Part 48 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 was looking on as Stu met the trio of new arrivals to the scene in the middle of the lobby. There were brief exchanges with Brock O'Day and Michelle Gray, before he turned to Rosie. He steered her away from the others and placed an arm around her shoulder.
Rosie's eyes widened and her hands flew up to cover her mouth. I could see the anguish on her face when Stu pointed to our location. He must have offered to walk with her but she had refused. She shook her head and patted his hand before turning away from him. She produced a tissue from her purse and touched it to the corner of each eye.
Initially, her pace was slow and deliberate as she walked toward us, but it quickened with each step, each step more urgent than the last. If she was at all aware of the activity behind the reception counter where Vickie was busy binding Mary with duct tape, it wasn't apparent. She seemed oblivious to the door from the corridor as it swung open, and as such brushed unimpeded against Dave the intern who had just emerged.
Standing over us, her eyes met mine and she tried to force a knowing smile. She then looked upon the young woman lying there. Her eyes, following the contours of Susan's body, began to well up when they looked upon the shirt bloodied from her wound. She must have been thinking that this was the same girl who had been so full of life a short time ago sitting with Ben in her diner. If only she'd known then that she was her daughter ...
"Susan, honey," I whispered to her. "Rosie ... your mother is here to see you."
Her eyes fluttered and she murmured, "Mom? Where are you?" She coughed and tried to raise her hand. "I can't see you."
"Ben," Rosie said while wiping a tear from her cheek, "Let me take over. Can't you see my daughter needs her mother."
Dave, who had been standing nearby helped lift Susan's head, allowing me to slide away and for Rosie to take my place. Susan's head nestled in her lap, Rosie brushed the hair away from her cheek. When their eyes met it was a magical moment that I shall never forget. Even though they had met once before, this moment was the first time that they'd looked upon one another as mother and daughter.
"Ben," said Rosie looking up me, "Thank you for watching over her and for making her happy."
"Rosie, I love her," the words were sincere and flowed easily from my lips.
She smiled and said, "I know. For now, I think my daughter and I could use some time alone. You know ... to get know one another better." She smiled in response to my nod of understanding. "Ben, go find the ones who're responsible for hurting my daughter. Hurt them ... Hurt them real bad!"
With reluctance I nodded and was turning away when I heard Susan's weakened voice, "Today is the first time someone ... has ever called me ...daughter ... and it makes me feel warm all over ... Mother." Her trembling hand touched Rosie's cheek and she added, "Of all the mothers in the world ... I'm so glad you are my mother."
Before seeking out Brock and Michelle, I lingered within an earshot and heard Rosie's tearful reaction. "That makes two of us feeling warm all over. In answering my prayers, God couldn't have picked a better daughter for me."
I didn't want to leave Susan's side, but she was in good hands. The two of them had spent twenty-five years with terrible voids in their lives. The least I could do was to leave them alone, to allow them to fill those voids as only a mother and a daughter could.
Dave fell in step with me and said, "I'm so sorry, Mr. Bering. I wish there was something I could have done."
"Thank you, Dave. There wasn't much either one of us could have done," I said. "I want to thank you for the great job you did in there with the computer and all."
He shrugged and a look of confusion showed on his face. "I don't understand why Mr. Gates lied to us. Those doors that were supposed to be marked so we could see them when the lights went out? Well, they weren't marked! Why did he betray us? If we'd followed his plan ... we'd all be dead!"
I patted him on the shoulder and replied, "I wouldn't be so quick to make that judgment, Dave. Gates just may have had good intentions. Suppose someone was wise to him and his plans. Suppose that someone got into his head."
"You mean Michael, don't you?" He let that thought bounce around in his head before saying, "Then that would mean that Michael turned Gates' plans into a death trap."
I nodded, "That's one scenario. Who's to say that Gates and Michael weren't already in bed together? While you're chewing on that, who has the most to lose if this place is shut down?"
His eyes widened, "That would be the owner, Mr. King!"
"For now, I'm not going to dwell on who is and who is not in control," I uttered to the young intern. I patted my shirt pocket and espoused, "It's the words upon this piece of paper that are scaring the hell out of me!"
We hooked up with Stu, Brock O'Day and the man in whom the mind of Michelle had been trapped. Standing near the main entrance foyer, I addressed Brock, "What made you think that us coming here ... was a trap?"
"What made you think that ignoring the warning and coming here anyway was a good idea?" he countered. He motioned in the direction of Michelle and said, "I'm not the psychic. He ... she is. She called me and said that you and Susan were in great danger."
I nodded, "Michael must have paid her another visit."
