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Jim the old guy
Post subject: Overseer - chapters 15
Post Posted: Nov 29, 2006 7:26 pm
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Joined: May 31, 2005 10:36 am
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Chapter fifteen
Sunday evening
Nov. 15, 2037 A.D.

The mystery address, 8280 Bascom, Los Gatos, turned out to be a seedy looking tavern on the waterfront. It had a condemned sign on the front of it. The way things have been going on this case, I should have felt right at home.
Nothing out front was helpful or identifiable, so I wandered around back. Entering a trash filled alley, I turn on my heavy duty flashlight. The fog could be cut with a knife. But the flashlight guided my steps through the treacherous, garbage filled scrub. Old tires, pieces of marine rope, empty paint cans, a broken mast, a box spring, and other paraphernalia of the useless kind was strewn hither and thither awaiting a major earth-
quake to swallow them up forever. The stench reminded me of reverse aromatherapy.
The deafening silence was interrupted by the sound of a landing speeder. Since this entire area was devoid of life forms, alien or otherwise, I immediately felt a chill perme-
ate my body. It came to me that either Robert Knott or myself had been set up. Too late for regrets now. I need to formulate a plan of action.
First, I found a doorway to hide in. Multiple flashlights sliced through the fog as the hunters entered the alley. They probably saw my speeder out front and assumed I was back here. They assumed correctly. Watching the lights move away from my position, I decided to cut to my left and slip around to the front and fly off safely in my speeder. That’s when I ran into a brick wall, of the human genre. Falling back slightly, a giant fist connected with my jaw before I was able to make the face. It spun me around and I landed on my stomach. I tried to get up, but before I could, someone hit me with a club on the nape of my neck. The last thing I remember was a piercing pain as the lights of consciousness flickered out.

