Art Adkins
Author & Leadership Instructor
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Mindwalkers - Chapter 18

Chapter 18

Cody’s office was modest considering his position within the government.  As FBI Director he had a considerable number of people come and go on a daily basis, but this afternoon his calendar had been cleared.  Only two other individuals were in the office and seated with him around his small conference table:  Sheila Graft and Lance Young of the National Security Administration.  Cody had been reading from a neatly packaged report and when he dropped it on the table he looked directly at Lance.

“So we resurrected a dormant operation, but we didn’t do it alone.  How many players are involved?” asked Cody.

“They are called the Nine.  They represent seven different countries around the world.  Like us, they desire the program for security and medical research to cure disease.  It was never intended for what Gunter is using it for.  They are led by a Colombian, Juan Domingo.  His interest, like ours, was pure.”

“Whether it was intended or not is irrelevant.  I take it you’re not sure what Gunter is developing the project for or how far he’s gone with it?” asked Cody.

“No, we’re not sure, which is our cause for concern.  He’s become obsessed with power and money.  There’s a rumor he’s found a way to enhance the mental capability of certain….certain people and channel their mental energy to a predetermined target.  We don’t have much more information than that.”

“What do you mean ‘a predetermined target’?”

“We know he’s used one young man to find gold in Argentina and diamonds in Australia and, in both instances, the finds are of incredible quantity.  Rumor has it he’s using the young man to find deep sea mineral deposits.  We’ve been tracking a research vessel in the North Atlantic.  So far nothing has surfaced in that arena.”

“How does that work?  How is someone able to find a mineral?”  After asking the question, silence reigned in the tiny office for almost a minute.  “Do I have to ask again or are you going to answer me?”

“Gunter is experimenting on idiot savants…”

“What?” Cody yelled, the anger bursting through to the surface, the sound reverberating in the small room.   “Tell me you didn’t know, Lance.  Tell me!!!”  Cody’s voice had risen.

“We knew idiot savants were being tested, but we didn’t know they were being fed a chemical cocktail to enhance their ability.  We didn’t find out until later.”  Lance held his hands up, palms out, trying to placate Cody.  The gesture was futile, the attempt infuriating to the FBI Director.

“Fantastic!  We’re now linked to a madman who is testing a new mind drug on autism patients.  Any other handicapped people you want to experiment on?  What about deformities, or young children?  Let’s corner the market, Lance.” Cody sneered as he stared directly at Lance.

“Come on, Cody!  That was never the intent or focus of the program at the Island.  When the Nine were in charge research was done professionally and ethically.  Yes, we were interested in the military aspect, but not at the expense of an innocent human being suffering from mental disorders.  Gunter is the one who recognized the possibility and capitalized on it.  Before we could move against him, he compiled a dossier of damaging evidence, which he manufactured, and threatened to go to the press if the Nine moved against him.  Organizing armed resistance, he forced the representatives for the Nine off the Island and took control.  Next he built bunkers and defensible positions before we could act.  We were all caught by surprise. And even if we had wanted to act immediately we had to be careful.  He kept meticulous notes tying us to the operation, which effectively eliminated any overt attempt to stop the operation and reclaim the Island.”  Lance slumped back in his chair, his face devoid of emotion.

“You were powerless because we stopped research in this area fifteen years ago due to public scrutiny when the press learned about it and made it public!  You had your hands in the cookie jar and you know it!  This should have never been given life again, Lance!”  Cody rose from his chair and paced back and forth several times before dropping back into his seat.

“It was never going to be utilized for commercial applications.  It was to be purely research and the military aspect was to be a by-product, if a viable resource at all.  We were never going to make money off mentally challenged patients.  That was not the focus.”

“That is exactly what these experiments are being developed for now it would seem.”  Cody sat for several seconds.  “What’s the next move?  Who are the Nine?  What countries are involved?”

“The next move is to oust Gunter and regain control of the Island and all the research material at hand,” said Sheila, glancing over at her boss as she spoke.  In all her years working for Lance she had never seen him so defeated.  “Here is a list of the Nine and the countries they represent.”

“Where is the Island?” asked Cody.

“In the Pacific near Tahiti.  It’s off the beaten path.  A tiny speck of land in a chain of islands no one really claims as valuable.  The perfect place for an operation like this one.  Remote and easy to control.  Access is limited.”  Sheila tossed a map of the Pacific Ocean onto Cody’s desk and there was a small section highlighted in yellow.  A red arrow pointed to a tiny speck of land.  Using her finger to emphasize the obvious, Sheila said, “The Island.”

“You said it had defensible positions.  Heavily fortified?”

“Absolutely.  Capable of holding off a small assault team.  Gunter has reinforced the defensive grid and placed additional batteries further away from the beach.  If you penetrate the outer layer of security you still have the inner perimeter to contend with.” 

“Anything else?”

