Part Nine - Every Particle Of Matter In the Universe Attracts Every Other Particle With a Force Which Is Inversely Proportional To the Square Of the Distance Between Them.
"What's your name?" Dana asked the smaller, wiry man who was driving the Sable. She was puffing on yet another cigarette and blowing the smoke toward Rob, making his eyes water.
"Henry? Ha, you don't look like a Henry. You look like a Steve." Another stream of smoke hit Rob's face. Rob reached over the seat and grabbed the cigarette from her mouth. "Asshole," she muttered. "Didn't anyone warn you about me?" she asked the big man. He sneered at her. She sent a stone-cold look full of promise back at him. "Who do you work for, Steve?"
The little man smiled at the game but would not answer..
The word "weasel" came out with her breath. She was feigning a coolness she did not really own but intended to keep for as long as it took. What the "it" was, she was not sure.
While the car sped through the Delaware Water Gap in the dead of night, Doc contemplated what her next action should be and who they were headed to see.
Around seven a.m. the Sable pulled into the suburban town of Rockville, Maryland, outside of Washington. Steve parked the car in the garage, and Dana was urged out of the car and into the house through a door. Rob roughly forced her to sit in a hard wooden chair at the country-styled kitchen table. "Don't tell me--I'm here to be your new housekeeper."
Steve left the small kitchen and made a quick call from his cellular phone. When he returned, he whispered a few words to Rob and then left through the garage entrance. Rob silently went for the refrigerator, stared inside for a few minutes, and then closed it in frustration. Grace would have hated him just for that.
"You two have a real zest for decorating, I see." Dana gazed around the barren house. She had been functioning on adrenaline and a twelve-hour cold pill Grace had given her on the way to Pepe's to help clear up her sinuses and keep her from spitting. Now she was feeling tired and ornery.
"You two been together long?"
"Mmmmmake me, Fester," she taunted. She was ready for a go at him. Better now than when I'm really tired, she thought. "Come on, Fester, come and get me," she snarled and pulled herself to a standing position. "I've been waiting for this all night long."
Intent on pulverizing her, he stepped from behind the counter into the dining area. Dana stooped into a match stance and wiggled her eyebrows at him while she growled.
He lunged first, catching her in the midsection and sending them both flying backwards into the table. She came down on the back of his fat head with her elbow several times until his grip lessened. When he stood, she drove her knee into his gut and then her palm into his hose, stunning him. She followed that with a quick uppercut to his stone jaw, the impact causing her hand to smart. That's when he pulled out his gun and pointed it at her.
"I'm going to blow your head off, you asshole!"
Doc began to chuckle. "I dare you, Fester."
Crack! The handle of the metal gun against the side of her head shook her teeth and caused her to drop to the floor, stars swirling past her eyes. She was slightly aware of the door opening and the yelling. A moment later she was lifted to a chair. It took her a few minutes to focus on her surroundings. When she did, she could not believe what she saw and shook her head to clear the muddle.
"Hello, Dana." Karl Reichert addressed her.
"No, dear, you're wide awake."
"You died in L.A."
Reichert's thin lips pulled up to reveal gray teeth and what was his version of a smile.
"No, I am very much alive."
"Good--then I can kill you myself." She leaped toward him, only to be restrained by Fester.
He laughed. She hated that laugh. It was a noise that chased her in her dreams.
"You always were full of anger and hated, Papadopolis."
Rob threw her back into the hard chair.
"You haven't seen the half of it."
He walked closer and stood over her. He was only five foot five and had grown thinner over the past three years.
"I assume you know what I want from you."
"I assume you know what I'm willing to give you, and it isn't a compliment."
"I want your mind, Dana."
"You finally realized yours didn't work?"
His lips receded into a tight line. "I want you to work for me on my nano weapons project."
"And I want to rip your heart out and use it as bait. There's no fucking way I'm going to work for you, you psycho bastard."
"You don't have a choice, dear."
Dana despised that term of endearment, especially from Reichert.
"Sure I do. You can't control me anymore."
The man Dana despised more than prejudice or seeds in her jam shook his head disapprovingly and sighed.
"You would rather choose to die?"
"Only if you choose to kill me."
He smiled. "I won't do it. Mr. Carson will."
Dana looked at the man she had been referring to as Uncle Fester.
