Part 44 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 felt a measure of trepidation as I passed through the door into a cavernous lobby. Apparently business must have been quite profitable for Check Mate Dating Services since I had visited the place several years earlier. No expense had been spared to transform what had been a small waiting room into an expansive galleria.
There were two receptionists seated behind a large counter, one engaged in an animated conversation on the phone while the other was busy typing on a computer keyboard. The latter looked up as I approached.
"Good evening, sir. Welcome to Check Mate Dating Services. How may I help you today?" Although her soft voice was pleasant, her greeting was mechanical, a memorized rote.
"Good evening," I replied. "I would like to sign up. I ...uh ... work a lot of hours. I don't get to meet many ... uh ... women."
"You've come to the right place, sir. We guarantee our matches here at Check Mate, or you receive your money back in full." Her fingers danced upon the keyboard to clear the previous screen and she asked, "What is your name, last name first please?" She typed in my response.
My elbow resting on the counter I allowed my eyes to navigate to her name tag, which had been conveniently, if not strategically, positioned next to a generous vista of cleavage. The provocative innuendo suggested by the name Mary Samples was not lost on me.
"Oh my!" she said looking up at me. "You are the second applicant today with an existing account." After a few key strokes she studied a new screen on the monitor and noted, "How curious ... the two of you were matched ... with each other ... eight years ago!"
"What?" I muttered in mild shock. "No. There must be some mistake. Yes, I did apply for your services eight years ago, but I never followed up on it. I changed my mind."
"It's here in our files, Mr. Bering," said the other receptionist who had accessed the same screen. "Perhaps the match was not a good one? Eight years is a long time. Could it be you let it slip from your memory as a bad experience?"
My mind was racing out of control. Had I really forgotten? I began to tremble when a possible explanation popped into my brain. What if that particular memory had been erased? I took a deep breath to gather my senses. Since I had not remembered being wired to both Michelle and Susan and participating in the experiments I'd seen on that disc, how could I possibly be assured that no other memories had been wiped clean?
"Hmmm, your account has been flagged," the first woman said. "Let me see if the other ... Yes, it too has been flagged." She tapped a few more keys and raised her eyebrows when the fresh screen appeared, "This is unusual, but both you and the young lady were given free life-time memberships by our Chairman back in the year 2000."
I realized that it was counterproductive to dispute their records, so I decided to play along, "I thought the free pass was for that one visit. I didn't realize it was forever. Mr. King's generosity knows no bounds."
"Mr King?" said Mary Samples. "Oh no, Mr. Julius Gates is our Chairman."
There seemingly were no limits to the surprises, twists and turns I thought. "General Gates?" I asked.
She seemed puzzled at my ignorance of the facts, but apparently decided to humor me. "Well yes, but he is retired."
"Ah, it has been quite a while since we've seen each other. Perhaps while I'm here I can say 'hello' to him if he's not too busy."
She shook her head, "I'm afraid that would be impossible. He has an off-site meeting today and won't be in until next week."
Gates must have entered the rear of the building undetected by the pair of receptionists. Chances were that he probably by-passed the security measures too. "That's too bad. I'll have to give him a call," I replied. I realized that it was time I changed the subject back to the reason I was there in the first place. I flashed a big grin, "Where were we anyway? Ah. Since I'm already on file, am I ready to be matched up with a date?"
The second receptionist stood up and announced, "Almost. You still have to go through our screening process in order for us to build your profile." She moved around the counter and stood next to me. She motioned with her hand, "Mr. Bering, if you'll follow me please, I'll show you to Screening Room Two."
We passed through a door into the corridor that had been indicated on the floor plans we'd reviewed earlier at Rosie's cottage. I stopped in front of the door labeled Screening Room One and peered through the glass window. Susan appeared to be asleep inclined in a chair resembling that of a dentist. I could see several wires attached to her head. I asked of my escort, "Is that the young lady I was matched up with the last time?"
She nodded, raised a finger to her lips and then whispered, "Yes. Our bosses will find it a curious coincidence that the two of you would show up on the very same day. When I'm alone at the desk, I'll have to change the date on one of your accounts."
