Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Chapter Thirty-Nine: Sanity

“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."

~Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

The scene at the Capitol was chaos.

As Professor Todd tried to explain the situation to a highly skeptical security staff, Epiphany strode boldly past them, and toward the entrance to the Senate floor.  A pair of Capitol Security Guards were on her in seconds.   They attempted to restrain her, but received the shock of their lives as she casually tossed each of them aside, using just basic self-defense maneuvers powered by what was now nearly peak human strength for a female of her build.  As it was, they barely slowed her down.
From their positions, prone and unceremoniously heaped on the floor, they frantically called for backup.  Despite the efforts of six men, Epiphany still made it through the door, and was able to take a single step inside, onto the senate floor. The Sargent at Arms and several more security men came rushing forward, this time with their guns drawn. She paid them little mind.
“JUST NOW AN ATTEMPT WAS MADE ON THE LIFE OF EDWARD CARPENTER!” she yelled into the crowded and chaotic chamber. Several guards were now trying to pull her back through the door. She was still able to hold her ground. “EVERYONE INVOLVED IS ALIVE AND UNHARED,” she cried out as more arms wrapped around her, “AND YOUR GUNMEN ARE ALL IN OUR CUSTODY!” It took eight men to finally pull her back into the hallway. Before the doors closed, she issued one last parting shot, “WE WILL FIND YOU! WE WILL DEAL WITH YOU! DON’T THINK YOU CAN HIDE FROM US!”  Two more guards joined the fray and she was finally taken into custody.  Professor Todd hung back in the shadows, hoping they would forget about him, and not make the connection between them.  In the confusion, he headed back to the car with the intention of going to the club to inform Edward of what had transpired.  By the time he got there, Edward would have already left.  The Professor cursed having accidentally left his cell phone in the other car.
With John nursing a Jack Daniel’s and Coke and Edward doing the same with Captain Morgan’s they went over what information they had. Edward explained that he had a lead on the identity of the two gunmen, although not so much for the driver, and that once confirmed he would able to quickly figure out who they were working for.
John took a deep breath. “You know torture doesn’t work, right?”
Edward looked a bit insulted. “Puh-lease.  I didn’t see the practice of waterboarding outlawed by our own government only to make the same mistake myself!  Good old fashioned detective work – and some decent connections on the inside, my man. Nothing more.  Plus, if Bob and Epiphany got their message across, there might be a few people trying to high-tail it out of here.  And there’s NOWHERE they can hide that I can’t find them, I promise you THAT!”

Just as John was going to question that assertion, Edward’s phone rang. It was West.
“Eddie – I’m on my way back to pick you up. It’s all taken care of.”
“OK. How’s she doing?”
“It’s bad, man. She’s in a lot of pain, and nothing our doctor has given her seems to have any effect.”

“Yeah… I was afraid of that.”

“Anyway, she’ll LIVE, I’m sure, but at the moment she’s in really bad shape.  She’s asked for you several times. You really need to be here.”
“OK, well come on by.  What about our two friends?”

“They’re secure.”


“They don’t appear to be.”

Edward’s better judgment was being strained. He wanted to hurt them. To make them pay for what they did.   But he knew it wouldn’t help, and that it wasn’t the time to think about those things. If he kept his head straight he KNEW, beyond any doubt that he would know everything about these men and their conspiracy within the hour. The Tablet would easily compel them to talk. All he had to do was exactly as he planned to do.

“Fair enough. Just make sure they’re ready when I get there.”

West arrived fifteen minutes after that conversation.  Professor Todd arrived twenty, and decided to wait it out in the now empty club.

“OK, so now that it’s all sorted out, why don’t you tell me where we’re going?”
West shook his head and smirked. “Neither of you are going to like it.”

Edward sighed. “Let’s have it.”
“Well, you wanted a place where we could hold the two hit-men, and presumably interrogate them. At the same time you wanted Gretchen placed in a medical facility where the doctors wouldn‘t ask too many questions.”

“You’re right, I don’t like where this is going,” John interrupted.
“In any case, I have access to a Government facility that’s not currently being used.  Back in the day, however, the Military and the CIA used it for *a-hem* enhanced interrogation sessions.”

