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Jim the old guy
Post subject: Overseer - chapters 8 (partial) and 9
Post Posted: Nov 29, 2006 7:20 pm
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But Slade easily parried the blow and countered with a flattened hand and extended fingers aimed directly at Jones’ throat. The move was successful and momentarily stunned the general; he began to cough and choke. With cat-like reflexes, Slade leapt into the air, turning 360 degrees, landing his right boot squarely on the general’s jaw. Whack! The sound reverberated around the room, as the general staggered and fell to the floor, his jaw skewed to one side.
Slade didn’t waste any time. He ran to his fallen victim, intending to stomp him in the chest, crushing his lungs, ending his life. But the general, still groggy from the super kick, had enough presence of mind to raise his right leg taut, connecting with Slade’s groin as he was descending towards Sam’s heart. Slade screamed in agony and fell on to his back, writhing on the floor in extreme pain.
Sam had two options: one, try to keep up the good fight with Slade, a fight he now realized he would probably loose; and, two, go for his own biretta on the far side of the room. He opted for the latter, reaching the gun in a split second. But the general had forgot one very important fact: when he told Slade to slowly remove his hands from his pockets, he did not disarm the hit man. In most cases, that would be a fatal mistake. This was one of those cases. For, as the general turned to aim and shoot, the Aussie didn’t aim, he just shot. The bullet went through the general’s chest, collapsing a lung. That dazed the general long enough for Slade to aim the next shot at the general’s head. Click! Nothing happened! Slade was awestruck. That’s when he realized the error of his ways. He had pulled the gun he used for Russian Roulette! It only had one bullet in it! Lucky for him the bullet was in the first chamber. He dropped the gun and reached for his fully loaded weapon. And that’s when he saw the general draw a bead on him.
Jones knew he had only one chance to kill the killer, to eliminate the eliminator, to exterminate the exterminator. With great effort he raised his revolver to eye level. His hand was shaky. Sweat formed on his forehead. Blood was gushing from his back where the projectile had exited. His time was short, but he was more determined than ever to rid the world of this maniacal murderer. Slade, on the other hand, had shot his last shot. The gun merely clicked when Slade pulled the trigger. The general smiled.
“It’s my turn, now,” Jones said with a cough. He took aim and fired. But Slade was a professional, able to keep calm in the face of extreme danger. As soon as the general fired, Slade rolled to his left, dodged the bullet with remarkable efficiency, rolled once and stood erect, the general’s head in his sights. But the bullet had hit the wall button for the alarm system, sounding a deafening siren. Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Continuous, monotonous, ear-piercing. Slade instinctively covered his ears. Sirens! Bunker 13! The past; long ago; sirens; 13; sirens; 13. And then he opened his eyes. The general had HIM in his sights! It was too late, the end was near. He was bested by a man twice his age and not as nearly strong.
But the general’s aim faltered as his breath quickly left his body. The bullet from the hitman’s gun had done its damage. Sweat pouring into his eyes, darkness creeping in all around, strength waning, the general fired the gun with his last breath. And missed. The bullet hit the clock on the wall and knocked it to the floor. Samuel Quirinius Jones, El Tigre to his old friend, retired general, father of four, grandfather of six, was dead.
Slade, though dazed and confused by the din of the siren, managed to recover enough to press the shut-off button. The whooping sound abated. He too was sweating, profusely. Never had he come so close to being killed, especially by his prey. Fate, for some reason, had dealt him a new opportunity. “Must be my superiority as a man, as a mind, as a body.” His breathing was heavy and sporadic, like trying to catch a breath after a long sprint. So, like in other instances requiring control, he closed his eyes and performed numerous relaxation exercises, simultaneously chanting his favorite mantra. Soon he was back in complete control.
Looking around the bunker, he noticed the clock on the floor. Picking it up gave him another unexpected shock. The bullet damaged the mechanism but allowed the date and time to remain in tact. It read: 12:30 a.m., Friday, November 13, 2037. Oh my Lo! It was after midnight! Friday the 13th! Bunker 13! That is why he had so much difficulty. Time itself was against him.
