The Wind That Drives the Sail

by Flighttime

Copyright© 2018 by Flighttime

Science Fiction Story: Frank Cardon is a curious soul. A genius with almost idiot savant proportions, he posesses no social skills. Frank's mother dies leaving him the fortune he needs to complete their life-long project to build the first anti-gravity drive. With his lawyer/partner, he pulls off a stunt that secures his name in the history books and starts humankind on its migration to space. Note-This story has been updated and renamed from an earlier version entitled Prelude.

Tags: Science Fiction  

Frank’s striped clip-on necktie floated flat and straight like a giant pointer on the water’s surface from where it attached to his neck. He yanked it off and flung it away. He was in the middle of an enormous black pool, surrounded on all sides by sheer granite walls rising straight up from where the water lapped at its hard edges. He whipped his arms, and spun his head looking for an anomaly somewhere in the rock face. There was none. The black water engulfed his body below the chest. The bottom could be six inches or six miles beneath him. And how many things were lurking down there unseen? That scared him.

He swam about 25 yards from the middle in order to examine the rock wall more closely. The water had no temperature, but Frank knew he should have felt hot or cold against his body. He reached the edge, and surveyed its rock face. There was nothing to grab onto, not even the smallest ledge or crag. Edges precisely cut in the rock ran vertically, cog-like the entire length of the cylindrical chasm. He continued to tread water, leaning his head back to peer up shear walls, which reached toward a cloudless blue sky above. The bright yellow sunball shined down into the hole, its reflection dancing on the water’s surface. Frank squinted against the light and water stinging his eyes. His foot skated along the slick wall looking for traction below the surface, but it slipped away against the algae coated surface. The jagged vertical edge imprisoned him with no horizontal irregularities anywhere along the surface.

He began to tire as he pushed his arms through the water to stay afloat. He swam back into the middle, squeezing his eyes shut to avoid the black hole of water beneath him.

A surge shot through his heart as something brushed by his feet. It was a current, steadily swirling beneath him gaining strength. He compensated his treading as the spinning increased, but in this gigantic dark lake, he was a lost drop, meaningless inside the huge mass of liquid.

With Frank at the center, the concentric rings of water spun around him as the entire mass of water gained speed. Though his body remained above the surface, he was sucked down into the middle of the giant whirlpool, his speed increasing as the water level dropped. He calculated the energy required to propel such a mass and logged the answer away. As a soft spinning blur along with the cone of moving water, now 30 feet deep, Frank felt himself growing lighter, sensed his mass decreasing. He was pulled deeper into the vortex with exponentially increasing speed, but at the same time, the force of gravity had less effect on him to the point where he was nearly weightless. Time stretched and then contracted to a point as the massive forces controlling his body became too great. His mind surrendered to the black out and swallowed him whole.

Frank landed hard on the wooden floor, dazed and out of breath. His grey suit a mass of rumpled folds twisted and misshapen around his torso. The sweat-soaked white shirt clung uncomfortably to his skin. He planted his hands open-palmed, trying to ground himself against the spinning world that still raced around in his head. He slowly opened his eyes and tried to focus on a fixed object in the room, but it just sped by. He shut his eyes and reached for the stuffed chair where he’d fallen asleep, pulling himself into it.

He sank into the worn cushions, and buried his head in his hands, waiting for everything to pull together. His mind still swirled with the feelings from the dream, but mixed in with the sensations were equations with long solutions to problems, which had plagued him for months. Finally, he opened his eyes again, cautiously looking upwards. The world had slowed enough for him to reenter.

Heavy curtains over the windows kept the living room dark but for a sharp sliver of light which cut through the split where the two halves met.

The box holding Mother was still there.

Frank rose from the chair, walked to the casket and raised the lid.

Emily lay there, unmoving, her arms folded across her chest of her favorite dress. It was the one she always wore when they went out for special dinners. Frank always loved how the soft airy fabric gained a life of it’s own when she walked. Now, the material was dead. The air no longer lifted it, and no restaurant would ever see it enter their door again.