2043 A.D. Golden Pagoda

As we enter the classy restaurant, a young woman in a short skirt greets us politely. Asking if she can take our coats, Chelsee refuses, but I remove mine and hand it to her along with my soft felt fedora. “Uh, does it cost more than three dollars?” I ask. She glares at me in disbelief. I answer the question myself. “Never mind,” wishing I had more than three dollars in my pocket. Good thing it’s Chelsee’s treat tonight.
“So what happened?”
“I really didn’t know at the time. When I finally regained consciousness, it felt like I’d been trying to drink my own body weight in cheap gin. I called it Koro’s revenge.”
“That sounds terrible,” Chelsee replied with earnest concern. As the matre’d approaches, he introduces himself as Chen and waves us to his reservation stand. “Oh, Bando for two,” Chelsee states, knowing we’re hours late for dinner. He smiles and bows slightly, waving us to the bar. He tells us we’re late and they would have to reset a new table for us, as soon as one became available. That was fine with me. It had been at least 30 minutes since I had a smoke and a drink. Another five minutes and they’d have to call 911.
Setting our buns on side by side stools, the bartender approaches and says something I never heard before. “What’ll it be?” Well, maybe I heard that once before. He reminded me a lot of Louie, only he was a norm. Tall, heavy set, looks like he’s been drinking up the profits while stuffing his chops with roasted peanuts and salty pretzels.
Chelsee orders for the both of us. “I’ll have a sloe gin fizz and Tex will have a double bourbon, neat.”
As he turns to fetch our drinks, I blurt out, “Uh, make mine a vodka martini, shaken not stirred.” Chelsee and the bartender both do a slow turn of the heads and fix their stares on me. Time momentarily stopped as the two wonder in unison if I really said that.
As if on cue, they both reply, “Say again?”
“A vodka martini, shaken, not stirred.” The bartender smiles and meanders off to fill our order.
“Who do you think you are, James Bond?” Chelsee asks incredulously. She is, of course, referring to the ageless and infamous international spy of moviedom.
“No, of course not. However, since we saw the last Bond movie, I’ve had an insatiable desire to order that drink.”
“Since you brought it up,” she responds, moving seductively on her stool, “that Sean Connery III is a real hunk.” And she proceeds to flutter her eyebrows.
Deflating her amorous balloon, I quickly retort, “Yeah, but let’s face it. It’s about time they come up with something more original. I mean, ‘The Galaxy Is Not Enough’? Really! Even I could be more creative and would do so for a lot less than what they’re paying the writers nowadays.”
“You’re just envious. Besides, who cares? The action is great, the romance is hot, and he saves the world just in time to do it again three years later.”
“I’ve saved the world four times now and you don’t talk that way about me.”
“If you say so sweetie. But, the real question is: Why does Bond always order his martini shaken, not stirred?”
As if on cue, the bartender returns with our drinks, placing them on lacey cocktail napkins. He picks up where Chelsee left off. “I’ll tell you why. When a martini is shaken, it contains more antioxidants than the stirred variety, according to a study by two Canadian researchers. And why is that important you ask?” As a matter of fact, I was. “Antioxidants fight free radicals, the molecules that affect aging,” and he proceeds to meander over to a new set of customers.
Chelsee and I sit stunned, not knowing if what we heard was the truth or just our friendly bartender’s way of saying, ‘Ask me anything’. Breaking the interminable silence, I say, “So, that’s why he has never grown old after 80 years of service.” Chelsee nods in agreement.
“So, get back to the story. What had they done to you?”
“As I said, I wasn’t sure at the time. I had this ripping pain inside my head. I mean, I was munching ibuprofen tablets like they were Reese’s pieces.” Chelsee slips a warm, caring hand to the nape of my neck, rubbing ever so gently. “That didn’t stop the blinding light I was getting behind my eyes or the pain I had in my head.”
“Did you see a doctor?”
“No, just the light flashes actually.” With that, she raps the back of my head with her hand as though she was a teacher and I was the ill-mannered schoolboy.
“So, finish telling me about Linsky.”
“Okay. Well, the thought occurred to me that Carl Linsky might have gone through the same thing I was going through. Remember I told you he had a little scar on the back of his neck?” She nods in remembrance. “Well, it wasn’t so hard for me to envision jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge just to get away from the gnawing pain.”
“What had they done to you?” She was allowing a bit of frustration to enter her ability to control her emotions. I don’t blame her. I’d ask the same question if situations were reversed.
“I just assumed I had been beat up real good. What I didn’t realize at the time was the clock of my life was ticking and I had less than 48 hours to live.”
“So, what did you do next?”
“I was only half way up a long series of steps. The next one was to find Robert Knott. He and I were on the same sinking ship together. Feeling like my skull was full of razor blades, I called Wanda Peck. She seemed a little annoyed at the hour, but soon changed her tune when I told her I had something of extreme importance to share with her. So, I headed over to CAPRICORN Headquarters.
“As she entered the reception area, I could tell she was troubled by something. She asked, in an unfriendly manner, the reason for my visit. I knew right then that she and I were never going to be married.”
“Can we dispense with the Wanda - Tex soap opera and finish the story?” Poor Chelsee. Jealous as they come. Course, I really like that in a woman.
“Sure, Chelsee. Wanda asked me for the info that was important enough to draw her away from what little free time she was enjoying. I reached into my inside coat pocket and pulled out the CD from Knott’s safe. She tried to grab it, but I was too fast for her. Into my pocket it went. You see, I needed something from her and I was willing to trade for it. She asked me where I got it and I told her I stole from Knott’s office.”
“I told you, no more sex stuff!”
“Not that kind of trade! I wanted to know the location of Robert Knott. I figured that if anybody knew his whereabouts, it would be her.”
“How so?”
“Well, CAPRICORN was putting a lot of effort into infiltrating and exposing the L&O Party’s agenda. Therefore, they must be tailing him or something to that affect. She told me she knew Robert on a first name basis and that she liked him. I found that rather strange, but capitalized upon it. Retrieving the CD from my pocket, I handed it to her in exchange for Knott’s locale. She disappeared from my sight and entered an office area. When she returned, she gave me a paper with the directions and coordinates of Robert Knott’s cabin. It was somewhere north of San Francisco in the woods. It seems that almost no one knew of this little hideaway. Except Wanda and now me.”
“Did you go directly to the cabin?”
“No, it was too late. Despite the searing pain, I went to my office and crashed. Morning came all too early. I headed over to Francine’s Food Emporium and ordered breakfast. Although I wasn’t really hungry, I knew I needed something to eat. After that, I headed straight to Knott’s cabin. I figured that if I warned Knott about Slade, he would tell me what the hell was going on at L&O.”

2037 A.D. CAPRICORN Headquarters

Wanda Peck watches as Tex Murphy leaves her office with the location of Robert Knott’s cabin. She has no qualms about giving Murphy the directions. She decided days ago that he could be trusted. His naiveté alone was enough to trust him with the secured location of her one true lover. That’s when her thoughts flashed back to the previous Friday evening.
Their rendezvous at Bob’s cabin was filled with heartwarming hope. Neither of them had intended to fall in love. In fact, quite the opposite was expected. Wanda had set up an appointment to parlay with Knott in an obvious effort to recoup vital info regarding L&O Party’s methods and creeds. However, upon meeting in person, their own preconceived thoughts of each other melted away. It was love at first sight. They began to invent reasons to meet despite warnings from their contemporaries.

