Art Adkins
Author & Leadership Instructor
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Mindwalkers- Chapter 22

 Chapter 22

“What do you mean she’s dead?” asked Lance, his knees suddenly becoming weak as he fell into his chair.  Sheila was standing across from him and she was a pale as her boss.  “Yes…yes…I know who she is.  How did the call come in?”  In silence, Lance listened to the voice on the other end of the line.  When the information had been relayed, his voice was almost inaudible as he spoke.  “Keep me informed.”

“What happened?  How?” asked Sheila, slumping into a chair in front of Lance, her words hollow.  This was what they had feared.

“The locals were called late last night.  Alicia Stonemeyer was found shot to death in her apartment.  The place was ransacked.  She lived in Baltimore, near the clinic.  It has created quite the stir.”  Lance looked over at his assistant.

“Was it ordinary thugs?”

“No.  Louanne Worly was also found shot to death.”

Despite all of her training, Sheila’s hand flew to her mouth. “They were both part of Operation Stargate.  They both…”

“I know.  So does the FBI.  Cody will be calling soon.  It seems someone is killing off everyone associated with the old program.  But why?”

“You think it’s Gunter?  Would he do such a thing?”

“Possible.  Killing is not beyond him.  But this does not make sense.  Why would he do this?  It would attract as much attention for him as it would us if the information came out.”  Lance swiveled in his chair to stare at Sheila.

“What are our options?”

“Besides you, who else knows the real truth behind Operation Stargate?  Who else was close to the program that could blow the lid off the real reason why the program was stopped?” 

“Only a handful.  Alicia and Louanne knew.  They were part of the team that pioneered the concept.  There are two scientists and the project manager who worked with the…the subjects.  We’ve kept tabs on them.  And….”  Sheila was stopped by Lance as he leaped out of his chair.

“The participants!  The Mind Walkers who pioneered the original research!  Do we know where they are?”  Lance was talking so fast his words were running into each other, threatening to obliterate meaning and their pronunciation.

“Yes.  Why?”  For the second time Sheila’s hand flew to her mouth.  “You don’t think Gunter is going after them do you?”

“I don’t know.  It’s possible.”

“But wouldn’t they be able to sense him?  I mean, if they’re still in tune to their environment, couldn’t they detect him or the ones sent for them?”

“That’s what we’ve always believed.  But what if Gunter has found a way to neutralize their ability or to counteract it?  They would be vulnerable.”

“And it would let us know how powerful he has become.  The proverbial phrase ‘kill two birds with one stone’ approach would be extremely appropriate.”  Sheila sat staring for several moments, her face intent on seeing what was not before her.

“Then we have to move.  We need around the clock security on the two scientists and the project manager. Also, I want security placed on the two test subjects.  They’re in more danger than they realize.”

Sheila held her hand up and Lance ceased his endless pacing.  “But what if this is a smoke screen to flush us out to take action?  By having us respond, Gunter may be able to deduce what we don’t know and what we do know.  This might be his end game all along.”

Lance let the idea roll around in his mind, but shook his head in disagreement.  “We can’t take the chance, Sheila. If Gunter is trying to get us to show our hand, then that will let him know how serious and determined we are.  He made the first move.  Let’s not wait to make ours.  Time is of the essence.” 

“Okay.  I’ll implement the security protocol right away.”

“Sheila.”

“Yes.”

“Keep me informed and let me know the status once the teams are in place.  Put out an extermination order on Gunter should he surface.”

Without continuing the conversation, Sheila left to activate the security teams. Timing was crucial.

His time spent with Ralph had proven very insightful for Slade.  The young man had amazed him with the animal shapes he could make from a single sheet of paper and Slade had accepted two of them as gifts.  An elephant and a pelican.  He had named the pelican Old Clacker, after the bird that had taken up residence on his back porch.  It was at times like this that Slade missed Cedar Key the most.

