Art Adkins
Author & Leadership Instructor
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Mindwalkers- Chapter 27

Chapter 27

The airport was not as busy as it was when he had flown in.  Slade checked on the flight and moved to a seat near the terminal.  He had purchased a magazine from a concession booth and had opened it to an article on coral reefs.  The author was reporting on the status of the reefs off the coast of Florida and was lamenting how development was destroying them.  The silt from construction drifting into the ocean had obliterated some of the fragile ecosystem.  Slade winced as he gazed at comparison pictures of the reef off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale.  The picture taken thirty years ago showed an abundance of marine life and vibrant coral growth.  The photo taken when the article was published was not near as spectacular.  The reef was dying.  The fish were all but gone and the coral had decayed to a fourth of its original size.

Slade flipped the page and shook his head in disbelief.  When would we learn?  Earth’s resources were not infinite and had to be protected.  Before he could read anymore, he thought he had heard his name being called.

“Slade Lockwood report to check-in please.  Slade Lockwood report to your gate please.”

Slade folded the magazine and remained in his chair.  Reaching inside his jacket pocket he removed his cell phone and flipped it open.  No missed calls or voice mail.  No one had tried to contact him.  So why was he being summoned to check-in?  His suspicions were aroused and he left his chair, moving cautiously toward the attractive brunette staffing the ticket counter.  She was talking to an old lady who was confused as to how to catch her connecting flight.  Patiently the flight attendant explained it to her several times reassuring her there would be someone to help her at the other end.

Slade had stood off to one side, slightly turning his body so he could watch anyone approaching.  Nothing seemed out of the ordinary but he was extremely alert for some reason.  Maybe it was his sixth sense. 

“May I help you?”

Slade turned toward the ticket counter and noticed the old lady was walking away to a seat with the other passengers.

“Yes, you may.  I’m Slade Lockwood.  Someone paged me.”  Slade watched her face intently but there was no surprise or any other emotion, aside from the bemused look she had given to the old lady when helping her. He was certain her reaction was genuine.

“I have it here.  You’re to go to Customs.  Seems there’s a message for you.”

“Why couldn’t they give it to me here?”

“I don’t know, sir.  All I have is a message to have you go to Customs.”  The flight attendant, Rosa, according to her name tag, stared back at him.

“Can you call them and tell them I’m here?  I don’t really feel like going to Customs.”  Slade smiled at Rosa but the gesture was not returned.

“One moment please.”  Rosa picked up the phone and after consulting a small notebook full of numbers, dialed the number for Customs.  “I have a Slade Lockwood here you asked us to page.  He wants to know if you can give me the message.  He doesn’t want to go to Customs.”  Rosa was silent for several seconds, nodding her head to the response she was receiving on the other end of the line.  “I see.”

Slade watched as she hung up the phone and turned to him.

“Yes?”  Slade smiled at her again, but again the act was not reciprocated.

“It seems, Mr. Lockwood, that the message they have for you must be given in person.  The gentleman said to tell you that it has something to do with Fairbanks and said you would understand.”   The annoyance in Rosa’s voice was evident as she glanced at the growing line behind Slade.

“Why didn’t he tell me that himself?”  The smile had left Slade’s face.

“I have no idea, Mr. Lockwood.  But when you see him you can ask him.  Now if you’ll excuse me please.”  Rosa dismissed Slade and looked past him.  “Next please.”

Slade left the ticket counter and walked slowly down the terminal to Customs.  Several times he stopped in front of shops to use the glass as a mirror to ascertain if he was being ‘tailed.’  Each time he failed to locate anyone.

Fairbanks.  Only his friends in Cedar Key knew he had gone to Alaska to visit Ralph.  Who else could have known?  Had something happened to Ralph?  Did Ralph have a message for him? 

Slade spotted the entrance to Customs and hovered in the area for ten minutes before approaching the door.  He had not spotted anything unusual or out of the ordinary. 

Rolling his magazine into a compact cylinder he strode purposefully to the clerk just outside the main door. 

“I’m Slade Lockwood.  I was told to come to Customs.”  Slade watched as the young man consulted a piece of paper in front of him.

“Yes, sir.  I’m Pierre.  Please come with me.”  Pierre had taken several steps when he realized Slade was not following him.  When he turned around Slade was still standing in front of the desk.

