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The Tower

Premiered August 22, 2003

Chapter Two


It was the man from before, the warrior clad, bearded soldier from her previous dream.  He was smiling.  Smoke from burning debris and the aftermath of a great battle partially obscured Dawn's vision of him.  But then he approached her, coming into clearer focus.  His face was dirty and smeared with sweat and blood from the battle, his clothes torn and bloodied.  And yet he continued to smile, as if the battle had been good.  Then a bright, intense light seemed to appear within his body at the point of his heart.  The light grew, extending itself in all directions until it seemed to radiate from all parts of his body.  In the midst of it all, he continued to smile.  Dawn was as fascinated by the smile as the brilliant light.

Then the sound of a familiar laughter made her turn.  Gil came into focus, his demeanor and dress the same as the other man, as if both had been in the same battle.  Gil was also smiling, but then the smile faded away as his attention was diverted.  Someone else, someone of importance, at least to Gil, was arriving.  Dawn knew instinctively it would be Anna, dressed in her goddess/priestess attire of gold and lapis lazuli.  But Dawn's focus was more on Gil and his apparent appreciation of the other woman. 

Dawn tried to look inside Gil, to discover his thoughts about Anna, to gauge the connection between them.  She felt nothing, but then saw a great, bloody wound on his head.  Then Gil turned, ready to leap from what appeared to be a great, ancient structure.  The Tower was in flames, and others had already begun to abandon it, in many cases jumping to their deaths.  Lightening bolts struck several of them even in the midst of their fall from The Tower (First written in 1997)

Dawn's reaction to the symbolism was one of a sudden indrawn breath and an intense tightening of her heart.  For several moments she was lost in the raw emotional impact.

"No real change," the voice said.  Then, as if surprised by the lack of response, "Miss?  Did you hear me?"  The last question brought Dawn out of her dream, and she raised her head.  She was still sitting in the chair by Gil's bed, where she had slept with her head laying on his covers.  The doctor had arrived, finished his cursory examination, and relayed his findings to her.  Now he waited for her answer.  As she turned to him, her face showing a lack of understanding, he repeated himself.  "There's been no change."  When that didn't garner any clearer response from Dawn, he added, "Which is good.  He's still resting peacefully.  But we will need to fly him to Seattle just as soon as the weather clears."

"When will that be?"  From Dawn's point of view the question was simple, and easily within the purview of any self-anointed, omnipotent, omniscience medical doctor.

"I'll talk to Mr. Fox about it."  With that, he turned and left the room -- apparently on his way to consult a higher deity on the future weather patterns and flight schedules.  Dawn watched him leave, then turned back to Gil.  For a moment she probed with her intuition, applying her own form of examination.  The response was minimal, but important.  All was at rest, at peace.  It was not time for concern.  No news was still good news.

Dawn opened her eyes again, somewhat relieved.  Looking out the window, she saw it was early morning, but with an overcast, misty atmosphere.  The weather did not look all that promising.  She frowned, but then decided to take matters into her own hands.  It was time for her to talk to Nathan -- "Mr. Fox" -- to insist on moving Gil to Seattle without further delay.  Of course, it could never appear to be her "insisting" on anything.  Clearly Nathan was not the type of man any woman could insist on his doing anything.  But if Dawn could plant the seed of urgency, Nathan might respond -- assuming, of course, that it was his idea from the beginning and that he was not simply taking advice from a female of even higher rank.  Dawn stood up, touched Gil's arm one last time, and left the room.  Grabbing a wrap, she walked outside.

On the porch of the bungalow, she pulled the shawl about her, reacting instinctively to the misty dampness and chill of the morning.  Dawn glanced about, taking in the lay of the land, frowning at the overcast sky, and then began walking toward the main lodge.  But before she had taken more than a dozen steps, she noticed Anna walking in a contrary direction off to her right.  Dawn started to raise her hand and call out, to attract her attention, when Anna seemed to turn toward her.  But just as quickly, Anna turned away, and disappeared behind a building.

Dawn again had the sudden flash of insight that Anna and Gil were important to each other, that Anna might be carrying some ancient torch for Dawn's boss.  As such Anna might be Dawn's only ally at Lake Mach.  It was a fundamental truth: Love makes strange bedfellows.