"The choice is easy for me," he growled.
She looked back at Reichert and gritted her teeth. "You're a coward, Reichert. A wuss in every sense of the term."
"Is that the best you can do--call me names? You have this incredible intelligence but emotionally you're an infant, an unloved infant. Why is that? Is it because your mama never held you, or because your father blew out his brains to free himself from you?"
Dana lunged from her chair across the table in an attempt to rip his heart from his chest. Rob quickly entangled one of her arms with one of his and took hold of the long, black hair with the other, slamming her face into the flat, wooden surface of the table.
A startled Reichert rubbed his injured neck.
"It's up to you how you want to do it, Carson, as long as you wait for me to leave and clean up after yourself. When you're done with her, kill the Wilson woman too."
His words stabbed Dana more deeply than any knife could and released her dark demons from their prison.
"Fuck you, Reichert," she hissed, slipping the spoon from her coat sleeve and imbedding it in Rob's right temple. After he stiffened in shock, she twisted it twice and then withdrew it. The dead weight of his body dropped to the floor, and his head slammed against the table, spurting blood against her thigh. Thick, dark liquid ran from the hole in his head across the white linoleum, and still, glassy eyes looked back at her from the floor. A feral grin twisted her lips as she squared herself to the weaponry executive. She rolled the dripping spoon between her fingers.
"It appears Mr. Carlson can't take care of this himself. You're going to have to do this one yourself," she growled with barely human noises.
"This only proves you're still a killer."
Dana looked at the evil deliverer through half-lidded eyes, spatters of blood on her face.
"Takes one to know one," she chanted and moved closer him, intent on burying her spoon in his cerebral cortex. Her breathing was raspy and her eyes a dark violet. She stepped still closer.
"I hate you, old man."
"I'm all you have. You can't go back now."
But she would not play into his mind games this time. What he had said about Grace had made it more than personal, more than protecting her body or her life. This battle was for everything, and, unlike Greer, Karl Reichert was not going to get away unscathed. He slipped backwards against the counter, his hands searching for an object to fight back with in the vacant house. Doc could smell his fear and hear his heart pounding. His unsteady breathing resounded as the soft rubber soles of her sneakers fell against the floor...and then nothing.
Dana was five years old, sitting defiantly on top of the school's jungle gym. But it was the middle of the night, and the bars she gripped tightly were cold against her hands. She had taken her coat off to climb, and now the wind was hissing by her ears and she was cold.
"Dad?" she yelled into the darkness. She could not see which way to move, how to climb down, or how high she was because everything was dark.
"Dad, help!" she cried out in a feeble, childish voice. But he did not come.
"Damn you," she thought with an adult anger as she stood tall and jumped off what she believed to be the edge. And then she fell and fell and fell.
She started from sleep before she hit the ground. A cold sweat covered her aching body, and there was a sharp pounding behind her eyes. The only sounds were noises of her body shuffling against the floor. Dana worked hard to focus on her surroundings, but there was no light, and she could not even make out shadows. She forced her sore body to crawl along the cold, hard cement floor until she found an equally hard wall, and then another, and another, and another. Blindly she traced the surfaces for doors or cracks and found none in the darkness. She forced herself to stand and reach for a ceiling, with no success.
After what must have been hours of exploration and screaming into the darkness, she resigned herself to the surreality of her situation. She was dead, and this was her hell. In this hell, time passed unmeasured except by an ever-growing hunger and the discomfort of her body, yet another cruel punishment for her mortal crimes. And worst of all, the powers had also confined her to the torture of her memories and her mind, until she sank into the confusion of utter darkness and isolation, where she wallowed in her loneliness and the pain of remembering Grace. This, she determined in her despair, was the afterlife that had made her fear eternity.
"Da-na," a gentle sing-song voice called out lightly to her.
Dana sat against the cold, hard wall, her head bent in hopelessness and misery.
She turned her head toward the voice but saw nothing.
"Grace?" she moaned.
"Is Grace invisible?"
"No. But I can't see anyway."
"Take my word for it--I'm invisible."
"Now you're cooking."
"Oh, God. I can't believe it. I'm stuck with my psychosis for eternity too."
"Who are you calling a psychosis?"
"Excuse me. 'Hallucination,' if you prefer."