He closed his eyes again, this time sighing in relief. He had been most fortunate. Tempting fate was not a wise thing to do. Carefully setting the clock on the console, he went over and checked the general. ‘Deader than a door nail’, he thought. “Dirty S.O.B. How did I ever let him get the best of me?” He knew no one was listening, but the tension eased as he spoke only to himself. Except in his groin. He winced as he gingerly reached for his privates. Wow! What a kick!
A few minutes and several relaxation exercises later, Slade was back to his normal height. The pain was still there, and he knew there would be some bruising and aches over the next few days, but he was alive. The general, on the other hand, was dead. And that in itself was its own reward. Now, to find his passcard.
The search was furious and futile. No passcard could be found anywhere. He upended tables and chairs; tossed aside computers and printers; rent pictures into dozens of pieces. He was a man possessed on a quest for the key to the future. His boss’s future and quite possibly his own. He was convinced those passcards were valuable. And if he had one, just one, then someone might pay handsomely to retrieve it. And how much more would they pay if he had all of them? The possibilities tickled his financial fancy.
Then it dawned on him. Search the cadaver. So he did, and more thoroughly than the others. Still, he found no trace of the card. He tore the clothes from the dead general and still no card. Frantic, he ripped the boots off and checked them as well as the socks. Still no card! ‘Alright, big guy, calm yourself. This has been a strenuous day. Breathe, breathe, relax. That’s it.’ Then it came to him. The general was security conscious and would have had a secret locale for an item of such importance. After thinking and racking his brain, he noticed the boots. As a kid, he watched some old spy movies and often the spies would hide small trinkets and items in the heels of their shoes. Slade smiled. The heel of the right boot, when twisted, revealed the missing passcard. He slipped it into his coat pocket and dragged the general outside to the edge of the forest. ‘Who says it’s against the law to feed the bears.’ And he laughed an ominous, crazed laugh.
The Aussie fired up his speeder and lifted off. Happy to have in his possession the precious passcard, he felt renewed. However, he quivered at the thought of his sloppiness. That old codger nearly bested him. The very thought was repulsive, especially when he recalled his boss’s caution. Maybe he was getting overconfident. Maybe he was getting old himself. Maybe it was time to retire. Havens of peace and solitude were dwindling fast with each new assassination. Soon the police and Interpol would close in on him. They might even capture him, if he allowed that to happen, which he promised himself it never would. Never!

Chapter nine: 2043 A.D.
Chelsee’s apartment

“You know, Tex, this story is starting to get very interesting.”
“Yeah, well, it turned out to be more than interesting as time dragged on.” I said this while finishing my fourth bourbon and fifth Lucky. The hands of time were moving quickly and our reservation was now given to someone else. But we really didn’t care. I was in to telling the story and Chelsee was in to listening. The tale of New San Francisco and its mean streets as told by the P.I.-out-of-time Tex Murphy was more important than any meal - even at the plush Golden Pagoda.
“So, what happened at the Anasazi Ruins?” Chelsee asked excitedly.
“Well, I won’t bore you with ALL the details, but, it went something like this.
“Upon arriving, I noticed the main entrance was closed down due to reconstruction. One of the crew’s ladders was propped against an adjacent wall, so I took the liberty of using it to reach several old, protruding rods near the top of the ruins. I warily walked from rod to rod in an effort to arrive at the covered archway that led directly into the ruins. As I entered, I felt like I had taken a step back in time.
“As a good little P.I., I began to scour the area for any clues that would lead me to Bosworth Clark. Besides a few snakes and scorpions, the entire region had little to offer. Or, so I thought. After many minutes I came across an old guidebook lying on the dusty ground at the base of an ancient, leafless and lifeless tree. The cover was well worn, but the contents proved helpful in identifying numerous rooms and passageways.