“Basically, you tortured suspected terrorists to within an inch of their lives…” Edward started.
“…and had Doctors who wouldn’t ask any questions, or say anything to anyone else patch them up so you could do it again.” John finished. “Nice. And we wonder why this country is going to hell.”

West laughed nervously. “Well hang on there, big guy. I said ‘back in the day.’ At the moment it’s just a condemned hospice facility, nothing more.”
“Did we have anything to do with that?” John challenged.

West shrugged. “Yes and no. It was retired when the current administration took office. The President might not be your personal hero, but he’s a much better man than you give him credit for.”
John gave a grunt before thinking to ask, “Wait, what do you mean ‘than I give him credit for?’”

“I’ve read your blog. It’s good stuff actually.  The kind of stuff people need to hear and think about. A bit heavy-handed maybe, and overly idealistic for my tastes, but well-executed all the same.”
Edward stopped him before John could launch into a sarcastic expression of gratitude for the opinion and an impassioned defense of his work. “Another time, please. West: How do we know no one will come snooping around this place?”

“Well, seeing as how it’s officially shut down, anyone who saw something going on there would assume it was classified and therefore none of their business.”
John just shook his head at this. “And that wouldn’t just pique their curiosity even more?!”

“John, the people who work in military intel are not like YOU. They’re not journalists, and they’re not bloggers. In that community minding your own business is a science. If you were supposed to know, you’d already know. And if you’re NOT supposed to, than KNOWING is a good way to get yourself imprisoned or killed.”
“So… Security through personal paranoia?” John shot back sarcastically.

West laughed. “Yeah, something like that.” John just shook his head.
“West,” Edward asked, “I take it this isn’t the first time you’ve been here?”

The Agent’s jovial demeanor took on a darker shade. “No.  It’s been while, but the Major and the rest of us spent rather a lot of time here, years ago.”
“And this doctor?”

“You can trust him, at least to mind his own and keep quiet.  He knows the drill.  And believe me – this is far from the biggest secret he’s been asked to keep.”
“I’ll be the ultimate judge of that, but good enough.”

As they approached the building, it appeared exactly as West had described it: Like a dilapidated old hospital, even an asylum, that had long sense been shut down and was now just patiently awaiting demolition.  Once inside the underground garage, they were surprised to that the place still had power.  As they got out, Edward noticed someone’s phone stuck between the back seat cushions.
“John, why don’t you go on ahead?”

“Sure. Where?”
“Third floor,” West answered. “Elevator works. You can find your way from there.” Once John was on his way, he turned back to Edward. “What’s up?”

“Who’s is this?” Edward asked, showing him the phone.
“Shit, I think that’s Bob’s!”

“Dammit. Would you mind going back and picking them up? Now I know why he didn’t call, although Epiphany still should have. Would you mind checking things out?”
“Yeah no problem.”

“Oh yeah, and where are our two friends?”
“Basement – level three.  You’ll need this…” West handed him a key. “No access without one.”

“And how many of these are there?”

“One for you and one for me, and uh… I suppose the Doctor might still have his.”
West left to go back to the club, as Edward waited for the Elevator to return.  When he stepped out on the third floor, he knew immediately that West was right, and that neither he nor John would have had any problem finding the room: All he had to do was to following the screaming.

Edward winced at what was hearing.  No longer in shock, and now at least able to draw some breath, Edward could hear Gretchen crying out in agony. He had experienced only a fraction of what she was now feeling, and that had been almost beyond his ability to bear.  Even from here he recognized the sound of someone trying to scream with their lungs half filled with blood.  He knew how much that hurt. He knew the abject panic that accompanied such pain. And he knew that there was no way that she could avoid feeling every single moment of it.
How long had he stood there thinking about that? He wasn’t sure.

He could voices. Four of them, raised so as to be heard over her increasingly load screams.

John, for sure.  And Paul and Henry. He knew they’d be there. He could only assumed the unfamiliar, frustrated sounding one was the Doctor.  He was pleading with someone. Gretchen? One of the others? He wasn’t sure.
He could hear words. Rather clearly, considering the distance, but they may as well as well have been in a foreign language – his brain could not process their meaning. His entire consciousness became filled with her cries.  He could no longer walk forward. They tore through him, ripping him apart on some deep and spiritual level.  As they grew louder, and more crazed, his vision began to dim.

Was he running?  He supposed he was.
Where was he going? He wasn’t sure.

