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Authors: Joseph Finder

Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Espionage, #General

Extraordinary Powers (19 page)

BOOK: Extraordinary Powers
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“Please, Mr. Ellison. Not over the telephone. Not in your house.”

I breathed in slowly, trying to slow my heartbeat. “Who is this?”

“Outside. We must meet right now. It is a matter of safety for both of you. For all of us.”

“Where the hell ” I tried to say.

“Everything will be explained,” came the voice again. “We will talk ” “No,” I said. “Right now I want to know “

“Listen,” the accented voice hissed through the receiver. “There is a taxi at the end of your block. Your wife is in it right now, waiting for you. You must go left, down the block “

But I did not wait for him to finish. Throwing the handset to the floor, I whirled around and ran toward the front door.


The street was dark, quiet, slick with rain. A slight drizzle fell, almost a mist. There it was, at the end of the block, a yellow cab, a few hundred yards off. Why at the end of the block? Why there! I wondered.

And as I set off, running, accelerating, I could make out, in the taxi’s backseat, the silhouette of a woman’s head, the long tangle of dark hair, unmoving.

Was it in fact Molly?

I couldn’t be sure at this distance, but it might—it had to—be. Why, I thought wildly, my legs pumping, was she there? What had happened?

But something felt wrong. Instinctually, I slowed to a fast walk, my head whipping to either side.

What was it?

Something. One too many strollers on the street at this time of night, in the rain. Walking too casually. People normally stride through rain to get out of it … But was I being paranoid?

These were normal passersby, certainly.

For just an instant, a split second really, I caught a glimpse of one of the pedestrians. Tall, gaunt, wearing a black or navy blue raincoat, a dark knit watch cap He appeared to glance at me. Our eyes locked for a millisecond.

His face was extraordinarily pale, as if it had been bleached entirely of color. His lips were thin and as pale as the rest of his face. Under his eyes were deep yellowish circles that extended to his cheekbones.

His hair, or what I could see of it beneath his cap, was a pale strawlike blond, swept back.

And just as quickly, he glanced away, casually.

Almost an albino, Molly had said. The man who had “accosted” her at the hospital, who had wanted to know about any accounts, any money Harrison Sinclair might have bequeathed to her.

The whole thing seemed wrong. The call, Molly sitting in the cab: it smelled wrong, and my years of Agency training had taught me to smell things a certain way, to see patterns, and—and something caught my eye, a tiny flash of something, a glint of something—metal?—in the light of the lamp across the narrow street.

I heard it then, a faint shoosh of cloth against cloth, or cloth against leather, a familiar sound distinct against all the ambient street noises, a holster, could it be?

I flung myself to the pavement, just as a deep male voice shouted: “Get down!”

Suddenly the silence was shattered by a frightful cacophony.

The next moment was a terror, a hellish confusion of explosions and screams—the phut-phut of silencer-equipped semiautomatic pistols, the metallic shrieks of bullets creasing the hoods of the cars in front of me. From somewhere came a squeal of brakes, and then an explosion of glass. A window had been blown out somewhere—a stray shot?

I got up into a crouch, trying to determine where the gunfire was coming from. I moved with lightning speed, my brain whizzing through a million calculations.

Where was it coming from?

Couldn’t tell. Across the street? Off to the left? Yes, to the left, from the direction—the direction of the cab!

A dark figure was running toward me, another shout, which I couldn’t understand, and then, as I flung myself to the pavement again, another explosion of gunfire. This time the shots were perilously close. I felt a piece of something sting my cheek, my forehead, felt the pain of the sidewalk scraping against my jaw. Something pricked my thigh. And then the windshield of the car I was crouching behind exploded into a milky webbing.

I was trapped; my unknown assailants had moved in closer, and I was unarmed. Frantically, I dove under the car, and then came another round of silenced shots, an agonized yelp, and the squeal of tires … and silence.

Absolute silence.

The shooting had momentarily ceased. From under the car’s chassis I could just make out a circle of light directly across the street. In it sprawled a man’s body, dark-clad, his face turned away, the back of his head a horrifying mess of blood and tissue.

Was it the pale man I had glimpsed a few seconds earlier?

