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Jim the old guy
Post subject: Overseer - chapter 20
Post Posted: Nov 29, 2006 7:33 pm
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Joined: May 31, 2005 10:36 am
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Chapter twenty 2043 A.D.
Golden Pagoda

As Chelsee and I finish our terrific desserts, we lick our lips and wipe the remaining evidence from our mouths. The waiter returns, as I had motioned for him, and Chelsee orders a decaf coffee. I stick with ice water for the time being. Bourbon and chocolate are not good bed partners. Although the restaurant is still full, the two of us continue to swim in a sea of silence, allowing the data concerning the San Tomas Mission to sink in and settle down. Chelsee is staring, again, at that imaginary spot on the table; I’m pulling the pack of Luckys out of my shirt pocket.
Holding the pack in front of me, I ask Chelsee, “Do you mind if I light up?” The question was more rhetorical than literal. I was merely trying to engender a smile and break the icy hush atmosphere enveloping the two of us.
She flashes an embarrassing but friendly smile and says, “No, not at all.” Her smile suddenly transforms into a serious glare. The addendum was noted and taken; no tricks.
As I light up, she asks, “What happened after you got poor little Sylvia settled down?”
I exhale the initial draw of smoke and eye Chelsee furtively. She has no compunction for my ex-wife, in spite of the terrifying experience I just related. I take it with a grain of salt.
“Well, we tied Slade to the steel railing I was hanging onto moments before. We used the same ropes that they had used to tie up Sylvia. However, I tied the knots in such a way that Slade would never be able to loosen. It’s my former boy scout training.”
“Yeah, whatever you say sweetie. I have another question: Why did Slade hesitate before killing you?”
“Gee, Chelsee, you almost sound disappointed.”
“Really, Tex, you need to get a grip.”
“Actually, I wasn’t sure at the time. Speaking of time, before I left Slade and Sylvia, I noticed the digital clock and timer mechanism the city used to help the old clock keep proper time. Its LCD readout displayed military time. Hence, one p.m. was really 13:00 hours. Like many evil and twisted men, Slade was apparently plagued by superstitions. Later, Sylvia told me how nervous he was when they first began to hear the sirens of approaching police speeders. It seems he had at least two superstitions.”
“How interesting! I didn’t know that.”
“Well, I for one was glad he had those superstitions. If not, I wouldn’t be here right now. That simple hesitation gave Sylvia the extra time she needed to free her self and stop Slade.”
“So, what happened next?”
“Sylvia and I talked for a while. She overheard Slade and Klaus talking. It seems her father had a tumor and he asked Klaus to perform the operation to remove it. By this time, Klaus had approached Linsky with his idea to usurp Gideon and steal Overlord to be used by Law and Order. Linsky probably refused, so, when Klaus performed the operation, he inserted an implant in Linsky that eventually drove him to commit suicide. Slade was hired to track Linsky and make sure he jumped from the bridge.”
“Did she tell you anything else?”
“Yeah, she did. Klaus knew that Gideon had a secret base but he wasn’t sure of its location. He also knew about the Overlord computer, but he guessed it was at Gideon’s mansion.”
“Tex, what’s the deal with Sylvia? I mean, what’s her story as to why she was seducing all those men? Gideon, Schimming, maybe others? Even Arnold Sternwood and Delores Lightbody warned you of her extra-curricular activities. And Klaus claimed she had been intimate with several of his enemies and a few of his allies.”
I stare at Chelsee. Is she trying to bury me or does she really want to hear the rest of the story? “You know, you’ve got a memory like a steel trap.”
“Why, thank you!”
“Apparently, Sylvia tried, unsuccessfully, to get into modeling. She needed money to support herself, so a friend directed her to an escort agency.”
“Aw, poor thing. And you fell for that old line, didn’t you?” She’s wagging a reproving finger at me now.
“No! No way!” I blurt out vehemently, but to no avail. I’m just not good at trying to fool women.
“Yes you did! Come on, tell the truth.” She laughed heartily at my guilty face.
Acquiescing, I admit to the truth of the matter. “Yeah, well, I guess I was pretty gullible back then. But that wasn’t the worst of it.”
“What do you mean?” her face turning serious again.
I sigh heavily and crush the butt of my Lucky into the overflowing ashtray. “Sylvia was trying to explain to me why she did the things she did. It was a time of revelation, truth and dare, confession and penance. Instead of listening attentively, I was busy searching Klaus’ body. I knew he had his passcard with him and I wasn’t about to leave without it. I had to call the police, go back to Val Davis’ lab, and finally end up at Gideon’s mansion. With him abroad, I figured I could search the premise thoroughly and maybe even find the location of his hidden base.
