Marcus Lanway drove for several hours along interstate 81, heading south, before he realized that they were well away from Morgenstern. Wherever the man was, he was no longer in their reach, nor were they in his. It was not the most pleasant of circumstances to be driving under. In fact he had been going at least twenty miles over the posted spped limit for at least the last hour of the drive. No words had been spoken between any of them, as they were all shaken up over the incident. Evan sat silently in the back seat, holding something in his lap, Marcus hadn't really taken the time to look at what, and Sarah was still in shock. The outrage shouldn't be too long in coming, he gathered.
Marcus finally pulled off at a rest stop, parked the car, and sat there staring blankly at the sterring column. Sarah was looking out the window, absently nibbling on the whites of her knucles. Evan stirred restlessly in the back, uttering the first words since their flight, "They didn't kill Jacob."
Sarah opened her door, unbuckled her safety-belt which she, despite her panic, had fastened out of habit, and bolted out into the small copse of trees surrounding the area. Marcus sighed, his eyes following the flailing figure as it disappeared into the wood. He looked at several startled travellers who were also using the rest area, either going to and from therestrooms or walking their dogs. Their activities so mundane as to seem easily forgotten, but right now Marcus wished that he could engage in those type of activities. Marcus wished so fervently that all this would just go away, return to normal. Why did his family have to be thrust into the strange world they were now living in. The geography was the same, and the people were the same, the only thing different was the way it looked to him now. No longer was it a safe world. Everything seemed to have been safe, there was really very little danger, very little to fear, now suddenly, the whole illusion of safety fell away, and Marcus could not help but see the danger that came from all around them. Sickness strikes at anytime. Accidents can happen in even the most mudnade of circumstances. The laws of physics still apply, regardless of anybody personal perception.
Marcus slipped out of the car, and turned to Evan, "You stay put." he waved a warning finger to emphasize his point, and then chased swiftly after Sarah. Evan sighed, watching his Dad chase after his Mom. He wondered just how long she had been fretting over that one fact. He wondered just how long she had dwelt on the idea that Jacob might be dead. He wished he had mentioned it sooner, then they would be coming up with a plan to save them all.
Sometimes he didn't understand parents. His father was just a teacher, but he enjoyed his work, and he stayed abreas of all the scientific developments in the world today. His mother was a housekeeper. She liked to stay home with them and make sure that they were hard-working individuals who were completely socailly adjusted. Somewhere in there, he knew that she had given up on her dream of being a doctor in order to take care of them, and for that sacrifice he was grateful. He knew many kids whose parents worked all day; they were lonely, and quite contrary, and for the most part self-centered. There were exceptions to this, as there was to everything, but in general, his estimate was accurate.
Evan of course, hated staying in one place for any length of time. Of course, a rest stop did not afford the most recreational of activities, in fact, it was downright boring. However, he did need to go to the bathroom. He left the portable phone in the car, and walked to the men's room. He passed the usual fare at a rest stop, the newspaper stand, the soda machine, the candy machine, the tour guides reading, "Welcome to Virginia", and other such paraphenalia. After relieving himself, he walked back over to the candy machine, and pulled out a few quarters. He was hungry, and he needed something to tide him over. However, as he glanced over the choices, his eyes slipped over to look at the newspaper stand. He only made a slight glance, but then after a moments pause, took another look. There, on the front page, standing behind a few men, was Samuel Morgenstern.
Evan put two qaurters into the news stand instead, and pulled the paper out, and quickly read the story adjacent to the picture.
Marcus came back, Sarah following him. Her chin was now set, and there was in her eyes, something of a an animal. It was rather frightening for Evan to look at, as everytime in the past she had born that expression, he had received a fierce punishment. However, he knew that she was not mad at him, she was mad at Morgenstern; he also knew that Morgenstern was going to receive a bit more than a spanking if she had her way.
"Anything interesting in the news, Evan?" Marcus asked conversationally, noticing the folded up newspaper in Evan's lap. Evan was sitting in the car door now, not complettly understanding what it was he read. He really wasn't sure what any of it meant.
"Dad, what's the NIH?" Evan asked, looking up at him, perplexed.
"The National Institute of Health. They're responsible for catalouging diseases, cures, possible remeides. They set the standards for doctors all over the nation." Marcus thought for another moment, trying to remember what all they did. "They also devise lists of symptoms for common and uncommon diseases so that doctors can make better judgements. They administer the public school vacinations. I can't really think of anything else. Why do you ask?"
