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Jim the old guy
Post subject: Overseer - chapters 13 (partial) and 14
Post Posted: Nov 29, 2006 7:25 pm
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“A closer inspection of his loser lotto ticket revealed 5 numbers consisting of a total of nine digits. They were 6, 14, 22, 27, 31, in that order. Finished with the lotto ticket, I moved on to the vial of chloral hydrate. I figured Slade was going to use it on one of his victims. Thinking that it might come in handy some day, I stuffed it back into my pocket.
“Looking at the key again, I was stymied. How in the world would I figure out which post office or box it would fit? There were absolutely no markings on it. As I was mulling over the impossibilities, my eyes fell upon the briefcase. Maybe, just maybe, there was a clue inside. So, my next task was to open the briefcase.
“Under the handle was a slot consisting of three numeric dials, each having the numbers zero to nine on them. All I had to do was figure which of Slade’s lucky numbers was used to open the case. If I turned the dials to the correct number, the corresponding green LED would light up and the case would open. So, I started to play with those numbers. I used different combinations; I added them, subtracted them; divided them; multiplied them; even tried doing some square roots of them. No luck. I kept staring at the numbers, knowing the answer was right in front of me. Then a light bulb went on in my head. Yes! It was right in front of me! So simple it was hard.
“I took the first three numbers, 614, and turned the dials. The case didn’t open, but the green LED lit up. Hmmm. Maybe I needed to rotate the dials some more. So, I rotated them until the next three numbers were in order - 222 - and the green light flashed again. What the hey! I turned them until they read 731, the last three of Slade’s lucky numbers. Bingo! The red and green LEDs alternated flashes and the case popped open.”
“Oooh! I can hardly wait to hear what you found inside. And don’t light up another smoke or get another drink. Just get to the point!” Sheesh! What a spoiled sport!
“Well, there were several very interesting items inside. First, there was an electronic chart with various letters and numbers on it. The letters were either yellow or red and the numbers, one through ten, were green. Second, there was another electronic device, a grille as they are called. The grille was a rectangular sheet of plastic with micro-diodes on it. Also, it contained multiple slots or cutouts. These were in different geometric shapes, such as squares, rectangles and a couple of others I couldn’t name. The third item was an adapter cord. So, I took the cord and attached one end to the chart and the other to the grille. After a few blips, beeps and bongs, the adjacent English readout display screen displayed the usual message: System Ready. So far so good.
“Now, how would I position the grille on the chart? I decided to try the open slots over the numbers first, since there were fewer of them. I placed the upper left slot over the number one, but nothing happened. I tried the other slots and still nothing happened. So, I rotated the grille to the vertical position and did the same. Bingo! The name Rona Morgan appeared on the corresponding display. Continuing my quest, I ended up with a total of ten names on the list. I deduced this as Slade’s hit list.”
“Okay, okay! So, who were the other nine?”
“Number 2 was Val Davis, 3 was Bosworth Clark, 4 was Carl Linsky....”
“Sounds like a death list.”
“...5 was Sylvia Linsky, 6 was Greg Call...”
“Slade enjoyed killing him....”
“...7 was Samuel Q. Jones.... You’re not going to say anything?”
“No, why should I?”
“He just might be the General Jones mentioned in Sonny’s final note to me.”
“That’s right! Could it be the same one?”
“I think there’s a distinct possibility they’re one and the same. Number 8 was Larry Hammond, 9 was J. Saint Gideon....
“J. Saint Gideon! Wow! What a list!”
“.....and, number 10 was none other than moi.” And I smiled hugely.
“Why were you on the list?”
“Well, by now, someone had to know I was working on this case and they felt I was a liability.”
“The mysterious ‘friend’?”
“Could be, but I doubted it. I figured, if he could follow me around, then so could someone else. Maybe Slade, maybe Klaus, maybe Knott or Schimming. Who knows? I didn’t at the time, but one thing’s for sure. A chill went down my spine as I held the list in my hand. That’s when I received another surprise.
“As I was holding the chart/grille device, the names suddenly shifted. Some to the left, some to the right. When they were done, one letter in each name appeared in bold letter-
ing. From top to bottom, the letters spelled Mill Valley.”
“The post office you were looking for, correct?” Her exuberance was contagious. It had been a couple of hours since I began this story and her excitement had yet to diminish.
“Yup! But which box number? I mean, there are literally hundreds of boxes at that branch. And whoever issued these orders made sure that anyone who stumbled upon them would not find it easy to sort out. That brings me to the last item in the briefcase. A coded note. It consisted of five lines, each referring to a biblical book and verse. The first one was Job 9:25:8 followed by a line where you could write down the decoded word.”
“Wait a minute, Tex. That verse doesn’t make any sense. Chapter nine, verse 25, verse 8? What does that mean?”
“I wasn’t sure. Also, it made me wish I had taken the Gideon’s bible from Slade’s kitchen drawer. Realizing I didn’t have much time, I decided to call my mom.”
