Chapter 16—“Sweet love’s showin’ us a heavenly light, never seen such a beautiful sight!”
We woke up and Aimee ordered room service for breakfast. When she put down the phone, Aimee told me that there was a package for Patricia James, her alias, at the front desk and that it would be delivered with our meal.
I wondered what present our friend Mr. Voder had for us today. I idly wondered if he might have our room bugged, since he obviously knew where we were staying. It was a paranoid thought, but I was taught well that one doesn’t survive in the military if one is an unnecessary optimist. I thought back to the conversations that we had since we arrived, and realized that nothing had been said that would have revealed anything that would jeopardize us, except the obvious fact that all three women considered me their husband. Even when Mary and I made our amazing discovery, I realized that Mary and I were communicating on two levels: our words alone might not make sense to anybody listening. Of course, it all depended on how much whoever was listening already knew or suspected.
Despite that, I decided that we would wait for a better venue that gave less opportunity for eavesdropping.
Room service arrived with a complimentary newspaper and Patricia’s package. Aimee took the large padded mailer and I grabbed the newspaper.
Normally, newspapers didn’t interest me much. The novelty of having an actor as president had worn off. In addition, the upcoming political election didn’t appeal to me, since I only knew George Bush as the ex-CIA chief, and had no idea who Michael Dukkakis was. Even most of the names in the sports section were totally foreign to me. The world had changed while I had slept, and I found that I had little taste in being reminded about what I had lost. This lack of desire would eventually diminish as I got reacquainted to the world as it now existed, but it would take time before this happened.
On this day, however, I was interested in checking out the weather forecast—the day seemed nice, but I just wanted a second opinion. The forecast for that day, and the next few days as well, was for clear and mild weather. I smiled. It would be perfect weather to enjoy Washington, DC. There were plenty of public places to visit and opportunities to hold a quiet family conversation.
The girls were sitting around eating breakfast when I joined them. The coffee was delicious and removed any vestiges of fatigue that I had from our workout last night.
“So where did you find those awesome gowns, Debbie?” I asked, trying to make small talk.
“We found a place in our travels yesterday,” Debbie shrugged. “For some extra cash, we had them tailored on the spot. The place probably has a lot of important clients who need outfits at the last minute. Aimee loved hers, and I preferred the color pink.”
Aimee smiled. “How did you know the color for my corsage?”
“I didn’t know what you’d be wearing, Precious,” I smiled. “I just knew that purple orchids have always been your favorite. I felt that I needed to apologize to you for not telling you that I loved you when you called. Red roses say ‘I love you,’ but I thought that orchids would say it just a bit louder, if only to you, Precious. Mary told me that I had been remiss after the call.”
Aimee’s response was a simple nod with a big smile.
“We should do some shopping when we’re done with our breakfast and showers,” I suggested.
This was greeted by nods.
“Our friend has some gifts for everybody today,” Aimee announced cryptically. She passed some envelopes around the table.
I opened mine, which contained a driver’s license and an American Express card. Debbie’s had the same, plus close to two thousand dollars in twenty and fifty dollar bills. Mary had a Visa card and a license.
Debbie’s license was from New York. Mine and Mary’s was from the state of California, and Aimee already had one from Vermont. All of these looked quite legitimate to me. I wondered what would happen if any of us were stopped by a highway patrolman and the licenses were checked. Somehow, I figured that they would pass any type of scrutiny.
Before we used the credit cards, though, I figured it would be a good idea to discuss it with Aimee, who was the one that knew Mr. Voder the best, and Mary, who I had now suspected was more than a little familiar with intelligence affairs.
I put my credit card and the new license in my wallet, hiding my prized Hawaiian license that Aimee had procured for me. The girls, seeing what I had done, each did the same.
Excusing myself from breakfast, I showered with Mary, and Debbie and Aimee showered together afterward. Unfortunately, there was no way to logistically fit four adults into the shower stall without creating a major accident hazard.
I kissed Mary after she left the bathroom, where Aimee and Debbie were doing an enthusiastic job of getting each other clean. I was already dressed in some dress slacks and a short sleeve shirt.
I heard the two girls exit their shower, and Aimee was the first out of the bathroom. I met her with a kiss, and she returned it lovingly.
Debbie came out of the bathroom soon afterward, and I kissed her as well. Her mouth tasted minty of mouthwash, and I think my breath would be very fresh as well, since Debbie’s tongue made sure that it reached just about everywhere possible inside my mouth.
“Get a room, you two!” Mary laughed as she witnessed our kiss.
Debbie and I broke off our kiss at that, grinning at Mary. I was pleasantly amazed at Mary’s transformation from a person that doubted her role in our relationship to one that understood that she was an equal and very important partner for the four of us.
Aimee had an outfit picked out for Debbie, and apparently, Debbie approved. Debbie nodded at her co-wife, and she put on the suit. I watched her dress, of course. Debbie is a knockout and every movement she made, even when doing the most mundane things, emanated her eroticism. I found myself joined by Mary, who also seemed to like watching Debbie dress.
When Debbie was finished, she grinned at Mary and I, knowing that we had been watching her. I pulled the two of us into a three-way kiss, and we were soon joined by Aimee, making the kiss most satisfactory.
After leaving the hotel, Mary surprised me by telling me that she had already scouted the address that Mr. Voder had given us. It was an office building on a major thoroughfare through Falls Church near I-66 and across the street from a shopping center. There was a bank of elevators inside the building, as well as two fire escapes that were locked from the outside, but weren’t locked from the stairways to each floor.
I was happy that I had this extra information and smiled at my having realized that Mary did seem to have a head for intelligence work.
We took a cab to the shopping mall, and then walked as two couples into the shopping center opposite the building. Our initial plan was to slowly wind our way through the shopping center and toward the office building, meeting eventually near the back of the building.
