tagMind ControlAlan Ch. 22

Alan Ch. 22


Chapter 22: Resurrecting Jack (part 3)

It turned out to be child's play, though Alan waited for Neil and Karick to return before doing it. The three of them sat around the table in the suite's living room, and Neil and Karick watched with baited breath as Alan fit the ring in the groove on bottom wall of the box, rested the blank parchment over it, and then sealed the box. A low hum came forth, followed by a mandala of light, brilliant colors, shapes moving about to and fro in no particular fashion, filling the room with its brightness.

"It's happening," Karick said in wonder.

The glow grew to the extent that the three in the room had to avert their eyes, but after a few moments it began to flag, and they waited for it to disappear completely, fidgety in their places. Neil was the first to move, taking the box in his hands, almost cradling it like a baby and holding it out to Alan. He used his powers to open the lid, and the three of them gasped at what was before them. In neat printed text on the center of the creamy parchment stood two lines of text.

Alan spoke first. "So, how's your Hebrew?" he asked handing the page to the archaeologist.

Neil grinned proudly, "I won a prize, at Cambridge," taking the offered sheet. He looked befuddled. Each line had a four letter word followed by four two lettered words, but the problem was that Neil only recognized the first (four letter word) on each line. "Tzaphon, Mizrach," he repeated a few times, thinking to himself all the while.

"What does it mean?" Karick asked, impatience clear in his voice. "Tzaphon? Mizrach?"

"The first word on each line is a direction. Tzaphon is north. Mizrach, east."

"And the other words?" Alan put in.

"That's the thing. They're not words. See those apostrophe looking things? The diacritic marks over the second and third words on each line? That usually indicates some sort of abbreviation, but not any I'm readily familiar with. I wish I had some references with me, an Alcaly or a Jastrow," he sighed, then explained that the these were dictionaries, the former a modern Hebrew unabridged dictionary, and the latter a two-volume glossary of rabbinic literature.

Neil began to get is jacket in preparation to go out and find a Jewish bookstore when Karick had a masterful flash.

"You know," he said slowly, gathering his thoughts, "It seems to me that the words on the parchment are coordinates. You know, so and so far east, so and so far north. Usually that sort of data is expressed with numbers, though."

Neil's jaw almost hit the floor. "Idiot!"

"Hey, I might not know much about these things," Karick protested, but Neil cut him off.

"No, Tadeusz, you're not the idiot. I am. You see, Hebrew doesn't really have numbers, as we recognize them. They use letters for numbers. For example, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Aleph, had a value of one, the second letter, Bet, had a value of two, and so on. The tenth letter, Yod, had a value of ten, and the eleventh letter, Kaf, has a value of twenty, etc. The letter Qoof is one hundred, followed by Resh, which is two hundred. See! The letters are numbers, and the first apostrophe, a single apostrophe indicates minutes, and the second indicates seconds. The last one is obviously fractions of seconds."

Karick reached in his bag and yanked out a palmtop computer and a GPS snap-in module. He had acquired many gadgets and gizmos since coming to work for Alan, and was thrilled that this set would be useful.

Neil deciphered the letters into coordinate numbers, and Karick entered them into his machine with his stylus.

"North 48 degrees, 15 minutes..." He paused. "East 16 degrees, 22 minutes..."

The three of them gathered around the mini-computer and waited for the map to be drawn. Once it appeared Alan picked up the phone and called Cyaxares HQ in Rome. The secretary put him on hold after he instructed her as to what he needed. She came back on after a few minutes. Alan thanked her and hung up.

"Our flight to Vienna leaves in three hours. Call the front desk," he added to Karick, "And tell them we're checking out."

On the way to the airport they stopped at a computer store and bought a CD-ROM atlas. The palmtop was fine for some things, but they needed something which could be shown on a larger display (Neil's laptop, in their case) to see their coordinates with the accuracy required to carry out the mission.

* * *

Though the coordinates from the parchment told them where to go, once they got there they didn't know what to do. There were no more clues, it seemed to them. They were standing on the tree-lined Margaretenstraße, not far from the Bacherplatz. Karick lit a cigarette and looked around. The stone buildings looked all alike to him on this pleasant and leafy block. The three of them decided to split up and lap the street a few times.

