A chilly wind sprung up across the lake. Marka shivered. Frank put his jacket around her shoulders and they walked rapidly to the cafeteria door. The electric eye spotted them, opening the door. Once inside, Frank bought them coffee and they sat in the cafeteria sipping the stinging hot brew.
“Shay wants you to hypnotize me,” Frank said abruptly.
“He mentioned that.”
“When did you talk to him?”
She didn’t answer right away. “You’ll think it’s a conspiracy if I answer that.”
“Before you came here?”
She shrugged, nodding. “I was contacted. Not by Colonel Shay directly. I promise, I never met or spoke to him until he showed up at your door. But the letter asked me to use whatever means necessary to help you, including hypnosis.”
“They sure have a hard on for this case.”
“This isn’t an isolated incident, Frank. They believe someone quite well placed may be behind it.”
“Should you be telling me this? Should we even be talking about it in public?”
Marka smiled, patting his hand. “No one has a clue what we’re talking about. They aren’t listening anyway.”
There were two workers in the cafeteria. One was mopping the floor and the other rang up a cup of soup and a salad for one of the employees on break.
“I’ll do that, if you want. But I don’t see that as being your first choice.”
“My mind betrayed me, Marka. Do you have any idea how that feels? To know I can’t trust my own memories? If I’m wrong about this, what else is wrong?”
“You can’t second guess yourself, Frank.”
He didn’t reply right away. When he did, it was in an urgent whisper. “I keep wondering what I did wrong that got Clay and the others killed. What did I miss? I go over it in my mind, but I can’t see it. I don’t know.”
Marka put her hand on his. “Hop off that roller coaster of doubt and relax. Making yourself crazy isn’t going to get you the answers you need. I can do a hypnosis session with you. I won’t put you way under, just enough to relax you so you can think things out clearly.”
He shook his head. “I don’t want that at all. It scares the shit out of me even thinking about. I keep seeing this big, horrifying shadow and red, glowing eyes. . . . There’s something—lurking in the shadow. It knows me, can see me, but I can’t see it. If you hypnotize me, it can get me.”
Marka frowned, squeezing his fingers. “Okay. I won’t do it. I want to talk to Shay. Can we go up to the house?”
“I bet if we said how much we want to speak to Uncle Arnold, he’ll show up.”
“He’s watching?” She looked around furtively, worried.
“Common areas only,” he replied softly to assuage her fears.
Frank’s phone rang as they prepared to go. It was Sue at the front desk. Why she’d called on her cell instead of business phone, surprised him so much, he didn’t answer right away. One ring shy of voicemail, he touched the screen.
“Oh, thank God,” she whispered, sounding terrified. Louder, she added, “Frank, there are some, uh, friends of yours here at the desk.”
Frank signaled Marka to follow. He moved rapidly toward the exit. He pointed to a security camera and saluted. Marka understood he wanted her to contact Colonel Shay. He didn’t wait for her to respond, but kept moving toward the stairwell.
“Friends of mine? Did they give their names?”
“No, Frank. I didn’t know where you were. . . .”
“I’m on my way, Sue. Can you describe them?”
“That would be difficult at the moment.”
“Are they threatening you?”
She tried to laugh. “Of course, Frank. How silly of you!”
“But they can’t hear me.”
“No, I’m afraid not.”
“Distract them. I’m almost there.”
“Okay, Frank. I’ll be sure to pass that along.”
He increased his pace, trying not to draw attention by running. A few people tried to engage him, but he smiled and said he was late for a meeting. He saluted every camera he passed.
In the stairwell, he took the steps two at a time, running rapidly to the next floor up. Wishing he had a weapon, he peered out the stairwell door into the lobby. He purposely picked the stairs on the far side of the foyer.
Get them off campus, away from Sue and the others. Take them from a thousand hostages to one. Disliking his odds, he did another quick recon.
Sue was babbling about the campus, showing them a brochure. Three men in overcoats stood clustered around the glassed in office. One had his hand inside his coat, probably on a concealed weapon. The others scanned the lobby, but not in his direction—yet.
© Dellani Oakes