Reality Inspector, chapter 24

Copyright © 1982 John Caris

John Ocean stood in his garden and looked over at the Rainbow Inn. People were arriving and going in. A great surge of joy flowed through him. Mary had won the world championship. What a celebration they would have tonight! Then he remembered his own situation; he still had to reckon with Dr. Glove. Well, he was not going to let that bother him tonight. He filed away his own troubles and walked over to the Rainbow Inn.

It was packed. He maneuvered himself over to the bar and squeezed into a small opening. Helen and Mary were behind the counter serving customers. Two waitresses were moving around the tables taking orders. Then he noticed two security guards, one by the entrance and the other by the stage.

Mary saw him. "Hi. What'd you like?"

"A glass of pinot noire." All of a sudden he felt famished. "And a rainbow sandwich. Why the security guards? Do chess nuts get that violent?"

"No. I'm expecting Dr. Glove to attend the celebration."

"Really?"

"You forced his hand. He has no other moves."

"But will he walk into a trap?"

"Either that or shah mat." Mary giggled.

John remembered how he had been forced into Glove's company. Then, he had had no other choice. Of course Glove would attend. He took a bite of the sandwich. A few sprouts fell onto the plate. Hmm, the three cheeses make a delicious blend, he thought. The bouquet of the pinot noire reached his nostrils. He sipped; the wine had an excellent flavor. Looking about the Inn, he noticed that Hank and Od were placing tables and chairs on the stage to accommodate the overflow crowd. Many people were standing against the walls talking.

Mary glanced up and saw the security guard at the door signal her. Dr. Glove had arrived. She went to greet him and then escorted him to one of the vacant tables on stage. She took his order and came back to the bar.

"Well, he's quite uptight, John. I'm not sure if he can stay in one piece. He's deeply scared."

"Good. Let him sweat a bit." John looked toward the stage. Dr. Glove was sitting on stage right, and at a nearby table were Hank and Od. By now all the tables were filled.

After Ms. Rainbow had left with his order, Glove looked around the Inn. Although he felt uncomfortable about sitting at a table on the stage, he knew that such visibility would help Mr. Ocean find him. He did not like coming to the Inn and placing himself in a trap, but no other move was possible. He had been forced into a purely defensive position with no options for immediate attack. He would not resign yet, not while there was still a chance for a win.

A chill went up his back, making him feel cold; he shivered. Taking a napkin from the table, he wiped the beads of sweat from his forehead. The tables on the stage were all occupied now. Glove glanced around at the other customers. Most of them were probably here to celebrate the new world chess champion, Ms. Rainbow. What strange people those chess fans are, he thought. He felt both uneasy and buoyant. He seldom associated with that kind of people, yet he was intrigued by them. They had something--what he did not know--that struck a chord deep in his mind. He was titillated by the atmosphere that filled the Inn.

Glove sought a way to control his nervous excitement, so he reviewed his decision to come here to the Inn. It was six days ago that his world had begun to dissolve around him. The memory of that evening with Mr. Ocean was still very vivid. Sitting on the chaise lounge, he signaled Pete his bodyguard to remove Mr. Ocean from the living. He saw Mr. Ocean fall forward in the chair. He sensed immediately that Mr. Ocean had fainted, probably from the sight of Pete's gun. Then he suddenly experienced a sharp, blinding pain in his forehead; that was all he remembered until he regained consciousness. He felt very weak and nauseous, and for several minutes he sat there on the chaise lounge trying to clear his head. When he could focus his vision again, he noticed that Mr. Ocean was no longer in the room and, more surprising, that Pete was lying unconscious on the floor.

He tried to stand up, but his legs were too weak. By the time he had regained his strength, Pete had revived. Together they searched the house and yard. Mr. Ocean had miraculously escaped. They found the car keys and gun and were surprised that Mr. Ocean had not driven off in the car. All that had happened on Wednesday night, six days ago.

Glove had phoned his office Thursday morning and notified his secretary that he was sick and would not come to work. And he had felt sick; he could not find a name for it, but he had experienced a peculiar sensation in his body like something was missing or not functioning properly.

The peculiar feeling did not prevent him from realizing that he was in serious danger. Mr. Ocean now knew the truth, and he was at large. Glove first tried to locate him, but his agents always returned empty handed. And the report he had received before coming to the Inn was unchanged: Mr. Ocean was still nowhere to be found. So, he hoped to offer himself as bait, to draw Mr. Ocean from cover. And what better occasion than tonight's celebration was there? Besides, Ms. Rainbow would surely relay the news to him.

Glove saw the waitress approach, carrying his order which was a bottle of ale and the garden special sandwich. After paying her, he poured some ale into a glass and sipped the moist foam. Then he took a bite from the sandwich and savored its flavor. He had heard good comments about the food at the Inn; he was now happy to add his own compliment. In fact, he realized that he was enjoying himself in this weird environment.