“Aw! What a nice boy.”
“Can it, Chelsee. I asked her if she could look up those verses for me and tell me what they said. She told me to look them up myself. She had given me a bible, among other books, as a gift for getting my first office. So, I went to the bookshelf and, sure enough, there was a King James Version of the bible. Pulling it out, I turned to Job, chapter nine. I read verse 25, but still didn’t grasp its meaning. Especially the ‘8’ portion. I reread the verse until it came to me. The word ‘post’ appeared in the verse. In fact, it was the eighth word. Well, I wrote it down on the blank line and looked up the other four biblical references. Exodus 29:9:21 was the word ‘office’; 2Kings 9:1:24 was the word ‘box’; Psalms 147:4:4 was the word ‘number’; and Genesis 5:27:8-10-12 was ‘969’. Great! The key fit post office box 969 at the Mill Valley post office. I lit out in a flash.”
“Oh my god!”
“Actually, god did not have anything to do with my superlative deductive ability.”
“No, no, silly. Look what time it is. We are very, very late. I’m sorry for losing track of time.”
“Well, I’ve been told I have that effect on women.”
“Whatever you say, Sweetie. But seriously, we really have to hurry. It’s not easy getting reservations at the Golden Pagoda.”
“If that’s the case,” which I knew it was, “we better get hat.”
“I’m not wearing a hat tonight, Tex.” She gave me a puzzling look.
“‘Get hat’ is an old 20th century term for hurry. But, as you know, Chelsee, I respect all the speed laws. However, I do know a short cut.” The several glasses of bourbon gave me a warm, cozy feeling. I wasn’t drunk, least-wise not yet. But I sure was in a cheery mode, despite the depressing aspects of my story. And I was ready to fly - literally!
Along the way, she asked, “So what happened when you got to the Mill Valley post office?”
“You wouldn’t believe who arrived there ahead of me.”
“Big Jim Slade.”
“Have I told you this part of the story before?”
“No, but it seemed logical.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Spock.” She smiled that pretty smile of hers. With the neon lights of the city shining in the window, coupled with the reflection of her face ON the window, I thought I was seeing double beauty. I shook my head slightly, clearing out the bourbon-
webs floating like strands of cotton on a blustery day.
I continued, “I saw him coming through the door with a white letter size envelope in his hand. Pretending to adjust my hat, he walked right by me, stuffing the envelope in his coat pocket. It was a miracle he didn’t see me. If he had, I wouldn’t be here today. Anyway, I wasn’t sure what his destination was, so I tailed him at a safe distance. When I saw he was heading north out of town, I realized he was going back to his lodge. I didn’t know where he got the extra key to box 969, but I knew I had to act fast.
“Just on the north end of town was Keyes Keys, a locksmith service I’ve used before. The owner, a disgusting pig of a woman named Divine, ran the place and would do anything for anyone at anytime and anyplace - for a price. I gave her the fig bar with the key impression on it and told her to make me a copy ‘post haste.’”
“Her name was Divine Keyes?” Chelsee looked perplexed.
“Yeah. Her father was a preacher and, although he was disappointed when his only child was a girl, he decided to give her a religious name. If he only knew how she would turn out. He was killed during WWIII. At any rate, she was all too happy to make a key for me when I flashed a fifty dollar bill. Then she started to ask the usual despicable questions.”
“Like what questions?”
“‘Hey, hot stuff, when are we going to get together in an effort to repopulate the species? How about we play post office? I’ll be the box and you can be the key.’ That did it, I was gone. Gagging, I vamoosed and headed directly to Slade’s digs. Once again I found myself sneaking around to the back door. Only this time he wasn’t taking a shower.”
“What was he doing?”
“Well, by now he had come to the conclusion that his briefcase was missing, as well as one or two other items. And he was not happy. I could hear him ranting and raving, something about ‘this lousy job is getting worse by the day.’ When I peeked through the sliding door, I saw him go into the bathroom. I could hear items being removed from the medicine cabinet, a couple of them falling to the floor. A small suitcase was opened on the bed. He was packing to move, just as I figured. He knew someone was on to him and, unless I was wrong, he probably reasoned it was me. Now, where was the envelope?
“I was thoroughly pleased to see that he had set it on the same small table by the door where his wallet had been. So, with the quietness of a mouse, I unlocked the door, slid it open, grabbed the envelope, and dashed into the kitchen.”
“Why? Why didn’t you just leave?”
“Because, as soon as I picked up the envelope, the bathroom door opened. If I tried to turn and exit the lodge, he would have seen me and I’d be buzzard bait. However, by going into the kitchen, that would buy me a few precious seconds to plan an escape.”
“Again, how?”
“Chelsee, when he came out of the bathroom, it was only a matter of micro seconds before he noticed the door was open and the envelope was gone. He would figure I had followed him, grabbed his orders and split the scene. That’s exactly what happened. When he saw the envelope missing from the table, he screamed, ‘Murphy!’ and took off after me. Peering around the corner of the kitchen, I could see him take all five steps of the deck in one giant leap, gun in hand at the ready. He surmised I had fled to the parking lot. That allowed me to put my escape plan into motion.”