Mary got a strange feeling and sent me a silent message that somebody was watching us. She slightly changed her direction to appear as if we were going back toward the stores to see if the person would follow us. We didn’t want to be discovered so close to the office where this Colonel was headquartered.
The man that Mary had spotted appeared to be near a brown sedan when he looked up and visibly noticed Debbie and Aimee.
“Patricia!” the man said loudly and enthusiastically, looking straight at Aimee.
Years of training put Mary and me into immediate alert. I was about to try to deflect this person from Aimee by putting myself between him and my wife.
Then I heard Debbie gasp. “Uncle William!” Debbie shouted, completely surprised. She ran up and actually kissed the man.
“Uncle William” addressed each of us by our aliases from our new licenses, confirming to me that this person was Aimee’s Mr. Voder. Aimee didn’t seem to recognize the man, though. The fact that Debbie recognized him as an uncle was another interesting twist in the situation.
Mary looked at this person with suspicion clearly evident in her eyes. He immediately introduced himself as “William Voder,” calling Mary once again by her own alias. He handed me a business card with the name that he gave us.
“I work for Debbie,” Mr. Voder said. “And, by extension, this means that I am working for all of you.”
I looked at my wives, trying to get a feel for this person. I knew that Debbie recognized this person as an uncle, but Debbie was also a very trusting person. Of my other two wives, Aimee gave me a slight nod and Mary still seemed undecided.
“Let’s find some place a little more private for our family reunion,” Uncle William said. “There’s a MetroRail station over there.” William was pointing toward an orange sign indicating the Washington DC subway system.
“Where do you suggest we go?” I asked.
“There are a lot of nice places in Foggy Bottom,” William said. “It’s near George Washington University, and you can find a lot of places around there that are pretty private. Another idea is the Smithsonian Institute.”
We took the subway inbound toward central Washington, DC.
After looking at the station map, I decided that L’Enfant Plaza might be even better than the places that William suggested, and I suggested that. William shrugged and readily agreed.
We rode silently into the station and after we exited, I silently led our party. I knew that there was a hotel at the Plaza, and it had a few lobbies within. Mary was looking at me expectantly. I entered her mind and silently said, “Yes?”
“Things seem pretty safe here,” Mary said.
“How do you know?” I asked.
“Just a feeling.”
There were hundreds of questions that I had running through my head. Was this really Debbie’s uncle? What was his relationship to the Department of Defense and/or various intelligence agencies? How much did he know about us? How many people did he have monitoring us?
After about five minutes after entering the hotel, I found an area that was pretty secluded. We sat on comfortable chairs.
“So, Captain Montgomery,” William finally said to me. “I’m sure you’re treating my niece appropriately. I’m sorry that I wasn’t invited to the wedding.”
William was telling me that he had been keeping tabs on us. “There wasn’t any official ceremony,” I said.
William nodded. “It appears that only fair Aimee had any sort of ceremony. Am I correct?”
That confirmed that he had been investigating us. “It was informal.” I didn’t want to give this man too much information until I knew exactly whose side he was on.
“Aimee is a wonderful and very mysterious person,” William said to me. He turned to her and said, “It has been a real privilege working for you and with you, my dear.”
“The feeling is mutual,” Aimee said. I could see from her eyes that she was still appraising this person, although she seemed generally in favor of him. This raised my own opinion of him, since I really valued Aimee’s feelings about whether a person is “good” or “bad.”
“And this is the faithful and devoted Lieutenant Cadley,” Voder said, indicating Mary.
“As you know, I resigned my commission quite a while ago,” Mary said, a little stiffly.
William nodded. “May I have your permission to refer to you by your given name, then, Ms. Cadley?”
“Mary would be fine.”
William took Mary’s hand, and said “Pleasure to meet you again, Mary.”
“Again?” Mary asked, a bit surprised.
“I met you in the hospital seven years ago.”
This was interesting. William seemed to be implying that he had been investigating me before I had even come out of my coma!
“In what capacity?” Mary asked, instantly suspicious.
“I had a temporary job as an administrator at the hospital where Jim was residing.”
“Why?” I asked.
“It was the best place to access his records, of course,” William said.
“Under whose orders?”
Ahh, how the road twists and turns.
“Your brother was investigating me?”
“Normally, I don’t comment on investigations except to the party that hires me. However, since you are ‘married’ to the only surviving daughter of my client, I will make an exception. Yes, you were being investigated.”
“That is a good question,” William said.
“Is Colonel DiPietro involved in that investigation?” Aimee asked.
“He was not,” William answered. “His investigation is more recent, based on some information that I thought had been destroyed.”
“What information was destroyed?”
“Some medical and non-service related information on Captain James Montgomery, especially any information that relates to a certain Doctor Larson.”
I turned to Mary.
Without me asking the question, Mary said, “I met a Doctor Larson a few years ago at the hospital. I only saw him once or twice. The last time I heard from him, he told me that he was going to interview me and give me an update on your condition. I showed up for the meeting, but he didn’t. I never heard from him again.”
“Doctor Larson probably died very soon after you met him,” William said.
“He died?” Mary asked. “I had been hoping he could have given me some more detailed information about Jim’s condition. I asked about him afterward, and somebody told me he had just been a visiting doctor and that he had already left.”
“Actually, Mary, it was probably for the best that you didn’t meet with him for that interview. You probably wouldn’t be here now.”
“With one exception, all of Larson’s surgical patients died under the experimental treatment that he had advocated. He probably would have found a reason to treat you as well.”
“Jim was the exception,” Aimee stated.
“Why would I have been treated?” Mary asked.
“I thought you’d know that answer,” William said. He looked at me and saw me nod my head very slightly.
“It’s not general knowledge in our family yet. Only Mary and I know for sure right now, although I also suspect that Aimee knows. We were going to update Aimee and Debbie today.”