Emily always said, she wasn’t sure for whom it was worse. The cancer pain, which had traveled through her body for so long, was not as bad as the pain of having to watch her little boy endure her suffering. Frank never saw the real anguish she felt when she watched him leave her bedside. That emotion was unbearable. Still, she refused to let the disease command her, forcing herself to go to work everyday, shoving the pain deep down inside.

Frank returned to the chair and sat alone in the middle of the living room where he had spent most of his life. The same wood floor that Emily used to pace up and back during his colicky baby-hood, now supported the box holding her body.

He looked at his watch. The funeral parlor would be here soon to pick her up.

Zeta snaked figure eight’s around his legs, her tail gently brushed under the crook of his knee. He reached down and picked her up, mindlessly stroking the long gray fur, and relaxing him with her soft purrs. “I think we have the answer now, girl.”

Emily’s demise had been a certainty for the last year, and even though she had done her best to prepare Frank in every way she could, it still wasn’t enough. He had not known one single day in his twenty-six years of life without her. His mind tried to quantify her existence as it related to time, space and mass. He couldn’t seem to grasp the fact that she occupied a space on this planet for so many years and now she didn’t, her presence in this time had vanished, as unimportant as a single star in the night sky.

The yellowed walls of the old Craftsman home had witnessed the lives of Frank and Emily. They held stories of Emily teaching young Frank complicated theorems in advanced mathematics. They secreted tales of arguments and fights over astrophysics and unified field theory. They witnessed her strict discipline when it came to his schoolwork and the tedious formation and devotion to the plan. They cried tears of anguish as Frank and Emily watched the world terrorize itself into a frenzied panic. They moaned in futility for Emily with the lock of a terminal disease.

The doorbell rang, its gong vibrating off the walls startling Frank from his fixation on the casket. Must be them, he thought.

He straightened his glasses, and tried to smooth the wrinkles from his suit as he walked toward the door.

The bell rang again, still loud and annoying. His speed remained constant, calculated. A short figure was outlined through the leaden glass carved into the center of the thick mahogany door. Its lone presence didn’t make sense to him.

Emily’s paranoid tone whispered through his head. “Trust no one, Frank, especially the government.”

“You from the government?” He yelled through the door.

“Me?” The silhouetted figure shouted back in a contralto voice.

Frank pulled open the heavy door and squinted into the hazy sunlight which violated his dark solitude.

Ravi Bannerjee stood holding her briefcase, looking up and down the walls, as if she was being allowed to see inside something few others ever have. The tangle of red hair, which just touched the shoulders of the blue suit, grated in contrast to the deep chocolate tone of her skin. The clothes were almost wearing her, as the sharply cut suit advertised the curves of her body. Large dark sunglasses hid her eyes in a 1970’s promotion.

Frank disliked her immediately. She was like a smarmy television lawyer. Peering over her shoulder, he saw no hearse parked on the curb, only a silver Mercedes.

“You here to take Mother?” he asked.

Ravi slid the sunglasses down her nose. “Excuse me? Take your Mother? I don’t understand?” Her smile was tinged with arrogance and condescension as if addressing a slug before pouring salt on it. There was slight taint of an Indian accent, it’s original affectation long buried by years of education. It was strange to his ear.

“I’m sorry. I’m assuming that Mrs. Emily Cardon has ... passed on.” She pushed the glasses back up. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here. You areÉFrank Cardon, I’m going to assume, her only son and relative, “ she said it succinctly, so he would understand.

“Yes. Who are you?”

“Ravi Bannerjee, attorney. I was notified by the funeral home when your Mother died.”

“Well, I don’t think I need a lawyer Ms. Bannerjee. Mother and I didn’t have anything that we would need a lawyer to take any part of. Good day.” Frank started to close the door.

She put her foot in the jam, blocking it.

“Excuse me, Mister Cardon, Frank. You don’t understand. I don’t want any money from you. I have your mother’s last will and testament. She made it years ago.”

Frank pulled the door from her foot, just enough. “Mother never said anything.”

Retracting her foot from the door jam, she peered over her glasses again, incredulous. “You didn’t know your mother had a will? That’s awfully strange.”

“What are you saying Ms. Bannerjee?