“I kept telling Sylvia that her past was her past; that it didn’t matter to me. She was hoping that it did matter. We were opposites, attracted to each other, but neither of us was listening to the pleas and confessions of the other. We could have bonded like super-glue right there in the old Mission. Instead, our actions served to keep each of us solidly fixed on the same path of life we had been treading for years. In retrospect, that afternoon was the entire summation of our stormy relationship.”
“Well, I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Thanks, Chelsee. You’re the only one who understands me. By the way, if Sylvia and I had worked things out, I wouldn’t have the pleasure of your company this evening.”
“That’s true,” and she smiles broadly.
“Anyway, while Sylvia was opening her heart, I was searching Klaus for his passcard. Eventually I found it, wrapped in nylon pantyhose and stuffed in his boot. Meanwhile, Sylvia kept Klaus’ gun trained on Slade, although there was little chance he was going to escape. On the humorous side, Sylvia told me later that Klaus’ gun was never loaded, thus confirming my suspicions that Klaus was nothing but an immature bully. Still, we got a laugh out of the empty gun thing. Slade, on the other hand, was livid.”
“That is kind of funny. But, what did you do next? Go to Gideon’s mansion?”
“Not right away. I had two other stops on my agenda. First, I found the nearest pay vid-phone and called Eve Clements. It didn’t take her long to rip me a new rear end. She was upset over the fact that I had traded her for info concerning Call’s autopsy for the whereabouts of Big Jim Slade.”
“So, what was her problem?”
“Well, by the time she and her posse arrived at the Big Surf Lodge, Slade had vacated and found new digs. She felt that I had given her a false lead. Needless to say, I did some fast talking in order to calm her down. I told her that Sylvia was holding Slade in custody at the San Tomas Mission. She softened a bit, but not enough. That’s when I told her of the incriminating evidence I had in my possession.”
“You mean the two disks from Bosworth Clark’s lab?” She takes an extra long sip of her decaf and flashes a haughty grin in my general direction.
“Have I told you this part of the story before?” Although, inwardly, I applauded her deductive aplomb.
“No, but it seemed logical.” She pauses for effect and then continued, “You thought I forgot, didn’t you?” I hate it when she does that.
“As a matter of fact, I did. By the way, nice recall.”
“Thank you.”
“So, I tell her about the disks. That seemed to placate her enough. But, the real frosting on the cake was the fact that Sylvia and I had witnessed Slade performing a murder. That would come into play later in court. I’ll never forget Slade’s sneer when we testified. But, getting back to Eve, I also told her that she could take the credit for collaring Slade. She rang off and headed over to the Mission. To this day I’m glad that I had the wherewithal to make that move. You see, the police have been a little more responsive to my inquiries since then.”
“What happened to Slade?”
“He ended up with a two life sentences at the Northern Branch of California’s Maximum Security Facility.”
“Why didn’t he get the death penalty?”
“Apparently the cops traded the death sentence for information on Klaus and the Law and Order Party’s involvement in the Overlord project. However, the police never did find out about Gideon’s plan until well after the case was closed.”
“Are you going to tell me about that?”
“Someday, but not now. After I called Eve Clements, I headed over to Val Davis’ lab.”
“But why? Hadn’t you already searched it thoroughly?”
“Yes, but something else was needed. Remember my first visit there?” She nods. “Before I left, I found the chess move that Larry Hammond told me to look for. After putting Davis’ passcard under the microscope, I inserted the other two passcards and found that they also had chess moves written on them.”
“So, you went there to find the chess moves from the rest of the cards.” Chelsee was getting excited again. Good. Enough gloom and doom for now.
“Right! Here’s what I discovered. Card B held move Bxe7; card C was Kf1; card D was Bd7; card F was Bf5; and card H was Pxe7. So now I had all eight chess moves; those on the eight cards corresponded to the eight moves mentioned on the chess move note. Still, the only thing I didn’t know was which six moves were needed to defeat Overlord. Also, I wasn’t sure just what kind of game I would be playing. Would I actually be involved in a game of chess? If so, with who or what? A computer? Gideon? These questions were perplexing, to say the least. In the meantime, however, I still needed to search Gideon’s mansion. I figured there had to be more clues located somewhere inside that monstrosity.”