“Why am I being called to Customs?  Is there something wrong?”

“I have no idea.  All I know is that I was told to escort you to an office inside.  Now, if you’ll please come with me.”  Pierre had wrinkled his brow at the questioning.

Slade reluctantly moved forward.  Maybe he was just being paranoid.  Maybe this was just routine business.  Maybe.

Pierre led Slade to the rear of the suite and down a set of stairs.  The office he directed him to was at the rear of facility.  Pierre knocked on the door twice and opened it, ushering Slade inside.

Slade stepped across the threshold and was aware of Pierre closing the door.  The room was small, with a table in the center and half dozen chairs in the room.  Two men were seated behind the tiny desk and two men were standing.  No one had spoken.

“So why am I here?” asked Slade, not moving forward.  His sixth sense was sounding an alarm.  This smelled like a trap, but why in the Customs office?

“You’re a suspicious man, Mr. Lockwood.  I thought I was going to have to send my men to get you.”  The older of the two men had spoken from behind the desk.

“Well I’m here and being suspicious keeps me alive.  What do you want?”  Slade had taken a half step forward giving the appearance he was engaging them in conversation.  He needed space to move should the conversation turn physical.  He did not have long to wait.

“All in good time, Mr. Lockwood.  All in good time,” replied the man. 

Slade caught the nod of the older man’s head a split second before the guard on his right moved.  When the guard dipped his hand inside his coat pocket, Slade reacted.  Using the rolled up magazine as a weapon, he struck the man a vicious back hand blow across the bridge of the nose and immediately heard the sound of breaking cartilage.  Blood spewed forth and the man staggered back.

Not waiting to see if he had sufficiently incapacitated the guard, Slade lashed out a kick at the man to his left.  To his surprise the second guard had moved.  When Slade spun to face him he saw a pistol leveled at his chest.  Pausing, Slade slowly stood up.

“I anticipated you would not go quietly, Mr. Lockwood,” droned the older man. 

The man squeezed the trigger and Slade was aware of a pop and a stinging in his chest.  Looking down, he saw a dart protruding from his shirt.  Using his left hand he pulled it free and took a step back.  The room was growing fuzzy and his knees trembled.

“You’ll sleep now, Mr. Lockwood.  When you awake we’ll explain everything.”

The men in the room watched as Slade slumped against the far wall, trying desperately to maintain consciousness.  They watched as his eyes rolled back in his head and he slid to the floor, his chin coming to rest on his chest. 

“Get him ready to travel.  And tend to your nose.”  The older man had risen, straightened his coat and walked out the door.

Fifteen minutes later a white, nondescript commercial jet screamed into the sky and turned toward the east.  Slade was secured to a seat and an attendant placed a pillow beneath his head.  Reaching down, she checked his pulse and placed a stethoscope to his chest to listen to his heart beat. Satisfied he was okay she grabbed a soft drink and deposited herself next to him. The flight would not be long.

Consciousness came slowly to Slade as he tried to shake off the effects of the dart.  The drug had been powerful and Slade still had a problem focusing.  He could not tell how long he had been out, as time had become elusive, vague. 

As his eyes focused, he looked around the room.  It was not much larger than a jail cell.  The cot he was on was squished into one corner and a small table, with one wooden chair, was against the far wall.  A toilet and sink was in the other corner.  The door was solid metal and the light in the room consisted of a single bulb suspended from the ceiling tile.  It cast just enough illumination so he could see. 

Setting on the desk was a covered platter and Slade could smell cooked food.  Sliding to the edge of the cot, he tried to stand but fell back.  Closing his eyes, he breathed deeply and was able to gain his feet.  Leaning over he grabbed the back of the chair and fell into the seat, rattling the tray of food in front of him.

Removing the lid, he saw a plate full of Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, green beans and a dinner roll.  A small carafe of coffee was on the desk in front of him.  Slade was astonished to see a small container of honey next to the coffee.  How had they known he used honey in his coffee?

The steak had already been cut into chewable pieces and he speared a piece on the fork.  He was hungrier than he thought and he devoured the meal.  After eating he would have preferred another cup of coffee, but he moved back to the cot and fell asleep again.  When he awakened this time he felt much better.

