Reality Inspector, chapter 21

Copyright © 1982 John Caris

The late afternoon sun streamed through a pair of French doors in the living room of Dr. Glove's small cottage. John, sitting in an oversized, leather chair, gave the tastefully decorated room a careful appraisal. He tuned his sensitivity to the house's presence; he hoped to discover new data about his opponent. The feelings he sensed were those of contentedness and wealth. Mixed with them was the sharp flavor of a domineering ego that would brook no opposition. He felt forewarned and now knew that he was involved in the end game struggle.

He looked across the room at Dr. Glove, who was relaxing on a chaise lounge. The driver turned butler was serving wine. John filled his pipe with some tobacco and lit it. His opponent had the initiative, so he must wait for the proper moment.

Glove was recounting the threats he had sent. The first, of course, was a statement of John's condition. The passed pawn meant that the reality inspector was a pawn in someone's game and that he would be sacrificed. The box and bag--and here Glove chuckled ghoulishly--were two ways to bury a body, either in a coffin or in a bag. The two shots were direct and physical--no idleness there. The shots followed by the recorded voice escalated the situation to a breaking point. So Glove had taken the only alternative left--a private talk with the reality inspector.

The portly man toasted his glass and took a sip. "Now, Mr. Ocean, will you accept my offer. I can use your talents."

John puffed on his pipe while his mind calculated quickly: If I don't accept, I'm dead. If I do accept, I still may be killed. How could Glove ever really trust me?

"Well, Mr. Ocean?" Glove's face was slowly becoming rigid.

He remembered Escher's dragon. If Glove did not send it, then who did? In his mind's eye he saw Od's smiling face. Of course, Od was the only one who would. The picture was meant as a helpful hint. He should be able to turn inside out, like the dragon. And after his experiences with Hank he knew he could do that. "No. I don't accept your offer," he answered firmly.

Glove's face hardened and burnt. Then it relaxed into a calm smile. He nodded to the bodyguard, who pulled out his gun.

John knew that he was in trouble, so he fainted. His double left him; it flew across the room and smote Glove and the bodyguard on the forehead.

When his double returned, John gained consciousness. He got up and walked over to the two bodies. They were still breathing. He picked up the handgun and retrieved the car keys from the bodyguard.

He left the house and walked over to the car. Something caught his attention. Stopping, he looked across the lawn to a line of trees. A golden moon was rising; it was shaped like Escher's dragon. Fascinated by the strangeness, he focused on the image; then, throwing away the car keys and handgun, he stepped off into the golden light.

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