My eyes narrowed and I turned to face her, "Why would you do that?"
She glanced around and whispered, "We have to be careful. Around here we never know who's watching our every move and listening to our every word. There are others here who have been assigned to help you shut this place down and to put to an end the horrible things they are doing."
I scratched my head and said, "Gates didn't tell us there would be inside help."
A horrified state was visible in her wide eyes, "Gates? No, it's Gates we need to stop!"
My head began to pound and spin out of control. Just when I thought I knew all I needed to know, a receptionist had thrown a monkey wrench into the works. Could I, should I trust her? Who was I to believe? What was I to believe?
I placed my hands on her shoulders and declared, "Not even an hour ago Gates walked us through an elaborate plan to shut this place down. In fact, he arrived before us to tap into the main frame."
She gasped, "Gates is here?" She moved suddenly against me and whispered, "Listen, there are hidden security cameras all over the place and he might be watching us right now. Please do as I say without question and don't hesitate." She began rubbing against me in a seductive manner. "Part of our job description calls for us to be especially friendly with our prospective male clients. Please, act like you want to have sex with me. Grab my ass, and fondle my boobs, and kiss me."
Under the circumstances I had no recourse but to comply with her wishes. Although the staged act was uncomfortable, the fact that she was attractive and quite shapely made it a lot easier. Our lips touching, she pressed her hand hard against my hand which was cupping her left breast. She sighed, "Whew, your acting is good. Okay, unbutton my blouse and reach inside my bra where your hand is now. Inside there is a folded piece of paper beside my nipple. Take it, but keep it hidden when you remove your hand."
My fingers probed beneath the fabric of her bra. When I came in contact with the nipple she placed her hand over mine and began to move her chest. Her head tilted back and she gasped. I said, "Damn. Your acting is great!"
With her free hand she yanked on the top of her bra until it slipped down exposing her whole breast. The folded paper slid down the slope of her flesh and I clamped it between two fingers. She looked at me through glassy eyes and said, "Who says I'm acting?" She brushed her lips against my ear and cooed, "Much more of this and I'm going to drag you onto the floor and screw you like there's no tomorrow."
I backed up a little and responded, "Much more of that and I'll let you!"
She repositioned her bra and re-buttoned her blouse. She winked and deliberately raised her voice, "Lover, if you want, we can always get together after your screening." She then reached down and gently fondled my groin.
I realized that she wanted us to be heard. I spoke accordingly, "Honey, you can count on it!" Following the lead she had established, I gave her a playful slap on the backside.
She then led me to the door of the screening room and once again dropped into the whispering mode, "Read the note when you're inside. When Dave the intern comes in he's going to ask you if you've read any interesting poetry lately. I think you are familiar with the works of Tommy Tsunami."
She turned and walked a few steps away and in a normal voice said, "The intern will attend to you shortly, Mr. Bering. Good luck in finding the perfect mate." She then continued down the corridor in the direction of the door to the lobby.
I sat down on the edge of the chair and lapsed into deep thought. As if I hadn't had enough to cloud my mind, I certainly hadn't needed the sexual tension that had occurred in the corridor with that receptionist. Had her sexual interplay really been necessary? That they may have been heard and observed by means of the security system was not out of the realms of possibility.
The general's convictions and his intricate plans had convinced me that King was the enemy that he had to be stopped. If I took the word of the receptionist, then it was Gates who was the real threat.
Then her words to me at the screening room door came to the forefront of my chaotic thoughts. She had mentioned Tommy Tsunami and his poem. That poem had been left in my mailbox before my apartment had been leveled by the bomb. Since the receptionist had placed this 'Tommy Tsunami' there at the Check Mate facilities, her actions had begun to gather credence.
I opened my hand to reveal the note that had come from her bosom. It was a full sheet of legal paper that been folded into its smallest possible size. Unfolding it, I began to scan what appeared to be a speech of some kind. The top of the page bore the title, "The Power of One." My pulse quickened and I felt a curdling within the pit of my stomach as the essence of the speech began to register.
The two words exploded from my lips, "Holy shit!"
(To be continued in Part 45, on Friday 5/1, with Only the Dead Shall Bleed.)