No, I saw at once. The dead man’s build was stockier, shorter.

In the silence my ears still rang from the shots and the explosions. For a moment I lay there, afraid to move, terrified that the slightest motion would indicate my position.

And then I heard my name.

“Ben!” A voice, somehow familiar.

The voice was closer now. It came from the window of an approaching vehicle.

“Ben, are you all right?”

Momentarily I was unable to reply.

“Oh, Christ,” I heard the voice say. “Oh, God, I hope he wasn’t hit.”

“Here,” I managed to say. “I’m right here.”


A few minutes later I was sitting in the back of a bulletproof white van, dazed. Seated in the front compartment, behind the uniformed driver and separated from me by a panel of thick glass, was Charles Rossi. The interior of the van was elegantly appointed: a small inset television screen, a coffeemaker, even a fax machine. “I’m glad you’re all right,” came Rossi’s amplified voice, metallically emanating from a two-way intercom. The glass that divided us appeared to be soundproof.

“We need to talk.”

“What the hell was that all about?” “Mr. Ellison,” he said wearily. “Your life is in danger. This isn’t some sort of game.”

Oddly, I felt no anger. Was I numb from what I’d just gone through?

From the shock of Molly’s disappearance? What I felt, instead, was a distant, remote sense of indignation, an awareness that all was not right … Yet, strangely, no anger.

“Where’s Molly?” I said dully.

Over the intercom Rossi sighed. “She’s quite safe. We want you to know that.”

“You have her,” I said.

“Yes,” Rossi replied as if from afar. “We have her.”

“What have you done with her?”

“You’ll see her soon,” Rossi said. “I promise you that. You’ll understand we did what we did for her safety. I promise you.”

His voice was soothing, reasonable, and plausible. “She’s safe,” Rossi continued. “You’ll see her soon enough. We’re protecting her. You’ll be able to speak with her in a few hours, and you’ll see.”

“Then who tried to kill me?”

“We don’t know.”

“You don’t know too much, do you?”

“Whether it was one of our own, or others, we can’t say yet.”

One of our own. Meaning CIA? Or others within the government? So how much did they know about me?

I reached over to the door handle and pulled up to open it, but it was locked from the inside.

“Don’t try,” Rossi said. “Please. You’re far too valuable to us. I don’t want you to get hurt.”

The van was moving now. I didn’t know where, didn’t quite understand.

But I knew one thing now.

I said, “I was hit.”

“Hmm? You appear to be fine, Ben.”

“No. I was hit.”

I reached down, felt the soreness on my upper thigh. I unbuckled my belt, slid down my pants. Found the needle mark, a tiny black dot surrounded by a red circular inflammation. I hadn’t seen a dart; it wasn’t a hypodermic needle. “How’d you do it?” I asked.

“Do what?”

We were moving down Stoirow Drive, into a traffic lane that pointed toward the expressways.

Ketamine, I thought.

Rossi’s voice came, metallically: “Hmm?”

I must have spoken aloud, but made an effort to keep my thoughts to myself.

Had they given me a benzodiazepine compound? No. It felt like ketamine hydrochloride. “Special K,” as it was called on the’ streets, an animal tranquilizer.

The Agency occasionally had the need to administer ketamine to unwilling subjects. It produces something called “dissociative anesthesia,” which basically means it makes you feel dissociated from your environment you can experience pain, for instance, but not feel it; it separates the meaning from the sensation.

Or, at precisely the right dosage, you can remain alert but become amazingly agreeable, acquiescent, even though the self-preservation part of your brain warns you not to acquiesce.

If you want to make someone do something he otherwise wouldn’t, it is the perfect drug.

I looked at the road, watched as we moved closer to the airport.

Wondered idly what they were about to do to me.

Thought it couldn’t be so bad, after all.

Nothing too bad.

Part of me, a distant, weak, small-voiced part, wanted to get the van door open, leap out, run.

But everything is basically all right, the stronger, closer, louder-voiced part reassured.

I am being tested in some way. Tested by Charles Rossi. That is all.

There is nothing they could learn from me, nothing of any value. If they were going to kill me, they would have done it long ago.

But such thoughts of danger are foolish. Paranoid. Unnecessary.

