No one here gets out alive. I’ve always loved that song by the Doors. Obviously not everyone is going to die, that’s just silly. In fact, I don’t…well, never mind. That’s best left for another day. I sit here writing this part thinking back on the kid who played Chekov in the new Star Trek movies and how he was found dead yesterday. Crushed by a Jeep and a fence. What an awful way to go for a good actor, or for anyone. The point I think I am trying to make (you let me know if I did or not) is that we never know when its our time. I try to take that approach in my stories. People die randomly (my editor did NOT enjoy that) and the good guys don’t always survive. Am I setting you up for a twisted ending to my tale? Perhaps, but I guess you have to get to the bottom of it to find out.
So, sit back and enjoy this final chapter of A Matter of Life and Death.
“This has been a day I’ve long anticipated, Crispus.”
Haysbert Rolstein could scarcely contain his excitement since receiving word that his expedition was returning with two packs full of the lotus. Two full sacks. The elixir from a single petal was enough to enhance his natural abilities while curing various ailments his aging body languished under. Decades of pain gone in an instant.
Unfortunately the results were temporary. His doctors assured him that with enough of the lotus plants they would be able to manufacture an unlimited supply that, in theory, would prolong his life indefinitely. The promise of power drove him. And now all of his dreams were about to be delivered.
The loss of three lives was mildly lamentable, if even, but necessary. He would have loved the three duffle bags full of lotus but now that the grounds were established and he knew what to expect securing more wouldn’t prove an issue.
Crispus stood with his hands patiently behind his back. His gaze darted from his employer to the grandfather clock near the front door of the office. It was time. “Sir, the helicopter will have landed. Mr. Sorenson should be on his way down to the labs.”
“Eh? Already? Good. Let us not waste any more time,” Rolstein said and headed for the elevator.
Today was the day he reached for and claimed the world.
“Are you certain about this?”
Agent Stewart double check the encrypted message on his data pad. “Yes sir. All parties are heading for the laboratories now.”
Alexander Reynolds flicked his cigarette out and exhaled smoke from his nostrils. This was a case he’d been working to close for years and now, after so much frustration and patience, was about to seal the deal on the biggest case of his career. The promise of promotion drove him. “We move now. I want tactical teams to secure the lower perimeter. Aerial units will land on the roof and push down to secure the elevators. I want this done and wrapped up in the next hour, Stewart.”
The federal agents, each dressed in black with no national identifying marks, hurried to their vehicles. They had a criminal to bust.
Edmund and Mara were escorted into the labs without comment and obvious haste. Both packs were stripped from them the moment they exited the helicopter. Moments later they were before their employer.
“Ah, Mr. Sorenson! My congratulations on a job well done. You have performed admirably,” Rolstein applauded as they were ushered into the lab.
“Three men died for a flower, Rolstein,” Edmund ground out.
Rolstein’s eyes narrowed. “Regrettable indeed but such in often necessary for true progress to be made.”
“Progress! We are talking about people’s live!” Mara shouted.
Crispus sidled up to Rolstein from behind. Both men stiffened. Rolstein ordered, “Get everything to the secondary location. Hurry Crispus, all rides on this.”
Men in black body armor and helmets stormed into the labs. Each had a weapon trained on a different person.
Reynolds entered next. The grin on his face reminiscent of childhood liberties. “Haysbert Rolstein, you are under arrest from crimes against the country.”
“Preposterous! I demand a…”
Reynolds pressed, “You demand nothing. Agent Stewart, I want every data file and piece of equipment confiscated and taken back to headquarters.”
Satisfied, Reynolds asked, “Which one of you is Crispus?”
The aid stepped forward, and was rewarded with a handshake from Reynolds.
“Thank you for your service. You’ve delivered on your end and so shall we. You’re free to go.”
Rolstein was furious. “How dare you! Crispus, what is this?”
Anger filling his face, Crispus explained, “I’m tired of being your puppet. Tired of you sacrificing everyone for your deluded dreams of immortality. It’s over. You’re finished, Haysbert.”
“That pretty much sums it up,” Reynolds said with a wry grin. “Cuff this guy.”
“What about us?” Edmund said, hands in the air.
Reynolds considered both Edmund and Mara closely before giving his adjudication.
“Are you ready for this?” Mara asked as they stared through the slender window.
Edmund trembled, his nerves threatening to overpower him. All of his trials and misadventures in the Canadian wilderness had led him to this final conclusion. This one opportunity to follow through on a promise only a father could make. Tears filled his eyes as he looked upon his daughter, so tender and frail in her hospital bed. The days and weeks spent away from her side based on hope. His fingers played with the vial of elixir in his pants pocket.
Doubt crept in. Rolstein all but admitted the initial dose wasn’t permanent on himself. Would it even work now? On one so young? Edmund wished he knew for certain, but waiting accomplished nothing. He placed his hand on the door handle and pushed down.
“I’m about to find out.”