Discover more from Gary Paul Varner
THE TEMPLE OF MAGGIE STONE
Chapter 10: Pinkerton Part 1
A couple days later, Delphin gave his grand tour of the complex. The whole place was a labyrinth of observation rooms, offices and rooms filled with medical equipment. Then there were the long narrow rooms where the bodies were kept, four in total; although, Delphin only took them through three because the fourth was empty. He also showed them the living quarters for the rest of the medical staff. But as Delphin had said, they were not allowed to see Dr. Lane’s operation room which was on the lowest floor.
Delphin explained that the complex was comprised of four wings. The staff’s living quarters were set on a half-story, built like a loft, above the northern wing. The rest of the northern wing was reserved for the doctor’s and higher up’s offices. Dr. Lane and Dr. Blake’s offices were the two largest and built directly under the living quarters. Delphin allowed the newcomers inside the two doctor’s offices, and Maggie was surprised to see how low the ceilings were. She couldn’t jump without hitting her head.
The west wing held the observation rooms and the various labs filled with equipment. The four storage rooms containing the bodies were in the southern wing. The eastern wing was where the elevator came down, and it was divided into two parts. The rooms closest to the elevator were devoted to the security staff and contained the monitors for the cameras. The reason Maggie had never seen the guards who patrolled the facility was because they almost never left these rooms. The second half of the eastern wing was for the lower ranking staff, and the cafeteria was in the center of the complex, serving as a hub.
After the tour, Maggie spent most of her time using Robert’s phone to talk to Ashley, but she did enter the lab off and on and questioned the staff. She was surprised at how open the staff was about their various rolls around the lab; although, Maggie understood less than half of their explanations. Most of them spent their days reading brain scans and taking skin samples. Beyond that, she couldn’t make anything else out. Delphin also told them the rumors floating around the lab. Most of them revolved around the tension between Albertson and Dr. Lane, and there were whispers about a girl who’d come to life.
When Horace and Randolf finally returned, Maggie was lying on her bed with the television on, half-dozing. They opened her door without knocking and stood in the doorway.
She looked over at the two men. “What is it?”
“You’re needed. Follow us,” Randolf grunted. He seemed to be in a worse mood than usual.
“There’s no need to by mysterious about it. What are we doing once we’re down there?”
“Pinkerton is here,” Horace explained. “He wants an interview.”
Maggie had forgotten about the man Dr. Lane disliked so much. She got up and began to put on her shoes while Horace and Randolf opened Robert’s door. In a few minutes, they were all standing in the elevator as it descended into the lab. Once they entered the hallway, they went straight to the cafeteria. They stepped through the doorway and saw Dr. Blake, Dr. Lane, and Albertson sitting at one of the long tables, and on the other side, stood two people, one man and one woman in black suits. Neither of them seemed to notice the four as they entered. Standing by the woman was an old priest. He looked over and smiled, his narrow glasses almost falling off his roman nose as he did so. Between the two people in suits sat a man who was much younger than Maggie had expected. He looked to be in his mid-twenties. A black fedora rested on a tangle of golden blond, curly hair. He had a wiry, blond goatee. The young man was terribly gaunt, almost as gaunt as Maggie when she had cancer. A grey dress shirt hung over his shoulder. It was far too large for him, the extra fabric spilling from the waist of his jeans and bunched around the elbows to prevent the sleeves from falling past his wrists. He smoked a green pipe, and beside him, rested a black cane.
Maggie noticed the smell of tobacco floating in the air as he turned and looked at her. He smiled. It was a childish grin, completely disarming in its pure innocence. “Maggie Stone,” he chirped. “Or…Abigail something. Forgive me; I have not memorized your alias.” He looked at Robert. “And you must be Robert Stone, her son.” Robert nodded. The young man looked back at Maggie. “Please, have a seat. Take Dr. Lane’s chair. She’s glaring at me.”
Dr. Lane stood up. As she walked past Maggie, she tried to give the doctor a warm smile. Dr. Lane smiled as well, but it was forced. Dr. Lane stood by the doorway and leaned against the wall, crossing her arms like an angry teenager. Everyone else remained silent. They did not look at Maggie. Their eyes stayed glued to their feet. It was as if the whole party felt guilty. Maggie sat down and eyed the young man. “Pinkerton?” she asked.
The young man smiled and nodded. “I don’t look like much, do I? It’s okay. It can’t be helped. You have good timing. I haven’t really begun, so I’ll start with you. Is that okay?”
“Uh, sure,” Maggie said.
“Good. Let me begin by saying I’m very sorry for your loss,” Pinkerton said.
“Thank you,” Maggie said automatically.
“So, you’re the first one to officially go through the operation, correct?”
“Officially, yes,” Maggie said.
“Right, what was that like? Do you remember anything?”
“No, they knocked me out before the surgery.”
“So, no dreams? No odd thoughts?”
“Did anyone ask you if you had any dreams when you first woke from the surgery?”
