The Wayfarer

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Three Worlds...a murder sends Grogan on a journey of mystery and intrigue

Submitted: March 05, 2018

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Submitted: March 05, 2018

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(Work in Progress)

 

The Wayfarer

“An Awakening”

By

Bill Bungeroth

 

 

 

 

 

“If time travel is possible, where are the tourists from the future?”

 ---Stephen Hawkins

 

 

 

 

 

 

Created by Bill Bungeroth & Ted Campdesuner

 

 

Prologue

 

 

His passage was relatively smooth having left Union Station about twenty minutes earlier.  Arriving by Uber at the safe house, he used his key guard to quickly enter the lobby via New Orleans street. Looking around, he glanced at his watch, and realized that both the doorman and the front deskman, having completed their shifts at Midnight, were both gone for the day. Their replacements wouldn’t be arriving for at least another hour, which was fine with him as he walked across the lobby floor towards the main elevators. He had hidden data in his rental unit and it would only take him a few minutes to retrieve it, and be on his way.

 

When the elevator dinged, he had reached the 28thth floor. Turning right he traipsed down the hallway towards #2809 as he looked over the glass barrier onto the atrium floor. At this hour he was the only visible occupant on all 29 floors. A stylish dresser, his wife and friends wouldn’t recognize him in his drab attire. A Wayfarer, he was both a creator and conduit of scientific theory and information. “Home sweet home,” he chuckled to himself as he keyed the lock and entered the apartment. Without hesitating he walked to the far side of the living room, stopped and looked at a series of parquet wooden tiles that were just beyond the reach of the carpet. Dropping down on one knee, he bent over, put his hand on one of the tiles, pressed downward and in the same motion turned the tile to the right. Like magic the tile popped up and revealed a secret compartment underneath it. He quickly retrieved the object of his travels, repositioned the tile to its original position, and headed for the door.

 

So focused on his mission he did not see the shadowy figure propel itself from the bedroom until it was too late. He struggled the way a fish does when caught and thrown onto the deck of a boat, thrashing wildly in an attempt to escape an inevitable death. A burning sensation was felt behind his right ear and in a matter of seconds his will to fight was over. He was awake, but the rest of his body couldn’t move. An object was taken from his right trouser pocket along with his ID and keys. Defenseless, he was then carried towards the doorway knowing he could only watch as the apartment door opened and closed behind him. Securely moved using a fireman’s lift, he was headed down the corridor when his carrier suddenly stopped, and to his horror proceeded to lift him up over the glass barrier. Powerless to do anything, he could only observe as his head and torso looked down at the atrium floor while his hips and legs remained on the safe side of the glass barrier. And then in an instant he was air bound hurtling towards the lobby floor, face first, not even able to scream.

 

As his assailant was leaving the building the elevator let out a ringing sound, signaling that someone was about to enter the lobby. Quickly she bent over the body, pulled out her cellphone and waited as the elevator doors opened. She was use to dealing with the unexpected, the only question being would there be a second victim before she could make her escape.

 

 

***

The advantage of the out of the way lake hideaway was he couldn’t be reached, other than someone physically hiking through the rugged wilderness and appearing on his doorstep. It was this once a year vow to get off the grid (commune with nature, fish, kayak, read or simply do nothing) that appealed to him most during his extended stay at his ancestral retreat. Looking around, one last time at his favorite place in the galaxy, he knew he would miss it. Then he headed towards the front of the log house, picked up his ruck sack and threw it on his back. He was leaving behind another world as he closed and secured the cabin door, whereupon nature greeted him with another magnificent summer day in the mountains. 

The first signs of dawn were slowly peaking through the trees as he reluctantly activated his ‘no service’ phone and began his journey downward. Not being able to take a straight line, It took him close to 60 minutes to hike down the mountain to where his car was carefully hidden. Taking off the camouflaged tarp and stowing it in the trunk, he slowly drove down the gravel road in his beat up four wheel drive vehicle. Just before he reached the main road, he gave out a long sigh, triggering one last look in his rear view mirror at the mountainous terrain he loved. For over 100 years the lakeside lodge, and the grounds around it, had been enjoyed from one generation to another. And as tradition would have it, the eldest male in line of descent, was responsible for overseeing the maintenance and sharing of the family vacation spot. When it was his turn to pass the baton to another, he would relinquish the duties to his only child, Maggie, the last of the Endrick generations, which would break tradition, and with whom he would be visiting with later today.

In order to be on time to meet his scheduling obligations, he decided to be on the Interstate by 6:00am. It was a two and a half hour return drive from his getaway cabin in the Kiefer Mountains to his townhouse in the city.  Normally he would be travelling with his wife, but that hadn’t been the case for the last three years--- her passing creating a void in his life. Driving above the speed limit, he mentally planned out his schedule for the day. First, he would shower then shave his beard, a symbolic final farewell to this years R&R. Then he would spend two hours in his home office, catching up on three weeks of suspended business activity before heading over to a late morning Sunday brunch with Maggie, Tim, and the kids. After that he would drive over to the club to meet his regular foursome, who delayed their normal early morning Sunday tee time in order to play an afternoon round with their friend.

His second floor office had now become his main office, and once he got situated he ignored all the traditional mail, catalogues, flyers and packages that his housekeeper had neatly stacked on his desk. Instinctively he knew that if there was anything important it would have been delivered via electronic message. His Heritage laptop fired up right away and at quick glance he had roughly 250 messages, even though he had set up an automatic reply to inform senders that he was on vacation and wouldn’t be back until today. As he reviewed the incoming communications, he stopped at one name, a colleague, Elwood Sprague, who he had talked to off and on during the past year. Both were scientists and experts in their field. Opening up the electronic correspondence, the ‘Subject’ read CME. Without a moments hesitation, he clicked on the

text fighting back a feeling of dread.

 Jim…In monitoring our solar system star there has been an increase in CME activity during this solar cycle. This acceleration and frequency over the last three weeks along with the dark spots is what concerns me, and has prompted this missive. Although the severity of the initial flares does not endanger Earth, I believe that based on your theory and previous findings, a massive magnetic reconnection is happening in the solar region that you predicted. These solar arcades could portend a long overdue CME----one that would have devastating consequences for the earth’s technology infrastructure and modern civilization. Although a lot of your contemporaries disagreed with your theory, they will soon find that your forecast is accurate; unfortunately they will have no means to offer you their mea culpa unless they visit you in person. Sorry to hit you with this on your first day back, but we both know this couldn’t wait. Let me know what I can do? Elwood.

 

Jim Endrick reread Elwood’s email a second and third time as he looked away from his computer, and out his back bay window onto another lazy summer day. The Sun was rising, providing its usual summer warmth. Considered by all of Earth’s inhabitants as a benign friend, the Sun’s dark side and threat to earth was never completely explained to the masses for fear it could cause panic among them. Understanding the significance of the heliophysicist’s conclusion, he just sat there thinking of his options and the various consequences. During the course of his day, he would verify everything Elwood said, checking and rechecking his findings against his own; though knowing Elwood as he did, he knew his interpretation of the data would be spot on.

A former military fighter pilot and astrophysicist, Jim, had been trained to be a rational thinker and an unemotional scientist when dealing with complex problems. However, if Elwood’s observations held up then what he had forecasted to happen, truly scared him. Fortunately or unfortunately, he had considered this contingency years before, hoping he would never have to execute Plan CME. Leaving his desk, he paced around his home office debating his next move. In mid stride his hazel eyes settled on a beautiful water color rendition of his late wife and daughter, which was hung on the wall directly across from his desk: Its secondary role being to hide a rather large wall safe. Approaching it, he swung back the gilded wooded frame and carefully placed his right hand on the combination lock and executed a right, left, right spin until he heard the final tumblers click.  He then pulled down on the safe’s handle and opened it. Looking inside, he ignored all the family documents, and pulled out a blue file at the back of the safe that was stamped ‘Confidential.’ Inside the classified folder was a list of names, surnames that the general public wouldn’t know. Going down the target list he picked up his phone and called the first name on it.

“Reed residence.”

“Tyler Reed?”

“You got him.”

“The Rabble is activated.”

 

 

Chapter One

 

Like clockwork, he awoke every morning at the same time, and even though he had planned to sleep in, he forgot to inform his biological time clock that today was the start of a mini vacation. A scant 20 seconds after he woke up, his back up alarm trumpeted a rock n roll music reveille announcing the beginning of another work day. Since he realized that falling back to sleep was not an option, he threw off his covers and in one fluid motion jumped out of bed. Looking around the open space of his recently acquired loft he shouted out to the empty occupants in the room, “I’m off.”

Shaking his head, as if the gesture would activate his brain, he headed towards the bathroom, which was one of two enclosed rooms in the loft. The other being the laundry room. Looking into the mirror he asked himself, “Are you ready,” realizing that today was not only the start of a four day vacation, but also the scheduled day of his ‘passage.’  

Grogan was a man, who adhered to schedules, and Thursday was his endurance day. Today’s workout would consist of a five mile run from his house to the end of Bucktown and back. Lean hipped, he had a powerful body that was built for strength. Motivating himself for today’s physical endeavor, he methodically started to gather his training apparel, which consisted of a pair of grey Nike sweats, worn out white gym shorts, and a blue and white tee short with the words ‘Police Academy’ emblazoned on the front. Rummaging through his various running shoes, he settled on a pair of Adidas Supernova’s then sat on the edge of his bed and started to get dressed; all the while listening to his favorite Morning DJ, Stevie C. on the home of Classic Rock in Chicago. Grogan could immediately tell from the stress level in Stevie’s voice that the morning host was off his game. Rather then kibitzing with his Co-Host Abby, he was describing a death in his building that occurred earlier in the morning. Grogan stopped dressing and listened intently to what the DJ was saying.

 “You know, Abby, I’ve never seen a dead body before,” Stevie said.

“Never,” his morning sidekick asked?

“Never.” Stevie adamantly declared, devoid of any humor.

“Are you sure who ever it was, is dead,” she asked?

“Yeah I’m sure, dead is dead,” he stated agitatedly.

 “Male or female,” Abby asked? Her normal role as a foil to Stevie’s outlandish humor, absent.

“I was afraid to look. A face plant right into the marble floor. Jeezus, they’re was blood all over the place. What a way to go,” his voice cracking as he said it. Taking a deep breath Stevie continued. “My guess is that whoever it was they must have fallen from one of the upper floors for that type of impact.” The phone lines were lighting up, unusual for that many calls this early in the morning. Stevie C. continued, “No one is up at that hour when I head to work, not even the doorman or front desk person. So when I got off the elevator, boom, I see a fellow resident, a female jogger bent over and as I walk towards her that’s when I see another pair of legs not moving on the marble floor. I was surprised that I stayed as calm as I did. She turned as she saw me approaching and before I could ask her if I could help, she told me she had already called the police and sent them a picture from her cell.”

“What did you do next,” Abby asked. She instinctively knew that this could be a ratings bonanza.

“Nothing.”

“Nothing,” she asked again?

“Yea, nothing...I had a show to do, so I just walked out of the building as if nothing happened and got into a Uber and came to work.”

“Incredible”…was Abby’s response. “Stevie I’m going to open up our phone lines and ask our callers what they think you should have done? The number is 312 545 2100. Should Stevie have stayed or left? Give us your opinion…312 545 2100. Also when was the first time that you saw a dead body? What was your reaction?

Grogan knew exactly where Stevie C. lived having seen him in the lobby or coming in or out of that high rise numerous times. The reason that the residence was familiar to him was that he had driven there countless times to either drop off or pick up his partner, Jenny Agutter. Not hesitating, he searched for and found his cell phone. Calling the duty sergeant, he inquired about the incident at The Paramount River North Apartments on North Orleans Street. Relieved to hear it was a male who had plummeted to his death; he was informed though not surprised that his partner was already there. He let the sergeant know that he was postponing his vacation and would join Jenny in her investigation.

‘Suspicious death,’ the words used by the desk sergeant to describe the incident. ‘Suspicious death’ he repeated it to himself. Besides Stevie C. and his partner Jenny, Grogan knew of a third resident in the building that had recently been brought to his attention. ‘Suspicious death,’ he said it again this time out loud; what were the odds that it was him as Grogan jumped into the shower and hurried to get to what he felt might be soon classified as a crime scene?

 At 30, Grogan was a grizzled veteran of the Chicago Police Department having made detective four years prior. A criminal justice and criminology major at Loyola of Chicago he joined the Chicago Police department immediately upon graduation.  He lived in a condo complex, just off of Chicago Avenue, in a neighborhood situated on the near west side of Chi Town called Ukrainian Village. The trip from his home to River North in his black Lexus, SUV, Sport Model would take no more than 15 minutes at this time of day.  River North was now one of the hottest neighborhoods in Chicago. Populated by young professionals, it rivaled Manhattan for its number of art galleries, nightclubs and restaurants in a concentrated area north of the Chicago River and the Merchandise Mart, south of Division Street, east of the Chicago River and west of Wabash. Its transformation started in 1990 as it ushered in an era of enormous residential high rise buildings, whose close proximity to the Chicago business community made it a no brainer for investment by Chicago’s real estate developers. Soon occupancies soared, which led to explosive growth throughout the redefined neighborhood.

As he approached the well healed high rise, he could see a police presence both inside and out. Jenny must have given the word that this was a potential crime scene. Getting out of his car in front of the building the first thing that he noticed were the two security cameras on the outside. They were positioned to be focused on the entrance to the building, however judging by their angles you could shield your face from them if you chose too. Nodding his head to a couple of the patrolman that he went through the academy with, Grogan proceeded to walk through the revolving door entrance as he immediately looked for the interior security cameras. Looking up he spotted four cameras inside the lobby; his initial reaction was that they were positioned in such way as to create dead spots in their video coverage. Grogan referred to them as contractor cameras designed to give the residence the illusion of security while offering none. The yellow tape which signified a crime scene was already up as he ducked under it. He spotted the victim right away and immediately looked overhead to the skylight and to the floors above. His guess was that he had taken flight from one of the upper floors for that type of impact. Grogan wondered what the ‘Vic’ was thinking as he passed from floor to floor?

Wasting no time he walked up to where the deceased lay. “Jenny, anyone know the time of death?” Caught off guard by the voice asking the question, she was still bent over the lifeless form looking for clues. Surprised, the first words out of her mouth were, “I thought you were off”?  Then realizing that no response was forthcoming, she answered, “Cad is in the process of figuring it out.”

“Cad,” short for Cadaver, was the nickname of the medical examiner who was in charge of the yet to be determined crime scene. Overhearing the conversation between Detectives Grogan and Agutter he turned away from his assistant in order to answer Grogan’s question. “Between the hours of 3:00 and 5:00 am. The doorman and front desk personnel left around midnight and the new shift didn’t arrive until 5:30am. A occupant of the building, who was on her way out for an early morning jog, discovered the ‘Vic’ around 5:00am. Can’t tell if he was pushed or flew on his own.”

Jenny spoke up next. “Nothing on him to identify him.”

Grogan nodded knowing that Jenny had already sent a couple of patrolman to go floor by floor to see if anyone had obviously left their door open or cracked.

‘I’ll talk to the front desk.” Grogan said to Jenny and without any further explanation he turned and headed in that direction.

Observers to a murder, Grogan knew, reacted in different ways.  The front deskman appeared calm as he stood nonchalantly behind his desk preparing for the day’s activities.

“You okay,” Grogan asked. The front deskman was in his mid thirties, impeccably dressed in a grey suit with a white shirt, accessorized by a Half Windsor Knot black necktie, and black onyx cuff links. Grogan couldn’t see his front deskman’s feet, but if he was to venture a guess his shoes would be laced up black wingtips.

“I’m fine,” came the prompt reply from the deskman. “Served in Afghanistan, this is not the first body that I’ve seen.”

“You and the doorman on the early shift this week,” Grogan asked?

“Yep. Charlie and I alternate every other week with Harry and Fred. Prime shift arrives at 6:00am and leaves at 3:00 pm; night shift arrives at 3:00 pm and leaves at Midnight. Two breaks each 30 minutes long. Easy work, decent pay.  

