Carl Morris sat at his desk as Whitfield and his crew of nine conspirators were led in. There was no room for them to sit, so they all stood, waiting for Morris to talk. Occasionally, one of the men would look at Whitfield. Their leader kept an impassive military stance.
“Luke Morris died six hours ago... of a massive allergic reaction.”
Whitfield staggered slightly. “Oh, no,” came the involuntary reaction from others.
Carl continued, “The attending physician noticed an inflamed injection site on his left arm, approximately three inches above the elbow.”
His eyes were locked on Whitfield. The man changed. In just seconds, every one of his advanced years settled down on him. His shoulder sagged. His eyes became faded and his face wrinkled. It was clear that the man couldn’t escape his guilt. Something had gone very wrong, and he had killed his best friend.
“The doctor was very apologetic, and very concerned that his facility would be blamed for malpractice. He has suggested an autopsy. There is also talk of reviewing their visitor records. The best case explanation for him would be, of course, a bad attempt at euthanasia by well-meaning family or friends.”
The idea that their efforts to save the man they loved had turned into a possible conspiracy to murder was unsettling to them all.
Carl put it plainly. “You have all worked together in a plan that has killed my father. He had perhaps a week left, and had already slipped peacefully into unconsciousness. Your efforts woke him into a painful, early death.
“On a personal level, I can neither forgive, nor trust any of you again.”
He tapped his fingernails on the smooth, clean surface of his desk.
“My father was spared one torment. He never learned that his most loyal followers...” his voice spoke those words bitterly, “...were the cause of the destruction of his life’s work.”
He stood up. “You broke faith with our Guests and put their lives at risk! They felt they had no other choice than to escape from the Trust.
“They’re gone! All of them. I’ve got the entire Trust on alert, hunting for them and watching the news reports. As we speak, they might well be on CNN giving interviews, for all I know! You’ve destroyed the Trust, maybe all of humanity, just as certainly as if you’d set off a nuclear explosion.”
He pointed to the door where guards waited.
“Now go. We have plenty of Guest apartments on the lower level, empty apartments, where you’ll stay until I decide what to do. I just don’t have the time to deal with you right now.”
They filed out without a word. Carl stared at his desk until the door closed, leaving him alone in the silence.
Father, I’m sorry. One part of his statement to the conspirators had rung true to his heart. It had been a blessing that Luke Morris hadn’t lived to see this day.
But he knew where the real blame rested. His loyal men had only been tools.
My father built a faulty organization, and when he was no longer there to hold it together by force of will, it collapsed. Everyone thought the Trust had been bound by their common goal and by the protocols. He’d believed that.
But when it came time to act, the men who were most steeped in the goals and protocols had betrayed both, out of a sense of personal loyalty to the man they’d served all their lives.
Luke Morris should have built a Trust that could stand without him. He had been blinded by decades of success, not realizing why he had been successful.
Carl took a deep breath. Maybe I’m no better a director than my father, but from now on, I won’t be blinded by his glory. Things need to change, and I will change them.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Greg Anderson startled awake.
A man in a black suit and sunglasses was tapping on the window of his pickup.
“Yeah?” He rolled down the window. “Sorry I must have dozed off. What can I do you for?”
“Just checking up on you. I’m a neighbor. You’ve been dozing here for quite a while. Have a long night?” He grinned.
“Ah, no.” Greg frowned. He had a little headache, but it wasn’t a hangover. “I’m just back from visiting a buddy up in Vaughn. I guess I was tired-er than I thought.”
“Sure. Let me help you.”
Greg shook his head. He opened the door. “I’m just fine. Thanks for checking, but I’m fine.” He stood up and waited for the nosy guy to go away.
“Great. Just checking.” He walked away and got into a car with another man in a black suit.
As they left, Greg noticed a piece of paper on the floor of his cab. He read it, crumpled the paper and shook his head.
Must be some kind of Roswell prank. Men in black. Aliens. Do they think I’m some kind of a hick?
“But why didn’t you notify me?”
Kenneth shrugged. He shifted in the chair, but with his sling, no position was comfortable. “Protocols. I wasn’t supposed to go out of channels. I didn’t have your phone number, and it would have been dangerous to have tried. I complained about the delayed shipment of the pod to my controller, but she never got back to me about it. The Sams were desperate. What was I supposed to do?”
Carl Morris sighed. “You were supposed to protect the Guests, which you did. It was my job to correct the protocols.
“But what about your Judith? She’d been positively identified as one of the people who broke the Guests out of Roswell Base. Why would she do that?”
Kenneth shook his head. “I just don’t know. She’s loyal to the Trust. She’s been part of the group since she was old enough to keep a secret. I raised her in the Trust just like my father raised me.”
“Maybe,” suggested Carl, “when it came right down to it, she was more concerned with the welfare of the Guests than with the Trust’s rules. After all, she had your example.”