Ravi was caught off guard. “IÉI’m not saying anything. What did you think would happen to all this after she passed?” She gestured to the house.

“Mother never talked about that stuff. She was in pain ... And my concern wasn’t about money.”

“I wasn’t suggesting ... may I come in, so we can talk? Mr. Cardon?”

“If you must.” He opened the door all the way, forcing himself to be gracious.

“I understand how you must feel. This is an emotional time for you.” She removed her glasses, walked into the darkened living room, and as if slammed into an invisible wall, stopped when she saw Emily’s serene corpse in the open coffin. The muscles behind her knees gave way.

“Ohhh. I didn’t expect...”

Frank grabbed her small frame as she fell back towards him and helped her walk to the Learning Parlor. He assisted her into one of the molded plastic chairs. “Can I get you some water?” he asked.

“Yes ... thank you.” She pulled a tissue from her pocket and wiped her face.

Frank walked to the small lab sink. He grabbed a beaker from the counter and filled it from the chrome, goose-necked faucet.

Ravi took a long drink and several deep breathes, like she’d done this before. “Frag it! I hate when that happens ... I’m a little squeamish ... don’t handle dead things all that well ... I didn’t realize that’s what you meant by Ôcome to take her’.”

She surveyed the Learning Parlor. It was an odd mix of schoolroom and laboratory. Books covering a multitude of subjects crowded ceiling-high shelves. A model of the solar system, each planet precisely detailed, slowly rotating. A thin layer of dust coated the top of each globe. An oversized model of the Moon hung in one corner, small flags with numbers printed jutted out from different places on its surface. Complex, intricately detailed models of rockets and spacecraft of every size, shape and design hung from the ceiling on cloth strands caked with dust. Elaborate electronic components crowded the tables and counters, labyrinths of wires and cables running haphazardly between them. Piles of file folders and stacks of random paper were strewn about every other unoccupied piece of counter.

Ravi knew the microscope, the telescope, and maybe a computer, that was all. The rest was as foreign to her as a legal brief is to a chimp.

“What is all this? Pretty elaborate.”

“Just a hobby, Ms. Bannerjee.” Frank gazed at the books and equipment he and his mother had shared. “Mother and I did them over the years.”

“Impressive. Were you working on anything in particular?”

“Ms. Bannerjee, the willÉplease?”

“Yes, yes, I’m sorry. And call me Ravi.” She placed her briefcase on the table and unlocked the gold latches. She revealed a large, thick manila envelope.

Frank recognized his mother’s writing on the front. A wax seal embossed with an ornate imprint secured the flap. Ravi took out a pair of reading glasses from the breast pocket of her jacket and put them on.

Frank studied her. The glasses softened her face and made him feel a bit more at ease.

She slid her finger under the flap, breaking the seal and removed a pile of legal papers, two business size envelopes and a safe deposit key. One envelope had Frank’s name and the other, Ravi’s.

Frank picked up the key and examined the attached white tag.

“That’s her bank, “ he said.

Ravi handed him the envelope and then looked over the will.

“Pretty standard as I remember it.”

Frank read the envelope. ÔFrank, open this when you’re alone and after you have been to the bank. Mother.’

“She left you the house and everything in the checking account... “ She flipped through the pages. “No bequests.” She looked up at Frank. “Did you have a father, or was there a Mr. Cardon?”

Frank stared blankly at his envelope. He answered, detached. “No, “ but then recovered and answered again, belligerent, “No, of course not.”

Ravi withdrew into the documents.

Frank stared at the envelope, admiring his mother’s fine writing style. He remembered her sweep along the page. Emily prided herself on good penmanship, but that was her generation. She never stressed it with Frank, he always had a computer, because she knew where the priorities of his future were.

“Nothing very complicated here, Mr. Cardon.” She closed the papers and opened the envelope with her name. Her little lawyer eyes went wide. Inside was a tri-folded piece of paper containing a cashier’s check for $50,000 and a note.

Ms. Bannerjee,

Enclosed, you will find a retainer check for your future services as required by my son, Frank Cardon. I have spent most of my life educating and training Frank in the sciences. He is different from everyone else, He thinks differently. Trust him, follow his lead and you will do things you have, until now, only seen in the movies.