“Did you recognize him,” Grogan asked referring to the body in the lobby.  

“No, can’t say I did.

“Well, why don’t we go over to the body and look again.” Grogan stated in a voice that was neither friendly nor intimidating. “By the way, what’s your name?”

“Jason…Jason Allen.”

“I’ll want to see the surveillance video, so make sure it doesn’t get erased, Jason.

“We don’t control it besides it’s archived for at least 90 days.”

“Good. You saw what he was wearing when you got here, and my guess is that if I was to show you clothes from each of the residents in this complex, you could narrow the wearer down to two to three residents based on their style or lack of…Right,” Grogan’s eyes were boring through Mr. Ambrose, looking for any tell tale signs of lying.

A smirk started to cross the front deskman’s lips, though he tried to keep it hidden from the detective. He judged everyone based on their dress and the occupant who had fallen to his death, on a scale of one to ten on style points, was a five. Nothing flashy, casualwear, his clothes fit his demeanor; the lifeless form on the lobby floor dressed for the most part out of date, and was more of a Macy’s shopper than Neiman Marcus.

Grogan opted not to say another word. Instead he waited and used silence as an interrogation technique to find the truth.

Finally the deskman broke his silence. “Judging by his attire, I would guess that it’s Richard Levanthal. He resides or resided in 2809.”

Grogan immediately recognized the name; Levanthal was a ‘Wayfarer.’ Appearing uninterested, the lead detective asked, in an appreciative manor. “Do you have a key to his apartment?

Jason opened up the desk door in front of him and took the master key out for #2809 and handed it to the investigator. “That’s the only key I have, so I’ll need it back.”

Grogan nodded and then walked over to Jenny who was still talking to Cad.

“Richard Levanthal, Apartment 2809. Let’s check it out.” Cad, why don’t you join us”?

 

Chapter Two

 

Designed in 1916 by the famed Chicago Architect, Daniel Burnham, who also designed the World’s Columbian Exposition Center in 1893 and some of the most iconic buildings in New York City, Washington and Chicago; Union Station was completed after Burnham’s death in 1925. In its hey day, during the second world war, 300 trains and 100,000 passengers utilized the Midwestern transportation hub on a daily basis. To say it was an impressive edifice would be an understatement. It’s footprint covered nine and a half city blocks, and was located west of the Chicago River. Bordered by West Adams Street to the north and West Jackson Boulevard to the south, its exterior consisted of Indiana limestone from Bedford, accentuated by Beaux-Arts facades, massive Corinthian columns, impressive marble floors and the piece de resistance, the Great Hall that with its beautiful brass lamps. Unique in its day it was and still is the only double track station, where 24 tracks approach the station from two different directions and most do not continue through or go under the train station.

Impressive by adults standards, imagine Union Station’s affect on children as they entered the Great Hall for the first time with their parents. Add to that the anticipation and excitement of taking your inaugural train ride. At six years old, Young Grogan had never been in a building this large. He held his mothers hand tightly as they walked through the Great Hall amidst a sea of passerby’s rushing in countless directions while the overhead announcer alerted the travellers to the arrival and departure of various trains to parts unknown. They were headed to Denver to visit Young Grogan’s grandparents who lived in a Colorado community called Golden. Margaret, everyone called her Maggie, was a single mother who had moved to Chicago in the early 90’s, found work as a court stenographer and decided to stay. The child, who kept looking upward at the barrel vaulted skylight, 110 feet above his head, had no idea who his father was, having never met him or seen a picture of him.

Maggie, as was her nature, was always punctual as she arrived at the train station 60 minutes ahead of schedule. After looking around, she chose one of the many large wooden benches in the center of the Great Hall to sit and wait with her son for the 3:30pm California Zephyr that travelled from Chicago to San Francisco with an intermittent stop in Denver. As usual the Great Hall was a buzz of activity, offering a child of six only limited activity---to sit and wait or play with whatever he brought to amuse him. Whereas other children his age would get restless, Young Grogan was content to remain in his seat and take in his surroundings. Even at that age he was an observer of people. Lost in thought, he barely heard his mother’s chatter as she talked about their upcoming visit and how everyone would be so excited to see him and how much fun they were going to have on their summer vacation. For some reason the word vacation stuck with him as he started to repeat it out loud as he looked around the Great Hall. It was there that ‘The Wayfarer’ process occurred for the first time. While his mother read a magazine his body started to tingle and his vision started to change. The color of the entire Great Hall turned a bright yellow and green as the observant child focused his attention on the East Wall. The yellow and green lights started to form a tunnel and once it was completed a man, suddenly, came through it. First came the front half of a human body, followed by what appeared to be light streams emanating from behind him, until the rest of his personage came through the solid wall, instantly uniting the two halves.

Young Grogan watched in amazement. Turning towards his mother, who was still reading, the six year old screamed, “Mama did you see it. Did you see it?”

“See what,” was Maggie’s instant reaction as she stopped reading and turned her attention towards her child. Her young son had triggered an internal alarm, followed by a vivid startling effect as she looked down at him then quickly glanced around the Great Hall, to see what he was so excitedly talking about and if they were in danger.

“Mama a man came out of the wall,” the child explained with glee. He raised his hand and made a fist and then thrusting his little hand and arm forward towards the green and yellow wall, he animatedly said, “Just like that,” as he released his fist with his five fingers spreading outward. Not sure if his mother understood, he jumped off the wooden bench they were sitting on, and ran and hid behind another bench with the same wooden back rest that was positioned in front of his mother. Young Grogan waited for several seconds before suddenly jumping out and appearing in front of her. “Just like that,” he said again, and again.

Maggie stood up and looked around the vast open space deciding to play along with her son’s new game. But as she suspected, everything appeared to be normal. “Was he a spaceman she asked,” encouraging her son’s vivid imagination. “Was he wearing a space suit?”

“No Mama he was wearing regular clothes. Didn’t you see him,” his young voice expressing a tinge of disappointment that his mother hadn’t seen the travelling man as the green and yellow colors dissipated, returning the Great Hall’s visual presence to normal.

Sitting back down and situating herself, Maggie returned to her magazine. Having a sense of time, she looked up at one of four Great Hall wall clocks (which were highlighted by gold colored roman numerals) to check the time. She then let her eyes fall below the clock to the train schedule that was constantly updating in order to confirm that the Zephyr was on time. Flashing her we’re going to have a great trip smile, she said to Young Grogan,  “We’ll start boarding in another thirty minutes. It shouldn’t be that long before were riding the ‘Silver Lady on our way to see Gramps and Nana.” Seeing her child continue to fixate on the East Wall, she halfheartedly attempted to regain his attention by saying, “Let me know if he comes again?”

“I will Mama, I will,” as he momentarily turned away from the East Wall to answer Maggie’s question. Was it real, the six year old asked himself as he once again looked towards the bursting wall in search of another superman propelling himself into the Great Hall?

 

Chapter Two

 

As the elevator doors opened on the 28th floor of The Paramount condo complex, Jenny took the lead as she steered them towards 2809. Grogan never asked his partner about her living accommodations, but he knew that the units were divided into one, two and three bedrooms. If not the most expensive residential real estate in the River North neighborhood then it certainly had to be in the top three. A step behind Jenny and Cad, he couldn’t imagine the dent even a single unit would put on his detective salary. Without doing the math, he knew that the only way he could afford to live here would be if his mortgaged was subsidized, which is exactly how Senator Agutter’s daughter was able to bear the cost of her luxury condo.

As they got closer to Leventhal’s unit, Jenny started her tour guide patter. “The building was designed by the renowned Chicago architect, Poiter Madden. His aesthetic ambition is seen in each of his architectural masterpieces, which are known for their beautiful skylights (allowing natural light to emanate throughout the interior of his buildings) culminating in a feeling of openness on each floor and throughout the atrium lobby. Most of his previous work had been on office buildings. The Paramount was his first residential scheme, a one of a kind design that critics believed achieved its full aesthetic potential.” A lover of art, Jenny took pride in describing this architectural masterpiece that she called home. Flipping a switch, the art critic retreated and the junior detective resurfaced as she continued. ‘There are 29 residential floors in The Paramount with a communal floor on the twelfth that houses a large workout room, a swimming pool, and various entertainment spaces.  Each residential floor has thirty units that wrap around the atrium. A glass safety wall, roughly five feet in height, is used as a protective atrium barrier for the residents.”

 

At six foot one, Grogan put his hands on the top of the glass retainer, pressed his body against it and leaned over. “Tough to accidently fall over this wall. Leventhal would either have had to pull himself up, swing his legs over the barrier glass, and jump. Or he had help.”

“I concur,” was Jenny’s rejoinder, just before Detective Agutter stopped in front of #2809.

Before she could put the key in the lock, Grogan reached around her and opened the door. As they entered, all three were wearing plastic gloves in order to avoid leaving their own fingerprints on the premises. Whatever they were looking for they didn’t find on first glance.

Jenny was the first to express their collective thoughts. “It looks like a display unit. One that you would show perspective clients,” then adding, “a showcase marketing unit without any attempt at warmth.”

“Honestly it looks like a hotel suite room without the Gideon bible,” was Cad’s observation as he walked around the room looking for any evidence of occupancy.

Grogan left the living room and his investigative twosome and walked into the bedroom. The king sized bed looked like it had never been slept in. ‘Safe House’ were the two words that immediately came to mind.

There were no clothes in the closet or personal items displayed anywhere. It took less than twenty seconds for Grogan to confirm that Leventhal’s condo unit was a way station and not a residence.

“Anything in there?” Cad asked, as Grogan exited the bedroom and walked back into the living room where the medical examiner and Detective Agutter were continuing their futile search. Grogan shook his head and extended his arm as if to say you’re welcome to take a look yourself. Neither Agutter or Cad made a move. Grogan recognized that the unit offered no insight, whatsoever, as to how the occupant in 2809 lived his life and it showed on the junior detective’s and medical examiner’s faces.

Maintaining his poker face, knowing that Jenny was watching his every move, Grogan turned to both Detective Agutter and Cad, and said, “Set up the condo unit as another crime scene. Dust the place for prints, including the glass safety barrier. Make sure you go up and down the hallway, about fifty feet in both directions; we still don’t know where Leventhal went over the barrier on his way to a face plant in the lobby. Any questions? No? Let’s go back to the lobby.”

Grogan was the caboose as Jenny and Cad headed for the exit. He thought to himself that there was nothing worse in a detective’s and ME’s life than finding an unproductive crime scene. Grogan knew that other than Leventhal’s prints, the person that they were looking for in unit 2809 hadn’t existed, at least according to their definition of being. As the last to leave the condo, Grogan inserted the front deskman’s master key in the lock and secured the unit. Then he turned around toward his associates, who had a ‘what’s next’ look on their faces. He didn’t say a word at first as they waited for his lead. Then his steel blue eyes focused on Jenny, “Who found him,” he asked her?

Jenny pulled her notebook out of her side pocket, and began to rummage through her crime scene pages. Finding what she was looking for she looked up at Grogan and answered. “Liz Hollingsworth… Unit 2825.”

Tilting his head to the right, Grogan reset his bearings realizing that Hollingsworth resided on the same floor as Leventhal. “Anyone interview her?”

Again Detective Agutter referred back to her notes. “The first patrolmen on the scene saw Hollingsworth leaning over the body though the glass windows of The Paramount. Patrolman Henehan and his partner Harner immediately secured the crime scene.” Then continuing to go over her page notes, she said, “Henehan called it in, interviewed her when he first arrived, and then let her go for her jog after taking her statement. His thought being that Leventhal was a jumper and that he took his own life.”

“Has anyone talked to her since,” Grogan asked, as a sense of uneasiness was growing within him?”

Looking down and then up from her notes, Jenny said, “No,” uncomfortable with her answer.

“Well since we are already on the twenty eighth floor, why don’t we pay her a visit,” Recalling the sequence of numbers on the doors Grogan turned to his left and headed in the direction of 2825. The caboose had become the engine. 

Jenny knocked on the door twice before announcing,” Miss Hollingsworth, Police. Can we have a word with you?” Getting no response, she turned and looked at Grogan as if to say, what do you want me to do?

Grogan didn’t hesitate for a second, and once again reached around Jenny and tried the doorknob. It opened without any resistance. Stepping across the threshold he called out, “Miss Hollingsworth, Police, I’m concerned for your well being after witnessing such a traumatic event.” He repeated his words a second time in case any of the three of them were to be questioned later as to why they entered the unit without permission.

“Another model showroom,” was Cad’s pronouncement as the threesome proceeded to walk into Hollingsworth’s relatively empty unit.

“Looks to me like inexpensive rental furniture plus no pictures, or life accessories.” Jenny then scratched her head as she continued to take in the sparsely decorated room.

“I’ll check the bedroom,” as Cad stepped around Grogan and headed down the hallway. It came as no surprise to Grogan, when ten seconds later, the ME’s voice carried through the hall from the back bedroom with the following pronouncement. “It hasn’t been slept in---nothing in the closet either.”

“Shit,” was Grogan’s immediate response.

An uncharacteristic expression of emotion from the ’Iceman.’ One of his fellow detectives dubbed him the nickname after he broke one of the major homicide cases in the city. Grogan was the ‘Iceman,’ unflappable, regardless of the situation. This out of character reaction by the ‘Iceman’ didn’t go unnoticed by his partner. The question in her mind was why?

 

Chapter Four

 

Over the next twelve years, whenever he entered a large public gathering like a train station, airport or a government building, he would look for and or sporadically observe multiple travellers bursting through the interior walls of these communal spaces then vanish into the crowd. And no one would notice or say a word. Not a single word. Could he be the only one, he thought, that saw these travellers? If so, why him? Once, when he was 12 years old, he got the courage to share his secret observations with his best friend. And although his friend listened closely to what Young Grogan was saying and professed to accept it as truth; Young Grogan instinctively knew he didn’t believe him. From that moment forward, he decided it was best to keep his secret to himself. Human nature being what it is, Young Grogan occasionally still felt an obligation to ask those around him (whenever he observed a passage) if they saw anything unusual; knowing their collective response was always the same…“No, nothing, why do you ask, did I miss something”?

On Friday morning, seven days after his eighteenth birthday, while his mother was visiting friends in Denver, Young Grogan, took it upon himself to visit Chicago’s Union Station and test out a theory he had been toying with for the last year. The clothes he had on mirrored the ‘Travellers’ (a name Young Grogan used to identify the wall busters) in that they were considerably older than how people dressed today or what he would normally wear in 1998. He had purchased his clothes the night before from a local vintage thrift shop. He could only imagine what the reaction would be from his friends if they saw him walking into the Great Hall with a pair of faded Levi’s blue jeans, a grey tee shirt that his grandfather left and scuffed up brown iconic cowboy boots that could have been worn in any era. The only relatively up to date items on his possession was a recently purchased Swiss Army wrist watch from his graduation money, a Vintage 1997 Chicago Bears Siskiyou belt buckle and belt that he purchased on his own, and a black 301 Cadet Buck pocket knife that his grandfather had given to him on his fifteen birthday.

Entering the Hall, the young adventurer felt nervous, and with each unsteady step he took, he could feel the sweat on his forehead, even though it was summer and the train station was air conditioned. Looking around he decided to circle the Great Hall, first, in order to calm down and, second, to get his bearings.  Unsure as to what his next step would be he avoided eye contact with everyone in the room. Then as his pulse and gait returned to normal he took his time and slowly walked up to the East wall. Almost afraid to touch it, he slowly reached out with his right hand and put his palm with his five fingers extended against the limestone surface. Whatever he was expecting to happen didn’t. However, instead of decreasing the anxiety within him, it had the reverse effect of creating an atmosphere of nervous apprehension. Certain that he was being observed he quickly scanned the room as he stepped away from the wall. Yet, not a single face stood out or appeared to show the slightest interest in his presence. Undeterred, he walked up to the large wooden benches, where he and his mother had sat some twelve years before, and positioned himself in such a way, so he could view the East Wall and to a certain degree the West Wall. The ‘Travellers’ he had observed had only entered public structures through the East wall. Did they only come and never leave? He had been pondering that question for some time as he waited for his body to tingle and for the green and yellow tunnel to be formed. With the clock ticking, he heard the various train announcements through the Great Hall loud speakers; informing the waiting public of future destinations, Young Grogan, would like to visit and those he had no interest in pursuing. And there he sat for the next three hours on ‘Traveller’ alert.