Ralph had told Slade more about the Island and the Mind Walkers, even though the information came in bits and pieces and was fragmented.  It would take several sessions to glean a coherent understanding of what Ralph was trying to communicate.  Sometimes the meetings would be fruitless until something in a future conversation would spark the nexus pulling the two apparent random pieces of information together.  It was like tying together a jig saw puzzle, only the pieces were given to you a little at a time and in no particular order.

Luckily Ralph’s therapist, Jack, had remained and had proven invaluable.  Jack knew when to push for clarification, how to change the subject so as not to frustrate Ralph and had an instinctive feel for when to stop the sessions so everyone could rest.  Slade was convinced that without him the exchange between him and Ralph would not have gone as well. 

This morning they were sitting on the back porch.  Slade was due to leave later in the day.  Rachel, Jack and Slade were all sipping from an early morning cup of coffee.  Ralph had been up late and was still sleeping in.

“You and your husband have no idea where this Island is located?” asked Slade, staring off at the landscape.  The top of the mountain range was still hidden by the early morning mist.  It would not be until later, when the sun had burnt the cloud cover off, that the tops of the peaks would be visible.  Still, it was a beautiful setting.  Serene and peaceful.

“No.  I sent an email to Dr. Hammermill’s office and I called when Ralph started talking about the Island, but I never received a response.  I dropped it after a couple of weeks.  We had Ralph back and that was all that mattered.”

“How are you going to find it?” asked Jack, staring at Slade.  Jack had gained a profound respect for Slade.  Here was a man intent on helping others that washed up on his doorstep or appealed for help.  He did not do it for money or fame, but because it was the ‘right’ thing to do.  How many people could say that?  Slade a profound sense of right and wrong and Jack admired that in him.  

“I have some people working on that right now.  I find it hard to believe an island conducting research could remain hidden.  They will need medical supplies, food and other items to support the staff and patients.  Track down the suppliers and they lead you to the facility.” 

“You make it sound easy,” said Rachel.

“Sometimes it is.  Other times the trail can be muddled or clues left to send you off on another course, a false direction.  You have to sort through it.  In the end, if persistent, you can usually establish a trail.”

“So you’re going to the Island?  This research facility?” asked Jack.

“Yeah.  A young doctor lost his life trying to tell me what was going on at the Island.  His mother and father were murdered because whoever killed him thought he may have shared the information with them.  A friend of mine almost lost his life tracking down the location of Stanley’s parents.  There are a few things I need to get straight.  All the answers are on the Island.  So that’s where I must go.  Once I find it.”

“No….not….go…..Slade not come back…..not whole again……”  Ralph had walked out of the kitchen and was standing, staring at them.  Normally he was agitated or excited, but this morning he was passive, immobile.  His eyes never left Slade.

“I’ll come back, buddy.  You have my word.”  Slade tried to reassure Ralph, but the young man shook his head.

“No…danger….hurt Slade….I saw…..Mind Walker…..see…..you…in..”  Ralph gestured with his hand as words escaped him.

“You saw Slade in the future?” clarified Jack. 

“Yes….future…..future……Slade not go….”  Ralph walked over to Slade and stared at him.

“Who hurt Slade?  Do you know him?” asked Jack.

“Man who….controls…..hurt us…..mean….bad…”  Ralph rubbed his upper arms with his hands as if shaking off a bad memory.

“Ralph, can you tell me what you saw?  Can you share with us?” asked Jack, pulling out a chair so his patient could sit down. 

Rachel poured a glass of orange juice and slid it across to Ralph.  Cautiously he sipped from it, his eyes seeing a dream, a vision to what he called the future.  Events for him that were fact, but had not yet occurred.  No one bothered him as he sat silently.

“They….hurt….you here….”  Ralph touched Slade’s face with his finger tips.

“It’s okay, Ralph.  I’ve been hit before,” said Slade, trying to lighten the mood.  It did not work.

“You….you….will not…will not be Slade…after you go…to Island….don’t go…”

“I don’t understand.  If I go, I won’t be me when I return?” asked Slade.

