Chapter Twelve

Out in the hall way, Dr. James didnít speak as I wrote a pair of numbers on a scrap of paper and sealed it into Benny's envelope. He looked to be a long ways away, traversing deep within the winding mass of tissue that provides his conscious and subconscious with thought. He remained silent as we headed towards his office and Katelynn, but his eyes were asking a million questions as I caught him sneaking sideways glances at me every minute or two. Finally, a handful of steps before we got back to his office door, he stopped, willing me to do likewise and face him.

"So what happened with Harry back there, John?" he asked in a discreetly quiet voice, but getting straight to the point.

"I don't know," I honestly replied.

"You looked like you had been hit with an electrical shock the moment you two touched."

"Well, it was a little different," I admitted. I had already been busted on that much.

"There was nothing," I lied. Anticipating the next question (...tell no one john...) I knew I had to give him more than that. "It was like he was blocking it," I said, thinking quickly. "He said his Mom used to read palms. I donít know. But it surprised me and I jumped a bit, I guess."

"But you got his age right," Dr. James stated, still making me feel like I was under his microscope. I donít know, do doctorís have microscopes? Well even if they usually donít, I am sure Dr. James did.

"I had already picked an age to use before we had touched," I said, truthfully enough. But it had been the wrong age and at the last second, I think, Harry (...tell no one john...) told me with his mind that he was 72. "It was a lucky guess," was what I said instead.

Dr. James continued to cross-examine me with his dark eyes but remained silent as if waiting for me to finish my story. I had nothing to add.

"I would like to see how Katelynn is doing," I said, gratefully conceding the stare-down contest to the curious doctor and taking a step towards his office. Dr. James hesitated, I held my breath hoping not to hear my name and be forced to turn and try to further explain, but I heard him fall in behind me before I had taken my third step and my fourth was fully focused on Katelynn.

* * * * *

Katelynn was standing in front of the third floor window staring out over the sunlit parking lot sipping a coffee from a plastic Dixie cup. Holding the cup near her lips with one hand while she gently blew on it, her other arm was wrapped in a tight hug around her stomach as though she were freezing cold. I couldnít imagine what was going through her mind. She turned and looked towards us as we entered the room. She didnít look as though she had been crying, but I knew that she had. And there was something missing in her now dry and recomposed eyes. As she took a couple slow steps towards the red high back chair on the near corner of the desk, I saw that it was hope that was missing. Something else had taken its place. Acceptance, depression, panic...I couldnít yet tell. But hope was visibly gone.

I silently took my prospective seat in front of the massive desk and waited for Dr. James to get settled on his side. The Grandfather clock next to the coat closet read 2:30. It had been a very long thirty minutes. A lot had changed.

Katelynn had changed. A light had vanished from her eyes. Her gaze remained steady but her focus looked unsteady. I didnít think she should be left alone for a while.

Dr. James had changed. He had transitioned from professional to childlike to concerned father figure to doctor-on-the-verge-of-a-major-breakthrough-in-the-advancement-of-our-knowledge-of-the-human-brain crazy all in the last thirty minutes.

And in the last six or seven minutes, I had changed. I had gotten Harryís age right. Harry had told me his age with his mind at the last second. I hadnít been touching his hand when he had sent (72) into my mind. And when I had touched his hand, it wasnít the usual pair of numbers I had received. I hadnít tried to make sense of the words yet that had replaced the numbers, but I knew I wasnít going to forget them. I donít think there was a single second of that previous thirty minutes that I will ever forget. It had seemed to take five times that long. I wanted to get out of there. I wanted to get Katelynn out too. She didnít look well. Everything had changed. I was sorry I had ever agreed to the experiment.

And now there was Dr. James to worry about too. Not his mental stability, as was looking the case in Katelynnís corner, but his need for mental stimulation. He wanted answers. He was already aware of enough for a guaranteed top three article in the table of contents for the next Medical Monthly but I wanted to make sure that was as far as it went. The only way I saw this happening would be if, after I get his help trying to save Katelynn from some premature death, I pretend the phenomenon has vanished just as quickly as it came. Maybe I could convince him that it had actually stopped with Harry. Benny had been the last. With Harry, the talent had short-circuited and that was why I had not received a number. I had no idea if I could pull it off.

"How are you feeling?" Dr. James asked Katelynn.

"Confused," she said solemnly, not looking up.

"Well, obviously we really donít know much of anything for sure yet until we can open the envelopes. I donít suspect we will have to wait too long for one or two of them." Dr. James leaned forward a bit over his desk on his elbows. "John, why donít you fill in Katelynn on what happened because I am not really quite sure myself."

I didn't like the scientist in Dr. James much. I didnít want to be telling Katelynn what I told Dr. James. If she thought there was a flaw in my new talent, I would only once again be giving her false hope. I knew the scientist in Dr. James selfishly just wanted to hear me try to describe what happened in my own words again.

