Art Adkins
Author & Leadership Instructor
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Mindwalkers-Chapter 17

Chapter 17

“So where do we stand?” asked Dr. Hammermill, watching as Gunter slipped his shirt back on.  There were no obvious side effects from the mind cocktail Gunter was injecting, but he had been hesitant to increase the strength of each dosage.  Reluctantly he had given in at the German’s urging.  There was no denying the mind stimulant was benefitting Gunter, as his mental competency had increased dramatically over the last several months.  Gunter had always been exceptional in the medical field, but now he was bordering on genius.

“The Australian find is significant, but the Argentine gold mine is off the charts with regards to success.  It’s the largest deposit of gold the world has ever known or will ever see.  It alone has made us wealthy.”  Gunter buttoned his shirt and turned to face the doctor.  “We must have more who are willing to further our cause.  The real power lies in the Mind Walkers.”

“Mind Walkers are hard to come by, Gunter.  Dr. Zofel pushed too hard on the last one and he died.  Our test subject did, however, speak of the Nine – they have never been mentioned and other than Dr. Zofel, you and I are the only ones who know of their existence.  He also spoke of someone else, but died before he could reveal who it was.”

“Of a solitary person?  Not a group or organization?” asked Gunter, rubbing his arm where he had just injected the stimulant.  Already he could feel the fire burning through his body, reaching his brain and setting his cells on fire.

“Just one person.  Called the person the ‘one.”

“Could it be someone on staff?  Remember Stanley.  He went to the authorities and was prepared to reveal all our secrets. We cannot have that happen again.”

“I didn’t think of that.  We surmised Stanley was working alone.  He had no other ties to anyone here on the Island.”  Dr. Hammermill had looked surprised when Gunter had stated the obvious. 

“Maybe that’s what he wanted us to see.  You have to perceive truth beyond appearance.”  Gunter had moved to the window, but returned to the center of the room.  “Let’s get back to the Mind Walkers.  How many do we have left?”

“Two.  One male and one female.  We have only had two female Mind Walkers since I’ve been here.  The first died from the allergic reaction to the papaya seed extract in the formula.  The second one has only been here for less than two weeks.  We’re still running tests to determine her limits and tolerance for the stimulant.”

“Can we up the timetable?  If the Nine are moving we need to be prepared.  Juan Domingo is no fool.  He knows he’ll have to act soon and move against us to safeguard his own interests.  That’s what makes him vulnerable.  I need information, Rodney, not speculation.  Up the timetable.”

“I will, but cautiously.  If we lose her it could jeopardize anyone else volunteering their children for the program.  We must not lose sight of our long range goals.  Remember, our most promising prospect was pulled from the program because his family wanted him closer to them.  We don’t want to be the reason others leave.”

“Don’t mention him to me – I’m still upset he’s gone.”  Gunter paused before continuing.  “Does Juan Domingo have access to any Mind Walkers?”  Gunter changed the direction of the conversation, something he was adept at doing.

“We believe he may have half a dozen.  We’re not sure.  We don’t think he’s using them the same way we are.”

“Of course he’s not.  The Nine must remain pure, sterile from outside intervention or scrutiny.  And that’s what makes them weak.”  Gunter smiled as he thought about the self-imposed restrictions the Nine were operating under that he was not subject to.

“What happened with Shirley Waterbury?  I’m being told it was a total disaster.  The assassination attempt is all over the news.”  Dr. Hammermill watched as Gunter’s face distorted into one of rage, but he somehow maintained control. 

“Hector and his team failed.  There is nothing to tie the assassination attempt to me.  I will have to see if Ms. Waterbury backs off purchasing stock in Akron Pharmaceuticals.  I intend to have that company.  If she wants to continue to be an annoyance, then she will ultimately pay the price.”  Gunter was astonished when he saw confusion on Dr. Hammermill’s face.  “Why are you so surprised?  Did you think I would let a failure paralyze me into inaction?  Now is the best time to act.  I’ll know within the next couple of days what her course of action will be and I’ll plan accordingly to deal with her.”

“That could attract a lot of attention, Gunter.  She moves in powerful circles.  Among her friends is the President himself.”