A final blood-curdling scream and all he saw was white.
When he finally collected himself, he was sitting on the floor in the elevator.  It’s doors opened to a brink-lined, subterranean tunnel which he assumed would take him to where the gunmen were being held. The tablet was in his hand. Fates had been written.  He looked down at what he, in his madness, had done.  Not good. He called West.

“You’d better get back here. Tell the Doctor meet me downstairs.”
“Already on my way back. How’s she doing?”

“I don’t… I didn’t… I can’t… Just get back here OK? And get the Doctor down here. Don’t let anyone else know where I am, OK?”

“Fine, fine. I’m on my way.”
West arrived and escorted Paul upstairs before bringing the Doctor downstairs to meet with Edward.

“Check them out, doc. Do whatever you need to.”
Edward had waited in the basement the entire time. It was beyond his capability to endure another second of hearing Gretchen in pain, let alone see her that way.  He could barely unclench his fist.  He had to concentrate just to keep from shaking.  West could plainly see that he was not well, but didn’t question him.  They just waited in the dark, damp hallway as the Doctor disappeared behind one steel security door, and then the other. After several minutes, he emerged he looking baffled.

“Vat happened to dem?” he asked, in a thick eastern-European accent.

“What did you see?” Edward asked, hoping that he had seen SOMETHING, as otherwise it would have meant he afflicted someone completely unrelated with a rather horrible fate.
“Vell, de first von is almost paralytic. And I’m not entirely sure vithout running some tests, but I think the second one…”

“Stabilize the first one. Shackle the other one to bed – both hands, both feet, and restrain his torso. Use duct tape if you have to.”
The doctor looked horrified. “Sir, if my diagnoses of dat man is correct, then I would advise against…”

“Just do it!” Edward interrupted sharply, leaving no room for negotiation. “I know exactly what’s wrong with him, you’re right, and I don’t fucking care! Shackle his ass to the damn bed!”
“You need anything from me?” West asked.

“Just make sure that no one else knows these two are here. Or where I am for the next few days.”
“Pardon me for asking, but why haven’t you just used the Tablet to compel them to talk.”

Edward was almost nauseous. “I, uh… I fucked up West. In my anger I chose to… punish them instead. They’re pretty well fucked, but the Tablet is useless against them now.”

West was furious for the first time since Edward had met him. “Well that’s just great! A push of a button could have given all we needed to know and you go and…”
Edward placed his hand on West’s shoulder as he hung his head. “I know,” he began softly, “I’m sorry.  But I swear to you… These men are going to tell us what we need to know.”

West looked at Edward suspiciously. “You know, it IS true what they say: Someone being tortured will only tell you what they think you want to hear.”
At this Edward smiled, an almost crazed sight that made West wince. “Well, that’s handy. In that case, I’ll make it crystal clear that what I want to hear is the name of the person they’re working for.”

After a few minutes the Doctor emerged from the first cell.
“Is he stable?” Edward asked him.

“Yes. He is in bad shape, but he's breathing and his deterioration seems to have slowed.”
“Good. Now, if you gentlemen will excuse me…”

Edward stepped into the dank, dimly lit cement cell.  The steel door rattled loudly as he closed it behind him.

Epiphany looked up as her cell door opened. “Who are you?” she asked, trying to hide her nervousness under a tone of contempt and false bravado.
“Are you Epiphany Wolport?” the former Major Jason Northville asked gruffly.

“Yeah, what’s it to you?”
“I’m your way out of here.  Edward sent me. Well… West did, anyway. So you can drop the attitude. You ready to go?”

Epiphany exhaled in relief. “YES, thank you!”
“Don’t mention it. Ever, I mean. Name’s North, by the way, John North.”

“Edward and West have both mentioned you. It’s nice to finally…” and then realization dawned. “Wait, you’re the same guy from the Hospital?!”
“That’s me.”

She could hardly recognize him through his transformation. “Wow. You’re looking… good.”
North laughed. “Yeah, I got better. I guess I’m in Edward’s debt now. And West’s.”

“But… I though your name was Northville?”
He fixed a stony gaze upon her. “Jason Northville is dead.  My name’s North. John North. Do you understand?”

She nodded, showing the smallest trace of apprehension.
"Good." He opened the car door for her.

They drove off, into the night.

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