“Among my discoveries were several bricks spread over the ruins entire expanse. Each had a drawing on it and, according to the guidebook, each of the drawings represented one of the Anasazi’s gods. Thus the reference to them as God-bricks. Big deal. My worship of God has been similar to a brick - dull, defunct and reduced to looking at pictures. Besides the bricks, I found some long, sturdy poles, a pile of sticks, a length of old rope, a Y-shaped stick with 10 feet of rawhide attached to it, a wooden box and two very unusual wall panels.”
“Oooh, tell me about the wall panels.”
“All in good time, my dear. Be patient. I’m just getting started.”
“Well, you’re talking too slow. Speed it up a little. I haven’t got all night.”
“Is that a hint?”
“Maybe. But, for now, tell me more.”
“Well, my persistent search unveiled a large door at the top of some age-old stone steps. But, there seemed to be no way to open it. So, I consulted the guidebook. On the same page as the God-bricks there was a picture of a wall panel, identical to the one at the bottom of the steps! It mentioned a hidden corridor would open up if the God-bricks were placed in the slots of the wall panel in a certain order.
“Needless to say, I wasted no time in retracing my path and gathering as many of the bricks as I could remember, stacking them on the ground in front of the wall panel. How-
ever, the book said there were eight God-bricks and I only had five. Ascending another set of steps led me to a room called the sacrificial chamber. There I noticed a rattlesnake curled around a brick and it was NOT going to move any time soon.”
“Don’t tell me; you used one of the bananas to lure out the snake.”
“Really, Chelsee, you’re laying a brick with your lack of P.I. acumen.”
“Laying a brick? A typical Tex Murphy pun, to be sure.”
“Monkeys like bananas, snakes like mice. Hint, hint?”
“Oh, I’ve got it! You had taken along your pet toy mouse Raymond. Let’s see. You got the wooden box, propped it up with the Y-shaped stick and leather rope, wound up the mouse and set it down inside the box. The snake came out, you pulled the string and the snake was trapped. Yes?”
“Elementary, my dear Bando. That was exactly what I did. How did you guess?”
“Well, I once saw that on a Bonanza rerun. Is that where you spotted it?”
“No, smarty pants, I learned that trick in the boy scouts.”
“You trapped rattlesnakes when you were a boy scout? Wasn’t that in the days when rattlesnakes were on the endangered species list because their rattles had become popular as an aphrodisiac and getting caught with one would result in a huge fine?”
“Uh....well....(cough, cough)....uh....let’s go on with the rest of the story. Finding the other two bricks wasn’t as easy. That brings me to the second wall panel. It was located near the main entrance and consisted of three interlocking cog wheels. Above each wheel was a lever that could be pulled down or pushed up. It probably caused the wheels to rotate. On one of the cogs of each wheel was a red dot. On the wall above each wheel, but below the levers, was a corresponding red dot. I assumed that if I pulled or pushed the levers, this would cause the wheels to rotate in the hopes of lining up the red dots. No problem. A safe by any other name.
“The guidebook confirmed my assumptions, but it didn’t give me a clue as to which levers to use and/or how many times. Studying the poser thoroughly it finally came to me. I simply marked the present location of the red dots on the wall. Pulling the left lever, I counted the number of cogs on each wheel that moved. I repeated this procedure with each lever, first down, then up. After this, I reversed the process and the dots returned to their original positions on the wall. Then, being the clever puzzle expert that I am, I pushed the left lever up once and the middle lever up three times. Voila! In an instant, a two foot square section of the wall opened revealing brick number seven. I grabbed it and pushed the wall section back into place.
“Now to find brick number eight. I figured it was probably right under my nose, but where?”
“If it was under your nose you would never have found it.”
“I see that your smart-alec-ometer is in high gear tonight. May I continue?”
“Sure, why not?”
“Why not indeed. Anyway, I did another complete search of the grounds and still no brick. The search made me very thirsty, so, I started to head back to my speeder. That’s when I noticed an old well. Figuring it was dried up, I decided to inspect it anyway. And that’s where I found the last brick. A root to an old dead tree jutted out inside the well. An old pail was hung up on the root and in the pail was the brick. It was well out of reach, so I had to think of something. I went and got the long rope I saw earlier. Then, breaking a hook-shaped branch off the dead tree, I tied it to the rope to make a rather peculiar grappling hook.