Dawn ran after the other woman, only to reach the spot by the building where the latter had already disappeared.  But then, off the left, another glimpse of Anna's back as she proceeded along another path, slipping quickly behind one of the bungalows.  For a moment, Dawn sensed Anna was well aware of her, but was giving no overt evidence of such.  Dawn ignored the nonsensical data, and continued to follow after the other woman.  From building to building, around a covey of trees, along manicured paths among natural woodland settings, Dawn kept up her hurried pace -- amazed that Anna was always just out of reach but close enough never to lose her pursuer.  And while Dawn occasionally broke into a run, Anna never seemed to break stride.  Eventually, Dawn settled into her own stride -- deciding in her mind that she would catch up with Anna when it was time.

But then as she turned into an old world garden complete with massive hedges and stone statuary, there was no sign of Anna.  As if she had vanished.  Dawn looked in every direction, before continuing along her best guess of Anna's path.  Ten feet later Dawn heard voices, men's voices.

For no logical reason -- intuition always being superior to logic -- Dawn became very quiet, more interested in identifying the voices and their message than in letting her presence be known.  Quickly and quietly she moved closer to the hedge, where she could hear two men as they walked.  Dawn took a parallel course, and quickly recognized the voices of Nathan and the doctor. 

At one point they seemed to stop, to become more intent on their conversation.  Dawn approached a small stone statue, where she gauged she would be able to hear best and not be heard.  As she did, she brushed the statue which promptly fell off its small pedestal.  Dawn caught the statue in one hand, preventing it from crashing onto the stone walkway, and at the same time, caught the leaning pedestal in the other.  Balancing both, she then caught her breath as she picked up the first intelligible words.

"The question is," (the doctor's voice), "Do we bother?"

"And your prognosis if no action is taken?"  Nathan's voice had a hard edge to it.

"He probably won't make it.  He's obviously made of exceedingly sterner stuff, but the head injury is enough to take out anyone."  Then the doctor attempted to exceed his station.  "Of course, in that case, there would likely be no questions.  We would have done everything reasonable."

Nathan's response was immediate.  "Forget such thinking!  Gilbert Lenki is an asset.  He has information we need and he still has considerable value.  Things are in too great a state of confusion to simply allow the man to die.  Entirely too risky," Nathan added, his tone chastising and, at the same time, lined with a hint of concerns of his own.  Yet another hidden agenda.

Dawn could almost hear the doctor backtrack from his "unauthorized assumption of authority."  "Of course," he muttered.  "I didn't mean to..."

Nathan hardly bothered with the doctor's attempted retraction.  "There are factions within the Patrons.  And Lenki has many allies."

Dawn's immediate thought was that Nathan had said "allies", not "friends".  Then she noticed it had become very quiet.  She tried to breathe, keep the stoneware balanced, and make absolutely no sound.  Obliquely, she wondered if Anna had led her to this spot intentionally so she could overhear the conversation.  But then Dawn dismissed the idea as too unlikely.  Dawn was more prone to attribute it to universal coincidence, the carefully contrived juxtaposition of events to accomplish a higher purpose.  The universe had simply used Anna to accomplish its own purpose.

"Did you administer the injections?"  Nathan's voice was cold and precise.

"One of the nurses did.  And I personally checked the implants with the Locator.  They..."

Nathan interrupted, raising his voice slightly.  "Injections, Doctor!  They're called injections."

The doctor immediately shifted into his cowed-dog imitation, mumbling some apology.  Then he tried to change the subject.  "What about the girl?" 

Dawn reacted first to the doctor's contrite tone, gleeful at his being put down, and then to the fact he had called her a "girl".  But then, the precariousness of her position took precedence.

"Her relationship to Mr. Lenki is not clear.  She may or may not be his fiancé.  And he may or may not have some vested interest in her.  Most females of her caliber are inherently expendable, but one must never underestimate some men's attachment to their property.  If we took any cavalier action to eliminate her without just cause, Lenki could be angered to no real advantage for us."

