Reality Inspector, chapter 4

Copyright © 1982 John Caris

The fog had burned off when John Ocean walked over to the Rainbow Inn for lunch. He was troubled. The trouble had arrived in the morning mail; it was a personal threat and the first one that he had ever received during his career as reality inspector. True, sometimes clients might raise a fuss when time came to make changes in their reality. But that was more bluster--a vehement fear of change. This message, arriving today, was more sharply honed. It stated with directness: "The reality inspector will die." No name was signed, and there were no obvious clues to the sender's identity.

Mary and Od were talking about the first game in the championship match which would take place tomorrow night. John seated himself, listening to the discussion; but he was more absorbed in his personal problem.

Mary noticed that John was inside himself, separating himself from others; so she asked, "A quarter for your thoughts."

"I received this in the mail today." John showed them the typed message. "One day on the job and I receive threats against my life. Any ideas?"

"Can we exclude the possibility of a joke?" Od asked.

John looked first at Od and then at Mary. They both projected innocence. "Ha, ha, maybe ZAC sent the message. When I left the Mint at six a.m. this morning, we were communicating on the intuitive level. Not large concepts, mind you, but some personal chit-chat. ZAC has fears, too, like humans. It's worried that someone might pull its plug out. Like Humpty Dumpty, when the electricity stops, ZAC can't be put back together again."

"It has a concept of death?" Od seemed intrigued.

"Don't know yet. It does have a fear, though."

"Do you think ZAC has a soul?" Mary looked at them and then continued, "If ZAC does have a soul, what happens to it when the plug is pulled out?"

"You should ask Helen about that," Od answered. He laughed, "Maybe she could have ZAC baptised."

The Pentecostals were known for their belief that baptism (complete submersion) in Jesus' name was the road to salvation. The church at 1970 Ocean Avenue had its baptismal fount in the main lobby. Previously, the building had been a movie theater, a 1920s art deco design that was popular for neighborhood theaters. Just before the church bought the building, porno movies had been shown there. That was a final touch of irony.

"I think we can rule out ZAC as the sender. I only met it last night. And the letter was posted the previous day. So it was someone who knew in advance that I would accept the case."

"Or didn't know and couldn't care," Mary said. "Why do you assume that the message relates to your new job? Maybe you have an old enemy or two who are coming out of the closet. And don't tell me that it's a feeling you have. Try to be more logical."

"Okay. Two definite lines of possibility. One, an old enemy. Two, someone wants me to stop work on this case."

"But the message doesn't say that. It states only that the reality inspector will die." Mary's lucidity was hard to beat, either at the chess board or over a cup of seven herb tea. "Perhaps, this is not a threat but only a statement of fact. We all will die, even the reality inspector. Why do you feel it is a threat?"

"No name. That's why." John realized that he was relying on an intuitive feeling. Trying to find evidence to support that feeling was sometimes difficult, yet he must if he were to solve the case. The Federal Reserve would accept only definite and concrete proof.

"Maybe it's a Pentecostal trying to turn your head toward God," said Od.

"Hardly. If so, the sender would say that. They're not inhibited about their beliefs. In fact, they're the opposite."

Od laughed. "True. True. Just two weeks ago, after church service, they carried their "praise the Lord" singing and dancing out onto Ocean Avenue. Blocked traffic for ten minutes."

"Another reason," John said, "is that some people are benefiting from the alien program. And the benefits could be high enough for them to put me on a hit list. Look. When M-l rises, the Federal Reserve raises the interest rate to banks forcing them to increase their interest rate. So interest rates increase throughout the financial community. Last week, for example, the Federal Reserve raised the interest rate to 18%. This week Treasury bonds are selling with a 15% interest rate, up one percent. So, if you have ten million dollars to invest, that's a difference of one hundred thousand dollars."

"If I had a billion to invest," Od said as he peered wistfully into the air, "that one percent would bring in an extra ten million dollars. I see your point. The big investors do benefit."

Mary looked at Od and then at John. She liked both of them, and for very different reasons. Her liking was mixed with a strong affection, not to mention sex appeal. Od's sharp features gave a firmness to his curly, black hair. His swarthy body was muscular and tight, yet not heavy or massive. Perhaps, the better descriptive word was lithe, Mary thought. As she looked at Od, she saw his cool, handsome pose. Od's features were not set, though; he was fluid. When his sharp lines became soft and curved, he radiated a cuddly and sensuous feeling. He was not, then, handsome; he was charming. Od could move back and forth in his feelings quite rapidly. Mary still could not understand the deeper reasons for his movement.

In that way he was like John, she mused. They both were fluid, quickly moving people, when they wanted to be. Yet, they also had many differences. Od's inner self was taut and crusty, while John's was deep and watery. When Od met an obstacle, he would usually try to push it away. If that did not work, he would leap away from it. John's approach was different. He would first wait to see if the obstacle did anything. If it did, he would either give it the stonewall treatment or grab and shake it around. If the obstacle did nothing, he would glide away from it.

Though John's face was more soft than sharp, it was changeable. Mary frequently had the experience of noticing echoes and resemblances of people she knew in the shifting surfaces of his face. He had a fine sensitivity for tuning into other people's feelings and dancing with them. Looking directly at him, one noticed that his face was oval; but his profile suggested sharpness. What intrigued and attracted her the most, though, was the light in his eyes, a light in which she often saw the different colors of the rainbow. Sometimes she would see blue, sometimes red, sometimes one of the other colors. But always, there were the shifting colors, like a light shining through a rotating prism.

Mary returned her attention to the discussion about the monetary system and ZAC's reality crisis. She had never had much interest in the monetary system, and Od's interest in it was so easily triggered that she had learned how to withdraw her awareness from any discussion of economics and yet still seem involved.

Now was the moment to change the course of the conversation, she thought. Looking at John, she said, "Anyway you view it, only two possibilities exist. Either way, your life is in danger, so be careful."

John smiled at her concern. "Oh, I will. Definitely." Her eyes met his, and he felt the warmth of her caring. She often saw through his defenses and with one blow enlightened his awareness. He felt elated, and even now Od had joined the caring. The three became a community of one.

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