Apparently there wasn’t going to be a passage, today. Growing restless, Young Grogan looked at the large Great Hall clock that faced him, and decided it was time to head back. Convinced that he had been wasting his time and money, having bought out of date clothing for the day’s excursion, he deemed his ‘Traveller’ experiment a ‘failure.’ A better word would have been a ‘disaster’ as he shook his head in disgust knowing that he had blown off an outing with his friends and some anticipated female companionships. For what, he asked himself. Then a little bit of panic started to creep in…what if the ‘Travellers’ weren’t travellers at all, he asked himself, but a figment of his own imagination, brought on by his aversion to public surroundings? Putting his hands up to the sides of his head, he ran his fingers through his hair as he let that unsettling thought recede.

Time to go, as he stood up and got ready to leave. Walking towards the exit, it was then that he felt a familiar tingle in his body.  Recognizing the sensation he immediately turned and looked towards the East Wall, but to his surprise he saw nothing. Yet his bodily sensations continued to increase in intensity. Turning to his left he saw a red and blue light slowly forming a ‘Traveller’s’ tunnel on the West Wall. He sensed movement before he saw any, then out of the corner of his right eye his peripheral vision picked up a man getting up from the same bench he had been sitting on and slowly and deliberately walking towards the West Wall. His attire was similar to Young Grogan’s in that it was out of date. By the time the ‘Traveller’ reached the West Wall the red and blue tunnel was completely formed and right before Grogan’s eyes the man walked through it and disappeared.

Young Grogan, elated, suddenly realized the walls significance, East Wall entrance and West Wall exit. Getting up from his seat he thought about the ‘Traveller,’ who had just left the Great Hall for parts unknown, and then he began thinking about the attire that both of them were wearing---out of date, vintage clothing. A quick glance around the room assured him that no one was the least bit interested in his movements, but more important than that, he now knew he wasn’t crazy because he knew what he saw. Again, he asked the question…Why me? This time he was sure he had an answer. Walking over to the West Wall, where the disappearing passage had occurred, he put his right hand on the wall. Yet, nothing happened. He walked away and then did it again. But, nothing transpired. Standing in the center of the Great Hall looking at the West Wall he realized it was up to him to solve the puzzle of the passages. Was he only an observer or was he also a ‘Traveller?’ What was the key? How did the ‘Travellers’ accomplish their passages? “Why me,” he asked again this time out loud. But standing there in the Great Hall between the East and West Walls the question of, ‘Why me, was answered because he finally realized that he was one of them…a ‘Traveller. The answer he conceded had been there all along, he was just too afraid to acknowledge it.

Determined to use both his mind and his instincts, he wrestled with the idea of what triggered a passage besides vintage clothing; if indeed that was part of the passage puzzle. Deliberately he headed back to the wooden bench and sat in the same spot that the ‘Exit Traveller sat in, and waited. Still nothing happened. Checking his watch, he came to acknowledge that non of the Travellers’ wore wristwatches or for that matter, accessories like jewelry. Following his gut, he left the bench and headed towards an anteroom off the Great Hall where he rented a locker. Looking inside the empty chamber, he hesitated; uncertain as to where the journey he was contemplating taking would lead him. Determined to find out what this was all about, he put his watch and belt in it. And as he was about to lock it and turn the key, he pulled the pocket knife out of his jeans and his wallet out of his back pocket. He immediately tossed the knife into the locker before looking at his wallet. What if he needed cash, he had seventy five dollars on him, four twenties, a ten and a five. He decided to keep the cash and leave the two credit cards behind. That left him with one remaining item to carry, his drivers license, whose print format hadn’t changed since the fifties. It was the only identification he had, so he decided to keep it. Satisfied with his choices, he turned the key in the locker, locked it and took it out. Now what? He decided to take a chance and put the locker key in his left pocket along with his cash and license---after all key styles hadn’t changed in years.  

Walking back into the Great Hall, he proceeded to sit down on the same wooden bench he previously sat on, and this time instead of focusing on the entire wall he concentrated on an object on the West Wall. The more he fixated on the spot, the more profound the intensity of feelings he felt, until that same thrilling sensation returned that was a precursor to all the entrances and one exit of the ‘Travellers’ passages. Young Grogan could sense molecular changes taking place in his body and as he remained riveted on the West Wall object, the Grand Hall gradually took on a red and blue hue. Finally, he reached the point where his entire body felt lighter. Determined to see this through, he got up from the bench and headed towards the red and blue light, which was intensifying in color while rapidly fabricating another tunnel in front of his eyes. Looking around him, everything appeared to be normal: as people rushed to catch their trains, sat and waited on the long wooden benches, checked their train schedules, and bought necessities and impulse items from the various stores that bordered the Great Hall. It was as if the red and blue tunnel and the newest ‘Traveller’ didn’t exist. It appeared to Young Grogan as if he was in one dimension and the rest of the Grand Hall inhabitants were in another. Fearless and tired of wondering, Young Grogan shrugged his shoulders and said aloud,  “What the Fuck,” as he stepped into the brightly lit tunnel on the West Wall and disappeared---to where he had no idea.

 

 

Chapter Five

 

It had been a long day and a not very pleasant one. With Elwood’s news, he felt he hadn’t been on vacation at all. As distasteful as lying was to him, he concocted an excuse that he had suddenly come down with a stomach ailment that would confine him to his townhouse for the rest of the day. He used it to cancel his Sunday brunch with Maggie and her family, much to their disappointment, and then parroted it via texts to his foursome buddies that they should play without him, which in turn solicited three unsympathetic responses all of which had the same theme that he was stiffing them.  If only they knew the real reason for his change of plans. Starting with Tyler Reed, he had made 35 phone calls, initially connecting on 50% of them. In between the calls, he checked Elwood’s calculations and his own formula and they both proved to be correct.

By the end of the day he had reached everyone in the confidential blue folder except for Harry Hansen and Richard Leventhal. Hansen was always hard to contact. A survivalist, his voice recorded message said that he would not be available until midweek. Though Jim would like to speak with him that conversation could wait. Leventhal on the other hand was crucial to the execution of Plan CME. Not only did he have a brilliant mind, he was a solar scientist, and if anything happened to Jim, he was next in command. What also made Leventhal unique was that he was a ‘Wayfarer’ and the Rabble’s communications could be passed along first hand without the use of a courier. Leventhal was the third name on the list that he called and he still hadn’t heard back from him even though he had left the cryptic message, “The Rabble is activated.”  Jim’s guess was that he was in another dimension, the question being which one?

At 8pm his phone rang, it was a call that he had been expecting.

“Endrick here.’

“I received your message and judging by its subject and tone I suggest that we meet tomorrow morning at your convenience. I will have a car pick you up and take you to a heliport. Upon arrival another car will ferry you to a meeting place where the four of us can discuss Plan CME. Any questions, other than what time do you want the car to pick you up?

“8 am,” was Endrick’s terse response, followed by, “I appreciate the speed in which you were able to set up the briefing.”

Then breaking protocol the distant voice at the other end asked one final question. “How bad?”

“Catastrophic,” was Endrick’s stated response before both lines went dead.

***

The time between Entrance and Exit felt like no time at all before Young Grogan burst through the East Wall of the Great Hall and effortlessly put his feet down on the marble floor. As he took his first steps he was now back among the railroad travellers that he left behind or was he? The Great Hall at first glance seemed changed---renovated---no out of date. There were also different shops surrounding the lobby compared to the ones he left. And as his eyes fell upon one of the Great Hall wall clocks, whose roman numerals were now black on a white background, it was the train schedules that really caught his attention. The mechanical flip boards were still there and you could still hear a clacking sound, but its design was from another era, say the forties. The Great Hall was still the Great Hall, but a younger version of itself. It was then that Young Grogan really took notice of what people were wearing in the transportation hub; It was right out of “Back to the Future,” one of his favorite movies, and he suddenly felt like Marty McFly, with one exception, his clothes weren’t out of date. The majority of men and women wore all style of hats; a significant number of men were also attired in collared shirts and ties while the consensus fashion for women was a dress. Travelling seemed to be a more formal affair in whatever year he had just travelled too.

Looking around he found the same wooden benches, placed in the same position that he had sat in before, except they looked newer. His nose sniffed a smell before he saw the smoke emanating from at least fifty percent of the travellers. “Didn’t they know about second hand smoke, he thought? Of course not.”

“What year was it,” he asked himself. There was a newsstand at the far end of the lobby with a rack of papers sitting outside it, so he casually strolled over to it. Glancing at the four newspapers on the stand, as if he planned to buy it, he chose the prominent one at the top of the news rack and read the masthead and the date The Times …June 6, 1958. He was in a world that was forty seven years behind his own. Next, he checked his left pocket for cash and pulled out a Lincoln before putting the fiver back into his pocket. He wondered again if the monetary currency had been updated since 1958, and would the news vendor know the difference? Weighing his options, he decided to take a chance. Walking inside he waited until the news, magazine and toiletry shop was mobbed with activity and the cashier’s line was long, Young Grogan patiently waited for the customer ahead of him to pay for her items. It was then that he noticed that the currency in her hand was different from the cash in his pocket. Trapped, he placed the newspaper, candy bar and a six and a half ounce glass soda bottle on the checkout counter while pretending to reach for his cash, checking each jean pocket in the process. Coming up empty, he said to the impatient cashier, “Sorry, I must of left my money at home.” The vendor, about to take the items off the counter, had no time to react before a voice behind Young Grogan said. “Got you covered, I’ll pay for it.”

Looking behind him, Young Grogan saw a young soldier in a unrecognizable military uniform smiling at him. Nodding his head he said “Thanks.”

“No sweat, been there myself,” was the soldier’s response, clipping his words.

Walking back to the wooden benches Young Grogan stopped at the same bench he sat in earlier today. He then waited until a passenger removed himself to catch a train, then before anyone else could claim the seat he took it---sitting in exactly the same spot that he sat for his ‘Exit.’ Observing the passenger and train staff activity around him, he felt like he was in a black and white movie that had been colorized. Taking in his recently acquired items, he did a fast accounting: the paper $.10, the soda $.05 and the candy bar $.05. “He was living large at those prices, compared to what it would have cost him back home.”

A clacking sound, straight ahead, refocused his attention on the mechanical flip boards that were updating the station’s train schedules. It was then that an uneasiness started to come over him. He fixated first on the train timetables then listened to the announcements overhead. There wasn’t one destination that he recognized. Next he grabbed the paper that was neatly folded next to him and immediately went to the sports page. The sports headline read Patriots lose to Barons, 4 to 2 in extra innings. He then scoured the box score, but to his surprise there was no Ernie Banks, no Cubs nor Sox or for that matter no National or American League. “What the hell,” he said to himself. “Where am I?”

Getting up he quickly he strode back to the news store, stepped inside, and looked for recognizable brands; Coca Cola soft drinks, Hershey chocolate bars and Wrigley chewing gum among others. But none were in the aisles as the previous cashier kept a close eye on him. Leaving the shop, he once again headed towards the preferred wooden bench. Sitting down, he asked his inner self again, “Where am I? He thought he had gone back in time to a world that he had read about and knew. This world was similar, but different as he took note of the Great Hall and wondered if it was even called the Great Hall. “What time was it, he asked himself,” looking at his left wrist before realizing that he had left it behind. Getting his bearings, he spotted the black numerals on the massive wall clock, if they were right; it suggested that he had been here for fifty minutes. Confused and knowing that he was out of his element; he had a feeling of trepidation about being able to exit and get back to his own world. Slowing down his breathing as his anxiety was rising, Young Grogan decided that he should leave within the next five minutes. The question gnawing at him---was he able?

 

 

Chapter Six

 

The ringing of the elevator bell announced that the investigative trio had reached the lobby floor. Cad was first out leaving Detectives Grogan and Agutter behind as he made his way over to Leventhal’s body. Taking in the crime scene he sought out his lead ME assistant who was watching the paramedics put Leventhal’s body on a gurney prior to sending him to the city morgue. “What do you think Jeff,” Cad asked, startling his assistant who recognized the voice before locating the ME.  

“Not sure til we do an autopsy” Cadaver was now standing next to Jeff as the assistant ME continued talking. “That’s a long way to fall face first. Hard to tell if he was pushed or he jumped. Jumped would be my guess, but to be honest I have no idea as his eyes slowly looked up towards the skylight.

“Any signs of blunt trauma on the back of his head? I know. I know.  We won’t be able to tell anything until we do a thorough autopsy.”

“Can’t tell Cad. I didn’t see anything unusual. Then a smirk crossed his face as he said in a low almost inaudible voice, “My guess, he’s another wealthy troubled soul, who could no longer bear to live in the lap of luxury.” Shrugging his shoulders, he signaled to the crew that the body was ready for transport.  

“Okay Jeff…Okay.” Cynicism was part of the job, but he didn’t have to feed into it. “I’ll see you back at the ranch. Let me find out where this case lands on our priority list.” The two nodded at each other, their informal way of saying goodbye. Cad looking around the atrium waited till he caught Grogan’s attention then signaled to him he was leaving. To his surprise Grogan left Jenny with the front deskman and hustled over towards him.

 

“I’m done here. Next step will be the autopsy,” Cad explained.

“How soon can you do it?” There was an edge to Grogan’s voice that was a little more defined than usual.

Cad tugged on his goatee and thought for a second. Grogan didn’t press him he just waited. “I should be able to fit it in sometime next week?” Cad shrugged while Grogan continued to maintain eye contact with the ME. Cad once again started tugging on his goatee as his neck tilted back and he looked upwards to the skylight. It was as if he was mentally rearranging his autopsy schedules. Then with an impish grin, he said, “I might be able to fit it in tomorrow, but It’ll cost you. These days I’m talking single malt with some years. Nothing blended.”

Grogan was used to negotiating with the ME and he could have cut a better deal, if he had the time. “Deal,“ as he extended his hand in the direction of the ME.

Reluctantly, Cad, shook it. Inquisitively he asked, “No negotiation, you just took my deal, just like that? Well in that case I’ll make it a priority. 

 Grogan answered Cad’s gesture with a simple nod of his head. Then walking with Cad over to where Leventhal’s body was found in order to keep the conversation to themselves, Grogan stated, “What I’m looking for is some type of drug in his system that would render him unconscious. It will be hard to find, but I’m certain that it’s there. My guess is it will be an unusual chemical compound’ perhaps something that you may have never come across before.”

Cad interrupted, “You talking military grade?”

 

 

 “Could be, not sure? Leventhal was of medium height, under 5’ 7,” about 145 pounds. Hollingsworth, on the other hand, according to our observant front deskman is 5’10” solidly built and an athlete. She could have easily sent him over the barrier wall after meeting with him first. It’s a working theory, we’ll see if it pans out. Autopsy will be the key. I'm counting on you." And without saying another word Grogan did an about face and walked back to where his partner was finishing up her interview with Jason Allen.

***

At 7:55 am Jim Endrick exited the front door of his house while at the same time a black luxury sedan was pulling into his driveway. As soon as the vehicle stopped the driver got out of the car walked around it and opened the rear passenger side door and gestured for Jim to get in without saying a word. The driver was precise in his movements and carried himself a certain way. If Endrick was to guess, he looked like ex military.

“No driverless car,” Endrick asked in an attempt to engage the man behind the wheel.

The Driver looked into the rear view mirror in order to establish eye contact with Endrick. Ignoring the question he responded with the following series of terse statements. “Traffic is still light. We should arrive 10 minutes early. It will take us 55 minutes to get to the heliport. If you need anything, just speak into the intercom. It’s above your head to the right.” And without waiting for a response, he activated the glass window, which separated the front from the back seats ending all further attempts at conversation.