“Back at the well, I lay prone and slowly lowered the hook over the edge. With a very skillful swing of the rope, the hook went under the pail’s handle. I quickly pulled it taut and started to raise the pail. That’s when things got interesting. As the pail neared the top of the well, I reached over to grab it. When I did, the stick snapped, causing the pail to overturn and begin to tumble down to the darkness below. With the swiftness of a cheetah, I latched onto the bottom rim. However, the pail was upside down! The brick was on its way to the well bottom. But, when I pulled the pail out of the well, a look inside verified the brick was still there. It had gotten stuck in the pail. With a sharp pull, it was free and I was on my way to the God-brick wall panel.”
“So, now all you had to do was place the bricks in the panel and the secret passageway would open.”
“Well, I wish it was that easy. Unfortunately, the bricks had to be placed in a certain order. Envision this: eight rows with eight slots in each row. And, according to the guidebook, the bricks could not be in the same row horizontally, vertically or diagonally. It took a while, but I finally had the bricks in their proper order.”
“But, nothing happened.”
“Have I told you this part of the story before?”
“No, but I know you. Something always goes wrong. No puzzle seems to have a simple solution.”
“For once, you’re correct. What I failed to take into consideration were the pictures on the bricks. Each ‘god’ had to be placed in order of rank and distinction. The most important ‘god’ in the top row, the least important in the bottom row.”
“How did you figure out which was which?”
“That wasn’t easy. Upon examining each brick, I determined who was the big chief god and went on down the line from there. So, in the first row, I placed the god of heaven in the seventh slot from the left; the god of earth in the second row, fourth slot from the left; god of family in the third row, second slot from the left; god of nature in the fourth row, eighth slot from the left; god of air in the fifth row, sixth slot from the left; god of water in the sixth row, first slot from the left; god of fire in the seventh row, third slot from the left; and the god of war in the bottom row, fifth slot from the left. Easy as falling down.”
“Gee, Tex, that’s pretty amazing! How did you come to those conclusions?”
“Well, as you are well aware, I have superior ethical intuitiveness as a first rate P.I. It was simply a matter of adroitly concluding each god’s caste by their own accoutrements. Then, using an advanced degree of intrepidity, I merely set them in their proper pecking order.”
“Impressive! However, knowing your lack of spirituality and the difficulty you have in determining the sex of the God of Christendom, I find your deductions extremely flawed and desultory.”
“I haven’t insulted anyone!”
“No, no, sweetie, not INsultory, DEsultory. You know, shallow, superficial, flimsy?”
“Oh, why didn’t you just say so.”
“I wanted you to elevate yourself as much as possible before I brought you down. By the way, on what page of the guidebook did you find the order of the gods?”
“Page twelve, if you must know. Anyway, when the last brick was in place, I heard a loud sliding noise. The huge stone door at the top of the stone steps opened wide. After ascending the steps, I entered a long narrow corridor. About a hundred feet away was another set of steps leading to a smaller corridor. That’s when I ran into a snag. That corridor ended at a deep chasm where a bridge once spanned it. But, the bridge was gone. I leaned over the edge to see how deep it was. At least three hundred feet down, maybe more. I imagined the Anasazi throwing their enemies..... Crunch! The ledge gave way, causing me to lose balance. I was about to find out just how deep it was. Desperate to stay alive, I turned like an over-wound top and reached for the new edge of the cliff. Barely able to grab it with my right hand, I hung there, dangling by my fingertips. My life flashed before my eyes. My feet were frantically feeling for any rock or root or anything to get a foothold. Just as my hand slipped free, my left foot found a rock to steady myself. But, it was loose too! I had one chance and one chance only to save my hide. I pushed with all my leg strength and grabbed the ledge. That’s when the rock broke loose and fell to its new resting place. Pulling myself to safety, I heaved a huge sigh of relief. I brushed off the dirt from my clothes and surveyed the situation - from a distance.