Slade swung his feet over the edge of the cot and sat upright.  His head was clear and he no problem focusing on the room.  Much to his surprise the metal tray was gone and a pitcher of water, along with the small carafe of coffee, was on the table.  Several pastries were on a small plate next to them.

At least they were feeding him, thought Slade.  He had finished two of the pastries and had just poured himself another cup of coffee when he heard the lock in the door being turned.  Looking over at the door he noticed a camera in the upper corner of the room aimed at the cot.  Glancing behind him he saw another one had been installed in the opposite corner.  It gave his captors a complete view of the room.   He had not noticed the surveillance measures the first time.

Slade slid his chair around to face the door and watched as it noiselessly swung open.  Standing in the doorway was the man he had hit with the magazine.  A bandage covered his nose and lower face.  The man who had darted him stood to the rear.

“How’s the nose?  Sorry about that.”  Slade sipped from his coffee cup.

“It’ll heal.  Come on.”  The two men stepped back so Slade could leave the room.

“Can I bring my coffee?”

“Yeah.”

Slade topped his coffee cup off and walked out the door.  The corridor was bare concrete, including the floors.  A small string of fluorescent lights lit the hallway and it seemed to stretch a vast distance.  There were no doors or rooms leading off of the main corridor.  Rounding a corner they stopped in front of a large wooden door.  The man with the bandage opened the door and ushered Slade inside.

Stepping through the door Slade found himself in a very large chamber.  The interior was well lit, though sparsely furnished.  A conference table was in the middle of the room and several men were seated around it, all dressed in expensive suits.  A chair had been slid back for Slade.  He walked up to it, shoved it out the way and selected another one.  Setting his coffee on the table, he sat down and crossed his arms. 

The man who had spoken in the Customs office was directly across from Slade.  The other man from Customs was to his right and there were three men to his left.  Slade did not know any of them.

“Let me introduce myself.  I’m Hal Prince.  The names of the other gentleman are not important.  Are you feeling any ill effects from the drug?”

“Would you really care if I was?”  Slade reached over and picked up his coffee cup.

“Yes, I would.  Absolutely.  I’m dreadfully sorry about the dart, but we didn’t think you would come peacefully.”

“You could’ve asked,” said Slade.

“Yes, I suppose we could’ve.  None the less you’re here now.  And we have so much to discuss.”

“We do?”

“Yes.  We know about your visit to Ralph in Fairbanks, Alaska.  We’ve been monitoring him for some time.  We’re also aware of the attack on Waterbury Enterprises where you and your friends were targeted for elimination.  Good showing on your part to extinguish that threat.”  Hal stopped as he studied Slade. 

“Go on.”

“There is more at stake here Mr. Lockwood than you could possibly imagine.  We need to know what Ralph told you in Fairbanks, Alaska.  The information may help us….help us eliminate a threat to you and your friends, as well as to the United States government.”

“Not until you tell me where I am and why I’m here.  You’ve taken my phone, my wallet and everything else I own.  Why?  What have I done to deserve your unyielding attention, Mr. Prince?”  Slade smiled at the man.  “I could go for another cup of coffee,” added Slade.

Hal motioned and looked past Slade.  When Slade turned in his seat he saw two men standing in the corner.  He had been so intent on the center of the room they had escaped detection when he walked in.  They were undoubtedly in place should Slade make a scene and become violent.  One of the men walked up and placed a tray in front of Slade.  After preparing another cup of coffee, Slade leaned back in his chair and waited. 

“A Dr. Stanley Watchman came to visit you in St. Augustine. He was murdered.  You killed the assassin.”

“Actually, one of my friends killed him, because the assassin tried to kill me as well.  Stanley died before he could tell me what was going on or who he was running from.”

“We know you’ve pieced together that Dr. Watchman had connections to the Colorado Springs Brain Institute and that Ralph was a patient there at one time.  We also found the notes from Dr. Hammermill’s pad you stole from his office and saw Shirley Waterbury’s name on it.”

Slade stared over at Hal.  “Somehow I don’t think this is a case of breaking and entering that has caused all this stir.  But you’re right on everything so far.  But I don’t know how it’s all connected.  I don’t know why the Brain Institute is interested in Shirley.”

