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Jim the old guy
Post subject: Overseer - chapter 22
Post Posted: Nov 29, 2006 7:34 pm
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Joined: May 31, 2005 10:36 am
Posts: 2927

Chapter twenty-two 2043 A.D.
Golden Pagoda

An eerie silence hovers heavily over our table as I finish my story. I’m staring down at the lighter Gideon gave me. The flame sparks to life at the flick of my nicotine stained thumb. Once again the heart strings are taut. My first case was undeniably successful, unforgettable and far reaching. In my mind’s eye I see Gideon’s smooth and youthful looking face, somewhat hardened by years of pursuing his life’s dream - world peace. His voice is as clear and articulate in my memory as it was when I first heard him speak. The photo of he and Sylvia tells me that he had a playful side, albeit amoral. He should be sitting on top of the world with heartless iconoclasts like Frank Schimming at his feet begging for the least bit of recognition. While it’s true that we Murphys are survivalists, Gideon was a realist. The world and its commercial, political and religious leaders are as corrupt as ever and bogged down in a filthy mire of red tape while millions still starve and millions more barely eke out a meager existence. Maybe I should have lost that chess match with Gideon. I’d bet the world would be a better place to live in.
Plagued by doubts and a guilty conscience, I can no longer remain silent. My heart forces me to speak. “Gideon was probably right.”
“No he wasn’t! You were!” Chelsee’s quick and forceful response catches me off guard. She has the look of a charging bull and my face resembles a red flag. “Hey, this is not a perfect world and no one expects it to be. But, the most important thing is our freedom. The freedom to make choices for ourselves. And yes, every now and again, maybe the freedom to make an occasional mistake. You are much too critical of yourself.” Nice speech; sounds reasonable too. So then, why do I still feel depressed? Is it something personal? Have I opened myself up for analysis and scrutiny intentionally although I would deny it verbally? Or, is Chelsee correct in her assessment?
“It’s just that I guess I’m not used to hanging my heart out on my sleeve. I feel like I’m bleeding all over you.”
“Hey, whose idea was it? It was mine wasn’t it to have this talk. And you know what? I appreciate how honest and forthright you’ve been.” Chelsee soothes my bruised con-
science with her rationale and seals it by laying a perfectly manicured hand on my per-
fectly unmanicured hand. But, soothed or not, I still feel guilty about other related issues.
“Well, this is exactly what I’m talking about.” My emotional outburst matched that of Chelsee’s in every respect. “I’m sitting here with the world’s most wonderful woman and I haven’t been able to make a commitment to you. No, I save my commitment for women like Sylvia who cause me nothing but grief.
“Sonny and Gideon,” I continue with a softer tone, “they were right, ‘cause I don’t know anything about life. I was just getting set up for a big fall, I can tell you that right now. It didn’t even take very long with Sylvia. I mean, Sylvia was the only woman that I have ever trusted enough with my heart. And not only did she not want it, she punched a hole in it with her high heels as she walked out the door.”
Chelsee’s firm countenance has now transformed to one of empathy and pity, the kind that comes from a virtuous heart. “I am so sorry that you had to go through all this. I know how hard this has been for you to open up and talk to me.” Pausing for effect, she asks, “Are you okay?”
Encouraged and relieved by her true feelings, I say, “Yeah, yeah. I’m feeling very vulnerable and feel stark naked sitting here at the table, but....for some reason, I actually feel better. Go figure.”
“Good. Because I know how hard it is for you manly men to open up to us women, but sometimes it helps to share the pain.” Boy, she sure hit the mark. Where was she when I first met Sylvia? Chelsee continued, “And who knows? Maybe it’ll get rid of all those nightmares you were telling me about.”
“Yeah, that’d be nice.” I stare at her for a few seconds, admiring the view and the extraordinary personality dwelling within her framework. “You’re a wonderful woman, you know that?” My voice was as soft as my touch as I lay my calloused hand on hers.