She pondered the letter for a moment. Was it the ranting fantasy of a crazy dead woman? The check was no fantasy that was for sure. She hadn’t remembered Emily as being out of the ordinary when she prepared her will. She put the note and check back in the envelope and tucked it inside her briefcase.

“Your Mother was a surprising woman, “ Ravi said.

Frank stared blankly ahead, but nodded slightly, in acknowledgment. His head spun around. The front door glass rattled under hard knocks.

“That must be them, “ Frank said standing up.

Ravi followed him.

“Well, Ms. Bannerjee, we’re going to take Mother to the cemetery now.”

Ravi quietly studied Frank’s rather unremarkable features, and wondered what lay inside? What had Emily Cardon done?

“Frank? Would you mind if I came along? I’d be happy to drive.”

“That would be fine, Ms. Bannerjee.” He walked out of the Learning Parlor.

“Please, call me Ravi, “ she said to his back.

“Perhaps one day, Ms. Bannerjee.” He opened the heavy door.

Ravi stood, baffled by Frank’s completely incongruous nature, but it just intrigued her more. Frank Cardon had triggered something in her. It wasn’t his looks, but she sensed an oddly appealing energy around him.

Two dark-suited men carefully guided the coffin past the Learning Parlor and out the front door.

“We’re leaving Ms. Bannerjee, “ Frank called from the other room.

Ravi followed the hearse onto the freeway entrance ramp west, for the short ride to Forest Lawn. Frank stared out the window, silent.

She turned on the radio and punched in soft music thinking it might relax him, but Frank promptly reached over and turned it off without saying a word.

The hearse passed under the heavy wrought-iron gates of the cemetery with Ravi close behind. White memorial markers dotted the emerald green hillside on each side as the two vehicles crept respectfully along the small road deep into the cemetery. Finally, the hearse slowed and then stopped. Emily’s prepared grave waited off to the right.

Frank got out of the car and paused to watch another funeral taking place while Emily’s coffin was removed from the hearse. A large white canopy hung over a flag-draped coffin while a large throng of darkly dressed people poured out their grief. Green Astroturf hid the piled mounds of dirt taken from the hole. The casket, suspended over the opening, hid any evidence of its final destination, six feet away.

In contrast, Frank and Ravi stood silent and alone in front of Emily’s box. Frank didn’t cry, speak or show emotion of any kind. He just stared at the simple wood box.

Ravi felt compelled to say something, but she barely knew Emily Cardon. She’d met with her once, about two years ago. Emily handed her a manila envelope and instructed her very specifically as to what she wanted. That was it. Emily called her a couple of other times and asked some questions, but Ravi couldn’t even remember what they were about.

“You know Ms. Bannerjee, “ Frank began, “Mother was the most enlightened person I knew.”

His sudden speech startled her, but she seized the opportunity.

“How so?” she asked.

“She taught me there are only two kinds of people in the world, decent and indecent.” Without uttering another sound or any warning, Frank started to walk away from the grave site.

Ravi watched him leave, stunned by his abrupt departure. She grabbed her bag and scrambled to catch up with him.

Frank stopped about 200 feet from the other service and watched the large group, their heads bowed in solemn reverence.

“Ms. Bannerjee, do you think any of those people think about the future beyond the next tank of gasoline their cars will burn?”

Ravi was having difficulty keeping up with him, but knew she had to consider her answer carefully. “I think now, at this point in time, Frank, everybody is asking where the next tank of gas will come from. What they want to know is, what’s it going to cost and will they go broke paying for it.” She thought she answered well, purposely playing to his sensibilities.

Frank managed a little smile at her and from inside, she smiled back. She had answered correctly.

He turned back to watch the funeral. “Ms. Bannerjee, do you have any children?”

“Me? Children? No. I was married for a short time, but it didn’t work out becauseÉ” She stopped herself. “It just didn’t. Why do you ask?”

“Because children are the only way we can shape our future... “ He looked back over towards Emily’s coffin, “At least that’s what Mother said.”