About ten minutes later Alan spotted it. There was a small apartment building at the bend in the street, and it had two entrances, one for the upstairs apartments, and a separate entrance for one of the three ground floor homes. The second door was painted red with an ornate lacquered black symbol about four inches square centered upon it, cut into the wood of the door in relief. Neil's circuit of the neighborhood caught up with his after a few moments, and when he saw what Alan was staring at he smiled.

"Is it?" Alan asked. Neil nodded. The black symbol sort of looked like a Hebrew letter, but wasn't. Alan didn't have his notebook computer loaded with all of Massimo's notes and journals with him, but from studying it religiously the past year he had no more doubt, after Neil confirmed it, that he had found what he was looking for. The black symbol was unmistakably the representation of the Seal of Cyaxares. Neil pulled a small camera from his pocket and snapped a photo of it. Karick joined them presently as they waited.

With sweaty palms Alan opened the gate and stepped up to the red door, the others behind them. He knocked.

No answer.

Alan and Neil crossed the street while Karick fetched their rented car. He pulled up and the three settled in for a day of surveillance. The sun was high in the sky, the afternoon uncomfortably warm. Karick had turned off the motor, not wanting to waste gas in case they had to follow someone with the car, and they all missed the comfort of air conditioning.

The Czech, a trained and experienced espionage agent, long-used to the vigor of stakeout work, was the only among the three of them not to doze off as the hour meandered from mid-day to early evening.

* * *

He nudged Alan with an elbow, and the younger man came awake with a start; the small commotion roused Swindon-Smythe in the backseat. Together they watched a plump matronly-looking woman pass through the gate and unlock the red door. In seconds it was shut behind her, and seconds after that Alan, Karick, and Neil were out of the car and crossing the street. Alan knocked; as they waited for he woman to open the door they heard shuffling feet from behind the door. Alan closed his eyes and quickly scanned the mind of the occupant. After only a second his eyes popped open in shock, though thinking about it later, he realized his sense of shock was misplaced at the time. The only two people he had met with minds had been altered by another were Wilkins and his secretary, Harriet; they had been people Massimo had dealt with in the past, so he was not surprised to find their heads messed with. As the door opened a fraction of an inch he realized he was about to meet a third.

"Hallo?" the woman greeted them. Up close Alan could see that she was very pretty, for a woman of her age, which he guessed to be somewhat closer to sixty than fifty. Alan asked her if she spoke English, and she nodded. Karick spoke German, but he was glad not to have to use him as a translator.

"I was wondering about the glyph on your door. It's very pretty, can you tell me about it?"

The woman smiled, "Ja, ja, come in, please, I am Greta," she said brightly, beckoning them with her arm. Though Alan couldn't tell it, because of the block on her mind, this was her programmed response. Whenever someone asked about the symbol on her door, a symbol carved and painted by her lover of many years, the late Dr. Jean-Pierre Massimo, she was to invite them in.

As they made to the sitting room Alan scanned her more closely, and to his amazement he realized he couldn't fully see her mind. There were places in her memory that simply did not exist. As she returned from the kitchen with a tray of tea and pastry Alan took control of her.

"You have something for me, don't you, Greta?" He couldn't order her to give the next clue over, and was hoping she would volunteer it.

"Ja." She was following her programming. Anyone who came calling and asked about the glyph would also expect the steel box, she knew.

"May I have it?"

She shuffled off again, returning quickly. In her hand was another steel box, almost identical to the first. All the eyes in the room were on it as she handed it to Alan. He looked up to thank her, and was faced with the business end of a rather nasty looking revolver. His mind screaming a mile a minute Alan took control of her more forcefully, at a merely physical level using his TK powers, and she lowered the pistol to her side, the barrel pointing to the rug. Karick came up to her and with a great deal of effort pried the gun away from her. Neil helped her to the settee, and she sat placidly. With the danger passed Alan released his hold on her, and she burst into tears.

"Very sorry, very sorry," she cried. "I was just following instructions, but you are like him, like he was," she moaned. Alan understood now, the dark parts of her mind suddenly lit up. Massimo had left a clue with her, with instructions to kill anyone who asked after it, knowing that Alan would be able to handle it like no one else could. After she brought her emotions under control she leaned over to the side table and pulled her small leather phone book from it, flipping the pages. The others watched questioningly as she did this except for Alan. She had two numbers to call, one in case she needed bodies removed from her house, the scene cleaned, and another for this eventuality. Both numbers stood alone on one page, neither attached to a corresponding name. She had noticed them in the past, but before this moment she hadn't known why they were recorded there, despite the fact they were written in her own hand. She dialed then handed Alan the receiver as the call was being put through.