Looking out the tinted windows, Jim still thought it odd to see unmanned ground vehicles on the road. The latest estimates were that 60 percent of the overall population still drove, while a good portion of the autonomous cars were used by commercial enterprises. I guess he was old school in that he still enjoyed being behind the wheel of one of the greatest inventions of the last century and he certainly did not plan to give it up. Both prognosticators and futurists estimated that by the end of this current century nearly 80 percent of the population would be giving up their control of the wheel for the safety and comfort of a robotic driver. However, If nothing can be done about future cosmic events, these technological dependent self-driving cars will cease to exist and man’s previous reliance on four legged transport of individuals and goods will be quickly revisited.

As he watched the landscape pass by he mentally started to prep for his meeting. His interactive presentation detailing ‘Plan CME’ was on a dot, the equivalent of the out of date USB stick. His audience would be the most powerful men on his planet and he took great care to ensure that these laymen could comprehend his technical presentation. They were above politics and the final decision makers when it came to the ‘Secret.” His organization ‘The Rabble’ was part of CETTA, which stood for Coalition for Extra Terrestrial Threat Assessment and it had been in existence for over a hundred years. Jim was the fifth scientist to overseer it. Prior to being tapped to chair the organization; he had been a member for over twenty years. He ascendancy to chairmen of “The Rabble had come as no surprise, since he had been groomed for the position from the time that he joined. The previous chairmen, a renown scientist whose ground breaking theories had been the impetus for Endrick’s own theories, had prepped Jim for the day when he would have to step aside. In the end he chose Endrick above the other candidates not only for his superior intellect, but because of his organizational skill, leadership and unconventional thinking when faced with a unique set of circumstances. A scientist with a creative mind.

The driver left the main road and started to make a series of turns before being waved through a security gate that was manned by armed guards. He could hear the chopper overhead as they drove toward the pad. It was then that the four-blade, twin-turbo shaft helicopter came into view and landed on the helipad.

His vehicle accelerated quickly as it raced over the concrete surface before stopping just beyond the rotating propeller blades. The car door was immediately opened and Endrick was quickly hustled onto the chopper. Within 60 seconds they had liftoff and were headed north to an undisclosed destination. It was then that he realized that the windows on the four bladed aircraft were blackened. No sightseeing for him, today, so he reverted back to reviewing the meeting at hand.

The UW Council consisted of four members, two of which Endrick had met before and the other two he knew only by name and reputation. His predecessor had previously briefed the council members on Plan CME during his tenure. Unlike past meetings, this was not an update as to where things stood or the possibility of a potential threat. This was a strategy session as to how to plan for an impending catastrophe. Like ‘The Rabble’ the UW Council was a secret organization that put the planet and its inhabitants ahead of everything else. It had been formed after the discovery of dimensional travel and it served as a governing body for all the dimensions and those that travelled through them. Each dimension had their own unique characteristics but verbal communication wasn’t one of them as there was a commonality of language amongst the various dimensions, idioms not withstanding. Wayfarers, the term used for dimensional travellers, was how the various dimensions shared their secret information. The UW Council oversaw all other dimensional councils since it was the first and the most advanced dimension.

These secret dimensional councils operated outside the reach of bureaucratic governments. Most heads of state whether they were presiding over a democracy or a dictatorship were governed by expediency and whatever would keep them in office. They simply couldn’t be trusted with ‘The Secret,’ so they governed in the dark.

Jim could feel the helicopter descending and moments later it touched the ground. The routine would be the same; another black sedan would pick him up and drop him off. When he reached his final destination the UW Council would be looking to him for answers and unfortunately he didn’t have any…at least not right now. The warm summer air soon filled the parked helicopter signaling the end of the second leg of his journey.  

 

Chapter Seven

Jenny looked at Grogan walking towards her. At six foot one he was all muscle. He had sandy brown hair and dark brown eyes and was driven to succeed, but not at the expense of others. Unlike a lot of detectives in her precinct he took pride in the way he dressed though his unruly hair was always a battle to keep in place. “What did Cad have to say? When is he going to do the autopsy?” were questions she was anxious to have answered, but instead of pressing Grogan, she waited for his verbal response based on his recent interaction with Cad.

Not wanting to give away his hand or his interest in Leventhal, Grogan casually said, “Cad’s checking his schedule. He’ll call me later today to see when he can squeeze it in.”

Knowing how the game was played and what constituted a priority Jenny flashed her sunburst smile and asked, Johnny Walker Black, Makers Mark or Knob Creek?”

Unable to resist his junior detective with the girl next door looks, he capitulated and answered, “Single malt aged.” Then quickly changing the subject Grogan said, “I could sure use a cup of coffee.”

Finally able to relax after receiving an early morning phone call about a suspicious death in her building, Jenny pointed skyward. “I know a place where the coffee is freshly ground and brewed, and if your nice to the host, scrambled eggs and toast can be arranged. Closing the deal with her naughty schoolgirl grin she said, “And the kicker, the price is right. Besides you’ve never seen my new digs.”

Responding to the offer, Grogan’s body language signaled a resounding, yes, as the lead investigator followed the junior detective back towards the elevators.

***

The eighteen year old burst through the East Wall and for a moment he was floating on air until his feet reached the marble floor. Materializing from out of nowhere, he went undetected among the fellow Chicago Union Station travellers. What exactly did this mean and where did he just return from? Questions that he asked himself before his return passage and now that he was back, questions that he knew he didn’t have the answers too. One thing was sure; he wasn’t crazy though like before he couldn’t share his secret with anyone.

His entrance into the Great Hall didn’t go entirely unnoticed. A Dimension Recorder, sitting on one of the wooden benches quietly had taken note of his arrival. Surreptitiously, the Recorder touching the right side of his glasses activated the digital shutter, which in turn produced a clear image of The Young Wayfarer. He would then send the image by tapping on the left side of his glasses, which in turn would be sent to who knows where? His guess it would be matched to a data base that kept track of both registered and unregistered Wayfarers and their travels.

Young Grogan looked at the clock; it was exactly one hour later than his previous departure, but the vibe surrounding him was different. Not wasting any time, he made a bee line for the lockers. Opening it, he quickly grabbed his stuff and checked his phone. He had a ton of texts and missed phone calls. The text messages all had the same theme…where are you? Looking at his phone messages he listened to the last voicemail from his friend Andre. “Dude, I’ve been calling you for two days. Everything okay? Where the hell are you Man? You’re starting to worry me.”

What the hell was he talking about as he put his ear up to the phone and listened to other similar messages. Feeling unnerved he walked up to a businessman in the Great Hall who was standing and waiting for a train schedule update from the mechanical flip chart.

Catching his attention by blocking his view Young Grogan blurted out, “Excuse me Sir, can you tell me which day it is?”

“Really you want to know what day it is? Come on, get out of my way, so I can see if my train’s on time.

Young Grogan held his ground.

Annoyed, the businessman, skeptical of the game the teenager was playing shook his head and in an irritated voice said, “Sunday, today’s Sunday. Now get the hell out of my way,” which Grogan did as he walked towards the newsstand.

And there it was at the top of the Sunday edition staring right back at him….today was Sunday. He cupped his mouth and chin with his left hand and stood there looking. He’d have to have a good explanation as to where he had been since one of the callers was his mother. But dam, he had been gone an hour, to where he didn’t know, and in the process he returned an hour and two days later. He was so engrossed in his own thoughts that he didn’t notice the man standing in front of him who touched the right side of his glasses for a clearer shot.  

***

A cynical loaner, he had always been a man of simple means and tastes. One of the foremost scientists of his generation, he had once been a part of academia before tiring of his learned colleagues petty feuds, jealous behavior, and constant bickering in the name of advancement within their cloistered environment. In contrast, he had found a kindred spirit in the private world, where the impetus to succeed and reap it’s financial rewards didn’t have to be hidden. And succeed he did. In the world of commerce, he was able to offer his services to the highest bidder, as long as the assignments didn’t violate his own unique code of ethics. Exhibiting a fecund creativity he carefully chose his various projects, which resulted in him being a frequent beneficiary of well subsidized government grants and consulting projects. He also was the owner of numerous revenue generating patents, though some of his greatest inventions he kept to himself.  A first class intellect, he held both electrical and mechanical engineering degrees, and though he found the scientific application of innovative design financially rewarding, it was only a means to an end. Astrophysics, whose dictionary definition is defined as a branch of astronomy dealing especially with the behavior, physical properties, and dynamic processes of celestial objects and phenomena, was always his first love. He remembers exactly when his cosmic romance blossomed, on a nondescript cold winter day where during an elementary school outing to an aging planetarium (a day’s trip away from the small town he grew up in) he found a passionate pursuit that would last a lifetime.  

Now on a beautiful summer solstice morning, this massive figure, dressed only in a tank top and shorts with a bandanna around his forehead, was executing his own unique workout regiment that combined alternating intervals (five minutes) of running and walking through the rugged terrain of the Blue Rock Mountains. A survivalist, this physically imposing man at six feet five inches tall, preferred nature and its beauty to the tech dependent civilization he helped develop and perpetuate. A world that he now despised and had turned his back on in the pursuit of loftier goals. Suddenly, he stopped his intense physicality and said to himself “Soon,” while he took in his surroundings standing on the crest of a ridge that overlooked a deep water mountain lake.  Ever since he was alerted to the recent solar activity and its potential dire consequences, he had felt rejuvenated. The time had finally come when the genie called, technology, could be put back in the bottle. A ‘Wayfarer,’ himself he had the unique ability to travel between dimensions without having to rely on other ‘Wayfarers’ to carry his most sensitive messages and instructions. Like Endrick and “The Rabble’ he also had his own Plan CME. A plan that was designed to ensure that the best and the brightest scientific dimensional minds could not stop the inevitable. Looking at his self winding wristwatch he decided it was time to head back to base camp, Taking in the mountainous beauty one last time, he turned away from the lake and started his descend. Traversing the steep ground, he felt a sense of urgency as his run/walk technique covered the rugged terrain faster than usual. And like the female mountain lion that is at one with her surroundings, halfway down the mountain he slowed his pace and sniffed the high altitude air while his head gracefully swiveled from side to side continually looking around to make sure he wasn’t being observed. Convinced that he was alone, he abruptly stopped at an unusual outcropping that was covered by dense foliage. Then in a blink of an eye he was gone. If you didn’t know what you were looking for the gateway to his hidden base camp would have gone completely unnoticed. Reaching out with his right hand he put his palm on the entrance pad before executing a touch pad coded key that silently triggered the opening of a large metal door that slid back to his left revealing a natural cavernous space. As soon as he entered his underground facility, he was greeted by several of his followers who had been tracking his morning workout on one of the many digital monitors in the com room.

Reading his fellow survivalists body language, he optimistically asked, “Good news?”

No one answered, but instead the follower who seemed in command, nodded his head towards the leaders right, where a female, known most recently as Ms. Hollingsworth, emerged from the shadows with the answer to his question. “Leventhal is no longer a threat.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eight

A day later Detective Grogan walked into the City Morgue having received a call from the ME that he was going to squeeze in Leventhal’s post mortem in the morning at a specific time that is if Grogan brought the single malt. The Detective having grown weary of playing what fellow detectives referred to as the pay for play autopsy game didn’t reply at first then in a two word response said “Screw you,” Followed up by, “I’m not your personal liquor store. I’ll be there in the morning outside on the bench. Get me when your ready to start,” before hanging up. Now that he arrived he looked around the morgue and got his bearings resigned to waiting. 

Visiting this depressing place was part of his job. And at this hour it appeared to him, as if he was the only one walking down the long corridor; the slapping of his shoes against the stone floor, the only sound cutting through the eerie silence. In his right hand he held a cup holder containing two  coffees, one for Jenny and other for him. He had left a message for his partner after he spoke with Cad about an approximate time to meet, but, to date, he hadn’t heard back. Her father, the Senior Senator from Illinois, was in town, so his best guess was that she was having a sunup breakfast with him. A shared ritual that she participated in every time the politician visited the city. He liked her old man, even though he spoke out of both sides of his mouth.

Finally, he reached where he was headed and found a comfortable bench to sit on and wait. Sipping his Americana with a touch of cream and artificial sweetener he let his mind wander. It was during his 10thn, no 11th , Ultra World passage (his favorite destinations of the three dimensions) when he was approached while attempting to walk out of Union Station.

“Mr. Grogan, are you in the right world? The question came from a man whose physical  presence represented power and strength just as Grogan was reaching for the exit door to the street. Startled, Young Grogan turned around and looked directly into the eyes of the voice of authority.

Grogan had often wondered if his passages had gone unnoticed. Now he knew the answer. He also realized that the man blocking his exit was not alone. Four other associates taking the lead from their boss had swiftly gathered around him and subtly boxed him in. Regaining his composure he answered his interrogator’s question slowly and deliberately. “I’m on assignment, tracking down a fugitive from my world. I didn’t see him inside the station, so I thought that I would look for him on the street.

“I see,” the interrogator said in a coarse voice. “Perhaps we can be of assistance,” as he looked around at his men who now cleverly continued to hem in Grogan, their person of interest. “We work in security. Do you have a photo of the Wayfarer?”

“Wayfarer,” Grogan asked?

“A term we use for travellers. Do you have a picture of your elusive quarry.” A wry smile changed the taut look on his face. He was toying with Grogan, playing a cat and mouse game.  And regardless of his words, Grogan knew this intercept was not a coincidence; the interrogator had been expecting him.

“Not on me,” Grogan promptly replied, buying time as he considered his next move---how to escape.

“I see,” as the interrogator raised his right eyebrow. “Well in that case why don’t you come with us and we’ll help you identify your man, it’s a man right?

Grogan nodded his head, knowing that his verbal combatant was far more experienced than him.

Taking the nod as a yes, the interrogator continued. “Okay, as I was saying you can describe the fugitive to us and we in turn we’ll show you, via digital impressions, Wayfarers that have made the passage in the last 24 hours.?”

Realizing that any chance to flee would be immediately cut off by the professional bodies that now expertly formed a human coral around him; he tried his final gambit, “That won’t be necessary,” Grogan said. “I know where he lives in my world. I’ll just wait for him to return.” 

“But I insist Patrolman Grogan,” came the emphatic rejoinder from the Cat, who was growing tired of playing with the mouse. “Cooperation between law enforcement is a courtesy that we gladly extend, even to those from another world.” And with that last statement he started to walk in a direction, signaling Grogan to follow. Grogan had held his cards close to his vest while trying to bluff his way out of the situation, but in the end he knew that his inferior hand would have to fold to the five of a kind that surrounded him; and with out further resistance he followed the Interrogators lead who was now talking on a communication device out of earshot of Grogan.

“Grogan, Grogan are you asleep?” Jenny asked, taking a seat on the bench next to him. I assume that one of these is mine?”

Grogan, startled, woke up right away and pointed to the coffee in the cup holder farthest from him. Cream and equal right?”

 

***

As Endrick sat there waiting, he had no idea where he was. The last meeting was held in a beautiful marble building; this time, waiting to be summoned, he sat surrounded by ornate turn of the century, old world designed mahogany ceilings and walls with brass ornamentation. The commonality between the previous and today’s meeting edifices could be reduced to master craftsmanship, and a lack of warmth. Upon arrival the first to personally greet him was a familiar face, the UW Council’s administrative assistant. She quickly ushered him into a large anteroom where he now sat for nearly 45 minutes. Usually he would be whisked into the conference room as soon as he arrived, but not this time. Reflecting on past meeting while he waited he had come to realize that the only member of the council that he really knew was the Chairman. A man of distinction they had first met when he had taken a seat on the council Sitting on one of two large uncomfortable benches whose bench backs were up against the wall, and faced each other, he mentally ran through his CME presentation one more time, knowing that it was a harbinger of catastrophic news with no solution. Looking around the windowless reception area, he now knew how a physician felt who was about to tell an anxious patient that he had an incurable disease, and rather than being able to offer a treatment, all he could do was provide the patient with an approximate timeline as to how long he had to live. Lost in thought, he didn’t notice the opening of the large elaborately carved doors, nor did he see the assistant beckon him to enter the room, until she was nearly standing on top of him. 