“Did anyone ask about your mental state?”
“That’s strange, isn’t it? I mean, here they are, basically picking up your brain and putting it in another skull, and when you wake up, they don’t ask you any questions about how your poor old brain must be feeling. Weird, isn’t it? Why do you think that is?”
“I…I don’t know.” Maggie didn’t like the barrage of questions. Just so she could have a break, she asked, “What do you think?”
Pinkerton smiled at her knowingly. “I can’t say.”
Wouldn’t say seemed more accurate. This young man had a theory. “Can I ask you a question? I mean, as far as I can tell, I’m not in trouble for anything. So, this isn’t an interrogation. I can ask questions, right?”
Pinkerton’s smile grew. “This is an interrogation, but you can ask me anything you like.”
“Why the hat? Why the pipe? You’re too young to be smoking.”
Pinkerton laughed. “Boy, you are a mother, aren’t you!” He pointed at the hat. “For Dick Tracy.” He pointed at the pipe. “For Sherlock Holmes. I love those books. I’ve read them all several times.”
“Shouldn’t you be reading about real detectives?”
Pinkerton leaned forward, still smiling. “That would be boring.” Pinkerton leaned back, crossing his arms. He glanced up at the man and woman in suits behind him. His eyes returned to her, and Maggie could tell he was about to ask her another question, so she cut him off.
“The cane. Tell me about the cane.”
“Oh.” Pinkerton looked down, picked up the cane and set it on the table. “This, unfortunately, is a necessity. I have scoliosis. When I was eighteen, I had a corrective surgery, but something went wrong. Now, my back is straight, thanks to several well-placed rods, but my hips hurt like the dickens. I might be smart, but I’ll never play basketball.”
“Perhaps, you could use one of the bodies yourself,” Maggie said.
Pinkerton’s smile grew until he bared all his teeth. It was almost a laugh. “Wouldn’t that be funny,” he said. “My turn. Did anything weird happen after the surgery? Were there ever any bad dreams or a feeling of being watched? Did you start seeing things?”
“No,” Maggie repeated. “As far as I can tell, I’m in perfect mental health. I feel exactly the same as I did before.”
“Good,” Pinkerton said; although, Maggie thought he seemed a little disappointed. She must’ve ruined his theory. Pinkerton suddenly brought the palm of his hand down hard on the table. Everyone jumped. “Welp, I’m done,” he chirped. “Dr. Lane, shall we continue our staring contest?”
Dr. Lane looked at him then at everyone else, her face set with a cold expression. “Sure,” she said. “I’d love to.”
Maggie stood up and let the doctor have her seat. Dr. Lane glared at the young man, not blinking. Pinkerton’s toothy grin had turned back to a cocky smirk as he puffed on his green pipe, smoke dancing around him as it rose and dissipated in the air. “I’ve heard Dr. Blake’s account, but I’m curious to hear your version. Please, tell us what happened.”
“His story is the same as mine,” Dr. Lane said. “One of the bodies woke up. We don’t know why. The brain scans and vitals all appear to be normal. We were trying to process her mental capabilities, but we haven’t done any further experiments after the first day.”
“You mean the day the girl kissed your colleague.”
“Yes,” Dr. Lane said coolly. “After the initial incident, she has showed no signs of aggression.”
“Where is she now?”
“She’s in an observation room. We figured you’d want to have a look at her. Dr. Blake seems to think you can shed some light on the situation. I have my doubts. Besides, you’re supposed to be busy.”
“Oh, yes, recovering your missing bodies,” Pinkerton said, his smile returning. Dr. Lane winced. Maggie looked around the room. Only Robert and herself looked surprised. Pinkerton noticed their expressions. “Oh, she hasn’t told you? I suppose that’s only natural. It’s embarrassing. The first human experiment was done on a convicted serial killer. I don’t know why they chose one of the most dangerous killers in the state to experiment on, but they did. Well, it worked, and he was moved to the living quarters upstairs. If he’d just taken off, that would’ve been one thing, but our killer wasn’t content to merely make a run for it, no sir. He managed to steal the keys from the janitor who, let’s face it, is a nice enough fellow, but has a habit of befriending every person he meets. The convict managed to escape this lab with thirty bodies.” Pinkerton seemed to enjoy hearing Maggie and Robert gasp. He went on. “Now, this would have been bad enough, but it shouldn’t have done too much harm since the bodies are useless without anyone inside them, but a couple of our operatives claim they’ve seen a number of your bodies walking about in the city where we think our killer is located. They’ve tried to catch him, but so far, have failed. The strange hair was a dead giveaway, but he’ll probably dye it from now on. In short, thanks to government incompetence, we have a serial killer running the streets with thirty-one different bodies, and it looks like he has some way to activate them.”
“You can’t be serious!” Robert cried. “How…how could you not let anyone know about this?”