Friday, Nov. 13, 2037 A.D.
Robert Knott’s cabin

And now, some four weeks later, they were together in the privacy of this secluded retreat. A fire was blazing in the hearth; crackling timbers launching hot ashes into the air as though it was the Fourth of July. Crickets were playing energetic mating tunes with their legs as the stars stretched over the sky like paper thin gauze. A light autumn breeze floated through lofty trees and rustled their leaves like a loving mother tickling her toddling child. Even the fireflies were twinkling their luminescent lights, especially the genus “Photuris” males. They know the female of their variety act as femme fatales, drawn to the flickering cold light of other varieties of fireflies. However, upon arriving and perceiving the males of their own genus, they mate with them instead of devouring the unsuspecting males.
And so it was with Wanda and Bob. Two lonely souls brought together by a quirk of fate. Pursuing the light of truth was soon quenched by hearts on fire. Nature had taken its course irrespective of their original intentions.
Bob had pulled the rustic looking American Indian designed couch in front of the raging fire. Wanda had brought along a comforter and the two of them were intertwined under its velvety woven design; a large female lion with two cubs playing at her feet. Wanda and Bob were involved in some playing of their own. He had reached under her arms to get a more secure hold when she jerked away, a chuckle escaping her lips.
“Don’t! I’m ticklish,” she said in a coquettish tone.
That was all Bob needed to hear. Very uncharacteristically, he began to tickle her all the more. After a few childish moments of jabbing each other’s ribs, they finally settled into a long and passionate embrace, allowing their lips and tongues to play a game of their own.
Pulling away in order to peer into his eyes, Wanda said softly, “You know, this liaison is very dangerous. I mean, we both represent organizations that are, for all intents and purposes, diametrically opposed to one another.” Bob smiled inwardly and then chortled aloud. She just can’t get away from who she is. Her aggressive behavior as a young, energetic law student and her endeavor to reach the preeminent position in her field had conditioned her mind and heart to act in unison. Despite this erotic moment, she still drew from the depths of her schooling, referring to L&O and CAPRICORN as ‘diametrically opposed’ groups. He laughed aloud again, causing Wanda to sit up and stare.
“What?”
He looked deep into her eyes and answered, “I was never very good at geometry.” She smiled brightly, catching his meaning in her heart. And then she giggled aloud. Very uncharacteristic for her. Again they shared a fervent kiss. The temperature in the room was increasing steadily and it had nothing to do with the roaring fire in the hearth. Then it was Bob’s turn to pull away.
“I know were treading on thin ice, but who can stop nature from taking its course? Besides, I’ve already made plans to circumvent my head on collision with certain nefarious individuals. Just a few more days, and we can spend the rest of our lives together in peace.” He was lying, of course. The entire situation between L&O and CAPRICORN was inherently perilous. Neither group would relinquish their top ‘dogs’ for the sake of love or any other reason, for that matter. The chances of remaining romantically involved were slim and slimmer. Bob took a deep breath and steered his vision away from Wanda. Unknown to Bob, Wanda was experiencing the same thoughts.
If their relationship became public, the results would be catastrophic, for both organiza-
tions. Not to mention the public outcry. No, they each knew their time was severely limited. Even their clandestine trysts would have to end eventually. Wanda sighed too.
Bob pulled her close, intending to forget the conversation and thoughts they shared. The time left was reduced. And, in spite of their contrasting agendas, in spite of their opposing careers, in spite of their superior’s objections, they were going to spend an amative night together. Gazing into each other’s eyes, they both nodded silently, giving in to the moment, acquiescing to shared feelings, accepting the plain and simple truth that they were in love with one another and tonight would be a night to remember.
With that, the fire in the hearth began to slowly decrease while the fire in their hearts continued to increase. Their passion reached a fever pitch, finally forcing them to retreat to the bedroom. Their mutual affection allowed them to enter a world of real love, as opposed to the superficial relationships they encountered prior to their meeting. Indeed, the night was long and very memorable.
The next morning, which came all too soon for the both of them, Wanda kissed Bob good-bye. An extended stare was shared, as though they may not see one another again. That was Wanda’s feeling as she slowly let loose of Bob’s large, warm and caring hand. Would she see him again? She sincerely hoped so, for life without him would be unbearable. However, fate would see to it that they would never share another amorous moment together.
Bob watched as Wanda’s speeder flew off into the sunrise. No, they would never see each other again.