“They’re ready, Mr. Endrick.” Then she promptly turned around and headed towards the conference room, avoiding any small talk in the process.

In tow, he followed her into the meeting room where she gestured for him to take a seat at the head of the table. Five minutes later the four UW Council members entered the gathering and took their individual seats to the left and right of Endrick. There were no shaking of hands or pleasantries exchanged, instead the head of ‘The Rabble’ wasted no time starting the meeting.

“Gentlemen…I appreciate you seeing me on such short notice. The severity of what I’m about to tell you could result in the end of mankind as we know it.” Now that he had their complete attention he proceeded.

“From my previous briefings you are all familiar with the major catastrophic CME event that occurred on the same date in September of 1811 in Alternate World, 1859 in Prime World and in 1907 in Ultra World, our world. However, that most powerful of all solar events that disrupted lines of technological communications at least in Prime World and Ultra World, would, today, pale in comparison to what we are about to face. The Coronal Mass Ejection that we are forecasting would be more powerful than the first recorded cross dimensional CME, which at that time was equivalent to ten billion atomic bombs delivered by a massive solar flare.”

One of the newer council members cleared his throat and asked the following question. “Mr. Endrick, please refresh my memory as to the ramifications this massive CME imparted on us 159 years ago. My guess is that it had virtually no effect on Alternative World. What was the technological impact on Prime World and Ultra World.”

Endrick responded with his prepared response. “First lets review GIC or Geomagnetically Induced Current. Both the Sun and the Earth have their own magnetosphere. A GIC is best described as the result of space weather at ground level. Solar activity defined as solar flares, coronal mass ejections, high-speed solar wind, and solar energetic particles that are driven by the solar magnetic field, which causes a huge variance in the electric currents of the magnetosphere and ionosphere. This in turn creates a very high voltage at conducting networks such as power transmission grids, all communication networks that are non fiber optic, railways, and oil and gas pipelines.” He paused to make sure that his words were resonating with the committee. Assured he hadn’t lost anyone he proceeded in layman terms. “We often forget that the Sun and Earth are really close to each other, a distance of 93 million miles. Because electrical power transmission systems operate at a fixed transmission voltage, any substantial amount of fluctuation will in turn do substantial damage to the transmission systems. Gas pipelines, because of the substantial increase in corrosion brought about by GICs are subject to a reduced service life. Now council member, to answer your specific question, the information highway in 1859 and 1907 in Prime World and Ultra World although limited was dominated by telegraphy, which altered the speed in which how governing civilizations communicated over vast expanses of land. And, yes, Alt World in in 1811 outside of a spectacular viewing a fantastic light show wasn’t affected at all. When the CME occurred in Prime and Ultra Worlds, telegraph stations burst into flames and most were rendered inoperable and failed. Eye witness accounts recorded “fire streams that were visible in the circuits. The magnetic mayhem played out over two days before everything returned to normal. In the meantime the populace in those worlds were also treated to a phenomenal celestial light show that was described by eyewitnesses as glittering auroras that in their terms turned night into day, and was seen from the northern to the southern hemisphere. If you weren’t a god fearing man before that day, you were one afterwards.

‘And its impact today with our dependence on technology,” asked the Chairman of the council?

“Devastating,” was the single word that came out of Endrick’s mouth. 

“How devastating,” a rise in the Chairman’s voice indicated a slight tinge of anxiety?

In an unvaried key or pitch Endrick responded. “Worldwide pandemonium caused be a collapse of our entire infrastructure as we know it today. First power stations would light up like a firecracker show and when the light show ended; we would be left in complete darkness. GiC or Geomagnetic Induced Current would blow out or damage in a non discriminate fashion every electric generator and transformer on this planet.

“Could this create rolling blackouts, a council member asked?

“Yes,” Endrick replied. A CME of the magnitude I’m forecasting would plow through our interplanetary ionosphere and travel to earth from the Sun in one and a half days compared to the usual three days that we have experienced in the past. This geomagnetic storm would immediately impact our main power stations. A grid supplies load and when there is to much load it is just as bad as if there was not enough load. Its keeping the right balance that is the key and the CME would throw everything off balance. For example when a power system is the hit the other power systems attempt to struggle to overcome an increasing number of anomalies. When they can’t they fall like dominoes creating rolling blackouts. The result being the enormous copper cables would melt, which in turn would lead to unprecedented power loss throughout all three dimensions. In laymen’s terms if your drawing current from a wall outlet it would go dark.

“How long would the blackout last,” asked the other senior member of the UW Council.

“Not sure were so interconnected all three worlds. It would vary by dimension but months…at least six months or longer. Of course the rebuilding process would be dependent on so many variables; the main one would be finding, organizing and assembling rebuilding teams amongst the chaos of living in an unconnected dark world. ” Endrick’s frustration showed as his final gesture was a shrug of the shoulders. “How devastating, hard to tell.”

“What about the effect on the populace,” stated the fourth member as he entered the dialogue.

“Speaking to the consequences,” Endrick responded. The signature CME that occurred in our world in 1907 was most likely a G2 or G3. CME’s are measured in intensity from G1 to G5. I’m forecasting a CME beyond G5 perhaps a G7 or G8. So to answer your question, as to its effect on the populace, one word, apocalyptic. Wherever water supplies are controlled electronically, toilets and sewage treatments, would cease to work. In cold and warm weather climates heating and air conditioning would fail---perishable food and medicine would be lost and hospitals would be rendered useless. The reality of the situation, ATM machines, gas pumps, cell phones, land lines or any service tied to electronically controlled devices would no longer function including autonomous cars. Things like GPS systems would go offline affecting local law enforcement and military operations and their ability to function. Finally financial and global markets would collapse and chaos would ensue.

“Anarchy” the Chairman asked?

“Worldwide, the likes of which we have never seen before---in every dimension. You forget to realize that all the things that we take for granted like the internet, street lights and train and air transportation would come to a screeching halt. Without technology it would be nearly impossible to mount aid or rescue efforts in the event of a natural disaster. To sum it up, the type of CME I’m forecasting would send billions of people back to the stone age and for how long, I can’t quite say. The irony of it is that a third world non technological country would be in better shape than our more advanced countries and cities. Taking a deep breath, Endrick continued. “On a limited basis we could attempt to start disconnecting power transmissions to grids. Why because higher voltage stations are at greater risk to GIC’s. What we’d be attempting to do is reduce what we call capacitor blocking systems utilizing load shedding.” He knew he was no longer speaking in layman terms but continued. It’s tough to advise on GIC risk analysis and its flow in power grids because the grids are complex as is ionosphere current systems and the earth’s 3D ground conductivity. Quite honestly you would have trouble convincing countries, states and municipalities across all the dimensions that they truly are in danger and have to start uncoupling their power grids. Most if not all scientific influencers and decision makers in the three dimensions are not privy to the theoretical hypothesis of ‘The Rabble’s’ conclusion of a massive CME. And to be honest some of the scientist in “The Rabble,” disagree with my sequitur and forecast. But they are incorrect.” Endrick concluded by slumping in his chair then he slowly looked around the conference room.

Now that reality was staring the UW Council straight in the face, not one of the select committee members said another word.

Finally, the Chairman spoke. “The reason that we were delayed in meeting you, is that we were debating amongst ourselves your anticipated report and its impact on all three worlds. As you know our organization and all its affiliated branches like “The Rabble’ are only known to a select few. If there is no solution or way to protect earth from a massive CME then we will have to go public and prepare leaders, governments and the populace at large as to what is about to happen to them. Convincing the powers to be to the existence of other dimensions and the same time that we ask them to uncouple their power grids will be incomprehensible for the various key political leaders to comprehend or execute.” Out of hope, he looked at the scientist seated before him and against all odds asked anyway. “Are you absolutely sure that there is nothing that the scientific world can do to prevent this CME?” A feeling of desperation permeated the room.

Endrick leaned forward in his chair and took in the august body of earth’s protectors. They had been the keepers of an extraordinary secret and along with those that had come before them had carried out their duties without recognition and reward. They did it because they loved their planet and all the dimensions that populated it. Slowly Endrick started to speak about a theory that he and another colleague, Richard Leventhal, had been developing to prevent that which was about to occur. “Were close to figuring out the remaining unsolved problems. Close being the operative word. In anticipation of this type of calamity, we have been working with scientists across all three dimensions to figure out a way to reflect a massive solar flare directed at us, while simultaneously  tapping into the brightest engineering minds Alt World, Prime World and Ultra World as to how to build such an apparatus, in space.”

“Theoretically, its possible…right,” the Chairman asked, grasping at straws?

“Yes, theoretically, but practically is another issue. I’ll know more as to where we stand after I speak with Levanthal. It’s his theoretical engineering premise that we’re working on.” Sensing something was off, he attempted to read the blank stares that were now on each of the council members faces. “Is there something wrong?

The Chairman was the first to speak in a subdued voice. “Leventhal is dead.”

Endrick taken aback didn’t say a word as the room fell silent. Flummoxed by the sudden change of events, the fighter pilot within him gained control of his senses and asked a question that he felt compelled to ask. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, our source is very reliable. He reported it yesterday. He also believes he was murdered.”

Caught off guard, Endrick blurted out, “Murdered, by whom, for what?” as he looked around the conference table in search of an answer.

“We don’t know, the Chairman answered firmly, but with a touch of sadness in his voice. We were hoping that, perhaps, you could shed some light on it?”

“I haven’t a clue” as he thought of Leventhal and his family.

 

Chapter Nine

 

“So how’s the pride of New Trier, Northwestern and Winnetka doing these days, Grogan asked as he sipped his coffee and like a Cheshire cat waited for his partner’s response.

Not taking the bait or acknowledging her own privileged background, she answered the query. “Fine, the Senator was in for some meetings with donors, since he is up for reelection in two years. So we had breakfast at the Drake and talked a little bit about family, work, his and mine (by the way he sends you his regards), and of course our national disaster called infrastructure.

“Did he ask you when you were going to give up this phase of your public service career in order  to run for the soon to be vacant congressional seat in our district?

Expecting this question from both her father and Grogan, she deftly changed the subject in both instances. “What’s your take on Leventhal’s death?

But before Grogan could respond, Jeff Litkowski, Cadaver’s assistant ME, thrust his head through the side door and declared, “Cad’s ready.’

Tossing their coffee in the trash, Grogan and Jenny walked through the entrance way into a room that most people would only visualize in episodic crime shows.

Leventhal’s body was on a stainless steel table with his head positioned away from the door. There was a tag on his right toe that identified the corpse. Grogan upon entry could see the extent of Leventhal’s facial injuries the result of such a horrific fall. Both he and Jenny were prepared for the smell of rotting grass on a compost pile as they ignored their own olfactory receptors and focused on the task at hand.

The ME whose back was turned away from Grogan and Jenny merely nodded his head to acknowledge their presence. He then activated the overhead voice recorder and began the autopsy. He started by making a Y shaped incision form the shoulders to the sternum and eventually to the pubic bone. Cutting through the chest cavity he examined and removed the internal organs while Jeff weighted them. Both the ME and his assistant were experts in their craft and although the process that they were performing looked routine they were constantly on the alert for something unusual.

Before addressing his guests, Cad rubbed the back of his gloved hand against his forehead to scratch an itch. Then turning towards them he said, “Nothing out of the ordinary so far.”

Though Grogan hated the process he was always mesmerized by it as soon as it started.

Cadaver after elevating the head opened it by making an incision under the scalp then pulled the skin back in order to expose the skull. The ‘Cap of the Skull was then cut away revealing the brain, which was then removed for examination. The speed and accuracy in which the ME worked was registered by the start and stops of the recorder. Finally Cadaver and Jeff began inspecting every inch of the corpse having been previously alerted by Grogan that a mysterious drug might have surreptitiously entered Leventhal’s body. The two worked in tandem until Jeff stopped the search with a, “Hello, what do we have here?”

Cad like a cat, quickly moved around the body to see a pin prick behind Leventhal’s right ear where the lobe attaches to the body.

“What do you think,” asked Grogan? “A needle?”

Cadaver didn’t respond immediately, but instead checked for bruising around Leventhal’s neck.

Grogan studiously watched the ME practice his craft. Unable to hold his silence he asked, “What are you thinking a rear naked choke?” Hollingsworth certainly had the strength.

“Could be,” Cad responded in an uncommitted voice, “The carotid arteries would have been compressed long enough to knock the victim out.” Then examining the small blood vessels around the neck beneath the skin, he offered, “I don’t see any damaged and there are no signs of discoloration around Leventhal’s neck. In my opinion if the toxicology comes back as expected this was done by a professional that knew how to apply just the right amount of pressure before  injecting the deceased with some sort of paralyzing drug that made him go limp. What’s forensic say about the glass? Any fingerprints?”

Jenny who was coordinating that part of the investigation jumped in. “They only found one set of finger prints on the glass, Leventhal’s. But he didn’t appear to be climbing. More like some one lifted him up and propped him on the top of the glass and then flipped him over.”

Grogan, knew what the other’s didn’t that Leventhal was on assignment. “So Leventhal was murdered and it was not a suicide.”

Cad was now done, leaving the clean up to his assistant. “It certainly appears like it. Let’s wait for the toxicology report and see what he was inject with. But he certainly didn’t climb the glass wall by himself and judging by the angle of the needle someone else injected him.” Then pausing for a second, enough to let a sardonic smile appear on his lips, Cad said, “You know what would go could right about now? A 15 year old, single malt, Macallan. You know where I can find one?”

“Yeah, as a matter of fact I do, and it won’t cost you anything. There is one hitch though. There are no hours for the bar, so you’ll have to wait in the lobby on wooden benches similar to this morgue’s because the owner of the bar no longer accepts reservations.” Then with a salute of his right hand Grogan turned and headed for the door. “Put a rush on the toxicology,” as he exited the premises.

Cad just stood there with his mouth open as Jenny, in lock step with Grogan, said over her shoulder to the ME, “Believe me he holds grudges; Oh boy, does he hold grudges.

***

Endrick sat in the car and waited for the chopper, which was still a ways out. Sitting in the back seat of the sedan, he still couldn’t get over the fact that Leventhal was gone, murdered. Why, he asked himself?” It just didn’t make sense. Richard had been a member of ‘The Rabble’ for at least 12 years. And besides being a well respected colleague he was also a friend. Thinking back it was only a couple of years ago that he attended Dick Jr.’s high school graduation back yard barbeque celebration. He remembered how proud Richard and his wife Charlotte were of their eldest son, whose physical features were very similar to Richard’s. Endrick then closed his eyes in an attempt to return to that celebratory day and there she was, his wife, Patty, still alive. She brought her famous summer potato salad, the one with the smoke cured chips of bacon. Just thinking about the day and the joy they all experienced reminded Endrick of how much he missed his wife, the rock of his world. Later that day when most of the guests had left, he sat there with Richard talking about their families and careers. They had made a good life for themselves and unlike a lot of people they both enjoyed their work. Richard besides being a trusted member of ‘The Rabble’ was also a Wayfarer. who had the unique opportunity to carry sensitive information from one dimension to another. And now he was gone, murdered. It seemed so senseless, just when Endrick needed him the most. “Dammit,” he said aloud.

“Everything alright sir,” his driver reacting quickly to the outburst.

Silence.

“Sir,” the driver asked in an attempt to gain Endrick’s attention.

“Yes, I’m fine. Sorry for startling you, Endrick said sheepishly. “I’ve got a lot on my mind.”  

Rather than responding with a sympathetic ear, the driver realizing that there was no imminent  threat to his passenger instead, announced, “They just texted me, the helo is inbound. Wheels up in ten.”  

Endrick nodded his head, the gesture recorded by the driver in his rear view mirror. ‘So much to do and so little time to do it, and without Leventhal to boot,” Endrick thought. Then clasping his fingers together with his arms close to his sides, he raised them from his lap to his mouth and sat there contemplating his next move. But not for long, his reverie broken up by an unmistakable overhead chopping sound, which in turn triggered the vehicle he was seated in to surge forward as the driver raced across the tarmac. The forward motion of the vehicle suddenly refocused Endrick. He instinctively knew the mourning of Leventhal would have to wait. He had a task at hand and the best way to honor his colleague’s contributions was to ensure his vision was completed. As soon as the driver opened the door, Endrick exited the vehicle. There was a new found determination in his demeanor as he tucked his head, bound up the steps and found a seat on the copter, promising to himself he wouldn’t fail.  