“The long poles came to mind as well as the pile of sticks I saw earlier. Maybe I could construct a ladder that would act as a makeshift bridge. All I needed was something to tie the rungs to the poles. The small room between the two corridors had several leather strips scattered about the floor. Must have been the local jerky hut. A half hour later the ladder was ready to use.
“Using the hand over hand method, I extended the ladder to the other side. It barely made it, the last rung hooking over a large rock embedded in the ledge. Since this wood was very old, I had some doubts about crossing the ravine. But, in lieu of the fact that I just had a brush with death, I figured I was due for a break.”
“You were due for something, that’s for sure.”
“Cute. However, the break I needed was different from the one I got. With the sticks and poles creaking with each move, I was beginning to wonder if this was a bad idea. Like in, BAD idea. About half way across, the ladder rent in two. My hands were tightly gripped to the front part of the ladder and my feet were maintaining contact with the back half. I was the only thing holding the two pieces together. Once again I was facing death. Sweat was forming on my brow. I was expending a lot of muscle power just trying to keep the two halves together. In about five more seconds, I was going to be iguana meat. Frantic for a solution, I looked at the far wall of the chasm. It appeared to have been newly repaired at one point, so I figured it might be a little soft. Closing my eyes, I released my feet from the back half of the ladder, causing it to crash on the rocks below. At the same time, I was hurtling towards the wall. I brought my knees to my chest, pushing my feet forward. The impact of hitting the wall nearly caused me to lose my grip. But, I hung on for dear life and, sure enough, the wall gave way, just enough for me to fall inside. The rock and the ladder fell behind me, making a crash I would not soon forget. Twice, in a span of mere minutes, I had faced death and won. I sure hope this doesn’t happen again, was my only thought.
“I found myself inside a small room with a steel door to my left and another steel door to my front. That one had a motion sensor above it, the kind used to automatically open the door when someone approached. It also doubled as a warning device to alert the person on the other side. This seemed rather odd since the ruins were generally preserved to reflect the ancient society that dwelt there. Someone with a lot of political pull and an equal amount of palm-greasing dough must have had these doors installed in the not too distant past. Two questions quickly came to mind: Could this be Bosworth Clark’s workplace? If so, was he still here? I hope so. I have a lot of questions to ask him.
“That’s when I noticed some unusual items on the floor as well as a trail made as though something heavy had been dragged out through the door. An eerie feeling crept into my bones and a morbid thought into my head. Among the unusual items was a pocket watch, some loose change and a pair of broken sunglasses repaired with a piece of electrical tape. If these belonged to Bosworth Clark, then my suspicions of his probable demise grew larger.
“So, I approached the door and walked in front of the motion sensor. Nothing happened. I waved my arms and still nothing happened. This was not good. That’s when I noticed the electrical panel next to the door. It seemed to have been tampered with for the cover was only partially secured. I didn’t have my pocket knife with me - it has a screwdriver attachment - so I had to improvise. Using a dime from the change I found, the panel cover was off in seconds flat. But, the wires had been cut! Someone didn’t want anyone getting inside.
“Not to be deterred, certainly not by an obstacle so simplistic, I removed the winder from the watch and out popped a small spring. I wrapped the cut wires to each end of the spring. Other than getting a small jolt, the door still did not open. Maybe it needed to be insulated. So, I removed the tape from Clark’s sunglasses and wrapped it around the spring. Bingo! The door slid open.
“With due precautions I entered the room on the other side. Immediately nausea edged up into my throat.”
“What did you see?”
“Blood - a lot of blood - all over the floor. There was some on the monitor counters as well. It was sickening. Something very bad happened here and I was determined to find out exactly what it was. The place was devoid of bodies and that explained the trail outside the door. A body HAD been dragged out. The question was: where was Bosworth Clark and was it his body that was dragged through the door?
