Discover more from Gary Paul Varner
THE TEMPLE OF MAGGIE STONE
Chapter 11: The Man
When Maggie saw Pinkerton standing in the lobby looking down at his cell phone, she turned to Horace and Randolf and told them to leave her and Robert alone with the young man. Both men agreed without protest, saying they would go and help Dr. Lane. Maggie thought they both seemed too spooked to put on their tough guy routines. When the two bodyguards left, Maggie nodded to her son, and the two of them approached the young man who noticed them right away. He didn’t say anything until they were standing on either side of him.
“I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but there’s no cell phone service in the lab,” he said absently.
“Where are your buddies?” Robert asked.
“Down in Dr. Lane’s lab dusting for prints. We had to get the keys from the janitor. They’ll be back within the hour.”
Maggie didn’t waste any time. “Pinkerton, you said I already know the answer to what’s going on, but I promise you I don’t, and neither does anybody else. Can you please tell us what you’re thinking?”
“Yeah, if you have a theory, that would be great,” Robert added. “I’m pretty tired of being here.”
“If you want to go home, I’d just go,” Pinkerton said. He pointed to the lobby doors. “No one is going to follow you. They may huff and puff about it, but they won’t do anything. Not ‘til they know what’s going on, and possibly, not after that, depending on how this goes. Either way, even if you spent your life on the run, you’d still be alive.”
“Hold on, don’t you work for the government?” Robert asked.
“Am I being interrogated?” Pinkerton asked. He chuckled, still looking at his phone. “No, I’m not the government. I’m…contract labor. That’s as good a label as any. The girl’s dangerous. As to the government doing something to cover up the situation, that’s a resounding maybe.”
“Why is she dangerous?” Maggie asked.
Pinkerton was about to say something, but his phone vibrated in his hand. He looked down. “Ah!” he chirped. “It appears we have found one of the good doctor’s devices!” He held the phone up so Maggie and Robert could see and clicked on the narrow white tab which said Logan. All three of them frowned.
The picture was of a long steel box which reminded Maggie of only one thing. “A coffin?” she gasped. It wasn’t shaped like a modern coffin, but like an archaic coffin from the old horror movies. There were strange symbols etched on the lid of the box. Someone had thrown the heavy lid open to reveal red, velvet padding and a tiny pillow.
“It’s definitely a coffin,” Robert said. “Are you sure this Silas guy didn’t just fake you out?”
“He might have,” Pinkerton said, studying the picture. “No, wait.” He pointed at the picture. Along the lip of the metal coffin was a thin line of symbols similar to those written on top of the lid. Pinkerton swiped his finger across the screen to the next photograph. What followed was a series of close ups of these symbols. They were nothing but a series of swirls, shapes and patterns Maggie didn’t recognize.
“Do you know what those are?” Robert asked.
Pinkerton nodded. “I mean, I recognize them, but I can’t remember from where. I’ll have to think about it.”
“Which means you’ll have Google it,” Robert said.
Pinkerton looked up at Robert and grinned. “Yep.”
They continued to scroll through the images until they came across another wide shot of the strange box. In this next picture, red circles had been drawn around several round glass spheres which were spaced about a foot apart under the ring of strange symbols. The next photo was a close-up of one of these strange spheres, a glass bulb connected to a small pole. The brass shaft stuck out about an inch from the wall of the coffin.
“I don’t suppose you know what that is?” Maggie asked
“I do actually,” Pinkerton said. “Tesla Coils.”
“Yeah, you know, from Nikola Tesla,” Robert said. “They’re like science fair projects. People build them in their garages and stuff.”
“They can be used for more than that,” Pinkerton said.
They went to the next picture. In it, the coffin’s outer walls had been taken out. Steel panels had been neatly placed to one side. It turned out that the walls of the coffin were hollow, and the inner workings of the device were housed inside. Maggie expected to see a series of computer chips and wires and objects she couldn’t recognize, but all she saw was the rest of the brass shafts which were connected to a steel housing. Maggie assumed the coils derived their electricity from a battery of some kind.
“All I see are the capacitors,” Robert muttered. “So, the doctor’s device is nothing but a bunch of mini Tesla Coils in a box?”
“And the symbols,” Pinkerton said.
“What do they have to do with it?” Robert asked.