“I know,” she replies exquisitely, sharing a dainty smile with me. “Right now, we’re just very good friends who happen to be attracted to each other.” Wrong! It’s high time for me to clarify this matter.
“Extremely attracted to each other?”
Blushing, she readily admits, “Okay.” After an interminable quietude, she stands up and grabs her purse.
“Are we leaving now?”
“In a few minutes. I need to go to the ladies room and powder my nose.” As she trots off I can’t help but wonder about the true meaning of that statement. Do women sneeze when they powder their noses? I know I sure would. At any rate, it gives me a few moments to reflect on our discussion.
What a night this has been. Chelsee, her intuition peaking, maneuvers me into sharing with her what I had, up till now, been unable to share with anyone else: My life after Dobbs Investigative Services. Funny, though, I actually do feel better. Maybe I should have done this long ago. Then again, tonight has been exceptional and I sincerely hope it continues along this vein. Could this be the night we finally begin a real courtship? I’ve been chasing Chelsee for years now and she has at last admitted that we are attracted to each other. When I first met her, I felt an irresistible urge to take her out on a date. That was the hormones speaking. Now, after years of slowly getting to know one another, the heart and mind have taken over where the hormones left off. Could this be real love? I hope so. With all that’s happened this evening, I sense that the cheese has fallen just right on the macaroni.
A plethora of conflicting thoughts now occupy my already cramped mind. I think of what I said to Gideon at Alcatraz. “No one has the right to play God.” Was I playing God in trying to stop Gideon? “Peace on earth, good will towards men,” is what Jesus said long ago. Was Gideon Jesus’ means of salvation? Would the world really be a better place to live in through the Overlord implants? Possibly, but I still feel what I did was what I had to do. After all, innocent people were being sent to violent and hideous deaths as a direct result of Gideon’s game plan.
Of course, when thinking of Gideon I start to think of Sylvia. Where is she tonight? In another man’s arms? Has she found a sugar daddy to support her voracious appetite for the finer things in life? Will she ever find true love as I have tonight? Or, will I one day read her obituary explaining how she died at the hands of a jealous lover? I can’t help but care; she was my first real love, or at least lust.
Thinking of Sylvia eventually leads me to think of Chelsee, again. That puts a smile on my face. If I’m going to make a move, it had better be tonight. Chelsee is the consum-mate woman in every category. I’ve been so busy saving the world over the last six years that I have scarcely had time to pay attention to this matchless work of creation. Maybe it’s time for me to hang up my PI spurs and put ol’ Tumbleweed out to pasture. Maybe it’s time to pursue other fields of endeavors so I can settle down with Chelsee and finally get that little house with the white picket fences and a barking, playful dog. If I ever want children, then I will have to forgo the dangers intertwined with the PI profession. Then again, maybe I should consult Chelsee and get her opinion. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. That’ll show that I am really interested in what she has to say. Conversely, do I want to quit the only business I’ve ever known? My life long desire has been to work as a PI, solving people’s problems, finding missing relatives, and, oh yes, saving the world. That’s a lot to ask of a man whose mentors have been the likes of Spade and Marlowe and Colonel Dobbs.
Chelsee’s return to the table interrupts my mental rambling, thank God. She looks at me curiously, no doubt wondering what I was thinking. I don’t tell her. Instead, she takes the bill and heads for the cashier with me in tow like a little puppy dog panting heavily with his tongue hanging out, drooling all over the far eastern carpeting. She pays the bill and I give my last three dollars to the hat-check girl. With Chelsee’s arm through mine, we exit the Golden Pagoda, at last, and we’re hit by a refreshing cool night air.