Chelsee was absentmindedly twirling a cinnamon stick in coffee. I could tell she was disappointed in something. Finally noticing me noticing her, she asked, “So, Sylvia and her father did not conspire together with Klaus?”
“Where did that come from?”
“Well, I mean, you know, I kind of liked my explanation of the story.” She’s almost pouting. I couldn’t help but smile.
“I told you before that your story was better. It’s the stuff movies are made of. But, in the real world, things don’t always work that way. To answer your question, Klaus acted on behalf of the L&O Party. Robert Knott had second thoughts which is why he’s dead today. It was Klaus who sent those militiamen up to the cabin to kill Knott. Had he sent Slade, both Knott and I would be dead. Sylvia’s father also objected and he was eliminated, by proxy, so to speak, as well. Sylvia’s only deflection was having intimate relations with a number of people involved in the case, before there was a case. She was in the wrong places at the wrong times. Klaus merely felt it was good business to have her killed along with myself and anyone else who may have had tangible contact with the STG project.”
“Well, okay. You can continue now.”
“Thanks, I will. Now that I had taken care of all the extra-curricular activity, I headed over to Gideon’s mansion. Not knowing where to enter in lieu of the high security that made it almost impregnable, I had asked Sylvia if she knew a shortcut.”
“Straight to the bedroom, I bet.”
“Ah, actually, you’re right. Look, I know I was a moron back then, but she did get me into the house. There was a rooftop parking lot hidden in the shadows between two gigantic skylights. Landing my speeder, I headed to an attic door which Sylvia said lead to the second floor bedrooms. Gideon had given her an alarm code and she was sure he hadn’t deleted it. She was right.
“Once inside the second floor hallway, I found Gideon’s master bedroom and entered, not knowing exactly what I was looking for.”
“Um, naughty pictures of Sylvia?”
“Whew! You really do have a one track mind. Anyway, Gideon’s bedroom was impressive. To the right of the door was a wall filled with nine leaded glass windows, each displaying a different knight from England’s round table history. Various tropical ferns and plants, pillars holding several chess pieces, each made of a different valuable metal; some weights; an exercise bike; and other assorted paraphernalia decorated the other walls. Recessed into the wall to the left of the door were two mammoth clothes closets. Just one piece of his clothing cost more than the clothes I’ve bought in my entire life.”
“That’s not hard to comprehend. I mean, you have, what? Three pairs of khaki pants, three white shirts, one tie, which I gave you, an overcoat, a fedora and a pair of sneakers. That couldn’t have cost more than a couple of hundred dollars.”
“Well, excuse me! Next time, I’ll rent a tux.” While she was trying to cover her snide remark, I call the waiter over and ordered a double bourbon. I deserve it.
“Hey! Take it easy. I wasn’t being critical, just honest.”
“Well, the truth hurts sometimes. Do you mind if I continue?” She shakes her head as the waiter returns with my drink. I take an extra long swig and pick up where I was so rudely interrupted.
“The more I searched, the more I was bewildered with the chess theme. It was everywhere! Even the wooden floor was designed after a giant chessboard. At the time I thought that was a bit much, but later I got a pleasant surprise. I’ll tell you about that in a minute. Meanwhile, I found a small red felt box on the floor next to Gideon’s four poster bed. Inside were six chess pieces. I thought that was extremely odd, only six pieces. On the other hand, there were several odd items of interest I had found during my entire investigation.
“My attention soon returned to the large pillars holding different chess pieces. They were randomly placed on the chess board floor, as though the interior decorator forgot their exact locations. Something else caught my eye: there were six pillars, the same number as the pieces in the red felt box. Also, the chess pieces atop the pillars matched the pieces in the box. I began to think this served a purpose, I just didn’t know what purpose.
“In the center of the chess board floor was a chess table, the kind used for traveling, only larger.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Remember the old Scrabble boards, how the tiles would slide all over the place?” Chelsee nods. “Then Scrabble came out with a board that had recessed niches to hold the tiles in place, thus people could play while traveling. The tiles would not, could not slide. That’s the type of table Gideon had in his bedroom. Only this chess board had a conduit running up under the table. It was electronic. Now I thought that was an extremely valuable tidbit of info. If there was no visible scoreboard, why have an electronic chess game? It boggled my mind.