"What do I say?" Alan asked the shaken woman.

"'The ring of Cyaxares seeks its owner.'" she quoted, seemingly from a trance.

"Greta?" the voice on the other end asked. "Greta?"

"'The ring of Cyaxares seeks its owner."

"Ach! I understand. Who is this?" the man asked.

"I'd rather not say over the phone. Can we meet?"

"Ja. Are you staying at Greta's? I can be there in less than an hour."

Alan had the man hold on for a minute while he consulted the other guys, then asked the man on the other end of the phone to meet them at their hotel, which was closer to the center of town. The man told Alan how he could be identified (a yellow flower in the lapel of his jacket), and disconnected. As they said their goodbyes to Greta tears began flowing down her cheeks. "I miss him so," she sniffled. Alan would have liked to have told her that Massimo would soon be back, but he did not, for two reasons. First, he had no idea if that was indeed to be the case, and second, it was unsafe to tell anyone what he and his fellows were attempting.

* * *

"Please, call me Wally," Walter Von Hoff told them as the hostess led them to a table in the hotel's formal bar.

"Nice to meet you, Wally," Alan said as he gestured for the man to have a seat. Alan and the two others arrayed themselves around him. With his mind Alan sensed the changes Massimo had made to this man, and he guessed that the small cloth satchel Wally carried held a box identical to the one recently received from Greta.

Alan and Neil had huddled in the back seat of the car as Karick drove them back to the hotel. A few seconds after the car had been put in drive Alan had popped the top off of the box, and another piece of parchment had fluttered out of it. This time the printing was already visible (an address in London), though he and Neil had agreed that it couldn't hurt to peel out the lining and look for another ring groove. If found, they would repeat the earlier process, however, after arriving at the hotel they sequestered themselves in their suite, and had found no depression similar to the one in the box they had received from Claude Massimo.

"So," Wally asked, an eyebrow arched, "You were friends with Jean-Pierre?"

"Yes," Alan assured him, "We had a very special bond."

"Hmm," Wally said, disinterestedly. "He never mentioned you, though he was almost notorious for his secretiveness." He paused, his expression turning darker. "How can I know this is true."

Alan attempted to take his mind by force, but was unable. Something that Massimo had done to him had made him immune, perhaps to all mind control, or perhaps to all mind control not emanating from the mind of Massimo himself. Alan had to think fast.

"The box. Did you bring a box?"

"It can't be opened," he answered haughtily, though taken aback that the boy knew that he was carrying one in his banker's briefcase, and cursed himself for revealing that he was indeed bearing one.

"The box is for me," Alan assured him.

"So says you, but how can I know that?"

"I can open it."

"Show me," he challenged, placing the steel container on the table. Alan pressed his hand to the lid and closed his eyes. In an instant, the lid slid off. Wally was impressed, and at that point noticed Alan's rings.

"Ja," he said, his voice deeper than its usual bass, "Ja, it does belong to you. Jean-Pierre told me that whomever could open the box should receive it."

After dissuading Wally from having a peek inside, they watched him drain his glass of beer and leave, then returned to the room. Once the box had opened, controlling Wally had been child's play, his mental shield peeled away as had Greta's. Alan peeled off the felt liner, and placed both his rings into their allotted grooves on the inside hull of the case. He covered them with the parchment and sealed the box. Nothing happened. He reopened the box and reversed the positions of the rings. The light show returned, and all three of them were chomping at the bit waiting for it to end. They each had a feeling, unspoken as it was, that their quest was nearing an end. The address in London, coupled with whatever information from this new box, they hoped, would lead them to Jack.

"What does it say," both Karick and Swindon-Smythe asked, anxious for a response.

Alan held it up, to better see it in the light. "Theodore Dickinson."

The name meant nothing to any of them, but they were looking forward to meeting him. Neil plugged his laptop into the hotel jack and entered the name through a number of search engines, cross referencing the name with Massimo's, but without satisfaction. London is where Massimo was last, and London was where they were headed. Dickinson might be the last station on a very long trip.