“Well, one thing is for sure,” Pinkerton said, scrolling through the rest of the pictures, but only seeing more of the same. “When this thing is turned on, it looks like something straight from Frankenstein’s lab.”
“This has to be a set up,” Robert said. “Clearly, the guy made a fake to throw you off.”
The phone seemed to hear Robert. The next picture was of two naked bodies, one male, one female. Their hairless bodies, save for the neon-colored hair on their heads, rendered that theory impossible.
“Nope,” Pinkerton said. He finished scrolling through the pictures which were nothing but the bodies at different angles. “But there should have been two devices. The operation can’t be done without two boxes, one for the new body and one for the old. So, Silas wasn’t finished moving in. Let’s see…thirteen devices between thirty bodies. One device is going to be useless without the other, so there will be two per location. This means there should be five bodies in six different places. We got him just as he was moving in. We caught him by surprise. Good! We’re ahead of him.” He texted something to Logan and looked up at Maggie and Robert, smiling.
“How do you know the operation takes two boxes?” Maggie asked. “Dr. Lane made an odd number of them, so perhaps, you only need one.”
“No,” Pinkerton said. “You need something connecting the bodies together. I’m sure of it. I think the reason there were an odd number of devices was because she wasn’t finished making them when they were stolen.”
“It doesn’t make any sense,” Robert said. “How could she get the information from the brain to jump from one body to the next just using Tesla coils?”
“Perhaps, she’s not relying on the brain,” Pinkerton said.
“What does that mean?” Robert asked.
Pinkerton shook his head. “I’ve said too much. Look, if you are going to make a run for it, now’s the time.” He again pointed toward the lobby doors.
“You still haven’t made it clear why you think we’re in danger,” Maggie said. “I understand you and Dr. Lane have some bad blood, but she saved my life. I can’t just take off when she needs me.”
“You think she needs you?” Pinkerton asked.
“I need to be here when this project goes public. That was the whole point behind my operation.”
“What if it doesn’t go public?” Pinkerton asked. “What if they all wake up?” Maggie and Robert looked at each other then they both looked down at the floor. “What?” Pinkerton asked, his face turning pale.
“Before we left, a security guard told us a male had just woken up,” Robert said.
Pinkerton sighed. “Well, I guess it was bound to happen. Really, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner. But I was still hoping we had more time. People are always telling me I’m so smart. Heh, well, if I’m so smart, why am I always a step behind?”
“Pinkerton, tell us what’s going on.” Maggie said, growing impatient but trying to remain calm.
“I need to get to my team,” Pinkerton said without hearing her. He started for the hallways, then stopped. “I really wish I had working legs. Robert, do you like this place?”
“Not particularly,” Robert said.
“Then you won’t mind if I send you on a troubling errand. Promise me you’ll come back.”
“Sure,” Robert said, looking at Maggie.
Pinkerton took out his car keys and handed them to Robert. “There is a black Mercedes in the back lot. Open the trunk, and there should be a heavy black bag along with a few other items scattered throughout. Take as much as you can, and then return to your room. I’ll be by to retrieve the items shortly. Go.” Robert took another look at his mother and exited the lobby. “Maggie, find Dr. Lane. Tell her to meet me in the observation room. If they have the male, tell her to lock him in with the female which I’m fairly sure they’ve already done. I will be there as soon as I can.” He tossed her his phone. “Before you go, call your daughter and tell her to keep her eyes on her phone. Things may go wrong…soon.” He turned and started toward the hall again.
“Pinkerton, what’s happening!” she cried.
“The wrong kind of Eden,” he said and was gone.
Maggie did as she was told. She called Ashley, told her to stay by her phone and hung up before Ashley could ask too many questions. Then she ran down the hall.