"Well, one of the guys who runs the place died, and he's in a picutre with Mr. Morgenstern." Evan showed his parents the front page of the newspaper he had bought, and then involuntarily reached up to his left arm. He hadn't done that in a week, as the swelling had gone down since then. Two weeks ago they had come and given the public school vacinations, they had all got one, and he had suffered a mild reaction to it.
"Oh my." Marcus was slack jawed. "He's right, look." Marcus showed it to Sarah, whose demeanor only grew worse.
"What does it say about him?" she asked.
"Nothing. The articule is about some Dr. Lane Sauer." Evan pointed out.
"I've heard of him." Sarah looked thoughtful for a moment. "He was working on some cure to Alzhimer's last I heard."
"Well apparently he's dead." Marcus added, then he looked frustrated. "Read the caption, this is great. 'From left to right: Dr. Emmanuel Asgaard, Dr. Nancy Salinger, and Dr. Lane Sauer. Figure in back is unidentified.' Wonderful!"
"He's a murderer, that's who he is." Sarah spat venomously.
"We'll find him, Sarah, and we will find our Jacob. Trust me." Marcus tried to reassure her.
"How, we don't even know where he lives?" Sarah countered.
"I have his phone.", Evan pointed out.
"His phone?" Marcus asked.
"Yeah," Evan hands the cellular phone over to his father, "I snuck it out of the room where they were holding Jacob just before I saw them kill Dr. Ryan."
Marcus was examining the phone. He looked over to Evan, "Do you know who he was talking to?"
"Somebody named Houck." Evan replied.
Marcus looked thoughtful for a moment, "That name sounds very familiar. I know I should know who he is."
"I haven't heard of any Houck in the news recently." Sarah pointed out.
"I wonder, do you know if Houck called him, or if Morgenstern called instead?" Marcus asked.
"I think Morgenstern received the call." Evan replied after a moment's thought.
Marcus looked at the phone carefully for a second, and then reached down and pushed a small button. Sarah looked at him pensively, "What are you doing?"
"Calling Houck." Marcus replied. "Maybe he can inadvertantly give us some information."
Dr. Henry Houck reached for the phone as it rang. He never got calls anymore, not from almost anybody. His phone number of course was unlisted, and even then, it was registered to another name. No need to take chances now. So there was only a few people who could be calling. The person on the other end of the line did not sound like one of them.
"Who is this?" he asked.
"Who do you think it is, Houck?"
"I don't know, you don't sound familiar." Houck was very hesitant. Whoever it was, he knew his name, and also expected him to know who he was. He really wasn't prepared for this turn of events.
"You're not going to tell me that you don't have caller ID do you?" the voice returned.
Houck then felt pretty stupid, and quickly checked the number. It was Morgenstern's phone, but it most certainly didn't sound like Morgenstern. "Morgenstern?"
"You sound a little funny." Houck pointed out.
"It must be the connection, oh well. I've called for a reason. Could you repeat the content of our last conversation to me. I forgot to write it down, and I'm getting terribly forgetful these days."
Houck shrugged. It was hardly an unreasonable request. Despite the fact that he sounded funny, it was Morgenstern's phone, and nobody but he would be using it, he was sure of that.
"Well," Houck began, "I hope you remember something about Dr. Hemley's death. He was in a car accident, it looked like he caused it. He called me just before he left to tell me he had some important information to give me. I never found out what. Your people wouldn't give me access to his place."
"I can hardly be blamed for that, some things even go over my head. There was simply no choice."
"If it was important, then perhaps we ought to know it." Houck became quite testy all of a sudden.
"Perhaps you are correct after all. I'll go down to his place and check it out. No where does he live again?" the voice seemed quite distracted, and Houck got the impression that something had gone wrong, and that this wasn't Morgenstern after all. However, that was impossible, it must be him, he never went anywhere without his phone, and he always kept it on him. It must be like Morgenstern said, it must be a bad connection.
"He lives in Charlottesville, I can't remember the exact address myself. Of course his office is at Virginia Tech. You remember that don't you?" Houck asked dryly.
"Oh yes, now I remember. Things have become quite clear to me in these last few moments. Dr. Drewe Hemley, of the Astronomy department at Tech."
"That's the one. Quite dead now in fact." Houck grumbled.
"Was there anything else you told me in our call?"
"Nothing of import. None of the figures have changed that I know of." Houck replied.
"Well, I must thank you for your complicity. I will get you the information as soon as possible."