“So, forgetting the chess board, I leave the bedroom and begin searching the rest of the mansion. The more I searched, the more valuable pieces of art I saw. Besides the art pieces there were numerous statues, antiques, Ming dynasty vases, various armor worn by different cultures, ancient weapons, etc., etc. Most of the rooms were used for a variety of purposes, such as entertaining, receiving, business and so on. The room Gideon used as an office proved helpful. The file cabinet wasn’t locked, so I rummaged through it in hopes to procure some little item. I found a blueprint showing the various phases of the mansion’s reconstruction. It was perfectly restored to its original design with one exception: Gideon had an elevator installed.
“I walked to the far end of the north hall and spotted the lift, as Gideon would call it. I pushed the button, but nothing happened. It was locked on another floor. My search of the second floor revealed no elevator, so where was it? The basement? I looked for a stairwell and found none. So, I headed back to the elevator. And that’s when a light went on in my head. The elevator was directly under Gideon’s bedroom. But I didn’t see an elevator when I searched his bedroom. Where was it?
“Going back to Gideon’s bedroom using the stairs, I looked over on the wall to my left. If my hunch is correct, the elevator should be right there. Instead, all I see is a large projection screen rotating several murals involving ancient times and places. Examining the screen more closely, I see a slot at its base. It would seem the screen can be raised or lowered, but how?
“ My attention soon returned to the electronic chess board. I assumed that if I placed the chess pieces in their proper setting, the screen would disappear into the floor and the elevator would appear. But where exactly do I place each chess piece? The pillars gave me the answer I was looking for. They were not set randomly on the floor. They were placed to indicate the positions of the six chess pieces. Following that pattern, I set the chess pieces in their respective locations. I heard the screen slowly descend into the floor. Voila! There was the secret elevator.”
“That’s very impressive, Mr. Murphy.”
“Why, thank you, Miss Bando. Actually, it was rather elementary. I simply recalled the Great Detective’s adage, “When you have eliminated the obvious, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
“Oh.” That’s it? That’s all she can say? Sheesh!
“A little less enthusiasm, please. Anyway, I enter the elevator, push the B button, and end up in the basement. I stepped out and into a gallery containing the most awe-inspiring collection of paintings, statues and wall hangings the world has ever witnessed. Abso- lutely priceless! Totally breath taking! Entirely consuming!”
“In other words, a place totally out of your environment.”
“Really? Well, smarty pants, if you’re implying that I have poor taste, then wouldn’t that reflect on my choice of dates?”
“All right, all right, forget it! Just go on, will ya?”
“On either side of the elevator were stairwells leading down to the gallery floor. I walked down the stairs to my left and, as I was about to step onto the gallery floor, I noticed a security card reader attached to the wall. Hmmm. Is that for motion sensors, photo-electric cells, pressurized floor, or what? Cautiously, I bend over and put my ear close to the floor. I could hear a mild hum. I was right, the floor was pressurized.
“Going back up the stairs, I walk out onto the balcony. The inner gallery was made up of walls in the shape of a cross. On the other side of the gallery was a door. Something told me that that door was my goal. Now, how do I get there? The walls were in the middle of the floor and no where near that door.
“It dawned on me that if there was a security card reader, there must be a control panel for the security system. Since I could not see it from my position, I figured it had to be located on one of the gallery walls. But, even if I got to it, that was no guarantee that it would shut down the entire alarm. After all, that would be defeating the whole purpose of trying to protect millions of dollars worth of priceless possessions.
“It was then that I recalled seeing something in Gideon’s bedroom. It was on the night-
stand next to his bed. I race back to get it and return to the balcony. That piece of paper was a schematic showing 16 patterns the floor alarm would cycle through when the test button was pushed. It also mentioned that when one pushes the test button, the walls become electrified within ten seconds. So, I would have to jump to the floor and figure out a pattern to follow so I could get to the other door. Easier said than done. It took several minutes to study the diagram and figure out the best patterns to follow.
“But that still left me with one other problem. How do I get to the walls? They’re about fifteen feet away. Looking around, I noticed an up/down button on the wall of the balcony. It was a control switch to lower the chandelier for cleaning. I pushed the button and sure enough the chandelier lowered. It settled about three feet above the nearest wall. Now, if I could find some kind of pole at least twenty feet long, I could extend it out over the floor and rest it on the chandelier. Then, using my advanced skills as a tightrope artist, I could simply walk over to the other side.”
“I always figured you for a circus performer, just not on the tightrope, that’s all.”