"You can't see me, so I'm not a hallucination."
"What should I call you?"
"How about 'friend,' considering we're going to be together for a long time?"
Dana would have smiled if she had not still been depressed about being dead.
"So how did we end up here, friend?" Gabrielle asked.
"Reichert. Somehow, someone from behind. I guess I wasn't paying attention to my back."
"He ran the Beta program. He's the bastard that took the Beta to California and released it to control the riots. I thought he was dead." She sighed to relieve herself of the desolation, but it did not go away. "He wanted me to work for him again, and I refused, so he had me killed. It was probably Steve who pulled the trigger."
"Are you sure you're dead? You may not be."
A sardonic laugh. "I think; therefore, I am."
"That defines existence, not death."
"What's the difference?"
"I exist, but I'm not alive."
"You exist because too many of my neurons overlap where they probably shouldn't."
It would have been a long pause if Dana had been able to measure time.
"If you have neurons, you're still confined to your brain; hence, you're still alive."
"Are you going to argue with me forever?"
"I have plenty of ways to irritate you. Arguing is only one of them."
Dana placed her face in her hands. "Jesus, Dana, you're a psycho even in the afterlife."
"If you had known you were going to be placed here, would you have taken Reichert up on his offer?"
Dana bit her lip because she still could. "No. I could never go back to that."
A shrug of very tired shoulders. "Because it's wrong."
"Is that all?"
"Isn't killing wrong?"
A guilty shrug. "Sometimes."
"That's a cop-out."
"That's your opinion."
A deep laugh. "Not if I'm your psychosis it's not--it's yours."
Dana almost smiled again. "I killed in self-defense."
"You scrambled his brains with a spoon, Dana."
"What do you care?"
"Because I'm your friend."
"Someday you'll be able to love yourself, Dana."
"You really are a pain in my ass."
"No, Babe, I'm the little voice in your head."
Dana rubbed her eyes with a bloody hand.
"Want to play a game?"
"Come on. It's an easy one. Even you can win."
Dana shifted in the grit. Her body ached and her head throbbed.
"That's ironic. I win either way if you're a figment of my imagination. Where's the sport in that?"
"Okay! I'll play if you promise never to whine again."
"So what are we going to play?"
"What are we going to play?"
"You tell me. You're the one who wanted to play a game."
"You're the one who wanted to play a game," Gabrielle repeated.
"No, no, no. I hate this game."
"No, no, no--"
"--Stop it!" Dana grabbed her aching head.
It took Rachel three minutes to find that the license plate in the Department of Motor Vehicles database belonged to a Steven Edgar of Farmington, Connecticut. Further inquires into the Treasury Department database and Social Security Department led to empty personnel files for Edgar. Rachel then traced the originators of the files, i.e., the authors, by tracking the date and time of the files' creation, both of which had originated on the same day, spaced temporally by two minutes.
"Definitely government," Rachel commented. She hit a button to list all of the logons to those databases for that day and time.
"We'll get a lock on the usernames and that should key us into a bureau, Gracie." As if on cue, the supercomputer pulled out forty-five users logged onto the DMV database at that time: DMV offices, police stations, federal agencies, and several insurance companies. She then ran a similar query on the Social Security database, which came up with thousands of hits. When she cross-referenced them in a one-for-one pairing, two matches came up.
"There you go, Queenie. You have the choice of Log ID 26548 of the Philadelphia Police Department or Henry Taxson of Calamity Insurance."
"I always like to go with a name," Grace said, crossing her fingers.
"It certainly is a hell of a lot easier." Rachel typed the name "Henry Taxson" into a search engine for databases and then began to hack her way into personnel files of every database she thought could provide useful information, starting with the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve banks. Based on an educated guess, she also typed his name into the armed forces personnel database. A criminal smile curled her lips. Thirty hits.
"You gotta love supercomputers," the hacker commented. She set the computer to match the various numbers used to identify and catalogue Henry Taxson as an individual. A match, a match, and a match.
"B-I-N-G-O and bingo was his name-oh! It appears our Henry was in the Marines and has very good credit." She cut and pasted several account numbers to her notepad. "And, oooooh, he owns a lovely home in Maryland." She cut and pasted the address listed on his credit report and dialed a phone number.
