Art Adkins
Author & Leadership Instructor
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Mindwalkers- Chapter 31

Chapter 31

The same government jet that had flown Slade to Montauk Point flew him to South America.  Without incident they entered Colombian air space and the jet was set down on a runway in what looked like an abandoned field.  A tiny asphalt ribbon bisected the pasture and that was the only sign of human encroachment.  At the end of the runway were two jeeps, coal black with tinted windows.  Several men were standing outside them, arms folded, firearms prominently displayed on their waist.

The pilot taxied to the end of the runway, paused only long enough to drop Slade off, turned and sped back the way he had come.  Within seconds he had disappeared into the sky and only quiet remained.

Turning, Slade observed the three men staring at him.  Impassive faces surveyed him, studying him.  None of them had offered a greeting and Slade had the distinct feeling he was not going to get one.

Retrieving his small duffle bag that Hal had returned to him, Slade approached the small gathering.  Friendliness was not a high priority with them.

Stopping in front of the first man he encountered, Slade smiled and spoke.

“Good morning.  I’m Slade Lockwood.  Do you speak English?”  Slade offered his hand but there was no reciprocation and he let it drop back by his side.

Without a word, the lead man turned and opened the rear door of the second Jeep and motioned for Slade to get inside.  Tossing his duffle bag in ahead of him, Slade slipped inside the vehicle and closed the door.  The driver entered the driver’s side and started the engine. 

The drive through the savannah the pasture had bordered was spectacular and Slade found himself acting like a tourist as he constantly pivoted in his seat to view the changing landscape.  The terrain started to change and he noticed the vegetation was becoming thicker, denser, choking out the native grass.  Shrubs and trees were vying prominence and soon only trees spiraled up from the soil.  Within a few miles the forest canopy enveloped them and Slade removed his sunglasses, the sunlight failing to brightly pierce the foliage. 

Cracking his window ever so slightly, Slade could feel the oppressive heat rush in and the call of dozens of animals filled the cabin.  The driver smiled as he watched Slade in the rear view mirror.

“You would not last long out there, amigo.  The jungle is full of surprises.”  A gapped toothy grin greeted Slade in the reflection.

“I don’t doubt it.  It seems very inhospitable.  You grow up in the jungle?” asked Slade, sealing the window.

“To grow up in Colombia is to grow up in the jungle.  It is part of our heritage.  We have modern cities but our country is full of animals and fauna.  You’ll see.  Where you’re going it is very remote.  And isolated.  The part of the jungle you are going to has many rivers that makes the mighty Amazon swell on her way to the Atlantic Ocean.  One of the many tributaries that supply the head waters for the river is near the location where you are going.”  The driver fell silent and by his demeanor he indicated the conversation was over.

Slade continued to stare out the window but there was not much to see.  The road narrowed and the vegetation closed in creating a wall of green.  Soon the Jeep was plowing forward, shoving errant fronds from low growing plants out of the way.  Leaves danced across the windshield and the driver had to slow considerably. 

Stopping in front of a gate that sprung out of nowhere, Slade answered some questions, as did the driver.  They were each given a lanyard and they dropped it around their neck. 

Slade was ushered into the front door and the brief walk to the entrance left trails of perspiration cascading down his back.  The inside of the building was far more hospitable than the outside, as air from unseen cooling systems defeated the oppressive heat from the jungle.  He was greeted by Juan Domingo. 

“Mr. Lockwood.  I’ve heard a great deal about you.”  Juan enthusiastically shook his hand.

“Thank you.  You have me at a slight disadvantage.  I was not told about you.  Seems Hal kept some things quiet and secret.” 

“I’m sure your stay here will be enjoyable.  We have all the amenities of Hal’s facility.”  Juan laughed when he saw the surprise on Slade’s face.  “I’ve never been, but I hear it is quite impressive.”

“It is.  But from what I can see so is this place.”  Slade smiled back at Juan.

“When Cody gets back he will be surprised to see you.”

“He didn’t know I was coming?”

“No.  He’s briefing the President on the situation.  I had expected to hear from him, but he has been out of contact.  When he arrives I’m sure he’ll fill us in.” 

“Looking forward to it.”

“Come.  Let me show you to your room.  There is a lot of catching up for you to do.  You’re welcome to tour the facility and go wherever you like, but please do not go outside the compound and never take your lanyard off.”  Juan emphasized the last two points.