“Tex, if the only way out of the lodge was the sliding door, how would you get back to your speeder alive?”
“Oh ye of little faith. It was simple. I ran out of the lodge, stood on the deck railing, hoisted myself up onto the roof, and slowly crawled to the peak. I caught a glimpse of Slade looking in vain for me and my speeder. Confused, he finally came to the realization that I was still in the lodge. When he ran around to the rear of the unit, I slipped over the top peak and started down the other side, feeling I was home free.”
“But you weren’t.” I glared at Chelsee. She could either read my mind or she could discern my next choice of words. “No, you haven’t told me this part of the story before.” That did it! She’s going to get the Tex Murphy special if she keeps that up.
“Unfortunately, you’re right. As I retreated over the other side of the roof, one of the wooden roof tiles came loose and clattered its way down to the sidewalk below. Clickety clack, rat-a-tat, and so on. By then, Slade was back in the lodge and heard the noise. Bang! Bang! Bang! Three shots rang out, coming through the roof and narrowly missing vital areas of my anatomy. I let go of my hold and slid off the roof, following the trail of the tile before me. Two more shots rang out and hit nothing but air.
“I fell into a bush, sustaining several scratches. However, it did cushion my fall. I scrambled to my feet and headed for my speeder. Once inside, I headed for the evening sky, not looking behind to see if Slade was there. I was alive and well and that’s all that counted. Except now I had Slade’s new orders and the possible name of the person giving those orders.”
“Gee, Tex, I didn’t realize you put so much on the line back then. I mean, you nearly got killed.”
“Yeah, well, those things happen once and a while. But, not too often, thank goodness. Anyway, I headed for my office and opened the envelope. There were two items inside which I found quite advantageous. First, there was a coded message for Slade. At the time I had no idea as to how to decode it. There were several small dashes with a number under each one. I’ve seen that kind of code before. It required a corresponding document. As you read the document, you would count the letters, write them down on the dashes, and then you would have the decoded orders. Only, I didn’t know where to find the appropriate document. That’s where the second item came to my rescue. It was a level one passcard to get into the Law and Order Party Headquarters. So, I figured I would find the necessary document there.”
“So, you went directly to L & O headquarters, right?”
“Wrong. First I went to see my client. We had a dinner date in order to discuss the case. Afterwards, we went for a spin. I explained to her that she was in mortal danger. Her only question was ‘Why?’ Although I didn’t know the answer to her query, I persuaded her to hide out until things cooled down. The best place for this was her father’s warehouse. So I dropped her off a few minutes later.”
“Sounds like things are getting a little sticky.” Chelsee was truly interested in the saga of Tex Murphy’s first case and subsequent marriage made in hell. “Oh! There’s the Golden Pagoda.” Sure enough, it was coming into view. Since we’re in the upper level, west bound traffic lanes, I needed to veer to the right and drop down four levels. That put us about two levels above the pavement. Still heading west, we start looking for parking places. As we do, I notice an audio/visual floating advertisement for the Faberge Egg exhibit coming to the museum in 2044. There’s something familiar about that....
“There’s a spot,” she declares, interrupting my train of thought.
“Nope. Fire hydrant.”
“Over there.”
“Sorry. Handicapped only.”
“Actually, Tex, I think you could make a case for that.”
“Oh, that’s very funny. Ah, there’s one, right in front of the restaurant. See!” I say smugly. She sticks her tongue out at me for revenge’s sake. Since I need to drop two more levels and we’re practically on top of the restaurant, I make a quick north turn on South Street and then head east on West Street. Dropping to level one, I hang a right on Temple and then another right on East China Blvd. Easing off the throttle, I lower the speeder to the parking level and just beat out another guy and his date for the best spot.
“Nice move, Dastard.” I smile at Chelsee’s reference to one of the most famous bang-
up figure eight drivers of our day. He was so uncouth and daring, totally absent of fear or injury, they called him Dastard the Bastard. He was hated by everyone, except the promoters. He was the kind of guy who would crash into someone and then laugh at them while the ambulance flew the guy to the hospital. The crowd hated him but turned out in droves in the hopes he would get slammed by one of the good guys. Never happened.
“Nice analogy, Sweetie,” I say sarcastically. Upon getting out of the speeder, I clap my hands twice and the doors close automatically. I sure wish I was the guy who invented that little piece of electronics. I wouldn’t be eating at the Golden Pagoda; I’d own it.
“So, you finally go to the L & O headquarters. What were you planning to do?”
“Well, I wasn’t sure, at the time. I figured it was unoccupied because of it being Sunday evening and I’d have all night to ransack the place. I was wrong.”
“Mark an X on the calendar.”