“Since I was here I felt the need to perform a thorough inspection of the room. There were a number of monitors on the west wall. Flipping a switch on the main console turned them on. It looked like some kind of satellite system. On the south wall were some compartments that I could not open. Just as well. They looked ominous. However, on the end of the monitor console was a note secured by a magnet. The magnet went into my pocket; those things are always useful. The note had one word on it: TCKACHEME. The name of an Anasazi deity? Or something else less obvious?
“Since my stomach was still queasy, I thought it would be a good idea to feed it something. I remembered the bananas. A minute later I was feeling a bit better. A banana is even better than that pink stuff - PeptoDismol. And, if I felt out of sorts again, I still had one banana left.”
“Tex, this constant reference to bananas has me confused. Why mention them?”
“You’ll find out soon enough. Let me finish this part of the story first. On the north end of the room was a security-protect computer like the one at Linsky’s warehouse. Except this one had a color-coded keypad on it. Touching one of the colored buttons made a musical tone. As I pressed each one, they all made different sounds. I figured if you pressed them in a certain order, something really cool would happen. In the meantime, a small cabinet on the east wall had a passcard reader in it. That meant there was a passcard nearby. At least I hoped there was. Maybe it would be similar to Linsky’s.
“Over in the northeast corner was a cot. Under it was a CD player. You know the kind. It could play multiple CDs and, using the control buttons, you could switch from one CD to the other. Anyway, I theorized that if there was a CD player, there should be some CDs. I didn’t see any, which was disturbing. Why have a CD player and no CDs? As I was thinking on this, I noticed two smoke detectors on opposite walls. Based on my training in the security industry, I knew that wasn’t kosher.”
“Why? Smoke detectors are common throughout the world. Why would you suspect these?”
“Good question, so, I’ll give you a good answer. First, smoke detectors are most effective when placed on the ceiling, not the wall. Second, a room this small only needed one detector, not two. The average smoke detector covers about 900 square feet. Clark’s workplace was smaller than that. Pulling them off the walls and examining them closely confirmed my deduction. Each detector had a miniature camera on the inside. Taking the tiny CDs out of the detectors and placing them into the CD player was my next move. What I saw made my skin crawl.”
“Uh oh, I’m almost afraid to hear the rest.”
“And well you should. Using the A and B switches on the control pad, I watched in consternation the execution of Bosworth Clark. First, when the killer approached the outer door an alarm went off alerting Clark to someone’s presence. He quickly arose from his chair and walked briskly to the computer. Although I couldn’t see what he was doing, I could hear the musical tones from the computer’s keypad. Shortly after sitting back in his chair, a man entered and walked straight to Clark. The man was around six feet tall, about 200 pounds, well dressed, handsome and, unless I’m grossly mistaken, he was quite physically fit.”
“How would you know?”
“Please, Chelsee, this isn’t easy.”
“Sorry, Tex. Just trying to lighten the mood.”
“You’re forgiven. But, I’ll never forgive the man who entered Clark’s lab. Walking straight up to Bosworth, he handed him a revolver, pulled another gun and said, ‘We’re gonna play a little game.’ By his demeanor and facial expression I could tell this guy was psychotic. Could this be the nut case Sonny mentioned in his letter? At the time I wasn’t sure, but what happened next convinced me of his identity. Apparently, there was only one bullet in the gun he handed to Clark. Holding a fully loaded gun to Clark’s head, he forced Bosworth to keep pulling the trigger until it discharged, ending Clark’s life. If that’s not bad enough, I switched to camera B as he dragged Clark from the lab. The hit man was smiling. He actually seemed to enjoy forcing other people to blow out their own brains! That was truly disgusting.”
“I’m really sorry for joking earlier, Tex. I didn’t know it was going to be so bad.”
“It’s alright, Chelsee. That was a long time ago.”
“But, it still bothers you.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I mean, here’s a guy, married, father of five, trying to make a decent living in a cruel and heartless world, and along comes a guy like Slade to put an end to it.”
“So, it was Big Jim Slade who killed Clark?”