“Got it.  Lead the way.”  Slade smiled as he followed Juan down the corridor. 

“Okay, I think all of you have gone off the deep end this time.”  Shirley was standing in her office surrounded by Katherine, Bubba, June, Dustin Zane and Professor Johansen.  “This Gunter Gutenberg is the one who tried to have us killed, Slade is tracking down his involvement with psychics and the government knows about it and is covering it up.  Does anyone hear how this sounds?  It’s not making sense.”

“I know it sounds far-fetched and a little preposterous, but the pieces are beginning to fit.  The young boy, Ralph in Fairbanks, Alaska, told Slade about the Colorado Springs Brain Institute wanting him to become a Mind Walker.  Slade believes this has something to do with psychic phenomena.  Gunter is heavily involved in the Brain Institute as a donor.  According to what information I could find, the government has experimented with psychic abilities in the past, most notably remote viewing from a military perspective.  And…”  Professor Johansen was stopped by Katherine. 

“How do you know the remote viewing part, Professor?”

“I contacted some colleagues of mine in the medical field and they said they had heard of some experiments conducted years ago by the military on mind control.  They wanted to develop the perfect soldier.  Someone oblivious to pain, able to exert mental control over injuries, and push themselves to the furthest possible physical limit their body could endure.  Mental enhancement would be necessary for this.”

“And I contacted some of my contacts in the Navy.  The ones that would talk to me about this were not surprised in the least and they did not deny the existence of such a program that may have occurred at one time.  Actually they thought there were several programs conducted by our government and other countries in this field.  Of course they are all denying it now.”  June crossed his legs and stared at Katherine.

“Anything else?” asked Shirley.

“Yeah.  I still have some contacts overseas when I provided security for a Sheik a couple of years ago.  Several things I found out are of interest.  They confirmed Terri Taylor is on Gunter’s payroll and he’s as bad as advertised – contract killing, extortion and a host of other crimes.  They also said he’s not in Berlin, but hides out in Casablanca, Morocco, a tiny African nation on the western coast of the continent.  They also have learned Gunter is hiring mercenaries for an upcoming job.  Apparently he’s paying top dollar for hired guns.”  Dustin Zane stopped talking.

“Do you think he’s sending them here for another attack?” asked Bubba.

“I don’t think we can rule it out.  The man is obsessed with expansion according to my source.  He’s wealthy, arrogant, and has an insatiable appetite for power.  A deadly brew that intoxicates and poisons the soul the more you drink from the cup.” Dustin Zane sat down next to June.

“Then we have to be prepared here for just such an encounter,” replied Bubba, rubbing his chin.

“Has anyone heard from Slade?” asked Katherine.

“I was about to ask you the same thing,” responded Professor Johansen.

When no one answered, Katherine continued.  “We need to try and contact him.  If we’ve pieced this together I have a sneaky suspicion so has my fiancé.  He usually stays tuned in to something until he finds what he’s looking for.” Katherine had involuntarily touched her engagement ring and was twirling it around on her finger.  The movement did not go unnoticed by the others.

“He’ll contact us soon.  He always does.”  June turned to Dustin Zane.  “I think the answer is obvious: find Terri Taylor.  He probably knows what Gunter is up to and he’s our best chance of having some light shed on the mercenaries and unraveling this mess.”

“I have several friends who would like to find Terri Taylor.  Seems the man has made some enemies and they want an opportunity to pay him back.  I’ll call them and see if they can locate him for us.”  Dustin Zane was scribbling notes on a piece of paper.

“Then we go to find him,” said Bubba.

“We all can’t go.  One of you has got to stay and oversee security arrangements here.  If Gunter is sending mercenaries our way, this could get ugly very quick.  We need to make sure our defenses are in place to head off such an attack,” said June, drawing some menacing looks from Dustin Zane and Bubba.

“I agree with June.  I’m going to need one of you to help out here.  You can’t expect staff to handle this while you are all gone tracking down this fugitive,” added Shirley.

“Plus I have a major scientific conference here next week.  There’ll be over three thousand visitors to Cedar Key.  I’ve been promoting this for the last six months.  The focus is on the environment and the impact of human development on the fragile marine life in these waters and others around the world.  This is a perfect place to host it and Waterbury Enterprises is the focal point,” said Professor Johansen.