"Hi, Kevin," she said. "Got an easy job for you...yes, I promise it's easy, but you have to be careful this time. You need to drive to Maryland tonight. I'll send you the address and a pict file via e-mail." She studied Grace. "Watch the residence for any activity, especially Dana Papadopolis, or someone who looks like the picture I sent you. I want a call every two hours or if something happens."
Grace scribbled down the address and memorized the face of the young Marine.
"What are you doing, Gracie?"
"I'm going down there. Tell Kevin to pick me up here."
"Grace, we don't even know if it's the right guy. He could really be an insurance agent."
"Entering Social Security information?"
"Gracie, you're exhausted, you're emotional--"
"--And I'm going." She grabbed her keys from the counter. Jack had taken a cab home after Grace insisted he go to his wife and son.
Rachel returned to the phone.
"Kevin, pick us up here on your way."
Rachel disappeared into the bedroom of her new home and returned with a pump shotgun, a Sig Sauer nine-millimeter silver-plated gun, and several boxes of ammunition.
The young doctor's eyes widened at the arsenal.
"So who's Grace?"
Dana's head dropped at the unbounded pain of remembering the last image of her happy lover.
"Is she someone special?"
A sniffle in the darkness.
"Dana, I don't think you're allowed to cry in hell."
Dana cried as quietly as she could.
"Are you done?"
"Yeah," she said softly.
"Tell me about her."
"Don't start that again."
"I'm not. I was correcting you."
"Oh, thank you," she replied sarcastically. "Like I need good grammar here."
"You sure are bitchy this time. I'm not sure I like this Grace very much."
Dana slid her foot across the dirty floor in frustration. "I'm a bitch because I'm stuck in a shithole."
"York was as much a shithole as this is."
"You weren't as irritating last time."
"And your life is really that much better than this?"
Dana closed her eyes to embrace the light of the images in her mind despite the blackness of her prison.
"Tell me about her."
"Last time you did most of the talking."
"Last time you didn't have a girlfriend. Besides, it's your turn."
She took her time forming the words to describe the most wonderful creature in her world.
"Grace is the most brilliant, charming, excellent person I've ever met. She has that youngest-child selfishness, and she packs around a super-sized I-can-accomplish-anything-if-I-try-hard-enough ego, but I think it's kind of cute on her."
"No, no, no. I don't want to hear about character. I want smutty details."
Grace took a couple of uppers before they left, hoping it would help with her exhaustion.
"Dana's going to be pissed when she finds out you got high while she was gone," Rachel warned.
Tears began to trickle from the red eyes. "I have to stay awake to find her. She's counting on me."
Rachel became very serious. "Grace, have you thought about the possibility that we may be too late?"
"No! Don't even suggest it!"
"Okay, sorry," the hacker replied, holding out her arms in the universal symbol for "Chill, baby." Rachel stepped forward and grabbed hold of the crying woman to pull her close.
"We'll find her, Gracie. I promise."
The blonde buried her face in the hacker's sweater. "You can't promise me that."
"I just did."
"Go ahead--use my shoulder to wipe your snot on, Queenie."
Grace laughed. "Sorry."
Kevin Grinchgold arrived within the hour. The women loaded his Explorer with their guns, and the three headed for Washington, a twelve-hour trip because of traffic, and several more hours to find the neighborhood where Henry Taxson owned a house.
They watched the house from the Explorer in shifts, hoping for some signs of life, but none came. No lights went on and no cars came or left.
By midnight Monday, Grace could not wait any longer. She climbed out of the truck and walked around the back to open the hatch. Rachel climbed out on the other side and went to the rear of the vehicle.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm going in there."
"No, you're not."
Grace pulled the shotgun out and held it across her chest. "Yes, I am."
Rachel could not keep from laughing at the determined woman.
"Don't you look butch, Queenie," she commented. The hacker shoved a wad of Big League chewing gum into her mouth and found a box of shells. She handed them to the doctor and then began to load her Sig Sauer clip with bullets from another box.
"Have you ever shot a gun before?"
"Yes, but I've never hit anything...I watched my brother shoot a deer once."
"Okay, that's a start."
"It made me sick."
"Hmmm, not good."