“Funny, real funny. Anyway, the weight bar in Gideon’s bedroom came to mind, but it wasn’t long enough. However, the railings going down the stairs to the gallery floor were the needed lengths. So, with a little ingenuity and some luck, coupled with force and grit, I had one of the railings in my hands. I pushed it out to the chandelier, resting it on the largest section of lights. The other end rested between the railing supports of the balcony. Since the chandelier was enormous, it should have no problem supporting my weight.
“Once the railing was in place, I shimmied out towards the wall. All was going as planned until I neared the wall. At that point, the chandelier started to sway as my hands alternated over each other and as I pushed myself along with my feet. The to and fro movement caused the pole to slide off its position on the balcony. As it tumbled to the floor, I lunged for the wall and caught the edge with my fingertips. The strain on them was excruciating, but I wasn’t about to let go. Meanwhile, the brass railing made contact with the floor, causing numerous sparks to jump everywhere. Also, there were several buzzes and crackles as the railing bounced uncontrollably. It finally ended up on the carpeted stairwell. I could see burn marks along its entire length. Then I realized the deadliness of the security system used to protect the floor. The very fear of death spurred me to scratch and crawl to the top of the wall. Once there, I let out a grateful sigh of relief.
“My next goal was to find the control box with the test button. Carefully, and I do mean carefully, I inched my way along the walls until I found the control panel. Reaching over the edge, I flipped it open and saw the test button. Getting my bearings and direc-
tions, I took out the schematic and reviewed the path I needed to navigate the floor successfully. I pushed the test button, jumped to the floor, and followed the prearranged trail to the door on the other side. Once through the door, I was quite relived.”
“Uh, Tex, I don’t mean to interrupt, but how were you going to get back through the gallery? I mean, I assume there was no exterior door from the basement, correct?”
“You’re right. At the time, I hadn’t really given it much thought, but as I was snooping around the lower level, I soon realized my predicament. But that wasn’t the time to worry about it. I just figured I’d cross that bridge, or floor, when I got to it.”
“So, what did your inspection turn up?”
“Well, there were several connecting hallways leading to different rooms. Besides rest-
rooms and storage closets, there were three rooms that proved beneficial to my investi-
gation. The first one I encountered was behind a set of ornate wooden doors with colorful leaded glass widows on either side. From the smell of fine cigars and the hint of old books, I deduced this was Gideon’s study. The doors weren’t locked, so I let myself in.
“Imbedded in the wall directly across from the doors was a large aquarium full of exotic and rare fish. The side walls contained book shelves loaded with rare and expensive first editions, signed copies by a plethora of famous writers, and numerous reference books that showed signs of repeated use. Between the book shelves hung two portraits of the man himself, J. Saint Gideon. One was painted when he was young, the other appeared to be more recent.
“From my training in the PI field, I knew that books were often used to hide objects such as keys, letters, leaves and even money. I once saw a book that held a small revolver. But that’s another story. Anyway, I searched the books carefully until I came across a set of security manuals written by Gideon himself. I picked them up, one at a time, and leafed through their many pages. My search proved advantageous as I found a small key and a security card. Needless to say, I was elated. Finding a security card is like finding hidden treasure. I put both items into my pocket and left, satisfied that I found all that was needed.
“Continuing my trek, I soon came across a room where the doors were locked. Taking my new key, I inserted it into the lock and turned it. Click! Entering, I realized I had found Gideon’s game room. There was an old pool table to my right; all sixteen balls scattered over its well kept green felt slate. The cue ball was resting against one of the rails. A rack holding a half dozen hand crafted cue sticks was attached to the far wall. I was tempted to play a game, but I knew the competition was weak. I mean, Gideon could slaughter me in a chess match, but I could wax him in a game of nine ball. Near the pool table was an ancient arcade game called Mean Streets. Sheesh! The thing was so old I doubted it was in working order. Unable to resist the urge, I played it anyway. It’s what they use to call an action game. You simply had to destroy zillions of people single-handedly before they shot you down. I don’t have to tell you that I was able to best Gideon’s high score.” With that I breathed on my knuckles and shined them on my chest. Chelsee was not impressed.
“The fate of the world is on the line and you’re playing video games? Sheesh!”
“I’ll, uh, go on now. To my left was a fireplace filled with gas logs. A couch and a love seat were set in front of the fire.”
“Maybe Sylvia and Gideon played some other games on those.”
“Chelsee, enough’s enough. Beside the couch was an end table with pieces of a puzzle scattered about. Since there were only twenty pieces, I decided to put it together.”
“How many hours did that take?”
“Would you like to hear the rest of the story or would you prefer to engage in a battle of trading witty insults?” Challenge has been made. Let’s see if she’s up to the dare.