Sunday, Nov. 15, 2037 A.D.
CAPRICORN Headquarters

Wanda Peck’s reminiscing over her assignations with Robert Knott comes to a close. She smiled to herself as she recalled the playful attitude they both exhibited two nights ago. Her smile turned self-possessed as she recalled his portentous words regarding his ‘plans’ for the future. She frowned as she recalled their last glimpse of each other when she left that idyllic setting in the forest. She cried as she recalled the feeling that fate was about to deal them a mortal blow. Was she just overreacting? Was her woman’s intuition merely leading her down an inauspicious path? Is it possible that Bob could really pull it off? Really escape the odious grip of the infamous Law and Order Party? She hoped so; she dreamed of it; she desired it; she knew it was highly unlikely.
Sighing audibly, she decided it was time to insert the disk from Bob into the CD drive of CAPRICORN’s super computer. The first item to appear on the screen was a picture of Bob in his fatigues, the same ones he uses when romping around the woods at his hundred acre retreat. Next was a picture of the two of them taking a dip in the cold waters of Lake in the Woods man-made pond. ‘How did he do that if both of us were in the lake?’ she wondered aloud. Her frown now turned to a smile - again. But only briefly. The pictures were quickly replaced with a personal letter from her lover. After reading it, her frown returned. She was overtaken by grief. The letter explained that, by the time she read his dispatch, he would probably be dead. So, her fears were confirmed.
Forcing herself to continue, she was ever more determined to bring down the Law and Order Party’s racist war machine. They would not get away with their atrocious plans to initiate a world order based on hatred and bigotry. As she examined the accusations and viable proof of guiltiness, tears of sorrow transformed into tears of angst. Gritting her teeth to the point of breaking, she read and reread the damaging evidence, compiling it into a file that would ultimately destroy the L&O Party. It would take a couple of days to amass and organize all the data into a report that the authorities would accept, but it would be well worth the effort. It wouldn’t bring back Bob, but it would supply her with a measure of contentment.
As a final thought, she made a note to herself to thank Tex Murphy for all he had accomplished in so short a time. In passing, she even entertained the idea of offering him a position with CAPRICORN. ‘I wonder if he would accept such an offer?’

