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An Excerpt from

Chapter Three:

To the Winds, the Witness

 

            The mountain before us has a light and a dark side. For the rest of the year, the media will dedicate their resources to making the light side even brighter, while a far more interesting investigation takes place on the side unseen. Over there is an entire industry dedicated to the sole purpose of convincing you and me that the dark side of the mountain doesn’t even exist. Most of this industry's success is predicated on the fact that the President doesn’t go live-at-five and let forbidden ideals take the day. The last threat of this magnitude was due to Kennedy, flush with a full set of balls after the Cuban Missile Sell-Out and intending to tip over the whole UFO conundrum for the Russians, in the interests of working together on things like reverse-engineering "the technology" and planning adequate defenses against it.

            For those swell men and gals we call Silencers, putting such problematic monkeys back in their cage is a sterling example of what they do best. As for Cuba, “Sell-Out” is what the mice in the machine called the method by which the United States barely avoided a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union in October of 1962. While the Russkies built medium and intermediate range nukes in the jungle, basically pointed at our heads, American generals pleaded for first-strike initiatives, the Kennedy brothers made plans for trade embargoes, the CIA and Mafia prepared deniable assassination strategies, and nobody was on the same page. To turn Russian ships away from their own satellite dictatorship in the Caribbean, the Kennedy boys played strong, while secretly throwing Turkey under the bus. Meanwhile, the rest of the world just called it a “crisis” and practiced climbing under desks, while enemies multiplied in the White House like the offspring of Viagra-ridden bunnies--not that such a sexual enhancement would exist for another 36 years (at least not publicly, wink-wink). Having stared down the Russian Bear, Kennedy's ego rose to such heights that those who unleash Silencers knew his loose Irish tongue was bound to say the wrong thing to the wrong person, sooner or later, and he did. It was bad enough he’d taken Marilyn to Area 51 to meet Sisyphus, but the last straw came when he ordered Angleton's CIA to deliver all the files we had on UFOs and aliens over to the enemy.

            Since Jackie-boy was destined for a second term, drastic measures were planned.         

            Storytellers without names provided La Cosa Nostra as a likely scapegoat, and built a very convincing plan around key members Santo Trafficante, Carlos Marcello and Johnny Rosselli. Before those drastic measures could be enacted, however, someone tipped off JFK and a look-a-like was sent in to get his head blown off in Dealey Plaza. Strangely enough, World Leaders do not fight and claw their way to the top only to put themselves in the crosshairs to make a statement. No one understands "fight or flight" contingency plans better than politicians, and politicians are nothing if not vain. Vanity is usually not a priority for most martyrs; vain people want to live. That’s why Hitler was long gone by the time the Soviets closed in around his Berlin bunker, at the end of World War II.

            Believe it or not, a so-called "self-inflicted" gunshot wound to the head is quite capable of obscuring even the most famous faces. Eisenhower’s spillage about the Military Industrial Complex would’ve provoked similar “measures” had he not stopped talking when he did.

Fortunately, even when the most politically destructive admissions are made worldwide, there is still hope on the dark side of the mountain for salvaging as much of the social ignorance as possible. In the case of the Mosaic, what exactly the Silencers hope to salvage is a question with no short answer. By now, they're beyond hoping for full success in this case; that much was clear when the Nielson reports came in the morning after the President decided to share unbelievable things with a public ready to believe anything he said. Long before the congressional commission to investigate his claims was announced, the money was spent which can (and does) build a universe worth of diversion and disinformation. In the sixties, when all they had to do was cover up the true story behind the murder of the fake JFK, things were easy. Frank Sinatra was put in front of the cameras, to plead with kidnappers who'd taken his son, while Frankie, Jr. was giving his "kidnappers" gas money to fuel his own abduction.

It's been quite a different matter trying to turn eyes and ears away from an investigation about teleportation, time travel, and extraterrestrials.

Morgan and fixers like him are creators or enablers of such measures, just like Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray, and Mark David Chapman. Lynn D'Laers is another version of the same, but we’ll meet her later. Before the Silencers stands a mandate to build some type of pyramidal misunderstanding around the most important investigation in human history; both the covert and public versions, by managing one while keeping the other invisible.