With a momentary blank stare O'Day pondered my statement but did not address it. He said, "She met me at Rosie's place. She was all excited and I thought she was babbling on like a crazy person. She said we had to come here and that it was of the utmost importance that Rosie be here too! She kept referring to Rosie as the key."
I rubbed my chin remembering that Gates too had referred to Rosie as the key. The burning question was, the key to what? I glanced across the room to where Rosie was cradling Susan's head upon her lap.
Michelle was standing still, seemingly oblivious to our presence or our conversation. Though the masculine body in which she existed was rigid, her eyes were dancing about in her head. I realized that she was using her mind to scan, to probe the facility. There was no doubt that she was trying to locate the one who resided in her body.
"He's here! I feel his presence," she announced. Bewildered, she was pacing and looking up at the ceiling, staring at the walls and studying the floor. "He seems to be ... everywhere. How has he become so powerful?" Unexpectedly, she grabbed the sides of her head and slumped to her knees.
Brock and I knelt on either side side of her. "You okay?" asked Brock.
Michelle shook her head and muttered, "Give me a minute." We helped her to her feet and she said, "I'll be okay. I let my guard down while I was trying to find him. He managed to slip into my head for a few seconds." She closed her eyes for a moment and asserted, "He's gone now."
"Damnation!" Brock exclaimed. "That's scary knowing that he can just pop into our heads like that."
Michelle shook her head, "No, it's not like that at all, Sergeant O'Day. Neither he nor I can get into anyone's head unless we are connected to them using the Neuro-headpieces."
It was Stu who spoke up, "But Michelle, you said he had just slipped into your head a moment ago. You aren't connected to him. You aren't wearing one of those head things."
She smiled for a moment before her mouth tightened with determination, "When he was in my head, I was able to capture from his thoughts an image of his location. He is beyond that door and beneath the floor somewhere, a basement perhaps. Come, let us find him ... and my body." She glanced at Stu and said, "Along the way, I will try to explain how Michael and I are able to interface."
While the others passed through the door into the corridor, I stopped and knelt beside Rosie and Susan. "How are my two favorite girls in the whole world doing?" I asked.
Rosie nodded, "The ambulance will be here soon. I'm making sure she stays awake and she's alert." She winked, "The magic of a mother's love works every time."
"Ben!" Susan said. "I missed you. I sure could use a kiss."
I leaned forward and allowed my lips to touch hers. "I could use a few more of those," I said to her, "but we'll take care of that later."
As I rose to my feet, my heart was heavy. I was struck with the awful thought that we might have just shared our last kiss. I could only pray I was wrong. I had long considered myself an agnostic, but I glanced up and silently vowed to change that if Susan was to survive.
We had walked the length of the corridor to the door that allowed entrance into the laboratories. Michelle confirmed that we should pass through the door and enter the lab area. We stepped into a large open area much like that of the main lobby. It was surrounded by several numbered labs.
Michelle looked around the open expanse and said, "We are close. Do any of those door open to a stairway to a basement?"
"No," replied Dave the intern. "There are no stairs in the whole complex."
I turned around and studied the two statues on either side of the door we'd used to enter the lab area. As was indicated on the floor plans Gates had given us, the ten-foot-tall statues represented King Arthur and Guinevere his Queen. I gravitated to Arthur and began running my fingers across its granite surface.
The door from the corridor swung open and there was a sudden flash of light. A nebulous figure emerged from the light. What had been tendrils of light began to morph into solid appendages. The light's glare dissipated and there stood a beautiful nude raven-haired woman.
"Michael? Unplugged?" Dave cried out. "It's not possible!"
The woman extended her arm in his direction and a smile appeared on her face. Her hair began to dance about her head as if caressed by a gust of wind. When she extended her index finger a bolt of blue-white energy shot forth and struck the intern. He was hurled backward ten feet from where he'd been standing.
Brock O'Day had pulled out his service pistol when the light had first appeared. When Dave had been struck, he'd squeezed the trigger without thinking. He stared in a dumb stupor when the bullet, met by another arc of energy stopped in midair, turned around and careened back to him. His eyes were wide with shock when the bullet struck him in the shoulder.
She then turned to face me. A small spark of light was forming on her fingertip. I turned my head away from the approaching ball of energy.
Michelle had been frozen where she stood. She had been unprepared for us to be attacked by her own body. She acted swiftly and lunged for the menacing adversary in her body. In an instant dozens of bolts of energy struck Michelle and coursed through her body.
(To be continued in part 49, on Friday, 5/15, with Battlefield: The Mind..)