They had died when helping thwart a plan to undermine the government of the United States. Now Ben and Susan have returned from the dead and they must bring that government down. Standing in their way are Michael Black and Michelle Gray, the bodies of whom they now occupy.
-(The Story begins HERE)-
The Attic, its antipodal designation belying the fact that it was actually a basement barroom, was bustling with a lunchtime crowd made up mostly of men and women who worked in Boston's Financial District. It was the first time that I had been there in over a year.
Stu Jankowski was seated on his usual stool at the far end of the large horseshoe-shaped bar. His eyes followed me as I sidled through a group of young professionals standing on the opposite side of the bar. Secured tight between my arm and ribcage was Michelle's laptop computer.
He waited until I had parked myself on the stool beside him before speaking, "Ben, ..." he faked a cough in attempt to disguise his verbal faux pas and continued, "Michael, talk to me. Sunny Dale ... what happened there?"
"Stu, I can only speculate at this time," I sputtered.
"Don't be coy with me. Speculate away," he growled. He took a sip from the glass before him in an attempt to calm his frayed nerves and implored, "Please, tell me Rosie is okay."
I placed a twenty dollar bill on the counter and motioned to Paul, the New Place's longtime bartender to refresh Stu's drink and to bring me one of the same. After the drinks had been placed before us I hoisted the computer from my lap and announced, "Stu, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words."
His impatience apparent, he shook the glass in his hands and watched its swirling contents as the computer whirred to life. When the captured video images finally materialized on the screen his only utterance was a loud gasp.
His lips were quivering as his mind was trying in vain to digest the visual conundrum being sent to his brain. He had been present when the bodies of Ben Bering and Susan Parsons had been declared dead. He had witnessed Rosie Gates lapsing into a catatonic state which had eventually left her paralyzed from the neck down.
His face ashen he turned to me and whispered, "What in the name of God ..."
"Stu," I said placing a hand on his shoulder, "believe me when I tell you that Michelle and I are as much in shock as you ..."
He shoved my hand away and slid off the stool. "Are you?" he snapped. "Are you really in shock? I don't think you are in the least shocked!"
"What? What are you saying, Stu?"
Agitated he struggled to get his arms into the sleeves of his overcoat. "You people couldn't let it alone, could you? All those theatrics at the hospital a year ago ... it was all a part of some sinister master plan, wasn't it?"
"Stu," I uttered trying to calm him, "you're not making any sense."
"It makes perfect sense to me! You're covering your tracks. You're removing all traces of what happened a year ago," he snarled. "First Rosie ... who's next, me?"
"Please, Stu, sit down," I pleaded motioning to his vacated bar stool. "Sit down. We'll put our heads together and get to the bottom of this."
He moved past me and said, "You people are not getting into my head! I was never convinced that you were Ben. You are Michael Black!" With that burning remark he turned and walked away without looking back.
At first the voice of the waitress behind me didn't register. "Say, I remember those two!"
"What?" I replied in a daze. I turned to her and asked, "What was that?"
She reached past me and touched her finger upon the screen of the laptop. "That man and woman with the older lady ... they were in here two days ago."
I pointed to where her finger had indicated and asked, "You saw them? Are you sure?"
She nodded emphatically, "Positive. They sat down at that corner table over there. They had two drinks each ... rum and coke. Then they handed me a fifty dollar bill and told me to keep the change."
Dumbfounded, I asked again, "You saw that man and that woman?"
Indignant she walked away and over her shoulder declared, "Mister, when someone tips me thirty dollars, you bet your sweet ass I will remember their faces."
The engine running, I sat behind the wheel staring at the entrance to the barroom. It wasn't that I didn't believe the barmaid, it was that I didn't want to believe her. Shaking my head in frustration, I glanced at the laptop lying on the passenger seat next to me.
If I was willing to believe the video images stored in the computer's memory, I was forced to concede that the barmaid's account must have been accurate.
Ghosts don't walk the hallways of nursing homes kidnapping patients, I thought to myself, and they most certainly don't walk into bar rooms and order drinks. Yet, it seemed that the bodies of Ben and Susan had performed those very acts. I sighed in resignation knowing that the bodies were the key. In our graves lie the bodies of evidence.
My thoughts were broken by the chirp of the car phone. I depressed the speaker button and spoke, "Brock, I hope you have some good news."
"I'm afraid not. It seems that good news is at premium lately," he replied.
"I'm almost afraid to ask ..."
"Michael, the State Cowboys just found David's car upside down on an embankment on I-93."
"What? David? Is he okay?" I asked.
There was a pause of several seconds before Brock replied. "According to the radio traffic, there was no trace of him. The car was empty."
The Cast: In Order of Disappearance )