By contrast, the purpose of the public enquiry might invite the analogy of being tasked with efforts to pull a specific fish from the camouflage of several combined schools, all propelled along in the turmoil of a rushing stream. For good measure, presume that an effort to pull this off is happening during a hurricane. In this context, Croyce is just as unsettled as most of the rest of the world right now, but unlike several billion spectators on (#) continents, he cannot merely be satisfied to cling to something stable while others struggle to create an alchemy of logic to explain disappearing townspeople and presidents who commit suicide in the days after opening Pandora's box. It is his responsibility to find the logic, thus the importance of locating the right fish, as fast as possible, and getting out from under the storm before it washes him away.

In the meantime, while the interminable wait of the common man is provoking the loss of his collective mind, Croyce is not blind to the irony that the logic he provides them will arrive second-hand from a state-institutionalized madman.

The liaison between this expert witness and Croyce, Dr. Solandro, sees his own task as a re-evaluation of hundreds of hours-worth of audio-taped sessions featuring the “delusional” history lessons of Arthur Moravius over a (#) year period. In the days ahead, Croyce will find further illumination amongst a variety of opportunists, liars, and criminals, but even more importantly, by the end of his unsettling interview with Solandro, he will finally come to realize that catching the right fish will depend on his ability to discern the real from the decoys, and to do so before the hurricane makes landfall. In plain English, to circumvent the massive effort in place to deter his success.

Unfortunately, Croyce is still (#) hours from learning the Silencers even exist, much less the silver lining that their arrogance has permitted the protective barriers to languish unmaintained, rusty from lack of use. In their defense, only the time travelers could’ve foreseen the massive public enquiry that would result, but who defends the arrogant? The Silencer's prophesy has always expected the curtain would one day fall, but no information was ever acquired to identify the originating quarter for the breach, or when it would take place. Turns out, it’s easy to fall asleep in the top 1%, while safe in the belief competent parties are searching diligently for the tears in the seam. Indeed, many of them are direct employers of such parties, even if the checks are signed by straw men living at non-existent Caribbean addresses. But what good is knowledge of whom to subpoena, without illumination of why to subpoena them?

Hence, Croyce's quick trip to Harford, Connecticut, while managing the anticipation of how close looms the mountain's summit in these initial days of the investigation, pretending he is not in flat-out fear of the panorama revealed on the other side.

For now, it's about catching the right fish, and to do so first requires the proper apparatus. Secondly, to find the best location along the river from which to initiate the effort, but several days in, there is still no good place in such murky waters to drop the line. While the official story remains that the President had a nervous breakdown on national TV and started spouting nonsense, then committed suicide soon after attempting to rectify the situation, Croyce has little to do but wonder who might've given the President such "nonsense" in the first place. Any witnesses who might bolster such magnanimous claims could hardly be expected to jump in front of Croyce's investigation with nametags declaring themselves knowledgeable.

Time travel, for the love of God! Who was he to subpoena: H.G. Wells?

While three million dollars provides some time for searching, there's little room for error. With further funding in the days to come, Croyce’s office will expand in an effort to disseminate the strangely proportional increase in information, but in these early days, Oaks and Levell are the names of his two primary investigators. Both sharing Christian names in common, Croyce has come to refer to them as “the two Ed’s.” Otherwise, as of Day Three, his staff of analysts holds at fifteen dedicated young souls, but their shelf-life is uncertain once the funds to pay them run out.

Unexpectedly, the real fish started to jump soon after Oaks and Levell had been dispatched upon a series of interviews with the wisest souls in the global scientific pool: the decoys, in other words. So many leads arrived, in fact, that Croyce became rapidly overwhelmed and had to recall Ed Oaks from Sweden almost the minute he stepped off the plane in (Swedish city).