“Well, according to the info from the AID, that was his preferred method of execution. He calls it forced Russian Roulette. So, to answer your question, yes.” I take another drink of bourbon and light another Lucky. Telling this part of the story to anyone can be discouraging and depressing.
“Tex, that wasn’t the end of it, was it?”
“No. I still had a job to do. I watched the camera CDs for a few more seconds. After killing Clark, Slade had the gall to reenter the lab, sit at Clark’s dining table and smoke a few cigarettes! Can you believe it? Anyway, I decided to check out the ashtray for clues. The butts were inconsequential, but the matchbook was interesting. It was from some lodge. It had partially burned to the point where I couldn’t quite make out the location. That, too, was frustrating. If I could track down Slade, that would have made a real nice addition to my resume.
“Slade did something else I found unusual. He tore apart the lab, overturning chairs, searching every nook and cranny. At the time I had no idea what he was looking for.
“Next, I went to the computer and gazed long and hard at that musical keypad. To assist me, I replayed the CDs several times in order to get the right tones in the right order. After a couple of attempts, I finally hit the jackpot. The drawer opened and there it was - Clark’s passcard. That’s what he hid in the drawer. It seems these passcards have some importance. That’s what Slade must have been looking for.
“The passcard was earmarked “G” and was identical to Linsky’s. I attached the passcard reader to the computer and swiped the passcard. The prompt asked for a password. Immediately I recalled the note I had found earlier. The word TCKACHEME was staring back at me. Those letters didn’t do much, but I decided to type them in anyhow. The computer said ‘Invalid Password.’ I continued to stare at those bold, upper case letters. Then it hit me - it was a word scramble. Rearrange the letters - like I did at Linsky’s warehouse - and I would have the password. And, since there were a lot of references to the game of chess in my investigation, I spent a couple of minutes trying different combinations. Finally, the word CHECKMATE appeared. I typed it in and BOOM! instant access.”
“What did you find?”
“Well, if memory serves, it went something like this: Aug. 3 was the start date and Nov. 10 was the end date. Project goals and milestones were:
Aug. 24 - Outline for Implementation of Interface;
Sep. 15 - Stage 1, programming complete;
Oct. 6 - Stage 2, programming complete;
Oct. 13 - Satellite Relay Link Established (Alpha);
Oct. 27 - Completed Interface (Beta);
Nov.10 - Testing Completed.
“Besides these deadlines, the computer showed an animated flyby of a satellite in outer space. There was writing on it, but I couldn’t quite make out what it said. Anyway, I finally left, feeling a little down after watching the CDs of Clark’s death. It seems I’m always one step behind this killer, assuming, of course, that he was responsible for the four names I have gathered so far. Val Davis died in a speeder crash and Rona Morgan died of accidental poisoning; Linsky committed suicide, supposedly; and Bosworth Clark was forced to execute himself. Was Slade responsible for all of these? How did he get Linsky to jump off the bridge? Did he have a gun on him and the witnesses, because of the fog, just didn’t spot him? If his method of execution was forced Russian Roulette, how did he cause the deaths of Davis and Morgan? And why make them look accidental? What are all these references to the game of chess? Who is Overlord? The more data I accumulated, the more questions arose.
“I exited through the other steel door in the room where I made my spectacular entrance. There was a long corridor that finally led to the outside, at the other end of the ruins. An hour later, I was back at my speeder and heading back to San Francisco.”
“So, what was your next stop?”
“CAPRICORN and Wanda Peck.”
“Figures.”
“Purely professional visit, that’s all,” I said aloud. Then, in an undertone, I added, “Although I wish it was pleasure.”
“Excuse me? What was that last remark?”
“Ahem, I said it was a real pressure dealing with her.” My fingers were crossed out of Chelsee’s sight. “I had to find out if she discovered anything noteworthy regarding the photo I dropped off.”
“Was your visit revealing?”
No, no, no Murphy, you’re not touching that one. You’ve come too far with Chelsee to ruin it now. “Actually, it was quite illuminating. Let me tell you what happened.......”

_________________

"If you look to me for illumination, you better have a flashlight!"

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