“We cannot have an incident during all of that.  Too many innocent people could be killed or harmed.”  Katherine leaned against Shirley’s desk and rubbed her forehead after speaking.  When she painted it was so quiet and calm.  Since meeting Slade, Shirley and the others she realized just how much she loved the solitude and peace and how fleeting it was at times. 

“You can’t go because you’re still having trouble getting around.  My arm is not as bad as your leg.  I’ll go help June and you stay to organize security,” said Dustin Zane.

“I can get around fine.  You’re the security Chief, not me,” snapped Bubba, obviously displeased that anyone would consider leaving him out of the equation.

“But Dustin Zane has the contacts overseas, you don’t.  I know you don’t like it, but it makes sense.”  June smiled as he saw the irritation on Bubba’s face.

“I agree with June and Dustin Zane.  You stay here and help us.  Plus you know the local Police Chief and the area better than anyone.  It would make me feel better.”  Shirley had walked up to Bubba and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Alright, but I don’t like it.  Call me immediately if you get into trouble.”   Bubba had grabbed his cane and gestured to June to emphasize his point.

“How are you going to get over there?” asked Katherine.

“The Tross.  Casablanca has a port and I can land her in the bay.  We stopped by there from time to time when I was in the Navy,” said June.  The Tross was a Grumman Albatross Flying Boat that June had talked Shirley into purchasing.  The entire interior had been redecorated and the engines overhauled.  Extra fuel tanks had been added giving the plane intercontinental capability. 

“Good.  I can sleep while you’re flying,” said Dustin Zane.

“What do you want me to do while you’re gone?” asked Professor Johansen.

“Can you spare any staff and continue research on the information you’ve found so far?  It may hold the key to where Slade has gone?” said Dustin Zane.

“I can have Angela look into it.  She’s the brightest and best,” replied Professor Johansen, pleased he was still a part of the team.

“What about Akron Pharmaceutical?  Has the hostile takeover attempt stopped?” asked Katherine.  “I haven’t heard any of you mention it.”

“It has for the moment.  The company has stabilized, the hostile suitor, this Gunter, has ceased his attempt to acquire the stock.  No more negative innuendos or rumors.  So far, so good,” answered Shirley.

“That could change.  Please keep that in mind,” added Bubba.

“Which is another reason why I need you here overseeing security while Dustin Zane and June are gone.”  Everyone laughed as Bubba’s face flushed from the jibe.

They had gotten underway later than they had hoped.  June and Dustin Zane had helped Bubba with details on security, evaluating scenarios, briefing staff and liaising with the local authorities.  By the time they packed and loaded the Tross, it was dark, but June was determined to push through.  No one wanted to admit it, but they are all worried about Slade.  Slade made it a habit of getting in over his head and when they did not hear from him for extended periods it only heightened their anxiety.

Once in the air, the Tross responded like the elegant lady she was.  June climbed to twenty thousand feet and kicked on the autopilot.  Dustin Zane had wedged himself into the cockpit and kept up a running dialogue with June about the instruments and how the plane worked.

Dustin Zane did grab some sleep, but it was more of a cat nap.  Rejoining June in the cockpit, he noticed they had started their descent. 

“How long before we land?”

“About an hour.  Just got permission from their tower.  We’ll be dropping anchor just inside their break water.  I figured we could get some sleep on-board and after resting, go looking for Taylor.  Have you heard from your contacts?”

“No, but that doesn’t surprise me.  They’ve only had less than twenty-four hours to get a jump on this.  They’ll find him.  If we don’t hear from them before long, I’ll call them.”

The landing was executed perfectly.  The Tross kissed the waves and sent water spraying in all directions as she slowed to a peaceful stop.  The gentle roll of the ocean cold be felt under the hull and June was all smiles as he piloted her inside the harbor and selected an anchoring spot.  Yachts of all sizes and shapes dotted the harbor and June wondered what all of them would say when they saw the flying boat bobbing next to them.  The Tross always received a warm welcome wherever he took her.

Making sure she was tied securely, June set the external alarms.  Having taken a cue from Bubba, the Tross carried a considerable assortment of firearms, all strategically hidden within the hull.

“All secure.  You want the aft bunk or the forward?” asked June.

“Which one is the most comfortable?”

“Due to your size you better take the forward.”

“See you in the morning.”

Both men were asleep the second their head touched the pillow. 

Read Chapter Thirty-two