As I drew closer to my apartment, I noticed a dark herringbone sleeve protruded from the shade my doorway. I tried to see who it may be, but a cold breeze whipped around the building and hit me in the face. I zipped up my spring jacket and closed my eyes against the onslaught of street dust. As I drew closer, I saw a man standing near my vestibule. He had a large flattened nose and heavy jaw. A thin mustache lined the area above his narrow upper lip. I expected him to dash away, but he simply smiled. He was chilled and swayed from foot to foot. “A little late in spring to see your breath, eh?” he said, and blew on his massive hands before shoving them deep into his coat pockets.
Recognizing him as the man who stared at me from the car in Connecticut, I was unsure whether to run or punch him in the nose. “You shaved your beard.” I said.
His black eyes narrowed. “Having trouble sleeping through the night lately, Gus?”
“Congratulations, you know my name.” I slipped by him and stood near the trash cans, ready to push him into the bins if he made a move.
“I just want to talk,” he said.
“I apologize for the way I’ve been…how shall I say it?”
“Ha! Stalking… No, I’ve got much better things to do. Let’s just say I’ve been observing.”
Observing, my ass, I thought. I know a loon when I see one. His shabby coat told a story too tedious to care about. “I’m already on a case,” I said. “Can’t take on anything new.”
“Ah, yes. The convicted murderer in Connecticut. How’s that going? You know how many murder convictions get overturned or even re-tried in the United States?” I stood ready to jam him into the bins and run, put his gray herringbone coat back where it belonged. He continued his discourse. “Of course, it depends on which state we’re talking about. Conviction-happy, some states. Take Texas for example—”
“I’m tired and I’m cold,” I said. “I’m going inside. Call my office if you want a meeting.”
I unlocked the vestibule door. He took a step closer.
“Seeing a lot of lines and rectangles, lately?” He asked.
His knowing tone reminded me of a malevolent teacher grilling a student. His eyes lit-up with expectation. Moisture collected on his wiry mustache. The spark in his irises told me he was about to move in for a strike.
“Stop right there,” I said, and held up my hand.
He took a step back, but held his ground, still too close for comfort. I tried to avoid smelling his breath and cologne, but there it was, hanging in the air, a repugnant fog of Old Spice (or something similarly quaint) from the bowels of some ancient vanity. No doubt slapped on his newly shaven face.
“Out with it. What do you want?” I said.
“I’d like to…” He turned slowly toward neighborhood foot traffic, then watched a slow moving cab roll past. “…to buy you a cup of coffee.” His head snapped back to mine, and he smiled. His teeth, what I could see of them below his mustache, were small and yellowed from coffee and cigarettes.
“Not now,” I said.
“A drink, then? I need fifteen minutes of your time. It will change your life, I promise you.”
“A disease will change your life. Death will change your life.” I breathed through my mouth to avoid offensive odiferous inhalation.
“Gus,” he said, in a chastising tone, and butted a size-twelve, extra-wide, wingtip up against my big toe. “I promise you’ll not regret it.”
“I’ve got things to do.” I said, about to unleash my anger.
“I’ll give you a retainer of three hundred dollars right now.”
“One thousand, then.” He pulled out a wad of cash and started flipping through hundred dollar bills. My temper quieted down. Was I that shallow, money could dissuade me so easily? I didn’t know or care. “Okay, I’ll give you ten minutes,” I said, eyeing the bills. “The pizza joint, over there.” I nodded toward the corner store.
We sat in a small table in the back room. I ordered a slice with everything, and a coke. He stared at me as I took a large bite, wiping grease from the corner of my mouth with a paper napkin. After a few seconds, he pulled a small white business card from his pocket and handed it to me. It read, Porter Grossman, MEd. An out of state phone number was printed below his name.
“Okay, Mr. Grossman, what’s on your mind?”
“Have you ever heard of a government project called…Stargate? The Stargate Project?”
“No,” I lied. I’d heard something about it, but wasn’t sure if it had to do with aliens, UFO’s or psychics. I took a sip of coke. “Enlighten me.”
