Part 43 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.)
Stu behind the wheel, Susan and I in the backseat; we were quiet with our own thoughts as we set out on our mission. I caught site of Rosie's cottage as it disappeared behind a stand of large conifers and couldn't help but wonder if we were leaving behind a safe sanctuary. On the other hand, our destination at the offices of Check Mate Dating Services, promised not to be so friendly.
The voice of the broadcast reporter emanating from the radio caught my attention. On cue, Stu raised the volume.
"... Security is extremely tight as Boston's Government Center is being prepared for the President's address to a convention of the nation's top scientific minds. When President Baker takes the podium at approximately eight o'clock pm, it is expected that he will announce that the sanctions levied against stem cell research last March will not be lifted, but rather will be modified ...""Since we are otherwise occupied, who's covering the President's speech, Stu?"
"I gave the assignment to Martin and Wynn," he replied. "You know, I'd almost forgotten about the President being in town."
"I'll do you one better. I didn't even know he was going to be in Boston!"
"Funny how insignificant a President can be," Susan said, "when we're concerned with a man who would be King."
"Stu, while on the subject of our owner and Chairman of the Board, you've had more dealings with him than I. Just what do you know about him anyway?" I asked.
"Our Mr. King is an enigmatic person to say the least. The man's background is sketchy at best," replied Stu.
"Well, it's just that he seemed to burst on the scene - like he appeared out of nowhere."
"But Stu, it was well documented that he was going to take over his father's interests when the latter grew ill. I remember reading in the archives that there was a huge media feeding frenzy over in England when he gave the eulogy at his father's funeral."
"That's true, Ben. I might have been only a beat reporter when that funeral took place shortly after our pullout from Vietnam, but I was most curious about the heir to the King fortune. I wondered why the son had never received any public attention prior to the passing of his father."
"I would guess that the father must have kept his private life out of the public eye, probably to protect his family. It's not necessarily unusual for the rich and famous to do just that."
"No, it's not," Stu agreed. "Having said that, wouldn't you agree that it's usually a big story when they have children?"
"Of course! In England, if one of the Royals has a hangnail, it's front page news."
"That brings me to my point, Ben. There was no news coverage of the birth of King's son. The son is not once mentioned until the imminent death of his father. They were never seen or photographed together. In fact, he had never appeared in public until he himself announced the death of his father."
"There has to be records - a birth certificate, school enrollments - somewhere," I stated.
"I'm telling you, Ben, there is no record of old man King ever having had a son."
I was still mulling over Stu's extemporaneous biography of the King family when we pulled onto the parking lot of the sprawling complex that was Check Mate Dating Services, Inc. Surrounded by winter dormant shrubs, and replete with images of chess pieces, the large sign bearing the business' name hearkened back to Michelle's cryptic notes. Stu pointed toward the back of the building, indicating that the lone vehicle parked there was the general's.
Although we had briefly bickered over the matter, I gave in to Susan's adamant insistence that she enter the building first. With nervous difficulty I swallowed hard the lump that had formed in my throat as I watched her cross the lot to the main entrance.
"Aren't you concerned at all about that phone call from Rosie and Brock?" Stu asked. "What if it is a trap?"
I narrowed my eyes and faced my long-time boss and friend, "That it's a trap - of that I have no doubt." Stu's mouth opened to protest but no words came forth as I raised a hand and pointed at Check Mate's prominent sign. "You see, we were being set up ... right from the get go. The e-mail I received, the story being brought to press only to be shut down ... they were simply part of an opening move, a gambit to draw all the players out into the open."
"Over the years the years I've come to trust your hunches,Ben. Hell, if your hunches had been horses I could've made a fortune at Suffolk Downs," he said taking a deep breath. "Inasmuch, I'm inclined to assume the analogy to a game of chess is more than just a hunch."
I nodded in response to Stu's assumption, "Even now, I feel we are being manipulated like pawns. It's not a friendly game the two Masters are playing either."
He began rubbing his chin trying to follow my logic, "Two Masters? They no doubt would be King and General Gates?" However, the look on my face suggested I was on a different train of thought. "No?"
"Initially, I too thought it was those two. It would make sense that King would want his research to benefit mankind, and on the other hand a general would desire the possible military applications. Now, I'm not so sure."
"Ah yes, the Feds! They have to figure in the equation as well."
"I suspect there is some greedy Senator or perhaps a group of them dangling a carrot from a stick, and keeping it just out of reach of King and the general," I asserted.
"The implications of King's research, as well as that of Michelle and Michael, is mind boggling, Ben. Can you imagine the FBI and the CIA not being interested in mind control and mind reading?"
I spread my arms with open hands and said, "The sky's the limit, Stu. What if that kind of power was available on the corporate level? Suppose criminal minds, or worse, terrorists could get their hands on that research."
"You're scaring the hell out of me, Ben! That's too much power for any one faction to control, let alone an entrepreneur with a shady background or a military lifer."
I glanced at my watch and declared, "It's just about time for me to fill out my application." I began walking toward the main building and over my shoulder I said, "You know, there is another player."
Puzzled, he asked, "Another player? Who would that be?"
"Come on, Stu. He hasn't been in the picture and yet, he's been all too prominent."
He was shaking his head, "You've lost me, Ben."
My reply left him stunned. "Michael Black!"
(To be continued in part 44 on Monday 4/27, with The Power of One.)