“No, I uhh ... don’t have any kids, yet.”

Frank turned to her, “Well, Ms. Bannerjee, I have to be going. Thank you.”

Ravi looked into his eyes and was immediately struck. One eye was blue and the other was green. She was astounded she hadn’t noticed it before. It wasn’t a subtle variation in hue or tone, but a bright color shift. It made her feel as if she was looking at two different people. Her lawyer voice told her to shut up, don’t say anything, be careful with this relationship right now, but her human curiosity thought different.

“Frank, I just noticed your...”

“My eyesÉ” He cut her off. “It’s interesting you noticed. Mother said not everyone would.”

She wanted to look behind them, wanted to drill deep into his head and find out exactly what made him think. “Frank, your mother...”

“Gave you a retainer. Yes, I know. That’s seems like something she would have done.”

Ravi was unaccustomed to being a step behind her clients. “She, uh, seemed to feel that you would be needing my services at some point ... So, if you need anything, just call any one of the four numbers on my card and you’ll be sure to get through to me.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” He stepped off the grass carpet onto the road.

“Where are you going? Can I drive you?” She didn’t want to leave him.

“No, thank you. I prefer to walk.” He turned left and walked stiffly away.

“What do you mean, walk? You’re in the middle of Forest Lawn. You live in Pasadena. You can’t walk home.”

Without stopping, Frank waved the back of his hand at her. “Thank you, Ms. Bannerjee. And please be sure to take care of the house paperwork.”

Ravi stood there, off-balance from the day’s events. Behind her, the cemetery workers lowered Emily’s reliquary into the ground. It settled quietly at the bottom of the hole.

Still clutching her briefcase, she walked back to her car. Something wasn’t right, and the feeling began to churn itself over and over inside her gut. At 35 years old, she had wrestled with this type of feeling once before during a tumultuous event, which caused her to abandon her family forever. But that situation gave her a clear, tangible path to follow. This one felt like stepping off a cliff. Ultimately, she knew there was no choice. Whatever was going to happen, was meant to be.

She moved the shift lever into drive and slowly pulled away.

Four days had passed since Emily’s burial and that was the last time Ravi had last seen or spoken with Frank. Barely an hour ticked by since then without him crossing her mind. The experience of meeting him, and Emily’s casket, the will and letters, a fifty thousand retainer; it all was an almost surreal experience compared to her staid corporate life. It consumed her to the point that none of the other cases piled onto the corner of her desk had received the slightest attention. She tried in vain to search for Frank and Emily Cardon on the Internet, but every search dead-ended. There was nothing, not a driver’s license, no marriage certificates, nothing. She experimented with every combination she could think of and still came up blank.

Ravi turned the desk chair in her small two-room office and faced the window. She dialed his number again and counted out the eight rings until the machine answered and again she shivered hearing Emily’s recorded voice. “This is the Cardon residence. Leave a message, please.” It was the 12th time she’d heard it.

After the beep, “Hi Frank, it’s Ravi again. Just wanted to see if you were okayÉagain. I’ll try later. Bye.” She tried to strangle the receiver as she hung it up. “Shit!”

The legal folder with the papers from Emily Cardon’s estate sat squarely on the desk in front of her. The lined yellow pages with her notes sat on top. She examined the notes trying to gain some addition insight or knowledge beyond what she already knew. Something in the corner of the paper caught her eye.

She quickly transferred the words from the note into the search window. Several entries piled one after the other onto the screen. Her fingernail moved down the screen and stopped on an entry that matched. She threw her things into the black leather case and hurried out the door.

The orange glow of a young day illuminated the side of the garage as Frank snapped the lock shut on the door and walked up the path to the house. After the burial, he’d gone to the bank, as per Emily’s instructions, but then came home and closed himself in the garage until now.

Zeta trotted along side rubbing up against his leg and meowing from hunger. He picked her up and yawned deeply. “I’m sorry Zeta. I got caught up. You know how it is. Let’s go see what there is for you.”

He walked into the kitchen and retrieved the last can of cat food from the cupboard, and scooped the contents onto a plate. Before he could put it down, Zeta eagerly dashed at the mound of food and purred as she grabbed mouthfuls.