“Cute! But, when I slid the passcard through the digital scanner and entered the building, what I saw next was not cute. I came face to face with an all night security guard. He had a patch over his left eye. Reminded me of a pirate who won the fight, but lost an eye in the process.”
“How did you get around the guard?”
“Well, I used a hodge-podge of clever manipulation, a degree on intrepidity and the usual Tex Murphy savor-faire.”
“So, you cheated, lied and made funny faces.”
“Do you want to hear what happened or what?”
“Tex, you really need to get a life. Of course I do. I just know how you work.”
“Gee, thanks. Well, for your benefit, my lying and cheating went like this....”

2043 A.D. across from the Golden Pagoda

“What’s your status,” asked the leader through the two-way radio.
“They just entered the restaurant. The speeder is in the front parking spot. Send the kid over to get it. If he has any trouble, I’ll help him.”
“He’s on the way. Make sure you make it look like you just happened by. Ask if the spot is taken. When they explain that their speeder was stolen, offer them a ride to the cop shop. Once they’re in the speeder, do ‘em both.”
“Don’t worry. I’ve gone over this a hundred times. I’ll take care of my end.”
“Look! I’m just making sure. I’ve waited a long time for this moment. If I sound a little apprehensive, I’m sure you can understand why.”
“Got it. I know how you feel. I’ve been waiting for this day as well. I won’t let you down. I’m just as eager as you are to see them get their just desserts.”
“Thanks, old friend. I knew I could count on you.”
The man with the pointed nose smiled. Their friendship went back more than 20 years. His boss had helped him on an important job back then and he vowed to help him when-ever and wherever he needed it. With that in mind, he pulled his speeder down the street. From his vantage point, he could clearly see people entering and exiting the restaurant. The only unknown was the length of time they would be inside. And, unlike the bug in her apartment, there was no bug in the restaurant or on their person. So, if the story Murphy was telling was a long one, he might have to wait a couple of hours or more outside. So, he sat back and relaxed, opening the paper and reading the headlines. “Same old stuff – murder, rape and all around general mayhem. My kind of reading!”

Chapter fourteen: 2037 A.D.
Big Surf Lodge
Sunday, Nov. 15

Rage and revenge filled Big Jim Slade’s heart, reaching deep down into his psyche. This job had been the most disagreeable of his 15 year career. One botch after another. People from the past showing up unexpectedly; old men challenging his physical agility; two-bit PIs muddling into his affairs; his own inability to retrieve a simple thing like a computer passcard; even his orders from his inept and insolent boss was stolen. Will it never end? Is there any way I can bring it to an early end? What should I do?
Slade mused on his past successes, using them as a springboard to rebuild his confi-dence. Coupled with his relaxation and mind control exercises, he was soon back in control, albeit a control rooted on sand instead of concrete. Nonetheless, he had a job to finish and finish it he would. There were still four names on his hit list. Although his boss had listed Murphy last, he would be the first, if at all possible. That meddling PI had been one step behind him early on; but now he was one step ahead of ‘The Mind, The Body, The Man’. And that just didn’t sit well with Slade.
The phone rang. “Slade here.”
“Mr. Slade? I thought I told you to leave the passcard in the post office box. Did you forget?” It was Slade’s boss.
“Uh, not exactly, sir,” Slade was polite despite his animosity towards his boss. He was also embarrassed by his failure.
“What do you mean, ‘not exactly?’” His tone was contemptuous.
“Well, that person from the past showed up and, uh, stole the card. But, I got even with him. For all I know, he’s dead by now.”
“Let me get this straight. A man from your past shows up, you let him steal the passcard, you shoot him, but he might not be dead... need I say more?”
“I understand how you feel. I feel just as badly. But this case has proven to have more than the usual twists and turns. And...” Slade stopped short, worried what the boss was going to say when he told him his orders had been stolen as well.
“Yes, you were about to add something?” His tone was becoming increasingly con-
descending.
“Uh, well, while I was packing today, uh, that Murphy character showed up and stole the orders you gave me. Before I could read them, by the way.” Slade found himself almost apologizing to this twit.
“What am I going to do with you, Mr. Slade? First, there was Mexico, now there is San Francisco. Let me be blunt. If you cannot do the job as prearranged, then I’ll get someone who can. Do I make myself clear?”
Slade was on the verge of a verbal and physical tirade unrivaled in his thirty-eight year existence. “Look, I can finish the job. We made a deal and I’m living up to that deal as best I can. No one, and I do mean no one, is better at what I do. When you hired me, you didn’t tell me there were going to be more obstacles than blessings. If you can’t divulge all the unnecessary and unexpected hurdles that fate has thrown into my path, then live with it! I’ve had just about enough of you and your hit list. And, while I’m at it, you still haven’t told me the importance of this mission of yours. That’s the least you could do.” Slade’s hostility was obvious. But, he also dexterously transferred the onus of failure to the shoulders of the other person. First, you start by almost apologizing; then you start to defend yourself; then you transfer the blame to the other person. By the time you’re done, the other person feels humiliated and discouraged.