One of the first fish was a psychiatrist in Connecticut by the name of Solandro, who claimed to recently have in his care a patient by the name of Arthur Moravius. Moravius, Solandro believes, is a potential goldmine of information, provided the difference can be discerned between truth and a lunatic’s perception of same. Solandro claims to have a story to tell on behalf of his patient, who has left him with no option but to contact Croyce’s office. On the phone, Solandro spoke in a strange tone, implying a certain mixture of embarrassment, fear, and awe—a combination Croyce will see far more often than not before the end of this fishing trip.

The psychiatrist explained that he had been treating Moravius for the past eight years for manic depressive delusions, and became settled in the conclusion that his patient’s psychosis would never permit him to distinguish between reality and the creations of his own addled imagination incapable of rest. Such wild misperceptions of historical fact were only tempered by an exhaustive knowledge of the context from which he’d constructed his theories. The details were true facts, perhaps, yet connected together to build a giant springboard into a stratosphere of immense leaps in logic.

In the characteristically esteemed opinion of Dr. Donald Solandro, this defective mentality had certain clarity to offer Croyce’s investigation.

Such claims notwithstanding, it was impossible to ignore the fact that Solandro’s experience level was predicated on mastering successful treatments for a wide pallet of mental health issues. He’d presumably heard everything, and yet he’d learned something from Arthur Moravius that compelled him to contact a federally appointed investigator. Not only was Solandro convincing in the relevance of his request to meet in person, the prospects for what Croyce might learn had left him shaken to his very core.

As for the disturbed Mr. Moravius, he was either cursed with a rampantly winding imagination, gifted with some form of far-reaching extra-sensory perception ... or, he was telling a self-perceived version of the truth about his experience among time travelers and famous historical figures. According to Solandro, Arthur Moravius had previous knowledge (by eight years) of the specific day and hour that the leader of the Free World would announce the existence of such technologies previously spoken of nowhere but the pages of science fiction.

From the lips of the highest office in the land had come the revelation that things like time travel and teleportation were not only operational in theory, but in practice. Who in the known universe could’ve possibly predicted such an unthinkable announcement would ever be made in the first place, much less the hour it would be delivered? As if that wasn’t enough to get Croyce’s interest, the abrupt vanishing act of this mental patient from his room, with no windows and a door locked from the outside, had sealed the deal. According to Solandro, Moravius had never previously declared any ambition to leave psychiatric care, and had never received a visitor, much less someone capable of orchestrating his escape. Solandro insisted the timing of this “jailbreak” almost immediately followed the conclusion of the President’s Address to the Nation.

He had tape recordings to verify, if not prove, this pre-knowledge. Moravius knew what he knew, and leaving when he did was intriguing enough for Croyce to book a flight to Hartford for the day after next.

The day before he was set to leave for Connecticut, his D.C. office was contacted by the first of two potential witnesses with seemingly corroborative information. Each was located in vastly different parts of the Western Hemisphere, and neither party indicated knowledge of the other. The first caller refused to identify himself, and claimed to be calling from a "South American country" he didn’t feel comfortable naming at the time. Before the conclusion of this six-month investigation, Croyce’s office would receive more than a million pieces of false information, (a sifting nightmare for his unpaid interns), and this mystery man would’ve been the first contender for the slush pile had he not been corroborated by the second witness, who contacted Croyce’s office the next morning, as Croyce was preparing to depart for Harford.

This second source was not only credible, he was also fully prepared to go on the record with authentic evidence related to the current investigation. This second source identified himself as Paul Windham, the senior editor of a well-known publishing house called Maverick, and his evidence was the unpublished manuscript of no less a figure than Millard Grixby, Jr.

For the better part of the last decade, this manuscript had been languishing in the deepest desk drawers of Literary Purgatory, but in light of the recent claims of a supposedly troubled United States President, the manuscript was being hurriedly dusted off and short-listed for publication and wide-spread distribution. Maverick expected to sell more “units” than any book in history; perhaps competing with the world’s greatest religious texts.

The reason for this turnaround in attitude for a book previously forgotten was that its depicted events, supposedly posited within a fictional framework, were not only coming true on the world stage, but offered a view of the endgame yet unknown to the world-at-large. How all of this would turn out was something that could only be known to a psychic … or a time traveler. The reason people would notice? The book’s author was the world’s indisputably-most iconic member of philanthropic society.