Frank walked into the living room and stood there watching the early sun stream through the windows. He’d always liked how the morning sun made the room glow orange. It reminded him of when Emily used to get him up early for schoolwork in the Learning Parlor.

He looked through the doorway and stared into the empty space where they had spent so much time. The letter and papers were on the table where he left them the day of the funeral. The letter. He’d forgotten about her instructions to read it after going to the bank.

He walked over to the table and sat in one of the chairs. He picked up the envelope and studied Emily’s written words. ÔAfter the bank’ was neatly written in her sweeping cursive style.

Frank ripped open the end of the envelope and pulled out the paper. He gingerly unfolded it, feeling nervous about reading the last words she wanted him to hear.

My Dearest Frank,

Undoubtedly, you have been to the bank by now, so you know you will have enough funds to complete the project. Remember what we discussed. Don’t tell anyone about anything until you are ready except Ravi Bannerjee. She has by no doubt at this time noticed your eyes. As I told you, only those whom you can trust will notice. You will have to bring her to the next level soon in order for everything to fall into place. Her mother was my best friend when we were in school. You will have to trust her.

Involve no one else with the project until the patents are in place and the rest of the plan has been accomplished. As I’ve always told you, be especially aware of the government. They will try to take it away if they find out.

Frank, you are a singularity on this Earth. You are the wind that drives the sail. The world’s future has a special place in it for you. But you know that. Also know that I love you very much. Thank you for making my life a pleasure.

For the last four days Frank had sequestered himself in the garage applying the answers given to him in the dream. Before Emily died, they had been on the verge of completing the final equations that would tie all the physical elements together. Her death did not stop that process from occurring. Frank was fully aware that Emily’s genius continued to flow into his subconscious through his dreams. She told him it would.

He clutched the paper with the last words she wanted him to hear. His mind was as overworked as his body and the residual effect of everything began to rush over him. He laid his head on the table and held the letter in front of his face reading her words over again. He wanted to tell her in the worst way of the incredible progress he’d made in the last four days. He wanted to share the wonderful news. “We did it, Mom.” Fatigue rushed over him and Frank closed his eyes as the words from Emily’s letter played through his head. Small drops gathered on his eyelashes and gravity forced the pooled tears to run over the bridge of his nose and drop onto the table. “We did itÉ, “ mumbled from his lips incoherently as sleep took over his mind.

Ravi parked her car on a side street in Old Town Pasadena, about a block from her destination. Pasadena had such an honest old-world character, unlike Beverly Hills.

She walked down Union Street and turned right, looking at the map on her phone. It should have been somewhere on this block, in the middle. She continued down the block stopping in front of a small storefront.

“You’ve got to be kidding me, “ she mumbled to herself.

A tired neon sign barely flickered ÔBuck’s CafŽ.’

A little bell tinkled when she opened the door into a small, dingy cafe. Ten tables were scattered on top of a cracked, broken tile floor. Behind a small counter, a short stocky man, dressed in less than white clothes, shoveled grease and food around on a sizzling black grill. A few unkempt patrons huddled into themselves, hoisting forkfuls of the grilled grease into their mouths. It made Ravi slightly queasy. She had stepped into a 40’s noir movie.

She approached the counter wondering if her suspicions were right.

“Excuse me...”

The grill man turned to face her, spatula in hand, and sure enough, as she expected, a toothpick hung loosely from his mouth surrounded by a rough, dark, scraggly beard. She had to stop herself from laughing.

“Yeah? What can I do for you?” He looked Ravi up and down, like he was inspecting a slab of meat. “Well, what do we have here? Aren’t you a little dish of curry.” The toothpick shifted from one side of his mouth to the other as he grinned at his joke.

“I’m guessing that your food is as greasy as your comedy.” Ravi wiped the blacktopped silver stool with a napkin before she took a seat in front of the counter. She felt redeemed. “My name’s Ravi Bannerjee. You’re Buck?”

“Yeah, I’m Buck. How can I not be of service to you?”