“Yes.”  Sheila leaned forward and stabbed her finger at an adjacent dot of land on the map next to the Island.  “See this little atoll?  Gunter is expanding.  Facilities are being constructed to continue the research.  He’s run out of room.  Defensive embankments have already been placed.” 

“Why didn’t we move on him sooner?”

“Because he was able to anticipate our move before it was made,” said Lance. 

“How?”

“With Mind Walkers.”  Lance looked at the befuddled FBI Director and tried to smile but failed. 

“What are Mind Walkers?” asked Cody.

“What the United States government was hoping to develop fifteen years ago.  Gunter has achieved success where we failed.”

“Oh my…..”   Cody let his words trail off.

“They are the perfect weapon, Mr. Garrett.  And they never enter the field of battle.”  Sheila Graft closed her folder and stood up with Lance.

“The ball is in your court, Cody.  Sorry.”  Lance spoke softly as he left the office with Sheila in tow.

Cody sat staring at the map of the Pacific Ocean and the red arrow pointing toward the Island.  Mind Walkers.  The perfect weapon that America had hoped to develop was now in the hands of a madman. 

The flight had been eventless, routine.  The drive to the Colorado Springs Brain Institute had been breath taking.  The scenery was absolutely incredible and Slade had found himself admiring his surroundings as he drove. 

The Brain Institute headquarters was impressive and Slade casually strode by, purposefully not going in right away.  A small coffee shop was down the street affording an incredible view of the structure and he selected a small table and chair outside on the sidewalk.  Pulling his long sleeve shirt closer, he fought off the early morning chill and inhaled deeply of the fresh mountain air.  A beautiful place.

Snapping open the local newspaper, Slade kept it low enough to see over the top so he could watch the comings and goings of the people hurrying by.  Most wore some type of medical outfit indicating they either worked for the Brain Institute or a similar medical facility.  Patrons slipping inside and purchasing coffee could be heard talking about their jobs.  Several had the name of the Brain Institute monogrammed on their scrubs.  There were also a good number of students, with books tucked tightly under their arms, scurrying towards the facility.

After sitting for about half an hour, Slade paid for his coffee and bran muffin and strolled toward the entrance.  He had always found it prudent to conduct a limited surveillance of a location prior to entering.  It gave him a chance to learn about security, observe the operation of the facility and determine alternate ways in and out should the need arise.  Hopefully he would not need to make use of a secondary way of escape.

The entrance was what he expected.  A large desk with two receptionists situated near the front door to assist patients or delivery personnel as they entered.  Patients and staff hurried to a bank of elevators to the right of the desk and there was a small line as people patiently waited.  Most of the staff opted for the stairs.

“May I help you?” asked the first receptionist, her brown eyes shooting over Slade quickly.

“Yes.  How are you?  I’m looking for Dr. Hammermill’s office,” said Slade.  There was a distinct odor permeating the air and he found it slightly nauseous.    

“Upstairs on the third floor, second door on your right.”

“Thank you.”

Slade took the stairs.  The third floor was decorated in a rich brown carpet with paneled walls.  The doors to Dr. Hammermill’s suite were oak and opened quietly.  Dr. Hammermill’s secretary was seated behind an elegant desk.  The room was expensively decorated and Slade had to admire the doctor’s taste.  Overall it was a very appealing office.

“Good morning.  I was wondering if Dr. Hammermill was in?” asked Slade as he walked up to the secretary and shook her hand.

“I’m afraid he’s out of the office.”  The young woman looked warmly at Slade, her eyes drifting over him.

“Oh.  Do you know when he’ll be back?  I’ve come a long way to see him.”

“Was he expecting you?”

“No.  I just wanted to talk to him.  He was referred to me by a professor.”  Slade smiled again at the young woman.

“Dr. Hammermill prefers people to schedule an appointment with him.  Can I have your name and I’ll see when I can pencil you in.”

“When do you expect him back?”

“He didn’t tell me.  He’s extremely busy.”

“If you don’t know when he’s coming back, then how can you schedule an appointment for me?” asked Slade.  The young secretary was lying and he could tell.  She knew when the doctor would return and where he was.  Time to rattle her cage.

“He has several open dates where I could tentatively schedule you.  Now what was your name?”

“Tell Dr. Hammermill that Professor Peabody sent me.”  Slade saw her eyes momentarily open wider and noticed a slight shake to her hands. 

“Who?”

“Professor Carl Peabody of Johns Hopkins University.  Had a student named Stanley Watchman.  They both speak highly of Dr. Hammermill.  Thought I would drop by and say, Hi.  You will pass it along?” asked Slade, watching her closely.  Her hands were visibly shaking and he noticed she leaned back in her chair, trying desperately to maintain control of the conversation.

“I’ll let him know.”

“Don’t you want to write down the names I just gave you?”asked Slade, and then lowering his voice, he added.  “Or do you know Professor Peabody and Stanley?”