He opened his mouth to speak and my stomach turned over. A picture lit in my mind; A long, straight white line leading into a rectangle. In an instant the image was gone, but it left an indelible impression. It was like when you stare at a white image against a back background and the ghost images light-up when you turn away. This is what I’d been dreaming for the past few weeks. He noticed my unease and stopped what he was about to say.
“Stargate,” I said, finally, shaking off my unease. “Go on…”
He squinted at me, and took a miniature notebook out of his coat pocket, the kind that leaves no room for more than five lines a page. He glanced at the tiny handwriting, all neatly slanted to the right, like trees in the wind. “I’ve been conducting a little experiment.”
“One experiment.” Held help up a gloved hand and pointed his index finger at me.
“On me?” I asked. He nodded. “Does it have anything to do these white lines and rectangles?”
“Mmm. Yes, something like that.”
“So, are you saying those are from you, your little experiment?”
I sat back and wondered what the hell was going on. Was he invading my sleep? And if so, how the hell was that happening?
“How?” I asked.
“You don’t believe me?”
“I don’t know what to believe. Explain yourself.”
“Well,” he said taking a sip of his coffee, “That’s what this little meeting is about.”
“To you. Enlighten me.”
“Well, one of my jobs is to scour the media, print, TV, internet, etcetera. Read about any potential talent out there in the world. I happened upon your psychic exploits, your dream state, and found it quite intriguing. Although, I didn’t believe for a second someone could be that psychic.”
“I decided to see how talented you truly are. By the wide-eyed look on your face when I mentioned the lines and rectangle dreams you’ve been having, I take it the experiment was a success.”
I took a sip of soda and looked around the joint. Nobody had come in since we sat down. It was quiet. A young couple held hands and sipped drinks in front dining area. I didn’t know what I was expecting, a crew of secret agents descending upon us maybe, but I felt uneasy. Digestively compromised. I put the pizza down. “Are you telling me, you invaded my dreams?”
“Invaded? Hmm. I suppose you could say that. I sent you signals and you picked them up. White lines and rectangles. They weren’t random. They were a map of a particular area I was concentrating on.”
“I’m supposed to believe you sent me signals?”
“In my sleep.”
“From your psychic brain?”
“Well, at first, yes. Later, when I was sure you were tapped into these images, I merely looped a video on my computer and played that. All night long.”
“Your computer? I was picking up signals from…and my normal dreams were…”
“Blocked, I presume. Or severely interfered with.”
I sat back, staring at this strange man. He looked like he hadn’t enough money to buy a TV, never mind have the resources to tail me for days.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I told you.”
The sparkle in his eyes told me he was lying, or at the very least leaving a big truth out. I didn’t mind so much, but my stomachache was getting worse. I took a long sip of soda and loosened my belt. “What do you want?” I asked.
“I want your help. Your cooperation in a little experiment.”
“I thought I already was your guinea pig?”
“That was a small test.”
I frowned, thoroughly confused.
“Let’s back up a bit. We were talking about Stargate.”
“May I continue?”
“Hey, it’s your dime. Knock yourself out.”
He nodded and took another sip of coffee. “The project was disbanded. That’s the official story at least, after the CIA report disparaging remote viewing became public. They declared the program a failure, called it useless for spying purposes, etc.” A look of ironic humor animated his face. He was enjoying the story. His smile turned to a grimace and he cleared his throat.
“Not true?” I asked.
He snorted and touched a finger to the side of his nose. “It was a public report…”
“Why would I care?”
“Why should you care? A psychic with extraordinary gifts like yours, why indeed?”
I took another sip of soda and stared at him.
He continued. “The report was a cover, the program officially disbanded.”
“And then came the Orenda Project. Much more secret and sinister, born in its place.”
“You work for them?”
He chuckled. “Oh, no. No. Not at all.” He peered into the front dining room, then at the back exit. His cold eyes met mine. His smile was replaced by a tight lipped frown. “I have been authorized to offer you a place within our group.”