Ravi was undaunted. “Did Emily Cardon work here?”

“Yeah. She used to. But it’s been days since I last seen her, so I don’t know anymore.” He wiped his hands in the multi-stained apron hanging off his waist.

“Didn’t you call her home?” she asked.

“Sure, I did. But the damn machine picked up and no one ever called me back. So I figures she blew me off. You know something?”

“Yah, I do ... She died.”

Buck’s rough face softened. “What?” Something instinctual made him slide the little cooks hat off the top of his head out of respect and look down. “I’m sorry. She was a nice lady. I guess I kinda’ expected it.”

“So, you knew she was sick?”

“Oh yeah, she didn’t talk about it, but I could tell.

“And her son Frank didn’t call to tell you?” Ravi didn’t waste any time.

“That kid? Nah, I wouldn’t have expected him to.”

“What do you mean?”

“I used to let her kid come and eat dinner here most nights. It was part of our deal ... He was weird, that’s all. Kinda’ shy, quiet ... not real good manners.”

Ravi couldn’t help but finish the joke, “unlike you” in her mind. Instead, she kept focused. “What did Emily and Frank talk about?”

Buck straightened up, suddenly becoming tense. “Why do ya wanna’ know? You a Fed?”

“You ever seen a Fed dress like this in real life?” Ravi placed her hand delicately on her waist and turned her hips slightly.

“Well, if you’re not a Fed then you must be a lawyer. Hate them too.”

“Actually, as it turns out, I’m Emily Cardon’s lawyer and there are a few things I’m trying to piece together. Namely, what Frank was all about.” Ravi pulled a twenty-dollar bill from her pocket and placed it on the counter.

Buck looked down at the cash, “Lady, you may be stunner, but a twenty spot barely gets me hard.”

Ravi frowned, reached in her pocket and placed two more twenties on the table.

“Now we’re gettin’ somewhere. I can tell you this. That was one brainy kid. He and Emily used to sit and talk about all kinds of science crap. I never knew what the hell they were talkin’ about.”


“Oh yeah. She was one smart lady.”

“What about Mr. Cardon? Did she ever talk about him?”

“Not much. All I ever found out in the ten years she worked here was that he was a sorry sonofabitch. He took off when Frank was little. Left the house to her ... paid for.”

“That explains how she could afford such a nice house, “ Ravi muttered. “What else about Frank?” she said to Buck.

He continued, “She used to talk up a storm about what a genius he was. How he was gonna’ change everything. He may have been smart, but he never went to college or nuthin’. Least’ that I was aware of. She was always afraid of the government ... Didn’t want Frank’s mind spoiled by what she called, ÔPolluted Thinkers’ or some such crap.”

“So ... did Frank ever have a job or anything?” Ravi was pushing as far as she could.

“Not as far as I know. He just stayed in the house and studied science stuff or watched television and then come here for dinner. Listen, you got a lot more questions Ms. Bannerjee? If you ain’t noticed, I got a lotta’ orders waiting.” He gestured with his spatula to the room.

Ravi looked around at the empty tables and got the point. She picked up her briefcase and headed to the door. “Oh BuckÉ” She pulled the knob before stopping and turning back toward him, “Did you ever notice Frank’s eyes?

“Yeah, he had two. That what you’re after?”

“Yes, exactly. Well, thank you for your timeÉand your ripping sense of humor, “ she fake smiled at him.

“Sweetheart, you and your money are welcome here, anytime.” Buck smiled back at her as the bell over the door signaled her departure.

Sitting in her car, Ravi hesitated behind the wheel. She knew damn well where she was going next ... Then why did she just sit there? What was Frank Cardon going to do that made her so scared? She had learned practically nothing she didn’t already know, it just deepened the mystery. Emily Cardon couldn’t have supported the two of them on the waitress paycheck from a sleazy cafe and clearly Frank didn’t work. What was it with Emily and all the science stuff? Buck made her out to be some kind of doctorate.

She picked up her cell phone and speed dialed the number. Again the machine picked up. “This is the Card... “ She jabbed her finger as hard as she could against the ÔEND’ button and threw the phone against the passenger door. “Frag it. That’s it.”