This time she rose from her desk and looked straight at Slade.

“I can remember two names.  But I still don’t know your name.  Perhaps you would like to tell me your name or I can call security.”

“No.  No, I didn’t tell you my name, Sally.”  Slade had looked at her name plate on her desk.  “Tell Dr. Hammermill I’ll tell him my name when I see him.”  Without another word Slade turned and walked out the door.

Sally slipped back into her chair and picked up the phone.  Dialing Dr. Hammermill’s number she was put through to voice mail. 

“Dr. Hammermill this is Sally.  I need to let you know about a man who just stopped by.  He was asking about Stanley and a Professor Peabody.  I thought you should know.  Please call.  He did not give his name.” 

  Sally had turned her back on her desk to stare out of her office window when she made the phone call.  When she swiveled back around, she was startled to see Slade standing in front of her desk and her sharp intake of breath was indication of her surprise. 

Slade had waited outside the door for several seconds before quietly opening the door and creeping back inside.  He had hoped Sally would call Dr. Hammermill and could not believe his good luck when she had her back to the door while on the phone.

“I’ll call security.  What are you doing in here?”  Sally defiantly rose from her desk and stared angrily at Slade.

“Go ahead.  And I’ll tell them you may be involved in some murders.”  Slade reached over and took the phone off the cradle and tossed it down in front of her.  “I’m waiting.”

“Get out of this office.”

“Not until you tell me where Dr. Hammermill is.  I need to speak with him.  I have knowledge of what happened and I can keep my mouth shut, but for a price.  Understood?”  Slade glared at Sally and she moved back.  If she was implicated she would bite on the offer.

“He is out of the country.”

“Where?” Slade pressed the questioning.

“I can’t tell you.”

“Then maybe I’ll go to the police.  Maybe they’ll want to question you Sally.  A young doctor is dead, along with a professor and his wife.  Maybe they have a whole lot of questions for you.”   Slade turned as if he was going to leave.

“Wait a minute.” 

When Slade turned around Sally had moved around the desk and was standing directly in front of him. 

“I don’t know where he is.  I know he’s out of the country and I don’t know when he’ll return.  He’s told me it’s best if I don’t know.  But I’ll call him and let him know of your request….or offer.”  Sally had turned slightly pale.

“How did he get to where he was going?”

“Private flight.  That’s all I know.  Honest.”

“When did he leave?”

“Two days ago.”

“How did you know Stanley and Professor Peabody?”

“I’m not saying anything more to you.”  Sally retreated behind her desk.  “I only work here.  I hear things, but I’m not involved.  You need to talk to Dr. Hammermill.”

Slade remained silent for several minutes, his eyes boring into Sally.  She refused to make eye contact and she was growing more uncomfortable.  Had this been an official interrogation he would have turned up the heat, but he was playing this as unofficial as they came.  One last thing…

“Tell Dr. Hammemill to leave Shirley Waterbury alone.”  Slade said it as sternly as he could.

“Who?  I’ve never heard that name.”  Sally’s head had snapped up at the mention of Shirley’s name.

Slade nodded his head.  He felt she was telling the truth about Shirley – her surprised response had confirmed it. 

“I’ll be in touch.”  Slade turned and left the office.

There was little doubt in Slade’s mind that Sally was on the phone to Dr. Hammermill.  But what had Stanley been involved in with Dr. Hammermill that had led to his death.  Once away from the building, Slade grabbed his cell phone and called Bubba.

“Lost without me?”

“I need a favor.”  Slade shook his head as he grinned. He could always count on Bubba and June.

“Don’t you always.  Alright, go ahead.”

“I need you to find out what you can about a Dr. Hammermill and the Colorado Springs Brain Institute.  Seems our good doctor may know what happened to Stanley.”

“Anything else?”  Bubba had scribbled the information down on a sheet of paper. 

“Not right now.  I got a couple more phone calls to make and I’ll get back to you.”  Slade moved around some young girls on the sidewalk.  “How are things back there?”

“They’re fine.  Dustin Zane may have a lead on the mole here in Cedar Key.  Still checking on it.”

“Anyone we know?”

“No.  Haven’t gotten a name yet, just a lead.  I’ll let you know.”

“Call me if you uncover anything on Dr. Hammermill or the institute.  Be careful.”  Slade wished he was there to help them track down the person who had given information that had almost resulted in the deaths of his friends.  He could feel the anger boiling inside.

“You, too.  Talk to you soon.”  Bubba hung up.

The minute Slade was off the phone to Bubba, he called Professor Marse’s number.  The Professor did not answer and Slade figured he must be teaching.  Leaving a brief message, Slade flagged down a cab and had him take him to the nearest hotel.  No need to leave until he heard from Professor Marse.  Besides, he had not decided if he would pay Sally a return visit.  At least now he had a glimmer of a lead.

Read Chapter Nineteen