Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dark World: The Shafer Mystery

(The story begins here.)
(The last recap is here.)

“The screams stopped as I rounded the side of the house,” Lassiter continued. “I would have kept going anyway, but then I noticed someone hiding in the woods away from the house. Looking back, I realize he couldn’t have been the attacker: he was too far away too soon after the screams. But at the time I just assumed he was my man, so I headed after him.

“He saw me coming and ran. The wall around the estate slowed him down more than me, and I jumped him from the top of the wall before he could get away. When I turned him over, he looked familiar, and when he begged me not to hit him in the head this time, I recognized the voice: it was Rick Shafer.

“Rick and I were engineering students together, and we also had jobs working on an assembly line. He was always a little odd, and not in a good way. I’m not that picky, but even I thought he was a bit of a pervert. And one day while we were working on the assembly line, he claimed that an item he was working on gave him telepathic powers. He could hear thoughts, and not all of them seemed human.

“It was pretty weird even for Rick. I made some noncommittal remarks, and he got angry and just quit then and there. I’m pretty sure he left with the electrical gadget he’d been working on. That was practically my last day too: the factory was about to close anyway, and I had a chance at working my way to Europe on a steamer. A friend said the Europeans were trying to improve their economies and technology at the same time, kind of like our rural electrification projects here. I wish now that I had stayed here for some of the work programs.

“So when I recognized Rick, I stopped mid-violence, and he yelled again, ‘Okay, okay! Just don’t hit me in the head again, even though it does improve my telepathy.’ Then he recognized me, and I promised not to hit him if he explained himself. Unfortunately for my sanity, he did—or tried to.

“He’s changed, and lunacy aside, it’s mostly an improvement. He’s no longer a pervert, just a lunatic, and he’s a lot easier to talk to, apart from the assault on your sanity. He put on a foil cap and gave me another, so we could talk privately. We soon had to move to avoid the police, but he seemed to know a number of hiding places.

“He said that he was watching the intruder, though he couldn’t explain why. I suspect he just finds it entertaining. He follows various groups around, apparently, and I think he knew where the intruder came from. It’s a pity I couldn’t get a coherent explanation of that detail.”

“Do you think he could lead us to the intruder?” Darren asked.

“Maybe. You’d have to make a game of it, though. He’s very childlike these days.”

“I’m almost certain we’re on the right track now, but it could help to have an alternative solution. If we can find him again, that is.”

“He said he’d see me again, so we probably will, though it might mean returning to Boston. From what you say of the police there, I’d rather not try it.”

“If he is monitoring the same groups we’re interested in,” Dr. Fleming said, “we shall likely meet up eventually anyway. Let him find us; then perhaps I’ll believe he’s worth my time.”

Lassiter just grunted softly, and they might have continued the trip in silence if Darren hadn’t suggested practicing the new language they would probably be encountering again soon. “It’s easy to learn the words of a small language, but hard to get used to working in such cramped quarters. We have a few hours; let’s make good use of them.”

[My personal schedule will be weird for a week or so, but I'll try to keep this regular.]

Next: Attack From Atlantis

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