Dawn swallowed hard, realizing that Nathan was matter-of-factly discussing whether or not to simply do away with her.  Dawn's body froze.  Beads of sweat involuntarily appeared.

"Besides," Nathan continued, "My brief discussion with her suggests she is not entirely without some value.  With the right indoctrination, she could be useful later on."

'Keep thinking that,' Dawn thought, 'while I quietly steal away in the night!'

The doctor made some sound of acknowledgment, before Nathan stood up and stretched his legs.  Then, in his most genteel fashion, added, "It will be easy enough, should the need arise, to dispose of her back in Seattle.  Big cities are dangerous, and it solves any difficulty of the law wanting access here."

The doctor was quick to agree.  "I suppose since she is unaware of any danger, she won't be taking precautions.  That should make it simple enough."

Dawn could sense Nathan's smile.  "Exactly.  And it would be easy to use someone she knows and with whom she feels comfortable to carry out the operation.  Perhaps, someone like yourself, doctor.  I presume you've developed an excellent rapport with her."

"Of course," the doctor lied.

Nathan's tone suggested he saw the doctor's lie.  "Or, depending on circumstances, we can always use someone else."  Dawn could almost hear Nathan as he added in his mind, 'someone like Anna'.  Dawn shuddered slightly, thinking of her.  The "other" woman was definitely an enigma.

Then the doctor voiced another concern.  "There has been some scuttlebutt among the staff that the airplane might have been sabotaged."

Dawn could feel Nathan's abrupt rage.  Vehemently, in a low and controlled voice, he said, "There is no basis whatsoever for such thinking!  You will nip that rumor in the bud immediately!  There are, admittedly, some divisions in the thinking of our group -- but they are not to be the stuff of gossip among the staff!  Is that clear!?"

"Of course," the doctor quavered.  "I only wanted to inform you..."

"Nip it in the bud, doctor!"  With the doctor acknowledging his marching orders, Nathan added more.  "Begin making preparations to move Mr. Lenki.  I want him alive and in the aircraft bound for Seattle no later than 1600 hours this afternoon.  Make sure the medical records to that point justify the decision to transfer, just in case he does not survive the trip.  Do you understand?"

"Yes, of course," the doctor answered.  "I'll get right on it."

Nathan had turned in the middle of the doctor's response and begun striding away in the direction of the lodge.  The doctor fumbled slightly in his movements, then followed Nathan at a discrete distance -- not wanting to presume walking alongside Nathan, but at the same time, heading in the same direction.

Dawn was still frozen in her place, but more from shock than fright.  Slowly she began to breathe again.  Simultaneously, she started to right the pedestal and set the small statue back on it.  She hardly noticed that the statue was a small gargoyle -- a threatening and ugly little thing designed to frighten away evil spirits -- nor that it had generously shared the accumulated gunk from years of unattended service and in the process irretrievably soiled her blouse, the one she had just put on in order to replace the maple syrup decorated yellow blouse.   But instead of mulling over her current rate of trashing clothes, she was processing what she had just heard.  It was time to draw on all of her powers, all of her feminine talents, as well as all of her focusing and problem solving abilities -- those characteristics traditionally identified as masculine but which she could draw upon in moments of dire need.  It was now a matter of life and death.


The process of preparing for the flight back to Seattle (and of course, changing her soiled blouse for the one remaining, undamaged item) kept her busy.  The shoes, the left heel of which still carried her "implant", she continued to wear, despite their slightly muddied condition.  She knew there would be a specific time and opportunity to discard them. 

Her preparations to leave also allowed her to avoid another encounter with Nathan, along with the potential for additional inquisition-style casual conversations.  The doctor was amiable and cordial to her, but inasmuch as Dawn knew it was on Nathan's orders, she did not buy into it.  Instead, she smiled and seemed to accept his attentions.  At the same time, she marveled at the inability of most males to recognize that the sweet smile on a woman's face carried a multitude of diverse and contradictory meanings.  Men saw and believed, and all a woman had to do was to project a pretty picture.

Admittedly, on the other side of the coin, women tended to hear and believe.  Unless, of course, it had been made abundantly clear to the woman that what the man was saying was unquestionably a lie.  And then women didn't believe a word.  Sometimes.  If they were so disposed.