Instead of answering, Ralph just shook his head in agreement.  Confusion reigned on Slade’s face and he was trying desperately to understand.  Slade looked at Jack for help.

“We don’t understand, Ralph.  How will the man hurt Slade?”

“Hurt….change…..Slade….I saw…..don’t go…..must not go…”  Ralph became slightly more agitated and started to move back and forth in his chair.

Slade had been watching Ralph’s eyes and face intently during the conversation.  The young man was genuinely terrified for his safety and he could see that the events he was trying to describe were real for him. 

“Ralph, are there other people on the Island that were like you?  That need help,” asked Slade. 

“Yes.”

“Then I have to go and help them.  They could be hurt by this man.  I won’t let him hurt me.  I’ll be careful….”

“No…knows you come…..Mind Walkers….tell him…..see you….you are…you are the One…the One they speak of….the One they see….he knows…”  Ralph had grabbed Slade’s arm and squeezed it real hard. 

“I understand.  But Ralph, I won’t go alone.  I have friends who will help me.”

“Ralph go with you….must help…..stop others from seeing you……..must go.”

“Ralph you can’t go with me on this one.   I’ll come see you when I return.  You have my word.”

“No….I go…help….go with Slade….”

“No.”  Slade looked at Ralph and reached out and grabbed his forearm.   Ralph stopped moving and looked back at Slade, his eyes locking onto Slade’s.  “If you are a Mind Walker, then you can ‘see’ me, help me that way.  Tell Jack or your mother what you see and they will tell me.  I need you here to help, not with me.  Do you understand?”

“You want…me to….see…see tomorrow?”

“Yes.  Take your time.  After I leave, whenever you see something I need to know what you see.  Tell Jack or your mother and they will tell me.  If you want to help me, that’s how you can do it.  Understand?”

“Think….so….see for Slade….next day….tomorrow….”  Ralph looked at Slade and a smile lit up his face as the information hit home and registered.  “Be….be Slade’s Mind Walker….yes….see….seee…I will be….Mind Walker….for…for…the One…for Slade….Slade is the One….”  Ralph leaped out of his chair and danced around the porch. 

Slade leaned back in his chair and watched Ralph move across the wooden porch.  What was going on in his mind?  Where was this Island?  Was there danger there as Ralph had predicted?  And what about him coming back different?  It was all so clouded, so hidden.  Slade shook off the feeling.  He had more information than before he had come to Alaska.  Hopefully it would help me.

Slade was brought out of his thoughts by Jack, who had been speaking to him.  When he looked over, the therapist was staring at him.

“Sorry.  I was thinking about something else.  What did you say?”

“I have seen him do this before.  Become fixated on things.  He will become totally absorbed with this until he wears himself out.”  Jack looked back at his patient.  “By the way, how do I contact you?”

“I’ll give you my cell phone number.”  Slade poured some coffee in his cup from a carafe Rachel had placed on the table.  “Do you think he can ‘see’ the future?  See events that have not happened?”

“I believe it’s feasible.  Based on the last week and what we have learned from him, I think it’s a distinct possibility.  But we don’t know how much of the data is fact or how much is his imagination.  Ralph does not live in our world all the time.  He drifts in and out, and when he attaches himself to our environment it’s usually to something touchable he can identify with.  For now, that tangent is you.”

“I know he can see, Slade.  I never paid attention to it before, but I’ve been thinking about his past actions and watching him the last week.  I just know it.  I don’t how Ben and I missed it until now.”  Rachel looked back at her son who was still gyrating across the porch, even though he had slowed down.  “I would take his warning and be careful.”

“I intend to.  That’s why I need the both of you to call me, regardless of the time, when Ralph tells you anything about what he may glimpse from the future.  I’m also going to give you another number.  If I don’t answer, I want you to call them and give them the information.”

Slade slid cards across the table to both Jack and Rachel with several additional numbers scribbled on the back.  Rising from the table, Slade glanced over at Ralph.  Time to pack and catch a plane.  The future, the Island, waited just over the horizon.

Read Chapter Twenty-Three