The nausea started again. I could smell fruitcake all around me. I hate fruitcake.
“Your group. A boy band?”
He sat back. “You’re a complex character, Gus. We like that. Our group is made up of twelve distinguished scientists, psychics and lawyers, all former government contractors, all aimed at blocking or destroying the inner workings of the Orenda Project.”
“You want to destroy the Orenda Project?”
I wanted to call for the check, just to have someone normal near us, but I’d already paid. I stood up.
“You can’t leave.” I held the back of my chair and his frown turned to a smile. “I haven’t finished.”
“That’s okay. I get the picture.”
“The Orenda Project was designed to control the leaders of the world.”
I laughed while putting on my coat, but his eyes told me he was deadly serious.
“Gus, I’m telling you…no more free elections. No more representation. All of it controlled by a small group within the Orenda Project. Billionaires vying for complete control of world finances and governments, through mind control.”
I was going to ask him to show me his tin foil hat, then I figured he might just have one. Then I remembered the many times I’d tried to warn people I’d seen die in my dreams, convince them of their impending doom. They had no reason to believe me and usually didn’t, but I wouldn’t give up. I stalked, cajoled, sent notes indicating the time and place of their death, and still they wouldn’t respond…right up until the moment they were killed. Out of respect for his sincerity, and the thousand bucks, I sat back down.
“Aren’t billionaires already doing just that, controlling the world?”
“Ahhh, you would think so, but not in the sense I’m talking about. Of course, captains of industry maintain a certain hold on the political system, by means of lobbyists, money changing hands in a back room deals, promises of riches when retired, etcetera. I’m not talking about that.”
“I’m talking about direct control of governments through mind control.” He stared at me expectantly. I frowned. He continued. “Those dreams you were having, lines and rectangles, they are just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine being able to convince a world leader to change his mind on a subject simply by bombarding his dreams with the outcomes you want? Imagine if you could do that?”
“Are you saying they’re doing that now, these billionaire, these Orenda people?”
“They’d like to. I mean, that is their goal.”
“So, they really can’t do it?”
“Something is blocking their efforts, Gus.” He sat back, pleased with himself and winked.
“So, the dream blocking images you sent to me…”
“Not the ones I targeted you with, but similar ones are helping slow their progress.”
“But don’t the leaders of the free world…I’m assuming that’s their target?”
He nodded. “Wouldn’t they have to be psychic in order to receive these signals?”
“Normally, I’d say yes. But we, each of us, have a certain amount of psychic ability already, Gus. We’re all born with it. They’ve simply found a way to tap into that natural ability.”
“I’m not at liberty to say.”
I nodded, and stood up. I reassessed Grossman, and his old coat, and he came up wanting. I still smelled a fruitcake. “Well, that’s all very informative, Mr. Grossman. I appreciate the offer, but I’ve got my own business to attend to. I can’t be joining any groups right now.”
“We’re running out of time, Gus.”
I pull the wad of money he’d given me out of my pocket and tossed it on the table. “What do you want from me, exactly?”
He didn’t seem to notice. “You have the strongest natural psychic ability I’ve ever seen. We need you.”
“To send signals?”
He leaned toward me. “To infiltrate their group, through psychic visions.”
“I’m not a spy.”
“You’re a detective, what’s the difference?”
He got to his feet and faced me, then looked past me to the window that overlooked 92nd street. His focus was drawn to a parked car, then at a couple walking our way, and he took step back. “I wanted to…”
“What?” I asked.
He seemed suddenly up-side-down about something. “I’ll get back to you soon.”
He dashed outside and headed toward 2nd avenue. I picked up the cash and followed him out the door. He walk at a good clip toward the corner, turned and shouted, “You’ll sleep better, I promise!” He crossed Second Avenue and sauntered up the hill toward Third. I noticed a car parked on the curb with two men in it. They both stared in my direction. After a few seconds, they turned toward Grossman. Then the black sedan abruptly lurched forward, turned right and headed down Second Avenue.
I slowly walked back into my building, wondering how the anything he said could be true.