Anna had made an appearance in the bungalow to check on Gil, and inexplicably had managed to time her visit when Dawn had been out of the room, gathering the last remnants of luggage and personal effects.  What had gone on between Gil and Anna, Dawn had no idea.  She had only seen Anna as she left the bungalow.  They had crossed paths in the living room area, but neither had said a word.  Anna had smiled her most enigmatic smile for Dawn, and Dawn, well aware of the duplicity of some women, had known not to take it at face value.  Dawn simply had no real idea of what the smile had really meant.  Only the activity of getting ready to leave allowed her to drop the subject from her mind.


The flight back was uneventful, save the doctor's continuing attempts to ingratiate himself with Dawn with words of concern, caring, and conniving.  Upon arrival in Seattle, and after passing on the current medical condition status to the resident physicians, the doctor began making preparations to take the helicopter back to Lake Mach.  But before leaving, he had smiled compassionately at Dawn and spoken many words of comfort.  He had made sure her luggage was taken care of and would have held her purse for her, had she not held onto it with a great more emphasis than she might normally have.  Its contents of the $200 in cash Gil had wanted her to keep with her, seemed to loom larger and larger as an essential asset.  Meanwhile, she accepted the doctor's alleged thoughtfulness, making a mental note that if she were ever to see him again, she would assume he was about to murder her.

Gil was being prepped for tests, when Dawn began to note a subtle shift in the energy about her.  Then she noticed its source; an unheralded increase in security.  Several goons of the Lake Mach persuasion -- which Dawn christened the Goonites, in order to distinguish them from Mister Goon and the wounded Goonie from Lake Mach -- had taken up station in key locations.  Each of the Goonites seemed to be very aware of who she was -- which was not a good sign -- but they kept their distance. 

Even here, Dawn realized, she was not going to feel safe and secure.  She had lived in and loved Seattle for many years, but now, she suspected, it would never be the same.  She could never again use her favorite line that the way one could tell it was summer in Seattle was the rain became warm.  It was a minor death.  Dawn could only wonder what the inevitable rebirth would bring.

Gil was behind the closed doors of the operating room for several hours, while Dawn waited outside.  The Goonites kept their distance, keeping their subtle watch over the proceedings.  For several hours the vigil continued.  It was then during a quiet moment, after a long debate on which of the various snacks she was going to acquire, that she managed to somehow cause the small vending machine to dump its entire contents into the outgoing slot.  Dawn accepted the sudden bounty as a good sign, selected several more items which appealed to her and returned to her seat.  Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed each of the three Goonites manage to casually wander by the machine, one at a time, and make their own selections of the freebies.  Interestingly, Dawn never caught one of them actually consuming their catch.

When one of the doctors came out to report on the proceedings, it took the physician only a moment to recognize the person who was obviously the relative-friend-acquaintance-concerned citizen, who was waiting on the results.  "He's doing fine," he said to Dawn.  "He's resting comfortably for the moment, and we will be transferring him to a room in a few minutes.  You'll be able to see him shortly."

Dawn sensed a genuine concern by the physician, and smiled.  "He's going to be okay?"

The man's smile waned slightly.  "I won't kid you.  It's very serious.  And we've done everything we can.  Now it's time to see how he responds."  Then seeing Dawn's look of concern, he added, "We're encouraged by the way he came through the operation.  He seems to have extraordinary recuperative powers.  We can be guardedly optimistic."  When Dawn thanked him, the doctor went back inside.

It was then one of the Goonites approached her.  The man was massive.  Dawn suspected he could have made a bull elephant pull up and think twice about charging him.  He also had the quality of someone who had never imagined mercy as a desirable human characteristic.  The man's foreign sense made Dawn wonder if he would actually be able to speak English.  His command of the language turned out to be marginal.  "Mr. Lenki has a room.  It is three three three on third floor.  Extra bed if you want to rest."  He didn't add that they could keep track of her better if she stayed in the room.

