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)-
I watched as he struggled to slip into the passenger seat. His manner pensive, he waved his hand to signal for me to drive. As we weaved through the garage floors and finally out onto the street his eyes remained fixed on the hood ornament of the car.
His lower lip barely visible beneath an overgrown gray moustache he spoke at last, "I have no doubt that I am being followed. I trust you know of someplace secure?"
"Secure, maybe," I answered. "Safe, definitely."
He cleared his throat and spoke with slow deliberation, "When I arrived at my office this morning I found that it had been trashed." He paused until he was certain he had my attention before continuing, "The desk drawers and filing cabinets had been rifled. My keys to the labs were missing."
Keeping with the Michael Black persona I said, "I see. Do you think they were after any records left behind of our research? They took everything, didn't they?"
He shook his head, "Not everything. They left something behind. They left us ..."
I glanced at him, "By us, I assume you mean Michelle and myself ... and you."
"Except we know something they don't know, don't we?" he said with a smirk.
"Professor, I'm not following ..."
He waved his hand in my direction, "You're secret is safe with me, Mr. Bering."
Stunned by his declaration, I veered onto a parking lot and slammed on the brakes. Throwing the shift into park I peered into his eyes, "How?"
He ran a finger across his moustache and replied, "I knew that once a mind has been transferred, it can never be returned to its original body. I knew that the two of you weren't Michael and Michelle. When I heard about the deaths of Benjamin Bering and Susan Parsons ... well, I simply put two and two together."
"I see," I grunted, "Then you knew that Michael's and Michelle's minds had been transferred into the other?"
He lowered his head and stared at his hands folded in his lap. "I'm afraid I was responsible for that." Sensing that I was staring at him he added, "It was an accident."
"Michael .. ah, in Michelle's body .. never mentioned that you knew what had happened to them. If I remember correctly, the only mention of you, Professor Jordan, was when you delivered the news that their research was being shut down."
"Shut down?" he growled. "It was stolen from us ... er them."
His near slip of the tongue had my attention. Professor Jordan had been the head of the science department at Northeastern University. The research in which Michael and Michelle had been working had been under his auspices. Somehow, we had overlooked just how much he must have known about their experiments.
Had he not said moments before that he was responsible for their minds being swapped? Why then, had not tried to help them? Despite his claim, perhaps it had been an accident after all!
I was about pursue the fact when something struck the windshield, its force causing spider-webbed cracks to appear in the glass. Had it not been for the bullet-proof glass, Jordan would have surely been killed by a shot to the head.
"Sniper!" I yelped and threw the car into gear. With tires screeching in protest on the pavement of the lot I careened out into the busy street. Barely missing a collision with a UPS carrier, I righted the vehicle without touching the brakes.
Ignoring the angry horns of two cars as I swerved in front of them, I swung onto Washington Street in the direction of the Financial District. Slowed down by the traffic on the busy street, I loosened my knuckle-white grip on the steering wheel and exhaled slowly.
Visibly shaken the professor muttered, "They ... they tried to kill me!"
I glanced at my distressed passenger and queried, "Why would they want you dead? Why now?"
"I ... I don't know," he whispered. His demeanor could not hide the fact that he was holding back something. I thought that perhaps he wasn't certain that I was someone he could trust. It was imperative that I gained that trust. Directly or indirectly, and whether he wanted it or not, he was embroiled in not only the current events but those of a year ago also.
Idling at a red light I quipped, "There are five people among the missing right now and there has been attempt on your life ... and you know nothing?" He shook his head but I pressed on, "Then tell me, why did you go see Stu Jankowski?"
He said nothing as his fingers fumbled for something in his shirt pocket. He removed a small piece of crumpled paper and held it aloft. "This morning I found this on the floor at my apartment. Someone must've slid it under the door."
I groaned in anguish as I gazed upon the image on the paper of an all too familiar symbol. "A butterfly. A god damned blue butterfly!"
"Yes, one of those cursed butterflies," he nodded weakly. "I was afraid she was in terrible danger. I thought Mr. Jankowski might be able to offer some ... discreet assistance."
"She?" I asked. While awaiting his response, the light turned green and I drove through the intersection.
He raised a hand to the back of his head and rubbed his neck. "My daughter."
Taken aback, I stared at the old man for a moment before speaking, "Your daughter? But, Rosie's father was General Gates."
"Rosie? Oh,no ... not Rosie. Her step-sister is my daughter!" he exclaimed. He grabbed my arm and pleaded, "Please, she must not know this ... ever."
We were lurched forward by a sudden violent crash from behind. "What the ...?" I snapped. In the rear view mirror I could make out the looming grill of a military Humvee.
Butterflies Are Not Free )