 

 

***

 

The Interrogator, Young Grogan, and the security detail walked unimpeded across the Great Hall until they reached a metal door with a keypad on it. Focusing on the task at hand, the Interrogator put his eye up to the pad, waited for the click and then opened it. Grogan reluctantly entered. Not knowing what to expect Patrolman Grogan quickly realized that he was at the heart of a command center with massive video screens on each of the octagonal walls. The individual video monitors displayed rotating interior and exterior shots of Union Station, especially its entrances and exits, as well as other public transportation hubs throughout the country. The Interrogator looked back at Grogan and signaled for him to follow as they walked through the center of the room. Manned by both male and female security personnel that were dressed uniformly in light blue shirts and dark blue trousers, no one looked up from the myriad of desks, computers and video screens to inquire as to who the intruder was in their midst. Instead their concentration remained focused on the video activity in front of them. Grogan estimated that the facility had to be at least 20,000 square feet manned by at least 2,000 watchers. Taking it all in, but not saying a word, Grogan acknowledged that he was 48 years into the future and that advancements in electronic technology shouldn’t surprise him, yet it did. They were using 8K ultra-high definition displays with richer colors and deeper blacks with a zoom element that allowed the smallest object to come under clear intense scrutiny. Oddly enough the entire atmosphere reminded Grogan of a World War Two movie he had recently seen where a major RAF command center was monitoring British planes and the German Luftwaffe during ‘The Battle of Britain.’ The similarity being the intensity and no nonsense approach that the Brits had, portrayed by the actors in the movie, and the personnel in this room. To him travelling between dimensions was fun, a lark, now he suddenly started to realize that there was a darker side to Interworld travel. 

 

And then flashing before his eyes, he saw it. Green and yellow lights appearing on the monitor screens as well as red and blue lights signaling both the departure and entrance to what the Interrogator referred to as Wayfarers. Stopping in his tracks Grogan watched as Wayfarers exited or entered a tunnel each with a unique identification code that appeared on the screen with the words authorized or unauthorized. ”That’s how they tracked him,” he said to himself.

“Patrolman Grogan, if you’ll follow me,” commanded the Interrogator.

Grogan nodded his head and proceeded to walk behind the Interrogators lead, surprised that they let him see the internal workings of such an organization. Like a sponge he took everything in, but as was his nature kept his thoughts to himself. Finally, they stopped at a closed door and waited til the Interrogator opened the secure room. Grogan upon entering felt It had the same look and feel as one of the interrogation rooms back in his precinct with one exception, there were four large video screens on the wall. Upon entering all four screens suddenly went from blank to live and there Grogan was, larger than life, leaving one world for another caught in a continuous loop culminating with the Interrogator and his security detail detaining him and marching him back to the command center.

Once inside, the Interrogator gestured to the young patrolman to take a seat on a metal chair as he closed the door behind him. Grogan should have been scared, but wasn’t. There was a one way glass window facing him on one of the walls, which was similar to his own precincts interrogation room layout. Not being a detective he had never been in an interrogation room with a Perp, but he knew the drill from talking to his colleagues. The first step was to leave the Perp alone with his thoughts. Let him sweat, wondering what they knew and what they weren’t telling him. Next, either one or two detectives would enter the room and start asking questions, and depending upon the answers, one would turn out to be the good cop, the cajoler, and the other the asshole. He had seen enough of himself on the screen, so he turned his eyes away from it and wondered to himself “How long it would be before someone came in to question him…15 minutes, 30 minutes, tops an hour.”

And there he sat for close to four hours, cooling his heels. If this was suppose to play on his nerves than it was working. At last the door opened and a distinguished gentlemen, who had the look of either career military or law enforcement entered the room and stood opposite of Grogan. “Sorry to keep you waiting, I chair a UW Council and today we were meeting on potential changes to our atmospheres. I see they brought you water and I hope they have given you access to the facilities?” Lean hipped, the authoritative speaker had a powerful body that was built for strength, a square jaw and blue eyes that were eerily similar to Grogan’s. However, where as Grogan had a full head of unruly dusty brown hair, the new Interrogator had none.

Grogan as if he was in a verbal poker game, drew neither a card or discarded one. Silently he sat there playing a pat hand. He was out of his element and he knew it, and if it was a real poker game he would have already folded. Instead he coolly sat there and played the hand of silence. What did he have to lose considering he didn't know what was in the pot.

Both men continued to look long and hard at the other as if the answer lied in their features. Finally the new Interrogator pulled out the chair from under the desk and sat opposite Grogan. Taking in the measure of the man, he looked the young patrolman in the eye and said, “Its been a long time coming, how’s your mother?

 

***

Energized, as soon as he arrived home, Endrick bounded up the stairs and headed towards his study. It had been a long day, yet he felt refreshed. It was like coming off of a fighter pilot mission, where he would grab a quick shower, fuel up his plane and body, then turn around and go out on another sweep. Endrick scouring his office found a legal pad and started putting pen to paper. In no particular order he wrote: 1. Who’s going to replace Leventhal. 2. Why was he killed…did it have anything to do with the CME project. 3. Was he, Endrick or any of the other Rabble members in danger. 4. Since Leventhal was dead who could fill RL’s role as the scientific inter-dimensional CME courier? 5. How much time did Endrick and earth have before a massive CME would strike the planet and what, if anything, could he do to prevent it?

Reflecting on his legal pad scribbling’s, Endrick started to prioritize them. Above everything else, why was Leventhal killed? Was it related to The Rabble and Plan CME. RL was irreplaceable and if you wanted to sabotage The Rabble’s work than you would start by eliminating Leventhal.  Putting down his pen he got up from his chair and started to walk around the confined office space. He had used the newly created list to stimulate his thinking. But his thoughts always came back to Leventhal. He was the key to the puzzle.  What was Leventhal doing while Endrick was on vacation and unreachable? Endrick had received over 200 electronic messages while he was at his mountain retreat, yet none from RL? What was he working on during that time? Richard knew the dangers of a massive CME as well as Endrick. “Think,” Endrick said to himself, did RL say anything to him, a passing statement that on the surface would appear to be innocuous. “Think,” and then it came to him in a riddle. Sitting in Leventhal’s backyard, one night, over way to many beers, Richard had jokingly said to Endrick, “ Go through the yard, That hosts the jewel, The prize is hidden, Under the…???” Endrick stopped in his tracks. What if all this time RL’s semi intoxicated simple statement, intentionally phrased, was designed to alert Endrick as to where he might store a backup copy of his most sensitive work. He knew it was a stretch but it certainly was worth pursuing.

“Know thy self and thy limitations,” Endrick said to himself; an expression, he frequently used when faced with a difficult set of circumstances that were beyond his expertise. If, and Endrick recognized it was a big if, if Leventhal had kept some secret notes then Endrick needed help in finding them, and in also figuring out why he was killed and who killed him. Again, he said to himself “Know thy self and thy limitations.”  Endrick needed a skilled detective, though he honestly didn’t know where to find one. Closing his eyes, he realized the answer was right in front of him. Picking up his cell phone, he was in the process of texting the Chairman a lengthy message asking him for his assistance in finding a skilled detective, a Wayfarer, who could assist him in his inquires about Leventhal when he suddenly put the phone down. “What if 'his' communications had been compromised,” he said out loud? Fearful that was the case, he retyped the text and sent the Chairman a terse message. “Need to speak ASAP.” Communication’s might not be secure.”

Within five minutes came a reply to his text. “Understood.” followed by a doorbell ring. Cautiously Endrick came down the stairs and looked through the front door side panel window at the recognizable figure standing on his doorstep. It was the driver who had just transported him back to his house. Endrick cautiously opened the door and waited while a hand was extended towards him. In it was a phone with a text message on it. “Endrick, I neglected to tell you, not wanting to alarm you that we have had you under protective surveillance ever since Leventhal was murdered. Two gentlemen are situated outside your house at all times and, Walters, the head of your security detail, by now has given you a secure phone for communications. I will call you in ten minutes. I look forward to talking to you. C”

 

 

 

Chapter Ten

Grogan and Jenny headed back to the precinct in separate cars after the autopsy. Grogan taking a detour stopped at Union Station. Parking in front of the Chicago landmark, he entered the depot and walked across the Great Hall towards a newsstand. He bought a Trib, paid the vendor and waited for his change. This time the metal money didn’t include a special coin. Walking away he noticed a familiar face walking parallel to his stride. He turned right and headed for a coffee shop with some tables out front. Procuring his second java of the day, he purchased another then joined the Wayfarer, who was already seated at one of the tables outside the store. Placing both coffees on the table top he began sipping his. Both inter-dimensional travellers made sure that no one was within earshot.

It’s been a while,” Grogan said. How’s the Chairman?”

“Concerned,” was the brusque reply. “Anything new on Leventhal?”

“Afraid not. Just came from his autopsy and he was definitely murdered. By who, I have no idea. Anything in his past that I should be aware of?”

“You’ll know a lot more, shortly. The Chairman wants you to meet a scientist by the name of Endrick. How soon can you make the passage?”

“Not sure I can. I just cancelled my vacation and I’m back in regular rotation. However, that said, I could probably make the trip in a week.

“The meeting with Endrick is a ‘Priority 1 Meet,’ which means it has to take place within 24 hours.”

“That serious,” Grogan asked.

“I’m here aren’t I.”

Grogan didn’t nod his head, instead he showed no emotions whatsoever, mirroring the Wayfarer sitting across from him.

“I’ll let them know your coming,” and with that the Chairman’s’ personal courier got up from the table and walked towards the west wall. Grogan sat there drinking his coffee until hues of red and blue appeared out of the corner of his eye. And then in an instant the messenger had left one dimension for another.

***

As usual the precinct was a hub of activity. Taking the stairs two at a time Grogan reached the detective’s second floor landing. Entering the investigative space he spotted Jenny talking to a couple of detectives near the coffee machine. Making eye contact with her, he headed towards the center of the room and sat down in their shared cubicle. He had a dilemma and he knew it. In order to gain insight into the Leventhal case he would have to go to Ultra World and meet with Endrick. He would need time to do it, because the conversation could lead anywhere including all three dimensions. Shuffling through his papers, outwardly he appeared to be the same old Grogan, calm and collected. He was anything, but. The last time the Chairman needed his assistance was to track down an inter-dimensional serial killer. It took him six months to accomplish the task while taking an extended leave from his job. “Perhaps he was getting ahead of himself,” he thought as the internal debate continued inside his head. “No he wasn’t. A Priority 1 Meet was not set up cavalierly? This was the first time he had been summoned with that type of urgency.” Glancing at the wall clock, he now had less than 23 hours to interface with Endrick.

“Grogan are you listening. Where’ve you been,” Jenny asked. It was out of character for Grogan while on duty to go anywhere without informing his partner. “You following a lead,” she asked?

Grogan brought back to reality by Jenny’s aggressive questioning ignored her, as was his nature, and answered a question with a question. “Anything on Hollingsworth?”

“I have that DJ, Steve Cochran with our sketch artist doing a rendering. The outside cameras did not get a clear picture of her entering or exiting the buildings. Cochran was shook up seeing a dead body, so I’m not sure how accurate a picture of the female Perp he can recall. Are you okay? And if you tell me yes than your bullshitting me. What’s up?”

Ten hour days side by side, observers of the minutest details and experts at reading people, Grogan knew that eventually Jenny would ask the question. He’d be stunned if she didn’t.

“I’m going to take a leave of absence. As soon as the Captain gets in I’m going to let him know that effective immediately I’ll be taking a sabbatical. I’ve been at this for ten years and I decided that I need a break.”

Jenny just looked at him dumbfounded. It was the equivalent of telling your wife that you found another women and were leaving her this instant. The two had been paired up for the last three years and everywhere Grogan went Jenny followed, and vice versa. She felt like saying, ”You don’t seem burned out,”but her own political correctness wouldn’t allow it. Instead she said, “Okay.” If there’s anything that I can do or if you just want to talk, let me know.” There was an impenetrable wall around Grogan that she had never been able to crack no matter how hard she tried. She decided to go with the flow, knowing she had no other choice.

“Nothing personal, Jenny, I just need some space and time. I’ll be in touch.” Then leaving his desk as it was, which was always neat, he threw a few personal items into a backpack that he kept under his desk and headed for the Captain’s office to hand in his shield and gun.

“Sabbatical my ass,” Jenny said to herself as she watched Grogan talking to Captain Dietz who had the same stupefied expression on his face that she had on her own earlier. “You wouldn’t know what to do with time on your hands,” she said under her breath. Then she got up from her chair and headed over to the sketch artist and asked for some copies of the Hollingsworth drawing.

Grogan was just wrapping up with Dietz and Jenny waited til he left the Captain’s office, walked though the detective’s room, and headed for the stairs. Blocking his path at the top of the stairwell, she handed him a drawing of Hollingsworth.

Their eyes locked on each other and without saying a word Grogan slipped the drawing into his backpack and headed down the stairs.

“Gotcha, Jenny said to herself. Sabbatical my ass.”

 


***

Hollingsworth after having been ushered inside Siboney Ronson’s underground office and waited patiently for his arrival. His desk was old school, beautifully hand crafted out of oak with a modern ergonomic chair behind it. Under her feet a hand made late 1800’s Persian rug that covered 80 percent of a contemporary steel floor and on his walls were the latest high tech digital monitors carefully positioned between old world wooden book cases from the Victorian era. It seemed to Hollingsworth that Ronson’s office was where the modern and the old world coexisted. Curious, she started pulling books off the shelf and began reading their titles and publishing dates. For the most part they were all about Survivalism. From the 70’s there was Howard Ruff’s, Famine and Survival in America as well as James Wesley Rawles three books including Patriot: A Novel of Survival In the Coming Collapse. In the 80’s there was Clayton’s, Life After Doomsday, and Live Off The Land in The City And Country by Ragnor Benson. And in he 90’s there seemed to be a Y2K theme among the Preppers; Mike Oehler’s, The Hippy Survival Guide to Y2K and The $50 and Up Underground House Book. Books titled in the 2000’s were concerned with wars, epidemics, economic and environmental disasters, energy shortages and both nuclear and biological terrorist attacks.

As she was putting the last jacketed book back a voice appeared over her left shoulder. “Care to read any of them in depth,” as Ronson took a seat behind his desk.

 Without responding Hollingsworth nestled the hardcover book back onto its shelf and took a seat opposite her contract employer. They both knew she was in it for the money and any pretext of committing herself to a loftier goal than wealth was beyond both their comprehensions.

“For the record, the man that you disposed of, Richard Leventhal, was one of the most brilliant minds on this planet. I recognized that right away when we worked together on a committee in “The Rabble. But I’m also sure that he is of no interest to you, just another transaction on your business ledger. Leventhal in his area of expertise had no peers….”

Hollngsworth politely waited for Ronson to finish speaking. Born in Missouri to dirt poor parents, her only goals in life were to survive, get off the tenant farm, and accumulate personal wealth. Her path to independence began when she joined the United States Army where she chose Military Intelligence for her MOS (Military Occupational Specialty). There she flourished using her analytical skills and her ability to quickly process, develop and coordinate intricate operational plans. A fitness buff who also had an interest in weaponry, she was considered to be a hard nose individual that knew what she wanted and wasn't afraid to get it. It was during the course of her military career that she first assisted on and than help orchestrate some of the more complex black ops covert operations. Which Is why it came as a surprise to her military superiors and those around her when she resigned from her position of leadership to pursue a career in the private sector. What they didn't know was that from the day that she enlisted, she had been planning a course that would allow her to financially benefit from her military training and amorality. Upon leaving the Army, success in her newly chosen profession quickly allowed her to build the personal wealth that she was seeking, and along the way she fell in love with of all things antiques. 