Dawn looked at the man for several moments, relishing the moment of first contact between alien species.  Then she thanked him, turned and left the waiting area -- deciding to head for the room if only to check it out.  Not totally unexpectedly, the Goonite began following her at a discreet distance.  Dawn had a momentary flush of pride as she managed to take the elevator and close the doors before the Goonite joined her.  It seemed prudent to take the elevator to the third floor, and then take whatever course presented itself -- just in case Mr. Goonite was paying attention to where she exited the elevator.

But then, as she left the elevator on the third floor, she heard a distant familiar voice.  It was Anna's!  Very surprised, Dawn turned to look down a short length of hall to the Nurse's station, where Anna was making her august presence known to the nursing staff, much to their chagrin.

As Dawn walked tentatively toward the nurse's station, she began to hear Anna more clearly.  The first complete sentence she picked up on was "The room is simply inadequate!"  This was followed by the senior nurse, who apparently had already accepted Anna as the deity's representative on Earth, looking over her room assignments and was scrambling to find something more "adequate".  Another nurse tried to help.  "Four Twelve's available."

The senior nurse's expression turned to a tentative relief.  "It's a private suite.  It's our best."

Anna became marginally gracious.  "We'll take it.  Make the arrangements."  With that she turned and walked down the hall.  Dawn had been just behind her, when Anna had turned and strode off.  For that or some other reason, Anna had appeared to be unaware of Dawn, and walked away without the slightest acknowledgment.  Then, as she approached the elevator, the doors opened and Dawn's own personal Goonite stepped out.  Anna immediately commandeered the man, and despite his protests -- which she quickly brushed aside -- followed her into the elevator as the doors closed.  Dawn stood watching the entire process for several moments, including the now vacant hall.  The other nurse broke her chain of thought.  "Can I help you?"  Apparently, the senior nurse was still recovered from Anna's onslaught.

Turning to the questioning smile of the younger woman, Dawn simply asked, "Where are the stairs to the fourth floor?"  As an afterthought, she added, "I hate elevators."

The young woman smiled and pointed in the opposite direction.  "First passageway on your left.  You can't miss it."

Dawn thanked her and headed for the stairs.  On the way to Suite 412, she began to wonder about Anna and the room drama.  'Why was Anna so emotionally involved?  What exactly was there between her and Gil?' Dawn wondered.  'Had they been lovers at one time?  And what difference does the room assignment make!?'  Dawn shook her head, perplexed, as she climbed the stairs. 

For the moment, she was free of Mr. Goonite, but it seemed inevitable that if Anna and he were not already checking out the room, Anna would at least inform the Goonites about the change in rooms.  And yet, in Dawn's mind, there was the fleeting thought: 'the room change was the sort of thing that could cause confusion later.'  And in confusion -- or chaos -- there is opportunity.  By the time she had arrived on the fourth floor, Dawn had dismissed the idea as irrelevant.

She quickly found Suite 412, which turned out to be quite luxurious for a hospital room.  It also turned out to be unoccupied.  Dawn went in, flipped on a small overhead light, and took a seat on a plush couch -- the kind of couch easily adaptable for sleep and long vigils.  Then she simply relaxed and took several long breaths.  The tension and emotional strain was starting to get to her. 

Within moments, Gil was brought into the room by the hospital attendants, along with a variety of monitoring instruments which the nurse quickly hooked up to the local equipment leads, allowing them to monitor him from the nurse's station.  A doctor oversaw the proceedings, ensured himself (and Dawn) everything was "A-Okay", and then, as the orderlies and nurse left, he assumed the attitude of a strange embarrassment.  After a preemptory cough, he said, "We weren't able to obtain Mr. Lenki's signature prior to his surgery.  As his next of kin, perhaps you'd be so kind..."

Dawn almost laughed in his pathetic little face.  The man was obviously perplexed and small-boy pitiful.  It was the latter that suggested she go easy with him.  She also knew she was not in any sense of the legal word, Gil's next-of-kin, and her signature was worthless in that regard.  But she decided to humor the poor administrator-physician.  She quietly took the clipboard and signed a fictitious name.  At the same time, she couldn't resist asking, "Is this part of the Hippocratic Oath?  Getting signatures?"

