Part 39 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.)
Gates smiled and said, "You look just like your mother when she was your age."
At first Susan fell into a stunned state of silence. She moved backward a step and tried to ease herself back onto the sofa, but she misjudged the distance and promptly slid onto the floor. After studying her predicament she began to giggle.
Bemused, I couldn't help but think that she appeared to be drunk. She looked up at me and flashed a broad but nervous smile. Then her face was ashen and her eyes rolled back. She keeled over onto her side.
"Is she alright?" Gates uttered.
I knelt beside her and gently tapped her cheeks. I turned to the general and said, "She'll be okay. She's just fainted."
Presently she was sitting next to me on the sofa. It was obvious that her thoughts were elsewhere. Behind us, Gates was leafing through an out of date newspaper. Stu had busied himself by bagging the remnants of the Chinese food we'd left scattered on the table.
"Ben?" she queried, "I don't know what I'm supposed to do. What will we talk about?" She slid onto her back and positioned her head on my lap. "What should I call her? Mom? Mother?"
"Trust me, honey," I replied gazing down at her, "the two of you will figure it out." I knew that she had not yet placed herself in Rosie's shoes. I dreaded laying that dose of reality upon her. Between estranged mother and child, there was a rocky road winding through an emotional landscape that had taken twenty-five years to be formed.
General Gates arose and cleared his throat. "Young lady, I'm not the most ideal advisor when it comes to matters of family, Lord knows I'm probably the last person you would approach, but this I do know; you don't charge into battle without carefully thought out strategy."
As he circled the the sofa to stand facing us, it was obvious that he was out of his element when it came to dealing with domestic issues. So it was that he was inclined to use military connotations and cliches when facing the world of civilians.
"I have worked out an appropriate battle plan," he announced straightening his uniform shirt. "It was with jurisprudence that before we met here, I dispatched a courier to deliver a letter to Rose. That letter details the events surrounding the delivery of her baby, including the subsequent action taken by myself. However, I did not supply her with the identity of or the location of that child."
"Well, that certainly eliminates the need for kid gloves when breaking the news to her," I opined. "If she survives the initial shock, we'll only have to deal with her hysterical demands to see her daughter."
"In my haste to compose the communique, it has occurred to me that I neglected to state the sex of the child," Gates stated.
Susan had been silent, playing out in her mind the various possible scenarios of how she would approach her long-lost but new-found mother. The exchange between the general and myself finally registered and interrupted her thoughts. She remarked, "I've been so wrapped up in my own feelings, that I hadn't given one iota of thought to Rosie's feelings."
"I don't wish to be callous," Gates lectured, "but your reunion must be delayed until after our mission is completed. There isn't much time before we lose our window of surprise. When King realizes I'm not coming there, it won't take him long to realize what I'm up to."
Stu, who had positioned himself by the fireplace spoke up,"Just what are you up to, General?"
His reply was short and terse, "Any general who's worth a damn when facing the enemy will often utilize diversionary tactics."
"Ah," I declared, "While they are distracted in Boston at N.I.M.H., you're laying siege upon Check Mate up here in New Hampshire."
He nodded to confirm my observation. "That siege will begin after I have brought you up to date on King's operations." He pointed to Stu and then at Susan and me and said, "I did not anticipate, nor am I surprised, that they have acted in desperation to discourage the three of you."
"That bomb in my ceiling was a definite attention getter," I said.
"As was it for me," Gates responded. "It didn't make sense that they'd want to kill you. It has been in their best interest to keep you alive." He was silent for a moment before offering, "Of course, that bomb could have been intended as a statement for me."
His face contorted with shock Stu queried, "You mean they were trying to kill you?"
"Kill me? No, I don't believe so. As Mr. Bering so succinctly put it, I view that bomb as an attention getter. My actions as of late have surely led King and those Fed boys to question my allegiance as to just where my loyalty lies."
I had been listening intently to the general's words, but I was still troubled about the bombing. "That sounds a little sugar-coated to me, General. I mean, Susan and I were in my apartment not thirty seconds before the explosion. Had I not noticed that blinking light in the smoke detector ... 'Boom!' ... we wouldn't be here now. And moments before that, your driver was there too."
I paused a moment to mentally reconstruct the order of the events. "You know, it was only by chance, a spur of the moment decision, because of the snow storm that Susan and I went back into the building and up to my apartment to grab some coats. That's when we walked in on your driver. He had just dropped off your package, even though he told us he was looking for something."
Gates cleared his throat, "He didn't drop off that package, Mr. Bering. He was in fact looking for it. It's a shame that it went up with your apartment."
The general's revelation was unexpected. "Then if it wasn't from you, who else could've left it there? And why? Another thing, how did you come to know about the package in the first place?"
It was becoming more and more evident that he wasn't accustomed to answering questions, especially from a civilian about his actions. He grumbled, "I have a mole on the inside, a mole who shall remain nameless for now. That mole is one of several underlings there who share my displeasure with the direction King is taking the research. I refer to them as my friends in low places."
"I see. The package was from your mole," I said.
"Yes. For obvious reasons I do not interact directly with any of them. We communicated by means of various covert methods which were changed twice daily. When he informed me that he had in his possession something that might be of interest to me, I instructed him to have it delivered to your apartment. The government boys had already searched your place and I reasoned it would be safe there," he said. "As you know, I sent my driver to retrieve it."
I reached into my pocket and held the object in question in front of him. "What do you suppose the purpose of this thing might be?"
He studied it for a few moments, turning it over in his hand a couple of times before looking up. The look on his face was grim and his words foreboding, "Remember the plans for that neural headpiece? Well, coupled with this, Mr. King could become the most powerful man on Earth!"
(To be continued in part 40 on Monday, 4/13, with King of the World.)