By definition antiques are defined as made in or representative of the work of an earlier period, but what fascinated Hollingsworth is that these timeless works of art were each had their own unique story that started from its creation. She was a collector of European hand crafted period pieces and her expertise and extensive collection covered the 15th through the19th centuries. Over time these accumulated items became her sole obsession, which she housed in multiple locations, two residences, one in London and the other outside of New York, as well as three fully secured ware houses; proof that her journey from poverty to accumulated personal wealth was achieved, if not finished.

Ronson to Hollingsworth was just another rich employer that helped fuel her insatiable acquisition appetite. The fact that he believed in some kooky survivalist cause was fine with her as long as he paid for his targeted killings based on the agreed upon terms.

Waiting patiently for Siboney’s Levanthal soliloquy to conclude, the female operative took a USB stick out from inside her pocket and put it on the desks top. Siboney observing the action ended his hypocritical Leventhal eulogy, nodded his head and caught the stick that Hollingsworth slid it across the desk. It was a design plan and its title was phase one.

“Have you looked at it,” Ronson asked?

“Was that part of the assignment,” Hollingsworth answered, and if so what’s the fee?”

The ultimate survivalist couldn’t help but laugh as he pocketed the USB drive and put it to the right of his computer. Then he opened his desk drawer and retrieved another external flash drive and slid it back across the desk to Hollingsworth. “This is your next assignment and by the time you leave here your comp will have been wired into your account. It is a pleasure doing business with you. I’ll be in touch.”

Hollingsworth never offended by the abrupt endings to their meetings, got up from her chair and headed for the door, but before she reached it she turned around and asked Siboney Ronson a question. “I find it curious that of all the authors in your bookcases there isn’t a book by you?”

Standing up from his chair and pointing at the authors works he collected, Ronson stated, “Ms. Hollingsworth or whomever your real name is, the books on my cases are all about dire predictions that didn’t come true. When I am done, mine will be the only real Survivalist book about a true disaster and how the world coped with it. As we get closer to that calamity you’re always welcome to join us based upon your services to the cause.”

A coldness swept through Hollingsworth body as she stood in the doorway, a feeling she rarely felt. Nodding her head at Ronson, her only outward sign of acknowledging his offer, she gracefully turned her back on him and started to prepare for the next assignment.

 

Chapter Eleven

 

After Grogan informed Captain Dietz that he was taking a sabbatical, he arrived in Ultra World 12 hours before his Priority 1 Meet. As he strode across the train station towards the exit, he had been warned that he could be followed, but was unconcerned as to who it might be, if anyone at all. That was someone else’s problem to observe and detain whomever had an interest in his movements. His sole focus was on getting to the meeting on time.

After leaving the police station, the previous day he had found a detailed note that had been discreetly placed in his car. Adhering to an unusual ask, he was dressed for the mountains. “An odd request,” he thought to himself as he looked down at his out of date hiking boots. It had been a while since he traversed rugged terrain.  

Upon exiting The Wayfarer hub, he alertly waited for his ride. 48 years ahead of his own time, Ultra World always gave him a rush, a glimpse into his own future…. A Tomorrowland’s theme park is how he thought of it as he became mesmerized watching a mix of driven, autonomous, and flying cars circle outside the train station in anticipation of their next fare.

“Grogan….I’m your ride, courtesy of Golden Colorado and Maggie,” said a man who materialized out of nowhere to be standing next to his side. At least 6’4” in height he had the look of a well conditioned professional athlete and the hardness of exmilitary.

Grogan just nodded his head (acknowledging the birthplace of his mother and her forename), and got into the backseat of the vehicle.

“There’s a backpack to your right with more up to date hiking gear than what you had to wear for the passage. You’ll also find a briefcase with some folders in it next to the pack. In case you’re wondering, this is the first part of your journey. I’ll be dropping you off at a private airfield where you will be flying east. Another car and driver will then meet you and take you to the base of Kiefer Mountain where you’ll make your ascent. I hope you’re in shape.” Grogan sat stoically, not responding to the last remark, and patiently waited until the transporter closed the limousine window between them.

 

Opening the backpack he rummaged through the new clothes and to his delight found a pair of 2 vent mid hiking boots. Changing into his new clothes, he put his old duds back into the backpack for a change of clothing and for his passage home. Next, he opened the briefcase and pulled the folders halfway out, deciding as to which one to read first. He started with Richard Leventhal. Pulling a series of photos out of the folder he placed them on the seat beside him. He did not expect to see what he saw…a man with a thirst for life. Unfortunately for Grogan, the one image that resonated with him was the one that was recently implanted in his mind at the City Morgue. He correctly guessed that the airport was outside the city, so he settled back into his seat and took his time reading Leventhal’s folder and the rest of the information in the briefcase.

***

Siboney Ronson left the conference room for his office after a two hour meeting with key members of his staff. Inside the cave there were over 400 people that had followed their leader in the name of Survivalism. They trusted him and were willing to adhere to his every order. He had hand selected each and every one of them over the last five years and all had been instrumental in helping him set up his mountain headquarters.

Closely following Endrick’s CME activities, theories and findings; he actually came to the same conclusion as Endrick and his associate Elwood Sprague that a massive CME was headed towards earth. And being honest to himself, he believed that a Coronal Mass Ejection was a course correction from the dominant star in our solar system. A CME greater then the Carrington Event would change the current destiny of the planet for all three dimensions. One in which no one could possibly fathom. Ultra World the most advanced technological society would be impacted the most, followed by Prime World, and to a slightly lesser degree Alternative World. It would send billions of people back to the Stone Ages. “It’s time has come,” Siboney said to himself without a tinge of regret. Ronson, along with a lot of scientific minds, passionately believed that the number one threat to the planet was overpopulation. “We’re growing too fast and eating up all of Earths resources,” he said internally. A CME, the likes of which Endrick predicted and Leventhal verified by his actions, was one way to stop man’s never ending desire to procreate. “A necessary course correction by an act of nature,” he shouted; his voice resonating throughout the office, Pacing around, mumbling to himself, he stopped, raised his voice again as if he were lecturing a group of students and said, “Man does not have the capacity or desire to cull the human population. Plagues and World Wars use to perform that function. No longer. Improvements in medical science and peace in all three dimensions have created unwitting partners in overpopulating the world.”

Pulling out a chair and sitting down, he looked across his desk at all the survival books on the bookshelves. None of their predictions would come close to a CME event. His mission and purpose in life was to ensure that nothing got in the way of a projected G7 CME. Which he acknowledged put him on a collision course with Endrick and the scientists of The Rabble. He had eliminated one brilliant mind in Levanthal, who had just the right amount of unconventional

thinking and discipline to work out a possible CME solution. Sighing for a regrettable action, but one that he deemed necessary, he unlocked his desk drawer and pulled out a list of names. If left unchecked anyone of that could endanger his plans. At the top of his list was Leventhal, which he proceeded to cross out. He then studied the rest of the prominent names on the two sheets of paper and circled Hollingsworth’s next assignment. She was his best, but not his only paid operative, as he perused his targeted list; periodically he would stop to place a check next to a scientific mind that could potentially derail his master plan for the “Reborn Planet Earth.”

***

 

She arrived in Alternative World ahead of schedule. It was her least favorite dimension because she had no desire to personally look backwards. Backwards to her meant farmers eking out a living on some hard scrabble land. She shuddered at the thought.

 

Through her clandestine network she had arranged all that was necessary to neutralize the target. Siboney’s assignment took her to the West Coast, north of the Bay Metropolis. In this traffic it would take her at least two hours to reach her destination in wine country; a well respected university with a world renown science department. There she would combine in-field observations with the notes from the target’s dossier, which had been compiled for her and were carefully stored in the trunk of her car.

 

Rolling down her window she let the ocean air fill her car while she crossed the first of two bridges heading north. Turning on the radio she found a station that suited her mood and started to hum along to the music. “One thing this dimension has is great music,” she said to herself. “The kind that you can sing along too,” as she looked out over the ocean on her left and the bay on her right; a view she never got tired of seeing.

 

***

 

Grogan got out the vehicle on the right side of the rural road. He watched as the SUV quickly pulled away and left him by himself. He let his nostrils take in the clean mountain air. “Rocky Mountain High,” he said to himself as he threw his backpack over his shoulders and prepared for the climb. He had left the briefcase in the car, but had taken the files. Looking up at the rugged terrain he decided on his entry point, but first he set his bearings. In his right hand was a Gyo something he wished he had when climbing mountains during his summers in Colorado. The Gyo was a combination of a digital compass that allowed GPS access and a pathfinder that kept you on course when canopy cover rendered the satellite access useless. He set his coordinates and entered the woods. By his estimate it would take him 120 minutes to make the climb.

 

About halfway up he realized that five mile runs every other day didn’t cut it. Not if you were climbing a mountain with this elevation. “Dam, and he thought he was in shape. I guess for an urban life, but not for rugged terrain. Here it was always survival of the fittest.”  Attached to his belt was a Sieghausen, what he would call a Glock in Prime World. He didn’t expect to encounter anything, but according to his last driver this area was known for mountain lions.  

 

Traversing the mountain since climbing straight up was impossible; he figured that he was less than one click from his destination as he picked up his pace. Moving through the trees and brush as fast as his body would allow he heard a snapping of a branch in front of him and took cover. Retracing his steps as silently as he could he choose a different route to continue his climb, however, this time the Sieghausen was in his right hand and an extra cartridge was stuffed in his waistband.

 

Within sight of the log house he heard a command. “Halt…show your self.”

Putting the gun in the small of his back he came into the clearing. The security detail was hidden but the voice came from his right.

 

The next word he heard was, “Golden.”

 

Grogan responded with “Maggie.”

 

From behind their human duck blinds three men suddenly appeared out of nowhere.

 

Dropping his automatic weapon from a shooting position, the head of the security detail swung his head to the right motioning behind him as he said, “Endrick’s waiting for you in the cabin.”

 

***

 

After three days Hollingsworth came up with a plan. The college professor followed a routine that he adhered to religiously Monday through Friday. At 9am in the morning he left for classes, came home for lunch with his wife, and then exactly at 12:15 pm returned to university to lecture and do research in the afternoon until 6pm.

 

Hollingsworth decided that the most efficient way to take her target off the table was to detonate a car bomb using c4. A creature of habit the head of the mathematics department parked his car in the same location every day, C floor, parking space FF away from the other cars, so his Rialto wouldn’t get dinged. During morning classes the faculty parking garage was full, but also absolutely empty. Hollingsworth calculated that if timed properly it should take her no less than ten minutes to position the explosive devise and digital timer carefully onto the undercarriage of the Rialto without being seen. A university facility there was an attendant on duty. But everyday at 10am he would leave his post to use the men’s room positioning both the entry and exit gates up and open. His break lasted for pricely15 minutes while he used the facilities and had a smoke. In Prime World Hollingsworth thought there would be a bay of security cameras monitoring each floor of the garage and viewed at a separate location, there would be no attendant on duty and access would be by credit card or a secure card key only. “A simpler time,” Hollingsworth said softly to herself as she entered the lobby of the mathematics department.

 

She immediately fit in with her dimension style dress, a more formal look than what a grad student would wear in Prime World. Most of the faculty took either the elevator or the stairs upward from the garage to the main lobby and then to their classes on one of ten overhead floors. Avoiding eye contact she headed to the Exit stairwell timing her approach, Hollingsworth waited until a faculty member whom she observed was as punctual as her target exited Stairwell A. There wouldn’t be another faculty member using the elevators or stairwell for at least another 30 minutes.

 

Alone on C Floor, Siboney’s number one operative didn’t bother to glance around instead she walked directly to parking space FF and the Rialto. Dropping to the ground under the vehicle she quickly attached the devise to the target’s undercarriage, activated the timer and then unhurriedly got up from under the car. Dusting herself off and she walked slowly towards the stairwell. Before reaching it she looked over the parking rail downward to B Floor where she observed the parking attendant finishing his smoke. With five minutes to spare she exited the garage. The lobby was a buzz with students as Hollingsworth appeared to be just another face in the crowd as she traipsed through the mathematics department lobby on her way towards the campus quad and her rental vehicle.

 

Arriving the next day at the Peninsula Airport, Hollingsworth marveled at how quickly she was able to get to her gate without a TSA security checkpoint to detain her. As she was about to board her flight for her next assignment; she casually glanced at her watch, the hour hand was at 12 and the minute hand was rapidly approaching 15. “Boom,” she said under her breath as a brief smile crossed her lips. Turning towards the flight attendant she smiled, flashed her boarding pass and then triumphantly walked down the gateway to board the plane. The only thought running through her mind as she sat in first class was a period piece she planned to acquire by Michael Thonet known for his Bentwood furniture designs.

 

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

Endrick greeted Grogan at the door, “Jim Endrick” and motioned him to enter the hundred year old family getaway. You can stash your stuff in the corner by the bedroom hallway. Can I get you anything to drink? I know that climb up the mountain is only for those that are in shape.” His first impression of the Wayfarer Detective that worked for the Chairmen was that he could have easily have been one of the security detail guarding him, lean hard men of a military background. guarding him. Grogan responded with a relaxed smile before saying, “Water would be great.”

 

Each was sizing up the other and wondering if they were going to work together the measure of the man. Endrick focused on Grogan’s features first. The Detective from Prime World was approximately 6 foot one with a wiry frame. Lean hipped with arms slightly longer than the average man’s he exuded strength underneath his hiking apparel. Endrick recalled Grogan’s face as he got the hiker some water. it reminded him of someone else he knew both had sandy brown hair although Grogan’s was trimmed at the sides, unlike his counterpart the mop on top was unruly. Both had dark brown eyes, alive and inquisitive, high cheek bones and a cleft chin. Cut from the same cloth there was no question as to Grogan’s IQ as Endrick passed the dining area on his way to the kitchen to procure a water for Grogan and spirits with a water back for himself.

 

While sitting on the couch taking in the warmth of the fireplace, Grogan wondered about the man who was at the heart of his investigation. A fighter pilot turned scientist. He didn’t know many of those on Prime World. His guess he was that his host was in his late fifties or early sixties. In shape or better yet never out of shape since his military days. He reminded him of his Grandpa Wilbur, a man of principle. They both had the same demeanor. As far as physical appearance he was approximately the same height and weight as himself though that’s where the comparison ended. Where his face was long with ears that were flat on his sides. Endrick’s face was round that stuck out so your couldn’t miss them. He had steel gray eyes that looked like they could read you. And where he once he had curly black hair judging from a family picture taken with his family, he was now bald with the exception of some salt and pepper hair that traveled from one ear to the other. His nose was short where Grogan’s was long and he had bags under his eyes, most likely part of the aging process. Standing up the detective walked over to the mantle for a photographic observation of the Endrick family tree. His gaze stopped at the most recent pictures and the most prominent ones. Without taking them in hand he focused on the attractive woman standing next to Endrick in what appeared to be a summer photo by the lake Endrick’s daughter  daughter and family, he guessed. However the most recent family photos of Endrick were Grogan surmised without his wife.  

“Here you go, as Endrick reappeared and placed the water on the table in front of the couch while sitting in an easy chair across from his guest. Grogan turned from the mantle and retook his seat on the sofa. Neither one said a word about the framed pictures on the mantle. “Too painful,”  Grogan though as he listened to everything Endrick had to say, starting with his prediction of a massive CME and ending with the death of Leventhal. He had the same reaction that the UW Chairman had when given the impact of a Coronal Mass Ejection. It was almost beyond belief that the Sun, our benign friend could have such a malevolent side. And by its actions threaten our own existence. Endrick watched as the wheels turned inside Grogan’s head as he said to himself, “All three dimensions driven back to the Stone Age, by an act of nature. A G7 CME could reduce the population in all three dimensions by a minimum of  40%"No wonder this was a “Priority 1 Meet."

Endrick waited and didn’t say another word, he just let the reality of the situation sink in as Grogan was processing everything for the first time.

It was Grogan that finally broke the silence. “Continue.”

 "When I first discussed the possibility of a massive CME with Richard, he calmly listened and processed the information.”

“When did you first speak to him about this?”