The doctor saw the humor in her question and smiled shyly. "I suspect Hypocrites never had to pay liability insurance premiums.  Otherwise it would have been."  Then with the all-important permission slip in his grasp, he left.  Dawn found herself alone in the room with Gil.  There was no sign of Anna and the Goonites.  Gil and Dawn were alone.

Almost immediately, Gil opened his eyes.  Dawn quickly leaned over, a broad smile on her face.  Recognizing her, he asked, very quietly, "Are we alone?"


"How is that?"

Dawn's smile faded slightly.  "There is a woman from Lake Mach.  Named Anna."

Gil showed no surprise; only understanding.  "I know her."

"She's here at the hospital."  When Gil seemed to accept the fact as perfectly natural, Dawn continued.  "She didn't like your room assignment, and demanded it be changed.  Apparently, your security guards haven't discovered where you are just yet."

Gil smiled in appreciation, and said, "Anna always had a way about her."

"It seems," Dawn added, "that we're alone because of her..."  Dawn's voice trailed off, as her mind swept again into the realm of what Anna was to Gil and vice versa.  There was suddenly so much about Gil Dawn did not know about.  His past life before her, was obviously a life with a past.

Gil, in the meantime, had been thinking and marshaling his reserves for the conversation ahead.  Then he began.  "It was a mistake to go to Lake Mach.  I really screwed up.  But I thought it would buy us some time.  There's so much yet to do."

"It's okay," Dawn replied. 

"Miss Riordan...  Dawn," he began, tentatively, watching her, "I'm not going to make it."

Dawn's sudden intake of breathe, signaled her unwillingness to accept even the concept.

But Gil would not allow her to speak.  "It's okay.  I've already died once in the SQUID.  They brought be back around, or so they think.  In truth, I just came back to say good-bye."

Dawn's eyes were already filled with tears.  "But you're going to be fine."

Gil's argument was carried entirely with his eyes and face.  "Dawn.  I've been to the other side.  It's glorious!  They let me come back, but only to warn you.  There are things you have to do."

"No, they can't do this!"  Dawn was adamant, even if she didn't know exactly who they were.

"Dawn.  You promised me!"  The charge Gil placed on Dawn momentarily swayed her from her uncompromising stand.  "You promised me," he repeated, "that in extremis, you would do exactly as I requested, pull the plug or whatever.  It's come to that."

For several brief moments, Dawn held her objections, drawing on some internal strength. 

Gil took advantage of the brief respite.  "We don't have much time.  You must save yourself.  Anna can't help you."  Dawn flinched at the idea Anna would want to help her -- even at the request of Gil.  But Gil seemed unaware of Dawn's response.  "Anna's in too deep.  She can't take the chance, and I can't compromise her."  Dawn could see that Gil considered Anna an ally, but Dawn was considerably less certain that Anna might be Dawn’s ally.

"In the office, there's a second wall safe, behind the pantry." Gil's voice wavered as he felt the strain of a deeply parched throat.  Dawn hurriedly gave him some water to drink.  Then, the water easing the immediate pain in his throat, he continued.  "In the second wall safe there is a dark brown briefcase.  Take it, and run!  Get out of town.  Get as far from Seattle as you can."

"But where...?"

"The letter I prepared, before I left...  You have to deliver it."  Gil took another deep breath and locked his eyes on her.  "It's extremely important." 

Dawn drew on another deep level of strength.  "What's the combination of the safe?"

Gil closed his eyes in momentary frustration at his oversight, and replied, "67, 31, 63."

Dawn repeated it several times in her mind, and then opened her eyes again.

Gil took the latter as a sign and said, "Miss Riordan.  You have to trust me as never before.  You have to save yourself, and in the process, help to save the world.  The briefcase is all important.  The trip to Lake Mach blew our schedule all to hell.  Else we could have done what was needed on the way to Mexico City and beyond.  But now you must do it!  You're the only one I can trust.  I'm passing the torch to you, Dawn.  No one else.  Just you!"

The intensity of his words rang in her ears.  She continued to look into his eyes, the sheer power of his thoughts written there as well.  Then, very quietly, she said, "I accept the torch."