“I move in powerful circles, too, my friend.  But my associates are not afraid to act, nor do they concern themselves with public opinion.”  Gunter prepared to leave the room.  “I want to see this female Mind Walker.  Let’s up the recruitment for more Mind Walkers.  Science has an insatiable appetite.” 

Gunter burst into laughter as he slapped Dr. Hammermill on the back. 

Slade had finally received the information from Professor Marse regarding Stanley Watchman and he had poured over every page repeatedly looking for the abnormality.  So far he had not found any.  If there were secrets hidden in the pages they would remain so for a while longer.  No clues were revealing themselves to his prying eyes.

Stanley and Professor Peabody had developed a relationship beyond that of student/teacher.  Professor Peabody had become someone Stanley had confided in and had corresponded with regularly.  There had been a considerable number of phone calls between the two and Professor Peabody had kept track of a lot of their conversations.  Most of the talk had centered on job opportunities and the medical profession.  That had been the case up to a year ago when most contact with Stanley had all but ceased.  From what Slade could tell, starting twelve months ago there had been very little information exchange taking place between Professor Peabody and Stanley.  That had changed about three weeks ago.  There had been a flurry of calls and Professor Peabody had made some notes indicating he was concerned about his ‘star’ pupil.  They had agreed to meet, but that had never taken place.

Slade closed the file Professor Warse had sent him.  Apparently Professor Peabody had confided in Professor Warse about the circumstances surrounding Stanley and his rising concern that Stanley may be in trouble.  But there was nothing concrete to go on.   

Glancing at his watch, Slade slipped on a pair of deck shoes and headed for the door.  The sun was gracefully descending into the evening sky and he had told Katherine and the others he would meet them for drinks before dinner.  They were probably already waiting on him.

The walk to the Black Dog Bar and Tables was done quickly.  The new wine and cigar bar had opened a couple of doors down from Katherine’s art shop and the owners were becoming a hit with the locals.  Jay and Connie Edge had created a relaxed atmosphere and the pub had become a favorite hangout boasting an impressive wine list and respectable cache of fine cigars.  Jay glued the labels from the cigars onto the wall behind the bar and a vast array of colorful brand names was crawling toward the ceiling.  The collage was growing daily.

Jay and Connie had retired from successful careers in search of a community with character, where they could build a home and spend the rest of their lives.  Cedar Key had fit the bill.  Opening the bar had been an idea they had toyed with and after committing to the endeavor, were enjoying every minute of it.  Their sincerity and love of the area was apparent and people left feeling like they had met long lost relatives.

The establishment was named after Otis, the owner’s dog, who was large and a jet black labradoodle.  A friendly canine, Otis greeted each person as they entered and would routinely make his rounds looking for a pat on the head or a rub on the back.  Occasionally he would bark at patrons lingering outside the door, beckoning them to come in and enjoy the hospitality.

Bubba had always enjoyed smoking cigars and had introduced them to June and Slade.  Slade had to admit he was rapidly embracing his new vice and found it fun to try different brands and types.  Jay was constantly purchasing from different vendors and always had a new ‘stogie’ for him to experience.  It had become a nice hobby and pleasing distraction.

When Slade walked in, Otis greeted him at the door.  After stroking him on the head, Slade moved to the bar.

“Are they outside on the deck?”

“Usual spot.  You want a glass of wine?” asked Connie as Jay walked up behind her.  Connie exuded sincere warmth that permeated to the customers.  She was the socialite of the establishment.

“Just got these in.  Try one.  It has a mild flavor and a good burn.  Been selling tons of them.”  Jay handed Slade a dark colored cigar with a pleasing aroma.  Jay, slightly taller than Slade, kept his head shaved and it looked like he should appear in commercials selling cigars.  The closely cropped goatee framing his chin added to his bartender appearance.  He was as nice and sincere as his wife.

“I will and thanks.”  Slade took the offered cigar and glass of wine and headed for the door.