She started the car and drove off.

Frank swam back out into the middle again and looked around the entire granite perimeter of the chasm. He was tired and breathed heavily as he continued to keep himself afloat, treading water. The immense body of water was dead calm, except for the turbulence his movement created. He watched the expanding ripples from his effort work their way toward the rock wall.

Something caught his eye on one part of the wall. A line in the rock that seemed to horizontally intersect the vertical lines carved into its face. Frank peered hard at what might be a door outline. He couldn’t tell.

He felt the swirl of a current begin to twist around his legs. Looking at the point where the wall and water met, he could see the entire body of water moving to the left, starting to build into the vortex. He remembered seeing ballerinas hold their heads while spinning and he tried the same trick to study the outline closer. He was sure there was something different about that part of the wall. But if he tried to swim away from the center, the inertia of the spinning water would hurl him into the wall, most likely killing him. He was now sure the anomaly he detected in the rock face was a door. He dug inside himself for every joule of strength and swam as hard as he could against the current toward the irregularity. The entire body of water moved around the chasm against him as he gained against the force, but it served to strengthen his resolve. The harder he swam, the stronger the current seemed to pound against him. He swam hard toward the door. At the very last second, he lunged for the outline and managed to grab it with his fingertips. The force of the water sprayed up around him as it tried to rip his grasp from the wall. He closed his eyes and with the last of his strength, pushed against the outline, which fell away. On the other side was the deep black infinity of space with the Earth’s moon looming large and bright.

From above, he heard a sound. It was familiar, but the words were faint and unintelligible. The voice spoke again, this time more clear and distinct. It called his name. He looked up at the sky toward where the voice emanated and then back through the door at the moon shining against a background of stars.

“Frank! Can you hear me?” Ravi yelled into his numbed face and shook by the shoulder. She watched him have the dream, witnessed his face contort and twist to the unconscious images pummeling his slumped body on the Learning Parlor table.

“Frank, wake up!” She shook him harder.

Ripped from his dream, Frank sat up straight into consciousness and tried to focus on the spinning woman in front of him, but his brain still drifted between worlds. The feeling of the vortex pushing against him remained strong as was the image of the moon hanging in space on the other side of the door. He closed his eyes again and laid his head back down until the sensation began to subside.

“Ms. Bannerjee, how did you get in? What time is it?”

“It’s six-thirty and you left the door open. Are you okay? That must’ve been some dream.”

“I suppose that’s one way of putting it.”

“Do you ever listen to your messages?” She neglected to say that most of them were from her.

“I’ve been in the working, there’s only a high speed... “ He snapped his head up at her. “I don’t particularly recognize your authority to question me, Ms. Bannerjee.”

Ravi was incredulous at his audacity, even though his blue/green eyes glaring back. “Recognize my ... Listen, Mister Cardon, you didn’t even have the courtesy to call Buck when Emily died.” She took a moment to calm herself, but then continued, “I went and had a long talk with him this afternoon. He had a lot of interesting things to say about you and Emily...”

Frank cut in, “Like what? Did he tell you that I used to eat dinner there every night? Or that Mother and I used to talk about scientific gobbledy-gook all the time? Buck’s a good excuse for a clichŽ and not quite yet a human being.”

“You are one arrogant jerk. You know that? Do you believe everything revolves around you?”

Frank, clear headed now, rose from his chair and walked toward the door. “Maybe not now, Ms. Bannerjee. Will you come with me?” he turned and looked at Ravi. “It’s time I showed you.”

Ravi stood for a second, her face still angry. “Where are we going?”

“Out to the garage, I want to show you something.”

Ravi showed no reaction, but inside, wailed with delight, because she knew where he was taking her. She followed him out the door.

They walked along the porch toward the garage. “Ms. Bannerjee, I don’t expect you to agree with everything I do or say, or even to understand the principles of my intentions. I do expect you to trust my instincts in the same way you trust your own. I understand that I seem like an arrogant man. I think perhaps a person needs a certain amount of arrogance if they feel determined about achieving a goal.”

Ravi held her tongue and let him sermonize.

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