Croyce didn’t enquire as to why the manuscript had been shelved in the first place, since its source’s veracity permitted no room for suspicion even eight years prior. Windham explained that a publisher was wise to wait until some of the events "prophesied" came true, in order to maximize the sales potential via timely and relevant marketing, and an ability to have books on shelves in the heat of the situation.

After word inevitably got around that Grixby’s book was true, who wouldn’t want to know how these events concluded?

On its face, the broad strokes of this scenario seemed to echo Solandro’s claims on behalf of Arthur Moravius, the only difference being that Windham’s source was a billionaire known for establishing famous charities and educational trusts, while the good doctor’s source was a certifiably insane inmate of a mental hospital. Furthermore, Millard Grixby, Jr—unlike Moravius— would lose much from claiming his stories were true if they could later be proven fictional. Initially, the philanthropist’s reluctance to insist on his manuscript’s truthfulness compelled him to conduct all initial contact with Maverick and Paul Windham through an intermediary using the assumed name “Jordan Wallace,” who would actually represent himself as the book’s unacknowledged author, if only until it came time to print book covers, at which point his name would disappear entirely from the project while sole credit reverted to Grixby.

At first, Wallace’s claims sparked comparison to those of Clifford Irving, the infamous “ghost writer” of a biography of Howard Hughes that ultimately proved to be a hoax, hence the title of the movie that was eventually made from it. At the time of initial contact between he and Wallace, Windham could not help sensing a certain kinship between Wallace and Irving, especially when told upon receipt of the manuscript from Wallace that Grixby was on a sabbatical in the Hindu Kush and couldn’t receive contact for several weeks.

The ultimate difference between Irving’s hoax and Wallace’s claims was that Wallace was telling the truth, but Windham couldn’t have known as much eight years in advance of the actual events. Also unlike the Irving/Hughes situation, Howard Hughes had not actually been consulted on the veracity of his alleged biography until well into the publishing-negotiation phase; whereas Millard Grixby ultimately surprised everyone by offering verification within days of Wallace first approaching Windham, albeit by SAT phone from the top of a (specific Kush mountain peak). Wallace’s claims to representing a book actually authored by Grixby were thereby corroborated by the author, himself—assuming it was actually Grixby to whom Windham spoke on the phone. Notwithstanding the lack of a confirmed visual identification, Windham had intimated to the ‘caller-who-might-be-Grixby’ that he was interested in reading the manuscript, provided he could verify the legitimacy of the source.

At the time, Windham anticipated some type of unquestionable corroboration in the form of physical evidence or firsthand witnesses, since both must exist somewhere in the background of the book’s research phase. With that request, Paul Windham had no idea what he was in for. This was still five years before the accident that cost Grixby his legs.

Now, finally prepared to illuminate Croyce to these events eight years after those initial meetings, Windham didn’t waste time trying to solicit Croyce’s attention by way of camouflaging his identity through shadowy intermediaries with assumed names. Grixby’s was a nearly household name that made the crippled walk and the blind to see, Hallelujah, and Windham had been waiting eight long years to trumpet Grixby’s story from the proverbial rooftops.

Windham promised to allow Croyce to read the manuscript prior to publication, under supervision—provided any such privilege was utilized only within Maverick’s offices in the (Name) Building, on (#) Street. Of course Croyce could’ve subpoenaed any manuscript, information, notes, or other potentially yielding data without ever leaving the comfort of his own office, but he would likely be countered by time-consuming litigation arguing the sanctity of non-incriminating personal property-seizure, confiscated in a context which didn’t indicate criminal activity. After all, the manuscript described a fictionalized representation of its author’s excursion forward in time to hobnob with a variety of literary giants, who had traveled similar distances by the same means, in the wake of falsified deaths.

Was it truly necessary to prosecute a case presenting the non-illegality of time travel as a defense against writing about it, or simply easier to comply with Windham's request? As recently as last week, thought Croyce, the very question would’ve been laughable to consider seriously, but that was before the President’s recent claims corroborated everything in the book’s first few chapters.