Everything is basically all right.

I could hear Rossi speaking to me calmly from hundreds of miles away.

“If I were in your position, given what’s happened to you, I’d no doubt feel the same way. You think nobody knows you don’t quite believe it yourself. Sometimes you’re elated at what you’re suddenly able to do; sometimes you’re scared out of your mind.”

“I don’t have the vaguest idea what you’re referring to,” I said, but my words came out flat and unconvincing, as if by rote.

“It would be much simpler, much better for all of us, if we cooperated instead of being antagonistic.” I said nothing.

A moment of silence, and then he spoke. “We’re in a position to protect you. Somehow there are others who are aware of your participation in the experiment.” “Experiment?” I said. “You’re referring to your MRI ” device?”

“We knew there was a one in a thousand at best, one in one hundred chance that the MRI would have the desired effect on you. Certainly we had good reason to believe, given the full medical evaluation in your Agency file, that you had all the necessary attributes the IQ, the psychological profile, and particularly the eidetic memory. Precisely the right profile. Obviously we couldn’t be certain, but there was significant cause for optimism.”

I absently traced a pattern on the burgundy-leather upholstered seat.

“You weren’t careful enough, you know,” he said “Even someone with your training, your skills, can be sloppy.”

All my alarms were ringing now. I could feel the skin on the back of my neck prickle unpleasantly. Yet my lazy, serene mind seemed utterly separate from my bodily instincts, and I felt myself nodding slowly.

He said, “… won’t be at all surprised that your office and home telephones were tapped all quite legally, by the way, given your possible involvement in the First Commonwealth debacle. Electronic devices were placed in several rooms of your house as well we left very little to chance.”

I just shook my head slowly.

“Needless to say, we were able to monitor everything you said aloud and you were somewhat indiscreet, both in your meeting the other day with Mel Kornstein and certainly in your conversations with your wife. I don’t mean to be at all critical, because you had no reason whatever to suspect that anything was amiss. There was no reason to resort to your Agency tradecraft training, after all.”

I lowered my head to increase the blood supply to the brain, but that only made me dizzier. My head was swimming, and the headlights of the passing cars seemed far too bright, and my limbs felt heavy.

He said, his voice tinged with concern, “It’s a good thing, too. If we hadn’t had you under such close surveillance, we might not have picked you up in time.”

I stifled a yawn, tensing the tendons in my neck. “Alex,” I started to say.

He said, “I’m sorry we had to do this. You’ll understand. It was a matter of protecting you from yourself. You’ll understand when the ketamine wears off that we had to do this. We’re on your side. We certainly don’t want to see anything happen to you. We simply need you to cooperate with us. Once you listen to us, I think you’ll cooperate.

We can’t make you do anything you don’t want to do.”

“I guess good legal help … scarce,” I mumbled.

“You represent a great hope to some very good people.” “Rossi … ” I said. My speech was slurred; my mouth and tongue seemed lazy. “You were … the project director … the CIA psychic project … Oracle Project … your name … ” “You’re very, very valuable to us,” Rossi said. “I don’t want anything to happen to you.” I said, “Why … you sitting up there … what do you have to hide?”

“Compartmentalization,” he said. “You know the golden rule in the intelligence business. With your ability, it would be dangerous for you to know too much. You’d be a threat to all of us. Better to keep you as ignorant as possible.”

We had pulled up now before some unmarked terminal at Logan Airport “In just a few minutes there’s a military aircraft departing for Andrews Air Force Base. Soon, you’ll want to sleep, and you should.”

“Why … ” I began, but somehow I couldn’t finish my sentence.

Rossi replied, a beat later, “Everything will be explained soon.



The last thing I remembered was talking with Charles Rossi in the van, and then I found myself groggily awake in some sort of barren airplane cabin that looked very much like a military plane. I became aware that I was strapped down horizontally, to a seat or a stretcher or something.

If Rossi was on the flight, I couldn’t see him anywhere, certainly not from this angle. Seated nearby were men in some sort of military uniform. Guarding me? Did they think I planned to escape at ten thousand feet? Didn’t they realize I was unarmed?

BOOK: Extraordinary Powers
6.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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