Debbie and Aimee seemed surprised by my statement.
William sighed. “I am unarmed, Captain Montgomery...”
“Jim,” William continued. “And my knowledge of self-defense would probably not match the abilities of three of you.”
“Four,” Debbie said, her voice steady and her eyes shooting fire.
“All four of you,” William corrected. “I do know your secret. Shall I explain it to your other two wives?”
“I’m interested in hearing how much you know.”
William took a deep breath. “Your ability was discovered by Larson. Your quick promotion to Captain didn’t go unnoticed. The Zulu Squad was a fiction. You would have been part of the Larson Project, and you would most likely have died as a result of Larson’s experimentation.”
“This is news to me,” I said.
“Do you want the rest of the story?” William asked.
“Yes,” answered our four voices as if they were one.
Mr. Voder told us the story.
Doctor Larson was a loner that worked in a special unit within the Defense Intelligence Agency (DoDIA). He was a certified genius, although his methods were quite unusual.
Most of Larson’s colleagues thought that Larson’s research on telepathy and telekinesis was hogwash, but Larson had actually found that some people seemed to have what he called an inherent “psi-potential,” or ability to communicate from person to person without any physical means of communicating. For most people, it was very faint, such as a mother that could sense that her child was in danger without seeing or hearing anything. For a few people, it was a bit more distinct, like the ability to sense emotions or other vague concepts. So far, nobody had ever been able to provably transmit or receive concrete thoughts, such as a “blue Chevy Nova.”
Nevertheless, Larson created a file of people in the military that he classified as “Empaths.” These were people that can pick up the emotions of others without any sensory clues. He checked the various tests that the military tended to issue, and suggested some others until he found a quite remarkable, simple, and non-intrusive test that could predict if a certain person had this Empathic psi-potential. He had arranged that this test be administered at a few military bases, and he managed to find a couple of dozen of these Empaths. He monitored these people surreptitiously, following their careers without interference.
During the late 1960’s, the Vietnam war resulted in many American casualties. Among these casualties were a few people that were on Larson’s lists. Using his medical credentials, he managed to get himself assigned to perform unnecessary autopsies on these Empaths, a morbid practice that was not officially sanctioned by the military, but his superiors in the Agency looked the other way.
It is not exactly known what Larson discovered during these autopsies, but he seemed to find some common deviations in the brains belonging to the late Empaths that he examined.
Apparently, one of the Empaths that he tested showed deviations more pronounced than the others. Since the patient was dead, there was no way to determine if the patient had a higher psi-potential than the others, other than by the initial testing that Larson had done earlier, which didn’t indicate the amount of psi-potential, but rather just the presence of it. However, the fact that the patient was returning home as a fallen hero, having been awarded many distinctive medals including the silver star posthumously, Larson thought that it was quite possible that this person may have had a stronger ability than the others.
It was also apparent that the deviations that Larson discovered could be found with a mere brain scan, which was much less invasive than cutting into a person’s brain during an autopsy.
Larson returned to his list of Empaths and now monitored them more closely. If any of them fell ill, he would reassign himself to the hospital where they were staying in order to get brain scans and perform additional tests.
At the same time Larson was testing his Empaths, he was working on experiments with mice to find any with the “Empathic deviations” and, finding success, he tried breeding them to see if the deviations were hereditary. It turned out that deviations could possibly be an extremely recessive trait, as certain lines of mice seemed to be more prone to express the deviation, but there wasn’t any provable cause and effect.
Another field of research that Larson tried was performing live surgery to try to enhance the deviation in the mice. The results were dismal: most of the mice died. Larson studied his successes and his failures, and eventually developed a “treatment” that had a much higher incidence of success with the rodents.
By the mid-1970’s, Larson had a list of three or four of his Empaths that had higher psi-potentials, and altered his non-intrusive tests to help isolate these “Super Empaths.” He decided to create the Zulu Squad to collect them into a single place where they could be observed interacting with one another.
Tragedy struck before the Zulu Squad was put together when the selected leader, Captain James Montgomery, was accidentally hit by a jeep, and his situation wasn’t well. He was in a coma, and after a few weeks, it was obvious that his condition wasn’t going to improve.
The Zulu Squad was abandoned before it even began, a decision made due to budget cuts as well as to the questionable nature of its inception, which caused Larson a setback.
Larson had wanted to see if he could apply his “treatment” to Montgomery, but since the captain had already had most of his broken bones and head injuries treated, Larson was too late.
Larson resumed his monitoring of all his Empaths, not just the “super Empaths” and within two years, there were a couple of other incidents of head injuries. On each occasion, Larson prescribed his “treatment” to be performed on the Empath during surgery as a “way to treat concussions.” During both attempts, the Empath had died.
Investigation of these two deaths resulted in the discovery that modified procedures were at fault, and worse, nobody could find out where the orders for the modified treatment had come from, since Larson had covered his tracks very well. Of course, the Agency knew about it, but desired to keep their involvement in the possible death of American soldiers secret.
This resulted in a crackdown in the hospitals and stricter safeguards were issued to prevent modification of procedures in the future.
Things were turning desperate for Larson. Even people in the Agency were now starting to question the research he was doing.
Instead of laying low, Larson reassigned himself to work as head of neurosurgery at the hospital where Captain Montgomery was still in a coma. It was an act of desperation for Larson. He actually forged an impressive resume showing outstanding success in coma research, and was easily assigned to Montgomery’s case. He would be able to perform the surgery for the “treatment” on Montgomery himself, since he had felt that the incompetent surgeons at the other hospitals had been responsible for the deaths of the two other Empaths.
The Agency was catching up with Larson, and during the surgery, two M.P.s showed up with orders for Larson’s arrest. The surgery was halted and the doctor was escorted out of the hospital for interrogation by the army. Unfortunately, as he was escorted out of the hospital, Larson tried to escape. From somewhere, he produced a weapon and aimed at one of the M.P.s. The other one immediately shot the doctor in self defense, killing Larson instantly.