"I pretty much got all three of them right except there was a fourth one who is not a patient here," I said. "I think he blocked me." And then I quickly added, just to try it on for size, "Or maybe I just suddenly lost the touch. I donít know. But I drew a blank on him."

"But still happened to guess his correct age," Dr. James added, raising his left eyebrow ever so slightly.

"It was a lucky guess," I explained.

"Well maybe we need to just let everything sink in a little bit right now," Dr. James suggested, probably sensing he wasnĎt going to get much more out of me today. Leaning back into his chair, possibly trying to think of a good title for his upcoming article, he said, "I will of course let you know if we need to open any envelopes over the next few days. John, I donít know why you drew a blank with Harry, but I donít think it is because the phenomenon has simply ceased to exist."

Well that idea didnít fly far.

"Why donít you leave me with your number, John, and let me give you a call in a couple days. I want to collect my thoughts and I am sure we can start figuring out a few things just talking them out. Katelynn, if you feel up to it, I would like to have your input as well at that time."

Katelynn nodded. That looked to me also like the easiest thing to do, so I did. I also wrote down my phone number on a blank prescription form Dr. James ripped off a pad and pushed it across the desk for him. We said our good-byeís and thank youís. I stood and faced Katelynn. Without saying a word, she stood and took a place by my side just as naturally as though we had been a couple for years. She laced her arm around mine and walked with her head down, step for step with me all the way to the employee parking lot.

"I donít want you to be alone right now," I said. "Do you want to go get a coffee? Get something to eat? Do you have some time before needing to get Faith?"

"Faith is with her Grandma and Grandpa," Katelynn flatly said. "They drove down and picked her up last night. They only live a couple hours away. I was thinking about taking my vacation there despite all this. If I am going to die, I would rather be there. Itís where I was born."

Once again, her eyes welled up, tears flowed out unrestrained, and I found her wrapped in my arms softly trembling and pressing her eyes into my shoulder.

* * * * *

We found a Dennyís a couple blocks away and I pulled her car into an open slot. Speaking a minimal amount of words to get the job done back at the employee lot, we had established at least some coffee with an option for food, and that I would drive. We still sat in silence as first the coffee was drank and then the runny, scrambled eggs and the burnt toast and the greasy hash browns were eaten and the second cup of coffee had been poured.

"So, it doesnít look too good, does it?" she finally said.

"I donít know," I replied. I was still working on some pancakes. Accompanied with chocolate milk. But I had been lost in thought myself when she had spoken. (...4 days...6pm...14 crimson lane minnetonka...tell no one john...bring a dessert...see you then...) was the particular thought I had been lost in.

My first instinct was to tell her everything, just the way it had happened. Tell her about Harry, about communicating with him without touching, about this weird message he had presumably implanted. I really, really wanted to tell her. But I didnít want to falsely raise her hopes again. I didnít know what this new twist meant, but it didnít look like it had anything to do with Katelynnís numbers and the numbers still meant, as far as I could tell, what they had always meant...that Katelynn would be dying soon. And then there was the ominous message itself (...tell no one john...). But the first reason was the one that held the weight. I couldnít tell her.

"How long is Faith going to be at you motherís place," I asked, trying to change the subject.

"I guess forever," she replied cynically. Then raised her head up and added, "Iím sorry, John. I donít mean to be like that. Iím feeling sorry for myself right now."

"Itís okay," I said.

"On the one hand, I believe you. I know you are right. But on the other, I canít figure out why you would be right. Am I going to be killed in some freak accident? Should I be locking myself up in a cell? How can you see the future? How can I possibly be believing you? How can any of this be real? It is all so absurd! I am perfectly healthy. And I am angry at myself for being so gullible."

I sat quietly, fork laying idle on my last maple syrup soaked pancake, allowing her to get this all off her chest, hoping it would do some good. But not only am I not a doctor, as I alluded to earlier, I am no shrink either and I was clearly out of my league here. All I could do was listen.

She swallowed down some more caffeine. "I think I am going to spend a few days straightening up the house and getting things in order. Then I will go join my parents and my daughter until..." she paused, not knowing how to finish that sentence.

"Come home with me tonight," I finally found the courage to say. "I have a spare room you can stay in. I donít want you to be alone tonight. We can stop by your place and pick up anything you need. I wonít hound you about talking or anything. I just donít want you by yourself. What do ya say?"

"Okay," she said, though I hadnĎt expected her to agree. "What about your motorcycle?"

"Weíll go back for it tomorrow," I said. "After a good nightís rest."

* * * * *

Chapter Thirteen


Michael

Front Desk

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The Master Plan

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Tweny-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter Twenty-Six
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two
Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Chapter Thirty-Seven
Chapter Thirty-Eight
Chapter Thirty-Nine
Epilogue