While he was eating, he reviewed his strategy for dealing with his opponent. For six days Mr. Ocean had disappeared. He obviously had not reported his new data to Mr. Acorn. When Glove had gone back to work on Friday and then on yesterday, he was quite alert to any nuances in the behavior of his fellow employees that might indicate hidden knowledge. They all treated him in the usual and normal way. He could not detect any changes, however slight, in their attitude toward him.

Glove knew that he was still safe and that even now he might be able to prevent his secret from reaching the authorities. Mr. Ocean was an unknown, unpredictable factor. Why Mr. Ocean was in hiding and why he had not divulged his information to Mr. Acorn were puzzling questions. The only reasonable answer, though, was that his opponent had decided to reconsider his offer. He had carefully checked the daily obituary in the newspaper and so knew that Mr. Ocean was still alive.

Glove finished the sandwich and poured the remaining ale into the glass. He definitely felt better. Perhaps, his luck was waxing again. Feeling relaxed, he leaned back in the chair. As he did so, he noticed a warm tingling in his left ear. His grandmother had always said that such a sensation in the ear meant that someone was talking about you. He smiled to himself. His grandmother had been the only person who had shown affection toward him, and sadness had struck him when he had heard of her death.

Voices coming from his left side suddenly caught his attention. He listened. His calmness quickly turned into panic. Taking a deep breath, he regained his composure. He looked to the left at two men seated nearby. They had been discussing his situation! They had mentioned ZAC, Mr. Ocean, and him, but not by name, only as Mr. X. He was aghast. They were talking about him as if he were some lowly technician!

Glove turned in his chair so that he could better see those two men. The one closest reminded him of his grandfather whom he had seen only in photographs. The old man had white, shaggy hair hanging beneath a black fishing cap. He seemed like a pleasant person. The other one, the younger man, Glove took an immediate dislike to. His sharp features seemed ready to jump out and bite you. He recognized the younger man as a troublemaker.

When Glove heard the troublemaker call him a thief and a cheat, intense anger arose in his breast. Muscles in his neck and shoulders tightened. He would crush that bug! It was his genius that had designed the chess program which caused ZAC to miscalculate M-l. He began to twist a napkin into a knot, wishing that it were the troublemaker's neck.

John sat at the crowded bar and watched Glove, who was certainly on stage. The portly man had a reality leak; he could see that even from the bar. While he had opportunity, he would give Glove a close-up examination. He focused on the general hum of sounds that permeated the Inn. When he found the tonal center, he shaped the sounds into a rhythmic unity. Expanding his awareness, he caught hold of the rhythmic waves and floated upon them. He now scanned Glove's aura. It had changed since he had last seen him. The glow of the right and left sides was separated by an area of darkness that ran from the middle of the skull down the backbone to the perineum. And the left side was less bright than the right side. John remembered how his double had smote Glove on the forehead. That blow probably caused the change in Glove's aura.

He noticed that Glove was taking the bait that Od and Hank were offering. What a team they make, he thought. Glove was in a heated discussion with Od. John could see the tips of fiery fingers jumping between them. And what was Hank doing, sitting there between the two, smiling all the while? He refocused and saw exuding from Hank's navel a flow of light. The fingers of fire were meeting in that flow of light; and they were striking each other and then disappearing, as when a particle strikes an anti-matter particle. Hank was acting as an unchanging catalyst; he was stoking the fire of their emotional chemistry; he was performing his alchemical magic. John watched, excited, like an inspired student, fascinated by what he was seeing. Here was true learning.

Od was attacking Glove at the foundation of his pride, and Glove was counterattacking fiercely. Hank was keeping a physical distance between the two, yet allowing their minds to merge. With part of his consciousness John listened to the verbal conflict.

"I can't believe you designed that chess game," Od said in a sneering tone.

"I certainly did!" Anger filled Glove's voice. He twisted the napkin into a tighter knot.

"Assuming you did, how could you insert it into the computer?" Od's sharp features glared.

"That was the easy part. I'm chief administrator for the computer division. My word is law!" Glove felt some relief and relaxed his grip on the napkin. That troublemaker would have to believe him now.

Hank asked in a disarming manner, "Are you a minister for God, then?"

Glove was delighted to turn his attention to the nice, old man. "Heavens, no. I'm not a minister; I'm an ad ministrator." He spoke in a pleasant and clear manner in case the old man was slightly deaf. "I'm the head man, the boss, over all the people working in the computer division. It's a very important position. And well-paying too."

"That proves nothing!" And Od was attacking again. "How can you prove you designed that chess game?" Od leaned forward; his face displayed a sceptical grin. He would wait patiently, all the while knowing the truth.