Monday, Nov. 16, 2037 A.D.
Robert Knott’s cabin

Sheesh! It took me all day to locate Knott’s hidden sanctuary. Upon arriving, I notice the lights were on. Good! Maybe Knott and I can have a friendly, incriminating chit-chat in front of a warm fireplace. But, even a warm fire couldn’t cool the burning madness zig-zagging through my neural network. If I don’t get some relief soon, I just my fly my speeder in the lake and drown myself.
Forcing my thoughts to the present, I knock on the door. Hmmm. No one home. So, being the good little PI that I am, I start looking for a way into the premise. Walking across the front, I see the windows are closed - and locked. I go around back - the rear door is also locked. Coming back to the front, it dawns on me that I did not try the front door. After all, aren’t all front doors....click! It opens. Nice going, Murphy.
The interior of Knott’s cabin is moderately decorated. Not too boring, not too glitzy, just right in my estimate. Two couches, a la American Indian design; a fireplace with a good supply of cherry wood logs; an aquarium (not very rustic, but appealing nonethe-
less); small kitchen; ample cupboards and cabinets for a place this size; a small but adequate bedroom; and several other sundries to complete the package. My work was cut out for me, especially in Knott’s absence. I may be able to find some objects of use before he gets back, if he’s up here at all. Then again, if he’s not up here, then I may not want to know who left the lights on.
Following my initial inspection, I head back to the living room to begin a more detailed search. Spotting a switch by the door that seemed out of place, I give it a closer examination. Hmmm. Not a light switch. Filled with curiosity and a craving to flip any switch that comes my way, I take my right forefinger and push it to the ‘on’ position. A whirring noise catches my attention. It was coming from the ceiling. Looking up, I see an automatic skylight opening like the sharks in Jaws 14, The Resurrection. Not a bad movie, but I wondered how they trained all those man-eating sharks to refrain from eating the human actors. Another thought sifted through my painful mind: what kind of frontiersman would have an automatic skylight installed in their cabin? Noticing the view from the night sky, I decide to leave it open.
Continuing my probing activity, I catch sight of a metal object in the bottom of the aquarium. It was partially hidden by the imitation seaweed. Why would he put a box in the fish tank with all those cute little fishies? Oh well, it doesn’t matter, I’ll just reach in and grab the.... Yeow! Those aren’t just any fish; they’re piranha! One has latched its razor sharp teeth onto my finger. Experiencing a new set of pains, I withdraw my hand and shake it violently. The little bugger flew across the room and landed in the fireplace. Too bad there wasn’t a fire going. We could have that famous, succulent Australian dish, ‘Piranha on the Barbie.’
Needless to say, I had to find a better way of getting that box out of the tank. While I wrapped my handkerchief around my bleeding finger, I began to look for a way to get the box. The cupboards and cabinets didn’t offer any fast solution, but the refrigerator did. Opening it, I saw a pot roast that had been thawed. It was probably tonight’s dinner entree. Well, it still is; for different dinner guests, that’s all. Taking a bar-b-q fork from the silverware drawer, I skewered it into the roast and walked back to the aquarium. First, I thrust the roast into the water furthest from the box. As the fish swarmed to it like bees to a hive, I quickly thrust my free hand into the other end and retrieve the box. Good thing I was fast. The roast was gone in five seconds. But the fork was undamaged.
Casting the fork into the kitchen sink, I open the box and receive a pleasant surprise. Inside was a Level One passcard to the L&O Party Headquarters. Besides allowing entry to the lobby, I bet this baby will get me into one of the high security areas.
Encouraged by this stroke of luck, I perform a more thorough search of the premises. A length of rope was coiled and hanging on a hook in one of the cabinets. I take it to the door and drop it on the floor. It might come in handy if I have to make a run for it into the woods. In addition to the rope, I find a “Flick ‘N Light” charcoal starter. Clicking its handle, a flame shoots out about 18 inches. Sheesh! You could light a cigarette across the room with this little gem. Rechecking the fridge and freezer, I come up cold (pun intend-
ed). Back in the bedroom, a quick peek under the bed reveals a shock. There was a deflated blow up doll under it! Is Knott some kind of pervert? Maybe that’s why they had him run for governor. On the far wall of the bedroom was a frontier armoire, but it was locked. That’s a good sign that Knott’s hiding something in there. Maybe it’s a set of dresses for the doll. Or, maybe he’s a cross dresser. Yuk! Disgusted though I am, I decide to blow up the doll just to see what she looks like. Hey! Not bad, if you’re depraved. Tossing it onto the bed, I exit the boudoir and head back to the living room.
Essentially disappointed with my findings, except for the passcard to L&O, I decide to exit the cabin. When I arrived, I noticed a comfortable looking wooden swing on the porch. The pain in my head and the soreness of my finger convinced me to sit their and enjoy the fresh air in hopes Knott would return soon. I wasn’t disappointed any more. I recalled the old saying, again, ‘Be careful what you ask for; you just might get it.’
As I open the door, I’m greeted by a crossbow aimed at my nose. Thinking how much that would hurt, I decide to say something intelligent. “Well, I wasn’t expecting any company, but since you’re here...”
“What the hell is going on here?” asked a middle aged man wearing fatigues. His eyes were slits, as though he was about to go into battle - with my face. Handsome, well built, six feet tall with sandy brown hair interspersed with a hint of gray edging in at the temples, he stood there like the Rock of Gibraltar. Instantly, I recognized the professional stature of Robert Knott from the picture in the welcome brochure I lifted from the Men’s room at L&O.