Gil smiled in relief.  Then he said, "One other thing.  In my freezer, there are four packages of food marked 'C, O, D, August, eighty-eight'.  There are four packages.  They're my gift to you.  Take all four.  Don't forget them.  Think of them as severance pay."

Dawn's expression turned to a bemused smile.  "Four packages of frozen fish?"

Gil smiled as she recognized his mischievous best.  "Just accept them with my gratitude."

The last words sobered her.  "Of course."  Then she reached over to embrace him.  His words caught her before she could complete the hug.

"Miss Riordan.  You have to run now.  Don't look back.  Trust no one!  Leave no paper trail.  You can't use your credit cards -- too easy to trace."  For a moment, they were quiet, as Dawn looked into his eyes for further instructions.  "It's time for you to leave, Dawn."  Gil hesitated, allowing the significance of his statement to register in her mind.  Then he added, "Tell the nurses I'm resting comfortably.  They can probably see that from the monitors, but it will give you a chance to leave.  Tell them you have to retrieve something from the office.  I'll hang on here as long as possible, giving you time to get there and put as much distance behind you as possible."

"I don't want to leave you like this," Dawn replied in her 'I'm-not-going-to-discuss-this' tone.

Gil grew serious.  "We're in extremis, Dawn.  Time is short.  I don't know how long I can hold on and cover for you.  The dye is cast."

Dawn's tears were now beginning to flow.  "I know that, but..."

"You promised to do exactly as I requested.  I very badly need that last act of loyalty right now.  You can grieve later, when the time is right.  You'll know when."

Dawn struggled for control, forcing herself to obey his last order.

"Time to go!"  His order was the ultimate, no-nonsense good bye.  Dawn did not even consider ignoring it.  She turned and went to the door.  Opening it, she turned back toward him for one last look.  He watched her, his eyes carrying every ounce of clarity and purpose of which he was capable.  For perhaps fifteen seconds, they looked at each other.  Then she left, closing the door gently behind her.  She stood there a few seconds longer, pulling herself together and wiping the tears from her eyes.  It was not yet time to grieve.

Instead, she went to the nurse's station, told them he was resting comfortably.  "I'm going home to retrieve something for Mr. Lenki and to clean up.  I'll be back within an hour or so.  If there is the slightest change in his condition, please call me at either of these numbers."  As she wrote them down, she added, "I'll be back as soon as I can."

After the nurse's gentle, smiling acknowledgment, Dawn turned and headed for the stairs.  She had barely rounded the corner, when she heard a commotion in the hall behind her.  She stopped where she was, knowing she was hidden by the corner wall.  Within seconds she recognized the raised voices as that of Anna and the Goonites.  Anna was chastising them for not being on duty, and they were protesting they had been waiting at the wrong room.  She made it clear that such incompetence was inexcusable.  The Goonites decided to admit defeat and accept whatever grace their superior might in her infinite mercy bestow upon them.  It's the old rule: Never bother to argue with the boss -- especially one of Anna’s caliber.

Dawn could only shudder at the close call.  Then she bolted for the stairwell door.  Racing down the stairs, she made it to the streets via a side door.  Coming around the building, she spotted a taxi driver who was just re-entering his vehicle after discharging a fare at the hospital's main entrance.  The driver saw her signaling him, and promptly drove to pick her up.  Once in the taxi and on her way to the office, she began to relax, only vaguely aware of her good fortune in finding a taxi at 5:30 in the morning.  'Thank God for the timely arrival of someone's baby,' she thought.  Then as an afterthought, 'Someone is still looking after me."  With that thought, and her head swimming with countless other thoughts, she sank into the taxi's seat cushions as best she could.  It was a momentary respite.

Abruptly, a distant, deep voice from the front of the taxi quoted, "Be as a sheep among wolves: Wise as a serpent, and gentle as a dove."

Startled, Dawn reacted instinctively and asked, "Excuse me?"

The driver looked in his mirror, not understanding her question.  "Yeah lady?  What' you need?"  The taxi driver had, apparently, not been the one speaking.

"Never mind," Dawn replied, as she again heard the words echoing in her mind.  She had no idea who had spoken, but she knew the advice was very appropriate.


Chapter One -- The Hierophant

Forward to:

Chapter Three -- Death



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