The hospital was told to make sure that Captain Montgomery was closely monitored for any reaction to the surgery, and his brain wave activity was compared from before and after the surgery. The biggest and most alarming change was that the simple and normal deviations in brain activity, usually associated with patients dreaming, were no longer happening to the captain. It was as if the captain had just stopped dreaming. The doctors wondered what this meant, and whether this was a foreshadow of bad news for the captain’s condition.
Most of the Agency’s records involving Doctor Larson’s research were ordered destroyed. There is no longer any official information on how Doctor Larson had been caught, nor who had been responsible for the destruction of his research.
While the captain was in a coma, both of his parents had passed away. The only “family” he had was the former Lieutenant Mary Cadley who visited the captain every day. The lieutenant was the person who was driving the jeep that hit the captain, and her visits were attributed to massive feelings of guilt at nearly killing the captain, although nobody in the hospital had ever heard of somebody as devoted as the lieutenant was seen to be. She seemed to visit the captain nearly every day including holidays, talking with him, and reading to him. The nurses’ hearts went out to Ms. Cadley, and allowed her extended visiting hours, hoping for her sake that the captain’s condition, despite the negative outlook, would improve.
Captain Montgomery spent twelve years in a coma, and actually came out of his coma while being visited by the former lieutenant. The hospital staff had been starting to get concerned when Cadley kept insisting that the captain was coming out of his coma for a couple of weeks before he actually did, seemingly against all evidence to the contrary. They were about to recommend a therapist for the lieutenant when, during one remarkable visit, the captain actually did come out of his coma!
A large battery of tests were performed on the captain. He was told what had happened, and that his awakening was indeed astonishing. After a few months, the captain starting getting more and more restless as time wore on, since he was now quite healthy and didn’t want to spend his whole life in a hospital. Finally he was discharged and put on disability, mostly due to notes added to his file by Intelligence that the captain had been put in harm’s way when some unauthorized treatment may have been performed on him, although the captain was never informed of this unnecessary operation.
At about the same time that Montgomery was being discharged from the hospital, databases within the military were being upgraded. Some new cross checks in the software discovered an anomaly in some records, all referring to a mysterious “Doctor Larson,” although there was no correlation to the actual work that he did, who he worked for, or anything else, for that matter.
“Fascinating,” I said, hearing the story.
“Wow!” exclaimed Aimee and Debbie together.
Mary was silent, and continued staring at Mr. Voder.
“There’s more,” William said.
Not too long ago, during a computer system upgrade, the new software discovered some discrepancies concerning a Doctor Larson. It appeared that some important records had been destroyed. Since operations was being closely monitored due to some recent intelligence SNAFU’s, such as the arms for hostages scandal, the destruction of records was investigated.
Some backup tapes revealed some of the information that had been lost, and it wasn’t pretty. Apparently, somebody had been running unauthorized experiments on three American soldiers who had been injured, and two of the three cases were fatal. The only survivor was a Captain James Montgomery, who had been in a coma for nearly twelve years.
This information was dutifully reported to the Senate armed services committee, and a senator ordered a complete investigation. Doctor Larson’s name came up, he became the focus for the new investigation.
Colonel DiPietro was assigned the task to find out more about Doctor Larson, and he assembled a small intelligence team, as well as a number of field investigators.
As details were coming in about Doctor Larson, Captain Montgomery woke up from his coma.
As he was the only living link to Doctor Larson, a dossier was compiled about the captain and his illness and treatments. The captain was now apparently living with the lieutenant that had been visiting with him at the hospital. It was suggested that both people be followed, to see what interest this mysterious Doctor Larson had in the former captain.
Montgomery and Cadley were living together at her apartment. Although he had purchased and paid two months’ rent on another apartment, it was never used. Montgomery and Cadley were sometimes spotted in the company of her apartment’s landlord, Debbie Malen and/or her associate, Miss Aimee Porter.
There was one report of a weird incident that happened in a park involving James Montgomery, Mary Cadley, and Debbie Malen involving a person named Jeff Parker, who is currently in basic training, stationed at Fort Benning. An investigation is currently underway on that person, but nothing of any importance has yet been found.
Soon after the incident in the park, there is a report of a wedding reception for Montgomery and Porter, and attended by Cadley and Malen. No further details on this reception are available. This reception shows as an anomaly, since up until this time, it had been suggested that Montgomery and Cadley had been romantically involved. No marriage licenses have ever been issued for Montgomery and any of his three companions.
Almost immediately after this reception, the four flew to Hawaii to a location that was owned by Malen near Big and Little Makena Beach on the island of Maui, Hawaii. It was suggested that since Porter was born in Hawaii, this might be a honeymoon trip, although the presence of the other two companions makes this suggestion questionable.
There is a report that a driver’s license was issued to James Montgomery, giving the location of Debbie Malen’s house as his residence, further confusing the investigation.
An investigative team was assembled in Hawaii to ascertain what these four people were doing when the four subjects unexpectedly split up. Montgomery and Cadley left for the big island, leaving open the question of whether Montgomery and Porter had actually gotten married. Malen and Porter remained behind. Suggestion was made that a domestic argument between Montgomery and Porter had him leaving her and her employer behind.
On the big island, Montgomery and Cadley were reportedly acting as if they were on honeymoon together, renting hotel rooms together, and eating at romantic restaurants. The only military place of interest visited was the memorial at Pearl Harbor. The investigation of the four, up until this point, was strictly low-key, and it was decided to perhaps follow everybody more closely.