Appropriately, therefore, the manuscript was entitled The Shoulders of Giants.

 

************

 

At some point during Windham’s brief characterization of the plot of Grixby’s novel for Croyce, the name of the novel’s main character was mentioned, and Croyce felt a chill travel down his spine; all the way down, thumbing its nose at any and all who might consider such an exemplification cliché.

The name of Grixby’s allegedly “fictional” alter-ego was named “Arturo Moravian.”

Strangely, Croyce detected no realization on Windham’s part of this supposedly fictional character’s true namesake, nor of his recent escape from a Connecticut mental institution. What Windham did know was that Grixby’s eight-year old manuscript featured a scene in which a sitting U.S. President publicly reveals, during a televised national address, that evidence of the practicality of time-travel and teleportation have been suppressed from the American people, and the world—in and of itself, a premise no one expected to turn heads. Harder to ignore was the word-for-word inclusion of the Presidential speech only two weeks old at the time Windham invited Croyce to New York.

Ultimately, the existence of Millard Grixby Jr.’s prophetic fiction, in addition to the uncannily well-timed vanishing act of Arthur Moravius, would prove to be the mere tip of the iceberg. Even the world’s staunchest opponents to conspiratorial theories would be hard-pressed to label these events as coincidental. Given the impossibility of falsely claiming such foreknowledge of the President’s speech—presuming Windham could verify the manuscript’s age—one had to also presume that everything else claimed therein was at least worthy of serious consideration as truth. Written eight years before events currently dominating the world stage, the manuscript offered various details simply unattainable anywhere else besides true experience.           

Among these choice bits of information was a description of the process by which “Arturo Moravian” had been vetted before embarking on his (formerly-presumed fictional) Time Travel Tour; the method by which such a trip was possible in the first place; who had arranged it; who accompanied him; and what the experience of teleportation felt like. This was saying nothing about the details of what was seen and heard—enormous undertakings the likes of which one could hardly paraphrase.

By contrast, the only thing that kept the “South American source” from being filed among the growing stack of maybes, mistaken, and outright liars was the potential for corroboration by Maverick Publications, Paul Windham, and Millard Grixby, Jr. Croyce’s camp would come to refer to this anonymous source as “the Ghost,” and forevermore, so shall we. Indeed, Grixby and the Ghost seemed to signify different sides of the same coin.

The Ghost made contact with Croyce’s office before Windham, calling from the Brazilian capital city of Brasilia, where he was investigating claims of the disappearance of the Esposito family, the patriarch of which was the Brazilian Ambassador to the United States, (Name). Before this, the Ghost claimed to have been in Chile working on an expose of Colonia Dignidad, a mysterious compound in the Linares Province long-associated with Nazi-ism and child abuse. Supposedly independent of Windham’s revelations, the Ghost claimed to have been commissioned to write a manuscript eight years previous depicting a fictional representation of a certain wealthy philanthropist’s travels into the future, in order to visit various “legendary” authors.

Might the coming-forward of this two-pronged connection in the span of twenty-four hours be a little too conveniently timed? Yes—until you took into account the fact that no previous time in history had ever offered a better opportunity for their stories to be told. If timing was such an issue, everyone who contacted Croyce’s office could be accused of the same opportunism as Windham and the Ghost.

Due to the relatively close proximity between these two calls and the fact that the Ghost was the first, Croyce had the presence of mind to ask Windham if Grixby’s manuscript had actually been written by Grixby, or a ghost writer. He was only half-surprised to receive a heavy silence in response to his question.

After several seconds, Windham asked “Who have you spoken to besides me?”

“I can’t divulge sources. I would extend you the same courtesy,” Croyce explained.

“Fair enough, but only a handful of people knew about the existence of this manuscript in the first place; less would know who it was actually written by. I have to say, Mr. Croyce, I sincerely hope your bullshit-detector is in proper working order. You’re going to need it with this story, as I’m sure you know by now. Let me just close by saying I sincerely look forward to our meeting, to say the least.”