“Sorry, Tex, I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed person.” Ouch! Challenge met and bested. However, never try to outgun a Murphy. So, moving as slowly as possible, I reach into my shirt pocket and take out my Luckys. I’m staring directly into her eyes, making sure she understands the extent of her affront. I withdraw one smoke, replace the pack, and put the cig to my lips. Reaching into my pant pocket, I remove my Zippo and flick the wheel, causing a spark and a flame to ignite. I move it slowly to the tip of the smoke and light it. I take a long, deep drag and inhale the dangerous cloud. Chelsee has clenched her jaw, but she refrains from losing control. Good! Desired affect.
“Now, would you like to hear the rest of the story?” My tone is cynical, but soft. After all, she still hasn’t paid the bill and with the rates charged by the Golden Pagoda, I can’t afford to spend the rest of my life washing dishes.
“Okay, okay! Big baby,” she pouts.
“Thank you.” I glance at the bartender and he flashes a smile of approval, still drying the same glass. “Let’s see, where was I? Oh, yeah, now I remember. The puzzle was a picture of Alcatraz Island. Then I recalled that about a year before, some rich guy bought the island from the government. At the time, he remained anonymous. Now I knew that Gideon was the man and I surmised that this was his hidden base of operations. But that wasn’t the end of it. As I was assembling the puzzle, I noticed some writing on the back of several pieces. So, I flipped it over and there, much to my pleasant surprise, were the eight passwords for the STG passcards.”
“So, now you had a password for Klaus’ card,” Chelsee added excitedly. Her recovery was quick and complete. “What was it?”
“You’ll never guess. Go ahead and try.” I flick a hot ash off my cig and take another draw before I crush it out and send it to the great Hall of Butts in the sky.
“Well, there was bishop, queen, checkmate, castle and a couple others I’m not totally familiar with. But, since Gideon has an attraction to the past, a la his mansion/castle and the pictures of knights filling his leaded glass windows, my first guess would be knight.”
I take a deep breath and let it out all at once. “Have I told you this part...”
“No! But I’m right, aren’t I?” She giggles loud enough for others to hear.
“Yes, you’re right, Mrs. Spock.” She smiles boastfully, pushing her chest out just a bit more. Needless to say, that caught my eye. “May I continue now?” She nods approvingly.
“I left the game room and retraced my steps towards the other end of the basement. I came upon another set of locked doors, except these did not have handles or a key slot on them. But, on the side wall was a color-coded keypad. It required eight numbers with matching colors. The colors shown on the keypad were vaguely familiar. As usual, I put my hands into my pockets to help me think clearer. And then it hit me. Pockets! Pool table! Solids! Each of the colors were the exact match for each of the solid color pool balls. So, I entered the numbers according to their colors and the door popped open.”
“What was inside?”
“It was a computer center for the house. Also, there were several monitors showing interior and exterior views of the mansion. Additionally, there were some satellite camera views of Alcatraz. That told me that, if I wanted to go there, I would have to be cautious.
“Besides the computers and monitors, there was a CD player and two disks sitting on its top. I looked them over, but there were merely labeled disk #1 and disk #2. I inserted disk #1 and some writing appeared on a screen. It described the actions of two security droids that patrolled cell blocks A and C at Alcatraz. My sense of curiosity piqued immeasurably. Security droids, especially the killer types, were designed to keep people out. That means there was something extremely valuable they were protecting. And that meant I needed to go there all the more. Studying the material further, it mentioned that to escape the droid’s destructive laser blast, one would need to hide in any open cell. That told me that these droids had fixed lenses, seeing only straight ahead, not side to side, like the droid at GRS which had a revolving eye. As far as cell blocks B and D were concerned, they had no droids to patrol them.”
“So, those two cell blocks were devoid of droids?” She’s on a roll now.
“Devoid of droids? Witty, but useless.”
“You’re just jealous ‘cause you didn’t think of that.” She sticks her tongue out at me.
“Yeah, whatever, Sweetie. The disk went on to say that the dungeon didn’t have a droid either. However, it did have a live security guard. The last thing I needed was another man to man confrontation. I would definitely be wary of him.