A lone man continues his surveillance down the street from the Golden Pagoda. Hovering at one hundred feet, he’s out of the traffic lanes and resting quietly near the new City Bank Building. It’s dark inside except when an occasional light flips on as the night cleaning crew works feverishly to complete their assigned tasks. They don’t notice the speeder and he doesn’t pay any attention to them. Instead, he has been watching and waiting and waiting and watching for hours. Although patience is a virtue, he’s eager to fulfill his boss’s wishes to bring Tex Murphy and his date to the prearranged holding place. Every time the door opens from the inside, he would sit upright, hoping it was his mark. Every time he was disappointed. Until now.
Grabbing his two-way radio, he presses the button and begins speaking, not waiting for the man at the other end to acknowledge his page. “They’re coming out now.”
The man behind the speeder’s controls smiles and puts his cowboy style hat on his head. He also slips on his sunglasses, even though it’s dark outside. This will add to the enigma, giving an even more confusing picture of his comportment. That will keep the two off guard long enough to convince them to enter the speeder. The girl, obviously, will be more than willing to accept a ride from a complete stranger. It’s Murphy he was worried about. All depends on him getting into the vehicle without a fuss. If he does, then delivery can be made and he can get paid.

As we step outside, the cool air hits me like a slap in the face; a friendly slap. If we were walking any slower, a snail would pass us by. But I don’t care. Chelsee’s arm is perched firmly in the crook of mine and I’m absorbing her warmth like photosynthesis. The only sounds are passing speeders high above San Francisco’s skyline. The street is empty, devoid of humans and devoid of droids. I smile inwardly at that thought. There’s not a speeder or another human in sight. With privacy like this, there’s only one thing left to do. So, without any more hesitation, I pull out a Lucky and place it between my dry lips.
Chelsee pulls me closer, if that’s possible, and says, “Well, remember what you said a few minutes ago about being very attracted?”
“I think the wording was, ‘very, very attracted.’” I place my hand in my pocket to secure my Zippo when she does something that could start WW IV: she takes the smoke from my jaws and tosses it over her shoulder. I think, ‘this better be good.’
“Well, I have something better for you to do with your mouth.” She places both hands on the back of my neck and pulls me into the most super-dilly-icious kiss I have ever experienced. My temperature rose quickly as my heartbeat struggled to keep pace. We came up for air after a long embrace only to dive back into another exotic moment of ‘let’s see who can tongue the other better’. It was a tie. I’m totally immersed in the moment. Lips to lips, tongue to tongue, arms wrapped around each other like an octopus on its prey. No one on the street to gawk or giggle; not even a speeder in sight. No nothing no where.....Hey! Wait a minute!
I open my eyes and confirm the feather tickling the back of my mind as soon as we walked outside. “Oh no!” I blurt out uncharacteristically.
Aghast to near shock, Chelsee reacts defensively by stuttering, “Wha...what? It’s me! It’s...it’s my breath!”
“Man, no! It has nothing to do with you!” I’m shouting now, causing poor Chelsee to retreat into a more self accusing mode.
“I shouldn’t have had the garlic sauce.” Actually, the garlic sauce on her breath made the kiss more pleasurable, but that’s another story for another time. I grab her shoulders and spin her around to face the street.
“Look, look, our speeder, it has been stolen! Somebody has stolen our car!” My voice echoes throughout the empty block of closed retail establishments. My temper was at lava level, exploding in all directions. “I cannot believe this!” I yell, throwing my fedora to the pavement. It bounced once and settled on a manhole cover exuding steam from the filthy sewer below. “Oh man! I knew it! It was just too good to be true. The best moment of my life followed by the world’s worst!” I pick up my hat and set my butt in its place. “I mean, here I am with my speeder stolen out here, sitting on a grate......Gawd! That’s hot!” I shift my weight off the grate and come to rest on the much colder sidewalk.
“Tex, look, its gonna be okay. Why don’t we take a cab home, we’ll call the police from home, and then tomorrow we’ll call the insurance company.” Good idea; bad timing. I leer at Chelsee, realizing that in mere seconds she’ll know what I wish she wouldn’t know.
Kneeling beside me, she comes to the conclusion that my silence is making me guilty. “You don’t have insurance? Oh, Tex.”
“Well, I did have insurance, but the fact of the matter was I was never using it so I kind of let the policy expire.”
“Okay, so maybe the police can help you track it.” Her optimism is healthy, but useless. The cops find my speeder? I’m sure.
“Oh yeah, I’m sure the police are going to drop everything for Murphy’s missing speeder.” Just then, a speeder lands near the spot vacated by my stolen speeder. A man wearing a large cowboy hat and sunglasses, rough shaven like myself (can’t be all bad), and sporting a western looking shirt and jeans combo, stares at us like we’re beef quarters hanging in a butcher’s shop. What’s this dude want?