To say the least, Croyce thought, so do I, but his tone registered nothing more than aloof interest, at best. Of all the sources to come to their attention thus far, Windham was only the second who waived any desire to speak on the condition of anonymity (or “background”); Solandro was the first. Windham and the Ghost, however, each insisted on the condition of initiating the time and place of meeting, before any evidence was presented or shared.

In the end, there was no necessity to find a proper place along the river from which to cast his fishing line—the fish were catching him, and this was merely the preface to the deluge of “witnesses” who would contact his office in the weeks to come, following the announcement of Maverick’s imminent publication date for The Shoulders of Giants, authored by a source of no less credibility than billionaire philanthropist Millard Grixby, Jr.

Indeed, so many fish were about to surface as a result of this bombshell that Croyce’s earlier-conceived intention to distribute disinformation in the hopes of deciphering the credibility of future “witnesses” was instantly rendered ineffectual. It was a situation akin to competing with fishermen whose chosen method of fishing involved hand grenades. Gone would be all hope of quickly identifying any number of blind alleys offered by “witnesses” as ones he’d quietly introduced himself.

At the time Windham and the Ghost made contact with Croyce, his office was still a week from learning of the existence of Witness X, languishing in San Quentin Federal Penitentiary, and even more weeks away from the tedious sessions of hypnosis required to reverse that witness’s soon-to-be distorted capacity for recalling those events. Like Moravius, Solandro, Windham, Grixby, and the Ghost, the claims of Witness X would also suggest “foreknowledge of the President’s admonitions.” Indeed, in the wake of all that Croyce would learn from Solandro, Windham, et al, there would be little questioning the veracity of claims made by Witness X.

The final nail in the coffin containing Croyce’s skepticism would ultimately come from learning, upon arrival at Solandro’s clinic, of the good doctor’s self-imposed exile from his psychiatric duties.

Landing in Hartford, Croyce rented a car and drove directly to Solandro’s clinic on the outskirts of the city where he received, from the facility’s receptionist, a flash of concern when he announced his appointment with Solandro. “He isn’t here,” he was told, but there was something ‘off’ in the way she said it, as though they were speaking in conspiratorial tones of a recent family scandal. “You are…?”

“Nathan Croyce, senior investigator for the Judiciary Committee regarding a patient of Dr. Solandro’s named Arthur Moravius.”

At the mention of the latter name, the receptionist had to excuse herself and leave her post, presumably to bring in someone further up the food-chain. Croyce presumed right. The man who returned with her to talk to Croyce was preceded by his air of misgiving. After introductions to this Senior Administrator (“Paul Kleen, Mr. Croyce … that’s K-L-E-E-N”), Croyce steeled himself to learn that Solandro was somehow out of commission, and that his flight here at so disadvantageous a time might prove to be for nothing.

“Dr. Solandro has gone missing” was the last thing Croyce expected to hear.

            “Gone missing since when?”

            “Police were here this morning asking the same question. I told them I’d seen him Wednesday night, and I was not immediately made aware when he didn’t show up for his scheduled sessions on Thursday. He’d enlisted a substitute, a friend, which may seem somewhat unorthodox, but it happens. Just like anybody else, psychiatrists sometimes have emergencies that call them away.”

            “What was the name of the substitute?”

            Kleen exchanged a brief glimpse with the receptionist, before admitting the doctor’s name was Frenmar. For now, Croyce filed it away for later. “I understand that Arthur Moravius recently escaped from this facility by unknown means. Is that correct?”

            Again, Kleen exchanged the concerned look with his receptionist, followed by a cautious admittance that it was true.

            “Have authorities been able to track him down yet?”

            “No, Sir, and I should say they have no place to start looking.”

            “I don’t follow.”

            Kleen seemed on the verge of explanation, when Croyce’s phone rang and he had to excuse himself. The voice on the other end was instantly familiar: “Don’t let him know it’s me,” said Solandro, “and don’t tell him anything more. Thank him, turn and walk out. I have a car waiting to meet you.”