At the time this decision was made, the two couples met up together unexpectedly at the airport in Honolulu. They departed on Malen’s private jet with a flight plan to take them to Texas. Witnesses said that the four parties seemed worried, although there was no evidence of any domestic disturbance. A team was quickly assembled in Texas, but when the plane landed at its destination, the only people aboard were two employees of Debbie Malen, and none of the four principals were on board.
The plane’s flight was backtracked, and it was discovered that they had stopped en route on two occasions, both times reportedly to obtain fuel. It was suggested that one of these stops was where the four people had exited, using standard evasive maneuvers to prevent people from tracking them. Suggestion was made that they had discovered people tracking them, or that the four might be engaged in some illegal activity. No concrete suggestion of motive at this time.
It was discovered that Miss Malen had properties that were close to both airports where refueling had been done, and teams were being set up to investigate them. It was found that they rented a car in Salt Lake City, and the focus was shifted to a ranch owned by Miss Malen, which was a short drive from that location. Before contact could be made, the car was reportedly returned at the airport, but there were no records of any flights departing that had the names of any of the four people being tracked. It is suggested that they used assumed names, and no activity was seen on any of the credit cards belonging to any of the people being followed has been found. Suggestion was made that the four have a hoard of cash and are using that to evade paper trails, which further indicates either an attempt to avoid being tracked or possible illegal activity.
There is a report that a person matching Mary Cadley’s description had been spotted at Newark Airport, and the greater New York/New Jersey area is being investigated for people answering to the four people’s descriptions. No leads have turned up yet. Since the person that spotted Miss Cadley said she was alone, it is suggested that the four have split up again and may be in four different places in the country. Another suggestion was that Cadley was using Newark as an intermediary point as a way to confuse the real point of arrival. Based on that suggestion, a more thorough search of Cadley’s past indicates that she has extensive training in espionage, intelligence, and counter-intelligence and was being recommended for a position in the DoDIA. Why this information hadn’t been discovered sooner is currently being investigated, although the Agency denies any cover-up.
A new suggestion is that the four have probably went on separate itineraries to meet at some common location, away from any of Malen’s properties. Suggestions include Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Mexico City as a way of escaping local US intelligence teams, making tracking more difficult. Toronto and Vancouver are the current focus points, and Canadian assets are in the process of being procured.
Suggestion of any other foreign country is doubtful, since only Porter and Cadley have active passports.
“That’s quite a lot of information,” I admitted.
“It is, indeed. Do you want me to add my interpretation of certain events?” William asked.
“Interpretation?” Aimee asked.
Mary answered. “William classifies his intelligence as facts and interpretation of facts. Facts are things that cannot be disputed. Interpretations can sometimes be in error, but are helpful to fill in the holes and possibly lead to additional facts if the interpretations are correct. Most of what we just heard were the facts, although if most of Doctor Larson’s research had been destroyed, there’s the question of how William here happens to know about it.”
“Superb!” smiled William.
Neither I nor any of my wives commented at that.
William shrugged and said, “My first interpretation: From the information that I have, Jim is one of Larson’s Super Empaths, by Larson’s assignment of him to head the Zulu Squad.”
Of course, I would neither confirm nor deny that interpretation. I pointedly did not answer the man.
The next statement from Mr. Voder startled most of the others. “Mary might be an Empath, but she appeared on none of Larson’s lists.”
“Interesting,” I said, the only member of my “family” that didn’t seem startled.
“The next couple aren’t interpretations, but are based on information other than what I had given you,” William explained. He turned to Aimee and said, “Aimee, here, is definitely a Super Empath, as I have investigated her before she worked for James Malen.”
He turned to his niece and said, “Debbie is an anomaly and cannot be classified by Larson’s definitions,” William added. “Your father, by the way, was an Empath.”
“How do you know Debbie is not an Empath?” I asked.
“First, Jim, can you answer me a question?”
“It depends on the question,” I answered, narrowing my eyes.
“How would you classify me?” William asked.
I studied William. I knew better than to try to probe his mind. I decided to answer honestly. “I have no way of knowing.”
William raised his eyebrows at that answer. “What if I assure you that I am not an Empath?”
“I’ll accept that for now,” I said.
This earned me a slight smile from William.
“James Malen was, by Larson’s definition, an Empath, although Larson never knew that. He told me that he could occasionally feel people’s emotions, but very infrequently, he could also get a feeling of colors from another person, although he never had a way of testing his ‘powers’ without arousing suspicion.”
“When did I get tested to see if I was an Empath?” Debbie asked.
“Your father recognized your ability, once he understood the concept. He described you as a reverse-Empath, a term that your father coined, but that Larson apparently never classified nor suspected.”
“You project your emotions, my dear,” William said. “That’s sort of the opposite of an Empath, who would feel other people’s emotions. When you are near, people start to feel the way you do. It’s usually very faint, but even I have felt it once. When you are sad, people feel a slight feeling of sadness themselves. Your father’s funeral was a difficult time for some people that attended because of that.”
I felt Debbie’s sadness at the mention of her father’s funeral.
“I rest my case,” William said, mostly to himself.
“How did James Malen get involved?” I asked, suspecting the answer.
Mr. Voder smiled. “Your suspicion is correct, Jim. Debbie’s father and I both worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency, and were both familiar with Larson. When we left, we continued to investigate Larson, especially when we thought he might have been responsible for the deaths of two soldiers. I was the intelligence part of the investigation, James provided the financial resources. Records of our work at the DoDIA have been destroyed.”
“Daddy was a spy?” Debbie asked.
“Not everybody that works in intelligence is a spy, Debbie,” William answered. “Your father was more of an accountant, although he had intelligence training. He had a rather unique ability to spot financial trends, and he left the agency soon right before your mother died to work on Wall Street. He had a marvelous sense of ethics, and people who let him handle their investments made a lot of money, although he maintained his ties with the DoDIA, unofficially, of course, and with myself.”