“Whoa! Listen! Don’t shoot the messenger, okay? I came to warn you - somebody wants you dead.” There, that should get his attention.
“Tell me something I don’t know,” he commanded with the air of a general on maneuvers. So much for the attention-getting routine.
“Okay. I don’t know who it is, but somebody inside L&O hired a hitman named Big Jim Slade.” That somebody was probably John Klaus, but I wasn’t absolutely sure at this point in time. “You’re at the top of his things to do list. I was able to detour him yesterday, but that will only be a temporary setback for a killer of his caliber. He’ll be looking for you soon.”
“Keep talking.” Why do I get the impression that he already knows what I’m talking about? Maybe I should mention my source.
“All right. Wanda Peck gave me the directions to this place.” He seemed to ease off just a bit.
“So, who the hell are you? And what’s your relationship to Wanda Peck?” He motions for me to re-enter the cabin. If I continue to tell the truth, maybe he’ll reciprocate in kind when it’s my turn to ask some questions.
“Well, there’s a rats nest at L&O and, for different reasons, we both want to find it.” We are completely inside the cabin now. Knott let’s loose of the crossbow and closes the door. I feel better in spite of the piercing pain in my head.
“You don’t say. Well, that makes three of us,” he says, lowering the crossbow in the process.
I look around the place and ask, “Do you really think you’re safe out here?”
He shrugs his broad shoulders and answers, “It’s as good as place as any. It doesn’t really matter. They’re gonna find me sooner or later. Actually, my own death is not exactly high on my wish list of things I’d like to happen to me. But I’ll tell you one thing, they know I’m not going to give up without a fight,” and he shoots an arrow into a 19th century wall hanging. Too bad. I was going to hock that for some extra cash.
“So, tell me something, if you don’t mind. How does someone go from being the Law and Order Party’s candidate for governor to the top of the hit list?” Reflecting on the question posed, he takes a long pause and a deep breath.
Placing the crossbow on the coffee table, he starts, “A candidate is sugar coating on a pill. The party sets an agenda and all I do is try to make it a little easier for the public to swallow.”
“What’s Law and Order trying to force feed us?”
Turning to face me, he asks, “What did you say your name was?”
“Murphy, Tex Murphy.”
“Well, you gotta believe what I’m going to tell you, Tex.”
“Why not? I’m pretty gullible.” My tone was throaty, like I’ve just about had enough. There’s a ripping pain in my head; an international hitman is trying to kill me; and I just had a crossbow shoved in my face. It’s about time I make some demands.
“Law and Order has this plan,” he begins to pace, like a criminal who knows the cops are on to him. “They’re going to put implants into everybody. It’s going to allow them to identify, track and eventually control the whole population.” Implants? Is that what’s wrong with my head? Is that why Linsky jumped to his death? Curious.
“They really believe they can get away with that?”
“They know it,” he states adamantly.
“Listen. Maybe you can answer something that’s really bothering me. If Law and Order is so powerful, why are they going around killing everybody?” If he answers the way I hope he does, I just may be able to bust this case wide open.
“Call! Greg Call! They’re trying to kill anyone who has ties to him.” Great! So, L&O is behind the killings. Knott just said so. Let’s see if I got this correctly. Klaus hires a hitman named Slade to do his dirty work. Schimming, the most likely candidate for the Overlord title, is backing Klaus with an inexhaustible supply of funds. L&O is looking to rule the world, with, who? Klaus, or, Schimming as the supreme ruler? And why kill Knott? Did Klaus get wise to a possible relationship between him and Wanda? Finally, was the STG project the real force behind the design and implementation of the implants? Too many questions; not enough answers. I need to know more.
“How about I go to talk with Frank Schimming?”
“Schimming? No. He’s squarely in the camp of Law and Order.” And he throws his hands off as though I was ignorant of what was happening. I know Schimming’s on the side of L&O; that’s why I asked that question. Why does he minimize it?
“Well, maybe he’s behind this whole thing. I mean, Schimming...” I’m going for the blue ribbon now, “Schimming could be the Overlord.” Knott was totally taken by surprise. He looked at me in disbelief.
“You know about Overlord too?” Why did he ask if I knew about Overlord? Shouldn’t he have meant the Overlord? Like in a person? And then suddenly, shots rang out. I heard the crinkling noise of breaking glass as two of the bullets hit Knott; one in the chest and one in the stomach. I couldn’t believe my eyes as blood spills from these wounds. Gasping for breath, Knott reaches out for my assistance, but I’m too stunned to afford him any help. Another shot finds the target. This time it’s his elbow. Knott fell to the floor, death knocking at the door. Moments later he was dead - in my arms.
Like an angry fool, I stood up to see if I could spot the culprits. Shot after shot danced around my face and ears, shattering glass, penetrating wall panels, breaking jars of canned goods, pinging off pots and pans. This was something out of a war movie. By now, I’m on the floor, next to Knott. Reaching into my pocket, I remove the Book of PI Rules and open it to rule #2 - Hide from people carrying guns. No! He’s kidding! Why didn’t I think that was a stupid rule when I first read it? I sure do now. Maybe the Colonel was right about this book, too!