Oh…maybe about six months ago…It was at his house after dinner. I told Leventhal that to be honest I didn't have a solution or a way to stop a solar flare of this magnitude. Remember, my discussion with Richard was theoretical and I had yet to receive the latest calculations until Elwood Sprague sent them to me. But if you knew Richard you would know that there was no problem that was unsolvable, at least in his mind. Relentless is how I would I describe Leventhal. I’m sure that ever since I told him of the threat to mankind including while I was up in the mountains on R&R, Richard was working on some theoretical concepts to find a solution to protect planet earth from the Sun. Which  is why it is so troubling that someone would take his life. A Wayfarer, Richard could communicate with scientists and engineers from all the other dimensions, an advantage he had over me.”

Picking up the file that had been given to him he glanced at Endrick’s dossier and asked, “You‘re not a Wayfarer are you Dr. Endrick?

“No, not in my DNA,” he said with a reluctant shake of his head. Shrugging his shoulders, it sure would make communicating with PW and AW scientists less cumbersome than working through intermediary couriers.”  Continuing, “Richard was a one of a kind generational mind with very few peers. To be honest he used to infuriate me with his with his shit eating grin, which he would display when processing a breakthrough idea.” A sadness came over the head of The Rabble as he muttered to himself, “I’ll miss that grin.”

“Why was he killed…think?” Grogan asked, there has to be an answer. Did he ever speak about enemies or rivals. Was he working on anything else besides the CME solution that you knew of?” Grogan voice had an urgency to it that previously hadn’t been there.

“I honestly don’t have a clue. Richard didn’t have enemies. He just had friends and colleagues and he was devoted to his wife and family and to protecting the Dimensions. Why would anyone want to stop someone who was trying to save planet earth. What could their motive be?”

“Sure I can’t offer you anything stronger than water, once Grogan emptied his glass.

“Do you have any scotch of whiskey. Maybe a couple of fingers full with water.”

Endrick headed back to the kitchen while Grogan remained seated while he tried to make sense of the situation

They resumed the conversation, each with a glass of spirits in their hand. Grogan sipped on his drink pausing the dialogue for a few minutes as his eyes wandered around the log house. He guessed that it was about 5,000 square feet. With the great room, which contained the living room and kitchen, accounting for two thirds of the space. With the exception of the rock fireplace that covered the entire south wall; the beams, the ceiling and the walls were all done in Oak and whatever nearby hardwood was available. The craftsmanship was unmatched as he looked up at the A framed ceiling supported by large Oak beams that ran the length of the rooms. There was a large window facing west on the roof that gave sunlight during the day and the stars and moon at night. Although it was rustic it had a warm feel to it. There were no electronic devices instead there were books strategically placed around the space. This is where you retreated from the demands of urban life, Grogan thought. It is where reading, discussions and outdoor activities were the priority of his host and family and guests.

Picking up on Grogan’s observations, Endrick also paused the exchange of information by saying, “The lake house has been in my family for over 100 years, passed on from generation to generation. Two brothers, one of those being my great grandfather, built the design and structure and detail by detail of this most treasured family home. There are three bedrooms, a great room, a kitchen and two bathrooms. It’s solar powered which the brothers figured would happen one day but didn’t know how to achieve it. And in case you’re wondering how we supply ourselves you just walk down to the lake and take a boat. We are in a pretty remote section of the mountains at the far northwest side of the lake. It’s magnificent water ride as you take in the beauty of the mountains, changing foliage and the deep blue of the lake on your way to the general store. It use to be a trading post, but today’s it supplies those vacation retreats nestled in the mountains around the lake. The trek over water to the general store is a half day’s journey. It’s pretty rustic up here as you could tell by your climb.”

That was an understatement as Grogan recalled his hike up the mountain.

Then once again focusing on his mission he asked, “Could his death be unrelated to the CME. “Were there any other issues in his life?”

“I doubt it. I talked to his wife, Julie and his oldest son, Andrew and when last they spoke he told both of them that he was working on a theoretical problem that would require his utmost attention. When pressed he didn’t elaborate. They both said he appeared to be very focused. Not depressed or discouraged, but determined to solve the puzzle he was working on. Oh and he did tell them that it would require him to travel between dimensions. Julie concluded by saying that none of his actions were out of the ordinary and Andrew agreed. It was the way he was when working on an important task.”

"Did Leventhal know the latest calculations of what you predicted was about to become a reality at a G force that no one anticipated."

"Hard to say," but my guess is that he did. As you already know Richard was a Wayfarer, so he had the ability to travel between dimensions and talk with various colleagues in other dimensions. I can check to see if he talked to Sprague.”

Grogan agreed with a nod of his head and then sat there thinking while Endrick stood up and pointed towards Grogan’s empty glass and asked, “Care for another,” as he headed for the functional kitchen.

Grogan again nodded his head as he looked around the log house. For Ultra World, Endrick’s place was truly a journey back in time. The fireplace directly facing him as he sat on the couch provided both heat and light. The rest of the illumination, was by converted kerosene lamps, strategically placed throughout the room. Like everything else they were now powered by solar energy. Someone over the years was a furniture maker because all the furniture was handmade, and surprisingly comfortable. In anticipation of sleep, Grogan hoped that his bed was constructed the same way as the great rooms furniture because after this morning’s early start, and his hike up the mountain, he was starting to run out of steam.

“How you holding up Endrick asked, as he handed Grogan a half full glass of what was known in Prime World as bourbon on the rocks.

Grogan threw it back then fighting back a wave of sleepiness that had suddenly come upon him he asked, “How secure is the perimeter. How many men are patrolling it and is there security down by the lake?”

Endrick responded, “five men each strategically placed around the cabin. four on and one off in rotating shifts. Before you arrived one of the detail was stationed in the house. The Chairman thought I would be safer up here with limited access to my locale.”

Grogan pursed his lips and said, “I see. Followed by, well in that case I’m going to call it a night. I’ll have more questions to ask, but they can wait til tomorrow. Which room is mine,” as he got up from the couch and gathered his things.

“First room on the right down the hall. See you in the morning.” His walk, his mannerisms even the timbre of his voice were so familiar. Endrick who had been avoiding staring at him all night realized just how remarkable the resemblance was between Grogan and The UW Chairmen. 

***

Compared to the urban sounds of the city (fire engines and police car sirens wailing, people talking overly loud from an alcoholic infused night on the town and dogs barking in an attempt to protect their turf from the night crawlers walking the streets) Grogan wasn’t use to the absolute quiet of Endrick’s mountain retreat. His eyes adjusting to the night looked around the room from his comfortable bed. Like the rest of the house the furniture was sparse and hand made. The bedroom consisted of a clothes closet, two clothing bureaus, a chest at the foot of the bed and a window that looked out into the night. There was also a book shelf that contained an extensive collection of mysteries. “Too quiet”, he said to himself as he tossed and turned in a vain effort to get comfortable and fall asleep. In the end he just couldn’t escape the absolute quietude of  the outside sounds of this mountainous lake house retreat. So he stopped fighting falling asleep and just laid on his back with his clothes still on and looked at the drywall ceiling and ceiling fan for the next hour and a half. Just when he started to feel drowsy, he came to full alert after hearing a twig snap. It was a similar sound to the one he heard during his ascent up the mountain. Similar, but different and oddly enough the snapping twig was not followed by a challenge from any of the security team that had been tasked with safeguarding Endrick.

Slowly as to not make a sound Grogan slipped out of his bed with both the Sieghausen and extra cartridges in hand and quietly dropped to the floor. He relocated his hiking boots, put them on then low crawled out of the bedroom towards the other two bedrooms farther down the hall. Of the two bedrooms, one door was open and the other closed. Grogan proceeded carefully to the closed master bedroom door and opened it. There he saw a figure contently sleeping on the king sized bed, under the covers, on his side. Grogan instinctively new that time was running out yet he couldn’t go any faster than how he was proceeding for fear it would alert whoever was outside the cabin that he was on the move. Crawling with his body against pressed against the oak flooring, he finally reached his Endrick. Slowly he got up on his knees and in one fluid motion put his hand over Endrick’s mouth and gently woke him up.

Startled, Endrick eyes popped wide open as he instantly recognized Grogan in the dimly lit shadowy room. Blinking his eyes several times to make sure he wasn’t dreaming, he looked directly at Grogan his only thought being, ”We must be in some serious shit.”

“Our security has been compromised, Grogan quietly explained, “And we are in danger. Do you have a weapon?”

“Yes its in the drawer on my nightstand,” as he looked towards its location. “It’s a 45 caliber Cycle pistol.”

“I’m familiar with it,” Grogan interjected while nodding his head in approval. “It carries seven rounds in the magazine and another in the chamber. He then opened the night table and handed Endrick the gun. “Okay this is what you are going to do. I want you to get out of bed as quietly as you can then put on your clothes. Next, I want you to sit in the corner,” that Grogan was pointing towards. “That corner is extremely dark and out of sight from the window. Then I want your handgun pointed at the door. Whoever comes through it shoot to kill. Understood?”

“What about the rest?’ Endrick asked as he nodded his head?”

I’ll take care of them.” The fierceness with which he delivered the barely audible line covered up the apprehension that The Wayfarer was feeling. Exactly how many of them were out there Grogan had no idea. “We’ll be fine,’ he stated, “You do your job and I’ll do mine. By the way, I’m trained to handle this.” A lie to put Endrick at ease. “Is there a way out of the cabin other than the front and back doors and windows. Grogan softly punctuated his question with one word. “Quickly.”

“Endrick whispered back into Grogan’s ear. “The second bedroom across the hall from here…Inside on the north wall is a closet…by the way that closet door squeaks. In there is a ladder to the attic The attic covers the length of the bedrooms.  On the right side of the open ceiling you will notice that and there is a window that you can easily pop open with a twist of the handle. It will give you immediate access to the roof. The pitch isn’t that steep. I’ve walked on it many times. The good news is that there are some some tree branches that overhang the roof that I have been meaning to trim. They can easily support your weight and they will give you access to a large oak tree that you can use to get to the ground.”

“Got it,”  Grogan acknowledged, impatient to get moving. Holding Endrick’s arm with a vice like grip, the policeman turned commando gave his final instructions. “Don’t miss the target you’ll have surprise on your side.”

Grogan then motioned Endrick to his killing field position while he rearranged the three pillows under the covers of the bed to give the allusion of someone sleeping. He then ruffled the covers to complete the deception. Satisfied Grogan high crawled it out of the master bedroom towards the second bedroom. Quickly he found the closet and reached up for the door. It could possibly come to one squeak alerting the intruders that he and Endrick were alert to their game. With a bead of sweat suddenly appearing on his forehead he turned the knob slowly. The squeak barely audible could be heard as he opened the closet door and slid in.  It took him less than three minutes to locate the ladder, clear the roof, and situate himself on a nearby Oak tree. Climbing up a little higher it gave him a greater command of the field. And there they were five combatants dressed in what he would refer to as modified black and dark green SWAT gear, wearing light Kevlar body armor from the neck down and carrying the equivalent of a Seal Team’s assault weapon a Colt M4A1. Their only visible vulnerability was that they had replaced their helmets with balaclavas. Definitely professionals by the way they moved and carried themselves; they were ready to complete the final phase of their mission after decimating Endrick’s security detail.

Funny, unlike a lot of his police brethren he had been in multiple discharges of his weapon in the line of duty, including a ferocious fire fight with a gang of drug dealers on Chicago’s West Side where each side took heavy casualties. He had also been in some ‘off the record’ fire fights while working for the UW Chairmen against some Dimension violators. In each situation when he was called upon to go into harms way, a calmness came over him that contained the fear inside him. It allowed him to complete his mission unfettered. As he descended his observation tree from the side facing away from the lake house he remembered all the tree climbing he did on his Grandpa’s Colorado ranch. They nicknamed him “The Squirrel” for the speed in which he could scramble up and down a tree and go from branch to branch as he continued to descend to the ground. Walking through the brush, careful not to step on any undergrowth that could give away his position, Grogan nearly tripped over one of Endrick’s security guards; he recognized the Team Leader right away as the one that had interacted with him when he first arrived. He had been garroted. Taking a deep breath it confirmed to Grogan that his advisories were elite and would react quickly to his attack.

 Grogan knew that there were too many to take directly on in a fire fight from a fixed position. Instead he would have to employ the tactic of shooting and moving using the heavy growth growing around the log house; his cover supplied by spruce fir, hemlock trees and scrubs that had turned into thick vegetation. He surreptitiously moved behind the assassination team as they prepared to enter the log cabin. Their guard and risk assessment down a slight notch after having eliminated the greatest threat to their mission…Endrick’s security detail. Lying prone on the ground, he established his first shooting position when a distant command from the past entered his thoughts, drilled into him by his Grandfather who had taught him to shoot all types of weapons on his Colorado summer visits, “Aim Small and never doubt your abilities,”

By hand signals the killer assassins were now giving out assignments for the final assault on the cabin. As the hostiles prepared for their breach, two walked around the back of the log cabin to make sure Endrick and his guest had no way out. The head of the team waited until they were in position and started to give a five finger countdown when the silence of the night air was interrupted by the crack of Grogan’s Sieghausen; a head shot that hit the closest intruder to the front door, dropping him where he stood. The other two assassins wheeled around at once to see where the sound came from before attempting to take cover. But, Grogan was already on the move, his 9mm projectile coming from a different direction struck the second intruder on the left side of his face killing him instantly.

After the two assassins entered the back of the house, the first gun shots from the front of the lake house erupted. The larger of the two killers signaled to the other that he was going to check it out and left the lone assassin in the hallway where the bedrooms were located. Softly walking down the hall, the remaining killer utilizing his night goggles noticed that two out of the three bedrooms were empty as he came upon the closed door of the master bedroom. Standing beside the door frame, he prepared to kick it open it and burst into the room.

Cautiously moving from the back of the house towards the sound of the gun shots, the third hostile, in an attempt to support his comrades in arms, slowly peered around the front of the corner of the house with his night goggles down. His last images were of two fallen comrades lying grotesquely on the ground. Grogan, firing from a one knee stance from his third concealed position took the third team member out just as he tried to find cover with a three shot burst that stopped him in mid stride. The element of surprise was over for Grogan and unless he had miscalculated from his previous tree top perch there were only two SWAT members left…one outside and one inside. Armed and dangerous both elite soldiers or mercenary’s were now alerted to an active shooter/security guard that had either survived or gone undetected. The game had changed.

The Hostile Leader had escaped into the brush from the front of the house and was no doubt using his night vision in an attempt to find the unknown that had taken out three of his team. It was modern technology versus old school Grogan thought. The Team Leader was using the green hue of night vision to find Grogan while ‘The Non Courier Wayfarer’ was taking what mother nature gave him to acquire and eliminate the threat on this partially lit moonlit night.

Grogan reached his fourth position, but in the process he slightly moved some thick underbrush. The night vision of the Hostile Leader picked up the movement immediately without seeing actually seeing Grogan. He now knew where Grogan was hiding, behind some heavy foliage. He then made a calculated decision, he would put his automatic weapon on rock and roll and fire into the underbrush before moving to a new firing position in case he missed him. As he was about to execute his plan he suddenly had a view of Grogan through his vision goggles. There he was directly across form him, hidden behind some underbrush next to a partially downed tree. With pleasure he lined up his shot, no need to go rock and roll now. As he was about to squeeze the trigger…suddenly there was a loud sonic boom, the unmistakable sound of Endrick’s .45  from inside the house. Quickly the Hostile Leader turned in that direction to see if the threat was to him and in that instant Grogan picked up the leaders movement, his head with the vision goggles on it silhouetted by the Sun’s reflection on the Moon. Grogan standing upright in a shooting position without hesitation, fired another tight three shot pattern… killing adversary instantly.

Already moving to his fifth position, Grogan recalled Endrick’s file and yelled out the former jet fighter’s call sign, “Nails”…All Clear.”

“Well I’ll be dammed came the voice from inside the house,’ as Endrick opened the front door to see the carnage in front of him while Grogan pushed aside some brush, revealed himself, and started walking towards the front of the Lake House from the right side of the clearing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


© Copyright 2019 Bill Bungeroth. All rights reserved.

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