John saw that Glove's emotions were now properly tempered. He withdrew back to his stool at the bar. Finishing his wine, he left the bar and walked toward the stage. As he climbed up the stairs on stage left, he saw a woman and a man playing chess. No doubt, they were analyzing the final game of the tournament. He paused and watched them. No, this was not the final game; they were actually playing, not studying. Each was playing brilliantly. No wasted moves, no mistakes. Together they were building a magnificent game. Truth was like that; it needed to be built from opposing views.

He thought of Glove and the robot that he played chess against. No challenge existed there. Glove's greed and pride were too overweening to accept an equal opponent. That was his weakness, the leak in his reality. He takes himself too seriously; best I move on and cheer him up, John thought.

Smiling, John walked over to Glove's table. "Dr. Glove, may I congratulate you on your crowning achievement." John put out his hand. Glove smiled a little warily and accepted the handshake. John sat down at the table.

"I admire your ingenuity, your brilliance. It required real genius to gain control of ZAC without the Federal Reserve knowing."

Glove began to beam. He held his head high and proud. Mr. Ocean's attitude was encouraging.

"I'm sorry I could not accept your terms the other night, but we were not on an equal basis then. Your gunman tilted the balance. Now we are equal."

"I disagree, Mr. Ocean. I am in your territory. That is not equality. You are surrounded by your friends. I am alone."

The soft wail of an alto sax floated through the Inn. It wove itself into the general hum of voices and noises.

"Isn't that your choice, Dr. Glove?" he asked.

"I . . . yes, I made the decision."

"Since you're a loner, why did you make me that offer?"

"Because I want you to work for me."

"And not give you away."

"Of course."

The wail of the saxophone grew louder. Several people turned toward the music and saw that Mary was playing her instrument. She played variations on the key of C as she moved among the tables.

"I can't accept your offer," John said. "It's a conflict of interest."

"I would pay you handsomely."

"A bribe?"

"No, a gift."

"With strings, no doubt."

"All gifts have strings, Mr. Ocean."

Mary's sax sang out a medley of blues melodies. She stopped in front of the stage until she finished the medley. Then she walked up onto it. She stood beside the man and woman who were playing chess. Her alto sax cried out "Body and Soul." Then she went over to where John and Glove were sitting, and she played a Coltrane number. Glove was noticeably agitated. A spotlight shone on her; all eyes were focused toward her and the table; all ears hung on the melodic progression. John leaned back and lost himself in the music; Glove fidgeted with his napkin.

Although he was nervous, he tried to enjoy Ms. Rainbow's musical performance. Glove could not help feeling that the crowd was watching him even though he knew that Ms. Rainbow was the center of attention. The music had a jumpy quality that unsettled him. He hoped that she would finish soon.

When Mary concluded the composition, loud applause broke out. After it was quiet, she said in a voice that all could hear, "I want to introduce a special guest who honors us with his presence." She pointed to Glove, motioning for him to stand. But he remained riveted to his chair.

With a big smile, Mary announced, "This is Dr. Glove, foremost computer theorist and chess player par excellence. I may have won the world chess championship, but Dr. Glove has designed a chess program that allows him to manipulate the economy." She extended her right hand toward Glove, signaling him to stand up. If he needed more encouragement, she would give it. "Do you deserve all the honor, Dr. Glove, or did you have help?"

Glove jumped up, his chest inflated. "I did it, alone! The honor is mine!" The audience erupted into applause and cheers. Glove, bursting with pride, bowed to the enthusiastic reception.

"Perhaps, you can enlighten us," Mary said, "but of course we don't expect you to give away any trade secrets. How were you able to manipulate the economy with a chess game, Dr. Glove?"

"I designed a chess program that forced the Federal Reserve's computer to increase the value of M-l. When M-l expands, the Federal Reserve pushes up interest rates."

"And why did you want to raise interest rates?" Mary asked.

"Because high interest rates make for big profits," Glove said gleefully. He gave the audience a winning sign.

"So you are the architect of our inflation." Mary faced the audience. "Here is the person who has caused our inflation and depression--and all for the greed of big profits!"

The audience booed and jeered. Glove stammered, "No, no, now wait. I'm not responsible. Everyone is doing it. The whole financial community. They're the ones who formed the fiscal policy. I only took advantage of it. All the wealthy are doing it; why shouldn't I?"

"I'm not doing it!" someone shouted.

"No one asked me!" another voice yelled.

"Lynch the bastard!"

The audience became ugly. Several people arose from their seats and shook their fists. Glove wiped the sweat from his forehead with a napkin. Mary signaled to the two security guards.

"Dr. Glove," she said, "I fear for your safety. The people may become violent. They may wreck my business. These two guards will conduct you safely through the crowd and deliver you to a secure place."

Glove went with the guards, one in front and one in back of him. The crowd jeered and heckled, but they stood aside as Glove was escorted out of the Inn and into a waiting police car.

The woman chess player moved Q-KN7 (Qg7); the man chess player resigned.

chess board

These times are strange, and the future may be stranger, for "nature to be commanded must be obeyed."

chapter 23 table of contents
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