“So, that’s it, is it? Well, perhaps you’re right. There’s a plan to ....” and he went on to tell Slade the entire scenario regarding the STG project and all those involved with it. He also disclosed the importance of the passcards. But, he finished with a pleasant surprise.
“Oh, one final note. Don’t worry about the passcards. If I’m correct, all we have to do is set a trap for Murphy. I believe he’s been collecting the cards we’re missing. And, if it’s Murphy you want, then simply go to the Law and Order Party Headquarters. He’ll probably be there, with your orders. If you don’t get them, call me and I’ll tell you what they are. Okay by you?” His tone had mellowed considerably since Slade’s harangue.
“Sure thing, Mr. Klaus. Oh, and sorry about the outburst earlier.”
“No problem. This is a high pressure and intricate process and nerves can get frayed, from time to time. Let’s finish this together and we’ll both be wealthier than imaginable.”
They both hung up. Slade smiled at his aplomb. Put the burden back on the other person’s shoulders was a tactic he learned from his martial arts sensei, Master Lo. It worked beautifully. Klaus was no dummy, but he wasn’t a mental giant either. Oh sure, he was an excellent surgeon. But, when it came to criminal activity, he was a novice at best. Only ‘The Mind, The Body, The Man’ can follow this conspiracy through to its ultimate and successful conclusion. He would steal the passcards from Murphy, killing Klaus in the process, and sell them to the highest bidder. Since J. Saint Gideon’s name was on the list (Slade didn’t know why), maybe he would like to buy them. With Gideon’s financial resources, Slade would make a killing. A killing! He laughed at his unintended double entendre. And then he left.

Sunday, Nov. 15, 2037
L & O Headquarters

John Klaus’ plan was moving ahead, in spite of Slade’s ineptness. He was beginning to regret the hiring of this butcher. On the other hand, Slade was right. There is none better. But, why so many dilemmas? Is it all because of that floozy Sylvia Linsky? And her new friend, Tex Murphy? How can two virtually unknowns cause so many problems? Thinking back, it all started with Carl Linsky’s suicide. Maybe he shouldn’t have injected him with that neural implant. Maybe he should have had Slade kill Linsky. That would not have aroused any suspicion. Too late for regrets now. He needed to move ahead with his scheme to steal the STG project right out from under its creator’s eyes. Ruling the world was always a flight of fancy, since he was a boy. And soon it would be realized.
First things first. One, Klaus knew he had to have all eight passcards and their respective passwords in order to infiltrate the system. Two, he needed to have Slade eliminate the remaining ‘contestants’ on the list. Three, Slade himself would have to be disposed of. He was a liability and a costly one at that. Unknown to Slade was Klaus’ ability to put a 90 day hold on the funds transferred to Slade’s Swiss account. All he had to do was contact the bank rep he dealt with, give him the secret passcode, and the funds would automatically be returned to Klaus’ own bank account. What do the PIs say? ‘Easy as falling off a horse.’
In the meantime, Klaus needed to act on info he has thus far received. ‘There’s a lot of work to do and time is of the essence’. With that in mind, he left his lab at Law and Order Headquarters and set about making a trap for Murphy. This is something he would really enjoy. Almost as much as killing Slade.

Sunday, Nov. 15, 2037 A.D.
Law and Order Headquarters
After Klaus left

The guard stood up as I entered the building. Usually that’s a sign that he’s ready for action; a take charge attitude.
“I’m sorry sir, but these premises have been closed for the evening. I’m going to have to ask you to leave immediately.” I won’t get far with this guy in my path. Does he really expect a Murphy to give up this easily? Well, he’s got another thing comin’. But, I do need to think of something quick. And it better be good. If he does let me stay, I won’t be able to scour the place with him hanging around.
“Sheesh! Late again, aren’t I? I missed the whole rally. Do you have any beer left?” Oh, that was borderline intelligence at best. Rally? Beer? He came out from behind the reception counter and reached for his revolver. Better go to plan B.
“Okay, wise guy. Get your hands up where I can see ‘em.” I am now looking down the barrel of a Colt .45. Kind of dark in there. Anyway, it’s obvious these L&O types take their jobs seriously. Why would he be so defensive? I did use the passcard to enter, which, by the way, is the only way you CAN enter. They must be on some sort of alert, what with the mutant situation and all. Or, they are simply being overly cautious as a result of too many slip ups lately. After all, I have the passcard to enter, not Slade. I better change tactics.
“All right. Look, calm down.” I shift my head slowly from side to side, as though I’m about to explain the details of my secret mission. “I suppose its okay to tell you, but, uh, I’m on a top secret mission for the government.” Those last words spoken using my left hand as a muzzle, as though someone would overhear. I doubted anyone else was there, but it added emphasis to my assertion.
Not to be deterred, he responded by saying, “I don’t care if you work for the NSA, I’m gonna need to see some ID.” Gulp! This guy’s on some kind of mission of his own. Well, I surely can’t show him my PI license, so I better go to plan C.