Kenneth nodded. “I’ve thought of that. I may have doomed us all.”
“Maybe not yet. How is your arm? Can you drive?”
Kenneth frowned. “Perhaps. Why do you ask?”
“Because our best chance of locating the Guests is to locate Judith or Joe Ferris. The only other human we know about in the attack was a Roswell local, and obviously doped with rollback. They must have picked him up randomly.
“We’re too few to follow every possible lead. I have people on the road, but you know the both of them better than any one else here. I need you out there. I need you to find your daughter.”
“Joe!” Anita Ferris ran out the door and grabbed her son before he was totally out of the car. “I’ve been so worried! Are you okay?”
“Come inside, the both of you.” Abel held the door open and rushed them inside before they attracted any attention.
“What’s going on?”
“Calm down, Anita. Joe’s okay. Everything’s okay. We just have to be careful.”
With his father to help, the homecoming wasn’t quite as traumatic as he’d feared.
“Anita, give the boy some air.”
Joe looked into his mother’s worried eyes, took a deep breath, and said, “Mom, I’m sorry I let you worry.”
The story took the better part of an hour to tell. It would have been easier with a talkie. They only had two. He had come away with a new one after the Roswell raid, but with the aliens spread out in the RV and in the motel, it made more sense for Judith to keep the both of them.
“You understand, Mom? Aliens like from outer space?”
She nodded. “I understand. Roswell. I’ve seen the pictures. But tell me more about this girl. Is she pretty?”
The boy missed his rebound and let the basketball head for the fence without a second glance.
“Joe! Where have you been? Your parents were looking for you. Even the cops were around, asking questions.”
Joe sighed. “Yeah. I know all about it. It was quite a grilling last night, when I had to go to the police station to call off the search.”
“Oh, wow. I’d hate to be in your shoes. Tell me... hey, is that your dad?”
Joe looked back. Abel Ferris sat in the car, waiting.
“Yeah. I’m sorta on a short leash for a while. When Cal Lawrence, the cop, you know him? When Cal heard my story he said everything was okay, a happy ending to a missing persons search, and all that. But then, he told Dad that runaways were at risk of running away again, and I’m afraid Dad took it to heart.”
Mark grinned, “Yeah, but was she worth it? I saw the girl. The biker, right? Tell me the whole story.”
Joe opened his mouth to tell him off, but no words came. “Oh, forget it. You wouldn’t understand.
“I just came by to see if I could talk the school into lending me a computer.”
Mark frowned, “I dunno. Why for?”
Joe sighed. “Oh, one of Dad’s projects. He’s gonna put together a TV ad for the motel. I’m grunt work, as usual.”
Mark nodded towards the school building. “Check the office. I don’t know whether the computer lab is open or not.
“And don’t think you can get away with stonewalling me on this. I want all the juicy details.”
Across the park, on the other side of the basketball courts, a man put down his binoculars and made a few notations on his notepad. When the boy went inside the school building and returned a few minutes later with what appeared to be a laptop computer, he made a phone call.
“Joe, she was lovely.”
“It went off okay?”
His mother nodded. She was positively beaming. “Once that car took off to follow you and Abel, I went by to pick her up. Her and her three friends.”
Joe hated to be the decoy. And because Dad insisted he be watched every second to prevent another kidnapping, it was left to Mom to handle the check-in shoot.
The TV commercial was his idea, and he didn’t even get to film the bulk of it.
Of course, he wasn’t as bad off as Anna. Mom and Dad had borrowed her car by force, and with no explanation. She was furious and, off at the school, eaten up by curiosity.
“That Mr. Bob was most courteous and wasn’t the least bit embarrassed when he had to stand on Miss Footstool to reach the counter top. Judith ran the show and we filmed it three times to get everything just perfect.”
“Mom, I think that it’s Mrs. Footstool. She’s pregnant, did you know?”
“Well, I never! She should have spoken up. I wondered why Mr. Sam was so careful when we did the coffee table shot. He’s a little like old school royalty, like in the black and white movies, you know. It’s a shame he’s a bug.”
“Did Judith say anything about the artwork?”
“She did mention something... you know she talks with her hands? Sign language or something. Of course, that talkie gadget is so handy.
“Oh, yes, she said she needed the computer. Bob Seven had something to ‘encode’, is that right?”
Joe frowned. “I wish we had a Bob staying here. We could send messages via the talkies and not risk having the phone tapped.”
Abel shook his head. “You know it’s too risky. This Trust organization is just following us around, but now that they’ve confirmed that you’re here, they’ll send more men. They’ll find a way to search the Railroad. I’ve got Cal on the speed dial, but even that might not be quick enough. The only way to keep the aliens out of their hands is to never let them know where they are.
“Anita, you understand how important the secret is? They might come in here when you’re alone, pretending to be FBI agents.”
She crossed her arms. “Put Joe’s girl-friend in danger? I should never do that!”