She turned, and probably more to display a haughty demeanor, sashayed to the door. Her back to us and her hand on the door knob she drew in a deep breath before stepping outside into the crisp air.
"That went rather well," I said.
Gates walked over to the door and pulling the curtain aside commented, "Yes, it did, didn't it? Does that not strike you as odd, Mr. Bering?"
I moved next to him as Faye's car sped away. "As a matter of fact, it does. She's not one to give up without a fight. She's up to something," I replied. He turned to face me and nodded in agreement. I shook my head and offered, "She'll run straight to King and tell him all about our secret meeting here."
"You can bet your sweet ass on that. In fact, I'm counting on it," he said.
Stu approached us and stated, "I'm glad to see you have a plan, General. You can count me in of course, but I don't recall volunteering for your war."
Gates appeared thoughtful for a moment before replying, "It was rather presumptuous of me, however I have sensed the mettle within the three of you to see this thing through. We have a common goal, and that is to shut down King and his mind control experiments."
"General," Susan said entering into the discussion, "you said that Rosie was in danger and had to be protected. I don't understand what part she plays in all of this, or why you think she's in danger."
"Of course, Miss Parsons. I have a lot of explaining to do and I should get started right away." He glanced at his watch and said, "We have a little over five hours before the shit hits the fan. First, I suggest we order some grub. We're going to need our strength." He glanced at each of us and said, "Did I hear someone suggest Chinese?"
A few minutes later I returned the receiver to the cradle and announced, "They said it would be about a half an hour. You must be a regular there, General. They said they would put it on Genelal Glate's bill."
Susan, who had been busy in the small galley kitchen called out, "Coffee's ready! There's no milk or cream, but we do have some non-dairy creamer."
Full stomachs all, the general lit up a cigar and blew a large smoke ring across the table. "Mr. Bering and the young lady have seen the discs I know. Stu, I understand you had opportunity to do so while Mr. Bering was convalescing in the hospital." He studied our faces and then continued, "I think I should begin with a desultory genealogy of the players. It will answer a lot of your questions." His eyes rested for the briefest of moments on Susan before adding, "It will also answer some questions you weren't expecting to be answered."
Stu depressed the record button on a small digital recorder and set it on the table between he and the general. His hand froze above the device when he realized Gates was watching his actions. He nodded in approval for the device to be used and Stu pulled his hand away.
"Because I placed my career above all else, I wasn't exactly the ideal husband, or father, for that matter. I was in Korea when Faye was born. She was four years old when I first set eyes on her. Rose was born the following year, and once again I wasn't there. As it turned out, I wasn't there for the conception either."
He paused to tap the long ash from the tip of his cigar. "I never confronted my wife about it, and I never found out the name of Rose's real father. It didn't matter. I wasn't faithful through the years, so how could I justify disdain for her infidelity? As for the girls, until today neither one of them knew that they had different fathers."
"How sad." Although Susan had whispered General Gates had heard her words.
He shrugged, "I'm afraid that my career in the Army has stripped me of any compassion. Indeed my interpretation of the emotion you call love is vastly different from your own. As such, the relationship I have with my daughters is more akin to that of a passing acquaintance. When they were in their teens, Faye 18 and Rose 13, it would be my last contact with them until they were both in their twenties. I had come home to bury their mother."
Stu said, "His wife Mary and I were classmates in school. General Gates and I first met at her funeral. We have been in correspondence on and off ever since."
Gates poured himself a cup of the coffee from the steaming pot. After taking a sip he said, "It was during those years that I had been assigned to take command of a highly secretive mission. I received orientation in the project stateside before I and few men handpicked by myself were shipped over to Southeast Asia to setup operations there."
I reached for the pot of coffee and said, "Faye tried to contact you for our wedding. She wanted you to walk her down the aisle, but there was to be no response forthcoming."
"That I regret. However, there was another family matter I deemed more pressing. Rose had gotten herself pregnant. I had it arranged for her to spend the duration of her pregnancy with an old friend in Ohio."
"The old stigma and the shame of having a baby out of wedlock?" I offered.
"That was indeed the prevailing attitude of those times, Mr. Bering. It wasn't as simple as that however. The father of the child was a responsible young man and he'd asked Rose to marry him. She was love with him and she accepted his proposal," Gates said. He rose from the table and sought out the bottle of scotch.
"The marriage never took place, did it?" Susan inquired. "What happened?"
He lowered his glass and shook his head. "He was found a week later, a gun shot to the back of his head. It was determined to be a hunting accident, although to my satisfaction no one could explain how a hunter could shoot himself in the back of the head with a twelve gauge shotgun."
I joined the general at the bar and poured a half glass of the scotch. "I gather they were conducting their brain experiments even here in the Boston area at about that same time. Unbeknownst to you, your daughters must have been subjected to the experiments."
"You are quite perceptive, Mr. Bering. When I learned of it, I snapped. I nearly went out of my mind. I threatened to contact my congressman if they didn't leave my daughters out of their experiments. I swore that I'd even resign my commission and get out of the Army," he took a deep breath. "They played their trump and used Faye and Rose as leverage to quell my demands. The elder King hinted that it would be a tragedy if something terrible happened to them."
"So you had Rosie shipped off to Ohio where she was hidden to protect her and the child," said Stu. "You pulled it off too."
Susan spoke up, "What happened to the baby, General Gates?"
"The child was stillborn," he replied. "Rose was devastated. I don't think she really ever got over it."
Tears of compassion welled in her eyes, "That's so so sad. Poor Rosie."
"That's what she was led to believe, Miss Parsons," Gates espoused without hesitation. "She was heavily sedated when the baby was delivered. That healthy baby was taken away and placed in a prearranged home." He drained the contents of the glass and said, "I've had to live with that decision ever since. The day Rose learns that her daughter is alive and well, I fear that will be the day she forever disowns me. I'll have to live with that too, but at least I knew the child was safe from them."
Sue stood frozen staring at the general. She tried to speak but the words would not come. Seeing her standing there like that tugged at my heartstrings.
(To be continued in part 39 on Friday 4/10 with Friends in Low Places.)