“Hey man,” that’s always effective, “I was just following orders. I was given this passcard,” and I hand it to him, “and told to use it to enter this building.”
He calmly takes the passcard, not allowing his eyes to turn from mine. He’s a cool customer, for a rent-a-guard, that is. “We all got orders. It’ll take just a second to write down this badge number. There’s coffee if you like.” He returns the gun to its holster and leaves the room. I better think of something quick.
Hmmm. Let’s see. I start thinking and put my hands in my pockets as usual. I feel the same vial that I appropriated from Slade. This is as good a time as any to use it. I notice the coffee pot, still half full. A used, but still wet, mug was next to it. I bet this guy drinks lots of java just for the caffeine. I know this is somewhat unethical, but I need to search this place and a conscious security guard would be a hindrance. So, I start pouring the ‘Mickey Finn’ into the pot. As I do, my mind wanders back to the letter from the Colonel. ‘Sometimes you have to bend the rules to make them work.’ Was he right? Is that what I’m doing now? While I’m thinking, I notice how the sleepy-time white powder is missing the pot. Oops! I spilled it on the coffee table! Damn! In a flash, I pull out Slade’s orders and scoop the stuff onto it. Making a small fold, I pour it back into the pot, blowing away the remaining dust. The guard appears behind me.
“What the hell are you doing?” he asks, while I’m bending over the table on one knee.
“Uh, contact lens fell out. There, got it back now.” If he buys that, then I’m gonna sell him the Golden Gate Bridge before I leave. He shakes his head and exits the room. One bridge coming right up!
I finish with the coffee pot; now to find a place to hide. Since all this nervous energy has filled my bladder, I decide to.. Hey! Good idea! I’ll hide in the bathroom. But, there’s a problem and it’s not the shortage of toilet paper. Unless I’m mistaken, I need the passcard to exit the building. There was a card reader just inside the door. That’s rare, since most companies want to keep people out - not in. But L&O has its problems and decided to have people use the passcard both ways. It probably gives them better traffic control. In any case, the guard knows that and he might come looking for me. I better go to plan D. (I really wish I knew what all these plans are.)
Sure enough, a minute later I hear the door to the bathroom open. I’m standing-squatting on one of the commodes just in case he merely looks under the privacy door. No such luck. I hear the door to the first stall creak open then slam shut. This was followed by the next two stall doors opening and shutting. Then I hear the door to the Men’s room open and close. He left. Damn I’m good! It shows I made the right choice by hiding in the Ladies room where I had a sneaking suspicion he would not dare to go. Good. Now what? Maybe he’ll drink some coffee. I’ll wait a few minutes and see if anything unusual happens.
After several minutes, I hear a clunk, followed by swoosh, and finally a thud. Let me guess: He dropped his cup, fell over the wheeled chair, pushing it out of the way, and finally landed on the floor. He should be out cold. I ease out the door, peek around the corner and espy my new buddy. Ol’ one eye is out for the count. So, I go back into the lady’s room and search it thoroughly. Nothing exciting in there. Then I slip across the hall to the Men’s room. I was looking for a memo or letter or brochure or anything to decode Slade’s orders. It must be here, for that is where Slade was told to go. Come to think of it, I’d like to tell him somewhere to go. Maybe another time.
The Men’s room had a shower stall, a couple of sinks, three commodes, a hand dryer, a bench and several lockers. Since most of these were out in the open, I deduced that the lockers were the only place to look. Most of them were locked; that’s probably why they call them lockers. One of them had a L&O welcome brochure. I read it over and start counting the letters. Here’s what I came up with:
TR FFNRI
ETAOTEMK WRIDRA
TAABRR ITICA
YNA ONNHDM INEVMIHO
UOEESEW

Two possibilities occurred to me. One: The now decoded message needed to be decoded again, or, Two: All I had was a bunch of gibberish taken from the wrong document. I opted for #2. So, I continued my search and soon found another official looking document. It was entitled ‘The Law and Order Credo’. It read this way:
“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
That was a long-winded way of saying, “If you don’t like the government, overthrow it and set up a new one.” I’ll say one thing, though, the ‘hath’ made the whole document official. You can’t have an official government document without the word hath.
With this credo in one hand and my pencil in the other, I started counting the letters. This is how the message read when I was finished.
MR SLADE
PRIORITY TARGET
ROBERT KNOTT
HIS OFFICE PASSWORD
PIRANHA

Wow! I guess this means that Knott isn’t the Overlord, nor is he the man behind the list. Instead, he’s at the top of the list. If I can find Knott, maybe he’ll tell me what’s going on here.
My work was done in the bathroom, mental and physical, so I headed out into the lobby. I peered around the corner before walking out into the open. I didn’t want any passersby to notice my presence. There were none. Good. As I walk past ‘sleeping beauty’, I notice two things. First, a set of keys was attached to the guard’s belt. Perhaps they would fit one or more of the offices. Second, there was a row of CCTV monitors on the reception desk, each designed to show a picture from an attached security camera. They showed these areas: Reception Hall (which was locked); Hallway 1; Hallway 2; Office; and Cloak Room.