            “I see,” said Croyce, and hung up. After parting thanks for the time they’d given him, he did what the caller suggested. The fact that he walked out with a little more anticipation than he’d had walking in wasn’t lost on him. There was a note under his driver’s side windshield wiper. After taking an instinctual look around, he read the note, and then looked up again. A hundred feet away was a white van without windows, some kind of rack on its roof as though to support ladders, and a young girl of maybe sixteen cleaning the driver’s side window with a bottle of Windex and a paper towel. Croyce started walking, toward the girl identified as “my daughter” in the note signed with the initials D.S.

            Her name was Marie, and she turned upon seeing his reflection advancing toward her from behind in the van’s window. With only the most cursory of smiles to indicate Croyce was welcome to get in on the passenger side, she climbed in behind the wheel, as though meeting with Congressional investigators was a daily undertaking.

            “I’m Marie,” she said, once he was in. Croyce extended his hand, which she shook as they pulled out and headed toward the clinic’s exit. She handed Croyce a cell phone that he never saw her produce, and told him to, “Hit ‘send’.” He flipped it open, saw the number, and did the deed.

            Solandro’s voice, on the other end, apologized by way of introduction for the cloak and dagger. “I simply have to put my family first,” he said. “I want to help the Commission, but I cannot endanger my wife and kids.”

            “Of course not. I would never ask you to.”

            “Marie will bring you to a parking lot and another car will be waiting. Drive yourself to the directions taped to the wheel.”

            “Dr. Solandro—”

            Solandro was no longer on the line, and Croyce wondered if he should bother to question Marie, however informally. Not without an attorney present, he thought. There was a nagging awareness behind all of this that told him Solandro was no fool, and likely more than capable of recognizing his own paranoid behavior. Of course the stories he ultimately heard would bring merit to the doctor’s precautions, but at this point in the journey, his curiosity was starting to ferment into annoyance. The suspense, quite frankly, was pissing him off. Now he was driving unfamiliar vehicles to undisclosed destinations to hear unknown testimony. If the fruit yielded didn’t make the journey worthwhile, the wasting of a federal investigator’s time was imminently prosecutable in this case.

            Marie drove off instantly as soon as he was standing outside the van with the key in his hand that she’d given him. It hung from a keychain attached to a rabbit’s foot. The instructions taped to the driver’s wheel seemed to be pointing him out of the city, and a look at the highway map left for him on the passenger seat confirmed it.

            It took him half an hour to reach the country house off the designated freeway exit, a two-story manor at the end of a driveway that took him to the top of a wooded hill. It did not look like a dangerous place, at least in the sense one might apply stereotypical description. Indeed, it was a spread Croyce wouldn’t mind finding for himself after retirement. Uncertainly, he let his eyes roam along the visibly available idiosyncrasies of the house and found the single, gunmetal black camera watching him from its mount under the second-floor eaves. Almost the same second he discovered it, one of three garage doors opened upward in front of him and Croyce left the car behind.

            Solandro met him at the door inside leading into a short hallway that took him through a utility room, once the bizarre figure who preceded him dispensed with greeting. As they shook hands in the doorway, Solandro’s grasp lacked any strength whatsoever. For a man with Solandro’s mind, it was all the more unsettling that he seemed like a man who was barely aware he had company. Unsettling, however, only described the vibe as far as the end of the hallway; upon stepping into the great room-proper, “unsettling” turned ugly fast.

            The first thing impossible to ignore was the multi-colored web of strings connecting photographs on one whiteboard to comparative photography on another, with a third whiteboard forming the back of this three-sided display. It was like a three-way mirror depicting the winding reflections of Solandro’s growing psychosis. Next, Croyce's eyes fell to the stacks of paper and reference books opened to various subjects spread out over three long tables like the kind found at Bingo parlors or flea markets. Two laptop computers with bright screens were barely divisible from the rest of the clutter. Food containers, what Croyce presumed were dirty clothes, and brimming ashtrays completed the intellectual landfill. The heavy smell of stale cigarette smoke was another thing that reminded him of flea markets or one of the A.A. meetings where Croyce, in his teenage years, used to drop off his father.