"Thank you so very much." Houck replied acidly. How he hated that man.
There wasn't even a reply, the phone just hung up. Houck put the phone back on the receiver, and sighed. He kept telling himself that it was Morgenstern he had just talked with, there was no other explanation. Then why did he keep having those nagging doubts? Was it because he wasn't completely sure? Was it because his story seemed so ridiculus? Why had he told him all that information, what was the point? If Morgenstern had wanted that information, he could have had his phone message just played back, all his calls were recorded after all (or at least that is what he says).
It only took him a moment to rationalize away his doubts for good after confronting each one of them individually. They were but mere flyspecks against the whole picture. That one inescapable fact kept coming up, Morgenstern was too good to let his phone fall into another's hands, and besides, how we he have known Houck's number in the first place if he wasn't Morgenstern. There simply was no other explanation, and satisfied, Houck resumed his previous work.
Marcus set the phone down. It had been a rather illucidating phone call. He had heard of Dr. Drewe Hemley, and of Dr. Henry Houck. He knew of them, he knew their reputations as premiere Astronomers. Of course, he hadn't really heard much about either of thme in the last few years. Until now, he hadn't really thought about why. Now he couldn't help but think about why.
"So are you suggesting that these astronomers know something?" Sarah asked.
"They must. Why would Morgenstern be involved with them unless they have something to do Morgenstern." Marcus replied.
"That was pretty vague." Sarah pointed out.
"We have to get into Dr. Hemley's office, and see what he was up to. Houck lives in Raleigh, he's a bit too far south for us to get to easily. Hemley is, was, in Charlottesville, that's only about an half-hour further south."
"Are you sure you want to try to break into his office?" Sarah asked, dubious.
"What choice do we have?" Marcus asked.
"Will we be able to find Jacob." Sarah asked, a slight tremor in her voice.
"If Hemley is involved in what Morgenstern did, then we should." Marcus sounded mure sure of himself than he really was. However, all he wanted to do was to calm Evan and Sarah, and it looked like he had.
Just then, the phone rang. He stared at it as if it were a snake. Evan picked it up before either Sarah or Marcus could reach for it. "Hello?.....It's for you, Dad." Evan handed the phone to Marcus, who cautiously raised it to his ear.
"Dr. Marcus Lanway." the voice sounded russian.
"I am the Left Hand of Fate." the voice returned with a cool self-assurance that made Marcus nervous. "You have something you shouldn't have."
"What? This phone?"
"No, your life." The Left Hand of Fate calmly told him.
"So we are to be killed then?" Marcus asked.
"Eventually. You simply know things that you shouldn't, and that is always a bad thing. Quite a fatal condition."
"What do you want?" Marcus hated being played with, and he got theimpression that the Left Hand of Fate was indeed playing with him.
"What do I want?" he seemed startled by the question. "I want what all people want, the best for all humanity. You good sir, are standing in the way of that."
"I want to survive." Marcus told him. "I want my family to survive."
"I'm afraid those are not options available to you at this time."
"And at a later time?" Marcus asked, wondering if there was even a way to bribe this man.
The Left Hand of Fate laughed for a moment and then continued, "My good sir, for you, there is no later time. You should already be dead, you are on, how do you say, borrowed time."
"So essentially, somebody screwed up. That's the whole reason we're alive, somebody screwed up."
"If you want to put it that way."
"Quite possibly." The Left Hand of Fate remarked offhandedly.
"So why are you calling us?"
"What reason could I possibly have but to entertain you before your demise." the Left Hand of Fate told him.
"So your tracing this call then?" Marcus asked. Marcus really didn't have much experience in running from the law, or even those who felt themselves above the law. However, it seemed like he was going to have to learn, whether he liked it or not.
"Of course we're tracing you. I'm sorry correct that, traced you. You are at a rest stop twenty miles south of Harrisonburg on Interstate 81, am I not correct." the Left Hand of Fate informed him correctly.
"I'll talk with you later." Marcus hung up the phone. "Get in the car, now, we have to get out of here!"
Evan jumped into the back seat, and Sarah into the driver seat. Marcus tossed her the keys, and then dumped the cellular phone into a nearby trashcan. He then jumped into the passenger side, and slammed the door shut. "Just drive, head for I-64, forget Charlottesville, they're after us."
Sarah nodded, gunned the ignition, squeeled the tires, and then sped down the interstate until they reached the turnoff about ten minutes later. Then they were heading westward, Virginia Tech, slowly getting further and further away.
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