The opposite hallway from the restrooms had a few offices running off it. Names I never heard of glistened off shiny brass nameplates. The only one that caught my eye was Robert Knott’s office. It seemed pertinent to search his and leave the others alone. If I’m not mistaken, when I swiped the L&O passcard, it deactivated the front door. When the door closed, it reactivated the alarm on it. However, most security systems today have multiple partitions, allowing businesses to secure up to 48 areas of a building. Each of these could be operated independently of the others. Of course, each would require their own passcode or password. And, theoretically, someone like Robert Knott could swipe his passcard to enter the building, then enter his office, punch in his respective password, and disengage his, and only his, alarm. The rest of the building would remain secure.
I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying that I have only one password and it’s for Knott’s office. The rest I don’t need to worry about. All I want to do is find out what L&O’s objective is regarding the Overlord and possibly find out where Robert Knott is staying. With those two thoughts in mind, I use a key to unlock his office, enter, hear the entry warning beeper, punch in PIRANHA and the alarm shuts off. Easy as falling down. Then I begin the tedious task of peppering his office with my nimble fingers.
Knott’s office was modestly decorated with unremarkable paintings, a pair of crossed swords, a vase or two, a couple of chairs from the Billy Barty collection, and a huge bookcase filled with unread volumes dealing with political science and other various boring subjects. There was also a first edition of “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.” This was the only valuable item worth taking, if I was a thief. The only problem is, I saw the movie, but I missed the book. Should I? Naw!
Upon closer inspection of the bookcase, I saw something that irked me. It was a photo of Sylvia and Frank Schimming, and they weren’t discussing security achievements. Is Sylvia an affaire d’amour with Schimming? Is she in cahoots with him? Are the two of them setting me up? Maybe my client knows more than she’s leading me to believe.
Settling my mind back to the task at hand, I begin to rifle through Knott’s desk. The top left drawer had a post-it note with an address written on it. I make a note of it in my notebook and continue my search.
The bottom left drawer proved even more illuminating. It contained a file folder, pulled by Knott, I assumed. Upon opening it, my spine went rigid and goose-bumps formed on my arms. It was John Klaus’ file. So, Knott is checking up on John Klaus and Slade has been hired to kill Robert Knott. By who? Could it be John Klaus? That would make sense in view of Wanda Peck’s assessment of Klaus. Or, maybe it’s Schimming. Why not? Knott has a picture of him and my client together. Maybe Knott is black-mailing ol’ Frank and he has had enough. I replace the file, noticing it did not contain anything I didn’t already know.
I rummage through the rest of the desk drawers and came up empty. Rechecking the bookcase, it too showed up nothing usable. I looked behind some of the pictures and was pleasantly surprised to find a safe. But, try as I might, the safe would not open. It required a numeric code. So, I went back to the desk and searched the areas I ignored previously. For example, I looked under the desk - nothing; I pulled out each drawer and looked on its underside - zilch; I removed the cushions to the chairs - nada. Frustrated, I decide to leave and check the guard’s pockets, not really expecting to find the safe’s code in his possession. As I walk to the door, I take an unnecessary risk by removing a sword from its perch. I’ve always had the hankerin’ to....Hey! When I took down the sword, a key was attached to the back of it. Great hiding place! On the key was the number 17. I remember the lockers in the Men’s bathroom, and, if I’m not mistaken, the one numbered 17 was locked.
Moments later, locker number 17 was open. A briefcase lay on its floor. I pry it open, finding the usual office particulars one would expect to find in a candidate’s attaché case. However, I did find his personal address book. As I flipped through it, a rolodex card fell out to the floor. There was a phone number on it, 3-664-735-3896. I head directly back to Knott’s office and dial the number. I know its long distance and, well, I haven’t had the long distance feature of my home phone activated at this time. So, let L&O pay for the call. An old man, about three years younger than El Cid, answered the phone. Realizing this to be a mistake, I order two large pizzas with extra cheese and crumpled bacon. Click! Well, I wasn’t that hungry anyway.
That’s when I take a closer look at the number. In very small print was RK Office. Could this be Knott’s phone number? If so, why would he write down his own number? If his memory is that bad, maybe he shouldn’t run for governor. So, I remembered seeing a phone directory in one of his drawers. I take it out and study the various area codes. Three was the code for the Midwest; 664 was Duluth’s code, and the rest was some old guy who now hates all pizza-eating people world wide. But, when I reversed the digits, 6 was the code for west of the Rockies; 983 was San Francisco’s code, and the rest was Knott’s office number. Acting on a hunch, I punch Knott’s entire number into his phone. Two words appeared on the LCD display: OPEN SESAME.