The bar, being located on the pier, had a great observation deck.  Katherine and the others had pulled up chairs to take advantage of the sunset and enjoy the evening breeze off the water.  A row of pelicans were lined up on the neighboring dock, all jostling for space to perch.  Old Clacker was on the rail next to Katherine and she would occasionally rub his head, causing him to arch his neck.  When Slade walked up, the feathers on Old Clacker’s head stood straight up, letting him know he was getting too close.  Everyone laughed.

“Sorry you saved him?” asked Bubba, blowing a plume of smoke skyward.

“Sometimes.  Damn ungrateful bird,” replied Slade, kissing Katherine after she moved away from Old Clacker.  They all knew Slade was extremely fond of the pelican.  They had a unique bond ever since Slade had rescued him from a web of fishing line in the Gulf of Mexico.  Old Clacker had taken up residence with Slade, but would only let Katherine and Shirley pet him.  Everyone else was quickly and efficiently bitten.

“Did you learn anything?” asked June, relighting his cigar and offering the matches to Slade.

“Not much.  Stanley was recruited by the Colorado Springs Brain Institute out of college but never accepted a job where he worked directly with them.  According to what I could find out from Professor Marse’s notes, Stanley went to work for a company associated with the Institute, but the name was never mentioned.  I called out there, but the receptionist was not very helpful.  I’m going to fly out and see what I can find.”  Slade rolled the stogie around in his fingers.

“Need a ride?” asked June.  “I haven’t flown the Pink Flamingo in a while.”  The Pink Flamingo was a T303 Crusader with two pelicans in straw hats adorning each fuselage.  It kept the retired Navy fighter pilot in the air when he wanted to soar into the clouds and relive his military days.

“Normally I would jump at it, but other than me, you’re the only one healthy around here.”  Slade gestured to Bubba and Dustin Zane.  Bubba was still nursing his leg and Dustin Zane had his arm in a sling from the gunshot wound.  “You may be needed to help out.  I’ll just catch a plane and drop by.  Might not find out anything.”

“Be careful please.” Katherine slipped her arm around his waist and looked up at him. 

“I will.” 

“Why are you so quiet?” asked June, slapping Dustin Zane on the foot.  The security chief was seated and staring out at the sunset, his glasses pulled down over his eyes.  Even seated he looked large.  And menacing.

“I’ve been thinking.  How did the assassins have a layout of our complex?  The blueprints have been kept away from the normal channels and don’t exist in the public records vaults.  I had them purged.  So how did they know where to go?  The two new guys I hired were here less than a week.  There is no way they could have known the exact layout of the premises.  Being new, I restricted their access to certain parts of the complex.”

“Maybe they had an inside person helping them,” commented Shirley.  “I employ thousands of people, not all at the complex, but a lot.  Maybe it was one of them.”

“Maybe.”  Dustin Zane lapsed into silence.

“You think it was someone else?” asked Slade, finally sliding into a chair.  Katherine immediately dropped into his lap.

“Do you?” countered Dustin Zane.

“Yes, I do.  I can’t vouch for all the people working for Shirley, but I don’t think anyone at the complex would want to see her dead.”  Slade sipped from his glass of wine.

“You said you thought there had been a mole here at Cedar Key when you tracked down Matt Kyle when he was trying to steal Oasis desalting technology.  It was your opinion the mole gave Kyle information that helped him commit the crime against Shirley’s parents and brother.”  Dustin Zane looked over at Shirley and added, “Not trying to bring up bad memories.”

“It’s okay.  I understand.  I believe that, too.  Kyle knew a lot about my family that he could not have guessed.  It had to have been someone who knew us.”

“So, do you still feel that way?” asked Dustin Zane, again directing the question to Slade.

“I do.  I’ve never looked into it, but I agree.  Someone gave Kyle the information to murder Shirley’s family and I believe that same someone gave the killers information to the complex.”  Slade looked directly at Dustin Zane.

“Sounds like we need to find this hombre.” Bubba rubbed his leg where the bullet had passed through.

“It does indeed,” whispered Dustin Zane.  There was no mistaking the malice in his voice.

“Well, that means all of you’ll be busy while I’m gone,” said Slade, helping Katherine rise to her feet.  “I say we go and get something to eat.”

Everyone agreed and the extra security personnel Dustin Zane had added for Katherine and Shirley led the way. 

Read Chapter Eighteen