“Disk #2 mentioned the purchase of Alcatraz by Gideon. That was the confirmation I needed. But, it caused a twinge of sorrow that permeated my heart and mind. The more I learned, the more I came to accept the fact that I would have to face Gideon and stop him, if I could. Greg Call’s dying message replayed in my mind. J. Saint Gideon is the type who attracts the lowly and those cast out and rejected by society. Then, with training and genuine care, he elevates them to intellectual status and brings out their best in their chosen fields. I thought of Call, Jorge Valdez and Rona Morgan. Their success can be traced directly to Gideon’s generosity and personal care. And now it was up to me to bring his nefarious plan to an abrupt end. The weight of such an action was almost unbearable.”
Chelsee gazed upon me with caring eyes, those that bespeak empathy and fellow feeling. She was also adroit at changing the direction of a conversation. Cognizant of my inner turmoil, she asked, “Was there anything else on the disk that proved helpful?”
“Yeah, there was. Gideon had transformed the place into a secured bunker, so to speak. He obviously had reverted back to his days as a UN operative. He had amassed a five year supply of food, energy reserves and other assorted materials necessary to hold up until the implant process was completed. Alcatraz’s exterior was well guarded; its interior climate controlled; it boasted the most advanced security shield to resist efforts by outsiders to block signal transmissions; there was satellite surveillance; contained within was virtual reality capabilities; and all this was operated by a handful of men. In other words, it was nearly impregnable.”
“Gee, Tex, sounds like Gideon built himself a fortress.”
“Close enough, that’s for sure. About the only thing missing were nuclear missiles. But that wasn’t the problem. The target date for initiating the Overlord project was Dec. 1, 2037. That was less than two weeks away.”
“Tex, why didn’t you go to the authorities? They could have stopped Gideon.”
“Good question, Chelsee, and I have a good answer. Put yourself into the shoes of Eve Clements, for a moment. Imagine me, new kid on the PI block, coming to you with this fantastic story of one of San Francisco’s most beloved philanthropists, how he’s going to put computer controlled implants into selected politicians in order to manipulate them into doing his bidding, with the ultimate goal of world peace.”
“Yeah, I see your point. They’d probably put you in an asylum.”
“Right! So, there was only one thing left to do: stop Gideon myself. And, according to my calculations, I felt that Gideon was not going to wait until Dec.1st; his project was completed and there was no reason to wait any longer. So, I had to move quickly if I had any chance of success.
“However, my plan had a serious flaw. Unlike Slade, who was the hunter and I was the prey, Gideon was the prey, I was the hunter, and he knew I was coming. That was the scary part. Slade was a professional hitman. He did that for a living. Agreed, he was criminally insane. But, Gideon was a businessman who had a vision for the world’s future; a future with him set up as global sovereign. Several of his close friends had already been sacrificed on the peace process altar and he showed, at least outwardly, little or no remorse. They were nothing more than tools to get the job done. The promise of a glorious future may have attracted them at the outset, but now they were nothing more than names on cemetery tombstones. And keep this in mind: what happens to a tool when it has outlived its usefulness? It gets tossed aside and collects dust. It now becomes de-
spensible. This was the man I had to confront and let me tell you something, I was more afraid of Gideon than Slade.”
“How so?”
“I’ll tell you in a few minutes. Right now, let me finish telling you about my sojourn to Gideon’s mansion.”
“Sojourn? What, like going to Mecca to worship Allah?” Her face broke into a huge grin. She seemed proud of that comedic analogy.
“No, not exactly. After I finished reading the two disks, I needed to retrace my steps and get back across the gallery floor. Fortunately, when I went back to the door I entered from the gallery, there was a security card reader installed on the wall. I opened the door, swiped the card I found in Gideon’s study, and the floor stopped humming. Pleased with my own ingenuity, I traipsed across the floor unharmed, pausing momentarily to absorb the beauty of his art collection. Chelsee, some of the world’s most renowned art museums would be jealous of Gideon’s accumulation of paintings, statues and tapestries. I was truly overwhelmed.”
“Then again, a Lucky Strike and two fingers of bourbon, neat, is enough to capture your limited admiration.”
“Did I hurt you in a previous life?” My tone was sarcastic, yet playful.
Chelsee laughed and shook her head. “Sorry, Tex, I just appreciate the depth of your humor. I’ll try to restrain myself.”
“Do that, please. (Cough, cough) Now, where was I? Oh, yeah, leaving Gideon’s mansion. I worked my way back to the speeder and flew back to my office. Sylvia was waiting there, sitting at my desk, feet propped up, and she was smoking one of those little Cheroots, wine soaked cigars.”
“The very picture of licentiousness.”