I go back to the safe and, much to my dismay, the buttons on the safe keypad were only numerical, not alphabetical like Knott’s phone. So, I decide to chance entering OPEN SESAME using the letters on the number buttons of the phone. After all, didn’t Ali Baba use the words ‘open sesame’ to reveal a secret hiding place? I’m no Ali Baba, but I am a Murphy. And we don’t give up. Upon entering the corresponding letters, a number appears. It was 673 673 7263. My PI instinct was in high gear by now. I was on a roll. Therefore, I pushed that number into the safe’s keypad and voila! it popped open like the Red Sea with Charlton Heston’s staff waving before it. Or was it Moses? I always get those two confused.
What I found inside the safe was spine tingling. It was a CD with the words “for Wanda Peck, in case of my untimely death” written on it. Gee, I thought all death was untimely. At any rate, I had hit the jackpot; recovered the brass ring; struck oil, as it were. Knott, marked for death by the L&O Party was, perhaps, striking back by divulging info on L&O and giving it to CAPRICORN. Like the old saying goes, “Push me, shove you, oh yeah, says who.” Knott’s not going out quietly, that’s for sure.
However, another thought entered my overworked, underpaid brain. Why give it to Wanda Peck? Does she and Knott have a thing going? That would certainly explain why she wouldn’t give me the time of day. I knew there had to be a reason. Huh! Then a third thought scrambled to life in the ol’ gray matter. Maybe, just maybe, Wanda might know Knott’s whereabouts. Now that would be delicious, er, advantageous, I mean.
I now feel totally comfortable with my findings here at the L&O Headquarters. So, now it’s time to leave. I walk out of Knott’s office and espy a small table in the hallway. On it was a clipboard listing check-in times. Next to it was the passcard I used to enter the building. Things were looking up; I was on cloud nine and floating higher. With card in hand, I round the corner towards the lobby. I come to a complete stop.
Taking up a defensive position behind the large fern stabbing my eye, I see a speeder land out front. Although the glass doors are heavily tinted, I can recognize the face that’s pushed up against them. None other than Big Jim Slade. He must have talked with his boss and was told to scoot on over to L&O. And he’s trying to figure out a way to enter the building. This is not good. The last thing I need is a confrontation with Slade. And if that’s not bad enough, I hear the guard moan. The ‘Mickey Finn’ seems to be wearing off. I need to do something fast!
Slade is pulling furiously on the doors, causing them to rattle loudly. The guard is trying to clear the cobwebs out of his brain. I’m ready to pee my pants. Slade yells, “Is anybody in there? Hello? Open the damn door!” Okay, I’ll be right there, Mr. Killer Hitman. Like hell I will. Although my situation has become untenable, increasingly dangerous and nearly impossible, I start looking for an alternative exit. Walking back down the hall, past Knott’s office, I come to an emergency exit door. Now what?
If I open the door and leave, Slade will come around the corner and shoot me. If I stay here any longer, the guard will be completely awake and HE’LL shoot me. And since I don’t have a gun, I can’t shoot anybody! But, I do have an idea. I push the crashbar on the door, sounding a loud horn, blaring beyond one’s noisiest imagination. Propping it open with the fire extinguisher from the wall, I head back to the front door. As I round the corner, I inadvertently knock down the guard, who was unsteady as he returned from checking the front entrance. He goes to the floor with a thud for the second time this evening. He groans and grabs his head as I swipe the card and dash through the door to the pavement outside. Without looking behind me, I run around the next corner and jump into my speeder, thankful for parking it in the alley. The night sky is my haven of safety as I fire up the speeder and slam the controls to lift off. The alley provides the necessary cover as I set the directional finder for the mystery address. Yes sir, things are definitely looking up.

Upon hearing the emergency exit door alarm, Slade ran like lightening toward its sound. He figured Murphy had spotted him landing and was trying to escape his murderous clutches. But not tonight. He would exact revenge on this two-bit, poor excuse of a private dick. When he rounded the corner, instead of Murphy, an alley cat jumped off a garbage can and into Slade’s face. It was his own cat-like reflexes that saved his face from a mauling he would never forget.
That’s when he came to the realization that Murphy wasn’t in the alley. Seeing the door ajar, he assumed Murphy had gone back inside. “All the better.” Slithering through the door like the snake in the grass he was, Slade moved cautiously down the hallway to the lobby. The guard was just getting to his feet when Slade stumbled upon him, sending the guard back to the floor, moaning and groaning even louder than before. It simply was not the guard’s night, but it was one he would begrudgingly remember.
Slade reached the front door and found it locked. His prey had escaped once more. His rage and ire was rising at an alarming rate. Soon he would lose all control and just shoot anybody and everybody who got in his way, starting with his boss. ‘How could this keep happening?’ was his only thought. That’s when he swore an oath on the soul of Master Lo:
“Someday, Murphy, someday our paths will cross and I will be the victor. As for you, torture and death for you and anyone siding with you. I swear it.”

_________________

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

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