“I’m still finding out the extent of my father’s fortune,” Debbie said, projecting a bit of melancholy around.
Once I had been alerted to Debbie’s powers, it was very obvious to me to now spot her projecting her emotions! How had I missed it before?
William continued. “Aimee, being an Empath, naturally preferred being around James Malen, and later, his daughter, and then, apparently, Jim. This was something else James Malen noticed—Empaths tend to orbit around one another. Larson was so much focused on what caused them that he really didn’t do the research on their behavior. James, being one himself, was more interested in that aspect of them.”
I found myself nodding. Everything William had said made sense.
William continued. “Another interpretation, and something that James never finished investigating. Debbie acts like an Empath, based on the fact of her devotion to her father, and later to Aimee, and then Jim. Of course, the four of you know your own relationship better than I do. I just give you this information in case you case to pursue the line of research that James had started.”
Aimee, at this point, got up. I briefly reached out into her mind, and found that she was simply going to get some coffee for the four of us. Mr. Voder watched her leave. “Aimee seems definitely uninterested in this line of research.”
“Aimee has her own interpretation of things,” I suggested. “Her interpretation may not completely agree with your own, William, but she has been thinking about this since she was quite young.”
William nodded. “Do you mind if I continue my interpretation, Jim?”
“Not at all.”
“From some details that were revealed in the investigation of the four of you, it seems to me that you might have rejected Aimee at first for some reason. I figure that the ‘wedding reception’ that was noted in the intelligence was a celebration of Jim’s change of mind.”
I didn’t confirm nor deny this, but his idea stood merit. I rejected Aimee at first because I didn’t know if Mary’s and Debbie’s relationship with me was due to some influence I had over them. Since Aimee seemed to have the same gift, I didn’t want to interfere with her at all. That wasn’t something that needed to be discussed now, though.
Aimee returned with our coffees, and William saw that Aimee had provided his black, but included some cream and sugars. She put the tray down on the table in front of us and we all took sips.
William looked around. “I expected to find you at the office yesterday, Jim. I saw Mary the day before scouting around, and since I knew her history, I immediately moved as far away from her as possible, especially when I saw that she was simply scouting the location. I waited, and decided if you didn’t show up at the office today, I’d find another way to contact you.”
“We were in no hurry,” I answered. “Mistakes are made when haste is used inappropriately.”
William smiled. “Your O.C.S. training fits you well. You would have made a wonderful leader.”
I shrugged. “It wasn’t meant to be,” I sighed.
“If Larson hadn’t intervened and assigned you to Zulu Squad, you probably would have been reassigned back to the 75th at Fort Stewart.”
“The Rangers,” I nodded. “I had heard the 82nd.”
William simply nodded. “I think your profile fit more with the 75th. You still would have worn the black beret.”
“That was just happening when I had enlisted,” I said, remembering. “There were a lot of jokes about the berets.”
“The Rangers have, and continue, to serve the country well. You would have been an outstanding leader.”
“Of course, this Zulu Squad thing came up. I was sent to the base in San Diego, and I had no idea what the Zulu Squad was. I was supposed to be briefed the day after the party. I never attended that briefing. I guess it was never meant to be.”
There was no use crying over spilled milk. After hearing what happened to me in the army, I no longer had a taste for the military. Life moves on.
Nobody else said anything for a few minutes as we sipped our coffee.
William stood up, stretching his legs. I could hear the joints crack as he stretched.
I looked at my wives. Debbie and Aimee nodded their heads, indicating that they all trusted William, while Mary was still noncommittal.
I stood up and looked at William, and finally offered him a handshake. “I’m sorry that I didn’t trust you fully,” I said.
“I know a place that is a lot more appropriate for a discussion like this. We can also have a nice meal at the same time.”
“That sounds fine, William,” I said. “Lead the way.”
We left the rest of our coffee unfinished as we followed Mr. Voder outside the hotel.
William took us by cab to a lovely country club where he was apparently a member. He was greeted by name from a number of people there, so it was obvious that he was well known, or at least that the name he had given us was well established.
At the restaurant, William asked for a table with some privacy, and we were led into the mostly empty dining room to a round table near the back.
“Give us a few minutes, Manuel. I’ll signal you when we’re ready to order,” William said after we were seated.
William turned to Mary and said, “The seafood here is excellent, my dear. I heartily recommend the crab cakes.”
“Thank you,” Mary forced a smile. She still looked apprehensive.
Turning to Aimee, he suggested the duckling, and the Chicken Pad Thai for Debbie.
“I’m sorry, Jim,” William said, turning to me. “I’m not sure of your food preferences other than a saline drip.”
“I’m your typical military steak and potatoes guy,” I laughed.
“The Steak Diane is excellent,” William said.
Not once had William even glanced at the menu.
“May I ask you if your name is William Voder or William Malen?” I asked.
William smiled. “Voder. I’m only Debbie’s honorary uncle. I’m actually more like her godfather. I had promised to take care of Debbie if anything would happen to James, but I see that she now has the three of you, all of whom her father would approve, and all of you more eminently qualified to take care of her.”
I felt a bit of Debbie-inspired melancholy and ignored it.
“Despite the fact that I was one of Doctor Larson’s so-called experiments, why have you been so interested in me?” I asked.
“You scored the highest in Doctor Larson’s tests,” William answered. “You’ve used your ability, even if you weren’t aware of it. It’s extremely rare that an O.C.S. grad comes out as a first lieutenant. You seemed to figure out the secrets to success in O.C.S. quickly, and before that, in all your studies, if you could call what you did in school ‘study.’”
I laughed. Tests had always been rather easy for me. “Touche.”