Once she got out of the elevator, it took her a while to navigate the lab’s hallways. By the time she found the observation room, she saw Dr. Lane, Dr. Blake, Albertson, Horace and Randolf standing outside the door. Dr. Lane was fiddling with the keys while Horace and Randolf each held one arm of a giant, naked man who was at least seven foot tall. He looked like a version of Arnold or Stallone, and he stood there, watching all of them with mild, almost apathetic, patience. Maggie tried to act calm for fear of spooking the giant man who could have easily thrown the two men down the hall. When the door was open, they ushered the man inside. Maggie followed the group into the observation room and went straight to the one-way mirror with Dr. Lane, Albertson and Dr. Blake. She watched as Horace and Randolf opened the door leading to the inner room with the girl. The girl saw the giant man and stood up. Her eyes glowed with excitement, but she stayed behind the table. Horace and Randolf entered the room and pushed the man further inside. He stumbled a few steps forward then turned around slowly as the two agents began to leave. Maggie watched the naked man take three, long casual steps, stopping and standing in place as Randolf reached the door and had one foot in the room behind the one-way mirror. Horace was a step behind him.
“Hey, Horace,” the big man said.
Horace turned as if he were about to address any old person. Then he realized it was the big man who spoke, and he knew his name. Horace’s eyes grew wide, but before he could react, the big man wrapped his hands around Horace’s head and twisted. There was a loud snap, and Horace fell to the ground, twitching with wide, vacant eyes. The big man made a leap for the door. Randolf screamed and had just enough time to slam the door shut. There was a loud crash, and Randolf stumbled back.
“I forgot to lock it!” he cried just as the knob began to turn. He grabbed the knob. The door flew open six inches before Randolf somehow willed it shut through the brute strength of adrenaline. Dr. Blake was there a second later, screaming. The two leaned against the door, and the big man pushed from the other side. It was an even match, but by some miracle, the big man’s hands slipped from the tiny knob, giving Blake and Randolf enough time to lock it. The big man regarded his hand with a look of mild annoyance and began ramming the door with his shoulder, laughing. The door bowed with each blow, even though it was made of steel. The girl behind him laughed and began clapping.
“Horace!” Randolf screamed. He looked at Dr. Lane, eyes wide, as if asking what to do next. Dr. Lane shook her head, helpless. The big man banged on the door several times more before stopping and regarding the girl behind him. He walked toward her, and she toward him. The two met in front of the table and looked at the mirror, laughing in unison.
“What the hell?!” Albertson screamed. “What the damn hell!”
“We’re talking, Dr. Lane,” the girl said. “It’s what you wanted, isn’t it? We’re talking! The two sat on the floor. They faced each other, crossed their legs like kids sitting in a circle and began a conversation. Their tones were cold and mocking.
“How are you today?” the girl asked
“I’m just fine. How are you?” the male replied.
“I’m good. Don’t you think it’s funny what’s going to happen to them?”
“Oh, yes. I think it is very funny.”
“I do as well. We’re going to kill them.”
“Yes, we’re going to kill them.”
From there, the two naked humans switched into a variety of different languages, looking periodically back at the mirror with broad smiles. Maggie thought she heard Spanish, then French, but after that, she had no clue. At last, the girl looked back at the mirror and said, “There. Is that enough talking?” To Maggie, she sounded like an old crone.
“What do you want?” Dr. Lane asked through the microphone. The girl and the man both stood.
“DIE!!” the girl screamed. Her cry grew into an ear-piercing shriek. She held the note until Maggie saw from the corner of her eyes the male picking up a chair. He hurled it at the mirror, and there was a loud crash. Everyone jumped back, screaming. Maggie closed her eyes, expecting the two humans to leap through the mirror and break her neck, just like they’d done to Horace. When she opened them again, she saw the chair had not broken through. There were giant cracks throughout the window, each extending from the central point of impact. The whole thing looked like a spider’s web. The two bodies began laughing again.
“We’re coming through! We’re coming through!” the girl chanted.
“Then we’ll kill you! Then we’ll kill you!” the male chanted.
They repeated their chant until they were screaming. Everyone else watched and listened, dumbfounded, horrified.
“What is this?” Dr. Blake asked numbly.
“I don’t know,” Dr. Lane said.
“Dr. Blake?” the girl asked. “Do you feel tired?”
“Why do you want to kill us?” Dr. Lane asked through the microphone. She was trying to sound calm, analytical, but Maggie could tell she was fighting to suppress her blind panic, just like the rest of them. “We…We’re your creators. You should be grateful.”
“Oh, we’re grateful, Dr. Lane,” the girl said. “But now you’re in the way.”
“What does that mean? Why are we in the way?”
“Don’t worry. We’ll have you soon enough,” the girl said.