Not counting the number of shots slashing the cabin to splinters and future toothpicks, I hear one hit the stove. A hissing noise escapes from one of the gas jets. I’ve got a bad feeling about this. If I don’t get out of here soon, this whole place is going up like Mt. St. Helens back in the 1980’s. Gas was streaming out of the damaged gas jet like water out of a fire hose. Problem is, I’m in here and they’re out there. I need to find a way to get them inside while I try to figure a way to get outside without them turning me into a sieve.
It’s time like these when the inborn Murphy cunning kicks into overdrive. Maybe that blow up doll could be used as a distraction. If I can get into the armoire, dress her up a bit, use my ingenious talent of ventriloquism, and lie through my teeth, I just might be able to lure those killers into the cabin. Course, it would be incumbent of me to devise a plan to sneak out without their notice. The back door is deadbolted, for one, and I still need the key to the...
I crawl over to where Knott is lying on the floor. Searching his pockets gets me the key to the armoire but not to the back door. Sniff. Sniff. Geez, the smell of gas is getting stronger. I better move fast. If one of those bullets causes a spark, I’ll be dinner for the bears. Without further hesitation, I low crawl into the bedroom and open the armoire. Inside is a full wardrobe of woman’s clothes. My guess is Wanda Peck has spent some time up here - often! I grab a sheer white blouse, a red pleated skirt, a long-haired brunette wig, a set of dark pantyhose and thought of putting them on Miss USA Inflatable. But it occurred to me that if they hit the doll with a bullet, my plan would blow up – literally - in my face!
Rolling over on my back, I did the only thing plausible – I donned the clothes as quickly as physically possible. The fit, shall we say, was less than appropriate and, can you believe it? I got a run in my hose! “We know you’re in there!” the killers shout. I felt like shouting back, “We know you’re out there,” but there wasn’t time for tom-foolery. Instead, I espy the open skylight and another inventive idea forms in my mind. If I take the rope, tie it around one of the logs, throw it up through the gapping hole, it just might catch on the roof. I could stand up in my new duds, attract the killers attention, shimmy up the rope, light the charcoal gizmo, drop it into the cabin, and blow the lot of them to kingdom come. Nice plan, Murphy. Impossible, but nice. But it may be the only way out of here.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are!” Boy, these guys are real originals. Should I just run out there and say, “Here I am?” Numb nuts! One thing’s for sure, I better make my move now. The escaping gas is giving me a headache, I think. With all the ham-mering pain in my head, I’m not sure if it’s a headache or just a neural blacksmith pounding on a hot horseshoe using his well worn anvil.
“Hey! I’ve got a proposition for you.” The gunshots cease. “My girlfriend would like to meet ya.” Okay, now what?
After a deafening silence, one of them yells, “Show us the girl.” Hook, line and now for the proverbial sinker. I stand up in front of the window, keeping my knees slightly bent (after all I’m well over six feet tall), and I take my hand wave it seductively.
“Hello boys,” I say in a squeaky high imitative female voice that wouldn’t convince a drunken crowd at the Comedy Castle on Saturday night. “Come on in. We can make smores. I love hunters.” That was bad, really, really bad! Rich Little would advise me not to quit my day job.
“Okay! We’re coming in!” I see at least three guys stand up and move stealthily towards the cabin. When they get near the porch, I turn off the light in the room, and toss the log up through the skylight’s opening. By some miracle, it catches on the roof. I pull the rope tight and begin my ascent. Just as I reach the roof and pull myself onto it, the men bust in the door.
“Hey! Where are you, baby?” they exclaim disparagingly.
Looking down, I see them take defensive stances and ready their guns. If they see me, I’m dead. I light the flame-thrower and drop it through the opening. The place explodes amidst the screams of dying men and the stench of burning flesh. However, I was still on the roof when it blew. My own chance of survival was slim and none. Fortunately for me, a large section of the roof blew, with me still on it, and flew threw the air. When I realized my wig was about to ‘go south’, I reached up and held it firmly. Sheesh! You’d think I was about to lose a treasured heirloom! Before I could start to really enjoy my ‘magic carpet ride,’ the roof section lands in the nearby lake. Now I’m floating on a raft, like Huck Finn going down the Mississippi, dressed as a hooker in the mid-town slums. And the good news is I’m essentially unharmed.
Using my hands as paddles, I make my way back to shore. The cabin resembles a large bonfire, like the ones we used to light on Homecoming eve at U. I. of U. Too bad I don’t have any beans and weenies. Brushing myself off, I forgo the all night weenie roast and head for my speeder. Feeling a bit more successful than when I first arrived, I take off in my speeder and head for the security of my office. I only wish I had brought an extra change of clothes. Now if I only could alleviate the pain in my head.
Upon arriving, I land in the first open spot closest to the rear employee entry door. Unfortunately, that was about 200 hundred feet from the door. All I had to do was sneak past the all-night-rent-a-cop and everything would be….
“Good evening, Mr. Murphy. Uh, nice to see you again…I think.” Rats!
“How ya doin’ tonight, Charlie.” My face is probably as red as my skirt.
“Better now. Thanks!” And his grinned was like the gape of a blue whale at feeding time. As I push my way through the door, my blouse catches on a loose screw and begins to tear.
“Hear! Let me help you with that, Mrs. Murphy.”
“Thanks, Charlie”, I say in my best female voice, “you’re my hero”, and we both break out in an uproarious laugh. I slip him a twenty to buy his silence, but he just waves it off.
“No need, Mr. Murphy. Your secret is safe with me.” I nod and disappear into the elevator.