“Anyway, you were also unusual in that you survived Larson’s treatment, despite the fact that it was never completed on you,” William said. “In addition, I actually had somebody run a test on you after you awoke, using Larson’s own non-invasive tests. Your score couldn’t be determined, which was strange in and of itself. In other words, Larson’s treatment not only didn’t kill you, but it could have changed things. Of course, this is just an interpretation of data. Larson’s studies were never very rigorous and he never did any study on how potential varies with age, and such. I think that was supposed to be the function of the Zulu Squad: to get more data on Empaths.”
“Do you still monitor the Empaths in the military?” I asked.
“The doctor that gave me the test would be Doctor Farren, I presume.”
William frowned at my statement. “May I ask where you got that name?”
“You may ask,” I said evenly. “I will not give you an answer.”
William continued to frown. “I told you that I have absolutely no psi-potential. That was the God’s honest truth.”
I responded using a flat voice free of emotion. “I accept your statement.”
William broke his glance at me and looked at Aimee, and then at Debbie.
Aimee looked at me as if she were asking permission to speak. I simply nodded.
“Mr. Voder... William,” Aimee said, softly. “Jim had suspected there was something unusual about that particular doctor before I brought you into the picture. I knew that name while we were at the ranch.”
“I’ll accept that, my dear.” William still had a suspicious look, but his frown had lessened.
“William,” I said. “I am still evaluating you. You have offered me quite a lot of information, but you have left out some. I am not completely sure of your motives, and who you are working for, despite the fact that Debbie’s paying you.”
I felt a wave of worry and I smiled at Debbie and the wave went softer.
“It might be a good time to order,” I suggested.
“Indeed,” William said. He glanced over to where Manuel had been standing, and he arrived at the table.
I felt a tiny tendril of a thought and recognized Aimee’s presence. I opened up and received a message: “Suggest that Mr. Voder order our meals.”
I had thought the same thing, but didn’t know how to poll the girls. Aimee had found a great solution. I realized that Aimee had already done so.
William was looking at me expectantly, and I just shrugged. “You know what’s good, William. We’ll let you order.”
William smiled brightly. “Manuel, who is in the kitchen today?”
“Ramon,” the waiter answered.
“Most excellent,” William grinned. He nodded at Aimee and said, “Aimee will have the duck. Please tell Ramon that Aimee prefers her skin extra crisp.”
Nodding toward Debbie, he said, “My niece will have the Chicken Pad Thai. Have Ramon add a couple of those little green Thai chilies on top. Can Ramon fix up a Tom Yum Gai soup?”
“It may take a few minutes,” Manuel smiled.
“We have all the time in the world,” William said. He nodded toward Mary and said, “Mary will have the crab cakes. Tell Ramon that she is my guest and I expect her cakes will be as good as the ones he makes for me.”
“The gentleman to my right will have the Steak Diane,” William continued. He then looked at me. “Medium rare?”
I nodded. I usually wasn’t particular about how done a steak is.
“Medium rare. I’ll have the same as well.”
“Very well,” the waiter said.
“Jim doesn’t drink,” William said.
“Excuse me,” I corrected William for the first time. “The women have been corrupting me.”
This earned me a laugh from William. “Excellent. Do you enjoy wine?”
I only knew the basics of wine, like red meat goes with red wine. I saw two different cuisines. I shrugged and answered, “Whatever you want, William.”
“How about a bottle of the Taittinger Champagne, Manuel?”
“Any particular year?” Manuel asked.
William shook his head. “Have the steward decide. Tell him it’s me, and that I’m trying to impress my friends. I will send it back if I don’t like it.”
“I will do so.”
“Our champagne should arrive in ten minutes,” William said.
We all nodded.
William sat back and said, “Now, for the evaluation, Jim. My motives for helping you are purely out of the goodness of my heart. I am working for myself, now. I have people that work for me, but funding is not an issue. I have a lot of money, almost as much as Debbie. Her father was quite successful, and I was one of his clients, just as he was one of mine.”
I didn’t answer this statement.
“James Malen and I were part of the group that hired Doctor Larson,” William said. “I personally thought Larson was nuts, but sometimes even nut cases get lucky. The only area where I had misjudged him was that I had thought that he was harmless. I think the world is a better place now that he is not in it. I did not kill him, nor did I have him killed, but I would not have hesitated doing so. He put at least three of our servicemen in harm’s way.”
I nodded at this.
“James Malen, Debbie’s father, had personal reasons for his interest in Larson’s work, but I only discovered that near the end of his life. He had received some premonition that he’d die in an accident, and he met with me to come clean, asking me to take care of his daughter. I arranged for his associate, Charles Penet, to encourage Aimee to continue working for Debbie afterward.”
Everybody could feel Debbie’s melancholia. Voder ignored it and continued. “The one thing I would like to do, but will be unable to do is to stop Colonel DiPietro. His charter is from somebody that had a request from a senator, so the investigation cannot be be stifled without attracting undue attention. He is a good person, and a good leader. He has some smart people working for him, but I’m pretty sure that he’ll lose interest in you. Larson’s methods utilized a lot of paper and not computerized files. The only place that he managed to come back from erased files was in computers, so the procedures may be found, but his reasons will probably never be figured out. The best thing I can do for you is to keep abreast of his investigation and maybe send a wild goose or two in his way.”
I thought hard about what I just heard.
William looked up and said, “Ahh, our champagne is arriving.”
A different waiter arrived and made a production of opening the champagne. He used a towel and the cork came out with a soft “poof” sound.
He filled a fluted glass half full, and William took a taste. He smiled and nodded.
Soon, all five of us had glasses of champagne in front of us.
“What shall we toast?” William asked.
“How about the three loveliest ladies in the world?” I suggested.
I giggled as I felt a wave of happiness wash over me. How could I have not noticed Debbie’s emotional broadcasts before?
“Here, here!” William agreed.
We all raised our glasses and clinked.
The champagne tasted pretty nice. As I said, I’m not much of a drinker, and am, by no means, an expert.
