Picking up from Part 4, in which my strange companion revealed my purpose.
To every generation a handful of saints are born. Not Church-recognized Saints, but saints all the same, people who are of a cleaner and less damaged character than their fellows. Michael Burroughs was one such person.
He was, by accident of birth, somewhat more whole than the bulk of humanity. It was easier for him to be curious and kind and to understand clearly. He had fewer internal fears than others. And as is common in the type, he was also somewhat more intelligent.
This did not make life pleasant for Michael Burroughs. But it did allow him, after 64 years of difficulties interspersed with satisfactions, to arrive at a point where he simply no longer cared about what the larger world was doing. He had, after many infallible proofs, accepted – really accepted in his deep beliefs – that everything big and powerful was retrograde and that hope for the future rested in individual nonconformists.
By mid-1963 this belief had been abiding in him for several years, having become a cornerstone of his interior life. And because of this abiding belief, his organs of perception were uncluttered enough to perceive something other-worldly as it passed 50 yards from his bed at 4:24 AM on July 10.
Michael expected to sleep till about 6:00 AM that morning as usual, but as my strange companion and I passed, he sensed that something was out of balance, that something different and even promising had come into the world. And from that moment, he did everything he could to focus his senses on this strange event and to do whatever he could to understand it… whatever in fact it was.
And as fortune would have it, Michael Burroughs had almost nothing else to do in July 1963.
* * * * *
By mid-afternoon, the bank robbers were assembling a variety of electronic parts in their suite at the Beverly Wilshire. James (the darker) was doing most of the assembly, and Robert (the lighter) alternated between unwrapping and organizing parts, and cleaning up behind James.
“We’re not far from done,” James noted, “so long as these parts meet their specifications… and it’s looking like they will.”
“Excellent,” Robert responded. “I’ll bet we can find whomever it is, with enough time left over for dinner and an hour or two of observations.”
James smiled. “I can almost guarantee it.”
* * * * *
I drove away from the front-yard Shell station both chastened and informed. She was right. I had simply jumped to dark imaginations as soon as I had enough information to allow it. And that’s just stupid. Worse, it’s something I had just written about FMP #72. That was unacceptable to me, and I made a mental note to work on this harder and at the first reasonable opportunity.
“I’m sorry,” I said, not really expecting her to respond. “I’ve worked on dark imaginings, and I’m unhappy that it erupted in me like that.”
“Your habit-forming processes are being disrupted by this experience,” she said quietly.
And she was right. The habit of thinking and speaking the better way was only partly formed in me, and with my mental processes being so strongly applied to this present situation, my old ways slipped out.
“Still, I’ll try not to do it again,” I said, and she nodded her thanks.
“You’re an excellent learner,” she said and surprised me by sitting up halfway.
I responded with an appreciative “Thank you.”
She looked a little better than previously.
“Tell me about our schedule,” she said.
“Sure… we’re just about back to the main road, and we’ll take it to another and then to Minneapolis, the big city. We should be there within three hours, before the sun sets.”
“Then I’ll tell you my plan first… that’s the simple part… and I’ll save my strength for the last hour into Minneapolis. I’ll have to be alert then, and I’ll use that time to tell you more about why you’re here. All right?”
I thought about it for a moment.
“Yes, but confirm one thing for me first: After this ends, I’ll wake up in my bed at the same moment I left, and I’ll retain all of this experience in my memories. Yes?”
“Yes,” she said, “back to your normal, with the memories.”
“Great, and thank you. So long as I’m clear on that much, the rest should be easy…” I stopped myself, realizing that I had no idea what else she’d have to say. “Or at least it feels that way.”
She smiled, then positioned herself to speak more comfortably.
“I apologize for pulling you into this and not being prepared myself, but it’s the first time we’ve done it and I had no one to guide me. I was born on what you called the ‘bright side’ in your book, and I had no experience with this.”
I nodded sympathetically but didn’t speak, not wanting to waste her limited resources.
“When we get to the city, I’ll ask you to find a good hotel… one with a doctor on call… then I’ll check in alone. I’ll make an inquiry about the doctor, go to my room, lie down, and let myself die. The process should take an hour or two, and before my strength is too far gone, I’ll ask for the doctor.”
It was almost shocking to hear her talk about her own death as if it were an event of no great magnitude. That was not anything that I’d experienced before, and I knew it would leave a mark on me.
“I presume that such a death will change little in your world’s daily events, yes?”
“That’s correct. It will be a local mystery but a brief one.”
She nodded again. “That’s all for now, then. Tell me when you think we have an hour left to drive.”
“I shall,” I said, glancing at the dashboard clock, mostly to fix the idea of time in my mind.
And so we drove on to Rochester, continuing to I-35 and then north to Minneapolis… and to some kind of explanation.
* * * * *
Their measurements showed that the person – or more likely two persons – associated with the “intrusion” were some 52 degrees eastward of geographic north and that, according to signal strength (a rougher measurement), they were some 1,600 miles away.
After making their measurements, they decided to take dinner in their room and relax as much as they could. After several hours of rest, they could take another set of measurements.
“Almost precisely the same location,” said James, who got up from his bed first.
Robert got up and pulled out a map he had procured earlier and said, “It looks like they’re near a major city called ‘Minneapolis.’ We’ll have no problem getting there… though we’ll have to avoid long-distance travel from this place. Their enforcers will be looking for the bank thieves at the travel terminals. But we can travel by car to a nearby city, then fly to Minneapolis easily enough.”
“Can we do that tonight?”
“Not easily and probably not without looking suspicious. And we’ll need something they call a ‘suitcase’ to carry this equipment.”
Then James broke into a wide smile. “As we’ve learned, many of their stores aren’t open early, so why don’t we ask the hotel people to get it for us? When we entered, the lady said, ‘If you need anything at all, just ask.’”
Robert smiled back and within half an hour, a young man knocked on their door and handed them two mismatched but appropriately sized suitcases. They were abandoned pieces but in presentable condition.
Robert gave the man a large tip, then called the front desk to arrange for a car to drive them to San Diego in the morning.
* * * * *
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