“Does this sound like something I’d program into one of those bodies?” Albertson asked suddenly. “You believe me now!”
“I…I don’t know,” Dr. Lane said, turning to the government official. Her eyes flashed at him with blind rage like she was angry her theory had been proven wrong. “You…You had something to do with this. I know it!”
“Why would I want to sabotage our project!” Albertson roared in return. “I wanted this to succeed, same as you!”
“It hasn’t failed!” Dr. Lane screamed, stomping her foot like a child.
“What’s going on in here?” Pinkerton asked, the door opening suddenly. The young man hobbled through the door on his black cane. The other three members of his team came in behind him. Pinkerton eyed the scene.
“Horace!” Randolf wailed. “They killed Horace!”
“Horace,” the girl wailed in return. “They got Horace, Pinkerton! They got Horace!”
“Shut up!” Randolf screamed. He made a move for the door.
“Randolf, don’t!” Dr. Blake screamed. “You’ll kill us all!”
Randolf stopped and sank back down to the floor. He began sobbing. Everyone watched the overweight man cry with helpless pity. There was a thud on the door, followed by three knocks on the mirror. Everyone turned and saw Horace’s pale face leaning against the broken glass. The big man was holding Horace’s corpse against the window. Horace’s eyes were rolled up into the back of his head. His mouth hung twisted and gaping in an expression of surprise. The girl grabbed the dead man’s jaw and began to move it up and down like a puppet.
“They got me!” she cried in her mocking tone. “Oh, they got me, Randolf! Whatever are you going to do? It hurts, man! I’m telling you, I’m dead, and it still hurts!”
“Shut up!” Randolf roared. He ran up to the mirror and began banging on it with his fist. “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!”
The girl began to sob, though she was smiling. She continued her fake cry, moving Horace’s jaw up and down to match her wails. The big man took Horace’s body and began shaking the corpse violently. The dead arms flailed. Spittle and droplets of blood landed on the mirror.
“I’ll kill you!” Randolf screamed. “If it’s the last thing I do! I’ll kill you both!”
“Randolf, that’s enough,” Dr. Blake said sadly.
“How is this possible?” Dr. Lane asked, looking at Pinkerton.
Pinkerton sighed. He looked tired, even sad. “We dusted your lab for fingerprints. There were a few old prints from the workers like we predicted; there were your fingerprints, and then there were the janitor’s, Delphin, no one else.” He looked at Maggie. “We also saw that you, Dr. Lane, were building even more of your devices, even after all the rest were stolen. We also got a good look at the machine you’ve been using for the operations. I would like to take you down there. I would like for you to explain to me how the machine works.”
“Hold on, what about the fingerprints?” Dr. Blake asked. “You didn’t find anyone else’s in there?” Pinkerton regarded Dr. Black and shook his head. “How is that possible? Did the culprit wear gloves?”
Pinkerton shrugged. “It’s a possibility.” The girl continued to fake cry as the dead body danced along the window. Pinkerton didn’t seem to notice. Maggie kept her eyes focused on the young man. “It’s going to be impossible to find out either way because although the locks downstairs are significantly better than up here, there are no cameras.” Pinkerton looked back at Maggie. “Robert is upstairs in his room. I’d like you to come with me.” He looked at Dr. Lane. “I want you to take everyone else downstairs. We need to wrap this up. The rest will be waking soon.”
“How do you know?” Dr. Blake asked.
“Because what’s stopping them?”
“We need to monitor their conditions!” Dr. Lane protested. “If they wake up, we need to take them to observation rooms. We’ll put more people on them. I call in more staff. We’ll treat the bodies like their dangerous. We’ll pay attention next time!”
Pinkerton looked at the dancing corpse in the mirror. “I think we’re a little past observation at this point.” Dr. Lane didn’t argue. She merely nodded. Pinkerton went on. “Maggie, Robert and I will join you shortly. There already happens to be a body down there, a pretty young girl. I want to see a demonstration.”
“Wait! NO!” Dr. Lane screamed, panicking. “I can’t…”
“Maggie!” Pinkerton screamed over her. Maggie jumped, surprised the small man could reach such volume. Without another word, he turned and went back into the hallway. Maggie followed him, leaving Dr. Lane who continued to protest while the corpse of Horace danced and wailed on the other side of the mirror.