After we all sipped our drinks, William said, seriously, “Jim, ladies, today is the last day I’ll be able to spend with you. In two days, you will receive an additional package. It will contain passports, bank statements, tax returns, social security cards, and other documents pertinent to your alter egos. Use the passports or driver’s licenses to get past customs on your way to Windsor, Ontario. Since I suspect that you used indirect transportation to get to Washington, I would suggest indirectly getting to Windsor over a period of two days, since the searches are looking for people traveling separately using varying itineraries but meeting over a short period of time. From Windsor, arrive together in Vancouver using your real names and identification.”
“Allow the government to catch up to us?” Mary asked.
“Yes,” William grinned. “Your cover story is that you and Mary are engaged to be married. I can procure you a marriage license in San Francisco, using your real names. If you prefer, I can have one predated and filed, but I’d rather not use up a useful contact. However, I could still do that by next Friday and alert somebody about it. If you decide to go for a ceremony, I suggest that you have a party to celebrate. The story is that Mary and Debbie are long time friends, since Debbie owns the building where Mary lives. Aimee is simply her associate. Let them keep guessing about Aimee in a wedding dress. It’s those facts that don’t fit neatly into a convenient box that makes it look like it’s not a setup.”
“A party sounds nice,” Debbie said.
“Both Mary’s and Debbie’s apartments in South California are probably bugged. Same for the place in Makena and the ranch in Texas and, now, Utah. Behave accordingly.”
William turned to Mary. “I wish I had met you a few months before you hit Jim with the jeep. How did that happen, by the way, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Do you want the truth?” Mary asked William, while looking at me.
I nodded to Mary. William already had most of the facts and probably could “interpret” this one.
“Would you believe that we only discovered the answer yesterday?” Mary asked.
“Yes,” said Mary. “Jim was walking home from a party, staring at the moon and stars. He was completely absorbed in looking at them. As I drove toward him, we connected mentally.”
I noticed Debbie, Aimee, and William were all listening to Mary in rapt attention.
Mary continued. “I found myself looking at the moon and saw the stars... but I realize now that I wasn’t looking up. I was looking through my windshield. Apparently, I was looking at the stars through Jim’s eyes. It was a single image. No other thought. Then there was a bump, and the connection broke. The rest of the story is exactly how I told the M.P.s. I lost my concentration and originally thought I hit a dog. I soon found, to my horror, that I had just killed my first soldier, and he was one of ours.”
William nodded at the story. “I had suspected it might be something like that.”
Mary continued. “I could not stay in the service after that. I threw away my career, and pissed off some dear friends and influential people for doing that, but eventually people understood. I was willing to risk a dishonorable discharge, but instead I got an honorable one. I visited shrinks, who told me that my obsession with Jim was unhealthy, but I kept visiting him just about every day. I took whatever jobs that I could find that were near the hospital where Jim was staying. I worked at a restaurant, a department store, and a bank.”
William nods. “That information is in your file.”
William continued, uninterested in my comment. “I am not interested in Empaths—Debbie’s father was the one intrigued by Larson’s work, but only because he had a personal interest in it, since he and his daughter had such tendencies. I have no such tendencies, myself. My interest is personal: I made a promise to James Malen.”
“You said that already,” I pointed out.
“Whether you are Empaths or not, it is not interesting to me,” William said. “Not being an Empath, I do not have the same interest in this that James had. I know for a fact that Larson’s notes no longer exist. Neither James Malen nor I, who would be the only ones other than Larson who could have possibly copied it, had done so. Neither of us were trained surgeons, and we wouldn’t trust anybody enough to share that information, especially considering Larson’s lack of success with his treatment. I’m giving you the information that I’m privy to solely at the request of Debbie’s father.”
I simply nodded.
William turned to Debbie. “I have promised James Malen that I would look after his daughter. I will do so until my body is no longer able to continue. By extension, I will also look after all of you. That will mean that I will only be monitoring you actively at any time when the government does so—I still have contacts in the intelligence agencies. I imagine that with the exception of the week or so that you spend here, you will look like a harmless and lucky person, Jim.”
“I hope so,” I said.
“Right now, a new suggestion is being added to Colonel DiPietro’s files,” William said. “It suggests that one of the field agents was spotted by Mary, who has intelligence experience, and her reaction was to lay low until she could find out who it was. The suggestion would be to relax surveillance accordingly. That should give you some breathing room.”
William turned to Mary. “Darling, it would be interesting for you to contact a number that I will include in your package. You should recognize the voice that answers that number from your service. Ask if anybody from the service is following you, and why. Also make small talk. Tell the person you got married or are getting married to the gentleman that you had hit, and you are helping him get reacquainted to a new decade, having lost twelve years in a coma. Fill in any harmless blanks, including the fact that you also spent time in Windsor and Vancouver. Mention Debbie and Aimee, and how the four of you are inseparable. Provide accurate but innocuous information.”
As I said, William was very thorough.
A couple of waiters arrived with fixings for a salad as well as Debbie’s soup. We watched the waiter assemble the dressing for a Caesar salad (you do NOT want to know what goes into it!), and then tossed the salad with some grated cheese and large toasted bread croutons. Each of us got a portion.
The salad tasted much nicer than the ingredients would have led me to think.
William handed out business cards to me and my wives. I noticed it was a different card from the one he handed me earlier. “These have an assumed name and the number for an answering service. Call it and ask for my real name, William Voder. They will tell you that you have a wrong number. Repeat your request, asking for the name on the card and leave your information, and I will contact you as soon as possible. Use this in an emergency. Aimee already knows how to contact me, and I will continue talking to her via email.”
I pocketed the card.
The meal was as excellent as I would expect from a person like William Voder.
Actually, he exceeded expectations, and that is a rather high compliment to William as well as the kitchen staff at the restaurant.