“To be fair,” Pinkerton said, raising his hand. “The police wouldn’t believe such a story, and it would take far too much time to convince them, and once we did talk them into believing us, they would spend more time looking for a way to shut the whole project down rather than finding the killer because, let’s face it, shutting this whole thing down would be much easier, and when it comes to police departments, most are more interested in looking busy rather than accomplishing anything. It was best to deal with this matter internally.” Pinkerton turned his attention back to Dr. Lane. “But there are a couple things bothering me. He didn’t just steal the bodies for money or to leak your secret which would’ve been easier. He stole them to use them, he stole them to feed his addiction.”
“So, you think he’s killing people again?” Dr. Blake asked.
“He hasn’t yet, but soon,” Pinkerton replied. “We’ve been lucky in this respect. He’s had to both mark his prey and learn how to operate the bodies. The problem is that he knew he could use the bodies before he left.” Pinkerton leaned back and crossed his arms. I think he stole something else, something which could transfer him from one body to the next. He left with some kind of device. What are these said devices, Dr. Lane?” Dr. Lane said nothing.
“Answer him, Rachel,” Dr. Blake said.
“Yes, please,” Albertson added.
Dr. Lane was silent for a time, but at last, she spoke. “Yes, there were such devices, but none of them had been tested. I didn’t think they’d work.”
“How many?” Pinkerton asked.
“Thirteen,” Dr. Lane said. “But none of this has anything to do with the problem we’re facing here! How did the girl wake up on her own? Do you think Silas Black has come back? Do you think he’s returned for the rest of the bodies? Are you saying you think he might be the girl?”
“That’s a good theory, but no,” Pinkerton said. We spotted him in Austin, Texas less than two weeks ago, and he’s been moving around the country ever since. We last saw one of your bodies in Des Moines, so that’s where we think he’s set up shop. Let me ask you this. If you didn’t think the devices worked, then why make thirteen of them?”
“Well…because…I don’t know. I thought if I made variations of the same concept, I’d get a success…eventually. You know…like, Thomas Edison and the light bulb.”
“So, you were experimenting with the devices.”
“No! I mean, not exactly. It’s hard to explain the process in a way that makes sense. I just knew, okay!”
Pinkerton shook his head. “Doctor, we may have already found the devices, well, two, at least. We were able to track down an apartment where Silas’ original body was seen moving some heavy boxes. I have two of my best agents heading there now. If they enter his apartment and find more than one of those devices, and they find they’re identical, then we’re going to know you’re lying. Do you understand?”
“Of course,” Dr. Lane said. “Are we here to discuss Silas’ escape, or are we here to find out why one of my bodies mysteriously came to life?”
Pinkerton shrugged. “I’m killing two birds with one stone, more than two really. There’s an obvious question I should have asked the first time I was here.” He looked up at the ceiling and watched the smoke from his pipe dance above him. “How did Silas move all that freight by himself without getting caught? I should have asked the day he escaped, but I was too focused on catching him before he had a chance to get out of the city, an error on my part. It’s one thing to steal the keys from a lonely janitor. It’s another thing to move so much freight without being seen. True, he dismantled the cameras, which was something he already knew how to do, but moving so much would have taken time, and not only did he take a bunch of bodies; he snuck into your lowest floor and took thirteen of your experimental devices. Your lowest level must contain better security than the level we’re currently in.” His eyes rested on the doctor once more. “He had help, and it was someone you know, Dr. Lane. You should have told us about the devices sooner. Rather than chasing this man across the country, I could have focused on finding the mole, and the mole would have led us to Silas sooner.” He sighed. “Well, too late now. I’ll need to look through your security footage, and I’ll need access to your lower lab. I’m to understand that you’re the only one who performs the operation, correct?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes!” Dr. Lane repeated irritably.
“Good. So, if I go down there and start dusting for prints, the only prints I’m going to find are yours, the men who built the laboratory, assuming some of those prints are still there, Silas’ and his accomplice. Is that correct?”
“I…I don’t see why not?”
“Doesn’t Delphin clean the lab?” Maggie asked.
“Oh, yes, that’s right!” Dr. Lane cried. “Delphin’s prints might be down there, too.”
“Okay,” Pinkerton said. “Is there anybody else?”
“No,” Dr. Lane said confidently. “That should be it.”
“Okay, good, great.” Pinkerton slammed his palm on the table again. “I need everyone except Dr. Blake to leave the cafeteria. I’m interviewing him again. Then I’ll call the rest of you in one by one.”
“Why weren’t you doing that before?” Albertson asked.
“Because I knew Maggie had nothing interesting to say, and I knew Dr. Lane hadn’t told everybody about the Silas Black problem. The rest can be handled individually. Now, goodbye.”
Everyone except Dr. Blake, Pinkerton and his entourage left the cafeteria. No one spoke as Pinkerton interviewed each person. Everyone was sitting on the floor and nodding off by the time Pinkerton stepped into the hallway with his gang and Albertson.
“Okay,” he said. “Let’s have a look at this girl.”