Kev Grinchgold had climbed out as well and joined the women. He loaded his own Berreta, and they moved in the cover of cloudy night skies to the backyard of the small ranch. Rachel shined her light into the kitchen window, arcing the light from one side to the next until it lit on the dark form on the floor.
"Is that her?" Grace asked in a high, tight voice.
"I don't know."
"We have to get inside," she said, running along the house to find the back entrance. When she found it, she smashed the glass pane with her gun handle and reached in to unlock the door. Grace ran through the empty rooms to the kitchen into the dried blood and knelt down to examine the body. Not until she realized that it was not Dana did she breathe. A few second later Kevin and Rachel entered the house more cautiously than their comrade.
Rachel shined her light across the kitchen floor. Blood was smeared for several feet across the white linoleum to the basement door, and several sneaker prints and shoeprints had dried in the mess.
Grace followed the drag marks to the basement door. Rachel looked over to Kev Grinchgold.
"You stay here and watch out backs." The two women proceeded down the wooden stairs.
The basement was as barren as the rest of the house. But the blood streaks, although lighter, continued until they disappeared into the south wall of the house.
"It's an addition." Rachel pointed to the wall. "There's a bedroom further down."
Grace found a small hatch at the foot of the concrete wall and forced it open. She lay on the ground on her belly and peered down into the darkness of the storage area. Rachel scooted next to her and used her flashlight to illuminate the area.
Dana forced herself to a sitting position. She held her hands up to block the light, which hurt her eyes.
"Grace?" she asked, slowly moving her stiff body toward the now-visible hatch. "Ese ise?" She was filthy and starving and unsure if she was simply dreaming this or if the powers that be were tormenting her with something new.
Rachel and Grace were unable to understand the words, but it was definitely Dana, beaten and traumatized, but Dana. Reaching their hands down to her outstretched arms, they hauled her through the small opening into the basement.
When Dana felt the hand touch her face and saw the tears running from the slightly puffy and red eyes in the light of the flashlight, she had to return the touch. As she drew her long arms around the smaller frame, she was amazed at how real it felt. In this dream she was allowed to touch, and it was wonderful.
Two loud pops shook the ceiling, startling the women. After a moment there was a loud thud.
Rachel scurried to the stairs, her gun pointed at the door.
"It's me!" Kev yelled down the stairs, his voice a little shaky. "I just capped this guy." He did not mention that he had also peed in his pants.
"I thought I was in hell," Dana explained as Grace leaned over the side of the tub of the hotel room and washed her back. She was munching on the remainder of her hamburger and French fries and draining a bottle of water. With the comfort of food in her body and Grace's gentle hands moving over her, she felt human again.
Grace rinsed a bruised shoulder. "You were speaking in Greek when you saw me," she said, rinsing the soap from the broad back.
"How long have I been gone?"
Dana looked at her, astounded.
"That's it?" It had seemed an eternity. "Did you miss me, Grace?" she asked in a tremulous voice.
Grace poured warm water over the dark hair, gently rinsing out the remaining dirt and shampoo. Dana closed her eyes while the soap ran down her face. She was saddened by the fact that Grace had not responded to her question. Three days had not been that long. The gentle hand left her hair.
"Are you angry with me, Grace?" she asked, afraid to open her eyes. She listened as Grace moved away from the tub.
"Yes and no," whispered the other woman. Then there were waves as another body entered the water. Bare skin pressed down against Dana's thighs; soft hair tickled her belly, a hand lifted her chin, and then a warm mouth and soft lips touched hers. Dana opened herself to the seeking tongue and let her arms take hold of the soft body that brushed against hers. She pressed her mouth hard against Grace's and returned the strokes of her tongue. Long fingers grabbed the soft, golden head and pressed it even closer. Dana was aware of a low, rhythmic humming and then realized it was her own voice. Grace moved her mouth to the long, outstretched neck, licking and sucking her way to the full breasts. Dana leaned back against the towel pillow, unable to believe how her circumstances had changed in a matter of hours. Her breath caught, and she stopped thinking when her left nipple was sucked between warm lips.
"Ese oh parathesos mou, Grace," she whispered, her hand stroking the silken hair.
Grace smiled, unable to understand the Greek words but recognizing her name.
"You are my heaven," Dana muttered again.
_ November 1998 by Jules Mills
Next - Nano part 5 - Motion
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