            Croyce had to remind himself he was here to get information from a guy who usually treated crazy people, but might be new to the neighborhood, himself.

            “You look busy,” he said cautiously.

            “Arthur called it the Mosaic,” Solandro said vacantly. “I’ve barely found the tip of the iceberg. We have much to discuss, Mr. Croyce.”

            “Call me Nate,” Croyce allowed.

            “All this time, I think Moravius was telling the truth. Perhaps about everything, and that’s what’s truly frightening, inspiring, and maddening all at the same time. Arthur wasn’t the first patient I’d ever treated who believed he arrived from some other time. Given what I’ve learned so far, I’m now re-questioning all of them in my mind. All over the world, I’d surmise the entire psychiatric community is in a similar turmoil as this over the President’s speech. How many of our self-claimed time travelers were telling the truth?

            "I don’t believe for one second that our President suffered some type of breakdown. Believe me, I’ve met more than anyone’s share of people who’ve suffered a nervous breakdown, and they’re not usually in a state of mind conducive to recognizing it for what it is, much less retaining the fortitude in the midst of it to go on TV and admit as much. Not many breakdowns, in the general sense of the word, have produced wild flights of imagination of the type the President exhibited.”

            “You said frightening,” Croyce reminded him.

            “Because the outcome of these events will rely on how the total population of the world adjusts to these realizations. World religions are likely to crumble. Faith in government will vanish when people begin to accept the magnitude of the deception. It’s not just the United States' government; it’s every government. History is going to be re-written. Those who believed in white will now see nothing but black, and vice versa. I have no idea whether the world can survive this.”

            Croyce looked directly into the man’s eyes and found no indication, however subtle, of deception or exaggeration. Shrinks have the world’s best poker faces, he knew, but Croyce, in his career, had seen every kind of liar in triplicate--the steadiest of stare and un-shakiest of hand. If Solandro was spouting nonsense, it was nonsense he truly believed. Croyce asked “May I?”, gesturing to the three-way whiteboard wall and its webbed connection of strings. Perusing this strange horizontal wheel of spokes, he realized almost at once that only a single string connected all the others before ending at the middle whiteboard beneath a single word underlined three times.

            The word was Malabar.

            “Isn’t that the name of a place in India?”

            “It’s a codename, according to Moravius, for his former employer. As far as Moravius described Malabar, it was as a kind of loose screw bouncing around in a massive machine. Answers to where he was from, or his age, were unknown.”

            “Doctor, tell me about events on the night of the President’s Address, specifically what took place during and immediately thereafter.”

            After Solandro told of what he believed took place that night, Croyce said, “Well ... now I see why your Director was acting so cagey.” His next question was answered before he had to ask it, his eyes having fallen upon the cardboard box full of cassette tapes in plastic cases. “I see the thieves weren’t able to get all of your records, if that’s what those tapes are.”

“That’s all I have left,” he said, as though all but one of his family members had been murdered. “The loss is immeasurable …years’ worth of material. Funny enough, despite all I’ve learned, the biggest question I have is how they were able to carry all that paper out of my office. They must’ve brought some type of large bag with them.”

“If we’re able to prove your patient knew all the things he said he did, I would think how they carried out the files would be the least interesting aspect.”

“I didn’t say it was the most interesting; I said it’s the biggest question, Mr. Croyce. It’s only the biggest because I doubt I’ll ever understand how three men traveled from a sealed room to a locked office, and then vanished from there as well—another sealed room—with a nurse watching the office door, no less. I believe that nothing short of magic took place, Sir, and I have never thought of magic as anything more than card tricks and bunnies from hats. I have always thought myself a man of science, even if the conventional scientific community would like to resist the notion that the study of human behavior is worth being considered a truly scientific pursuit. I don’t believe in magic, but I do believe in miracles. Probably that’s my faith talking, but whatever happened to Arthur Moravius will never be understood by any mental faculties I might possess. This is the stuff of fantasy, pure and simple.”

 

 

 

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