“You guys saving that spot or what?” Hmmm. Foreign accent, maybe Australian.
Angry and deflated, I respond with, “Hell no! If you want it, take it.”
“You okay?” he asks sympathetically.
“You know, actually, our speeder was just stolen,” Chelsee explains to Mr. Nighten-
gale, trying to diffuse my temper.
“Bummer.” He pauses for a moment, rubs his two day beard, and offers, “Tell you what. Would you guys like a lift to the cop shop?” I eye him suspiciously. A lone man lands his speeder in front of a posh Chinese restaurant dressed like Quigley down under and, when he finds out our speeder has been stolen, he offers us a ride to the police station. As much as I would like to accept, I have a bad feeling about this.
“No, we’ll walk,” I answer drolly.
“He’s really just trying to do us a favor,” Chelsee says out of the man’s hearing range. She’s eager to get home while I’m eager to get rid of this clown.
“Chelsee, I’m getting a really bad feeling about this. It’s some sort of deja vu or something.” Once again a feather is tickling the back of my mind.
“Oh come on! I think you’re just upset over losing the speeder. Look, don’t be so stubborn.” Maybe she’s right. It’s late, we’re tired, it would be a long walk through some rather tough areas of S.F., and we both want the evening to end on a high note. She notices my pause and interprets it as a submission to her intuition. “You know what?” she says to the stranger, “we would really appreciate it. Would you?” How can he refuse the look of a forlorn woman?
“Hop in,” and he removes his hat and sets it over the console.
“Thank you very much,” replies Chelsee with a sigh of relief.
“I’m glad to help,” he replies.
On the way to the speeder, Chelsee whispers, “Oh look, his hat is even uglier than yours.” Say what? If anybody but Chelsee said that to me I’d cut out their tongue.
“What’s wrong with my hat?” We now enter the speeder, Chelsee in front, me in the back. The speeder is an older model, but neat and clean inside. It smells like a new car. I notice a small air freshener hanging from the clothes hook. A folded newspaper rests on the seat beside me. The headlines state the Faberge Egg collection will arrive soon and they will be available for viewing at the museum.
“It’s a shame to lose such a beaut parking spot.”
“Yeah, well, thanks for reminding me.” My sarcastic retort was unintentional, but elicited a soft response.
“Sorry about that,” and he chuckles lightly. “Pity about the speeder.”
Chelsee comes to the rescue. “We’ll be okay. Hey, thank you very much for the ride.”
“Pleasure, glad to help,” he states as we lift off and rise about ten stories up.
As we fly among the skyscrapers that decorate New San Francisco’s skyline, my mind drifts to the feather tickling me. Something is bothering me, but I just can’t place it. Attempting to draw it up from my subconscious, I notice one of those audio/video ad cubes floating by. A young and very good looking woman is announcing next year’s Faberge egg display at the San Francisco Museum. Why does that ring a bell? There was something, fairly recent, something about eggs. As the cube displays one on its screen, I try to make the connection. I just saw one of those not too long ago. But, where? And why does it disturb me?
Racking my mind for answers, another item begins to take shape in my brain. It’s a book; Harley Fenwick’s book. As the haze clears, I see rule #24 as clear as Saranite. It’s one of the 17 rules I added to Buck’s twenty. It states, “Don’t take rides from strangers.” My bad feeling just got worse.
“My name is Dalton,” I hear the stranger say to Chelsee. She tells him her name in return. I lean forward to speak into Chelsee’s right ear, away from the driver.
“This is not a good idea.”
“What do you want me to do about it?”
“Now that we’re a hundred feet off the ground, I don’t know!” My whisper is almost a shout. We have got to get out of here and quick.
“Who’s your mate?” he asks Chelsee.
“That’s Tex. He’s having a very bad day,” she answers apologetically.
“Is that true, Tex?”
“Oh no, everything is just going peachy,” was my sarcastic retort.
“Well, things could get worser,” he says and immediately an alarm goes off in my head. Worser? That’s from my nightmares! So are the Faberge eggs! All of this is beginning to take shape. My nightmares were a combination of past events and a precursor to future happenings. And the future is here. I’ve got to do something and fast!
I lean forward to grab the driver when he suddenly points a weapon at Chelsee. It looks like a gun, so I stop my advance. A small pftt escapes its chamber and a tiny dart pierces Chelsee’s neck. Seconds later, she flops to the side, her head resting against the window. I lunge for the stranger, but he has turned and fired the weapon at me. I feel a pinprick on my cheek and a sense of euphoria fogs my consciousness. Two seconds later, I’m moving in slow motion, falling to the empty seat next to me. My face lands softly on the newspaper and my left eye catches a brief glimpse of the headlines.

_________________

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

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