“Because of Akron Pharmaceutical.  Ms. Waterbury has stabilized the company and now owns a considerable portion of Paul and Carol Akron’s enterprise.  Due to her financial strength alone she has thwarted the hostile takeover of the company and saved the owners from financial ruin.”

“What does that have to do with the Brain Institute?” asked Slade.

“Nothing and yet, everything.”  Hal reached over and grabbed an empty cup and poured himself a cup of coffee.

“I’m not into riddles.  I like stuff straight forward.”  Slade slid a honey container toward Hal.  “Try some honey in it.  A friend of mine got me hooked on it when I was a cop.”

“I will.  Thank you.”  Hal measured off a teaspoon full.  “The Brain Institute is not interested in Akron Pharmaceuticals, but a Gunter Gutenberg is.  He’s a wealthy contributor and has purchased several pharmacies in Europe, along with some hospitals.  He’s expanding to the United States and needs to increase the size of his distribution of experimental drugs.  Akron would fit nicely into his portfolio.”

“Shirley shoring up the company must have enraged him for him to issue a death warrant.  There has to be other companies out there for him to purchase.”

“There is, but Gunter had dumped a considerable amount of time and money into Akron to destabilize it and position it for a hostile takeover.  More importantly, the timing was crucial. Several events were coming together making the acquisition of Akron crucial to his next endeavor.”

“How does Stanley fit into all of this?”

“Because Dr. Watchman was going to blow the whistle on the activities taking place at the Island.”  Hal saw the surprise hit Slade’s face.  “I see you’ve heard of it.”

“Ralph told me about it.  Said they tried to make him a Mind Walker.”  It was Slade’s turn to see the surprise hit the faces of the men across from him and he watched as they shuffled nervously in their seats.

“What do you know about mind control, Mr. Lockwood?” asked Hal, sipping from his coffee cup.  “The addition of the honey was an excellent suggestion.  Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it.  I don’t know anything about mind control.  Thought it wasn’t possible and I don’t really know that I believe in a lot of that stuff.  Ralph seems to think he can see the future, but I’m skeptical.  Why?”

“Because there are a lot of people who do believe in mind control.  Even our very own government.  Have you ever heard of the Montauk Project?”

“No.  Should I have heard of it?”

“Not really.”  Hal slid his chair back and stood up.  “Come with me Mr. Lockwood.  You have a lot to learn if you’re to help us.”

“Why would I help you?”

“To save your friends, yourself, and, quite possibly, the President himself.”

“But why take the time to share this information with me?  You still have not told me where I am and what facility you’re holding me in.  I have a feeling this is all very clandestine and I find it hard to believe I’m not expendable.”  Slade placed his coffee down in front of him.

“You’re correct.  Under normal circumstances you would be expendable, but you’ve made yourself a viable commodity that we need.  Plus you have an insurance card.”

“An insurance card?”

“Shirley Waterbury.  Her influence grows daily.  Ms. Waterbury is just beginning to realize the full scope and breadth of her impact in Washington and other points around the globe.  If you show up missing, I’m confident and so are others that she would move the four corners of the planet to find out what happened to you.  We, the United States government, would rather have her as an ally.”

“So my friendship with Shirley keeps me alive?”

“Waterbury Enterprises has turned into what we call a mega-corporation.  Under the guidance of her staff, the company has expanded in record time to markets we didn’t think would be touched for several decades.  Ms. Waterbury’s team has not only reached out to these arenas, but has turned a handsome profit in doing so.  Everything she touches turns out successful.  In case you’ve forgotten, our Commander in Chief considers her a personal friend.”

“I bet the President doesn’t know about this little meeting or this location.”  Slade almost laughed out loud when Hal stopped to face him.

“He doesn’t know about the meeting, but he has been briefed on the location.” 

“It seems you hold all the cards, Mr. Prince.  Lead on and enlighten me.”  Slade let his eyes turn ice blue, penetrating into Hal’s.  The older man involuntarily stepped back.

“You’re an interesting man, Mr. Lockwood.”

“Please.  Call me Slade.”

“Hal.”  Extending his arm, Hal enthusiastically grasped Slade’s hand and shook it.  “Nice to have you on our team.”

“Seems like I was aggressively recruited.”    

Slade fell silent as he followed Hal out of the room.  What was he involved in this time?

Read Chapter Twenty-eight