“Well, one man’s trashy woman is another man’s bride to be. Anyway, she was purely ecstatic. Her father’s death status had been changed from suicide to homicide and she had been informed by the insurance company that she would soon receive the million dollar death benefit.”
“It sure didn’t take her long to contact the insurance company. I mean, you had left her only hours before.”
“You’re right, and I should have listened to the little voice in my head telling me to stay out of harm’s way by avoiding Sylvia like the plague. But, sometimes the heart is more convincing than the mind.”
“But, Tex, I know you! You have a strong will. You could have walked away before stepping over the edge.”
“That’s easier said than done. Let me explain it this way. Have you ever walked into a clothing store and spotted an outfit that you felt would best describe your beauty and personality? Then you look at the price tag, which is what you should have done first. The cost of the outfit is way over your budget, but you buy it anyway. When you get home, you’re suddenly faced with two opposite feelings. One, the outfit looks great, especially on you, accentuating all the right curves while concealing the signs of aging, no offense meant. Two, your emotions, meaning the heart, has finally calmed down and now your mind tells you that you made a big mistake. You now have to sell an extra three hundred magazines to cover the cost of the outfit. See my point?”
“Clearly, especially the part concerning the aging process.” I smirk in exasperation.
“The point is, my heart was deliriously affected by Sylvia’s beauty and her personable-
ness. She had a way with men, but I really thought she would be willing to give that up in favor of marriage to Mr. Right, a.k.a. me.”
“Oh, you were nabbed, hook, line and sinker. How could you be so blind?”
“Blindness is exactly my point. Don’t forget, at the Mission she had confessed every-
thing to me. That’s usually a good sign that someone was willing to change their immoral ways. I just figured she was ready to settle down. I was wrong.” I hang my head in shame, embarrassed to be so easily taken in by the wiles of a woman. I light another smoke, watching the foggy exhale curl its way around the table.
Chelsee gently places her hand over mine. “You don’t have to confess your short-
comings to me. I just want you to finish the rest of the story. I’m anxious to hear what happened next.”
“Thanks, Chelsee. Well, she felt we could run off to some exotic island and live happily ever after. I told her that I was glad to hear about the police changing the status of her father’s death, but I said that I still had work to do. She claimed that my case was finished, that I had accomplished what she had hired me to do. On the surface, she was right. But I explained to her the need to stop Gideon before it was too late. Irritated beyond measure, she blurted out some sort of nonsensical babble, I retaliated with self-justification, and she stormed out of the office, vowing that she would NOT attend my funeral. A paraclete, she’s not. What I really needed was some moral support.
“Although I was disconsolate and frustrated, I recovered quickly. My head was aching due to all the stress of late and my eyes were unusually heavy. I recalled the drink I had at Sonny’s apartment, how good it tasted and how smoothly it went down my throat. I even felt better after the drink. So, contrary to my personal tenets, I went to the building’s lobby and entered the liquor store. After a friendly chat with the resident booze expert, I left with a pint of Beam’s Choice. I returned to my apartment/office and poured a drink. Since I didn’t have any ice, I drank it at room temperature and that, by the way, is why I drink it that way to this day. Boy, did it taste smooth like silk.”
“Oh? I didn’t know you ate silk. Ha! Just a little joke to lighten the mood.”
“I agree, a very little joke.” She stuck her tongue at me, but smiled brightly. “As I downed the first of three shots, I took the Colonel’s letter from the drawer and re-read it. The more I thought about it, the more he was right. It was impossible to live according to the letter of the law since even lawmakers can’t do that. And, more than once during this unusual case, I had to bend or break a law in order to accomplish my goals. Hence, for the first time in months, I actually felt regret over my decision to turn the Colonel in to the PI ethics board. More than once he tried to get me to go for an after work drink and I would resolutely refuse, calling it the bane of mankind. He’d get angry and once, in a fit of irritation, he prophesied that a good stiff drink would be a welcome change someday. That prognostication was fulfilled that night.
“Finally, the drink began to take its toll on my alcohol-free system and I eventually passed out on my cot. I slept well and woke without the famous hangover everyone told me about. Maybe liquor and I were meant for each other.
“Despite my temporary state of euphoria, the morning brought reality with bright sunlight shining through my windows. I cleaned up in the hall men’s room, taking time to stare at myself in the mirror. I knew that if anything went wrong, even minutely, this could very well be the last day of my life. I was tempted to put the pint of booze in my coat pocket, but resisted adamantly. I would need clear thinking ability if I were to be successful in bringing down Gideon and Overlord.”

_________________

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

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