* * *

"Please check your records again," Alan almost begged. "Are you sure, no patient, or staff member named Dickinson, Theodore Dickinson?" The woman tapped a few more keys, trying her best to be helpful. The address on Greta's parchment had turned out, to their surprise, to be a hospital

"Let me check one more time. I'll widen the search." She tapped again at the keyboard. The machine hummed, the server in the corner of the room spinning internally. "Ah," she said, triumph in her voice, "Yes, indeed. Mr. Dickinson was in hospital from June prior until October. He was transferred to a nursing home." She pulled a small pad to her, a pen from her hair, and scribbled an address, then tore off the sheet and handed it to Neil, who was closest. With the thanks of three men in her ears she closed the door behind her, and settled back to her workaday routine. She glanced out her window in time to see her recent visitors hail a cab.

The street was filled with school kids as they crossed the street heading to the long-term care center at the far corner. Alan and the two others could still hear the dismissal bell ringing from inside the school opposite. The center was a gray building, wide and squat, five stories tall from the looks of it. A guard in the foyer directed them to a small office off the main hall. They had come to a hospital, and it seemed they had come for naught.

"Are you a friend of Mr. Dickinson's?" the desk nurse asked, her suspicion evident. Mr. Dickinson had been in residence at the center for more than six months, and today was the first time anyone had appeared to see him.

Alan sent a probe through her mind, implanting commands for her to trust and believe what he said. "He is a friend of my father's," the young man assured her.

"Well, that makes some sense," she thought, reaching under the desk to depress the button which released the gate. She double-checked her patient roster before directing the trio to the third floor.

"This place is creepy," Neil shivered as they waited at the lift. Neil had made a cell phone call from the cab and had learned, to their supreme disappointment, that the center was a resident care facility for comatose and vegetative patients, a hospice really, but one meant for people with chronic conditions, not just for end-of-life care. The loudest sounds in the building were the clicking and the beeping of the various machines and readouts attached to its inhabitants. The charge nurse on Dickinson's floor led them to his room.

First things first they closed the door and had a look around; Alan sent out a broadcast command for the staff to keep away. There were three patients in the room and one empty bed. Dickinson's bed was the closest to the door, and they checked under his bed and in his closet for a box, but found none. If Massimo, before he had died had left something in his care they were seriously out of luck. They had a private investigator looking into the man's background, but, if as the nurse had told them, the man had no family, then there was no one to seek out to learn about their next clue. As Neil and Karick continued to look about the room Alan peered into Dickinson's mind. It was as if it was blank, wiped of all thought process and memory. Alan stepped out into the hall and flagged down a passing nurse. After asking after Mr. Dickinson's condition she went back to the main station at the end of the hall and paged the doctor. It took just a few minutes for her to arrive.

"Hello, I'm Dr. Kellin, may I help you?" The doctor was a graying woman of slightly less than average height. She wore thick lensed glasses, a chain resting against her white coat.

"Yes, nice to meet you. I'm Alan Marshall, and Mr. Dickinson was a friend of my father's. Business associates, actually. What can you tell me about his condition?"

The doctor was going to give him the short-shrift answer, after all it wasn't as if this young man was a family member, or anything, but to her very mild amazement she went into great detail, most of it too scientific and jargon-filled for Alan to understand. Alan dismissed her, mentally, and returned to the room to see if Swindon-Smythe had come up with anything.

"Nothing, boss," Karick said, his hands out, palm up, at his sides. Neil nodded.

"What happened to him?" Neil asked, hoping against hope that their trail had not just been cut off.

"Brain tumor, benign. The doctor said that it wont kill him, but it is interfering with the centers of his brain which allow him to speak, or even understand the words of others. His motor skills are also affected. He's forty-six years old, and could live another forty years like this. I scanned his mind, but there was nothing." He took a seat next to the patient and closed his eyes, sighing. "Just our goddamned luck, the guy we're looking for in a coma. And worse, no living family." His eyes snapped open, and the other two stared at him, but he shushed them. Closing his eyes again he peered into Dickinson's mind again exploring the depths, unlike his first, perfunctory, scan. He was still for many minutes. Karick and Neil watched with interest as Alan stood and stretched his back, twisting to and fro.

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