2043 A.D. Golden Pagoda

Chelsee and I finally make it to our table, laughing heartily all the way. The matre’d seats us and before we could say Chou En Lai, the waiter was stuffing menus under our noses. I’m facing the bar and I notice the bartender staring at me. He gives me a thumbs up, signaling, no doubt, that he hopes that I, James Bond incarnate, ‘gets’ the girl. So do I. It’s been a five year ambition of mine.
Before I continue my dubious fable, a waiter brings a flambé to the adjacent table. As he lights it, I lean over it with a cancer stick firmly placed between my lips and light the white log in the it’s flame. The couple next to us look on in disbelief and then break out in their own uproarious laughter. The waiter, along with Chelsee and I, imitate their exuberance. The night seems to be taking on a lighter mood that would soon change.
“Gee, Tex, that was a narrow escape from Knott’s cabin. Did you sustain any injuries?”
“Well, except for the ongoing rage in my head, all I had was a few singed hairs and a pair of ruined pantyhose.” We laughed again and then I continued.
“I would have paid a month’s rent to see you in that get up. But, please continue.”
“Well, little did I know that things were about to really heat up,” as I flick an ash from my Lucky.
“Ooh. It sounds like Sylvia’s about to make another appearance.” It wasn’t so much her female intuition that impressed me, but it was the seductive tone she used in saying it.
“That’s a good guess. After I got out of Knott’s inferno, I decided to fly back to Linsky’s warehouse the next morning to check up on my client.” A few loose ashes fall unceremoniously from the Lucky and lands on my napkin. I hope they use TIED to clean these things.
“But she wasn’t there,” she states as though she was telling the story. I glare at her.
“Have I told you this part of the story before?”
“Well, no. It’s just that, well, I know how woman work.” A stick-that-in-your-craw look spreads over her smooth and luscious face. I hate when a woman does that.
“Well, that makes ONE of us anyway.” Her smile just got bigger as she continues to stir her already over-stirred drink. “So, she’s not at the warehouse. I fly over to her father’s place and she’s not there either. I get into my speeder, fly back to the office, I walk in the door...”
“And she’s waiting for you. Probably wearing something .... very enticing.”
“To tell you the truth, I didn’t even notice.” Although, under intense interrogation, my subconscious mind could in all likelihood recall every detail of Sylvia’s alluring dress. Let’s see. A black dress, v-neck cut to highlight bulging twin peaks, about three or four inches above the knee, and standing like a high-priced model on the cat walk. Yeah, that about does it.
“Of course you don’t remember, Sweetie. I understand.” Is she patronizing my Aesop like efforts to relate my narrative? Better not be. “So then, she ogles you amorously and says something like, ‘Hello, handsome.’” Alright! That does it! I’m not going to frequent the Newsstand for at least a month! Well, maybe a day or two.
“Needless to say, I was very, very upset with her. I said to her, ‘I thought we agreed that you would stay at the warehouse.’ In her au-natural sexy voice, she responds with, ‘I know. But I started worrying something would happen to you. I don’t feel very comfort-
able about being alone right now.’ From then on we exchange verbal tete-a-tetes of ‘she said, he said.’ I think she was trying to seduce me with her sweet-smelling perfume, ruby red lips and all out erotic demeanor. She may have been successful if it wasn’t for three things. First, I had an incredibly short and exhausting night’s sleep. Second, the ripping pain in my skull would never allow me to enjoy any pleasurable activity. And third, I kept recalling Harley Fenwick’s Little Red Book of Rules for a PI: Never get involved with a client. In spite of these three factors, I had to admit that my resistance was eroding like the sandstone in the Grand Canyon.”
Pausing, I look at the ring on my finger, turning it round and round, wishing it would just go away. After all, it was this little band of gold that set the entire evening’s scenario. Out of the corner of me eye, I see Chelsee shift uncomfortably in her seat, wringing her napkin as though she was twisting the water out of a cleaning rag. She probably thinks I still care for Sylvia. True, there is a niche in my heart that will always be dedicated to the first woman I loved; nothing can change the past. But I need to let Chelsee know that the rest of my heart belongs to her - the largest portion of the love pumping organ.
Before I can say a word, she asks pleadingly, “Do you miss her?” Her voice was soft as silk, though tinted with deflating hope. Now’s my chance to reveal my true feelings.
“Oh, yeah, this again.” Peering down at the ring, I add, “You know, as soon as I loose some weight, I think I’m gonna get rid of it. I don’t think I need to be reminded any-more.” Slowly resting my eyes on Chelsee’s, I lean my cheek on my folded hands and continue, “No, I don’t think I do.”
Reassured by those words, Chelsee states heart fully, “Good. Because I’m very selfish, you know.”
“That’s one of the things that really attracts me to you.”
“Boy, that makes me happy to hear it.” I knew it! She just had to hear me confess my lack of feelings for Sylvia and my multitudinous affections for her. Great!
“So, now that you’ve described to me just about every temptation a man can stand, what happened next?”
Becoming rather animated, I spread my palms and respond, “Nothing happened, nothing happened, okay?” She smiles. “Actually, I flew Sylvia back to the warehouse.”
“Good!”
“I thought you’d like that part. I went back to the office and I had a call waiting. It was from my enigmatic ‘friend.’”

_________________

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

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